Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Somewhat Easy B-

Piss-your-pants funny, witty, occassionally smart, even downright clever in parts and led by an intelligent, versatile young comedienne, Easy A is an oddity as both a Hollywood studio comedy and a film about high school. And, as a rarity in today's film landscape, a film like Easy A is bound to be praised for things it simply isn't. Much like Drew Barrymore's Whip It! last year, another slightly uneven film celebrated for its "girl power" while majore problems were ignored, Easy A gets a lot right but also fails (miserably, in some regards) in portions. Right from the get go, the first of Easy A's problems rears its ugly little head: that voiceover. Granted, some viewers may find its self-consciousness and constant calling of attention to itself, as in the many instances where Emma Stone brings up some high school movie cliché and then reassures the audience that this movie is not like that at all refreshing and engaging. But nothing irritates me more than when writing is too clever for its own good. It's so post-modern it makes me want to puke. Diablo Cody is able to find a nice balance, miraculously, between quirk and character; narration like that in Easy A or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was similarly self-conscious and smug, are simply too clever for their own good.
Along those same lines, halfway through the film, Easy A decides that it wants to become a tribute to the legacy of John Hughes' films. That's all fine and dandy, even if the whole conceit is a little on-the-nose and dubious to begin with, but the way it is introduced makes no sense. It's as if halfway through writing the script, the screenwriters realized something was missing and thought that the answer was more pop culture referencing. And if you're going to make a pop culture reference in a high school movie, it has to be about the films of John Hughes. Easy A makes a grand issue out of Emma Stone's character wanting her life to emulate Sixteen Candles but, honestly, it doesn't need it.
Finally, and most glaringly, Easy A can't decide whether or not it wants to condemn Emma Stone's character for her sexual "exploits" or celebrate her for daring to flaunt them in front of the entire school. At some points in the film, Easy A wants Emma's character to be a hero for the way she defies the social norm that, as Lil' Kim best described, "If a guy has two girls than he's the man/But if a girl does the same than she's a whore." When she emblazons that scarlet A on her clothes, she wears it with pride as she walks down the hallway. On the other hand, Easy A also wants her to be thought of as the bad guy for taking charge of her sexuality, even though it's a complete lie. Just when you think Easy A is ready to make a decision, whether or not it's the right decision, the film oscillates to the other side as quickly as it can. The film may think it's indecision is saying something profound, but it becomes a major problem.

This isn't to say that the film is a complete failure. On the contrary, actually. Easy A has some hilarious moments and an incredibly game cast who does wonders with their characters. Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Penn Badgley (who instantly reminded me why I fell in love with him during the first season of Gossip Girl here), in particular, were stand outs among the supporting cast. But the true star of the film is, of course, Emma Stone, proving once and for all to all the skeptics that after playing the sidekick to Jonah Hill, Jesse Eisenberg and Anna Faris, she is a legitimate leading lady. She's Lindsay Lohan without an ounce of shame or the apprehension that mars her best work (Mean Girls, obviously). Whether she's singing obnoxiously to 'Pocketful of Sunshine,' trading one-liners with Penn, conversing with her folks, pretending she's a Tennessee Williams heroine or pretending to have sex with a gay man, Stone is a fearless comedienne and an absolute joy to watch. Here's hoping the rumor that she's up for the female lead in the Spider-Man reboot with Andy Garfield (!!!) is true; if those two are together, I may actually be legitimately excited for that film. B-

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ryan Gosling: A Cure for the Blues

I have been planning on writing this post about how Ryan Gosling, whom I've always found attractive, has been really smokin' lately since the premiere of his latest film at Cannes in May. You know how that goes, though: a good idea gets thrown around for awhile with promises of "I'll get to that later" and before you know it, it's September already. Even after all this time, this post still might not have happened if it wasn't for my friend Kelli being in a sad mood. She has a mad crush on Ryan Gosling and I thought these pictures might cheer her up a little. Some friends offer sympathy hugs, others will be a shoulder to cry on; I provide pictures of hot guys. That's just the way I roll. So if you're having a bad day/week/month/eternity, I hope pretty pretty Ryan will make you happy for even just a little bit.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Zappa

In Zappa, Bille August's prequel to his 1984 film Twist and Shout, young teen Bjorn (Adam Tonsberg) is facing the normal perils of adolescence, caught between his budding sexuality and navigating shaky friendships with devious juvenile delinquent Steen (Peter Reichhardt) and cherubic Mulle (Morten Hoff). The film sounds like a typical coming of age film, and for the most part it is, but as he showed in the emotionally precise Twist and Shout, August is a master of emotions who knows how to make the most banal of moments into character-defining ones. Bjorn has his first sexual experience with a girl he meets on holiday and is so elated he goes to bed early that night so that he's left to himself to rewind the moment in his head. When he goes back to find her the next morning and finds that she has gone just as suddenly as she appeared, his disappointment is palpable. He has such sympathy for these characters, even the supposed "bad" ones, that is refreshing to see in these cynical modern times.
I'm glad that August is able to garner such emotions for all the characters, but I'm not a fan of the way he got there in Zappa. Much of what made Twist and Shout such a joy to watch and reflect upon later is the way August brought up uncomfortable emotions and twisted them in unexpected ways, whether it was simply because they weren't normally discussed in films (Bjorn and Erik's relationship) or were made complicated by the narrative (Erik's relationship with his father). With Zappa, any attempt at shading the relationships is downright ignored. Bjorn commits the petty crimes he does because he wants to fit in with Steen. Mulle is over coddled at home by an attentive father trying to make up for his alcoholic mother. The most obvious example, however, lies with the character of Steen. He's a big bully with a raging temper who manipulates both Bjorn and Mulle into committing crimes of escalating violence, but, surprise, he does it all because mommy and daddy are too wrapped up in themselves and their failing marriage to care about him. As if August doesn't trust his audience enough to understand, he bludgeons us over the head repeatedly with explanatory scenes. There's a scene where Steen goes to the trouble of making a grand dinner for his mother, hoping for some affection from her. She is in awe, at first, but as soon as she discovers that he made lamb, which she can't eat because she's on a diet, she gets up and makes reservations for the two of them to eat out. I mean, honestly, couldn't we have gone without such blatant manipulation? Steen is a fascinating character in his own right and Reichhardt's interpretation really didn't need any "help" from the narrative such as this. Reichhardt's body language alone, which often casts an ominous shadow over the entire scene before a word is uttered, is as terrifying and simultaneously pitiable as any backstory August gives.
Zappa was released right before Twist and Shout and the two are supposed to go together but nothing besides two of the characters really transfer between them. Bjorn and Kirsten, who makes an appearance in Zappa as Bjorn's first crush/girlfriend, in Zappa hardly resemble the Bjorn and Kirsten in Twist and Shout. There are a few similarities, but the Bjorn and Kirsten in Zappa are empty versions of the intricate characters in Twist and Shout. Even motivations and plots don't seem to connect between the two films. By the end of Zappa, Kirsten breaks up with Bjorn but in the beginning of Twist and Shout, she seems to be attracted to him again with no explanation for her turn around. Even more confusingly, the climactic finish to Zappa that supposedly changes Bjorn's character forever makes no sense with the Bjorn we see in Twist and Shout. The fact that this really dark moment happens doesn't seem to have altered Bjorn's life in the slightest. As a coupling, these two films make no sense together. But as separate films with their own goals and merits, it's easier to appreciate what makes each film special. B

Friday, September 24, 2010

About a Banner

In case you haven't noticed, I decided to change my banner. I liked my last one well enough, but it was more because I couldn't find my Photoshop CD after my computer died and I couldn't find a replacement program to make a new one that prevented me from making a new one. Thinking about it now, ten months was a ridiculous amount of time for that silly banner. But that's old news and we are on to something fresh. And that something fresh is my new banner, complete with pictures of Steve Sandvoss (of Latter Days fame), Andrew Garfield, Nick Jonas, Zac Efron and Timothy Hutton (from Ordinary People, of course). But what do they have in common? I posed this question on my Twitter a few hours ago, but only one person (@jdjudge, natch) knew the correct answer. This outcome isn't too surprising given that my theme is kinda dirty and really personal. But, still, this is me we're talking about. When have I ever shut up? So, without further ado, the banner theme is....
My fetishes and fantasies!
Okay, are you still with me? I hope you let me explain before you leave all repulsed. Going from left to right, here is a breakdown of the banner:
  • Hot Mormon Fantasy
  • Guys with Sexhair
  • Guys in Baseball Uniforms
  • Guys on Motorcycles
  • Emotionally Damaged Boys
So, yes, you've gained an insight into what turns me on. Don't ever say this blog wasn't educational. What do you think of the new banner? And, more importantly, if you were to make a banner with this same theme, what would you include on it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

All About Joe McElderry

I've wanted to write about last season's X-Factor winner Joe McElderry ever since he came out as a member of the homosexual race a few months ago, but, like many of my ideas, that ended up in the long list of Great Posts That Never Were. I thought it was a particularly brave and shocking decision given the fact that he's only 19 years old and had just won his country's biggest singing competition show. I never cared for him when he was on X-Factor (he always felt too safe and mundane to me week after week while Lloyd and Lucie were the ones who took chances and made much bigger impressions), but dropping the gay bomb like that definitely got me interested in him. Yes, I realize this makes me sound like one of those horrid After Elton gays who only supports gay artists simply because of their sexuality. To be honest, I was simply proud of him for coming out so early in his career when he clearly didn't have to. It's 2010 and a singer's sexuality shouldn't matter but it still does and that's something that can only change with time, patience and more people in Joe's position saying, "Fuck my sexuality. How about you judge me on my music?" After his announcement, an even bigger question arose: how on earth was Simon Cowell going to market him now that he's an out musician? Simon gets a lot of shit for his views on what "good" music is and the way he manages to get dire covers of dire ballads to #1 all the damn time, but he's definitely not stupid and not averse to switching things up. Remember when everyone thought Alexandra Burke's album was going to be another Leona snoozefest and it was instead filled with clubbanger after clubbanger? Simon still has a few tricks up his sleeve so his Joe McElderry project had the potential to be interesting. Was he going to stick to the Leona-style balladeering he became known for on X-Factor or would Simon turn him into a screaming queen á la Mika and Adam Lambert or would he do something completely different and unexpected? The questions were many, the answers were few and we could do nothing but wait impatiently while Joe got to work on his debut album.

And for months we waited. Suddenly, however, within the past couple of weeks, Joe flooded the media with new stuff as fast as Nicholas Hoult did after the premiere of A Single Man. First was the news that Joe had taken a side job as a male model while recording his album. I was initially skeptical, but his pictures are surprisingly amazing. His somewhat generically pleasing good looks in real life somehow become absolutely stunning when he's in front of the camera. Joe is like one of those America's Next Top Model hopefuls who Tyra & Co. find kind of boring during judging but are left speechless when they see that week's photo. Next came the release of the absolutely gorgeous album cover for his upcoming debut, Wide Awake. His face was just meant for black and white photography, I swear. Whenever you see him on TV or in a color photo, his beauty never pops quite as much as it does in black and white.

Finally, over the weekend came the first listen of Joe's first single, 'Ambitions.' The song is a cover of a fantastic song from last year by this Norwegian band called Donkeyboy. When I first heard this, I was leery because if there's one thing about the UK music scene I just don't understand is their love of song covers. Every year, whether it's because of X-Factor or the Comic Relief charity single or some worldwide catastrophe that needs a relief single, at least four or five covers top the chart. I wouldn't have a problem if these artists actually changed the song to make it their own, but every damn time the cover is just a lifeless karaoke version of the original. The example I always cite is The Saturdays' recent hit cover of 'Just Can't Get Enough.' The song is cute enough, I guess, but what exactly did they do to the song to make it their own? Females are singing the leads this go-around and the sound is updated to be more "now" but other than that? Absolutely nothing. 'Just Can't Get Enough' sounds exactly like something a couple of my friends and I could produce after a round of drinks at the local karaoke bar. Yes, it may be a good time, but it not what I would call a "successful" cover. In order for a cover to be good in my book, I think the artist either needs to have a distinctive enough voice that whatever they sing automatically sounds like them or the artist needs to reinterpret the song either emotionally or musically. For the former, I like to think of Britney Spears. Her covers over the years of '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,' 'I Love Rock 'N Roll' and 'My Prerogative' never deviated much from the original versions, but Brit's warble is so distinctive each of those songs sound unmistakably hers. As for the latter, Whitney Houston's megahit version of 'I Will Always Love You' turned Dolly Parton's slow, melancholic original into one of the biggest power ballads ever recorded. And then there is Kris Allen changing Kanye West's 'Heartless' into a surprisingly awesome acoustic jam. Simon Cowell is usually the one to blame for all of these covers, but occasionally he gets one right, as he did with Alexandra Burke's 'Hallelujah' and Leona Lewis' 'Run.' So why can't he do it more often?

I was initially afraid that Joe's first single was going to fall into the same trap as many of Simon Cowell's covers. And from the moment I first heard the song, my fears were quickly realized. Joe's 'Ambitions' wasn't bad, as no cover of a song that amazing could ever be truly "bad," but it was so faithful to the original, I could hardly see the purpose of it. I was resigned to simply chuck the song and hope that his album would quickly erase the memory of it, but something about his 'Ambitions' pulled me in. I listened to it again and liked it a bit more. Then I listened again and the same thing happened. Finally, 16 plays later, I have come to the conclusion that I now love this song. The more I listened to it, the more I realized that Joe's version actually differs in small ways which make the song completely different from the Donkeyboy version. Where the Donkeyboy version of 'Ambitions' is more or less in the same dynamic range the whole way through, Joe's version decrescendos slightly after the first line of the verse. Then, right before the chorus, you can feel the song building up into a mini explosion in the chorus, giving Joe's version a more pop-y feeling than Donkeyboy's while fulfilling Simon Cowell's love of big emotional choruses. I don't mean to give the impression that one version is better than the other; all I'm trying to say is that whereas I once thought Joe's 'Ambitions' was a copycat, I now see merits in it that sets it apart from the original. I think both versions are great for what they are and to compare them is almost unfair. Now I'm waiting on bated breath for the music video which, judging by these behind the scenes pics, looks to be a good gay ole time. You go, Joe, and be as gay and amazing as you want to be. And in the words of Popjustice, "WE LOVE YOU, JOE."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Adorable Andy Garfield Being Adorable

If you want to watch the adorable Andy Garfield being adorable singing an excerpt from Antoine Dodson & The Gregory Brothers' 'Bed Intruder Song,' then look no further than this clip:

I wasn't familiar with the song before I saw this video (I am properly acquainted now), but that didn't prevent me from giggling like a schoolgirl. He's so adorably awkward that he even makes an interview with the fucking horrid Peter Travers bearable. And I love how by the end neither he nor Carey Mulligan can keep their shit together. Peter Travers is sitting there like the out of touch fuddyduddy he is, unmoved by Andy's impromptu excursion into topical pop music, thanking them for their time while they are obviously not paying attention and don't give two shits about him anymore. It literally goes: "Thank you, Carey." "*snorts in laughter*" "Andrew" "I hate you, Peter." (That last bit warms my heart, even if it's sort of out of context). I could literally watch this all day. Actually, I was going through withdrawal while at work this morning and had to watch it as soon as I came home.

Yes, I realize I am now officially obsessed with Andy Garfield, but now is the perfect time for it to be rearing its pretty little face. With two high-profile movies out in the coming weeks, both hoping for some Oscar nominations in a few months, and then Spider-Man, Andy will be in the public's eye for awhile now (which is a-okay by me). Since he's on the verge of becoming a big star, however, now comes the time for everyone who knew him before the Spider-Man announcement to enter an imaginary contest of "Who Knew Him First?" Because, apparently, if you knew about him first, you are clearly a bigger fan and deserve to keep Andy all for yourself. This is destined to tear people apart, as everyone, even people who are apparently friends, is fighting each other to sink their claws in him. I know I was one of those people but now that I've reflected on it I'm here to ask, "Can't we all just get along?" There's no sense arguing about something petty like who knew about Andy first; if we take turns, there's plenty of him to go around. And with someone as clearly amazing as Andy is, this is definitely more than enough to keep one satisfied. With little nuggets like this, he's the gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jailbait No More

As of this very moment, America's favorite piece of jailbait, Nick Jonas, is of legal age in the United States. Let's take a moment to rejoice this fact.

Nick is certainly happy. And I am, too. I've made no secret of my attraction to the youngest Jonas but I've always felt the eensiest bit guilty over it. Even though Nick was technically "legal" in some states, it still felt wrong to (for lack of a better word) sexualize him. He's not Taylor Lautner, where his whole persona is based on taking off his shirt at the drop of a hat and baring his chest; he's just a dude who is known for playing his guitar and never smiling on his TV show. So I resisted for many, many months being a complete horndog over every little revealing picture of Nick I've seen online (in public, anyways). But now the time has come to lift the embargo. He's 18 now and I'm now free to lust without the slightest bit of recourse (except from those odd ducks who don't find him hot). Here are some pictures of Nick being especially sexy; it feels like the only appropriate way to celebrate this monumental day.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Random Top 10: The Non-Singles of Girls Aloud

It's no surprise that as a gay man obsessed with British pop music, Girls Aloud is one of my favorite musical acts around. Ever since I heard 'Sexy! No No No...' for the first time about two and a half years ago, I have been quite devoted to the Way of the Aloud. Over the years, I've met quite a few Girls Aloud fans online (a surprising number of them Americans) and the subject of their best songs always comes up before long. Most people agree on 'Biology,' but, beyond that, all bets are off. They have released so many singles, album cuts, B-sides, remixes and unreleased tracks that it's impossible for two "Best of Girls Aloud" lists to match. In fact, I know I've been asked to come up with a list on a couple of occasions and I'm sure that even my own lists didn't match each other. I wanted to create a definitive, once and for all list of their best songs but that seemed too, I don't know, ordinary. Let's try and make this a tad more interesting by focusing only on the non-singles. Any minor Girls Aloud fan knows that 'Biology,' 'Something Kinda Ooooh' and 'Call the Shots' are magnificent pieces of pop music, but where on earth do you start with the rest of their catalog? Well, here 10 good places to start exploring Girls Aloud beyond the hits.

10. Rolling Back the Rivers in Time
From Out of Control
The Girls and longtime collaborators Xenomania pushed their sound into a surreal electropop sound that neither of them had ever really explored before. 'Untouchable' was probably the masterpiece of this experiment, but 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time' is not far behind. It's hard to describe, but this song feels like a dream where you're not quite sure what's going on but everything about it feels so damn good that it must be alright. Not sure if that makes sense but, hey, it sounds good to me.

09. Miss You Bow Wow
From Out of Control
Replacing the surrealism of 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time' with a hard, pounding edge, 'Miss You Bow Wow' manages to turn repetitive, downright silly lyrics into a masterful, memorable song. Again, as with 'Rolling Back the Rivers in Time,' I have no idea what it means, but it feels oh-so-right.

08. Wild Horses

From Chemistry
Quite possibly, one of the strangest songs Girls Aloud has ever recorded. The intro is, more or less, a church hymn, slow and steady but not exactly straying into dire ballad territory. Then, 20 seconds in, the hymn is ditched and the Xenomania production kicks in full-force, producing one of the most jarring transitions I've ever heard. The rest of the song is great, and the chorus is catchy as hell, but that opening is the true reason why I love it so much.

07. Black Jacks
From Tangled Up
I don't know if anyone else does this, but I often associate songs to ideas and meanings that have absolutely nothing to do with the song itself. 'Black Jacks' is one of those songs, and for whatever reason, I associate it with some kind of end-of-the-world apocalypse. It's the line "It's hard having fun when you can't see the sun anymore" that really set that interpretation in stone for me. The rest of the song probably doesn't fit, but when you think about it in that context, the lyric is almost too beautiful.

06. Memory of You
B-side to The Loving Kind
A curious omission from the Out of Control album, 'Memory of You' fits in with the album's electropop sound and dream-like atmosphere. Even curiouser, the track was only featured on the vinyl edition of the single. It's like everyone at the record company purposely tried to keep us from hearing this song. But we showed them, those buggers, and the fans have been totally receptive to this killer track.

05. Hoxton Heroes

B-side to Can't Speak French
Girls Aloud isn't normally known for starting shit but on 'Hoxton Heroes' the queens of British pop decided to take the piss out of all the indie rock bands (and their fans) who, for years, had called their music garbage. Hey, indie fans, your music is garbage too, so fuck off. What I love about 'Hoxton Heroes' is that it's one of the few pop songs to wear that label like a badge.

04. You Freak Me Out
From Sound of the Underground [Bonus Track]
I'm not going to argue that 'You Freak Me Out' breaks any new ground in the realm of pop music, but it is excellent for what is: a bright, silly pop song about people who just don't get each other. And that chorus! Such fun.

03. Crazy Fool
B-side to Whole Lotta History
A lot of people cite the ambitious 'Memory of You' as Girls Aloud's best B-side, but I like to think of the simpler, yet stunning 'Crazy Fool' as my favorite. The chorus is stunning; I love how stylized and accented the lyrics are. Freaking beautiful.

02. Live in the Country
From Out of Control
A beautiful yet all-around wacky (check out those pigs and ducks at the very end!) song about the desire to give up the fast life for the simple country life. I love personal pop songs, and I feel like 'Live in the Country' is the perfect snapshot of Girls Aloud circa 2008: exhausted and ready for a break from it all. After this song, it's no surprise that they have been M.I.A. since with no word yet on a follow-up album.

01. Singapore
From The Sound of Girls Aloud [Pink Cover Version]
After songs like 'Something Kinda Oooh' and 'Sexy! No No No...' with their relentless beat and unstoppable drive, a song like 'Singapore' is a sweet, simple relief from the group's "harder" edge. Achingly tender and melancholic, yet surprisingly upbeat, 'Singapore' reveals a softer side of the Girls without having to descend to depths of shallow ballad hell. And when you've been forced to listen to one 'I'll Stand By You' after another, this song looks better all the time. Bonus points for this fan-made video which has to be the greatest Girls Aloud video ever:

Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 VMA Wrap Up (via Twitter)

There are two reasons why I'm not doing a "proper" write up of last night's VMA's: (1) I'm lazy and (2) The show was so incredibly dull. I was bored during the first part of the awards, so I got drunk and started tweeting like a mad man. So, here is everything you need to know about last night's show courtesy of my Twitter.

And here are some of my favorite tweets from some other awesome twatters out there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 VMA Predictions

Trying to predict the VMA results is often fruitless because there is often no rhyme or reason why any particular video wins over another. Yet, here I am, valiantly going forward with this exercise. Oh well, at least we can all laugh at these tomorrow.

Video of the Year
Will Win: Lady GaGa & Beyoncé 'Telephone'
Should Win: Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'

I mentioned this when I did my write-up of this year's nominees, but it bares repeating. Lady GaGa is going to win; there's very little doubt about that. She's as much of a lock as 'Single Ladies' was last year. While 'Bad Romance' is technically the better of her two nominated videos, I don't think voters will be able to resist the massive pull of the 'Telephone' video. GaGa + B + Tarantino-inspired dialogue + high concept + massive runtime + massive hype = a video which can't be ignored.

Male Video of the Year
Will Win: Usher featuring will.i.am 'OMG'
Should Win: Drake 'Find Your Love'

Trying to find a decent video amid this lackluster bunch is quite difficult. If Eminem wins here, he'll win Video of the Year since history has shown that his wins are correlated as such. I don't think Em will win the top award, so I'm down to B.o.B. and Usher. Both songs were massive hits, but this category has been considerably kinder to non-Video of the Year nominees, so I think Usher will pull ahead with the win. Drake not only has the best song of the bunch (slightly bested by 'In My Head') but his video is the only one that stirs me in any way besides revulsion.

Female Video of the Year
Will Win: Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg 'California Gurls'
Should Win: Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'

I think this is down to Taylor Swift (in an attempt to make up for Kanyegate last year) and Katy Perry, who has somehow snagged herself three noms in a row in this category. She's already tied for 5th with a host of other legends (including Annie Lennox!) for the most noms in this category ever. 'California Gurls' was a massive hit, Katy Perry has never been hotter and she's technically "due." Bold choice, perhaps, but I think she'll nab it from Taylor.

Best New Artist
Will Win: Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris 'Baby'
Should Win: Nicki Minaj featuring Sean Garrett 'Massive Attack'

The Beebs has this one wrapped up, especially given the fact that people at home are the ones voting for the winners. And, you know what, I think he honestly deserves it. Who knows if he'll stick around in the future, but he's made a hell of an impression this past year and he's legitimately talented. If he wins, I won't be upset. However, I think the best in this category is Nicki Minaj, whose video manages to represent her as the out-of-this-world creature that she is.

Best Pop Video
Will Win: Ke$ha 'TiK ToK'
Should Win: Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'

GaGa could surprise here, but I think Ke$ha and her ode to getting fucked up will take the prize.

Best Rock Video
Will Win: Paramore 'Ignorance'
Should Win: ?

Haven't had a chance to look through all the videos yet as I'm very weak when it comes to this genre. I think Paramore is still popular with the kids so I'm gonna go with them. No fucking clue though.

Best Hip-Hop Video
Will Win: Eminem 'Not Afraid'
Should Win: ?

Also pretty weak with this category so I'll update later. Eminem usually wins one just for appearing at this damn awards show so I expect him to pick this award up easily.

Best Dance Video
Will Win: Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull 'I Like It'
Should Win: Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'

This comes down to a process of elimination. Cascada and David Guetta aren't too unfamiliar to win. GaGa might win, but I don't know if she's "dance" enough. Usher has a chance but I think Enrique, especially with the help of the Jersey Shore kids, will take this in the end.

Best Collaboration
Will Win: B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams 'Airplanes'
Should Win: Beyoncé and Lady GaGa 'Video Phone (Extended Version)'

B.o.B. has to win somewhere, right? It pains me to type that but it's true. My pick is between Jay-Z & Alicia, who have the better song, and B & GaGa, who have the...I won't say better, but more interesting, videos. I went with 'Video Phone' because that video is nuts and I can still recall it vividly months after last watching it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Zac's Beard

Every time I see a new headline about Zac's beard, I get confused. WHICH ONE ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?

(By the way, am I the only one kinda digging his facial hair? I think it works even better with those sunglasses. Mmmmm, sexy scruff.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Father of My Children, Sandy Bullock Style

Last night, I caught the French film import du jour, Mia Hansen-Love's The Father of My Children, and I was far from impressed. The film is one of those movies where if it was made in English, no one would give a shit about it, but since it's spoken in a foreign tongue everyone immediately respects it. The story concerns a film producer whose production company is in massive debt with no way out. He tries to hide his concerns from his wife and three daughters, but, eventually, he can't anymore and spills everything to his wife. She tries to comfort him to no avail. The next morning, in an act of madness, he shoots himself in the head. The last hour of the film chronicles the rest of the family's attempts to overcome this tragedy. Tears are shed, shouting matches are had and dark family secrets are uncovered. If all of this sounds familiar, it all is and that's precisely where the problem lies. Everything about The Father of My Children is nicely done but there is a complete lack of ambition to push outside the boundaries of what you would expect from a film of this nature. The family is all lovey-dovey in the way families only in the movies are. And, even when their world is crumbling, there is no backlash, no sense that even for a second this might cripple them even for a brief period of time. You know the family is going to recover and that's that. Critics, like the one who wrote the blurb featured at the top of this poster on the left, praised The Father of My Children for its lack of sentimentality, as if being sentimental is the death knell for the movies. Sure, the film didn't need to be as sentimental as something like The Blind Side (few movies do), but a tad more dramatic tension, which could manifest itself as "sentimental," between the characters and their situation would have made for a better film. Instead, especially during that last hour, The Father of My Children flits around between various plot points, including the daughter finding out about her father's love child from before he married his mother, without ever coming to any sort of catharsis or reason of interest. When the daughter eventually meets the mother of her father's son and they talk for a bit where the mother reveals that her son and his father never really got along. As soon as that tidbit is thrown out there, this subplot is thrown out as quickly as it was brought up. Wouldn't the daughter be curious why the son doesn't get along with the father she loved so well? Is she at all curious about seeing another side to him? Apparently not, even though I assumed that was the whole point of bringing this whole illegitimate child up in the first place. I guess Hansen-Love wasn't interested in exploring that and that's her prerogative; what she was going for, however, totally escapes me. C+

All throughout the movie, I kept thinking about what a Hollywood remake of this film would look like. Sure, I mentioned that The Father of My Children is, essentially, a Hollywood film already, but there are moments that are far too subtle and un-histrionic for a major Hollywood tearjerker that would need to be amplified so us dumb Americans would get it. Actually, with just a couple of changes, I could see this as an Oscar contender for one of Hollywood's A-list actresses. Sure, the original French film is more about the father, but men aren't allowed to be emotional in Hollywood films so the actress will have to do all the heavy lifting. I ran through a score of capable actresses for my imaginary remake, but the one who made the most sense was good ole Sandy Bullock. With this film we'd get a Best of Both Worlds from her. In the first half we would get the fun, lovable, eternally charming Sandy that makes her so appealing in her romantic comedies. Then, in the second half, after her husband dies, Sandy the Strong Mama will come out and blow us all away. When she's upset, she's really going to be upset. When she has to put on a brave face for her girls, she make it the best damn brave face you've ever seen. When she faces the prospect of losing her husband's company, she's going to save that company even if it takes every last bit of her already waning strength left. When her daughter finds out about her husband's son, Sandy is going to bring everyone together and convince her daughter (and, therefore, the son, too) what a great man her dad was and the scene will end with a big emotional group hug that will bond them permanently. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little glib here, but the point still remains: if Sandy Bullock wants Oscar #2, she needs to get on an English-language remake of this movie and change a couple of minor details to suit both her persona and Oscar's taste. I think it can happen so let's make it work, people!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

RIP Rich Cronin

Horrible news, late 90's boy band fans. Rich Cronin, member of LFO, has passed away at 35 after a battle with leukemia. LFO isn't quite as well remembered today as some of its counterparts from the time period, but they hold a special place in my heart from their brief tenure at the top. Back in the distant, distant past, before I knew I was gay, I had this magazine with a picture of LFO that provided more than its fair share of fantasies pour moi. Rich and the other hottie of the group, Devin, were quite fit back in the day. I know that's probably not exactly how he would want to be remembered, but being pre-teen masturbatory fodder is quite a huge compliment (especially since I wasn't as big of a whore as I am today). But not only was he a good looker, the group's 'Summer Girls' was quite literally my jam of the summer of '99. The video was one of the staples on TRL at that period of time, and I loved it to pieces back in the day. True, the lyrics are kinda painful to listen to today, but it captured a brief period of time perfectly when white boy wannabe hip-hoppers got lumped in with the Boy Band Craze dominating the world at that time. Besides, what 20-something doesn't automatically think of 'Summer Girls' when someone talks about Abercrombie & Fitch? Hell, one of my blog's labels comes from that song. So, yes, not exactly great, but the song's power is everlasting.

The real tragedy of Cronin's death goes even deeper than his literal death. Cronin is one of the first of my pre-teen idols to pass away. I may not have thought about him in ages, but his death is a reminder that we are all growing older and the people my generation worshiped back in junior high is also getting older. I'm saddened by Cronin's passing, and he was only a minor influence. I can't imagine what will happen when a major player, like a BSB member or Jessica Simpson, eventually passes. Everyone from that time period is irreplaceable and it saddens me to think that they won't all be around at some point. RIP Rich, you made my transition from elementary school to junior high, from my old house to my new one a teensy bit easier with your music. You will be missed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Britney’s Videography: ‘Don’t Let Me Be the Last to Know’

Britney Spears 'Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know'
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Britney continued to grow up right before our very eyes with this video for 'Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know,' the fourth and final single from her Oops!...I Did It Again album. The video, a chronicle of two young lovers shacked up in a tiny hut adjacent to a gorgeous tropical beach, sounds like the perfect opportunity to exploit the barely legal Brit and her bangin' bikini body. But, rather surprisingly, the director went in a different direction, offering a genuinely beautiful look at young love. Brit and her beau spend the entirety of the video clad in next to no clothing—Brit in a bikini top and cutoffs, the dude in the lowest riding bathing suit I've ever seen—and helplessly intertwined in various romantic poses, but 'Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know' never once feels exploitative. Instead, the video is sweet, tender and sensual—many things Brit, at this point, hadn't tried to be yet. So, the best way to look at 'Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know' is from the perspective of Britney, once again, subtly, pushing the boundaries of her persona into unchartered territory. Late 90's pop music's very own Lolita trying her hand at softness and sensuality? This sounds like something to scoff at, but Brit pulls it off surprisingly well. The only major downside of 'Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know' is the fact that since the video is so sensual, Brit is required to act sensual. She gets the body language down but her facial expressions, for the most part, are lacking a bit. She's not an actress, so you can hardly blame her, but her face looks completely vacant rather than like the emotionless mask I'm sure the director asked of her. But that's a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things with Britney trying something new on the way to her third album.

Previous installments: ...Baby One More Time | Sometimes | (You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop Remix!) | From the Bottom of My Broken Heart | Born To Make You Happy | Oops!...I Did It Again | Lucky | Stronger

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Greatest Wrestling Match I've Ever Seen

In the same way that many kids of my generation watched The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast or whatever their Disney film of choice was, over and over on VHS, I watched Wrestlemania VII. In case you're unfamiliar, like I imagine many of my readers are, Wrestlemania was, and continues to be, the WWF/E's most important pay-per-view event. At the time, the WWF only had four main pay-per-view events a year, so Wrestlemania was the main event of them all. But even now, when they have one every month, Wrestlemania is still seen as the most prestigious since it's the event with all the history. When I was a wee lad of about five or six, wrestling was my favorite thing on the planet. My brother and I ate, slept and breathed that shit. We had a whole assortment of PPV events on VHS courtesy of my mother's boss who would tape them for us (my parents were too po' to afford it themselves), but the one I kept coming back to was 1991's Wrestlemania VII. To this day, I'm not exactly sure why I love it so much, but I do have my theories. For me, Wrestlemania VII represents one of the last times professional wrestling was completely innocent. By the time I started watching the WWF, they were starting to transition from the glory days of Hulk Hogan and "wholesomeness" where wrestlers were either the good guy or the bad guy and everything was black and white. There wasn't the constant need to butch up the already homoerotic sport; men could wear sparkly robes and wear tight spandex trunks and still kick major ass in the ring. It was inevitable that the WWF had to move forward and change with the times, but I missed those old days, even if the old days hadn't exactly gone away yet.

There are many fine matches on the Wrestlemania VII card, but the one I'm discussing today is this epic confrontation:

Yes, my friends, now this is what wrestling is all about. This match isn't my favorite so much for the technical aspect--if you're looking for the best in that respect, why not try another Macho Man Randy Savage match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III--as the incredible amounts of dramatic tension that is built into the match's backstory and everything that goes on in the ring. The creative team behind this match deserve medals for their work here; the fact that they managed to work so many different emotional angles--from revenge to reunited lovers--is a modern day miracle.

To start off with, the match is Career Ending Match, the first of its kind, according to our night's commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. What this means is that whoever loses the match will never wrestle again. Whoa, now that's what I call having a dark cloud looming over you. One mistake and you're history. But, as if that isn't enough to build the emotional tension, we have to go into the backstory. After the Ultimate Warrior won the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania VI, Savage had been pestering him for a chance at winning the belt. Finally, after Savage's manager Sensational Queen Sherri confronted him at the Royal Rumble in January, he gave her his final answer:


[Side note: When I was a kid, there were two people who absolutely scared the shit out of me. The Ultimate Warrior was one of them (the other was Charlie Chaplin, oddly enough, but that had more to do with this really strange nightmare about him I had as a child that completely freaked me out rather than him being "scary"). There was something about the combination of his blazing intensity and his crazy face makeup that always gave me the heebie jeebies. This moment above certainly didn't help in this regard.]

Macho Man is obviously pissed (wouldn't you be?) and decides to act out on his aggression. During the Warrior's championship match, Sherri runs down to the ring and distracts him. He gets annoyed and chases her outside the ring and down the walkway to the dressing room. The Warrior gets down quite a way when...

BOOM. Out comes Macho Man with a clothesline out of nowhere. Betcha didn't see that one coming, did ya, Warrior? Now that he has taken the beast down, Savage decides to acquaint a nearby spotlight with Warrior's face.

Savage runs off and we then cut to the end of the match. The Warrior's real opponent, Sgt. Slaughter, has pushed him into the ropes. Savage has somehow ended up on the floor of the ring (I'm not sure how. All I know about the match is what is in this 30 second clip package) so he takes his sceptor and pummels Warrior in the head with it.

OH SNAP. The Warrior ends up losing the match and the title, so the reasons for revenge in this feud are even higher coming into this match.