Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

“Drama” Idol

So, two days down…two more to go before we have the final 24 American Idol singers for season nine.

I believe that there are some real talented people on the show this year. I was really impressed with some, and very surprised at others who I thought were not very good, yet were allowed through to the next round. It makes me wonder, “Did I hear something different than the judges did?”

And the group sessions were your typical drama-filled chaotic mess. But I have to say that I really have had a major complaint with the producers of the show every single year, and this year is no exception.

During the auditions, I can accept all the dramas and train wrecks that get their 5 minutes of fame on t.v. You really have to expect that. But at this point, you have 181 people that you have brought all the way to Hollywood, so they are supposed to be the best of over 100,000 people who auditioned, right? So why can’t we spend more time actually hearing them perform!

Look, I know I’m not a television producer, but does anyone else feel this way? If they want us to start feeling some sort of loyalty towards any of these kids, they need to stop showing us how stressed out they all are at trying to learn to dance and sing harmonies in a group, while at the same time trying to remain a focused singular talent.

Perhaps that formula still works, I don’t know. But I still think the show would be better if we could see more performance and less drama…and while they’re at it…show us a little more of the “behind the scenes” with the vocal coaches and the accompanists. I think those would be much more interesting.

But what do I know…


Sad Songs Say So Much

Over the weekend, I had seen a “countdown” show of the 100 “greatest” something or other…

As the countdown got into the top 10-15, I began to scratch my head and think, “what on earth were they thinking…” Then I started to wonder, “by who’s opinion?” I mean, if the list were based on something as tangible as “total sales,” “worldwide box office” or “most top awards” then I would be more inclined to agree. Usually, however, these lists are based on the cumulative opinions of the editorial staff of the program’s producers and as I began to realize this, I started to see how much older I have become.

As I have stated before on these pages, I had, at one time, wanted to be a movie director. And although that dream never materialized, my great love and respect for movies encouraged my study of the art, helped me open my mind to other approaches to the craft, and broadened my horizons to seeing movies that I probably may never have seen otherwise.

To those who are “true believers” to the art, it may shock them that I don’t consider “Citizen Kane” to be in my own personal TOP TEN (or even my own TOP 50—I’ve tried to watch the film on several occasions and each time find myself thinking, “OMG! People thought this was a great movie???” Blasphemy, I know!

I also began to realize that these “lists” are never really objective. If it were so, then “Avatar” should be listed as my all-time best movie I’ve seen. Although I enjoyed it greatly, it’s not even in my own personal top 25. Why? Because as good as it was, it didn’t touch me in such a personal way to really have that much influence in my life. And that is the whole point of these lists. They are PERSONAL in nature—subjective, NOT objective.

So, I thought it would be fun to share with you some glimpses of me as a person by revealing some of my TOP lists, from time to time, just to give you some insights as to who I am.

Along with movies, music has had a HUGE impact in my life, one which I personally thank my parents for. Our family’s life was filled with great music, and a wide spectrum of music was welcomed in our home, from classical and jazz, to rock and country.

Since there are so many different genres and styles and types of songs, I thought I’d start out with one most might overlook: melancholy songs. Why start with these? For one, these kinds of songs usually invoke strong emotions in the listener, and the songwriters have truly exposed a raw, injured side to themselves that others can not only relate to, but they can cause one to look within themselves and ask the question, “could I have overcome this?”

So, here is my salute to the broken hearted—to the lost, the longing, the lonely. Remember, these are the 30 songs that moved ME the most. Take a moment and listen to the words, to the music and even to the instruments that were used in their construction…they tend to be some of the most beautiful songs ever recorded (IMHO!)

You may be surprised at some, might have forgotten others, and still others, you may have never heard of before. Not all these songs were hit songs on the radio, but everyone of these moved me in some way, whether bringing a tear to my eyes, or made me hope that I never have to feel such a great level of angst. Please enjoy:

JetStar’s Top 30 Sad Songs

30: “Not Meant to Be” – Theory of a Deadman

29: “Who Wants to Live Forever” – Queen

28: “One Day in Your Life” – Michael Jackson

27: “It’s Your Life” – Milla

26: “The Winner Takes it All” – ABBA

25: “Fragile” – Sting

24: “Dreaming in Metaphors” – Seal

23: “Apologize” – OneRepublic & Timbaland

22: “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me” – Exposé

21: “Make Love Stay” – Dan Fogelberg

20: “I’m Not in Love” – 10cc

19: “If You Leave Me Now” – Chicago

18: “Without You” – Nilsson

17: “Ain’t No Sunshine” – Bill Withers

16: “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” – Bee Gees

15: “If” – Bread

14: “It’s Sad to Belong” – England Dan & John Ford Coley

13: “Holding Back the Years” – Simply Red

12: “Everybody Hurts” – REM

11: “Hold on My Heart” – Genesis

10: “One Less Bell to Answer” – 5th Dimension

9: “Solitaire” – The Carpenters

8: “Tears in Heaven” – Eric Clapton

7: “Think of Laura” – Christopher Cross

6: “All by Myself” – Eric Carmen

5: “A Thousand Years” – Toto

4: “One Day I’ll Fly Away” – (as recorded by Nicole Kidman)

3: “Alone Again (Naturally)” – Gilbert O’Sullivan

2: “Honey” – (as recorded by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap)

1: “It’s Over” – Level 42

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And the Nominees, along with the Nominees, plus the Nominees (and don’t forget the Nominees) are…

Ten “Best Picture” nominees…really?

AMPAS© (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) has got to be confused, or else that new cannabis law in California is alive and well in Hollywood.

I am a huge movie fan. When I was a kid, I dreamt of being a big time film director and saw myself and my creativity as on par with the likes of Spielberg, Lucas, Kramer and Wilder. Alas, it never came to that, but nonetheless, I studied filmmaking enough to know what to look for in the creation of an “A-List” movie, with special emphasis on the screenplay itself (I’m a writer at heart…that should be a no brainer!).

Over the years, I have been at odds with AMPAS© over past nominees and winners because of the incredibly transparent political message they were sending at the time. Most of the time, the Oscars© are really just a popularity contest. I’m not really sure that the general public understands how these nominations and awards are handed out, but in a nutshell, there is an elaborate application process, followed by an onslaught of “political” ads urging the AMPAS© voting body to select their movies, actors, directors and film crews for the awards (mostly seen in the trade publications, like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter, and such. There are screening parties and tons of money is spent by the various studios to sway the votes.

As the voting goes, each individual category (Actor/Actress, Screenplay, Direction, Editing, Special Effects, etc.) can only be voted on by members of the Academy who are registered as that type of member, i.e. Editors vote for Editors, Directors vote for Directors and so forth. The only category open to all members of AMPAS© is the “Best Picture” category.

In case you missed the announcement, here are the “Best Picture” nominees for 2010:

  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air

So, here’s my gripe: Has ANYONE ever heard of “An Education,” “The Hurt Locker,” or “A Serious Man”??? If you DID see “District 9” (I did), what on earth makes this movie on par with other true greats, such as “Braveheart,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Gladiator,” “American Beauty,” and “A Beautiful Mind” (for those of the more recent decade) or such classic winners as “The Last Emperor,” “Rain Man,” “Amadeus,” and “Gandhi!” Really? This is the best of the best???

So let me offer up the movies that I think are better qualified on this LONG list of nominees:

  • “Star Trek” (2009): Ok look, AMPAS© rarely nominates science fiction or fantasy, and it’s even more rare that one wins. “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003) is the ONLY Fantasy/Science Fiction winner of the “Best Picture” Oscar© in the 82 year history of the award. “Star Trek” (2009) was well acted, well directed, and the script well-executed. If you are going to compare the two, putting this film up against “District 9” is definately NO CONTEST!  The USS Enterprise WINS hands down!
  • “Julie & Julia” (2009): Ok, Ok! So Meryl Streep is in (yet) another great movie, and yeah, she is nominated. But think about this. “Julie & Julia” was truly compelling when you stop to think that it’s based on two SEPARATE true stories, intelligently interwoven into a delightful and watchable film; “Up in the Air” (although loosely based on a true story) isn’t all that interesting and Clooney is…well, Clooney (same acting style as all three Oceans movies!)  If I had to choose between Streep and George Clooney as to who is the better actor, I don’t know any serious movie lover who would really have a plausible argument that Clooney could out-shine her! Clooney: eye-candy, maybe, but really convincing actor? Hardly…
  • “Public Enemies” (2009): Wow! How did this film get overlooked? Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Michael Mann’s direction? The script was incredible, the photography was amazing and the film kept you on the edge of your seat for the entire 140 minutes. That this film was snubbed is simply criminal!
  • “The Soloist” (2009): Oscar© loves human interest stories, especially those based on true events, and with the powerhouse duo of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, this film should have been a shoe-in. It’s no wonder that the heavy-hitting films are best released in late December…AMPAS© has a short memory than I do!
  • “Coraline” (2009): Ok, maybe I’m grasping at straws here because this film IS nominated for Best Animated Feature Film this year. And I will admit that I REALLY liked “Up,” Disney©/Pixar©‘s latest offering. But I think what I am griping about here is that Disney©/Pixar© no longer has the corner on the market for animation-based films, so why shouldn’t THIS picture be considered for the BEST picture of 2009? “Coraline” (2009) just proves to me that there is REAL talent existing outside the borders of the Magic Kingdom!
  • “The International” (2009): The best suspense-thriller action flick that no one saw! Cast was amazing, camera work was unique and compelling and the direction was definitely worth a nod from the Academy.  What a shame!

NBC Nightly News reported today that AMPAS© listed ten nominees in order to quell criticism from the public who have felt in the past that better films were overlooked for odd, obscure pictures. While that may be true, who cares!? The public doesn’t vote!

Sadly, I am not a member of the Academy, so my opinion is simply that. And that’s the way it is every year too, and will be ’til the day I’m six feet under. But if they were asking me, here are the nominees:

  • “Avatar”, Dir. James Cameron
  • “Inglourious Basterds”, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
  • “Julie & Julia”, Dir. Nora Ephron
  • “Public Enemies”, Dir. Michael Mann
  • “Star Trek”, Dir. J.J. Abrams

And the Oscar© goes to…

What Does it Take to Get a Menu Around Here?

Is there anyone else out there that has a gripe about this?

At Christmas, we purchased a Blu-Ray player. I suspect that we aren’t the only ones to do this and while still relatively new, there is enough content out there to justify having one (although I will admit that the discs are still too pricy – thank goodness for Netflix!).

So I decide to rent one of my more recent favorite movies, the remake of “Casino Royale” starring Daniel Craig as James Bond. I’m excited because, unlike a lot of movies that are being released in the BD format, this was filmed with high-definition cameras, making it a true high definition picture on the smaller screens that can handle 1080p resolutions.

The problem that I seem to run into has been an age-old one since commercial VHS tapes were introduced to the consumer: the movie studios insist on placing trailers for either upcoming new films or soon-to-be disc releases. Disney, in the past, was particularly guilty of this practice with their tapes and DVDs, and it seems that the other studios have begun embracing it on a more prevalent frequency.

You WOULD think that it would be as easy as depressing the “Disc Menu” button or the “Title Menu” button on the remote to bypass this. Foiled again! All I get in response to this is the little red circle with a slash through it in the upper right corner of the screen. So I have to plod along, using the “Forward Skip” button five or six times until the main menu finally appears and I have wasted a microscopically (but utterly irritatingly) small amount of time to get to where I want to be.

I’m not sure if this is the studios way of being “in control” but come on, already!

First off, I will usually view the trailers that are available on a new disc, when I get them, but 2-3 years down the line, when I want to watch the video again for my own enjoyment, I have no desire to re-watch those damn trailers! And then, half the time, they are for movies I have absolutely no interest in, which makes this all the more irritating!

So I put it out there in the electronic universe: To all movie-releasing studios! PLEASE stop this inane practice! I’ll watch your trailers on the “special features” part of the menu, but I abhor being “force-fed” this stuff when I pop the disc into my player! Gimme my menu!

Or else…check please!

All hail…Conan…the Conqueror?

Sadly, it’s the end of an era in late night television in the United States…at least it is for me (I can’t speak for the rest of America tonight).

I still remember my curiosity the night I first watched this “so-called” replacement of David Letterman, who left the NBC network when he was passed over for the “Tonight Show” gig for stand-up comic Jay Leno. Conan O’Brien?? Who the…what the…huh? I can still remember Conan’s first shows and how uncomfortable he seemed, but he usually ran with it, no matter how bad things seemed. By the end of the first year, I was hooked.

Over time, his signature bits (“In the Year 2000,” “Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog” among others) always made me laugh, and made it worth waiting up for. Although his humor was pretty much lost on my parents, to me, he was fresh, original and it always made me wonder what he was going to do next.

So as I sit here watching his final “Tonight Show” performance, I feel like something is really over. Although Leno makes me laugh, his kind of humor is more “yuck, yuck, yuck” and not the true “belly laugh” humor that I tended to get from Conan’s sophomoric slapstick and self-deprecating barbs (I think my sister Susan would agree!).

So I wanted to just take a few paragraphs in my personal blog tonight to say “Thanks, Conan, for making me laugh, for putting a smile on my face pretty much every night and congratulations for sticking it to NBC!”

I’m looking forward to his next project when he’s finally allowed to take off his legal collar and start up the REAL “Tonight Show” in the fall.

Do you speek “Gleek”?

Over the past few years, I have only gotten just a little bit excited about very few television shows. Most of my current TiVo regulars are guilty pleasures comprising (mostly) of reality TV: Project Runway, Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, American Idol and most recently, Bravo-TV’s Tabitha’s Salon Takeover. Of the mainstream episodic genre, very little has piqued my interest since Friends and Will & Grace left the small screen. Some of the hopeful shows that I showed interest in have sort of vanished, like Flash Forward, V, and The Vampire Diaries.

Since I don’t subscribe to Premium Networks, I usually have to view shows like The Tudors, True Blood and Dexter through Netflix or borrow a friend’s copy. And about the only other show I watch with any regularity is Family Guy (“something…something…something…Dark Side!”).

Enter Glee.

The cast of Glee as 'New Directions'

This show, unlike so many others, grabbed my attention the first time I saw a teaser trailer for it during 2009’s American Idol contest. Then Fox pulled a genius move! They screened the pilot episode immediately after the AI finale. I was drawn in, thinking this would be a new breakout show to help ease the pain of the dreadful summer TV doldrums. Not so fast, suckers! Watch for new episodes starting in September! You bastards!

The road to “Sectionals” was fun, exciting, and it kept me wanting more…with “Sectionals” over, now wait for April for the next installment! You bastards!

Ok, so you won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy! Now I guess I have to give you some slack for that body blow that is the almost 4 months I have to wait for a new episode to air. But, undaunted, I scour the web looking for hints and tidbits of what’s in store for the journey towards “Regionals!” And today, I wasn’t disappointed!

It seems that, upon his win at the Globes Sunday night, Executive Producer Ryan Murphy let it slip on some very interesting insights. I’m sure he’s just bursting to let the cat (or cats, perhaps) out of the bag, especially since Glee has been picked up for Season 2 this coming fall. And, not surprisingly, Fox TV has kept a very tight lid on the entire show, seeing as how the buzz for the show is growing exponentially!

Jane Lynch as 'Sue Sylvester'

Due to some very slick questioning of Murphy, Entertainment Weekly’s Michael Ausiello is reporting that Madonna has opened her catalog to the show and they are currently filming a “mega production number” show, with upwards of TEN musical numbers, including a performance by Coach Sylvester (Jane Lynch) doing “Vogue!” Speaking of Sue, she is also slated to do something with Olivia Newton-John and “Physical.”

Apparently Glee is the darling of Hollywood and everyone is having their agents contact Murphy to be a part of it, including Jennifer Lopez (Murphy says she’d be perfect as a “lunch lady” in the school cafeteria!). And it seems that Co-Executive Producer, Brad Falchuk, is dying to get Bruce Springsteen involved in some capacity, although there is no “official” talks between Glee and the Boss at the moment.

Lea Michele & Mark Salling as 'Racheal & Puck'

Apparently too, to the great surprise of the entire production staff, the coupling of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Puck (Mark Salling) produced so much positive feedback that the writers are working to bring them back together, perhaps in a more serious take.

Chris Colfer as 'Kurt Hummel'

And speaking of tie-ups how’s this for a huge change from the typical stereotype: Kurt (Chris Colfer) will find true love and he and his new love interest will be the Power Couple of the show, or as Murphy puts it, “Prom King & King.”

The great thing about this show is that there are so many different storylines and dynamics hitting you all at the same time that you are constantly going, “okay, now I wonder what they are going to do to solve THIS issue!” AND you look forward to how they deal with it! How will Quinn (Dianna Agron) deal with being thrown out of her family’s house AND the rejection of Finn (Corey Monteith) who she’s currently living with, and will she keep the baby after all? How will Will (Mathew Morrison) and Emma (Jayma Mays) deal with their newly budding romance, while Will’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Terri (Jessalyn Gilsig) struggles to deal with losing her “meal ticket?” And probably most of all, how will Sue (Lynch) deliver on her promise to destroy Will and get back her beloved Cheerios?

It’s gonna make for a great second-half of Season One and April seems like light years away! Until then, I’ll have to make do with American Idol, the Winter Olympics and Project Runway.