geeking out

‘So You Think You Can Dance’ is Strong as Ever

Typically you might expect the fifteenth season of a show to be worn out and overdone, but that hasn’t been the case for the fifteenth season of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD). The show has had its ups and downs—its downs mostly being the changes in judges and formatting and the best-to-forget “junior” season—but this year it is busting at the sequined seams with a stellar roster of contestants and choreographers (the latter including returning favorites and exciting newcomers). What blows me away most though, is how reliably entertaining and pure it is. More than other dance-based reality shows, there is something very genuine about SYTYCD in its love of this art form. Yes, it’s a competition, but most if not all of the dancers competing audition for this show because of their love of dance. Nearly all of them are bound to be professional dancers, usually by the mere fact that they are talented enough to be selected for the show, but it never seems that anyone here is for money or fame per se—it’s for the love of dance. And because of this, the show soars in bringing unique dance styles to a national stage and giving creative freedom (or at least it appears this way) to the choreographers. Sometimes the routines are simply fun and entertaining, other times so emotionally raw it can give you literal chills. Here a just a few examples of the breadth of what is delivered, often found in a single episode:

Cerebral Creativity

Sure, season in and season out SYTYCD needs to present fresh ideas. Props and concepts can run the risk of being gimmicky, but a simple idea or storyline executed in the right way can do wonders.

Art for Change

Dance with a social message, especially something you haven’t seen done before, can be breathtaking when you have the care and respect that choreographer Travis Wall and contestant Darius bring to this piece. When is the last time you can say you saw representation like this on broadcast TV?

Good Ol’ Fashioned Fun

The personalities of this group number shine through, and the result is a highly infectious hip-hop number.

Emotional Therapy

There are many moving contemporary pieces every week of the show, but then you get something like this group number that is simply joyful. Props to choreographer Mia Michaels for sneaking some Vivaldi into primetime television.

From krumping and contemporary to African jazz and Broadway, the dance styles are as diverse as the dancers dancing them. I suppose that’s the other thing—while the contestants all have dance as their common interest, they come from such different backgrounds and life experiences. Luckily for the viewers, this is reflected in what we see on stage, bringing a welcome display of unique perspectives for all of us to enjoy and learn from.

Advertisements

“Solo” Soars

And now a spoiler-y, rapid-fire response to Solo: A Star Wars Story…

Initial thoughts straight out of the theater:

  • That was fun!
  • Alden Ehrenreich was great and exceeded my expectations in what is essentially an impossible ask and a thankless position to be in.
  • Beautifully shot and thoroughly impressed by the cinematography (kudos, Bradford Young!).
  • Loved Chewbacca’s entrance and the Wookiee appearances.
  • Hard not to like Woody Harrelson in this (or in anything, really).
  • Wish there was more of Thandie Newton, what a shame to not get more of the Val character.
  • L3 (aka Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is a scene-stealer.
  • Pleased with the message of the droid liberation.
  • Donald Glover is clearly having a blast here (and he made me have a blast too).
  • Not sure I was completely jiving with Paul Bettany’s character, Drydon Vos, as it felt a bit too cliché and I was not about that silky blouse he had on.
  • Speaking of silky things, I did enjoy Lando’s wardrobe and loved how well Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra pulled off a wide-leg pant.
  • No thank you to that tentacle monster—we did not need this.
  • I totally dug the Darth Maul surprise, even though it also didn’t make any sense to me in the moment (this being from a Star Wars fan who pretty much only sticks to the movies and doesn’t venture too far into the other shows, books, or comics…so yeah, to me Darth Maul has been dead. You could say his onscreen death is a particularly bad case of being cut in half.)

More thoughts upon further reflection:

  • Did we really need this movie? Only time will tell to see how some of the peripheral developments play out in other movies, but again, did we need to see Han’s origins? Did this serve some bigger purpose other than an entertaining romp?
  • Really liked the moments where we see more of what day-to-day life is like for those in this galaxy and the struggles they face, which is something I think the newer Star Wars films since have done well. For example, seeing the lines at what looked like an immigration/border patrol station and knowing that Han has to enlist in the Imperial Navy to escape gives much more depth to the realities of life in this world.
  • Some have thought it’s too unbelievable that Han would be so romantic and idealist because of his love for Qi’ra, but seeing how that plays out and how he gets burned…maybe this very thing is what blackens his heart a bit and really makes him trust no one (except Chewie, of course).
  • Qi’ra represents an interesting story within this galaxy and one that seemed more worth telling in this film, but perhaps that means we’ll see her again soon.
  • And of course the burning What If of this entire film is wondering what a Phil Lord and Christopher Miller version would have truly looked like, as there were certainly elements of mild goofiness woven in that I could only expect would have been much goofier and included more plays for laughs throughout.
  • Even with what felt like some forced and overtly saccharine set pieces on heroism and rebellion, which I could only assume was more direction from Disney and/or Ron Howard, ultimately I was satisfied and thoroughly entertained by the fun heist film this turned out to be.

And I’ll leave you with this:

tumblr_p8n7pvvsFV1qf5hjqo2_500tumblr_p8pukfflIx1xsynieo1_500

Star Wars Coincides with Style and an Important Statement

Can we stop for a moment and discuss Thandie Newton’s Star Wars dress from the Solo premiere at the Cannes Film Festival?

At first glance the photographs aren’t super clear, but the word going around is that she wore a custom Vivienne Westwood gown made of a custom print featuring Star Wars figurines.

Many questions arise. Obviously she’s in the new film, but is she also a big Star Wars fan? And if that is in fact common knowledge, does that mean I may not be as big of a fan as I think I am?

Taking a closer look, you can tell that all of the photographed figurines featured on her dress are of black male characters that we’ve seen in the galaxy (from Finn to Mace Windu). Although this may not have been intentional, it’s a nice callback to the SNL sketch from the Donald Glover –hosted episode just a few weeks ago. But that aside, she’s clearly making a statement here as she is now the first black woman to be featured in a leading role in a Star Wars film. Get it, Thandie.

The sparseness in the design of the figurines is a reminder that there’s still more work to be done with representation in this franchise (although I’d like to think that Star Wars has often been ahead of the curve).

Another article claims the figurines featured on her dress are from her personal (!) collection—so if this is indeed true, when did she start collecting and how many does she own? Or do you think she may have just started collecting once she was cast in Solo?

Either way, it is a stunning dress with layered meanings and it just may be the most badass thing anyone has ever done.

The Force is Strong with J.J. Abrams

Today it was announced that J.J. Abrams will return to the directing chair for the final (for now) installment of the Star Wars saga, following the recent parting of ways between Lucasfilm and Colin Trevorrow (or, as some would say, after he was fired). Frankly, I’m excited. I loved Episode VII: The Force Awakens and I’m a big fan of his work. From Lost and Felicity to Super 8 and, yes, even Regarding Henry, Abrams has a knack for compelling storytelling and strong character development. Heck, he brought an epic franchise back to life after a tumultuous and CGI-ridden trilogy of prequels. He deserves some respect, as he often gets chastised for the fact that for some die-hard Star Wars fans (a categorization that I include myself in) he didn’t deliver a perfect movie. Look, not sure we’ll get anything more perfect than Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, so let’s not be so harsh. Other misgivings included that Force felt like a carbon(ite) (sorry!) copy of Episode IV: A New Hope. Well, to me, he handled the film with such care, affection, and general badassery I could feel it oozing from the screen—and as that die-hard Star Wars fan, I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

Downton Abbey Gets Meta

I only just started watching Downton Abbey over the winter break and subsequently became OBSESSED. I watched the first and second season just in time to start the third season when it debuted here in the US. I know I’m a tad late to the game (even more so considering when it started in the UK), but with Season 3 in the thick of things [Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the current season!] there is a bit of Downton Abbey fever going on. And no, I am not talking about the Spanish Flu or whatever the hell Sybil got. But because of this fervor, there have been some great DA parodies and tributes. Firstly, Sesame Street just posted yesterday a lesson in learning about ups and downs, starring the uncanny muppet incarnations of Mr. Carson and the Dowager Countess of Grantham in “Upside Downton Abbey”:

Then there is the hilariously accurate modern-adaptation of transferring all the drama from Downton to Facebook. Yep, Facebook threads as episode recaps. The little nuances are so spot on, you will bust a gut laughing if you even remotely like the series [Season 3 Spoilers!]:

“If Downton Abbey took place entirely on Facebook: Season 3, Episode 4”

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 4.39.46 PM

Then there’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon‘s take on DA with “Downton Sixbey” which is pretty funny. I mostly love Fred Armisen’s cameo (perfect casting!) and the later use of Whoopi Goldberg in a following sketch.

And just when it couldn’t get better, Stephen Colbert and his team concocted a spectacular mash-up of Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad. That’s right, I give you “Breaking Abbey.”

George Michael’s Impeccable Taste in Parkas

In light of the previous post, I will vouch that the best Christmas song is, without question, Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas.’ Heck, maybe even one of the best songs. No other song captures that longing for an old flame to see you better off with someone else, yet at the same time you yearn for them and what you miss. There is something about the way George Michael sings that pulls at my heartstrings. Maybe it helps that I feel like I’ve lived this song (well, I think that helps in making any song that much more relatable and powerful). The song is so bittersweet, which I’ve witnessed as I get older, is a more and more appropriate summation of the holidays. At least when you’re single, anyway. Huzza!

 

A few notes on the video:

-May be one of the best songs, but may be one of the most anticlimactic music videos?

-It defines the 80s. The hair. The fashion. Gondolas. Everything about it.

– Why would that lady give up Georgie’s irresistible good looks? Oh wait, right…

-I want to be a guest at that Apres Ski party! Who’s with me?!

SNL-ize your Holiday

In light of the holiday season now in full swing, I’ve finally re-checked all of the holiday songs on my iTunes library. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I am a holiday music fiend. Yes, I’m one of those people. But I like a lot of the unconventional songs and the constant barrage of creating modern-day covers of classics. I also like me some good ol’ humorous fun. I grew up as an avid watcher of Saturday Night Live (I’ve been a night owl from an early age) and while there are many great classic sketches associated with the holidays (Dan Aykroyd’s ‘Consumer Probe’ and Alec Baldwin’s Schweddy balls in ‘Delicious Dish’ come to mind), I’ve also loved the silly and weird songs that have been produced over the years.

The recurring sketch of ‘Tarzan, Tonto, & Frankenstein’ and their ‘Seasons Greetings’ from the early 90s is just ridiculous. But something about this super short sketch, and the mix of Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, and the late great Phil Hartman, makes me laugh. Maybe it’s Hartman’s grunting?

 

Of course, Adam Sandler’s Chanukah Song, which produced two sequels, has become a holiday mainstay, and is probably one of the only Chanukah-related songs that gets mainstream airtime on the radio. As far as I know, anyway. I love seeing the original version on Weekend Update, but I really love how much people get into the song during this HBO special.

 

I love the silliness of the ‘Season’s Greetings’ with Horatio Sanz, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, and Tracy Morgan. All four make me laugh at different points, but I think Morgan’s repetitive but completely serious swaying is what always does it for me. http://www.spike.com/video-clips/3ag6mo/snl-christmas-song

 

‘D*** In a Box’ is not only a holiday classic, but it goes down in SNL Hall of Fame. From 2006, it’s probably one of the most referential, memorable sketches in recent history. Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake have incredible chemistry, which has clearly been milked for further Digital Shorts, and I love Maya Rudolph’s and Kristen Wiig’s supporting roles – their expressions kill me every time.