Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Case for Hidden Figures to Win the Best Picture Oscar

So, here's the thing. The Oscars, the pinnacle of the year in Los Angeles, is next Sunday. (You may've heard.) And La La Land is going to win Best Picture. You may've heard that also. In fact, it's statistically impossible for it to lose. It walks into the Oscars with a record-setting 14 nominations. It has swept nearly every guild award, won the most Golden Globes ever, won the BAFTAs recently. Won the DGA, won the PGA. Only didn't win the SAG because it has two people in its main cast, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards are about Best Ensemble. (Two people don't make up an Ensemble.)

La La Land is on track (statistically) to win, and win BIG, on Sunday. Mind you, the most it could POSSIBLY win is 13, since it has two Best Songs nominated. ("City of Stars" is winning that one.) But it's been a LONG time since any film has had a big sweep like that. The most it can really hope for, by most estimates is, maybe six, maybe seven awards. (Picture, Director, Song, Score, Film Editing for sure; maybe Screenplay, maybe Actress) Still, six/seven Oscars for La La Land would be pretty amazing. And, like I said, that is what everyone expects to happen.

And, for those not in this business we call show, let me explain. The reason why La La Land is sweeping up every award in sight isn't just that it's a great film. So is Moonlight and Manchester and Hell or High Water and Lion and Arrival. But, La La Land strikes to the heart of every creative in this town. Every single person who stumbled into Los Angeles with a dream in their heart, and waited tables and did whatever to make that dream come true. And, really, that's pretty much all of us. That's why it's going to win.

Well, plus, it's pretty and fun, and who doesn't love a musical? And all those loving shots of our fair city... they just make a person swoon. So, it's all wrapped up, with a brightly colored bow. La La Land, FTW. Right?

Let's look back for a moment to the year 2005, the year everyone was convinced that Brokeback Mountain was going to win, and then, somehow, from nowhere, it was Crash instead. I would argue that of the five wonderful nominees that year (including Capote, Munich and Good Night, and Good Luck.), Crash was the most LA of the bunch. But it was also something else.

Crash really captured the zeitgeist of the moment. Captured exactly where we were at. Emotionally and spiritually.

For that reason, I am arguing now for this: Hidden Figures coming out of nowhere to win Best Picture. It hits on every deep controversy, beating at the working heart of LA: the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the women not being paid enough or working in enough positions of power (still), the things we struggle with today. I have long argued that the Best Picture winner is the one that not only makes us feel good, but makes us feel good about ourselves. And BOY, would Hidden Figures winning score a lot of points in that regard.

Plus, there is also the "Hollywood likes to throw dirt at the frontrunners" thing. La La Land has been in the lead in this Oscar horserace for so long, it's ridiculous. And here comes Hidden Figures, from out of nowhere, fresh in Oscar voters' minds. Oscar voters who don't like being told what they are going to be voting for by every other awards show everywhere.

Hidden Figures, which is about women and minorities and women minorities working hard in the background and achieving big things. About dreaming big, impossible things and having them happen. Arguably a happier ending than the movie musical that's destined to win.

Still, La La Land is all about actors (and singers and jazz musicians), and has a big audition scene that will speak to every actor voting (the largest branch of the Academy voters). To say nothing of all those who followed their big break in Paris or with a fusion band, to leave their true love behind for fame and glory, that are just going to be sucked into voting for La La Land with all their heart.

Hidden Figures is a great movie, about real people that we didn't even know existed. From a time when America was great, and had big dreams of its own. (The moon!) But it is ultimately all about math, and statistically, La La Land can't lose. Hidden Figures doesn't even have an editing nom, for gosh sakes! and you HAVE to have that to win. But then again, a girl can dream...

Miche's Oscar Predix

La La Land

SPOILER: Hidden Figures

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea


Isabelle Huppert, Elle

SPOILER: Emma Stone, La La Land

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

SPOILER: Dev Patel, Lion

Viola Davis, Fences



SPOILER: Kubo and the Two Strings

La La Land




La La Land, Damien Chazelle


OJ: Made in America


The White Helmets

SPOILER: 4.1 Miles

La La Land


The Salesman, Iran

SPOILER: Toni Erdmann

Suicide Squad

SPOILER: Star Trek Beyond

BEST MUSIC (Original Score)
La La Land


BEST MUSIC (Original Song)
La La Land, "City of Stars"

SPOILER: La La Land, "Audition"

Hail, Caesar!



SPOILER: Not sure


SPOILER: Not sure

Hacksaw Ridge


La La Land

SPOILER: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

The Jungle Book

SPOILER: Kubo and the Two Strings

BEST WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)

SPOILER: Hidden Figures

BEST WRITING (Original Screenplay)
Manchester by the Sea

SPOILER: Hell or High Water OR La La Land


Sunday, January 1, 2017

DWTS Season 23, Week 9: Broadway Dances Sparkle

The wondrous Mark Ballas returns from Broadway with his turn as Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys."

They called this "Showstoppers Week," a new tradition in Dancing with the Stars lore. But really, every dance isn't a "showstopper," and also, it could more accurately be termed, "Broadway Week." Broadway legend Idina Menzel is a guest judge. Hometown favorite Mark Ballas (whom we miss VERY MUCH on #DWTS) is now on Broadway, singing and dancing in Jersey Boys.

So, it's fitting that the first dance to kick off Broadway night was Mark Ballas, returning to sing his new show, while friend Derek Hough and Marilu Henner dance to it.

They perform a samba to "Oh, What a Night!" Derek goes up at the end to give Mark a hug. Oh, what a night, indeed!

Lindsay and Calvin perform a gorgeous waltz to "Memory" from Cats, with Leona Lewis. They had previously been attired in Cats' outfits (when they went to NYC), but thankfully have more #DWTS-style costumes here.

After this, Allison Holker and Keo Motsepe do a stunning Contemporary bumper to "Falling Slowly" from Once, obviously choreographed by Allison. So beautiful. I miss her being in competition. Her dances are so wonderful.

The sad thing is that Sharna still has her knee injury. The great thing is that means that Jenna is dancing in her place. Here James rocks the house with a little jazz number from The Wiz. I love this pairing (and/or threesome).

Week after week, Sasha and Terra have taken the mantle from Mark Ballas of consistently having the best music. In this case, not only the best music, but the music most suited to our wonderful Terra here. Week after week. Week after week, they have been my favorite. This particular week, they rollicked through a Charleston to "If They Could See Me Now" from Sweet Charity. So perfect. So wonderful. I just don't even have enough words for how perfect and amazing these two are.

It was the only dance on "Showstoppers" Week, where Tom Bergeron actually said, "Well, you did that." (stopped the show). And they did. So fantastic.

Bruno, "They can see you in Patagonia, I'll tell you that." (They get two 10s from the judges. Shoulda gotten all 10s, IMHO.)

Also need to give a nod to the (again) amazing work that Sasha Farber is doing with Terra. This Charleston was adapted (choreography) for Terra's unique abilities. But it was stunning. She is truly a star. (And so is he.)

Then, we had a Jersey Boys bumper of "Sherry Baby," which again made us realize how gosh-darn-much we miss Mark Ballas.

Jana and Gleb give us a waltz from the musical Waitress. They receive a perfect score from the judges.

Laurie Hernandez trots out her sexy for this hot number from Chicago. The "Cell Block Tango" turns into an Argentine tango for Laurie and Val, and is just superb. The costumes (for all the Cell Block ladies) are spectacular. Even if Laurie equates some of her moves to "wiping peanut butter off" of Val... Ahem...

They, not surprisingly, get a perfect score.

Then, we had a break with Idina Menzel doing a song ("Queen of Swords") from her new album. Wonderful dancers (Allison Holker and Jenna Johnson, plus troupe members) danced along with it.

Then, we had some kind of new madness. Something called "the Team-Up Challenge," where they put two random members together to team up. These guys are The Last Men Standing. Way to plug those ABC shows!

"I was a big Megatron fan," says James Hinchcliffe. "I'm a bigger Calvin Johnson Jr. fan." The package goes on to detail their bromance. Judges give them a 37 (out of 40) for this.

So, in this paso (which is quite wonderful), James is the bandit, Calvin is the sheriff, and at the end, the women they are with (Lindsay and Jenna) hit them over the heads with bottles and take their money anyway. Nice touch.

"Jazz is like a pu pu platter of everything," says the adorable Terra Jole. Terra and Marilu do a jazz compilation of stuff, all sparkly gold and silver everywhere. Idina gushes, "Everyone hit their marks." Um...

We do find out, in case you were wondering, what "RBF" is... Also, there's a thing with a BIG dress that brings back memories of David Byrne's Big White Suit...

These guys called themselves, "Team Cubs," cause... why not?

They get a 36 from the judges.

Lastly, we have "Team Sisters," with Jana and Laurie and their partners.

And oh, the judges just ate up this Sia song done by these two dancers. Perfect score.

Marilu and Derek go home. And with that, the vaunted "Maks-Cheryl-Derek" thing that they made such a big deal out of in the beginning goes down (as I predicted). We have left those who deserve to be in the semi-finals.

1. Terra and Sasha (Charleston, Sweet Charity)
2. Laurie and Val (Argentine tango, Chicago)
3. James and Jenna (jazz, The Wiz)
4. Calvin and Lindsay (waltz, Cats)

I will say this, too, though. Marilu, in leaving, credited the usual people, plus the crew, plus the hair and makeup people and the costume people, and called out the producers by name. That's class.

Idina Menzel also was very gracious in her exit comments. The kind of judge you want to have back (except she liked everything).

NEXT WEEK: Semi-finals!

1. Jana and Gleb


Monday, November 21, 2016

DWTS Season 23, Week 8: Halloween Scares Up Some Great Dances

Halloween is always a special time at Dancing with the Stars. Usually it involves a team dance (last week). But it's always a PARTY.

Someone tell Erin Andrews she needs a Bunny tail...
First on the Halloween docket, we are sitting at the table with Beetlejuice.

Terra and Sasha are my favorite couple this season. I love them. I love everything they do. They kicked this thing off good with this Beetlejuice cha cha, even if the judges scored them lower than they should have.

The couple that I think is going to win this had a magical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory homage next. Val has always taken a brotherly attitude toward his partners who are in their teens. His relationship with Laurie Hernandez seems to be really special, nowhere noticed more than this Viennese waltz. Rehearsals evoked tears from Val (not a common occurrence).

One minor point: Charlie enters the Chocolate Factory by possessing a golden ticket (not a KEY)...

I think there's something about the childlike wonder of this dance that gets to Val, but after the dance, he again tears up. It's so sweet.

This episode also has (not clearly explained) an immunity for whoever gets the best score (they cannot be voted out). Val and Laurie get a perfect 30 from the judges. More tears backstage.

Marilu and Derek... Wow. She struggles so much, but yet... this combo just doesn't gel the way others have. I still think she's overthinking her dances, or something. "Sweet Dreams" is not a dance that one should mess up. However, they did not get a perfect score.

Calvin and Lindsay, one of my favorite couples, were a lot of fun in this Skeleton-themed quickstep. They dance to "Mr. Bones," that Julianne calls "MegaBones" now. It was great fun. And it also garnered a perfect score from the judges.

First, huge props to costumes and hair for this whole Halloween extravaganza, but wow! Cheryl's costume was just stunning. She went hardcore on Ryan Lochte this week with their tango, so he did seem better, but like Marilu and Derek, they just don't seem to have much fire as a couple.

Jana and Gleb did Gleb's first ever jazz routine to "Little Shop of Horrors," however, as Bruno said, "Where's the plant?" First we have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with no golden ticket, then we have LSOH without the plant? WTF? If you're going to open up these worlds, know what makes them what they are. Sheesh.

Then, we had this...

Our wonderful and lovely Sharna hurt her knee in last week's Team dance rehearsal, so this week, Jenna is dancing in her place. James and Jenna do a stunning Viennese waltz to "You Don't Own Me" with James as the Joker. Quite wonderful. Costumes are great, choreography is amazing. And although I wish Sharna was dancing, I was so bummed about Jenna leaving this season so soon, so this is a nice bit for her (and us).

No surprise it gets a perfect score.

So, to recap: we have THREE perfect scores of the seven dances (Val and Laurie, Lindsay and Calvin, and James and Jenna). The immunity winner is taken from whoever had the highest judges' scores all season. Which turns out to be James and Jenna! YAY!

The nicest part about this is that neither Sharna nor Jenna had to dance the "Dance Off" since they had immunity. BTW, I hate these stupid dance-offs.

Another thing I hate about these dance-offs is that they trumpet that "America will be voting live," when really it's just the East Coast. By the time the West Coast sees it, the votes have already been counted. So UNFAIR.

So, I'll just go through this quick. Val & Laurie compete in jive against Megatron & Lindsay. Val & Laurie win.

Jana & Gleb against Terra & Sasha in salsa. Jana & Gleb win.

Marilu & Derek against Cheryl & Ryan in cha cha. Cheryl & Ryan win.

Winning couples get an extra 3 points. Immunity couple got an extra 5 points.

1. James and Jenna (and Sharna) (Viennese waltz)
2. Laurie and Val (Viennese waltz)
3. Terra and Sasha (cha cha)
4. Calvin and Lindsay (quickstep)
5. Ryan and Cheryl (tango)

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Marilu and Derek

Cheryl and Ryan end up being the booted couple this week. :-(

Next week: Showstoppers Week


Sunday, November 13, 2016

DWTS, Season 23, Week 7: Eras Night, Not a Dance Competition, Just a TV Show

It's "Eras Night" on Dancing with the Stars. Every star takes an era and does a dance. Fun times.

First up, Laurie and Val with the '60s. This isn't the counter-culture hippie rebel '60s, but the sickly sweet prom version of the '60s. Sixteen-year-old Laurie has never been to prom, since she's home schooled. Lucky girl. She gets to go to prom for the first time with Valentin Chmerkovskiy. She gets her first corsage from him. *swoon* We'll just skip over the fact that in the '60s, the black kids wouldn't have been dancing so easily with the white kids. Maybe it was a really cool high school. In the late '60s... Also, in their scenario, she asks him to dance. He would've asked her. Maybe this is the '60s, the way we wish they were...

In any case, Laurie and Val do a swinging quickstep (to "One Fine Day") that is loads of fun to kick off the show. Len is back! Yay! Carrie Ann gets on their case for doing two lifts in a quickstep. Val counters with: "It was the '60s, a time of rebellion."

First, I have to commend the hairstyling staff for their amazing '90s hair on Ryan.

Then, we have to talk about this '90s rumba. Ugh. I find him so unsexy. Cheryl Burke's dancing is always stunning, but there is such a lack of chemistry between them. This rumba was yawn-worthy.

However, Len says he's giving them an extra point because they didn't have lots of hooha going on (other dancers, big sets, flashy nonsense), it was just them and the dance. Which is Len's preference.

Marilu and Derek are another couple (like Cheryl and Ryan) who just haven't seemed to gel as partners. This week they do a '20s Charleston. It was OK, but it didn't do much for me. Julianne tries to make it all better by saying, "Well, you ARE the oldest person in our competition." Thanks, Julianne! :-/

They also had this disconcerting thing in this dance, which they've had in other dances this season when they have tap dance, namely that the sound effects indicate that there are taps happening that aren't really being created by the person doing the tapping. Very annoying.

Love Lindsay and Calvin. They have a real connection as partners. They danced a '50s jive to "Good Golly Miss Molly." (Can't go wrong with that one.) They are just fun to watch, and dance well. Very refreshing to see them.

Right before commercial, they had a bit with Artem (in his '80s gear, next to Maureen) pulling out a brick phone and making a call on it. Makes me laugh every time I see it.

First of all, Maureen McCormick is the sweet Brady Bunch chick. We're not used to her being harsh. And Artem? Looks totally different, though really hot. I loved this '80s tango. They danced to "You Give Love (A Bad Name)" by Bon Jovi.

There was an issue with someone slipping on the long skirt... really these skirts should be shorter so people don't have these problems...

Terra and Sasha! Man, I LOVE THESE TWO. Tearing up the dance floor with a '30s foxtrot.

Len comments, "You put the ALL in SMALL!" and commends Sasha for "doing a fantastic job." Indeed so. They are, by far, my favorite couple all season. And this is the season Sasha became a star, rather than just the crab.

The way he crafts each dance for Terra (this, "Cheek to Cheek," which Terra calls "Cheek to Chest"), the way he dances around her, it's just magic. Bruno calls Terra, "a mini Jean Harlow." Their connection works like no other couple this season. This foxtrot was so great.

They were at the bottom of the leader board this week. So glad they didn't go home. I know I used all my calls for them.

I have very little patience for this couple. Every season there is one star and/or pro whose ego is just off the charts. This season, that couple is Jana and Gleb. (Now that Amber and Maks are gone.) You will note that this dance, a '70s samba, includes other dancers, and WASHING MACHINES (what?), and clothes flung about here and there.

They are dancing to that "Get Down Tonight" song ("do a little dance, make a little love")...

Carrie Ann pointedly reminds Gleb that there are no lifts in samba. Even for "creative reasons."

Len starts by saying that there wasn't enough samba content.

PRO TIP: When Len starts in on you (as a pro) about how there isn't enough of whatever content in your dance, the proper response is: "Thanks, Len! We'll do that next time."

Oh, but no. Gleb does not do this. He escalates this almost to a Maks-level of insolence with Len. In his interview afterward with Erin, here is his comment: "It's not a dance competition, it's a TV show."

The look on Erin's face as he said that. Ahem.

Yeah, excuse me, Gleb, but it IS a dance competition. Ruled by Len. If you don't bend to his rules, YOU DON'T WIN. That's how this works. Gleb is very lucky that this season Len is away most of the time judging in England. But rest assured, if Gleb doesn't do what Len says, he won't win. (Actually, I hope they don't win anyway.)

This couple, on the other hand...

Sharna just presents a whole world here in this '40s jitterbug. The choreography was stunning; the characterizations, which James does amazingly, are stunning. There's a story here, and packed with content.

Although Len also said that there wasn't enough jitterbug, and was too much jive, to which Sharna nodded sheepishly.

But they did score better than Jana and Gleb...

And, for that, I am glad.

1. James and Sharna ('40s jitterbug)
2. Terra and Sasha ('30s foxtrot)
3. Laurie and Val ('60s quickstep)
4. Calvin and Lindsay ('50 jive)
5. Maureen and Artem ('80s tango)

Now, to the Team Dances. First, it's very odd to have the Team Dance night fall on a night that isn't Halloween. Very strange. Also, two precedents that need to be brought up: Derek's team always wins, and the person going home is usually on the losing team.

This was Team Past, dancing a Viennese waltz to a Scottish brogue or something.

Here's how the Team dance thing goes (usually). The ensemble dances together, then each couple breaks off and does a bit by themselves, then the ensemble gets together again. In all they are judged for cohesiveness, and how well they are in time with the others, and in their individual pieces, how well those reflect each couple's personality. This is what scores big numbers with the judges.

So mind you, on Team Past, you have two powerhouses of choreography (Sharna and Lindsay). It is a beautifully executed piece.

Len notes that it was "very brave to go for a Viennese waltz... This was a proper Team dance."

They score two tens, for a total of 38.

Team Future also has two powerhouse choreographers (Derek and Val). It also has the regular winner of the Team Dances (Derek). Plus, Sasha and Terra. Lots of elements here to win this.

Why did this dance fall apart? "Laurie's traveling... Jana's traveling..." (could be?)

Several of the judges mention the lack of synchronicity among the dance members.

They get 35. Derek's team loses.

And who goes home? Someone from the WINNING team.

Sad. It was fun watching you, Maureen. And at least we got to see Artem as an '80s rocker.

1. Jana and Gleb
2. Ryan and Cheryl
3. Marilu and Derek