Sunday, February 4, 2018

DWTS S025, Week 2, Night 2: Latin Night and Getting Used to Our Bodies

These early days (in the first few weeks of Dancing with the Stars), the celebrities/stars are getting used to this concept of dancing, and rehearsal, and perhaps characterization. Latin Night is specifically to get them used to bumping and grinding their partners in the dance assigned. Some, who aren't used to characterization (or portraying someone else in the dance than who you are in real life) have problems with this. Nikki Bella, for example, really struggled with it.

After one rehearsal, she says to Artem, “You’re like a nice Russian.”

To my eyes, though, he didn't quite succeed, and their samba felt awkward. (Though she looks fabulous.) They did dance to the popular  “Despacido” song.

Len didn't like “all the gyrating” at the beginning, although he thought the rest had “quite a bit of samba content.” Bruno thought “the timing was a little bit off, but the look was on.” Carrie Ann noted that “samba is one of the most difficult dances to learn.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 18 (out of 30)

For some reason, they decided to have the stars hit a piñata after their scores. Tom Bergeron: “You know, I hosted AFV (America‘s Funniest Videos) for 15 years. Nothing good comes out of hitting a piñata.”

Our heartthrob Val has a different challenge with Victoria, the one who spent many years unable to move. As he tries to teach her about characterization... “What does a heartbreaker look like to you?” Victoria: “I don’t know.”

As they stand very close, she is laughing. Val: “I don’t know why you’re laughing. You know how many women would love to be in this position? ... and men.” (true dat) She laughs more.

So, they attempt this rumba, this “dance of love” as Val calls it in the package, she, the woman who probably hasn’t experienced much love (if she doesn‘t know what a heartbreaker is) and he, whom men and women all over the country wish they could be near.

And, they have Val’s stunning choreography, and Victoria does much better with characterization than she even did in their tango the day before. Just beautiful.

Bruno thought it ”lost a bit of hip action.” Carrie Ann called it “really authentic.” As Carrie Ann notes how happy she was that Victoria finally “showed her legs,” Val mentions that it’s Victoria’s birthday. Len says that there was “very little recognizable rumba” in the dance. Val mentions that “times have changed.” Len was not having it.

They go up the stairs to the skybox, and they have a cake and a pink crown (pink being her color) for Victoria. They start singing Happy Birthday to her, and Jenna Johnson has wheeled out a table with a huge bouquet of flowers (pink, of course) on it. Erin has Victoria read the card. It’s from Taylor Swift, thanking Victoria for dancing to her song (last night). A special, and amazing, moment.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 20 (out of 30)

Sharna, at least, knows enough to pack her paso doble with plenty of paso content, to say nothing of the fine flamenco outfits. Really fantastic dance.

Len really liked the “knee walks... I used to do them 50 years ago, and I still can’t walk properly.” Then he goes into some story about how important thumbs are to the paso (who knew?). “A hand without a thumb is like a kiss without a moustache.” (HUH?)

Bruno thought he “got so into the character, he lost the artistry.” And that he needs ”more joosh.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 (out of 30)

Sasha and Gleb samba against the backdrop of fat-shaming bullying (even though this isn’t Most Memorable Week—when you normally do this kind of stuff). So, they have a lame storyline about prom king and queen, danced to Halle Steinfeld’s “Most Girls.” Sasha wins the crown, and promptly throws it away (supposedly a win for feminism). Which doesn’t make sense at all in the context of the song, or in the context of real life. Winning a crown is a good thing, even for a feminist.

Len’s happy because “there was plenty of samba content in there.” Carrie Ann says that “the best part of being on the show is watching someone like you blossom into yourself.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 22 (out of 30)

It’s a bit awkward when one married couple on the show is dancing with another married couple. Especially when they are dancing sexy songs. This is actually an Argentine tango, but boy was it steamy! Great choreography and concept by Peta, of course. (Former Mirror Ball champions don’t forget what it took to get there.)

That foot thing (don’t know what it’s called) that is notable in the Argentine tango was really well done by Nick.

And the judges pound home the characterization concept here too.

Carrie Ann said that “you don’t have to grind it out on the floor.” (HUH?) And, importantly, “the lifts were appropriate.” Len, who’s been bashing everyone all night, starts out with “Nick, I’m a kind guy...” and I’m already worried. Len said he thought “the steps were there,” but “it’s about a guy, trying to get a girl” and “that was lacking.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 (out of 30)

Jordan and Lindsay do a samba, even though Lindsay says she normally doesn’t attempt a samba, because it’s one of the hardest dances. The dance seems like it’s packed with samba content, including samba rolls (my favorite!).

Carrie Ann calls them “an amazing partnership. There’s a vibrancy and a youth and an energy to you that makes me hungry.” Len remarks that Jordan’s Cuban heels are giving him a “peculiar leg action.” Bruno commends Jordan for doing “a totally recognizable samba, but you put your own individual style to it. Top notch.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)

On Property Brothers, they always say that the two twins “look so much alike.” I’ve never seen that. I’ve always thought Jonathan was so much sexier than Drew. So when Drew rips his shirt open (after a spray-tan session) and asks America if we “are ready for this?”... well, I had to look away.

Well, Drew must’ve pulled out some of that Scott chemistry, cause here he is doing a great rumba with sexy Emma Slater. Some questionable camerawork notwithstanding, it was pretty darn sexy. And he goes to kiss his fiancée at the end.

Len calls it “his best dance ever.” Bruno says, “you got it together, darling.” As Carrie Ann is commenting about how Drew didn’t have much of a dance background, which causes both Emma and Drew to laugh, Bruno falls off his chair. Then Carrie Ann says that Drew “is still learning his body.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 (out of 30)

Debbie Gibson and Alan just do nothing for me. So here’s their Argentine tango.

The best part for me about this dance is that both Jenna and Sasha Farber are in the troupe/background. I do like seeing Alan dance. I just wish it was Sasha as the pro up there... *sigh*

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 (out of 30)

Interestingly, Maks and Vanessa, the other set of the married couple, do not do a rumba. They opt for a mostly fully clothed samba.

(Oh yay! Sasha’s in this one too...)

This is supposed to portray Vanessa’s early going-out days in NYC with her girlfriends. Pretty hot.

Carrie Ann said they “were so in sync together.” Len says that Vanessa “is 100% a contender for this show.” Bruno said that she “outshone Maks.” Love the little butt pinches between Maks and Tom.

 23 (out of 30)

Ah. Swoon. A little salsa bumper with Sasha Farber (far left) and Jenna Johnson (far right) and the rest of the troupe. Wonderful.

Then Cheryl Burke and Terrell show us how hot it’s getting in here with their samba. More awkward camera mistakes. Nice dance, though.

Oh yes, we missed you, Cheryl Burke.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 (out of 30)

The hip-swiveling  and constant shaking of salsa is often unfamiliar to people, and hard to get  accustomed  to. I have a massive butt, and when it shakes you know it. Lindsay Sterling has no butt, so they had to add massive frou-frou behind her. But it was a great salsa and Mark Ballas had his super cool sparkly shoes which gave off a special light as he was dancing.

Mostly, it’s just great to see Mark Ballas back again. We missed him so.

Bruno: “It left me breathless. Well done.”  Carrie Ann: “You ARE the music. You got it all going on.” Len: “There was no larking about. Straight into the routine. No messing, no stressing, full on, flat-out fabulous.”

JUDGES’ SCORES:  24 (out of 30)

I think there is a producing/directing contingent that really loves Witney and Frankie, cause they save the best dancers for last, usually. Their package shows the lengths to which Frankie goes for this competition: Yoga, freezing therapy, working out. He really really really wants this. (Course, that doesn't necessarily mean you'll win.)

For me, a dance always starts out good if Sasha Farber is in it. But this is also a good dance overall. Although for me personally, I don't really like Witney's regular choice of music (rap). This was a James Brown-ish rap thing, but still...

Len then does something he doesn't usually do. He commended all of the contestants for how difficult it was to do two dances on the second week. He stands in honor of that. (Pretty big deal, actually.) Tom Bergeron adds how great “the whole production team” was. Bruno talks about how great the choreography was. Bruno gives them the first 9 of the season.

JUDGES’ SCORES:  25 (out of 30)

Miche’s Favorites of Week 2, Night 2, Latin Night
1. Lindsay and Jordan (samba)
2. Mark and Lindsay (salsa)
3. Maks and Vanessa (salsa)
4. Witney and Frankie (cha cha)
5. Peta and Nick (Argentine tango)
6. Emma and Drew (rumba)

Going home?

Ready for You to Go Home
1. Nikki Bella
2. Terrell
3. Sasha (and Gleb)


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hollywood Reckoning at the Golden Globes®

Photo by Trae Patton/NBC - © 2018 Trae Patton/NBC - Image courtesy

Maybe it started with Harvey Weinstein. When word of his crimes finally broke, and he was kicked out of every awards season place that he had held so dear.

Maybe it had begun even earlier, when Patricia Arquette had so bravely taken to the Oscar stage to declare that women needed equal pay for equal work.

All I knew, as I settled in for my regular awards-season spot (comfy couch, pizza at hand, three screens tuned to the various red carpet goings-on so I didn’t miss anything), was that something had REALLY changed in this town.

Or maybe it was just that Hollywood was sick to the teeth of Donald Trump and constantly being lied to. Maybe it was all of these elements, swirling around in our Hollywood ether, affecting us.

The direction late a few nights before the show was to “wear black” in support of the #MeToo movement, and those who had been harassed by those in power. And I had expected a couple of folks wearing black, here or there.

What I completely DID NOT expect was that EVERYONE, and I mean everyone, would be wearing black. Some with a new organization’s pins (#Time’sUp) on their lapels, some not. Everyone. Wearing. Black. Women. Men.

From the first Manolo-laden foot on the red carpet to the last, the black just kept coming. And there was more. Most of the women had also decided to bring as their +1 an “activist” from some cause they believed in. Most of these choices were also women.

So we had the movie or TV star in black, with a woman activist at their side, also in black. And instead of the insipid “What are you wearing?” nonsense that normally blights every red carpet (Thank you, Joan Rivers), we had gracious host Ryan Seacrest allowing the star to speak for a few minutes, then the activist next to them to speak about their cause for a few minutes.

We had Debra Messing, long selected as one of the top-dressed on many red carpets, a style icon by people whose business it is to do this stuff, speaking to Giuliana Rancic on E!’s red carpet. E!, mind you, had just let one of its best anchors (Catt Sadler) walk out the door when she learned her lesser-skilled male cohost was being paid much more than she was. Messing didn’t miss a beat. “Why isn’t Catt Sadler here? I miss her. She deserves to be paid as much as her male cohost.”

To Giuliana’s credit, she let Messing talk (although it was edited out of the E! feed later).

But these stars were NOT messing around. They were here to call out injustice at every turn. This wasn’t an “ice-bucket challenge” they were participating in here. This was very real.

At the awards themselves, women kept swarming the stage, winning awards. Big Little Lies, produced by the female team of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman who created their company to present more female-centric stories, took boatloads of awards.

Natalie Portman, presenting the award for Best Director with Ron Howard, introduced the five names by saying, “Here are the all-male directors.” Howard gave a nervous laugh.

And then, after a night of so much forward female movement, we had Oprah Winfrey’s soul-stirring speech. Many afterward jumped on it as a potential run for president. (Perhaps it was.) But what I heard was a call to action, that had already been foreshadowed by everything gone before. Oprah spoke of how change happens, and how it is essential for each of us to own our part in that.

Essentially, we are done with the abuse and the inequal pay and the disrespect. We are DONE.

I, like many of other women, no doubt, sobbed through Oprah’s moving speech. Celebrities, on their feet, at several times within it. (NOT a normal occurrence.)

I can’t exactly pinpoint when it started, but one thing was crystal clear as the last black-clad star left the Golden Globes on this evening in January: Hollywood had changed. And it’s not going back. #TimesUp


Sunday, November 26, 2017

DWTS S025, Week 2, Night 1: Ballroom Dances, Boggles and Bumps in the Road

Week 2, Night 1 of Dancing with the Stars. This is our cast before any eliminations.

Night One is Ballroom Dances. Night Two is Latin Night. Both nights have someone going home.

First up on Night One, Debbie Gibson and new pro Alan Bersten dance a quickstep. She’s fine. Alan’s fine. I just wish they would both go away.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 20 (out of 30)

WWE wrestler Nikki Bella and Artem wanted to show “her softer side” with this waltz. The set designers used the La La Land trick of having stars everywhere, to nice effect.

 21 (out of 30)

The reason that I love Mark Ballas so much, and why this show has just ached from the void of him not being here, is that he is a breath of creativity and passion this show desperately needs. This shot, of him and Lindsey as caterpillars before they dance.

Which evolves, during the dance to this:

And I just want to give a shoutout right now to the amazing magicians who do stagecraft on DWTS. Wow. The things they create! Look at this. It looks like a Van Gogh painting! So beautiful.

And then, this:

Lindsey and Mark as butterflies. I mean, truly, we are not worthy of the creativity and genius that comes from this man, and this season, really, from both of them.

Len acknowledged that he “loved the creativity,” but admonished them for not being in hold for the entire quickstep.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 (out of 30)

DISCLAIMER: This show aired before the Harvey Weinstein news broke.

So, cougar and resident sexual predator Barbara Corcoran dances a tango with Keo to “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets).” At the end, she rips Keo’s shirt open. (Although I do think it was funny that the lyrics to this song at the end say: “You’re not gonna win.”)

(You will recall that last week, as they were receiving scores, her hand was firmly planted on the inside of Keo’s thigh.) This week, as they are getting scores, Tom says: “Well, at least your hands are where we can see them.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 17 (out of 30)

Peta and Nick Lachey dance a foxtrot to Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.” He (Manilow) Tweets in his congratulations and luck. And it was a very pretty dance. It was wistful and sad, like a first girlfriend dancing in your memory.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 (out of 30)

Drew had pulled a hamstring in rehearsal, so lucky for us the troupe got to add some texture to this quickstep. They dance to a familiar and beloved song, and there was some razzle dazzle at the end that just couldn’t be believed.

Carrie Ann, commenting first, as the swells of applause drown her out: “It was a showstopper. Look at this!”

Len the curmudgeon was less impressed. Bruno quite liked the Charleston parts near the end.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 20 (out of 30)

Vanessa Lachey and Maks dance a foxtrot that was more flash than content for me, but the judges seemed to love it. Everyone’s suffering from little aches and pains, and she was no exception.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)

In the pantheon of #DWTS, as long as I’ve been watching it, it is a fact that Mark Ballas almost never plays a song that I dislike. Whereas Witney Carson, 85% of the time, at least, plays songs I really dislike. I think I would really like her more as a dancer if she played better music.

She and Frankie dance a harsh tango to some harsh music. Bruno even commented on it: “If you listen to the beat of that track, it’s almost impossible to keep on it.” Carrie Ann: “You guys are this really powerful, dynamic couple.” Len: “I thought it was a little over-agressive.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 23 (out of 30)

Terrell and Cheryl's foxtrot started like this.

And ended like this:

And yes, he was simulating grinding over her. Val C. was in the stands, covering his eyes.

In the middle, there was this:

Carrie Ann thought it was really hot. Len was incensed: “That was more bedroom than ballroom.” Bruno: “It was a sextrot, straight into the bedroom. But I am not complaining because you went into it very beautifully.” As he laughs.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 21 (out of 30)

Gleb, in past seasons, has taken a lot of grief for being overly sexual in all his dances, and not really incorporating the proper content into them.

Here, he does a Viennese waltz with Sasha Pieterse. Len still thinks he doesn’t have enough content in it, but somehow Sasha took that comment as a compliment. (He said that he wanted Gleb to have the proper amount of time in hold, and “come back and knock my socks off.”) But Carrie Ann told Sasha, “You are a star.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 23 (out of 30)

Val and Victoria do a nice, well-choreographed (of course) tango. Victoria still has the Ginger Zee defect of smiling too much (you don’t smile in tango), and she doesn’t really have this whole concept of “a character” down yet, but it was fun to watch.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)

Sharna and Derek Fisher do a foxtrot, as his mother, a longtime DWTS fan, watches in the stands.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 19 (out of 30)

Our wunderkind Jordan Fisher danced a Viennese waltz with Lindsay Arnold on Week 2. Len complains that some of the movements are too staccato, and should be more lyrical. He said that Jordan should be more aware of “the character of the dance.” Bruno said that he “danced like a singer.” Carrie Ann wants to see “more ballroom nuances. I see lyrical jazz nuances.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 24 (out of 30)

Going home on this night?

I can only say how glad I am that they never got to do a rumba.

1. Mark and Lindsey, quickstep
2. Lindsay and Jordan, Viennese waltz
3. Emma and Drew, quickstep
4. Sharna and Derek, foxtrot
5. Val and Victoria, tango
6. Cheryl and Terrell, foxtrot
7. Peta and Nick, foxtrot
8. Witney and Frankie, tango
9. Maks and Vanessa, foxtrot

1. Debbie Gibson
2. Sasha Pieterse