Friday, December 7, 2018

A Star Is Born adds backstory for the dude

I have several biases going into the viewing of this year's "A Star Is Born." Let me state those upfront. First, I've seen every version. The tepid Janet Gaynor-Frederic March one. The oh-so-campy Kris Kristofferson-Barbra Streisand one. And the landmark gold-standard Judy Garland-James Mason one. That cannot help but affect the viewing of this new one.

Second, I have a pet peeve about actors who decide to become directors. To say nothing of producers, writers, editors, songwriters, singers, craftservicepeople on the same movie. Drives me mad. Yes, Hollywood is collaborative, but give some OTHER people a damn job. To say nothing of the fact that someone who is a good/great actor may or may NOT be a good/great director. So, it really really really bugs me, these multi-hypenates who think they can do it all. I usually cut them NO Slack. Actors are rarely auteurs.

So, Mr. Bradley Cooper has a lot to prove to me going in. How dare he take on this classic film, and think he can do it better or do it at all? Not just acting, but directing, writing, singing, producing, sheesh. At least he didn't edit it.

But then... there's the movie.

Sure, we have the grizzled singer, too drunk on a massive stage, already telling us that this one's going to be the most like the Kristofferson one. At this point, let me tell you another bias of mine. I adored the TV show Alias. (Well, except for all that Rimbaldi crap, which made me want to throw the TV across the room...) But Alias was indeed something special. Between sexy Jennifer Garner kicking butt every week, and her dad, Victor Garber, and sexy Michael Vartan as the love interest, it was a wonderful show. And there was young Bradley Cooper as the journalist, cutting his teeth with all these great people. Forgive me for digressing... I was describing the opening scene of "A Star Is Born," as Bradley Cooper, megastar, is being driven around by... wait, who's that voice? Damned if that doesn't sound like Greg Grunberg.

In case you don't remember this, director J.J. Abrams had/has a trick where he constantly casts Greg Grunberg as various bit parts in all his movies/TV shows. He was the pilot of the doomed flight in Lost, for example. It's a fun little Easter egg to look for in all J.J.'s movies. And here now, as I go in with all this hubris, and "PROVE YOURSELF to me, you ACTOR!" stuff, here's Greg Grunberg, making me think of Alias and J.J. and making me smile.

"A Star Is Born" is like that, to me. There were so many ways in the watching of it, so many little gems sprinkled like stardust all through the movie, that made me smile and think, Damn! This Bradley Cooper is all right. So, yeah, overall, it was a fun watch. I went on this journey with him.

We see waitress/server Stefani/Lady Gaga as she slogs through her job, throwing the big stinky bag of garbage onto a heap and dancing down the alley. CREDITS roll: "A Star Is Born." Made me laugh, or at least really smile. And I do have to say, she is really unrecognizable as her character (thankfully, we've done away with the "Esther" nonsense, but not sure how we got her new name) Ally. At least Bradley's character is close to the same name: Jackson Maine.

Let me take you through a bit more of it. So drunk Bradley, whose voice is gruff and gravelly, as a good country singer would be, stumbles into a gay bar. It made me think of Judy and Barbra and how fitting an homage that is, that he stumbles into a drag queen bar. And we have, for the first time in this version, a character that needs to stay in all future versions: the gay best friend (who logs everything on YouTube).

And while we're waxing wistful about that, let me tell you something else. When you're face to face (in real life) with Bradley Cooper, what will stay with you the most about him is his eyes. He has the most stunning, gorgeous blue eyes, that sink deep into your soul. Fantastic and amazing eyes. Really incredible and unforgettable. And there aren't many movies that do his eyes justice.

Thank you, cinematographer Matthew Libatique, for FINALLY getting it right. In this movie, at least, you can finally see the incredibleness that is Bradley Cooper's eyes. Heck, I could spend a whole movie just looking at Bradley Cooper's eyes.

So there were many things about this movie I loved (and I haven't even gotten to the Ron Rifkin appearance yet)... but overall, as "A Star Is Born" lover, I was displeased with this version, and here's why. This is where the I'm an actor-no, I'm a director-no, I'm a writer thing got in the way. As gorgeous as Bradley Cooper is (and he sure is), as much fun as it is to watch him and Lady Gaga sing and cavort (and it sure is), the STORY lost its way. Also, actors tend to direct movies with too much of actors talking and not enough of big picture things. That was also true here.

But what bugged me the most was that it ("A Star Is Born") is Esther (now Ally)'s story. SHE is the STAR who is being born. The male character is famous and washed up, they fall in love, and then bad things happen in his story. But it's HER story. What was really lacking here, the engine driving the whole thing was supposed to be HER AMBITION. She dreams of hitting it big, she dreams of the Big Time her whole life, and then, when it happens to her, she gets swept up in it, at the expense of her relationship. That is essentially the story. That is not the story that was on this screen (unfortunately).

Instead, we have all these new characters added who do not serve the story. The gay best friend is a great addition. What was not a great addition was his brother. And the dad backstory. It's not supposed to be conflict about him. His only conflict is supposed to be that he's a drunk/addict/whatever and he can't get it together. And he doesn't feel good enough in the light of Ally's success. That all was kinda missing, IMHO.

Also, the reality in 2018 is that the recovery movement is so pervasive and strong that a person wouldn't have an excuse for being such a washed-up drunk mess as this character is.

But, ok. Let's say he was. Let's get back for a moment to the parts I liked. The first song they create together...

Ugh. Sorry. I just thought of another part I didn't like. There is an altercation and Ally takes a swing at a guy in a bar (out of character), which does lead to a nice scene in a parking lot of a store. Ally is our STAR. She wouldn't be swinging her fist at guys in bars. She never shows anything before or after that she is prone to fighting with people. Ugh.

Anyway, when they are sitting there, in the parking lot (which is reminiscent of many classic movie scenes), she blurts out a song she had written, which, of course, is amazing.

So let me go off on a Lady Gaga tangent now. She won't be winning any Academy Awards (although she might win the Golden Globe, cause they love stars like her) anytime soon, and here's why. She is essentially one-note. Let me rephrase. I love Stefani. Gaga shows us her real, true, vulnerable self, which is amazing. But there should be more hesitation, more reticence, in her early days, before she really becomes a star. And even when she's sitting there in that parking lot, she belts it out like the star she is. I think it's been eons since little Stefani actually was sitting somewhere, dreaming of stardom. And all that training, and all of those shows she's done, just come out, they can't help it. (Which is good for us, the audience members, but not so good for showing the actual arc of the character.)

So yeah, I can buy her being vulnerable and just starting out. It's impossible to see anything but perfection every time she sings, however. And there really is NOTHING in the early days which shows that she's dreaming of stardom, that she really wants that record deal. She's just sort of dragged along.

She has a chance to be flown to a fancy concert, and she just says, Nah, I'd rather go to work. What person in 2018 would do that? Seriously? Even one who's NOT dreaming of stardom?

So, lots of things in the script didn't hold true for me. The script, btw, is credited to Eric Roth (mostly) and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters. There were many wonderful callbacks to the previous films: the "I just want to look at you one more time" double callback, and Gaga makes a gesture-reference to her nose, which I think is a Streisand callback. (I dunno, did Gaga have issues with her nose, too?)

In the big awards-show sequence (in the first two films, it was the Oscars; in the latter two, it's the Grammys), they do something they've never done. First, let me say that Gaga is resplendent with this golden gown, with lots of little gold sequins. And the drunk husband bellows onto the stage, and pisses himself. And it's funny how the piss makes the bubbles of gold on her dress suddenly look different. I like that theme throughout the movie, about how close absolute despair and absolute success are.

But even in that scene, That scene most of all, should be about: this is MY moment, I've waited for this moment all my life, and you're not going to take it from me, and it becomes just her attending to him. Had we had HER raw ambition sprinkled more throughout, this would've been a much better movie.

We also have the new character of the manager, who appears when convenient. There is no pushback from the husband about this guy suddenly taking over his wife's career. As she careens from a country star into a pop star (inexplicably), there is no discussion. There is a pointless discussion between manager and Ally where she tells him she cut her dancers on one occasion (which is meant to play like some big achievement, but then she goes right back in the next scene to adding the dancers back in).

It's like Cooper the director/screenwriter didn't really know what to do with the Ally character. Let's put her in yoga pants and give her dancers. Manager dude says at one point she should have platinum hair (which Gaga has now), but Ally only shows up with red hair (not that much different from what it was earlier in the movie). So her "STAR" isn't that much different from Ally in the beginning of the movie, except now she has billboards and is on SNL. And, for gosh sakes, if anyone can show the excesses of stardom it's frikkin' Lady Gaga. C'mon!

It would've been nice, ESPECIALLY FROM Bradley Cooper, big mega star, to see a progression of how a star is groomed in 2018. The magazine covers, the stylists, all the craziness that surrounds celebrity today. We really didn't see much of that at all, not in the washed up Jackson Maine character, and not in Ally at any point. WHICH IS WHY PEOPLE WOULD GO TO SEE THIS MOVIE: to see the STAR part of "A Star Is Born." Maybe in Gaga's desperate attempt to play that down in this movie, she didn't wanna share that star persona with us?

Instead, we get some contrived nonsense about Jackson Maine and his brother not getting along, and how their dad factored in... YAWN.

We didn't care what James Mason or Frederic March's backstory was. The point was: they were washed up. Wash him away, as her star rises. That's what makes it tragic and poignant.

But now they have a dog (Charlie), and a nice house, and he has recovery, so all of this shouldn't have happened. He should've called his sponsor when the man was bad to him, and everything would've been fine.

(My friend says that Bradley cried too much in this movie, and shielded his eyes too much.) I personally liked to see his emotion.

I do also love the fact that Ron Rifkin (also from Alias) was the recovery counselor. And I swear... there was a scene in Alias where Bradley Cooper was sitting on a park bench, and Ron Rifkin was talking to him, but the positions they were in were reversed from what they appear in this movie. Following Alias Easter eggs was quite fun. Trying to fit this "Star Is Born" into the previous pantheon, sadly, was less than satisfying.

I love Bradley Cooper the person. I love Bradley Cooper the actor. Bradley Cooper the director has some work to do, but he certainly shows signs of being able to create some fun, enjoyable movies. Most directors don't so obviously wear their heart on their sleeve and add in little cameos and touches of things that meant something to them in their career. I loved seeing those things, too bad it was all in a movie that was supposed to be about the chick.


Monday, November 19, 2018

DTWS S025, Finals, Night 2: Winter Wonderland at the Grove

Our Christmas fable begins with Santa Len telling us a bedtime story, as visions of the Chmerkovskiy brothers go dancing in our heads... (OK, maybe that’s just me...) AHEM...

”Twas the night of the Final,” reads he... It turns out that he’s reading to the six finalists (three couples). They get up, and dance out of the gingerbread house (on the grounds of the Grove, and I was so proud, cause a friend of mine worked on that house...). It now says: “Len’s cottage.” Oh, and they are now flanked by audience members and big red ropes. Oh wait, there is Maksim Chmerkovskiy! Dreams do come true! Heh Oh, hi Peta...

Nice wide shot of the Grove, all decked out for Christmas. So beautiful. And they pan to the other side of the Grove, where the Dancing with the Stars dancers are already dancing.  To “Dancin’ in the Street.” Nice.

Then, the lovely women pros (and troupe) go away, and we are left with the hot DWTS guys, tossing around silver packages. And then we have all the people from the season, coming back out.

Then we have some recaps from yesterday. At this moment, the two Lindsays (Lindsey Stirling and Lindsay Arnold) are fighting it out for the top spot. Both teams (with Mark Ballas and Jordan Fisher, respectively) have a score of 80 from two dances. (Perfect!) And, at this moment, I am rooting very strongly for Mark Ballas and Lindsey Stirling to win.

Tom Bergeron drives the sleigh taking Jordan and Frankie and Lindsey back to the studio (very nearby). Erin (looking stunning) keeps dancing onstage.

Then we have this bit of loveliness.

And this.

Then, since this finale is all about killing time, we have each of the dancers do a repeat of a dance from the season. Lindsey and Mark are first with that so-memorable jive (where it looks like they are in bed in the beginning). So great.

But first, in her package, she talks about her depression, in a time when she gave up the violin. And then, they show a clip of these horrible people on America’s Got Talent, where they just brutalize her, and crush her dreams (this is a show? Horrible stuff.) “I didn’t know if I could ever step on a stage again after that... but that’s right around the same time that I discovered YouTube.”

God, I love them so much. This dance is phenomenal.

Oh my! They are scoring these. Ugh.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 30)

Oooh. Frankie and Witney chose their Argentine tango from Disney Night (one of my favorites as well).

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 30)

Then, back to the Grove stage, for a truly magical dance by Gleb and Britt.

Then Kelsey Ballerini performs a song of hers, and Val and Jenna do their magical dance.

On a screen behind her, in black and white, you can see scenes from the season. (Very nice effect.)

Incredible contemporary dance by Val and Jenna.

Then Jordan and Lindsay dance one of their favorites.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 30)

Then they do a bit where Val is driving the tram back to the Grove, and Alan is late, so he’s chasing it. Funny.  Tom intones, “That’s why you don’t miss rehearsal.”

A really great edit of a lot of the season’s previous competition. They show the first few who are voted off, and one of Jordan and Lindsay’s worst dances. Well, at least according to Len.

Then Derek and Sharna reprise a dance.

Then we have the hottie men from #DWTS dance for us. Shirts do come off. We are not complaining.

Oh yes. That was wonderful.

Then a wonderful number from the troupe. Although I’m not sure why Britt is wearing Jenna’s dress (remember THAT number? *swoon*)...

A reminiscence to the middle weeks of competition.

Then Maks and Vanessa perform.

Then violinist Lindsey Stirling performs with Becky G. “Christmas Come On”

Beautiful shot of the Grove to come back to.

Then Debbie Gibson and Jordan Fisher perform.

The best thing about this is that they aren’t making us suffer through bad dancers anymore. If they are singers, they are just having them SING. Wonderful. Every single contestant doesn’t need to dance again.

Tom and some cast members delivered some holiday cheer at Children’s Hospital, and they showed some of that.

Nice work, guys.

Val and his partner dance. Some wonderful troupe members. It’s always nice to see Maks and Peta dance together.

Then, all three couples are performing a fusion challenge.

They show the last three weeks of competition.

Emma and Drew reprise the dance where brother Jonathan had a few moments. (Loved that dance too.) Anything to give both Property Brothers more screen time, I say!

OK. FINALLY we get to the Fusion dances. First, we have the judges, ranking the finalists and giving their strengths and weaknesses.

Frankie: “NO one has worked harder. He’s not going to go down without a fight.”
Lindsey: “The artist. So fluid. Wonderful musicality. A beautiful dancer.”
Jordan: “A natural. He’s the one to beat. A force to be reckoned with.”

Oh, excuse me. I guess Len is the only one who gets to comment. What’s up with that?

This is my favorite part of the finals. After night one, when they go back to rehearse in their studio, and for the first time, see pictures of themselves from throughout the season.

Oh, their package talks about how much they are going to miss it. And I am going to miss them! :-(

They are doing a tango/cha cha fusion. Mark always creates such stunning choreography for these fusion dances. Because it’s very clearly defined, but goes back and forth,
and is just wonderful to watch. Truly.

Len: “What I love: This is what you did, Mark. No messing about. Straight into the routine. Tango, full of attack, full of aggression, then into the cha cha cha. Lots of rhythm, hip action. You (to Lindsey) are a wonderful performer, not only with the old fiddle, but with your feet as well. Well done.”

Bruno: “I really loved, because you could see the contrast: the cheeky cha cha cha, and the controlled intensity of the tango very clearly, but it was seamlessly blended. But then, to top it off, that tendon-snapping extension. Talk about Wow factor!”

Carrie Ann: “You’re making me get emotional. I’m watching you guys, and I can’t believe this is the end. You guys have all become so good. These partnerships have been unbeatable. All of you are so well-matched. Tonight—that was beyond fusion. That was alchemy. That you were able to create, from a cha cha and a tango, something so uniquely yours, with so much freedom of movement. Such great expression. Fantastic.”

Erin tells Mark that “we love when you’re back in the ballroom. You make us so much better.” (True.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 30 (out of 30) (Perfect score again.)

Witney and Frankie do a foxtrot/tango fusion.

Frankie, in his package, calls it the “most enjoyable experience of his life,” and Witney says how glad she is that she got to do it with him.

Bruno: “Tango never bounces. A very good performance.”

Carrie Ann: “I watch you, and you are so the heart and soul of what this show is based on. You are an OG Dancing with the Stars contestant, and I think you look so elegant, so smooth, so cool.”

Len: “100%, you’re the people’s champion. You really are. You epitomize everything about Dancing with the Stars. No dance background. Your journey’s been up and down. You’ve been knocked down by the judges, yet you picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and come back stronger. With a little bit of confusion in the fusion, cause I couldn’t really get the foxtrot...” (As Carrie Ann boos him!)

JUDGES’ SCORES:  28 (out of 30)

Then, before Jordan and Lindsay dance, we have this.

Some other dance brings us back from commercial (Peta and Alan and Hayley and Artur). (Oh, that was a Disney ad.)

Lindsay and Jordan have a salsa/paso fusion.

In the package, Jordan gets teary. “Dancing with the Stars, strangely enough, is not all about dancing. It’s about a journey. It’s about letting people get to know more about you, and it’s about you learning more about yourself. And it’s hard to imagine that being over.”

God, was that amazing! Wow.

Carrie Ann: “There’s not much left to say. Your skills are ridiculously out of this world. What’s amazing is that you’re an incredible dancer, an incredible performer, but what I’ve noticed the most is what you’ve done with Lindsay. Lindsay has actually grown as a pro, with you, and that is a testament to you. You are spectacular, and Lindsay, you MADE him spectacular.”

Len: “I think you are the most complete male celebrity ever on Dancing with the Stars.” (Jordan starts crying at that.)

Bruno: “I couldn’t agree more. You’re right up there with the best that we have ever seen on this show. Impeccable.”

JUDGES’ SCORES:  30 (out of 30)

And then, finally, we find out who wins Season 25.

Nick Lachey sings a song as tribute to our three finaalists. They show a video of clips of the three of them from the season. This is really nice. It really was a great season.

Who’s third place? (Just a refresher, Jordan/Lindsay and Lindsey/Mark are both tied with all perfect scores yesterday, and all perfect scores today. Witney/Frankie cannot say the same.)

Oh, it’s Frankie and Witney. And we find out the winners, after this commercial. :-(

Congrats to Lindsay and Jordan, and to all those who competed this season. It was truly wonderful to watch.


Monday, November 12, 2018

DTWS S025, Finals: Blows My Mind, The Best of the Best

I’m sorry. I have to break with my usual format and present the best dance of the night first, cause OH MY GOD!!!!!!! But we’ll just leave that there for a moment, let you salivate and savor over what’s to come...

We kick off the Finals of Dancing with the Stars Season 25 with this lovely number.  Upstage rear, we have the Chmerkovskiy brothers with their women (Maks dancing with Peta, Val dancing with Jenna). As the camera pulls back from them dancing, the song playing says: “I came here for love.” Indeed. All is right with the world now. (This deliciousness, of course, choreographed by the awesome Mandy Moore.)

Julianne Hough is returning as guest judge (WITH Len Goodman there).

So they kick off the dances with a “Redemption Round,” wherein couples redo dances they did earlier, in hopes of getting better scores. (There is, of course, different music and costuming and sets.)

First up, Emma Slater and Drew Scott redo their paso doble, with some tips from Bruno. (It occurs to me that this is why they needed four judges, since we have four couples left.)

In the package, Bruno walks in supposedly decked out as a contractor, to which Drew scoffingly says, ”That is a dainty tool belt.” LOL It’s true. We’ve seen Jonathan’s. ;-) Ahem...

Bruno finishes with “If you don’t do it, I’m going to turn into Demolition Judge.” He’s holding a hammer. Drew notes: “You need a sledgehammer, if you’re going to be Demolition Judge.” (Made me laugh.)

The sets, if you can’t tell, are amazing. And Drew’s paso is better from the first movement.

Bruno: “I’m so proud of you. The makeover worked.” Carrie Ann: “I’m heartbroken, cause that was absolutely, by far, your best dance. (Cause he made a mistake.) There was a poetry that you’ve embodied now. It was really beautiful. I’m really proud of you too.” Len: “I’ve been going on about lack of finesse, well, I’ve gotta say, this had finesse, it had quality and control. I thought you did a wonderful job.” Julianne: “For me, your title is Most Improved.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 36 (out of 40)

Frankie and Witney have Carrie Ann as a mentor. She recalls gasping the first time they ever performed, and gushes in the package: “You can win this!” (I don’t think they can, personally, given the competition.) Witney then gushes back: “She really knows what she’s talking about!” (*eyeroll*) So Carrie Ann tasks them with a foxtrot, and gives Frankie a solo. Frankie finishes with: “I don’t know what the others are doing, but I’m going to give Carrie Ann exactly what Carrie Ann wants.”

They dance to “I Won’t Dance.” Nice, better than their first foxtrot.

Photo courtesy of  DWTS/ABC  and Just Jared.
Carrie Ann: “This is the joy of dance for me. You had form, you had shape, you had confidence. Tonight I saw more freedom in your body than I’ve ever seen.” Len: “This was a more accomplished, polished performance than last. What I liked, you had that great mix of Hollywood razzle dazzle, but you still maintained foxtrot. Overall, a great job.” Julianne: “You had this boyish quality that’s innocent. Something happened. You were that Frank Sinatra manly man.” Bruno: “Great flair, great confidence, you took over the stage. You can never go wrong by channeling Fred and Ginger.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 38 (out of 40)

As if we didn't have enough stuff jam-packed into this show, we have this Pitbull number with Fifth Harmony. And many of our wonderful dancers. (Bonus points if you can pick out our lovely pro dancers by the back of their hair.)

All I can think as I’m watching is that one of these Fifth Harmony chicks competed on this show, but I’ll be damned if I can remember which one.

Oh, no matter. Our #DWTS pros are more interesting anyway. *winks* at Sharna.

Oh wow. The nondescript one on the end is the former competitor. Wow. (Don’t have a pic.)

Lindsay and Jordan are doing a Charleston, with Len coaching them. Len insists that there must be “at least three recognizable Charleston steps” in the dance. Course, Len was in his element when the Charleston was popular, so he’s a good coach! (J/K, Len!)

Lindsay still has a bad knee, Jordan got a scratched cornea. *sob, sob* Do they do a great Charleston? What do you think?

Oh, and if you’re still not convinced, there was this little number.

Wow. That was unbelievable. Bizarre seeing a Charleston to this music, but for Jordan and Lindsay, it worked.

Len: “Your mission was to show me more Charleston content, which I saw. But I saw so much more. I’m proud of you two.” Julianne: “I’m like in shock. (See below.)”

Julianne (continued): “As a judge, it’s our job to know that you’re doing a choreographed routine. We need to look and try to find things to critique. When I watch you guys, I become a fan. I feel like I’m at a nightclub, and you guys just randomly grabbed each other. You get out there and you dance, and you live. So good!” Bruno: “This was another virtuoso performance. The actual content was sharper than a samurai sword, the timing and the musicality was off the charts. You two dance like two instruments, perfectly in tune, always a perfect fit. Extra-ordinary.” Carrie Ann: “It’s not about how good you are. You started this competition good. What’s amazing is that you continue to push yourself beyond your own boundaries every time. You dance on the edge.”

Jordan says that “Lindsay has made me a better artist.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 40 (out of 40)

We have a break where they can pimp American Idol...

That leaves Julianne to coach Mark and Lindsey.  So their package shows how they are traveling (she’s performing, Mark's performing). Usually that’s one of my pet peeves, but these two are my favorites. Julianne is Skyping them for her advice. They are redoing their quickstep (the butterfly dance, which was so amazing).

In some ways reminiscent of that dance, Lindsey starts off in a white tuxedo and top hat. Now THAT’s some dancing! The entire number in hold (as it should be, but it’s very hard). Stunning dancing and choreography. Incredible moves and shaping. So beautiful.

Wow. That was an incredible dance.

Julianne: “The posture. You absolutely nailed it.” Julianne mentions how “that was like a Blackpool routine. You stayed in hold. Nobody realizes how hard it is to stay in hold. That was awesome.” Bruno: “You scoundrels. That was criminally good. It was silk smooth, my darlings. It was elegant, well-put-together. Fantastic job.” Carrie Ann: “It was vastly improved. I truly believe that you are the most improved. There was something so magical about what I’m seeing.” Len: “I know you can play the violin, but there was no fiddling about with that quickstep. Full of flair... the difficulty with  quickstep is to get the speed, but maintain the control, and you did that.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 40 (out of 40)

Miche's Favorite Individual Dances
1. Lindsay and Mark (quickstep)
2. Jordan and Lindsay (Charleston)
3. Drew and Emma (paso doble)
4. Frankie and Witney (foxtrot)

Julianne does a dance as tribute to a woman. Alexander Jean (Mark Ballas and his wife, BC Jean) perform the song. And, at the end, she is lifted up through the ceiling. Pretty cool. “Wouldn't Change a Thing” is the Alexander Jean song (beautiful).


Oh, I just love that Drew and Emma are in the finals. Just love it so much. Cause that means a freestyle choreographed by Emma!!!

Their package talks about how the freestyle is supposed to be a reflection of the journey they've both had all season. Emma talks about how Drew’s heart got him this far (into the finals). (And that Property Brothers has huge fans with huge hearts...) She talks about how she didn’t expect him to be here from Week 1. And that if she won, she’d put her two Mirror Balls so that Sasha has to walk past them every day (he, who is Mirror Ball-less, at the moment). :-(

They tease the promo well, since it shows both Maksim and Val Chmerkovskiy in front of a sign which says "The Ukrainian Tea Room." This is gonna be good.

They actually DO have the Chmerkovskiys dancing in part of it (see above). And the rest of it is just WILD. There is a stop in the middle (Emma landmark), then right back into it. Just incredible.

(And Sasha was in it, and Jenna!)

Len: “The house is fixed, and you’ve become a hot property.” (Cut to: brother Jonathan in the audience, beaming). Julianne: “That’s exactly what a freestyle should be. Emma, I have to say thank you. The freestyle is about your true essence, and that was who you really are, Drew.” Bruno: “You really have exceeded all expectations tonight. That was such a treat. So inspired. So joyful. You had Maks and Val next to you, I can only look at you. That’s how you took this number and you made it yours. A delight from the beginning to the end.” Carrie Ann: “I agree. It was amazing, it was fabulous. It was such a crowd-pleaser.” Then she goes on to complain about how there were moments where they were off sync.

JUDGES’ SCORES: 39 (out of 40)

They do a promo for tomorrow’s big finale, where Val does a joke that makes me laugh.

Then a promo for DWTS Live.

My theory about a winning freestyle is very much like Emma’s: showcase the things that got you there during the season. Make it a mix of your strong points, and the points you want to emphasize more. Showcase really who you are, and the journey you’ve taken.

Witney has other ideas. Namely, this.

What Witney is underestimating here is that people like Frankie Muniz for a certain thing, and that thing is NOT this. Granted, he did veer off during the season into some very dark places, and that made those dances incredible, but it’s really not the basis for why we like him.

So this... ahem... choice, I think, is a miscalculation. This isn’t her. This isn’t him. (Whereas Emma and Drew’s freestyle was a personification of everything we love about Drew (and Emma). The quirkiness, the largeness, the houses, for heaven’s sake!

This thing of Frankie and Witney’s... Ugh.

There is even a producer in their package, saying: “Um, do you really want to do this?” And Witney agonizes, and Frankie supports her (and it’s the wrong decision. The producer was right.). Honestly though, I don’t think they would’ve won with a happy upbeat song either, cause both Jordan/Lindsay and Mark/Lindsey are so far ahead of them in talent, it really doesn’t matter.

Julianne: “The old Frankie would’ve played it safe, and done something fun and joyful and charming. But this is the end of the competition, and you’re like: ‘I’m not finished yet.’ And you decided to take a risk and do something out of the box. I’m really proud of you.” Bruno: “Frankie! What’s going on with you, all moody and menacing? You’re turning into the Prince of Darkness. It was very different. It showed a different side of you. And I really really liked it.” Carrie Ann: “You of all have made the most emotional journey. Really telling your truth. This was scary. All of us tuned into that.” Len: “Totally unexpected. You went right out of your comfort zone. You gave it your all.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 38 (out of 40)


Lindsay starts the package by whining about how tough they have it because “people expected  to see him in the finals.” #BooHoo  Lindsay’s standard go-to freestyle is to throw in lots of lifts and tricks, no matter who she’s dancing with. “I want Jordan’s freestyle to be a showstopper,” says Lindsay. “We are working really hard right now to make this the best freestyle the show has ever seen,” says Jordan. No pressure.

And yeah. It’s pretty great, but it’s not ”the best freestyle the show has ever seen.” (That’s reserved for the next freestyle...) It’s a version of “Puttin’ On the Ritz” like you’ve never heard. What bugs me the most about it is that it is trying so hard to be a showstopper that it doesn’t really feel organic. It feels like you would expect a dance from a Broadway dancer to look like in their freestyle.

So Frankie gave us what we didn’t expect, but not in a good way. Jordan gave us what we did expect, and not in a good way. (Drew and Emma were just joyous and real and fun.)

Bruno: “It was a sensational showstopping number. Star power that is limitless. You’re a superstar.” Carrie Ann: “Your star shines so brightly. I cannot wait to see what else you’re gonna do. You never cease to amaze me.” Len: “It was a crackerjack of a number. I loved it. It’s just brilliant.” Julianne: “It was honestly everything but the kitchen sink. Every dance style, tricks and flicks, and everything.”

Jordan says: “Lindsay has made me a harder worker, a better artist, a better person through all of this. I am so endlessly inspired.”

JUDGES’ SCORES: 40 (out of 40)

Then we have former Mirror Ball champions talking about what it takes to win.

And then, there was this. Just look.

I am reminded of how exquisitely Mark Ballas crafts a freestyle around the person he’s dancing with. This freestyle trumpets Lindsey Stirling in every bar and note. They mention in the package how the idea for this dance came when he first met her.

Mark Ballas, the most creative dancer of everyone who’s ever been on Dancing with the Stars, somehow incorporated Lindsey Stirling’s virtuoso violin playing INTO the dance. Look.

And then, the mind-blowing part.

That, for my money, without question, was the best, most “showstopping” freestyle this competition has ever seen. My jaw was on the floor watching this magic unfold. Stunning, incredible.

They dance, and she plays, and she’s playing while they are dancing, and then he flips her, and she’s still playing... I just have no words. It was so incredible. And she’s a violin in so many sections of this (hard to explain). Just amazing.

Carrie Ann: “Last woman standing. Taking names. No one cares what any of us have to say. It couldn’t have been a better showcase of your uniqueness. That was you on crack, dancing.” Len: “This is becoming the War on the Floor. It’s just become a fantastic competition.” Julianne: “It’s honestly a quirky musical masterpiece of awesomeness. I love that you brought your element of who you are and how we know you, but then completely turn it on its head. It was amazing.” Bruno: “Oh my God. That was a modern classic extravaganza, conducted and orchestrated to perfection. It was so creative, so exciting, so imaginative. Bravo, Maestro.” 

Mark then takes a moment to talk about what it’s meant to him to come back. “It couldn’t be any better. Thank you to the fans, thank you to the judges. Thank you to the crew, the band, hair and makeup, everybody that makes this show happen.” (Now THAT’s a champion, IMHO.)

JUDGES’ SCORES: 40 (out of 40)

Then, we go to who goes home. :-(

Sadly, sadly, it’s Drew and Emma who go home.

1. Lindsey and Mark (OMG!)
2. Jordan and Lindsay
3. Drew and Emma
Way below: Frankie and Witney (UGH!)