Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social Media With No Social: Pinterest

Again and again, people talk about the next hot thing. MySpace faded, then Facebook appeared. There's always a next hot site around the corner.

So it was with great interest that I went to seek out this new Pinterest thing that everyone's talking about.

In fairness to Pinterest, it does solve a need that wasn't really being filled. Pictures just by themselves always seemed very out of place on FB. So thanks, Pinterest.

What it does NOT do well, in fact, does really abysmally, is connect one person with another.

Really, of all the social networks out there, the only one getting this right at the moment is Twitter. Twitter knows how to connect people with other people. It knows that's what people WANT.

All these homages to narcissism (and the new FB Timeline is even WORSE in that direction) are all well and good, but I wanna know what OTHERS are thinking, doing, feeling, experiencing today. I already know where I'm at, and everyone in my life does too.

Let me explore others' ideas, thoughts, or, in the case of Pinterest: pictures.

First, of all, it gives you some possible choices that are an SEO's dream. You can just see the potential advertisers salivating as they explore everyone's favorite travel sites, for example. Or clothing decisions. Do I really care to show that to the world? Or to see what beauty soap anyone else is buying? Um. No.

So, ok, let's assume that I love showing people photos, which, as it happens, I do.

Even as a photo site, Pinterest fails. It has no ability to crop or change photos or put together collages. It just lets you pin stuff from the web as it shows up. And then these pictures that you've selected go out into the world, to be viewed, and if you're lucky, "repinned." Woo!


You would think it would at least have (something one would think is de rigeur for any social media site these days), a stream of info available. Things people are currently pinning. If it's there, it wasn't apparent.

I supposedly added a bunch of FB friends, but I can't see them or their Pinterest boards. Not easily, anyway. How will they be able to find mine, should they choose to? Very frustrating.

All these social marketers are just spinning with the newest hottest thing, but they are all forgetting why we are here in the first place. WHERE'S THE SOCIAL? Let us connect with others. If you don't have that on your website, whatever your website is, you are FAILING as a social media site.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Consideration of the Best Actress Race: Real-Life Impersonations

Let us examine, for a moment, from a deeply detailed acting perspective, who deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actress, and who doesn't, and why.

Two nominees played real-life people that we know and (maybe) love. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher. Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.

Let's take Beauty first, then Beast.

Back in the acting days of my youth, there were several actresses that I studied thoroughly: Bette Davis, Kathryn Hepburn, Jane Fonda. And Marilyn Monroe. I knew their gait, their phrasing, their breathiness or lack thereof, I knew their histories, as much about them as I possibly could.

So I started out seeing "My Week with Marilyn" with several prejudices: 1. that really NO ONE can do Marilyn and 2. that Michelle Williams can't act.

Sure, I liked her fine in Dawson's Creek, but since then, she has pretty much left me cold. Didn't think she deserved the nominations for Brokeback Mountain or Blue Valentine.

However, I will say, she deserves this one. It's a very tall mountain to climb to recreate Marilyn Monroe. Williams even taught me something about Marilyn that I didn't know: that she was a series of poses, always posing, even in repose. And, in this movie, Williams does some pretty impossible stuff.

She recreates famous dance scenes, and movie moments, so much that you forget that you are watching another actress. That is no small thing. She has her breathiness down, and her movements. Even her insecurities. For all of those things, for which Williams herself says she "worked harder than she ever did in her life," she gets an A+ in my book.

Sadly, here is where she falters. While she was meticulous about recreating the voice, the mannerisms and the steps and phrasing, she missed the heart of it. She missed the things that really made Marilyn tick.

The script, in Williams' defense, only really gives you bits where this Marilyn shines, but in each of them, Williams falls flat.

Here are the key questions one will ask at the end of this movie:
1. What really drove Marilyn to succeed (and to chase men)?
ANSWER: her childhood in orphanages, and feeling like everyone abandoned her

2. What was her connection with Fame? Why didn't she just give it all up and "settle down" with one guy?
ANSWER: She couldn't, cause fame is a drug like any other. She needed that.

Two scenes ask these questions of her, and Williams' performance (to me) fell completely flat in these scenes. So put that Oscar away for this year.

In one, she is looking at the dolls in a dollhouse. There it is, the metaphor is just about hitting you over the head. This was the moment for the actress to break our hearts with her shattered psyche. BAM. Nothing.

In the second, she is lying on the bed, and her lover asks her to just give it all up and settle down with him. This is the moment where the actress needs to give us some insight as to why Marilyn couldn't give up this lifestyle or settle down with this, or any, man. BAM. Nothing.

At the end of that scene, a really poignant scene, the audience should have been sobbing, or at least, thinking, that poor woman. I felt nothing after watching her. She could've been doing her nails. Very unfulfilling.

Meryl Streep suffers from the other problem. She is phenomenal, the script is dreadful and the direction is hokey.

But for me, it was like this. There is an opening scene where you see an old British woman, buying milk. Like her performance in Angels in America, where you see an old Jewish man, and go, HOLY CRAP! That's Meryl Streep... it's the same here. She walks and talks like an elderly British woman. As she talks more, in closeup, in the next scene, you see that it's Margaret Thatcher.

To be fair, her hair and makeup people also deserve an Oscar, cause WOW! This makeup was unbelievable. I've seen nearly all Meryl Streep movies, and I swear, I had a hard time seeing Maryl in there.

She also loses points (like she did last year) when a good chunk of the movie is someone else playing the younger years.

But wow. You wanna see a virtuoso playing that acting instrument, you need go no further than Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady." I really didn't like the movie at all, but when Streep was in frame, she was riveting. My favorite scenes of hers were the ones with Jim Broadbent. They really could've made better use of Anthony Stewart Head, too.

Streep didn't look like Thatcher as much as Williams looked like Marilyn, but as far as capturing a heart and soul of a person, this Oscar is Streep's, hands down.

I have yet to see the other three performers in this category, but at this moment, I'm calling Streep for the win.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Tramps Ruin The Bachelor

Let's start with the things we know for sure.

Most reality shows, including The Bachelor, are scripted. Those who script them aren't unionized, and thus, don't get paid enough for writing them, which also usually means the writing is subpar. Not only are the dialogue and contrived situations horrendous, but there is usually a lack of originality. Of late, for example, The Bachelor has relied on throwing in elements of good reality shows, in hopes that it will elevate its own material (not working, of course).

This season, for example, for no apparent reason, they've thrown in elements of Survivor and Fear Factor. They seem to be obsessed with putting people in high places and making them jump. A couple climbed to the top of a bridge in San Francisco, cause yeah, that's what couples do on dates. Dreadful, lame, tiresome.

See, I remember in the first couple of seasons, back when The Bachelor was actually good. Or at least it had a lot of promise. The premise was that 28 women would vie for the heart of one man. Doing normal stuff, like going on dates. Ones that involved tables and food and talking, not swimming with sharks, or jumping into deep pools in dark caves.

One thing Survivor does really right, and The Bachelor does really wrong, is that it's forgotten that people themselves are really interesting. People's personalities, and what they'll do in situations are what made reality shows great originally. Now they are just a cheap way to make a buck. It's very sad.

But I'm not writing about the sad state of reality shows. (One good one left--unscripted--Survivor, starts a new season Wednesday. Do catch it.)

No, I wanted to write about sex for a minute.

So let's again talk about what we know. People have sex. People have sex on reality shows, even though it's usually not talked about, since we are, after all, dealing with network TV. Romances blossom on Survivor. In fact, more couples have met and stayed together on Survivor than they have from The Bachelor or Bachelorette. Combined. FACT.

But it is the sad mess called The Bachelor that is the subject of today's treatise. (It being Valentine's Day, after all.)

So let's go back to the days of innocence, when The Bachelor was good. Imagine with me for a moment. Imagine, though it's a crazy situation... imagine that you did go on a reality show to find a husband. And imagine that, against all odds and likelihoods, you met this guy, and there was an instant spark. (It could happen.)

Most of these other 28 girls just want to be on TV, or whatever their reasons for being there are, but you meet this guy. You fall in love the first night. And he does too. He feels the same spark. (It could happen.)

Cause really, when I think about it (sure maybe something could develop over six weeks), but really, I would know instantly whether or not there was a spark between me and said dude. So, say there is.

And say that you are now in this game, this obstacle course, where you have to get to the end. All these other women have to go away (for whatever reason) and maybe you can actually get to be with this man. (It could happen.)

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you have one such woman this season. Let's say her name is Kacie B. She's sweet, she's cute, she's perky. She's there "for all the right reasons," a Bachelor phrase so overused I cringe whenever I hear it. She likes this guy, this Ben. He likes her. Maybe even a lot.

How would you feel, I wonder, to see all these other women battling (either for his attention or just for camera time) it out? And what if one of said women was a scheming, conniving bitch (whether written that way, or just was), who would do anything, both for camera time and to "win" this game, get to the end, to play out every episode?

I've often wondered that about this show. Given its many constraints, what could you really do, to get and hold this guy for yourself? There really isn't much.

Kacie B. has relied on grabbing kisses and alone time when she could. It seems to be working. I'd bet money she'll be one of the two standing at the end with Ben.

But her nemesis (this season's nemesis), let's call her Courtney, uses a different tack. She uses sex.

Anyone knows that if you want to get and keep a man, especially if you only have six weeks in which to do it, and dozens of other women are clawing around you trying for the same thing, you have to use sex.

I'm sure The Bachelor rules prohibit it, at least until the whole "Fantasy Suite" malarky, which hasn't even happened yet this season. There has been a whole lotta kissing, but not even any hot tubs to speak of (as in seasons past).

But there was this. Resident wench Courtney decided to break a few rules and corner Bachelor Ben at his hotel room. They went down to the surf to go skinny dipping. I would bet a year's salary that sex happened that night.

Courtney is annoying, but she's a model, and if I were Ben, I would for sure keep her around until Fantasy Suite time, for at least one more roll in the hay before dumping her.

But back to the good and innocence of The Bachelor. The show, ostensibly, is about true love. Or finding love. So what if, let's say, our heroine, Kacie B. does end up getting engaged to Ben at the end of the season, and she's sitting at home, watching the episodes go by, and she sees, what she didn't when they were all in Puerto Rico. She sees Ben's little frolic in the sand with the model?

Ben has so far been very cagey about whether or not he ends up proposing at the end. Or whether he's "happy now," which they always ask at the beginning. I suspect that even if he was happy for awhile, once he let out the "Oh, btw, I slept with Courtney" truth, that was the end of that.

But here's the thing. As a viewer of the show, even a viewer who mostly likes the show (even with all its "leap list" and bad writing, even with all its improbable dates), I watch every week, I wanna believe. But that whole thing with Courtney, and Courtney's smug attitude that Ben wouldn't even think about sending her home... Personally, I think it went like this. He said to her, "We can have sex, and I'll keep you till Fantasy Suite time, if you promise to not tell ANY of the other girls. If you do, you're going home in the next rose ceremony."

Cause she's been obnoxious and rude and braying about everything else, but about this big secret, this big elephant in the room, she's not lording it over anyone. There had to have been a deal made there.

Or maybe the producers came down on her heavy too. Cause it would really ruin the show, if all the other girls knew.

But aren't they all just sick to their stomachs now, seeing it unfold before them? I know I feel tainted watching it. Like there is some oily substance stuck to my psyche that I can't get off. Every time Courtney is on screen, I feel like throwing up.

We shall see... how it all evolves. But I bet Ben is alone when all is said and done.

What do you think? Sex on The Bachelor? Good thing? Bad thing?