Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Dancing with the Stars Season 16 cast

Many don't care about who's on Dancing with the Stars... but for those of us who do... here is the big question about this new season:

Courtesy of Angela Weiss/Getty Images/ETOnline

It's truly hard to imagine a Dancing season without the stunningly handsome, dashing and oh so obnoxiously arrogant Maksim Chmerkovsky, but there it is. There is one Mr. C dancing this season, and his name is Val.

Maks' displeasure with Dancing has been noticably obvious ever since his "It's my show" gaffe. Pouty, walking through the paces, not participating—have all been hallmarks of his recent seasons since then. So, he's not going out with a bang, exactly, in fact, I'm not seeing any stories even mentioning his absence, but to me, it's a pretty big thing.

It may or may not have been "his show," but Maks' presence on the other dancers was certainly felt. He appeared to be a mentor to many, and a royal pain to many others.

I am kinda glad to see a season without him, but his loss will really be felt.

But let's get on to the others, shall we?

One of the saddest results of the "It's my show" debacle was that up until then, the pros who dance every season were getting as much notoriety as the amateur "star" dancers. That, now, is gone.

So the people I want to feature most here will have no pictures for the moment. :-(


He's some kind of football player/sports guy. But he's paired with Karina, so he's one to watch.


Like the actor, like Cheryl Burke. Should be interesting.


Reigning champ Dovolani has a country singer as his partner this season. Should be fun.


Disney stars usually cause me to yawn. But Val was so amazing last season, I'm looking forward to it. Plus, he's the only Chmerkovsky to watch. *sob*


Handsome dude from ABC daytime television, plus one of the sexiest and most fun dancers to watch. This will be an interesting pairing.


The sex-on-wheels team this season, though, is probably this one. (Oh, yes, Dorothy Hamill is still sexy!) And this pairing (she a former Olympian) could go longer in the season than any of his previous ones. Thank goodness for that. The fans are clamouring!


Normally, I wouldn't be including them, but she trained with Mark Ballas. One cannot discount that. Oh, and she also placed in the Top 10 of
"So You Think You Can Dance" last season.


I'm saving my favorite two teams for last. Don't know who she is, but she's paired with Derek.


Straight out of the gate, I always root for Mark Ballas first and loudest. I love to watch him dance. So from this moment, I'm Team Aly/Mark.

I'm leaving out the stunt casting and those I don't care about (Andy Dick, really?)... These are the ones who'll be finalists. But good luck to all. And we will miss you, Maks.

(And we also miss the also-missing Peta Murgatroyd and Anna Trebunskaya.)

Many thanks to ABC/Dancing with the Stars for the promotional photos.


Oscars 2013

Argo.  Best Picture winner. Also won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing.
Jennifer Lawrence's refreshing honesty
Daniel Day Lewis, first three-time Best Actor winner
Searching for Sugarman
Barbra Streisand, singing for her lost friend

Les Miserables. Won for Best Supporting Actress, Sound Mixing and Makeup and Hair.
Ben Affleck, thanking his wife
George and Grant, letting Ben talk
Dame Shirley Bassey
Michelle Obama gives away Best Picture
Adele winning an Oscar
Seeing the Les Mis cast all singing together again
Anna Karenina winning costumes
Pixar does it again!

Anne Hathaway,  Best Supporting Actress winner. She dreamed a dream.
Anne Hathaway's "It came true." (Lame)
Christoph Waltz
Adele's performance and the camera work on it

Seth McFarlane
You Showed Your Boobs
Kissing the Flying Nun in costume
Chris Brown joke
Lincoln-John Wilkes Booth joke
THAT was a Bond tribute? Where were the Bonds?
WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY too many musical numbers
Chicago? Dreamgirls? HUH?
Having to explain, in the Press Room, what she meant by "It came true." (Did you SEE the movie, lady?)

The Life of Pi wins Best Director,  Best Cinematography,  Best VFX.  Thank you, Rhythm & Hues.
Roger Deakins, still winless :-(
Cutting off the VFX guys, just as they were about to speak about Rhythm & Hues :-(
The "Jaws" music
Ang Lee, not talking about the amazing VFX team
Life of Pi's DP not talking about his amazing VFX team
Charlize Theron's hair

Monday, February 18, 2013

Assessing the Oscar Race, On Finding a Hero to Root For

Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

On paper, it seemed easy. Lauded female director had once again made a gritty movie about the military. It was an easy march to Best Director and Best Picture again. Then I saw it.

Zero Dark Thirty, my friends, is no Hurt Locker.

So I want to examine (mostly) these two: the one who should've been Best Picture and the one who is going to be Best Picture, with the others thrown in along the way, by comparison.

Here's my thesis. In awards shows, specifically Emmys and Oscars, the voters like to choose something to win which makes them feel good about themselves. This is why (aside from being top-notch drama) The West Wing won for so very many years.

I think personally (though I know many would argue with me) this is also why Shakespeare in Love beat the dreary, let's-go-find-one-man war saga Saving Private Ryan. Also why the love story Titanic beat the brutal LA Confidential. There has to be someone you can root for, and the quest sought has to be noble.

In Zero Dark Thirty, you have one obsessed woman who thinks of nothing but killing Osama Bin Laden. (Just think what a pain it would be to work with this woman!) And the movie is, in that premise, simplistic. The goal, from start to finish, is to kill Osama Bin Laden.

And, I'm not spoiling anything here. They get him. He's dead. And I feel nauseated.

The woman in question is surrounded by a group of guys who don't even really believe her, but they go in there anyway. So the story is: Ooops, we kinda killed him by accident. We didn't really believe he was there, but good on you, you did. Woo hoo.

It's depressing. It's bad enough that the reviled torture scenes were so vivid that I spent the entire first hour of the movie trying to talk myself into not walking out.

The final thought I was left with is: Is this who we are as Americans? Is this who we want to be?

Depressing and nauseating. And I would posit, why this is not winning the awards it should have, on paper.

The one winning everything along the way, and I would bet, is going to win this Sunday too, is Argo.

Say what you will about one too many Ben Affleck close-ups. The fact of the matter is, while both of these stories were hidden, and are now coming to light, this one is one you can root for.

Americans are in trouble! Americans go above and beyond to help other Americans to safety. Of course that's going to win! Who can't root for that? And it's got a Hollywood angle (Hollywood LOVES that.).

Let me briefly examine the other films.

I have not seen Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Django Unchained.

All I can say about them is this. Amour has a very uphill battle becoming a Best Picture winner, since it's in a foreign language. Life Is Beautiful could do it. I think Amour cannot. (It's also depressing.)

Django Unchained is a very divisive film. Many love it. Many hate it. Many hate it with a passion. It won't win. Just for how many times it (reportedly) uses the N word, it shouldn't win. Appalling.

Now to the others.

Miche's predicted winners: Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

My favorite to win for a long time was Les Miserables. But I see now that it's really not clear what exactly they are fighting for. The play makes that final moment much more stirring than the movie does. For all intents and purposes, they have a scuffle in a street in which many boys die needlessly. (Which I guess is a metaphor for all war, but still...) Also, many people loved this movie. Many more hated it. Passionately. It won't win.

Les Miserables. Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook. Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Silver Linings Playbook, when I walked out of it, had Oscars written all over it. I knew the two leads would be nominated. Suspected DeNiro would be. (Didn't see Jackie Weaver coming.) It's a feel-good movie where you can clearly root for someone.

However, what I can't get past with this movie: the Jennifer Lawrence character is supposedly suffering from sex addiction, yet she uses those very same love addiction/sex addiction tactics to win the Bradley Cooper character's heart, and is applauded for it? Um... She lies, his father lies... it's not behavior one can root for in good conscience. So, no Best Picture. No Best Screenplay. (And, for that matter, none of the actors are winning either.)

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. Courtesy of Dreamworks/Twentieth Century Fox.

The odds-on favorite (before Argo started taking every prize) was Lincoln. What's not to love? A world-class director tackling an important time in history with our most beloved president. Visually, it was beautiful. The acting was amazing across the board.

You could argue that it highlighted our fight to rise to our better natures and rid our country of slavery. Well, yes. And that it reflected how Congress, despite its infighting, can once in a while actually get something done. Well, yes. But does it stir your soul? or, in retrospect make you feel like you just viewed a history lesson?

Right. It's not winning. In fact, I want to go on record saying that I don't think Spielberg is winning Best Director either.

Which brings us to, for my money, the only other possibility to win Sunday.

Life of Pi. I will go on record as saying I think Ang Lee is winning Best Director. It was a visually stunning movie. The book involves a guy on a boat with a tiger for days, and somehow, you get an incredibly interesting movie out of that. Bravo!

Courtesy of Fox 2000.
People have complained about the twist ending, whether it helps or hurts the story. I don't think it detracts from the story, I think it enriches it. It is a very spiritual movie, and that certainly helps its chances.

But compare these films (Life of Pi and Argo) in your mind. In one, you see a guy with a tiger (a sometimes CGI tiger) who survives. In the other, you see the police chasing the plane just as it's wheels-up. (A scene which didn't actually happen, according to those involved.)

Life of Pi. Courtesy of Fox 2000.
Still, one makes your heart race. The other makes you think, yeah, Nice movie.

It's Argo in a nose.

Clea Duvall, Ben Affleck, Tate Donovan, others in Argo. Courtesy of Warner Brothers.