Friday, December 27, 2013

Mark Gantt Photography Exhibit Opens in Beverly Hills

You know him, of course, as the multi-award-winning (Streamys) co-screenwriter and lead actor from Crackle’s “The Bannen Way,” (and seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? WATCH IT NOW!!!).

Watch “The Bannen Way”!

On his upcoming slate for the next year, he’s acting, he’s directing, he’s writing... just when you think, “Man! Is there anything Mark Gantt can’t do?” he shows you. (No, no, there isn’t.)

Photography. Sheesh.

Mind you, everyone and their brother these days fancies themselves a photographer. Photos litter the Internet.

But there is a difference, my friends, with the type of photography that deserves to hang in galleries. Photography that you want to take home and hang on your wall, because it so poetically speaks to your soul. And yes, THAT is the kind of photo that this man takes.

At his recent photo exhibit opening (where the packed crowd ranged from Beverly Hills glitterati to hot Internet web video sensations to up-and-coming actors), it was one superb photograph after another hanging on display.

I couldn’t even pick a favorite if you forced me to. There were stunning photos of Dennis Hopper (taken behind the scenes at a Vanity Fair cover shoot), joyous pastiches of life in Europe (the Barcelona train station image truly haunts me), or the breathtaking portrait of his acting mentor, breathing in the fragrance of a rose.

Moments captured that somehow also encompass the pure magic of those moments. That is what a real photographer does.

He is still selling limited edition prints on his website:  Purchase Gantt Photography
If you ask me, the prices are an absolute steal for the quality of this work. So do yourself a favor. Once you return that plaid shirt that Grandma so kindly meant for you at Christmas, and are pondering what you really want to get instead, that would make YOU happy, consider one (or several) of these photos.

Your soul will thank you.

A joyous photography exhibit opening in Beverly Hills, CA.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Please Send The Sound of Music Live Show Away

The Sound of Music with Carrie Underwood. Courtesy of NBC.

Maybe this sounded like a good idea to someone. After all, The Sound of Music (with Julie Andrews) is a beloved film. And to many people, Carrie Underwood is a beloved singer. What could go wrong?

It would be bad enough to redo a movie of The Sound of Music, but wait! Let’s do it LIVE! on TV! With someone in the lead who has little or no stage experience, to say nothing of dramatic experience. What could go wrong?

Well, $9 MILLION later, we have this mess. Dreadful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

First most glaring were the garish sets. One cannot replicate the wonder of the Alps with cardboard and paint. The Alpine vistas were laughable. I’ve seen better, more magical views in community theatre productions. Also, the main piazza set was more suitable to Italy than Austria, where this is supposedly set.

Sure, every Alpine home has great open plazas to walk around in. (Not a drop of snow on them, either.) *eyeroll*

Second, and I admit I have a bias about this. I LOVE theatre actors. I am a firm believer that whoever originates the role on Broadway should have it in the movie. And I pretty much wish a pox on all the famous people who think they can walk the Broadway boards and it’ll be fine. Even worse, those who then scoop up Tonys for their celebrity more than their work COUGHScarlettJohannssonCOUGH.

So the idea of “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood acting in a big, splashy theatre work on TV doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement. But I gave it the old college try. I went to this show with as much of an open mind as possible.

Which was pretty much slammed shut once Ms. Underwood attempted to act. Well, I wouldn’t call it “acting,” exactly. More like rushing through a bunch of lines to get to the song parts. The dreadfulness of Ms. Underwood’s acting actually made Lindsay Lohan’s Liz Taylor look like a Tony winner.

Zero chemistry between Underwood and the poor miscast Stephen Moyer (“True Blood”). At least Moyer could sing decently. He does have some stage background, but all his TV work must’ve made that a dim memory, cause he was pretty terrible in this. His singing ok, but he should stick to TV.

It’s supremely hard to care when the lead role (Underwood) is sinking like a lead weight, right there in the middle.

Thankfully, we had glorious stage performers, who do actually know how to do this, with Tony winner Laura Benanti (who was way better than she needed to be in a small thankless role) and Tony winner Christian Borle (also late of “Smash”), both acting up a storm around the lead weights of Underwood and Moyer. And the kids were good.

Glorious (five-time) Tony winner Audra McDonald (sharing the record for most Tonys won by an actor) belted out a superb “Climb Every Mountain.” So, it wasn’t all madness and bad acting. There were real glimmers of glory here.

But the bad stuff. Wow, so bad.

The final climactic scene, when the von Trapp family is hiding in the garden, they are pretty much, sitting there as plain as day, all someone has to do is shine a light on them. Of course, stupid Nazis, only search the convent building, and don’t go in the garden. Riiiiight. Ridiculous is a good word for that scene, as portrayed.

Oh God, Carrie Underwood was so bad that in many scenes, I could barely stand to look at her. Really leaden. Really dreadful.

And there seemed to be songs added. There was one, REALLY tasteless, about happy millionaires being trapped in their capital gains, that I really don’t remember from the Julie Andrews version. Although at least Benanti and Borle were singing it, so it was OK from that aspect.

So whoever squandered $9 Million on this monstrosity instead of putting good, talented hard-working actors to work in something decent, I hope you got your money’s worth. Please, though, don’t do this again.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

DWTS Season 17 Finals: The Case for Amber Riley

*DWTS has still not posted pics from the finals. So... we do the best we can...

Amber Riley and Derek Hough, Season 17 champions. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor

When I first heard the announcement about the cast for Season 17 of Dancing with the Stars, the one I most wanted to win was Amber Riley (and Derek Hough). And now, I am most glad that indeed Amber Riley (and Derek Hough) have won the Season 17 Mirror Ball.

But I have such reservations, and I relate to them very personally. That’s what I feel compelled to talk about. Cause this season turned out VERY different than I thought it would.

I don’t know eiher Amber or Derek personally, but I would like to comment on their personalities that they revealed on the show, or at least my interpretation of what I saw.

Here is where I most relate to Amber Riley. I'm a big girl (what Hollywood would call a big girl, anyway). Massive breasts and boobs. I could never dance on DWTS. And maybe some part of her was thinking that too, had severe doubts about herself.

But here’s what I witnessed from the clips. Mostly that she’s a diva in training, who wants the glory and the fame, but not the work so much. And maybe deep down, doesn’t believe that she deserves it all. (I know this because I am like this too.)

Because here’s what I saw over the course of the season.

Someone who, right from the beginning, came out, all decked in crystals, stepping through a crystal curtain, and doing a dance which CLEARLY said, “Amber Riley HAS ARRIVED!” and then, for most of the season after that, stepping back, and going, “Um, no, no she hasn’t.” The judges even commented on it, Carrie Ann at one point saying, “I know there’s more there.” She was right.

The greatest thing holding Amber Riley back in this whole competition was herself. Sure, there were the persistent knee problems (but aren’t physical ailments often a manifestation of our spiritual selves? Interesting too, that Derek had mentioned his back hurting... probably from carrying Amber so much... emotionally, not physically).

What we didn’t see, which we normally do see, is a whole lot of crying and carrying on, that I know happened with this particular girl. It was clear that this whole process was not easy for her emotionally. And it was also clear that when she first walked on that stage, she was the star of this season, all she had to do was own it, and she spent all season shrinking from it.

Instead, we had the People’s Champion (Bill Engvall) sharing his pain up there, and nearly making it to the end, certainly making it MUCH further than he would have in any other season, because the people LOVED him, loved his struggle, loved that he was “old” and “not a dancer.” Just wanted to buoy him up.

And Amber? When she put her mind to it, she blew us away. When it looked, for a hot minute, like Bill Engvall was going to walk away with the championship that was so clearly hers, Amber stepped up (literally) and started doing the dancing she should have been doing all along.

And dudes, let me tell you. When Amber TRIES, get out of the damn way. There is no other. That step dancing freestyle she did with Derek and Mark Ballas and some other guys just completely knocked it out of the park. People will be talking about that one for decades. WOW! Unbelievable stuff.

What then, was all this other angst?

Let’s compare, for example, Miss Amber to last season’s winner (also with Derek), Kellie Pickler. Now I love Miss Amber Riley. She is awesome. Mostly I couldn’t stand looking at Kellie Pickler. But because I love seeing Derek dance, and seeing his choreography, I was glad they won.

But their partnership (Kellie and Derek) was really a partnership. Dancers (as I understand it, anyway) are supposed to be like couples. Two parts of one whole. Derek, after doing this so many seasons, and winning so many Mirror Balls, knows what's going to work. He saw very quickly that the way to the top with this one was to let Miss Amber shine. You could see it even in their early (Week 9) trio with Mark Ballas, where Derek said at one point in rehearsal, “It’s like we are her backup dancers.” Indeed so.

As a strictly literal ballroom show, I don’t think I like that. But Miss Amber Riley is a force of nature. Watch out for her star power. If only she can get out of her own way along the way, she’ll be fine.

And mostly, I am supremely glad that Corbin and Karina didn’t win. If you read the fan comments all around the web, it’s clear. Many felt like I did about Bill Engvall. Many people wanted the guy who couldn’t dance to win MUCH more than the guy who’s been dancing on Broadway already.

Cause this is supposed to be DRAMATIC. There has to be a hurdle to climb. Getting a dancer to win a dance show? Not so much drama there, folks.

A few more notes about Season 17.

I REALLY love the concept of the opening dance with all the pro dancers. It’s been consistently spectacular, and I look forward to it every time.

I also love the segues with the troupe and pros dancing. Fabulous stuff.

I also really love Maksim C. as a judge, and hope he becomes a permanent fixture at that table, if he isn’t one of the regular dancers.

I really love that it’s one night instead of two, and there isn’t so much filler and folderol. No extraneous singers clogging up the place, no running up a flight of stairs. No stupid extra-drawn-out nonsense about who’s going home.

And I really really loved the finale, with the whole red carpet thing. It just seemed like there was a real producer orchestrating this season, with an emphasis on dance, and whoever you are, I thank you for it. Please give us more.

Now if we could just get those costumers to keep those dresses just a BIT shorter (only one noted “tripping over a dress” moment this season, so that is an improvement over last season).

All in all, I liked Season 17, even if it was very different than any season previous.

Pros from Season 17. Courtesy of ABC/Adam Taylor