Monday, August 31, 2009

Death Is Not An (Embarrassing) Option

[13:17] Joe: Okay, you can't tell anyone, but "Definitely Maybe" is not a terrible movie.
[13:18] Tara: I agree! I saw it.
[13:18] Joe: The thing that tipped me off was all the smoking. Clearly the filmmakers had to stick to their guns on that. So there's some integrity there.
[13:19] Tara: Sure. I see on Facebook I gave it three stars.
[13:19] Tara: "Not a fan of Abigail Breslin in it (sorry, universe), but the rest was pleasant and fine."
[13:19] Joe: Hee. Pretty much, yes. Abigail Breslin has entered the Osment Zone
[13:19] Tara: Yeah, I'm over her.
[13:20] Joe: Perhaps she'll Chlumsky her way back into our hearts in 15 years.
[13:20] Tara: I might just avoid her until then. She also bugged in "No Reservations."
[13:21] Joe: I didn't see that.
[13:21] Tara: It's also not terrible. And I say that as someone who haaaaaaaates Aaron Eckhart.
[13:22] Joe: Yeah, I find him so overrated.
[13:22] Tara: Thank you. Also just...unlikable.
[13:22] Joe: Completely.
[13:22] Tara: Exception noted: "Erin Brockovich."
[13:22] Joe: Sure.
[13:23] Joe: How much would I never ever want to see this movie with him and Aniston?
[13:23] Tara: OMG. Death is not an option!
[13:23] Tara: This Aniston/Eckhart thing ("Love Happens")
[13:23] Tara: or
[13:23] Tara: "All About Steve"?
[13:23] Joe: OH MY GOD

Click below as Tara and I break it down...

[13:23] Joe: Shit.
[13:23] Tara: Haha!
[13:24] Joe: They both look so bad! I feel like that needs to be broken down.
[13:24] Tara: The point of the game is to search your soul, Joe.
[13:24] Joe: Because the leads in "Steve" are so much more appealing.
[13:24] Tara: If there is a barfier movie title this year than "Love Happens," I'll eat my hat.
[13:25] Joe: And yet "All About Steve"? That's a terrible pun that's about one billion years old.
[13:25] Tara: Agreed. But "Love Happens" is worse. It's just making the critics' jobs easier. "Love' Doesn't 'Happen,' But...Something Else Does."
[13:26] Joe: Ha! Okay, so "Worst Title" goes to "Love Happens."
[13:26] Joe: Better supporting cast?
[13:27] Tara: Hmm.
[13:27] Joe: "Steve" has: Beth Grant (yay!) Thomas Haden church (yay I suppose), Keith David (yay), DJ Qualls (ummmm) and Ken Jeong (way too omnipresent for a dubiously funny person)
[13:27] Tara: "Happens" has two "BSG" alumni...and that is not enough.
[13:27] Joe: Judy Greer! Martin Sheen!
[13:27] Tara: pffft.
[13:27] Tara: "Steve" also has M.C. Gainey and Jason Jones.
[13:28] Joe: Hot blond Joe Anderson! John Carroll Lynch!
[13:28] Tara: Pacey's sister.
[13:28] Tara: So many Vancouver-based Canadian character actors with two lines each.
[13:28] Joe: Also, the 2 BSG alums are Tory and Gaeta. Pass.
[13:28] Tara: Yes.
[13:29] Joe: Tough call. Beth Grant maybe pushes it to "Steve."
[13:29] Tara: I think you're right.
[13:29] Tara: Leads?
[13:29] Tara: I obviously like Cooper over Eckhart...
[13:29] Joe: Me too.
[13:30] Tara: ...but I might like Aniston more than Bullock!
[13:30] Joe: !
[13:30] Tara: I really loved "Friends," Joe.
[13:30] Joe: Yeah, I do forget how much I loved Aniston on "Friends"...
[13:30] Tara: "Transpondster!"
[13:30] Joe: But her public persona has really turned me against her.
[13:30] Tara: Yeaaaaaah...
[13:30] Joe: And Sandra Bullock is wonderful. HOWEVER, Bullock looks like deep fried hind quarters in this movie. And that would just depress me.
[13:31] Tara: Also I think a lot of Aniston's public baggage is not of her own creation.
[13:31] Tara: I agree it's annoying, but I hold it against "Us Weekly" more than I do against her.
[13:31] Joe: Aniston just seems so dedicated to perpetuating her own sad persona, to me.
[13:31] Tara: Bullock looks like she's giving an awful performance here, in addition to which she also just looks BAD. Too tan. Awful hair.
[13:32] Joe: Exactly. That might hurt my heart.
[13:32] Joe: I might have more fun hating on Sad Jen
[13:32] Joe: Which brings me to: better prospects for fun-making?
[13:32] Tara: Eckhart's wife dies, right? Before the events of the movie, I mean.
[13:33] Joe: Yes, he's a "widower" according to IMDb.
[13:33] Tara: So, joke potential there, i.e. that she killed herself rather than live on with Two-Face, etc.
[13:33] Joe: Plus, it's so much more inappropriate to laugh at a romantic DRAMA
[13:34] Tara: Also they're both miserable in Seattle -- LIKE EVERYONE IS IN SEATTLE.
[13:34] Tara: (I hate Seattle.)
[13:35] Joe: And, for bonus points, the director of "Steve" has worked on "My Boys" (which you like).
[13:35] Tara: I do.
[13:35] Tara: ...We're not actually talking ourselves into one or the other of these, are we?
[13:36] Joe: NO
[13:36] Tara: THANK GOD.
[13:36] Tara: Because there are Embarrassing Movies, and then there are these.
[13:36] Joe: This is merely an intellectual exercise. Preparing ourselves for if we get a gun pointed to us.
[13:36] Tara: Okay.
[13:36] Joe: By a fanatical film sadist.
[13:36] Tara: Don't get any ideas, Jeffrey Wells!
[13:37] Joe: But I think we have decided that should any disgruntled, recently laid-off critics do flip out on us...
[13:37] Joe: We would have to choose (the abhorrent-looking) "All About Steve."
[13:37] Tara: Yes.
[13:38] Joe: I hope you're proud of yourselves, Eckhart and Aniston.
[13:38] Tara: Judy Greer, you're lucky you have "Archer" to stand on.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Looking Back...

So August is over (and when the fuck did THAT happen?), which weirdly, to me, marks the halfway point of the film year. Things don't usually get rolling until after the Oscar anyway, and the years have become so backloaded with the good movies anyway that this seems like the right place to put a divider line. Thus far, it'sa ctually been a pretty good year for movies. There's been a lot of focus on the American mainstream's abandonment of quality entertainment (see what you've gone, Transformers and G.I. Joe), but just as often, audiences have been flocking to surprisingly great movies (your Star Treks, your District 9s, your Ups). So maybe it's not time to declare American culture dead. You know, again.

I'm a listmaker and a dork, so of course I'm going to present my favorites of the half-year in Academy-apporoved list form. And because I roll with the new, I've got 10 Best Pictures. I welcome the new world order! All lists are in alphabetical order.

Best Picture:
(500) Days of Summer
Adventureland
The Brothers Bloom
Coraline
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
In the Loop
Julie & Julia
Up

This might be a good year to expand Best Picture to ten. Lots of worthy filmmaking in the first eight months that would have no way of lasting to the end of the year with a five-slot category. I would normally feel incredibly pessimistic about something as un-glamorous (and something the mainstream has steadfastly resisted) as The Hurt Locker, but the critical community really seems solidly behind it. I'd be annoyed by the "making fetch happen" nature of their enthusiasm if I didn't think the movie was (one of?) the best I've seen this year. I'd also expect Up to make the shortlist (thought it's only my second-favorite animated movie this year).

Barring anything unforseen, look for Up and District 9 to become the WALL-E and The Dark Knight of the Oscar season; and God help the internet if they end up getting snubbed. And while Inglorious Basterds won't, it'll have a place on the cooler Top 10 lists throughout December and January.

As for the movies with no shot as Oscar love, I'll happily take the well-observed Adventureland, the wry romanticism of (500) Days and the bright, hilarious Brothers Bloom over almost any of the prestige pictures barrelling down the road (more on those tomorrow...).

Best Director:
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Rian Johnson - The Brothers Bloom
Sam Raimi - Drag Me to Hell
Henry Selick - Coraline
Quentin Tarantino - Inglorious Basterds

The director's hand was so apparent in these -- in the best ways. Sure hands who (with the exception of Rian Johnson, so is looking more and more like a wunderkind) know exactly where they're going even if the results include buttons and goats and Eli Roth.

Best Actor:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - (500) Days of Summer
John Krasinski - Away We Go
Sharlto Copley - District 9
Michael Fassbender - Hunger
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker

To be completely honest, while I was impressed by Fassbender's performance at the time, I haven't given it (or Hunger, really) one second thought since I saw it back in March or so. I more get the hype surrounding Copley, though I think the verve of the film itself becomes the real star. But the other three -- Renner, JGL, and Krasinski (and I think in that order) -- are going to be awfully difficult to shove out of this shortlist come the end of the year. Three dynamic, charismatic performances in roles that, while strong, don't exactly give much in the way of big moments.

Best Actress:
Alycia Delmore - Humpday
Julia Roberts - Duplicity
Maya Rudolph - Away We Go
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia
Rachel Weisz - The Brothers Bloom

As is generally the case, it's something of a shallow pool this early in the year. That explains my inclusion of Roberts (who's quite good, but nothing you'd give her an award for) and Rudolph (whose inscrutability was intriguing but maybe not 100% successful). But Delmore managed to make us care about the one character in Humpday who wasn't talking about making same-sex porn videos, Rachel Weisz made me laugh more than anyone in any movie this year, and you may have read a bit about how wonderful Meryl Streep is in every publication in the universe. She is.

Best Supporting Actor:
Peter Capaldi - In the Loop
Jackie Earle Haley - Watchmen
Anthony Mackie - The Hurt Locker
Chris Messina - Away We Go / Julie & Julia
Christoph Waltz - Inglorious Basterds

The massive love for Christoph Waltz is completely justified and still so over-the-top I can already feel myself turning contrarian. Don't do this to me, culture! Anyway, I'll be the one talking up the grounded Anthony Mackie holding his volatile world together with both hands, Chris Messina becoming something of an idea second-or-third banana, Peter Capaldi's heroic rapid-fire venom, and Jackie Earle Haley emoting from behind the mask.

Best Supporting Actress:
Emily Blunt - Sunshine Cleaning
Anna Chlumsky - In the Loop
Diane Kruger - Inglorious Basterds
Melanie Laurent - Inglorious Basterds
Missi Pyle - Spring Breakdown

Nobody's going to be talking about Sunshine Cleaning or Spring Breakdown come awards season (and rightfully so), but Missi Pyle is this year's ultimate scene-stealer, and Blunt was the center of every part of Sunshine Cleaning I wish had lasted longer. I remain committed to making The Great Anna Chlumsky Comeback Story happen (right now I'm working on getting her her own TV comedy). And I'm equally committed to making sure Melanie Laurent doesn't get lost in the Basterds shuffle -- same with Diane Kruger, though to a lesser extent. Damn you, QT, for making me sing her praises!

Best Screenplay:
Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
Away We Go (Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida)
Corialine (Henry Selick)
Humpday (Lynn Shelton)
In The Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche)

I always love a year when the original screenplays dominate the adapted ones, and that's the case this year. The Coraline adaptation was delightfully creepy, but otherwise we're looking at three movies that grounded big concepts (post-collegiate theme-park nostalgia, the what-kind-of-parents-will-we-be road trip, making a homemade porno with your straight best friend) and grounded them with specific, thoughtful character work. And then there's the cast of thousands that apparently contributed to the billion and one brilliant lines.

People, I am but one man. I haven't seen everything. Please help me out and post your own favorites from this half-year in the comments.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Well Hello There!

So that was a nice, unplanned two-week vacation I had from the blog there. I didn't even realize I was taking it until a week into it, but I probably did need it. After all the structure of the trailer tournament and the So You Think You Can Dance posts, once those were both over (congrats, Children of Men and Jeanine Mason!), I guess I didn't know how to post about anything I didn't have on the schedule. That plus, you know, it's TOO FUCKING HOT to do anything but sit in front of the fan and pray for the cool embrace of death by hypothermia.

Anyway, hello! I'm back! Posting on the fly! It's still too fucking hot to write, but I soldier on.

So in the interests of wading back into the shallow end of the pool (POOL! Dear sweet Jesus how many people would I be willing to kill in exchange for access to a pool), I've got some capsule reviews. Not for everything I've seen -- I'm not sure what I could add to the discussion about Donkey Punch -- but certainly there fave been some strongly recommendable movies since last I wrote.

District 9
I'm not sure if this is a movie that has as much to SAY as some reviewers have been touting. Not that it dampened my enthusiasm for the movie one bit. This isn't a dumb movie by any stretch, but the genocidal/apartheid/immigration parallels are fairly obvious and shallow. But obvious and shallow are a hell of a lot better than completely nonexistant as they have been for this summer's other action blockbusters. That's what District 9 is, by the way -- an action blockbuster. The best action blockbuster of the year. Tightly paced, unpredictable, with an amazing blowoff of a final half-hour. "Best Picture" talk is a bit lofty, but I have zero issues with the movie that exists on the screen.

Julie & Julia
The Meryl Streep parts are as amazing as you've heard; she manages to make an incredibly detailed portrayal seem 100% effortless and off-the-cuff. This is why you get Meryl Streep for a movie like this. What I was even more amazed by was how well Nora Ephron did as a writer and director. Put me in the minority who greatly enjoyed the "Julie" half of the movie. Maybe that speaks more to what I do and where I live, but the story of a writer who just wants a place to write and something to accomplish spoke to me. Amy Adams is great, and once again I walk out of a movie thinking about how much I love Chris Messina. And I now have such an insane craving for beef bourguignon I can't even think straight.

Inglorious Basterds
It's really something else to be sitting in a darkened theater and realize that you're in the hands of a director who has the utmost confidence in what he's doing. Who will just go there and throw whatever crazyfucking thing that's on his mind up on the screen and trust his audience stick with him even when any sane moviegoer would check right out. Only Quentin Tarantino's crazy ass could make a WWII movie like this, one that hinges on a movie house, deeply personal revenge plots, and more Mexican standoffs than you can shake a Nazi-bashing baseball bat with. Speaking of which, props to QT for once again taking crap-ass actors like Diane Kruger and Eli Roth and either eliciting great performances out of them (Kruger) or else utilizing them for their preposterousness on appearance and largely keeping them quiet in a corner (Roth). The real scorchers in the cast are Christop Waltz, who you've heard about, and Melanie Laurent, who you should be hearing much, much more about.

In the Loop
Fantastically funny, foul-mouthed, smarter than it seems at first, and keeping way more balls in the air at any given time than you can count. I don't think I'll be able to properly sing its praises until I see it two or three more times, and I certainly intend to do that. But here's my big question in the meantime: Why aren't more people talking/writing/shouting about how cool it is that Anna "My Girl" Chlumsky is back in movies and being totally charming and funny and relaxed and worthy of more charming, funny roles in the very near future? This is the child-actor success story of the century!

Monday, August 10, 2009

In Which Joe and Sarah Peep the New RW/RR Challenge Cast

So let me set the scene for you. It's a week or so ago, I'm tooling around online as I occasionally do, and I stumble across the find of the summer. Well, the find of MY summer. Which means, yes, the cast list for the next Real World/Road Rules Challenge, subtitled "The Ruins."

Naturally, I immediately send my girl Sarah (she of the Challenge chats on this very blog) an email which read something like OH MY GOD CHALLENGE RUINS TALK ANNOUNCEMENT GET ONLINE IMMEDIATELY. The following chat is what happened when she did (obviously read on to find out which Real Worlders got cast this time around -- I'm not kidding you when I say it's the greatest collection of fine human beings in history.

Joe: So you've seen the cast?
Sarah: Well...seen what weird internet people are saying is the cast.
Joe: I tend to believe it. Perhaps because I want to.
Sarah: I do too. But...Evan? Again? NEED A BREATHER.
Joe: I feel like I can't even talk about this without giving it its proper due.
Sarah: I know. We can let this simmer for a while; it's important.
Joe: Like, we should have 30 minutes on MTV to discuss this.
Sarah: It should become as flavorful as possible.
Joe: Okay, actually, here's something funny; I actually have 40 minutes to kill right now.
Sarah: Oh yes?.....
Joe: And I can't wait. Because honestly, there is no sufficient ceremony; no matter how fancy I dress up, I still won't feel prepared.
Sarah: Prepared to talk about....the return of Shauvon? DUN!
Joe: Okay, seriously, on a cast full of total slam dunks, she is seriously the one flat note. My mixed metaphors are as huge as her giant, misshapen breasts.
Sarah: Why would they bring her back? Particularly when CT is NOT back.
Joe: I guess to continue to fight with...Diem? Though, honestly, I'm kind of psyched for Kim to get her claws into her.
Sarah: And she can have closet sex with....Darrell? (Who is Darrell again?)
Joe: Darrell = the most boring guy to have won (I think) 2 Challenges.
Sarah: I really can't even picture the guy right now.
Joe: He definitely won the Fresh Meat anti-climax.
Sarah: What do you think about the format? Winners v Losers?
Joe: Is that what it is? I have not heard this; please explain.
Sarah: Okay, my googling has revealed that the theme is people who have won challenges versus people who have not ever won challenges. I have no idea if this is really the case.

Read on for the rest of the chat ... and the rest of the Ruiners


Joe: Well that actually makes sense for Darrell, then. That's the only reason you'd bring him back.
Sarah: It also allows for an awesomely trashy "losers" group -- and then a kind of rando "winners" group; like Syrus is back?
Joe: Indeed, him too. Okay this is making some sense at least. So you figure winners would be Darrell, Wes, the whole Island crew (Bananas, Ev, Kenny, Derrick) ...
Sarah: Yes yes yes yes.
Joe: Tonya won one, Evan won one...
Sarah: You are like my favorite OK Computer ever.
Joe: I am not proud.
Sarah: Here's the list I'm looking at.
Joe: The fuck did Ibis win?
Sarah: I don't know who Ibis is.
Joe: You won't necessarily after The Ruins either.
Sarah: Fingers crossed.
Joe: Unless she's grown a bitchitude like Susie did.


Sarah: The non-winners group looks SO SO good.
Joe: I KNOW.
Sarah: (With the exception of Nick and Shauvon.)
Joe: Honestly, I think the whole cast, with very few exceptions, is stacked.
Sarah: I go down the list and am like "Chet! Cohutta! Danny!!! EYESOCKET DANNY!!!"
Joe: Yhere are so few sacrificial lambs.
Sarah: Cohutta and Nick are dunzo.
Joe: Yes, probably.
Sarah: And, Joe, did you notice.....Brianna?!?!?!
Joe: YOU BET I DID!
Sarah: She is either going to tear Shauvon's extensions out or they are are going to become BFF.
Joe: And Kellyanne!
Sarah: Yayayay!
Joe: Okay also? Danny and Dunbar on the same roid-ragey team?
Sarah: Hell yes! If you dismember them, you could probably sew together a new CT.
Joe: With Sarah and Kellyanne to annoy them?
Sarah: Sarah with that insane-making voice
Joe: Like, you could honestly have a murder on that Losers team.
Sarah: And Casey?! Oh dude. Casey, Sarah, Kellyanne; like fifty steps back for feminism, a million steps forward for my entertainment.
Joe: Poor B-Rad on that Losers team.
Sarah: I like how Tori is staying away.
Joe: Having to put up with Chet and Casey and Shauvon and stupid Adam. Adam is gonna be SO DAMN full of himself after the CT thing.
Sarah: In my mind that Losers team is just all limbs jumping and jerking around and irritating voices. Like I'm looking through a microscope at jumpy one-celled organisms? And B-Rad is the scientist.


Joe: Okay, let's try to handicap this. And that way we can go cretin by cretin. Starting with the losers: who's the obvious first few weeks' cannon fodder?
Sarah: Shauvon, maybe Sarah. Then probably Chet and Nick?
Joe: I say yes, yes, yes, maybe. Nick might be big enough to keep longer than, say, Cohutta
Sarah: Right.
Joe: You figure, the clique there will be Brad, Diem, Danny, Adam; with Dunbar glowering around the perimeter like always.
Sarah: Kimberly might also have an inside track this time.
Joe: Yes; she and Dunbar will Natural Born Killers their way to the end.
Joe: I also like Bri to last, barring a meltdown.
Sarah: On the outs will be Chet and Cohutta. Danny will think he is on the inside, but will probably be sacrificed.
Joe: Danny's problem, as ever, is that nobody likes him.
Sarah: I'd put some money on Bri (much like many men do).
Joe: Eff yes. And I love Kellyanne as the wild card.
Sarah: Kellyanne is the best wild card.
Joe: She could pull off a Sarah/Katie type streak.
Sarah: I believe in her. I only hope she knows that.
Joe: So pick a final 4 for the Losers.
Sarah: Brad, Adam, Kimberly, Brianna (this last might very well be Diem, if they keep acting fratty like they usually do).
Joe: Yeah, I'm saying Brad, Diem, Dunbar, Bri.
Sarah: Yeah. That sounds better. I don't think Adam will make it.
Joe: He'll get close.
Sarah: But I think Kimberly will be a presence this time. I believe in Kim
Joe: This is of course assuming a lot about how the elimination process will go.


Joe: As for the Winners ... there's a lot of tired on that team; Tonya. Katie. Syrus. Even Derrick has been slowed by the demands of fatherhood!
Sarah: They're getting kind of leathery, bro.
Joe: Trying to pick dead weight on the guys' side? After Sy? That's tough.
Sarah: And Darrell don't forget! (Who?)
Joe: He's a good athlete, though; they'll keep him around.
Sarah: That is a fucking meatpacking plant, man.
Joe: I say Wes is the second-lowest on the totem pole. Under the Nobody Likes Anyone From Austin rule.
Sarah: I always wish Wes was Abram.
Joe: Wes/Johanna/Kenny has promise, though. And didn't Kellyanne say at that Island reunion that she fucked Wes?
Sarah: Yes she did! Nice!
Joe: Quadrangle! There is some serious Patient Zero potential there.
Sarah: Joe, geometry cannot help explain the relations between these people.
Joe: That's why I added the epidemiology.
Sarah: Well....honestly I don't think SCIENCE can explain the relations between these people; only God could....except these people killed him.


Joe: Try to parse out the women who hate each other; Tonya/Veronica; Katie/Veronica; Tonya/Susie.
Sarah: Susie...yes!
Joe: Everyone/Ev.
Sarah: Doesn't Tonya/Katie also hate Johanna?
Joe: Probs.
Sarah: I really like Johanna being thrown in with the Virginia Slims ladeez.
Joe: Yes!
Sarah: It's like a prison movie. Like White Oleander.
Joe: It fucking is. Because Veronica just got transferred back in; and who does she side with?
Joe: I bet you she and Katie make a devil's bargain.
Sarah: Absolutely. They have to know their own power by now.
Joe: And they pick up Ibis and Johanna. And get rid of Ev, Susie, Tonya.
Sarah: Yes. Nice.
Joe: I really hope someone on that team is listening.
Sarah: We need to start a business advising these people.
Joe: I also have a feeling, with the guys, it's gonna end up being Derrick as the hero going up against Meathead Inc.
Sarah: I'm hoping so. But Meathead, Inc. must know they can't fuck with Derrick. It's going to be interesting. Because on The Island, Derrick was both with and not with the Meatheads.
Joe: Also, doesn't Bananas hate Susie?
Sarah: Everyone hates Susie except Cara, right?
Joe: Right. And Cara ain't here.
Sarah: Oh my god, I really cannot wait to see Chet on a challenge.
Joe: I KNOW.
Sarah: Sad lack of gays here, right?
Joe: Sad = total, yes? Besides stoopid Ev. And I guess Sarah is .5. And, you know, Chet.
Sarah: And Chet hiding his under a bushel.
Joe: Jinx!

Joe: So Final 4 for the Winners.
Sarah: Derrick, right?
Joe: Yes; hero. I say Kenny goes shockingly early.
Sarah: Derrick, Evelyn, Wes (?), Veronica. I just don't think both Veronica and Katie are going to make it.
Joe: Wes is gonna have a tough time. B/c Kenny with rally his troops against him
Sarah: I'm on principle not naming Evan becuse GOD.
Joe: But I'm mostly with you: Derrick and Bananas, Katie and Veronica. PLEASE GOD let us be right about those girls.

Joe: Sarah, I almost can't handle this.
Sarah: Deep breaths until it happens for us.
Joe: FALL '09!
Sarah: Do you realize that it is very likely we could WATCH IT TOGETHER.
Joe: Um, "likely"?
Sarah: I know!
Joe: We're renting a back room at a bar; with Bunting.
Sarah: Yay!
Joe: We're coming, Kellyanne! Wait for us!
Sarah: STAY ALIVE!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

So You Think You Can Blog (Blog, Blog...): Top 4 Performances

One last time, the gang's all here: the lovely and talented AB Chao, the equally lovely and talented Lauren S, and the even more equally lovely and talented Vance from Tapeworthy. Final performance show of the season, y'all. Let's do it.


Kayla, Evan, Jeanine, Brandon
Pop-Jazz (Wade Robson)

Joe: Love Wade, love the dancers, but the whole thing never exactly popped the way I think it was supposed to. So allow me to use this space for a peremptory assertion that I don't hate Evan. Truly, I don't. Through the first 3-4 weeks, he was one of my favorites. But he's stayed stagnant while everyone else has grown, and as the weeks went by and the talent got more and more concentrated ... he's just not strong enough. Kayla's a better technician, Jeanine's got a more magnetic personality, and Brandon's hotter. That's the holy trinity right there, and Evan's outclassed in each category. And if he wins, I don't know how I'm not gonna hold it against Ryan next season. My apologies in advance.

Vance I guess I represent all tweens and grandmamas out there that still love Evan despite the fact that I know he's the weakest link here. That being said, I don't think Evan should win, and I think if he DOES win, it WILL hurt Ryan's chances next season and I thought Ryan was the stronger dancer. So yeah, I'm not blind to that fact.

Really enjoyed the routine but I agree, it wasn't the wowser like SexyBack was (but then again, has anything been since?) but it was still fun even though there was more acting than dancing.

Lauren: Yeah, this wasn't Wade's best work by any stretch. It was fine, but I was definitely left wanting more.

AB I am really disappointed with this because of my deep and abiding Wade love, but it kind of did nothing for me. Regardless, all of the dancers, even Evan, were great at...cheering. I give this a big sad frownie. YES I DO!

Click below for our take on the rest of the show!


Jeanine and Evan
Jazz (Sonya Tayeh)

Joe: All that being said about Evan previously, he did reasonably well keeping up with Jeanine here. As with his previous Sonya collaborations, he danced it well if not spectacularly. You can really tell how much Jeanine and Evan honestly enjoy each other, and I liked how that came across, both in the video package and the routine.

Vance Yah, these two pair up quite well and again, Jeanine's totally awesome and here's proof Evan's still pretty good. The backlash now makes Evan seem like he can't dance at all but he's still far better than the most of us. But Jeanine!!!

Lauren: I agree that clearly Evan is a great dancer, charismatic, and seems super nice. But the judges are exactly right to point out that he hasn't grown like the others, and he was outclassed so often tonight that I started to really feel bad for him. He did well here, but Jeanine was fabulous as always and was the draw of the whole routine.

AB Don't feel too bad for Evan. He and his little puppy dog cheeks will be just fine on that tour. But it did start to seem like he was getting nothing but a bunch of sunshine blown at him, all, "Well, that wasn't very good, Evan. But to make up for it, we will once again tell you how cute and nice you are." It felt a little condescending, even though Evan was obviously eating it up. Anyway, the routine. I love Sonya so I liked this a lot. Evan did really well, but Jeanine was fantastic. Obviously. I am officially on her train.



Brandon and Kayla
Broadway (Tyce Diorio)

Joe: Really liked this one! Tyce's broadway routines are never going to completely blow me away (or hadn't you heard?) but this one was weird-in-a-good-way and gave Kayla and Brandon plenty of chances to show off. Particularly Kayla and Her Insane Legs. Holy eff.


Vance I KNOW! Another Tyce routine I didn't completely hate! That's growth! Though this seemed more pop jazz than Broadway for two contemporary dancers but whose counting?

Lauren: Seriously, though my dream wish was "No Tyce" this actually wasn't bad and I enjoyed it! And seriously, Kayla's legs are ridiculous.

AB I liked this one so much it made me mad! Because Tyce was involved. Brandon and Kayla are a pretty good team, although I do wish Kayla would show more of ANY emotion. Sometimes I wish I could poke her and see what would happen. Also, I think even if I practiced every day for a year, I still couldn't make my legs do that. Maybe I will try it, and let Joe Reid blog about it. Watch this space.


Brandon and Evan
Pop-Jazz (Laurie Ann Gibson)

Joe: Okay, first thing's first: I still love Laurie Ann and hope she's around a bunch in Season 6. But this routine annoyed the hell out of me. I'm already irked by the Nigelian assertion that boy/boy routines need to be as much about fighting as possible so nobody in the universe anywhere gets the impression that dancers might in any way consider sticking it in another dude. Ahem. But somewhere between the leather jackets, the literal shadowboxing, and not-intentionally ironic use of Janet Jackson's "Nasty," this whole thing became officially too butch. At least when Danny and Neil did their dance-fighting routine there was the conceit of the two fey princes. Anyway. So this was annoying to me. But Brandon clearly mopped the floor with Evan. And I don't buy that Evan's inherent sweetness and innocence was just too strong to be overcome, because Brandon is a teensy ray of sunshine himself, and yet he's been able to fully embody rough/mean/hard characters time and again. That being said, my very favorite moment of the whole night (not involving Jeanine) was when everyone was waiting for Evan to answer Mary's "What's the nastiest thing you've ever done" question, and Brandon squeaked "I'm excited!" And that's when I finally fell for Brandon for reals.

Vance Actually, that whole segment when Mary asked Evan and his answer was pretty great. His dancing, not as much, but again, while Brandon was FAR STRONGER, everyone's making out like Evan just sat there or something. But yes, considering Brandon squeaks when he talks and looks like Carlton Banks, he did pull off the "nasty butch" thing rather fairly well while Puppydog eye Evan didn't, though again, I just think Evan's built a different way in a competition that leans heavily towards Contemp.

Lauren: I actually really liked this routine, even with it being too literal and everything, but the one hard part for me to watch was (yet again, and I promise I'll let up on this from here on out) Evan not keeping up with Brandon. I think even Evan knows that by now but by the 2nd hour of this episode I felt bad for him that this week was when the judges finally started being harshly honest with him. That now out of the way... I thought Brandon was freaking amazing. And ditto everything about the question at the end -- that was ridiculously cute on all sides.

AB The main thing I kept thinking (and saying out loud, repeatedly) was how much more awesome this routine would have been with Brandon and Ade. Can you imagine? They both would have made the whole thing so much more dirty (and also buck). That said, Evan did a passable job with it, but those parts where he couldn't keep up made me have to look away. Brandon, however, was awesome, and I agree that it's not a good excuse about being too sweet to be dirty. Carlton does it. So can you. Ugh, he's so cute and I hated him so much at first. "I'm excited!" killed me.



Jeanine and Kayla
Contemporary (Mia Michaels)


Joe: Deceptively kind of brilliant. You're so busy looking for when they're going to shed all those excess ruffles that it's easy to miss the strong contemporary work. Less of a capital-C "Concept" that often defines my favorite Mia routines, and there's still a part of me that wanted to see Jeanine and Kayla go off and do something totally weird and funky, but this was great.

Vance My favorite of the night. Mia is BACK! I don't even know if it was deceptively brilliant. It was just brilliant. It required so much technique all within that artistry (oh god, am I starting to sound like Kara now?) and backed up by two strong girls that could pull off dancing Mia's vision. Jeanine though did look a bit like the stronger of the two and as Adam pointed out tonight, it's because Jeanine knows how to fill in the gaps in between the "moments" both in her solos and in these choreographed routines. She never lets up and is always fully enraptured in the dance.

Lauren: I definitely wanted to like this more than I did. But while the choreography wasn't my favorite and I thought the wardrobe stuff was a bit gimmicky (and then when various parts got caught a couple of times I got so worried for the girls) there's no denying the amazing talent of these two girls.

AB Mia [Middle Name] Michaels! What is your puh-roblem, girl? You do not need PROPS. Jeez. I was really aggravated with Mia for perpetrating this, because Jeanine's wardrobe malfunctions kept pulling me out of the routine, which could have been AWESOME, but because of the skirt craziness, was merely ok. And is now making me have run-on sentences. The girls were both great; Kayla is clearly stronger technically, but Jeanine is just all-around awesome, so she gets a slight advantage here.



Kayla and Evan
Jive (Tony & Melanie)
Joe: Look, I love the jive pretty much all the time, so I definitely enjoyed watching this. But I was also glad to see Adam Shankman be the rare judge to criticize the choreography (and was annoyed that Mary decided to take another step in the Paula direction by pre-emptively shooting him down -- and let's not even discuss that rumor about Paula coming to SYTYCD next season). For whatever reason, that thing that Evan does well really works in a jive. But unfortunately, it kind of served to drag Kayla down rather than elevate the pair of them.


Vance: I actually liked this a lot and while it was constructed pretty simply, it worked for me. Or maybe it was just the honky tonk music. I'm not sure. I think I'm a country boy at heart (or I just WANT a country boy for my heart). Did Evan and Kayla do a perfect job? No, but they did a fairly similar job.

Lauren: Hee, this is actually one of my favorite totally guilty pleasure songs, so that made me happy. There were parts of this I really liked, but I was able to pinpoint my problem with the routine after the Paso Doble...

AB This was really weird to me, because neither of these two has a country bone in his/her body, but Kayla looked really cute in her cowboy boots. I think the one weakness she has is that sometimes she tends to look a little klutzy during ballroom-type transition moves. I can't figure out why, maybe because those great lines of hers are TOO good? I don't know. Anyway, it was cute. Not great, but cute.



Brandon and Jeanine
Paso Doble (Louis Van Amstel)
Joe DUDE! I so wanted to suggest a paso doble in last week's post, but I didn't think either of the boys were tall enough (and thus forgetting that my favorite paso doble of all time was Heidi and wee little Travis). But Brandon danced this plenty tall enough, and he and Jeanine blew this one right off the stage. Perfect way to end the show (well, not so perfect for Kayla and Evan but alas). Also? How great was Jeanine's reaction to that cape-flourish trick she and Brandon pulled at the end of the video package? Love.

Vance My other fave of the night, with the pairing of the two (debatably) strongest dancers of the night in a whiz bang performance on a set that seemed built for this one dance. But now to get to the nitpicky. By pairing up Brandon and Jeanine, it brings out why I'm pulling for Jeanine. While Brandon may be the better technical dancer with that strong muscular body, Jeanine seems to enrapture the whole dance with body and mind, and there's just some inner sparkle or passion that gives her a glow that I rarely see from Brandon. Not to say Brandon doesn't dance with passion but he's such a good technical dancer that I think his concentration overtakes him and he doesn't seem to be having as much fun as Jeanine. (Does that make sense?)

Lauren: I think it was Adam who pointed out that what makes a dance great are the transitions, so that it's not just going from one move to another. The jive felt like that to me -- it was kind of jerky and went from one cool move, to setup to another cool move (or steps, but you know). This Paso, on the other hand, really just flowed awesomely from beginning to end and I was thrilled that these two were the ones to dance it. I love Louis Van Amstel and I hope they keep him on this fall!

AB By process of elimination, this was my favorite of the night. I guess I am just now realizing that none of these final dances really blew me away, but this one was a ton of fun to watch. It also showed that Jeanine and Brandon are obviously the strongest dancers, individually and as couples. And I LOVED Jeanine in this one. Jeanine FTW! (I voted for her, twice. Once to cancel out my husband's vote for...Kayla. WHAT?)



SOLOS + FINAL THOUGHTS:

Brandon Bryant

Joe Can he honestly be this unsure of himself, or is he just working overtime to counter the past perceptions of him as an egotist. Either way, it was another typically strong Brandon solo. For someone I was very resistant to at Top 20, Brandon grew on me steadily (it's not like I could deny his ability), and if not for Jeanine (who at this point is second only to Travis in my all-time Dance favorites), I would be totally rooting for him to win.

Vance Not as good as his last week's solo, but far better than the ones previous to that. Again, maybe my fun comment has something to do with being unsure of himself and probably focussing on getting things so technically perfect (which they seem to be). His solo's still seem to be more of a series of tricks rather than a whole DANCE PIECE but that perfectly timed ending was fantastic.

Lauren: Yeah, there sometimes is a bit of a spark missing for me in his solos but I think that is definitely because he's so technical about them -- and that said, holy crap is he technically magnificent. I'm happy Adam called him out on the board shorts, though. I am constantly amused to see what the dancers pick for themselves when they do their solos, and I get the impression that in the dance world, a) matching and b) matching the type of clothes to the routine is frowned upon.

AB I wish his solos from last night and last week had been switched around, because while this one was technically fabulous, last week's was astoundingly good. Our joke last night was that he'd come out and do it naked, because after last week's Speedo, where else could he go? So the board shorts were quite a disappointment.



Jeanine Mason
Joe What else can I possibly say about her? Except that I said this at Top 16: "I like Phillip a lot. He's sweet and eager and mucho talented in his own realm. But I sit here hoping (in vain, I'm sure) that he'll get voted off, because I L-O-V-E love Jeanine, and I just want to see her paired up with someone who can keep up with her in these other styles." So, yes, I'm patting myself on the back for being an early adopter of Jeanine. She DID get partners who could keep up with her and she DID shine brighter and brighter. I could not get enough of Adam Shankman's bubbling-over love for her after that (AH-MAZING) solo; he might be the one person who loves her as much as I do.

Vance Best solo of the night. Again.

Lauren: Absolutely, totally, freaking unbelievably fantastic. Love the dance! Love her!

AB This was awesome. Her best ever! She should win just for this. In addition to learning Kayla's splits, I will also be attempting to learn Jeanine's crazy slow-motion pirouettes. Blog it, Joe.


Evan Kasprzak
Joe Oh, Evan. I hope you do not win. But this was probably your best solo yet. So good job.

Vance Actually, I still think his solo for a few weeks back was his best but this one was still pretty good. He sure knows how to pull it out of the bag on his solos which it seems like this year, has won or killed many a dancers (Melissa would still be here if she had figured out how to do better solo's, and I think if Ade had learned to switch up his solo's, he too would still be here).

Lauren: I didn't like this solo as much as I have liked some others but I thanked goodness he didn't end it with a shrug. I really enjoy watching Evan's solos every time. But he's not the person that should be America's Favorite Dancer. (Look at me, dictating what America should think!)

AB I do not think this was Evan's best solo (the one from a few weeks ago was), but it did remind me why I liked him in the first place, before all the shoulder-shrugging and dirt-kicking happened. Still love you, Evan! Please lose.



Kayla Radomski
Joe Oh, Kayla. We all kind of figured Brandon would be the Travis/Danny/Will of this season because of the physical/personality similarities (he's teeny and gay like Travis; insanely buff like Will; and aloof like Danny). But now it's looking like Kayla is destined to be the technically brilliant, endlessly adaptable (Adam nailed it when he said there's nothing she can't do) freak of movement who ends up being maybe a bit too otherworldly to win the whole thing. We'll always have that addiction routine, girl.

Vance I actually thought this was Kayla's best solo as well (boy, everyone is on their game tonight). Kayla, like Brandon, usually does a series of tricks and contemporary movements but here, there was a more fluid flow to it all. But I agree, I think she missed her chance to grab the title (I did peg her at the top at one point during the run of the show) by being too "otherworldly". Joe, what a perfect word to describe it.

Lauren: Kayla is one of the people who always reminds me that this is definitely not So You Think You Can Choreograph but her technical skill can't be denied. I agree that Joe nailed it up top, but at the same time, if she were to win I think she's perfectly deserving. I think that she's probably the least likely, though, just because her personality doesn't bubble through like it does for the others.

I think I'll be happy if anyone but Evan wins, because they are all fantastic dancers who have excelled at everything that's been thrown at them this season. But if I have to pick one, my heart lies with Jeanine because she's just 100% the total awesome package.

AB I thought this was really good. I think Kayla should not win because she is a robot, but I do love her dancing.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Twenty Oh-Five Revisited

Over on Roommate Mark's blog, he's running one of his Best Picture Expansion Projects on the 2005 Oscar Race. That year's lineup:

Brokeback Mountain
Crash
Good Night and Good Luck
Capote
Munich

In addition to those, Mark added Transamerica, A History of Violence, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale, and The 40-Year Old Virgin. You should go read it, it's some good stuff.

Of course, I was right up in the comments with my own list. My feeling since back then has been that 2005 was a weak year for movies, with only Brokeback Mountain (and give or take a Cache) really blowing me away. Even the stuff I very much liked, that was in my Top 10 even -- The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, Goodnight and Good Luck, Munich, Capote -- were more admired than loved. I haven't seen one of those movies a second time.

But as I was offering my alternate choices, the really good offerings kept popping up. Maybe 2005 was just a bad year for Oscar-style movies. Perhaps my Top 10 needed a second opinion and a broader glance at the film landscape that year. (That's kind of my point in posting this. Rather than a glimpse up my own ass, I'm saying that oftentimes we get lost evaluating the year's best movies by only considering awards-style movies, as if they were a genre. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.)

So here's what my list did look like:

BEST MOVIES OF 2005:
1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Cache
3. The Constant Gardener
4. Munich
5. A History of Violence
6. Good Night and Good Luck
7. The Upside of Anger
8. The Squid and the Whale
9. Capote
10. The 40-Year Old Virgin

Now, those top two stay exactly where they are -- they're the cream of that year's crop. And I'm standing by Upside of Anger and 40-Year Old Virgin, both of which have stood the test of time. Munich and A History of Violence have left a strong enough impression on me that I'm standing by them as strong films if not ones I'm scrambling to see again soon. But honestly, Constant Gardener, Good Night..., and Capote have really receded from my mind. And while there was much in The Squid and the Whale that I loved (Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels, for the most part), it had been built up far too much before I watched it and I was underwhelmed.

So how can I fill those four slots more creatively?

Junebug: Great, kind-hearted indie comedy. Just as bouyed by a strong supporting actress performance as The Constant Gardener but has proved more enduring as a story.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: It's just this side of too clever-clever, but I think it stays inventive enough to support the smirking attitude.

In Her Shoes: Totally underrated on any number of levels. Remember when Cameron Diaz kept getting great critical notice for playing ugly (Malkovich) or psycho (Vanilla Sky)? But this might be her best performance and nobody noticed because she was playing the typical Cameron Diaz role. And she's not even the best, or second-best, performer. Awesome Toni Collette/Shirley MacLaine work.

Grizzly Man: I tend to let documentaries slip through the cracks when I'm remembering my favorite movies from a given year, and I shouldn't because this movie rocked my shit eight different ways.

*Note: I'm not including The Descent for 2005 because it didn't make its U.S. non-festival premiere until 2006.

Neither one of those movies ended up anywhere close to the Oscar discussion that year (save Amy Adams), and it's too bad, because these are the movies that make me think 2005 had some real hidden gems.

Consider also some strong runners up (Mysterious Skin, Pride and Prejudice, Match Point, Happy Endings), interesting failures (Rent, Jarhead, King Kong), and valuable junk (Constantine, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wedding Crashers, Green Street Hooligans).

Okay, movie fanatic readers of mine. Give me your 2005 re-assessment in the comments.

DANCE Top 10

Man, this season just FLEW by, didn't it? Thank God we've got another waiting for us in September. But for now, we've got a season finale to get ready for on Wednesday and Thursday. I haven't heard which of this season's best routines are going to be reprised on Thursday, but after catching my sister up on the season over the weekend (we've got two Jeanine fanatics in the family now), I started mentally making my list of the routines I'd like to see again.

So here are my Top 10 routines of the season, along with my two favorite group routines (for as maligned as the season has been at times, the group dances have been pretty phenomenal).


TOP 10 DANCES OF SEASON 5

10. Janette and Ade: Hip-Hop
Top 10, Napoleon and Tabitha

This one's here as much for being one of the season's few shining hip-hop moments as it is for Debbie Allen's insanely quotable critique afterwards. A pimp with a comb? Stay away from her daughter, honey!

9. Brandon and Janette: Hip-Hop
Top 16, Dave Scott

All hopes for hip-hop this season seemed lost until world-beaters Brandon and Janette took up this hip-hop ode to "rockers" (you know, fishnets, devil horns, that sort of thing).

8. Brandon and Janette: Disco
Top 18, Doriana Sanchez

I've liked disco a grand total of once on this show (Neil and Sara's teal explosion from Season 3). But this routine -- once again, Brandon and Janette making everything look easy -- was so goddamn fast, felt like letting out a Debbie Allen "WHOOOOO, child!" myself.

7. Melissa and Ade: Rumba
Top 16, Tony Meredith and Melanie LaPatin

They kind of got eclipsed a bit in the late-season Jeanine/Kayla/Brandon charge, but Melissa and Ade were my unquestioned highlights of the early part of the season. Especially this rumba, which was positively scorching and featured Melissa doing that amazing full-extension leg...spin...thing. Whatever, it rocked.

6. Brandon and Janette: Cha-Cha
Top 14, Jean-Marc Genereaux

Great ballroom choreography from Jean-Marc here, and once again note-perfect, sexy work from Brandon and Janette. I'm not sure what it says -- about me, this season, or these two dancers -- that I was able to resist falling head over heels for them despite how many stellar routines they had in the first several weeks. But regardless, I'll give them their props here.

5. Kayla and Jason: Hip-Hop
Top 8, Shane Sparks

Okay, so even in a season that was quite weak on hip-hop, the genre has three routines in my Top 10, so it's not all bad. This one was the best, with Jason showing marked improvement from his first, disastrous encounter with Shane. And Kayla remained freakish in her ability to do everything right. Plus: zombies.

4. Brandon and Janette: Jazz
Top 12, Wade Robson

Just so much fun, and so Wade in all the best ways. It was like watching a really clever, colorful French cartoon. One of the good ones, not the weird, boring ones. And this was the dance where Janette first truly popped, for me.

3. Jeanine and Brandon: Pop-Jazz
Top 8, Laurie-Ann Gibson

God. Okay, first of all, I had no idea until my sisters told me so that Laurie Ann is a well-known lunatic from Making the Band. I just know that she's my favorite new choreographer and I hope the show brings her back soon. A-GA-GA-GA! Anyway, this is one of those routines that lives or dies on the strength and presence of the dancers, so lucky it was powerhouse Brandon and MAH GIRL Jeanine.

2. Jeanine and Jason: Contemporary
Top 10, Travis Wall

Half of my love for this was on Travis's behalf, because he is my favorite and I love him. Half is for finally realizing that Jason was capable of something amazing given the right chemistry with a partner (which he and Jeanine had in spades). And half was for MAH GIRL finally delivering a routine that lived up to my outsized love for her. That's right, three halves. It's that good.

1. Kayla and Kupono: Contemporary
Top 12, Mia Michaels

Still brings tears to my eyes, probably mostly because I know this ended up being my darling Kupono's only shining moment -- and everybody tends to slight his accomplishments in favor of Kayla's anyway. Not that she doesn't deserve it; she evoked the most exquisite pain. But this was a true team effort -- it had to be given the great precision necessary here. So many small movements from Kayla, each one countered by Kupono with the creepiest lack of effort. Completely mesmerizing.

+1 Top 12 Group Dance ("Seven Nation Army" Nap/Tab)
First of all, great choice of song. Second of all, I am such a sucker for this Rhythm Nation 2814 stuff, and Napoleon and Tabitha delivered.


+1 Top 5 girls Bollywood (Top 10)
Even stipulating that Randi was clearly the weakest of the five, I was so blown away by this group of girls. Best Top 5 girls ever? I can't really argue with that. Certainly not after watching this insanely fun, lively, exhausting routine.

Monday, August 03, 2009

So You Think You Can Blog (Blog, Blog...): Top 6 (Belated)


Last week, four bloggers found themselves under time pressure, travel plans, project deadlines, and lack of sleep, so they ended up totally blowing the Thursday posting schedule and ended up in the Bottom Four. This week, they attempt to salvage what's left of their assessments of last week's episodes in time for this Wednesday and Thursday's finale. THIS ... is So You Think You Can Blog!

Our first blogger danced the Argentine Tango with Evan last week, and Mary Murphy put them both on the Hot Tamale Train. This week, he'll attempt a Tyce Diorio tap routine around the subject of his beloved's continuing presence. Ladies and gentlemen ... it's Vance!

Vance: Was it me or was Lil C kind of a downer this week? Or was it just his not-so-thinly-veiled attacks on Evan while pushing Ade and Brandon?

Okay, while at this point, I love all the remaining dancers, (and I'm slowly getting over Janette's elimination from last week -- I've just passed the acceptance part), I think that Jeanine is now my favorite dancer. She totally won me over with her solo last week, plus the fact that I cannot hear Jordan Sparks's song "Battlefield" without seeing Jeanine anymore. Girl has dug herself into that song and THAT has ALWAYS been a sign for me! I will also defend Evan to the death! Luckily he got Broadway this week (in a Tyce routine I didn't hate!), but then got balanced out with deathstep Quickstep.

Ade's great, but to me, Jeanine overshadowed him in both dances. Brandon was so strong that it made up for the lack of a personality, and I thought both of Brandon and Kayla's dances were the best pairs routines. Especially the disco (from Doriana, which I didn't hate!).

While Nigel said Brandon's was one of the best solo's EVAH, I thought Evan's was better, but Brandon's was finally as great as they've always should have been, much to the credit of the epic orchestral music from Carmina Burana.

Still, at this point, Jeanine FTW! Though Kayla is great, and the uniqueness of Evan still puts him third, even though Brandon and Ade are "better" dancers. Melissa is still great but she peaked too early in the competition. I would say Brandon or Ade should be tops, but the fact that I could interchange them in my mind (and not because they are both black... not JUST because they are both black and strong contemporary dancers) probably crosses each other out for the win right now.

Click below to read the rest!

Top 3: Kayla and Brandons Disco, Melissa and Evan's Broadway, Kayla and Brandons Contemporary
Bottom: Melissa and Evan's Quickstep

To vote -- or agree -- with Vance, type 1-866-TEMPO-01 in the comments. All right? Let's hear it for Vance! Our next blogger was paired last week with Jeanine for what guest judge Lil' C called a "resplendent, rhinoscerosian Rumba." Can they live up to the praise this week with a hard-hitting Shane Sparks hip-hop routine? Ladies and gentlemen ... it's Joe!

Joe: I want to start with a word about that quickstep. Because, okay, it was probably not the Platonic ideal of a quickstep; I trust the judges in their expertise that the footwork was lacking, et cetera. But I thought it was a remarkably strong routine, given the degree of difficulty, and I thought Melissa and Evan did themselves fairly proud. There was a bit of everything-comes-together for Evan here (one that was oddly missing in his Broadway ... and his solo, for that matter), and they looked to be having a blast. That being said, I am hoping against hope that he and Melissa get voted out tonight.

Because if I can take one thing away from last night's episode with absolute certainty, it's that Brandon, Ade, Jeanine, and Kayla are the four best dancers remaining, and by a decent margin at that. Evan and Melissa didn't even mess up -- they're just a grade below the others, even at their best. WILL they go home? Maybe. Evan has certainly shown himself to be bulletproof throughout the competition -- hell, maybe he's just going to win this thing for smiling, affable, jazz-handsy dancers everywhere. But it'd be a whole lot better if that quickstep was his swan song. (And it might spare me having to watch him shove his hands into his pockets all aw-shucksy one more time -- I don't know when it happened, but all of Evan's affectations started to bug me all at once, to unseemly degrees.)

(Also, I didn't see Lil' C's less-than-bullish take on Evan to be evidence of any kind of bias besides the bias that comes with evaluating the better dancers as better dancers. He certainly didn't pull any punches with Ade; and he was not even 1/100th as effusive as the other two judges on the subject of Brandon. C remains buck in my estimation.)

As for my ideal Top 4, I may be crazy, but I thought Jeanine and Ade's salsa was pretty great. Maybe that's just because I found it harder and harder to take my eyes off Jeanine, and she was clearly the better half of this pair. I'll defer to Mary's ballroom expertise re: Ade's technical shortcomings; but I'm glad she got to make it up to Jeanine on the back end, because my girl was hot. Also, this may be an odd takeaway, but I was amazed at how well "LoveGame" seemed to fit the samba. I'm not sure if Lady Gaga or Louis van Amstel gets the credit for that one. (Also, Jeanine/Ade's hip-hop was fun-fun-fun and definitely one of my favorite TabNap routines of the year.)

Brandon and Kayla were predictably amazing, and normally I'd say the "predictably" part of that assessment might be dangerous for them, but Kayla has proven to be pretty resurgent with the voters (after that inexplicably shaky start where she was in the Bottom 3 so much). And that spontaneous (or "spontaneous") standing O from Nigel and Co. likely goosed Brandon's fanbase significantly. I could mention that I found their disco to be fairly overpraised (it was...fine), but I was a bigBIG fan of that contemporary.

Top 3 routines: Brandon/Kayla's contemporary; Jeanine/Ade's hip-hop; Evan/Melissa's quickstep.

Least favorite: Evan/Melissa's Broadway


Judges, what did we think of Joe? Let's hear it for him! Our next blogger danced a classical pas des deux with Brandon last week, leading Nigel to pliet so hard he pulled all his hamstrings at once. Now she's back with a Wade Robson jazz routine that he says is a tribute to seasons gone by. Ladies and gentlemen ... it's Lauren!


Lauren: I hate that once again this season, I find myself underwhelmed with the performances, especially given that we're one week away from the finale. I don't think anyone was BAD, but I also feel like in past seasons we've had a lot more GREAT at this point. But then again, I will readily admit that I'm also still heartbroken over seeing Janette go. There was an anguished cry that arose from all five of us in my living room that night. [sniff] But, it's been a week and I have to be strong, and the other girls are all still really good, so I need to begin the healing process.

I agree with Joe that at this point I think Brandon, Ade, Jeanine and Kayla are the four best dancers left. Yes, Ade had a rough night, and I wanted more from what should have been a phenomenal pairing with Jeanine. But now we just know that ballroom is his weakness -- and that said, he still does it better than many past contestants. I also finally had it with Evan after his last "aw, shucks" shoulder shrug at the end of his solo. Dude, you are amazing at what you do, and honestly have been amazing in other genres as well. (Though I was left wanting more after his B'way routine with Melissa -- I do feel like he could have stepped it up and really blown us away.) Why can't you seem to find any other schtick? You can do Broadway without that g-d shrug! That was the straw that broke the camel's back this week for me. I thought he and Melissa did 1000 times better than I thought they would with the quickstep and certainly didn't embarrass themselves, but they still are the two weak links for me at this point. Brandon and Kayla had the two strongest performances, for me. I've always kind of loathed disco on the show but this season, with dancers who can actually keep up, I've wound up loving it. Oh, but my favorite thing in the whole show was the guys' group dance. Awesome! Weird! So in sync and strong! I wish I'd had the same reactions to the girls. If only they had felt the music with their ears and eaten from bowls on the stage while hugging their own greatness, or something...

Top 3: Brandon/Kayla contemporary, Brandon/Kayla disco, guys group routine
Bottom: Melissa/Evan Broadway


Give it up for Lauren, everybody! Now, on last night's results show, we said goodbye to Melissa and Ade. Yeah -- it's sad, right? I don't know what we're gonna do without them. Before we get to our Top 4 discussing the results, we have a solo for you. With a Mia Michaels routine about a crazed decorator and a can of white paint ... it's AB Chao!


AB Chao: Oh, y'all. I have failed you again. I haven't watched either show yet. I am a loser. The project I'm working on is taking all of my days and nights. Also, I am covered in Ikea boxes. Someone call for help. In other news: Jeanine! Very exciting for Joe Reid. Don't be mad.

AB Chao, you are in our Bottom Three and will have to dance for your life later in the show. But let's continue the discussion anyway...


Joe: Very exciting for EVERYBODY! It's Jeanine! (I've decided if AB can talk like Mary Murphy all the time -- yes she can! -- then I can start talking like Cat. C'mere, you!)

Okay, so a couple topics of discussion:

1) Evan. Let's get it over with.

2) Were Melissa and Ade the Mark and Chelsie of this season?


Lauren: But even more pressing -- SEND IN THE CLOWNS? That was the creepiest, most disturbing routine they've ever done, and not in a good Sonya-creepy way. OMG. I kind of wish I'd had a camera to see just how my face looked as I kept wanting to walk away, but stayed just in case there was anything worth discussing.

So.... Evan. I hate that I'm not surprised -- I'm still disappointed in America getting it totally wrong, but whatever. I think, though, this might make me actually vote next week -- for ANYONE that isn't him. Because if he wins... look, I'm in too deep to break up with the show, but it's going to shake the foundation of our relationship a little bit.

Melissa and Ade were both great, but I think that this was the exactly right time for Melissa to go. Ade... not so much. But at least at this point you know his career is totally safe, that people saw him on the show and realized he was totally awesome, so he'll be okay. But still, come ON, America. How great would it have been to see a Brandon/Ade dance next week? Brandon/Evan sounds awkward.



Vance I'm up way too early for a Saturday post-Friday night wedding and still a bit dizzy so I may not make much sense here (as if I ever did) but didn't I totally call Evan in the finals? Hehe.

Okay, I know y'all hate him and you know I love him but now I'll stop it there cause as I'm glad he's in the finale, I don't think he should win. JEANINE FTW!

Though I've been talking to lots of friends about it and it's funny that EVERYONE seems to have totally differing opinions on who will and who should win. Usually there's a bit of a pattern but this year it seems like a free-for-all. Brandon will win, Jeanine will win, Kayla will win, Evan will win.

That said, again, I think Evan's dances are deceptively difficult but with his charm, he snagged the Benji/Neil/Twitch spot.

Okay, I'm dizzy and need to go back to bed before the post-wedding brunch...

Joe: I'm gonna have to stick up for Neil here a bit -- as I am wont to do. He had that rough start (and he certainly reaped the squealing teen girl vote) but by the time he reached the finals, he'd delivered that angel/devil Wade Robson routine with Lauren, that awesome disco with Sara, and the Mandy Moore table dance with Sabra. Not to pick on Evan, but I can't think of one thing he's done that approaches any of those routines.

On another note, next week, everybody dances with everybody else once (Jeanine/Brandon, Jeanine/Evan, Kayla/Evan, Kayla/Brandon, Jeanine/Kayla, Brandon/Evan) ; who are our dream choreographers/styles for each pairing?

Lauren: Jeanine/Brandon - Sonya
Jeanine/Evan - Mandy Moore
Kayla/Evan - Mia
Kayla/Brandon - Louis Van Amstel
Jeanine/Kayla - Laurie Ann Gibson
Brandon/Evan - Wade

Honestly, other than the Sonya call for Jeanine and Brandon, I took my general favorite choreographers and tried to match them up as best I could. I would have loved a Shane Sparks routine but I can't imagine which of these couples would be right for that.

AB Chao: Brandon/Evan would be kind of funny by Shane, kind of like the Benji/Travis routine from that season. Otherwise, my dream choreography is anything with Wade and/or Mia. And I would kind of love to see what Tabitha and Napoleon would do with the two girls. Make a chained up romance rap dance out of THAT, NappyTabs! Otherwise otherwise, I would like to copy Lauren's list.

Vance: Hmm...yah. I don't really know who I would want but I tend to enjoy Sonya, Mandy Moore, Mia, Shane Sparks, Nappytabs, Stacey Tookey of course (represent! eh!?) and Wade of course. I wouldnt disagree with Laurens choices either.

Joe: I love all these suggestions (especially Laurie Ann Gibson for Jeanine and Kayla -- I'm totally stealing that for my own). I need to see Jeanine and Brandon do a Mia Michaels contemporary, because neither of them have yet. I'll actually throw Tyce to Jeanine and Evan, so Evan can be at his best and because Jeanine did well in the Broadway style.

I'm tempted to give Kayla and Evan hip-hop, but I'm not that mean. Or am I? Actually, a Nap/Tab might work for them. Kayla/Brandon should do something ballroom, but she's so tall and he's so short so Paso Doble is out. Perhaps a Tony Meredith Samba? As for Brandon and Evan ... I love the Wade idea ... perhaps, though, a Mandy Moore jazz? She seems to work wonders with the shorties. Something along the Sabra/Neil table dance spectrum, let's say.

All right, y'all, again sorry for the delay. Look tomorrow for a Top 10 Routines of Season 5 piece. And then finale madness on Wednesday and Thursday!