Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

SYTYCD Season 5: The Top 6 Results Show July 30, 2009

Katee and Twitch performed Mia Michaels Emmy nominated Door routine from last season on tonights top six results show.

Katee and Twitch performed Mia Michaels' Emmy nominated "Door" routine from last season on tonight's top six results show.

Cat decided to wear a glittery green, wonderful wizard of Oz dress tonight – very festive for the Top Six Results Show. I was excited to learn that we’d be seeing last season’s four Emmy-nominated performances. Hooray! They were glaringly absent from last week’s 100th episode extravaganza, but it’s kind of nice that the season four standouts get their very own episode. I enjoyed looking back at my posts from last season to see what I had to say about these award-worthy performances at the time.

The Performances

  • “Send in the Clowns” – Choreographed by Tyce Diorio, this performance was automatically disturbing because the top six dancers had been completely transformed into clowns!!! Yikes-o-rama. Despite this factor, it had a simple beauty about it, and I even rewound to see how they snuck so quickly back into the giant box.
  • Jessica and Will, “Silence” – (Tyce Diorio) – Wow. They were impressive. That just goes to show how impressive the talent was last year, since they were both eliminated rather early. My thoughts from this dance when I reviewed the Top 12 Performance episode last season: “Tyce says there’s no story, “just an essence that needs to be felt.” It’s something about the Garden of Eden, man and woman. I was distracted by the absence of music. As a dance routine, this was odd. As an exhibit of the beauty of the human form (particularly the male form – wow Will!), it was successful. This won’t be one of the most memorable performances of the night. They looked hesitant on some of the movements, and it just felt awkward at times.” During that episode, Mia Michaels described it as “the perfect moving human body art,” and I agreed.
  • Twitch and Katee, “Mercy” by Duffy – (Mia Michaels) – So good! I can’t remember a dance this whole season that comes close to the fiery fun of this performance. It was so nice to see Twitch and Katee back on the stage. Here’s what I had to say about the dance when they first performed it last season during the Top 8 Performance Episode: “Twitch is the boyfriend in an argument with his co-dependent, psycho ex-girlfriend, and his disinterest makes her angrier and crazier. Should be interesting… The first half of the routine was mediocre. But about the time Twitch closed the door on Katee, it got much better. It was interesting seeing them dancing “together” while separated by a closed door. They did a good job of continuing the connection. And then the choreography got even more interesting when he opened the door again. There were some acrobatic moves that required a lot of strength from both of them. So, I was impressed with them, and it was cute, but this was not one of my all-time favorite Mia routines. By the way, Katee looked very different. She had an Amy Winehouse look going on with the puffed up hair and dramatic eye makeup.”
  • Joshua and Chelsie, “A Los Amigos” (Dmitry Chaplin) – I hardly recognized Joshua with his shaved head, but who cares? I didn’t want this one to end! It was so good! Last season’s contestants were, as a whole, more talented, or at least created more sparks on stage, and more excitement for viewers at home, than this season’s. I miss them all! Here’s what I had to say about this Argentine Tango last season, which was also from the Top 8 Performance Episode: “This dance is set in the 1940s, and is about a couple who is flirting with each other. And the props just keep on coming. We’ve had a door and two desks tonight, and now they are joined by a table and a chair. As it turns out, they were there more to set the scene than to be used for the dancing. I am okay with that. Technique-wise, Chelsie was fantastic with those great legs of hers. And I thought Joshua kept up with her just fine. And, the technique was matched by their personality and energy. I was spellbound by their performance, which included a few wow moments. I love both of these dancers. No matter what the competition has thrown their way, they give everything they have, and the result is always a fantastic performance.”
  • The Jabberwockies, “Freak-a-Zoid” – Um, forget what I said about the clowns being disturbing. The white faceless masks these guys were wearing freaked me out! The giant mask on stage behind them didn’t help any. At least they revealed their true faces at the end, and they were nice looking guys.
  • Chelsie and Mark, “Bleeding Love” – (Tabitha and Napoleon) – This was fun to see again, but neither of them were favorites of mine last season, so I didn’t get as excited as I did about some of the others. My thoughts way back during the Top 16 Performance Episode last season: “This is about a workaholic whose girl doesn’t want him to leave. It had good emotion, intensity, chemistry. Sharp moves. Good synchronization. My favorite of the night so far! They are a fun and talented couple.”

The Results

  • Who is Safe –

    • Jeanine – Whew! (That’s me breathing a sigh of relief.) I don’t think this revelation was a surprise to anyone. My best guess is that Melissa will go home, especially after receiving low marks from the judges last night.
    • Brandon – Whew! Woo hoo! (That’s me breathing a sigh of relief and doing my happy dance.) I was very confident about Jeanine making it through this week, but after Brandon was in the bottom two guys last week, I was a little worried about him. So I am thrilled that he and Jeanine, my two favorites, are already safely positioned to return for the final four.
  • Who was sent home

    • Melissa – As I expected, the “old” and naughty ballerina received the lowest number of votes this week. She and Ade were my favorite couple for several weeks, and she was in some of my favorite dances. However, she never connected with the audience as well as contestants like Jeanine and Evan. She seems very sweet, and I hope we see her as a special guest on the show from time to time in the future. Perhaps to choreograph a ballet routine?
    • Ade – I could repeat just about everything I said above (except that he’s not a naughty ballerina). He was really cool and quirky, but never connected very well with the audience.
  • The Final Four – I’ve listed them in the order of my preference, from the contestant I’d most like to see win to the contestant I’d least like to see win. I would be happy with either Jeanine or Brandon winning, I’d be surprised if Kayla won (since she hasn’t shown as much personality), and I’d be disappointed if Evan wins. He simply isn’t as versatile as the other three finalists, so if he wins it will be because of personality and popularity, when the winner should be based on those factors as well as on talent and versatility.
    • Jeanine
    • Brandon
    • Kayla
    • Evan

I must say, I actually enjoyed tonight’s results show more than last night’s performance episode. Seeing Joshua, Katee, Twitch, Will, Jessica, Chelsie, and Mark again made me remember how I was much more enthusiastic about last season than about season five. I don’t know if that’s the fault of the contestants, the choreography, my busier life, or all of the above. Whatever the case, at least I have two of my favorites this season in the finals!

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SYTYCD Season 5: The Top 6 Perform July 29, 2009

I can’t believe we’re already down to the final six contestants! Doesn’t that mean that there is only one week left?! Of course, we’ll barely have time to catch our breath before season five starts this fall. For now, Evan, Brandon, Ade, Jeanine, Kayla, and Melissa have two hours tonight to prove they deserve to make it to the final four. This week, Nigel and Mary are joined by Lil’ C on the judges’ panels.

The Group Performances

  • The Guys – They had the fun of working with Sonya Tayeh. “Once they embrace their power, this piece will be unforgettable.” I really enjoyed it! I loved the herky jerky, stop and go, freeze frame style of the choreography. Sonya also designed the routine in a way that allowed each of the guys to shine. Lil’ C commended Evan for staying visible throughout the routine, not “getting swallowed by the dominant excellence of Brandon and Ade.” That sounds like a backhanded compliment…
  • The Girls – The girls are dancing a super hero-themed Sonya Tayeh routine. Sounds fun! Kayla is Storm, Jeanine is Wonder Woman, and Melissa is Buttercup. It was nice to see such a strong, intense girls-only routine. Usually the girls’ dances are sweeter, and feature lots of silky costumes or baby doll dresses. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this was different, and highly entertaining. And they all looked great!

The Couple Performances

  • Jeanine and Ade
    • Dance #1 – Samba (Louis Van Amstel) – It was fun and sassy! Loved the coordinated purple outfits, and didn’t even mind Jeanine’s feathers. Mary criticized the technical aspects of the performance, but for me, their stage presence was great, particularly Jeanine. My only complaint is that some of the lift work was clumsy. Ade always looked super confident and strong with Melissa, but the lifts seemed a little awkward here.
    • Dance #2 – Hip Hop (Tabitha and Napoleon) – This routine is about friends who are getting evicted from their apartment. Jeanine impressed me more than Ade during this performance, but maybe I was just irritated that the cap kept me from seeing his face. I liked when they danced with their feet in the moving boxes toward the end. That was different. Mary predicted that these two will not be getting their eviction notice after this performance.
  • Melissa and Evan
    • Dance #1 – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – This may be an awkward partnership, since Melissa is taller than Evan, without heels. This Broadway routine is “get me to the church on time.” This one fell flat for me. The weird boxer/lingerie outfits, the lack of chemistry, the utter cheesiness of it. They’d better have a much more memorable second dance, or they will both be in great danger of going home tomorrow night. Mary said this wasn’t just a “get me to the church on time,” but a “get me to the finale on time.” I don’t agree, and I don’t think America will either. The judges’ comments have seemed quite biased so far tonight, as if they are trying to sway the viewers in a specific direction, moreso than in previous weeks.
    • Dance #2 – The Quickstep (Louis Van Amstel) – This dance style won’t do this pair any favors. It’s technically difficult, and the average viewer doesn’t “get it.” (Count me as one of them.) We’ll see if Louis really is a “dance magician,” able to mask the height issue. My reaction: yawn… I’m not a fan of the quick step, they had zero chemistry, and the only impressive moment was when Evan swung Melissa around at the end. I love Melissa, but I’m afraid this may be the end of the road for her. The judges had mixed feelings about the performance.
  • Kayla and Brandon
    • Dance #1 – Contemporary (Stacey Tookey) – This dance is about “the mistress of a married man who doesn’t have the strength to leave him.” This wasn’t my favorite routine, but it was pretty good. Surprisingly, Brandon stood out more than Kayla, but Kayla looked great in red. Brandon had some amazing leaps and strength moves. All the judges liked it.
    • Dance #2 – Disco (Doriana Sanchez) – Enough with the disco already! Despite my dislike of this style, they did a decent job. It was super fast, and I was impressed that Kayla was able to flip and twirl Brandon around! (Although, that twirling around toward the end was a bit clunky.) Something about this performance reminded me of that scene from Airplane – maybe the white sequined costumes, and the flashing multi-colored lights.

The Solos

  • Kayla – “You Found Me” by The Fray – My reaction to her solos is that she always looks light as a feather, gliding and floating around the stage. Still, I wasn’t as impressed by her solo this week as last week.
  • Ade – “18th Floor Balcony” by Blue October – I think his smart song selection always makes me enjoy his solos more. But there was also a lot to like about his movement and energy tonight.
  • Melissa – “I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone – This was an unusual, thus intriguing, solo. I liked it a lot.
  • Brandon – “O Fortuna” (from Carmina Burana) – Brandon decided that no costume was better than the wrong costume for tonight’s solo. Actually, though, it looks like he decided to go back to what got him onto the show in the first place – his original audition. Two words: Wow, and wow. He’s one fine specimen of a dancer, and he’s amazing to watch. Nigel called it “one of the best solos we’ve ever seen on the show.”
  • Jeanine – “Feedback” by Janet Jackson – As usual, she brought a lot of personality, and showed off her strength and control.
  • Evan – “”Lady is a Tramp” by Sammy Davis, Jr. – I think I’ve had about enough of his super cute, throwback style. I loved it at first, but I’m still looking for versatility from him that just isn’t there. (Sorry, Chris!)

My Overall Assessment

  • The Standout Performers
    • Brandon – As my mom said as we watched his solo, “He’s in it to win it.” I have loved just about every dance that he has performed this season.
    • Jeanine – The same can be said for Jeanine. Everything she dances is gold. And yet, she makes it look easy and effortless, and like she’s having tons of fun.
  • My Favorite Performance(s): Jeanine and Ade’s Samba – Honestly, this was one of the most lackluster episodes of the season, so it was hard to pick a “favorite.” Are the choreographers running out of fresh ideas, or are the contestants getting tired after a whirlwind of rehearsals and shows? Actually, I enjoyed Sonya’s guys’ and girls’ group numbers much more than any of the other performances tonight. They were both outstanding. I almost like her as much as Mia Michaels now.
  • My Least Favorite Performance: Melissa and Evan’s Broadway – My second least favorite was the quickstep, but that was less their fault, and more the style’s fault. The Broadway routine was just awkward and boring. I hated to see Melissa stuck with two dud dances tonight, and I’m afraid it is her time to leave.
  • Best Solos: Brandon and Melissa
  • Who should go home: Melissa and Evan – I’d rather see Kayla go home than Melissa, but her performances were more memorable tonight. If people voted based on the solos, Melissa would be safe, because hers was excellent. And Ade may go home instead of Evan, but if he does, it will be a real shame. Really, as long as Brandon and Jeanine make it into next week, I’ll be happy.

What do you think?

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The End of an Era: My Final Radio Mix Tape July 27, 2009

The past couple of weeks I’ve been chronicling my musical tastes from my childhood and teen years, as evidenced by my collection of cassette tapes with songs from the radio. Until a week ago, I was limited to the tapes in my Case Logic carrying case, but then I discovered an entire box of tapes hiding under a pile of junk in the back of a closet. What a fun find that was!

Today, I am sharing with you the “playlist” on the last blank tape I ever filled with radio songs. I wore out this cassette in my Toyota Tercel and in my freshman dorm room. I don’t know how Celine Dion keeps making it onto my tapes, but I recall really liking Jewel and Lenny Kravitz at the time (and still do). Other standouts: Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” and Primitive Radio Gods’ “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth…” (talk about a one hit wonder!). I can’t really remember how John Mellencamp’s “Key West Intermezzo” goes, but I’d sure like to hear it again because I remember that being a favorite.

Summer 1996-Summer 1997 (Freshman Year of College)

  • Side One
    • “Big Me” – Goo Goo Dolls
    • “Too Much” – Dave Matthews Band
    • “Can’t Get You Off of My Mind” – Lenny Kravitz
    • “Mission Impossible Theme”
    • “Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot” – Sting
    • “Killing Me Softly” – The Fugees
    • “Give Me One Reason” – Tracy Chapman
    • “You Still Touch Me” – Sting
    • “Sister” – The Nixons
    • “Breathe” – Collective Soul
    • “Are You Gonna Go My Way” – Lenny Kravitz
    • “Creep” – Radiohead

  • Side Two
    • “Where Do You Go” – No Mercy
    • “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” – Primitive Radio Gods
    • “All Along” – Blessed Union of Souls
    • “All Coming  Back” – Celine Dion
    • “Key West Intermezzo” – John Mellencamp
    • “That Thing You Do” – The Wonders
    • “You Were Meant for Me” – Jewel
    • “Angel” – Jewel
    • “Don’t Speak” – No Doubt
    • “Foolish Games” – Jewel

And now, for your listening enjoyment, and so that I won’t be the only one who has this song stuck in my head today, enjoy this video of No Mercy’s “Where Do You Go.” For some reason, this song was often playing when my alarm went off in the morning. Not exactly a “get up and go” kind of song. Sing with me now: “Where do you, where do you go? Where do you, where do you go?” 🙂

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Retro Weekend: Best TV Show Theme Songs (with Lyrics) July 25, 2009

To wrap up my look back at the best tv show theme songs, I’ll list the ten best theme songs with lyrics. Again, I am limiting myself to the post-1980 tv world, but this time I managed to fit all the sitcoms and dramas into one list, unlike the instrumental theme songs. I hope you enjoy listening to and reminiscing about these songs as much as I did!

  • The Dukes of Hazzard – I mostly associate this show with the house of a lady who babysat me in the early 80s. It was an old, creepy (to a kid, at least), isolated house, with lots of mysterious steps and closed doors. The main living room is the only place that I and my siblings were allowed to go, and the one constant about the room is that, at least in my memory, The Dukes of Hazzard was always on the television! Maybe my parents happened to drop us off there on the same weeknight every time, or maybe there was some channel that always showed Bo and Luke joy riding in their General Lee, but whatever the case, this theme song’s laid back, country tone was an appropriate soundtrack for that house. “Just two good ole’ boys, never meanin’ no harm…” As for the song making this list, it is a classic tune that was perfectly suited for the show. Too bad that the show itself hasn’t held up well over time. I tried to stomach an episode awhile ago, and it was just awful – pure campiness, horrible acting, and very little plot.
  • Diff’rent Strokes – I have a vague memory of using this theme song as my answering machine greeting my freshman year of college. That’s about the time I bought a couple of “TV’s Greatest Hits” CDs and started reminiscing about the best theme songs. I love the end of the bridge with the harmonized “and together we’ll be fine.” This song has a funky beat and catchy lyrics. Fun times.
  • Growing Pains – “Show me that smile again, don’t waste another minute on your cryin’.” I love the sentimental, heartfelt lyrics of this song, and it is so singalongable. Whether it was the original version or the later version with the barbershop quartet singing, this may be my favorite tv theme song. It helps that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron in the ’80s.
  • The Golden Girls – Um, I just claimed that Growing Pains was my favorite theme song. Scratch that. Golden Girls takes that title hands down. What other theme song do I still spontaneously sing at random times – something I’ve done for almost 20 years now! What a wonderfully nostalgic song about lasting friendship. Sing it with me now: “Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidant. And if you through a party, and invited everyone you ever knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me, and the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.”

  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air“Now this is a story, all about how, my life got flipped – turned upside down…” Back in the day, kids at school (myself included!) would pride themselves on being able to recite this tv theme rap from beginning to end. It really is fun, and was certainly an appropriate style for star Will Smith. His career as a rapper sure seems like a distant memory now that he’s a full-fledged movie star. I’ve seen reruns of this show from time to time, and it is quite dated, super cheesy, but still fun to watch.
  • Gilmore Girls – This theme song took some time to grow on me. At first it was too cutesy, sappy, and sweet, but after I had made my way through the first season or two of this mother-daughter dynamic duo show, I was singing right along with Carole King and her daughter Louise Goffin, as they sing about being there for each other – “all you have to do is call my name, and I’ll be there on the next train.” The song really is perfect for the show’s quirky tone and themes of sisterhood, family, and friendship.
  • CSI – From the opening chords to the dramatic closing chorus of “you, you, you, you…,” this song is very memorable. The song, “Who Are You” by the Who, may have been around long before this show began, but the crime show was my introduction to it, and so I will always associate it with those opening credit images of Warrick examining a shoe string, Grissom smashing a fake human head with a sledgehammer, and the other CSIs doing similar things looking equally attractive and stylish. The spin-offs, Miami and New York, are cheap imitations of the original, and though their theme songs are also by The Who, they lack the punch of “Who Are You.”
  • Smallville “Somebody SAVE me!” With that emotionally charged opening line, Remy Zero introduced us to the trials and adventures of a teen Clark Kent and his band of unsuspecting classmates. This show has lost a lot of its quality over the years, but the first couple of seasons were outstanding and fascinating. I still love the song, and it fit the show perfectly. The fairly recent trend of using pop songs as tv themes doesn’t bother me. If the song is well suited for the show, then why not use it? Another show and song that almost made this list are Dawson’s Creek’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” by Paula Cole. I guess you could say that the WB perfected the art of choosing pop songs to represent tv shows.
  • FireflyWe move now from a couple of pop song themes, to one that is entirely original. Joss Whedon wrote the theme song, and Sonny Rhodes performed it, and it is about as close to theme song and musical perfection as you can get. It has a Western sound, and a mysterious melody, perfect for a sci fi space western, and its lyrics are very poetic and closely related to the show’s themes:

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me…

  • Veronica Mars – “A long time ago, we used to be friends, but I haven’t thought of you lately at all.” I’ll close out the list with one more pop song, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends.” This edgy, unusual song perfectly represents this edgy, unusual show and its edgy, unusual heroine, teen PI Veronica Mars. As the show began, we learned that Veronica had once been popular but was now at the bottom of the totem pole, so the “used to be friends” lyrics are appropriate. Here is a character who channels her anger and sadness over what has happened into solving crimes and righting wrongs, all while trying to keep herself and her dad afloat in the social waters of Neptune. Can you tell that I was a big fan of this show? I didn’t even mind the new version of the theme song for season three. The slower, jazzier style seemed appropriate for Veronica’s new life in college, as she faced a slightly more grown up set of concerns and problems.

This wraps up my series of posts about the best tv show theme songs, unless I get around to making a list of the best “classic” (read: old) tv show theme songs. So which of your favorites did I leave off?

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SYTYCD: The 100th Episode (and top 8 results show) July 23, 2009

Welcome to the 100th episode! Cat celebrated the occasion by wearing a hideous tiger dress. The opening Mia Michaels’-choreographed Chorus Line routine seemed appropriately dramatic and festive for the 100th episode, but I really started getting excited when I saw Pasha, Joshua, and so many other past contestants sitting in the audience. (Still conspicuously absent are season three finalists Danny and Sabra. What’s up with that?) The video montage highlighting the show’s five seasons actually made me tear up. I didn’t watch the show until season three, but I’ve been fully invested ever since.

Special Performances

  • Hok and Jaime’s “Hummingbird and the Flower” routine by Wade Robson – I never get tired of watching this Emmy-nominated routine. It’s so strange and beautiful.
  • Travis and Heidi’s bench routine – I’ve never seen a prop used so well as in this routine.
  • A Wade Robson “Ramalama” group routine featuring season two contestants – It was fun to see Wade himself front and center during this performance. The group routines are usually pretty forgettable, but this one is quite striking and impressive, not to mention fun.
  • Katie Holmes’ dance for charity – So why is Katie Holmes such an impressive guest dancer? It’s nice that she’s working with a charity (, and that she’s friends with Tyce Diorio, but I’m not sure people rush to turn on their tvs to see Katie dance. It was pretty lame. There was a silly opening with her arriving in a car, and then it looks like she performed onstage in an empty theater. Why couldn’t she show up when the show was being recorded like everyone else? The poor attempt at lip-synching was the third strike against Katie. They should have included another SYTYCD favorite performance in place of this.

Bottom Two Girls – I’m not surprised to see these two here. I think that Brandon is the one who kept Janette out of the bottom three couples while they were together, and now that they aren’t together anymore, she finds herself in danger of going home for the first time. And I think that it will be Janette going home. I do like her, but somebody has to go, and I think that Kayla did really well on her solo and her dances with Jason last night.

  • Kayla
  • Janette

Bottom Two Guys – I’m glad that Ade was safe, but what the heck? Brandon is in the bottom two?! He was crazy good last night! Out of these two, I certainly hope Jason is the one going home.

  • Jason
  • Brandon

Who Was Sent Home

  • Janette – 😦    I like all of these girls, so I am sad to see her go. Nigel said that she was his favorite, and he really wanted her to win this year. You’d never know it by his comments this season, which have leaned heavily in favor of Kayla. Maybe he’s trying some reverse psychology?
  • Jason – He’s been an underdog from the beginning, so I suppose he should be proud to have made it this far. He started out with the disadvantage of not being seen much during the audition episodes, and then got stuck with lackluster partners. That being said, I am relieved that he went home instead of Brandon. But Jason seems like a really sweet, genuine guy, and I wish him the best.

Ranking the Top Six – Well, here we are, just a couple of weeks away from the finale. It should be easier for me to rank my favorites now, so here they are from least to most favorite. But really, I like all of them pretty well, which hasn’t been the case in past seasons. Who are your favorites?

  • Evan
  • Ade
  • Kayla
  • Melissa
  • Brandon
  • Jeanine

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Film Review: Let the Right One In

Filed under: Movies — Emily @ 11:42 am
Tags: , ,

Let the Right One In (its actual title is Låt den rätte komma in), a Swedish suspense film, is not a vampire movie. Instead, it just so happens to have a vampire as one of its central characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, which mysteriously appeared in my Netflix Instant Watch queue. I don’t remember putting it there, and it doesn’t seem like the sort of movie my husband would be interested in. Whatever the case, I am glad that I discovered it. So what makes this movie worth watching? Let’s take a look.

The Movie’s Tagline

  • Oskar, an overlooked and bullied boy, finds love and revenge through Eli, a beautiful but peculiar girl who turns out to be a vampire.”
    • I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, beyond this vague plot synopsis. What I got was a movie that was disturbing more for its realism than its gore. There are certainly some gory scenes, but more often I got chills and had disturbing reactions to the moments where the situations seemed like something out of real life: the mundane setting of a quiet, small town where people don’t notice when something bad is happening because they don’t expect it to; the clueless teacher sitting inside at her desk while a student is being traumatized by bullies outside; the lonely misfit with rage brewing just beneath the surface; a reclusive neighbor getting more than he bargained for when he looks out the window…

The Characters

  • Oskar – He’s a 12 year old boy who doesn’t have any friends, whose parents are divorced (he lives with his mom), and who has a morbid fascination with murder (he cuts out articles about various murders from the newspaper and keeps a scrapbook).
  • Eli – She is a lonely and mysterious  12 year old (“more or less”) girl who walks barefoot in the snow, only comes out at night, and faces a constant predicament of where her next meal will come from.
  • The Supporting Players – The secondary characters include  the bullies, Eli’s “father,” Oskar’s mother and father, some teachers, and a handful of neighbors who all live in the same apartment complex as Oskar and Eli.

The Setting

  • Oskar and Eli live in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg, and it’s the early ’80s. The unsettling atmosphere is enhanced by the presence of snow, which blankets the town and the disturbing events, in silence.
  • The cinematography is amazing, as every scene is strategically and artistically shot, with utmost attention paid to the lighting, shadows, and angles.

The Plot – There are three main threads to the story (don’t worry – I’ll keep this spoiler free)

  • Oskar’s constant and escalating bullying by a group of boys at his school
  • The effect that Eli’s presence has on the community
  • Oskar and Eli’s burgeoning friendship, based on their common bond of loneliness and being outsiders
    • Their friendship is the main focus of the movie, which makes this more of a coming of age tale than a horror or suspense movie.

The Result – No, I’m not talking about how the movie ends. I’m talking about my overall impression of the movie, based on its ingredients.

  • I really enjoyed it. The movie poses some interesting questions, and provides some surprising answers
    • What would it be like for a vampire to be the only one of its kind living in a community of humans? How would that vampire balance the needs for companionship and survival?
    • What is the breaking point for a child who thinks the whole world, including his parents and his classmates, are against him?
    • In a world where people don’t know that vampires actually exist, how do they react to, process, or explain situations where a vampire has left its mark?

Final thought

  • At the beginning of this review, I mentioned that Let the Right One In isn’t a vampire movie – it just has a character who is a vampire. That’s not to say that it doesn’t present some interesting vampire mythology, but that aspect takes a backseat to the more interesting character development. The result is a world in which you empathize with just about everyone, and aren’t sure what to think when the credits roll – other than saying that everything about the movie was fascinating and well executed. So, if you are interested in vampires, but also value character development and cinematic artistry, skip Twilight, and watch Let the Right One In.

SYTYCD Season 5: The Top 8 Perform July 22, 2009

I’m so looking forward to hearing what Ellen DeGeneres has to say to the contestants! I expect her to be funny and entertaining, two things that most of the judges have lacked this season. However, I also assume that they added her as a celebrity judge to have more filler for this two hour show. Have they considered cutting back to one hour for some of the episodes? No, the network who perfected the art of time wasting with American Idol would never figure out how to cut back time on a show. Anyway, on with the show. To keep this post from getting way too long, I will only comment on Ellen and Mia’s comments, since Nigel’s and Mary’s rants tend to be redundant by this time in the season.

The opening group dance, “Let It Rock,” choregraphed by Travis Wall, was fun and featured some quirky costumes. And Ellen’s joke about figuring out what lighting to use was funny.

The Couple Performances

  • Janette and Evan
    • Dance #1 – Jazz (Sonya) – This dance about escalating frustration left me apathetic. They danced it well, but it seemed lacking in energy, and it wasn’t exciting. Ellen thought it was hard-hitting and full-bodied – no wait, that was the wine she had before the show. Mia told Evan that because he’s so adorable, he’ll never be the dark, twisted, freakish dancer that is required for Sonya’s routines. She told Janette that she’s her favorite.
    • Dance #2 – Rumba (Tony and Melanie) – This could be fabulous for Janette, but awful for Evan. Let’s see how it goes… Having Kris Allen’s “Heartless” as the song earned them some points from the start. It’s a good one. As for the performance, it was as I suspected – Janette was great, but Evan stumbled a couple of times and looked kind of creepy. I think Evan’s fate may have been sealed with this routine – he may be going home tomorrow night. Ellen disagreed with Nigel’s comments on Evan’s droopy face, and she said she loves his face and unique eyes. “You have an essence about you that you [we the audience, that is] know is Evan.” That was a sweet compliment. Mia: “Not everyone in this world has to be this big sex pot” or has to be stunningly perfect. “What you bring to the stage, Evan, there’s not a lot of people that bring that.” That being said, she still thought he was sexy, but with a Zoolander face. Blue steel? That must be the creepiness I was picking up on. The compliments about Evan were nice, but I wonder how it makes him feel for them to tell him that he basically isn’t as attractive as everyone else on the show.
  • Brandon and Jeanine – Hooray! My two favorite dancers!
    • Dance #1 – The Waltz (Hunter Johnson) – Not the most exciting or memorable dance style to draw, but I am sure they will dance it beautifully. Once they made it out of that clunky first lift, they did well. It looked like Jeanine’s dress would have been easy to trip over, but she didn’t. Brandon seemed more confident than Jeanine, and I noticed him more. Ellen thought they were fantastic. Mia said, “Maybe if you weren’t dreaming about birds and bunnies the performance would have been better.” Er?
    • Dance #2 – Pop Jazz (Laurieann Gibson) – Intensity and synchronization were keys to this soldier routine, and I loved it! Jeanine and Brandon did a great job of keeping up their energy, and they certainly woke up the audience! I agree with Nigel that this is what we want – a strong performance, and that the night up until now has been quite flat. Thank you. Ellen says, “You make it appealing to join some type of armed forces… Really, really unbelievable.” She said it was da-a-a-a-ancing. In my opinion, based on how they’ve done so far this season, Brandon and Jeanine should be the final two contestants left standing. Mia: “You guys danced in a place that was more than dance.” She called Brandon a powerhouse, and said Jeanine kept up with him. “Wow.”
  • Ade and Melissa – Yay! They will fare well being back together
    • Dance #1 – Cha Cha (Tony Meredith and Melanie) – Wow – what a dress! If you can even call that a dress. Melissa looked great in red. But I didn’t love Ade’s black fringe vest. Melissa was definitely the standout in this performance. She had some fantastic legwork. And their chemistry and stage presence was great. Ellen asked, “Are you two carpenters? Because you nailed it.” Ha ha. Mia thinks it was Ade’s worst performance of the season. I’d say it’s a close second to last week’s Dr. Funk hip hop routine. She told Melissa she did an excellent job.
    • Dance #2 – Contemporary (Tyce Diorio) – This piece is about a woman who has breast cancer. They danced it well, and it moved Nigel to tears. Melissa was totally in character, conveying weakness and frailty and pain, and Ade was a strong partner, as always. Ellen said she was glad she was able to witness this dance in person. Mia: “What an important piece of work.” Based on her subsequent comments,  it obviously stirred up emotions for her related to her father’s death. I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems almost unfair for some choreographers to bring a personal experience into dance routines for this show. Why? Because it means that the judges can’t give any constructive criticism. Look back at any “very emotional,” based on a true experience dances from SYTYCD, and the judges only had words of praise for it. Granted, Ade and Melissa did an amazing job with this routine, but the emotional element gives them an edge over the other contestants this week.
  • Jason and Kayla –
    • Dance #1 – Broadway (Tyce Diorio) – This piece is about a man who’s caught up in the music, and a woman who wants to take his mind off of it. The choreography was cute, and I chuckled a few times. This routine’s difficulty seemed to be more in the attitude and timing than in the technique, and they pulled it off. I liked that this dance had more of a focused story than most of the Broadway dances performed on the show. Ellen gave another “nailed it” analogy. It was pretty weak. Mia loved the fusion of bluesy styles, but she wants Jason to work on his upper body. “It’s all about the lines.” She told Kayla that she would “take Broadway by storm.” I agree.
    • Dance #2 – Hip Hop (Shane Sparks) – The story here is that Jason is a zombie who transforms Kayla into his zombie mistress. Sounds kind of Tim Burtonesque. I wonder how it will turn out. It was cute, but something was missing for me. Much of the routine, it seemed like they were going through the motions, lacking in energy. Ellen: “You two keep dancing like that, and you’ll have your own talk show some day.” For Mia, it was her favorite Shane Sparks piece ever on the show.

The Solos

  • Kayla – “The Moment I Said It” by Imogen Heap – I really enjoyed her solo this week. I like that she had her hair pulled back, so that her swinging hair didn’t distract from the dancing.
  • Jason – “Slowdance on the Inside” by Taking Back Sunday – I much prefer this solo to the “Huck Finn” one he did last week.
  • Janette – “Seduces Me” by Celine Dion – This solo seemed slow compared to everything else she’s done on the show. I’m used to seeing her in hyperdrive, so maybe that’s why I was bored with this performance.
  • Ade – “Hater” by Various Productions Artist – His solos are always distinctive, and thus memorable.
  • Melissa – “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – She could have been straight out of an ’80s music video tonight. I’m not really sure how I felt about it, though.
  • Evan – “Old Devil Moon” by Jamie Cullum – I’m glad the judges commented on Evan’s unique look earlier in the show, because it made me appreciate his solo more. He brings a distinctive charm to the show that none of the other contestants possess.
  • Jeanine – “Let the Drummer Kick” by Citizen Cope – Love her, loved the solo.
  • Brandon – “Aint’ Nothing Wrong with That” by Robert Randolph and the Family Band – Brandon has it all: charisma, raw talent, personality, strength, and a whole lot of toned muscles!

My Overall Assessment

  • My Favorite Performance – Brandon and Jeanine’s pop jazz
  • My Least Favorite Performance – Janette and Evan’s jazz
  • My Favorite Solo – Jeanine, Brandon
  • My Least Favorite Solo – Janette, Ade
  • Who should go home this week – Janette and Evan
  • Who will probably go home instead – Janette and Ade

Ellen was mildly entertaining as a guest judge, but even she didn’t even seem to know why she was there. She kept saying she didn’t know anything about dance. I would have liked her to show off more knowledge of the dancers and their previous performances this season, if she is, indeed, a fan of the show.

Do you have any clear favorites yet? Anyone left that you really want to see go home?

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