Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

SYTYCD Season 6: The Winner is Revealed December 17, 2009

And so the season screeched to a halt this week, just in time for everyone to go home for the holidays. The finale didn’t have as much filler as I had expected, although I could have done without one or two of the musical guests. By the end of the night, we had seen performances of some of the season’s best routines, and the remaining contestants were eliminated one by one, until only the winner was left standing.

Joining Nigel Lythgoe, Mary Murphy and Adam Shankman on the panel were Lil’ C, Tyce Diorio and Debbie Allen. They all chose at least one dance that they’d like to see again, but I think the producers do more of the selecting so that the finale ends up with a variety of styles and performers. It was strange that so many performances were chosen from the “Meet the Top 20” episode. As much as I hope they do such a preview episode in coming seasons, it seemed weird not to highlight more dances from the actual competition episodes. If I read back through my posts I’m sure I could come up with a handful that would have been very worthy of an encore in the finale.

Opening Number:

  • Top 20 (Hip-Hop) – “Scared of Me (Radio Edit),” Fredde le Grand feat. Mitch Crow – I didn’t remember seeing this one before, but apparently it was in the Top 20 episode.

Judges’ Picks

  • Lil’ C – Russell, Kevin & Legacy (Hip-Hop) – “Beggin’ (District 78 mix),” Madcon – I enjoyed seeing the three hip hoppers dance together again.
  • Adam – Ellenore & Jakob (Contemporary) – “Tore My Heart,” OONA and Dave TweedsThis Sonya Tayeh routine was one of my favorites of the whole season.
  • Nigel – Phillip, Bianca & Peter (Tap) – “Take the ‘A’ Train,” Ella Fitzgerald – I admit that I fast forwarded through this one. I was never a huge fan of the tap dancers.
  • Mary (new piece) – Ashleigh & Ryan (Jive) – “Straight to… Number One (Duck’s Radio Mix),” Touch & Go – It was fun to see them dance together in their own style, to a piece that they choreographed. They have a bright future ahead of them in the world of ballroom! I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of them on Dancing with the Stars at some point.
  • Nigel – Kathryn & Jakob (Contemporary) – “At This Moment,” Michael Buble – The best performance from last night got this deserved encore. And this should have been the dance that won it all for Jakob.
  • Tyce – Mollee & Nathan (Bollywood) – “Azeem O Shaan Shahenshah,” Jodhaa Akbar – It was fun to see this bollywood number again.
  • Adam – Ellenore & Legacy (Contemporary) – “Machine Gun,” Portishead – If they wanted to showcase a Travis Wall routine, there were plenty others more impressive than this one. I was surprised when Adam said it is strong enough to be nominated for an Emmy. We shall see…
  • Lil’ C – Channing, Ariana, Jakob & Nathan (Contemporary) – “Crying,” k.d. lang – I was impressed by this group of contemporary dancers when they first performed this, and I enjoyed it again this time.

Around this point in the show, a series of chaotic events occurred. Cat’s mic wasn’t working, then only 3 of the final 6 contestants came out on stage, and then suddenly a tearful Russell was hobbling out, supported by Ryan. It was a tense and confusing moment for everyone, and I felt so bad for Russell that what should have been a wonderful experience was marred by injury. But, the show went on, and the next time he came out on stage they gave him a stool to sit on. Unfortunately, Russell’s injury meant that they had to show replays of the judges’ picks that involved him. This was especially disappointing for Noelle, who missed out on her chance to have another moment in the spotlight.

  • Debbie – Noelle & Russell (African Jazz) – “Frog Dance,” Mickey Hart & Planet Drum
  • Mary – Kathryn & Russell (Hip-Hop) – “I Can Transform Ya,” Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Swizz Beats
  • Nigel – Top 20 (Jazz) – “Comanche,” The Revels – I am guessing they had already planned to just replay this performance, since Billy and Brandon wouldn’t be there to perform it (since they are eligible for next season’s auditions…). It was fun to see it again, as it was a great opening to the season.

Musical Guests

  • “I See You (Avatar theme),” Leona Lewis – I only made it through the first minute or so of this song before I fast forwarded. It was boring, and the images on the big screen behind her of the creepy blue people were just too much. I’m not sure I can handle going to see Avatar.
  • “Whataya Want From Me,” Adam Lambert – I had trouble concentrating on his singing because of the giant tarantula blob on his shoulder, but from what I could tell, the song was mediocre, like most of the “hit singles” released by Idol contestants (Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson being the exceptions).
  • “I Am,” Mary J. Blige – I was amused that it was my husband who wanted to watch this whole performance. I do like Mary J., but this song wasn’t my favorite. (Maybe on a dance competition they should have more dance guests and fewer singers!)
  • “Louboutins,” Jennifer Lopez – Well, she certainly knows how to make an entrance. Even after having twins, J.Lo is still diva through and through. I wondered if she lugs that big shoe around the country with her for all her performances. The song was pretty weak, except for the catchy chorus, but I started to like it more when the chorus line of former SYTYCD contestants joined her on stage. I spotted Katee and Kayla for sure, and I think Courtney as well. Jennifer Lopez seemed very nice at the end, when she walked over to talk to Cat and declared herself a fan of the show, and mentioned that she had hand-picked some of her favorite contestants to perform with her. Maybe I shouldn’t give her such a hard time…

Countdown to the Winner

  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Jakob – runner up
  • Russell – winner

Well, I was spot on in my prediction of what order the contestants would be eliminated in, and unfortunately my worry that Russell would steal Jakob’s crown came to pass. When Russell’s name was announced as the winner, I simply said in a disappointed voice, “Oh no…” It was a let down, to see Jakob lose, when I feel like he deserved to win so much more than anyone else. Who but Jakob was consistently excellent and in tune with his performances and the audience? Who else wowed the crowd every time he stepped on stage? That being said, I am thrilled for Russell, and his reaction to the news of winning was a joy to see. He was so overwhelmed with excitement, and he certainly worked hard all season. There’s no arguing that he grew from the beginning of the season to the end, but it wasn’t necessarily always forward progress. I love that his parents seem so supportive, too.

So yes, I was bummed that Jakob didn’t win, because I thought maybe this was finally going to be the season that the best dancer was also America’s favorite dancer. But, I actually loved everyone in this final six, and Russell may benefit more from winning than Jakob would have. (Like Nigel said, Jakob needs to join a dance company pronto and become even more amazing.) I should also mention that I was proud of Kathryn for coming in third. She was a solid contestant all season, but somehow stayed under the radar. I think she was very deserving of that third place. I am considering going to see these guys perform on tour, so if I do, I’ll be sure to post about it.

So that’s it for my season 6 SYTYCD coverage. I’ll be back with more recaps, reviews, and rants in June, when season 7 kicks off. Hopefully my tv viewing schedule will be less cluttered then so that I’ll have more energy and enthusiasm about the show. How did you feel about the final results?

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SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 6 Perform December 16, 2009

I wish the producers could have figured out a way to fit one more week of episodes in, so that we could have had the traditional final four performance show. Instead, we got a top six, with nine performances, no explanatory intros, no group dances, no guy/guy or girl/girl dances, and only one hour of dancing. It seems wrong that the contestants didn’t have a chance to dance their solos before the final votes were cast. I hope we’ll see some additional new performances on the final results show, but who knows if there will be time, with all the musical guests that will be appearing. I’m looking forward to Adam Lambert, but do we really need to be subjected to Jennifer Lopez? So, yes, I guess I’m a little bitter about how the show has been tossed around amidst the busy fall schedule this season. Let this be a lesson to them to stay put where they belong – in the summer!

Thankfully (for you), I won’t be Debbie Downer about the actual performances from last night, which aside from the weird post-mod one that Ryan and Ellenore did, were worthy of a grand finale. Here we go.

Round One – Russell was the winner of this round by a landslide, after his memorable lyrical jazz performance

  • Kathryn & Ryan (Samba) – “Magalenha,” Sergio Mendes – This may have been the first time all season that I was more impressed with Ryan than with his partner. He needed a strong performance to prove he deserved to be in the finale, and I think this was it. Kathryn also did very well. They were both very jungle-esque and sharp with their movements. 
  • Ellenore & Jakob (Broadway) – “I Gotcha,” Fosse – I liked this performance – no surprise, really, since it involved Jakob. But Ellenore was the main focal point. She looked great, was almost completely in character, and danced her heart out. She and Jakob make a great pair, and they looked like they were fresh off of Broadway.
  • Ashleigh & Russell (Lyrical Jazz) – “Angel Standing By,” Jewel – The moment this performance began, Russell became the star of the night, and leaped ahead of the competition. He was simply amazing and beautiful to watch. I was so moved that tears came to my eyes. I agree with Nigel and others that Ashleigh was simply a background dancer to Russell, so I don’t have much to say about her, except that the two had great chemistry and trust.

Round Two – Again, the winner is Russell, for his memorable Paso Doble. Ellenore would be tied with him for this round if the jazz hadn’t canceled out her paso doble.

  • Ellenore & Ryan (Jazz) – “Kontakt Me,” Boyz Noise – I think they did a great job with this emotionless robot number, but haven’t the choreographers learned by now that the contestants receive more votes, especially during the finale week, when they emotionally connect with the audience? I’m afraid this dance may have moved Ellenore to the bottom of the pack, where Ryan was already going to be. (I’ll be shocked if he’s not the first person asked to leave the stage…)
  • Ashleigh & Jakob (Foxtrot) – “Let the Good Times Roll,” Chuck Brown & Eva Cassidy – This was pretty, and it was nice to see this power couple back together, but I agree with Nigel that the choreography was too easy for this point in the competition. Why even throw a Foxtrot into the finale. No one votes for Foxtrots! It’s like the producers were trying to slow down Jakob’s momentum to give the other contestants a chance to beat him.
  • Ellenore & Russell (Paso Doble) – “Village Attack,” Blood Diamond – Ellenore made up some ground for her previous dance by starting off strong on this one. Her silhouetted figure was perfect, from her dress to her hand movement. But then, out stormed Russell, sliding into view on his knees, and took away her glory. I’m telling you, it really seems like the producers were doing everything they could to make this Russell’s night. But despite any conspiracy on their part, Russell consistently delivered the goods. He was excellent in this piece, and just kept his momentum going. Ellenore kept up with him and looked beautiful in the process, but he was the star.

Round Three – Jakob returned to his pedestal in this round, and at least for the moment, is at the top of the pack. His contemporary performance showcased his technique, his natural talent, and his showmanship.

  • Kathryn & Jakob (Contemporary) – “At This Moment,” Michael Buble – I highly anticipated the Desmond Richardson/Dwight Rhoden routine from the minute I spotted them in the studio audience. They are the dance legends who choreographed Will and Katee’s memorable pas de deux during season four. This dance lived up to my expectations. It was breathtaking, and chock full of emotion. (Sigh…) Kathryn and Jakob had great chemistry, but this was Jakob’s ultimate moment of the season, in my opinion. He had the opportunity to showcase his seemingly limitless talent, from the intricate movements to his full investment in the character. I was completely sold at the end when he pounded his fists (and his body) against the floor and then curled up into a ball. He is just so good. This performance, along with everything else he has done this season, is proof enough for me that he deserves to be this season’s winner.
  • Ashleigh & Ryan (Contemporary) – “I’m There Too,” Michelle Featherstone – What a special moment for this married couple. Not only did they finally get to dance together on the show, but it was choreographed by Travis Wall, the master of emotional storytelling through dance. He gave them a chance to share tender moments on the stage, and it was so tender that I almost felt like we shouldn’t be watching this intimate moment between them (even though it was completely G-rated). Obviously they were moved as well, since they were both crying by the end. All that being said, the performance didn’t blow me away. It was too intimate for me to really connect with the performance. They were totally in tune with each other, but not at all with the audience. Still, this will be a popular (and rightly so) dance on the tour, unless the producers opt to let them dance ballroom together instead. It would have given them an unfair advantage to let them dance their own style during the finale.
  • Kathryn & Russell (Hip-Hop) – “I Can Transform Ya,” Chris Brown (f. Lil Wayne & Swiss Beats) – After a couple of lackluster numbers late in the season, Tabitha and Napoleon redeemed themselves with this entertaining and hard hitting hip hop routine. Russell was totally on, and obviously comfortable in his element. (Again, the producers were giving him every opportunity to shine. I mean, not only did he get hip hop, but he got to close the show with it, so that the judges’ praise of him was fresh on the audience’s mind when they picked up the phone to vote.) Kathryn held her own, but Russell was on a different level all night.

My Favorite Performances

  • Jakob and Kathryn’s Contemporary – In fact, this may be my favorite performance of the season.
  • Ashleigh and Russell’s Lyrical Jazz – This was my second favorite of the night. It was outstanding, but mostly on Russell’s end, whereas Jakob and Kathryn were more equally matched choreography and performance wise in their contemporary piece.

Who Will Win?

If the winner were based solely on tonight’s performances, on a round by round basis, it would be Russell, since he beat Jakob two rounds to one. But, we all know that most people base their votes on everything that the contestants have done during the season – as they should! Russell was one of my early favorites, but until recently I had found many of his performances lackluster. Maybe Noelle is to blame, since she was a lackluster partner. Once the couples were split up, we saw him excel in many different styles. Jakob, on the other hand, has consistently wowed me from start to finish of the season. Kathryn has been a solid performer, but she has always been missing some of the personality that the others have. Ashleigh was one of my favorites in the first half of the season, but once she and Jakob were split up, she fell off my radar a bit. Ellenore had a string of bad luck in the early weeks as she was shuffled from partner to partner, but she was excellent these past few weeks, when it really matters. However, she didn’t stand out as much during this finale. And that leaves Ryan, who seems the only contestant out of place in this group. He probably should have gone home a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve actually enjoyed watching his performances since then, so he’s made the most of his extra time.

Here’s how I think the countdown should go on the final results:

  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Russell
  • Jakob – Winner! (fingers crossed…)

Of course I think Jakob should win, but I’m a little nervous that Russell may steal his crown! I had decided to vote for both of them last night, but to call in more times for Jakob. Well, the line was busy some of the times I called for Jakob. But here’s the thing: I was never able to get through for Russell! And I tried from time to time over the course of an hour. I’ll be shocked if Jakob and Russell aren’t the last two standing. I guess I’d be happy with any of these contestants winning, since I love all of them, but I really think the title of America’s Favorite Dancer should go to Jakob. What do you think?

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Into the Wild: A Closer Look December 14, 2009

Into the Wild is a movie based on a book based on a true story. Sean Penn directed and wrote the screenplay for the movie, and Jon Krakauer wrote the book based on Christopher McCandless’s experiences. While the movie is well executed (I assume the book is as well), McCandless’s life choices left me feeling disturbed and disappointed, and with a lot of questions to ponder.

A Well-Made Film

  • Cinematography – From the opening shots of McCandless trudging through the snowy terrain of the Alaskan wildnerness and his mother waking up from another nightmare about her missing son, it was clear that this would be a beautiful and emotional movie. The cinematography certainly highlighted the amazing wonders of the natural world, all right here in the United States of America. I was watching the blu ray version, and I enjoyed the breathtaking views of everything from snowy mountains to waving wheat fields to winding river canyons. This aspect of McCandless’s journey – the ultimate, no limits tour of America – was inspiring, but everything he sacrificed to pursue this adventure gave the story a darker tone.
  • Soundtrack – The music enhances the viewer’s experience of the landscapes and McCandless’s rollercoaster of emotions. At Sean Penn’s request, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder took on the soundtrack as a solo project, and the results are fantastic. The songs have a consistently “grunge folk” sound that works very well for this particular story. I may have to add this album to my collection of movie soundtracks.
  • Screenplay/Directing – Sean Penn weaves the tale of this recent college graduate by jumping around in the story, rather than going chronologically. We begin and end in Alaska, which throughout the movie is McCandless’s ultimate destination, and in between we see how his journey began, how his family dealt with his disappearance, and where he went before settling into his “magic” bus in the Alaskan wildnerness. Sean Penn is no stranger to tragic stories – two of the most difficult to watch movies I’ve ever seen were Mystic River and 21 Grams – and he brought a similar tone to this movie. Even though the mood shifts among inspiring, suspenseful, humorous, and dramatic, there is always an underlying tone of loneliness and loss. So, no, this isn’t necessarily an inspiring, feel-good movie, but it is certainly well worth watching.

Before she was Bella, Kristen Stewart played along side Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild.

  • The Acting – The movie features an all-star cast, and all of them did a great job portraying their characters. Emile Hirsch played the idealistic, adventureous Chris McCandless, and he also provided narration, along with Jena Malone, who played his sister. Their parents were played by Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt. Harden was disturbing with her artificial cheerfulness, and Hurt was her abusive husband, who was usually quiet but had a simmering anger and bitterness just beneath the surface. McCandless meets many people on his trek across America, some quirky, some lonely, but all well-meaning. Catherine Keener is great as McCallum’s surrogate mother, Kristen Stewart (before she achieved international fame as Edward’s beloved Bella) plays a teenager who falls in love with him, Vince Vaughn is impressively understated (as opposed to his typical comedic role) as a man who hires McCandless to work on his farm, and Hal Holbrook is memorable as a reclusive old man who develops an unlikely friendship with him. These actors bring the characters to life so well that it was heartbreaking to see McCandless eventually leave all of them behind on his stubborn quest to achieve fulfillment in solitude.

Trudging alone through snowy terrain in the Alaskan wilderness

Christopher McCandless

So now we come to the boy himself, Christopher McCandless – or, as he liked to call himself, Alexander Supertramp. Chris wasn’t the first person to find solace in the wild. Timothy Treadwell, the ill-fated subject of the documentary Grizzly Man also comes to mind, but I am sure there are countless others. What makes McCandless’s story so memorable? For starters, it is the way he started his journey. He wasn’t just taking a summer road trip, one last hurrah before finding a job with the college degree he had just earned. Instead, he was in it for the long haul. He wanted to make a complete break from society, so he gave away his life savings ($24,000!!) to charity, cut up his credit cards and drivers license, abandoned his car, and changed his name. By doing all these things, he made himself virtually invisible. Christopher McCandless no longer existed, and so it would be impossible for his family to find him unless he wanted to be found. In my opinion, McCandless’s decision to erase his identity and go off the map was a selfish and irresponsible one. In trying to understand what he did, I’ve divided his actions into four categories below:

  • Rejecting Family – Shortly after graduating from college, Chris followed through with his plans to leave life as he had known it behind. According to the movie, his main reason for doing this was that he wanted to distance himself from his parents, who had been a negative presence in his life, from their dishonesty with him, to his father’s domestic abuse, to their desire to control his future. Perhaps he wanted nothing to do with the traditional path of an upstanding American citizen, since career and marriage had brought his family so much pain.
    • During the years of his unhappy home life, Chris took comfort in the words of writers like Emerson, Thoreau, and London, and their portraits of nature and solitude seemed like his perfect escape from his family. Maybe he had a right to disappear and do his own thing – after all, he was over 18. But just because it was his right doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do, at least not the way he did it. Why couldn’t he pick up a phone and call his sister? Write them a letter? Send them a postcard? He left with no warning, and thus he, his sister, and his parents were never able to resolve their issues.
    • I’ve heard of people disowning their families and never speaking to them again, which is really sad. But in most cases, these people have other friends who become their family. Everyone needs at least one person to share life’s ups and downs with. Chris had the chance to be “adopted” into new families several times along his journey – the hippie couple, the farmer, the old war veteran… But each time they tried to get close to him, he rejected them in the name of his quest for individual freedom. Just think how his life may have played differently if he had fostered any one of these relationships. Perhaps someone would have joined him on his Alaskan adventure, or at least checked in with him from time to time. Instead, he found himself truly alone, at the time when he most needed someone’s help.
  • Rejecting Society – This is the part of Chris’s plan that I can understand the most. Sometimes it’s nice to feel invisible. He achieved that by changing his name to Alexander Supertramp, giving away all his money, and cutting up his identification. He was basically saying that he had no interest in the American dream of pursuing a successful career, making a lot of money, driving a nice car, getting married, having children, sending his children to college, etc. He had only seen the hardships that come with those choices, and so he rejected them. Even though I can understand him wanting to choose another path, his methods were still selfish. Wasn’t that his parents’ money, set aside for his education? And hadn’t they already paid his way through school? Since he bothered to graduate, he should have either tried out a job, or if nothing else given his parents an explanation for why he didn’t want to. Up until the point he became trapped in the wilderness of Alaska, his journey across America did seem exciting and fulfilling. He had no responsibility except to himself, no schedule to keep, and no limits to what he could do or see. Most people have to save up money and take time off of work to even take a small road trip, but he was able to meet new people, take on river rapids, hike mountains, swim in the ocean, etc.
  • Embracing a Life of Solitude – If Chris had been content to “establish” himself as a nomad, traveling from one place to another, one adventure to another, with some of his new friends, then I would have felt like he had a good thing going on, at least for awhile. He could have traveled with Rainey and Jan, or helped an old man live the last years of his life to the fullest by taking on Ron as his travel buddy. Instead, he left them all behind to live life alone. I can understand wanting to get away from the world for awhile, but he seemed to be in it for the long haul. He spent over 100 days completely alone, with no one to talk to, no physical contact. These are things that keep us healthy and sane! I got stir crazy just watching him go through his days of solitude. I don’t believe that anyone could find true happiness or fulfillment just by experiencing nature and not being attached to society. My guess is he eventually realized that his ideal was just that, an unreachable goal.
  • Experiencing Nature – I love nature. I always notice the full moon or a beautiful sunset, I’ve stood in awe beneath the huge, majestic trees of Muir Woods, and I would love to visit some of the places featured in the documentary Planet Earth. However, I don’t understand why he wanted to experience all these things alone. Chris came to this realization in the movie as he sat alone in his magic bus in Alaska. He had been marveling at the beauty of the mountains and the animals, but he didn’t have anyone to share his joy with. He wrote this simple, sad statement in his journal: “Happiness isn’t real unless it’s shared.” That statement was at odds with what he had believed throughout his journey – that relationships don’t bring satisfaction the way that true freedom does. It seems that Chris forgot to respect the darker side of nature. It’s not all big sky, clear water, and surmountable mountainsides. There’s a reason that humans have built homes, grocery stores, hospitals, and other comforts. You don’t always know what you’re going to get from nature, but you can always count on a warm place to sleep if you have a house, a hot meal to eat if you have a few dollars, and some medical attention when you need it if a doctor is in the area. In the end, Chris needed warmth, food, and medical assistance, but because he had cut himself off from society, he instead faced a grim outlook.

The saddest part of Chris’s story to me is how he was missing some vital information that may have saved him from his fate (I read about this part of his story elsewhere, since it wasn’t included in the movie). After about 90 days in the Alaskan wilderness, he prepared to return to civilization, but when he arrived at a river crossing, he discovered that the river was much wider and stronger than it had been in the spring. Rather than attempt to cross, or to walk along the bank and look for another way over, he simply returned to his bus. If he had had a decent map with him, or if he had walked 1/4 mile up the river, he would have discovered a hand-operated tram that would have easily transported him across the river.

I think that if he had really wanted to return to society and deal with some of the relationships he had formed and broken, he would have found a way across. Since he quickly gave up and turned around, I wonder if he was willing to accept the consequences of what could happen if he stayed in the wilderness alone. Maybe for him, it was all worth it, but to me, it looks like a life wasted. Christopher McCandless’s story is a grim reminder about the importance of maintaining relationships and respecting the power of nature.

 

New Moon: A Review December 13, 2009

I read New Moon a little over a year ago, and my review of the book was not very kind. I ranted about how self-centered and whiny Bella was, how sappy and lovesick Edward was, and how uneventful the book was as a whole. Strange, then, that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie when I saw it in the theater last week. While Twilight’s film adaptation played out like an unintentional comedy, New Moon translated well onto the screen, and had a satisfying blend of drama, suspense, romance, and humor.

Jacob and Edward are both in love with Bella. If I were her, I know which one of them I'd choose.

In case anyone is reading this who isn’t familiar with the story, New Moon is the second book in the Twilight series, and it focuses on Bella’s separation from Edward and subsequent deepening friendship with Jacob. Near the beginning, a freak accident during Bella’s birthday party leads to the Cullens leaving town. Edward convinces Bella that he doesn’t love her and that he’s trying to make a clean break. Edward’s sudden departure sends Bella into a deep depression, and the only time she feels alive is when she gets an adrenaline rush, because at those times she has visions of Edward telling her to stop what she’s doing. Her need to live on the edge is what initially brings her and Jacob together, since she asks him to fix up an old motorbike for her. Over the course of the school year, they become closer, but meanwhile Jacob goes through a life-altering transition of his own. Eventually, Bella’s recklessness sets off a series of events that lead her and Alice to Edward’s rescue in Italy. When the movie ends, Bella is anxious to be turned into a vampire, but finds herself  caught between two guys – Jacob, who wants her to live a “normal” life with him, and Edward, who wants her to marry him.

What I Liked

  • Jacob – I’ve never been a big enough fan of the series to choose a side, but after seeing this movie, I am definitely Team Jacob! He was so easy to like and cheer for, not to mention easy to look at! I wasn’t crazy about the long hair, but once he got it cut, I was a fan. Liking Jacob so much only made me dislike Bella more. This was true in the book, too. I still think that she was way too self-absorbed and selfish, taking advantage of Jacob’s feelings for her. Taylor Lautner did a nice job with this role.
  • Bella’s character development – I may not like Bella, but at least the writers translated her character well enough that we understood why she was acting the way she was. Whether we were seeing her staring blankly out her bedroom window as the months passed by, listening to her terrified screams when she would wake up from nightmares, or watching her cling to Jacob for attention and affirmation of her worth, she was clearly a deeply damaged and troubled young woman.
  • Charlie – In the first movie, Bella’s dad may as well have been Barney Fife. He was a bumbling, goofy deputy. However, in this movie he was portrayed more as a caring father who was only trying to protect his daughter and help her through a hard time. It was nice to see a strong parental presence.
  • Jane – Who knew that Dakota Fanning would be such a convincing, well cast Jane? She was great as the old in years but childlike in appearance vampire who can torture people with her mind. Fanning played the character as quiet but strong, a force to be reckoned with. She was the most interesting of the Volturi. The vampires who sat in their thrones during the proceedings were creepy, but a little too campy to fit the tone of the movie.
  • Bella’s high school friends – In Twilight, Bella’s human friends were mostly just annoying, but this time around I was thoroughly entertained, especially by Mike and Jessica. They provided some needed comic relief during the mostly gloomy proceedings of the movie.
  • The Music – I don’t remember much about the music in Twilight, but the New Moon Sountrack is full of great songs. It features artists like Muse, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie. The music helped set the appropriate tone at different moments of the movie. If the Twilight series is an experience, then it makes sense that music would play an important role in helping viewers experience the theatrical version.

What I Didn’t Like

  • Edward – Yep, you read that right. I did not like Edward. To be more specific, I didn’t like Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward. It was hard to imagine Bella still choosing Edward over Jacob when the two guys had their confrontation toward the end of the movie. On one side, there was buff, healthy, glowing, passionate Jacob. On the other, there was pale, skin and bones, sour-faced, and solemn Edward. Throughout the movie, sweet Jacob had either a winning smile or an understandable scowl on his face, but in either case it was easy to root for him. When we saw Edward, he mostly just looked constipated. Perhaps that was just bad acting on Robert Pattinson’s part, but it didn’t do anything to make me happy about the Edward and Bella reunion.
  • The Cullens – In their defense, they didn’t have much screen time, or much to do or say when they did appear, but I just wasn’t interested in them at all. In particular, Jasper just looked crazy, with his huge eyes and bird’s nest of hair.
  • Quileute Pack – Just because I liked Jacob doesn’t mean I liked his “brothers.” They didn’t have much screen time, but when they did the acting wasn’t great. Just about the only moment in the movie that got a bad reaction from the crowd was when one of the Quileute guys said “Well, I guess the wolf’s out of the bag.” (Someone in the audience reacted by shouting out an annoyed, “Give me a break…”)

So there you have it. There was more to like than to dislike, and it was a vast improvement over the first movie. As for me being Team Jacob, I know that may change eventually. As one of my friends pointed out, things get weird later on, with Jacob imprinting on Renesmee and such. But for now, I’ll wish for that which will never come to pass – a Bella/Jacob romance. Now it’s up to the writer/director of Eclipse, along with Robert Pattinson, to make me change over to Team Edward.

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SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 8 Results Show December 9, 2009

Oh. My. Goodness. We finally had a shake-up, after weeks of mostly predictable results. After last night’s performance show, I guessed that Ellenore, Ryan, Russell, and Kathryn would be the bottom four. I was right about Ellenore and Ryan, but wrong about the other two, who happened to be the ones sent home!

The Bottom Four

  • Ellenore
  • Mollee – sent home
  • Ryan
  • Legacy – sent home

I am thrilled that Mollee is no longer on the show. Every season there is at least one dancer who I simply don’t like. Dancers from seasons past who come to mind include Lacey and Lauren and Neil. Were they all season three?! I really think that Mollee survived this long because of her cutesy personality more than on the strength of her dancing. Sure, she has some impressive strength and balance, but she seems more suited for gymnastics than some of the dance styles she has performed. And I never thought too much about Legacy this season. I suppose I was impressed that he grew so much as a dancer in the various styles, and of course I noticed all those times that he performed shirtless. But he was never one of my favorites. So while I was definitely shocked when he was announced as the guy who was going home, I wasn’t sad.

I wonder if the results would have been different if Ashleigh had performed last night, and if Ryan hadn’t sweetly encouraged the audience to vote for her (instead of him). I really do think he would have gone home instead of Legacy, but perhaps Mollee would still have been eliminated. All this time I had thought that she and Nathan were so popular, but I guess they really weren’t. I was thrilled for Russell that he found out quickly that he had made it into the finals. And I am sure Ashleigh was relieved to have one more chance to prove she should be there. I am assuming that her doctor cleared her to dance again. I didn’t notice whether or not she danced the opening group number.

Our Finalists

  • Jakob
  • Ashleigh
  • Kathryn
  • Ellenore
  • Russell
  • Ryan

So, the finals should be quite a fun, exciting event. I’m assuming we’ll see Ryan and Ashleigh dance together, since traditionally all the finalists dance with each other. Although, since there are six dancers instead of four this time, they may have to chance up some of the usual way of doing things. I most look forward to Ashleigh/Ryan, Jakob/Kathryn, which are two pairings we haven’t seen this season. And, I am hoping that in the end, Jakob will be named the season six winner!

 

SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 8 Perform

I’m still trying to figure out how we’re only a week away from the finale, but meanwhile, Ashleigh’s dislocated shoulder created all sorts of drama on this week’s top 8 performance show.

Kathryn & Ryan Disco (Doriana Sanchez) – I’m just not that into disco. It’s cheesy, and I don’t like it. That being said, Ryan was a good partner for disco, since he can easily lift just about anyone or anything.

Mollee & Jakob Viennese Waltz (Jason Gilkison) – When they first came out on stage, I didn’t understand Mollee’s butter yellow skirt. Usually a girl wears a beautiful flowing dress for a waltz. But I ended up really liking the performance, and the costumes gave it a more modern feel – well, more like a 1940s or 50s collegiate feel. The idea of a young couple in love, dancing on air together, was very sweet. That assisted hip lift (think that’s what they called it) was amazing. As usual, Jakob brought his partner up to his level. I’ve no doubt they will both be in the finale.

Ashleigh Solo – Poor Ashleigh, so anxious to dance, but forced to just stand there dressed in black, with her arm in a sling. 😦

Ellenore & Legacy Contemporary (Travis Wall) – This wasn’t my favorite Travis routine. I seem to recall another Mr. and Mrs. Smith themed dance on this show in a previous season. Does anyone else remember that? This dance seemed more character driven than dance driven, and while they did a good job, I wasn’t blown away.

Jakob Solo – Oh, how I love Jakob. I’ve considered going to see this season’s dancers on tour just because he will be there. The only other season I went to see the Dance tour was season three, when my beloved Pasha was dancing, along with Danny, Sabra, Lacey, Neil, etc. But anyway, back to Jakob. He really is an amazing dancer, and I thought he put a lot more energy and passion into this solo than the one he did last week.

Ashleigh & RussellHip-Hop (Shane Sparks) – Russell had to dance with Shane’s assistant, Rachel, who wasn’t nearly as pleasant to watch as Ashleigh would have been. There’s no way the routine could have been a smashing success with this last minute substitute, but Russell still looked like he had fun.

Mollee Solo – All I could think while I watched her solo was, “Am I watching a gymnastics routine?” All that was missing was the floor pads and a unitard. She was doing flips, cartwheels, balance moves, etc. That’s great if you’re competing in floor exercise, but this is a dance competition. I so wish Mollee would go home this week, but I don’t see it happening.

Kathryn & RyanCha Cha (Jason Gilkison) – This was a fun and surprising routine. These two really did have some great chemistry, and made the difficult routine look fun and mostly effortless. The closing flip that left Kathryn hanging upside down was eye opening. Sadly, I don’t know that this will be enough to keep Kathryn in the competition.

Legacy Solo – This seemed like a half-hearted effort to me. Perhaps this is a trend, though. Nigel said that at this point people aren’t “supposed” to vote on technique, but on who entertains them the most. Apparently, Legacy and Russell thought that silly props would charm viewers into picking up the phone. I would rather have seen Legacy do more of his crazy b-boy moves than chatting away on the huge 1990s cordless phone. This didn’t feel like “dancing for your life” to me. (Sorry, Leah…)

EllenoreSolo – I still enjoyed her solo, but it wasn’t as good as last week’s, and neither were her partner performances. She was riding high last week after her jazz routine with Jakob, but she may have trouble making it into the finals.

Russell Solo – This one started off well enough. It’s Christmas time, so a Santa outfit is appropriate enough. However, I wish he would have ditched the coat and bag and gotten down to krumping business, but instead he stayed in playful mode and spent the last 10 seconds taking his shoe off and on and pulling a stuffed animal out of his bag. This solo paled in comparison to the one that brought the audience to their feet last week.

Mollee & Jakob Broadway (Joey Dowling) – I’m writing this review after the fact, and I had to think really hard to even remember what this dance looked like. Then I remembered the overcoats that gave way to green, money-inspired costumes. This was just a so-so routine for me. At least Jakob (I mean, they) had an excellent opening performance.

KathrynSolo – This was a very pretty solo, and had me thinking that she’s the most technically excellent dancer left. Based on technique, and her ability to adapt to pretty much every style she’s been thrown, I just think she deserves to stay longer than Mollee.

Ellenore & LegacyHip-Hop (NappyTabs) – Um, not so much. I think I’ve mentioned before my discomfort with anything involving masks, so the beginning of this routine had me a little nervous. I don’t think it was a good idea to highlight Ellenore’s weirdness (particularly her “alien” language) in the week leading into the finals. America can’t identify with alien, mask-wearing Ellenore as well as quirky, theatrical Ellenore. This routine goes in the same category as the crash test dummies one from last season (Kupono and some girl who left early, maybe Ashley?) – “too weird and doesn’t translate well on stage.”

Ryan Solo – Lots of chest pumping and such.

Ashleigh & Russell Bollywood (Nakul Dev Mahajan) – Ashleigh would have been very pretty and convincing as a Bollywood dancer. Russell’s fill-in partner was actually pretty good, but I was just sad that he didn’t have his real partner to dance with.

My Favorite Performances

  • Jakob and Mollee’s Viennese Waltz
  • Kathryn and Ryan’s Cha Cha

Predicting the Bottom Four

  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Ryan
  • Russell

With Ashleigh’s injury and subsequent pleas for votes, who knows how the voting will go? I voted for Ashleigh, Jakob, and Ellenore. If I had my way, I’d send Mollee and Ryan home, but it may end up being Kathryn and Russell. I think Russell may have been forgotten in the midst of his partner’s last minute injury.

Here’s how I rank the top 8, from my favorite to least favorite:

  • Jakob
  • Ashleigh
  • Ellenore
  • Kathryn
  • Russell
  • Legacy
  • Ryan
  • Mollee

So how does my list compare to yours? Who do you want to win?

 

SYTYCD Season 6: The Top 10 Perform December 2, 2009

This week’s episode was a vast improvement on last week’s sub par performances and choreography. With all the “so so” dancers out of the way, we were treated to a high level of excellence, and I was also quite pleased with most of the new pairings. In my opinion, Ellenore had her best week yet, and was the star of the night, between her solo and her amazing performance of Sonya Tayeh’s jazz piece. I was also impressed by Russell’s solo, and actually much preferred him paired with Mollee than with Noelle. Ellenore and Jakob were the standout couple of the night, whereas Noelle and Ryan were the most lackluster. They may need to start packing their suitcases for the trip home…

I enjoyed the glimpses into the contestants’ lives outside the show that we saw before their solos. I wish we’d get more of that, since it helps us understand more about who they are. It is clear that most of these dancers’ parents have been very supportive in their children’s desires to have a career in dance. Russell’s mom and dad were so sweet and proud of him, and it was nice to see Legacy’s dad “dancing” in the audience, supporting his son. It’s kind of crazy that Ellenore’s parents moved to New York for her, but it does seem like they made the right decision. All these segments just go to show how important family support is in pursuing a challenging goal. (Wiping away tears now…) Let’s get on with the show.

The Couples’ Performances

  • Noelle & Ryan
    • “Give It to Me Right,” Melanie Fiona (Hip-Hop w/ Tabitha & Napoleon D’umo) – The desk motif reminded me of Sabra and Neil’s fantastic Mandy Moore jazz routine from season three, but Ryan and Noelle didn’t live up to that standard. 
    • “Jeux D’eau,” Cirque du Soleil (Smooth Waltz w/ JT Thomas & Tomas Mielnicki) – They did a good job, but I agreed with Nigel that Noelle’s neck and shoulders were too stiff. She looked uncomfortable.
  • Ashleigh & Legacy
    • “Poison,” The Prodigy (Contemporary w/ Garry Stewart) – I was surprised when Nigel raved about the choreography, because I was very bored by it! Maybe it was an intense workout for them, but it’s not very exciting to watch a bunch of rolling around on the floor. I didn’t “get” what it was supposed to be about. (I really missed the explanatory intros that we usually get to each performance.)
    • “Slow Down,” Bobby Valentino (Hip-Hop w/ Dave Scott) – Um, no. I could have done without the old school vampire cape, and the fru fru costume that Ashleigh was wearing. Last week Dave Scott gave us Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone, and this week he gave us a dancing Bella Lugosi. He needs to step up his game and stop depending on weak gimmicks in his routines, or he won’t be invited to the show anymore. The judges tried to tip toe around it, but they basically told Dave that this wasn’t good enough for a top ten performance show. So, it’s not really Legacy and Ashleigh’s fault, but nevertheless this performance was forgettable.
  • Kathryn & Nathan
    • “Choreography,” Danny Kaye (Broadway w/ Spencer Liff) – Aw, these two were really cute together. This performance was, in my opinion, one of the best Broadway pieces ever on the show, and they sold it perfectly. It was nice to see Nathan look like he was actually having fun, rather than the fake smile that we’ve seen in most of his performances.
    • “Walk on By,” Aretha Franklin (Rumba w/ Tony Meredith & Melanie LaPatin) – I enjoyed this one, too. I disagree with the judges about the chemistry. I thought they had a good vibe between each other, although I will say that there were moments when Nathan slipped out of character and looked nervous that he was going to forget his next steps. Did you notice the evil look on Melanie’s face when Nigel criticized her and Tony for not making this “ballroom” enough? She certainly wasn’t happy about it!
  • Ellenore & Jakob
    • “Four Brothers,” Manhattan Transfer (Quickstep w/ Tony Meredith & Melanie LaPatin) – Yay! I was so glad to see Ellenore and Jakob together. They worked really well as dance partners! This quick step was so much better than Peter and Pauline’s painful to watch attempt earlier this season, and I’d say it’s one of the best ever on the show. They kept their composure, moved their feet a mile a minute, and still managed to look like they were enjoying themselves.
    • “Tore My Heart,” OONA and Dave Tweedle (Contemporary w/ Sonya Tayeh) – What an angry song, and what an emotionally charged performance! I wholeheartedly agree with everything the judges said: that this was an amazing performance, that it showcased Ellenore’s weirdness and Jakob’s showmanship and technique, and that it was one of Sonya’s best. I loved when Ellenore was “stuck on the wall,” all the times that Jakob tossed her across the stage, and when she went into convulsions. All so weird and wonderful. This couple hit the jackpot, and will certainly be safe tonight.
  • Mollee & Russell

    • “It Must Have Been Love,” Roxette (Lyrical Jazz w/ Mandy Moore) – I love this song, and thought it was a sweet routine. Russell and Mollee worked well together (and somehow Mollee didn’t seem as doll-like and cutesy partnered with him. It wasn’t perfect – some of the strength moved seemed labored – but overall I thought they did a good job.
    • “Land of 1000 Dances,” Jimmy Barnes (Jive w/ Anya Garnis & Pasha Kovalev) – This was really fun! Of course, I’m biased since it was choreographed by my favorites, Anya and Pasha. I was surprised to see them in charge of a jive, but as long as we get to see them, I don’t care what the style is. This was a super charged, fun routine, and Russell and Mollee’s enthusiasm was contagious.

The Solos

  • Mollee Gray (“Rock the Beat,” LMFAO) – Bleh.
  • Russell Ferguson (“Outros,” Black Milk) – Loved it! Russell was one of my early favorites, but his performances had been lackluster for awhile now, until this week. He stormed out of the gates with this solo! So much intensity, matched with star power and technique. You can tell the studio audience felt his competitive energy, and I certainly felt it at home. I picked up the phone and voted for him based on this solo, which to me was the best individual performance of the night.
  • Noelle Marsh (“Every Time It Rains,” Charlotte Martin) – I don’t have anything to say about this. Noelle just doesn’t seem to be at the same level as these other dancers. Why is she still here?
  • Ryan Di Lello (“Rock You Like a Hurricane,” The Scorpions) – Ballroom solos are always difficult, but he certainly gave it his all and made it entertaining.
  • Kathryn McCormick (“Beautiful,” Bethany Dillon) – So pretty. I really do love Kathryn, so I feel bad that I thought so little of her when the season started, when all I had to go on was her silly high pitched crying. She is a beautiful girl who is so graceful and fully invested in her performances. I hope she goes a long way this season.
  • Nathan Trasoras (“Golden Train,” Justin Nozuka) – I actually liked his solo from last week better, but this one was interesting, and he was very into it. I’m thinking he had some real life issues upsetting him this week, because he cried an awful lot and looked very upset during all of the judges’ comments on his and Kathryn’s performances. Maybe he is homesick, or maybe the stress of the competition is getting to him. Poor guy. I hope that whatever it is can be resolved soon!
  • Ellenore Scott (“Beatbox Harmonica,” Yuri Lane) – Ellenore had the best female solo, and the second best overall, with only Russell ahead of her. I am loving her more every week.
  • Legacy Perez (“No Air,” Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown) – Nicely done, b-boy, nicely done. He managed to seamlessly weave his tricks in with a story that matched the song.
  • Ashleigh Di Lello (“Batucada Por Favor,” Bob Azzam) – Her solo had a lot of pizzazz. She didn’t have a great night, though. I think that she was hurt more by losing her partnership with Jakob, whereas he was able to still shine this week with Ellenore.
  • Jakob Karr (“Always Midnight,” Pat Monahan) – I was expecting more from his solo, and while it was technically excellent, I don’t think he tried very hard. He’s probably betting that his and Ellenore’s contemporary routine will be enough to get people to pick up the phone and vote for him, and he’s probably right.

Top Performances

  • Jakob and Ellenore’s Contemporary
  • Kathryn and Nathan’s Broadway
  • Mollee and Russell’s Jive

Who’s in Danger? – I can’t remember how the elimination show will work tonight. Will there be four dancers in the bottom, or six? Based on last night’s individual performances, I think the following dancers are in trouble:

  • Noelle
  • Ryan
  • Ashleigh
  • Nathan

I think it’s time for Noelle and Ryan to go home. We’ll find out what happens soon enough.