Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

SYTYCD Season 8: Ranking the Top 12 Couples July 14, 2011

Filed under: So You Think You Can Dance,Television — Emily @ 5:14 pm

Melanie and Marco: this season's power couple

While I have been enjoying this season of So You Think You Can Dance, I have been underwhelmed by most of the couples. I am excited to see how the introduction of all-stars next week will breathe new life into some contestants who have been hindered or overshadowed by their current partners. Now that we’ve had a chance to get to know the remaining couples pretty well, and since they will be split up starting next week, I thought I’d take a moment to rank them from best to worst. These ranking are based less on individual talent, more on the chemistry and stage presence of the couples.

  1. Melanie and Marco – They are this season’s powerhouse couple. (Previous seasons’ power couples include s4 Katee and Joshua and s6 Ashleigh and Jakob.) I don’t think anyone would argue that they aren’t the current frontrunners. Yes, they’ve had some help from the cameras, the lighting, and the judges’ gushing praise, but even without all that they are both phenomenal dancers who light up the stage every time they perform. I haven’t loved every one of their routines, but like Sonya said last night, they always perform with a confidence that enables the audience to sit back and just enjoy the dancing. Their success from this point on will depend on which all stars they are paired with, and whether or not they are able to sustain the same performance quality and chemistry as they have had with each other. Those will be difficult standards to live up to, but I know they are capable.
  2. Caitlynn and Mitchell – Based on their presence in the bottom three couples more than once this season, this pair isn’t super popular with most viewers. But they are actually my second favorite. They are both beautiful people and dancers, and they work well together. Caitlynn really seems to trust Mitchell, as he has been able to toss and twirl her around the stage with ease every week. Like this week’s guest judge, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, I didn’t “get” the message of their first performance last night, but that wasn’t their fault. And while their second performance was fine, I was almost embarrassed to watch it, since Caitlynn looks about 15 to me. Her costume and choreography just seemed a little too “adult” for her. My favorite of their dances this season has been last week’s Mandy Moore contemporary. I’m not a huge fan of Celine Dion’s overdramatic pop ballads, but their dancing was beautiful and believable.
  3. Jordan and Tadd – Jordan and Tadd are this season’s “cute couple.” (Similar to Neil and Lauren several seasons back.) Most of their performances have been pretty bubble gum: sweet, cute, but not much substance. This may be to cover up the fact that Tadd is not as versatile and talented (outside of his own style) as most of the other contestants. The vulture, the princess, the other princess one… Most of their routines have showcased Jordan’s talents, while Tadd has been an also ran. But let’s be honest, on this show, even a sub par male dancer can survive if he dances without his shirt on (Neil’s shirtlessness almost carried him right to the grand prize!). Since that happened last night, I think he’ll be safe for at least another week. With new partners next week, Jordan has the potential to do really well, but Tadd may struggle.
  4. Clarice and Jess – I don’t have much to say about Clarice, but I must admit that Jess is growing on me. Even though his obnoxious personality initially prevented me from enjoying his performances, I can’t deny that he is an extremely talented dancer with natural charisma. He will be perfect for Broadway, and he has surprised me more than once in other styles this season. Their contemporary performance last week was enjoyable, last nights’ jive was entertaining, and I even bought the lyrical hip hop/artist routine (although the huge creepy portrait of Clarice was unnecessary and distracted me from the performance there at the end). This couple is a clear case of mismatched talent. I don’t want to be rude, but Clarice is not even close to the same level as most of the other girls. I’ve asked myself more than once what she’s still doing here. I think she will be in big trouble next week when she doesn’t have Jess there to carry her. But as long as Jess doesn’t get stuck with ballroom, he could hang around for awhile.
  5. Sasha and Alexander – These are both great dancers, but here is a classic case of greatness being squashed by an absolute lack of chemistry. When I watch them dance together, I feel like I’m just watching them go through the motions of the choreography. There are occasional glimmers of power and talent, but there’s a definite emotional disconnect that inhibits both of them. If they are still around next week (their security is definitely in question), I think they could both benefit from new partners.
  6. Ryan and Ricky – Oh, Ryan and Ricky. Such wonderful alliteration, but somehow it hasn’t worked out nearly as well for them as for Melanie and Marco. She’s too tall, he’s too skinny, when it comes to chemistry, they don’t have any. (I couldn’t resist the urge to go poetic – theirs is such a tragic pairing.) I really enjoyed their zombie fashion show performance last week, but all their other performances have been almost painful to watch. Based on their solos, they are both talented dancers. But I think that neither of them is completely comfortable with the idea of being on national television. (Reminiscent of some past contestants, including season 6’s Channing.) They always seem to hold something back, unlike the “all-in” attitudes of dancers like Melanie and Marco. I have a feeling that Ryan will be going home tonight, and maybe Ricky as well. They may keep him around another week to see how he does with another partner, but it may be too late for both of them.

So that’s my opinion of the Top 12 Couples. Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below. Check back next week for my rankings of the top ten contestants. (Oh, and fingers crossed that Pasha and Mark are among the all-stars!)

 

Childhood Memories July 5, 2011

Filed under: 1980s,Books,Memories — Emily @ 6:01 pm

My three year old son has recently become very interested in books – not the super short board books or picture books, but real storybooks. I love that I can sit and read to him, and he’ll actually sit still and listen, fully engrossed, until the story is over. And then, he will ask me to read it again, or to read another one. His new found love for stories made me nostalgic about my favorite books growing up. On a recent visit to my parents’ house, I rummaged around in the closets and dug out some treasures from my childhood. Since I couldn’t take them with me on the move to California (the suitcases were already going to be packed full), I took pictures of them instead. Here are a few of my favorite books, plus a few other things, from my early years:

Do you remember loving any of these books and toys? What were some of your favorites?

 

Celebrity Sightings April 20, 2011

I have been MIA from this blog for the past few months, mainly because we are in the middle of relocating from Dallas to the L.A. area. We are looking forward to many things about our new home, including the nice weather and being close to many interesting destinations. Another small perk of living near L.A. is that we are likely to spot the occasional celebrity. I’m not one of those people who worships actors and musicians, and I don’t believe that encountering them in public will somehow change my life. After all, they are just people. For me, it’s more of a fun game, to see if I recognize someone famous, and then to observe them to guess what sort of person they are. I’ve only been to California a few times, but since Brad has been out there for work several times a year for the past eight years, I will include his celeb spottings here, too.

Me

  • Noah Wyle – When I was in high school, ER’s Dr. Carter was on my list of attractive famous people (does every teenage girl compile such a list?) So I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed him sitting in first class on my flight to L.A. a couple of weeks ago. The man sitting next to him started talking to me about Peter, and Noah looked up and smiled at us. In that brief moment I observed that he has aged (he’s almost 40!), he was sharply dressed, and was reading a book called The War of Art. You can’t tell much about someone in a few seconds, but I will say that he had kind eyes. You can see Noah on tv again this summer on TNT’s new scifi drama Falling Skies.
  • Thomas Hayden Church – While waiting to board my flight home to Dallas at the Burbank Airport, I recognized this Sideways star immediately. He was buying something at the snack/magazine counter, and appeared to be impatient with the lady behind the counter (I hadn’t been too impressed with her, either.) He is very tall, so it’s hard to miss him. Some of the other passengers started to point him out to each other. He never talked to anyone – he seemed anxious to get on the plane, and in fact was the first person in line for boarding. He was wearing a flannel shirt and cargo pants. I was sitting in the first row behind first class, so I had a view of him during the flight to Dallas. Whenever I looked up at him, he was either sleeping or reading what could have been a script.
  • James Denton – On a previous trip to L.A., I walked past this Desperate Housewives plumber at LAX. He was dressed in a suit, and I was struck by how blue his eyes were!
  • Mike Piazza – Going back about 18 years, when I was an avid Dodger fan, I spotted this Dodger catcher at the Galleria in Houston. My family was in town for an Astros/Dodgers game, and we were hanging out at the Galleria beforehand. Apparently the Dodgers were staying at one of the mall’s hotels, because while we were hanging out at the ice rink, Piazza strode past, looking nice in a suit. We tried to catch up with him for an autograph (of course! I was a teenage girl, and he was on my “cute” list), but he was already to the parking garage and out of sight. A bit later, my dad had a conversation with another Dodger player, Cory Snyder.
  • Quincy Jones – My strangest celebrity encounter happened in June 2009, the day after Michael Jackson died. I was in L.A. visiting my friend Lindsay. We decided to have afternoon coffee and dessert at a popular place called Pan e Vino. You can read all the details here. We both recognized Quincy Jones sitting at a table with family/friends in the corner of the patio opposite from us. It was strange to see someone who was a known friend and associate of Michael Jackson, only hours after Michael’s death. Quincy was dressed in black, whether out of mourning or because that’s his normal thing I don’t know. We guessed that he was with a daughter, son-in-law, and grand child based on their interactions with each other.

Brad – I should ask him to give me some more details about these spottings, but for now I’ll just give a brief run down.

  • Ted Danson – He shared a flight with him one time.
  • Mario Lopez – This was probably the most amusing celeb sighting for Brad. He even took a few discreet pictures with his phone to prove to me that he was sitting next to “Slater” at the airport.
  • Mike Tyson – He and his colleagues actually stopped Mike and asked for a picture at the airport.
  • Coolio – Spotted him walking through an airport
  • Blair Underwood – This has been Brad’s most interesting celebrity encounter. At the time Underwood was appearing on the now canceled show Dirty Sexy Money, and now he is somewhat more recognized as the president on NBC’s 24/Lost wannabe The Event. Brad didn’t just see Blair Underwood. He was actually sitting next to him on the flight to Dallas, and so he conversed with him periodically throughout the flight. As I recall, Underwood was going to Dallas for a funeral. 😦  Brad enjoyed talking with him about the ins and outs of the theater and tv industry, and to a certain extent about Blair’s efforts to remain successful. I would love to have such a conversation with an actor! Maybe one day I’ll have my chance. As someone pointed out to me recently, having babies or small children with you somehow makes conversations with strangers more acceptable.

If you could see or talk to a celebrity in person, who would it be? What would you want to talk to them about?

 

David Anders: One of TV’s Unheralded Heroes February 10, 2011

Filed under: 24,Television,Vampire Diaries — Emily @ 12:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

He has played the son of a Russian mobster, the biological father of a vampire-loving teenager, an eternally young ne’er do well, and even the unfortunate victim of a corn-worshipping cult. But to me, he’ll always be Sydney Bristow’s charming, British-accented nemesis, Julian Sark. I’m talking about one of my favorite unheralded tv actors: David Anders.

Mr. Anders was one of the first celebrities who I investigated on IMDb, when I first discovered the website nearly a decade ago. Since I only knew him at the time through his character on Alias, I was surprised to learn that not only was he only in his early 20s, but he was from Oregon. In his role as Sark, he came across as much more mature than 20, and his British accent was so flawless that I had assumed he was really from England. Sadly, most of his subsequent roles haven’t featured such an attractive accent, nor have his characters met very satisfying fates. However, no matter how poorly written or short-lived a role is, if David Anders’ name is attached, I will always check it out. Let’s take a look at some of his work:

  • Alias – (2002-2006) – So far this has been Anders’ most impressive and memorable role. Sark was supposed to be a villain, but he was impossible to dislike! For awhile, the writers hinted that he and Sydney were half-siblings, and I wish that had been true. But at least he crossed over from the dark side in later seasons, to assist Sydney and company on some cases.
  • Heroes – (2007-2010) – Let me be clear. David Anders was the only reason I tuned in to season two of this show, which was already faltering big time by the end of the first season (and it only went down hill from there…) By the next season, Anders’ presence almost wasn’t enough to make me keep watching, the show had become so ridiculous. So when he was killed off with absolutely no fanfare, I immediately stopped watching, with no regrets. Even when his character was alive and well, this was not a villain you loved to love. He was annoying and selfish – not the best role for someone as attractive and charming as David Anders!
  • Children of the Corn – (2009) – Sadly, things didn’t get much better in his next role, SyFy’s tv remake of the classic ’80s horror movie of the same name. The original was campy enough (what was Linda Hamilton thinking?!), so why redo it? At least it gave me a chance to see David Anders again, in a slightly less annoying role than that of Adam Monroe on Heroes. As is usually the case in horror movies, Anders’ character didn’t meet a very good end.
  • 24 – (2010) – I had started to tire of Jack Bauer and company by the time this final season rolled around. (I never fully recovered from the bizarre direction they took Tony Almeida…) I was considering not watching, but then the names of the new cast started being announced: Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck was back!), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (that should be interesting…), and David Anders! So yet again, Anders became my motivation for watching a show. And his role as Josef Bazhaev didn’t disappoint. He was a “bad” guy, but he had the redeeming qualities of risking his own life to help his brother, and ultimately deciding to turn on his Russian mob father to help Jack save the day. It was a short-lived role, but a step in the right direction.
  • Vampire Diaries (2010-2011) – And now it appears that David Anders has found a new generation of fans on the CW. Many viewers of Vampire Diaries were probably starting kindergarten when Julian Sark first came to life on Alias. So to them, it’s not strange for him to be playing someone’s father on this show about a group of teenagers, two vampire brothers, and apparently a clan of werewolves (I stopped watching during the first season, so I’m not really sure what’s going on now…) But to me it’s very weird! He’s only 30 years old, and he’s playing father to Elena, who must be 18. Do the math. Then again, he has often played roles older than his real age. I did tune back in to this show to see him, but at the time it appeared to be his last episode (as had the episode before that, when he had been left for dead…) Plus, I admit to fast forwarding through the show and only watching his scenes. But I am glad that he is back on tv – hopefully for a prolonged stay this time.
  • The Riot (2011) – Perhaps this will be the year that Anders has a breakthrough year. He’s turning 30 in March, and he’s appearing in a feature length film called The Riot. It doesn’t exactly feature a top notch cast, but headliners Ron Perlman and Michael Clarke Duncan tend to have success in action movies. Based on the synopsis (four friends stick together and try to survive in a world “on the cusp of disaster”), it looks like he’ll be playing a good guy for once. Let’s hope this role will get David Anders noticed even more, so he can land some better roles, and I’ll only have to watch great shows to see him.
 

Fringe: A Show You Should Be Watching January 21, 2011

Filed under: Fringe,Television — Emily @ 4:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

A young woman loses herself in her job as she tries to escape the ghosts of her past. A father learns to depend on the son he has been estranged from for years, as the son struggles to forgive his father for a life altering act committed years ago. Meanwhile, mysterious events are taking place all over the world, and a team of scientists and investigators use unconventional methods to solve crimes, save lives, and sometimes even save the world!

This is a very basic synopsis of the excellent scifi show Fringe, which returns tonight after its winter break. If you have never watched before, do yourself a favor and start catching up! Fringe is currently in its third season, and it just gets better and better. It’s the only show I consistently watch the night it airs, and it’s also the best scifi show currently on tv. Here are my thoughts on why you should be watching Fringe, too.

  • It’s a worthy successor to The X-FilesWhen The X-Files ended, I doubted that any other scifi show would captivate me as much as it had. Then along came this tale of FBI agent Olivia Dunham, who finds herself working for a division that investigates strange, seemingly inexplicable cases. She works alongside Dr. Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist who uses unconventional investigative methods and spent several years in a mental institution. Tagging along as a “supervisor” for his father is Peter Bishop, and he and Walter are still working through all sorts of family baggage. This trio is joined by a few other team members, and together they investigate the strange, unimaginable, and sometimes horrific events tied to the Pattern. Instead of Mulder and Scully, we have Olivia, Peter, and Walter. Instead of aliens and government conspiracies, we have shape shifters and other world conspiracies. But both shows have a satisfying blend of character development and mysterious cases/freaks of the week.
  • Olivia – Olivia is an interesting and likable heroine. She loves her job and is committed to doing her best. She genuinely cares about the people she works with and the victims she encounters in her investigations. The writers have been slow to reveal details about her past, which makes her a somewhat enigmatic figure when it comes to her emotions, her mindset, and her relationships, or lack thereof.
  • Peter and Walter’s father/son relationship – This pair is one of the most entertaining on tv. John Noble and Joshua Jackson have great chemistry as the bickering father and son who obviously care for each other, even though they don’t always see eye to eye. Peter exhibits great patience with his socially dysfunctional and mentally unstable father, and Walter has proven how much he loves his son, even though some of his actions have been questionable. Some of the funniest, as well as the most heartwarming, moments on the show happen when these two are involved. And I should mention here that I totally have a crush on Joshua Jackson in this role. I was never a huge fan of Pacey when he was on Dawson’s Creek, but Peter is so charming, funny, and handsome that it’s hard not to love him. I even named my second child Peter, not completely because of this show – but it was definitely what gave me the initial idea for the name.
  • The Observers – Ohhhh, weird bald guys, wearing suits and hats, who show up at important or significant events in history. Count me in. The verdict is still out on who these guys are, what their ultimate goal is, and where they come from. But part of the fun of watching Fringe is noticing their appearances. It’s usually very subtle – they may be standing at a bus stop in the background, may walk past other characters, etc., but when they do show up it’s usually a signal that something important is about to happen.
  • The alternate universe – I don’t want to say much about this development, since it didn’t surface until late in the second season. Let me just say that it opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the show, and has resulted in a highly entertaining and exciting season three.
  • Rich mythology – The Observers and the alternate universe are only part of the intricate mythology of this show. The X-Files had a rich mythology, but the writers never resolved much of it. Fringe has done a more satisfying job of answering some questions, so that viewers aren’t as frustrated by the new questions those answers create, or the questions that are left unanswered. The first season didn’t supply much information – it was more about the case of the week, as well as getting to know the characters. But as season two progressed, we learned more about the other world, and after several episodes that only hinted at the secret of Peter’s past, the shocking truth was finally revealed, and that secret has led to all sorts of complications. So, yes, there are many complex details to figure out, but the show can also be enjoyed on an episode by episode basis.
  • The musical episode – When a show comes up with an unusual episode, I am sold. Buffy the Vampire Slayer succeeded with “Once More, with Feeling,” its musical episode, Angel impressed me with its “puppet” episode, and last season Fringe satisfied me with its version of a musical episode. It was part story time, part old school private eye, part musical – and I loved it! Agent Broyles played piano and sang a smooth jazz number, Olivia sang a beautiful ballad, and Walter even conjured up some singing corpses. It was weird, but it worked. This episode proved that you never know what you are going to see when you turn on Fringe.
  • The details – One of my favorite aspects of season three has been the amount of detail provided about the alternate universe. JFK was never assassinated, avocados are an endangered fruit, writing instruments have been replaced by electronic devices, etc. These sometimes subtle, sometimes large details give this other world a distinctive look and feel. If you are interested in reading about more of these details, check out this page on Fringepedia about the parallel universe.
  • Genuine chills and thrills – The CSI intros, infamous for being gross and shocking, have nothing on Fringe. A woman giving birth to a baby who ages 80 years and dies within a few minutes? Sure. A mad scientist who collects the donated organs of a deceased ballerina to put her back together again as a marionette dancer? Why not. A victim whose facial orifices close over, leaving him a faceless corpse? Well there you have it. The incidents, the investigations, and the discoveries never cease to shock, perplex, or surprise. Needless to say, the writing team is very creative and imaginative. The one hour episode flies by every week – so much is happening, and it is so entertaining.

I had a hard time writing this post. I really wanted to convey how much I love this show and why, but I didn’t want to give away too many details in the process. Much of the fun of watching Fringe is in the not knowing, not having all the information, not completely understanding what’s happening. I hope I’ve piqued your interest enough that you will give the show a try. Set your DVR for Friday nights at 8 p.m. central time! Let me know what you think after you check it out.

 

Football, Ballet, and the Wild, Wild West January 19, 2011

Filed under: Movies,Television — Emily @ 3:20 pm
Tags: , ,

Football. Books adapted into movies. Oscar nominees. Here’s how I’ve been entertaining myself during the winter hiatus that most of my tv shows are in.

  • Friday Night Lights: Seasons 3 and 4 – I am so in love with this show. I’m ashamed at how non-committal I’ve been to it all these years. I’d watch, and really enjoy, a few episodes, but then let ten pile up on my Tivo, end up deleting them before I watched them, etc. Not really sure why I didn’t just sit down and watch every episode I could get my hands on. It’s so, so good! This time around, I fell in love with Tim Riggins, a bad boy with a good heart, and even found myself welcoming new characters with open arms (I’m usually resistant to change when old characters are replaced with new ones). From Eric and Tami Taylor’s realistic marriage and parenting challenges, to Matt Saracen’s struggle to deal with his dysfunctional family, I enjoyed every aspect of these two seasons. Apparently the fifth and final season is still airing on Direct TV, so I’ll have to wait a few months to see how it all ends.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire – In a recent post I talked about how much I enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s trilogy about the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander. So I was pleased when I discovered that the Swedish film adaptations of the first two installments were available on Netflix Instant Watch. The first one, Dragon Tattoo, was just as thrilling as the book. It was a great translation from page to screen. The second, Played with Fire, was equally entertaining, but was a little rough around the edges. (Some of the important plot points were rushed through or skipped, and it seemed pretty low budget.) Apparently I am far from tiring of this trilogy, since I am looking forward to the American movie version, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Social Network), which will star Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist, Christopher Plummer as the Vanger family patriarch, and newcomer (at least to me) Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Should be a good one!
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – This movie taught me a lesson that I should have learned a long time ago: I am not a fan of movies based on graphic novels. Let’s review the earlier hints I should have taken: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – What a silly, silly movie; A History of Violence – all I remember about this one is the ridiculous cheerleader scene; 300 – No amount of slow and/or fast motion battle effects could impress me enough to finish this one; Watchmen – three of the most miserable hours I’ve ever endured (accidentally watched the extended version…), and I was completely puzzled by the story. And so we come to the Michael Cera action comedy about a slacker musician who can only date the girl of his dreams if he defeats her seven evil exes. I was so overwhelmed by the clever recreation of a comic book and homage to video games, and so underwhelmed by the plot and dialogue, that I turned this one off after 40 minutes. Obviously I did not fall into this movie’s target demographic, particularly since I’ve never even glanced at a graphic novel. I really thought I would like the movie – I can appreciate movies that are “different” (say, for instance, Stranger Than Fiction, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but this one was just too busy – all bells and whistles, no substance.
  • Black Swan – What to say about a psychological thriller set in the world of ballet? It was everything I hoped it would be: a magnificent, frightening, beautiful mess that deserved a standing ovation as the credits rolled. Natalie Portman was terrific as dancer Nina, who slowly unravels under her enormous desire to be perfect in the starring role of Swan Lake. And Barbara Hershey was almost unrecognizable, but fantastic as Nina’s controlling mother. She sent chills down my spine with a subtle shift of her eyes, and made me gasp with some of her creepy interactions with her daughter. The music was beautiful, the effects were appropriately weird, and yes, there were some shockingly graphic scenes that helped establish Nina’s spiraling emotional/psychological state. It’s one of those movies that blurs the line between “real” and “imagined,” which gave it a dreamlike quality. Should it win Best Picture? The subject matter seems a bit too campy for such high accolades. But it’s definitely deserving of some sort of recognition for setting a new standard of quality for psychological thrillers.
  • True Grit – Now here’s a movie that has Best Picture written all over it. Strangely, though, there’s been little Oscar buzz about this latest product of the Coen brothers (No Country for Old Men, Oh Brother Where Art Thou). I don’t even like westerns, but I loved this movie. I fell under its spell from the moment an orchestral version of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” started playing in the opening scene. It’s a beautiful old hymn, and its lingering presence, in different forms throughout the movie, helped create a very satisfying tone of quiet resolve. The song also matched the rugged beauty of the Indian territory that Mattie Ross, Rooster Cogburn, and Laboeuf traversed on their hunt for Tom Chaney. I was very impressed by all of the actors. Hailee Steinfeld was terrific as 14 year old Mattie, carrying herself like a young woman with more maturity and intelligence than her age would suggest. Jeff Bridges proves, once again, that he plays drunken, past their prime heroes very well. Matt Damon really surprised me with his unusually funny role as a Texas ranger who was a little too proud of himself and his home state. These three also had great chemistry (as well as some great dialogue to work with). Josh Brolin used an unusually high-pitched voice as the villain, and it made him even creepier in the role. Like some of the Coen brothers’ previous movies, this one was a strange mix of heavy themes and oddball humor. The result: not your typical Western, but a perfectly entertaining and epic drama. And it’s much more than just a revenge movie – it’s a beautifully told story of persistence, endurance, and camaraderie.

I’ll be taking a big step down in quality when I watch my next Netflix movie. Yes, The A-Team is far from Oscar material, but I’ll give it a look since Bradley Cooper (my beloved Will Tippin from Alias) is in it. I also hope to watch a couple more of the Oscar hopefuls before that awards show airs – perhaps The King’s Speech, The Fighter, and The Social Network. What movies have you loved or hated lately?

 

2010: Year in Review January 1, 2011

Filed under: Books,Fringe,Glee,Lost,Memories,Movies,Music,Television — Emily @ 5:24 pm

2010 was a year that marked the birth of my second son, which has made it decidedly more difficult for me to maintain this blog. Perhaps one of my new year’s resolutions will be to post more frequently. We shall see. Blame it on pregnancy ditziness, blame it on newborn phase sleep deprivation, but whatever the cause, much of 2010 is a blur, especially the entertainment world. I do remember saying goodbye to, and shedding some tears for, one of my all-time favorite shows. I also remember the wrong person winning American Idol, the soap opera I grew up on coming to an end, and Christopher Nolan continuing his movie-making magic. Here’s a bullet point list of the best of times, worst of times of 2010.

  • Good Reads
    • Stieg Larsson’s Girl trilogy – I read all three of these books in 2010 and found them completely riveting. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a satisfying blend of suspense and mystery revolving around the enigmatic Vanger family. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was a conspiracy-filled investigation to clear the name of the wrongfully accused, and The Girl Who Played with Fire was a satisfying ending to the trilogy with its expose of a secret organization and Lisbeth Salander finally finding some peace. I have watched the Swedish movie adaptations of the first two novels, and they were surprisingly good (meaning the transition from page to screen was pretty accurate). I hear there are American versions in the works, but since the trilogy is set in Sweden, and so much of the plot revolves around Swedish politics and culture, I don’t think they will be as good.
    • Eric Larson’s The Devil in the White City – I don’t usually read historical non-fiction, but I was fascinated by this book, which blends the story of an infamous serial killer with the city of Chicago’s efforts to prepare for and host the 1893 World’s Fair. Larson knew when to elaborate and when to summarize, to make this a quick and interesting read. Word on the street is that there is a movie in the works, with Leonardo DiCaprio set to play serial killer H.H. Holmes. Should be a good one!
  • Good Movies
    • Shutter Island – Speaking of Leonardo DiCaprio, he has completely redeemed himself for Titanic. Yeah, I guess I should have gotten over that about ten years ago, but I lost over three hours of my life to that movie!! It took me a long time to forgive him for shouting “I’m the king of the world” and such. This year, he only impressed me, starring in two of my favorite movies. One was Shutter Island, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel. I knew it would be good when I saw that it starred DiCaprio, along with Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite character actors) and Ben Kingsley. This one was terrific in the theater: the scenery, the music, the everything. The ending surprised (and disappointed) some people, but Martin Scorsese did a great job with every single detail, from beginning to end, and I was impressed.
    • Inception – The only person who outdid Scorsese this year was Christopher Nolan, who continues to amaze me with his ability to intrigue and entertain. Inception is the last movie I saw in the theater before my son was born, and I haven’t been back to the movies yet! What a terrific experience that movie was: the sights, the sounds, the story… the whole package. I look forward to giving it a second look soon.
  • Good Music
    • Mumford and Sons – Their Sigh No More is the only complete album I purchased in 2010, and I love it. From the mainstream hit “Little Lion Man,” to the solidarity of “Timshel,” to the poetry of “The Cave,” everything is worth listening to and enjoying.
    • Glee – Nothing is more fun to listen to than songs from Glee. They are fun to sing and dance along to, in the car, the kitchen, or anywhere else. The second season has been a little lackluster, but I’m still enjoying last season’s hits – most notably “Somebody to Love,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “Borderline/Open Your Heart,” and “Alone.”
  • Good TV
    • Breaking Bad – After three seasons of it receiving awards and accolades, we finally jumped on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, zooming through the first two seasons on DVD. Now we are anxiously awaiting season three, and hope it will reair on AMC before the dvd release. Bryan Cranston is truly amazing in this role, one that is about as far removed from the dad on Malcolm in the Middle as you can be. I’ve had several people tell me they don’t want to watch the show because it sounds depressing (actually, I think I was one of those people before I watched it!), but the show balances out the heavy themes (cancer, drug addiction, deception, etc.) with lighter moments. We so enjoyed this show that we decided to try out AMC’s other original series. We quickly lost interest in Mad Men (well made, yes, but no likable characters!), but immediately took to the new zombie drama The Walking Dead (too bad there were only six episodes in season one…). I was also interested in Rubicon, but since it was canceled after one season, I’m not sure I’ll ever watch it.
    • Fringe – I continue to love this sci-fi investigative show. The story arcs are imaginative, the characters well drawn, and the details thorough. This season has been all about this universe vs. the alternate universe, and I appreciate all the little details that the writers throw in about alt-universe (JFK was’t assassinated, they no longer use writing pens, avocado are a rare fruit, etc.). This show even inspired the name that I eventually chose for my son (Peter).
    • Lost – I couldn’t do a year end post without mentioning what is probably my all-time favorite show. I throughly enjoyed the final season, although it took me awhile to come to terms with the way it ended. The show had a great run, though, so I don’t miss it now. Too much other tv to watch anyway.
  • Good Sports
    • The Saints won the Super Bowl! – After years of embarrassment, followed by some years of “almost, but not quite,” the Saints finally had their moment of glory as Super Bowl champs, by winning a handful of crazy games. It was oh so sweet to celebrate with them after all those depressing Sunday afternoons growing up in Louisiana, watching the ‘Aints.
    • Duke wins the NCAA championship! – What a rare thing, for two of my teams to win championships during the same year! I have been a Duke fan since 1991, the year they won their first championship. I’ve followed their ups and downs ever since then, and was pleasantly surprised when they were the only #1 seed left standing for the Final Four last season, and added another championship to their collection. Go Blue Devils!
  • Disappointments
    • Velva Jean Learns to Drive – This book was okay, but I was really unhappy with how it ended.
    • The Event – I guess I shouldn’t have expected much from NBC, since their action/suspense shows usually fail, but this show was just one, big convoluted and implausible mess. I tried to watch it, but gave up on about episode 5 or 6. I suppose it will last for awhile, but I won’t be tuning in to this failed hybrid of 24 and Lost.
    • So You Think You Can Dance: Season 7 – When I first heard that the show was mixing things up by pairing new contestants with all-stars, I was super excited. And as much as I loved seeing Pasha, Mark, Kathryn, etc., their presence made it nearly impossible to pick favorites among the newbies. We couldn’t enjoy power couples, and I was usually too busy watching one of the all-stars do their thing to notice how the actual contestants were doing. Throw the ridiculous number of injuries in, and the uneven number of guys and girls during the second half of the season, and it was an epic failure. There were still a few memorable performances, but none that I can think of right now.
    • Lee beating Crystal on American Idol – Every year I only half watch the spectacle that is American Idol, and last season, my one eye open quickly pegged Crystal the only one with the total package amonst the weak top ten. As much as I liked Lee (he was a nice guy, after all), he wasn’t nearly as talented or comfortable on stage as Crystal. Like all previous contestants, their post-Idol successes or failures will determine the real winner (a shout out here to the one and only Jennifer Hudson, who was voted off way too soon on her season of Idol).

So what were the best and worst moments in 2010 entertainment for you?