8.21.2008

Shut up, Blayne!

Blayne, I'm sure you're a nice guy. But, you think you're so cute on Project Runway and you *think* you're going to be this season's Christian, with your stupid "licious-ness" phrases, but you're not. You're annoying, and I think you're just getting by each week by the skin of your teeth. "Licious-ness" is not "fierce"! Give it up. Please.

Thank you, and have a nice day.

8.18.2008

Lots o' recommendations

Here's what I'm liking these days:

The Dark Knight - finally saw this over the weekend. It was just as good as I've heard. I was truly mesmerized by Heath Ledger's performance and am so sad he's no longer with us. I was completely impressed with the special effects & make-up job done with Two Face. VERY cool.

The Lives of Others - add this to Netflix immediately. It's a German flick that won Best Foreign Film in 2006. It takes place in East Germany, circa 1984 and is the story of a Stasi (Secret Police) official ordered to spy on a playwright, and how the spy becomes entwined in the artist's life. It was very well done, very powerful message. I'm still thinking about it, two days later. The extras on the DVD were fascinating...particularly the interview with the writer/director.

Jen Lancaster - A couple months ago, I read her third memoir called Such a Pretty Fat and am now reading her second, called Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?. It's even funnier than the other one. I keep embarrassing myself in public places by laughing out loud. She's great with the sarcasm.

Duffy's album, Rockferry - A few weeks ago my friend Mark & I were at Barnes & Noble and this song came on. At first I thought it was Amy Winehouse, and he said, no I don't think so, then it hit me. It was Duffy's song "Mercy," which I knew because Twitch & Katee had just done "The Door" performance to it the night before on SYTYCD. We went to the music section to confirm, and sure enough, it was Duffy. The guy working there gave me the CD to listen to (I LOVE that you can do this at B&N), and I bought it immediately. The guy said, "She's like Amy Winehouse without all the drama." I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that CD. Each and every song. In addition to Amy Winehouse, she also reminds me of Dusty Springfield--a lot of the songs have a 60's soulful feel to them. There are a lot of break-up songs--makes me wonder who she was writing about.

Bela Karolyi - his interviews with Bob Costas about the women's gymnastics events crack me up. He's SO opinionated and enthusiastic about the competition. He has mentioned repeatedly that he doesn't believe the Chinese gymansts are 16. I'll have to agree on that--one of them looks 10. I miss seeing Bela on the sidelines during the competitions. His wife seems like a nice lady and good coach, but she's just not entertaining like Bela was.

8.11.2008

F***ing Bruges!

I watched In Bruges yesterday and really liked it a lot. It's about two hit men, who are sent to Bruges (Belgium) after completing a hit to hide out and await further instruction. One of them, Ken, played by Brendan Gleeson, is happy to be in Bruges and immediately starts to visit all the tourist attractions. Ray (Colin Farrell) on the other hand, can't stand it and wants to leave. Despite some pretty gruesome crime scenes, the movie's a dark comedy with some really great moments between Ken & Ray. Sure, they're killers, but they're also very human and humane, believe it or not. Ralph Fiennes is "the boss" who too has his own sense of morality. The scenes of Bruges were gorgeous. It's a medieval city that dates back to the 12th century. As they said in the movie, at every turn, it looks like a fairy tale. Anyway, the movie's great--check it out. Oh, and the language is a little harsh, but it sounds good with Colin's Irish accent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Did you see the U.S. win the 4x100-meterr freestyle relay last night?! HOLY COW! What a fantastic race. This win was truly sweet since they beat the French team, who'd been doing some trash talking--saying they were there to "smash the U.S." Hah! Who's smashed now?! I was screaming at the TV. The neighbors might've heard me... Obviously, my screaming at Jason Lezak to push ahead worked. ;o)

8.07.2008

Joshua takes the prize!


Tonight's SYTYCD finale was FANTASTIC. JOSHUA won $250K and a role in Alan Shankman's new movie. And, this year, for the first time, the top girl also got a prize. Katee's walking away with $50K herself. I'm so pleased for both of them. And as I suspected, the other dancers seemed genuinely happy for the winners, too.

There were tons of performances tonight. There were six judges on the panel who selected their favorite performances of the season. Out of the nine selected performances, Katee danced in four, and Josh was in two.

The dances we got to see again were:
  1. Selected by Nigel: Katee & Joshua's Bollywood dance. I thought it was even better tonight because they both seemed so relaxed and happy.

  2. Mary: Courtney & Gev's Rumba to "Wishing on a Star" by Rose Royce. This was beautiful. I just love Gev, and it was great to see these two dancing together again. Great choice Mary! I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but Gev reminds me of Casey Affleck. Not necessarily in this pic of Gev, though.
     


  3. Adam Shankman: Comfort & Twitch's hip hop to Chris Brown's "Forever." This performance marked Comfort's return to the show after Jessica got hurt. Another great choice.

  4. L'il C: Mark & Chelsie's "Bleeding Love" (Leona Lewis) routine. I loved this one too! These judges sure have good taste.

  5. Mia: Will & Katee's pas de deux to David Archuletta's "Imagine." Katee & Will made the turn tonight that they flubbed a bit the first time. They seemed so triumphant. The performance was stunning. Debbie Allen, one of the judges on the panel, looked so proud.

  6. Adam: Courtney and Mark's performance to "The Garden" by Mirah; choreographed by Sonja. Adam said this dance represents the last eight years of his dating life. Another great one!

  7. Mary: Katee & Twitch - The Door Routine, choreographed by Mia Michael's to Duffy's "Mercy." (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Duffy's CD for those who don't already have it.) This dance is my favorite of the season.

  8. Debbie Allen: Twitch & Kherington's Viennese Waltz to Céline Dion's "A New Day Has Come." This is the one that Jean Marc Généreux choreographed for his daughter. This one is my mom's favorite of the season. It was a great performance.

  9. Nigel: Katee/Joshua's hip hop performance to "No Air" by Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown, and choreographed by Napoleon & Tabitha. This was another great one.


Other treats in the show:

  • The show opened with the top 20 performing a Shayne Sparks routine to "Boom" by Sin featuring T-Pain. I miss Shayne on this show. Watching this opening number was like watching a huge crew on America's Best Dance Crew. (which I'm watching as I type this now...they're doing party dances from the 80's! Fanny Pak just did a routine to "Lean on Me," "New Jack Swing," and "Ice Ice Baby...." GOTTA LOVE IT! I think they're gonna win this thing. I was dubious when they first auditioned on the show, but I really like them now.)

OK, where was I?

  • Oh yes. A wise person once wrote at the end of her blog on July 24, 2008 that she'd like to see Mary & Nigel dance on the show. Guess what?! They did! Mary did a Latin dance with Dmitry from season two--she was great. It's fun to watch her dance and not hear her screaming. Nigel did a tap routine with kids from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy to "Boogie Wonderland" by EW&F. I had a blast watching this one...Nigel was fantastic. I was very impressed.

    Adam Shankman said he'd like to come back next year and take Nigel on. Debbie Allen (or was it Cat Deely?) said that every judge on the panel should have to dance next season. I LOVE that idea--I hope they follow through.

  • To me, this isn't a treat, but the Jonas Bros. performed. I just saw them earlier this week, I think on Jay Leno. Once a week is enough, so I fast-forwarded. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were 13....

  • There was a POPPING BATTLE between two dancers from the auditions--Robert Muraine and Phillip Chbeeb. WOW. They danced (popped) to Kanye West's "Stronger." It was AMAZING. The judges cast their votes, and Robert won the battle 4-2. I voted for Phillip, because frankly, Robert scares me. He's multi-jointed and gets his body into positions that should not be possible. Adam Shankman said he's a freak of nature. I'll say! (Robert's on the left.)

    video


  • Top 5 guys did their "Five Guys Named Moe" routine that was choreographed by Nigel. It was great to watch them because I realized once again just how much I like them all: Twitch, Will, Joshua, Gev and Mark.

  • The cast from Criss Angel: Believe by Cirque du Soleil performed a Wade Robson routine to "Homage to the Rabbits" by Eric Serra. The camera focused on a sign before the dance that read, "Homage to all of the Rabbits who died in the hands of incompetent musicians." This thing was CREEPY. All the dancers were dressed in rabbit costumes and it looked just like something out of Donnie Darko. It might give me nightmares.

  • Finally, dancers from seasons 1-3 provided updates on what they've been up to, and then danced to Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music." Great to see Lacey, Benji, Dmitry, Dominic, Hok, Travis, etc.


I think this was a great season, and I *might* consider paying to see this group when they go on tour. Not sure I want to spend all that time with a bunch of teenagers though.....

Hope everyone enjoyed the show as much as I did. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Oh. By the way--I spoke too soon earlier. Fanny Pak was just voted off. I hope no one took any bets.

The party's almost over...SYTYCD Final Four

It was the last night of competition on SYTYCD, and it was a great show. Each of the final four danced with each of the other dancers. I was so excited to hear this because I'd been waiting all week to see Twitch & Joshua perform together.

First up were Twitch & Courtney performing a Napoleon & Tabitha routine to "Church" by T-Pain featuring Teddy Verseti. I loved it. Courtney was the crazy ex-girlfriend, and Twitch was the guy who couldn't be bothered. Each of them were great in the characters the whole time--their fight was very believable. The judges loved it. Mary Murphy screamed and Nigel screamed back. Nigel said it was "absolutely perfect."

Solos were interspersed between couple routines. Courtney was up first, but before she danced, we saw a short interview with her and Cat. Cat asked about Courtney's boyfriend, and about the strong chemistry she had with Gev. Courtney pointed out that you don't have to be in love with someone to have chemistry with them. You just have to know them really well, and like them a lot, and she and Gev got along great. They were a great pair. Courtney's solo was to "They Weren't There" by Missy Higgins. It looked like she was really fighting for it. Judges gave HUGE compliments and everyone got emotional.

Next: Joshua & Katee (yay!), lyrical, Wade Robson (love him), "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," by John Mayer. What a beautiful routine. It was passionate and emotional. Katee & Joshua were the best pairing on the show, and I was a little sad when it ended--it'd be the last time we'd see them together like that. They seemed a little broken up themselves. High accolades from the judges. Nigel said they were two of the best dancers ever on the show. Agreed.

Twitch's solo was next. His interview revealed that his nickname comes from when he was a kid and couldn't sit still. He was always dancing and twitching, whether at church or at school. His solo was fantastic as always. Mary said she was speechless. What? Mary, speechless?! Nigel said he was always happy when Twitch made the bottom three because he looked forward to seeing his solos. I think Twitch just comes across as having a good heart--he's so talented, and just so darn likable. I'm so glad he was on the show this season. So are the judges.

Here come Katee & Courtney doing a Tyce Diorio Broadway routine to "The Trolley Song" by Rufus Wainwright. I thought the routine was cute, but I wasn't wowed by it. The judges loved it.


Next was the moment I'd been waiting for: Twitch & Josh! They did a Russian Trepak dance choreographed by Youri Nelzine to "Trepak" from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite. IT. WAS. AMAZING. HOLY COW! I just have to show this to you...it was my favorite part of the show. (The recording isn't great since it's done from my little digital photo camera, sorry!)

THE TRASH TALK:
video

THE PERFORMANCE:
video


Katee did the 3rd solo. They replayed the moment before she was announced as one of the Top 20 when Nigel called a re-vote since she said she'd give up dancing if she didn't make the show. She certainly proved herself on this show and the judges made the right decision. Her solo was to "Hide & Seek" by Imogen Heap. It was wonderful. Mary said she's going to cherish so many of the performances Katee did this year. Nigel said all of her characters were brilliant. Again, I agree completely.

Twitch & Katee next did the fox trot to "Feeling Good" by Michael Bublé (note: I like George Michael's version better, for what it's worth.) The routine was choreographed by Tony Meredith & Melanie LaPatin. I thought it was really good, but the fox trot confounds me so I was anxious to hear what the judges had to say. They loved it! Mary said it's a gentleman's dance, and that Twitch was "one cool gentleman." She told Katee, BRAVO. It was a beautiful routine.

Joshua's solo was last. In his interview Joshua said he had to choose between football and track & field or dancing and singing. He went the entertainment route (aren't we the lucky ones?) and he said his coaches hated him for it. Boo to them! His solo was to Funkadelic's "(Not Just) Knee Deep" and was FANTASTIC as always. Nigel said that Joshua has set the standard for any future non-trained dancer trying out for the show, and that Joshua is "absolutely superb." By the way--he looks so cute with his braces off. (I said that--not Nigel!)

Joshua and Courtney then danced the jive. It was choreographed by Jason Gilkison to "The Dirty Boogie" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra. Man--talk about energetic! My heart almost stopped at the end when Josh was swinging Courtney around his body with both arms and then he dropped her top half and swung her around by her feet. (Nigel says this is called "Around the World.") Oh my god! Mandy Moore, the guest judge and Mary loved the routine, but for some reason, Nigel panned it. He said he wants them to learn and grow so they can "be better every single time." I think he realized they're close to the end of the show and not a negative word had been spoken, so he had to say something. He got booed, and he deserved it. It wasn't really fair to Courtney & Joshua, I don't think.

Finally, the four dancers performed a Mia Michael's routine to "Hallelujah" by the Vitamin String Quartet. It was to represent them celebrating their wins, and enjoying their last time dancing together. For some reason, they were dressed in tartan costumes...the girls in very unflattering dresses. Mandy Moore said they looked like they could be part of a dance company because they danced as a unit. The routine was VERY demanding and athletic...I felt out of breath after it was over, so I can only imagine how the dancers felt. Nigel told Mia that he didn't get the routine or the costumes either. At least I wasn't the only one.

If I had to, I would rank the routines as follows:
6. Katee/Courtney - Broadway
5. Josh/Courtney - Jive
4. Twitch/Katee - Fox Trot
3. Josh/Katee - Lyrical
2. Twitch/Courtney - Hip Hop
1. Twitch/Joshua - Russian Trepak

Solos:
4. Courtney
3. Katee
2. Twitch
1. Joshua

After all that, I decided not to vote for anyone tonight. I realized that I'd be completely satisfied if any of these four dancers wins. I like them all SO much. They are all so talented, so likable, so humble. As my mom said, there don't seem to be any divas or "divos" in the group. I think any of them will be genuinely happy for whoever wins. It's been a great season, and this is the best final four the show has seen. Can't wait for tomorrow's finale.

8.04.2008

Getting some culture

I mentioned the other day that I was going to be "getting me some culture" on Thursday night. And, did I ever.

There's a beautiful local music center called Strathmore that hosts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. This summer, they held a "Summernights" program on Thursday evenings, for very reasonably-priced tickets ($25).

A couple weeks ago, my friend Mark and I went to see a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which is one of my favorite classical pieces. The show was wonderful. The conductor and lead violinist, Jonathan Carney, was very expressive and dynamic--he seemed to be having a wonderful time on stage. The orchestra also performed Astor Piazzolla's The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, which is a tango interspersed with Vivaldi's piece. I liked the tango pieces just as much.

I noticed in the program that night that the BSO would be performing a tribute to Gershwin & Bernstein on July 31. I enlisted my parents and my friends Laura & Don to go with me, and we had a marvelous time.

For this performance we had seats that were behind and above the orchestra, and that was fantastic. We were facing the conductor and got to see his facial expressions and movements as he directed the orchestra. We also had a great view of each musician, and it was fascinating. It was a great vantage point, and I can't imagine sitting anywhere else for future performances.

The orchestra first performed a piece composed by the conductor, Bramwell Tovey, called Urban Runway. Mr. Tovey said he was inspired by busy shoppers on the street in New York or L.A., and you could definitely hear that influence in the music. I could just imagine people running in and out of stores, in and out of traffic.

Next they performed Gershwin's An American in Paris, which was lovely. I looked over at my dad at one point and he looked like a little kid in front of a candy store. I was so pleased that he was enjoying himself, because when I first talked to him about coming, he didn't seem all that interested or enthused.

My favorite part of the night was the performance of Rhapsody in Blue, another favorite of mine. Beautiful. Interesting info: A band leader at New York's Aeolian Hall talked vaguely to Gershwin about composing a concerto for a concert on February 12, 1924, but Gershwin didn't find out that he was actually on the program until January 3 that year. He wrote the piece in just a few weeks and it was an instant hit. Also, the original sound of the clarinet opener is not what we know today--that wailing bluesy sound. The clarinet player improvised that himself, and Gershwin insisted he keep it and wail as much as possible. Kinda cool.

After intermission, the orchestra performed the West Side Story suite. It was wonderful! The suite includes highlights from the dance songs of the show. I loved watching the percussionists during this piece. I was talking with Don about one part during "Mambo" where the percussionist hit a wooden block one time. It seems so insignificant, yet, the song wouldn't be the same without that one beat. I can't imagine how a composer puts all that together--very impressive.

The orchestra also performed an encore: Sousa's Stars & Stripes Forever. Now that's a great song to sit and watch the percussionists do their work. The cymbals and the bass drum, especially. It was fun.

As we were leaving, we couldn't stop talking about what a great time we had. My parents thanked me for letting them know about it--I'm glad they came and enjoyed themselves. A good time was had by all.

8.03.2008

Short film winner at Cannes 2008

I just had to post this. It's beautiful, and very moving.

Historia de un letrero (History of a Sign)