Sunday, January 30, 2011

American Idol - Week Two Auditions Milwaukee

According to Ryan, this was the show's first trip up into Milwaukee, Wisconsin to harvest previously untapped talent.

After the talent they say, I think we can safely say it won't be the last.

Danny Gokey came out to christen the event, and the judges regrouped to explain they were looking for the *complete package.*

The first contestant was Garner, North Carolina native Scotty McCreery. He plays baseball, he loves country music and his deep, old-fashioned twangy delivery inspired Steven Tyler to render a critique that would make every duck in the tri-state area shiver right down to their webbed feet.

Three yeses later and Scotty is on his way to Hollywood to put a little country back into American Idol.

Another youngster who came all the way from Colorado to try her luck was Emma Henry, who had been watching the show way back to Season One, which means she was watching this show when she was roughly in kindergarten.

Her audition was sweet and simple, and showed a little bit of promise for that day when her voice matures and she becomes a bit more comfortable on stage. She also needs to discover who she is as an artist, and all judges believed that she had a special quality that required just a bit more refinement.

Ultimately Jennifer said no, Steven said yes and it took a lot of begging for Simon - I mean Randy to put her through. His concern, that she would be swallowed up in the whole process, he put aside courtesy of her big teary blue eyes. Mom confided to Ryan that she was sick, and with the encouragement of Steven and Emma herself The Dawg let her through.

(I wouldn't have. She's good, I like her... but man, she is not ready.)

Hopefully she'll prove me wrong.

Summer Fest custodian Naima Adedapo became emotional when she explained how much this break would mean for her, to put aside her 9-5 and live the life of her dreams that could give her daughters the things she never had.

Her version of Donny Hathaway's For All We Know demonstrated a maturity and an inborn talent that indeed completed the package of her very defined individual style.

She also has my favorite AI name this season.

Steven agreed she was "all that," and all judges voted her through - even though Steven had to school JLo on the correct way to say his name.

Another judge favorite was NY wedding singer Jerome Bell.

His version of Let's Get it On was a bit too over the top and, well, wedding singery to me. The judges loved him but I kinda think if Simon was still around he would have popped off with one of his trademarked "cruise ship" analogies.

But he got three immediate yeses.

I'm not sold.

And the fact they launched into Bieber mania to justify their lowering the contestant age to 15 didn't really help my mood. Thank God for Thia Megia.

Another 15 year old who had been watching Idol "her whole life," this Californian said that she knew that the auditions would ultimately make it to her home state but (and I quote), "couldn't summon the patience to wait."

What 15 year old speaks like that?

Apparently the one who can sing like that. She chose Adele's Chasing Pavements and her voice was as mature as her vocabulary, with distinctive phrasing and a rich tone.

In fact, I'm not especially convinced she's 15. I may need to see a birth certificate.

Is she from Hawaii?

Yes, yes, yes and YES.

It would continue the trend to send 15 year olds to Hollywood. (Whether or not they'll survive hazing week, we'll see. Thia has my vote.)

Let me just sum up contestant Nathanial Jones in two sentences.

1.) I don't get people who build a life around re-enacting the Civil War.
2.) The lion really doesn't sleep tonight.

I say this with utmost respect and love but Bill Clinton is probably very sorry he's not in office anymore. Milwaukee's auditions introduced us to Harvard grad and White House intern Molly DeWolf Swensen.

She survived an unintentional assault by the Dawg himself, and had no problems telling him about it with good humor, a great smile and an infectious laugh. This statuesque beauty opted to sing "Sittin On the Dock of the Bay," and the minute she opened her mouth NO ONE could have predicted the molten lava that would spill forth.

This intern has the rich, deep and sultry voice of a siren, and probably the sexiest female voice I've ever heard.

In a word... "schwing."

So, uh... love ya, Bill but... "dibs."

Steven Tyler continues to play with fire by engaging in a little flirty-flirty 18 year old Hayley Reinhart.

She has a bit of a rock edge, which I know Steven loved. She belted out "Oh Darlin'", which I kinda dug too. But I think another year of preparation might have served her more. She is firmly on the 'wait and see' list.

Tiwan Strong gave me what I didn't quite see from Jerome Bell.

It was a very smooth performance that was in control of his notes rather than singing power notes simply to show off the range.

The only thing that concerns me was the lack of concern for the family member who was nearly crippled by a charlie horse that only Ryan seemed to notice. So not sure about all that... jury's still out.

Auditor Steve Begune was next, and he's another one you can put under the "don't judge a book by its cover" list.

Loved the sound and tone of his voice. Steven found him "disturbingly great." All judges sent him through and he became Idol's first ever accountant.

Scott Dangerfield, student teacher showed up looking a bit like he was out for an afternoon hike.

But the minute he opened his mouth, out spilled some "blue eyed soul" in a way that made Jennifer immediately proclaim him her favey. With his look, his attitude and that voice, I can't say she's far wrong for sticking him pretty high up on the list.

During one of the teases earlier in the program Ryan asked if Megan Frazier could be the most annoying contestant ever.

She sang a JUSTIN BIEBER song as an OPERA.

Need I say more?

Steven Tyler superfan Alyson Jados went before the judges next, and EMTs were standing by with the defibrillator just in case.

[no pic available]

It looked like it might become a mutual admiration kinda thing between Alyson and her real life idol, until she sang his hit, "Dream On" out of key.

Ultimately Jennifer said yes, but Randy said no and gave the deciding vote up to Steven himself.

She got a ticket. It musta been some hug. I'm just sayin.

(I like her fine, like her edge, but she's got a kind of awkward stage presence that makes me a little uncomfortable. Like she's trying too hard.)

The last guy I can't even talk about. It's been four days and I still can't even think about it without getting all emotional n stuff.

It was the first American Idol sob story that actually made me sob. Like, both times I watched it and then for about five minutes after each viewing.

So. Without further adieu, meet Chris Medina:

All in all 53 folks got a ticket to Hollywood, and they showed some good ones that have a lot of promise.

My favorites: Scotty, Naima, Thia, Molly, Scott D and Chris.

Don't ask me to handicap this group for Hollywood. Cuz I can't do it.

And the audition train keeps movin' on.

American Idol - Week One Auditions New Orleans

I have to start by saying that I adore the fact exceptionally successful also-rans like Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert are now featured on the opening montage of the stars American Idol has given us over the years. We always say that this is a talent competition you don't have to win in order to launch a successful career, but a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

The second audition show took place in N'awlins, or NOLA as it is also known. Louisiana is the home state of The Dawg himself, or - as he might come to be known - Little Simon.

It took me a few episodes to figure out he was even sitting in Simon's seat.

The plot thickens...

First contestant was Jordan Dorsey, a 21 year old music teacher/musician.

His jazzy rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow gave JLo a serious case of goosebumps and the the first horse of the NOLA race was offered a golden ticket almost immediately out of the gate. With his musical background and a pretty defined sense of who he is as an artist, I think his chances of surviving Hollywood Week are quite good.

Richardson, Texas resident Sarah Sellers came next, and her generous lips caught the eye of at least one judge. I won't name names, *cough*Steven Tyler*cough*.

She sang Bob Dylan's powerful ode to unrequited love, To Make You Feel My Love and her rich, soulful vocal sealed the deal for Steven. I love her look, which borders on alternative with just enough quirk to walk the line between standard pop and a true performance artist.

Jovany Barreto was up next to sprinkle a little Latin flava on the NOLA auditions AND show off his abs to his goddess Jennifer Lopez on a bet/dare. The good news is that he had the pipes to deliver a powerful vocal performance.

The bad news, he went through with the dare, but he didn't do it alone.

(Don't say you haven't been warned...)

That little impromptu strip show aside, Jovanny made it through to Hollywood, where, though he is deliciously cut, we hope he can manage to keep his clothes ON.

Randy was surprised by his old football coach and some mementos from his youth in Louisiana, courtesy of Jacquelyn Dupree.

Jacquelyn impressed the judges with a seamless performance that displayed powerful chops with a sweet and tender undertone.

In his own "It Gets Better" video, 16 year old Brett Loewenstern didn't allow the judges having fun with him to shake his hard-won confidence. He launched into the ambitious "Bohemian Rhapsody" and his assured performance put a whole new spin on a rock classic.

I kinda want him to do well just because he's just all kinds of redheaded awesome and figured out something about himself I'm not sure I've learned in my 41 years.

Voodoo hit the audition stage after that, starting with a Mick Jagger lookalike who decided to sing Lady Gaga. With gusto.

All of which paved the way for the unexpected audition of a baby-faced, rather ordinary looking 15 year old named Jacee Badeaux.

He picked the equally unexpected soul tune, "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," which seemed to catch the judges a bit by surprise. It wasn't half as stunning as the voice that would ultimately pour forth out of this innocent looking cherub. He nailed the audition and won himself a golden ticket, and if he can survive the rigors of Hollywood Week grandmas *EVERYWHERE* will vote that child all the way to the top 10.

Another draw for a middle American audience is Paris Tassin, the New Orleans native who is mother to a special needs child.

Her rendition of another Idol's song had a powerful impact on Jennifer that brought her to tears. She couldn't let the day end without meeting the child that had so inspired her song.

Another large group is Hollywood bound from New Orleans, which makes it a little tougher to pin down who I think definitely *will* make it through Hollywood.

Of this group, I really liked - or more importantly remembered - Brett and Jacee. Upon a second viewing you can add Sarah to that list.

Of those I'd bet money to get through, it'd be Paris and possibly Brett.

On the whole it was a forgettable episode Milwaukee didn't have much to live up to... but manage to trump *in spades.*

American Idol - Week One Auditions New Jersey

Season Ten of the iconic (and arguable) star-maker American Idol began last week with a dramatic upheaval at the judge's table. Only Randy Jackson remains from the previous seasons, which left at least two available slots open.

Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith's frontman Steven Tyler stepped up to the plate to weed through all hopefuls for Idol's new season, including tender young 15 year olds who were finally allowed to audition for the show.

It was with slight trepidation and an abiding hopeful enthusiasm that I sat to watch the first show of the season. Sure I was going to miss the acerbic wit of our favorite caustic Brit, but I was excited to see what having a true rock Idol on the panel would mean for the contestants.

What never would have made it past Simon might actually get a chance now.

I was giddy at the prospect.

Rock idols and pop idols are two completely different animals.

So I'm kinda digging the fact there is one of each on the panel now.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about J-Lo on the panel. For all we know she's a diva who is ready to crush the dreams of these hopeful wannabes under the heel of her stiletto pumps.

I'm surprised and somewhat happy to report that is not the case.

In fact, of the two Steven is primed to be the rather firm voice of reason whereas Jennifer may provide the softer touch long missing since Paula's departure.

The only difference is... Steven's the one who's going to pop off with random quotes we're all going to be repeating at the water cooler.

Actual quote from an upcoming episode we have to look forward to:

"Well, hellfire, save matches. *Censor* a duck and see what hatches."

Of course Ryan is back to recite his usual mantra that this is the best batch of talent we've EVER seen. I will miss his playful, homo-erotic banter with Cranky Cowell, but the promise of more hardcore mainstream music and rock expertise by Jimmy Iovine does much to make up for it.

Let's hope that our Sinatra theme nights are far behind us.

I'm all about Jersey/NYC being the first stop on the audition trail... and not just because <3Constantine<3 kicked off the show with a brief but memorable flash of video. I still squeal like a 13 year old girl at her first Bieber concert, and when I tweeted as much I was rewarded with a response from the C-man himself.

In a word... SQUEEEEEE!

Things were off to a rockin' start.

One thing that became crystal clear during the season premiere is that Steven and J-Lo haven't yet endured the hell of Hollywood Week. They allowed a lot of folks through that are destined to be cut the first day.

This was especially true for the first contestant featured, Rachel Zevita.

Her rather theatrical vocal performance from season six won her a spot to Hollywood, but she ended up being scrapped the first day. Despite being cute and seemingly sweet, her voice just doesn't *fit* mainstream music that Idol seeks to produce. Jennifer surprised the young singer by telling her she remembered seeing her before and not knowing why she was cut. After Rachel warbled her way through an overly dramatic version of Hallelujah, I think the mystery was solved.

Steven believed she had the "what-it-is-is" and encouraged her to sing more like how she speaks, and she ended up back in Hollywood.

I don't hold out much hope.

NY musician Caleb Hawley was next, and he burst outta the gate belting out a blues tune.

Shrewd movie, given Steven Tyler really digs those rhythm and blues. Steven got into it and encouraged Caleb through a fun audition that resulted in another golden ticket.

All I wanted to do was comb the boy's hair.

He's got potential, and I'd really like to see what happens to him when he gets the benefit of a stylist.

The first young'un hit the stage.

Fifteen year old musical theater student Kenzie Palmer displayed a surprisingly mature vocal, but Steven wasn't sold on her rather lack-luster performance. J-Lo fought for her to get through to Hollywood, and I think her chances to go all the way to the top of the heap depends entirely on how much she's willing to "step it up a notch."

That Steven ultimately caved to peer pressure and went against his initial impression that she was lacking some star quality made me wonder if he'd have the backbone of Simon when it came to knowing what he wanted and what he was willing to settle for. The Gold Rush continued and I grew more concerned that Hollywood Week was going to bite some serious ass.

No offense to Rod Stewart, but in Idol Land the first cut isn't always the deepest.

Finally Achille Lovle took the stage and tried to fight her way through a Madonna tune. The new judges were quick to jump in and tell this aspiring singer the truth about her performance, but The Dawg himself was the one who delivered the fatal blow with, "It's not your thing, baby."

In fact, pulling a no out of Jennifer looked almost painful. She and Steven both seemed to get idea that they were in the position to be dream killers.

They don't seem to enjoy it as much as Simon did.

For those who tolerate the "mean" audition process to get to the good stuff, this might be good news.

(But I don't think it will last.)

The next contestant to hit the screen has the potential to reach the annoying levels of Those Who Shall Not Be Named from seasons past. She flaunted her full figure for Ryan - which is a bit like trying to sell a T-bone steak to a vegetarian.

His emphatic "no" he would not look down at her butt just made me long once more for the flirty game of boy-on-boy love that used to happen between our favorite metrosexual host and the tight-sweatered object of his affection.

All throughout the audition I was convinced that this dancer (?) was a trainwreck waiting to happen. She burst into tears seeing her Idol, and then when the magnanimous J-Lo went to embrace her fan the guys took advantage of the tender moment to get a good look at her more naturally given attributions. The boys bonded over cleavage, especially when she tried to belt her way through her own original song.

As it turns out, Tiffany Rios is fairly talented and earned a trip to Hollywood. I'm not especially hopeful that she'll make it past Hollywood week, even though Jennifer did try to convince her she needed to tone it WAY back to be taken seriously.

Jennifer continued to struggle with saying no, although Steven seemed to get the hang of letting the hammer fall.

It wouldn't be Idol without the requisite sob story, and that came with Robbie Rosen, the 16 year old that had recovered from being paralyzed as a small child.

His smiling, happy face beamed with his enthusiasm as he sang his own version of Yesterday. Despite his unconventional looks, there's definite potential for his winning the hearts of tween girls across the country.

Can you say David Archuleta? I knew that you could.

We may call Randy the Dawg but Steven brought his Rag Doll/Walk This Way/Sweet Emotion raw sex rock attitude quite literally to the table. If he gets through this without a lawsuit, we will finally have proof that there is a God, and he loves Aerosmith as much as we do.

As his antithesis, 18 year old boy scout Chris Cordeiro was next to audition, determined to revive the regrettable "Sinatra Night" of last season with "My Way." The best thing that could be said of the experience is that it was the most aptly titled song for his audition, because he certainly did do it his way.

Too bad it wasn't a good way.

Burper Michael Perotto came next - and if you need to know how he did, re-read the first part of this sentence.

Let's just say Steven found his inner Simon with the ever so tender critique, "Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a child?"

Move over Chris Crocker, 25 year old Ashley Sullivan cites Britney Spears not only as her idol, but her goddess and her BFF for life as well as a sister - at least according to the Zodiac. For some unknown reason she picked a song from a musical to perform for her audition, all the time letting her own little freak flag fly.

Normally I like this... but Ashely is one of those types of folks you have to take in small doses. After about two minutes of her audition I was already done, as was Randy Jackson.

Thanks to the new judges, she got through to Hollywood. Steven pledged, "I'm going to personally work that into something good."

God knows... I love his optimism. I personally predict she'll be gone by day one in Hollywood.

(And I missed Simon for the first time in the whole show...)

Sixteen year old (and 3/4) Victoria Huggins from South Carolina is another one of those "must handle in small doses" certainly has the confidence to make it .... somewhere.

If she doesn't make it through on Idol no doubt she'll be the next Internet Sensation crushin' it with her over-the-top personality.

If nothing else... she's good TV.

(But I'm fairly certain her summer of 2011 won't be especially busy with any pesky tours...)

Our next sob story was actually rather unique among Idol Sob Stories in that the family were war refugees from Kosovo.

Sixteen year old Melinda Ademi successfully tackled an Alicia Keys tune to prove her worth on the Idol stage.

Waitress Devyn Rush followed, and belted God Bless the Child with a distinct jazzy undertone much more advanced than her 20 years.

Steven described it as "delicious," and Randy told her she had the "right amount of sauce." J-Lo advised her to work on the total package with her image, and with the right stylist she could add another flavor to Season 10.

Here's a tip to all you wannabes out there... if the judges start singing louder than your already loud audition... that might be a *no*.

Also you might not want to sing a song that you hate for your audition, unless... of course... you can do it well. Because no sweet MJ moves are going to save your gold shiny self if you do.

Especially if it's a Miley Cyrus song.

*Just say no.*

And speaking of songs never to sing again, someone please take every last piece of sheet music that has Endless Love on it and kindly destroy it. For my own sanity. No one should sing it, especially a sixteen year old.

We got a two-for Sob Story right at the end.

Brielle Von Hugel was the 16 year old girl who sang Endless Love, no doubt in honor of the dad who thankfully beat cancer because he was so inspired to keep hanging around so he could watch his daughter grow up and reach her dreams.

(Honestly, though, I don't see her passing the rigors of Hollywood Week.)

One I do feel has potential is 16 year old Travis Orlando from the Bronx.

The family hit hard times in the city and ended up living in a shelter in a scary neighborhood after they lost their home. He doesn't have a whole lot of confidence, but he has a dream to save his family. This is another young'un who put his own creative spin on a Beatles tune. Like Robbie Rosen before him, he has a talent to spin a tune and make it his own.

And what a sweetheart. I think I kinda wanna adopt him.

So that was our first show of Season 10. Fifty-one people made it through to Hollywood, and of those I like the sound of Robbie, Travis and Devyn.

Who will make it? Who will get cut?

These are the questions I will answer for you on Driving on the Sidewalk.

Same bat time...same bat channel.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"The Social Network" - Oscar Watch 2011

I went into The Social Network begrudgingly. One, I don't like being told by the masses what I will like - I kind of like to decide that on my own. The raves around this movie have persisted for months even though the premise as I understood it did nothing to turn me on.

Two, I just really didn't care.

So I went into this viewing with the idea if they can make me NOT hate it, then they'll have accomplished something.

The good news is I didn't hate it.

The bad news is I didn't love it.

Apparently I'm one of the 11% of folks out there that just didn't get why this script about such an unlikable character that may or may not have been fact is attracting all this Oscar heat.

The Social Network is basically the genesis around the phenomenon of Facebook. It was based on a book, which means the screenplay earns a spot in the Oscar Noms under Best Adapted.

That much we know is true. We have the players in place and a few facts in order, but when it comes to the execution that's where it gets a little hazy. Apparently screenwriter Aaron Sorkin decided to play fast and loose with "the truth" by creating a character that may very well be an unkind caricature of a factual person.

He did this enthusiastically. Gleefully, even. And certainly without apology - at least until he won a Golden Globe.

Granted, as one of the youngest billionaires in the world, Mark Zuckerberg is a wunderkind who attracts this kind of attention like a lightning rod.

The problem wasn't necessarily that they made this character unlikable or hard to root for.

Oscar winning American Beauty, which starred The Social Network's producer Kevin Spacey, had a lead character that made us uncomfortable in our skin due to his obsessing over a teenaged girl. The reason it worked was because a.) Kevin Spacey is genius, and compelling even when he's completely unlikable (this is key - see Sir Anthony Hopkins and Silence of the Lambs.) B.) the dark road down Ick territory actually did have a moment of redemption (albeit a brief one.)

The Mark Zuckerburg that Aaron penned had no such moment. Many times through the movie I hated him so much I contemplated deleting my own Facebook account. He was a douche bag in the HIGHEST order, and played relatively cruelly by the normally likable Jesse Eisenburg.

His motivations were questionable, his actions deplorable and ultimately he learned absolutely nothing. There was no growth, no arc, no karmic justice. The two things his behavior cost him didn't have any real value to him anyway, at least if we go by the script.

So what if he had to pay out millions? He didn't care about money.

So what if he screwed over the people who trusted him? He seemed far more enamored by people who were a lot more slimy than he was. (Kudos to Justin Timberlake for his equally despicable portrayal of Napster founder Sean Parker.)

In that way, the acting was spot on. If these were the characters as they were written on the page, the actors nailed em. I may not have liked them, but I wasn't indifferent.

Which, I suppose, means the script did its job as well to create emotion out of nothing. I went from not caring about what brought about Facebook to being really pissed off by this fictional rendition of its genesis. For that, I give it credit.

If Oscar wants to reward unconventional storytelling, then I can understand the nominations. We have a protagonist who is actually a raging asshole with motivations we can't really get behind, and all the people whom he spurned were the ones with our sympathy.

In this way, Mark Zuckerberg played the antagonist in his own story. Not uncommon, but certain things must happen if we're going to invest that much of our energy into the story of people we don't like.

After a while of general disinterest and disgust, I hung in there just to see him get his due.

It was a while that most movies can't afford to lose their viewer. By 30 minutes in I still wasn't sold on the concept and really could have turned it off and never bothered to revisit it and felt like I missed nothing.

The opening scene was pretentious and annoying, and immediately put me off of what I presumed would be the main character. On IMDb the trivia states this opening scene of dialogue stretched over 9 pages and took 99 takes, which should definitely knock it out of any efficiency filmmaking awards.

Eventually I got interested to see how karma would surely turn things around for this character who so badly needed to redeem himself, or at least pay off for the poor schmucks whom he carelessly spurned.

And eventually I realized not only did he skate by without any kind of arc WHATsoever BUT he ultimately profited out of behavior many people in society would agree is deplorable.

I kept thinking that they should have called it "The Anti-Social Network."

And yet... 89% of the Rotten Tomatoes audience loved this movie. Apparently I forgot to drop a tab of acid or take the little blue pill that would put me in an alternate universe where this kind of movie makes sense.

I guess I'm a little old fashioned in that I need that from a movie. Even my (in real life AND Facebook) BFF Jeff agreed. We watched it together courtesy of the greatness of the Internet, enabling us to chat as we simultaneously watched different video. To understand how momentous it is that we actually agreed on a movie critique I should explain he's the kind of person who could get through Vanilla Sky without breaking a sweat OR popping a vein.

So what was the plot? More importantly, what was the theme? Was it a friendship tested by success and ultimately fractured by betrayal? Was it a story of revenge, where the socially handicapped geek ends up creating the most social of all social networks and the envy of all those who may have rejected him? Is it a statement on our current disenfranchised social state, separated and connected by the very same force where humanity comes in dead last?

It depends on who you ask. This can either be a good thing or a bad thing. Storytelling that leaves stuff like "theme" up for individual perception can be a tricky endeavor.

I don't know if I want to live in a world where any of those could be the underlying theme of a betrayal story being so richly rewarded by mind-boggling success.

I personally felt a little manipulated by Sorkin, who has gone on record saying, "What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy's sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?"

My question is why opt to tell a "true story" without finding the true parts compelling enough to the story so THAT you don't have to take such liberties with accuracy?

Apparently, according to the author of the book from which this screenplay is adapted, Sorkin took a lot of creative license with that truth. And it's going to take me a while to understand what was to be gained by it.

We could have had the "real" story and found it fascinating or we could have created a completely fictional tale where pesky things like fact don't matter. This weird hybrid feels more like a laboratory experiment gone horribly awry.

Like a two-headed rabbit.

I adore Kevin Spacey and I have been known to kick it down on Trigger Street, but for me this movie missed the mark by a mile.

I didn't hate it... so good job there.

But I'm sad to say it wins few Oscar endorsements from my end of the desk.

Not that it needs it, really. With all the buzz I wouldn't be entirely surprised if it had a big night come February 27.

And I'll be scratching my head and wondering why the entire night.

(And FWIW I'm not going to delete my Facebook - because I think that making Mark Zuckerberg out to be so shitty for shitty's sake was just plain shitty.)

Acting: 4
Writing: 3.5
Directing: 4
Score: 4
Overall: 3.78


Best Picture: Eh.
Best Actor/Lead: I bought Jesse as a total raging asshole, so possible.
Best Director: Eh.
Film Editing:
Best Original Score: Eh.
Sound Mixing:
Writing (Adapted): (I don't know, as a novelist, how much credit I want to give to a screenwriter for only keeping 40% of the original content - read: truth - intact.) (so no.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Inception" - Oscar Watch 2011

"In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception." - IMDb

Christopher Nolan wrote and directed this mind-bending masterpiece that this humble reviewer almost needed Cliffs Notes to follow properly. Almost like the entire series of Lost: The Complete Collection, I was happiest when I just let go of the idea that I would understand it completely before the end... if ever.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, an architect of the new frontier of corporate espionage, where thieves are able to infiltrate and manipulate dreams to steal information. His unique ability and an ambiguous past make him a wanted man, literally... and he is presented with the bargain if he "plants" an idea rather than steal it, he could have his life, and his children, back.

He is joined on this impossible sounding mission by his right hand guy Arthur, played quite enthusiastically by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, newcomer Ariadne (Ellen Page,) thief and master forger Eames (Tom Hardy,) chemist Yusuf (Dileep Rao) and the grand mastermind of this intellectual heist, Saito (Ken Watanabe.)

Their target is Cillian Murphy's character, Robert Fischer, and the idea that they want to plant in his head sort of works as the secondary plot rather than the main throughline. Technically the protagonist and the antagonist were both Cobb - because his true objective is to overcome vindictive projections of his own mind... which are allowed to run through in the realm of the dream - no matter who was dreaming it.

Certain rules introduced at the beginning of the movie sort of get thwarted mid-way through, but instead of it being distracting we just accept this new set of guidelines. This is a testament of the seamless writing of a brilliant script that may have had some plot holes but kept me so confused I couldn't really tell.

The rules were indeed as complex as the human mind itself, where time and dimension were shifted on their axis and we were all kind of along for the ride.

It was surprisingly a very tense and action-filled movie that reveled in its unapologetic ambiguity. The graphics were stunning, and explain why of Inception's eight nominations, five were technical. This included Cinematography, Art Direction and Visual Effects.

It was like literally losing yourself in a moving M.C. Escher painting, except it pushed the envelope of that concept with choreographed fight scenes in spinning rooms and zero gravity. Landscapes could collapse upon themselves and perception deception will play a few games with what you think you see.

The long and short of it is that Inception works very much like a complicated and undefined work of art that you can't quite figure out but you can't quite look away from either.

I didn't always know what was going on, but I enjoyed the ride.

Kinda like Space Mountain.

I also liked the ending, which will surprise my best friend Jeff to no end. I just really don't think it could have ended any other way and had the same impact.

Just don't ask me to explain it. Because I don't think I can. And really, I think that's part of what makes it so great.

Acting: 4
Writing: 5
Directing: 5
Cinematography: 5
Overall: 4.75


Art Direction: Contender
Cinematography: Contender
Best Picture:
Sound Editing:
Sound Mixing:
Visual Effects: Contender
Writing (Original): Contender