Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I Am Not Going to See 'The Queen of Versailles'

... and what that has to do with “The Newsroom”

I’ve never caught the reality TV bug.
That’s not to say I am some NPR-listening, TV-eschewing, well-read, pop-culture adverse elitist snob, although I do listen to NPR. I just can’t watch a reality show without mentally scanning the room for “the biggest loser,” so to speak, and feeling that person’s pain. Heck, I can’t even watch the Olympics without thinking about the poor souls who didn’t make the team. I guess I’m just one of those “everyone should get a trophy” saps people hate nowadays.
"The Queen of Versailles"
There is one kind of reality show creation that I can join in public scorn on – I have no problem rolling my eyes at the people you love to hate. I’m just not very interested in watching them. So when my Twitter feed starting buzzing about this movie, “The Queen of Versailles,” the story of the fall of a billionaire and his ex-model bride and their quest to build the biggest house in the world, I immediately said “pass.” Don’t care if they go from collecting marble to Wal-Mart shopping sprees. Don’t care how engaging and funny they are. I don’t want to watch them lose everything. Why should I? We’ve been watching real-life people lose everything for three years now, and it stinks. And this desire to laugh at people we don’t know on purpose in movies and TV is one of the worst things about us.
And this reminded me of a recent episode of the HBO show “The Newsroom.” “The Newsroom” has been written about ad nauseam, and criticized for everything from its strategy of setting its story starting in 2010 to comment on recent real news events, to what some seem to see as writer Aaron Sorkin’s personal war on women.
"The Newsroom"
But what struck me in a recent relevant episode was how Sorkin dealt with the subject of reality TV, something that has become so ubiquitous in our culture we rarely even talk about it anymore.  The plot involved news anchor Will McAvoy’s distaste for it, and willingness to voice this distaste, even though it kept getting him in trouble. First he is horrified to learn a gossip columnist who he meets at the staff’s New Year’s Eve party is doing a “takedown piece” on a “Real Housewife”-type character for having a secret child. Then, on a date with a different woman, he is again shocked to discover his date dying for the details of this story he finds to be out-of-bounds. The date shrugs her interests off as a “guilty pleasure.”
And the fact that this bothers Will does seem old-fashioned. Still, we are out there, and many of us prefer watching dramas and comedies to reality shows. In my duties as an entertainment editor, I have had to follow pretty much every kind of reality program there is at this point – singing (“American Idol”), strategy (“Survivor”),  dating  (“Bachelorette”)  and ??? (“Big Brother”). 
And the only thing they are good for in my opinion are “30 Rock” parodies. I'll take “The Queen of Jordan" or "MILF Island" any day. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why the Lost finale did not "suck"

ABC image/ Jack and Vincent prepare for the end.

WARNING: I am going to talk about the end, because last night the show "Lost" ended. I think it's OK to do that.

Last night, while I was waiting for the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" special to start, I popped on Facebook and to see what people were saying about the "Lost" finale. Overwhelmingly, one word was coming up again and again - "sucked." I won't get into why we can't be more eloquent in our criticism here, but I am here to tell you why it did not, in fact, suck.
This obsession with answers that cropped up in season six of "Lost," and became almost deafening the closer the finale got - I'll admit, I got a little caught up in it early in season 6.
The closer it got to the end, the more I reverted to my "Lost" mantra, I am along for the ride. And today I understand perfectly what they were doing.
The "Lost" finale was about closure, not answers.
As I watched people reunite, still wondering what was going to happen, I didn't even think about wasting time, or what made the island so special. Because who cares. In the end, the island was mystical and had electromagnetic energy and a lot science geeks got off on that, but what really kept us watching were Jack, Sawyer, Hurley, Sun, Jin, Locke, Ben, Charlie, Claire, Desmond, Sayid and Kate - well, maybe not so much Kate (although she was awfully good in the finale). It was the characters.
The last 15 minutes, I could not stop sobbing. I was sobbing as much about saying goodbye to the show as what was happening on screen. And the final image, although it now seems obvious, I never tried to figure out what it would be, and therefore it was a beautiful, perfectly appropriate coda.
You can say I'm thick for not figuring it out. I will tell you I got to experience it fully for not obsessing about being "first" for knowing what it would be.
And when you think about it, many of the answers were already there. I read a particularly annoying article the other day with "50 questions 'Lost' must answer!" - What was the Dharma Initiative? - seriously? A failed attempt at Utopia thwarted by a murderous Ben Linus. Next question? No wonder Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof did an interview with Wired magazine where they basically said "Lost" fans are toddlers always asking "why? why? why?"
I miss the characters already. Namaste.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coming soon to a TV near you

The fall announcements are coming in -- "upfronts" to people in the biz -- and one of the quirkier offerings is the reboot of "Hawaii Five-O." It just seems to me that the ship may have sailed on this one. However, Daniel Dae Kim from "Lost" is in it, with Alex O'Loughlin from "Moonlight," Scott Caan of the "Ocean's Eleven" movies and Grace Park from "Battlestar Gallactica," so it could be good.

Here's the opening credits. This is a test of how you are, whether or not this makes you smile.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dancing with the Stars - Buzz's ouster

In this ABC photo, Evan and Anna show how it's done.

No one can be shocked, and most must be a little relieved, that poor Buzz Aldrin's dancing was put out of its misery this week on "Dancing with the Stars."

His reasons for doing the show kind of said it all - he was doing it for fighter pilots, veterans, the space program, old people - but was any of that about dancing?
The 80-year-old was a charmer, no doubt - although his early constant flirting with dance partner Ashly kind of came off as "creepy old man" more than "grandfatherly."
This week, the rehearsal footage revealed a lot of drama in the couples, but not for Evan and Anna, who soared to the top of the leader board, and dazzled with their quickstep. Evan's broken toes did not affect his performance in the slightest.
Several of the other dancers pouted and bickered - some broke the rules, like Nicole and Derek, who may have given a show-stopping performance, but there is a week devoted to freestyle and this was not it. Some gave performances that were best described by the judges themselves, as "odd" and "hard to watch" - looking at you, Kate Gosselin.
Early concerns were Evan may just come off as too "boring" and "normal" for this glittery program. But this week certainly showed that being good at what you are supposed to do and following the rules holds its own benefits - a chance to move on to the next week.
So there are benefits to being the nice, good, hard-working guy after all. I for one hope it continues to work for Evan.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dancing - Shannen's ouster

Shannen Doherty and partner Mark Ballas on Monday on "Dancing with the Stars." / AP photo

The internet is abuzz with speculation since Shannen Doherty's unexpected elimination last night on "Dancing with the Stars."
What it came down during the broadcast to was three surprises, two within the first minute of the show:

1) Buzz Aldrin was safe

2) Pam Anderson was in the bottom two

3) Kate Gosselin survived, and was not in the bottom two

I would not call Shannen's elimination that much of a surprise and will explain why here. Let's go point by point.

1) Buzz got sympathy votes. He clearly cannot dance, but he's a sweet old guy and people felt sorry for him. I would contend a better way to show him support would be to let him off the show - he does not know what he is doing - but he wants to be there, so I don't think I am right about that.

2) Think about this. Do we really think "Dancing with the Stars" demographic and Pam Anderson's fanbase are the same? Maybe we did before last night, but they are obviously not. I thought Pammie laid it on a little thick for both dances - but showed more talent in her foxtrot. The judges loved her both times. America's housewives didn't want to watch her exude her Pam Anderson-ness any more. If she's going to survive, she's going to need some Maxim readers, stat.

3) In this contest, we vote FOR someone, not against him or her. If the voting was against, I still think Kate and her tantrums and hair extensions would be out for sure, but there are some people out there who look at Jon with his Ed Hardy shirts and skanky girlfriends and think it's a wash, they're both awful - so it looks like she squeaked by for now. Plus, we love the drama. The tabloids wouldn't keep putting her on the cover if we weren't buying. Remember, "Jon and Kate" only became a real hit after their marriage hit the skids.

And that's what did Shannen in, too - drama, or more precisely, a lack of it. She and her partner were all smiles, she was doing it for her dad, she was crying and grateful - she was the anti-Kate. People made their choice. They voted off the woman who talked about her dad and got along with her partner, and kept the one who treated her partner like one of her kids and caused him to walk off at one point during the second episode (a first, host Tom Bergeron chirpily said).

If it's something different than that, prove me wrong.

Anybody else worried about Evan Lysacek about now?

Dancing with the Stars

My latest project is I have been following Olympic Gold medalist Evan Lysacek in his quest for the mirrorball on "Dancing with the Stars."

I have been Live Tweeting the episodes and they show up on this page on Monday and Tuesday nights. Also, I do a recap that runs in the Naperville Sun.

Here are the first two stories.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's the Oscars!

I am tweeting the Oscars for work, so I will updating my blog here from time to time.

Why is Amanda Seyfried at the Oscars? Because she looks like a dress hanger. Can't wait until her 15 minutes are over.

Sandra Bullock looks like an Oscar herself. She says she's always pessimistic - she should have been a little more about "All About Steve."

Ryan Seacrest just told Tyler Perry that Mo'Nique "is here." No way, she showed up? Why would she do that?

As I struggle not to throw up during Red Carpet coverage (I've already switched from E! to the TV Guide Channel), quick quiz - who saw all 10 Best Picture nominees? Yes, I did and yes, I am showing off.

Oh my God! Antonio Banderas has a grey beard!

So far, people who should not be allowed at the Oscars: Melanie Griffith, Sarah Jessica Parker, Miley Cyrus, Rachel McAdams....

Kathryn Bigelow is a FOOT taller than Ryan Seacrest! Hilarious.

More people who don't belong: Jennifer Lopez, her husband Skeletor, Demi Moore (the white haired freak on E! only wants to talk these people)

Nice try at lurking, Clooney.

More people who don't belong: Keanu Reeves (whoa) - on the screen on E! at the same time as Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Nice.

More people who don't belong: Keanu Reeves (whoa) - on the screen on E! at the same time as Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Nice.

Robert Downey Jr. Siiigghhhhh.............. That is all.

I saw a trailer "Tron Legacy" today and it looks awesome. (Sorry, Jeff Bridges was just on)

Anybody else want to stab Guiliana and the white-haired guy on E! in the eye yet? SO glad it's almost 7!

It was funny to watch the opening montage on ABC and see if any of the couples were still together. I don't think a single one was.

The parade of WTF continues: Cameron Diaz, Jake Gyllenhaal and his dumb video game movie, Zac Efron...

There may be a divide between the movies I am looking forward to and the movies "America" is looking forward to. Hence these presenters.

It's NEIL PATRICK HARRIS! I am cheering! Is anyone else?

Oh, and look, there's that damn Helen Mirren. ... Steve, that's DAME Helen Mirren.

Oh, is it too late? My big prediction is Josh Larsen @larsenonfilm will not like the Oscar hosts and I will love them. Every year.

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds") That's an uber bingo! His speeches are weird, but at least he writes a speech.

Best animated feature: "Up" The people who work on animated films seem so much happier than regular people.

Best Song: "The Weary Kind" by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett from "Crazy Heart"

This show is really moving along. Everyone is going to win their Oscar pool, the way this is going...

RDJ, what with the sunglasses?

Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal "The Hurt Locker"

I love Mark Boal's story. Embedded reporter with an idea. It's the dream.

John Hughes tribute time. Matthew Broderick, cute story. I imagine he really does hear about Ferris every day.

I think the John Hughes character that I resemble most closely is Duckie. Think about which one you would be.

The animated short feature was actually pretty interesting. Perish the thought, learning something during the Oscars.

Animated short: "Logorama" Nicholas Schmerkin (which actually looks pretty cool)

Documentary short: "Music by Prudence" Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett

Live Action Short Film: "The New Tenants"

Ben Stiller's a Na'Vi! Ben Stiller's a Na'Vi! I really don't care what he does, I laughed the whole time anyway. DON'T TELL ME IT'S NOT FUNNY JOSH I DON'T CARE

These clips are reminding me of great moments from these films. Like "the parking lot" rabbi in "A Serious Man."

Best Makeup: "Star Trek" (I missed this earlier during Ben Stiller's silliness)

Adapted screenplay: Jeffrey Fletcher "Precious"

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique "Precious" The second leas surprising award of the night.

Art Direction: "Avatar"

Costume design: "The Young Victoria." Quick poll: how much do you hate it when a winner points out "wow, I already have two of these." Esp. when you haven't heard of the person.

Come on, salute to horror films. We still have 2 sound awards, score, cinematography, documentary, editing, visual effects ...

Sound editing: "The Hurt Locker" Score one for Team Bigelow

Ha, look at this sound guy. He looks like someone from one of the horror movies.

Sound mixing: "The Hurt Locker"

So now we can forever say Academy Award nominated film "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." @larsenonfilm did say it had good sound.

Cinematography: "Avatar"

People with dead careers talking about dead people. How fitting.

WHY IS THERE DANCING? Interpretive dancing "The Hurt Locker"? I believe the young people call this a FAIL.

Some things are controversial, but I have never heard anyone say "you know what I love? The dancing."

Original score: "Up"

Visual effects: "Avatar" Well, duh.

If you have not seen these films, these clips are awfully revealing.

Best Documentary Feature: "The Cove"

That's right Tyler Perry, they will NEVER say your name at the Oscars.

Film Editing: "The Hurt Locker"

Best Foreign Language Film: "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" ("The Secrets in Their Eyes")

This Best Actor intro is eating up a lot of time.

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges "Crazy Heart." If you ever wondered how many times you can say "man" during an Oscar acceptance speech and still sound cool, that was it.

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock ("the Blind Side") Sandra Bullock thanks her mom while her husband, the motorcycle man, cries. Ain't that America?

YEAH! Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow "The Hurt Locker." I wish her speech wasn't so dull.

Best Picture: "The Hurt Locker." I had a feeling about "the Hurt Locker" since I saw it in June. I've been pestering people to see it since then. it's just a great film. I don't want to say I told you so, but, well, I think I told you so. Good night, everybody.