So You Think You Can Dance: Season 16, Audition #1

E: Maybe it’s another Top Ten instead of Top Twenty.  Maybe they’re relying too heavily on the Matrix-like freeze frame technology installed in the new stage.  Maybe Cat Deeley has not spent enough time on screen.  But are those flaws going to steal my joy?  No, I don’t think they can. My summer show is back with a new audition structure, actually impressive new judges, backstage chats, and, oh yes, awesome dancing, and I am happy as that proverbial clam.

The show re-introduces us to celebrated choreographer and former guest judge Laurieann Gibson (who as I recall trashed Nappy Tabs as not being relevant) and former contestant b-boy Dominic “D-Trix” Sandoval, who not only can relate to the dancers but also has judging cred from America’s Best Dance Crew.  I was frankly dubious about this duo, but also hopeful.  Nigel tells us that instead of traveling around the country, the show has doubled down on a cool new set (a circular stage with 360 degree cameras set between the uplights!) and from now on, dancers will come to them.  We don’t really get to see a lot of people waiting in line, which of course means less Cat Deeley than is optimal, and the theater is packed with parents and loved ones rather than dancers waiting for their own turns, as well as what looks like live show-style audience members.  I’m not sold on that, but whatever.  It does seem like dancers have made the journey from places other that L.A. – not that you could prove it by our first contestant of the evening!

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The History That Was, and Wasn’t, Made: Oscar Recap 2019

E:  Ah, Oscar Monday.  Time for rehashing and recriminations, best and worst dressed lists, and general Monday morning quarterbacking.  Mostly, I found 2019 Oscar telecast either as expected or cooler than expected, though there’s a lot to talk about in this very weird, unstable Oscar year.  I went four for six in the main categories,  neither great nor terrible.  Some of my favorite wins were technical, and most of my favorite speeches came from people who’re not famous.  I am forced to acknowledge that I’m not fashion-forward enough to appreciate Gemma Chan’s dress and I don’t even know what to make of Sarah Paulson’s hideous bubble two-piece making best dressed lists.  And we’ve all discovered that the show’s more than fine without a host – not to mention 40-60 minutes shorter than usual.

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What Does It Mean to Be Popular: Oscar Predictions, 2019

E:  Quick history lesson. The Oscars were conceived, some 90 years ago, as a way to boost movie sales.  It’s that plain and simple; studio heads wanted a gimmick to draw even more of the public into theaters, and so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was born, conceived in greed and birthed by cash in 1929.  In 1930, the awards were broadcast for the first time.  From radio to television, the spectacle has always had one purpose and I, like so many others, follow its call.  I see the movies.  I play the game.  You probably do, too.

And I like to play the game.  I like supporting excellent art; I even like that following the Oscars forces me to see movies I might otherwise avoid.  Sure, sometimes I hate them like I’m expecting to, but sometimes they’re so revelatory, and shine such a window on human experience.  Movies can make the lives of other people real to us.  Knowledge, wisdom, empathy, intellectual rigor, excitement, and pure whimsy and joy – the cinema can bring us all these things.

Since the 1990s, AMPAS has shifted its attention away from studio fare and onto indie films.  At the time, I lauded this turn as a focus on much better and deeper films.  Today, however, I look at the slate of Best Picture nominees, and I think about the favorites, and I wonder just what that turn of events has wrought.  Whose Best Picture is this?  These days most Oscar nominees don’t play at the multiplex down the street, especially if you happen to live somewhere other than coasts.  This year, in fact, the likely winner isn’t playing in theaters at all – it’s playing on a streaming service – and it’s hard to know if anyone is watching it there.

This is all to say that it’s good to think about what makes a movie popular or beloved, and correspondingly, what makes an award show watchable.  It’s not a coincidence that in the last 25 plus years of more obscure films taking over the Oscars, the show’s ratings have dipped as much as 30% a year.  And as a foreign film no one has seen is poised to make history by winning Best Picture for the first time,  it seems reasonable to ask; what’s the point of the Oscars, and why should we care?  Who are the Oscars for?  Surely it’s foolishness to declare a best film at all; art is subjective.  Taste is subjective.  The film that possesses the imagination of Hollywood voters in any given year is rarely the movie audiences prefer, or even critics.  So as we talk about what will win – and as always there are solid favorites in each category – it’s worth thinking about what each win means, and for whom.  Look at the many ways Oscar goes global and stays local at the same time!  As always, we’ll dive deep into the top 6 categories, with brief looks at some of the others.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Doing Its Own Thing: Oscar Nomination Reactions, 2019

E: Well then.  Okay.  There’s some interesting stuff here.  A few bummers, a few surprises out of far, far left field.  We learned a few important things about how this year’s going to go, and we saw a few trends.  It’s no country for young men, first off. And it’s Roma‘s party all the way.  Let’s break down the Oscar nods!  (Or, E beats herself up a lot.) Continue reading

Hollywood Out of Sync With Itself: Oscar Nomination Predictions, 2019

E:  You guys know I love this awards stuff, but I have to say, I’m starting to get really annoyed by some of it.  Why do some movies catch the fancy of awards-giving bodies (critics or guilds) and why do others fade into oblivion?  This year’s crop of films is particularly vexing by that standard.  Why these movies?  In a year full of well-reviewed blockbusters, I have to ask – what’s your problem with films that the public actually likes, Hollywood?

Here are my thoughts, with the usual caveats that there are always going to be surprises.  Let’s just hope that the surprises are pleasant ones.  Continue reading

So You Think You Can Dance: Season Fifteen Finale

E: Usually when it comes to SYT, I spend days making lists of the season’s best routines and figuring out which pieces I hope the dancers reprise in the finale.  Unfortunately, this season has been so truncated, so brief, that I really can’t present a reasonable list.  With only four live shows before the finale (as opposed to 7 in last season’s already shortened showing), how much time has there been to do great work, or watch dancers grown across the season? We spent far more time with dancers eliminated at the Academy like Emily, Kyle and Dustin than we did dancers with less initial air time who actually made it through the audition.  Think about it; the first two dancers eliminated, Evan and Chelsea, actually danced in half of the live shows before the finale. HALF.  This year half the season was two shows.

Don’t get me wrong; any dancing is better than nothing.  I’ve enjoyed watching it, even though time didn’t permit me to blog it.  But I hope FOX will do as Nigel begged and grant them a top twenty season last year.  It was so nice, at least, to have real partnerships; how much better would a season be with time to breathe?

In lieu of my big list, this year I will only ask for the very most obvious, the one piece that will truly stick with me from this season.  There’s been a decent amount that I liked, and I do have my rooting interest in a winner (Team Hannahlei!) but the routine of the season was Travis’s searing indictment of gender conformity, “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man” for Darius and Taylor, and I look forward to seeing it again tonight.  And I hope for more dancing and less absurdity next summer.


4 Out of 5 Ain’t Bad (Wait, It Is): So You Think You Can Dance, Season 5, Top Five Women

E: Okay, so.  If you have seen the episode, and you read this site, you can probably guess at least two of my reactions without me telling you.  Since this is a blog, however, I guess I need to actually tell you, and not just make you guess.

First, I can’t believe they’re dragging out the Academy one more week, and now we’re not going to get any live shows until August.  We’ve had a freaking month of the Academy!  I’m sorry, that’s so not cool.  At least this episode featured actual dance routines, but geez, man.  What are we going to get, four live shows?  Why must you keep breaking my heart, SYT?

Speaking of which, you know the other thing.  Worst elimination decision ever.  Best dancer of the season gone, and WHY?  Boo, hiss, stupid judges.

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