Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For whom the bells toll.

With Marcus working on the other side of the country, the majority of the wedding planning falls upon me. (He has contributed to finding us photographers, videographers and other such creative types amongst his professional friends.) We have a place and a time and a date and a caterer and an open bar, which are really the huge and important things, and we have open quotes from a florist and a DJ. We have an abundance of photographers and a videographer who told us he'd shoot for free because, "um, I kind of invited myself to your wedding." We've ordered invitations, and, yes, lo, I have ordered my dress.

There are still a lot of details to be handled: food has to be chosen, groomsmen are still up in the air, bridesmaids must be wrangled and put into dresses, we need to start talking to cake people, I need to find people in San Francisco to make me look pretty, etc. But by and large, I feel like this thing, for being planned 350 miles away from where it's actually happening, is pretty under control.

Edan once told me that I should marry someone with superpowers if I was going to plan a wedding outside of my place of residence. I, apparently, have superpowers. And super, super parents.

That, by the way, is my wedding dress. 255 days away from actually getting to wear it!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sweeps Theory

I have this theory that, like many of my theories, says that real life is highly influenced by pop culture. In Sweeps Theory, that bit of influential pop culture is television.

In the months of November, February and April, television writers always bust out their most dramatic, life-changing, character-based plot structures. In November, they do it to get a nice ratings push before the half-season mark in early December, after which the networks will usually take a hiatus in showing new episodes of a show. So the plot lines of shows in November start to get pretty intense.

If the show example we were using to illustrate this were Friends, this would be a point in time where Ross and Rachel would either begin to break up, or begin to get back together, depending on what season you watch. If this were a show like The X-Files in this example, you would notice a change from MOTW episodes to plot-driving episodes developing complications in either a. Scully’s abduction/harvesting/motherhood issues/crisis of faith storyline or b. Mulder’s sister’s abduction/Syndicate plot/conspiracies/”the black ooze” storyline. In the X-Files example, whether the storyline they choose to develop is A or B, you will probably also see some intense relationshipping going on between our two FBI agents.

Sweeps is also repeated in February to get a ratings boost after the winter hiatus, which is now actually formally recognized by networks who place filler material like game shows and specialty competitions in the spots of their normal shows to avoid showing reruns during Winter. I think that because of this change, Sweeps is no longer during the month of February specifically, but really the period of mid-January through mid-February when the new episodes resume. Sweeps are some of the best written TV episodes you will ever see. They’re awesomely riveting and dramatic, even in comedies like Friends.

Sweeps also happens during April, though I'm not entirely sure why, from a network television standpoint. Maybe to keep people watching TV when the weather starts to get nicer? (That would be pretty evil, I'd say.) In any case, you will also see Sweeps episodes in April.

So that's how Sweeps works in the television world. Now let me apply the lessons of television Sweeps into day-to-day, non-television related existence.

Some time during high school, I noticed that all of our dramatic events coincided with Sweeps seasons. People would break up with their boyfriends or girlfriends, struggle with grades, battle addictions, etc. at a higher rate during these time periods. In high school, these things also often coincided with quarterly report card time, auditions for plays, speech competitions and, of course, dances. There would be spectacular catfights between myself and some other friends regarding who got what role in the musical (which were cast in November), and, come spring, why I never received a role in a comedy unless there was a spot for a dumb blonde. (Though a redhead now, I was a blonde for all of high school, except for the brief summer during which my hair was blue.) I think some of us would literally go for the entire week post-casting deliberately not talking to each other. I can guarantee that during sweeps, I spent more time on the phone with Eric working crisis control for each other than I did doing anything else.

I think the theory works outside of the dramatic world of theatre kids. We, as a rule, spend our lives trying to make them as much like film and television as possible. But this business happened, I believe, in every high school social group. (Including some weird Sweeps-crossovers where, say, a theatre kid would date a jock for the duration of Sweeps.)

I hadn't thought about Sweeps Theory in quite some time, as I'm sure you can tell by my examples. Clearly, when I was developing this theory, The X-Files was still on, I still occasionally watched Friends, and reality television was far less prevalent. I do not, as yet, have a stance on how the world of reality television relates to Sweeps Theory. I only know that real reality, my reality, coincides its drama with the drama on television.

Sweeps Theory just came to mind at the end of last week when discussing the recent events in my friend Jenn's life. Suddenly, I remembered Sweeps Theory. It actually was a great explanation for her as to why the drama was so suddenly following her absolutely everywhere. Simple: It's Jenn's Sweeps.

That’s Sweeps Theory, a theory which, in short, might state: the theory that plot lines of television shows and plot lines of real life converge with dramatic consequences during periods in which networks attempt to boost ratings.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An impossible dream

After this morning's announcement of the 2006 Academy Award nominees, I keep reading headlines all over the internet about Dreamgirls being "snubbed." To begin, having 8 nominations is definitely not a snub. Not getting a nod for Best Picture, while it may seem like an oversight to exclude Dreamgirls from the top honors category, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why that is.

Dreamgirls is not that good of a good musical.

Dreamgirls is not a bad movie by any means. It is technically very well made. Art direction. Costumes. Editing. Sound. All good. The acting? All good. (Though I am not at all suprised that Beyonce was left out of the acting categories, because she was the weakest link in Dreamgirls by a long shot.) So how does Dreamgirls not deserve to be included in the top spot?

First of all, I'm very disappointed that this came from Bill Condon, the writer of Gods & Monsters (incredible) and Chicago (basically the best modern movie musical). The script (and maybe this is something I'm missing having not seen the stage version) is a bit lacking, as is the music. Which is really odd, coming from a musical that is, in fact, about a musical group.

After I saw it, I was entertained, but not wowed. And I was not promised entertainment. I was promised kick-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic. That's what I got out of Chicago, and I expected it out of Dreamgirls. Why were my expectations so high? Let's put it this way: I actually hate Chicago. It's a terrible play with no point that is lucky enough to have been choreographed by Bob Fosse and has a great score by Kander and Ebb. It was also very lucky to have, when it debuted on Broadway, leading ladies like Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon (who I secretly want to be). These are all things that made Chicago stand out, because the story on stage certainly couldn't have done that alone, as its real killer-diller Velma Kelly also knows.

I expected Dreamgirls to be great, even if it was a lackluster stage show (which I again reiterate that I do not know enough about to say, as my only previous experience with Dreamgirls is when Ellen sings the role of Effie White in the film Camp), because Bill Condon took a piss-poor story like that of Chicago and made it about something. He turned a fluffy vaudeville revue into a powerhouse movie musical about the power and influence of the media. I don't know how Condon did this, but he did. I just wish he could have infused the same life into Dreamgirls, providing it with Chicago's perfect blanace of story and song.

I think that imbalance of story and song is one reason, though, why people really like Dreamgirls. People who don't like musicals like Dreamgirls. It's more a concert than a musical, really. Or a movie about music, at best. 90% of the songs are production numbers--things that are meant for entertainment, for performance, rather than things that move the plot. Off the top of my head, I can think of only 3 songs that move the plot, and 2 of them are marginal: "And I'm Tellin' You I'm Not Goin'," "We Are Family," and "Listen." As far as musicals go, its about as much of a musical as Ray and Walk the Line.

But people really liked both of those films, and I don't blame them. For some reason, people really aren't comfortable with watching someone break out into song. And I don't understand this notion. We think its cool when people bust into rap freestyle, right? Everyone seems to accept that Eminem and Xzhibit can freestyle in a Detroit factory lunchline in Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile, but to watch Edward Norton and Natasha Leyonne tap dance about how much he loves Drew Barrymore in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You? No, that's not cool. (Watching Edward Norton tap dance is actually one of the coolest things you will ever see. But unfortunately, you will also have to hear Julia Roberts sing.)

I wanted Dreamgirls to have a better balance of production numbers and songs that move the plot, which for those of you who haven't studied the history of American musical theatre as my fiance and I do, are one of the biggest changes in musical theatre made by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. I want a musical to mean something, to tell a story--not just be entertaining and feature some nice singing and dancing.

There just seems to be this mentality that using music to tell a story isn't as acceptable as experiencing music as you would at a concert, which is why these concert-like musicals are so acceptable. People just can't seem to suspend their disbelief into a realm that allows people to express themselves through song when the character isn't a singer or musician. And this baffles me. We'll willingly believe that a psycho slasher killer hunts young teenage girls on road trips, that Hobbits, elves and men fight the forces of evil in Middle Earth, or that people can actually enter airports to say goodbye and hello to loved ones. So why can't we believe that song is an acceptable form of narrative expression? That's the whole point of the genre of musicals, especially those written after WWI, and the concert-style musicals just aren't what musicals are supposed to be. It's sort of cheating a genre.

And people were accepting of Chicago because it made the original vaudeville style of the show into an acceptable way of cheating the genre to market it to audiences who aren't willing to suspend their disbelief to include a world where song and dance happens spontenously. In Chicago, Roxie's dreams of stardom create an alternate reality in which song and dance spring to life from every day occurrences. The sounds of the jailhouse become the rhythm and bass for "Cell Block Tango," which takes place in Roxie's head in something Bill Condon called "Razzle Vision." But even then, even when we remove the spontaneous song and dance element from the real world and put it into Razzle Vision, Kander & Ebb's songs still furthered the plot and told narrative stories about the characters in the film. (How would Roxie and Velma ever partner up if Velma hadn't sang out about how she simply "Can't Do It Alone?")

And that's what Dreamgirls lacks. It lacks a powerful narrative. It lacks balanced songs that drive the plot and drive the characters. This is a problem with a number of musicals about music--they forget that a musical has to tell a story through music, not just feature it. At least Jersey Boys really tried to be both a musical and a play with music about music group. (It didn't always work, but at least it tried. I mean, what the hell is "Earth Angel" doing in Act I, anyway?)

So, I understand why people love love love Dreamgirls. Please, go ahead and love it. At least its continuing to show some small acceptance of the musical genre, even if it is a bit misguided and ill-informed.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't hate Dreamgirls. I really liked it. It had too many good artistic aspects and performances, including Broadway's Anika Noni Rose, whom I adore, to be bad. But it wasn't great. And the Academy Awards are not supposed to award mediocrity . . . but then again, Crash did win Best Picture last year . . . so perhaps the Dreamgirls lovers are right. Maybe Dreamgirls is supposed to be in that category. But I don't want it to be, just like I didn't want Crash to be there. Both of those films are good, but they are not Best Picture. So I will accept the fact that Dreamgirls was not nominated for Best Picture as an official apology to me for giving the award to Crash last year over ANYTHING ELSE in that category, be it Brokeback Mountain or Capote.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This geek is officially pimped.

Magen and I were treated to the joy of the Beauty and the Geek makeover episode. And I have to admit that now I have something of a crush on Trekker Drew, and only because I think that in his transformed state, he bears a slight resemblance to Jason Dohring on Veronica Mars.

Witness the before . . .

And the after . . .

Now compare to Logan Echolls . . .

I wish I could find better pictures of Drew's makeover at this point, but perhaps I will update later when the CW updates its website and I can find better evidence of Drew becoming Jason Dohring.

Could a CW promotional crossover be in the works?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

An annotated list of awesomely bad movie titles slated for 2007 release.

Best movie sequel titles of films to be released in Spring and Summer 2007

Live Free or Die Hard
Another installment in the Die Hard series. Awesome title because it makes me giggle, and I think the movie poster of this should be an image of the title being carried on a banner in the talons of a bald eagle. This image can be painted on the back of a motorcycle jacket (preferably worn by Bruce Willis, who turns his head slightly over his shoulder and wears sunglasses), or tattooed on the back of a hairy biker.

Hostel: Part II
Awesome because they really aren't trying hard to be clever or good. At all. Part of me appreciates their simplicity, and part of me is appalled. It could only be better if they called it "Hostel, Part 2: Hostility."

Restaurant-themed titles that make my heart dance with glee

A rat wants to be a culinary master. In other news, puns on French are awesome!

No Reservations

The movie is about a perfectionist chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones taking care of her neice (Abagail Breslin). It's a truly great RomCom-Chick Flick title because its very nuanced. I like that someone really thought about this before they titled it. It's punny, but meaningful.

Speaking in tongues, or experiencing Pentecost daily.

My viewpoint on the need for Americans to stop thinking English is the be-all and end-all of linguistic existance is vindicated in recent research at Toronto's York University.

Bilingualism delays onset of dementia.

There. Take that everyone who won't see foriegn-language films, took ASL in high school instead of taking a spoken language or thinks that when you are in America (a country founded by immigrants and exiles) you should speak "Goddamn English."

Here's the basic scientific evidence from Professor Ellen Bialystock:
"In the process of using ... two languages, you are engaging parts of your brain, parts of your mind that are active and need that kind of constant exercise and activity, and with that experience (it) stays more robust."

Please help fight the demise of your own grey matter by reading some interlinear translations, watching foriegn-language films and learning a second language if you don't already have one. Then, once you've done those things, start code-switching from English to your newly acquired language, even in small quantities. Not only will you help heal your brain cells, but you will also automatically appear smarter and sexier.

I see no downsides to this.

Note: Above I blasted a "take that!" at people who took ASL in high school as a replacement for a foriegn-language requirement. I by no means think that learning ASL is a bad thing of that ASL is not a useful and productive form of communication for the Deaf community. I do, however, disagree with the fact that some schools offer ASL as an alternative to learning a foriegn language. ASL works on a different synaptic level than spoken languages do. It's visual, not aural. I think its great that ASL is taught in schools and people should be able to take it, just not as a replacement for foriegn language.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

An open letter to the women who sat next to me at Babel today,

To the elderly ladies who sat to my left, you two are the exception to my rule that people over the age of 65 can do whatever the fuck they want and no one can tell them otherwise. During the entirety of this film, which, by the way, is a movie about how people fail to listen to one another and improving personal and international communications, you traded comments amongst yourselves about obvious things that were happening in the film. It doesn't matter if rifles are "the key" because a. they aren't and b. Babel is not a mystery we have to solve; it is clear from the beginning that the stories are interconnected. At one point, in what I assume is a reaction to the violence onscreen and the potential peril of several characters, one of you turned to the other and said, "I am never coming to see movies like this again." I suggest, if that's true, that you never see anything rated R ever again. If you want happiness and sunshine and puppies, why don't you go see something rated PG-13 or lower? Babel tried to make a point about violence and undue hardship being a result of people not listening to each other--something which you may have picked up on if you hadn't been constantly talking.

Also, whichever one of you was wearing the blackberry, lavender and vanilla perfume needs to stop wearing so much of it. Normally, I like that combination of scents and I have had a perfume that smelled exactly like that before, but please don't wear so much of it! I had to breathe through my sweatshirt for the majority of my Babel-watching experience! My nose is very sensitive. I can discern a variety of scents in a glass of wine. I can definitely smell your fucking perfume overload and it makes me queasy.

Oh! And then, then one of you decided to file your nails during the movie! I wanted to murder you! Can't you fucking wait to file your nails at home? Where are you from? Jersey?

And to the middle-aged woman sitting to my right, I fucking hate you. I hate everything about you. You constantly vocalized your emotions about the film, going so far as to grimace and groan loudly as Gael Garcia Bernal wrings a chicken's neck. Let me ask you now if you are a vegetarian. Because I am. And that didn't bother me at all. So please, I want you to remember that scene the next time you're eating delicious chicken wings at Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch. And maybe you will choose not to eat meat and spare chickens that neck-wringing fate. But otherwise, I also tell you not to see rated-R movies. They are rated R for violence, language and sexuality. And if you are squirmy about violence, perhaps you shouldn't spend you money on something that's going to make you so uncomfortable--and me by extension if I am unfortunate enough to sit next to you.

Also, I'd like to let you know that no matter what desperate plea you mutter to yourself, the characters can't hear you. Gael Garcia Bernal is not going to stop the car because you ask him to. The Moroccan doctor is not going to stop sewing up Cate Blanchet's wound because you're afraid of needles or think Morocco is unsanitary or what have you. It is commited to celluloid and it is not going to change because you will it to. You are experiencing abject horror. Deal with it.

So, collective horrible movie-watching ladies, please get Netflix and stay the fuck away from me.

Thank you.

Addendum, as of 16 Jan 07: I found this quote from Inarritu in an AP article about his film winning last night's Golden Globe for Best Picture, Drama that really sums up my earlier points about why Babel is definitely a movie you shouldn't talk during.
"I think the power of cinema is universal and at the end, emotion doesn't need translation and that's the beauty of it." --Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vulvan mind meld.

An excerpt from this morning's office IMs, involving fun typographical errors that reveal my lesbian sensibilities . . .

me: If i have to hear about direct deposit ONE MORE TIME!
me: Death will occur.
bill: Get out of my brain!
me: maybe you should label those corn dogs . . . since, you know, we seem to have vulvan mind meld powers
me: maybe i will eat them with my amazing mental faculties
bill: hehe
bill: only
bill: you are the only one with vulvan mind meld powers
bill: I might have vulcan
me: stupid vagina monologues
me: all i can write is vulva

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A list rejected from the BOL:

Fantastic Sender Names in This Morning's Spam

Snobbery C. Revivify
Onesiphorus Gullickson
EvilBeet Fangasm

I call dibs on EvilBeet Fangasm as my new band name.

Addition to the list as of 16 Jan 2007: Fitzpatrick G. Hornblower