Britney On Glee – Oops They Did A Sloppy Show

It’s Britney B*tch! But…hum…do we care? Last night Gleeks around the country sat by their TV’s to watch the long-awaited Britney Spears episode on Glee, hoping not to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the episode is not only enormously disappointing but it’s…well…sloppy…really sloppy.

Where are the characters? Where is the delightful reiteration/propulsion of plot through song? Where are the writers? It is almost as if the idea of doing Britney’s songs totally overshadowed any storytelling once so ever. Although it is fun to pick out the contestants of another Fox show So You Think You Can Dance in the dance company, it doesn’t make up for the lack of good story.

The story is so far gone that some scenes end with a big WTF? Kurt is sent to the principal’s office. And? Artie and Finn suddenly are back on the football team? Really? And then there’s the terrible state of Rachel, finding solace in a 10-year-old Britney song? Ick. It doesn’t help matters that the pressure of starring in an innovative show only makes the star Lea Michele lose so much weight that she now actually appears older on screen.  Again. Ick.

Please Glee, don’t lose your way. Stay creative. You had us at the first audition. You had us at the moment Sue sat down with her special sister. You had us at the first note of a Journey song. Don’t fall victim of making the show strictly a vehicle for guest stars. The Britney episode was entertaining, but please get back to the great writing with emotionally invested characters. Enough with the gimmicks.

But the show does have my favorite line to date – “This room looks like that room on that spaceship when I got probed.”

Too Fat For Fifteen – An Unfortunate Lesson

The Style Network has carved a niche in presenting provocative shows about self-esteem and being overweight.  The serial show Ruby is the most popular, dealing with the life of a 500+ pound woman trying to lose weight. Watching Ruby Gettinger struggle to learn to eat healthy and to find the source of her pain that has caused her to be overweight all of her adult life has been heartwrenching to witness.

But it is the show Too Fat For Fifteen that is the most painful to watch. Obese kids ranging from ages 11 to 17 are sent to a special school in North Carolina to learn to lose weight and still keep up their skills academically.  The stories the producers have carved out for these kids and their families tugs the heart strings and incites some really strong anger.

An 11 year old girl weighing over 200 lbs. must experience her first time away from her family. A 14 year old boy coming in at close to 400 lbs. learns that the masterful manipulation he has used on his mother, doesn’t work at the camp. And at last, a 17 year girl turns out to be the largest and heaviest student the camp has ever had – weighing in at over 500 lbs. It is a sad, sad situation. The stories are so honest, you want to crawl into the TV and slap some sense into these kids AND their parents.

It is on purpose that the parents of these kids are depicted as clueless oafs, whining that they want the best for their kids, yet don’t learn the “program” that the kids follow and are at least 50 lbs. overweight themselves. It’s on purpose the producers follow the kids on home visits and have the audience witness all the learning and hard work of the students be sucked down the drain at the first meal they are fed at home.

The storytelling of this show is definitely moving. However, I can’t help but wonder if it can sustain. What I mean is, the show does a great job of sucking you in. You want these kids to succeed – in their weight loss and academically. But with all the obstacles that lie in their way – unsupportive home environments, no self-motivation, no ability to face the pain as to why they over eat – the viewer can’t help but feel their stories won’t have a happy ending. And we all want a happy ending, right?

Or maybe that’s the ultimate lesson of their stories – the unfortunate realization that these kids will not overcome what life and their parents have given them. Heartbreaking.

Wallstreet Money Never Sleeps – Let It Sleep And See Solitary Man Instead

Growing up with the motto of Gordon Gekko “greed is good,” it is a big disappointment that the sequel to WallstreetWallstreet:  Money Never Sleeps is a murky mess.

The plot diverges on several points and never comes together. It can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be – a revenge melodrama, a lesson on how bad Wall Street really is in its evil financial practices, or even on some levels…get ready…here it comes…a romance. Who knew?  Oliver Stone and a romance? Miracles happen. It’s almost as if the writers have a strong opinion of the story they want to tell, but then director Oliver Stone changes it so drastically that even the camera shots are disjointed and choppy.

Michael Douglas doesn’t get as near as much screen time as he deserves, having to share it with the upcoming Shia LaBouef who plays a hotshot trader Jake who conveniently falls in love with Gekko’s daughter, Carey Mulligan. Carey Mulligan spends most of her time sulking, which is such a waste (Netflix An Education – her Oscar nominated performance is…well…so much better than this).

LaBouef tries to play a tough cookie, but still comes off as a squeaky kid. Maybe in a few years when he sheds some of his boyish looks he’ll be able to play a believable man. Even now, I can’t help but see him as the kid in EVENS STEVENS and the movie Holes.

Yeah, Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps deserves to do just that – sleep and be forgotten. Instead, Netflix Douglas’ stunner Solitary Man. This little movie showcases Douglas at his finest since Wonder Boys. And it actually has a story you can follow and believe in.

Jerry Saltz Is His Own Work Of Art

I’m a big fan of New York Magazine and yes, I admit it makes me feel just a little more a part of the “in crowd” to read it.  Jerry Saltz, the lead judge for the Bravo TV show WORK OF ART, writes an interesting piece about what he learned from being a part of the show. The article is both insightful and educational. It’s rare that the viewer gets an inside look of a reality TV production. But it’s even more rare for a critic to talk about how he can do his job better. And because of that, he is now a friend in my head. We sit over dinner of pasta fazool while we discuss well…he discusses, I just listen, the many facets of the art world.

As a writer, I know the importance of criticism. I am also well aware of the biting sting criticism can leave. One small word can send me to the edge, pondering for about the 80 millionth time why I didn’t just join the Peace Corp when I had the chance. Why do I continue to isolate myself in my apartment drinking Dunkin Doughnuts coffee to create the most near to perfect storytelling I can?

But this isn’t about me. It’s about criticism. We all need to hear it at some point. It’s important to take feedback in a constructive manner and learn from it.  And that even a critic such as Jerry (yes, as a friend in my head I can call him by his first name) can critique himself and learn to do better.


The Town – Go See Gone Baby Gone

I have to admit that I usually don’t go for a cops and robbers type of flick. But I do make exceptions – Ransom, Inside Man, and Gone Baby Gone. Speaking of Ben Affleck, (like my segue?) The Town is his latest toss of the hat into the directing arena. He also co-writes the script and stars as the lead character Doug. He’s a multi-tasker.  And he does it well. The movie has been compared to Scorsese’s The Departed (probably because the two movies both take place in Boston) and since the three people who read this blog (yes, that includes my mother) knows my position about Leonardo Dicaprio – then you can guess that I already like The Town much better.

Affleck brings together a great cast. There’s the stoic FBI agent Special Agent Adam Frawley (everyone’s favorite from Mad Men – Jon Hamm) and the quick to the draw best buddy to Doug  Jem (Jeremy Renner.  You remember him from The Hurt Locker). There’s the beautiful and gentle potential girlfriend Claire (Rebecca Hall from Woody Allen’s Vicki Christina Barcelona. Don’t blink or you might miss her in this movie). The real star is the incredibly underrated Chris Cooper (check him out in John Sayles’ Lone Star – perfection), playing the incarcerated father of Affleck. Amazing.

But there are exceptions to the great cast – okay I’ll just say it. Blake Lively. Ick. Playing the junky, drug-dealing ex-girlfriend Krista. Again. Ick. Her portrayal is cringe-worthy and unfortunately attempting a Boston accent and encircling her eyes with smeared black liner does not provide her with the added depth needed to make her mere seven minutes on screen tolerable. She is unable to portray lust, pain, or despair. She is too much of a girl in this part when it really requires a woman.

The story is basic. Good guys vs. bad guys – Hollywood loves a formula. The difference in The Town is how the city of Boston is another character in the movie. Affleck includes some establishing shots and the camera work actually bursts through some of the scenes. There is an amount of old-fashioned hoke in this film that’s absent from Gone Baby Gone, which is why for right now, I prefer Affleck’s first attempt as a filmmaker. But I’m excited to see what he does next.