July 29, 2011

The Thing About SYTYCD

Why, after eight seasons, Fox's So You Think You Can Dance continues to take a backseat to ABC's increasingly ingratiating Dancing With The Stars remains a mystery to me. Is it because it's a summer show? Is it because the general perception is that it's mainly "for kids"?

SYTYCD's ratings are frustratingly measly compared to those of the below-cruise-ship-variety-show standards seen on Stars. Whereas DWTS seems to revel in sensationalistic cheese, SYTYCD celebrates true artistry. While I do acknowledge how much blood, sweat, and tears all of those reality stars, football players, and Tinseltown burnouts go through, I can't help but scoff at their efforts...because there seems to underlie a narcissism that fuels them to go on, stumble across the stage to non-pro choreography, and soak up a spotlight they hope will shine long after they're voted off. And here's a little-known fact: they get paid handsome salaries per episode, none of it going to charity. If that doesn't turn you off, then by all means, continue watching.

It's a shame, because you'll be missing something as epic as this:

Meanwhile, over at SYTYCD, we have young artists who are simply chasing a dream and unabashedly exposing themselves on the dance floor through refreshingly diverse dance numbers that range from Bollywood flamboyancy and elegant Ballroom to emotional Contemporary and bumpin' Hip-Hop (the weekly theme-driven costuming and make-up is an extraordinary achievement as well). And just because it doesn't have any "Stars" in its title, it doesn't mean they don't have any famous faces grace the studio every week. This season the show welcomed celeb guest judges who, for the most part, offered very helpful feedback. Audiences were treated to delicious soundbites from Kristin Chenowith, Debbie Reynolds, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Neil Patrick Harris, Rob Marshall, and Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga. Most surprising was the way their special appearances didn't feel stunty or forced. I'm sure each had something to promote, but they were also there because they wanted to be there. They too are genuine fans of the competition and are constantly wowed by the physics-defying movements made by these fiercely talented individuals week after week.

Case in point - the jaw-dropping July 27 performance from one of my personal favorites, contestant Melanie Moore:

The Top 20 from earlier this summer:

And last week's Top 8:

What I also love about this show is its dynamic use of music and its way of turning its "cast" of choreographers into celebrities. I've been introduced to amazing songs I wouldn't have known about had it not been for the wise selections made by Tabitha and Napoleon (Nappy Tabs) and the fabulously freaky Sonya Tayeh (thanks, girl, for letting me know about "Game On" by District 78). And don't even get me started on how I nearly lost my shit when I spotted Mia Michaels and Tyce Diorio lunching at Houston's in Century City.


Tune in, people.


July 25, 2011

What I Learned at Comic-Con

Call me presumptuous, but I think I deserve some kind of badge of honor for surviving through five Comic-Cons. No? Well, here are a few things I've picked up on since making my first annual trek to the San Diego festivities in 2007:

1. If you plan to show up an hour early to a panel in either Ballroom 20 or Hall H: Do. Not. Bother. The 1,200 or so deodorant-challenged individuals already in line thought a 3-hour head-start was wise...and that doesn't include the other 800 who got there at the buttcrack of dawn to see a sneak peek of a movie they can eventually catch on YouTube one hour later (Note to Comic-Con organizers: please set up a frickin' system that can accommodate press in a more efficient way).

2. However, if you're really desperate to get in, hover near the exit and ask attendees if they plan to go back inside. They'll be the ones holding little colored pieces of paper that grants them a re-entry; hopefully they'll give you their slip. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me during my attempts to catch Sarah Michelle Gellar during the Ringer panel.

3. Those kids (and by "kids," I mean anyone more than 10 years younger than me) standing in the convention center hallways holding signs for "Free Hugs"...don't. Just don't.

4. If you MUST get a poster autographed by the cast of Teen Wolf, True Blood, or The Walking Dead, by all means, go out and brave the mass hysteria on the floor of the main exhibition hall. Just don't come back whining when you get a black eye from the elbow that clocked you when they were giving away free...key chains.

5. Despite the bombardment of emails from publicists, there are always invitations to parties or special events where the amenities for members of the press are out of this world. At the Robert Rodriguez party, we dined on prime rib and truffle baked potato slices and enjoyed a build-your-own-ice-cream-sundae bar. At the Wired magazine lounge I got free personalized engraving on my iPhone case, took a picture with the performers from the Cirque du Soleil show, Ka, slurped up some TruBlood at the open bar, and got a Budweiser T-shirt. At the ICM party, I discovered in my gift bag a colorful Atari tee and a Motorola wireless Bluetooth speakerphone for the car. While relaxing at the Limitless Café at the Arts & Cinema Centre, I enjoyed a turkey sandwich, a free copy of the Bradley Cooper thriller on DVD, and a complimentary bottle of the new Kenneth Cole fragrance, Connected. And at the launch party for the film Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, we were bestowed with several Blu-rays, a bottle of Muscle Milk, a trucker cap, several postcards, and...a mason jar. In short, it’s good to be press.

6. One bottle of Bud Light + 1 TruBlood margarita + 2 vodka tonics + a random cocktail someone gives you at the UTA party = one sleepless night with acid reflux.

6a. Eliza Dushku is absolutely gorgeous in person.

7. Again, Hall H. Not worth the six-hour wait in line. Well, depending on the panel. If Steven Spielberg decides to make an appearance, you go ahead, be a good fanboy and worship at that altar of pop culture.

8. Those oversized canvas bags they pass out at the entrance only makes you look like a loser. Bring a backpack. Or take said oversized bag and use it for laundry when you get home.

9. Journalists and bloggers love their swag, free food, open bars, and any opportunity to harshly critique anything to one another in between bites of free dessert.

10. Don’t order the fried calamari at the Broken Yolk Café on 7th Street. I’ve seen sludge in gutters more appetizing than the lame starter platter they serve over at that place.

That all said, I cannot wait for next year. That reminds me: must book hotel room for 2012…now.


July 20, 2011

Preview of a Bestseller

If this were a noir-ish crime novel, I would open this chapter describing the raindrops on a window of the late-night diner where a hardened detective is sipping coffee and waiting for his next case to come walking in. There would be adjectives used to convey the mood of the place, the lighting from the neon sign outside, the glare of the veteran waitress who’s desperate for a cigarette break in the back alley where she once fooled around with a greasy short-order cook who eventually got drafted to war.

If this were young-adult romantic thriller, I would start out with the chaotic hustle and bustle of a high school hallway and delve into the thoughts of a female protagonist who’s been pining for the pale-skinned new boy in town with a dark and deadly secret (his habitual drinking of human blood wouldn’t be revealed until the third or fourth chapter – naturally). There would be complaints about upcoming exams, inner monologues about single-parent homelife and general adolescent loneliness that could come off as unbearable, self-absorbed whining to anyone over the age of 25.

And if this were some cheap, guilty-pleasure Harlequin paperback – the kind featuring a shirtless dude with a rippling torso embracing a damsel in apparent distress – I would begin with a few cliché-riddled lines about a hot summer day on a bayou with characters named Rebecca, Blake, Susannah, and Troy. The heroine’s troubled past would be immediately explored in order to establish her strengths and weaknesses. Mama was an alcoholic, Daddy died in a war, and brother Bobby was in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Soon a tall, dark stranger strolls into the café where she works, and he turns out to be the savior she’s been yearning for after all these years. Yada, yada, yada.

But this isn’t one of those novels.

This also isn't one of those novels that attempts to be unlike any novel you’ve read before...

This is merely the opening chapter to what I hope will be my first novel, whether it be a suspense thriller of my own or the first volume of my fully fleshed-out memoirs that has been years in the making. Or just plain wishful thinking, a gesture to the universe to grab its attention.

Publishers, can you hear me?


July 18, 2011

The Scorching: 2011 Summer Playlist - Vol. 4

More tunage. More first-listens. More summery slickness.

Apparently there's no such thing as trilogies anymore (hence this fourth installment). So, after you've said your goodbyes to Harry Potter, after you've gotten the sand out of your ass, and after you've recovered from Comic-Con, try these on for size:

1. "Without You" by David Guetta feat. Usher - For when you've grown tired of that Taio Cruz mess.
2. "Blackout" by Breathe Carolina
3. "Heavy Metal Lover" by Lady GaGa - Featuring the best opening lyric of any dance song this year, "HML" is an irresistible industrial concoction with a cooing chorus that just. Won't. Go. Away.

4. "Swagger Jagger" Cher Lloyd
5. "In The Dark" by Dev
6. "One Club At A Time" by Midnight Red - B-side RedOne at its best, but still a worthy addition:

7. "Houdini" by Foster The People
8. "Lighters" by Bad Meets Evil feat. Bruno Mars
9. "Howlin' For You" by The Black Keys
10. "Fair Warning" by Penguin Prison
11. "Dedication To My Ex (Miss That)" by Lloyd feat. Andre 3000 - Or, the F**k You of 2011:

12. "Girl Talk" by Justin Faust:

13. "Lady Luck" by Jamie Woon
14. "Walls Come Down" by Keke Palmer
15. "Black and White" by Royal Tailor
16. "Rock Me" by Melanie C
17. "We Don't Get Down Like Y'all" by T.I. feat. B.o.B
18. "Heart Skips a Beat" by Olly Murs feat. Rizzle Kicks
19. "Free Fall" by Kelly Rowland
20. "Jealousy" by Will Young
21. "Surprise Surprise" by Brett Dennen
22. "Killa on the Run" by Sugababes
23. "Flesh" by Simon Curtis
24. "Collide" by Leona Lewis
25. "All About Tonight" by Pixie Lott
26. "Skyscraper" by Demi Lovato - Because it's the girl's I-Just-Got-Out-Of-Rehab anthem.

See you after Labor Day,


July 15, 2011

Carmageddon: L.A. at its Most Overdramatic

When it comes to making a fuss, Los Angeles is the master of it. The city with a reputation for being one giant playground, full of people with narcissistic tendencies, is that five-year-old child screaming in the sandbox, "Mommy, look at me! Look at me!" Here in sunny SoCal we have perfected the art of making mountains out of molehills, or rather, swimming pools out of soy lattes.

And we can't help it. We got the constant threat of earthquakes. We got mudslides. We got the Oscars, the Emmys, every ass-kissing awards ceremony imaginable. We got the Kardashians.

If you haven't heard by now (i.e. if you live in a normal part of the world), L.A. is going through a crisis. Ten miles of the 405 Freeway, one of the major interstates here in Southern California, will shut down tonight for 56 hours due a bridge demolition that is part of a $1 billion project aiming to widen the northbound and southbound lanes. It was only a few weeks ago that the press coined the term "Carmageddon" to describe the devastating effects this closure would have on a city where driving is practically a way of life. Traffic jams from hell! Don't go outside! The worst rubbernecking in history! And so forth.

This is a classic case of L.A.'s obsession with creating a brouhaha and focusing the world's attention on itself. And Carmageddon couldn't have had a better publicist. Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, and others have had their fun ripping on the city's self-inflicted paranoia and fears. Carmageddon.com is selling T-shirts (I "405" L.A.) and posting tips and precautionary videos as dramatic - and hysterical - as those nuclear war propaganda films from the 1950s. Restaurants and bars are offering Carmegeddon specials ("Irish car bombs for $2!"). Officials have even opened an emergency operations center...

Leave it to Los Angeles to create a frenzy about its own impending doom as overdramatic as one of the cheesy action films it spits out year after year. Only can L.A. be the one city in America that makes national headlines about its road conditions and chaotic commuter culture. When was the last time you saw CNN coverage on road closures in Alberquerque or Des Moines? I don't think Diane Sawyer has ever reported on traffic detours in Lansing, Michigan.

This shit is serious, people.

Now excuse me while I park my Prius at a Coffee Bean and glue my eyes to a laptop while I wait for my insufferable world to end.


July 14, 2011

Farewell Mr. Potter

My first trip to Hogwarts took place shortly after Thanksgiving in 2001. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a charming affair with Chris Columbus at the helm and adorable children with British accents practicing magic and running around in grown-up clothing. It was, to put it tritely, cute. My mom and I took in a matinee of the film and enjoyed the kid-lit adaptation at the Regal 18 in New Rochelle while I was home from college during my senior year. I thought it was a pleasant enough fantasy saga that would help me get in the mood for the forthcoming opening chapter of The Lord of the Rings. After all, everyone back then could have used a little wizardry; 9/11, having been only two months prior, was still fresh in our memories.

Then, the inevitable sequel came while I was still adjusting to my new life in Los Angeles. I kept seeing the words "darker" and "scarier" being thrown around to describe Chamber of Secrets, and after throwing down ten bucks to see it in Century City one autumn afternoon, I found myself just as charmed, jumping out of my seat once during the icky showdown with that giant snake. Again, cute.

Then, an interesting thing happened during the summer of 2004. And that was: The Prisoner of Azkaban. Gone was the Columbusian popcorny sheen of the first two movies and injected were an edgier tone and look. The camerawork was slightly rougher. Thank you, Alfonso Cuaron, for officially sucking me in to this captivating saga about an orphaned boy wonder who learns how to fight the forces of darkness with the flick of a wand. This was the movie that got me hooked. This was the film that sparked my interest in the novels. From then on, I made an effort to read each subsequent book before its film adaptation was released in theaters.

Goblet of Fire, or Year 4, was a doozy of book, and I ate it up before attending the opening night in Hollywood in the fall of 2005. For the first time, I was able to watch a Harry Potter movie with more of an appreciation and understanding of the characters and a keener sense of what was going on - and more importantly - what was left out or lost in the filmic translation. As for the actors, they were certainly growing up before our eyes. I considered this The Shaggy Year. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and some of the other male actors were sporting longer locks, and for those brief two hours it seemed as if the 60s were making a comeback (did you hear that rock band at the Yule Ball?). Speaking of that dance, this was the first time we saw Emma Watson's Hermoine glam it up for the occasion (cut to Ron: schwing!). And believe it or not, back then I took a liking to the actor who played the ill-fated Cedric Diggory and knew this wasn't going to be the last time we'd see the name Robert Pattinson on the big screen (for the record, the mania surrounding Twilight dumbfounds me - and irks me - to this day).

By 2007 I was a bonafide fanatic of the J.K. Rowling series. I scoured the Internet for first-look images, teaser trailers, and publicity shots of each upcoming film. The tagline for the fifth installment, "The Rebellion Begins," sent chills down my fanboy spine. Harry was getting ready to kick some dark wizard ass in Order of the Phoenix, and I got a kick out of seeing Dumbledore's Army coming together, rendezvousing behind Professor Umbridge's back. In other words, shit was about get real.

That summer also saw the release of the final book, a mammoth volume that created lines around Borders (remember that place?) and sold out within hours. I bought my copy knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to read it for a while (it's the only hardcover edition of the series I own).

The Half-Blood Prince was the calm before the storm. It clearly set the stage for the final battle and gave Harry plenty of ammunition to fight Voldemort. Unfortunately the whole Dumbledore Dies Plot Twist was spoiled for me before I could start the first chapter of the book. Regardless, I plowed through it before seeing it in the theater.

Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows was a stunner. Possibly the biggest character study of the seven films thus far, this was where we spent a lot of time away from Hogwarts, watching Harry, Hermoine, and Ron get quite a bit of facetime with each other while on the run from Voldemort’s minions. For the first time we saw these characters on their own, fending for themselves in a very scary, real world. And that naked Harry-Hermoine hallucination Ron experienced in the woods? Holy We’re-Not-in-Chris-Columbus-Land-Anymore Batman.

Now, as I sit and wait on the eve of the opening of the final movie in this enormously successful series, I anticipate a memorable and emotional cinematic experience (Tickets for the midnight screening at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks were purchased a month ago). I won't be surprised if a tear will be shed, especially during the flash-forward epilogue (SPOILER: In a very Six Feet Under-esque ending, we see our heroes grown up with children of their own). It truly is the end of a moviegoing era.

And while I look forward to seeing what Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and rest of the Hogwarts alumni will be up to once that final credit rolls, I thank everyone involved (especially you, Ms. Rowling) for giving the world a universally amazing piece of entertainment that defied all odds, instilled a healthy reading habit in a generation, inspired millions, and brought the word "Muggle" into everyone's vocabulary.

Raising my mug of butterbeer,


July 13, 2011

Me, Justin & Mila

If you'd like to check out my Sunday morning on the beach with the stars of Friends With Benefits, click on over here.

I also got to chat with Justin and Mila's fabulous co-stars, Jenna Elfman (who's quite a dancer...who knew?) and Patricia Clarkson (what a dame).

July 07, 2011

Revenge of the 90s

I think one of the prerequisites for settling into your early 30s is accepting that teenagers today don't have what you had when you were their age (and vice versa).

Also accepted is the more apparent fact that 90s nostalgia is alive and kicking in the 2010s.

By now, popular culture has gotten it down to a science: What was hot 20 years ago tends to rear its vintage head and come back into vogue. The 80s loved its 60s. The 90s grooved to the 70s. And the 00s reveled in the 80s. So it makes logical sense that the 90s have now become all the rage.

The proof is all around us...

The CW caught on early by bringing back 90s stalwarts 90210 (successfully) and Melrose Place (unsuccessfully) three television seasons ago. The Backstreet Boys are back on tour (granted, co-headlining with NKOTB). No Doubt is prepping to release a new album later this year. Plaid flannel is in. VH1 has begun to air a block of morning programming dedicated to videos by the likes of Ace of Base, Garbage, and EMF. There's that Total Recall remake starring Colin Farrell due in 2012. Demand for Jurassic Park on Blu-ray has generated a sizable fanboy storm. TeenNick kicked off "The 90s Are All That" earlier this year, a late-night line-up featuring reruns of Clarissa Explains It All, Rugrats, and other Clinton-era pleasures. Turn on any radio, and you'll find enough Ibiza-esque dance beats on Top 40 to bring any La Bouche or Real McCoy fan to tears. And I have no doubt in my mind that on college campuses across America, students are breaking out the Doc Martens, floral skirts, and turtlenecks to partake in 90s-themed keggers.

Before you raise your fists to the sky and dramatically shout, "It's too soon!" remember this inevitable truth: it's all cyclical. What is old becomes new again. So kudos to you if you were one of the few who held on to that unflattering Tommy Hilfiger polo and VHS copy of Spice World. When the present becomes too much to handle, or if there's nothing new to enjoy, we look to the past. All of this, I believe, correlates to the fact that we are all slaves to a culture with a growing attention deficit.

If you're a follower of this small blog of mine, you know what kind of adolescence I endured during said decade: An all-boys prep school education, an obsession with Alanis Morissette's life-changing Jagged Little Pill, geeky speech-and-debate triumphs, and a penchant for keeping my nose deeply planted in every paperback novel ever written by Christopher Pike, Dean Koontz, and R.L. Stine.

I know I am not alone when I cringe at the thought of a decade I mostly cherish coming back to entertain and ultimately haunt us for the next several years.

Praying there's no Independence Day reboot while I start outlining my script for a new X-Files movie,


July 06, 2011

The Blazing: 2011 Summer Playlist - Vol. 3

Apparently there's plenty of tunage to go around this summer. So much, in fact, I've assembled another 30 tracks for your listening pleasure; I present to you my third volume. After all, doesn't everything come in threes?

May this accompany you on your travels to the pool, to Comic-Con, to your grandmother's house, or to your local Starbucks for an icy Coconut Mocha Frappucino. Enjoy:

1. "Party Rock Anthem" by LMFAO
2. "Schoolin' Life" by Beyonce - Another deluxe edition track that unfortunately will never be released as a single for all to enjoy (why, God, why?), so get your fix of this refreshingly 80s-esque anthem of sass here:

3. "Aphrodite" by Kylie Minogue
4. "Talk Talk Talk" by Darren Hayes
5. "Big Fat Bass" by Britney Spears feat. will.i.am
6. "Punching in a Dream" by The Naked and Famous
7. "Galaxies" by Owl City
8. "Not That Kinda Girl" by The Saturdays
9. "Mr Saxobeat" by Alexandra Stan
10. "Changed The Way You Kissed Me" by Example - With faint echoes of New Order's "Blue Monday," this latest single from the English rapper soars during its hard-hitting chorus:

11. "This City" by Patrick Stump feat. Lupe Fiasco - The Fall Out Boy frontman shows his funky-soulful side, and all is hella good.
12. "Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)" by Lady Gaga
13. "Took My Love" by Pitbull feat. Red Foo, Vein & David Rush - A more understated dance jam from Mr. Worldwide.
14. "Stitch by Stitch" by Javier Colon
15. "Feels So Good (Radio Edit)" by Armin Van Burren feat. Nadia Ali
16. "Just Once" by Databoy
17. "Major Minus" by Coldplay
18. "Gold Mine" by Breanne Duren
19. "Cryin' Over You" by The Nightcrawlers feat. Taio Cruz
20. "Love Gun" by Michelle Williams - The forgotten child of Destiny recently put out this buzz single that, despite the cheesy Casio keyboard breakdown in the last third, is like one of those songs to which you'll be dancing on your own (after several vodka tonics, of course) long after last call.
21. "The Yacht Club" by Owl City
22. "So You Into You" by Ledisi
23. "Set My World On Fire" by The Feeling
24. "When The Lights Go Down" by Grace V
25. "The Worse It Gets" by Penguin Prison:

26. "Who Dat Addictive Bad S&M Girl" by Marc Johnce - The master of the mash-up outdoes himself with this supersonic mosaic of Top 40 dance hits.
27. "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" by Kylie Minogue
28. "Stay Awake" by Example - The bloke's second tune on this list is a celebratory ode to "a messed-up generation" punctuated by the drowsy vocals of the rapper otherwise known as Elliot Gleave.
29. "You Are A Tourist" by Death Cab for Cutie
30. "Sweetest High" by Nadine Coyle

July 01, 2011

Theme Song of the Month: July

Although I like to think that I got some rhythm in me - compared to some other writers I know who have never stepped foot on a dance floor - I know my moves will never land me a ticket to Vegas on SYTYCD.

But still...give me a funky groove, some souful vocals, and a catchy-as-hell chorus, and I shall proceed to bust a move and further prove that my ass has a mind of its own once it's given a proper bass to follow.

"Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina In-Need-of-a-Rebranding Aguilera is currently the song I can't get enough of. Whistle along, won't you?

As Jcrazy914 once commented on YouTube, I hope my neighbors like this song.

Catfights, Cleavage and Carrie-Anne Moss: 'Models Inc.' Turns 25

In the early 90s, as anyone familiar with the oeuvre of uber-producer Aaron Spelling knows, the successful  Beverly Hills, 90210 begat ...