The Glee Project

Any Gleek going through withdrawal should take a look at the Oxygen’s The Glee Project, a competition for a spot on next season’s Glee. It follows the usual reality show attrition formula, like The Next Food Network Star or what seems like a dozen others. Yet because the contestants are talented and their stories are compelling.

Each week the contestants must do a number within a time constraint and the best performer gets a one-on-one coaching session with a Glee cast member. Next the contestants work on a video that relates to a Glee theme like vulnerability or theatricality. Like the characters on Glee, the contestants must not only perform well, but deal with their own frailties and flaws to make it.

I enjoyed seeing the producers, choreographers and voice coach work with the contestants, challenging them to move beyond the safe or even the dull. As I do with The Next Food Network Star, I see the critiques as relevant. Shows like The Apprentice or Survivor are contrived, but The Glee Project’s challenges draw one in because they’re realistic.

As always, this reality show gives us a glimpse at the behind the scenes drama back in the dorms. We see friendships develop and rivalries foment. Without fail, after a couple episodes I’ve got contestants who irk me and others I’m rooting for. I wouldn’t mind if Lindsay, a terrific singer, without an ounce of humility and terrible social skills, was cut. Here there are more favorites than people who annoy.

The next new episode isn’t till the week after next so you can catch up on hulu.com.

Inception

Cool, mind-bending, esoteric, Inception leads viewers through a plot that’s a maze. Sometimes we’re sure of where we are; a lot of the time we aren’t. The hero Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, infiltrates people’s dreams or their dreams within their dreams. Here he hopes to save the world’s energy sources by infiltrating the sub-conscience of the heir to a major corporation. He and his team risk everything in this esoteric pursuit. Along the way there are plenty of cool effects, chases, explosions and close calls.

In the beginning I found the film engrossing, but as it went on, I hoped it would end and I got tired of how aware the story was of its own complexity and cleverness. The hero’s desire to recapture his old love and return to his family got old. His wife, who haunted him, seemed both wooden and ethereal–so unreal and hence dull. So I didn’t really care whether he addressed that problem. I found the heir to plastic and stereotypical, so that aspect of the story didn’t work for me either.

I did like Ellen Page’s character, Ariadne, an architecture student who’s the Every woman in this film. If only a few more of the characters had seem so real or worth caring about . . . . The last scenes were painfully sentimental and predictable.

I’m glad I saw this intriguing, ambitious film once, but wouldn’t bother seeing it again.

Failed Hard Drive

Last week the hard drive on my laptop failed. That means it’s harder to blog and harder to watch DVDs. I hope to be back to normal soon.

Michael Moore’s Sicko

Last night I went to Michael Moore’s lastest documentary, Sicko! which takes aim at healthcare and the insurance business in the US. Like all his movies he uses humor to make his point with ironic pairings of music and images and his folksy interview style. It’s clear that Moore thinks the US should overhaul it’s healthcare system so that all people are covered, and covered better. I agree.

While begins with a few cases involving people who weren’t insured and who had disasterous health problems, most of the movie deals with the problems faced by people who have some insurance. The majority of the cases seemed to be people who obtained their own policies. Companies would do almost everything to deny them coverage. It was heartbreaking.

He also presents people who work or worked for insurance companies who described how the companies encouraged denials and rewarded anyone who helped them make money. It was heartbreaking. One shortcoming was a scene when a medical director testified in the early ’90s against her employer who rewarded her for denying claims. A more recent case would have been more powerful and convincing.

The best part of the film was how Moore addressed people’s fears about a national health care system. He went to Canada, Britain, France and Cuba (he can’t resist irony of that sort) and asked people about their experiences. Again and again, they assured him that they did not have to wait forever and that they could choose their doctors. Their taxes were higher but this didn’t mean middle class people lived lives of deprivation.

It’s a good movie to spark discussion. I don’t know why Americans are so content with the current system. I’ve always had good doctors, whom I like, but I do know people who are trapped in jobs because they have pre-existing conditions like diabetes. A friend was fired on trumped up charges from Mark Shale in the late ’80s because she had MS and it was costing the company too much. She had no options. No one wanted to hire her. She got some special coverage through the state of Illinois. She later moved South and I’m not sure how she dealt with her employment and insurance problems.

Whether we model a new system after another country (Japan has national care and the taxes are very low, but you do pay something for medicine and treatment) or find something new, I hope we do something. I wish people would start caring and discussing this more. It’s a complicated problem and there are so many stakeholders and special interests, but the US should be able to meet the needs of its citizens better.