the glee project: sexuality

This episode’s theme was sexuality and Naya Rivera (Santana) was the mentor. The gang sang a song I can’t remember and there was a lot of sultry looks and pumping and grinding. How I long for a bit more sophistication in our culture. I don’t blame the contestants they’re just seeing what’s out there and emulating. (Porpoise of Life’s blogger couldn’t remember the song either. Not a good sign. I did just watch the beginning again and the song was “I Wanna Sex You Up.” Ho hum.)

If you’ve seen the show you can pretty much predict how a lot of the contestants responded. Aylin was exuberant, but worried about what her parents thought. Yet she doesn’t really seem to care so it’s something of a non-issue. Tyler reminded us that his transgender transition makes this tough for him, yet when Robert announced the theme he was jubilant. I guess he just got caught up in the mob response.

Charlie won the homework competition and was on cloud 9 knowing that Naya considered him the success in the sexuality challenge. Yet this turned out to be a bit of a curse as it made him cocky the rest of the week.

The Star of the Week

Nellie interested me the most this week. She was honest and admitted this was a stretch since she hadn’t even seen a guy naked. I was glad someone had a different perspective. It’s interesting to watch someone who seems so real live through this fish bowl experiment.

The video for the week’s setting was a high school sex ed class in which a dowdy, non-sexy teacher assigns the class to write an essay on “What Sexuality Means to Me.” The Glee Project did get the banality and triviality that can pervade US classrooms right, but really this is an assignment that would result in parental outcry. Why should a teacher read and evaluate students’ sexuality? Is that their job? No teacher who’s right in the head would assign something that begs parents to call and complain.

Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder

In the studio, Michael stumbled over the lyrics as he sang with Mario. He just couldn’t get them right and in the end Nikki had to ask him to leave. Still over the moon from his homework win, Charlie was flirting with Aylin while recording which just made him look immature. He needs to wake up if he wants to stay.

Then during the video shoot, Charlie let his ADD and attitude get the best of him as he tried to direct Erik the Director, who was remarkably patient.

Tyler just got lost in the crowd. Lily vamped up her performance and shy Nellie got out of her shell and excelled in the shoot.

Tyler, Michael and Charlie had to do last chance performances. Charlie did a fun rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You,” which got Ryan and Co. to overlook Charlie’s lack of professionalism that week.

Michael sang and forgot the words to “Lucky.” I thought he was a goner. Tyler sang Charlie Chaplin‘s “Smile” which he mentioned he’d never heard although it was featured in Glee‘s first season. If I were going on The Glee Project, I’d watch all the Glee episodes again since they tend to pull TGP songs from the series since those have been cleared for legal rights. I thought Tyler did a poor job and I winced at times as he was off pitch at times.

Michael and Tyler both botched their performances. Tyler’s been in the final three regularly and always reminds his judges that he’s going through a major transition vis-a-vis his gender. It’s true and sincere, but should he constantly get excused and protected? Then blowing the lyrics twice is quite a blunder. In the end the judges decided that Tyler should go. While they liked him and sympathized with his challenges, as Zach told Charlie, “This is a job.”  Tough as it was to do, the judges sent Tyler home.

I think that was the right decision, hard as it may have been. I doubt Tyler could deal — all at once — with the physical, emotional and professional challenges he signed himself up for.

Frankenstein

If it weren’t for Theater Mania’s email offering 20% off tickets, I’d have never known that the National Theater Live was broadcasting Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in Evanston. What Sherlock fan could pass up the deal?

The acting, sets and costumes were all outstanding. Last night we saw Cumberbatch as the Creature and Miller as Dr. Frankenstein.  I’d caught bits and pieces of old Frankenstein films, which gave me an idea of what to expect. However, I didn’t know the movies departed from Mary Shelley‘s book.

Now I know why.

Despite a stellar performance by Cumberbatch and creative staging, the story fell short of what I’d expected.

Just after birth

The play opened with a scene, a protracted scene, of the Creature’s birth masterfully performed by Cumberbatch, yet the scene dragged. After a while, I was thinking, “We get it, the Creature’s gawky and learning to walk is a clumsy, long process. Can you please move on?” How I wished the director had made that more succinct. I also wondered why Frankenstein hadn’t heard all the banging about his creature was doing. Why did it take him so long to get into the lab to see what the hell was going on? We’re later told that Frankenstein was a workaholic, obsessed with his work. Well, not that night.

Once the creature’s born and walking, Frankenstein discovers him and he freaks out. As a result of Frankenstein’s screaming rejection, the Creature hits the road. Mind you all he’s wearing is a loin cloth and he knows nothing of life. He can barely walk and has no knowledge of language.  He has no concept of geography, what a town or street is, what buying or begging is. Nothing at all. Nada.

After a minor run in with some scamps, the Creature meets an old man who’s blind and thus accepting. The man teaches the Creature to read and think critically. Pretty far fetched since a baby needs to hear language for years before talking let alone reading Paradise Lost passages. Yeah, I don’t blame the B movie directors for departing from this story.

While under the tutelage of the blind man, the Creature hides in the shadows fearing rejection and abuse from anyone who can see him.

Life is fine, though limited till the old man’s son and daughter-in-law panic when they first see the Creature. The man was so set on integrating the Creature into his family, yet didn’t have the sense to prepare them for this meeting. He’d been working with the Creature for a long, long time.

If he thought the Creature was hideous, why didn’t he scrap the project and start anew after taking some sewing and art lessons?

Throughout the play the Creature is a gawky biped with gruesome scars and bruises that never heal. It’s like Frankenstein sewed the Creature with his feet. I never understood how Frankenstein, who designed and made the creature was so repulsed.

The play deals (ineptly, I’d say) with themes of responsibility, connection, alienation, prejudice, but it’s all done with the sophistication of an 19 year old. I’m far less impressed with Shelley’s stature as a novelist if this is indeed the accurate retelling the play claims to be.

Frankenstein was the typical one dimensional scientist who’s anti-social and uncomfortable in society. He’s okay with theory, but horrible with real life. For some reason, his fiance is madly in love with him and keeps trying to get blood from the rock-like heart of this nerd dressed in ruffles.

The cost of Frankenstein’s misuse of science is death, several deaths.

While the play will be performed again in July with Cumberbatch and Miller changing roles, I couldn’t sit through the story again. I’m sure Cumberbatch would do an excellent job as Frankenstein, yet he’s limited by the poor story.

It’s weird to see so much good in a production and yet not be able to whole heartedly recommend it. I’d even give the set designers and actors awards, but I wouldn’t want to sit through this again.

Daniel Deronda

Adapted from a George Eliot novel, the BBC production of Daniel Deronda will quench any Anglophile’s thirst for drama and romance. The series opens with a head strong, vivacious beauty, a Victorian Scarlett O’Hara, winning and quickly losing big at a German gaming table. It seems her laughing off the loss doesn’t ring true. Maybe she isn’t as well off as she appears.

Soon we learn the captivating woman is Gwendolyn, whose family isn’t well off (in fact they lose everything by the end of episode 1). The title character, Daniel, sees Gwendolyn lose all her winnings and as a professional guardian angel, retrieves the lost necklace Gwendolyn had to hock. While few words pass between the two, we can see that they’re both smitten.

Daniel has no idea who his real parents are. Most his life a rather stodgy, yet kind man has taken him in and acted as a father. He plays the part so well that most people assume the man is Daniel’s father. In any event Daniel has had the upbringing of a gentleman without the solid footing of one. Like any good hero, he’s very handsome and very kind.

One day he rescues a young woman, Mira, who tries to drown herself. He takes her to some friends and oversees her care and her budding singing career. There’s some warmth between Daniel and Mira, but it simmers in the first three episodes. They would make a good couple, but she is Jewish and while Daniel is open minded for the era, he doesn’t seem ready to chance marrying Mira. Still he doesn’t like it when his best friend expresses a desire to marry Mira either.

While Daniel and Mira are getting acquainted and Daniel’s helping Mira find her long lost relations and learning more and more about Jewish culture in a corner of Victorian England, I’ve never seen, Gwendolyn’s family has hit hard times. It’s impossible for them to keep her in silk and satin. (She always got the best horses, clothes, etc. while her non-blonde-haired siblings got table scraps it seems.) Her uncle can get her a position as a governess.

A governess? Are you kidding? Gwendolyn has always wanted the finer things and she’ll do anything to get them, anything including Grandcourt, a cold man with money, whom she knows has neglected a mistress and three children.

The story is absorbing. The relationships are all in a knot and no one’s where they should be. To make matters more complicated, you have to ask yourself whether you’d root for Gwendolyn and Daniel since she’s so self-absorbed. The most redeeming aspect of Gwendolyn’s character is that she doesn’t pretend to be generous or kind. She’s quite open about her faults, which she sees as assets, rather like Cynthia in Wives and Daughters. If a villain knows her faults, she’s on the path to heroism.

After seeing Hugh Bonneville in Downton Abbey it’s hard to imagine him as a cad, or worse, but in Daniel Deronda he’s a scoundrel. He enjoys subjugating Gwendolyn and that is why he married this stunningly beautiful, albeit selfish and frivolous young woman. My, a lot of women need rescuing here and there’s only one Daniel in the village.

Tomorrow I’ll finish episode 4.

Glee: Re-energized?

I just learned that Lea Michele will be back for 22, count ’em 22 seasons with Glee. The series will have a new format and split its time between Lima, Ohio, and New York, New York. Huh?

Lea’s a great talent, but this kind of bet hedging is bound to fail. Isn’t the show Glee in part about urging people to take risks because that’s what works?

Sounds like the writers are putting the show on life support.

Clearly, none of the Glee writing staff has watched MI-5. If they had, they’d have learned how to introduce and kill off beloved cast members.

A spin off makes more sense and would be more financially rewarding. It’s not like the Fox Network has too many good series on the air. Mary Tyler Moore spun off Lou Grant and Rhoda. All in the Family gave us The Jeffersons and another show.

The Glee Project, Season 2 so far

The Glee Project is off to a good start this summer. The contestants have a wide range of personalities and life experiences, yet after watching 3 episodes I don’t have the same familiarity as I did with the first season’s cast.

As in season 1, Individuality was the first episode’s  theme and the week’s video would be to “Born This Way.” I was just getting to know the 14 contestants and you know that one show is not enough to show your real potential and ability. Yet someone had to go and it was Maxfield, a country singer with charm. Compared with the Tyler, the transgender teen, and Alyn, a spitfire Muslim of Turkish descent, Maxfield didn’t inspire the same story possibilities for Glee. While that reason wasn’t stated, I think that was what it came down to for the first episode. The other two offer story possibilities that inspire Ryan Murphy so it seemed to early to let them go.

Apart from my thoughts on their talent, I do begin to get some definite preferences. Lily comes across as narcissistic and shallow. She lacks concern for others and is rather open about that. I wouldn’t miss her. Alyn has a charming vivacity. Nelli’s quiet, but that makes me think she’s got depth and potential. Tyler reminds me of Urkel from Family Matters. 

I was surprised to see Dani go home at the end of Dance-ability, but then again I wasn’t. She’s a talented, likeable performer, someone who’d make a good friend, but she doesn’t fit into the bold colors and emotions of Glee. To become a Gleek, Dani would have to distance herself from all her strengths and best traits, to morph into a caricature as I’m afraid we’re seeing Sam and Damien do.

I was quite surprised and sad to see that Taryn decided to leave the show in this episode. While talented, Taryn admitted she felt it was too much to live in the dorm and participate in this show. I can see how someone could feel that way and reality TV isn’t the only on ramp for a career in music. I wish we’d have gotten to see more of her, but she probably chose wisely.

So Watch Sunset Boulevard or Sabrina

Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the man who once gave the order, “Shoot a few scenes out of focus. I want to win the foreign film award.” That was screenwriter, director, and producer Billy Wilder, born Samuel Wilder in Sucha, Austria (now Poland) (1906). His mother nicknamed him “Billy” because she was fascinated with Buffalo Bill. He first got into writing as a journalist, doing all kinds of interviews and stories, and was soon writing scenarios for silent films. He came to the United States in the 1930s, dated American women to improve his English, and got a job writing scripts for Fox Film Corporation. He first became a director, he said, to keep other people from messing with his scripts. He once said, “A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard.” He worked his way up the ladder and ended up producing and directing many classics of Hollywood’s Golden AgeDouble Indemnity (1944), The Seven Year Itch (1955), Some Like it Hot (1959), and The Apartment (1960), to name just a few.

Billy Wilder, who said, “An actor entering through the door, you’ve got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you’ve got a situation.”

Bunheads, Episode 2

I’m rooting for Bunheads, just because I like Michelle, the main character, a showgirl looking for a new start, and I like disliking the uptight mother-in-law Fanny, who like Emily Gilmore does have her redeeming qualities. Yet the show’s still finding a way to entertain, while clearing out the cobwebs of a complicated, weighty premise, i.e. mild-mannered, somewhat dull good buy convinces a talented dancer, whose life’s detour became a rut, to marry him.

I keep thinking it would have been so much better to have Michelle and Hubble together for a season before killing him off. Instead the creators chose to kill off Hubbell in episode one, which means they need to invent some complicated reasons for Michelle to stay in a town that probably can’t support two dance teachers.

This week’s episode revolved around Fanny hiding her grief in the process of planning an elaborate memorial with Tibetan monks, a sitar player and a massive tent. The jokes in this vein soon wore thin. The other story line showed Michelle listlessly dealing with her “now what?” predicament.

The characters appeal, but the plot is too contrived at this point. Still I’m a sucker for wit and charm. I miss The Gilmore Girls so I’ll stick around and see how Michelle gets on in Paradise, California.

Hands on History

I like these short history cartoons on British history. Take a look and enjoy!


Ancient British History


Norman History

There are more on YouTube or the BBC (if you’re in the U.K.).

Glee: Goodbye Episode

Well, I predict the disappointing season 3 of Glee won’t sell many DVDs. I’d hoped for better with the finale, but while there were a few good moments, it was really just a mishmash of emotion and storylines, that seemed thrown together.

It’s been a year of far-fetched incidents and caustic humor that’s grown old. This episode was no exception. It seemed that after winning Nationals, the writers didn’t know what to do with the cast. Quinn helped Puck study for his make-up exam and her flat-line emotion inspired him to buckle down and get the C- (a Puckerman A) he needed to graduate. Whoo who. So much for music improving students’ grades.

Finn fooled Rachel, who got into NYADA,  into going on to New York on her own and this manipulation was packaged as a positive. While she probably should go, it would have been better if she decided to with Finn. This is 2012, right? Then out of the blue, more or less, Finn decided to enlist in the army. Quite a squandered event as no one but Rachel gets to challenge his signing up and when she sees the lights of Broadway, Rachel quickly forgets that her true love is most likely headed to Afghanistan. Are we to think she’s that vapid?

At one point, Will confesses to Finn how he planted the pot in Finn’s locker to get him to join Glee and Finn thinks that’s cool. He might have reacted that way, but it really didn’t seem worth mentioning after all this time.

One high point was Burt Hummel‘s dance to “All the Single Ladies” which he offered to Kurt as a graduation present.

Blaine, who really should return to the prep school where he’ll learn more, brought up the topic of breaking up with Kurt. After all long distance relationships are hard. Yeah, but Blaine, you’ve got all summer with Kurt so why mention this now? That’s what irks me about Glee, it’s far fetched when it doesn’t have to be.

Santana toyed with the idea of going on to New York and it seems she is NY bound. Her mom, played by Gloria Estefan, first wanted Santana to go to college as she hadn’t and the mom had been scrimping for years for the tuition. Their discussion was very rational and non-dramatic compared with real daughter-mother discussions of this sort. Santana’s gotten too mean and caustic for me to really care about her. She’s one dimensional and it’s hard to see what Brittany supposedly finds to love. I think this character, like many on Glee, is just a lump of clay that writers shape as they like without thought of consistency.

It was odd that during graduation, this little club that is a bleep on the school’s radar was so prominent in the graduation ceremony. McKinley seems to have students graduate in random order, neither alphabetical or reverse alphabetical order. This episode and the previous one about nationals points out one strange omission of Glee. In this era of hover parents, these characters’ parents, except for Burt, have been implausibly absent. I think the writers have missed out on good stories by neglecting Quinn’s parents after the first season and Rachel’s till this season. Seasons two and three could have been richer by bringing in more conflicts with parents. That’s a big part of teenage years and fits with our times.

I do hope Kurt doesn’t just mope around Lima for the next year. He can and should get into college. I’d expect him to have the brains to find another interest that he can cultivate.

Bunheads

Created by Gilmore GirlsAmy Sherman-Pallidino, Bunheads chronicles the story of Michelle, a Vegas dancer whose life is at a dead end. Acutely aware of her limited choices, Michelle marries a bland businessman who’s always been kind to her. This safe choice brings her to Paradise, California, a sleepy town on the coast.

Once she gets to town, reality sets in. Her new husband lives with his imperious mother in a house filled with kitsch. This mother-in-law, like most of the small town neighbors, is far from welcoming. Michelle will have to work hard to win them over. Fortunately, her husband, bland though he may be, has her back and stands up for him. He realizes she doesn’t love him and hopes in time she will. Quite a novel premise.

Both Michelle and Fanny, her new mother-in-law, have experienced thwarted dreams of professional dancing careers. Fanny gave up her dance career when she got pregnant and opened the ballet school she now runs to support her family when her husband died. Michelle’s temporary hiatus from the New York dance world has gone on and on since Vegas paid more and till recently that life appealed to her.

Bunheads offers the wit and conflict we’d expect from Sherman-Pallindino and while I’m not as smitten as I was with her Gilmore Girls, I think this series has potential. The pilot is available on Hulu.com. Let’s see how this plays out.