Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Idol -- Billboard #1s

Every week, Simon tells contestants that they need to make themselves more relevant. In keeping with that opinion, how about one week they make a theme that isn't a song from the year you were born or songs from bands old enough to be your grandfathers or #1 songs from other centuries. Here's an idea. Make them pick a song by an artist that's the same age? There's contemporary and, hopefully, relevant.

On to my opinion of tonight's performances and show.

Was that Lee DeWyze doing The Letter? Or, did the spirit of Joe Cocker possess Michael Buble? Weird, I know, but it worked I actually liked that performance and am becoming more of a Lee fan every week.

Ellen, you know how like you start out making some weird comparison between a contestant and like unripe bananas or favorite pens and then go on and on and on until we all like want to stab you with that freaking favorite pen? Well stop. Just stop.

Paige, it isn't enough to stay in tune, you also need to stay in time with the band. Not only couldn't you hold the pitch, you either sang ahead of or behind the music. I think we were taking a good look at your swan song. It's against all odds that you'll still be around next week.

When Randy sucks air in between his teeth, brace yourself for a bad critique. Paige's performance was so bad that even Ellen had to pull a Paula and tell her she looked beautiful.

Tim doing Queen? I was already cringing before he sang a note. He was like your drunken misfit brother grabbing the mic and signing at your wedding. The only thing that can save him is that Paige sucked worse.

I really wish we could text in votes for who we want to see leave. I'd blow my entire month's plan on two contestants tonight.

Could Aaron have a bigger crush on Miley Cyrus?? That not Ellen's unripe banana in his pocket when he hugged her.

Apparently, I'm the only one who didn't adore Crystal's performance and I LOVE her. Maybe the judges were just so happy to have someone A) sing on pitch and B) not make an idiot of him/herself that they went overboard. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't awful just okay.

Mike played it very safe but he'll still be around next week.

Andrew, you know you're not gonna make it to the top when you get outsung by a bunch of claymation raisins.

Thanks to Katie, we finally heard a song from this century. For some reason, Katie brings out the hate in some of my friends. (And you know who you are, Jane!) I like her and thought this was one of her best nights. I hope lots of voters in America agree. Katie, you're the pride of Middlebury, Connecticut and everyone back home is rooting for you. Unfortunately, the population of Middlebury only numbers 7,343. Hope they all have big text plans.

For the love of all that's right and professional, Kara, stop thinking with your vajajay when Casey performs! They should have called that song the Power of Lust. Simon was right on the money with his comments. Did nobody else notice that Casey totally skipped the difficult change in the song? Do we really need eye candy that much?

I was on the verge of liking Didi's interpretation of You're No Good, until she tipped the cutesy meter into sickening. One should not smile and look all coy when singing of heartbreak and betrayal. Who took her other sleeve?

Siobhan showed that she cannot only sing the hell out of just about any song, but that Sanjaya's hairstylist is also still with the show.

What did you think of Billboard #1 night?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

American Idol -- Game On

Finally. The Top 12 performs. Now the competition really begins.

No, not the singers on television. THE competition. The annual American Idol pool!

Am I serious? You bet your booty I am. I'm the reigning champ and to the victor came the spoils in a sizeable check. There's even more to be won this year because we have 60 people competing. Stay tuned!

As for tonight's competition at the Kodak Theater... What was with Ryan's rictus at the opening? Somebody shrink his shorts?

Big Mike's so good. He has the whole package with vocal performance, movement, charisma and stage presence. I'm worried that people will automatically think he's safe and not vote for him.

Does Kara think the Rolling Stones died after their last tour? She talked about them in past tense.

The Stones have a huge catalog of songs but Didi picked the most boring of the bunch. The judges were largely complimentary but I think they were taking it easy because she was only the second to perform.

I'm paraphrasing here, but basically, Casey's mother practically said, "Please vote for my poor brain-damaged boy." I sort of liked his performance although he pretty much out-Bucky'd Bucky Covington. Not that that's hard.

Props to Ellen for self-deprecating lesbian wit.

Lacey reminded me less of the Stones and more of William Shatner performing the Stones -- and why did she have her Granny's old slip wrapped around her waist?

Andrew Garcia gave an inspired performance... inspired by Michael Buble doing the Stones.

Tim Urban's parents must have been responsible for him getting beaten up often in grade school. Hell, they could get him beat up in Hollywood for sharing the tender story that his sisters pretty much cross-dressed him at an early age. His reggae-influenced rendition of Under My Thumb was Bob Marley meets Bobby McFerrin meets Bobby Sherman. On the upside, I know a dozen Tiki bars in the Florida Keys who would book him.

Siobhan studied Adam Lambert's tapes and stole a page out of his playbook. For the record, I said that before Kara!

I adore Katie. She won't win, but she's my aunt's hometown girl. The best thing that can happen to Katie is for Leanne Rime's first producer to sign her. He knows how to turn a teenager with a big voice into a big star.

Question... Who pays the contestants monthly bills for the whole time they're out in Hollywood and not working at their jobs?

I never understood why so many people liked Lee until tonight. He delivered one of my favorite performances.

Holy hell. Where has THAT Paige been the last few weeks? She was great -- and she did it with laryngitis.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who snickered that Aaron's mother's name is Kelly Kelly. I know it's her married name, but still. I will forever be grateful that my parents didn't name me Stella Stella. As far as his performance, I guess it was good. Personally, I think if he gets any more white bread, someone's going to spread peanut butter and jelly on him when he isn't looking.

Yo, audience members up front, you had two jobs: Cheer wildly and wave your arms in synch. You just screwed up one of those jobs. How hard is it to move your arm to the left and then to the right?

Did Kara find some of Paula's old Valium in a dressing room somewhere?

I thought Crystal was terrific. No matter what happens someone's going to sign her and I want to buy her album.

Now I have to decide who I think will be the next American Idol and who will be the runner up. Then I need to pick which three singers will get the least amount of votes this week and who's going home.

There's a lot of work involved in this pool, but what a payoff!

Stella out.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Random Oscar Broadcast Comments

I don't know why, but I really want Sandra Bullock to win the Oscar for Best Actress. I liked her in The Blind Side. Oh sure, I loved Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia, but Sandra's never won.

Who wins won't make one bit of difference in my life. I really have no reason to care but . . . here I am, staying awake to watch the awards. I could keep playing Bejeweled Blitz to keep myself awake, but my hand's starting to go numb, so I thought I'd share some random thoughts.

ABC's red carpet coverage right before the awards broadcast took inane to a new low. George Clooney did his best acting by not giving away that he thought Sherry Shepherd was a babbling idiot.

Kudos, George, for letting your hair go all salt and pepper and still looking like one of the sexiest men alive. Ever since Bob Costas soaked his head in Grecian Formula before the Olympics, I've been noticing obvious dye jobs on men. Yes, I know this is sexist and hypocritical, but I think only women should color our gray hair.

Holy hell, Sandra. I have nothing against red lipstick but stick you on a coastline on a foggy night and your mouth could guide ships in safely to shore. Talk about bright! (Loved your gown though. Beautiful, elegant and you wore it well.)

When they were pairing up presenters did someone not know that Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper have both dated Jennifer Aniston? Why not throw in John Mayer and Brad Pitt while you're at it?

For months we've seen promos of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin co-hosting. Wisely, the producers hired Neil Patrick Harris to do the splashy, funny, snarky musical opening number. Throughout the broadcast so far, Martin and Baldwin have been as much background noise as the woman announcer. Probably not a bad thing.

Take note, costume designers. If you're competing against a movie about any English queen, you're probably going to lose.

My favorite acceptance speech came from Michael Giacchino who won the Best Score award for Up. In it he explained that in all his life, whenever he experimented with creative pursuits, nobody ever told him it was a waste of his time. He urged anyone, young or old, who's experimenting with their creative side to remember that it's never a waste of time. Hear! Hear!

Second favorite acceptance speech so far -- the guy who won for Best Animated Short -- Logorama. "No logos were harmed in the making of this film."

Can't Quentin Tarantino afford a tux that fits?

The promos ads for V where the creepy lizard-woman alien leader speaks directly to us are clever.

I just had a thought. Every year the network worries about ratings for the Oscar broadcast. Instead of obsessing about the show, why not steal an idea from the Super Bowl? Encourage advertisers to make super-creative, special commercials. Even people who don't care about football often tune in the big game just for the ads.

These long, drawn-out personal sharings by co-stars for the lead actor nominees are . . . long, drawn-out and unnecessary. What are they doing? Building in some ego-stroke for the actors who don't win? Are Morgan Freeman and Jeremy Renner wondering why the other guys got lauded by beautiful women and they got Tim Robbins and Colin Ferrell?

Kate Winslet -- absolutely stunning dress and no boob pillows spilling over the top.

Awww. Standing ovation for Jeff Bridges. Now that's an honest, lovely moment in a make believe business. His acceptance speech was long but nobody played him off. Another classy moment.

Well, if they had to do this "co-star tribute" thing, thank God they picked Forrest Whittaker for Sandra Bullock. He spoke with charm warmth, and real sincerity. Better him than Keanu Reeves who demonstrates a range of emotion from A to . . . B.

This is the first time I've seen actor Michael Sheen as himself and not portraying a real life person like Tony Blair or David Frost.

I think that Gabourey Sidibe was incredible in Precious. I hope that Oprah wasn't overly optimistic saying that she's at the start of a fabulous career. I'd love to see more roles for overweight black women played by real actresses and not Eddie Murphy or Tyler Perry in fat suits and makeup.

Why isn't it enough to call Precious just Precious? All night long they've called it Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

Can you image if 70 years ago they'd said, Gone With the Wind: Based on the novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell?

Yay. Sandra won. How cool that they showed the real family and the woman she portrayed, along with the football player. Sandra was obviously deeply moved and still managed to show off her dry sense of humor, along with gracious appreciation for her fellow nominees.

Barbra Streisand, your bubbe called. She wants her lace curtains back when you're done with that awful dress.

Kathryn Bigelow -- tonight the first woman to win for Best Director. Tomorrow, an answer in the next edition of Trivial Pursuit. I can't believe they played her off to an instrumental version of I Am Woman. I wonder what songs they had lined up for the other nominees.

Tom Hanks just gave the shortest introduction to a major award ever. If you ran to the bathroom after the Best Director award, you missed hearing that The Hurt Locker won for Best Movie.

Thank you, and good night from the Kodak Theater. Everybody go out to your parties. They need to strike the set and get it ready for American Idol.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Stories in the Sauce

My house smells like Sunday dinner at my grandparents'.

I'm making a basic red sauce -- what some people call spaghetti sauce or marinara, or gravy. It's just tomato sauce to me, good for spaghetti or lasagna, meatball subs, or dunking chunks of crusty fresh Italian bread.

There are 150 mini-meatballs bobbing around in the simmering liquid, absorbing and giving flavor, thickening the sauce.

Everything's been cooking for a few hours, its fragrant steam wafting from the kitchen.

If I close my eyes and think back to childhood, the aroma puts me right in the middle of Grandma Stella's old fashioned kitchen with its faded formica counters and chipped enamel-coated stove. There's my grandmother, gray hair set, teased and sprayed in its usual style. A faded apron tied around her waist. She's rolling out freshly made dough on a floured cutting board. Taking a small, sharp knife, she cuts the dough into thin strips. You know that fresh pasta they sell for higher prices in the refrigerated section of the supermarket? Grandma made hers by hand, spreading the noodles out on clean dishtowels.

Earlier, she'd mixed up bread dough and let it rise, eventually shaping it into the yeasty rolls now waiting in the pan, ready to be baked.

Mom's not even trying to help. She knows from years of marriage that Grandma has Sunday dinner under control. Instead, she and I set the table. Dad, my brother and grandpa are either outside checking out the hunting dogs or sprawled in the living room watching the ball game. If I listen hard, I imagine I can hear their stomachs growling in anticipation of the meal ahead.

This is a typical family meal. A huge bowl of steaming, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, topped with grated parmesan. Hot, golden rolls to sop up extra sauce.

Nobody needs or wants anything else.

After the meal, stuffed and happy, we hang out for awhile watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and the Ed Sullivan show. Then we kiss my grandparents and head for home.

Sundays don't come any better.

A meal of spaghetti sauce and meatballs is my favorite thing to make for friends. I count it as a compliment when they clean their plates and ask for the recipe. I have to disappoint them, unfortunately. I don't have a recipe for this dish. I make it the way that Grandma did. Some of this, some of that. Taste. A little more of this. Don't forget that. Stir, simmer for a few hours. Taste. Adjust. Simmer. Serve.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Americana Idol

If I needed any further evidence that American Idol is a music reality phenomenon, I got it tonight.

My 84 year old Aunt Nancy in Middlebury, Connecticut is watching this season. I called her up earlier this evening and she told me she'd rushed to finish the dinner dishes before the show came on. (Good thing I called before 8 p.m.) Pretty much everyone in Middlebury, except for my uncle, is watching. Katie Stevens, one of the top 20 girls, is a 16 or 17 year old high school student from the town. This is BIG news in a relatively small community. Maybe even the biggest news since the Revolutionary War when French General Rochambeau and his troops established a camp in the Breakneck Hill section on their march to the final campaign at Yorktown, VA.

"There's another story in the papers about her every week!" Aunt N. informed me. The local firehouse holds weekly get togethers, complete with popcorn. The high school not only holds Idol watching parties but also reminds students to bring their cell phones so that they can text in their votes for Katie.

My aunt doesn't have a computer or I swear I'd have asked her to write this blog post. In her straightforward, salt-of-the-earth way, she delivered some great no-nonsense critiques. "Those judges weren't very nice to her last week, telling her she's singing a song too old. What was she supposed to do? Sing some baby tune? I thought she sounded good. What do those judges know!"

You tell 'em, Auntie!

That said, Aunt N. didn't like all of the music choices made by contestants. "Ohh noo, Mary. Some of those songs. I never even heard of them before. They just weren't very good." I can relate. I've been listening to mostly country music and classic rock for the last 20 years. I've never heard of a lot of the songs either.

I think she's rooting for everyone because she didn't actually criticize a contestant -- just the songs and the judges. I have to admit I have a soft spot myself for young Katie. I think she has a powerful voice and real talent. Besides, family lives in Middlebury. I want her to stay in the competition for a long time. Even if I didn't personally like the girl, I want the chance to call my aunt every couple of weeks and get her opinion.