Pic source.

Back in the first season of Glee, oh so many moons ago, there was quite a bit of talk about whether or not the show fell into sexist territory on occasion.  If you’re thinking, “I never heard anything about that,” clearly you weren’t looking in the right places.  People who complained that Glee had a not-so-admirable opinion on girls and women were kind of right.  Terri and Quinn were both lying about their pregnancies (or lack of pregnancy, in Terri’s case) and were uncaring “shrews” towards Will and Finn, respectively.  Emma and Rachel were both “the other woman” in two separate already-established relationships.  Sue was the evil villain of the show.  There was nary an admirable female character in sight, whereas Will, Kurt, and Finn (and Artie, to a certain extent) were (and still are) portrayed as saintly.

I personally didn’t think it was that big of a deal, back in the first season.  I’ll admit, I was a bit distracted by all the flashy musical numbers and the “we can do it!” feel-good attitude.  The show was a little dose of sunshine every week, and for that, I was willing to overlook some of the more serious problems it has.  Most shows have issues with continuity, character consistency and development, tone, pacing, etc., at some point.  Granted, Glee has those problems in spades, but the problems I’m talking about are more social.  Is the show racist at times?  Is it sexist?  Is it ableist?  I think a lot of shows are, but those shows don’t package themselves as repurposed after-school specials, complete with morals and a lesson.  The theme of the show is, “Appreciate the things that make us different.”  Dare to stand out, to go against the “norm.”  That’s why the show gets a lot of attention on that front.

So the question is, why does a show that preaches acceptance and tolerance persist in being intolerant, or at the very least, ignorant of people who are different?  These past two episodes have kind of shook my inner-feminist awake and said, “Neener neener, I’m not playing nice.”  Here’s a brief list of what I take issue with.

1.  Sluts, prudes, and nothing in-between.

Glee never portrays girls’ sexuality in a positive light.  I thought they might, back in the first season (I think it was the second episode?), when Rachel pays a visit to the Celibacy Club and says, “You know, girls like sex too.”  I thought, finally, a girl on television who isn’t a “whore” and isn’t a “prude.”  She’s just normal (not that there’s anything wrong with being a so-called “prude,” but in TV land, some character would have a problem with it eventually).  But no, come this season and Finn’s complaining that Rachel won’t let him get any.  In last week’s episode, “Never Been Kissed,” he said something to Sam, like, “Figures we’d date the only girls in school who won’t put out.”  First off, really?  Rachel and Quinn are the ONLY TWO GIRLS IN SCHOOL who won’t put out?  Seriously, Finn?!  And why would Rachel or Quinn WANT to put out?  So they could be labeled as “sluts,” like Brittany and Santana?

There’s no middle ground.  The girls are either uptight and won’t give their poor, poor boyfriends any sex, or they’re too promiscuous – girls who gain a reputation as “whores,” and can get no real respect from boys or their fellow girls.  Let me assert, there is nothing wrong with having sex, or not having sex.  It’s the show that portrays them in these ways:  it’s healthy for boys to want sex, and for girls to not give it to them.  It’s not healthy for girls to want sex.  For all the promise I saw in this show,  I was proven wrong.  I thought they’d have female characters who weren’t defined by their sexuality in some way, and while most of the girls on this show are multi-faceted (sexuality or lack of sexuality is NOT Rachel’s defining characteristic, for example), there are still some confusing, negative messages being sent out here.

NOTE:  The subtitle on this first entry to my list is a bit misleading.  There IS something “in-between.”  There’s the girl no one wants to imagine in a romantic situation at all, i.e. Mercedes.  Everyone knows that curvy girls can’t get love, duh.  Clearly that’d be gross.

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There’s been a recent outburst of fat shaming lately.  Fat shaming is basically the act of making someone feel like crap because of their size.  It’s always, always been a problem, but what’s brought the added attention to it as of late is an opinion piece in Marie Claire magazine called “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)”, by Maura Kelly.  Kelly was basically responding to the TV show “Mike and Molly,” about an overweight couple who meet via Overeaters Anonymous.  As Kelly says, “So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.”

Okay, so we’re comparing overweight people to drunks and heroin addicts?  Classy.  But it’s not like she’s the only one.  If I had a gallon of gas for every time I saw a Facebook status this Halloween weekend that decried the “fat girls” who dressed in “slutty” costumes, I’d have enough gas to drive my car to a McDonald’s in Buenos Aires.  Did these people ever stop and think, for two seconds, that there’s a lack of store-bought costumes for women that AREN’T “sexy” versions of something?  Or maybe, just maybe, these “fat” women wearing these costumes aren’t ashamed of their bodies, no matter that society tells them they should be?!  We always feel bad for people who are anorexic or bulimic, as we should, but we regard people who are overweight as disgusting.  So people are expected to be somewhere in between, which is difficult.  It requires constant monitoring, which some people just can’t do.  Also, overeating (or binge eating) is a genuine eating disorder.  Sure, there are people out there who simply don’t care about how they look, about their health, and about what they eat.  Some of these people are thin and some are fat.  But there are also people who just feel the need to compulsively eat, just like there are people who feel the need to compulsively NOT eat, or people who feel the need to purge.  We never acknowledge that, though, because we’re too quick to shame them for “making a choice” to be fat.

For easy use, here’s a list of things to remember before you make a fat joke, or write that Facebook status about the fat girl in your sociology class.

1.  It ain’t cheap to be healthy.

Why else would notoriously broke college kids gain that “freshman fifteen?”  They can’t afford to eat healthy.  I personally am broke, and while I like to cook and eat vegetables and try new things that are generally healthy, I’ve recently had to cut back a bit on my grocery spending, and so it’s mac and cheese, soup, Rice-a-Roni, spaghetti, grilled cheese, and pancakes for me.  Would I rather be buying portabella mushrooms to make a light pasta dish, or Asian vegetables for veggie lo mein, or fresh broccoli to make broccoli in brown sauce?  Yes.  But making recipe-based foods is expensive in general, and even more expensive if they require fresh produce.  I eat Lean Cuisines, but I get burnt out on them.  Also, it costs money to work out.  Not everyone can afford a gym membership.  Sure, there are other ways to work out, but gyms are convenient and easy.  Too bad not everyone has the privilege to be a member of one.  Being healthy and eating healthy is a definite class issue.  If people really cared about “fat people” assaulting their eyes, then maybe they should work to provide produce to poor people in some way (grow it and sell it cheap at a farmer’s market, or work at a soup kitchen and help promote healthy eating there), or maybe they should organize free exercise classes, or maybe they could have a few less-privileged friends over for a veggie-filled meal once a week.  I realize that this would be asking a lot, but aren’t we asking just as much of some people to be eating healthy or exercising all the time when it’s just not an option, due to their finances?  If the weight issue in this country bothers you, then perhaps you should turn your attention to the poverty issue as well, and that includes the healthcare issue.

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I really can’t do this school thing anymore.  It’s beyond senioritis and into some serious ADD/don’t give a crap territory.  I feel paralyzed and I can’t make any progress on anything.  I’m going to have to turn in a major paper very late because I practically had a nervous breakdown while writing it.  I don’t know what’s wrong.  I’ve always been a procrastinator, but at least I got things done.  Now I can’t even do that.  So I put the paper off and moved on to something else – doing critiques for a workshop in my creative nonfiction writing class – something I usually like and can do fairly well.  But I can’t do it.  I can’t think of anything to say.  There’s nothing that can motivate me.  This is the unsung hell of anxiety disorders.  You let the anxiety keep you from doing things, because they’re too scary to deal with, and that only causes the pile of things you need to do to grow larger and larger.  Eventually, it’s an insurmountable obstacle.  Usually, I could use my hope for the future to motivate me, but I realized that this is in short supply lately.  I don’t think my academic record in college is good enough to get me a job, and I’m just deluding myself if I think I’ll ever be able to move away (because I can’t do that without a job).  I’m going to end up working at the mall or a coffee shop, because that’s what an undergraduate English degree gets you.  So go to grad school, I always thought.  But again, my academic record isn’t good enough to get into a good grad school, probably.  I could rely on the strength of my writing to perhaps get me into an MFA program, but I’m probably not that good.  It seems as if everyone else in the creative writing program here is doing readings and getting published, and when they read their writing, it’s so much better than mine.  Besides, I don’t want to think about grad school when it’s clearly going to take a miracle for me to graduate with my B.A. in May.  The idea of more school after that makes me want to munch on the business end of a gun right now.

There’s also the added bonus that even if I do move away, I probably won’t last.  I’ll probably be back home, checked into some mental institution after three whole months.  College is supposed to be the easiest time to make friends.  If I counted all the friends I’ve made at college (friends, not friendly classroom acquaintances), I wouldn’t even use up all the fingers on one of my hands.  So if I can’t make friends now, how am I ever going to do it when I don’t have the built-in social infrastructure that college provides?  Answer:  I’m not, because dogs don’t count as friends.  Not legit friends, anyway.  Can’t take my dog to the movies or shopping.  Can’t talk to him and have him talk back.

I want to just quit school, but if my future’s that bleak WITH my degree, how bad is it going to be without?  I wish that I could make a job out of surfing the Internet and watching TV, because that’s all my lazy fat butt enjoys doing nowadays.  They’re the only two things that keep up with my mind going 80 miles per hour, the only things that are just the perfect balance of boring and stimulating.  That and sleep.  I love getting some sleep.  Lately it’s been a big issue, though, because I can’t stay awake long enough to get assignments done, and I keep sleeping through important meetings and classes.  I enjoy it at the time, but hate myself entirely when I wake up.  I simply cannot stay awake.  The past two nights, I’ve fallen asleep while doing homework, with my lights on, makeup on, haven’t brushed my teeth or taken my medicine, haven’t set my alarm clock.  Then I wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. completely unrested and have to either try and squeeze in a few good hours of sleep or stay awake and finish the homework I was working on when I dozed off.  I just don’t know how to control it.  And I know that I’ve basically just described something that sounds like “laziness syndrome.”  Oh, I can’t do my homework.  Oh, I sleep too much.  I watch too much TV.  But really, I cannot help it.  Being confronted with anything besides sleep and television sends me into panic mode.  Panic mode wears me out, so I just want to sleep more.  Nothing gets done.  Nothing, that is, except the further destruction of my academic career.  That one I’m accomplishing with ease.

I realize that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for about six weeks now, but I have a good reason, and I’m ready to talk about it.  Or maybe not ready, but I’m feeling emotional enough to talk about it right now.  It’s not something that I’ve never talked about.  I may have mentioned it on here before, and lately I’ve been writing a bit about it for a creative nonfiction writing class I’m taking.

But I’m addressing it here and now for a few reasons.  One, I just realized how long it’s been since my last post, and maybe I have a few readers who would like to know what the deal is.  Two, the recent spate of bullying and suicides has made me think about the importance of stories, just stories, that people can relate to.  I don’t have a “I was bullied as a gay kid in high school” story; that’s not my past and that’s not my story.  But I do know what it’s like to be a kid and to be bullied, to be depressed, and to be suicidal.  Three, I have something of an impulse to write my story, or to tell it, because I am good with words and because I feel that my experience is unique to me, but also universal in its themes, and I don’t feel like it gets told enough.

So here it is, if I haven’t given it away already.  I suffer from mental illness.  Depression and anxiety, for sure, although bipolar disorder has not been ruled out.  I have been in therapy since the age of 10 or 11.  I wasn’t diagnosed with depression at that age.  I was just a sad, lonely, guilt-ridden kid whose parents had split up.  It wasn’t until middle school, when I couldn’t get on the bus in the morning because I’d start crying, fit to puke, every time it rolled around the corner, that I was diagnosed.  School sucked then, and it took an emotional toll on me.  I slept all the time, cried at school, had no friends in my classes, never talked, and was teased a lot.  Freshman and sophomore years of high school were better, but not much.  Slowly, though, with the help of counseling and anti-depressants, I came out of my fog.  School got better; I found things I was good at:  singing, acting, writing, making people laugh.  Then my home life started to get tough.  I won’t go through the details, because I get sick of talking about it, but my parents (who separated when I was 10 but then got back together) got a divorce, and lots of things changed.  I quickly had a new stepdad, we were going to sell my childhood home, and I even had to get rid of my dog for a while.  Things were odd, and to top it all off, I was having that mini-existential crisis that every senior in high school has.  My depression was back.  My family problems didn’t get much better, and neither did my emotions.  Going away to college helped a lot, but I could almost always count on another depressive funk every winter.

Last year, my junior year in college, I started to struggle with sleep.  I wouldn’t sleep until 3 or 4, sometimes 5 o’clock in the morning, and I’d still have to wake up around 9 or 10.  So I was living on about five or six hours of sleep a night.  It caught up to me after a while, I guess, but I couldn’t fix it.  To top it all off, I was irritable, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t quiet my mind, had racing thoughts and just a general sense of anxiety.  I didn’t go to class as much as I should have, and I couldn’t keep up with the reading I had to do.  So, this summer, I set out to find a fix for this.  However, the first medication the doctors put me on made me insane.  It made all of my symptoms 100 times worse, amplified my restlessness and made me snippy.  I won’t mention the name of it because I know it works for a lot of people, but I personally couldn’t get past my fourth day on the medication.  This was about two weeks before I had to move back to school.  There wasn’t enough time to see a psychiatrist, so my family physician gave me some new meds to try.

It’s not gotten much better here at school, although I have evened out some.  I still feel restless, anxious, angry, depressed, listless, irritable, and a whole litany of emotions.  I can’t concentrate.  I’m suffering in all of my classes because it takes a miracle for me to accomplish my reading assignments.  Also, I’ve had a handful of panic attacks in class, and so on my bad days, I can’t bring myself to even attend, for fear that I’ll break down and make a fool of myself during the lesson.  I don’t have many friends and I don’t get out much.  I’ve honestly considered dropping out more than once, and I probably would have if I were not on my last year of school.  I can’t fathom that I might have wasted the last three years, and the money it cost me to be here, and that’s one of the few things that keeps me trying at school (although not trying as much as I should, sad to say).

Advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner recently started an Internet campaign to let gay youth know that “It Gets Better.”  More power to them, because the suicide rate for gay teens is insanely high, and the amount of bullying and pressure directed at them is absurd.  I could barely manage to be a teen, period, so I can scarcely imagine.  However, I’m not solely addressing gay youth here.  It’s hard to be a teenager nowadays, no matter your sexual orientation.  It’s hard (perhaps harder) to be a college student.  The stigma surrounding mental illnesses and those who suffer from them is huge, and thriving.  I feel a bit anxious just writing this, having heard horror stories of people losing jobs over their depression/anxiety/bipolar disorder/etc.  I know the Internet never forgets.  But this is an important part of who I am, and if it helps just one person, it’s worth it.

To any kid suffering from a mental illness, I’d like to say that I’m not sure if it gets better.  I’m still trying to figure that out myself, every day.  There are days when you think that it is so much better.  There are days when you think that it couldn’t get worse.  I feel like I’m not yet at that point where I can say that it got better.  But I hope it’s in my future.  You should know that there are people out there who care, people who don’t want to see you die, who want to see you live until the day where you figure out whether or not it got better.  Even if you have to pay someone to listen to your problems, I can promise you that there is someone out there who genuinely cares that you have them.  I’ll listen to you if you want to talk.  Never let anyone tell you your problems don’t matter enough.  Never let anyone make you feel like less of a person because you have to take Prozac or Cymbalta or Lexapro or Wellbutrin or Abilify or Zoloft every morning.  You should feel proud that you had the will to get help.

My best advice is to take little moments of happiness and make them your everything.  If someone smiled at you in the hall and that’s the best thing that happened to you all day, then tell yourself you had a good day because someone cared enough to notice you.  I’m not one to say, “Just stop being depressed; think positive.”  I know all too well that it’s nearly impossible to do that when you’re truly depressed.  But that shouldn’t stop you from recognizing the good moments that do come your way, and I firmly believe that, if you can learn to appreciate the tiniest of moments, then you will learn to get at least a bit of goodness out of every day.  I have my days where it’s hard just to walk to class.  But then I have days where I hang out with a friend or my sister, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So I won’t tell you it gets better.  I hope it does, but I don’t know.  But until I do know, I’m going to make it my reason for living to find out whether or not life does get better.  It’s not necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel, but a big question mark at the end of the tunnel.  Still, it’s better than darkness.  Sometimes a question mark just has to be enough.

ETA: I don’t want to make it seem like I’m one of those people saying, “There are all kinds of depressed kids out there who are bullied, not just gay kids.  Why not pay attention to them and not give gay kids special treatment?”  I’ve heard that a lot lately, but I do not agree.  I’m not sure of the exact statistic, but I’m pretty certain that homosexual teens are way more likely to be bullied and to suffer from depression and to commit suicide than heterosexual teens.  I think it’s a specific issue that deserves a lot of specific attention.  Would I like for there to be more positive awareness of depression and suicide in general?  That’s a big resounding “YES.”  But even I, a person who has been out there on the ledge as well, think that in this instance, gay teens (particularly those recent bullied suicide victims) deserve the attention.  In fact, I wish we could give them more attention than a day of purple shirts.

Also, I found this quote from “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace (who was, sadly, also a victim of suicide), and I had to share it because it’s so on-the-nose.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
I agree.  I think only those who have truly been in the same place can understand the pure agony that sparks suicidal thoughts.  Everyone should be there to help, and everyone should be understanding, but there comes a point when you just don’t get it unless you’ve been there as well.  But if you haven’t, that quote sums it up pretty well – you don’t necessarily want to die, but you’re in a place where it seems the lesser of two evils.  Die by fire or jump from the window.
This is why I want to speak out for depression and suicide.  I know all too well what it’s like, and I feel like being in that situation as a teen, and now, and I’m sure in the future, has made me equipped to help, and I want to help, badly.
*******
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide:
The Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

The Veteran’s Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

The Trevor Project (Suicide Hotline for LGBT Youth): 1-866-4-U-TREVOR

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Picture credit goes to my sister.

All of my childhood idols were anthropomorphic characters.  Rarely did a day pass when I wouldn’t quote Fozzie Bear, giving a “wakka-wakka” or two at the dinner table like the golden bear Muppet.  I even fancied myself a real stand-up comedian, although I was just about as successful as Fozzie.  There’s an old videotape at my mom’s house in which a five-year old me hams it up for the camera with an abysmal comic routine.  It was clear, from my hat and loosely knotted tie swiped from my dad’s closet, just who I was trying to emulate, and it most certainly was not Richard Pryor or Steve Martin.  “What, you wanna throw a tomato at me?”  I asked my imaginary, disgruntled audience (for not even in my fantasies was I talented).  “Go ahead!”  After a few more leaden jokes, I beamed into the camera and proudly stated, in the pint-size Robert deNiro-esque voice I possessed as a child, “Now, I am, a comedian.”  Couldn’t be further from the truth.

As an adult – well, somewhat of an adult – I realize that perhaps my identifying with Fozzie was some serious foreshadowing for my life.  I’m unlucky, I seem to be hit-or-miss with people, and I can often get down on myself.  However, I’m resilient, or at least I think I have been once or twice.  Pelt me with tomatoes!  I might cry about it, sure.  But I might get back up and deliver some more terrible jokes.  Fozzie and I both have perfected the “sad clown” persona.

The Bear wasn’t the only Muppet I worshiped, though.  Miss Piggy was top hog in my mind.   I considered it the highest of compliments to tell someone they reminded me of Miss Piggy, but naturally, no one was very flattered.  What I admired most about her was her take-charge attitude, and her haughty nature.  I wanted nothing more than to be her, instead of the shy, quiet girl who let other kids treat her like a doormat.  Sadly, I was incapable of pulling off anything more than her characteristic, “Humph!” when someone made my little temper flare.

I still want to be Miss Piggy.  She would never let a golf coach treat her like a second-class citizen because she’s a girl (er, a female pig).  She’d tell people when they were annoying her.  She would fight tooth and nail to make and keep friends instead of wallowing in lonely misery.  I suppose there are a few tactics I picked up from the prissy hog.  I learned how to lose my temper, but in a ladylike manner.  I learned that girls can be tough, protective, stubborn, and pushy, and if they do it carefully, they perhaps won’t alienate everyone around them.  In fact, I think that deep down, Miss Piggy is similar to the woman every woman wants to be.  She was probably the root of all my “girl power” thinking back then.  Forget the Spice Girls, I owe that all to Madame Pig.

In the end, though, I think I very much ended up as a Fozzie Bear, and not as a Miss Piggy, and it’s not nearly as funny as I always thought it would be.

Just created it.

http://leeraloo.tumblr.com/

Follow me or whatever.  I plan on posting smaller, stupider crap on there, like a random song or picture or video here and there.  WordPress, for those of you that use it, is better for long-form blogging, and I feel kind of stupid making an entire new entry just so I can post some stupid YouTube video of an old song I have stuck in my head when I feel the need to purge.  Thus, the Tumblr was born.

Known best for his role as Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films, Rupert Grint has been consistently singled out by people as one of the funniest, if not the most talented, actors in the series’ young cast.  He’s seemingly been involved in more outside-of-Potter gigs than Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.  He starred in Driving Lessons, with Laura Linney and Julie Walters (a.k.a. Molly Weasley, his Harry Potter mom).  Recently he starred in Wild Target, with Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt, and he played against type in the drama Cherrybomb. Now that filming has wrapped for both of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films, he is set to portray iconic British Olympic ski jumper, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards in Eddie the Eagle.

Why He’s More Than Just Eye Candy: I’ll be honest, I love the red hair.  However, I’ve always liked Rupert’s personality.  Like most kids of my generation, we grew up alongside the Potter cast.  One of the characteristics that came to define him was his easy-going attitude.  He may not be as loquacious as Emma in interviews, or as hyperactive as Daniel, but his quiet goofiness has always stood out.  I’ve heard adults who work on the Potter franchise describe him as one of the most unique people you could ever meet.  Dude owns an ice cream truck, for example.  He performed a rap for his audition video for Harry Potter.  He plays the didgeridoo.  He can ride a unicycle.  He still lives with his family, and bought them a new house.  He also has what appears to be good taste in music (in my opinion), and we could totally bond over our mutual love of Arctic Monkeys, SpongeBob Squarepants, and the fact that neither of us passed our driving exams the first time.  More objectively, he really does seem to have an innate talent for acting and a natural comedic timing.  I think he’ll have a fairly good career in the future.

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Step Up 3D hardly revolutionizes storytelling.  It doesn’t even break the mold of the “inspirational arts and/or sports film” subgenre.  There are your typical characters – attractive and confident or nerdy and awkward, but always likable – and their struggles are always the same – “I want to pursue my passion, but my parents want me to do otherwise,” “We’re a scrappy band of outsiders and we want to follow our dreams, but someone is standing in our way!”

This time it’s floppy-haired Moose (Adam G. Sevani), who looks like a young David Krumholtz but dances like the rubber-boned, b-boy offspring of Michael Jackson, who has given up his passion for dance to live out the dream his parents have for him.  He starts the film as a freshman at NYU, pursuing an engineering degree, but quickly – like, before orientation is even over with quick – falls in with Luke (Rick Malambri) and his rag-tag dance crew, The Pirates.  Luke is like a more wholesome, young, attractive version of Charles Dickens’ Fagin, or maybe like a dancing Robin Hood.  He plays the father figure for his crew and houses them at a giant warehouse called the Vault, which his late parents converted into a rehearsal and living space.  But time and money are running out and his rival Julien (Joe Slaughter), a trust-fund baby and leader of rival dance crew The Samurai, is looking to buy the Vault.  So Luke must figure out how to win the World Jam and care for his patchwork footloose family while also romancing the mysterious Natalie (Sharni Vinson).  Meanwhile, Moose must juggle his new position as boy-wonder superstar with The Pirates, his actual school work, and his relationship with BFF/love interest Camille (Alyson Stoner).

The story is warmed over and scarcely “inspiring,” and the romantic sub-plots are paint-by-numbers.  The dialogue can be painful and some of the acting (especially Malambri’s performance) is sub-par.  What does make Step Up 3D exceptional is that it utilizes this new 3D trend in a truly original way.  Unlike recent “3D” posers such as Clash of the Titans and Avatar:  The Last Airbender, which were converted to 3D after filming, Step Up 3D was actually shot in the 3D format.  And there are plenty of crafty visuals to take advantage of that format.  One thing this film does as opposed to the previous two Step Up films is that it features more than one big dance scene.  The other two would show plenty of practice scenes – just to let us know that the characters could dance and were putting the time in – but they saved the truly awesome stuff until the very end.

The makers of Step Up 3D know that you aren’t there to see the same characters act out the same plots for the third time; if you’re shelling out $12 a ticket for this film, you want to see some dancing.  And they deliver.  There are at least three big dance battles, and plenty memorable scenes in between with the dancers performing for the camera, their arms and legs coming directly at the audience.  They utilize their atmosphere, too.  In one scene, dancers send clouds of dust wafting from the screen.  In another, they slosh across a soggy dance floor, spraying water everywhere.  The final dance ups the ante with more tricks and crazy visuals, including some that would be impressive even without the added bonus of the 3D.

On this blog, I’ve knocked other films that fancy themselves to be more thought-provoking or that aspire to a higher level of “art” than Step Up 3D does (like James Cameron’s Avatar, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland).  But what made me appreciate Step Up 3D was that it’s a self-aware film.  It’s not set-up to be some breathtakingly original spin on an old classic, or an award-grubbing movie with a message.  It aspires to nothing less than to entertain the audience for a while, and to give viewers exactly what they expect.  Sure, the plot may be mind-numbing at times, but the dance numbers and the sheer thrill of experiencing a 3D film like it’s supposed to be presented nearly outweigh any artistic follies.

And, perhaps accidentally, the film has opened a door into a new film-making possibility.  The sheer abandon and pure spectacle of Step Up 3D hints that this may be the format that suits dance films, and maybe even big-production movie musicals, best.  I’m not usually a fan of the “just turn your brain off and enjoy the film” argument, and so I’m not going to make it.  There is a better reason to enjoy this film, and that is to appreciate dance on the big screen in a flattering new light.  Not to mention that it may be the best entry into the new canon of 3D films.  If Hollywood insists on making more of them, here’s hoping that they resemble Step Up 3D.

Grade:  6/10

Unfortunately, I (and many other Americans, I’d venture) have just discovered Tom Hardy thanks to Inception, in which he played Eames, the Forger.  It’s unfortunate because he’s apparently quite the up-and-comer.  He’s played iconic characters like Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist.  He’s done period dramas like the mini-series “The Virgin Queen,” and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.  On the other end of the spectrum, he’s done gritty modern films like Layer Cake, and Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla.  One of his most lauded performances was as the infamous criminal Charles Bronson in Bronson. Right now, he’s on board for Mad Max:  Fury Road, a reboot of/sequel to the old apocalyptic Mel Gibson series.  Lucky for him, this comes at a time when he probably won’t be receiving unfavorable comparisons to Gibson’s original portrayal of Max Rockatansky, considering the current public opinion of Mr. Gibson.  There are also rumblings that he’s in contention to play the Riddler in the next installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series.

Why He’s More Than Just Eye Candy: He’s been fairly outspoken about his battle overcoming a drug addiction and pretty grim party lifestyle.  Of course it’s wonderful that he could overcome something like that and I think it’s even better that, as someone who aspires to some amount of fame, he’s fairly open about the whole ordeal.  As an actor, he’s acquired various accolades.  He studied at the London Drama Center.  He was nominated for a 2004 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer of 2003 in a Society of London Theatre Affliate for his performance in Arabia, We’d All Be Kings, performed at the Hampstead Theatre.  Also, he was awarded the 2003 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer for his performances in Blood and Arabia, We’d All Be Kings. He was one of Variety’s “Top Ten Actors to Watch” in 2009.  For his role in Bronson, he underwent a fairly drastic change in appearance, shaving his head and bulking up considerably.  With a co-writer, he has written two television shows and sold them to production companies.

Info source.

Source for most pics.

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Here’s the time when I post a bunch of stupid pictures I’ve had hanging around in various desktop folders.  So screw your eyeballs in and enjoy.

Oh, and no sources.  Like I remember where I pick all these things up from.

Snoop Dogg and Snoop Seall invite you in.   Read the rest of this entry »

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