Friday, August 18, 2017

SYTYCD 14 Top 10 Pt. 2 Recap: Aliens Dropped Into Dancers' Bodies & Having Relationship Issues

Hello Dance Fans! We're back with the Top 10 once again. But this time it's the last time all the contestants will still be in the running for the title of America's Favorite Dancer. Tonight we get dances and solos from all of them and then the 10 will become 9. I'm sad to see any of them go! Let's get into it, shall we?

Top 10-All Star Opening Number. Saturday Night Fever The BeeGees, Choreography: Mandy Moore and Val Chmerkovskiy. Once again, they put the new balcony level and stairs to good use. I am really loving the new stage and studio set-up. It looks great on TV. The routine is a lot of fun. There are some big wigs on that stage. Marko is wearing this brown... mop, is really the only way to describe it. It looks like it was just pulled out of the plastic box that it came in from Ricky's. Most of the male All-Stars have fake hair, but the only male contestant to don a wig is Kiki. Even though she's in a huge blonde wig, Kaylee still gets blue highlights because that is her THING! This is a very fun dance. The style looks good on everybody. A very positive vibe to start the show.

Credits: Hey! We get a new intro! I see mostly All-Stars but also a few current contestants. Does everyone who's competing show up here? It doesn't seem like there's enough time, but I'll keep watching in the coming weeks to make sure. It ends on Kiki and Jenna striking a pose. Pimp spot!

The audience is ready. The judges are ready. Cat is defintely ready with big hair, a subdued Anine Bing shirt, Michael Kors disco ball trousers and Xivkarats jewelry. Someone WILL be going home tonight and it's sad! But we won't find out who's safe and who's in danger until the very end. Right now the main concern is who's gonna bring it tonight?

Mark Villaver and All-Star Comfort (Jazz) — Choreographer: Ray Leeper, Jazz “Hater” by Various Production. The point of this jazz routine is to be as steamy as possible and Mark and Comfort deliver. The wardrobe department decides Week 2 is long enough to go without us being able to commit all of the tattoos on Mark's torso to memory.  The chemistry they found last week is back on display here. It's very focused and intense. They attack the movement and it's exciting to watch. The judges note that Mark's known for his fun and bouncy energy but here he showed a commitment to a different type of character. Nigel points out that Comfort just gets better and better each year, which I mentioned last week. I'd watch a whole show that was just her. Time for a spin-off, Fox! Working title: "Too Close with Comfort!"

Lex Ishimoto and All-Star Gaby (Argentine Tango) — Choreographers: Miriam Larici and Leonardo Barrionuevo, Argentine Tango “Red & Black (Rojo y Negro)” by Ryota Komatsu. I'll start first by saying that there were some impressively controlled lifts here. But the kicks throughout were very flimsy to me. I like Lex and I think he has the talent to win the whole thing, but he has not had a routine yet that brings out the best of his skill set. Gaby looks amazing here, but it's not about Gaby being a great dancer. She already won her season. The routines have to give Lex more of a spotlight. Mary says it was missing steam, and she's right. This routine was mostly a miss for me. Nigel says that people should go to tango class as couple's therapy. OMG that's the show that Comfort can host! Couples in trouble taking dance class together! You're welcome, America!

Kiki Nyemchek and All-Star Jenna (Hip-Hop) — Choreographer: Luther Brown, Hip-Hop “Caroline” by Aminé. Now I get why Kiki was wearing the wig in the opening number. He already had his hair colored green like the Joker for this number and they didn't want to have it be distracting/a total giveaway. In case you forgot, Kiki BOMBED hip hop at the Academy. Like, completely. He forgot the whole routine and just stood there. This routine is his chance for redemption. For the most part, he succeeds. He and Jenna are basically Mr. And Mrs Joker (I'd say "Harley Quinn" except Jenna also has green hair.)  He hits the choreo hard and the character suits him. I wish he had ditched the floor-length sleeveless coat at some point because at times I feel it obscures too much of his body isolations. There was also a moment with a gun that made it rain dollar bills (which had Nigel's face on them! Props budget must be huge!). It was both kind of awesome and a bit too much of a distraction from actual dancing. I thought this was a good showing for him given his previous hip hop disaster. Judges loved it. This should keep him safe another week.

Sydney Tormey and All-Star Paul (Contemporary) — Choreographer: Jaci Royal, Contemporary “The Letting Go” by Melissa Etheridge. This is a perfectly lovely routine. It's very well danced. Sydney and Paul have a nice connection. Really good transitions throughout. It's not really breaking new ground in terms of theme or composition though. It's the tale as old as time of a girl leaving a childhood love behind to pursue her dreams. It's solid, but it's not going to stand out from the crowd and I already thought Sydney was in trouble after last week. If she makes it to Top 9, I hope they give her something truly crazy next time, so she has a chance to surprise us. 

Logan Hernandez and All-Star Allison (Jazz) — Choreographer: Brian Friedman, Jazz Fusion “In the Morning” by Jaded. Concept: Blind dating in the future is truly blind! Until you take your mask off so you can see where you're dancing. Allison is back and Logan has a great chemistry with her. I'm glad her injury didn't sideline her for the whole season. Logan has dialed up the tricks to 11. They are 4 or 5 moves that defy gravity and the normal rules of how the skeletal structure of a human body should bend. This is a very strong performance right when he needed it. The judges are floored by what he can accomplish. I dont' think they'll be sending him home tonight!

Guys, we interrupt your regularly scheduled dances, for a special guest performance! This has happened so rarely ever since the results show got canceled, so it's great to see! Blessin, the stepper from the LA auditions is back, and she brought her whole crew with her! The Lethal Ladies are in the house. The All-Stars join in on the performance as well. It's a high energy love letter to the tradition of step. The girls are great. Cat tells us The Lethal Ladies can be seen in the new documentary STEP, so check your local theater listings!

Kaylee Millis and All-Star Cyrus (Hip-Hop) — Choreographers: Phoenix and Pharside, Hip-Hop “I’m Better” by Missy Elliot feat. Lamb. Kaylee's routine got the least amount of love from the judges last week, so it's her good fortune that Phoenix and Pharside are in her corner this week. Those two always come up with great stuff. Tonight Kaylee and Cyrus play aliens who have beamed into human bodies. Yes! YES, Phoenix and Pharside! Give me more of this!!! The two of them dive into this routine like nobody's business. Kaylee is acting the hell out of this routine through her eyes and her face, while she's also nailing the choreo. They create amazing shapes and perform really impressive tricks together. Cyrus drags Kaylee across the floor while she stands on her head. She balances on his back held up by her hands as he slowly elevates. The whole routine is cool as hell. The judges eat it up. They are so happy to see Kaylee come back so strong. Impavido is back, y'all! May she never leave us again! If Kaylee was in trouble tonight, she just guaranteed her safety.

Taylor Sieve and All-Star Robert (Broadway) — Choreographer: Al Blackstone, Broadway “The Man That Got Away” by Judy Garland. Last week's routine was so incredible, and everyone involved knows that this routine probably won't live up to it, but damned if Taylor and Robert don't give it their best try. The routine is good even if it doesn't offer the flashy tricks that some other routines tonight had. Taylor is conveying the feeling of the music. There's something about her breathing and her movement that feels very Broadway. She gets the style. She's telling the story. The judges seem to think they topped last week's department and I don't think it was that level of success. Nigel think's they're the couple to beat. That might be true, but this routine isn't going to find up at the top of my favorites ranking for the night.

Koine Iwasaki and All-Star Marko (African Jazz) — Choreographer: Sean Cheesman, African Jazz “Speaking in Tongues II” by Sheila Chandra. The routine starts with Kione wearing an ENORMOUS headdress. That thing looks so heavy! Thank goodness she gets to take it off before any intense movement happens. This is a delightfully inhuman routine with their bodies continually intertwined and somersaulting over each other. That keeps going until the end. I can't believe how continually they are flipping over each other. These two are a great partnership. Lots of power, lots of character and great energy between them. I don't know if Koine can take the crown, but I definitely consider her a contender for Top 4 in the finale.

Robert Green and All-Star Jasmine (Contemporary) — Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, Contemporary “Otherside” by Perfume Genius. I feel like the intro package didn't really connect with the meat and potatoes of the routine, but I liked what they did here. With so many routines dealing with relationship dynamics this week, this routine conveyed a deeper, heavier sense of pain than the others. I thought it was really strong, but I was worried the judges would be luke warm, because Robert's execution on some moves was a touch under what it should've been at times. It's not that he never had it. It was just inconsistent. Nigel didn't feel the emotion of it, but I think that's bonkers. The emotion was definitely there. Vanessa and Mary defend the passion that Robert put into it, but Mary agrees with me that some of the technique wasn't quite right. I thought it was cool that a dancer with so much natural swagger in his performance, brought a totally different character to this piece. They praised Mark for that earlier! I'm concerned with how this critique went.

Dassy Lee and All Star Fik-Shun (Bollywood) — Choreographer: Nakul Dev Mahajan, Bollywood “Radha Nachegi” from Tevar (Soundtrack). I love Dassy. I think she's such a captivating performer. Her costume tonight is beautiful and she is radiating energy. And yet... something's not quite right. I felt it a little bit last week, and I feel it more this week. For me, it feels like Dassy and Fik-Shun are dancing next to each other instead of with each other. You know? They're both talented and Fik-shun has a stellar history with partnerships on this show, so I'm not sure what the disconnect is between them. Bollywood is complicated and they handle it well, save for a stumble coming out of a lift toward the end. It pains me to say I found the overall experience here underwhelming! The judges all gloss over the stumble, but I thought it was a mistake worth noting. Could she be in danger?

BOTTOM THREE: Cat reveals that the dancers in danger of going home are Logan, Sydney and Robert. I'm surprised about Robert. I definitely would've put last week's hairspray routine in the mid-to-top range of my favorites. If Kaylee wasn't in trouble last week, I don't think she's going to be in trouble for a good stretch of this competition. 

ELIMINATED: Robert - Ouch. This one actually stung. I didn't think he should've finished 10th overall. I thought his placement as the final dancer in last week's live show was a sign the producers believed in his ability to deliver. Did I think he was going to win the whole thing? No. But he was surprising and fun and had moves to back up his engaging personality. It wasn't a unanimous decision to get rid of him. He seems really sad about getting cut, but his dance out over the credits is still fierce. Thanks for bringing it, Robert! Next week, we're down to nine. 4 Contempos, 2 Ballers, 1 Popper, 1 Jazz Hands and 1 Breaker. Potential Bottom 3? Based purely on tonight's routines, I'd say Sydney, Lex and... Dassy? But it's never just based on routines. Beyond the popularity of the contestant, these All-Stars have fan bases that carry weight. This one's a tough call! Here's how I split my votes this week. Looking back, I should've given 1 point higher to Kaylee and 1 point less to Kiki, but I think she'll do okay without it. If Cat reveals she's in the bottom by one point, I will accept the blame.

My ranking of the routines from Favorite to Least Favorite:
1. Koine Iwasaki and All-Star Marko (African Jazz)
2. Kaylee Millis and All-Star Cyrus (Hip-Hop)
3. Taylor Sieve and All-Star Robert (Broadway)
Logan Hernandez and All-Star Allison (Jazz)
5. Kiki Nyemchek and All-Star Jenna (Hip-Hop)
6. Mark Villaver and All-Star Comfort (Jazz)
7. Robert Green and All-Star Jasmine (Contemporary)
8. Dassy Lee and All Star Fik-Shun (Bollywood)
9. Lex Ishimoto and All-Star Gaby (Argentine Tango)
10. Sydney Tormey and All-Star Paul (Contemporary)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Well, hello again, Dance Fans! It's been a long time since last we met here. I've been blogging over at CrazytownBlog for the past several years, and during that time While Not Making Other Plans was taking an extended nap. But then Crazytown suddenly went the way of the lost city of Roanoke this spring, and SYTYCD live show recaps still had to happen, so here she is, boys! Here she is world, WORLD! It's the reawakening of the blog just in time for Cat Deeley, ageless as ever, to preside over two hours of (mostly) live dancing and the reveal of Season 14's top 10. Grab a glass of Frosé and get comfy, because we have a lot of Our Show of Shows to .

A note on the season as a whole before we get to the dancing. I'm very happy to have the show back again and with grown-age dancers this summer. As is the case with every season, the format has been tweaked and most changes will only be revealed to us right when they show up on screen. The season was billed as "Back To Basics" which means adults and more ballroom, but beyond that, expect new twists and budget-saving techniques all over the place. For the auditions, we only got an hour of airtime a week, so even though there were only two audition cities this year, they stretched on for over a month in TV watching time. Contestants first performed for this year's judging panel comprised of EP Nigel Lythgoe, Returning HotTamaleTrain Engineer Mary Murphy and brand new judge Vanessa Hudgens, who I loved in Grease: Live and I won't have a word said against her! Instead of "Vegas Callbacks" the top 100-something auditioners went to the "Academy" which I assume was an (admittedly rather beautiful) facility somewhere in LA. Here's where the first really big change happens, Instead of the whole group vying for spots in the Top 20, the judging panel disappears entirely and instead the season's 10 All-Stars get to pick a team of 4 dancers they like best and then whittle that group down to just one contestant who will join them as their partner for the Live Shows and thus be in the running to be America's Favorite Dancer. 

I was iffy on this change, because in order to succeed, contestants really had to match well with one All-Star instead of just being an overall great dancer who can look good with any All-Star. I felt like there were some really fantastic and unique dancers who got cut early in this process because of this change. Also the show's narrative shifted from the contestants trying to make it to the Top 20 to being more about the decision-making drama of the All-Stars. It's more in line with how The Voice handles its Mentor-Judges. I'd rather be invested in the contestants' journeys than the All-Stars' Sophie's Choices. But hey, it's Season 14 of this beautiful Dance Show That Could. As long as Cat Deeley is still hosting, the producers can make whatever changes they want to try to keep it on the air and I will show up for it. But please, no more Juniors!

So tonight we find out who each All-Star chose from their top two options... except we don't get to see any of the dancers' reactions to the news. For each reveal, there's a cutaway from the tape of The Green Mile back to live stage and the selected dancer just runs out to perform. Weird. Are they saving that footage for a future clip package? The not-selected dancers really gets shafted without a proper goodbye. Anyway, Cat Deeley is in the house with her stunning red Stella McCartney dress and Tamara Mellon shoes. We've got a lot of dancing to enjoy together, friends. Here we go with the Top 10!

Wait, I lied! Before we get to the contestants, we get more All-Stars dancing together which I will never turn down. The lovely group number with choreo by Stacey Tookey and set to "Knocking On Heavens Door" by RAIGN is notable for 2 things: 1) There's a new set and the set has STAIRS! Welcome back to the show, Stairs! I feel like we haven't seen you for at least 10 seasons! Also, there are now cameras and lights EVERYWHERE! Seriously, what a nice upgrade! This is the stage of the future!! 2) There are only 9 All-Stars on stage! Where the F is Allison? Injured already? NOOOO!!! She is in the audience with her arm in a sling and Twitch by her side. I hope she can return next week because it would be really unfortunate if she picked her Top 10 contestant and then never got to actually dance on the show with him. Okay, NOW to the Top 10 reveals and dances.

Fik-Shun Stegall and Dassy Lee (Hip-Hop) —  Choreographer: Popin’ Pete, “Shake Your Pants” by Cameo. Fik-Shun chooses Dassy over Kyle and I'm not really surprised because Dassy is awesome and Fik-Shun already did the "mentor-a-younger-me" thing when he won last season with Kida. This routine is a lot of fun. They both have personality and moves for days in their favor. What's agains them is that Dassy and Fik-Shun are just a smidge out of sync at times, they spend a lot of time seated in those chairs and Dassy's hat cast a weird shadow over her face at times. Overall, it was very good, but not the explosive WOW you hope for from the first routine of the live shows. The judges are very encouraging toward them. Wait, are we already voting people off tonight? We are. But no more numbers? Just texts and internet votes? Okay. I've really liked Dassy since her first audition. I want to see more from her. I think there's a lot of potential in this partnership and Fik-Shun definitely knows how to win this show, so don't count out Dassy just yet!

Allison Holker and Logan Hernandez (Contemporary) Choreographer: Tyce Diorio, “Protocol” by Leon Else. There was not a lot of drama in Allison's decision for those of us who already knew Zachary joined the Broadway cast of CATS, taking over for former SYTYCD-winner Ricky UbedaWORK! as Mr. Mistoffelees. The surprise here really is that Allison is injured, and we have to call in an All-Star Sub to dance with Logan. So welcome back to the stage Season 9 contestant Audrey Case, who totally nails the routine on just a few hours of rehearsal like the total pro she is! I wonder if the All-Star Subs have to shadow rehearsals so they have a basic idea of what's going on should they be called into service at the last minute. Logan danced and partnered well. I was missing the emotion from his face a bit, but that might be a combo of nerves at having a new partner and being on the younger end of the field at 18 years old. In the judging, Nigel basically told him he's gonna need to work his ass off and let his natural personality come through, reminding us that someone is going home already next week, and with Allison currently on the sidelines it might be a tough road for him.

Jenna Johnson and Kiki Nyemchek (Cha-Cha) Choreographer: Dmitry Chaplin, “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes. Thank goodness. Jenna was pissing me off during the Academy, seemingly bending the rules all the way through her final 2 decision, until they almost broke. Nothing against Kevin “Konkrete” Davis Jr, but Jenna saved him from being eliminated from another All-Stars team, ultimately dumping three of her own dancers to keep him around. Then while all other contestants had to each dance the same routine with their All-Star, Konkrete got a special routine from Jenna so he didn't have to dance the same style as Kiki. WHAT GIVES, SHOW? Nobody else did this. But in the end, Jenna went with ballroom pro Kiki anyway. (I like to think Mary Murphy staged a behind-the-scenes intervention with her, in which Mary said, "DO NOT ROB ME OF THIS!") When Kiki and Jenna finally dance this routine together, her decision makes total sense. I love a contestant on this show who can really lead in a ballroom routine and not just get dragged around by his partner and "keep up." She could never have danced in her own style like this with Konkrete. Of course Mary loves every second of it. Nigel thinks that Jenna outshines him even though the whole point of the dance is to show off his partner. Whatever. I like Kiki. Jenna might have been stirring up drama at the Academy for no reason, but I'm sending votes his way!

Cyrus Spencer and Kaylee Millis (Contemporary/Hip-Hop Fusion) Choreographer: Tessandra Chavez,“Clown” by Emeli Sandé. Blue-haired Impavido is now known as blue-haired Kaylee. I pegged her from the beginning as someone who would make the live shows. She just has that spark. I don't know that she is a great pick for Cyrus, though. Cyrus is dancing tonight out of his style and comfort zone tonight, and he wouldn't be if he'd chosen Havoc instead. But then again what would Cyrus and Havoc done when they got a dance in one of the more classical categories? Cyrus wouldn't have been able to elevate Havoc's game, just as he struggles to support her in this routine. The routine is kinda heavy and awkward. It's not bad, but it comes off looking like a struggle. Kaylee's dress doesn't seem suited for the routine either, so I'm not sure what the costuming dept. was going for there. The judges don't like it and aren't shy about saying it was subpar. Even Vanessa goes in, saying Kaylee needs more, “weightlessness and breath.” Welcome to the judges' table, Vanessa!

Gaby Diaz and Lex Ishimoto (Tap)Choreographer: Anthony Morigerato,“More” by Bobby Darin. I thought for sure that Gaby picked Evan when they announced heading into commercial that she'd be doing a tap routine after the break. After all, Evan is the tapper. But no, she picked Lex and is having him perform in her style. It's a good routine, but Gaby shines so effortlessly in it and Lex is clearly working at times. His arms are not at ease during some of the more complex tappa tappa tappa that the routine requires of him. He does do some boffo flips and tricks that let you know he's always got something in the tank to wow you. In weeks to come, I think Lex's versatility and training will be an asset to him in a way that this routine didn't fully show off. Instead, this really played into Gaby's wheelhouse and she stole the show. Nigel tells him to rehearse his personality which sounds like terrible advice on a human level, but Vanessa counters that she likes his sweet and shy personality. Mary goes for someone where in the middle recalling how back in Season 9 they said week after week that Chehon had no personality, and he went on to win the whole thing! Dreams come true, bitches! A breakthrough for Lex is on the horizon!

Comfort Fedoke and Mark Villaver (Hip-Hop) Choreographer: Luther Brown, “REDMERCEDES” by Aminé. I love Comfort. She just gets better and better each year, which is insane to me because she already started out amazing. How is there no awesomeness plateau with her year after year? Anyway, I really wasn't sure if Comfort was going to go with Deja or Mark, mostly because we didn't see a lot from either of them during the Academy. But then the routine starts and DAMN! It had to be Mark. These two are SO GOOD together! Personality, swagger and chemistry for DAYS. The routine is so fun and they both let loose and nail it. Afterwards, Mark is still bouncing everywhere while Cat tries to reel him in so the judges can do their thing. Easy, dude. Cat may have two hours tonight, but there's a lot to get to before she brings the show in on time. Nigel brings up Mark's resemblance to Bruno Mars and Vanessa thinks he looks like Rufio from Hook. He is kind of cross between them in a very attractive way. This is the kind of first impression you want to make with the audience in the live shows.

Marko Germar and Koine Iwasaki (Contemporary) Choreographer: Stacey Tookey, “Memories” by Alex Somers. I have to say I really liked Sofia and I hope if this show gets to do Season 15, that she'll try for it again. Koine is a fantastic partner for Marko though, and their routine is beautiful and effortless with great emotion between them. The lighting design does this starburst thing about halfway through that's just gorgeous. It has nothing to do with the actual dancing, I know, but still - attention must be paid. If I have anything negative to say about it, it's that it felt short. I could've used another 16 bars of dancing. Nigel of course comments on their chemistry and asks them if they've set the wedding date. Don't be gross about it, Nigel! Koine smiles and thinks, "First comes love, then comes the title of America's Favorite Dancer, then comes marriage." This girl has her priorities straight!

Paul Kamiryan and Sydney Tormey (Ballroom) Choreographer: Val Chmerkovskiy “All Stars” by Martin Solveig feat. Alma. So close but yet so far for Sofia! I feel like Paul couldn't make a wrong choice between his final two dancers. They both were amazing both on their own and while partnering with him. But there can be only one. Although, maybe in season 15 we can expand it to a Top 20 and each All-Star gets to choose two from the whole field? Guys, Val from DWTS is doing the choreo. I like when these shows are allies for the promotion of dance instead of rivals for dancers and choreographers. The routine turns out to be very solid. Sydney looks gorgeous and has legs for days, but there wasn't a lot of electricity between them. The song they are dancing to definitely has a beat but the vibe feels kinda mellow. The dancing was missing a little crackle of excitement that I expect when it's two ballroom dancers tearing it up in their own style. During judging, Vanessa notes that Sydney was lacking some oomph, and I'm relieved that V's actually going to point stuff like this out instead of just giving us variations on, "I loved it. You did your thing!" after every performance, like some 3rd-seat judges in the past were inclined to do. Was this routine enough to keep her out of danger? I'm doubtful. That's unfortunate because she danced well, but when we start with only 10 finalists and people are really knocking it out of the park, it's important to make a lasting impression in people's minds or you go home.

Robert Roldan and Taylor Sieve (Contemporary) Choreographer: Travis Wall, “Change Is Everything (A Capella Version)” by Son Lux. During the green mile sequence between Taylor and Jonathan, I realized I've never noticed how much shorter Jonathan is than Taylor. When they were standing next to each other facing Robert, Taylor was towering over him! Was this some trick of the camera angle? Anyway, Robert picks Taylor and they do a Travis Wall routine and it blows everyone's minds. It starts with Taylor standing on Robert’s shoulders (!!) and then she rolls forward off of him to the floor ((!!!). The insanity continues from there. The gymnastic poses don't stop throughout and there is a strong emotional presence coming from Taylor supported by the haunting vocals of the song. Robert is the most solid of partners. It was weird that there was that time during the Academy where no one wanted to be on his team. That might have been a result of the weird persona he adopted as he'd declare, "I WANT YOU ON MY TEAM..." the delivery of which landed somewhere between Jeff Goldblum's and Christopher Walken's most creepily oddball characters. The dancers were all like, "Yeah... no thanks! I'll go with the All-Star who isn't scaring me right now!" But these kids should've remembered that SYTYCD loves Robert. He's always going to get the best routines and the best placement in the show and that will only help his partner succeed. Taylor has the skills and personality to win the show and she also has the right partner to get her to the finals. In judging, Mary calls it one of her Top 10 routines of all time on the show. We'll definitely be seeing an encore of it before we crown the winner. I can't wait! Again! Again!

Jasmine Harper and Robert Green (Hip-Hop) Choreographer: Chris Scott, "Perm” by Bruno Mars. Even though Jasmine's team got minimal screen time during the Academy, I still had a good sense of who Howard and Robert were from their original auditions. Poor Howard was in tears before Jasmine could even deliver the killing blow. Come back next year, Howard! I promise you the format will change again and that might give you a better chance! So even though all the other contestants ran out on stage to reveal that they made it, Robert is already set in his spot on the stage which is decked out like a minimalist beauty parlor. Jasmine turns his styling chair around for the reveal to the audience that he made it, and then together they dive into a fantastically fun hip hop routine that's big on energy, precision and sass. There are hairspray can props that are used to great effect creating clouds of mist around them as they dance. Everything about this routine fits Robert like a glove. It's a perfect showcase for him. I'm looking forward to what else these two will do together.

Now, it's almost 10pm and we have to wrap this up before the local news kicks in, but we can't roll credits just yet, because there is still an All-Stars and Top 10 routine to go! Choreographers: Wade and Amanda Robson, Tony Testa. “This Time” by Son Lux. Dude, Wade has not done choreo on this show in FOREVER. I wonder if one his conditions to return involved them adding stairs back onto the stage. He always made great use of those stairs. The routine is very cool and does not conform to traditional gender norms in the costuming which was refreshing to see. The All-Stars are in black and grey pants and hoodies, with flashlights in their mouths while turning giant lanterns into talking heads. The Top 10 are all pink cocoon goo to start and then blossom into tulle-skirted beings and then... i'm not sure what happens. They join up like the Skeksis and the Mystics during the Great Conjuction or something. I can't tell you exactly what the story was, but I liked the visuals a lot. Welcome back, Wade and company!

So that's our Top 10, America! 4 Contempos, 2 Ballers, 1 Popper, 1 Jazz Hands, 1 Hopper and 1 Breaker. I'm pleased with who made it through. I'm thrilled we're finally in the live shows so they can strut their stuff and we can spend some time with them! My understanding is the season finale is in the end of September, so that means we'll lose one dancer a week until the final four face off in the finale. But we'll have to wait until next week to learn just how they'll be eliminated. Will there be a bottom 3? A bottom 2? Will the judges decide? Will their be "dancing for their lives" solos? Who knows? They will tell us right before it happens. Here's how I split my 20 online votes among the contestants. I favored Kiki and Taylor this week, but everybody got some love. It was really based on my initial reaction to the routines. If I had two more available votes, I'd have given one each to Lex and Robert.

For now, I'll guess my bottom 3 for this week are Logan, Kaylee and Sydney. Early picks to win it all? I'll go with Lex or Taylor. But they've all got a fighting chance. Next week will be the first big test to see what they can all do. I can't wait! See you then, Dance Fans!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscars 2014 Recap: I Know My First Name's Idina...

Classy People. Classy Show. 

So Guys. The Oscars Happened. Oh, did they ever happen!

In a show that ran long and had virtually no upset wins ("Get a Horse" lost animated short, and... that was it.) the show still managed to spin out a little wild and be entertaining as some late evening craziness kept the internets ablaze with comments. Here are some highlights from the night.

1. Lupita WINS! Bobby EGOT'S! Cuaron makes history AND wins twice!

It was a night of eloquent speeches and lots of fun first time winners. Maybe it was a result of housing the orchestra in some building down the street again, but I don't remember anyone getting plaid off despite several people going on for a bit. Even when a team won, and one person was the main speaker, the second person was always given a few seconds to quickly shot hello to his or her mom or kids. Bobby Lopez completed his career EGOT, winning for "Let It Go" (over 2.5 hours into the ceremony - JESUS.), Cuaron won for editing and also became the first Latino winner for Best Directing. But in my opinion, the most lovely win went to Lupita Nyong'o. Here's her beautiful speech in total:

Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition. It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance. And for Solomon, thank you for telling her story and your own. 

Steve McQueen, you charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life. [Tears, applause.] I’m certain that the dead are standing about you and watching and they are grateful and so am I. 

Chiwetel, thank you for your fearlessness and how deeply you went into Solomon, telling Solomon’s story. Michael Fassbender, thank you so much. You were my rock. Alfre and Sarah, it was a thrill to work with you. Joe Walker, the invisible performer in the editing room, thank you. Sean Bobbitt, Kalaadevi, Adruitha, Patty Norris, thank you, thank you, thank you — I could not be here without your work. 

I want to thank my family, for your training [laughs] and the Yale School of Drama as well, for your training. My friends the Wilsons, this one’s for you. My brother Junior sitting by my side, thank you so much, you’re my best friend and then my other best friend, my chosen family. When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.

Thank YOU, Lupita!

2. Twitter breaks.

Ellen broke the internet with this improved A-List selfie. She told everyone to retweet it, and retweet it they did until twitter could retweet no moew! You know, despite everyone's nerves about the night, the big nominees were all very game to play with Ellen whenever she called on them in the audience. You could tell they have a lot of trust with her to have a good time and enjoy making moments.

3. American Gets Hustled!

Bored Now. Poor American Hustle! It was probably my favorite movie this year, it had 10 nominations tonight and went home with zero wins. You will have your time, Amy Adams! You will! I swear it!

4. Jennifer Lawrence Falls Down Again!

Jennifer looked amazing and got the falling out of the way on the red carpet instead of during the actual ceremony. Unfortunately, it was still under the watchful eye of Ellen who called her out about it in the opening monologue. She'd have gotten extra points had she succeeded in taking down the young lady in front of her as well.

5. Introducing Adela Dazeem

Having already broken twitter once last night, John Travolta tried to make it happen for the Oscars a second time when he bizarrely introduced Idina Menzel as something close to Adela Dazeem. It was one if those truly special WTF moments. Many Frozen and Broadway fans had been anxiously awaiting Idina's live performance for weeks now. We had to wait until after 11pm for the show to finally give us what we wanted. And then John Travolta takes the stage. Upon initial viewing, I did not hear his flub because we were not interested in Travolta and were urging him to hurry up out of there. But then as the performance started things got weird on stage and online. The song felt rushed. Idina seemed nervous or flustered. They cut out the middle verse where the song builds vocally. The ear piece was malfunctioning. The band wasn't even in the same building! Through all this the presentation was still lovely. She cracked a bit on the top note, but girl was singing live and that note's in the stratosphere. It happens. She gave it her all. Did the whole performance fall short of our extremely high expectations? Yeah, a bit. We would've wanted it to go perfectly for Idina, because she deserves a perfect moment! The missed high note doesn't bother me. It was more that I thought Idina looked pressured throughout a song that's about release. I felt like the production never let her relax.

But even before the song ended, twitter and FB started ripping into Travolta. What name did he call her? Certainly not Idina. People couldn't figure it out. Eventually, we settled on either Adele or Adela Dazeem. Either way, it was so preposterous! Quite ironically, social media was NOT gonna let it go at all. As of this posting, @AdelaDazeem has over 14,000 twitter followers off of just four tweets.

Okay, obviously he had some kind of brain fart reading the prompter. But he doesn't know who Idina is? She starred in Rent. She starred in Wicked. They didn't meet backstage moments before he did the intro? It just seems insane. But it certainly woke everyone up as the show headed towards midnight. I laughed til I cried reading people's scathing comments. I missed two awards while trying to compose myself. Thanks for all the laughs at your expense, Jorn Tromolto.

6. Encyclopedia Ellen and The Mystery of The Red Rose Curtain

The sets on stage last night were certainly... interesting. There was the army of gummi bear Oscar statues. The array of blinding spotlights. The giant scrim that showed projections of the Wizard of Oz in front of P!nk while she sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow. But the strangest one for me was this huge curtain of giant red roses. It was enormous! And I couldn't stop myself from thinking, "Why is that thing there??" Nobody acknowledged it, despite it taking up the whole stage. Was is hiding some big set piece or star entrance? Was there going to be a big reveal? No, it just hung there. Did it symbolize the red carpet? Was it an ode to the poppy fields of the Wizard of Oz? The world may never know...

7. Ellen was Mean. Liza was Displeased.

She's not quite as Super Nice as Jimmy Fallon, but Ellen is not known for throwing sharp jabs either. Still, there were some delightfully prickly moments in the opening monologue I appreciated. Liza Minelli might have felt differently at the time. Ellen shouted out the real life Captain Phillips and Philomena who were in the audience that night and then mentioned the real Liza as “One of the best Liza Minnelli impersonators that I have seen in my entire life… Good job, sir!” Liza was like "Did she call me a MAN??" The audience wasn't totally with her (Liza was there to celebrate mom Judy Garland and the 75th Anniversary of the Wizard of Oz.) Not ready to make nice just yet, Ellen closed out the monologue by offering up two possibilities, “Possibility number one: Twelve Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists. And now welcome our first white presenter, Anne Hathaway!”

If that drag queen read wasn't enough, she got shut out of Ellen's Group Selfie for being too short! Look at her stretching! Won't someone notice poor Liza??!

8. The Happy Shimmy

Thank you, Pharrel for giving the world the Happy Shimmy. Streep came ready to play last night, folks.

9. The World is Round, People!

Jared Leto gave a nice long speech with shout outs to his Mom, Ukraine, Venezuela, AIDS victims and 30 Seconds to Mars. Matthew McConaughey thanked the Holy Trinity of Me Myself and I. But my favorite of the actors' acceptance speeches outside of Lupita was the lovely Cate Blanchett who said. "To those of us in the industry who are perhaps foolishly clinging to the idea that female films -- with women at the center -- are niche experiences, they are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money!" Thunderous appplause and then, "The world is round, people!" She is divine. And the first Australian ever to win multiple Oscars!

10. Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

Ellen made a joke about ordering the starving nominees pizzas. And then later the pizzas arrived. And then Ellen handed out the pizzas. And then the nominees actually ate the pizzas while sitting in the their seats in the theater. And then Ellen went around with Pharrell's hat collecting money for the pizza. It sounds simple.But it was a fun way of engaging with the audience and keeping them involved as more and more of their categories were settled. Again, it speaks well of Ellen that so many people continued to play along with whatever she asked them to do. It turns out they did not map out these interactions in rehearsal. Ellen just let them know she'd be doing something and they waited to see what it was. I thought these bits worked really well. And made me hungry for pizza!

So overall, it was a nice night with some lovely wins, funny jokes and head and baffling errors. I guessed 20 of the 24 winners which I score as "not too shabby." 12 Years a Slave is a worthy best picture win. Hopefully next year Amy Adams takes hope the gold trophy and John Travolta will be on hand to call her Armani Slumndal.  That'd be a win for everybody. Our dreams are valid.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions: Academy Hustle

(Let's all head straight to the after-party, since we're not likely to win anyway.)

The 2014 Oscars are upon us! Before I live tweet this bitch later tonight, I figured I'd break my long blogging hiatus (all my writing time this year has gone to playwriting and FB statuses! Sorry, blog!) by going on record about my pics to win this year. All the early results from this awards season indicate it will be a "spread the wealth" sort of year with no one movie sweeping all the technical or the performance categories. Conventional wisdom would also indicate that 12 Years A Slave will win Best Picture, but it's not a total lock. It's a very powerful film and expertly made, but I found it so painful to watch. It's not a movie that if I would just sit down and watch flipping through the channels on a Saturday afternoon while folding my laundry. Same thing could be said for Schindler's List, though. Shakespeare in Love, however...

I DO like to be entertained by films, so in that sense if I was voting this year, I would pick American Hustle or Gravity as my top choice. But I certainly wouldn't begrudge 12 Years a well deserved win. We'll see what happens. What we'll all remember about this anyway is After Earth's Best Picture snub. It is unconscionable.

All the categories have their front runners, but Academy Voters don't always stick to the Awards Season script. There could be some delicious upsets. As long as "Let It Go" wins Best Song whatever else happens is fine with me. Should it somehow lose... just wait for my tweets.

Here's hoping Ellen brings back the Swan Dress!! And without further ado... my predictions (in BOLD)!

Best Picture:

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Animated Feature:

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
The Wind Rises

Best Cinematography:

The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd)
Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Best Costume Design:

American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson)
The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping)
The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)
The Invisible Woman (Michael O'Connor)
12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Best Directing:

American Hustle (David O. Russell)
Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Best Documentary Feature:

The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

Best Documentary Short:

Facing Fear
Karama Has No Walls
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal

Best Film Editing:

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium)
The Great Beauty (Italy)
The Hunt (Denmark)
The Missing Picture (Cambodia)
Omar (Palestine)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Best Original Score:

The Book Thief (John Williams)
Gravity (Steven Price)
Her (William Butler, Owen Pallett)
Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song:

Happy (Despicable Me 2)
Let It Go (Frozen)
The Moon Song (Her)
Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Best Production Design:

American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
12 Years a Slave

Best Animated Short Film:

Get a Horse!
Mr. Hublot
Room on the Broom

Best Live Action Short Film:

That Wasn't Me
Just Before Losing Everything
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
The Voorman Problem

Best Sound Editing:

All Is Lost
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing:

Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Best Visual Effects:

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Original Screenplay:

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club