Friday, September 25, 2009

Fame: Pretty Good, ActuaTHEY DID WHAT???

Despite my reservations, I saw Fame tonight. It was pretty good! Except for one aspect that was completely infuriating and disgusting and more retrograde and vile than anything shown in the 1980 version. WHOOPS. What follows is a quick, non-spoilery breakdown of the performances, followed by a SPOILER WARNING, followed by the infuriating part. (Although I should point out that Fame, like both the original film and the play, has no plot, so there's not much to be spoiled.)

The Kids We'd Heard of Before: Little Panabaker was quite good! So was Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, who really, really needs a better stage name, but who can apparently do justice to a script that's neither Hannah Montana nor Camp Rock. Kherington of So You Think You Can Dance turns out to be a mediocre actress, but she was also, oddly, a mediocre dancer - technically fine, but nowhere close to the entrancing uber-goddess she was supposed to be. Asher Book of V Factory was definitely the weakest link acting-wise, and though his singing was not bad, he sounded...well, like a member of a boy band, which didn't really fit in with songs like "Someone To Watch Over Me."

The Kids We Hadn't: All quite good! Naturi Naughton is rightfully going to get a lot of praise for her voice. None of the others were real standouts to me, but they all did very well.

The Grownups: Should have had more to do - at least, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer, and Megan Mullally should. They didn't have much to do besides expose the soft fleshy underbellies of their students, and Megan's one song was a disappointment, but they captivated the viewers' attention (particularly Bebe) in a way these wet-behind-the-ears young actors haven't yet learned to do. (And one scene made me want epic fanfiction about how Kelsey Grammer's character is in love with Megan Mullally's. I DON'T KNOW.)

And now, for the part that pissed me off...


Little Panabaker and Asher Book play aspiring actors who start dating. At a party, Andy, a former student of the school who is now a regular on a TV show, approaches Little, compliments her on a recent performance, and suggests she come by the set to meet the casting director and audition as a day player. He's also clearly into her, although it's not clear if she knows that. She's thrilled at the professional opportunity, and gives him her number. Asher comes in just in time to see her apparently give some guy her number and accept a kiss on the cheek from him, and storms out. She explains what happened, apologizes (even though she didn't do anything wrong), offers to never talk to Andy again if that's what Asher wants, and then placates him by inviting him up to her empty apartment. So...placating the angry boyfriend by telling him he can veto who she talks to and then offering sexual favors (it's not clear how far they go, but they're not going to her apartment to play Parcheesi)? Uh...sounds great.

Then she goes to Andy's set and is invited into his trailer. He tells her the casting director isn't there, but wants them to make a video, and oh, here's a kissing scene in the script - all a very transparent attempt to get into her pants. She doggedly attempts to act the scene a couple of times, but finally realizes (or accepts) that this isn't legit, tells him off, and leaves. Good for her! In the original film, something similar happens but the girl doesn't get the courage to leave, and I was pleased that Little was able to do so.

Next scene: she's telling Asher what happened. She's clearly very upset, and with good reason - she was just betrayed and molested.

He gets mad at her.

His girlfriend was just SEXUALLY ASSAULTED, and he yells at her while she cries that she knew all along what was going to happen, that she was using sexuality to get ahead, and that if being famous means that much to her, fine, he's done. Then he storms off.

Some time later, at a party with mutual friends, she apologizes again for hurting him and asks if they can ever get past it. He doesn't answer, but later in the scene takes her hand, which apparently means that he's forgiven her.

For being MOLESTED.

This movie blames the victim of sexual assault for bringing it on herself. Her boyfriend essentially calls her a slut and a tease and breaks up with her because she was tricked and violated. This didn't happen in the 1980 film, or the 1988 play, when female characters found themselves in similar situations - situations which turned out a lot worse for the girls in question. All they received was sympathy.

No, it's not until 2009 that we're told that a 17 year old girl who trusts a former schoolmate not to take advantage of her is BAD and WRONG for DARING to be alone with a man without her boyfriend's permission. It's not until the 21st century that Fame wants us to join this supposedly likeable, upstanding boyfriend in shunning a girl who has just been through a traumatic experience. It's not until now that we're expected to applaud a steaming pile of misogyny in what is otherwise a pretty decent movie.

Way to take us backwards, Fame. Fuck you.

Spoke too soon!

So you know how this morning I made passing reference to Corbin's new show, The Beautiful Life-Colon-TBL?

Did I mention it wasn't very good? Because it really, really wasn't. Aaaaaaaaaaand, it's already canceled.

Sorry, Corbin. But you're still super-cute, if that helps. Especially when carrying a puppy.

Round Up

Some brief happenings, mostly but not exclusively featuring the HSM alum crowd, because even as HSM's stranglehold on tween culture fades, they remain my favorites:

* Lucas Grabeel (and Drew "Singing Voice of Zac Efron" Seeley) are making a musical vampire love story webseries.

* Tizz is blond again! For the most part, she's been looking awesome lately, but at the Fame premier, not so much.

* Corbin's motocross movie finally premiered. Meanwhile, The Beautiful Life-Colon-TBL also premiered. Thing I love about it: Corbin wandering around with no pants on. Things I am bored to tears by: virtually everything else. Alas.

* And finally, Sterling Knight gets a DCOM scheduled for next year. Hooray! (And yes, I read Popstar Online for this blog.)

And because what the heck, it's Friday, have a flashback:

O-Town: Liquid Dreams

Not gonna lie. I watched every episode of their two seasons of Making the Band.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Wizards Movie: Who Knew?

So. Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie. Here are four short words I never thought I'd find myself typing, unqualified and unironically, in a review of a DCOM -- let alone a DCOM based on one of Disney's kidcoms:

It was pretty good.

Not "it was an infuriating waste of my time, or "cute cast, terrible movie," or even "it was enjoyably bad."

It was pretty good! Like, actually good in the way that you want a movie to be!

The two-second summary: Alex and her mother are fighting non-stop during their family vacation, and Alex makes a thoughtless, angry wish that her parents had never met. Of course it comes true, and now she, Justin, and Max only have two days to get find the Stone of Dreams, a magical artifact that can grant (or in this case, reverse) any wish.

Basically, this movie is what would happen if you threw Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future, and It's a Wonderful Life into a blender: treasure maps, mysterious booby traps, characters who disappear because history has been altered, and a revelation of just how good life really is. But, while the action adventure sequences are fine (unlike the regular series, the effects aren't laughably bad; but they're nothing to write home about, either), what ultimately sets it apart as probably the best DCOM I can think of is the fact that it's a well constructed story. There's only one movie in the movie (something DCOMs aren't alone in screwing up; a lot of recent tween and teen movies have tried to shoehorn two, three, or in some cases seven plots into one movie, *cough*CampRock*cough*). There are some bits that don't really make sense (they make the rule that the kids will forget things, but for most of the movie, only Max does, and then he disappears; Justin forgets things all at once, two seconds before he disappears) or were never followed through with (what exactly had Giselle the parrot done to earn her punishment, and why did the street magician guy go off with her at the end, after she'd been so horrible to him?).

But the plot was smooth enough that it didn't take away from the actual important part: the interpersonal relationships.

Whoa, I never thought I would type that about a DCOM, either. But it's true!

The movie does several things well at the character level: for one thing, you can see how the kids get their personalities from their parents, in an "I learned by watching you!" sort of way. The most obvious example is Max, when he's hanging out with his now-single, still-magic-possessing father. Generally, Max is an immature joker -- and now we see, so's his dad! And without hammering the point too hard, Max learns what a pain that can be to deal with by spending time with his dad.

Better still, the kids (especially Alex) relate to their parents the way actual teenagers do. Every fight Alex had with her mom impressed me, because they didn't seem at all contrived; yeah, magic, whatever, but other than that, they were fights that a lot of teenage girls do have with their mothers.

But, because I am a sucker for such things (and because, let's face it, Selena and D-Hen are the best things about the show), it was the surprisingly depth to the relationship between Alex and Justin that got me and knocked the movie up from "fine" to "pretty good" territory. In the regular series, we see that Alex is a slacker who's perfectly good at magic, but doesn't care enough to try. And we see Justin is a neurotic nerd. And we know that they don't generally get along. It turns out, all of these things have motivations! Justin is desperate for his parents' approval, and thinks that being super-smart is the only way he can earn it. Alex sees that his parents do approve of that, but thinks that she can never live up to his example, so she refuses to even try. Justin is sick of getting in trouble because of Alex. Alex is sick of Justin being a know-it-all. They fight because of all of these things, and through the course of the movie, they gain empathy for one another, they make it clear that beneath it all, they really care about each other, and it's kind of. Um. Touching. And not in a bad-touch way.

You guys, a DCOM had character depth in a way that made sense and drove the plot along and made me care about things! What madness is this? And if Disney can actually find competent people to write and direct things, why don't they do it more often????

Look: the movie wasn't perfect. When I said it seemed like someone had stuck those four movies in a blender, I wasn't joking; there's leaning heavily on movie tradition, and then there's borderline plagiarism, and this movie is much closer to the latter. Nothing about it was especially original, or strikingly brilliant. But (given the source material, and the quality of basically all other DCOMs), it was better than it had any right to be, and even removing the context of the Wizards series and the tradition of DCOMs making no sense, you're left, well… A movie that was pretty good.