Monday, August 29, 2011


The MTV Video Music Awards used to be THE awards show to watch.  You could count on crazy outfits, wacky antics and indelible musical performances that would be etched in pop culture forever.  Maybe to some people, the new generation perhaps, it still is that, but years of the same contrived antics and recycled outfits and young artists trying too hard have made me much more cynical.   That said, I like to give credit where credit is due and leave myself open to the possibility that someone can surprise me. 
Last year Florence + The Machine’s rousing performance of “Dog Days are Over” came out of nowhere and made everyone stand up and cheer.  This year, unfortunately, I can’t say that I was particularly impressed by anything, but there were still a few highlights that made me smile.
Let’s just start with the most anticipated performance of the night which was the incomparable Lady Gaga.  I wondered why she was opening instead of them building anticipation for it all night, but as soon as I saw her looking like Ralph Macchio in The Outsiders I knew she had something elaborate up her sleeve.  The spoken intro was a bit too long, but it explained her theatrical/ performance art antics and props to her for staying in character all night (even though she got mixed up with the pronouns later in the show).  The “You and I” performance itself was typical Gaga, raw live vocals, wacky unhinged piano playing and a guest appearance by Queen guitarist Brian May that made Dave Grohl smile.  For some reason she’s a dancing fool and always feels the need to throw a section of choreography into every performance whether it’s needed or not, (this time it wasn’t) but all in all, it’s a memorable addition to the Gaga canon of performance art and was easily the most exciting performance of the night.
First runner up was Beyonce who set herself up as the anti-Gaga.  For all the over-the-top innovation Gaga provides, B (refuse to spell it Bey, B-E-Y spells BAY!!!) served you good old fashioned stage performance.  The glittery tuxedo with the baby bump covering cummerbund were reminiscent of a 1950’s nightclub singer.  Even the song itself “Love on Top” felt like a throwback to a time before MTV even existed when G-rated love songs ruled the charts.  But then she put a feminist twist on it showing off her pregnant stomach at the finish, once again proving that she can, in fact, do it all.
As for her husband, Jay-Z, who beamed adoringly from the audience, his performance of “Otis” with Kanye West was kind of over before I realized it was happening.  I’m a fan of stripped down performance, but the problem with doing stripped down on a show this big is that it has to really be special for it to work (see: Bon Jovi doing “Living on a Prayer/ Wanted Dead or Alive”).  For all the energy Jay and Kanye brought out with them, they probably could’ve used the unnecessary dancers from the Gaga performance to add a layer of excitement to it.  They basically came off like they were just sitting in the audience in jeans and asked to perform and the last minute.  Not their best.
Also going for stripped down was Adele, with an intimate set for “Someone Like You.”  I love Adele and that is probably my favorite track on 21, but as over played as “Rolling in the Deep” is I was hoping she would do that song or something more upbeat and exciting.  She sang well, but wasn’t in her best voice (I couldn’t tell if was from nerves or emotion).  Let’s hope at the Grammys, where she is sure to be a multiple nominee, she can come up with a fun medley or something and not end up being this generation’s Nora Jones.   The “Rolling in the Deep” video won a bunch of technical awards as well which was really generous because, let’s face it, it’s a great song, but the video is essentially her singing to a couple hundred glasses of water in an empty house.
Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo and Nayer (Is that her name?) performed their hit single “Tonight.”  It was nice to see Pitbull get a spot on the big show since he’s been keeping butts shaking on the dancefloor for most of the past decade, and the performance was fun.  Still not sure who Nayer is, and why she actually got a “featuring” credit for a contribution that could have been made just as effectively by a computer, but whatever. Get your money girl.  (Next time though buy an outfit that doesn’t look like you got it from Apollonia in the 80’s). 
There were also two tribute performances last night that came off very differently.  First, there was Britney looking healthy and happy for the most part even though she refuses to spend money on good hair (fake or otherwise), who was given the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award.  It’s no secret that I’m not her biggest fan and I think her contribution to pop music and popular culture are WAY overblown, but she has been through a lot and managed to maintain some semblance of sanity and is still around recording music which is more than I can say for a lot of wannabe pop stars. 

Despite the fact that she hasn’t had a video worth discussing (ever?) in ten years, I didn’t have a problem with her receiving the award.  For all of her haters and naysayers she still has legions of fans and if MTV wants to congratulate her (or themselves for creating the hype surrounding her in the first place), that’s their prerogative (see what I did there?).  I actually felt bad for Brit, because the whole tribute was hijacked by the two other divas involved.  Gaga, who presented the award in “character” as Joe Calderone, did most of the speaking (and Spears looked a little scared) and then Brit was further dissed by having to introduce Beyonce, which was worse than having Kanye come out and interrupt and say that B deserved it more.  (Although if he had he would’ve been right…Again.  No offense Taylor).  The little girls dancing to her hits was cute though and only slightly inappropriate (who puts a nine year-old in a red cat suit? Oh yeah, the network that brings us Jersey Shore and Teen Mom.  Never mind.)
The other tribute for the late Amy Winehouse was thankfully more tastefully done.  Russell Brand was funny and sincere in his speech remembering his friend.  The clip of her singing with Tony Bennett was touching and apropos, focusing on her talent and Bruno Mars’s heartfelt rendition of “Valerie” was a winner.  It would’ve been nice to see Adele (who looked like she was on the verge of tears) be apart of the tribute as well, but I guess that too will probably be saved for the Grammys. 
That was pretty much it, not the most memorable show ever, but not the worst ever either.  There were several things that left me scratching my head after the show was over.  Like if MTV celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year why wasn’t that mentioned on the show?  Who is Tyler the Creator and what was the point of the “future” Beastie Boys?  What was that Chris Brown, lip-synching, crouching tiger/ flying pop star performance about? Was it some kind of tribute to the 90’s or something? Also, was Kevin Hart the host or not?  Why do Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez look like two ninth grade besties who just realized they’re lesbians?  And don’t even get me started on Cloris Leachman being DTF.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011


First off, let me just come out and say that I didn’t read the best-selling novel that The Help is based on.   I’m not sure if the film does it justice, or how much it sticks to, or deviates from, the source material, so my impression of the story is just from watching the film.   I do know that the writer /director of the film (Tate Taylor) and the author of the novel (Kathryn Stockett) are very good friends who have known each other for quite some time, so my guess is that the film sticks as closely to the book as possible.

         At the film’s center we have Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), a young, educated, white female returning home from college and ready to make a difference in the world.   She returns to her home of Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s with the intention of landing a position as a journalist for the local paper, which she does.  Unfortunately, much to her chagrin, it’s for a domestic maintenance column in which she has to advise women on how to solve household dilemmas involving, mending, cooking and stain removal, none of which she has any amount of experience.   

        Skeeter, like her gaggle of childhood friends, was raised by a black maid who handled the domestic duties in her household.   Upon her return she learns that her beloved Constantine (Cicely Tyson) has mysteriously left her post and moved up north with her family.  To get help with the column she enlists the assistance of a friend’s maid, Abilene (Viola Davis), but soon after they begin Skeeter realizes she wants to tell a different story.  She wants to write about what it’s like for a black maid working in a white household in the Jim Crow era south.
            As a black person, I wanted to take issue with the fact that this story, about a specifically black experience, was written by a white person (in both incarnations), but the author of the novel, to my knowledge, had first hand experience being raised by a black maid herself.   Also, it was presented in the film as if she was basically retelling the stories that had been told to her, so I wasn’t as bothered by that as I might’ve been.   Not that there weren’t a few choice bits of dialogue that made me cringe, particularly one of the maid’s ruminations on Crisco and fried chicken.   Another thing that was initially troubling was Abilene’s especially close relationships with the children in her care.  For some reason watching her tell a young white child that she was smart and important felt redundant and misplaced, but once the detached relationship with the child’s mother and Abilene’s own personal pain is revealed, it all makes sense.  (Too bad they nearly ruined it with the child exclaiming “You’re my real mama Aibi.”)   

If I had to have one major complaint about the film though, it would be the whole Chicken Soup for the Soul vibe of it.  It didn’t avoid some of the horror that black people experienced at that time in history, but I never felt like I wasn’t watching a movie, that is to say that something about it just never rang true for me.   This could be attributed to the director’s inexperience, or maybe it was the almost complete absence of any men that factored into the plot at all.   It could not, however, be attributed to the performances.  While I was not as moved by the three leads (Stone, Davis and Octavia Spencer) as I might’ve hoped (Davis, though always a pleasure to watch, was more heartbreaking in a few minutes of Doubt),  I thoroughly enjoyed Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney’s sassy matriarchs,  Jessica Chastain’s loopy outcast and even Bryce Dallas Howard’s cunning and devious villainess.
 As hard as the filmmakers and people involved try to convince us otherwise, The Help is definitely a film for women.   The men in the film barely register in one way or another and the character arcs of the three primary characters are decidedly feminist.  None of this is necessarily an issue, because it will surely resonate on some level with its target audience, and it was one of the more laudable themes in the film.   What is less certain is whether or not the film will leave a real impression after you’ve left the theater.  

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Teaser Trailer: ANDY's CD's

Here is a short film that I'm assistant directing.  Please like our Facebook page for this!! It's gonna be hilarious!


Here's the trailer for a new web series that I'm in.  So excited for everyone to see it.  I will let everyone know when the episodes start airing!!

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