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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

The most beloved character type in modern literature

Anyone who writes or enjoys reading stories has at least a general idea of the various character types that make up the basics of virtually any story, novel, play or movie.

Of course, there are the villains, as more technically refereed to as the antagonists.  And just as obviously there are the heroes, technically termed the protagonists. Just perhaps the most beloved character type that is in use more now than ever is the figure known as the anti-hero.

Some people may be familiar with this type of character but in the event that you are not one of them, an anti-hero is essentially a protagonist that is anything but perfect.

Gone are the days with squeaky clean heroes who always make the right decisions and never cross any moral lines. Writers and readers have come to embrace protagonists with faults, personal struggles and other serious and not so serious issues that they must face.

So why is the anti-hero so popular? I would venture to guess that it’s because he or she is a character to which people can more accurately relate. Quite frankly, they are more realistic. Even the most shinning examples of humanity struggle with their own issues from  time to time. Nobody does everything right or always makes the right call pertaining to a moral or ethical situation.

Some famous examples of anti-heroes include:

Books -

Holden Caulfield – “Catcher in the Rye”

Scarlett O’Hara – “Gone with the Wind”

Movies -

John McClain – “Die Hard” series

Frank Martin – “Transporter” series

Television -

Patrick Jane – “The Mentalist”

Emily Thorne – “Revenge”

Plays –

Lady Macbeth  - “Macbeth”

Comics -

Batman

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The artistic beauty of dance

I am a long time fan of the show Dancing With The Stars.

And while the series is known at times for having some silly and less than elegant elements, it has also had it’s share of truly amazing performances. Some of these have inspired visually, musically and even emotionally. Here are a few I saw last night that I simply felt compelled to share. The first is newly crowned Olympic Ice Dancing champion Meryl Davis and her notoriously suave partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. It was dedicated to the journey to the gold medal she and her ice dancing partner Charlie White had been on for more than 17 years. This second video is of  Paralympic snowboarding star Amy Purdy and her choreographically gifted partner Derek Hough. This was dedicated to her father who played an incredible role in her recovery from an illness that cost the athlete her legs. Sit back, relax and take in another example of how art can inspire us all.

Some thoughts on the 2014 Grammy Awards show

While there seems to be an ever-growing number of awards shows out there these days, when it comes to music, the Grammy Awards are still considered by many to be the elite in terms of this particular art form. Sure some might argue that the People’s Choice holds more meaning since it is directly from the fans or that other shows that base their winners primarily on sales figures are more relevant. However, the Grammy Awards are still essentially the Oscars of the music industry.

With all that being said, here are my personal thoughts on the awards show that took place this past Sunday.

On Live Performances:

As has been the case lately, there where a lot of unusual pairings for duet and group performances. A few worked, most didn’t. When it came to the older guys out there, such as the two former members of the Beatles, many of them have lost their vocal skills and really just need to ride off into the Sunset of musical history. Probably the best performances in my opinion were a few of the most subtle. The collaboration between Pink and Nate Ruess stuck out for sure. And the subdued piano playing Hunter Hayes with inspirational quotes on the screen in the background was quite memorable.

On the Nominees:

For the most part, the selection of nominees in each category was pretty good. Of course, the fact that Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift among a few others weren’t up for more was a bit surprising. Two examples of where they mostly went right where the categories for “Song of the Year” and Best Pop Solo Performance.”

On the Winners:

It is the tendency at the Grammys for one or more artists to dominate a few major categories in a given year. Those who decide the winners get hung up on a particular song or artist. Often times they fade away a bit after that. The first part of that equation did follow the typical pattern.  And I suspect the second will as well.

Overall, this year, it seemed as though those who decided the winners tended toward rewarding mediocrity. The bestowed coveted awards on acts with one or two OK songs and sort of left others out in the cold. Good examples of this include wins by newcomer LordeDaft Punk and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

What Should Have Been IMHO:

Of the available options:

Record of the Year should have went to Sara Bareilles for “Brave.”

Song of the Year should ahve been a given for “Just Give Me A Reason” by  Pink and Nate Ruess.

Best Pop Solo Performance should have went to either Sara Bareilles for “Brave” or Justin Timberlake for “Mirrors.”

I could go on but that would make for one long post.

Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles

Pink and Nate Ruess

Pink and Nate Ruess

Finding out about fan fiction

Fan fiction

has been around for several years now. And while I had a basic idea of what the concept was all about, I never really bothered to look into it until recently. A friend of the family gave me a few more specific details of what is involved in this fan-driven form of literature.

Imagine reading your favorite science fiction book, or watching a classic super hero movie and having some actual control over the thoughts, actions and just about everything to do with the characters. This is the essence of fan fiction.

The control over one’s favorite characters combined with the ability to express one’s own creativity has made this form of writing a rapidly growing success.  Essentially, everything is possible!

Personally, as a fan of the television series “Revolution,” I am looking forward to checking out what people have written about this futuristic and somewhat post-apocalyptic show. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even write some for myself.

Revolution show

American Idol 2013 Finale recap

Last night, Candice Glover and Kree Harrison fought it out as the last two contestants on this year’s edition of American Idol. And in all honesty, I missed the show and caught up with the performances after the fact. However, I suppose that might actually be a good thing because the judges didn’t have the possible ability to influence my take on each performance. Not that they usually do but this makes the whole thing even more pure in nature.

Candice Glover and Kree Harrision American Idol Finalists

Candice Glover and Kree Harrision, American Idol Finalists

Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Candice (Tie) - It started off slow but she did well in the chorus. Not bad.

1. Kree (Tie) - Slow and simple adding her own country twist good but not great.

Last night’s second performances:

1. Kree - Good tone, nice vocals, got to show off her range a bit, right in her wheelhouse.

2. Candice - Nice inflection in her voice. Strong and emotional, well done.

Last night’s third performances: 

1. Candice - Showed off her amazing range in a touching and incredible performance.

2. Kree - Smooth flowing vocals and a beautiful sound overall. Amazing final note at the end.

Final thoughts:

Neither of the first performances was all that great. And that being the case, I’d have to call that round a tie. With each additional round, the performances got progressively better. Kree most likely took the second round with a song that just fit her better and a quality showing throughout.  While Kree’s third and final song was outstanding and would have likely been the best of the night on most nights, the fact that Candice gave a second performance of her best song of the season won her the round.

Being that Candice went second in each round, I would have to say she has a bit of an advantage. This is especially true when it comes to her closing song. However, with the shocking elimination of Angie last week, if either contestant is likely to pick up her fans it would be Kree. Going into the night, I thought it would be an anti-climactic finish with the newest winner being Candice. However, I’m not so sure that it won’t be a lot close than people expect. Who knows what might happen.

Classic fantasy movies that launched Hollywood careers

Every actor or actress in Hollywood got their start somewhere. But sometimes, prolonged and successful careers have come out of arguably one of the most interesting and creative film genres - fantasy films.

I happened to run into a friend the other day who is a major fan of one such movie and we got to taking about the subject. That being the case, I thought I’d take a quick look back at a few that really stood out for me, especially in the 1980s, and the starts that now enjoy household names who were part of these very cool projects.

The Princess Bride – 1987

Arguably one of the most beloved fantasy films of all-time, this fairy tale/action/love combination directed by the talented Ron Howard showcased Robin Wright (before she became Robin Wright Penn) and featured the long-time Criminal Minds series star Mandy Patinkin.

Labyrinth – 1986

With a creepy, evil David Bowie as her rival, movie fans discovered the beautiful and talented Jennifer Connelly playing the role of a 15-year-old unexpected heroine. While the movie didn’t do well at the box office, it has since enjoyed a massive cult following.

Willow – 1988

Although he had a few earlier roles (including in the film Top Gun with Tom Cruise) Val Kilmer began to capture the eyes and hearts of fans in this unusual adventure.

American Idol Top 3 week recap

With a night of very strong performances overall, it’s not a big surprise that last night’s Top 3 show is believed to be the second most competitive (in terms of how close the voting results are anticipated to be) in the history of the series. Everyone seemed to have some shining moments and I couldn’t find much wrong with any of the performances in any round. However, as usual, a few stood out more than the rest.

American Idol 2013 Top 3 finalists

American Idol 2013 Top 3 Contestants – Candice Glover, Angie Miller and Kree Harrison

Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Angie

2. Candice

3. Kree

Last night’s second performances:

1. Kree

2. Angie

3. Candice

Last night’s third performances: 

1. Candice

2. Angie

3. Kree

Week overall (with brief commentary):

1. Angie – Her first song was smooth and sweet, simple yet captivating. The second was more poppy and upbeat while showing off her confidence, very strong overall. Her final song was simple and strong providing a great close of the night for her.

2. Candice – The first song was an interesting choice from Jimmy and gave her a powerful, great start. The second song was a nice fit featuring good inflection and the ability to show her range. She closed the night with a soft and smooth song hitting the power vocals in the right spots. 

3. Kree – Her first song had a good tone, strong vocal and worked out well. For her second song, she was in her zone and showed off her range and emotion. She finished her portion of the night with something fun, intense and upbeat.

 

Final thoughts:

While nothing is ever a certainty, especially in the world of American Idol, I personally think that Angie has remained the most consistent contestant throughout the competition. If that means anything at all, she should be in the finals. That being the case, I would assume the second spot is a battle between Kree and Candice. Of course, we haven’t really had any surprises this season, and that is highly unusual. And while Angie’s fan base has likely remained the same over time, there is a good chance that with the elimination of the prior two contestants, Janelle and Amber, the other two remaining girls probably expanded their fan base by picking up the “country vote” and the “African American” vote. If that’s the case, who knows what might happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.  

American Idol Top 4 week recap (redux)

After the surprise non-elimination last week, American Idol fans find ourselves in an interesting situation. How much will this week’s votes adjust the results from last week? Will there be a different bottom two than the first go around? Will the elimination be a surprise? We’ll just have to wait to find out. But in the meantime, here’s what I think of last night’s show in combination with the week before.

Kree on American Idol Top 4

Kree Harrison singing “Stormy weather” Courtesy of wetpaint.com

Performances: Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Kree

2. Candice

3. Angie

4. Amber

Last night’s second performances:

1. Candice

2. Kree

3. Angie

4. Amber

Week overall (with brief commentary):

1. Kree – Her first song was smooth and meaningful with a heartfelt tone. In the second one she projected a cool, classic feel and it was very good overall.

2. Candice - Unusual song choice in the first round but the vocals worked out well. She gave a cool throwback vibe in round two for a very strong performance. 

3. Angie – Her first performance was hauntingly beautiful and simple yet powerful. She followed it up with something sweet and simple for a job well done.

4. Amber – The first song was nice in the softer parts but she struggled with the power notes. The second song had nice vocals with only a few misses but it was a bit boring.

Final thoughts on past two weeks:

While Angie seemed to fall off just a bit this week, her talent is so amazing that it might not matter in the end. Amber surely benefited the most from last week’s non-elimination. However, it seems that it might not be enough. I really think Kree has stepped up her game over the last few weeks and with the likely added support of Janelle fans, she could be in great shape at this point. While Candice had a rough week last week, she came back strong last night and  might have brought herself out of the bottom two. All in all though, I don’t expect too much variation in the results from last week. But then again, who knows what could happen. We’ll just have to wait to find out.

American Idol top 4 week recap

So for the first time in the history of American Idol, we have an all-girl Top 4. And rightly so I believe. While each of the ladies continues to try to step up her game, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Angie Miller American Top Top 4

Angie Miller singing “Who Are You” courtesy of zimbo.com

Here’s how I rank last night’s first performances:

1. Angie

2. Amber

3. Kree

4. Candice

Last night’s second performances:

1. Angie

2. Candice

3. Kree

4. Amber

Last night’s duets:

1. Angie and Candice

2. Amber and Kree

Overall (with brief commentary):

1. Angie – Wonderful tone and so much raw emotion in the first song. Her second was soft and slow and while not the best song, she’s so good it didn’t even matter. Angie outshined Candice a bit in their duet with her incredible range.

2. Kree – Her first song showcased a bluesy confidence and good vocals. Her second song was sort of beautiful in its simplicity. The duet was lively and catchy and more suited to Kree than is was to Amber.

3. Candice – The first song was soulful and smooth. The second featured good vocals but she didn’t show off her range or power. She brought both the power and soul in the duet.

4. Amber - Her first song was an amazing vocal performance with a confident vibe. The second song was a bad choice even with decent singing. She did OK in the duet but was the weaker of the two singers.

Final thoughts:

The first round of songs as a whole was better than the second. It didn’t take much for Angie to take the second round considering the rest of the performances where just OK.  That’s just one of the reasons she took the night, again. For the first time, Candice looks a bit vulnerable. I figure she was pretty much even with Kree last night but it is quite possible (but not a sure thing) that Kree may get a boost in her voting base now that the other “country girl,” Janelle, is gone. Amber seems to have come on a lot lately and her first performance was great. But it looks more and more like she doesn’t quite match up with the rest of the girls. It could be a shocker tonight as that history says that if often is. But no matter what happens, it should be interesting.

“Won’t Back Down” – a powerful and inspirational movie

Have you ever had one of those experiences

in which you hear about a movie coming out and think to yourself – “wow, that looks pretty good” but somehow life gets in the way and the film slips from your mind. I think we’ve all been there. But sometimes, we’re lucky enough to come across that movie again months or even years down the road. This was the case for me with the film “Won’t Back Down.”

First off, considering it is based on a true story and set in my hometown of Pittsburgh, I knew there would be lots of Pittsburgh scenes and that’s always something I enjoy in  a movie. The subject matter seemed interesting the film features a talent-filled cast including Maggie GyllenhaalViola Davis, Holly Hunter, Ving Rhames, and Rosie Perez just to name a few.

The plot focuses on a failing public school within the city’s district and one desperate parent’s fight to do something about it. That parent encounters resistance from the principal, teachers, some other parents, the school board and the powerful teacher’s union along the way. But she never gives up and her determination wins over and inspires others in the process.

If you like movies with both entertainment value and a message, you really should check this one out.

won't back down movie

Viola Davis, Maggie Gyllenhaal and others in Won’t Back Down Courtesy of EV.com

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