Every year on American Idol, without fail, there is a night where the results just don't make sense. It usually happens later in the season, but whenever it does, the results come as a shock.
Last night, the bottom three weren't really a surprise: Michael Johns, Syesha Mercado and Carly Smithson. Why was this not a surprise? Because Michael Johns turned in a forgettable performance, Syesha Mercado turned in a pale version of a hit by a previous Idol winner, and Carly Smithson butchered a Queen classic.
What surprised many, though, was who went home. Aussie singer Michael Johns seemed shocked, as well
However, if you think about it, there are reasons. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, his performance has been uneven from week to week, and only his popularity has kept him out of the bottom three on his weaker nights.
This week, he went first, giving a jukebox performance that many critics panned. At best, his performance was forgettable, especially compared to a couple of stronger performances that followed him. Take a look at the video, and you'll see what I mean.
But most importantly, he's probably been splitting votes with David Cook, who has a similar singing style and has likely been attracting similar voters. Most weeks, David Cook is a lock, but this week for the first time, he seemed to be in danger, turning in one of the worst performances of the night. While David's fans were calling in frantically to save him, they likely neglected to vote for Michael Johns, who appeared to be safe.
On the brighter side, of the contestants eliminated so far this season, Michael Johns has the best chance of putting out a CD that will sell. He just needs to find his niche.
This year, the Academy Awards show included a montage of all the films that have won Best Picture. While I've seen most recent winners, dating back to the mid-1990s, I've seen few of the films that won earlier. So I referenced the list of Best Picture winners on Oscar.com, adding the ones I hadn't seen to our Blockbuster.com queue.
Blockbuster didn't have the very first winner, Wings, starring Clara Bow, so I started with The Broadway Melody of 1929, directed by Harry Beaumont. This was a musical, produced right at the beginning of sound film, which no doubt impressed the audience of the day. However, judged by most film standards, it falls flat.
First, judging it as a musical, the dance sequences are ridiculous and, aside from a few popular songs, the music unremarkable. Even the costuming is strange: in one scene, dancers wear a ruffle on one foot which they shake. In another number, the dancers hop around awkwardly on one leg!
The acting is clearly a product of the silent-film era, with overblown expressions and gestures, with little emphasis to the dialogue. This is particularly true of Anita Page, who plays Queenie Mahoney, sister to Hank Mahoney (Bessie Love), although they look nothing alike. They bring their sister act to New York City, in hopes that Hank's fiance, singer/composer Eddie Kearns (Charles King) can get them into a revue.
Upon arrival, Eddie immediately falls in love with Queenie, apparently on looks alone, as he eyes her with obvious ardor before they even speak. In fact, everyone falls in love with Queenie, deemed the more beautiful of the two. Perhaps because she has platinum blonde hair and lacks the fiercely independent streak of her petite sister.
Of course, this leads to a love triangle. At first, it seems that Queenie is repulsed by the idea. She doesn't encourage Eddie; in fact, she looks at him with horror every time he draws near. Yet, we're supposed to believe, towards the end of the film, that she was in love with him all along but was afraid of hurting her sister. The only really moving scene of the film comes when Hank discovers the news and reacts with a complicated tumult of emotions in one of the first "Oscar moments."
In all likelihood, the film was honored because it was the first time anyone had seen anything like it, especially on such a grand scale. Unlike The Hollywood Revue of 1929, a star-studded musical film also considered for Best Picture that year, The Broadway Melody included a real story-line. For its technical innovation and its hints at glory to come, the film certainly deserved praise.
Rating (out of 5): **
I've given some further thought to the Brad Pitt/dog dream I mentioned yesterday.
Considering that it took place outside the Kern Graduate Student Union Building at Penn State, I'm beginning to think it's definitely related to my writing, and specifically related to poetry. After all, I got my graduate degree from Penn State in poetry. The dog, which looked a lot like my dog, Una, represents poetry, which is as dear to me in many ways as my longtime canine companion. I've been neglecting poetry, much like the dog is abandoned and neglected in the dream, but recently, I've begun to feed the dogs of poetry again.
Now, to Brad Pitt, who as you remember, had been kidnapped by two old ladies and tied to a chair. If I think about what he represents to me, I realize I have a lot of respect for him as an actor and also as someone who's been actively working to do some good in the world. So perhaps he represents my positive creative force, which has been, symbolically, tied up or restricted. Perhaps the old ladies represent yet another side to me, the side that is stuck in a rut, stuck in the "old ways."
And now the key question: why didn't release either the dog or Brad Pitt from their restraints? Maybe because I feel I'm still holding myself back. Or maybe some part of me just wanted to see Brad Pitt tied to a chair.
"All singing! All dancing!" can win you an Oscar if you're the first to do it.