Why Pia Toscano was “Voted Off” American Idol

Bye, bye, Miss American Idol.

I figured the most shocking episode of the 2011 season of American Idol was going to be when half-Jewish contestant Casey Abrams was voted off, then saved by the judges.  But then to everyone’s amazement, on April 7th the Italian and immaculate Pia Toscano sang her last song, “I’ll Stand By You.”  Admittedly, Pia wasn’t my favorite, but not for lack of talent, grace, and poise.  It was simply that she reminded me of Celine Dion, who is one of the most successful singers in the history of the world yet doesn’t sing the kind of music I would choose to listen to.

It seemed everyone I’ve been talking over the past couple of weeks felt similarly about Pia.  There is no denying her talent, but maybe if nothing else, it’s easier to root for quirkiness than it is for flawless performances.  Pia isn’t quirky; she’s untouchable.

America didn’t vote for who they thought was the best, but instead who they thought was in the most danger of going home.  It was assumed that this whole time Pia was getting the most votes, or the 2nd or 3rd most votes.  But it’s very possible that she has been hovering about the lower middle.  So now with the bottom three gone, it suddenly exposed Pia to the exit door.  Now that I think about it, when I would see on my facebook status feed who people were voting for, I can’t think of one time I saw Pia’s name on there.

I never rooted for Pia like I have for Paul McDonald (the Scottish lord a leapin’) or Casey Abrams (the red-tinted Seth Rogen).  Nor have I ever shouted at the TV telling her to leave like I have for Scotty McCreery (George W. Bush mixed with the cartoon kid on the cover of Mad magazine) or Jacob Lusk (who at any moment is going to explode with pent up emotion). Instead, Pia has just remained in the “safe category” in my head this whole time.

Turns out, most other people were thinking that too.  And we were wrong.  Big time.

The good news: I’m sure Pia won’t make it too long before she is offered a record deal by a respectable record label.  In fact, I bet the folks at American Idol didn’t let Pia pack her bags before they offered her a deal to her themselves.  Because unlike her brief stint on American Idol, Pia Toscano’s upcoming musical career has no end in sight.  Her heart will go on.

Advertisements

The Token Bad Guy: Osama bin Laden is Dead

From Ben Linus to bin Laden, evil has a name.

Now that President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden is officially dead, it makes me think about how there always how to be a “bad guy”, both locally and world-wide.

In Judd Apatow’s Jewish comedy (a franchise he has specialized in for the past decade, based on a strategic formula including Seth Rogen and/or Paul Rudd, a good dose of bromance, a classic soft rock soundtrack, mostly ad-lib dialogue, a heavy and almost dark dramatic element somewhere in the plot line, a running time of at least 2 hours and 15 minutes, an unpredictable ending but no “twist”, and constant references to reproductive organs) Funny People, there is a scene where Adam Sandler’s character is babysitting his ex-girlfriend’s two young daughters. As they play, one of the girls takes him captive like he’s a dragon, while the other has come to rescue him. He looks up at them and says to each one, “Are YOU the good guy or are YOU the good guy?”

While in cartoons and children’s own made-up playtime storylines the antagonist often takes pride in knowingly being evil, in real life the Bad Guy usually doesn’t realize that he’s the Bad Guy. It amazes me that there always has to be a handful of countries in the world that serve as a current Bad Country. It’s been England (watch the movie The Patriot about the Revolutionary War). It’s been Germany (the Nazi’s). It’s been Russia (watch Rocky IV) and still kinda is.

Why can’t the evil leader of a country think to himself: “Oh no! I’m ‘that guy’. I’m the bad person that’s causing problems with the rest of the world. I need to start with the man in the mirror and change my ways”. From what I’ve read about Adolph Hitler, in his own mind he simply was carrying out an ultimate version of Charles Darwin’s concept of “survival of the fittest”. He was only advancing what he saw as in the inevitable. He wasn’t a sadistic tyrant, not the way he saw it. He didn’t see himself as the Bad Guy.

From each holy war ever fought in history, down to the elementary school bully, the true villain is doing what is right according to his own view. The Bad Guy is dead wrong, yes. But he doesn’t see it that way.  While obviously I don’t have the potential to become a radical tyrannical leader of threatening foreign country, I still can find myself in a similar scenario as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, by simply being the Bad Guy on a much lesser scale in everyday situations and not realizing it. If only Bad Guys always realized they’re the Bad Guy… well, it might help a little.

“We’re never gonna win the world, we’re never gonna stop the war. We’re never gonna beat this if belief is what we’re fighting for.” -John Mayer (“Belief”)

*Some bad guys, like this one, may or may not repent of their evil ways in the end.

Why Eighties Movies are So Hard to Remake

And what happened to the genre of romantic comedies…

Back in October I was stuck at home for a few days with severe sinus and allergy problems, streaming Netflix instantly on my laptop all day. I decided to take a break with an ‘80’s movie that I had nothing but fond memories of since my family rented it on VHS when I was in the 3rd grade.  A movie that the general American population still only refers to with a smile and a goofy laugh: Weekend at Bernie’s.

I made it through 38 minutes before shutting it off.  That movie is so boring.  Not funny.  Too unbelievable.  It took them 33 minutes to kill Bernie, and by the time they finally did, I stopped caring.

As I thought more about it, ‘80’s movies aren’t easy to successfully remake because those cheesy, far-fetched, imagination-dependent ideas just don’t fly now that Aerosol hairspray isn’t clogging our brain anymore.  The Eighties were the only ten years that we would buy those concepts.

Like Tom Hanks in Splash (1984).  He falls in love with a mermaid.

Or Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985).  He is a high school basketball star who happens to have inherited “the werewolf gene”.

Or Andrew McCarthy in Mannequin (1987).  He falls in love with a mannequin that comes to life at the mall he works at.

Or Tom Hanks in Big (1988).  He transforms from a boy to a man and falls in love with a grown woman. And just the record, it remains one of my all time favorite movies.

There was this reoccurring mix of fantasy and romance.  Often with drab dialogue.  But completely overshadowed by its towering gimmick of a plot.

These days, we’re too cool for silly ideas like that.  Since Terminator 2 impressed us with believable CGI (computer generated imagery) in 1991, then Jurassic Park in 1993, we’ve been straying from fantasy and romance, and focusing more on sci-fi with some romance.  Leading us to the days of Avatar and Transformers.  And most obviously, the soon-to-end TV series LOST.

And that’s why if today, if they Steven Spielberg remade Gremlins, it would be a hit.  Or Ghostbusters 3, if they ever actually end up making the movie.  Because that’s something the Eighties gave us that worked: horror and comedy along with sci-fi.  They are currently remaking Child’s Play.  And of course, the Nightmare on Elm Street remake comes out this Friday.

We adopted sci-fi horror comedies and sci-fi romance from the Eighties, but what haven’t translated over are romantic comedies and romantic dramas.  Yes, romantic comedies and dramas still exist.  A new one is released into theatres every week.

But overall, they’ve earned a lousy reputation.  Romantic comedies have become “chick flicks”, typically meaning they’re too predictable and cliché for a man to enjoy.  The “girl goes shopping and tries on ten different dresses for her girlfriends during a musical montage” scene.  Too familiar.

The Eighties pulled off romantic comedies.  They knew how to make them work for both men and women: Can’t Buy Me Love, The Princess Bride, Roxanne, When Harry Met Sally, Overboard.

But there’s only so much Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant a man can stand watching.  So what happened because of it?  Judd Apatow and his friends made the genre of bromantic comedies more popular than romantic comedies.  And not just films that feature Seth Rogan.  The Hangover and I Love You Man had nothing to do with Apatow.

I’m all for seeing a good romantic comedy.  Truly.  I like the good ones, unashamedly.  But it’s been a long time since one has been made.

It’s simply unnatural for the romantic genre to be catered towards women- because romance is about a man and a woman.  Because Katherine Heigl and a remote controlled dildo device don’t make a great team (reference to The Ugly Truth).  But Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan do.

After enough corny romantic comedies, we men got the point:  Romantic comedies are no longer for couples- they’re for single women.  So we avoid them and instead run to R-rated comedies featuring funny Jewish lead comedians like Paul Rudd and Jason Segal (Manspeak, Volume 7: Bromance).

The concept of romance in movies has become polarized.  Women watch chick flicks and men watch bromantic comedy.  Ironic.

As for romantic dramas these days, Nicholas Sparks pretty much has the monopoly on that: A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, The Last Song, Nights in Rodanthe.

Someone tragically dies.  A disapproving mother.  A Southern setting.  Got it.

So what can we say about remaking ‘80’s movies?  Some of them, many of them, most of them, need to stay where they belong- in the ‘80’s and in our fond memories.  But the ones that made us laugh, while freaking us out, while being drenched in sci-fi, well, we want more of those.  And the ones that were truly romantic, catering to both men and women, we want more of those.

We’ll always have a love/hate relationship with the Eighties.

Manspeak, Volume 1: Humor

It was April 2002 when I first learned/realized that humor is an expected male trait. My sister and I went to this $5 concert some new young musician guy was doing in Birmingham, AL. Supposedly he was about to make it huge and this show was to thank the local radio station for being the first to play his songs. It was none other than the pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston, pre-tattoo sleeved John Mayer.

For months following the concert, I was unable and unwilling to remove his No Room for Squares album from my CD player. I picked up on the fact this 24 year-old kid swam in something I could relate to, and it wasn’t just our shared love of the year 1983. He spoke my language. The third track, “My Stupid Mouth”, had a line that said, “I just want to be liked, just want to be funny, looks like the joke’s on me”. That’s when I realized that I was not alone in that I felt responsible for having to be funny, because I am a guy.

While no doubt there are countless social expectations from the female gender, one that is not important and vital is humor. That’s a guy thing. Compared to the overwhelming number of male comedians, it’s more difficult to find successful female comedians. The ones I can think of right off, are not the norm for what is considered feminine: Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Wanda Sykes, and Roseanne Barr.

I’m a personal fan of Ellen. I watched her talk show every day my senior year of college. She’s like one of the guys. And I think that’s why I relate to her so much.

The big exception to this “guys have to be the funny one” rule of comedy is Friends. Three men, three women, and they’re all funny. The show was co-written by a man and a woman. That 50/50 designation of both the actors and writers was part of the massive success of the show. Both men and women could relate to the humor and the characters. Even Seinfeld had a 3 to 1 ratio of male to female actors. Friends broke the mold.

Yes, attractive and feminine women can definitely be funny: Anna Faris, Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz, and Chelsea Handler. But I still see a tom-boyish quality about them. Where it at least seems like they grew up with all brothers. And for every one exception, there are five Seth Rogen’s, three Jon Stewart’s, and four Adam Sandler’s.

Men are expected to be funny, at least in some degree. Even Ben Stein, as dry and drab as he is, is still hilarious. (“Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?”) And the Terminator in his violent mission of destruction, right before he returns to the police station by running a squad car through the glass doors and blows away all those in his path, declares, “I’ll be back”. That, is funny.

While this may put extra pressure on a guy, there is a trade-off. Guys don’t have to find the perfect pair of shoes to match every “cute outfit” they own. Or give birth.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” –Marilyn Monroe

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

 

planes_trains_and_automobiles