Tag Archive | Entertainment

Katy Perry’s “Witness”:  A Long-Awaited (Mild) Disappointment

I am not ashamed to be a Katy Perry apologist in a world full of edgier, fresher artists. I’ve always identified with her sort of offbeat, goofy persona that almost dips into self-parody, and her music had all the hooks.  Notice I said had.  

I’m a sucker for a good hook; I like my pop campy and catchy, but sadly, there’s little of that this time around. If you’ve heard the three singles that preceded Witness‘s release, you’ve already heard the best this album has to offer (with the possible exception of the Mike Will Made It-produced “Tsunami”, which was robbed in not being selected as single #4). 

I’m late with the review as the album has been out for nearly a month already, but amid the publicity blitz surrounding it– the obligatory SNL performances, the interviews calling out rival Taylor Swift, the weird live-stream of Katy getting therapy and slathered with a lot of makeup– I stepped back to wait and listen with fresher ears. 

I wanted to like this album so much. For one thing, it actually feels like a cohesive album rather than the gleefully random collections of singles her past records have resembled.  However, there’s not a lot of fun being had here, and I couldn’t wait for some of the tracks to be over (I’m looking at you, “Save as Draft”). If Katy is trying to be more serious, that’s fine. That said, she’s painted herself into a box:  her expansion as an artist versus the expectations of her fans. It’s a similar situation to Miley Cyrus’s Miley and Her Dead Petz album– an anomaly in an otherwise steady stream of bangers. But Miley’s album wasn’t really promoted like this one has been, so expectations weren’t as high, and Miley has recovered nicely (“Malibu”, anyone?), while I’m frankly worried about Katy now.  It’s been years since she made a record, and I don’t think she can afford to take that much time on her next if she wants to stay relevant.  And this is coming from someone who likes her as an artist. 

Anyway, the album isn’t all bad;  you’ve just heard most of its best parts already.  Lead single “Chained to the Rhythm” probably comes closest to the patented Katy Perry Glossy Earworm of yore, “Bon Appétit” has all the sexy, silly swaggery you’ve come to expect, and “Swish Swish” is a sample-heavy, club-ready diss track featuring a stellar Nicki Minaj rap.  Anemic ballad “Save as Draft” has already been slated as the fourth single, and its selection just indicates to me that the album is already running out of steam. There are better tracks here: the spare, 80’s-retro bass figures of “Tsunami”, the slow-burning groove and spastic drum breaks of “Power”, the soulful “Pendulum”. The rest is so much filler, but I have to hand out a special mention to “Into Me You See” for sounding the most like my eighth- grade poetry of any song I’ve heard. (Sorry, long-ago eighth-grade me, but that’s not a compliment!)

Controversial writer-producer Dr. Luke is missing from this project, and with good reason (Google “Free Kesha” if you want background). There are a bevy of producers present here, but they’ve created a finished product that is both cohesive and not. Maybe a single producer could have gelled the album together into a whole– I’d have gone with Shellback or Mike Will Made It.  Katy is in fine voice but is occasionally overmixed and isn’t really given a chance to vocally shine, which is a shame. 

The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade:  C

Advertisements

An Awards Season Pit Stop: Fluffy Awards At The Grammys

While not a part of the Oscar race, the Grammy Awards are an MVP of awards season. This is a red carpet that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which can lead to lots of randomness and unintentional hilarity. Let’s check out some sartorial moxie and madness.

Category: Most Improved 

Kaley Cuoco in Naeem Khan

From Sad Candy Cane to shiny star, Kaley is back in fine form once again. Geometric beading and cutouts make this jumpsuit a fun, memorable look. 

Category: Cutest

Madison Beer in Alexander McQueen 

This itty bitty floral minidress is so cute I want to hug it. And then steal her shoes. I have never heard of this kid, but she has managed to snag a great stylist. 

Category: The Gold Medal

Giuliana Rancic in Jani & Khosla 

Wow.  Giuliana is channeling her inner Cleopatra in this beaded creation with a grommet-adorned skirt, accessorized with gilded sandals, cuff bracelets, and slicked-back hair. Love it. 

Category: Best Menswear 

Zendaya in DSquared2

Zendaya slays the androgynous look in this cool, casual-chic suit, and she makes a mullet look fly. Loving the rings stacked up on her hand, too!

Category: The Cinderella Award

Lianne la Havas in Vivienne Westwood 

Such a gorgeous ball gown in such an amazing color! This peridot/chartreuse hue is a rarity on the red carpet and always pops when it appears! Bonus points for the sparkly platforms.

Category: Red Royalty

Ariana Grande in Romona Keveza 

Ariana is flawless in this fitted corset-styled dress with a dramatic train and about a bazillion buttons down the back (a couple hundred in front, too). Best smoky eye of the day, and jewels on point!

Category: Best Homage

Lady Gaga in Marc Jacobs

Gaga performed an amazing tribute to David Bowie during the program, but her red carpet look also paid respect to the late legend, featuring hair, makeup and costuming inspired by his glam-rock days, complete with mega-platforms. Let’s have a brief moment of silence.

Category: The Circus Circus Award

Manika in ARThur Christine

Not sure if this outfit belongs under the big top or on a Vegas stage, so this award (created specifically for this outfit) gives it credit for both. It’s wacky, not in a particularly good way, but is pushed into the realm of People of Walmart by the all-too-visible granny bra she’s wearing with it. Who is this chick anyway? She doesn’t even go here!

Category: Wildest

Ciara in Alexandre Vauthier 

Crazy dress. Well, almost a dress; it’s more like a combination onesie/loincloth. The top isn’t well fitted, and the bottom is an impending wardrobe malfunction. On the plus side, her hair and makeup are on fleek and I love that diamond ring.

Category: Just Suit Me

Bonnie McKee in Bullet Apparel 

This suit is definitely not menswear-style AT ALL. But it is cute, sparkly fun. Also have to award Best Hair of the evening for her perfect pink waves.

Category: Most Intricate 

Diamond White in J Pelarsky 

The strategic filigree embroidery on this sheer dress is gorgeous. Manika should take a cue here: sheer can be all good, but it’s for showing off your bod, not your drawers.

Category: The Shining Star 

Florence Welch in Gucci 

Quite literally, in this case: the stars are sequined, or beads. I want to dislike this dress so much, but I find I cannot. There is something so self-aware and humorous at work in this look, not to mention it’s just so retro I could die. Plus, YELLOW MOONS! ORANGE STARS! And… Bronze dragonflies?? I don’t care if it’s half a bowl of Lucky Charms, it’s cool, and I like it.

Category: The Technicolor Award

Kacey Musgraves in Armani Privé 

Not sure who this girl is either, but I read that she records in a Genre That Must Not Be Named, and that is one bright dress. I’m also not sure why it’s… I dunno…squiggly. The colors are beautiful, she’s well-styled, and in the bizarro version of the previous category, I want to like this so much, but find I cannot. It reminds me of those popcorn shirts that were trendy in the early oughts, themselves not a good memory.

Category: The Effortless Award 

Adele in Givenchy 

This is a great look for Adele. At first the dress looks really simple, but then the details start to stand out, and you realize what a beautiful work of wearable art it is.  And she looks like she just got out of bed looking like that. It isn’t fair.

Category: Little Miss Sunshine 

Vanessa Simmons in Jean-Louis Sabaji 

How awesome is this? I’m like stunned. I love yellow on the carpet, and this is just an incredible use of one of my favorite colors. Slayyy. 

Category: Gothic Glam

Jazmine Sullivan in Michael Costello 

And a serious contender for the Extra-Special Fluffy Award for the dress I would have chosen for myself. This mermaid gown is built for curves, and those sleeves. I heart this in every way possible and need this dress in my life.

Category: Most Brilliant 

Taylor Swift in Atelier Versace 

Taylor is always beautifully put together, but this look is more about fun. She genuinely seemed to be having a great time all evening in these mismatched separates that somehow work. Plus, she’s debuting a new hairstyle that’s really cute on her, and I love that multicolored necklace.

Category: Pretty in Pink 

Ellie Goulding in Stella McCartney 

I love this shade of pink; it reminds me of rose quartz or pink champagne. It’s a simple design that feels a little seventies retro. Ellie also inspires major Hair Envy and makeup goals.

Category: The Major Award (aka Fragíle)

Carrie Underwood in Nicolas Jebran 

If you don’t know what this new award signifies, or why it’s called that, you and I can’t be friends. Anyway, all that’s missing is a fishnet stocking and a wall outlet.  Sorry!  I had to do it!  Lol forever.

Category: Best Accessorization 

Demi Lovato in Norisol Ferrari

I don’t know if that’s a body chain or part of the jacket, but I love it either way. Also, those insanely detailed rings are gorgeous, and those pointy patent platform pumps (dear god, try saying that ten times fast!) are ah-mazing. Oh, the dress is cute too.

Category: Green Goddess 

Tori Kelly in Gauri & Nainika 

Love, love, love this structured, asymmetrical emerald gown (is it just me, or does this label out-Posen Zac Posen?), accented with pink accessories which harmonize nicely with the bright green.

Category: The Oddball Award

Elle King in Christian Siriano  

Not that Elle is an oddball; Elle is lovely. She has a serious Mae West thing going on here. But the dress is eating her alive. Fringe and feathers?!  One or the other, but never together!  It’s just too much. Love the beaded lily appliqués, but they’re lost in all the extraneousness. This is why I have issues with Siriano. He keeps adding stuff until it’s a mess.

Category: The Blue Ribbon 

Ashley Monroe in Georges Hobeika  

Another new face to me, Ashley is rocking the hell out of this turquoise, keyhole-bodice Grecian column. So ethereal. I don’t know why this strikes me as something Luna Lovegood would wear to the Yule Ball (and look brilliant in), but it does.

Category: The Midnight Special 

Meghan Trainor in Michael Costello  

All aglitter like a night sky, this is a beautiful look on Best New Artist Meghan. I miss her blonde hair, but will comfort myself with her adorable shoes.

Category: The WTF Award 

Janelle Monae in Jean-Paul Gaultier 

The top of this is really cute. The skirt looks like a whoopie cushion. Does it make fart noises when she sits down? It’s a skirt that’s forgotten how to skirt. You had one job, skirt! (Insert random flatulent sounds). Omg, brb, roflmao.

Category: Twinsies!!!!!

Bella Hadid in Alexandre Vauthier, Allesandra Ambrosio in Versace

  

These two gowns come from different designers, but are so much alike it’s scary. Maybe there really isn’t anything new under the sun. The cutouts and necklines are identical.  While Bella’s has long sleeves and is accented with pearl beads, and Allesandra’s is accented with panels of different fabric, the patterns are just too similar and I’m a leetle creeped out.  Oh well, at least Allesandra wins Best Shoes. 

Category: Worst Dressed 

Dencia in… Sanrio, I guess?image

No.  Just no.  What did those poor kitties do to deserve this?

Category: Best Dressed

Selena Gomez in Calvin Kleinimage

We have here a whole bunch of Wow and some Whoa thrown in for good measure.  CK has really stepped up their game this award season, and while this design may exhibit their usual streamlined silhouette, it’s far from dull.  The deep cobalt blue color is ah-mazing on Selena, and it’s just so shimmery and mermaid-y and cool.  (Selena later inexplicably changed into a slightly less-cute-but-still-cute red dress, but this is the one that does it for me.)

Special Category:  The Fluffy Award

Diana Gloster in Tarik Edizimage

The Fluffy Award goes to the night’s best representation of my personal sense of style– in other words, the dress I’d have picked for myself.  I am categorically unable to resist any item with musical scores printed on it, and if said item is a ball gown, I am literally dead.  This dress has killed me with its crowning awesomeness.  Yet another artist I have never heard of until now (is Fluffy getting old or something?  I never had this problem till this year), but she has my everlasting goodwill.

Okay, we have concluded this brief stop in the music industry and will return to our regularly scheduled Oscar race.  See you next go-round!

 

 

 



Reality Bites? Well, Sometimes.

Duck Dynasty Season 3C:MediaFactoryLogisticsDevrequest_dropbox36998#TLCFamily on Porch.jpg

I kind of hate “reality” or unscripted television shows, which has led me to swearing off most TV-watching altogether– generally I leave on the Disney Channel or BBC America as sort of a background hum, the entertainment equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” at the top of my lungs, coupled with the knowledge that if I leave one of those channels on indefinitely, I’m gonna get to see either Phineas and Ferb or Doctor Who at some point.  (A highly disparate set of likes, I know, but whatever.)  Anyway, there has been a media flap about some remarks made by Duck Dynasty cast member Phil Robertson which may or may not have been taken out of context, and which resulted in his indefinite suspension by his network, A&E.  The condemning quotes were from a GQ profile on the patriarch and concerned his views on the LGBT community and the African-American community, and have ignited the internets in firestorm of debate as to whether his suspension was warranted.

As I just said, I don’t watch reality television.  I get quite enough reality in my day-to-day life, thanks, and I keep to scripted work for the same reason I don’t read much nonfiction– I just want to be entertained, dammit, and that means tell me a freaking story.  Just seems like pretty lazy television, if you ask me, simply setting random people loose on camera doing whatever it is they do all day, but that’s neither here nor there;  I seem to be in the minority of the viewing public these days in my preference for actual scripted shows, which should automatically exclude me from being able to give a pertinent opinion on the matter.  However, as a true outsider to the format, I feel I am rather more qualified than most to give an objective opinion which is unswayed by anything I’ve watched, and my opinion is this:  What did you honestly expect?

Yes, I’m stating my opinion in the form of a question, because my real point is that by nature, reality television is just a reflection of the world it inhabits.  Of course you are going to meet some people whose viewpoints are different from yours, or different from society’s in general.  Some people are just jerks, like it or not, and an awful lot of those jerks are going to hide behind the mask of religion to justify their antediluvian beliefs.  I have no beef with faith, but as I’ve expounded in an earlier post, “faith” and “religion” are two different phenomena that often seem to have precious little in common, and the latter tends to twist the ideals of the former to its own purposes.  This has been the cause of countless wars, acts of terrorism, and human rights violations throughout history, but that’s a whole different soap box for a different day.  What I’m driving at is that your heroes are not characters in a story, they are actual people and have actual feet of clay.  But maybe you agree with Phil Robertson’s assertion that gay people are sinful and black people were happier sharecropping.  (I hope you don’t, but that’s just my opinion.)  Real people have a host of idiosyncrasies that can and do make them come out looking like a horse’s ass.  No one is perfect, you see.  And for a network bent on showing “reality”, A&E’s action against Robertson seems a bit hypocritical.  They certainly have a right to choose what opinions should be associated with their network, and I am not in any way defending Phil Robertson’s comments, but they did provide him with a very high-profile forum for the airing of his views.  That he did so in a print article rather than on his show is immaterial– were it not for the show, he likely would not have the very visible venue of a nationally published magazine at his disposal for offhand sound bites.  No one would hear and no one would care.  But Robertson is a “reality” star– a celebrity because a network chose to air him, as he is, warts and all.  He is, after all, a human being, and sometimes we disappoint each other.  That is the malevolent underpinning of the reality genre:  you are either going to be loved or hated for who you are– just like in real life.  And just like in real life, there are bound to be surprises from some quarters, bad or good.

Sometimes the surprises aren’t at all negative.  For instance, take a look at TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  The show’s setup was particularly ugly– Mama June’s family was very obviously given a show based on train-wreck potential, not to be revered but reviled.  (Sadly, it is also human nature to make ourselves feel better about our own lives by ridiculing others.)  However, what we got instead was a picture of a family that may not be perfect, but doesn’t seem to have a concept of hate.  They’ve got their quirks, but they all love each other unconditionally.  Even little Honey Boo Boo herself, Alana Thompson, expressed the opinion “ain’t nothin’ wrong with being a little gay,” in reference to her openly gay uncle Lee, nicknamed “Uncle Poodle.”  There might be laughs on this show, but to all appearances it’s because the people showcased are naturally funny, unpretentious, and positive people.  The same can be said of the Robertsons, as well, if the issue of tolerance is removed;  but the fact remains that both families are “real”, and their opinions, feelings and prejudices are their own.  Unpleasant or not, these are people the networks have chosen to display for one reason or another.  If A&E wanted to be politically correct, the denizens of Duck Dynasty were obviously not the proper mouthpiece, but it can be argued that the network knew exactly what they were getting, and their swift retribution seems spurious– a lesson in asking for forgiveness rather than permission.  Reality is as flawed, as ugly, as lovely and as kind as the people who make it, and so is reality television, and if a network wants to present an image of perfection, maybe they should stick to scripted series.  Rant complete;  if you want to talk, I’ll be watching Doctor Who.  

The Miley Debate: Fluffy’s Two Cents

Hannah-Montana-1-3-hannah-montana-10550940-460-300miley_cyrus_beats_world_record_with_music_vid_we_cant_stopvma-miley-cyrus-robin-thicke.png-720x340Miley-Cyrus-Wrecking-Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once upon a time in the Magic Kingdom, there was a modern-day Disney Princess by the name of Miley Cyrus.  She grew up in the spotlight, as the media juggernaut that is Disney played up her wholesome image for maximum profitability.  Little girls loved her character, Hannah Montana, and wanted to dress like her, sing like her, be like her.  Her face was plastered on everything from backpacks to bedsheets; her concerts sold out in minutes.  Nobody seems to remember that, even in the context of Miley’s incredibly successful Disney Channel show, Hannah Montana was utterly fictitious, an alter ego that could be trotted out for dramatic or comedic effect as suited the typical sitcom storylines of the series.

After the squeaky-clean show reached its finale a couple of years ago, nearly everything she did made headlines.  Smoking a suspicious substance?  Check.  Getting tattooed?  Check.  High-profile dating/engagement/breakup?  Check, check, and check.  Lately the negative press has come to a head in the wake of Miley’s admittedly goofball performance at the VMA’s and the release of her latest video, “Wrecking Ball”, which features the now-20-year-old swinging on the titular object in the nude.

I can’t imagine what growing up in the stifling Disney environment was like.  Actually, yes, I can, having spent my formative years under the strict eye of helicopter parents who felt it was their solemn duty to hold my hand crossing the street when I was as old as my early teens, who called me every night I was away at college making sure I wasn’t doing something autonomous and therefore sinful.  That’s neither here nor there, since we’re not talking about Fluffy anyway, but I can totally relate to how constricting being Hannah must have been.  Being part of The Disney Machine is like having helicopter parents to the infinite power, and being THE Hannah Montana has to have been like fifty million times worse than being the perfect daughter my parents expected me to be.  So I can’t really go off on Miley for acting out– she never got to be a teen when she WAS a teen.  She was on red carpets when other kids her age were at the prom.  She missed out on a lot of the experimentation, the silliness, the out-and-out mistakes that come with being a high-school kid.  Why?  It would have been bad press. Once free of the Disney hold, she had a heck of a lot of catching up to do, and yeah, that can involve some craziness.  I speak from experience.

When Miley’s single “We Can’t Stop”  hit the airwaves earlier this year, it got a lot of radio play and caused relatively little furor, despite its slightly, um, esoteric video (dancers with giant teddy bears strapped to their backs, Miley kissing a Barbie doll in a pool).  It was a mashup of silly and sexy, looking for all the world like one of those incriminating post-party Facebook albums that have you desperate to untag yourself (why did you friend your boss, anyway, ya suck-up?).  Yes, twerking was involved, and a lot of goofy costumes, and some lingering shots that somehow channel “True Blue”-era Madonna.  It’s not just the hair and the lipstick, either– it’s that sense of pushing the envelope, seeing just how much you can get away with.  However, while that particular iteration of Madonna often came across as simply calculated to shock, especially in videos like “Open Your Heart” (in which a middle-school-aged boy got to watch her do a striptease), Miley infuses this video with an original sense of humor– yes, she’s shocking you, but she thinks it’s freaking hilarious.  Sure, some of the elements don’t even make sense  (what’s up with those bears?  Seriously, are they like a subversion of  a symbol of childhood?  Or are they PedoBears?  Damn, I’m probably reading too much into it– sometimes a dancing bear is just a dancing bear), and then there’s the whole tongue-face thing, but the real subtext of the whole video is that Miley is laughing at your reaction to it.  It’s almost self-parody.  And she’s just doing it to piss you off, because that crap is mad funny.

The proverbial doo-doo didn’t really hit the fan until Miley showed up at the VMA’s with her dancing PedoBears in tow.  Her hair gathered into topknots that looked like devil horns, she stripped off her bear-printed fuzzy onesie to reveal what appeared to be a rubber bikini– flesh-toned, of course– and proceeded to get freaky with a foam finger, stick out her tongue a lot (I have to wonder if that creates a drooling hazard), and twerk all over Beetlejuice (oops, Robin Thicke– my bad).  While the fashion cop in me also has to point out that neither costume fit her very well– the onesie was too loose, the bikini too tight, neither doing her any favors– the performance absolutely had the intended effect.  The internet and the press blew up.  Suddenly, Miley was America’s trainwreck du jour (Amanda Bynes is somewhere saying a prayer of thanksgiving).  The public didn’t get the joke, but then again, she probably didn’t expect them to– she’s poking fun at the prudery of people who want her to be Hannah Montana forever.

The flap over the VMA’s barely had time to simmer down before the release of the “Wrecking Ball” video, which was excellent timing for maximum exposure– no pun intended.  The video shattered viewing records (America loves their trainwrecks).  If “We Can’t Stop” felt like a Madonna video, “Wrecking Ball” is an amalgam of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and a Lady Gaga piece.  (The clip’s director, Terry Richardson, has worked with Gaga extensively.)  Indeed, if this were a Gaga video, there probably wouldn’t be such a stink.  It’s an art piece, one that explores themes of loss, vulnerability, and pain in a way that wouldn’t work if it wasn’t so overtly sexual.  Opening to another human being isn’t always a sexual experience, but the subtext of the song addresses that aspect of it, and in context the nudity, and even the sledgehammer-licking, makes sense, speaking to the desolation and devastation that follows the collapse of such an intimate relationship.  The clip opens with a tight shot of Miley weeping (parallels of “Nothing Compares 2 U”) and doesn’t get any happier, but it’s brutally effective, at times almost painful to watch, and Miley flat-out sells the hurt.  It feels almost intrusive to watch it, like reading someone else’s diary.  I haven’t seen a video this harsh since the late Johnny Cash covered Nine Inch Nails– yes, the circumstances and the way the clips handle their respective subjects are very different, but they share a visceral openness that is like a knife to the gut, both beautiful and harrowing.  Displaying such a powerful depth and range at such a young age can only reflect favorably of what the future could hold for Miley Cyrus if she continues to play her cards so well.  And don’t be so quick to judge her– she’s only getting started.

The Bard on the Big Screen: The Film Adaptations of Shakespeare

images_articles_movieshakespeare_600416404With the recent addition of Joss Whedon’s movie version of Much Ado About Nothing to movie houses, I’ve gotten excited about Shakespeare again.  I haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like  a joyride of a film, chock full of favorite Whedonverse actors like Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, and Alexis Denisof, and it’s my favorite Shakespeare play, one I can watch in different iterations over and over and still enjoy.  The Bard’s prolific output of Elizabethan drama stands the test of time, and is delightfully open to interpretation.  There are both faithful adaptations of his work with period costumes of the day and endless variations of time and place.  I’ve by no means seen them all, but I eat up screen Shakespeare whenever I can get it, and since the early ’90’s I have been something of an aficionado.  I’ve seen quite a few very loose adaptations that bear little resemblance to the original works at all:  for instance the teen comedies 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s the Man were based in part on The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night, respectively, but neither really had much in common with their inspirations (10 Things is the superior film of the two, but neither is exactly Shakespeare, if you follow my meaning).  I don’t mind updates in setting and so forth, but the wonderful language is what makes the plays so special– Shakespeare was a brilliant wordsmith capable of dry biting wit, broad slapstick, and tragic soliloquy.  Therefore, you won’t see any movies simply “based upon” the Bard in my reviews here– only true adaptations with the original words intact need apply.  I’m not even ranking these, because they are all kinds of degrees of awesome, so instead I’m going in chronological order, and sticking to “modern” films (1990 or later– you’ve already been forced to watch the 60’s versions of, say, Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew in your English Lit classes).

HAMLET (1990)

MSDHAML EC036Once upon a time, Mel Gibson wasn’t box office poison and this is the film that started the slight wave of Shakespearean cinema that had been largely absent in the 70’s and 80’s.  A big-budget big-screen bonanza helmed by Franco Zeffirelli himself, this version starred Gibson as a too-old Hamlet, Glenn Close (in her first Shakespeare role) as his too-young mother, Helena Bonham Carter as doomed Ophelia and a host of other respected actors in supporting roles, including  Ian Holm, Paul Scofield, and Stannis Baratheon (oops, Stephen Dillane).  For Fluffy, this was a bit of a mixed bag on film;  a bit draggy in places, completely riveting in others.  The performances vary from decent (Gibson’s Prince of Denmark is notably more douchey than sympathetic) to electrifying (Bonham Carter’s downward spiral into madness is nothing short of perfection).  A faithful adaptation with a grim look thanks to beautiful location work (mostly Scottish), it mostly works on the strength of Zeffirelli’s direction and his deep understanding of the Bard’s work.  Oh, and Bonham Carter.  She is divine.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (1993)

1Famed Shakespearean Kenneth Branagh directed and stars in this adaptation of (as I said before) my favorite play.  I tend to gravitate more toward the comedies than the tragedies, and this one is one of the most brilliant.  Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson are luminous as Benedick and Beatrice, the sparring partners who have no idea they are actually in love.  The cast is filled with big Hollywood names– Michael Keaton, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard and Kate Beckinsale (in her film debut as Hero), and Shakespearean stalwarts like Imelda Staunton and Brian Blessed.  Keaton as comic constable Dogberry is a particular standout– he plays the character as broadly as if he were actually onstage– and even Reeves seems to have an understanding of his character (decidedly in Sad Keanu mode, he takes his misery out on those around him as the villain of the piece).  But it is our central couple, frenemies who become something more through a series of sparkling, classic interchanges (and the machinations of their friends), who make this my favorite Shakespeare movie ever– well, them and the lush, gorgeous Tuscan countryside where it was filmed, which becomes almost a characterization in itself.

OTHELLO (1995)

othello-iagoThe Moor of Venice was in the past seldom portrayed by an actual actor of color–  the pasty Olivier was considered the definitive Othello for many years– so it was refreshing to see the insanely talented Laurence Fishburne take on the role, arguably the Bard’s juiciest, and go, well, insane (onscreen, anyway).  Kenneth Branagh is on hand again as the villainous Iago, who plants the seeds of doubt in Othello which come to such spectacularly awful fruition.  Branagh plays Iago as possibly jealous of not only his lost promotion but also the Moor’s marriage to Desdemona due to his own homoerotic attraction to Othello, another neat, realistically modern spin which was of course open to interpretation from the source material.  Fishburne’s brooding descent from a regal upstanding hero into a homicidal maniac is brutally pitch-perfect.  Irene Jacob as Desdemona is lovely, her doe-eyed innocence the natural counterpoint to the intense Othello, and Oliver Parker’s able direction keeps everything well-paced on its collision course with the inevitable tragedy.

TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL (1996)

viola1Another of my very favorite plays, Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s numerous cross-dressing, gender-bending mistaken-identity tales (which can get occasionally confusing even to those of us familiar with the original material).  It’s like, okay, he loves her but she loves him but he’s really a she and she has a lookalike twin brother she thinks is dead but he isn’t really and the he that’s a she is in love with the other guy but he thinks she’s a guy and well… it’s complicated.  Mix in a comic subplot in which the aptly named Toby Belch and his friends give the “Punk’d” treatment to an uppity butler and some nice songs courtesy of Ben Kingsley– yes, he can sing too!– and this is definitely a fully-packed watch.  Helena Bonham Carter (again) is a real treat as lovelorn Olivia, who does not realize the object of her affection, Cesario, is actually a girl, Viola (Imogen Stubbs).  Meanwhile, Viola is pining for her boss, Duke Orsino (Toby Stephens), who only has eyes for Olivia.  Then Viola’s presumed-dead twin brother shows up and things get really interesting.  Beautifully directed by Trevor Nunn on location in Cornwall, this is one of the best adaptations of the comedies (despite Stubbs being slightly too pretty to be believable as a boy).

ROMEO + JULIET (1996)

Screen-shot-2009-12-31-at-9.17.00-PMReleased close on the heels of Twelfth Night, director Baz Luhrmann’s modernization of the quintessential tragedy made a bigger splash in the collective consciousness due to its then-novel approach of utilizing a different setting from the original while maintaining the Elizabethan dialogue, the star power of its young leads (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes), its cool indie-pop soundtrack and its very stylized, beautiful cinematography.  Set pieces like the first meeting at the aquarium (pictured) and the kiss in the elevator are classic in their visual impact.  My jaw remained dropped throughout my first viewing of this film– it’s absolutely gorgeous and oozes reckless romance.  The supporting cast are all memorable, especially John Leguizamo as a scenery-chewing Tybalt and Harold Perrineau as a flamboyant Mercutio, but other heavyweights on hand include Brian Dennehy, Paul Sorvino, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Rudd and Miriam Margolyes.  For a certain generation, this was THE introduction to Shakespeare, and ushered in a new-wave sensibility regarding interpretation of his works while staying true to to the timeless nature of the source.  Almost two decades later, it still looks, feels and sounds fresh and not at all dated.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (1999)

midsummerThis star-studded film is another, slightly less flashy update (the action is moved to turn-of-the-last-century Italy), but it feels a little uneven in its execution.  Make no mistake, it is a beautiful film of another of my most beloved plays, with some stellar performances, but not all the big names are quite up to the material.  Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania, in particular, seems to be merely reciting her lines, though she looks fab and is quite adorable while smitten with donkey-headed Nick Bottom (an outstanding Kevin Kline, who is always a high point in any movie in which he appears).  The sets are incredible and the casting is mostly spot-on;  Christian Bale, Calista Flockhart, Dominic West, and Anna Friel as the quartet of young lovers are a strong little ensemble, and Rupert Everett as Oberon plays perfectly off Stanley Tucci’s Puck.  But this is Kline’s tour de force, and he portrays Bottom with a yearning melancholy his bluster only barely conceals and which is often overlooked in stage productions.  Directed by Michael Hoffman, it’s a lovely mood piece with some of the funniest moments in the Bard’s repertoire.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004)

BIttDlMCUAMP92qOne of the more problematic of Shakespeare’s plays for modern audiences– due in the main to its antisemitic tone–  concerns a Jewish money-lender’s over-arcing desire to exact a literal pound of flesh from a client unable to repay his debts.  However, as portrayed by Al Pacino, the character of Shylock is less a greedy and sadistic villain than a man who has simply taken all the abuse he can stand and has finally decided to exact his revenge on principle.  Though Merchant is usually classed as a comedy– and it does have its light, amusing moments– it also plays as the tragedy of a man pushed too far by an uncaring world and how his desire for vindication becomes his undoing.  There are a couple of sweet romances– Joseph Fiennes and Lynn Collins have a nice chemistry as Bassanio and Portia– but the resigned antagonism between Pacino’s Shylock and Jeremy Irons’s Antonio is at the core of this version, directed by Michael Radford with a neutral sensitivity to both sides of the thorny tale.  This play is also unique in that its ultimate heroic figure is female– though (as is typical of Shakespeare) she is disguised as a man at the time, and can also be read as a very early foray into feminism.

AS YOU LIKE IT (2006)

400fullAnother of the Bard’s cross-dressing comedies,  As You Like It presents an appealing heroine in Rosalind, daughter of a banished duke who is in turn banished herself.  In director Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation, the story takes place in late 19th-century Japan among a conclave of expatriate traders.  As Rosalind, Bryce Dallas Howard has the same issue Imogen Stubbs had ten years earlier in Twelfth Night:  she’s just too pretty for anyone to honestly mistake her for a boy.  Japan seems an odd setting for the iconic Forest of Arden, but somehow it works, though the lengthy introductory explanation helps in that regard.  There are good performances from Howard, David Oyelowo as her love interest Orlando, Kevin Kline (again) as the dolorous Jaques, and Alfred Molina as the clownish Touchstone.  Brian Blessed plays the dual role of the exiled duke and his usurping brother, but has sadly little screen time, and Romola Garai is a revelation as Rosalind’s adventurous but fragile cousin Celia.  Assuming the identity of a boy named Ganymede, Rosalind seeks her father in his exile in Arden, fortuitously runs into her crush Orlando, and stays in character as she tries to learn his true feelings for her true self.  This is one of the stranger Shakespeare films, but it looks great and features strong performances all around.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a great many other adaptations out there;  these are just the ones I’ve seen.  You can’t go wrong with a classic– even if it’s been ever-so-slightly altered.

THE SERIOUSLYFLUFFY FINAL GRADES:

  • HAMLET: B
  • MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING:  A+
  • OTHELLO:  A
  • TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL:  A
  • ROMEO + JULIET:  A+
  • A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM:  B
  • THE MERCHANT OF VENICE:  A
  • AS YOU LIKE IT:  A- 

 

 

 

 

Things That Make Me Go HA: Fluffy’s Guide to Internet Humor

The thing about humor is that it’s highly subjective.  For instance, what makes me roll with uncontrollable laughter until projectile tears squeeze out of my eyeballs usually leaves my husband scratching his head, and when he’s laughing, my immediate response to the catalyst is most often “That’s lame.”  So it’s a simple matter to conclude that what I find hilarious may not mesh with anyone else’s idea of comedy.  Anyway, having lived on the planet for over 40 years, I’ve noticed it becomes increasingly difficult to get that gut-busting laughter out of me.  It’s not that I’m losing my sense of humor as I age;  I’ve simply heard so many jokes, watched so many funny movies, and seen and heard so much parody that it takes something truly novel, unexpected and often completely random to make me lose it.  I guess I’m jaded, but that should just lend further credence to my favorite funny things–  if they make a tough sell like me giggle insanely, they should definitely work for others.  Unless you’re my husband, in which case, just bear with me.

BADFICS

tumblr_l2mxgxVFMQ1qc2vt0o1_400I love reading fan fiction.  Sometimes it’s actually even good.  However, it’s even better when it’s horribly, atrociously bad.  Spelling flies out the window, malapropisms and hyperbole abound, and have you ever seen so many exclamation points in your life?  Of course, the classic badfic is the notorious My Immortal, a Harry Potter fic featuring a goth Mary Sue, lots of red contact lenses, rib-tickling sex scenes of every flavor, time travel (and the sudden, WTF-inducing appearance of Marty McFly), guest performances from My Chemical Romance and a Voldemort in high heels among its many treasures. It’s been taken down and subsequently reposted on Fanfiction.net numerous times, has inspired countless YouTube videos and has a Facebook fan page.  Written by a young lady named Tara, who is either poorly educated and seriously disturbed or the most epic troll of the internet age, My Immortal had me in stitches for days as I gave up trying to make sense of the narrative– really, there is none– and just succumbed to the hilarity.  Here’s a link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6829556/1/My-Immortal.  Enjoy it, and don’t try to make up any drinking games around it, or you’ll die of alcohol poisoning.

Equally comic but mercifully briefer is the short Lord of the Rings fanfic Legolas, or as it’s more commonly known, Legolas by Laura.  Again we are treated to a Mary Sue main character and– oh, I’ll just let this one speak for itself.  Narrated exactly as it is written, here is the “movie” version:

The best part is when Legolas attempts to pronounce the misspelling “Strdier” and his jaw falls off.

EDWARD GOREY 

edward-gorey1You may not have heard of the late author/illustrator Edward Gorey, but you’ve probably seen his distinctive work, gracing the intro to PBS’ Mystery! series and elsewhere.  If you’ve never read any of his numerous books, they’re short, macabre and wickedly funny.  He skewered morality tales, fantasy and adventure stories, and even alphabet books with his trademark Gothic style, resulting in a darkly humorous pastiche of the magical and mundane.  There are a number of YouTube presentations of his work, which was often published under pseudonyms (usually anagrams of his own name, such as Ogdred Weary or Regera Dowdy).  At any rate, it’s side-splitting stuff, whether in its original book form or in animated format, narrated or not.  Here are a few of my favorites.

DOLAN COMICS

dolan-duck-gooby-pls-6689_preview_largeIf Gorey is a little too cerebral for the mood you’re in, here’s the opposite end of the spectrum.  These are deliberately poorly drawn, badly spelled Paint comics that feature ripoffs of well-known characters from many different sources– Disney creations share panel space with Looney Tunes cartoons and superheroes, and most of the action centers around Dolan Duck, a murderous, sex-crazed version of Donald.  His object in life appears to be heaping as much misery on Goofy (here renamed Gooby) as possible, often with blood-spattered or otherwise squicky results.  Mutant facsimiles of Spider-Man (Spoderman), Bugs Bunny (Bogs), and even Shrek (Sherk) all appear, and Dolan makes life hell for all of them.  These comics are a little divisive– people either love them or hate them.  Fluffy finds them surreal and so indescribably random that mindless laughter is the only response.  In fact, they remind me a bit of the cartoons I drew in elementary and middle school in their anarchic and usually senseless mayhem.  There was a dedicated board on Memebase for the Dolan comics, which has since been taken down in favor of the inferior and even more incomprehensible My Little Brony meme, probably caving to pressure from the haters, who took the comics way too seriously and tended to be very vocal in their dislike.  Dolan is still easily found on Reddit and Tumblr, however: http://www.reddit.com/r/dolanhttp://www.tumblr.com/tagged/dolan.  Be warned that most of the content is decidedly NSFW.

ORSON WELLES

j16-intv-well-288Note that I am not bagging on the late, great Mr. Welles at all.  I may not have enjoyed Citizen Kane but recognize its import, and appreciate his work as a whole.  Welles was an undisputed genius.  Thing was, he knew it, and his bleak understanding that he was doomed to be misinterpreted and surrounded by either sycophants or idiots made him a little testy at times.  He was notoriously difficult to work with, but this was due to his general disdain for hackneyed writing and subpar direction.  His mellifluous voice made him a natural for voiceover work, but the quality of the ad copy he was forced to read for such jobs grated on his nerves and he was unafraid to say so.  This often led to hilarity as Welles would start slamming the script or director while tape was running, much of which has survived and (of course) shown up on the web for the amusement of the discerning:

TERRY GILLIAM’S MONTY PYTHON ANIMATIONS

anfscd-animation1This is a given.  I have always loved Monty Python but Gilliam’s cutout animations are the icing on an incredibly yummy cake.  Absurdist and gleefully silly, these little cartoons, in my opinion, are what made a good sketch comedy show great.  The juxtaposition of unexpected elements and the added attraction of goofy sound effects and voices are the source of much of the humor, but these shorts really need no explanation:  they are just awesome, and that’s that.

MUSIC SHREDS

mqdefaultIf you’re unfamiliar with this phenomenon, a shred consists of footage of a band performing, but overdubbed with lousy or bizarre music and lyrics synced to the artists’ lips and movements.  These videos are sometimes short-lived, as the artists getting the shred treatment tend to call copyright fairly quickly, but a little digging can often turn them up again.  I believe that shredding counts as Fair Use, since it falls into the category of parody, but somebody needs to tell that to YouTube, which always caves and removes the videos in question.  The pioneer of the genre is known as St. Sanders, a YouTube user from Finland (real name Santeri Ojala) who created many of the classic videos in the format.  Here are a couple of his masterpieces:

I purposely saved the best for last.  Perhaps the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life (not a St. Sanders shred, but  made of epic win):

 

“Game of Thrones” Season 3 Premiere: The SeriouslyFluffy Reaction

got-s3-arya-wallpaper-1600So it’s back– my favorite series of all time.  Obviously I’m happy, though the header photo on this article should point out my main quibble with Season 3’s first episode, “Valar Dohaeris”– there was a notable lack of Arya Stark.  Having read roughly halfway into the book upon which this season and next are based, I know Arya’s in for interesting times, and I love the murderous little scamp– she’s basically a medieval version of Hit Girl, and all the more awesome for that.  Also missing from the proceedings was Arya’s brother Brand, whom I didn’t really miss, except for the fact that his band of misfits is hooking up with Ferb at some point in this season– well, at least the actor who voices Ferb, Thomas Sangster.  What we did get was a bit of a mixed bag.  Not much in the way of action tonight, but a lot of setup, which is always a huge tease with this series.

Last season ended with Sam Tarly surrounded by undead White Walkers in a blinding snowstorm, so of course we pick up immediately where we left off– poor chunky Sam running the 10-minute mile in said blinding snowstorm, stumbling on dead comrades, getting rescued by Ghost the direwolf, and then getting bitched out by his commander– wait a minute, didn’t Jon Snow kill that dude last season?  Is this a dream sequence?  We don’t find out.  This is the only glimpse of that particular storyline we see in this episode.

We get some spanking-new credits with some new clockwork cities that had Fluffy squeeing in delight, having read the books at least this far.  Then we join Jon Snow as he finally gains audience with Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall.  Does Jon have a clue that Ygritte wants him in the worst way?  Hey, can you blame the girl?  For a guy named Snow, he’s smokin’ hot.  Well, if he hadn’t figured it out already, Mance spells it out for him.  This Night’s Watch spy mission involves some deep cover.  Cut back to King’s Landing and we find newly knighted sellsword Bronn sexing it up with one of the show’s infamous, yet somehow generic, prostitutes.  Unfortunately for Bronn, Tyrion’s faithful squire Podrick chooses this moment to summon him.  Tyrion’s having a bad day;  his dad, who hates his guts, just stole his job and kicked him out of his quarters, he’s got a nasty new facial scar from that time at the Battle of Blackwater when his bitchy sister tried to have him murdered, and to make matters worse, the bitchy sister just showed up at his door to… well, just be a bitch.  (If this were Oz, a house would have fallen on Cersei Lannister already.)  Bronn shows up as prompted, but informs Tyrion that if he wants protection, he has to pay for it– knight or not, he is still a sellsword.

Next we find Davos Seaworth, the dullest character in the Seven Kingdoms, looking like beef jerky on an island– guess he didn’t buy the farm at Blackwater after all;  he could’ve won the battle by simply BORING the Lannisters to death, but that’s neither here nor there.  He gets rescued by one of his pirate buddies, whom he persuades to take him back to the defeated Stannis Baratheon at Dragonstone so he can murder Melisandre, Stannis’ creepy guru hooker.  Yeah, good luck with that– this is the chick who gave birth to the frigging shadow-demon that killed Renly.  And back at Harrenhall, Robb Stark is still pissed at his mom Catelyn for setting Jaime Lannister free last season.  Mom had her reasons– the Lannisters currently have Robb’s ditsy sister Sansa in their greedy clutches, and as far as Catelyn knows, her other daughter Arya as well (unbeknownst to Catelyn but knownst to us, Arya is way too smart for that crap and she’s been out of King’s Landing since Ned got beheaded).  So naturally it would be a nice gesture to send back the Lannisters’ captive son in order to get her own kids back, right?  Wrong.  Robb is good at doing what Robb wants, as we saw last season when he wiggled out his engagement to Walder Frey’s granddaughter by blatantly marrying somebody else, so he has dear old Mom treated as a prisoner.  Where are Jaime and Brienne anyway?  We don’t see them this episode either.

Back to King’s Landing and Tyrion, whose Very Bad Day continues with a steaming pile of insults from his dad, Tywin, who denies him as the rightful heir to the family keep.  Sansa Stark is meanwhile enjoying some outdoor time with her handmaid Shae, Tyrion’s secret ex-prostitute girlfriend, when she’s joined by smarmy Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, who seems to be taking her under his oily wing with what may or may not be empty promises of escape.  And then… dragons.  Finally!  Here’s Daenerys, my pick for eventual winner of the Game of Thrones, playing with her winged pets on board a ship approaching Astapor.  Her Dothraki warriors aren’t doing so well, and Dany needs backup in a big way.

When Davos schleps his way back to Dragonstone and tries to kill Melisandre, she thwarts him and he’s arrested– who didn’t see that coming?  Anyway, if you were wondering what our skidmark of a king, Joffrey, was up to, he’s getting annoyed with– or at least confused by– his bride-to-be Margaery Tyrell and her charitable work with the city’s poor.  Cersei tries to put the kibosh on the future queen’s activities, which smacks of jealousy of the girl about to take her title, but Joffrey backs Margaery, at least for now.

Upon reaching Astapor, Dany is checking out slaves– to make up her army, you see.  She’s interested in the brutally trained and highly effective killing machines known as the Unsullied.  We get a squick moment when the slaver cuts up one of the potential soldiers right in front of her to show off their stoicism, but Dany is still feeling iffy about perpetuating slavery.  While she ruminates over this with Jorah, a little girl rolls her a ball– full of poisonous icky mutated death by scorpion.  She’s rescued at this opportune moment by a mysterious old gentleman, and the little girl, really one of those grotty warlocks from back at the House of the Undying, hightails it away.  Dany’s savior is none other than Sir Barristan Selmy,  the scrupulously principled former Captain of the Kingsguard whom we last saw when Joffrey and Cersei canned him at the end of Season One (I think– it may have been the beginning of Season Two).  He’s caught up with Dany to offer her his loyalty.

And that’s the end.  Dammit!  At least I only have to wait a week for the next episode instead of well nigh a year.  This season, if it’s anything like the book, is going to be packed with plot developments all over the place.  That there are so many subplots that all the major characters didn’t fit into a single episode is testimony to the embarrassment of riches we’re in for, and as I said I still haven’t finished the book– it’s massive enough to warrant the two seasons it’s been allotted, and I’m wondering at this point where that midpoint cutoff is going to be.  We can look forward to some awesome action, interesting characters, and hopefully lots of Dany and Arya;  their stories in the books get more engrossing with every page, and their respective actresses, Emilia Clarke and Maisie Williams, bring them to life spectacularly.  And I’m all fidgety waiting for Jon and Ygritte to finally… well, no spoilers from me.  All I can say is that I’m glad my favorite show is back, and how much I’m going to miss it for the long long months after its all-too-brief stay.