Sunday, January 30, 2011

What about the rest of the cast?

I think it's time the Oscars begin to recognize ensembles in films like the Screen Actor's Guild Awards. Sure, they can continue recognizing featured performers, but it always seems unfair when other worthy cast members get left out.

This year there were a number of ensembles worthy of recognition, in addition to featured performers. Sure, Natalie Portman is a frontrunner to win Best Actress for "Black Swan" but both Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis were surprisingly left out of the Best Supporting Actress category, when the supporting players helped make Portman shine (including Winona Ryder). I was thrilled about Nicole Kidman's much-deserved nomination for "Rabbit Hole" but I wish Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest were also nominated. "Rabbit Hole" had an outstanding ensemble that extended to Tammy Blanchard and Sandra Oh. Julianne Moore got overlooked for "The Kids are All Right", as did Ryan Gosling for "Blue Valentine" but their co-stars received nominations when their performances were just as good.

If the Oscars ever do introduce an ensemble award, think of all the films from the past that could have and should have been nominated or awarded: "The Godfather", "Terms of Endearment", "Gone with the Wind", "Amadeus", "Million Dollar Baby" and so many more.

There are so many films with performances that should be awarded collectively, not individually.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You gotta have "Faith"...

With all his recent legal troubles, it's easy to forget that George Michael was, arguably, the biggest pop star on the planet. Between 1987 and 1989, nobody could touch him - thanks to his first solo album, the blockbuster "Faith."

Almost 25 years later, Michael's most popular album is being reissued on September 27th in two editions: a 2-CD deluxe edition and a box set, including a 60-page commemorative book and other goodies. I've been hoping for a reissue of "Faith" for a long time. The original CD doesn't sound bad, but it certainly could use an upgrade. Also, with the recent reissues of '80s albums, it only seems fitting that "Faith," one of the biggest albums of the '80s, gets the deluxe treatment. It will be a pleasure to hear "I Want Your Sex," "Father Figure," "One More Try" and "Kissing a Fool" in remastered sound - that is, if the engineers do a good job of remastering the album, unlike the butchered remasters of Duran Duran's first two albums earlier this year.

I'm sure the reissue of "Faith" will also benefit Michael himself - not only his bank account, but his reputation. I think most of us want to remember the Michael who shook his ass and sang about sex and monkeys on his back, rather than the Michael who keeps getting arrested in his car and in parks.

The deluxe reissues of "Faith" will be released on September 27th.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Golden Girls Live Forever

With the recent passing of Rue McClanahan, fans of the legendary '80s sitcom, "The Golden Girls," have come to the realization that Betty White is the last surviving cast member. And, without a doubt, White is at the peak of her career... and she's nearing 90 years of age! With her scene-stealing role in last year's "The Proposal," her recent, highly-rated guest host appearance on Saturday Night Live, and hilarious appearances on awards shows, White is creating buzz and goodwill wherever she appears.

But, with the deaths of Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty and McClanahan in the past few years, it's particularly bittersweet that White is experiencing this kind of unbelievable success - without her former co-stars. For us fans, she is the only living Golden Girl.

Unlike many sitcoms from the '80s, Golden Girls still holds up. The raucous laughs we enjoyed during its initial run still retain their ability to hit the funny bone. The combination of the strong writing, the actors' clear understanding of their characters, and best of all, the magical chemistry between the actors, have assured that Golden Girls remains a popular staple in re-runs.

Watching Golden Girls in re-runs has always been a joy. But, lately, it's been bittersweet considering most of the cast is deceased. Even though the show was marketed as a series about women in their retirement years, the girls always seemed so youthful and the idea of them growing "old" never seemed possible. But knowing that most of the actresses are gone, it's sometimes hard to watch the show the same way. I think the more popular-than-ever White could attribute her resurgence in fame to the fact that people simply want her to never leave because she IS so funny and charming. The cast of Golden Girls brought a style of comedy to television that will never be seen again; many of us lament that that type of comedy is gone.

But we should be thankful that the Golden Girls continue to be popular in re-runs and DVD sales. They truly are golden and will live forever.

Monday, April 19, 2010

WTH happened to Y&R?

It's no secret that I love soap operas. I have stayed faithful to the genre even when its viewership began to decline after the much-watched O.J. Simpson trial in the 1990s. But soaps are more vulnerable than ever with the recent cancellation of Guiding Light and the upcoming finale of As the World Turns in September, both shows I might add which have aired on CBS.

CBS still has a holding in the soap genre with their top-rated soap, The Young and the Restless, which has rated number one in the ratings since the mid-eighties. But even Y&R is beginning to show its wear and tear and it couldn't come at a worst time. With the ending of both GL and ATWT, Y&R remains one of the few soaps on CBS aside from its sister show, Bold and the Beautiful. But even faithful viewers of Y&R are being turned off by the show's recent stories, which have grown more lurid and bizarre in recent years.

Y&R has had some crazy storylines from time to time in the past (remember the Katherine Chancellor double storyline?) but somehow back in the day, the stories worked, thanks to strong writing, good storytelling and fine performances. Nowadays, the writers have come up with ridiculous and repetitive storylines: Nick jumping back and forth into bed between his wife Phyllis and ex-wife Sharon; the lurid and often off-putting story involving Victor Newman's alienated son, Adam; but the worst has to be the show's TWO recurring double storylines. Not only is Patty posing as Jack's wife Emily, but Lauren is now being impersonated by an imposter named "Sarah" (who may be Lauren's longtime nemesis Sheila with plastic surgery made to look like Lauren). Y&R nowadays seems like it's turned into Passions. What's next? Jill is a witch? Victor Newman is a wizard? Nikki Newman is a fortune teller? The stories have become outlandish and lack the motivation and classic storytelling that were Y&R's trademarks in the '80s and '90s under the guidance of the deceased (and much-missed) Bill Bell.

Visit any Y&R board online, and you will read comments from viewers - many of whom have watched the show for decades - lamenting the demise of the show's quality. Many soap journalists and viewers have predicted that soaps may no longer be on television in the future. With the way Y&R is heading in terms of its characters and stories, it has no one to blame but itself for its loss of viewers.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Enough with "Glee"!

I'm going to just come out and say it: I'm tired of the show "Glee." I'm tired of hearing about it; I'm tired of reading about it; I'm tired of seeing it advertised on Global ad nauseam; and I'm tired of hearing that d*#% cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (which has spawned countless imitations/covers), and all the other "Glee" covers which have been featured on the television show's two soundtracks (It has not even wrapped up its first season and already there are two soundtracks, not to mention an upcoming digital EP for a Madonna-themed episode).

Yes, call me the "Glee Grinch," but this show hasn't finished its first season and already it's overexposed. Sure, the cast is charming and can sing (although a lot of their voices sound "processed" and a bit too perfect), and there are some cute lines, but the show is so hyped up it doesn't always deliver. I enjoy the episodes, but its hype factor always leaves me feeling... a bit let down. Yes, Jane Lynch is fantastic (and please give her the Emmy now), but anyone who has followed her career for the past 15 years, most notably in Christopher Guest's "Best In Show" and "A Mighty Wind" would tell you that she's been scene-stealing for years.

Being a geek myself, it is almost heresy that I am not championing the show. That's not to say I don't like it, but I just don't think it's that good. It's become like Twilight - a pop culture phenomenon that has become so big, it's hard to enjoy it just on its merits. It's in your face (and ears) everywhere you go, that it just turns you off.

I guess I'm just not part of this "Glee" club.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wanted: More 3-D screens

After the astonishing and unprecedented success of James Cameron's "Avatar," and now Tim Burton's adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland," movie viewers have established that they are willing to pay the big bucks for a 3-D movie viewing experience. "Avatar," which has grossed over $700 million (U.S.) - a large percentage of that gross can be attributed to 3-D ticket prices - was still going strong when it had to vacate 3-D screens for Burton's "Alice," which itself has already made over $200 million (U.S.) in just two weeks. "Avatar" had monopolized 3-D screens over the holiday season, not to mention the Oscar season of both January and February. But "Alice" may have to give up its monopoly of 3-D screens when both "How to Train Your Dragon," and "Clash of the Titans" open in a few weeks. The demand for 3-D films has grown over the past few years, and has intensified since the release of both "Avatar" and "Alice". But most cinemas are only equipped with a few, if not single, 3-D screens. It will be interesting to see how theatres will physically change as the demand for 3-D films grows. And, of course, movie viewing experiences will increase financially for moviegoers as well.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


In recent years, even as CD sales decline, there have been numerous reissues of albums on CD. Recent reissues in the past few years include the Pretenders's first four albums, Whitney Houston's first album (a 25th commemorative reissue), Carole King's seminal "Tapestry", Erasure's "The Innocents," Elvis Presley's "Elvis in Memphis," and, of course, most notably, the recent Beatles remasters. Even Bananarama and Samantha Fox have reissued their back catalogues.

This month, Hip-O-Select is reissuing Diana Ross' 1973 "Touch Me in the Morning" album. Like many reissues, this will feature remastered sound, plus bonus tracks. In this case, fans will get a whole other album in addition to the 1973 release. Originally the album was intended to be a collection dedicated to Ross' first-born daughter Rhonda, but was scrapped in favour of a more pop-sounding release. Ross has had a number of her '70s releases reissued on CD, so having "Touch Me" added to this growing list of reissues is a plus for fans.

But there are many other albums waiting to be reissued. For the most part, they need to be remastered because the original CD releases featured poor sound and need an upgrade. Here is a list of albums I would like to see reissued.

1) Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A" - one of The Boss's biggest selling albums really needs the reissue treatment only to upgrade the '80s sound quality of the album's original CD release. Plus, it's one of the biggest albums of the '80s and it's time to revisit this classic, and give it the redux treatment that "Born To Run" received.

2) Prince's Warner Bros catalogue - this will probably NEVER happen as Warner Bros and Prince seem to still bask in their feud that has been going on for years (case in point, Warner Bros did not feature any Prince songs in their career-spanning box set "Revolutions in Sound" - or perhaps Prince would not allow WB to use his songs). But who wouldn't want to see deluxe packages of "1999," "Purple Rain" and "Sign O' The Times," plus all the other classic Prince albums from the late '70s and throughout the '80s?

3) Anita Baker's "Rapture" - Baker's surprise 1986 smash featuring her special brand of jazzy R&B desperately needs a sound upgrade, not to mention a remastering job which will allow her stunning vocals to shine through.

4) Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt's "Trio" - this album featuring three of music's finest female vocalists was a deserved hit in 1987, but their three voices really need to shine on an upgraded CD remaster.

5) Natalie Cole - Live! - This brilliant concert album was issued sometime in the '90s on CD but quickly disappeared. Cole was very popular in the mid-70s as an R&B queen, then reinvented herself in the early '90s by covering her father's catalogue (and other jazz classics). But Cole was never better than on this 1977 live album. She really belts it out on this one, and it's time someone belts out a new CD of this classic.

6) Madonna's "Like A Prayer" - Madonna's critically acclaimed 1989 album could use a sound upgrade, not to mention I am sure there are some demos and unreleased tracks that could be added to a reissue, in addition to the popular club remixes of the title track and "Express Yourself."

7) George Michael's "Faith" - one of the biggest albums of the '80s, released in 1987, like Springsteen's "Born in the USA" is begging for a reissue. Surprisingly, there was not a 20th commemorative reissue in 2007. Perhaps a 25th anniversary reissue in 2012?

8) Donna Summer's "Live and More" - Perhaps not as essential as Summer's "Bad Girls," but "Live and More" was her first number one album in the US, not to mention it featured the popular 17-minute opus "MacArthur Park Suite," featuring her disco cover of the Richard Harris classic. This album was one of the most popular - and significant - albums of the disco era, alongside the Saturday NIght Fever soundtrack.

9) Nirvana's "Nevermind" - As it approaches its 20th anniversary, Nirvana's breakthrough album has - perhaps surprisingly - never been reissued since its release in 1991. I imagine we will see a commemorative reissue in 2011.

10) "Here at Last... Bee Gees... Live" - say what you will about the Bee Gees, they released some incredible singles and were known to put on a good show. Surprisingly, they have only released a few live albums. This live album from, released in 1977, captures the Brothers Gibb just before they would shoot into the stratosphere with "Saturday Night Fever."

So, music listeners, what albums do you think should be given the deluxe treatment?