And here’s a special St Valentine’s Day half-price heart-shaped box of links for my readers, starting with some hilarity from the Onion.
I had more or less forgotten the day until the Opera Company of Philadelphia sent me an e-mail urging me to “treat my Valentine to Turandot!” I sometimes wonder if Marketing Departments ever bother to look up the plots of the operas they’re trying to sell. On the other hand, maybe they’re just having their little joke: marketing + bad love choices = St Valentine’s Day! At least it wasn’t The Rape of Lucretia, which I am going to see in June, by the way.
Here’s something else to look forward to: a DVD release of Messiaen’s St Francois d’Assise! This production is from De Nederlandse Opera (which recently brought us the first official recording of Dr Atomic, thereby retaining European supremacy in recording modern operas) and stars Rod Gilfry, and I have to admire a singer who can portray both Stanley Kowalski and St Francis.
And the line-up for the next season of Dancing with the Stars has been announced, and though I realize “stars” is being used loosely (I wasn’t really expecting Brad Pitt to suit up), I don't know who a lot of these people are. That's not that much of a problem, because really, what do I care? And at this point the professional dancers are better known anyway and on the upward curve of their careers (some nights it's like watching multiple little versions of A Star Is Born). But seriously – Denise Richards? You have to worry a little when Charlie Sheen is the mature, responsible partner.
The worrisome trend to me is the boast that there are several “real-life couples” on the show, since there seems to be an increasing emphasis on "relationship drama" rather than, you know, "dancing." Maybe the ratings got a big boost when viewers were wondering if Derek Hough and his partner from a few seasons back (sorry, I can't remember her name, and all this searching and hyperlinking is wearing me out) were dating. I liked her until she had a teary-eyed meltdown over the criticism of her hip movement. I'm a weeper myself, and granted she was at a severe disadvantage next to Derek’s serpentine hips, but, you know, keep it together. And she really did need to work on her hips.
Since then we’ve been treated to an increasing number of emotional outbursts, the most inexplicable being Lacey Schwimmer’s announcement that she just couldn’t keep on trying to please Lance Bass, who seemed fairly mild-mannered and tractable. Given her announcement that he was her teenage crush, I’m thinking he was just the victim of her issues, but maybe she was reacting to stuff we hadn’t seen. Or maybe not, since he seemed as befuddled by the surprise attack as the viewers were. There was a priceless shot of his sad blank face looking slightly puzzled when she stormed out. But full points to them for dancing to “I Kissed a Girl.” Witty choice!
I assume the “relationship counselor” who came to talk to the finalists was just a joke that didn’t quite work. Poor Cody Linley, bursting into tears. I was both amused and creeped out to hear him mention that there was a website dedicated to his eyebrows. I do know people with an eyebrow thing. Not to mention any names, of course. His Hannah Montana co-star Miley Cyrus is seriously creepy – she was shown greeting him at her "Sweet 16" birthday party in Disneyland, and I thought I was watching a 45-year-old divorcee trying to pick up her son’s naïve high-school teammate.
Another thing they need to stop doing on that show: having the little kids dance. Yes, these kids know it’s a competitive field, which means sometimes they lose, but no one that age needs to lose on national TV before millions of viewers, especially if they’re not just watching, they’re deliberately choosing to reject you. (Or maybe the viewers don’t vote on the little kids – I always leave the room during that part, so I really don’t know. I should probably get Tivo.) It’s the difference between playing sandlot baseball and playing in the Little League World Series on ESPN.
Another thing they should never do again: Cloris Leachman. It wasn’t so much her limited dancing skills as her constant need to be the center of attention that really annoyed me. My jump-the-shark moment with her was when Cody and Julianne were being interviewed after their dance (poor Cody! that kid was abused a lot) and Cloris came over and started pawing him. Possibly she just thought he was a camera. I’m sure the audience would have been equally delighted if those had been, say, Mickey Rooney’s liver-spotted claws caressing barely-legal flesh. But we all know that old women aren't rude, self-centered, or camera hogs: instead, they’re feisty. That's a pretty absurd and condescending attitude, especially toward a woman who made movies with Mel Brooks, but she certainly took advantage of it. When she finally left she announced to Carrie Ann, “I know you didn’t mean what you said” (referring to her comment from the week before that it was sad to see Toni Braxton leave when she was starting to improve, just so that Leachman could continue flopping around, though she phrased it more gently than that). Guess what, Cloris? She did mean it.
But the most painful moment of all was when Carrie Ann made Susan Lucci stand up and say, “I’m a good dancer!” or whatever empowering you-go-girl nonsense she made her repeat. I thought this was an incredibly degrading thing to do to a woman of her professional standing and, how shall one say, life experience. But improved self-esteem (justified or not) was a leitmotif with several of the other women. Strangely, the only man who was treated to these little confidence-building discussions was Lance Bass, which of course had absolutely nothing to do with his position as the only openly gay contestant.
Well, I do really enjoy the dancing. And I even like the Superstars of Dance segments; most of them, anyway. I think I was a little misled when they started off with Alvin Ailey. I wasn’t exactly expecting Pina Bausch (though that would be fun) but maybe Mark Morris. . . . But I’m very naïve about these things. When I heard that there was a movie coming out named Gigli, I assumed (as one naturally would!) that it was about Beniamino Gigli. I thought Ben Affleck was kind of odd casting. In my defense, there have been movies about Caruso, though it’s not much of a defense since Caruso is a very different sort of cultural figure; it's like Carreras and Pavarotti.
In any case, here's one more sweet link for you, before we toss the empty heart aside (empty except for the sour quince log, of course): Defamer’s pairings of the upcoming DWTS cast and some of the great choreographers. That's entertainment!