Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orianthi: Please Avoid Bubble-Gum Pop

When Michael Jackson was preparing for his final tour that would never take place, he had hired a young female guitarist named Orianthi. She has blonde hair, looks like a pop star, but plays the guitar like she’s Eddie Van Halen. Recently, she has released her own album with a song called “According To You”, which is more pop than rock. While I doubt that many bubble-gum pop tarts like Britney Spears can play any musical instrument with an ounce of talent, I wonder if Orianthi is choosing the wrong style of music because she would rather be the next Britney Spears than the next Eddie Van Halen.

If you watch the video for “According To You”, you will see Orianthi play the guitar at different points in the song, then pull off a very impressive solo. To me, the song says, “I can sing the same music, and play amazing guitar solos.” The problem is… I don’t want to hear her singing bubble-gum pop music.

I want to clarify that I don’t put Michael Jackson in that category. While he was the king of pop, he wrote mainstream songs that were appreciated by the majority of people. Even Ronald Reagan was a fan of Michael Jackson. But Michael also used a variety of styles in his music. His song, “Beat It” was actually a hard rock song. The solo was played by Eddie Van Halen. To become Michael Jackson’s current guitarist, Orianthi proved that she could play the solo in “Beat It” and she received the job. Orianthi’s guitar style is Hard Rock/Heavy Metal with an 1980’s feeling.

Trying to mix Hard Rock with Bubble-Gum Pop (like Britney Spears) is not a good combination. Fans of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal cannot accept a guitar virtuoso singing pop songs and, let’s face it, fans of singers like Britney Spears hardly care if the “artist” is even singing the songs on stage. If you are a fan of Bubble-Gum Pop, and you accept Britney Spears lip-syncing, then do you really care if another singer is up there, singing, and playing the guitar? Probably not.

Orianthi has another difficult thing to deal with. After putting out a Bubble-Gum Pop album, can she actually change to Hard Rock and be accepted? I’m not sure about this one. I will admit that there have been very few successful female artists in Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, but having already made a Bubble-Gum Pop album, I think it would be harder for her to be accepted in Hard Rock or Heavy Metal. Basically, she has the talent for Rock and wants to sing Pop. She needs to choose which side of the music world to build her career and then stay on that side.

I think what she should do is try to reinvent herself before she is well-known. Maybe she should be the guitarist in a band with another singer or be the lead in a Hard Rock girl band. Girl band? Am I being condescending? No. I think she needs to find an area that she can fit in because she’s too unique for the music industry of today.

I want to be clear that I think that Orianthi is extremely talented. I respect her for not being another pop tart on stage singing without musical talent. She can play the guitar better than the majority male guitarists and has proven that she is talented enough to be a successful musician. The only thing that she needs to do is find the right kind of music and decide what kind of band that she will be in. Right now, she’s too Pop for Metal fans and she’s too Metal for Pop fans. With new direction, she can find the right path.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Betty White: The New George Burns

This article is dedicated to my sister. Happy Birthday Emily!

In early 1976, George Burns became the oldest person to win a competitive Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He was 80 years-old. That would have been predicted to be the sunset of his career. Having already lived past the average age of people in the United States, people would have probably predicted that he could live another few years and make another film or two. When you win an Oscar, opportunities open to you. What surprised everyone is that he lived another 20 years.

George Burns did not only live another 20 years, but he worked and worked and continued to work. He was not a face of classic television that children would see glances of while changing the channel on cable television. Instead, a new generation of audiences would see him in new movies for years to come. I remember in the early 1990s seeing him in an advertisement for Little Ceasars (Here is the commercial on YouTube). George Burns stayed in the spotlight until he died. I viewed him as the Grandfather of Hollywood. When he died in 1996, Hollywood was without its true elder statesman, or stateswoman.

There were other very famous celebrities who lived until their 90s or reached the age of 100, but most of them were done performing. Katherine Hepburn only died a few years ago. She had won an Oscar in the 1930s, two in the 1960s, and one in the early 1980s. But the last twenty years of her life, she was quiet and enjoying retirement. She is arguably the greatest actress of all time, but she was out of the spotlight. Bob Hope was considered to be a true entertainer. He is also the most honored entertainer of all time. But just like Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope was essentially retired for years. With two of the most impressive careers in Hollywood history, neither Hepburn nor Hope had chosen to be highly visible in the public. They worked for many decades and then moved on.

Recently, I realized that the torch has been passed from George Burns to Betty White. I remember seeing Betty White on the Golden Girls in the 1980s. I remember seeing her in recent years on Boston Legal. She has received several awards recently for her long career in the entertainment industry. She even had the best commercial of the Super Bowl. She’s a funny woman and continues to make audiences laugh.

I must admit that my I have not been able to see her work from the decades prior to the 1980s. While she has acted since way before I was born, I am not familiar with her work when she was younger. To me, she is the Golden Girl who stayed in the spotlight. Betty White is 88 years-old right now and I hope that she can be around for years to come. She is not the oldest person in Hollywood, but she is the Grandmother of Hollywood with her warm, friendly personality and the talent to continue to be hilarious.

Recently, with the support of over 400,000 fans, it looks like Betty White will get to host Saturday Night Live. I am one of those fans.

It’s clear that Betty White has received a lot of attention in the last year. Probably more attention than she has received in the last 20 years. I would assume that Betty White is busier now than she has been in a long time. But that did not stop her from mailing an autograph to my sister. Regardless of how much attention that Betty White has received recently, she appreciates her fans.

Why should anyone retire when they are doing the work that they love to do? Betty White does not appear ready to retire. I look forward to seeing her continue her career. As the Grandmother of Hollywood, Betty White is continuing to make new generations of audiences laugh. I think what makes her so likeable is that she seems to appreciate her audience. Joy can help a person live long years of happiness. Betty White has the willingness to show her audience that she appreciates their support. Even in a time when she is receiving more attention that she has in decades, she still took the time to send my sister an autograph.

Many celebrities could learn something from Betty White. If you treat your fans with appreciation, you may keep them as fans even when you are receiving less attention. I think of celebrities who make millions of dollars for a few months of work on a movie. They are getting paid well because fans want to see their films. For a celebrity to refuse an autograph to a fan just shows a lack of appreciation. If that celebrity becomes a has-been in the future, I wonder if he or she would regret not treating the fans better.

Long live Betty White: The Grandmother of Hollywood.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Southwest: No Fatties

Southwest Airlines kicked off a passenger because they claimed that he was too fat to fit into his seat and fly. I’m sure that this has happened before, but this is the first time it has been known to happen to a celebrity, the director Kevin Smith.

I hate when I hear a celebrity say, “Do you know who I am?” because it appears that the celebrity wants extra special treatment. In this case, if I was Kevin Smith, I would say it to warn them that throwing off a celebrity is a bad idea. In this case, it was a very bad idea for Southwest. Customers now have the message that Southwest is even willing to throw a celebrity off the plane if they feel that he weighs too much.

Southwest has already issued a public apology, but the real question is, “What are you going to do in the future?” I’m not a skinny guy, but I also don’t think that I’m too fat to fly. At the same time, it makes me wonder if I could be given the Kevin Smith treatment in the future. I think it would be nice if Airlines can have some kind of standard that would help a customer avoid walking onto a plane and then being escorted off. That must be humiliating. Everyone watches the fat guy being pulled off the plane… and they will all know it’s because he’s fat.

I guess I’m also wondering why Kevin Smith was flying on Southwest in the first place. They are known as the discount airliner. He’s rich. He can easily afford a first-class ticket and those seats are big enough that no one would question his weight. But he also has the right to fly on cheaper airliners if he chooses to and spend the money that he saves on whatever he wants.

I think that Southwest has just entered a public relations nightmare of their own making. It was also so avoidable. Kevin Smith is a celebrity. The crew on the flight probably could have asked one skinny teenager, “Hey, would you like to sit with the director of Clerks, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back?” I bet that there were people on the flight who would have loved to have sat with a celebrity.

Southwest should be prepared because I am guessing that Kevin Smith will make fun of them in his next movie. For what they did to him, they deserve what they are going to get.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

John Mayer: Dumb Cracker Or A Racist Dick?

Is John Mayer just a dumb white guy who used the N-word but is not really racist, or is he a white supremacist like he accuses his penis of being?

For those who may have not followed the story, John Mayer recently did an interview with Playboy in which he said several controversial things. I am not going to focus on his comment that his relationship with Jessica Simpson was “sexual napalm” because that’s really a compliment. If that was the only controversial thing in the article, I’d be defending him because a comment like that, at least from a male viewpoint, is a huge compliment to an ex-girlfriend, even if it is too much information.

Instead, I will focus on the comments that he probably regrets making. I will focus on 1) his comment that his penis is a white supremacist that doesn’t like black women and 2) his use of the N-word in the interview.

First, I will discuss John Mayer’s white supremacist penis. If you are a black woman with a crush on John Mayer, sorry but it appears that you’re not John’s type. Human beings have the right to decide who they are attracted to and who they are not attracted to. If John Mayer is not attracted to black women, that is his right. It doesn’t make him a bad person. But to refer to his penis as a white supremacist is just offensive. He also called it his “David Duke” cock. Does that mean that he would never have sex with a Jewish woman either? Would he turn down Natalie Portman? The reason why using the term white supremacist and the name David Duke is so offensive is because of what those people have done. White supremacists have committed many acts of violence against blacks and David Duke has said many horrible things about Jews. John Mayer might be a talented musician, but he’s not that good of a comedian. I think that he was trying to be witty, but it backfired.

Second, John Mayer actually used the N-word in the interview. I’m going to make things very clear on this issue. White people should never use the N-word in any situation. Not even when you are talking in context about it. As I am currently blogging about it in context, I am saying N…word. I am not actually using the real word. The only situation in which I could say it could be acceptable is if an actor is playing a white supremacist in a movie. Playing a character in a movie, actors have to sometimes portray horrible people. Just because an actor will play a rapist or a murderer in a movie does not mean that the actor would rape or murder people in real life. A movie that had a racist character would not be realistic if the white supremacist said “N-word” instead of the real word. Besides the performance of an actor, I do not think the use of the real N-word could be justified in any other context.

Is John Mayer an actual racist? I don’t think that he is, but I think that he’s a moron for actually using the N-word, even without bad intentions. When a white person gets caught using the N-word, it makes me wonder how often he or she uses that word in private life. People either believe that the N-word is okay or not okay to use. I believe that it is not okay. I do not say it in public and I do not say it in private. It is such an offensive word that I think it should be avoided by both black and white people. I truly do believe that rappers should stop using it in songs. For some reason, John Mayer has thought that it is okay to actually say the N-word. While I don’t believe that he is an actual racist, he deserves to pay for his actions. I have not been a fan of his. I do not own any of his albums. In fact, I think that most of his music is crap, although I can respect that he has the creativity to write his own songs. I do believe that for saying the actual N-word, John Mayer is a moron who deserves some backlash against his comments. To give it back to him, I’m going to say that he’s just a dumb hick cracker and he probably felt okay with using the N-word because he’s probably used it a number of times before. Yes I’m calling him a cracker. John Mayer is just another musician who has used his fame to have sex with as many women as possible. But instead of making good music like heavy metal, he makes sensitive music that makes women think that he has actual feelings for them. That is, until he refers to them as “sexual napalm” in the future.

John Mayer, it might be time that you take a break from the music business and take the time to realize what a douche you have been.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

No Acting Nominations For Avatar: Here’s Why

Think fast: Name the male or female lead from the movie Avatar.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to pretend that I knew the answers either. The answer are Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana.

Now join me as I cry my eyes out over the fact that neither of these talented people were nominated for an Academy Award for Avatar. Wait. I’m not crying. Why am I not crying? The answer is that I was not sad that the cast of Avatar was passed over for acting Oscars and I am not surprised either.

I am going to bring up two characters from previous movies to make a point about mixing acting with animation. The first character I am going to bring up is Jar Jar Binks from the first prequel to the Star Wars series. Jar Jar Binks was the first fully animated CGI character in a live-action movie. He did not look like a cartoon interacting with humans like the characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Instead, he looked like an alien that would interact with humans. We not only heard his voice, but could see his personality in his physical actions. While Jar Jar Binks was complete CGI, his actions were not based on the movements of an actor. This is different from the characters in Avatar, who had sensors placed on their faces so their real acting ability would be translated into movements on film. This method has been done before with the performance of Gollum by Andy Serkis in the Lord of the Rings films and by multiple performances by Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.

When I think of the character of Jar Jar Binks, while I deeply hated the character, it felt like I saw more of a performance in the non-performance of Jar Jar Binks than what I saw from any of the actors in Avatar whose performances were covered by CGI. The truth is that besides the voicework, none of Jar Jar Binks was a performance at all. His actions were completely designed by CGI animators.

When I look at the performances of the actors covered by CGI in Avatar, I really believe that the heart of the matter is that the performances themselves did not appear to be difficult. It felt like I was watching actors who were fitting into roles that did not require much character development. The character of Jake Sully did not seem unique at all. There was nothing special about Sam Worthington's performance. The character of Neytiri by Zoe Saldana seemed to be based on Native-American stereotypes. I cannot say that Zoe Saldana is a bad actress. I think that she was asked to perform her character in a way that did not make the performance look impressive. I really believe that the key to the performances not being nominated for Academy Awards is that they were not great performances.

The second character that comes to mind is also not a performance at all. In 1992, I saw the movie Aladdin by Disney. This was a pure two-dimensional cartoon. One of the characters, the genie, was voiced by Robin Williams. The genie character did many imitations of celebrities and characters throughout the movie. Robin Williams was able to voice those characters because he is very talented in performing imitations. The audience knew that Robin Williams did the voice of the genie and they could see his personality in the character, although the only thing that Robin Williams provided to the role was his voice.

Avatar could have had great performances by actors who were under the CGI effects, but the film did not include great actors or decent character development. Let’s say one of the characters who was hidden under CGI was played by Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, or Al Pacino. We may be able to recognize the voice and personality of the character, leading to our ability to judge a familiar actor without seeing his face directly. That is something that is completely missing from this film. We have nothing to truly judge the actors by because the leads in the movie were played by C-List actors (who will probably be A-List actors soon, due to the success of Avatar). Without seeing distinct personalities, the audience saw actors merely fill the roles in the film.

Overall, I cannot blame the Academy Awards for Avatar receiving no Oscar nominations for the acting categories because the performances were not that special. There are a few films in which I can say that the director is the star of the film. This is one of those situations in which the true star is the director, James Cameron. His success with Titanic gave him the financial clout to make a film with such a high budget and so ambitious with using new technology. James Cameron is a true innovator in the film industry. Two times, he went “all in” to make a film, and won. Had Titanic been a failure, it would have been very hard for him to ever get the financing to make another big-budget film. Titanic became the highest grossing film of all time. Had Avatar failed at the box-office, he would have thrown away the clout that he received from the success of Titanic. In the end, only he was able to make a film that could actually earn more money than Titanic did. The true star of Avatar is James Cameron and he has three Oscar nominations for the film.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Taylor Swift: Anti-Britney Superstar!!!!!

This article is dedicated to Kevin Starace, the biggest Taylor Swift fan who I know.

Taylor Swift just won the Grammy for Album of the Year, making her at age 20 the youngest musical artist ever to do so. Her win represents the end of the 2000s decade, but I think it also represents a change from the typical artist of the 2000-2009 decade. When I think of the artists of the previous decade, I think about the focus on style over substance, sexuality over talent, auto-tune over vocal ability, lip-syncing over singing, and people who call themselves artists without any ability to actually….. write a song! Most of these problems can be summed up with one name, Britney Spears.

Britney Spears came into the music scene at the end of 1998/beginning of 1999 with “… One More Time”. She started out as a wholesome girl who said that she didn’t smoke, drink, or do drugs. She also claimed to be a virgin waiting until marriage. A few years later, Britney was using nothing but sexuality on stage to sell albums. She would lip-sync at concerts. She was caught smoking in photographs. Later, she went nuts and entered rehab. Britney Spears was a train-wreck of a fake image of wholesomeness ready to explode. She represented style over substance, sexuality over personality, and setting bad examples for her young fans over setting good ones. After one decade, Britney Spears feels like she has been used up and spit out on the floor.

Taylor Swift is everything that Britney Spears is not. First, she has the ability to write her own songs. This makes her an artist, not just a singer. Second, she does not use sexuality to sell records. Taylor Swift is an attractive girl, but she does not focus on sexualizing herself in photographs. I would say that she looks like a pretty girl who doesn’t know that she’s pretty. While Britney Spears would choose outfits to emphasize her looks, Taylor seems to try to deemphasize her appearance. If Taylor Swift wore schoolgirl outfits like Britney Spears wore in her first video, I think that Taylor could look more attractive than she currently does. But she’s not trying to be “the sex object”, instead choosing to be the normal girl who has had her heart broken. Third, Taylor Swift has not done anything controversial. She’s not been caught drinking underage, using drugs, or getting in trouble with the law.

Let’s see. Taylor Swift focuses on her musical ability over her looks, can write her own songs, and has not done anything controversial (yet). It appears that Taylor Swift is everything that Britney Spears is not. I don’t have to just pick on Britney Spears to make my point. I could turn to Ashlee Simpson getting caught lip-syncing or Justin Timberlake exposing Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl to find examples of immorality in the music industry. There are many other musicians who have set a bad example in the last decade, but I feel that Britney Spears is the queen of style over substance. After a decade of her crap and the crap from other singers like her, it is refreshing to see an artist, yes…. artist, like Taylor Swift.

I hope that Taylor Swift represents the future of musical focus. A focus of attention going to actual artists who write their own music and can live normal, humble lives. Maybe Taylor Swift will disappoint me in the future, but I hope not. I’d rather see people like her succeed in the music industry than most of the musicians that came out of the last decade.
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