Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Jon and Kate + Hate, or, The Canadians Get It!*

Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage.

Cast in this unlikely role
Ill-equipped to act
With insufficient tact
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.

Rush, Limelight

Jon and Kate have a set of twins, and a set of sextuplets. The production company, Figure 8 Films, records their life as a reality. Recently controversy has erupted over Jon and a woman, and now continue like a cloud over the entire premise of the show.

I'm not surprised.

I don't care for reality TV. The biggest misnomer the TV outlets portray is reality TV. Nothing on reality television shows is real. Reality is BORING. You want to know reality? Brandt wakes up very groggy. He showers while catching up on the radio he missed yesterday. He eats Frosted Shredded Wheat with 1/2% milk and a hot cup of Choffy, and reads Nobody wants to see that. I am even boring myself writing that. We should change the genre of this phenomenon to voyeuristic drama. Nobody on Survivor, the Hills, Big Brother, I Love New York, Rock of Love, or even Jon and Kate Plus 8 are showing their true colors.

That being said, here's where things went horribly wrong for the show.

First, the show was intriguing to people for a number of reasons, most notably, coping with not just twins, but sextuplets that are relatively close in age. For someone coming from a small family (such as I), this was an interesting look into how big families operate. For someone coming from a large family (such as Ashley), it was a walk down memory lane. When we first found the show, we would watch, and Ashley would comment "I remember dinners like that," or, "I remember coming home from the grocery store with enough food to feed an army," or "I always wanted my own room, but I had to share." I think this is one of the reasons why the show worked. It appealed to a large number of people. Recent parents, people from small families, people from large families, people who struggle to make the bills, people who were wondering if they were the only ones struggling to raise children.

Now it's a brag-fest of all the great things the Gosselin's lives. Free trip to Utah? Great, make a show out of it. Jon wants hair plugs? Make a show out of it. Teeth whitening? Sure! I'm not sure when dental practices became fodder for the prime-time TV spots, but apparently, like I've heard others comment, I didn't know that watching people perform tasks that others perform every day was entertainment. To quote Richard Rife, from his blog, "Another time, Jon cooked breakfast while the kids got in his way. I’ve got my fingers crossed that sometime in the future I’ll get to see Kate vacuum the carpet or Jon mow the lawn, while, of course, the kids cause irritation. "

Here's the thing that people either fail to comprehend or don't want to see: Jon and Kate are driven by ratings. This "controversy" (which I am still skeptical about) of Jon caught with another woman was the perfect thing for them. They were probably losing viewers after season 4, and now they've got the perfect draw for people to watch.

It's deplorable, yes, but it is the honest way in which viewership works. The editing of shots with both Jon and Kate are done so you see their worst sides. They have production meetings where they lay out a game plan of the questions to be asked/answers to be given. This is not "reality," any more than Obama wanting to grab a hamburger could be considered "Reality".

Jon and Kate have both mentioned that they deplore the paparazzi, and they hate the publicity. However, it's the exact opposite. Kate, you don't want the paparazzi following your kids with you into the Dollar Store? First, don't parade your kids. That wasn't safety, that was "look at us." Second, don't coordinate their dress so it's obvious they're multiples. Third, don't go to the Dollar Store in the middle of the day. Go late at night. Be smooth about this stuff. You don't hear about some celebrities because they understand the game. Jon, you don't want the tabloids commenting on your every move? GET OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS! Even I, an amateur culture critic, knows that you sign up for the good AND the bad. That trip to Disneyland was great wasn't it? It was complimentary wasn't it? That's the good. You portray yourself as a good family guy, then walk into a bar, POTENTIALLY make a mistake that is blown out of proportion? That's the bad.

Jon and Kate, you had so much potential. Now you just look like entitled sleazeballs desperate for the media spotlight not aware of the consequences. The stopwatch is ticking, and it shows your 15 minutes of fame at 14 minutes 59 seconds.

* For those of you who don't get the title, Rush was a Canadian band.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Movie Review: "Up"


Over the last 5 years, many people, after seeing the trailers for the summer blockbusters, say "Where is the originality?" It is easy for people to criticize a director or producer for not wanting to experiment with a new topic. Instead, many rehash books, remake movies, and create sequels/prequels for an original story. While I'm not going to delve into why this isn't a bad thing, I do want to praise Pixar for an achievement that continues their 10 movie run, going all the way back to Toy Story in 1995. The success is the thing that movie makers should study, namely (in my opinion), only putting out quality movies, instead of making a quick buck (see "The Hottie and the Nottie"). "Up" continues that tradition of breathtaking visuals, masterful storytelling, and touching your heart in places you didn't think could be touched (and I mean that sincerely).

"Up" could be viewed as a 3-part play, plus an epilogue. We start by meeting the young Carl Fredricksen, watching the old newsreels movie houses used to show before the film. He idolizes Charles Muntz, the famed adventurer and explorer who has traveled all over the world, yet was shamed through an apparent falsification in one of his discoveries. Carl seems just as scandalized as Muntz does, and as he walks home from the movie, he fantasizes about his own adventure, vowing someday to travel to South America like Muntz.

Carl meets his best friend, the women of his dreams, and she shares the same dream. They plan, and plan, and struggle (after finding out that they won't be able to have children), and plan, and wait, and plan, and finally, when Carl purchases the tickets, tragedy strikes.

End Act 1

We then meet Carl, an old curmudgeon if there ever was one. He wakes up early. He eats bran. He doesn't like the slick developer, with his fancy cell phone (I think Carl was jealous that he didn't have a Jitterbug). He has an altercation, and realizes that the big city isn't the place for him, and loads up his house with balloons and heads for South America, to Paradise Falls, to be like his hero. Yet Carl has a visitor. After struggling to make it to the place that he and his beloved had desired to plant their house, he makes it, and realizes he's spent his entire life wishing, and not enough doing.

End Act 2

I'm not one for superlatives, or over-praising a trendy movie, but "Up" was one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. And I loved "Ratatouille," I loved "Wall-E," "The Incredibles," and all the other 5 movies (in my opinion, "Cars" wasn't that good and it was too much of a product-selling ploy). The visuals make you forget its animated, yet want more. The humor is subtle and glaringly obvious, but not overdone. The story is one that will have an old, crotchety amateur movie reviewer giggle and smile like a little kid. And for some reason, that takes a lot. I like to get emotionally wrapped in my movies, as long as I can have a critical eye and examine the flaws. Yet "Up" forces you afterward to wonder about Carl, and yourself, and wonder if you're letting life pass you by because you're waiting for your "moment." It shows that everyone needs a friend, and everyone wants to be wanted.

I hope that the current trends on both and Rotten Tomatoes continue to give credit to this beautiful movie.

My Score - 94% - 9.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes - 98%
Eric D. Snider - A-