Archive for the ‘Sexiest People Alive’ category

Idol 2010: Your Top 12 girls, America

February 24, 2010

It’s that time again, isn’t it?

Frankly, I blew off last year’s entire season of American Idol, because I just couldn’t drag myself through the whole sordid ordeal again. Besides, was it going to get any better than Jordin Sparks? Most likely, not.

But it’s a new decade, and your Uncle Swan comes back refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to rock. Let’s see how quickly this season’s class of mediocre vocal talents can strangle all this enthusiasm out of me.

Listed below (in order of appearance on last night’s telecast, with the song performed by each) you’ll find the 12 female wannabes whom The Powers That Be at 19 Entertainment have chosen to inflict on us, and my impressions thereof after Week One of the competition. (Because, seriously, no one cares about anything that happened on the show before this week, aside from FOX and its advertisers. Except for the “Pants on the Ground” guy, and that fad lasted the entire 15 minutes it deserved.)

Ladies, if you please:

Paige Miles (“All Right Now”) — Paige has a great big voice, and (mostly) knows how to use it. I agree with Simon that this brassy rocker wasn’t the best choice of song, just because it’s harsh and belty and not well suited to displaying vocal range. But she’s certainly no worse than most of the contestants in this year’s distaff group. I’d like to hear her sing something that shows more softness and subtlety. And quickly, before she’s voted off. Which could be soon, but not as soon as…

Ashley Rodriguez (“Happy”) — Whew… not all that impressive. Her voice isn’t the grand, glorious instrument that Paige has — although she thinks it is — so she needs to avoid material that calls for that type of voice. There was just too much instability in the sound, not in terms of pitch, as much as in confidence, or lack thereof. She won’t be around long. I predict, however, that she will be around long enough to witness the exit of…

Janell Wheeler (“What About Love?”) — Ye gods. If you’re going to sing a song by Ann and Nancy Wilson, you’d better be able to bring it large. Janell? Can’t. Doesn’t belong here, period. Absolutely painful to listen to. She’ll be one of the early eliminations, if not indeed one of the very first two. Which is to say, she’s no…

Lilly Scott (“Fixing a Hole”) — Lilly is a tough call. I’m not crazy about her voice, and she picked a dreadful song (I loves me some Beatles, but that tune sucks swamp water, Sir Paul). Still, there’s something quirky and appealing about her sound, and her neo-hippie persona. I can’t see her winning the competition, but I could imagine some indie label wanting to market her CD. Even more, I could hear her oozing from the speakers at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks. Which is more than I can say for…

Katelyn Epperly (“Oh Darling”) — I agreed with Ellen on two specifics: Katelyn tends to oversing (she pushes her voice too hard, for you non-vocalists in the audience), and she’s interesting. She’s another one that I don’t think will get close to sniffing the finals, but she could stick around for a few weeks because she’s cute and perky and blonde. Like Frieda in Peanuts, she gets bonus points for naturally curly hair. Earning negative points tonight, on the other hand, is…

Haeley Vaughn (“I Wanna Hold Your Hand”) — Concluding the Beatles set on a self-consciously goofy, screechy, ultimately ridiculous note — that’s Haeley. I give her credit for trying to do something a little different, but there’s good different and there’s… well… what the devil was that? different. This, alas, was the latter. Fortunately for Haeley, she was followed to the stage by…

Lacey Brown (“Landslide”) — She was the last cut before the Top 24 last year, and if I recall accurately, the girl who edged her out hit the door before anyone learned her name. Lacey did nothing tonight to convince me that she deserved a second chance. Her version of “Landslide” would have Stevie Nicks turning in her grave like a rotisserie chicken in the supermarket deli, were it not for the fact that Stevie is still alive. Although, if she was watching Idol tonight, she might have died from embarrassment. Lacey’s a goner.

Michelle Delamor (“Fallin'”) — Michelle makes her living singing at corporate events, and her performance experience shows. She was the first contestant to take the stage tonight who both looked and sounded as though she knew exactly what she was doing here. That said, her overly polished style has the faint whiff of theme park tameness about it. I liked everything she did, then I completely forgot almost every element of it the moment she hit the wings. Could be a top contender if she can unleash some originality. Some edge. Some… something. But I’ll take Michelle any day over…

Didi Benami (“The Way I Am”) — I have to begin this by acknowledging that I find this woman annoying, simply on the basis of her affected, overly melodramatic personality. Even given that, I didn’t care for this performance at all. Worse, it put me to sleep. What was I talking about just then? Oh, yes…

Siobhan Magnus (“Wicked Game”) — I always dread it when someone on Idol busts out one of my favorite songs, because they murder it more often than not. This, however, was a lovely (apart from that first low note, which was beneath the lower end of Siobhan’s tessitura) rendition of the Chris Isaak classic — a song I wouldn’t have imagined a young female singer doing much justice. A pleasant surprise, and one that I quite enjoyed. She’s my second favorite of the night, right after…

Crystal Bowersox (“Hand in My Pocket”) — Crystal is the hidden talent in this year’s Idol class. She’s not trying to be anything but what she is, and that something is completely unlike anything any of the other girls are doing. Is that going to hurt her in the long run? I don’t know. It worked for Taylor Hicks. Then again, whatever happened to Taylor Hicks? The last I heard, he was road-tripping the rubber chicken circuit in a touring company of Grease. Is that the path Crystal wants to follow? We’ll see. (Note for next week: Lose the harp, unless you want to be busking on streetcorners again soon.)

Katie Stevens (“Feelin’ Good”) — With the exception of the aforementioned Ms. Sparks, I never like the kid singers on Idol. Katie’s no exception to that rule. Yes, she can sing, but in that sort of theatrical, too-old-for-her-britches way that pageant girls sing. There’s talent in there somewhere, but it’s talent I’d probably rather hear when she’s 27 than at 17. She’ll get a lot of the grandma votes, though, so expect her to survive for half the season, at least.

Taking what we’ve heard so far, Uncle Swan boldly predicts that the following six ladies will still be tripping the light fantastic with Seacrest and the crew at the halfway point: Crystal, Siobhan, Michelle, Katie, Katelyn, and Lilly.

Drop back in six weeks, and we’ll see how I did. But first, swing around tomorrow, and we’ll break down the 12 guys who are also vying for the title of American Idol 2010.

SwanShadow… out.


January 18, 2010

Yes, the clatter of keys you heard during last night’s Golden Globe Awards telecast was indeed yours truly typing notes. What follows represents my more cogent observations. (Lucky for you I edit out the blather.)

Ricky Gervais as host: Fail. Ye gods, man — penis jokes and endless plugs for your own DVD box set? How old are you? I usually find Gervais pretty funny, but this may have been the most excruciating awards show hosting job since David Letterman’s infamous “Oprah… Uma” turn at the Oscars. A little bit of I-don’t-give-a-fig shtick from a comic is okay, but not when said comic clearly doesn’t give a fig, for real.

Feel-good moment: Mo’Nique’s acceptance speech. Coming from someone who will probably never win another acting award in this lifetime, the happiness seemed genuine and heartfelt.

Winner who looked terrific when she usually doesn’t: Toni Collette. She should wear that same gold dress to every occasion, forever. Has anyone actually seen the show for which she won?

And the Miss Nepotism trophy goes to: Alfre Woodard’s daughter, Mavis Spencer. Every year at the Globes, the daughter (and 0n rare occasion, the son) of some well-known show biz personality gets assigned the task of handing the awards to the presenters, so they can in turn hand them to the victors. Past trophy-toters have included such future stars in their own right as Laura Dern, Joely Fisher, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Rumer Willis, who did the honors last year.

Making my daughter the Dexter fanatic giddy: Wins for Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow, from said series. Hall rocks a black knit cap, having recently lost his hair to chemotherapy.

Grizzly Adams sighting: No, wait, that’s William Hurt.

Funniest line of the night: Sir Paul McCartney, referring to himself as “that guy from Rock Band.” Good on ya, Macca. Sir Paul’s crack about animation being “not just for children, but also for adults who take drugs” was a close runner-up.

And the band played off: I love both Meryl Streep (Best Actress in a Comedy for Julie and Julia) and Pete Docter (director of Best Animated Feature winner UP!), but please, people, know when to shut up.

One ramble that worked: Robert Downey, Jr. (Best Actor in a Drama for Sherlock Holmes), who admitted that he didn’t prepare a speech because his wife “said Matt Damon would win.”

Put. The Ambien. Down.: That would be you, Harrison Ford. Are we keeping you up, grandpa? Or would just a little hint of enthusiasm kill you? By the way, your date needs a Double-Double from In-N-Out Burger on the way home.

Star whose attire came closest to a superhero costume: Drew Barrymore. Unfortunately, the superhero Drew channels is Maggott from the X-Men comics. Whose idea was it to sew gigantic leeches onto Drew’s dress? At least this year, she wore underwear.

Winner whose name will give the engraver the biggest chuckle: T-Bone Burnett (Best Original Song). I propose that every year, there should be at least one nominee named after a cut of beef.

Speaking of meat: Kevin Bacon wins.

I don’t want to be in the front row: When Gerard Butler is on stage. I’m afraid he’ll get spit all over me.

The only cat in America who can still rock velvet: Samuel L. Jackson. You go on with your bad self, Sam. Just stay off airplanes.

What is best in life: The Governator being assigned to introduce clips from a movie whose title he can’t pronounce. That “Ahbeedah” looks like a pretty good flick, though.

Winner who looked awful when she usually looks… well… awful: Chloe Sevigny. Don’t blame your escort, Chloe — given the chance, I’d have stomped on that hideous, oatmeal-hued monstrosity of a gown too. You’d have done better if you’d borrowed one of your fundie-Mormon frocks from the Big Love wardrobe department. You’re a fantastic actress, but hire a stylist.

Aw, yeah: Halle Berry. Can she just stand there for the entire show?

Lifetime Achievement Award: Martin Scorsese. I’m not a huge fan of his films — the only Scorsese pictures I really liked were After Hours and The Color of Money — but he’s a monumental directing talent who also seems like a genuinely nice man. James Cameron will never win one of these awards, because he’s an obnoxious, pompous jerk (or so I’m told by people who’ve worked on his set).

Cleans up nicely when she’s of a mind to: Jodie Foster.

Surprise of the night (at least to me): Glee wins for Best TV Comedy. Excellent show, and deserving, but not the sort of thing that usually wins awards (***cough***Mad Men***cough***).

Wondering out loud: How shallow is the nominee pool this year if Sandra Bullock wins an acting award?

The wrong guy to give an award after three hours of sitting at a table drinking: Jeff Bridges. ‘Nuff said.

The wrong guy to give an award, ever: James Cameron. And I say that as someone who, for the most part, enjoys his films — with the exception of Titanic, which apart from Kate Winslet is nearly unwatchable. Giving him honors, however, just encourages his egomania.

Oh, by the way, Jim: It’s the talented women who age well. The skeletal blondes, not so much.

What’s Up With That? #83: Cap’n Jack bests Cap’n Swan… again

November 18, 2009

For the umpteenth consecutive year, the editorial staff of People Magazine has seen fit to deny me my rightful title of Sexiest Man Alive.

Instead, they picked Johnny Depp again.

This seems a rather pointless exercise. Most of the women I know already think Johnny Depp is, if not the Sexiest Man Alive, at least somewhere in the top ten. The same goes for George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who are the other two gents who’ve double-dipped People‘s loftiest honor.

Why not tell the world something they don’t yet know, People?

After all, I too can talk like a pirate.

Sigh. Maybe next year.

Comic Art Friday: Witches and warlocks

October 30, 2009

Tomorrow is Hallowe’en — All Hallows’ Eve, if you don’t want want to get lazy about it — which makes today Hallowe’ene’en.

I’m not sure that designation will catch on, but I thought you’d want to know.

The Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock, pencils by Ron Adrian, inks by Bob Almond

This being Hallowe’ene’en and all, what could be more appropriate than a Common Elements artwork featuring a witch and a warlock? Not just any witch and warlock, of course, but the Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock — drawn here by the talented Brazilian penciler Ron Adrian and embellished by the man who puts the “king” in “inking,” Bob Almond.

The Scarlet Witch isn’t really a witch, of course, but a mutant with the power to alter probability. Nor is Adam Warlock really a warlock — that’s just his name. Much like Billy Warlock, who to the best of my knowledge is not an actual warlock either, just a soap opera actor.

Not being a real witch doesn’t make the Scarlet Witch any less cool. If anything, it makes her even more cool, because you have to be pretty cool to let people think you’re a witch when you’re really not. Sort of like Kristin Chenoweth, who, although famous for portraying a witch, is not an actual witch. Although she can sing an F above high C, and I’m fairly certain that you’d have to have supernatural powers to do that. So, she might be.

In similar fashion, not being an actual warlock doesn’t make Adam Warlock any less cool. Not being Billy Warlock, however, is pretty cool. Unless you’re Billy Warlock, in which case you’re stuck with it. Although Billy Warlock was married to Marcy Walker, which might have been kind of cool for a while. Then again, Marcy Walker has been married, like, five times, so it might not be all that cool after all.

A Common Elements commission starring the Scarlet Witch and Adam Warlock, however, is totally cool.

Even on Hallowe’ene’en.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

It’s only news if somebody cares

October 15, 2009

This just in from the world of music…

Country star Garth Brooks is ending his retirement.

At the same time, the Norwegian pop trio a-ha — best known for the ’80s hit “Take On Me,” and its influential video — is announcing its retirement.

Here’s the unfortunate news for these artists.

No one knew that Garth Brooks had retired…

…or that a-ha hadn’t.

Swayze goes Swayze

September 15, 2009

Even the legendary Dalton loses a fight once in a while.

The air grew a bit chill around me when I fired up the laptop last evening and read the news that Patrick Swayze had passed away at age 57. We all knew the moment was coming — we probably knew it more than a year and a half ago, when Swayze revealed that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — but while not unexpected, it was nevertheless sad.

Swayze went down battling. In the midst of life circumstances that would have cause many of us to cocoon at home to await the inevitable, Swayze completed an entire season of a physically demanding TV series. He appeared in public when his health permitted. He gave interviews. He talked openly about his fight, and his determination to win.

You think Chuck Norris is tough? Patrick Swayze smacked Chuck Norris in the mouth and stole his lunch money every day for 20 months.

If Swayze had made only three films — Road House, Dirty Dancing, and Ghost — he would have had a career that ninety percent of Hollywood would have gladly sacrificed their own pancreases (pancreii?) for. Most actors would kill for a single role that defined them as pop-cultural icons. Swayze had three.

Road House may be the most frequently broadcast movie in the history of basic cable. (Is there a night during the week when you can’t find it somewhere on the dial?) Dirty Dancing garnered Swayze an enduring image, an endlessly repeated tagline — “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” — and even a hit single… although the less said about “She’s Like the Wind,” the better. Ghost made Swayze’s name a hip-hop catchphrase. I doubt he collected a royalty every time some rapper said, “I’m Swayze,” but he should have.

Of course, Swayze made a ton of other films as well, in addition to his television work. But he’ll be remembered for this immortal trio.

Personally, I think Road House is one of cinema’s great disposable classics. It’s beyond ridiculous (come on… a heroic bouncer with a ludicrous hairdo? that only worked for Mr. T.), horrifically acted (from the expression-challenged Kelly Lynch to the scenery-gobbling Ben Gazzara to the host of bit players embodying every white trash stereotype known to man), and as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, but doggoned if it isn’t entertaining. How can a movie that features Jeff Healey’s incendiary blues guitar, a singing spotlight for the always delightful Kathleen Wilhoite, Sam Elliott being Sam Elliott, and a shirtless Swayze ripping out a man’s trachea with his bare hands not be entertaining?

I always liked the fact that Swayze — a serious and thoughtful man, by all accounts — maintained a sense of humor about himself. He famously poked fun at his own image in a Saturday Night Live sketch with Chris Farley, in which the unlikely duo played Chippendales wannabes. Swayze even popped up in an uncredited cameo in the dreadful Dirty Dancing sequel, Havana Nights.

Like the great Dalton, Patrick Swayze kept being nice until it was time to not be nice.

Unfortunately, the bad guys sometimes win.