April 19, 2012 § 15 Comments
So I was planning on publishing like five blog posts when I published those last two, and then I realized that they’d all be about The Voice, because apparently I have a lot of things to say about The Voice, like really a lot. So I decided to sketch those posts out and save them for after I’d written some non-Voice-related posts…except that that second part never happened. All week I thought about nifty things I could be writing for the amusement of all my (imaginary) followers and the proceeded not to write a single one of these things.
So you’re getting another post on The Voice. And because 65% of the entries on this blog end up being about people that I think are sexy — regardless of what my intended topic is in beginning the post — you’re getting also getting another “Look at this person I find attractive! LOOK!” entry. This one departs a little from my norm, though, in that it features a lady person. So straight men, lesbians, and other lady-lovers, congratulations! Sexy chick: ahoy!
But first I’m going to make you sit through some gushing about Adam Levine because, come on, his sweaters?! Adorbs.
In case you’re not sure who Adam Levine is, he’s one of the “coaches” on The Voice, and he’s the lead singer of Maroon 5, that band whose songs sound like sex. If you haven’t listened to one of their records all the way through (because midway you and your partner got…distracted) you might be familiar with some singles like “She Will Be Loved,” “Harder to Breathe,” “Makes Me Wonder,” and that mental parasite “Moves Like Jagger” (that song’s a catchy ringworm that squeezes its way into your brain).
I’ve always liked Maroon 5. Yes, with varying degrees of shame, I’ve always liked them. Maroon 5’s songs are catchy pop-rock with a sensual funk/jazz flavor, and their lyrics mix actually interesting figurative language (“The sex she slipped into my coffee”) with the straightforward: “It really makes me wonder if I ever gave a fuck about you.” Okay, so the latter is more common, but come on — that coffee line is pretty good stuff.
So while I’ve liked the band, my feelings about Adam Levine specifically have been a bit mixed. On the one hand, he writes sexy songs and looks like this:
On the other, he always seemed a bit sleazy to me — the kind of guy my friends and I might describe as an “STD grab-bag,” who not only knows what “manscaping” is but participates in it (photo above says “yes”). So I was always vaguely attracted to him, but I resented being attracted to him and felt like I had somehow gotten oil all over my body any time I thought of him.
But then I started watching The Voice and Adam began his campaign to win me over, which he did by being incredibly invested in the singers in the competition (especially but not only the ones he’s coaching), making jokes with Blake Shelton about how the two of them are in love, and wearing adorable sweaters.
And then hiding behind said adorable sweater when he doesn’t want to be mean and send someone home.
He’s such a shy little bunny!
Also, that above photo where he’s nude is an awareness ad for testicular cancer, and the hands belong to his (now ex) girlfriend, model Anne LongRussianName, so even that is now less vaguely unsettling.
But anyway, Adam — sextastic as I’ve come to think he is, what with his sweaters and his posing for Out magazine and his pro-queer rhetoric and his feminist-y comments to the media — is not the crush I’ve come here to talk about. I’m here to discuss Lindsey Pavao.
Lindsey is one of the contestants on The Voice this season and, in my opinion, one of the best ones. For her audition, she performed a cover of the Trey Songz tune “Say Aah,” which she had arranged herself and which essentially remade the song entirely, turning the beat-heavy hiphop song into The Weeknd meets Lily Allen meets the Antlers.
This has the audio for the full song and I think it’s worth a listen. I like this a lot better than the original.
At the time, Cee-Lo called Lindsey’s audition the most interesting thing to happen on the season so far. Since then, Lindsey trounced her Battle Round opponent on their duet of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” then two weeks ago gave an invigoratingly creepy performance of Gotye’s definitively excellent “Somebody that I Used to Know.”
Now that the live shows have arrived, the production value has risen exponentially. Instead of throwing the contestants onstage with some basic lighting changes that Kyle, the 10th grader who does the lights for the school musical, could pull off, Lindsey and the others now get fully choreographed routines complete with a half dozen to a dozen dancers (for one female performer, they were half-naked men, to Blake’s confusion/distraction), complex lighting effects, smoke, and help from wardrobe.
While I appreciate what they’re trying to do, I also think that producing each song likes it’s the VMAs sometimes distracts from the actual contestant singing and other times makes a nervous, inexperienced performer look very out of place amongst so many professionals. Sometimes, however, that VMAness works in tandem with the singer to elevate the song to an experience. That’s how Lindsey’s performance of “Somebody that I Used to Know” went that Monday night. When the music began, viewers couldn’t pick her out onstage amongst a crowd of dancers wearing creepy mime masks. Then Lindsey leaned out from their midst, totally in command, and her voice slid into the song with a spooky airiness and her signature slightly ragged tone. My poet side wants to say her voice “slunk” into the song, like a cat (that may or may not be an animagus and thus magical) slinks into a room. Lindsey has a slinking quality about her. In a good way.
After emerging from the line of terrifying mime-corpses, she then proceeded to own the gorram stage. That woman has presence. There’s a shyness to her that emanates as an enigmatic quality, and it only makes her more magnetic. Even after the performance, when the coaches were commenting and Adam noted that he liked it overall but wanted her to really blow it out more on the chorus, she just stood with her gaze slightly lowered, head tucked into her shoulder a bit, with this small smile that said she was totally in control and not at all bothered by the criticism of the smoking-hot Grammy winner 15 feet in front of her. (That I could be so composed; I run into furniture, counters, and doorhandles on a daily basis. I know they’re there, that knowledge simply doesn’t alter my course.)
Yes, her voice is beautiful — both strange and lovely — but Lindsey also has something else, call it what you will: “command,” “charisma,” “the ‘it’ factor.” And aiding her in cultivating this magnetism is the fact that she is damn sexy.
Really, really sexy.
There’s actually another part to the Lindsey story for me, in which I wanted her to do well even before I saw her audition or heard her voice: my brother knows her. My younger brother J currently attends the University of California, Davis, from which Lindsey just recently graduated. She happens to be dating one of J’s friends.
The first time J mentioned her was about 9 months ago and our conversation had nothing to do with The Voice, or singing. We were talking about how my brother is attracted to girls with short hair, like pixie cut short, and he said that the girls he thinks are really hot his friends often don’t quite get. As an example, he then mentioned a girl from Davis who had one half of her head shaved with the other half of her hair long; J and his roommate K both thought this girl was super hot, which their other friends found weird. There’s no accounting for (bad) taste, other friends.
I remembered that conversation because it isn’t every day you hear about a girl with half her head shaved — especially if this is somehow a good look. When it came up that a girl J knew was going to be on The Voice, he mentioned to me that this singer happened to have half her head shaved, I think so that I would be able to recognize her easily, but I immediately said, “Oh! The hot one?” to which he (vaguely surprised) replied in the affirmative.
I was excited. I was going to get to see the hot girl with the half-shaved head! Then Lindsey appeared on my computer monitor.
Hot damn. I did not realize what I was in for.
So yes, Lindsey shows up and she is FOXY. Oh yeah, and she went to UC Davis, so she’s obviously not a moron. And then it turns out she has a great voice and is actually an interesting artist? Aaaand then it turns out I have a crush on her.
Lindsey is hot. Really hot. It’s absurd how hot she is. Even more absurd than my being attracted to the same girl as my younger brother. (It’s going to be super awkward when he reads this blog post, isn’t it? Hi, J! Sorry about the awkward…)
(Side bar: I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog recently talking about men I find attractive, so it’s possible regular readers have assumed I’m straight. Meh, not quite.
I identify as pansexual (any time I say that I get blank stares), which basically means bi, except that I hate the term bisexual because it 1) perpetuates the notion that there are only two sexes and thus ignores the existence of trans and genderqueer people, and 2) in its reference to duality implies that the bisexual person is attracted to men and women equally, when I don’t think most people are. I’m certainly not.
I mostly subscribe to the Kinsey Scale notion of sexuality, which suggests that sexuality is a spectrum, not two poles of “gay” and “straight.” Some people may be “totally straight” or “totally gay” in that they are attracted to only one sex 100% of the time, but some people might be 80% attracted to women and 20% attracted to men. Trying to quantify it like that only works as an example; actual attraction is clearly not as simple as percentages. Kinsey tries to approximate this division of attraction with a scale beginning at 0 (stone cold hetero) and ending at 6 (flaming queer), but I think you catch my drift. I slide toward the heterosexual end of the scale; I’m primarily attracted to men. Primarily, but not always. Like in Lindsey’s case. End of explanation/lecture.)
This is why not in Lindsey’s case:
So to recap: Lindsey has a really cool, strange, vaguely creepy singing voice, which I adore, that is also super sexy, which I am totally on board with.
After her audition, Lindsey disappeared from my TV until her Battle duet/sing-off with some guy I’ve already forgotten. They covered Nirvana’s “Heart-shaped Box” (Lindsey covered it in sexy; random dude covered it in blah — yay puns!)
During the video coverage for her Battle, Lindsey sang well, liked Nirvana, made pretty interesting comments (considering the bank of cliches contestants seem to pull from when they’re talking on shows like this), and was generally adorable. Oh yeah, and her hair looked awesome during rehearsal.
I just love her braid-bun hairdo here — I think it’s gorgeous; I wish I ever did anything that interesting with my hair. Until I was 15, I didn’t even wear it in a ponytail, I just wore it down. All the time. All the time. (It was long, it hid my face, I had self-esteem issues, moving on.) The one confusing thing about being attracted to people of your own sex is that sometimes you can’t figure out if you are more attracted to them or jealous of them. It’s a mind-bamboozling rush of “Ah! I want to look like you!” and “Ah! I want to kiss you!” Not for the faint of heart…
So, as for the Battle: Lindsey did a fine job with Nirvana, securing her place in the live shows and returning my heart rate to normal, and then for the first live show week she sang “Somebody that I Used to Know” by Gotye, which I think is a great song on its own. Add Lindsey and it’s like putting chocolate on my pretzels: sweet and salty and ohmygosh delicious! (Now I’m hungry…) Gotye’s original version is great, and his music video is pretty interesting too.
So anyway, Lindsey sings Gotye, and she wears this:
She stomps around the stage being badass and having a sick voice and generally looking hot as all hell. My parents told me later they thought she had the best performance of the night; I thought that she definitely had one of the best performances and at the very least looked hotter than everyone else. Even Adam. And have you seen Adam?
Mmm. But still, during the live show Adam wasn’t wearing his sweater, and the fierce singer with the sharp grey eyes captured my attention.
Then, this past Monday, The Voice quarterfinals aired. Lindsey sang Katy Perry’s “Piece of Me” (thing I just learned: I don’t know how to spell Katy Perry’s name, which I feel sort of proud about) and was generally badass, although the song is a bit “eh” in my opinion.
Oh yeah, and she looked awesome. Her costumes are pretty much just better than the stuff the other contestants wear.
Because The Voice is all about my not getting bored, they had a surprise instant elimination at the end of Monday’s show in which each coach who’d had singers perform had to eliminate one of their team members on the spot. Brutal. Fast moving. The excellent opposite of Idol’s dragging-on-forever-how-is-that-person-still-here (non-)eliminations. Point for The Voice.
Christina Aguilera is Lindsey’s coach and I was really afraid she’d send Lindsey home because the other three performers on her team are very showy — big, big voices. There’s opera singer Chris Mann (whom I actually quite like), middle-aged soulful singer Jesse Campbell (who is technically very good but who just doesn’t excite me), and pop-princess wannabe Ashley DellaRosa or something like that (who has a good voice but whom I just find bo-ring. She sounds like every other pop diva on the radio, only with less personality — though she has been improving lately.) To the shock of people who actually give a shit about this show, Christina eliminated Jesse Campbell, who these giving-a-shit people, including the other coaches, had dubbed a frontrunner. Whatever, Lindsey was safe!
Then the live eliminations of Tuesday rolled around. Each coach had three singers. America voted (like on Idol) and the singer from each team with the most votes was safe, while the other two had a “last chance” to sing for their coach, at which point the coach would save one and send one home.
Opera man Mann did a mostly entertaining if not terribly interesting Coldplay cover on Monday night, which America apparently liked because he got the most votes, leaving Lindsey and her quiet weirdness to battle the pop belter.
Ashley Pop Singer sang an engaging if predictable version of Gaga’s “You and I,” while Lindsey followed with a performance of Mike Posner’s “Please Don’t Go,” which was at turns quiet, sly, powerful, desperate, and just generally fucking moving (can you tell I’m getting into this?). Though she managed to finish with some lovely final notes, Lindsey was in tears by the end, and so was I. And so was her coach, Christina.
A few agonizing minutes later, Christina restarted my heart by announcing that she was saving Lindsey and sending Ashley home. I cried. Then I cheered. In my living room, alone.
So here’s the moral of this rather meandering story: Lindsey Pavao is talented and also a FOX, so you should support her on The Voice (though it is not on FOX, but rather NBC, to clarify) because apparently I care a lot more about this show than I thought I did, since I was in tears watching her perform/when I thought she was going to be eliminated.
Next week Adam and Cee Lo’s teams are competing, so Lindsey and the rest of Team Xtina (and Team Blake) get a reprieve, but in two weeks, it’s the semifinals. Help me keep my heart rate manageable: vote for Lindsey. You can vote on Facebook. You don’t even need to use one of those old-fashioned “telephone” things. Hell, you don’t even need to watch the show. On Monday April 30, after 10 pm (but before 10 am on May 1), just go to The Voice’s Facebook page and click to vote for Lindsey like 10 times. It’s easy, it’ll help my mental health, and let’s be honest, you’ll be on Facebook anyway.
And according to my brother/the imaginary friendship with her I’ve created in my head, Lindsey is a pretty cool person in real life. Plus, how can you resist this face?
April 4, 2012 § 4 Comments
I recently started watching The Voice on NBC. Or rather, on Hulu, but they tell me it’s made by NBC. This is the televised singing competition judged by Christina Aguilera, the guy from Maroon 5, some handsome country singer, and That Guy Wearing a Cape.
To elaborate, from left to right, we have:
1) Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, known for his sex-heavy lyrics, his tattoos, and those Adult ADD commercials he’s doing now
2) Christiana “I was totes on the Mickey Mouse Club with Britney and JT and Baby Goose before I became a superstar” Aguilera
3) Cee-Lo Green, half of Gnarls Barkley and the slick pipes and sharp wit behind the best breakup song of all time, “Fuck You” (on the coaches’ voice-over intros on The Voice, Carson Daly refers to this song as “Forget You” — the title of the radio-friendly censored/neutered version that basically destroys the song. When Gwyneth Paltrow sang “Forget You” on Glee, I wanted to punch her in the mouth even more than I normally want to punch her in the mouth.)
4) Blake Shelton, apparently a super famous country singer who is married to another super famous country singer
“But isn’t The Voice just a rip-off of American Idol?” you ask, from which the follow-up question for people who know me is “Why are you watching it?!” Often people say this because they know I hate American Idol. Sometimes they say this because they think television other than Mad Men is a waste of time (I watch Mad Men, too!) or they think anything that needs electricity to run is inherently abhorrent (I have a poet friend who is a fairly hard-core luddite, and super pretentious about it, too, which is obviously the best part…there are downsides to having super arty friends.)
And yes, I hate American Idol. Why are they still searching for the next American Idol when they already found him? (I heart you Adam Lambert.) But yeah, watching American Idol makes me feel physically ill (true story). It’s basically a televised celebration of mediocrity, judged by the astonishingly dull (and Steven Tyler). Seriously, Randy Jackson is so predictable that they could put a giant brown teddy bear in his seat and play a recording of him saying, “I dunno, I wasn’t really feelin’ it dawg,” and no one would notice the difference.
Unlike that Neilsen juggernaut, however, The Voice doesn’t actually have “judges,” it has “coaches.” This is actually a significant difference because each of the four coaches personally chooses singers for her/his team and then works with them each week, setting up each contestant to battle the singers from the other coaches’ teams. Or that’s what eventually happens. First, there is a series of “Battle Rounds” in which two members from a given team sing a duet, then their coach chooses the singer he/she prefers and sends the other one home.
That’s one of the great things about this show: they’re always getting rid of people left and right. Sweet; I’m not interested in the average performers. During each of the four weeks of “battles,” half the singers go home, and then during the initial “live shows,” viewers vote (like on Idol) to keep half the singers, while each judge can save one remaining person from being kicked off the show (so to tally, that ultimately means that a third of the people go home from each of these live shows).
I know. That was confusing. That’s one thing about The Voice: it’s not dull because nearly every week they change how people get kicked off/kept, so you’re too busy trying to keep up with the gorram rules to get too bored. After the initial audition weeks in which the coaches pick their teams, the show progresses as follows:
Battles (4 weeks): 6 out of 12 singers kept each week
Initial live shows (2 weeks): 8 out of 12 kept each week
More live shows: unspecified number go home each week
Thus, over the course of six weeks, they go from 48 performers to 16. Mitt Romney would be excited by that rate of dismissals. After they’ve whittled the pool down to 16, I’m not sure how many people they’ll let go each week because I just started watching this shit and I’m just happy to have understood the rules up to this point, but eventually someone wins, and that person’s coach gets bragging rights through the next season, while all the other coaches get the right to whine about the winning coach’s bragging rights.
Each of these coaches brings his or her own flair to the show — and I’m talking flair, not the personas American Idol judges have, like “The Mean One,” “The Female One, i.e. The Nice One,” or “Steven Tyler.” I mean, Steven’s fun, what with his outfits that look like he found them in a dumpster in 1978, but The Voice has more than one sartorially entertaining celeb.
Christina dresses like Wet Seal and Bebe threw up,
wears rhinestoned cocktail coasters on her head,
treats her breasts like flotation devices that won’t work if they aren’t exposed to air,
and appears to live in Barbie’s Dream House,
complete with a Diva Throne.
But while Xtina has some crack-tacular outfits, Cee-Lo isn’t satisfied with her brand of trashy glamour. He goes for full-on Spectacle.
He wears pink satin pajama suits during the day for his important meetings and rehearsals, the same way other people wear, you know, suits.
He wears what seems to be the red sequined version of the above ensemble for performing with the other coaches…
…and in celebration of the first live show, he wore a wig and whatever else this is:
Look at the sleeves!
That is some intense fringe. I adore this man.
The biggest star on The Voice, however — other than Christina’s breasts — is a furry companion of Cee-Lo’s.
This is Purrfect the cat (no, I am not shitting you; that is the cat’s actual name). Cee-Lo brings him/her out for all of his chats with the camera, stroking the cat Dr. Evil-style. Or to be more historically correct, Blowfeld-style. (I deeply impressed a professor of mine a few weeks ago when I immediately and easily answered his question about what character Dr. Evil is parodying. I was raised on James Bond; my dad is so proud right now.)
While Cee-Lo and Christina are metaphorical disco balls, Blake Shelton spends his time wearing vaguely Western-looking shirts, saying “y’all,” making wisecracks, and being sweet to the contestants, while Adam Levine waits for the female portion of the audience to stop screaming every time he talks and then similarly makes wisecracks and says sweet things to the contestants, only while wearing more rocker-ish ensembles and without saying “y’all.” Adam and Christina also bicker like children. Children that want to do each other. Anyway…
I failed to mention earlier that the coaches choose their team members through the Blind Auditions, so called because singers preform onstage while the coaches’ backs are turned, and if a coach likes what she/he hears and wants that person on his/her team, the coach pushes a button and the chair turns around to face the performer. If only one coach turns around, the singer automatically joins that coach’s team, but if more than one chair turns, the contestant gets to choose which coach they want to work with.
The Blind Auditions’ force the coaches to judge based on voice rather than looks whether they like it or not (this doesn’t last, though; image comes into play later when the contestants are competing against each other, though that seems fair to me since music is a business, and the audience at a concert doesn’t watch with their eyes closed). Partly due to this limiting of first impressions to voice alone rather than voice plus appearance, along with each of the coaches’ having a distinct individual style, The Voice is populated by singers much more varied, unique, and even strange than the regular cast of Idol characters. Opera singer Chris Mann is learning to adapt his killer chops to other genres, while contestants like Charlotte Sometimes, Erin Martin, and Lindsey Pavao have weird and wonderful voices that actual sound unusual.
So despite the fact that it’s hosted by life-size plastic doll Carson Daly — who would give white bread a run for its money in a Contest for the Exceedingly Dull — I’ve found The Voice to be an entertaining, quirky show that features singers with actually interesting talent and coaches with idiosyncrasies galore.
The Voice: like American Idol, only interesting.
December 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
No, that’s not a reference to Battlestar Galactica.
It is, in fact, a verse from Ecclesiastes. It simply means that thousands of years ago, God knew that by the twenty-first century, humans would be plum out of ideas and would start remaking existing things up the wazoo.
Remaking something bad into something awesome (a la Battlestar) makes sense; remaking Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with someone other than Gene Wilder should get you sent to pop culture jail. Yes, even you, Johnny Depp. And maybe if you’re incarcerated for a while you’ll stop making Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
The new A-Team movie is based on a TV show from so long ago, it doesn’t even exist according to Hollywood. I mean, they’re already rebooting Spider-man, and while I support the production of any movie with Emma Stone, Spider-man 3 came out less than 5 years ago. Granted, it was a flaming train-wreck of awful, but I vividly remember going to see it. Hollywood, on the other hand, now has the memory of a goldfish, which (according to my Snapple top) is only three seconds long.
But I digress: this new A-Team movie exists, and I watched it. Alone. On purpose. This was not like the time I was sick and accidentally watched all of 27 Dresses despite the following: 1) I dislike “chick-flicks” more often than not and won’t watch just any rom-com. I’ll admit to actually liking The Notebook (probably due to Ryan Gosling’s magic power of never being in a bad movie. Seriously, watch any of his movies, even the ones from when he was like 19: not one of them sucks. Come on, man, be human for a moment) but other than that I’ve been hoping that Nicholas Sparks will be murdered in a creative way and then someone can make a movie about that that’ll be far better than any based on his god-awful books. 2) I severely dislike James Marsden. Not to be confused with James Marsters, who is a compact, bleached-blonde pillar of pure awesome. 3) I hate Katherine Heigl with the fiery passion of 100 gay suns. But apparently I was tired/ill/not-giving-a-crap enough to watch the entire thing.
What, you ask, would prompt me to watch The A-Team? For a while now, my best friend S has been telling me I should watch it. He and I like all of the same movies, television, and music, so I trust his recommendations, and his description of this film in particular really piqued my interest.
“Have you watched the A-Team?” he asked me.
“No. I heard it was bad.”
“It’s bizarre. It’s like two movies stitched together. One of them is this ultra generic, terribly written action movie and the other is a tongue-in-cheek action film with all these smart comedic moments — and there are too many of them for it to be accidental. Someone wrote these jokes on purpose.”
He also mentioned that The A-Team breaks one of the cardinal rules of film directing, or at least mainstream film directing: the characters talk all over each other. Multiple characters speak at once, saying different things, and the crisp break marking the transition from one person’s line to the other is absent. In real life, of course, people interrupt each other and overlap their speaking all the time, but in mainstream film and television, that aspect of realism is usually reigned in so that the audience can make out what the frak is being said.
S’s description left me intrigued, and considering that The A-Team stars Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper, along with Sharlto Copley, I was pretty willing to watch it anyway. While the South African actor hasn’t been in too many films, I really liked Sharlto Copley in District 9, and he happens to remind me of Jackie Earle Haley — something about how they both play mentally unsteady really well? — whom I adore (Little Children is one of my favorite films, and in it Haley gives a complex, heartbreaking performance as a sex offender returning to live with his mother after being released from prison. Also, Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson get naked if that appeals to you more than pedophiliac sex offenders).
I’ve mentioned my love for Bradley Cooper before, and I’ve actually liked him since he was in this WB show from the early 2000s called Jack and Bobby, which was about two brothers named (in a shocking twist) Jack and Bobby, one of whom grows up to become President, but somehow these brothers are not the Kennedys. It did not make a lot of sense as a show, but at the time I was willing to try out pretty much anything on the WB. I was still watching Smallville on purpose.
In Jack and Bobby, B-Coop played a graduate student who has a (romantic/sexual) relationship with his older professor and who was an adorable relief from the complete confusion that was the show’s larger story arc. Then, a few years later, he was hilarious in Failure to Launch alongside Zooey Deschanel and Justin Bartha (whom I adore in the National Treasure movies — “This car smells weird” — which I don’t particularly like in themselves). Failure to Launch is actually an enjoyable movie, provided you skip all the scenes with Matthew McConnaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. So, the entire main plot. And then there’s The Hangover, which I will proudly say is one of my favorite movies of all time, which leads others to have conversations about me like the following:
Best friend K: Yeah, she’s obsessed with The Hangover.
K’s Friend: I thought she went to Stanford.
Sooo yeah. As for Liam Neeson, I’ve never not loved him, though I did find it distracting that he voices Aslan in the new Narnia movies. I’ve only seen the first one, but the entire time I kept thinking, “Liam Neeson is Jesus!”
About 1/3 of The A-Team is a great movie, but that 1/3 is scattered throughout the entire film, so it’s not like you can watch the first 30 minutes and then turn it off, like most Ricky Gervais movies (I want back the two hours I spent watching The Invention of Lying with my dad. That movie was so dull, a piece of my soul disintegrated like a Cheeto that Ricky Gervais sat on — before the weight-loss).
The good lines in The A-Team are not doled out equally, however. Many of the things that come out of Bradley Cooper’s mouth are gold. Nothing that comes out of Liam Neeson’s mouth is. Sorry, Liam. As the boss, the writers apparently needed him to explain in very overwrought language everything that the movie should simply have been implying. One thing audiences always love is being talked down to. Then again, Jack and Jill made $25 million its opening weekend, so clearly stupid is the new black. (Well, it probably has been for a while…)
The movie’s opening sequence of 15 or so minutes takes place 8 years before the rest of the story and exists as exposition establishing what to expect from each character and how such wildly varied personalities coexist. We learn:
Liam Neeson is a badass with a heart (he doesn’t shoot the dogs that are attacking him, which I appreciate). Also, a cigar.
Bradley Cooper will sleep with your wife and then say a lot of snarky things (assuming “you” are a Mexican drug lord).
The New Mr. T really likes his tricked-out van, and he doesn’t like flying. At all.
Sharlto Copley is a brilliant pilot but also certifiably insane. The team goes to pick him up from the psychiatric wing, from which he has escaped, allowing him to pretend to be a doctor and extract the bullet from New Mr. T’s arm, then sew up the wound with a bunch of stitches in the shape of a lightning bolt. Clearly Sharlto and New Mr. T will have some relationship tension to come.
Fast forward eight years. Near the beginning of the main section of the film, Hannibal (Neeson) and his crew have a school-yard name-calling match with their equivalent bad-guy crew, introducing the audience to villain Head Douchebag. The tussle ends with Head Douchebag spitting, “Yeah, well I make more money than you!” and Hannibal basically saying that money can’t buy cool.
Oh, and by the way, by “school yard,” I mean “Army encampment in Iraq.” Patrick Wilson is also there, as a mysterious CIA agent whose most pressing mystery seems to be what he is doing there, as Wilson stands around awkwardly flicking his eyes around for most of the scenes in Iraq. At times he also puts on and takes off his sunglasses. He’s been watching a lot of CSI: Miami.
Oh yeah, and Jessica Biel shows up as an Army captain whose actual job is incredibly vague but seems to consist of bitching out Face (Bradley Cooper) because they used to date and I guess it ended badly. I found myself saying, during their first interaction and then about every fifteen minutes until the movie’s close, why is Jessica Biel in this movie? The romantic subplot only receives lip-service
though it does allow the writers to give Bradley Cooper all the bad lines poor Liam spends so much time trying to make work, so Face may get some of the best lines in the film, but he also gets the most pathetic (and pathetically written) laying-my-heart-out-for-you scene. In a photobooth. Yeah.
In terms of plot, it’s basically this: the Team gets framed for a crime they didn’t commit (theft, murder, and insubordination, the last probably being the worst in Army think, if the murder wasn’t of their commanding officer) and are consequently stripped of their ranks and incarcerated in separate prisons (and one mental hospital).
Mysterious CIA Agent Patrick Wilson shows up again, acting more focused and less like a rabbit during Rabbit Season, perhaps because he gets to wear a suit instead of body-armor. He helps break Liam Neeson out of jail, and Liam/Hannibal frees the other Team members in amusing ways. Face, for example, has obtained an (upright? Is that a thing?) tanning booth in prison, and Hannibal wheels him out inside the tanning booth, while he’s pounding on it and yelling, which obviously no guards would notice. Baracus (New Mr. T) gets sprung from a moving prison transport van, and Murdock (Sharlto Copley) rejoins the team after they drive a van through the wall of his hospital, perfectly timed with a 3-D movie the patients are watching of a van driving at them.
The Team then set about trying to clear their names by catching the real killer/thief/traitor to the Armed Forces, which leads to their abandoning a burning airplane, inside a tank, which they then fly by taking advantage of the backward momentum provided by firing the tank’s guns.
Because this movie is this movie, the Team survives to fight another day. For the rest of the film, Jessica Biel shows up intermittently (why is she in this movie?) and Patrick Wilson is revealed to be the real bad guy, with Head Douchebag just a lower-level bad guy, if extremely violent and probably unhinged. As it becomes more and more clear that the Mysterious CIA Agent is the true villain, his character’s lines get better and better.
When he springs Head Douchebag from Jessica Biel’s custody, she yells about how the CIA doesn’t have any rules. Patrick Wilson responds, “The CIA has rules. Our rules are just cooler than yours.”
In order to demonstrate that Mysterious CIA Agent is a desk-jockey without experience in the field, the screenwriters give him a bunch of (pure gold) lines comparing real live violence to video games.
“Wow, that looks just like Call of Duty!“
The screenwriters, probably inadvertently, turn him into a hilarious commentator on the effects of our society’s violence-suffused entertainment culture (video games, action movies…) and of technological advancements in warfare that allow soldiers to be detached from the real people that they’re killing.
Twists are revealed, snark is snarked, Bradley Cooper’s naked torso is gloried in, things are blown up, and the movie progresses exactly as you expect it would, only with much smarter lines from Patrick Wilson than I could have dreamed considering his first five scenes in the movie. When it ended, I felt that I had been (intermittently) very entertained, but I mostly felt confused about the fusion of wit with terribly overwrought and clichéd language.
S, who first recommended this movie to me, voiced his desire to watch films written by the three screenwriters responsible for The A-Team and figure out which one was secretly brilliant and which simply sucked. It turns out that 1/3 of the team responsible for writing the Team is actually the actor playing Head Douchebag, and has never written a film before. The second 1/3 is the director for The A-Team, who has previously written Smokin’ Aces and Smokin’ Aces 2, among other things I’ve never heard of — though he’s apparently writing Liam Neeson’s upcoming action-thriller The Grey, which I like to think of as Liam Neeson vs. Wolves. Since he directed this hot mess, I just don’t see him being responsible for it’s small percentage of good parts, since he could have theoretically made it all good parts. The final screenwriter previously wrote Thursday (which I’ve never heard of), Swordfish (which is maybe theoretically good? All I have ever heard about the movie is that Halle Berry is topless in it), Hitman, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and is the in midst of writing Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard and two other movies.
I’m guessing, then, that the actor playing Head Douchebag (Brian Bloom) is the writer who is secretly hilarious — he does act pretty well and is sufficiently creepy and douchebaggy in the movie. So Brian, I look forward to more from you as a writer; hopefully the blog post required from your next film will be unequivocal praise, rather than the written equivalent of shrugging your shoulders and saying, “Eh?” while pointing to a picture of Liam Neeson and/or Bradley Cooper.