American Idol: Chastize me over Elvis Presley’s grave

As guest blogger, I will open in the only way I should: by offering my sincerest apologies for not getting the blog for last night’s “American Idol” completed in a more timely fashion. I’ve been battling an allergy attack since yesterday (the result, I feel certain, of all the dust I kicked up in my office while scouring the joint for tax receipts), and, quite frankly, I feel like crap. But I know Mike’s got a lot going on these days, what with his big move and all, so I was always going to do this for him. I just had to build up my strength, which I have now done, so with my cup of hot lemon tea with honey sitting by the keyboard, let’s get to talking about who got the boot.

Things kicked off last night with a medley of Elvis Presley songs – “Burning Love,” “Teddy Bear,” “Return to Sender,” and “Viva Last Vegas” – which neither did damage to the reputation of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll nor did it any favors. The best part about “Burning Love” was the cute moment where we saw Katie working her knees for all they were worth, and Lee’s vocals on “Teddy Bear” sounded like those of a lounge singer, but I actually kind of dug it. Otherwise, though, I was pretty underwhelmed by the performances, and when “Viva Las Vegas” kicked off, all I could think of was how much better the Dead Kennedys did the song.

From there, the program went green for a minute or so as we were treated to a Ford-sponsored commercial with several of the contestants performing a version of…wait for it…the Polyphonic Spree’s “Light and Day / Reach for the Sun.” How completely and utterly surreal, but it sounded a damned sight better than any of those Elvis covers.

Moving on to the first of the night’s departures, Cap’n Seacrest narrowed down the playing field to three contestants:

* Casey, whose version of “Lawdy Miss Claudy” Mike described as “not bad at all vocally, but just a so-so rating on the entertainment meter.”
* Aaron, who offered a take on “Blue Suede Shoes,” which Mike called “cheesy but not horrible.”
* Andrew, who Mike buried in the Not So Good column last night, saying, “It wasn’t awful, but not at all star quality and easily the worst of the night.”

So long, Andrew…and, really, was there ever any doubt that you’d be one of the two players leaving the game tonight? But, hey, at least we got your version of James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” as a farewell, which served to remind us that, all things considered, America probably made the right decision.

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American Idol: paying homage to the King, sort of

Last night’s episode of “American Idol” was mercifully 90 minutes instead of the usual 120, meaning the judges’ snarky comments and Ryan Seacrest’s annoying banter were kept to a manageable minimum. After Crystal led off, it all kind of was just, as Simon would suggest, like bad karaoke. Of course, they propped up a few that didn’t deserve it, but really, this is still Crystal’s competition to lose now. And the guest mentor? Adam Lambert. Remember him? Here is the recap:

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American Idol: was that necessary?

Last night’s episode of “American Idol” was kind of a waste of our time. They do the early auditions in seven cities and then throw in an eighth episode for fluff before Hollywood week begins. Anyway, what they did last night was show some more of the really good and really bad auditions that they did not show over the course of this past month. And while it really was not necessary, they aired it, so we’re gonna write about it.

They began by recapping Larry Platt’s “Pants on the Ground” phenomenon, with Ryan Seacrest tooting the show’s horn as usual and how they made the whole thing into a phenonmenon. Then it was on to the rest of the auditions, and here were some of the highligts and lowlights…..

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Happy birthday, Dick

So, yesterday was Elvis Presley’s birthday and today is the birthday of his old partner in the war against drugs, President Richard Milhous Nixon.

Because of Watergate and Vietnam, and possibly also because in so many respects he still can seem like a central casting villain, Nixon gets depicted in movies a lot more than presidents you’d think we’d like to see on screen more often.  Want to see a movie about George Washington? Well, there was David Gordon Green’s “George Washington,” but our nation’s first president wasn’t exactly a character. Nixon, on the other hand, has been depicted in starring roles in numerous theatrical and TV movies by, among other, Frank Langella, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Baker Hall, and even Beau Bridges. Nixon was even portrayed by comedian Chuck McCann as Oliver Hardy to Vice President Spiro Agnew’s Stan Laurel in a 1972 ultra-ultra-obscure comedy called “Another Nice Mess.” (You may know writer-director Bob Einstein as TV’s Marty Funkhouser and/or Super Dave Osborne. ) If I could find a clip, I’d definitely feature it here but the film has apparently been secreted somewhere, perhaps in Dick Cheney’s man-sized safe.

In any case, my favorite portrayal of Nixon is by the great Dan Hedaya in the title role of Andrew Fleming’s underrated little 1999 comedy, “Dick.” One thing the film gets right is the innate humor of Nixon’s situation — a man with almost no sense of humor whatsoever (always hilarious) who was also the least hip man in America, president at a time when hipness was at a kind of premium.

Nice supporting cast in this one, huh?

  

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Viva Elvis and Ann

Yesterday was Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday. It’s a matter of agreement that most of his films weren’t very good on the whole, largely due to Col. Tom Parker’s insistence on sticking to tame vehicles that wouldn’t risk offending  fans. Still, not all the films are bad and many have fine moments.

“King Creole” and “Jailhouse Rock” have their devotees, but my favorite is “Viva Las Vegas.” Directed by the somewhat underrated George Sidney (“Bye Bye Birdie,” “Scaramouche“), it has a great deal of style and some decent humor on its side. More important, it’s got Ann Margaret, a performer who was every bit Elvis’s match and then some in every department except singing, though she wasn’t bad there either. Guys don’t usually squeal when they see a sexy female performer, but if they were ever going to do that, it would have been for Ms. Margaret in the early-to-mid sixites. (“Mad Men” viewers will know about this.)

Moreover, Elvis and Ann Margaret had real screen chemistry together and, in a probably not unrelated fact, had a real life romance that prompted rumors of marriage. Here, they exchange pleasantries around the pool of what I’m guessing is either the Flamingo or the Tropicana.

Their feelings are a bit more mutual here.

  

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