Season 10 of “American Idol” is in the books. But before we get to the result, let’s talk about how bad the performances on the show were overall, in rapid-fire fashion….
The Top 13 performed Lady GaGa’s “Born This Way,” and we all expected GaGa to come out and join them, but she didn’t. Oh, but the performance was awful, and why do they make them wear all white like the Good Humor Man for these group numbers?
Though he was a rich man, an underrated singer in his own right, and the co-founder of Capitol Records, Johnny Mercer is, 34 years after his death, nowhere near as famous as the author of such brain-burrowing mid-century lyrics as “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “That Ol’ Black Magic,” “Satin Doll,” “Laura,” and “Moon River” really should be. Lyricists rarely get the respect composers do. Moreover, Mercer worked primarily in Hollywood, which in his day meant more money but less prestige than writing songs for Broadway. That’s show business.
“Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s on Me” suffers slightly from the ill-fitting inclusion of some new material featuring super jazz fan and executive producer Clint Eastwood chatting with film composer John Williams and others, but overall, this TCM documentary written by Ken Barnes and directed by Bruce Ricker is a massively engaging documentary look at Mercer’s often surprising career. The 90-minute film efficiently covers his personal riches-to-(not quite)-rags-to-greater-riches story and tumultuous personal life, including a lifelong affair with Judy Garland, but wisely focuses on the music and takes full advantage of some priceless archival footage. Performances and interviews featuring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards, Ray Charles, a young Barbara Streisand, a middle-aged Bono, and new performances by Jamie Cullum, Dr. John and others (seen in their entirety on the DVD bonus disc), beautifully illustrate Mercer’s gifts and chart his extraordinary influence. An obvious labor of love, “The Dream’s On Me” is not exactly great filmmaking but it’s got great taste and is a must for fans of great popular music.
* This year’s Oscar producers have been named: choreographer turned critically-hated film director turned “Hairspray” wunderkind Adam Shankman and industry mainstay Bill Mechanic. Nikki Finke is happy and, really, isn’t that all that matters? That’s not the only gig for Shankman, who will also be directing the film version of the eighties-centric hair-band musical “Rock of Ages.” I’ve run across one or two hair bands I don’t completely hate, but this does not excite me. The period juke box musical I’m waiting for features Elvis Costello, the Clash, X, and maybe some early Ben Folds. I’ll call mine “Clubland.”
* Anne Thompson rakes the muck on the Hollywood Film Festival. Fascinating. I have my doubts about L.A. ever getting a really world-class festival, and this one sure doesn’t seem to be helping.
* I caught up with “Zombieland” last night and managed not to become overly upset at the gore. (I have this whole issue with excess blood and ick, yet also like the kind of stuff that sometimes features excess blood and ick — it’s a conflict.) Still, I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand why people enjoy being disgusted. I find being disgusted disgusting.
Otherwise, it was nicely paced, slightly poignant, and very funny, thanks to a nice and cleverly profane dialogue, decent writing, and a good cast. Unlike Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker, however, I found the movie enjoyable but a little thin, especially during the second half. Some of the most ballyhooed aspects (the superstar cameo, which Dave didn’t love either) were less hilarious than I expected, however. I’m surprised we haven’t heard about a sequel yet as in some ways plays more like a well-produced TV pilot than anything else.
* Not that he hasn’t earned the right to be astonishingly wealthy as much as any human can, but how rich must Steven Spielberg be? I mean, if someone owed you a few hundred million bucks would you be all, like, “ah, that’s okay — you can wait until 2017. Just give me a 5.25% share of your income. I’ll be cool.” And, according to La Finke, the language of the contract refers to him as “Steven.” I know Hollywood loves first names, but it’s a contract. Aren’t those supposed to be formal?
* It’s not really movie news at this point, but speaking of musicals this musical lover never asked for, the Bono/Edge Spiderman musical directed by Julie Taymor continues to gasp. Personally, I’ve had my curiosity about a “Spiderman” musical sated already. Much as I love cocktail lounges and the song “Fever,” this was not a high point.
We are rolling down the hill toward the “American Idol” finale, and the judges last night were over-impressed with one Adam Lambert on a night when I thought he was good, but not nearly as good as the judges’ collective frothing at the mouth indicated. Here is how it went down…
First of all, I’m quite sure that in previous seasons at this stage, they showed the three finalists going to their hometown with a whole montage on that before performing, but this time they shortened the show to an hour and though I haven’t looked at the listings, I’m expecting a longer results show tonight. But anyway, each contestant would sing something a judge or judges picked for them, and another song of their choice.
Danny Gokey went first and the song was Paula Abdul’s selection of Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Dance Little Sister.” Not a bad choice at all, with the tone and funky chorus that is right in Gokey’s wheelhouse. The problem is that the song never really goes anywhere, but Danny did a fine job with it. Randy said it was “dope,” Kara said the song was in Danny’s money spot but that she didn’t like the dancing, Paula said she was proud of Danny, and that she as a choreographer DID like his dancing (say what?), and Simon agreed with Kara but said it was a good vocal.
Kris Allen was next, and since there are now four judges, Kara and Randy tag-teamed on this one, picking One Republic’s “Apologize.” Kris played it painfully safe, sitting at the piano and doing a good job with it, but wowing positively no one. I was bummed that they kind of gave him a lame choice. Randy said the song fits who Kris can be, Kara liked the choice but wished Kris would have changed up the arrangement and said it wasn’t a home run, Paula said she understood the song choice and that she was proud, and Simon thought it was too copycat and he gave Kara a really hard time about Kara giving Kris a hard time about the arrangement of a song she chose for him. Ha!