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So You Think You Can Dance Season 9 – Auditions: Salt Lake City Podcast

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

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Episode 47 direct download

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Time Stamps
0:00 – Introduction
1:04 – “No” to Vegas (non-ballroom): Lynn Gravatt, Leroy Martinez, Murphy Yang
5:04 – Burlesque and Krump: Rachel Applehans, Mariah Spears
8:55 – Contemporary/Jazz: Deanna “Dee” Tomasetta, Gene Lonardo, Dareian Kujawa, Adrian Lee
15:44 – Ballroom: Whitney Hallam & Johnny Anh, Lindsay Arnold, Witney Carson
20:41 – Who we’re excited to see in Vegas
26:23 – Wrap-up

Episode Length: 28:20

It’s the last stop of the season 9 audition tour and while we were largely underwhelmed by the turnout in Atlanta, Salt Lake City more than made-up for it, providing us with many solid, diverse performers and a whole host of ballroom at last! Of the non-ballroom performers, Mariah Spears, Deanna Tomasetta, Gene Lonardo and Dareian Kujawa all impressed us with their stand-out solos, from Mariah’s surprising and convincing krump routine to Gene’s clever choreography about the life cycle of the male praying mantis. The moving story of Leroy Martinez and his work with disadvantaged youth was an uplifting segment and a fitting way, we think, to close out the first part of the audition process. And of course, we finally had some proper ballroom! In particular, we found Witney Carson’s ability to transform herself the second her routine began to be particularly impressive, and she has great skill to boot!

Obviously, since we’re posting this after the airing of the Vegas week episode, a lot of the people we were excited to see in Vegas wound up cut. We’ll dig into the particulars when we get the podcast for Vegas together, but we are getting frustrated. After two seasons of rosters that were stuffed with contemporary/jazz dancers, we were hoping they would expand beyond that model this season. Although it has some inaccuracies, the Vegas spoilers list (which doesn’t list a Top 20, and is no longer really a spoiler after this past episode) shows that the majority of people that made it through the week are contemporary/jazz. I think what bothers us most about that is if the Top 20 contestants from the first 4 or so seasons were to try out now, it’s doubtful that some of them would even make it to the end of the week (like Ivan, for example).

Let us know what you think after listening to the podcast! We’ve partnered with Pure So You Think You Can Dance to deliver this series of podcasts, so check them out and interact with fellow SYTYCD fans! You can leave us a comment on Pure SYTYCD, on this blog, or tweet us. You can also visit our Facebook page and leave a comment there! We love feedback and will respond either with a comment or in our next published show.


Film Analysis – The Shining: Brilliant Film or Narrative Mess?

October 29, 2011 3 comments

Halloween season is well underway and with the holiday itself just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to share a brief analysis I wrote-up last year on what has become a modern classic: Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 thriller The Shining.

The Shining is one of those films that I hate to love. First, it still scares the living daylights out of me (there is nothing scarier than two little girls talking in unison) and second, while it is stylistically brilliant, Kubrick sacrifices narrative cohesion and complexity to present one fantastical (and improbable) visual after another.

There is no doubt that The Shining‘s star is its masterful use of editing and camera movement. Kubrick effectively uses lengthy tracking shots and subtle changes in shot size to establish the hotel as a separate entity; one with an active interest in conversations that take place in and about the hotel. Jack Torrence’s [Jack Nicholson] interview early in the film gives viewers  a subtle hint at the hotel’s autonomy, when in the middle of the conversation the camera changes from the medium close-up shot-counter-shot sequence to a single long shot of the room. The volume of the conversation lowers, as though someone is standing in the doorway listening. Later in the film we see a similar series of shots during Jack and Wendy’s [Shelley Duval] conversation regarding her interrupting of his writing. Once their argument has drawn to a close, the shot abruptly changes from a series or medium close and close-ups to a long shot of the two, which slowly tracks back, as if the hotel has recognized that its interest in this particular exchange is done.

This scene between Jack and Wendy also utilizes subjective editing to place the viewer in the position of Jack, both physically and mentally. As mentioned, the scene uses traditional shot-counter-shot editing throughout the majority of the exchange (Shot 1 Jack’s face [Cut] Shot 2 Wendy’s face [Cut] Shot 3 Jack’s face, etc..), however Kubrick is able to transform this traditional Hollywood film convention to give viewers a glimpse into Jack’s psyche. When the camera cuts to Jack’s eyeline match of Wendy, it is positioned at a low angle and is significantly closer to her face.  The low angle and close-up cause Wendy’s face to appear oversized and grotesque, indicating how irritating she is to Jack during this exchange and allowing the viewer to share in this with him.

Kubrick also utilizes the  movement of the camera to convey the emotional state of the character it is following or to intentionally disorient the viewer. This type of subjective camera movement is particularly noticeable during the confrontation between Wendy and Jack on the stairs near the end of the film and during the film’s climax when Jack is chasing Danny [Danny Lloyd] through the hedge maze. The camera movement often seems unhinged and slightly off balance, giving the viewer the same uneasy sense that the characters are feeling. Kubrick further manipulates the editing and camera movement to increase viewer tension by intentionally limiting the scope of a shot to only what the character can see, particularly when characters are turning corners or entering large rooms. In normal films the camera would pan, tilt or track to reveal more details, but Kubrick keeps the camera attached to the character entering or exploring a new scene, refusing to move any further than what their eyes have taken in. This technique is used particularly well during Wendy and Danny’s exploration of the hedge maze early in the film; the camera even lags slightly behind the characters at times, which adds to the disorienting feel of the experience.

In several instances, Kubrick holds new revelations back from the audience to build anxiety. Wendy’s discovery of Jack’s “novel” (“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”) is a prime example of this technique. The camera remains fixed on Wendy’s horrified face as she reads Jack’s latest writing, keeping the audience in suspense even slightly longer than the characters themselves.  Kubrick utilizes this technique earlier in the film during Jack’s first visit to the Gold Room after Wendy accuses him of attacking Danny. With hands on his face, Jack professes that he would give his “soul for a beer”, shortly after which we see him look forward and smile and say hello to an unseen person he calls “Lloyd”. Kubrick refuses to cut to Jack’s eyeline match, leaving the viewer momentarily unsure if Jack is speaking to himself or an unseen, and presumably paranormal, presence.

However, despite these technical and artistic achievements, Kubrick’s film lacks a truly strong narrative, relying on the music and editing to unsettle and disturb the audience. Unlike the Jack Torrence of King’s novel, Jack Nicholson’s Torrence exhibits signs of annoyance and violence toward his wife and son at the beginning of the film. Their drive up to The Overlook is tense and unsettling, even topped off with a warm-hearted father-son lesson about the Donner Party, and effectively erases any resemblance to the “everyman” of King’s original story. His strange behavior begins almost immediately after they move into the hotel, which the uneven narrative assigns to two possible reasons: 1) A pre-existing animosity toward his family or 2) His “deja vu”/”past life” connection to The Overlook.

The main narrative problem with Kubrick’s version of The Shining is its lack of focus. Is the hotel really haunted? Is Jack truly possessed or merely pushed to act on his hidden impulses because of isolation and frustration? Kubrick’s use of mirrors or reflective surfaces in every scene in which Jack speaks with a “ghost” speaks to the latter: mirrors on the back wall of  the bar in Gold Room;  mirror in bathroom when he encounters the “old woman”; mirror in bathroom during conversation with Grady; reflective door of storage closet after Wendy locks him in.

Is Jack merely talking to himself? Are these spectral figures a manifestation of Jack’s subconscious urges to rid himself of his wife and child? The mise en scene seems to suggest this, however the last conversation between Jack and Grady through the storage room door directly contradicts this reading of the film, as the storage room door is opened from the outside by someone who is NOT Wendy or Danny, and is further complicated by Danny and Wendy seeing these paranormal apparitions at various times throughout the film.

Despite its narrative weaknesses, The Shining remains a classic of the horror genre and an excellent example of the possibilities of modern cinema, due largely to Kubrick’s masterful use of camera and editing techniques.

Much thanks to Striped Wall for helping me find all of the screencaps!

Big Brother 13: Breakdown and Analysis

September 12, 2011 1 comment

As a whole, this has been a very strange season of Big Brother for me. In one way, it felt a bit like an All-Star season, with the focus on the vets being so strong for the majority of the season (I feel like Rachel and Brendon are eternally stuck in my television after two straight summers with them). On the other hand, we have a whole group of new people who we sadly did not get to see much of this summer (with the exception of Shelly, who I would have been perfectly fine to see much less of). Considering all of the events and power shifts that have been happening in the house this season, I’m more than a little disappointed that James and I did not get the opportunity to continue doing our weekly recaps, but such is life and since Mother Nature has decided to hate on us this summer, I will do my best to cram a month’s worth of thoughts into one expertly written post!

Rather than turning this into one long Meghan ramble (which, trust me, nobody wants to read), I think it best to break this down by houseguest, limiting myself to the Jury and the final 3, with a little Dominic and Lawon thrown in for good measure. Let’s start where we left off with our last podcast, shall we?

America’s Choice- Brendon vs. Dominic

It should be no secret to anyone following our blog that both James and I really wanted Dominic be voted back into the house, but would have been pretty happy with any of the options except for Brendon (yes, even Keith, because come on that would have been hilarious). And who does America decide to vote back into the house? Rachel’s fiancé ! Brendon!! *insert annoying Rachel laugh* While I understand the impulse to vote for Brendon because it would cause all kinds of drama, I think we would have been in for a much  more interesting second half to the season if Dominic had been able to reenter the house. His exit was premature to begin with and he was one of the few newbies who showed any kind of drive to really shake things up and compete, before the last 2 weeks (I’m looking at you Porsche…). Instead, we wound up with Brendon easily “fighting” his way back into the house, Dani winning HOH and a reset to 2 weeks before, with Brendon getting evicted again. The only difference? This time he’s on the jury and Rachel doesn’t implode in on herself.

The other part of this season’s America’s Vote twist that I wanted to mention was Lawon’s self eviction. Even after 13 seasons, the houseguests still don’t seem to have realized that offering yourself up as a pawn is never a good idea, no matter how sure you are that you are not the target. However, I’m pretty sure that even the worst past houseguest could tell you that offering yourself up to be evicted is an even worse idea. I’m not sure what Lawon was thinking, but in a game that’s tagline is always “Expect the Unexpected” why did Lawon think that when Julie said the evicted houseguest would have “a chance” of reentering the game that meant that he would automatically just get to turn around and walk back in? His “battle” against Brendon was just sad. Lawon didn’t stand a chance and looked completely lost the entire 3 minutes. Can’t say I was too sad to see Lawon go; with all of the talk about “Floaters” with season, Lawon was probably the biggest Floater in the house, despite all of his protests that he was gonna “Do Stuff.”

Big Players Make BIG Mistakes

Brendon’s second eviction started off a chain reaction of some of the season’s stronger players and competitors getting evicted, leaving us with a pretty pathetic final 3, given the potential that this season showed early on.  In fact, as much as she annoys me, I feel like out of the options left, Rachel is the only person who legitimately deserves to win BB13. Is she the best player to ever play the game, absolutely not. Is she even the best player this season? No. But she somehow made it to the final 3, and Brendon’s 1 week reentry, I believe, is almost entirely responsible for that.

So what happened to all of the strong players this season? Every single one of them made a HUGE mistake or simply wasn’t strong enough to win every competition. I break it down one by one, in order of elimination, starting with Dani:

Dani– The player who was clearly in the best position from the first week. Having the Golden Key kept her safe for 4 weeks and allowed her to keep her hands clean while playing a social game that by the beginning of week 3, had her in a position where she was in good with every single member of the house, vets and newbies alike. All she had to do was keep her head down until she could play in competitions again. Unfortunately, Dani got bored. And not only did she get bored, but she got REALLY bored. So bored, that she decided to attempt to backdoor one of her alliance members (Jeff) even before the Jury or before the duo twist was even over. While Dani may not have been evicted for several more weeks, and she did succeed in getting Brendon out of the house not once, but twice, her decision to turn on her original alliance essentially sealed her fate. I think Dani had the potential to go far again this season and I was very sad to see her go so early.

Jeff– From the second he and Jordan walked back into the house they had targets on their back. Not because, like Rachel and Brendon everyone feared them as competitors or loathed them as people, but precisely because they were so universally liked. Top that off with Jeff’s aggressive, competitive side now that he was no longer the underdog like in his season, and the target on his back continued to grow as the weeks went on. Brendon’s eviction pretty much removed the only other player with a bigger target, leaving Jeff extremely vulnerable. His HOH win that next week kept him safe, but his decision to backdoor Dani, coupled with the introduction of the double elimination that same night, offered the perfect storm for Jeff’s eviction. Unlike what seemed to be the entire studio audience, I was not completely crushed by his swift elimination, but do feel that losing two strong players in the same night was a bit of a blow to the season.

Shelly– I don’t even know what to say about Shelly. Her biggest mistake? Being completely delusional and going to the Harper’s Island school of lying. If you have no idea what that means, you need to watch Harper’s Island, but suffice to say that it means an individual will maintain a lie, even when ALONE. We have documented proof that Shelly made final 3 deals with several groups, but when confronted with her lie, she flips out. That by itself doesn’t seem so odd. Most people, especially when in a position where they stand to lose something if their lie is discovered, will react in a similar way when confronted in this manner, but Shelly’s outrage and complete indignation is carried over into her Diary Room sessions! Couple that with her insistence that she has always been on Jeff and Jordan’s side, and is simply acting as a mole when she goes to talk to the other side of the house, but then turning around and making deals that negatively impact Jeff or Jordan or putting ideas into motion herself, and we are left with one of the most ridiculous players I’ve seen in a long time. My intense annoyance with Shelly is not connected to her (I believe) premature and badly carried out betrayal of Jeff and Jordan, but rather on her delusional response to being a caught in the ginormous web of lies that she created. Hysterical fits in the Diary Room at someone questioning your loyalty only mean so  much when a week later you decide to turn on these same people. If you’re going to play a game based on deception and risky moves, you better come into the game with a strong spine and an even stronger competitive edge. Shelly lacked both of these and of everyone who was evicted post Jury, I was most happy to see her not make the finals.

Kalia & Jordan– I don’t really have too much to say about either player. Neither made a huge mistake and both played a pretty solid game, with Jordan actually being more aggressive in her game play this season and Kalia proving to be a pretty fierce competitor when she needed to be, winning two HOHs and using one of those to evict a strong player. Unfortunately, this is probably why both of them didn’t make the finals, since both stood a pretty fair chance of winning had they made it.

So that’s about it. I don’t agree with those people who’ve called this season boring. I think frustrating is a better description. I’m looking forward to the finale, if only to see what those houseguests who’ve been able to watch the whole season have to say, especially ED.

Finally, for anyone who hasn’t seen Jeff’s response to Dumbledoregate, I highly suggest you read it. It’s amazing.

Big Brother Update

August 10, 2011 Leave a comment

It has been quite an eventful two weeks inside the Big Brother house! Brenchel was split up, a “newbie” finally won HOH, the houseguests learned that the next evictee will have a chance to re-enter the house and unbeknown to them, America’s Vote gave us the opportunity to vote for Keith, Cassi, Dominic or Brendon to compete against the latest evicted houseguest and earn their way back into the game. So where is our podcast on all of this activity? Unfortunately, it has been quite a busy week inside the Meghan and James house as well, but rest assured that we will be back with a podcast this weekend, covering everything from Brendon’s veto win to the results of the latest twist and HOH competition.

So who did your votes go to? We voted for Dominic, believing that he will do the most to shake things up by returning, and will add numbers to Dani’s side, which will surely make for some interesting game dynamics depending on who wins HOH this upcoming week. While the thought of seeing Dani’s reactions to Brendon walking back through the door would be priceless, we’re not sure we could stand to watch Rachel’s reaction. As for who America’s Vote will be battling against, we’re curious to see how Lawon will hold up, since he stands a very strong chance of going home this week. Looking back on past seasons, I seem to remember another houseguest who volunteered to go up because he was 100% sure he was safe….

The houseguests, Lawon particularly, seem fairly certain that the evicted houseguest will immediately turn around and come right back in. Not sure why they think the twist would be so simple, but  it will certainly be interesting to see how things play out tomorrow night!

Big Brother 13 Has Begun!

July 7, 2011 Leave a comment

A house full of people getting sprayed with chocolate and whipped cream while hanging on giant bananas. Ladies and gentlemen, it is officially summer! The houseguests new and old have moved in and Big Brother 13 has officially begun, with 3 major twists being revealed right from the start. The Big Brother Golden Key has the potential to be a major game changer and this season’s “Dynamic Duos” twist already holds more promise than last season’s poorly implemented “Saboteur.” And Dick and Dani’s decision to trust Rachel  not to nominate them may prove to be this season’s first major mistake!

Be on the lookout for our first BB13 podcast this weekend. We’ll be discussing our initial impressions on each of this season’s houseguests, as well as talking about how strategies may need to change this season. Additionally, we’ll be working in any important information gained from reading the live feed updates on once the feed goes live. Stay tuned!

Big Brother 13: First thoughts

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

The season premiere of Big Brother 13 is only a few days away and we wanted to let all of our listeners/readers know that we will be adding weekly BB podcasts to our regular schedule. James and I are excited to share our thoughts, and undoubtedly frustrations, with everyone throughout the summer. I’ve successfully watched every season of BB (yes, including the first lol!) and I dragged James into the craziness starting with season 11. To give some insight into how we approach the show, my favorite past houseguests as players are Dr. Will, Dan and Danielle from BB3.

For season 13, the producers have crafted another crazy twist, this one again involving past houseguests returning. Even though it’s been done several times before, it always leads to great drama and entertainment, and this season’s focus on “dynamic duos” returning seems like more of the same. Right now the rumors are that 3 past houseguest pairs will join the 8 new houseguests, and while Dr. Will has confirmed that he and Boogie are definitely not one of the pairs, the internet rumors are currently buzzing that Jeff & Jordan and Ronnie & Michele are two likely pairs that will be re-entering the game. What do you guys think? Are there any other pairs that you would really like to see this season or any pairs that you most definitely do NOT want to see return? Here’s hoping this season’s twist doesn’t prove to be as anticlimactic as last season’s Saboteur 😉

Be on the lookout for our initial podcast coming out this weekend, during which we’ll give our first impressions of the new houseguests, this season’s crazy twist and the first HOH competition of the season. If you consider information gained from watching the live feeds that has not aired on the CBS broadcasts yet to be “spoilers” please be aware that we do read the live feed updates on and will be including this information in our discussions.

We’re looking forward to joining the discussion on Big Brother! And for our So You Think You Can Dance fans, we are of course going to continue to post a weekly podcast about that as well.