Lip Sync For Your Life

For some unknown reason, I am a fan of lip syncing. Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been amused by people mouthing along to popular songs. Perhaps this is because at an early age I realized that I have absolutely no musical talent and lip syncing allowed me to pretend for a brief moment that I actually could sing. Whatever the reason, there is nothing that I find more hilarious than someone busting out a lip sync routine. It just hits my particular sweet spot.

I don’t know if my fascination with lip syncing predates the 80s TV show Puttin on the Hits, but that talent competition definitely solidified my interest. It’s hard to believe that there used to be a weekly competition where people would lip sync on national television, but it did indeed happen. The eighties were a different time. Part of the fun of the show wasn’t just that people were lip syncing, but seeing the costumes and theater that they brought to something as simple as pretending to sing a song. People really went all out and really committed to this foolishness; it was immensely entertaining for an eight year old little girl and played right into my creative side. I do love me some pageantry and commitment to a theme. You don’t even want to know how far down the YouTube rabbit hole that I fell looking for clips from the show.

 

 

 

 

I assure you, I had a “Material Girl” concept all planned out in my young brain that would have brought the house down. That sh*t would have KILLED. In the spirit of full disclosure, though I obviously never competed on Puttin on the Hits, I did put on numerous lip syncing shows for my family and my parents’ friends. Thank God my family didn’t have a camcorder when I was growing up.

You’d think I would have outgrown this weird fascination, but that absolutely did not happen. Though lip syncing was harder to come by after Puttin on the Hits went off the air on 1988, I still occasionally stumbled upon it – mostly in talent shows or at concerts where the artist was not supposed to be lip syncing, but obviously was. YouTube helped fill the void a bit; any given night you can discover all sorts of people lip syncing. I must have watched the Harvard baseball team lip sync “Call Me Maybe” a hundred times (I wish I was exaggerating). One of the reasons that I dug RuPaul’s Drag Race, other than its obvious awesomeness, was because contestants facing elimination had to “lip sync for their life” to stay on the show. Lip syncing with consequences? Sign me up!

 

This is how we should settle all conflicts.

Jimmy Fallon proved that he can read my mind in 2013 when he and John Krasinski introduced a new bit on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon – the lip sync battle. Just when I thought that I couldn’t love Fallon any more, he pulls this out of the hat. That dude just gets me. And how freaking adorable is Krasinski in this?

 

Fallon brought the bit back with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephen Merchant and Paul Rudd and it continued to be awesome. Frankly, if I had my way, they would be doing this every week.

Up until last night, the lip sync battles have been a boys club; no female guest has participated. But in striking a win for feminists everywhere, Emma Stone changed all that last night by stepping into the lip sync octagon. She was great – and bonus points for using a song from Blues Traveler. I don’t care if everyone else hates them; that band reminds me of college.

 

I’m glad that lip syncing is enjoying a bit of a renaissance thanks to RuPaul and Jimmy Fallon; I really don’t foresee a time when the sight of people – especially celebrities – lip syncing won’t make me happy. If Fallon ever does an audience lip sync battle, I’m ready. I’d hate to see my epic “Material Girl” routine go to waste.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – I’m sick edition

So it turns out, dear readers, that I am indeed a mere mortal and occasionally I feel under the weather. Right now I’m battling either a nasty cold or a light flu; I’m not sure if it has made up its mind yet as to what it is. This has knocked me down for the count – my boss took one look at me yesterday and sent me home, where I slept most of the day and watched a lot of wedding-related programming which seems to comprise a lot of the daytime TV schedule. I’m feeling slightly better today, but I’m also hopped up on enough cold medicine to take down an ox. The good news is that I seem to have stopped coughing; the bad news is I’m exhausted walking from one room to the next.

However, I must soldier on. I couldn’t leave you without your pop culture roundup. That would be heresy. I just can’t guarantee that everything is spelled right and that the order of links makes total sense. I tried my best, but I can’t make any promises as to coherency. So while I try the difficult act of breathing without getting winded, kick back and enjoy the pop culture goodness that I’ve assembled.

  • Charlie Hunnam has quit the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation. I think this was a good career move for him, though he was the only reason I had any interest in the movie.
  • If you love those Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy commercials for Dodge as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that he made SEVENTY of them.
  • Watch Tom Hanks play around on a giant piano keyboard (with a little help from Sandra Bullock):

 

  • Bullock also showed off her rap skills:

 

  • The Simpsons will have guest vocals from Judd Apatow, Channing Tatum, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Seth Rogan.
  • File this under things that make you go hmmm….Japanese school kids perform “Day Man” from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

 

  • The A.V. Club has a story on an old favorite of mine, Homestar Runner.
  • Britney Spears’ new album has a name – her name.
  • The cast of Modern Family played Family Feud on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

 

  • Lady Gaga and The Muppets are making a Christmas special. This could either be amazing or terrible. I don’t see any middle ground.
  • The showrunner for The Daily Show has left.

Trailers

  • Michael Bay and Starz are teaming up for a new pirate show:

 

  • Sarah Silverman’s new HBO special:

 

  • I’m really looking forward to Will Ferrell’s Spoils of Babylon mini-series on IFC

 

  • George Clooney and Matt Damon head up an all-star cast in Monument Men

 

  • This documentary on Calvin & Hobbes looks great

 

  • The trailer for Avalanche Sharks, SyFy’s newest terrible movie, has been released:

 

  • Ad Week has an interesting story on how much it costs to run a commercial on different TV shows.
  • The guy from Blur is working with actor Idris Elba on new music.
  • Elizabeth Berkley revisited her Saved By The Bell roots on Dancing with the Stars:

 

  • Alexander Skarsgard stars in the music video for Cut Copy’s “Free Your Mind.”

I would totally sign up for this cult.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts:

  • An Archer/Top Gun mashup:

 

  • Someone mad a Pokemon/King of the Hill crossover:

 

  • And finally, here’s a supercut that theorizes that Tom Hank’s career is just one long movie:

Don Jon – A Review

Let me be up front about this – I may very well be the outlier when it comes to Don Jon. The film, which marks the directorial review of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, received a lot of positive buzz coming out of the Sundance Film Festival. It currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 81% fresh, with lots of critics I like and admire giving the films high marks. People seem legitimately excited about this film and I was looking forward to seeing what all the hullabaloo was about. Unfortunately, Don Jon just didn’t speak to me. As much as I wanted to like the film, given my general affinity for Gordon-Levitt, I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. I rarely read other reviews before I write my own, but last night I poured over what other critics had to say to try and figure out what exactly it was that I was missing. I’m still at a loss; I am clearly seeing a very different movie than others.

This is not to say that I thought Don Jon was terrible or a bad movie; I think it was generally very well acted and had a very interesting premise. For a first time director and writer, who also stars in the film, it was an above average first effort. But I still think that Don Jon was rough around the edges and doesn’t fully work. There is a lot of promise in this film that makes me think that Gordon-Levitt may turn into a successful writer and/or director if he chooses, but the individual moments that I liked do not add up to a great movie. In this case, the whole is not greater than the sum of the parts.

My problems with the film do not derive from the subject matter, though it may make some people uncomfortable. Don Jon is the story of New Jersey bartender (emphasis on the Jersey) Jon (Gordon-Levitt) who is a charming guy who scores effortlessly with the ladies. Regardless of all the sex he has – and he has a lot – none of it can match his one true love: pornography. Jon prefers the images on his computer to the company of actual women. This is true even when he meets the most beautiful woman he’s ever met, Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson, who somehow manages to class up Jersey Shore chic). A lifetime of watching pornography has left Jon ill equipped for real intimacy and connection with a woman and has created an unrealistic expectation of sex that leaves him constantly unfulfilled. Barbara brings her own baggage to the relationship, with her perception of love and romance heavily influenced from her diet of romantic comedies. Can Jon and Barbara make this work or will their preconceived notions of what love and sex should be too much to overcome? The film features a lot of images of adult movies; while I can’t say they aren’t gratuitous – it is, after all, porn – they are used sparingly and to illustrate a point. That being said, it’s probably not the best movie to go see with your grandmother or on a first date (depending on your expectations for the date).

Gordon-Levitt and Johansson were very good in their roles and created realistic characters. Johansson in particular seems to be having a lot of fun in this role and really immerses herself in this character. She almost becomes Barbara Sugarman, which is no easy task for an actress that is so well known and recognizable. She and Gordon-Levitt have excellent chemistry together and their scenes are among the best in the movie. The character of Jon is a pretty douche-y character on the surface, but Gordon-Levitt is so likable that even when he is being his most boorish enough of his charm comes through for you to root for him. It would be easy for both of these characters to become cardboard stereotypes, but Gordon-Levitt and Johansson bring some depth and nuance to the roles that make them generally interesting to watch.

That can’t really be said for much of the supporting cast; Tony Danza plays against character as Jon’s dad and steals a lot of the scenes that he is in, but Jon’s mother and friends are very broad. Even Danza’s role isn’t that well defined or developed, but it is so unusual to see him not playing a generally nice guy that it isn’t as noticeable. Julianne Moore plays another student in Jon’s night school class and while she does her usual nice work, the story and pacing of the movie minimize what she is able to do.

While I think that this story idea is novel and raises some interesting issues, the execution didn’t 100% work for me. In particular, I thought the story-line involving Julianne Moore was too rushed and felt shoehorned into a very different movie. There are some very important character developments that come from her scenes, but because the time wasn’t taken to fully integrate her into the story they didn’t feel 100% earned. There was a lot of repetition in the early parts of the film, which help illustrate Jon and his mindset and routine, but I think some of that could have been cut to allow some of the other stories time to breathe. I don’t know that we needed to see all his trip to the gym or every time he looked at porn – though, to his credit, Gordon-Levitt is in amazing shape for this movie and if I were him I would want to show that off a bit as well. It isn’t vanity – these scenes do some character work – but a few less of them would have been beneficially to the story.

The story would have benefitted from a little more nuance and subtly; it’s a comedy, so it is going to be a little broad, but something about this movie just didn’t feel completely finished or developed. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that most bothered me about this film – there were many things that I did like – but it never completely won me over. That may just be my personal preferences and his vision for this movie weren’t in complete alignment – that sometimes happens. But as much as I wanted to like Don Jon, I left the theater disappointed and a little bored by it. It was a noble first effort by Gordon-Levitt, but he isn’t quite there yet. Don Jon and Gordon-Levitt have potential, but I thought that the film was a work in progress.

Some other thoughts:

  • There are some fun cameos in the fake rom-coms that Barbara likes to watch.
  • The idea that Barbara’s romantic expectations are shaped by her love of chick flicks is an idea that is certainly raised, but not fully explored. Don Jon is far more focused on Jon’s porn addiction, which I was a little disappointed in. I think this is an interesting phenomenon; one of my favorite parts of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs was the chapter that looked at these issues.
  • Of course, my interest in the above could be influenced by my hope that it would validate my belief that chick flicks are generally horrible drivel.
  • There is an amusing running gag in Don Jon involving Jon’s sister (played by Brie Larson) that I won’t ruin.
  • Any film that incorporates Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” into it has promise.
  • If you drink every time that Jon and Barbara call each other “baby,” you will be drunk in no time.
  • I am not joking about the porn clips – there are a lot of them.

I may simply be missing the boat on Don Jon; perhaps this really is a fantastic film that simply isn’t my cup of tea. I’m usually not so out of sync with popular and critical opinions.  I didn’t dislike Don Jon enough to discourage people from seeing it. The leads are fun to watch and it has an interesting premise, but it just doesn’t stick the landing. A respectable effort that makes me interested in whatever Gordon-Levitt does next, but a film that doesn’t quite live up to its potential.