The Page International Screenplay Contest email – yay!

movie film

I received a fantastic email yesterday from the Page Awards!

“Dear Michele,

2010 marks the 7th anniversary of The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, and this is shaping to be our strongest and most competitive year ever! We received 4,412 scripts this year, submitted by writers from all across the United States and around the world, and our Judges are telling us that the overall quality of this year’s entries is the best they’ve ever seen. So the next few months promise to be very exciting!

Today we’re officially kicking off The 2010 PAGE Awards announcement season, and we have some very good news for you…

The Judges have finished evaluating all the scripts in the First Round of competition, and they have advanced the top 25% of all entries into the Second Round. Based on your First Round scores, we’re very happy to inform you that you are now in the Second Round of competition.

Congratulations!! Given the caliber of competition you faced, this is a real achievement.”

Man, that made my day!

It also made my day that my fellow screenwriter friends in Max Adams’ 5150 International Screenwriting Workshop – Nancy, Christie, and Jos – are in the top 25% with me! Yay!

5150 – rocks!

Next round (quarterfinal) announcements are on July 15. Here’s hoping!

Did American Idol sabotage Casey James?

The answer is undeniably – Yes.

I have watched American Idol since season 2. Through the years, I have noticed that the producers and the judges have their favorites, and try to control the outcome of America’s votes by swaying the opinion of the audience in a variety of ways. The way the producers paint the contestants’ back stories and backstage (and hometown visit) footage. The questions Ryan asks the contestants. The judges’ pronouncements during various TV interviews of who will be in the finale – before America has voted. The dishonest, subjective, often meandering or nonsensical judgments of performances.

In the case of Casey James, often there was no judgment of his performance at all. From day one, the producers and judges have painted Casey James as “the pretty boy who cannot really sing but plays okay guitar.” The producers and the judges continued this story-line throughout the competition, reinforcing it every chance they got.

It started during his audition, when Kara – purported singing competition judge – asked him to unbutton his shirt. If Casey were a woman, there would have been cries of sexual harassment across the country.

When Casey did a quite good rendition of “Mrs. Robinson” in “movie song” week, there was no critique of his performance, there were jokes about an older woman, younger guy (Kara and Casey?) – ha ha.

When they showed the edited footage of the top three’s (Lee DeWyze, Crystal Bowersox, and Casey James) hometown visits, pains were taken to show mostly shots of women cooing and screaming at Casey. The one TV or radio interview question they aired, out of all the questions he was asked, was “Do you have a girlfriend?”

There was absolutely no footage of his performances at home, the performances that show him to be the real entertainer that he is, a blues guitarist and singer with exceptional talent that could not be boiled down to 90 second performances of pre-selected pop music. [One can’t do a guitar riff if one has only 90 seconds and part of that has to be singing.] But. The producers showed footage of Crystal singing on her home visit. They upped the ante for Lee’s home visit (Lee is the new chosen one, after the producers have decided that Crystal, the resident “hippy,” is too polarizing and may not sell as many records.) Not only did they show Lee singing, they gave his footage a soundtrack – “The Boxer” – that is the American Idol story of a poor boy leaving home – leading into Lee’s actual performance of the song. If that’s not stacking the deck, I do not know what is.

If they had shown Casey’s performances in his hometown visit, safe from the judges’ critiques, not squashed into 90 seconds – just Casey at a hometown bar playing some awesome blues with a look of pure joy on his face…

America would have seen this.

And this.

American Idol did not want to show this to America. Because it would undermine their top-two decision and the story they have built about Casey James all season long.

Because the “pretty boy” plays a mean guitar and he can indeed sing.

Fashion Friday – High-heeled clogs!

Man, I want these clogs. The lace-up ones are hot.

These are sold at The Number 6 Store, in NYC’s Little Italy.

You can buy ones that are already made, or chose your own top material and patterns.

[Photo by Lars Klove for the NY Times]  

Separate Lives

Do you ever hear an old song on the radio when you’re driving that you haven’t heard in forever, that you used to love?

I did – the other day – and it made me smile.  And sing along.

I used to sing along to this song when it was a hit – I would face the mirror in my bedroom and burst into song. 

In a lavender fur hat and a purple coat. On my way to meet… oh, well, I am not going there.

But this song really resonated with my life at that time.

[By the way, check out Baryshnikov in this video – he looks really young]

Back

I have absolutely no excuse for not blogging in 2 months. None of interest anyway. But – I’m back.

And so is, after an indeterminable dry spell, Clay Aiken.

I had begun to lose interest until I found out about Clay’s one-night show scheduled for March 12. My interest slowly gained after tickets went on sale but I did not buy them until after experiencing an excruciating 20 minute “I Shot the Sheriff” guitar riff by Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden. [I had gone with husband and a friend. ]

The next morning, I ordered Clay Aiken tickets. Payback? Perhaps.

Clay’s show highlighted “Tried and True”, his soon-to-be-released CD , which was taped by PBS for airing sometime this summer. And man, was this a production.

So, we get to the concert hall (nice place – Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh), and we wait in the packed lobby and I notice we are standing next to a cute guy talking to a middle-aged woman. Hmm, I have seen this guy’s picture before. He is thin, he has a head of curly black hair… I nudge husband, whisper “That’s Clay’s boyfriend!”  Husband says “No, that is some guy on a date with a cougar.”

Um. No. People start coming up to him to take pictures and get his autograph. It is the boyfriend, Reed, and the cougar is his mother. Ha. 

Anyway, we finally go upstairs to our top left corner balcony seats – Ticketmaster’s “best available” – and it does not take long to realize that we had been had. No way were these the best available, the balcony was virtually empty, and the sides downstairs were only half full. The usher that approached me to see if my binoculars were a not-allowed camera said he was surprised because he had heard the concert had been sold out.

Something went  awry with ticket sales to this show. I am still pondering – what. Unsold broker tickets? Clay fans throwing away balcony tickets for better seats? Whatever it was, the concert started late because the staff was trying to move people to fill the side seats.  We moved to the front center section of the balcony, where the TV camera crane no longer obscured our view. 

Finally, the stage lights up in an array of color. Purple, gold, pink.

The orchestra swelled.

And there is Clay, his back to us. The crowd cheers. And he turns to face the audience. And opens his mouth to sing. “Mack the Knife?”

He looked great. He was thin, his hair looked good. His suit was a tad too shiny, and a tad too baggy. [Not sure who dressed him, but velvet is just not right.] 

His voice was amazing. He used his lower register like it should be used – smooth and deep and chill-inducing. Now I knew why I came to this show, now I remembered what I did not know I was missing. Wow.

He sang the songs from his new CD, which has a Johnny Mathis vibe. Old songs from the 60’s era. Beautiful melodic songs I had not heard in forever. Moon River [which, by the way, Clapton did in his concert as well, what is this Moon River resurgency?]  It’s Impossible. [Yes, that is Perry Como, but I don’t care, he wrapped his voice around this one, it was amazingly good.] Unchained Melody [off the charts fantastic!] The Beatles’ “In My Life.” “Misty.”

There was a surprise guest …… Ruben Studdard!  Ruben sounded great, and looked great, he lost over 100 lbs. They will be performing together this summer.

The best thing about a concert that is being taped for TV? Do-overs! After the show ended, Clay was instructed by the music director to redo 4 songs. We got to hear them again, yay!

 It was a great night. I have only one nagging regret, that we did not wait outside for him after the show. I figured, there are no buses [this is in his hometown, this is not a “tour”], so we just left. I was wrong. He came out and shook hands, so I hear.

Oh well, I guess I am just gently dipping my toe back into the whole Clay scene.

It was well worth it.

Maybe next time…

[photo by Jim R. Bounds, AP]

96 hours in NYC (backwards) – part I

We just got our food, culture, and shopping fix in four and a half days in NYC. We arrived Saturday evening, and left on Thursday afternoon. 

96 hours in NYC – backwards:

Thursday doesn’t count, that was all about packing and making frenzied bagel and Italian hero runs – you know, the take some of NYC home thing.

[BTW – the best bagel place is “Hot Bagels” on 2nd Ave. between 56th and 57th Streets. Their everything bagels rock, and their black russian bagels are heaven. I ordered a dozen to bring home, and they gave me 15. But only for a smile.]

Wednesday:

Our intended plans to walk the Highline got squashed as soon as we strolled out of the hotel into the frigid wind. The Highline is a new park on the west side that spans from around 12th to 20th streets, where elevated railroad tracks used to be. Frigid windy day and elevated park along the river – did not compute. Next time. Wusses.

So, there is time to kill before a 12:30 lunch date with Nancy, my 5150 screenwriting workshop friend, at Morrells Wine Bar. Hmm, let’s be tourists and go to Times Square and buy play tickets for tonight. Done. By the way, the red pedestrian lounging steps in the middle of Times Square is an interesting new touch. 

More time to kill spent in the m&m’s store. 3 floors of marketing mania. But – there are m&m colors in that store not known to man, and they are in huge silos. And you can get a plastic bag and load up on whatever color m&m’s you want. Wow.

Lunch at Morrell’s Wine Bar was fun. Lots of chatter and good food and wine. The wine-by-the-glass menu is outrageously large, and we noticed that many of the high-priced glasses were gone from the menu. Steak salad, ricotta dumplings, black-pepper fettucine were all very good. [So I hear – I had the dumplings.]

Um – more food – we noticed a Magnolia Bakery on the corner a half-block away from Morrell’s. As in, an outpost of the Magnolia Bakery of the infamous delish-looking cupcakes Carrie and Miranda gobbled up in “Sex and the City” (series, not movie.)  Had to stop and snare some for later. They had red velvet cupcakes. But the chocolate ones were better. Icing? Superb.

We took a cab downtown to see the new “New Museum” on Bowery and Prince Streets.  A short walk/smoke break before going in the museum took us to the John Fluevog shoe store, my fave in NYC. The husband spotted the store. I spotted these shoes.

The New Museum had an Urs Fischer exhibit spanning 3 floors. We strolled out of the elevator onto the 4th floor to this –

These are massive “sculptures” called “Marguerite de Ponty” made of aluminum-like material. 

The 3rd floor was a large painted room with not much inside except for a fossilized croissant hanging from a string, with a butterfly atop. A melting plastic purple baby grand piano. And a hole in the wall. I inched close to the hole in the wall, and —

a tongue attacks me through that hole. Ahhh! Yes, I screamed in the museum. So did the woman who tried this next. No wonder this “work” is named “Noisette.”

The 2nd floor was interesting, it was full of mirrored chrome cubes and columns with silkscreens of objects on each side made to look like 3D – as in, a photo of the top of a shoe on the top, the front, sides, and back on the sides of the cubes.

[photos from the New Museum]

Art walk done, we squeezed in dinner at the Mee Noodle Shop uptown at 49th St. and Second Ave. before heading to see “A Little Night Music” on Broadway. Stephen Sondheim music, great story – just what I like  – comedy and romance – and fantastic acting and singing by Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury.  The show had a “Midsummer’s Night Dream” vibe. Zeta Jone’s rendition of “Send in the Clowns” was truly amazing.

And, just like tourists do, we waited by the stage door and got a glimpse, first, of Catherine Zeta Jones’ fluffy white dog hopping into her limo, followed by Catherine herself. She signed Playbills, but we could not get close enough.

So, that was Wednesday.  More to come.

Happy New Year!

What do New Yorkers do on New Year’s Eve?

Well, when I lived in NYC, I never went to see the ball drop on Times Square. Real New Yorkers don’t do that, that is for kids and tourists.

New Years Eve was a time to spend with a small group of close friends in someone’s apartment. Or, once, lost in NYC at midnight. With a small group of friends.

Tonight, it will be just myself and the husband with a bowl of pasta pesto and a glass of champagne. And a “chat.” With a small group of friends.

Have a happy and healthy new year! May 2010 be better than 2009, and may all your wishes and dreams come true!

Xoxoxo –

Michele