One thing you might not know from watching American Idol is that although the auditions are edited into nice two-hour episodes, the process definitely doesn’t take two hours. It’s two long, long days. There’s so much we don’t see. All the side clips of people talking? Those take 20-30 minutes each. It’s one interview after another until you finally go and you can breathe that sigh of relief when you find out if you’ve made it or not. It’s crazy; it’s hectic; there’s a lot of anticipation. You can feel it just walking in — there’s a lot of energy going on in the room.
I’m not going to lie, I was totally rolling my eyes at Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj in the beginning of the Season 12 premiere. It almost got annoying at how much bickering was going on between the two. On the bright side, I absolutely loved Keith UrbanI think he did a phenomenal job at keeping everyone cool.
Randy Jackson is always great. He has a lot of wisdom, and he’s not scared to say no — unlike the new judges. I loved that at one point the three judges looked at Randy and were like, “Okay, you’re the veteran judge, you’re the one that’s designated to say no from now on.” I also really liked that whenever someone who might’ve been a little different walked into the room, Nicki automatically connected with them. If they didn’t make it, she’d pull them aside and encourage them. That was really cool and I could tell it meant a lot to those contestants.
As far as the singers go, I was pleasantly surprised with Gurpreet Singh Sarin, a.k.a. The Turbanator. I really liked how smooth he sounded and how he contained his joy while singing. But the judges were saying that they didn’t think his voice fit the competition, and I was kind of troubled by that. Music’s not about someone who can belt their way to the top; it’s about the moments that make you feel something, whether it’s feeling right and happy, or making you feel something really strong.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Angela Miller pop up on Idol — she has actually covered my single “Never Gone” on YouTube. She did a phenomenal job in her audition. The last girl, Ashlee Feliceano, was fantastic. I loved her story, that her parents adopted four kids. You could tell they’re a very tight-knit family, and as a family guy myself it was cool to connect with that.
Someone else who stood out was Sarah Restuccio, who sang Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song” and then Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” I think she had a really, really great voice. “Mama’s Song” is great, but it was strange a cappella — it was really hard to find what key she was in because there are so many chord changes in the song. But she was really good at “Super Bass!” I loved the lyric changes she made. I was with the judges, though: I was not really sure what she was going for there. I’m be curious to see if she’s solely country or she throws some of that flavor into country music, which could be really interesting.
One thing that I really hated was that Randy went all the way to Staten Island to find Jessica Kartalis, then they cut her! They didn’t even give her a second chance to sing when she came in off key. It must’ve been so nerve-wracking. That really rubbed me the wrong way. Why would they go out and invite somebody and tell her she’s not ready yet? It didn’t make any sense. I was totally yelling at the TV.
Shira Gravrielov is already a famous singer in Israel. I know other singing competitions let stuff like that slip by, but I don’t know about this show. I like the idea of American Idol being made up of artists and musicians who are just getting into the industry and trying to figure it out. There’s something that’s so raw about that. I like that they’re not polished at first. It’s cool for America to see an artist start somewhere and come full circle and become a professional. I think if she goes far it’s going to be hard for America to connect with her because she has already been successful.
I was very shocked that the judges didn’t let Evan Ruggiero, the amputee tap dancer, through — but I commend them for it! I know that sounds kind of harsh. I think he’s talented. He had a great voice, but it was more geared toward Broadway. I think a lot of times, especially in the past, American Idol gets so connected with the story that they sometimes let a person through who may not be ready for the show. I commend the judges on not wavering in their decision. I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I would have let him through! Mad props go to that kid: He really has a joy and a hope about him. I hope he’s not down about getting cut, and he realizes that he did inspire people just by auditioning.
As told to Jean Bentley. Colton’s debut album, ‘A Messenger,’ hits shelves on Jan. 29. Check back in a few weeks for Colton’s thoughts on Hollywood week and more!
Follow Colton on Twitter @ColtonDixon
[PHOTO CREDIT: EMI Music]
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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.