Glee Does Britney, Take 2

I probably could’ve come up with something witty for a title, but then it would’ve been way too obvious and cheesy (then again, I am writing about Glee sooo…)

To be completely honest, Glee is a show that has been incredibly inconsistent throughout its three (now on its 4th) season run. The show prided itself on doing stories and having characters that were rooted in reality; things you would see at a high school these days. Anyone who watches the show will tell you that they may use these real stories and characters as a base, but will often steer the plot or writing to some ridiculous place. The music used to serve the purpose of aiding the storyline or used as a way to give life to what a character was feeling. They still do that…sometimes. But more often than not, you’ll most likely find the cast sing some random song that has no relevance to what’s going on. At times, that’s perfectly acceptable (having a little fun in the choir room or on stage), however when the random song in question is a current Top 40 hit, it’s a little groan inducing. It’s like they could’ve picked ANY song, but they HAD to choose the song that is completely and utterly overplayed by mainstream radio? Really?!

Britney Spears. Pop royalty. Love her or hate her, you gotta admit (at her best) she is one hell of an entertainer. I am and always have been Team Britney. I don’t love everything she’s done but I’m a fan through and through. I remember watching her music videos religiously to learn the choreography.

Back in season 2 of Glee, they did a Britney tribute episode and it was one of those cases where storyline didn’t matter in the slightest. They made up some ridiculous storyline where some of the members of New Directions went under anesthesia while at the dentist, and consequently dreamed that they were in a Britney Spears music video. See? Sounds incredibly stupid, but the end product was pretty fun to watch, even if only one song wasn’t a carbon copy of the original.

Flash forward to now and we have witnessed a second episode of Glee dedicated to Britney songs, that leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, the storyline wasn’t something completely ridiculous and they played around with the music a little bit, giving us 2 different mash-ups and 2 songs that were completely re-done from the original. On the other hand, they still gave us 4 songs that were pretty much carbon copies of the originals and didn’t do anything spectacularly different. Also, they brought up the dark years of Britney Spears (head shaving, attacking paparazzo, the ‘Gimme More’ VMA performance). We all know it happened but am I the only one that was a little uncomfortable at them bringing it up like they did? (Admittedly, the random student shouting “Leave Brittany alone!” was kinda funny.) I, for one, would rather not be reminded of those rough years in Britney’s life/career. I can’t imagine Britney’s camp were aware of what they were doing over at Glee either, or else they probably would’ve stopped it from happening. I understand the purpose of it all was to make way for Brittany/Britney’s comeback, but they couldn’t have gotten to that in some either way? Yeah, I’m not a writer or anything, so what do I know?

Quick Thoughts on the Songs

  • Hold It Against Me: Brittany leads the Cheerios in this number. Choppy cuts/strong edits makes it hard to appreciate the dancing. Not to mention, they didn’t change much to the song, except maybe speed it up a little bit.
  • Boys/Boyfriend: Blaine and Artie bring on the boy band cheesiness on the mash-up. I think they should’ve used NSYNC’s “Girlfriend” instead of Beiber’s “Boyfriend”, if only because…they sound the same. Wasted opportunity.
  • Womanizer: Didn’t really do much for me.
  • 3: Definitely one of the worst Britney songs, lyrically – but the original had an infectious dance beat. Glee strips it down here and still keeps the infectiousness intact. Bonus: Tina sounds amazing here. Nice to hear her vocals more this season.
  • You Drive Me Crazy/Crazy: Newbies Marley and Jake succeed in taking on this inspired and stripped down mash-up of one of Britney’s early hits with one of Aerosmith’s classic.
  • Oops!…I Did It Again: Love what they did with this song, changing it from just a pop song to a sexy R&B track. The performance itself was pretty good (thanks for showing up, former SYTYCDers Marko, Melanie, and Kent!), but similar to HIAM, too many quick cutaways and the smoke/fog/whatever was kind of unnecessary, which took away a little from the performance.
  • Gimme More: It was like the VMA performance – uncomfortable. I couldn’t even see it as funny like when they did ‘Toxic’ or even ‘Push It’ back in first season.
  • Everytime: Marley did a decent take on one of Britney’s few ballads. It worked well as an ending song, is probably the best thing I can say about the inclusion of this song.

TIFF 2012: Jason Reitman Stages Live Reading of ‘American Beauty’

When director Jason Reitman began doing live readings of classic movie screenplays in Los Angeles and more recently, New York, I was completely jealous of all the people who were able to witness it all. Screenplays of The Breakfast Club, The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, and The Apartment, read by a group of different actors – how awesome does that sound?

At some point last week, Reitman rather cryptically tweeted a picture of a “surprise event” that was set to happen on the first day of the Toronto International Film Festival. Alarms immediately sounded in my head: “Could Reitman be doing one of his live readings for TIFF?!” Short answer: YES. When single tickets went on sale on Sunday morning, it was officially announced that Reitman would in fact be doing a live reading and the screenplay of choice was American Beauty. I jumped at the opportunity to witness one of these readings first-hand and didn’t even care that I hadn’t even seen the movie; it proved to be as amazing as it sounded.

Leading up to the day, Reitman had slowly announced what actors would be at the event, reading the lines made famous by the movie cast. Bryan ‘Motherfucking’ Cranston (Reitman’s words introducing the actor at the reading) took on the role of Lester Burnham, originally played by Kevin Spacey. Christina Hendricks became Carolyn Burnham, previously played by Annette Bening. Mae Whitman took over for Thora Birch, in the role of Jane Burnham, while Sarah Gadon took on the reigns of Mena Suvari’s Angela Hayes. Woody Harrelson was initially supposed to take part in the live reading as Col. Frank Fitts, previously played by Chris Cooper, but a plane delay led Nick Kroll (a frequent presence at Reitman’s readings) to take on the role. Taking on the role of Ricky Fitts made famous by Wes Bentley was Adam Driver (an actor I was unfamiliar with because I haven’t seen HBO’s TV show ‘Girls’). Rounding out the cast was Paul Scheer in Peter Gallagher’s role of Buddy King and Canada’s favourite TV/radio personality George Stroumboulopoulos in the role of Jim Olmeyer, played by Scott Bakula in the film.

From L-R: Paul Scheer (Buddy), George Stroumboulopoulos (Jim), Nick Kroll (Fitts), Christina Hendricks (Carolyn), Bryan Cranston (Lester), Mae Whitman (Jane), Adam Driver (Ricky), Sarah Gadon (Angela), Jason Reitman

I have to admit I hadn’t even seen American Beauty when the live reading was announced; I was too young to have seen it when it came out and I just never came around to seeing it. I immediately rectified that and essentially did my homework, and watched the movie. It’s a funny thing, but having it fresh in my mind didn’t spoil the experience for me at all. The purpose of the readings was to essentially play out the whole “What if someone else had been cast in the role?” aspect.

It was fun to witness these actors bring these characters to life and put their own spin into it, even the little details of them acting and reacting to each others’ characters. I think what sort of astonished me most was how much the audience (myself included) was transfixed, sort of mesmerized, and completely attentive to this group of actors who were simply sitting on stage reading a screenplay. It was entertainment in the most simplest/almost purest form.

I am so happy that I got to see this and I can only wish that Jason Reitman does more of these live readings in Toronto. Whether it be at TIFF or during the year outside of TIFF, I don’t care – if Reitman puts on another live reading in Toronto, consider me there!