Welcome to the Dollhouse

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I’ve been writing in this blog a lot lately. I guess as the year comes to a close I have a lot of reflecting – shallow or not – to do. It’s funny that in my ‘real life’ blog, my entries are pretty short. I would call the entries here more entertainment essays, or manifestos than anything.

I won’t expound on the joys of a PVR too much other than to say, once you have one, you’ll never go back. Ever. It enables you to do things like keep several episodes of Dollhouse on your PVR at once to skip over Fox’s ultra-annoying giant gap for the MLB playoffs. Also sadly for the dearly departed (soon to be anyway) Dollhouse, it’s not really a show that warrants immediate watching, so you can kind of cruise through them whenever you want. Namely, I finished catching up as of this weekend, and I’m quite enjoying the two-packs the episodes have been coming in as we ramp up to the final three or four.

But alas, where have we gone wrong? Joss Whedon has groupies like few other TV producers – he’s kind of the quirky answer to JJ Abrams more polished, super-budget pedigree. I myself am a massive Buffy fan (I think the show has more tags than anything in this blog), and have been curious to watch Angel, and Firefly. Despite being hailed / being a name brand producer, Joss hasn’t really had a major hit since Buffy, and arguably Angel following on its coattails. I could argue for quite awhile that Buffy in itself is a singularly wonderful show that is quite unlike anything Joss or any producer has done in the way it mixed reality, fantasy, horror, humour, and heart.

With that in mind, what’s up with Dollhouse? Well Season 1 maybe would have worked a decade ago, much as Buffy’s Season 1 ‘Monster of the Week’ managed to hook audiences long enough to keep the show growing, but these days there was no motivation to continue onwards, no end game in sight.

Another major problem was the complicated feelings I still have towards the Dollhouse. The concept of the house is incredibly disturbing and perverse, and although the people in the LA house the show focuses on seem to have more of a moral compass / family-like care for the key dolls, you still can’t shake the feeling that you don’t really want to be on their side. Nor did I particularly want to be on Paul Ballard’s side last season – he wasn’t a sympathetic protagonist, and just seemed like a reckless vigilante. I still don’t know why he was so hell bent on finding Caroline.

On that note, Caroline / Echo is another big flaw of the show. A lot of people have argued Eliza Dushku is a one note actress and this show highlights that with the demanding number of roles they ask her to take on. I would disagree – I think Eliza has the potential to play other types of roles other than Faith redux, but on a more consistent basis. Playing a bunch of different party girl types and transforming into Echo, a mere shell of a person, does not a great actress make.

Which brings me to another problem – the lack of cast camaraderie which emerges from these previous two points. Because everyone has this deep layer of sinister motivation, it fails to make the core non-Doll cast connect (Dewitt, Boyd, and Topher – plus Dr. Saunders and Topher’s assistant). Beyond that you’ve also got these walking shells that are supposed to have this strong yet vacant friendship. The Victor / Sierra romance grew nicely in the last season but it was choppily done before that. Echo’s sudden “I need to find my friends” diatribe in the last couple of episodes felt unrealistic as the ‘grouping’ dolls seemed so much less aware of what they meant to her versus Echo’s fully realized persona.

And moving on from there – the unrealisticness of the show’s concept. The whole government taking down the Dollhouse scenario kind of brought up the “why didn’t this happen before?”. Or more obviously on two different levels – it seems pretty easy for all these Richie riches to find the Dollhouse, why couldn’t the government? And realistically, given the exorbitant cost we’re led to believe an engagement costs, how many of these scenarios are realistic on a continual basis to make the house so successful? Also the huge lack of moral relativity is pretty disturbing if it has any shred of accuracy to it.

Finally we’ve got the muddled mythology of the show. So many new elements are introduced all the time that it’s hard to keep them straight. I still have so many questions that will never be answered…or maybe they have been and I just forgot. Why is Ballard so determined to find (and eventually free) Caroline / Echo? Why did Echo end up in the Dollhouse in the first place? What happened to Dr. Saunders? What’s up with Echo and that crazy doctor (but well acted by Summer Glau) that made an appearance? What’s going on with Mellie? What happened to the government subplot? How did Boyd dispose of that crazy Sierra-rapist’s body? Why wasn’t Victor simply freed after his army chip was disengaged? How did Alpha evolve on his own? Where did Alpha disappear to after his last little Dollhouse excursion? Do the admin staff basically live at the Dollhouse? Do they have lives on the outside? Oh and I could go on…

That was a blast of negativity there, but necessary to examine why the show has failed. That being said, I’ve enjoyed the progression this season, even if it seems dramatic compared to last season’s lack of forward movement. Echo becoming an Alpha-esque person was a neat twist and smart way to evolve the character, although I still don’t quite get who she is or how she exists. Topher and Dewitt continue to bring solid, complex performances although it’s more likely the scripts favour their development over the more robotic Boyd and Ballard. There’s been more humour, more intrigue, more twists, more action the last few episodes than the entire series to date – although not every twist has worked (I still don’t get why Dewitt was so blatantly evil only to be developing a team to take down Rossum).

I am a little sad to see Dollhouse go, but at the same time I recognize that were Joss not forced to show his hand this season, we wouldn’t have gotten the rapid progression we’ve gotten over the last few weeks. Truthfully, the fact I could leave episodes on my PVR for so long probably speaks to the fact this is one show that was headed for the attic no matter what.

Till next time,

Britt’s On

The Best of the Best

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What does a best picture make? Believe it or not, since my last post I've knocked two more 'best picture' nominees off my list - Inglourious Basterds and Avatar. During the snoozy (but explosive) last quarter of Avatar, I found myself thinking about what makes a best picture. Namely, what made Titanic work over Avatar? In the blue war epic department, why would Braveheart win over Avatar?

I finally narrowed it down to the finally criterion that every Oscar voter out there should have on their bedside table while watching their screening copies - especially with this year's 10 best picture nominees for 2010.

A Great Story - if your movie has a one-of-a-kind story that captures a number of the other categories, you've got it made. This criteria does reflect strong showings in the other points I'm about to make.

A Wonderful Script - The best films have smart screenwriting and will often nab both awards (although lately smaller indie films will snag the screenwriting in lieu of the best picture nod. See: Juno).

Standout Performances - Whether an ensemble showing or a runaway winner with a totally talked up performance (who will generally take home the trophy), the best stories and scripts only function when the casting is right, and the acting is great.

Social Relevance - An oft overlooked element, but a critical one. Whether it's a period piece or a modern day interpretation of real life, the silver screen needs to represent what the audience wants to see - whether they know it or not.

Visual Glory - Never forget the importance of strong visual appeal in a film that might be lacking in the actual acting / writing department. Movies that are simply too beautiful to turn away will still score some Oscar nods (like Memoirs of a Geisha), and the best films almost always have a beautiful element of cinematography, set design, and costume to them.

Emotional Appeal - Different than social relevance, today's movie-goer is looking for one of two things: to be braindead, or to be swept away. Movies with emotional appeal are often socially relevant so the two go hand in hand, but a movie with no soul will never walk away with the top honour.

True Adaptation - I hesitated putting this in, but I think it's pretty important. Whether adapting a real life event (Titanic), a piece of fiction (Lord of the Rings), or a life experience (Juno), we want movies to resonate as real and true to our hearts and minds, however much we also want a fantastical escape from the world.

Revolutionizing Moviemaking - This is where James Cameron happens to excel. He has singlehandedly changed the film industry in many more ways than your traditional, consistent filmmakers have - through merchandising, through music, through special effects, through changing the rules as to how long a movie can be for audiences to not only sit through it once, but multiple times.

I'm not saying every Best Picture winner actually has all of these things. But taking a quick sample of the last decade, let's examine! Note the years refer to the films that were the best in 'that year'. Technically speaking some of these films (o most notably Million Dollar Baby) were released in the year they were given away, but they're considered of the last 'film year'.

2008 - Slumdog Millionaire
This is an example of social relevance and emotional appeal reigning supreme. The little movie that could was very much a reflection of its actual storyline - Slumdog was an underdog going in, but it reflected what audiences wanted to see: dreams coming true, against all odds. It was a feel good story with a pop culture element (albeit a slightly outdated one in North America) and plenty of romance, tension, and adventure that seemed a world away, yet somehow relatable. Aside from that, it had a great script, and solid if slightly indistinguishable performances given the unknown cast (name me three stars of it if you can), plus the emotional story of the three children in the film and their real-life struggles also helped propel this movie to the win, if little else.

2007 - No Country For Old Men

The Coen brothers are masters of a great story, plain and simple. Great stories include great pacing, great tension (and an emotional appeal - who wasn't choking on their heart in this film?), and in this instance, a very true adaptation (however much it may piss people off in the final scene). Also at play here was a particularly solid breakout performance by Javier Bardem, and some powerful visual impact if understated next to a technological or period wonder.

2006 - The Departed
I'm personally of the belief that the performances of the wide, diverse cast (including Martin Scorsese at the helm) are what helped this movie win. Every single person was bang on, every single scene was incredibly tense and electric, and the story - although familiar - seemed impossibly spun, yet still shocked at every turn. This was a movie about story, emotions, and performances beyond anything else.

2005 - Crash
Now do you see why I put social relevance on here? America was still smarting from their endless bruises in Iraq, George W. had just been elected to a new term, and here was a movie that analyzed the widespread effects of terror in America that woke a few people up from their Conservative stupor. It's almost the mirror image of Slumdog in that they both relied on emotional appeal / social relevance / story to win - America was ready for the rebellious message at play here, but they wanted to settle in and be coddled a few years ago when things still weren't getting any better.

2004 - Million Dollar Baby
Another movie where performances really dominated the film - Hillary, Morgan, and Clint all turned in good peformances that nabbed them a few more trophies to go with best picture. The emotional appeal was also critical here, perhaps moreso than anything else that I've looked at so far - this wasn't a success story, it was a heartbreaking failure.

2003 - Lord of the Rings
An example of the type of epic film that Avatar is - these movies aren't about the story (granted LOTR is adapted from a story that has been oft retold since), they're about the visual appeal, the overall epicness, and revolutionizing filmmaking. The LOTR series represented huge leaps in special effects and are among the most successful at creating a wholly realized other world to delve into. Are they the fancy cousin to the popcorn action flick? Sure, but their true adaptation and revolutionary techniques make the series as a whole take home the win.

2002 - Chicago

I think performances, adaptation, and visual glory won Chicago the title in possibly the most disputed best picture of the 00's. Having seen the musical in person, the showstopping visual transformations in the film made this Broadway show reach its full potential. Add to that some major star turns for some already well-knowns (but never for this type of performing) and you've got a winner. Some people would argue Gangs of NY should have walked away with the win - but let's face it, The Departed was a better film, and it's better Scorsese be remembered for that over anything else.

2001 - A Beautiful Mind
Similar to Good Will Hunting, I think ABM won for, quite simply, a great story. The performances were good. The script was good. The film was socially relevant - wit before war. It may have not revolutionized things or changed the face of a genre (the way Million Dollar Baby challenged 'the sports film'), but it was quite simply, a good film without needing some of the more specific gimmicks that may have carried some of these other winners through.

2000 - Gladiator
More Russell! I'm not really of the same mind on this movie as others, namely the Academy. Visual glory of the historical epic really took this one to the top I guess, as the story was nothing new (I'm not a fan of the historical epic), the performances and script were pretty whatever (as with most HEpics), and well...why exactly would we have cared about Gladiators back then? The most logical explanation I've got for you is the historical epic was sort of brought up to the technological film advances we'd made by this point - Titanic revolutionized things at the end of the last decade, and other (many other) historical films were beginning to come out of the woodwork - this was one of the first.

1999 - American Beauty
Technically this movie falls in the 00's because it was given away at the 2000 ceremony, but I also wanted to include it because it's one of my fave movies of all time. Great story. Great script. Great performances. Extremely socially relevant. Stunning visual appeal. Huge emotional melodrama. And in terms of true adaptations and revolutionizing the film industry, few films have succeeded in pulling back the curtain of suburbia and making it as electric, dark, and interesting as this film does. A true best picture and a standout on this list in my opinion.

So where are we at with some of the most likely contenders this year? Up In The Air has a ton of social relevance, a good script, and some standout performances. Precious is the same thing, perhaps with more of a focus on 'story' and 'performances' than anything, although it also packs a pretty big emotional power punch. Avatar has the market cornered on revolutionizing the industry and visual glory. The Hurt Locker is finally making the world sit up and acknowledge Iraq in a way no other film has managed to (much how Crash did with domestic terror and racism). Inglourious Basterds, in my humble opinion, may not revolutionize filmmaking but it certainly challenges it. There are so many beautiful, wonderful things about the way Quentin Tarantino makes films, and that movie is perhaps all of them wrapped up in one.

I won't get into all the 'maybes', but taking a look at my list of criteria vs. the maybes, I think Oscar has its work cut out to make a solid top 10.

Till the nods are released (or I watch another Oscar film),

Britt's On

Perfect 10

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Ah I'm updating more lately, whatever could that mean? Namely that I work in an office that doesn't let you close (too) early on Christmas Eve, and forces you to work the following week when all of the suppliers you need to work with are CLOSED. Awesome!

Anyway, I'm going to post about the Oscars 2010, because I am watching them closely, because I am attending them (really). At least, the bleachers / screaming fans portion, at which point I've heard we're escorted to a nearby theatre to watch the show go down on the big screen. Eek giddiness.

Hey I just realized, maybe they're doing the 10 best picture nods because it's 2010. Clever! 10 in 10! Unfortunately, Hollywood sucks balls and makes shitty shitty movies and virtually all of the big buzz movies are keeling over under the spotlight. I'm looking at you - Nine, Lovely Bones, Invictus et al.

I've made a solid effort at seeing some of the early nods to be tapped and I haven't been that moved. In fact the last two years have been lackluster in best picture nominees - it was back in the 'No Country For Old Men' / 'Atonement' / 'Juno' etc. era that I was last quite moved by the cream of the crop.

As for where I stand in the whole 5 movie vs 10 movie debate...I think it definitely had merit in past years. Unfortunately 2009 was a crappy year for movies because no movie houses were predicting the top 10 thing and were content to sit on their haunches and produce crap like 2012 or Transformers. If it goes horribly this year and people opt not to do it again when the studios have time to prepare for such an event, that'll be disappointing, but unsurprising.

I also read a compelling argument by James Cameron recently regarding the 1970s when Annie Hall won over Star Wars for Best Picture. He had a really solid point that Star Wars changed filmmaking, and Annie Hall was just a nice sweet movie. Opening up the awards to commercially-loved but critically-acclaimed films (Wall-e, Dark Knight being the most frequently cited examples) makes sense to me, for sure. It just sucks that they decided to do this on such a bad year for movies.

Interestingly, some of the highest ranking films on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment haven't been released yet - they'll be coming out in the next couple of weeks. I wonder if any of them can capture the buzz necessary to launch an Oscar nod?

With that in mind, let's review the Golden Globe nods, and other contenders that might yet make it into this year's top 10.

Avatar - is doing surprisingly well for all of the turkey taunting that led up to its release. It didn't have a mind-blowing opening weekend, but don't forget what a slow burning film Titanic was. I'm definitely interested in seeing it, for the visual technical elements alone.
Oscar Nod Chances: 95% - it's one of the few big buzz movies that seems to be holding up, if not overwhelmingly positive.

The Hurt Locker - I never got a chance to see this on the big screen but it's generated enough consistent buzz over the last year it'll definitely make it to the top 10. Unfortunately I think the fact it was released in the summer in such a limited run might hurt its chances unless it starts promoting "NOW ON DVD" in the very near future, additionally because this is exactly the kind of film that inspired the academy to go to 10 movies - it was little seen, loved by critics, and not a major commercial success.
Oscar Nod Chances: 100% - there's no way they'd leave the first good film about the hot mess that is Iraq out.

Inglorious Basterds - Another film that's done surprisingly well, IB is almost like the phoenix rising from the violent / commercial / Tarentino ashes to become a bit of a critical / commercial hybrid darling, exactly what the Top 10 is all about. In fact, were the top 10 thing scrapped this year, I doubt Inglorious would get any sort of glory. It's sitting in my DVD pile to watch PS.
Oscard Nod Chances: 80% - there's still a chance the Oscars will shy away from more commercial fare, although they tend to have a decent respect for Tarentino's form of entertainment.

Precious - This movie seemed to receive a huge publicity push (no pun intended) in November when it was first widely released, and although the theatre was still quite full when I saw it this past weekend, it seems that the unstoppable fire behind it (like that of Slumdog Millionaire) has tapered off a bit. Probably cause the whole film is such a freaking downer. That being said, the raw, harsh realities of this film are heart-wrenchingly different from most of the trite stuff released these days, and Hollywood loves a star born from a virtual unknown.
Oscar Nod Chances: 100% - you don't get Oprah and Tyler Perry on your side and NOT get an Oscar nod.

Up In The Air - What a funny film UITA is next to all of these other films. Jason Reitman makes these very interesting, relatable, funny films that take a dash of reality and mixes it up with some eccentricities and romance. I saw Up in the Air in its local premiere here and the audience generally enjoyed it - but just like Juno, the film is on the bubble of not being taken seriously enough to take home the win. That's what happens when you make films about real life I guess. I definitely liked it, but as my sister and I discussed, I'm not sure it necessarily warranted being seen on the big screen (visually) - and that sort of thing is not what you say about an Oscar sweeping film. Hm.
Oscar Nod Chances: 100% - The Oscars like Jason Reitman and this film along with Precious have received the most consistently positive buzz and feedback.

(500) Days of Summer - This movie would have a snowball's chance in hell of making it to the Best Picture level if it weren't for a Top 10 year. Why you ask? I loved this movie, honestly. I have a major love for both of the lead actors, and the storytelling was reminiscent of the amazing 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' while still capturing the real humour found in Jason Reitman's films. Plus who doesn't love a good dance sequence? The problemo we have though, is that unlike Inglorious Basterds or Up In The Air, this movie never scored major points commercially and may suffer a worse fate than The Hurt Locker because it's a less serious film with less long-term buzz. Did I love this movie? Yes! Did it reinvent the romantic comedy? Certainly! But it doesn't quite resonate the way a successful 'serious' romantic comedy does like Jason Reitman's stuff.
Oscar Nod Chances: 60% - At this point, (500)'s positive Tomatometer score is looking like a major plus for the film as endless other movies keep on turning up DOA. I'm still skeptical though.

The Hangover - This is very much an example of commercial success taking up a throwaway spot in a lackluster year for the comedy/musical category. Then again, kudos to the Hangover for being such a runaway success despite some slightly hesitant affirmations from even the most boneheaded comedy fans (my boyfriend included).
Oscar Nod Chances: 0% - There's Wall-E and Dark Knight, and then there's the Hangover. Both of those other two films had amazing storytelling, filmmaking, and acting at play. The Hangover...was a funny dude film that did great. End of story, Oscars aren't THAT generous.

It's Complicated - This rom com for the just past their prime was hoping to garner the same kind of rolling buzz as 'Something's Gotta Give' or other empty nester romances, but so far it's getting quite lukewarm reviews for appealing more to the senses than the heart. I've got no plans to see it, sorry!
Oscar Nod Chances: 10% - Oscar rarely (if ever) brings a rotten scoring film (if you're going by the Tomatometer) into the fold, and I doubt this film will overcome its tepid reviews to get enough love from Oscar.

Julie & Julia - The main buzz behind this film comes from Meryl Streep, but overall it fared pretty favourably as a warm & fuzzy if slightly throwaway entry into the race. Definitely on my short list to watch in the near future along with Avatar & Inglorious Basterds.
Oscar Nod Chances: 75% - this movie is sort of in the bubble territory of (500) Days. It wasn't hugely released or a giant commercial success, but the fact it fared decently well critically when so many recent releases haven't might just keep it in the running so the Oscar Top 10 isn't a total critical mess.

Nine - This movie seemed dragged down from the get go, with nearly none of the long-running advance buzz and clamoring generated by past major musicals like Moulin Rouge or Chicago. Plus the more stars you have, the worse the movie tends to be (save for the Ocean's series!). This is one of those pre-buzz movies that seems to just be getting annihilated for crappy music (no wonder we've never heard of the show) and a boring storyline. Yawn, although I might see it as it'll probably generate some 'showy' Academy nods like best costumes / art direction.
Oscar Nod Chances: 40% This might be the film that rounds out the top 10 if nothing else manages to crop up, but again, it's getting poor reviews and I doubt Oscar will acknowledge it.

So based on the Golden Globes, we've got the following for sure & pretty good chance nominees:

10. Avatar
9. The Hurt Locker
8. Inglorious Basterds
7. Precious
6. Up In The Air
5. (500) Days of Summer
4. Julie & Julia

So we've got three spots up for grabs, potentially more if (500) Days and Julie & Julia don't make it. Incidentally had Oscar stuck with the top 5 that would be numbers 10-6 on my list, guaranteed. Maybe swap out Inglorious for something...

Here are the other contenders for those final three spots:

Invictus - I literally fell asleep towards the end of this film. Twenty-minute slow motion rugby sequences do not a compelling film make. Additionally I couldn't see past Morgan Freeman to embrace his portrayal of Nelson Mandela. The film tripped and hopped along but has done favourably enough (plus Clint Eastwood's involved) that it'll probably score one of those spots.
Oscar Nod Chances: 70%

The Lovely Bones - Another film that has an acclaimed director and cast attached to it that has failed to live up to the hype - mostly because Peter Jackson committed the cardinal, oft repeated sin of Hollywood these days: he watered down the original extremely powerful, disturbing story in Alice Sebold's book and overfantasized the in between (which in the book is not nearly the magical place the film seems to make it). I think this book adaptation will ultimately suffer the same fate of 'My Sister's Keeper' and 'Time Travellers Wife' of failing to live up to what thousands of readers are anticipating.
Oscar Nod Chances: 20% - I see it faring slightly better than Hangover or It's Complicated, but the Academy's audience (and members) read, and if they don't like the adaptation this movie has no shot.

An Education
- A movie mostly hailed for the starring performance of Carey Mulligan, this film has a shot based solely on the strong buzz surrounding her. I actually quite enjoyed the film, it was a solid effort, but definitely not winner potential. If Oscar wants to avoid public embarrassment with keeping low-rated films out of the top 10, they might include this one.
Oscar Nod Chances: 60% - Another example of the type of exclusive, indie film superiority I think the Academy is trying to avoid, but hey, it got good marks and Carey Mulligan and Peter Saarsgard both turned in fantastic performances (special shoutout to Alfred Molina!).

The Young Victoria - One of your typical classic English period pieces about a regal (see: The Duchess, Elizabeth, et al) that has earned Emily Blunt a few gold stars so far, although she stands tough BAFTA competition against Carey Mulligan. It's done alright, and again might slip in like 'An Education' if only so the Academy can save some face.
Oscar Nod Chances: 40% - The actual movie hasn't been as widely loved as 'An Education' and the two are similar in what they're getting buzz for (the lead actress' performance). Plus do they really want to send a slew of people to a snoozy film and get them up in arms about the top 10? Nay.

The Blindside - A solid example of what the Academy was probably hoping to accomplish with their top 10 movies. The Blindside looked to be one of those cheesy, throwaway inspirational sports stories - but wait! Sandra Bullock played an actual parent! Audiences loved the thing! The woman behind the real story is out there promoting it! It's been a commercial slow burn! The reviews aren't out of this world, but the word of mouth buzz for this movie is undeniable, which may equal Oscar throwing a bone to the fans (as the Globes did with the Hangover).
Oscar Nod Chances: 60% - It would be the lowest rated of the top 10, but also one of the most watched / loved, which might warm viewers to the Academy.

Crazy Heart - This little-known but relatively much-talked about film burst onto the scene in the last few weeks as a late, dark horse entry into the race. Jeff Bridges gives a Mickey Rourke-esque late in the game career-changing performance (apparently) and overall this movie is garnering fantastic critical praise and tantalizing viewers for a buzzy film that lives up to its hype.
Oscar Nod Chances: 75% - It's entering into things a little late compared to everything else, but it might emerge as a beacon that the Academy can point to as another very strong entry that could oust some of the other 'bubble' films like (500) Days, Julie, or Inglorious.

Sherlock Homes - I think this movie will go down more as a mid-level commercial success than anything. It doesn't have quite the level of prestige attached to it as 'Inglorious Basterds' which falls into the same 'caper' genre, but it might sneak away with a nod or two in the screenwriting or artsy departments.
Oscar Nod Chances: 40% - If they get desperate, this film might sneak in much as Nine might. I'm very doubtful though.

A Single Man - This movie seems to be getting good buzz despite of itself. It's almost like everyone is amazed a movie made by a fashion designer, starring Colin Firth in a non-Firth role, and set in the course of one small day, with a gay protagonist you're asked to be sympathetic to, could actually be any good! However this movie is mired by extremely limited release and extreme indie status - at least some of the other more indie films on this list are shown in at least one or two theatres in most major cities.
Oscar Nod Chances: 45% - More critically acclaimed than the 40%, but less accessible.

I could go on. I want to see "The Messenger" but it will be overshadowed by 'Hurt Locker' in the war movie department. 'The Last Station' has a few Globe acting nods but who knows anything about it at all? They could move 'Up' to best picture but it doesn't really live up to the level of buzz 'Wall-e' got. District 9 and Star Trek were both commercial / critical hits, but not to the level of Dark Knight. There are a couple of high-ranking movies (so far) sitting pretty on the release list - a dark & depressing war film called 'The White Ribbon', a Michael Cera coming-of-age (what else) film called 'Youth In Revolt', and curiously, Ethan Hawke's new vampire vehicle 'Daybreakers'. Overall though, none of these TBR movies have the level of buzz something like 'Crazy Heart' has.

For now I'll be hunkering down for some good ol' fashioned entertainment (or not) as I continue my road to the Oscars 2010.

Watch this space (and see if my predictions are right!)

- Britt's On

I'm A Survivor

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I'm a Survivor of the Survivor fans. I've watched every season, and nearly every episode. I still love the show, I still believe it's not staged (unlike 90% of most shows out there), and I still think it has plenty to offer the viewing public. I will be heartbroken the day it ends, even with some of the more lacklustre seasons the show has had. After this week's 'upset' of sorts between Natalie and Russell, I felt compelled to sit down and look at all the past seasons and see which ones ranked the highest in my memory. To be honest, many of them are a bit of a blur, particularly towards the end, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy them back in the day.

I'm also eagerly anticipating Season 20 of Survivor - Heroes vs. Villains. Although the gimmick may not play out as I think the producers will anticipate, I am excited to see some very familiar faces (third time's the charm?) return to meet some less familiar ones, in particular Russell, who will be both evenly matched in gameplay (him vs. Boston Rob? Wow) but also have the advantage of no one knowing what he's capable of. Nice.

Without further ado, here is my in-depth, shallow analysis of every season of Survivor to date:

S1: Borneo
The original and in many people’s minds, the best. It’s funny to watch reruns of it now and see the less polished, tentative side of the show. In actuality, I disagree with the sentiment that it was the best – while it was definitely a strong introduction to what this show could do, it was actually pretty frustrating that no one clued into the whole alliance thing. Plus the fun tribe, Pagong, got voted off. There was definitely a strong mix of characters – the forced casting they do today couldn’t have done it better! Rudy, Rich, Sue, and sweethearts Colleen, Gervase, and Jenna. Plus the final tribal was pretty thrilling, and the fact all the spoilers in the world still didn’t reveal the true winner. Classic, if only for the pop culture factor.
Grade: A-

S2: Australia
A change of scenery and overall an amping up of the game, including pushing it to 42 days (unnecessarily as it turns out) instead of 39 and generally polishing things up a bit. The ending was disappointing as who honestly liked any of the final three – Keith, Colby, and Tina? That being said, there were lots of great happenings this season. The unfortunate ‘tiebreaker’ incident that ousted male cheerleader Jeff, Michael falling into the fire, Kel (go Canada) and the beef jerky, Jerri’s general bitchiness, Colby’s controversially questionable relationship with his mom and their slumber party in his new Aztec, the camp flood, and oh yeah, Elisabeth Filarski / Hasslebeck before she went crazo. TBQH, I was rooting for Elisabeth the whole time though, back when she was an innocent shoe designer. Ah how far she’s come. I’ve heard we look alike as a sidenote.
Grade: A-

S3: Africa
Many people would put this at the bottom of their list of best seasons, and I can’t say I disagree. The main plus for this season is the fact I was rooting for Ethan from day 1 and he walked away with the win – one of the few if only times that’s happened on any reality show that I watch. Tom was annoying, despite him being one of the more memorable characters this season, and Lex was also a big fave of mine. Kudos to Ethan for being the first one to pull off the nice guy takes the cake strategy. Too bad the rest of the season (owing to the lack of mobility by the tribes) was so snoozeworthy. Interesting sidenote on a topic Survivor has yet to come to a formal decision on: the tiebreaker. In the previous season, Jeff was automatically out because he’d collected the most votes previously. In this season, they did a nature quiz. More drama on tiebreakers to come!
Grade: C+

S4: Marquesas
For various reasons, I quite enjoyed this season. For one, it had one of the most stunning (dare I say, cushy) locations ever used on the show, including the gorgeous Oceanside tribal council beach hut. Boston Rob, reality TV’s most notorious star, also made his debut here, although his torch was snuffed out far too early (kudos to the producers for spotting what an interesting / strong player he is, although at the time I hated him. Other reasons why I loved this season? The destruction of the morally ‘good’ Kathy / Neleh / Pappy trio. All three of these people were nauseating and it was nice to see them crumble at the 11th hour, as mean as that sounds. Additionally we had the biggest upset in Survivor history that strikes fear in a Survivor’s heart to this day – the tiebreaker rock challenge, where the innocent bystander Paschal was blindsided by picking the wrong colour rock, just shy of practically winning the thing for being a nice, old man. Cue Neleh turning on Kathy, and presto, you have an electric final tribal that saw the well-deserving Vecepia take home the crown. Did I mention the merged tribe’s pink buffs were awesome?
Grade: B+

S5: Thailand
This is one of the lowest ranking seasons in my mind. I remember next to none of the characters other than the fiery Shii Ann (who went through another tumultuous run in All Stars), the smarmy car dealer Brian (/winner), and the way old third place finisher Jan. The one interesting thing is this is the first time they pulled the old tribe leader / pick your own tribes thing, which made for a good start, but alas, things crumbled when a nasty final four emerged.
Grade: D

S6: Amazon
Another season I quite liked. There were a lot of egos coming into this game, which were only enhanced when the tribes were divided into men vs. women. This season did a fantastic job of battering the male egos (if by editing more than anything) between the guys losing the first challenge, ‘sports fans’ wunderkid Dave being blindsided, and the final four episode being totally intense. Jenna and Heidi stood nary a chance, and this is the one time the ‘give your immunity necklace to someone else’ rule totally paid off. Injured and weak, Heidi passed on her necklace to Jenna who completely dominated the final challenges and rightfully took home the crown. Plus you had that psychotic dude Matt hanging around, and another sporadic camp disaster (fire!) which made for some editing fun.
Grade: A

S7: Pearl Islands
This season made the show pretty fun again – admittedly Amazon and Marquesas had their ups and downs in the fun department and this season just brought back the crazy spirit of ‘anything can happen’ on the show. For one, the contestants had to wear the clothes on their back for the first time, which made for some fun stories throughout the season. For another, the pirate theme was used quite effectively – I’d go so far as to say this was the first time a season was properly themed beyond the location. Rupert, America’s Survivor sweetheart, was also amazing as the pirate master and generally made the show great (even if he was a bit aggravatingly nice at times). While America found a hero in Rupert, they also found a villain in Jonny Fairplay, who executed the most insane lie of all time with his ‘dead grandma’ routine that basically earned him the reward challenge win. The biggest downfall of the season was the way the final two were edited – they were both given pretty unlikable, forgettable edits (Sandra who? Lil the crazy Scoutmaster?) which made you not really care so much about the outcome. Overall a strong season though.
Grade: B

S8: All Stars
Hot off of filming Pearl Islands, the producers stuck around in the Pearl Islands and were even wise enough to recruit Rupert to come back and compete with some of the most memorable characters from past seasons. The decision to split them into four tribes at first was smart as it probably put a kibosh on many pre-show tentative alliances. The problem with most All Star seasons is people are so busy trying to take out the big guns, they often forget about the little people, who tend to take the title. That being said, Boston Rob and Amber made for an interesting pairing – the debate on the realness of their romance, their overall skills at manipulating everyone, and the fact they managed to dominate all the way to the final two made for a solid storyline (although a bit depressing towards the end as Rupert and Jenna both got the shaft). This season exemplified the ‘bitter jury’ problem, with Rob failing to take home the million – although really him and Amber have probably earned more than their keep by this point. I’m personally a Romber fan and was happy to see them on this show, TAR twice, and their wedding special (I skipped the poker show though).
Grade: A-

S9: Vanuatu
Another season of chicks vs dicks and this time it turned out pretty differently – the women were way more steadfast (perhaps owing to their older ages) than the last time around, and the men were even more pathetic. There was a good deal more of the man burliness and girl cattiness at play this season, and it was fun to see how far the firm as glue all-girl alliance would take things, but unfortunately this is another season marred by a horribly annoying final four. I’m looking at you Twila, Scout, and Eliza. Kudos to Chris for snatching the win back from the girls – had they listened to Ami they never would have been in that mess.
Grade: C-

S10: Palau
I didn’t particularly care for this season. Stephenie and Bobby Jon were definitely the most interesting people around and the fact they continually got beaten down was painful. I do give kudos to the producers in some ways for making it so dramatic and never allowing a merge / shift of players to rebalance the two tribes. Plain and simple, Ulong died, which is ultimately why this season failed. The other tribe didn’t have to be strategic at all, and all of the strategy on the Ulong side was rendered pointless by the time the season was over since all those folks were gone. I didn’t particularly like the winner Tom (smug) unlike some of the other ‘good guy’ winners like JT and Ethan. Additionally the fact that dolphin trainer Ian dropped out of the finals basically made for a stupid final two – there was no way Katie should have been there in one of the worst cases of riding coattails I’ve ever seen, she never had to fight, not once.
Grade: C

S11: Guatemala
Another season I didn’t love, mostly because it really destroyed the warm and fuzzy memories I had of Stephenie and Bobby Jon. BJ became a bumbling, boring fool and Stephenie was forced to be a ruthless, reckless competitor that cost her the win. It did prove that Stephenie had what it took to make it *to* the end (if not win) based on her strategy, social gameplay, and overall physical dominance, but she played the game with a vengeance which cost her a lot of fans. Additionally it was pretty heartbreaking to see former partners in crime turned distant enemies when it came to BJ & Steph. It was interesting to just bring back a handful of all stars (as they would again down the road) and see how they’d fare, but the overall cast dynamics this season were pretty lackluster. I do remember foul-mouthed Judd, obnoxious Rafe, the first ever hidden immunity idol, and forgettable winner Danni, and that it was really hot, but that’s about it. Snooze.
Grade: C

S12: Panama / Exile Island
Ah finally the slow boil of elements from the past few seasons came to a head with Exile Island – namely, the concept of hidden immunity idols, isolation from your tribe (as in past tribe members being temporarily captured), and general hellacious experiences in solitude. I’m not a big fan of Exile personally, although it tends to make for some interesting moves throughout the years its been used, especially with the hidden idols. With this being the first time it was experimented with, there were some hits and misses. Aside from that, to address another issue many people have with this season – are there seriously that limited of destinations out there? Why are we in the Pearl Islands AGAIN? Ah well, this is another example of the show theming itself on something other than destination. Now…notice I haven’t talked about the people this season yet? That’s because this was a brutal season for ‘characters’. It took me till the sentence about ‘hits and misses’ to even remember who won…homeless yoga instructor Aras after a relatively placid, boring run. The initial split of the tribes into four was an interesting twist again although I recall it didn’t have a huge impact on the game – young men, old men, young women, old women. I believe the final four ended up representing these four groups which was neat. Anyway I hated Terry, I had no feelings towards Aras, I wanted to be sympathetic to Danielle (girl spent a lot of time on Exile!) but found her annoying, and although I generally like Cirie, I’m not an avid fan of hers. Also this season marked the most painful tiebreaker of all time – the dreaded firemaking challenge in which the girls eventually had to be given MATCHES to make their freaking fires. Brutal!
Grade: C-

S13: Cook Islands
A surprisingly great season despite the dodgy premise of breaking up tribes based on ‘race’ there was so much at play and a ton of great characters. The most exciting thing is the way the underdogs (much like in this last season) of Ozzy, Sundra, Becky, and Yul managed to dominate all the way to the top of the game after Candice and Jonathan mutinied like idiots. Yul and Ozzy are possibly the greatest final two of all time as they represented two such different sides of the game – outwit and outplay respectively, which made for a great final tribal. The twist that it was a final three was a good one in this case – not because there was any point in Becky being there, but because it eliminated the possibility of Ozzy or Yul not taking the other one and completing running away with the win. I was quite in awe of Ozzy in particular this season but Yul was one of those likable strategists that I really respected. A welcome shift after several snoozy seasons. Oh but sidenote – how did Parvati ever make it onto Favourites?
Grade: A

S14: Fiji
Jeff Probst has gone on record to say that this is one of his least favourite seasons, and while it wasn’t as horrible as Thailand, it certainly had its weaknesses. Namely the whole haves vs. have nots thing was really lame and unfair – the underdogs had no chance in hell of breaking free from that cycle of horribleness. Ideally they should have made the teams swap conditions halfway through but that never happened. Another major problem was the fact nearly everyone this season (except ONE player) was recruited vs. actually applied for the show. That made for a lot of uninterested, unmotivated players – Earl, the valiant if slightly boring winner, hadn’t even seen the show! In the good news department we had Yau-Man to make things interesting, the controversial Dreams & Yau-Man bargain falling through, and there was good fun with the hidden immunity idols for the first time (rather than just holding onto them as in past seasons). I also particularly loved the destruction of the Four Horsemen alliance and poor Edgardo falling in the crosshairs.
Grade: B-

S15: China
Another welcome return to form for the show. For one, the change of scenery was very notable – I don’t think another season had quite the look and feel of China (maybe Amazon), plus the theming was totally different than what we’d seen previously. For another, there was tons of great drama and backstabbing this season – and also people who were there to play the game (most notably, winner Todd). The major blindside of James (swoon) and his two idols was fantastic, as was Jamie’s playing of the faux idol. The final three was a colourful and interesting group and the vote could have played out a bit differently – Todd was one of those players where even if you didn’t like him, you had to respect the sneaky little game he played being a tiny, weak guy. Poor Amanda though, twice that girl makes it to the end and twice she is shafted for being a nice snake of a player (how can one be ‘more honest’ about lying?). Also the removal of exile was a nice change in lieu of the kidnapping.
Grade: B+

S16: Micronesia / Fans vs. Favourites
I think I actually preferred this all star edition to the first one, as there was this element of mystery that didn’t exist previously – the favourites were probably expecting some people to be there that weren’t, and they had no clue how to deal with the fans. On the flip side, the fans were a totally wacky bunch for the most part – it was hilarious to see them fawn over the favourites but also have that hero complex where they felt like they’d be bigger if they could be responsible for getting rid of a certain favourite (see: Ozzy). That being said, I was definitely rooting for the favourites – the unfortunate part of bringing on superfans is that they were all a little weird, unlike the typically quite diverse and fun casts the show brings on to generate NEW favourites. Parvati played a solid if slightly irritating game, Amanda got told yet again, and Cirie again did a great job – but again I was secretly rooting for P & A to take it to the end. Also of course, the dumbest move in Survivor history – Erik giving up the necklace Natalie. Wow. Another perfect example of the big guns getting voted off because they’re all so busy worrying about each other that the sneaky, smart ones slip by and take the win (Parvati). Perhaps Candice will do the same in Heroes vs. Villains? PS Survivor – big marks off for not only returning to the same filming area (Pulau) but for actually putting the Survivors on the exact same beaches previously used. Are you kidding?
Grade: A-

S17: Gabon / Earth’s Last Eden
The first high-def season, and what a beautiful setting for it – sweeping vistas, tons of natural wildlife (that scene where the Survivors got up close and personal with an elephant was wicked), it was great. Unfortunately I wasn’t as big a fan as the characters this season. Technically speaking I was rooting for Matty, Krystal, and Kenny – but they all showed really obnoxious sides (like Matty’s teary proposal, Krystal’s psychotic rants, and Kenny’s general evilness). The other ‘good’ tribe was one of those nauseatingly happy ones that I wanted to see fall apart. I don’t get how Sugar was such a hero, I found her totally obnoxious and annoying. I did like Bob and thought he was very crafty in staying in the game when the chips were so brutally down, and while he outplayed and outwitted when he needed to, I felt he wasn’t really playing the game all that hard until that point. Plus the exile concept totally bombed, it was way too easy for Sugar to find the idol and with her returning there everytime and choosing the luxury option, it was pretty lame. There were a few choice moments that I can recall – Bob’s fake necklaces, Krystal’s hilarious vocal rant when she finally got to vote off Randy, and uh, did I mention the cool up close encounter with the elephants?
Grade: B

S18: Tocantins
Between the last two seasons, major props to the location scouts for finding such interesting vistas to set the show – the desert atmosphere of Tocantins was completely different than anything we’d seen (maybe a bit like Australia) to date which made for more great high-def action. I have mixed feelings about this season. On one hand, it was a very lame season strategically – the only person playing the game was Stephen but even HE wanted JT to win. Never before has a game been so readily handed over to a single player. Granted, JT was all kinds of awesome, I definitely had some love for him. Had the secret exile four alliance worked out better, that also would have been bonus points for this season. Beyond that, despite the total lack of strategy and interest this season, we did have a ton of interesting characters. I was a Sierra fan despite some of the nastiness directed at her, Tyson was a great villain and it was fun to watch him knocked down, Coach was one of those loose cannons that made for some fun, I generally enjoyed Taj, and how could you not love JT? No wonder they scooped several of these folks up for the next all star edition?
Grade: B

S19: Samoa
This is almost the exact inverse of the last season. Again we had a standout character that dominated the season, and his name is Russell. That man singlehandedly made this season exciting, and the overall show feel fresh again. He changed the game, much the way other players have been innovative (or tried to), Russell actually did it, although unfortunately it cost him in the end. The character of Russell also provided a moral dilemma for the viewers – he did some deliberately evil things at the beginning of the series (burning socks, pouring out water, etc.), made some extremely condescending and rude remarks (“my dumb girl alliance”), but he also dominated the game strategically and socially (through character analysis, not actual friendship) to take his Foa Foa Four nearly to the end. Unfortunately the jury, being made up of sensitive dumbasses, took their rage out on Russell and voted ‘against him’ rather than ‘for Natalie’. That being said, I actually thought Natalie played a pretty good game – it was her performance at final Tribal that pissed me off more than anything because she totally sold herself short and still won it. The reunion show, and her claim that her biggest move was orchestrating Eric’s departure, was exactly what I was screaming at the TV throughout the whole final tribal. It was like watching the show was a wake-up call for what a big role she played in that particular key point of the game – either that or she was deliberately keeping mum about it for the purposes of the jury not getting pissed at her as well. I don’t know. I would have been happy with Natalie winning a couple of episodes ago but her lackluster performance at selling herself to the jury has really soured most people against her win. Oh, and did I mention the rest of the people this season were pretty big idiots? Yeah, that kind of put a damper on super Russell’s super season.
Grade: B+

S20: Survivor Heroes vs. Villains
And here we are with another all-star edition on the horizon. Quite frankly, I wish they’d waited till Survivor 21 to do another all-star season and brought back all the winners (if they could spring Richard Hatch from prison) for a battle royale, but I also don’t mind the concept of this season. My only beef is that it’s only been a few seasons since our last all-star edition, so we’re seeing a lot of the same faces for the third time. Granted they are some of the ultimate favourites (James, Amanda, Parvati (?), Cirie) so it’s not all bad. I’m curious to see how Russell will fare amongst the All Stars that won’t have a clue about what he’s done in the past, but ALSO will be wondering why he’s on the villains tribe, and they’ll also be playing the game WAY harder than anyone in Samoa did. Also curious to see if Danielle and Candice, as the two WTF are you doing here? Contestants, will manage to fare well as past WTF contestants have (Amber, Parvati). This may very well be the best all-star edition ever and I’m eagerly anticipating it! Plus they had some sort of Tsunami / torrential storm while they were filming it. Fantastic!
Grade: TBD!

Till later,

Britt's On

Runway Ties

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Well folks, up in Canada, for god knows why, we have Project Runway on delay. Meaning, if you want to watch it on the TV and not your computer, you must wait for about 2-3 weeks after the show has aired in the US of A. As a loyal Entertainment Weekly subscriber and general entertainment world explorer, this presents plenty of challenges. How does one avoid the news? Anytime I saw the words Project Runway I basically shut my eyes.

The good news is, maybe people have been bored with the last two seasons as I’ve managed to avoid finding out the winner and have been all tense and surprised with the finale. In fact I’ve heard a lot of negative things about season 6 that just wrapped up – to be fair, the show was mired by the whole network shenanigans going on and the tension of ‘this is happening now’ was lost. But also…I agree that Season 6 left something to be desired.

The challenges felt a bit flat (hi, thanks for stealing Project Runway Canada’s bride dress challenge), there was a lack of drama or personality for that matter in the work room, and the final collections failed to really wow me.

I mean last season, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Leanne but I appreciated the architecture of her clothing – it was clearly innovative, stylish, and new, and I was okay with her winning (despite the two-tone colour palette).

Before that we had PR wunderkind Christian Siriano. Although I was underwhelmed by the sparseness of his final collection, I got the buzz and the hype the show managed to create around him and he’s certainly done decently for himself since then. I was actually a fan of S3’s Jeffrey Sebelia, although his career hasn’t really gone anywhere (costume designer for Bratz?) notable since then. Ditto to S2’s Chloe Dao – Daniel Vosovic probably should have won that and paved the way for future boy wonders like Christian. And S1’s Jay McCarroll was a bit of a dark horse for the win in my opinion.

Regardless, there was nothing that made me particularly stand for any three of our top three in this year’s show. None of them had a particularly awe-inspiring outfit (I’m thinking of S3 Jeff’s stunning couture dress for example) throughout the competition, and while all 3 were consistently good and it was nice to see the blonde pretty girl actually do well for once, it still failed to excite my fashion senses when all was said and done.

Carol Hannah’s final collection was a little OTT in the satin department – I get that her clothing was supposed to represent fantasy but I felt like she was designing prom dresses more than fashion. Althea’s was definitely the most wearable and I see a great future for her designing for a hip commercial house like Club Monaco, but it was mostly nice, slightly special stylized versions of stuff I could go out and buy any day of the week. As for Irina’s, the all black thing was unappealing to me, and reminiscent of Christian Siriano’s S4 collection. Lame.

Here’s the big clue that most designers seem to pick up on though. The collections that win are typically the collections that use a cohesive element to tie them together. In particular, thinking of Irina’s helmets and Jay’s S1 headphones – the hat is the key! Even S3 Jeffrey was planning to use blonde wigs until he had to scrap them from his budget at the 11th hour. Leanne’s two-tone colour palette and Christian’s nearly all-black looks also cinched them the win. Chloe basically used four or five fabrics in every single piece, but I was a tad surprised she walked away with the win when you stack her collection up against the very tied together elements of the other winners. So future PR designers, take heed – be interesting, be daring, and find a gimmick to tie your collection together! Note: this is not always 100% successful. Korto’s paper fans from last season and Uli’s shark tooth closures failed to net the two ladies the win, but put them both in top contention for it at least. It’s the easiest way to claim cohesion should the judges get uppity!

Till next time,

Britt's On

Original Degrassi Junior High & Degrassi High Drinking Game

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This summer, bored by reruns and with no real TV on DVD to watch, I PVR'd the Degrassi: The Next Generation (hereby TNG) movie set in Hollywood...and kind of fell in love with the show all over again.

I remember coming home after school in junior high and high school and watching the original Degrassi series on CBC and being proud to have seen every single episode when all was said and done...and this was BEFORE the days of PVR people. When TNG started up around 2K, my family was all over it - we used to sit down and watch it together every week, even as the involvement of the original cast dwindled.

Unfortunately, Degrassi TNG entered into some sort of weird partnership with US teen channel The N whereby the scheduling went completely out of wack, and Degrassi became very difficult to track down on the tube. We lost touch at the end of Season 6. That is, until I watched the movie this summer and promptly ran out and bought Seasons 7 & 8 in anticipation of the currently running 9, and indeed I love the show, even though I miss the original TNG cast.

Anyway, amongst all of this TNG excitement, it also made me pine for Degrassi of yesteryear. I asked my two best friends to join me on a thrilling journey back to the late 80s where we would rewatch all of the original series and follow up with TNG.

One of my friends mentioned there used to be an awesome original Degrassi Junior High / Degrassi High School drinking game but alas we couldn't find it, the site that seems to have published it has since taken it down. So...based on her faint recollections and our overall enjoyment of the first two seasons of Junior High, here is the KLM version of the Degrassi Junior High / Degrassi High School drinking game (with additions to come I'm sure).

Take a drink everytime...

- Stephanie gets changed in the bathroom

- Yik & Arthur engage in an overtly nerdy activity (ex: using walkie talkies, renting swamp porn)

- Someone places a phone call in a phone booth

- Mr. Raditch is magically immediately on the announcements right after class

- There's a confrontation in the stairwell (including physical fights, arguments, or chase scenes) or in the high school years, on the wheelchair ramp

- Mr. Raditch abandons his teacherly duties (ex: not breaking up a stairwell confrontation)

- Joey gives a new meaning to the middle initial of his name

- Lucy's parents are negligent and leave a phone message ("There's sushi in the fridge!")

- Students are either signing something or handing something out in the hallway

- The word 'broomhead' is used

- An exterior shot is repeated within an episode or between episodes (easier if you watch them back to back)

- Someone shops at the local pharmacy

- Someone sings 'Everybody's Got Something'

- One of the twins (Heather & Erica) is NOT wearing something black or white

- Dream sequences or memory flashbacks occur (note the soft focus around the edge of the screen)

- A non-major character has a speaking role (ex: the chubby girl Nancy, the red-headed girl with freckles, the guy who enjoys carrots and makes a horrible speech on watching TV)

- The girl in the wheelchair defies the lack of wheelchair accessibility of Degrassi (or alternatively, when you notice there is no possible way for her to get up those front stairs as students stream in)

That should have you nice and buzzed within an episode, and nice and hammered within two. Until I continue onwards, this is definitely a great start to the Degrassi High / Degrassi Junior High drinking festivities!

- Britt's On

The Flash Forward

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So tonight marks the second episode of ABC's new Lost-ish drama (despite the HILARIOUS Entertainment Weekly article to the contrary), FlashForward, and the boyfriend and I have been looking forward to it all week. We were actually apart all day Saturday and when we regrouped on Sunday morning, we both commented we'd spent that entire day thinking of the show. I'm crossing my fingers it a) doesn't get lame and b) doesn't get canceled as it's the first time in a long time I've liked a show this much off the hop (okay not a long time - I picked up Friday Night Lights and Mad Men in the summer of 2008).

Regardless...many people are wary of FlashForward because of its ties to Lost, and the slightly disappointing (there, I said it) way the show has turned out. As a Slate commentator pointed out in regards to the wholly different Mad Men's Don Draper, the more you shroud something in mystique, the more of a letdown the ending is bound to be.

The FlashForward is a relatively new technique being used increasingly enthusiastically by various television programs - but it's not always successful. Here's a quick breakdown of a few of the most famous examples, and my thoughts on each.

Lost - the show is VERY much centered on flashes forwards and backwards, and has been from day one. The backwards flashes were more successful in the sense they were wholly character driven vignettes that explained who this person was, how they ended up on the island, and why they were the way they were. The forwards were merely plot-driven, plodding scenes that focused almost entirely on returning TO that same island. That being said, the 'true' flash here occurs in the Season 3 finale, when it's revealed that several of the castaways make it back to their homeland, and manage to live there for three whole years before they get the itch to come back. This shock value made for possibly the best finale of Lost in a very shrouded, tricky episode (aside from S5's finale that made up for the rest of a very crummy season), but the execution was less than awesome, as mentioned.
Grade: B - great introduction, horrible execution. Bonus points for sticking to a human timeline (i.e. plane crash in 2004, flash forwards in 2004 - 2007).

Alias - JJ Abrams' first delve into the Flash Forward - keeping in mind I watched Alias after Lost, and was surprised to see him re-use this plot device in the latter show. At the end of a rather gripping S2 finale, Sydney wakes up in Hong Kong (or some equally busy, confounding city) and discovers she's been missing for two years, with no memory of her whereabouts - her father is in prison, her mother is in hiding again, and her former boyfriend is married - making for a very dark, very delicious Season 3 of the series. I wasn't that into Alias up until this point. JJ Abrams finally shocked the viewer in an unpredictable way (and this was having seen him do a flash forward in Lost dammit!) and didn't let things go as lightly as he tends to with other Alias plot lines - Sydney's two-year mind gap is the major focus for the first half of the season. It actually could have made for a season-long stretch (perhaps the argument made for why the flash-forwards in Lost were stretched out over two goddam seasons), especially after it was wrapped up so brusquely by none other than Terry O'Quinn's (Locke on Lost) character on Alias, and swapped in for a rather irritating double agent storyline with Vaughn's new wife.
Grade: B+ - The flash forward was used effectively here as a game changer. The world Sydney returns to is wholly different, and dark, and it was nice to see her on uneven footing for a change. As much as it was killing me to figure out wtf happened to her, it was also fascinating and awesome. I just wish the episode where they reveal all at once didn't happen - it was WAY too convenient and easy.

One Tree Hill - Say what you will, I think One Tree Hill made some very smart decisions when it came to the way they structured the show. The only downfall being the actors continually aging and looking increasingly distant from their fictional ages. The first four seasons were set in high school, and, realizing their fans would probably balk for four more 'school age' years with the characters split up at college & various career opportunities, they fast forwarded the show four years and a bit to all kinds of changes - Lucas engaged (but not to any major character)! Peyton living alone in LA working in the music biz (but not how you'd expect)! Brooke on top of the world in NYC (and feeling incredibly lonely)! Nathan's NBA dreams dashed (wheelchair)! And well, Hayley's a teacher with a normal, adorable child. The downside to this particular flash is the lack of acknowledgment of time. In one of the first episodes of S5, Luke is using an iPhone. Which makes you wonder...okay, when were the high school years set? What year did these kids graduate (I can't remember, nor do I remember any major signage indicating what year it was during their graduation episodes)? Did they actually graduate in 02 or 03 and the new season is set in 06 or 07? Now they've used the device again, jumping forward 14 months mostly to get past the awkward 'Lucas & Peyton are off the show but we can't write them out properly' debacle. Jury's out on how effective it is so far, other than I'm happy I didn't have to suffer through endless "Nathan reaches for his dreams!" episodes and Brooke / Julian continued 'You're never around' episodes. I've had enough of that in the first few this season.
Grade: A- If you can get past the time crunch, the fast forward was a welcome relief from the typically unsuccessful college years, and the resulting situations we find our heroes in have taken two seasons to resolve, if not longer in some cases.

Mad Men - Here's a show that uses a fast forward with care. It helps that it's a period piece that can actually use specific dates and times and historical events - and know the outcome - to mine their storylines from. Admittedly it's always a bit jarring to find yourself fast forwarded several weeks, months, years down the line at the start of each season, but Mad Men's timeline per episode is much wider than any other TV show I've ever watched. It really only helps add to the show's realism as characters move forward with their lives and careers independently of a typical television program.
Grade: A This is how fast forwards can be done - but keeping in mind that Mad Men has an unfair advantage of their show rigidly adhering to a timeline fifty years in the making.

Desperate Housewives - At the end of Season 5, perhaps to spice things up from waning viewers, the show fast forwarded five years in a OTH-style twist, completely unbent from time considerations, and even more annoyingly, age. The OTH characters benefited from the forward motion, looking more their fictional ages, but the DH ladies are now in cougar/menopause town, and it's hardly been acknowledged. Unlike OTH, which used the FF to avoid tedious storylines, DH wasn't really in that position, other than perhaps us getting to skip a ton of "Gabby's a stressed out horrible mom!" stories. When you consider the approximate ages of each character, they're all damn close to the 50 mark, but often comments on the show suggest the opposite. Plus the fun new developments - Gabby has two chubby kids, Lynnette's kids are finally teens, Edie has a new husband and is moving back to town - were severely underused. Last season fell flat, among the worst of the series in my opinion (along with S2's horrible Applewhite mystery), mostly because the untangling of the storylines from episode 1's fast forward didn't feel fresh, as Mark Cherry's likely intention, they felt tired and tried - and strained given the fact these ladies are five years older and still behaving like they're the spring blossoms that attracted sexy shirtless gardeners *NINE* "show years" (the first four seasons + the five-year fast forward).
Grade: C- Why bother with a flash if you're only going to give us a peek as to how it affects your characters lives?

That's all for now...cross your fingers with me the ultimate "forward" show holds true and keeps me thinking this week.

- Britt's On

Why Jerry Maguire Is The Best Cameron Crowe Movie Ever...

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A few weeks ago I PVR'd Cameron Crowe's classic 90s film Jerry Maguire off of my godsend free movie channel, Encore Avenue HD. And you know what, despite its lengthiness, I enjoyed every second of it. After a quick mental analysis of the Cameron Crowe movies I'm familiar with, I decided Jerry Maguire was possibly his best film ever. Then I decided to document it, here.

Crowe's major career started with directing and writing the beloved 'Say Anything' starring a doe-eyed John Cusack in his prime. However anyone that has seen or talked about that movie knows it makes little sense and is ultimately a sad story. An 80s teen classic to be sure, but aside from the infamous boom box scene, not exactly the stuff iconic films are made of.

After that in the early 90s he moved onto 'Singles', a forgettable (as in, I haven't seen it) rehashing of St. Elmo's Fire with twenty-somethings searching for love in tres hip Seattle. The fact I haven't even heard of this movie probably speaks volumes. So I'll leave it at that.

Following 1996's Jerry Maguire, Crowe stepped up to write, produce, and direct his possibly most beloved film, 'Almost Famous'. Don't get me wrong, this is a great movie with a great cast. It showcases Kate Hudson's best (and unfortunately, one of her earliest) performance to date and features a wonderful ensemble cast from Jason Lee's snotty rocker to Zooey Deschanel's charming big sister take to the always on Frances McDormand in her taut mother role. The main problem I have with this movie is the fact it never really settles on a protagonist. Although you see this world through the lens of inexperienced youth William Miller, you rarely feel attached to him. The main emotional scenes of the movie surround Hudson's Penny Lane and the overall dynamics of Stillwater. It's hard to fall in love with a protagonist that consistently exposes his naivete, making the viewer feel superior over and over again. Plus I feel like the boxes were drawn a bit too finely around each character. Still, a fantastic movie in my collection.

After Jerry and Famous, Cameron Crowe had elevated himself to new heights - his films managed to be commercially successful, viable for awards, and ultimately endearing, nostalgic, almost timeless works of cinematic art.

However his next two films after that - despite being highly touted and buzzed about in advance - failed to grab viewers or awards, tarnishing Crowe's reputation. I actually like both of them but...I can see why you wouldn't.

Vanilla Sky reunited Crowe with Tom Cruise, aka Jerry Maguire, as well as sparked the Cruz/Cruise relationship, and perhaps revealed Cameron Diaz's true possessive nature (that drove Justin away?) in one of *her* best performances to date. I liked this movie for its realism mixed with fantasy - specifically in the 'realistic' parts of the film. The Cruz/Cruise connection was amazingly captured on film, I found Penelope absolutely adorable in this movie despite not being a massive fan of hers, and I believed the romance scenes between them. Again, Diaz's insanity was brilliantly played here. However, the whole film loses its lustre with its ending, which I won't ruin for you - it plays on science fiction a fair bit which is such a juxtaposition with the rest of the slightly eccentric and mysterious yet charming and passionate tone of the rest of the film.

Following that we have Elizabethtown, better known as an excellent showcase for the amazing soundtracks Crowe put together, but an underwhelming love story between two twenty-somethings getting in touch with their adult sides. Orlando Bloom jumped on this project to shift his reputation as a 'serious' actor, but he never quite fits the role of the lauded shoe designing wunderkid with his tail between his legs as he returns home for his father's funeral. Kirsten Dunst suits the role of the perky (almost annoyingly so) stewardess much better than her male counterpart, but unlike Crowe's earlier films, he fails to really build out the supporting cast, choosing instead to focus on Bloom who as mentioned, doesn't really fit. Dunst's character of Claire and Bloom's entire extended family are underused or packaged into extremely tight packages. I also recall reading a scathing review that picked up on the fact Susan Sarandon (as Bloom's mom) goes through a ridiculous number of mid-life crises' in the film's short time period.

Since then, all has remained on the Cameron Crowe front - Elizabethtown was released in 2005 (and yes, I have it on DVD and both soundtracks...I could watch the film to see the soundtrack play out alone) and it appears Crowe is in pre-production for a new film with Reese Witherspoon and Ben Stiller for release in 2010.

Now...here are my 7 reasons why Jerry Maguire is the best Crowe film of all time (and likely will be) in no particular order.

#1) Iconography - I watched 'The Godfather' for the first time the other day, and I was amazed at just how many famous phrases come from that film. The same is very true of Jerry Maguire. From 'show me the moneyyy' to 'you complete me' to 'you had me at hello' to 'help me, help you' the film offers no end of now cliched expressions that are completely embedded in our language. It takes a very well-written and received film to reach the level of integration JM has.

#2) Renee Zwelleger - this movie launched her career, without a doubt. Mostly because she is adorable, does a perfect job of playing the wide-eyed, naive single mom still hoping for something more, and she just *looks* better. Her eyes aren't as squinty, her voice isn't as gravelly, her body isn't deathly thin - she just looks lovely, in a way that also screams normalcy next to Kelly Preston's primped and glossy character.

#3) Ensemble Cast Development - every character, and I mean EVERY character in this movie is so amazingly well-rounded. In many ways, this book works like a novel in its characterization - the little details in the set design to their appearance to the lines they say, they all speak volumes about every character. Just looking at one or two examples - Bonnie Hunt's big sister character, Laurel, runs a divorcee club, is blunt with both Jerry and Dorothy about their relationship, has a protective mother bear streak for Dorothy and her son yet no children of her own, and believes in being conservative. Regina King's wife demonstrates loyalty, passion, strength, and tenacity in virtually every scene she's in. Even the most minor of characters - Dorothy's male nanny, Rod's slacker brother, Cush's weak-boned father - are detailed and jump off the screen and stick in your mind long afterwards.

#4) Complications - sure the movie ends on a high note, but the fact is, virtually nothing in this movie comes easily. The big breaks in Jerry's otherwise haphazard life - landing Cush, landing Rod, and marrying Dorothy - all head south at one point or another, and cost Jerry more than a piece of his sanity and soul. Even though the movie implies things are looking up for Jerry, it never actually takes the Hollywood ending route of the 'and suddenly, Jerry got millions of phone calls with new clients to take on'. The movie manages to both condemn and laud many of the themes and characters - including Jerry's flash of inspiration, Dorothy's search for a happily ever after, and Rod's mixture of heart and headiness when it comes to playing sports.

#5) Jerry Maguire - the character of Jerry is one of Tom Cruise's finest acting performances, mostly because he stops being Tom Cruise for five seconds and lets himself be both humiliated and shameless. He is endearing, especially in his realization that the self he's been for so many years maybe isn't so great - highlighted in his engagement party video. He doesn't want to be another sports agent guy, but he also recognizes it's the only way to do business. He is ungrateful, but not stupid enough to realize when he's got something good (or when something is worth letting go, like his fiancee). Like the entire film, Jerry Maguire is a complicated character, one that is easily relatable as we see his flaws in ourselves.

#6) Johnathan Lipnicki - Seriously this kid is freaking adorable in this movie. I don't care if he grew up to be an ugly irrelevant bugger, in the film, he steals every scene he's in. His scenes, although adorable, aren't just played for laughs. They're critical to cementing the tricky situation of shoplifting the pooty that Rod harasses Jerry about. This isn't just playtime with your sister's nephew, it's a child who is simply looking for someone to latch onto that they can rely on.

#7) It Takes Times - Unlike many movies today, this story does not happen overnight. Although the timeline is shady - particularly in terms of the Dorothy / Jerry love story - you get to experience the passage of time in a difficult time in every character's life, particularly via the football season. When things do seem to move rapidly, such as Dorothy's marriage to Jerry, the movie makes a point of showing the failures in this. The ending also acknowledges that it will take time for Jerry to really be successful at his 'new way' of managing sports stars.

There you have it. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I still love this movie. Yes it's long. Yes it's a little emotional. And yes you're more than likely tired of the famous lines being quoted in excess during the 90s. But it's great, and an example of what amazing filmmaking can be.

- Britt's On

Sydney Bristow vs. Buffy Summers

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My friend Dana and I lend one another TV on DVD series. So far, she's lent me Lost (I devoured the first four seasons literally just in time for the 5th season premiere) and the first 3 seasons of Alias. I lent her Buffy and Gilmore Girls - both of which she's loved.

I was a bit resistant towards Alias and wasn't clamouring quite as badly between episodes to watch it as I was with Lost, but overall I'll admit, I enjoy the show. JJ Abrams seems to have been a fan of Buffy and all the girl power / kick butt messaging it stood for - he even borrowed several of the minor characters to play small roles on Alias.

But overall, I have to concede that Buffy dominates Alias. I think it all comes down to the reality of the two series. In Buffyverse...everything is rooted in the paranormal. The relationships throughout Buffy - which are a big feature on both shows - are firmly related to fantasy...vampires, witches, demons, monsters, soldier slayers, sons of slayers...these are the people Buffy and her cohorts get involved with, and everything in their world - except perhaps, why people choose to live in Sunnydale - can be explained or connected to magic and the hellmouth.

The same is not true with Alias. Aside from a penchant for wiping the slate clean / being free of consequences, JJ Abrams has a problem with motivations. The character motivations are generally pretty clear in terms of how they react to things, but the crux of the show surrounds various characters' involvement with terrorist organizations. Perhaps I'm ignorant as to why you'd ever want to be a part of a terrorist organization, but JJ gives no inclination as to why his characters are involved at all. Thus, the show is asking you to believe in reality and is rooted in reality...yet every organization - evil & good - is interested in this mythology related to a 14th century prophet / inventor named Milo Rambaldi. Not only do we have a lack of motivation for why, we have a lack of explanation of how Milo Rambaldi exists and why at this specific moment in time his works are coming to light (presumably Rambaldi predicted it and we're just tuning in at the right time) conveniently involving Sydney and her family.

While on Buffy you can believe various characters' involvement - from the Mayor to the school principal to various mythological groups - because of their nature of being involved in this whole other fantasy world, on Alias, the fantasy world seems quite far-fetched in a world of somewhat fantastical CIA spy work.

I suppose my other problem would be character history. Buffy is probably best loved for its insane amount of character development and connections. Many shows shy away from referencing moments in their earlier seasons, but Buffy, despite having a blah first season, makes frequent references - in conversation, plot, and character - to defining and not-so-defining moments for every character, big and small. While some of these are ongoing puns - Xander the demon magnet as a good example - other huge character moments feel so realistic and well-developed because of the history infused into each character. See: every storyline and character development related to Buffy, particularly leading up to and after the Season 5 finale.

Alias on the flipside, is like one big continuous loop that quickly forgives and forgets its past action. Aside from a few references to early Rambaldi discoveries (namely the early prophecy related to Sydney) there is almost no back story from the first season that plays a part in the daily actions of the characters - largely because JJ is uninterested in providing you with how the actions of the first few seasons play into the behaviours, motivations, and emotions of the characters as the show progresses. Perhaps that is its greatest downfall, although not to fear as many shows suffer from it. And JJ did make a solid effort - when he was still at the helm anyway - to eradicate this glaring error in Lost by making the show equally about characters (and their back stories) and plot.

That being said, I'm curious enough to finish out Alias. Dana doesn't have seasons 4 & 5 so I'll have to track them down one way or another...I've heard they're not the greatest, and for my complaints during Seasons 1-3, I don't expect things to improve in the character roots front at all.

Ah well!

- Britt's On

Hot Child In The City

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Trying to pick my favourite episodes of Sex and the City is similar to trying to pick my favourite seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Each show has great 'standalone' episodes (and on Buffy, some episodes are characterized by such eps, while others are more about the season-long arc) that are more memorable, yet the episode-spanning story arcs like Carrie's affair with Big or Charlotte's marital troubles with Trey are the heart of the show, and what really captured your attention over the endless parade of bachelors the girls worked their way through. If you haven't watched the show or movie and don't care to be spoiled, don't read on.

I have no reason to write this entry, other than I was just thinking of the hot and humid weather, which segued into 'Hot Child & The City' (a fave SATC ep...not sure if it ranks top 10...read on to find out), which made me think about the movie coming out next summer.

To be totally honest, I'm not sure how I feel about the movie. I loved getting back into the show with some new content, and I loved analyzing the endless parade of fashions...but it really just made me miss the show and all its brilliance. They coulda, shoulda, woulda (?) continued it on methinks. The movie was missing a lot of things the show did - the humour was more slapstick than sassy (think: Charlotte's poo-kipsie incident), the so-called happy ending was hard to cheer for after the shocking level of depression shown by Carrie, and overall the film suffered by its length. While you never wanted a SATC episode to end (ah how I love the bite-size episodes), they were all very tightly wound in terms of themes (at times, laughably so). The movie felt like endless sketches and lacked that cohesiveness.

Still, I will be there opening day.

Back to my entry. I'm doing this off the cuff. I've spent zero hours thinking about this really, so I'm not going to actually rank these episodes from fave to least fave - they'll be ranked by season of appearance. And without further ado...my top 10 episodes of a little show that introduced us to Big and Carrie (blah). Oh and for the record...I tend to like the episodes of momentous occasion. You'll see what I mean.

S2 - Series Episode #29 - Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women: This is one of the eps that sees the women outside of NYC for a rollicking good time. Charlotte's entire faux-twentyhood is awesome and hilarious. This was one of the episodes that really put the whole setting of the show in perspective (as someone who first saw the show as a teen) and clearly demonstrated what stage of life these women were in. As much as I felt like I could relate to them (and still do), seeing twenty-somethings through their eyes was hilarious in this instance (and not quite as malicious / pie-in-the-face as 'Attack of the 5'10 Woman' in S3).

S3 - Series Episode #41 - Running With Scissors
As one of many loyal Aidan devotees, it was hard but amazing to watch Carrie engage in her affair with Big. As if he didn't jerk her around enough in the first two seasons (and again, why it hard to support the ending of the series / film)...anyway! This is the best of the entire affair storyline, although I enjoyed the previous ep or two ago where Big and Aidan actually meet at the furniture show. The show isn't afraid to not only dig into "Why would you ever have an affair?", but also to highlight that things are degenerating between Big and Carrie as shown in the opening montage from swanky 5-star to seedy motel. Plus the confrontation at the end with Natasha and Carrie, and Big at the hospital? Handled so shockingly / grippingly! Who doesn't love the little details like Natasha slamming the cab door shut when Carrie attempts to accompany her to the hospital?

S3 - Series Episode #45 - Hot Child In The City
Apparently I love me some pot-smoking Carrie, despite being anti-drugs. I couldn't *not* include this episode as it's literally the first one I ever saw, and to this day makes me giggle. All four storylines are hilarious / awesome / insightful; Carrie's fried chicken afternoons with Wade? Charlotte's 'Rebecca' and Trey's 'Schooner'? Miranda's gawk-ward braces? Samantha's showdown with a tween a-lister (future emo teen star Kat Dennings of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist)? I love an episode that manages to be hilarious, self-deprecating, and insightful at the same time, all wrapped up in tightly-linked storylines.

S4 - Series Episode #50 - The Real Me
This is a perfect example of Sex and the City catering to its fans; giving you a does of celebrity stardom and showcasing one of the show's stars: fashion. Not only that, but one of the funniest scenes of the entire series - fashion roadkill! - takes place. The rest of the episode is pretty whatever and doesn't impact much future happenings, but Carrie's fashion storyline more than makes up for it.

S4 - Series Episode #63 - Change of a Dress
Possibly my favourite episode of the entire series...for the Aidan and Carrie storyline. They have a much more interesting, deep, defined, and prototypically flawed relationship this season, and everything that happens in this episode has been simmering for the first 2/3rds of Season 4. The horrible wedding dress scene, and the truly beautiful break-up scene outside the fountains...it's painful. The other girls really aren't important in this episode, but the Carrie/Aidan drama (and actually the next episode, which follows it up SO well) is worth it.

S4 - Series Episode #66 - I Heart NY
This is a prime example of a very 'big moment' (not Big moment...) the show purposefully orchestrated. This is my friend Robyn's fave episode, and for good reason. I actually love the final four episodes of S4 with almost equal ardor - Carrie's post-breakup lament here is probably her most genuine (save for the movie), the stint at Vogue is a nice fashion-y diversion, and this episode is just pure magic. It's interesting they launched us towards Big again so soon, but they were smart to do so - giving Carrie a kind of bittersweet clean slate, and finally showing some grown-up romance and interaction between these two. Did I mention I love Moon River? There are just so many great scenes here...and clothes for that matter, I want almost everything Carrie wears this episode. Miranda's season-long arc also comes to a fitting end, and Charlotte has her last interaction with Trey (he did film a guest appearance in the s5 finale, but they cut it out to preserve love for Harry). Not only is the message of this episode sweet and memorable...we finally have a change of season!

S5 - Series Episode #72 - Critical Condition
I quite like the episodes where the characters kind of dwell on past break-ups. It makes for more cohesiveness when they're all going through a sort of single gal phase. This particular episode does things in a humorous but harsh way when Carrie gets "the face" from the next chick to date Aidan after her, which altogether makes for a funny takeaway. Who hasn't talked about this episode and made 'the face' with their friends? On top of that, we have the *awesome* Samantha / vibrator storyline, and the introduction of Harry. Joy!

S5 - Series Episode #74 - I Love A Charade
There are definitely elements of this episode that harken back to the S4 finale...but I somehow find this one more genuinely sentimental, romantic, and most importantly realistic. While S4 was all about wrapping things up with a pretty bow, this episode was really about transitioning these women into the final wrap-up of the show. Carrie is finally open to new possibilities (and believing in love again after the sham-marriage she's invited to). Miranda realizes it's not as easy as she thought to live happily ever after. Samantha finally moves past Richard. And Charlotte finally (albeit a tad reluctantly) accepts Harry as a full-fledged part of her life. I have a strange affinity for this episode, despite not liking S5 as a whole.

S6 - Series Episode #81- The Post-It Always Sticks Twice
Words cannot describe my love for (parts of) this episode. I actually wrote a paper on the Carrie-blows-up-in-Bed scene on communication theories. This is one of the funniest / best break-up stories the show puts out there, and possibly my fave comedic episode of the series. Aside from that, I like that Miranda finally gets a non-frumpy moment with her 'skinny jeans', and copious amounts of sexy Smith and happy Charlotte are always nice as well.

S6 - Series Episode #86 - One
This episode mostly ranks high because of the Steve & Miranda resolution. Don't get me wrong, I loved Dr. Robert Leeds, but these two are truly meant to be (at least in TV fantasy world). I know most people hated the Russian, but I liked this quirky introduction to his character that really set the stage for their relationship (him running the show and over-the-top bizarre romance) - plus Carrie's dress on their date was amazing. I also like Charlotte's story here, a nice return to form from an intermittently pandering character during the latter half of the show.

Honorable Mentions:
- S1: Secret Sex
- S2: The Chicken Dance, Evolution, La Douleur Exquise!, Games People Play, The Fuck Buddy
- S3: Politically Erect, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl..., Easy Come Easy Go, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Escape From New York / Sex & Another City, What Goes Around Comes Around
- S4: Baby Talk Is Cheap (hot Aidan), My Motherboard My Self, Sex & The Country, Belles of the Balls, Just Say Yes, Ring A Ding Ding, A Vogue Idea
- S5: Luck Be An Old Lady, Plus One Is The Loneliest Number (Grey's Papaya!), The Big Journey
- S6: Pick-A-Little Talk-A-Little, Hop Skip & A Week, The Domino Effect, The Ick Factor, Splat, American Girl In Paris Parts Une & Deux

Fave Season: Four! Each of the ladies had an interesting - and at times, heart-wrenching - relationship this season, and 3 of the guys had a real good chance of developing their characters and stories this season (before being chucked anyway).

What are your top 10? Choose carefully. Looking at my list again, I would probably scrap my S2 choice and subsitute it for something like the S3 LA episodes, Ring A Ding Ding or a Vogue Idea, or the series finales...I just can't pick one I like the best out of those, so it stays.

But yeah, that's my top 10! Now all I want to do is rewatch the series for the millionth time. Love.

- Britt's On

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