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This week:

Center Stage

Because I was on vacation last week, the readers filled in. Only two of you suckers actually bothered to see "Center Stage" like I asked. Actually, only one of you saw it, the other wrote a review anyway. Many more of you wrote to ask me to review "Battlefield Earth." Apparently it is okay for me to suffer, but not you. Here they are:

roGER said:

Of all known art forms, Opera is the most ridiculous but Ballet (the
subject of Center Stage) comes a close second. So my expectation meter
read zero as the titles rolled. But you know what? It isn't too bad.
We're introduced to six wannabe dancers, three guys and three girls.
They have a year to prepare for the dance school production
where two or three will be selected by professional ballet companies.
Every dance movie ever made seems to have this plot. The film spends a
lot of time showing us how difficult and painful ballet dancing is, but
it's still ballet and the end product is still ridiculous. Only one of
the guys is gay, and he's not too stereotyped. Eva (Zoe Saldana-Eva) is
Hispanic and that means (yawn) she's full of attitude, since Hollywood
can't show a minority character who's as dedicated and professional as
the whites. The other girls are our heroine Jody (Amanda Schull) and her

ambitious and obsessive room-mate Maureen (Susan May-Pratt). Maureen is
the best dancer in the school but has a (stereotyped) pushy Mom (Debra
Monk). Jody is supposedly technically limited, has "a body problem," but

has "presence." In reality Schull can dance great but has limitations in

the acting department. It doesn't matter, since her body problem means
she has a great ass. Director Nicholas Hytner knows this and his camera
spends a lot of time lingering on her hips. Which is true to Ballet's
history - stuffy European aristocrats wanted to leer at young girls in
short skirts while pretending they were engaged in high culture.
Meanwhile, the straight guys dance with the straight girls and there are

a few romantic entanglements along the way. As in so many films the best

acting comes from the supporting cast - Jonathan Reeves is good as the
slimy and egotistical dance director, and Donna Murphy is outstanding as

the senior instructor. The predictable plot even contained a few twists
at the end. Its definitely a "girlie" picture, just as "Fame" and "A
Chorus Line" were, but it's surprisingly enjoyable. Three pirouettes
then, for "Center Stage" (and if Hytner had shot some communal shower
scenes it might have got four).

Cal wrote:

I've been too damned busy lately to go see Center Stage. Instead, I looked
at the promotional material, grabbed a couple of quick pieces from the net,
and sat down to write this on my employer's dime:

As we all know, Center Stage is about a bunch of motivated teens looking to
make it big in ballet. So from that we can surmise they're all freaks,
passionately involved in something that 98% of the population doesn't give a
rip about, and approximately 45% of which spontaneously convulse at the mere
mention of the word. The pictures of the cast didn't interest me at all -
but at least somebody had the guts to try to float a movie without some name
actor. Then I noticed Peter Gallagher - but does he count? Does anyone see
a movie because he's in it? Do they even put his name on the movie poster
credits? Anyway, they're all nobodies. No doubt we're forced to watch what
amounts to an excruciatingly long episode of Fame (which interestingly
enough was actually based on the classic Western "The Man Who Shot Liberty
Valence"). We can be certain there's a love triangle, a talented
underachiever, a substance abuser, and a backstabber, because these are the
things that the movie's target audience want to relate to. If I were to
actually view the picture, I'd probably be thinking about dropping out with
the substance abuser.

Again, I didn't see the movie, but this one message board comment probably
sums it up: "I actually became less intelligent from watching this movie."
I'm at the edge right now, and just not willing to risk it. Additionally,
there's a fairly high likelihood that there would be lots of shots of guys
in tights, and I'm nowhere near comfortable enough with my sexuality to
watch that kind of thing.

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