Review and Recap of Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

Aaliyah is one of those singers who defines “Gone Too Soon.” At the time of her untimely death in 2001 at the age of 22, she had achieved so very much, and it seemed as though the sky was the limit for her.

As is the case of any famous person, it is inevitable that a biopic will be considered. However, biopics are a interesting thing. They can be done well. And they can be done horribly. Also, when it comes to comes to biopics, it must be emphasized that one can never please everybody. People will take issue with casting, artistic license, and so on.  Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B is one such biopic that failed at its goal.

The film begins with Aaliyah performing “My Funny Valentine” on Star Search at the age of ten, which was her first public performance.  She performs with her aunt Gladys Knight (who at the time was married to her uncle Barry Hankerson)  She is signed to a record deal, but she is not yet given the chance to prove herself.  Eventually, she creates her public persona, and starts recording her first albumAge Ain’t Nothing but a Number with the help of R. Kelly.  When R. Kelly gets too close to her, and they get married, despite her being under the age of 18, her parents force Aaliyah to end all contact with him, in both a professional and personal context, and they annul the marriage.

Aaliyah is reluctant to move on with her career without R. Kelly’s influence.  But she recognizes her own inner strength.  She collaborates with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, who give her second album, One in a Million  a new sound.  Aaliayah moves on to more things. She sings the song “Journey to the Past” from the movie Anastasia, and when it is nominated for an Academy Award, she performs it at the Oscars.

Aaliyah makes her film debut in Romeo Must Die, and later, she films The Queen of the Damned and releases her third album  Also, she becomes close with rapper Damon Dash, and the two become romantically involved.  The record label is concerned about the album’s performance, and they suggest that the song “Rock the Boat” be her next single.  She goes off to film it in the Bahamas, but not before she and Dash promise to each other, despite their careers, they will find time for each other.  There is then a post-script that says that Aaliyah died in a plane crash on the way back to America.

Last summer, Lifetime announced that they were planning a movie about the life and career of Aaliyah; it was called Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B.  They cast the actress and singer Zendaya (best known for her role on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up) as Aaliyah.  The announcement of the casting received lots of criticism over the casting because many people felt that Zendaya did not look enough like Aaliyah, and that she was too light-skinned to play Aaliyah.  Aaliyah’s family, however, asked the public to not attack Zendaya.  Also, due to her family disapproving of the production entirely, and due to the fact that they controlled the rights to the majority of her music, Lifetime had to rely on the covers that Aaliyah sang, as well as the original songs that her family did not control.  Zendaya would depart from the role, citing the various issues with getting the rights to the music, among other complication of the production, and she was replaced by Alexandra Shipp.

The film finally premiered on November 15, 2014.  It was universally panned by critics and viewers.

According to Wikipedia:

Critical reception to Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B has been predominantly negative.[10][11][12][13] The New York Times heavily panned the film, criticizing it as “ham-handed” and “underwhelming” and writing “Condensing the singer’s life into such a short space requires a cruel knife and, in this case, a wildly imprecise one. A good film doesn’t show its seams. This one — based on “Aaliyah: More Than a Woman,” a biography by Christopher John Farley — is mostly seams. Much of the acting has dull edges, and the screenplay is aggravatingly stilted.”[14] The Wall Street Journal also criticized the film, commenting that the “overuse of the three and four-way split screen montages only enhanced the lack of material.”[15]

Viewer reaction for the film has been extremely negative and fans mocked the film on social media sites like Twitter,[1][16] using the hashtags #LifetimeBiopics and #LifetimeBeLike.[17][18][19] Viewers felt that Shipp was miscast as Aaliyah, that the late singer’s controversial relationship with R. Kelly was overly romanticized, and that the music covers did not properly do justice to the original songs.[20][21] Fans further commented on the film’s casting as a whole and many created pictures that overly exaggerated what they felt was extreme miscasting of many of the celebrities depicted in the film.[22][23][24]

All I can say is that, this biopic had numerous problems.  In my own words:

Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B is one that fans of the late singer would rather forget.  So many things just did not go right.

  1. Many of the figures in Aaliyah’s life were played by people who hardly even look like them.  The actors portraying, R. Kelly, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland, look like fake versions of the the people they are playing.
  2. Since Aaliyah’s uncle Barry Hankerson owned her now defunct label, Blackground Records, and since he disapproved of the movie from the beginning (along with the rest of Aaliyah’s family), Lifetime did not get the rights to use Aaliyah’s music, and all they could do is use two of her cover songs, and two of her original songs that her family did not own; according to Wikipedia: “Four of her songs (two covers) were used in the film: the Isley Brothers‘ “At Your Best (You Are Love),” Marvin Gaye‘s “Got to Give It Up,” “Journey to the Past” and “The One I Gave My Heart To.”  If you do a biopic on a singer, you need to use their songs, and most of Aaliyah’s most famous song such as “Try Again,” “One in a Million,” and “Are You That Somebody?” are completely absent.
  3. The film is poorly written and put together.  There is a lot of telling and too little showing.  We are often briefly told things that Aaliyah did, and it seemed like the screenwriter was doing that because of having little to work with.
  4. The ending is anti-climactic.  It shows Aaliyah and her romantic partner, Damon Dash talking about how their careers leave them little time to be together, and they promise to spend more time with each other when Aaliyah returns from filming the music video for “Rock the Boat.”  We see her get into a car that drives off into the distance.  Then we see words on screen stating that Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahama shortly after filming the video.  Seeing that made me feel like this was such a cheap ending.  I get that they did not want to depict the plane crash or even have it happen off screen, but it’s not a good ending to show two people making plans for the future, and then be told that one of them would die.

Favorite Childhood Shows Friday: Favorite Childhood Shows: Sister Sister

Happy Friday!

One of my favorite shows from my childhood is Sister Sister. The show starred Tia and Tamera Mowry as Tia Landry and Tamera Campbell. They were identical twins who were separated at birth and adopted by different families: Tia, the studious and responsible twin was raised by her mother Lisa Landry, a wacky seamstress and clothing designer. Tamera was raised by Ray Campbell, a stern and low-key owner of a limousine service. The twins know nothing about each other until age 14 when they have a chance encounter in a clothing store. Knowing that they twins can’t very well be separated now, Ray invites the rather financially struggling Lisa and Tia to live with him and Tamera. Lots of things happen to this rather unconventional family, but most of all, there is love.

I first got into the show in the fall of 2002 when the Disney Channel began airing reruns of it.  I was hooked on the humor.  The twins always got into crazy situations, but of course remained close and loving through it all..  The parents with their opposite personalities played very nicely off of each other.  It was exactly the type of show I like in that it was hilarious and heartwarming.


Favorite Childhood Shows Friday: Favorite Childhood Shows: Brandy & Mr. Whiskers

In August of 2004, Disney Channel premiered the show Brandy & Mr. Whiskers.  Their tagline was “Bling-bling meets ding-a-ling.”  It focused on a dog named Brandy Harrington, and a rabbit named Mr. Whiskers.

Brandy is owned by a wealthy family, and as such, she has lived a life full of being pampered and receiving everything that she wants.  Mr. Whiskers, commonly referred to as just Whiskers, a quirky, ditzy, and clumsy rabbit, has lived a lonely life with no friends and family.

They meet on an airplane, headed to two different locations.  Brandy is on her way to a five-star spa in Rio de Janeiro.  Whiskers is on his way to a zoo in Paraguay, where he has been sold.  Despite Brandy’s bad behavior towards him, he hopes she will be his first friend.  When  a mistake on his part leads to the two of them being thrown out of their airplane and stranded in  the Amazon Rainforest, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers realized that they have to become friends if they are to survive.

This show lasted only two seasons, but the creators made the most of it.  The humor was a mixture of witty lines and cartoon slapstick, and I think that above all, the heart of the show is of course, the title characters.  Despite the conflicts between the two, Brandy and Mr. Whiskers really do care about each other, and though they don’t always do the right thing to each other or for each other, they are always there for each other when they need each other the most.

TV Tropes Tuesday: TV Tropes: Remember the New Guy

One of my favorite bloggers is Carrie-Anne Brownian.  I value her intelligence, creativity, and advice for writers.  She inspired me to blog about my own creative pursuits.  She made a post yesterday, where she reminded me of a an entry on TV Tropes known as Remember the New Guy. This trope involves a new character being introduced, and the characters act as though he or she have always been there even though they have never even been mentioned before. It can be a stretch to believe that a new character isn’t a new addition into the lives of the established characters.  I concur with Carrie-Anne’s advice, that if you want to introduce a new character, you should not have them already developed.  She points out that one should re-write the story to include the character, or write a passage explaining who the character is and what their background and relation to the established characters are.

Some examples of this trope include:

In That’s So Raven, the title character is harassed by a girl named Alana and her clique.  They had been enemies since fourth grade, ever since Raven got the part that Alana wanted in a school play.  However, Alana is never seen nor mentioned until season 2.  Some people could argue that it is possible that perhaps Alana was never mentioned because Raven and her friends don’t like to talk about her.  In schools, it could be more plausible to suddenly introduce new and fully developed characters, since they may not have the same classes together with the established characters, but if the characters are close friends on close enemies, if you like, it would be unlikely that they would never mention the new character at least once.

Another example from schools is Degrassi.  This trope is done right because two characters (Dave and Imogen) were introduced despite as having already been students, and nobody acted as though they had already been friends with them.  In fact, Imogen, in her first appeareance tells Eli that witnessed several of the events he went through during the previous season.

In my planned show SSCHS, I thought about using this trope, but making it plausible where a new teacher is introduced, but she’s not really new, and has been employed at the school for quite some time, and is known  in passing by the other characters, but because of scheduling, they rarely come into contact with each other; since they don’t know her very well, it would be implausible for her to never be mentioned.  Her role becomes much larger than before.

Another example, that did not seem to hurt the show is the character of Taylor Townsend of  The O.C.  She was first seen in season 3, and she was said to have history with the main characters.  She proved to be so popular among fans, that they suspended disbelief and overlooked the fact that it made no sense for her to  never at least be mentioned before.

Favorite Childhood Shows Friday: Favorite Childhood Shows: Lizzie McGuire

Happy Friday, and also I want to wish everyone, whether they have a romantic partner or not, a happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, I will talk about another of my favorite shows from when I was a kid: Disney Channel’s Lizzie McGuire.

This show is special in the network’s history because it layed down the foundation for every live action Disney Channel show that came after it.

The show did not have the most original premise.  It focused on a young teen girl, dealing with the trials and tribulations of life.  She has normal friends and a normal family and a normal school life.  She and friends support each other no matter what.  She finds her parents embarrassing and her brother annoying, but they all still love each other very much.  At school, she is not popular.  However, what set the show apart was its gimmick:  All of Lizzie’s truest and deepest thoughts and emotions were expressed by her animated alter-ego who gave a witty and sarcastic commentary on all of Lizzie’s experiences.

After this most live-action shows on the Disney Channel had a gimmick.  However, Lizzie McGuire, of course started it all, and it had perhaps the most simple and “grounded ” gimmick.  It was not high-concept or centered around show business.  In fact, the show’s theatrical movie moved in the direction of a show business gimmick, with its plot of Lizzie being mistaken for a famous pop star.

Perhaps, what made the show popular was its gimmick as well as all of its other components mixed in with it.  The show mixed comedy with interesting filmmaking techniques such as flashbacks and cutaways funny sound effects and music cues, and montages.  All of these served to heighten the show’s experiences, and keep viewers coming back for more.

The show became Disney Channel’s biggest hit to date, and spawned merchandise such as clothes, books, CD soundtracks, and more.  To repeat, this success was carried on by most of the shows that followed it.

I was a huge fan of the show and of the star Hilary Duff and continued to follow her for several years after the show ended as he branched out into movies and a music career, which she launched on the Disney Chanel with the soundtrack to the show.  (Now, it seems like the star or stars of every Disney Channel show are singers as well as actors.)

Looking back on the show, it had a great influence on me and my desire to work in the entertainment industry.

I am glad to have enjoyed this show for all of its heart and humor.

Favorite Childhood Shows Friday: Favorite Childhood Shows: That’s So Raven

Happy Friday.

Today I will talk about another favorite show from my childhood.  That’s So Raven.

It aired on the Disney Channel and focused on teenager Raven Baxter played by Raven-Symone who was credited as Raven on this show.  She’s like most teenage girls.  She’s into fashion.  She has a little brother who annoyed her.  She likes hanging out with her friends.

But there was one thing that made Raven different.  She has the ability to randomly and unexpectedly receive psychic visions of the future.  Now, one might think that being psychic would make life easier for Raven; however, being psychic causes lots of issues for Raven.  Often, she misinterprets her visions, which leads to a variety of funny situations.

Raven’s state of being psychic is something that is known only by her family and friends.  She has kept it secret from most people out of fear that people would think of her as a freak (In light of Raven-Symone coming out of lesbian last summer, her character’s fear of being outed as a psychic seems to have a brand new subtext, possibly inspired from whatever issues she has in real life with coping and coming terms with her sexuality.)

I was a huge fan of the show, often laughing out loud during the entirety of the episodes and it was a huge influence on me.  I liked the zany sense of humor, and as I imagined shows in my head, I modeled the style of humor on it.  My characters would also often get in odd and bizarre comical situations, including lots of slapstick and other types of physical humor.