Tuesday, April 01, 2014

AMICI, anyone?

I am sure that most people outside of Italy are not following the Amici talent reality show, but it just got real. So now you just have to get on board (realtimetv.it or mediaset.it).  For weeks I have been following not the live shows, but the behind the scenes part of the show, on the internet. You see, once a week there is a performance with a live audience that is hosted by Italian journalist Maria di Filippi, but the rest of the week the University-aged dancing and singing contestants live in dormitories that are filled with cameras  Big Brother/Grande Fratello style and they have lessons from a bunch of professors. The professors are mostly very strict and there constructive criticism is brutal.  Only the behind the scenes host named Luca serves as a warm, paternal figure.

This one student named Deborah whose back story is that her father is unemployed. For that reason she has been putting her singing on the back burner so she could do a lot of odd jobs to help out her family. She is the one with the biggest voice of the season. She is a plus-sized girl, and one of the annorexic professors spent weeks berating her and making her do postural and physical self confidence exercises that were designed to make even a rock start to cry.

Apart from that horror, it has not been so exciting as there have been no obvious romances between students as in other seasons; and although there is some occasional bickering, there have not been any riveting fights. There are certain songs that they rehearse over and over that I never want to hear again including We Are The World, which I didn't even want to hear the first time, This is the Moment, and When a Man Loves a Woman and a bunch of Beatles songs whose lyrics really take a beating if you have a heavy Italian accent. Things go better with the Italian songs which are new to me, at least.


But now that the preparations are over and the surviving students who were not eliminated during rehearsals are put on either the Blue or the White teams and get to perform with big stars and for some famous judges, including Italian heartthrob Luca Argentero, things have really taken a weird turn. For starters the person presiding over the whole circus is none other than oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey. He is assisted by a translator, of course. Oh and he has brought his mother with him. He sits in the front row and gives his two cents on all of the mismatched performances. Which does he like better a dance routine that has a dozen professional dancers or a ballad sung by one girl? A classical ballet solo might be judged against a duet between American singer Anastacia and one of the Italian contestants. The point system is really Italian in that it makes absolutely no sense to me at all. The best part of the whole show are the close ups of Matthew McConaughey whose last name he says "rhymes with What would Madonna Say." I am so jealous of his translator that I can't even speak about it. Anyway, here is what he does: He flutters his fingers in this very balletic and feminine way whenever the music comes on and sometimes even whenever anyone speaks. It is psychotic in a I-have-hand-puppets-you-can't-see kind of way, that you have to see to believe.

Deborah and Anastacia.
Matthew in a rare moment of relaxed hands.
Moda' con Giada.

Checco Zalone with Maria.
Luca Argentero.

The only thing more astounding is that Mary J Blige is supposed to come on to sing a duet with one of the contestants. What kind of fabulous free vacations are these VIPs getting that would ever make them even consider this gig, I don't know. Wait! There is one even more astounding thing. It's name is Matthew What Would Madonna Say's chicken recipe. You take a can of beer, translates the lucky ass translator, and open the tab. You put a bunch of spices and butter in there. You stick the whole can up the chicken's ass/culo and hang the chicken vertically, so as not to spill the beer, over a fire for two and a half hours. The recipe ends and the camera pans to capture the reaction of one of the contestants, a dancer who hasn't even gotten to dance on the big stage for which he has practiced for weeks, as he is eliminated Hunger Games style because one of the judges doesn't like contemporary dance. WHAT?!!!

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