Whitney Houston's role in Sparkle, Salim Akil's sturdy and enjoyable remake of Sam O'Steen's nearly unwatchable 1976 film of the same name, is tailored to the late diva. As Emma, Houston plays the surly matriarch of a trio of singing sisters – Sister, Delores and Sparkle – and a former singer herself who was "almost killed" by the business. Houston, who co-produced the film, plays the role with the world-weary hoarseness apparent in virtually every public appearance she did in the 10 years before her death. Despite some moments of poignancy, this is mostly light fare and Whitney camps it up with bitchily dignified flair. It is her best acting role, which is not saying very much given that she never suggested she was anything more than competent on screen while alive, but nevertheless, it is a lovely swan song.
On the heels of last night's poignant and composed appearance of Bobbi Kristina Brown at the Billboard Awards comes a poignant and composed musical preview of Sparkle, the upcoming remake we're really excited about that will feature Whitney Houston's final movie role. "Celebrate," an R. Kelly-produced stomper is a little disco, a little gospel and a whole lot like something that would have appeared in a '70s artificial sweetener commercial. It's almost too catchy (check that momentary key change that concludes every chorus on the "You celebrate me" line). Whitney's still got her I Look to You-era hoarseness, which you can read as a soulful reflection of a hard-lived life (as I choose to) or as a tangible record of just how hard she fell (her duet partner/Sparkle co-star, Jordin Sparks, sounds utterly gymnastic in comparison).
It's a big week for Diane Sawyer. Last night she made her debut on ABC's World News, and today just happens to be her 64th birthday. Others celebrating today: Ralph Fiennes turns 47. Ali Lohan, Lindsay's kid sister, is turning 16. Theater producer Daryl Roth is 65. Vanessa Paradis, the French singer/actress and Johnny Depp's significant other, turns 37. Neocon/Bush crony Paul Wolfowitz is 66. Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees turns 60. And Jordin Sparks, the winner of the sixth season of American Idol, is 19 today.
Diane Sawyer is two years away from officially becoming a senior citizen. It's her 63rd birthday today. Others celebrating on this chilly Monday: Chef Anita Lo is 43. Theater producer Daryl Roth is turning 64. Vanessa Paradis, the French singer/actress and longtime love of Johnny Depp, is turning 36. Ralph Fiennes is 46. Mia Tyler, the daughter of Steven and half-sister of Liv, is turning 30. American Idol winner Jordin Sparks turns 19. And Ali Lohan is 15 years old today.
Bravely taking her pro-abstinence, purity-ring-rocking message to the Fox News flock, Jordin Sparks spent a few minutes last night explaining her recent outburst against oversexed Video Music Awards host Russell Brand. The difference between a "non-virgin" and "slut" remains foggy, but, at the very least, Sparks's convictions are burnished here to the fine Murdochian glow that so eluded the MTV class last weekend. The same cannot be said for her remarks on the subject of temptation ("I'm not saying I'm perfect by any means!"), from which conservative firebrand and noted hymen-defense expert Sean Hannity was later forced to rescue her with that metaphorical bucket of ice water known around the Fox offices as "a commercial break." [Fox News]
The VMAs tend to be known for their feuds, whether it's Madonna vs. Courtney Love, Kid Rock vs. Tommy Lee, or Michael Jackson vs. his overwhelming fear of Lisa Marie Presley's pursed lips. This year's ceremony was no different, though the anger came from an unexpected source: American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who overstepped a line while defending the Jonas Brothers' purity, declaring, "It's not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody — guy or girl — wants to be a slut." This implication of an either/or sexual ultimatum prompted an outcry from the historically ribald music world, with elder stateswoman Courtney Love prescribing an unorthodox remedy of "pussy and some cock" and the Jonas Brothers themselves laying hands on salacious host Russell Brand to forgive him. Now, in an interview with EW, Sparks clarifies her controversial words:
Though it's been a long while since Courtney Love caused controversy at the VMAs, the singer wasn't about to let last night's purity ring flap pass by without giving that virginal young upstart Jordin Sparks the what-for. Yes, even though Love claims not to have watched last night's ceremony (though she adores host Russell Brand), she took to her blog to denounce the latest crop of chaste young performers, giving them the sort of X-rated advice that would make a Jonas Brother blush (not that Miley, though — she's heard it all). We've excerpted the best bits below, though we warn you that they're hard to read — not because of their shock value, but because their author is the garrulous misspeller Courtney Love:
While we enjoyed sharing with you the alternately entertaining, excruciating, and utterly discombobulating experience of attending the 2008 VMAs in person, there were moments completely lost on us from our extremely un-VIP vantage point. Take, for example, this off-prompter ad-lib from Jordin Sparks, in which the uncomfortable tension building steadily in Soundstage 16—Brandian anti-Republicanism and hypersexuality reacting against Jonas Brothers's calculated chastity—burst like on overfilled water balloon. What we hadn't noticed at the time was her co-presenter John Legend's overt attempts at distancing himself from Sparks's pro-abstinence sentiments, displaying his naked fingers to indicate the absence of any such sex-warding amulets from Zales. He's good to go, groupies!
Unless you've been napping in a sensory deprivation tank buried a mile beneath the earth's surface for the last ten or so hours, by now you know that Jordin Sparks (just 17, as we were reminded every 30 seconds of this past season) is this year's American Idol, a conclusion so foregone that runner-up Blake Lewis put in an application to run the mechanical bull at Saddle Ranch mere minutes after the finalists were announced last week. Indeed, the only real questions left unanswered before the bloated two-hour finale began were: What sexagenarian-and-up singers would call in favors to perform in front of a television audience of tens of millions of teenage girls? (Answer: Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, a hologram of Fat Elvis, and the ghost of James Brown.) And: What washed-up celebrity would be this year's David Hasselhoff, caught weeping while lost in a transcendent moment in which all melts away but him, the singer who has reached down deep inside him and caressed his very soul, and Idol's all-seeing, audience-scanning cameras? The answer to this query comes after the jump, at precisely 3:44 of Midler's moving performance of that one song she does: