What REALLY goes on in a job interview? Find out in the new revision of "Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed" (Warner Books) by Tony Medley, updated for the world of the Internet . Over 500,000 copies in print and the only book on the job interview written by an experienced interviewer, one who has conducted thousands of interviews. This is the truth, not the ivory tower speculations of those who write but have no actual experience. "One of the top five books every job seeker should read," says Hotjobs.com.

Step Up (8/10)

by Tony Medley

I was pretty much convinced this movie was not going to be my cup of tea, a film about teenagers with a bunch of relative unknowns that looked like it was going to have a lot of rap music. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to review it. So I went, ready to bolt.

Alas, I never got the chance. While it started out dismally, with a rap-talking white guy,  Tyler (Channing Tatum, a name that sounds like it should be a girl, frankly, or two girls), hanging out with a bunch of black guys, the minute I laid my eyes on Nora (Jenna Dewan), I knew I wasn’t going to leave until the film ended. If there’s a more beautiful actress in Hollywood, I haven’t seen her. Ninety-seven minutes of looking at her gave me a glimpse of what paradise might be like.

But the best part about her is that she can act and, apparently, dance. There was nobody in this movie I didn’t like. Nora’s friends, Miles (Mario, a rocker who I guess only has one name) and Lucy (Drew Sidora) are attractive and give good performances. Mario reminds me of a younger Chris Rock without the edge. Tyler’s two black friends, Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and his little brother, Skinny (De’Shawn Washington) are relatively realistic, although Mac is supposed to be a good playground basketball player but when he tries to take a shot from the free throw line it looks like he’s trying to throw the shot put. But, then Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t look like a basketball player when he’s shooting a free throw, either. Even the minor players, Kathleen (Deirdre Lovejoy), Nora’s mother, and the Director of Nora’s Arts school, Director Gordon (Rachel Griffiths) give performances that are right on.

Lots of this is due to Director Ann Fletcher, a highly sought-after choreographer, making her directorial debut. Fletcher wouldn’t put up with dancing doubles which has become de rigueur in Hollywood. There’s no doubling, with strategic camera angles so we can’t see it’s not really the star out there doing the gavotte. In “Step Up” everyone does their own dancing, what there is of it.

That said, Fletcher caused my biggest disappointment with the film and one that, for me, is a big negative. Even though she claims she was loaded with competent, professional dancers, including her stars, Fletcher fell victim to the “Chicago” (2002) curse and, as a result, had far too many cuts in all the dances, especially the production number that serves as the finale. When people can dance there is no reason for cuts. The enjoyment in watching a dancing movie is seeing the dances themselves, not to show the artistry of the film editor. The only reason cuts were used in “Chicago” was that neither of two of the stars, specifically, Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger, could dance a lick. The “dancing” was all an illusion. This is done a lot when the talent just isn’t there and is referred to in the industry as a “paste job.”

Exacerbating Fletcher’s annoying multiple quick cuts, she opted for close-ups that kept us from seeing her dancers’ feet much of the time. One of the more enjoyable parts of watching good dancers is watching their feet. Fletcher doesn’t allow this. Instead, she shows so many close-ups that she cuts away from full body shots including the feet more than half the time. When you have good dancers, you should turn them loose and let them dance with long shots that show the entire body. If you can’t see the feet, you’re not seeing dancing. Not seeing the dancing outside of five second cuts in this film was vexatious, to say the least.

Fletcher would do herself a big favor if she followed the lead of legendary cinematographer David Abel in the way he shot the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies in the ‘30s, which were long takes and full body shots of both of them. About the only time there was a cut was if the camera ran out of film. However, even then, in the heyday of the film musical, the ending of a dance number was shot first, so the star's hair would be in place.

Maybe, just maybe, the reason Fletcher used all these quick cuts is that her stars aren’t the wonderful dancers she claims them to be. Lots of people could do a three second pirouette, but not many can do a full routine that lasts several minutes. Neither Dewan nor Tatum does enough uncut dancing to show talent. Tatum’s “dancing” is limited to a few quasi-gymnastic moves and gyrating his hips occasionally.

Another thing that mars the film is a darkness introduced at the end of the movie that seemed unnecessary and inappropriate to the tone and content of the film.

As to the story, Tyler is sentenced to performing 200 hours of community service at Nora’s school. She loses her partner and Tyler fills in, resulting in the usual problems, what with jealousy and romance rearing their heads. While predictable, it’s a well-written script (Duane Adler and Melissa Rosenberg) with an enjoyable score (Aaron Zigman). There is some rap music, but it’s an eclectic mix and I didn’t hear anything I didn’t like.

I enjoyed the movie, but don’t go for the dancing. Did I mention how beautiful Jenna Dewan is?

August 9, 2006