Apr 8, 2012
Cold, cold heart
There are some things in life that bring us great pleasure even as their considerable shortcomings blithely fail the tests posed by our aesthetic and/or intellectual judgement. The things that elicit such pleasures are by nature difficult to defend on a rational level, but they nonetheless pluck at some deep-buried but resonant emotional chord within us even if we are precisely aware of their faults. But all good things must come to an end, and guilty pleasures are certainly no exception: there comes a point when such guilty pleasures fail to be, well, pleasurable. Sometimes we mature, and in the process put away childish things. But other times, the shortcomings that invariably accompany guilty pleasures grow too monstrous to be simply waved away and so in such cases we are left with little more than a niggling sense of guilt and a whole lot of embarrassment.
For me, three particular guilty pleasures fell into the latter category this year: a certain film I dare not name, McDonald's fries, and the skating of Florent Amodio. Given the nature of this blog, the following post will focus on the last of the three listed.
Like many others, I truly noticed Mr. Amodio when he first appeared on the senior circuit during the 2009-2010 season. Mr. Amodio was wildly inconsistent but nevertheless made quite a splash on the scene with his Amelie long program. With seemingly random music cuts, strange wind-up doll choreography, a wider range of emotions than some skaters manage to display throughout their entire careers, and what I can only presume was an inscrutably highfalutin concept behind the whole thing, Amelie was at once very bizarre, very French and very fun to watch. Whatever it was, it definitely wasn't boring. All in all, rather unpolished and disjointed, but a good program for grabbing attention in one's senior debut season:
Mr. Amodio's short program to the soundtrack of Munich during the same season was more traditional, more safe, but demonstrated a fluid style over the ice and a good feel for music, i.e. further promise of potential and things to come even when not relying on being bizarre:
But then came Nikolai Morozov.
At first, things seemed fine. Even now, I will admit that I unapologetically love watching Mr. Amodio's Black Eyed Peas/Michael Jackson/whatever long program from last season. It is perhaps the ne plus ultra of guilty pleasures for me when it comes to figure skating: despite the transparent rest points, the heavy emphasis on upper-body choreography, the nakedly crowd-pandering vamping, the extremely unbalanced nature of its choreography, etc., etc., Mr. Amodio's energetic performances of the program were such a joy to watch that I found myself eagerly taking a vacation from rational judgement whenever Mr. Amodio started skating:
This season, however, Mr. Morozov's programs for Mr. Amodio have been so incoherent, so banal, and so loathsomely moronic that not even Mr. Amodio's flair for performing and expressiveness could salvage them:
Frankly, if Mr. Morozov spent more than half an hour putting these programs together, he must have been interrupted. The connection between the short program's choreography and its music can only be described as tenuous at best, while the long program manages to embody all the worst qualities of Mr. Morozov's choreography in one fell swoop. It's as if Mr. Morozov magnified every single weakness Mr. Amodio showed in the past and intentionally shoved them in front of everyone's faces this season. Sadly, when watching Mr. Amodio skate such programs, I could see hints of what I had previously loved so much--the playful charisma, the sheer commitment to the choreography--but I can now safely say that I am no longer in thrall: the guilt has finally blotted out the pleasure.
The most frustrating thing about this situation is that even if we discount Mr. Amodio's considerable performance and interpretative abilities, he is nonetheless still very talented in terms of pure skating ability: Mr. Amodio, after all, has good spring to his jumps with envy-inducing rideout on the landings, smooth and soft basic skating, as well as great footwork and spins. The natural talent is there, but it's difficult to notice such qualities with all that banal choreography, smarmy packaging and empty programs that chiefly rely on posing and two-foot skating. What a waste of talent. I didn't think I'd say this so soon, but Mr. Amodio is starting to depress me.