Thursday, January 31, 2008

Uni and Me

Since there was no Project Runway this week (all together now, "Nooooooooooo!") I decided to hit the wayback machine and repost a blog from my Max and Mike on the Movies days. As true today as it was 2 years ago, when I first wrote it. . .

I am the very definition of the healthy eater. You can literally count on one hand the number of food items I won’t eat:
1. raisins-nature’s candy, my butt. It’s not a texture thing, or an aversion to dried fruit thing (I loved dried figs, for example). Frankly, raisins just taste gross.
2. radishes-stay for the crunch, leave for the flavor
3. raw broccoli-strange, because I love cooked broccoli; but the raw stuff just tastes like garnish to me [spirit of full disclosure: I just tried every imaginable spelling of broccoli under the sun for this sentence. My first tragic stab was “brocolli.” Thank goodness for spell check.]
4. black licorice/fennel/anise/anything that tastes like black licorice-Good ‘n Plenty’s make me want to hurl
5. Jell-o-Hated it as a child. Hated it as a teenager. I don’t see any reason to start eating the stuff now.
6. That’s it.

No, seriously. That’s all I won’t eat. The foods that most people find revolting, I love. Brussell sprouts? Bring ‘em on! Liver? I’ll take mine with onions, please. Stinky cheese? The stinkier the better! Escargot? Escar-yes! (sorry.)

But there is one food that I love that even skeeves me out a bit, and that’s saying a lot. I’m talking about uni. You guys know what uni is? It’s sea urchin and it’s a kind of sushi. Basically, it looks like brain on seaweed and rice. It’s slimy, it’s slightly porous, it’s doody-brown. As for the flavor? How can I describe it? Sort of metallic, sort of earthy, definitely bitter.
I once went into an oyster house where they had a sign on the wall that read: “It was a brave man who first tasted an oyster.” Multiply that a thousand times and you’ve got uni.
And yet, being a sushi fanatic, and being a bold eater, I had to try it for myself. I’d already tackled giant clam and live scallop. It was time to take the next step.
Here’s the thing: The first time I had uni, I hated it. The flavor was so horribly off. Sea urchins are bottom feeders of the ocean and that’s what it tasted like to me: A garbage disposal in fish form.
And yet . . . how can I explain this to you guys? I had to try it again. No, not out of some perverse foodie pride (“As God is my witness, I WILL conquer this uni!”) or anything like that. I just had this nagging feeling that if I kept trying it, I would like it. It seems counter-intuitive, I realize. You eat something, it tastes like foot, you call it a day. You don’t say to yourself, “Something tells me I’m going to learn to love this little urchin!”
But I did. The next time I went to my favorite local sushi joint, I ordered uni again. I still didn’t “like” it, per se. But I liked it more.
By the third time I tried it (of course there was a third time . . . this is a love story, after all), I was hooked. Something had changed in me on a basic, molecular level. What was practically rancid the first time I tried it, was now a little piece of slimy heaven. Today, I am truly crestfallen if my sushi chef has no uni.
The moral of the story? Well, there is no moral. This is an uni-specific phenomenon. If you try something and you hate it, you’d be insane to try it again. But then again . . .

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dying of Barfness: The Project Runway recap

Welcome to Project Runway Bizarro World!
Tim Gunn wears jeans!
Jillian bleeds!
Chris talks to his garments (and they
answer him!!!)
Tim Gunn sits in the back seat of a mini van!
Ricky wins a challenge!

Okay, I realize that Project Runway is taped months in advance and couldn’t
possibly be responding to the almost deafening real-time, web-wide opinion that Ricky is a ginormous waste of thimbles and thread, but didn’t it seem like Ricky was talking to you (me? us?) when he turned to the camera and rattled off his credentials?
Valentino, Oscar de La Renta, Vera Wang. . .bladdy, bladdy, blah. . . . I’m sorry, Ricky, did you say something? I was still reeling from the knowledge that you actually design those annoying little caps you wear.
The funny thing is, it’s not just the millions of Project Runway fans who want to kick Ricky back to a desk job at Frederick’s of Hollywood. Apparently, his fellow designers feel the same way.
It started at the beginning of the show with Chris yelling, “Get out!” in the general direction of Ricky and continued later, when Christian whined, “Some annoying people are still here” —and. . . enter, stage left, Ricky! (Lenny and Squiggy, eat your hearts out.)
(Let me add to the Bizarro World hit list. As I type this, I just received an email from Levi’s jeans: "Buy the Project Runway Winning Design." It retails for $168, in case you were wondering.)
Okay, I’m not going to drink the Haterade. Ricky’s design may not have been great—yet another lingerie inspired mini tube dress, whoopty do!—but it didn’t deserve to lose. That honor so clearly went to Victorya, who pretty much slapped a skirt on a denim jacket and called it a day, that it was hardly even suspenseful. (Also, the minute she began offering up a “back story”—Victorya has a mother? who sews?—I knew she was a goner.)
In the end, I was impressed with Rami’s ability to work with a fabric other than cotton jersey (and the zipper piping was a nice touch) but I’m still not fully convinced that he “gets it.” (He seems to only change his approach when the materials provided force him to.)
I’m also constantly amazed by Sweet P’s ability to rethink her look. After Tim Gunn stared at her wedding dress in horror, slapping his face like Macauley Culkin after a giant bottle of after shave, she pretty much scrapped the concept and went with a rather chic patchwork tube dress. To be honest, it was my favorite of all the designs.
Christian’s sexy trucker outfit was so
him—ambitious, youthful, edgy. Ahhh, that little piss ant really is a bundle of talent, huh?
Frayed edges and all, I liked Chris’s mini dress more than Ricky’s. But maybe it just looked better on TV?
Jillian’s coat was horrific and all I can say is, she’s lucky that Victorya designed a Canadian Tuxedo For Her.
There’s not much more I can add, except: Victorya apparently thinks all blonde white women look alike (and Sweet P so patiently withstood her insults, it began to remind me of this.) Also, I’m still not quite sure why they had to go to a dirty East River pier to get their denim assignment. And, no, Sweet P, we don’t want to see your foot.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

River and Heath

This whole Heath Ledger thing reminds me so much of River Phoenix, it’s eerie.
Another handsome, somewhat brooding, enormously talented young man cut down in the prime of life, apparently of a drug overdose. (Although reports have now surfaced that Heath was also suffering from pneumonia.)
Both actors COULD have had successful mainstream careers as heartthrobs and leading men but clearly didn’t give a damn about such things. Instead, they chose to take roles that were darker, less fan friendly, and more challenging.
Both actors chose parts that submerged them in drug culture. (River, My Own Private Idaho; Heath, Candy).
Both played a gay romantic interest to a popular, dark-haired leading man (River with Keanu in Idaho; Health with Jake in Brokeback Mountain.)
Both were Oscar nominated (River for Running on Empty; Heath for Brokeback)—they leave behind an incredibly frustrating sense that their best work was ahead of them.
Both favored the urban, messy, indie rocker look—lots of caps and torn jackets and unwashed hair.
Both were involved with actresses (River with Samantha Mathis and Martha Plimpton; Heath with Michelle Williams and Naomi Watts).
Both had a physical beauty, as well as a sensitivity and depth and a kind of native sadness that really touched me.
I was closer to River’s age, so his death affected me more deeply.
But Health also had that beautiful little girl.
Damn. My heart is crushed just thinking about her.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Oscar predictions!

The Oscar nominations come out Tuesday morning. In advance of that, my good pal and old cohost Mike Mayo and I are having an old fashioned Oscar pickin' hootenanny right here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hair ball: The Project Runway recap

Despite the fact that Heidi informs the models weekly that, “This, too, is also additionally a competition for you, as well” (or something like that), I’ve never cared much about the model portion of our little show. You’d have to be a pretty hardcore Project Runwayophile to even name a single model who ever worked that runway.
But I have to say that last night’s model selection process really irked me. Here come the models, all decked out with faux hawks and bouffants and dreadlocks and pounds of hairspray and then there’s this one model who has her hair. . . . pulled back smartly with a clip? It looked like a hairstyle you’d have for a yearbook photo, not an avant-garde runway creation. Poor girl never had a chance.
Auf Wiedersehen, my little nameless fraulein. Take heart: We wouldn’t have known you, even if you had won.
So yeah, for this competition, the designers have to make an avant-garde garment—something over the top, excessive, and utterly impractical. (I can’t even begin to imagine the spit, mud, and bird droppings Elisa would’ve used to make her outfit. Oh, how I miss the little wind goddess.)
Then they randomly picked names out a hat and Chris got teamed with Christian and, as far as I was concerned, it was pretty much Game Over.
But as a formality, the other teams were:
Rami and Sweet P
Ricky and Kit
Neurotic and Neuroticer (a.k.a Jillian and Victorya).
Then they had to pick team leaders. Because, you know, when you have a team of two, it’s essential to have a team leader. (Yeah, yeah, I know this is to determine who gets immunity for next week. . .but still).
Right away, it was pretty clear what the dynamics were on all the teams.
Christian and Chris’s team went something like this:
“You’re fierce”
“No, you’re fiercer!”
“You are the most feroche ever!”
And repeat.
Ricky and Kit, bless their hearts, were too blissfully ignorant to realize what a sucky job they were doing. (“We went a different way from the other designers,” noticed Kit, a little unsure.)
Rami was all bitchy with my homegirl Sweet P and treated her like she had some sort of mental disability and I pretty much wanted to smack him.
Jillian and Victorya fretted over everything—who would lead, what design they would make, how much time they had.
So you can only imagine the Xanax passed between those two when Tim came in and announced that they had to make another dress, this time a ready-to-wear garment that complemented their avant-garde creation.
(I don’t know about you, but I hate when Tim screws with the designers. It seems so impolite.)
Mostly, they worked it out. However, when Tim later announced that a special guest was coming into the studio, the designers stared at the door as if the Grim Reaper himself was going to show up and challenge them to a chess match. Instead, it was just the lead stylist from TRESemme! Quel relief!

Once again, Tim questioned something Christian was doing in the studio and once again, Christian blithely ignored him. (Oh, to be young, confident, and pocket-sized.) Although I have to say, in this case, Christian was right. His ready to wear garment did NOT look cheap, as Tim suggested. Indeed, considering the short notice, it was pretty damn good. (An aside: I read in an article that Christian refers to his hair style as “Asian lesbian.” Ha.)

Onto the judging. . .
Top two: Christian and Chris (duh) and Jillian and Victorya. I have to say, Jillian and Victorya really worked it out. Their military trench coat thing was hot. Any other season, that outfit would’ve won. But what Christian and Chris did was so extraordinary—it was like some perfect storm of designers and challenge—beautifully constructed, artistic, extravagant. In my opinion, it was one of the most spectacular garments in the history of the show. So the foregone conclusion became a reality.

Bottom two:
Ricky and Kit and Rami and Sweet P. I loved the fact that they praised Sweet P’s ready-to-wear ensemble (burn, Rami!) and weren’t buying any of his attempts to throw Sweet P under the bus. Of course, you knew they weren’t sending Rami home because the man can drape like a champ. So he’s in.

And then. . .aaargh! . . . they had him! Right there for the taking. Ricky. Bottom 2. Craptastic dress. No clue. What’s more, my eyes were still burning from the fact that we had seen not one, but two shirtless shots of Ricky in this episode. (Let me give the producers a little tip: Rami shirtless = hooray! Ricky shirtless = not so much). And they went ahead and cut cutie-pie Kit.
Does Ricky have compromising pictures of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia or what??? Why won’t he die? Why? Why?
Next week: Ricky cries on the runway and Michael Kors looks annoyed. I have hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gum That Is Cooler Than I Am

Have you seen this gum? It's called Wrigley's 5. I've never seen such stylish gum in my entire life. Frankly, I'm not sure I want my gum to be so stylish. I feel like I need be dressed up to chew this gum. I'm not really sure what market Wrigley's is going after with this gum—the tween metrosexual? The club kid with bad breath? The globetrotting dentist? (It's sugar free.) All I can say is, it looks out of place next to the Mallo cups and Mary Sue Easter eggs at my Royal Farms store.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Day The Swag Stopped

I feel so lost today.
Normally, the day after the Golden Globes is a joyous day for me. So many websites to peruse, so many gowns and tuxedos to get catty over, so many fond memories of red carpet missteps (did Isaac Mizrahi just touch Scarlett Johansson’s
boobs?), awkward on stage antics (Christine Lahti was where?) and Elizabeth Taylor hopped up on God knows what to reminisce over.
But noooooo. They took that all away from me.
Who’s they? Well, the stupid studio chiefs, I suppose. Can’t really blame the writers for wanting their deserved piece of the pie. But secretly, if I were strapped to that lie detector machine from Fox’s
The Moment of Truth (can’t wait to watch that train wreck), I’d probably reveal anger at the writers, too. My resentment, apparently, has crossed the picket line.
And it’s getting dire.
If missing out on the Golden Globes is like missing out on the AFC Championship Game (speaking of which: the Patriots vs. the . . .Chargers? way to step it up, Colts), missing out on the Oscars (which is becoming more of a real possibility with each passing day) will be like missing out on the Super Bowl.
Studio chiefs, writers: Do whatever it takes. Grab Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Rosie O’Donnell—
whomever. Lock yourselves in a room and work this shit out. It’s getting personal now.

Oh, as for the actual awards? Atonement’s big win proves that the Best Picture race is on. I’d always suspected that No Country For Old Men (which had been cleaning up most of the pre-Oscar awards) was too highbrow, too dark, too chillingly cold-blooded for the Oscars. The sweeping, gorgeous Atonement is much more their typical fare. So yeah, it’s waaay early for my final prediction, but Atonement is looking like the real deal right now.
It's going to be one hell of a press conference.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Am Not Feeling Fierce Today: The Project Runway recap

Why is Ricky still here? This is the thought I had twice last night, like bookends, at the beginning and the end of the show.
At first it was a mild, “Oh yeah . . . right. Ricky is still here.”
And then at the end, as two of my favorite designers stood on the chopping block, it was a more angry: “Seriously, WHY is Ricky still here?”
Let’s put aside the creepy little hats, the inexplicable crying jags, the mostly bland personality—Ricky has done absolutely NOTHING to distinguish himself in this competition. Nothing. Not one memorable dress and not one truly memorable moment. Last night was the judges’ big chance to kick him to the curb. His little poofy strapless number was yet another mediocrity. But nooooo.
I did dig last night’s prom dress challenge, if for no other reason then we got to see the designers in high school.
Christian’s transformation was the least exciting, since he pretty much still IS in high school.
Kevin’s yearbook photo proved that before he enrolled in the Joey Fatone School of Elaborate Hair Grooming, he rocked more of an 80s Nic Cage kinda thing.
Punky, edgy, bleach-blonde Kit was a mousy brunette with a seriously preppie looking boyfriend.
I would’ve loved to have seen Rami in some sort of Israeli military fatigue, but no such luck. (However, by an overwhelming margin, you, the boys and girls of America, want to take Rami to the prom!).
Sweet P’s prom photo was the awesomest. First of all, it was so late 70s, it gave me a
The Virgin Suicides flashback. Lots of powder blue and blonde wings and ruffled shirts. Plus, her stoner boyfriend looked like some sort of fabulous cross between Spicoli and the naked kid from The Blue Lagoon. Way to go, Sweet P.
“We had lots of fun that night,” Sweet P giggled. I’m sure you did, honey.
Having the teenagers pick the designers was a nice little twist, leading to the following hilarious moment:
Victorya: So what about my design appealed to you?
Prom kid: Actually, I picked last. . .
For the most part, the designers wrestled with the notion of pleasing their hormonal, high on Red Bull and Love’s Baby Soft clients and staying true to their own design aesthetic. And for the most part, they failed. Rami went back to his tastefully risk-free self, and I’m glad he got whacked for it. (The funny part was, he had immunity. So his idea of taking a risk was. . . designing a dress that looked like every other dress in his collection.) Victorya’s winning dress, to me, really captured the spirit of the challenge—it was playful, young, and chic. I also liked Jillian’s aquamarine dress (pictured). The rest of the dresses ranged from pretty, but too conservative (Sweet P and Chris) (and allow us to pause for a moment to consider
that unlikely conservative duo); overly whickety wacked (Christian, Kit); and just plain sloppily made (Kevin, Ricky).
The designers let me down.
Of course, it was Christian who had the most trouble with his opinionated client. Again, I think the fact that he is not much older than a high school kid (I was rather stunned when they showed him the house
shaving) was part of his problem. He definitely had the biggest challenge—she was short, plus-sized, and bossy.
“I’m not feeling fierce today,” he moaned.
I have to say, though, I liked his attitude. No, not the defeatist attitude that forced Tim Gunn to give a rare in-studio pep talk; but his sense of irony about the situation, “You’ll miss me when I’m gone,” he told the other designers, pretty much assuming he was toast.
Of course, I knew Christian was going to stick around. First of all, he gives good soundbite. Second, he’s tremendously talented, and takes risks. They always let the Santinos and Jeffreys and Christians of this world have a major misstep or two. At least when they fail, they do it spectacularly.
As for Kevin. For the love of God, man, why didn’t you finish that hem? WHY? WHY? Everyone was telling you to finish the hem. I sort of felt like I was watching a horror film where the heroine runs upstairs right where the monster is hiding as the whole audience yells, “Take the front door! Take the front door!”
But alas. It wasn’t meant to be.
Kevin’s parting words, “At least I got to hug Heidi Klum.”
You see people, in case you hadn’t heard, Kevin is straight.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Season Three of Project Runway: Yeah, I blogged about that, too

I hated Jeffrey like Romney hates Huckabee. Here's the link to those recaps.

You've got to start from the bottom up.

On Second Thought, Pass Me the Bucket: The Bucket List review

1 star

Have you ever been out shopping with a pal and you tried on a sweater that looked like everything else in your wardrobe and your friend helpfully said, “Don’t you own that already?”
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson need to get better friends.
It’s not just that the two actors are playing characters we’ve seen them play countless times before—Nicholson, an ornery and irascible billionaire; Freeman, a wise and sagacious good egg—they’re playing ersatz versions of these characters. This is a made for TV version of a Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson buddy film, except it actually stars Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. (And it’s directed by Rob Reiner. Oh, whither Meathead?)
One critic suggested the film might be better if the two actors had switched parts, and I sort of agree. At the very least, it would have been more watchable. But in the end, nothing can save this cloying, shallow, disingenuous film from itself.
Here’s the premise: Two old men meet in a hospital room. Edward Cole (Nicholson) actually owns the hospital (among others)—he only shares a room because his personal assistant/whipping boy (Sean Hayes) convinces him it’s a good PR move. His roomie Carter Chambers (Freeman) is a mechanic and trivia whiz who sacrificed a college degree to support his family. (How do we know Carter’s smart? Because he shouts out the answers to Jeopardy questions. Can we put a moratorium on this character device please?). Both men are dying of cancer but are conveniently “asymptomatic.”
While Carter—who provides the film’s patient, doting voiceover narration (I know, it pains me to write this as much it pains you to read it)—has a loving family, lonely Edward has four ex wives and an estranged daughter. (Gee, wonder if Carter is going to facilitate some sort of father/daughter reunion? Oh, I don’t want to spoil the surprise). While at first the men dislike each other (so different from other buddy films I’ve seen!), they eventually become allies and friends.
It is then that the concept of The Bucket List—a list of things both men want to do before they “kick the bucket”—is introduced and the two fogies embark on one last intercontinental adventure.
Just take a guess as to what they might do.
If you guessed skydiving, you’d be right!
If you guessed race car driving, give yourself two more points!
View the pyramids? Check and double check!
Dine at the finest restaurant in Paris? Oui, oui, oui.
And so on.
The list also has some vague, treacly entries like, “See something truly majestic” and “Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world”—designed to wrench maximum tears from the audience.
What else can I say? The film is one big fake, by-the-numbers buddy film crossed with some comforting Hallmark bits of faux-wisdom on death.
You want to see a film that tackles death and love with sincerity and guts? Rent Sarah Polley’s Away From Her. But whatever you do, stay away from this stinker. Let Freeman and Nicholson know that even they can wear out their welcome.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Liked It: Thoughts on the L Word Season 5 premiere

Last night, the L Word had its fifth season premiere. It was good. So good, in fact, that fans of the show might dare to call it, “Season One good.”
“Season One good” is a shorthand for everything that worked so well in the first season of Showtime’s sapphic drama: Great fashion, glamorous and fabulous characters who hung out together and seemed to genuinely like each other, insiderish dialogue, tons of romantic intrigue, and, of course, lots and lots of sex. Season One was shallow but smart—like a soap opera written by a Bard graduate. It didn’t hurt that I developed a whopping girl crush on Shane (Katherine Moennig)—the laconic, shaggy-haired lady killer. (Apparently, I wasn’t alone in this crush. There’s actually a t-shirt you can buy that says, “I’d Go Gay For Shane.”)
I actually still kind of liked Season Two, but there were signs that things were unraveling. Ilene Chaiken, the show’s Svengali-like creator, is obviously a very smart woman—but maybe not quite as smart as she thinks. When L Word is on target, it’s a juicy guilty pleasure. When it tries to get serious about art and politics, it gets maddeningly pretentious.
With each passing season, the show seemed to take itself more and more seriously. Transgenderism, gays in the military, censorship, cancer, sexual abuse were all taken on with grad school studiousness. Straight people were often a target—straight men in particular—saying ridiculously ignorant things (from last nite’s eppy: “What does the T stand for in LBGT—tentative?”) and being as unhip and unglamorous as Chaiken could depict them. (A gay/straight “mixer” in Season Four is particularly painful.)
Often, the most annoying character was writer Jenny Schecter (Mia Kirshner, not her fault), clearly a surrogate for Chaiken herself. It was Schecter who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse—and it was she who often led to those two most dreaded words in television: Fantasy sequence. In them, she was often at a carnival (?) being chased by frightening carnies or people with pig snouts or bearded ladies. You’d watch those sequences and think, “Yada, yada, yada. . .can we get back to the breakup between Tina and Bette?”
As the seasons went on, the L Word was kinda all over the map. Characters would have these radical personality changes: rich Helena Peabody went from a delectably bitchy villainous in Season two to a veritable Mother Theresa in Season Three. Likewise, funky, spunky Alice (the sexy and funny Leisha Haley) turned into a pill-popping stalker in Season Three—but recovered by the end of the season, only to deal with the show’s biggest misstep (and bummer), the death of adorable tennis pro Dana. Way too many new characters entered the picture, the least welcome of which was the transgender Max (Daniela Sea). Nothing wrong with introducing this character, but the actresses’s monotone delivery and puppy dog passivity made her difficult to warm up to. What’s more, all these new characters were beginning to feel like interlopers. Didn’t we have enough characters as it was?
Chaiken obviously had read the message boards where fans were clamoring for more group interaction, a la Season One. Sometimes she tried to force this action—a scene in Season Three where the gals sat around a table at The Planet (the show’s answer to “Central Perk”) discussing euphemisms for the vagina was particularly forced and unfunny. Season Four got a little better—a scene where our West Hollywood fashionista heroines attempted a pickup basketball game was genuinely entertaining. But in many cases, it just seemed like the L Word had lost its groove.
So why did I keep watching it? That’s a natural and fair question.
Give credit to the stellar cast (particularly Jennifer Beals, who shines as alpha femme Bette), who often elevated the crummy dialogue and absurd scenarios with their nuanced performances. And yes, give credit to Chaiken, who managed to do just enough to keep me intrigued (or at least, optimistic that things would get better.) (But no, I can not give credit to musical director and sometimes writer Elizabeth Ziff. That inane theme music HAS to go.)
Last night seemed to reward me for my patience. A lot of the extra characters have been kicked to the curb (Papi, we hardly knew ye), Shane is back to her hound dog ways (yay for slutty Shane!), Bette and Tina are making googly eyes at each other, and the group dynamic seems frothy, fun, and real.
Keep it up, Madame Chaiken. At this rate, we might be referring to future seasons as “Season Five good.”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I’m Going to Wander Off Now: The Project Runway recap

If you ever secretly suspected that Tim Gunn sleeps in a smartly pressed white shirt with a Windsor knot tie and a tailored pin stripe suit, this episode of Project Runway would certainly not disavow you of that notion.
Because there was Tim, looking impeccably crisp and fresh at 6 am, as the designers stumbled around, rubbing sleep out of their eyes and pulling up their boxer shorts.
“I was a little traumatized,” admitted Kit. “I’m in my pajamas in front of Tim Gunn!”
Yeah, that can pretty much scar you for life.
But no time for dwelling on the humiliation, as the designers were off to the Hershey store in Times Square.
Sadly, Jillian slipped out of her pajamas and into rainbow suspenders from the Mork from Ork 1978 collection. Designer, heal thyself.
The Hershey store inspired three different reactions:
There was jaded know-how from Chris: “I have a lot of experience with knowing not to use food.” (And immediately, the mind wanders to an image of a drag queen slipping on a pool of melted Jell-O on the runway.)
There was unmitigated glee from magical forest sprite Elisa: “How can you not want to make things out of magic, magic, magic?” (So true.)
And there was “this sucks” teen eye-rolling from Christian: “Oh God, we’re going to make things out of candy.”
So off they went, ransacking the store like a bunch of toddlers on ritalin, grabbing as many Hershey’s Kiss pillows and giant Kit Kat bars as possible.
As for the poor woman who was possibly going to be in charge of cleaning up the destruction, all she do was muster a grim faced, “Have a sweet day.” (Kill me if I ever have to work for a company that forces me to exhort, “have a sweet day!”)
Back in the studio, Jillian was the only one dumb enough (smart enough?) to use actual food—in her case, intricately woven Twizzlers—but some seriously cool Pop Art creations were being designed.
Christian thought he was the absolute bomb diggity with his Reese’s cup dress, but it was actually just a (tasty) variation on the coffee filter dress we’ve seen a couple of times.
I totally LOVED Kit’s Kit-Kat dress, pictured. An obvious choice to be sure—what? You were expecting a Mounds bar?—but seriously cool and fun.
Chris managed to temper every fabulous bone in his body to create a surprisingly tasteful Hershey’s strapless sheath dress. He wanted that Gay Pride float (and apparently, so did Michael Kors—those two should so start their own line for drag queens and MOBs) but was able to resist, quite winningly.
Elisa revealed that she had been hit by a Porsche and in a coma (holy $#!@!!!!)—but that still didn’t quite explain her ungodly combination of doody-brown dress with metallic water wings.
Kevin disappointed me with his ho-hum outfit. Yes, it was well made and tasteful. But really, what about giant metallic candy wrappers makes the mind leap to a brown cocktail jacket and matching slip skirt?
Jillian’s finished project was impressive—and smelled good, too, apparently!—but maybe too gimmicky to actually win?
Ricky Hershey’s Kiss shaped dress didn’t suck, which is a big improvement for him.
Sweet P was a hot mess today. (Although Tim Gunn’s assessment that her skirt looked like a maxi pad made it clear that he is not familiar with women’s toiletries.) But I’m glad she got to stay. I really love her Aging Hipster That Could pluck.
Victorya also let me down with her milk maid monstrosity. The less said about that dress the better
Finally, our winner, Rami. I liked his dress—it had a kind of Candyland fantasy quality and it represented a nice departure from his risk-free chic of past shows. Also, its level of craftsmanship had Zac Posen’s eyes popping out of his (adorable) head. Still, I have a hard time getting amped about any Rami win. It’s just so. . . predictable. In a year that had kitchen wiz Hung win Top Chef, and Tyra clone Saleisha win ANTM, a Rami win at Project Runway would be another letdown. Let’s go, Christian, Jillian, and Victorya (and dark horse Kevin). Pick up the pace!
As for our new age nymph Elisa? It was time for her to go. And she seemed to agree. “As it should be,” she said when Sweet P eluded the cut. (I suspect this was more of a “everything happens for a reason” bit of Zen equanimity than a “your dress was better than mine” acknowledgement.)
Then she saw Heidi’s “auf wiedersehen” and raised it an “ashay”—which is clearly some of kind of secret yogi tree hugging salutation. And with that, she wandered off into Mother Earth’s kind embrace.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Most Underrated Films of 2007

I’ve decided to break these down into three separate categories:

RG-really good
BTYT-better than you think
EB-enjoyably bad

Reign Over Me (RG) – Maybe it was Adam Sandler’s frizzy hair (he looked more like Bob Dylan than Cate Blanchett does). Maybe it was the slightly annoying strain of male fantasy wish-fulfillment that permeates all of writer/director Mike Binder’s work. (He was also responsible for that lousy HBO series, The Mind of the Married Man.) Whatever the case, I thought the critics really missed the boat on this one. It’s about a man (Sandler) who loses his whole family on 9/11 and retreats into a state of permanent adolescence. He is helped by an old friend (Don Cheadle), a reasonably happily married therapist who, on some subconscious level, secretly envies his friend’s new freedom. The film, which could have sunk into mawkishness, has a surprisingly deft touch and is often quite insightful. It almost excuses Sandler for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

The Hoax (RG) – Gere’s best performance of the year—and no, that’s not damning with faint praise—in this true story about Clifford Irving, a down on his luck writer who claims he’s been given exclusive authority to write Howard Hughes’s memoir. While Irving lies with such panache he begins to believe his own bullshit, his fretful business partner (Alfred Molina, nearly stealing the show) can’t bluff his way out of a paper bag. They make for a great comedic team—until things get horribly, and predictably, out of control.

Nanny Diaries (BTYT) – I know. I’m a big fat Laura Linney apologist. But she’s not the only reason to see this moderately successful adaptation of the beloved book (although her performance as an Upper East Side Mother From Hell alone is worth the Netflix queue). You’ve also got Scarlett Johansson, delightful as ever as the put-upon nanny; Paul Giamati, playing against type as the rapacious husband; and dreamy Chris Evans as the aptly-named “Harvard hottie.” Plus, the movie gets the essential thing from the book right: You believe that Scarlett’s Annie loves her small charge enough to put up with his hateful parents.

August Rush (BTYT) – It’s funny. I saw this and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium in the same week. Both can be accused of the same thing—whimsy up the butt. But while Magorium seemed fake, I bought the Extreme Sentimentality (is that an X Games event?) of Kirsten Sheridan’s debut. The phrase I used to describe this tale of an orphanage-raised boy with magical musical gifts who goes on a quest to find his musician parents (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is “drunk on humanity.” It may be corny (it is), it may be over-the-top (Robin Williams as a Fagan like street musician? enuf said), but it believes what it is selling, and so did I.

Jane Austen Book Club (RG) – I actually found those damn Ya Ya sisters annoying. This film gets the sisterhood thing right—attractive, likeable characters, bonding over literature, and falling in and out of love.

Music and Lyrics (BTYT) – You’ll either love it, or it’ll give you a cavity. I thought Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, playing a songwriting team under the gun, were a rom-com match made in heaven. The spot-on parody of ’80s pop is merely an added bonus.

Shoot Em Up (EB) – Quentin Tarantino meets Bugs Bunny. Okay, there’s no plot to speak of. Just slap-happy action and a ludicrously cool hero played by Clive Owen (he nibbles on carrots when he’s not brandishing them as a weapon) who has to mow down the baddies while saving an orphaned baby. Absurdly violent, madly in love with itself—and undeniably fun. (If you like that sort of thing.)

Breach (RG) – This one kind of came and went, inexplicably, from the theaters. The story of a rogue CIA agent (brilliant Chris Cooper) and the neophyte agent (Ryan Phillipe) charged with spying on him is as tense and gripping as you might hope. The best part? The writers of this film seem to actually know a lot more than I do. I love when that happens.

Rocket Science (RG) – This is one of three double dips from my “Honorable Mention” section of my Top 10 list. (Rescue Dawn and The Hoax are the other ones.) Here’s what makes this so good: Our hero's triumphs over adversity are subtle; the object of his adoration (gleefully played by Anna Kendrick) is way smarter and meaner than he is; and “Blister in the Sun” gets played on the cello. Sweeet.

Talk to Me (RG) – Has all the sass of Good Morning Vietnam and all the civil rights fervor of The Great Debaters. And then there's Don Cheadle’s electrifying performance as silver-tongued con-turned-DJ Petey Greene. Is it possible the film simply didn’t know how to market itself? Is it a buddy film? (The relationship between Greene and his buttoned-down program director, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is certainly the stuff of buddy lore.) Is it a comedy? (Cheadle rattles off some Eddie Murphy-worthy improvs). Is it a tragedy? (Greene’s reaction to the death of Martin Luther King will break your heart in two.) Indeed, it is all of those things. And the problem with that is . . .?

Bug (BTYT) – Folie a deux in a seedy hotel room. First, only he (Michael Shannon) believes that the room is infested with government-issued bugs. Eventually, she (fearless Ashley Judd) does too. As they go mad together, the film becomes as paranoid and twitchy as you would hope.

Mr. Brooks (EB) – Downright ridiculous, but undeniably entertaining: Kevin Costner plays a pillar-of-the-community by day who is a serial killer by night. William Hurt plays his sniggering alter-ego, who goads him on from the back seat of his car. Danielle Panabaker is daddy’s little girl— to the core. Truly preposterous, but slick and fun.

Surf’s Up (BTYT) – Shia LeBeouf got a lot of attention for Disturbia (good) and Transformers (good until it sucks), but he’s especially affecting as the voice of surfer dude Cody Maverick in this animated mockumentary. Bonus: Jeff Bridges brings back his “The Dude” voice as legendary surf guru Big Z.

Rescue Dawn (RG) – Wanna know what it feels like to be trapped in a Vietnamese prison camp? I mean, what it really feels like? Then witness Werner Herzog’s fictionalized retelling of his own documentary, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, about gung-ho soldier Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) whose plane gets shot down in Laos and, despite humiliation, starvation, and constant fear of death, never loses his wits—or his hope. The criminally overlooked Bale will one day get one of those make-up Oscars for a performance not nearly as brilliant as this one.