Thursday, October 30, 2008

This is Not a Top Model Recap

But since certain people—you know who you are—have been clamoring for recaps, I thought I’d give a late season report.

•First of all, I was very touched by the whole Isis storyline, not only because it shed some light on the still-in-the-closet subject of transgenderism, but because I loved how the other models went from “icky poo, she’s a dude!” to being draped all over Isis during giggly late night slumber parties. But bottom line, Isis just wasn’t pretty enough. And she also fell prey to a Top Model cliché—the club girl who finds out that there’s more to modeling than just vogueing fabulously in pictures.

•I still think Brittany went home way too soon. I’ve never really understood the “too pretty to be a model” phenomenon. Yeah, I get that that the three As—awkward, alien-like, and androgynous—are where it’s at right now, but there’s still room in this world for good old fashioned pretty. Brittany brought the pretty.

• I think Marjorie is a good model—she has an uncanny ability to transform from wallflower to superstar in front of the camera—but seriously? She seems more autistic than Heather, the autistic chick from a few seasons ago. And by the way, being French is no excuse for being painfully shy and mousy. French women are actually known for being fierce.

• I don’t agree with McKey that Elina is ugly on the inside, but she does have a no-bullshit, Eastern European reserve that is hard to warm up to.

•Samantha seems like a cool chick but she has no chin and is no model.

•Every season Tyra casts one girl who is basically a drag queen. A few seasons ago, it was Jade. Last season, it was Dominique. This season, it was Sheena.

•Analeigh is my favorite. Not only does she seem like a sweet girl, her look is very in right now—kind of jailbait chic. I can see her doing H&M ads.

•McKey kinda freaked me out with that chainmail vest she was sporting. Her personality hasn’t really come through yet (but if that vest is any indication, maybe that’s for the best). She’s pretty, but in a 90s, Linda Evangelista way. I still think the high cheekbones, legs for days thing is over.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Petal to the Metal: The Project Runway Finale recap

Since the final 3 were bunched up this close, I found myself looking for signs.

Sign number one: Kenley had a breakthrough. (Of sorts.)
It went something like this. Kenley told Tim that she was going to have her model wear the wedding dress as her signature look, because, as she trilled, “The judges LOVED it!”. Tim, in his droll, Socrates-meets-Armani way, responded, “That was your interpretation?”
Kenley demurred, slightly, acknowledging that maybe, kinda, sorta the judges thought she had ripped off her dress from Alexander McQueen, and then she worked herself into a lather, saying, “It’s insulting that they thought it was a knockoff!” And Tim Gunn walked away with a look that all cultures could universally recognize as, “Bitch please.”
But then, something truly remarkable occurred. Kenley. . . changed her mind. She actually agreed with Tim Gunn. Tim was so thunderstruck by this turn of events, he blew Kenley a tender kiss. There is hope for peace in the Middle East.

Sign number two: A dog pooped next to Leanne’s gown. I’m no Miss Cleo, but that can’t be good, right?

Sign number three: Korto decided to make two extra dresses. What? It’s one thing when Tim Gunn has you “gather round” and then he breaks the soul-crushing news that you have to make two extra dresses. But to do it voluntarily? As Kenley said, “It has to be impeccably made, or you’re out!” Cut to a rather janky looking hem on one of Korto’s dresses. Rut ro.

Sign number four: Kenley has a loveable rags to riches story! Last year, she snuck into Bryant Park and got kicked out! The editor in me can’t wait to write the lead on that story when Kenley wins. (On the other hand, it does sort of fly in the face of Kenley’s “Oops, I knocked off a designer who’s work I’ve never even SEEN before” excuse. If the little lassie is sneaking into the tents, she’s a dedicated follower of fashion.)

Sign number five: Korto gives the following inspirational speech, “Shine in your moment, ladies!”—and promptly trips. So much for shining.

Sign number six: One of Leanne’s dresses has a collar that looks something like the thing I put on my mutt Harriet’s neck when she’s not supposed to bite her stitches—and it’s saggy. And floppy. Leanne has to make a last minute switcheroo.

Sign number seven: The cooler-than-thou fashion world hates Kenley, too. At one point, as she screams a little too boisterously when she gets a zipper up on a model, an army of hungry hipsters turned to Kenley with looks that all cultures could universally recognize as, “Bitch please.”

So let’s add it all up.
Leanne has 2 bad signs (poop and saggy collar.)
Korto has 2 bad signs (janky hem and janky inspirational speech)
Kenley has 2 good signs (Tim Gunn lovefest and loveable rags to riches story) and one bad sign (like everyone else, models hate her).

Which means. . . Kenley wins! Uh, not so much. Told ya I wasn’t Miss Cleo.

As for the collections themselves:

I liked a lot of Korto’s dresses, especially the one green mini dress with the mustard-colored belt, but I'll just never dig those dojo-master silhouettes she does with the flared sleeves.

Kenley had some of my favorite individual pieces—loved her signature look with hot-pink and navy-striped lining—but her collection didn’t congeal—it did, indeed, sometimes look like a Holly Hobby explosion.

As for our big winner Leanne’s collection? Impeccably made and dull as the dirt you plant those petals in, if you ask me.

A few more thoughts. . .
•Do none of these designers watch America’s Next Top Model or, for that matter, their own network’s Make Me a Supermodel?
I noticed Dani, Bianca, Naima (poor dear wasn’t cast) and the tall drink of water from Make Me a Supermodel and the only model they recognized was . . . Morgan from Season One of Project Runway? (So somebody does know those damn model’s names, after all.)

•Heidi bravely concealed her seething contempt for Jennifer Lopez, who, yes, cancelled at the last minute due to a “foot injury.” Yes, J Lo, Beethoven composed symphonies while deaf, but it’s impossible to judge a fashion show with a “foot injury.”

•Did anyone else notice that when Korto came back stage—thus sealing Leanne’s win—the little he-Leanne did a PeeWee Herman like jump for joy?

•Leanne and her model (Tia) seem unusually . . .close.

•For those who blinked and missed it: Korto won fan favorite. Yes, they announced it while you were fast-forwarding your DVR. How terribly anti-climactic. (I would’ve voted for cartoon character Blayne, who totally grew on me as the season progressed and looked so fetch in his little goth-Speed Racer getup last night.)

•Leanne, I command you to never say the following words again: “100 thousand dolla, drinks are on this brotha.”
Just no.

So there ya have it folks. The season is over. Too bad Bravo ended on a whimper, not a bang.
Next year, look for challenges in cross-stitching, tea cozies, and mom jeans on the Lifetime Network. See ya there.

(P.S. I’m going to attempt to recap Top Chef this season. So do come check it out.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Read this now! American Wife

It’s very easy to dislike someone from afar. I for one, have always disliked Laura Bush, put off by her all around stiffness—stiff hair, stiff smile, stiff body language. She’s always seemed robotic to me—a kind of Republican Stepford Wife, hiding her contempt (for who? Democrats? feminists? her husband?) under a bullet-proof veneer of hairspray, navy blue business suits, and steely perfection.

But the truth is, no one is equal to their public persona—least of all politicians or their spouses. And you would probably find that if you were to meet even your most hated political demon—Cheney, Rumsfeld (although I draw the line at Karl Rove)—they might actually tell a good joke, or share some common interest with you, or have an endearingly close relationship with their aunt (or dog or whomever) and you’d find some glimmer of humanity in them that would make it impossible for you to go on disliking them.

In short, Curtis Sittenfeld has made it impossible for me to dislike Laura Bush. (Damn her!)

In interviews, Sittenfeld has said she’s a left-leaning Democrat and I believe her. But she’s also, by her own admission, obsessed by Laura Bush, the modest, middle class librarian who married a charming, if n’er-do-well scion of a political dynasty, only to watch in stunned amazement as he got sober, found God, and became first a governor and then a two-term U.S. president.

Sittenfeld’s Alice is based on Laura Bush in so many ways, it’s hard to tell where the biography ends and the fiction begins. But her journey into the inner life of this character is so complete, so filled with insight and detail, it paints an incredibly convincing picture of what Laura Bush could be like.

In the book, Alice has a larger-than-life grandmother—a feisty, intellectual (and lesbian!)—who fears that Alice, while studious and dutiful, might just be a bit boring. (The character of the lesbian grandmother is presumably made up.)

Sittenfeld suggests that, indeed, Alice might have lived a life of stoic, Midwestern normalcy were it not for the gloriously disruptive presence of her grandmother and a defining life tragedy: When she was 17, Alice, like Laura Bush herself, struck and killed a male classmate with her car. In the novel, the boy was also the love of her young life.

Sittenfeld sees this as a moment where a life of bland comfort and predictability veers violently off-course, giving Alice a kind of permanent melancholy, plus a fatalism and toughness she would carry into adulthood.

After the accident, Alice doesn’t demand much from life. She remains unfailingly kind, generous, a lover of children and literature—but the expectations of “normalcy” (whatever that really is) have eluded her. So she is 31, practically nearing spinsterhood, when she meets Charlie (aka George W.) at a party.

He is, just like the real George W., a handsome, rapscallion, overgrown frat boy. Always quick with an inappropriate joke or a chummy remark. Where she is quiet, he is boisterous. Where she is cautious, he is reckless and carefree. Where she is modest, he is vulgar. Also, where Alice sees the world in shades of gray, Charlie has the certainty and confidence of a man who has led a charmed life of privilege—yes, he sees the world in black and white.

Charlie pursues Alice doggedly and she finds that his brio and joie de vivre are so forceful, they take away her sadness.
She doesn’t really think he’s a man of substance, but she loves him, despite herself.

A few more words about Charlie: He’s not a villain in this—just a fun-loving lightweight in way over his head. Don’t get me wrong, he’s hardly a hero—Sittenfeld shows him to be vain, shallow, and possibly even racist—but he’s not completely unappealing. (And oh yes, Sittenfeld goes there—if you ever wondered what the president’s, uh, manhood looks like, Sittenfeld describes it in glorious detail. Indeed, the sex scenes in this book are so vivid, I marveled at Sittenfeld’s chutzpah. The Bushes are, after all, still in office.)

As I’ve told friends, Laura Bush comparisons aside, Alice Lindgren is an amazing literary heroine. (Her tough-cookie-meets-tough cookie run-ins with the intimidating Barbara Bush character, Maj, are particularly satisfying). And the book is an absolutely spellbinding page turner—with insights about class and privilege that are Sittenfeld's specialty.

Of course, there’s a reason Sittenfeld calls this book American Wife, not First Lady. What she’s saying is that all marriages—heck, all lives—are filled with moments of soaring joy, as well as those of compromise and disappointment. Sittenfeld reminds us that to view people as anything less than rich and complex, rife with nuance and contradictions, is to adopt the world view of, well, George W. Bush. And, really, who would want to do that?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Always a Bridesmaid: The Project Runway Recap

Tim Gunn got choked up over this bunch? For real? The most seriously uninspiring group in the history of Project Runway and Tim Gunn is verklempt? Oh Tim . . . you really do love all of your children equally, don’t you?

I mean, take the home town trips—please.

Usually, this is our chance to see that, say, Christian is living in a postage stamp, or Jillian’s mother is Cruella de Vil, or that Rami already has a fully equipped studio befitting a professional designer of his unsurpassed taste and caliber.

These guys? Suffice it to say, when the highlight is a bicycle built for two, you know it’s a weak episode.

We start with Korto, who clearly means business because she has hidden her signature ’fro under a black head scarf. I miss her hair. Her designs are very Korto and they have a certain Georgia O’Keefe, womanly, feminine—okay, I’m just going to say it—vaginal quality about them, that—unless my ears deceived me—Tim Gunn referred to as “a snatch shot.” (Can you even say that on commercial TV?)

Next, Korto takes Tim home, where she plays the drums in an attempt to show him the little known intersection between Arkansas and Africa (hey, they didn’t call Bill Clinton America’s first black president for nothin’). I’m not convinced. However, her daughter and husband are totes cute.

Speaking of cute, Leanne is up next, in Portland, Oregon—and we meet her boyfriend, a geeky, shoe-gazing He-Leanne, who immediately and dutifully vanishes. Tim is impressed with Leanne’s collection, which has an architectural quality and is inspired by waves. The work is impeccable, but I never really “feel” Leanne’s designs, ya know?

Next, Leanne “spontaneously” suggests a bike ride and Tim makes some quip about his insurance policy and the whole exchange has this rehearsed, that-was-the-40th-take feel to it. Off they go to the Portland rose gardens in the aforementioned bicycle built for two, with Tim clutching his helmet and squealing, “Whoah!” It’s all too precious for words.

From there, the Tim-mobile heads to L.A., where we get a glimpse at Jerell’s collection. We also meet Dave, who Jerell amusingly refers to as his “love interest”(this is clearly a sign that Jerell has been living in L.A. too long). Jerell’s collection is a bit of a mess. Tim Gunn calls it “a lot of look”—one of my favorite Tim-isms, but rarely a good sign. Then, onto the stunning revelation that Korto is Jerell’s mother! Well, no not really, but they are sporting the exact same black head scarf.

Finally, it’s back to Brooklyn to meet up with Kenley. I want her apartment.
Mostly, Tim loves her collection, but he questions a dress with a rope detail around the neck that was meant to be an homage to Kenley’s tug boat driving dad. “Doesn’t it make you think of hanging yourself?” Tim asks nervously. No, Kenley had not thought about that. (Somewhat surprising, after the events of last episode. . . I kid, I kid . . .)

Then Tim and Kenley say good bye and. . . that’s it? We don’t get to meet Tug Boat Harry, or whatever her dad’s name is? We don’t get to meet Kenley’s bratty kid sisters, cause you know she has them? We don’t get a chance to play amateur psychologist and try to figure out how Kenley got to be so. . . Kenley-like? I feel cheated.

Back in NYC, Kenley is the last to arrive to the hotel and she kind of gets an awkward silent treatment until she finally, breezily says, “I’m sorry for being such a bitch!” and all seems to be more or less forgiven. (If only we could solve the world financial crisis with such apparent ease).

At Parson’s Tim tells the designers to “gather round.” Rut ro. Indeed, after slaving away over their collections for three months, they now have one whole day to make a bridesmaid dress that will determine their fate in the competition. Sounds fair to me!

Jerell brilliantly surmises that, since bridesmaid dresses are ugly, his dress should be ugly! (This is foreshadowing, folks.)

Korto and Leanne both make short bridesmaid dresses, but Kenley thinks they’re copying her, because, like, no one ever thought to make a short dress before in the history of design.

Down the runway they come—bride and maid. Here’s how I rank them.

Leanne’s wedding dress is fabu, but her bridesmaid dress has one of those pastel-y Leanne colors that I don’t like.

Kenley’s wedding dress is a bit too Alexander McQueen (or so say the judges, and Kenley looks kinda busted) but her bridesmaid dress OWN’s Leanne’s.

Korto’s wedding dress is overworked. Her bridesmaid dress is a cute cocktail frock, but doesn’t read bridal. (Not necessarily a bad thing.)

Jerell’s wedding dress looks kinda messy and funky, like everything else he’s designed. His bridesmaid dress is, as promised, ugly.

So Jerell is . . . out. Which kinda sucks because not only is he the sweetest contestant standing, didn’t he win the challenge last week? Dag, I knew this was going to happen.
I suppose it’s for the best, because Korto would’ve needed a defibrillator if she had been auf’d—that girl puts way too much pressure on herself.

Jerell took his dismissal with his trademark insouciance and humor: “If you want a basic white tee, get it from Michael Kors,” he shrugged. (Hee!)

Farewell to you, dear Jerell. Here’s hoping that you and your “love interest” have a true Hollywood ending.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Bunch of Tulles: The Project Runway recap

I blame Uli.
Yes, Uli. Remember her?
She was a contestant three seasons ago and, going into the last episode before Bryant Park, she was clearly in fourth place.

Sexy, sultry (and sensual) Michael was in the lead. Neck-tatted scourge-of-the-universe Jeffrey was in second. Fertility-chic Laura was in third and Uli was clearly holding up the rear. It was only academic that she would not make it Bryant Park.

And then something unexpected happened: Uli designed a kick ass dress. It was chic, it was hot. It was undeniable.

So the Project Runway judges threw out all the preexisting rules and said, “To hell with it! They can ALL show in Bryant Park.”

But, as they say in the world of reality show rules, “once you go slack, you can never go back.”

So last year we had the slightly-less shocking collection-off between Drapey McDraperson (aka Rami) and bear extraordinaire Chris March.

And now this year we get the even-less-shocking-still four-way tie into the finale.
(By the way, how burned was Jerell by all this? He wins the penultimate episode but isn’t a lock to make Bryant Park? What’s up with that? For that matter, why’d they have to announce a winner at all? They should’ve just said, “Nobody wins and therefore, ironically, you all win.” All the designs were crap.)

Alright, back to the top.
As the show begins, our contestants—sensing the end is nigh— are getting a bit twitchy. Jerell talks to fruit. Everyone cries—a lot. And the gang decides to shun Kenley like she’s Sarah Palin at a NOW convention.

Today’s challenge? Design a dress inspired by the New York Botanical Garden! (Hi, Aunt Lois!).

Tim Gunn makes some totally obscure Joan Crawford-hates- gardens remark—this may be a reference to Mommy Dearest, but everyone knows that “NO WIRE HANGERS” is the only catch phrase from that film with legs—and the designers have one hour to photograph flowers (and dodge bugs—rumors of the demise of bumble bees seem to be greatly exaggerated if this tableaux is any indication)

Off to Mood they go, where Kenley—ominously—leaves behind a bag of tulle. (If I had a dollar for every time I left a bag of tulle lying around . . .). Korto notices the unclaimed bag and decides to do . . .nothing. Demerits to Korto. But trust me, she’s not alone.

Back at the studio, I keep waiting for Kenley to have a cow, but for the longest time she is blissfully unaware that she has a toolbox without tulle.

Finally, she notices it, at which point, we discover just how unpopular Kenley is. Because Jerell has extra tulle. And Korto has extra tulle (that she is now actively stuffing into a bag to hide from Kenley—I'm surprised no one was flushing their tulle down the toilet).
And Kenley ain’t gettin’ any of that tulle.
Not even a swatch.

Now, I am in the minority of home viewers (a 31 percent minority to be exact) when I say, they should’ve given Kenley some damn tulle. Yes, I know she’s a brat. Yes, I know she’s annoying. But how do these people look at themselves in the mirror?

Luckily, Tim Gunn to the rescue. It’s curious that everyone—including Kenley—assumed that Kenley was completely screwed and didn’t even consider the fact that she would be given the opportunity to go back to Mood and claim her bag.
The other designers were too busy smirking with schaudenfraudal glee to consider that option and Kenley herself was too busy freaking out.

Leave it to Tim Gunn to succinctly, fairly, and clearly tell Kenley that she should go back and get her bag. “I don’t want you to be handicapped,” he said. Keep in mind that just last week, Kenley was being totally, unacceptably snippy to Tim Gunn. This is why Tim Gunn exists on a higher plain of consciousness than you or I. We shouldn’t even try.

Various ugly dresses are being made—and I have a sad, nostalgic flashback to Daniel Voscivic’s orchid dress (these dresses couldn’t fertilize his orchid dress)—and then everyone goes home and freaks out and cries some more.

Down the runway they come!

Leanne’s dress is pretty, but I actually hate the lavender color. Also, the back is all “janky,” as Korto would say.

Jerell’s dress has some great ideas—about 8 too many, if you ask me. But it has a certain Betsey Johnson charm, even if I desperately want more fabric in the boobal region.

Korto’s dress is perfectly constructed but ugly. Also, gag me with that tangerine color. Combine it with Leanne’s dress and we have a shower curtain in Boca.

Kenley’s dress is . . .weird. As Tim Gunn said, “More oceanic than botanical” which seems a bad choice, what with this being the garden challenge and all. And when Heidi Klum tells Kenley it isn’t elegant, she snaps back: “I wasn’t going for elegant, Heidi!” (She was going for that trailer trash mermaid look.)

Then more misery for Kenley as everyone has to choose which two designers they’d like to join them in Bryant Park and Korto picks Jerell and Leanne and Jerell does a little ditty about “Korto and Leanne and Jerell in the tent” and Leanne says she only wants “good people” to join her in the finale (implied message: not you, Kenley) and the whole thing is pretty harsh.

Then the “shocking” announcement that they are ALL doing finale collections, but only three will make it to Bryant Park, followed by the most awkward group hug in the history of group hugs. (Is it really a group hug if the entire group doesn’t actually hug? Discuss among yourselves.)

Good lord, is it okay for me to say that I don’t like any of these people? I never thought I’d write these words, but Maxie misses Suede.