Archive for August, 2009

31
Aug
09

The good stuff

My weekend recuperation from a root canal afforded me plenty of time to catch up on movies via both Netflix and TV. It was a nice respite from reality shows. When it comes to film, I’m much more of a snob, so my viewing pleasures were totally guilt-free.

Winters_LolitaI’d never seen Kubrick’s Lolita in its entirety so that was a nice surprise. I knew it had an element of humor but it was way funnier than I expected. Such a solid cast: Shelley Winters was predictably amazing (I kind of love her) and Sue Lyon was much more than just a random nymphet. Peter Sellers as the ridiculous, scheming Quilty was almost a cartoon, but totally enjoyable; and James Mason’s Humbert was fantastically hammy. It all seemed very modern for 1962, but that’s Kubrick for you.

I wound up crying during some of the dancing portions of Bringing Balanchine Back a documentary about New York City Ballet’s return to Russia in 2003 (last visit: 1972). City Ballet is my favorite ballet company in the world and Balanchine my favorite choreographer hands-down. The company didn’t know how they would be received in St. Petersburg — though I doubt they thought it would be worse than their Cold War visit  — so the Russian audiences’ wildly enthusiastic response was gratifying. That didn’t make me cry as much as the choreography itself. Those dances (“Serenade,” “Symphony in C,” “Agon”) are what made me fall in love with ballet in the first place.

Another movie that made me cry: Offside, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s feature about a bunch of girls who dress as boys in order to get into a soccer stadium for a World Cup-qualifying match. Funny, sad, maddening and deeply human. The girls especially were fantastic: scrappy, determined and irreverent. All in all, a tremendously satisfying movie. And talk about naturalistic: Panahi  apparently shot the film inside Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on the day of the actual match between Iran and Bahrain to determine which country would qualify for the 2006 World Cup! Had the match gone the other way, the movie would have had an entirely different ending. Unreal.

OK, back to TV, but good TV: What a splendid episode of Mad Men this week: joan-accordionPeggy gets high on marijuana and it puts her “in a really good place”! (Pot was invented for people like Peggy!); Joan sings a kittenish “C’est Magnifique,” accompanying herself on accordion (the instrument never looked sexier), at a dinner party for her husband’s boss! There were also interesting plot threads involving Don and Betty’s kid stealing $5 from her addled-but-still-commanding grandad, and a country club party thrown by Roger and his new (ex-Sterling Cooper secretary) wife, who gets drunk. One of the series’ best episodes, I think.

[Later, still thinking about the episode]…And!  I almost forgot Roger Sterling’s hugely offensive blackface performance at the party! And Pete Campbell and his wife executing a mean Charleston, totally showing off. Lots of strange performances  this week.

29
Aug
09

Project Runway, S6, E2

With the second episode of the new Project Runway season under our belts, I think I can safely say that last week was no fluke. It really is the P.R. we all know and love. (I’m still waiting for Lifetime to somehow try to “improve” the show and thus ruin it, but maybe I should give the network more credit.)

Anyhow, the challenge was excellent: create a chic outfit for hugely pregnant guest judge Rebecca Romijn. P.R. has never done maternity wear before, which is surprising considering how often Heidi has been with child.

So far, we’ve seen two nice, logical challenges, though you know at some point the designers will be asked to create a look for a pro skateboarder or make an evening gown out of palm trees. And that will be fine, too.

There were some really nice outfits on the runway, but unfortunately Malvin’s was not one of them. I was beginning to enjoy Malvin’s eerie beauty and air of mystery. There’s generally one contestant

Malvin's baby sling

Malvin's baby sling

each season who is really more conceptual artist than clothes designer and they always fail to take into account how their creations actually look on people. Malvin, with his high-concept chicken/egg/feather/nest garment, which mainly resembled a wraparound baby-sling, is this season’s version. Or was. It came down to him and the hapless Mitchell, who made some really unflattering shorts for his model. For some reason, the judges decided to keep the latter.

Definite winner

Definite winner

I  completely agreed with the judges that Shirin’s lovely dress and coat was the winning look.

I’m sort of seeing the value in the P.R. addendum “Models of the Runway,” in that we get to see their P.O.V. regarding the designers. Plus it features an expanded “model elimination,” during which all remaining designers must choose (or re-choose) a model each week. Apparently Fatma had developed quite a crush on her designer, Logan (who is cute as a button), only to be chosen by the dreaded Mitchell. She could not be comforted.

I could do without the models-living-together drama, of which there is blessedly little. If I want that sort of thing, I can find it back on Bravo with “Make Me a Supermodel” or on the CW with Tyra and her girls. The latter was my very first guilty-pleasure reality show. How far I’ve come!

25
Aug
09

Soapy

In a slightly better frame of mind today to discuss the latest ep of “My Antonio.”

JulannOne reason for its exceptionally high drama quotient may be the fact that Antonio is used to starring in a soap and thus expects absurd-yet-passionate declarations, delusional characters and generally crazy behavior. Another is that VH1 realizes it has to keep upping the ante on these shows, which it churns out like Firefox upgrades. And so, we have — or had — the tightly wound, crazy-eyed (casting for these shows must always include at least one contestant with a demonic stare) Julann, whose prima donna pronouncements and perceived slights were getting on everyone’s nerves. When Antonio expressed concern for the missing, certifiably insane Sarah over Julann after the two ladies had a tiff, Julann announced her intention to jump ship because Antonio “just doesn’t get it.” He talked her into staying, but wound up cutting her at elimination because she insisted on reiterating her stance (he doesn’t get it). Too bad, because she was pretty amazing in her hifalutin’ self-righteousness.

The other big drama of the evening was Antonio’s ex-wife, Tully, the show’s castaway (we’re supposed to believe) who wants to win him back even tullythough she was apparently the one who broke his heart many years ago when they were young (or at east he was) and foolhardy. Despite his warning that their reunion would be a longshot — among other things, Mama Yvonne clearly disapproves, Tully’s here to stay. It’s hard for her, though, as “I don’t open up this easily,” she notes tearfully. Right. Anyway, the other contestants think she’s a spy — maybe Antonio’s sister — and of course they’re forbidden to use the Internet so they can’t look her up on Wikipedia. She has a lot to prove.

There was also a hypnotist, which was pretty silly, but served as the requisite humiliation for this episode. And why are the contestants open to any and all forms of humiliation aside from the fact that it’s in their contract? Because it proves that they’re there for Antonio. This is the ongoing theme of all the VH1 reality dating shows. Contestants are constantly declaring “I’m here for you” or protesting that someone else “isn’t really here for you” to the show’s star. How they can say it without cracking up is beyond me. How I continue to watch this stuff is also beyond me…

25
Aug
09

A little sad

I enjoy trashy reality dating shows as much as the next person, but I have to wonder: at what point in your life do you decide, what the hell,  I’m going to audition for the chance to be humiliated, misrepresented, quoted out of context, deprived of sleep and made to look like an utter fool whenever possible in front of millions of television viewers? All for the chance to “date” a faded celebrity or (even worse) someone who previously  made a fool of themselves as a contestant on a reality dating show? I’m guessing it’s when life has become so unbearable that this actually looks like an attractive option. Now I’m a little sad. probably not the best mood for a lighthearted recap of the latest episode of “My Antonio,” right? Right.

21
Aug
09

How we have missed you, Tim

Can I just take a moment to express my gratitude that Project Runway, which has finally returned to the air waves (er, the cable wires), hasn’t really changed a bit. Sure, it’s weird having L.A. as a backdrop, but all the crucial elements are still there, a least judging from the season premiere.

TimGunn

I almost forgot how delightful Tim Gunn can be and he’s back in top form, whether giving paternal yet no-nonsense encouragement to dispirited former meth-head Johnny; expressing his ever-present “concern” to designers in the workroom via pithy comments; or just being his fine, dignified self. Like past seasons, we get to see some of the actual work involved in creating the garments (red carpet frocks, this episode) and hear just enough from each contestant to get a sense of what they’re about.

Glad to have Nina Garcia and Michael Kors back in the judges’ chairs. And Lindsay Lohan as guest judge not only made the designers giddy with excitement, she was a good choice for this challenge, whatever the hell is going on in her personal life (I haven’t been paying attention).

And Heidi was Heidi.

Thanks, Lifetime, for not screwing up a good thing. Didn’t really expect them to since this is the best show that’s ever happened to the network as far as many of us are concerned.

Didn’t watch any of the other Runway-related programming (“Models of the Runway” seems particularly uninspired), so I can’t comment on that. But after Bravo’s blah Runway ripoff “The Fashion Show,” the real thing is even sweeter.

20
Aug
09

Wannabe Demon

ghost hunters
Back to the original Ghost Hunters this week. Nice to have the comforting duo of Grant and Jason back; ditto the hijinks of  Steve and Tango. The latter two are like a pair of bickering siblings and  I never tire of Steve’s many phobias, including a mortal fear of spiders (no problem with the paranormal, though). The Hunters’ first investigation involved an entity residing in a Massachusetts home that at first seemed inhuman and demonic, but later turned out to be a regular Joe:  a normal, human spirit acting like a tough guy. Grant and Jason figured that out when much provoking on their part in the house’s crawl space resulted in a few measly scratches on Jason’s calf. The entity was totally fronting. Still, not so reassuring if you’re the homeowner, I would think.

19
Aug
09

Overkill?

I’m nowhere near the demographic targeted by the “Final Destination” movies (nor have I seen any of them), which must be why I find the trailer for the fourth installment so hilarious. You know, teens dying in the most horrible ways imaginable, but this time in 3D! I understand that there are thrills to be had when huge, dangerous projectiles hurtle directly at the audience, but the trailer is so relentless in its in-your-face carnage that it looks like a parody. It must be intentional.