Archive for September, 2009

28
Sep
09

Chick Flicks

Two chick-ish flicks in two days:

First, September Issue, the documentary about the creation of the Sept. 2007 issue wintour-coddingtonof Vogue, starring the empress/dragon lady of the fashion world, Anna Wintour. It’s always interesting to get a glimpse of a workplace so different from one’s own, yet all offices are the same in some ways. Different: enormous amounts of money spent on photo shoots, a decent-size staff, closets full of sample products. The same: simmering resentments, desperately trying and failing to please the boss, lots of work for nothing, Starbucks.

Like everyone, I believed every word I read in The Devil Wears Prada, and so couldn’t help comparing the actual Vogue offices to the fictional version; naturally I found the real thing lacking. Firstly, Wintour is somewhat soft-spoken, has a sense of humor, and — though obviously feared and catered to — comes off as an actual person. Albeit an actual person with an enormous sense of entitlement. Also, the people who work for her, while certainly stylish (in Andre Leon Talley’s case, dramatically so), clearly aren’t expected to be as pulled together  as Anna herself. Why, there’s messy hair; pale, unmade-up faces; wrinkles! I think I even spotted an assistant wearing flats…

I’d read that Vogue’s longtime creative director Grace Coddington was initially hesitant  to be filmed for the movie. Good thing she eventually acquiesced because she’s the heart and soul of the thing: a wry, earthy, ultra-talented woman who’s managed to develop a smooth working relationship with Wintour. Nice that her work has been validated in such a public way.

Bright StarNext flick: Bright Star, Jane Campion’s gorgeously atmospheric account of the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, who were neighbors in early 19th century Hampstead. Abbie Cornish is wonderful as the witty, headstrong Fanny (I remember seeing her in little-known indie film Somersault and marveling at this beautiful, unmannered young actress). She’s like a Jane Austen heroine gone a bit bohemian. As Keats, Ben Whishaw does the starving young poet thing well, though I kept flashing back to his tortured character in Perfume, a movie I strongly disliked, to say the least. Then there’s the poetry itself, sprinkled liberally throughout the movie, a reminder of how transcendent Keats’ words really were.

And the clothes! The Regency era was the best-dressed period of the 19th century, hands-down. And Fanny, a seamstress and clotheshorse, puts together some amazing outfits for herself, involving diaphanous fabrics, detailed pleating and voluminous sleeves. I want to watch this movie with a Tim Gunn commentary.

Of course the story is a tragic one, as John and Fanny’s romance is doomed by 1) his lack of money and 2) his contraction of consumption (tuberculosis), like several artists of his era. Back then, coughing up blood was practically mandatory for romantic poets and composers. What better way to show off one’s delicate nature and tenuous grasp of earthly things.

Anyway, not a total sob-fest of a movie, but quite moving.

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23
Sep
09

Someone’s Antonio

From the sublime (Mad Men) to the ridiculous (My Antonio). The latter is getting sillier by the week, it seems. To wit:

Playmate Christy beats ex-wife Tully for the Big Hot Mess award this week, as she drunkenly insists that she only had one glass of wine. “You’re sloppy drunk,” Miranda points out in an accusing tone. This sets Christy off on a rampage through the house. “I’m gonna knock that bitch out!,” she repeatedly threatens Miranda who, seemingly oblivious, is rummaging around in the kitchen muttering, “Does anyone know how to work this oven?”

“How dare her!,” Christy screams ungrammatically from somewhere in the house. “Who does she think she is?!” “Oh, we still have turkey!,” Miranda notes, her head in the fridge. Funny editing.

Brooke, who’s a nurse in real life, talks Christy down, using soothing tones and psychology. It seems to work. I’m predicting that the sunny, well-adjusted Brooke wins Antonio’s hand in the end.

Later Antonio appears bearing gifts and suggests a game of “Tony Says” (Simon Says). Turns out the girls are surprisingly bad at a game most of us mastered by the age of eight. Tully quickly wins, and her prize is some quality time in a hammock with A. They cuddle and talk, while the other girls spy.

Antonio_pineappleThen, a sculpting challenge. Antonio is unveiled, supposedly in the nude, but it’s clear he’s not really, despite a strategically placed pineapple obscuring his privates. “I feel like a big, Italian prosciutto,” he announces. Hmmm.

Autumn (who thoughtfully includes Antonio’s “package” in her sculpture) and Christy (who includes his dimples) win a joint date with him on a boat. It’s boring. There’s also disco dancing, which isn’t too exciting either.

Later at the house, Tully advises the young, unsophisticated Jessica: “On the red carpet with Antonio, you can’t say, ‘I’m down wit dat.'” Mean! But true.

At dinner, Antonio plays a prank by actually serving dessert instead of his usual “just desserts,” by which means someone is usually eliminated. The nut!

Instead, he takes Jessica for a walk and tells her that she’s young and has her whole life ahead of her, blah blah blah. Home she goes.

Next week: Acting!

21
Sep
09

Bloodbath at Sterling Cooper

I know the blogosphere is atwitter about Mad Men today, what with last night’s Emmy wins and the latest episode being a real doozy. My two cents:

In his acceptance speech for best dramatic series, MM creator Matthew Weiner, who must be feeling pretty fearless right now, had this to say: “It is an amazing time to work in TV. And, I know that everything is changing, but I’m not afraid of it because I feel like all these different media is just more choice and more entertainment. It’s better for the viewers in the end and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Good attitude, Matthew, though I think your current show probably works best in its old-fashioned, non-interactive, weekly-installment TV format. Having said that,  I wouldn’t mind if Mad Men were beamed, hologram-like, into the center of my living room. Seriously, how cool would that be?

don-ep6Anyway, the show this season is blessed — thanks to its Emmy-winning writers — with a multitude of decent plot lines and several were  fused together seamlessly last night:  the British bosses invade Sterling Cooper (on July 4th, no less) for a little company reorganization; Joan resigns from the agency just as her jerk of a husband is passed over for promotion; Don and Betsy’s daughter is deathly afraid of her new brother because he has the same name and face as her dead grandfather; that folksy, down-to-earth guy Don bonded with at Roger’s party turns out to be Conrad Hilton, who wants (as does everyone) a piece of Don.

MM‘s  tone had, of late, settled into a nice groove: Queasily unsettling and darkly Joan_pensivehumorous with occasional pathos, but little action. So it was a bit of a surprise when, in the midst of last night’s office party celebrating Joan’s “retirement,” unsteady secretary Lois drives a lawnmower — courtesy of new client John Deere — into young, on-the-rise British ad exec Guy MacKendrick, virtually severing his foot. (What is this, Breaking Bad?) So much for impressing Sterling Cooper’s owners with smooth American professionalism! Though the resourceful, take-charge Joan saves poor Guy’s life, if not his foot, with her quick thinking (tourniquet!), the accident was most certainly not good form. Also, MacKendrick will never work in advertising again, according to his superiors, because he can no longer play golf. Nice chaps.

roger-barberAfterward, as blood is wiped off walls and shaken employees huddle, speaking in hushed tones, a typically unruffled Roger Sterling strolls into Paul Kinsey’s office, exclaiming, “Jesus! It’s like Iwo Jima out there!”

“He might lose his foot,” Kinsey intones solemnly, to which Roger deadpans, “Right when he got it in the door.”  I just love him sometimes.

There was also an rare collegial moment between Don and Joan as they sit in the hospital waiting room. Both characters, in their own very different ways, have become voices of conscience and reason amidst the greed, weakness and chaos. Interesting to imagine them as a couple…

I don’t know how long Weiner and team can keep up the amazing work, but I couldn’t be happier with the show.

17
Sep
09

Supersmeyes Me

Just for the heck of it, I re-visited my very first guilty-pleasure reality show last night: that’s right, America’s Next Top Model, now in its 13th “cycle.”  Which means that I have officially been watching

She's smeye-ing, isn't she?

this sort of stuff since 2003, when despite being on vacation in the California desert, I had to catch the latest episode of ANTM, this addictive new reality show.  A bad portent of things to come, I now realize. Anyway, the show was sort of fun and refreshing back then, and much less slick.  Tyra seemed pretty normal, even. Cut to last night’s episode where she whips off a trenchcoat and transforms into a superhero named, I believe, “Supersmeyes” “Supersmize.”Her superpower: smiling with her eyes.  I’m embarrassed just thinking about it. She then uses this skill to slay a rude photographer in one of the silliest segments I’ve ever seen on ANTM, and that’s saying something. To be sure, Tyra has demonstrated smeyes-ing smizing — a skill she’s obviously very proud of — in previous cycles,  but it culminated last night in a high-speed challenge during which the contestants had to emote crazily with their eyes. Incroyable.

Anyway, this season’s girls are all petite models (under 5’8″), but everything else is pretty much the same. Maybe a little more frenetic and wacky.

Acafellas

Acafellas

Glee continues to feature great song-and-dance numbers AND be laugh-out-loud funny. My favorite line last night came when chubby Mercedes (Amber Riley) asks her crush, the obviously gay Kurt (Chris Colfer), if he’s ever kissed somebody, and he replies, “Yes, if you mean by ‘somebody’ the tender crook of my elbow.” Riley, who has a lovely voice (she was apparently voted off American Idol some years ago), later vents her frustrations with the fierce song “I Bust the Windows,” a definite highlight. Will’s scrappy boy band, the Acafellas, were pretty great, too, especially in their original incarnation. Not enough Jane Lynch in the episode, but that’s OK. A little goes a long way.

11
Sep
09

Random Stuff

This is the first September since 2002 that I didn’t equate a beautiful, blue-skied day with “9/11 weather.” I guess that’s a good sign. Conversely, today — the actual anniversary — is rainy, cold and miserable in NYC, which is also fitting.  It’s still a sad, sad day for many people.

Not going to write a lot, mainly due to exhaustion — I may have to start another blog about sleep deprivation — but I will say that I, along with millions of others, enjoyed the first episode of Glee this week. Congrats to the producers for casting major theater talents Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele who know how to ham it up and sing/dance up a storm. Will it be canceled after one season like other clever, envelope-pushing series? Probably.

Matar wearing Epperson

Matar wearing Epperson

And I won’t go into major detail regarding last night’s Project Runway, except to ask: How could Heidi be bothered by the site of model Matar’s underwhelming but otherwise inoffensive boobs in Epperson’s skimpy dress and NOT be completely distracted by model Tanisha’s bazooms bouncing all over the place under Althea’s flimsy tank top. Puzzling. Not to take away from Althea’s winning design, which was adorable. Actually I liked (and have generally been liking) many outfits. Good crop of designers this season.

08
Sep
09

Cake Boss

I watched a few episodes of a fun, new (to me, anyway) “reality” show on TLC: Cake Boss or, as I like to call it, “The Real Sfogliatelle of New Jersey.” The show features the goings-on at Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, cake-boss-buddy-valastro-175NJ, where owner/cake artist Buddy Valastro whips up towering, elaborate confections for demanding clients. Yes, there’s the usual TV cake-porn (the creation of insanely intricate confections that are in constant danger of collapse), but there’s also a wonderfully colorful shop crew, most of them related to Buddy:  hulking (cousin) “Little Frankie,” who seems to get blamed a lot for kitchen mishaps; several sisters, including the impatient, tough-talking Mary; a couple of brothers-in law, including Buddy’s taciturn right-hand man, Mauro; plus baker Danny “The Mule,” and assorted other characters that I’m sure I’ll get to know and love. Buddy himself is a talkative, high-energy kind of guy who seems constantly on the verge of losing it.

Pressure and emotions run high (need I mention that everyone is Italian?) as various pressures and calamities mount, undoubtedly encouraged by the show’s producers. There’s a lot of heated arguing in the kitchen; offenses are taken and feelings hurt. The cakes are pretty cool, too. In one episode Buddy and Co. are commissioned to create a cake resembling a giant roulette table for a local businessman. The result, complete with spinning wheel and stacks of colored chips, was impressive, but the best part was when Buddy delivered the cake to the businessman’s social club. Everyone, including club members straight out of Central Casting’s Mobster Division, held their breath as the boss circled the cake looking grim; when he finally gave Buddy the thumbs-up, there was much hugging and kissing of cheeks.

roulette cakeIn another episode a cake for a wedding included two live doves in a cage, apparently an Italian tradition (though I’ve never come across it in my entire half-Italian existence).  After a prolonged search, Frankie locates a pet shop that has the birds; a box finally arrives only to contain two white ducks. Cute. Later at the wedding, which looks like it took place at The Brownstone (of Real Housewives fame), the doves, clearly embarrassed to be part of  the festivities, refuse to be released and have to be pulled out of their cage. Another episode (or was it the same one? It’s all a blur) involved Buddy painstakingly decorating a very precise black and white cake for Brides Magazine, only to be told at the last minute that two more cakes were needed. Not unlike a Project Runway challenge “twist.”

My sister looked up the bakery online and not surprisingly, they’re not taking any orders until November.

05
Sep
09

Tim Gunn: better than ever

Is it me or does Tim Gunn  seem to be enjoying himself more than usual this season of Project Runway? Though we know he can be witty, he seems to be on a roll lately with the droll commentary. “The prophet of doom has returned,” he announced wryly before telling one designer that her model was unavailable for a fitting. “Work like there’s no tomorrow, because for one person there won’t be,” he later exhorted the designers in the workroom. Could this new volubility be due to… L.A.? He was seen sporting flip-flops (and a blazer) on the beach during the intro to the latest challenge, much to everyone’s delight. Whatever it is, I’m happy for him.

So, the designers had to work in pairs to create a stylish surfer-girl look and a complementary avant-garde look. Forcing people with big egos to work in teams invariably results in big frustrations.  Qristyl, who I like despite the spelling of her name, and Epperson, whose soft-spoken manner belies his tenacity, were the typical domineering/oppressed designer duo. Qristyl complained bitterly at judging about being completely stifled; he had no idea what she was talking about. Classic. Their resulting garments were judged to be among the “worst looks,” though their swimsuit-skirt combo had a nice-fitting bodice. Qristyl’s avant-garde design, however, was pretty nasty:pr6ep3qristyl

As for other odd couples, the leech-like Mitchell attached himself to Ra’mon who did, oh, 94% of the work on both their looks. Though Ra’mon is very talented and gets major points for pulling Mitchell’s dead weight all episode, I wasn’t as thrilled as the judges were with his last-minute neoprene dress: He won the challenge. And Mitchell made PR history by getting his sorry ass eliminated despite being on the winning team. Ha!

Some nights you have to wonder what the judges are thinking: Johnny got high marks for this look:

Johnny design2

And what exactly was Nicolas going for with this?:

Nicolas_designE6

All too predictably, I’m kind of getting into Models of the Runway, and for all the wrong reasons: namely the Fatma/Vanessa standoff. Plus this week’s elimination was tense and unpredictable, with several designers opting to go with new models, resulting in the elimination of Erica, which greatly upset her best pal Matar, especially since Erica’s designer Epperson chose Matar this week. Tears and frayed nerves all around.