Monday, September 6, 2010


Hands up, everybody else who thinks that Mondo got robbed last week on "Project Runway." The challenge was to design something wearable from a lineup of godawful shiny neon bridesmaids' gowns, to be worn (and modeled) by the ex-bridesmaids themselves. (Reality alert: this means real women in a variety of interesting shapes and sizes.) I'm sorry, but designer Mondo's simple, chic little black and pink cocktail dress (with its one impudent epaulet) was the coolest thing on the runway. Michael C's winning dress wasn't bad, but a little too sci-fi for me—too much structure, too many asymetrical panels, and boring black, black, black. (I forget what the original gown looked like, but it couldn't have been ALL black!)

But poor, beleaguered Michael C was the PC choice this week according to the way this weekly drama is playing out. Sure, so-called "reality" shows may not be scripted (as far as we know), but they are definitely edited for maximum viewer manipulation. Next time you tune in, look at the show as if you were watching a movie. Who are the bad guys? Who are the good guys? Out of the thousands of hours of footage the crew must shoot of the designers in the workroom, at the runway, or over drinks in the penthouse at night, what random remarks are being edited and pieced together to create rivalries or alliances or other kinds of drama onscreen? Particularly notice from week to week how it's often the most expendable designer, not the very worst outfit, that gets ousted. The best designers rarely go home for one bad design, while the most antagonistic personalities tend to stick around long past their expiration date because the make good TV—they're the ones we love to hate.

Right now, Michael C is the designated martyr; many of the other, snootier designers bad-mouth him behind his back (also in front of his back), and never let him join in their reindeer games. Someone decided that Gretchen, the golden girl after she won the first two challenges (and probably the most consistently skillful designer so far), needed some of her luster knocked off, so now she's morphing into a controlling bitch before our eyes. Well, they couldn't let her sail through the entire season to victory (as she very well might) without any conflict—that wouldn't be good TV. The question now is how they'll position her to regain he stature (and viewer sympathy) in time for the season finale. Stay tuned.

All that said, however, I have to admit that the worst outfit did lose last week, and justifiably so. That horrible seasick-green number from Peach, with the droopy, shapeless top and that weird fringe of what looked like moss-green pocket handkerchiefs jutting out from the hip line? Egad. Still, I hate to see Peach go. Not only was she a woman of (ahem) a certain age (she's 50), she was the funniest person in the workroom. I’ll miss her droll one-liners and her down-to-earth Chicago accent.

(What exactly is a "cocktail dress" anyway? Does anyone know any real-life women who actually wear them? Is there some element that makes it more suitable for going out for drinks as opposed to eating? (If you're going out to dinner afterwards, do you have to go home and change?) Or maybe its like a lobster bib at a seafood restaurant, designed to protect the messy. In that case they better make one in merlot-red for me.)

Speaking of drunk and disorderly conduct, there's a helluva drunk scene in Going The Distance. It's written in our marriage contract somewhere that Art Boy and I go see every single Drew Barrymore movie (even the ones with Adam Sandler). This is actually okay, since I like Drew too, especially when she's gutsy and funny. In this R-rated romantic comedy, she plays a 30-something woman struggling through a bi-coastal relationship with Justin Long (he's very funny too, although he looks about 12). In a staggering economy where neither dares quit their jobs to relocate (he works for a music label in NYC; she's a journalism grad student/waitress about to get her big break as a reporter for the SF Chron), they cope with rare, brief cross-country visits they can't afford, texting, live chats, an unfortunate attempt at phone sex, and oceans of alcohol. This essentially sweet-natured story (directed by Nanette Burstein, from a script by Geoff LaTulippe) is told with plenty of raucous profanity, which reaches its apex when Drew's character, completely wasted, has to be hauled physically out of a bar by her male buddy while she's shrieking insults at a gigantic tattooed biker (none of which are printable). It's not the kind of dialogue you'd ever hear in a Golden Age Hollywood comedy, but Drew turns in an absolutely bravura piece of comic acting.

Here's an update on the Weekend Classics series at Aptos Cinema. I dropped in on The Adventures of Robin Hood this weekend, starring that most princely rogue, Errol Flynn, and it was even more fun than I remembered! The color print was beautiful, the clean narrative dynamic and exciting. I particularly noticed the use of vertical space (in that pre-Cinemascope era, they must have depended on the towering height of the image to awe the audience): the tall, arching trees of Sherwood Forest, drafty-looking medieval interiors under high, vaulted ceilings, those great diagonal staircases winding up and down turrets (suitable for chases and swordfights), even an overhead shot of Robin climbing up a trellis, Romeo-like, to Marian's window. You just don't get this sense of scale on a small screen.

Best line that I'd forgotten: Robin crashes the feast to defend his right to bedevil the usurper, Prince John, in the name of the rightful (but absent) King Richard. The shocked Marian cries, "You speak treason!" "Fluently!" Robin agrees, jauntily. I have nothing but respect for the recent Russell Crowe/Ridley Scott Robin Hood makeover, but the Errol Flynn production is still the real deal.

Best of all, Aptos showed the movie with a cartoon (!), the well-chosen "Rabbit Hood," starring Bugs Bunny. What more could you ask for six bucks?

No comments:

Post a Comment