November 28, 2007

Shanghai Surprise

When we last left the girls of America's Next Top Model, they were saying 再见 (good-bye) to Ambreal, as they were far too excited to pack their bags for China!

And suddenly, we're in Shanghai. The girls are astounded by how busy the city is, and by the immense amounts of neon lights. Heather mentions that the closest she's experienced to this is Las Vegas. I would assume that Shanghai also has less Celine Dion.

After some driving around and being impressed at the sights, the girls meet the Js at a fountain. They receive a perfunctory welcome to China, and are sent off to their hotel. This time around it is very, very swank - a penthouse suite in a hotel! 非常好! (Very nice!)

But even in China, things are not without drama on ANTM. The girls make a mad dash for beds, of which there are only 5. But one is over-sized. Take a wild guess as to what happens. That's right! Heather is the last in the room, and Saleisha has the big bed...and won't share it. Which the other girls find to be funny (or more specifically, Lisa/Bianca/Saleisha find it funny). I think there are several forces at work here. First there is a bit of jealousy (Heather is a clear frontrunner). Then there is Heather's challenging personality (her Asperger's, and perhaps a touch of being spoiled). And of course the fact that Saleisha is hanging around Bianca too much and becoming a bit of a beeyotch.

Anywho, there is a lot of arguing, crying, etc. Chantal finally decides to be the mediator, and brokers a deal where Jenah and Bianca will share the big bed, so that Heather can have one to herself. And all is well. For now, anyway.

Next the girls move onto meeting this random guy who shows them a movie set, until he is "attacked" by some martial arts guys. Our girls are a bit nervous, but it ends quickly. The dude (Louis Liu, professional martial arts instructor) explains that he will be teaching them some martial arts poses. Heather is geeked, as she always wanted to do this.

And indeed, they learn what their challenge is after changing into colorful tunics. They watch a couple guys do some martial arts, and then suddenly leap into the air a'la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Fun on high wires! The challenge is that the girls will be lifted up in the air, and have to take various poses that he calls out to them, as demonstrated earlier.

They are nervous, but excited. Well, 5 little girls are excited. Bianca is terrified. Yep, Ms. Tough As Nails is somewhat afraid of heights, but it becomes more apparent that she just doesn't trust putting her life in someone else's hands.

Whatev, let's do this. Chantal and Jenah face off first. They have great fun, but are a bit awkward in their poses. Lisa and Saleisha show more control, even though Lisa was scared and crying a bit. Then comes Bianca vs. Heather (of course). And bless her heart, Heather tries to encourage Bianca to do it. But after going up in the air, Bianca demands to come right back down, and is disqualified. So Heather continues solo, and goes onto win it.

As a reward, Heather wins a huge shopping spree ($537!) to roam around Shanghai for the night. She gets to take a friend, and I was curious who she would choose - Jenah her sometime defender? Nope, she decides to go with Chantal the peacemaker. So the two of them go out shopping, and looks like they have fun together, which is cool. (I admit I was curious how inexpensive the shopping might be?)

The next day it's time for our traditional foray into another country - Cover Girl commercial shoot! This time around they will be promoting the Queen collection, so they have to inject their own personal styles. This means picking out their own outfits from what they brought, and also ad libbing a bit about, "I'm a queen because..." And then they will finish up with a glamour shot that emphasizes their individuality.

Saleisha is up first, and she is her usual self in front of a video camera - buoyant and confident. I must say, if modeling doesn't work out, she probably has the best chance of an acting career from any girl I've seen on the show in several cycles. Bianca exudes confidence, but her delivery is a bit rapid fire. And then Heather. Oh, Heather. She keeps getting caught on the words, and rather than pause and recover, she wrinkles her nose, sticks her tongue out, etc. OJ tries feeding her lines, but even that doesn't go well. Oh dear. Jenah is all teeth (which is odd, considering those eyes), and also struggles with the lines. Chantal does her best pretty-pretty princess. Which works in this case. Lisa? Lisa also struggles with the lines. She deals with her stress as she has in the past - she begins to cry. And it's not good. In every take she's on the verge of tears. It's too bad - she just can't deal with the pressure, it appears. Maybe she can go hang out with Ricky from Project Runway and they can watch Terms of Endearment together.

Saleisha tries to offer Lisa some advice and comfort. But Lisa isn't having it. Saleisha is all, "Whatever, I can go enter that Facts of Life lookalike contest now. Later!"

Panel! Tyra greets them with a "Ni hao!" (Hello) Prizes, judges. Guest judge is their director of photography for the commercial and photo shoot, Jeffrey Chu.

Lisa's struggle is apparent, so that she comes through a bit angry or panicked. Tyra advises to just let the tears flow. Her photo is not bad (like Sophia Loren?), although I think she looks too old. Jeffrey is kind enough to say that she was able to pull off a great photo after her commercial meltdown.

Chantal's commercial is bright, cute and fresh. Too cute? Her photo would be nice if it weren't for the outfit. Ms. J calls it Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Word!

Bianca is first called out for her challenge disqualification. Her commercial is poorly paced. Bianca's photo is lovely, although the shadows make her head look slightly disjointed from her body. Not sure how I feel about that.

Jenah's commercial is called out by Nigel for lacking charm. And he doesn't seem to believe that she is really understanding him. Ugh! This is the beginning of the end I feared for her! 10-to-1 she's eliminated next week, or at least in the bottom two. Which is too bad, as her photo is fun and rockin' - just like my beloved Bug Eyes.

Twiggy points out that she thinks Saleisha is a natural actress in her commercial. Her photo receives a stronger critique, as she is squinting a bit, making her eyes get lost. (Also I think her smile shows too much of her gums.)

Heather's commercial is as disastrous as you may expect. Cue the sad music. Tyra challenges her and asks why she couldn't even do it with her lines being fed to her. In other words, Tyra isn't letting her off the hook just because of her Asperger's. Nigel and Jeffrey encourage her to focus. But her photo? Crazy good - it almost doesn't look like her. My first thought - Evangeline Lilly, anyone?

The judges deliberate. They are not happy to see that all the girls on a whole were not strong this week. And they don't like that Lisa isn't taking criticism well at all. Ms. J is unsure if Saleisha is really progressing. And now Nigel suddenly is all anti-Jenah, and Tyra buys into it. Noooo!

6 beautiful girls, 5 photos. Tyra says that they as a whole did poorly. First photo goes to...Chantal. (She may be from Sunnybrook Farm, but her commercial was the best.) Photos then go to Saleisha, Bianca and Jenah. Will Lisa and Heather please step forward?

You both screwed up, seriously. Lisa, you are not showing your inner strength and personality. Heather, the judges worry if you can handle the pressure of a performance.

Tyra tries to pump up Lisa's self-esteem, but the girl is just broken. She's picturing the bikini she will have to wear for her next shift as a stripper. And as we see her photos, it's pretty clear that she's been going down for weeks now. (Ahem.)

Next week - go-sees! And something bad with Jenah at the photo shoot. Ugh, here it comes...

In Model-related news, it was reported today that Twiggy will not be with us next cycle. Sadness! I'll miss you, Twigster. Go hunt down Victoria and give her a good slap. Although I admit we could use a more aggressive personality on the panel next season. Now please just don't tell me that Benny will be the new Ms. J!

November 27, 2007

Some Enchanted Afternoon


Disney's new film Enchanted is a charmer. Although parts of the plot may feel forced, it's anchored by a sparkling Amy Adams. The former Muskie really commits herself fully to the role of a fairy tale princess who finds herself in our world and the unfriendly streets of the Bowery in NYC. Adams' ability to show various shades of joy, fear and confusion proves that her prior Academy Award nomination was no fluke. I look forward to seeing more from her in the future. As for the rest of the cast, Patrick Dempsey is stoic and a bit dull, while James Marsden is cavalier and clueless.

This movie will appeal to older kids, and to adults eager to escape into a world of a smart fairy tale.

November 25, 2007

TV Bon Bons

You always see posts about my regular weekly TV shows, from The Amazing Race on Sundays to The Office on Thursdays. But you know I'm watching all sorts of random shows on cable. What are my secret finds and guilty pleasures? Read on!

Made - The fact that I'm watching anything on MTV is surprising, but I secretly love this show. It's a show where a high schooler comes up with a lofty secret desire (like a goth girl that wants to be a beauty queen, or a class clown that wants to complete a triathlon). The kid is paired with a "Made coach" who guides them and often argues with them. Gives me hope for the slacker generation.

Food Network - As you can imagine, living with ScottE, we watch a lot of this channel. My favorites are Nigella (sensuous), Paula (butter), Giada (simple) and Alton (educational). But when Sandra Lee comes on the air, I have a need to change the channel before I go blind.

HGTV - Now that we've entered the realm of house-hunting, this channel has a new appeal. We love to hate the annoying home buyers on House Hunters, and feel the pain of Property Virgins.

Samantha Brown - The Travel Channel is a more recent addition to our cable line-up, and it's a welcome one. My favorite is Samantha's show, where she travels around Europe and other places, showing you bits of culture, shopping and the nicest of hotels. She's a bit goofy but endearing - like Rachael Ray before she became an ever-present annoyance.

Rick Steves - But my real travel guru for years has been Rick, whose books and TV shows have helped me make the most out of two trips to Europe. Fun and educational, he's the best resource for the budget traveler that wants to dive into real culture.

The Soup - I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but this comedic clip show is our life's blood. Thanks to Joel McHale and his crew (like Mankini and the cheerleader), we're saved from watching countless hours of bad television.

Favorite reruns - TiVo knows me very well, and tapes all my old favorites regularly - like Designing Women, The Golden Girls, I Love Lucy, Will & Grace, 227, Are You Being Served? and Friends.

So how about you? What are your secret non-network favorites?

November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I've certainly got plenty to be thankful for this holiday season. But what could I say I'm thankful for related to entertainment (and therefore pertinent to this blog)? Well, let's see - I'm thankful that...

  1. the Bourne trilogy ended in such a kick-ass manner.
  2. J.K. Rowling gave us a truly amazing and satisfying book to close one of the greatest series of all time. And the latest movie was great.
  3. in a time where we're all there in spirit with the writer's strike, my favorite reality shows are all going strong - The Amazing Race, America's Next Top Model, and now Project Runway!
  4. The Kara introduced me to the wonder that is Xanadu. Now where are my roller skates? Oh, and MTV gave us a free pass to Legally Blonde, which was also awesome.
  5. my iPod is overflowing with artists that I've fallen in love with this year, like Amy Winehouse and Rihanna.
  6. How I Met Your Mother was renewed for the season and is better than ever.
  7. the fall TV season brought two new shows that I'm loving - Reaper and Pushing Daisies.
  8. Judd Apatow delivered not one, but two hilarious movies this year - Superbad and Knocked Up.
  9. Joyous introduced us to a new obsession - and now we're complete Battlestar Galactica addicts!
  10. I was quoted in the Washington Post Express (for my post in #2 above) - how cool is that?
So that's my list - what are you thankful for this year?

Enjoy your day today with turkey, ham, or your favorite meat substitute!

November 21, 2007

Pooh-Pooh Platter

Project Runway is back! Let's return to a world of deadlines and hemlines. Let's make it work, people!

Unfortunately this season we don't have much introduction, and just dive right into the designers moving into their apartments. Throughout this sequence we get little interviews where you get to know a bit more about the designers. I'd address them all, but you'd be better served to just read up on their biographies on Bravo's website. To sum it up, these folks are far more accomplished than those in prior seasons. Rami has designed for celebrities. Kevin's had his jeans seen in Victoria's Secret. Carmen is a model turned designer. And Sweet P (a nickname that makes her seem more cutesy than she is) needs the money to restart her career. Oh, also Kevin wants to make very sure you know that he's the lone straight guy this season. He's straight. Did you hear that? Straight! (Ugh, men like that annoy the fuck out of me.) Ricky interviews and starts crying. Already. Good grief!

Anyway, let's get down to brass tacks - the designers get Heidi Mail, saying that they should head to Bryant Park. Wow - everyone gets to show this season? Where's the competition?

Just kidding, they get to the park and meet Tim and Heidi while sipping champagne. Heidi makes sure to mention Tim's new job (he's not at Parsons anymore). And then they present the challenge. Quite simply, they have to design an outfit that best expresses who they are as designers. And they can choose from a lot of expensive fabric which is hidden in 3 tents across the park.

Now, on the one hand this seems like a silly challenge to start with - there's no restrictions, really. But as I thought about it, I wondered if the producers chose to do things this way so that no one could whine that, "The only reason I was eliminated first is because I had to design with aluminum foil." Well anyway, we'll see how this goes.

And they're off! The designers charge across the park and grab fabric desperately, as if this was a Barney's clearance sale. Chris just has to shuffle along, because the man is rather...portly. Rotund, perhaps. Anywho, he isn't complaining, as the one fabric he could see from a distance he wanted is still there. Meanwhile, we learn that Elisa is a bit odd. She is rubbing a fabric on the grass to make it stain. Because she often "imbues fabrics with things from the earth, like tea." Uh...huh...

Next up the designers enter the workroom, and you can feel the excitement. Tim comes in to explain the parameters (they only have about 16 hours), and leaves them with a little "Make it work," to make us all feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The designers set to work, but with 15 of them we don't get much time to focus on any of them. We do see that everyone can tell Elisa is a bit odd (she uses herself as a dress form while sewing a skirt), Sweet P and Simone have time management issues, and the girls think Jack looks hot. Because he kind of is.

Tim comes in midway for his usual checking up. He questions that Christian has made the back of his jacket appear asymmetrical. He loves what Rami is putting together. He also points out that Simone has a lot to get done.

As the designers continue to work, Elisa announces that she's done. The others can't believe her, but she seriously goes into the lounge and takes a nap. Crazy AND lazy! Anywho, they wrap up for the night.

Next morning, we get a gratuitous shot of Jack in his underwear getting dressed. Ahem. His basket overfloweth.

Back in the workroom, the designers scramble to work on details, but to no avail, as Tim announces that the models are here. The models are assigned, and fittings begin. Christian (who is so very full of himself) is glad that his model (Lisa) likes his design. But when she says she sees a lot of great designs around the room, he retorts that he sees a lot of crap. Bitchy McBitcherson, that one.

Runway! Heidi! Michael Kors! Nina Garcia! Ah, it's like I'm putting on a warm cashmere robe. Welcome home! Our guest judge is "big designer" Monique Lhuillier. I think she mostly does wedding dresses? Whatev - on with the show!

Jillian's dress is an orange halter style with a shorter flared bottom. She's included what I believe is her signature - hidden pockets. I like the idea of pockets on a dress as long as they aren't obvious. And here they're not. So, I like this outfit. Simple, but nice.

Christian is mixing an older style with something modern - a puffy jacket in brown and black plaid, with a black ruffle in the front. The bottom is an asymmetrical beige skirt. It's unique, but I'd like it more if it had some real color to it. In something like green or orange it would be veyr striking.

Jack's outfit looks nice, with a split halter top and knee-length skirt which is all white with a black print, edged by turquoise. It definitely is attractive, but I think he relied too much on the fabric print.

Kevin's design bored me. It's a double-layered black and red dress with a silver bodice covering the middle. Also, this should be the time to point out that the models this year are mostly terrible! Where did they find these girls - in line at Burlington Coat Factory? I know I poke fun at Top Model, but any of the girls on there right now could model better than the ones we're seeing now.

Getting back to the runway, Chris' design is chic, with a floor length amethyst fitted skirt, and a wrapped halter in a gold and purple print. Again, simple but lovely.

Marion's design may not have impressed others, but it was one of my favorites because it's different and more daring. It looks like a cross between lingerie and a Butterick pattern. Which sounds bad, but it's not.

Kit puts a red half-bodice (on one side only) over a plain print in black and gray. *snore*

Steven came up with what looks like a nicely tailored black suit accented with a red scarf. It's not very daring, but it's certainly well made.

Carmen has designed something right out of Aladdin. Black Arabian pants are topped by a gold print sleeveless jacket over an orange shirt and some big fugly bow at the neck. It's creative, but I don't love it.

Sweet P's outfit makes no sense to me. It's a shapeless dress in beige print, with red detailing and the top and bottom, and pastel blue/purple straps.

Ricky did a baby doll dress in a silver print. And that's it. Seriously - that's it. I'm so bored with it that I'm afraid drool will start slipping out of the side of my mouth.

Victorya has a layered black mini dress, with a big metallic silver flower at the left breast. But across the upper arms are horizontal straps that basically mean she can't lift her arms. A bit dull, I thought.

And now here comes Elisa's. From the front, it's a lovely turquoise number with one shoulder exposed. I like it...oh wait. Here's the back. It's like a bunch of shredded fabric just sticking out a hole in the back, leading to a long train. Which the model (Lea) trips on. Yuck. It's like a dress that's just half-good.

Simone's is a really dull halter in beige (with a little yellow above it) covered by a little shrug jacket in a metallic print. The jacket is totally discordant with the dress. Not good.

And then we have Rami's dress. It's a glamorous gray dress with many layers - some loose, others flowing. It all meets with a bow at the shoulder. I do like it, even if it's not earth-shattering.

And now the judgments. All but 6 are dismissed, as those others got high enough scores to move on - Carmen, Chris, Jack, Jillian, Kevin, Kit, Marion, Steven, and Sweet P.

The judges comments make it clear that the top 3 are Victorya, Rami and Christian. Michael isn't bothered by the horizontal straps on Victorya's dress, as he knows many women that will squeeze into something painful and impractical if it's beautiful. They actually like the assymetry on the back of Christian's jacket. And they love everything on Rami's dress except the bow, which Michael thinks is a little too precious.

Meanwhile, the bottom 3 are Ricky (for doing something way too easy), Simone (for having a dress that doesn't make sense and looks unfinished) and Elisa (duh).

The judges deliberate. Of note, Heidi wrote down that Elisa's dress looks like it was "pooing fabric." Ha! And also, true.

We return and hear the drumbeats of doom. Yay! I have missed those highly dramatic percussionists. Victorya is in. And now the winner...Rami! Which is nice. Did I mention that he's very, very pretty? You can feel Christian's withering gaze pierce the TV screen, but he's gracious when told he is also in.

Ricky is in. Seriously? I totally would have eliminated him. Anywho, let's talk with the bottom 2. Simone, your design was odd and was poorly constructed. Elisa, you are nuttier than a fruitcake. But for having such a lovely front to her dress, Elisa is spared. Auf weidersehen, Simone. I can't say we'll remember you until you show up at the reunion.

So what was with the lack of creativity this week? I blame it on the openness of the challenge. I've noticed that when I'm dancing in an improvisation piece, the best work seems to come out of scores where we're given a lot of restrictions. Having fewer options forces you to think in new directions. Having a world of options may actually be stifling. So here's hoping next week we're off to a remnant rug sale or something!

Heather and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The title of this post pretty much sums up what happened on America's Next Top Model this week, but for those of you that want to hear more - read on!

Previously on Top Model - Tyra gave Sarah an eating disorder. Discuss.

This week, Lisa is feeling the pressure of doing well, and wants to get better. Meanwhile, Bianca continues her campaign to try and tear down Heather through mind games. Because Bianca is determined that Heather can't handle the pressure. Foreshadowing!

The girls go to meet Benny Ninja at a fashion institute, and some guy from Elite Model Management, who may or may not be the brother of Adam West. Benny (who I'm tiring of, honestly) explains that with this challenge, the girls will be paired up with some design students who will be trying to create a look using this hideous pale blue mother-of-the-bride dress. The girls will serve as "muses" to "inspire" the students. And then they'll have to sell it in a runway fashion show.

This begins a sequence that calls to mind the bridal dress challenge from season one of Project Runway. The girls chat it up, the designers listen, the girls go home and wait for a miracle.

And while they're at home, Bianca laments that she hasn't won a challenge or been called first at panel. And in an odd shot, it appears Ambreal rubs Jenah's shoulder suggestively. I swear, sometimes I think the camermen on this show are desperate to catch anything remotely lesbionic. Anywho, we have to hear (AGAIN) how Ambreal got a second chance and wants to impress, blah, blah. Then DO SOMETHING, girl!

Now it's time for the show. The girls are thrown a curveball, however. Not only do they have to work the runway, but they will each have to briefly say something pithy (and unscripted) about how they were a muse for their designer. Many worried looks ensue.

First up is Bianca in a ballerina dress that reminds me of that heinous thing Lara Flynn Boyle wore a few years back. But Bianca is eloquent and fierce, which impresses the Elite dude (and some woman from Seventeen, who is also there as a judge). And then Heather, well...she freezes up. She chokes on her words. It's not good. For this she proceeds to (backstage) keen and gnash her teeth and other assorted negative reactions. Methinks that our little Heather is a perfectionist. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying. (You want to see perfectionist? Let me tell you how many times I edited this post in the last 10 minutes.)

Anywho, Ambreal is sickeningly cutesy. Jenah is fierce, and should have totally won. Lisa has the best outfit, but also flubs her monologue and weeps about it. Chantal is just average. Saleisha shows confidence, and leaves with a wink. Hilariously, Jenah interviews about the wink and gags. Jenah, you are my hero. Anywho, the judges give critiques (although we only see the best and worst). Saleisha wins and gets to choose two friends to join her in a photo shoot for Seventeen to model jewelry. She chooses Lisa and Bianca. And y'all - as much as I think Bianca can be stank, she took a great photo.

Back at the house, the girls get their Tyra Mail, while Heather calls dibs on the shower. After they learn learn it's something about "the heat is on," Lisa and Saleisha make a beeline for the shower. And this causes Heather to freak the fuck out. Like, it's clear she's had a rough morning, but even I have to say she's being a bit harsh. Regardless, she gets into the shower with the girls while yelling at them, and it's a hot mess. Anywho, we'll get to that later.

Next the girls are dropped off in a "desert" in the "middle of nowhere." Which probably means it's like 2 miles from Burbank. OJ comes up to meet them, and takes them to the shoot. For this photo shoot they will each be portraying a woman who has had her car break down and apparently set on fire, although tame enough that it doesn't explode. Or something. Whatever - the point is showing desperation. Hair and makeup time!

OJ is happy with Bianca, but can tell that Heather is off her game. Chantal tries to avoid a wardrobe malfunction, while Saleisha has to stop being so posey. Ambreal, well, take a guess. Jenah rocks it out. Lisa seems scattered.

Back at the house, the girls, in a surprisingly rational way, confront Heather about her earlier freak out. She protests that she had a bad day, and the girls just don't understand. But Ambreal pipes up and is like, uh-uh, if ANYONE has a right to complain about having hard times in this competition, it's me. True that. So it all boils down to the girls saying that Heather has to not let the tough days turn her into a raging bitch. I think that they get that she is challenged socially, so they want to be a bit more supportive than if this same freak out had come from, say, Bianca.

Panel! Prizes, judges. Guest judge is the Elite's Mr. West clone. While introducing the judges, it's freaky, because it's like a Chinese dragon is popping up on the screen a couple times in the back. Honestly, I thought I was hallucinating. In fact, ScottE and I rewinded it to see if we were both seeing the same mirage. Turns out it was a wink and a nod, because out trots a big ol' dragon. Tyra goes into a dumb little sketch, but the point is (if you haven't guessed by now), the girls are going to China! Awesome. They completely wig out. But it's more harsh than other seasons - this time they announced it just before an elimination. Ouch. Anyway, it's onto the photos.

Ambreal's shot is terrible. She just sits cross-legged, looking grumpy. I'm sure she's a nice girl and all, but this just ain't her bag.

Bianca is definitely looking pissed off and strong. A bit masculine for my taste, but it's certainly well done.

Chantal has unquestionably her best photo so far, getting a nice sunbeam on her face while showing off the outfit to nice effect.

Heather's is pretty good, although once Ms. J says she looks like she has to pee, I couldn't think of anything else. Certainly not her best. (But loads better than a certain girl whose name rhymes with "sangreal.")

Jenah's shot is just...OK, I'm going to say it. Jenah is my new favorite. She is just taking INCREDIBLE shots week after week. This one is no exception, as her hair is wild and loose, while she shows off her dress really well. I love you, Bug Eyes!

Lisa has an interesting shot, where she sits on a piece of luggage. There's something about it I like, although Ms. J once again points out correctly that her posture makes the dress look shapeless, and she's not showing off her long limbs.

Saleisha is kind of the dark horse of the competition, as her photos are quietly improving each week. For some reason this shot reminds me of Rihanna's "Shut Up & Drive" video, which makes no sense, but whatever. It's a good song!

The judges deliberate. They still love Heather even if the shot isn't her best. Nigel is starting to love Saleisha's presence at panel. Tyra thinks Chantal looks like Cheryl Teigs. True, if Chantal got much bigger boobies. In a close-up shot, I notice that Bianca's eyelashes are casting an unflattering shadow on her nose.

7 beautiful girls, but only 6 are going to China (hence, the photos in her hands). First photo goes to...Bianca. Which, OK. I totally would have picked Jenah, but I will say Bianca is improving. Next, the photos go to Jenah, Saleisha, Chantal and Heather. Heather is on the verge of tears. Will Lisa and Ambreal step forward?

Lisa, the judges think you are declining. Ambreal, they think you're pretty and all, but...oh who are we kidding. Ain't no way they were going to let the girl they tried to eliminate two weeks ago have the chance to go to China. Photo goes to Lisa.

Ambreal takes it in stride. Lisa cries.

Next week - China! China is the new black. But not lead-based black paint. Also there will be Cover Girl commercials. Hey, at least they won't have to do it in Chinese! (That's a vague reference to the Japan hijinks of an earlier season.)

I'll be back tomorrow with your first Project Runway recap of the season. Woot! But if you want to read up now, check out Barbie's post!

November 20, 2007

Pronounce it Correctly and Win a Prize

The last couple weeks on The Amazing Race have highlighted some things I love most about the show, but also some that I like least.

First, the bad. While unpleasant "dating couples" are able to bicker their way to avoiding elimination, older folks rarely do well on The Race. And so sadly, we had to bid farewell to our lovely lesbian ministers. But they have forever won a place in my heart for uttering this line, "We are religious people, but we have no illusions that God cares whether or not we win The Amazing Race." THANK YOU. Could you please tell that to, I don't know, EVERY OTHER REALITY SHOW CONTESTANT...EVER?!?!? Listen to your elders, people.

And, the ugly. Not only were we forced to bear witness to Christina's father turning from super supportive to browbeating in approximately 1/10th an episode, but we also had to suffer through Lorena. Because Lorena, she is having a meltdown. A really bad meltdown. Like the kind many racers face on about leg 10, or somewhere in India. But Lorena? She freaks out over a camel on just leg 3. (Anyone else thinking a degree in Animal Husbandry would have come in very handy this season?) Ugh. She is so distasteful.

But not even Lorena could get eliminated. Instead we discover that the team I keep forgetting is on the race is sent home instead. Good-bye, sisters I...sorry, already forgot them again.

Despite all this, there were bright moments which warm my heart and make me love the show again. We began this past week's episode with the teams discovering that they would be flying to Ouagadougou. Which leads to about 10 different pronunciations from the teams, not a one of which is right. (Hey, even I had to pay attention to Phil for this one.) Ouagadougou is the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso - formerly known as Upper Volta for you geography nerds.

Also this week, the staff created what I have to say is one of my favorite Detour challenges of all time. The choices - Teach or Learn. The teams could either teach a set of 10 chosen nouns to one of the local schoolchildren in the town of Bingo (hee!), using picture flash cards. Or conversely, they could learn 10 nouns in the native language, being taught by one of the children. They then have to sit for a test in front of the schoolteacher. You see, this is just gold. We get shots of adorable children. It's a chance to share across cultural boundaries. And neither task is clearly an easier choice - they both were tough. For example, the children don't use some of the same consonant sounds like we do, so a word like "skyscraper" was a real challenge. And the native words can be just as tough for Americans. Fun! Personally I would have chosen to learn, because how could I pass up the chance to learn how to say "tree" and "fish" in an African dialect?

Now that we're 3 weeks into it, who am I pulling for? I have to tell you - it's still the goths! Kynt and Vyxsin have been racing admirably with a minimum of drama. And their gender roles...well, let's just say they're a bit flexible. The siblings aren't too bad, although they are a bit too analytical and intense for me to warm up to them. Nicolas and his granddad are holding up pretty well. I feel like Grandpa Donald reminds me of someone. Maybe it's Rudy from the original Survivor? Anywho, he stripped down to his skivvies for those of you that are into that kind of thing.

Next week - something about chickens. Again, I say - veterinary medicine degree - very handy!

Coming up this week before Thanksgiving - recaps for both Top Model and Project Runway. Y'all come back soon, y'hear?

November 15, 2007

Project Runway 4 Fantasy Game

A colleague sent me this link, and I thought it would be a great way to get me right into the new season! You earn points if your chosen team members win challenges, cry, or are told by Tim to "Make it work."

So here are my picks for week 1:

In just a few short hours we'll see how I did!

November 14, 2007

On Hands and Knees

When we last left our Top Model girls, Ebony asked to leave. And Tyra made it look like it was all part of the master plan. Cue the evil laugh. This of course meant that Ambreal was spared, and she's anxious to do whatever it takes to stay in the competition.

It's evening, and the girls are all in their enormous bathroom. Lisa is lamenting the fact that she's gained a pound. This is a natural transition to Sarah interviewing that being around such skinny girls all the time is pretty much giving her a complex. Which is both understandable and unfortunate.

Bianca then says, "Man, I am totally the biggest girl here." Sarah gives her a look that could wither a redwood, and says, "REALLY, Bianca? Don't go there." Bianca is all, "No, seriously - how much do you weigh, Sarah?" Ugh. See, I've figured out that calling Bianca a bitch isn't truly accurate. A more apt description would be that she's insensitive, lacking in self-awareness, and has no filter when she talks (see below). But "bitch" is a nice tidy word, so we'll just go with that. Anywho, this of course makes Sarah feel worse about herself - "It's weird; you are around all these skinny girls who are so thin. So maybe I go to bed not feeling as good as I did when I woke up." Double ugh.

Later, in the pool, Bianca is talking with some of the girls, and basically starts saying that she hates how Heather doesn't have to work hard in order to take an awesome picture. IN FRONT OF HEATHER. To which Heather pipes up to say, "Bianca, I DO work hard! How can you say that?" Heather interviews that as an artist she really puts thought into how the final picture will look, and adjusts her poses accordingly. In other words, she is being a great model. And Bianca hates that. Because she is not a great model. Bianca goes on to trash talk some more, but Jenah butts in to call her out on it. Then Bianca is all, "Why do you all act so protective of Heather?" And Jenah retorts, "We're not, you're just being a bitch." I'm paraphrasing.

Tyra Mail leads the girls to a dance studio, where they are forced to put on nude unitards. Because nothing gives a woman body issues more than an ugly unitard. Let me put it this way - not even actual dancers enjoy wearing a nude unitard and nothing else!

Anywho, in marches Tyra to teach the girls about movement for music videos. And for some reason she's totally out of breath for this whole sequence. Knowing Tyra, she'll tell us later that she had just finished a marathon to raise money to cure dry eyes and then had to go to the soup kitchen before she came to the studio! Tyra Banks - in line for sainthood.

So the girls slide up and down the wall, they crawl across the floor, et cetera. And they try not to look slutty. Bianca is mystified, because she thinks that Heather sucks, and yet Heather gets praise from Tyra. Bianca, let me introduce you to this word called JEALOUSY. Meanwhile, Chantal interviews that basically she thinks the world of herself. No really, Chantal thinks Chantal is awesome. It's great that she's all confident, but...tone it down, Texas.

Later they move meet a music video director who explain what they'll be doing today. They will be a part of a "major recording star's video," and will meet the star soon. The girls get suited up (the look is goth leather dominatrix), and soon find out it's Enrique Iglesias. Saleisha is really infatuated. Which is understandable. I mean, he's not my type, but I can't deny that he's pretty.

So anyway, as they prepare to shoot the video, the director announces two girls that will have "featured roles" in the video. But honestly, they all have featured roles. In this context, "featured roles" means "girls that will get to touch Enrique." Anywho, the featurettes are Lisa and Heather. Bianca? Not happy.

They shoot the video, first with Jenah and Heather. Chantal looks across a room. Ambreal slithers up and down a pole. Bianca, Sarah and Saleisha lounge around looking saucy (or in Bianca's case, "thug-like"). And Lisa tries to stop Enrique in the hallway with her long leg in a leather boot.

Later, the girls assemble with all the extras to film a big dance scene. Drama! Heather faints! Paramedics are called! Oxygen is brought out! OK, here's the truth - Heather fainted because they had the girls going for like 12 hours on no food and little water. I would say it has very little to do with the fact that Heather is quite thin. Whatever - it was a lot of drama that amounted to little. We do end the scene, however, with Saleisha showing her sense of humor by putting up a stethoscope to Heather's back and saying, "I just need to make sure there is still a supermodel in there!" Hee. I like her when she's cute.

Panel! Prizes! Judges! Guest judge is video director Jessy Terrero. As there aren't photos, they are just going to be judged in their respective video shoot groups.

Heather really got the vampire look with Enrique that the director wanted. Which isn't surprising, as dark and tortured is her thing. Jenah, however, had a bit of a grin, which is not so good. Although the director still liked her. Jenah seems to take it hard.

Chantal looked too much like she was posing as a model, and not enough as a woman naturally enjoying herself at a club. She is mystified. Because she is awesome [sic]!

Ambreal was too hoochie for Tyra's taste. Ambreal is heart-broken, as she thinks the writing is on the wall.

Lisa showed a good strong leg. The judges like.

Bianca was just too comical, but she exuded confidence, and the judges like that. They feel that Sarah was lacking in confidence. And Saleisha didn't look cutesy, she had a strong fashion look going on. Oh, and Nigel again says that Sarah seems to be losing weight. And she still doesn't think she really is.

Deliberations. Twiggy says, "Maybe Jenah needs a bit of a scare?"

8 individuals (neither women nor girls this week, not even beautiful), 7 photos (of what?). First photo goes to Lisa. Then Heather, Saleisha, Bianca, Ambreal (who's very relieved) and Jenah (a scare, indeed). Will Chantal and Sarah please step forward? (And oh, Sarah is standing so awkwardly I can practically smell her internal anguish.)

Chantal, you have a lot still to learn. Sarah, the judges are worried that you are neither skinny enough, nor plus-sized enough. And the photo goes to...Chantal. Uggggggggggh.

Sarah is REALLY upset, and I think she kind of doesn't want to touch Tyra, but Tyra tries to be all mama and hug it out. In fact, I'd have to say that I don't think I've ever seen someone leave the show that was this hysterical crying. Sarah interviews that she just really wanted this. She's not sure where she fits as a model, and hopes someone her size will make it some day. I weep, because this is just an eating disorder waiting to happen.

Now, when I first watched this, I was P-I-S-S-E-D at the judges. And then upon reflection, I realized that they are really just being honest. They're not approving of the modeling industry being so messed up. Although it would be great if they did SOMETHING to try and change it. Because casting girls that aren't a size 2 and then rejecting them weeks later isn't helping.

So here's hoping that some day soon the modeling industry, and the greater fashion world, will not only cater equally to slender women and women of size, but everything in between as well. Newsflash - Sarah was shaped like A NORMAL WOMAN. If you're listening, Sarah - you're just fine and we love you for being you. Don't change! (And I don't mean that in a pithy yearbook kind of way.)

Next week - Heather loses her shit?

November 11, 2007

Good Evening, Mr. Hitchcock

Thanks to the AMC channnel, I've been able to catch up on some movies by Alfred Hitchcock that I've been meaning to see. He really was the master of suspense and has often been imitated. Here's a quick rundown of the ones I watched recently:

The Birds - Often considered by many to be among his creepiest, I was worried this one would be too scary for me. It wasn't, but it can still be disturbing. I actually saw a big group of crows in a tree as I was getting out of the car yesterday and was feeling very unsettled!

Marnie - Tippi Hedren is most famous for her performance in The Birds, but it's a shame more people don't know about this one. I think it's a much more impressive performance. Hedren plays a beautiful kleptomaniac, and a young and sexy Sean Connery is the man trying to unravel the root of her psychosis.

The Trouble With Harry - A bit disappointing, this farce is about 4 people in a small New England town trying to decide how to handle a dead body. (It's like the great-grandaddy of Weekend At Bernie's.) It is interesting to see young performers Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe.

Rear Window - Although I'd seen this years ago, it was nice to see it again, particularly to enjoy Grace Kelly in all her elegant beauty. Full of tension, it begs the question - is this film a condemnation of peeping Toms?

Shadow of a Doubt - I wasn't really fond of this one, where a young woman is convinced that her visiting uncle is a killer. It felt like a test script for his far better film (Notorious).

But if you're really are interested in getting into the Hitchcock oeuvre, try my all-time favorites - Vertigo (the best, IMO), The Man Who Knew Too Much, North By Northwest and Rope.

Of course, I still have quite a few left to see and hope to rent them from Netflix, like Frenzy, Family Plot and Dial M for Murder.

Oh, and there is Psycho. Let's just say I look forward to the day when I'm brave enough to finally watch it!

November 10, 2007

Rearranging the Furniture

You may notice some changes to my sidebar here. ------>

I've cleaned up some of the links and added new categories. First you have a list of my favorite blogs, which I'll continue to add to as I find new ones to share.

Next up I've decided to highlight Broadway shows that I've seen and love - so if you find yourself in the Big Apple, you've got plenty of recommendations to choose from! (Note - some shows not appropriate for children or stuffy in-laws.)

And then I have links to some other websites that I use on a regular basis to keep abreast of the entertainment world.

Hope you enjoy the new look!

Lost is Found

I'm sure by now you've heard about the writer's strike. (Read what this blogger has to say if you need more information.) And among the shows that will be in trouble is Lost.

But perhaps this announcement is something that will tide us over until what may be a mini-season in February?

November 08, 2007

The Countdown Begins

Perhaps you hadn't heard, but Project Runway's season 4 begins in just a week! Could I BE any more excited? Well, I probably could. Like if I heard that Tim Gunn was going to sit on our couch and watch it with us.

But as that's none too likely, I thought a better way to celebrate would be to look back at what I think are my favorite challenge dresses from the past 3 seasons. Let's take a walk down memory lane, shall we?

10. Danny V's orchid-inspired dress, season 2

One of the most truly "high-fashion" outfits ever on the show, Daniel looked at a simple potted orchid in Michael Kors' office and got inspirted. The result was avant-garde and interesting.

9. Chloe's floral dress, season 2

Speaking of plants, Chloe took hundreds of small leaves to make a form-fitting dress with matching bathing cap that almost looks unreal. It's the pain-staking detail that I admire.

8. Austin's corn husk dress, season 1

But the best use of plant matter goes to Austin Scarlett, who took a silly grocery shopping challenge and managed to make a striking statement.

7. Jeffrey's yellow madras couture dress, season 3

OK, y'all know how much I can't stand the guy. But even I had to admit that he came up something bright and fresh in Paris. Although to be fair, it was his model that made the sale.

6. Uli's psychedelic print dress, season 3

She was the queen of patterned material, and she took it to a simple extreme with this peek-a-boo minidress.

5. Kara Saun's wedding dress, season 1

What Kara excelled at was modern elegance with an edge. This stunning low-cut dress with a medium-length train brought tears to her model's eyes, which was the thrust of the challenge.

4. Austin's swimsuit and dress, season 1

The challenge was tough - design a swimsuit that can transfer to eveningwear. Austin took this to an old Hollywood glamour place, bringing to mind Esther Williams in pastels of blue, purple and pink. Costume? Yes. Elegant? Yes.

3. Laura's sweater and suit, season 3

Inspired by Katherine Hepburn, Laura added some modern touches with a high waist and a loose necklace thrown over chic pants and a pink sweater. If only women still dressed like this!

2. Michael's hot pants, season 3

There's a fine line between fashion and hoochie. Michael nailed it on the fashion side with his Pam Grier-inspired outfit in hot pink. It showed enough skin to be sexy, but covered enough to be in good taste.

1. Nick's Barbie dress, season 2

For me, this was the one outfit that showed truly inspired thinking, going to a place I couldn't have even imagined. Taking a 70s stripe print and pairing it with a lime green top and head wrap, Nick created a look that's iconic. Love!

So that's my list - what do you think? What's missing? I'm sure y'all will remind me of something fabulous I forgot.

Tune in for the premiere - next week at 10 pm Eastern!

November 06, 2007

Short DVD Reviews - Part 5

As always, I promise you reviews of our latest Netflix rentals in 25 words or less!

Run Lola Run - German film that takes a stab at the adage, "If I had it to do all over again..." Frenetic and fun.

Year of the Dog - Molly Shannon charms in an odd film about going to extremes. Regina King stands out as her best friend.

Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny - Why did I bother? Jack Black at the nadir of his career.

Bam Bam & Celeste - Silly Margaret Cho movie that doesn't take itself seriously. And it kind of works.

Too Many Girls - Lucy & Desi met in this 1940 musical. They probably fell in love because they forgot the movie's plot. I know I did.

United 93 - See my other post about this excellent film.

Testosterone - Horrible gay movie #2854. What is with that ending? Lame!

Show Business: The Road to Broadway - Documentary focuses on 4 musicals as they race to open and then to the Tonys. Bitchy stupid critics mar otherwise interesting fare.

Ready To Wear - I'd seen this Altman film about fashion years ago. It's still not that great.

Bee Season - If you loved the book like I did, avoid the movie like the plague. A most unfaithful rendition.

Eating Out 2: Sloppy Seconds - Far better than its predecessor, this one makes fun of itself, and winds up being just a bit funny. Full frontal alert!

November 05, 2007

The Race - Amazing Once Again

Despite being a bit delayed, The Amazing Race premiere was a return to what we love most about the show. Rapid action, gorgeous vistas, and heartwarming human moments. The Race is back, baby! So why don't we meet the teams, briefly:

The Dysfunctional Couples - Every season we must be subjected to some "dating couples" who are under some delusion that putting their lives on public display will somehow solidify their commitment. And it never works. This year we suffer through Nathan & Jennifer and Lorena & Jason. The latter is far worse - he's a jerk (and unfortunately kinda hot), and she's a shrew. Jason isn't awful, although it's clear he doesn't like to admit he's wrong. Lorena is far too high-strung.

The Functional Couples - To balance the above, we are lucky if we get at least one couple that shows how it's done right. This sason, it appears we will get two. First we have TK (of the dreadlocks? Braids? Twists?) & Rachel, who are actually quite lovely and that seems to help them do well. Perhaps most surprising is that the Goth couple - Kynt & Vyxsin, are not only quite normal in behavior, but are rather charming as well. If one of this season's messages is, "Goths are people too," then I think it's working. On me, at least. Although I have to say - when she puts on her glasses? Not so goth.

The Families - This season we get not 1, but 4 familial teams. We have a highly competitive but not unlikeable (yet) sibling duo - Azaria (no relation to Hank) & Hendekea. Also there is the father-daughter duo of Ronald & Christina - he wants to make up for lost time, she wants to show him what a strong woman she is. Aren't they sweet? And then we have Donald & Nicolas - a grandfather and his grandson. Hard to tell much about them yet except that grandad curses. And finally we have Marianna & Julia, the Latina sisters from Miami. Quite honestly, I found them forgettable. In fact, I typed this whole post before I realized I forgot them and went back to write them in.

The Gay - Twice the gay, twice the fun? Not really. First we have Staella and Ari - a hag and her bitchy gay. Ladies - if you have a gay, make sure he's fun gay, not bitchy evil gay. And I know you think I'm gonna be biased towards the lesbian clergy couple, but they are so adorable! Nothing is better than lesbians who are good with God and also just a little bit wicked. I predict that Kate in particular will be able to charm the pants off people in any country.

The Blondes - This year we have no twins, so that means we must have blondes. Shana & Jennifer I think are set up to be our "girls like Paris Hilton" team as their pre-race interview indicates that they can't wait to win the "$1 million shopping spree." Indeed. But they do appear to have a dose of humility, which isn't bad.

We began the race this year in Los Angeles (boring!), but the teams flew onto Shannon, Ireland (been there!). From there they went on to explore the Aran Islands and the Connemara area - rugged beauty at its finest.

As is the custom in the premiere, we have much ado about nothing for awhile, until the teams are really weeded out into a few clear groups by virtue of a charter schedule. We also feature the death-defying stunt - this time something bizarre. Bicycles on high wires, while the partner rides in a chair below as a counterweight. Scary/fun!

And as poetic justice, the teams have to haul ass. Or more precisely, move a donkey. And because karma knows what's what, the most bitchy/evil folks get stubborn mules, while the teams that kill with kindness are blessed with willing workers. Perhaps because of Pat's spiritual blessing, Nate & Jennifer finally get their ass' butt in gear and are saved elimination, while Ari & Staella just stand around being bitchy. They're gone, and by the time you read this, I'll have forgotten they were on the show.

Good times! I'm glad to have this show back in full swing, and I hope that it continues this way. Here's hoping we're not faced with a final 3 of evil!

Next week - can father and daughter work out their problems on national TV? And should grandfathers mud wrestle?

November 04, 2007

Save The Show, Save The Network

The second season of Heroes has been one that I'm sure most will agree hasn't been stellar. I think the general complaint is that the pacing has become far too slow, and we're ready to really see things pick up. But I have faith - remember how things dragged after they saved the cheerleader last season? So I'll offer the powers that be my suggestions on 5 Ways to Fix the Show:

1. Get Hiro the frak out of feudal Japan! Lamest storyline ever. It was tolerable for about two episodes, but that should have been it. Back in time he loses his wit and charm, and doesn't have his comic foil of Ando. Enough already!

2. Put the focus back on the murder mystery. The one thing that has been truly intriguing this season is the murder of Hiro's father and its connection to the attack on Mama Petrelli. I'm guessing that this is a tentpole for the season, but if it is then we need to be spending some time on it each and every week.

3. Enough with the My Two Gay Dads subplot. Sure, Matt is adorable and Suresh is pretty. But having them whine about raising Molly is like a really boring sitcom.

4. Bring the heroes back together and get them interacting more. Hiro in Japan, Peter in Cork and Montreal, Claire in California, HRG in the Ukraine. Boo! Too many disparate storylines - this isn't a soap opera. It's like we spent all last season bringing them together, and now we're starting over. What's interesting on this show is how these characters relate and support each other against a common enemy. Then maybe we can get some more Nathan and Niki/ikiN, as well as really integrating these new characters into the stew (and get a little insight into what the heck it is that Maya does).

5. We need a tagline! "Save the cheerleader, save the world. " "Are you on the list?" These kept us curious and kept the show in the public's mind. Considering it won't even be available on iTunes much longer, NBC needs all the help it can get.

So what about you, folks? Any advice to the creators?

On a side note - no Top Model recap this week. They had a clip show. After just five weeks. Lame!

November 02, 2007

Bea Arthur Forever!

ScottE alerted me to this great YouTube clip back from the days when NBC dominated comedy nearly every night of the week. And what's that they're singing? Oh, that would be from Dreamgirls!

But just when I thought I'd seen it all? A parody to end all parodies. Enjoy!