March 28, 2007

Dead Models Tell No Tales

When we last left our young bitches-in-training on Top Model, they were saying goodbye to Cassandra and her formerly sewn-in hair weave. Diana was in the bottom 2 and is none too happy about it. She says she really wants to prove she can be a model and not just a pretty face.

Jael is still struggling with the news of her friend's untimely death, so Felicia tries to cheer her up with a dance lesson. Dance your cares awaaayyyy.....! But nearby, Renee is dancing her own little pity party. Everyone hates me, etc.

But the next day she wakes up and resolves to be nicer. Not because it's the good thing to do - it's because she realizes being a bitch won't get her farther in the competition. Well, at least she's honest. To kick off this sunshine campaign, she gives Jael a drawing that will supposedly make her feel better. It is a drawing of Jael in a straightjacket that isn't tied. You know, Hallmark should really make a card like that. But of course Jael is a bit of a freak and thinks it's cool.

The girls go to meet a "traffic cop" who is actually the head of the House of Ninja. If you don't know who they are, rent the excellent documentary Paris is Burning. Let's just say that they invented vogueing pre-Madonna. So he's there to teach the girls poses, and it's all rather silly, even if he's kind of awesome.

Later they face their challenge for the week, and it's great. First, they must traverse a room in a bank that is criss-crossed with lasers, like something out of Star Wars. And the whole way they must pose. POSE, I tell you! Anyone that makes it across gets a chance to win a $40K bracelet, which is a bit ridiculous, because where would a girl of 21 wear it? The winner will be chosen by Le Ninja, who will choose the best poser. Which basically means he'll separate the posers from the poseurs. *rimshot*

Anywho, the girls do the little maze, and all of them make it...except Renee. This causes her to become disraught, because her family is deep in debt and neither she nor her husband has a job. Uh huh. And they live on MAUI. Here's a nice place to start, how about moving to a cheaper place, like...Paris? And the winner proves to be Whitney. She decides she will keep the bracelet despite being in debt to her father for $9K from college loans.

Back at the manse, Renee calls her boyfriend, and bawls, and wah-wah, SHUT UP. Seriously, the girl is acting pathetic. And she's hogging the phone, so Felicia talks trash about her.

For the photo shoot this week, the girls will portray models who were killed in gruesome ways by other models. Because modeling? Is a very dangerous profession. Coming up on the CW, it's CSI: Milan!

Most of the girls really rock their shoots, including Renee. OJ brags to the other girls that she was awesome, which Renee is like, "Oh crap, don't do that." He asks why, and she confesses, "Because I'm a bitch." Again, I appreciate the honesty. Felicia is not having such a good day, though, as OJ says she is just looking dead instead of dead while modeling.

At the panel, there are judges, there are prizes. Let's move onto the judgements, shall we? [Sadly I don't have pictures yet, but will try to post them at a later date.]

Brittany continues to be strong, by suggesting that being fully in a tub as an electrocution victim wasn't a good idea, so she was sprawled out on the floor half-out of the tub. It's quite good.

Diana had a strong showing this week, showing how she can do well in a small hallway.

Dionne looks great as a woman who was shot in the head, but the photographer said she had to be told where to put her various limbs. The kicker is they criticize what she's wearing at panel, which is laughable considering Tyra's hair looks like it's being consumed by a pastel angora rabbit.

As mentioned above, Felicia just looks dead. Dead eyes, dead expression...just dead. Great as a corpse for Six Feet Under, but not for modeling.

Jael (who is forced into a shoot about death the week after her friend dies...the producers' tradition continues) had a very weak shot in my opinion.

But Jaslene rocks it once again, giving a convincing shot of a model who fell off a building.

Natasha finally pulls out a good one as a drowning victim. But Tyra points out that both of her better shots she's been upside-down - can she do well standing up? (NO COMMENT.)

Renee is the judges' favorite as a poison victim. It's definitely good (reminds me a bit of Megg's drug addict last cycle), but not the best of the week.

Sarah does moderately well once again. Like Jaslene she comes off better in photos than in person.

Whitney finally nails a shot with a slash across her midsection. Although she is told that perhaps she looks a bit too alive.

After deliberation, there are 10 photos, 9 girls. First photo goes to Renee, which seems to beef up her confidence. Which means more bitchy fun! The bottom two end up being Dionne and Felicia.

Dionne, you need to be more creative in your poses, and you need to dress more like a model at panel. Y'know...not like Tyra. Felicia, you need to learn how to be a sexy corpse. And the photo goes to...Dionne. Thankfully.

Felicia heads back home, where she will likely end up as a back-up dancer for a second-string rap artist in his music videos. Reach for the stars, girl!

Next week - Renee makes more enemies (as if that were possible)!

March 27, 2007

Bizarro World

Up is down. Right is left. The world has gone topsy-turvy.

I say this, because after watching this week's epsidoe of The Amazing Race, I found myself heartbroken that Teri & Ian were elminated.

Yes, this is the same Teri & Ian who were horrible to each other and everyone else in their own season, and were universally hated. But time changed their attitudes, they seem to have really learned how to treat people (and each other), and they were perfectly nice. Now if only he'd burn that hat...

Meanwhile, perpetual losers Charla & Mirna experienced "the luck of the evil" and finished in first place for the second week running. Seriously, what the hell is up with the universe?

And don't get me started on their accents. Why they think that adopting an Italian accent to speak broken English to residents of Tanzania (where the most common languages are Swahili and Arabic) is beyond me.

March 21, 2007

Sugar and Spice

When we last left the Top Model bitches, they were bidding good-bye to sweet but was her name again?

And this week the girls don't remember either. We move right into happenings in the house. Basically we learn that Whitney and Diana are plus-sized sistahs, and Cassandra is very nice to everyone, including Jaslene. That's cool, because you know nice people do so well in this competition.

Tyra Mail arrives, and signals that makeovers are finally here. Hooray!

At the salon, Tyra and the Js make a show out of the fact that girls in the past have bitched too much about how things turned out (i.e. half the cast last season), so these girls better really want it. They do.

I won't go through each makeover, but we get the usual mix of short-haired girls going long, long-haired girls going short, blondes going brown, and vice-versa. Of them all, I think Dionne comes off the best, with a nice asymmetrical 'do that gives her face some shape. Brittany is subjected to a big ugly weave, and she tries to be a good sport. Jael, not so much as the pain of EIGHT HOURS of having a weave put in starts to make her cry. Ultimately OJ says he "talked to Tyra" (translation: the producers talked to each other), and decided this long look wasn't going to work for Jael, so instead she'll get a shorter cut with a brown color. Poor girl goes through all that for nothing. Luckily, some of the other girls are sympathetic.

Back at the house, Brittany starts to whimper and whine about the pain that is her weave. Renee is totally pissed at her for this. Whitney is more tough love, and tells Brittany what's what - "Where I live, you cry when a friend gets shot." Well, point taken. Then again, if you've ever lived with someone that cries about everything, perhaps your tolerance is higher.

Onto the challenge, which is another take on the annual "run around fast applying Cover Girl makeup and be judged" challenge. This time the tables of makeup are set up in a lovely outdoor garden. Prior to the challenge, Brittany confesses that she is having "digestive issues" (translation: the trots), but will try her best. As she laments her problems, Renee suggests that Brittany take it easy and sleep in the car. Note that this is not compassion, but a desire to get Brittany out of the running. Jael instead advises Brittany to press on.

Challenge, running, makeup. Cassandra takes about 10 seconds too long and is disqualified. Judging commences, and most are fine, but Natasha has heavy red lipstick that makes her look like a whore, which is to be expected. The winner? Brittany. Renee makes a bitchface. Brittany gets to choose 2 friends to join her in a photo shoot for Seventeen magazine. She picks the girls that helped her stick it out today - Jael and Sarah. What's kind of awesome is that the other girls are forced to sit around and watch the shoot. Heh - stick that in your eye, Renee.

Back at the house, Renee is still hating on Brittany, and continues to poison the mind of Diana. Brittany totally hears everything, and decides to confront Renee. But she does it in the lamest passive-aggresive way possible - "All I have to say is that the walls in a house full of girls are paper thin." What the fuck is that? Anywho, Renee gets the gist that IT IS ON, and they go back and forth. Eventually Renee tries to call Brittany immature, and then walks away. Then Brittany retorts, "Hey, I'm still kicking your ass in this competition." Zing! Awesome. Well played, Brit. Renee flips her off.

Also at the house, Jael gets a message to call a friend, and finds out that one of her close friends died of a drug overdose. Ugh. Jael naturally is very upset, and many of the girls try their best to provide her comfort. To her credit (I guess?), Jael sees that this competition can be a "distraction" to help her forget her personal trauma. I guess it makes sense. Later, Whitney prays with Jael, and the scene is quite touching, actually.

Time for the photo shoot, which will involve the girls showing off different types of candy, while holding scoops of ice cream in their bare hands. And they are naked (with candy covering the naughty bits). Most are excited, but Brittany gets all puritanical and worried. Dionne interviews that she's sick of Brittany's complaining. At this point we establish that the house is basically divided into three camps. Those that support Brit (Jael, Sarah), those that hate her (Renee, Diana), and those that just wish she'd shut up already (Dionne, Felicia, Whitney). I suppose a fourth camp would be the clueless, which of course are led by Natasha.

The shoot goes on, and it's pretty clear that a few are really doing well, including Brit, Jael, Dionne and Sarah. Cassandra isn't giving much to the camera. Diana is having trouble sucking in her gut.

Judging panel! No stupid challenge, so let's get on with the judgements. There are prizes, there are judges. Guest judge is their makeover hair stylist, Neeko.

Jael is first, and of course the story about her friend comes spilling out. The judges are very kind and understanding without being overly sappy. And Jael's photo is also very strong, with an interesting body position and cute pouty lips. She dedicates the photo to her friend, which is a bit odd, but I suppose also sweet.

Brittany did amazing, and the shot gets comments like, "That could be in Vogue." Tyra says, "No negative comments, honestly." Renee looks like she's about to burst into flames.

Cassandra's photo is ass, and the judges know it, so they start by saying nothing. Eventually they offer feeble comments, but you know they are like, "Oh my, you suck."

Diana has the belly issue mentioned above, which Nigel points out is in part because she's on one leg and therefore off-balance. Ms. J offers a helpful hint (!) that Diana should give the photographer a count-off, like "1, 2, 3! [suck in gut]"

Dionne is very strong this week, and Twiggy points out that she really caught the more playful spirit of the shoot better than other girls.

The judges are kind to Felicia, but I have to say I found her photo to be really weak. Her face lacks expression, and her body posture looks awkward.

Jaslene rocks it once again, giving a sense of sexiness without being trampy. But where is that personality in person?

Natasha actually did very well, although Nigel points out that her eyes are too squinty.

Renee is not bad, but the close-up view reveals that her eyes look weird and unfocused. By contrast, Sarah is very strong, with eyes that pierce right through the camera. The judges point out the comparison, which you know makes Renee look...say it with me...bitchy!

Whitney has some discomfort that shows in her face (it's a forced smile), and the judges notice it too.

Deliberations. The judges are happy to see Natasha finally breaking through. Nigel says that Dionne has really emerged as "one to watch." They continue to wonder if girls like Cassandra and Whitney have the drive to really do this.

11 girls, 10 photos. First photo goes to Brittany, which makes Renee start to implode before our eyes. Photos are handed out, and we are left with Cassandra and Diana. Whitney begins to cry. (Presumably half from thinking Cass is cool, and half from Diana being her plus-sized sistah.)

Cassandra, you are very sweet and everyone likes you. But your photos are lacking. Diana, you are very beautiful of face, but your photos don't show what you're capable of. So who goes home?

The photo goes to...Diana. Whitney cries some more.

Cassandra gives a very pleasant exterview, and it's clear that she is far too nice and intelligent to be on this show. Best wishes, Cass.

Next week - the girls break into a bank!

March 20, 2007

Fatal Obsession

Yesterday I went to with Joyous and ScottE to go see the Oscar winner for Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others. Pan's Labyrinth was a nice movie, could this one really be better?

Without question.

The Lives of Others is a tightly-woven film about human obsession. The time is 1983, and the place is East Berlin. A state security ("Stasi") official is assigned to observe a couple of artists in the hopes of catching them betraying the Socialist party. But instead, this usually flawless man becomes so engrossed in the life of "Lazlo and CMS" that his life begins to collide with theirs.

This movie builds on a slow burn, so be patient during the opening half-hour. Rest assured that the payoff comes in the final moments in a way that is satisfying, but not "Hollywood-ified."

March 16, 2007

Beyond Film

As I began to ponder writing a review of the film 300, I was struck by a simple thought. This is not a film designed for entertainment; it's high art.

Every frame reveals a stunning visual landscape that moves in a way that is elegant, calculated and visceral. Color (other than the ubiquitous splashes of red) becomes an afterthought, as our eyes instead focus on shapes, textures and shadows. It is as if the filmmaker wants us to truly appreciate the fact that we are watching a motion picture; a PICTURE in MOTION.

Make no mistake, 300 is ultraviolent. Death, blood and gore are really just a means to an end, however. Somehow even the most disgusting displays (such as bodies pinned to a tree) become sculpture. They are horrible in their beauty.

It is hard to show a static image and give you a true feeling for the movie, but even the pictures below give you some idea of the arresting quality of the movement. (Click on them to see bigger versions which are far more impressive.)

Stepping out of my poetic mode, let me get to the more traditional details. The cast is very strong, led by smoking hot Gerard Butler as Leonidas. He eradicates all memory of that horrible movie where he wore that white mask. Here he is powerful, smoldering and exhilirating. All of his mates in the Spartan army are equally adept, and they all possess bodies that certainly suggest divine genetic enhancement. I mean, who REALLY has abs like that? Still, you won't hear me complaining about watching a movie where 300 men run around in nothing but a pair of leather briefs! What I really loved was watching these men in motion (regular and slow-mo). They weren't so much actors as they were dancers, carrying out a dark ballet of mass murder. Again, horrible beauty in constant motion.

Also of note is Lena Headey as the Queen, who does her best to advance the subplot, and gets her own "You go, girl!" moment.

Rodrigo Santoro proves that he isn't just bad on Lost - I think he's just a bad actor, period.

All of the "sets" and backgrounds in the film are computer-generated, which seems impossible. The visuals are truly arresting, and I'm impressed that a film on such a large scale was done for such a relatively small budget (I think around $60M). Some people fear that this means filming on location or creating real-life sets will become a thing of the past, but I sincerely doubt it. Despite all the great images, it all still had a tinge of unreality to it (which I suspect was intentional). Nothing will replace the real picture of real grass in a field bending to a soft breeze.

The other driving force of the film is the soundtrack, which is a mix of rock and metal fused with Middle Eastern influences. I'm still haunted by the dance of the Oracle set to powerful drums and a woman's siren song. (Yes, I'm a dork and bought the soundtrack the next day.)

Normally you won't hear me mention a word about reviews for a movie. But I've read several for this film, and criticism tends to focus on two main issues. I'd like to address them.

1. The movie is weak on plot, offering no emotional arc.

Quite frankly, this is not a film where the plot is the point. As I've outlined above, I believe this is a film that should be observed as a work of art. It demands to be viewed with an objective eye. (And preferably on the biggest screen you can find - thankfully we saw it at the Uptown, which was fantastic.)

2. The movie paints an unsavory picture of Persians and their culture.

Apparently, this film has caused mass outrage in Iran. A country where, it should be noted, no one has even seen it. Setting aside the cultural issue (I won't debate ancient cultural influences on a modern society), to me the point is a simple one. The film (or more precisely, the graphic novel upon which it is based) is a work of historical FICTION, told from the point of view of the Spartans. Quite naturally, if a Spartan or his descendant is telling the tale, Sparta will look awesome, and Persia will look bad. Why not just make another film telling the same story from the Persian perspective? I'm sure it would be interesting, and assuredly different. Don't believe me? Clint Eastwood just did it with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima.

In conclusion, I loved this movie because it was so unlike anything I've seen in years, and I found myself analyzing it as if it were a canvas hanging in a gallery. See it, and see it now while you can on the big screen. I fear its visual impact will be lost when you try to see it on your television at home.

Wow, that's quite a long review. Well, it was worth it. Oh, and the grade? Definitely an A.

March 14, 2007

Walk The Line

When we last left the bitches of America's Next Top Model, they were all waving good-bye to Kathleen. Being that she's a real bright person, she probably thought she was on a departing cruise ship.

Also, a point of clarification from my last post. It turns out Snotty Ms. Sarah isn't 26, she's 20. But she claims she is "20 going on 26." Which probably means she has wrinkles already that she hides with Oil of Olay. And of course this makes all of her wild claims even more unbelieveable. A Chanel show in Columbus, my ass.

Anywho, onto this week's episode. The girls first meet Ms. J and a marching band on a high school track. They are ordered to don these silly polo, short and visor outfits that make them look like either golf caddies, or perhaps contestants in the sportswear musical number for the 1983 Miss USA pageant. Naturally this is the introduction into their first runway walk lesson with Ms. J.

Their major challenge is to walk in threes, with back and forth and criss-cross twists thrown in. Many of the girls find this difficult. But not Jaslene, who believes she is the fiercest runway walker ever. You may now predict how this is going to turn out.

Then it's time for the challenge - they will do said runway walks while modeling in a high school fashion show for...prom dresses! And not just contemporary looks. They also get to exhibit 80's styles, and "ghetto chic" (a nice way of saying "whore-ish"). Oh the horror! Anyway, it's all sort of silly, and it's a bunch of high schoolers and their parents in the audience, but I guess that's a step up from the Goodwill parking lot. The girls do mostly well, but predictably have the same issues with the choreographed crossovers. And Jaslene of the boastful attitude naturally really screws it up. Oh, and Sarah's ghetto dress totally shows off her mosquito bite boobs to the students. Hey - someone needs to give them realistic expectations early. Not everyone gets to date Dolly Parton!

The winner of the challenge is actually Brittany. She was a little loose and over-the-top for my taste, but whatever. I think she won something? I forgot.

Back at the house, Jaslene is taking the criticism from the challenge very hard. She calls her mom and bawls. Love ya, Jas - but grow some thicker skin. That's still good advice when Felicia starts basically saying that Jaslene said she was great, but wasn't. Jaslene interprets this as "talking trash," and they have a very low-key arguement about it. Maybe there was more to it, but it was honestly a lame fight by ANTM standards.

Anywho, the next day it's back to high school (better them than me), where OJ assigns them high school stereotypes to portray in this week's photo shoot. Most of them are doing better this week, although a few aren't really connecting with the camera. Samantha the pure girl isn't crazy about being "the girl with the reputation," as she doesn't feel that. Translation - she's a virgin. But c'mon, haven't you read anything about Paris Hilton? Meanwhile, Renee starts complaining about everything. Specifically, she's especially upset that Jaslene got the "fierce" option to play the weirdo (a'la Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club), while poor-poor Renee gets stuck with class clown. What an idiot. Quit your bitching and crying!

At the house, Jael reads the Tyra Mail while standing there naked. Samantha is traumatized.

Time for panel! There are judges, there are prizes. Guest judge this week is the guy who led the challenge this week, Roy Campbell (he of the church fashion show in cycle 6). Thankfully there is no dumb panel challenge, so it's onto the judging.

Brittany is sassy with big pouty lips as the class valedictorian. I'm not crazy about the shape of her face, but the judges love the photo.

Cassandra plays her cheerleader as a girl with a lot of "like, whatever" attitude. It kind of works, but isn't up to the great photo she had last week.

Diana is rather striking as the girl running for class president. I will say for her that she has a good sense of what angles make the best use of her curvy figure. (Although I recommend a push-up bra, actually.)

Dionne is the bad girl in class, and she actually was very strong. Great position showing of her profile, and her long legs. Well done, chatty Cathy!

Felicia is the athlete, showing an action shot where she's playing...volleyball, I think? Anyway, I think her body is a bit awkward, but she did nail the face. The judges go nuts over the photo.

Jael is the bookworm, and has one of the best photos this week. She struck a good mix between being model sexy while wearing a ridiculous get-up, complete with taped glasses. Nice!

Jaslene...well, she just rocked it. Sure, the make-up and costume help, but she has this great turned-in position, and her eyes just scream, "I hate that you misunderstand me!" It's definitely a high fashion shot, and the judges know it.

Natasha is supposed to be teacher's pet, but the photo blows. Apparently OJ really had trouble communicating with her, as are the judges. Bless her heart, she takes every insult as a complement. As much as I think she sucks, I do think it's a bit unfair that they are being so rude and unhelpful with her language barrier.

Renee's class clown photo is actually not bad. Maybe if she stopped being so bitchy and jealous all the time, she could do well in this competition.

Samantha's photo just doesn't work. She looks more like the girl that tries to dress like a slut in order to be liked at a party. Poor thing. The judges think she comes off as boring. You know what that means...

Sarah is the flirt, but I think her photo comes off too sexual. The judges agree.

Whitney is supposed to be the mean bitchy girl. Really she just looks pissed off, which isn't what the judges were hoping for. But otherwise the photo is pretty good.

And the first photo goes to Brittany. After the other photos are handed out, we're left with Natasha and Samantha.

Natasha, you don't even know what we're saying to you, and probably think we're saying you won the show right now. Samantha, you have been marked as the "boring small-town girl" for this season. And the photo goes to...Natasha. Meh. Farewell, Samantha. I'm sure you'll do well modeling for the Southern Baptist Convention's annual fashion show and bazaar.

Next week - makeovers! FINALLY!

March 10, 2007

Getting Lost Again

Remember the first couple seasons of Lost? How they were cool and exciting, and there were big mysteries? And the plot moved forward and you could hardly wait for the next eipsode?

Yeah, it was a long time ago.

Since then we've suffered through overly-drawn out subplots (enough with the bear cages, already), a lack of development for some characters (remember how there was this woman who had a baby?), and one episode so horribly bad we should never speak of it again (one word - tattoos).

Fortunately, it looks like we are FINALLY back in the swing of things. With a few good episodes gearing up recently (those for Juliet and Desmond), this week's episode focusing on Sayid felt like the good ol' days. New questions, plot movement, and an "Oooo!" moment at the end.

My burning questions:

1. Wait, Ms. Klugh could speak Russian? And why would she sacrifice her life?

2. Is it odd that Sayid always seems to be super-smart?

3. Is it odd that Locke always seems to be super-dumb when he follows his "instincts" on blind faith?

4. When, oh when, will we be rid of the dumdum twins?

Charla! Charlaaaaaaa!!!

The Amazing Race All-Stars continues, and it looks like perhaps we're seeing the chaff being separated from the wheat. Perfectly nice teams with poor racing skills (David & Mary) or lacking the physical fitness they had the first time out (Kevin & Drew) have been eliminated from the race.

All I have to say is I can't wait for them to leave South America. It's grating enough that we have to listen to Charla & Mirna's exaggerated accents (which they use even when speaking to locals in ENGLISH). But it will be welcome to see those two in a country where their knowledge of Spanish won't be an advantage.

And can I point out that I still am not hating on Teri & Ian? What's up with that?

My favorites for the win are still Danny & Oswald. My early prediction is that they'll face off in the finals against Rob & Amber and Uchenna & Joyce.

March 04, 2007

Spectrum Of Stupidity

It's time for whining young girls to act like bitches to each other. It's time for Tyra to pretend she's Oprah. It's time for a very tall black man to remind us all he's gay at every opportunity. And it's time for an orange man to give us his botox smile while giving us blatant product placement. That's right - another season (or CYCLE, if you must) of America's Next Top Model!

I will once again be here to help you navigate the murky waters of "high fashion" each week. I'll guide you through a portfolio of improbable photo shoots. And I'll attempt to translate what these poor girls are trying to say. Join me, won't you?

I'm not going to spend much time discussing the first hour of the premiere, as it's really just a way to ease you into the show. So here's a quick summary of how they whittled 20+ girls down to the final 13.

First, the models arrive at "model boot camp" which is just an excuse for the Js to dress up in fatigues, and to torture the girls a bit. Tyra comes out with some steppers from Phi Beta Sigma, and greets them, etc. All the girls get shots taken there, and later at a party. And then the interviews. The theme this year is hair weaves. We hear about weaves that have been stitched, those that have been reposessed, and those that are two-toned. And as a person who frequently sees pieces of weaves strewn on the ground during his daily commute, I can tell you that even I learned something new.

Eventually Tyra and the Js dissect the girls and pick their final 13. Without further ado, may I present your 2007 crop of spring bitches!

Brittany is a bartender from Georgia with classic pouty lips. She appears to be relatively normal, which makes her stick out like a sore thumb this season.

Cassandra is the girl who had her weave stitched to her head. Why anyone would do that is beyond me, although Ms. J points out that at least she got it stitched in the right place.

Diana is one of our two "plus-sized" girls this season, which you will hear at every opportunity from Tyra. "Plus-sized" in this case means she's like a size 12 and just a bit more hippy than average. (Clearly the plus-sized thing is the gimmick for this season, as the twins were last season. I assume this is part of Tyra's recent crusade to love herself even though she's gained a couple pounds and is probably wearing an enormous size SIX.)

Dionne is she of the two-toned weave, and doesn't know how to shut up. Girl is a talker.

Felicia is often mistaken for being a young Tyra, which is interesting, as she's way more attractive than Ms. Banks.

Jael (pronounced "J.L.") is the spikey-haired blonde with the raspy manish voice.

Jaslene is noteworthy, as she just missed the final 13 cut last season. This time she made it through, perhaps because she took a little Ritalin. She is determined to be the America's First Latina Top Model. (Which may or may not be a show in development on Univision.)

Kathleen has enormous dyed red hair and is from Brooklyn. When she speaks, that is painfully obvious. (Let's just say she gives Rosie Perez a run for her money.)

Natasha is a Russian mail-order bride. No, I'm not joking. Her husband is 40 years old. Also, she wins the "worst skin of the season" award. And she's not very bright, so she'll fit in fine with this crew.

Renee is a mother, and will remind you at every opportunity that she has a son that she's "doing this for." Also she's angling for the position of America's Next Top Bitch.

Samantha is filling the "small-town Alabama girl" slot this season. She's naive but kind of adorable.

Sarah is the oldest at 26, and apparently has had time to do every career in the history of universe already, including fashion photographer and movie actress. Her ego tends to enter the room several minutes before she does.

Whitney is our other "plus-sized" girl. In her case, "plus-sized" translates to "big knockers."

First up, the girls are sent straight to their first photo shoot, which will be shot by judge Nigel Barker. They each will be portraying a cause that they may or may not believe in. They just have to work it, regardless. OJ doles out the parts, which include pro-fur, anti-gun, pro-death penalty, etc. Notable during this segment is that Jael has a sudden fever, which is somehow cured later by a hula hoop. And thus, the downward spiral into stupidity begins!

That evening the girls get to see their new pad. This year it's decked out with pictures of former contestants, perhaps to remind us that the show used to have some awesome girls, just in case this crop starts to suck. It's around this time that Renee starts to hate on half the girls for no apparent reason, and tries alternately to get Jael and Diana to be all mean and negative with her. Because misery loves company.

The next day it's off to Goodwill. No, once again I'm not joking. The challenge (introduced by Ms. J and noted celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch) is to find an outfit in 3 minutes from the many racks of donated clothes. The girls race around and do so. Then they have to do a "runway show" where people (who appear to have been dragged from the nearest shopping mall) will bid on the outfits. Whomever gets the highest bid wins. And so, the girls work the faux runway, and I try to stifle my laughter that they are seriously in a fashion show for Goodwill - it's just such a bizarre juxtaposition. Anyway - fast forward, Jael wins. The bid? A whopping $286. Her prize is that this enormous donation will be made in her name. Wow, generous! (The website claims that she earned a style makeover from Mr. Bloch, but I seriously don't remember that.)

And with that, we're already out of time and need to head to the first judging panel. There are prizes, and there are judges (Nigel, Tyra, Ms. J and Twiggy). No guest judge and no panel challenge, so let's get onto the judgements!

Brittany is portraying pro-fur, and although I'm personally offended by fur, I have to admit she looks great. Very classic rich bitch chic.

Kathleen is supposedly anti-fur, but she is completely clueless, and it shows in the photo. Enjoy this great exchange -

Nigel: "Kathleen, you don't look like you know what it means to be anti-fur."

Kathleen: "I know, riiiiight???"

She starts talking about how she likes fur as long as "it comes from animals that die naturally, y'know, like in a jungle?" Seriously, this girl is dumb as a box of hammers.

Cassandra is pro-meat, and the picture is actually quite good, as she appears to be feasting on a chicken leg.

Dionne is instead the vegan picture, although she appears to think vegans can only eat fruits and vegetables, as that's what she's posing with. The picture is pretty good, if a bit static.

Diana is portraying pro-gun, and her photo is a sort of action shot, where she's all Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Unfortunately she's a bit dead in the face. Still, her skin is flawless.

Renee is the hippie anti-gun girl. Although I think the styling on the photo is great, Renee just looks scared.

Felicia portrays traditional marriage as she poses in a bridal gown with a mannequin husband. Although it's a bit generic for a photo, she still looks lovely.

Meanwhile, Samantha and Whitney act as a lesbian couple for gay marriage. The photo doesn't quite work, as they both look so serious. Samantha is showing off her profile to good effect, but Whitney is hiding behind her jacket's collar.

Jael is supposed to be pro-life, chained to the door of an abortion clinic. Instead she looks like a confused Stacy Kiebler. She blames this on her mysterious "fever." Also she fumbles in front of the judges by saying she kind of didn't want to win the Goodwill challenge, as she wants the other girls to like her. BZZT! Wrong answer!

Natasha is pro-choice, and gives the most boring photo in the history of the universe.

Jaslene is "pro-death penalty" but it really looks more like she's a crazed executioner/dominatrix. The photo is actually pretty hot, and definitely the best of the week. Her eyes are fierce. It's all very Grace Jones.

Sarah is anti-death penalty, but her dull shot makes her just look like a reject from the film Chicago.

13 girls (neither beautiful, nor women - take note), 12 photos. Tyra expresses her deep disappointment at the poor showing on their first shoot. Then Jaslene gets the first photo, and she is proud. The rest are handed out, leaving Jael and Kathleen in the bottom 2.

Jael, you are dumb for not wanting to win when it's a COMPETITION. Kathleen, you are dumb for thinking that mink coats are made from young minks that die peacefully in their sleep conveniently outside a tailor's shop. And the photo goes to...Jael. To her credit, Kathleen actually comprehends that she has been eliminated and leaves gracefully. She pledges that she will not stop modeling.

Next week - makeovers! Which means girls crying who claimed in the interviews that they will do anything to change their looks. Can't wait!

March 03, 2007

'Nuff said

Thanks to Stef for passing this on. Couldn't have said it better myself.

March 02, 2007

Oh What A Tangled Web

I had the pleasure of accompanying Ms. Joyous to see one of her favorite films on the big screen. In the beautiful main theater of the AFI, we took in a special screening of Billy Wilder's 1944 classic, Double Indemnity. I'd never seen it before, which was good, in a way. Seeing it for the first time on the big screen really enhanced the experience.

Double Indemnity is classic film noir - shadowy lighting to match the dark mood. It's a throwback to a simpler time - when people could flirt blatantly and outrageously, when trains had plush sofas and coffee tables, and when men could light a match with the flick of a thumb.

The plot is based on a simple premise - insurance companies would often offer a "double indemnity clause" which would offer bigger payouts should the policyholder perish in an unlikely way. Supposedly this would make a policy more attractive to the purchaser. Regardless, this insurance loophole leads two people into a convoluted web of lies and deceit.

Sure, the language may come off a bit corny today. But it's all about the style. Witness Barbara Stanwyck holding a clandestine rendezvous in a supermarket wearing dark sunglasses. Or her eyes, full of malice, as she drives the getaway car.

Also great fun is Edward G. Robinson as the fast-talking boss intent on following the "little man" in his gut until he sniffs out every case of insurance fraud. And I challenge you to try and consider Fred MacMurray as the sex symbol without thinking of him as the Absent-Minded Professor!

The movie starts slow, but believe me that your patience will be rewarded. Once the plan is set in motion, it's a non-stop thrill ride..."all the way, straight down the line."

March 01, 2007

Top 10 Movies of 2006

Inspired by another blogger, I decided I was past due to present my favorites for 2006. And perhaps this will help me recover a bit from the Oscars! Keep in mind my list is more about what I found entertaining - I don't necessarily think these would be Oscar-material.

10. Casino Royale

As a long-time James Bond fan, I was naturally skeptical to see a new man step up to the plate (blond with a smooth chest, no less). But I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was Daniel Craig good, but that the movie itself was pure entertainment.

9. Shut Up and Sing

You don't have to be a Dixie Chicks fan to enjoy this film, although being liberal certainly helps. Some might have seen the movie as a long commercial for the Chicks. I saw it as an inside perspective in how a group of women rebuild a thriving career after being labeled pariahs.

8. V for Vendetta

Sometimes you just have to listen to your friends - they can turn you onto something great. This was the case for me with V. I was shocked to bring home such a treasure at the video store, and I regret not seeing this strongly visual story on the big screen.

7. Thank You for Smoking

Aaron Eckhart = sexy. Aaron Eckhart lying to your face and manipulating your thoughts = sexier. This movie was great fun and exposed the layers of hypocrisy that exist in our government.

6. The Devil Wears Prada

Was it the perfect movie? No. But Prada was full of delicious dish on the fashion industry, and an exquisite performance from Meryl Streep. Throw in buckets of hot outfits, and you've got a great evening's entertainment.

5. Notes on a Scandal

Somewhere a casting director earned a year's salary with the decision to pit Judi Dench against Cate Blanchett in a domestic drama with a very dark side. Gay men everywhere rejoiced.

4. The Queen

Maybe we can't all feel like a queen for a day, but we got some insight into what it might be like courtesy of Helen Mirren. It was the little things that mad this movie shine - Elizabeth turned away from the camera as she wept alone, or a young girl holding flowers for someone unexpected.

3. Volver

Pedro Almodovar came back to a favorite muse and turned Penelope Cruz into the leading lady she always should have been. Thank you, Pedro, for giving us such a riveting celebration of women.

2. Dreamgirls

Chicago was amazing, but it took this Motown-inspired musical to send me over the top. Jennifer Hudson was a wonder, the costumes dazzled, and the music inspired. It was very nearly the perfect movie for me.

1. Children of Men

The only film I felt that surpassed my love for Dreamgirls was the complete opposite - a bleak and terrifying portrayal of a dystopian future based on a novel I really enjoyed. Clive Owen is hot, to be sure. But it was all about the environment, the camera work, the editing and the pacing. A triumph that premiered too late to receive the accolades that it deserved.

So that's my list - what's yours?