Friday, August 1, 2014

Project Runway S13 E2: "Unconventional Movie Nite"

Well I'll say this much for them, that at least felt like a real episode of Project Runway. Jury's still out on whether or not that's a good thing, but there you have it. Plus HMG is back, so that's always a pleasure.

The designers wake up the morning after their first challenge to see the very welcome site of a bucket of popcorn on the counter. The guys wake up to the slightly less welcomed sight of Mitchell in skimpy underwear.... so yeah that happened.... We'll move on. Tim invites everyone out to the movies where they sit through what looks like the worst trailer for the worst movie imaginable (literally it looks like Michael Bay directed a fashion show) before Tim pops up on the screen to tell them it's an Unconventional Materials challenge. And to make matters worse, it's also a Team Challenge. You can hear the PR producers laughing maniacally in the background at just how perfectly they've screwed these guys over. Using film based material (which, surprisingly enough includes a lot of Film itself), the groups will be designing three cohesive looks. There will be one winning team and one losing team from which the winner and the loser of the challenge will be selected respectively. People run around, grab a bunch of shit, and we head back to the workroom.

The workroom section of this episode is a lot of fun because it's basically a long stretch of "Hey look at all the immigrants!" By fun, I mean head scratchingly confusing, and slightly uncomfortable. I may not agree that this season is full of reality TV character tropes and racial stereotypes, per se, but after this week I certainly think the PR producers feel very accomplished for having so few Americans on the show. Here's the thing, on the one hand, I find the racial and ethnic diversity of this season to be commendable. I find the contestant's respect and appreciation for their own backgrounds to be fun and fascinating. On the other hand, when you cram in everyone's immigrant story into one episode, it feels exploitative and phony. I don't feel like we're in stereotype territory just yet, but I certainly think there's something reductive about looking at these people as little more than their races. If this were some kind of multicultural themed challenge (which even as I say it sounds like a total shit show that I don't want this series to ever even think about touching), then I think the interview segments would have made more sense. But against the backdrop of film and Unconventional Materials? I don't get it.

But whatever, back to the challenge. It wouldn't be a team challenge if someone didn't break down in tears over feeling picked on and having their artistic vision disrespected. This week that person is Sandhya. Allow me to say for the record that I seriously hate Sandhya! I know Korina is the setting herself up to be the villain this season, but I'll take three of her in place of this one Sandhya any day. I'll say one thing in Sandy's defense (and yes I shall be calling her Sandy from this point forward, get used to it), her main point seems to be that they don't need to create the same dress three times for their collection to have cohesion. But she's clearly the outcast on this group. Hernan and Carrie (who are the only two designers fighting for their lives on this team since Sandy has immunity) clearly have a similar and cohesive vision. Sandy doesn't agree with that vision and, thusly, doesn't want to design anything towards it. Tim points out that the futuristic feel of Hernan and Carrie's looks verges on being too costume-y, but I'm betting if they had stuck with what they had started to do instead of changing their design, they would have been safe in the end. Either way, Tim leaves them all feeling a bit discombobulated: Hernan and Carrie panic a little since if this falls through it'll be one of them going home, and Hernan tries (maybe a little forcefully) to get Sandy to understand what she needs to change in order to fall in line with the group's aesthetic. As a result she cries and runs off to Tim to tell him she feels bullied and like she needs a little encouragement. Every single aspect of her time with Tim leaves a bad taste in my mouth. After seeing certain designers get attacked last season in group challenges, I can't help but to think that Sandy has nothing to complain about and she needs to suck it up and get her ass back to work. If those kid gloves she was handled with drive her to tears, then I'm guessing this isn't the place for her.

The other emotional wreck this season is Angela. It was mentioned in the comments on the last episode that watching her stress out every week is going to be stressful, and I couldn't agree more. Granted, for me it'll be less about the stress and more about the overt anger I feel watching her moan and cry for an hour each week, but you know; it's the same difference. She doesn't agree with Sean and Fade's idea about drawing from movie fashion villains so she kind of wants to do her own thing. Her own thing seems to entail cutting up movie scripts and gluing them onto a dress form. *Insert laugh track here*

Tim talks to other people who are doing other things, the models come in for a highly uneventful fitting, and then everyone goes to bed. Then it's runway time, and the best part of the episode happens: The Return of HMG!!!!! Which really should have been the title of the episode, don't you think?

Ok so the Rate the Runway site has the looks in a different order than they were in on the episode, but they're still collected by teams, so I'm going to go through the looks in the order the site has them in instead of the order the walked out in.

Green Team:

Alexander: I found this look to be weird and heavy. Just watching it walk down the runway made me feel like I was suffocating under the weight of it. It's just all too much. The neckline and the weird fly away hemline both seem to be fighting for your attention and it all just feels like too much is going on. I like the way he used the film in alternating colors to make it look a bit more like fabric, but I would have loved for him to take this down a notch or two.

Emily: I think I might have liked this look if it weren't for the saddle bag hip bulges. It's an attempt at being artistic and special that just ends up looking forced and stupid. With that being said, I like the top. I don't know how much I want to forgive it for its odd fit issues, but it's not like she was using a material that would perfectly conform to the model's body, so hey.

Samantha: I find Samantha's look to be simple, straight forward, and lovely. The key word in unconventional materials challenges to me is movement. I always respond way more to materials that aren’t fabric but move a bit like fabric. And that’s what this look had. Even the top, made from those stiff CDs, had more movement to it than I expected. I don't think it's a look worthy of the top three or anything, but I certainly think it was the best look from this team.

Silver Team:

Amanda: This look screams “Everything and the kitchen sink!” I will say that it came together a bit more by the end than I anticipated when I was watching her work in the workroom, but the end result is messy and craftsy to me. It feels like it lacks a clear vision and artistic voice. I honestly hate it.

Korina: It's certainly a bit sexy and slinky in a way I like, and I also really like the green which is strung throughout this collection, but there's something about this dress that doesn't really do it for me. The black strips kind of put me in mind of grass. Not like you walk out side and that's what grass looks like, but more like the first grade class is making a field out of construction paper to put up on the cork board and they take the green sheets of paper and cut slits in them to make it look like grass. So that's a no from me, but I do love the top of the dress. It looks like a lot of thought and design went into creating it, so I'll give her credit there.

Kristine: The extent to which I hate this dress is a bit staggering. I like the idea a lot, but I think the execution is horrid. The top of the skirt portion is way too high, the braided top is horribly ill-fitting, and everything looks uncomfortable. I'm perfectly aware that I may be in the minority on this, but I really really hate it!

Blue Team:

Angela: .................................. I think Tim's look says it better than I could, so I'll let him convey it for me.

Fade: I really like this. I like the mix of hard and soft, but I also worry that the top might be a little bit too hard. It's so immovable that it feels a little affronting at times. But that's a small critique on an otherwise great dress.

My future husband Sean: I love love love love love love love this look. I have two very tiny problems with it: 1) I would have liked to see a few less straws on the shoulders in favor of something a little more streamlined. I thought the straws on the shoulder area made it look a little more costume-y. 2) I wish the black spots felt like they had been placed with a little more attention to detail. It looked very random. For me, random is the kind of thing I only like when it looks purposeful, which I understand is an odd contradiction, but there you have it. But again, I find those to be very small nit picky problems that I don't think anyone other than me would have.

Red Team:

Carrie: The sad thing is that I neither like nor dislike this dress. I feel like this team's failings are the failings of a team more so than an individual. By which I mean the pieces aren't horrible until you look at them together. I don't hate this, I certainly can see a rhyme and a reason behind it, and I like the way the film is arranged to give the illusion of fabric. I even like the cut of the dress and the way it works around the bust line and comes down to a point in the back of the skirt. But then you look at it against

Hernan: and things start to fall apart. Again, this dress isn't bad in and of itself, but it's really no different than Carrie's. The cut and shape are altered, but that doesn't do anything to eliminate the feel of looking at the same thing over and over again.

And then there's Sandy: She really should be taken outback and shot for this look. Everything about this screams petulant jerk who couldn't get her way so she's just going to begrudgingly pretend to go along with the leader's wishes and throw some BS together in the last minute. There's no rhyme or reason to it. It looks like she just tossed some film reel onto the model and called it a day. I'm honestly a bit offended by the presence of this on the show.

Purple Team:

Char: If I've learned one thing after years of Unconventional Materials challenges, it's that paper always just looks like paper. It never moves or fits like some of the other materials people choose. But with that being said, I love this look. It's cute and fun and the back is sleek and simple. I do think there's a slightly arts and crafts feel to it, which knocks it down a level or two, but ultimately I like it a lot.

Kini: This is a look I love in spite of myself. Looking at it in the photographs, I think the point could be made that there's a little much going on in the front. The crumpled up popcorn bags tend to look a little cheap and almost like a pinata, but I still really really love it. It bounces when it walks down the runway, and the braiding of the top is just exquisite. I do wish he'd gotten rid of the popcorn bunching on the top and just left that to the bottom portion of the dress; that way the top could have been nothing but the braided pieces, but I still love this look.

Mitchell: This is another one I love in spite of myself. I fully recognize I might be in the minority here, but I freakin love Purple Team. This look sparkles and shimmers in a way that could cause a seizure, but I really love it. The shimmering purple matched with the iridescent CD pieces, coupled with the open back, and the jagged edges of the whole thing is just beautiful to me. I may be the only one, but Purple Team are the winners of the night to me.

In the end, Heidi compliments Sean and Fade before telling Angela that her horrid POS kept her team away from the top spot. So instead, Silver Team is in the top and Red Team is in the bottom. This marks the second week in a row where I think the selection of the bottom makes perfect sense but the top looks are just baffling. I honestly don't know what the judges are seeing this season. If you want to tell me that Angela keeps her team from winning, I'm ok with that because her look really is pathetic, but I have a hard time thinking that the next best team out there is Silver.

But whatever, the judges praise Silver's cohesion and their use of color, and condemn Red for producing the same dress over and over again. Carrie tries her best to defend them by way of pointing out what they were doing before they decided to listen to Tim's advice, but as Zac correctly points out, that's pointless since they aren't being judged on what could have walked down the runway. When asked who should go home, it's clear that both Hernan and Carrie think it should be Sandy, and to their credit it should be Sandy. Everyone points out that her dress is the worst of the three. But Sandy has immunity, so her name really isn't on the table here. Which brings up the point that had the judges been smart last week and chosen a look that actually did deserve to win, the outcome of this week would have been more understandable and satisfying. But in a moment of brain damage they picked Sandy to win last week and as a result Carrie is sent home this week. She storms off in a well deserved furry, I thought, and isn't shy about letting Sandy have it when she gets back to the green room before Tim comes back and sends her to clean out her space. Oh yeah, and Amanda wins for some reason.

In the end, I'm left feeling a little torn. On the one hand, this is exactly the kind of episode I expect from PR at this point. It was paced well, the challenge was interesting and just difficult enough to keep the designers on their toes, and even if I didn't really appreciate the subject matter of the interview segments during the workroom section, I at least understand the need to allow us to get to know these designers a bit better, and I certainly think they did a better job of that this week than they did last week. But on the other hand, this judging just feels really really off. I agree with Carrie that she didn't deserve to go home. Sadly, the rules of the challenge were what they were which kind of tied everyone hands. But it's those rules that I think I have a problem with. Is this really the stage in the competition to keep the judging along these group lines? I agree that we should have been looking for cohesion, but I would have much rather had them choose three top and bottom looks irrespective of teams and grant a win and loss to the person that deserved it. If that had been done, I'm guessing we could have spoken to Sean, Fade and Angela and rightfully sent Angela home while still (maybe) giving Fade or Sean a well deserved win. And maybe given Sandy a typical warning that they'd honestly love to send her home but can't because of her immunity. But if we've learned anything from Zac, it's that we have to engage with what we were given and not what we wanted to see.

Stray Observations:

--First off, next week Thursday is my birthday and I'm going to be super busy on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. I can write the review Saturday morning or so if you guys don't mind waiting. But if that's too late, then someone else might want to take up the task of the write up. I should be good to go with the write ups again the following week. Julius, let me know what you want and we can go from there.

--I honestly didn't want to say anything because I really do think the Tim Gunn reaction shot speaks for us all, but Angela's dress looks like a child glued paper strips to a dress from. It really was just pathetic.

--Say what you will about Mitchell, but he was really great this episode with the comforting others thing. He was there with a hug for Sandy after her pointless freak out, and also had words of comfort for Angela after Heidi called her out in front of everyone. I don't find his typical Too Gay to Function personality appealing, but he honestly does seem like a really nice guy.

--The moment when Sandy was about to cry on the runway and Zac just overtly stopped her is my favorite moment of the night.

--Speaking of the lovely and adorable Zac Posen, just how much do you think it'd cost me to get him and Sean to make a sex tape together?

--I noticed that Amanda's look was one that I found myself hating more and more as the judges praised it. I felt the same way about Sandy's look last week, so there's that I guess.

--There's a part of me that's wondering how much of Sandy's mini break down might have been about cultural differences. I don't feel like I know these guys well enough to say this, and thusly it sounds a little stereotypical in my head, but maybe Sandy's just not used to dealing with someone a little more forceful, outspoken, and fiery as Hernan? So what she takes as being bullied and disrespected is really just him expressing his point in more typically Latin fashion? I think the argument for that could be made, but I don't know that I want to be the one to make it.

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