Friday, September 26, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E10: "Muse on the Street"

Runaways, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't giddy at this week's episode. Not simply because of the challenge, or the execution of the challenge, or correctly predicting who'd be leaving us this week (though feel free too congratulate me on getting that one right, because I'm awesome!), but specifically because this is yet another really good episode in a string of really good episodes of a show that I think we all doubted being capable of even turning out really good episodes anymore. The fact is Project Runway has hit a stride where it seems like it can do no wrong and we're in a mad race to the finish and it looks like it'll actually be a really good worthwhile finish.

In keeping with the race to the finish aspect of this week, guess what all the designers are talking about as they wake up in the morning? Fashion Week! And how it's so close they can touch it. And how horrible it would be to go home now and be so close but not make it. The boys are also talking about how it's time for them to get Alexander a win already. I'm trying not to chuckle, but we'll revisit that possibility later on.

Tim is in the workroom with a rep from Mary Kay because it's time for an hour and a half of Mary Kay product placement. This week, the designers are charged with going out into the ever-friendly streets of New York City, which we all know are just full of kind and accommodating people who love nothing more than being accosted by strangers while they're trying to enjoy an afternoon in the park. The designers are then expected to inform these kind and loving people that they are in need of a serious, professional makeover. Because what might enhance your quiet afternoon in the park like being confronted by a total stranger and a TV film crew while that stranger tells you you're a hideous schulb who needs to slather on a hundred pounds of Mary Kay products and get your hair cut while a reality TV contestant designs you a way better outfit than the piece of shit you chose to go out in public wearing? Now get into this van with blacked out windows and come with me. Don't worry, I've got candy!

I think I both loved and hated this twist to the typical Real Women challenge. I think asking the designers to go out and find their own real women adds a great TV drama element to the episode. Will they find someone? What if everyone says no? Who do they pick and how do they go about making their selections? On the other hand, it makes this feel a bit less like a solid makeover challenge. The designers seem to be targeting women they would like to design for anyway and not women who seriously need makeovers. Where are all the homeless people in Central Park when you need them, amirite? Sean even goes so far as to tell one woman who may have been interested that he's looking for someone taller. To which my jaw dropped and I had an honest moment of saying, "What the actual fuck, Sean?!" at my screen. It's the kind of thing I'd expect from a Korina or a Sandy, but certainly not from my baby faced Aussie honey. Luckily it might be the most offensive moment in the episode, and a "Real Women" challenge on Project Runway with only one offensive moment is something for the record book. 

Having found their muses, the designers are granted 2 days and $200 to make it work. With that kind of time and money, it seems like the kiss of death could come in fabric selection. So someone please explain to me Alexander and Amanda's fabric choices? Because I honestly don't get it. Char's muse says her favorite color is red, so Char goes all red, all the time. Char's fabric choice, and also her final design, all bring up the other thing I love about the Real Women challenges: How to make the client happy. Char hears "I like red. My husband is in a rock band" and nothing else. And the final product proves that she doesn't really know how to incorporate her design into what someone else wants. I'm looking at this challenge and the team challenge with Sandy as evidence of that.

But we get ahead of ourselves. The designers head back to the workroom where they design, and then their muses come in for a consultation. The truth is, I tend to tune out the hair and makeup portion of the show. Not that I don't love a good hair style and makeup design, but I just can't handle how that portion of the episode has become an extended commercial for name-brand hair and makeup products. So I pretty much tuned out for that section of the episode. 

One section of the episode I was all eyes and ears for, however, was Tim's visit. It's pretty standard really. He tells Sean that his look is the only one he can't see a signature from. He comments about the taste level of Char's shorts. I love his exchange with Emily about how he loves her look, but she makes mention of the fact that Tim always gives her positive feedback but the judges don't. Tim and the judges don't appear to be in agreement on Emily's aesthetic. Which is something I want to talk about later, so don't let me forget.  Tim also tells Alexander that his dress is hideous. So you know, just a regular visit to the....wait what? 

That's right, Runaways, Tim thinks Alexander's look is the biggest affront to all of mankind since Howard Stern's Fartman costume (click at your own risk. Link NSFW. You've been warned). He thinks it's hideous, ugly, the worst thing in project runway history. He thinks looking at it might cause seizures and uncontrollable projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea. Women over the age of 40 should not look directly at this dress and children under the age of 12 should be removed from the tri-county area due to risk of sterility. And he advises Alexander to change it all immediately. It's a Project Runway first. And here's the thing, I think he's right that the look is ugly, and he's right that it should be changed, but did he really need to go on and on about it for as long and in as exuberant terms as he did? I think Tim played it up for the cameras a bit there, and it really bugged me. It's the first annoyance from Tim Gunn of the episode, but it won't be the last. 

Alexander is clearly flustered by Tim's critique of his dress. or at least I think he is.... I assume he is given the things he says.... I'm going to be honest guys, just looking at his face, I really couldn't tell. He was either really bothered, or her was really high. Both of which would be perfectly reasonable reactions to the reaming he'd just received. I mean I don't even know how he was capable of sitting at the sewing machine after the way Tim just ripped him a new one, amirite? (Ok I really have to stop doing that.) This also isn't the first time we've seen Alexander scrap his look at the last minute and try something new. Last time, he came out with a kind of burlap sack look... He can't do something that horrible again, right?

Tim tells everyone they have til 10pm to fix it and a kind of relief seems to wash over the workroom which suggests he made his visit early on the second day. So at the very least Alexander has time to make it work; he's just faced with having one day where everyone else had two. And the editing of his day actually makes it seem like he'd going to pull out a serious turn around and a make it work moment for the history books. We'll certainly see if that's the case.

There's a lot of bitching during the confessionals by the designers about the other designers as everyone's getting ready for the runway the next day. This isn't really ever my favorite thing. If I cared about what the designers thought about their competition....wait, why would I care about that? Of course they all hate each other's aesthetics, it wouldn't be a competition if they didn't. So let's just head off to the runway already and get down to...oh wait look, Char's fat ass model just totally used the powers of her huge King Kong style backside to bust the zipper on her short shorts. How dare she! Or at least if you listen to Char's constant refrain of "You just broke the zipper," that's what it seemed like. It's not at all possible that Char did a shitty job sewing the outfit and that's why the zipper broke, right? This is, in my opinion, the second moment of offensiveness in the episode. It might be a bit subjective, but I found the rhetoric used by Char and the placement of the blame to be highly problematic and offensive. 

As a result, she of course goes to run and find Tim to see what she can do to stop from having to send an exposed and traumatized woman down the runway. Tim's answer? Let's put all of the designers on the spot and ask them if they'd mind giving her more time to sew on a new zipper and close up the shorts. I've never said this before (I don't think), but fuck you Tim Gunn! I will say that I like his point that had they been using their regular models, he would have just said suck it up and let's go, but he's trying to preserve the modesty of the guests, but I still say fuck that. Tie a piece of fabric around her waist and let's go! Of course the designers are going to say yes to allowing her to have more time, and if you look at everyone's faces when Tim asks, I think it's pretty obvious everyone is just waiting for the one person who'll be brave enough to say "Hell no she can't have more time!" but no one stands up and says it. Where's Sandy when she'd actually be useful? Where's bitch Korina, who's spent the entire episode being bitchy behind people's backs, when she has the moment to stand up and just be a bitch in front of everyone? What the hell is this? 

Either way, Char gets more time to sew on a new zipper, and the other designers get some time to sit around and bitch about how unfair it is. They do so from the safety of the green room, while neither Char nor Tim are in the room. Cowards! Meanwhile, the judges are equally flustered by the fact that the runway show hasn't started yet. The exchange between Heidi and Tim that goes something like "Why were you guys late?" and "I don't want to tell you now, just move it along, Klum" was pretty priceless, though. It almost makes it all worth it, but not quite. 

The Runway:

Emily: I don’t think it’s a realistic wear look. It looks very runway ready in a lot of ways. But I love it nevertheless. She looks happy with it, she’s sexy in it, and I certainly think it’s the kind of thing Emily could be happy going home in if it came to that. It might not be the heart of the challenge, but I think it’s beautiful nonetheless.

Amanda:  I hate it. I hate it so much I can’t think straight. The hemline is hideous and too short, there’s an odd cut to the front that makes it look like she’s got a baby bump or something, and I hate the pattern. The vest jacket isn’t horrible and I think it adds an interesting dimension to the outfit, but I hate everything else.

Alexander: Is that underboob I’m seeing? Whatever, it’s cute and boring. It’s not a hideous burlap sack, thank God, but it’s not expansive either. It clearly was something he threw together in one day. But I do think it’s cute and I think his model really likes it, so points for that. And it’s way better than his first look.

Char: I hate it. I hate the color and the uniformity of the color. I hate the cut of it. I hate the shorts, I hate the little cut out in the back, I hate that it reminds me way too much of Sandy’s look from last week, I hate it all.

Kini: For all the talk of it just being another simple denim dress, I think it’s fabulous. I think the jacket really makes the look though. Without it, it would be a fairly simple and boring denim dress, but the jacket kicks everything up a notch. I love it.

Sean: This girl looks like she needs to be on a stage! My God I love everything about this. On the one hand, it’s a simple black dress, but on the other hand, it’s just so breath taking. The fringe along the hemline and the slit is just perfection, the sheer top is gorgeous, and the open back is to die for. She should wear that everywhere!

Korina: Newsflash: Korina really knows how to make leather jackets, man! I mean she’s really good at it. I know no one knew that before because we’ve just NEVER seen her do it, and this was such a test for her charting these new and exciting waters, but she just really knocked it out huh, guys? OK, snark aside, I like it. I love that Royal blue color. The skirt I didn’t like at first, but the more I saw it move the more I liked it. But yeah, we get it Korina, your one trick is a good one. Move on.

Here's the thing: technically, Emily, Kini, and Korina are in the top, and Char, Alexander and Amanda are in the bottom, right? But after listening to the judging, it sounds a lot more like Kini and Korina are in the top, Alexander and Char are in the bottom, and Emily and Amanda are in the middle. I don't know, it was weird.

The judges point out that Alexander's look is boring. Nina also makes a very interesting observation that the crop top is a very summer look but he's paired it with a very wintery fabric. It all goes back to the issue we saw from his potato sack dress from earlier this season: when he has to rush to pull something out in the last minute, it's going to be simple and boring. This kid (and I say that because I often forget he's only 22) has a lot of talent and potential, but he needs time to let that out and to let it breathe. It feels a bit like he was ultimately done in by the constant time restraints of the show.

Meanwhile, the judges comment on the taste level of Char's look. "It can be provocative and appropriate at the same time," one of them points out, and I couldn't agree more. Sexy and edgy do not have to be mutually exclusive with tasteful. The judges are split on Emily's look. Some of them like the ruffles around the neck, some of them don't. Some of them think it's a bit costume-y (which is what Sean said they would say), and then Zac likes that element of it. For what it's worth, I really don't see a costume when I look at Emily's dress, I see something that's more Runway than sidewalk, to be sure, but there's something to be said for that. And her model looks and feels amazing in it. I really think she sold the look. When she was asked where she would ever wear that and she had a ready made answer, I was shocked and pleased. 

Korina wins, giving her her second win and making it more and more obvious that this is really just between her, Sean, Kini, and Amanda at this point (IE the only contestants left with any wins at all, all of whom have multiples). Alexander has an expression. I mean, he goes home, which finally gives him an expression. No I joke, but I really did find the shot of him crying in the green room as Tim came in to be the most adorable and affecting thing ever. A lot of the times when contestants leave and they cry, I shrug it off and tell them to hurry up and clean out their space. But with Alexander I got the impression that he was honestly a good guy, and he was honestly pleased with having been here and having been granted this opportunity. I think there's also the element of him being annoyed with Char's extra time in the workroom. He points out that had she not been granted that amount of time, he wouldn't have gone home. And I agree with him, but I also think if you'd said something when Tim asked if she could have more time instead of just standing there with that typically Alexander look on your face, then she wouldn't have had it and you wouldn't have gone home, buddy. It's a moot point now. Goodbye, Alexander; you and your perfect deadpan will be missed. 

Keepin' it Real Thoughts:

--Ok I wanted to come back to the disconnect between the way Tim views Emily's work and the way the judges do. This makes me think that Emily would have been the perfect candidate for the Tim Gunn save had the opportunity arose where she needed it. But here's the thing: she hasn't been in the bottom or sent home yet. So clearly the judges felt her worthy enough to make it to this point? Also, hypothetically speaking, had Tim not used the save on Char, and had Emily been sent home like last week and had Tim then saved her, would it be a problem that Tim was using the save this late in the competition? I know it's a lot of twisty hypotheticals that don't matter, but I think the question of how long is too long to hold onto the save is an interesting one too. Also this is just how my overactive brain works, so sorry to subject you to that. 

--I know no one was ever going to stand up and say "No" to Tim's request for Char to have more time, so my comments about Alexander's dead look causing him to be out was tongue in cheek, but I do also think everyone has to own some portion of the blame here. It was wrong for Tim to put everyone in that position, but it was also wrong for no one to stand up and voice their problems with it only to turn around and voice their problems about it and have someone else go home in her place. 

--Sean's the only safe designer this week, and I don't know about that. I think his look was worthy of being safe, but I also think that I would have liked to spend more time with his model who clearly loved and was perfectly at home in that dress. I would have liked to hear from him more, and I think the judges would have been less divided over him than they were over Emily. 

--Nina's disclaimer about their critiques not being about the women themselves was just great. IDK if they do that for every Real Women challenge, but I certainly think it's the first time I've ever heard one of the judges say that. It makes me feel like they've finally figured out how to do these challenges with the very minimum of offense being offered. 

--I love how Tim was trying to rush the models away before Heidi stopped him and was like "Wait, you still haven't told us why you were late!" and put him on the spot. HAHA take that, Timmy! 

--Lastely, the Fall TV season is upon us this week. What are you guys watching this year? If I may make a suggestion, last night's How to Get Away with Murder was really quite amazing. If you didn't watch it, I'd strongly suggest you check it out. I can't recall the last time I saw such a surefooted pilot.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E9: "American Girl Doll"

When you watch Reality TV, you should inevitably grow to like or hate some of the contestants. It's down to the editing, to who they are as people, to how talented they are or aren't, and any number of other nebulous factors. I think this can bring out the best and worst in us as people, which is the point. It's the same way those of us who are sports fans engage with sports. You develop attachments to teams and a deep passionate hatred of other teams; generally teams that tend to beat your team. All of that is just my long drawn out way of saying that Sandy going home this week made me indecently happy. I almost feel bad about this fact, but not quite. And if that makes me a bad person (and I fully recognize that it does), then oh well.

Before we get into the episode, allow me to say that Sandy is by no means the worst person we've seen on Project Runway. After all of the anger and yelling we had last season, I actually welcome her particular brand of annoyance. I found the way I hated her to be rather soothing to be honest. But with that being said, I still hated her. And after 9 episodes, I finally put my finger on the main reason why: It isn't just about the fact that I don't like her aesthetic and don't think she deserved the wins the judges gave her early on, it's mostly that I find her to be ridiculously entitled in a fashion that I will always find problematic. Specific examples to follow, but first let's get down to business.

This week, the designers are taken to an American Girl Doll store where they all fall into panic attacks over how creepy dolls are. Or maybe that was just me... But dolls are freaking creepy. And the fact that these dolls (which I had never even heard about prior to this challenge) all have elaborate and often depressing back stories didn't help my unease at all. I was just waiting to hear about the little Native American doll who had to watch her mother be brutalized by the White Man and who's father died of small pox. But the creepy surrogate children only serve as inspiration for the real challenge which is to design a modern look for a real live girl. And I like that because my favorite PR challenges always are Real Women, or Menswear, or just something that isn't about standard "design something for your model to wear" challenges, and "design for kids" is right up that alley.

The designers are also randomly assigned dolls (inspiration) and children (models) this week, which is great since it eliminates the possible sadness of a kid being left out. I think that that's the hardest part of any of their real women challenges: Schoolyard pick just isn't the way to go for these types of things, and I'm happy to think that after 13 seasons, the producers have finally learned that.

After a little chat, some background on their doll's depressing stories, and getting their new models' measurements, it's off to Mood. This is where we get the first glimpse of Sandy's overblown sense of entitlement. Korina is getting fabric cut by one of the peasants that work at Mood when Sandy walks up and puts in her own fabric order. Korina points out that she was in the middle of telling the young lady what she wanted to get cut and Sandy just shrugs it off with an "I know, I just want to tell her what I want and go off to get more things" kind of reasoning. I find this problematic on multiple levels. First off, you don't interrupt someone else. Sandy could have just as easily taken her fabric with her and come back to have it cut at a moment when no one was busy engaging the young lady in her services. She could have gotten in line behind Korina, or anything other than jump ahead of her. I'm also bothered by the manner in which her actions reduce this employee to nothing more than a servant who has to take her order and have it done by the time she returns. It's a part of the lady's job, but anyone who's worked retail knows that that can feel dehumanizing in a lot of ways. And all of it speaks to Sandy's general sense of "What I want or feel as though I deserve is paramount." She says something in a confessional about Korina just never liking her from the start, and I'm left thinking that that might have something to do with the fact that she's a selfish and entitled little brat. But who knows.

Back in the workroom, everyone gets to work, and Kini is of course super fast with everything. If/when he makes it to the finale, I'm assuming he'll be one of those annoying designers who has his entire collection finished before Tim shows up for his visit. Tim pops in and starts dishing advice like its no one's business. He tells Sean that he likes his look but he should probably kill the idea for the fringe on the back of the vest. Sean heeds his advice. He also tells Char he's not a fan of the fringe on her dress. Char doesn't listen. Project Runway history tells us that the contestant who listens to Tim is safe or in the top 3 and the contestant who doesn't is in the bottom. So we'll get back to that.

Tim also tells Sandy what we've all been thinking for weeks and weeks now: He doesn't understand her aesthetic and doesn't understand why the judges like it so damn much. Sandy, with a blank look on her face that might rival Alexander's, basically shrugs it off as nonsense and keeps doing what she wants because she believes in herself. And when you believe in yourself, no one else's opinion matters, right guys? .....Guys?.....

I also want to take the time out to mention that Tim tells Korina he thinks her look might be a bit too grown up and Korina responds with a kind of "But you know how kids are these days, Tim!" statement. I found this hilarious because earlier in the episode she admitted she wouldn't know the difference between a 5 year old and a 15 year old. So clearly she's grown a lot in her understanding of children over the course of a few hours. Good on you, Korina.

The day ends and everyone goes to bed. The producers do a lot of fancy cutting here. A lot of the designers appear to be talking smack about Sandy and her response to the critique she got from Tim. Meanwhile, in her own room with Emily, Sandy is having a breakdown about how mean people are to her. But here's the thing, if anyone had been mean to her during this challenge, I didn't see it. Did I miss it? Did the producers edit it out? Or is it just another false freakout by Sandy? The second of the season I might remind you. I'm inclined to believe the latter. The designers don't like Sandy, that much is certainly obvious in a number of ways, but I don't think anyone in the workroom is actively mean to her. And while she's freaking out, she mentions over and over again how much she feels like the designers don't give her the respect and kindness she "deserves." So again we go back to this point about her somehow feeling entitled to some ridiculous level of respect and going to pieces when she feels like she isn't getting it. I'm over it. When someone yells at you and insults your mama, then you can cry and be a baby on screen. You can't go to pieces because a designer pointed out that it's rude of you to try and jump in front of her in line at Mood.

Next day! After waking up feeling reset and back to herself (not sure that's a good thing, but whatever), Sandy and everyone else head back to the workroom. Sean decides that what's missing from his look is a peace sign on the back and he quickly adds one...kind of. It's a peace sign that's missing one of the little legs on the bottom. But I'll give him a pass because he's handsome. You don't have to be smart, honey, just pretty.

Off to the runway. Elizabeth Moss is guest judging and since I want to be Peggy Olsen when I grow up, that makes me so happy! She's cute as a button! And smart! And she actually isn't afraid to give a less than positive critique which I always love in a guest judge.

Korina: Cute if a little boring. It’s a kid’s dress so I don’t want to be too critical, but I do think the silhouette is a little simple and boring. But I appreciate the amount of work I know went into it, so I give it a thumbs up.

Sean: This is way more boring than Korina’s. I think it’s well constructed, but wow, I’m falling asleep over here. I expect more from him.

Amanda: Ok here’s the deal, the textile on the dress hurts my eyes a little bit, but I do agree with her that the dress and the jacket match perfectly and I think this is really cute. I love it in spite of myself.

Alexander: I like it more than I expected. I don’t think there’s much Design to it, but I feel that way about much of what we’re seeing today. I like his prints together, and I think it’s cute.

Char: This is the look, so far, that I think has the most “Design” to it. And I like it for that reason. I also think there’s something about it that reads as being a little costumey, but that’s just me.

Sandy: Ugliest thing we’ve ever seen on the runway? Because that’s what I’m going with. That was just a no. God I hate it so much!

Kini: His point that the dress looks like an American Girl dress is spot on. It’s what I like the most about it. It’s well made and designed to be sure. It might be too “grown up” but I honestly didn’t have a problem with that. I like it a lot. 

Emily: I think I want to like this more than I actually do. I like her aesthetic a lot, and I love the dress, but the crocheted top looks off to me. It looks backwards for some reason, and the two pieces don't really appear to go together. 

 Korina, Kini, and Char are in the top; Sandy, Sean, and Emily are in the bottom. So Sean followed Tim's advice and found himself in the bottom while Char did her own thing and was finally in the top. I'm just going to leave that observation there for you guys. As expected, the judging skews a lot towards how fun and youthful the looks are or aren't. One thing I really loved about the judging this week, aside from the fact that I actually agreed with all of it, was when the judges got to Korina; you could really tell that she put a lot of thought into the dress. The peaks of yellow under the squares, and why it was yellow and why she put it there was really ingenious when you hear her explain it. Also, someone, I think it was Zac, points out that Char's dress is a costume that translates into real life very well. Like it could be worn in the same spirit as the kid who wears a superman cape to school, and I agree with that fully. 

A lot of people point out that Sandy's look isn't age appropriate at all, and she says over and over again that she hears them but doesn't agree. Here's the thing, I think there's a fine line between not taking criticism well and believing in your design. I don't know where that line is, but I feel like Sandy crossed over it this go around. I don't know if that isn't just because I hate her, but either way I left this critique feeling like she simply wasn't willing to admit that a viewpoint other than her's is capable of also being valid. I think this also has to do with her response to Tim's critique and her statements last week about not wanting to be compared to another designer. As established in the comments of the last recap, I didn't hear those comments when they were made in the last episode, so I'd love to hear how some of you guys felt about Sandy's responses in this week's episode when viewed through the lens of her comments last week. 

Kini gets his second win, and this time its a win that can be free of the stigma of having to share it with anyone else, so good on him. He's also inducted into the double win club, which might not mean much this season as Korina's the only designer with only one win. This brings up something I was thinking about a few days ago: over the course of 9 episodes, we've only had 5 different designers pick up wins. I haven't complained about the judging lately because I do feel like it's finally evened out to the point we were expecting earlier on in the season. But do we feel like the lack of distribution of the wins this season is due to bad judging or due to a lack of evenly distributed talent? While I can admit that I don't think Amanda or Sandy deserved either of the wins they got, I also don't think any of the designers who've gone home thus far deserved wins either. Maybe Fade, but I'd have to go back and look at all of his designs to be sure. And as we get closer to the end, the gulf between the designers talent wise seems to be growing. At this point, I think we can all recognize that Char, Alexander, and Emily are just hanging around and waiting to be sent packing. And none of those eliminations will feel shocking when they come. My point being, maybe it's time to look back and re-categorize our opinions on those early episodes? Maybe the judges weren't trolling so much as seeing something the rest of us were just missing until now?  I don't have the answers to that one, but in the mean time I'll just be happy that my least favorite designer has been sent packing. Smooth sailing from here on out, guys. 

Thought Facsimiles:

--At some point during Tim's visit to the workroom, Alexander gives us another blank deer in the headlights look. Never change, Alexander. Never change. 

--There was a lot of focus on Sean this episode that made me really worried he'd be going home. I was so ready to just have an entire writeup that read "Fuck this shit!" but luckily didn't have to resort to that. He reminds me a lot of my handsome British husband from last season: He's not really capable of being safe. He's either winning or he's in the bottom. So hopefully there's less being in the bottom from him going forward. 

--I think it was Char who said that there weren't many curves on a child's body and that made designing for children difficult. I was left thinking, "As opposed to your full figured and curvacious models?"

--News Flash: Amanda, queen of fringe, loves Char’s fringe vest. Show of hands who’s surprised by that?

--Has anyone seen our erstwhile leader around lately? Julius, where are ya, buddy?  I don't have a problem writing up every week (really I'm having the time of my life and not at all interested in giving up the task), but I certainly miss you in the comments.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Project Runway: S13 E8: "The Rainway"

Ok, I have to start by apologizing for the lateness of getting this up for you guys. I came to work on Friday trying to remember what I had to watch that day and I couldn't remember to save my life. And then I went away for an amazing weekend to a beach house that didn't have internet, so I couldn't watch the episode until this morning. So for my horrible forgetfulness, I apologize.

Secondly, I watched this episode on Hulu, so I got the shortened hour long version instead of the longer version I'm used to. I loved the episode, so we'll get to that soon, but first I have a serious bone to pick with Project Runway editors: I honestly think they've forgotten how to create a good episode of reality TV in the course of one hour. I've lamented the show's poor use of it's extended run time a lot over the years. I've said many times that the show was better and less full of superfluous crap back when it was only an hour long. But here we are and the days of the show being only an hour are behind us so we have to make the best of what we've got. And yet, wait, there's an hour long version of each episode out there. The suggestion then is that maybe there's a better version of each episode available, right? Well no because the manner in which the editors seem to make the typically 90 minute episode last for 60 minutes it to rush through the best parts of the show. Tim's visit to the workroom flies by at a breakneck speed and I didn't see him talk to everyone. The judges critiques are so fast and empty that I honestly couldn't tell you what they really thought about each of the top and bottom looks beyond the most basic impressions. In the middle of the episode, in an effort to celebrate their first 2 day challenge, the designers head up to the roof to have drinks. What happened or didn't happen, what was said or unsaid, while up there? I have no clue because all I saw was the party train heading up to the roof with alcohol and then the episode cut back to the workroom. I haven't watched the longer version of the episode yet (and I may not do so, I can't decide), so it's possible that not much is different between the two versions. I'll need you guys to tell me what I missed due to editing in the comments. But the overall effect is the same: this episode felt breathless in a way I haven't felt Project Runway has been breathless in a long time, and I didn't like it. So it feels like there is no longer any great version of this show; either the longer episodes spend more time on useless filler (like the extended scene of Kini and Fade pimping out a fridge, which still somehow found its way into the shortened version of the episode), or the shorter episodes keep the filler and lose the heart of the best parts of the show. But allow me to say once and for all that if these are the two versions of the show I have to choose from, I'm throwing my lot in with the longer cut of the episodes, and I never thought the day would come when that would be said, but I think Project Runway has finally wore me down and broken me.

Ok, deep breath, shake it off, and let's move on because I honestly did think that this was an amazing episode in a lot of ways. First there's the Avant Garde challenge, which is another of my favorite PR staples. While I agree with most people that PR doesn't really know what Avant Garde means or looks like, I still love it when this challenge comes around because it's the perfect excuse for the designers to go big. I would also posit that Avant Garde for PR has been redefined to simply mean artistic and not necessarily wearable. So this is the one challenge a season where if I can't reasonably see a woman wanting to wear the looks on the runway, that's more than fine.

And this year's Avant Garde challenge is taking place on a "Rainway." I did a quick Google search for the term Rainway and for all I can see, Project Runway is the only place where it shows up, so I'm guessing this isn't a consistent thing in the fashion industry. But even if it isn't, I think it should be. The Rainway added an interesting element to the way the designers thought about what to make, and it added a fun element of drama to the runway itself, but we'll get to that. I also really agree with Amanda's point that the innovative runway style matches well to the Avant Garde nature of the challenge itself, but I would also say this could be an interesting element for the show to use on a regular challenge about making clothes for someone in like the Pacific Northwest where it's raining so often and fabric that holds up when it gets wet might be a bigger concern. Or even someone who lives here in Florida where it rains for a couple hours everyday in the summer and our daily rainstorms tend to look like the world is ending. Either way, I say thumbs up to this development.

As a result of the Rainway, the designers are left trying to figure out ways to either embrace or avoid the rain on the runway. Do you make a regular dress and cover it in a kind of raincoat? Do you make something waterproof? It's an Avant Garde challenge, so if there's ever a moment to take a big risk and hope it pays off, it's now.

I should also note that this challenge features the latest bit of PPP (Pointless Product Placement) in the form of Samsung's new TV which gives everyone a great seat and a great view of the screen because of something or other that I don't care about. So the final look is expected to be impressive from 360 degrees. This is as opposed to the other challenges where the designer's looks are only expected to look good from the front. This also doesn't take into consideration the fact that someone sitting behind the TV probably doesn't have a good view of the screen, so the TV itself isn't even perfect from 360 degrees, but I digress. The TV PPP leads a few of the designers to get inspired by the TV itself, which I don't think was actually the point. But I could be wrong.

So everyone's off to Mood where most of the designers run straight for the Vinyl and waterproof fabrics. Sandy seems to grab every bright primary colored fabric she can find, leaving Char to laugh over the presence of more Yellow and to wonder how this will turn out. She's clearly still not over Sandy's choice of the yellow fabric which led to her being out. The group heads back to the workroom with Tim reminds everyone not to step on Swatch who appears to have put on a few pounds, or is it just me? the design process, we spend a lot of time with Fade talking about how uninspired he is and the best he can come up with is playing off of the Play button on a remote control. Looking at the dress on the dress form, it was clear that nothing about what he was doing was going to fit in with the Avant Garde nature of the challenge, and I found his TV based inspiration to be suspect. Also inspired by TV is Sandy and she makes a jumper that's color blocked in a manner reminiscent of the end of the broadcast day. For anyway reading this or watching the episode who's too young to know what she's talking about, Sandy was inspired by this image. There's a part of me what want's to find that charming, but I don't know where that part of me is at the moment. I think he might have gone out for coffee or something because I look at this and I think, really? In the years and years of TV, this is what you choose to get inspired by? But again, I also don't think the TV element was meant to be an actual part of the challenge, so I find her inspiration stupid and I tend to think she didn't get the point of the challenge either. So there's that.

The award for inspiration and innovation clearly goes to Sean who has the brilliantly dangerous idea to sew powdered dye into his basic white dress so the color will run on the Rainway and create an experience and a fully unique textile. It'll either work and be brilliant, or it'll fail and maybe send him home. But it's the riskiest thing we see in the episode and maybe in the entire show's history, and you can't help but to root for him.

The second day in the workroom sees an interesting element of the two day challenge: Korina wakes up and realizes she hates everything about her design. She's doing something that's inspired by Thunderbirds and her sketch looks like little more than a Thunderbird costume. I love two day challenges for a lot of reasons, and this is one of them; when you only have one day, you don't necessarily have enough time to think yourself out of your original concept. But when you have a night to sleep on it and gain a new perspective, you can look at your design with new eyes the next morning and decide to change it. And you've still got a full day to make said changes unlike when someone tries to pull out something new after Tim's visit in a one day challenge. It's a fun way to add drama to an episode without having to force or manufacture it.

On to the Rainway because I simply cannot wait any longer!!!!

Char: I like this look. I love the little hat/veil thing, and I think the color is great. There’s something odd about the way the constructed sash portion of the look seems to separate away from the rest of the dress in the back, the movement of it looks odd and almost accidental to me. But other than that I like it.

Sandy: I don’t hate it. I think the swinging pinwheels on the front are the most interesting thing about it, but I don’t understand the “point” of it. She says she wants to capture the color block lines when the service goes dead on a TV, but what do the pinwheels have to do with that? Without the pinwheels, it’s a simple silhouette under a vinyl rain coat.

Emily: I like this one for a couple reasons. 1) It’s the first look we see that isn’t afraid to show some skin. There’s something about that to me that says she wasn’t shying away from the rain. You don’t have to be completely covered and your garment doesn’t have to be shielded, embrace the rain. 2) It’s really sleek and sexy in a way I find interesting. 3) Pockets! I’m curious about how those pockets didn’t just collect a little puddle of water in the bottom? Are they open so the rain slicks down her legs? Because that’s cool!

Alexander: It’s a rain coat with petals on it. No thank you!

Fade: It’s boring. I think the fabric holds together well in the rain, and that’s impressive, but nothing about this is innovative or avant garde, or really all that interesting. I like his model’s styling a lot, though I think if her hair were down instead of in the pigtails, it would have added a nice effect in the rain.

Korina: I neither like nor hate this. I think it’s just kind of there. The play on the light is interesting and fun, but that’s about it to me. It’s another look where I don’t see much of a “point” or an artistic perspective really.

Amanda: The best thing I can say about Amanda’s look is that if no one told me it was her's, I wouldn’t have known it. It looks very different from the other things she’s designed, and I appreciate that. But I’m not impressed with it. The fact that the “eyes” were falling off means she either underestimated the effect the rain would have on the fabric, or she didn’t finish the dress well enough to withstand it, which is problematic in a two day challenge.

Kini: I want to yell and scream and jump up and down about this look. Did he ever use the term umbrella when he was talking about it? Because I must have missed that if he did. And if he didn’t, that’s too bad because that’s exactly what it looks like. The protection offered by the hat, the way the dress looks like a closed umbrella. OMG I love it all!

Sean: OH MY FUCKING EVERLOVING MERCIFUL GOD! How crazy perfect was that? This was a risk that paid off in the best way possible. I kid you not, I gasped when I saw it start to change color. This literally took my breath away. I was thinking he’ll need his model to do more than just walk if the dye in the bottom is going to work, and that moment when she stopped and spun around and the rest of it ran! Oh man, this is just amazing. If I have a criticism, it’s that I’d like to have seen a different color than the yellow on the top. But that’s really it. Man I love it!

 Kini, Sean, and Sandy are in the top, Fade, Emily, and Korina are in the bottom. In his explanation of the dress, Kini does indeed say that he was thinking of Umbrellas when he designed it. I don't know if that word was used by him at any point prior to the runway because I didn't hear it in my episode. I either missed it, or it was edited out if it happened at all, but the fact that that intentionality came through even without having to be told is pretty prefect to be honest. I don't have much to say about the judging this week because I didn't get to see much of it. It all went by so fast that I couldn't latch onto much. I will say however that the judges don't seem to have much positive to say about Sandy's look, so she seems to be more safe than in the top, but it continues the seeming trend of one person making the top three simply to round out the numbers. If anything, this episode really does prove that this season is a battle between Sean and Kini and it's just a matter of time between everyone else gets weeded out. I'm wondering if there will be 3 or 4 people showing at NYFW this year? Because if it's only 3, my guess is that this model of 2 people in the top and one person just barely scraping in will be found in the final runway too. 

Along those lines, Kini and Sean both win this challenge. The elimination of immunity gives the judges the ability to give the double win. But it's Sean's third win and Kini's first, and I can't help but to wonder if Kini finally winning isn't cheapened a bit by the fact that he has to share that win with Sean? Sean is brilliant, and Nina's point about loving the way his brain works is spot on, but is he really so much better than Kini that he's deserved 3 wins to Kini's 1? Keeping in mind that even Sandy and Amanda have each won at least twice. I'm not sure about the answer to that, but what I do know is that both Sean and Kini deserved to win this week because they were both amazing. 

Fade goes home, and I'm sad because I love him, but I'm not capable of disagreeing with that decision. I think the other point proven by this episode is that the judges just don't like Fade and Emily's aesthetics as much as I do. But Fade going home here brings us back to the issue of the Tim Gunn Save. Char has been safe on each challenge since she was brought back (and rightfully so), and Fade is one of the designers we mentioned in comments would have been more worth the save. But would/should Tim have used it here? The look Fade sends down the runway is not at all in keeping with the intention of the challenge, nor is it very impressive in its own right. But I do like his aesthetic more than Char's. It's a moot point because the Save is off the table, but it's something to think about. Also interesting to think about: this is the second episode in a row that's felt, at least to me, like classic Project Runway. I realize I might be wrong about that as I didn't see the longer version I'm guessing some of you guys saw, so feel free to disagree with me in the comments, but I think I might officially be ready to say that Project Runway is back. In as far as this show is capable of being back with its continued formatting problems.

Rain Washed Thoughts:

--Barring a huge misstep by either of them, I think the writing is on the wall that Sean and Kini are going all the way this year. Which designer(s) do you think will join them? 

--Has anyone else noticed Alexander's almost constant look of comic befuddlement? It's most noticeable on the Runway when each of his reaction shots are more like non-reaction shots. I swear it looks like no one's home in that boy's head most of the time. 

--The main elements of the shortened episode, I think, have to come from Tim's visit and the judging. So my question to anyone who watched the longer episode is did Tim meet with each of the designers? And also did each of the judges get a chance to say something about each of the top and bottom looks? Because the only looks I heard each judge check in with were Sean, Kini, and Korina's. 

--Speaking of which, Zac's increased silliness this season is starting to bug me. His pantomime of rain dancing and of boxing with Heidi were just too much for me, and not very charming. 

--One other concern I have for Sean's look is that I didn't care for the finished product. I think the majority of the appeal of this look was the entertainment factor as it walked down the rainway. When I saw it standing next to him when all was said and done, I couldn't help but to think the finished product wasn't very pretty. But that's to take nothing away from the pleasure of watching it walk down the rainway and the level of how impressed I am with him that he even though to do what he did.

--When I say that Sean gets the award for most innovative, I feel the need to point out that Kini gets the award for best construction. So it'll be interesting to see how this plays out in their collections at the end.