Friday, September 25, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E8 "Broadway or Bust"

K.I.S.S. Keep it Simple, Stupid! This is my current advice for Project Runway's 14th season. I'm realizing more and more as these episodes go on and pass us by that the best have also been the simplest. There's nothing special or remarkable about this episode, there's no great twist, no heart stopping drama, no forced conflict or moment of catharsis, it's not even the best challenge idea ever, but it feels like one of the better episodes we've had in awhile. Looking back at some of the better episodes this season, I think I've mentioned more often than not that the episodes themselves were simple. So clearly that's the key to PR's success.

This week everyone wakes up, Lindsey is sad about being in the bottom so much (great sign for her), and Swapnil, after some deep contemplation on the smoking habit none of us even knew he had, has decided to do more working than smoking going forward. And if you guessed that that would be the end of that particular storyline, you were right. We get one more mention of the fact that he hasn't taken a single smoke break while everyone's working and no more is said on the subject. I want to chastise the editors on this, but the truth is I'm too tired to care anymore. Run with whatever pointless story you want on a week to week basis, it doesn't matter.

Afterward, the group is treated to a free showing of Finding Neverland on Broadway. This is one of those things that PR does from time to time to make me horribly jealous that I'm not in New York. Seeing the curtain come up on Melanie (who was a winner of So You Think You Can Dance a couple years back and whom I love oh so much!) made me wish I could be there watching that show. The contestants enjoy it, some of them cry for various reasons, and everyone seems to walk away with some sort of inspiration for the challenge to come.

It's off to Mood the next morning where everyone has a budget of $250. Let that sink in for a bit. After avoiding Mood on EVERY challenge thus far except one, they head to the store with only eight contestants left and give everyone $250. If you aren't with me in assuming that they've been being thrifty all season just to make sure that a few people were granted these huge sums of money for their shopping trips, then I have to imagine we're watching different shows.

The fun part about the Mood trip is that it gives us the chance to hear what most of the designers have taken from the play as their inspiration. While I neither love nor hate the "Do anything you want" aspect of this challenge, watching creative people be inspired by things and then explain the source of that inspiration is something I enjoy very much. Whether it's Edmond's "Dreams" inspiration, Laurie talking about childhood, or Candice's amazing story about her drug addict parents and finding the darkness within one's self and coming to terms with it, I think it's all fascinating. And as I listened to everyone talking about what they were inspired by, I couldn't wait to see the looks they'd create based on that inspiration.

Back in the workroom, everyone's jazzed up from the musical and singing and having a good time until Tim, playing the part of Nurse Ratchet apparently, comes in to remind them that we're down to the top eight and one of them is about to be sent packing and there's no time for laughter and fun and merriment around these parts. I've made no attempts to hide how weird I find Tim this season and this is another moment that strikes a discordant note for me. On the one hand, sure, this is a competition and we've pretty much done about all the chaff from the wheat separating that we can and it's time for the cream of the crop to start being culled too. (How many metaphors did I cram into that sentence? I lost count) But on the other hand, isn't there something to be said for the idea behind "Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you might die?"

Everyone's mollified by his pronouncements and gets right to work. By the time Tim comes back for his real visit, a lot of work seems to have transpired. He's more helpful than not, which is always a pleasant surprise this year, and at least let's Swapnil have it for not giving 100% thus far and being in the top but not winning yet. It needed to be said and frankly I'm surprised it took him this long to say it. To his credit, Swapnil hears him and seems to take it all in stride. Laurie on the other hand seems to hear Tim's critique and decide to double down as if she knows best and her look will all come together in the end. We'll see how that works out. He gives a few words of encouragement to Merline and some very sound advice about her hemline to Ashley and he's off.

And that's really about it for this section of the episode. There's nothing new, important, or special that happens that needs to be talked about at all. It's all so simple and straight forward that there's really nothing to latch onto, and as I said before, that's honestly a good thing. One point I would like to make is just how done most everyone seems to be by the end of the day. Even by the next morning when Tim comes it with his usual "day of" statements, he remarks that no one's really frantically trying to finish anything. Lindsey and Ashley seem to be the only people left behind, but both of them challenged themselves with difficult and heretofore unattempted design elements to their looks. It's fun seeing how the last few people who are left have adapted the best to the limited time constraints.

The Runway:

Swapnil: This is beautiful, but if no one mentions that the two puckers of fabric on the top look like vaginas, it’ll be a seriously missed opportunity. The movement of the skirt is nice, and the play on hard and soft works here. I like it. 

Ashley: Let’s ignore the hemline shall we? The rest is nice but not at all great. The fit of the top is odd, but I can’t help but to wonder if that wasn’t purposeful? Or maybe it’s just the fabric she’s working with. I know she mentioned having fit problems during the first model fitting, but presumably she fixed that? Instead it looks stiff and kind of like a plate of armor with no real breast support to it. The color is great and I love the fabric she chose, but I think she bit off a little more than she could chew. 

Candice: OK I guess. The corset lace in the back is great! What I don’t like about it is it looks like it would be hard to wear. The off the shoulder aspect of it looks weird, plus the oversized aspect of it all makes it look heavy and like it’s going to fall down at any moment. I like it, I like it a lot really, but I can’t bring myself to love it. 

Kelly: I love it! Kelly is certainly starting to come up from behind a lot more than I expected. While I understand why she made the skirt short underneath, I will say that I’d like it more if it were a little bit longer. Honestly, I’d like it a lot more if it were a full dress, but excepting that, maybe one more inch would make me happier, but that’s just a personal thing. I don’t think it detracts from the overall look in the end. 

Laurie: Dear God no!

Merline: Why does the bust line look weird? It’s an odd shape and feels like it comes up too high, maybe? I don’t know, but that looks weird to me. The rest of the look I like a lot. I think the structured elements of the shoulders are great, and there’s something wonderful about the sleeves. It’s like she got the effect of gloves without having to create gloves and I love it. 

Lindsey: The bib nature of the top is seriously the worst thing I’ve ever seen. How could she mess up the top so much? I don’t understand. The rest of the dress is nice, and she could have made just a basic kind of top that showed off her model’s body more and been safe if not in the top, but then she did that? What the hell? Or maybe the rest of the dress is worst than I’m giving it credit for being because I can’t get over how horrible the top is. Yikes!

Edmond: It’s way better with the cloud vest still on. I think the two pieces underneath it leave a little something to be desired. I think it’s sexy and nice, but it doesn’t live up to the great promise of the vest. The pants are great and well made though.

It's Edmond, Candice, and Kelly on top and Ashley, Lindsey, and Laurie on bottom. Even though Heidi compliments everyone on the runway talking about how much she enjoyed this runway show, the judges don't have a lot of overwhelmingly positive things to say to anyone. They like but don't love Kelly's look. Heidi points out that it looks a bit like a negligee and that's exactly what I meant when I said the dress should be longer. A little more length would, I think, have eliminated that aspect of it all, but what do I know? They love Edmond's outfit but hate the purple vest. Or at least everyone hates it except Nina who doesn't seem to care one way or the other. I agree with Coco that the different pieces tell a different story and therefore don't quite go together, but my issue is that I much prefer the story of the vest to the story of the outfit underneath. The only person with a universally positive critique is Candice, so it's pretty obvious she'll get the win. 

They trash Ashley's poor construction while at least praising the idea behind it. They say Lindsey's look is all just a bit too much and needed either the wacky top or the wonky bottom but certainly not both. And Laurie they just throw under the bus completely. Heidi at least tries to stick up for some of the design ideas to Laurie's look, but that goes away as soon as she sees it up close and realizes that her model is pretty much naked. It's a serious screw up on Laurie's part on everything from the design to the construction to the fabric choice. It's not her best day, but there wasn't really any doubt that Lindsey would be going home before her. She's failed too many times not to be sent off here. 

It's almost sad that the ability to write such a simple and straight forward recap of such a simple and straight forward episode gives me as much pleasure as it does, but there you have it. This is what I'd like to see more of from this point until we reach the last two episodes; no muss, no fuss, just straight forward Project Runway. It's highly possible that we won't remember much about this season in the years to come. Without a big personality like we've seen in past seasons, there's very little to stick to your bones about this show. But they've cast a lot of simple and quiet contestants this season, and they've got to figure out a way to work with what they've got. In my opinion, this is it: when you've got a lot of simple and quiet contestants, put them in simple and quiet episodes, and let the work speak for itself. 

Loose Threads:

--So much talk about "Good designers are about to start going home now!" It made me think that everyone before now was just shit. Which they kind of were, but you don't have to say it so often. 

--We're down to the top seven after this week and still no Tim Gunn save. I thought the judges might send home Laurie in an attempt to force him to use it, but they made the right decision yet again. 

--How sexy did Zac look in that purple suit?

--How many seasons has it been since we've seen a men's wear challenge, and why are they so infrequent?

--I didn't get to see the preview for the next episode so this could be next week for all I know, but when do we think they'll do the Avant Garde Couture challenge, if at all? After seeing what Swapnil and Edmond are capable of, and knowing Candice's aesthetic and seeing how Kelly's coming up from behind, I think it would be a waste not to do it with these contestants that are left. 

--Poor Swapnil finally tried and didn't make it into the top for a change. I understand how it's discouraging, but still. After the reaming he got last time he should be happy to just be safe. 

--I only mentioned it quickly, but wow Kelly really is starting to make herself known out there. And now that Candice has her second win, I'm starting to think these two will be around longer than I originally gave them credit for. 

--Considering who all is left, honestly, I don't know what to expect. If I remember correctly, Laurie and Swapnil are the only two designers left without a win thus far, so they better pick it up if they hope to last much longer. But with this group being all that's left, and with the clear acknowledgement that at least three of them have to go before the finale, I can't imagine who Tim will use his save on. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E7 "Haute Tech Couture"

I said last week that I thought Project Runway was in the midst of a change or some kind of identity
crisis. This is mostly due to the odd choices they are making on a week to week basis. It's not that the show is bad, and at a certain point in time, I should probably stop pointing that out. It seems like I might be trying to convince myself of this truth more so than convince the rest of you, but I also think it's true. In the past, we've seen this show be really bad, and it looks very different from this when it is. The right people are still going home from week to week, and there's no Sandy here racking up unearned wins. The judging's been consistent, and the fact that they've locked in Zac and Nina on each week is for the better. But there's seriously something odd about the small things they're doing here, or is it just me?

For example: this week the designers wake up and find an old school boombox in their rooms with a cassette tape from Heidi featuring a recorded message. The message is basically congratulating them on figuring out how to work this ancient machine, and then dropping a cryptic hint about what their challenge is. Why? What purpose does this serve? What follows is a short moment of speculation from the designers about what their challenge might be, but then they all just leave and immediately head out to find out what their challenge is.

Allow me to digress here for a bit onto one of my very very favorite topics ever. In the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry and the other Champions in the Triwizard Tournament are given golden eggs which contain hints about their second task in the tournament. The champions are tasked with figuring out the clue, solving the riddle, and then creating a plan of attack for the next task. They have months to do so, and presumably the quicker you can figure out what the next challenge is, the more prepared and better served you'll be to tackle it. So in this case you can see how the early cryptic clue is meant to work: it challenges the Champions' mental faculties to figure out what it means in the first place, and then gives them time to come up with a plan of action. To get back onto the topic of Project Runway, when have we ever seen the cryptic message from Heidi prior to a challenge have that kind of effect? The contestants get it, and then moments later are told outright what their challenge is. So what's the point of it at all? At this point the show is just doing it because they've always done it, and that's not a reason to do anything.

So they all meet at the dump and Tim tells them they're going to use outdated technology from the dumpster to create a modern and fashionable look. It's simple and straight forward and everything before this moment was a waste of time. I know that PR doesn't think time is valuable, but I certainly think that my time is valuable, so maybe don't waste it?

Added into the odd, but maybe not detrimental, choices is that while everyone's running around to get their supplies, the producers decided it'd be cute to put up these odd and ugly 90s inspired flash words naming the outdated supplies they were rifling through. Words like "Floppy Disk!" and "Vinyl Records!" It's like the "Bam!" and "Pow!" flashes from an old Batman show, and it serves no purpose. Is it the worst thing ever? No. But what purpose does it serve other than being an ugly distraction?

The overall feeling of these last two episodes in one of the producers being out of ideas. They're trying to throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks, and they're failing. Last week, it seemed like they thought asking the designers to create a bra and panty set would be just the most scandalous and dramatic thing ever in and of itself, but when they didn't get the desired effect they kind of said, Oh shit, and then panicked a bit. The sad thing about it this week is that the episode actually opens with a nice bit of natural drama. The team wakes up and debriefs about Blake leaving, and Jake is conspicuously absent. It's a prime moment for a sit down about how he feels having made it through the cut while Blake didn't, but we don't hear from or see him at all. He's there when they head to get their supplies, but he's in the background mostly and seems a bit despondent, but while everyone else gets confessional moments about where they are and what they're doing, the man from the bottom two last week doesn't get a moment.

The designers get back to the workroom and spend what seems like an inordinate amount of time working before Tim comes in to just remind them of the rules, and remind them of what's expected from an unconventional materials challenge, and that's when Jake speaks up for the first time and asks Tim for meeting. Turns out his dog is in bad shape and will need to be put down. As a result of that, he feels the need to go home and spend these last moments with him. I might be biased as a serious dog lover, but I think this is totally the right choice to make. Project Runway is a big deal and a great opportunity, but it's not worth missing last moments with a loved one. Had Jake come out and been like "I miss my boyfriend, and want to go home!" I would have rolled my eyes and moved on. This is a perfectly reasonable reason to back out of the competition to me, and it's a very emotional and important moment with grander implications for the competition. This is the better and more naturally dramatic point of the episode, and could have created a bit more of an emotional center for things if they'd used it as such.

But the thing is it's fleeting at best. It's one quick moment and then it's done, it's not touched on or talked about again until we get to the runway. On the one hand, the editors and producers of this show have to work with what they're given. Jake's exit comes at a moment when everyone's too focused on the challenge to really engage with it, and perhaps he wasn't the most loved contestant to begin with, so even if he had left after finishing half of a look, they still wouldn't have talked about it too much. Either way, I was left thinking it didn't get the attention it deserved.

Tim comes in and is mostly impressed with where everyone's going. Ashley spends time talking about what she's done to the pictures she found and what she's thinking about doing with them, and I was left thinking that she might honestly be a genius. The closest thing to this that I think we've seen in awhile was Sean's rainway dress from last season. It was well thought out and if it's as well executed, it could be a wow moment. It won't be quite the jaw drop that Sean's look was, but it bespeaks the same level of thought, innovation, and creativity that that look did.

The interesting thing about Tim Gunn visits on unconventional challenges is that so much of what's going on will depend on final execution. He tells Lindsey that he likes the fact that they can see the type on the keyboard buttons she's using for her top, but that's not an early critique on her look, just this one aspect of it because that's all he's got so far. When you look at something like what Joseph and Candice are doing, it's easy to say you're impressed with their ideas and the direction they're going in, but it all will depend on the final execution. We'll circle back around to that.

It's at this point that the episode takes an odd turn though as Swapnil gets the strangest edit we've seen in awhile. After he finally figures out how to make his cord and wire do what he wants it to do, he doesn't do a damn thing for the rest of the episode. He takes a bunch of smoke breaks, dance breaks, food breaks, and just generally spends time goofing off, but he doesn't do anything at all in an effort to create a skirt. It doesn't seem like he's lacking for ideas on a skirt, but it seems like he's lacking for any desire to go about creating one at all. He mentions to one of the other contestants that his strategy thus far has been to just be safe each week, then get into the top, and then end out on a string of wins. There's two ways to look at this: 1) if he hasn't been giving his top effort in hopes of just being safe lately, and yet he's been in the top so many weeks in a row, just imagine how great he'll be when he really turns it on! 2) If he hasn't been giving his top effort so far, then is he actually taking any of this seriously, and if not then why should he stick around?

Jake leaves this episode because of some serious personal trauma he has to deal with, but the whole time you can see how tough it is for him to choose to leave this great opportunity. Meantime, Swpnil seems to think this is all fun and games. It's an odd disconnect for a contestant to have, and it left me wondering if he wasn't getting a loser's edit early on. In the end, he paints some stuff on a piece of muslin for the skirt and rests on his well constructed top to carry the look.

The day ends with no one really having anything finished, and then the morning of the runway sees a lot of people working to finish, but without the usual frantic energy that comes from this point in the challenge. Everyone's just kind of walking around languidly, and for all of their talk about how unfinished they are, no one at all seems to have a fire under their ass to complete their looks. It added to the odd discordant note of the entire episode. I don't know who to blame for this, but it all just felt off. On to the runway.

The Runway:

Swapnil: Is it pretty? Sure. But does the skirt look like he haphazardly painted all over some muslin? Yes. Does that detract from the entire look? I’m not sure. There’s so much work that went into the top that I think you can give him a pass on the bottom, but still. It’s a nearly perfect look if only he could have dedicated enough time and attention to both pieces.

Edmond: Not going to lie: I love it. I really like how controlled but random the keys on the bottom are. For it to look more thought out and symmetrical on top and then just go into that pattern on the skirt is pretty brilliant. And that plunging neck is super sexy. 

Lindsey: Boring, and the skirt is hideous.

Candice: I question the construction. And the hardest thing for these unconventional material challenges is to get any kind of movement whatsoever, and she fails in that. But are the cords or whatever she used well placed? Yes. And that creates a look and a textile that really works and I appreciate. It’s not great, but it certainly looks like her, and it’s not boring, so that’s good. 

Laurie: I want to like this so much, and there’s a lot about it that I do like. I like the top, and I like the little peak of skin between the top and the skirt, but that cummerbund looking waistline is horrible and I hate it so very much that it makes me hate the entire look. I don’t know what she should have done differently with that, but she seriously should have done something different! Yikes!

Kelly: Love it! This is wearable right now, and I can see a real life woman who'd love to wear it. The way she put those pieces together to give that look such a texture is really amazing. It's not just the metallic sheen of it all, which is also great, it's really the texture of it that makes it look really well thought out and wonderfully executed.

Merline: This is another one that I want to like more than I actually do. I think it’s honestly just the flat color that I don’t care for. The shape of it I’m ok with, but I think the flat black of it all just doesn’t really work for me. I think the color scheme of the runway so far has been a lot of blue and black, and this is a look that also could have used a bit of the blue as accents. 

Joseph: My initial thought was that it’s the youngest and sexist thing he’s done so far, but the skirt was too long. But then I looked closer and saw where it fell on the model and I realized it isn’t too long, it’s that it makes her body look weird. I think maybe in separates or with some way to break it up around her tummy instead of just that one long piece would have been better? Or maybe just break up the pattern around there somehow. Either way, the continuous kind of just blue and black stripe all the way down made it look oddly proportioned to me. 

Ashley: I don’t want to downplay this at all. I think she did a great job of creating a print out of the pictures. And I certainly think that it’s cute and fun and kind of flirty, so I like all of that. But I also think it looks like she just glued a bunch of  pictures onto a muslin base. She thought a lot about where and how to glue them, so that’s good, but in the face of what Edmond or Laurie or even Joseph did in creating an actual dress out of their materials, it doesn't stand out quiet as much as it could. I love it, and I think it shows her brilliance and proves just how much she deserves to be here, but I'd like to see her push herself in the construction of it all just a bit more. 

Ashley, Kelly, and Edmond are tops, Joseph, Lindsey, and Swapnil are bottoms. Joseph and Lindsey are ripped for being boring while Swapnil is ripped for being lazy and not putting forth any effort. During the closer look at the clothes, Zac goes on and on about how upset Swapnil's lack of effort makes him. He sounds almost offended that he's here if he isn't even going to try. No mention about the multiple top three appearances aside from the judges talking about this being the reason why he hasn't won one yet. To his credit, when he's criticized and asked if he didn't have enough time to finish the skirt, he owns up to the fact that everyone had the same amount of time and put down some great looking outfits, so he won't make that excuse. While his lack of effort annoys me as well, his lack of making excuses and his ability to still say all the right things is something I continue to appreciate about him. He's got to step it up if he's going to stick around though; he's been exposed and he's on the judge's radar for the wrong reasons now. 

Ashley, Kelly, and Edmond are all praised for the reasons you'd assume. Ashley is brought to tears on the runway, which is moving but also kind of her go to at this point so it might not have the full effect it could have. Kelly is really the standout from this week. I've said before that I don't think she has what it takes to win, but I'm now starting to think I might have been a bit hasty. She might be the kind of dark horse contestant that peaks at the right time and goes all the way to the end. The oddest comment comes during the closer look at the dresses when the judges start to see that Edmond's dress is glued together and falling apart. What the fuck did they expect it to look like? He glued a bunch of keyboard keys onto mouse pads, what else can it look like close up?

In the end, Kelly gets a well deserved win and Joseph gets a well deserved Auf. The place where I think they dropped the ball a bit is when Heidi tells Swapnil he's safe, she didn't add that they're very disappointed in him and if he doesn't step up his game, he might not make it through the next challenge. It's probably implied by their critique, but in much the same way that they aren't shy about telling a safe designer with immunity that they were only safe because they had immunity, this could have been an opportunity for that as well. But oh well, hopefully he gets the hint and comes out stronger for it next week. 

Loose Threads:

--I don't know if we've got any younger readers, but if so, I've made sure to include wiki links for the outdated tech from the start of the episode. You're welcome. 

--Because Jake left on his own, it seemed that certain people thought maybe there wouldn't be an elimination this week. When Joseph comes back form the runway, Edmond asks him if he's safe too. No buddy, that's not how it works. Looks like we finally got our double elimination though. 

--Swapnil's edit this episode comes so far out of left field. Did we even know he smokes before this episode? This is my ultimate point about trying to form some kind of season long edit for the characters. If we'd known about the smoke breaks, or just knew about his smoking a bit before now, this episode might have felt like a more organic episode. 

--I got home late and missed the beginning of the episode and it wasn't until the runway that I realized someone was missing and had no clue what that was about. So I had to watch the beginning of the episode on the encore showing that happened immediately afterwards. Which is just my way of saying that I'm really surprised by the editing of this episode and the fact that someone leaving didn't have any kind of lasting impact whatsoever. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E6 "Lace to the Finish"

I'm officially of the opinion that Project Runway might be in crisis. Or maybe on it's last legs? Or maybe just in the midst of trying to reinvent itself a bit. Some of the changes work and have injected a bit of life into the long running series. Other changes have felt more like someone's been pushed from a plane and is trying to flap their arms in an attempt to stave off the inevitable: it won't help, but with the end only seconds away, it can't hurt either. It was mentioned in the comments on the last episode that some of what we're seeing could be due to budget concerns for the show, and the more I think about it, the more I think that that's the case. or at the very least it's one of those things where once you see it you can't unsee it, and now everything that happens on the show gets brought back around to that central issue.

Take this week for example. The challenge is the Heidi As Client staple for the show, but instead of making a nice Red Carpet look for her, or something sleek and elegant, the designers are asked to design underwear for her lingerie collection. At this point, let me pause and ask something that I wasn't sure about while watching the episode: is this the first Lingerie challenge we've had on the show? It's certainly the first I remember, but that isn't saying much as my memory is notoriously faulty. First time or not, the challenge in and of itself doesn't speak of budgetary concerns, but then the designers head back to the workroom and find that they've been provided with bras and fabric and basically they're just supposed to sew fabric over the provided bras (if that's how they want to do it) and add their own touch.

I've mentioned the dearth of Mood trips this season already, but this is a bit ridiculous. Not only do they not go to Mood, they're only given this scant amount of fabric to work with? This feels very much like the show is scraping the bottom of the barrel to get as much mileage out of its last few bucks as possible. If this season ends with the last five or six contestants going to Mood left and right with huge amounts of money to spend, I think the writing will be on the wall; they didn't have enough money to send everyone to the store each week like usual, so they waited until the end to send a few people with the money they had on hand for the occasion. But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

The rest of the episode feels off. Or was it just me? It was oddly stock but also just a bit weird feeling. The show and the producers more so than the designers feel like they're just going through the motions of what's expected of them. I got the impression that the producers expected that asking everyone to design a bra and panties set would be just the juiciest and most dramatic thing ever, and then were let down by the footage they'd amassed and just threw something together at the last minute. Partially, this is because the designers are adults, and so designing underwear shouldn't be some big dramatic and crazy thing for them to do.

Or, they're all adults except for Blake I should say. Blake carries the brunt of the episode, which was an odd choice, I thought, until I reached the end of the episode and saw why. In the wake of what happened with Ashley and the mean girls last week, you'd think that would be the current that could carry this episode through. It couldn't have been setup better if it had been scripted: Plus sized girl is more-or-less bullied and abused by the skinny girls on her team one week, and then is asked to come back and design some sexy lingerie for some skinny model the next week. Two weeks in a row where some of her insecurities and traumas are just laid bare for all the world to see, and all she has to do is rise above it, create something spectacular, and get a win and all the validation that comes with it. It's honestly the outline for an after school special as is. But aside from a brief mention of the discomfort in the house that morning, nothing more is said about Ashley and she's only on the outskirts of the episode at best.

Instead, we focus most of our time on Blake and his comical (read childish) lack of understanding about basic female anatomy. Let me say, in the interest of full disclosure, that I, like Blake, have never come face to face with a vagina either. Out and proud gay man here and I've never had sex with a woman. Which is good because I don't think I'd be all that good at it, and it'd just be a waste of both our times; ladies you deserve so much better. But, unlike Blake, I know women in real life, I've even taken basic human biology classes a time or two, so I certainly know what a vagina looks like, where it sits on the body, and if need be I'm sure I could at least know how wide to make a piece of fabric in order to cover it. So what the fuck is this kid's problem? Once again his ignorance, whether feigned or honest, is met with derision from Laurie at least, and from some of the other contestants as well. But I can't help but to wonder if this isn't the first time he's been faced with such a reaction. It's not that he's as surprised by it as he seemed to be the first time around, but he's so unaware that it's baffling. Either way, by the end of the show he's made it painfully clear that he doesn't understand how boobs or vaginas work, and the rest of us are left thinking "But you want to design clothes for women?"

Heidi and Tim's visit brought to light two other things I hated about the episode: Tim reverts back to his useless self from earlier in the season as if the only way to impress the pretty girl on his arm is to be as ruthless and useless as possible. And so much of the rhetoric of the episode makes me uncomfortable. I'm not a prude, far from it really, but there's something about the talk of this episode that had my skin crawling. It wasn't until Jake's model fitting that I realized what it was.

Jake has a moment towards the end of the day with some of the other designers about how his model didn't want to be in a thong on the runway, so he had to change his design to have a fully covered bottom. And my initial and immediate reaction was "Oh suck it up, lady, this is your job and you have no choice but to do it!" and then in the second after that thought hit me, every bit of my feminism slapped me in the face and made me feel like shit. The problem is that the job of "model" is already about as problematic as it can be, and now here we are actually having these women who are praised only for their bodies in the first place parading on national TV and in front of everyone in as little clothing as possible. It's a job the model chose, that's for sure, but no one should be made to feel uncomfortable at their place of work, and this is one episode that really toys with that. It's one thing for a model in a full on dress to stand in front of the judges while Zac paws at them and insults every aspect of the dress. Then it's easy to divorce yourself from the comments which are clearly only about the clothes which you didn't even chose to wear. But when you're in as little clothing as these models have to wear this time, is it as easy to divorce yourself from those comments? My point being this: this episode had a way of taking something about the show that's always been a problem (these girls wearing the clothes are nothing more than coat hangers) and made it into something that I couldn't just ignore or gloss over. I guess that's all I'll say about that, either way it left a bad taste in my mouth out of what was otherwise a standard if not good episode.

It's also interesting to see how confident Merline and Ashley are in this challenge even as they put together looks that left me a bit uncertain on the model form. There's really no telling who will be confident in their abilities week after week on any given assignment, but it's refreshing when someone feels as though they've got something in hand and then turn out a look that proves they were right all along. For more on that, let's go to the runway. Bella Thorne was the guest judge this week and when I heard that and saw her on screen I decided immediately that I disliked her and didn't want to hear what she had to say, but then she gave critiques and she was intelligent and thoughtful and knew what she was talking about, so I felt a little bad.

The Runway:

Swapnil: There's an interesting kind of superhero vibe to this look that I like. There are two strips of the nude fabric on the back of the coverup that I hate and think look thrown on at the last minute, but other than that I like it. I also think the fit looks a little wonky in places, but I could just be crazy. There's movement, and flow, and it all feels like the kind of thing your wife would turn the corner in and your jaw would drop, so I'm impressed while not thinking it's the best thing we've seen of him thus far.

Ashley: This I love. If I have a complaint, and I promise you it's a small one at best, it's that I think the coverup could have been done a bit better or given a bit more thought. But I love the bra and panties set. They look extremely well thought out in a runway show that had a lot of things looking thrown together last minute. The set is well constructed, and a beautiful color, and fit perfectly. I love everything about this.

Jake: The fit is all off, I fully understand that and don't want to excuse it, but this is another of the better looks I think I've seen from Jake thus far. I like that he went with the polka dots and the lace accents look great, and there's a youthfullness to the look without it being juvenile no matter what Heidi says to the contrary. The coverup is a tragically sad afterthought, but so many of them are that I can't help but to wonder if that's a flaw on the part of the designer or on the part of the challenge itself. It's not that I think the whole look is good, just that I think it's good for Jake, so I'm grading on a curve, but still.

Edmond: I like everything about this except that horizontal line across her vagina. Honestly, can someone who wears panties explain to me if that serves some kind of a purpose? Because I find it horribly distracting and it makes me hate the rest of the look.

Lindsey: Hate it. Hate the styling, and the color, and the...fuck it, I hate it all.

Candice: My very favorite thing about this look is that the minute it stepped out, I knew it was Candice's! Not because I'd seen what she was doing on the dress form or anything like that, it just screamed her. And I mean that in the very best way possible. I think it's sexy and tasteful, and while I don't think it has the universal appeal of something like Ashley's look, I still think a lot of women would like to wear it. I love this!

Joseph: Get the fuck out of my face with that bullshit! Ok, I'll give him one small scrap of praise for this horror show: Heidi said it was matronly in the workroom and he changed it appropriately. Much like Edmond, he got a bad critique and responded by turning out something worthy of being safe at least. but holy hell do I hate this. It's boring!

Merline: I think I like this, but I also think that I want to like it more than I actually do like it, so it's a weird thing. Her model is about as flat chested as they come, and there's nothing at all wrong with that, but it makes this look like more of a lacey tube top than sexy lingerie. But I don't want to place the blame for that on Merline. Simultaneously, I don't think a bustier woman could really pull that off, someone please correct me if I'm wrong. Other than that, I think it's well thought out, well constructed, and easily marketable.

Blake: Oh dear God. Really, dude? Really?

Laurie: While I probably know more about a woman's body than Blake does, this is where I might have to show my ignorance of women's under things because I love this look. High in the front or not, I think these are adorable. I love that bra like it's nobody's business, and I think it's a technique that more bar manufacturers should probably start using, I think the color is beautiful, and I think it's all pretty sexy. I also like how the panties are more modest in the front but open in the back; it felt purposeful and I respect that. I also like her coverup more than most of them, so yeah. I like this.

Kelly: This is my favorite look of the night though, and someone smarter than me about these things is going to have to tell me why this look isn't in the top! The color, the construction, the fit, and that coverup, my God that coverup! I will say that I think the panties are a bit simple and probably not as taxing as they could have been, but the rest of it looks great. And I think it would go well on the website. This is the best look on the night hands down.

And so Swapnil, Ashley, and Merline find themselves on top while Blake, Jake, and Laurie find themselves on bottom. Switch Swapnil with Kelly and Laurie with Joseph or Lindsey and I think they'd have gotten it perfectly right. But that's just me.

Nina mentions that Swapnil's look verges on costume-y and confirmed my superhero observations. They all had mostly great things to say about Merline and Ashley though and it's clearly between them. The judges also point out that without an underwire to the top on Merline's look, there's no way a bigger busted woman would be able to wear it. So my assumptions on that front were also right, but it left me wondering about how big would be too big for that top? If a woman had a solid B cup, would she be able to fit it? If she could, would it be at all comfortable? Obviously, anyone up around a D or bigger wouldn't have any hope at all, but where would you say the cut off is? I expect the ladies to sound off in the comments about this. Either way, the universality of Ashley's look coupled with how great of a story it would be to have her win here after being thrown under the bus last challenge left me thinking she'd take this one and get her third win.

Over on the other side of the aisle, it's really between Blake and Jake for who goes home. Jake's look is called boring, though the judges like the scalloped lace on the bra, while Blake's look is just bad all over. He tries to pull his cutesy "But I'm just an idiot, and I don't know nothin' bout no boobies" routine for the judges and Zac quickly shuts him down saying if he has any real desire to be a designer he needs to learn to design for real women, and real women wear bras. It was a wonderful moment that I enjoyed rewinding and watching over and over again the same way I did on Game of Thrones whenever Joffery got slapped. And so it's the age old question: do you get rid of bad or do you get rid of boring? Zac suggests getting rid of both and they tease the fabled double elimination; which at this point would be a blessing as they can really start thinning the herd a bit and it'd all be for the better. I'm of the opinion that we'll never see anything truly great from Jake, Joseph, or Lindsey, and while Kelly and Candice have nice styles and the ability to turn out something great here and there, neither of them seem strong enough to actually win the whole thing. So killing multiple birds with one episode would be a blessing really.

In the end, however, I was shocked on both counts. Merline wins and Blake goes home. Blake's got an undeserved win under his belt already while Jake's been lucky to be safe most weeks so I thought for sure he'd be going home. Meanwhile, Merline's look could clearly only be worn by a small subset of women. If the looks weren't going to be produced and sold, this outcome wouldn't bother me so much. Merline's look is certainly nice, and a win wouldn't be surprising. But Ashley's look is both beautiful and sellable to a wide range of women. How does that look not win? It reminds me of the challenge Blake won as well: not because I think Merline is equally as underserving, but because it feels like the judges didn't take the reward for winning into consideration when they decided on a winner. It's the same as some of the designers not finishing a coverup for their looks: you have to take then entire thing into consideration before making a decision.

Loose Threads:

--Can someone please check and let me know how many consecutive weeks Swapnil's been in the top without winning? This is getting a bit absurd. I feel like we need one of those work place "this many days without an accident" signs.

--The sleepover thing in this episode is what I was referring to with my pushed out of a plane analogy. It wasn't horrible, but it also wasn't necessary.

--Did anyone else think that Lindsey getting stabbed with her scissors was karmic in some way for being such an asshole last episode? I don't even believe in karma and that's what I thought.

--I think everyone knows by now that I never watch the hair and makeup sessions, but this time I had the show on while I was at work at my desk (because for some reason I 100% forgot it was on last night) and I couldn't skip it the way I normally do with a trip to the bathroom or something, but anyway; holy fucking shit, how hot is the hair guy? How long has he been on the show? What's his name? And how much would it cost me to run my fingers through his awesome beard?

--I almost set out to write this review as a kind of redemption tale for Blake. He was pretty sweet last episode, and I enjoyed his "I don't wear underwear" line in spite of myself. But after multiple instances of his not knowing anything about the female body and making up words for vagina, I decided I was right to hate him all along.

--Ashley's moment of "Hold on, let me go try these on" when talking about Blake's panties though was HILARIOUS! I love that girl so much!

--When do we get the equivalent of this challenge but in men's wear?

--We're slowly getting down to the wire on this season, so where does everyone stand on the top 4? My guess right now is Ashley, Swapnil, Edmond, and Laurie in no particular order.

--And I'm thinking Laurie, Ashley, or Kelly might be candidates for a Tim Gunn save at some point. Ashley has that bad habit of being up one week and down the next, and it wouldn't surprise me if she got down so far one week that the judges sent her home. Laurie, on the other hand, has been sending down consistently good, but not good enough stuff and she could also be sent home on a whim. (Or does Laurie have a win that I'm not remembering and don't feel like looking up?) And though I said Kelly isn't strong enough to win, I'm thinking much the same about her that I do Laurie, and it wouldn't surprise me to find out that Tim believes in her more than the judges do at some point.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Project Runway: S14 E5: "Gunn & Heid"

My dear runaways, I'm horribly sorry it's taken me this long to watch the episode and to get a review
up. Partially because I hate it that you all had to wait so long, and partially because that was a whopper of an episode and I can't believe I'm only just watching it. I love the challenge, I love the teams though I've said that before, I love that Kelly Osbourne is the guest judge! It was one of the better episodes this season. And away we go!

After waking up and chatting for a bit, Amanda decides she's done being in the bottom three as she has been for the last few challenges. I think she said something similar at the beginning of the last episode too, but this time you can tell she really means it and all her fortunes are about to change. Blake's not nearly as annoying after his first win of the season as I expected him to be, so there's that at least. Then it's off to the runway for Heidi and Tim to make some horrible puns about the paintball guns they're toting, and to pick teams. And so the drama begins. It's a school yard pick, which is the easiest way for the show to craft drama from teams, and it doesn't disappoint. Ashley has a confessional moment explaining why she's sure Candice, who is the first person to pick a team member after Blake, will surely pick her, and of course then she picks Amanda. From there, it just snowballs until Ashley's worst nightmare is confirmed and she's picked last, and still ends up on Candice's team.

For her part, Heidi points out what all of us are thinking which is that it's ridiculous that Ashley wasn't picked earlier as she's the only contestant here with two wins under her belt already. Tim points out early on that the teams were easily grouping off into boys vs girls, but it felt more like an observation than a judgement on his part. For me, I was all judgement since that made it obvious from the start that teams were being chosen based on who's friends with whom instead of on any strategic level. But it also left me confused in this sense: is no one friends with Ashley? She's been nothing but sweet and lovable this whole time; is there something we aren't seeing? I don't want to jump to the easy assumption that they really are just all a bunch of mean girls and they've been keeping her at arms length because she's heavy, but I can't think of another explanation. Maybe they resent her for her two wins and early successes? To her credit, Candice at least seems to have a reason for picking Amanda. It's a dumb as fuck reason since she's basically looking at her like a charity case, but it's a reason nonetheless. But as I said before, the teams have nothing to do with strategy, and that's how the person who's been in the bottom so many times consecutively gets picked over the person with multiple wins.

From there it's off to field where the teams are going to play a kind of capture the flag with paintball guns. They're firing off shots and paint grenades at the opposing team while said team tries to run up and collect fabric from a few big steel drums. I think there might have been a mention about having to rush back to the start if you get hit with something, but I also might have missed that because I was honestly impressed with the construction of this challenge. It was fun, enjoyable to watch, and seemed like a nice spot of bonding for the teams. I know we haven't gone to Mood much this season, and I certainly miss Swatch, but they seem to have figured out ways to make fabric selection more interesting than just following designers around a store, and I appreciate that.

Turns out Ashley has a lot of practice with paintball as she used to play with her brothers, so yet again we see how someone picking her would have been a great move. But whatever, she at least seems to take some of her frustrations of being last picked out on the guys all trying to run in and get fabric. When that's all over, Tim tells them about the next twist which is that their main fabrics will be the ones they're wearing and not the fabric they stole. This I also thought was brilliant. Both that someone thought this up from start to finish and that they had the foresight not to tell the designers, leaving them with truly random textiles. Blake of course was too much of a princess to run out and get pelted with paint, so his jumper is as white and clean as ever, but once Tim announces this twist, it doesn't seem like his inaction was a bad idea after all. At the very least it gave them a purely white fabric to work with. The teams then have two days to create a nice and cohesive collection.

The boys and Merline hit the ground running and quickly have ideas, inspiration, and plans on how they're going to go forward. The girls, not so much. This is another aspect of what bothers me about the teams being split down gender lines: it gives the girls the opportunity to conform to some stupid stereotypes. From the earliest moments of picking teams that seemed to be happening, and it never really stops. Granted, that's not a fault of the editing or the episode itself, it's just that these girls all seem to be rather shitty, and it sucks. Ashley can't ever seem to get a word in edgewise, and to make it all worse I don't think she tries very hard. I can't blame her since being picked last always sucks, but the nature of the schoolyard pick is that someone is going to be picked last, and the hope should always be that that person still shows up and tries their best to help their team. Merline was picked next to last and she didn't seem to take it as hard as Ashley did. But I also assume (and maybe it's not fair of me to do so, but hey) that this is yet another moment in Ashley's life where she's been left out of a schoolyard pick, and at this stage where she's more than proven herself to be worthy of greater consideration, it might just hurt a bit more than it did when no one wanted her on their dodgeball team.

Either way, it all goes about how you'd expect: the guys work well together, communicate, all get a hand in on each design somehow, and cruise through the challenge, and the girls are the opposite. The guys have a seamless meeting with Tim where he loves it all, and the girls get ripped a new one and kind of start all over, deciding to use purple as the thing that unifies their collection. The guys get their models into the looks early and with ease, while the girls don't even have anything to put on the models for the fitting. The writing is so clearly on the wall about who's going to be in the top and who's in the bottom that there's really nothing left but to get to the runway.

The Runway:

Blake: Yes! Actually the best thing I've seen from him thus far.

Joseph: This look screams Flight Attendant to me. Actually, what it screams is Stewardess. It isn't modern enough to have achieved enough equality to just be a flight attendant. It isn't horrible, but it certainly looks like Joseph's.

Swapnil: POCKETS!!!! And the hang of the skirt, and the intricate nature of the top, and the general beauty of it all. My God this man needs a win already!

Jake: No glitter, no sequins, no sparkle of any kind, and it's the best thing I've seen from Jake thus far. I wonder if those things might not have something to do with each other.... Either way, I like the cape, the collar, and the fact that it's a look with pants instead of another dress. It all came together well.

Merline: I thought that this was the most interesting piece in the collection, it's not that it's necessarily good, but it's certainly interesting to look at. I don't hate it, and indeed I like the asymmetry of it, and the ombre effect on the dress, and I like the collar. But I don't like belted dresses in general, so there's that.

Edmond: WOW! That just kind of took my breath away. The construction is impeccable, it looks like something a lot of women would love to wear, and it's just beautiful. I love it!

Ashley: Oh, no sweetie. Just no. It looks cheap and crafts-y to me.

Laurie: I don't know. I love her and am kind of blinded by my love for her, so I want to like this, but I don't think that I do. Outside of a team setting, it'd probably be safe and we wouldn't have to talk about it at all, but it's not my favorite.

Lindsey: Get the fuck out of here with that shit! No! Never do that again!

Candice: Oh man, execution is a big bold no, but the thought and the design I at least enjoy. I can see what she was going for, and maybe with more time (which is stupid given how much time they had) or better fabric she could have done something workable with it? As is, it certainly isn't good at all, but I'll give her credit for ideas while still lamenting the lack of execution.


Amanda: What a nice maternity poncho. I didn't know anyone was in the market for maternity ponchos, but maybe Amanda can corner that market with an entire line. Granted I would have assumed that ponchos were immune to issues of pregnancy, but I guess I was wrong since this one is clearly meant to be worn by a pregnant woman. Also the back reminds me of the stupid parachute like back Blake won with last time and I think she tried to mimic that instead of coming up with her own idea. Either way, I hate it.

So the boys' judging goes as expected with the judges being nothing but impressed all around. There's credit given to everyone, and no one on the team can overstate just who hard they worked, but also how great they worked together, and it's a bit lovely. And then it's the girl's turn, and holy fucking shit does the fur fly. There was a moment earlier in the workroom between Ashley and Laurie where Laurie told her if they were in the bottom, the other girls were pretty much all probably going to throw her, Ashley, under the bus, and boy did they ever. After being soundly handed their asses for the lack of cohesion and the lack of vision on who their girl is, they're asked who should go home and almost universally say Ashley. It's understandably painful (but also admittedly manipulative) to watch her stand up there crying as they lavish so much unearned hatred towards her, but what got me the most about it was how gutless it all was. For them to all stand there and look at those garments and really say that Ashley's is their least favorite and should go home is ridiculous. In the face of Amanda's piece of shit look and her multiple trips to the bottom, as well as Lindsey's bore-fest 2015, and whatever the fuck that was from Kelly, anyone suggesting Ashley should go home has got to be insane. It's not that Ashley's look is any good, far from it, it's just that it is not at all the worst thing this team put on the runway, and it's tragic that she has to put up with this shit.

Kelly Osbourne calls it the bitchfest that it is, but no one took it the step further that I would have had I been a guest judge this week and called them all cowards for not actually picking Amanda's piece of shit look and citing the fact that it's ugly and that she's been in the bottom so many times as the reason she should go home. It's not that Kelly treats them with kids gloves as we've seen other guest judges do in the past, it's just that she wasn't as mean as I had hoped.

Leave it to Nina, however, to say what we're all thinking and to rightfully point out just how useless Amanda is. She waits until the closer look at the dresses segment to do so, but in the face of Heidi seemingly wanting to claim that Amanda's look isn't the worst thing out there, and seeming to be trying to keep her around a bit more, Nina goes for blood and points out that at this point they're just keeping around dead weight and it's time for Amanda to go.

Nina wins that argument and Amanda goes home while Edmond wins. Which....OK I guess. The truth is that Edmond's look certainly took my breath away when it turned the corner, so I'll give him credit for that, but do I really think it was the best look out there? It was certainly the most well made, and he gets credit for that. But I think the moment he mention what Swapnil did with the shoes in creating the lace up for the corset top, I was sold on that being my winning look. Swapnil is the opposite of Amanda at this point in the competition: he continues to be in the top with other people getting wins. But he also seems very gracious about it all. I only watched the hour long version of the episode so if I missed anything, please let me know, but if there was a single moment thus far where Swapnil has pointed out that he deserves wins and isn't getting any and he's frustrated by it, I haven't seen it yet. His seemingly gracious humility only makes me love him more, and he needs to win one already!

Loose Threads:

--Heaven help me for saying this, but I actually kind of loved Blake this episode. His idiotic and slightly racist comments from earlier in the season haven't been forgotten and are still grating on me, but the way he was ready to stand up for Ashley in the greenroom, coupled with the fact that I honestly liked his look this week, all combined to make me love him a bit. It's probably just the edit's fault and I'm sure he'll be back to his usual idiot self next week, but snaps to him for being cool and so worthwhile this go around.

--Swapnil used the shoes they were wearing for the back of that corset top! I'm sorry but that so bears repeating.

--Nail consultation in the middle of the episode was about as useless as you'd expect it to be. What did that have to do with anything?

--I don't want to call for any kind of lessening of trips to Mood, but I also would like to seem them add these sorts of fun elements to the fabric selection more often. I don't know how to balance that, but they should certainly figure it out.