Project Runway: Still Making It Work

Austin + model, Project Runway, Season 1, Episode 1

During a snowstorm, I came across the first season of Project Runway in its initial run.The show had been a poor performer on Bravo, but a savvy new executive had arrived and ordered the show to be relentlessly rerun during the holidays, a prime time for TV channel-surfing.

The strategy worked: the show became a smash hit and transformed Bravo into the monied reality show network it is today. But the partnership with Bravo was not to last—after extensive litigation, the show moved to Lifetime starting with season 8.

When it launched, PR was a new type of reality show featuring competitors who were craftspeople: they could manipulate fabric into fashion according to their personal taste and construction skills. They were like the mice in Cinderella, creating fantasy dresses on command.

It is amazing (and entertaining) to watch a designer in an inspired moment. By giving someone a design challenge, you are giving that person limits, forcing him or her to push “outside of their comfort zone” and apply his or her skills to untraditional materials (raw parts from a car), a limited amount of material (whatever you are wearing), specific elements of design (awful fashion trend from the past), or a designated silhouette (swimsuit). Some of the most “limiting” challenges has led to the most striking fashion: Austin’s corn husk dress (grocery store challenge), Leanne’s rubber minidress and Korto’s woven seatbelt coat (the aforementioned car part challenge).

The PR winner is not always the one who shines throughout the season; Season 1 victor Jay didn’t win any of the challenges (not even for the Chrysler Building dress!). Some of the most consistently outstanding designers make it to Fashion Week, only to disappoint with the final collection—having no limits can be a detriment. There’s also the pressure to come up with several looks dedicated to one theme while being “fashion-forward”: on trend but not derivative, unique but not costume-y.

Snap prediction for season 9 final 3: Bert, Danielle, Anthony.

Another Project Runway: All-Stars special is in the works. Curious. I wasn’t pleased with the result of the first one—poor Korto. It seemed unfairly stacked in Daniel V.’s favor.

Favorite designers: Jay McCarroll, Austin, Chloe, Kara Janx, Mychael, Christian, Rami, Leanne, Korto, Maya.

Recommended

Blogging Project Runway

Tom & Lorenzo

Tim Gunn’s Facebook page

From his early podcasts to his “Tim’s Take” videos and blog posts, Tim has remained active in sharing his thoughts with fans throughout the show’s run. For the past few seasons, he has posted his episode commentary videos on his Facebook page, and I hope that has not changed now that he is a producer (one hopes that now he has less to criticize in terms of the editing). Tim’s insider opinions on PR are insightful and diverting, offering behind-the-scenes revelations and hilariously on-point commentary. Tim’s eloquence and lack of filter is gold.

Poet Ron Silliman is a Project Runway fan and blogs about the show. Love it.

It Ends Today: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

When I first read the Harry Potter books, I was studying abroad in England. I bought the Bloomsbury version of the books with blackandwhite cover photos designed for the adult audience. Classy.

With the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, it’s the end of an era. I am looking forward to seeing familiar faces from past films (Sybill Trelawney, Cho Chang). And I eagerly anticipate the “Look. . .at. . .me” moment and “19 Years Later.”

Stupefy!

 

Into the Pensieve: Favorite Film Scenes

– Little Hermione’s magical confidence (“It’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-oh-SAA!”)

– The opening of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Lumos maxima! Sure, underage magic outside of Hogwarts is not allowed. But it’s a thrilling scene and introduces the audience to the mesmerizing vision of director Alfonso Cuaron.

– Harry takes flight on Buckbeak in Hagrid’s verdant classroom setting

– The second Expecto Patronum

– The Yule Ball: the date-arranging, especially Harry nervously asking Cho Chang (she’s Scottish!) in the Owlery; the dance itself with Cho and Cedric Diggory looking fine, Hermione looking beautiful, and Pulp and Radiohead members cameo-ing as the Weird Sisters.

– The first appearance of Voldemort and the Death Eaters: the terrifying reveal of  Voldemort in the graveyard, the crazed laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange as she escapes from Azkaban

– The battle at the Ministry with Dumbledore’s Army, the Order of the Phoenix, and the Death Eaters

– Harry’s first kiss (with Cho), Ron’s first kiss (with Lavender Brown), Hermione’s first kisses: Victor Krum kisses her hand, she kisses Harry in the Horcrux locket hallucination, and she will finally kiss Ron in the last film

– The horrifying sight of Katie Bell suspended in the air after touching the cursed necklace

– With Ron’s blood on her hands, Hermione casts charms to protect their location after escaping from the Ministry

– Harry’s enthusiastic and awkward dancing with Hermione in the tent

– In fact, anything Team Harmony—Hermione hugging Harry, Hermione smacking Harry, “I’m sure that Harry’s kissing was more than satisfactory” 

– The sinuous delivery of Alan Rickman as Snape

– The proud and protective gestures of Hedwig, whose death was the once of the most devastating parts of the series for me (and for many others)

View 23 memorable Harry Potter props on Entertainment Weekly’s website here

This is Poetry: Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck (photo: Gasper Tringale)

I read Louise Glück’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Wild Iris years ago and loved it, but this particular poem did not strike me until I came across it in a workshop last summer.

Witchgrass

Something
comes into the world unwelcome
calling disorder, disorder—

If you hate me so much
don’t bother to give me
a name: do you need
one more slur
in your language, another
way to blame
one tribe for everything—

as we both know,
if you worship
one god, you only need
one enemy—

I’m not the enemy.
Only a ruse to ignore
what you see happening
right here in this bed,
a little paradigm
of failure.  One of your precious flowers
dies here almost every day
and you can’t rest until
you attack the cause, meaning
whatever is left, whatever
happens to be sturdier
than your personal passion—

It was not meant
to last forever in the real world.
But why admit that, when you can go on
doing what you always do,
mourning and laying blame,
always the two together.

I don’t need your praise
to survive.  I was here first,
before you were here, before
you ever planted a garden.
And I’ll be here when only the sun and moon
are left, and the sea, and the wide field.

I will constitute the field.

**

That last line keeps ringing in my ears.

Glück teaches in the MFA program at Boston University. Hear Glück read this poem here.

Armitage Speculation & Notable Music Video Cameos from WB Actors, Villains, and Hobbits

After a week of driving around in a city that is in full party mode, I came across the (sort of) new Ke$ha song “Blow.” The video features a face-off involving unicorns, rainbow laser beams, and James Van der Beek as “the video guy.”

With this video, Van der Beek follows in the footsteps of his fellow WB stars David Boreanaz—the video guy in Dido’s White Flag”—and Sarah Michelle Gellar—the video girl in Stone Temple Pilot’s “Sour Girl.”

While his Dawson’s Creek co-stars have found steady work and power couple mates, Van der Beek has stayed out of the couple limelight and has had a modest post-DC career. He has gained pop culture notoriety for his viral crying Dawson gif and recently capitalized on the attention with his self-deprecating Funny or Die videos.

After reading about Richard Armitage as an adman on servetus’ blog, I wondered if Armitage would ever cameo as “the video guy.” He does have an extensive dance background. It would be lovely if he followed in the music video footsteps of Alan Rickman and did the tango, which was Armitage’s best dance in school.

Speaking of other actors who gravitate towards “villain” roles, Christopher Walken had one of his most memorable performances in the Fatboy Slim video “Weapon of Choice” where he showed off his Broadway dance moves. Like Armitage, Walken started his training in musical theater before moving into dramatic performance.

Another “villain” actor, Jeremy Irons, didn’t shy away from music videos and appeared as one of several naked men in Elastica’s “Connection” video.

But what artist would appeal to Armitage? A UK group, most definitely. Or perhaps a low-key European singer like Charlotte Gainsbourg (who is also an actress).

Sophie Ellis-Bextor would be a striking video companion, but I do not think her music would entice Armitage. She is also too high-profile.

Ditto for Madonna. I think Armitage would be quite appealing to Madonna: he is ridiculously attractive and talented and has a rising fame curve. Actor Goran Višnjić memorably played chess with Madge in “The Power of Goodbye.”

Two Hobbits have done music videos: Dominic Monaghan starred in Eminem f. Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” video and a young Elijah Wood made his acting debut as a precocious businessman in Paula Abdul’s “Forever Your Girl” video.

An Armitage music video cameo could lead to dancing, possible indie cred, a climactic make-out scene, a continuation of the villain and Hobbit music video traditions, and many new fans with a burning desire to know—who’s that guy?

Oh the possibilities.

In the meantime, there are more than a few Armitage fanvideos, including this one featuring Ke$ha that I first saw on servetus’ blog.

A “Northern Lad”: Tori Amos and Richard Armitage

While watching North and South, I kept hearing the song “Northern Lad” by Tori Amos when John Thornton showed up (Had a Northern lad. . .well not exactly had). Then I started watching Spooks and the same thing happened when Lucas of North showed up.

Like Armitage, Amos was born on August 22 (We’re a birthday trifecta!). When she lives in England, she’s a southwestern girl and resides in Cornwall.

As a child, Amos was a piano prodigy and won a full scholarship to study at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Her breakthrough song was “Silent All These Years” and she has been Grammy-nominated five times for “Best Alternative Music Album.” She has a dedicated following of fans and I never pass up an opportunity to see her in concert; her ability to transform her songs into electrically emotional and sensual performance is mesmerizing. The setlist changes every night and her song selection spans the entirety of her career, including rarities and covers.

From Amos’s fourth album From the Choirgirl Hotel, “Northern Lad” is rumored to be about Amos’s English husband Mark and its baking imagery suggests that it is part of a sequence of songs including “Baker Baker” from Under the Pink and “Cooling” from the Boys for Pele era.

“Cooling” is one of my favorite Amos songs.

Favorite lyrics:

and I heard every word
that you have said
and I know I have been
driven like the snow

but this is cooling
faster than I can
hey…
faster than I can
cooling
this is cooling
this is cooling

Entire lyrics:

baker baker baking a cake
make me a day
make me whole again
and I wonder what’s in a day
what’s in your cake this time

I guess you heard he’s gone to L.A.
he says that behind my eyes I’m hiding
and he tells me I pushed him away
that my heart’s been hard to find

here
there must be something here
there must be something here
here

baker baker can you explain
if truly his heart was made of icing
and I wonder how mine could taste
maybe we could change his mind

 I know you’re late for your next parade
you came to make sure that I’m not running
well I ran from him in all kinds of ways
guess it was his turn this time

time
thought I’d make friends with time
thought we’d be flying
maybe not this time

baker baker baking a cake
make me a day
make me whole again
and I wonder if he’s ok
if you see him say hi

Favorite lyrics:

had a northern lad
well not exactly had
he moved like the sunset
god who painted that
first he loved my accent
how his knees could bend
I thought we’d be ok
me and my molasses
but I feel something is wrong
but I feel this cake just isn’t done
don’t say that you don’t
and if you could see me now
said if you could see me now
girls you’ve got to know
when it’s time to turn the page