Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars - Episode 4

 I usually don't write up this show the next day. Letting it set for a week gives me time to let my thoughts germinate and to look at the designs with fresh eyes un-influenced by the judges comments. I decided to just  put this one down now as I was very disappointed in the show altogether last night. Why? Two reasons.  First - yet another woman was sent home - this time April.  Not a single male designer has left the show and that makes me wonder.  April's dress did miss the mark, no doubt.   There is always a good, justifiable reason for the designer they sent home, but the odds that every week it's always a women is off the charts weird.  This begs the question, "Did they just pick a weaker group of female designers or is there a bias either in the judges minds or in the challenges presented."  I have no idea.

Second - they only gave the designer 6 hours to complete the challenge this week - the shortest ever in Project Runway history.  Ridiculous!  All it does is favour the designers who can work with lightening speed and for the most part, those who chose super simple designs.  They chastised those who didn't meet the mark for being over ambitious and alternately for not being creative enough.  Overall it created a group of designers who, for the most part, were unable to show what they could really do.  The show has to find a balance between good TV and what is realistic to ask of these artists. In this episode they failed.

Enough said.  Here is a brief recap with all placements the judges' as I just didn't feel the designers were given enough time..  The challenge was to create a tasteful outfit inspired by the coour and flavour of gelato.  The designers were given a sample of their choice to taste.  Guest judges were Diane von Furstenberg and Miranda Kerr and the winning design would be worn by Kerr to an industry event.  When you look at the designs below - you'll be surprised how many forgot this last fact.  While interesting, some of them would have been disasters to be photographed in.

Michael - Front and Back
Top 3 choices for the judges were Michael, Mondo and Mila - the 3 M's. I have a real soft spot for Michael (above).  He was the hands-down winner this week again, no surprise to me as the challenge favoured those who could work fast and keep it simple, something he is the master of. There has been some criticism of this choice as quite a few that preferred Mondo's, but honestly, which of the 3 above would  YOU want to be photographed in at an industry event?  The vee in back was definitely a selling point and it floated beautifully on the runway. Von Furstenberg was so impressed she told Michael to talk with her after he was finished taping the show.

Mondo - Mila
Mondo's (left) was hit with the female judges, but I didn't really like it.  It was inspired by canteloupe - hence the green print down the side to suggest rind.  I applaud his unique ability to combine colours and prints, but this really was just a shapeless rectangular kaftan - the best he could do in the time restrictions - and it really is not a garment to be photographed in at an event.  How sad.  Wouldn't they have loved to see what he could have done with a more reasonable amount of time? Please note there are MANY who disagree with me here.  Mila (right) was the last top 3.  She was one of the few who ambitiously tried to create something with intricate sewing, but it doesn't photograph well and I don't think works for this challenge.  It was nice to see her step out of the Black/White palette.  That said - I don't find it attractive and was surprised to see it in the top 3.

Rami - Austin - Jerrell - Kenley
The next 4 were all placed in the middle by the judges - Rami, Austin, Jerrell and Kenley.  Rami (left) used kiwi as an inspiration. I usually love his work, but all I can say is YUCK.  I am surprised he wasn't in the bottom. Can you imagine any celebrity choosing to wear this to an event.  Austin (2nd from left) actually created a garment I could see being photographed, but to get it done he had to resort to a glue gun.  An embarrassing moment for this designer and another sign that the time really was not sufficient.  Jerrell (2nd from right) offered something totally unique and definitely his point of view.  However, I don't think this is Kerr's style, so it was doomed to the middle ground from the start. He never really seems to understand the challenges.  Last is Kenley (right).  Another well put together, well thought out design, but the same shape as before just without the crinoline. Definitely not an event dress either.  Her skills at drafting are great as she never has problems with fit or proportion, but there just is no variety in what she is offering.  Time to step out of the box she has put herself in.

April - Kara - Anthony
Now for the 3 in the bottom.  April (left) struggled with this challenge from the beginning.  The limited selection of fabric forced her to change her design and the short time seemed to sap her confidence.  It's unfortunate as she is talented and I am sorry to see her go home so early in the game. BUT as I said before, this challenge favoured designers who could think and work at jet speed and that's obviously not her creative process.  She didn't get enough fabric, the outfit didn't fit so she had to add a piece and the list goes on.  Kara (middle) could have just as easily have left the show.  This is not a dress to be photographed in and it's hard to imagine the inspiration was chocolate with cayenne pepper.  More than anything the model looks like she's hiding a baby bump.  Last is Anthony (right).  Here you have his Asian-influenced interpretation of Green Tea gelato melting.  What can I add to that?

Well, there you have it.  A controversial show where many people disagreed on the outcome.  In my mind, a show that skewed the results right from the start.  I knew as soon as they gave the time limit which designers had the best chance of succeeding.  Let's hope future episodes allow a little more focus back on who is truly skilled and original instead of who can do it the fastest.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars - Episode 3

The strange challenge for Episode 3 was to design an outfit for Miss Piggy to wear while promoting The Muppet Movie.  Silly to say the least, but a chance for the designers to step out of the box. During the runway review guest judge Eric Daman tried very hard to mix it up with Miss Piggy to limited success.

Michael was the winner and I think deservedly so.  Gordana was sent home - probably the right choice.  But at least one blog reviewing this show has noted that every designer sent home has been female.  My only comment on this so far is that I felt right from the start that Eliza and Sweet P were poor choices - their point of view destined them to be at odds with the show's direction.  We'll see what happens tonight.

The judges and I were in agreement for the most part.  Michael's (left) was the winner over all.  While I could have seen Miss Piggy in all 4 of these designs, I think when promoting a movie, Michael's just had a lot more of the right feel - deep jewel tones, rich looking fabric and interesting detailing.  Kenley (2nd from left) again proved she has learned to edit.  The outfit is so her and the over-size puff on the head actually works in my opinion.  She is going to have to be careful though, as she could soon be considered a one note designer.  Rami (2nd from right) went for fun.  The judges loved his bright and energetic take on the challenge and as always his construction is flawless.  I loved Kara's (right) design as well and could easily have seen Miss Piggy in it.

Michael - Kenley - Rami - Kara
The next set were interesting designs that perhaps didn't work for Miss Piggy or were not right for the challenge of wearing to promote a movie. Austin's (left) colour combination wasn't a hit with anyone and the big bows placed right on the hips were an unfortunate choice.  Mila (middle) created an outfit that was definitely her point of view and everyone actually found interesting.  Most could see Miss Piggy wearing it - just not for a movie promotion.  It lacked impact and pizzazz. Mondo (right) as always created an interesting garment that was beautifully made.  I think the lack of shape in the silhouette and conservative neckline probably placed it here.  As well - I think it's a bit to young in design for Miss Piggy.

Austin - Mila - Mondo
Last are the four I felt missed the mark.  Anthony's creation (left) makes this poor model look so common - I don't know how else to say it.  She doesn't look like a model at all and the silhouette makes her figure look a bit dumpy. April's design (2nd from left) didn't address the challenge.  There is nothing interesting or stunning about this garment and it definitely doesn't say, "I'm out promoting a movie."  Gordana (2nd from right) just didn't get it.  Mentor Joanna Coles warned her this looked like a shapeless nightgown, but Gordana chose to ignore the feedback.  I would add the the colour of pink definitely did not pop either. She was sent home.  Last is Jerrell (right).  All I can say is what was he thinking.  I could have just as easily have sent him home.  From fabric choice to the silhouette that makes the shoulders look narrower and the rest of the body wider - it was sad.

Anthony - April - Gordana - Jerrell
Episode 4 airs tonight and the theme is to create a tasteful outfit inspired by the colour and flavour of a variety of gelato. Slice TV does offer videos of just the two previous episodes if you missed them at http://www.slice.ca/Slice/Watch/Default.aspx?ID=v.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

File:The Adventures of Tintin - Secret of the Unicorn.jpgI have said in a previous blog how much I love animation.  While I don't see every animated movie that comes out, I do see a lot of them.  Last night it was the Adventures of Tintin.  First - a little history courtesy of Wikipedia.  I have not checked all these facts so keep that in mind.

"The Adventures of Tintin is a series of comic books created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century, with translations published in more than 50 languages and more than 200 million copies of the books sold to date. The series first appeared in French in Le Petit Vingtième, a children's supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siècle on 10 January 1929."

Orginal comic characters
The 2011 Hollywood 3D version was directed by Steven Spielberg, who acquired the film rights to the series in 1983 at Herge's death.  Originally it was to be co-produced by Universal and Paramount, but when Universal opted out, Sony stepped in.  Also involved in the project were producer Peter Jackson (whose company Weta Digital provided the computer animation) and writers Steven Moffatt, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish.  Now enough of the dry background and onto my review.

I loved it - there it's been said.  For me, it was humorous and captivating in all the right ways. The movie obviously tickled the fancy of the few kids at this later showing and the adults all had smiles on their faces as well.  It is definitely a period piece set in a time when there were 3-masted ships driven by the wind.  Tintin is a journalist with a history of solving crimes who lives in a European town and is always accompanied by his brave and resourceful dog Snowy.  There is a bumbling pair of almost identical detectives that constantly circle in and out of his world.  Good and evil battle it out with good, of course, triumphing.

I want to stay away from the plot in case you haven't seen it yet, so I'm just going to share what stood out for me.  The animation hit me first.  It was a very different style from what I usually see and so realistic I was floored for the first few minutes while trying to process the fact it was all fantasy. A lot of today's animation has incredible detail - like Rapunzel's hair in Tangled - but this animation was eerily real. They actually had to make the figures look more cartoonish - bigger noses, longer faces, extra round faces, etc.  Adding 3D to the picture took the whole effect to the next level.  I have heard people complain that sometimes 3D is just a selling point and not really taken advantage of in a movie.  Not so here - it was used to great effect.

Another stand-out feature for me is, I suspect, due to Spielberg's influence.  All through the movie I kept noticing the great angles the movie was "shot" from - only to have to keep reminding myself it wasn't shot.  It was if Spielberg was given a cartoon camera free of the restrictions physics applies on a regular movie and used it to it's ultimate limits.  We had aerial views, ground up views, the effect of a camera following someone in a crowd and more.  Avatar had some unusual perspectives, but not to this level.  This was hands down cutting edge and I can only suspect his experience in film provided the impetus.  I would have love to have been a fly on the wall when animators were given the challenge to create this effect.  I can't tell you how many times while caught up in the plot I kept catching myself in the lie; having to remind myself there was no camera or cameraman - just a team of people working on a computer.

Yes - this is animation!!
The last I want to comment on here was the chase scene.  Sorry James Bond - the trophy has passed.  Gone are the laws of physics as a historical car, a motorcycle with side car, an assortment of people both good and bad, Snowy the dog and a crow careen through the fictional Moroccan city of Bagghar trying to keep control of 3 scraps of paper.  Those scraps change hands (or claws or jaws) constantly as the characters create havoc and survive death-defying feats not possible in real life.  It was the chase scene of all chase scenes and worth the price of the ticket alone if you're a fan of the genre.

There is a lot more I could share, but the movie really should be seen before you know too much.  I was lucky to read and hear absolutely nothing before I went, so the impact of the movie was not influenced by others. If you have been considering whether to go, I recommend getting out there while it is still available in 3D.  It really does make a difference because of the style of the animation.  The story will still be good on your home TV, but a lot will be lost in terms of being drawn in.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Dreaded M Word - Mammogram

I have labored for almost a year on whether to write this column.  It's my sense of humor and absolutely true, but the web is a strange thing and I always wonder whether I should be a bit more discreet.  Sorry, but it's time to throw caution to the wind  This is the story of my very first and utterly traumatic mammogram.  It evoked every emotion I had.  But despite this ridiculous first experience, I still am grateful for tests like this and go every year on schedule!

When my physician told me it was time for my first mammogram I wasn't exactly thrilled.  I had fairly small breasts and had heard all those stories women like to tell.  BUT, my father died of cancer in his 50's and had a sister who also had cancer (caught in time), so I was on board regardless.  Since there isn't any history of breast cancer in my family I initially took it pretty lightly, but that was soon to change.  Before I go any further I want to stress that EVERY professional I dealt with had great compassion and tried to make me as comfortable as possible.  It was just a Murphy's Law experience that happened once and has fortunately never been repeated.

The phone range and it was the mammography clinic.  Could I possibly move my appointment?  I had a tight schedule at that time, but agreed to go in an hour or 2 later.  When I arrived at the set time ready, willing and able, I was given a great big thank-you for being flexible.  The reason? Several first time mammograms had come back with serious cancers found and needed a follow-up before emergency surgery.  Now given this was my first time and that my dad died of cancer, I found a great dread slowly start to build in my gut.  While the information was shared for all the right reasons - they wanted to explain why I was inconvenienced - it really wasn't something you should share with a first-timer, especially one with a family member who passed away of cancer.

The next step is putting on the gown and then sitting patiently waiting your turn.  Nothing funny or unusual about that.  BUT what comes next was.  A totally lovely technician exuding warmth and reassurance invited me into THE ROOM with a broad smile.  Then to my surprise I was asked to remove the gown, place it on a chair by the door and then strut across a medium-sized open space to the machine?!?!?!??!  Excuse me?  I assume we are given those gowns to preserve at least a little sense of modesty as most of us getting mammograms are older and no longer enjoy strutting around naked.  The breasts aren't as perky as they used to be.  If the gown is open in front, the technician would still have easy access to the girls so why not let us leave it on?  In a lot of the images I find on a Google search they do this.  So why not here? Or they could have had a chair by the machine to place it on.  SIGH!  I just grinned and did what I was told all the while wishing I was a cartoonist and could capture this moment.  I was shocked at how far they could stretch my small breasts but was very fortunate the whole experience was comfortable for me.  Karma I guess for going with the flow.

I walked out having a great laugh over the experience, but that changed a few days later when I received a call.  The reason - I was on an emergency recall list and had to come in as quickly as possible.  What they shared about emergency call-backs at my first appointment, the fact they wouldn't share any information on why (urgent or just a precaution), my experience with my dad and having both my personal doctor and my significant other out of town made for a very tough moment. On the way to my appointment I thought carefully about what I needed to say and shared it on arrival. They needed to be more careful in the way they talked with patients and be willing to share more information - it is my information.  Everyone was again very understanding and supportive, but the person who called me denied handling it that way.

So there I sat in my gown again - but at a different clinic - this time very anxiously awaiting my turn.   I again had to leave my gown on a chair by the door and strut my stuff.  Thankfully it was a shorter walk to the machine.  My anxiety went up as they positioned me.  I quickly realized they were looking at the lymph nodes - a bad sign.  When I asked about this, they again refused to give me any information.  My blood pressure rose.  Then just as she went behind the screen to take the mammogram, she dropped the bomb, "Don't forget you have to have an ultrasound after this."  Thrown out casually, it hit like a ton of bricks as no one HAD told me.  An enormous sense of dread descended on me.  The room started to blacken and spots appeared.  Damn - I might faint.

The technician now started to panic as she reviewed her options.  I could see it in her eyes. There is humour to be found in every situation and this is where I always look back with a laugh..  I can only say I hope the technician does too.  If I did faint, she only had 2 options, each equally ridiculous.  First she could press the button to release my breast at which point I would thud to the ground. There was no way she could get around the screen in time to catch me.  The other option was to leave me hanging from the machine by my breast and run to get help.  Someone had to hold me while the other person went behind the screen to hit the release button.  I think it was that moment of hilarity that got me through.  While I really couldn't laugh at the time, it provided the distraction I needed to hold it together.  After all that I don't think I spoke another word through that whole appointment.  I was done, checked out, and just left my body behind to finish the job.

The end result?  When I went to my doctor for the results there wasn't a single thing to worry about.  Not only that, but the initial call-back was labeled "LOW RISK".  She was as unhappy as I was about this experience and to this day I cannot believe that it would be a problem to share the low risk status when they booked the appointment.  Fortunately future mammograms have been totally non-eventful experiences, but every time I make a new one - I take a moment to look back and laugh at that first one.

Now to close with a little Mammogram humour!!!!!  Now get out there and book that appointment you've been putting off.

Many women are afraid of their first mammogram, but there is no need to worry.
By taking a few minutes each day for a week preceding the exam and doing the following exercises, you will be totally prepared for the test and best of all, you can do these simple exercises right in and around your home.

Open your refrigerator door and insert one breast in door.
Shut the door as hard as possible and lean on the door for good measure.
Hold that position for five seconds. Repeat again in case the first time wasn't effective enough.

Visit your garage at 3AM when the temperature of the cement floor is just perfect.  Take off all your clothes and lie comfortably on the floor with one breast wedged under the rear tyre of the car. Ask a friend to slowly back the car up until your breast is sufficiently flattened and chilled. Turn over and repeat with the other breast. 

Freeze two metal bookends overnight. Strip to the waist. Invite a stranger into the room.
Press the bookends against one of your breasts. Smash the bookends together as hard as you can.
Set up an appointment with the stranger to meet next year and do it again.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Project Runway All-Stars - Episode 2

Another week, another episode.  As #3 is airing tonight I wanted to get this out now.

Episode 2 is "Night at the Opera."  One would assume this challenge a favourite amongst the various designers, but not so.  There are a few that really don't include standard opera offerings in their repertoire.  However, this talented group of designers all gave it there best.  In the end Austin was the winner and Sweet P was sent home. I honestly don't feel that Sweet P was ever a good choice for this show.  The aesthetic they are usually looking for is not hers so it really set her up to be an early elimination.

The best part about blogging is you don't have to agree with anyone else.  I personally wouldn't have chosen Austin at the top. Just a personal opinion.  That said, it's important to acknowledge that the garments may have a different effect in person.  Photos and TV really don't give a feel for the fabric the garment is created from and some of the mood is definitely lost.  Right or wrong, here's my take on the challenge.

Here are the top 5 (my top 4 plus the judges choice).  I honestly would not have included Austin in this grouping, but as he was the judges choice it belongs.  For Austin's garment (left), I personally think the black netting looks cheap and there is something wrong with the proportions.  Her bust looks small and hips look big. I would love to own Michael's creation (middle).  Black is always a great choice and the trim he used around the neck and shoulders gave it a sense of luxury and touch of interest.  Rami's creation (right) was visually stunning.  I personally love vivid jewel tones and the intricate detail work on the bodice contrasted against the flowing gathered skirt is nice.  My only criticism is perhaps the bodice is a bit busy, but the dress is definitely a stunner.

Kenley (left) - what can I say.  I didn't care for her work in the original show, but her aesthetic has really matured and she has learned to edit.  Her aesthetic is still there, but it's not over done. I'm becoming a fan.  This pink concoction has young starlet written all over it.  The large sheer polka dot bow was just enough for interest and balanced well with the full skirt.  Mondo (right) is one-of-a-kind. I am always amazed at this designer's technical skill and how, no matter what the challenge, he manages to infuse his stamp on every garment.  He wasn't excited about doing opera wear, but pulled it off regardless.  And here is the king of combining prints and colours doing an all white dress. Kudos.

Now for those I wasn't as excited about.  These 3 are in the middle for me. April (left) has an edgy aesthetic that isn't opera oriented.  She decided to go with a bit of Corpse Bride influence and chose to dip dye the bottom of the blood red gown in black dye.  It wasn't a hit with the judges.  I personally felt all the detail work at the top was a bit confusing and more of an issue, but I loved her attempt to bring a new idea forward.  Kara (right) started by saying she didn't do opera, so she instead of trying to give the expected, she chose an out-of-the-box pastel print. I actually thought it worked for what it was.  No, it didn't look like luxurious opera wear, but I certainly could see the gown on a young ingenue who wanted to wear something original.

Mila's (left) was not bad, but just not great. I do like this designers and honestly don't have any real criticism, but in the scheme of things it just didn't stand out. Last is Gordana (right).   I laboured over whether to put this in the middle of the bottom, but in the end it goes here because of her originality.  I like seeing someone push the boundaries, but just wish she hadn't done the sheer leg cut-outs, or handled them differently (perhaps a totally sheer bottom with a solid mini skirt underneath).

Now for those I would put in the bottom. Anthony (left) actually received some positive response from the judges.  I was surprised.  Nothing wrong with it, but in comparison to what many of the others did in terms of design and sheer detailing it just wasn't a standout.   Jerrell (middle) also missed the mark for me.  Love the colour palette, the print fabric used and the sheer at the top.  Hate the fact the silhouette makes the model look like she's wearing a maternity gown.  The puffy textured bodice only adds to the effect.  Sweet P (right) was sent home and deservedly so.  She does not design luxury garments and I have said a couple of times that her design aesthetic was not right for the type of show this was.  The colour and print are not ones I am drawn to, but I do know there is a market for this type of garment.  Just not high end.

So there you go - my overview.  It would be nice to actually be there in person to see how the garments affect me, but that's not going to happen.  That said, it's most important that luxury garments come across well on camera and TV as that is where the majority of us see them.  So there's something to be said for a review done from a distance.

Episode 3 airs tonight on Slice TV.

Also - I found out that many of the garments are open for sale by auction after the show airs.  Have a garment you're dying to own?  See if it's available at http://projectrunwayallstars.auction.seenon.com/?ecid=SMM-AETN-00231&pa=SMM-AETN-00231.