Thursday, August 30, 2012

“So You Think You Can Dance” 2012: Top 6 revealed (and how we got here)

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 12:15 PM

This week's show opened with a fairly sloppy and unconnected opening number - there were multiple instances of the dancers not being in synch - by apparently new choreographer Peter Chu. It did very little for me, and the whole thing felt poorly rehearsed.

Then we got to the meat of the show, featuring Season 9's Top 8: Tiffany, Will, Whitney, Cole, Eliana, Cyrus, Chechon, and Lindsay. That's one of the weirdest groups we've ever had. Just ONE contemporary dancer (Will)? Unheard of on this show. I'm not complaining, mind you. I like the diversity in dance styles represented by this crew, but I can't help but think that this is a very odd collection of contestants, especially given the absence of some early frontrunners. I think the multiple double-elimination weeks due to July 4 and the Olympics dramatically impacted the progress of this season. There's no question that Amelia and Matthew would still be in this game if they were only doing one elimination per week. They would have landed in the bottom, been saved, and then gotten a bounce in the polls due to being put in danger. (See: Jessica Sanchez and this year's "American Idol.") I also think the multiple off weeks have seriously impacted the way the viewers connect to these dancers. Even this week I was confusing Whitney and Lindsay, and I still don't feel like I know who the hell Tiffany is.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson was back behind the judging table. He's a very entertaining judge and always has a lot to say, but I wonder what kind of expertise he brings to the show. Then again, after weeks of dull AND content-free critiques from legitimate dancing bigwigs The Ballet Boys and Benjamin Millipied, I'll take charming and insightful any day. The Top 8 each danced a number with a SYTYCD All-Star, got little personality packages (desperately overdue), and danced solos. Am I wrong, or at this point in previous seasons wouldn't the dancers each be dancing multiple numbers per episode? Has this new format allowed for an easier go of it for these dancers? If so, it has certainly worked to the advantage of certain contestants *cough*Cyrus*cough*.

For her number Whitney got hip-hop with All-Star Twitch, choreographed by Luther Brown, who has apparently come down from the Canadian version of the show. The costuming department had Whitney in goddamned Hammer pants. No. That is the not the look, ever. I'd like to know if we have new costuming folks, because this is at least the third or fourth time this season that I have taken notice of how terrible some of these dancers are dressed. Whitney was really throwing herself into the routine, possibly a bit too much. She was mugging throughout (ballroom tendencies), but she was hitting the moves hard, although not with swag - it was very bouncy. Still, I barely watched Twitch. The judges loved it.

Cole and All-Star Allison got a jazz piece by Sonya Tayeh about a soulless man and the woman who loves him. Sonya's romantic bent from earlier in the season has taken a darker turn, apparently, as this was much harder and more disturbing than most of her recent work. Beautifully danced by the pair of them, and once again Cole showed off his huge gifts as a character actor. I found the whole thing hypnotic. Ferguson said it was like an "American Horror Story" promo. Mary said it was the best performance she's ever seen from Allison. And let's just stop a minute and appreciate how much better Allison has gotten since Season 2. She's incredible.

Eliana got a quickstep choreographed by Jonathan Roberts, and was paired with All-Star Ryan, who I barely even remembered. She played a bored and ignored housewife who tries to get her husband's attention. Quickstep is such a tough dance, but this looked good to me, and Eliana was really selling it. Tons of fun to watch. Mary had a few notes on Eliana's frame, but overall she loved it. Jesse complimented Eliana on her range of emotion and versatility as a dancer, and that is very true of Eliana -- perhaps more than any other dancer this season.

Lindsay got another jazz piece by Sonya, and was paired with All-Star Alex Wong. I wish Sonya hadn't used "Somebody That I Used to Know" for the song, because I'm just so over that track. I could barely focus on the dancing. The routine was interesting and athletic, but not particularly attention grabbing. And I think Lindsay fared especially poorly paired against Alex, who practically demands your attention. Nigel did not feel the sexual tension, and I absolutely agreed with that. There was very little chemistry between the two dancers. I am not sure if Lindsay is capable of sexual tension at this point in her life, and I'm not saying that to be a dick. I just don't think she's experienced enough for those kinds of complex emotions. But all the judges praised the technique.

Will got a Christopher Scott hip-hop with Lauren Gottlieb. (I love Lauren, but she's not really a hip-hop dancer; the fact that she's pulling these assignments is a testament to just how weak the female hip-hop contestants have been on this show.) The number tasked class clown Will with being more serious, as he was portraying a brokenhearted guy dancing his pain away. The interesting thing here is that the two dancers did not interact in the piece at all; Lauren wasn't actually there, just willing Will to get up and dance. So the two had to mirror each other's movements without actually looking at one another. It was a cool, funky hip-hop style that I liked quite a bit. It felt slightly sloppy to me in parts, but given the unconventional set up that's understandable. The couch rolling was unnecessary. The judges all told Will how adorable he is and encouraged him to believe in himself more, because he deserves to be there.

Cyrus got jazz by Mandy Moore, paired with last season's winner, Melanie Moore. So that's combining one of the best dancers the show has ever seen with one of the worst. It was a really fun routine and Cyrus gave great face and attitude throughout. There's no question that he's likable. But the dancing on his part was very minimal. Lots of standing, walking across the stage while flexing, and jumping. Surprisingly content lite from Mandy, and given her other routine of the night, and the judges' CLEAR favoritism of Cyrus, I'm tempted to call shenanigans. Jesse compared Cyrus to Twitch, and I was thinking that myself during that routine. Nigel talked about Cyrus's personality, and the fact that Cyrus has never been in the Bottom 3. He also added that, even by the end of the show, Cyrus will probably not be the best dancer. Boy, howdy. If Cyrus wins this thing he will unquestionably -- UNQUESTIONABLY -- be the worst winner in the series' history. Mary continued to make excuses for him, about how he wasn't dancing in his style, but NONE of them tonight were dancing in their style. And she went on to say that none of the other dancers can animate like Cyrus. But none of the other dancers can do ballet, and none of them can do Cole's style, either. And yet none of those dancers are given passes, ever. I just get so tired of the way these judges treat the "untrained" dancers like pets. It's so patronizing, and it's unfair to literally ever other kind of style represented on this show. Do you think a tapper could ever get the kinds of passes they dole out to Cyrus (and others before him - S7's Jose comes immediately to mind)?

Chehon pulled a tango with the always-welcome Anya. It started out with huge leaps from Chehon and beautiful spins from Anya. These two are like paragons of masculinity and femininity when they dance. It was a very romantic tango, not an overtly sexual one. Chehon did beautifully in this - it was his best partnering to date. Mary loved it and said that it was her favorite performance of the night, and that Chehon finally delivered a fully connected performance. Chehon was on the Hot Tamale Train! Very few passengers this season, I hasten to add.

Tiffany got a jazz/contemporary number with Ade, set to "The Power of Love" by Celine Dion. Oh, MANDY MOORE. You have such...Canadian taste in music. A very pretty routine, although I felt like I was forgetting it while I was watching it. Is it weird to say that it felt more like an ice-skating performance than a dance number? The judges gave it a standing ovation, which was ridiculous. Jesse commented on the terrific lifts and partner work, and that was true. Mary called Tiffany "extraordinary," but honestly, I keep forgetting that girl exists. She's a very good dancer, and beautiful, but she does not make an impression. I keep saying to myself, "There's a girl named Tiffany on this show?" Nigel brazenly stole Cat's lame One Direction joke. It wasn't that clever the first time, certainly wasn't the second.

Results: Lindsay and Whitney were the bottom girls, while Will and Cole were the bottom boys. My pick would be to save Whitney and Cole. Whitney was spared, and that will only help her - she will absorb pretty much all of Lindsay's votes, because they are basically the same dancer. And Cole was also saved. I love Will, he is adorable, and a very good dancer. But Cole is truly special and I want to see him in the finale.

I do think it is ridiculous that, as of right now, the two dancers poised to win this season are one of the weakest contestants to ever make Top 6 (Cyrus) and a dancer whose name I cannot even remember (Tiffany). Neither of them have ever been in the Bottom 2.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Face Off" Season 3, Episode 2: The pirate life for me

Eric's take on the sci-fi make-up competition's "Pirates of the Caribbean" challenge

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Following the excitement of the season premiere's team challenge -- and I'm referring more to Joe's five-star nuttery than the "Star Wars" task -- last night's episode gave us a better sense of the S3 competitors' individual skill levels. Seems to me that, on the whole, we have a bunch of very good technicians, but the creativity seems to be lacking.

The task was to create "Pirates of the Caribbean"-style characters that had been consumed by the sea; each contestant was assigned a pirate-related item (kelp, shells) that had to be incorporated into the looks. The good news is that there are at least three or four VERY skilled members of this group, who are already performing at higher levels than most of what we saw during Season 2 of this show. In fact, most of the creations that fell into the middle of the pack had at least some redeeming qualities about them.

Before we get into the individual looks, some notes on a few of the contestants. Rod, who won the "Star Wars" challenge (although it seemed from my couch that his partner on the task, Roy, did the lion's share of the work on their ambitious project), started off the second episode with his arm in a brace. He apparently worked so hard, so fast during the first challenge that he inflamed the tendons in his hand/arm. He knows that by continuing on the show his injury could possibly get worse, but he refuses to quit. I think I find that admirable, but I worry about the long-term health consequences for the guy.

Tommy, the floppy-haired kid who get bulldozed by crazy Joe last week, did OK on his first solo challenge. I was hoping he would turn out something amazing and shock everybody, and his kelp creation was solid. But he made a couple of rookie mistakes (the wig, which was central to his look, didn't fit properly). He's likable, but probably too green for this show.

But not as green as Alana, who is already grating on my last nerve. Listen, Alana is cute, seems sweet, and has a good story -- she's the girlfriend of S2 runner-up Ian. But she is SUCH a spaz in the workroom that it's impossible to root for her. Two episodes in a row she was running around the studio like a crazy person, injuring herself on the equipment, and freaking out about not having time or knowing what she was doing. In both challenges she has required help from other designers to get her works finished (I think she had three other contestants helping her with her molds this time, and that's not counting the advice she was constantly seeking from her competitors), and she just BARELY got her make-ups ready in time. Thing is, she is talented. She's creative and can do the work. She just has such poor time- and stress-management skills that I find her exhausting to watch. Girl. Calm down. Focus. Do your work. Enough with the histrionics.

At judging, the top looks were easy to pick out from the rest of the lot. Roy's dagger pirate had a spectacular color palette -- a purple base with an elaborate sea urchin-festooned headpiece -- and he worked in his daggers in a cool way, by having the knives embedded in the pirate's ribcage. Laura's shell creation was a real show-stopper, with a headpiece that totally changed the shape of her model -- it was the only one that didn't look baseline human -- and the make-up even "breathed" with the monster. Very cool stuff.

But the win, I think correctly, went to Sarah's sea-urchin-infected sea wench, whose skin was cracked and bursting forth with urchin spines and yellow goo. The whole look was sick, and Sarah's costuming background was put to great use. Sarah also understands the importance of presentation. She waited for the judges to take a closer look before having her model activate the ooze trick, which, in the words of head judge Glenn Hetrick, pushed her over the top. Sarah's got the goods -- as do Roy and Laura -- and I hope they can sustain this level of work throughout the season.

The Bottom 3 were markedly less impressive, with CC's uninspired barnacle dude, Eric's amateurish spyglass guy, and Jason's completely baffling jewel pirate getting drubbed by the judges. CC seemed lost from the very beginning of the episode -- I wondered if she didn't know what a barnacle was -- and her make-up was boring, too symmetrical, and oddly colored. Eric did an OK job with the majority of his look, but the most important part -- a spyglass that he had built into his pirate's eye -- looked like a joke, with a really hokey paint job. It's something you might see in a high-schooler's homemade horror video. He also did not take criticism well, letting out a string of obscenities after the evaluation. If the producers are hoping for a brother vs. brother finale they're going to have to string these guys along, because I don't think either of the twins has what it takes at this point.

Pretty, pretty Jason really worried me this week. He went SO off the map with his jewel assignment that I can't imagine he's long for this show. His concept, a jewel thief who got attacked by an octopus that then...impregnated him, I guess, went in such a bizarre tangent, and the final look resembled a sweaty Vegas lounge lizard more than anything sea-related. He argued that he was going for a believable creation, but to me that was about as lifelike as something out "The Klumps."

CC was the easy boot this time, but I'm worried for both Eric and Jason. They're my eye candy this season, and both of them displayed some very poor creative instincts that should get them axed sooner rather than later. Eric has the twin gimmick working in his favor, but yeah -- overall, not a good showing for either of them.

Next: the Chinese zodiac, with an added acrobatic element.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

UPDATE: Rochester Fringe Festival additions

Second Bandaloop show, Gospel Sunday, & more

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 4:31 PM

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival today announced several more events for its inaugural festival, which will take place September 19-23 in downtown Rochester.

-The high-flying dance troupe Bandaloop, which will perform an aerial dance number on the side of the 21-story HSBCPlaza on Thursday, September 20, has added a second performance on Saturday, September 22, at 4:30 p.m., also at HSBC. The show is free and appropriate for all audiences.

-Comedian Jamie Lissow, who has performed stand-up comedy across the country, including appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "The Late Late Show," and is known locally for his work on "The Wease Show," will open for superstar comedian Patton Oswalt's Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre show on Saturday, September 22.

-In addition to the Harlem Gospel Choir headlining performance Friday, September 21, at Kodak Hall, the festival will present Gospel Sunday on Sunday, September 23, 3-5:30 p.m. Mt. Olivet Baptist Church Youth Pastor Winterbourne Jones has coordinated a series of free concerts on Fringe's outdoor Gibbs Street. Among the groups performing will be Jasen Monroe and The Elim Sanctuary Choir, Bishop Charlie Wells and the Original Voices of Clouds, Jason Wright and the Master's Touch, and the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church Mega Choir.

-The free outdoor Fringe shows will also include Prime Time Funk,Bill Evans Dance, and other performers, and the festival still has openings for street performers and volunteers. For more information visit the Fringe Festival website or e-mail streetperformer@rochesterfringe.com or volunteer@rochesterfringe.com.

Look for the full guide to the Fringe Festival in the September 12 issue of City Newspaper, and continue to check this website for updates.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

VIDEO GAMES: Nintendo unveils 3DS holiday line-up

Posted By on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 at 3:53 PM

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With summer winding down, Nintendo has released its upcoming holiday handheld release schedule.

The biggest hitter, "Paper Mario: Sticker Star," will be arriving on the 3DS on November 11, marking the first time the RPG paper-art series has hit a handheld console.

Layton returns with “Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask” for the Nintendo 3DS on October 28.
  • Layton returns with “Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask” for the Nintendo 3DS on October 28.

Also of note, puzzle gamers will be excited to hear that "Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask," will be arriving on October 28, including bonus daily puzzles that can be downloaded for a full year after launch.

But, fans of ghost hunting are going to have to wait a little longer: Buried in the release was the delay of "Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon," which has been pushed back to a "first half" of 2013 release. Eeks.

Several new titles were also announced, include a sequel to Freakyforms, "Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive!" which will be available via the Nintendo eShop on November 5. For the photographer inside of you, "Sparkle Snapshots 3D" is also coming to the eShop on October 18, allowing you to jazz up your photos with various 3D effects, such as stickers (a new theme?) and ribbons.

Not surprisingly, Nintendo was mum on any Wii titles, or the Wii U release, which is expected to be given a final launch date in the coming months.

Willie was very excited for Luigi's Mansion and sad to see it pushed back to next year. If you want to help him get over this, or grieve with him, be sure to follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

“RuPaul’s Drag Race”: Rating the “All Stars” cast

Posted By on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 10:36 PM

This fall, a historic decision will impact the future of this nation, and possibly the world. No, not the presidential election. We're fucked no matter who takes that. I'm talking about who will ultimately be crowned the winner of "RuPaul's All Stars Drag Race," which brings back a dozen of the baddest bitches from the previous four seasons of "Drag Race." Locas, the glamour! The eleganza! The SHADE of it all!

I have been gagging ever since the cast was announced yesterday (click here for the trailer, in case the embedded one is being a lazy bitch), and ruminating over which of the 12 returning queens will snatch the tiara in this battle of the drag titans. Consider this: we have every runner-up in series history, and every single Miss Congeniality in the mix. My thoughts are below. What do YOU think? Did they get the cast right? Who are you excited to see back? Who do you want to win this time? Post in the comments section below!

SEASON 1:

Nina Flowers: Back in Season 1, it was a real toss up between Ms. Flowers and eventual winner Bebe Zahara Benet. Both were fierce queens who exhibited incredible polish and radiated star power. At the time Nina was sometimes criticized for her unapologetically edgy, more androgynous style of drag. But given recent wins by Raja and Sharon Needles, it's safe to say that the judges have become more open to alternative styles of drag over the past few years. Nina's a solid competitor and a talented performer, but is also a sweetheart. Given this very tough field, I wonder if she's going to fight for the win as hard as some of these other seasoned queens.

Tammie Brown: Tammie was the second queen ever to be eliminated on "Drag Race," and many people are questioning her inclusion in "All Stars." But I have to say, I'm glad she's here. Her drag - though admittedly not a natural fit for this show's format -- is unlike anything else we've seen, she's fascinating, and given that she lasted only two episodes, nobody can deny that she's memorable. Keep in mind that Tammie, like the rest of the Season 1 queens, was at a real disadvantage the first time around - they had no idea what they were getting into, or how they should prepare. I'm fascinated to see what Tammie will do with another shot. Let's see what new tricks she's learned while walking with God's children through nature!

Shannel:Even after four seasons, I don't think any other queen on this show has ever brought performances on the level of Shannel. Remember that one runway where the bitch came out juggling while strutting bare assed? Or the snake-goddess outfit? Shannel is a master performer, and she is determined. The only thing that got in her way the first time was her attitude and inability to take criticism. Based on her subsequent appearances on "Drag U" she seems to have curbed the cockiness. If she can remain focused, ambitious, and actually listen to what the judges want, she should be very stiff competition.

SEASON 2:

Raven:There are a lot of similarities between Raven and Shannel. They're both drag vets who know how to own a stage, but they also both know how good they are - and expect to be treated accordingly. I will argue until my death that either Raven or Jujubee should have won Season 2 over Tyra Sanchez, but regardless, Raven is back, leaner but hopefully not meaner (she was vicious to Tatianna, and not in a fun way). Like Shannel, if she can fully harness that drive and perfectionism, and focus on her own performance instead of shitting on others, she'll be difficult to take down.

Jujubee: For me, one of the funniest, most endearing queens ever on the show. Juju is still the best librarian to take on the reading challenges, but her insults rarely seemed negative. She's a fun bitch, not a bitchy bitch. Juju's problems in Season 2 were all internal, as she psyched herself out during several key challenges (notably the rock-singing episode). She is fishy, she is funny, she is fabulous. If she can own that she'll do OK here. But I fear that she lacks the drive that it will take to keep up with some of these other all-stars. Love her as I do, I'm betting on a middle-pack finish for our Juju.

Pandora Boxx:Rochester's hometown gal emerged as the fan favorite from Season 2, and two seasons later is still among the most popular contestants ever on "Drag Race." In fact, when one of the spots on the show was left to a public vote on Facebook, Pandora narrowly lost to Sharon Needles - who opted out of "All Stars" after winning Season 4 - and the two of them were ahead of the pack by a WIDE margin. Pandora's humor, relatability, and sweetness have made her the people's drag queen, and many fans are looking for her to go all the way this time. Pandora's main critiques in Season 2 were related to her glam-challenged wardrobe and occasional self doubt. Since the show, there's no question that she's dramatically upped her fashion game, and her confidence. The trick now is, she's no longer the plucky underdog. She's got lots of fans with lots of expectations. But I suspect that Pandora takes that seriously, and I'll be stunned if Pandy doesn't make it to the finish line this time.

SEASON 3:

Alexis Mateo: Although second-runner-up in her original season, I am extremely dubious about Alexis's chances this time around. She is very good in her particular showgirl style of drag, but now she's competing directly against Shannel, who basically IS showgirl drag. I've seen the term "one-note" bandied about a lot in regards to Alexis, and I have to agree. She can be a delight (I am still tickled by her salute to the troops), but she's simply not the most exciting queen in this race - not by a longshot. There's also a strange sadness with Alexis - a vibe that permeated her entire season, actually - and the slightest dip in energy is going to leave any of these ladies in the dust. Sorry, Alexis fans, but she's my pick for the first or second to go.

Yara Sofia: Yara became a dark horse in her original season, and the plucky Puerto Rican certainly has her charms. She's got tons of energy, a cool alternative style, and can be quite funny - she was great in both the news channel and stand-up comedy challenges. But the problem with Yara is that she tended to go right to the hyper, incoherent Latina shtick, and on top of that, she completely, totally cracked under the pressure at Final 4. That's somewhat understandable, but her terrible attitude about having to lipsynch - with only four queens left - really put me off. But hey, she won Miss Congeniality that year, so what do I know? She's got some fight, but I'm seeing a middle-of-the-pack finish for Yara this time.

Manila Luzon: Had the exquisite creature known as Raja not been on the roster, I'm convinced that Manila would have won Season 3. She's elegant, funny, fishy as all hell, and a gifted comedian, and she performed one of the most memorable lipsynchs in the show's history to "MacArthurPark." While dressed as a muppet. That is furry fierceness. The bad news is, I don't think Manila is as hungry for the win as some of the other queens invited to this race. I'd like to be proven wrong, because I love her, and she certainly has the goods. But so do at least four other queens, and they won't hesitate to trip a bitch on the runway if they have to. Manila's too classy for that.

Mimi Imfurst:Easily the most controversial member of the "All Stars" cast, Mimi finished in 11th place her original season, which wouldn't necessarily scream "all star" to most viewers. But allow me to play drag devil's advocate. There's no doubt in my mind that Mimi had much, much more to show us in Season 3, and probably would have stuck around quite a bit longer had she not physically assaulted one of the other competitors during her final lipsynch. Mimi's kind of nuts. Sometimes that can be a bad thing (see: that whole physical assault thing), but if channeled the right way...well, then you get Sharon Needles. Mimi is a total wild card, and has absolutely nothing to lose. If she can keep her shit together she could surprise a great many people. Or she could have another spectacular flame out and head home early. They're almost equally likely, although her "Meet the Queen" video on Logo's website suggests that she's still trying too hard. So that's worrisome.

SEASON 4:

Latrice Royale: I live for Latrice. In Season 4 she was a regal, calming presence in a sea of foolery (or should that be Phoolery, for Ms. O'Hara?), and this queen knows how to deliver a lipsynch. But her limited looks were a real problem (her appearances on "Drag U" at least suggest that the make-up has been much improved), and Latrice is, by her own admission, pretty fried after just wrapping her original season. She's an amazing queen and I hope she goes far. But again, she's up against SERIOUS competition this time. I'm afraid we'll be bidding adieu to Ms. Royale fairly early on, and then I will need biscuit Jesus to come and sop me up, as I will be awash in tears.

Chad Michaels: In his NewNowNext video, Chad also cops to having basically no time to prepare for "All Stars." But the thing is,Chad doesn't need prep time. Chad is one of the most flawless queens we've ever seen on this show. There's very little Chad cannot do, and do well. Comedy, acting, performing, sewing, working a motherfucking runway - Chad has this. Chad has all of this. The only reason Chad didn't win S4 is that Sharon sparkled just a bit brighter. This time, I expect Chad's consistent perfection to take him right to the end.

My predictions for Final 6: Chad Michaels, Nina Flowers, Shannel, Pandora Boxx, Raven, Manila Luzon. If I had to pick a winner right now, I'd bet on Chad, Pandora, Nina, or Shannel.

That said, we have absolutely no idea how this competition will work. There are 12 queens but reportedly only six episodes. Does that mean that we'll lose two queens per episode? That would mean at least three queens lipsynching for their lives, which would be awkward to say the least. Perhaps we'll get an entirely different format? Maybe one without eliminations? The trailer does say, "Twelve queens enter, one queen leaves." (I know, I'm being too literal.)

We'll all find out in October when "RuPaul's All Star Drag Race" premieres on Logo. To keep up on the show, check the official website or follow it on Facebook. And yours truly will be blogging the shit out of this right here for City Newspaper. Echa pa'lante!

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

“Project Runway” Season 10, Episode 3: From Cheesy to Frumpy

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 11:22 PM

I feel like I may be jinxing this, but we're three episodes in and I am still really enjoying this season of "Project Runway." To me it feels more like the fabled seasons of yore, with some really talented designers surrounded by people who are, let's face it, reality-TV hangers-on. At least half of the designers are churning out work that genuinely interests me. But that doesn't mean that there isn't drama - and lots of it this episode. And it also doesn't mean that the judges always get it right.

The challenge was cool, if you ignored the gratuitous Lexus product placement: design a red-carpet gown to be worn at the Emmys by a former "Project Runway" contestant. The winning designer would also go to the big show as the former designer's date.

The designers were split into teams of two, selected via car keys (the color of the car that paired them had to be factored into the gowns they created). Here's how it worked out:

Christopher and Andrea had to design for Season 9 winner Anya

Sonjia and Nathan got Season 8's Valerie (I always liked her, and thought she got robbed in her season)

Buffi and Elena got Season 3's Laura (YAY!)

Ven and Fabio got Season 5's Kenley, who was...very Kenley

Kooan and Gunnar got imperious Season 6 winner Irina

Dmitry and Melissa were assigned Season 8's April (now with purple hair!)

Raul and Alicia got another of my favorites, Season 7's Mila

There was instant grumbling from this season's Russian contingent, as both Dmitry and Elena bitched about team challenges (we're on Season 10; they had to know this was coming sooner rather than later). Gunnar was utterly unenthused about being paired with Kooan, who became either invisible and/or defeated for the entire challenge. Gunnar explained that when it comes to fashion, he's a controlling bitch. I'm reasonably certain that's true of Gunnar in general - he seems completely insufferable. He also made some moderately offensive comments about Kooan not even knowing what the Emmys were, so that was nice.

Gunnar and Kooan's visit with Tim and Irina did not go well. Gunnar was reading Irina's disapprobation as arrogance (she has a right to be arrogant, dude - she is incredibly talented), while Tim called their sheer/solid white concept "borderline vulgar." Irina was fully dubious. Gunnar said he wanted to get Kenley. Of course he did. Those two sour bitches would have gotten along famously, until they decided they hated each other.

Mila was concerned about the print that Alicia and Raul picked for her gown, because print can read daytime on the red carpet. ("We don't want Mila to look like she's just come from a pool party," warned Tim. That depends: were there scantily dressed pool boys at said party? If so, I would say, go Mila.) Mila encouraged them to minimize the print and pump up the formal. Raul basically told her that if he had his way, he'd do what he wanted - in other words, Mila was wrong. The passive-aggressive is strong with that one.

Kenley gagged - in a good way - over Ven's taste in fabrics, and called the concept "very modern Grace Kelly." That's actually a fairly good descriptor of what Ven has served up thus far.

Tim and Anya told Andrea and Christopher to de-hooch their dress. Christopher did not respond positively to the criticism, and he does not seem like the type who is capable of changing directions without having a meltdown. He's going to crack, you guys. That was a NICE critique. Kors is going to destroy him by the end of the season.

Laura and Tim told Elena and Buffi that the labor-intensive pleating concept they were working on was just not practical given the major time constraints. This led Elena to shut down and get angry. I think that's her natural state, actually. She's like a fashion-designer version of the Hulk. After Elena stormed out (second time in two episodes, if you count the hot-glue incident), Buffi said she wanted to give up and walk out herself. The other designers encouraged Buffi to take over the dress and do her own thing. I think they just wanted to see Elena's head pop off. For her part, Elena was surprised that the show was giving her such little time for an evening-wear look. Had she never seen this show before agreeing to be on it?

The guest judge this time was Krysten Ritter, currently on "Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23," but whom I will always think of as Jane on "Breaking Bad." She was actually a great judge with some excellent comments and some real zingers. She seems like she really thinks about fashion.

Despite all the agita, Buffi and Elena's gown for Laura came out just fine. It was a bit dour, all black and flowy, and it made Laura look bigger than she is. But it worked.

Christopher and Andrea's outfit for Anya lacked any design interest aside from the skirt slit up to her hoo-ha. The brown was unflattering on her.

Ven and Fabio (although this read entirely Ven to me) made Kenley look totally adorable in her purple structured knee-length gown. Very cute and girly. Perfectly Kenley, and the pleats on the bodice made it really striking.

Dmitry and Melissa's dress for April really downplayed her bust and overplayed her belly. I got the concept of flowing, almost melted silver, but I can't imagine they wanted it to hit the way it did on her body. Still, it was an interesting design - I could see the Olsen Twins wearing it. But they made a young woman look 20 years older. (Which, come to think of it, is very Olsen.)

Raul and Alicia's outfit for Mila was a total dud. The top was deeply unflattering, poorly made, and there was no real design -- and very little red, which was part of the challenge.

Gunnar and Kooan's white gown for Irina was also very simple. The cape thing on the back seemed tacked on and unflattering. It was basically a sleeveless white tube.

Sonjia and Nathan made Valerie look like a million bucks in a shiny gold gown. The shoulder details that wrapped around the back gave it some interest. You would notice that girl on the red carpet.

Dmitry & Melissa and Buffi & Elena were safe, and weirdly so were Sonjia and Nathan. That dress deserved to be in the top. In talking heads, Elena continued to be a bitter kitten and talked mad shit about Buffi. While Buffi, bless her heart, was just proud of their accomplishments.

Fabio & Ven and Gunnar & Kooan were given the highest scores. That is bullshit - there was nothing about the Gunnar/Kooan dress that was deserving of that honor. Even Kooan looked astonished. That left Alicia & Raul and Andrea & Christopher in the bottom, and they were sent back to the stew room. Andrea - who is a mature woman, and who has been through Some Shit - put things into pespective, saying that it's ridiculous to be so invested in a stupid TV show and making a particular dress. Christopher did not want to hear that, because he is a 20something gay boy whose dream for years has been to be famous (I am paraphrasing). As Andrea talked he basically melted into a puddle. Andrea seemed truly not to care.

The judges loved Ven & Fabio's look. Nina liked the length, although Krysten thought it was too short for the Emmys, which I think is fair. Kors liked how it matched Ven's aesthetic and Kenley's style. The judges asked: if the pair won, who should get the individual win and go to the Emmys? Fabio said that he should, even though he didn't really explain why (and as Kors pointed out, Fabio's boho shtick was nowhere in that gown). Ven, who obviously is the person who made that dress, said it should be him.

As for Gunnar & Kooan's gown, even Irina called out the crappy sewing. Heidi and Nina fawned all over the sexiness of the dress. And I'm sorry - I just don't understand any of the love for that dress. The judges mentioned the necklace, which was taken right off the accessory wall. It had nothing to do with Gunnar or Kooan. Baffled. Utterly baffled. During final deliberations, at least Kors pointed out the fabric issues. The others kept calling it dramatic. What was dramatic about that? Haven't we seen that dress a million times? Second week in a row that Gunnar has been overpraised. He's going to make Final 3, you guys.

Raul and Alicia used their menswear backgrounds as an excuse for their failure. Mila pointed out the horrible fit issues in their gown - you could see how badly it was sewn, too -- and she said that she wished they had done something more tailored. (Poor Mila has been screwed by this show three times now, by my count.) Raul and Alicia argued that they felt obligated to do a gown, since everybody else was. Bullshit excuse. Nina said the dress had no sex appeal at all. Heidi called it frumpy. The whole thing was a disaster. Raul copped to the terrible ponytail hair extension. The two of them refused to play into the "Who should go home game," which Heidi did not like.

When it was his team's turn in the shit box, Christopher wasted no time telling everyone how much he hated his dress, and also threw Andrea under the bus for wasting so much time cutting the fabric. Heidi pointed out the really awful construction issues. Nina said it was tacky. Krysten said it looked like a Halloween costume she could get at a drug store (BURN!). Kors called it a Hershey bar. Christopher was in total survival mode. He was a drowning man, and he grabbed Andrea and pushed her under the water so he could stay afloat. That was ugly. And then he tried to play the wounded puppy when Andrea told the judges that his construction skills were a shambles. And then he cried. That whole segment was pathetic and I lost what little respect I had for Christopher. Krysten Ritter looked ready to laugh at him, and I don't blame her. Andrea said she found the whole thing "very demeaning." And HOW, lady. I said first episode that Christopher was wildly overpraised. I don't think he really knows what he's doing, and he is going to be in serious shit as this show continues.

Ven was, thankfully, the winner - if it had gone to Gunnar...I don't even know what. So that's two wins in a row for Ven. Fabio, Kooan, and Gunnar were all shepherded to safety. Christopher was given the quick spare, thanks to him being a drama queen/"good" television. Andrea was also spared, leaving Alicia and Raul from Team Frump. And it was Raul who took the fall. It's unfortunate, because I do think he had more potential. But I think he also betrayed a real lack of awareness and confidence. He pulled the whole "You'll hear of me again!" cliché that marks most insecure reality-TV characters, and in his talking head said that he thought Alicia should have gone too, because it was a 50/50 endeavor (it sure looked to me like he was definitely driving that train). And then he talked again about how much he hated red-carpet looks. Again: have these people never seen this show?

AND THEN! The next morning, everybody woke up and Andrea was gone. Vanished in the night! The drama. (This was reported months ago, and just a warning, folks: she ain't the only one disappearing unexpectedly soon.)

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