Project Fail

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Sometimes I wonder - pointlessly - how much my opinions are shaped by reading other users' content regarding some of the pop culture stuff I consume. Granted, I realize I may be doing the same in writing this blog, but whatever. Specifically I'm thinking about the blogs I read regarding some of my favourite reality TV shows - Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Project Runway.

On the latter, I am addicted to Tom And Lorenzo (formerly Project Rungay), which is probably the pre-eminent voice for all things PR. And while I love and appreciate their thoughtful commentary on everything - far beyond Project Runway - I also wonder how different my viewing experience of PR, or The Walking Dead, or Boardwalk Empire, or Mad Men would be if I weren't reading their blog.

This comes on the heels of last week's disappointing (in my mind) finale of Project Runway, where beauty queen / sex scandal Caribbean girl Anya took the grand prize. TLo (as they're known) aren't her biggest fans, and I've been wondering how much of that rubbed off on me. Going into the season I latched onto Anthony Ryan, Laura, and Anya as my three favourites - and indeed, all three made it pretty far into the competition (obviously in Anya's case).



As the season carried on, I fell for Viktor, recognizing that it was unlikely AR or Laura would make it to the end. I saw everyone's finale collections via TLo before the finale, and I liked Viktor's, even moreso once I learned where the prints he was using came from. What blew my mind was that he wasn't even in contention for the top two. It was between Anya and Josh.

I'll concede this. When the judges broke out Viktor's collections into two side-by-side images (which was super cool btw!), I did see the break in his collection. None of his black pieces (save for the mirrored top) really stood out to me before the show, or during it, and based on editing it looks like he actually eliminated some prints in favour of more black shadowy pieces...it could have been that decision that cost him the win quite honestly, because his printed looks were amazing. That dress up above...I'm in love. That would've won me over.

When I saw Josh's collection I was kind of horrified. The outfit with the day-glo lace-up shorts felt like a gay man that bought into every gay man stereotype ever was dressing women in gay pride clothing. I'm not even being a bigot there, I'm just saying...his clothes felt very bizarre, and not in touch with what women would want to wear. I hated the colours, and while I understand the judges' desire to encourage an interesting use of materials, I wasn't attracted to any of them. That being said...he did have very well-made pieces. Which is more than I can say for Anya or Kimberly.

I don't have a ton to say about Kimberly's final collection. There were many pieces I liked that I would probably buy if they were hanging on the rack at H&M, and seeing the collection on television did wonders compared to the photos since she did so many interesting back details. Some of it felt a little poorly made. Some of it was pretty boring. The overall effect was not a show that gave me any sense of progression. Kimberly is very fashionable, but I don't know that she's fashion-forward enough to really hack it. At least not for what this competition is hoping for.

I feel like someone in the editing room was staging a minor protest at Anya's (somewhat) shocking win. They had her confess this wasn't her best work. They had her say a weird little goodbye to Tim that didn't go unnoticed by the other competitors. While some may look at Anya's triumph as an example of self-doubt, any sage fan would look at Anya's clothes, shake their head, and go WTF???? I will say I loved that dress up above though, but that was more a print love than a dress love. In fact when I saw Anya's collection I was reminded a lot of Uli's beautiful Season 3, similarly beachy collection that ultimately lost out to Jeffrey's Japanese ghost story line.

Here's the worst of it all. By casting Josh as the villain all season and having him be the most vocal about Anya's lack of skills in the final episode, AND by having Josh and Anya in the final two, it should have felt like a triumphant moment for good reigning over evil. But it didn't. Who had the better collection? I'm hard-pressed to answer that question. I tend to agree with TLo that were Laura in the finals, she should / would have won. Between the final four I'd still have gone with Viktor, between Anya and Josh, I'd hesitantly tip my hat to Josh. I just don't think Anya's clothes showed any real ideas or growth outside of what she did in the competition and I'm genuinely baffled by the judges decision.

This inspired me to do one last PR exercise. Look at the finals of each season, remember who I wanted to win, who I thought deserved to win, and who actually won. I present to you my findings:

SEASON 1
Who I Wanted To Win: Kara Saun - I was her fan the whole season through. She totally deserved to make it to the end.
Who Deserved To Win: Jay McCarroll - despite liking Kara's collection, I was blown away by Jay, who up until that point hadn't really impressed me.
Who Won: Jay - I was pretty happy with this outcome. I remember feeling a tad letdown that my fave hadn't won, but ultimately happy because Jay's collection was kick ass.

SEASON 2
Who I Wanted To Win: I generally liked Chloe and Daniel V. in equal parts. I had high hopes for Daniel V.
Who Deserved To Win: *Pulls face* Hard question to answer. I didn't like Chloe's final collection, and Daniel's was very low-key (although that jacket above is adorbs). Santino's collection surprised me for being so pretty.
Who Won: Chloe - one of the few seasons where I really didn't care. I wasn't blown away by anyone's finale collection here. I like Chloe though, so that's fine. Her fabrics were just meh.


SEASON 3
Who I Wanted To Win: I genuinely liked all four designers that made it to the finals, but I was rooting for Mycheal Knight and Jeffrey Sebelia.
Who Deserved To Win: Mycheal choked. While I loved many of Laura's pieces, I thought it was a tad one-note and mature overall. Uli's collection was beautiful but she was probably my least fave of the remaining designers (on a season-long basis). Jeffrey FTW!
Who Won: Jeffrey! One of the few times this happened.

SEASON 4
Who I Wanted To Win: Poor Jillian. In any other season she would have sweeped it, but alas, this season was branded the Christian show from day one. I was cheering for her though.
Who Deserved To Win: I guess Christian. His looks were not to my taste or realistic whatsoever, but the dramaaaaaa! There was so much work that went into his looks. He was in it to win it, and he gave a RUNWAY show.
Who Won: Christian. Not surprising, ditto on the fact that he's been as successful as he has been. I loved Jillian's finale collection, but I knew going into this finale it was all but locked up so it was hard to be too disappointed that the wunderkid won.

SEASON 5
Who I Wanted To Win: I was part of the small faction of people rooting for Kenley Collins.
Who Deserved To Win: Really hard for me to say. I think I'd lean towards Korto because I just liked her clothing better, but much like with Jillian / Christian, I saw why they chose Leanne. Although it was a tad one-note in colours and application of her 'petals', it was a stunning show.
Who Won: Leanne - Kenley's collection was definitely the weakest of the three finalists. While I was sad to see her (somewhat) choke, I was pleased to see three solid entries up for the win at the end.

SEASON 6
Who I Wanted To Win: I call this the 'lost season' because I always forget about their unfortunate foray into shooting PR in LA. Anyway. I liked Carol Hannah but knew she had no chance - she was like a poor man's Laura (S3). I was mostly cheering for Althea as the bridesmaid to Irina's bride.
Who Deserved To Win: Meh. Another season where I didn't care much for any of the finalists collections. I felt like Irina's was the poor man's Christian Siriano show. I liked Althea's street chic clothing and what she did with knits (like the green dress above), but it didn't feel like a SHOW, much like Kimberly suffered with this season. Carol Hannah's collection was no good.
Who Won: Irina. Did the judges have a choice? Althea's didn't blow your mind and Carol Hannah's was poorly made and just so...satiny. Irina was smart and did the SHOW.

SEASON 7
Who I Wanted To Win: Seth Aaron Henderson. Did I think he had a shot at winning? Not for a second. He'd been quite under the radar all season, producing consistently good pieces but never being a judges' pet like Mila or Emilio, his fellow finale competitors.
Who Deserved To Win: Seth Aaron. Emilio's collection had a blah colour scheme and his ego just made me dislike him. I was never a fan of Mila's aesthetic, although I did enjoy her sequin gown for the finale.
Who Won: Seth Aaron! The second time my fave person actually won - and deserved it. I suppose the two should go hand in hand. I'm willing to admit not all of my fave designers have wowed me at the end.

SEASON 8
Who I Wanted To Win: Admittedly I got a little tired of Mondo by season's end. His constant praise was a little annoying. But Andy underwhelmed me, and while I loved Gretchen the character, I never liked her designs much. So I was on Team Mondo, fully ready to embrace his inevitable win a la Christian Siriano.
Who Deserved To Win: Mondo Mondo Mondo. His inspiration has been used by MANY a designer since then, and I literally loved almost every single piece he created.
Who Won: Gretchen Jones. I mean. WHAT? Probably the most shocking and hateful win ever. I hated her finale collection. Genuinely hated it. The fabrics, the clothes, the styling - everything was not to my taste. I don't know that I've ever disliked someone's finale collection as much (except for, sadly, Mychael Knight's). A total runway robbery.

So there you have it. The final tally is -

Two Seasons I Was Totally Happy With: 3 & 7 (Jeffrey and Seth Aaron - similar esthetics, so not surprising I gravitated towards them)

Three Seasons I Understood The Outcomes Of: 1 (Jay), 4 (Christian), 5 (Leanne)

Two Seasons I Didn't Care About: 2 (Chloe - I liked her, I just didn't like her collection), 6 (Irina)

Two Seasons The Outcome Royally Pissed Me Off: 8 (Gretchen), 9 (Anya). Yikes...not a good pattern!

Obviously I'm still watching the show. It inspires me, despite the fact many people are ringing the alarm that it isn't the same show it once was when originally conceived. I don't disagree - although T LO has a lot to do with my perception of things - but I still enjoy the show above most other reality competitions.

- Britt's On

Quarter-Season Report Card

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I know. I used to do mid-season report cards, and end of season report cards, but this year I felt the need to comment on the shows I'm watching so far. Just as a point of reference. Because I have some good feelings on some shows, and some bad feelings on others. Anywho.

MONDAYS
GOSSIP GIRL - I mean, it is what it is. The boyf and I often turn to each other and roll our eyes and laugh at the absurdity of this show. I will say this. I like the ongoing Dan / Blair undercurrent, in fact, I like both characters and their storylines this season. I hope they find a way to keep the handsome Prince in the picture, and I'm enjoying Dan finally having an interesting leading story that is (somewhat) legitimate. Serena, Nate, and Chuck all feel sidelined so far, their stories orbiting around non-essentials. Charlie can disappear anytime now, although I'm enjoying that SOMEONE knows she's Ivy. I hope she's gone by season's end though.
Quarter-Season Grade: B

BEING ERICA - Without a doubt, probably one of my most-anticipated shows this year. Typically the only shows I watch on the night they air are results-oriented shows with spoilers, like The Amazing Race and Survivor. But I also try to watch B.E. the night of, just cause I love it so much. However...I'm not disappointed by this season, but the *nature* of this season has Erica taking a backseat to everyone else. While it's fun to get to revisit and learn more about all the secondary characters, I almost miss the lovable screw-up days of Erica circa Season 1. I am still hoping and praying for a season 5!
Quarter-Season Grade: A-

TUESDAYS
PARENTHOOD - I'm a little behind on this show, admittedly. I tend to let the episodes stack up in 2's or 3's and then watch them all at once. So while I know Kristina has had her baby, and I'm pretty sure Joel and Julia are getting Zoey's baby, I haven't WATCHED those episodes. Regardless, this show is consistently good, if a little on the slow side at times given it's a character drama as opposed to a plot-driven drama. That's not a bad thing. I'm SO happy at the return of Jason Rytter (dreammmmy!) and while I'm sad to see Michael B. Jordan leave, I'm curious to see what happens next for Hattie's character.
Quarter-Season Grade: B+

NEW GIRL - Well unfortunately I've only seen three episodes of this season so far, given Fox's commitment to the World Series every year, but from what I've seen, I love this show. I gauge the funniness of a show by the knee-slapping reaction of the bf, and this is by far one of the shows he laughs the hardest at. Looking forward to its return next week.
Quarter-Season Grade: A


THE LITTLE COUPLE - Have I ever talked about this show before? I don't think so. I randomly picked it up a few years ago and have been joyfully following the adventures of little people couple Jen and Bill. This season has been fraught with tension over the delays on their new home build - which they FINALLY moved into last season - but you wouldn't know it with their consistently upbeat, take-charge attitude.
Quarter-Season Grade: A-

RINGER - Amusingly, Go Fug Yourself has been recapping this show. Primarily in terms of the fashion, but in general as well. SMG herself wrote in and explained the show would lighten up and have better fashion in the coming episodes. So good. Cause it's still taking itself way too seriously, and I definitely enjoyed the actors that play Henry and Agent Machatta better in Life Unexpected and Lost respectively (ditto on Buffy for SMG). BUT the show has an amazing way of pulling out some pretty twisty turny jaw-dropping endings each episode. Colour me excited to watch this unlikely tale continue to spin its wild web of lies.
Quarter-Season Grade: B+


WEDNESDAYS
SURVIVOR SOUTH PACIFIC - The producers must have done a happy dance when producing this last week's episode. The number of variables going into the merge are delightfully evil - although I suspect that next week, despite Jeff teasing the contestants, will be the merge given the previews focused only on events that would happen BEFORE the merge. Anyway this has been a pretty choice season so far. We've got loose cannon Brandon on Coach's surprisingly successful and cohesive tribe against Ozzy's martyr-risk by heading to Redemption Island in a last-ditch effort to eliminate hardscrabble fighter Christine from coming back into the game and potentially (although mystifying as to why) joining her old tribe. Beyond that we have scheming Jim, nerdy underdog Cochran, and potential silent assassins in Sophie and Albert. Let the hijinks begin as we roll into the second half of the game, which at this point, really is anyone's game.
Quarter-Season Grade: A

REVENGE - This show is just so...delicious. I mean, salacious would be a more grammatically appropriate choice, but whatever. Madeline Stowe as Victoria Grayson is pretty much the best thing ever, and the OTT writing and constant stream of events is like a darker version of Gossip Girl. It's also fun to root for, yet also be constantly afraid of / for miss Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp). Bonus points for smarmy nerd boy Nolan providing a bit of comic relief, and even though I want to kick him in the teeth, Tyler (Ashton Holmes) is providing a good, surprising, mysterious villain in this whole twisted mess. My theory: he actually doesn't have any money, and HE may be the one to kill Daniel by summer's end. My question? Why Victoria keeps on hiring Ashley as an event planner if her events all go awry! My fear: that this show will run out of tricks in its bag after the rollercoaster ride that is Season 1, a la Desperate Housewives and Pretty Little Liars.
Quarter-Season Grade: A

MODERN FAMILY - No matter whether this show makes an effort to grow its characters or not, at the end of the day I appreciate that they can still, consistently, make me laugh.
Quarter-Season Grade: A

ANTM ALL STARS - This is such a weird season. While it's refreshing to not have girls fretting over their lack of 'skillz', it's bizarre to see them have meltdowns and cause drama when they've all presumably aged a bit and seen how the show will edit them if they have emotional moments. While episode-to-episode eliminations haven't been that exciting (if anything, they seem more arbitrary than ever), the overall guessing game of what the heck makes someone an All Star IS. My early picks: sweetie Laura, fan fave Allison, or dark horse Dominique. I adore Laura and Allison (although curiously both haven't been front and centre much), but in the grand tradition of All Star seasons of any show, I suspect Dom - who was barely memorable from her season - might sneak in for the win. She's had a good showing so far.
Quarter-Season Grade: B

THURSDAYS
THE OFFICE - My own boss and I had a talk about the Office the other day. Andy Bernard isn't doing it for him, and he's not really selling it for me. In short, the show is floundering. End it. Please.
Quarter-Season Grade: C


THE SECRET CIRCLE - What's disappointing to me here is I was actually sold on TSC before Ringer. But as of right now, this show is perilously close to being deleted off my DVR altogether. My main issue? I legitimately do not care about a single person or action happening on the show. That's bad. I know Kevin Williamson has been doing his best at laying on the drama - break-ups! secrets! historical secrets! witch hunters! Grandma super witch! star-crossed lovers! dead 'main' character! double-crossing! murder! But it's all just...too much? I just see myself not being engaged with this show for the long-term. And seeing as how I've picked up potentially a few more series this fall, if I had to do away with an hour, I'd get rid of this one. I'm watching the Halloween episode this weekend and making my final do-or-die call.
Quarter-Season Grade: C-


WEEKENDS
BOARDWALK EMPIRE - this show is still surprisingly funny, and it has provided at least one emotional or plot-based punch every week, but it is still a little on the slow side. I often find myself asking...okay where are we going here? Take for example, Richard Harrow's trip to the woods to conceivably end his life this past episode, that sort of looped back to his reluctant return home. I'm just not sure what the long-term arc is for so many of the characters and plotlines. Although I am loving Margaret, as per usual, and I'm curious to see where Nucky's new Irish footman is going to take them. Altogether I'm just rooting for Nucky...and terrified of Eli.
Quarter-Season Grade: B+

THE WALKING DEAD - There've been some complaints of things slowing down here as well, and I don't disagree. The first two episodes have felt very fixated on a single event, when I'm anxious for the troop to well, keep trouping along. Still, some high-stakes drama between Carl's shooting, Shane's high school zombie nightmare, and the disappearance of Sophia. I said in the first episode that realistically, the kids would have to go, as per Lost having to get rid of Walt. The show's timeline is very, very short and these kids will grow very, very fast. It's hard to hide that. But I'm still so jazzed and scared every time I watch the show so I'm content. For now.
Quarter-Season Grade: A-

HOMELAND - What an interesting, dynamic little show this is. With relatively few sets, they've made this a very wholly realized, frightening, fraught little world filled with interesting characters. I'm ESPECIALLY intrigued by the end of this last episode, with Carrie and Brodie finally speaking on casual terms. What the hell is that going to lead to? An affair? Deep, deep cover spying? It was just a bizarre, surprising ending - amidst many other puzzling plotlines and questions I had. LOVE!
Quarter-Season Grade: A

THE AMAZING RACE - Generally speaking, it's been an interesting season...even though we've been stuck in one location for a few episodes, there's still been travel drama. I'm cheering for the snowboarders all the way!
Quarter-Season Grade: A-

ONCE UPON A TIME - I watched the premiere, mostly because the post-premiere buzz was so strong. General thoughts? I wish modern-day Ginnifer Goodwin wore her hair differently. Everything felt a little forced and OTT. But the premise is neat, and fun, and different from what else is happening on TV. Another show where I wonder what'll happen once these characters 'awaken' - also I'm baffled as to how no one has noticed that no one ages, unless the town is 'invisible' to the public - but I'm willing to give it a four-episode order before making up my mind.

Dreamcasting: Divergent

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This has been the year of the YA dystopian novel for me. I read the entire Hunger Games series, and the first books in the Delirium, Matched, and Divergent series. Luckily I didn't have to dreamcast The Hunger Games - it was announced right around the time I picked them up - but I do think Jennifer Lawrence is a kick-ass choice. If you saw 'Winter's Bone' you'd fully agree that the movie provided a choice audition for Katniss in THG.


Anyway. I never really settled on my heroine for Delirium - the story of a society where love is considered a disease, and teenagers undergo a surgery to remove their capacity for true love. Part of me thought Kat Dennings, but I think she's might be a little old / brassy for the role.


Matched, on the other hand, I settled on Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars pretty early on. In this world, people are matched to who a computer identifies as their ideal romantic match - a better outcome than Delirium, to be sure, but things go awry when Cassia uncovers a flaw in their system. To be honest, there isn't much to the part of Cassia. Unlike some of these other protagonists, she's pretty restrained. Again, Hale might be too old unless the film started shooting ASAP, but I think she'd be good at it.

Divergent is the story of a futuristic Chicago which is divided into five factions, each of which lives, eats, and breathes (quite literally) the guiding values of their society. Sort of Harry Potter on crack. Our protagonist in this instance is Beatrice aka 'Tris', a girl who starts out in the pious, selfless Abnegation faction, but makes a decision to jump ship to the brutal, powerful, violent Dauntless faction. Honestly with all the YA fiction I've read this year, it gets harder to cast these things without falling back on the same 'ol young actors, particularly since this book had a MASSIVE roster of characters. Apparently twenty-something author Veronica Roth has already signed away the movie rights, so we'll see how accurate I am with my picks.

Saoirse Ronan as Tris
Well, Tris is described as 'not beautiful, but striking' with lovely eyes and blonde hair. I actually think Saoirse is quite beautiful...but in a striking, non-traditional kind of way. I see her growing up to fulfill Cate Blanchett type roles. Plus she's got some experience playing a kick-butt chick (see: Hanna), and I think she can master Tris' stiff upper lip but inner fragility.

Thomas Dekker as Four / Tobias
I think this is perfect casting. Thomas is on The CW's 'The Secret Circle' and has a kind of (inexplicably) broody character on there - which is pretty much the primary requisite for Four, the chilly, enigmatic trainer of the Dauntless initiates like Tris.

Jessica Parker Kennedy as Christina
Well I apparently missed the memo that Christina is 'dark-skinned' till about halfway through the book, so I had someone totally different in mind for this part. Once I discovered she's supposedly black, I chose Jessica Parker Kennedy, also from the Secret Circle, pretty much by default. Hollywood doesn't have a ton of young, strong black females that would really be able to fulfill this role - so while JPK is definitely a bit of a cop out owing to her fair complexion, I think she'd be swell at doing the part of Tris' friend justice.

Josh Hutcherson as Will
The least likely to happen, simply because Josh will have his hands tied playing Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games trilogy for the next couple of years. But I needed a blonde, sort of stocky / generic type to join Tris and Christina's band of merry initiates, and Josh worked just fine.

I mean...I had other people in mind for the GIANT cast here. I could tell you my thoughts on Al, the jumbo-sized fifth member of the core group of transfer initiates, or Uriah, the handsome, friendly black Dauntless initiate, or Eric, the hardcore young leader of the Dauntless. But I think many of the roles in this film will go to unknowns, or virtual unknowns - just because I'm familiar with these actors, I doubt the public is (with the exception of maybe Saoirse). Seriously though, casting directors - my casting picks for Tris and Four in Divergent are INSPIRED. Do it.

- Britt's On

What A Score

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I'm a writer by trade. I make a living from it, I think I have four or five blogs including this one, and I've always got some writing project on the go that may perhaps provide a new source of income in the future.

I'm also a Grooveshark addict, constantly making new playlists for various moods and activities. For awhile, I created a playlist I called 'Writing Friendly', because it wasn't chockful of top 40 dance-readyhits (which belong on the 'Shimmy' playlist). In time, that has basically evolved to be songs of the indie rock / alternative / folk persuasion that I tend to favour. It's easily the most generic of my playlists, but it does tend towards a more mellow vibe that I CAN use to write with.

However, more often than not, when I want to buckle down and focus, I actually listen to movie / television scores. The reason is multi-fold. For one, there are no words to focus on and mock or smile at. For another, there is a certain 'creativity' to movie scores that I don't find with classical music - I see what the composer was trying to do in terms of evoking a mood for a film. It's quite powerful without being distracting.

And I'm not bashing classical - I've had many years of playing the piano and the flute (no AP jokes please), and I'm a classically trained singer. Unfortunately, all of that works against me when listening to classical music to focus: I get VERY distracted by picturing how I might figure out the notes to play a song on the piano, and I'm incredibly familiar with say, the top 100 most famous classical tunes. Unfortunately most of the songs I'm most familiar with are songs I've *played* at some point, so I tend to just stop and want to close my eyes and listen. I also realize I sound like a huge tool at this point, so let's move on.

If you haven't listened to scores before, I suggest you give it a whirl on your Grooveshark, Pandora, iTunes, whatever account. Think of a movie or tv show that has a memorable score - stuff like CSI or rom coms with indie rock soundtracks aren't right here. You want things that let orchestral music do the work.

Generally speaking, I gravitate towards pretty orchestral stuff: lots of strings and piano. I almost never listen to the dramatic 'battle scene' type music, but I love the quieter tunes. I generally don't listen to a whole lot of ethnic-influenced scores. They're a little polarizing and distracting, although not as much as big dramatic scores can be.

The more you listen to scores, the more you'll get to know a composer's style. Thomas Newman, my fave score composer and the Susan Lucci of the Best Original Score award at the Oscars, does gorgeous string arrangements punctuated with interesting percussion instruments. If you listen to John Williams 'Home Alone' and 'Harry Potter' scores, you'll hear a similar sense of whimsy and traditional orchestral arrangements. Michael Giacchino's scores are bold, and often use brass instruments to dramatic effect.

Here are a few places for you to start. I do recommend to listening to as much score music as you can get your hands on, then figuring out from there what you love / don't love.



American Beauty & Road To Perdition
by Thomas Newman
It's really a toss-up for me on which score I prefer. Both are genius examples of Thomas Newman's abilities to create an atmosphere for a film. I tend to lean towards Perdition because listening to it instantly takes me not only back to the movie, but to the time period - I can picture Boardwalk Empire and Shawshank Redemption right alongside Tom Hanks' beleaguered Irish mafioso. It's a lot of moody strings and piano wrapping themselves around each other, channeling the dark grey skies and somber felt green suits that dominate the film. I don't even mind the more aggressive, bagpipe-influence tracks. Every time I listen to it, I just crave watching the movie (which is, to be fair, one of my five faves of all time).

American Beauty however, is a stunning albeit overplayed score. The fact is, when any of the tracks are used in other productions (something more commonplace than you might think), it stands out as jarringly wrong - those songs belong to THAT movie. The album is well known for being primarily percussion based, yet incredibly melodic nonetheless (an impressive feat Oscar voters!) Of course, the most infamous song of the bunch is the haunting piano track Any Other Name, played during the plastic bag video scene. This is an example of a distracting score in my books...but I do love listening to it.


Thomas Newman
I've singled out my two favourite scores above, but I'd be remiss not to mention that Thomas Newman in general is fantastic. You can't go wrong. Here's a quick recap of a few of his other notable recent projects in terms of sound and song suggestions:

Little Children - I associate Thomas Newman with Sam Mendes, because they almost always work together, and thus Kate Winslet comes into the picture. This is one of a few times they in fact WERE on the same project, with Newman creating a haunting, simple, string-laden score.
Listen To: Red Bathing Suit - I hear windchimes, whispers, and hints of Newman's greatest hits.

Revolutionary Road - Not my favourite Mendes film, but it's good. I won't argue with that. It's a solid if depressing adaptation of a solid if depressing novel. The score reminds me a bit of Perdition, only simpler. Not lighter. Simpler.
Listen To: The Bright Young Man - NOT the prettiest song on the soundtrack, but the way it balances the pretty harp noises with the jarring, dissonant piano speaks volumes about the atmosphere of the story.

Shawshank Redemption - A dramatic, laborious score with a few quieter moments mixed in. It has a real cinematic quality to it without being too distracting...I feel my heartstrings tug a bit during these ones.
Listen to: Shawshank Redemption (Stoic Theme) - That's just the title of the main theme on my Grooveshark playlist. You want the main theme here. It's very dramatic, but still gorgeous and rich.

WALL-E - One of two notable collaborations with the Pixar wizards, this score mixes techno burbles of happiness with light string arrangements and dramatic kid-friendly stuff.
Listen to: Horizon 12.2 - A perfect mix of techno-infused piano wizardry.
Pay It Forward - I only vaguely recall this movie - about Haley Joel Osmont creating the power of three or whatever in terms of being a do-gooder - but the score is very sweet and simple. Many pieces of the score wouldn't be out of place in some of Newman's other films actually.
Listen to: Gasoline - nice melody, primarily piano based, like most of the score. If you like this, you'll like the rest.

Finding Nemo - Newman's other, and possibly more memorable (if repetitious) score for Pixar is for my fave Pixar film. The score warps as the setting does: surfer tunes, dark action-y tracks, and hero worship string numbers all play a part, but the main theme is used so often and to such great effect, it's equally as heartwarming as the film's story.
Listen to: Nemo Egg - after one listen of this, you'll be able to pick up how often it's used in the film. I think my fave moment is when they're in the whale's mouth. So beautiful.

Lost
By Michael Giacchino
Mendes and Newman. Columbus and Williams. Abrams and Giacchino. Almost every JJ Abrams project has Michael Giacchino at the helm for creating the score, and while I certainly picked up similarities between them once I realized that fact, it's the Lost score that stands out to me. It got a lot of attention for its unique use of actual parts of an airplane to create the first-season score, but as the years went by, the sound evolved. Listen for the dramatic, in-your-face horn sections, the nods to island living, the ability to create suspense during pivotal scenes and character development. And of course, some really beautiful, oft-repeated piano and string melodies used during the series' most memorable montages and final scenes.
Listen to: You have six seasons of material. Listen to as much as possible. I love the Do No Harm (Closing Score).
Note: Michael is also the brains behind the Oscar-winning soundtrack for Pixar's 'Up'. Most of the tunes are very short, very thematically based, but the whimsical main title that channels the love story that unfolds at the beginning of the movie is a pure joy. Listen to it.


Love Actually
by Craig Armstrong
The Love Actually soundtrack is actually a pop-fueled soundtrack that I quite love, but I also especially love Craig Armstrong's notable score: 'Glasgow Love Theme'. You'll recognize it from a few points in the film, most memorably during scenes with Colin Firth's lost in translation love story with Aurelia.


The Notebook
by Aaron Zigman
Despite my love for piano and strings, sometimes a score is a little schlocky, which makes sense if you're scoring a sappy (but beloved) romance like The Notebook. I however, love the Main Title for the film, and actually have the sheet music to play it on piano. Fun fact: the song Ally knows how to play by memory throughout different points of the film - Prelude in E Minor by Chopin - is one of the songs I played for my final piano exam before I gave up studying it. And I still love it to this day, wicked arpeggio in the final section and all.

The Social Network
by Atticus Finch and Trent Reznor
I absolutely love this soundtrack. It's best marked by the somber electro-hum credits track Hand Covers Bruise, but there is plenty of other pulse-pounding (surprisingly so) gems to be found here, with an almost jungle-esque vibe. Unexpected, memorable, complex, beautiful - all the things you want from a movie soundtrack.


Moon Soundtrack
by Clint Mansell
From the opening strains of Clint Mansell's haunting score, you know something's afoot on the aforementioned Moon. In fact, I'd say a good chunk of the film's mind-torturing tension comes from the haunting, eerie score that pops up in a variety of forms throughout, and sticks with you well after the credits. One of the BEST new scores I've heard in the last few years.

- Britt's On

Home Of The Brave

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I picked up another new show. Showtime's Homeland. All too often there seems to be a ton of great American cable TV content that simply isn't available in Canada, and by the time we hear about it, we're many seasons behind (or at least one) and it seems insurmountable to make our way through all of them.

Anyway, we tracked down Homeland, and since we are watching from the beginning, I suspect we'll stick with it - in part because cable TV is just SO frickin' good. Admittedly I was a bit worried about the premise of the show last for many seasons, but we are watching the series unfold in very small chunks of time (I suspect the first season may end when Claire Danes' Carrie's four weeks are up) so I think it'll have legs. And I can see a few possible directions for where it can go.


If you're unfamiliar with the premise, let me fill you in. Damian Lewis plays an American soldier named Nicholas Brody that has been a POW for eight years in Iraq (or some equivalent Middle Eastern country). He's rescued and returned to America, to a life that is confusing and jarringly unfamiliar - his children are grown, his wife has moved on, and the mere thought of facing the public causes him to curl up in the corner of a room.


Claire Danes plays a slightly wild, conspiracy theorist CIA agent that heard from an Iraqi source that an American soldier 'had been turned'. In her quest to bring down the world's number one terrorist, she suspects this turned soldier could be an insider for another mega terrorist attack, and her number one pick for the guilty suspect: Nicholas Brody. And while there is reason for her suspicion, she also comes off a little unbalanced - between her bi-polar meds she takes under the table, her wild-eyed insistence that her complete invasion of this man's private life and the trust of those around her is completely justified, and her nighttime excursions where she pretends to be married but really hooks up with a random dude all make it difficult to fully buy into either person's story.

It's a great cat and mouse game so far, especially since the mouse is unaware there's a cat on him, yet the mouse is also blatantly lying to its fellow mice, leaving the cat also in the dark. I remember thinking that the show reminded me a bit of a more subdued 24 / Alias with its flag-waving American hero premise. And indeed, it's created by the minds behind 24, but it has all the stuff you expect from a cable program: swearing, sex, and violence...and better writing. What's even more fascinating is that it's adapted from an Israeli series, which I can imagine had a very different spin than the 'home of the brave' concept we're getting in two skewed versions: Carrie's dogged determination to not have another 9/11 on her shoulders, and Brody's unwilling role in the spotlight (whether for good or evil) as the white bread family man.

Colour me intrigued, on edge, and excited to carry on watching this new series.

- Britt's On

Dreamcasting: An Abundance of Katherines

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I actually finished this book a week or two ago, but I'm just getting around to dreamcasting for it. I'm on the fence as to whether I'd like to see John Green's work in films. In my opinion, good YA fiction typically gets ruined on the big screen because they are pandering to teenage audiences, when in fact, many (slightly) older folks like myself like them as well.

Anyway. An Abundance of Katherines is a great book. It's much funnier and lighter than Looking for Alaska, but also a tad on the frivolous side as a result. But I did laugh out loud, and that's hard to do. I'm casting five roles for this one, although two are kind of random, and one is probably not right at all based on the age of the character.

The book, for the record, is about a child prodigy named Colin that has just graduated high school and is skeptical about his prospects in college. He also has a habit of only dating girls named Katherine, having had 19 relationships with Katherines over the years. He goes on a road trip with his best friend Hassan, and they end up in a strange little town in Tennessee called Gutshot. The book is about moving on, growing up, and having a eureka! moment.

So here are my picks for An Abundance of Katherines movie casting.

COLIN
I didn't really have someone in mind for Colin, to be honest. He came off as very generic in the book, although some part of me thinks he may have had curly hair, I honestly don't really care. I basically just pictured someone that could play a kind of obnoxious nerd but still be semi-attractive, or else how do you explain the 19 girlfriends? Jesse Eisenberg would have been choice 1 a few years ago, Penn Badgeley would have been number two. They're both too old now though.


Paul Iacono
Best known for playing RJ Berger on The Hard Times of RJ Berger, a sort of American Pie-esque MTV comedy that I actually quite enjoyed when I caught an episode, but it never really went anywhere. Sad face. He looks pretty attractive here, which makes me think he can pull off Colin's nerdiness, but also be good-looking enough to nab a girl (or twenty).

Brendan Robinson
I don't know why I didn't think of Brendan before - ie when I was reading the book - because now, a week after finishing the book, I think he'd be perfect for the part. Brendan plays lovable doormat Lucas on Pretty Little Liars: the nerdy boy you wish the pretty girl would wake up and date already (especially since I suspect Tyler Blackburn, who plays said pretty girl's paramour, is probably off to bigger and better things). He's good at handling the whip-smart dialogue that Colin has, and has a nice neurotic streak, but he's also endearingly sweet and winsome...something that this character really needs.

HASSAN
Colin's best friend is described as Lebanese, overweight, lazy as all hell, a huge fan of Judge Judy, and ultimately a funny, amicable guy. This was SO EASY to cast, it actually probably lent itself well to me thinking the book was as funny as it was.

Jacob Neayem
When I say this was easy to cast, it's only because Degrassi made it so. Jacob Neayem joined the cast this past summer season as Mo, comic relief and frenemy to Sav. He's definitely got Hassan's loudmouth likability and physique down pat. I also know a few Lebanese people and whether Jacob is Lebanese or not, he certainly resembles those I know.

LINDSEY
She's described as 'not so much pretty, but interesting looking'. That's a tall order in Hollywood, unless you're casting Tilda Swinton for a role :) I kid, a lot of the times I DO think - yes, she's not so *pretty*, but interesting. But for teenage stars, not so much. So I went with two girls that I think are pretty, but not va-va-va-voom teenage sexpots. Lindsay is supposed to be cool, smart, chameleon-like, but also a little insecure.

Skyler Day
Apparently Skyler was on that terrible-sounding show 'Gigantic'. I think when I started to read this book, I just happened to watch the first episode of Parenthood where Skyler was introduced as Amy, a love interest for Drew. She sort of stuck in my head as a good person for the part - she's pretty in a girl next door sort of way, which is what I pictured for Lindsey.

Alyson Stoner
Apparently Alyson is a Disney-type actress. I didn't know that. I saw her in Step Up 3D (sigh. yes.), and at one point I pictured the scraggly kid in that film as Colin (no), and then I thought of Alyson as a potential for Lindsey. I think her features a little too exotic to fit Lindsey's sort of white bread aesthetic, but she wouldn't be the worst choice ever. She had a good personality for it, from what I remember.

KATHERINE THE GREAT
When we meet Colin, he's just broken up with Katherine XIX. A bit part, so I didn't give much thought to it, but I know she's blonde. So...

Dakota Fanning
I mean, why not? She's blonde. She does bit parts. She has the sort of innocent eyebatting thing going on that would have attracted Colin in the first place. Sure.

THE MOM
I can't remember the mom's name, but it was a guy's name from what I do remember. This is, of course, the mom of Lindsey, who owns the tampon string factory that pretty much sustains the existence of Gutshot. My choice here was random, and solely fueled by watching The Office.

Kathy Bates
I think she's too old for the part, possibly, but she just made sense as sort of a small-town do-gooder with a tough exterior. Margo Martindale is interchangeable here.

- Britt's On

PS - Reading Chuck Klosterman's 'The Visible Man' at the moment. This will NOT be a book I cast. But it's so good. READ!

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