Long Time, No See

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EFFF I'm terrible at updating this blog. Truth be told, if I haven't spouted off about this already, this is one of FOUR blogs I write & manage. One is actually a huge commitment that generates me money / publicity / freebies so most of my time & effort goes there. But I also have a personal, private one, and a personal, public one - both of which are about different aspects of my everyday life. This blog is basically for shits & giggles, and to keep up on the Blogger platform, should any of the client-type folks I work with use it.

Anyway. I suppose the most logical thing to do right about now is start giving my grades out to all the TV I've been consuming that's recently wrapped up...I also owe you a post on the Alias series finale versus the One Tree Hill ones. I've got thoughts. Plenty of thoughts.

Onwards!

MONDAYS
Gossip Girl - Finale is tonight...so I'll re-loop back on this one. In general, I liked Blair & Dan as a non-couple than an actual couple. Serena's shown her true bitchy stripes. Lola is great, Ivy is wretched. Bart Bass being back from the dead is atrocious and makes me wish this show would die a quick death next season. Please & thanks.

Being Erica - Should probably talk about in my 'Series Finale' post. This last season was a little up & down, and I wish she hadn't ended up with Adam, but I also get the rationale from the creator's POV: when we met Erica she was single, jobless, without direction...now she's got all 3, even if the guy isn't quite my ideal match for her. The Dr. Tom stuff SLAYED me. FINAL GRADE: A


Pretty Little Liars - Sure I'm disappointed that Mona was a part of the A-Team. But at this point, there is no one satisfying answer. It's still deliciously convoluted. I REALLY want Alison to be alive. FINAL GRADE: B+


TUESDAYS
Parenthood - A solid season altogether. It felt like Adam was more in the spotlight than usual. I'm ambivalent about Crosby & Jasmine - it felt very S6 of Sex and the City as per Miranda & Steve. I love Amber and the cute yet vaguely creepy city council candidate, although his entire campaign felt much bigger than necessary. Sarah & Mark = best ever. I wish Sarah would take a chill pill. I sincerely want the show to come back next season, if only to introduce me to more great music. FINAL GRADE: B+


New Girl - I love this show, I really do. I think all the actors & their chemistry is great although I still somewhat lament the loss of high-energy Coach next to straight man Winston. I'm surprised they didn't carry out the Nick moving out plot, at least for a cliffhanger to next season / to introduce a new roomie to the mix. They've got an even tinier cast than Friends, so they run the risk of character burnout if no new new girls / guys are added...maybe in the apartment across the hall? *Wink* FINAL GRADE: A


The Little Couple - What a heartbreaking road for Bill & Jen over the last little bit. But I'm also getting a little...not fed up but...aware of the fact they almost always seem to be basking in some sort of freebie, promotional experience. I appreciate they have a lot of challenges in their life so good for them for making the best of it, but lately their episodes are feeling more & more like infomercials with repetitive convos about their lack of babies. I imagine the producers must be getting anxious about them still not having a baby, three or four seasons in. FINAL GRADE: B (although it still seems to be 'in season')

Ringer - Kind of a f*cked up show. The last five minutes of every ep were great, but it's altogether very schmaltzy. I won't be too heartbroken if it bites it this fall, which is never a good sign. FINAL GRADE: B-


The LA Complex - Shockingly addictive and kinda good. I love playing 'spot the set' between Degrassi & this show now, and I hope it picks up a bit in the states for the sake of its cast. The last few minutes of every episode are mind-blowing - in a much better way than ringer. FINAL GRADE: B+


WEDNESDAYS
Survivor - South Pacific had a disappointing finish...it was the same way I felt about Russell / Natalie's final showdown a few seasons back. A small part of me was rooting for the underdog (Natalie / Sophie respectively) but never expecting them to snatch the crown away...especially after relatively futile arguments by them both at the end of the show. Coach deserved the win, the bitter kittens on the jury were just fail. I did like the 'characters' of last season though. It made for an interesting arc. As for One World, it was altogether a boring season, but yay for Kim winning! I liked her early on and thought she played a great game. Kudos to a respectable jury when all was said & done. FINAL GRADE: South Pacific - B+ / One World - B-


Revenge - Also not quite finished. But loved the show in general. I'm hoping it doesn't peter out / fall into campy Desperate Housewives territory in the near future. Will have to re-loop after this week's finale.

Modern Family - Not quite as glorious as the first season, but still funny and enjoyable. Not quite done yet either but it's hovering in the B+ / A- range.

American Horror Story - I'm pretty sure this is on Wednesday nights. Wonderfully spooky, with plenty of fuck yeah twists & turns...because they can. I'm curious to see it sustain itself season-by-season. I suspect we'll always look back fondly on this one as the golden age though. FINAL GRADE: A+

America's Next Top Model - All Stars was fucking weird, and the result was ridiculous (as is the show, mind you). Angelea would've been an atrocious pick for the win, Lisa was probably best suited to the prize but on the old side for this to be considered a legit modelling competition (31?), and Allison was a poor pawn dragged along to the end to keep viewers watching. Terrible photoshoots as well...some of the worst in memory. British Invasion has been an improvement, only b/c the Brits injected some great personality into the show. I loved the final four British girls, and I hope Sophie (pal of Emma Watson) takes the cake! I liked Laura...but the last few episodes have made me dislike her as a person. She's a good model though. FINAL GRADE: All Stars - C / British Invasion - TBC?


THURSDAYS
The Office - Just. End It. Not done with the season yet but it's hovering in the C range still.

WEEKENDS
Degrassi - Too many story lines on characters I don't care about. We want more Eli! But psyched for the summer session at least, and good intro of the niners. FINAL GRADE: B


Boardwalk Empire - WTF TO KILLING JIMMY / RUINING THE CHARACTER OF MARGARET? FINAL GRADE: B


The Walking Dead - Finally someone listens to my idea of camping out in a jail. Before that? Slow. Too slow. Too many stupid decisions. The last two episodes boosted this one up though. FINAL GRADE: B+


Homeland - Fantastic show. Would recommend to anyone and still see so much potential without it getting too insane (although less of the flashback / mystery stuff). FINAL GRADE: A+


The Amazing Race - Big disappointment with last season and the snowboarders being turfed. I don't even remember the winner, sigh. This season Major Dave & Rachel deserved the win, hands down. The other two teams were horribly unlikable in the final three. FINAL GRADES: C / B-


Mad Men - Still in session. One of the best seasons ever (and I say that every season) although I'd like a little more creative with my drama please.

Girls - Ditto. Pretty much the funniest thing I've ever seen on TV, ever. Wished everyone watched...really. Sure the girls are spoiled (in real life & the show) but I can't help but connect to so much of it. Love.

The Pitch - Horrible advertising egos? Oh yes I can relate. I'm digging a glimpse into other agency's board rooms, I can say that much.

- Britt's On




Dreamcasting: The Fault In Our Stars

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I'm kind of…dreading…reading YA fiction right now. I'm just. Burnt out on it. And yet I still have a bunch of stuff stacked up to read in that department and it's all feeling a little stale (just like I burnt out on chick lit a few years ago).

Anyway in the last few weeks I've read Julianna Baggot's Pure, which was an interesting, twisty tale about life after a nuclear holocaust with rather pedestrian characters - plus their physicality was so gruesome I didn't really work hard to dreamcast the film.



I also read Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, mostly because I received the third book as a gift of sorts from another blog I write, and I figured I should read the rest of the series. It felt like a horrifically close rip-off of Twilight, which hi, we don't need, but it was sadly better written than Twilight. Angels instead of vampires. Or something. I just started the second book yesterday and I'm kind of dreading it. The one thing I will say for dreamcasting in that case is that chick from The Descendants / Secret Life of an American Teenager, Shailene Woodley, earned the main role of Nora in my head. I think her hair isn't right, but she is lean and leggy so that works. Also, in retrospect, she'd actually make a good candidate for the Jessica Darling movie that's being developed right now.

Anyway the last one I read, which was thankfully not YA Dystopian, was the amazing John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. And since I've dreamcast his last two books (that I've read) on here, it only seemed fitting to cover this one as well.


Hazel - John Green's first female protagonist, who is pretty similar to his male protagonists. I think he only felt comfortable writing her because she is somewhat asexual given her condition - a terminal cancer prognosis. Anyway she needs to be a good mix of spunky and awkward, and after some consideration I landed on Jordan Todosey of Degrassi fame. I MAY have been influenced by the fact Jordy has short hair for her role as a transgender character on Degrassi, but I honestly think she'd be good at this part. WHATTTT! I've found an (old) photo of Jordan donning pretty much Hazel's look (but with more hair). FATE!


Augustus - The star-crossed cancerous lover to Hazel's own story. He's described as athletic and with a crooked smile. I'm sure I could put more effort into casting this role, but around the time I read this I watched the premiere of that new Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) show, Awake, which featured the kid that played Young Jack in Lost / the bully in the American version of Let Me In, Dylan Minnette. Something about him just worked for me, even though he does have a kind of perma-sour look on his face.


Isaac - I pictured a really pasty, kind of chubby-looking kid for this. I don't know if that's accurate because he's all kissy kissy with Monica at the beginning, but that's what I had in my head. As for an actual actor? I couldn't really pick one. This would have to be an unknown. Or maybe the 'half' from Two & A Half Men, Angus T. Jones.


Kaitlyn - Hazel's only friend left from high school, a sophisticated social butterfly that still makes time for her cancerous gal pal. Although probably not the best choice ever, I went with Pretty Little Liars' Sasha Pieterse, who plays the devilish / enigmatic Alison DiLaurentis.


Van Houten - a crazy, large, hyper-cerebral author that writes Hazel and Gus' collective favourite book. I have THE GUY in my head for this…I can see him with sort of big lips, square glasses, a beret, and a vest but I don't know if this is all in my head or if it's a real actor. For the life of me I can't remember where I (may have) seen this actor. So for the time being I'd love to see a comedic actor like Robin Williams really knock this out of the park without it coming across super campy.

So those are your characters + that's my dreamcasting!

- B

All Stars

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All-Star Seasons can generally go one of two ways. One, it's thrilling to see people who aren't super naive come back and play the 'game' right - see: every time a past Survivor player jumps in for another round. Or two, it's awkward and against the entire concept of a show for rewarding a past loser, often with a bigger prize.

The main deciding factor between which type of show you're going to get is based on the nature of the show. If it's something where the game is entirely self-contained, like Survivor, The Amazing Race, or even The Bachelor, it makes sense and actually works to bring people back. But on a show like American Idol or America's Next Top Model…it's weird. Because those shows are meant to be proving grounds / launch points for success *beyond* the show. If you haven't hacked it in the meantime, it's not really 'right' for the show to be the thing that gives you a second shot.

So Project Runway All Stars should technically fall into that second category. And in a lot of ways, it does. But both ANTM & ProjRun haven't produced a calvacade of 'stars', with a few notable exceptions (Christian Siriano anyone?). Arguably the talent level on ProjRun is also much higher, and in many cases the 'right' person doesn't always win on that show (see: the last two seasons).

But still…when I compare the results of last fall's ANTM All Stars to this season's Project Runway, it's like night & day. The photoshoots on ANTM were some of the worst ever, and the outcome was completely jacked up: the fact they actually chose Angelea (as best as the public can tell) is bad enough, that they had to reshoot a false ending weeks before it aired is even worse.

That's not to say Project Runway All Stars doesn't have its issues. It does. Namely, we already understand each designer's point-of-view, so it's hard for them to surprise us (and the judges), but it's also not the contestants' advantage to break out of their box too much. In fact that's been the big trend this season: should I stay or should I go? For the most part it's been the former. And it's kind of refreshing to see each designer's dress walk down the runway and immediately recognize whose it is. But I've also seen so many familiar silhouettes and techniques, it can get a little tiresome.

Compound that with the fact they appear to be setting up Mondo (or possibly, maybe Austin) for the win, as if this whole season was designed to appease the long-outraged fans that Gretchen was handed Mondo's win two seasons ago. I was ambiguous about Mondo until the finale on his original season, truthfully. I didn't like a lot of his designs or his sniping, or his well-timed dramatic reveals re: his HIV+ and such. The whole thing felt a little calculated, and this season he's just coming off super arrogant, and I *still* don't really like this aesthetic all that much. Too busy / cartoony for me, but I suspect the prize package here will be a launching point that could put him into the Christian-like stratosphere.

Who does that leave us with? Well Michael Costello, who conveniently has tagged along this whole time as a confidant for Mondo, and otherwise still hasn't shown much by way of fashion chops (although he's made some pretty clothes). Kenley, who I have a soft spot for and am actually pretty irritated by the judges decision to never give her a first place finish - there were a handful of times I easily thought she should have won or at least been in the Top 3. And Austin, the second-most-likely to steal the throne from Mondo, given the 'foreclosure' set-up in this week's episode and his relatively consistent performance / fan favourite status. He's such a good demonstration of how you can be good TV and not be an arrogant prick (Mondo). Plus the fact they kept him around after one or two hideous offerings shows that someone up there (as in, the Executive Producer table) likes him.

Truthfully I think Mondo and Austin are a lock for the finale…whatever that is…they've never established that the designers will be showing collections or in what context, I assume a private runway show somewhere. It's a toss-up between Michael and Kenley. On the one hand, Michael has won two challenges, and we've never officially seen him do a collection (although his decoy Fashion Week collection was pretty tragic). On the other, the show would hurt a bit to not have any females in the finale, and Kenley has performed on more of a steady-footed plateau versus Michael's zig zag performance.

Anyway altogether I've enjoyed this season. The lack of drama / personal story shiftiness has been eliminated in the shortened episode length, and the weekly challenges have been mostly interesting - although a few were questionably campy. Having a fresh judging panel in place has worked well, although Erin (the host) has been kind of awkwardly cheery. I don't know if it's because of who was on the panel, or if it's because these are All Stars, but I've found the judging to be really refreshing because there are pros and cons to almost every outfit, and they discuss them openly, making it harder to discern who's going home. On the regular show, they've fallen into this pattern of just drilling home the flaws of an outfit, and I appreciate the more balanced critiques. I also love Joanna Coles as the new Tim. She's got this amazingly dry sense of humour and super blunt critiques, so much so that even her encouragement sounds like proclamations. She's got that perfect mix of droll humour and house mother guidance that Tim has taken ownership of…I like her so much more in this capacity than as a judge, although I've enjoyed the one or two times Tim has earned a spot on the judging panel. I actually think that should happen every season (ditto with Jay on ANTM).

Even though the remaining episodes feel like a forgone conclusion, and there isn't the excitement of a fashion week presence, I'm still digging that ProjRun went down this route. I'm not saying doing it often. And I do think the cast was a little lopsided (i.e. I can think of a half-dozen girls I'd have rather seen come back in the place of the ones that were cast / available). But altogether this >>>>ANTM.

Why hello there...

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Whoops. I've definitely been absentee for some time. That's not to say I haven't been a media fiend over the last few months. Quite the opposite. And therefore busy. Anyway here are my top 10 thoughts on media happenings since I last wrote in...gulp...October.

10) Homeland and American Horror Story provided two of the most enjoyable viewing experiences I've had on television in recent memory. If only every year brought such gems to my screen. Oh and I'm still digging Revenge. SO glad I picked that one up.

9) I feel like I've lost a lot of steam for this year's Oscars race. It's probably because I saw all of the movies (except War Horse...I just can't...) as of a few weeks ago, so its been a little anti-climactic since then. I don't feel passionately about any particular film. Midnight in Paris was definitely my favourite, but I know it doesn't have a shot for much beyond best screenplay.

8) Survivor was dissatisfying. The conclusion anyway. I have this weird issue where I secretly root for people like Natalie (Samoa) and Sophie (this last season) but not really expect them to win and then when they're in a position to I regret cheering for them. Coach deserved the win in my opinion. I loved this season altogether, it definitely had some good characters and 'moments', although I'm still not a fan of Redemption and a little tired of back-to-back 'bring 'em back' seasons. I'm glad they're going in a fresh direction this season.

7) I watched both the Golden Globes and the Grammys. Not much to say on either. I thought Emma Stone was best dressed at the GG's and I'm excited she'll (likely) be at the Oscars this year. Adele is a precious flower and like the rest of the world, I'm so happy for her success.

6) New Girl continues to be my new favourite comedy. I still love Modern Family and guffaw on occasion at The Office, but I'm so intrigued by where this show is going...and can go. It just feels like a really fresh take on the 90s 'Friends'-type comedy, although I know other people are toting 'Happy Endings' in that respect.

5) I've read a sh*t ton of books in the last few months, that should come as no surprise. I meant to do some dreamcasting on here. Let's see if I can remember...I found 'The Night Circus' incredibly difficult to cast but I know it's going to be a sensational movie. I think I had someone like Olivia Wilde in there for Celia. I just read 'Before I Go To Sleep' and I thought of Kate Winslet for Christine and Jude Law for Ben.

4) On Whitney Houston: serious tragedy. She clearly needed help for a long time and it's a shame no one was able to give it to her. Between her and Amy Winehouse I hope someone somewhere finds a way to connect with these people. I can only imagine Lindsay Lohan's name showing up next...

3) The Walking Dead. Disappointing season so far, not much improved by this week's mid-season premiere. They need to GTFO the GD farm. Also the scriptwriting still feels awkwardly clunky and expositional.

2) I watched both the Swedish and American versions of 'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' in the last few months. The BF was not interested in the American version at all because he felt like he'd seen it all with the serviceable Swedish adaptation. But I have to say, I thought the American version kicked ass. Rooney Mara was superlative, and in my humble opinion, deserving of an Oscar. Perhaps if they make - and sustain the quality level - of all three she'll get rewarded down the road.

1) I'm feeling Project Runway All Stars for the most part. I'll admit there is something problematic with the fact we are seeing style point-of-views that we're already well familiar with, as opposed to seeing what a new crop of designers would have brought to the table. But at the same time it's refreshing to see such ambition, talent, and commitment to said points of view.

0) Oh yes, a bonus post. I'm quite enjoying the new Canadian show The LA Complex. It's from the creators of Degrassi so this should come as no surprise, but I'm finding it surprisingly well-plotted, acted, and paced. I'm so psyched for the actors (particularly Cassie Steele) that its received a US pickup for the summer.

I PROMISE to write back after the Oscars. That is all.

- Britt's On

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

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