Sunday, September 27, 2009

Project Runway @ the Movies: "Lights, Camera, Sew"

I've always wanted Project Runway, which wields the word "costumey" around in the same dread way that American Idol invokes "broadway", to embrace costume design and hold a movie themed episode. Now that they're located in LA, they finally came through for me.

The designers at a real soundstage, hearing the challenge. For the record I'm:
rooting for CarolHannah, drooling on Logan and expecting a Christopher win.

If you've seen the show, you'll know that Heidi Klum always kicks things off by wrapping that brilliant accent around a happy preview of the episode's content. To hear her chirpily declare "movie making!" before the ADD editing team cut to the challenge was bliss in 4 syllables. Unfortunately many of the costumes weren't bliss in 4 seconds.

The contestants had to fight over the following five genres (only two people to a genre)
  • Film Noir
  • Period Piece
  • Western (nobody wanted it!)
  • Action / Adventure
  • Science Fiction
And, yes, I was terribly disappointed that my favorite genre Women Who Lie To Themselves was not represented. What?! That's totally a genre! It's a genre in my DVD library at least. But seriously, I really think they should have nixed Period Piece, which was way too broad, and thrown in Musical for a good cross section of movie genres that bring costumes too mind.

Ra'mon, the one who previously loved Lindsay Lohan too much, enthusiastically expressed his devotion to Science Fiction, stating
I grew up watching sci-fi. I know all about Star Trek and Star Wars and everything inbetween
What exactly is inbetween them... Space: 1999? Chronologically it is at least.

But listen, I knew Ra'mon was in trouble the second he name-checked those two franchises since even a blind person would reference them if sci-fi came up. Fashion designers can't be blind. If you're a fashion designer referencing sci-fi, you're doomed if Blade Runner isn't the iconic film that pops into their mind. Especially if you've opted to design a snake-woman jumpsuit as Ramon did. I'm convinced that if Ramon had only thought "Joanna Cassidy as 'Zhora'" rather than "reptile woman" he would not have been Auf'ed at the end of this episode.


But back to the movies.

I've said it before and I'll preach it again: the Academy's costume design branch not nominating Blade Runner (1982) is the single stupidest decision they've made in my lifetime. The second stupidest might be the Far From Heaven (2002) snub. I can't breathe when I think of those two films for all the WOW that's happening.

Let's look at the other designs and the sometimes strange notions these designers had about the movies. Let's start with Film Noir.

Louise's design (40s meets 20s) and Althea's design

Both designs remind us of film noir NOT AT ALL. They definitely don't scream femme fatale. Althea's is pretty but uninspiring and Louise's "convoluted mess" pushes her into the bottom three. Louise, who I sometimes think is trying to steal Karina Longworth's look, picked the most delicious genre and then totally messed it up by going for a story about a girl in the 40s attending a costume party as a girl from the 20s.

In a consultation viewable only on Runway's official site, Louise tries to explain this character, an aspiring actress who is eager to escape her mother, to the always wise Tim Gunn. He says "This isn't Vida from Mildred Pierce is it?" Much to my horror Louise laughs, shrugging, "I don't even know who that is"

Let this be a lesson to everyone: Movie ignorance is dangerous. It hurts us all. It can even ruin your chances to win a reality television competition! For, if a fashion designer such as Louise was familiar with the great Mildred Pierce they'd never make clothes this boring when assigned Film Noir as theme.

Am I right or am I right?

Action/Adventure yields the dullest results, just think Angelina Jolie in both Mrs & Mrs Smith and Tomb Raider, done and zzz. Period Piece offers up a split result that's quite telling: one designer goes for technically accomplished but sometimes unexciting accuracy, the other opts for something stylized, ahistorical and purely 'character' focused; and isn't that the way Hollywood's costume designers actually split when it comes in Period Pieces in general?


As for Western, the genre that has as much trouble staying popular as the Musical, we have mixed results. The saloon girl is expected. Epperson's design, however, once he gets past the notion of The Western = John Wayne, is cool. He goes for a tough frontierwoman (far left above) and it's nicely imagined, both period and fantastically modern in a way I haven't seen since, well, that awesome jacket that Ben Foster strutted around in in 3:10 to Yuma (see previous post).

Here's the winning design and its hilariously convoluted concept.


I love it but I'm less shocked by the idea of a snowy villain in white than the judges seem to be. Hallo, Tilda Swinton in The Chronicles of Narnia. Not that long ago.

My favorite part of this episode was the chance to hear from Arianne Phillips. If you haven't read her recent profile in NY Times, I'd head right over to it. She's a fascinating Madonna-influencing woman and one of the best costume designers going. Consider her filmography: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The People Vs. Larry Flynt, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line and the upcoming eye candy fest A Single Man.

It came as no surprise to me that Arianne was also an incisive and thoughtful judge. Listening to her thoughts on how fabric reads for the camera, the importance of multiple flattering angles and compatible creativity from the makeup department, I felt like I was attending a Costume 101 class. I was hot for teacher.

School me Arianne. Give me loads of homework.
*

14 comments:

par3182 said...

i'm still confused by this challenge; were they making a costume or being inspired by a genre? was their garment supposed to be fashion forward or a period piece? was it supposed to look good on film or on the runway?

i don't think the judges knew either

ItalnSweetHrt said...

Your lesson on how movie ignorance is dangerous is the best way I've ever seen it put. You are SO right!

NATHANIEL R said...

par -- do the judges ever know? their criteria is so nebulous sometimes.

Michael said...

I'm rooting for Shirin. She may be young but she's under the radar (she gets the least amount of screentime versus the other contestants) and could surprise.

adam k. said...

I kind of hated Nicolas' winning design (the powdery face? really??) but then I hate him in general (AND his model)... I was rooting for Epperson this time, and thought they'd give it to him. I also thought whats-her-name who did the flapper outfit was unfairly maligned, but then I like her in general.

I also am expecting Christopher to win. He's so clearly their favorite, and is always in the top three. But that type has lost before after making it to Bryant Park.

I'm thinking the top 3 will be Chris, Shirin, and either Althea, Carol Hannah, or the bitchy girl who won the newspaper challenge (forgot her name).

But I like this group overall now that the bad seeds are gone (Qrystel and Mitchell brought the whole group down).

Glenn said...

The saloon model looks like Taraji Henson.

I'm guessing the winning design was from... sci-fi?

My favourite was the non-saloon girl western dress.

Wayne B. said...

"Movie ignorance is dangerous." And it's becoming more rampant like a pandemic. I don't understand why film appreciation isn't a required course from grade school up. :)

NATHANIEL R said...

wayne b -- i know! I actually blame this on reality television in general. There was a time, and it wasn't even that long ago, when people knew the cultural milestones from film, literature, theater whatever... at least in a shallow way.

now it seems like people just stare at you blankly or laugh like "what's that?" about incredibly famous things. If it's not star wars or wizard of oz or things that are THAT ubiquitous in culture it seems like people don't know it.

[nathaniel is getting old and crotchety]. GET OFF MY LAWN.

Christine said...

I was also surprised by how little film knowledge the designers seemed to have. Aren't films often major influences for designers?

I'd agree that the genres could have been more specific. In addition to Women Who Lie to Themselves, I would have liked to have seen:

Repressed Housewife Who Gets in Over Her Head
Gamine Who Becomes the Toast of Europe
Cool and Amoral Mod Teen

Kell said...

Ra'Mon could have been Bryant Park material if not for that snake skin slip-up. Sad. Nicolas wins for his ice queen skating get-up, and Christopher's awesome outfit gets the shaft. Nice theme for the elimination challenge. Nina and Michael Kors need to come back to the show pronto. Lifetime is editing and PG'ing the show within an inch of its life. Bring back Bravo! :(

Katey said...

People avoiding the Western genre drove me CRAZY, but the outfits that turned out were pretty nice (though straight-up saloon girl = straight up flapper from the period piece, so I don't understand why one got a pass and one was criticized).

Ramon was robbed; at least he had ideas. Epperson, also robbed.

I weep when I think of what some designer with a working knowledge of film noir could have done with a big set of shoulderpads and a pillbox hat. Plus Stanwyck's hair from Double Indemnity, for good measure.

Ryan T. said...

I was rooting for Epperson to win this one. He really should've gotten the win over Nicholas (who I admit I just plain don't like). Christopher would've been my pick for second.

Douglas Racso said...

I am rooting for Shirin as well

FilmForWestInc said...

wow nice article...did you wrote all it by yourself, GREAT...
eheh...