Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Night of Disappointments

Last night, Jill and I saw the finale of Project Runway Season 13. That was not the disappointment -- this was a good season and all four of the finalists were very likeable. I felt bad for Kini, who I thought was a little underappreciated by the judges all season, but based on the final collections I agreed that Amanda and Sean were the clear top two. And I also agreed with how the judges described the choice between them. Sean was more editorial, creative, novel, and high-fashion. Amanda, by contrast, has a very clear and authentic brand that she is creating. One thing I love about Amanda is how genuine she seems to be -- as a person and as a designer. A lot of times when a designer presents a clear point of view, it can feel concocted or performative rather than organic. With Amanda, it is very clear that she designs this way because this is who she is, which is part of the reason why I enjoy her designs (and respect the hell out of her) even though it isn't actually really my aesthetic.

So either one would have made a deserving winner. As I said, this was not the disappointment.

Following Project Runway, the natural thing to do was to watch Project Runway: Threads. I was genuinely excited for this show -- Project Runway! With adorable kids! Hell, we'd already seen this exact formula work great with Masterchef Junior! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, the show doesn't follow the Project Runway model. It's not one season-long competition, it's a series of self-contained episodes featuring three new kids each week. Which means I don't have time to get to know any of them, or care about any of them. The presence of their parents as "assistants" adds a lovely dimension of additional awkwardness (and giving the winner of the first challenge the right to use her opponents' mom as a helper couldn't possibly backfire). But all of that perhaps could have been forgiven were it not for the host: Vanessa Simmons. I don't know if I've ever grown to hate a television personality as quickly as her. Seriously -- it took about a sentence, two at the most. Even Zanna Roberts Rassi lasted longer. She's infantalizing and patronizing and just generally horrible. And the real victim here is Christian Siriano, who I think really could excel at hosting a show like this were it not just an all-around catastrophe.

So we turned off Threads after about 20 minutes and went on the prowl for something else to watch. How about the remake of As You Like It Much Ado About Nothing*? This is a clash of the titans, pitting something I love (Joss Whedon) versus something I hate (Shakespeare). And Whedon was backed up by a few more of my favorite people in the world (Amy Acker! Fran Kranz! Nathan Fillion! Reed Diamond! Sean Maher!). So I came in optimistic. But once again, I didn't last long. I don't mind modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays (Ten Things I Hate About You is a favorite), but when they actually use the vernacular it drives me bananas -- especially when it is set in the modern day. It's jarring and confusing and makes me work to understand what's going on even on the most superficial level. We lost patience about 15 minutes in.

Next came Call the Midwife. A few folks had recommended this to us, and since all British shows are interchangeable to me I'm like "1950s Downton Abbey! Sure, sign me up!" Now, Call the Midwife gets some credit in that we made it through the entire episode. And Jill actually liked the show on its merits, so there's that too. But for me, none of the characters left any imprint whatsoever. There's the main nurse, whose entire personality and emotional range can be summed up as "somewhat shocked middle class". There's, um, the crazy nun. And some other nuns. And some other nurses. I did love the bilingual family in the first episode, but I can't imagine they'll be too recurrent. Other than that, I could not tell you anything about anyone, including the main character.

So finally, I decided to play some Shadow of Mordor. I had beaten the main quest before leaving for DC, but I figured I could still clean-up on some side quests. And I'd now like to supplement my flash review. Nothing I said there is false, per se, but this is a very short game. It can be beaten quickly, and without much effort, and after that there is not all that much to do. By the time you win the game, your ranger is ludicrously overpowered -- there really weren't any opportunities to engage in the back and forth rivalries with orc captain and warchiefs that made the middle of the game so fun. So basically, I'm left with an Xbox One and nothing to do on it, at least until Assassin's Creed comes out.

* While this mistake is itself illustrative, I will point out that As You Like It was one of the few plays I recall semi-enjoying during the death march through the Shakespeare canon that characterized my middle and high school English education. So if anything, I was spotting them a few extra points.

1 comment:

Barry Deutsch said...

The movie was "Much Ado About Nothing," not "As You Like It."

I liked the movie a lot - Amy Acker, especially, was wonderful - but the Kenneth Branagh movie of the same play is better. But if you can't stand to hear Shakespearean dialog, then of course you won't like that one either.