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A Non-Big Little Lies Season 2 Update and More from Variety’s Drama Discussion

21 Jun

Variety’s ‘A Night in the Writer’s Room’ is more of the kind of pre-Emmy nomination events that I get very excited about and this panel includes a lot of interesting shows (and one that doesn’t quite fit the pattern) covering network, cable and streaming. This in itself brings about the subject of the differences of working across these various platforms as several of these writers have experienced both the more traditional model and recent developments.

Also this is a good time to point out that the excellent Queen Sugar returned last night and Ava DuVernay talks about how this project came about. It includes a trip to Maui and I could listen to DuVernay chatting about this show for a long time.

A potential season 2 of Big Little Lies has been coming up a lot during these Emmy campaigning chats – I’m in agreement with Caroline Framke about why it should be a one and done series – and David E. Kelly is unsurprisingly non-committal saying it is all in the hands of author Liane Moriarty. He does have nothing but love for this entire project and set of characters. He also tells an amusing anecdote about how many pages director Jean-Marc Vallée likes to write with.

Both Mr Robot and Westworld had fans theorizing (and guessing correctly early on) so the question of fans guessing major twists is something that is addressed and whether streaming has an advantage here with how quick it gets consumed.

Watch the panel below.

Emmy nominations will be announced Thursday, July 13.

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Out of the Box: Look of the Week

15 Jun

Not so much Emmy chat in the sartorial sphere, but awards they keep on coming. The week kicked off with Tony style and as you will see below the Women In Film 2017 Crystal + Lucy Awards also delivered. Plus it is that time of month when magazine covers are unveiled and the July issues are really coming through on that front.

And I also talk about my new Twin Peaks style icon here.
This is such a great summertime cover of Time Out with Jessica Williams as its star and it is impossible not to stare at her eyes. And not just because of the colorful eyeliner. The interview covers a range of topics including her new movie The Incredible Jessica James, her podcast 2 Dope Queens and an all too common scenario with the kind of parts that are available.

“I feel like, oftentimes, a black actress is the guest star in somebody else’s movie. As a minority, you’re like a guest role or something like that.” But with The Incredible Jessica James she “got to be the star of my own story.”

There’s also a fun Buffy the Vampire Slayer interlude and interviewer Inkoo Kang does not agree with Williams’ assertion that Buffy is the best character. For me it is a toss up between Faith and Giles. For The Edit, Zoë Kravitz looks dreamy in white including this Anna Sui gown that could double as a ’70s inspired wedding look.

Big Little Lies has been a huge success and Kravitz also has comedy Rough Night coming out (today in the US, August 25 in the UK) and the next Fantastic Beasts movie. Casting is something that comes up in this piece and even though Kravitz is carving out an interesting and varied career, she discusses just how narrow the thinking can be here:

“When my name is brought up in a casting office, I’m sure the fact that I’m black comes up in discussions. I just read a script in which there were two couples, and one was written as black. When I talked to the directors, they said I should play the wife of the black guy. It’s insane that they still think the black girl needs to be married to the black guy, and everyone else is white. Their thinking is so compartmentalized.”

She also discusses growing up with famous (and cool) parents, as well as her thoughts on fashion and how it “is another medium to express yourself: this is how I feel today, this is the external representation of what’s going on inside.”More dreaminess and Chrissy Teigen’s Marie Claire cover has me wondering where the nearest field is because this looks super appealing. Great choice of dress and this Gucci frock has so much going on – paisley! embroidered insects! – but looks fabulous.

The excerpts from the interview promise the usually candid Teigen and I will be purchasing this issue when it hits newsstands next week (June 20).

Also on a personal note, I used Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings cookbook to make a dinner extravaganza to celebrate 13 years (!) with my guy. I am not at all confident in the kitchen, but I find her style and recipes less terrifying to navigate and it was a tequila soaked success. Thanks, Chrissy!
It is Spider-Man: Homecoming promo time and this means we are going to get a whole lot of Zendaya, much to my delight. Including this stunning Vogue cover and Zendaya commanding all attention in feathered Calvin Klein.

The profile gets to the heart of what makes Zendaya one to watch; from her upbringing to how she reacted to Giuliana Rancic’s ignorant comments about her hair at the Oscars back in 2014 and the demands she made to Disney regarding the show that was originally going to be called Super Awesome Katy (such a bad name). It also touches on just how busy she is and that she’s got at least one more season of K.C. Undercover, including plans to discuss topics such as stop-and-frisk.

And she imparts an important piece of wisdom for fans both young and old:

“A lot of people don’t realize their power. I have so many friends who say yes to everything or feel like they can’t stand up for themselves in a situation. No: You have the power.”Kate McKinnon covers the July issue of Elle and I love everything about this shot from inside the magazine; blending masculine and feminine style. McKinnon is interviewed by Tina Fey and the extract points to the political aspects of her work on SNL including a discussion on doing an impression of real person. This issue hits newsstands Tuesday, 20 June.

Speaking of which and just because SNL isn’t on right now, this doesn’t mean we don’t get a little bit of a Kate McKinnon reaction to this week’s news. It is very funny interview.At an event celebrating Kate McKinnon’s cover and the Women in Comedy issue, Late Night with Seth Meyers writer Amber Ruffin finally gives me a reason to like shoulder holes. This is an excellent patterned jumpsuit and the flats she has paired it with are also a fabulous choice.At the Women In Film 2017 Crystal + Lucy Awards, Tracee Ellis Ross received the The Lucy Award for Excellence in Television and she is posing to perfection with it. The event is sponsored by Max Mara and this cute af ensemble is also by this brand. It manages to be sweet without feeling saccharine and the pink headwrap tops of this great look at an event where all eyes are on women.

In her speech she spoke about her Black-ish role and how it goes against the way black women are typically viewed in pop culture:

“There is work to be done on the representation of black women on television and how women of color are represented in media overall. As black women specifically, we are often objectified, oversexualized and ‘sassified.’ I really like that word, I made it up. To see Bow, my character on Black-ish, as something other than that on a hit mainstream TV show is really important.”Also at this event, Lupita Nyong’o presented her Queen of Katwe director Mira Nair with the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award and Nair also spoke at length about her struggles in this industry:

“I find myself, still after all these years of working, knocking at the door to be let in. We cannot afford to mistake the passage of time as progress. The steady march of years is not the same as change. In the face of this, it is so necessary, it is vital to find a community. Find those who build bridges with you and take you further because when all is said and done, there is absolutely no substitute for the act of simply doing the work, of finding the inspiration, of making something happen, and of actually creating.”

Both women look super chic and are crushing their lipstick choices. Nyong’o is a Lancôme brand ambassador and on her Instagram she helpfully points out the shade of lip crayon she is wearing.Plenty of floral interpretations at the Beguiled premiere and so far these ladies have been coordinating without ever looking too matchy matchy.

In a recent Sofia Coppola interview with Vulture the fact that so many big name directors are doing TV came up and I would love to see this happen:

“Yes! I would like to do a glamorous mini-series, although I know it’s just called a limited series now. But I feel like TV has gotten a little too gritty and edgy. I would like to bring glamour back to TV.”Pretty sure this group of ladies The Hollywood Reporter enlisted for the comedy actress roundtable could be part of Sofia Coppola’s TV glamour vision and I’m getting a strong sense of ’70s crime solving while also getting some cocktails.

As with the drama actresses, the comedy roundtable also has a high rate of delivering when it comes to an enlightening and often maddening chat. The latter includes horror audition stories and pay disparity based on gender. The whole thing can be read here and again I’m looking forward to watching the full version of this discussion.

Best of the 2017 Tony Awards Red Carpet

12 Jun

Time for the Tony Awards or the final letter you need to get to spell out EGOT. It was a particularly hot day in NYC yesterday and probably not the best weather occasion for tuxedos and long heavy gowns. But the show must go on (I’m sorry) and the red carpet with its rose filled living wall did not disappoint.

For the full winners list head here.Last year Cynthia Erivo won for The Color Purple and she returns looking triumphant in a plunging custom beaded CG gown. This was Cobie Smulders first Tony Awards and she knocks it out of the park (or theater) in a stunning print Schiaparelli that mixes patterns while giving a fresh take on florals.Chrissy Teigen is giving me so many Art Deco feelings in custom Pamella Roland and in personal news I will be attempting to make some things from her cookbook this week.

Also, John Legend is working a larger bow tie and is now only an Emmy away from an EGOT after last night.This is fucking fabulous. Rachel Bloom hanging out with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole; living her best life.Sutton Foster is also giving great plunging beaded black gown in Christian Siriano and the rose wall really is the best dramatic backdrop.It is impossible for me to see Mary Beth Peil and not think of both Jackie Florrick and Grams; this might be the Tonys and yet I will always view it through the lens of TV, because I am the worst. And she looks amazing here.

If only this was the year Michelle Williams was nominated because that would be the ultimate Dawson’s Creek reunion. Wearing what looks like the most comfortable dress is Jenna Lyons in snake print Voutsa x Paul Marlowe and I am enthusiastic about lounge wear adjacent formal attireDavid Oyelowo is always a GQMF and at the Tonys this is no different. Not only is his suit/pocket square game strong, but those embroidered slippers take it to the next level. Oh, Hello lands on Netflix tomorrow (Tuesday 13) and while I am far from a Broadway expert, watching this show while on honeymoon in New York last September is the most fun I have ever had in a theater. Safe to say I am looking forward to seeing it again and not being jet lagged this time.

Also John Mulaney and Nick Kroll look rather dashing, but I am missing their particular brand of Gil and George style. Elijah and Dorota: the spinoff we not only deserve, but also need.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

9 Jun

Another busy week for “Out of the Box” featuring summer events, returning shows and Emmy campaigns. The latter already delivering on roundtable discussions bringing joy to my award season loving heart. There was also the CFDA Fashion Awards, which I covered here and June has started well on the fashion front. There was no Americans this week, but Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys did go to the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic on Saturday and this event always delivers on sunglasses chic and splendid outfits.

Russell goes for another difficult striped Johanna Ortiz once again and once again she pulls it off in effortless style. Pairing it with a crisp white sleeveless shirt is the ideal balance and I’m also applauding the sandals, hat and shades. It is all very cute and seeing this pair outside of their concerned faces on The Americans is always welcome. In more good hat news at the polo is Priyanka Chopra and this whole look feels the most ’90s and I am here for it. Also we all know how happy polka dots make me, so this Altuzarra frock is an instant win.For more on polka dots look no further than Nicole Kidman in Alessandra Rich and this manages to be the most Nicole Kidman and perfect for this summer event.

Missed these dingdongs

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Orphan Black returns tomorrow (June 10) for its fifth and final season and let it be known that I am feeling a lot of things about this show ending. This cast is always a joy and also I see you retro Strokes tee. And now I’m also sad that I just referred to 2001 as retro.The Emmy FYC events they keep on coming and I love how different the Master of None cast style choices are. Aziz is giving great blazer game, Lena Waithe is continuing this week’s good hat theme and Angela Bassett is Angela Bassett. Stunning as ever.

Bassett also spoke to The Cut about For Your Sweetheart and also about the excellent Master of None Thanksgiving episode she appeared in:

“It was an important episode in terms of young people who are expressing themselves and their sexuality and their acceptance within family, community, or whatever the case may be. I was proud to be able to be a part of that dialogue and express it through art. [Lena and I] didn’t know each other before, but now I’m her mama. I mean her co-mama. I mean her second-in-line mama. All props to her actual mama, because she is a beautiful young lady. The woman that raised her has got to be stunning in her own right. I’m getting chills now, I love her so. It’s a wonderful friendship that emerged from that.”At the Dear White People Emmy FYC event Antoinette Robertson is looking the most ’90s in the best possible way. Extra points for going blue strappy sandals instead of the usual black.Rami gonna Rami (with a shout out to Ilaria) and he does it so well on the red carpet in the perfect example of smart/casual, wearing Burberry at a Mr Robot Emmy event.

The Hollywood Reporter 2017 Drama Actress Roundtable is Here!

7 Jun

You can tell we are in peak pre-Emmy nomination season because the interviews they keep on coming and the Hollywood Reporter Drama Actress roundtable is always my most anticipated. As I mentioned earlier today, there is just something different that you get from a conversation that is just between women, which is why I’m happy we get a variety of roundtables from different outlets. This year’s outing is no exception.

There are a lot of big hitters here and veterans of this award season process with one newbie to the whole shebang (as there often is) and Chrissy Metz gets the This is Us place, which actually makes more sense than opting for Mandy Moore.

Not one, but two Big Little Lies ladies and while this initially surprised me you can see why they went with both Reese and Nicole. Oprah is no stranger to this process even if her IMDb credits (as she points out) are less than a lot of the others at this table. Mad Men is no more, but Elisabeth Moss is back and she is probably the front runner in her category for The Handmaid’s Tale. Jessica Lange rounds out the group and as the mini-series/TV movie category is the most stacked it is clear why the THR focus is here.Topics covered include process, the current political landscape and how Hollywood lacks in a variety of roles for women. It is something Nicole Kidman covers in her conversation with Ewan McGregor in their Variety Actors on Actors interview and it is a repeated talking point in these actress roundtables; the roles for women – particularly in – film are limited in scope.

The desire to do Big Little Lies and other such projects came from the small amount of decent parts on offer and Witherspoon forgets to give any more clues as to what terrible script she was offered.

“I started a production company five years ago because I was looking at maybe the worst script I’ve ever read in my entire life and it had two parts for women. I called my agents and said, “This is such a terrible script.” They said, “Well, seven women want it so … you’re the only one who’s not vying for the part.” And I thought, “God, if this is what we’ve come to, I have to get busy.” Because you can either complain about a problem or you can be part of the solution.”

Reese, you are bad at blind items but good at acquiring the rights to interesting books.

Nicole Kidman follows this up with the age old balancing debate; the ‘can I have it all?’ without saying ‘can I have it all?’

“We created the show for that reason. The other thing is, being a woman and having children, there are so many things I would want to do, but so much of my life is, how do I balance that? If I had my fantasy life, there are so many roles and places and things I’d want to do. I’m now at a point where I have to go, “What is that going to cost me? And what is that going to cost the people I love? Do I want to leave now to do this?” Men have that, but they don’t have it in the same way that we have it.”

This could be tired old ground, but it also plays into the same conversations their characters were having on Big Little Lies.

I also love what Reese Witherspoon says about prep time in comparison to her male peers:

“I was talking to this very famous actor and I said, “How did you prepare for this role?” He said, “Well, I went into the woods for three weeks and I didn’t talk to anybody.” And this person has a lot of kids and is married. And he’s like, “You did the same thing for Wild, right?” I was like, “Uh, no.” If I went away for three weeks and no one could call me, everybody would’ve had a mental breakdown. I got on a plane and was shooting within 24 hours. I wish I had prep time. I love the preparation. I love watching and reading and digging deep.”

Obviously she’s not talking about Leo here, but considering how much praise he got for what he ‘endured’ while making The Revenant and the conversation surrounding Wild the previous award season was far less fawning. That’s because Reese did not eat raw liver.

The rest of the conversation is also pretty interesting including why Nicole Kidman through a rock through a window after a tough day filming BLL, why it took Elisabeth Moss so long to say yes to Handmaid’s Tale and when they’ve felt nervous performing. I’m looking forward to seeing the whole thing when it becomes available and this roundtable season begins airing on Sundance, June 25.

One other thing to mention briefly as once again the styling is all about the muted tones and I’m putting it out there now as a prediction that the comedy actresses will be in bold colors. Mix it up, guys. Sadly there is no Kirsten Dunst this year to make bridesmaid observations about the choice of attire.

Talking Drama with Justin Theroux, Laura Dern, Regina King and Milo Ventimiglia

7 Jun

Emmy roundtable season is well and truly here, aka that time of year when it is easy to fall down a YouTube hole watching all your TV faves talking about your TV faves. The format is different depending on the outlet with The Hollywood Reporter being the go to for the drama actressesVariety getting the actors to interview each other and Goldderby doing their one-on-one Google Hangout thing. And I am a sucker for them all.

The only Google news alert I have set up happens to be “Emmy Roundtable.” Yes, really. So when I got an email to tell me that the LA Times drama discussion was up I instantly hit the link and was thrilled to see this line-up. Whereas THR separates actors and actress, the LA Times mixes it up and I am glad that both options are available as talking points can be very different. Justin Theroux, Laura Dern, Regina King and Milo Ventimiglia sit down with L.A. Times’ Greg Braxton to talk about the shows they are on as well as a number of other topics such as the potential writers’ strike (this was obviously recorded before the WGA deal was brokered).

There is an obvious rapport between Theroux, Dern and King as they have all worked together before and it gives an extra level of intimacy – see Dern/Theroux replaying a Lynch kiss – to proceedings. Regina King is there to discuss American Crime, but she is also very much part of The Leftovers family and so this also comes into play particularly when discussing co-star Carrie Coon.

They talk process with Milo Ventimiglia pointing to how his prep for the big fight scene in the This is Us finale was different to how he worked with Mandy Moore for the rest of the season, saying goodbye to characters, whether they watch their work and there’s a whole lot of praise for those behind the camera. The latter is something Carrie Coon also mentions in detail in her recent interview with Alan Sepinwall and I am here for this.

Watch the whole thing below.

Also as a style aside, I am very much all the heart eyes at Laura Dern’s polka dots. Because, of course.

Related – Talking about costuming on The Leftovers finale and the love story at the heart of it all.

Best of the 2017 CFDA Fashion Awards Red Carpet

6 Jun

Awards they keep on coming and in New York last night it was time to honor the fashion designers. For a full list of the CFDA Fashion Award recipients head here and below you will find our favorite looks of the night; worn by the stars celebrating the designers who make them look so good.

This includes some award season favorites and other TV Ate My Wardrobe staples. Big trends of the night include a whole lot of shimmer, shades of yellow and ’70s inspiration continuing its recent domination. Award season wasn’t even that long ago, but we’ve missed the presence of Janelle Monáe’s in these parts. Elevating any black and white ensemble and making pretty much anything work including this Christian Siriano half jacket jumpsuit number.

Monáe was honored for her contributions to the Women’s March in February – along with Gloria Steinem and Cecile Richards – and she gave a blistering speech. Part of which you can watch below.

You can read the whole thing here.Rodarte delivers another delightfully eccentric creation and it is far from an easy outfit to pull off, but Gabrielle Union is doing just that.

The 1970s influence continues to be strong in the fashion world, much to my delight and Union’s curls lean into this trend. Bella Hadid in a fabulous fuchsia Off White blazer frock and this is giving me so many Sydney Bristow disguise feelings. I always have a soft spot for Diane Von Furstenberg and this triple offering on Haim is leaning into all the things I love about this brand. Plus stripes and polka dots. I’m not totally feeling these ankle boots, but that is a personal preference thing with white boots (unless they are on Kevin Garvey). Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives off an air of elegance in a chartreuse yellow Lela Rose, switching things up from some of the edgier looks of the night. Also adding some sparkle and a strong berry lip. Two of my favorite things.A metallic Grecian vibe for Lupita Nyong’o in Jason Wu and this dress manages to be both simple and exquisite. A touch of shimmer and Kerry Washington is on point in more ways than one in yellow Atelier Prabal Gurung.

#cfda

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Kerry Washington also gave great behind the scenes photos and choice of companions. Plus a close-up of Janelle Monáe’s earrings is the icing on the Insta cake.Rounding things off with the delightful Matt Bomer and yes he’s not wearing any socks, which I know can be a deal breaker when it comes to dudes in suits. And asides from some pant crinkles – even dudes need a steam station – this olive Todd Snyder suit is a hit.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

2 Jun

“Out of the Box” was on a break last week while I was away, which means I missed quite a lot of Cannes coverage – though not Top of the Lake – and so there is a little bit of overspill here.

Emmy campaign season has really kicked off now with more FYC events and The Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable series. So it is pretty much my favorite time of year. Plus various other events from the week, delivering sartorial delights.Kirsten Dunst in an outfit I would consider too good for a flight – hoodie all the way – but when you’re flying in for Cannes it makes sense to up the chic levels and this is doing that on a casual level. Leaning into a late ’70s angle (my fave style decade) and I pretty much want this whole ensemble. Also, hey Landry! At the Beguiled premiere there was a sense of gown coordination from Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst without being too matchy matchy. It has also come to my attention that other than the snuggling up daytime photocall posing, I am very much here for these arms raised shots from behind (more below).

Basically, Cannes is great for dramatic red carpet posing that would look a little ridiculous elsewhere.  And for the festival best besties I give you more coordination without appearing too coordinated and also at the Beguiled premiere.

Gwendoline Christie and Elisabeth Moss looked they were having the most fun together and I look forward to a lot more from this pair as they continue to promote Top of the Lake.In unsurprising news Isabelle Huppert looking cool as fuck in floaty florals and shades, at the Happy End daytime photocall. As you are probably more than aware, Twin Peaks is back and while she has yet to appear in the first four episodes, Laura Dern crushed it at the LA premiere in a slightly bonkers mixed texture/pattern Rodarte frock. As all Dale Cooper fans will know, Kyle MacLachlan can sure wear a suit.A glass of wine and a rooftop party in New York City sounds pretty perfect to me right now as I huddle over my computer in a very warm apartment.

At the People Book Expo 2017 celebration, Gabrielle Union and Janet Mock look fabulous in this setting serving up great daytime event style.

Workin this drab ass hallway during GLOW press like 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻… #awomanswerkisneverdone

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You know I love a hotel corridor pose (see 50% of Elisabeth Moss’ Insta posts) and the Mad Men cast give great hotel corridor pose. Alison Brie continues this trend while promoting her new Netflix show Glow – which I am super excited for – in this very ’70s looking Bella Freud frock.Keri Russell loves a leather pant and after getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Russell changed up her outfit to something slightly more edgy for her appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! I’m just thrilled to see The Leftovers cast look this happy as they pose at an Emmy FYC event and I am so not ready for the finale this weekend. There will be weepingSpeaking of Emmys and it is time to sound the Hollywood Reporter roundtable klaxon! Kicking off with a whole lot of handsome dudes in suits; mostly looking at you Riz, Sterling, Ewan and Jeffrey. What I am of course really waiting for is the drama actress outing (sorry guys) as this always delivers.

But there are some interesting conversations to be had here, particularly from Riz Ahmed, Sterling K. Brown and Jeffrey Wright as they discuss the importance of representation and being seen beyond stereotypes. Another pre-Emmy annual highlight from The Hollywood Reporter is the supporting actor class photo which features a mix of performers from comedy and drama. Notable style highlights here include the women in various shades of red – Samira Wiley, Aisha Hinds, Alison Wright, Ali Wong, Aubrey Plaza – patterned dress delights from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rose Byrne, and Insecure’s Jay Ellis being the number one dapper gentleman.

Scott Speedman Was a Disaster of a Boyfriend and Other Important Felicity Things

31 May

Yesterday Keri Russell received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was season 5 finale of The Americans and she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with former co-star and ex-boyfriend Scott Speedman. The two are still pretty tight, along with other Felicity co-star and former onscreen roommate Amanda Foreman aka Meghan and this pretty much ticks so many boxes. Not Meghan’s magical box, but those ones I talk about often on here (see the recent Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants reunion) about former co-stars still hanging out.

The back and forth banter between Russell and Speedman includes the fact that he was a disaster of a boyfriend with no real specifics, which considering how squirmy Speedman gets is probably a good thing for him.

Although he couldn’t have been too bad considering how tight they clearly still are. A Felicity reunion is quickly nixed and even though I’m a huge fan of the show I don’t need to see that unless Twilight Zone homages or time travel is at play.

The infamous haircut comes up (of course) and Russell also reveals that Speedman had no idea what ceremony he was actually attending.

The whole interview with both of them is delightful and earlier in the episode Keri Russell also reveals that she is going to appear on Running Wild with Bear Grylls and that IRL boyfriend (and on-screen husband) Matthew Rhys got an adorable gift for her that included some strong advice from her oldest son.

Rhys was also present at the Walk of Fame ceremony along with Americans co-stars Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich and co-showrunner Joel Fields. Felicity co-creators JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves also spoke at the ceremony.
This might be the first time that I’ve really liked a deconstructed shirt and Keri Russell looks fabulous in this striped Johanna Ortiz number and pairing it with flared Chloe pants works like a charm. The Rag & Bone full suit is great on Matthew Rhys and for the occasion. Expect to see more from The Americans pair with Emmy FYC events in the works.

The Americans 5.13 “The Soviet Division” Review: It’s Us

31 May

There are a couple of threads running through season five of The Americans that culminate in some big decision moments; first the idea of staying together and this applies to partnerships and the family unit as a whole. The other is the impact on the teenage characters of which this show has a number of extending way beyond just Paige and Henry.

In fact both of these threads have been important for some time now and back toward the end of season 3 I wrote about how teen girls rule the world on The Americans (they just don’t know it), but this has now been extended to several boy teens. Boy teens are typically ignored or just sit and wave (oh hey Chris Brody) on prestige dramas so this is going against the norm in making them integral.Let’s start with the scariest boy teen there is and if Elizabeth is trying to make Paige in her own image, well there’s already a spy version who is even more committed to the cause than even she is. Tuan is terrifying because like a lot of teens he has strong opinions and he’s also super impulsive. Yes his plan worked, but Pasha did almost die and they can’t ever know whether he would’ve survived if Philip hadn’t stomped over there.

He sees weakness in Philip and Elizabeth and he has the perfect one-liners to throw at them including their “certain petty [or petit] bourgeois concerns.” Those concerns on this occasion being whether a teenage boy is going to live or die. Not whether to get McDonald’s for dinner.Tuan admits his own weakness in his report and also points to Philip and Elizabeth’s failings, ‘failings’ which can be attributed to their experience and the fact that a) they have been working on multiple operations and b) they work as a pair. So despite Philip’s potentially rash choice to break protocol and head over to Pasha’s house while a CIA agent is posted outside, Elizabeth is by his side in an instant.

Early in the episode as they discuss Tuan, Philip notes how young he is and Elizabeth wishes she could take him with them back to the Soviet Union. Elizabeth sees a lot of herself in him and despite his hard exterior she knows that he needs someone. When she has her one-on-one chat with him after he has attempted to ream them out – the side eye Elizabeth gives is magnificent – Elizabeth points to his weakness.

Telling him he will fail if he stays by himself is a very on theme message for this episode and season as a whole. After all they were very young when they started this dangerous life and they have always had each other, even when they weren’t together together.I keep coming back to the conversation at the end of “Lotus 1-2-3” and the unifying statement Philip makes telling Elizabeth he can’t let her take over the whole thing because “It’s us,” but ultimately the point they come to by the end of the finale is that this is the path they are going to take. Kimmy’s dad has been promoted and he’s going to be the head of the Soviet Division.

This is the spy jackpot and everything they have been working towards; Philip considers getting rid of the tape and whether it is duty to country or knowing that he can’t lie to Elizabeth he refrains from doing this. I suspect it is more the latter and the ‘normal’ life they have been dreaming of disappears as soon as he tells her about the tape’s contents.

Family is important to Elizabeth and yet she is a soldier for her country first and there is no way she can leave now they have this goldmine opportunity. But hey this means Henry can go to boarding school now. Elizabeth understands why Philip yelled at their son in the same way she totally got it when he tore out the pages of Paige’s Bible; it is a culmination of so many things and fun dad is not always fun. Especially when he is slowly being ripped apart from all the shit they have to do.This brings me to another theme of the episode with Elizabeth’s reasoning as to why moving back home will be great “All of us together without all of this shit on our backs” and Stan telling Renee that he is “tired of feeling shitty.” They’re all at a crossroads and the parallels are hard to ignore; different sides, but the same awful side psychological side effects. They all have to manipulate and put other people’s lives on the line. People have got hurt and worse along the way and it is getting too much to handle.

Stan’s situation is also running concurrent to Oleg’s (who sadly does not appear in the finale) and they are both good agents trying to do the right thing. This is something Renee emphasizes to Stan as a reason why he should keep doing what he is doing and she is definitely a spy, right? Or the writers are throwing up another red herring.

Either way there is no confirmation about her status, but Philip remains suspicious and also has times for jokes pondering what it would be like if they ever had kids quipping that Paige thinks she has it bad.It is good that despite his soul being shattered into pieces, Philip can still see the dark humor in their dark situation but the pipe dream of getting away and living a happy life in Russia as a family is over by the end of this finale.

Also this fantasy of a happy life together back home is of course a fantasy because there is no way that Henry (and even Paige) would react well to this massive change. And it is not just their kids who would find it hard and as Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” plays we see Elizabeth looking at her wardrobe full of clothes and kitchen appliances. Their petty bourgeois concerns.

In fact this relates to a scene from season 2 after Philip bought the Camaro and he asked Elizabeth if there was anything that she liked about this life. She denied it at the time, but her wistful glances at her beautiful shoes tells another story. It would be a massive lifestyle shift for all and even when they’re talking about planning a European vacation as their cover there is an end of The Graduate like moment where they both look a little unsure about the course they have set for themselves.Ultimately this is all irrelevant by the end of the episode because they’re staying put and when Philip apologizes to his daughter about not having the normal things like a dog or a regular boyfriend across the street, it is because he already knows what his wife will say when he tells her about the tape. It is a heartbreaking scene for a number of reasons as he slowly welcomes his fate. There is no escaping this life.

Paige is embracing certain aspects and like Tuan she’s a risk taker; parking her car in the same place where she saw her mother spring into full on defense mode and this feels like a test. A test to see if she can defend herself or at least confront her fears about getting attacked. It is also pretty dumb. Later on she takes a smack to the mouth from her mother and she’s still got ways to go before she is as tough as her teacher. Although she takes it pretty well, this is very Elizabeth Jennings of her.Because Philip and Elizabeth lost their father’s at an early age, they both know what a loss like this can do and they are on the same side when it comes to this notion of keeping a family together. This is why they both fight for ensuring Alexei returns to Moscow with his wife and son. He’s too scared despite Tatiana’s earlier assurances and it looks like he will be staying behind. Part of their attempts at reversing his choice comes from guilt feelings at the things they have done – see Young Hee – and because they are tired of ruining so many lives. Philip’s concerns are impacting Elizabeth in this way.

One person who has seen positive growth since the spy world unknowingly entered her life is Kimmy and Philip as Jim emphasizes how much she has changed for the better when he reveals he is moving to Japan. Guessing Jim’s job is going to fall through now and if Elizabeth gets her way this will be the only operation Philip will be running from now on. The fact that Kimmy looked like she was going to get out of this whole mess better off, only to unknowingly become a bigger part of their scheme is pretty depressing. Can she remain unscathed? And will her friend ever get to Japan? Oleg and Mischa Jr. are absent this week, but there is one Russia thread that managed to shine a ray of light and not only is Martha’s Russian coming on, but they’re also making sure she isn’t alone as they’re giving her a super cute (or adorable) orphan girl. This feels like a good thing and after all it was what Martha wanted with Clark, but there’s also part of me wondering if there is something more insidious at play because intentions are rarely pure on this show.

So what about that big conversation at the end? In true Americans tradition the conversation itself is rather sedate and a quiet end to a mostly quiet and meditative season. If season 1 ended with Elizabeth telling Philip to come home in their native tongue then in this moment she is setting him free. It is still proclamation of “It’s us” but in telling Philip she will go it alone from now on she is doing her duty to both country and her marriage. Plus he’s still going to be some pretty important work (as well as running the travel agency) and if he can look a little less sad in season 6 well then that will be a victory for Elizabeth.

This being The Americans it is probably not going to be as simple as that and while this year has seen a less explosive season than one might expect for the penultimate outing getting to the point where Philip is bowing out while Elizabeth stays in is pretty huge. Especially as they’re doing it together. “It’s us.”

When Not to Make Jokes“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This is from the news item Paige is watching (and Henry is oblivious to, because of course) and it also gives us a date in time around when this episode is set; August 11, 1984.

This shot is also an appropriate time to once again to give a shout out to the production design department for the Jennings family photos.

The Return of My Favorite Philip TopStill on the hunt for a retro Dunlop tee and Philip is once again taunting me with this perfect version.

 

Until next year and the final 10 episodes of The Americans. It has been a pleasure!

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