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The Americans 5.12 “The World Council of Churches” Review: What’s In a Name?

24 May

Lines between make believe and reality are intrinsically blurred on The Americans because Philip and Elizabeth’s cover lives are so entwined with who they are and were that it’s impossible to separate the two at this point.Small acts of defiance such as getting married in secret, in a ceremony that used their original names is important to the series as a whole, not because it’s going to bring down the Berlin Wall or end the Cold War, but because it gives Philip and Elizabeth something that is actually theirs. Mikahil and Nadezhda are now really married and it doesn’t matter that their American marriage certificate isn’t legit. And now they have got from that point of brief contentment (because crowns and okay, commitment) to wanting to go home.

But it’s not as easy as that and while Claudia is surprisingly receptive to the idea, it’s their kids inherent Americanness that is ultimately going to be the issue. Maybe this is why Claudia is so receptive; she knows they have other things to consider and the journey home is long. Also, Philip continues his pattern of never sitting down at these meetings.Names come up on countless occasions; first when Paige asks about how they came by Jennings. They explain that Philip Jennings was a real person (as was Elizabeth’s maiden name) and the KGB take the names of real (and now deceased) people to strengthen their covers. This was how they cracked the Clark code and realized Martha’s husband was KGB. Philip admits that he misses his old name and there is a wistful tone when he says this. Wistful because this is the first time home has felt this close. 

But it is far from easy. They can talk all they want about what names they will go by when they return to Russia and the Jennings marriage has never been stronger – remember “it’s us” – but they are living in a fantasy land if they think that Paige and Henry will be fine with any of this. Sure Paige is adjusting to life as a junior spy and soon the weight of Pastor Tim (and the cross around her neck) will be gone, but she’s going to be just as alienated there as Pasha is in America. And Henry. Well Henry is another story as he’s got his hopes set on an entirely different dream. Seeing first hand what has happened to Pasha and the lengths Tuan is willing to go to when it comes to completing their mission is chilling. He’s just a teen in a Marty McFly like gilet and rotating pop culture tees (this week featuring Knightrider), but he might also be the most ruthless of them all. He’s the king of manipulation including convincing Pasha to slit his wrists as a way to get back home. He told him how to avoid the artery, but there is no guarantee. And this is why Philip (dressed as Brad) storms out of the house in a bid to stop this plan.

It doesn’t matter that this might jeopardize the entire op, because Philip has had enough of this shit and his parent brain kicks in. And when she catches up with him, Elizabeth is there to grab him by the hand and be all in this together. It’s all in their vows. Plus she’s got to make this surprise visit look more natural than it currently is.
With one episode left to go this season it looks like breaking point has well and truly been hit. And it’s only going to get worse.

Note – this week’s review is much shorter because I am traveling. Will be back to the usual essay length for the finale next week. 

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TV at Cannes: ‘Top of the Lake’ Photocall

23 May

I’m loathe to use #SquadGoals, but the Cannes photocall for Top of the Lake: China Girl is exactly that. The above photo looks so relaxing.And I am fully in love with Gwendoline Christie’s choice of heels that look like a red version of the Black Lodge floor (Twin Peaks  is penetrating all). Just because she’s already tall doesn’t mean she can’t indulge in another few inches. 

All three women are enjoying success with multiple projects including other TV hits such as Nicole Kidman’s Big Little Lies and Elisbeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale. Plus Christie has season 7 of Game of Thrones premiering in July. Oh and this amazing new Vanity Fair cover for The Last Jedi

Here is the first trailer for Top of the Lake: China Girl.

It is safe to say that this is one of my most anticipated shows of 2017. 

Updated to add this Instagram delight.

You're welcome:) #Cannes #totlchinagirl

A post shared by Elisabeth Moss (@elisabethmossofficial) on

Hopefully there will be a whole lot more promotion from these ladies. 


Out of the Box: Look of the Week

19 May

 

Ah, May. That time of year when EVERYTHING is going on including the Cannes film festival and TV upfronts. This means plenty of red carpet moments and I would usually break down each network with their own post. Unfortunately (or I guess fortunately) this week I have been stacked with other work (see herehere and there’s more exciting stuff to come) and so it all comes down to “Out of the Box.”

So this is a bumper edition that also includes Emmy FYC events, premieres, the BAFTA TV awards and more. Also continuing the trend of all the color and pattern.I’ve talked on numerous occasions about how thrilled I am when cast members remain friends long after the project has wrapped and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ladies are a prime example of that. Often popping up on each other’s Instagram posts in a way that doesn’t feel phony or like they’re doing it just for the content boost. Basically it is their “just like us” moment and I never feel this way about Blake Lively.

They all turned out for Amber Tamblyn’s directorial debut Paint it Black and there’s no upstaging here; it isn’t a one black blazer fits all situation and three out of the four have gone this route. Alexis Bledel continues her super hot patterned streak and this whole situation is making me want to rewatch those movies.

Also whoa that I just found out two Twin Peaks links – yeah I’m late to this – as Amber Tamblyn’s dad is Dr Jacoby and Lively’s half-sister is Lana. Michaela Coel’s mother might be new favorite designer and at the BAFTA TV Awards she went mini in this very fun geometric number. Also going short is Michelle Williams at the Wonderstruck Cannes photocall and this is my favorite of her recent Louis Vuitton looks. The shape and pattern are fabulous; it manages to be the most Michelle Williams with a slight edge.

Obligatory bathroom selfie but I'm missing my bff Michelle. 😭❤️🌈

A post shared by Busy Philipps (@busyphilipps) on

It has been too long since our last Michelle/Busy bathroom selfie, but Busy’s Alice + Olivia rainbow frock is a delight.

Sadly, there was no Busy Philipps at the upfronts and NBC are still yet to make a decision on her pilot Sackett Sisters so here is my obligatory #MustSeeSackett shout-out.At the ABC upfront, Kerry Washington gives great color blocking cuteness in Fausto Puglisi and nailing the whole daytime event styling.More ABC darlings and Tracee Ellis Ross also got the red memo wearing Ryan Roche (and styled by our fave Karla Welch). Ross’ TV husband, Anthony Anderson also looks super swish and I still need to catch up on Black-ish, much to my TV watching shame.At the EW upfront party, Yvette Nicole Brown is giving me so much jumpsuit inspiration in polka dot Corey Lynn Calter. Such a fun look and also pockets!

As a big Madewell fan it thrills me to see one of their clutches on the red carpet (because it is nice to see things I can actually afford). A floral explosion at NBC and more Karla Welch stylist delights (see also America Ferrera) with Amy Poehler in Warm NY. It also pleases me immensely that Poehler is wearing a colorful pump with this colorful frock.Double America Ferrera this week and she’s taking a page from her Sisterhood co-star’s book in Saloni.

Ferrera’s current co-star, Ben Feldman looks great – that shirt! – until you get to his shoes. I’m actually okay with sneakers with a suit (especially for a daytime event), but not these sneakers. Confession – I really dislike the bottom of Mandy Moore’s skirt and everything I love about this look is above the knee. The lace is too much and it distracts. However, the top of this DVF ensemble is amazing and ticks so many boxes – collar, pattern – and I am also feeling very emotional about Ron Cephas Jones standing next to Moore.

It wouldn’t be This is Us if I wasn’t getting teary.More florals and this time of the maxi dress variety from Gina Rodriguez in Milly at the CW upfront. What a delight.

It isn’t all flowers and stripes will forever take my heart; Constance Zimmer’s Tracy Reese frock looks like it is from the same collection as Susan Kelechi Watson’s sweater from earlier this year. Perfect panel attire.How much do I want to see Judith Light to guest star on The Good Fight wearing this caped dress? I think you can guess the answer. At the Paley Honors: Celebrating Women In Television event, Judith Light crushes everything, as always.

 

The Americans 5.11 “Dyatkovo” Review: Paying for the Past

17 May

You can’t escape the past and season 5 of The Americans has constantly been looking back to explain the present. History repeats and this impact is felt on both a micro and macro level; individuals and organizations are at risk and real change is hard to implement. Especially when authorities have a different face/name and yet continue with their shady shit. Corruption seeps down to every level.

Post-WWII turmoil in Russia has been alluded to with Philip learning the truth about his father’s profession, Oleg finding out about his mother’s imprisonment and Gabriel discussing the work he did. You can make a new life, get a new name and yet the scars run deep. Memories threaten to bubble to the surface and ruin the facade of perfection that has been constructed.A seemingly unconnected operation to everything Philip and Elizabeth have been doing brings everything to a head in an unexpected way. In a sequence that is reminiscent of the equally brilliant “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip and Elizabeth interrogate someone the KGB believes killed their people for the Nazis in the occupied town of Dyatkovo. As this is The Americans this is not a simple case of good versus evil and first they must determine whether they have the right person.

Philip has to be sure that this isn’t a case of mistaken identity and early on the evidence they have isn’t particularly conclusive. The photo could be her, but this isn’t enough and Philip reinforces his point by mentioning the conversation they had earlier this season. He can no longer shoot first only to find out that they were wrong. It seems like a good marker, to be honest and Elizabeth is aware that he is close to breaking point; which is why she does what she does later on.Paying for the past is a complicated business and after some back and forth with Natalie about whether she is really Anna, she confesses. At first I thought this was a fake confession as a way to save her husband, but it turns out that she really did all the things she was accused of. But these were far from the actions of someone who took pleasure in committing these atrocities. This is one of Irina Dubova’s first acting credits and she is incredible in this role delivering pain, guilt and fear.

Natalie’s confession takes place in front of her husband with horrific details such as watching her family get shot and being forced to dig their graves. She was saved and she doesn’t know why, “nothing made sense.” And after this she did what she had to in order to survive – echoing what Oleg’s mother told him about prison – which included killing her own people. The first time she did it she was so drunk she could barely stand and all of this began when she was just 16. Elizabeth was 17 when she joined the KGB. And now Paige is at this age too. Too young to be embroiled in all of this.

This is The Americans doing what it does best; hitting us in the gut with the lack of options available. Before this moment Elizabeth calls Natalie a monster throwing back the word that Pastor Tim questioned whether they are. As I already mentioned this episode is reminiscent of “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” particularly the conversations Elizabeth has with Lois Smith’s Betty as she coerces her into taking too many pills. Betty also brings up this notion of Elizabeth being a bad person. In fact she calls her out on her “to make the world a better place” reasoning by saying that’s “what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things.”

This is the most Elizabeth has previously been effected by an on the job kill – I got super teary rewatching these scenes – and the whole thing with Natalie is enough for Elizabeth to make a huge decision; she wants to go home.When Philip hesitates in pulling the trigger, Elizabeth steps up as she said she would. It is an awful moment and even though it was clear they were never going to let them live – they’d seen their faces after all – there was part of me that hoped otherwise. It doesn’t matter that Natalie had made this new life where she was doing good, those actions of the past sealed her fate in the present. Even if she committed these war crimes in order to survive.

So what makes Elizabeth think they can just go home? Everything has been building to this point of quitting the spy biz in one way or another; it is getting too much for both of them. Philip is the one who has been showing the obvious signs of reaching his breaking point and despite his fractured psyche he’s in it for as long as Elizabeth is.

They don’t know the Soviet regime is also crumbling, but the misinformation regarding missions and how they keep pivoting away from doing good is having an impact. The virus sample they extracted, the sample that effectively killed both William and Hans has been weaponized and William’s legacy is having this version named after him. The exact opposite of what he would’ve wanted. They’re both fed up the honey traps and Pastor Tim’s scribblings have had an impact.Thankfully The Americans has never been concerned with the prestige TV trope of “we’re good people that did a bad thing” instead they are people who have done very bad things in the name of duty/country and feel conflict about it. It is why the wordless interactions between Philip and Elizabeth hold so much weight; everything is etched on their faces. Cue my “give Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys all the awards” broken record.

Philip right now is a giant exhale of sadness in human form and seemingly happy childhood memories are doing nothing to free him from the increasing worry lines on his face as they are tainted with the truth. Even something as mundane as watching TV and eating McDonalds with Tuan is far from freeing. He leaves his real son all preoccupied and happy to join his fake son only to have the past eat away at him. To him his father brought some light into his life and likely a lot of darkness and pain into others; is he getting a glimpse of how Henry will view memories of Philip in the future?

Processing other photos gives Philip reason to bring up Paige’s* motivation behind the whole diary reveal. They don’t come up with a definite answer, but Philip wonders if she wanted to see their reactions to reading what Pastor Tim had said about them.

*A Paige-less week, but you can read my thoughts on Paige and the use of horror on The Americans over at Collider

The lasting damage they are having on their children is hard to ignore and Philip has conceded in letting Henry go to boarding school if he gets in. This of course is all academic, if they do indeed decide to go home to Russia and there is no telling how either Paige or Henry will react to this bombshell. Because Paige sure as hell was not chill about the suggestion last season.Ah, Henry. Sweet, smart, oblivious Henry. Listening to his Walkman while doing homework, having a girlfriend and getting a guided tour at the FBI. The latter brings up another interesting point in Philip and Elizabeth’s basement convo about how Stan or the FBI is not getting Henry. They’re also pretty disparaging about Matthew. Way harsh, guys.

Henry does seem very interested in what Stan does at work and is fully delighted when he gets to meet Mail Robot. This is the appropriate reaction. Later on Henry reads Stan his paper that pretty and exclaims that working at the FBI sounds like the “best job in the world” and Stan is quick to inform him that this is far from the case. Way to crush young enthusiasm Stan, but he does his best to explain the big drawbacks and one of those is never being able to truly trust anyone. Not even your wife and kids. Across the street this is not the case and because Philip and Elizabeth have each other it makes this difficult world a tiny bit better. If only they could all retire to a secret island and live happily ever after.

Everyone is feeling the strain of their jobs, but Philip and Elizabeth have never been more in sync. Even when they don’t quite agree they have been finding middle ground recently. The secret wedding last week doubled down on their commitment to one another and maybe it really is time for this part of their life to be over. However, I can’t see the KGB agreeing to let some of their best deep cover operatives go without a fight. Especially when you factor in just how many operations they have in play right now.

And if they go on the run they could be the ones starring down the barrel of a gun in a few years time for being traitors. Talking of in sync and how they enter Natalie’s home ensnaring her in a terrifyingly efficient way; they catch their prey without a sound.Over in Russia, Oleg continues with his investigation and even though they find evidence against Lydia that could put her away for fifteen years she is steely as fuck when facing their questions. She notes that this is how their country runs and it is not going to change. She calls the KGB “high and mighty” and it is hard to have a good comeback when Oleg has his own fancy supermarket he gets to shop at because of who his father is.

Two episodes remain this season, twelve in total and with Elizabeth’s “I want to get out of here. We should just go. I mean it. Let’s go home” everything suddenly feels very much near the end. The sound you just heard was my stomach churning from dread and anticipation of what’s going to happen next.

Fun Spy Equipment The camera in the bag is a classic and I’m glad we got to see Elizabeth toting this tote.

Family Photos and Owl Lamps

Family pictures act of reminders and the Jennings house is littered with these happy memories. Once again I am so pleased they use photos that are neither photoshopped or production stills. Also that owl lamp always catches my eye in how perfect and pretty ugly it is. And thanks to Twin Peaks all I can think is this lamp is not what it seems.

Be sure to check out my essay over at Collider discussing the use of horror on The Americans including a deep dive into the Jennings House of Horrors and whether Paige is the ‘Final Girl.’

Laura Dern Talks Big Little Lies, Enlightened and Working with David Lynch

16 May

The gap between film and TV award season chatter feels like it gets smaller every year and I am thrilled that this time of year is upon us. To the extent that I even wondered out loud (or rather on Twitter), which Big Little Lies cast member will take part in The Hollywood Reporter’s roundtable discussion.

Another go to source for all things awards is Goldderby and their interview series constantly delivers on in-depth interviews with actors and creatives who might be hearing their names called come nomination day (July 13). This is when I fall down a YouTube hole and the next thing I know it is a couple of hours later; they tend to run around the twenty minute mark and this is pretty much the ideal length for getting sucked in.One of the best shows from this awards year is Big Little Lies and it is one I keep returning to in terms of how much time it is occupying conversations and thought space. Plus I’ve been pretty much listening to the soundtrack on a daily basis. It is also one of the reasons why the mini-series category looks set to be one of the most interesting and while there is talk of a potential second season (this gets touched on in the interview below) it is pretty much perfect as it is. Even though we live in a time when anything can be resurrected it doesn’t mean it should.

Which brings me to this interview with Laura Dern and unsurprisingly Dern is a delight offering up thoughts on why Big Little Lies resonated, everything she loves about playing Renata and working with a lot of the Wild team again. Dern also talks about characters it has been hard saying goodbye too and what she says will likely please fans of Enlightened.

There is also the small matter of teaming up with David Lynch again for the Twin Peaks revival and as I already mentioned any TV show can come back.

Award recognition and what this attention means in terms of the visibility of a project also comes into play especially as there are so many shows to consume right now.

Laura Dern also reminds me that I still need to watch Enlightened and I don’t know why I haven’t done this already.

Look out for more award season chatter on TV Ate My Wardrobe in the next few months.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

12 May

After last week’s pattern extravaganza we’re not backing away from print; in fact there’s a lot of mixing textures and the newly titled MTV Movie and TV Awards delivered in a big way on this sartorial front. Plus fabulous suits and more putting a bird on it.Happiness in one photo and a sequin spectacle of the highest order. Dripped in rose gold Emilio Pucci is Taraji P. Henson and a super colorful patchwork Rosie Assoulin number has me smiling as much as Tracee Ellis Ross.

Tracee Ellis Ross and Congresswoman Maxine Waters presented Taraji P. Henson with the award for Best Fight Against the System and this continues Henson’s hot streak of delivering super passionate speeches about important matters.Yara Shahidi can make any outfit work even when it is doing as much as this Gucci skirt and top number is. Shahidi is not overwhelmed by these two pieces and I’m particularly in love with the mirrored skirt which is giving me disco ball adjacent feelings. Also with a talent for making any look work for her is Zendaya and off the back of this stunning Met Gala gown she is now making me like something sheer; there’s something very ethereal about this Zuhair Murad embroidered dress.

Gold stacked heels were all the rage at the MTV Movie and TV awards much to my delight and I think Zendaya’s Le Silla sandals are my fave. One of the best dressed characters on TV right now is Insecure’s Issa and off screen Issa Rae delivers too. This Off-White frock is a really fun play on leather mixing edgy with feminine textures like pleating and boob ruffles. Great styling from H to T.While we’re on the subject of Insecure and fabulous style; here is Rae’s co-star Yvonne Orji crushing it in matching printed Dries Van Noten.This Jonathan Simkhai gown looks like something you would find in a fancy drawing room of an old manor house and I mean that in the best possible way.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead also adds drama with a berry lip color. She’s the best and also hair goals for if I ever let mine get slightly longer.

Bonus Mary Elizabeth Winstead as this is pattern clashing to perfection.

At a screening/Q&A for I Love Dick, Kathryn Hahn put a bird on it and paired it with plaid. And it works! I have new and yet to be worn pants that look similar so this is giving me ideas.

Also in things I have already written about; Lucy Liu also wore this Alice + Olivia blouse on Elementary recently.Harry Styles is on the promo train for his new album and he is already killing it with his suit choices working his way through the color spectrum. Performing on Today and giving me so many Beatles vibes with that guitar. Pink looks great on you Harry and I can’t wait to see what he’ll be wearing next.

 

The Americans 5.10 “Darkroom” Review: Heavy Wears the Crown

10 May

Manipulation is one of the biggest weapons a spy has and to get someone to do exactly what you want without them even realizing it is an important skill to master. On The Americans we have seen different levels and techniques; pretty much every episode is a demonstration in how to assert some level of control over a situation to get the outcome they want.

At the start of “Darkroom” Tuan explains how he got the new group he’s hanging out with to put dog shit on Pasha’s locker and that he did it without them even realizing it. This comes just after Elizabeth has praised Tuan for how good he is at this work. A point of subtle manipulation in itself as this encouragement is to make him feel better after he strayed from the path last week by telling him he is special and she admires him.

In a way it is like a parent praising their child mirroring their cover story and Elizabeth also wants to maintain the good work he has been doing through positive reinforcement. One thing Elizabeth doesn’t do is bullshit him into thinking this life is going to get easier and she doesn’t go for the “it gets better” speechifying that she delivers to Evgheniya about Pasha. Instead she tells him that it won’t get easier, but he can be great at it. Plus they didn’t report him so he doesn’t have to be concerned about that aspect.

Calling something manipulation makes it sound calculated and underhand, which it quite often is on The Americans and yet there are times when certain things are done to protect. One such case is the potential path for Pastor Tim as it has become clear that his presence is doing more damage.

They never made it to EPCOT – The Americans version of the farm – and there is also the matter of the tape that Alice made when he went missing in Africa. It isn’t a simple case of sweeping him under the rug by a well timed car accident or faulty piece of electrical equipment at home. They know they would lose Paige forever if they went this route and we all know that Philip has had enough of killing.But something has to be done as Paige’s is teetering closer to the edge and finding entries in Pastor Tim’s diary about being worried about Paige’s soul is doing nothing to help their situation. This is a burden they don’t want to place on their daughter and while they have ops that run for years it doesn’t mean Paige should endure this challenge. The solution here is to get him sent far away and make it look like this job opportunity has nothing to do with them. And yet the damage might already be done by Pastor Tim’s private thoughts and what Philip and Elizabeth have put Paige through.

Pastor Tim was the reason why Paige asked the big questions in the first place and it is hard to see how even with all of their skills they could have avoided getting to this place. They can keep repeating to Paige all they want that Pastor Tim doesn’t know her and even if this is the case it doesn’t stop the weight of the words he has written down niggling away.

Paige takes a page (boom) out of her parents spy book and takes photos of his diary to help with picking what country to send him to, but also to show exactly what he has written about them. It isn’t a good look for the Jennings family as he questions whether they are monsters and suggests their actions are worse than the sexual abuse and affairs he has been witness to.This is a lot to take in under the red light of the makeshift darkroom, as the family develops these pictures together and Philip has already been having a hard time reconciling everything he has done and this includes the idea of bringing Paige into all of this. He has been reluctant from the off and Gabriel’s parting words further reinforced his fears. Elizabeth has always been the more optimistic and this mirrors how they both feel about the cause; Philip is far more pragmatic whereas she is the true believer.

Reactions are wordless in this scene and in a way it feels like that moment when the hero detective stumbles upon a serial killers murder wall. But instead they are finding out that they are the real villains of the piece.

Let’s not forget that Pastor Tim has seen Philip at his lowest ebb and scariest. This was a glimpse into the broken man Philip was in “Martial Eagle” after another innocent lost his life and this was before Pastor Tim even knew who the Jennings really were.  These comments in his diary use spiritual language and even though they are atheist and scoff at his protection from God, these words don’t have to be connected to religion.

Philip through EST is exploring aspects of himself and particularly his past that were buried and the principles are similar even if the methods and language is different. Even Elizabeth works through things while in disguise using real experiences to sell the fake one and while it never goes particularly deep she is still using it to help process emotions.Truth is the thing at stake and while Philip runs it intercuts with his EST meeting; we are all machines and we are mechanically programmed to respond to stimulus. Enlightenment is knowing truth. Pastor Tim is concerned that because of how big the deception was that Paige will never be able to trust anyone again and he actually has a point.

Earlier on in this episode, Philip and Elizabeth explain their loophole about this secret and lie as they only did it to protect their family. A family that only exists as part of their spy cover; it is something I keep returning to but there is no way to extrapolate one from the other and this is where real and fake merge on The Americans as the Jennings do not exist without the KGB.How do they make it real then?

Let’s go back to season one and a conversation between Philip and Elizabeth dressed as Clark and Jennifer in “The Oath.” This takes place just after Clark and Martha just got married and at this point Philip and Elizabeth are still separated with Elizabeth showing some early rare emotion:

“It was touching. No, it was. I didn’t expect it to be. You and I were never really married”
“No”
“It’s funny, I know they’re just words people say. Do you think things would’ve been different between us if we would have said them?”
“I don’t know”

A lot has happened since then and the cracks in Elizabeth’s super cool exterior have been slowly forming since and what better way to reinforce what is real than making it so. So much of their lives is performative and their relationship for a long time was part of this.

This hasn’t been the case for some time now and they are in a stronger place than ever before and this big romantic gesture by Philip does a couple of things; it solidifies what they already have and things are not going to get any easier for them professionally. In fact it looks like it is just going to get harder. It also gives them something real to hold onto as this ceremony is done in their native language and using their real names bringing in Gabriel’s Russian Orthodox priest contact.

Plus they get to wear crowns and boy do they look good in them. Philip and Elizabeth for Game of Thrones, please. Also a good place to tip my hat to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as it is not often they get to play this level of contentment and happiness. It is a moment to breathe for both them and the audience – even though the pit of dread is never far away – and it is an incredibly tender scene. The whole thing is performed in Russian and despite the presence of religion, which Philip apologizes for, it is actually perfect. This ceremony provides a connection to their home and past while cementing their relationship in the present. It is a renewed commitment to each other before everything else.

Later they must return to their ‘real’ lives and their actual wedding bands get locked away in the laundry room cupboard of things from home. Ah yes the same room where Pastor Tim’s words are going to get burned into their brains.

Because there is also still Topeka and tai chi as the plant they got needs years of research. When Claudia tells them they have to continue working their honey traps they don’t say no with their words, but their body language speaks volumes about how unhappy they are at this prospect. Another reason to remind each other that it is this united front that matters.

Protecting family isn’t just a Philip/Elizabeth concern and it is what they are using to try and push Evgheniya back to Russia. Elizabeth tells her to fight for her family and as with the wrecking of Young Hee’s marriage (*sob*) last year it is extremely unpleasant (to put it mildly) what Pasha is being put through. For everything they are doing to their own daughter, psychologically they have destroyed so many people in ways that go beyond just killing. The trail of destruction is long all in the name of this Cold War. Just look at the dinner table scenario with Oleg; they have a lot to work through and instead no one is saying a word.After their double date – yes I want to see karaoke with these guys – Elizabeth asks Philip why he is so bothered by the notion that Renee might be one of them. For Philip it is a simple answer; he doesn’t want Stan to be like Martha. I think when Stan finds out the truth about their real identities it is going to be far more devastating but I appreciate his efforts to shield his friend.

To send Henry away to boarding school would be getting him as far away from any fallout and Paige fights her brother’s corner by suggesting it isn’t too late for him. She says that Henry is different and he knows what he wants; she’s right as well and I wonder if Pastor Tim’s words no matter how much they try to ignore them will have an impact on this decision. Sometimes protecting someone means sending them away.What “Darkroom” managed to do was somehow magnify the sense of infinite dread, but in a different way than before; this wasn’t about how broken Philip’s soul is and instead Paige becomes the focus again. Now she is stress cleaning and while this is better than stress sleeping in her closet it is far from good. It is also a nice callback to when Elizabeth made her clean the kitchen floor in the middle of the night. This time Elizabeth is highly concerned about this late night activity.

Philip and Elizabeth are already bound by vows made to their country and by making their marriage real at this late stage in the game it puts another point in the column for choosing family over ideology if push comes to shove. We already know Philip would defect in a heartbeat if Elizabeth was to say yes and while the motherland is why they fight it is becoming increasingly clear that all might not be as it seems. And by making their union real on every level it strengthens them in ways the KGB never can.

Fabulous ’80s Knitwear 

There’s a lot of great vintage sweaters on The Americans and this one reminds me of so many from my mother’s closet.

Retro Sportswear AppreciationYou know I am always down for period specific sportswear. Philip’s polyester zip up is no exception.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

5 May

Somehow it is May already and this month is a particularly busy one for TV and fashion. The first Monday in May is Met Gala day; it delivered in some respects and featured some of our TV faves. This month is also traditionally the time for season finales and upfronts (even if FX had theirs in April), but as the TV schedule has evolved there is now big new stuff coming every month. Or every week as it feels right now.

This week’s “Out of the Box” is another case of giving great daytime event style with all the pattern and color. The Hulu upfront dominates our sartorial picks and there’s also some Met Gala post-party runoff. Elisabeth Moss has been crushing it with her corridor outfit posing of late on Instagram and this is another case of the amazing eye of super stylist Karla Welch. Here she’s working the Hulu brunch in color block Ted Baker and you know that collar is right up my street.

Also if you haven’t done this already then check out Jada Yuan’s fabulous interview with Moss for NY Mag including some A+ jewelry buying advice from January Jones. The thing with events like this is they often give good wedding guest cocktail dress inspiration (as long as it isn’t too fancy) and this is ideal for this time of year. Case in point is Samira Wiley wearing a floral Carmen Marc Valvo frock and I’m glad she went with a colorful shoe too.Rounding out the Handmaid’s Tale cast is Alexis Bledel in pattern clashing Saloni Resort mixing flowers with polka dots. I love everything about this look right down to her purple strappy sandals and the short tuxedo style jacket.The Hulu bash had full foliage to pose in front of and this works wonders with all the summery fashion on display including Mindy Kaling in this Sachin & Babi gown. Now just get me a cocktail to enjoy.I love the drama of Mary Katrantzou dress and Michelle Monaghan – another Karla Welch client – is serving up plenty of that here. Casual is one of several shows returning this month (May 23) and Tara Lynne Barr’s colorful shorts go a long way in making me ignore how bland those sandals are. Great pedicure though. Kerry Washington was one of our Met Gala highlights (and someone who paid attention to the theme) and here she is the day after at the Bronx Children’s Museum Gala wearing striped Carolina Herrera.

This is giving me circus tent feelings and I mean that in the best possible way. All you need is Keri Russell in her Rag & Bone tails and we’ve got a theme.Speaking of which and as I have a fondness for a getting ready behind the scenes photo diary here is one from Keri Russell’s makeup artist Tina Turnbow for Coveteur

Giving a closeup of Russell’s incredible eyeliner and revealing that Matthew Rhys almost ended up with something similar. Also this is a very adorable shot. Now for a couple of outfit changes for the post-Met parties including Zendaya switching out one D&G incredible print for another. So much ladysuit love with this double-breasted sleeveless take.

And I just realized we’ll be getting a whole lot more Zendaya red carpet action soon with the Spider-Man promo tour.Bookending “Out of the Box” this week with more Karla Welch delights and Ruth Negga changed from ethereal Valentino into edgy leather Valentino. Negga is serving up great posing face whereas Dominic Cooper is giving slightly tipsy vibes. Having seen the amazing Mamma Mia! wrap party pictures this makes sense.

The Americans 5.09 “IHOP” Review: Secrets and Spies

3 May

Keeping secrets is a big part of being a spy and on The Americans there is always a thin line between someone speaking the truth while wearing a wig and hiding everything in plain sight. Secrets have power and the ability to destroy as well as protect and the person who knows the most tends to be the one in control. Our parents keep things from us even if they aren’t international super spies and I think we can all relate to finding out something later in life about our families that is surprising.

No, not all of us will learn our mother was in a Soviet prison camp or that both parents were born in a different country and are only part time travel agents. And yet there is a time when we find out something from the past that will open our eyes to why our parents are the way they are; suddenly they become people and not just your parents. Season 5 continues to take note of how much of a toll this life is taking on everyone and “IHOP” took a break from Paige to shift focus onto the other teens that know varying degrees of what a covert life entails. Kicking off with a returning face and Kimmy is back to emphasize just how much Philip has on his plate and he is still maintaining this relationship so he get the tapes from her father’s briefcase.

When Kimmy was introduced she was acting out against her father’s emotional neglect in a way that would be considered pretty typical; drinking, drugs and hooking up with older guys. This could also just be explained as typical teen behavior, but the death of her mother when she was younger and her father always being at work definitely contributed to her desire to connect and this was something Philip could exploit.Luckily for Philip he came up with an excuse to not sleep with a story about religion and a made up son; ah yes the made up son that was based on the real son that Philip still hasn’t met. It is hard to keep track of the different incarnations of sons on this show and Mischa Jr. provided the backstory for Philip’s lack of sexual interest in Kimmy. This story is of course born out of real feelings and when Kimmy talks to Philip (as Jim) about how he wishes he could do the family stuff gain, but right this time she astutely says “I don’t think anybody does it right.”

And in fact if it wasn’t for the KGB then Philip wouldn’t have the family/house he does, which on the outside looks like picture perfect suburban living and yet there is a strong undercurrent of wanting the spy part of his life to be over. He rectifies his original statement changing it to ‘not wanting to screw things up’ and this wistful tone applies to his real life. As with most interactions Philip and Elizabeth have when in disguise reality and fiction blend.

What about Henry? The neglected Jennings child who is thriving without any help from his parents. It is a smart and unexpected move by the writers to have Henry excel at school rather than bottoming out; it would be far easier to have him lean into delinquency. As with Paige and her religious rebellion it makes for far more interesting storytelling and now they have to decide whether to send Henry to the boarding school he has already applied for. In another great move they set up Henry’s pitch in the same way Paige asked for the truth in “Stingers.” He stands waiting for them to come home in the same position at the kitchen island all nervous and when Philip and Elizabeth initially walk in they can be forgiven for thinking “Oh fuck. Not this again.” Instead Henry has a whole speech planned about his future and again Philip and Elizabeth can’t hide their confusion (and initial waves of nausea this time) when it comes to Henry’s education.

Time for my weekly “give all the Emmys to Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell” comments and again they are very good in their lack of poker faces here. They just can’t quite understand what is going on or why he might want to study away from home.

Circling back to this discussion later when it is just the two of them and perhaps surprisingly Elizabeth takes the pro boarding school stance. And it would be good for Henry to get him out of this environment so he doesn’t get sucked into this business or just further neglected.

You would think Philip would be for this as he’s all about getting people out of this spy orbit and yet it bothers him how this boarding school looks quipping that it is a “fancy orphanage” while pointing to how much they already have in comparison to what they did have when they were Henry’s age. As with all discussions like this they get interrupted by the phone and no decision is made about Henry’s education. They have their other son to go check in on.After noting that Tuan seemed lonely last week, Elizabeth has also picked up on this vibe and decided to make a surprise visit with a fast food care parcel. Except Tuan isn’t home and Tuan doesn’t come home prompting a strong amount of concern from Philip and Elizabeth. Getting the team on Tuan’s trail they track him out of the state and see him going into an IHOP. Confronting him in the dark of their house in the middle of night they are very much not in parental mood with Philip shoving him up against the wall as Elizabeth holds a gun on him. Tuan explains that his adopted brother from the family who took him in has leukemia and he’s been going out of state to check in on him. So while he answered the call to work for his country he still cares about those he is effectively working again. They all have attachments.

In a heartbreaking moment he begs Philip and Elizabeth not to write any of this in his report. Elizabeth believes his story and Philip thinks that maybe he wants to get sent back so he can escape this shit. “That’s not who he is” responds Elizabeth and once again we are presented with how they are ultimately diametrically opposed when it comes to how they see the work. It doesn’t matter how in sync or united they are as a couple as this factor always has the power of coming between them. This also mirrors what Philip was about to say about Henry while discussing boarding school as he got cut off saying “He’s not the kind of kid…” But do they even know what kind of kid he really is. Over in Moscow there is another discussion between father and son that informs the arc of this entire season as Oleg confronts his father with what he knows about the past. When he asks why they didn’t tell him sooner Igor responds that every family has a story like this one and they did it so Oleg could have the life he has. It is a heartbreaking scene as Igor explains how Yelena was a changed woman after she came out of the camp after everything she did to survive inferring that she had to sleep with other men as part of this. Again the specter of the past comes back to haunt the present and the fear of history repeating. It isn’t like how it was, but there are figures just as imposing and dangerous that threaten this family and others like them. No matter how powerful a person thinks there father is.

Keeping this secret from Oleg and his brother ensured they didn’t suffer and this mirrors the secret that is being kept from Henry Jennings. It is not like Paige is better off knowing even if it has brought her closer emotionally to her parents; the burden far outweighs the benefits.Also for Oleg there is the matter of the investigation he is leading and the one that is happening on him. He has some success in working his source giving over an apple and healthy dose of emotional manipulation as he talks about his brother being nothing more than a photo on the wall. Saving a son in place of putting yourself in danger is good enough reason for Dimitri to talk. Even if he is clearly incredibly scared of the consequences.

It is unclear what Major Kuznetsov has on Oleg, but they are very keen on hearing all about Stan Beeman. Again Oleg and Stan’s story runs in parallel and now revenge for Gaad is being used to get Stan to consent to the CIA using the tape against Oleg.Picking up the pieces isn’t just a family matter and in Moscow we also get to see a little more from Martha. Her sad looking dinner (I do love a baked potato though) in her sad looking apartment, wearing her sad ensemble is interrupted by a familiar face. This whole apartment is devoid of bright color and neutrals reign.

Martha is not pleased to see Gabriel and her lack of enthusiasm extends to when he takes his coat off implying this will be an extended visit. Not even the mention of Clark can lift her spirits and instead she lets Gabriel know that time has allowed her to process her situation and understand just how much her services are appreciated. She doesn’t want to see Gabriel again and I don’t blame her as he is another reminder of why she is here. Maybe Gabriel will have better luck finding a friend in Mischa Jr.

There are consequences for all their actions and so many lives have been left in ruins because of this work. And now it turns out that maybe the virus William and Hans gave their life for is being used not for protection in case of a nuclear attack, but as a weapon in the war in Afghanistan. Elizabeth doesn’t believe that, but Philip thinks it is too much of a coincidence to not be. If this is the lie they have been told it will be hard for Philip to look beyond this; it is only really his wife that is keeping him tethered to the cause at this point.

In Praise of the Production Team The production team on The Americans continues to give great family photos that don’t look a) badly photoshopped or b) like a production still from an episode. Ivan Mok who plays Tuan mentioned on Instagram that this is a real photo of his as a kid and that family portrait is a delight.

Disguise of the Week 

This is quite possibly the most basic disguise Philip has ever worn that involves fake facial hair; flat cap, mustache, big glasses and a turtleneck. It would only be more Spy 101 if he had a trench coat on and was talking behind a newspaper. And that’s kind of the point. He doesn’t have time to deal with another person to meet with and he gives Gabriel’s source the exact kind of effort with his disguise that he has the energy for. They are stretched too thin and with the return of Kimmy we are reminded just how much they have on. No time for baby sitting someone else.

The comment about praying is an interesting one as a way to deal with this kind of life and at the moment Philip looks willing to try anything for some peace.

 

For more style highlights from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys check out their fabulous custom Rag & Bone outfits from the Met Gala.

Best of the Met Gala 2017: The Americans, Big Little Lies and More

2 May

More Met Gala and for the attendees who went big in honoring Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons head here. That’s not to say the second part of this rundown doesn’t feature strong nods to the theme, which definitely has room for interpretation, but there are definitely fewer ‘out there’ looks.

We do have treats from the casts of Big Little LiesThe Americans and some super handsome dudes in suits among others. Getting the best dressed couple title is Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as they mix things up in custom Rag & Bone. The coat tails twist on the lady suit is giving off strong ringmaster vibes and I am super partial to a kilt; this is how to a couples theme without looking too matchy matchy.

Great smoky eyes on Keri Russell too, which adds to the whole effect.

Not one, but three of TV Ate My Wardrobe’s three best dressed dudes all together and super stylist Ilaria Urbinati is good to us. Rami’s red is Dior (obvs), Riz is in also in Dior and Donald (my fave suit of the three) nods to Comme des Garçon in Burberry.

Now someone needs to cast this trifecta of swoon inducing dudes in a movie together. Please and thank you.Michael B. Jordan is another guy you can rely on to avoid the black tux doldrums and this Ralph Lauren plaid number looks fit for Hannibal, which is another way of me saying I love it.Entering the Big Little Lies portion of this post and Reese Witherspoon is serving up Joan Collins levels of dramatic shoulder in asymmetric Mulger playing with form.Zoë Kravitz knows how to make a mark in a romantic custom Oscar de la Renta gown complete with real roses. This manages to be super modern with a classic twist and Kravitz’s new blonde pixie cut gives this an edge.When you worship at the alter of Laura Dern it is fine to ignore that this is one of the many looks that isn’t really going all in on the theme, but between the cutouts and the polka dot train I am obviously here for this custom Gabriela Hearst.Another floral take and Lupita is radiant in coral Prada. Also appearing on Jessica Chastain’s A+ Met Gala Instagram Stories and with Rihanna in the background a good reminder of the film event we could be enjoying in the future.

Just … *kisses fingers to lips*

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And because I love a getting ready BTS.An optical illusion from Elizabeth Banks in custom Michael Kors and I am just as mesmerized by the height of her heels. I would also be pulling this face if I was walking up this many stairs in these shoes. A red carpet best from Lena Dunham in gingham Elizabeth Kennedy with a fabulous silhouette, makeup and hair to boot. She also has a pair of boots beneath the layers of fabric.

As was mentioned on Twitter another theme of this Met Gala was people who have previously lamented about how much they hate this event and yet they’re back for more. Ultimate FOMO I guess. This Chanel is beautiful, but definitely more of an award season frock rather than a Met Gala one. But Brie looks great and she also got caught up in this bathroom moment.

I needed to go the bathroom and ended up famous.

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Her face says it all.

Dakota Johnson looks like she’s on a widow revenge mission in custom Gucci and I’m here for it.One final moment of dramatic staircase posing and Daisy Ridley’s custom Oscar de la Renta isn’t quite the out there number I was hoping from her, but she’s working it.

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