Archive | May, 2014

It Starts with a Crisp Clean Shirt: Previewing the Hannibal Season 2 Finale

21 May

In a couple of days we will find out exactly how Hannibal goes from looking like this

Hannibal 2.13 food prep

To this

Hannibal 2.13 two knivesWe’ve seen the start of the fight and the bloody mess it turns into, however that’s only a fragment of the story and there’s so much left unanswered at this point. The big question is who will make it out alive – I mean, Hannibal and Will are a given, but we don’t know what state they will be in or how free they will be when those closing credits hit. The outlook is less positive for Jack as he has been viciously stabbed in the neck after the kitchen trashing fight and Alana brandishing the gun Will gave her makes an appearance in the promo (which you can see below). Alana’s been put in a shitty position for the second half of the season and while I wouldn’t say she needs to redeem herself, I would like to see her regain her agency and kick some ass.

Can they also explain Hannibal’s shirt tucking in super powers? Other than the blood and ruffled collar he still looks pretty dapper. He’s going to be so pissed that he didn’t have enough time to fetch his plastic kill suit and now this shirt is beyond saving.

It’s like the most fucked up “will they/won’t they” as Will makes his final choice; whose love will he choose?

The Americans Best Disguises of Season 2

21 May

Tonight is The Americans finale, concluding what has been an incredible second season as Philip and Elizabeth have skated even closer to danger. The disguises are of course a big part of the aesthetic, so I want to take a look at this season’s best looks and how they represent the ever growing dread and tension from the outset. It is 1982 so the frames are big and there’s a drab quality to a lot of the clothes; this isn’t the neon/bold print 80s that will come later. Generally they don’t want to stand out unless the mission calls for it so there’s a whole lot of short wigs for Elizabeth and era appropriate facial hair for Philip; blending in is what they do best. Oh and there might be some artistic license with what I call these disguises when a real fake name has not been mentioned.

The Americans 2.01Philip’s flashiest attire appears in the season opener and a wig malfunction for Cowboy Steve leads to the shooting of an innocent teenage boy and a look at how much glue is used to keep this hairpiece on. Not enough by all accounts and I’m guessing Philip has a good quality shampoo to keep his locks from being a gluey mess the entire time. Before disaster strikes, Philip’s Texas drawl and negotiations are going well as he looks rather menacing, if not out of place in his leather/suede combination jacket and aviators.

The Americans 2.02 PhilipMatthew Rhys has dubbed this disguise ‘Fernando’ but to me it’s Rust Cohle’s older brother. This costume is an Americans staple and he first used this in the pilot when he interpreted barbecue on a whole new level. It’s a multipurpose look and it’s rather unassuming as he uses it whenever he wants to play a blue-collar worker, allowing him access to areas that might otherwise be off limits. It is also how he came to meet Fred when he broke into his house as an electrician and now he has to wear this every time he meets with him.

The Americans 2.11 ElizabethHere is one of several wigs that has me asking “How do they fit Keri Russell’s hair under there?” and a recurring cover. This is Ann Chadwick from the Child Advocacy Center and she looks suitably bland. It’s all beige and big frames; there’s not meant to be anything fancy about someone who holds this position.

The Americans JenniferWe first ‘met’ Clark’s sister Jennifer at the wedding last season and Jennifer is a hoot and self-confessed Betty Buttinsky. It’s just as well, as when Clark is indisposed Jennifer can step up to the Martha wrangling plate, even if it means hearing about how Clark is an “animal in bed.” Not something you want to know when it is about your fake brother who is actually the love of your life. Philip and Elizabeth have been relatively solid all season except for the Clark in bed experimentation that goes horribly awry. Aside from this Jennifer is a fun and dorky look on Elizabeth, it’s just a shame it leads to one of the most heartbreaking/fucked up moments of this season.

The AmericansMore bureaucratic disguises and as CIA Security Elizabeth breaks free of those dowdy short wig/glasses chains for something on the funkier side. The same can’t be said about Philip’s facial add-ons. I can picture Valerie and Bob shooting the shit after work in a dive bar together and they’re definitely having an affair on the side. Yes it’s fun making up names and backstories for their covers.

The Americans 2.10 ElizabethIn “Yousaf” it is “bring your sexy disguise to work” day as both Philip and Elizabeth up the hotness ante. Elizabeth is all shoulder pads and plunging necklines, however Gloria Shoulder Pads is a double threat thanks to an interest in current affairs and she uses this as a ruse to get Yousaf to notice her beyond the heels and blonde hair. This is one of the most quintessential early 80s looks they have done so far – just look at that hair flick – and sadly this is all we get to see of Gloria Shoulder Pads as Philip brings in Annelise for the honey trap plot. Philip is reacting to how hesitant Elizabeth has been with using sex this season to get what they need, not that she has overtly said something and it also raises questions about how detrimental their real love is to their seduction performance.

The Americans 2.10 swimming capIn the same episode Elizabeth plays the unassuming Swimming Sally and pulls an assassination move in the pool. It’s the perfect disguise as the swimming cap and goggles obscure her face. I love the textured look of this swimming cap and how it reads on camera.

The Americans 2.11 Philip and ElizabethFlat caps, beanies and baseball caps are all essential components of ‘light disguise.’ Ditto wearing all black. It’s not as altering as any of the other disguises of course, but not all occasions call for wigs and glasses. Throw in a black turtleneck and this is when they look like classic spies (or maybe a cat burglar).

The Americans 2.11 PhilipVietnam Ted will pay for your meds and listen to your crackpot theories because he knows those theories have weight to them. Ted is Philip’s hairiest look and he also develops a rather gruff speech pattern to add to his disillusioned Vietnam vet demeanor. The brown suede and sheepskin coat looks pretty toasty and considering how much snow has featured this season (thank you Polar Vortex) it’s the ideal outerwear.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow when I will be discussing the season 2 finale “Echo” and for all our coverage on The Americans head here.

The Wish List: Chunky Knits, Tees and Patterns on Orphan Black

20 May

Each clone on Orphan Black has their own distinct look and their costuming is one aspect that signifies just how different they all are. The Cosima coat is still top of the ultimate wish list and somewhere between Cosima and Sarah is where my own style preferences stand. Sarah’s wardrobe is dominated by black and Cosima is all about pattern and color; there are also those who are romantically entangled with them and this wish list includes items from Cal (who would be on another kind of wish list) and Delphine. Plus, Helena’s new threads courtesy of Felix and it’s a big clothes sharing week.

Orphan Black Cal cardiganCal’s attire is outdoorsy and rugged with lot of chunky knits, plaid shirts and beanies; he looks like he’s always ready to bolt (just like Sarah) and can handle whatever shit is thrown at him. There is a mystery to Cal and his collection of fake IDs in “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” suggest he could be more involved than Sarah expects. Cal’s style is the opposite of Paul’s black tees/immaculate suits, but there is a chance that Cal has a military background like Paul and looks are definitely deceiving. This cable knit brown cardigan from Diesel looks super comfy and it’s probably why Sarah ends up nabbing it.

Orphan blackSarah doesn’t have a whole lot of clothes with her so it makes sense for her to lay claim to something that looks this cozy and she spends a lot of “Governed as if by Chance” instinctively wrapping it around herself. It softens Sarah, as does this connection with Cal. Sadly this cardigan might be lost to the murder/torture location of Rachel’s previously immaculate apartment.

Helena unicornHelena has spent far too long in various blood stained clothes from her off white slip last season to the wedding dress she escaped in. Thankfully Felix donates some of his castoffs in “Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est” to Helena including this maroon tee with a unicorn on it. Helena is a magical unicorn of a character and she is quickly becoming my favorite clone, so this shirt is pretty apt.

Costuming plays an important role in how we perceive these characters and so Sarah’s hard edge is tempered in Cal’s cardie; in a similar respect by giving Helena something that resembles regular clothes she comes across as far less feral. From this wonderfully sneery shot above, the mass of blonde hair and dark roots don’t even give off an air of instability.

Orphan Black HelenaHowever when you factor in the whole outfit Felix has donated, Helena looks just as erratic. Yep that’s a pair of cowboy boots, Beetlejuice-esque pants and a fantastic Felix coat. The cutting of the hair and Helena’s manic gaze, coupled with the strong blue light makes this big bag of surreal. Instead of wearing clothes that read as ultra feminine like a slip or wedding dress, Helena’s now got a more masculine ensemble and this seems like an intentional move as she has been horrifically violated.

Orphan Black CosimaCosima’s lab coat is never too far away and yet nothing about her style screams scientist as she’s the most boho of the clones. Mixing patterns and textures is a key element and in the shot above Cosima is wearing a cardigan with studded shoulders, two turquoise necklaces and a purple ruched waist dress from See by Chloé. Cosima also mixes baggy with fitted pieces and abstract prints tends to be the unifying theme. Cosima is comfortable in her own skin and this evident in how she presents herself.

Orphan Black horse shirtPattern isn’t restricted to Cosima and Delphine’s horse print collarless blouse shows that couples do sometimes mirror each other’s style (Sarah has literally borrowed from Cal’s wardrobe with his cardigan). This reminds me of this French Connection dress from last year and perhaps “put a horse on it” could become an extension of the bird of it all.

For more wish lists head here.

Mad Men Music Monday: “I Know, They’re Playing it all the Time”

19 May

Just like that, Mad Men takes what could be considered a really obvious and cliched song choice and turn it into a moment that near on had me sobbing. It’s on the nose and yet like any classic/overplayed track, there is a reason why it has been played so much. In this scene it becomes about these two people who fear they have nothing and despite how out of sync they have become, they circle back to each other.

One of my recent complaints about relationships between men and women on TV is there is rarely a middle ground for friendship and there is always temptation to turn it into a “will they/won’t they.” Regular readers of this blog will also know how much I enjoy this storytelling device, but there are limits and I’m glad Mad Men understands these parameters when it comes to Don and Peggy.

Mad Men 7.06 Don and PeggyPeggy is struggling with the Burger Chef pitch and part of this is down to Don’s return as she’s now questioning her work against the Don Draper standard. There has also been a push/pull between these characters since he has come back to SC&P and conflict has always existed between them; it has just been magnified this year. Peggy’s confidence has been shaken and she’s been slipping all season and the promise of the plaid power pantsuit we saw her wearing at the end of last season feels like a distant memory. What transpires between Peggy and Don while they brainstorm in the same location as “The Suitcase” is another version of this episode and those conversations. This time Don isn’t screaming “That’s what the money is for” and instead he is actually actively helping Peggy with her problem.

Mad Men 7.06 My WayParallels exist between Peggy and Don from the secrets they harbor to the way they are both searching for a connection and the really special episodes of Mad Men are when they connect with each other. Pete thinks the word ‘family’ is vague, but so is the concept they are replicating and Peggy asks Don “Does this family exist anymore?” when the real question is whether it ever existed in the first place. Age and specific years are mentioned in “The Strategy” with Don and Peggy mentioning 1955 (a great year for Don) and 1965 (a great year for Peggy) and we are reminded of the first point of major upheaval on Mad Men with a newspaper from November, 1963. Peggy mentions that she just turned 30 and she kept it a secret; this age signifies her lack of achievements, despite her professional success story. From personal experience, I had the “shit, I’m turning 30” tremors and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like in 1969 with a whole other list of expectations focusing on family.

With Joan, Bob sites her age (nearly 40) as a reason to settle with him but she’s still after true love, no matter how fanciful and ridiculous that sounds. Bob mentions that GM expect a certain kind of executive and he is looking at things through the heartbreaking reality of this era. They would be the perfect family, except it would all be a lie.

Mad Men 7.06 Dancing“I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t worry about you.”

Offering Peggy a handkerchief is a kind gesture, offering her a hand and a dance is so much more and it’s one of the most intimate moments this show has produced. Peggy rests her head on Don’s chest, he kisses the top of her head and I sit here and get teary about how illuminating this exchange is. Elisabeth Moss and Jon Hamm are electrifying in these scenes and this could easily be an Emmy submission episode for either actor. For every awful and self-pitying Don Draper action, this makes me forget it all and by reinforcing this relationship gives me a reason to cheer for a Don success story instead of last year’s figure of loathing. Another show might have gone in for a kiss, this is not that show.

Peggy and Don to sing “My Way” at a karaoke bar in 15 years time, please.

 

Betrayal, Privacy and Corruption on the Season 5 Finale of The Good Wife

19 May

Season 5 of The Good Wife has focused on the idea of starting anew and it has been a decision both thrust upon characters unwillingly and with careful plotting. Betrayal and corruption are in the DNA of this world; it is how we came to meet Alicia Florrick as she symbolically stood by her man in the pilot despite accusations of corruption and the betrayal. Alicia has come far since that press conference and this year has shown more than any, how much has changed since then.

As a viewer it has been a thrilling ride – even when dealing with the trauma of Will’s violent and unexpected death – and this finale captures the energy that has flowed throughout the entire season. It mirrors the explosive “Hitting the Fan” without coming across as a retread; featuring an energetic score, so many moving pieces, scheming and disloyal gestures. The shadow of Will looms and while “A Weird Year” is missing a scene as powerful as rage-filled table sweep, Will does ultimately play a role in how this season ends.

The Good Wife 5.22Cary and Alicia started this firm for fundamentally different reasons even if their point of entry was the same. It was a direct result of the equity partner shenanigans in season 4 and how they had been mistreated at Lockhart Gardner, but Alicia’s final decision came because of her overwhelming Will feelings. Alicia doesn’t have the same level of animosity or resentment towards LG as Cary does and this tension heats up this week. Cary doesn’t want it to be like it was and now he has control, well control over his work life, his personal one is another matter all together. Cary sees a merger as a huge step back, Alicia disagrees and when Cary goes behind her back to Canning it blows up between them and in front of everyone. One issue I have with this storyline is how little they have focused on Cary and Alicia as partners; there has been the odd hint at tension, including Cary’s reaction to Diane last week, but this divide has occurred without enough to back it up on screen.

The layout of their offices has been a source of contention and comment whenever anyone visits (Eli is the most vocal) and while the open plan is very modern, it’s also means there is barely any privacy. Privacy or lack thereof has also been a thematic concern this year with the NSA wiretapping and it culminates with the use of the conference call camera in the finale. Lockhart Gardner leave their camera on by mistake and this leads to an ethical debate with Clarke being the only one who disagrees with this accidental surveillance. What it informs them of is so much more than just strategy as they become aware of multiple schemes including the plan to get Diane bumped from her role at LG, Diane’s merger idea and Kalinda’s manipulation of Cary. A result of the many different plots going on at once and the constant phone calls is that the tension is increased and there is a frenetic energy that is as disorientating to the viewer as it is to the characters. They are constantly in flux and nothing is certain, not even by the end of the episode.

Ok, let’s plot out who is challenging who; David Lee and Louis Canning are scheming against Diane and Florrick Agos, Diane wants to merge with Florrick Agos, Alicia is up for this merger and Cary is most definitely not. Elsewhere the State’s Attorney race has turned even more contentious as Eli has found something that will sink Finn, so they offer it to Diane instead. Diane is still pissed about what happened with the Supreme Court Justice position and doesn’t seem to want the SA position anyway. So this is where we are for most of the finale.

The Good Wife 5.22 Diane and CanningEverything shifts when Canning brings word of his nuclear option and how Will’s acquisitions prior to his death is going to cause Diane’s downfall; it doesn’t matter that she had no involvement and there is nothing she can do about it. Canning’s motives for doing this are all wrapped in his own mortality “My work is my life” and he thinks it will keep him alive longer. The fact that Diane has built this firm from the ground up doesn’t matter to Canning and he really is as slimy as it gets. In this moment it looks like Diane is well and truly defeated and she even tells Kalinda that she has no fight left in her. There is an alternative path and thanks to a prompt from Kalinda – who is now very much Diane’s confidant – Diane proceeds with mystery option number 3.

The Good Wife 5.22 meetingNot a merger, but Diane asks Florrick Agos to take her and her $38 million in billings and while this always seemed like a likely scenario it is still incredibly satisfying to see it play out. This meeting takes place in the no doors conference room and the tension between Cary and Alicia is palpable as they sit at either end of the table. Clarke continues to play mediator and this wide shot highlights all the major players in the scene. The flash of pink helps Cary stand out and Alicia’s light grey suit differentiates her from the others at the other end. Robin is the only character in casual wear, highlighting her presence and Diane is the focal point in both the red of her costuming and the message she is there to deliver.

Red is traditionally Alicia’s color, but since Will’s death it has been notably absent from her wardrobe. For Alicia red is often tied to sex, passion and power all of which has been missing since Will. Alicia asserts once again about how tired she is feeling, the ear this time is far less sympathetic and it’s something she has to yell twice before Cary hears her. Cary points out that work isn’t what is causing this inertia, implying it is Will. Alicia takes this suggestion rather badly, even if it’s true and it follows on from an earlier remark Cary makes about him being the new Will and that doesn’t go over too well either. It is still far too soon to poke this wound. It will be interesting to see how Alicia continues to move forward from Will as it still doesn’t feel like she has really confronted what this loss really means. Yes, she has made a decision with her relationship setup with Peter and yet there is this avoidance and repression that is classic Alicia Florrick.

Alicia’s lack of deep and meaningful relationships only goes to magnify her bottling up reaction. As an outsider, Finn has played an important role in Alicia’s post-Will life, not from a romantic perspective yet, but as a friend who doesn’t have all of this prior knowledge of Alicia. Finn is a blank slate in a way, he’s also a connection to Will and this gives him a unique position in Alicia’s life. Finn also doesn’t bristle when Alicia answers the phone with a not so welcoming “WHAT?” If Alicia does take Eli up on his State’s Attorney suggestion (which is met with a less aggressive “What?”) how will this impact her relationship with Finn? Of course we don’t know if Matthew Goode is sticking around for next season, the hope is that he will as he has brought a calming energy to the show.

Dirt exists on everyone and a fake affair with Alicia wasn’t Finn’s downfall in the end, even if it threw him out of favor with Peter initially. No, Finn bribed a prosecutor to help his sister and this is enough corruption to sink his SA bid. The only character who has yet to reveal their corruptible side is Clarke and he demonstrated just how much he believes in fairness by being completely against the monitoring of the LG camera, no matter how much it could help them.

The Good Wife 5.22 empty nestThe empty nest is referenced throughout “A Weird Year” and it is yet another upheaval and dramatic change for Alicia. I have to admit the screen got rather blurry at Alicia’s joy turned sorrow upon seeing Zach graduate, coupled with her “I just wish there was more time” remark. This statement could be read in a couple of ways; in the immediate as Alicia has spent so little time with Zach on his graduation day, in general terms as a mother or overall signifying the toll this year has taken on her. Time with Will has been stolen and it’s something she can never get back. It’s why her arrangement with Peter makes sense, even if the consequences down the line with red haired interns are going to be disastrous. Jackie can’t comprehend this decision when Veronica lauds it over her – I would love a Veronica, Jackie and plenty of wine sitcom – and it is problematic in how it means Alicia can move forward, but not really as she is still married and part of a power couple.

Eli’s career suggestion for Alicia is impulsive and I’m not entirely sure he’s thought it through as I’m sure there’s plenty of dirt on Alicia and her Saint Alicia reputation will get destroyed as soon as those hotel trips with Will get uncovered. Don’t get me wrong, I think a Good Wife where Alicia is SA and going against both of her old firms would be a lot of fun, it would just take some getting used to. The reason this season has been such a success is because they challenged the dynamics and while some of this was down to external factors like actors wanting to leave, Robert and Michelle King certainly rose to the occasion and delivered.

Below you can watch a conversation with Julianna Margulies about her career and towards the end there is a hint of where she would like to see Alicia go in season 6. It’s a long, but very fun discussion.

 

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

16 May

So many red carpets this week including the several Upfronts events we have already looked at (here and here) and “Out of the Box” is covering the best of everything else. We’ve got dudes looking dapper in suits and some super cute dresses now the weather is finally of the sunshine variety.

Matt BomerThe Normal Heart is on the anticipated list and Matt Bomer is a power clashing delight at the premiere, wearing checks, polka dots and floral. This Tom Ford suit is exquisite and so is the dude wearing it.

Samira WileyThis is a fun, flirty dress on Orange is the New Black’s (which is back in under a month!) Samira Wiley and the dotty trim at the bottom make it way more than just a run of the mill navy frock.

Claire Danes and Hugh DancyHere celebrating Born Free Africa Mother’s Day Family Carnival is Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, with Danes wearing a Marni maxi dress that is part of the exclusive Born Free range (available on ShopBop). It’s a beautiful design and it looks perfect for the warmer weather that is coming, plus it has pockets (always a bonus) and the proceeds go to an excellent cause. Dancy’s pale blue Oxford shirt and dark blue pants is the perfect complement to pinks on Danes’ dress and I’m digging his brown shoes.

Benedict CumberbatchAn event at Windsor Castle hosted by Prince William is time to bring out the big guns and once again Benedict Cumberbatch is showing just how it is done; repeating the success of this Met Gala attire this time opting for a suit rather than grandiose tails.

Rashida JonesRashida Jones is making up for the Met Gala by wearing this beautiful Tanya Taylor ensemble. The skirt has a 50s kick to it and paired with a silk ivory tee it manages to look retro without feeling costumey. The side pony tail and pink lip add a fun and simple edge; this is a really great outfit and could go toe-to-toe with some of the other floral and spring inspired looks from the Upfronts this week.

Rachel BilsonRachel Bilson looks adorable in a Mary Katrantzou floral print shift dress at the CW Upfront. The green and pink design is striking and pairing it with white Bionda Castana heels doesn’t detract, nor does it get the same blah effect a nude pair of shoes would give. The Hart of Dixie star is as delightful on the red carpet as ever.

OITNBLast night was the premiere for season 2 of Orange is the New Black and the red carpet stylings are as wildly different as the characters these women play. Taylor Schilling’s skull covered – which I first thought were Stormtroopers – Monique Lhuillier dress is a striking and bold look. Both Uzo Aduba and Danielle Brooks have gone for a different take on the full skirt/crop top trend and I love both interpretations. Aduba has gone for chic simplicity and Brooks has opted for deep purple/fuchsia, with Aduba adding a colorful pop with her lipstick choice. All three women are wearing metallic heels (once again three very different types) and they look amazing.

The Americans 2.12 “Operation Chronicle” Review: “Take it Easy”

15 May

These words from Philip offer little comfort to Elizabeth as she questions how well their own children would handle Jared’s current predicament and she believes this day will eventually come. Family has played an intrinsic part on The Americans this season and remains in focus as we head into the final episode of the year. There is the burden of isolation that runs through all of these characters with some choosing this path of loneliness, while others cling to the relationships they have. Some of these connections are there to serve a greater purpose and yet still produce moments of emotional honesty even if the bonds aren’t real.

One unseen threat – to Philip and Elizabeth – is Larrick as he continues his hunt, building the tension and dread as the episode progresses. How much you can rely on the country you serve is called into question and Paige also feels doubt towards her parents as she continues to (rightly) sense they are lying to her.

The Americans 2.12 kitchenA couple of episodes ago I wrote about the kitchen location and how it represents the constant push/pull between their home life and their work; it’s where they spend time with their kids and doing domestic tasks, but it’s also where they debrief and plot. There’s also the rebellious streak with Elizabeth smoking in there and having sex on the dining room table while the kids sleep upstairs. The family they have is part of their cover and the initial union between Philip and Elizabeth was nothing more than part of this setup. Emotions were never meant to come into play, but when you bring children into the world together and really fall for each other, well then it is going to get complicated.

The first season saw Philip and Elizabeth take the first steps towards making this real and in doing so they have become stronger as a couple, however they have also compromised their abilities to remain impartial. With Paige and Henry, Philip might have always been the fun dad and Elizabeth as the disciplinarian but in “Operation Chronicle” we see that Philip has a lot more confidence in their abilities to deal if they were put in the same position as Jared.

Elizabeth is far less certain of this citing the fact they had each other when they first came to this unknown country, plus they had training. The one thing they have in common is their lack of choice. Jared is now heading to a destination unknown – Switzerland, Hungary and Australia are all options – and he’s going to lose any connections he once had. Jared has already lost his family, but to lose everything else that makes up his identity doesn’t sit well with Elizabeth. This feels like a role reversal as Elizabeth is taking the position of questioning the decisions of the Centre; this isn’t her duty to her country talking, but the promise she made to a friend and her instincts of being a mother. It’s not like Philip is shoulder shrugging the whole thing, but he’s of the more pragmatic school of thought on this one.

When it comes to their own kids, Philip has faith in them pointing out how smart Paige is and while Henry is still a kid, who knows in a couple of years? In fact we’ve seen Henry’s capacity for defending both himself and his sister when he smashed a bottle of beer over the creepy duck feeding dude last season. Plus he knows how to break and enter, even if it is just to play video games. Henry also provides some pop culture analysis this week discussing the first Star Trek movie (which he is not a fan of) and the forthcoming Wrath of Khan (which he thinks has some potential thanks to Khan, but he doesn’t have high expectations) so hey he could be a movie critic. Get in there Henry, while there is still money in it.

The Americans 2.12 PaigeThere continues to be tension between Paige and her parents, with Elizabeth on the receiving end of Paige’s disappointment this week thanks to a work emergency. The emergency is real (Jared), but of course they concoct a semi-believable lie to throw Paige off the scent. Paige listens in on their phone call, but the click of the receiver reveals her presence and her parents are far too experienced to fall for this. Paige wanted to pack her bags for her big protest trip with her mom and this disappointment is genuine; yet another occasion where their work has got in the way of spending time with their kids. Paige talks to Pastor Tim – who I get a creepy vibe off, it might be his hair – about her parents and how she thinks they both could be having an affair and whatever it is, she doesn’t believe anything they say anymore. The magic is gone and her instincts are right, I mean they have both technically had affairs, it’s just there’s no way Paige would ever think they were something as dramatic as KGB spies.

The above outfit would not look out of place now proving that plaid is a timeless pattern that transcends the decades of the latter half of the twentieth century and this one we are currently in.

The Americans 2.12 meeting FredOh hey it’s Elizabeth’s disguise she used a few weeks ago when she went to an AA meeting and now she’s using this as a cover to help push Fred towards getting what they need with the RAM paint samples. It’s appropriate that these two disguises are paired together as Philip had his moment of despair while wearing this attire in the same episode as Elizabeth’s post AA share session. Stan mentioned how KGB spies would look for weakness and exploit it and Philip and Elizabeth are doing just this with Fred. Fred is a loner and so Emmett used tales of his family to make Fred feel wanted and part of something, by bringing Elizabeth along to this meeting Philip is doing the same thing. They also appeal to Fred’s sense of superiority and this achieves the response they want as he agrees to going through with their plan.

The Americans 2.12 FredLet’s take a moment to look at this stunning shot of Fred in the snow and looking as isolated as it comes – oh hey thanks Polar Vortex for helping create these shots even if it’s the worst to shoot in.

The reasons behind helping the cause are varied; for Elizabeth and Philip it’s how they were raised, with Larrick it’s blackmail, for some it’s money, others think their government is corrupt and deserves it and for someone like Fred it’s there chance to be a somebody and belong. Loyalty and trust are hard to come by and while Philip and Elizabeth now implicitly trust each other, it hasn’t always been the case. This is one of the benefits of falling in love and while it has had a negative impact on how well they do their job at times, this kind of trust is not the kind that can be bought. Of course they still have very different processes and Elizabeth’s hot headed nature is the kind of thing that could put them in danger, it has put them in danger in fact. Philip is more emotional in general, but more measured in the field and as they come up against the unseen Larrick I wonder if either of them is really prepared for what they will face.

The Americans 2.12 Clark and MarthaMartha’s figured out one of Clark’s secrets and that’s his ‘toupee’ situation. Philip is quite taken aback by this, but there’s no way that thing that sits on his head feels like actual hair. If anyone was wondering whether Martha and Clark use any form of protection the used condom disposal answers that question, but uh oh as Martha wants to have kids with Clark. This isn’t up for discussion and now I’m wondering if Martha will go to any kind of extremes to get what she wants.

As Clark, Philip discusses why having kids in this line of work is a bad idea and this applies to his real life, but the kids he had are part of that cover. Those kids, like Jared are a product of a larger plan they are unaware of and these children are caught in the crossfire (for Amelia the literal kind). It’s a complex scheme because their children are going to be their number one priority and they’ve been told to produce something they will be more loyal to than the country they are serving. Elizabeth is the more staunch believer and her reaction and instant desire to protect a child that is not even hers shows the lengths she would go to if there was a threat to either Paige or Henry. Family trumps country.

The Americans 2.12 NinaWhat about a lover? Stan is being asked to betray his country to save Nina’s life and while she’s playing him, her life really does hang in the balance if he doesn’t come through. Stan’s been going through it this season and I’d really like to see him get a win, as long as this doesn’t cause Nina’s death, nor negatively impact Philip and Elizabeth. Stan has been tasked with getting information on Echo (the title of the finale) to save Nina and Nina has another benefactor in Oleg as he gives her an envelope stuffed full of cash if she has to go on the run. Where would Nina go? Like Jared, Nina would end up somewhere unknown and alone and the connections she has made, both real and fake would end here. Stan is also pretty isolated as Sandra’s moving in with this other guy and his son can barely look at him; unlike the Jennings’ kitchen which is generally full of warmth (Bible destruction aside), the Beeman’s couldn’t feel anymore sterile or unwelcome. Not even a pilfered VHS copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can win Stan cool dad points.

Taking it easy is a luxury none of these characters can afford, especially when there is a silent threat stalking them. The seen and the unseen is an important concept as there is a lot of blind loyalty and following orders from someone they never see. In losing Kate and their answering service George, they have lost their physical connection to what they are trying to achieve and now they are being sent short messages with missions that serve the cause, but don’t protect them from other dangers. Larrick and Stan threaten Philip and Elizabeth for very different reasons and Larrick poses a far bigger menace to the personal safety of their family. One other source of peril is Philip and Elizabeth themselves as while they are a more united than they have ever been before, there does still exist conflict between them and how they deal with the problems they encounter; could this be the real enemy within?

With just one episode to go the crackling tension that has been building all season is about to boil over and I have a feeling we are in for some heartbreak come next week. How many physical and emotional casualties will there be? As with last year my worries lie at the feet of both Nina and Martha.

Best of ABC and NBC’s 2014 Upfronts Red Carpet

14 May

More Upfront red carpet fashion and it’s a joint NBC/ABC post. From what I can gather from the previews there’s a whole lot of unappealing “I’m good at my job, but suck at my personal life” female centered narratives, sitcoms that might work better as rom-coms and SO many murder shows. This is of course a simplistic overview and I’m sure there’s more to these shows than this – a snap judgement can be wrong as Sleepy Hollow has proved – but at the moment comedies are holding my interest way more than most of the new dramas.

Karen GillanKaren Gillan is the lead in Selfie and while I’m eh on the title and Gillan not using her real accent, she is incredibly charming so I will at least watch the pilot (ditto John Cho). I’m sensing a Clueless vibe from the preview, which is probably a far too kind comparison at this point. Gillan’s still rocking the pixie cut (her character is not) and those appear to be hashtags on her Thom Browne dress, which makes sense considering the name and focus of her new show. Hashtags alone would be too on the nose, but combined with the textured looking wings shifts the focus. Gillan tends to wear slightly more unusual dresses on the red carpet and I cannot wait for the Guardians of the Galaxy promo trail.

Aja KingGoing for a more a more simple approach is How to Get Away with Murder’s Aja King and other than the clunky looking shoes (strappy would be much better) this is a fun look for this kind of event; the accessories make up for the footwear. How to Get Away with Murder is the latest from Shonda Rhimes with Viola Davis in the lead role and it looks twisty, soapy and like the kind of show I will be watching with an Olivia Pope size glass of wine.

Juliette Lewis UpfrontJuliette Lewis is pulling double duty as she’s in Fox’s 10-part Twin Peeks esque Wayward Pines and Secrets and Lies for ABC. They are set to debut midseason and her presence in both makes them instantly more appealing. Finally some shoes that aren’t too clunky or too nude and power clash fine with the print on her ALICE by Temperley dress What you can’t see in this shot is the cut out back section of this vibrant floral frock and even though it reminds me of a bedspread from my grandpa’s house, Lewis is totally working it.

Tina Fey and Ellie KemperThere’s no preview yet for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and it’s on my ‘please don’t be terrible’ list for all the Tina Fey-producing, Ellie Kemper starring reasons. Both dresses – Fey in Veronica Beard and Kemper in Parker – are signs of Upfronts veterans as they are both the right blend of fancy/casual.

Cristin MiliotiCristin Milioti is starring in A to Z which while I’m not sure how long the premise can sustain, I will be watching because of her and Ginsberg. This look is pure 90s and something Liv Tyler would have worn; this is not a bad thing and we all know how much I adore this fashion period. It’s floral and pretty much all of these dresses are making me glad the sun is shining right now (even if my current attire is less than fun, flirty dress and more clashing baggy threads). Pink lip color and bangs are detracting my attention from the blah nude footwear, also known as ‘why do people keep choosing these shoes?’

Best of the Fox 2014 Upfront Red Carpet

13 May

Upfronts week is here and this means an onslaught of promos as each network has new shows for us to fall in love with, break our hearts, covet costuming and snark about. Stars from both current and the forthcoming roster attend this presentation and the red carpet style can vary greatly from those who are already sporting their hiatus beards to the more eager to show off first timers.

Upfront fashion has a spring in its step as the colors are brighter and the hemlines are shorter and here are our highlights from Fox.

Nicole Beharie Tom MisonIt is so good to see Sleepy Hollow’s Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison together again; Beharie’s gone for a super sexy look in a Haute Hippie top and Dominic Louis skirt. Tom Mison looks dapper and casual as his trousers skim on the skinny side; he also thought it would be a good idea to crash the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast photo. This is no hiatus beard as Sleepy Hollow has just started shooting its second season and we will be getting a 5 episode bump this year going from 13 to 18.

Hannah SimoneHannah Simone’s Dolce & Gabbana floral dress is on the more demure end of the scale and the only downside are her shoes which are a bit of a snooze.

Xosha RoquemoreThe Mindy Project’s Xosha Roquemore is wearing vintage Moschino Cheap & Chic and I love the cobalt blue of the dress and strappy shoes – on this occasion the matchiness works – with the bold leaf pattern of the shirt. Roquemore is showing off the perfect day to night feature fashion magazines as if she took off the shirt it becomes very much an evening outfit. The shirt is great so it should stay.

Zooey DeschanelThere’s a retro edge to the white Vivienne Westwood Red Label frock Zooey Deschanel is wearing. The kitten heels add to this vintage feeling and it’s very much a Zooey Deschanel look. The only thing missing is a bold red lip color to make this outfit truly pop.

Taraji P. HensonThis is a really great color on Taraji P. Henson and she will be starring in Empire (debuting midseason). While I normally have an aversion to nude shoes (see Hannah Simone above) on this occasion and with a dress color this bold I’m really digging this choice of nude patent Mary Jane Louboutin pumps.

 

Mad Men: Keep me Hanging on the Telephone

12 May

Continuing this look at Mad Men’s final season through a variety of essay topics, soundtrack observations and style pieces (both personal and general costume design).

There is a new computer at the offices on Mad Men, but it occurred to me while watching “The Runaways” that because so many of the characters are in scattered locations there’s not much keeping everyone connected. Except for the telephone and so I present to you my look at this week’s episode in the guise of phones and those making the calls.

Mad Men 7.05 MeganLong distance relationships are hard and long before there was Skype; phone calls were the way to stay in touch beyond the written word. It’s not surprising to see a chunk of Megan/Don’s interactions over the phone this season and last time we saw them chatting things weren’t so swell:

Megan phone 7.02Megan sobbed into the mint green receiver unable to hide her resentment and rage tears at Don’s latest deception. Being on the phone means we can mask our feelings as the person on the other end can’t see those eye rolls or blah blah blah expressions and on this occasion Megan’s emotions poured out. It’s all good between Don and Megan again, well it’s mostly good except the gulf between them continues to grow and there’s new points of deceit. This time it’s coming from Megan after she was given a window of opportunity to dispatch Don’s kinda niece Stephanie back to where she came from with a check for $1000. Megan’s insecurities are showing and there’s a competitive streak with this beautiful blast from Don’s past and who he really is.

Mad Men 7.05 Stephanie Mad Men 7.05 Stephanie part 2Enter Stephanie and she goes from one grimy phone booth to another. This is a connection to Don’s Dick Whitman life and it’s the first time the name ‘Dick’ has been uttered this season. You can conceal a lot on the phone and Stephanie doesn’t rat Megan out for pretty much pushing her out of the door.

Mad Men 7.05 kitchen phonePost threesome morning after phone calls from a pregnant girl who is sorta your husband’s niece but not really, takes some of sexy sheen off the whole thing. Actually that’s the hangover sweats and I love that both Megan and Don kind of look like shit, well as shit as you can look when you look like them. Megan’s pink dressing gown is becoming quite the focal point and it takes on a different appearance for any situation; she looks so sad and Betty like when she’s sobbing into the phone (not that Betty would sob “I’m not stupid. I speak Italian”), Stephanie had a whole new glow in it, which in turn prompts Megan’s bratty reaction and here it signals booze and sex.

Mad Men 7.05 Megan and DonIs it rather extravagant to have two phones in an apartment this small?

Mad Men 7.05 AmyAmy is comfortable enough in Megan’s world to answer her phone with a bit or just whenever and the phone rings a lot. This is very much Megan’s apartment, so when someone from Don’s world enters it shifts the balance. As it does when Harry Crane showed up and I laughed so hard when I remembered how much Megan despises him. Harry does have his uses as he spills some rather important information to Don. Everyone in this firm is so divided with both the West/East Coast aspect and where loyalties lie. Harry might be a chump, but he’s also been very helpful on more than one occasion. This is a chance meeting that could only happen in person.

Mad Men 7.05 BettyBetty has to deal with more Sally drama as she broke her nose “sword fighting” and like her mother I don’t buy this BS story. Anytime Betty gets a call and pulls this face you know it’s because Sally fucked up somehow.

Mad Men 7.05 PeggyIn the most heartbreaking moment of “The Runaways” Ginsberg suffers a full on psychotic break that has been in part triggered by the new computer. Ginsberg once told Peggy the story of how he came to be and he turns to her once again with these new fears. After a semi-spiral where he ends up at her apartment he appears lucid when he comes to her office with a gift and a solution to the computer’s presence; he has cut off his nipple and all is clearly not well. Peggy’s reaction is one of horror and she manages to make it to the nearest phone, cradling it as she calls the necessary people with the computer looming large in the background. It looks like Ginsberg is heading to a psychiatric hospital and Peggy looks understandably heartbroken by this turn of events.

So yes phones are an important connection tool on Mad Men and yet they also help conceal a multitude of things, it’s why Don could spend so long lying to Megan about his job situation even if she assumed he was having an affair because he was never in the office. It’s why things get so fraught between the two offices as the conference calling technology is still super glitchy; phones are aiding communication and alienating in equal measure.

And if you want your very own 1960s phone there are plenty on eBay.

Julie Hammerle

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