Culture in a 3oz prepackaged tube

My Life as a Critic

Now get out there and save the world. April 26, 2007

heroes_keyart.jpgThough the name sounds suspiciously like some cheesy reality show, Heroes is actually a vivid web of plot that shatters all former beliefs about superheroes. Created in 2006, the drama follows a group of individuals throughout their hectic lives as they discover they all have a gift: superpowers.

Each hero has his or her own storyline, and at first it is difficult to tell who is important. One can see that Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia) is significant as he seems the most connected with the other characters, all of whom deal with their powers in distinct ways. Peter becomes obsessed with his abilities, though he cannot figure out what they are, and sets off to find others like him. His brother, Nathan (Adrian Pasdar), hides his ability to fly and refuses to help Peter, while Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere) considers her power to regenerate a freak’s curse. We are introduced to many others, until it is almost an overhaul of characters. Fortunately (though rather surprisingly) creator Tim Kring is not afraid to dispose of characters, should they no longer fit the larger story.

Perhaps killing off characters seems taboo for a television show (besides CSI), but such a decision is what gives Heroes its sustainable quality- this story could happen. We are reminded that these “heroes” are still human. Granted, there is probably not someone walking around with the power to bend time, but how do we know? The show places the cause of the powers in genetic mutation and grants each character their fair share of incredulity, insinuating that we can not be sure of anything. Everyone is connected; everyone has a destiny. And though the dialogue can seem contrived and borderline ridiculous, we find ourselves believing their story.

I am not sure as to why this show connects with me or any person so. Perhaps deep within we all wish our lives were laid out so neatly. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” the show’s motto dictates. If only it were that easy. Yet even in Heroes, that is not the end. One victory means another mystery, another life to save. But when you are a hero, it is not just your own life. These seemingly ordinary people are out to save the world, and as long as their journey is being captured on film, I will be there to watch it.

 

Look beyond the ordinary… April 19, 2007

The clouds parted, and the light descended, casting the scene in a dramatic hue. Glancing at him meaningfully, the director nodded. “Film this.” And so it began.

lubezki1.jpgCredit must be given where credit is due, but how do we know where that is? In most cases, any movie that is well made or has a distinct style is attributed to a wonderful and supremely talented director. All hail the director’s view! His vision! His camera angles. While at times this is true as some directors do set their own shots, often such is not the case. Directors of Photography, or Cinematographers, are called in to give stylistic vision and practical wisdom to an idea or desire of the Director. Though some Directors of Photography simply do the dirty work, a few have a vision. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of those visionaries.

Born Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern in 1964 in Mexico City, Mexico, Lubezki began his career working on small Mexican independent films and television shows. As he gained recognition, he also developed an individual style, one that has remained distinctly present throughout his career. This style incorporates stylistic lighting techniques, gritty close ups, and sweeping camera angles. Such combinations have lead to the strong brands that identify Lubezki’s work.

Bruce Beresford, director of the films King David and Paradise Road once said “It is not just the performance that counts but the way it is interpreted through lighting, camera angle and editing. He could not have been more correct. Acting is only part of the vision. Light plays an enveloping role in filmmaking, and a Director of Photography can make or break the mood with his chosen setup. In 1992’s Como agua para chocolate, Lubezki teams up with director Alfonso Arau to create a film about two star-crossed lovers who fight tradition and reality to be together. The tragically beautiful story written by Laura Esquivel is bursting with magical realism: often times difficult to grasp and even more difficult to portray. Yet Lubezki expands from Arau’s vision and identifies the main points that help us absorb the fantasy. An intense focus is placed on food, the main power driving the film. As Tita, the main character, pounds out her frustrations in dough or drops blood stained petals into soup, light shines in from the kitchen window to illuminate her love washed food.

Perhaps an even better use of lighting can be seen in the recent film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Based on the highly popular children’s novellas, the film combines the first three stories to create a quick paced dramatic conflict. With the fast pacing and Jim Carrey’s spastic acting style, the movie could have been a flop. But Lubezki focuses his attention on the children, making sure that the creative art design is not lost, while the characters are illuminated in a soft glow. Indeed, the entire movie seems to glow, rather from the inside, a trait seen in all of Lubezki’s collaborations, from Ali to Children of Men.

Looking at the two previously stated films, another trend seems to emerge in Lubezki’s work. Though the background in the movies he works on is often gorgeous, Lubezki rarely focuses on outward vision. Instead, the audience is introduced to the depth of character emotion, the exact movements of their faces, the secrets revealed there. No matter how much fantasy may surround the world (look what he was working with in Cat in the Hat), Lubezki finds the reality in human grit. Ali, directed by Michael Mann, describes history at its greatest. Just a story about a boxer? Hardly. This story displays the truth of American culture and the racial extremes that have always been present. This story needs grit. Lubezki’s focus then is on Will Smith’s face, his movements, anything to bring out the beauty in what truly exists.

However, focus is not simply placed on main characters; minor characters are also made important in this vision. Children of Men spends much of its time disorienting the audience as to who is and who is not important. Therefore it is necessary for each person to be equally revered. The lighting used whenever Julianne Moore enters shows her poise and beauty- making her out to seem strong and important in the story. Even fantastical stories like the aforementioned Lemony Snicket’ A Series of Unfortunate Events portray character importance. Violet, Claus, and Sonny Baudelaire have not led easy lives but continue to have a cheerful and pleasant persona. Children naturally wear their emotions on their sleeves, and Lubezki zooms right in to capture it all. With the combined use of lighting and camera angles, Lubezki creates the aura that there is some wisdom in this story that we may not be attaining. Some would rather all this be attributed to the director, Brad Siberling, but with the pasts of both men (Siberling is most known for his television contributions on shows like Judging Amy and NYPD Blue), it is hard to believe that Lubezki did not have some say in the angle of the film.

So what of camera angles? We see that lighting and reality are important in the world of Lubezki, but what of the camera itself? Looking at Children of Men, it is obvious that keeping the audience off guard and in the moment is an important quality of the movie. Long camera shots are utilized in impacting scenes, such as the car attack in the middle of the film where Julianne Moore loses her role as an important player and again towards the end as fighting erupts around the main characters. The purpose of these shots is to gain intensity of course, but again also to focus on the emotions of the scene. The reactions of the characters can not be faked or broken; the lack of noticeable editing allows for nothing but intensity. Yet here we can not attribute all vision to Lubezki. Instead, to give credit, we must recognize Lubezki’s return to Mexican cinematic creation and the collaboration with director Alfonso Cuarón.

Indeed, though Lubezki entered the American movie scene with Twenty Bucks in 1993, he has not forgotten his roots. After 1996’s The Birdcage became a hit, Lubezki could have chosen to work in American cinema exclusively. Nevertheless, he has returned time and again to work with Cuarón, having created their most influential films as a team. Their first collaboration being A Little Princess in 1995, the two have gone on to create Y tu mamá también and the previously described Children of Men. After such beautiful pairings, it is no wonder the world is anxious to see the newest film with the duo, scheduled for release in 2008.

With beauty evident in the very design, Emmanuel Lubezki captures depth in his films. Having won or been nominated for an award for over half of the films on which he has worked, including four Oscars, it is clear that Lubezki has a talent not soon to disappear. And so we gladly wait for his next vision, knowing that somehow we will be more enlightened by the end.

 

You remind me of the babe… April 12, 2007

When I read, the world around me dissipates. Reality is altered, and within the distended time frame I exist solely to live out the story racing ahead of me. A good novel stays with me for some time, but eventually all fantasies must end. But what if they do not? What if, in desperation, a wish is made that brings dreams to life? How soon would we regret it?

This is the reality into which Sarah, played by a precocious Jennifer Connelly, finds herself hurled after wishing goblins would forever dispose of her infant brother Toby in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Stunned to find her wish come true, Sarah calls out to the Lord of the Goblins to forget her wish and return her sibling. But life is not that simple, and decisions cannot be so easily erased. Jareth the Goblin King, personified in full glory by David Bowie, escapes with Toby to his labyrinth protected castle, giving Sarah until midnight to solve his riddles and save her brother and herself.

003_labyrintrplabyrinth-posters.jpgFollowing Sarah from the opulently decorated world of her room, we arrive in a grim land facing the terrifying maze. The effect is disturbingly comparable to plopping Dorothy in Oz, and as Sarah steps into the green prison, we can feel the cold descend. Unknowingly deterred from her mission by a friendly worm, Sarah loses time and patience.

As the plot continues, we are introduced to the fantastically detailed landscape of this unknown world through a series of minor characters. Doorknobs and guiding hands chat casually as Sarah traverses the rocky landscapes and split paths that spring from the twisting maze. Trees shout their warnings to not continue on, allowing for a rather comical exchange between characters rather akin to a Monty Python sketch. There is even the bog of eternal stench to be avoided, a path both led to and deterred from by Hoggle, sent by Jareth to distract Sarah from her mission. However, Hoggle cannot be so easily controlled, and once Sarah’s kind heart and determined spirit win over the skeptical creature, he joins her mission. Jareth’s constant arrival to dissuade the pair keeps children and older audiences alike tuned in to the action. Bowie’s presence is rather inherent to the aura of the film, so much so that his face is transposed on surfaces from tunnel walls to rock formations.

The movie is not without its faults. The film holds a strong message of loyalty and inner strength that is dampened by Bowie’s musical numbers. Granted, the film is meant for children, and the songs are engaging on their own; they simply detract from the darker feel of the movie. Yet the songs open up the set for great visual effects, complete with multilevel stairs ascending from the ceilings. Another issue is the twenty minute fight scene dropped unceremoniously into the third act of the film. The effect is unsettlingly Star Wars-esque and rather breaks the plot line, thrown in simply to push forward the clock to frighteningly close to midnight. Yet even here, the film pulls itself through, due in large part to the writing for Didymus, a small dog like creature with a smart mouth and loose tongue.

Delightfully developed characters add true charm to the film. Adding puppets to a movie always leave room for cheesy residue; a static film that distracts from any moral or beauty for which the movie may strive. Yet Henson has long proved his ability to elevate puppets from simple child entertainment to an art. His dolls have become the cornerstone of American movie puppetry; adding depth and emotion to seemingly lifeless movements. Indeed, although Sarah and Jareth are the “real” characters, it is the morally tormented spirit of Huggle, the ever loyal protectiveness of Ludo, and the wisecracking flippancy of Didymus that truly bring the film to life.

Despite its overly neat and sappy ending, Labyrinth stands as a deep and meaningful children’s film with the potential for more. Looking past the simplistic sets, the haphazard songs, and the unnecessary fight scene, we see a film that tells a lovely story. Beyond all else, we find the power of friendships, stories, and the imagination. And we find the evidence that even once the book is closed, if we just wish hard enough, we can bring our fantasies to life.

 

Bright Lights, Cat Fights, and Some Romance for Good Measure April 5, 2007

Filed under: Comedy,Critical Review,Drama,Fun,Movie,Music,Television — Sarah @ 7:43 pm

high-school-musical.jpgThe story unfolds: two characters thrust together by an act of fate. An enjoyable day ensues, but just as fledgling love blossoms, the two are separated by time and space. But lo! Fate steps in again, and against all odds, the young lovers find themselves in an unlikely arena- the same high school. Drama unfolds.

Such a story has been told time and again, perhaps most popularly in Grease. So when Disney Channel announced plans to shoot a movie following the same storyline, it sparked minimal interest. However, the success of High School Musical was unprecedented. Released in early 2006, the movie received two Emmys and several nominations, reflecting that music truly is the ideal method of portraying high school angst.

As the movie begins, Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) and Gabriella Montez (Vanessa Anne Hudgens) find themselves at the same New Year’s party facing the embarrassing task of karaoke. Just as the two discover their mutual love of singing and their chemistry, life separates them. A school transfer reunites the young singers, but what will they do about it? Gabriella says nothing; a semester in, she simply wants to focus on school. Troy agrees – he has no time to be distracted with Basketball finals approaching. Yet neither can deny the desire to audition for the school’s spring musical. This is not acceptable to East High’s drama king and queen, Ryan and Sharpay Evans (Lucas Grabeel and Ashley Tisdale), who determine to make sure no one steals their leading roles.

Musicals have been returning to popular culture, and High School Musical takes advantage of that trend. Songs like “Getcha Head in the Game,” a fast-paced tune about playing basketball, and “Bop to the Top,” Ryan and Sharpay’s audition piece, bring skilled choreography into the film, while more mellow tunes, such as Gabriella’s lonely love song “When There Was Me and You” show the rollercoaster of emotions crushes can create.

Yet it is “Breaking Free” that truly portrays what makes this movie so unique. Like all Disney movies, the story has a moral, and this one is do what you love, no matter what. My high school experience was nothing like that in High School Musical, but I still identify with the theme. Living by someone else’s rules will never make you happy, so be yourself. And don’t forget to sing.

 

Life is like a guitar chord… March 22, 2007

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Lynyrd Skynyrd’s albums were known for incorporating many aspects of rock into a definitive unique sound. With influences from the Beatles to Southern blues and traditional country, it is no wonder that Skynyrd was able to take the fledgling genre of Southern Rock and make it immensely popular.  1977’s Street Survivors was no different. Using the same aspects of life that had fueled their previous works, Skynyrd created a CD that still speaks to many walks of life.

Kicking off the album is the aptly named “What’s Your Name,” a guitar driven beat narrating typical rock band backstage antics. Guitar is quintessential to the sound of the band, the blend of three electric guitars lending to the unique chord progressions that identify Skynyrd. It only takes listening to the first few seconds of “One More Time” to hear the whammy induced “wou-wou” that would make Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd’s “Free Bird” so popular.

It is the drive of these guitars as well the prevalent use of piano (such as on the barfly ditty “Ain’t No Good Life”) that creates the wide variety in Skynyrd’s music.  Songs range from the rockabilly inspired “I Know a Little” – a tribute to figuring out love as you go along – to the country rock feel of “That Smell,” the story of the band’s journey to quit drinking and drugs.

The engaging aspect of Skynyrd’s music is that it is relevant, with lead singer Ronnie Van Zant discussing life in all its intricacies. To me the band brings back memories of my childhood: long summer days watching my brother’s baseball games, reading books outside on the grass, hot dogs and picnics. Life was about simply enjoying oneself, and Skynyrd was a trademark to that way of thinking.

“You Got That Right,” an anthem for living the best way you can, sums up the feel of the band to me. We can not simply discard Skynyrd’s political edge, as Second Helping’s “Sweet Home Alabama” helped make them famous, yet in this CD we feel a looser side of Skynyrd and in it the promise of growth as a band.

We will never really know if the band would have continued to thrive, as a plane crash three days after the Street Survivors’ release in 1977 killed three members including Ronnie Van Zant and second vocalist Stevie Gaines (a newcomer to the band, only having worked on one album before Street Survivors). Devastated by the tragedy, the rest of the band split up. Now they have reunited under leadership of Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant, though the new amalgamation can not fairly be compared to the original group.

Listening to Street Survivors could conjure up images of a band not allowed to reach its full potential, but instead I hear all the things they did accomplish. They were about having pride and living with conviction, which we could all strive for. After all, life is not something to be taken for granted. You got that right.

 

Find that inner strength and move on little girl… March 15, 2007

guster-album.jpgI received Keep It Together from a friend last spring. I hardly gave it a chance; one listen to the mellow first strains of the kickoff track “Diane,” and I swiftly tucked the album into a hidden pocket of my bulging CD case. Months passed, and one day, in the midst of school related panic attack, I decided to take a drive. Vaguely remembering the somber melodies I had previously discarded, I pulled the Guster album from its forgotten home and decided to give it another shot.

Guster proved to be a truly creative mix of acoustic qualities. Most songs were upbeat, including traditional instruments: same tempo but a different feel. Why? There was a bongo rather than a traditional drum*. As I was paying attention to this, a banjo entered the scene. Keyboard provided backup, and just as that was all sinking in, a harmonica took a solo (all played by Joe Pisapia). Fascinated, I hardly noticed that I was miles outside of the city, and it was getting dark fast.

As town after town flew by in a mindless blur, I began to focus on the lyrics floating towards me. “Let’s keep it together” singer Ryan Miller crooned in the title track, a shoulder moving ditty about being stranded on an island and defending the village built there. My stress had begun to dissipate with the music, and I took his words to heart. Suddenly realizing that I was almost an hour outside Conway, and that the sun no longer offered guidance, I started home.

Beginning much slower than the others, “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” introduced the sweet testament of turning a corner and making a new life. Flowing with the mellow mood of the song, I was pleasantly surprised by the sudden change in tempo and instruments mid-song. In Guster’s signature vocal harmony, the band sang “To tell you the truth, I’ve said it before. Tomorrow I’ll start in a new direction. I know I’ve been half asleep; I’m never doing that again.” The consistent beat and beautiful mix of strings, harmony, and drums makes this song one of the best on the album.

Guster’s songs range from acoustic pop to pop rock (“Red Oyster Cult”) to Bluegrass inspired pop (“Jesus on the Radio”). It was obvious as I found my way back to campus that I had almost missed out on one of the most talented contemporary bands around. And after pulling into the full parking lot, I sat and stared. I felt better, and I was hoping the mood would last. And as the final chords of “I Hope Tomorrow is Like Today” closed out the album, I had a feeling they did too.

*In concert, drummer Brian Rosenworcel plays with his hands- both bongos and full drums. How cool is that?!

 

It’s all about life… March 8, 2007

lazy-boy-tv.jpgSongs that combine spoken word with elementary chords are not new to the music scene; many artists use the technique to emphasize a particular song on an otherwise simple album. However, Lazy Boy has taken the art of verbalizing to a new level. In their debut album, Lazy Boy TV, the band offers strong messages underscored by peppy, upbeat tunes, resulting in catchy songs that pack a punch.

Right out of the gate, Lazy Boy asks the question “Are you qualified for life?” There is no subtlety in the lyrics, only direct questions that call for the listener to examine every aspect of his/her life. Songs like “The Facts of Life” and “We Only Read the Headlines” further ingrain the problems of the world with quick and sobering facts backed by soft Electronica beats, allowing little time to breathe between assuages. Counteracting the darker messages are slightly cheesy choruses sung by band members to swaying musical movements, encouraging a free-spirited dance aura.

Not all songs from Lazy Boy TV describe the horrors of life, and indeed, that does not seem to be the main desire of former Aqua member Søren Nystrøm Rasted when he began the band in 2002. Instead, many of the songs take the darker tracks and explain why life is so wonderful despite them. Songs like “Inhale Positivity” and “Desiderata” inspire a calming sense of self-awareness that allows for soul-searching and, perhaps, the soundtrack for a good yoga workout.

There does seem to exist a layer of irony beneath the album, especially inherent in “Man Woman (Yin & Yang),” a voyage into the extreme differences between the genders, and in the three and a half minute weed rolling guide, aptly named “The Manual.” When first listening to the album, it is hard to tell whether the album should be taken seriously or if, instead, it takes itself too seriously. However, listening to Lazy Boy’s unique style of combining humor, catchy choruses, and blatant facts, a realization occurs that Lazy Boy TV offers nothing but the truth, streaming it forth in a current of ideas and life lessons. Indeed, Lazy Boy proves its loyalty to the messages it evokes in the closing song, “It’s All About Love,” an extended survey of strangers explaining their ideas of love. At just under an hour, Lazy Boy TV leaves nothing wanting in this eloquent and emotionally charged album.

 

Music to fuel me; music to heal me… March 1, 2007

The summer flew by in a blur; confusion, miscommunication, denial, and heartache fueling those days. I felt happy one minute, lost the next. In a matter of months, our friendship reached a precipice of no return; it was jump or retreat. We jumped.

I could not believe it was true. Had we really started dating, even after months of denying that it would ever happen? In order to hold myself back from the infatuation that I feared was becoming apparent, I immersed myself in school, working out, and spending time with my new suitemates.

All things considered, that was an incredibly beneficial move on my part. One day, while cleaning, I happened to hear my favorite song at the time, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” coming from my suitemate Yannah’s room. Upon questioning, I learned that the crooner of said song was KT Tunstall, and quickly obtained her CD. I soon lost interest in the single, but continued to enjoy the album, Eye to the Telescope.

Meanwhile, my relationship with my enigmatic new boyfriend grew stronger. We spent perhaps too much time together, reveling in our newfound love. Sitting in the car one day, waiting for a particularly horrendous red light to allow our passage (and listening to Eye to the Telescope for perhaps the fourth time that week), my sweet music aficionado informed me that if I was so keen on KT’s style of music, perhaps I would be interested in Sarah Harmer. Intrigued, I accepted the offer, and soon listened to the woman that would affect me unlike any other.

Sarah’s style on Wish You Were Here was similar to that of KT’s in fundamental structure: both elected to use piano and guitar to keep the music classic, but incorporated drums and bass to deepen the feel. Both introduced tempo changes to create shifts in mood and showed great diversity in their song types. In my mind, the two women came to symbolize a new style of music I loved, and I did not bother to differentiate them or their methods. For weeks, I switched back and forth in my car, listening to one and then the other.

I was attracted in those days to the upbeat rhythms and smooth melodies of both women. Their instrument filled ballads reflected my smitten demeanor. KT’s song “Suddenly I See” from Eye to the Telescope created in me the urge to get up and dance; a difficult feat when driving, I assure you. The bass introduction in the middle of Sarah’s “Lodestar” had my heart soaring, reflecting on my blissful, though blind, love. Indistinguishable to me in my naiveté and carelessness, these women could do no wrong.

Although my relationship with Sarah and KT only grew stronger into October, cracks formed in my seemingly perfect love life. Within a week, my sweet and caring boyfriend had become cold and distant. It was only partially a shock when he walked away on Halloween. Yet, the lack of shock did not change the pain. Being thrown into a world where this person was nothing to me, neither lover nor friend, was too much to grasp. I found myself sitting, staring off into space, lost much too often in deep reflection. Shut down and despondent, I could not shake the pressure of being around him constantly (as we still had class together and lived in the same building). To clear my head, I took long drives, often going out to Toad Suck and sitting by the water. Sarah and KT accompanied me, offering comfort where they could.

I looked to both for understanding, but found in KT only the upbeat sound I now despised. Fearing the same from Sarah, I took hiatus to other, more somber music. Yet nothing satisfied me, and in desperation, I returned to Sarah. Unlike KT, I began to notice that beneath Sarah’s smooth and captivating melodies lay deep and penetrating lyrics- lyrics to which I related:

“There’s a hurt and sadness there; maybe I’d tell you all about it if I thought you’d care” (“Capsized”).
“And I’m not saying anything you think that I forgot. I’m not saying anything, but I’m thinking a lot” (“Weakened State”).
“Oh I loved you, and I guess I still do. Everything was going so good that I thought something bad might happen. And then, it did, if you know the difference between bad and good” (“Coffee Stain”).

The truth is, I have only heard one album from Sarah Harmer (all lyrics above are from Wish You Were Here), and so perhaps my love of her style is unjustified. I have often wondered: if I heard more of her music, would I like it? Would it affect me, allow me to grow, help me heal after falling so hard? I am not sure. However, it does not really matter. The experience brought us together, and though my situation has changed, my love of her music has not.

Whether wise or not, I have returned to the relationship that sparked this affair with Sarah’s music and now turn to her yet again for her bouncy air. In the same vein, KT has been reintroduced into my rotation. However, listening to Sarah now is not simply the free-spirited romp it once was. I have felt the meaning beneath the surface, and with each song I hear the warning. Happiness is fleeting, and pain always existing. Nevertheless, I live for today, taking both the good and the bad, knowing that I have Sarah along for the ride.

 

 

Designing under pressure… February 22, 2007

Filed under: Critical Review,Drama,Reality,Television — Sarah @ 7:50 pm

Project Runway is a breath of fresh air in the overplayed genre of reality television. Hosted by Heidi Klum and shown on the Bravo network, the show features a group of designers gathered from throughout the nation looking for their big break. The contestants can be quite varied and have ranged from students fresh out of design school to mothers who never truly gave designing a chance. Each contender must be extremely talented in his or her own right in order to make it to show, and eventually, the finale – a chance to show designs at Olympus Fashion Week, the largest meeting of fashion minds in the nation.

Each week, the designers are issued challenges to spark their creativity. Tim Gunn, Fashion Chair at Parsons The New School for Design, has acted as “helper” to the designers throughout the three seasons, offering advice and often introducing twists. Considerably more obscure every year, the challenges are meant to test the flexibility and ingenuity of the contestants (i.e. one season they were asked to create a formal dress out of trash). Each design is judged critically by an experienced panel of judges: Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia (Elle magazine fashion director), Michael Kors (designer), and a guest judge (usually a celebrity/designer/model). The winner and those who passed the challenge are whisked backstage to safety, until only the lowest scorer remains. With a goodbye kiss from Heidi and a parting word from Tim, the eliminated contestant is ushered away.

One of the fascinating things about Project Runway is the criticism portion. Though sometimes overly harsh, the judges usually offer very strong advice as to what is needed to make it in the fashion world. They want these designers to succeed, even if it is not on the show.

Should a contestant make it to the end however, they are rewarded with eight thousand dollars to create their own line to be shown at Fashion week, and his or her designs and model are featured in Elle magazine. Therefore, smart competitors take the criticism they receive and use it to further their style. Win or lose, if the contestants work hard, their designs could be requested and desired by the fashion world, which is the whole point anyways, right?

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Find all seven and make a wish… February 15, 2007

Filed under: Comedy,Critical Review,Drama,Personal Experience,Television — Sarah @ 8:35 pm

In my experience, there is little more frightening than starting a new school, especially at the beginning of junior high. By this time, students have carved their niches into the environment, solidifying previous relationships and blocking themselves from new ones. Cliques form, if they have not already, and suddenly everyone falls into a defining group. If, upon entering, one does not immediately find a place, the hope of that ever changing is minimal. It was this environment into which, at 12, I found myself miserably tossed.

Two weeks in, everything changed. One day in P.E., sitting on my spot on the white tape line that divided the gym, I heard a voice I did not recognize. Turning around, I saw a new girl being introduced to the teacher. Her name was Joanna, and she would become my reason to enjoy school.

Joanna and I bonded immediately, clinging to the new kid status with all our anxiety. Together we discovered many important aspects of life: all night karaoke parties, the joys of Pilipino egg rolls, how to deal with first crushes, and, the factor that started it all- “Dragon Ball Z.”

My love of television exists in stages, and in junior high I only gave Saturday mornings any attention. The three hour cartoon block was worth waking up early for, but no other shows caught my attention. So naturally, I had no idea what Joanna always seemed so intense about when she and my crush at the time would discuss what they only referred to as “DBZ.”

Soon I became interested in “DBZ” myself, and around the same time my brother Tony started watching it. Every afternoon, after school, he would plop down in the living room and immerse himself in the vibrant world of Goku, Vegeta, and company. I, excited to understand some of the premise, would discuss with him aspects I had heard Joanna discuss, and soon had to face the inevitable truth. I was hooked.

I became obsessed. Tony and I made sure that we never missed an episode, and if we had somewhere to be, we taped it. Sometimes, we had to just tape ten minutes or so of an episode, if the show ran into dinner. My father did not find “DBZ” a decent reason to postpone the meal, though we offered many a “rational” argument. Nevertheless, soon I knew the ins and outs of the show as if I had watched it from the beginning… at least of this storyline.

errori_dragon_ball_z1.jpg“Dragon Ball Z” is the second in the Dragon Ball trilogy. The first storyline, “Dragon Ball” ran from 1989 to 1995, but I never watched it. In fact, I came in rather late to the “Dragon Ball Z” story line. As it started in 1996, and I began watching in 2000, it had finished almost five sagas (sagas broke the show up into different villains) when Tony and Joanna introduced me to its world. The show features a man named Goku (the star of the trilogy) and his adventures to save Earth. Though fighting enemies is a big part of the show dynamic, the relationships between characters drew me into the story. I was fascinated by the rocky relationship between Goku’s sworn enemy, Vegeta, and Bulma, and I fell completely in love with the boy from the future, Trunks, who ended up being their son. Joanna and I would call each other every night and discuss the show, highlighting every sign of love and exacerbating it beyond reason. We discussed group dynamic and plotline as if we were professional critics. And on particularly interesting days, we would watch the entire show while on the phone together.

“DBZ” was a turning point in my life. I lived vicariously through those characters, dreaming out my every fantasy through over animated expressions and actions. Every dramatized fight or romance inclination kept me glued to the screen, so much so that even the endless episodes of flashbacks could not deter my fascination.

Though I loved the show, much more than the show itself, I remember fondly what it gave me in my own life. That show was about Joanna, and Tony, and my father, and it was about me. Through it Tony and I regained common ground, an aspect that had been slipping from our once super close relationship. Through it I gained a new appreciation for my father, who, though he hated the show tremendously, never kept us from watching it. And most importantly, through it I gained a deeper friendship with Joanna.

When the new episodes of “Dragon Ball Z” died down at the end of eighth grade, we waited hopefully, patiently, then begrudgingly and despairingly for the next installment – “Dragon Ball GT” – to be released. I am not sure whether they ever were; I stopped watching after ninth grade. It just was not the same without Joanna to share it with. After Junior High, we had gone our separate ways- she to Mills, I to Mount St. Mary’s. That might have been the end of our friendship, but I suppose the bonds formed from new kid syndrome, “DBZ”, and a love of egg rolls kept our friendship alive. Twice a year throughout high school we made time to hang out. It was never awkward; we just fell back into old routines, discussing our silly lives in terms of boys and school. We may not have really grown up, but when we were together, it did not seem to matter. Now she is in Oregon, pursuing knowledge, but every once in a while I get to see her.

Now and then, walking through stores, I will catch a glimpse of “DBZ” paraphernalia, and it takes me back. I reminisce about curling up on my bed late at night to discuss the fictional lives of characters based on a Japanese manga, and I reflect nostalgically on how those 2-D beings thoroughly shaped my life and my friendships.