Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Final Supper

Top Chef
Wednesdays at 10:00
Channel: Bravo

Time and time again, I have talked about reality TV, though it has been with harsh words and an angry and embittered look at television as a whole. And I don't blame myself one bit. If you just look at what it is that people watch, you too will find reason to bitch about all things trivial and intoxicating. Because we all know unless the dinosaur also known as Dina Lohan doesn't have her own show, then god dammit, the world is at rest.

So for a slight change, instead of telling you not to watch on TV(A list which goes on for miles), I figured in honor of last night's finale, I would talk food with you and do a small retrospect on my form of Crack TV, Top Chef.

As far as reality TV, there is few good shows to watch, so when a vicious critic like myself finds a good competitive reality show, a diamond in the rough if you will, there is cause for celebration. As it may seem, Top Chef may look like the little sister of the ever so popular and fierce, Project Runway. There's also Project Runway's dumpster baby, Top Design, that was shown to the public, but the public cowered in fear like Ann Coulter's children do whenever she tries to read them a bedtime story. Unlike Runway, Chef does not maintain the same form of trashiness and mayhem that its big sister craves like starletards crave their daddy's AM-EX Gold card. Sure, there are some people who you would happily bludgeon with a ten pound frozen steak or boil in their own pudding, but the audience is mainly drawn to the power and the effort that goes into every meal served. Not to say that Runway is just like eating chocolate cake, but on Chef, the contestants throughout the season are able to grow close to their teammates, it's not all about the individual all the time, it's not about who is mean and cranky, its about who has what it takes to create a meal that is both inventive and full of effort and talent. Which brings me to the center of my retrospect, how even the best can mess up, and it will cost them the title.

To anyone who has been watching this past season, you may recall the many chefs that stepped into the kitchen, hot headed but talented Dale, super smart and super genius Richard, Ms. calm, collective and totally talented Stephanie, douchebag white boy(s) Spike and Andrew(Wait, which one was which again?), the list goes on. Each person had their positive and negative aspects, each person seemed full of ideas. And then there are those who got by on one thing along.

Sheer dumb luck.

I say sheer dumb luck because as the viewers saw, it wasn't Dale, or Antonia, hell, even Jennifer, though not the best she wasn't only in it for the fame. This season did not have a Marcel or a Christian Sirrano or Tila Tequila, it had one who made it as far as she did simply because every time she screwed up, someone else did even worse.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Lisa Fernandes.

My problem with Lisa was the fact that she outlasted so many people who were better then she herself was, and she didn't always seem to try, nor did she get her act together. She vowed not to screw up once she made it to Puerto Rico, and upon arrival, did very bad. But like in all cases, she did bad, person B did even worse. Though she outlasted the majority of the people in the competition, it was the fact that she was so snarky that broke the camel's back.

See, with Lisa, you disliked her, you thought she was unpleasant to be around, and she wasn't very compelling, you didn't tune in simply to see what she'll do next. Marcel was entertaining because while he was good, everyone hated him to no extent. He made the show addictive, his Eddie Munster hairstyle amazed the laws of gravity(seriously, it stayed perfect!), and don't even mention the foam. He was an asshole, but an asshole who was good at what he was doing, which was in the end, cooking. And Lisa didn't even have that.

Despite all other babble from here and there, the sure fire winner of Top Chef, the one who everyone had their Vegas bets in the pot for was Richard. So when Richard failed because of both his strength and his weakness, I, like many must have been shocked to see that in the end, all of that knowledge, his many new ideas were what cost him the title. And that alone must burn.

Season 4's dark horse winner, Stephanie was just a home girl from Chicago itself who refused to let anxiety get to her head and proved that it's not just the men who can cook. Though I assume she'd be very angry if a misogynist asked her to stay in the kitchen and make him a sandwich. With Stephanie, she was not only a good cook, but of all of the people, she seemed the most like a person I would be friends with or would trust with a knife and a cutting board.

Another positive thing that I especially liked was the friendships that were blossomed from the show. And I know how corny that sounds, but during the course of the show, there was a power team, Richard, Stephanie, Andrew and Antonia. The fab four who became the power trio once their weakest and worst member Andrew was kicked off. These three were partners for two competitions, one being Wedding Wars and the other, Restaurant Wars. Like a group of old friends, they made arguably the best food there. Each person was original, they equally contributed and made great meals, so that itself kept my interest. Such a contrast to watch the other players struggle and fight and whine until they were in the bottom.

Like in the finale, there were plenty of shocks that happened throughout the show. First being Dale's early departure. Here was a talented chef who proved he could cook. I mean yeah, he had a bad day, but compared to Lisa, the negative Nancy she was, he had skills. Two of the season's strongest in the end both lost, which is both a shame and a surprise. However, the uncertainty was very intriguing to watch. Until Season Five, I'll be licking my fingers and salivating for more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Experiment in Terror

The Stangers
Year: 2008

Directed by: Bryan Bertino

Starring: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman
Gemma Ward

Well, I've got to hand it to you, I was wrong for once about a movie. Actually, I have been wrong about many movies, but I haven't blogged about any of them, now have I?

So, I bet you're wondering how Mr. Rock Hard Horror Movie Lover felt about the latest in "Inspired by True Events" movie, which in my book is an immediate kiss of death. Not only is it a kiss of death, but it makes the film seem kind of pathetic. Sure, adding a tagline that claims the events depicted in the film are based on real events, so the added sense of reality should cause me to quiver in my boots. However, I am one who thinks that a movie can be scary on its own without having to try and make it look like a true story. And come on, they usually don't even mean it when they say it was inspired by true events. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a huge fabrication, a hyperbole covered in gore and guts that took the story of Ed Gein and ran with it. Gein however is not present here in this film. No, the killers here don't come with catch phrases, they don't mutilate any fingers or tear out any eye sockets. While they may have masks, they don't terrorize horny teenagers at summer camp. The terror is at your house. Late at night, when all seems normal and safe.

How wrong we are.

Compared to what my original impression was once I saw the trailer, how I viewed the film changed dramatically. Upon seeing the trailer for The Strangers, I began to break out in a fit of giggles. A film where two gorgeous people are chased around their house by maniacs? How original! But this is so much more than just a throwaway horror flick with skin and blood to spare. The blood is minimal, the sex is interrupted and from what I saw, NO misogyny, so forget any cameo from Paris Hilton.

I saw The Strangers at a daytime performance, 10:45 to be exact. So I was the only person in the theater. Only time would tell how scary, creepy and just downright frightening The Strangers ended up being.

Like many horror films, The Strangers takes place in the middle of the night. We first see a young couple, Kristen and James(Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman), and from the looks of it, their love life is on the rocks. Before we are subjected to the thrills and chills The Strangers beholds, like in any good movie, we need to examine the lives of our characters before we get in over our heads.

Using a somewhat voyeuristic eye as well as an unsteady camera that looks at our characters, as well as minimal everything. There is some music, but the music is only prevalent when the strangers in our film turn on a record to scare not only the characters, but the audience. And trust me, I am a die-hard horror film addict, but I don't get scared easily, unless it's really scary. And recently, my scare odometer has been very low. Sitting in the dark, alone, I realized how no matter where we were, being alone can be the scariest time of all. Because though we may ignore it, someone is there, watching and waiting for you to notice.

To call The Strangers "a jump out of your seat nail biter!" does the film no justice, I jumped many, many times through out the movie. I gasped, my heart raced, I didn't want the two protagonists to suffer the impending fate that they had led themselves into. I would call this movie one of the smartest movies in the horror genre in recent years. It's more than fear, it's the frightening notion that strangers can and will do what they want with you, and that we can't always be sure who is around the corner.