Back in 2011, I wrote here at SimplyShowbiz.com about the Pulitzer-winning Elizabeth Strout story cycle, Olive Kitteridge, noting that Frances McDormand had optioned the book, planning to headline in a cable-TV version.
Now the project–about a less-than-warm-hearted math teacher in Maine–has been realized, as a 4-hour HBO miniseries directed by Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon) and co-starring Richard Jenkins. The series–which will be presented on HBO in November–was just shown at the Venice Film Festival, where it was reviewed enthusiastically by The Hollywood Reporter:
“…McDormand is a grounded, intelligent actress and her penetrating portrayal fully embraces the character’s flintiness, even harshness, without letting her tip over and become irredeemably unsympathetic. Olive’s humanity is never in doubt.”
Variety joined in the praise for McDormand’s performance:
“McDormand shines when she’s onscreen but never tries to upstage, even when delivering the best lines, having humbly seen something of herself in a character that, according to Strout’s description, “probably looks like a fat, dozing seal wrapped in some kind of gauze bandage.”
The Olive Kitteridge miniseries was not in competition at the Venice festival, but McDormand will be presented with a Visionary Talent Award there. Congratulations to her for that honor–and for helping to bring such a beautiful work of literature to the small screen. I can’t wait to watch it.
Streaming on Netflix now is a dramatic version of comedian Mike Birbiglia‘s theatrical standup show Sleepwalk With Me. In the autobiographical feature, Birbiglia plays a funny and likable everyman/somnambulist with a fear of marriage.
The autobiographical film is graced by effective supporting performances from Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn and Carol Kane.
Also streaming on Netflix is a sequel of sorts: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend–a standup show featuring further Birbiglian adventures and misadventures. It’s also first-rate.
The sharp-tongued comedian’s daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement, regarding her mom’s heath status…
“I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming love and support for my mother. She is resting comfortably and is with our family. We ask that you continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Rivers is currently in stable yet critical condition, sources tell SimplyShowbiz.
It’s just not safe anywhere these days. A Great White Shark menaced the coast of Massachusetts this week, just a stone’s throw from Boston (if you can throw a stone for 35 miles, and I bet you can, you he-man). To paraphrase the midnight warnings of Paul Revere,“The dismembered bloody red human limbs are coming, the dismembered bloody red human limbs are coming!”
But that’s nothing. You’d be safer diving off Captain Quint’s Orca into the jagged, snapping maw of Jaws than you’d be on the shark-infested Manhattan asphalt terrain of Project Runway. You’d be safer in a ferocious, razor-toothed sharknado than you’d be among the backbiting denizens of the Gotham West Apartments. Inside the edifice of our contestants’ serene tower, the damage from a recent conversation between Amanda and Korina lingers among the coffee and bed sheets, tense and dramatic like a teenage Antigone meeting a sharktopus. There’s blood in the water. Korina has called Amanda a “phony.” Korina, haven’t you learned that smearing people usually reflects more on the mud-slinger and less on the slingee?
“Hello, this is Kettle.”
“Pot here. Kettle, you’re black!”
“Well, I never!”
The contestants assemble at Webster Music Hall, a nightclub in New York’s East Village. Coincidental to my nautical musings this week, Webster Hall features a show by the Desert Sharks at the very moment I am typing this. As Jabberjaw once said to Astroglide, “Tooth is stranger than friction!”
Tim Gunn arrives on the arm of Dita von Teese. Do you know her? Of course you do: you know everyone! Dita von Teese is a burlesque dancer and fashion icon with her own underwear line. I have my own underwear line too, but it doesn’t show too badly if I wear loose pants. Everyone except me seems to know who this lady is, but I suspect she doesn’t know who Andy Others is either, so I guess we’re even. (And you’re one up on us both, since you’re an avid fan of each of us. You’re so hip!)
In this week’s challenge, teams of two will make two wedding outfits: an “alternative wedding dress” and a corresponding reception outfit.
I have a couple of questions: Do you live in a state where each individual adult may legally marry the person whom he or she loves? I hope so, dear reader. All I ever wanted was your happiness. And my second question is this: Would you wear to your wedding any of the outfits you see on this episode? And if so, um, why?
Here are the teams, chosen “randomly” from the button bag: fäde and Emily, Alexander and Samantha, Kini and Sean, Sandhya and Char. Whom does that leave? Oh, right: Amanda and Korina, the quarrelling nemeses.
“Korina is bringing all her roommates down,” says Samantha.
My dear jaded reader, do you remember when we were kind, innocent and unsuspecting, like minnows blithely enjoying our bath? Think back, it’s been awhile.
Now, here we are, the two of us, smoking our cigarettes, swigging our whiskey and potato chips, and making weary, snorting noises when we see this pairing. We just know, deep down in our brownish-black, sticky, frozen hearts, that if an enmity had developed between any other two contestants, they would also be paired up now like these two opponents. It just makes sense: it’s good television. Let the sparks fly! Someone needs to explain this to Korina and Amanda, however, for they don’t see the fun in this unholy coupling.
My family has a cottage looking out at the Pacific Ocean. In a seaside cove nearby, surfers may encounter the occasional shark. One recent Thanksgiving Day, a surfer paddling out to the waves suffered serious shark bites and blood loss. His surfboard had a huge, toothy chunk taken out of it. It’s common belief here that sharks mistake people paddling on their boards for seals, and they cease their attack when they get a mouthful of polystyrene and fiberglass. An honest mistake, but don’t you pity the shark? That’s no turkey dinner!
In the workroom, our designers pattern and sew while an ocean’s worth of taxicabs circle viciously on the street below, waiting for an unsuspecting carp to dip a toe off the curb. [Editor's Note: Andy Others is referring here, apparently, to the rare and elusive Two-Toed Carp.] Korina makes a white lady’s tuxedo. Wait a minute. Not a tuxedo for a white lady – I wouldn’t even know what that would be. You know me, I’m color-blind! I mean a white tuxedo for a lady.
Regardless of the hue of the outfit, or the race, creed or national origin of its potential wearer, this suit fails to pass Tim’s critique. “I’m not certain if you have enough innovation in that look,” he says, throwing chum to these piranhas by contrasting Korina’s creation with Amanda’s look, where “it’s all about innovation.” Korina gets to work, and — ta-da! — it’s so much better. Just kidding – it’s still awful, but this time with more lapels.
Amanda has a dilemma. She’s not crazy about Korina’s original or revised design, but she stays mum. Would you speak up to help some jerk who made you cry? You liar! You would not, and neither does Amanda. “I’m just in no mood to, like, dig in with her,” she says. So Amanda simply appeases Korina. What could go wrong? Try not to think of Neville Chamberlain, you history buff. Let Korina stand or fall on her own, like Brook Watson dangling naked and out of safety’s reach as a shark looks on in a John Singleton Copley painting. It’s elementary, dear Watson.
When Korina runs out of time, however, Amanda helps her finish the pants. “I just have to do it,” says Amanda, “Or she’s not going to have pants.” Amanda knows how to manage her time. As any shark would tell you, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” Korina is thankful and contrite. Just kidding again! Korina is as oblivious as Charlie the Tuna. Sorry, Korina! We don’t want designers with good taste, we want designers who taste good.
On the morning of the runway show, Char and Korina lounge on a rooftop deck at the Gotham West Apartments. It’s so beautiful and peaceful, with vistas out to the Hudson River, where unseen dangers lurk beneath a calm surface. Elsewhere on the roof, there’s a lawn! A lawn on the roof, now that’s living! What will they think of next? Amanda relays to fäde her unsuccessful effort to bury the hatchet with Korina, but we’re already tired of this story line.
As a child in Honolulu, I was afraid to swim in the ocean if I didn’t see a barrier reef to keep out hungry, swift and toothy sharks. The frightening, invisible potential for sudden and shrieking violence paralyzed me. Was I doomed to swim only in man-made ponds of gunnite, plaster and tile? I see now that I was shortsighted. I never took the time to consider the shark’s point-of view. Did he intend harm? Was he even there? Is he in your life, dear reader, even if you live on a plain or mountaintop? Don’t let the sad and loathsome predator keep you from living, from being your wonderful, beautiful self. Don’t let fear keep you off the runway! Let’s go there together.
Chiarra Ferragni joins us as a guest judge. Who? You know, Chiarra Ferragni, who, Heidi Klum reminds us, is a “top fashion blogger.” Dear Lord, I had no idea there were so many of us! And where is Andy Others’ invitation to join the judges’ panel? This is just seventh-grade gym class all over again, and I’m a nose-bleeding, scrawny klutz watching as Chiarra Ferragni gets picked for a team as I burn with shame.
The aforementioned Dita Von Teese is also a guest judge. That’s a lot of judges, and it still doesn’t incIude me. We’re gonna need a bigger boat! I hope Chiarra and Dita will keep quiet, so that we don’t miss any bon mots from Heidi, Nina Garcia or Zac Posen. For the purposes of this review, they do. That is the power of the written word and a good editor. Sorry Chiarra and Dita!
Korina’s awful outfit is an awkwardly tight white silk wool pantsuit with no details worth mentioning. Who would get married in this? Skeletor, maybe. Meanwhile, her teammate Amanda’s strange but great leather-braided straps over simple, sleeveless, short white A-line dress seems so true to everything she’s made before. She definitely has a style. Her outfit must have brought up the team average, because these two are safe, despite Korina’s terrible ensemble. Korina thanks Amanda profusely for pulling her fanny out of the fire. Just kidding, obviously. Korina blames Amanda for the awful pants, and she has a point there. Relieved, because it could and should have been worse, Korina says wisely, “Safe is just fine.”
When I looked at the aerial footage of the Massachusetts shark, I felt less fear than wistful pity. He seemed lost and lonely. Is that what distance will do?
fäde and Emily make outfits that the judges agree don’t go well together. fäde has fashioned a sleeveless mid-thigh reception dress with a handmade textile of pointy swaths like a crazy backgammon board. It’s nice enough. “I don’t think Elvira would even wear this,” says Zac about Emily’s long-sleeved, floor length funereal layers of black lace and netting worn by a wan, sullen model who makes Wednesday Addams look like Doris Day. Que Sera, Sera Muerte! “It looks a little sad and a little gloomy, but that’s her story,” says Sandhya. Dita says, “I’m having a hard time not laughing a little bit.” Me too, but that’s just because I love my Doris Day joke. This team is obviously going down, except of course, that Project Runway is in the topsy-turvy universe, so this team is among the top two. Despite the pans, the panel is divided on the corpse bride, and Heidi “doesn’t hate” fäde’s short reception dress, giving him credit for his clever textile.
Also in the winner’s circle, with a gay-marriage theme, are Kini and Sean. “Our girl is a lesbian couple,” says Kini delightedly. “Are she?” asks Andy Others. Kini shows a strong tuxedo-inspired idea. “It’s super-cool,” says Samantha, “It’s a statement piece.” This is a gorgeous black cocktail dress for the ceremony with a plunging v-neckline on its tight bodice and boldly profiled poof-skirt past the knee, layered in large, circular black ruffles. (This reminds me: please pass the Ruffles! Oh, yuk! I just got a mouthful of polystyrene. Again. Anyhoo!) “The best of the best,” says Zac about this winning team. “Sean,” says Nina, “Your. Girl. Looks. Effortless.” “Impeccable,” says Heidi.
A poor shark didn’t ask to be born as he is, yet he must live maligned and detested simply for trying to survive. Is he not mortal? Well don’t pet him; he’s not a puppy. But look at him, dammit! Look at him!
Sean makes an inventive pants ensemble for the reception, but he mostly just makes the gorgeous black, high-waisted trousers. Kini tops off Sean’s look with a flowing white blouse-cape with matching v-neckline plunge. This is a coherent and original grouping. “Who do you think should win?” asks Heidi. “I think Kini should win,” says Sean accurately and without reservation. Kini agrees. Kini is clearly the winner, as he made three-quarters of these outfits! I know I’ve said this about Kini two or three times before, only to be surprised by the capricious judges, but this time I’m sure. F**K! Wrong again. Sean is the winner. Forget the Ruffles, please pass the Jameson’s!
Samantha and Alexander are in the losers’ circle with Charketa and Sandhya, but I don’t understand why. Sam’s made a short “ox-blood” red lace peekaboo dress that seems quite nice to me. “It looks like she spilled wine,” says Zac. Don’t worry, Zac. A little salt and soda water will take that right out. “No bueno, no bueno,” says Nina in her native tongue. Alexander’s made a rather inventive floor-length sleeveless gown in the same red lace, with silver-white foliage strategically applied. Nina comments about Alexander’s ornate embellishment: “Ohhh, it’s overwhelming…. It. Is. Not. Great at all. It’s very scary.” “It’s old fashioned,” says Heidi, “It’s borderline cheesy.” But this team is safe.
“This is a shocker,” says Heidi about Char and Sandhya’s collaboration. “An epic fail.” We have to agree, don’t we? Sandhya was inspired by the Indian custom of wearing bright colors to a wedding, and when she says bright, she doesn’t mean bright like a light bulb, she means bright like an atomic laser searing into your unsuspecting and defenseless cones and rods. But enough about your rods.
Sandhya’s wedding dress is a vivid yellow floor-length number with a sort-of crocheted-writ-large bustier. “Sandhya’s dress looks like a corn cob, after you eat the corn,” opines Alexander, and he’s right, except that corn doesn’t usually burn your retinas. Char’s dress is similar but shorter, in citrus yellow lace, leather and chiffon. This is so unlike her usual Char-cuterie. “It’s like a toilet paper accident,” says Zac, and I guess he should know. “Big Bird and Tweety Bird,” says Zac about the two lemony dresses together, and he doesn’t mean it as a compliment.
Char says, “This is not one of my proudest moments as a designer.” And so, we’re down to two. Who will be out? Cue the dreadful music: Da-Dum. Da-Dum.
The shark is fear. Don’t fear the shark!
Except for this little stumble, Char has turned in strong and consistent work, even if this time she jumped the Charketa. We have seen so many of Sandhya’s terrible, tea-stained, raggedy messes inexplicably win. Finally justice will be done, right?
Topsy-turvy, my friend, topsy-f***ing-turvy. Charketa Glover is out, depriving you of any more of my childish jokes about her shark-eater, shark-lover name. “I’m devastated,” says Char, but she is also gracious, and ends with a triumphant, moving speech about Detroit, strength and perseverance. Farewell, fear. Farewell, Char. Kuh.