the hills season 3, episode 12, “stress and the city”
October 30, 2007
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- there are only and will only ever be two whitney stories and that’s horrible and depressing. because of the fact that she doesn’t want her personal life to be featured on the show, the two stories are “whitney does a good job at work” and “whitney does a bad job at work.” that’s it. sometimes there are interesting permutations, like the episode i love where she walks on GMA and trips, which is “whitney does a good job at work and then is rewarded for it” or this episode, which is “whitney appears to do a bad job at work but actually she does a good job.” but really it’s very limited.
- it’s a shame because she does such wonders with work, chained to her desk and computer screen, and i just feel like let me see her in the world, let me see how she lives. my favorite scene of the entire “hills” is when she’s eating sushi with lauren and heidi and she’s making a mess of it and it’s just like a hologram projecting out from the screen. what would a whitney date scene be like? what about a fight or a break-up? what is whitney like when she gets emotional – what is the tone of her voice, the pitch? when she’s mad, how does she signify it, what does she do with her eyes, how does she hold her arms, is her mouth open or closed? how does she flirt?
- in one way, she’s the one whose life is most mediated – we’re only allowed to see this little slice, the office and maybe a tiny fragment of a night out at les deux or a barbeque. in a narrative sense, nothing ever happens to her besides the aforementioned work stories; she’s just an echo-box for lauren’s monologues. she’s completely inessential to the plot and yet i cannot imagine watching the show without her. part of me thinks she’s essential to creating a veneer of authenticity. part of me thinks she gives the more reserved members of the audience a character to identify with who’s not as dramatic as heidi or lauren. part of me just likes something about her.
- i have been having trouble with my bloated, lengthy “kaya”/”sex and the city”/”the hills” three-way-cage-match post, but based on the title of this episode or the new york vistas (“stress and the city,” to wit, MTV), i had this blip:
- lauren – carrie. heidi – charlotte. audrina – samantha. whitney – miranda.
- i have made the carrie-lauren comparison multiple times this season, based on lauren’s increasing confidence and screen presence, but i had never thought to connect the dots to the other girls. this all totally obvious, but carrie-lauren is the narrator who once had an Important relationship and carries the louis vuitton baggage as she tries to find new men who can equal what it once was. heidi-charlotte wants to get married to a stable rich dude who she loves despite his personal issues (see the comparison of WASP-west hollywood in the previous post). audrina-samantha is sluttier than the rest of her friends and is attracted to more dangerous types. whitney-miranda is type A, awkward, and a workaholic, yet charming. [ed: i checked and realized this was already kind of done in a comment in that old gawker piece but it's a necessary segue into my shallow personal recollections so i'm leaving it] at college we watched hours and hours of sex and the city and since this was a house of dudes, in order to justify our heterosexuality we would take turns saying “oh yeah, she’s hot” or “damn, she’s hot” or “she’s pretty hot, but not as hot in that last scene.” also, of course, fuck-marry-kill debates. i was never into carrie bradshaw because i’ve never been attracted to a woman with curly hair (i am still waiting). i would always say that i wanted to have sex with charlotte and in theory i am really attracted to that WASPy thing, but i am way too middle class for that shit to work in anything but a fantasy. really i would get along best with miranda if only she had better hairstyling/clothes. obviously i would kill samantha – that’s what we all always chose. you could probably read that as an unconscious male response to the threat of female sexual liberation, but really i read it as samantha was always the most campy and least real of the characters and then there was that awful cancer subplot in the later seasons which seemed soapy and just did nothing for me.
- brody jenner and frankie delgado were on “keeping up with the kardashians” this week. brody was pretty subpar but there was a fun scene where frankie delgado videotapes brody jenner’s little half sisters they gyrate around a stripper pole and pull up their shirts, faux-flashing him. from behind the lens, he tells them he’s going to “put it on youtube” and make them stars. writing it like that makes it sound all dirty, but really it was fairly adorable. i am no moralist but i do not think chris jenner seems like a very good role model.
- i like after lisa love tells the girls that they’re going to new york to meet amy astley, when they get back to their office they talk about what they’re going to wear. whitney says “as soon as she was like you’re going to new york, i just, like, my closet ran through my brain, i was like oh my god, what am i gonna wear” and lauren immediately echoes the sentiment, noting that she has a dress in her closet specially picked out already. it’s the kind of genuine detail that’s crucial; it has nothing to do with advancing the plot but has everything to do with establishing the girls as flesh and blood (and hair and make-up, of course)
- the spencer-frankie confrontation was a snooze-fest, as was the scene after with heidi and spencer. will this show go to a fourth season? if it does, will heidi and spencer remain or be forced out? this season, they’re integral, the show wouldn’t be near as popular without “team heidi” and “team lauren” but can they continue? how long can this tension be sustained without a resolution or without new plot twists? the obvious arc seems like the last episodes of this season plant some seeds of lauren and heidi coming together again and then the next season would follow that through its natural progression. but what if this doesn’t happen (in real life, i mean), what if they just can’t get it together, what if they hate each other that much? spin-off, i say. i am working on a post with a model of how “the hills” aftershow should be, but it could just as easily be how the heidi and spencer spin-off could be.
- the helicopter shots of the moving cab in new york were interesting. usually it feels obvious that the landscape shots are second unit stuff, that they’re shot separately and are separate from the action itself. they’re frames for the scenes, not part of them. here, by cutting between close-ups of lauren in the cab and the helicopter shots, the editing is implying that it’s lauren’s cab, which obviously it isn’t. this is another example of how something that’s incredibly common in film grammar feels foreign to the “hills” house style. (it doesn’t help that after the show comes back from break, there are a couple less than perfect lighting and color correction matches)
- one thing watching “kaya” has taught me is how movement through space is captured in “the hills”. in the first episode of “kaya” there’s a scene where kaya stomps across a parking garage, followed by her dad. kaya accomplishes this with dolly shots; the camera moves through space as kaya does. in this episode of “the hills”at the marc jacobs office, lauren and kate waters walk down a hallway. instead of a tracking shot, this is accomplished by cutting between two basically static cameras at the end of the hallway, a long shot and a medium shot.
- amy astley and co., unlike lisa love, understand how they are supposed to behave as magazine editors in this post “devil wears prada” world. love the reactions shots, great faces, perfectly shot, well cut. i wonder if these people look so annoyed because they are 1) hamming it up for the sake of the scene 2) hipper-than-thou and pissed that they have to be on this trendy television show 3) genuinely unimpressed with whitney’s plan for the event. or some combination of the above. the hundred wonderful ways that whitney has of saying “um…yeah…so”
- marc jacobs’ wireless mic pack sticking out over the top of the sweatpants in his scene. the extended shot of him walking away that ends the scene, who chose this? did he practice, did he rehearse, did he get walking tips like on “a model life”? were there multiple takes because watching playback he didn’t think his ass looked good in one of them?
- i liked the line in the church where lisa love talked about covering up the confessionals. she obviously feels the same way i do about talking heads. she also redeemed past woodenness with her winking delivery of the line “well, it was very dressy, wasn’t it?” followed by a shot of whitney openmouthed confused followed by a shot of lauren doing a minute sympathetic lipflip.
- the impeccably lit/composed wide shot of spencer when he calls brody. it feels like so much work for a tiny bit of plot connective tissue.
- i didn’t like the look of the last scene. i don’t know if it was the low light making the grain of the video a little more apparent or just lax color tuning, but it felt flat and gray where it should have been warm and rich. i liked the scene, though. when brody jenner said “i’ll always be there for you and you’ll always be there for me” and lauren nodded against his chest, it made me want to do a torch song cover of the “friends” theme. the last close-up of her is great, it really gets the texture of her hair. and then i like in the closing medium shot how after a minute her hand comes in from the right side of the frame holding the remote, changing the channel; they’re not looking off wistfully into the distance, they’re watching TV, just like us. of course, judging by the shots we’ve already seen, they are watching the TV between the bodies of the three cameramen who are trained on their every move, but still, it’s romantic.
- my favorite part of the preview for next week was when some guy who’s interested in audrina asks justinbobby “what’s your situation with audrina” and justinbobby says, subtitled, “she’s pretty good.” genius. subtitles are not used on “the hills” for clarity, i don’t think, because usually what’s being said is pretty clear (and if it’s not, they could just dub it anyway). instead, subtitles make the lines pop that little bit more; they’re the equivalent of pink highlighter on a three-hole-punched love note.
in the player is a song called “danny devito, let’s eat some doritos.” i basically had this vision where i was in a buddy comedy with danny devito and we were hungry. i thought for a second about it being “danny devito, let’s eat a burrito” but i thought doritos were a funnier image (imagine danny devito at blackjack table and he’s got that neon orange coating on his fingers and he’s trying to play but he’s getting the cards dirty and maybe the dealer thinks he’s marking them and throws him out and he sits outside on the curb licking his hands and wiping them on his hawaiian shirt). also i am in favor of product placement. i don’t really know a lot about danny devito besides the penguin and “it’s always sunny in philadephia,” but he seems affable. i also don’t know where the weird accent came from – maybe camera obscura, who i have been listening to while i jog. i wish i could hit the high notes in the chorus without getting screechy. i’m sure you do too.