the hills season 3, episode 9, “what happens in vegas…”
October 2, 2007
[splashcast KRGC4481UC CKDF1975PG]
- spencer, a star? whatever you think of his black, black heart, he killed in that climactic scene at don antonio’s, under the tarnished, dying sun. his eyes! my god! the way that, because of the highlights catching in them, you could see the slightest movements of his pupils as they tracked over heidi’s face, barely holding back the tears.
- that scene was a total continuation of the swapped parody of traditional gender roles thing i was talking about two weeks ago. heidi, the businesswoman, has to leave the anniversary dinner to go to work and spencer, the househusband, is upset (“i say it’s rude to answer the phone at anniversary dinners.”) and has an emotional outburst (she says “i love you,” he says “no you don’t”). i love this costume for heidi. where is the chewed up stogie in the corner of her mouth? when will she start complaining about her ulcer and knocking back double scotches when she gets back to the condo at night?
- it’s great how heidi is shot at bolthouse, always through the door of her office. it’s claustrophobic, it emphasizes how isolated she is from everyone and how out of place she is. simple but effective.
- fascinating how people in “the hills” can’t seem to tear their eyes away from their computer screens while conducting dramatic scenes in a television show. you see it most often at teen vogue with whitney and lauren (whitney makes a fetish of it, almost), but it’s also in heidi’s scene with brent bolthouse in this episode. when she does it in that scene, it’s like the equivalent of a sixth-grader smacking gum or something.
- lauren, as always, works wonders with her operatic eye movements. notice at the end of her scene with frankie, when he’s trying to convince her to hook up with brody jenner. the whole scene, she’s been projecting this mask of like “oh, you’re full of shit, frankie, whatever.” then he breaks through the armor. her first look is this head tilt with an imploring upwards full-eyed stare. then there’s a cut, and in the next shot, her eyes are to the right, as if she’s accessing her memories of brody and processing this new information, trying to filter out truth. then she closes her eyes and when she flips them back open, she looks at frankie for a second, one last question mark to his intentions, and then she looks out the window as she sips her drink, fantasizing about the possibilities.
- brody jenner is decent on “the hills,” though he’s no justinbobby. he’s having to play a kind of good guy here, but i think he probably defaults to more of an asshole. i liked his aborted fox reality show “the princes of malibu” in which he and his rich brother did fun and wasteful rich guy things to fuck with his rich dad. it was formulaic, but fun. (ed: whoah, i totally didn’t realize that the spencer who was brody jenner’s loser friend on “princes of malibu” was actually spencer from “the hills”. trippy. maybe more on this in the future)
- the scene with elodie and heidi was interesting on a number of levels. like for example, elodie’s line “so you want me to cover for you” is obviously looped. now, if she’s really a person that hates heidi, can you imagine what it would feel like for her to have to take time out of her day to go rerecord this looping? standing in the recording booth, fuming. maybe the producers have even scheduled heidi to record right before her, so as elodie is smoking a last nervous cigarette outside the building, heidi walks out in her sunglasses and they have a terse exchange.
- and i continue to get this “six characters in search of an author” style meta-drama from elodie. it’s not like she hates heidi the person, it’s like she hates heidi the character. she plots to mess up plots. when she goes “duh duh duh,” when heidi walks in, it’s like she’s trying to insert her own music cue.
- even though the elodie plot twist was stupid and fake(how did heidi, who has a management position at this small company, not know that an employee was quitting) it was necessary and the end result (the scene with spencer at don antonios) was totally worth it. in the previews, lauren talks about how she needs friends with “less drama”, and it’s interesting to think about the multiple meanings of that word. because the person lauren needs friends with less drama, but, of course, the character doesn’t. while i would be happy watching an episode of the hills that’s just lauren and whitney going to the grocery store and buying groceries, i think most people need the drama. the hills is successful because it’s one-half this fascinating discovery channel nature documentary about young rich kids and it’s one-half this crack-like addictive soap opera, with simple and obvious but powerful storytelling.
- the editing in the “introducing vegas” montage felt too self conscious to me. cutting with the descending bassline of the song? i don’t know. although i probably wouldn’t have put a song about las vegas in an episode about las vegas (except maybe that old tearjerker “leaving las vegas” for some slight irony ala the piano ballad version of “girls just wanna have fun” in the season two premiere)
- i liked the way lauren kissing brody was handled. it’s like i’ve said, the way the “hills” aesthetic represents things is different than anything else in film or television. in the beginning, there are these close-ups of lauren and brody doing faces, like the way chimpanzees slap themselves before mating. then there’s a short shot of audrina watching, which is so realistic and true. then the cut back to a close-up of lauren, alone in the frame with the flashing lights. as she turns her head, the look on her face starts to turn, as, off-frame, brody puts his arm around her neck. and the resulting kiss fills the frame and it’s awkward, all we can really see is hair, but that adds to the veneer of the real. then the next shot is this completely left-field medium shot of lauren’s back, which is notable because you see the muscles in brody’s forearm flex as he pulls lauren in. then back to the previous shot, where lauren is looking down, squinting and touching her nose. then back to audrina, who is like “well, as a viewer of this show i was really waiting for that to happen” and then back to lauren, who is staring into brody’s eyes and it’s notable because besides this big smile and wide eyes, she’s not doing any of her face acting histrionics, she’s still.
- and the choices lauren makes, like the way she plays with her cup in the final scene with brody, holding it on his stomach as if it’s going to rest there all night because he’s stable, then deciding to put it somewhere else.
- there was no whitney in this episode. bullshit
- part of the problem with discussing the nature of performance on the hills is that there’s not a good lexicon and i am constantly having to attach qualifiers to the things that i saw. i am thinking of some compounds i would like to coin, including faukward (faux-akward) and fauthentic (you get it). i got this idea from the delightful slang usage of “britney” in this episode (“i just saw lo’s britney.”).
- poor jill. i’m sure she’s absolutely a lovely person, but if people even noticed her, she’s going to go down in history as lauren’s ugly friend. i wonder if she watched the show with her friends and family, what they said? did they silently eat popcorn and look at each other for positive encouraging things to say? she isn’t even named until the second scene she appears in, like she’s not important enough to be named right away! and when she is named, she’s off to the side of the frame; the camera’s focus is obviously not on her. i am working on a piano ballad called “all the ugly people in the world should be shot.” it is really upbeat and peppy.
- speaking of types (“the ugly friend”), i see lo really coming into her type as that sort of “mom” girl in the group, you know, the one who plans stuff (“okay, first bet, first bet. the first person to make justinbobby smile…wins!”) and is always trying to get everybody excited for things and then takes it really badly when things go wrong. usually when an actor is playing to type that’s bad, because they’re not doing anything we haven’t seen a thousand times. but lo is great because she’s using specifics to reveal what is universal (like drunk lauren hitting on the british guy). she’s doing what we’ve seen a thousand times, but instead of making it look like the thousandth time, she’s making it look like all of the thousand times added together and then divided by a thousand. i’m not good at math.
- though the looping of lo’s lines at the pool was crazy. it’s like they didn’t even treat the sound to try to to make it like it was recorded outside. maybe the editors think that if they continue to be more and more bold with their looping, it will just become natural, we’ll stop noticing, eventually the show can be like that fellini myth, where the actors just say “1, 2, 3, 4” and all the dialogue is added later.
- the revolving bed was really underused as a staging device. it should have been going through the entire “justinbobby hates us!” scene, with the cameramen in an arc around the bed, catching this rotating tableaux. but then lo might have puked, so i guess i understand.
- i thought that the season was about to end and i was really palm-sweat panicked about it. i had planned a whole week of activities like a second grade teacher, and then like any idiot i googled my concern and found out that there are 9 episodes left. my hands have stopped shaking.
- in other breaking news from that three month old press release, ‘kaya’! from the previews, i think tony di santo, who is otherwise a fucking genius, is really wrong about this show, which is listed in the press release as a “pet project.” it looks dated and bad and the lead is not that good looking or talented seeming. the actors play things so big when compared to the subtlety of the hills; it looks like bad community theater. the promo for it i saw tonight had stepped back from proudly describing it (with bold text and a voice-over) as “m.t.v.’s new scripted drama” to simply calling it (no voice-over) “m.t.v.’s new show,” which is at least a baby step in the right direction. as if the audience for “the hills” wants to watch a scripted drama. maybe have the lead actress get caught doing a couple of bumps in the bathroom of area and get some real life drama going, some buzz. the promo for the tila tequila show was incredible, though. the other show i am most looking forward to is “pageant place.”
in the player is my cover of “imitation of life” by r.e.m. i have never been a huge r.e.m. fan although my favorite episode of that ‘iconoclasts’ show on sundance was definitely the one with michael stipe and mario batali. there’s a great, absurd shot of the two of them riding on batali’s vespa, stipe either putting his arms around batali’s rotundity or maybe nervously hanging on to the back (one time i rode stoned up a steep hill on the back of vespa trying to hold onto the back because i didn’t want to look gay and i don’t know if i’ve ever been so scared). i like how nervous michael stipe seems during the whole thing, there’s a part where he’s sweating in the back of a limo and it’s like he’s in a teen movie on his way to pick up his prom date. it’s really endearing. and there’s a scene in a pretentious indie record store where he is awkwardly shopping for CDs and he’s talking to pretentious indie record clerk and he looks awkward and uncomfortable and i have felt exactly that feeling. anyway, this is the one r.e.m. song that i really love. i know there is some cryptic ambiguity to the lyrics about the nature of celebrity and the cost of fame and the fleeting joy of the hollywood experience but really all i hear is the major key chorus and the hooks. this is my attitude about a lot of things – all i (want to) hear is the hooks.
p.s. i broke down and bought the ‘us weekly’ with the heidi interview at the supermarket. i stuck it under a bag of dog food like it was porn. i wanted the ‘seventeen’ interview with lauren more but i was not prepared for the look i thought i might get for buying ‘seventeen’. anyway the rest of the interview was not that great at all, they really excerpted the good things on the website. there was one good answer, when ‘us weekly’ asked “Does Spencer like your bigger chest?” and she says “I think any guy would be excited! He was like, “I loved you before and you looked great before, and I love you now and you look great now.” what a diplomat. there were also several unsubtle pictures of her boobs.