August 28, 2008
- another repetition that i should have included in the video but didn’t was lo’s long walk across the yard into a dramatic confrontation with audrina in the first episode of this season which was a clear repetition of lauren’s long walk across the yard into a dramatic confrontation from last season’s finale. again, the newer version was much weaker. also the previously discussed “whitney is good at work” scene.
- robbe-grillet probably would have liked the hills: “But the new realism that Robbe-Grillet advocates with the nouveau roman is not the rendering of the “lifelike” and the “typical.” “In this new realism,” he writes, “it is therefore no longer verisimilitude that is at issue. The small detail which ‘rings true’ no longer holds the attention of the novelist . . . ; what strikes him . . . is more likely, on the contrary, the little detail that rings false.””
- this season, though, for all its repetition and lack of emotion, is striking me as less nouveau roman, less l’ecriture feminine, and more…uh…clip show? “Clip shows today tend to offset such criticism by trying to make the frame tale surrounding the clips compelling, or by presenting clip shows without any framing device. A show might also diffuse the awkwardness by indulging in self-parody, explicitly acknowledging or intentionally over-playing the device.”
- still, even if the art of the hills isn’t as cutting edge as it once was, the commerce is totally avant garde. from media week: “As MTV’s flagship hit, The Hills functions as a laboratory of sorts for the ad sales and marketing people, a venue where MTV can experiment with pod structure and an array of pod-busting initiatives. “
- (related: the salary thing which everybody has posted already)
- i haven’t seen last year at marienbad. i really really want to. netflix doesn’t deliver to korea so i wish people would stop uploading divx cam copies of the house bunny and get on that, please.
- a french role playing game about the hills. i’m not kidding. (via HLJ)
- my favorite book about repetition and reenactments
- did anybody else hear an echo of mccain in the doug-lauren “yr house/yr laguna house” exchange?
- also on politics, a correspondent sent in this very entertaining comparison of speidi and the clintons. not to horn toot, but i still feel that i set the standard for this sort of thing (also).
- notes on lo
- there are few things i dislike more than improv/sketch comedy. cats, fake cheese, joy. i like janeane garofalo, though i much prefer rush or sean to air america.
- i just don’t know what do with overdosin. i just don’t. i feel much more comfortable with the fake virgin thing since i basically already covered it in my madonna/the madonna fake family planning discussion.
the most worthwhile section of “the hills aftershow” has changed since the show came back from hiatus. that section, “ask the hills,” used to be about asking all of the girls superficial cosmo-quiz kind of questions about their lives (what movie made you cry? what was your worst kiss? what’s on your ipod?). since the show returned for the continuation of season 3, it’s mutated into “ask lauren” and it’s become less about superficial things and more about big issues, big questions (although of course there are still superficial things, there always superficial things). last week we heard lauren pontificate about celebrities and the falsity of dramatic acting and cinematic performance. this week, she’s talking about the nature of fame.
what does it mean to be famous? let’s ask lauren:
“it’s very up and down. i mean, for example, i’ll get to do cool stuff and go on the show with you and there’s all these people screaming and they’re all so nice. and then someone takes a picture and they put it on the internet and the same amount of people go and say how ugly and fat you look and tear you down.”
there’s a lot more there that i don’t have time to parse – check it out.
the show opens with audrina looking at a new apartment. here, as they have throughout this mini-season, the concepts of “space” and “distance” predominate – the way physical distance can equal emotional distance (audrina’s separation from lauren and lo in the guesthouse, how lauren describes audrina in the show open as becoming “more and more distant,” heidi’s desire to put “space” between spencer and herself), the way physical proximity can equal emotional closeness (the fact that lauren and lo are just “five feet apart” means they have “slumber parties” every night). note that one of the first things that audrina notices is that the apartment “is such an open space,” which justinbobby echoes. in reality, audrina is downtown but, metaphorically, she’s a world away from lauren and lo in her “little tokyo” loft. audrina herself notes feels like she’s “so far away from everyone,” but this seems to a good thing; she wants her physical distance to mirror the emotional barrier she feels between herself and the blondes.
visual idioms predominate: justinbobby doesn’t ask audrina if she wants to live in the apartment or if she thinks it would be fun to live there, he asks her if she “thinks she sees herself living there” [italics mine]. i.e. what he is asking her to do is to see herself from outside herself, in the third person, living in the apartment, as, of course, she might if she watched herself living there on the television show “the hills.” the first thing audrina says is that she “likes the view,” and justinbobby gives it the ultimate stamp of approval when he says it “probably looks pretty at night.” also, beyond language, the dominance of the big picture window in the compositions. the desire most of us have for good light in our homes is compounded by the need for good light to shoot an attractive television show.
also the way justinbobby’s sunglasses are hanging from his ears from the entire scene is ridiculous and great, the sweet, pure poetry of the banal.
next, my dear, lovely heidi. just like lauren became “the girl who didn’t go to paris,” now heidi has become “the girl who didn’t go to vegas” (well, actually, she’s the girl who went to vegas for a day and then came back with her boyfriend and his sister, but that lacks a certain poetry, you know?). it’s instructive to contrast the stereotypes associated with these two cities and how they tie in with the girls’ characters. paris, with its air of sophistication, fashion, and fantasy fits lauren: lauren stayed in college, she worked for a magazine (i know, it’s not exactly “harper’s” or “the new yorker” but it is a magazine that is read as well as looked at), she dresses with class (just go with me here, haters), expense, and sophistication. the fact that heidi was set to move to vegas is even more richly connected to her character. heidi is lower class than lauren, both economically and culturally. as she is forever wont to remind us, she came from a small town in colorado instead of super-rich laguna beach. she dropped out of college and, instead of working in the well-lit, comfortable offices of a fashion magazine, she got her start standing outside of clubs, “working the door” the ways whores “work the street.” when it’s time for her major, character-defining trip, she doesn’t go to haute culture paris, she goes to ho culture vegas.
this distinction is clear in the scene where heidi and bolthouse are being shown around the hotel. the only job that heidi is clearly assigned to do in vegas is to remake the pool area of a hotel to look like st. tropez – in other words, to create a simulation of european glamour in the desert of the surreal, a place where middle-class americans can sun themselves and pretend to be something and somewhere that they’re not. her job, then, is to be an enabler of fantasy; a fantasy that, like a disney world princess castle, might seem convincing enough until you can see what lies beyond the facade.
this situation, like the paris-vegas comparison, is just another way that heidi’s being reminded that she’s not as good as lauren, another way of illustrating that she’s a second, a sidekick, a buddy – not pretty enough (get new boobs, a new nose), not smart enough (you didn’t go to college, but read books and talk about them loudly, pretend to get a high powered job), not important enough (get a fashion line cause she did too, start a singing career). in the past, her life was seemingly controlled by lauren and then by spencer – she was a pawn in their tug of war. her attempts this season to become independent, to gain agency, fail – just like lauren, she gives up her career for a guy. (cue people making jokes about g. bellafante’s “feminist hero” remark).
yet, heidi’s choice to leave vegas just like lauren’s choice to stay with jason, while it is cast as the wrong decision in the world of the show, is in the real world certainly the right decision. we should be aware of the differences between the two: lauren’s decision to stay with jason instead of going to paris seemed like a “real” choice (i.e. in the real world, lauren was offered the choice to go to paris for teen vogue, but she really declined because she really wanted to stay with jason (and stay on her TV show)), heidi’s decision to reunite with spencer instead of staying in vegas seems undoubtedly to be a “fake” choice (i.e. the choice to stay and work in vegas never actually existed in the real world and there was never a possibility that heidi would have stayed – it was completely constructed to create drama within the show.)
but real or fake, their choices were or will be cast as negative in the world of the show. in the world of the show, they turned down promising career opportunities for these asshole/loser guys. yet though they have made the wrong decisions for their fake careers, they have both done the right thing for their real careers as television stars.
all of this heidi-lauren comparison is underlined in the scene of brent bolthouse waiting outside the hotel for heidi, who…gasp…never comes. this is a completely self conscious echo of the scene of lisa love “waiting” outside airport for lauren in the season one finale.
- (also, brent bolthouse wants to be like mark ronson so bad it hurts.)
the attitudes “the hills” has toward reality is echoed in sbe creep sam nazarian’s tour of the hotel. “this area will be completely redone,” he says, “all the audio-visual.” (dubbing/cutting/restaging, etc.). “all the old stuff will go out and new stuff will come in (the way roommates are cycled in and out of lauren’s apartment, the way the apartments themselves are cycled through, the way the old boys are used up and tossed away (poor weird jordan eubanks), the emergence of the new boys to be chewed up and spit out (doug reinhardt and audrina’s new guy)). “just imagine everything you’ve seen and then completely unimagine it.” (the shattering of fairy tale fantasy, the evolution of soap opera narrative, of micronarrative, the combination of cinematic tropes with carefully chosen elements of reality TV). of course, since it’s characteristic of “the hills,” this scene ends not with an important or even significant conversation, but with characters standing in a magic hour sunset, gazing off at something in the distance, taking in a view, a vista, a vision.
so spencer interrupts the fake dinner (i wonder what they were talking about. was it an actual business dinner and heidi was just sitting in or were they just shooting the shit? did they really have business to do in LV or were they just there for the purposes of the show?) so that he can have a fake confrontation with heidi. note again the focus on space and distance; spencer’s breaking point w/re:to giving heidi space was when she left LA and went to vegas, that was when he decided to make his move. like the bizarre scenes with stephanie as spencer’s accomplice, this is a pretty bad. you might think it’s that the performances are bad, but they’re not (spencer’s double shushing of stephanie in the car is fantastic). it’s just that the things that heidi and the pratts are saying simply do not make sense – the scenes themselves do not make sense. like, stephanie finds out where heidi is and tells spencer where she is and says something like “let’s blow the doors” and yet when they arrive at the hotel, stephanie is shocked that spencer is getting out of the car and going into the hotel. it’s just…crazy. anyone who can still argue that this show is scripted should watch these scenes over and over; they are profoundly illogical in a way that seems (to me) as if it would be impossible for any experienced screenwriter to write.
the low quality of these scenes is a function of the fact that spencer and heidi and stephanie are trying to make something that they know to be fake to seem real (in other words, that they are acting) but it’s also a function of the fact that we, as educated viewers, know that these scene is constructed, more constructed than the others – we can believe with something approaching certainty (which is not usually the case on “the hills”) because of our knowledge of the secondary texts. that certainty removes any sense of dramatic stakes from the proceedings; it removes our ability to slip into the mimetic trance and so we are stuck in our critical, skeptical mode.
also that scene, with spencer interrupting the dinner is short, it’s minor. at the end of it, we see a look on heidi’s face that makes it seem as if she’s giving in to spencer, but then she immediately goes back to the table and sits down, all business but obviously in turmoil. in any other movie or television show or book, we would need more than this, we would have another scene, a drawn-out, climactic reunion scene in the hotel room or in a restaurant or something, in which heidi and spencer would have this cathartic moment and finally break through their relationship “drama” to come back together. we don’t have that here. why? was it shot and cut for time? was it shot and then the producers decided it was too inauthentic or badly performed? was it not shot at all, deemed unnecessary – did the producers decide that, on “the hills,” a look is enough?
instead of that scene, we have a gotcha! sort of surprise reveal. it’s the same as the reveal in the season one finale, where there is an extended scene of lauren packing and then we are crosscutting between her in her car and lisa love waiting at the airport and jason at the condo and we don’t know what she’s going to choose and SURPRISE she chooses jason. this season, we see brent waiting and and waiting and we’re wondering where heidi is, we’re waiting with him, and SURPRISE she’s at the airport with spencer and stephanie. i see this as sort of a vestigial reminder of first wave reality TV, of the way that reality competitions like survivor used misleading or purposely obtuse editing to create cheap drama about who would win a competition or who would be voted off of the show.
alright, enough with them, now lauren. in this episode, lauren is in four scenes. in three of those scenes, she is doing exactly the same thing: thinking about audrina, worrying about how she has to talk to audrina, wondering whether she really has to talk to audrina, and then talking to someone about audrina and whether she has to talk to audrina and how she’s worried about talking to audrina and how she should talk to audrina. she does this first with whitney and then twice with lo. there are minute differences, but over and over again, it’s really lauren talking at someone about this audrina situation and not listening to the things they have to say (which is funny because both whitney and lo actually have cogent, useful things to say – whitney basically diagnoses the whole situation, to which lauren gives the bullshit-i-am-not-listening response of “yeah, it’s weird.”)
this repetition is such a tremendous waste of time, of both actual time and plot time – it’s something that would never fly on a fictional teen drama like, say, “gossip girl.” yet to me, it is absolute wonderful and true. it represents in a formal way how self-absorption, obsession, passive-agressivity, affect our daily lives. people criticize they way the “work” scenes on “the hills” are rarely about work, how they’re just a chance for lauren or heidi to talk about whatever issue is on their mind at the time. but that’s why those scenes are so good: they’re a representation of the way that when something is on your mind, everything becomes about that something.
something i have been thinking about lately is the way “the hills” (the main text of the show) approximates the texture of thought and memory. like, when i’m remembering things, my memories are of course subjective and self-centered. this restriction to my experiences create this very narrow alternate universe, the same way the los angeles of “the hills” doesn’t have black or hispanic or asian people and no one talks about the war in iraq or terrorist attacks. i don’t remember entire conversations or entire scenes, i get snippets, fragments – my brain jump-cuts through whatever has caught in the memory bank, details both banal (“all fish cooks fast”) and deeply emotional (“you know what you did…you KNOW what you did”). i don’t know, just a blip.
(but i have a lot of retarded theories, like the malcolm-gladwell-if-he-huffed-gasoline idea i had about how you could compare the evolution of celebrity to currency and how it used be backed by something solid, gold, the gold standard, and then we went off the gold standard and it is backed by fiat currency, by promises and pieces of paper, at least according to wikipedia, some kind of stupid pseud analysis that would ignore the fact that i know nothing about economics for the fact that i know a lot about celebrities and end with an overheated prose poem, all that is solid melts into air, blah blah blah i haven’t done drugs in almost a year and my brain still does this shit)
lauren talks to whitney about audrina: notice the extreme detail with which lauren relates the minutiae of how audrina moves through space, accompanying her speech with hand gestures to make sure whitney understands: “honestly, i don’t see her that much….well, cause she has the back house, so she doesn’t even walk through the house, she walks to the side of the house…so like most of the times, most of the times when i see her it’s like her passing by.”
lauren tells whitney she wishes she “did something” she wishes there was a “reason” that audrina. what she’s wishing for is a plot, a plot point – she’s wishing for some clean, neat way to take this conflict and resolve it and make everyone happy. but this is (faux)reality – that’s not possible.
lauren: “the thing we have in common is that we live together, so if you take that away, i don’t even know what would remain.” damn. of course, you could also replace “live” with “are on a television show.”
also, damn, whitney is dubbed like crazy in that scene.
lauren talks to lo about audrina (scene 1): note the camera laying in wait outside for audrina to leave her apartment and the carefully choreographed, perfect pan of audrina passing the window as lauren and lo prepare dinner. (also note how lo says “behind”)
lauren talks to lo about audrina (scene 2): note the way that lauren doesn’t tell lo that she’s upset but sits quietly and waits for lo to recognize it in her facial expression. note that space and distance again dominate the conversation. lauren doesn’t say that the conversation will be difficult, she says, “i feel uncomfortable even going out there” and lo says “yeah, that’s what’s difficult about the situation,” like, the “going out” is the incredibly difficult thing. they’re talking about walking a few feet, from one door to the other, as if its crossing the sahara or something.
and i know all this space and distance reading i’ve been doing is such lit 101 shit, but it’s also so true, so real. i lived in a house with four other people last year. in the house, there were two bedrooms that were markedly larger than the others, two that were obviously smaller, and one medium sized. i claimed the medium sized one (duh) and then fights began over who wanted the larger rooms. people wanted the larger rooms because they wanted to be the hangout spots, the places where everyone would want to spend their time, the popular places. there a was a bitter fight and an uncomfortable truce. in the end, our group spent very little time in either of those rooms, which were located at the far ends of the house, and spent a lot of time in my medium sized room in the middle of the house. i was neutral, like switzerland. space and distance = emotion. ok, i know you don’t care about my personal shit and it’s really not important but what i am saying is maybe it’s because i’m 22 like lauren that i am able to recognize that this shit is so real and compare it to my own life and maybe those who are more mature (either in years or intellectually) can’t always identify with her in the same way. i can’t help but identify with her. i am self centered and immature and possessive, i have done things to alienate friends, i hold a grudge, i have had stupid fights, i have had a whole lot of incredibly banal conversations. i know i can relate to her and i know i can do it in a much more tangible way than i can to stephen dedalus or nick carraway or any of the sad young literary men.
(not to exclude anybody with the above; there are some people who are older than me that understand the show better than i do.)
so, then, the big finish. lauren somehow manages to make it out the door, across the lawn, and past the pool! she comes into audrina’s guesthouse and…dramatic pause…audrina’s… reading a book! something i really admire about this show is how it over and over again has featured its characters reading books (not to mention the whole heidi and spencer whose-books-are-whose scene and their interviews about how much they love to read and what books they’re reading). it often seems forced or unreal, like they’re reading the book upside down, but i love the sentiment of it. you know the producers could care less whether they’re considered smart or not; they don’t. the characters are choosing the way they want to be seen and they want to be seen reading books. this says to me that they think of reading, like reading a real book, of ink and paper, as something that they should be doing, even if its not something they might want to be doing; it’s important enough to them that they fake it. (or maybe they really are reading, who knows) as lo would say, it warms my black little heart.
(to me, this is also an echo of daytime soaps. when i was unemployed last fall and watching “the young and the restless” everyday, i was always struck by the staggering amount of literary references made every week (off the top of my head, i can remember references to dostoevsky, tolstoy, and gabriel garcia-marquez – there were many more). these were not, like on “lost,” cryptic allusions made by the creators that we were supposed to dig through the internet and our libraries to understand and to understand how they related to the show; they were always made directly in dialogue between the characters, who would make some kind of extended reference or (gasp) even a direct quotation to a book that they had been reading recently or had read when they were younger and then make clear exactly how it related to the situation they were going through at that moment. i always viewed this completely anti-realistic gesture as a way for soap opera writers who might feel intellectually insecure or marginalized to overcompensate, to sort of flex their intellectual muscles and say, “hey, i’m smart, too, even if you don’t think i am.”)
it’s so wonderful that the biggest emotional gift that lauren can think to give audrina, the absolute boldest way she has of reaching out to her, is to tell her that she has “good taste”; not to compliment her personality or how she’s handling her life and relationships or her career success, not to compliment her intellect or physical beauty, but to compliment her acquired taste, her cultural cachet, and her ability to arrange items in space according to visual signs like color, texture, material, size, and shape (in other words, to compliment her ability as set decorator and costumier and make-up artist). “i knew you would make it amazing because you have good taste.” it’s a fitting conclusion to the whole “all women have fashion in common” loop and it’s a really big thing for lauren to say, considering that, even if her fashion line has not been particularly well reviewed, she is considered by many teenage and college girls to be an arbiter of style (note MTV trying to cement that on their website, as if she’s fucking jackie o or something). because the thing is, i bet lauren doesn’t think audrina has great style. yet she forced herself on national television to say that and to try to make it sound convincing. it’s tiny and incredibly superficial, but it’s also a big heartwarming thing to do, i think.
audrina: “it’s different, it’s weird living here” not because of lo being bitchy or lauren not being supportive but “because like at the apartment, our rooms were next to each other, so it’s like, i don’t know why i feel weird going [hand gesture] up-stairs, like it’s not my business being up there kind of…” SPACE! DISTANCE! DISTANCE! SPACE! lauren doesn’t respond by saying i want to talk to you or i miss being with you, she says, “but i want you to come up!” i.e. THE STAIRS!
audrina: “i know just sometimes when i’m talking to you, you’ll ignore me.” this is meta shit, for real. this is one of the sounding-board characters acknowledging the lauren monologues that she has to sit through over and over, knowing that she can’t say anything because it’s not “her” scene, it’s laurens. the dubbed line attributing the cause of this to lo is an attempt to shift the blame away from lauren (because if audrina doesn’t have a relationship with lauren, she doesn’t have a career). lauren immediately gets nasty defensive, though. she asks “when have i done that to you” and when audrina stays strong, lauren asks for a specific time. one might say audrina could just play her a dvd of the show, but the first rule of fight club…lauren immediately shuts down at the first sign of being judged or criticized – when she is given a dose of her own medicine, she doesn’t like the taste.
the fuses blew in my apartment and i am like writing by candlelight on the last hour of my laptop battery, so please forgive errors.
lauren: “that’s what friends do, they talk to each other when they have problems. i’m right here, you can walk in there.” in other words, lauren wants audrina, whose theme these past few weeks has been a desire for privacy, to step into the TV house without curtains and bare herself, tell things. this is also the great oprah book club-what we talk about when we talk about being friends-emoticlip-i know you can relate moment..
lauren’s movie star tear is beautiful. also, in “the hills:off the record,” it was beautiful to hear her cry in the bathroom, my favorite part
lauren: “i’ve never let the opinions of others affect my friendships. i don’t do that.” SAYS THE GIRL STARRING IN A TV SHOW THAT MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WATCH EVERY WEEK.
best scene ever.
and so now that this season is over, where can the show go? the title of the finale was interesting: “the next move is yours.” usually, the show titles are drawn from an important line in the episode, but after watching this episode several times, i still haven’t heard that line (did i just miss it?). who is the you in that title? does it refer to the heidi and lauren drama, i.e. what will happen next, who will extend the olive branch, can they ever reunite, do they ever want to? does it refer to audrina and lo and lauren, the roomies, and the complicated spatial-emotional dynamics underlying their relationshp, the geometry of their tension and angst? does it refer to whitney? (no, it doesn’t). does it refer to us, the us that watch weekly, and whether we’ll stick with the show through the hiatus, whether we can be sustained by tabloid headlines and glossy interviews, whether we can and will continue to make these girls stars with the power of our gaze and attention? anyway you cut it, the reference to games(wo)manship is apt.
this “behind the scenes” tour of stephanie pratt’s apartment is wonderful. filmed on a shaky handheld camera by the MTV remote control blogger, it shows us her incredible ability to reel off a list of brand names and her enormous closets and ridiculous amounts of clothes. FYI, she loves “arrested development,” “friends,” and david sedaris books (like heidi and spencer, she has several bookshelves and makes overt reference to them).
richard lawson, whose “hills” posts i have found at turns inspiring and disheartening this spring, makes the assertion in his finale post that “the hills” should acknowledge the girls’ fame and their careers. over this mini-season, during which richard and many others have complained that the show has become boring and stagnant, “the hills” has only gotten higher ratings and become a larger cultural phenomenon. while on the one hand this growth does add to the sense of “unreality” of the show, on the other hand, my feeling is don’t fix what’s not broken – i don’t think MTV is going to risk fucking with their cash cow while it’s still producing milk. the cast, too, seems to have no interest in exposing these other parts of their lives (lauren doesn’t want her fashion line shown, whitney doesn’t want her personal life shown, lo seems content to be a minor, sounding-board character who has mini-drama with audrina (lauren noted that she’s dating a guy “off camera”), heidi and spencer might want more of their lives shown, but want it done in their own spin-off). it just doesn’t make sense for either the producers or the cast to want to add these new elements to the show and therefore i don’t think they will. whether this fucks them or not remains to be seen.
you must read this: zigzigger fucking kills it on the sex tape, among other things: “The sex tape and the actions surrounding its ambiguous existence constituted an event or non-event between seasons, whether real or imagined or merely rumored, which directed the narrative into one of intense passion and drama–a real soap opera. The fact that no one can say if it exists makes the sex tape into the perfect emblem for The Hills as text and object of intense cultural significance–it is at once too real and not real enough. Presumably, if it exists, the sex tape is the mediated representation that could never be questioned in terms of its authenticity–it would be the true evidence of people’s intimate lives.”
April 24, 2008
i’m so sad that lisa love and lauren didn’t have a final moment in lisa love’s office before lauren left teen vogue. it’s really a travesty. LL deserved some kind of speech (a chance to do it better than she did when whitney left, a real mentor-y “i’ve seen you grow so much” sort of speech) if only for coining and delivering with such power that whole “girl who didn’t go to paris” line which was such great shorthand for who lauren was for so long. where is our closure?
there’s not even a “packing up the desk” scene where lauren can look at the objects in the room with deep longing and attachment – it’s not in scene at all, it’s handled in lauren’s opening narration (“…and after helping whitney during fashion week, her new boss ended up giving me a job. now i was back working with my friend again!”). she says it and it is so.
of course maybe those rumors about teen vogue being fed up with the girls and pushing them out were true (although why you would put a cash cow out to pasture is beyond me) and LL just didn’t want anything to do with them anymore and wanted to fill the space with real interns that would do real work for her. i don’t buy it, though, she seemed to relish her scenes way too much.
i will never not be entertained by watching beautiful women fold expensive clothes and talking about their personal lives. if i am, just shoot me (or make me watch “just shoot me,” that other TV show about working at a fashion magazine)
notice how lauren characterizes audrina and heidi’s friendship when talking to whitney. first she says that audrina “keeps running into” heidi when she’s out at clubs. this is a lot of spin, since obviously audrina is actively making plans with heidi and i doubt that she’s lying to lauren about it (although maybe). then after whitney, totally out of the loop (but no, she and LC are great friends!), asks whether audrina and heidi are fighting, LC is like, “oh, no, they’re friendly,” and then when whitney seems surprised, LC clarifies it even further, to “they’re friends.” it’s as if it is such a big deal she can’t admit to herself all at once but has to do it in stages.
i also love love love when lauren goes into that sort of breathy, higher pitched “i am being so serious and rational but i am also about to cry” vocal register that she uses when talking about how the apartment belongs to both her and audrina and so she doesn’t want to tell audrina what to do but at the same time she REALLY wants to tell audrina what to do. she uses it a lot, more this season, like, it’s the same tone as when she was talking to stephanie about how bad she felt that spencer made her cry and how she should know that it’s not her fault and blah blah.
whitney, on her reunion with lauren: “i never thought we’d be together again.” lauren, goofy, knowing smile. producers, rolling on the floor laughing. audience member, annoyed at unnecessary bullshit.
i am so fucking tired of this theme song and i know it will never, ever change.
i always like the scenes where the girls are getting dressed to go out. maybe it is that when they are talking about clothes, not just in general but the clothes they are wearing and about to wear, there is that glimmer of the real that is so enticing when you can taste it. like the tiny moment when audrina suggests that lauren wear the dress audrina is wearing but in a different color and lauren says, “i’m not going to wear the same dress as you” and then, audrina’s back presumably turned, lauren looks at lo, shaking her head and rolling her eyes, like, “god, can you believe that stupid bitch?”
lo, on stephanie pratt coming out: “oh, that’s good, maybe she’ll bring heidi!” in the mouth of any other character, this would feel like a forced line, something whispered in an ear by a producer to trigger a dramatic reaction. but i totally believe it from lo. she’s been established as the plucky, spunky, say anything, make up annoying nicknames for people, make out with frankie in vegas, coke-snorting-sorority-big-sister ball of fun and excitement and i feel that, cameras or not, she would have made a smart ass remark like that in her high, chirpy voice.
also perfectly in character is lauren basically commanding the girls to praise her for doing well in school (“say good job, lauren!”). she also describes herself as “so scholarly.” L O L. of course the class discussed is her computer class, the only class we ever see her taking, which provides an oh-so-convenient segue into discussing stephanie pratt. ditto lo’s clarification of “stephanie…stephanie pratt,” just in case someone at home was too stupid to follow.
across town (whatever, i don’t know the geography of LA) stephanie and heidi are playing out, as if through the looking glass, exactly the same scene, the “getting dressed to go out and also let’s foreshadow important issues coming up in the episode” scene. it opens with heidi saying, “i don’t know what to wear,” echoing audrina’s comment in the previous scene. “all girls have fashion in common,” et cetera. heidi, again, wants to have “a girl’s night, a good night out.”
just like lauren revealing that audrina is friends with heidi, stephanie is trying to slowly break this news of lauren being at the club to heidi. she says “literally everyone goes to goa on thursdays.” which is so funny because it provokes heidi to deduce, sherlock holmes style, “you don’t think, um [quieter] that lauren would go with her?” and all i am imagining is a sort of abacus in heidi’s brain working out, well, if literally everybody is going to the club, and lauren is part of literally everybody, oh no that means lauren might be going to the club! then, instead of cutting back to stephanie, we stay on heidi and watch her react to stephanie saying solemnly, “she told me she is.”
stephanie looks kind of bad in the scene; maybe her ugly eye make-up is supposed to signify how troubled she is about the possibilities of this night?
the idea that lauren would suddenly be cool with heidi because spencer is out of the picture is so inane that it could only come from heidi. the issue is not that heidi moved in with spencer, it’s that she rejected lauren to move in with spencer. the issue is not that audrina is going out with justinbobby, it’s that she’s doing it even though lauren told her it’s a bad idea. the issue is not that audrina is friends with heidi, it’s that she’s doing it when lauren has made it clear she doesn’t want audrina to. it’s that cliche’ action movie trailer phrase, “it’s PERSONAL!” made real – it’s always personal, it’s never logical.
as usual, all heidi has are her cliche’s, her scriptlets (“it was so long ago,” etc.). she goes totally miss malaprop when she accidentally crams together two of them and says, “it’s old water under the bridge.” she and stephanie both laugh. this is funny for two reasons. one because OMG how stupid. two because it’s a clear allusion to the scene at lauren’s birthday party when stephanie, cementing her nascent friendship with lauren, says “water under the bridge…is that the expression, water under the bridge?” it shows that stephanie and heidi talked about that night in close enough detail heidi can later make a semi-knowing reference to an offhand remark of stephanie’s from some days before and they will both get the joke immediately.
(p.s. i was looking for a youtube clip of the “the crunge” (have you seen the bridge, etc.) to make some sort of pseudo-pun about “water under the bridge” but that’s too elliptical, this is “the hills,” it’s about direct adolescent emotion, so here is a video of a teenage girl’s first song which she wrote about some boyfriend who obviously things didn’t go well with and so she wrote a song about water under the bridge and it’s called “water under the bridge.” she’s canadian, she should totally be on “the hills: aftershow,” way better than ana marie digby.)
at the beginning of the club scene, stephanie and heidi’s remarks about justinbobby are obviously both dubbed and subtitled (and this dubbing is really bad). we see them at a distance, from an awkward angle, in the dark with a harsh little highlight to pick up their faces, with people in the foreground blocking them. then cut to lauren and audrina talking, where lauren is softly lit, in close-up, speaking without dubbing or subtitles. the visual hierarchy – who is important, who is not, who is in the inner circle and who is on the outside, scratching at the studio gates.
so lauren goes for another glass of champagne and heidi swoops in to drop her gossip about justinbobby. just like last week, even though this is a bad thing for her “friend” audrina, it’s a great thing for heidi, it’s an opportunity for bonding, for connection, for becoming “friends” and not just “friendly.” just like last week, she overplays things but to hilarious effect by asking audrina, “like, do you want me to make sure he doesn’t come in this room or anything?” like she is club security or something, like she is man police. it is also a subtle attempt to entrench herself into the area where lauren will be and where the good camera angles are. of course, audrina blows her pathetic overture off, saying, “it’s fine.”
god, i don’t even know how to parse the scene where lauren and lo come back with stephanie. ok, first of all, as lauren, lo, and stephanie approach, audrina is telling heidi about justinbobby’s stalkerish tendencies, how he wouldn’t leave her alone. this is of course exactly what heidi is doing to lauren in this scene; lauren has made it as clear as she can without a restraining order that she wants nothing to do with heidi and yet there is heidi, at her table, waiting for her. heidi responds, as usual, with a cliche metaphor about pain. “it’s like a wound, still, it’s not like it’s healed.” she is tacitly empathizing with audrina, about how spencer wouldn’t give her “space,” but really she’s talking about herself, about her relationship with lauren, about the pain she feels that lauren won’t interact with her.
again, this scene is visually really confusing. i’m having to write it down just to figure it out. okay, so heidi and audrina are sitting on the (camera) right side of the couch having their powwow. we find out from a cutaway later on that stephanie is actually sitting next to heidi while this conversation is going on, at the right edge of the couch.
lauren and audrina enter in a medium shot from stage left, lauren first, closer to heidi and the traitor. they are cloaked in shadow. lauren more tells than asks, “hey guys, can you make some room?”
then back to the close-up of heidi and audrina. neither want to give up the (literal) spotlight. heidi is staring at the space where lauren should be and smiling, audrina is looking off vacantly.
then a really brief medium shot of lauren from the right. this is not really heidi’s POV, but it stands for it and it has that effect. lauren stands there all chiaroscuro, lit from the right and underneath, but half in the darkness of the club. she holds her class of champagne in her jeweled hand and seems to look at heidi down her nose for an instant, then turns away to the left, into the darkness.
this is where it gets confusing. okay, the angle is of the right corner of the booth. we see lauren entering from the right side getting up into the elevated booth and carefully squeezing past audrina to get into her seat (audrina actually helps her through, briefly placing both hands around lauren’s waist, presumably so she doesn’t spill her champagne) heidi is absent during the shot, but we know where she is, she was sitting right beside audrina near the outside of the booth. thus lauren is literally climbing over heidi to get into the center of the booth. obviously, the meta-implications of this are strong (lauren climbing over heidi to reclaim the spotlight, the center of attention, her close-up, mr. deville) but also just imagine how uncomfortable that would be in real life, to climb past this person you hate and then have to sit at the same table as them.
then we have a short close-up of lauren settling in and smiling at the reclamation of her “space”, from the camera angle used during the audrina-heidi conversation earlier.
then, in an overhead angle, she immediately leans in to her left to talk to stephanie pratt. this at first seems like a crazy, disorienting continuity error, because two shots before (so, like two seconds before), this blond nobody with glasses was scooting over to give lauren more room. it seems as if this girl is by the magic of editing with stephanie pratt. after watching this about five times, i’ve figured out that the blond girl actually slips out of the booth and stephanie pratt is sitting to lauren’s left and quickly slides twoard her. lauren moves closer to the center of the booth, probably to put more “space” between heidi and herself. she whispers to stephanie, “i just didn’t really think that you’d bring heidi”
then a wide shot from the left. lauren, slightly obscured by some girl in the foreground, says, “it’s just really hard for me to be at a table with her.” as she and steph have this conversation in the light in the center of the frame, heidi is hard left, in the dark, watching their conversation intently behind audrina’s back.
then there is some wanking around with the focus on a new close-up of lauren and stephanie, from the right side. lauren says, “i’m sorry, that’s really awkward to say to you, i know.” the camera pans to the left to center around stephanie and lauren. lauren seems to be sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning to the left, as if she is trying to get as far away from heidi as she can without actually getting up. stephanie says, “no. i mean, i know, exactly what it is…”
stephanie’s subtitled voice (“i just kind of thought we could all get along”) continues over a cutaway of heidi and audrina talking.
back to the close-up of stephanie and lauren, stephanie making light of the situation, lauren trying to look pained but in a fun way.
rack focus onto an extreme close-up of audrina’s face. heidi, represented in the frame by some of her hair, says, “i think i’m gonna go soon. it’s pretty clear lauren doesn’t want me to be friends with you.” well thanks, captain obvious.
(one wonders here whether these rack focuses are meant as authenticity signifiers or to create some sort of visual drama or if they are just a necessity of shooting in a poorly lit nightclub)
then the most sort of composed, painterly shot in the scene. in the center is lauren, talking to stephanie on her left. on the right, audrina. at far right, heidi, in her black dress almost merging with the background. at far left, anonymous man in black, who has been sitting at the table the whole time, following the scene intently while saying absolutely nothing (obviously our audience stand-in). in the foreground, some carafes of girly drinks.
then a sort of telephoto extreme close-up of lauren looking pissed off but beautiful, obviously reacting to what heidi has just said. in the right edge of the frame, audrina, out of focus. heid, out of frame again, says, “oh my gosh, here comes justin.”
then a close-up of audrina and lauren. lauren is in the background, out of focus, drinking quietly. audrina does an awkward openmouthed smile at the right side of the frame.
now, here, the obvious choice in a movie would be to cut to a reverse of justin bobby to catch his reaction, from somewhere around where audrina and heidi are sitting. this is obviously impossible, because, like, audrina and heidi are sitting there. so instead we get a wide shot from the back of justinbobby looking like fucking hipster zorro, in all black and a stupid hat. heidi gets up and is all welcome-wagon and smiles. she’s excited because it’s someone else lauren hates, it’s someone on her “team,” it’s someone to absorb some of the hate rays lauren is sending from her powerful, expressive eyes.
then an out of focus overhead shot of justinbobby taking heidi’s seat. this is really weird because it doesn’t seem as if the club is two levels. is the cameraman standing on a ladder in the middle of the dance floor? is the camera hanging from the ceiling? where is it? heidi says again, “i think i’m gonna go.” she’s just waiting for someone to say, “no, don’t go,”
we cut back to the wide shot, where our view of heidi and audrina, and justin is blocked by people, and where, miraculously, audrina actually does say, “heidi, don’t leave, we’re having fun.” i am about 50/50 about whether this is a dubbed line, but the audio on mtv overdrive is not hifi enough for me to be able to tell.
either way, we come with a snap zoom back to the close-up of lauren from the right, reacting strongly to this. of course, if it was dubbed, she’s not actually reacting to it, but obviously audrina said something because she is reacting. she is facing left and looking left, but she is totally taking all this in out of the corner of her eye. we hear heidi say, giddy, “or i’m gonna stay!” and lauren looks up at the ceiling, beyond annoyed.
back to the wide shot where heidi sits down, beaming. she asks justinbobby how he’s doing.
back to stephanie and lauren. they are seemingly shocked and are uncomfortably laughing at, like, heidi’s audacity, or that justinbobby is sitting there. lauren looks like she’s about to explode.
then heidi and justinbobby are BFF! heidi talks about how “we should all hang out in a group sometime.” justinbobby says “i’m down, whenever. it’s up to this one, though.” and points at audrina. his greased lightning patois never ceases to dazzle. he doesn’t say “audrina” or “her,” he says, “this one.”
then a close-up of audrina clutching her giant right earring for dear life and looking all dreamy and moony and remembering the good times with JB.
heidi, total huckster, says, “luckily, i am talking to this woman.”
then, as we watch a close-up of lauren looking to the left, heidi goes even further and trots out her favorite sentence about audrina, “her and i were friends before her and lauren were friends.”
back to heidi and justinbobby. justinbobby says something incomprehensible. note here that he doesn’t get subtitles while everything heidi says is subtitled. zorro is mysterious, we don’t have to understand what he’s saying. or, men aren’t important, no one cares what they have to say.
back to the close-up of lauren with more heidi speech for her to react to. heidi says, “i told audrina it’s silly can’t be friends because you live with lauren. she’s like, ‘i know.'” lauren is agape.
back to justinbobby and heidi and over them we hear lauren, finally reaching her breaking point, say, “oh my god.”
back to lauren and stephanie, lauren says emphatically, “I need to leave the table, immediately,”
in the wide shot, lauren, consummate hostess, says, “you guys, have a great time” as she’s getting up. justinbobby and heidi, who have seemingly done their work and don’t have to talk to each other anymore but are content to just stare into space.
in the overhead shot, we see lauren adjusting her dress and getting the hell out.
lauren crosses the frame and exits stage right. stephanie scoots over next to audrina and whispers, dubbed, “i think lauren’s totally upset.” no fucking duh.
whatever, i’m done with this shot for shot shit. lo and lauren meet up in the darkness of the floor and lauren, as she often does during emotional scenes running her hands through her hair, says, “i can’t pretend it’s normal that we’re all sitting together.” and that she wants to go home. because of the angle, we can see neither her face nor lo’s for the entirety of their exchange. it’s like they have merged into a unit. it also seems to me their lines are the live audio and not dubbed. lo goes to get her stuff to leave.
lauren stares off at the table, back at…
team heidi, in her base, in her light. back to…
lauren, watching them and then turning away into the darkness of the mass in the club as the scene ends.
god that took a long time to do. what did we gain? anything? i hope. fail better.
morning after scene with steph and heidi is a snooze. heidi pronounces audrina differently than everyone. she says ah-drina while everybody else says aw-drina. is this because she was friends with her first?
the parallel lauren-lo afternoon after scene is much better, mostly because lo is wearing an absurd scarf and then in close-up unwinds it. but then they talk about getting a house and lo unloads another perky yet bitchy comment, this time about audrina. lo: “maybe she’ll bring heidi and justinbobby to the new house” and lauren gives this “egads!” kind of eyelook and then lo does a kind of pseudo-mock-serious “that’s not allowed” (kind of like her mock-chastizing of frankie for having a girlfriend a couple of weeks ago) and lauren picks up on this whiff of rigorous judgement of others actions and loves it and loves lo for it and this is why they are good friends from so long ago.
AUDRINA WEARS A BLACK LEATHER JACKET TO MEET JUSTIN BOBBY. HE SAYS, “LIKE YOUR LEATHERS.” HE IS WEARING A BLACK LEATHER JACKET, TOO, AND THAT STUPID HAT FROM THE CLUB. LIKE YOUR LEATHERS. ROCK AND ROLL. I AM GOING TO WRITE A SONG ABOUT AUDRINA AND IT IS GOING TO BE KIND OF STOOGE-Y AND I AM JUST GOING TO REPEAT THE WORDS “LEATHER JACKET…EYE MAKE-UP…ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLL” OVER AND OVER AGAIN OVER A REALLY HEAVY RIFF. HE SAYS, “LOOKS LIKE YOU MISSED THE BIKE, HUH?” and when she demurrs, he says in a fonz-y kind of syllabic elongation, “COME ONNNNN?” you can tell by audrina’s facial expressions that he has already won her over, that he won her over at the club, that she wants him back. he cleverly makes mention of how “no one’s been on the bike since you,” like I WONT CHEAT ON YOU BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT, BABY. “I’VE GOT A SOLO SEAT,” he says, “I HAVEN’T HAD ANYBODY ON IT” audrina continues to play obsessively with her earrrings as at goa earlier. JUSTINBOBBY SAYS, “needed to get my priorities straight,” and does a sort of eye pop, like, “get it, audrina?!?” he wins her over more by coming out as anti-gossip and commenting on “all the BS that’s gone on” and she notes “i’m over all this stuff and i’ve got my own stuff and i don’t need all this drama. TO SEAL THE DEAL, JUSTINBOBBY USES METAPHORICAL LANGUAGE LIKE FROM A BAD ROCK SONG: “it’s not nice when you FALL AWAY FROM PEOPLE, but when you, kind of, REGROUP AGAIN, it’s…” audrina, finishing his sentence, vibing, on his wavelength: “…good company.” justinbobby: “absolutely.” THEY ADMIT THEY MISSED EACH OTHER. JUSTINBOBBY ASKS WHAT AUDRINA IS DOING LATER AND SHE IS ALL COY AND “I DON’T KNOW” AND HE EYE POPS AND JAW TWISTS SUGGESTIVELY AND AUDRINA LOOKS AT HIM VACANTLY BUT WITH A HINT OF SEDUCTION AND THEY PROBABLY HAVE SCREAMING FEEDBACK FLAMING GUITAR ROCK AND ROLL SEX LATER.
spencer and stephanie split a sandwich last week. lauren and audrina split a grapefruit this week. aww, roomies. i also love how “he didn’t burp at all” is a major improvement for JB, on par with getting off drugs. i also love the way lauren eats her grapefruit, first randomly stabbing it with a knife and then at the end of the scene doing this weird sort of modern dance routine with her spoon.
when audrina says, “it’s like you and jason and stephen” and lauren has her big line we’ve heard so many times in previews and promos, “no, because i stopped going back to jason,” it’s totally undercut by the fact that in the preview for this week we see her…going back to stephen. L O L.
and spencer is, again, on the couch. it is just great characterization, to put him in this place over and over again, to define him by it. his manner is great (“can i help you?” as if a butler and not her pseudo-ex-boyfriend). his wounded, defensive thing (“you said you were here to see steph and now you’re pretending to talk to me?”) she starts to tell her story about going to a club, the exact thing she blew up at him for doing the previous week, and he totally shuts her down (“cool, did you have fun?”), denying her the right to relate her narrative. she keeps going, playing him for sympathy and connection by talking about lauren and how stephanie made her uncomfortable by talking to lauren. he shuts her down again from his reclined position (“i know you want to vent about this, but i really have no sympathy for you. i mean, who did you expect to find at goa?”) heidi tries some of her cliches on him and he blasts her by crushing the sort of fantasy that she probably has had about lauren (“what you think you guys are going to move back in together and everything’s gonna be hunky dory?”). she is stunned silent. he goes in for the kill, says again, “no offense, i really don’t want to talk about you out at clubs,” he raises his eyebrows so high in agression, and says, “maybe you should wait for my sister to come back,” i.e. this conversation is done. heidi says her “ok, i’ve gotta go” and this time there is no dumb audrina to beg her to stay. spencer says, quasi-sarcastically, never moving from his groove in the couch, “it was great seeing you, enjoy your space,” and heidi leaves and we see her leave. walking out the door in these absurd tight, white short shorts. this particularly male gaze objectifying camera angle is picked up on by spencer, who adds, genuinely, “you look great” which gets some wordless angst from heidi as she exits.
at the restaurant where lauren, lo, and audrina are eating, the banner outside says “authentic” mexican. ha ha ha ha, i’ll add that to my list. silly girls, don’t they know don antonio’s is life changing mexican food?
that is an ugly fucking hat lauren is wearing. did she borrow that from audrina’s closet? the scene is interesting at first because what lauren is tacitly trying to do is to convince lo that audrina should not live with them (by telling stories about JB). but of course, it’s been obvious from the inception of the idea that lo, as lauren’s oldest, dearest friend, doesn’t want audrina in the house and needs no such convincing. what lauren, in that UGLY PINK HAT is doing, is convincing herself that audrina should not live in the house, even as she’s about to invite audrina to live in the house (lauren just doesn’t want to be happy!). they pause talking shit about audrina’s dirty boys when audrina herself appears. she is stuck in the middle of them in her black garb with her dark hair, flanked by blondes in white clothes giving her the third degree about her morality and relationship choices. she tells lo about going out with justinbobby and lo questions her with an authenticity thing, “really?” and audrina looks to lauren for help and lauren is just staring, silent, sipping her drink and playing with the straw. and honestly, i’ve never really liked audrina, but it’s pretty awful how they are ambushing her here, bumrushing her, and you know part of it is for the cameras, like they could be a lot more subtle and less “mean girls” but they are playing it up because they’ve seen “mean girls” and the editor and the producers are playing it up too. and god, all the awkward stares and drink sips and pregnant pauses, which are actually effective satirized by the remix on “the hills:aftershow” and the scene ends with lauren and lo just chewing their food awkwardly and not talking but poor audrina, ahdrina if you’re heidi and awdrina if you’re everybody else – she has no food to chew, she’s having soup, and it hasn’t even arrived yet. le pain quotidien, indeed.
my song this week is called “sadness” and it is about sadness. i watched that documentary about daniel johnston last weekend and really loved it and was moved by it. afterward i wrote this song in about 5 minutes and this is the first take i recorded. it’s no daniel johnston, but i was happy with it.
April 18, 2008
- heidi: “hi, i’m here to see audrina.” even though this is like, a corporate office of a record company, a campus large enough to have its own cafeteria, heidi doesn’t have to specify who audrina is or what department she works in and the receptionist knows instantly and exactly who audrina is and where she goes.
- and as jared noted earlier this week, why show us this scene? what do we gain? like, in the episode when spencer had to wait at heidi’s job, there was a plot purpose to him talking to the receptionist and waiting around, it was necessary to create tension. here, though? why? i guess in this case we have to be eased in to the fact that audrina and heidi are spending time together. if it was just a cold open of audrina and heidi at lunch, it would be jarring in a kind of cheap, oh aren’t you SHOCKED! kind of way.
- heidi: “this is so cute, it’s like a real cafeteria.” that’s because it is a real cafeteria, heidi. it’s interesting, though, besides being another instance of a character using a word signifying authenticity (and in this case, something being not authentic, but “like” something authentic; the hills is “like” a scripted drama and “like” a reality show), because what i have to believe heidi means by “real cafeteria” is a school cafeteria. a school cafeteria, just like the place where lauren and stephanie pratt, the other matched pair in this four-way cage match, ate at the end of episode 22. school cafeteria = adolescent drama.
- i did it the last episode and i feel the need to directly quote heidi’s monologue again.
- “you don’t know…like, you don’t know how nice it is to be able to talk to you again…i’m really like gaining myself again, and i’m, like, hanging out with girlfriends…and like, okay, you know what, i really need a girls night out, no boys, no spencer, will you come?
- i mean, it’s like a burroughs cut-up of “cosmo” or something. she has taken every tired cliche of how women are supposed to react to “trouble with their man” and internalized it and made it completely genuine. she needs a girls night out, not a night out with girls, but that concept, a girls night out.
- because the scene as we see it, like so many lauren and heidi scenes before and to come, isn’t anything like a real two-way conversation. heidi talks about needing audrina and needing girlfriends, but in this episode, she doesn’t seem all that interested in what they have to say. in the cafeteria, she doesn’t need audrina to be an equal partner in the conversation, she needs someone to pay attention to her and validate her with that attention. at the club later, she doesn’t need “girls,” she needs eyes and ears and bodies to surround herself with.
- the thing about the casting scene at people’s revolution is that it’s confusing. like, normally when i talk about how complicated the show is i’m talking about multi-layered fact-fiction performance-verite thing. but this people’s revolution scene is just hard to follow, confusing and complicated in the “i don’t understand what i am looking at and how this image relates to this image sort of way.” as viewers of “the hills,” we are used to locked down cameras, simple shot-reverse dialogue scenes, the occasional slow pan. in this scene, though, there are crash zooms, things going in and out of focus, camera flashes, whiplash pans both horizontal and vertical, obviously handheld cameras, rapid fire cuts. there is very little sense of visual continuity. i would say that the camera breaks the 180 degree rule but it seems that the axis that would define that rotates and then becomes an irregular polygon. kelly cutrone’s narration of the scene, the main audio, which is really less narration and more her barking a series of commands and non sequiturs, seems to be a shot or two ahead of the visual information we are getting, so the scene feels as if it’s racing to catch up with her. the chronology is all fucked up; large chunks of time seem to have been excised and moments pared down to absolute essence. it is all the perfect sort of formal representation of what it feels like to be confused on your first day of work, to be unfamiliar with the geography of a place, with where things are (lauren: “getting paperclips, getting paperclips!”), with who people are and what are their names and why are they looking at you like that (lapublicistjessica is totally creepy with her pursed lip stares and shifty eyes and palette breaking pink dress!) seriously, if you have the show tivoed, watch this thing in slow motion and tell me where else could you see a scene shot like this?
- and then the next scene opens with spencer staring at and then smelling a slice of bread! oh my gosh, it’s so avant. have you ever seen that on television, a person standing in silence and smelling a slice of bread!?! i loved reality television from my first moment of “the real world” but the moment when i became really and truly aware of loving it was a scene in an episode of “the surreal life,” i forget which season. the cast were doing some sort of conventional stagey scene, one of the ones where they read their itinerary for the day, and then there was this stray shot of da brat in the kitchen, eating a pile of thinly sliced deli ham out of its plastic bag with her bare hands. and in the moment I just sort of felt, like, there is nothing I would rather watch on television than her eating from this bag of ham, that i could watch it forever or at least until the ham ran out.
- and just the idea of these spoiled super-rich trust-fund kids arguing about turkey, that they don’t have enough turkey left in their refrigerator for two sandwiches and that when steph sees him with the empty bag of turkey, she is pissed off and it reinforces to her what a selfish ass he is, but wait, he has a plan, they’re going to split it and there is something kind of adorable and redeeming about that, like he has thought about this turkey sandwich situation that might arise and he knows that she would be pissed if he took all the turkey and so he is making a sandwich to split with her, and there is a sense in his tone of voice that he wants her to sit with him on the couch or maybe just stand up at the bar as they eat the two halves of this turkey sandwich together, like, there is something sweet and domestic in it in the same sense of spencer’s neglected housewife routine from the beginning of the season.
- oh yeah and so lauren is an intern at teen vogue…a fashion magazine…and, during fashion week…seemingly the most busy time for fashion…she has “nothing all week.” hah. then of course the nonchalance of the job offer from kelly cutrone, the phrasing of it (“we’ll be happy to have you”) as if she’s already accepted it, which of course she already has.
- i continue to feel so bad about for lapublicistjessica. it really makes me dislike kelly cutrone. like everybody on the internet seems to be in love with her, and i agree, she’s dynamic and entertaining, but what she is doing to lapublicistjessica here seems like a really fucked up thing in terms of like, real world morality (as opposed to “real world” morality). like, she is doing to jessica the same thing that brent bolthouse did to elodie when he promoted heidi over her, but back then everybody agreed that bolthouse was a douchebag and an opportunist for that (also elodie was allowed to be a three dimensional person and it was made clear she was being screwed, while lapublicistjessica gets no such halo). this is this woman’s real job (presumably) and she is continually cast as as an incompetent idiot. even if this is all a put on by kelly cutrone for the cameras and she’s going to give lapublicistjessica a great recommendation when kelly inevitably (fake) fires her, still, she is branded as this idiot person who can’t do simple tasks. it’s mean. i wonder if sponsored players (i.e. people who get their own name chyron) get more money, like in a movie when an extra gets a line then they get more money.
- and there’s our algonquin round table, the “girls night out” that is the title of this episode. heidi asks, “so what’s going on girls?” like a good talk show host and she is just so happy to be out in the world with other women. but, again, she could care less about what they have to say. this is at least partially if not wholly an effect of editing, but watch the transition from the punch line of stephanie’s joke to heidi’s reaction shot or from the end of audrina’ story to heidi’s reaction shot. there’s like this little delay to her reaction, like she is not really listening to the story but has become aware from the people laughing or smiling or reacting around her that it’s time to laugh or smile or react.
- her shining moment in the scene seems to come after spencer arrives and, as chiara put it in the last episode, “shit goes down,” when she says that even though she’s pissed at spencer, if a girl “came up to him,” heidi would “kill some bitch.” audrina responds with a smiling, seemingly genuine “that’s how i am too!” and then this allows heidi make an exuberant generalization about femininity (“girls are so aggressive”) and stephanie and audrina are nodding along and everyone is paying attention to her and she is bathing in the estrogen and all is right. even though this supposedly really bad thing is happening to her, the scene is ecstatic, she’s smiling, she has an energy and an excitement she hasn’t had for weeks. she takes it a little campy and over the top with her triplet of “they’re taking shots?” (i love that this completely arbitrary moment is her breaking point, it highlights the insanity of the whole thing) and also when she breaks up the party and she is holding her hands up the air, shaking them like a mental patient. she says she’s shaking because she’s so mad but i think it’s because she’s so excited.
- and her anger at spencer is seemingly much less about spencer talking to other girls than the fact that he is invading her feminine space, her girls night out.
- “you’re delusional if you think i was flirting with those girls.” spencer is doing what justinbobby did after audrina “caught” him “kissing” that girl: he’s questioning the worth of visual evidence. heidi was watching him and she thought she saw him flirting with the girls and what he is telling her is: you can’t judge what actually happened by what you saw from the other side of the bar. you can’t get the whole truth from visual information.
- and the thing is, he both was and wasn’t flirting with those girls. in one sense, he was flirting with those girls; i don’t know what else you would call that bullshit conversation about sipping shots. but in another sense, it’s obvious that he was only pretending to flirt, he was “performing” flirting. he was, as characters are always doing on “the hills,” especially during bar/club scenes, putting on a show for someone else to watch from a distance. when heidi asks him, “what if i weren’t here, what would you be doing?”, the answer is probably eating a turkey sandwich and watching TV. if he wanted to hook up with drunk girls at the bar, he would have probably gone somewhere else than the place that he knew she and his sister would be.
- the fight was pretty blah although i liked the pretty changing colors – they reminded me of the party scene at the beginning of “pierrot le fou.”
- oh lauren: “he probably pays them. no girl would willingly touch that scum…whoah, where did that come from.” that reading was CRAZY. she is not an actress and does not want to be, but she is so incredibly good at being herself.
- is it just me or did they really go over the top with the color correcting in that heidi-kimberly scene? the contrast is so high and combined with kimberly’s over-the-top makeup and fringe it almost looks like a rotoscoped cartoon, like ‘a scanner darkly’ or something.
- the last scene in the car was just amazing for how illogical it was. the idea that this show is scripted is ridiculous because if someone wrote this kind of scene, it would still be illogical, but there would be a kind of logic to the illogicality, the kind of logic applied, the singular consciousness writing the thoughts of two characters. there’s none of that here, but i think the main reason it’s so incomprehensible is acutally because of the subterfuge, the fakeness. because in this scene, spencer is being completely rational and logical about their relationship: there is no good reason why they should be on this “relationship vacation”: either they should break up or they should get back together. honestly, do you want to know something? i no longer have any idea what the precipitating event was to heidi and spencer’s “relationship vacation.” like, not a clue. i have a bad memory, but i should really know like, basic things about this show. but the fact that i can’t remember it signifies to me that it couldn’t have been that major (maybe it should just signify that i’m stupid). anyway, heidi has nothing tangible to say and just keeps clinging to these concepts of needing space, of giving up so much for spencer, of “relationship vacation,” she keeps repeating these things, like a script, and they feel hollow and empty and don’t make sense because, well, they probably are a script (of sorts).
- as i mentioned last week, i have something to say about whitney. i feel that we’re seeing a real character shift for her, both in terms of her television representation and her real life personality. the clues about her character’s increased prominence and autonomy are in the show, plain as day, but to me, the most telling thing is external: it’s that MTV leak to radar that apparently whitney and lauren are going to move into an apartment together (paid for by MTV). now, assuming this is true (which i’m not sure about, considering didn’t lauren just move into a 2.3 million dollar house that she bought? why would she then move out and back into an apartment?), but, assuming it’s true, this is a huge change from the whitney of a year ago or even the whitney of six months ago. whitney used to say that she wasn’t really close friends with lauren, that they got along but were really only together for the show, she wouldn’t have her personal relationships shown for the cameras (direct citations are beyond my grasp right now, take my word for it). now, though, now she is moving in with lauren, into an apartment paid for by MTV, into a role in which she will presumably have to expose a lot more of herself and her life. the question, like always, is real or fake – is whitney really closer than lauren because in the storm of publicity and attention accompanying this season, whitney and lauren had a bonding experience and their relationship actually became a real friendship instead of a co-star/co-working thing or is whitney fakely closer with lauren because she has seen the opportunities that are available to her if she continues to be a TV star and she likes them and she wants or is it something else or is it a combination of the two. blah blah updike fame mask eats face blah blah. whitney’s face is too active and expressive to be eaten by a mask.
- i’m southern and my momma always taught me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, so i’m not going to say anything at all about that piece of shit “criticism” that was phoned-in by snotty nancy franklin in “the new yorker.“
- my song for this week (right now it’s about “happy days,” both the beckett one and the richie cunningham one) is taking too long to complete and i want to get drunk tonight so i’m going to post this now and commit myself to doing a post about “the hills” movie this weekend and post it then.
March 26, 2008
- so, that was good.
- in the recap from earlier in the season, brody’s “i’ll always be there for you, you’ll always be there for me” reminded me again of “friends.” this time it wasn’t the theme song, the beginning of every show, it was how “friends” ended, the finale. as you remember, in the last season of “friends,” rachel gets a job as a buyer for louis vuitton in paris. ross tries to convince her to stay in new york, but their relationship has become too complex and this opportunity is too good, the job too perfect to give up. he tearfully confesses his love to her at the airport, but it’s not enough. except then at the end of the finale he is in his apartment and she leaves a message on his answering machine about how she “has to get off the plane” and then as soon as the message ends she is standing in the doorway and “she got off the plane” and the narrative arc begun ten seasons earlier is finally neatly bow-tied and eyes cry and hearts are warmed, all because “she got off the plane.”
- obviously “the hills” exists in opposition to that kind of narrative arc and that kind of romantic ideal. in the first season, lauren didn’t “get on the plane” to go to paris, either, and it seemed like a great idea at the time because she loved jason so much. but unlike “friends,” a sitcom, which is allowed to end and freeze and stop time, where we can just imagine that monica and chandler grow old together on some metaphorical front porch in an eternal sunset, where we can believe that ross and rachel’s clashing personalities cease clashing until they die together in their sleep in the same bed holding hands, “the hills” is a reality show and it keeps going and it became quickly clear that not getting on the plane was a bad thing, a thing to regret, a mark against lauren’s judgment and character. in “the hills,” there is no ross, no chandler, no joey (i think the closest we probably came to a ross was that well-meaning dim-bulb tallan from “laguna beach”); there are no guys who are basically good hearted and don’t have some kind of agenda (spencer, frankie, all of them) or demon (spencer, jason) or skeleton in their closet (spencer, jason) or just general asshole tendency (all of them, gavin). for lauren, there is no “mr. right,” there is “mr. ok” and “mr. maybe for a couple of weeks” and “mr. he’s not as bad as the last one.” even though she was like totally in like with brody jenner right before she was given the chance to go to paris, LC didn’t bat an eyelash over the decision – as she says herself in the introductory voice-over – “i had turned down paris for a boy before; i wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.”
- the first scene was delightfully meta. i started to watch “inland empire” this weekend, as a kind of spiritual prep for the season, and lauren and whitney’s first scene with the driver definitely reminded me of the first scene in “inland empire” with laura dern and grace zabriskie (also the episode as a whole and especially the scene at the debutante ball reminded me of the david lynch gucci ad, which seems to steal its midnight helicopter shots right from a “hills” edit bay). lauren and whitney are picked up at the airport by a driver. he will take them where they want to go. he tells them “it’s a new world for you,” that “everything is different.” this is a kind of “through the looking glass” remark and lauren asks, like little alice, “how is it different?” he puts the reins in her hands by saying “it’s up to you to see.” they decide the plot, they decide where to go, what to do, how things play out.
- we’re in paris now, i’ll be your tour guide, on your left is barthes – do not follow the signs, they may be misleading. sorry, that was painful. the thing i love about “the hills” and reality television in general is that they are a complete blow to the dated, romantic idea of the author, or, since we’re in france and since we’re talking about visual media, the auteur. the work that hisham abed and jason sands and tony disanto and the editors they employ do is crucial to the success of “the hills,” definitely, but the work that lauren and whitney and audrina do is crucial, too, and at least equally important. they are not just actors, they are writing the story of the show with their lives. everyone is collaborating to create meaning, they are all the author, even audrina. the cast and crew should have a centerfold in some critical theory journal, all wearing glasses like lauren does in that scene where she is sitting in the computer lab and wants to look studious. personally, i like this model of authorship way more than david simon giving sermons on the mount about how brilliant he is and cockslapping anyone who disagrees.
- of course, the producers will try to control what happens. whitney asks, “what are we going to do?” and the driver notes, “oh, you have your itinerary.” this is obviously an allegorical stand-in for a script – the girls are supposed to go to location one and then location two and then location three – they are supposed to do these things in this order, to follow the plot. later, in the hotel room, lauren asks a similar “what do we do now” question and whitney says that there’s supposed to be an intinerary slid under the door, and, voila, there it is, the new day’s script, just like how real movies are produced! isn’t there a scene similar to this in “day for night“?
- yet lauren and whitney have no respect for this plot, this script, at all. impulses and whims trump order and logic. the intinerary says they’re supposed to pick up the shoes first and then get their gowns. but lauren decides not to to, that, fuck the script, we want wardrobe, we want our pretty dresses; we make the decisions, driver, we own you, you have to take us where we want to go.
- that this horrible decision will have negative consequences is totally, obviously telegraphed. as an audience, we are trained to understand that because of the economy of time on television we wouldn’t be getting this information unless it was going to be important later. yet, at the same time, it is telegraphed in the same way that things are sometimes telegraphed in real life, like when after we fuck up the reason we fucked up is completely obvious. a jezebel commenter noted during their liveblog, “shit i feel like they should have gotten the debutantes shoes first.” this isn’t an ironic comment, this person is genuinely reacting in the moment because she has probably had a totally similar experience.
- the meta tendency is reinforced after the scene where girls pick up their dresses. outside the store, the driver asks them “was it good”? he is an analog for the producer – he drives them around and asks them how they are doing, how their scenes are going. he tries, with his itinerary, to tell them where to go, to shape the narrative, to get the footage he needs, but ultimately he is stuck following their (stupid) decisions. he is a driver and he is always down. :P
- when the girls go to collette, the decisions re: blocking and cinematography are telling. when they pull on the glass door and it doesn’t open, the obvious cinematic tendency would be to cut inside the store to a reverse shot of the girls so we can see their faces, their reactions. but even though the producers could have easily put a camera inside colette, they don’t, because, despite the occasional incongruous dubbing, they are bent on maintaining the verite illusion of the show and in the world of the show, colette is closed and nobody is inside and nothing can be done about it. thus, instead, were are stuck with this long lens shot of lauren and whitney from behind and then we get a little closer and whitney turns to the side a little bit to accommodate the camera.
- this reminds me of something i heard on the “breathless” DVD commentary, about how a lot of the shots on the streets of paris were filmed in secret by godard, hiding with his handheld camera inside a mail cart to get footage without pedestrians noticing.
- which brings me, of course, to paris. in this episode, more than ever, location is significant. this is an entire hour-long episode of “the hills” that does not, except for a brief interlude with spencer and stephanie, actually take place in the hills – our settings are paris and crested butte, colorado. as i said during the previous trip to colorado, the images there feel so strange, like an alien landscape. the scene with heidi and spencer arguing beside the SUV is no different – one commenter noted that it looked like “a james bond scene.” to me, it seems like in a lot of the shots with spencer that they have brought in dry ice or a fog machine, like the actual climate doesn’t create enough atmospheric texture for the camera to pick up on so they had to augment it with something artificial.
- on this note, the establishing shots throughout the paris parts of the episode are really interesting. i guess it’s because when people think of paris, especially people (like me) who have never been to paris, they have a very preconceived aesthetic notion of the city. (this is kind of tenuous but i’m going to go with it for a second) the same is true of new york – like, when i think of new york i don’t think of what it’s really like because i don’t know; instead, i think of what it’s like shot by gordon willis or ernest dickerson or or the plastic-y simulation on “friends” and a ton of other 1990s sitcoms that i love dearly. felle owns roma of course, and for paris, my imaginary landscape is either a mid sixties godard film or some collectively held by americans gallic audiovisual stereotype of ye-ye girl music and reverent technicolor shots of landmarks and baguettes and cafes and gitanes (i’m sure there is a movie i can reference here, but i don’t know what – “an american in paris”?). it doesn’t matter whether paris is gritty as “code inconnu” or as pretty as “amelie” or whether (duh) it is a complex city that can’t be captured by a single film or director’s ouevre or even a delightful omnibus like “paris, je t’aime” – i don’t see any of that, i see it the way that it’s been built, celluloid brick by celluloid brick, in my mind’s eye.
- yet in the establishing shots and interstitial sequences, paris is treated with the exact same aesthetic template as LA. i know the process is more complex than this in real life, but it’s like the producers just shot a lot of random raw footage in the streets and then fed it into final cut pro and there’s some automated macro to cut out two second chunks (building, then cars driving fast at double time, then crash zoom-focus cars driving fast from other angle at 1.5 speed, then other building, then oddly framed shot of something random) and splice them together. obvious, there are some differences (i don’t think we’ve ever seen an evocatively framed shot of a bike rack or many people riding bicycles in the LA episodes), but largely, things look the same. if you lit it well enough and then shot it and color corrected it and chopped and screwed it the way that the editors of “the hills” do, could you make one of those LA drainage ditches (like in terminator 2!) look like the seine, could you make the city of angels into the city of lights? probably. what does this say about paris? it says that it is just another image to be appropriated and sampled as necessary, but it no longer has a real essence, no true importance that the editors and cinematographers have to revere.
- that this lack of reverence is an absolutely right and true decision for the series is proven by the one scene that actually is reverent towards the idea of “PARIS,” the scene where lauren and whitney and ROCK AND ROLL visit the eiffel tower at night with a bottle of champagne. this is also the one scene in the episode that is absolutely and totally flat and bland. the reason it’s flat and bland is that it’s really just a bunch of shots of a building (and not just a building, but a building everyone has seen a million images of before, q.v. the most photographed barn in america, but i’m not going to go there) in these exquisitely framed images of steel girders and iron cables and light bulbs, we can barely see lauren and co., they are a spectral presence in poorly lit long shots. there are no close-ups and no faces, and if there are no close-ups and no faces, there is no emotion or feeling or fauxthenticity and if there is none of this, there is no scene. they are no longer people or characters, they are just figures overwhelmed by the monolith.
- later in the episode, before matthias takes her on her moonlight vespa ride around the city, lauren says she wants to “see the city,” but that’s just a flimsy pretext for her tryst. she’s just saying that because it’s something people say – she doesn’t really want to tour the catacombs or hit up the louvre or whatever other touristy things, she wants a romantic moment with a scruffy french boy. as the two of them cruise, the landmarks become just marks in the land. at the beginning of the trip there’s a really great sequence which begins when matthias stops the vespa on the side of the road. the camera then cuts to a static shot of notre dame. who knows – they may be actually looking at it at that exact moment or it may have been picked up by second unit after lauren and whitney went back to LA. but anyway, the shot: it’s a postcard image, flat, still, you look at it for a second and then throw it away, which is exactly what the editor does, which is exactly what lauren does. lauren says she wants to “see” the city but really she just wants to “look at” it. after notre dame, the architecture whizzes by – you’ve already seen the eiffel tower, so who cares about seeing it again besides in a short tracking shot. l’arc d’triomphe is something you see, out of the corner of your eye, down the road from an intersection you’re speeding through on the way to your hotel; it’s not something to care about or stop and take a picture of.
- this visual irreverence and appropriation is mirrored with a linguistic version of same in that scene in the hotel where lauren and whitney are playing with the phrasebook, not trying to learn survival french or something educational but picking out words that are relevant to lauren’s personal life and then giggling at how funny and foreign they sound.
- this reminds me of that scene in patricia’s apartment in “breathless,” how she sticks her fine art postcards up on the bare white wall.
- blah blah globalization blah blah
- lauren’s conundrum about what to wear to go the club is yet another genius example of the specific implying the universal. probably not many people watching “the hills” have had to decide what they can wear to meet the dress code of a fancy parisian night club, but everybody has had some kind of crisis about what to wear when they’re going out. the same thing when lauren fucks up the dress – most people haven’t burnt an expensive french couture dress with a curling iron but everybody has gotten a stain on their clothes before. not many people have had to rush through the shower to get to a debutante photo shoot at an expensive hotel, but everybody has had to get ready quickly (also, i love when lauren calls whitney a “dirty girl” – oh, faux innuendo!) etc. etc. etc. it’s not the audience’s experience but at the same time it’s completely relatable; it’s a talking point for the girls who watch the show, it’s a discussion starter, it’s a way for them to connect and empathize with the characters and with each other.
- THE BAND IS CALLED “ROCK AND ROLL”! duh, lauren leaves the (relative) dreariness and boredom of her everyday life in LA for the (relative) glitz and glamour and ROCK AND ROLL of paris. it doesn’t matter that we don’t hear their music, it’s not important even that they are really rock and roll musicians (although it’s great that this is their one identifying characteristic, like, when matthias comes to pick up lauren the second time, he still has the subtitle “guitarist” under his name) but they are ROCK AND ROLL people, they represent ROCK AND ROLL as a concept, they drink and smoke and have long hair and wear really tight pants (obviously the archetypal rock and roll fantasy becomes a bit more effete en francais – a vespa instead of a harley, etc.) (also, i love how anything related to rock and roll, rock music, leather jackets, or dirty, unwashed hair has some kind of tangential connection to audrina.)
- LAUREN AND WHITNEY GO WITH ROCK AND ROLL TO A CLUB CALLED CLUB NEO. NEO IS A PREFIX MEANING NEW. THEY ARE TRYING TO FIND THE NEW THEM, THEIR NEW LIVES. THE TITLE OF THE EPISODE IS “PARIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.” IN THE CAR EARLIER, THE DRIVER TELLS THEM EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT. LAUREN ASKS HOW IT’S DIFFERENT AND THE DRIVER SAYS “IT’S UP TO YOU.” IF THIS WAS IN A MOVIE, THE SYMBOLISM WOULD BE BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS AND TRITE, BUT THEY ARE ACTUALLY LIVING THIS. IT IS SO GREAT THAT I HAVE TO WRITE IT IN ALL CAPS.
- in my post about the half season finale, i discussed the fairy tale theme and how the hills is an utter refutation of the idea of fairy tale love. in this episode, we’ve got more variation on that theme. i don’t even have to read into it that deeply; i mean, this is an episode about our heroines going to a ball!
- the obvious fantasy is cinderella: you go to the ball and you are elevated above your hardscrabble everyday life and you meet your prince charming. the reality, though is totally different – lauren and whitney are not real participants in the ball, they’re not debutantes, they don’t get to dance or find their prince charming. they are removed and detached from all this because they are working, they are doing their jobs: their beautiful ball gowns are just fancy uniforms, like butlers wear tuxedos.
- most of all what they are doing at the ball is the same thing that we in TV land are doing; watching, seeing, gazing, staring, looking at, whispering comments to the person next to them. besides the little snafu with whitney’s partner and the cards, nothing happens in the scene; they and we are just watching a really expensive parade. it’s a gorgeous, luxurious sequence but also the shots of the hordes of beautiful girls bathed in flashbulbs become, after a point, a little terrifying. the agony and ecstasy of observation.
- what about prince charming? oh, matthias, right. he’s tall (umm?), dark, uh, handsome? sure, i guess, if you go for that sort of thing. whatever, he’ll do.
- so lauren and matthias go on their moonlight vespa ride and it’s great and wonderful and yadda yadda. this is the transformative experience, this is the fantasy, this is exactly what lauren and the audience want, this is what we’ve been waiting for.
- but at the end, there’s no kiss! across america and canada, there are a million teenage girls sitting in their living rooms holding hands waiting for lauren to get her fairytale kiss from her mysterious stranger in france and she doesn’t, she just hugs him and walks up the stairs and lets the moment die. expectations popped like balloons.
- but they had to be because that’s the fantasy and this is NOT a fantasy, it’s reality, or at least reality TV. the reality is the kiss that matthias and lauren share not at the climax of the narrative, but smack in the middle of their story, outside of club neo. as lauren and whitney walk to a cab to go back to the hotel, matthias approaches them from behind. our first glance is of him rushing across a frame to catch them before they leave, his speed an obvious symptom of nervy desperation. he grabs lauren from behind. she says “oh my gosh, you scared me.” he, gripping her, shoulder, says “you were moving without telling me byebye.” she doesn’t understand (lost in translation!) and he says, “you were movin without kissing me byebye” and so she grabs his beard like handles and gives him an exaggerated gallic double cheek kiss. he is drunk, he smells like smoke, it is kind of unpleasant; it is uncomfortable, it is awkward, it is real, too real, maybe. if you have never been in a situation like this, let’s just say that on both sides it’s not very fantastical. it is romantic in the way the mary gaitskill story “a romantic weekend” is romantic.
- along these lines, it’s natural that spencer’s quixotic statement about heidi, that he’s going to “go find her on the mountain in colorado” is met with a derisive snort by stephanie and why spencer fails so spectacularly in his mission. the girls in “the hills” do not need to be rescued; being rescued is an imposition, it’s rude.
- it’s not that paris as a fantasy doesn’t exist anymore – it does, it’s just as seductive as ever. lauren and whitney come to paris expecting everything and a cherry on top. but they, just like andy in “the devil wears prada” or carrie in the paris episodes of “sex and the city,” come to understand that the fantasy is just that, a fantasy, something that they’ve seen in movies and TV shows and fairy tales. it’s not something that applies to their real lives (or even their fake lives!), it’s not something they can live in, it’s not sustainable. paris doesn’t change everything because it’s just a working vacation and on monday you have to return to your life, your everyday, your home, your city. lauren doesn’t stay and languish in some dusty garret with matthias and at night sit in cafes listening to small jazz combos, she leaves, she goes back home. whitney doesn’t have any beautiful technicolor dreams realized; what she realizes is that her job and everyday life are boring and unsatisfying and she leaves too, she goes back home. they get on the plane and go because that’s how planes work; they don’t have a one way ticket, it’s round trip, so they have to go back home. they are not the lost generation, they are generation: lost, and they have to get back
to the island, not get away.
- because, of course, dreams must eventually end and we must wake up. the waking up is in the last scene, when lauren and whitney are in the hired car – its windows are way blown out; the light is the kind of light that hurts your eyes the morning after, when you’re hungover. the return to the norm is ultimately signified at the very end of the episode, when whitney says, “well, it’s back to reality,” directly addressing the camera but not in a haneke way or a godard way or a welles way but in just kind of an accidental “oh-oops-there’s-a-camera-there” kind of way. all roads lead to the hills.
- FIN (LOLfrench)
- oh yeah, heidi and spencer. as you know, i think heidi is very important but this episode wasn’t hers. the one scene i have anything to say about is the first scene between heidi and her mom. the conversation is great because it’s just an endless string of cliches (“you have a lot of growing to do, both of you, individually. i mean, i would love to see you starting fresh and, and just working on yourself for a while.”) yet this is life, life is a string of cliches. life is not like “juno,” people are allowed to say cliches unironically and they do. i consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and i do it all the the time; i’m sure you do too. the other heidi-spencer scenes had some revelatory carverian repetition, but i have already written like 4500 words and i am really not in the mood to transcribe them. their day will come soon, i’m sure.
- my favorite shot in the episode was obv. when whitney tenderly swept a strand of lauren’s hair across her forehead.
- everybody’s talking about that ginia bellafante review and all i can say if that she is crazy, then i am like the unabomber probably. my favorite line in the review was the one about whitney as a shakespearean mute.
- 5 ways “the hills” in which the hills is JUST LIKE an antonioni film. so good. we should all have a cahiers du conrad; our cinematheque francaise can be mtv overdrive (sponsored by dove).
- this whole episode made me want to reread “things: a story of the sixties” by georges perec, which i read when i was in college. you should totally read it, it’s basically a narrative which defines this young parisian couple by the things they buy. it has a dated marxist ending that i don’t really agree with, but it’s short and otherwise good. if you want something about women in paris but lighter and more fun, you should read “the dud avocado” which is proto-chick lit. or you could read what is probably one of my top 3 favorite books, gertrude stein’s “everybody’s autobiography.“
- writing this was both great and frightening for me. it was great to write about it because i felt my brain working in a way that it hadn’t worked in weeks, noticing things, making connections, etc. it was frightening because my brain hadn’t worked that way for weeks. like, does my brain only work for “the hills” now? is that quotation i have at the top right corner of this blog totally accurate, is it killing me?
- there is so much more to talk about (check out this site, it is crazy)
the song i recorded this week is called “us, weakly.” i know, someone should beat the shit out of me for that kind of wordplay. i always write some kind of explanation or story in this space and i have something, but this is too long already and i am tired so i’ll save it for a little later
November 6, 2007
[splashcast OAAY5991HA YBIW9338LU]
- hey, it’s a “whitney does a good job” episode! to be more specific, it’s “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job, but then does a good job.”
- the fact that the episode was centered around this big event (“the fashion show”) basically precluded anything really interesting happening. like, take the scene before the first break where whitney and lauren are making gift bags. for the scene to be interesting, there would have be something else going on, some other element. for example, in episode 7 there’s a scene where ostensibly the girls are scouting locations, but this is just a pretense that breaks down immediately and lauren starts talking about a boy or something and whitney makes appropriate dazzling facial expressions. the scene this episode, though, is just about making gift bags. ok. same deal with the scene where whitney is learning how to seat a crowd. i guess maybe these scenes serve to build up the idea that “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” but i just don’t feel like that’s enough. i wasn’t bored, but i wasn’t particularly engaged, either.
- the exception to the above is the exchange backstage between whitney and lauren where lauren is just like saying combinations of numbers at whitney (“7 and 1…7 and 11…i’m 7, you’re 1″) and whitney is like omg. hilarious.
- i’m not sure how i feel about the “dramatic” centerpiece this episode, with the frantic intercutting between whitney racing around flustered and lauren trying to call her on a walkie talkie. i have talked previously about how intercutting like this breaks the unity of scene and seems too showy for “the hills” style. in addition, all the big sweeping overhead shots were wrong; this show is at its best when it’s at its most intimate; think “cathedral” and not cathedrals. still, there was a good rhythm, and if the only drama in this episode was going to be “whitney is nervous she won’t do a good job,” then this was probably the best way to milk it for all it was worth.
- did you notice any interesting celebrities? i only saw (i think) hayden panettiere (juicy). that was a fucking ugly hat hillary duff was wearing. is she like a rasta now or something?
- before “america’s next top model” and “project runway” and “a model life” i bet the shots of backstage at the fashion show would have felt so insidery and revealing and cool. but now, with reality shows and with this wikipedia level of knowledge that everyone thinks they have of everything, you really have to push harder to defamiliarize the world.
- the scenes with heidi and nondescript work friend were placeholder-y. there were a couple interesting spots in the lunch (“spencer’s just taking me out for a surprise dinner”), but i felt like heidi was really overselling the whole “what is up with my life omg???”discomfort.
- heidi’s remark about how she “feels like she should be turning 25 right now, you know” will, i’m sure, rouse some fresh ire from the blogs, but i found it kind of poignant.
- the heidi and spencer dinner was also pretty blah. the best part was when it cut back to them at the end of the episode and spencer is twiddling on his cell phone and heidi, disconnected, eats cake and unfolds her napkin and drinks water and pushes glasses around on the table.
- also i found it interesting when spencer asked heidi, “what’s that face?” everyone knows what that means in the real world, but it takes on a whole other dimension when you live in “the hills.” what’s that face? like, are you projecting that face at me or are you trying to telegraph it for the cameras? is it how you genuinely feel or is it the mood you’re trying to set for the show or is it a combination of the two? are you going to be doing this face later when we’re at home? etc. etc. etc.
- i have a bad memory and watching this episode i was struck by the idea that, hey, wasn’t audrina like public enemy number one at the beginning of last season? or was that the end of the first season? i don’t know, but either way, it’s funny because it’s like it never happened, it’s like the past doesn’t exist. it’s kind of the way that i have absolutely no memory of heidi’s asshole boyfriend from season 1, like nothing, he is a blank. i should probably rent the DVDs or something.
- audrina and justinbobby were adorable in their “rocker” outfits. the problem with the concert scene was that there was no emotional context. the combination of that lack of emotion, the focus on the band instead of on justinbobby/audrina, and audrina’s line, “I wanna get their CD so I can take it into Epic,” which is subtitled so as to just beat us over the head: it all tastes like really bad product placement.
- this impression was reinforced with awfully artificial staging and composition outside the club. like, oh yeah, of course, the guys in the band are casually chatting outside the club, completely ignorant of the the camera and tripod three feet behind them. audrina approaches, walking directly towards the camera. ugh. later, at the bar, i also didn’t like the staginess of the two guys in the band talking “in the distance,” the camera capturing them in the mirror. just felt like too much.
- when audrina first sits down at the bar, it’s like everyone in the room is paying attention to her. which makes sense, she’s the TV star after all. but in every other scene she’s in, she’s always playing second fiddle to lauren, always in the background. yet here she is, holding court, repeating the name of her funny drink order over and over again, fending off suitors, and you really get the sense that she is loving it, feeding off the attention in a way that she hasn’t before.
- and who is this rocker dude? this is his rock star game, to ask “where are you from” and to say, squeakily, that there’s “always an after-after party”? and then asking permission from her boyfriend to ask her out? you just played a hot show to a packed club and you’re soberly hitting on a girl with a boyfriend? of course the obvious answer is that he’s doing this to get screentime/appease the producers, that he could care less about audrina and, in fact, maybe he’s so stiff and lame because he’s having a real internal crisis like “whoah am i selling out??” like “bro, i thought i was an artist but, what, now i’m on this soap opera?” it could be that, like something out of “kaya,” but he also plays a pretty convincing wuss. justinbobby has more rock/roll in the grease in his hair than this dude has in his whole body.
- speaking of, justinbobby was hilarious. he is always good. the staccato clip of his laugh. flicking his tongue back and forth. the variation (“she’s a really good girl…she’s a really good person”) and repetition (“she’s pretty good…she’s pretty good”)
- although, watching it again, now i think that the second time that justinbobby says “she’s pretty good,” is actually just the clip of him saying it the first time replayed, separated by a cutaway to another angle. a reminder, of course, that the editor is creating the character as much as the performer. duh, i know, but it’s interesting to see it in a tangible way.
- “the hills” as achievable fantasy. now i will trot out the “sex and the city” comparison, for the umpteenth time. for the majority of the young audience of “the hills,” envisioning yourself in the world of “sex and the city” is complete fantasy; those women have Careers, they have Jobs. any dream we have of living their lives right now is as far fetched as thinking about being an alien or an astronaut. but for teens and twentysomethings, the fantasy that’s set forth in “the hills” is achievable, it’s the fantasy we can allow ourselves to have. we can’t imagine what it’s like to be in the world of “sex and the city”: to be a lawyer or the curator of an art gallery or a PR exec or a freelance writer who can somehow buy really expensive shoes and lay around her apartment all day. but what we can imagine is what it’s like to be an intern, at a record company or a PR firm or a magazine. what are lauren and audrina? interns. what were heidi and whitney just last season? interns. lauren and audrina’s apartment is nice and everything, but how different is it from an apartment that you’ve lived in or that someone you knew in college lived in? how much nicer is it, how much of a distance is there really? unless you lived in the sticks or something, i bet not that much. it’s not like it’s crazy blinged out or something; it’s the midpoint between middle class and the “back to school” spread in seventeen magazine. it’s fantasy, but it’s not a fantasy that makes you ache with jealousy to imagine.
- and like so much of “the hills,” of course, this is an illusion. i’m sure these people are rolling in money, i bet heidi’s birthday dinner cost more than i spend on food in a month, but at the same time, the show makes it feel like they’re in a situation that’s only once or twice removed from my own. enough to make it glamorous but not to make it foreign.
- the bread and butter of this blog is close reading and not my crackpot theorizing or shallow musings, but in this episode there really wasn’t an awful lot to read close. hopefully more next week.
in the player is a song i wrote called “won’t you please be friends.” it’s about how lauren and heidi should be friends again. i have never written a song about “the hills” because i thought it would seem kind of weird and obsessive, but who am i kidding? my friend alicia and i used to play music together and we once tried to write a song about alex h. from laguna beach and her existential crisis about how nobody knew her last name. notice in the picture audrina’s velvet underground t-shirt – nice. it makes me want to do a cover of “i found a reason” but change the spoken word part to be about lo. i also tried to do a cover of “wave’ by patti smith except about lauren instead of the pope, but it sounded too creepy, even for me.
October 30, 2007
[splashcast XYIP9111PQ HDNT3722VA]
- 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.
October 16, 2007
[splashcast FMMM2882VU RJBN7116CF]
- what was that thing whitney was wearing during her first scene with lauren? underneath it was like this white knit tanktop and over that was this weird three quarter sleeve thin purple bathrobe terry cloth i-don’t-even-know. dear teen vogue, is grandma couture the new “in” look?
- during the second season of the hills, lauren’s abilities at face and eye performance were completely overshadowed by heidi. she has matched and probably surpassed heidi now, but her saving grace as a performer then was the use of her voice. it’s still wonderfully expressive. that scene with audrina is superficially a conversation, but, like a lot of her scenes with whitney, it’s really just a chance for lauren to do a self-defining monologue. note how in the beginning she really doesn’t do anything with the tone of her voice and then slowly increases the amount of inflection (“i’m still really Broken”) culminating in this intense stress on her words when she was “i mean I made my roommate move OUT. like she couldn’t even LIVE with ME” all of this visually mirrored with the wild gesticulations of her hands. the look she gives audrina at the end, with the questioning eyes, is like the look a hopeful actress gives a casting director when she knows she’s done a good read. imagine someday young actresses preparing lauren conrad scenes as monologues to use for auditions.
- i was totally kreskin about lo’s character, as last episode i said “i see lo really coming into her type as that sort of ‘mom’ girl in the group,” and this week at the end of their scene lauren calls her “momma lo.”
- what’s weird in the lo scene is that lo is really acting as a sort of surrogate lauren. she’s giving the same kind of advice that lauren has given to audrina and heidi – stay away from this person, why are you meeting up with this person – and she’s doing it with the same level of emotional attachment and guilt that lauren uses, so much so that lauren seems to get slightly annoyed and goes on the defensive (see the way she cocks her head to the side and rolls her eyes as she says “i’m not throwing myself back in, i’m just going to lunch with her”).
- look at the calendar in brent bolthouse’s office. there’s like nothing on there, how is this business successful? i take this as proof to support my notion that is just a potemkin office, a set. heidi’s expressions are priceless in that scene. the way she furrows her brow and narrows her eyes, it’s like by talking about work he’s speaking a foreign language.
- loved the small moment at the beginning of the jen bunny scene with the cream spreading in the coffee. it’s something every sensual human being enjoys watching in real life and it’s really underutilized in representations, i think, except probably in a lot of shitty amateur photography. tangentially, the first shot of the episode, of the teen vogue office, was like paul strand shooting a company catalog.
- the jen/lauren scene was great. i loved the line about the friendship bracelet and the subsequent cutting/framing around the awkward pause.
- rare meta-reference when lauren says “truth and time tells all.” i want to talk about this in detail but i’ve been working on a long thing i’ll be putting up later this week about narrative self consciousness and “the hills.” it is kind of my unified field theory of “the hills” and it features lots of pictures of the girls in lingerie.
- purely for the plot, i hope that it was brody who started the rumors. i mean it’s way more logical that it was spencer, but we need soap style reversals here.
- the ends of the two spencer heidi scenes were both great. in the first one, spencer sums up the conversation they’ve been having by saying “lesson learned – you can’t depend on anybody.” the camera cuts from a close-up of him saying this to a medium shot. her mouth is wide open, because of the make-up partially but also because even she realizes that’s kind of an insane thing to say, like losing faith in elodie is losing faith in the entire human race (except spencer of course). then it cuts back to spencer who nods along in approval of his own point.
- the end of their second scene is even better. heidi says, as the closing music builds in the background, “i just think it’s so sad that they’re blaming you.” cut to spencer, who is looking down and rubbing his eyes and generally avoiding heidi’s gaze, which causes her to qualify what’s she saying with a questioning “right?” the camera stays on him as he continues to look away until heidi says “spencer” and he glances at her. cut on his look back to heidi, who’s staring at him imploringly. a split second before the next cut, her eyes squint a little, as if to say “hold on.” back to spencer, who has locked eyes with heidi. he does this devilish smile and this really slight little nod, as if to say “uh huh.” back to heidi, whose pupils spin around in her eye sockets as she deals with this information, then she shifts her body and drops her head, as if willfully, for her sanity, trying to block out this moment.
- justinbobby totally has the presence to anchor his own spinoff, but to have to deal with that would be like “staticky” and like not “happy and blissful and mellow” enough, so i doubt it’ll materialize. it’s interesting that i find myself judging the boyfriends’ morality by how much they want be on a TV show. like spencer really wants to be on TV = he is a bad person. brody jenner kind of wants to be on TV = he is kind of a bad person. justinbobby really doesn’t care about being on TV = he is a “real” person. yet it’s the goal of every decent american person to be on television and they can’t all be bad people – it’s entirely possible that the hypothetical perfect guy for lauren is a kind, decent person and also a total exhibitionist narcissist. and we’ll all say that he’s wrong for her, that he’s “just doing it to be on TV,” when really that’s only half of it.
- possible halloween costumes for hills’ cast: brent bolthouse – lurch. whitney – a ghost (traditional, a sheet). heidi and spencer – m & m’s (cliché but appropriately so). audrina – sluttier elvira. i don’t know about lauren, it seems like she’s beyond costumes. maybe a transformer. last year on halloween i went to a broken social scene concert and i wore black vinyl pants and a black vinyl jacket and a lou reed tee-shirt and a batman cape and mask. the rough concept was hipster batman but the execution was me sweating to death in sticky vinyl and feeling like i was going to die and having an awful headache from music that was way louder than necessary.
- this is getting harder.
in the player is a song called “all the ugly people in the world should be shot.” the original title was “disposable love” and that’s really what the song is about, but obviously “all the ugly people in the world should be shot” is a more attention grabbing title, so there. umberto eco has a new book about ugly people and why ugly people are more interesting than beautiful people. wait, i’ve heard this one, it’s cause they’ve got better personalities, right? no, eco says that ugliness is more interesting because there’s an infinite variation to ugliness while there’s an end limit to beauty (that golden section kind of bone structure, i guess?) ((and obviously the book is a load of complicated semiotics and shit but i am just going by the yahoo news interview here)). i disagree with eco, although i like his one-liner about how it’s less distracting to write about ugly people (“I was not disturbed by sexual desires.”). i do think that the sign of a truly progressive, radical cinema would involve all of the stars being really ugly, like not just quirky or strange or freaky but flat out mundane uggos like you see on line at the supermarket. i certainly wouldn’t want to watch that sort of thing (it makes my skin crawl just to think about it), but i would respect the statement.
(and really i’m just kidding, i love ugly people! at zoos, i wave and feed them pellets through the bars of their cages.)
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.
September 25, 2007
[splashcast MRDJ5167JJ TRCU7740GR]
- god that was bad. what happened?
- the looping was just ridiculous. i caught the tail end of an episode of “newport beach” the other day and there was this climactic scene where a teenage girl was in the jacuzzi with her new boyfriend at night. and they’re doing the kind of awkward glancing that this form does so well and then the camera cuts to a wide shot so we can’t see her eyes or her mouth or the expression on her face and she tells him, “i’m a virgin” and the line is looped. and it’s not like the producers are trying to redirect what the scene’s about; the next shot is the natural reaction of the cool manly surfer dude to her letting him know she’s still pocketing the v-card. i guess there was just obviously something about the way the girl said she was a virgin that just wasn’t an acceptable reading and what it really makes you wonder is how she said it, what words she used, what tone, what the look in her eyes was, how she was breathing, what she did with her hands. and i thought that was some pretty bold looping, but after this shit tonight…
- because really, I have no problem with looping as it’s usually done on “the hills.” i usually mention it here because noticing it is part of a thorough analysis of “the hills” and also because it raises interesting questions about televisual reality.
- and one question it really raises is, why not just reshoot the scenes? if there’s eventually going to be looping in every episode anyway, why not just do another take or two on location? maybe that’s interfering with the reality of these girls’ lives too much (maybe it’s in their contracts), but god, how is it really that different than them looping the lines later? i don’t think the authenticity division of the LAPD is going to show up at Teen Vogue and shut down the shoot.
- and so many dropped-in lines that aren’t necessary, that don’t make any sense, like the editor all of a sudden developed tourettes. like in the scene where heidi and jen bunny are looking for bridesmaid dresses, they enter the dress shop and as the door closes, they drop in heidi saying “oh, i can’t wait to show you this dress.” this is necessary for…continuity, context? she wants to show her a dress? no shit, that’s why they’re at the dress shop! the audience can make this connection, kuleshov figured all this out like 90 years ago and he didn’t even have final cut pro. and then as she stands trying on the dress in front of a mirror, they drop in another line, heidi saying “my heart is beating so fast.” stop with the cliché placeholder dialogue! please, give me some odd framings of her face and her eyes and a short cut to her hand gripping the tulle and play under the whole thing an anxious but marketable emo-ballad and i will feel that her heart is beating.
- john gardner describes the goal of fiction as creating “a vivid and continuous dream’. i think john gardner was a conservative jerk who would’ve hated meta-tv like “the hills” and i don’t agree with him on principle, but, still, there’s something to that line that describes why dubbing fucked up tonight’s show so royally. the dubbing was so obvious that i have to believe that even a viewer who has the least possible knowledge of the mechanics of television production was going “what the hell is going on?” and when that happens, all dramatic tension dissipates.
- any good things about the episode? the first scene was great. there was this excellent push pull editing between jason’s bullshit and lauren’s reactions. her eye moves and head bobs were all perfectly pitched. really all the stuff between lauren and jason was good (i never thought i would say jason was the best part of an episode). the “we’re taking shots” montage was really well done, there was a great shot of audrina holding her nose. the speidi shopping spree was okay and what a fantastic line out of left field when spencer says “i think we need to go to tibet” (is tibet still in? it seems so woodstock ’99). what if they had this total brangelina moment and went all granola and spencer grew out one of those monk beard/pony tail combos! the lauren and whitney scene at the end was decent, although the last smile is way too big to come so abruptly, it’s a little scary.
- i have made clear my feelings that whitney is the best performer on the show and this is obviously “the whitney episode” of this season, in the same way as that episode in the second season where whitney is picked to be a model on “good morning america” and walks and falls and recovers and its adorable and it’s touching, etc. and that episode was great. this episode sucked, not because of whitney, but because she had nothing to work with. wooden lisa love (hasn’t she seen ‘the devil wears prada’, doesn’t she know how she’s suppposed to act)? bland “artist you oughta know” pop-punk band (i’m just guessing) where the only one who talks seems like a less interesting clone of mr. fall out boy? predictable plot arc where she is set up to gently fail and then (shock!) does? please. give her something where she can actually express emotion. there was a scene in the trailer where she was breaking up with her boyfriend. when she said “i hope i don’t get wasted” and then the show went into that great liquor montage i allowed myself to believe for a second that the episode was saved because whitney was going to get trashed and then do something incredible. but no.
- i don’t even want to talk about this anymore. it makes me want to stop watching and write about that tila tequila show instead.
- yet i think there are only two episodes left and that is gut-wrenching.
in the player is a song called “phoning it in.” i really wasn’t feeling it today and i kind of phoned it in, so that is what the song is about. i recorded this before the episode of the hills tonight, so it’s kind of funny how coincidentally we both phoned it in. i almost went all laser floyd and put in some echoey telephone rings, but i think it’s enough as is. sorry. maybe i’ll do another song later in the week to make up for it. you know that stupid hypothetical question about which beatle you would rather be and everyone always says john or paul or george? it’s such bullshit, any sane person would be ringo in a heartbeat. if you’re john you get addicted to heroin and get shot. if you’re paul, your wife dies of cancer. if you’re george, you get stabbed, then you die of cancer. ringo just coasts along, free and easy.