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All posts for the month April, 2014

Face Off Season 6 Finale: Aliens at the Disco!

Published April 23, 2014 by vfdpixie

And here we are!  The Face Off Season 6 Finale!  The three remaining artists worked their fingers to the bone to get to this point.  The judges recapped the strengths of each of the artists:  Tyler had a large frame of reference that made his concepts and designs incredible; Rashaad was an “amazing painter”; and George was a sculptor extraordinaire.  These qualities were going to make it hard to pick just one winner.

The guys got a surprise from back home:  a Skype session with their loved ones.  George saw his sweet wife’s baby bump and she gave him an emotional message of love and encouragement.  Rashaad also got to see his lovely girlfriend’s baby bump and heard about his adorable and naughty son, and Tyler got a pep talk from his proud parents and cute dog.  It was a well needed boost for them to go for the big prize and give the final challenge their all.

For the last challenge of this “Season of Extremes”, McKenzie took from shows like Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Defiance which all introduced fans to new alien races.  The artists were to create 2 rival alien races inspired from a choice of constellations McKenzie provided them with.  These makeups also had to withstand a dance performance at an “underground dance club”.  As an added surprise, D.J. and music producer Rusko appeared.  He was going to provide the music at the performance, and since he uses laser lights for his shows, called for the artists to incorporate lights into their designs and makeups.  And of course, the finalists got to create their makeups with a team of their former contestants.

Tyler chose the Leo constellation.  His concept was light vs. dark, a gentle, elegant and peaceful female against an aggressive, darker male.  With his team of Graham and Chloe, they got to work.  Mr. Westmore liked his idea to use dreadlocks as an alien light mane for the male creature and suggested Tyler create a muzzle for the face.  He became stressed out when the face sculpts weren’t ready for molding.  He had many factors to consider, so to speed things up, he and Chloe sculpted while Graham cranked out the molds.  Tyler felt confident going into the performance.  I thought they were really beautiful makeups and performed well.  The judges thought the teeth were “wild”, and loved the paint job and chest form on the male character.  They also thought the male chest looked like a functioning organic armour, and Neville loved the placement of the female’s nostrils.  They loved the female iridescent paint job and male sculpting and the “incredibly successful” lighting.  To them, it was a cohesive makeup.  They thought he had been strong all season, and was a “visionary”.

Rashaad picked Ursa Major for his constellation, and for his team, Daran and Cat.  He came up with a bio-luminescent female and a male who hunted them for their light.  Mr. Westmore warned him that his paint job should project from afar so you could see detail.  When molding time came, his key piece for the female face didn’t set properly and had to be left to dry overnight.  The opened mold revealed a slightly scarred prosthetic that he worked with.  The end result was beautiful and really colourful.  I thought the female was stunning and “outshone” the male during the performance, and was worried the judges wouldn’t get his back story, but they loved his creations.  They thought the female face lighting was “celestial”, and raved over the male creature’s colours.  Ve pointed out that the scars on the female character that Rashaad was about to faint over were successful, and her lighting design and integration was excellent and the strongest out of the bunch.  They also thought the male definitely looked like a rival.  For them, Rashaad got stronger every challenge, and was in the bottom only once throughout the whole challenge.

George got the Cetus constellation and worked with Niko and Corrine.  He went for an aquatic theme, with a light source coming from both the character’s chests.  The red light he incorporated was their source of power from a dying red star.  Mr. Westmore advised him to make the female’s lips more pretty and feminine.  After dealing with some major ripping with his face appliances, he rushed with the paint job, which he was not happy with.  I thought the sculpting was stunning, but didn’t like the uniform look of the paint.  The judges loved the complicated sculpt (especially on the male), the “extraordinarily subtle” lighting, and the “awe-inspiring” forms.  They did say that the character didn’t look like rivals due to the similarity of their colours, and some of the paint obscured the light features on the male.  The judges agreed that George had been a consistent sculptor who was gifted with the knowledge of anatomical forms.

I have to comment on the performance.  D.J. Rusko played his hit “Lift Me Up” as the alien races floated in the dark to the infectious beats.  I love electronic music, so this was right up my alley.  The makeups looked great, but my favourites were Tyler’s creations, and Rashaad’s female alien.  I loved seeing the artists flip out over how good their aliens looked on stage as they boogied to that big tune.  Oh, and the artist for the back-up dancers? Daran’s sharp eye caught Greg Cannom creating their alien looks, a veteran SFX artist who has won 3 Academy Awards and worked on a long, long list of productions like Titanic, Mrs. DoubtfireThe Watchmen, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to name a few.  I love this show for all the surprise guests!

The judges were thoroughly impressed and loved the amount of work and detail that the artists put into their designs.  So who was the big winner?  Rashaad!!!  I was so happy!  I knew he had it in him to win!  He stayed focused and even-keeled through the whole competition,  really improved and took guidance well, and was just a stand-up guy.  He wins $100,000, a V.I.P. trip to one of Kryolan’s international locations, and a freaking Fiat 500!  This was by far my favourite season because of the attitudes of the artists and the incredible work they created.   I also think Rashaad, George, Tyler, and the rest of the artists this season are big winners because they all came out as friends.  Congrats dude!  You deserve it!!

 

Face Off Season 6 Episode 14: Werewolves Vs. Vamps!

Published April 17, 2014 by vfdpixie

As we continued on with the cliff hanger from last week, the guys were whisked off to another location.  They were still reeling at the fact that no one was eliminated!  A first time for Face Off!

They arrived at the Court of Miracles, on the back lot of Universal Studios.  This historical set was featured in films like The House of Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolf Man.  Once again, they were met by McKenzie and yummy production designer and director Patrick Tatopoulos for the second part of their challenge:  to create the vampire’s sworn enemy-the werewolf!  This nemesis had to come from the same world as their vampires in the previous challenge, and have a newly evolved feature that would take their vampire counterpart down.  Patrick’s advice was to create uncommon designs and to remember most of all, that the werewolves and vamps had to come from the same world.  At Elimination Day, the judges would consider BOTH creations to decide on the final 3 artists for the finale.  And as an added treat, Patrick was a guest judge.

George created a vampire that mutated into a werewolf.  He got to work and was advised by Mr. Westmore to make the face look more canine.  The massive head and neck mold took its toll on him physically again, as he had some bad wrist pain.  He had a last-minute issue when he found out his model was switched, so he had to rework the mouth to fit the new model’s face.  That modification ate up his time, so he scrambled in last looks to get all the details right.  The end result was a werewolf that was definitely from the same world as his vampire.  Even though Ve pointed out the paint job was rough up close, it looked great from afar.  they liked the creature’s profile, and the elegant shape which Neville thought looked bat-like.  He liked that the skin looked unique like shark skin.  Patrick really liked the ripped flesh effect and they thought both monsters looked similar and loved the back story.

Niko’s werewolf was a warrior that used spikes from its body to slay vampires.  Mr. Westmore told him to make the mouth bigger, and Niko took his advice.  He was scared because the judges didn’t like his vampire.  The ears on his werewolf had to be patched up and that took time on the last day, but he managed to create something original.  I thought the face was weird, but the judges appreciated his concept and originality.  Although they thought the ears were too flat, they liked the profile and thought the character was captivating.  It just scraped by looking like a werewolf, and the colour scheme was too limited, but they liked how the corners of the mouth were crafted.  Ve was impressed.

Tyler was happy he had a second chance.  His werewolf was a hunter that used an extension of bones in his arms to slay vamps.  He wanted to create a werewolf in mid-transformation but Mr. Westmore warned him to make sure the features were more dog-like, and to really bring his A game or else the werewolf would look too much like a vampire.  This threw Tyler for a loop.  He had to move away from the group to focus, and Mr. Westmore and McKenzie came back to assure him he was talented and to go for it.  This gave him the confidence to carry on and with a breakthrough, he created a new face even though his was short on time.  He was certain he made the right decision.  The finished makeup was an improvement from last week.  The judges thought it was more of a traditional werewolf, and the design of the skull transitioning to a human shape was beautiful for Glenn.  Ve thought he looked like he could kick ass, and they also liked the “superb” hair work and proportion.

Rashaad had a unique werewolf concept.  he created an Asian inspired werewolf with dragon qualities because his was bitten on a fire moon.  Mr. Westmore’s only comment was to make sure it wasn’t too dark so he wouldn’t lose detail.  Rashaad wanted to have finger extensions, and used his own hands to cast a mold.  Things were going well until he tried to open the molds and the broke.  This total disaster lead him to get crafty and use latex, hot glue and paper towel to make these fingertips…sounds like my last date…I kid, people, I kid…I actually don’t know what a date is these days, but I digress…he airbrushed hair onto his werewolf to create a beautiful makeup.  The judges thought it moved well on the model’s face, and liked the lower lip, but felt the chest could have used more treatment like paint or carrying the sculptural detail from the face down.  Glenn thought it was unorthodox in a good way and original but didn’t look like it could fight its vampire counterpart.  Neville thought it was a beautiful palette and liked how the ears were positioned to imply aggression.

The guys really went for it.  During their last days creating their werewolves, they reflected on their hard work and what it took to get to this moment.  George felt they were all doing this for their families, and Rashaad pointed out how they had become a little family of their own.  I really liked how they all became friends even though it was a competition.  Talk about decent guys with mature attitudes.  Take heed future contestants!  This final group is a lesson on how to go through stressful situations with confidence minus the ego, talent and courtesy.  Just goes to show you that one doesn’t have to be a jerk to succeed!

The judges had it tough but decided on George as the winner.  He was the first pick for the finale because of his terrific concept and both makeups looked like they came from the same world.  Tyler was next up because of his rebound from last week.  They loved his beautiful sculpt, paint job and hair work.  Last but not least was Rashaad.  They thought his werewolf was interesting but it was his vampire that put him over the top.  Unfortunately, Niko didn’t make the cut.  The judges appreciated his daring ideas but it was rough around the edges.  They thought he was a great concept artist and would do well.  He left the show with more confidence, creativity and hope for his career and future.  I loved Niko, not only for his talent but because he was so freakin’ adorable, but I think the right people in are in the finale.  I keep saying this but I mean it:  I can’t wait for next week!!!

 

Oculus: Madness and The Mirror

Published April 12, 2014 by vfdpixie

Oculus 2

Oculus (2013, 1 hr, 45 mins)

I am a Mike Flanagan fan.  This is no secret.  I became a fan of this director and writer after I saw his film Absentia at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2011, and was so taken with the unique storyline and minimal but effective production that it has become one of my favourite indie horror to date.  So it is no surprise that I was immediately jazzed when I heard he had come out with another horror film about a haunted mirror. A haunted mirror you ask?  Yes, and Oculus was the equivalent of a nightmarish M.C. Escher painting that kept you guessing at every turn.

Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) are siblings with a sad past.  Their idyllic family life was shattered by the violent deaths of their parents, seemingly fueled by their parents’ deteriorating mental health which left the children fighting for their survival.  After being traumatized by the deaths and institutionalized for 11 years, Tim is released and reunited with his big sister Kaylie, who seems to have her life together after being in foster care.  The reality is that Kaylie has recovered a 300 year old mirror that was in their childhood home which she feels is the cause of their parents deaths.  She wants vengeance and she needs Tim’s help.  With great reluctance, Tim agrees to help Kaylie in a supernatural showdown to destroy this ominous mirror, testing their sanity and determination.

I really liked the reworking of such a morbid subject:  the supernatural demise of a family.  We have seen it done with such classics as The Amityville Horror and The Shining, and Flanagan does a good job making his script fresh enough to keep the audience on edge with an old school horror feel.  He also manages to, once again, cleverly optimize minimalism to his advantage.  With only a few sets and some select special effects, this story was effective without the bells and whistles, but his skill at editing is what made the film for me.  It was perfectly timed and taught, and was key in the story telling as the characters lived almost parallel lives flipping between the past and present.

I was also interested in this film because my sister is adamant about never buying anything antique.  She is a very logical person, but believes that objects, especially wooden ones, hold the energy of past owners or spirits.  When I told her about the premise of this movie, she said “I told you so”, and was down to see it.  This was a good haunted object story, and the mirror itself, sculpted by artist Bruce Larsen, was dark and disturbing; a silent cast member with its own mythology that orchestrated a morbid fairy tale of a modern-day Hansel and Gretel.  I found the “Lasser Glass” intriguing and was hungry for more than what Kaylie offered in her investigations.  I also noted that the childhood home was on Hawthorn Way, and I’m not sure if Flanagan reached to his Irish roots, but the hawthorn tree is kind of unlucky and from what I’ve gathered, cedar, which is what the evil mirror was made of, is a highly spiritual wood that can hold spirits.  If Flanagan and his co-writer Jeff Howard were up on superstitions, they did a good job adding those elements.

The performances were great.  I’ll start with Katee Sackhoff, whom I loved as Starbuck on BSG, loved her even more when she made a guest appearance on Workaholics, and now I just adore her as she has made scream queen status.  Her transformation from doting wife and mother to maniac was uncomfortable and chilling.  Karen Gillan has my heart because of her Dr. Who fame, and it was nice to see her doing something completely different, from her bang on American accent to her obsessive determination, as Kaylie.  And then there is Annalise Basso as young Kaylie and Garret Ryan as young Tim.  They really made you feel for them as they dealt with the disintegration of their family.  Of course I have to make note of the scoring, which I am always aware of and is essential to any good horror film.  The Newton Brothers really set the tone for this creeping terror of a film, with ominous, full-bodied sounds that made hug yourself to get rid of the chill.

Oculus was a refreshing horror film that leaves you wanting more, and making an educated guess, I suspect there will be a sequel (at least I hope there will!).  Go check it out for some lo-fi, high art psychological horror that’s more story than gory.

Call Me Crazy But…Old School Horror and Female Intuition

Published April 10, 2014 by vfdpixie

The last few days, I have been immersed in the psychological horrors of yesterday; films with minimal effects, a touch or two of shlock, a great cast and a largely sound story (most based on best-selling novels).  They have not been, and in my opinion, cannot be duplicated, bringing us creeping uneasiness and self-doubt, but all of them featured a doomed female protagonist.  From The Mephisto Waltz and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death to Rosemary’s Baby and The Sentinel, these sleek films of the late ’60’s and ’70’s deal with the struggles of female intuition, the feminine voice and sanity.

the mephisto waltz

In The Mephisto Waltz (1971), Paula Clarkson (Jacqueline Bisset) is married to failed concert pianist Myles (Alan Alda), who becomes the object of ailing musician and Satanist Duncan Ely’s (Curt Jurgens) desire.  Duncan wishes to re-incarnate himself into Myles’s young body so he can carry on being a master pianist.  Paula knows there is something amiss, but her instincts are constantly dismissed by friends, colleagues and doctors.  The feeling grows throughout the film until she makes the ultimate sacrifice to be with her possessed husband.

let's scare jessica to death

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) brings us the story of Jessica (Zohra Lampert) who has recovered from a recent breakdown.  She moves to the country with her husband Duncan (Barton Heyman) and his buddy Woody (Kevin O’Connor) to live a more peaceful life, but they are met with strange occurrences in the small town surrounding their farm as well as a mysterious guest at their house.  She doubts herself constantly, believing she is still mentally ill, but all the while her instincts were right.

rosemary's baby

Of course we all know the story of Rosemary’s Baby (1968).  Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) knows there is something wrong from the conception of her unborn child to her neighbours and her isolation, but she too suppresses what she feels, believing others when she is labelled silly and emotional, and feels comforted that everyone else knows what’s best for her.  Dominated sexually and socially, she is treated like property by her husband Guy (John Cassevetes), who rents out her womb for Satan in exchange for fame.  Unfortunately, Rosemary realizes her own power and instinct too late in the game.  Cutting her hair, investigating her situation, and trying to plead her case to those in power will not give her the upper hand.  Since she can’t beat her oppressors, she reluctantly joins them.

the sentinel

The Sentinel (1977) brings us yet another intuitive woman in Alison Parker (Cristina Raines) who, despite being independent, modern and wanting to wait to get married, becomes a pawn in a supernatural fight for her soul.  When she experiences the unbelievable and tells the truth, she is medicated, subdued and her sanity is questioned, especially after two suicide attempts in her past.

All of these women have the same experience:  their gut tells them something is wrong.  That “wrong” is shrouded in so-called logical explanations, making them doubt their instincts.  Even though they know something isn’t right, it is because of traditional gender roles and a history of mental illness or fragility that allows the received rational thought of the time to discredit their natural, or preternatural instincts, intuition and experience.  Was this a way for the ruling patriarchy to play out fantasies of repressing the female voice in a time of feminist growth?  Second Wave Feminism (1960’s-late 1980’s) was emerging and questioning the status quo at that time.  What better way to subconsciously criticize women’s rights than to use popular culture to label women as crazy, fragile or silly for thinking outside of the box.  As the heroine feels an uneasiness with her situation, her free will and free thinking is routinely challenged as patriarchal ideologies escalate their self-doubt.  These women are penalized for being emotional, intelligent beings and for witnessing the extraordinary.  There is no “final girl” here, instead these films illustrate a “what if” scenario as supernatural forces (or society) overtake the rights of our heroines, taking a psychological snapshot in time to illustrate the consequences of defying social conventions.  Each woman is either subdued for speaking the truth like Alison and Jessica, or succumb to the pressures of society and their peers like Rosemary and Paula.

One film in particular, The Sentinel (with a star-studded cast including Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon and Jeff Goldblum), blatantly deals with the emerging female voice and sexuality in the era of ‘Women’s Lib’.  Alison wants independence instead of marriage.  She is coping with a persistent fiancé-to-be, the death of her promiscuous father, her suicide attempts, and renewed Catholic faith.  She moves into an old apartment house owned by the Catholic Church where there is an array of odd neighbours, the most interesting being a lesbian couple Gerde (Sylvia Miles) and Sandra (Beverly D’Angelo).  Alison is invited to have coffee with them, and when Gerde leaves Alison alone for a moment with Sandra, she is subjected to Sandra’s bizarre display of masturbation.  Alison is shocked and embarrassed, but I think the scene is very important.  To me, it illustrates, in a somewhat heavy-handed way, Alison’s confrontation with her own sexuality as she embarks on a journey to find herself.  Gerde and Sandra represent Alison’s repressed sexuality trying to emerge in some form, becoming distorted as Alison denies that part of herself.  The couple is free to express themselves and this freedom is seen as a perversion, demonizing their lesbian relationship.  Since the house is owned by the church, it is a metaphor for Alison’s traditional beliefs that engulfs her as she tries to be independent.  Despite her efforts to be her own person, Alison is doomed as she is unable to let go of her ingrained traditional beliefs and be true to herself.  She will eventually become a mute and blind servant who no longer has a self or a say in her future.

the entity

As we move into the 1980’s, films like The Entity (1982) give us a more literal representation of woman versus the omnipresent oppressor.  Carla Moran (Barbara Hershey) is a single mother who is tormented and raped by an unseen demonic presence.  She is persuaded to see a therapist who tries to convince her that past trauma is the culprit for her attacks.  When she seeks help from a parapsychology team, her skeptics soon realize a bad childhood may not be the answer.   What is different here is that our heroine fights back and walks away instead of succumbing.  Determined and tenacious, Carla will not let this presence defeat her.   This adaptation of a book based on allegedly true events seems to be one of the earlier films that shows the woman as a bruised victor; carrying on despite her oppressor’s constant presence.

It is great to see how female intuition has evolved since these classic films.  While we still have work to do, women are continually challenging and changing conventional sexual, cultural and political roles in film and reality.  The Descent, Gothika, and The Invasion are great examples of modern psychological horrors featuring women who are strong in their determination and intuition to beat the odds and triumph against evil and those who challenge their sanity (honourable mention goes to the female leads in Doomsday, 28 Days Later and You’re Next for some kick-ass lady power!).  So what have I learned from these films?  I think it is basic.  Horror is a perpetual lesson of how we, especially women, should trust our gut and stick to our guns even in the face of naysayers, slashers and creepy crawlies.  As a woman myself, I can remember countless times when I was told I was too sensitive, or that I was overreacting; that I shouldn’t be so upset or emotional.  All of these observations made me self-conscious and suppress true emotion when my instincts that told me something wasn’t right.  I ended up paying for that in so many ways that now, in my present life, I will never let anyone shame me into hiding my feelings or not trusting my gut.  So the next time someone tells you that you are too sensitive, or that you are crazy for what you feel, tell them to get stuffed, stand up for yourself, and carry on.  It might save you from the boogeyman one day…

 

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