All posts for the month August, 2014

Face Off Season 7 Episode 6: Wizard of Wonderland?!

Published August 28, 2014 by vfdpixie

This week Sasha was proud of her looks being in the top the last 3 challenges which gave her more confidence.  We shall Sasha, we shall see…

This Spotlight Challenge was most excellent.  They all went to Sony Picture Studios where they met under a giant, 94 ft rainbow made by Tony Tasset for the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.  McKenzie was amidst a whimsical tea party set, and she wanted them to bring characters of The Wizard of Oz to life but there was a twist (of course!).  They would have to pair up again to re-imagine the Oz characters as though they had fallen through the rabbit hole into the world of Alice of Wonderland!  This challenge had a lot of potential for creativity!

Jason and Sasha chose the Cowardly Lion.  Jason wanted to go for a creepy looking lion, which was not what the challenge called for.  Sasha hated the idea, and wanted to do something pretty and whimsical, but she didn’t speak up, which infuriated me!  COME ON GIRL!!  It was her ass on the line too!!  Mr. Westmore told him flat-out to get some whimsy going, and that it had to be up to par with the other concepts.  “Think happy and cheerful” he said.  Hear that Jason?  Happy and cheerful!!!  Mr. Westmore basically gave him a concept-The Cheshire Cat-and he still couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get to it.  Sasha pouted and that drove me crazy.  She came up with a way to create a fur look and painted it with stripes like the Cheshire Cat, but the colour scheme in general didn’t work.  The judges thought the face was too mask-like, the colours didn’t work, and they asked why there was no Cheshire Cat influence.  There was no direction and didn’t reflect anything involved with the challenge.  Sasha’s silence may have cost her this time because they were in the bottom.

George and Drew went for the Wicked Witch of the West.  Their concept involved the witch getting blown off her course in the tornado and ending up in Wonderland.  They wanted to create a twisted, tornado type hairstyle and were on the same page with their ideas.  Drew created a wrinkled texture skin for the back of her neck, and towards the end of their construction, decided not to create the hairstyle because they felt the hat would crush the hair, and the witch needed her hat for the look.  The judges loved the profile, but Glenn thought the head looked “eggy”.  They thought it was more Wizard of Oz than anything else, and didn’t like that the makeup abruptly ended where the wardrobe started.  Ve actually like the character but not the green colour they painted her.  They all wished that the hair idea wasn’t scrapped, with Lois telling them the hair could have told a story.  The judges thought the excuse for the lack of hair was lame, but they were safe.

Dina and Stella got the Winged Monkey.  Their monkey flew down the rabbit hole and became a jester for the Queen of Hearts.  Dina came up with a cool idea to sculpt the ears as a jester’s hat.  They worked well together, and both came up with a great face sculpt, with Stella perfecting a smirk on the monkey’s face.  They actually used a bit of Rachael’s purple hair for the monkey, and Stella made a great set of wings using playing cards.  The character was great and I loved the face!  The judges thought it was freaky, and liked that the model could give them a range of expressions through the makeup.  Glenn thought it was a ” wonderfully realized fusion” and applauded their teamwork.  They loved the colours and Ve thought it was devilish and mesmerizing all at once.  They felt it was a great idea, and that was well sculpted, painted and conceived.  They were in the top looks.

Cig and Damien created a patchwork Scarecrow.  They wanted to sew fabric into the face piece, so they didn’t need a lot of detail with the sculpt which saved them a lot of time.  Cig also built a shoulder gag that made it look like the scarecrow’s head fell off.  They ran into trouble when the sewn on patches limited the mobility of the face, so they had to cut into it to avoid a mask.  I thought it was a great idea, but too busy.  I was on the same page as the judges.  They couldn’t see the sculpt under all the fabric, and it was too dark.  They liked the colours but the face lacked a focal point, and Lois wished they had used more of the metal aspects hidden by the hat.  They were in the bottom looks as well.

Rachael and Keaghlan got the Tin Woodsman.  Their character was a part of the Queen’s army who took off heads, but realized he actually had a heart.  Mr. Westmore told them to sharpen the nose, and they really perfected the symmetry of the face.  Rachael created a really cool axe, and they painted him grey and silver, using black to make the colours pop. I though it was beautiful, and my favourite makeup so far this season.  They judges loved the profile and symmetry of the makeup.  For them it was well executed and a super clean, finished work.  Because of the amazing paint job that looked like metal and outstanding team work, they were in the top.

The winning makeup was created by Stella and Dina!  They loved the bounty of fantastic ideas that were perfectly synthesized.  Dina ended up as the winner because of her face and ear sculpt!  Yay!  The cake girl wins!  That was well deserved.

The Cowardly Lion concept was the bottom look.  There was no direction, and didn’t reflect the challenge.  Jason went home.  I am going to rant for a moment.  I am glad he is going home.   A part of this competition is listening.  You listen to the instructions of the challenge, your partners, the judges and Mr. Westmore.  End of story.  While I think having your own ideas and drive is great, Jason did not take any advice.  So go home bro.  And Sasha wants me to smack her!  That girl needs a back bone, like yesterday.  She is SO lucky she is still in the game, but for the love of all that is good, speak up, and grow a proverbial set!!  She may not have another chance.  Ok, my rant is over…until next week…


Face Off Season 7 Episode 5: Animal Hybrids

Published August 21, 2014 by vfdpixie

The episode started off with Damien feeling that he needed to redeem himself and bring his “A” game.  The contestants this season have been all over the place with consistency, so they all needed to pull up their boot straps!

For their next Spotlight Challenge, the gang gathered at the Wildlife Learning Center in Los Angeles, where over 70 exotic and rescued species made their home.  It was a really cool facility where staff showcased a porcupine, red fox, squirrel monkey and a tawny owl.  They were so beautiful and the artists loved getting close to the animals.  Since films like Sharktopus, Clash of the Titans and Harry Potter used animal hybrids, the artists had to choose 2 animals from the center and create a “mash-up” hybrid species.

Cig picked the armadillo and alligator.  His concept was a super soldier called “armagator”.  He really enjoyed this challenge and went for it.  He really did well for time and only had to remove some of the cowl’s innards otherwise it would have been too heavy for the model to wear.  His final makeup looked great.  It was obvious how great his sculpt was, and Neville loved the shapes and beautiful forms of the mouth jaw line and gullet of the creature.  Glenn loved the silhouette and felt he captured the shapes of both animals.  He was in top looks.

George also choose the armadillo and alligator, calling it an “alladillo”.  he wanted to create a “quadroped” type hybrid, and during the walk-through, Mr. Westmore warned him against the face looking too much like a prop.  He called it a “beautiful undertaking” and wished him luck with the ambitious design.  George decided to use L-200 foam for the scales because it was easy to shape, and tried on his armadillo back which was hilarious!  During the application, his model was allergic to one of the glues used to affix the appliance, so he had to use a less effective adhesive that would come loose if the model perspired.  Of course he did, so George ended up taping on the face and hoped that it wouldn’t fall off on the reveal stage.  His final look was finished, but the judges though it was too big of an idea and he lacked the time to complete it.  Luckily he was safe.

Sasha did a Bobcat and Tawny owl hybrid.  Her creature was a witch that wanted the 9 lives of a cat and the ability to fly.  She decided to sculpt the feathers on the face which she thought was a huge risk because they wouldn’t have any movement, but went for it.  She was worried that her model’s costuming lacked feet and she wasn’t happy with the brown leggings she found, but she shouldn’t have worried.  The face was really striking.  The judges acknowledged the huge amount of sculpting and when Glenn asked her what she thought of her design, Sasha said she didn’t like the end result.  He told her she should work on her confidence, because her control over colour placement was “phenomenal”.  Lois thought she used her time wisely because the eye went to where it counted and she shouldn’t worry about the leggings.  She was in the top looks.

Jason worked with the Redtail Hawk and Fenec Fox.  He wanted to avoid wings and fur on his hybrid.   His process wasn’t really focused on, but his face sculpt was interesting even though the eyes were a little rough in my opinion.  He didn’t like the paint but ended up safe.

Rachael created a Coatimundi and Fenec Fox hybrid.  She used the ears and colouring of the fox and the face of the coatimundi for her design.   Mr. Westmore told her to bring out the creature’s nose a bit more.  It had an interesting face, but she was not in love with her hybrid.  She was safe.

Keaghlan picked the Eurasian Lynx and the Kinkajou to create an experimental animal from a lab.  She used vacuform domes for the large eyes of a kinkajou, and made long fingers with L-200, attaching them with tape cotton and latex for a quick and secure application.  She also airbrushed the eyes to look  like a lynx.  the judges didn’t like the eyes and they thought the colours were flawed and the paint didn’t work.  The facial forms were good, but the paint and textures didn’t work making the design too cartoony.  Keaghlan agreed with them, and she was in the bottom looks.

Damien blended a Coatimundi with a Tawny owl.  He made a full fur/feather suit, and loved that his model had a dance background which would help with the makeup.  He liked how it looked and so did the judges!  They liked how the fur and feathers blended well, and Neville thought it really worked overall.  Glenn thought it was exquisite and the feathers and fur were well done.  Damien was in the top looks.

Stella picked the Serval Cat and the Kinkajou.  Mr. Westmore advised her to redo the nose and create more detail around it.  She really had trouble this time around, and thought her design looked dumb.  She felt really lost.  On day 2, she started over even though that would put her behind with her time.  When she finally got the face and suit on her model, she realized the paint and the suit colour didn’t match, and to create more panic during last looks, she ran out of brown paint.  She was embarrassed on the reveal stage.  The judges didn’t like the hard edges in the face sculpt, and the anatomy didn’t make sense.  They thought she didn’t work with her strengths which is colour and paint, and it was called “an unacceptable makeup” by Neville.  She was in the bottom.

Dina came up with a miner prairie dog/red fox hybrid because both animals dug holes.  For her creature suit, she wanted to use red fur, but there was none left, so she had to paint white fur to capture the red fox colouring.  She did a great job with painting the fur, but the judges thought it was too cartoony.  I liked the face, and luckily she was safe.

Doc combined a Bald Eagle and a Squirrel Monkey.  Mr. Westmore thought the nose was good.  Doc decided to take his time with the mold even though it cost him time.  It really did.  He only had one leg finished and had to make the other one on application day.  He was really scared.  His flying monkey didn’t have a proper tail, and the judges noted that he had one problem after another with this makeup.  The shape of the face was a mess and the paint was muddy.  Neville called it “heartbreaking”.  He was in the bottom looks.

Drew  blended a Red Fox and Squirrel Monkey.  Mr. Westmore wanted him to change the shape of the head.  He decided to use hydrocal plaster because it set faster but because of this speed, the layers of stone could come apart.  He was worried that it was a potential disaster, but things worked out.  The judges thought his makeup had beautiful forms and he was safe.

The winner was Damien.  They loved his character and the great choices he made with the feather/fur costuming.  they loved that his true talent finally came through.

The loser?  Doc.  Sadly, his promising forms were overshadowed by his bad decisions, concept and poor execution.  The judges admired that he knew his concept and design wasn’t working, and ultimately he just needed more experience.

It’s interesting to see the flux of the artists and their confidence and skill.  So far, it’s been a crap shoot with somewhat loaded dice since the editing kind of lets the viewer know who will come out on top.  Pixie no likey, so I hope they will stop with the hints and leave some element of surprise.  Jeez!!



Face Off Season 7 Episode 4: Woe Is Trees!

Published August 13, 2014 by vfdpixie

This week, the gang talked about Stella’s win and Jason’s desire to show his talent.  The 12 artists left met with McKenzie and models dressed as superheroes.  For the Foundation Challenge and immunity, they were to choose a model and create a hero inspired by their costumes.  Their guest judge was makeup artist Mike Elizalde, who worked on Fantastic Four, X-Men Last Stand, and got an Oscar nomination for Hellboy.  He wanted them to integrate the costume into the makeup so that the character told a story.  They all had some interesting ideas, and all of them did great jobs.  The standouts for Mike were Vince’s chameleon type superhero with a great layered paint job and Rachael’s elegant alien assassin with her choice of colours, beautiful contouring, seductive look and lashes.  Mike chose Rachael as the winner.  She was relieved for the immunity.

For the Spotlight Challenge, they gathered in the lab where McKenzie stood with a giant tree.  Films like LOTR, and Evil Dead had trees with human-like traits and intelligence.  They had to work in teams of 2 to create a tree character with traits of a specific species of tree AND, since the trees from the aforementioned films were either evil or angry, they had to incorporate a common tree malady to create a darker character.

Stella and Sasha teamed up to create a White Birch with burls.  They came up with a sacred Native American tree that was upset that it’s people were driven away, so he had eyes all over to watch the land.  When Mr. Westmore checked out their progress, he warned them that the design should be a personification of the tree, not a person in the tree.  Stella used L 200 to create a paper-like birch bark, and Sasha created hands that didn’t quite work out, so she made them out of foam.  Stella used a dry brush of white paint to create a birch bark look and in last looks, she realized how much she hated the hands but loved the character overall.  It turned out great and the judges loved this character too.  They thought was well rendered and a full head to toe coverage.  They thought it was clear that it was a birch, loved the gorgeous paint job, and Lois loved the “crumply knees”.  Because of the paint job and malady driven character, they were in top looks.

Jason and Doc got together to create a Bristlecone Pine struck by lightning.  The character was a guardian of the desert.  Mr. Westmore felt they hadn’t done enough to convey the character.  They took his advice, but both were nervous.  Doc was concerned because so far, he had been in the bottom for every challenge, and Jason because this was the biggest sculpt and mold he had done and was worried about their time.  Doc encountered disaster as his arm molds broke in several places.  He had to scrap that idea, and was discouraged by this.  In last looks, they figured out a way to work out the arms.  Their character came out really well.  I loved the tree bark texture.  Glenn thought “the form language was exquisite and awe-inspiring”.  Lois loved all the small details like the knees and feet, and although the malady was not defined, Neville thought there was finesse in the cheek area.  For a duo that started off in trouble, they were also in the top looks.

George and Keaghlan picked the Silk Floss and choking vines.  They came up with an environmentalist that fell when the tree was cut down and became a warrior.  Mr. Westmore told them to take out the human features.  They worked well with their time, with George creating a gang mold for a large and quickly done piece, leaving them of day two for fabrication and a little dance break!  George thought there could have been more variation of colour, but it was complete.  On the reveal stage, I thought it looked a touch too human, and the judges acknowledged all the work they put into it.  They didn’t like the vine aspect, calling it an afterthought, but they ended up safe.

Vince and Damien got the Sequoia and tree rot.  They decided on a zombie tree.  When it came time to create a colour scheme, they were at odds.  Damien wanted more red, but Vince wanted to go with a more grey tone to convey the zombie aspect.  Their second skin on the latex was ripped but they worked with it since it looked like the tree was rotting.  In last looks, Vince changed the paint.  I didn’t mind the look, but Glenn thought it was great if they were going to an office Halloween party.  Ouch!  They thought it was limiting with the tree stump on head and it was not cohesive.  Neville thought the hands were well sculpted but the left eye was crippling to the whole look.  They were in the bottom.

Rachael and Dina chose the Banyan and fungus.  They wanted to go for a really twisted tree look.  Dina was nervous right off the bat because Rachael had immunity.  Mr. Westmore thought their design didn’t look like a twisted banyan at all, but like vines or fire.  They girls had to start over with their design.  In the end, Dina didn’t like the final character.  The judges didn’t think it read tree bark, and Neville thought that “fungus wasn’t the only malady” the design suffered from.  Yikes!  Rachael was really worried because she had immunity and would be devastated if Dina went home, but they were safe.

Cig and Drew got the Weeping Willow and insect infestation. Mr, Westmore suggested they make the holes for their emerging insects obvious.  They had plans for large branches to convey the willow aspect and arms to grab victims to feed these insects.  Drew decided to attach the branches at last looks which was risky because they were the defining feature of the character.  To their shock and dismay, the model came out sans branches because they were way too heavy for her to function.  The judges felt there were missed opportunities, and that the colour was too uniform.  The bugs didn’t work and although there was some definition, it got muddy in some areas.  Drew took full responsibility for the branch issue, which the judges admired.  They were in last looks.

Among the top looks, the judges were impressed by Doc and Jason’s elegant flowing lines and paint job, and Sasha and Stella’s colour and malady driven character.  They picked Jason as the winner because of the amount of detail in the tree.  What a great feat for him since he was hoping to impress the judges!

They judges felt that they couldn’t judge something that wasn’t there, i.e. the branches, with Cig and Drew’s Weeping Willow, although they did like Drew’s face sculpt.  Vince and Damien’s design suffered because of the prevalent crippling concept.  Vince was the artist going home due the makeup’s head and cowl issues.  Boooooo!!!  Boooooo, I say!!!  I liked him and was sad to see him go.   He was really chilled out and talented, but I know with his experience, he will go far.

Book Review: BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

Published August 13, 2014 by vfdpixie

bird box

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman (Ecco/HarperCollins 2014, 272 pages hardcover)


It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, but I think I’ve been waiting to be consumed by something I couldn’t put down.  BIRD BOX did that for me.  With a creeping certainty, this debut novel by Josh Malerman (who is also the lead singer of the band The High Strung), presents an unfathomable situation that denies us the cherished sense of sight in a neat, horror wrapped package.

Malorie is afraid most of the time.  Five years after the world literally goes mad from seeing unnamed creatures, she must find a safe house, give birth, raise and train two children to live without their sense of sight, and attempt to survive in this new environment, all while blindfolded against these things and the madness they bring.  This story takes us from Malorie’s first fears as the world goes crazy around her, to the dull ache of inevitable doom that lurks beyond a locked door and covered windows.

What really stands out for me is Malerman’s use of language.  I like writing that gets to the point and is descriptive without mincing words.  He creates a survival based story with stark but far from basic prose, hitting hard with short, staccato sentences that imprints a clear image without the frills.  His use of flashbacks reveals the story at a pace that leaves you wanting more, creating a sustainable suspense that carries right through to last page.

I was also impressed by his female protagonist. Most men who write from a female perspective can be called out by something that doesn’t ring true, like a silly turn of phrase or situations that a woman knows would never happen.  This is especially true for male horror writers who use the realm to depict women in a one-dimensional way, for instance, immediately choosing hysteria for women once a crisis appears.  Most of them also throw in gratuitous sex that follows the typical horror book formula:  man + woman+ post-apocalyptic world/horror crisis=ridiculous sexual interlude.  Malerman doesn’t do that here which is so refreshing.  While a lot of horror fiction focuses on the almighty penis enduring in a post apocalyptic world, raping and pillaging as a new society is built, his is a quieter, more tense representation of such a world.  Malorie is strong but shows her weaknesses without exploiting her sexuality.  In fact, each character is preoccupied with the dangers at hand, not the next place where they can have at it in a bunker.

The voice he creates for Malorie is honest and very believable, from her skepticism to the blossoming of her maternal instinct and growing terror, to her reactions to other survivors she encounters.  I admired how he skillfully builds the panic that Malorie feels as her situation worsens, keeping the reader alongside the character and the foreshadowing to a minimum.

BIRD BOX has been compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is fitting, but I immediately thought of Kate Bush’s 1986 song Experiment IV about a sound that could kill.  In both instances, the loss or corruption of these basic senses makes for a real sense of terror and dread.  Comparisons aside, I think Malerman has made a place for himself in the horror genre, and I can’t wait for his next book.

My only criticism?  That the story ends.  I actually felt like shaking the book to see if more words would fall out.  I would love to read a sequel, however I am praying to the literary gods that they don’t make a movie out of this book.  Maybe I lack vision (no pun intended), but this story should live in the reader’s head instead of the big screen since it deals with internal struggles and unseen threats.  If you enjoy survival horror fiction as much as I do, read this book.  Malerman has given us horror that messes with your head, things we take for granted, our basic human nature and the will to survive.

*BIRD BOX has been nominated for the 2014 Kirkus Prize.

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