Friday, September 14, 2012

TV Review: Face Off (2011-????)

I despise “Reality TV.” Not only is “Reality TV” not real, it is highly manipulated and sometimes even scripted, but it demonstrates the worst elements of our culture. It shows a group of contestants as they engage in cat fights and backstabbing all in the name of trying to grab a few moments of celebrity. So why am I enjoying Face Off?

For those who don’t know, Face Off is a series on the Sci-Fi Channel (yes, I still refuse to call it SyFy) which involves a group of aspiring makeup artists competing against each other in weekly challenges. They are judged by a panel of three expert makeup artists with extremely impressive track records and one guest judge who is often a Hollywood big shot.
The challenges this season have been things like designing a character for the Star Wars cantina or a Chinese dragon or a character from Alice in Wonderland who has become infected by a zombie virus. And the way these challenges work is that each artist is given a specific characteristic they must use, such as being assigned a character from Alice in Wonderland or given something nautical when they are asked to design a pirate. They sketch out their designs and set about creating molds and costumes for real life models who will wear the finished designs. Then each is judged with the loser being sent home each week.

There are several things I truly appreciate about this series which you just don’t normally see in “Reality TV”:

● First, this show is about talent, not personality. The contestants must produce incredibly high quality makeup and costumes and they are judged on their work, not on how well they get along with the others. They cannot form teams to manipulate events. Neither the contestants nor the audience vote, so this isn’t about popularity. And they never ask the contestants to rate each other, so there’s no sniping. The absence of all of this is very welcome and makes this show rise head and shoulders above other “Reality TV.”
● Secondly, the judges are experts. They know their craft and that comes across in each evaluation as they point out things the untrained eye never would have noticed. Indeed, they are excellent at telling you exactly where each artist went right or wrong, how it could have been fixed, and just how ambitious each person was. They also don’t sugarcoat their reviews which makes this show feel much more educational and much more realistic.

● Third, you actually get to see the process from start to finish. This isn’t the standard “Reality TV” show which wastes time on backstabbing, fighting and watching the contestants engage in personal conflicts in the home they share. Instead, this show is entirely about the work. Nor does this show waste time in needlessly repeating the last several minutes from different perspectives. This show is efficient and substantive in its presentation.
● Finally, you get to see some amazing work. There have been moments where my jaw dropped at what one or more of these people achieved, especially given that they only have a couple days for each project.

This is how “Reality TV” should be. This is the kind of show which gives you a look at some amazing talent and lets you see that talent at work, and it does so with only a bare minimum of personality. This is a show that looks to wow you with their achievements rather than manipulate you with the contestant’s personalities. It is the kind of show which could inspire someone looking for a career or just impress those of us who enjoy the magic of Hollywood but have never seen how it’s done.

It’s rare that I recommend a television show and unheard of that I would recommend a “Reality TV” show, but this is an exception. I recommend checking this one out.

60 comments:

ScottDS said...

(I'm using hyphens in this post to separate my thoughts into sections.) :-)

I've seen an episode of this show and I was very impressed. And since I've always been an FX geek, I'm aware of almost all the folks who show up to judge. Hell, look at all the movies Ve Neill has worked on - how could I not know who this woman is?!

And the show is hosted by McKenzie Westmore, daughter of the great Michael Westmore who did all the make-up effects on all the modern-day Star Trek series and TNG movies. They're part of a long line of famous make-up artists - watch a movie from 50 years ago and chances are, the make-up is credited to a Westmore.

-------------------------

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned another cool thing about this show: it showcases a craft that is slowly being replaced by CGI. There will always be a need for make-up artists and make-up effects but, like miniatures, I fear that idiot studio execs will simply say, "Uh, can it be computer-generated instead? That's what the kids want to see."

Thankfully, we still have "old school" filmmakers like Nolan and del Toro who are huge fans of doing it "for real."

-------------------------

As someone who has worked on an episode of reality TV, I can safely say most of it is faked. Hell, I even met the "writers" of the show I was working on. And the art directors who dressed locations to look like other locations. Ad nauseum.

shawn said...

Yeah, Face Off is quality tv. Even the wife likes it.

As to being replaced by CGI, I'm of mixed feelings on this. Sometimes CGI can look really good, but generally I have to say I prefer practical effects. Now I'm not in the industry, but from what I have read, I can't imagine that CGI is cheaper in most cases.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's how my brain separates thought too... with hyphens. ;)

1. The judges truly impress me. At first I thought they were just the usual reality TV fakers, but these people are THE REAL DEAL. When I looked up their credits, I was blown away. And they have proven to be just as impressive in their criticism. It feels like watching a top course in special effects analysis.

2. True, this is old school stuff and I like this. Seeing these actors turned into creatures with makeup is truly fantastic and blows away anything I've seen in CGI.

3. I know Reality TV is faked. It's obvious when you use your brains -- the dialog isn't real, how are the cameras in the right place, etc. etc. It's obvious that they re-act scene and use selective editing to create the stories. This show doesn't do that because there is no story. The story is the construction of the effects from start to finish and the dialog is just quick impressions of how the work is going.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I view CGI as an enhancer. It should be used when you need to make subtle changes to make something fit the scene better. That is really where it's useful. When CGI becomes about replacing scenery or actors, that's when it begins to look cartoony.

I actually avoided this one for a while just on principle, but I'm glad I started watching. I'm really enjoying this.

AndrewPrice said...

Two more notes on this and Reality TV.

First, this show is Tuesday Night and next Tuesday they are starting a new show called "Hot Set" where they are building sets from scratch. That might be good too.

Secondly, Kim Kardashian said yesterday that she's "a liberal Republican." I'm telling you, this tells us that opinions are changing when pop culture people like Kim admit to being Republicans. (Her reservation is gay marriage.)

Doc Whoa said...

I love this show. I'm amazed each week at what they turn out, some of it truly horrible but most of it really good. And there have been a couple pieces that were just shockingly good.

Paul Anderson (guest judge) said last week that one of the zombies they did was something he would have been thrilled to see in his film, but he would have expected it to take a team of six to create and this woman did it by herself in three days.

Doc Whoa said...

Kim Kardashian is a Republican? LOL! On the one hand, seriously, Kim Kardashian? But you're point is a good one that this signifies something when pop culture icons admit to being Republicans again. For decades now they've all just called themselves libertarian.

AndrewPrice said...

Doc, I saw that. And while I am not a fan of Paul Anderson (great ideas, too much wasted potential), I was super impressed with her makeup as well. In fact, I've been impressed with her each week (the blond girl) and I think she deserves to win.

I've noticed that too that all the conservatives in Hollywood hid under the libertarian label for the past 10+ years, so I do think this is meaningful.

rlaWTX said...

I like this one too.
Kim K - I don't know if that helps GOP much... maybe with those unemployed kids with fading Obama posters on the wall... :)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, I was very pleasantly surprised when I saw this one.

On Kim, I don't think it matters so much that Kim is a Republican. What I think matters is that this tells me it's not poisonous anymore for Hollywood people to declare themselves Republican, especially if they use her formula -- "I'm Republican, but I support gay marriage."

Culture drives politics and if this is indeed a cultural change, then that's bad for the Democrats.

ScottDS said...

Re: Miss Kardashian (ugh)...

On one hand, yes, it's great for the culture that such a high-profile... whatever she is... can proudly declare she's a Republican, with the usual caveats.

On the other hand, it still doesn't change the fact that she's a no-talent, uh... I'll just call her a See You Next Tuesday... and she's done nothing to deserve her fame and fortune, save for starring in a sex tape (and it's not even a good tape!).

No wonder the word "celebrity" has lost all meaning! When Snooki and Meryl Streep are on the same magazine covers, all bets are off!

I'm done now. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I concur, but allow me to make two points, which I already expressed to you last night...

1. I have defended the Kardashians in a prior article for one simple reason: they represent the wonders of the free market. Here's the opening:

There is nothing redeeming about the Kardashians as far as I can tell. They’re like a combination of the Manson Family, the Addams Family, and a porno. But I do like one thing about them. See, I never would have made them famous, but somebody else did. And that’s what makes capitalism great.

And here's the link: Kardashian's Butt... Capitalism In Motion


2. I do like her butt. ;)

ScottDS said...

Andrew, what's the old saying...?

"The problem with Socialism is Socialism but the problem with Capitalism is capitalists?"

This comes to mind when discussing these... people. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

OT: I've put up a mission statement at CommentaramaPolitics. I hope people get a chance to read it.

Mission Statement

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, But you know what? I don't have a problem with the Kardashians because they are genuine capitalists. They found a need/want in the market and they are satisfying it. They aren't milking the taxpayers through the government, they aren't trying to take away my rights, and I can simply not watch them. Do I wish people wouldn't want to watch them? Sure. But I can't complain about it. That's life.

ellenB said...

I've liked this show a lot when I've seen it, but I haven't seen it much because it's on at an inconvenient time.

AndrewPrice said...

Ellen, That's what DVR is about! :)

Ed said...

I haven't seen this one as I haven't drifted over the Sci-Fi Channel in a while. Plus, I'm not a fan or reality TV. But I will check it out and get back to you. :)

Ed said...

That's a really cool creature by the way (the first picture). They really created the whole costume from scratch?

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, They did indeed. And that was one of the moments that really impressed me. I figured they were just going to do a mask and throw a cloak on the actor, but they did the whole costume and it was really elaborate. There were a couple great ones on that episode.

ScyFyterry said...

I LOVE THIS SHOW! I'm glad you mentioned it. I hope people start watching so it gets the rating to keep going! This is totally cool to watch as they go from nothing to these amazing costumes. And I'm psyched too about "Hot Set".

Koshcat said...

I might check it out, but I'm always suspicious about "Reality" TV. I tend to like the shows that are more one on one with a purpose. For example, Dirty Jobs, Holmes on Homes. No competition and the problems/issues are real. I catch my wife watching those "Real Housewifes of ..." Oh, God I HATE those shows.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Terry. I like to mix it up when I can and this one was worth pointing out. I'm glad you like it! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I am too, but this show is kind of a cross between things like "Dirty Jobs" and normal Reality TV. It's basically like "American Idol" for professionals. These people are really good, the entire focus of the show is on the work and not the people, and unlike "American Idol", the judges are highly competent and they really are only concerned with the work and not playing to the audience.

I highly recommend this one. Give it a try, I think you'll like it -- Tuesday nights.

DUQ said...

Like some of the others, I skipped this because it has the Reality TV tag and that stuff has just worn out its welcome with me. I don't want to watch people sit around fighting. Thanks for the heads up. I'll give it a shot... but I make no promises! ;)

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Thanks for the review. I just don't watch reality shows for all the reasons you listed, and I assumed this was just another one. I'll have to give it a try.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Same here. I assumed this would be more of the same, but it really hasn't been. This is quality television. This is about watching really solid people perform their craft under intense pressure. There are none of the usual trapping of Reality TV.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I need no promises. I'm just offering you options. :)

Anthony said...

Sounds like an interesting show and I'm going to DVR it, but I confess I don't share Andrew's hostility to CG. Both in the movie and game industries, artists are doing amazing things with polygons.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I'm not as hostile to CGI as you think. I think it serves a purpose and if used correctly it can be an excellent tool. My problem is that (1) they push it way too far beyond its capabilities, (2) they use it when they shouldn't, and (3) the nerds doing it need to get out and see the world because they don't seem to grasp physics and the fact the world abhors symmetry.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - re: your mission statement
Does that mean I can't call people "poo-poo heads" because I really want to do that, I just haven't done it yet. Now I never will ;-(

Re: Face Off - I haven't seen this iteration of the craft driven reality show - Top Chef, Project Runway etc. - yet. But you are amazed that at what they can accomplish in such a short time. All of the people who compete on these kinds of shows are seasoned professionals and that is what happens in the real world. The designer calls up and says, "I need to see a sample of an Alice in Wonderland character turned Zombie by tomorrow to show the producer. Have it ready by noon." You can either say "okay, no problem" or be the second or third person on the call list next time. That's the nature of the business. So of course these people can come up with something amazing on short notice! They are amazing artists and craftpeople and are highly skilled and trained.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I'll make an exception for you! :)

Seriously, all I'm trying to do is raise the level of discourse again and make sure that everyone feels welcome to speak their mind (in good faith) without feeling like they've come to someplace full of angry, ignorant people. Because that's not what conservatism is about, though that's how it's acting at the moment. It's time to make the place into something even liberals would need to reluctantly accept as thoughtful.

Re: "Face Off" - That is a great comparison -- "Top Chef". (I haven't seen "Project Runway".) These contestants aren't famous yet, but they are truly amazing artists and craftspeople. And they are being given big challenges and a short period of time to finish them, and the things they've completely have truly been incredible.

And as I note in the review, what I really like about this show is that it's 100% about the work, it's not about the people -- there is some tension when they are assigned teammates, but it's rare, the primary focus is on what they achieve.

If you have any interest at all in Hollywood makeup/special effects, this is a really neat show to watch. Because they literally go from idea to sketches to making molds to fitting the parts on the models to painting and finishing. It's really won me over.

NightcrawlerER said...

I like this show, but I like everything SyFy has. :D

T-Rav said...

I don't know....I'm suspicious of anything in the "reality TV" genre. Been burned one too many times. But, having only watched portions of a few episodes, I will agree they do some impressive work.

Kudos for still refusing to call it "Syfy." :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Nightcrawler, I like some of what Sci-Fi does and really dislike lots more. They are very good at beating good concepts to death. Plus... wrestling? On the SCI-FI CHANNEL????

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Kudos to you too! I refuse to acknowledge the new name.

I'm the same way you are about Reality TV... I despise it. But this one has won me over because it's not Reality TV in the modern sense. I enjoy this a good deal.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Thanks! You are a big Poo-Poo Head! There...it's out of my system now.

Actually I really like your mission statement. If only other sites would adopt it too.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, LOL! Am not... ;)

Thanks! I wish others would adopt it too. I really would like to see conservatism go back to its roots as a positive, thoughtful ideology that wins people over with good will, common sense and undeniable reasoning -- the way Reagan did it. All the anger I'm seeing all over the web just doesn't help win people over.

rlaWTX said...

Re: Mission Statement
Can I still say (occasionally, when situation warrants) that I really, really hate TOTUS & Holder? As long as I have good reasons? ;)

rlaWTX said...

Re Project Runway
If you happen to decide that since you have nothing to do you are going to watch this, remember that they are fashion designers. Which means DRAMA! But, I do enjoy watching it every once in a while...

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, LOL! Sure.

I'm just trying to raise the level of discourse and stop some of the really offensive garbage people have been trying to post lately, like references to groups of people as "subhuman", slurs based on religion or sexual orientation, and vaguely racist crap. I'm also trying to raise the level of the discussion by stopping people from pushing rumor as fact and bias as argument.

I want a site everyone can be extremely proud of.

AndrewPrice said...

I have never watched Project Runway, but I looked it up and it sounds similar -- minus most of the drama.

In fact, I should mention this moment of drama. They had a team exercise and these two guys just couldn't get along and they got up and basically blamed each other for their failure. Unlike other shows, "Face Off" did not treat this as great drama to be exploited, everyone looked down on this and heaped a good deal of shame on their behavior. It was refreshing to see bad behavior punished rather than rewarded.

T-Rav said...

Re: Mission Statement

Question: Can I still mention my habit of shooting kittens in the face?

DUQ said...

Since we're talking about the mission statement in both places, let me say that I here too that I totally agree with it. I read your articles for the insight and the humor and I don't want to see anger or stupidity. I think you say it best when you say you want somewhere conservatives can be proud of.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I've got nothing against humor. I'm just done with the anger and bias that a lot of people seem to want to bring.

Remember, the things we write represent conservatism to whoever may come read them. I want the site to be a good ambassador for that.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks DUQ. That should exactly be the goal -- somewhere people can come to share ideas, have a good time, and feel proud of.

Think of it this way. The goal should be to create a place that you are willing to show to anyone, friend or family, even if they disagree with you ideologically.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I suppose this show and the time pressure the contestants are under proves Parkinson’s Law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

If they had an hour to do something, it'd take them an hour. If they had a week, it'd take them a week!
-----------------------
Re: CGI, I know I've mentioned this a million times before but I don't mind it - it's just a tool, but one that is easily abused. And I don't always blame the FX technicians... chances are, if you saw a film with bad CGI, it was because of either: a.) studio execs who demanded CGI based on wrong-headed market research, or b.) filmmakers who didn't know what the hell they wanted.

And I know I've linked to this before but you should read this one day. It's a transcript of a roundtable discussion with some top FX people. They share many of your concerns.

rlaWTX said...

good to know (and about kitties and humor too!)
:) Happy weekend, y'all!!!!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's certainly true in the legal world, the more time you have, the more time the project absorbs. I'm not really sure why, but after a certain point, you're just adding effort for no real gain.

I don't think you've linked that before, or if you did I don't recall. I think the problem with CGI is that it has become a crutch and they use it for too many things they shouldn't. And that has reduced the level of director creativity as well as made films more cartoony. Plus, as you'll see in my article for next week, too often the effects are just ridiculous even if the individual effects are fine because they use them in ways that make no sense -- they try to bring order/symmetry to things that have no order/symmetry, and they abuse the laws of nature as if we won't notice.

AndrewPrice said...

Glad you're happy, rlaWTX. I'm really looking to improve the place, not change it.

Happy weekend! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's a fascinating discussion. I'm about 80% through and it's really interesting. Thanks!

T-Rav said...

I'll take that as a yes.

Completely off-topic: I just saw an advertisement on my TV for a local presentation of "Titanic: The Musical."

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

When you're done, I'd love to get a quick recap from you, either here or maybe in a future article if you think there's enough to work with (though I think you covered CGI already at least once).

AndrewPrice said...

Ouch. "Top of Missouri!!!" ;)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, You don't trust that I've read it and you want a book report? ;)

Actually, it is definitely the kind of thing which would make an excellent article, but it needs to be trimmed dramatically!

ScottDS said...

By recap, I simply mean your thoughts. :-)

Visual effects have come up on this site many times before but I guess I've always taken pride in exposing non-film people to the wisdom of film people. Not to mention showing that Hollywood isn't a total nuthouse - there are actual living breathing artists and craftsmen who work there. Too many people forget about that nowadays.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's why I think this might make a good article, to grab some quotes and summarize the rest. This really is a fascinating discussion.

And right now, my thoughts are "I agree."

Individualist said...

I really lie Faceoff and Project Runway because despite whatever is scripted the contestants are skilled at what they do and the judges are also skilled as well or top buyers in the case of the lady editor of the magazine.

I learn a lot about the industry that I don't know every time I see it so I can forgive whaterver Survivor element they feel they have to throw in....

Plus in both shows you can tell that most of the contestants are not just worried about winning but showcasing their talent to the industry. Thus there is a realism level that say a survivor cast member does not engage in as these people understand doing well can make their carreer even if they don't win in the end.

Individualist said...

like not lie

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think one of the real selling points with a show like this is that you learn things every time you watch.

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