Monday, August 30, 2010

Why Christina Hendricks Should Have an Emmy*

* Yes. I know the writers come up with those details.
No. I will not let go of the fact that she was robbed of her award.

Emmy Wear.

The Emmys are over, the winners didn't suck (although I was a bit sad to see 30 Rock dethroned, at least it was by the worthiest of its competitors) and now it's time to talk clothes.

Best Dressed

January Jones is a risk taker.
The woman probably never wears anything that won't cause a stir among fashion journalists the next day. What's remarkable about her, is how comfortable she always looks in avant garde couture. She doesn't seem to plan ahead, it's as if her choices, as futuristic and loony as they seem, just are.
She pays homage to Madonna, the ocean and her own Betty Francis in this asymmetric Atelier Versace. The loose hair and simple makeup allow the intense color to shine through and even if the shoes could've been a little bit better, the overall look is a winner.

From out there to timeless elegance, Jayma Mays is all kinds of perfect in a dark blue Burberry Prorsum dress. The hair is perfect and that Egypt-inspired necklace gives her the perfect finishing touch.

Oh Tina Fey, why didn't you wear this to the Oscars? This Oscar de la Renta black and grey gown, follows most of the rules Tina plays by on the red carpet and works because of that.
She knows what works for her and whenever she leaves her comfort zone, she ends up looking, well uncomfortable.
Gotta love the argyle-meets-hieroglyphics-by-way-of-Tron embroidery.

Anna Paquin is another risk taker, why would the True Blood star wear Armani or Oscar de la Renta to an awards show, when it's so obvious she can be a bit more kick-ass in Alexander McQueen?
The mid length and long tail bottom is an architectural wonder (see how it flows!) and the bolero inspired top is truly breathtaking. She's like a warrior princess in couture.

Dianna Agron might not have the most interesting character on Glee but she sure showed her other female costars how it's done on the red carpet (Lea Michele should really take a cue from her in how to smile naturally on the red carpet).
Her lace Carolina Herrera might not be the most youthful thing for her to wear but the construction is so delicate and elegant that it works wonders with Agron's Barbie-like features.

Worst Dressed

I love Christina Hendricks but this lavender Zac Posen really didn't do her any favors.
The pale color washes out her already too white skin and those feathers near her already prominent bosom look just plain tacky.
Like something out of a trashy Mae West movie.

Sofía Vergara is beautiful but her glittery Carolina Herrera would be more adequate for a beauty pageant than a red carpet.

Heidi Klum seems to have forgotten the rest of her Marchesa gown at home.
We get that she's one of the most beautiful women around and that she has a killer body after giving birth to a million children but this seems like a too desperate attempt to remind us she matters.

I love Julie Bowen but her J. Mendel dress was a bit of a letdown. The details on her hips are stunning but the top makes her look like a wilting flower.
She joked how she was trying to cover up the baby fat (apparently everyone gave birth before this year's Emmys) but that doesn't mean she should've replaced it with laziness.
Bless her for her beautiful smile though.

Do I need to explain?

Twinkle-twinkle little starlet

Heather Morris and the bottomlessly talented Claire Danes are essentially wearing the same thing. Morris looks wonderful in an Ina Soltani golden dress with a perfect black belt that makes her body look Marilyn worthy.
Danes in Armani Privé looks a bit too pale in her own take of the glittery trend...

...but Dexter's Jennifer Carpenter shows them both how it's done. Her glitter isn't golden or silver but a dark metallic and instead of opting for the oh-so-easy strapless cut, she goes with a magnificent one long sleeve version.
Her luscious hair covers the other shoulder and the entire look might be the sexiest thing of the night.

Did you enjoy the Emmys? Who wore it best in your opinion?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Me Too **1/2

Director: Antonio Naharro, Alvaro Pastor
Cast: Lola Dueñas, Pablo Pineda
Isabel García Lorca, Pedro Alvarez-Ossorio, Antonio Naharro
María Bravo, Lourdes Naharro, Daniel Parejo, Catalina Lladó

Films about people with disabilities, mental disorders and all other assortment of "different" qualities, have already won half the battle by dealing with these subjects (See? Even the word "won" seems politically incorrect placed there).
Such films, even those of the lowest quality, can brag about dealing with tough subjects and sparking conversation and debate among the audience.
And how could they not, if we live in a world where the slightest mention of "being different" brings out opinions from everyone.
These movies are also usually relieved of dealing with artistic criticism in the way other projects are, since it becomes impossible to discuss them without turning the disability into a main focal point. Just think about how differently we would perceive the Mona Lisa if we knew she had a terminal disease when she sat down to be painted or how many actors would be award-less if they hadn't played someone with a disability.
In the case of Me Too, the disability is Down's syndrome, the sufferer is Daniel (Pineda), a thirty-something from Seville, who graduated college and leads an almost traditional life despite his condition.
Daniel starts working at the Andalucía Board where he meets and falls in love with Laura (Dueñas), a promiscuous, hard drinking, social worker from Madrid.
Their friendship becomes controversial in the eyes of others. Their co-workers, most of whom refer to Daniel as a "kid", think Laura is just a cock-tease who will leave him empty, while Daniel's overprotective mother (García Lorca) wishes her son would adapt to his condition and begins to regret the way she brought him up.
It's one of those "against all odds" stories we've seen before with the added disadvantage of a chromosomal disorder.
The best thing the movie has going for it, is the fact that it tries-hard and selfconsciously- to make Daniel seem "normal" (this is the word used throughout the movie) and Pineda's charm makes this work to a certain degree.
The actor is known for his personal achievements in the face of adversity, so perhaps he's playing a version of himself in the film. Still, this doesn't diminish his chemistry with the other actors and his interaction with the camera.
He turns Daniel into someone funny and real. He's rarely condescending towards himself and because of this makes it hard for other characters to do so.
Yet despite his best efforts to look past Down's syndrome, the movie often reduces his character's essence to how the disorder affects him and somehow it's impossible to ask, how could it not?
Whenever Daniel does something remarkable, you're almost automatically driven to think he's doing it despite his condition and when he fails, it's hard not to attribute this to the syndrome as well.
His entire character arc is based on a Catch 22 that makes it hard for him to achieve what he wants. But the major flaw in Me Too isn't that it does this with Daniel but that it also does it with Laura.
Instead of letting her become her own, obviously flawed, person, towards the end of the movie we receive a facile explanation to make us understand why Laura fears emotions so much. In a way they compare her emotional insensitivity to Down's syndrome.
It's fortunate for Laura that she is played with such conviction by the wonderful Dueñas though, despite the writing flaws and the filmmaker's tendency to patronize her, she turns Laura into a real force of nature.
The actress plays with her greatest qualities to make Laura someone completely irresistible. Watching her move to the music in a club and then squirm after a random sexual encounter is enough for us to understand who she is. We don't need to know her entire past, and much less have it read to us (quite literally too).
A lot can be said by the mere fact that Laura is often more moving than Daniel. She is so damaged, and often damaging, that her character is the one that stays with you after the credits start rolling.
Unlike Daniel whose pain seems more superfluous (because we never know if his ability to get over things is because of the syndrome or because of his personality...or if these two even are connected) Laura's is more affecting because it will move on with her.
That Dueñas is able of "stealing" the film from someone with a disability pretty much defines what your post-theater debate will consist of.

Style Sunday.

This week, the lovely Drew Barrymore shows us how to make the most out of the same pair of shoes. In her case they're YSL pumps of course but bear with me to see the functionality she finds in a unique color (it's not neutral and it's not extreme either).
First she does casual for a TV show taping in a Richard Chai top, Camilla & Marc trousers and accessorizes with almost nothing but a discreet snake ring and her California girl lovely loose tresses.
Also, is there anyone in Hollywood with a sweeter smile?

Next she takes it to the red carpet with a stunning Malandrino dress with golden embroidery but she gives it an edge with a rocker-chic Balmain belt and the aforementioned pumps.
It's lovely to see Drew work so well with a stylist after being part of some utter fashion disasters.

Do you say yay or nay?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

I could start making all sorts of snobby jokes about the fact that Ryan Reynolds is in a movie called Buried. I won't.
Instead let's praise the people behind the utterly brilliant marketing campaign for this horror movie. The teaser above is all kinds of magnificent. No title, no floating heads, we can't even see who the star is and yet we are drawn to that little yellow box. Once we see what's inside, there's a pervading, almost perverse, feeling of claustrophobia that takes over you.

If the teaser above wasn't enough, take a look at how they worked with-and not around-the tacky critics' blurbs that usually make posters feel degrading and whorish.
The way in which the words are arranged, gives the poster a tri-dimensional feeling, as if each quote was a step of sorts, perhaps a layer of ground, to get to the center of the concept.
Take a closer look and you'll read stuff like "would have made Hitchcock proud!" (they should've added Saul Bass too). I for one am honestly eager to watch a Reynolds movie for the first time in my life.

Did these images achieve that for you too?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm Just Wild About Annie.

I ran into this picture of Anne Hathaway on location and the first thing that came to my head was "OMG she's finally doing the Judy Garland movie!".
In what seems to be late 60's fashion she looks as wonderful as usual (gotta love the bright red lips) but turns out this was for another movie instead.
Anne is currently shooting One Day alongside Jim Sturgess. The film is directed by Lone Scherfig and based on David Nicholls' bestseller. is recommending this book to me all the time and now I know Anne liked it, it has honestly sparked my curiosity.
Any of you read it?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

There's No Place like the Zone.

"Who knows what kind of wish someone might cherish..."
- from Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.

The Wizard of Oz turns 71 today. During those seven decades, the film has become one of the most discussed, loved and influential pieces in cinema history.
This is why it's so fascinating to discover the ways in which has influenced the works of world renowned auteurs in the most singular of forms.
From the obvious like Baz Luhrmann and George Lucas to the more avant garde like Kimberly Peirce and Akira Kurosawa, Oz has charmed its way into the hearts and subconsciousness of all kinds of artists.
It shouldn't be surprising then, that Andrei Tarkovsky's seminal Stalker is perhaps the movie that most resembles it structurally and aesthetically.

Tarkovsky was a master at exploring the metaphysical, the dreamlike and anything that had something to do with the machinations of the soul. When Stalker was released in 1979 Tarkovsky was 47, it's easy to assume at some point in life he had seen Oz and the similarities are not mere coincidences.
But let's start with those.

In a nutshell both The Wizard of Oz and Stalker are movies about an external quest that leads to inner discovery.
In Oz, Dorothy (Judy Garland) is taken by a tornado to a magical land, where the powerful title wizard will grant her one wish.
Joining Dorothy on her trip are a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who wants a brain, a Tin Man (Jack Haley) in need of a heart and a Lion (Bert Lahr) looking for courage. The four of them, and Dorothy's dog Toto, must endure perilous tasks and missions to have their wishes granted.
In Stalker, there is a mysterious place simply called "The Zone" where it is said your innermost wish is granted, this place of course is surrounded by military forces and danger.
The Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky) has become an expert in getting people into "The Zone" and on the mission we see in the film takes a Professor (Nikolai Grinko) seemingly trying to win a Nobel prize and a Writer (Anatoli Solonitsyn) who has lost inspiration.
They too must endure all sorts of peril given that "The Zone" is known for its capricious nature.

When I first got the idea for this piece, I did some research and found there was an article in GreenCine which pretty much did a thorough comparison of why the movies were similar. It seems that great minds think alike huh, so why not read that piece as well? Be warned though, the article contains several spoilers.

(The Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow encounter immense danger in a poppy field before arriving to the Emerald City)

(The Stalker, the Professor and the Writer get existential in a field before reaching "The Zone")

But what I'd like to explore goes beyond the aesthetic, formal and structural similarities between both films.
Sure both are divided in monochromatic, sepia sequences and lush vivid moments to separate the "realities" they deal with.
Both deal with dreams, wishes and the fear that comes when we see them about to materialize.

But more than an interpretation of The Wizard of Oz, Stalker gives it a new dimension by removing the main female character.
Under this reading, Stalker could very well be an alternate version of The Wizard of Oz, one without Dorothy.
There is a lot that can be drawn from the fact that both films refuse to give proper names to their three supporting male characters.
From the Scarecrow to the Writer, they are all merely known by adjectives mostly related to their work. With this they are not only robbed of something that would resemble an identity, they also become symbolic figures at their most basic form.

This is obviously intentional given that both the Stalker (if he is to supply Dorothy's protagonism) and Dorothy, have beings with proper names they use to link back to home.
The girl has her dog Toto, whom she refers to and talks as if he was the only connection she has to what she originally thought to be true.
The Stalker has his daughter Monkey (Natasha Abramova) who doesn't come with him but is often mentioned and most of the time is a mysterious figure who reminds her father about something he might've chosen to forget or ignore.

If we concentrate on Stalker we come to find that Monkey might very well be the Dorothy who stayed behind.
An alternate version of the perky heroine Garland played who might've missed the tornado and never got to realize her destiny.
When the movie ends we learn something about Monkey, probably no other character knows.
It's as if Tarkovsky is reminding us not only about the fact that the young female presence is essential to these plots but also giving us insight into the tragedy that would be for some art-forms to be altered.
"Mankind exists in order to create works of art" declares the Writer with absolute certainty.
It's also curious to see how Dorothy serves as a compass of sorts and her non-presence in Stalker makes the male characters seem lost at all times.
More than expressing some basic form of male-female complementarity, it seems to be saying something about the nature of the elements we carry with us.

You might say that having Dorothy on board didn't make things any easier for the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow but at the end of Oz Dorothy has learned something about herself and the people in her world. She has found home.
The Stalker though remains the same, perhaps even more detached from a world he no longer recognizes and fully aware that magic might not be what he needs; after all he himself declares "everything that happens here depends not on The Zone but on us".
But where is his accountability for his own actions? Why isn't he able, like Dorothy, to learn from past mistakes? How many more times will he do this journey?
This eternal search for the Emerald City is what makes Stalker such a moving essay about traveling down the confines of the human soul, where yellow brick roads might not always point in the right way.

Which of your favorite classic movies has inspired another movie you love?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cemetery Junction **

Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan
Felicity Jones, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Anne Reid
Ricky Gervais, Ralph Fiennes

It's often said that most comedians eventually want to venture into drama. If so, Ricky Gervais is staying true to that saying and along with The Office partner Stephen Merchant takes on the coming-of-age film intending to prove they aren't only good at making us laugh.
Although judging from this by-the-numbers drama, laughter might be the thing they're best at.
Set in 1970's England, the film follows the lives of three friends: the idealistic Freddie (Cooke) who wants to leave town and make something for himself, rebel factory-worker Bruce (Hughes) and the crass Snork (Doolan).
Freddie starts working as an insurance salesman for a ruthless self-made entrepreneur (Fiennes in top villainous form) and rekindles with an old flame (Jones) who happens to be the boss' daughter and is engaged to one of his co-workers (Goode).
He begins to realize there's more to life than he though at first and begins to stray from his friends who remain childlike in their world vision.
But the small town philosophy isn't limited to his friends, at home Freddie has to deal with his father (Gervais) who thinks his son feels superior to him because he wears a tie to work.
In a nutshell it's the story we've seen a million times; will Freddie leave this town or stay behind?
The film feels episodic and predictable and the characters are never fully realized so that we think of them as whole human beings.
There are some funny situations and the cast is nothing if not splendid! Watson is at her subdued best, Goode makes his good looks evoke the chilly carelessness his character needs and Reid is hilarious as Freddie's grandmother.
Yet the movie is as instantly forgettable as the experiences the characters are having should be unforgettable.

Raining in My Heart.

Few filmmakers studied the human soul as thoroughly and as constantly as Andrei Tarkovsky.
In Stalker, the Russian master delivered his most acute and precise dissection of what it is to be alive despite your knowledge that the whole world is pretty much made out of pain.
The movie follows three men in their attempt to enter a restricted area called "The Zone", where, who knows why, it's said that your deepest wishes are granted.

There's not really much of a "plot", in the common sense, to spoil about Stalker, since the film mostly relies on atmosphere and Tarkovsky's heart-stopping timing.
However in what could be the film's centerpiece (really could be, since it has so many truly majestic moments) we receive an unexpected punch in the gut.
As the three men come to a realization regarding their destiny, they sit next to each other contemplating what the future might bring them. Again, this is completely subjective, given how Tarkovsky makes no effort to elaborate or over-explain what goes inside his characters' minds.
As the camera moves away from them we see they appear to be framed, as if time had stopped for a moment and for the first time we see them as what they are; nothing but mortal beings in a universe that won't cease to exist once they're gone.
As they come to terms with their mortality and their utter smallness in the face of something that will prevail (in their particular case "The Zone"), Tarkovsky hits us with rain.

The fact that it's raining inside a room shouldn't be an issue, after all "The Zone" does as it wants, what's most surprising about this moment is the way in which Tarkovsky makes this rain feel purifying, mocking and dreamlike.
Rain has become a manipulative staple filmmakers use to highlight specific moments ("oh no my heart has just been broken", "uh oh here comes the serial killer") and Tarkovsky knows he wants to do just the same.
What becomes stunning is the ways in which he layers this common film trick. The rain begins as the sadness and longing in the characters becomes more evident but as the camera distances us from these men, this meteorological phenomenon takes on a different symbolism.
It has become yet another division between them and "The Zone" and between us and the film.
As if everything was about adding covers, layers and disguises, we never learn the true nature of what "The Zone" is and we are left with a deep sense of sadness at the realization that as a thinking species we are more limited than we would like to think.

This post is part of the "Loved Getting Wet Just Now" blog-a-thon hosted by my friend Andrew of Encore's World of Film & TV.

Style Sunday.

The luscious Christina Hendricks looked all sorts of magnificent as she attended the Creative Arts Emmy Awards last night in Los Angeles.
The Mad Men scene stealer wore a simple but highly effective Christian Soriano black dress, that highlighted her gorgeous curves and reminded us of something Ava Gardner would've worn.
The bright red lips are just perfection.

How psyched are you about the fact that she might win an Emmy next Sunday?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

Christina Aguilera...bless her heart. Whoever made her believe she has become a brand name, and people the world over will know who she is (as they obviously will with Cher) just by reading her first name, is seriously deranged.
But that said, the poster for Burlesque is all kinds of fabulous! If it wasn't for the fact that Aguilera doing her "I'm about to sing so shut up bitches" pose is a bit too "tour on film", everything else is so decadent, kitschy and gay that the movie is making it clear who will like it and who won't.
From a design level, we could've done without the movie title on top, given how the sign made out of light bulbs is pretty easy to read on its own.
The whole thing looks like VH1 Divas meets Chicago by way of Dreamgirls times This Is It.
And honestly I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing.

Zhang Yimou is a visual master and has yet to disappoint when it comes to pure aesthetic experiences.
The only reason why this poster caught my eye is because I love how it openly declares it's a remake.
Hollywood loves remaking movies but rarely feature that as part of their marketing campaogns so Zhang must know what he's doing if he leads people on fully knowing they are about to see something that might've been better the first time around.

Dying to see these movies or could you care less about remakes and X-tina?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

May Noomi Forgive Me...

...but this David Fincher adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo keeps sounding better by the minute.
First came all the news about the amazing Daniel Craig being cast as Mikael!
Then Robin Wright as his lover Erika! (One of the richest roles in the series).
Now we finally have a Lisbeth! Her name is Rooney Mara, someone I was sure I'd never see again after that Freddy Kruger thing, alas her she is.
And doesn't seem to be half bad for the part, probably getting someone like Natalie Portman or Carey Mulligan would've been detrimental to the whole project given their notoriety.
Today though even better news came in the shape of the amazing Max von Sydow!
He's been cast as Henrik Vanger (the businessman who hires Mikael for the big investigation in the first installment).
I used to think this whole idea was a sure to be chaos but honestly I'm slightly excited now.
Of course I'm aware that this being a Hollywood thing means we will get the last movie until 2013 (I love that the Swedes shot them all at once and released the trilogy within a year, who has time to wait when the world is so chaotic!?!?) but at the rate it's going and with the parts left to cast this could in fact become an award worthy movie.
Or it could go the Bourne way and be discriminated agianst because of genre...
We shall see, for now let's all bask in the glory of more von Sydow onscreen (I wonder if the Swedish producers approached him to play any part in their own version of the movie...)