Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oscars 2012: Best Dressed.

It was the safest year we've ever had on the red carpet. This means that:
a) There's little to make fun of and even less to give us nightmares (something that very well describes the utter forgettability of the whole event)
b) There is just one look that will go down on the fashion books (guess which one...)
c) Meryl Streep is featured among the best dressed for the second time! You'll be in shock when you see how high she ranked!

10) Natalie Portman
Since last year she denied us moments of amazing fashion (damn you baby bump!) she tried hard to make up for it this year in a series of looks that highlight her loveliness. This vintage Dior gown features polka dots, yes polka dots, and even if you would've assumed they only worked in relaxed episodes of Mad Men, Portman made the look acquire a certain je ne sai quoi. The hair is a bit of a letdown, but she looks so jovial and fresh...

9. Michelle Williams
It was about time MiWi wore something that made it seem she was having fun and enjoying herself. The girlieness in this Louis Vuitton is undeniable and the way she accessorized it (the little bow!) is absolutely adorable. This is the first time I've ever been in love with one of her looks.

8. Emma Stone
Yes, we all know this Giambattista Valli is essentially Nicole Kidman's Balenciaga froma  few years ago. The difference is in the style of the woman who wears it. With Nicole, the dress made a statement; it seemed to be saying "I am a gift to humanity" and neither of us could prove it wrong, which is why the dress gained a certain arrogance (very much like Jolie and her leg this year). 
As worn by Emma, the giant bow expresses her exciting youthfulness and her eager desire to be liked. The flow of the gown is remarkable and Emma's grin brings it something that Nicole's icy demeanor never achieved.

7. Rose Byrne
She's sexy and she knows it, that's why she went for a simple Vivienne Westwodd sequined sheath that screamed disco queen meets dominatrix. 

6. Stacy Kiebler
She may not be a celebrity but boy was she perfect on the red carpet. This Marchesa is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The structure is perfect, the color is bold and demands everyone's attention. Clooney lost Best Actor but he sure had his own little golden statue to take home.

5. Penélope Cruz
Everyone seems to have a strong opinion on Pé's new hairstyle. I think the length is perfect and even if it gives her a slight severity it still brings out the Grace Kelly-ness in her. Something highlighted even more by this gorgeous sky-blue Armani Privé which follows Pé's own kind of red carpet trend but feels utterly refreshing in spite of its classic-ness.

4. Jessics Chastain
Do you remember when Beyoncé wore an awful House of Dereon black and gold dress to the Oscars that made her look like a huge Chinese lantern? Do you remember when a few years later Halle Berry showed Ms. Knowles how to do black and gold? Well, Jessica Chastain now occupies the title of best black.and-gold wearer of all time, in this majestic Alexander McQueen that culminates Chastain's impeccable red carpet season with what might become her most iconic look. She is picture perfect and too flawless for words.

3. Rooney Mara
Bangs? Check.
Intense red lipstick? Check.
Givenchy structured dress? Check.
Mara was another newbie princess bringing it all together with a flawless Oscar look. 
The dress' texture made it look like she was surrounded by clouds. Perfection!

2. Meryl Streep
Upon first looking at Meryl's liquid gold Lanvin, one would've thought she was dressed like an Oscar because she knew she'd go home empty handed. As the night progressed, the color gave the Queen of Actors a certain glow that made her look holier than ever.
Then, she won and Meryl achieved a new power, that of prophecy given how beautifully her newest statuette looked against her dress. This is the best Streep has ever looked at any awards ceremony. Well done! Posterity will be thankful.

1. Gwyneth Paltrow
On a night that was all about nostalgia and old Hollywood glamour, Gwyneth Paltrow set the bar higher than the rest in this absolutely exquisite Tom Ford dress complete with a Joan Crawford-esque cape. This look is so perfect that not even the cape is mock-able. It gives her a demure consistency that's only surpassed by the simplicity of her makeup, hair and accessories. If she had gone for a tight bun or a high hairdo, she might've been too severe, or too old. The ease with which her pony tail let the dress take over and highlighted her sinfully beautiful bone structure, might just be Gwyneth's most astonishing red carpet look. Some are crediting the dress to the fact that she had first dibs on Ford's ultra secret new collection but come on, how many actresses out there can pull off a cape?
Gwyneth's boldness and refreshingly oxymoronic effortless glamour are what sartorialist dreams are made of!

What were your favorite looks?

I also discussed fashion with the awesome Nathaniel and Kurt over at The Film Experience. So what are you waiting for? Head over there and join the merriment!

Oscars 2012: Worst Dressed and Meh (Mostly Meh Though)

This year nobody seemed to make a total fool out of themselves which is a surprise. Then again, the Oscars had never been this safe and predictable in terms of winner which makes the fashion all the more understandable. To kick things off in the meh department we have Miss Angelina Jolie, whose leg seems to have taken on a life of its own in the aftermath of this preposterous look. While we all can agree that she's a beautiful woman, her leg pose was stupid because it made everyone laugh while she thought she was being Jessica Rabbit in terms of sexiness. Perhaps if the leg hadn't been poking out of a boring velvet Atelier Versace, we might've been a bit more impressed by it.

Bérénice Bejo's  Elie Saab is not bad by any means, but the color washes her out in such a way, that not even her fiery hair can spark any life in it.

Jesus Christ, enough with the nude color Kristen Wiig! This J. Mendle might be beautiful but it feels like she's worn it to every awards show she's been to.

This Marchesa is a tricky thing. On one side the combination of colors is quite striking and the beading is quite the handcraft, but it makes poor SaBu look at least twenty years older and twenty pounds heavier. The unflattering mid-section makes it seem as if she just had too much ice cream and wants to conceal her new belly. The lack of drama upstairs (meaning the natural makeup) in this case work against her, because we keep being drawn to the strange ice claws around her waist. Overall this one's a mess.

Melissa Leo is a mess one more time. This time she went for a too informal Reem Acra that slightly recall this ensemble worn by Natalie Portman last year. Portman was pregnant at the time, which explains the fact that she was going for a shapeless look. Leo has no excuse.

Wouldn't Jane Fonda have looked great in this Valentino Couture gown? It's totally up her alley and she's only like 60 years older than Shailene Woodley...

Oy, most people are in love with Viola Davis and think saying something unflattering about her is either being a racist, an idiot or the most insensitive person alive, but not even they will be able to deny that she chose a very bad time to get rid of her wigs. We get it, she's proud of her heritage but the wigs were so beautiful that I'm sure no one really knew they were fake. This new hair gives her a Dennis Rodman look that's beyond unflattering, mostly because she's always pairing it up with dresses that are way too tight in the boob department. The color in this Vera Wang isn't doing anything for her really.

Oh J. Lo, you A-list hoochie. This Zuhair Murad dress is what Octavia Spencer was wearing but unlike what the pattern did for her, it does nothing for Lopez who looks like a hooker from space. The holes on her arms are inexplicable and give the dress a cheap look. Did she run out of fabric?

What do you think of these ladies? Anyone here you would promote to best?

Oscar Leap Recap.

As usual the Oscars were an almost instantly forgettable affair. Billy Crystal did a decent, albeit extremely safe, hosting job and everyone and their grandmother knew that The Artist would win the top awards, so that gave the whole affair a slightly dull mood. Here are my fave bits in chronological order:

Queen Meryl, who had a great surprise in store, was on her usual wonderful mood. She is always such a good sport, even when she must suffer through some real humiliations, like having Sandra Bullock defeat her.

Cameron Diaz and J. Lo epitomized silly fun when they presented the make-up award. In all honesty though, I had no idea that Cam's behind was so, well, ample. 

Meryl being a sport for her The Iron Lady make-up team...

This was the second best win of the night. A complete surprise too, considering it actually deserved to win!

The Christopher Guest troupe was all sorts of brilliant and I couldn't help but wonder what are people waiting to have Eugene Levy play Marty in a biopic.

My favorite part about Dragon Tattoo winning Best Editing was to have the orchestra play the shoulda-been-a-winner score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

This bit was slightly ridiculous but Gwynnie was Carole Lombard brilliant, proving that you can be funny and still look like a goddess.

Speaking of goddesses, I demand to get on whatever Emma Stone was on when she presented her award. She was such a joy to watch! She should've hosted the whole thing!

Isn't Kenneth Branagh the cutest?

No wait, isn't Uggie the cutest?

Ugh NO, wait, isn't Bret McKenzie the cutest?

Y'all know I can't stand Angelina Jolie most of the time, which is why I loved that Jim Rash mocked her ridiculous leg move right after she presented him with his Oscar. I'm sure he was exiled from Hollywood the following morning but his, well, rash move injected the event with an oh-no-he-didn't rush of joy.

Woody won!

I hope the Scorsese drinking game goes on for as long as the world exists.

Le sigh...

Rooney Mara won in my heart and I love that her clip was the most risky Oscar has done since I started watching them. Those who say she doesn't "act" should just take a look at hos this angelical creature turns into this:

"I AM insane!"

Her boyfriend looks so supportive! Did you know he's the son of Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen?

THE moment of the night:
Her "what?" was such a lovely moment. I'm sure she never expected to win again. Well done Queen!

SaBu was rightfully one of the first to stand up and applaud the great Streep!

God knows I love Glenn Close (I'm a Patty Hewes wannabe) but Meryl has always had more of a movie star quality that she's always lacked. It was pleasant, if a bit heartbreaking, to see her become one of the all-time biggest losers.

Michel Hazanavicius and Bérénice Bejo are the new Brangelina, right? OK not really, but they exude old-world class in a way the other two will never do.

Gotta love Rooney's mischievous look.

And for those of you who feel I'm devoting too much to Meryl's win, just like her, I say:


Long live the Streep! Did you enjoy the Oscars or am I just bringing up bad memories? Had you moved on by now?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Style Sunday.

Emma Stone always looks so radiant and angelical, this Elie Saab makes her seem out of a wholesome episode of Mad Men and hey we're not complaining. Gotta love that she lets that fiery hair do all the work others leave to accessories and heavy makeup.

Rooney Mara gives plum a chance in this stunning J. Mendel cocktail dress. The risqué cleavage and the dramatic makeup make her recall Louise Brooks, while the simple suede heels make her seems as if she was floating.

Are you excited to see these two on the red carpet tonight?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hugo ****

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Richard Griffiths
Frances de la Tour, Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz
Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Jude Law, Christopher Lee

During a not so seemingly special moment in Hugo, the eponymous protagonist (Butterfield) and his friend Isabelle (Moretz) sit in a movie theater as they proceed to watch a film. That familiar clickety-clack sounds fill the air and then the camera focuses not on the movie being displayed but on the projector's light from which the images emanate. For a second or so, particularly because of the film being in 3D, audience members will undoubtedly feel as if they are the figures being projected. If cinema is life and god is but the projectionist changing the reels, then no other movie has captured this spiritual connection like Hugo.
Directed by the one and only Martin Scorsese (a god among filmmakers to continue with the metaphysical argot) the film is an adaptation of Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and centers its attention on the title character, an orphan living clandestinely in the Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris. After the death of his father, the little boy moved to the station where he's accidentally in charge of maintaining the clocks while trying to repair a mysterious automaton left behind by his father. 
Convinced that the curious contraption will reveal a message from his late father, he spends night and day trying to make it work, in the meantime stealing food and supplies from the station's various inhabitants. Scorsese (along with the majestic work of production designer Dante Ferretti) creates a microcosms in which the little boy moves around like a Dickensian hero, trying to stay away from the cartoonish Inspector Gustave (Cohen) and thoroughly fascinated by an enigmatic toy store owner who simply goes by the name of Papa Georges (Kingsley).
To reveal more plot points would be sinful but it's more than enough to say that Hugo along with Georges' goddaughter Isabelle, embark on an adventure to unlock the secrets of the automaton which leads them to a remarkable discovery.
Less obsessed with the telling of the story than with the universe that it tries to recreate, Scorsese too sets out on an adventure that's equally moving, didactic and thoroughly enchanting. Eventually the plot involves the creation of cinema and particularly the pioneer works of Georges Méliès who we are told was one of the first artists who realized films were the essence of dreams.
On the surface Hugo seems to be a simple story about finding your place in life - its protagonist thinks that a life without purpose is the equivalent of being a broken machine - and Marty isn't one to deny the little boy his dream. Lovingly he approaches the youngest characters and makes us question exactly how much responsibility does the world put on children?
As an essay on infancy, Hugo makes harsh questions regarding children's roles in a society that seems to ask so little and yet so much of them. Aren't children supposed to be the future? If so, then Hugo's own fate seems marred by the harshness of his past experiences and in order to survive he has obviated his creative nature for more mechanical duties.
Scorsese too wonders if in a way we aren't all machines trying to find our own purpose, waiting perhaps to be fixed. This is best expressed through the inspector who due to a war injury has to wear a mechanical brace on his leg. Other filmmakers would've simply turned the inspector into a Tin Man-like character trying to find the heart among the metal parts, but Marty knows best and lets us see that even if Gustave is the only one wearing a metal device, almost every character in the movie seems to be running on some sort of invisible clockwork, duly repeating their daily tasks perhaps unaware that there is magic out there.
This pessimistic look on life might seem to harsh for a family film which is why Marty joyfully lets us know that magic is still accessible to us and merely requires for us to buy a movie ticket.
In a way then, Hugo isn't exactly about the little child but about Marty himself, a notorious historian and film preservationist, whose mantra seems to be something along the lines of "movies are the gift that never stops giving".
The director takes us back to the early days of cinema which went from being a fad to turning into the most cohesive of the arts. The film meticulously constructs key moments in cinema history mostly involving Méliès work. We see the early master at work in his fish tank-like studio where mermaids coexisted with dancing skeletons and annoyed moon men. If you've often wanted to reach out and touch what was projected on a movie screen, this film literally gives you the power to do it, using an impressive work of 3D cinematography in which every layer seems to be thriving with life.
Towards the end of the film, we are treated to what can only be called a miraculous achievement as moments from ancient movies become nothing less than tangible dreams. Yet in order for us to appreciate cinema more Marty reminds us that because of its all-encompassing powers, movies require that we become familiar with the other arts. His film isn't merely a poem about cinema, but an ode to the power of creation and the power to achieve sublimity through arts. Hugo has countless literary, theatrical and graphic art references; if not just see the way in which the clockwork in the station resemble cubist masterpieces that force us to take a second look in order to determine their structures.
Few movies dare to find the soul in the machine with such effortless proficiency and undeniable love. During one of the film's most breathtaking moments, Hugo has a nightmare within a nightmare and when he wakes up we realize that this is Marty's way of reaching out to us and asking us to never let go of the dream of cinema. Like a Tinkerbell armed with a camera and unbridled passion for his craft we have no other choice but to applaud him and kindle the fire of his devotion.

Motifs in 2011 Cinema: Disillusionment.

Perhaps because it’s one of the youngest artistic forms, cinema is often assessed in much different manner that literature, or the visual arts. We discuss it in terms of genre, not in terms of thematic offering. Comparing, for example, Corpse Bride and Up because they’re both animated leads to some dubious discussion especially when – like any art form – thematic elements examined in cinema and the way different filmmaker address them make for some stimulating discussion. Motifs in Cinema is a discourse, across nine film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2011 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of the artist or the family dynamic? Like everything else, a film begins with an idea - Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a single idea changes when utilised by varying artists.

- Andrew K.

One of my favorite songs says "disillusion takes what illusion gives" and this couldn't ring truer than it does while looking back at the cinema of 2011. The last decade was characterized because its up and downs were more extreme than anything else in the past. When things got bad, it meant war, terrorist attacks, pandemics, severe economic crises, social revolts, harsh weather changes and natural disasters etc. When things got good - if they ever did - it seemed like the world was closer to unity. Not so surprisingly, most of the good came in direct response to the bad, with entire countries uniting to help out a smaller nation in need, technological and scientific breakthroughs and perhaps naively in the promises made by a series of politicians who for a split second seemed like they would be able to change the world.
The movies of 2011, more than before, focused on how all of the good eventually let us down, how racism, intolerance, war and corruption just might've won the battle.

In Meek's Cutoff - perhaps the most aggressive political commentary of 2011 - Kelly Reichardt questions the Obama administration's lack of direction. Her story of wandering pioneers might not seem like a straightforward "movie" in the sense that it never worries about being entertaining and has no regard for plot. However embedded in its desolated landscapes lies the greatest story never told: how people abandon everything precious to them for an ideal that might never materialize. Realizing these people are lost isn't as heartbreaking as the delusional nature of the man leading them (played with astonishing charisma by Bruce Greenwood) who is more keen on preserving his public image than on acknowledging his flaws and how he let his people down. Meek's Cutoff cleverly uses history to make a point out of the cyclical nature of our universe.

This cyclical nature is repeated in Drive a film that takes place in a Los Angeles that seems to have never moved past the Reagan era. A labyrinth of decay surrounded by neon lights, Nicolas Winding Refn's tale questions what happens when society has lost all signs of latent humanity. L.A. here becomes the ultimate symbol of disillusionment, a city where people once came to dream (there is nary a sign of Hollywood glamour, we only see the menial tasks performed by stuntmen and strippers) but now are in deep search of a hero.
That the hero they get is a morally ambiguous macho figure speaks more about how the icons of valor are thought of as primitive creatures that predate the times we live in.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo then gives us a hero(ine) that fits more in our times. Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) might not be Homer's idea of a savior, but in these times when corporations deal with our private information, she gets the Julian Assange badge of honor for "criminal heroism". When and how exactly did telling the truth and trying to make things right by way of immorality became a sign of courage might be a task more adequate for sociologists, but we'll take our salvation in any way it comes, right?

Although salvation makes no sense when thinking that a single epidemic might invalidate all of our moral codes. In Contagion we saw how an illness not only destroyed lives but shook survivors as well. What is the point in trying to preserve any signs of humanity when we commit the greatest acts of inhumanity against ourselves?
Steven Soderbergh's masterpiece was a chilling reminder that globalization is making us stronger only by giving us a false sense of unity, when in fact countries seem to wish they could erect walls to contain their own troubles without ever recurring to "friendly neighbor" behavior. That we see so many people in the movie trying so hard to contain the pandemic and have them fail so miserably is both horrifying and somehow relieving. Does it make sense that the end of times is then becoming the hedonistic poison of choice to so many people?

The Tree of Life wasn't without loss of illusion, in fact the entire premise circles around having a son realizing he'll never satisfy his father. On a larger scale, the film is also an essay through which Terrence Malick tries to satisfy a supreme power (the ultimate father figure) by trying to find the very essence that created him. It would be facile to blame daddy issues for all that's wrong in the world (despite what Freud would prefer) but The Tree of Life pulled off the ultimate hat trick by offering us a second chance, perhaps those who have faith will find solace in an afterlife. The rest of us are stuck down here mesmerized by the way in which our hopes reach for the sky only to crash with irreverent violence.