Friday, March 12, 2010

Oscar Fashion Report Card

Breathtaking gowns and sharp suits... one of the best features of tuning into the Academy Awards. That alone is reason enough to watch; however, this year was a bit boring. I could have done with a bit more fashion faux pas, and only a few dared to go all out. The next 20 or so posts feature my judgments along with pictures and designer information.

Based on a grading scale of: whatever the hell I want.

Meryl Streep

Designer: Chris March
Grade: B+

Very age-appropriate. The picture of true class.

Miley Cyrus

Designer: Jenny Packham
Grade: B+

She finally found a way to dress herself for the Oscars. Very cute.

Jake Gyllenhaal

Designer: Burberry
Grade: A+

The name is Bond. James Bond. Completely slick.

Ryan Seacrest

Designer: Burberry
Grade: C-

Those lapels go a little too deep and look a little too slick and narrow for that skinny tie. Creates a weird line. Sorry Seacrest, but only one man could pull off that jacket: Jon Hamm.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mariah Carey

Designer: Valentino
Grade: F

She's my pick for worst dressed of the evening. Not even a classy, high-profile event like the Academy Awards can get her to cover up or put on a floor length gown. The dress looks like its too small for her.


Designer: Tadashi Shoji
Grade: B-

Not a bad dress, good fit, but kind of boring. Besides, Gabby Sidibe looked much better in her blue gown.

Robert Downey Jr.

Designer: Lanvin
Grade: B+

Oh man, I really, really wanted to give him an A. Nice suit (look at those sharp lapels!), bold move with the colored bow tie, chic nerd glasses... but dammit, those shoes!

Diane Kruger

Designer: Chanel
Grade: D

This dress makes her look like a wet loofah.

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Designer: Dries Van Noten
Grade: B+

Thank you for not being conventional. Refreshing print.

Avatar Crew

Sigourney Weaver
Designer: Lanvin
Grade: B

Sophisticated Sigourney. Nice, bold color.

James Cameron, and wife
Designer: not important.
Grade: F

Apparently the only award James Cameron deserved last night was one for trying too hard. Really? blue? Ben Stiller looked better in his Na'vi makeup.

Kate Winslet

Designer: Yves St. Laurent
Grade: B+

Classy. I wouldn't mind having her career. Or her wardrobe.

Cameron Diaz

Designer: Oscar de la Renta
Grade: A

This dress has more flair, drama and personality than you acting in any of your movies. But congrats! Last year, you were in "The Box," also known as worst reviewed movie of the year, and the year before, you could brag about "What Happens in Vegas" with Ashton Kutcher, and you still get invited to the Oscars! And you're rich! So much to celebrate.

Sarah Jessica Parker (aka, foot-for-a-face)

Designer: Chanel
Grade: C

If you're going to present the Oscar every fucking year for best costumes (we get it, she was Carrie, but I beg the academy, please stop), don't come in wearing a reinterpreted satin night suit.

Gabourey Sidibe

Designer: Marchesa
Grade: A

She said: "If this this dress was in a porn movie, it would be the money shot."
Nice color, plus points for sass. Prob one of the only people that night who genuinely enjoyed being there.

Colin Firth and Ryan Reynolds

Both Men:
Designer: Tom Ford
Grade: A+

Best suits of the night. Why? Because Tom Ford designed it. You can't argue with that fit. Very nice deep-V on Reynolds...takes confidence to pull that one off.

Zoe Saldana

Designer: Givenchy
Grade: B+

I realize that i'm going against the current on this one, but at least it was bold, and has some glamour, which was noticeably missing this year on the red carpet. Yeah, its two different concepts sewed together, but a disco ball for a top, and some pom poms for a skirt never looked so fabulous. Plus, maybe she's going to a mariachi fiesta thing later. You should be so jealous.

Penelope Cruz

Designer: Donna Karan
Grade: A+

If Penelope Cruz decided she wanted to sew together some napkins and wear it at the next Academy Awards, I would still give her an A+. For the rest of her life, she will earn that grade, and that grade only.

George Clooney

Designer: Giorgio Armani
Grade: B+
Grade for hair: A++

George Clooney can do what he wants. Hate on the fashion mullet all you want, it shows character.

Also, i love Elisabetta Canalis' red column dress. Understated in style, but not color. Very elegant. (Designer: Roberto Cavalli). Although she kind of looked like there were a million other places she would rather be that night.

Molly Ringwald

Designer: Todd Thomas
Grade: B+

Fantastic color on her, really complements her hair. Arm bracelet is a bit 1995, but if anyone wants to resurrect a past fashion fad on Oscar night, we'll let Molly Ringwald do it.

Carey Mulligan

Designer: Prada
Grade: B-

interesting silhouette, quirky detailing, her personality can't quite pull it off... meh.... next.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rachel McAdams

Designer: Elie Saab Haute Couture
Grade: A+

jaw-dropping, elegant.

Charlize Theron

Designer: Dior Haute Couture
Grade: F

Instead, try to look at her face...

...okay sorry that doesn't work either.

Aren't the Academy Awards supposed to be a family-friendly show?

Kristen Stewart

Designer: Monique Lhuillier
Grade: A+ (plus five points extra credit for being K-Stew)

K-Stew won the Oscars. The entire show.

Kathryn Bigelow

Designer: no clue, not important.
Grade: D

Kathryn Bigelow, you're so beautiful, there is no way you look like your 58 years old...but your dress does.

This is what a great suit looks like

Grade for all three men: A

Zac Efron
Designer: Calvin Klein

Chris Pine
Designer: Ralph Lauren Purple Label

Taylor Lautner
Designer: Dolce & Gabbana

Slim silhouettes, meticulous tailoring, crisp bowties, retro-but-modern slim neck tie... this is how to wear a real suit.

Vera Farmiga

Designer: Marchesa
Grade: C

Clearly, the inspiration behind this dress was Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers, stapled together in an incoherent shape. At least the color is nice? nah, no it isn't. I'll keep this above a D because at least she tried to go for the glamour.

I decided I don't like her grandmother hair bun either.

Nicole Richie and Joel Madden

Designer: Reem Acra
Grade: N/A in, not applicable to this event, to this industry, or planet earth. Who the hell invited these two?

On an unrelated note, these idiots named their son Sparrow James Midnight.

Anna Kendrick

Designer: Elie Saab
Grade: A

Who cares if she didn't win. Love the detailing on the slit and the shoes.

Sandra Bullock

Designer: Marchesa
Grade: A+

Best of the night goes to Sandy. Perfect dress, perfect eyes, perfect lips, perfect hair, perfect attitude. Besides winning the Oscar, she was trophy-like herself, and I kind of just wanted to take her and stick her on my own mantle.

Shutter Island

directed by Martin Scorsese
starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams

Scorsese’s new mystery movie may be missing a little something… unfortunately, that something happens to be mystery. To be clear, this movie is by no means a bad one, but with Scorsese, we have come to expect a certain standard. So this review is subject to the esteemed collection of a great modern-day auteur. Hey, he can’t win it all, but despite this semi-negative review, you should see it anyway. But first is first. Synopsis:

High style and high drama are what characterizes Shutter Island, set in the 1950s starring Leonardo DiCaprio as U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels, Mark Ruffalo as Chuck, his right-hand man, and Ben Kingsley as a suspicious Dr. Crawley, who cares for the nation’s most dangerous mentally unstable patients, housed in facilities on this island. Daniels is hell-bent to solve a curious case of the island institution’s missing patient, especially since he believes solving it is a missing link to explaining the death of his own wife years earlier.

The acting talent is there, but this thriller is seriously lacking in character. Shutter Island simply isn’t as driven by personality as some of Scorsese’s best (and even worst, for that matter) films. The dialogue is 1950s true-to-the-era cool and aims to be purposely stereotypical, but caring about the plight of Daniels is a stretch. Equally as difficult is investing trust in Chuck (Ruffalo) and Crawley (Kingsley). The audience’ logic stays divided for a bit too long.

Kudos to DiCaprio, Ruffalo, and a fantastic Kingsley, who added a perfect dose of peculiar to his character. Each actor helped along a seemingly weak script. However, there’s only so much they can do; it won’t be a career-highlighting role for anyone. Instead, the lack of character development leaves the audience hoping to cling onto an engaging story. Sadly, that doesn’t work too well either. Even though mystery and suspense are a perfect pair, Scorsese only gets one of these right. The mystery evaporates early on, but leaves the audience with a taste of impending suspense.

The story picks up here and there since the suspense is rich and tense, but sometimes the intensity of a scene gets diluted with too much dialogue. The redeeming quality of this movie is its style. You have to give Scorsese credit… considering a great director can be easily defined by watching the physical elements of a movie reflect, reinforce and comment on the narrative.

This can be seen all over the movie, which is basically homage to the master of suspense himself, Hitchcock. In his committed decision to play up style, he uses high and low key lighting a la film noir to heighten suspense and blur the audience’s understanding of Daniels life. From the get-go, we question the protagonist’s motives and truth vs. reality (unfortunately, this is where we lose the mystery).

The film purist within Scorsese to stick with the look, feel and film technology of the times also adds some charm on screen. His deliberate use of fake revolving backdrops, a striking retro set and harsh color scheme displays his attention to detail. It feels like you could spend a good bit of time yourself poking through all the details that make Island seem like an impossible labyrinth to crawl out of. The chilling soundtrack also adds some good drama. The film aims to visually trap you, and it succeeds.

In the end, he misses out on making a classic by ignoring his strength of character development and the vital need for a tight plot to make a good mystery, but his stylistic touches remind us why we still love him.

Now, forget what you just read. Upon viewing the film, read the entry below, and let me give you a few reasons that will actually make you appreciate this movie better than you thought you did:

Shutter Island, visuals in depth (Spoiler Alert)

This is a little testament on why you should, at this point, only compare Scorsese to Scorsese, a filmmaker who sets himself as a class apart anyway… he’s earned it.

Scorsese intuitively uses a downward motif in this movie. There are many scenes that include hard-falling rain, falling paper, falling ashes, even trees falling and crashing to the ground. To emphasize this motif, many of the camera angles are set up from a perspective wither looking down from a great height, or looking up from downward angle. He is subconsciously hinting to viewers that things are probably never going to look up for Daniels right from the beginning.

The cinematography gives way to many deep, dark contrasts, and sometimes blinding whites. This is meant to question how well you actually know DiCaprio’s character. Are those dark corners hiding a few secrets? When he washes out a scene with intense whites, are we starting to see the truth about his character? The lighting is begging the question, how much do we really know? How well do you know these characters? The harsh color story gives off the feeling of an uncomfortable chill; it’s a little ragged and tired.

Vertical and horizontal lines are used all over the set, to reinforce a labyrinth-like feel to Shutter Island. Jail bars, metal staircases criss-crossing each other, tall trees, long corridors… the list goes on. The audience gets the feeling that it may not be possible for Daniels to find his way out. That becomes one of the main struggles. The whole island, surrounded by water with only one exit, feels like a giant prison cell.

Watching the movie on mute may even give you enough hints about the plot visually. You get the feeling that perhaps the mystery in this movie was never supposed to be too tight. This brings up another visual (and structural narrative) theme of this movie… to celebrate the mystery movie making of Alfred Hitchcock.

The trick to Hitchcock’s success was never a clever ending, but by the way he used his characters and the boundaries that were created by the narrative of the mystery. Sometimes the plot wasn’t even so important and often, it was ridiculous. He was a master of binding mystery so close to his characters, who he relied on to push the story along. By the end of a Hitchcock movie, the twist usually wasn’t even important anymore. The audience by then is more invested in their characters.

Scorsese tries to emulate this, but falls short because of two things. First, he does not set up the suspense to go deep enough. Second, and more importantly, his greater challenge was to show more, not tell as much and rely on his characters to sell the mystery. Still, its a great attempt. Many have often tried to copy Hitchcock, and never even came this close.