31 Days Of Oscar – Spotlight on Hollywood’s Costume Queen Edith Head

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This is my contribution to a mammoth blogathon event created by Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken and Freckled, and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen that coincides with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar, February 1 to March 3, 2013. It’ll be a month filled with fabulous tales and screen wonders.

I’ve agreed to do a post on the famed costume designer Edith Head as I love fashion and movies. Seems like an easy subject right? Well, not quite. I found myself quite stumped as to where to start. I mean she has contributed to over a thousand films! But I’m going to attempt to enlighten myself with this post, and hopefully you’d learn a bit more about her in the process.

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Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981)

  • Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California, the daughter of Jewish parents, Max Posener and Anna E. Levy.
  • Received a bachelor of arts degree in letters and sciences with honors in French from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1919 and earned a master of arts degree in romance languages from Stanford University in 1920.
  • Attended the Chouinard Art College where she met her husband, Charles Head, who was the brother of one of her Chouinard classmates, Betty Head. Though they got a divorce in 1936, she kept her maiden name to continued to be known professionally as Edith Head until her death.
  • Before she entered the film industry, she was a high school teacher of French and art looking for a way to supplement her income.
  • Famous for wearing “sunglasses” they actually weren’t sunglasses in the beginning, but blue glass lenses on regular frames. It was a common trick for Costume Designers to look through blue lenses to get a sense of how the clothing would read on black and white film. Instead of looking through a single lens monocle as was common, Head had blue lenses put in normal frames. Later, she replaced the lenses with regular tinted lenses. [per DailyMischief.com]
  • Edith Head died of Bone Marrow Diseases on October 24, 1981 in Los Angeles.

The petite (5’1″) Edith got her start at Paramount Pictures as a sketch artist when she was only 27 years old in 1924. Believe it or not, she actually borrowed another student’s sketches for her job interview (wonder what happened to that girl?). By 1927, she started working on silent films. She might even had a hand in the first Oscar-winning film Wings, though she was uncredited. By the 1930s, she had already established herself as one of the industry’s leading costume designers.

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I think her key to her success could be that she consulted extensively with the female stars she worked with. I think that’s surely a lesson every costume designer should take to heart. I mean, it’s a mutually beneficial process when you keep the person you’re designing for in mind to make sure the outfit or dress is flattering on their figure. What worked for spindly Audrey Hepburn certainly wouldn’t have worked for the voluptuous Sophia Loren. It’s no wonder Edith became the favorite of the 40s and 50s leading ladies, such as Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Sophia Loren, Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Natalie Wood, amongst others. They would personally requested to work with her so Paramount often had to ‘loan’ her out to other studios.

“A designer is only as good as the star who wears her clothes”
Edith Head

According to Encyclopedia.com, Edith described herself on one occasion as “a better politician than costume designer,” Head was expert at handling star temperament, preferring to yield ground on a neckline or dress length than engage in a battle of wills. The conservative, neutral-colored suits she perennially wore symbolized her willingness to suppress her individuality in the interests of her craft.

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Edith consulting with Hitchcock and Ingrid Bergman

She worked at Paramount for 43 years until she went to Universal Pictures in 1967, it’s perhaps no coincidence that her move was prompted by her extensive collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, who had also moved to Universal, in 1960.

I used to do sketches when I was growing up, so I LOVE looking at sketches like these I found on this Fashion Journal. Apparently she released a book called How to Dress for Success, published by Random House in 1967.

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“You can have anything you want if you dress for it.”

– Edith Head

A Legendary Career

During her 44 years as head designer at Paramount, and additional 14 years at Universal, Head worked on a total of well over a thousand films. She won a record of eight Oscars for Best Costume Design out of 35 nominations (unrivaled to this day).

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Here are her Oscar-winning costumes:

The Heiress, 1949

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Samson and Delilah, 1950

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All About Eve, 1950

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The story goes that the silk cocktail dress that Bette Davis’s Margo wears in the Eve’s famous party scene didn’t fit her, in fact it slipped off her shoulders, causing Edith to freak out right before the scene was supposed to be shot. But Ms Davis pulled off the neckline, shook a shoulder, and said, “Don’t you like it better like this anyway?” [per RookieMag.com]

A Place in the Sun, 1951

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Roman Holiday, 1953

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Sabrina, 1954

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Although Edith Head won an Oscar for Best Costumes, most of Audrey Hepburn’s “Parisian” ensembles were, in fact, designed by Hubert de Givenchy and chosen by the star herself. However, since the outfits were actually made in Edith Head’s Paramount Studios costume department, some felt that doing so created enough of a technicality to nominate Head, instead of Givenchy. And, indeed, since she refused to have her name alongside Givenchy’s in the credits, she was given credit for the costumes, even though the Academy’s votes were obviously for Hepburn’s attire. Head did not refuse the Oscar, however.
[per Wikipedia]

The Facts of Life, 1960

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The Sting, 1973

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What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not. We ask the public to believe that every time they see a performer on the screen he’s become a different person.
– Edith Head

My personal five favorite Edith Head dresses

Picking just FIVE favorite Edith Head dresses are akin to Sophie’s Choice. So I’m not ranking these, I mean they are all equally exquisite, largely because of the elegant beauties who wore them. Edith certainly knew how to dress each woman in a way that they accentuate the best of her figure.

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Click on the image to see a larger version so you can see the details on these dresses
  1. Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina
    When I first beheld this amazingly beautiful dress I literally gasped. I mean the ornate details on the bodice and flowing skirt is nothing short of breathtaking.

  2. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    The classic little black dress (LBD). Worn to perfection dress by Audrey Hepburn, it actually gave her a bit of curves to her extremely slender figure. I think the accessories here are key, the pearls, tiara, large black sunglasses, and of course, the right ‘tude, made this look eternally chic.

  3. Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun
    I actually haven’t seen this film yet but I came across this photo a while back and I did a double take. It’s not the kind of dress I’d ever have the courage to wear, but Liz Taylor had the figure and gracefulness to pull it off beautifully. The cluster of little flowers on her chest, fitted bodice that accentuate her teeny-tiny waist, and the full organza skirt… this is a fairy tale dress fit for a Disney princess!

  4. Grace Kelly’s in Rear Window
    I guess when you’re working with an unbelievable beauty like miss Kelly, anything you put on her would look amazing. But Edith’s dresses are often as gorgeous as those who wore them, and this one is definitely one of them. It’s a simple dress yet so incredibly striking… I love that Edith pared down the accessories so the dress became the focal point.

  5. Ann Baxter in All About Eve
    There are certainly a boat-load of gorgeous costumes in this film, but for some reason I love this simple one that most people probably don’t remember, favoring the one that Bette Davis wore when she said her famous line, ‘It’s gonna be a bumpy night.’ What I like about this one is how understated ans sweet it is, but that sheer neckline is just sublime. It accentuates Ann’s petite figure beautifully, and it’s interesting that in this sweet, demure dress, she displayed her most cunning scheme to Celeste Holm’s character. It’s an intriguing dichotomy.

“Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
– Edith Head

Edith in Popular Culture

EdnaModeNot only did Edna created iconic gowns for Hollywood’s classic beauties, but she’s also got her own iconic look of her own with her round-rimmed glasses, short blunt cropped hair and full bangs and her ‘uniform’ of pencil skirt suit. She even made her mark in popular culture in The Incredibles, as Edna Mode, the fashion designer to the Supers, was based on Mrs. Head. [Another bit of trivia: she was voiced by director Brad Bird].

Edith became as big a star as the leading ladies she dressed. There’s even a play based on her which wrapped in L.A. in the Fall of 2010. A Conversation with Edith Head was brought to life by Susan Claassen — who bears a striking resemblance to the real life designer — in her one-woman show. See the ad below:

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Edith was commemorated by a US 37 cents postage stamp, issued on February 25, 2003, depicting Ms Head at work.

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Check out this screen test of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, where Edith was interviewed on her process of creating the costumes for the film:

Books written by Edith:

  • With Jane Kesner Ardmore, The Dress Doctor, Boston, Massachusetts, 1959.
  • With Joe Hyams, How to Dress for Success, New York, 1967.
  • With Paddy Calistro, Edith Head’s Hollywood, New York, 1983.

There a Pinterest devoted to her sketches, see below:

Edith_holdingmanequins

I feel like I could never do Ms Head justice with my post. Having been reading all kinds of articles on her the past week, I’ve hugely admired her talents and work ethic and marveled on her beautiful costumes. Catherine Martin, the Oscar-winning costume designer for Moulin Rouge! whose work will be seen in the upcoming The Great Gatsby called Edith ‘the quintessential costume designer.’ Edith has become synonymous with fashion on film, and her amazing work left such a huge mark on Hollywood, more than any other person in her profession.

Per TCM.com, screen legend Bette Davis gave this eulogy at Edith’s funeral:

“A queen has left us, the queen of her profession. She will never be replaced. Her contribution to our industry in her field of design, her contribution to the taste of our town of Hollywood, her elegance as a person, her charms as a woman – none of us who worked with her will ever forgot. Goodbye, dear Edith. There will never be another you.”

What an icon… what a woman!


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I hope you’ve enjoyed this tribute.

Share your thoughts on Hollywood’s costume queen and feel free to share your own favorite Edith Head’s costumes.

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Comedy Done Right: My Favorite Year (1982)

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Greetings and all sundry!

Please allow me a few moments of your time to broach a topic that has through the years has shown a minute, yet steady degradation from its heydays of the 1940s through mid 1960s. To present day. Where once reigned clever, slyly written, often melodic dialogue. Only to be replaced with sloppy, lazy double entendres and inevitable toilet, in jokes and gastric humor. In plots whose outcome is designed by committees.Instead of a clutch of writers throwing out sometimes raunchy first drafts. Then through repetition and variants, polish their work to a high gloss.

To that end. I have a selection to proffer. A film that is equal parts superb period piece. Augmented by a cast of unknowns and up and comers orbiting around proven Jack of All Trades from across the pond and you have…

Comedy Done Right: My Favorite Year

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A near anomaly that arrived with little fanfare in early 1982. Directed with pleasantly detailed love and reminiscence by one time page at 30 Rockefeller Center. Turned comedic actor and given the reins of a project near and dear to his heart. The live, make or break variety and comedy shows that filled weekend night during the infancy of some newfangled thing called “Television” in the early 1950s. Spearheaded by vaudevillian and schlock meister, “Uncle Miltie”, Milton Berle. Whose direct and steadfast competition was Sid Caesar and ‘Your Show of Shows’. Upon which this marvelous, compact gem is based.

Any good director worth his salt knows that a film’s opening scene should be its most important and focused. And here it is writ large with the voice of intern writer, Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) explaining why 1954 was his favorite year. As he makes his way along with a crowd of pedestrians across intersections jammed with battle ship sized Buicks and Lincolns and Chevys and into 30 Rockefeller Center. Where he is bursting at the seams over the arrival of his childhood hero, Allan Swann (Peter O’Toole playing Peter O’Toole playing Errol Flynn) being the show’s scheduled guest star. Who arrives very late after being diverted by a pair of Trans Continental stewardesses.

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Visibly drunk, though hiding it well enough when not impressing the show’s head writer, Sy Benson (Bill Macy. Never more blustery and spineless). Who makes a bet that Benjy cannot baby sit Swann through the week and until the show. Swann stands erect, and sneers, “Treble the bet, you toad!” the way only O’Toole can and Benjy and Swann are off to the races. First to Swann’s suite. With the aid of a hand truck and Swann passed out atop a stack of luggage. Where Benjy and Swann’s chaffeur, Alfie (Tony DiBenedetto) pull Swann and the had truck up a curved staircase and Swann suddenly keeps time with “The 1812 Overture” as the hand truck clears each riser. From there to the bath. Where Alfie opens Swann’s “Drunk Suit” as Swann ad libs to beat the band. Suspended in the shower. Then lowered into the bath tub. Further inspector reveals many bottles of Pinch scotch as Alfie explains that Swann is broke and is doing King Kaiser’s ‘Comedy Cavalcade’ as a way to pay back taxes.

Bathed and refreshed, Swann and Benjy head to the Stork Club. Where mayhem ensues and destruction surpasses Swann’s last visit a year and half earlier. The following morning, King Kaiser (Joe Bologna playing Sid Caesar) has a visit from Karl Rojeck (A grunting, gravelly voiced thug, Cameron Mitchell) and his lawyer complaining that Kaiser’s popular character, “Boss Hijack” is a bit to close to home for the well dressed gangster. The confrontation between Kaiser and Rojeck is wonderful to watch. As a smiling and cheerful Kaiser blatantly steals and mimics each one of Rojeck’s gestures, shurgs and grunts. From the way Rojeck sits to the way he rolls his cigar. Stakes escalate as Rojeck tosses Kaiser’s logo placard out of the open office window. Kaiser throws Rojack’s cashmere coat moments behind it. And Rojeck hints at “accidents” before slapping on Kaiser’s largely over sized Fedora and leaving.

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In the interim, Benjy is trying to make time K.C. Downing (Jessica Harper) who is very easy on the eyes. Cannot tell a joke, but comes up with some good writing and script ideas. And reads Benjy like a book. Sharing take out Chinese food that ends well for both. Better than a dinner with Swann being invited over to Benjy’s mother and her Filipino husband out in Brooklyn. And Swann and Benjy crashing the very upscale and WASP cocktail party thrown by K.C’s parents. Via an unreeled fire hose secured on the roof above.

Undaunted, hung over and stranded. Swann and Benjy wander around Central Park as Swann slowly bares his soul. His career, bad habits and daughter Tess are revealed as a New York Mounted Policeman is spotted riding in the distance. Swann, in a pique of bold swashing of buckles decides to steal the horse. As rehearsals quickly beckon. Swann claims the horse. Grabs Benjy on the fly and the two ride off.

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Rehearsals for ‘The Three Musketeers’ skit go very well before show time. When Benjy off handedly mentions that the show will be done live. Which sends Swann into a stammering panic attack and into the night. Benjy chases Swann, finding solace in a bottle. As a crew of Rojeck’s men sneak inside the studio and plan an intervention with King Kaiser. It’s Benjy’s turn to bare his soul. Explaining that Swann was always been his bigger than life hero. In whatever film Swann happened to be in, Benjy believed. He had to, because no actor is that good! And Benjy needs that real life hero right now!

Whjich would be good, because the show has begun and Kaiser has already fended off one attack from Rojeck’s goons. Decking Sy as an unintended after thought. A triumphant shrug brings a second wave as the ‘Boss Hijack’ skit begins. Hangs for a moment and picks up as King falls through a flimsy prop wall with goons attached. Up in the camera booth, K.C., the writers and directors watch King fends off the goons and Swann appears still in his Musketeer costume up in the balcony.

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Spotlights and camera follow as the audience erupts in applause. Swann grabs a cable and swings down onto the slug fest set. Landing atop two thugs and evens the score with fists, slashing sabers, brass pommels and whatever is handy. The audience is none the wiser and responds with a thundering standing ovation. As Benjy finishes up his soliloquy with Alfie’s line about “With Swann. You have to forgive a lot, you know?”

What Makes This Film Good?

Superb on location shooting for many key scenes. And near complete overall attention that lulls you into believing you are in 1954. Huge, chrome adorned cars. White wall tires. Wide ties. Modest, below the knee, often pleated skirts. A plethora of sensible shoes for the ladies.

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Occasional seamed stockings beneath over sized dancing cigarette packs. Amongst glimpses of the monstrous anachronistic revolving sized and lensed cameras of that time. All aid often rapid fire dialogues and occasional arguments. Especially amongst the writers. Where Bill Macy’s Sy bullies one moment. Then caves spinelessly and kowtows once Joe Bologna’s King Kaiser enters the room. In a close environment seething with Testosterone and inner adolescence. Where the ladies in attendance have to be as quick, clever and funny as the men.

Also the often sub rosa advice given by Mel Brooks. Who helped produce the film and gave  its writers and director insights and perspectives into its leading characters.

What Makes This Film Great?

A cast of mostly then unknowns working with a well written, fairly family friend script. And given time to develop and get comfortable with their character’s quirks, (Especially Basil Hoffman’s who whispers to co-writer Anne DeSalvo to deliver his snide comments to Sy) tics, gestures and habits. Joe Bologna is a treat to watch as the father figure of this near insane asylum. Constantly doubting himself. Then making amends for imagined slights. On the cheap.

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Also a notable first big screen role for Mark Linn-Baker as Benjy. Possessing a better than decent sense of timing with either glib, off hand remarks. Or coming close to losing it as Swann disappears from an apartment building roof and the fire hose Swann holds onto quickly unreels. High marks also for the just being recognized Jessica Harper’s K.C. Downing. Who’s worked hard to get where she is and has distinct plans for the future. Which may or may not include Benjy.

MFY_PeterOToolePeter O’Toole being given the chance to play himself. Eloquent. well versed. A very credible substitute for the usually bigger than life Errol Flynn. Asked to join this project just after his madcap director’s role in ‘The Stunt Man’.

Cinematography by Gerald Herschfeld is top notch. Following director Richard Benjamin‘s penchant to draw back within a set to capture the sense of tension and claustrophobia. While keeping close ups to a minimum and allowing the cast to be an ensemble. Set design by Donald Remacle varies from minimalist in the studios and offices. To cramped and a bit spartan in Brooklyn. To downright opulent for the Stork Club, Swann’s suite and of course, Central Park in shadowy sunlight.

Kudos also to May Routh‘s spot on costume design and composer Ralph Burns’ original, definitely of-its-time soundtrack.

All culminating in a film that is rarely rushed. Has no weak or lagging spots. Tells a story very well and has a happy ending!


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews



Well, what do you think of Jack’s pick of comedy done right? Thoughts on ‘My Favorite Year?’

Tube Watch: TV Bad Boys You Can’t Get Enough Of

RobinHoodlogoHappy Tuesday all! I’m not gonna have a Weekend Roundup this week as I’ll do a Monthly recap in a few days. Truthfully, I’m already tired of talking about the Oscars so let’s switch gears and talk TV for today if you don’t mind.

The past weekend I’ve been catching up on BBC’s Robin Hood. I actually have seen a bunch of clips of the show on YouTube, but I figure it’s time to watch it properly. I’ve got to admit I’m much more interested in watching the villain of the series than the heroic English outlaw… most especially the vicious but tormented Guy of Gisborne… played to perfection by Richard Armitage.

Dark. Dangerous. Intoxicating. What is it with certain villains we just can’t get enough of? I talked about Charming Movie Bad Boys a while back, and the TV counterparts share similar irresistible qualities. Ok, so the fact that Guy is dressed in all black leather, broods and glowers like nobody’s business and speak in such a deep, raspy voice are all very fetching stuff… but I have to give props to the show’s creators for writing Guy in such a delish way, a complex character instead of a typical one-dimensional baddie. Best of all, they’ve got the perfect actor to effortlessly stir every hot-blooded woman in the audience.

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As the Sheriff of Nottingham’s second-in-command, Gisborne certainly has done more than his fair share of heinous stuff on the sheriff’s behalf. Murder, lies, torture, robbery, you name it, he’s done them all in the name of power. He’s a loathsome creature but yet, I can’t stop watching and I can’t bring myself to hate him either. Not to mention all that unrequited love stuff between Guy and Marian, the girl he loves who of course is in love with Robin. Power-driven and love-starved, Guy is forever torn by his own emotions and you can’t help but feel for this guy. It’s all very beguiling… I wish this show’s still going on!

GuyMarianBBCRobinHoodI guess I have a taste for damaged characters who think they’re beyond redemption, those tortured souls whose own self-loathing and internal conflicts somehow draw me in instead of pulling me away. With villains like these, who cares about the hero? Characters like Guy is the very reason I kept tuning in and I wish they had focused more on him on the show. I find Jonas Armstrong as Robin Hood so terribly boring by comparison.

Watching him made me think of other great TV bad boys from previous shows I’ve watched. Most recently there’s Frank Underwood in House of Cards, but there have been countless others in the past. Sexy con-man Sawyer from Lost, vile lothario Dr. Christian Troy of Nip/Tux, Lex Luthor in Smallville, Gregory House the acerbic doctor, the narcissistic genius Gaius Baltar of Battlestar Galactica, misogynist jerk-off Richard Fish of Ally McBeal… the list goes on! And though I hardly ever watch the show, surely Made Men‘s Don Draper is one of the most irresistible TV bad boys ever written. Popular shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire actually consist pretty much entirely of bad boys.


So now I’m asking you, readers. Who are YOUR favorite TV bad boys [or girls for that matter]? 

Live Bloggin’ the Oscars 2013

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Happy Oscar Sunday everybody!

Well, this is my attempt at live bloggin’… so this post will be updated from time to time. I’ve actually just turned on my TV but I’ve been on Twitter the last hour during the Red Carpet festivities. Not everyone dresses well, but I’m not gonna dwell on the negatives. Here are five I think looked absolutely stunning… Charlize Theron’s doesn’t really need a great dress to look like a goddess.

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As for the Best Dressed Gent and Couple, how about oh-so-dapper Suraj Sharma of Life of Pi and Hollywood’s Golden Couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner? They both look elegant but without the repulsive smugness of Brangelina.

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Time listed here is in US Central Time.

7:30 pm – Seth MacFarlane arrives as host. He actually has a nice, deep voice [no I haven’t watched TED nor Family Guy for that matter] so I’ve never heard him in anything before.

Best Bits in the first 10 min:

MacFarlane: The “quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh” has succeeded already… [and Tommy Lee actually laughed!!]

Nice jab there about Ben Affleck being snubbed by the Oscar…

I know it’s not exactly family friendly but I’ve got to admit I laughed during the ‘I Saw Your Boobs’ skit, I’m sure Kate Winslet is wincing uncontrollably at the end of that song.

Not sure what’s with Capt. Kirk being the co-host in a very musical Oscar. But hey, I’m just glad Channing Tatum was NOT doing one of his Magic Mike routine!

Now… on to the Awards!

7:51 pm –Best Supporting Actors

Woo hoo!! Christoph Waltz won for Django Unchained! Really, doesn’t seem like anyone has a chance when he’s nominated… twice in a row already. TWO Oscars in the last five years and ten years ago he was in an Austrian soap opera, not bad Mr. Waltz! His acceptance speech was humble and sweet, too, LOVE him!

7:58 pm – Best Animated Short Film

What’s with Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy?? That was so awkward… Not surprised at all that Paperman won. So Disney’s crew got a box seats at the Oscars?? Well it’s televised on ABC after all.

8:00 pm – Best Animated Feature Film

Well-deserved win for BRAVE. Kudos to Brenda Chapman for becoming the first female winning director of animation!

8:05 pmThe Avengers assemble!

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Well there are only five of them… where in the world is THOR?? Not impressed with the five Avengers gang though, they seem awkward and really Jeremy Renner, you suck at comedy!

Best Cinematography and Visual Effects

8:10 pm – WOW, Life of Pi won for both Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. I think both are well-deserved as the movie is stunning. But… I was kinda rooting for Roger Deakins to win this for Skyfall. Alas, he remains the Susan Lucci of the Oscars with 10 nominations total now.

Best Costume Design

8:18 pmAnna Karenina won for Best Costume Design. Jacqueline Durran frequently worked with Joe Wright and her design for Atonement was gorgeous as well.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

8:19 pm – Glad it didn’t go to Hitchcock which I don’t think deserved the nom, Anthony Hopkins makeup was actually distracting. Les Miserables won in this category! And yeah, whoever made Hugh Jackman look ugly deserved it!

8:21 pm – No Bond actors reunion but we’ve got Halle Berry, who’s one of the worst Bond girls, to introduce the Bond Tribute??!

Fortunately after the Bond movies montage…

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The 76-year old Dame definitely deserves a standing ovation, wow what a performance! Appropriately she wore gold when she sang her most popular Bond song Goldfinger!

Aside from Adele and Dame Bassey singing, it’s a very meh Bond tribute though… such a bummer for a Bond fan like me.

Best Live Action Short Film

8:32 pm – Jamie Foxx and the stunning Kerry Washington presenting the award and Curfew won. Never seen any of the films nominated so no comment on this one I’m afraid.

Best Documentary Subject

8:35 pmInocente won. Again, not familiar with this category, but congrats to Sean and Andrea Fine.

8:38 pm – Dapper Liam Neeson comes out to present the batch of Best Picture nominees. They played Schindler’s List theme… What, no Taken theme available tonight??

8:42 pm – Though snubbed, Ben Affleck is still a good sport by showing up to present the award for…

Best Documentary Feature

8:44 pm – … and the Oscar goes to: Searching for Sugarman. I REALLY want to see this!!

Heh, getting sick of that Jaws theme ushering the winners to hurry up with their speech. I wonder how Spielberg feels about his Jaws theme song being used in such an annoying way!

8:49 pm – Two lovely ladies Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain presenting the award for …

Best Foreign Language Film

8:50 pmAmour wins. So basically no Best Picture trophy for Mr. Haneke. Takes the suspense away when the Academy nominate the same film in both categories!!

8:54 pm – Appropriately enough, John Travolta comes out to introduce the musical numbers… but why are we going back in time?? I mean Chicago? Dreamgirls?? [scratching head]

Still, Catherine Zeta Jones looked ah-mazing though in that All That Jazz number. Someone should check if Michael Douglas is hyperventilating in his seat!

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Then Jennifer Hudson sang one of the themes from Dreamgirls. Yeah ok, that girl CAN sing!

9:02 pm Les Miserables cast singing on stage singing One More Day… oh boy, holy goosebumps!!

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9:09 pm – Capt Kirk er… Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana presenting … something, I spaced out a bit, sorry.

9:10 pmMark Wahlberg & that teddy bear from TED present Best Sound Mixing. I know some people are excited for this but I’m not one of them. The winner: Les Miserables.

9:14 pmBest Sound Editing award [someone ought to tell me the main difference between these two categories]. The Oscar goes to: Zero Dark Thirty… and Skyfall. I didn’t know they could have a tie at the Academy Awards??

9:18 pm – That Sound of Music joke had me in stitches! Mr. Christopher Plummer seems amused, too. Oh how I used to have such a huge crush on Captain Von Trapp

Best Supporting Actress

9:22 pm – One of the first non-surprise of the night. The Oscar goes to: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables. I haven’t even seen the film yet but I think she deserved it… I love how she genuinely thanked her husband in her speech, “Far and away the greatest moment in my life was when you walked into it.” He mouthed back ‘I love you’ when she said it on stage. Awwwwww…

9:32 pm – Lovely Sandra Bullock presenting the awards for …

Best Film Editing

… and the Oscar goes to: ARGO!! First Oscar win for William Goldenberg. With a last name like that, he’s destined for an Oscar, no? In any case, well-deserved award surely and I think ARGO was a great film largely due to his work.

9:34 pm – Time for Adele and that gorgeous Skyfall theme. This song better win, ok Academy!! I was still hoping Daniel Craig would’ve burst out of the backdrop or that all the Bond actors would come out from the disguise of being her backup singers!! Yeah, I’m hopeless 😀

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9:45 pmNicole Kidman… what are you doing to your face, girl? You are beautiful before all that Botox!! She introduced the next batch of Best Picture nominees.

9:49 pm – Harry Potter and Bella Swan presenting… [yawn] Seriously who’s the moron who invites Kristen Stewart… ugh! The less said about her the better.

Best Production Design

… goes to Lincoln!

9:58 pm – Scruffy George Clooney introduced the emotional In Memoriam tribute. We lost so many great people this past year… Celeste Holm, Nora Ephron, Ernest Borgnine

Now, I’m not too fond of Barbra Streisand‘s singing but her The Way We Were seems appropriate for this segment.

10:07 pm – A jab at Rex Reed! Ahah, good one Seth! I can’t stand that critic.

10:08 pm – It’s the year of reunion at the Oscars! The cast of Chicago reunited to present…

Best Musical Score

I love that Life of Pi theme but I’m rooting for Thomas Newman for Skyfall. And the Oscar goes to: Mychael Dana for Life of Pi! I guess I’m not too upset as that first theme played at the start of the film really moved me…

Now for this one however… I’d be soooo upset if Skyfall did not win!!

10:15 pm – Before I find out though, we’ve got Norah Jones singing the nominated-theme from TED. I think Seth himself could also sing that pretty well.

Finally…

Skyfall WON Best Original Song. Wahoo!!!

Ok so it doesn’t exactly made up for the disappointment of the meh Bond tribute, but still, I’m quite happy with the Skyfall win. Adele was so nervous on stage, it’s kind of endearing.

10:22 pm – Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman [or as Seth called it… most random Oscar-winning couple] presents the award for…

Best Adapted Screenplay

… goes to Chris Terrio for ARGO! Terrio mentioned how Ben Affleck won Best Screenplay Oscar in 1997 for Good Will Hunting, and now his film brought him his own screenwriting Oscar!

Best Original Screenplay

Quentin Tarantino won his second Oscar for Django Unchained (he won his first screenplay Oscar for Pulp Fiction). I like QT’s speech and giving a moving appreciation to the actors for bringing his script to life.

10:33 pm – Hollywood legends, as Seth called them… Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda presenting the most up-in-the-air category

Best Director

… goes to Ang Lee for Life of Pi. I’m not extremely wowed by the film but I always like Ang Lee winning because he’s so humble and sweet. This is Mr. Lee’s second directing Oscar after Brokeback Mountain. Sense & Sensiblity is one of my all time favorite film… he could’ve easily won for directing that one as well.

10:40 pmJean Dujardin being his oh-so-adorable self presenting the  award for…

Best Actress

JenLawrenceOscars2013… and the Oscar goes to: Jennifer Lawrence!! I predicted Jessica Chastain to win this thing but I’m not upset at all that Jennifer won. She seemed genuinely surprised and her speech is endearing, she even remembered a family member’s birthday.

I like her. She really is a force to be reckoned with in Silver Linings Playbook… and everything else I’ve seen her in.

10:45 pm – and now… to the least surprising category of the night.

Best Actor

DanielDayLewisOscars2013Who else do you think would win in THIS category? Daniel Day Lewis of course. Even Meryl Streep didn’t bother opening the envelope!

Lewis’ speech is surprisingly hilarious. With Meryl’s red lipstick all over his face, he cracked jokes about playing Margaret Thatcher and that Meryl was Spielberg’s first choice for playing Lincoln. Ahah!

10:52 pmJack Nicholson being his kooky self. And now we’ve got America’s First Lady to introduce Best Picture?? Conspiracy theories, anyone?? Anyway, Michelle Obama, Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts must be shopping for their metallic gowns together.

10:57 pm – Finally it’s time for:

Best Picture

… goes to ARGO!!! Yes!! This is the third film that I rooted for three years in a row (2010 – The King’s Speech and 2011 – The Artist), and they’ve all ended up winning Best Picture!

I quite like Ben Affleck’s speech. He doesn’t even seem bitter about being snubbed for Best Director. But hey, so far it’s been quite a blessing in disguise as he’s won practically every other directing award… and now his film won Best Picture. This is a big year for Affleck. Man, what a comeback!!


Well, that’s my first Live Bloggin’ at the Oscars!

There’s not a lot of surprises this year in terms of winners, well apart from the tie in the Best Sound Editing category. I wonder how many times that happens.

I’m just gonna keep the highlights short to just three:

  • Fave Musical Segment: Les Miserables (yes even with Russell Crowe singing, I thought it was great!)
  • Fave Win: Tie between Skyfall for Best Song and ARGO for Best Picture
  • Fave Speech: Daniel Day Lewis’ surprisingly hilarious speech. His win might not be surprising at all, but his speech certainly was a pleasant surprise. I tell you, he not only knows a thing or two about acting, the bloke sure knows how to give a speech!


Well, what did you think of the Oscars this year? What’s your favorite (or biggest gripes) of the night?

Oscar Musings, Predictions & Everybody’s Chattin’

Happy last Friday of February… or as we cinephiles call it, the start of Oscar weekend! As usual, the Oscars will be televised live this Sunday by ABC and in more than 225 countries worldwide from 8:30-11:30 p.m., ET.

Adele_Bassey_OscarI’m a bit bummed out that the James Bond tribute won’t be featuring all of the Bond actors after all, that’s been something I’ve been anticipating. I mean, wouldn’t that be cool?! But I guess that’s too good to be true. I guess we’ll have Adele singing the Oscar-nominated theme song Skyfall and I believe Dame Shirley Bassey will also make an appearance (yay!) Not sure what she’ll be singing though, but I’m sure it’ll be phenomenal! Oh, did you know that the cast of The Avengers will be on hand to present? Apparently that’s what it said on the Oscar blog.

Now, it’s been sort of tradition (well, only since a couple of years ago) that I’d post my winner predictions in the major categories. I haven’t seen ALL of the films nominated, but heck this is just for fun, so who’s gonna stop me! 😀

  1. Best Picture: ARGO
  2. Best Director: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
  3. Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
  4. Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  5. Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
  6. Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
  7. Best Animated Feature: Brave
  8. Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom
  9. Best Adapted Screenplay: ARGO
  10. Best Foreign Language Film: Amour
  11. Best Song: Skyfall
  12. Best Costume Design: Anna Karenina
  13. Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Most of my predictions are basically just gut instinct so we’ll see how I’d fare, ahah. This year I’m rooting for ARGO, that’s the film I chose for the LAMB Devours the Oscars Series.

Click the banner below to read why I think ARGO deserves to win Best Picture!

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For sure I’ll be tuning in and live blogging Sunday night. Good thing I’ve asked my boss to take Monday off as I’ll be so tired and my brain will be filled with film stuff to concentrate on work anyway.

So now, on to the links! These are some awesome Oscar-related posts you should check out if you haven’t already:

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Paula and Aurora are currently hosting a spectacular 31-Days-of-Oscar blogathon and this week Paula posted her random Oscar predictions. See if her picks match yours.

On a related note, Michael @ It Rains…You Get Wet participated in that blogathon by posting what he calls Oscar’s misjudgments… Recasting Oscar’s Picks of the 1990s. See what he’d righteously overturn within each of the decades he’s been watching movies, starting with the 1980s and later he’ll be posting his picks for the 2000s.

Another entry to the 31 Days of Oscar deals with the ever-so-fascinating topic of Oscar Curse… Is it for real? Well head out to check out Iba‘s post on I Luv Cinema and decide for yourself.

I don’t know how he does it but Josh @ Classicblanca has taken it upon himself to RANK all 85 Best Picture Oscar Winners since 1929 (honoring films in 1927 and 1928). Check out which films made his top 10 and which number the first Oscar-winning-film Wings falls on his list!

HowGreenWasMyValleySpeaking of Best Picture Oscars, there’s always one of those Best Pictures that people deem as ‘non deserving.’ That somehow it had robbed another more well-deserved nominee. Well, Ryan @ The Matinee ruminates over the year HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY won Best Picture over CITIZEN KANE in his Battle Born post.

Now, some moviegoers care about the award shows and some don’t even bother with them (I know my pal Ted is nodding profusely). Well, Dan @ Public Transportation Snob recently appeared on The Film Pasture’s Podcast discussing if the Oscar still matters.

Now, on top of the industry awards, some bloggers have been posting their own awards in various categories. Andrew @ Encore Entertainment just posted his picks of top ensemble cast in 2012, Very interesting list since I had just posted the question on best and worst casting of the year.

Now, last but certainly not least… Keith @ Keith and the Movies has been posting reviews of films nominated for Oscar this year (or contain Oscar-nominated performances). He apparently found nothing objectionable about Michael Haneke’s Amour, giving it a full 5 stars. Find out why in his Amour review.


Well that’s it for the Oscar links. Thoughts on this weekend’s ceremony and/or my predictions?

Question of the Week: Who’d you pick for Best (or Worst) Casting in 2012?

Since it’s the week of the Oscars, I’ve been preparing my predictions and also an Oscar-edition of Everybody’s Chattin’ series. That’s on schedule for Friday but today I just want to pick your brain a bit today, so hope you’d indulge me.

CastingByDocI just found out about this post from Flavorwire site (thanks to @WordandFilm tweet): New Oscar Categories We’d Like to See — And Who We’d Nominate to Win Them. They have about five different category suggestions, but I really like the Best Ensemble category (like in the SAG Awards) and also honoring Casting Directors in the Best Casting category. I totally agree w/ the article in that “casting directors are the unsung heroes of the industry… The work they do is often key, yet widely devalued and misunderstood.”

From that article, I also learned about this awesome documentary Casting By that highlights the career of Marion Dougherty, who was the first casting director to receive single-card screen credit. Based on the review on IMDb, the film features a bunch of footage of first roles given to future stars, i.e. Warren Beatty, Marlon Brando, and James Dean, who was apparently one of the first actors she had cast.

Now, back to the Best Casting question. If I to take all the casting in 2012 films, obviously some worked out and some didn’t. On the top of my head I think I’d the award to the casting director(s) of Silver Linings Playbook for casting Jennifer Lawrence as an unstable young woman struggling with the loss of her husband.

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Best Casting of 2012?

I just think she’s just perfect in the role, wise beyond her years even though she’s just entered her legal drinking age of 21 when the film was made! I really can’t picture anyone else in the role that could do an equally effective job. Now, I’m sure there are others that have made an excellent casting decision – whoever cast nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild obviously has a keen eye for talent. I haven’t seen the film yet though, so can’t say much about her acting.

As for the worst, well I’m going to *honor* Hollywood’s most famous young couple Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart in their roles in Bel Ami and Snow White & The Huntsman, respectively.  I’ve already made my feelings known about the vacant *acting style* of K-Stew in my review. As for Pattinson, he was so ill-fitting and utterly unconvincing as the supposedly seductive and manipulative George Duroy, the protagonist from Guy de Maupassant’s classic novel. It’s even worse seeing him [over]acting opposite real thespians Kristin Scott Thomas and Uma Thurman in the film! I’d think just by casting different [read: more capable and expressive] actors in the leading roles would improve both films significantly!

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Worst Casting Duo in 2012

Now your turn!

If there were a Best (or Worst) Casting award, which film would you give that award to and for which actor/actress?

Long Weekend Roundup: Top Gun, Code 46, & Bill Cunningham New York

Hi everyone! My weekend roundup is slightly delayed this week as I also got Monday off. Well I ended up seeing quite a few movies in the comfort of my home cinema. These are the four films I got to watch in my three day weekend.

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Top Gun (1986)

Thanks to Ted for lending me his Top Gun Blu-ray, my hubby and I watched it on Friday night and despite the inevitable 80s cheese-fest, the movie is still pretty darn entertaining! I remember being so wowed by it when I first saw it on the big screen two decades ago. All the flying sequences made me dizzy on the big screen, but it wasn’t too bad seeing it on my smaller TV screen. Of course, when the Berlin song Take My Breath Away played on, I was swept by the feeling of sweet nostalgia! 😀

It really didn't get any cheesier than this folks... but wait, yes it did!
It really didn’t get any cheesier than this folks… but wait, yes it did!

There were few movies bigger than Top Gun in the mid 80s and Tom Cruise’s career shot up to super-stardom. Amazing that he still remains there today, but the same can’t be said for the rest. I mean, Anthony Edwards became a TV star because of E.R., Meg Ryan became the queen of rom-com, Val Kilmer starred in high profile movies and even became a superhero (Batman), but Kelly McGillis never really got another memorable roles since. But today, Meg seems to have disappeared from Hollywood, Val has lost his svelte figure, and most tragic of all, we’ve lost director Tony Scott to suicide 😦 So not only does Cruise seemed to have drank from the fountain of eternal youth, he’s pretty much still got that movie star status. That’s really quite a feat after 27 years!

Anyway, here are my mini reviews of the rest:

Code 46 (2003)

A futuristic ‘Brief Encounter’, a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.

I’ve been wanting to see this film for quite some time but when my pal Mark mentioned Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton as his favorite cinematic pairing in this post, I finally decided to see it this weekend. I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi romances, and nothing is more tragic when human’s free will cease to exist and totalitarian government enforces rules as to who we can and can’t love.

The film takes place in a not-too-distant future where city security zones are enforced due to a climate disaster, and cloning and genetic manipulation has become the norm. A strict global law called Code 46 is especially troubling, as it makes the union of two people with genetic similarities illegal. The film opens with William (Robbins) traveling to Shanghai to investigate an identity fraud case for the Sphinx Corporation. During his travels, he runs into María (Morton) and though he realizes she’s the one who committed the fraud, somehow he covered up for her. A forbidden affair ensues after they spend the night together, but the fact that William has a wife and young boy is the least of their complications.

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I’m not going to go further into the plot as it’s best that you discover the predicament the two people are facing and what they have to do to be together. I have to admit though that because there are sooo many details about the universe this film is set in that I actually had to read more about it in order to grasp just what the heck is going on, especially involving the empathy drugs and other medical procedures that’s become prevalent in their world.

Though the romance is not explosive, nary of melodramatic declarations or the likes, there is a painful honesty between Robbins and Morton that is so heart-wrenching. Towards the end though, there is one scene as they run away together that I find pretty shocking for its brief graphic nudity. Now, I always think that most of the time such scenes are unnecessary as a suggestive depiction could’ve made the same impact and I feel the same way here. That said, I’m not going to hold it against the filmmaker as the scene is not without emotions. One can’t help but feel for this couple, no matter how ill-advised their union has been from the start.

What makes it more intriguing is the small details of this futuristic world, especially the language used that’s a mix of English with other languages like Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. The characters use “Ni Hao” or “As-Salamu Alaykum” to greet each other, the Spanish word “palabra” for “password”, etc. The most important legal document of that world is called “papelles” which is a made up word that sounds French. Despite the relatively low budget, somehow director Michael Winterbottom manage to make this film look futuristic-looking by using sleek, modern buildings in Shanghai, etc. and some of the gritty market/street scenes has a Blade Runner vibe to it.

One thing for sure, despite the slow and sometimes sullen mood of the film, this is one of those film that linger with me long after the film is over, especially after it’s revealed what happens to William and Maria in the finale. Worth a look for fans of sci-fi romances, I wish they made more films in this genre.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

Chronicles a man who is obsessively interested in only one thing,the pictures he takes that document the way people dress. The 80-year-old New York Times photographer has two columns in the paper’s Style section, yet nobody knows who he is.

Truth be told, I didn’t know who Bill Cunningham was until this documentary was made, but I must have seen his photos on the fashion magazines/blogs. He’s the pioneer of street fashion photography since he published an impromptu set of pictures in the New York Times which then became a regular series. He basically takes photos of fashionistas in Manhattan that catch his eye, using a 35mm Nikon as he rides his Schwinn bicycle around town. His ‘uniform’ is a blue nylon jacket, and a convenience-store bought poncho filled with black masking-tape patches all over it as he refuses to buy a new one when it gets torn.

When you watch this, it’s guaranteed that you will fall in love with this man. He’s just so endearing for his eccentricities, but you’ll also admire him for his integrity and work ethic. I find him to be even more quirky and a rare human being, much rarer that even the most bizarre piece of fashion he photographs, and you’ll see some really out-there stuff in this film!

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All the fashion stuff is fun and dandy, but what I love most about this documentary is to get to know Bill the man, the person behind the lens and all those fashion photographs. He does what he does because he loves it — he practically shuns money almost to a fault, refusing to cash his check according to his former boss at Details Magazine. It’s never fully explained why, but basically the 83-year-old refuses to sell out to anyone as he values his creative freedom more than anything. He’d rather be allowed to do what he wants than being paid to ‘conform.’ He also doesn’t allow himself to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the fashion world. When he does go to lavish parties (even to Lady Astor’s 100th birthday party), sitting on the front row of fashion shows, he doesn’t even take a drink of water offered to him. He said he always eats before he goes to work and he’s only there to do his job, not to hobnob with the rich and famous.

BillCunninghamWhat really gets him is fashion and he is married to his work, which he doesn’t call work at all as he enjoys it so much. There’s a twinkle in his eye and he has this huge grin on his face when he’s out in his element photographing people and he’s well-loved in the fashion community. “We all get dressed for Bill“, says Vogue editor Anna Wintour who’s frequently interviewed in his documentary, and Bill appreciates fashion. He sees the beauty even in outfits most of us would deem as too weird or even ugly.

What’s fascinates me most is the contrast between Bill’s minimalist, even monastic lifestyle and the glam and glitter of the subject he’s covering. At one time, the filmmaker was baffled to learn that he goes to church every Sunday. Later on he was asked about his personal life, whether he ever has a romantic relationship and whether he’s gay, which he nonchalantly replied. But when the question turns to his faith, as to why he goes to church every weekend, suddenly the cheerful man choked up and grew quiet. It’s clearly a personal matter to him and after a long pause, he admitted that his Catholic faith ‘gives him guidance.’ It’s something he needs in his life, and to me, it makes so much sense and in a way it explains how he’s able to live the way he does.

I highly recommend this documentary to anyone who loves to learn stories about intriguing people. Mr. Cunningham definitely fits the bill and you’ll also meet other fascinating patron of the arts, like Editta Sherman, the 100-year old photographer dubbed “Duchess of Carnegie Hall” who was once Andy Warhol’s muse. Bill and Editta were two of the last few members of Carnegie Hall Artist Studios until the planned building renovation in 2010.


4.5 out of 5 reels


TheVeryThoughtOfYouPosterOh, I also rewatched this late 90s British rom-com The Very Thought of You which I saw quite a while ago because Rufus Sewell is in it. It’s actually a pretty decent movie written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) and directed by Nick Hamm (Killing Bono). I find it especially amusing as the protagonist Martha (Monica Potter) is from Minneapolis and there’s a brief scene at Mpls/St Paul airport with Tom Hollander. Mostly the movie is set in London though, which is a big plus for me.

The cast is full of talented but underrated British actors: Sewell, Hollander and Joseph Fiennes as three lifelong friends who all fall for the same woman. Oh and Ray Winstone also has a small role as a sympathetic neighbor, a far cry from his usual violent mobster roles! It’s nice to see the normally intense actors playing a light, fluffy rom-com. It’s surprisingly enjoyable though I wouldn’t rate it as the best in the genre. I’d say give this a shot if you have Netflix Instant, especially if you’re a fan of any of the actors.

I will have the review of The Heiress next week. I’m sort of still mulling it over, but it’s definitely an excellent film from William Wyler that can’t be pigeonholed into a certain genre.


Well that’s my weekend viewing roundup, folks. Any thoughts on these films?

Trailer Spotlight: British Crime Thriller ‘All Things To All Men’

Wahoo!!! Thanks to my friend Stella over at Byrneholics for the tip. This is THE trailer I’ve been waiting for, even though there’s not a confirmed US release date yet for this movie. Though for my lucky UK friends, this movie opens on April 5.

For those who missed my spotlight post for this crime thriller, I’m super excited for this mostly for the high caliber cast: Rufus Sewell, Gabriel Byrne and Toby Stephens. Oh man, talk about massive eye candy all around, and I haven’t even mentioned the gorgeous London scenery 😉

Now check out the trailer:

I have seen this trailer half a dozen times since this morning, so can’t you tell I’m excited for this? 😀 I love crime dramas and the London setting is especially intriguing for an Anglophile like me.

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Here’s the official synopsis:

When Riley (Stephens), a professional thief, is hired to pull off the ultimate sting, he is unwittingly drawn into a deadly cat and mouse game between maverick police detective Parker (Sewell) and renowned London crime lord Joseph Corso (Byrne). Parker is determined to bring down Corso and do whatever it takes to end his reign, but when the sting backfires and stakes get higher, Riley finds himself at the centre of a battle where the line between the law and crime are blurred beyond recognition.

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Leo Gregory

I really like the look of this, as my friend Stella said to me, it’ll be a testosterone-filled ride… and I’m more than game to tag along. This is George Isaac‘s directorial debut (he produced British dramas Kidulthood and Adulthood) so I don’t really know how well he’ll do behind the camera. But due to the premise and cast, I have high hopes for this.

I’m so thrilled to see Rufus getting top billing here, and nice to see Leo Gregory getting a bigger part in this as well. I’m going to try again via Twitter if I could get an interview with him. Oh btw, the girl in the trailer with no speaking parts is Spanish actress Elsa Pataky (Fast Five), who happens to be Chris Hemsworth’s wife. Boy, looks like she’s surrounded by hunks, on AND off the set, lucky gal!

I hope this film will find a US distributor, even for a limited release. Come on Hollywood, I REALLY want to see this on the big screen!


So what do you think of the trailer folks? Any fan of the cast?

New Releases Reviews: A Good Day to Die Hard and Beautiful Creatures

Happy President’s Day! I’m blessed that I get a day off today, woo hoo. Nobody likes Mondays so it’s always nice to get Monday off 😀

I’ll reserve my weekend roundup until tomorrow, but instead I’ve got a couple of new release movies for you. Perhaps those of you who get today off are considering to see either one of these. Are they worth a watch? Well, read on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

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Well, where do I start? If only the studio and everyone involved take the film’s title to heart and put a bullet right in its head and kill this franchise once and for all!

I’m actually a big fan of the Die Hard franchise mind you, Bruce Willis is always fun to watch as the reluctant action hero. The first three Die Hard are fun to watch, and I even like the fourth one (despite the silly Justin Long casting) and the internet-terrorism theme was quite timely. Now this time, our wisecrackin’ John McClane travels to Russia on a mission to save his estranged son. John hasn’t even made it to his hotel yet from the airport and he soon gets caught in a building explosion and shoot out. It turns out the rebellious Jack McClane is a CIA operative who’s on a mission to prevent a nuclear-weapon heist from happening. The plot involving a high-ranking Russian politician Viktor and a government whistle-blower Yuri (I’m surprised neither one is named Ivan!) is really stretched thin, as the movie is far more concerned with explosions and shoot-em-ups.

You know how young boys like to crash their match cars and destroy things? Well I feel like watching an 8-year-old boy playing with his toys here, except that the boy here (director John Moore) was given close to $100 mil worth of playthings to smash as he pleased. Within the first twenty minutes there’s a huge explosion, guns blazing like there’s no tomorrow, followed by a relentless car chase that never seem to end. I haven’t seen sooo many cars being smashed, crushed, mangled so much so quickly. At first I was laughing at its inherent preposterous-ness but the amusement doesn’t last long. All the deafening clanging and bullets wheezing grow more and more tedious by the minute and I’m afraid not even Bruce Willis self-satisfied smirk can’t save this movie.

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It certainly doesn’t help that Jai Courtney has zero charisma and the father/son dynamic between him and Willis are ridiculously lame. Forget ‘under developed,’ as the screenwriter never even bothered to make any effort to imbue any sense of wit or fun in their dialog. Willis’ usually amusing wisecracks are frustratingly repetitive as he keeps saying over and over again that he’s on vacation. It’s just so stupid as John wasn’t really on vacation as the reason he went to Moscow was to get his son back. Even his famous ‘yippikayay’ line was so uninspired and was delivered kind of under his breath that some people around me didn’t even realize he even said it. Poor Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely wasted as McClane’s daughter, but did she even read the script??

Now, I have to give it to Willis that at the age of 57 he still looks good enough to run around, jump, leap from tall buildings and blazing semi-automatic weapons at bad guys. But it’s getting to be a bore to see him playing himself over and over again. I can’t even tell the difference between his role here and in RED, yet another action franchise that’s fun initially but will likely overstay its welcome.

I get it that a certain ‘suspension of disbelief’ and escapism is to be expected from a Die Hard movie, but I think this one fly waaay past my tolerable threshold. Seriously, the McClane duo are apparently made of rubber as no matter how far down they fall or how hard they smash into things, they both manage to come out unscathed with not even a twisted ankle!!

Director John Moore hasn’t directed anything since 2008, which was the equally dreadful Max Payne (funny that they both got 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). I sure hope he takes a much, much longer directing hiatus after this one for all our sakes. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this tired franchise as it once again tops box office! 😦

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Beautiful Creatures

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When I first saw the trailer of this film, the first thing that came to my mind is ‘oh not another Twilight!!’ Here’s another supernatural teen romance based on a popular young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and of course they’re trying to capitalize on the Valentine’s Day weekend to suck lure young audiences in.

Instead of a rainy small town on the West Coast, this time we’re taken to a small town in South Carolina called Gatlin where there are “twelve churches, one library and no Starbucks.” That’s what narrator Ethan Wate tells us as the film opens. Ethan is a 16-year-old cool kid who likes to read ‘banned books’ and he’s been having a recurring dream that torments him. Suddenly there’s a new schoolgirl in town, a gloomy 15-year-old Lena Duchannes, known as the niece of the reclusive Macon Ravenwood whose family line been living in that town for centuries. Ethan immediately takes a shine to the new girl who reminds her of the girl in his dreams, and soon learns that she’s a witch, or ‘Caster’ as her family prefers to call it. Well everyone in school finds out who she was the day she uses magic to shatter the glass window of their classroom when she was bullied. It turns out that the reason for Lena’s angst (beyond the typical teen angst that is), is that on her sixteenth birthday, she will be claimed for either Light or Dark. The whole film largely focuses on how Ethan could save Lena from going Dark and also figure out how he is connected to her.

Good thing I read Wikipedia before I went to the screening, so at least I know just who the heck are Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson playing in this movie, as those two are the main draw for me in seeing this. Well, Irons plays the debonair-looking Macon whilst Thompson was in scenery-chewing mood the entire time — complete with her amusing Southern accent — as Serafine, Lena’s mother who’s an all-powerful Caster but takes the form of Mrs. Lincoln, the mother of Ethan’s BFF. Viola Davis also has a small but important part as Ethan’s governess of sort who’s a seer who can communicate with the dead. Emmy Rossum on the other hand, seemed to have too much fun with her role as the rebellious Ridley, Lena’s cousin who’s turned Dark for some time, that she overacted in most of her scenes.

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Now, I find the whole black magic stuff quite repulsive, not to mention baffling as so many things just don’t add up. Not having read the books, I’m willing to wager that there are perhaps more depth in them than what’s depicted on film. But that’s just speculation, I’m not that interested in this story to ever find that out. Thankfully, the movie is not devoid of some wit and humor, albeit some of them are quite campy. Director Richard LaGravenese (who also co-wrote the script) infuse some comical aspects into the characters and there are some references to some famous works like To Kill A Mockingbird that I find quite amusing. Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan is actually quite likable and nowhere near as morose or vapid as any of the Twilight boys, though he also likes to stare creepily at the girl he fancies quite a bit (is that what teenagers do these days?? I wouldn’t know). Australian Alice Englert (apparently she’s director Jane Campion’s daughter) could’ve been more captivating as Lena, but at least she doesn’t annoy the heck out of me.

Though I enjoy some of the performances and the beautiful Gothic set pieces and cinematography (the snow scene is quite lovely), I feel that the word I use to describe this movie is laborious. The long drawn-out exposition threatens to grind the movie to a halt by over-explaining things instead of focusing on crafting a love story worth caring for. The young actors have decent chemistry, but their relationship descend too much into melodrama and insipid melancholy. I think the more mature actors are having more fun in this, especially Emma and Emmy, relishing on the chance of being oh so evil.

Overall, I don’t find this adaptation would appeal much to those outside of the young adult demographic. There is a good message of sacrificial love at the end of the film, which I thought is quite refreshing to see. But unfortunately it was soon dampened by an eye-roll inducing cliffhanger finale set up for an inevitable sequel. Heh, I guess it’s too much to ask these days to just have one good movie, but no, the studio seems set to give us (I’m going to use the dreadful words again) sequels that overstay its welcome [sigh]

2.5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen either one of these films? Well, what did YOU think?

Motifs in Cinema Project: Love (and/or Marriage)

I was recently asked by Andrew Kendall at Encore Entertainment to contribute a post for the Motifs in Cinema blogging project. 2012, a multi-site themed blogging projects of 11 writers looking at 11 motifs from films last year. When Andrew emailed me the topics for the Motifs in Cinema Project, for some reason I gravitated towards the Love and/or Marriage theme. Perhaps because it so happens that 2013 falls on my 10-year wedding anniversary. So for this purpose, I’m going to focus more specifically on marriage on films and how filmmakers have used that theme in 2012.

This is the intro for the project:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 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 death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilised by different artists.

Love (and/or Marriage) in Cinema

By the time this project rolls around, I still have not seen two major Oscar contenders Amour and Anna Karenina in which the theme of love and marriage runs deep. But these eight films happen to explore marriage in varying degree, and each offers us something different when it comes to love and marriage.

[Naturally with this kind of post, I’ll be talking about some major plot points, so consider this a SPOILER ALERT!]

A Late Quartet

One of my favorite films of 2012 that’s probably get lost in the shuffle. Two members of the renowned quartet Fugue are married couple Robert and Juliette (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Katherine Keener). Even though they work together, their marriage is on the brink of doom, seemingly held together by their love for their only daughter, who later on ends up wrecking havoc in the already fragile musical group.

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Jealousy, lust and disillusionment threatened to break their marriage forever and I thought it’d be the case when Robert gave in to the seduction of his beautiful jogging partner. Neither Robert nor Juliette seems invested in their marriage as much as they are in their music, and therein lies the problem. Having been married for nearly a decade now, I realize how crucial it is to never take our spouse for granted, and this film is a reminder of that.

Brave

Just because it’s an animated film, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have a poignant message. As Pixar has done a few years ago with UP, that opening montage alone speaks volumes as one of the best portrayal of marriage on film. Unlike other less-fortunate Disney princesses, Merida grew up in a loving home with her dad Lord Fergus and Queen Eleanor. The queen is the one who ‘wears the pants’ in the family, so to speak, though it seems unrealistic perhaps in the Medieval era, so it’s perhaps more wishful thinking than anything. That said, it’s wonderful to see such a healthy relationship between the two, the scene where Eleanor vents to Fergus about Merida is both hilarious and moving.

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The film also challenges the notion of young and arranged marriage, with Merida protesting the whole betrothal process and refusing to give up her freedom. Marriage should always be a choice, first and foremost, and that ‘happily ever after’ might not always happen. It also shouldn’t be a ‘goal’ so much as a natural procession of life when things fall into place.

Hitchcock

I wasn’t wowed by this film overall but I did appreciate that I got a glimpse of the marriage life of one of the world’s most famous film directors. The saying of ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman’ couldn’t be more true when it comes to Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), as not only Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) was supportive and willing to put up with his antics, including his juvenile crush with his leading ladies, she was crucial in his career, too.

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Alma wasn’t exactly a saint, either. Lacking the attention from her husband, Alma was drawn to screenwriter Whitfield Cook who’s flirtatious with her and plays upon her own writing career aspiration. No marriage is perfect surely, but what I do like about Alfred and Alma is that they are friends as well as lovers, they can relate to each other beyond just the romantic stuff. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company and have that shared creative passion. I think that’s partly why their marriage could last as long as it did despite a few bumps on the road. Dame Mirren is the star of the show for me, and I think I learn much more about Alma here than I did about her husband.
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Moonrise Kingdom

One of the most delightfully quirky films of 2012 center on two 12-year-olds running away from home to be together. They claim they are in love with each other and we think, ‘they don’t even know what love is!’ Be that as it may, does it make their feelings ‘less true?’

Neither Sam and Suzi come from a healthy family.  Suzi’s parents are on the brink of divorce as her mom is in love with the local Captain. Sam has been living in a ‘juvenile refuge’ as his foster parents no longer wants him living with them. But love is a universal desire even for those perhaps too young to understand, and the film offers an endearingly-naive look at marriage from fresh young eyes who aren’t yet cynical nor jaded by that concept.

Nobody Walks

I didn’t really care for this film, in fact, I listed it as one of the worst films I saw in 2012. The thing is, I’m not fond of films about infidelity, though at times there’s a teachable moment that I can appreciate. In this case, it comes from the supporting character Julie (played by the massively underrated Rosemarie DeWitt). Whilst her husband was hopelessly infatuated by a young, pretty house guest like a 12-year-old boy, temptation also came her way like a storm. She’s a therapist and the seducer is her patient who happens to be a handsome and successful actor. She could’ve given in and chalk it up to her husband being a douche bag and the fact that she had been a neglected wife, but in the end she did the right thing.

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This film paints a rather bleak portrait of marriage… where things seems quiet and peaceful for this well-to-do family but yet, even the slightest breeze threatens to blow everything apart as if it had no solid foundation at all. For the time being, their union seemingly survives the whole ordeal, but it made me think… for how much longer?? What would ensure them that it would not happen again?? The main character Martine (an attractive but impossible-to-root-for Olivia Thirlby) is even more tragic, not only did she has no complete regard for people’s relationships, she doesn’t seem to value herself nor her own feelings, either.

People Like Us

Despite its incredibly generic title, this movie ends up being a pretty good one. It doesn’t depict marriage between two characters in the film, instead it explores the consequences of a marital misstep, through the eyes of those who end up suffering from it. Sam and Frankie met as a result of their father’s infidelity – Sam is record producer Jerry Harper’s firstborn, and Frankie is the daughter of his mistress. Sam’s last wish before he died is to give a large sum of money to Frankie’s young son, which creates interesting circumstances for all three and their lives are never the same because of it.

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In my book, infidelity is NEVER a good thing. But sometimes good can come from something bad and in this case, it’s honesty and kindness ends up righting the wrong, even if the way to get there isn’t always smooth.

Robot & Frank

Now this one paints a very different view of marriage. In fact, it never quite enter the picture until the film almost ended. It’s marketed as an unlikely friendship between a robot butler and his master, Frank (Frank Langella), and indeed it is. But there’s also a relationship between a beautiful librarian Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) whom he constantly flirts with. Set in a distant future where physical books are being replaced by digital copies, Frank is struggling to come to terms with the ever-changing world around him.

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It’s a film about Alzheimer that doesn’t hit us over the head with the harrowing subject matter, but instead it gives us a sweet – and at times hilarious – picture of family. In the end, it’s revealed that Jennifer is actually Frank’s wife, which I didn’t see coming. That revelation made me tear up as it’s just heartbreaking but also made your heart soar at the same time. Real love knows no bounds, the heart always remembers even when the mind lost its capacity to do so… and that is one of the most beautiful and uplifting picture of marriage I’ve seen in a long while.

Silver Linings Playbook

Marriage is the union of two people, but sometimes the breakdown of a marriage could actually brings people together. That’s what happens with Pat and Tiffany, the former lost his marriage to infidelity (and his uncontrollable rage) and the other to a tragic accident. Each of them deals with it in their own way. Tiffany tries to hide her pain by being promiscuous and Pat holds on to the hope that he could still get back together with his estranged wife Nikki.

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Though they didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, their relationship slowly became the very thing that help both of them heal… and learn to love again. Pat has always wanted that love to come from his wife, but instead, it comes from an unlikely person that comes to him unexpectedly. The moment Pat felt for Tiffany, it took him by surprise and he looked away, unable to comprehend the change in his heart. It wasn’t until the finale of the dance competition that he finally chose to acknowledge his feelings and decided he needed to do something about it. Director David O. Russell kept the ending open-ended in terms of how Pat ended things with Nikki. But by then it doesn’t really matter. What matters to Pat (and us the viewers) is that he’s finally found that silver linings.


Be sure to check out other entries of Motifs in Cinema on Encore Entertainment Blog!


Thoughts on any of these films? What other 2012 films would you have chosen in regards to marriage?