BEST DRESSED AWARDS SEASON 2017 PART I

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I do not claim to be any kind of expert when it comes to fashion but like all art I know what I like and so in a change from my lengthy diatribes about film I figured I’d indulge in a quick recap of favourites from recent award ceremonies. Easily there are many dresses from them all that I could list but for brevity sake I’ll point out a personal favourite and leave it open to you the reader to share some of your picks. I’ll avoid pointing out ones that I did not like since I do believe risks are to be taken if we’re to have a vibrant variety of clothes at these things and life in general. Besides it’s all subjective right.

The Golden Globes

My belief is that as an actress you’ve got to wear your second best frock at this event. It’s got the second largest TV audience (20 million this year in the U.S.), it kicks of the awards season (so why not do it in style?) and Oscar nominee voting hasn’t closed at this point. Interesting to note as well while voting for nominees for the SAGs has closed at this point the voting for choosing the winning nominee has not. I’m not happy about this either but I’ve long suspected that sometimes a good dress at the Globes can put you and your film on the radar in a way that a stunning performance and critical acclaim cannot (don’t hate me, I’m as pissed off as you are). Alas special effects gurus for Star Wars facing down Marvel don’t sweat their tuxedo choices the same way. Image result for LUPITA nyong'o golden globes 2014Case in point, Twelve Years a Slave was sizing up as a frontrunner a couple of years ago and Lupita Nyong’o was nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press but did not win. However after her Golden Globes Red Carpet appearance she was named Best Dressed of the night by various outlets and lit up the internet with her outfit. Later she did win the Oscar and also the Screen Actor Guild Award which indicates she was always in the mind of Academy voters but may have gotten a bump from her fierce fashion game.

That being said my favourite for this year was last year’s winner Brie Larson whose fashion game has been just as strong if not stronger than the year she was in competition. The dress was by Rodarte, a luxury label started in 2005 by designers and sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy that’s already scooped up many accolades. The ballet costumes in Black Swan…yeah they did those.

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The Screen Actors Guild

Literally the Actor’s Union awards with a smaller audience watching this (3.9 million Americans in 2017) often leads to participants letting their hair down a bit and making riskier fashion choices. At this point Oscar nominees have been announced but voting for the winner won’t close for a couple of weeks yet. With the majority of voters here representing the same people who will vote on Oscar night it’s important again to nail a good speech too.  Especially if you’ve been recognised here when the Hollywood Foreign Press was too busy giving it an overrated Hollywood celebrity they wanted to show up or some foreigner the old white guys of the AMPAS are never going to go for.

There were so many beautiful dresses at the SAG Awards this year that it says a lot about my lack of fashion sense that my choice came down to just loving a certain colour. Every now and again you get a clear front runner but there was nothing here for me and I just kept on coming back to Titus Burgess’s and his beautiful Malan Breton blue suit so sue me – it’s my choice. Originally a model in his youth Malan moved onto work as a stylist to several celebrities before becoming a globally recognised and respected designer.

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BAFTAS

With a few stars not bothering to cross the Atlantic, the weather and Americans fearing somehow that the English are more prudish (English people are laughing everywhere at that statement) means the fashion is never as risky as the SAGS or as glamorous as the Oscars. However there’s still plenty of beautiful fashion on display and it’s getting more TV savvy. A few years ago the red carpet was rained out and all the ladies covered up in black coats and umbrellas on their way in. These days things are run differently and there’s choice frocks out there especially for home grown talent who maybe didn’t get nominated across the pond or are prouder to be here at their nation’s big gig.

Appropriately my favourite then this year was English rose Emily Blunt’s dress. I’m not entirely sure about the black skirt but it was my pick when I watched the show and I’m sticking with it. This is the work of Alexander McQueen (owned by Gucci) Creative Director Sarah Burton. She’s done some interesting work over the years, Princess Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress being one.

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NEXT UP

Next up are the lesser known Film Independent Spirit Awards on the eve of Oscars which usually sees more comfortable modern sexy dresses. Cocktail dresses as opposed to ball gowns if you will; I seriously have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.

I wonder who’s going to rock the red carpet come February 27. For me here are two particular favourites from Oscars past, Halle Berry in 2002 wearing an Elie Saab creation and Jessica Chastain in 2013 wearing custom made Armani.Image result for halle berry oscar dressRelated image

What do you guys and gals think? What’s been your favourite get up during these recent Award Ceremonies? Evan Rachel Woods glamming up in suits for a change, those who got the twins out, those who upped the sequin game, those who went wild and avant-garde or those who kept it simple? Let me know below.

-Lloyd Marken

THE HUNTSMAN: AN UNNECESSARY SEQUEL THAT IS NOT NECESSARILY BAD

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a completely unnecessary prequel, sequel and spin-off but that is not to say it is not without merits. Snow White and The Huntsman was a big hit for Universal but bad press followed when it was published that the married director Rupert Sanders and young starlet Kristen Stewart had been involved in an affair. Sometimes the public doesn’t care about such things but sometimes it causes issues and given it ended the relationship between Stewart and her Twilight co-star Robert Pattison the media interest was going to reach fever pitch. Snow White had proved a bona fide hit for young Stewart offering her chance to get work beyond the Twilight franchise and quirky indie hits. So what to do after shitting the bed? movies kristen stewart ms snow white swathThe inevitable follow-up went through a stilted development with whether Sanders would return (he didn’t), Stewart would reprise her role (she doesn’t) and whether the film that followed focussing on The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) would be a prequel? (hmm kinda).

Following the events of the first film we get into the back story of Eric, The Huntsman which turns out to be quite a tale requiring us to look back at events involving Ravenna (Charlize Theron) many years before Snow White. Freya (Emily Blunt) a younger sister of Ravenna following a personal tragedy left for the icy north where she raised an army out of soldiers captured and trained to fight from childhood. Her finest soldiers are Sara (Jessica Chastain) and Eric who plan to escape and marry which is forbidden in Freya’s Kingdom. When Freya learns of this Eric sees Sara murdered before him and barely escapes to the southern kingdom where he will take part in the first film’s events. Now in present day a darkness has taken over Snow White’s Kingdom and Snow White herself (the great triumphant female heroine from the first film reduced to a shot from behind of her sick and knelt in front of her nemesis’s Magical Mirror) and maybe only the mighty Tho-sorry Eric can save us.

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On paper The Huntsman appears like a poor cash in, the focus has shifted to a side character, the original’s visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is making his directorial debut with this film and seven dwarves have shrunk to two (we get four in the end). The budget of the original was $170 million dollars and this sequel cost $110 million dollars, while the film looks good and sports great effects, sets and sequences it lacks the large scale set pieces with extras and real locations that the original sported. Despite what the marketing would have you believe, the franchise’s biggest star Charlize Theron is mostly absent from proceedings essentially showing up in the third act with a glorified cameo as if the filmmakers didn’t trust their own tale to carry enough impact without her. Which given how much the film lifts when she appears may just be good common sense on their part. Balancing this out is newcomers Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain who are two of the hottest young actresses working in Hollywood at the moment. Hot in the sense

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but also hot in the sense that their proven talent and previous work makes them highly sought after. Their casting lends a lot of prestige to this sequel which at times often feels like half measures compared to the original. Blunt conveys a steely bitter resolve that you never quite trust will not crumble (she’s been better in other films but it makes sense for her not to quite have the presence of Theron) and Chastain is suitably kick-ass.

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Chris Hemsworth enjoys his opportunity to be the lead albeit in yet another ensemble, sporting a fake Scottish accent, smiling charmingly and filing out leather pants as good as Chastain does (why doesn’t she gets sleeves too or perhaps the question should be why does he have sleeves?!). The previous film allowed him in one scene to really stretch his acting muscles too, I’m not sure this sequel did but his performance is fun enough. That’s the entire film in a way, completely unnecessary but fun enough. There are wisecracks, loved up couples all around, castles, sorceress’s, monsters, fights, and all shot effectively, all told with a wink and a smile. Hey, I’m not complaining.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE MARTIAN BRINGS MATT DAMON HOME TO BLOCKBUSTER STARDOM

 

A man wakes up marooned on a desert planet with his chest punctured. He gets up and staggers back to his lab, slow in his pace in pain and fatigued. Wounded and alone in the lab he must administer first aid to himself. There is no one to talk to and no time to think. He must either treat himself or he will die. There is no question in that moment about the futility of his survival and the challenges he will face if he is successful. There is only an immediate and inevitable task to complete to survive. No life flashing before his eyes. No admonishments of a crew that have abandoned him or questioning of his own decisions that put him in such a dire situation.

The whole scene is a microcosm of the film at large which is always first and foremost focussed on the survival of Mark Watney, the astronaut stranded on Mars after an emergency take off, played by Matt Damon. In earlier decades the role may have gone to Harrison Ford or Jimmy Stewart, movie stars that audiences easily relate to as one of them and actors whose greatest strength are underplaying the scene the more extraordinary the circumstances. If one is not a fan of Damon you can move on, I highly recommend for example checking out Mad Max on DVD this week but for the majority of the population this may be the best sci-fi film in years. Speaking of, Matt Damon and Ridley Scott need to buy screen writer Drew Goddard a drink and make it a double because he has made their best film each respectively in over a decade. Matchstick Men was the last time Sir Ridley scored this high and not counting the numerous Matt Damon supporting roles in films and indie hits this is his best blockbuster since The Bourne Supremacy, sorry people The Bourne Ultimatum is just a remake of Supremacy with diminishing returns.

Where Goddard has gone right adapting from an original novel is where so much other recent output has gone wrong. In short the film’s greatest strength is its lack of ambition. No navel gazing here. Mark does not have a family waiting for him at home that he desperately misses, he just wants to live. There are no political allegories about rich and poor, ideologies, immigration, etc. No great questions about what Mars exploration could mean for our society and our place in the universe. At times Watney lies under his Rover in the Red Dirt and we may ponder how extraordinary it would be to live on another planet but while the camera takes in the locations it does not dwell on them. The film looks great but there is a businesslike approach to the shots of orientation not infatuation which coming from such a great visual stylist as Sir Ridley is a surprise but not a disappointment.

Beneath the surface are a few points being made? The reaction of some at NASA to find him alive is to begin a dialogue about how this should be handled in the media but these seem like inevitable conversations that would take place between people who’s priorities are complex.

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At first the scenes on Mars are far more interesting. Watney’s plight is dire and daunting and yet the film has a cheeky sense of humour about it. See Damon deadpan about a failed experiment to camera after he blows himself up. As Watney finds a way to communicate with NASA his rescue and the film grow momentum. The people at NASA become warmer and their story more humorous by interacting with Watney. As Watney comes up with an ingenious way to grow potatoes so too do engineers back home have to problem solve a way to rescue him and their numbers grow with more offbeat characters. A sole human stranded and isolated on Mars humanises a group of bureaucrats sitting comfortably back home on Earth via increased contact with him. I don’t think this is unplanned by the filmmakers.

Sound also plays an important part in the film, I can’t guarantee it 100% but I don’t recall any military drums building in the background as people declare they will bring ‘our’ boy home. It is not only Damon underplaying here. Silence is used a lot to reflect the vacuum of space and moments of tension. We are as focussed for example on air escaping through broken visors and alarms sounding as Watney is, sometimes more. The score is non-demonstrative and the music that makes itself far more known is the 70s hits that Watney is forced to listen to for comfort as it is the only music on the planet. That cheeky humour comes through in the song choices here too. As Watney prepares for his rescue ABBA’s Waterloo comes on reflecting both Watney’s attitude towards the plan but also playing against audience expectations

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A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

This is one of the year’s best.