Thursday, January 31, 2008

the invisble knot

Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, and Ryan Gosling
at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

Does this mean neckwear is officially out for formal events?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

mama's gun

Ok, I'll admit it. I was obsessed with neo-soul in the late '90s/early 2000s. It was sweet sounding, readily available, and a great alternative to the beat heavy contemporary hip-hop/r&b that was ruling the charts at the time. The leader of the movement before Alicia Keys, India.Arie, Jill Scott, and every other Nubian troubadour was the incomparable Erykah Badu. Her debut album, "Baduizm", was a breath of fresh air perfumed with a soulful, inspired voice. Her follow-up album, "Mama's Gun", was fiercely personal and evolved her sound into something a little more funky and wide ranging in her talent and taste. She has a kid with Andre 3000, was briefly with Common, and sports an enormous faux afro. I still have love for E. Badu.

Her latest single and video:

dir., Chris Robinson

P.S., if anyone can correctly guess my favorite album featured in the video, I'll send you a gift.

And for old times sake...

get on with it!

courtesy of tmz

You've heard about it. Dear old desperate Sean Young made an ass out of herself at the DGA Awards this weekend. She screamed in French while Marion Cotillard was making a presentation. She burst into song during a video montage celebrating "Michael Clayton." And then she heckled Julian Schnabel during his acceptance speech for his directing certificate for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Her shenanigans were more than likely the result of too many Cosmopolitans or whatever she had to drink because she was soon ejected and has now voluntarily checked herself into rehab.

If you think I'm making all of this up. There is video of a visibly miffed Schnabel that is fantastically sad to watch. You know it's bad when Julie Chen puts you on blast.

By the way, Joel and Ethan Coen won the DGA, Robert Elswit won the ASC Award for his incredible work on "There Will Be Blood", and "No Country for Old Men" won the Best Ensemble Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

This award season is getting more and more bizarre.

first look: smart people

"Smart People"
dir., Noam Murro
April 11, 2008

My Sundance report is coming soon and in it are a list of films I wish I would have seen, including this debut film from commercial director Noam Murro. It looks genuine without being saccharine and funny without being cliche. Damn those freezing wait list lines.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

seamless: pt. 2

Looks from Jonathan Saunders
Spring/Summer 2008 collection

*British designer Jonathan Saunders is making his American runway debut at New York Fashion Week next week. Diane Von Furstenberg is a fan, he's rumored to be the next Go International designer for Target, and he collaborated with choreographer Siobn Davies on costumes for a dance project.
*Narciso Rodriguez is putting his menswear collection on the back burner. Curses!
*Miu Miu is discontinuing its menswear line to concentrate on the womenswear line. Thanks, Miuccia. Now we are left with you putting us in tutus and thong-like cummerbunds.
*Hilary Rhoda is coming back! Will we be so fortunate as to get a return from my darling little Doutzen?

eye candy of the week: emmanuelle seigner

Witness the eye-popping wonder that is Emmanuelle Seigner, or to some Mrs. Roman Polanski. Hard to take, I know. She's yet another gorgeous French actress who does that incomprehensible thing French women do that makes them utterly alluring and sultry without much of a care. She's sensational as Jean-Dominique Bauby's wife in Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." She radiates light and maternal ease in her scenes with her children and an ailing Bauby, but has the power to break your heart in another when she has to listen to a phone conversation between her husband and his distraught mistress. It's a performance that I loved and she also contributed one of the film's memorable songs with her band Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle, "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye." It's dreamy, pretty, and wistfully romantic just like the movie.

And for more viewing pleasure:

"Sing Sing"
dir., Jean-Baptiste Mondino

the couturier

As a man fashion is a matter of pragmatism and not the full on fantasy that is sold to women. Either that or I have lost my critical ability to look at women's fashion, but I couldn't wrap my brain around the recent Paris haute couture collections. They're stunning in their construction and aesthetic achievement, but I have no frame of reference for enjoying it. It's not for me and the narratives behind most of the collections are things that are of no interest to me (sea shells at Chanel, mermaids at Jean Paul Gaultier, and diamonds at Ellie Saab). However, I cannot stop admiring the unsettling and provocative beauty of Riccardo Tisci's collection for Givenchy. It's sparse, striking, and smolders in a way that feels fresh and curious about how to adorn the female form. The mannish tailored jackets that are flounced at the waist to emphasize femininity, the graphic black and white palette, the curved seams that at times burst into folds of fabric, and the fascination with leather pants culminated in a collection that was in his own way a take on the Givenchy staples (the little black dress, the white blouse, and a gamine sensibility) but is not concerned with being costumey or overly pretty like his older couture contemporaries. Since Tisci joined the house in 2005 he's attracted a new audience to follow his unique and at times avant garde brand of glamour and thought and I must say I'm included.

Click to watch his best ready-to-wear show to date.

seamless: pt. 1

As New York Fashion week approaches Refinery29 caught up with emerging designers Thom Browne, Shipley & Halmos, Erin Fetherston, Band of Outsiders, and Preen as they prepare to reveal their sartorial propositions for the Fall/Winter 2008 season. It's fascinating to watch the desingers in their natural habit of work, preparation, and downtime from the mania of selecting models, focusing on the statement the clothes will make, and finishing garments with stylists and assistants. Things to watch for include Sam Shipley and Jeff Halmos taking a casual burrito break and Thom Browne with his severe haircut and absurdly tailored suit inspecting his runway/spectacle space.

Monday, January 28, 2008

pinot noir, possibly?

Clockwise: Looks from Jil Sander, Versace,
Burberry Prorsum, and Veronique Branquinho

I wonder what would be the Pantone number for that shade of a purple-red that's not quite oxblood nor full on deep cabernet. Plum, fig, merlot, whatever you want to call it, I like it. I like a lot. However, I think it's a little tricky to wear with my skin tone without making me look like some spilled a glass of red wine on me. It's a color you don't see people wear often, but I'm glad it made its presence known at the menswear collections in Milan and Paris.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

all filler, no killer

While doing some reading about the Batman inspiration behind Hot Chip's latest video for "Ready for the Floor", I stumbled upon this:

Seriously. Can this be real?

Friday, January 25, 2008

america, america

A warm, crisp slice of apple pie smothered hard and rough against the face is an apt sensation one might feel after watching Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood." Every inch and pore of his latest masterpiece breathes the breath of everything flawed and beautiful about America. That slice of apple pie entices with its alluring plumes of fresh baked warmth and savory bite, but it bites hard and reminds you again of how obsessed with consumption and its nasty twin desire. Daniel Day-Lewis tears through the screen as oil magnate and monster Daniel Plainview in what will surely be remembered as one the greatest acts of performance committed in contemporary cinema. His quest for success, wealth, and ownership is a demented compulsion for greed, gluttony, and self-satisfaction. This "competition" inside of him as he puts sears him raw. Add religious hypocrisy, the American west as a geographical metaphor and plane for cultural and gender identity, and the cinematic brio of one of America's most talented filmmakers to this boiling cinematic feat and you are stained with the impression of "There Will Be Blood."

Anderson's point of view has been consistent through an unfortunately short but a clearly evolutionary career. His focus remains interested in the American dream and its relationship to family as demonstrated in his debut feature "Hard Eight" that saw a man offered the promise of a better life, and then again in his new two opuses, "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." Both films are set in Los Angeles and utilize southern California as a representation of the fabric of America and all that it has to offer for those willing to gain. Dirk Diggler (Mark Whalberg) is desperate for validation as his star rises in the pornography industry, but ultimately it falls just as rough and quickly as his ascension. Anderson leaves us with Diggler's exaggerated phallus staring at us before the end credits interrupt. It's a perfectly red, white, and blue image in its appreciation and wishful hunger for something bigger and better that every American possesses, male or female. It's the ultimate whip your dick out contest that drives this country.

"Magnolia" is perhaps his most ambitious and polarizing film with its fantastical touch of raining amphibians and cast sing along. At its core the film is an epic rumination on personal and familial success; the failures we encumber along the way as a parent or child. What was promised in its potential in "Hard Eight", "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia" were stunning, audacious, and coherent works that showed shades of Scorsese and Altman, if not primarily visually but his ability to observe his characters and somehow make them emblematic of an accessible truth. "Punch-Drunk Love", no slouch of a film either, showcased a new, intimate maturity that wasn't concerned with the histrionics of showmanship but the execution of a story of two people who meet and fall in love. Charming and surprisingly sweet, "Punch-Drunk Love" was Anderson's twisted fore into comedy. For such a light and breezy film that does leave the viewer slightly punch-drunk due to its flair, "There Will Be Blood" is a jolting departure that thankfully for us, delves into something dark and wickedly grandeur.

The structure of "There Will Be Blood" percolates like the oil reservoir Plainview taps from. As a burgeoning oil baron he picks up an orphan (a pitch perfect and natural Dillon Freasier) to pass off to potential investors that he is a decent family man with decent ambitions. His mission is simple--hoard as much oil in the widest range through any means necessary. The ocean of oil below will be his. In one of the film's most wrenching scenes, an oil tower combusts, knocking his son to the side and rendering him permanently deaf. Plainview quickly rescues his son, but races back to the scene to tend to the more important blood that courses through his veins, the oil. Day-Lewis begins his journey into one of the nastiest bastards ever etched across the screen. Cinematographer Robert Elswit beautifully captures the beast as Plainview watches his tower burn into the night. Coated in spits of oil, Day-Lewis contorts his face in varying hues of disappointment, rage, and vengeance, all the while not entirely caring about the fate of his son. Day-Lewis' presence will haunt you with his voice that enunciates in a clipped manor but sounds as if his desire for oil has worn his voice hoarse. His thick, dirty mustache and sun burnt skin peer at fearing land owners and businessmen. He cuts through the scenes efficiently and determined to win his race for oil. It's an act that cannot be described too effusively.

His son's hearing plays as a minor problem as he faces off against the local preacher boy, Eli Sunday, wonderfully played by Paul Dano. Dano's moon pie face and screeching sermon-giving voice belies his ulterior motives for religious brainwashing and pocket fueling. His screen time with Day-Lewis is like watching a great boxing match. Sunday sells the land to Plainview for drilling with the additional cost of endowing his church. Sunday damns the sin out of his local townspeople with great evangelical ferocity. His churchgoers are as pious as Plainview is as passionate about making more money and owning more land to drill. Plainview like every apathetic American sees through the shit and show of Sunday's routine. Doppelgängers they are not entirely, but Anderson deftly manages to skewer and expose our country's sickness with achievement and success in the contemporary context of faith as a springboard for that sought after fulfillment. Success to Plainview is through the self, not attributed through God or anyone else. What a provocative idea and perhaps a dangerously recognizable one. What have we have become if our quest for personal fulfillment is through the singular? Anderson smacks that pie in our face at this point but continues to rub it in for the rest of the film.

It would be a great disservice if I gave away moments and specific scenes because within the two hour and thirty-eight minute frame that Anderson works and works, he gives us such perfectly pure and profound pieces of pleasure as we watch a man full to the brim with displeasure. He eats, breathes, sleeps, and bleeds oil, or rather determination and the constant craving for more. The climactic and operatic ending explodes like nothing I've seen or experienced before. A bowling alley in Plainview's palatial and inland estate is the ring for a final showdown between the film's opposing forces. The forces rip and belch at each other with such intensity that one could mistake it for the geysers of oil erupting so splendidly in the first third of the film. This scene makes me grateful that this brand of polished and audacious filmmaking is being achieved. Joy is an odd adjective to describe what one feels at the closing credits of "There Will Be Blood" but maybe that's the real danger in Anderson's brilliant tome on America as America is today. We live in a peculiar time in which our president obsesses over oil, domination, and a deranged compulsion for more, more, more. We as a culture have never been more overweight, over-fueled, and over-consumed by that tricky American idea that we can achieve success at any level. When will it ever be enough? Film has not been this essential since the '70s heyday of Anderson's largest influences, Altman and Scorsese.

separated at birth: pt. 2

Models from the Dior Spring/Summer 2008 Haute Couture show or contestants from "Paris is Burning"?

You be the judge.

aint nobody

Yes, that would Chaka Khan on the drums.

the new pink?

DKNY Spring/Summer 2008 advertisements
Caroline Trentini and Andrew Cooper
photographed by Peter Lindbergh

Pastels for spring can be boring but rust, pavement, and black? I might have to opt out on the first one, but Donna Karan has granted me another season of my favorite color combination.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

and the nominees weren't...

Oh Oscar, how you vex me so.

The nominations for the 80th Academy Awards are out and once again I am befuddled and excited. My fingers are still crossed in hopes of the ceremony not being canceled due to the writers' strike because the major categories are actually recognizing some of the best and anti-studio films of the year, however the Academy did make some mistakes. Jason Reitman, really? Johny Greenwood getting the shaft because of a technicality for his mind-bending score for "There Will Be Blood"? Only two non-white acting nominees? "Transformers" and "Norbit" racking up a few nominations in the technical categories? Did they forget about Sidney Lumet? Instead of commenting in a lengthy rant on the actual nominees (although snaps to "There Will Be Blood" for its eight nominations), here is my list of nominees that were overlooked and should have been:

"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"
A grand familial tragedy in the vein of Shakespere or even Greek drama, Sidney Lumet's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" showcases a master filmmaker at his best in ages. A bank robbery gone wrong is the simple text but beneath lies a greater quest to explore the ugliness and rage within us all. How far would you go to achieve the fantasy you've always wanted to be your life? Lumet shows us and what we see is something destructive and unforgettable.

Andrew Dominik, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Although it's his second feature, Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" confidently mixes nostalgia with the contemporary. A sly rumination on celebrity, iconography, and the Old West coalesce into a visceral world Dominik orchestrates with superb execution.

Gordon Pinsent, "Away from Her"
It's almost a given at award shows when an actor plays a character with a debilitating disease. Julie Christie can add another Oscar to her mantle for her work in Sarah Polley's "Away From Her", but I found Gordon Pinsent's performance much more complex and interesting. As the husband dealing with his own regrets and sins as his wife slips away into Alzheimer's, he must cope with the idea that as time goes by the memory of their relationship fades away. It's a performance full of private pain, anguish, and heartbreak.

Marina Hands, "Lady Chatterly"
Very rarely is an actor capable of demonstrating an arc in a character without it feeling episodic or cheap. Marina Hands' Lady Chatterly's frolic in the forest with the gamekeeper (an equally impressive Jean-Louis Coullo'ch) is tense to watch but one of the most sensual and natural performances I've seen in a while. As Lady Chatterly discovers herself and her sexuality, we discover a capable and enigmatic actress at her finest.

Robert Downey Jr., "Zodiac"
Crushed by obsession and spit out by consumption, Robert Downey Jr.'s sad and entertaining portrayal of journalist Paul Avery is perfectly eccentric but tuned in to our culture's fetish with maniacal media darlings.

Catherine Keener, "Into the Wild"
As an aging maternal hippie Catherine Keener exudes warmth and a gravitas she has yet to display in her usual menagerie of icy and ennui-laden characters.

Julie Delpy, "2 Days in Paris"
Funny, biting, and at times painful, Julie Delpy has confidently and pointedly marked her debut as a writer and director to watch with her first feature. A battle of the sexes abroad has never been as fresh, witty, and insightful.

Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, and George Nolfi, "The Bourne Ultimatum"
An action thriller that is brooding, subtle, and full of snappy dialogue? It is possible for this writing team who made "The Bourne Ultimatum" the best blockbuster of the summer devoid of irony or idiocy.

Harris Savides, "Zodiac"
Drained of its vibrance but fully of murky colors like dishwater gray, mustard, and oxblood, David Fincher's "Zodiac" was one of the most unique looking films of 2007. We've known Fincher to be a rigorous stylist but he goes one step further with the expert camera work of Harris Savides and gives us original and memorable shots such as the breathtaking aerial shot of a taxi cab winding through the streets of San Francisco with a very dangerous passenger in tow. Undoubtedly the most cinematic looking HD film ever shot.

Click here for the full list of actual nominees.

video vanguard

"I've Seen It All"
dir., Patrick Daughters

How is it that she keeps making perfect music videos? She is the embodiment of lovely and amazing.

the mist

Jil Sander advertisements for Spring/Summer 08
Kasia Struss and Clément Chabernaud
photographed by Willy Vanderperre

What an interesting way to convey the ethereal lightness of the collection with something a little hard and terrifying.

P.S., Am I the only one that thinks wet hair is sexy?

first look: baby mama

"Baby Mama"
dir., Michael McCullers
April 25, 2008

The feel-good pregnancy comedy trend continues. Hopefully Ms. Fey will do for this trend what she did for teen comedies with "Mean Girls." However, points are taken away for the inclusion of Dax Shepard.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

i'm baaaaack!

Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent
Menswear Fall/Winter 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

dancing with the stars

The report from Sundance is that it's cold and Mena Survari in person is not attractive. More to come...

Friday, January 18, 2008

separated at birth?

Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel in "Sleepy Hollow"
Jayne Wisener as Johanna in "Sweeney Todd"

Does Mr. Burton have a fetish for Kewpie doll faced girl-women with invisible eyebrows?

i drink your milkshake! i drink it up!

Seething. Brutal. American. Brilliant.

I'm still coming up for air after absorbing Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood." A full review will come soon, but until then here are some interviews from the filmmaker and his actors discussing this stunning achievement:

Paul Thomas Anderson on Fresh Air
Daniel Day-Lewis on All Things Considered
Paul Dano on Fresh Air
Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis on Charlie Rose

Thursday, January 17, 2008


via The Sartorialist

I cannot get this image out of my head. I've often thought about wearing three-quarter length outwear in the winter, but now as spring is approaching I'm seriously considering investing in a macintosh like the one pictured above. I usually prefer my outwear to stop just below my waist, but the urbanite above looks so lean and elongated, only helped by the length and cut of his coat. The search is on...

ms. jackson, if you're nasty

Janet Jackson, "Discipline"


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

not quite astronaut jones

Gee, Tracy Morgan, what have you been up to during the writers' strike?

funny face

Sia, "Some People Have Real Problems"


first look: leatherheads

dir., George Clooney

This looks like "Down with Love", but with the guy from "The Office" and sports added to the equation. And yes, that is a bad thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

bonnie & clyde 08

Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles
at the Empirio Armani Fall/Winter 08 show

3 things about this picture:
1. Why is Jay biting my shades-of-gray-in-one look routine? Granted, he's doing it really well, so I'll let it slide this time. Extra points for three different types of textures.
2. B is looking somewhat more subdued than usual. Wouldn't it be great if she were the face of the Balenciaga spring ads that are causing such a furor on the blogs?
3. Doesn't this make you long for this flavor of Beyonce and the same of Jay-Z?

sleeping with the enemy

The last shot in Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" is one of the few in the film that involves a bed without some aberrant sex act being committed on its surface. The sex is the big elephant in the room for most of the film and at times it's all most too distracting. The NC-17 rating, the edited version distributed in China, and the critic's description of the sex as being "violent", "kinky", and "softcore" can pique any viewer's interest, depending on what you're into cinematically and sexually, but it left me feeling oddly cold. Maybe that's the point because the sex is between two characters burning with all of their might to release the inward pain they are too ashamed to reveal in front of others. This isn't romantic or pretty lovemaking. It's hard, uncompromising, and at times bleak. The first scene is masterfully built up with piles of tension as a spy (Tang Wei) for the resistance in occupied Shanghai, under the guise of a wealthy socialite, meets her match in the monstrous form of Mr. Yee (a devastatingly nasty Tony Leung). He rips her clothes off, commands her with his belt, and aggressively makes love to her. It's borderline rape and one wonders if this kind of sex is necessary in cinema. It's aesthetically done well (the confident camera movements and expert editing), but what does it say about us as an audience with a possible appetite for this kind of carnality? The sex after that explosive scene becomes more consensual, harder, and lengthier. At a certain point I was bored with the athletic feats of Wei and Leung, but admire their daring ability to fornicate with a harsh vulnerability for millions to see.

Sex, or rather the hot and complicated desire for another human, is a thread in Lee's work. Two sheep herders in a tent, bored swingers in 70s suburbia, and love triangles gone wrong in the world of Jane Austen have established Lee as a champion for the passionate and sometimes doomed and unrequited feelings we possess that drives us to another. Lee discusses "Lust, Caution" on a Weekend Edition interview on NPR as one his most personal films which may sound perverse, but as he so often reminds us in his films that might just be human nature.

Click here to listen.

strike a pose

Burberry Spring/Summer advertisement
photographed by Mario Testino

The look for Burberry this spring is lithe, pale, and all about putting your best "O" face forward. Oh, and you have to be lunging at your fellow man as well.

For an explanation of such tomfoolery, watch this:

Monday, January 14, 2008


Keira Knightley and James McAvoy
photographed by Steven Klein
for the February issue of W magazine

Dear Keira and James,
What's with all the scowling? You're bloated prestige film won Best Picture at the Globes last night.



Why this look from the Prada Fall/Winter 08 does not work:
1. Flesh toned body stocking posing as a top. And it looks possibly ribbed. Yuck.
2. Collared dickie. Yuck.
3. Cummerbund masked as a protruding thong strap. Yuck.
4. Full pant with foot long, low slung crotch in cobalt. Yuck.
5. Said full pant tucked into laquered brick red rainboots. Yuck and more yuck.

Is this really supposed to be fashion forward? Sadly this is a misstep for Miuccia and her wild mixbag of ideas and ill-subverted references. Chin up Miuccia, there's always next season.

can i have a coffee please?

Am I the only one that laughed out loud at the utter absurdity of this commercial?

milan fashion week: outerwear

Five painfully bad coats from the Milan menswear collections:


Alexander McQueen

Burberry Prorsum

Jil Sander

Dolce & Gabbana

Sunday, January 13, 2008

the aftermath

We can all thank the inane Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell for making the Golden Globes look like a joke. The sloppy banter between announcing the winners sucked all of the pomp and importance out of the awards. Did Billy Bush really have to undercut Cate Blanchett for saying she shouldn't have won because it's easy to play a man? Oh well, at least there some surprises and of course, some not so surprises. The winners are:

Best Motion Picture, Drama
I wouldn't worry too much about this movie gaining steam because in the past ten years only four of the Best Picture winners have gone on to win the Oscar. The campaign for "There Will Be Blood" starts now.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy
"Sweeney Todd"

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd"

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose"

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Cate Blanchett, "I’m Not There"
Good to see she might be back in the game.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"

Best Director
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
The win is not a total surprise because the film is one of the most acclaimed of the year, but it has been a battle between the Coens and Paul Thomas Anderson at the critics awards, making Schnabel's win deservedly refreshing. A friend noted it would have been awesome to see him accept the award in his usual pajama attire.

Best Screenplay
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"

Best Foreign Language Film
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

Best Animated Film

Friday, January 11, 2008

writer's block: the nominees

The nominees for the Writers Guild of America:

"Juno", Written by Diablo Cody
"Michael Clayton", Written by Tony Gilroy
"The Savages", Written by Tamara Jenkins
"Knocked Up", Written by Judd Apatow
"Lars and the Real Girl", Written by Nancy Oliver

My pick: "Michael Clayton"

"No Country for Old Men", Screenplay by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
"There Will Be Blood", Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"Into the Wild", Screenplay by Sean Penn
"Zodiac", Screenplay by James Vanderbilt

My pick: Having not seen "Blood" and "Butterfly", my choice is "Zodiac"

"The Camden 28", Written by Anthony Giacchino, First Run Features
"Nanking", Screenplay by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman & Elisabeth Bentley, Story by Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman
"No End in Sight", Written by Charles Ferguson, Magnolia Pictures
"The Rape of Europa", Written by Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen
"Sicko", Written by Michael Moore
"Taxi to the Dark Side", Written by Alex Gibney

My Pick: "No End in Sight"

The dialogue in Jason Reitman's "Juno" crackles with a sardonic earnestness that is filled to the brim with pop cultural references, a sly intelligence, and humorous colloquialisms that are endearing and oddly relatable. At times it is too cutesy and self-consciously yearns to say something about the meh generation that has developed a patois of sentences punctuated with "dude", "totally", and "nuh-uh", but luckily the actors saying the lines are so good that it becomes less of an annoyance and an opportunity for some memorable moments. Here is my favorite scene from the film in which Juno (Ellen Page) confronts her baby's daddy, Bleeker (Michael Cera), about his plans for prom:

Bleeker retrieves a book from his open locker. Juno marches up to him, belly leading the way.

Are you honestly and truly going to
prom with Katrina De Voort

Um, hi?

Leah just told me you were going with her.

Yeah, I did ask her if she wanted
to go. A bunch of us from the team
are going to Benihana, then the
prom, then Vijay’s parents’ cabin.

Juno is clearly AFFRONTED.

We’re getting a stretch limo.

Your mom must be really glad you’re not taking me.

You’re mad. Why are you mad?

I’m not mad. I’m in a fucking great
mood. Despite the fact that I’m
trapped in a fat suit I can’t take
off, despite the fact that everyone
is making fun of me behind my back,
despite the fact that your little
girlfriend gave me the stinkeye in
art class yesterday...

Katrina’s not my girlfriend! And I
doubt she was actually giving you
the stinkeye. She just looks like
that all the time.

A GIRL strides past (obviously KATRINA) with a sour look aimed squarely at Juno.

Whatever. Have fun at the prom with
Soupy Sales. I’m sure I can think
of something way more cool to do
that night. Like I could pumice my feet, or go
to Bren’s dumb Unitarian church, or
get hit by a ten-ton truck full of
hot garbage juice. All those things
would be exponentially cooler than
going to the prom with you.

She starts to walk away. Bleeker takes a deep breath.

You’re being really immature.

(turning around)

Bleeker BRACES himself and pushes up his lab goggles.

That’s not how our thing works! I
hurl the accusations and you talk
me down, remember?

Not this time. You don’t have any
reason to be mad at me. You broke
my heart. I should be royally
ticked at you, man. I should be
really cheesed off. I shouldn’t
want to talk to you anymore.

Why? Because I got bored and had
sex with you one day, and then I
didn’t, like, marry you?

Like I’d marry you! You would be the
meanest wife of all time. And anyway,
I know you weren’t bored that day
because there was a lot of stuff on
TV. The Blair Witch Project was on
Starz, and you were like, “Oh, I want
to watch this, but we should make out
instead. La la la.”

Forget it, Bleek. Take Katrina the
Douche Packer to the prom. I’m sure
you guys will have a really
bitchin’ time!

(searching for a comeback)
Yeah, well...I still have your underwear.

I still have your virginity!

(looking around, panicked)
Oh my God, SHUT UP!

What? Are you ashamed that we did it?


Well at least you don’t have to walk around
with the evidence under your sweater. I’m a planet!

Juno picks up her BACKPACK dejectedly and slides it over her shoulder. She’s about to walk away, when...

Wait, let me take that.


You shouldn’t be carrying that heavy bag. I’ll take it.

Oh. It’s fine. What’s another ten pounds?

She turns around, wipes TEARS off her cheek (making sure no one sees) and continues down the hallway.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

wishful thinking

Fine examples of how to wear a turtleneck and neutrals:

The Sartorialist captures the scene at Men's Fashion Week in Florence, Italy.

first look: paranoid park

"Paranoid Park"
dir., Gus Van Sant

The master of the listless misfit returns.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

british girl

Estelle feat. Kanye West, "American Boy"

You know I how feel about British accents.

a no-go

The award season is shaping up to be a messy battlefield of disgruntled and picketing writers, frantic producers with award ceremonies in limbo, and designers sobbing in their show rooms full of frocks that will be saved for next year. The first and major casualty of the writers strike during the awards melee has been the Golden Globes scaling back its usual parade of film and television stars, who have all agreed not to show up due to the alliance between their Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild, to an hour-long news conference in which the winners will be announced. I realize that most, if not all, award shows are arbitrary and not in any way a true barometer for what represents the best films of the year, but there is an escapism, similar to the feeling you experience when you go to the movies, that is unparalleled and will be sorely missed, at least from this most faithful viewer. The glamour is why we tune in, otherwise we wouldn't care who is wearing what or whose arm so and so is on or those deliciously awkward presenting pairings. I'm gonna miss my Golden Globes this year for the delight in an award show that acknowledges comedy and is not full of the empty jokes of a bad host. It's a brisk, fun affair with not only movie stars but the actors and actresses from your favorite television shows. The Golden Globes also throws a curveball or two and is never short on memorable moments, unlike the easily predictable and bloodless Academy Awards. Do you remember how incredible the "Closer" supporting role upset was a few years ago? What about Dame Elizabeth Taylor opening the envelope for Best Picture Drama before reading the nominees and being genuinely confused? I'll never forget when Renee Zellweger was in the restroom when she won for "Nurse Betty." So many moments that will be replaced this year with Brian Williams reading off a laundry list of names. And what about all of the films and actors that need the attention of these award shows to boost their visibility? I don't think "Persepolis" is playing at your local mall theater and the average person probably has never heard of Marion Cotillard or Amy Ryan. Please writers, I beg you to come to some agreement before the dandiest award show of them all rolls around at the end of February. I guess there's always next year.

The guild nominations are looking pretty diverse. I've seen three out of the five nominees for the directing award ("There Will Be Blood" and "Diving Bell" haven't opened in Da Ville yet) and they could not be stylistically more disparate with each baring the precise imprint of their talented director. The support for "Michael Clayton" is growing and it would be great if Tony Gilroy got an Oscar nomination, but my heart belongs with Mr. Anderson. However, I would like to see a female or minority presence that is lacking in general this year.

The Directors Guild of America nominees:
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
Joel and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Sean Penn, "Into the Wild"
Julian Schnabel, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

"Diving Bell" and "There Will Be Blood" are excellent I'm sure, but I loved the sumptuous and original work Roger Deakins contributed to "Jesse James." He's also having the best year ever with his twin nomination for "No Country", which was not a bad looking film either. After the Emmanuel Lubezki debacle last year I'm not trying to invest too much in this category but it is a fine group of lensmen.

The American Society of Cinematographer nominees:
Roger Deakins, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Roger Deakins, "No Country for Old Men"
Robert Elswit, "There Will Be Blood"
Janusz Kaminski, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Seamus McGarvey, "Atonement"

The Writers Guild of America will be announced tomorrow.

Recent award winners:
Broadcast Critics Choice
National Society of Film Critics

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

le playboy

Ludivine Sagnier in Playboy France
photographed by Marcus Mâm

Playboy has always had a slight tinge of cheese associated with its name. There is something really unappealing about naked women done up for their Glamour Shot. It's like a nude senior photo. I prefer the approach of Playboy France where images such as this are artfully erotic and don't make you feel too sleazy for appreciating the female form. The breathtaking curves of French actress Ludivine Sagnier radiate in this month's spread. Click here for more (the images are slightly NSFW).

another list

In 2007 Leslie Feist frolicked in an iPod commercial, Rihanna became Beyonce-lite, Radiohead showed everyone how it's done and did it for free, and I didn't discover one new artist. It would be a mistake to call myself a serious music connoisseur, but with the exception of a few unquestionably great albums, I felt like 2007 was limp on music worth listening to, much less purchasing. Music is in a strange time where the timelessness seems to evade most contemporary artists. Soulja Boy is fun, but he and his complicated dance will not be around longer than it takes to download his song. Timbaland is on the verge of wearing out his welcome, although I yearned for a "SexyBack" or "Promiscuous" for this year, but was left with him wasting his endless talent on the likes of Ashlee Simpson, Duran Duran, Nicole Scherzinger, or whatever pop star willing to pay the price for a top 40 smash. "Indie" (will another term ever do this genre justice?) music is just as exhaustive in terms of finding the new "it" band and proclaiming them a subcultural icon. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and uninterested by the prospect of knowing every esoteric band worth knowing. Who cares? They are just as disposable as the bands and artists that get the airplay and recognition they secretly want and work towards. I'm not a total cynic because I have managed to compile a list of my ten favorite singles and album of the year, but I hope things are looking up for 2008. Don't judge too harshly:

LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great"
Feist, "Sea Lion Woman"
Hot Chip, "My Piano"
M.I.A., "$20"
R. Kelly feat. T.I. & T-Pain, "I'm a Flirt"
Kanye West, "Can't Tell Me Nothing"
Justice, "Phantom Pt. 1"
Radiohead, "All I Need"
The Shins, "Sea Legs"
Jay-Z feat. Beanie Sigel, "Ignorant Shit" (tie) Lupe Fiasco feat. Kanye West and Pharell Williams, "Us Placers"

And the best album of 2007 was M.I.A.'s "Kala." Bold and beautiful in its sound, sharp and acerbic in its political punch, and brimming with a geo-danceable beat that pulsates on all twelve tracks, "Kala" reminds us of the hypocrisy and ugliness of the modern world, but wrapped up in a catchy and bombastic groove that is completely irresistible.

Click here for more on M.I.A..

owner's manual

Five recent purchases that have just made my life a little bit better:

"Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound"

Fencing LA by Asics

Adidas Gazelle 2 Tex/Lea

BDG Skinny Jean in Gray

"Badlands" on DVD, dir. Terrence Malick

Monday, January 7, 2008

two lovers

Somewhere behind the shadows of the darkness and in front of an audience of a book covered wall, a commoner and a debutante in a slip of an evening gown have been discovered in the most carnal of moments. The voyeur who has stumbled upon their passionate embrace is a small girl with a curious imagination and a deceptive edge to her own burgeoning sexuality. She doesn't understand what she sees but it ignites a fiery crusade in her to banish the man and ruin the lives of several other people, including her own. This is exactly when the pounding rhythm and momentum loses unfortunate steam in Joe Wright's "Atonement." The rest of the film falls apart with its incessant distraction from the devastation caused by a single night of confusion, revenge, and perception. War, war, and dead school girls become too much of a focus when at times you wonder if Wright will ever allow the two lovers to reconnect. What Wright does succeed at is perfuming scenes with a sense of aural and scenic pleasure. The maddening buzz of a bumble bee on a window sill or the cough of near orgasm makes the film worth watching, but sadly none of those gems are consistent throughout.

When the film opens the audience is treated to the violent thud of a typewriter typing at a furious speed. It's then incorporated into the film's score, which is an inspired and smart choice. The power of words is crucial in this doomed love triangle. The young girl, Briony (Saoirise Ronan) Tillis, has just finished a new play that she demands her cousins perform at their posh English country home. In case you haven't noticed, she's quite the tormented artist. The object of her affections is considerably older (Robbie) and in love with her sister. Her steely and all knowing eyes have a slight "Children of the Corn" air, but it also lends her to perceive her world as a would-be adult. She wants to direct her own play about the complex nature of love. What a 10-year-old child knows about love, especially a child living in a repressed world of English thoroughbreds, is almost entirely irrelevant. Ronan is an odd presence to watch. At times the adult-child dichotomy is thrilling to watch and other times Ronan comes across as a wooden brat. She of course is trumped, in more ways than one, by her gorgeous and pristinely patrician older sister Cecilia, played with convincing allure by Keria Knightley. It is she and Robbie (the magnificent James MacAvoy), who are discovered in that fateful library by Briony.

Although Knightley and MacAvoy are not on screen for longer than one would anticipate, when they are together they exude a natural chemistry that leaves you wondering why they haven't worked together before. There is a wonderful cross cutting montage when Robbie writes a letter apologizing for an incident earlier in the day involving Cecilia and a valuable vase. As he smokes, listens to records, and laughs at his own profane use of the word "cunt", the camera falls in love with Knightley's glamorous cheekbones and ability to wear impossibly chic evening gowns. It's breathtaking and this one of the few scenes that later on in the film when their characters are separated and then the shattering news is delivered at the film's climax about what we've been watching for the past hour or so, it makes you feel completely devastated by their brief but bubbling romance. Their desire is pure and at times raw, but that's the satisfying part of the film. We know what's going to happen but to watch them fall in love and try desperately to rekindle their affair is as compelling as the best screen romances can get. And we can't forget their tryst in the library. I won't ruin it but it's as hot as the summer time setting and as seductive as the two actors. The strings from the score are replaced with the breaths of sexual release and excitement between Robbie and Cecilia. It's so good she comes out of her gold slipper, literally and figuratively.

Mood works well when the lovers are finally brought back together after Robbie was sent to prison and eventually war for the mistake Briony makes in a case of misconstrued sexual deviancy. They meet in a busy tea room. Things are now tense and leadened with what happened in the past. Surrounding conversation engulfs the room making it more impossible for them to feel truly together. Their silent pauses and uncertainty is crushing to watch. Robbie escorts her to a waiting bus and they part ways, for now at least. He must get back to the war, where the film makes some inane choices.

The first of many mistakes is an overly long Steadycam shot. It only lasts five minutes or so, but it feels like it last an eternity, and somehow in Wright's hands that's not a compliment for such a spectacle. Robbie has returned to the beaches of Dunkirk to wait evacuation where he is met with limbless soldiers, dead horses, abandoned buildings, and surreal images of ferris wheels and a pommel horse practicing troop. It's the not the use of the shot that is so bothersome but the fact that it's unashamedly redundant and self-satisfying. As if we didn't know war was dirty and ugly as exemplified by an earlier shot of an orchid of dead school girls or by the first minute of the shot, Wright beats the audience over the head with a very self-conscious stylistic maneuver that should impress us but only left me feeling cheated and not impressed. And more importantly, what does this have to do with the meat and bones of the story, i.e. the love affair? Maybe Wright wanted us to know how horrible Robbie's life is after Briony's tiny white lie, but I think it's clear in other scenes when MacAvoy's newly minted movie star face is covered in dirt from the trenches and a knotted up anger and resentment for what the Tillis family did to him. I hope this wasn't intended to be as condescending as it reads, but Wright should never underestimate his audience.

Formal choices aside, the important casting choices also makes the middle section of the film a complete bore. I think I have liked Romola Garai in other films, but she is so stiff in this move you wonder if she even feels confident conveying the teenage Briony that is regretful of what she did as a child. Her version of emoting is hard and blank stares that are frustrating to watch. However, she is saved by the other actors in her scenes, whether it be a friendly nurse (Michelle Duncan), dying French soldier (Jérémie Renier), or Knightley. And of course it takes the brilliance of Vanessa Redgrave to show up all of the other Briony's. As the elder Briony there is a sense of the pain and guilt she has experienced etched on the wonderful wrinkles of Redgrave's face. Her eyes pierce and cut at you, communicating all of the hurt in a scene that only lasts five minutes.

In a time and a certain hermetic bubble the lovers meet and part, they can never fully realize their passion for one another. Wright lulls the audience in the first third with memorably erotic and moody details. However, "Atonement" also shows the limitations of a filmmaker, albeit one that is only on his second feature. Wright's lush and romantic eye can be visceral to watch but with more focus and less distraction, he could be a filmmaker to be turned on by. For now, we'll always have that night in the library.

Friday, January 4, 2008

age of aquarius

While I was getting my oil changed this morning I flipped through the pages of the high society publication Town & Country. I don't think I've ever read it because it seems completely removed from everything I'm find interesting(it's too glossy in its depiction of the privileged and powerful). However, I did find myself fixated by the horoscope section devoted to predictions and possible outcomes for this year. Mine just so happened to be dead-on, almost freakishly so. Aquarians, pay attention, you might learn something:

"Relax, take a deep breath, and unclench your jaw. This year is going to be a breeze after the planetary pummeling you’ve just been through, and a bright new era of your life is dawning."

"You meet challenges head-on with cool logic and objectivity. You probably don’t even realize how stressed-out you’ve been. But there’s no question that the adverse influences of Saturn, Neptune and Mars during the past two years have been grueling. Indeed, the personal and professional uncertainties you’ve been fielding have not only put you through your paces, they probably would have sent less sturdy members of the zodiac round the bend."

"Professionally, 2008 will be a particularly upbeat and rewarding period, when you successfully establish yourself in new venues or brilliantly consolidate your present position. Your newly found confidence and poise will be apparent to all, and you’ll be the one everyone turns to for expert advice, or when the going gets tough. What’s more, with Jupiter on course for your birth sign in 2009, your achievements of this year are setting the stage for a particularly star-studded career cycle."

"Private retreats and getaways (you may find yourself particularly attracted to mountainous regions) will be superbly enjoyable and restorative, especially in early January, mid-July and late December. Any altruistic endeavors or worthy causes that piqued your interest and attention last year are likely to become a more central part of your life, and you may be playing an increasingly major role in your favorite charitable organization."

That last part is especially true because I can officially announce that through the benevolent powers that be at Gallery NuLu (you know who you are), I'm attending the Sundance Film Festival for a couple of days. Parties, ski bunnies, swag, film--what more could I ask for?

Click here for more.