Monday, December 28, 2009

Cinema Style Moments of 2009

As the holiday comes to a close with visions of red carpets dancing in our heads and the assembling of the ubiquitous year-end top ten film lists, I thought it would be a good time to look at some of the best style moments on film:

Best Sixties Homage: Nine

Nothing is more iconic than Italian Cinema in the sixties. From Kate Hudson's fishnet stockings, go-go boots and minidress to sleek little Italian sportscars, Nine captures the mood, the fashions and la dolce vita. While I am not sure why the critics were so harsh-- after all it's a musical not brain surgery - I loved it.

Best Costume, Period Drama (tie):
Cheri and The Young Victoria

Nothing says Oscar contender in the Best Costume Award department quite like a period film a.k.a. costume drama. Consolatta Boyle designed the costumes for Cheri, Collette's tale of a retired courtesan (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) who falls for a young man named Cheri. Set during the time of the Belle Epoque, it must have been a designer's dream.

Sandy Powell (who won Oscars for her work on
Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator) created the research and labor intensive gowns for a young Queen Victoria. And it must have been worth it -- apparently the costumes were insured for 10,000 pounds each.

Best Glam: Nicole Kidman in Nine

Nicole Kidman is total movie star glamorous as the muse and obsession of director Guido Contini in Nine. Starring as Italian film actress and icon Claudia, she is stunning in a nude colored strapless retro-glam gown by designer Colleen Atwood.

Best Interior Design: It's Complicated

Production designer Jon Hutman once again creates his design magic with Nancy Meyers in what will be another much copied, discussed, blogged and envied set among the design world. Together (along with set decorator Beth Rubino) they created a "sophisticated casual elegance" in idyllic Santa Barbara for Streep's character Jane.

Best Bride Movie: Bride Wars

While the movie wasn't exactly up to par, the bridal gowns were wonderful. With the exception of Father of the Bride (both original and parts one and two), why can't Hollywood continue to make a good matrimonial movie?

Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson as dueling brides

Best Period Design: A Single Man

Who better to design a sixties period piece than Mad Men's Dan Bishop (production designer) and Amy Wells (set decorator)? From the main character George's Neura styled glass house to the sixties circular sofa, one feels they stepped into a time machine.

Best Product Placements: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Prada, Yves St. Laurent and Burberry take center stage in this cut-your-cards-up-or-else cautionary tale. Below our heroine takes in a spree Carrie Bradshaw style at New York's Henri Bendel.

Best Cinema Cuisine: Julie & Julia

Hard to imagine food preparation competing with Meryl Streep's magnificent channelling of uber-cook Julia Childs, but it happens in the blog-turned-best-seller- turned film. I think one could watch Streep read a cereal box and it would be interesting.

Best Fashion Documentary and the Use of the Color Red: Valentino, The Last Emperor

Filmmaker and director Matt Tyrnauer set the documentary bar rainbow high (with poetic license to Evita!) with his profile of the legendary designer Valentino. From the behind the scenes machinations of the fashion process to his collection of pugs contently flying in a private jet, the film is a fascinating look at a man who created one of the largest fashion empires in the world.

Best Movie Poster and Tag Line: The September Issue

I think the tagline says it all -- "Fashion is a Religion. This is the Bible."
Best Gardens (tie): The Young Victoria, Cheri and It's Complicated Hard to imagine an English period film without the requisite topiary garden. The designers of It's Complicated built a working organic garden for Streep's character (which was later donated to a local school).

Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria
Many of the film's interior scenes were shot at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

Meryl Streep in It's Complicated

... and with Alec Baldwin

Cheri with Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates

Best Period Interior Design: Cheri

Actually there were many contenders as designing the historic period interior is a difficult task -- but the lavish and colorful setting by production designer Alan MacDonald held my interest. (Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria, Amelia, etc. were equally and visually as interesting in their own way). The art noveau Paris mansion is filled with strong colors, leopard, luxurious silks -- all that would be expected in a Stephen Frears (of Dangerous Liaisons fame) film.


Photo Credits: Weinstein Company, Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Acolyte Films, GK Films, Miramax, Twentieth Century Fox, Touchstone Pictures and A and E Indie Pictures.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ho ho ho

While Christmas means gifts, family, celebration, travel....and me it means brand new movie openings and afternoons at the Cineplex. I would be happy as a clam to hit the theater Christmas afternoon and spend the entire day.

Here is what I plan to see over the Christmas break. Ho ho ho and hope everyone has a wonderful, memorable....and stress free holiday. And Santa, feel free to give me gift certificates from Fandango.

Photo credits: Weinstein Company, Universal Pictures, Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The sets are far from ugly...Ugly Betty that is

While I know this is not cinema related, every now and then we get major inspiration from the flat panel on our wall. Such is the case of the set design for the hit ABC television show Ugly Betty...a show that is far from the word ugly.

Interior Design magazine just published a beautiful spread on the contemporary...or shall I say futuristic....designs for the combo comedy/drama that revolves around an unattractive young girl with signature braces who finds herself a job at the ultra chic fashion rag Mode. Apparently the edict for the designs were simple -- use an I-pod as a starting point.

Designed by production designer Mark Worthington (who gave us the great sets for Legally Blonde: Red, White and Blue) and music video designer Richard Devine as set decorator, the sets give us a heightened reality transporting us into a glam world filled with all sorts of ultra contemporary nods -- Eero Saarinen, mod sixties, 2001 Space Odyssey with a touch of "Dorothy Draper, Helmut Newton and Marcel Wanders." High gloss, bright colors and furnishings filled with everything from Z Gallerie and Crate and Barrel to Knoll, Artemide and McGuire furniture abound. The surroundings are colorful, forward thinking and above all, fun.

For more on author Bob Morris' article in the November issue of Interior Design, click here. Bravo for a terrific piece!!!

Perhaps my favorite set is the Dorothy Draper inspired room. Note the octagonal touches on the panels mixed with the circular (a recurring theme) tufted sofa by Mariette Himes Gomez and Laura Kirar chairs on a chocolate brown carpet.
Circles on mirrored glass accent the console table

Does it get any more 2001: Space Odyssey than this? You can easily tell by the circular themes and clean high gloss surfaces of the entrance that more futuristic designs await.

White gloss egg chairs and Todd Bracher desk on an Hermes orange area rug become a focal point for the co-editor's office.

Orange accents for Betty's office

Custom semi-circular shaped desk in conference room, orange used once again as an accent
Lavender custom chairs were designed by the production team

Phillipe Starck and Milo Baughman chairs and a Florence Knoll desk grace the private office of the managing editor.

Crocodile embossed wing type chairs (similar to those Kelly Wearstler installed in Bergdorf's restaurant) anchor the set's dining room

Wearstler's chairs in the lounge of the cafe at Bergdorf Goodman

Photo credits: Interior Design/Eric Laignel, Kwid Designs

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Movies

I have talked with many film historians and "cinephiles" who think the only good movies are those made before the sixties and in black and white. While I don't necessarily agree (after all, there is The Godfather), I do think this is the case for the holiday themed films. Maybe it's nostalgia, better sets and scripts or the fact older films are less commercial and product placement oriented, but the following holiday films are always the perennial favorites for me. (And yes, I left off It's a Wonderful Life and Christmas Story -- for some reason I have never warmed up to those films. Let the comments begin....).

Holiday Inn (1942)

The definitive holiday movie (it even covers Lincoln's birthday and Valentine's Day) complete with Irving Berlin tunes, an idyllic Connecticut setting, Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" and of course, Fred Astaire and the dance numbers. Crosby flees Manhattan to open up a supper club only open on the holidays (hence the name) and vies with his old musical partner Fred Astaire over the affections of a flower girl turned performer, Marjorie Reynolds. The set was reused by Paramount twelve years later for the film White Christmas and supposedly the hotel chain Holiday Inn took its name from the film in l952. A must see.

The cast of Holiday Inn

Valentine's Day sequence with Marjorie Reynolds and Bing Crosby

One of three films that used the song "White Christmas"

Legend has it Astaire took a shot or two of bourbon for each take of the film's "drunk dance"

White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play a successful song and dance duo after World War II who help their commanding general save a failing Vermont Inn and become involved with a sister act along the way. The Vermont Inn is the remodeled Connecticut Inn from Holiday Inn and was to have originally featured Astaire in the Danny Kaye role (who filled in at the last minute for Donald O'Connor).

Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby is full feather regalia

Crosby, Kaye and songstress Rosemary Clooney

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Barbara Stanwyck plays foodie journalist Elizabeth Lane who in actuality, cannot boil an egg. She writes a "Smart Housekeeping" column about her domestic life on a Connecticut farm which is of course all fiction. I won't spoil the rest of the story but it does involve romance and of course, the Christmas holiday in Connecticut. The Connecticut home was the same set used for the film the Katherine Hepburn-Cary Grant film Bringing Up Baby (1938). There was also a television remake with Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson and directed by none other than Arnold Schwarzeneggar in 1992!

Stanwyck with love interest Dennis Morgan in Christmas in Connecticut

Connecticut "house" on the Warner Brothers lot

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle is the classic tale of the "real" Kris Kringle proving he is Santa Claus to a disbelieving special events director at Macy's and her six year old daughter played by Natalie Wood. And here's another piece of trivia, actor Edmund Gwenn who played Kringle was also Santa Claus in the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Forever duplicated but none is better than the original.

Natalie Wood with Edmund Gwenn

And if you want to watch something more current on AMC this month there is always....

National Lampoon's Christmas (1989)

While it's not cinema verite', it is hands down one of the funniest holiday films ever made. Chevy Chase as the head of the Griswold family is priceless in his quest for the perfect Christmas -- complete with white trash in laws and a house lit up like Las Vegas (and doesn't every neighborhood have one?) The "squirrel" scene is worth the price of rental alone. And for those who really pay attention to these things, the Griswold house is the same one as the Murtagh house in the Lethal Weapon series on the Warner Brothers backlot.

The Griswold family

and my other personal favorite....

The Holiday (2006):

Two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) exchange houses during the holidays and love ensues. Jude Law, snappy script, fabulous sets...what's not to love? And thankfully on TBS all month. (See my earlier posts on the design of the film).

Try and have a happy stress free and sane holiday.... January is only three weeks away.

Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.