Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Things to Look Forward to in January

We all need a little something to look forward to while we hole up in the winter months -- for me that usually translates into television and movies. The following are a few of my must-sees during the month of January and here's hoping you got that extra DVD recorder or subscription to Netflix this past Christmas. You are going to need it.

Downton Abbey
Season Five
Sunday, January 4th
8/9 Central

The eagerly anticipated Season Five of the international PBS sensation premieres this Sunday. I am hoping they up their game this season as I missed the banter between  Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine. And things just haven't been the same since they killed off Matthew. I am guessing this might just be the last season, so get your Angliophile fix while you can.

Season Four 
Thursday, January 29th
8/9 Central

After resisting temptation the past several years, I finally became a Gladiator fanatic. Season Four ended with a cliffhanger - who has taken Olivia Pope? Is it the father or the Vice President and his gang? And will she and her Prada bag and glass of wine end up in the hole? Look for her two lovers (that would be Jake and the President) to join forces and find her. On a show where you are constantly wondering "did they really that?" and "no they didn't!" ....Thursday nights are never the same in Shondaland. I can hardly wait.

House of Cards
Season Three
Tuesday, January 27th

Here is hoping for a major blizzard the week Season Three of the popular political drama hits your Netflix account. No spoilers have leaked yet, but with President Frank Underwood and his wicked wife Claire at the helm of the country, all bets are off.

Golden Globe Awards
Sunday, January 11th

The Golden Globes are by far the best of the Hollywood awards season and also the first. Combining television and film, the awards pretty much set the tone of what to expect at the Oscars and Emmys.
Cocktails served during dinner also contribute to the hilarity of the speeches. While I love hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, nothing beats the candid delivery of the former overserved host Ricky Gervais.

The Americans
Season Three
Wednesday, January 28th

If you haven't watched The Americans (its on the FX Channel so look it up) do yourself a favor and tune in. It's the dark story of a pair of married undercover Russian spies (Keri Russell and Mathew Rhys) living in Washington during the end of the Cold War in the eighties. 

Friday, January 23rd

While the quirky film is definitely not for every film palate, the story of an eccentric art dealer (Johnny Depp) and  his sophisticated wife and international terrorist (Gwyneth Paltrow) searching for a stolen painting thought to have a Nazi code might be amusing. I have seen the advance shots of the sets and costumes which will be worth the price of the admission alone.

And there is always the new season of American Idol, The Apprentice, Girls, Nashville, Revenge, How to Commit Murder, Glee, The Following, Madam Secretary, Good Wife, etc.  And American Sniper, Selma and whatever else I missed during the Christmas sweeps at the theater. Happy viewing.

Photo Credits: Carnival Films/Masterpiece/PBS, ABC, Netflix, NBC, FX, Lionsgate

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Sets of Scandal

Most people fall in one of three camps - - 1) they have heard of the Scandal but don't watch, 2) they are living under a rock, or 3) they call themselves "Gladiators." After binge-watching three seasons in June, I find myself behind door number three.

Scandal is ABC's highly addictive, scandalous (for lack of a better word) Thursday night drama, filled with oh-no-they-didn't-just-do-that moments about the head of a Washington, DC crisis management firm ("Fixer" Olivia Pope/actress Kerry Washington) and her on-again-off-again relationship with the President along with many other plot twists too numerous to mention. It's filled with compelling story lines, heat of the moment passion, epic family turmoil, top-notch acting, great power dressing and of course, wonderful sets.

I was fortunate enough to spend a morning at the sets of Scandal this past September (where LA's Gower Studios doubles as our nation's capital) that included the impeccably designed Oval Office and Olivia's firm and apartment. Production designer Corey Kaplan and set decorator Barbara Cassel design some 25-35 sets per episode (900 sets in 47 episodes!) where believability is paramount considering FLOTUS herself is a fan.

The epicenter of problem solving at OPA aka the Olivia Pope Agency. Producer Shonda Rhimes wanted a very large conference table for the office whose style ranges from the 20's to the present. District Millworks, a Los Angeles based reclaimed wood furniture maker, designed the table that remains one of the show's most distinctive pieces.

The desk in the Oval Office is a copy of the Resolute Desk in the actual White House with panels that open just like  JFK's. Shown here is Tony Goldwyn as President Fitzgerald Grant III.
The designers dressed the Oval in a classic style that suited First Lady Mellie Grant's personality.  "Most Presidents in the past had the room design to match their style and comfort," says Kaplan. "Fitz is a worrier, hence his office is often a bastion of fret and concern. Light, cheerful and neutral would not be a consideration" for the room's color scheme.

It's the little things that matter: Official documents, complete with the White House seal, keep the settings real.
The backdrop of many a dramatic scene in the Oval Office, painter Michael Blaich created a tri-color combination for the walls to create movement similar to that of Venetian plaster. The blue and white porcelain is from Two's Company.

Olivia's apartment was inspired by the grandeur of the 20's historic landmark apartment building El Royale where comfort, serenity and a bottle of wine are the order of the day.
Another angle of the apartment - strangely we never see her play the piano...and rarely see her entertain in the seldom seen dining room below.

The designers chose to focus on simple colors to create an "edgeless safe cocoon where Olivia can be herself," says  Kaplan. 

For more on the sets of Scandal, you can see my piece in Architectural Digest and be sure to read the inside scoop on the show's designs on the wonderful blog The Sets Revealed. Or catch the actual show on ABC on Thursday nights 8/9 central where you too can be a Gladiator.

Photo Credits courtesy of ABC/Colleen Hayes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gotham Revisited

The dark fictional urban city known as Batman's Gotham enjoys another small screen moment in the spotlight in Fox TV's new series of the same name. Premiering on Monday, September 22nd at 8/7 central, the drama tells the age-old saga of the Caped Crusader after his parents were killed as a young boy and introduces detective James Gordon as they fight the evil and corruption of Gotham. The Caped Crusader's fabled foes are all here --  Catwoman (wonder if she is called Cat Girl?), The Penguin, The Joker and The Riddler -- before they became famous.

Designed by production designer Doug Kraner and set decorators Regina Graves (pilot) and Andrew Baseman, some of the standout sets are Wayne Manor and the 30s style Art Deco glam penthouse of Detective Gordon's girlfriend Barbara Keane.

For more on the highly stylized world of Gotham, check out my article in Architectural Digest.

Glam designs for the Penthouse above and below

The penthouse was built on an old rooftop of a building (again via soundstage) with a clock tower which is incorporated into the dining room as seen above 

Vies of the wood paneled  library at Wayne Manor above and below

Credits: Photos Courtesy of Doug Kraner

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cote d'Azur Style

A pair of unlikely star-crossed lovers (in the form of a psychic medium and world renowned illusionist) cross paths in the picturesque backdrop of the French Riviera in the 1920s in Woody Allen's latest film Magic in the Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics). Actors Colin Firth and Emma Stone headline the iconic director's latest romantic comedy where exotic locales, period-perfect interiors and costumes always play a starring role.

Travel savvy viewers might recognize Cap d'Antibes' Villa Eilenroc and Villa Renardière where many of the scenes take place. Production designer Anne Seibel (who teamed with Allen on Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love) and set decorator Jille Azis created the Art Deco inspired world of magic and romance that also included a Berlin theater and cabaret, jazz set and the occasional family estate by the sea.

Allen looked to his longtime collaborator Sonia Grande (Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona) for the film's costume designs. The designer conducted an exhaustive research for original frocks from the period that spanned "collectors, auctioneers, fairs, markets and vintage shops in the U.S., Spain, Italy, Bulgaria, Canada and France." Influenced by 20s French photographer Henri Lartigue and Edward Steichen, Grande also viewed documentaries of the rich at play in 1920s French Riviera for inspiration.

For more on the set and costume designs, see my pieces in The Hollywood Reporter and Architectural Digest.

Photo Credits: Anne Seibel and Sonia Grande (sketches), Jack English@2014 Gravier Productions, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Scandal Style

It's truly been the summer of binge, namely two seasons of House of Cards and three seasons of Scandal.  Besides the highly addictive story lines, the costumes on these shows are equally as wonderful.

I was thrilled to hear that Scandal's Kerry Washington has teamed up with The Limited to design a line of Olivia Pope influenced clothing that "embodies the elegance and power of the Scandal aesthetic for real life gladiators and everyday fashionistas." Washington and costume designer Lyn Paolo came up with a line that is both feminine, modern with a neutral palette that personifies Olivia's character -- think feminine blouses, wide leg trousers and sophisticated jackets and outerwear.

Starting at an affordable $49, the 42-piece fall collection is available in stores and online September 22nd so you too can channel your inner gladiator.

No word yet if a House of Cards Claire Underwood line is in the works. Sign me up when there is.

Photo Credits: ABC, Limited

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Paris for Le Week-End

Nothing is better than effortlessly traveling to an idyllic place over the course of two hours. No packing, no airline snacks and best of all no long lines at customs. Such was the case when I visited Paris via my local cinema this past weekend.

I caught the charming comedy/drama Le Week-End this past weekend and found it delightful. Filmed in Paris, the film tells the tale of a British couple (actors Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) celebrating the 30th anniversary of their crumbling marriage. I won't spoil the plot for you but the story is part character study, part portrait of a marriage and part travelogue. And the City of Lights is in all its glory as the celebrated Montparnasse Cemetery, Sacré -Coeur Basilica and of course, the Eiffel Tower compete for screen time.

Broadbent and Duncan as the long-married British couple

A suite at the historic five star Hôtel Plaza Athénée is the weekend home for the bickering travelers (viewers will recognize its stairway in the final Sex and the City finale and Jack Nicholson's hotel of choice in Somethings Gotta Give). The couple stays in the "same suite that Tony Blair once slept in"
and viewers also get a quick glimpse of the cozy and popular Philipe Starck designed Bar 228. While the hotel is not for the average budget, I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Paris (note: the 100 year old hotel on 25 avenue Montaigne is currently undergoing renovations with plans to reopen this summer).

Living room and bedroom of the suite above and below

A room with a view
New Wave film buffs will also recognize the famous dance scene from Luc Goddard's Band à  part (Band of Outsiders) and actor Jeff Goldblum steals the movie as a self-involved, non-stop talker/writer/Cambridge colleague living in Paris. Tres magnifique!

Le Week-End is in limited release and also avail be on Netflix. Happy armchair travels!

Photo Credits: Nicola Dave/Music Box Films

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jon Hamm, The Interview

I have just gotten back from vacation and to quote a friend, "nothing is harder than the reentry back to reality." So I will keep this short and sweet - here is my cover story on Jon Hamm for American Airline's Celebrated Living. Yes, he is wonderful, unassuming and actually nothing like Don Draper. And a baseball fanatic. Enough said. Enjoy and don't sweat Mad Men winding down, you can see him in theaters this Friday in Million Dollar Arm. And we have part two of the series finale next year.

Photo Credits: Celebrated Living, Walt Disney

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Summer Cinema

Summer is only a few weeks away and while the primetime television series winds down, the box office will heat up. Here are a few upcoming films on my radar:

Jersey Boys (June 20th)

The hit Broadway musical about sixties singing sensation Franki Valli and the Four Seasons comes to the big screen in June. Directed by none other than Clint Eastwood, the film stars Christopher Walken and Eastwood's daughter, Francesca.

Magic in the Moonlight (July 25th)

Woody Allen's comedy about an Englishman brought in to unmask a swindle in twenties French Riviera looks promising (yet hard to follow after last year's Oscar winning Blue Jasmine). The cast  includes Colin Firth, Emma Stone and Marcia Gay Harden. Here's hoping its more Midnight in Paris and less To Rome With Love.

Life Itself (July 11th)

Sadly the late film critic Roger Ebert will never get to critique this documentary. Based on his best-best-selling memoir, this is a must-see for those who love movies.

Yves St. Laurent (July 25th)

A look at the early life of the legendary fashion couturier Yves St. Laurent at the beginning of his career is the subject of this French drama. While the early buzz overseas has been mixed, the fashions alone will be worth the price of admission.

And So It Goes (July 11th)

Michael Douglas, and Diane Keaton - what's not to like? Douglas plays a soon-to-be-retired realtor who "inherits" a granddaughter he never knew existed in the Rob Reiner directed comedy. And it stars the aforementioned Franki Valli. Fingers crossed.

And of course there are the usual suspects - Godzilla, Spider -Man 2, Transformers:Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and  X Men: Days of Future Past. See at your own risk:)

Photo Credits: Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures Classics, Kevin Horan, Thibault Grabbher, Castle Rock

Monday, April 28, 2014

Grace of Monaco

Who better than Hollywood royalty to portray the real Hollywood royalty? Coming soon (the film opens the Cannes Film Festival  --  US release date is up for grabs) is the "biopic" of actress-turned-Princess Grace of Monaco and her marriage to Prince Rainer during a political dispute with France in the sixties. Nicole Kidman plays Grace and Tim Roth as her prince (frankly I would have cast Jean Dujardin but no one asked me) in the much anticipated film that focuses on the turbulent aftermath of their fairy tale wedding. 

The film will no doubt be filled with exotic locations (Monaco), lavish sets and eye candy jewels and fashions. Cartier was tapped as the jeweler of choice, fitting in that the Prince gave Grace a 10.47 carat emerald cut Cartier diamond days after they met. Cartier's Paris store on rue de la Paix is also the setting for Grace's retirement announcement. The venerable jewelers reproduced her engagement ring, diamond tiara, and a diamond-filled poodle brooch often worn by the Academy Award winning actress for the film.

Costume designer Gigi Lepage had a lot of wonderful references to work with

Kidman as Kelly 


The Royal Palace of Genoa, Italy doubled as the Royal Palace of Monaco above and below

At the time of this writing, the film is the subject of a dispute between director Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose) and US distributor/producer Harvey Weinstein. Here's hoping we get a glimpse soon as Cannes was not on my calendar this spring:)

Photo Credits: Zimbio, Scope Pictures, Cartier