28 February 2012

Taking a Break

Dalliant & Dainty will be on hiatus for a while. If you're interested, you can read some of my other writings here.

06 January 2012

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees: Actress, TV Comedy or Musical Series Edition

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees is a week-long series devoted to seeking out the best dresses for all the nominated females in both television and film leading up to the awards on Sunday, January 15. Each day we'll look at a new category and a new batch of actresses because they totally haven't already had their outfits chosen by paid professionals already for like months now.  All of the dresses are from the Spring 2012 RTW collections.

Zooey Deschanel, New Girl (Fox)

Hehe. Just kidding. 

But I'm deadly serious about this Temperley London. I know Zooey's look is her thing. But...new year, new single life, new chance to embrace a colorless dropped waist dress.

Laura Dern, Enlightened (HBO)

Laura Dern is one tall, bony woman. Theoretically it should be easier to slap a runway dress on her frame than say, little Natalie Portman, but for some reason tall women on the red carpet just look a little out of place in any old gown. We've seen it with Jane Lynch, Geena Davis, and the other three tall ladies in the existence of television and movies too. So, as a remedy, she should consciously choose a dress that a shorter person CAN'T pull off, which is why I love this blue, sequined, Elie Saab. It was made for a Katherine Hepburn/Laura Dern type: the curve-less statue with collarbones for miles. 

Tina Fey, 30 Rock (NBC)

Does anyone else get the impression that Tina Fey is just generally uncomfortable in evening wear? Yeah, I know in the photo above she's holding her own freaking umbrella (because the Globes event staff couldn't get their act together to rent a damn tent even though it had totally been raining for more than 10 minutes prior to the red carpet) and is probably just feeling awkward because she didn't practice her holding an umbrella while posing in a frou frou dress. But beyond all that, she still doesn't look like she can breathe in that bodice, which is why I think she'd appreciate this flowy, color-blocked Salvatore Ferragamo

Laura Linney, The Big C (Showtime)

Laura Linney is a red carpet rock star. She sticks to a great blowout, solid colors, and classic prom queen silhouettes. I seriously have no complaints. This Zac Posen will be a little more difficult to walk in, but no one really WALKS down the red carpet, right? It's more of a shuffle.

Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation (NBC)

What can I say? You look good in blue, kid. Also this will be easy to walk around in...you know...to the bathroom...and the stage when they call your name to win this category because seriously if they don't I'll just swear off awards shows not really everyone knows they're stupid anyway and I not so secretly love them if you haven't been able to tell already so you get my point, right?

Things will resume on Monday with Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Archive: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3

05 January 2012

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees: Supporting Actress, TV Edition

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees is a week-long series devoted to seeking out the best dresses for all the nominated females in both television and film leading up to the awards on Sunday, January 15. Each day we'll look at a new category and a new batch of actresses because they totally haven't already had their outfits chosen by paid professionals already for like months now.  All of the dresses are from the Spring 2012 RTW collections.

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story (FX)

Knowing very little about Jessica Lange in general, somehow I am aware of the fact that she carried on long domestic partnerships with both Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sam Shepard and I will be forever envious of both of those relationships. BUT, on a more related note, girl has also gotten 12 Golden Globe nominations over the course of her career so at this point she's probably just going to show up to see some friends. Could she really still care all that much? So go kind of gothic with this sheer sleeved Valentino. Ryan Murphy will probably write an episode around it. 

Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Kelly MacDonald is so cute, but it's really hard to get past her desire to slouch on the red carpet. Maybe she's self conscious because she just wants to ACT and is just kind of bemused/annoyed by her celebrity responsibilities like dressing up and going to awards show. "OH. THIS OLD GAME AGAIN? SIGH, SNOOZE, SOMEONE FIND ME A DRESS AND A COMB, I'D LIKE TO BLEND IN WITH THE SIGNAGE IF AT ALL POSSIBLE." 

Well Kelly. This IS seriously business. You get to DRESS UP AND GO TO AWARDS SHOWS and that is FREAKING AWESOME. So listen, this Bottega Veneta dress here? It's perfect for you. Jewel tones will go great with your hair, you can probably eat dinner and still manage to breathe, it won't wrinkle in the car ride over, and you can wear an almost proper bra with it. EVERYONE WINS. Smile, stand up straight, and don't make me call your mother. 

Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (PBS)

Maggie Smith seems to mostly keep away from the red carpet these days (or the photogs are just too preoccupied with Emma Watson to notice that she's there), but she's 77-years-old so as long as she keeps charming us in television shows and movies, she can do whatever she damn well pleases. But...if she does decide to make an appearance, wouldn't this be charming? 

04 January 2012

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees: Actress, Miniseries or TV Movie Edition

Dressing the Golden Globe Nominees is a week-long series devoted to seeking out the best dresses for all the nominated females in both television and film leading up to the awards on Sunday, January 15. Each day we'll look at a new category and a new batch of actresses because they totally haven't already had their outfits chosen by paid professionals already for like months now.  All of the dresses are from the Spring 2012 RTW collections.

Romola Garai, The Hour (BBC America)

Romola Garai rocked the late 50s, early 60s apparel in The Hour, and we've seen her primly dressed as a World War II era nurse in Atonement, but for the Globes I'd love to see her sport this beachy 40s-style Roland Mouret. Since she has breasts where most of her peers have bones, this shape would be extremely flattering, and the hint of skin keeps it from looking too demure or business-like.

Diane Lane, Cinema Verité (HBO)

Diane Lane, you saucy minx, I see you in this Carolina Herrera. The cross-neck strap will show off your toned shoulders, the light color (I seriously thought this was white but now it's coming across as minty green...but my decision still holds) will accentuate your perpetually sun-kissed skin tone, and the belt will make it look younger than your usual red carpet dress. You don't need to pull out the satin and brooch combination till you're 90, dear, and even then, let's talk - I'm sure there are other options to explore.

29 September 2011

New Girl, Again

I've adapted my original review of New Girl for The Junior Varsity and also taken a stab at reviewing the 2nd episode of the pretty dismal show.  I had wanted to make this a weekly review, but I think I'm going to sit back and see where the show is going before jumping in with critiques and suggestions for improvement.

Episode 1
Episode 2

Will be back with a New Girl status report mid-season.

07 September 2011

Notes on New Girl

FOX has quietly made the pilot of their new Zooey Deschanel sitcom New Girl available to watch on VOD and iTunes prior to the September 20th premier. 

So, here's what I found out the hard way.

1) No one is real: Nope, not a single character on this show is believable as a person. Not Coach, not Schmidt, not Nick, not the model, and no, not even Jess. Perhaps this is just because it’s the pilot and everyone is playing it big so we audience members don’t mix up the main characters. Or perhaps it’s a warning of things to come.

I’m willing to accept absurdity in the name of comedy (obviously?).

I’m not watching this show because I want to see if someone has finally captured the voice of stunningly beautiful girls with perfectly styled hair that manages to maintain bouncy barrel curls even in the midst of a devastating breakup and who bring up super obvious sitcom-friendly nerd references like Gandalf, and Smigel so that they can finally be accepted in society.

In spite of the absurdity and the inevitable lame jokes and the requisite bigness of the acting, sitcoms usually give the audience something to relate to. A personality trait. A truism about x stage in life. Anything really. And the more specific the better. With New Girl, we get nothing. The writers, unfortunately, have painted the characters as broadly and dully as possible. We get lame debates about the pros and cons of living with women, we get the “Douchebag Jar*” and what must be the most unbelievable mash up of craigslist roommates ever.**

I do think this is salvageable. If it’s going to be unbelievable, campy, and corny, at least make it funny. Take a Neil Patrick Harris/Barney Stinson master class. Use the ham judiciously.

*Incidentally, if the Douchebag Jar is ever used as an effective joke somewhere down the road, I owe all five of you a beer.

**I’ve lived with my fair share of craigslist roommates, and I’m not sure anyone would have noticed had I disappeared for a month, let alone cared enough to run to the rescue if I got stood up on a date.  

2) Jake Kasdan hasn’t figured out the best way to shoot the actors: Say what you will about Bad Teacher, but Kasdan-directed shows and movies like Freaks & Geeks and Orange County prove that he is certainly capable of directing comedy effectively. This could be a format issue. A few scenes that would have worked really well in a multi-cam sitcom were botched by unnecessary cuts that interrupted the rhythm more than a laugh track could ever dream of doing. In one scene Jess goes to talk to a cute guy at a bar, shouts “hello sailor” like a theater brat and pauses as if waiting for the audience to start laughing. I cringed. It’s a bad thing when you start feeling badly for the actors and not their characters.

Another issue could be that because it’s a pilot, and because it’s supposed to set the stage for something (what, exactly, I’m not sure...we weren’t given any hints at future conflicts or tensions which makes me nervous for what the season holds) it doesn’t follow the classic sitcom format. If a show is done well, who cares if we have a recognizable A, B, and C story? But it wasn’t and perhaps the episode would have benefited from some tried and true limitations.

3) It’s not funny (yet): I’m not going to give up hope, but the promos really managed to spoil the entire batch of jokes in the first episode.

4) The men are written especially poorly: In order for this show to work, we need to want to hang out with these guys, but that’s not going to happen if they don’t even seem amused by each other. The lack of chemistry could be attributable to a combination of too much Jess (I get that she just moved in and that’s super exciting, but not every interaction needs to be Jess related), sloppy cuts (see point 2), and the fact that at this point they are all charmless, personality-less dolts. (Coach likes to come home and sit around naked and Schmidt LOVES models...LAWLZ).

In some ways, this last point makes me want to run around shouting “reverse discrimination, bitches!” Alas, Zooey’s “Jess” needs some work too. Which brings me to my final point:

5) Zooey Deschanel IS adorable, but only when she’s not acting like what she thinks a nerd is supposed to act like: Zooey, darling, I like you. I do. You’re incredibly beautiful, and can manage to be terrific in vile movies like Failure to Launch. Your voice is lovely. I covet your clothes. And on top of everything you do come across as a really good person. But this “adorkable” role is not doing you any favors. Elizabeth Meriwether is capable of writing lovable nerds who are incidentally adorable. (e.g. Lake Bell’s character in No Strings Attached. She was bumbling, and awkward, and insecure, and assertive at the wrong times. She had no idea how attractive she was. She was used in limited doses, and it worked.)

Jess is trying too hard. We as the audience have to be convinced that you’re cute and when we’re getting 20 examples of your CRAZYNERDINESS a minute, it actually makes me less willing to accept that. It doesn’t have to be that hard. You could just act like a normal person who does dorky things sometimes. “Geesh” might have worked better if you hadn’t looked so aware that you were saying something that was supposed to be SO CUTE because OMG it’s like not even a word. Also don’t tell me that the girl with perfect hair who wears impeccably fitted sundresses would try to wear overalls on a first date. It’s insulting.

As I mentioned above, the hamming could just be a product of the pilot and the fact that all the funny has been stripped out of the jokes thanks to excessive and excessively self-aware promos. Jess’s saving moments happen when she not trying so hard to be Jess - when she’s giving advice, when she’s genuinely laughing at her roommates bursting out into song in the middle of a restaurant. So once again, I just hope that we get a little bit of restraint in future episode. Who knows, “geesh” might become the new “legen - wait for it - dary.”  

15 April 2011

Now Playing: Camera Obscura's "If Looks Could Kill"

For today's Friday song and video here is a promotional video for Camera Obscura's 2006 album Let's Get Out of This Country, set to the upbeat song "If Looks Could Kill."

It's pretty perfect for this chilly April Chicago day. It makes me crave the dead heat of August, a cross country road trip with no air-conditioning, some vintage dresses and striped tees, midwestern lightening storms (3:08), and a kaleidoscope-ed home video of the whole thing.

11 April 2011

Melancholia and The Tree of Life

Late last week, the trailer for Lars Von Trier's latest film Melancholia was released.

Looking at the outset like a regular old "rich folks trapped on a lavish estate with their caviar and their problems" movie, we quickly discover that it's an end of the world movie too. With dreamy images of a planet headed towards earth and Kirsten Dunst's weepy declaration that "life is only on earth, and not for long," it reminded me of the trailer for Terrence Malick's highly anticipated The Tree of Life.

Even though in the Tree of Life trailer the connection to the images of space aren't rooted in any immediate, physical explanation (like, a planet is coming to destroy us), the scenes of the working class suburban childhood manage to convey that same sense of captivity that we get with the sprawling and isolated Melancholia manor. The scope of both look incredible, pitting the smallness of the family and the home against the vastness of the universe, thus allowing the films to pose big questions about existence, love, and mortality.

07 April 2011

Please Hear Me Ohio

I had the occasion to first listen to Damien Jurado's song "Ohio" at a particularly lonely moment in time - living alone in Columbus in a sterile high rise studio apartment the fall after graduation, feeling that overwhelming anxiety that everyone does when the weather starts to turn and you begin to realize, as lame as it sounds, that this is a new indeterminate phase in life (that feeling does end, folks).

I'm not particularly diligent in consuming recommended songs, but once I get around to it, I generally fall in love. Between my 25 minute drive to and from work and time in an apartment without internet or television, I listened to a lot of mixes that were any combination of months or years old. They were filled with melancholy songs like "Ohio," Yo La Tengo's "I Feel Like Going Home," and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "A Strange Form of Life." It wasn't that I only liked sad songs, either. I also just desperately needed to decompress after a full day of Abercrombie & Fitch music blasting through the speakers of the corporate offices. If it was playing in the store, it was also playing in my cubicle, and aside from a pretty great remix of Rihanna's "Umbrella," every song was soul crushingly annoying.

I think I would have loved the song even if it weren't called "Ohio," but, as it happened, I started listening to it in a time of isolation and sadness living there. Of course it's not really about Ohio the place at all. It's about* a sad guy meeting a sad girl who is longing to return to Ohio to see her mother who she hasn't seen in ages. Even though I was personally longing for some other place, the slow guitar, persistent harmonica, and aching narrative combined with Jurado's mournful voice seemed to capture everything about that moment for me. And the best part is that the song is meaningful just because of that. I never searched Pitchfork to see if it had been deemed cool, I never looked up when the song was from, and I never listened another Damien Jurado song. It exists solely for that version of myself who lived in Ohio for nine months.

Some time after that, a friend directed me to a CocoRosie cover of the song.

Thanks to a voice that is somehow appealing even though the only way I can think to describe it is a 3-year-old shouting, the song is fundamentally altered, but the emotional resonance stays the same. I think it might be the addition of the lyrical "oooohhh seeeee you sometimes" in the background and the consistency of the harmonica.

This week TwentyFourBit linked a cover of "Ohio" by the new-to-me band Strand of Oaks, so of course I had to listen.

Strand of Oaks - "Ohio" (Damien Jurado Cover) by TwentyFourBit.com

I am all for a good cover song, no matter how drastically the original is altered, whether it's only slightly like Camera Obscura covering Bruce Springsteen or massively with Frente! covering New Order. But, this? I just don't like it. I get that it's nice sounding and that it's essentially the same song, but the vocals and the instrumentals are too pretty, too polished, like Ryan Adams crossed with Rufus Wainwright. I find myself yearning for the grittiness of the harmonica, Jurado's wobbly voice, and CocoRosie's crackly whine. There's no urgency in this version, no sense of loss.

Perhaps it's for the better. I don't have the capacity to love three versions of a song after "Tougher Than The Rest." Also, as a result of the news, I got to revisit a song that I loved dearly but had cycled out of my playlist over the past few years.

*I mean, I think that's what it's about. That line about "you see I was taken while I lay sleeping by my father's hired men" confuses me.Were they movers? Henchmen? Was she kidnapped?

06 April 2011

The Met Gala Rules

Anna Dello Russo, Editor-at-Large for Japanese Vogue and eccentric girl about town issued 10 Rules for those attending the annual Met Gala, with unfathomable standards, lousy but amusing English ("the Giselle's body" and HELLS for HEELS), and inexplicable usage of all caps. 

Anna Dello Russo

1. It's Prohibited choose the wrong OUTFIT.
Look and look again hundred thousand times
all the shows on Vogue.com.

2. Opt for the HAUTE COUTURE.
You only live once!

3. For at least a month before, prepare your
BODY with an iron DETOX discipline and
a daily TRAINING.
You must be radiant!

4. Choose a long evening GOWN.
Unless you don't have the Giselle's body
not wear a short dress!

5. Put some beautiful SHOES with which
walk straight and FIERCE.
Your legs cannot wobbling over
HELLS exceeding 11 cm.

6. MAKEUP and HAIR: 
Here you can exaggerate!
You have to invent a character,
you'll transform into another woman,
give her another name
and you'll feel more SECURE.

7. Strictly: JEWEL-CLUTCH in hand.

8. Leave your WATCH at home, even if precious,
cause it may be unkind to those who invited you.

9. Rigorously forbidden to take iPhone pics
at VIP'S and CELEBS!

10. When you get to that very long,
dreadful RED CARPET,
take a deep breath and SMILE."

Thanks, Anna, for insider tips, like "wear a nice dress and shoes you can walk in" and "try to avoid deep dish pizza the month before." I want the real stuff! Like don't UNPLUG Katy Perry's Dress, avoid spilling red wine ON Diane Kruger's Calvin Klein, and try to refrain from asking Andre Leon Talley how many CHILDREN are stashed under his cape."

Anyway, for all the normals out there, I'll see you on NYMag.com on May 3 to browse the 2011 slideshows, deal?


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