31 December 2009

Libations in Los Angeles

Tonight I'll be somewhere between this: 

And this:

Happy New Year's Eve readers! 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
 -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "Ring Out, Wild Bells" 1850

30 December 2009

29 December 2009

Listed & Linked: December 29

Tell Me a Story
The New York Times has a very cool end of the year feature: a compilation of the 54 sound and image profiles that they've been releasing throughout the year.  It's a digital and human masterpiece.

Love these boots?  Too bad.  Isabel Marant's Otway boots cost $1295 and have over a two month wait list as a result of arbitrary inventory control and absurd rules like forcing all customers to buy the shoe in France.  I thought the "it" product was over. 

Urban Friendly
The Polite Umbrella, for crowded city streets.  [Via A Cup of Jo]

Lindsay Lohan is selling off her clothes.  More power to her...I'm all for consigning, and she probably has more nice clothes than she could possibly ever need/want/wear...but I'd rather not know that they came from her closet.  She probably thinks the stuff will be valued higher because of the celebrity association, though I'm willing to bet that it will have quite the opposite effect.

This guy has been around for a while, but for those of you not in the know (I was one of them till yesterday), Pogo composes songs from existing sounds and dialogue within a film, and then synchs up the song with images from the film.  He's just released a new one for the movie Up, which can be found here. Beware though, it looks like Disney is pretty aggressively removing these.  Pogo's most popular video was apparently for Disney's Alice in Wonderland, but it's nowhere to be found.  My favorite is Mary's Magic, taken from the 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden.

28 December 2009

Bright Young/Skinny/Edgy Things

The New York Times has managed to confuse me again.  They've re-written November's androgyny story with a different angle.  Women are dressing in a severe, mannish way because they are redefining what it means to be sexy. 

Sexy = ripped tights, bones, a dash of homeless
Photo from The Sartorialist

So, fine, new definition of sexy.  I'm with you.  I was never into the whole Tom Ford major cleavage/major legs look.  But, once again, Ms. La Ferla obscures her point with confusing and contradictory supporting points and the conclusion that models are authentic purveyors of this look, and oh wouldn't it be nice if we could all be that fabulous and authentic.  Promising.

First, she defines feminity as an embrace of the demure, of florals, of pastels - calling them "sweetly conventional trappings of sex appeal."  But then in the very next paragraph cites that the "old ideal of sexiness was the shoulder-baring voluptousness of Scarlett Johansson."
The first is girly.  The second is vamp.  Both are takes on feminity, but not sex appeal.  No one dresses demurely to be sexy.  To be demure is to be "reserved, modest, shy."  To be sexy is to be "excitingly appealing, glamorous."  Whatever the starting point, we're told that these conventionally feminine styles are symbols of weakness.

The new look, "streamlined and armored for tough times, reflects a distrust of trends and a skepticism toward traditional gender roles.  Most tellingly, perhaps, it also represents a pragmatic response to a hobbled economy."  To prove this, they have a slideshow of representative looks, highlighting Zooey Deschanel in a pleated dress.  A girl who takes great pains to be the very definition of demure.  

The article goes on to say that "these notions of sexual allure can be traced to the utility gear adopted by self-styled survivalists, the funky regalia of old-school rockers, even the lingerie-and-leather of Parisian streetwalkers.  These rebellious, antifashion messages, blunted over decades of exposure, have been picked up, inevitably, by the world of high style."  Antifashion becomes Fashion.  And you should always look like you're one insult away from a knife fight.

Patti Smith, 1976

Just don't tell me that putting on leather pants, three scarfs, an oversized tee, a perfect blazer, leather booties and an air of ennui isn't labored.  It is, in fact, just as contrived as Zooey Deschanel's demure frocks, and Beyonce's vampy gowns.  There is nothing natural about any style, so to suggest that the looks worn by these models in their down time is just so organic and "unstudied" is patently wrong.

 Carine Roitfeld "The New Sexy"

A simple glance at the slideshow will make clear that looking like a model is a pre-requisite.  Does that mean that the edgy look is cool and sexy because models are wearing it or because it is somehow inherently cool?  I think it's just because we see it on models.  We'd envy anything they wore because we envy them.  Tisk, tisk, New York Times. I thought we were over anorexia-porn.

  Lou Doillon

Finally, as we have come to expect from The Times, they end the article by re-inforcing the enlightened ways of their own readership.  People like Agyness Deyn and Carine Roitfeld "show you a real-world version of high fashion. They’re not dressed by a stylist, and sophisticated people recognize that.”  Sophisticated people.  Just like you.  Not those losers trying to emulate celebrities.  Because celebrities are overexposed and really just objects of desire for the poor middle classes.  You have to be a true insider to know names like Deyn and Roitfeld and The Sartorialist. 

Edgy, unfeminine, rocker inspired styles are a look.  Only that.  It's not a reflection of the economy or a statement against cleavage or old guard glamour.  And it's certainly not more empowering than a sundress.  For as long as I've been reading fashion magazines, this is how models have always seemed to dress - just look at Kate Moss's very well documented sartorial habits over the past two decades.  It's also not something that fashion magazines (yes, even American ones) are ignoring - to imply that is just silly.  From Elle, to Vogue, to Nylon, to Lucky, they all have it covered.   And, frankly, so do we.

Just show us the clothes, please.  Leave the social implications for later. 

The Last Days of Disco (And the Year)

If Metropolitan was made for Christmas, then The Last Days of Disco was surely made for New Years.  These days, I only think in Stillman.  But don't worry, this is the last post on his films for a while.  I wasn't the biggest fan of Barcelona.

The Last Days of Disco is a story about two 20somethings just starting out in New York in the very early 1980s.  They have a small, awkwardly designed apartment, low level book publishing jobs, grand theories on life (with a mix of sometimes endearing, sometimes annoying sincerity and misguided world-weariness), and social lives made vibrant and glitzy through the gathering point of their demographic - the disco. 

Seeing this movie for the first time in high school, I figured that it was sort of what my 20something life would look like.   I was pretty wrong about that one. 

"Did people ever really dance in bars? I thought that was a myth."
-Charlotte Pingress

"It's really important there be more group social life. Not just all this ferocious pairing off."
-Charlotte Pingress  

"Those who didn't understand will never understand."
-Josh Neff

"Maybe in physical terms I'm a little cuter than you, but you should be much more popular than I am." 
-Charlotte Pingress
The Perfect Last Days of Disco Dress

I'll take the clothes, but this year I'll choose to stay away from the bars, the clubs, the cold, the crowds, and the $120 allyoucandrinkbutseemstoogoodtobetruebecauseitis specials.  With the prices of Champagne at the lowest they've been in years, it's the perfect time for an elegant house party.   Doesn't an evening of Tattinger, Wolfords, appetizers (Mango & Ginger has compiled a list of resources for we culinarily challenged), conversation, and viewings of some classicly elegant movies like Top Hat (you know, the kind of movies that Nancy Meyers THINKS that she is making) sound perfect?

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
Top Hat, 1935

The Jaded Heifer is throwing a 1920s-style party.  Any other worthy themes out there?

27 December 2009

The Art of the Short Film

For the Christmas season, Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas has made his beautiful and strange short film Alma available for viewing.  

25 December 2009

6th and Speedway on Christmas Day

Two songs that prove that in spite of all of California's awesomness, Christmas just isn't Christmas without snow.  Actually one is about a junkie.  But as a friend said, "even junkies deserve Christmas carols."

Nice try, Long Beach

22 December 2009

Listed & Linked: December 22

Too Late, Darling
In 2010 Lisa Loeb plans to release a line of eye glasses.  This might have been interesting when Reality Bites came out and we all loved "Stay."  That was, however, 16 years ago. 

Because it's "Funny"
A blog dedicated to the excessive and unnecessary use of quotation marks.

False Advertising
Oh, Gap.  The use of non-Gap boots in your holiday commercial might not have drawn so much attention if this year's Gap Kids holiday commercial didn't have that obnoxious pre-teen "How cute are these boots?!" brat-anthem.  How are we consumers supposed to remember that we're being sold different things in two nearly identically shot commercials?

Vanity Fair helps to illustrate the similarities between Rodarte and Rodarte for Target.  Hmm.  This just makes me sadder that I can't afford the Kate Bosworth/Natalie Portman versions.  I know it's kind of the point, but does Miss Lace Tights have to look SO low budget?


21 December 2009

Movies for the Winter

Happy Winter Solstice!  DC is celebrating with a coating of lovely snow and the welcome closure of the Federal Government.

Washington, DC - December 19, 2009

Photo from My White Shirt

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas and cold-weather movies.  Sadly, though, cinema often gets winter very, very wrong.  My mother's biggest annoyance is the use of fake snow in movies (Father of the Bride is a classic offender).  How can we blame the California-based filmmakers for assuming that cold weather either means just that - cold, dry weather - or pretty, white, idyllic snow?

Egregious use of fake, fluffy snow in Marley and Me

What about the slush?  The sad, prickly ground that's been frozen for months?  The ugly, pilled hats and gloves, the mud, the salt stains on your car, the feeling that warmth and growth might not come back this year?  The cold is distracting and pervasive.  Our lives are impacted in more ways than just putting on a heavier coat and hat (ahem, Ally McBeal...that was NOT Boston.)  Thus it's nice when directors are able to really convey a sense of authentic cold (while telling a good story, of course.)

Here are some of my favorites. 

All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)

Beautiful Girls (Ted Demme, 1996)

Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993)

Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990)

Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007)

Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 1994)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987)

The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Snow Angels (David Gordon Green, 2007)

Wonder Boys (Curtis Hanson, 2000)

Funny that many of these are about the middle to lower classes.   Because if you had enough money, you'd clearly move somewhere with nicer weather, right?

In any event, what have I missed?  Please weigh in!

20 December 2009

So, about Summer crying...

(500) Days of Summer was released on DVD this week with minimal publicity.   Breakup movies aren't the best Christmas presents, I guess.  [Also, do I have to say that there are major spoilers below?  I'm assuming everyone has seen it at this point.]

I got a second chance to see it and realized (much to my dismay) that my movie theater note-taking isn't as reliable as I once thought.  My July review incorrectly says that Tom gets transferred to the "Sympathy and Grief" department, when it's actually the "Funerals and Sympathy" department.  I think my interpretation is still better.  Oh well.

 A second viewing also allowed me to reflect a little bit on the progression of the film.  It begins with Summer and Tom well after they'd broken up (Summer is in fact married at this point).   You begin to realize that many of the scenes that Tom remembers throughout the film are from that last day of their relationship.  Thank goodness Zooey's costumes are so distinctive, otherwise this would have been very confusing.  Of course, that last day of their relationship is when they go to see The Graduate, and where Summer cries at the end.  So...why is she crying at the end?  It's hard to tell for sure, but I have a few theories. 

1.  Summer is unhappy with Tom.  She's not paying any attention to the film and knows that in a few short hours their non-relationship will end.  And she's sad and scared about what she has to do: break his heart. 

2.  Summer sees herself as Elaine, and Elaine's choice as a tragic mistake.  In case you're unaware, let me ruin it for you: Mike Nichols ends The Graduate with Ben stealing Elaine away from her own wedding.  They dash out and hop on the first bus they see.  And, famously, Nichols keeps shooting the actors in the back of that bus till the film runs out.  Perhaps since they weren't expecting to be on film that long and had no direction of how to act, Elaine and Ben's smiles and laughs turn into pursed lips, silences, and stares off into the distance.  I go back and forth about this scene, hating it because it's supposed to be so deep and real, and loving it because, you know, it's so deep and real - euphoria fades, rash decisions are regretted, conversation runs out.  Mark Webb chooses to focus on a moment of this scene where Elaine's smile fades first, while Ben continues to grin about his triumph.  And maybe Summer does see this as Elaine running off with a lesser evil...someone who's OK, but who she's not actually in love with...and that resonates with her own situation.

3.  Summer is really wrapped up in the movie and her crying has nothing to do with Tom. Was Elaine pregnant?  Did she and Ben really even know each other that well?   Where were they going to go?  He slept with her mother!  Gah!  That's enough life and responsibility to make me cry.  And maybe this is the most reasonable explanation for her desperate reaction.  The Graduate is an unnerving movie for a directionless 20-somethings.  And, as we see in many instances, although Summer cares for Tom, he's not the focus of her thoughts and energies.  She does things that she wants to do and doesn't reflect much on Tom or his feelings. Thus, after the movie when she's trying to politely escape and he endearingly presses her to continue hanging out, she reaches her breaking point - he expects them to spend the whole day together, she just wants to do her own thing.  

So...do any of these sound reasonable? 

16 December 2009

Alice in Wonderland

Disney has just released a beautiful new trailer for the upcoming Alice in Wonderland.

Sadly, I'm unable to embed, but please click here to view.  

So. Very. Excited. 

15 December 2009

Listed & Linked: December 15

Listed & Linked

(Instead of annoying friends, strangers, and unassuming gchat link clickers with random interweb findings, I've decided to start a new weekly segment: Listed & Linked.  Check in on Tuesdays.)

Miuccia Prada gets the Metropolitan Opera to recast its extras.  She claimed she couldn't be expected to dress the curvy ones.  [via CocoPerez]

The Hirschorn (more specifically, Director Richard Koshalek) has plans for a $5 million light blue inflatable meeting hall that would fill the courtyard and spill out of the top.  How very UP.  [via The New York Times]

The Onion News Network pokes fun at the whole overanalyzing the subtext of children's lit trend in a segment about the fictional Green Man series. The New York Times says "Mr. Mitchell makes Green Man both a human figure, coping with the banal frustrations of the colored objects he stands next to, and an epic hero." And of course the film version will star Johnny Depp as the Green Man and Tilda Swinton as the Tall Tree. Hehe.

Because you know it'll come up this weekend, Pitchfork announced its Top 100 Songs of 2009.  Two Phoenix songs in the top 10, though?  I'm sure Cadillac is pleased. 

Roger Ebert is highly amusing.  Who knew?  Follow him!
Example: Idiotic bookcases for people who don't read or have many books and possess very bad taste. http://j.mp/67wxA3

"That's a Bingo!"
Definitely one of my top films of the decade, Inglorious Basterds is now out on DVD. GO.

Beer Humor (and OMG people I know!)

14 December 2009

So Very Metropolitan

It's party season at last, and while wading through the endless racks of silk and deciding what look to go for, why don't you keep in mind the opulent styles of early 90s New York as immortalized by Whit Stillman's Metropolitan - a tale of young "Urban Haute Bourgeoisie" chatting about class, literature, fourierism, the severe escort shortage, and their inevitable downward mobility in tails and gloves and frilly frocks while circulating debutante galas and after parties.

Few things are as glamorous as formal attire and cold weather.  As the virtuous, Fanny Price obsessed heroine Audrey Rouget says, "There's something about winter in the city at night with everyone dressed up that reminds me of War and Peace."  This film captures the sentiment perfectly.

  "I guess you could say it's extremely vulgar, I like it a lot."
 -Nick Smith

 "Snobbery is looked down upon."
-Charlie Black

"I'd read Veblen, but it's amazing to hear that these things still go on."
 -Tom Townsend

"The cha cha is no more ridiculous than life itself."
-Nick Smith

Metropolitan was very much a product of its time.  The dresses are as decorated as a wedding cake, with puffed sleeves, sweetheart necklines, ruffles in the strangest of places, and yards and yards of brightly colored taffeta and lace, all offset by simple strands of pearls, large bows for the hair, and black tights, both sheer and opaque.  Aside from the length issue, the formal looks were amazingly similar to the dresses shown in the Christmas Ball scene of Meet Me in St. Louis (set in 1904!) which I watched while searching for some dresses to show.  But there's something kind of quirky and devil may care about embracing these extremely dated looks.  I'll offer some modern updates below, but the ornate Dynasty look will be back soon.   Why not dive in now?

Inspired by Metropolitan

Bob Mackie


So, for the most part, I'm not sure that the basic tuxedo has changed for men.  While the girls in the film changed dresses and accessories for every evening out, the men seemed to only alternate between a black bow tie/black cummerbund and a white bow tie/white vest.  Annoyingly simple, but elegant all the same. 

For the Gents 


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