Best Costume Design

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 2 awards.
Nominated for Best Costume Design (Colleen Atwood) and Best Visual Effects (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Michael Dawson, Neil Corbould, Philip Brennan).
Watched February 26, 2014.

  

Snow White and the Huntsman is an entertaining film worthy of its nominations–no more, and no less.  Recently we have been treated to new spins on old tales and for the most part, this rendition of Snow White is pretty good.

 

Snow White (Kristin Stewart) is supposed to be incredibly beautiful, not just in appearance.  Her mother the queen was well loved and poured that love out to her daughter.  When the queen dies, the king remarries (fairly quickly) to an incredibly beautiful woman who kills him immediately and takes the throne.  Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is perhaps the best part of this film.  She clings to her beauty and must take the youth of young virgins in order to maintain it.  Otherwise her skin sags, her hair thins and grays, and she loses all beauty.  Her magical mirror informs her always what she must do to remain the fairest in the land.

Snow White is kept prisoner in her own castle and when she comes of age, she must escape to save her own life.  The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is brought before the queen and ordered to track Snow White and bring her back.  This is the twist of the film–the Huntsman has a strong part to play, and he soon falls under the charm of Snow White, just as the dwarves and other rebels of the land.  In this rendition, there is still an apple and a prince charming, but there is also war and evil knights made of glass shards.

 

As much as I loved this movie, I would not give it five stars.  Charlize Theron was brilliant, although I think she was riding the edge of the knife between “perfect crazy” and “too much crazy” the whole movie.  A lot of the focus of the film was displaying just how crazy she was.  I did love, however, how discontent she was.  From fits of rage to silent tears, her range of emotions was amazing.

Another downer was, of course, Kristen Stewart.  To be honest, I do think she’s pretty–not necessarily fairest of the land pretty, but pretty.  Her method of acting came in handy when it came to her wandering through the dark forest.  She was confused, scared, disoriented–I think she played that part well.  I also thought she did a good job during her monologue at the end.  However, I did not have much faith in her character.  She not only represents life, but in actuality IS life.  Snow White was a challenging character in comparison with Bella from “Twilight,” but I do not think that Stewart pulled it off.  She was not believable as Snow White.  She was instead a girl running around in a big medieval dress, trying to be a great beauty.  Snow White is supposed to capture everyone’s heart, but Kristen Stewart did not capture mine.

 

My personal favourite was, of course, The Huntsman.  Chris Hemsworth–tall, muscular, brunette (yeah, I missed the blonde hair too), and with a Scottish accent.  Whether you are male or female, you should have a crush on this man.  I thought he did a good job with “Thor,” but when he did his monologue in “Snow White,” I could tell we are going to be seeing good things in his future filmography.  Hopefully he will not just be the brawny action star who plays the same role all the time.

 

I loved the special effects.  I expected more of the glass-demon knights we all saw fighting in the previews.  I was a little disappointed they had such a small role.  I didn’t notice the editing, which must mean it was good because trust me, I notice when it is bad.  The symbolism was blatantly obvious–death versus life, red apples being eaten, etc.  I liked the cinematography.  I think my favorite aspect was probably character development.  Before the end of the film, I knew who each of the characters were and understood their decisions.  We were given enough information about their pasts to understand their present.  While rooting for the good guys, I had a sick desire to see the queen succeed because Theron captured me with her crazy ways.

 

If you are not looking for a deep film, or even a frivolous film, I would definitely recommend Snow White and the Huntsman for a Friday night entertaining movie.  It is rated PG-13 so it is certainly not as kid friendly as the original Disney animation, but other than that it is a good family film.

The Other Side of Midnight (1977) Review | Jamie Daily

The Other Side of Midnight (1977)
50th Academy Awards 1978
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff).
Watch November 18, 2013.

  

Have any of you read those famed “romance” novels?  You’ve probably at least seen them on the shelves.  The ones with the half naked men and women in a provocative embrace?  That’s what The Other Side of Midnight is.  Full of plenty of unrequited love, nudity, sex, and passion–not to mention plots of murder–this novel based screenplay is an interesting nomination.

 

Noelle Page (Marie-France Pisier) is a young French girl whose piggish father tells her that her beauty and body are the only things she has to offer the world.  He essentially sells her off to a shop keeper, where Noelle is expected to do more than tend the cash register.  She escapes to Paris where penniless and possessionless, she is is rescued by a young American pilot named Larry Douglas (John Beck).  He takes her in, feeds her, beds her, and when his orders come in he tells her to buy a wedding dress and he’ll be back for her.

 

But he never comes back.  Noelle, still pursuing fashion as a career, soon finds herself modeling and then acting.  Knowing that men only want one thing, she takes her father’s advice and uses her body to get the roles she wants.  She rises to fame quickly and once one of the wealthiest men in the world takes an interest in her, she leaves her director beau fairly quickly for a life of luxury with the Greek Constantin Demeris (Raf Vallone).

 

Larry, in the meantime, has married and is finding it hard to hold down a job since in the end of the war.  Noelle discovers this and offers him a job as her personal pilot in Greece.  Not knowing she is the girl he once ditched, Larry and his wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon) move overseas.

 

Of course Larry will eventually find out who Noelle is.  She has loved him ever since the beginning and no money or spouse can stand in her way.

 

The movie is outlandishly long.  The story begins during World War II but you hardly know it.  Occasionally there are swastikas, but that’s as close to the action as we get.  This may be because Noelle is distinctly indifferent to anyone else’s suffering than her own, or it may just be an awful choice from the original author.  You decide.

 

Although Noelle was indeed slighted, once she begins to see herself as little more than sex, she loses all strength and is no longer a powerhouse woman.  She is presented as someone intelligent who only takes care of herself, however she comes across as easily used and lacking in a lot of things, most importantly self respect.

 

Catherine is everything that Noelle should have been.  She is strong, intelligent, supportive.  She has an amazing job in the city but moves to Greece to support her husband.  Although she will do anything to keep their relationship strong, I do not see this as a weakness.  She has a drinking problem but leaves it before she would leave Larry.

 

Larry is the most unattractive, weak, and grating character the movie can produce.  He is amazing in the beginning, but he seems to lose everything with the war, and in my opinion he never gets it back.

 

The  movie is too long, the ending makes the entire film pointless, and the third act is so different from the first two that I almost stopped watching entirely.  The cinematography is boring, the editing isn’t much, and the story line is far from special.  I do not recommend it.

Les Miserables (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Les Miserables (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
3/5 Stars
Nominated for 8 awards, of which it won 3.
Nominated for Best Picture (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh), Best Actor (Hugh Jackman), Best Music–Song (“Suddenly”: Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer), Best Production Design (Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson), and Best Costume Design (Paco Delgado).
Won Best Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway), Best Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes), and Best Makeup (Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell).
Watched October 3, 2013.

  

This adaptation of Les Miserables is both deeply loved and deeply hated by many–critics and citizens alike.  The enchanting music and performances are beautiful, but the dutch angles* and static camera work is grating.  For some (book lovers, mostly) the first two parts of the film are what they should be, if a musical can be considered a good representation of the original literature.  For others, the last act is what makes the piece.

 

For myself, the first two thirds of the film were incredibly boring.  There are certain pieces that stand out, but over all it isn’t something that I would be able to watch very often.

 

For those who don’t know, Les Miserables is a story about a man named Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who is set free from prison and hard labor after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread.  Javert (Russell Crowe) is the guard who sets him free, but Valjean’s papers label him a dangerous man, which make it impossible for him to get a job, something to eat, or a place to stay.  He is shown incredible kindness by a godly man who tells him to turn his life around.  Valjean creates an alias for himself and years later we find him a factory owner and the mayor of a small town.  This happy world is rocked when Javert returns, now as an inspector, although he does not at first recognize Valjean.

 

Distracted by the new inspector, Valjean doesn’t take notice when one of his factory workers is thrown to the streets because she had a child out of wedlock.  Fantine (Anne Hathaway) enters a dark path and in her deepest despair performs the most heart wrenching, memorable solo number of the entire 158 minute film.  Valjean learns of Fantine and her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and vows to take care of the girl.

 

In the next act, a rebellion against the crown in stirring in France.  Cosette is a young woman and her beauty attracts another young man who has left behind his family wealth to support the revolution with his friends.  Marius, played by the freckle-faced tenor Eddie Redmayne, sees her but once and is in love.  He must choose between the girl and the revolution.  When Valjean discovers the romance, he must choose between his own freedom or Cosette’s happiness.

 

The film’s biggest strength is director Tom Hooper’s decision to have the cast sing live.  Normally with musicals, they record the tracks before they shoot, but with singing live the actors have a much better opportunity to connect emotionally with their characters and their performance.  There is no debate that Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” is the best point in the entire film and it is undoubtedly what won her the Oscar.

 

The film captures the darkness of the circumstances, but its biggest flaw is probably the conversion of stage to film–it stays too true to Broadway.  The continuous musical ballads draw out the emotions of characters that we as an audience can see in a split second simply from the actor’s face.  We spend five minutes exploring a single emotion.  On stage this can work brilliantly, especially if you’re sitting in the nosebleed section.  Film is different.  The slightest flicker of emotion can be detected by your audience–we don’t need to marinate in it.

 

My second favourite performance is when Redmayne sang “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” He expresses perfectly the emotion–the devastation he felt at the loss of his comrades.  The film also did well in showing the sorrow that the soldiers must have felt at killing such young men.

 

There are so many facets to this film, it is hard to discuss them all.  For me, the first two parts of the film were slow and tedious.  They did not hold my attention very well.  If it wasn’t a musical I probably would have enjoyed it, but when there is little to no dialogue, it gets old fast.  Part three, which many critics disliked, was my favourite.  By then I was used to the singing and although certain love stories were a little silly, the character interaction was much more engaging.  The revolution was interesting and its toll was disheartening.

 

If you are a fan of musicals, you will probably love this film.  If you hate musicals, you will hate this film.  There isn’t really an in-between with this Les Miserables.  I will probably see it again, simply because it is so well loved, but I hope it isn’t any time soon.

*Dutch Angle (or dutch tilt) is defined as “a type of camera shot where the camera is tilted off to one side so that the shot is composed with vertical lines at an angle to the side of the frame” (Wikipedia).

Anna Karenina (2012) Review | Jamie Daily

Anna Karenina (2012)
85th Academy Awards 2013
2/5 Stars
Nominated for 4 awards, of which it won 1.
Nominated for Best Original Score (Dario Marianelli), Best Production Design (Sarah GreenwoodKatie Spencer), and Best Cinematography (Seamus McGarvey).
Won Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran).
Watched June 6, 2013.

The story of Anna Karenina is perhaps one of my least favourite so far among the 2013 nominations, which is of course no fault of the screenwriter as it is based on Leo Tolstoy‘s classic novel.  Those who love the story, as well as Tolstoy, don’t worry.  Although my feelings toward Anna and her plot line are less than favorable, I did quite enjoy the stories surrounding her, as well as the interesting style of this latest film.  While the artistic direction may be a bit distracting from the story, I found it quite enchanting and it made me wish that it had been bestowed upon a different story, because then I would have liked to watch it again.

 

This may all be a very complicated way of saying that I have a love-hate relationship with director Joe Wright’s interpretation of Anna Karenina.  It is the story of a woman (Kiera Knightley) in the Russian high society  who does not love her husband (Jude Law).  Instead of remaining faithful so that she may be with her beloved son, she runs off with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)–whose mustache is very silly if I do say so myself–and therefore suffers the social backlash.

 

It is this story that I found very annoying.  I didn’t care for Anna and therefore understood none of her decisions.  Her husband, although a bit weak when it comes to home life, was an admirable character.  Vronsky was young and had no idea what he was getting Anna into, and her poor abandoned son doesn’t get much screen time.  I appreciated the story in that it shows an example of why it is morally wrong to cheat on your husband, although Anna mainly suffered the surface repercussions–none of her friends would hang out with her any more.  If the book goes more in depth about this, then perhaps there was not enough time to explore the depth of it more than that in the film.

 

Despite my dislike for the story, again, I quite appreciated the production design and the costumes.  In fact, my love for period pieces is what kept me going through the over two hour film and I wished that the beautiful consuming and innovative sets could have been bestowed on a different plot line.  I liked the side stories, although they seemed somewhat out of place, despite showing a complete turnaround from Anna.

 

I will very readily say that I won’t be seeking out this Anna Karenina adaptation again any time soon, and unless you 1. like the story or 2. have incredible patience, I would advise against watching it just to see the aesthetics.

W.E. (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

W.E. (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
1/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Costume Design (Arianne Phillips).
Watched January 13, 2013.

In no lifetime will you hear me say that the costume designing in W.E. was not divine, because it was.  That, and the performance of Andrea Riseborough, are the two qualities of this film that endeared it to me, but there were few others.  The story could have been intriguing and it could have been a creative, well made film.  Madonna, however, followed a rising trend of late by mixing past with present and that was W.E.‘s downfall.

 

The film is about the highly controversial romance between Wallis Simpson (Riseborough) and the heir to the throne, King Edward VIII (James D’Arcy).  He fell in love with Wallis, who was an American woman already married.  Wallis Simpson became the most hated woman in Britain and lived with it the rest of her life.  Once they were married, Edward was never allowed back in England, except for after he had died and he was buried there.  Wallis was allowed to accompany him for only the funeral, after which she returned to France.

 

On the modern day story side, we follow a woman named Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) who was named after Wallis and who has an almost disturbing obsession with the afore mentioned romance, and most especially for her name sake.  She is married to an abusive Psychiatrist and finds solace filling her days exploring an exhibit of the Windsors’ possessions at Sothelby’s in New York.  It is here that she befriends a security guard (Oscar Isaac).  He finds her obsession endearing as well as troubling and eventually saves her from a desperate situation.

 

Except for the fact that Wally is completely obsessed with W.E. and occasionally sees Wallis come to her with advice, their stories have very little to do with one another.  Both want children desperately, and neither are able to conceive (while they still hold onto the past, at least).  The cinematography is a bit interesting and fresh–reminiscent of Madonna’s music videos.  There are a lot of extreme close ups of eyes or interesting bits that go around a tree and then up and away, but they lend very little to the story and are a bit out of place as such.  What is the motivation for the shot?

 

If Madonna had forgotten the present and merely focused on W.E., as I assume she really wanted to focus on Wallis’ side of the story, it could have been quite good.  To this day, there continues to be hatred for the woman who almost destroyed a nation.  Even after both she and Edward were gone, to see the effect on herself and their relationship depicted in this film was interesting.

 

Once again I must admit that the costumes were incredible and if I could only watch this film for the bits with Wallis and her impeccable style, I would.  Be that as it may, I would not recommend this film.

 

Sources: IMDBRotten TomatoesThe TelegraphNY TimesThe Guardian