I, Daniel Blake

This movie is a surprise. Daniel Blake is an older gentleman who cared for his sick wife until her death, who has now fallen on hard times himself after a heart attack leaves him unable to work. Well, unable to work according to his doctor and his surgeon and his physio team. Totally fit to work according to the government who would otherwise owe him some sort of compensation.

Blake (Dave Johns) was receiving benefits for disability until a “health professional” (read: NOT a doctor, NOT a nurse) deems him fit and yanks his benefits. He must now apply for unemployment benefits, while combing the streets for a job, which actual doctors have i__daniel_blake_-_still_5cautioned him not to take, on account of his bum heart and it possibly killing him. The bureaucracy gives him the runaround, of course, as he must learn to navigate computers and the internet and smart phones and this whole world of job searching that he’s never had use for in his entire life. The whole experience is degrading, dehumanizing. And yet the film never feels that way. The movie is filled with humanity – not just compassion but admiration. Dignity, even. It’s a much more heartening experience than you might deduce.

Of course Daniel isn’t alone in his plight. At one office or another he meets a single mother (Hayley Squires), struggling to support her two kids. With them we see Daniel’s tender side, his need to give what little he has to others. It’s enough to make you cry (which means it made me cry, good honest tears that the film earned without manipulation).

The characters are quite strongly drawn. Their ordeal feels all too real. It’s sad though. So sad. It’s just further reminder that the system is letting down too many people who truly need it. Though this film is British, it feels universal. The righteous anger is restrained just enough not to be alienating, but to bring everyone into the fold, to make us all feel the iniquity and yearn for justice. A must-see.

 

 

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The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards

Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' Scientific And Technical Awards CeremonyOn Saturday, Leslie Mann & John Cho hosted the awards we don’t see (their 3 hour ceremony will be distilled into about 1 minutes of broadcast during the Oscars) – the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards. There are no nominees at these awards, just winners, people the Academy have chosen to honour for their contributions to film making (the Academy’s Board of Governors does the voting). These are often inventions and discoveries that make cameras better, or CGI more realistic.

“Simply put, the movies we love would not exist if not for your talent, your knowledge and your creativity,” academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in her opening remarks. “There’s a reason it’s called the Academy of Arts and Sciences.”

Awards were given out for all kinds of sciency things I don’t really understand, motion capture stuff, programming stuff, and improvements to digital cameras. One thing that caught my eye thought was called an Animatronic Horse Puppet.

Okay, I’ll bite: animatronic horse puppet, you say?

Mark Rappaport is credited with the concept, design and development. He runs a company called Creature Effects, Inc, that specializes in creating hyper-realistic make-up effects and animatronic animals for use in movies. Most movies will still use primarily real animals, but for certain scenes, animatronic replacements is just plain safer for both actor and animal. The trick is to make the “puppets” look real and move realistically.

Scott Oshita is credited for the motion analysis and CAD design; Jeff Cruts with the development of faux-hair finish techniques; and Todd Minobe for the puppet’s articulation and drive-train mechanisms.

The production crew of The Last Samurai needed an animatronic horse able to perform stunt sequences that would put a real horse and rider in danger, and goodness knows we can’t risk Tom Cruise’s pretty face.. Rappaport was commissioned to build a horse that could seamlessly replace Tom Cruise’s real horse for those scenes. Rappaport said “It’s probably the most sophisticated horse or animatronic creature ever made for film. It cost $1.5 million to make. It gallops in place. It reared up. It fell over. And it looks completely real.”

220px-300_animatronic_wolf_puppet_closeupThose horses came in handy again for the 300 movie, and Rappaport was given a new challenge: a wolf to attack young Leonidas. This wolf was able to blink, movie its head, its neck, its brow, its jaw, and its tongue, it could even salivate and had glowing eyes!

Their animatronic horse has also been used in The Lone Ranger and The Revenant.

Pretty cool, eh?

 

Romcoms, Curated By Batman

Apparently (Lego) Batman has a special fondness for cheesy romantic comedies. Sure the Dark Knight tends to enjoy a rather solitary existence, but he unwinds at the end of a long day by watching kiss-a-thons. For every baddie that he puts away, he likes to watch a good smooch. Nothing wrong with that.  In his new movie, currently out in theatres, several of his favourite love movies are highlighted, so here they are, to the best of my memory:

must-love-dogsMust Love Dogs: Poor Diane Lane is so love-starved that her family takes her new singlehood into their hands, fixing her up with an internet dating profile she doesn’t want, or necessarily know exists, but which insists that all suitors ‘must love dogs.’ This is a pretty good gambit because along comes John Cusack, with a borrowed dog and good intentions. And that’s okay since her dog – a Newfie named Mother Theresa – is also not technically hers. Thus a relationship is born from the ashes of lies and non-shared non-interests. Condom hi-jinks and some VERY suspicious coincidences: classic.

Serendipity: Two people, attached to others, nevertheless share dessert when they try to buy the same pair of cashmere gloves for Christmas. They part – reluctantly – but both return for missing items and spend more time together. It’s magical (ahem). But her phone number gets blown away in the wind, a bad sign, obviously, so he puts his info on a $5 bill, hers in a used book, and if the universe thinks they’re meant to be, they’ll find the info and live happily ever after. Did I mention it’s John Cusack again? Batman must have a thing for Johnny.

Marley & Me: Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are newlyweds who work at competing 232247-marley-and-me-marley-gif.gifFlorida newspapers – she successfully, he decidedly not. When they think about starting a family, they adopt a dog instead, to test the waters. The puppy is incorrigible but provides fodder for a column and suddenly he has a career too. The babies come, eventually, and changes in home, work, and friends. Marley’s there through it all – but well all know dogs don’t live forever. I’m sure this one hits Batman right in the feels. Dogs are the one thing he likes more than John Cusack.

Jerry Maguire: A sports agent eventually falls in love with the single mother who absconds the firm with him. She supports him, he fails to appreciate her. She has the kind of life that previously horrified him. They separate. It’s quite pathetic until he realizes that she’s had a profound impact on his life and that he wants to be with her no matter what, at which time it becomes even more pathetic. You had me at hello, 10lb head, show me the money, etc: you betcha Batman quotes along with this one.

 

So, do you have much in common with Batman? Which one of these would pair well with a cuddle?

Gold

If you’re going to cast Matthew McConaughey and pay his hefty salary, why then take away everything about Matthew McConaughey that is good and right in the world?

In Gold, McConaughey plays Kenny Wells, a prospector who is pot-bellied, bald, and has a giant snaggle tooth that I CONSTANTLY mistook for a wayward piece of chewing gum for the entire length of the movie. He has a gray pallor, he sweats, he is often scene in soggy, saggy tightie whities: it’s unforgivable. There’s no reason that a prospector named Kenny Wells couldn’t have gold2been played by the handsome version of McConaughey, and it might have half-explained why a beauty like Bryce Dallas Howard would go out with such a loser, which is otherwise downright mind-boggling.  Gold is very, very loosely based on things that might have sort of happened, but Kenny Wells was never a real person. McConaughey’s weight gain, however, is all too real: a testament to cheeseburgers and milk shakes, apparently. He also legitimately shaved his head. But if director Stephen Gaghan really REALLY needed a bloated, past-his-prime dude for the lead role, I’m confident that he could have got one much cheaper, and at less cost to McConaughey’s health. In fact, I propose this guy.

Superficial complaints aside, the movie just plain sucked. Feel free to stop reading now. The rest will just be me riffing on this theme. McConaughey gives a pretty committed performance, whistling around that big ugly tooth, but he should have known better. I can only assume that Matty’s got some weird fixation with gold; this is, in fact, his third movie about the pursuit of gold, after Sahara and Fool’s Gold (and to be fair, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 42%, Gold is his best one yet – but please god, stop trying!).

My main complaint, and maybe the only one that really matters, is that this movie is plain old boring. Billed as a “crime adventure,” the real crime is not stolen gold but stolen time and money from the audience, and possibly also the extra plaque in McConaughey’s arteries.

Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special

Peak 1990s Michael Bolton was a cheesy, long haired dude who belonged in my mother’s cheesy CD collection, not mine. He was “adult contemporary” in the worst way imaginable. But then he cut off his mane and hooked up with Lonely Planet. The result?

 

Wait a minute: Michael Bolton has a sense of humour about himself? Indeed he does. And if you thought the above three minutes were worth a hoot, then you should definitely check out his Valentine’s special on Netflix because it’s a whole hour worth of laughs. If you’re anything like me and can’t handle sappy movies without copious eye rolls and squirms, and you think the softcore porn of Fifty Shades of Whatever is just plain undignified, finally we’ve got something you and your hunny can curl up to.  Laughter makes couples stronger – trust me, it’s science.

But you certainly don’t need to be a couple to enjoy this as its basic function is to poke fun michaelboltonsbigsexyvalentinesdayspecial_2at the whole romantic notion anyway. The premise, which is a generous way to describe it, is this: Santa needs an extra 75k babies to deliver presents to by next Christmas, so Michael Bolton agrees to host a sexy telethon to inspire love\baby making. Answering the phones of this telethon include seldom-thought of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Sinbad, and Janeane Garofalo. But that’s hardly the limit as far as celebrity cameos go. Bolton is helped by the likes of Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, and very briefly, his best friend Adam Scott. Plus about 2 dozen more.

Bottom line, it’s stupid. It’s quite stupid. It was the kind of stupid I enjoyed because it’s skeweringly silly, raunchy, sparkling with tongue-in-cheek homages. It’s quite reminiscent of the Bill Murray Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas. And the truth is, Michael Bolton still sounds good. So on the rare occasion when he actually does sing, it’s perfectly pleasing. But it’s never, ever with a straight face. And that’s what makes it stupidly glorious.

 

[It also begs the question: what’s next? Murray got Christmas, Bolton got Valentine’s…who would you like to see tackle a holiday?]

Star Trek Fandom

Fans of Community might have been delighted to see Danny Pudi in Star Trek Beyond; they may also be forgiven if they missed him. Pudi was playing an alien and was unrecognizable. The role was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, and just 3-4 hours in a makeup chair transformed him into a creature only a mother could love.

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He learned fight choreography and studied the alien language alongside Kim Kold and Sofia Boutella. Despite the fact that sweat pooled under his prosthetics and his character gets beaten by Boutella, Pudi sounds ecstatic.

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There are lots of famous Trekkies: Mila Kunis, Daniel Craig, Angelina Jolie and Ben Stiller are all confessed die- hards. Whoopi Goldberg of course. Tom Hanks was such a fan that he went snooping on the Paramount lot where he was shooting Bosom Buddies at the time – it just so happened that The Wrath of Khan was shot there also, and he seized the opportunity to board the Starship Enterprise. He sadly turned down a role in First Contact due to his first directing job, That Thing You Do! Eddie Murphy nearly snagged a role in The Voyage Home and is probably a little heartbroken that it was re-written. I totally avoided the show growing up, relegating The Next Generation to ‘Boring Dad Stuff’ and not giving it a second thought until JJ Abrams decided to make my life a little more complicated by rebooting the franchise and obligating all the men in my life to insist that I watch. I have. I’ve even had my own Star Trek transformation. But only recently did I experience a Star Trek fan film – a story that exists within the Star Trek framework\universe, lovingly created by talented film making fans.

Paul Laight, a gentleman kind enough to have been visiting us here for some time, just so happens to be a writer and producer on the film, and he and director Gary O’ Brien generously granted us answers to some of our most burning questions. But first, please watch the film, Chance Encounter.

This is a bit rude, but I was frankly surprised by how good it is. We are sent all kinds of movies to review, and lots of them are amateur jobs that make us cringe with their bad writing or terrible acting. This little piece, however, is well polished. It isn’t just made with good intentions, but with talent and professionalism. Thematically it’s an excellent fit for the Star Trek family, but the story could and would hold up without it.

Without further ado, an interview with the filmmakers.

ASSHOLES: What came first, did you decide to make a Star Trek movie, or did the story just seem like a natural fit in the ST universe?

PAUL: The latter. Myself and Gary have made some very dramatic war and horror short films, plus comedies, in the past as Fix Films so when he came to me with the idea of something more gentle and romantic I thought that would make a great change of pace and genre. Gary suggested a short involving an older man and a younger woman. Now, usually this idea can lend itself to something more sleazy but we did not want that. We wanted something emotional which would resonate rather than titillate. So, I had a think about it and eventually came up with the idea you kind of see in Chance Encounter. Originally it was set on a rooftop and it was just two people meeting and having an impact on each other’s lives despite only meeting briefly. Then Gary suggested we could make it as a Star Trek fan film and I agreed it would a fascinating project to attempt.

GARY: Yes exactly, once Paul introduced a Sci-fi element to one of his story outlines it suddenly opened up a new area to us that I could see was very much Star Trek shaped!

ASSHOLES: What level of fandom do you have to achieve before attempting fan fiction? Do you worry about upsetting other fans?

PAUL: I guess Gary may be able to answer this question better than me as he is a proper Star Trek fan. My feeling was that as a writer I wanted to do my utmost to tell a compelling story with intriguing characters which connects with everyone. I wrote the screenplay not just for Star Trek fans but for those who enjoy good stories. I was very confident no one would be upset by the story as the characters are intrinsically positive and at no time are we parodying Star Trek or the franchise in general. What was always great about Star Trek is that the characters and concepts were always compelling, so while open to satire, I was not interested in that. If someone is upset at Chance Encounter then they probably have anger issues.

GARY: I think you have to just tell your story first and then fit the expected “fan” elements in around it, which is how the staff writers across all the series approached things too I suspect. “Star Trek” evokes certain things that one might assume you have to include – aliens, transporters, warp drive, photon torpedoes, etc, all of which are absent from our film, and so maybe if there is a level of fandom you need to reach before writing fan fiction, it’s knowing the franchise well enough to strip out all the surface elements like those and yet still feel true to the source material.

ASSHOLES: What was it like making a film with so many visual effects on a limited budget?

PAUL: Gary is the tech genius and it is a testament to his years of training that he was able to produce such great results on a limited budget. Kudos to him.

GARY: Thanks mate! I think on such a low budget, part of getting the visual effects “right” is knowing when not to do them. It’s tempting to think that once you’ve got the computer and the software the sky’s the limit and so why not go crazy. But that’s not how the shows were made. Why green-screen and motion track stars outside the spaceship windows when we can do it just as effectively in-camera with a black fabric and bits of tin foil? Less is more was our philosophy!

ASSHOLES: What was the casting process like? Had you worked with any of the actors before?

PAUL: Having made over ten short films and various promos over the years our casting process is very organised now. We use online casting websites such as Shooting People and Casting Call Pro and have also built up an ensemble of actors we have used in the past. There are SO many talented people out there and when we post on the sites you will get a hell of a lot of responses. We then sieved the actors down to a shortlist and then we either meet in person (where the leads are concerned most definitely) or Skype first contact before meeting them. We had only worked with Phil Delancy before (Captain Janssen) so this was a whole new cast generally on this one.

GARY: Yes the casting went pretty smoothly and we feel blessed that we found such good people for all the roles. Everyone was very professional and did a great job – a pleasure to work with them all.

ASSHOLES: What are the challenges of making a short film rather than feature length?

PAUL: Well, I haven’t made a feature film but I have worked on them as crew and obviously everything is bigger on a feature; even a low budget one. Personally, though I think the amount of hard work you need to put in is commensurate for both. Most importantly in any production is you must have a good story and screenplay as your basis, then you can get talented people to commit to the project. Of course, a short film for me is a microcosmic feature but the biggest challenge is me and Gary pretty much did EVERYTHING from start to finish. I guess it would be difficult to do that on a feature, but maybe not impossible – as Robert Rodriguez has demonstrated.

GARY: My only experiences on features were as a tiny cog in a very large machine, but as director on numerous shorts you have to do everything. I guess film-making always boils down to being incredibly hard work though, just different kinds of work.

ASSHOLES:How do you run a successful crowdfunding campaign?

PAUL: Gary was the brains behind our campaign and I chipped in with a little clip. I think the most important thing is not ask for too much money! Be realistic and HAVE A GOOD STORY or IDEA you feel passionate about. We believed in our story and the angle of making a Star Trek fan film really helped us too. I mean, if you’re asking for $1,000,000 to make a film about paint drying you could struggle!

GARY: Exactly – we didn’t want to ask for any more money than we thought was needed. Also, it’s our first, and so far only campaign so I don’t know if our success was a fluke or not! We were just open, honest and did what we said we’d do – the rest is just left to fate I guess.

ASSHOLES: What feedback have you received from your backers?

PAUL: Amazing! One guy has even done a fan review on YouTube. All the feedback so far for Chance Encounter has been SO positive. People love the story and characters and effects, so nothing but good stuff so far. No nasty Star-Trek-Klingon-Trolling on YouTube comments either. Well, not YET!

GARY: Yes at this point people have been overwhelmingly positive about the film. With so much content out there we’re really flattered that people have even taken the time to watch it – that they like it too is just wonderful. Also, many of the comments say how true to Star Trek it felt, so that is a huge compliment in itself of course.

ASSHOLES: You’ve (Paul) described various roles as “caterer, florist, dead body” – what has surprised you most as a producer on a low budget indie?

PAUL: Oh yes, that was an attempt at humour on my part on my blog article. Basically, with Fix Films me and Gary have taken on various duties in the filmmaking process over the years and we love that aspect of it. But the most surprising thing is that film is ultimately a collaborative process and the amount of assistance and support we have had with our projects has been amazing. I’ve had friends and family and people I’ve never met before helping us on productions; and Chance Encounter is a case in point. Being a bit of a cynic I kind of thought that raising even £2000 for a Star Trek fan film would be tough but people came through for us and helped us make a wonderful story. I thank you all.

GARY: Yes, both the effort and money from so many people that made Chance Encounter happen was a thing to behold – we’re incredibly grateful.

ASSHOLES: Any plans to revisit these characters?

PAUL: I wouldn’t rule it out at all. It depends on writing a script that would work and of course getting finance on another production. But we spent a lot of time working on the characters, creating their back stories and biographies, so there is a great foundation with which to work from.

GARY: Well these characters were created for this specific story, so as Paul says – if they do return would depend on if they fit into a future story or not. I suspect that there is another Star Trek film lurking somewhere within us, with or without these characters – but at the end of the day it would have to depend on whether future fund raising efforts were successful or not. Watch this space!

Mystery Team

The Mystery Team was a trio of childhood friends who biked around their neighbourhood to find mysteries to solve – a missing diary, a marble down a drain, a windowsill pie tampering. They communicated via walkie talkie and charged their clients just a dime. The Mystery Team is in fact still the same trio, only now they’re high school seniors and if they have no idea how creepy and childish and inappropriate their behaviour has become, everyone else certainly does.

mysteryteam2_lgThey manage to still get clients though, usually referred by Jamie (Ellie Kemper) but a new family on the block leads to their first ‘adult’ case – a double homicide with a side of stolen jewels. Again, everyone else knows that Jason (Donald Glover) aka The Master of Disguise, Duncan (D.C. Pierson) aka The Boy Genius, and Charlie (Dominic Dierkes) aka The Strongest Kid in the Neighbourhood are in way over their heads, but they’re gung-ho – especially Jason, who might feel his first ‘adult’ stirrings for the new girl next door (Aubrey Plaza).

Is this a good movie? Bottom line: no. There’s definitely humour in just how pathetic these guys are, how clueless, and in some ways, how sweet. But it’s really the only fish in the barrel, so they stretch it out of necessity, and it inevitably wears quite thin. They bumble around foolishly, stumbling upon clues apparently faster than the cops due. Suspicious? About as suspicious as a stripper’s cesarean scar, and yes, that will come up.

I suppose if you have some sort of Scooby Doo fetish, this might be up your alley (sorry, no dog). I enjoy Donald Glover (no relation to Danny) so I tolerated this. I’m not sure that everyone will be able to say the same, and I wouldn’t blame them for a second if they couldn’t.

Frank And Lola

Frank and Lola are a newish, happy couple. He’s older, takes care of her. They’re lovey-dovey, meeting parents and wondering about saying I love you. Until.

Until something prompts Lola (Imogen Poots) to confess that she was raped by her mother’s ex-boyfriend not long before meeting him. Frank (Michael Shannon) is already feeling jealous, and now he’s got this black stain to focus on. If only he could have protected her – would things be different between them? Better?

frank-and-lola-michael-shannon-02Then Lola’s new boss (Justin Long) drops an opportunity in his lap: an interview in Paris, which is conveniently where rapey ex-boyfriend (Michael Nyquist) lives. Two birds, one stone? The movie is billed as a “psychosexual noir love story” but all you had to tell me is “Michael Shannon.” That man makes some damn interesting choices and I’ll always go along for the ride.

The film has obvious themes of love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge: all the ingredients for a psychosexual noir love story, I suppose. Tonally, it’s very dark. Shannon is so gravelly, so good at pained expressions, allows us to wear Frank’s obsession like a second skin so that it feels dirty and urgently real. He brings intensity and suspense to a movie that is otherwise only second-rate. Writer-director Matthew M. Ross has something to say about the male psyche, but perhaps lacks the maturity to give Frank the inner life that would truly express it. He does, however, have an eye for the seediness of life, and the depravity of people. But with each twist in the plot, the emotional investment is diluted.

Setting the film in both Paris and Vegas gives an authentic flavour to the proceedings. Vegas lends itself to broken characters and a certain loneliness amid busy-ness. Watching Frank And Lola is an exercise in lie-detecting: do you think you’ll pass?

 

The Lego Batman Movie

batcaveIt’s hard to believe it was about three years ago that The Lego Movie amazed me with its ability to entertain adults and children alike with the same silly jokes.   Time goes by so quickly!  The Lego Batman Movie is The Lego Movie’s sequel in spirit but is not tied to the first in any way, except that both feature Will Arnett’s Lego Batman, the ridiculous beat-boxing self-absorbed antihero who always succeeds on the “first try”.  Only this time, Batman has to take Michael Cera’s earnest, optimistic Robin along with him on his adventures.robin

The Lego Batman Movie is every bit as good as the Lego Movie, and that’s high praise.  Surprisingly, it is also a remarkably faithful  continuation of, and homage to, the whole Batman cinematic universe, including the silly 1966 Batman Movie starring Adam West.  If you are a Batman fan you need to see this film.  One of my favourite elements was the inclusion of so many forgotten members of Batman’s rogues gallery.  This movie has so many ridiculous villains that you will think many must have been made up, but as far as I can tell, every single silly one has been Batman’s enemy over the last 80 years, and I googled as many as I coulbatman-villainsd remember just as Zach Galifianakis’ Joker suggested.

In addition to the inclusion of so many laughable villains, there are so many other references and in-jokes that it is impossible to catch them all on a single viewing.   One that stood out for me was the inclusion of the Wonder Twins, if only because they are my most hated “superheroes” of all time, and yet I still thought it was awesome they were given a little place in this movie. I can only guess what I missed, though, and want to watch this one again sometime soon (if I can ever find the time!).

The Lego Batman Movie is another sparkling example of a movie that everyone can enjoy, and another that organically incorporates a positive message within its zaniness.   We are in the midst of a golden age for animated films and the Lego Batman Movie is a classic that I will be watching with my nieces and nephews for years to come.  It gets a score of nine cans of Shark-Repellent Bat-spray out of ten.

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Oscar Spotlight: Costume Design

If you need a refresher on all the fun stuff a costumer actually does, please check out last year’s post. If your memory’s a steel trap, then delve right into this year’s Academy Award nominees for costume design.

Joanna Johnston, for Allied: Johnston has a challenge in this film in that she has to somehow integrate glamour and the war. Marion Cotillard is a spy, and a wife, and a gallery-1480717036-hbz-embedmother. She moves from cocktail parties with politicians to London’s air raids. But with such disparate films as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Saving Private Ryan under her belt, you might say that Johnston was up to the task. We are first introduced to Cotillard in Allied as she’s wearing a purple dress ” I wanted her to look sexy and beautiful, but not in a “base sexy” way, so we put the sex [appeal] in the back because I knew we were going to see her first from the back. It’s a beautiful Italian fabric; very fine, very delicate silk with this silver shimmer through it, which picks up on the highlights on her.” Later, Cotillard is seen in a green evening gown “I wanted to do a classic column-style dress—very statuesque. I wanted the fabric to be quite liquid. When she’s on the move, she’s got this liquid quality to her, gallery-1480714959-hbz-alliedwhich silk satin does beautifully. Because it was nighttime, the light hit all those highlights [in the fabric]. Again, it’s this sort of old-fashioned quality, but it also had to be quite functional; she had to be able to run in it and do all those things. At one point she actually had a weapon underneath it, in the skirt, so there was a lot of stuff about that [laughs].” The costumes in Allied are indeed very beautiful, but that was something that sometimes felt disingenuous to me – like it didn’t quite fit into a movie set during wartime. The character does transition into more tweeds when she’s at home during the raids, but she’s always just a little too glamourous for my understanding of the time. Johnston has a long history of working with Allied director Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg; she received her previous Oscar nomination for Lincoln.

Colleen Atwood, for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Colleen Atwood is a name you may recognize even as a complete neophyte to costuming. A frequent collaborator of Tim Burton’s you can imagine that her costumes are often fanciful, colourful, and FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEMsurreal, just what J.K. Rowling had ordered. She’s worked on Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Alice In Wonderland, for all of which she won Oscars. The secret to her success? “I’m controlling like that. I look at and approve every fitting, no matter who anybody is, and I am very controlling in how I want everything to look. It’s important: it matters, and you never know what you’re going to see. I learned a long time ago that you can’t control what happens with pieces you care about unless you’re there, so I’m there.” Fantastic Beasts takes place in 1920s NYC, in a universe where magic exists. “I love the fantasy stuff, I love that. That’s why I took on this movie. I like the challenge of it, and I like integrating fantasy into a period like this. You get to step out of it slightly and make something that’s a version of that time. Which is what movies have always done: in a way, they glamorise time.” How does she get her inspiration? “I reread a couple of [F Scott] Fitzgerald books, fb-trl2-87163-h_2016which are always fun to go back to because he’s very descriptive about the frenzy and the romance of the period. It has so much heart that it’s helped me, and this story has so much heart.” She tracked down period pieces from all over the world, hunting in all the best costume shops, but lots had to be made from scratch as there just aren’t a lot of period wizarding outfits to be had, no matter how hard one scours. Eddie Redmayne’s signature peacock blue overcoat is one-of-a-kind.

Consolata Boyle, for Florence Foster Jenkins: Boyle is director Stephen Frears’ go-to costumer; she was previously nominated for The Queen. Boyle did just as much research for this film, as it is once again a biopic with a real woman’s wardrobe for reference, and each piece was recreated from scratch. Meryl Streep wore padding to flesh out her meryl-streep-sketch-padding_florence-foster-jenkins_image-001character, and each costume had to be built around the padding. “The performance costumes had a very specific aesthetic. They were overblown and a lot of her clothes she would’ve made herself or her friends made, so there was an amateurish feeling about them. But then also the way she dressed in her daily life had that quality of being childish and over-decorative.” Boyle used a consistent colour palette of “naive pastels”to bring Florence to life, and to delineate different costumes for different aspects of her life, all of which were fairly theatrical. Stephen Frears is full of praise for her work: “I barely need to speak to her as I know what she’s doing is going to be dazzling. I’ve worked with her for 25 years, so I’m very lucky.” Florence made all sorts of garish costumes and it’s a complete delight to see them recreated nullon the big screen, along with her penchant for accessorizing within an inch of her life. “I worked incredibly closely with Meryl every step of the way, we had a lot of discussion early on about how she would express her inner emotions in her clothing. [Florence] was a supreme performer, so her clothes were gorgeously outrageous. They were high camp but with a softness so she drew people in. And she had no embarrassment about how she looked.”

Madeline Fontaine, for Jackie: Fontaine also had a lot of real-life references for her work in Jackie – we’re talking about style icon and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, after all. Natalie Portman gives a tour de force performance as Jackie and Fontaine makes sure she’snatalie-portman16 got the goods to back it up. Photos and footage of the first lady are so iconic that if even one brass button was out of place, people would notice. She worked with Chanel to get the famous pink suit down to perfection, even hand-dying the wool to achieve the perfect shade of pink (the actual dress is preserved in the National Archives and wasn’t available for consultation). Historical accuracy was important, but for filming purposes, so was duplication: “All the “original” pieces are handmade in our workshop.  We needed to create more than one – we made five of the natalie-portman17pink dress, for instance. Chanel supplied the buttons, the chain of the inside jacket, (“couture” detail for the weight of the jacket, and a signature…), and a label, in case the jacket would fall down [onto] the floor.” Since the film jumps between colour and black and white, the dresses sometimes had to be done in different shades so that our eye would not perceive a difference. Every piece in the film was true to Jackie herself “The elegance she showed in every situation, even while relaxing on holiday, proves this: she was never captured by surprise not looking perfect.”

Mary Zophres, for La La Land: Lots of people wondered how this particular nomination was snagged. Hadn’t Zophres just gone to the mall and bought some brightly coloured costume_split_4dresses, after all? It would be an unlikely win for sure – in the past 20 years, 17 have been period films, 2 were fantasy-based, and last year was post-apocalyptic Mad Max. It might be argued that Chazelle’s La La Land doesn’t exactly feel strictly contemporary. With so many references and throw-backs to old Hollywood musicals, La La Land exists in a stylistic world of its own. Mia and Seb wore classic, timeless looks, and Zophres embraced a fusion of styles. “In my mind, there’s a bit of an arc to Mia. It starts off grounded in reality and by the time you get to the epilogue, she’s wearing that fantasy la_la_land_-_sketch_2_-_embedwhite dress when they’re dancing in Paris. I put a lot of fabric and I wanted it to feel like air.” Zophres looked to old Hollywood for inspiration and was deeply rewarded. “The two models for Mia were Ingrid Bergman (a poster adorns her bedroom wall) and Judy Garland. I found a pink halter dress for one of the montages that’s similar to the one Ingrid Bergman wore for her Hollywood screen test. For the Planetarium peak, Damien and I both landed on green because we both loved the image of Judy Garland in ‘A Star is Born,’ where she wears almost like a jade green dress.”

 

Which of these ladies has your vote?