Unordered List

Sunday, 26 October 2014

NBC Constantine: "Non Est Asylum"

I'm a big Hellblazer fan, so I've been looking forward to NBC's Constantine with trepidation. Is it going to be any good? Well, no. Hellblazer is not well suited to the formulas and restrictions of US network television. But I'm a glutton for punishment, so I'm going to keep watching.

Predictably, I wasn't exactly blown away by the pilot episode's combination of stilted exposition and occult horror cliches. That being said, a pilot is a pilot is a pilot. It's entirely possible that this show will improve later on. In the meantime, I'm gonna do one of the worst things a TV critic can do: over-analyse a show based on its inevitably simplistic first episode.


We begin with an origin story that will be familiar to Hellblazer fans: John Constantine in a mental hospital. He allowed a young girl to be killed and dragged to Hell by a demon, so now he feels bad. And for whatever reason, that leads to electric shock treatment. Everything else in the episode will feel familiar even to new viewers, thanks to its solid basis in cliché. Daddy issues, a Dark Past, and a young woman (Liv) who needs the protagonist's help -- it's all there, and it all progresses more or less as expected.
Having saved the girl and confronted his literal/figurative demons, Constantine ends the episode with an embarrassing voiceover monologue while wandering the city at night. So noir. "I'm the one who steps from the shadows, all trenchcoat and arrogance," he says, like a 14-year-old boy trying to sound cool. Not exactly Shakespeare, but it adheres to my expectations for mainstream US drama pilots, which generally consist of characters explaining things to each other in very plain terms.

The biggest disappointment was that they hired the excellent Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Doomsday) to direct an episode that could never be much above mediocre. I hope he comes back later in the series, to work on something a little more interesting. He's a perfect choice for this show, and honestly they need all the help they can get.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Schedule for Seattle Geek Girl Con this weekend

I’m in Seattle for Geek Girl Con this weekend! I’m doing two panels and a talk about superhero costumes — please come along! :D Here’s my schedule. (The superhero costume design talk is probably the most relevant to people who read this blog: 3pm on Sunday in room LL2.)
SATURDAY
3pm: “21st Century Boys: Slash in the Mainstream”
“Today, male/male slash is the predominant form of ‘shipping in online fandom. Growth of slash and femslash has spawned new problems: exploitation of ‘shipping by media; the push to make fanfic “publishable”; and the ongoing struggle to translate fandom’s feminism, diversity, and push for queer pairings into increased media representation.”
5pm: “Fandom and the Media”
This panel is basically me and several other fandom/geek culture journalists (Lauren Orsini, Aja Romano, Versha Sharma, Lisa Granshaw and Amanda Brennan) discussing our experiences in the field, and talking about what it’s like to report on fandom news when you yourself are a fan.
SUNDAY
3pm: “Evolution of the Superhero Movie Costume”
I’m doing a 45-minute talk about how superhero movie costumes have developed over the years, and why. If you like my blog posts about superhero movies, hopefully you’ll enjoy this! 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Filmoria podcast on Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I recently recorded a podcast about Captain America: The Winter Soldier for Filmoria, along with Rebecca Pahle of the Mary Sue, and Grace Duffy and Lesley Coffin, both of Filmoria. Regular HelloTailor readers may already have read quite enough about this movie, but on the off-chance that you're still interested, you can listen to the podcast here on Soundcloud! I'm still fascinated by this movie, and we all had a great time discussing it at length. :D

Monday, 22 September 2014

Costuming and Design in Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- Nick Fury, Black Widow, and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Part 1: "Trust No One" -- How Captain America became the "gritty" superhero we never knew we wanted.
Part 2: HYDRA, Sitwell, and diversity in the Marvel universe.
Part 3: Black Widow and Falcon. 
Part 4: The Tragedy of Bucky Barnes.
Part 5: Worldbuilding in the MCU
Part 6: Costuming and design: Steve & Bucky.

People love to namecheck spandex when talking about superhero movies, but as far as I recall there's no spandex to be seen anywhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Cap's costume toned down to a (comparatively) subtle navy blue for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the most comicbook-looking character we see is Nick Fury.

With each new appearance, I've grown to love Nick Fury's costumes more and more. Not just because they look cool, but because of the internal logic of why he dresses like that. To understand what I'm getting at here, take a moment to think about S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, and Fury's role within the organization.



In The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and other Marvel movies, S.H.I.E.L.D. is portrayed as a quasi-governmental Men in Black organization. It's mostly populated by military types, agents like Coulson, jumpsuit-wearing Helicarrier personnel, and a smattering of individuals like Black Widow and Hawkeye. Fury is in charge, with Maria Hill as the deputy director and Alexander Pierce as his immediate superior, a kind of liaison between S.H.I.E.L.D. and various world governments.

Up until now Fury had been the authority figure, a character who swoops in and solves problems or tells characters what to do. He was basically a trigger-happy, morally ambiguous Gandalf figure.

CATWS brought in a much-needed new dimension of fallibility to Nick Fury, as well as showing him inside S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters for the first time. Alexander Pierce, in his old-fashioned but stylish three-piece suits, both fits in with those surroundings and represents the political establishment. Meanwhile Fury, with his ostentatious black leather outfits, does not exactly seem like he belongs in a grey office building.


There's a certain internal consistency to the costumes at S.H.I.E.L.D., with Maria Hill and most of the Helicarrier personnel wearing navy blue uniforms (the same shade as Cap's new uniform and his nylon biker jacket in this movie, incidentally), and characters like Coulson and Agent 13 wearing subdued businesswear.

Nick Fury does not fall into either category. He's sure as hell not wearing normal clothes that could blend into his surroundings, and I highly doubt that his outfits adhere to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s official uniform. Instead, I can only describe his favourite costume as some kind of supervillain-themed black leather cosplay outfit.

Yes, Nick Fury is a goth.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Doctor Who: The Doctor's new outfit, and some thoughts on female companions and costume design.

The unveiling of a new Doctor Who costume is a lot like a superhero rebranding -- or a new collection by an established fashion label. It's a combined attempt to get people excited about innovation, while reassuring everyone that not too much has changed. And so, the BBC announced Capaldi's new costume by talking about how it blends elements of old and new -- for example, the visual callback to John Pertwee's costume.


Thanks to the age gap between Capaldi and Matt Smith, the whole "old vs. new" thing is specifically relevant to this regeneration. Smith was dressed in an almost grandfatherly way (tweed, bow tie and braces), but that had the side-effect of making him look like a hipster. This was problematic because the Doctor's costume should never resemble a current fashion trend.

If you can look at the Doctor and say, "That guy looks like he should be hanging out in a vintage shoe shop in 21st century Hackney," then it detracts from his image as an alien -- although of course, if you make him look too alien then you can't take him seriously. Capaldi's costume sidesteps this issue by being extremely simple and pared-down, which I enjoy a great deal (not least because I want to wear the entire outfit myself).


Looking at Clara and the Doctor in the first episode of season 8, the similarities between their two outfits are obvious. He's wearing a white shirt with a prominent collar and no tie, in a more severe version of Clara's lace collar. Then there's the black/white/red color palette, and the fact that he's wearing a cardigan rather than a waistcoat underneath his jacket. If you wanted, you could probably even stretch to linking Clara's tartan skirt to the fact that Twelve has a Scottish accent.


To me, this link between the Doctor and Clara's clothes is a clear sign that intentionally or otherwise, he imprinted on her after regenerating. (Although if you look at Clara's cardigan, you'll see that it's patterned with bow ties -- a callback to Eleven's signature accessory. She's still looking back to the Doctor's previous incarnation, whereas the new Doctor is calling out for her attention.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Interview: "Snowpiercer" costume designer Catherine George.

Following my review of Snowpiercer, I originally intended to write a post discussing the film's very striking costume design. But after looking back at some photos and clips of those costumes, I was struck by how much more I wanted to learn about the process behind this film's visual design. Each section of the train had such a strong visual theme (filth and poverty in Tail Section; delusionally wholesome springtime pastels in the school car; opulence and luxury towards the front of the train), but nevertheless felt grounded in reality.

Happily, costume designer Catherine George agreed to an interview about her work on the film. She discussed the inspiration behind Snowpiercer's most memorable costumes, and what it was like to work with director Bong Joon-Ho and a cast including Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.


HelloTailor: To begin with, how did first you get involved with Snowpiercer? The combination of Korean and English-language production made me curious about how you came to work on the film.


Catherine George: Director Bong had seen We Need To Talk About Kevin at Cannes in 2011, when he was on the jury, and he liked how the costumes looked. They sent me the script a couple of months later and I Skyped with Bong and and his producer Dooho because they were already in Prague prepping [for Snowpiercer]. Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Prague. Bong also met with Tilda Swinton at Cannes as they were both fans of each other’s work, and he decided to cast her as Mason -- a role that was originally written as a man.

[You can read more about the costumes of We Need To Talk About Kevin in this article by Clothes On Film.]

HelloTailor: How much did you consider the idea of finite resources onboard the train? In the Tail Section, people were wearing whatever rags they had left after 17 years. I was wondering what kind of thought went into the idea of a world where you can't really obtain new materials for new clothes. Was this a major concern when you were designing the overall look of each train car?


CG: Yes, we talked a lot about how long the passengers had been on the train, where they’d come from, what random materials they would use to fashion practical clothing. In the Tail Section, the aging and distressing was quite heavy and their clothes were made of different parts of garments pieced together. They had to improvise with whatever materials they could find. Curtis' coat had layer upon layer of repairs.

The character Painter wore a poncho made from old moving blankets. He also wore a helmet with a lantern left over from the train utility-wear, to enable him to draw in his cage at night.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Summer convention schedule: LonCon3 and Nine Worlds.

I'm going to be at two conventions in August, both in London! The first is Nine Worlds (A.K.A. London Geekfest), a really fun-looking media and fan-culture convention on August 8-10. The second is LonCon3, the World Science Fiction Convention, August 14-18.

I'll be on several panels at each con, and while I suspect my Nine Worlds schedule is probably more relevant to this blog's audience than my WorldCon panels, hopefully some of you guys will be there anyway! Here are the panels I'll be participating in, if any of you are gonna be at WorldCon or Nine Worlds next month. :)

Nine Worlds
All of my panels at Nine Worlds are somewhere called "County B," which I assume will make more sense once we're actually at the convention center.

Friday
22.15 - 23.30, The Fanvid Phenomenon. I love fanvids, and am looking forward to learning more about the creative side of them from some actual fanvidders on this panel!

Saturday
22.15 - 23.30, Collaborative Fanworks. A couple of months ago I contributed to a Captain America fanfic written and drawn alongside several other fans, called Steve Rogers at 100: Celebrating Captain America on Film. It tells the story of various different (nonexistent) Captain America movie adaptations set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and has somehow led to me being on this convention panel about creativity and collaboration in fandom. IDEK, you guys. IDEK.

Sunday
09.00 - 09.45, Remixing the remix: The etiquette of transforming fanworks. This is a panel about remix culture within fandom, but since it's at 9am, I have no idea what it will be like. Hopefully I'll be awake and coherent enough to not make an idiot of myself, anyway.

13.30 - 14.45, Fashion, Costume and Inspiring Fans: three talks on fashion and costume. I'm doing a talk on movie costume design! This is undoubtedly the thing HelloTailor readers will be most interested in, and I'd really love it if any of you decided to show up. :)

17.00 - 18.15, Legitimacy and Monetization of Fandom. This is a really interesting topic for me because I write a lot about the media campaigns behind big-budget franchises like The Hunger Games and Marvel, which leverage the power of fandom to help publicise their movies. However, I'm also the managing editor of a publishing company that was crowdfunded by the fan community, so I have a personal perspective of the indie side of things. One of our authors, Erin Claiborne, will be on this panel too, as well as a couple of other panels throughout the convention. You'll be hearing more about her soon because her book is coming out this Autumn!

WorldCon/LonCon3
I know far fewer people at WorldCon than at Nine Worlds, so feel free to contact me (Twitter @Hello_Tailor is probably easiest) if you want to meet up or recommend a particular event!

Thursday
18.00 - 19.00, Capital Suite 7+12, The Superhero-Industrial Complex. REALLY psyched for this panel, where we'll be discussing Marvel's success with the mega-franchise model of releasing multiple movies set in the same universe.

Friday
15.00, Producer and Celebrity Relationships with Fans. This is a discussion panel and Q&A on the topic of actors, creators and celebrities breaking the so-called fourth wall between fans and celebrities.

Saturday
12:00 - 13:30, Capital Suite 3, Commercializing Fans. Another panel where I'll be appearing in my capacity as managing editor of Big Bang Press, discussing the intersection of fandom and business.

Monday
11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 16, The Internet and the Evolution of Fan Communities.


I'll also be appearing at GeekGirlCon in October, in Seattle. But I'll post more about that in a couple of months, once I know my schedule!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Snowpiercer

Miraculously, Snowpiercer lived up to the many months of anticipation I've experienced since it was released elsewhere. My friends, I have been waiting a long time for this movie.

Every component part of Snowpiercer was another thing that I love to see in blockbuster entertainment. I don't just mean in the shallow, tropey sense that I love dystopian sci-fi, but in the sense that Snowpiercer is a straightforward adventure story that doesn't play to the lowest common denominator. It's simple, but it's not stupid. Its characters are people, there aren't any shitty moments of casual sexism or racism, and it's structured around a piece of interesting, thoughtful political symbolism that you could probably still ignore if you just want to watch Chris Evans Save The Day. 
A friend of mine had issues with the implausibility of Snowpiercer's setting, but I found it pretty easy to accept on its own terms. Like the contrived scenario in Sunshine (another sadly rare example of a good Chris Evans film), the plausibility of the premise was almost meaningless. No, you can't reignite the sun with a weaponized disco ball rocketship, Sunshine. No, it isn't feasible for an entire civilisation to spend 17 years in a perpetually moving train, Snowpiercer. But there were plenty of intentionally surreal touches there to remind us that director Bong Joon-Ho was well aware that the setting wasn't "realistic.". More importantly, the underlying metaphor was clear: Crash the train and risk killing everyone to gain freedom for a few, or maintain the horrifying status quo so that more people can survive in undeserved squalor.