Unordered List

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The costumes and characters of The Avengers: Black Widow and Hawkeye.

Previously: Check the Avengers tag for other Avengers-related costume review posts.

OK, fair warning: This one is going to be a Haters To The Left post. Of all the Avengers, Hawkeye and Black Widow are the ones most likely to be sidelined as being supposedly less valuable than heavy-hitters like Iron Man and Thor. This kind of statement usually stems from the fact that they're the least superheroic of the Avengers, the implication being that if you don't have a jet-propelled robot suit or the ability to punch someone through a wall, you have less worth. In addition to being idiotic, claims like this are Not A Good Message For The Kids. This maye be a superhero movie, but it's also a story about teamwork, and the reason why SHIELD puts together a team instead of an army is because different people bring different skills to the table. This may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but from what I've read of many people's reactions to the film, it apparently needs to be said.
Black Widow got a truly ridiculous amount of criticism, both from professional reviewers and from mundane fans, but most of it seemed to be down to thoughtless sexism. If anything, Hawkeye was the weaker link of the team. Not because he's a "normal human" or because he got taken down by Loki (an event that was integral to the plot) but because he gets far, far less screentime in his own right than the other Avengers. For the bulk of the movie he's either under mind control or in the midst of an action scene, and the only real moment of Clint Barton time is his scene with Black Widow just after he's woken up. I'd actually classify him as filling something akin to the girlfriend/damsel role in Black Widow's character arc -- a person she cares about and feels she has to save, allowing the audience to learn about her Dark Past in the process. Like the love-interest or bus of innocent children that Batman or Superman has to wrest from the clutches of their villain of the week, Clint is the person who reveals Black Widow's emotional frailties and strengths.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Erdem: 2013 Resort Collection.

When reviewing high-end fashion, I tend to detach my own dress sense from my overall judgement of the designs. Given a boatload of cash, I'd probably wade straight into the deep end of couture fashion with brands like Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh, bypassing the more "wearable" options entirely. Erdem Moriaglu's clothes are my one foray into the pretty, feminine side of mainstream high-end fashion. Despite the plethora of florals and delicate New York Heiress At A Tea Party silhouettes, there's something sharp enough about Erdem's style that I can't help but love him season after season.
Photos: Erdem/Boo George.
Erdem's designs vacillate between ethereally floaty and demurely structured, and all appear to be aimed at the type of woman who never encounters dirt or breaks the ankle-straps on her shoes. In the past he's experimented the kind of super-smart coats and suits that are worn by terrifyingly stylish New York society matrons, giving the houndstooth and floral patterns enough modern digital-print youthfulness that there's no danger of them seeming stuffy or old-fashioned.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Revenge season finale: "Reckoning".

Warning: Spoilers for the season finale, and spoilery allusions to the rest of the show. 

Back in the larval days of this blog, I wrote a couple of posts on the costumes of Nolan Ross, the delightfully beanpole-ish henchman character of ABC's Gossip Girl/Count of Monte Cristo/Girl With The Dragon Tattoo mashup, Revenge. In general the costumes of Revenge, while pretty, don't really inspire (or require) much overthinking, but this week's season finale was just too damn awesome not to warrant a post of its own.
BRB turning this photo into a mural for all my walls.
I'm constantly impressed by the abilities of the Revenge showrunners to up the ante without descending into ridiculousness. They've packed at least three seasons' worth of shocking revelations, blackmail scandals and torrid affairs into 22 episodes, but none of it seems unwieldy. When it comes to soap operas or dramas that rely on this kind of rapidly-escalating conflict, new plot-twists quickly begin to feel forced because they are forced -- the writers have to keep them coming in order to fuel the melodrama juggernaut. But with Revenge, the solution to this problem already exists within the show itself. Amanda's main purpose in the Hamptons is to stir up trouble, meaning that the issue of seemingly-forced plot-twists is already out the window. Secondly, every character is either so amoral or so desperate that it's perfectly believable for them all to be constantly collecting blackmail material on one another like a bunch of unusually well-dressed Cold War spies. At the beginning of the series there were a few "nice" characters to balance out the ferocious vitriol and paranoia of the Grayson family, but by the finale everyone has become tainted.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Snow White & The Huntsman: How to tell a fairy story.

I'm taking a small break from our regularly scheduled Avengers overanalysis to bring you some LADIES IN ARMOUR.
Today Florence + The Machine released their theme song/music video for Snow White & The Huntsman. I'm not really a Florence fan, but this video is just TOO GOOD FOR ME TO COPE WITH because it combines clips from the (completely awesome-looking) Snow White trailer with war drums and dramatic Valkyrie wailing and somehow, somehow... I am totally sold. After listening to this song and rewatching the trailer, not only am I 100% prepared to declare Kristen Stewart my Khaleesi For Life, but I'm also convinced that I've somehow regressed to the age of 11 because OMG new feminist role-model. Which is slightly embarrassing because I just googled Kristen Stewart and it turns out she's several months younger than I am. But what can I do? I've already sworn fealty. I'm taking up my spear and following Snow White into battle. And so are you.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 3: Steve Rogers, Captain America.

Previously: The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 1: SHIELD. and Part 2: Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Bruce Banner.

As a person with maybe too many thoughts and feelings about superheroes (cf. all previous Avengers posts) I have no idea what an Avengers viewing experience is like for someone who doesn't know who Steve Rogers is. However, given the fact that Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr is such a big part of the current pop-culture zeitgeist, I assume that he's enough to hold the movie together for the few people in the audience who have no prior experience of Marvel superhero movies. Given the chance to advise one of the aforementioned newbies, though, I'd say that the prequels most likely to improve your Avengers experience are Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor.

The Thor movie is relevent to The Avengers not as a source of backstory info for Thor, but more as Loki's own origin story. Already an unusually complex and emotionally engaging villain, Loki only becomes more interesting when you know more about his upbringing. As for Captain America, while I don't think that knowledge of Steve's backstory is necessary to understand The Avengers, an appreciation of his character definitely helps. Seeing Steve Rogers before his supersoldier transformation helps us understand the reason why he "is" Captain America rather than just a star-spangled man, and the fact that he's fresh from the '40s has the twofold influence of making him the ultimate fish-out-of-water character (perhaps even moreso than Thor, who has no real need to fit in with human society) and adding a horrendously depressing aspect to every one of his scenes because everyone he ever knew or loved is dead. The fact that Steve Rogers is even remotely functional in day-to-day life is tantamount to a miracle.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 2: Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Bruce Banner.

Previously: The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 1: SHIELD.
From my limited knowledge of Avengers comics canon I was expecting the movie to focus more on the clash of personalities between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but the genius of The Avengers was that it explored all these different permutations of the Avengers team that I'd never considered before. The best example of this was the unexpectedly perfect combination of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. The most poorly-handled character of the Marvel universe thus far -- the Hulk's human alter-ego -- ended up with the most engaging hero's journey in the film.
With two Iron Man movies already under his belt (plus the fact that Robert Downey Jr's media presence is practically indistinguishable from Tony Stark in real life) Tony is the most established character in The Avengers. Audiences are guaranteed to recognise him, and unlike the rest of the Avengers team he's both familiar with SHIELD and with the business of dealing with major, public threats as a superhero. To me it seemed like Tony was the most grounded of the heroes, which was quite a turnaround from the myriad of self-sabotaging insecurities he displayed in the Iron Man movies. And that's partly down to the fact that this time round, the "public" Tony Stark is almost entirely absent.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 1: SHIELD.

This post contains no plot spoilers.

In many ways The Avengers is comparable to the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Both are major Hollywood juggernauts with a huge pre-existing fanbase; both had to deal with the problem of setting up a cast of well-known characters in a way that would seem new and fresh. My trust in Joss Whedon's writing was the only thing that kept me from being skeptical when it was announced that The Avengers would include a lot of adversarial posturing between the teammates, but the fact is that the type of team dynamic that drives a two-hour movie is very different from the dynamic that drives a long-running TV show or comic series. The story of a collection of superheroes meeting and immediately becoming BFFs would be somewhat lacking in dramatic tension.
Maria Hill and Phil Coulson, Agents of SHIELD.
SHIELD represents the unromantic side of the Marvel universe. Individually, each of the Avengers has their own origin story and hero's journey, Steve Rogers' probably being the most fairytale-like: a poor boy growing up during a time of war, gaining strength thanks to his goodness of heart and spirit, and using that strength to protect others before finally sacrificing himself for the greater good. Then there's Thor, an alien prince whose greatest enemy is his own hubris, who must learn to control his temper and act with empathy before he can regain his powers. But in the context of a world very much like our own, these characters cannot realistically survive to become heroes without some more cynical and practical-minded external force buffering them from the rest of society.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Links post: Medieval armour made from rubber inner-tubes, "sexy" 1970s sci-fi convention fashions, vintage crime-scene photographs, and more.

Beyond badass: Chicago designer creates “Joan of Arc” armour from recycled bike tubes. Bicycle inner-tubes are a great material to use for Halloween costumes/punk gear because they're so cheap, versatile, and easy to manipulate, but this woman has made something more awesome than I could ever manage: Medieval-inspired body armour.
Photos from here.
She's clearly thought this through very well because it's not just panels -- she's interwoven the lengths of rubber and used different sizes for texturing. It's so cool! Better than a lot of the post-apocalyptic goth/armour/fetish gear you see in movies like Mad Max because you can tell that this outfit was hand-made using easily-available recycled materials, but it still retains the WTF (in this case, Medieval armour) aesthetic required for this type of costume. I wish I'd thought of it myself!