Monday, 8 February 2016

Film Review: Spotlight


As a good budding journalist, Spotlight was of course top of my to-watch list from the current crop of Oscar favourites. The film is beginning to look like it could do pretty well this awards season, despite not taking home any Golden Globes; its popularity has risen from a dark horse position, and it now seems tipped to get the Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. In case you haven't heard of it, IMDB describes the movie as "The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core."

For me, the immediate point of reference is Argo. Both films have a strange knack of making bureaucratic montages of lists and documents incredibly gripping. They also both tend to choose the heroes and villains of the piece early on, and present us with a core (all-white, as many have noted regarding the Oscar nominations as a whole) cast of characters who are just trying to do the right thing.




There is something about Spotlight which captured me. Yes, some scenes depend a little too heavily on the Good-Guy-Journalist trope, but much of it is incredibly naturalistic. Two parallel scenes in which Joe (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha (Rachel McAdams) each interview an abuse survivor stand out for me. They aren't overdone, the interviewees aren't positioned as plot devices alone, they are simply conversations which convey the huge impact the abuse has had on the lives of the victims. It is respectful, yet unflinching: both journalists emphasise the importance of opening up what really happened, rather than resorting to the euphemisms which the Church uses to obfuscate events.

Some reviewers have noted that the Church remains at arm's length throughout the film, with no real in-for-the-kill attack on it. This is certainly true to an extent, but what is really excellently portrayed is the omnipresence of the Church in Boston. We see how all of the central characters are at least tangentially affected by it. It's crucial that this is brought home for a global audience: viewers like me have no idea whether Boston is predominantly Catholic or Presbyterian, Jewish or Atheist. The sequence which I found most effective at emphasising that is a montage of the reporters interviewing more survivors, as well as police officers and other figures of the community. All the while, the little houses in the foreground are dwarfed by towering churches and cathedrals in the background, almost as though they are looming over the characters. It shows not just how crucial the Church is in people's lives, but also how many people knew about the repeated abuse but felt unable to speak out.



I usually talk about costumes in all the films I review on this blog, though this might seem like an odd one to look at: the costumes are all fairly standard early Noughties fare. It is rather gratifying to see the normal workaday clothing from that period - all rather similar to what we wear now - rather than the way ASOS presents the era: Bjork hair and ribbed crop-tops galore. What I'd mainly like to look at though is how the costume design works as part of a subtle map of visual references throughout.

You may have noticed in the posters that the film has a lot of pale shade in it: the light shirts of the journalists, their office walls and computers, the stacks of paper to sift through. This was one of the first things I noticed. The first few minutes are a nighttime scene, featuring a priest and cardinal in their usual black garb, so when it cuts to a white office full of journalists in pale shirts, the imagery is pretty clear. Angels and demons might be a bit of a stretch, but there's certainly an implication of that kind.

The journalists (left), and the Church figures (right)

A friend of mine also noted how there seemed to be a bit of a Godfather vibe every time figures from the Church were onscreen. From the dark clothes and hat in that first scene to the slimy appearances of Pete Conley (CSI's Paul Guilfoyle), there is certainly a Church mafia undertone here. The scene in which The Boston Globe's new editor visits the Cardinal, in a luxurious room of dark wood and books, is particularly reminiscent of The Don's office.

The Cardinal (left), and Marlon Brando in The Godfather (right)
The friendly way in which Conley and the Cardinal act seems contradictory to that, and so we as the audience are never sure who to trust: even some of the newspaper employees seem to have something to hide. Only Stanley Tucci's impeccable performance as Garabedian, a lawyer taking on a mountain of cases against Catholic priests, instills us with confidence. His corporate counterpart, Eric Macleish (played by Billy Crudup, who I'm glad to see hasn't disappeared since Stage Beauty), is far more ambiguous. In fact I got a strong Patrick Bateman vibe from him...

Christian Bale in American Psycho (left), and Billy Crudup as Macleish (right)
Whether intentional or not, this at least underscores the way corporate America, as ever, finds a way to captialise on everything: Macleish is accused of creating a "cottage industry" out of representing victims in their claims against the Church (which can only result in a capped settlement of $20,000) while doing nothing to address the ongoing problem.

There are undoubtedly more things to be noticed on a second viewing, and it's all of these small details which set the film apart for me. While the central journalistic plotline is riveting alone, the evocative depiction of Boston society is what really brings the whole thing alive.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

My Favourite Etsy shops (plus an EXCLUSIVE offer for Fashion Moriarty readers)


Etsy shops are a maze of hidden treasures. Sometimes it seems you can get anything in the world that you could possibly want, and at others it seems that one thing which you really want is eluding you. In general, the range of available sellers is a little overwhelming.

Etsy really ought to have an online editorial output like ASOS magazine: something to find the up-and-coming sellers and interview them for the benefit of regular users. Until then (Etsy, you're more than welcome to contact me if you'd like an editor for this hypothetical magazine) I thought it would be good to gather together a few of my favourite Etsy shops in one post. There's even an exclusive discount available for one of them. So read on if you want to discover something new, and I hope you'll comment your own favourites below. Happy shopping!

Cold Hard Stitches


Cold Hard Stitches is run by my friend Trina and stocks an array of gorgeous hand-picked vintage shirts. I love this city skyline one in particular: anything with a vaguely Dolce and Gabbana feel is a winner with me. What I love about these shirts is that they cover a range of styles - grunge, art deco, formal blouse - but are all versatile enough that they can be worn to work or a party with equal flair. Trina has very kindly offered a discount code for readers of the blog, so enter the code MORIARTY20 for 20% off.

Little Darling



Over Christmas and my birthday (which is just after Christmas), it was quite funny how several people gave me small, delicate pendant necklaces: bees, stones, anchors, and rings abound. I love all of them, and was rather pleased that I clearly have a strong enough style that my friends can find something they know I'll like. It's no surprise then that the pieces from Little Darling, which are indeed both little and darling are particularly enticing to me. I like the Midas touch necklace pictured above because it's so dainty, but also because the design vaguely reminds me of Hula Hoops (the crisps, not the play equipment) so it has a lovely nostalgic element too.

Marco Black



One of my favourite things to browse on Etsy is the huge range of fan-art, geekery, and memorabilia for my favourite movies and TV shows. And honestly, who doesn't want a cushion with Miranda Priestley and one of her most cutting lines on it? This would look so good if I had a black leather sofa to put it on. Marco Black's illustrations combine iconic imagery with a minimalist style. I'm sure Miranda would agree it's all very chic.

Illustrated by Jonathan



I don't know the Jonathan of Illustrated by Jonathan personally, but he does hail from my home town of Winchester, and so I love his pictures of the city like the snowy statue of King Alfred above. His style is very bright and cheerful: the kind of thing I want on my wall, especially when it reminds me of home. He draws all kinds of places, from New York to the Matterhorn, so go see if anywhere you know is featured.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Best Costume Design Oscar Nominees: My Verdict



Well, it would seem it is that time of year again. Awards season, as you can't have failed to notice, is back. But for those of us with fashion in our hearts and minds, this can only mean one question: who will win the costume awards?

Every year I do a rundown of the films in contension and make my pick as to who should win. First though, I'd like to lament that my favourite costume designer, the esteemed Jacqueline Durran, appears to have been overlooked - even by the BAFTAs - for her work on Macbeth. It may not have been quite as stunning as her Oscar-winning Anna Karenina designs, but Marion Cotillard's gowns were exemplary.


In fact, before I turn to the Academy Awards nominations, it's always worth quickly looking at who has not been nominated by comparing with the BAFTAs. This year the two pretty much correspond, except that the BAFTAs have eschewed The Revenant in favour of Brooklyn. I have to admit I think that's a better choice: the ice-cream colours and 'New Look' shapes of Brooklyn are enough to recommend it alone, and there's a really good article about the costumes on Fashionista if you're interested.



But let's now turn to the Oscars and see what they have in store.


Carol


Industry legend Sandy Powell is on track for a fourth Oscar with either this or Cinderella (which we'll discuss in a minute). She's previously won for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, and The Young Victoria, so is clearly adept when it comes to period pieces. Inspired by old fashion magazines, these costumes are a delight to behold, and transform Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara into full colour versions of a vintage Vogue cover. The tailoring is what really accentuates the mood of the era; Cate Blanchett's costumes are so perfectly fitted that they show elegance and refinement but also suggest at the hidden desires beneath through their close cut.


For me though, it is the loungewear which demonstrates the range of this designer. Without relying on the standard shapes each character wears in their day-clothes, we can see here how loose-fitting dressing-gowns and sleeping sets ccan still be very different. Carol's delicate pink silk is incredibly sensuous, but the masculine cut of the dressing gown (who has a dressing gown with shoulder pads?) adds that sense of restraint again. Therese's ensemble is plain, and perhaps a little bit childish, representing the boring life she wishes to grow out of. That's some first-class costume subtext right there.

The Revenant




It says a lot that when I was looking for a suitable image for this, a picture of the Lion from The Wizard of Oz came up. On first impression, this film has only one costume in it: some brown winter clothes, worn by everyone Of course, the production wasn't quite that simple, as Jacqueline West, the costume designer, found out. In attempts to be as true as possible to what fur-traders would have worn, she acquired a real bear and created fake bear fat.



It goes to show that the production behind these costumes is what is really valued in a technical category. I can't say, however, that this is my favourite to win. West hasn't yet won an Oscar, though she was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and a BAFTA for Quills. I think she needs to combine the intensive processing behind The Revenant with the beauty of Quills, and she'll be a sure win.

Cinderella




Here's Sandy Powell again! I haven't seen this film yet but I have some friends who have told me just how enchanting the costumes are. I've discussed in one of these posts before how there are difficulties for designers tackling a live action film with its roots in an inconic animation. Powell's reinterpretation of the Cinderella dress is a good answer to that question. She ditches the gloves (in contrast with the stepsisters), but keeps the sparkle, and infuses all the costumes with a combination of Victorian grandeur and surreal chocolate-box caricature.


Cate Blanchett is here again, in carefully draped bodices that would happily sit in any Westwood range. It's a riot compared to the muted tones of Carol, and a lot of it puts me in mind of how a child would imagine a fairy-tale world: in bright colours, with details magpied from different periods, and a cartoonish elegance to it all. Put simply: it's magical.

Mad Max: Fury Road



I love a good sci-fi/apocalyptic costume. Ordinarily we see several period dramas in the running for costume design, but it can be even more interesting to see how artists imagine what clothing will look like in the future. Alas, the answer in Mad Max is: not that exciting. Still, there are echoes of what the American military currently wears here, which I think is quite interesting.



Costume designer Jenny Beavan has had an impressive career, including Anna and the King, Sherlock Holmes, and The King's Speech. She hasn't won an Oscar since 1987's A Room With A View, but I'm not sure if this film is the best example of what she can do. The problem is it's part of a franchise, and therefore just a slightly new incarnation of a previous vision.

The Danish Girl




Paco Delgado is the only male costume designer in this year's nominations, and he had an important job in dressing Eddie Redmayne to represent Lilli's transition without verging into caricatures of the feminine stereotype. There's an interview in Harper's Bazaar with him where he discusses some of the issues they faced, such as working around Redmayne's Adam's apple, which adds a whole new level of consideration. I think he's done extremely well, and I have to say that although the two Sandy Powell films in this list are hotly tipped to win, this would be my personal choice.


The use of 1920s fashion is superb, and the fact that both Eddie Redmayne's and Alicia Vikander's characters are artists opens up some interesting Bohemian avenues. It rather reminds me of the way the Bloomsbury group was represented in the BBC's recent series Life in Squares. The loose shapes and drop waists are an elegant contrast to the tailored suits Redmayne wears earlier in the film, a choice which Delgado consciously made to emphasise the idea that the masculine felt like a prison to Lilli. Vikander's ensembles also provide both a mirror and a contrast in their scenes together. The clothes aid the progression of the story, as well as being visually sumptuous.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year & Links a la Mode


I kicked off my year yesterday by making the collage you see above. It's become something of a tradition, creating a moodboard to start the year; this one is meant to show the ambitious mood I'm in for the year ahead, mainly by gathering nice workwear pictures. There's just something about a good coat or a smart pair of trousers that makes me feel like I can achieve anything. I'm also hoping to read more - I'll be focusing on course-related books for the first half of the year, and after I'm finished in summer I have a whole stack of things waiting to be read!

Another good way to start 2016 was by being selected for IFB's Links a la Mode. As ever, there are some lovely reads here, a lot of them inspiring posts about the new year. Do have a look through, and Happy New Year to all my readers!

Links à la Mode, December 31
SPONSOR: Shopbop Eugenia Kim Hats, Rebecca Taylor Dresses, Stella McCartney Lingerie, Pepin, Pared,

Monday, 28 December 2015

5 actually affordable NYE dresses

I'm getting fed up of the kind of articles fashion magazines are posting around this time of year, excitedly extolling the virtues of a £500 dress and often implying that it's a bargain. Even publications aimed at younger audiences, who ought to know that the majority of their readers only have a bit of babysitting money to spend, are hyping clothes "under $200!" (I'm looking at you, Teen Vogue).

The thing to bear in mind with festive celebrations, especially New Year's Eve, is that you don't need to think that much about whether your outfit looks expensive. Anything goes, from sequinned jackets to faux-silk trousers. Nobody actually cares if you're not wearing Gucci.

This overpriced partywear thing has got me sufficiently annoyed to put this post together - it's only taken me about 20 minutes, which is a testament to how easy it is to avoid overspending and find a very cute alternative. Happy shopping!

1. Monki Melena Dress - £50


Galaxy print! It's always a hit, and the real beauty of it is that we all know it's digitally printed, whether produced for high end or high street, so nobody need worry that they're not sporting a hand-embellished gown. This dress from Monki is the perfect choice for the modern woman, its demure cut juxtaposing with the eye-catching print. It also has the added benefit that some black is worked into the pattern, which solves the problem with some cosmic prints that it's difficult to wear black tights and other accessories with them.

2. ASOS CURVE Midi Skater Dress - £28


Bardot necklines are the answer. I don't care what the question is, Bardot necklines will always be there to provide a solution. This very classic dress is an easy way to negotiate any black tie dress codes, but can equally be put on for a small gathering at home. It also provides a good plain base for showing off any jewellery you were gifted for Christmas.

3. Miss Selfridge Petites Jacquard Scallop Dress - £39



This dress is very cute, individual, and a little bit 60s. It seems like the kind of outfit you should douse yourself in Marc Jacobs Daisy before wearing. It's also the ideal match for a little clutch purse, an item which I find totally inconvenient and unnecessary any day other than New Year's Eve, when it suddenly becomes the orb to the sceptre of a champagne glass.

4. La Redoute cotton modal long-sleeved dress - £11.40



Plain and simple, this piece from La Redoute is, like all their products, very French. It comes in four colours, and looks comfortable as well as stylish. This is your go-to if you're off to a casual wine bar, or could even be useful if you still want to dress up for standing outside waiting for the fireworks. Pair with trench coat for Parisian chic.

5. Boohoo Alison Tartan Bodycon Dress - £8



What better print for a Hogmanny? The punky undertones mean this can be worn out to a club, but add a classy blazer and suddenly it's work party appropriate. Whatsmore, it's the cheapest of the lot. Champagne all round!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

5 Noughties film characters with very AW15 wardrobes


Fashion goes around in cycles. We know this, but sometimes it's very hard to spot, especially when every new line of clothing is surrounded by a hype which suggests it is distinctly modern. The truth is, even though trends can be ever so of the moment, they are often picking up elements of fashion which were popular anywhere from 2 years ago to 300 years ago.

One of the few times we really notice this is when watching films made in the past twenty years or so. In amongst the inevitable cringes (ponchos? what were we thinking?) we come across someone whose sartorial choices are surprisingly on-point. It changes season by season, so here is my selection of the characters who were ahead of their time.

Mia, Love Actually
Love Actually (2003)

The roll-necks, the A-line skirts, the slinky party dress, Mia might be everyone's least favourite character but she has a seriously enviable wardrobe. She pretty much encapsulates that early noughties (by way of the seventies) look which is resurging all over the place right now.

Ashley, Just My Luck
Just My Luck (2006)
The film's premise of a reversal of fortune means that several of Ashley's clothes go through various accidents, but she's a trendy young thing in New York, so the clothes themselves are quite beautiful. It's the coats that catch my attention here. An unstructured metallic one near the end has that relaxed glam which everyone is seeking out right now for the ideal NYE outfit.

Vivian, Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde (2001) - collage by Sanchita Nahar
Remarkably consistent, Vivian's brand of prep-school chic will be an object of lust to those who are currently bulk-buying cute knitwear and collared blouses. Although this contemporary incarnation of her style tend to be a more ironic, Heathers-esque take, Vivian is still an icon of clean, buttoned-up Winter looks.

Amanda, The Holiday
The Holiday (2006)

The film-makers keep Diaz's wardrobe monochrome throughout this movie, mainly in Winter whites, which makes her stand out as an LA girl in the English countryside. Because of this, the clothes have to vary more in texture than colour. Faux-fur, teddy bear fluff, shearling, and thick knits have all been gracing the pages of glossy magazines lately, so it seems Amanda was onto something with her textured layering.

Andy, The Devil Wears Prada (towards the end)
The Devil Wears Prada, 2003

Because the different outfits Anna Hathaway wears during her transformation to ace fashion assistant are high fashion, they're a bit hit-and-miss when we look back on them. By the end, she's managed to combine what she learned from Nigel with the more serious, practical approach to journalism she's going for. My personal favourite is the black dress, jacket, and boots combo which she wears to the party where she first meets Christian Thompson. You can see how the costume department takes elements from this kind of outfit - the long necklace, the dark palette, the long boots - and pare them down for the final scene.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

What's in my bag? Guardian Forward Women Day



I love a goody bag. It's actually been a while since I had my hands on a really good one too - putting a free newspaper and an information leaflet about IT services in bags for my Student Union's freshers' fair even threatened to put me off them for life. Fortunately, yesterday brought me a bountiful goody bag as just one small part of an inspiring free event.

The Forward Women day was for young women, featuring talks and panel discussions, to give us a kick-start in our careers. It was at Kings Place in London, where The Guardian and The Observer have some of their offices. I mainly signed up for the day because I loved Secrets of China, a programme presented by guest keynote speaker Billie JD Porter. But the whole day was packed with inspiring women, both on the stage and amongst the attendees. The novelist Samantha Shannon, Vlogger Lily Prebbles, and DJ Gemma Cairn were just a few of the speakers. It's not often that you get to be surrounded by just women, thinking about the best ways to achieve what you want from life.

It was such a great event, and was completely free! If it runs again next year, I'd definitely recommend going.

But on to the bag. And I must warn you, some of these freebies really are peak Guardian.

Tote bag - bearing Beyonce's feminist war-cry, this bag is both functional and political. I heard a lot of the young women I was talking to praise the bags, which I'm sure will all be thoroughly reused.

The Guardian - perfect for reading on the train home.

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith - this I brought myself, as I'm currently working on some coursework, as you might know if you're following me on Instagram. Smith's essays are so varied, it's difficult to pick out one to recommend, but I do particularly love 'Find Your Beach' (which isn't included in a printed edition, but which you can read on The New York Review of Books here) and would recommend that as an introduction if you're interested.

Proper Corn - another goodie. I feel like I'm rediscovering popcorn at the moment, fortunately so is the food industry. I'm eating this bag of Smooth peanut and almond corn right now. It basically tastes like popcorn and peanut butter, so seek it out if that sounds good to you.

Power Bank - this was a present a few years ago but I've literally just worked out how to use it. Aptly timed, as a day in London, especially when I'm live-tweeting an event (shoutout again to the Forward Women day for providing us with free WiFi!) is a sure way to run down my battery.

Guardian reusable coffee cup - because using a reusable coffee cup wasn't smug enough before.

Montezuma's chilli chocolate - apparently this is quite a middle class thing, though we have a Montezuma's at home so I'm not sure. Though I suppose Wholefoods do stock it...

Sibberi birch water - this honestly made me laugh. Peak Guardian indeed. What on earth is it? I have yet to try it, and quite want to hold off until I can share it with someone else. It may well be lovely.

Faith in Nature coconut shower gel - I love the smell of coconut. Apparently this can also be used as a foam bath, which I may try at some point. It's very rare that I get the time for a relaxing bath.

Free pens - One is from RBS, who sponsored the day, and whose prominent female staff featured in the talks and panels. The other two are from City University London, which I rushed off to after Forward Women to attend an open evening. All in all, a very busy and exciting day!