Friday, 31 May 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

What's It About?
In the newest interpretation of F.Scott Fitzgerald's most famous novel, young Nick Carraway finds himself involved in the fortunes of his millionaire neighbour, a certain Jay Gatsby, as he tries to win back a lost love. If you don't know the story then I should warn you, I will not be holding back on spoilers in this review!

Was it any good?
I've read and heard some criticism that the film is too obsessed with the visual, the superficial, the materialistic. Many have complained that it doesn't get to the heart of the meaning that makes the book such an enduring tale. Perhaps it's worth considering, as A.O.Scott points out in this excellent article, that F. Scott Fitzgerald's original is just as concerned with the appearance of objects and people and places as Luhrmann's adaptation is. Whatsmore, by making this heady and hedonistic movie with a soundtrack by contemporary artists, Luhrmann shows us how this jazz age tale is in fact a story of our era. Scott thinks we can see many aspects of our own society reflected in the movie: "This is how we live: greedily, enviously, superficially, in a state of endless, self-justifying desire." Personally I thought that the outstanding visuals and focus on the material worked really well. Gatsby's house is a fairytale facade with a cathedral-like entry hall in which his guests arrive to worship at the altar of capitalism. The whole thing seems to be unreal, even the less glamourous settings like the ash heaps are created with computer graphics so that they seem artificial. This again seems to pay homage to the book, which, as my friend Jas says "is swept up in beautiful rich heady language and total sensory overload, only to prove that the entire narrative is illusory and could never really exist because the whole thing is a sham."

The performances are pretty much all of a good quality, though I found that all of the cast were guilty of saying significant lines in a way which may as well have been preceded with them shouting: "listen to this bit it's a clever and important line!" Just like Moulin Rouge, some parts border on the overly-corny, but again this seems to play into the overall tone of the film and it somehow works. Leonardo DiCaprio was particularly strong and had a great way of going from angry to confident to happy in 0.3 seconds so I hope he's recognised for that come awards season. Also special mention to whoever thought of casting Callan McAuliffe as young Gatsby - it's quite an ask to find someone who has the same look as Leonardo Dicaprio but I think he is pretty damn close. Especially when they're wearing near-identical sweatshirts.

But what about the clothes?
Leading on from my comment about the sweatshirts, I have to say that, gorgeous as the party clothes were, it was some of the more casual clothing which caught my eye. I think that's because a sign of real wealth is not just how sparkly your outfits are, but also how refined and high-quality your loungewear is. The white jumper worn by Gatsby was a particular favourite, as were the multiple silk kimonos worn by women throughout the film, especially Myrtle's, which made for a great cinematic moment when she is hit by the car and it ripples around her in slow motion. 

But you really want to know about the suits and the flapper dresses don't you? It's true, they're all stunning. Catherine Martin has done a great job of mixing her own designs with reworked Prada pieces. As well as looking amazing and evoking the era, the costumes also tell you a lot about the character. I particularly liked how Jordan and Daisy often seemed to dress in similar colours but while Daisy went for more full-skirted options, Jordan worked a more masculine look, which suits her sporting character. Especially in the first scene which we see them in, in which Daisy wears a white dress embroidered with flowers and with a flouncy skirt (though it seems to have been turned pink for the movie's advertising posters) and Jordan wears a sleek cream dress, showing off Elizabeth Debicki's gorgeous figure and height.

Now we all know I like a good suit. This film has plenty of dapper creations, from Nick's adorable three-piece and bowtie to Tom's fairly standard evening black tie to Gatsby's ostentatious pink outfit. It makes me wistful for the days when men would dress smartly for every occasion, including breakfast. I think my favourite has to be Gatsby's white suit from the tea party. It's an outfit described in the book ("white-flannel suit, silver shirt, and a gold-colored tie") and as such has already been incarnated in the Robert Redford version, but I think I prefer this one. I just love the way it fits close to Leo's body, and yet it's ostentatious enough to seem like a costume, because Gatsby has to dress up in order to face Daisy again.

Some pictures from I Capture The Period Pieces though all are, I assume, property of Warner Brothers (apart from the one of Robert Redford which is Paramount)

Sunday, 26 May 2013

How to deal with snooty sales assistants

That scary shop lady from the Nice'n'Easy commercial

We've all been there: a nice day out shopping in a city. Up until now, you've stuck mainly to mid price range shops, but now you're keen to have a look around a swanky department store. Perhaps just for fun, or perhaps you're considering making an investment buy. Either way, once there, you just can't escape the gaze of that snobbish-looking sales assistant. They're not all like that, but it's just your luck that you've ended up with the stare that makes you feel like Andy getting a dressing-down from Miranda in that scene from The Devil Wears Prada. But why should you have to feel like that? Even if you're not legitimately serious about buying, they don't know that. You have the right to have a look. So how do you deal with it?

Be the most polite person in the world

Turning rude in defense is highly unlikely to earn you anything more than a more riled-up sales assistant who might even have an excuse to turf you out if you get aggressive. The best policy is to kill them with kindness. Be calm and smiling, respect shop rules (e.g. not eating or smoking inside), and counter every bit of their hostility with more friendliness. Maybe you'll shame them into treating you a little better or at the very least you'll know you've behaved with the utmost propriety.

Know your stuff

If you know that you can't do a half-loop stitch on low-viscosity rayon, then you won't be missold anything, and neither will you be patronised by someone who thinks they know a lot more about designers than you do. Whether you're genuinely in the market for a designer piece or just fancy some fantasy-browsing, it can't hurt to be up-to-date with what's going on with the big brands right now. Brush up on the hottest materials and colours to have and you'll be fine.

Ask for their help

Even if they ignored you as soon as you walked into the shop, it is still a sales assistant's job to, well, assist with sales. Don't be afraid to ask for a high-up bag to be brought down to you so you can feel all that buttery-soft Marc Jacobs goodness, nor should you hesitate to enquire about the location of the fitting rooms. In some cases, a grumpy shop assistant can actually brighten up once you involve them in your quest. Turns out they didn't hate you in the first place - they were just bored.

And if all else fails, just remember Eleanor Roosevelt's eternal - and rather overused, but in this situation I think appropriate - words of wisdom: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Images from Youtube, Pinterest and The Guardian

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Miss Vogue: My Verdict

This month, if you buy the June issue of British Vogue, you will also receive the launch issue of Miss Vogue. Alexandra Shulman says of the publication: "I wanted to produce an edition targeted at younger readers, with your lifestyles in mind". Seems like a good idea to me, even though Teen Vogue does already exist, but I like the idea of a similar magazine with a British focus. Here's what I thought (bear in mind I'm 18 so that might have an impact on my opinion).

The Layout
Like Teen Vogue, Miss Vogue has gone for a bold and colourful design, which I think definitely works. The size is ideal (it's about A5, so good for carrying in a normal-sized handbag). Sometimes I feel that the fonts are too big but that might just be my personal preference and I suppose that's better than it being too small. The general feel is fresh, young, and bright, with plenty of image-heavy pages, but with enough text that you don't feel like you've just got a booklet of pictures. A delight both to flick through and to read in-depth.

The Fashion
The main editorial is that of the cover girl, Cara Delevigne. I think the styling is excellent and expresses the spirit of the magazine well, all with a mix of expensive investment buys and more affordable pieces. It's also a very wearable preppy style. I've sometimes found wearability to be a problem in Teen Vogue, since we can't always dress as outlandishly as we would like, or even don't want to, but still care about style. There is of course a lot variation in terms of fashion, ranging from £4 socks in 'Miss Vogue Treats' to a £4,450 Rolex in 'Fairy Godmother Buys', and also a mix of different styles. The outlandish spread 'Mish Mash' is a crazily eclectic mix of different fabrics, colours and shapes, while the shoot with Homeland's Morgan Saylor is a more relaxed combination of blues and silvers.

One of my favourite spreads is called 'Task Force', featuring stylish interns and what they wear to work. I am an absolute sucker for some trendy workwear (which I have no reason to buy because I don't have a job, but a girl can dream) so this appealed to me. Plus I love the mix of street-style photography and outfits laid on the floor, almost as if they are being planned out the night before work.

The best thing about the fashion - as opposed to Teen Vogue anyway - is that it's all from brands and stores with UK shops or delivery. That means I can actually buy things I see in the magazine which is a definite bonus.

The Content
Overall, the features are good and there are several interesting pages. Whatsmore there aren't too many ads, which I do find happens quite a bit in Teen Vogue. Where there is advertising, it's well-chosen for the target market, with a mix of aspirational and affordable brands.

One thing I've said about Teen Vogue in the past is that I like how its tone is not patronising, which is a big problem with most British magazines aimed at a young audience. Miss Vogue is no disappointment here, hitting the right note instantly with Alexandra Shulman's letter. This is continued throughout and added to with a guest piece by Tavi Gevinson. I wonder if, as well as Teen Vogue, this magazine has been influenced by the style employed by Tavi and other young bloggers, because it's very successful in using that tone which is at once fun and friendly but also on the same level as the reader.

Unfortunately, I found that some pieces grated with me slightly in that they focused on 'real' girls (i.e. not actresses or models) who were actually not very relatable at all.  The feature 'Under Pressure', was an interview with four girls about issues facing teens right now. The was nothing wrong with the girls chosen (and they were from a mix of different types of schools which I thought was good), but all of them spoke in a somewhat distant and almost judgmental tone as if they weren't actually involved in the issues themselves. Perhaps in future it would be better to choose girls who have had serious problems with body image, drugs, schoolwork, sex etc. I was also a bit confused by the 'My Space' spread. It was meant to focus on the bedrooms of three different girls, but there was a lack of focus on their actual rooms, which resulted in the whole thing coming off as a bit 'look at me!' The girls selected were quite likable, but I wanted it to be more of an interior design feature than just them presenting their possessions to the reader.There are several good ideas for features here, but I think they need a little improving.

Overall, the magazine was enjoyable to both read and look at. I can't judge whether I will definitely buy it again because I don't know what its retail price will be, but I imagine I probably will. My main suggestion for something to improve would be that, as great as Teen Vogue is, Miss Vogue is currently a little too much like its American counterpart. I'd love to see more focus on British fashion, but otherwise I'm loving most of what the team has come up with for this issue. I'm very excited to see where this publication goes next.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

What's In My Bag? 'Peter & Alice' at Noel Coward Theatre London

Sunglasses - The day started sunny. It did not continue as such. Still who cares about the weather when you're seeing a great play?

June Vogue and Miss Vogue - I bought this to check out on the train home as I'm very excited about British Vogue's foray into the young adult market, but I'll be doing a post with my opinions on that at a later date.

Underground map wallet, train ticket and Oystercard - This wallet is seriously so useful. We only made one tube journey in the day to Tottenham Court Road to the British Museum, as we decided to see some Greek vases before the play. As you do.

Peter & Alice programme, tickets, and script - So this is the reason we went to London: to see Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw, and a stellar supporting cast in a new play called Peter and Alice, part of the Michael Grandage season at the Noel Coward Theatre. I've been excited about this for months as I've seen every single member of the cast in something plus I'm obviously a huge fan of Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw.

Anyway, the story is about Peter Llewelyn Davies (Whishaw), J.M.Barrie's inspiration for Peter Pan, meeting Alice Liddel Hargreaves (Dench), Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. But really the play is about growing up, and the imagination of childhood. Olly Alexander played Peter Pan and Ruby Bentall played Alice, both of them onstage with their namesakes and their creators, with Nicholas Farrell as Carroll and Derek Riddell as Barrie. Stefano Braschi also made appearances as various figures from both Peter and Alice's lives. I thought it was a wonderful play, blending together the biography of both the writers and their muses with the texts themselves. We just couldn't resist buying the script at the end, though it is a very visual production.

I thought the cast was really superb, though I have to mention Olly Alexander and Ruby Bentall. At the end, they are left on stage as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, and he gave her a look which just broke my heart (in the context of what happens in the play). So I got their autographs at the stage door and told them how much I had enjoyed it. Then Ben Whishaw came out, so we got him to sign our programmes and he was even kind enough to take a picture with me and my friend Oscar.

He is very lovely. And his acting is phenomenal. I don't really have much else to say other than that it was a a fantastic day and a really moving play which I would recommend if you can get your hands on a ticket (I think it might be near to sold-out now though)