Happy Rex Manning Day!

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Like many others around my age, Empire Records (1995) is a staple of my film diet and a much loved favourite. It’s not just that it taps into the fantasy of working in a cool record store or the super rad 90s clothes. It’s more than the excellent soundtrack and quotable one-liners. More than the underdog triumphing over corporation and anything else you could think of that makes it appealing. It’s also the friends I’ve shared it with along the way: the best friend who introduced me to it when we were 14 and started it all and everyone else I’ve bonded with over the years who love it just as much as I do. There’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the film for me and, I know, countless others. That’s why I keep going back to Empire Records. And that’s why I say: happy Rex Manning Day, everyone! Damn the man, save the Empire!

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We mustn’t dwell. No, not today. We can’t. Not on Rex Manning day!

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Say no more, mon amour!

 

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Designer Spotlight: Sandy Powell

Picture heavy post.

This post is even shorter again than the last; I had planned to post it in February but completely forgot to finish it, so it’s a little slapdash. It’s also formatted a little differently and I’ve left out so many of the films I’ve seen that she’s worked on, because I got a bit overwhelmed.

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The third post in my ‘Designer Spotlight’ series is focused on Sandy Powell OBE. Born in 1960, Powell is a British costume designer who has won three Academy Awards (for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator and The Young Victoria) and worked with directors such as Derek Jarman (Caravaggio is her first film credit), Martin Scorsese and Todd Haynes.

Like Colleen Atwood, Powell often collaborates with one of my favourite directors – this time, with Todd Haynes. She designed the costumes for one of my all-time favourite movies, Velvet Goldmine, a glam-rock faux biopic which marries the career of David Bowie with the narrative structure of Citizen Kane. Naturally, the costumes are a vital element of the film, aiding in the construction of the central character Brian Slade and all those around him.

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This is my absolute favourite costume of the entire film. It’s like a fop and a glam-rock star had a baby. The contrasting textures and competing patterns should be overwhelming but they’re tied together with the colour palette, lilac being used as an anchor throughout. You can see the costume in action in this video.

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The feathered neck piece is so dramatic, which works perfectly for this scene: the ‘death’ of Brian Slade, which turns out to be a hoax. The silver bodysuit is the perfect colour to show up the bright red blood.

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Again, the contrasting textures are eye-catching and the costume recalls 18th and 19th century men’s fashions.

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This scene is a lot of fun and there are so many fabulous costumes in it. Mandy’s dress in the first screencap above is easily my favourite: I love all the colours, the oversized hat and the gorgeous platform sandals.

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I love how everyone in Brian’s entourage sort of has a theme with their costumes. Mandy has her leopard print for one, seen here in this magnificent skirt suit.

I apologise for the quality of the Velvet Goldmine screencaps. I have a really old copy of the movie and the resolution is clearly not that great.

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Star Trek update

My journey into the original series, and subsequent films, of Star Trek has come to an end (for now). I’m taking a break before I get into The Next Generation, and so on, but I did say that I’d do a second post once I watched the last three films.

This is neither as long, nor as picture heavy, as my first post – I got a bit burnt out on writing after all of that. I want to challenge myself with my writing, so that the quality improves, but some days it’s not a matter of writer’s block, so much as being completely empty. These are all tidied up from the letterboxd reviews I dashed off after viewing each film.

The Voyage Home dir. Leonard Nimoy, 1986

“Oh, him? He’s harmless. Back in the sixties, he was part of the free speech movement at Berkeley. I think he did a little too much LDS.”

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That awkward moment when you’re terrified of whales but are determined to watch all the original Star Trek movies…including the one about the whales. At least I knew that going in, though. Part of me was thinking ‘whales, why’d it have to be whales?’ this whole film but, well, the environmental message wouldn’t really be the same without them.

Terrifying sea dwelling mammals aside, this is a whole lot of fun. It’s very silly (I love silly movies) and charming. The whole ‘do you like Italian?’ exchange was one of my favourites – I had to pause the film to catch my breath. I also enjoyed Scotty talking into the computer’s mouse, Spock trying to swear and Uhura and Chekov asking all those people on the street where to find nuclear ‘wessels’. I just couldn’t pick a favourite funny moment.

Most of the tears shed in this film were tears of laughter, but I did get a bit choked up at the end (Spock with Sarek, the crew seeing the new Enterprise).

Anyway, silly, funny and fun and exactly what I needed when I watched it (except for the whales).

Edited from letterboxd review, which can be read here.

The Final Frontier dir. William Shatner, 1989

“I thought you said men like us don’t have families.”
“I was wrong.”

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I’ll say one thing for this film: it sure left me speechless!

Plenty of people have written about what a mess it is so I won’t go into it too much. There are a couple of nice moments between Spock & Kirk and Spock, Kirk and Bones, some properly funny bits and there are elements I liked but that does not a good movie make.

There are some truly absurd choices made in this movie – Uhura’s fan dance springs to mind as one of them.

I have definitely seen far far worse films, films that were harder to get through, but this was still just…odd. And gave me a lot of secondhand embarrassment.

Going in having read some terrible reviews, I lowered my expectations so much that I will admit I had fun in some parts. But I think my overwhelming impression of the film is that it’s baffling, rather than anything else.

Edited from letterboxd review, which can be read here.

The Undiscovered Country dir. Nicholas Meyer, 1991

“Captain’s Log, stardate 9529.1. This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun, and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man… where no one has gone before.”

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This was a bit of a heavy one for me. Don’t recommend watching it when you’re feeling seedy after a long night of dancing.

It’s a movie about ageing and feeling obsolete, which I feel doesn’t often get explored in these types of films (not that it never does, but I feel like it’s not common); in a youth obsessed culture that’s not surprising.

I want to say something about ending with a quote from Peter Pan/a reference to Neverland. Is it suggesting Kirk refuses to accept what Spock had posited earlier: Is it possible that we two, you and I, have grown so old and so inflexible that we have outlived our usefulness? A one last adventure thing? You’re only as old as you feel?

It’s possible that it was just a throwaway reference but I’m not sure.

I am still unable to sort out my thoughts and feelings about this one (I think I liked it but I’ll have to watch it again in a different mood) but I want to keep this post brief compared to the last one.

Edited from letterboxd review, which can be read here.

The Phantom, 1996

PLL 00042Recently I found a copy of The Phantom (1996) when I was op-shopping, and, realising that I was remiss in never having seen it, I promptly added it to my pile of DVDs to buy. I watched it the same night I took it home, and completely fell in love.

PLL 00043Essentially, my enjoyment boils down to having a lot of fun while watching this movie. It’s not surprising, considering it has a very similar feel to one of my all-time favourites, The Shadow, another pulp/comic adaptation set in the 1930s. Sure, it’s cheesy and ridiculous but that’s why I loved it. It’s nearly all I could ever ask for from a film like this.

Billy Zane is quite stiff in his dual role as both The Phantom and Kit Walker but he’s not entirely without charm and he’s so pretty… so pretty. Even in the costume. Treat Williams as Xander Drax is fantastic – there’s definitely some scenery chewing going on in his performance.

PLL 00045PLL 00050I had no idea that both Kristy Swanson and Catherine Zeta-Jones were in this (rocking some awesome lady-adventurer/aviatrix style outfits) so I was super excited when they showed up. I think Swanson is really charming and adorable, largely because of my love of the 1992 Buffy film. She looked great with the short curled bob and Amelia Earheart-esque getup in this and I really liked her character.

PLL 00051phantom1I kind of got hung up thinking about Diana (Swanson) and Sala (Zeta-Jones) when writing this, which is probably evident from the screencaps.  I love that it basically ends with them flying off together. Sure, the narration tells us Diana is determined to come back for Kit/The Phantom, but I can just pretend that she soon realised she’d rather be with Sala, right? I’ve started to imagine a spinoff sequel of their adventures together. How cool would that have been? Maybe one day there’ll be more films like this with women as the central characters.

I loved the moment in the car when Diana turns to Sala and asks her why she’s so mean, if she cares about anyone but herself. There is a look of realisation on Sala’s face when she starts to think that she’s not on the right path after all. I love that Diana is the catalyst for her turnaround, rather than Kit or another man. (I also love that all of Sala’s pilots were women). I’m not saying that makes it a feminist film, or that the characters themselves are feminist, I just thought it was cool, a bit refreshing, and was something I could connect with.

zvQlfbVeZMMZecVfQypaJOX722cThere’s not necessarily a lot of substance – the plot is simple enough, which I like, and the characters aren’t necessarily that well rounded (which isn’t unusual), but it’s fun. I feel like I should write some more (I’ve barely touched on the plot, the baddies…anything really) but I’ve dithered over this long enough.

A friend of mine said he always tries to watch it with The Rocketeer and The Shadow, and I think I’m going to try to do that next time, too.

Top 5 | Comic Book Movies

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a top 5 post so, keeping in theme with my last movie review, here’s my top 5 (live action) comic book movies! (Keeping in mind these are personal favourites, rather than necessarily the ‘best’ I’ve seen).

Barbarella directed by Roger Vadim, 1968

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An angel does not make love, an angel is love.

Like Barabarella would not be in my top 5. It’s nearly everything I could want in a film. The lush colour and dreamy soundtrack! The ridiculous number of costume changes! Jane Fonda’s magnificent hair! Kitschy and/or camp films are basically my favourites, and there’s something very appealing about ’60s science fiction costumes and sets, which all adds up to I love Barbarella. Plus there’s a lot to be said for Fonda’s comic timing/delivery.

Favourite moment: so hard to pick one! I do like the whole exchange with Barbarella and Dildano (David Hemmings) quite a lot.

Ghost World directed by Terry Zwigoff, 2001

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This is so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again.

Ah, Ghost World. Does it make me a bit of a cliche to love this so much? Do I really care? I saw it at the cinema when I was 15 (with my one and only ever boyfriend). I had no idea what it was about before going in (I’m pretty certain I thought it was a paranormal film about actual ghosts) but I know 15 year old me fell in love with it straight away. A lot of people consider Enid to be a fairly awful person, now, but I still relate to her in a lot of ways. I think that’s not something I should admit as an adult, but I do. I could write a whole post on it (and I probably will, one day) but it made a huge impact on me. And with the sarcasm and deadpan humour, it still appeals. Plus, it lead to me reading Ghost World (which was one of the first graphic novels I ever went and bought for myself so yay for that.)

Favourite moment: Mirror, Father, Mirror.

Batman Returns directed by Tim Burton, 1992

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As I was saying, I’m a woman and can’t be taken for granted. Life’s a bitch, now so am I.

It was difficult to choose between this or the ’60s Batman movie but Tim Burton wins out by virtue of being the Batman of my childhood. Plus Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman?! She’s magnificent. Although Adam West is my favourite Batman, Batman Returns is my favourite Batman film, and I think it’s probably the best (live action, anyway). Burton’s unique visual style fits the characters of Batman and Gotham perfectly and Michael Keaton is so great, isn’t he?

Favourite moment: The scene where Bruce and Selina each realise who the other is? My god, it tears my heart out. And, of course, Catwoman’s simple, deadpan ‘meow?’ before the department store explodes. Ugh. Fantastic!

Flash Gordon directed by Mike Hodges, 1980

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I knew you were up to something, though I’ll confess I hadn’t thought of necrophilia?

One of the most visually appealing films I’ve seen in my life. The costumes and sets are gorgeous (and, well, Timothy Dalton in tights isn’t exactly difficult to look at). Plus, the score by Queen is hardly a detriment. The Orientalism is rather on the nose and is probably the only thing about the film I don’t like. Remember when I mentioned the lush colours in Barbarella? This definitely gives them a run for their money, so to speak.

Favourite moment: I’m kind of stuck on Timothy Dalton in tights.

OK, they're not exactly tights but close enough!

OK, they’re not exactly tights but close enough!

Josie and the Pussycats directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, 2001

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Dujour means crash positions!

Words cannot express how much I love this film. I have watched it so many times. Not surprisingly, this was another film I connected with a lot as a teen. And I still find it very enjoyable as well as quite clever (if a little obvious in its satire). I’m actually planning on writing a post about satire in movies aimed at teen girls, one day, so I’ll leave most of my thoughts on this film for then. But this film is absurd and funny and heartwarming and I really enjoy the soundtrack. In fact, I am listening to it, as I type! It’s definitely one of my ‘comfort movies’. And any film with Parker Posey and Alan Cumming is ace in my book!

An honourable mention must go to The Shadow – I wasn’t sure whether to include it as The Shadow originated in pulp novels before migrating to other media. But if we count it as a comic book movie then my top 5 would be The Shadow five times because I love it so much. And the first version of this list had Superman II and Dick Tracy (that gorgeous pallette) but Josie and the Pussycats and Barbarella replaced them (originally it was Tank Girl and Barbarella, but then I remembered Josie and the Pussycats).

After I finished this I thought of a bunch more films that were based off of comic book characters so I made a more extensive list here.