Saturday, September 22, 2007
A bellwether trend for fall puts the big focus on trench coats - in the menswear arena, at least.
Now that there is a nip in the air and storm clouds beckon from the north, outerwear function makes a lot of fashion sense.
The one in camel hair, pictured above, is an elegant addition to any man's wardrobe, and is easily mixed-and-matched.
But, according to Menswear Designer, John Bartlett, every guy needs a classic black coat in their wardrobe (2nd publicity still) with simple details which can be worn on a variety of occasions.
Throw it over a classic suit or team it with casual attire underneath without much angst over clashing patterns or styles.
The trend for eye-catching topcoats is splashing big this fall!
From simple, classic silhouettes, woven in traditional fabrics, to the very extravagant one by Karl Lagerfeld (Photo 3) above trimmed with animal skins.
If you want to avoid the ire of animal rights advocates, though, it may be wise to go with faux fur.
Some argue that if an animal has been bred for its pelt, that there is no cause for alarm; but the jury is still out, in my estimation.
Any wild animal on an endangered species list is a definite no-no.
In most menswear collections this fall, significant outerwear was featured prominently on the runways - full length, mid-length - you name it.
After hours, the ubiquitous attention-getter, was teamed with well-styled straight-leg dress slacks, topped with pristine dress shirts, or a myriad of jazzy, patterned sweaters to add a zap of color - some with viking motifs stitched in for an individualized look.
A couple of designers toyed with the idea of long over shirts, which floated out from underneath shorter jackets and waistcoats, to create an illusion of tails.
The daring may go one step farther and don the provocative offerings John Galliano unveiled in recent days. (Photo 4)
I'm betting only a handful of macho men will have the ***** to try to pull the look off.
Friday, September 21, 2007
When I was 17, I attended a "free college" where students were permitted to determine their own courses for their degree programs.
In addition, the housing for the experimental school was set up in an ashram situation, so that the students were thrown together in a community-style setting so that aspects of the day-to-day routine could be incorporated into the learning experience.
For its day, the concept was novel and forward-thinking, and did much to formulate a number of my vital ideas about society and the human condition.
One day, a visitor to the College sat down next to me in the common room, and we engaged in a long-winded philosophical talk.
At the end of our conversation the gentleman (about fifteen years older than myself) took out a pen and paper, jotted down a few words, and then handed over the note.
As he strode off chuckling, I glanced down at his comments and was struck dumb.
After a bit of meaningless rambling he remarked in a somewhat angry tone:
"You are a product of the petite bourgeoisie, and until you rid yourself of the sins of your capitalistic parents, your soul will know no rest."
I was thunderstruck!
The words often return to haunt me; subsequently, to this day I often reflect on their meaning.
So - when the opening scenes of "In the wild" (Sean Penn directed) unfolded on the screen - the origins of the emotions of the Chris McCandless character were easy to fathom.
An innocent seeking the answers, he was obviously troubled by the emphasis his parents placed on "things" material, and the importance of outward appearances.
Without doubt, the young lad (fresh out of College) was also troubled by the lies and half-truths that his parents engaged in and the gut-wrenching surrealness of their daily existence.
It is evident from the get-go that Chris felt their value system was twisted; so, he hankered to wash his hands of it.
Understandably, he made a quick exit one day in search of the answers, to the puzzlement of his parents.
He seeks a life without the ties that bind.
During a brief stint of hitch-hiking, the young adventurer encounters a handful of intriguing characters.
For example, on one comical occasion, he stumbles on a commune for hippies as he is humbly encamped next to a nudist-colony in the wilderness while working at a local grainery.
After making a pact to realize his dream of habitating in the wilds of Alaska, McCandless hastens to line up a job or two to earn some money, so that he can embark on his plans without delay.
Eventually, he takes his first unsteady steps into the great white North, then promptly sets up a respite in an abandoned bus near a lush riverbank.
Within a few short eventful weeks, it appears McCandless will grasp the golden ring he's been achingly grasping for.
For example, he sups on his own wild-life catch daily, ever-mindful of the delicate balance of nature and the need for harmony.
But - due to a lack of experience, stupidity, or an unfortunate miscalculation - our conquering hero gets trapped in the wilderness without warning.
Without ready food on hand, McCandless (this is a true story) tries to find sustenance in nature; however, after mistakenly gobbling down a handful of poisonous berries, his sad demise unfolds miserably before us.
There is nothing earth-shattering or innovative about this tale.
In fact, thousands of teens - boys and girls alike - slip away quietly (or run) from unhappy homes every year in America with the insatiable desire to find a better life, some answers about the meaning of it, or quite simply to get their bearings in the great scheme of things.
Emile Hirsch turns in a stunning winning performance for the full-length of this overly-long - at times - draggy film.
Yes, the up-and-coming actor manages to sustain our interest and hold his own, much to his credit.
The breathtaking cinematography and raw footage of the wild is worth the price of admission alone.
But some of the material is well-travelled, cliche - and frankly - dated.
Since Penn struggled for ten years to secure the rights to the story, it's easy to fathom why the tale fails to resonate profoundly; indeed, had it been produced a decade or so ago the impact would have been more resounding.
Penn's attempts at gimmicks and storytelling tools - with the specific aim of Hollywood-izing the film - are misguided, too; ultimately, the awkward efforts take away from the natural sweetness and simple truths that lie at the tender heart of it.
However - "In the Wild" - is enjoyable family entertainment; albeit, nothing particularly outstanding.
Some would label it middle-of-the-road - a popcorn film - at best.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Essentially, he was a director's director.
Yes, many behind the camera were in awe of the auteur - including Woody Allen - who knew him personally.
The New York Times recently asked Allen to reflect a little on Bergman.
"I've said it before to people who have a romanticized view of the artist and hold creation sacred: in the end, your art doesn't save you. No matter what sublime works you fabricate (and Bergman gave us a menu of amazing movie masterpieces) they don't shield you from the fateful knocking on the door that interrupted the knight and his friends at the end of the Seventh Seal."
According to Woody, Bergman enjoyed the process.
He cared little about the responses to his films.
It pleased him when he was appreciated, but as he told Mr. Allen once,
"If they don't like a movie I made - it bothers me - for about 30 seconds."
After all, it isn't possible to always please everyone.
"So amazing were his gifts as a storyteller that he could enthrall an audience with difficult material."
Although some walked out, and claimed after a screening that they didn't exactly understand the musings, they were inclined to confess they were gripped on the edge of their seats during every frame.
Bergman's allegiance was to theatricality. Although he was also a great stage director, his movie work wasn't just informed by theatre. The innovative director drew on painting, music, literature, and philosophy, according to the die-hard New Yorker.
Allen calls the renderings on film profound "Celluloid Poems"; in particular, those that focused brightly and insightfully on mortality, love, art, the silence of God, religious doubt, and failed marriage.
According to the Oscar-winning director, in spite of the dramatic themes, Mr. Bergman tended to be warm! amusing! jovial!
And did we doubt it?
Not surprisingly, he was also beguiled by the ladies.
Well, the way he lit the faces up on the screen (and the manner in which he artfully revealed their inner heartbeat) says it all, in my estimation.
In spite of all his quirks and philosophical and religious obsessions, Bergman was a born spinner of tales who couldn't help but entertain; in spite of the fact he was dramatizing the serious tomes of literary heavyweights such as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard.
One of my own favorite quotes of Kierkegaard is:
"You are that which you are in the process of becoming."
Mr. Allen admits that like all film stylists (I love that term!) - Fellini, Antonioni, and Bunuel - Bergman had his critics.
Allowing for what he refers to as "occasional lapses", Allen notes that people who know film best, the ones who make them - directors, writers, actors, and cinematographers - hold Bergman's work in the greatest esteem.
In closing, Mr. Allen noted that when he was asked how he was influenced by Bergman, he replied,
"He couldn't have influenced me. He was a genius and I am not a genius and genius cannot be learned or its magic passed on."
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
In the opening scenes of "The Brave One", it jars one's sensibilities a little to gaze up at the silver screen and witness Jody Foster's character passionately involved in ardent lovemaking with a man.
Over the years, Ms. Foster has tended to inhabit loveless characters bent on solving a crime - or in a humbler scenario - has characterized troubled women dealing with some earth-shattering dilemma.
Within a few short frames, it is evident that the titillating sensual scenes with her fiance are essential to establish the depth of her love in the relationship, a key aspect of the plot line.
Once squared away - Ms. Foster returns to familiar territory - strident, self-sufficient, and determined.
Foster plays radio host Erica Bain with a loyal following on the airwaves.
After a senseless brutal mugging in the park, Bain embarks on a perilous journey to avenge her lover's death.
The stirring violence-soaked tale is an echo of the Charles Bronson films of yesteryear.
In this incarnation, our femme fatale tempts the trigger finger of fate most assuredly, when she walks a tightrope in a curious friendship with a Police Officer.
The end result? A clever cat-and-mouse game which taunts the two of them!
Ms. Foster turns in a powerful performance with keen attention to every precise detail; in her body language, for example.
However, when she throws off a jacket to reveal toned muscle and butches up her walk with a bit of a swagger, there is a lot of whispering and speculation in the audience.
It appears that Ms. Foster's aloof persona off-screen has spilled into the movie theater. Now, the filmgoer is inclined to stare up from the footlights with voyeuristic fascination, and wonder.
As the final act of the film bolts forward - catching the audience off-guard - it occurred to me the spine-tingling thriller would have been more of a shocker if a cop stumbled upon the scene just as she raised her gun, then shot her.
In that scenario, the curtain would have tumbled down in one fell swoop in a shocking and disturbing manner, neatly tying up the loose ends on a couple of key issues.
The producers chose a safe haven instead, a cop out.
Yes, throughout the intense drama the audience is inclined to root for Ms. Bain.
Her brand of justice offers up swift sure closure in troubled confusing times. And, on the heels of cries all around that there is no justice in America.
But the truth of the matter is that vigilantism is not the answer.
The dictionary defines a vigilante as one who advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands.
Likewise, vigilantism is defined as,
"The actions of a vigilante committee in trying to enforce the laws (law enforcement) or obedience to the laws."
The idea is a compelling novel one.
In fact, taking the law into one's own hands is a notion brimming with poetic justice.
But, in terms of the definition of vigilantism, the act amounts to murderous irony.
After all, those who would take vigilante action to ensure laws are upheld, end up breaking them in the final analysis.
Although - "The Brave One" - is just a film, the message it transmits to the younger generation is a dangerous one!
In a civilized society - vigilantism amounts to unjust illegal action - which can never be condoned no matter how tastefully served up on a silver platter.
Violence is up according to a Parents' Television Council study...
"The medical community agrees that exposure to violence is irreparably harmful to kids," declares PTC President, Tim Winter.
In spite of the fact the industry has been policing the Television airwaves by virtue of a ratings system, Mr. Winter claims that the actual V-Chip, as he calls it, is failing.
The Federal Communications Commission may crack down.
On the House side, a Telecommunications subcommittee previously scheduled a full hearing on the issues to review images kids are prone to catch on the small screen, in addition to programs featuring violence, and depictions of smoking.
Senator Jay Rockefeller noted,
"The industry will not stop showing violent content because it is so cheap to produce and incredibly profitable. To be blunt, the big media companies have placed a greater emphasis on their corporate short term profits than on long term health and well being of our children," Rockefeller said.
"I reject the notion that television merely reflects our society. I believe that television can and should be a positive force."
"For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we have a moral obligation to tackle television violence and arm our parents with the tools to make their children safer," Rockefeller said, "Doing nothing is not an option."
The Senator is likely to introduce his long-awaited bill giving the FCC the authority to regulate TV violence, though its prospects would not appear to be great given the difficulty in defining TV violence and a Federal Court's recent decision calling into question the FCC's enforcement of indecency policies.
The FCC's profanity rulings against Fox have been thrown out and its "fleeting expletives" policy as currently defended found to be "arbitrary and capricious" by a federal court.
The court said the FCC's "fleeting expletives" policy did not pass muster because the commission had failed to "articulate a reasoned bias for its change in policy."
"We are very pleased with the court's decision and continue to believe that government regulation of content serves no purpose other than to chill artistic expression in violation of the First Amendment," said Fox in a statement.
"Viewers should be allowed to determine for themselves and their families, through the many parental control technologies available, what is appropriate viewing for their home."
The commission can now appeal the the decision to the full court - it was heard by a three-judge panel - appeal it directly to the Supreme Court, or take another pass at trying to justify the policy.
While the court did not take up the constitutional issues as part of its decision, it spent several pages ruminating on how difficult it would be for the FCC to make its policy pass the First Amendment smell test.
In effect, the court made the decision narrow, but its opinion on the issue was broad.
For example, it cited Supreme Court precedent that broadcast media content regulation is subject to less judicial scrutiny than cable or satellite because of its uniquely pervasive character, an argument the networks said has outlived the reality of a crowded media marketplace.
The court said in the face of that precedent it could not change that policy.
"Nevertheless," it added, "we would be remiss not to observe that it is increasingly difficult to describe the broadcast media as uniquely pervasive and uniquely accessible to children, and at some point in the future, strict scrutiny may properly apply in the context of regulating broadcast television."
Monday, September 17, 2007
Last night in Tinseltown, Ryan Seacrest nabbed the prestigious, honorary "It's all about me" award at the annual Emmy blow-out in Hollywood.
It was a close call for Seacrest.
Originally, it didn't look like he'd land the ubiquitous gig, as he trotted nose to nose alongside another dark horse to the finishing line for the honors.
Seacrest eventually pulled through, then promptly ordered up a top-of-the-line penguin suit, to adorn his precious bod at the Industry's glitzy tribute to excellence in Television.
The American Idol (in his own mind, anyway) kibitzed with the best of 'em on a plush, red-carpet - in a teaser-style pre-show - for nigh on four hours!
Yeah, he commingled, and gabbed - canoodled, too - the whole nine yards.
So much so, that when the curtain was raised for the prime time event, the quirky TV Celeb had a problem ejaculating - er - delivering the goods he'd been hired for!
A guest in the wings overheard Seacrest utter, "Je suis fatigue", as he flopped into an over-sized, stuffed armchair backstage.
Of course, as french linguists know, this translates to, "I'm tired".
Yeah, that was the general consensus.
There's an old Hollywood saying, "if they're staring at your feet, instead of your exquisite face, you're in trouble."
As if to beg the question, Seacrest embarked on a surreal kind of foot fetish - yes, he had the audacity to fawn over Eva Longoria's designer shoes!
Network Execs at Fox would be wise to slip Seacrest a pair of spanking-new ruby-red-slippers, then banish him to Kansas, huh Dorothy?
A banter with "Boston Legal’s" William Shatner didn't fare much better; as one caustic industry-insider noted - "not comedy gold" - either.
Mr. Seacrest, you've got a great face for radio! (hint hint)
The "It's all about me" statuette is awarded to the Host most dedicated to shameless self-promotion, who is quite generally devoid of any self-awareness, and more profoundly, lacking in any innate ability to shut the old pie hole when called for.
And of course, there must be an over-riding gift for mindless gab - usually wrapped fastidiously in 8-10 glossies of themselves.
Heh, contrats Ryan!
Years ago when Sally Field rushed up to the podium to accept an OSCAR for her award-winning performance in "Norma Rae", an unadulterated moment of joy overcame her and she blurted out to the jaded Tinseltown power-players in the plush auditorium,
"You like me! You really like me!"
How could they not love a flying Nun, for heaven's sake?
Notwithstanding, that brief misstep has gone down in Showbiz annals as one of the most embarrassing moments in Oscar History.
Of course, many others run a close second.
For example, when winning for best supporting actress in "Julia", Vanessa Redgrave thanked Hollywood for having,
"...refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums...whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."
Um, I thought this was an Oscar celebration, not a political segment on Sixty Minutes, Ms. Redgrave.
Then there was the outrageous, zesty moment when Cuba Gooding Jr., best supporting actor for "Jerry Maguire", bellowed out to the startled masses viewing from their idiot boxes at home,
"I love you Tom Cruise! I love you, brother! I love you, man! Everybody, I love you. I love you all. Cameron Crowe! James L. Brooks! James L. Brooks, I love you. Everybody who's involved with this, I love you. I love you. Everybody involved."
And who could forget the stunning moment when Sacheen Littlefeather sashayed on stage in Marlon Brando's stead when he won for best actor for "The Godfather"?
On his behalf, she mumbled to an astonished crowd,
"...awards in this country at this time are inappropriate to be received or given until the condition of the American Indian is drastically altered. If we are not our brother's keeper, at least let us not be his executioner."
Then, there was James Cameron's ego-inspired,
"I am King of the World".
So, last night everyone held their collective breath as Ms. Field stepped lively to the stage to accept her EMMY Award for best performance in the Television Drama "Brothers & Sisters".
As she began to ramble, the audience started to mutter, "...there she goes again".
When the producers pulled the plug on the talented actress near the end of her speech, some thought it was due to her unfortunate political remarks about the War.
However, Fox issued a terse statement noting that the action was taken due to the fact Field spoke the words "God" and "Damn" in unison; for this reason alone, they asserted, the cameras zoomed elsewhere - leaving her in a lurch.
Oh yes, on occasions such as these, it is difficult to remember that Fox is actually a family network, with an ongoing mandate to provide wholesome, family entertainment to the American people.
Notwithstanding, it is difficult to fathom sometimes how it is that an actor - oftentimes paid millions of dollars to emote on camera, or on the celebrated boards in The Big Apple - more-often-than-not - has to struggle to make sense of a two-minute acceptance speech without p**ing their pants!
On this occasion, Ms. Field was unwittingly humbled by the elusive award ceremony "jinx" - known to unexpectedly descend without warning or sympathy - when an actor boldly stumbles up on stage with the bright idea to seize the auspicious moment to promote a social or political cause.
Most assuredly, as demonstrated over time immemorial, the ominous spirit of the jinx intervenes at that fateful moment, if only to ensure that said performer puts foot squarely in mouth.
It happens to the best of 'em, Ms. Field!
A piece of advice?
Next time, take a cue from Elizabeth Taylor.
When she approached the podium to accept an Oscar for her performance in "Butterfield 8" a number of years ago, she clutched her Golden Statuette graciously, then eloquently uttered two simple words: Thank you!
Now, that's class...
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Sleek limos purr at the curb, while the tony set perch and sip exotic cocktails at trendy cafes Alfresco. Farther down the expensive landscape, the lush foliage sways in a balmy breeze on a picturesque walkway along the flats...
Beverly Hills, the land of milk and - uh - money!
Soon, there may be a blight on the horizon, though.
Watershed enforcers brought a lawsuit against the Department of Water Resources to protect delta smelt that get snared in treatment equipment.
In response, the Department of Water & Power has shut down pumps in Northern California that supply the Westside Cities.
Environmental Utilities Manager, Sharon Epstein, forecasts serious fall-out as a result.
A water shortage is the worst-case scenario.
So, her office is issuing dire warnings and advice on how to preserve natural resources.
"It is possible to significantly save on water by foregoing on the purchase of watering systems, irrigation devices, and new arrivals in the appliance department."
Experts recommend low-flow toilets and shower heads, for starters.
So, now the upscale moneyed elite are keeping a watchful eye on a potentially devastating situation.
And what of those well-manicured lawns in 90210?
An army of Immigrant gardeners may be spritzing with imported bottled water in the near future.
The thought reminds me of a scene on a Beverly Hills street a few years ago...
Apparently, as the rumor-mongers have it, Tori Spelling was parked at the side of the road, on a blistering-hot summer day, with hood up and an over-heated BMW engine steamin' away.
Out of frustration, and with no ready options beggin' close-at-hand, she allegedly poured the contents of her expensive designer water flask into the thirsty radiator.
Egads, you say?
Well, water is water, when you come right down to it - especially for the rich with oodles of moolah to burn.