Monday, 23 February 2015

Best Dressed at the Oscars

So Oscars 2015 has been and gone. Sadface.

And whilst the very male and very pale voting panel renders the awards themselves increasingly irrelevant - yes, I am still angry on behalf of The Lego Movie - the red carpet is still where it's at when it comes to event dressing.

In a rather low key award season fashion-wise, the Oscars red carpet at last provided something for everyone to get excited about. Monochrome had its moment, neutrals were everywhere if you like that sort of thing and every colour from chartreuse to regal navy blue was on show, even on some of the boys. My one complaint? No major missteps, save perhaps for Lady Gaga's hideous gloves. Where's the fun in that?

Anyway, my top ten (plus bonus man)...

Rosamund Pike in Givenchy Couture

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Finally! After the least impressive awards season from any actress ever, the beautiful Rosamund hit a home run. And it was a huge one. This stunning embellished number is by far my favourite of the night. The vibrant colour is gorgeous - and perfect for her skin tone - the petal-like detailing is exquisite and the fit, with its exposed corsetry and thigh slit, is exactly the right amount of sexy. Minimal styling and a natural beauty look round out one of my favourite looks of the entire awards season.

Jessica Chastain in Givenchy Couture

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My clear second favourite of the night and another triumph for Ricardo Tisci. Navy blue on a redhead is always a winner for me, as is sophisticated sparkle, so this beautiful gown was always going to catch my eye. The draping on the bodice is simple yet devastatingly effective and I love how it accentuates her waist. A gorgeous smoky eye and single strand of diamonds provide sophisticated finishing touches.

Anna Kendrick in Thakoon

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I love this colour so much and against Anna's flawless skin it's just divine. The look is light and airy, fun but sophisticated and she is working it. The detail on the neckline is just the right amount of bling and the cut out is sexy but not try hard. Top marks for someone whose red carpet looks I often find hard to love.

Jennifer Hudson in Romona Keveza

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I loved Jennifer's simple, sexy Grammys look and this one, playing by the same rulebook, is even better. There's something so fresh about this gorgeous spring colour teamed with the simple cut of the gown, which once again is perfect for her stunning figure. I love the styling too with emerald accented jewellery offsetting the colour of the dress beautifully.

Meryl Streep in Lanvin

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Meryl + Lanvin = perfection, every time. Never afraid to do something different on the red carpet, I love this simple but striking skirt, blouse and tuxedo combination all pulled together with art deco accessories and jewellery. Age appropriate, sophisticated, sexy. Long live Queen Meryl.

Keira Knightley in Valentino Couture

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Just dreamy. I haven't been on board with all of Keira's awards season looks but this one I completely love. There's not a lot to say about this other than that it's a stunning gown which fits her boho-luxe style 100%. I only wish she'd pulled the beautiful headband she's wearing a bit further forward so it was easier to appreciate.

Emma Stone in Elie Saab Couture

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It's not the Oscars without someone completely nailing an Elie Saab princessy confection and this year it was Emma. Although this isn't as daring as her other awards season looks, the colour is so unusual and works so unexpectedly well with her gorgeous red hair that it still makes a big impact. I am by no means a fan of chartreuse generally speaking, but this is a winner. Love the coral lips too.

Reese Witherspoon in Tom Ford

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Simple, classic, perfect fit, expert styling, stunning. What more can you say? Reese has aced this awards season and this is a fitting send off. Love the earrings too.  

Zoe Saldana in Atelier Versace

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This is the body of someone who had twins a few months ago? Ok then. Seriously, the fit of this gown is everything. Fairly tame by Versace standards, it's the masterful draping around the waist that makes it and shows off Zoe's stunning new mum curves to killer effect. I love her sweet, tousled up do and simple, smoky makeup too.

Patricia Arquette in Rosetta Getty

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I have a thing for simple, striking monochrome at the moment, can you tell? This is such a good look for Patricia, who's been on fantastic form all season. She looks beautiful, effortless and regal with the one shoulder cape setting this look off to a T. Gorgeous.

Bonus best dressed man: David Oyelowo in Dolce and Gabbana

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Sweet Jesus I love this tux. I think this is my favourite red carpet look from a man ever, it's certainly in the top five. The contrasting burgundies of the suit and the waistcoat/bow-tie are stunning and I love his man brooch (I hope this becomes a thing). More of this please, menfolk.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Theatre Review: The Hard Problem

The only exam I've ever come close to failing was a multiple choice philosophy exam in my first year at university.

A lot of the content of that course, an introduction to ethics I think it was called, was about understanding what causes humans to act in certain ways, including the infamous Prisoner's Dilemma (Google it, I'm not explaining) which I utterly loathed having to discuss. I did not imagine I would ever voluntarily go and spend my Friday night watching a play that covered the same ground.

The Hard Problem, Tom Stoppard's new play, does exactly that. (Uh oh..). If that wasn't enough to make me sceptical, the initial reviews for the play were not exactly glowing, with a good number of critics complaining that the play was boring and spent too much time musing on big psychological/philosophical debates to which it had no answer. (FFS.) Anyway, the ticket was already paid for so off I went.

Image from my Instagram. Don't knick it. 

The play centres on young psychology researcher Hilary, working at a top brain science institute and grappling with the titular Hard Problem - what is human consciousness? Is it just a function of the brain that can ultimately be explained by physiological hard facts, or is that only part of the answer? Is there a spiritual aspect too? Hilary believes, and Stoppard clearly agrees with her, that there is, which puts her at odds with everyone else at the institute (and in the play). Can she prove that she's right?

There's no getting away from the fact that this is a heavy and involved debate and it is fair to say that occasionally the debate does get in the way of the play. There were a couple of occasions during particularly lengthy arguments between Hilary and one of the other characters when, to be honest, I drifted off. The arguments are interesting, but constantly repeating them at length does become a bit tiresome. To paraphrase Hilary, if the Prisoner's Dilemma had been explained one more time I would've thrown up.

Those few moments apart though, I found The Hard Problem really engaging. Running at a brisk 100 minutes, fashionably sans interval and directed with signature flair by Nicholas Hytner, the play is for one thing very cleverly constructed. As boring as the lengthy, repeated explanations of the Prisoner's Dilemma and its psychological friends tended to be, the way they were practically used in the plot was much more interesting; subtly (for the most part) proving that Hilary's/Stoppard's belief that human consciousness isn't a purely scientific phenomenon is perfectly plausible. There are some fantastic passages of dialogue too, particularly those between Hilary and her utilitarian tutor/occasional boyfriend Spike about the fact that she prays every night, which are more thoughtful than most writing on religion at the moment. Not that that's a particularly high bar, mind. It's also a very funny play in a dry, wry sort of way which really helps cut through the heavy subject matter.

Cast-wise, the National has rather come up trumps, again. The ever excellent Olivia Vinall plays Hilary with a vulnerability that makes her incredibly appealing, and it's a testament to her performance that the trite and predictable ending (no spoilers) which is the play's biggest weakness is even passably plausible. She is ably supported by a fantastic ensemble, including my favourites Damien Molony as the pleasingly rakish - and often pleasingly undressed - Spike and Lucy Robinson as an enjoyably arch fellow scientist. Honourable mention too to Anthony Calf (aka that posh bloke from New Tricks) who has a lot of fun playing the billionaire owner of the brain-science institute in a series of expensive looking, tight jumpers which gave me some confusing feelings despite his decidedly patchy American accent. But that's by the by.

It's fair to say I enjoyed The Hard Problem much more than I was expecting to and judging by the 'that was really good, actually' reactions I heard repeatedly leaving the theatre it seems a lot of people felt the same way. I suppose the lesson here is to ignore reviews and just go and see stuff. But writing that in a review would be pretty stupid.

The Hard Problem is playing at the Dorfman Theatre at the NT until 27th May. It has extremely limited availability so if your interest is piqued book soon.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Best Dressed at the Grammys

It's some years since I've found five looks on the Grammys red carpet that I like enough to blog about. This year, there were at least ten I could've included.

The Grammys is the one carpet where anything goes. Most years this seems to me an endless parade of flesh and tackiness. This year, there was an almost Cannes Festival vibe, dripping in fresh off the runway couture. It was go big or go home, not go nude or go home. Hurrah!

Here's my top five...

Rihanna in Giambattista Valli Couture

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File under: moment. I love this look because it's pure couture and pure theatre. But I love it more because Rihanna OWNS it. Yes, the capitals are completely necessary. It's such an unexpected look for her too, but now I've seen her wear it I can't think of it on anyone else.

Gwen Stefani in Aterlier Versace

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Another hot off the couture runway look and another complete home run. This could've been designed for Gwen with its cool and edgy take on the artistry of couture fashion. The pants are cut to perfection which allows the incredible bodice to totally do its thing. The second jumpsuit - after Emma Stone nailing it in Lanvin at the Globes - that I've been obsessed with this season which is frankly a minor miracle in itself.

Ciara in Alexandre Vaulthier Couture

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Yet another piece of fashion as art. This is as difficult a dress to wear as Rihanna's sugary confection but pulled off equally well. This is totally fierce, with slick styling to set it off to perfection. Sexy, glamorous and powerful.

Katy Perry in Zuhair Murad Couture

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Four for four on the couture looks. This is such a great classy Grammys look - see through but sufficiently dripping in crystals to obscure the fact! Beyond that though, this is just such a beautiful dress and an expertly composed overall look. I mean it even compliments her lilac hair!

Jennifer Hudson in Tom Ford

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The odd one out here: not couture and very understated. This is more proof, as if it were needed, that Tom Ford just knows how to cut a dress to flatter his woman, even if that dress is just a simple white strapless number. I don't think Jennifer has even looked better. Love the styling too, especially the simple double strand choker and the pops of berry via her lips and nails.

Best Dressed at the BAFTAs

UAwards season rolls on and it's the turn of we Brits to roll out our, exceptionally cold, red carpet at the BAFTAs.

Last year's BAFTAs fashion parade was so awesome - Angelina in that suit! Lupita in that green! - that this year's was always going to feel a bit of a let down. There were still some great looks though and the overall aesthetic is very much my scene - clean lines, minimal styling, proper grown up glamour.

Here's my top five...

Lea Seydoux in Prada

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Remember when Michelle Williams wore that yellow dress, red lipstick combo to the Oscars and everything was suddenly right with the world? Lea Seydoux clearly remembers and her take on it is perfect. Love the subtle flash of flesh, the colour is perfect against her skin and the red lips and nails match/clash with it so well. Top, top stuff. (Fellow Spectre Bond girl Monica Bellucci in Azzedine Alaia looks hot too.)

Reese Witherspoon in Stella McCartney

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This colour is everything. Reese is on a complete roll this awards season: she's nailed metallic, she's nailed white and now she's nailed colour. The neckline is risqué without being trashy and the simple, sleek cut hugs her in exactly the right way. Bonus points for sensible, weather appropriate sleeves too.

Laura Bailey in Emilia Wickstead

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I'm trying really hard to think of an Emilia Wickstead look I haven't liked and I'm really struggling. After Diane Kruger at the Golden Globes, this is another home run for the Brit designer. On the ever glam Laura this simple white gown just looks achingly, effortlessly cool. Teamed with a playful Charlotte Olympia clutch, it's a great - and very British - look.

Julianne Moore in Tom Ford

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Turning to her other go to designer, having done magnificent things with Givenchy so far this awards season, the perma-gorgeous Best Actress winner looks stunning in this Tom Ford number. Love the contrasting fabrics (especially the velvet top), love the sleeves, even love the choker, but most of all I love her hair against that vibrant red.

Diana Agron in Lanvin

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My other favourite lady in red tonight. The draping on this classic Lanvin gown is so beautiful. In fact the overall look is so simple, elegant and old school glamorous. I love her shoes and the gorgeous hair and make up too.