Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Best Dressed at the Cannes Film Festival

Literally no one cares about the films at Cannes (trans: I don’t care about the films at Cannes). It’s all about the fashion.

I don’t know what its official motto is - ‘chaussures plates sont interdits’ perhaps? (hashtag satire) - but it should be go big or go home. Google Translate informs me that translates as aller grand ou rentrer à la maison but I feel like something’s got lost there...

Anyway, with the two week long festivities all over for another year here’s the looks that caught my eye. TL;DR: Ralph and Russo Couture won.

Fan Bingbing in Ralph and Russo Couture

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Princess on fleek. (I don’t know what that word means - because old - I hope I’ve used it right.) This dress is just stunning - the colour, the embroidery, the train - but it’s the cape sleeves that have got me all excited, my stance on capes being well known at this point. The styling is perfect too, with the tassled clutch perfectly complimenting the eastern feel of the look. So, so elegant.

Aishwarya Rai in Ralph and Russo Couture

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A second home run for Ralph and Russo. I love the architectural structure of this dress, and that it plays it up without swamping Aishwarya’s figure. The minimal but beautiful detailing let’s the structure shine as does her barely there styling - I love that Old Hollywood hair. A different type of elegance to Fan Bingbing’s, but elegance nonetheless.

Cate Blanchett in Giles

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Here’s a phrase I never thought I’d use: she looks like a cool Death Star and I love it so much! This dress is so modern, so British and so, for want of a less overused word, so edgy that it shouldn't work in classic Cannes but it really does. Mostly, I suspect, because Queen Cate is wearing it and gives zero fucks. Completely stripped back styling let the dress sing, or more likely mosh, and that Cinderella style climbing the stairs pose is one of my favourite photos of the year. J’adore.

Sophie Marceau in Alexandre Vauthier Couture

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Something else that shouldn't work on the red carpet anywhere, let alone Cannes, is a shirt dress but here we are. There’s something so French cool about this, so ‘yeah, I genuinely woke up like this’ that I just cannot get enough of. The snake necklace is a great rock and roll finishing touch, as is the bed hair and perfect ‘undone’ makeup. Summer dressing goals. 

Charlize Theron in Christian Dior Couture

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One word: statuesque. Actually two words: statuesque perfection. Yellow is so hard to wear, but you wouldn't know it from this. I think it’s the styling that seals the deal - the perfect hair and understated but somehow still massive jewels - and the poise that she wears it with. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Theatre Review: Oppenheimer

What would you sacrifice to end war, completely, forever?

Your principles? Your friends? Control over your own ideas? The lives of around 200,000 people? 

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So asks Oppenheimer, Tom Morton-Smith’s important, frenetic and dizzyingly intelligent new play telling the story of how a small group of bafflingly bright physicists pooled their knowledge to create one of the most exciting scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century. That that breakthrough was the most deadly weapon ever conceived of is, well, unfortunate. 

Yes, I am describing The Manhattan Project ie. the building of the world’s first nuclear bomb. No, this is not exactly a story that’s never been told (although it’s not the story told in the film The Manhattan Project, weirdly). But where Oppenheimer sets itself apart from many other retellings of this story is in choosing to focus on the titular character himself and the web of complicated and ever changing personal relationships surrounding him.

John Heffernan is magnetic in the demanding title role - another to add to my collection of outstanding male performances I've seen this year, a large collection at this point. Oppenheimer is a mercurial character who gets increasingly less sympathetic as he casts off his beliefs, his friends and his family in a relentless pursuit to make sure his name goes down in history as the man who ends war. The transformation from avuncular academic to slightly crazed military man is stark; the scene towards the end of Act 2 where he refuses to give a reference to a former student on the grounds of his communist sympathies, sympathies that Oppenheimer himself not only held but instilled in his students, is particularly repulsive. In a dexterous and passionate performance, Heffernan stops Oppenheimer becoming a villain, though. He is utterly convincing on every step of the journey from principles and dazzling intellect to ruthless ambition and a desperate quest for glory. 

Despite an excellent supporting cast, the other major star of this production is the staging. Directed with exquisitely judged pace, zipping through its three hour run time but with space for the emotional moments to breathe too, the production leaps off the stage thanks in large part to its innovative design. Veteran theatre designer Robert Innes Hopkins covers the stage and walls in blackboard paint which is itself covered in the scrawls of a cast of frantic academics as the drama progresses. The black stage is also used as a screen for the projections of diagrams that the production cleverly uses to explain some of the more complicated science (the fact that the play takes the form of lectures when these issues need to be explained properly is also really effective - and not half as disruptive to the narrative as it probably sounds). Combined with Paul Anderson’s clever lighting, including raising the house lights at key points to make the audience complicit in the action and a frightening prolonged period of intense darkness when the test bomb is detonated, the effect is of a story plunging forward; progress both inevitable and vital. And always asking the question ‘what would you do if you had this knowledge?’

Given its polarising subject matter - I mean how many people have you met that are neutral on the issue of nuclear weapons? - I also found it refreshing that the play doesn't have an opinion of its own. Oppenheimer is neither hero nor villain, nor are his co-scientists, nor the military they work for. Instead, the play confines itself to examining the characters involved and presenting a study of power: how it’s got, what effect it has on those who have it and where it really resides. And it is strikingly good at this, weaving these ideas into the plot in every moment from the big and obvious (Oppenheimer’s relationship with his military superior) and the small and fleeting (the fact that the one female scientist on the team isn't allowed to attend the test launch).

Oppenheimer does much to bolster the RSC’s reputation as an incubator for new British work and, whether viewed through in this way or on its own, is well worth your time and money. It’s not around for long though so best get your (nuclear powered?) skates on.

Oppenheimer is at the Vaudeville Theatre until 23rd May.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Best Dressed at the Met Gala

As far as I can see, there is a very specific formula that needs to be followed if you want to dress successfully for the Met Gala - New York's Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's yearly fashion shindig and it's this:
  1. Don't be boring 
  2. Stick to the theme (in this case China: Through the Looking Glass) 
  3. Don't go nuts (or in this case go stereotyped and/or offensive)
I'm sort of disappointed at how few people stuck to those rules tbh. 1. and 2. were the most oft broken, with loads of gorgeous-but-how-is-this-relevant? gowns gliding up the famous stairs (Claire Danes, Hailee Steinfeld, Jessica Chastain, Rosie HW, the list goes on) and a predictable trinity of ohmigodisthisstillathing all over sheer 'gowns' following them on Kim K, Beyonce and J Lo (who at least had a crack at the theme, to be fair).  Lade Gaga and Rihanna were the only ones who came close to breaking rule 3. but made their fantastical looks work through sheer force of personality if nothing else. At least their looks are memorable though.

So who did nail it? For my money, here's the top five:

Emily Blunt in Prada

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Chapter 90005 in my book of red carpet capes that I love. The theme is subtly nailed through the choice of fabric, the beautiful embroidery and the cut of this stunner. I love the contrast between the different shades of blue and silver used throughout. I love her styling - those earrings omg - and her hair and makeup even more.

Rita Ora in Tom Ford

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Going much more literal with the theme but equally stunning is this bad boy. Red is Rita's colour and the combo of this fierce gown with her fierce red pout/platinum crop combo is a perfect illustration of that. The construction of the dress is perfect too.

Emma Roberts in Ralph Lauren

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My favourite of the night. Very subtle nods to the theme (the belt, the colour, the jade accessories) combine to make this perfect. I am 100% obsessed with that green.

Anne Hathaway in Ralph Lauren

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Ralph Lauren got the memo on theme clearly. I adore this eastern inspired look, mostly because it's so sleek and cool but also because it makes a huge statement without really trying. I love the ear cuff too, a great fashion forward accessory for an otherwise minimalist look.

Olivia Munn in J Mendel

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There's so much going on here and it's all amazing. I love the colours, I love the cut out sleeves, I love the more is more jewellery and I love that it's on theme without being on the nose. Perfect paired down makeup too.

SJP Special Bonus Round
Because you can't have a Met Gala round up without bowing down at the alter of SJP. Here she is owning the theme, as she does every year without fail.

Sarah Jessica Parker in H&M

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First of all, OMG SJP doing the Met Gala in high street?! But let's be honest that's not the thing that makes this outfit a classic from her play book, the credit for that belongs firmly to her amazing Philip Treacy headpiece. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that it's 100% Met Gala. Long live the undisputed Queen of this event!