Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ex Machina

While we wait for awards season, let's take a look at films currently streaming. It's no secret I love sci- fi films. I've been fortunate to help re-invent a couple of classics like Star Trek, First Contact and Battlestar Galactica. So this week I thought we're take a look at Ex Machina. For those of you that have not seen the film, here is a brief synopsis;
Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) a programmer at a huge Internet company, wins a contest that enables him to spend a week at the private estate of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), his firm's brilliant CEO. When he arrives, Caleb learns that he has been chosen to be the human component in a Turing test to determine the capabilities and consciousness of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a beautiful robot. However, it soon becomes evident that Ava is far more self-aware and deceptive than either man imagined. 
First of, this is a visually beautiful film. The design is spare with a limited color palette. While most of the attention is paid to the visual effects of Ava's costume, the work done by costume designer Sammy Sheldon is remarkable. Let's take a look at how she developed the characters and supported the themes of the film.

Caleb's costumes are series of loose fitting t-shirts, hoodies, and button down shirts which emphasize his youth and lack of sophistication

When Caleb first arrives he is wearing a boxy suit with a striped, button down shirt and no tie. It looks like something he might have worn in prep school. Or something his mother would have picked out for him. Now imagine if he had a European cut suit, solid shirt and silk tie...and maybe a bit of hair gel.  Different guy!

In contrast, Nathan's tighter clothing, usually in dark colors, give him a menacing air.

Nathan is exercising when Caleb first meets him. His tank top and basketball shorts show off his more developed and mature body. We understand his dominance over Caleb right away.

Here Nathan is in a sort of track suit with the hoodie unzipped...kind of 70's sleazy. We now really don't trust him!

Here are the two men together. Notice how very different they are;

With her tiny floral print dresses, peter pan collars, and slightly oversized cardigans, Ava, when she dresses as a human, is innocent and childlike. No wonder Caleb trusts and believes her. I wish there were more photos available of her dressed this way to demonstrate.

When Ava leaves the compound she is wearing a modest, white lace dress (and again, with a peter pan collar), signifying virginity and purity. It resembles a modern wedding or first communion dress.

I hope this brief look at just a few of the costumes of Ex Machina gives you a peek into the subtle ways the costumes support the design and storyline of of the film. The costumes are so masterfully controlled, they don't appear costume like at all. Just the natural way in which the characters dress. Great job!

Until next time...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Craft

I figured I'd start out with one of my own films as it is currently available on Amazon Prime and there a lot of talk about a remake!

 One of the funnier articles I've read about the remake is from The Huffington Post (click on the link to read the entire article), here is their #1 reason..

In a completely unnecessary remake news, Sony is remaking the 1996 cult-classic "The Craft."
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has tapped filmmaker Leigh Janiak to write and direct the film, which really has no reason to be remade for the following reasons:
1. The film was the pinnacle of '90's fashion.'
The clothes are half of the reason to watch the "The Craft" in the first place.
While flattered, I don't necessarily agree. Sometimes remakes work, sometimes they don't.
But let's take a look at why the films costumes resonated and what they have to say. Here is a photo from the beginning of the film

 Four misfits with Sarah (Robin Tunney, far left) even more on the "outside" than the rest.  I selected a non-color for her costume with a baggy, shapeless sweatshirt over a greige T-shirt knit dress. I did this to  support her feelings of  depression and"invisibility". The lack of color really drains her face and the shapeless silhouette  makes her almost disappear.

Next is Nancy (Fairuza Balk), who is just pushing the edge of her school uniform. She's a bit edgy, a bit "trailer trash", but her look is unformed. Rochelle (Rachel True), is the most upscale of the lot and hasn't really tested the bounds of her look.  She's playing it safe. Bonnie (Neve Campbell), is hiding in her oversized coat and ill fitting uniform. 

 Behind the Scenes ; This was our first day of shooting. The girls were looking far from their best, and when "the studio" saw the dailies they sent a phalanx of executives to my office to see if I had lost my mind. Once I explained my thought process, the planned character development, and showed them upcoming looks for the foursome, they stood down and didn't fire me!

Now look at the girls once they have found their "power"!
Same school uniform, but a world of difference! The clothing fits properly, just skimming the body. The accessories enhance the overall look and give clues to each girl's personality. For example; Nancy is wearing a a spiked dog collar while Sarah wears a delicate necklace. 

Here is a photo of the girls in a non-school uniform look.  Although they are dressed in a similar manner (as school girls tend to do), each one has her own personality with Sarah standing out again and appearing most approachable in warmer tones, a soft floral skirt and converse sneakers;

Source: The Craft/Columbia Pictures

As you watch the movie, notice how each girl's look subtly changes to reflect her inner thoughts and personal transformation! Notice all the details and think about how you can use the same ideas to define your look.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cracking The Movies

Up until now I have focused on current fashion. Now I would like to add to the mix film costumes, how they support the storyline and themes, develop characters, provide clues, and how that relates to you!

I won't be "bashing" any designs as I know all too well how difficult it can be for the designer to get her or his vision on to the screen. Directors, Producers, Actors, and the Studio all have input, (not all of it helpful)! Rather, I will be pointing out the subtle messages the costumes are relaying, how they support the overall look of the fim design, the character, and where they hit the mark or maybe stray off course.

Along the way I'll share some "behind the scenes" with you and, of course, answer any questions you may have.

My hope is that this will give you a deeper understanding of a particular film's design and help you use the same techniques costume designers use in sorting out your own look.

I think it will be fun! I'll start out in the next post by digging deep into the past with one of my own films;

See you then!