Thursday, December 31, 2009

my favorite red carpet looks of 2000-2009

Yes mother, I know that the new decade does not technically begin until 2011, but everyone else is making their Best of the Decade Lists and I don't want to be left out.

I've already offered my opinion regarding the best dressed celebrity of the last ten years: Ms. Diane Kruger. This list features my favorite red carpet dresses (and one film costume) of 2000-2009. You'll notice that a few of the classics have been left off the list. For example: Renee Zellweger's lemony vintage dress from the 2002 Oscars, Julia Roberts' iconic vintage Valentino that she wore while accepting her Academy Award, and the blush Versace confection that Penelope Cruz wore to the Academy Awards in 2007. These are all gorgeous gowns, but this list is more geared toward my personal favorites. When I close my eyes and try to remember my favorite dresses from the past decade, these are the looks that spring into my mind.

Michelle Williams in Vera Wang at the 2006 Academy Awards: Although the dresses featured on this list are technically in no particular order, I had to lead with this gown. The color, the details, the accessories, the cherry bomb lipstick, it all works so well together. The combination appeals to those with vintage sensibilities, but it still feels completely modern.

Kirsten Dunst in Rochas at the 2006 Cannes premiere of Marie Antoinette: This dress was panned for being dowdy and matronly, but to those people I say, "It's Rochas! ROCHAS!" I loved what Olivier Theyskens did at Rochas, and this gown was the perfect swan song for the end of his tenure. It's so elegant and beautifully made. Plus, Jason Schwarzman is a fantastic accessory.

Nicole Kidman in Christian Dior at the 2000 Academy Awards: I can hardly believe that this photograph was taken within the last ten years, but there she is, Ms. Nicole Kidman on the arm of Mr. Tom Cruise. I'd already become a bit of a fan of Nicole Kidman in her own right due to the Gus Van Sant-directed To Die For and that badass chartreuse John Galliano gown that she wore to the Oscars in 1996, but it was this Galliano-designed gown that made me fall in love with her. The Grecian hairstyle is stunning, as are the gold mesh fingerless gloves. I'm a little iffy on the shoes, but I'll let them slide because GOLD MESH FINGERLESS GLOVES!

Jennifer Connelly in Balmain at the 2009 Los Angeles premiere of He's Just Not That Into You: And so Balmainia began and a tiny machine hatched a nefarious scheme to steal Jennifer Connelly's legs.

Keira Knightley in Valentino at the 2008 BAFTA Awards: Despite the tiered skirt and the thousands of sequins, there is still a sort of understated simplicity to this gown that I adore. Though Valentino Garavani is not my favorite designer, he is certainly a visionary that understands romance, perhaps better than any other designer in the past ten years.

Jennifer Lopez in Chanel at the 2001 Academy Awards: Nipple jokes aside, I love this entire look. The minimal hair and makeup are the perfect compliment to this elegant gown. I prefer my Jennifer Lopez in couture (as opposed to corduroy) and I'm always excited when she shows up to events in labels like Marchesa, Versace, and of course, Chanel.

Reese Witherspoon in Chanel at the 2006 Golden Globes: God, I want to wear this dress out for New Year's Eve tonight, but with very different shoes.

Kirsten Dunst in Chanel at the 2005 Academy Awards: Ms. Kiki D gets a lot of criticism for her red carpet choices (a couple other Chanel Couture pieces come to mind, though personally I loved most of them), but even when I don't agree with her taste, I love that she makes such a point to regularly wear and promote couture. This Chanel number is both sexy and conservative, one of my favorite sartorial combinations.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Christian Dior at the 2009 Academy Awards: I know that Sarah Jessica's heaving bosom was a bit distracting, but this gown is such a true masterpiece. The design and construction are beautiful, but what really gets me is the belt. I LOVE that John Galliano added the belt. It takes this dress from potentially just another ballgown to some far more sophisticated and chic.

Portia de Rossi in Zac Posen at the 2007 Academy Awards: I know that some critics found the fringe on this Zac Posen gown to be rather garish, but I don't find them to be at odds with the rest of this elegant dress at all. I think it's a great interesting detail to what would have been an otherwise (beautiful) plain backless gown. And the navy really works on Portia de Rossi. I mean, she looks great in anything, but in this dress she positively glows.

I had to include a photo of the back of this gown.

Ashley Olsen in The Row at the 2009 Costume Institute Gala: This dress may be extraordinarily simple, but whenever I think about my favorite dresses from the last few years, this is always the first gown that comes to mind. The dress is smartly-designed and the entire look is beautifully executed.

Sienna Miller in Matthew Williamson at the 2004 Venice Film Festival: I'm sure a lot of people disagree with me on this choice, but I LOVED this Matthew Williamson collection and was so happy when Sienna Miller wore this gown to such a high profile event. The details are so interesting, and the juxtaposition of the romantic pastel chiffon and the harsh strips of black feels so fresh and clever (even five years later) . I'm not usually a fan of a lot of Miller's red carpet looks, but in this case, everything works for me. The messy hair, the over-application of bronzer, the sweet little purse, it all makes me wish she were wearing this in Nice or Monaco as opposed to Venice.

January Jones in Versace at the 2009 Emmy Awards: January Jones has begun to emerge as a fashion icon over the past two years, and for me it was this gown that sealed the deal. This dress somehow manages to balance hard-edged design with...prettiness? Is that the word I want?

Keira Knightley's green gown in Atonement: Okay, this dress is from a film, but it simply must be mentioned. In only a couple of years, it has become one of the most iconic looks in cinema. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran made beautiful choices with the fabric, the color and the cut, creating a dress that's feminine, sensual, but unmistakably strong.

Zoe Saldana in RM by Roland Mouret at the London premiere of Avatar in 2009: This is quite a recent addition to this list considering it was worn less than a month ago, but this otherworldly Roland Mouret stunner was a perfect choice for both the actress and the occasion. Saldana definitely has the look and the attitude to pull off such an architectural gown. I actually think that this look should automatically make her the face of Thierry Mugler's Alien, one of the most avant garde and unearthly fragrances ever made. Who knew our little Eva from Center Stage would come so far?

Reese Witherspoon in Nina Ricci at the 2007 Academy Awards: 2007 was considered by many to be Reese Witherspoon's comeback year. I don't remember her ever leaving really (didn't she just win an Oscar the previous year), but apparently after getting divorced, showing up anywhere looking put-together is considered a "comeback." But I shouldn't complain, because this alleged comeback, however ill-named, brought two gorgeous Olivier Theyskens-designed Nina Ricci gowns to the red carpet (another one is posted just a few dresses down).

Ellen Pompeo in Versace at the 2008 Golden Globes: Like Ashley Olsen's The Row dress from the Costume Institute Gala, this simple white gown stood out on the red carpet with the help of just a few extra details. The draping in the back and the silver accents on the sides make Ellen Pompeo look like some sort of alien superhero. The look is still minimalist, but with a decidedly avant garde edge.

Kate Hudson in Balmain at the SAG Awards 2008: Okay, it pains me to include this gown on this list, because I am not a fan of how Kate Hudson wore her hair and I am also not a fan of Kate Hudson in general. I'm trying to think of one of her movies other than Almost Famous that I can sit through.....The Skeleton Key? That was kind of creepy and Peter Sarsgaard was in it....yep, that's all I've got. But I digress. Insipid romantic comedies and lackluster hair aside, I adore this strapless Balmain gown. I've often heard it described as "hippie chic" and "bohemian," terms that make me shudder when it comes to fashion. But I always thought of this dress as a little more rock and roll than hippie. I would love to wear this out with a fitted leather jacket and my Frye black motorcycle boots.

Michelle Obama in Jason Wu at the 2009 Inaugural Ball: After all the messages of change, it was appropriate that the United States' new First Lady attended the ball wearing a dress by young designer Jason Wu, as opposed to a more established conservative designer (ahem, Oscar de la Renta, who I'm fairly certain is still bitter about that).

Reese Witherspoon in Nina Ricci at the 2007 Golden Globes: I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but Reese Witherspoon is featured three times on this list. I have nothing against her and often like what she chooses for events, but I certainly wouldn't have pegged her as such a favorite of mine. Yet here she is, looking fantastic again in canary yellow with kicky red lips and heels.

Thandie Newton in Biba at the Serpentine Summer Party in 2007: This dress may not be as iconic as some of the other gowns on this list, but when I first saw this photograph it took my breath away. Thandie Newton is a phenomenally gorgeous women to begin with, but this Biba gown managed to transform her into an even more regal beauty. Forget the Disney Bridal Collection. In my mind, this is what a fantasy princess bride would wear.

Emma Watson in vintage Ossie Clark at the 2009 London premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Emma Watson has really come into her own over the past few years and it was this dress that convinced me that she actually has a very innate sense of style. She's been rocking some great Chanel frocks at Harry Potter premieres over the years, but it was really this vintage Ossie Clark that proved that her style was more than just recreating sweet looks from the Chanel runway.

Natalie Portman in Lanvin at the 2005 Academy Awards: A friend and I recently had a discussion about how whether or not you love Lanvin (full disclosure: we both decidedly do), you have to admit that few people love clothing more than designer Alber Elbaz. I can just imagine him sketching this dress and experimenting with the fabric. Natalie Portman looks amazing here. Now if only we can convince her to remove her name from that pesky Roman Polanski petition.

Keira Knightley in Valentino at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards: Although Keira Knightley is a gorgeous young woman who's worn many a beautiful gown, I don't usually consider her one of my fashion favorites. Her red carpet choices often feel a little bit forced and/or over-styled to me. This, however, is such a stunning simple gown, and it's such a natural choice for her. A great example of not over-thinking and just letting the gown do all the heavy lifting.

Jennifer Connelly in Balenciaga at the 2007 Los Angeles premiere of Reservation Road: I was a huge fan of this Balenciaga collection. The dresses, the boots, the campaign (starring Connelly, of course), I was enamored with all of it. So I loved seeing Ms. Connelly rock the dress AND the shoes at this event, with a sleek, almost stark chignon to boot. I don't know what she did in a previous life to earn those legs (and all of her DNA, really). Girl must have been a saint.

Diane Kruger in Marchesa at the 2009 Inglourious Basterds premiere at Cannes: This is one of my favorite dresses from the past year, but it's not a stretch to say that in a few years, it'll still be one of the gowns from 2000-2009 that I remember most.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: The Year's Best Nerdery

Dollhouse Season One Episode 13 and Season Two Episodes 4-10: Dollhouse has had it rough. It was clear from the very first episode that the show was overflowing with ambition, but the first season never quite found its footing. And when FOX pulled season one's series finale "Epitaph One," Whedonites started to wonder if the series would get a real chance to live up to its potential. Fortunately, a second season was ordered, and "Epitaph One" was included in the DVD set of the first season. And this is when fans started to realize what was going on. "Epitaph One" is fantastic, an amazing episode of television that truly captured what Joss Whedon was trying to accomplish with Dollhouse. It was tightly-written, well-acted, and directed with a clear sense of purpose. Yet, this is the episode that FOX chose not to air. This episode and subsequent interviews with Whedon made it clear that instead of filming the ambitious Dollhouse that he had created, studio pressure forced him into a corner wherein he was encouraged to write "engagement of the week" episodes. This is why the first season stumbled and stuttered. It's difficult to approach the amazing questions and ideas that this series lays out before you if every week you're supposed to give the studio an "Echo Robs a Bank" or an "Echo Wears a Slinky Outfit" episode.

Season Two started out a little bit stronger, with Whiskey bringing up a few amazingly complicated questions about identity and the right to live, but it wasn't until the network announced that they wouldn't be picking up Dollhouse for a third season that things began to pick up. FOX agreed to let Whedon finish up the season, but it seems that once the series' fate was determined, they stepped back and let him do whatever the hell he wanted. And this was exactly when the series got REALLY REALLY GOOD. Say what you will about Dollhouse as a whole, but over these past few weeks, it has featured some of the most compelling episodes of television that I have ever seen.

District 9: There's not much more I can even really say about District 9 that hasn't been said far better by film critics. This movie restored my faith in the idea that major summer action blockbusters can also be thoughtful, moving, and well-crafted. Suck it, Michael Bay.

Moon: Duncan Jones' directorial debut was absolutely riveting. It can't be easy to establish your sovereign voice as an artist when your father's David Bowie, but considering Jones was able to make this fantastic film for just $5 million, I'm not too worried about him. His direction is both artistic and economical in a way that recalls Alfred Hitchcock.

Star Trek: Lens flares!

The Guild: Ah, Felicia Day. My shameless girlcrush. The actress (who also starred in the aforementioned Dollhouse "Epitaph One" and Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog) writes, directs, produces and stars in this web series about a guild of online video game chums, whose online interactions eventually spill over into their real lives. Plus, Will Wheaton guest stars. Still not sure if you want to give this series a try? Consider that the episodes are only about six minutes long, so it's not a major commitment. And for a little sample of what you'll be getting, check out The Guild music video "Do You Want To Date My Avatar?" Seriously, Felicia Day is such a nerd's wet dream. I'm fairly certain that if Manfriend and I were to select the celebrity that we could have a tryst with if the opportunity arose, she'd be both of our selections.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: Cited by many book critics as Priest's best work to date, Boneshaker is set an alternate 19th century Seattle. The Bone-Shaking Drill Engine has inadvertently unearthed poisonous gas from the core of the Earth that transforms anyone who breathes it into a living corpse. The story follows the emotional journey of a mother and a son as they attempt to re-write history and change the future on humankind. It's an intense read, perfect for quiet winter days spent curled up in bed.

Fringe: Giant grubs bursting out of refugees' mouths. A brewing war between two different dimensions. Pacey from Dawson's Creek comfortably speaking Chinese and Arabic. The world of Fringe is a strange one indeed. And though the ratings have suffered in its second season (mostly due to scheduling), the writing and acting continue to impress. And please, could someone show me how to make my hair do that?

Warehouse 13: Did someone say that they wanted a little more steampunk in their lives? Syfy delivered in spades with this fun-loving series in which Secret Service agents travel the world in search of dangerous supernatural artifacts.

Avatar: Haven't seen it, but the trailer and hype alone earn it a spot on The Year's Best Nerdery.

Sherlock Holmes: Okay, so I haven't seen this yet either. But I stand by my choice.

Nail on the Head: Dear Zach Braff...

Heaven bless Jezebel. Over the past ten years, I've come across so many thinly-written soul-searching young white male characters in film, television and books that I despise with so much vitriol that I can't even articulate it properly. This inability to express my hatred probably explains why people look at me like I'm a few grapes short of a bunch whenever I try to discuss this matter. But Jezebel is busy whipping out their 2000-2009 Best of and Worst of Lists, and in their post Your Boyfriend Sucks: The Worst Fictional Dudes of the Decade, Hortense summed up my feelings about this recurring character better than I ever could:
The Emosogynist: He's just so tortured, y'all. He can't even bring himself to cry, which is weird, because he's so deep that you'd think the emotional well could never run dry. Something hurt him, man, and now he's just dead inside. He'd explain it to you, but you probably wouldn't understand, unless you're super cute, kind of quirky, and you remind him of the girl he fell in love with 5 years ago, before his heart turned to dust and blew away. Of course, if you were around then, you might have saved him from this cold, heartless life he leads, but alas, no, some woman destroyed him forevermore, and he just can't be put back together again, unless, of course, he's put back together to an indie soundtrack by (an often much younger) woman he can easily manipulate and later dismiss after his confidence rises. He has to find himself, you know? And the only way he can do that is through some girlfriend who isn't aware of the fact that he's a bitter 16-year-old trapped in a 28-year-old man's body.
That's right, boys. You're going to have to figure out how to get over your existential crisis all on your own, because my fun talented clever beautiful and witty girlfriends will never be any man's Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Believe it or not, our sole purpose in life is not to be "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures." (Thanks, Nathan Rabin!) So while we're at it 2010, let's kill the MPDGs too!

I realize that this post may make me sound a bit like a man-hating hag who sits around all day with her cats posting on feminist websites. And though I am sitting with my cats, commenting on Jezebel and Feministing, and feeling a bit haggish, I don't hate all men. I love dudes. But my dear archetypal young white male character who attempts to pass off self-involvement and narcissism as depth (that means you, Zach Braff!), your time has come. Cheers to 2010!!

Diane Kruger: The Obsession Continues

Continuing my post from yesterday....

in Jason Wu at a 2009 party for the designer

in Chanel announcing the 2009 Golden Globe nominees

in Balmain at the 2008 Boucheron party during Paris Fashion Week

in Chanel at the 2008 Berlin premiere of Filth and Wisdom

at a 2008 Chanel Couture show

in Christian Dior at the 2006 BAFTAs

in a Claudie Pierlot blouse and Chanel flats at a 2009 party for the CFDA Fashion Fund

in Valentino at the 2009 Venice Film Festival premiere of Valentino: The Last Emperor

in Balenciaga at the 2009 Elle Women in Hollywood Awards

in Jason Wu at the 2009 CFDAs

in Narcisco Rodriguez at the 2009 Hollywood Awards Gala

in Roberto Cavalli at the Cannes 2005 premiere of Joyeux Noel

in Lanvin at Cannes 2009

at a 2008 Christian Dior show

in Chanel at the 2008 amFAR gala

in Balmain at the London premiere of Inglourious Basterds

in Chanel at the 2009 Costume Institute Gala

in Rochas at Cannes 2004

in the FCUK Serpent dress at a 2006 screening of All The King's Men

in Burberry at a party for National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

in Christian Dior at the 2007 SAG Awards

in Elie Saab at the premiere of The Hunting Party at the 2007 Venice Film Festival

at the 2007 Chanel Cruise show

in J.Mendel at the New York premiere of National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

in Alexander Wang at a party in New York City in 2009

in Marchesa at the 2009 New Yorkers for Children Benefit

in Phillip Lim at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival

maintaining her casual chicness even in cold weathher

in Nina Ricci at the 2009 Annual Sidaction AIDS Benefit Gala

in Marchesa at Cannes 2009