Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beyonce is American Royalty on TIME Cover

By Christopher Cole

Many were upset when Beyonce posed for the May 5 2014 cover of Time Magazine in her underwear, which leads me to wonder why she chose to wear that attire. 

The outfit itself is less underwear than a bathing suit that a stylish woman might wear to the beach with kids in tow. If a woman wore this on the beach, it would be considered tame, but it’s the context that bothers people. She wears a halter bra and high-cut briefs both in white and a see-through chiffon shirt with slightly puffed short sleeves.

Is this appropriate for the beach? Yes. Is this appropriate for the cover of a political magazine? Not so much. But is the question of “what’s appropriate” all relative? Apparently Beyonce thought it was appropriate.

Seeing a crotch in your face on a magazine where female figures usually wear power suits, the reaction to the cover is understandable, but Beyonce’s natural body exudes a sexuality that another woman’s body would not. This is Beyonce’s cross to bear.

Deep down, I think Beyonce wants to push her media darling reputation as far as it will go. I've spoken to church-going black people who view Beyonce as if she were royalty: Beyonce is Duchess Kate for the black community, just as Jay-Z is its Prince William. (When Kate and William visited the U.S. recently, they met Beyonce and Jay-Z with headlines that read "Britain's Prince William and his wife, Duchess Kate Middleton got to meet some American royalty"). Black people forgive a lot about Beyonce and Jay-Z because they're the ideal Black nuclear family (with baby Blue Ivy included) that many black people aspire to be, and are celebrated by the world.  

 The shirt Beyonce wears on the cover symbolizes a transparency that has defined this “Drunk in Love” era of her career.  She has the big career, the husband and the baby. She has it all. Despite her sexy image, Beyonce’s career has been free of scandals (aside from the Destiny’s Child mean girl drama of the early 2000’s) and she professes to be a God-fearing woman, albeit a scantily clad one. In all fairness, a woman’s sexy dressing doesn't mean she’s not faithful in God. When Beyonce and Jay-Z perform “Drunk in Love” simulating their bedroom activities, many shrug that off as a married couple being proud of their love.  

The long blond hair that’s been a staple of Beyonce’s brand is on full display on this cover; the hair is a tool that helps her transcend race. This is hair Jennifer Aniston would wear. Beyonce has achieved a status closer to royals that most white celebrities have not achieved, which makes it so hard to turn on her. She’s not just a singer, but also a symbol of a prosperous lifestyle for all races. She’s Michael Jackson’s heir apparent in terms of being palatable to so many people and highly regarded. Michael professed his royalness by donning military jackets with military sashes; Beyonce’s blond hair is her military sash showing that she’s the Queen of Pop. Not R&B, but Pop.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Katy Perry Likes Her Roses Red for American 'Vogue'

By Christopher Cole

With its passionate reds, smooth flesh and yearning looks, Katy Perry's first American Vogue cover locates where romanticism, freedom and sexual desire meet.

Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, the Rodarte dress Katy wears is embroidered with red roses on top of an airy silk-satin; I can feel the breath on my skin just looking at that silk-satin. When I see those roses, I see Mena Suvari draped in nothing but roses in the film American Beauty, and that's what the photo seems to be saying: Katy Perry is an American beauty.

The exposed shoulder looks as if an invisible hand is pulling it down, undressing her, freeing her and hiking her dress up to the thigh. All she needs is herself. The dress in reality is long and almost floor-length with the fabric wrapped around gathered like a bustle. Although her leg extends outside the frame, I imagine she might be wearing the calfskin ballet flats she wears in another photo inside the magazine; the flats would give her a hipster look (Warped Tour 2008! where she performed), but bare feet would reinforce her romantic, goddess look. 

There's also something very nostalgic about Katy, which is appropriate since Katy has made a career of bringing back pop culture past to unite Millenials. She looks like a young Jennifer Connelly, a similarly pale-skinned, raven-haired beauty who was the girl-next-door.  This cover elevated Katy for me because it was the first time I'd seen her in an elegant, non campy way. Now every time I hear her music, I forever think of this cover. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sleek and Slick is the Name of the Game on TV drama "STALKER"

Laurie Fortier (center) wears the leopard print cardigan on the set of "Stalker."

By Christopher Cole

Stalker (2014- ) is scary because it sneaks up on you, which accounts for all the sleek clothes that allow the actors to move like panthers. In the episode “Tell All,” the costume designer Maya Lieberman draws on the excesses of the 1980s to 1930s elegance to bring the episode’s Real Housewives-like characters to life.

The series, created by screenwriter Kevin Williamson (the Scream films), centers on Beth Davis (Maggie Q) who’s the Lieutenant of LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit (TAU) which investigates stalking crimes. In the episode “Tell All,” the estranged wife of a professional hockey player is terrorized by an intruder, just as she’s about to release a tell-all memoir.

The sports wife Stella (Laurie Fortier) makes a lot of people angry about her impending book, including her ex-friend Cynthia Walker (Chandra West). The two women bicker at cocktail parties and throw insults at each other, which sounds a lot like the women of the “Real Housewives” reality-TV franchise, but Stella and Cynthia dress better.

 Stella and Cynthia are haughty, narcissistic women who crave attention and this craving reflects in their clothing. At the cocktail party, both women wear flowing column dresses like the goddesses in ancient Greek times; it’s a look that the Real Housewives wear all the time with a flute of champagne in one hand. Stella wears a column dress with silver leaf detailing on the thin straps that really emphasizes the Greek influence, but instead of thong sandals she wears a more modern choice: open-toed shoes with stiletto heel and platform sole.

When interviewed by Beth and TAU officer Janice (Mariana Klaveno) at the police station, Cynthia ravishes in a red chiffon blouse again commanding attention in a bold color. The shirt’s flowing fabric reflects how comfortable Cynthia’s life is, exuding leisure. There’s slight padding in the shoulders instantly evoking Dynasty and the 1980s silhouette. Similarly, when Stella is interviewed, she makes a statement in what seems like the vixen’s uniform: a leopard-print outfit. The leopard-print cardigan is interesting because the leopard spots are shaped like hearts paired with a leather skirt, once again summoning the spirit of the 1980s.

The main characters of the show—members of the TAU—have a style that contrasts strongly against the lurid styles of Stella and Cynthia. Beth and Janice dress similarly in chiffon peasant blouses and slim pants highlighting their trim figures. Beth starts the episode in a soothing beige chiffon blouse that’s in line with Cynthia’s blouse, but the more demure version. After getting fully involved in Stella’s case and getting closer to catching her own stalker, Beth is emboldened and it shows in her form-fitting sleeveless black top that’s flexible so that she can move like a panther; sleeveless always means virility to me. The mandarin collar is an unusual little treat since a crew neck or turtleneck is expected.

Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott), a detective in the TAU, jogs in an early scene wearing a nylon shirt that clings to his body as do his pants as he strides in flawless cross trainer sneakers. Even the clothes Jack wears to work are slim-fitting and cat-like, making him the masculine mirror to Beth.

As much as the clothes differ in the episode “Tell All,” they manage to intersect blurring their differences: men dress as slinky as women and women dress as virile as men. The ultra-feminine clothes of Stella and Cynthia shed the light on the darker, simpler styles of the police enforcers at the center of “Stalker.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Michael Kors ad is Pretty, Pink & Pleated Seventies Style!

In a New York Times newspaper, this photo of pink jumped out at me. Like getting sucked into Barbie's Dream House. This must be how Nicki Minaj feels. That floral shirt is pink, peasant and pleated. Unbuttoned so that she sports a plunging neckline circa 1978. Think of Amy Adams's perky breast necklines in American Hustle. Even the satchel wrapped across her body feels seventies, as do the pink suede pants that I imagine are bell bottoms. Hmm, I guess I'll never know. The smoothness of the purse is classic "It bag." It looks like the smooth shell of a Valentine's Day M&M. Is there chocolate inside? The woman's bushy eyebrows are pure Brooke Shields. Dark roots and sun-kissed hair blowing  in a warm wind, hair pulled back Grace Kelly-style. The ad is supposed to sell the purse, but forget the purse!

Calvin Klein Eyewear ad Full of Rich girl Moodiness

This is pure Ice Queen fierceness. The light brown hair, a bit stringy (probably blond as a child). Hair pulled back in a bun. A bun head, perhaps. That long swan lake neck. Then there's the porcelain vampire skin. Her face gives me Uma Thurman, but who knows what lies behind those broken sunglasses she wears. The ad is selling Calvin Klein eyewear, sunglasses with chunks of the frame missing. There's something almost glam-rock about them, yet Gothic. From what I can see from the edges of the photo, she looks to be wearing a black fuzzy sweater; add a black choker with an iced-out buckle and you'd get something Amber would have rocked in Clueless. But that black fuzz is more likely a big black coat worn like a classic fur coat. Rich bitch all the way. Moody and cold like Audrey Hepburn wearing big sunglasses in the library giving George Peppard the cold shoulder. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Alicia Silverstone is the Virgin Queen in 'Clueless'

Amy Heckerling & Alicia Silverstone on set of 'Clueless'

That woman in the black shirt, blue jeans and high-top sneakers is Amy Heckerling, the director of the ultimate "girl" movie, Clueless. The blonde in the black down jacket is then 17-year-old Alicia Silverstone, who stars as the spoiled and sheltered Cher Horowitz in Clueless. Doesn't Amy look like the mother? And Alicia as her obedient daughter? Amy could easily be asking Alicia to clean her room. This messy room is what Cher's room would look like if she didn't have a computer to pick out her clothes.

Cher uses a computer to place clothes on a photo of her full body. The outfit she chooses for school is     a blazer with notch lapels and a drop waist pleated mini skirt. The whole outfit is in yellow and black plaid. It's a riff on the preppy school uniform but the Starburst color, midriff cardigan and knee socks with Mary Jane heels feminize the prep uniform and emphasize the shape of a woman's body, just as Cher says, "it makes people think of sex." The knee socks and Mary Jane's are also great illusion, resembling knee-high boots. Cher digs in the prep toolbox and creates an edgy look, and isn't that what being a teen is about: one foot in adulthood and the other in childhood?

After getting a bad grade, Cher leaves the yellow behind for black: she wears a sheer black midriff shirt with ruffled cuffs (sort of witchy, like something out of The Craft) with a white tank top underneath, and black pants. The sheer shirt is loose-fitting, but Cher makes sure that the one thing that clings at her body (the tank) is showing. This outfit is also one of many times that Cher wears a midriff but wears a shirt underneath so that no skin shows. In other words, a tease. A suggestion. 

While Cher's best friend Dionne sports "courageous fashion efforts" (duly noted by Cher) that include tight leopard pants and full navel, a hat with a hot pink flower & bow--that is its own warped version of Audrey Hepburn's wide-brimmed hat in Breakfast at Tiffany's--Cher keeps it conservative. For the first half of the movie she wears jumpers, oxford collar shirts with sweater vests (not unlike the most popular boy in school Elton and her dad Mel), and when she has the opportunity to be full-on sexy in a camisole, she wears a T-shirt under the camisole. She's a virgin, you see. You know what it is, Cher dresses like a goody-two-shoes. 

Then the goody-goody decides to wear red. That red Azzedine Alaia mini-dress. Straps that hug the shoulders. A U-neck line trimmed in embroidery that shows off her cleavage. And those princess seams outlining the curves of her body. Then there's the H-back revealing skin, but not all of it, of course. 

After Dionne's "hymenally-challenged" comment, Cher leaves the T-shirt skin blockers and shows some skin. Spaghetti straps here we come! The famous Calvin Klein mini-dress, pure white and skin tight. Another red mini-dress, but it's a halter dress this time. All of these fashion choices are for a guy who dresses like James Dean and wears a pompadour. 

Cher's catty rival Amber spends the movie trying to throw Cher off with her gonzo style--midriff army jackets, combat boots, dog tags, red sailor jacket and sailor hat--but even she can't resist Cher's subversive preppy style, even donning the same burgundy mini-dress with empire line ribbon. Cher even gives her distinctive style to dowdy, flannel-wearing Tai molding her into a preppy goddess. 

So, wondering how Cher ends her fashion journey? Well, she ends it in a carnation pink mini, matching bolero and big hair. She went from clueless to pretty in pink. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's All About Snakes & Drive-By's on Fergie's New Single "L.A. Love"

Fergie in her high school days

Hey, isn't that D.J. from "Full House." No, that's Cher Horowitz the Beverly Hills rich girl from Clueless. Uh-uh, it's Michelle Pfeiffer in her beauty pageant days. I'm gonna tell ya right now, that's Fergie the pop star, wearing a pearl choker and a plunging neckline. She's a California girl. And NOT the Katy Perry kind.

That pretty girl is Fergie in her high school days in Hacienda Heights, California. Her new song "L.A. Love" is all about California, despite the shout-outs to other places. Those groan synths are the things of nightmares. Really, the whole song sounds like she's creeping in a Chevy Impala to do a drive-by…while smoking a blunt. She's positively predatory when she sings "lay back, slow down" on that B-section, her voice vibrating on the word "lay" moving like a snake. My heart just dies for the weeping snake charmer flute on the chorus. That flute is drawing out the chola in her. (She does have Mexican in her blood).

Los Angeles-bred DJ Mustard produced "L.A. Love" and his signature "heys" make you feel like a thug not to be messed with. Maybe that's getting ratchet. It makes me think of Beyonce's lyric on "Grown Woman": "because I walk with a vengeance." It's that inner cool, bad-ass, whatever you wanna call it. It also makes you ready to party, ready to murder the dance floor. Fergie said on the radio yesterday that the one thing that's different now that she's a mom is she can't stay out as late. Fergie is a party girl from way back. She's also a cheerleader from way back and that's why she hosts those New Years Eve gigs on TV, full of energy.

Where are the big Fergie vocals? some may wonder, but she's a rapper on this song. What she lacks in clever lyrics she more than makes up for in flow. The way she says "Texas grill Cadillacs/threw me everything back" is like liquid. Press rewind. Oh, and Lun-dun!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Escape from Polygamy is Sexy, Stylish fun, who would have thought?!

Ryder and Julina in promo shot for film
Peasant shirts and prairie skirts. Floral-pattern Laura Ashley dresses. Blazers with Oxford shirts. Let's face it, a polygamist community is a more stylish version of the Amish. You'll see these things in the made-for-TV movie Escape from Polygamy BUT you'll also see sexy scenes that have no actual sex in them. You'll see exhilarating pop culture references and, you'll see a third act for the ages.

Polygamy is the story of two teens who fall in love and fight to escape a polygamist community ruled by an abusive leader. 

Jack Falahee. He with eyes like Jeremy Irons and a crooked smile that hints at darkness. He plays Ryder, the teenage son of a prophet in a polygamist community. He dresses in shirts unbuttoned to reveal his chest and kicks around in chukka boots. This is a 2013 movie, but I saw it after seeing his steamy turn in the new Shonda Rhimes hit "How to Get Away with Murder"; so watching him play the virginal Ryder feels like he's trying hard to repress the sex in his acting. On "Murder," Falahee speeds up heart beats as Connor Walsh, a gay and complex law student who's fully aware of his prettiness, letting his sex appeal vroom-vroom like a Ferrari. 

In peasant shirts and prairie skirts, comes Julina, a teenager who moves into the polygamist community with her mother. Yes, the same community where Ryder lives. Haley Lu Richardson plays Julina with a self-possession that quickly becomes the movie's independent core. She struts like the cool girl that she is, pairing prairie skirts with Chuck Taylor's. Her face gives me young Lauren Conrad minus the mean girl snake eyes. As pretty as she is, and as sassy as she is, Haley doesn't bring sex to her role. Ryder is very much the high school senior that dad doesn't want your freshman ass to date, but he's more stylish than jock-ish, with that trim and delicate body of his. There's a rebelliousness in his acting. At the end of the day, Ryder and Haley give me best friends, not Romeo & Juliet. 

The third act of Escape from Polygamy is the drop-a-house-on-you moment where a witch is killed by a house and a teenager arrives in a foreign land. In short, it's the Wizard of Oz moment of the movie, and Ryder plays Dorothy. Damon Hill's entertaining script never stalls, but it's in the third act that things explode with color. I won't say where Ryder goes to, but it feels like independence. A Katy Perry impersonator tries to dazzle Ryder with her bra made of whipped cream cans. In one shot, pink light illuminates Ryder's face.

 A young, pale and skinny man named Micah (Jake Weary), with a bouncy blond pompador, struts into the movie; Jake Weary manages to bring effortless sex to the role, but it's flashier than what Falahee gives to Ryder. He's wired and his eyes are crazy. It's also in those crazy eyes that you get to see that he's lost. Unexpectedly, he helps the film lead to a waterworks moment that will surprise you, but you didn't think you were that invested in the movie. You will get lost, and you'll feel like you had to escape from polygamy too. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bugs and Blondes with Cookies N Cream

Rayna Hecht goes blond.

Alicia Florrick is a real bitch. But she's a magnificent bitch. In Season 6, Episode 5 of The Good Wife, it's a game of Before and After, like that plastic surgeon ad that Andy Warhol made into museum art.

Alicia is a skinny lawyer with even skinnier Carol Burnett legs. But she wears designer suits. Alicia meets her Before in the courtroom: it's Jill Hennessy who used to be the medical examiner on Crossing Jordan. Jill plays a power lawyer named Rayna Hecht, whom Alicia was trying to woo for her own firm. Rayna used to have dark, shoulder-length hair, but now she wears an orange tan and long blond hair. She's a new woman trying on a new look. She even wears a scarf tied in a bow--around her long neck--to show how new she is.

It's a game of Before and After.

She's so Versace-esque. She's the Versace vision, that Rayna. That appealingly orange tan and that blond-with-dark-roots hair contrast would make Donatella Versace salivate.

Alicia Florrick is a real bitch. But she's a magnificent bitch.

Alicia's brand of bitchiness is the kind I like to buy: juicy and sweet, like, pulled pork and apple pie. She bears her straight, white teeth like a wolf. Before she was a wolf, she was a humiliated politician's wife…the good wife. Rayna is the Before, unsure, without Alicia's connections: the governor husband and the most powerful lawyers in Chicago. She's power-hungry despite ALL the power she possesses.

It's a game of Before and After. Alicia and Rayna both speak in firm, smoky altos, tailor-made for the rich and powerful, but Alicia has an army. She's the Governor's wife for Pete's sake. Rayna doesn't have all that power. 

Diane in cookies N cream dress.

All hail Queen Diane who tries her hand at being scream queen when she squeals at the sight of a cockroach. How perfect that a cockroach comes when Diane's wearing that delicious black-specked white sheath dress (with black short cardigan sweater). The dress looks like cookies N' cream AKA crumbled Oreo's in a sea of white chocolate. Mmm-mmm. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

De Palma's 'Passion' is full of Powder, Rouge and Coca-Cola

Christine and Isabelle laugh together.

Brian De Palma's film Passion definitely left me asking the question, "what could have been?" Interestingly, my first time seeing the film was in June 2013 at 11pm on my Macbook onYouTube. Trust, I was excited because I had been waiting since early 2012 to see Passion since they announced Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace were attached to star. Midway I fell asleep. Yes, I was a bit tired, but the movie is mostly boring with a lot of potential.

Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace play advertising executives Christine and Isabelle in Berlin, Germany who fight over a smart phone commercial, which finds them competing for dominance. It's worth saying that Passion is an English-language remake of Alain Corneau's French thriller Love Crime which starred Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as the dueling career women because that film made me mad hitting my spot for revenge. The reason it achieved this is because its structure is procedural, making it a tried and true exercise, while Passion is disjointed, but daring in some ways.

The problem is not that the female leads in Passion are the same age, and not having a 20-year age gap like in Love Crime, but that Rachel McAdams doesn't have someone to pose a threat to her high-powered boss. As the underling, Noomi Rapace is a blank canvas who exudes strength, while the only weapon McAdams's Christine has over Rapace is beauty. Rooney Mara would have been a great Isabelle, being only five years younger than McAdams, so there would be the slight age gap, which would add more tension. Also, Mara has a bitchy streak that would spice up the film's double-crosses, maybe even pushing McAdams to get meaner. McAdams's Christine is a high-ranking business woman in her early 30's with a pretty powder-and-rouge face who tries really hard to look elegant, but professional by wearing double-breasted suits, pants and tasteful knee-length dresses; to see the gradual transformation of Mara from awkward assistant in baggy suits to slinky haute couture would be breathtaking. Rapace rocks the pant suits, but she's not believable as competition for Christine.

Passion starts to get interesting after Christine dashes Isabelle's hopes of overtaking her by taking away Isabelle's man Dirk (who's also Christine's boyfriend played morosely by Paul Anderson), which causes Isabelle to crash her cute Euro car into the Coca-Cola vending machine: this crash summons a wobbly craziness that shakes up the movie's boring first half--which in a way mimics the boring atmosphere of the office place. It's when Isabelle starts popping pills and reality starts dissolving into dreams that you know you're in a Brian De Palma film.

McAdams's performance is one of the main strengths of Passion because she shows sympathy for her villainous character, which is hard to do. She's camps deliciously as if she's licking the last of some wonderful morsel from her lips, and hungry for more. De Palma's invasive close-ups reveal Christine's struggle to remain smiling and to swallow when she steals Isabelle's smart phone idea right in front of Isabelle. In a scene with McAdams in a bath tub talking on a smart phone (not smart!), she's looking on her computer at a photos of a new house in New York, which she plans to move to. Her large eyes are moist with a desperation and relief that she gets to leave Germany. This scene hints at this 33-year old woman's lack of roots: she has no family of her own, estranged from her parents (if you believe the story she tells Isabelle) and she has no appreciation for the concept of kids. All Christine has is professional success.

As the film wraps up, there's a Heathers-like concept of regeneration (cut off one head and another grows back): Isabelle's assistant Dani (the spunky Karoline Herfurth) makes the "best use" of Christine in a pitiful scene with Isabelle. It becomes clear after a dissolve from a close-up of Rapace's sad, calm face into an atmospheric funeral scene that Christine truly comes out on top. She's the ghost of every steely, power-hungry woman that came before; she's Bette Davis, she's Joan Crawford, she's Regina George. Although, I was never scared of her like I was of Kristin Scott Thomas as Christine in Love Crime.