Cinema Toast

Courtly Couture~ The Fashion of Grace

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      Waking up Friday morning, one of my first thoughts was “William and Kate are married, now.” I didn’t watch the royal wedding live; I recorded it. The Today Show, however, played as I readied for my workday. My focus was on seeing the dress, and I suppose I’m not alone in this.

      I heard speculation that Catherine’s dress would be strapless, the same as practically every celebrity bride of the last decade has chosen. Though she’s always portrayed as a modern woman, I couldn’t imagine her going against the set guidelines of Westminster Abbey that require sleeves on bridal gowns.

      When I saw the shots of her in her gown and veil, my mind instantly jumped to Grace Kelly, before I heard anyone else make the comparison. The gown was so similar to Princess Grace’s wedding dress that I had to look twice. Cheers, Kate!

      Grace Kelly is, for me, THE fashion icon of film.

      I think of the red lace cocktail dress she wore in Dial M for Murder that symbolized her character’s adulterous past. I think about the simple day dress she wore in To Catch a Thief when she revealed her suspicions to Cary Grant. In High Noon, she had the elegant beauty to make a Quaker bonnet look attractive. In Rear Window, she dared to wear black and white at the height of Technicolor.

      In the evening gown department, Kelly is queen. From the white strapless chiffon gown in the fireworks scene to the gold lame costume from the ball, To Catch a Thief is a visual feast. Many of her other films, including High Society and The Swan, feature amazing gowns as well.

      A couple of the commentators on the royal wedding talked about how there would be knock-offs of Catherine’s dress within twenty-four hours. They seemed truly surprised by the fact that she chose the nod to the past rather than select a uniquely modern design. I’m glad. I enjoy retro couture. I think it sends subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) messages about the person or character wearing it.

      In the recent film, The Tourist, Angelina Jolie’s character wears a figure-flattering wardrobe that hearkens back to Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Sofia Loren. Her leather gloves indicate that she is efficient, calculating and perhaps hiding something. Her ivory dress with the peach chiffon sash reveals she’s a romantic. Her wool suit shows she’s a professional—professional what, nobody can be sure.

      Actor Zooey Deschanel is known for her musical and artistic talents, and her wardrobe reflects all of the playfulness and whimsy she embodies with her work. Her vintage fashion style is even profiled in a new cotton commercial. I love it.

      I expect that Princess Catherine’s wedding dress will influence fashion around the world, both in film and in our homes. I’m delighted she chose a design that both honored the past and laid groundwork for the future.

      That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!

Cinema Toast

Smacked in Terabithia (Spoiler Alert!)

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            I’m sitting in a dark theatre, watching Bridge to Terabithia, enjoying a pleasant afternoon with friends. It was the scene where Jess comes home from the outing with Ms. Edmunds and learns that his best friend, Leslie, has just drowned in the nearby river.

            Tears rolled down my cheeks, and then BAM! I got smacked on the side of my leg by my best friend.

            “Why didn’t you tell me the little girl dies?”

            “I didn’t know,” I replied, rubbing my leg.

            She thought that I had read the book, but I hadn’t. She apologized, and I now have one free pass to smack her when I feel the urge.

            Now in this situation, I didn’t have an option, but I sometimes wonder when it is right to give someone a “heads up” about what happens in a movie. My general rule is that I NEVER tell what happens next, mostly because I’m a big believer in the Golden Rule. I HATE to be told what happens. (I even hesitate to spoil Terabithia—but for this piece, it’s necessary.) I even get a little disappointed if I figure out a plot twist too early in a story. I enjoy a challenge.

            Of course, there are exceptions. I wouldn’t knowingly advise someone who is dealing with a family tragedy to watch a film that could cause more pain or grief.

            Discussing this with others, though, I am shocked to find out how many people actually WANT to know. There is a whole society of folk who peek at the last page of their books before they start to read! Can you believe it? Maybe you’re one of them. It’s okay. I’ll still love you.

            I almost understand it. So many stresses these days make life hard. Stories are our escape. We want happy endings. When times are tough we need happy endings.

            I would guess that most of us want to be surprised. I’ve seen the tee-shirts printed with “Don’t Tell Me! I Recorded It!”

            I take spoiler alerts seriously, but I also have to consider a good smack in the leg. I know now that a few of you out there enjoy a story better knowing that the rug won’t be pulled from beneath your feet.

            And don’t worry, I already warned my best friend about Old Yeller.

Cinema Toast

The Innocent and the Ignorant

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She stepped backward, out of the blue-white beams of the headlights and into the shadows. She slipped off her three inch stilettos and prepared to run.

Writers face a challenging task of telling a story as quickly and precisely as possible, getting you right into the action and never letting you go. We must grab your attention right away and hold it, so that you are not tempted to check your twitter feed or Facebook page or even change the channel. Good writers make you worry, laugh, cry, grit your teeth, and really care.

Gone are the days when the first twenty minutes of film explained why the family has to move from their home in the city out to the little run-down farm. We don’t have the time or the patience to learn about how the boy’s traumatic childhood influenced him to become a psycho-killer.

We have absolutely no time to waste while the writer explains DNA test procedures or how an electromagnetic pulse works. We want to see results. We want action! However, we need to know that stuff sometimes, in order to understand why the hero knows where the bad guys will be next. That’s why we need innocent or ignorant characters in our stories.

A great writer provides a character that does not have the vital information necessary, and then allows another “wiser” character to give them the answers, without documentary dissertation.

Yoda explains to Luke, along with us, the mysteries of the Force. Q demonstrates his newest gadget to James Bond, who immediately shows us what will happen if said spy tool is misused. Atticus takes a quiet moment with Scout to let us know how the world turns, for better or worse.

Still not sure what I mean? Take an hour and watch NCIS. It’s fast paced and action-packed, but the writers care enough to involve the audience and keep us in the loop. We all know that a team of well-trained special agents in the government’s employ would not sit around their desks and explain procedures to each other. It would be ridiculous.

Enter the character of Ziva David—a former Mossad agent, still learning the American culture, idioms, and colloquialisms, as well as the basic law enforcement terms and abbreviations. Speaking of a suspect, she says something like, “He’s on the goat, no—the sheep.”

DiNozzo responds, “I think you mean ‘He’s on the lam.’ There’s no ‘b’ in that, by the way.”

Now she knows something, and so do we.

NCIS uses this strategy to make the story more realistic and to educate. While no fan would ever call Ziva innocent or ignorant, for this specific purpose, she is. Ziva isn’t the only innocent in the show, either. Practically every member of the team has a tidbit they share about their own specialty that allows the audience to feel “in.”

The method engages without boring or talking down to us. We’re a part of the team, now. It’s just good writing. It’s probably why NCIS is so highly rated each week.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!