A Most Violent Year (Review)

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Image via IMDb

I’ve been watching an inordinate amount of gangster flicks lately – The Godfather, American Gangster, Scarface. With A Most Violent Year (JC Chandor, 2014), it feels more like a would-be gangster movie: one in which Abel Morales (played by the gorgeous and always wonderful Oscar Isaac) does his best to meet his ambitions without succumbing to illegal activity.

In the special features of this movie, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain – who plays his wife Anna – talk about how fun it would be to work together again and I cannot agree more. The strength of this film is found in large part in their performance here. Their flawless engagement in their characters drive the plot forward and flesh it out upon the mere strength of their acting prowess.

Also, every outfit Jessica Chastain wears in this film out to be noted for future reference. The girl looks flawless.

A Little Black Dress for Every Season

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The LBD. An essential. A fashion staple. It’s so versatile, you can go from day to night by just slipping on a different pair of shoes. But how do you wear the little black dress from season to season?

Easy.

Here’s a little black slip dress that I have 2 of. And if you don’t have one of these, stop by your local Forever 21 and pick one up for $10 – or use any LBD you do have and check out these four ways to style your dress for every season.

SPRING

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For a spring look, break out a pair of adorable flats and a light, colorful sweater to take you through March, April, May. Don’t forget to accessorize with florals and wear some sweet perfume.

SUMMER

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My favorite season. No extra outfit pieces, with summer it’s all about the accessories. A couple of bangles and bracelets will do, exceptionally stylish platform sandals to accent the simple dress, nude lips, and a tote to carry your beach book.

FALL

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A jean jacket is the best accessory for when it’s kind of cold, but like not really cold. Add a black hair, a sturdy pair of combat boots, a simple scarf, and a pop of lip color to reflect the changing shades of leaves. And of course, your autumn-scented candles.

WINTER

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Winter is a fantastic time for fashion because of all of these LAYERS. Pull on some thick socks, a long-sleeve blouse, and a thick leather jacket to keep your warm. Go for some color in your footwear – perhaps this lovely plum/oxblood shade that corresponds perfectly with your lip color.

Once again, Polyvore is an amazing resource for mixing and matching looks. Check it out and make your own renditions of the LBD for every season.

#38: Do The Right Thing

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Image via IMDb

This. Movie. From the opening credits to that last shot and every scene in between, you cannot deny there is something distinct and innately artistic about the style of Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989.)

Set aside the quick, provocative, often hilarious dialogue or the chilling relevance this film holds to this day – it could be shown in theaters tomorrow and still hold no less resonance when juxtaposed within the current racial tensions of our time. This is a conversation that needs to be worked through, but I want to take a moment in this post to gush over the absolutely wonderful structure and style of the movie.

Every time a new shot came into play, I smiled at the low angle here, the Dutch angle there, the camera swipe from one character to another in a moment of back and forth dialogue. One of my favorite shots was a simple one: Sal and Mookie talking.

Shot from a high angle, it shows them deep in discussion. Mookie snatches a pizza box and slips out of frame. A few moments passes. Then, he’s back in the frame – a few more words are exchanged between the two and Mookie’s gone again: no cuts, no changes of angles, no fancy crane shots or anything. It’s simple, seamless, and wonderful.

It’s moments like this one that shows a level care, attention and a degree of freedom imbued into the very root of this film’s structure – one of many things to celebrate about Do The Right Thing.

#23: 12 Angry Men

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Image via IMDb

Some of my favorite films come from play adaptions (looking at you All About Eve) and when the final credits rolled on this particular movie, I immediately took 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet, 1957) down into my Top 10 favorite.

Why, you ask? It’s brilliant from head to toe. The concept alone gets me – 12 jurors whose verdict determines the life or death of an 18 year-old charged for patricide. 11 jurors think he’s guilty and only one (Henry Fonda, of course), votes not guilty.

Thus, this movie plunges into a legitimate thriller – heated conversations build, poignant plot points are skillfully revealed, and the entire movie takes place in the same location. Furthermore, it has that optimistic lilt of classic films, the idea of a hero who is truly a hero in every sense – no anti-heroic strings attached or built up dark past.

This film isn’t without moments that irked me – the title for one. I’d like to see 12 Angry People – get me some diversity here. But even this element surprised me. For a movie with twelve white men sitting at a table, the depth, range, and nuance for each character transcended the “type” you saw when they first took their seats.

Now, you take a seat, rent the movie, and have your mind blown.

Contemplations on Beauty

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My little sister, on the first day I got my camera.

Beauty is an odd thing, on that I’m sure we can all agree.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about physical beauty – the people we consider to be “beautiful.”

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My roommate Rachel, during one of our explorations to the Bradbury Building.

Beautiful people are the ones who stalk and slide across the glossy, perfumed pages of my monthly Vogue and Nylon magazines. They’re thin and stunning in that odd, almost otherworldly way. The clothes that hang upon them, the jewelry around their throats, and the purses they hold at the end of their fingers are all improved because of the beauty of the model, not the other way around.

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Image via Fashionista

But I don’t look like them. And I’ve been told countless times that I’m beautiful – my mother tells me, my friends tell me, random strangers on trains and sidewalks tell me.

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A picture of me taken by my friend Christina.

 

And I wonder, what do you say to people who tell you that you are beautiful? “Thank you” doesn’t seem like a fitting answer – it isn’t as a result of any effort of yours that you are considered lovely to someone.

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My sister took this photo of a dancer from our studio, putting on her headpiece for a performance of the Nutcracker.

And where does this disparity rise – between the beauty of “ordinary people” and the beauty of supermodels and starlets of the silver screen?

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My sister and her best friends in the middle of our photo shoot.

I know who decided what “beauty” was, where this American standard of beauty comes from. The dominant society through our country’s history determined countless times who was beautiful and who was not. And more often than not, people who looked like me – or people who didn’t look like an impossibly perfect Barbie doll – were determined to be in the latter category.

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A picture of my friend Eva, taken by my friend Christina.

I know that at the surface, I’m the same vain, judger of beauty as most of us. I see people and categorize them in pieces – she has lovely hair, he has gorgeous eyes, they have a great body.

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My cousin, while getting ready for her senior prom.

But I also know that in my experience, people become more beautiful the more you get to know them. You see them during those hidden moments – a kind word to someone they thought went unseen, the song they hum when they stand at the sink washing dishes, their little idiosyncrasies, the way their personal thoughts tumble out after being shaped in their mind.

People are beautiful.

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A polaroid of me and my best friends in high school. I mean, they’re still my best friends. And we are all beautiful.

Magic in the Moonlight (Review)

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Image via IMDb

There are plenty of 1920s representations on screen; so many of them shove that Roaring Twenties glimmer in your face – not so with Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen, 2014).

The upbeat music, gorgeous fashion (Aunt Vanessa’s staid beaded necklace being my favorite accessory), and glossy cars were felt, not forced. Beyond the time and place, what really stood out were the characters – primarily Emma Stone as the truly endearing American psychic and Colin Firth’s insistently disagreeable Stanley.

My favorite moments from the film came from these two characters’ time spent together and the natural back and forth in their dialogue. For other moments of dialogue ran too long for the most part – saying in far too many words which could’ve been done succinctly.

That being said, there’s something delightful in the camera work of this film: holding on a pair of characters as their interaction develops and changes. It’s a fine break from all of the quick cutting we see so often and allows characters time to really fill a scene with all of their wonderful idiosyncrasies.

Not on my list of films to see, but definitely enjoyable nonetheless – who wouldn’t enjoy Colin Firth, after all?