Sunday, November 18, 2012

This Weekend I Geeked-Out. A Lot.

Yesterday...yesterday was an awesome day. I met up with Christa and the two of us went to the Victoria and Albert museum. Besides checking out all of their free exhibits (basically comprised of sculptures and artifacts from all over the world and various periods of history), we also went to their Hollywood Costumes exhibit. Now, if you  know me, you know I love movies. And that's putting it mildly. Now imagine going to a place where they displayed some of the most recognizable costumes from some of the greatest movies from the past century of movie making. It was like dying and going to movie buff heaven! I originally wanted to go because I'd heard that two of Scarlet O'Hara's gown from Gone with the Wind had been restored - one being her curtain-dress - and I wanted to see them before they returned to the US home. Turns out, there was so, so much more to see than just Scarlet's restored gowns!

Now, since photography was not allowed within the exhibit, I had to rip these photos from the exhibit's web page but, still, you get the idea.

The costumes for the entire  Addams family (minus Fester and Ma) from the 90s movie - even baby Pubert despite his airtime totally about ten minutes in the second film. Morticia's dresses in particular were pretty great - there were two, one detailed with spiders, the other with bats. I especially love how the costume designer was quoted as saying she went about designing their costumes with the idea that they were the aristocratic rich; they wore expensive fabrics and exquisite cuts that came together in positively beautiful clothes. They set their own standards and did it in such a way that made it clear that they were normal and it was the rest of the world that was weird. 
The first rule of Fight Club? You do NOT talk about Fight Club! Unless it's the clothes you're interested in. Then you're free to go to town. Imagine having one person, character, being played by two different actors who each embody very, very different personalities. Ed Norton's costumes were kept in greys and whites, more often than not a suit or a demure ensemble of another sort, Brad Pitt's in bright, vivid colours and mismatched thrift store finds. Not easy wardrobes to put together, but clearly someone managed. (You can see Fight Club's costume on the far right of both above photographs).
Several period gowns were on display from various movies, several of them worn for portrayals of   Elizabeth I and Marie Antoinette. I loved reading about how the designers were challenged to incorporate historical fact, including in some case replicating gowns seen worn in portraits and such, while give each unique portrayals its own fresh designs and wardrobes. In some instances, even the fabric itself was chosen for a particular purpose, such as effecting a certain type of fall in the skirt. When it comes to period costumes such as these I personally think it's one of the times when the clothes really do make the character - face it, Mary, Queen of Scots just wouldn't be the same in jeans and a t-shirt anymore than Trinity (The Matrix) would suit the ballgown scene.

 A mismatch of leading ladies including: Audrey Hepburn from both My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany's (that's right - I saw Holly Golightly's little black dress!), Nicole Kidman's stage outfit from Moulin Rouge, the clothes both Jack and young Rose wore when they first appeared in Titanic, one of Kiera Knightley's dressed from Atonement, Dorothy's gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz, Sharon Stone's Basic Instinct interrogation ensemble, and both Cruella De Vil's "good" suit and "bad" suit from 102 Dalmatians.
 There was one big platform divided in two - one half focused on various costumes donned by Robert De Nero in some of his more iconic roles (Casino, Frankenstein, Taxi Driver), the other half on costumes worn by Meryl Streep throughout her career (Momma Mia! A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Iron Lady). Great contrast!
 See, now this was basically the part where Heaven surpassed its own standards. Not only did I see the costumes worn by Dracula (Gary Oldman) and Mina (Winona Rider) in Bram Stoker's Dracula, the Bride's track suit from Kill Bill (they washed the blood out apparently), Neo's I'm-the-One ensemble that he wore while rescuing Morpheus in The Matrix, and Christopher's Reeves' Superman costume but I also saw Jack Sparrow's clothes from On Strange Tides - who is only one of my all time favourite movie characters of all time. I had more posters of Jack plastered across my bedroom walls than I'm willing to admit - and there were his clothes within touching distance. Only way that could've been better was if Johnny Depp had been in them! Incidentally, they had another of Johnny Depp's costumes - the suit he wore as Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street coupled with commentary from the designer and Tim Burton himself in another corner of the exhibit.

And FYI: directly across from Jack Sparrow, set up high on its own shelf, was the Batman suit from The Dark Knight Rises. I think my brain actually stalled for a moment in awe when I first caught sight of it.
You know what's fun about exhibits like this? Even with a crush of people standing between me and the information blurbs, I still recognized each piece. These pieces included: Maximus' armour from The Gladiator (with a blurb explaining the tribulations the designer went through trying to maintain some level of historical accuracy while dealing with the realities of putting Russel Crowe in a Roman tunic), Charlton Heston's robes from his turn in Ben-Hur as the titular character, one of John Wayne's cowboy getups (apparently, the key to a good cowboy outfit is having the right boots, hat and Levi's - the in-between is irrelevant - incidentally, the cowboy and rancher costumes worn by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively in Brokeback Mountain were also on display), and Mattie Ross's outfit from True Grit (her character mixes a few of her own pieces with those of her deceased father to come up with something more appropriate for Old West law-man tag-along). Best of all? Darth Vader. His whole costume was leather save for his helmet and chest apparatus which the prop department put together. Both were made from plastic and the helmet is actually a series of pieces to allow the actor to remove specific section. SQUEE!
Hands down one of the most iconic characters of black and white - not to mention silent - films, Charlie Chaplin apparently put the costume of the Little Tramp together himself on the way to the audition - the mustache he wears was to make himself appear older.
 Han Solo (Harrison Ford - called the "passionate hero" - unlike Luke, he does what he does for selfish reasons and his own self-interests and his clothes reflect his lifestyle), James Bond (Daniel Craig, Casino Royale - there was a build-up in the movie to the point where Bond dons his signature tuxedo, his outfits prior to that moment seeing him in more casual and course ensembles), Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, T3: Rise of the Machines - I saw this and thought "My brother's going to flip" - he's a huge fan of the Terminator series and in each film, the Terminator's acquisition of his clothes is his first scene - these still had the bullet holes in them!) and Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty - apparently, in keeping in the tradition of the comics, which was drawn using only five colours, the 1990 movie only featured ten different colours - and each colour was only ever shown in one shade throughout - hence the yellow trench coat) - need I say more?

In the background, you can see Bruce Willis' blood stained clothes from the first Die Hard movie (one of my dad's favourite - probably second only to Die Hard with a Vengeance - I've only seen both so many times I've got them memorized start to finish), Will Smith's pilot jumper from Independence Day, and Tom Hanks' army fatigues from Saving Private Ryan.
This was the last splash of costumes with only one more costume out of frame. Austin Powers, The Blues Brothers, Borat Saturday Night Fever's Tony Manero, and Legally Blonde 2's ElleWoods were all represented and not only did they have the gown Kate Hudson's character, Andie, wears towards the end of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, they had her necklace - a diamond necklace with a yellow sapphire.
This was actually on the wall - it's the costume worn by Tobey McGuire in Spider-Man. According to the blurb, the designer wanted the costume to be at least somewhat believable as something a seventeen year old boy could patch together in his bedroom. On that point, I feel it was a total failure - nothing about this  costume seems remotely plausible as being created by a high school science nerd with an interest in photography - was that something he picked up from the spider bite along with the web-slinging and reflexes? That being said, it was still an awesome costume.
I love The Wizard of Oz. I love the Munchkins, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. I love Dorothy and Toto and the Wizard. I love Munchkinland, the Yellow Brick Road, and the Emerald City. I even love the Wicked Witch of the West, although I find Glenda a total manipulative bitch, and the sepia-toned beginning and end. The story is one I've always wished I could experience for myself - being carried off to a magical land, going on an adventure, meeting new friends, defeating evil witches - what's not to love about all that? And anyone who's even heard  about The Wizard of Oz, knows about the Ruby Slippers. Formerly belonging to the Wicked Witch of the East, the shoes transfer to Dorothy's feet after she drop a house on the witch and are ultimately responsible both for setting the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy and for getting her home again in the end. Their home for the last couple of decades has been the Smithsonian in Washington DC, so when I saw Dorothy's gingham dress with bright and shiny replica shoes, I thought that would be the end of it. But then I turned and saw these puppies - the original shoes worn by Judy Garland as she skipped down the yellow brick road, the same shoes she clicked together three times to bring her home again. I had no idea the ruby-like facets were achieved by dozens upon dozens of sequins. I may have teared up just a little. This was...this was even better than seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. Almost as good as walking the Coliseum in Rome. Made my day, my week, my month - possibly my 2012.

And on a shelf right above these shoes, worn by a mannequin laying on its stomach in her classic come hither pose, was Catwoman's costume from Tim Burton's Batman Returns, its seams ripped and torn as they had been at the film's end just after Penguin's failed murder attempt.

Like I said, Heaven.

You can read an article giving more depth on the exhibit here. I'll post another update soon about the work week. Until next time, my freaking darlings.

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