10 Feb 2016

Widescreen’s best of the web (10 February)

From Widescreen, 11:23 am on 10 February 2016

Our pick of the best* and most interesting screen-related articles and features from around the web.

Wellington-born and bred costume designer Kate Hawley inexplicably missed out on an Academy Award nomination for her work on Crimson Peak but has a new film coming out here on 4 August – the dark DC comic book adaptation Suicide Squad starring Will Smith among many others. In this article for the Toronto International Film Festival site, textile artist Urs Dierker (who worked on the film) talks about getting your costumes dirty to make them believable:

Will Smith as Deadshot in a costume designed by Kate Hawley for David Ayer‘s Suicide Squad

Will Smith as Deadshot in a costume designed by Kate Hawley for David Ayer‘s Suicide Squad Photo: Warner Bros

The aging of costumes — the process of giving a new garment its history — is an art of its own, done by skilled people in the costume department usually referred to as breakdown artists, textile artists and dyers. These people dye, paint, airbrush, silkscreen, distress, hand sew and embroider on cloth and clothing, turning them into aged and broken-down costumes to be used on camera. 

There are many different uses of dirt on film costumes and how, where and when dirt is applied to a costume remains closely attached to the script and interpretations of the character. Many people with different responsibilities are involved in creating the look for a character.

Back and forth, the producer, director, actor, costume designer, cutter, sewer, milliners, dyers and textile artists communicate their ideas and many, many hours of handwork and artistry are dedicated to creating the right look for the costume. Making a costume involves many hands, and a hero’s costume is never alone. Multiple versions of the costume are made for the actor, his double, the stunt man or woman as a film is never shot linearly but with great concern about continuity.


The rise and rise of the franchise has Nicholas Barber in the Guardian asking whether we have seen the end of endings. Using SWEXIITFA, Creed, Batman v Superman, Independence Day: Resurgence and all those Marvel Universe™ pictures as examples he suggests popular storytelling might never be as satisfying again. Exhibity A, what has happened to the happy ending of The Return of the Jedi:

But The Force Awakens renders all that null and void. The galaxy it presents is one where the planet-smashing conflict is still rolling along and where the bad guys are as powerful as ever. In other words, Luke Skywalker and his pals achieved precisely nothing. Thanks to JJ Abrams, the happy ending of The Return of the Jedi is now neither happy nor an ending.

(NB: Lots of spoilers.)


The release in the US (not until 3 March here in NZ) of The Coen’s new Hail, Caesar! has prompted a string of online articles ranking their career – with The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty suffering the most. Of course, because it is the internet, there has to be a backlash but we can thank Gabriel Roth at Slate for explaining why their careers are so eminently rankable in the first place:

(6) Beyond these recurrent obsessions and motifs, though, what’s really consistent from film to film is the Coens’ artistic voice. They keep their protagonists, even the most sympathetic ones, at a remove from the audience. Their jokes never quite grant the relief of a belly laugh. Their comedies are tense; their thrillers hover on the verge of farce; even their most picaresque movies are intricately organized. (We know exactly how much money Llewyn Davis has on him at any moment.)

This unifying spirit is the real key to the rankability of the Coen canon. If you try to rank the films of Steven Spielberg, you find yourself trying to compare, say, Schindler’s List and Raiders of the Lost Ark, at which point you have to throw up your hands: These are movies that do different jobs using different tools. Whereas the Coens are always using the same meticulously honed tools to do the same strange job. 


One of Widescreen’s favourite reviewers, A.O. Scott of the NY Times, has written a book called Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth and is on the road promoting it. One of the best bits of coverage is this interview with Scott in the Columbia Journalism Review (by Danny Funt):

When Samuel L. Jackson famously tweeted at me after The Avengers, “Let’s go find A.O. Scott a job he can actually do,” I had already started early work on the book, but I thought, What is my job? and also, What does this job in a certain way represent that everyone is doing? There’s this sense of enormous abundance: a thousand movies come out every year, a million hours of television are produced, there’s more music than anyone could ever listen to, and I don’t even know how you count the number of books that are out there. The question is, how do you deal with that? How do you find meaning and sustenance and pleasure and art and all of the things that you want from these things? I thought that exploring the role of the critic and the nature of criticism would be a way to think about that. That’s kind of the urgency or the presentness of the book: How do we find some kind of equilibrium, some way of not just drowning in it or hiding from it? 

These are questions that exercise Widescreen often and we can’t wait to get the book itself in our hands.


[*May not be the actual best. We haven't read the entire internet.]