She SAID: Haute for Star Wars

Shahada Karim

Chanel Haute Couture is making a statement for Spring and Summer that is literally out of this world. Channeling hair and makeup from a galaxy far far away, models for the brand’s latest show looked every bit the intergalactic socialite. chanelhaute

The hair was severely parted down the center, and then rolled up and over along the nape and both sides of the neck. But from the front, the style was a dead ringer for the proverbialchanel haute 1 Princess Leia, circa 1977.

And if ever you doubted the iconic movie’s influence, the makeup followed suit. Models sported severe black lines above and below their eyes, as the only haute marks on an otherwise neutralized face.

The message for the entire show was decidedly zen; it took place in a massive zen garden space with wooden and grassy accents. Decorations on the clothing followed suit (wood chips can be found in the beading). And despite calls for an eco-concious show that highlighted all that is nurturing and kind of our Earth, the influential markings of an imagination beyond our atmosphere were definitely present.

The neutralized elegance for Spring/Summer fashion is a welcome change from the typical chiffons, florals, pastels and the like. And even without the severe lines across the eyes, the makeup can easily be taken from runway to reality with a flick of a liner pen, a flush of cream color on the cheeks, and a flesh colored lip balm.

We SAID: Smells like History

Staff Writer

We’ve all caught a whiff of … something… that’s transported us back to a particular time (hopefully pleasant) in our past. Scent is inexplicably tied to memory; some more significant than others. The same is true for music ( you know that song that reminds you of that time). The folks at Histoires de Parfums have capitalized on this notion with a remarkable collection of perfumes that celebrate significant moments in music history.

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From 1821 to 1936, each perfume in the Opera Collection comes encased in a music box, to pay homage to the title roles of five great spectacles. The scents evoke a certain feeling for the wearer, like the forbidden sensuality of Carmen or the delicate innocence of Madame Butterfly.

The Opera Collection is the extravagant branch of the brand’s regular line. Now easily accessible online at Sephora, the standard lineup features fragrances that pay homage to historic figures like the Marquis de Sade and Mata Hari. If you’re not up for a scent or history lesson, there’s Noir Patchouli: a sensuous blend that gives its counterparts a serious run for their money. And the best of the bunch may be Ambre 114, which contains the same number of ingredients all centered around the aroma of amber.

Some of the fragrances are distinctly masculine or feminine in the traditional sense, but most of them can easily be experienced across the board. And they can also be layered to create a distinct fragrance so you can make a little history of your own.

 

He SAID: Deconstructing Tarantino

Scott F. Evans

Quentin Tarantino is not a racist.

He can’t be.

Just glancing at his filmography provides factual evidence proving this. Of course, he’s been called a racist for much of his career. There have been (literally) hundreds of articles, think pieces and forum postings making this accusation. On the surface, that may be an understandable claim. The director does spread the N-word liberally throughout many of his scripts. But looking beyond the surface, it’s fairly easy to disprove that allegation.

Hang on, we’ll get there.

With the recent release of his new film, The Hateful Eight, Tarantino is also being accused of misogyny. This is also a surface level observation and easily disproved. To be clear, I haven’t interviewed Quentin Tarantino. I don’t know him personally and can offer no anecdotal evidence to back up my thesis. What I can offer is physical evidence backed up by logic and something of an understanding of how the Hollywood system works.

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Tarantino hit the scene with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, a crime thriller about a group of hardened thieves and the undercover cop who has infiltrated the gang. Right of the bat, all of the main characters are white with Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi as our de facto leads. The N-word gets dropped early on during casual conversation amongst these characters who also happen to be lowlife killers. Is there any doubt that a group of men who would shoot up a jewelry store during a robbery would also be, surprise, surprise, racists? There’s only two good guys in this film. One is the undercover cop Mr. Orange played by Tim Roth and the other is his commanding officer Holdaway, played by black actor Randy Brooks. Now if Tarantino was in fact a racist, why even bother casting a black actor in this role? By 1992, Brooks had had a long career stretching back to the mid 1970’s. He’s a strong actor, but not a marquee name and therefore of little value to potential financers (that was Keitel’s function). Holdaway is a small but pivotal part, helping Orange perfect his undercover role. If Tarantino’s a racist, why not just cast a white actor as Holdaway?

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The writer/director follows Reservoir Dogs with 1994’s Pulp Fiction, another convoluted crime film with an ensemble cast of memorable characters who also happen to be criminals. The closest you’ll get to a “good guy” in this film is the boxer Butch played by Bruce Willis. But that’s even questionable as he kills his opponent in the ring. Of all of Tarantino’s films, this one may have the most egregious use of the N-word. There’s no real context for it here as it gets casually tossed around by white and black characters alike. But maybe that casualness is the underlying point. By the mid-nineties, the word had become normalized in nearly all forms of black popular culture. One could argue that perhaps Jules, Marcellus, Jimmy and Lance were just a reflection of the casualness that may have been a direct result of hip hop’s (with it’s over reliance of the term) acceptance into the mainstream. Or more likely Tarantino just likes the way it sounds coming out of his characters mouths. He is indeed in love with the word, but no more than any of our most popular rappers who export the N-word all over the globe. But here’s where it gets complicated. Pulp Fiction may be an ensemble film, but Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winfield is the only character here who gets a real arc. Even though John Travolta’s Vince Vega may get more screen time, he’s the same from the beginning to his brutal end in Butch’s toilet. The counter argument is that Ving Rhames’ Marcellus Wallace gets raped by an insane redneck. Tarantino emasculates the largest, strongest black man in the film. True, however, Wallace gets his revenge and one of the most oft-quoted lines in the film. Wallace is a feared crime figure in Pulp Fiction. Even though he’s not in many scenes, his presence looms over every vignette. By having this powerful, fearsome character get raped by the smaller, weaker, poorer rent-a-cop Zed, played by Peter Greene, Tarantino is making a statement about white supremacy. No matter how physically and financially imposing a black man may be in America, all it takes is one mistake, one wrong turn and a white man – rungs below on the socio-economic ladder – can take it all away. As it is Butch, his former enemy, that saves Wallace, Tarantino also seems to be saying something about whites and blacks putting aside past differences to overcome common obstacles. Not really typical racist rhetoric, huh?

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Tarantino returns in 1997 with Jackie Brown, the film that single-handedly disproves the claims of racism and misogyny. Adapted from the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch, Tarantino changed the lead character’s last name, and more importantly, race for his film. In the book, Jackie is a middle aged white woman. In the film, she’s changed to not only to a black woman, but Pam Grier is cast in the role. Jackie is no victim either. She’s strong, smart and always one step ahead of every other character in this film. Jackson returns here as chief villain Ordell Robie. Is the N-word present? Absolutely. Is it necessary? No. But neither was switching the lead’s ethnicity. Pam Grier was huge in the ‘70’s but her career had slowed to a crawl since the end of that era. By ’97, she was almost the answer to a trivia question. Tarantino took a huge gamble by casting her as his lead.

What racist does that?

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In 2003 and 2004, Tarantino presents his Kill Bill duology. Neither of these films feature any major black characters. However, in part one Vivica A. Fox, as Vernita Green, gets into a brutal, show stopping fight scene with lead Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo. In part two, Tarantino manages to slide a fun little part in for Jackson as Rufus, a musician. These are small and inoffensive parts. Green may be one of Fox’s most memorable roles. She handles the fight scene like an expert. I would think that a racist wouldn’t even bother casting black in either of these roles.

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Death Proof comes out in 2007. Like Jackie Brown, it flies in the face of the idea that the director is somehow both a racist and misogynist. Death Proof is, for the most part, an ensemble piece with Zoe Bell as the de facto lead. Kurt Russel plays the vile, homicidal Stuntman Mike. The rest of the cast is populated primarily by women of various races with three of them being black. Sydney Tamiia Poitier plays DJ Jungle Julia, Rosario Dawson plays Abernathy Ross and Tracie Thoms almost walks away with the movie as stuntwoman Kim Mathis. The foul mouthed Mathis drops gratuitous N-bombs throughout and it does grate on the viewers nerves. But again, she’s one of the leads, which seems the exact opposite of something a racist would typically do.

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The WWII action drama Inglorious Basterds is released in 2009. Like Reservoir Dogs, it’s his least diverse film to date, but given the time period and location, a mostly white cast is expected. But Tarantino does something no die hard racist would ever do. He cast Jacky Ido, a black actor of French descent, as Marcel, the lead character Shosanna’s lover. Again, this is mostly a bit part, but why even bother casting a black man in this role if the director was, indeed a racist?

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Django Unchained is released in 2012. This controversial, R-rated Antebellum South set western allegedly holds a record for how many times the N-word is used in a screenplay. Here’s where looking deeper than the surface comes in handy. Yes, the word nigger is racist. But this film is filled with racist characters and set in a harshly racist environment. Sure, he could’ve softened it for our racially sensitive ears, but that would be dishonest, particularly considering the amount of violence on display throughout. It’s a tough film to watch and hear. And that’s kind of the point. There’s an abundance of humor in Django Unchained, but Tarantino pulls no punches with his depiction of slavery and racist ideology. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable. You’re supposed to get mad at the Southern gentlemen who refer to all black people as niggers. They’re villains and therefore designed to be hated.

With a budget of over 100 million dollars, Django Unchained was Quentin Tarantino’s largest film to date. Not only did he gamble with his career, he spent a huge chunk of The Weinstein Company’s money on a film with a strong, proactive black lead. Jamie Foxx’s Django Freeman is part of a long line of laconic gunslingers. He’s nearly superhuman with a revolver, exacting ferocious, bloody vengeance on his enemies…most of them white. He’s also one of the few black action characters in recent history that is married to a black woman, Brunhilde, played by Kerry Washington. Since the 1980’s most black action heroes have been rendered asexual, rarely given love interests and even more infrequently, love interests who share a racial heritage with them. They never “get the girl”. Django breaks that chain. It’s a shame that it took a white guy to create such an iconic black character as Django Freeman.

But is it racist?

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Finally, we get to The Hateful Eight. Like his earlier work, there’s nary a hero among them. Brutes, thieves, murderers, and yes, racists, “nigger” flies out of these characters’ mouths with alarming frequency. Which, like Django Unchained, is exactly the point. But The Hateful Eight’s lead character is not only a black bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren, but he’s also the smartest, most perceptive character in the film. He’s no good guy in the traditional sense. No, Warren is complicated. Deeply emotionally scarred by his past as a slave, then as a trooper serving with the Union in the Civil War and then as a bounty hunter, Samuel L. Jackson is perfect in the role.

Some critics have now begun accusing Tarantino of misogyny due to the harsh treatment of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character of Daisy Domergue. This is not only short-sighted but also seems to suggest that they weren’t paying attention to the film. She’s punched, and knocked around throughout the film’s nearly three hour run time. To say she’s treated poorly is an understatement. We cringe at the amount of violence heaped upon this woman. But Domergue’s a vile savage who just happens to be a woman. Tarantino seems to be playing with our perceptions because if it were Donald Domergue and played by a male actor, we wouldn’t bat an eye. On the contrary, we’d cheer every time this miscreant took a shot to the face. But Daisy is a strong character and serves as the film’s focal point of villainy. She takes the punishment, laughing and spitting at her captors even as she plots her revenge.

The Hateful Eight presents us with an unflinching, gutsy meditation on race relations, oppression and the price of revenge. But despite the film’s cruelty, it’s also one of Tarantino’s most hopeful messages yet. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s definitely not something a racist would present.

I’ll close with a few words about a film that Tarantino never made. After Django Unchained, he mentioned a desire to do another WWII film called Killer Crow. It was to be about a band of black soldiers who get severely mistreated by their white superior officers and go on a mission of revenge across Europe into Switzerland.

What racist comes up ideas like this?

 

 

 

He SAID: Reel in The Revenant

Scott F. Evans

Alejandro Inirratu’s The Revenant is a remarkable technical achievement and a master class in visual filmmaking. You won’t find a more gorgeously shot film this season. Inirratu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki took up the challenge of shooting only in natural light, and were able to craft some truly stunning images. Also at play are the director’s signature long takes and inventive camerawork. The Revenant is definitively beautiful with an epic two and a half hour run-time.

revenant 1Inirratu gets strong performances from his two leads. As frontier tracker Hugh Glass, Leonardo DiCaprio turns in the most intensely physical work of his career. Glass is the archetypical frontiersman; laconic, highly skilled, and fiercely motivated. DiCaprio completely commits to what ends up being an endurance test. You can feel him fighting for that Best Actor Oscar. He’s great, but miscast in a role that required an actor with more physical weight. Tom Hardy fared a little better. Even hidden under a heavy beard, and another near unintelligible accent (Batman’s Bane and Legend’s Ronald Kray were apparently practice runs) , Tom Hardy is still solid as the film’s antagonist John Fitzgerald.

I don’t have much else to say about The Revenant. The story itself is a fairly simple revenge yarn. Cut down to a more reasonable 90 to 100 minutes, The Revenant would’ve been a masterpiece of lean muscular cinema. As is, it’s bloated despite masterful direction and excellent performances from the entire cast. The film strains for profundity against the narrative’s thin plot. It contains scene after lengthy scene of hallucinations and dream sequences, none of which really amount to much considering The Revenant’s pulpy core of survival and vengeance.

Honestly, it’s challenging to sit through a film that’s so smug and impressed with itself but has so little to say. By the time we get to the inevitable showdown, you realize that Inirratu could have done us the favor of leaving half of what preceded on the cutting room floor.

The visuals alone are worth seeing on a large screen, so if you’re up for the challenge, catch it if you can.

RATING: Matinee

Making Resolutions vs. Making Space

Shahada Karim

It’s that time of year, when the gyms look less like a place to wgym memeork out and more like a stadium on Superbowl Sunday. Millions of people will pack into fitness centers, gyms and yoga studios across the country in hopes of fulfilling that age-old resolution to lose weight. Millions more will make impractical plans to save money to the detriment of their daily lives and happiness. And so it goes.

The start of the year means a start to a renewed effort to promise to do all the things that we think will make us better, and (more interestingly) make people perceive us as better… thinner… more healthy, ect. If millions of people make resolutions every year, millions more make the same resolutions they did the year before and the year before that with the hopes that this time, maybe it’ll be different.

Be reminded of the popular definition of insanity.

There is a reason that resolutions don’t typically work. Often, resolutions are massive wishes without a practical plan to achieve them. And sometimes, resolutions are simply clutter. If you think of each resolution as a box in a room… the more you make, the more space it takes up. And the more years you make the same resolution, the longer that box sits in that place taking up space and gathering dust and serving no purpose other than to remind you of the thing you have not done yet.

The other edge to that blade is that sometimes resolutions can become crutches. If you make the same resolutions, they may prevent you from moving ahead until you feel you’ve achieved them first. For example, maybe you can’t vacation somewhere tropical because you can’t wear a bikini because you haven’t fulfilled the resolution to lose weight. How much are your resolutions holding you back from growing and experiencing new things? If you’re hanging onto a resolution it might be time to ask yourself why, and maybe have the courage to let it go.

Instead of making resolutions, I propose making space. Instead of cluttering the room with more boxes and rearranging existing boxes, work to clear them away. Clearance does not mean giving up; instead it asks you to humble yourself to the idea of opening up to another way. Think about it: can you clearly think in a cluttered room? Can you find pleasure in getting dressed from an overcrowded and cluttered closet?

It is through making space that we find new pathways and see more clearly ahead to an idea that might not have occurred to us otherwise. And as you make space, use it to outline specific plans and make small achievable goals. Accomplishing a small goal gives us a sense of accomplishment andmoney helps us to reach higher and further to the next goal. If the resolution is losing weight, maybe the goal is going to the gym once a week for two weeks, then twice a week for two weeks, then three times… and so on. If the resolution is saving money, maybe the goal is $10 in an automatically debited savings plan every week for one month, then $25, then $50 and so on. Consistency builds habits, and habits lead to lifestyle changes that last longer than any resolution ever has.

Resolutions are not necessarily bad things. But if you find yourself making more resolutions than achieving them, it may be time to try making space instead.