Thursday, July 25, 2013

Film #13: Damsels in Distress

  For those not familiar with the entire filmography of Fred Astaire, "Damsels in Distress is named after his 1937 musical film "A Damsel in Distress." Therefore it is no surprise that our protagonist Violet (played by Greta Gerwig) is obsessed with dance. Her self-proclaimed goal in life is to start an international dance craze in the vein of the Twist or the Charleston. She and her group of friends work at their private university's suicide prevention center, teaching tap dance therapy with the help of a boy nicknamed Freak Astaire. Their other charitable acts include dating idiotic Roman fraternity members and educating them about personal hygiene. The pairing of intelligent, determined but snooty girls with hapless unintelligent boys reminds me of Wodehouse (which makes sense because "A Damsel in Distress" is based on a Wodehouse book). The two events that spurt the bulk of the film's action are a) a new girl joins Violet's group, b) Violet's boyfriend breaks up with her. 

  The costumes are excellent. According to Kirsten Blomberg, one of the film's two costume designers, she was inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Indeed Violet's ensembles are very 1950s inspired with feminine full skirted silhouettes and little scarves tied at the neck. Her right hand woman, Rose dresses similarly. Another group member, Heather dresses more modernly, but still with a similar aesthetic. Lily, the new girl, dresses completely unlike them. She is always in jeans, something none of the other girls seldom if ever wear.

 (These pictures are mostly from the other costume designer that worked on "Damsels in Distress," Ciera Wells' website.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The best argument I can make for why you should #savethehour

  Hello, my name is Amanda and I am a period television series junkie. Today I am here to tell you why BBC's cancelled television show "The Hour," is superior to any other period television show I have ever seen and in general, just the tops. I am explaining as adequately as I can why it needs to continue or at least be properly resolved.

1) It is not soapy. "Downtown Abbey," I love you, but when your plot lines begin to sound like something out of a bad romance novel or a telenovela you've gone too far.
2) It is not extensively sexist or racist. Yes, I understand the importance of showing viewers a less idealized more realistic portrayal of the past, but after awhile I grow tired of listening to the sexist and racist jibes in "Mad Men." 
3) It is well acted. It has Ben Whishaw in it. Need I say more? Also Romola Garai, Dominic West, and just about everyone else are excellent. 
4) The costumes are beautiful and suit each character. Bel's jewel toned pencil dresses and skirts, her silk blouses and headscarves. Her trench coat. Freddy's tweed suit in Season one. Lix's Katherine Hepburnesque trousers. Marnie's full skirted dresses. These are just what immediately comes to mind.
5) The sets, which were done by the same woman who did the sets for "The King Speech," are chock full of good period appropriate detail.
6) The jazzy understated soundtrack.
7) It doesn't center almost exclusively around one person (especially not season two). Cough Mad Men cough. That gets boring. There is only so much about we can learn Don Draper. His psyche and troubled past are not six seasons worth of (good) material.
8) It is aesthetically pleasing to watch.
9) It is intelligently written. 
10) You can't end a series (spoiler alert!) with one of the more major characters critically injured. It's cruel. 
11) It inspires in me the sort of fanatical obsession I have not had for anything since the first season of "Sherlock." Translation: it's good.

P.S. Perhaps it seems like I am bashing "Mad Men" and "Downton Abbey." I enjoy them, I truly do. I am just pointing out the traps "The Hour" has avoided. Also I have seen other period television series. They just are not mentioned because this is getting long enough as is.

Photo source: