The Costumes of ‘Agent Carter’ that Already Make it Great

It may not have escaped your notice that a) there is an Agent Carter TV show about to start (but not in the UK because TV schedulers are ridiculously stupid) and b) I freaking love Agent Peggy Carter and Hayley Atwell. Proof to be found here, here,  here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Told you. Agent-Carter-poster-570x760 So Agent Carter is set in 1946 after the events of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) but before those of the Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter (2013). Peggy is working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) dealing with the sexism that accompanied women working in the 1940s. The imdb synopsis for the show is ridiculously inaccurate: Screen Shot 2015-01-03 at 20.01.18 Yes Peggy was involved with Steve Rogers but that wasn’t all that she was. Moving on. This post is mostly to appreciate the costume design work by Giovanna Ottobre-Melton that we’ve already seen in promo pictures. I’m excited and so should you. The images gathered below have been released by Marvel and, I think, are all from the first two episodes.HAYLEY ATWELL Peggy’s blonde! She’s undercover! In a gold low-cut dress – very different from the dresses we’ve seen Peggy wearing so far.HAYLEY ATWELL, DOMINIC COOPER I just included this for the shoes.agent-carter-1-800 Wide lapels with both the blouse and jacket and the blouse lapels are beautifully edged to add structure and focus. Adds a contrast with the stricter tailoring of the jacket.B6RrJ5XIYAAtvni.jpg-large More tailored 40s but with some gathering at the waist to soften the shape and pink detailing to brighten the navy blue.2051104_CA_Agent_Carter_KDM_ A different version of the earlier wide lapelled jacket and blouse but different shapes. My favourite part is the double lapels on the jacket.Agent-Carter-600x450 More blouse and fitted jacket combination but this time – check out those pinstripes! Amazing! The waist dart that finishes just below the bust changes the pinstripes and gives further detailing. The horizontal pinstripes at the centre front are another detail that adds to the suit.HAYLEY ATWELL

Here is a better photo of the edged wide lapelled blouse – reminds me a little bit of Peggy’s blouse in CA:TFA.

Ottobre-Melton is the fifth costume designer to take on Peggy Carter: Anna B. Shepherd in CA:TFA, Ellen Mirojnick and Timothy A. Wisnick in MO-S:AC and, briefly, Judianna Makovsky in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). She’s got some big shoes to fill but these images fill me with more anticipation and happiness.

S x

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5 Different Costume Interpretations of the… 1940s

Today marks Iron Man 3‘s Blu-ray release and I am beyond excited. Not about re-watching Iron Man 3 but because of the inclusion of the new Marvel One-Shot: Agent Cater (2013). (Director: Louis D’Esposito, Costume Designer: Ellen Mironjick Assistant Costume Designer: Timothy A. Wonsik.) Agent Carter The idea of a new “adventure” with Hayley Atwell dressed up to the nines in her ’40s garb again fills me with great joy. To celebrate the release of the short I thought I’d add to my costume interpretation segment that began with the ’20s with a look at interpretations of ’40s costumes. The films I’m looking at have all been made since 2000 but take very different looks/inspirations for the ’40s. The Aviator (2004) Director: Martin Scorsese Costume Designer: Sandy Powell Best Costume Design

The Aviator

The Aviator wearing a traditional aviator jacket.

The Aviator is the first in a series of biopic films set during the ’40s (or at least partly). Films based on real people can sometimes flit between faithful to the stage of recreating clothing or representing that person’s spirit. In the Sandy Powell talk that I attended a few months ago I made reference to her discussions about dressing “real people” and the overriding detail?

It’s not a documentary, we’re not setting out to make a documentary.

Costume is about character and it is more important that you believe in this character than that you see them wearing something that you saw them wearing in photographs.

The Aviator

The lapel widths on this double-breasted suit showing Hughes’ wealth due to the amount of fabric used. Post-war years and all.

Don’t forget that the big costume “issue” for The Aviator was the colour process used: the three-colour Technicolor palette. This drastically affected the colours of the costumes seen. The whole texture of the film changed but the colours and shapes of the ’40s fit perfectly in the view of ’40s Hollywood. This is the key to the world being created – big personalities living in a big glamorous era. The Aviator Here we have Ava Gardner with the “traditional” ’40s silhouette – shoulder pads, cuff decoration and draping to emphasise the waist. The key with this costume is the colour. The red dress pulls in the red nails and essential red lipstick. The Aviator More pronounced shoulder pads, sharp lines, a big hat and more red lipstick. Gardner at her siren best. The Aviator The widely used still for the film. Another example of wide lapels on a double-breasted jacket. The Notebook (2004) Director: Nick Cassavetes Costume Designer: Karyn Wagner The Notebook The Notebook is a very different film to that of The Aviator – this is a film told based on reminiscences. The story “exists” through slightly rose-tinted glasses. But that’s not to say that the costumes don’t have historical basis in the ’40s. Wagner on Ryan Gosling’s Noah:

He probably gets his clothes from the general store in town

We’re already a world away from Howard Hughes. The Notebook The key to all of these costumes is the wealth separating the couple. Wealth and colours. Brightness, patterns and colours, particularly red, surround Allie whereas darker and plainer colours dress Noah.

The Notebook

Highly co-ordinated period style bikini matched against an undershirt and flat cap. The difference in wealth can be understood instantly.

The costumes in the film are much more small town wealth than high glamour. Allie’s clothes may be custom-made but they wouldn’t compare to Gardner’s costumes in The Aviator. This is more down-to-earth everyday wealth. The Notebook Here we can see Allie’s extended collar on her shirtdress – a very popular shape for Allie in this film. We have the silhouette of the era but in softer lightweight cottons and much more approachable than the fabrics worn by Gardner. The Notebook Another shirtdress, more red, the popular ’40s yoke that help to emphasise the shoulders without the strong use of shoulder pads. The Black Dahlia (2006) Director: Brian de Palma Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan (Read about the talk I attended with Beavan here.)

The Black Dahlia

Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short seen in black and white flashbacks to highlight her pale skin and dark hair. A black silk shirt compounding that image.

Another interpretation of the ’40s – this time to simulate the hard-boiled film noirs of the period like The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon. This film is all about the darkness of a murder investigation and its impact on the policemen involved. The Black Dahlia Dark, weather-worn suits. These clothes have seen a lot of use and will continue to see a lot of use. There is no wealth here – this is a uniform of a sort. The key differences are the darker tones Bucky wears compared to Lee. Lee is the “older brother” figure – the three-piece suit adding maturity and the lighter colours contrasting the unhappiness of Bucky’s tones. The Black Dahlia The Black Dahlia At a first glance you may think Johansson is the femme fatale here. Don’t let the red lipstick fool you – this is the ’40s after all. Kay is as much a victim of the story as Bucky, Lee and Elizabeth. She is glamorous but is costumed in soft fabrics and pale colours. The above still is from the boxing match. The veil and large fur are her protection against seeing Lee hurt. The Black Dahlia Ramona exudes wealth and influence at all times. And must seem distant from Madeleine. She has the mature traditional ’40s silhouette – the extreme shoulder pads and cinched waist. But her colours are soft and muted. For the most part. The importance is when those colours change. The Black Dahlia The femme fatale of the piece. Every noir needs one and here she is. The doppelgänger of The Black Dahlia. The complex character who belongs in Ramona’s world but wants to exist in the debauchery that Elizabeth found herself trapped in. The dissatisfied “poor little rich girl”. Fulfilling herself by “slumming it” with the police. Her character of the moment shown clearly through her costumes. The Edge of Love (2008) Director: John Maybury Costume Designer: April Ferry The Edge of Love Another biopic of sorts but The Edge of Love takes the glamour of the ’40s completely away. This is a film about people surviving during the shortages of WWII. This is a film about make do and mend. In Wales. Yes, there’s much more “wealth” here than would’ve been true but put this film against The Aviator and you have two very different interpretations of the ’40s. For a film using poetic license for a story about an iconic poet it seems appropriate that this poetic license spread through the whole film. The Edge of Love We start with performance wear – deceptive Hawaiian setting in an underground shelter. This is the Hollywood glamour section of the film. This is Vera’s own costume. Her escape. Our first view of Vera is here and this is a much different Vera than we see throughout the rest of the film. The Edge of Love The red coat working perfectly to contrast against the khaki of the soldier’s uniforms. The mix of textures showing character and the nature of this world – loose of structure and full coordination. The kind of costume that wouldn’t fit in any of the other ’40s films. Instantly Caitlin is set up as a contrast to Vera – the epitome of ‘the girl-next-door’. The Edge of Love More ’40s structure with more patterns. Checked tweed being a big aspect of this film – belonging to another era. Another time. The red dress has similarities with Allie’s but with fewer detailing and possibly a heavier weight fabric. The Edge of Love The knitwear that overtook Wales. If there was anything to remember from The Edge of Love it would be knitwear – worn by all. The film is full of layers with heavy socks worn with wellies (appropriate for the country) and various knitwear over tea dresses. The tea dresses giving that eternal ’40s feel but the knitwear being weather and location appropriate. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Director: Joe Johnston Costume Designer: Anna B. Sheppard Captain America I couldn’t not include Captain America after my introduction to this post. This is the only film listed here to have the majority take place within the confines of WWII – from the perspective of soldiers. Yes, the soldiers we see are are put of the Strategic Scientific Reserve with a super soldier on the hunt for an evil Nazi. So although the story is not exactly rooted in historic accuracy that doesn’t stop the costumes from fitting with the ’40s WWII aesthetic. Captain America We’ve got the traditional ’40s trench coat and Peggy with her war uniform – more detail about that here. Captain America Now we have more soldiers but, more importantly, another aviator jacket. Compare this to Hughes’ in The Aviator and you see a similar structure and practicality just that thus one has survived a battle. The leather is protection and is the best material for use, especially during the war. Captain America More army uniforms. The structure between male and female uniforms are very similar at first glance. These are intended as practical uniforms. Uniforms to remove too much individuality. Captain America Whereas individuality is what Stark is all about. Having started this post with Howard Hughes it seems apt to end on Howard Stark. The influence in the origin of the character is widely known and Sheppard even references Hughes’ influence on Stark’s costumes. When you think about the costumes in Captain America you tend to think about Captain America’s suit but the key interests and depths are within the other characters – particularly in a film so concerned with the war effort and ultimately uniforms. S x

Superhero Saturday: The Women in Phase One – ‘Avengers Assembled’

Now that we’re winding down our Superhero Saturday posts I thought that I’d focus on the women featured in the set of films in the Marvel Universe that have been titled ‘Phase One’. So this really means no X-Men characters or Mary-Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy or Invisible Girl. I’m going to look at the female characters from the films, JUST the films, leading up to Avengers Assemble. There may be spoilers so if you haven’t seen a film just scroll past!

Iron Man (2008)

The first Iron Man film only has two female characters worth mentioning: Virginia “Pepper” Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Christine Everhart (Leslie Bibb).

Pepper Potts in 'Iron Man'We first see Pepper handing dry-cleaning to Christine and escorting her out of the building. Then Pepper spends most of the film mothering and pining over Stark. Having said that, she’s still a highly intelligent, motivated woman. Her career may have been slightly stalled by her love for one man but she made the best of her situation. And she helps with the final fight by using her wits to unveil Stane’s true plans and then drawing Agent Coulson in to help. With someone dangerous hovering near her she is able to think on her feet and act quickly. I don’t think I’d have the calmness that she did. And don’t forget her helping to replace Stark’s arc reactor and he announces that he “doesn’t have anyone else”.

Christine Everhart in 'Iron Man'Christine starts off looking like a dedicated, intrepid investigative reporter. That doesn’t last very long. Sadly she then reverts to one of Stark’s one-night stands. She tries to make a comeback by using her reporting skills and, actually, if it wasn’t for her then Stark might not have found out about Stane’s evil plans. I do kind of wish that she hadn’t gone through the stereotypical sleeping with her investigative subject though. (Maybe that’s one reason Hammer was so keen to be her subject in Iron Man 2.)

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Betty Ross in 'The Incredible Hulk'We pretty much just have Betty Ross (Liv Tyler). And that’s nothing to rave about really. As I mentioned when we attended the Avengers marathon at The PCC, The Incredible Hulk was my least favourite film – and the audience’s from the reactions throughout. And a lot of the disappointment came from Liv Tyler. Betty has a few strong moments but for much of the film she just seems to be controlled by her father. Obviously not all female characters have to be strong, not all male characters are strong, but when you are the only female character to speak of, with an army general a father and the love interest of ‘The Hulk’, you expect a bit more.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Back to Iron Man and we have a new female addition to Pepper and Christine: Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson).

Pepper Potts in 'Iron Man 2' Pepper gets to take on a much stronger role in this film. Yes, it’s mostly because Stark gives her the job as CEO but she does a great job with it; including removing Stark when necessary. She no longer needs to “look after” him as part of her job – that responsibility belongs to Natalie. Pepper can concentrate on proving herself in the job that she has been doing behind the scenes for years. This film shows Pepper’s emotional strength. She may need saving by Tony in the end but she is instrumental in helping save members of the public and having Hammer arrested. This may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things but when you realise that Pepper has no special powers and only her wits and bravery you’ve got to give her points for that.

Christine Everhart in 'Iron Man 2'Christine returns briefly but her only purpose seems to be to further the rivalry between Stark and Justin Hammer. She has no investigative journalism input and doesn’t seem to aid the plot in any way. This is a little disappointing because we saw some sign of her intelligence and skill in Iron Man but all we have here is bickering, the attempt to witness arguments between Stark and Hammer and to get an interview with Pepper for Vanity Fair’s ‘Powerful Women’ edition. Saying more about Pepper than Christine.

Natalie Rushman in 'Iron Man 2'Natalie’s role is a little more interesting. She starts out as Natalie Rushman – the over-qualified, ex-model, assistant to Stark. Having said that, the first time we meet Natalie it becomes clear that she can take care of herself after beating Happy in a boxing ring without breaking a sweat. Then (no surprise to the audience who was alerted to her true identity at casting stages) we find out that she is really Natasha Romanoff, working undercover for Nick Fury. From this point she becomes key in the world of SHIELD but remains slightly on the periphery, but does play a key role in saving Rhodey from Vanko’s control. Then she’s gone. Just disappears. But then, that’s what spies are meant to do. The role always felt slightly like a trailer for Natasha’s role in Avengers Assemble. She is very capable but never seemed entirely necessary to “watch over” Stark when they realised he was ill. Her best work as ‘Natalie’, rather than Natasha, is when she works for Pepper not Stark – two strong women together in a male dominated industry.

Thor (2011)

Thor has many more female characters than you may initially remember. We have the obvious Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) but there is also Frigga (Rene Russo) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings).

Jane Foster in 'Thor'Jane’s interest in Thor stemmed from a scientific angle. He somehow landed on Earth and she wants to find out how, why and what he knows. Then she wants to help him and get ‘revenge’ on SHIELD. Her motives are never initially romantic so when a romance does unfold it feels more worthwhile and less forced. Her main role in the film is to help to humanise Thor by giving him a greater understand of the world (both his and ours) and of people. Although she isn’t involved in any great battle she enables Thor to win his; for the right reasons.

Sif in 'Thor'Sif is one of the warriors on Asgard – the only female warrior as far as we can tell. All she has wanted to do is to fight for her world and be seen as a strong fighter rather than “just” a woman. She has followed Thor into battle many times (including into the forbidden Jotunheim) and comes to Earth, along with the Warriers Three (Fandral, Volstagg and Hogan) to help Thor return to Asgard and stop Loki. Sif was willing to die in the battle against The Destroyer if Thor hadn’t convinced her to run. To live and tell her own stories.

Frigga in 'Thor'Frigga gets a little bit of a short shrift in Thor but she still gets moments to shine. We first see her taking amusement in Thor’s brash walk to his planned coronation. We don’t see her again until she tries to explain to Loki that he is still her and Odin’s son – despite his true birth. She is a consummate mother. Then we see her try to protect Odin against the Frost Giants. They are dangerous foes but she manages to strike one down before Loki defeats Laufey. Sadly, Frigga ends mourning her son and maybe never knowing completely how far he had strayed. This is what we shall discover in Thor: The Dark World.

Darcy Lewis in 'Thor'Darcy is the more average girl. A student who has taken on Jane’s study for the college credits; despite being a political science student. She likes Thor because he’s hot and funny. She is snarky but still seems to have developed a fondness for Jane and Selvig. And she helps save the inhabitants of New Mexico when The Destroyer attacks. That’s something we could all do.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

This film may have my absolute favourite female character from this universe: Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Sadly, she is really the only female character beyond the briefly seen, disastrously for Steve and Peggy, Private Lorraine (Natalie Dormer).

Peggy Carter in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'The first time we see Peggy she is calling new recruits to attention and punching one who wouldn’t accept her superiority. Strong enough entrance? Pretty sure she wins there. Throughout the film she takes a hands-on approach to training the new recruits and fighting battles. She even goes against Colonel Phillips’ orders by taking Rogers, with Howard Stark’s help, to enemy territory. Breaking rules may not seem like that big a deal but in the army it can be career ending. That’s bravery and then some. That decision also helped Rogers to believe in himself in the way that Erskine believed in him. She helped Rogers to fully become Captain America.

Private Lorraine in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'Private Lorraine has a horrible role to play – to separate Rogers and Peggy. Why? So that they’re not a couple when Rogers goes off to attack Hydra’s base and he can “earn” her respect back before their one and only kiss. She has clearly worked hard to get to her position in the army but all we get her used for is the mildest attempt at a love triangle; following the failed attempt at a Stark love triangle.

Avengers Assemble (2012)

We have the return of Natasha, now splitting more fully into her Black Widow persona, a brief return of Pepper and the introduction of Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).

Natasha Romanoff in 'Avengers Assemble'We meet Natasha apparently held hostage by Russian terrorists. But then we see that she’s playing stupid to allow their pride to take over with revealing answers. And that she beats them all despite being tied to a chair. Her first responsibility is to recruit Bruce Banner. This is not an easy task and shows how much faith and trust SHIELD have in this spy. Throughout the film we see her taking on tough odds whether they be the cause, to rub out the red in her ledger or to help her friend (Hawkeye). We also see aspects of her spying in her using the expected female vulnerability against people. Is this playing to female stereotype or playing to male weakness? The assumption that women are weak and emotional… There is one key scene where it’s spelled out to the audience that she’s a spy and not a soldier and yet here she is willingly going to war. She has made bad choices in her life but is now trying to make amends.

Pepper Potts in 'Avengers Assemble'Pepper’s appearance is very brief. We see her convince Stark to follow his heart in helping Coulson, we see her fear at the news footage of the battle in New York and then helping Stark redesign their damaged home. What can we learn from her here? Both times we see her she is concerned about Stark but she is also busy working as the CEO and furthering their clean energy projects. A confident and happy career woman with a seemingly healthy home life.

Maria Hill in 'Avengers Assemble'Agent Maria Hill is the first female character we encounter in Avengers Assemble. We see her interacting with Nick Fury and Coulson, already established within the Marvel universe, so she needs to mark herself out fairly quickly. She is clearly a woman in power. After Loki’s attack on the base she takes it on herself to follow Hawkeye and Loki. After this she went back to try to save any trapped SHIELD workers. Maria may not have had too much more involvement despite a few great shots when the Helicarrier was attacked but that’s due more to the fact that the film is called The Avengers. With her appearance in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its greater focus on SHIELD, there is more of a chance of her character having the chance to shine.

And that’s the end of Phase One. Phase Two is well underway with Iron Man 3 already released, Thor: The Dark World due to be released in November, Captain America: The Winter Soldier filming, Guardians of the Galaxy due to start filming in the next few months and Avengers 2 due to film early next year. We’ve had cases of interesting female characters so far with Thor probably boasting the most, but with characters now appearing in other films (Black Widow and Maria Hill both in The Winter Soldier along with the return of Peggy and the new Agent 13) hopefully these strong characters will continue.

Final Note on The Bechdel Test

Helen referenced this when looking at female sitcom stars and it occurred to me to mention it here. There are three basic rules:

  1. There has to be at least two named female characters
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something other than a man.

If you go through the Marvel Phase One films the result is a little depressing, if not altogether surprising when you see the “vast” range of female characters.

There is debate as to whether Iron Man passed all three rules because of the conversation Pepper and Christine have but, to me, it is so clearly about Stark that it means it gains only two out of three.

The Incredible Hulk passed one test. There is another named female character (Major Kathleen Sparr) but she and Betty never interact.

Iron Man 2 passed three out of three because of Pepper and Natalie’s brief business discussion (and possible Pepper and Christine discussing the Vanity Fair article).

Then we come to Thor where it easily passed three out of three.

Despite the strength of Peggy’s character in Captain America: The First Avenger, the film only passed one out of three – for the two named female characters.

And finally we come to Avengers Assemble. Only passed one out of three. There are three strong named female characters. Who never interact with each other.

Out of the six Phase One films we have two films successfully passing the Bechdel test even if some of the other films still contain strong female characters. We’ll see what happens with Phase Two. (Iron Man 3 passed three out of three.)

S x

Superhero Sunday: ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) is due to start filming…soon? Its start date has been pushed back repeatedly but it should be starting in the not too distant future. And with the announcement of Robert Redford joining the cast (replacing the heavyweight presence of Tommy Lee Jones from the first film) I thought it would be worth revisiting Captain America: The First Avenger. None of the Marvel films have been panned so to speak, but some are regarded as the weaker films. For a lot of people this includes Hulk (2003), The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Captain America. I am not a fan of the Hulk films but I do think that Captain America has got a bit of a bad rap. It’s not perfect, sure, but it has some great performances and wonderful moments – all setting up the development of the Steve Rogers character.

Captain America: The First Avenger

With a film that is so firmly based on the origins of one character, it’s important to cast the role as well as possible. When Chris Evans was first cast the only issues that fans had was due to his previous role as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four films. As complaints go it is fairly limited and, by now, seems irrelevant – especially with the reboot of the Fantastic Four on the way. The first meeting of Steve Rogers shows him as short and very skinny. These are possibly the most disturbing images of the film – seeing Evans so emaciated is very unnerving. And then you move onto Captain America Steve. Easier on the eyes but still the same sweet endearing character. Out of all of the Avengers he can be regarded as boring. He isn’t cocky like Tony Stark, not arrogant like Thor (even if he has developed since his first introduction) and not quite as “damaged” as Bruce Banner. Rogers is a weak man with great inner strength and character who was given great physical strength as well. Plus, who doesn’t love a gentleman?

Peggy Carter

Another great aspect? Hayley. Atwell. I’m quite clearly obsessed infatuated adoring of her. I don’t even need to mention how much I love Peggy Carter.

"The Howling Commandos"

The rest of the cast are also top notch. Tommy Lee Jones as a gruff Army General. Stanley Tucci as the well meaning, intelligent Doctor. Sebastian Stan as Rogers’ best friend with all (or most of) the luck, Bucky Barnes. Dominic Cooper as the third actor to play Tony Stark’s father Howard – and setting up a possible love triangle. Toby Jones as the weedy scientist. Rogers’ team of soldiers – never fully claimed as The Howling Commandos. And then there’s Hugo Weaving as the deranged Johann Schmidt/Red Skull. Doing crazy Nazi to the full but never quite camping it up like Cate Blanchett in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Which is a good thing.

Bucky Barnes

Howard Stark

The problems? Mostly relating to the plot, in my mind. I don’t know the full details of Captain America in the comics or the origins of Red Skull. All I can go in is what I make of the film. Aside from the fact that there is a general accepted suspension of disbelief regarding superheroes anyway, the Red Skull story seems…just too insane. (I have no problem with the plot of Thor though.) And the end… It is both heartbreaking (I love Peggy!) and also unsatisfying. The best moments of the film come with Rogers being a solider. Whether that’s in battle or just interacting with the other soldiers and Stark. And Peggy. Anything with Peggy. (Undeserving of just a side note, but Anna B. Sheppard’s costume design is also incredible. But I may just be distracted by that red dress.)

Red Skull

But let’s not forget another wonderful aspect of the film. This:

And that’s why I went as a USO girl for a fancy dress film night.

The USO Girls

Let’s cut Captain America a little slack and look forward to The Winter Soldier!

The Winter Soldier

S x

5 Important Red Dresses

In case it missed anyone’s attention, I love red. Particularly red lipstick, red nail varnish and red dresses. I’m not the only one. Red is a colour used in film for important reasons – not just for blood. Think about The Red Shoes (1948); the little girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List (1993); Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz (1939); Robert de Niro’s red suit in The King of Comedy (1983); the “child” in the red patent duffel coat in Don’t Look Now (1973). The use of red has even entered the zeitgeist – think of the ‘red shirt’ characters taken from Star Trek. This term has been used for years now and will remain in pop culture. Red somehow becomes more iconic when used for a dress. In the best instance, these dresses are worn at a vital moment in the plot and character arc to make a specific point. Here are five of the best examples of a red dress used for a specific purpose. They have been arranged in chronological order of the film’s release date. Funny Face (1953) Director: Stanley Donen Costume Designer: Edith Head with Audrey Hepburn’s costumes designed by Hubert de Givenchy Time Period: 1950s Audrey Hepburn in 'Funny Face' Audrey Hepburn in 'Funny Face' The first red dress I want to mention is the Givenchy gown Audrey Hepburn (as Jo Stockton) wears for one of her photoshoots with Fred Astaire (as Dick Avery). It is one of Hepburn’s most famous costumes – after the Givenchy black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) of course. By this point in the plot the two characters have spent a lot of time together and developed feelings for each other. The photoshoots work up to this red dress and the next location shoot has Hepburn wearing a wedding dress – just as they do in a fashion show. Stockton’s journey to the red dress has taken her far away from her original costume of black, which she returns to later before ending the film in another wedding dress. As the photoshoots develop, Stockton becomes more and more confident and comfortable with herself. The photo taken expresses her enthusiasm and inner strength. West Side Story (1961) Director: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff Time Period: 1950s Natalie Wood in 'West Side Story' Through my super brief research into red dresses worn in films I didn’t come across Natalie Wood’s dress at the end of West Side Story. I always think of the dress because it shows the extent of Maria’s character arc. When Maria and Tony (Richard Beymer) first meet she is wearing a white dress with a red belt at the waist. In Maria’s first scene with Anita (Rita Moreno) she begs for the dress to be lowered at the neckline or dyed red. The final scene with Maria, and Maria’s final moment with Tony, has her in a red dress. The dress itself is very simple and has the same general shape as that of the white dress. A lot of the costumes worn by the female Jets have more of a fitted 50s silhouette, whereas the Sharks have wider skirts. This is a generalisation but helps to quickly differentiate between the two gangs and this style is particularly relevant to Maria. The growing tensions between the two gangs has been leading up to the final moment and Maria has strength from her dress. The first shot of it can reference the love between her and Tony and even foreshadow Tony’s death (about a minute later) but the dress really gains importance following Tony’s death. Maria (unlike Juliet in ‘Romeo and Juliet’) survives and uses her survival and Tony’s death to bring about a truce between the gangs. Maria is no longer the same girl who wore a white dress to a dance. Pretty Woman (1990) Director: Garry Marshall Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance Time Period: 1990s Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman' Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman' I’m not a huge fan of Pretty Woman but it has another example of the red dress – in one of the most famous scenes from the film. The ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ storyline may not be highly original (a better version of that is Irma La Douce (1963) if you ask me, but I’m a sucker for Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon) but you can’t argue with some great costumes in the film. The most recognized of Julia Robert’s costumes as Vivian range from her first costume when…soliciting, the keyhole dress with the thigh-high patent boots; the brown polka dot dress at the races, when she is propositioned by one of Edward’s (Richard Gere) friends; and the red dress worn at the opera. The changes that Vivian’s been making since meeting Edward culminate in this. A full-on ladylike appearance for an opera. Is there another more drastic change from Vivian’s introduction. She may never be dressed as elegantly as this again but she feels happy, confident and loved in that dress. Moulin Rouge! (2001) Director: Baz Luhrmann Costume Designers: Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie Time Period: 1900s Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge!' Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge!' Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge!' The red dress worn by Nicole Kidman (as Satine) is interesting as it makes its appearance early on but in two different scenes. The first time we see it, Satine is being severely laced into it ready to seduce the Duke as the “smouldering temptress” – a perfect use of a red dress. Red dresses are said to imply sexual desire and this is definitely the impression Satine wants to give off. Although, as a courtesan it isn’t really necessary. The next we see of the dress it is being flung off for her to “change” into her black corset, stockings and lace negligee. But before we lose the dress completely she dresses back into it to sing ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. After meeting Christian (Ewan McGregor) she wants to change her life. Her dream of being the next Sarah Bernhardt isn’t good enough anymore; she wants love. The dress has altered from being a dress for sexual allure to a dress symbolising love. This is what she wears when she and Christian kiss for the first time and begin their affair. Although Satine is seen wearing extravagant costumes throughout the film (who in the Moulin Rouge isn’t), she never again wears red. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Director: Joe Johnston Costume Designer: Anna B. Sheppard Time Period: 1940s Hayley Atwell in 'Captain America: The First Avenger' Hayley Atwell in 'Captain America: The First Avenger' Hayley Atwell in 'Captain America: The First Avenger' So, yes, this is one of my favourite costumes anyway but it’s also a good example of the red dress importance. This is the only costume that Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) wears that isn’t for the military. We see her in varying suits for training, for meetings, for combat but never when she’s ‘off-duty’. This is it. This the dress she wears to walk through an English pub filled with soldiers to speak to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). Confidence is needed for a woman to walk solo through those surroundings, let alone wearing a red dress. We know that Peggy is a strong woman from the fact that she is a high-ranking Agent and had responsibility for training some of the new soldiers but this appearance is a risk. She has risen through the ranks of a very masculine world and the danger of being seen as a mere sex object is ever present. Peggy doesn’t care. She has enough strength to pull it off and still be respected – this is about getting Rogers’ attention after all. She wants him to see her in a different light. But what’s wrong with that? It doesn’t make her any less of a powerful capable woman. So those are five important red dresses. I may have left out some of the more famous dresses and maybe I’ll look at those another time but for the moment I wanted to look at those specific five. None of the dresses are the same. They encapsulate different time periods, different styles, different characters, different costume designers, different films and different purposes. Perfectly constructed costume design. And perfect for the character arc of their wearer. S x

Superhero Sunday: DTSFT (Nearly) Survived The Prince Charles Cinema’s Avenger’s Marathon

(Yes, it’s Monday and not Sunday but it’s that time between Christmas and New Year so who can blame me for being a little late?)

The title is a little misleading. The ‘nearly’ refers to the incomplete team (we missed you Helen!), not ‘nearly’ surviving the marathon. WE SURVIVED! Now that’s out of the way, we begin.

The Prince Charles Cinema is located in Leicester Square in London. It has two screens. And it’s wonderful. I know that’s fairly widely noted but there’s no harm in saying it again. I’ve been able to see some great films there. Some that didn’t have a wide release (Woody Allen: A Documentary), some that I missed on their original release (Anna Karenina) and  events, such as Rex Manning Day (a special screening of Empire Records). The whole place has a love of films and so do all the attendees.

Another sidenote about The PCC is that they are one of the only cinemas that still has a 35mm projector. This might not mean that much to a lot of people but as someone who has worked as a projectionist, this is a pretty big deal. Most cinemas have fully converted to digital and those that haven’t are either in the process or emphasise their use of 35mm prints. Vinyl has had a resurgence, hopefully this new love for 35mm will take effect before too many projectionists are made redundant. (This is a little off topic but will be referred to later on, including my knowledge of film projection – super limited knowledge.)

The PCC runs a number of marathon events but this has been the first one that I’ve gone to. Friday 28th December. Starting at 7pm. Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. Avengers Assemble. (Not Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, calling it Avengers Assemble is difficult enough.)

Iron Man – 7pm (approx)

'Iron Man'

We started the night with the first. The beginning. The reason that Avengers Assemble exists. The first film to be shown at the marathon in 35mm. A fairly dirty print. I mean, I’ve seen worse, but it wasn’t great. The biggest cheer during the film? Stan Lee’s cameo. Friday was his 90th birthday don’t forget. Second biggest cheer? For Agent Phil Coulson. At this point just Agent Coulson. In a pretty ugly suit. This film had so much enjoyment to give the audience. The laughs were bigger, there were cheers for so much. First one done.

The Incredible Hulk – 9.25pm (approx)

'The Incredible Hulk'

Yes, this isn’t a poster to go with the Edward Norton film but that would’ve ruined my Mondo poster theme. Plus, Ruffalo is better.

The film that people were looking forward to the least. You could tell by the number of empty seats. (This marathon was sold out.) And by the comments throughout the film. If the film had come later in the evening I’m pretty sure I would’ve taken those two hours to nap. But it was too early! The only saving factors were the subtle mention of Captain America (super soldier reference) and Tony Stark’s appearance at the end. Not really worth it. But the 35mm print was in much better condition than Iron Man. I think that’s cos it doesn’t get as much use. Harsh or just true?

Iron Man 2 – 11.30pm (approx)

'Iron Man 2'

Excluding The Incredible Hulk, which I’d only seen at the cinema, Iron Man 2 is the film of the marathon I’ve seen the fewest times. (Or something in better English than that.) It has a lot of problems but watching it I remembered the fun factors. Mostly Sam Rockwell. Any time he is on screen it lights up. Then there’s Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff. Her hair when in ‘that’ catsuit isn’t as good as in Avengers Assemble, but her being the ‘new’ Pepper Potts is pretty great. I mostly love the costumes. But I would. There is a lot of humour in this, whether it’s Downey Jr., Favreau as Happy Hogan, Rockwell, Gregg (more cheers for Coulson) or even some of Rourke’s lines. It just makes me excited to see what Shane Black will bring to Iron Man 3. (Five months away now…) Then there was the post-credit scene. The excitement was building and building at this point. Side note: another dirty 35mm print. I was saddened.

Thor – 1.45am (approx)

'Thor'

So we were getting closer, but tiredness was starting to sink in. But, have no fear, Thor is one of the best films and when you’re surrounded by extreme fans of Hemsworth and Hiddleston you have no chance of falling asleep. There were more cheers throughout this – Coulson, reference to Banner, Thor being a ‘fish-out-of-water’, and many of Loki’s shocked expressions at the beginning. We were hitting the final hurdle… (Thor: The Dark World is too far away.)

Captain America: The First Avenger – 3.45am (approx)

'Captain America: The First Avenger'

There were a number of disparaging remarks made throughout the night by various people (staff and audience) about the weaknesses of this film. “It’s not great.” “You won’t miss much by sleeping.” And the like. (I may have invented those quotes because I don’t remember what people actually said but you get the picture.) I still have a soft spot for Captain America. No-one who knows me is shocked. Even from reading this blog I bet it isn’t surprising. There are just some great moments and performances. And Agent Peggy Carter. This film also marked the third appearance of a different Howard Stark. And the first of the technical snafu of the evening/morning. During the scene where *spoiler* Peggy consoles Steve over Bucky’s death the film cut out. Now, this was a 35mm print and, given the short time between the film re-starting, I guess that the problem was something very simple and possibly just human error. There are no complaints. These things happen – they happened to me enough! Everything was sorted quickly and we only missed a few seconds – through re-starting the film. All understandable. But my favourite moment was Sarah telling me that she heard a customer ask a staff member if the film had stopped because the projectionist had fallen asleep. As if each reel needed to be changed during the film à la Cinema Paradiso. Bless. Then there was the post-credit scene. The teaser trailer for Avengers Assemble. Now we were getting somewhere!

Avengers Assemble – 6.30am (6am intended…)

'The Avengers'

…there was a delay. Avengers Assemble marked the only digital film shown in the marathon. And there were technical difficulties. I’ve been there. Where I worked at least, with digital you pretty much have to call someone from the technical department. The most common solution seems to be the ‘switch it off and switch it on again’ technique. But if you don’t check this with someone you could lose all of the films ingested on the projector. Meaning no screening. When there’s a problem with a 35mm projector/projection, you can generally spot the problem and fix it there and then. This was shown with Captain America. Here? A waiting game. But we were informed early on, and, after a wait, all was solved. Avengers assembled and we were appeased! More cheers, more ‘Coulson Lives, Fury Lies’, more laughter, more swoons. The film lived up to promise! Worst part? By this point, 30-second naps occurred. We were so excited, we wanted to be awake but…my body failed me a bit. But only for seconds! I swear! (I had contacts in so I was scared of actually failing asleep.)

The evening/marathon/morning ended at about 9am. We were all exhausted. There were survivor photos taken. We slinked away – none of us quite feeling up to having photos taken after a sleepless night. Did we fail there? I…don’t care! We survived the marathon! Would I do another? Possibly. It would definitely depend on the films.

Did anyone go? Anyone go to a similar marathon event at The PCC or somewhere else?

S x