Friday, October 19, 2012

Ben Affleck, Jacqueline West, and the Costumes of Argo

Have you seen Argo yet? I know many Australian readers will not have since it isn't out here until next week, but I saw it last night and it is fantastic. A certified slam dunk and Hollywood filmmaking at its finest. It sits comfortably alongside Killing Them Softly, Holy Motors, and Searching for Sugarman as one of the absolute must see movies of the 2012 (I'm going by American release dates for simplicity sake - I have more American readers than Australian). It's been a while since an American thriller held me in its grip quite as well as Argo does and it's an exhilarating experience to watch Ben Affleck's rather masterful direction put everything in to play that culminates in those film sequences that actually brought applause from my audience. APPLAUSE! That doesn't happen very often in Australia, we're a bit too reserved for that.

As far as potential Oscar winners go, I am most certainly on board with Argo. I can easily see it snagging wins for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing and perhaps even the supremely talented Rodrigo Prieto for Cinematography if they choose Argo's 1970s paranoia thriller aesthetics over The Master's more personal, yet expansive, 70mm canvas (or whatever else pops up as a leader in that category - Life of Pi?). And, let's face it, I look forward to Ben Affleck - the Ben Affleck - being a three-time Academy Award winner (he's also a producer of Argo alongside George Clooney and Grant Heslov). Won't that be a hoot? Who would have ever expected ten years ago that Affleck would win a second (and third?) Oscar before his Good Will Hunting screenwriting buddy Matt Damon.

I've always liked Ben Affleck. Yes, even in those weird years at around the middle of the 2000s where he was seemingly public pop culture enemy #1 for the plummeting quality of his films roles and the sky-rocketing rise in paparazzi stock. I had hoped he'd find a way out and I'm so very glad he did. Hello! I even liked that strange Sandra Bullock weather romcom, Forces of Nature! He was even one of my very first celebrity crushes, too, which is rather humorous to think about.

It's nice then that Affleck sought to bring that crush roaring back with the help of costume designer Jacqueline West, the woman behind the fabulous costumes of Quills, The Curious Cast of Benjamin Button, as well as Terrance Malick's The Tree of Life and The New World. Just thinking of those movies and I immediately recall Geoffrey Rush's excessively details hand-written suit from Quills, that sleek dress that Cate Blanchett dances in from Benjamin Button, Sean Penn's baggy suit and Jessica Chastain's selection of sweetly-coloured outfits from The Tree of Life, and Q'orianka Kilcha's ravishing British gown from The New World's spellbinding final sequence. Again, West has excelled at creating striking looks for her actors in Argo, and my favourite of all is a certain brown polo tee worn by Mr Affleck upon his visit to a Hollywood studio set. Gimme a moment to cool down, okay?

This image taken from the trailer doesn't quite show off the shirt (and, ahem, the body underneath, which Ben thankfully shows off in another scene) in all of its glory, but on a big screen it was rather divine.

I'd love to see Argo recreate the surprise nomination of Danny Glicker for Milk. That film's costume nomination was generally considered as out of left field given the Oscar's costume branch being notoriously picky about fashion eras post-1950s. Argo's setting at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of 1980s (characters are, essentially, still wearing the suits, jackets and jeans that they would have purchased in the 1970s - no flamboyant '80s fashion here, folks) could be tricky to get nominated as the branch is always more likely to veer towards hoop skirts and corsets than button-up shirts with flared lapels in muted colours. The snub of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in this category earlier this year just proved the point even further, but hopefully Argo's assumed across-the-board love will push Jacqueline West into the race. I'd certainly prefer her finely-selected woolen suits, the directorial scarves of Tate Donovan, and Bryan Cranston's brown-on-brown ensembles to get a nomination over the lovely, if rather unengaging, pieces from A Royal Affair or something of that ilk (of course, I'm still rooting for the late Eiko Ishioka for Mirror Mirror, but that's probably even more of a long shot.)

The brown polo tee, however, is just one fabulous costume piece from a film that's filled with them. I got a particular kick out of Affleck's oversized trench as well as well the assorted thick-width ties, the assortment of famous sci-fi costumes during the "Argo" read through sequence, Scoot McNairy's large glasses, Affleck's delicious selection of skin-hugging jeans, Chris Messina's mustard-coloured suit, and the way Clea DuVall's deep red sweater stands out amongst a sea of tan and dusty-hued men's attire. Elswhere, the make-up work (particularly Scoot McNairy's luscious moustache and Kerry Bishe's marketplace up-do) is just the tops. And much like the Dreamgirls end credits were a For Your Consideration advertisement for the costumes, Argo does the same to show off how historically accurate the film's production design is, right down the details of specific signage and body placements.

Man, I loved this movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved this movie too. And i'm with you all the way on the brilliance of the costumes!