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Gwyneth Paltrow (#110 of 14)

On Trend The Year of Beyoncé

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On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

Columbia Records

On Trend: The Year of Beyoncé

If you’ve walked through New York City lately (or, in all likelihood, any major city), you’ve probably been unable to escape Beyoncé’s face. It’s on the posters still pushing her heavily-rotated HBO doc, Life Is But a Dream; it’s on Pepsi ads that first emerged for her Super Bowl halftime show, sponsored by the soda; it’s on promos for Love Songs, the Destiny’s Child compilation album released earlier this year; and it’s on the cover of the March issue of Vogue, which unapologetically declares that the “Queen B” “rules the world.” Written by Jason Gay, the Vogue article, like the HBO film, isn’t especially revealing, and it feels as if it were shaped, to some degree, within the diva’s control, right down to the closing sentence that wholesomely acknowledges the promise embodied by Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s one-year-old daughter. The story—which, in a rarity for Vogue, includes a straight-on shot of its subject smiling—registers as one more part of the carefully calibrated Beyoncé machine, which is programmed to put forth an image as sexy and glamorous as it is untarnished and accessible. Such is not to say, necessarily, that Gay’s article rings false, but that it, like the artist herself, carries a constant aura of choreographed perfection, which, now, in the wake of marriage, childbirth, and continuing endorsements from the First Family, is tinged with a new layer of human transparency. Perhaps that layer was always there, and is just now more apparent. In any case, of the many affirmations made within the commendatory Vogue spread, one that leaps off the page is already clear to anyone with eyes: This year, “Beyoncé will be in your life like she’s never been before.”

Problem Solution Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

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Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray
Problem Solution: Jordan Mintzer’s James Gray

James Gray has achieved a small measure of success in the American film industry, and yet he remains elusive. He’s critically lauded, but he’s not a figure centrally discussed in the context of the independent or studio-film landscapes. He works with big stars like Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, and Gwyneth Paltrow, but years pass before he’s able to get projects off the ground. He’s a darling of the Cannes Film Festival, but is a niche flavor in the already niche world of cinephilia. He’s often labeled a “classicist,” but he has more in common with the post-classical mode of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. So, what the hell is James Gray, anyway?

That’s the question Paris-based Hollywood Reporter critic and Gray enthusiast Jordan Mintzer attempts to answer in his new book, James Gray. Comprised of interviews with Gray and his collaborators, along with storyboards, annotated script pages, production stills, and frame grabs, Mintzer’s volume is the first full-length study of Gray in any language. It is, unfortunately, only being published in France. But fear not: Synecdoche has released a bilingual edition that can be purchased on their website for a cool $65 USD.

What emerges most saliently from Mintzer’s interviews is Gray’s commitment to the idea of problem solution in creating his style. Gray is no proverbial Hitchcock, dreaming an ironclad vision of his films that then must be laid out to the letter. (“I don’t believe in vision. I think vision is overrated,” says Gray.) Instead, Gray’s style remains fluid and open to the necessary conditions of the production itself. A famous example concerns Little Odessa being set in the wintertime. “…It was written for the summer, with all the laundry lines during the final shootout,” Gray says. “But you have to make the movie when you get the money, so I made it then…I realized that the snow looked amazing, that it was something you couldn’t really reproduce. So I decided we should go shoot outside whenever it was snowing.” Anyone who’s seen Little Odessa knows that the deep melancholy of its characters’ struggles finds a rather apt metaphor in the falling, whipping snow that fills many gorgeous widescreen compositions.

Poster Lab: The Worst Movie Posters of 2011

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Poster Lab: The Worst Movie Posters of 2011
Poster Lab: The Worst Movie Posters of 2011

Dishonorable Mention

A Dangerous Method (Italian): Don’t let those pretty faces fool you. While sheer actorly beauty kept the Italian one-sheet for David Cronenberg’s latest out of the Top 10, it can’t mask the fact that this is an absurdly lazy piece of advertising, a makeup ad masquerading as a movie poster. The French variation at least had the decency to imply what the film is about. This one simply implies studio starfucking. [Poster] [Article]

Atlas Shrugged: Or, at least, the designers did. In addtion to the Tea Party-targeted adaptation of Ayn Rand’s doorstopper looking like a dated TV movie, its poster reads like a flyer a Jehovah’s Witness might leave on your welcome mat, its beveled, golden, B-grade text beckoning for converts. As expected, the corner-printshop marketing couldn’t save the film—a blown opportunity, and part one of a planned trilogy—from tanking. [Poster]

Burning Palms: You don’t want to see Burning Palms? A multi-character L.A. drama featuring Shannen Doherty, Adrianna Barraza, a hippie-fied Lake Bell, and “five tales that will f#%! you up for life?” What about if this poster tries to sell it to you? No? Okay. [Poster]