Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Big Little Lies

A first grade class that’s almost like if Lululemon, Whole Foods, Real Simple and Dwell collaborated on an elementary school. Upmarket Monterey moms with a lot of mystery, intrigue and in-fighting. The return of David E. Kelley at his best. And somebody dead — murdered at a tony school fundraiser, quite possibly by another parent. HBO’s Big Little Lies (produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, a Nashville dream team if ever there was one) is only four episodes in but I’m already knee-deep in theories and questions. I don’t want to give away too many plot points, so I’ve devised a handy equation to explain the show instead:

Twin Peaks + Desperate Housewives + (1/2 x Stepford Wives) + ( Mean Girls x The Alison Hendrix Parts Of Orphan Black) = Big Little Lies

We have the piece-by-pieces investigation of an unsolved murder of Twin Peaks, the dark, suburban dealings of Desperate Housewives, the surprising satire of upper-class femininity of The Stepford Wives, the social machinations and stratifications of Mean Girls and the tightly-wound perfection of Alison Hendrix’s fast-unraveling life. It’s a quick watch, and a show you’ll want to catch up on.

Although it can be fun to see a well-known actor cast totally against type, there is something incredibly satisfying about the on-the-nose typecasting going on in Big Little Lies. Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline Martha Mackenzie, the high-strung, type-A scheming mom to first grader Chloe and teenage Abigail. Imagine Tracy Flick mixed with Regina George, but somehow less devious: Madeline is one of those perfectionists who has to carefully arrange her whole personal and social world just-so or it might all fall down around her. Madeline is the spoke of the Monterey mom circle, both in that she’s the center of everything and in that if she’s spun too hard, you get the impression that pieces will go flying about in all directions. Madeline is married to Ed (Adam Scott), who while not quite Ben Wyatt nevertheless can seem like the quintessential Decent American Man.

Madeline’s circle also includes Celeste Wright. Once again the role is cast to perfection: Nicole Kidman as a pristine, wealthy, slightly icy former lawyer — and half of a couple that’s so well-manicured that you just know something’s way off behind the scenes. Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) is her husband, free of surface flaws but bubbling with some kind of rage under the surface.

At the beginning of the series, a very non-Monterey mom enters the picture. Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) is easily 10 years younger than the other moms, decidedly moderate-income, and the single mother to little Ziggy (Iain Armitage AKA Iain Loves Theatre – don’t sleep on this kid). It’s a deliciously Shailene Woodley-esque role. Jane is a little crunchy, a little new-agey, and kind of lovably kooky. Still, you’ll have as many questions about her as you will about anyone else, some of which will be answered over the course of the first 4 episodes (there was a little glimpse of something in the first episode that suddenly made sense in the third, that kind of thing).

All of these characters have children in the same first-grade class, and the rest of the core circle revolves around the same classroom. Nathan Carson (James Tupper) is Madeline’s ex-husband, married to younger Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz, in a role I could have EASILY seen Lisa Bonet in a decade or so ago. Or maybe still? Woman hasn’t aged). Renata Klein (the fantastic Laura Dern) is the mother to Amabella, set at odds against Madeline’s clique when Amabella accuses Ziggy of hurting her during first grade orientation.

Unlike another little lies show you may know – Pretty Little Liars – this whodunnit (and to-whom-dunnit) won’t be dragged out for season upon season. Four episodes have aired, and there are three more to go. It’s a limited series, and director Jean-Marc Vallee has promised that “you will know everything.” Until then, I’m enjoying all of the questions.

Best Dressed at the 2017 Oscars

We’ve been blogging about the Oscars for four years now and watching them for about 20 – and that was hands-down the nuttiest night in our Academy Awards memory. From Denzel’s shocking loss to Viola’s triumphant win, Auli’i Cravalho’s otherwordly poise and composure to Lin’s endearing joy, culminating in the most INSANE deus ex machina ending we’ve ever seen – when the wrong envelope was opened and La La Land was announced the winner, only to have producers come out and confirm that the rightful winner as Moonlight – there was a whole lot going on. It’s almost enough to make you forget that it was an amazing night for fashion, too. Key word: Almost. Because no matter what insanity went on with the envelopes, we feel pretty confident about who the winners of our Best Dressed prizes should be.

Molly’s Picks

Janelle Monae in Elie Saab
I've been a Janelle Monae stan since The ArchAndroid, and I am having SUCH an

I’ve been a Janelle Monae stan since The ArchAndroid, and I am having SUCH an “I’ve been telling you all” moment right now. Things to know about Janelle’s fashion choices: for quite some time she only appeared in black and white tuxedos, but she has relaxed her “uniform” and now wears gowns, always in her signature black and white. Her albums center around a futuristic sci-fi mythology, a world populated by androids with lots of cool space allusions. I could see this look flopping on somebody else, but knowing Janelle’s penchant for black and white, and her fusion of sci-fi and soul, an Oscar gown where she looks like an intergalactic android empress is the best and, honestly, only appropriate choice. Also: that short hair and grecian headband: excellent.

Emma Stone in Givenchy
Like with Janelle Monae's look, I love Emma Stone's gown as much for what it represents as for how it looks. For a lot of us, Givenchy will always be synonymous with Audrey Hepburn, and in fact Emma is the first person to win Best Actress in Givenchy since Audrey. As I've said other years, I always love when nominated actresses dress with an eye towards the fact that this may be THE dress for them: the image that will be called up throughout their career and used in stories about them when they're old ladies. And with La La Land so glitzy and classic, this Old Hollywood look is a symbolic choice - a gown that could have been featured in one of the classic films Emma's character Mia grew up checking out of the library. A note about makeup: every single time I see Emma in a lip color, I think that it's HER color. Coral: her color. Bright pink: her color. This brick red: her color. She has a complexion for lipstick, which I didn't realize was a thing until just now.

Like with Janelle Monae’s dress, I love Emma Stone’s gown as much for what it represents as for how it looks. For a lot of us, Givenchy will always be synonymous with Audrey Hepburn, and in fact Emma is the first person to win Best Actress in Givenchy since Audrey. As I’ve said other years, I always love when nominated actresses dress with an eye towards the fact that this may be THE dress for them: the image that will be called up throughout their career and used in stories about them when they’re old ladies. And with La La Land so glitzy and classic, this Old Hollywood look is a symbolic choice – a gown that could have been featured in one of the classic films Emma’s character Mia grew up checking out of the library. A note about makeup: every single time I see Emma in a lip color, I think that it’s HER color. Coral: her color. Bright pink: her color. This brick red: her color. She has a complexion for lipstick, which I didn’t realize was a thing until just now. Also of note, Emma is sporting a small Planned Parenthood pin.

Ruth Negga in Valentino
Evidently the inspiration for this look was

Evidently the inspiration for this look was “pagan goddess.” I was going to say a more streamlined take on a demure Victorian look, but either way. I wouldn’t love the high neck and long sleeves on just anybody, but Ruth has such long, straight lines and I think it complements her perfectly. I love the contrast of the brighter, orange-y red with the deeper ruby on her headpiece and earrings. I find this dress to be a great example of dressing FOR your type (Ruth is this year’s pixie-like ethereal Irish nominee, after all), instead of against it. My only very minor gripe is that red dresses always look odd on the red carpet because of the contrasting tones. Note the blue ribbon for the ACLU.

Nicole Kidman in Armani Prive
Love the pillar dress, love the embellishments, actually love that this whole look is basically monochrome except for her lip color.

Love the pillar dress, love the embellishments, actually love that this whole look is basically monochrome except for her lip color.

Mahershala Ali in Ermenegildo Zegna Couture
Because we have to acknowledge that the men tried, too. Sometimes black-on-black can look kitschy, but the way this pulls together is pure elegance. I love that he went with a waistcoat and shirt, stayed black with the bow tie, and splashed it out a bit with the pocket square. And the shirt studs, besides? He is killing me. It's just so great to see a man having fun with accessorizing. Elegant, indeed.

Because we have to acknowledge that the men tried, too. Sometimes black-on-black can look kitschy, but the way this pulls together is pure elegance. I love that he went with a waistcoat and shirt, stayed black with the bow tie, and splashed it out a bit with the pocket square. And the shirt studs, besides? He is killing me. It’s just so great to see a man having fun with accessorizing. Elegant, indeed.

Brie Larson in Oscar De La Renta
Brie looks pristine and icy and beautiful, exactly how you should look while forking over an award with a pursed-lip smile while gently seething. The length is fantastic, I love the train and I don't always love trains, and the architectural structuring on the front of this is perfectly matched with the contrasting fabric finishes.

Brie looks pristine and icy and beautiful, exactly how you should look while forking over an award with a pursed-lip smile while gently seething [Annual reminder that Brie Larson is a Good Person]. The length is fantastic, I love the train and I don’t always love trains, and the architectural structuring on the front of this is perfectly paired with the contrasting fabric finishes.

Traci’s Picks

Taraji P. Henson in Alberta Ferretti

Taraji kept it classic and cool in a gown fit for Hollywood royalty. The neckline cut is perfect, the slit on the leg isn’t too high, and the best part is that this velour dress isn’t black – it’s navy blue.

Auli’i Cravalho in Rubin Singer

Like Moana coming out from the sea, Auli’i stepped into the spotlight and straight to our hearts. In addition to her outstanding performance with our boy Lin-Manuel during the show, this SIXTEEN YEAR OLD wore this gorge flowing gown on the red carpet. The white dress with gold accents was classy but just unique enough to stand out from the crowd. It also reminds me of water, but maybe I’m too into Moana.

Ava DuVernay in Ashi Studio

Ava might not have walked away with the gold last night (we’re of the mindset that she should have won, but whatever), but she sure did make a statement with this stunning gown by Ashi Studio, a designer based in Lebanon. The country is 54% Muslim, and Ava chose them specifically as a “small sign of solidarity.” We need people like you, Ava.

Isabelle Huppert in Armani Privé

I haven’t even seen Elle, nor have I seen anything Isabelle Huppert has been in, but she looks like Hollywood royalty in this gown. The 63 year old donned a dress perfect for her age, with just enough sparkle to shine in a sea of youngins.

David Oyelowo in Dolce & Gabbana

More and more men are taking risks with color on the red carpet, and David Oyelowo is rocking a black and white suit coat with modern details, and we are all for it.

 

Best Dressed and Not-So-Favorites: Met Gala 2016

Awards season is over, and this time of year we cut out the middleman: instead of dressing up for the sake of film or music, at the Met Gala celebrities are dressing up to celebrate …. dressing up. The theme of the 2016 Met Gala: Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. Hooray! This theme is far less likely to produce accidentally racist ensembles than China: Through The Looking Glass (2015’s theme). Plus it’s basically asking everyone to wear weird techno cyborg shit, which sounds like an absolute blast if you ask me. The result: one of my favorite nights of Met fashion in the past several years.

Best Dressed

Rita Ora in Vera Wang

The rest of the list is in no particular order, but this belongs at the top. I don’t even care about the feather duster comparisons that have shown up online. She looks like a beautiful silver peacock and I’m amazed. If I could make one alteration, I’d lose the cutout panel on the legs, which – believe it or not – is the only thing that might edge this look into “too much” for me.

Poppy Delevingne in Marchesa

Some gene pools are just prettier than others. But honestly, I can’t stop looking at this dress. This might be the first time I’ve been on board with the Fringe Revival 2K16.

Claire Danes in Zac Posen

Hold on, let me just dim the lights a bit.

What a night! #metgala #zacposen #clairedanes Thank you to my incredible team and #Atelier! #metgala2016

A post shared by Zac Posen (@zacposen) on

Nicole Kidman in Alexander McQueen

Nicole Kidman, for me, lives in the same fashion neighborhood as Kerry Washington and Cate Blanchett – improbably beautiful, ethereal ladies who can pull off anything… but whose fashion gambles don’t always work for me. But this? This is some stars and moon, caped Stevie Nicks realness. She looks like the sky in an Edward Gorey illustration. Amazing.

Zayn Malik in Versace + Robot Arms

I don’t know if robot arms are “good fashion” or whatever but I do know that I laughed out loud in delight when I saw this. Solely because these “go-go-gadget solo career” arms are cracking me up, this is one of my favorites. Okay, Gigi Hadid looks pretty great in Tommy Hilfiger, too.

Tavi Gevinson in Coach 1941

I’ve been following Tavi since her early Style Rookie days, when she was just a typical preteen in a giant hat in the front row at NY Fashion Week. She’s come so far and done such great things that I can’t help but be as proud of her as if I had some sort of a personal stake in her success – like a really great little cousin, or something. Tavi has come a long way since her DIY Comme des Garcons outfits, into a more sleek adult style that’s still fitting of a young editor/ Broadway actress/ future queen of America.

Kate Hudson in Atelier Versace

In some photos, the cutouts are even more “wait, what exactly is going on here” and that’s why I love this. It’s like when your one friend gets a Cricut machine and starts making a bunch of weird paper art stuff. Like, did someone make this dress by folding it in half then snipping out shapes, snowflake-style? I hope so, because that’s the only way I could love it more.

Alessandra Ambrosio in Balmain

See: Hudson, above. I think some of the best Met dresses are the ones that would easily be a worst Oscars dress.

Least Favorites

I’m not in any position to call any of these couture looks “bad,” and on a night when avant garde fashion is celebrated I don’t want to criticize anyone for taking risks. If not now, when? So instead, I’ll say that these were the looks that did not make my personal favorites list:

Selena Gomez in Louis Vuitton

First things first, Selena looks as beautiful as she ever has (which is: very). But is it just me, or is this more like a regular, H&M looking dress with a little leather thing on top? It did get more interesting when I scrolled down and saw the boots, and this is the closest out of any of last night’s looks to something I’d wear in real life, but I guess that’s just it. I don’t WANT to see something I’d wear in real life.

Beyonce in Givenchy

You know that tumblr meme about being a judge on Chopped and kicking people off because “it has mushrooms?” Which is so brilliant because on one hand it pokes fun at the poster for having arbitrary and “low-brow” tastes and criticisms, while on the other hand pointing out that all criticism is on some level arbitrary and based on personal preferences. Anyway. That’s me with anything bandaid-colored and latex-y. This is technically very good but I’m like “nah, looks like flesh-colored silly putty. Next.” As the internet was quick to point out, this looks like it was made of finest Becky Skins.

Lady Gaga in Versace

EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING from the waist up, even or especially her Mello Yello-colored 80s hair. But then I’m just bored of the no pants thing. But like, hard yes on everything other than her metallic undies. I almost want to put this on my best dressed list instead because, like Zayn’s robot arms, at least this is fun. Plus you always get bonus points if you really go for the theme, right? Yet my problem, I guess, is that the no-pants look is so expected for her that I wanted a departure.

Dakota Johnson in Gucci

It actually looks like there’s some great texture going on with the stars, but this is another “ew, mushrooms” pick for me: this particular kind of star shape, in these colors, reminds me of the Hot Topic looks that were around in the early-mid 2000s.