Charlize Theron and Her Icy Hot Glamour in Atomic Blonde

It’s not the fashions that make the actress. It’s the actress that makes the fashions. Charlize Theron is the undisputed ice queen of Hollywood Cinema and her fashion sensibilities (and those of her stylists) are on glorious display in her latest film, Atomic Blonde. The movie is a delicious viewing experience for lovers of glamour, sex appeal (the old-school version that leaves plenty to the imagination, not the pornographic obvious kind) and the sight of a beautiful woman wearing beautiful outfits while playing an emotionally-transfixing secret agent with a propensity for vodka on the rocks, French female spies, and ass-kicking.

Courtesy of Focus Features

Atomic Blonde isn’t a movie really. It’s more of a 2-hour fashion spread in digital video, complete with an 80’s pop soundtrack (New Order, Queen, Nena, Bowie, etc.). Between the black and white set pieces, the exquisite set designs and the notable and notably-stylized wardrobes, one can see the upper-most limits and limitations of the use of 1980s nostalgia in mainstream cinema as much as the role of clothing in character development.

What makes the film most memorable, however, is its starlet.

Charlize Theron has always possessed a rarefied mixture of cool sexuality with an icy demeanor and a preternaturally pretty face. From her ad campaigns for Dior to her roles in films like Head in the Clouds, 2 Days in the Valley and The Italian Job, her physicality and beauty are seemingly fused into a rare and transgressive iteration of contemporary glamour not often depicted in today’s films and television programs. What separates Theron from other actresses is her guileless star power and her lack of vanity. She is glittery and glorious in a seemingly natural way, with just that right amount of artifice that Angelina Jolie, with her fillered lips, vainglorious self-awareness and eating disordered frame can never be.

Theron’s performance in Atomic Blonde, while earning praise and press for an array of stunts, fight sequences and general girl spy badassness, would be best explored as a testament to the influence of haute couture in certain film circles with a little overdose of 1980s cold war nostalgia mixed in for good measure. The use of high fashion in Hollywood is nothing new and dates back to at least the 1940s. What make Atomic Blonde special in contemporary American cinema however is how the film becomes a vehicle for Ms. Theron’s iconography. Since she is a producer, you can bet that she was hands-on when it came to choosing the wardrobes and set pieces, all of which dramatically add to her steely reputation and untouchable aura.

There is no real drama or story line per se in Atomic Blonde. Big Hollywood blockbusters, and this is one of them, are immune to authentic character development and emotional story-telling. That’s not their point and it’s disingenuous for critics or others to criticize these films along those lines. Atomic Blonde is, however, a vehicle for Ms. Theron’s raw sexuality and cosmopolitan aura. While the term “cosmopolitan” has recently been warped into a pejorative in certain American political circles, Ms. Theron embodies everything that makes being a worldly woman sensually irresistible.

Born in South Africa and having lived in the United Kingdom and the USA, few actresses today travel across the semiotics of “Englishness” in all its global manifestations as well as she does. Her utterance of “cock sucker” is one of the nastiest, sexiest and best moments in Atomic Blonde”. It deserves it’s own avant garde release as a limited issue vinyl 7-inch single with a b-side of snippets from her turn in The Devil’s Advocate playing a good ol’ Southern girlfriend to Keanu Reeves.

For my money the most impressive aspect of Atomic Blonde is Ms. Theron all dressed up in Stuart Weitzman, Dior, Burberry, Max Mara, Yves Saint-Laurent, John Galliano collections from the 1980s and the current day. It’s not just a movie star wearing beautiful and fabulously expensive clothes that makes Atomic Blond so much fun and oh-so captivating in that Helmut Newton way. It’s how Ms. Theron wears those accoutrements with such dignity, danger, and effervescence that makes the film so special and a much-needed respite from the inane adolescence of super hero movies.

In fact, the film’s costumes end up becoming a supporting player in the story line: from James McAvoy’s bad boy faux military overcoat to the track suits and skater gear. The film’s costume designer Cindy Evans is interviewed at Fashionista where she illumines the sartorial variables involved in the conception and making of the movie.

Indeed Atomic Blonde is a film made with a rare visual sophistication that doesn’t get too caught up with itself and contributes to the flow of the film’s narrative in a way not seen since the John Wick films. In fact the film’s director, David Leitch, was also the director of John Wick, perhaps the masculine antipode to Atomic Blonde with its muscle cars, expensive suits and neonish lighting.

I can see a beautiful melding of universes in a future film: John Wick teams up with the Atomic Blonde to fight evil spies in Paris.

Somebody please make this movie!

From the fabulously glorious white trench coat to the Christian Dior stilettos Theron’s embrace of style counters today’s trend among many actresses to take on roles that make them appear ugly and un-desirable in a ridiculously vain attempt to transcend their looks so as to appear to have earned a certain movie star gravitas. Theron has made a fine career of discerning curatorial statements when it comes to choosing roles in films that will maximize her looks without reducing her to a caricature.

It’s a foolish trend and someone needs to tell producers that the very reason we go to the movies is to see beautiful men and women look beautiful and sexy in the first place!

With the case of Charlize Theron, we have an actress (yes, I am using the “feminine” term and no, it’s not sexist) who, at the age of 41 is not afraid to fully display (in the literal and metaphorical sense) her unconventional beauty on screen without ever appearing vain in doing so. It is this quality that makes her mesmerizing.

There is almost a safely quotidian and accessible element to her smile and a fantastical steeliness to her personae as evidenced in such films such as Prometheus and Mad Max Fury Road and Snow White & the Huntsman.

For Atomic Blonde one has to congratulate the producers, stylists, director and other decision-makers for making eye candy for lovers of glamour, haute couture and eclecticism in a time when it seems Hollywood has lost its way when it comes to combining beauty with style and mystery.

The word is “alluring” and it is lost on so many of today’s actresses, singers, and others in the spotlight. With out-sized displays of crass pseudo-sexual potency and downright sluttiness masquerading as transgressive feminism today’s female celebrities, be they pop singers or actresses, appear to have confused glamour with attention-seeking. Ms. Theron’s career and performance in Atomic Blonde provide an alternative dignified model of sexual desirability and elegance, one that many of today’s females in the harsh starlight of fame would do well to learn from.

 

 

2017 Venice Biennale Journal: Day 1

I decide to immediately head out and brave through my stomach virus. I stopped at a tiny bakery and ordered food to sustain me. My order was prosecco, focaccia with olives and sopressata, and a scoop of hazelnut gelato, all fantastic.

Venice is all mazes and alleys, no cars, no bikes. It is easy to get lost in this amazing city. Having lost my iphone I was resorting to old-school navigation, asking for directions in my limited Italian and writing things down. Immediately I recall the fun of getting lost and not caring about time. This is a very special phenomenon in Venice. You cannot be in a hurry and you must enjoy the trip, no matter how brief, as much as the mission or destination. It reminded me of my first time here ten years ago. Old sensations, thoughts, and ideas re-emerged from that trip in October of 2007. I was reminded of how much I love the light, the colors, and the textures of the buildings. I was reminded of how nice the Italians are to all the local tourists. I was reminded of fast-paced and stressed American life is by comparison to life in Venice.

An Installation by Thu Van Tran

Most of all, I was reminded of my first night in Venice on that trip ten years go. I had no cel phone and I forgot to write down the address of my apartment. Heading out for a late night and not know the city, with people already home in bed I got very lost and very desperate around 2 am to return to my place. I was so dreadfully tired that I nearly decided to sleep on the corner of a little alleyway till I eventually found my apartment.
Tonight, fortunately, the memories of that misadventure helped me remember the discipline of getting my bearings right away and writing down the main square right near my apartment. It’s called Campo San Polo and it is lovely.

After my lunch I went straight to the Arsenale, the main event of the Biennale. I saw the press office and went in hoping my email request for press passes was accepted. Fortunately, it was and I was granted a two day pass with a reduced admission rate.

The Aresenale shows were mostly excellent. Sculpture, installation and odd videos predominated. The space is immense. I was still battling my stomach problems but they were not minimizing my joy and sense of wonder at discovering the immensely high rate of contemporary art. What makes the Venice Biennale so special is not that it is the oldest such exhibition in the world. It is, in my opinion, the most wonderful contemporary art experience because the work displayed is not about selling per se and the locations for the work are magnificent. By locations I mean both Venice and the particular spaces/galleries in the Arsenale and the Giardini.

I spent about three hours in the Arsenale though I needed about. I simply had to get back to my room to shower and sleep a bit. But before I made my stop I was just so excited to see the city that I disembarked at San Marco Piazza and noticed there was an exhibition of Bosch’s paintings at the Palazzo Ducale. I went in thinking I had to see it as Bosch has always been one of my favorite Flemish painters. The show was incredible. It portrayed the history of two Bosch triptychs in Venice and some work from other cities. It included other Flemish artists like Memling and a variety of drawings and related histories, documents regarding the provenance of the ownership of the Bosch works, which were once owned by Pop Pius IX, who lived in Venice during his Papal reign.

To make matters even more arduous I also stopped quickly at the Taiwanese Pavaillion, near San Marco Square. Many countries have their representational shows for the Biennale off-site at various locations in the city. The artists was Tehching Hsieh, famous for photographing himself every hour of every day for an entire year. It was a superb show of his career work, mostly conceptual performance art. I enjoyed it, particularly within the setting of Venice.

 

An Email To David, My Trump-Voting Friend

by
George Magalios

Note: This email was written in response to a link (https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/uncategorized/french-government-to-track-everyone-everywhere/) sent by my friend David. 

Hi David, Great seeing you and Silvia Friday. I really enjoyed it. 

Thanks for this article. I say thank you because the article inspired me to think about you and my other friends who voted for Trump and who continue to be swept up in the false bravado and cynicism of so-called Conservative beliefs. 

Let me start by addressing the article you sent. I usually just delete links from you and my other friends when I realize they are going to garbage websites that try to stoke the worst values in people. I dismiss them like I dismiss misguided beliefs of people I love. But this time I felt compelled to write you a proper reply and to convey my truest emotions and thoughts. I hope you will take this reply as a genuine act of respect and friendship. 

Apart from being inflammatory and baseless, the article is an example of nonsense, untruth, and very poor writing. It is not based on fact in any way and I imagine its sole purpose is to stoke the paranoid, angry flames of those who find comfort in death and destruction, for the type of person who would rather by guns to prepare for the apocalypse then give to a charity or support a neighbor in need. 

 The website in which this article appears is a gigantic garbage dump of paranoia, empty political hatred and weak thinking masked with the racist and neo-pseudo-apocalyptic ramblings of the terrified little child in all those who wallow in the thought that the end is near.

First, the French government are not planning or currently tracking everyone. The USA does this with our smartphones. There is no privacy. The only way to be off the grid is to live off the land in a 19th century way without technology. The days of privacy are gone. Second, the French, British and other countries have a national identity card to give all citizens an easy way to be identified and to have their records registered. I really like this idea and the USA should implement it too. The driver license is a bogus form of identification since pretty much anybody can get one and it does not distinguish between citizens, resident aliens, and illegal immigrants. 

Third, this website and article are simply examples of truly horrible attempts at news that feed into the biases and fears of the financial elite. While I do not agree with the French tax structure for the wealthy, this is not a website you or any self-respecting and honest person should be reading. All it does is feed into the bullshit and lies of the right and the libertarian mindset that is based on empty quasi-macho anger and offers no real solutions. 

Articles like this: https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/world-news/climate/more-evidence-against-global-warming-surfaces/

are examples of what I mean. No self-respecting scientist denies climate change is caused by humans and technology. It appears to be an irrefutable fact. Even it if is only a belief, it is one I abide by as I witness the ridiculousness of our weather patterns over the decades. Two days ago, on February 22, it was 70 degrees in New York city. This is matched by hard scientific data in terms of the melting of the ice caps, the increasing rise in average annual temperatures for the whole planet and much more. 

Even if Global Warming were refutable, what is wrong with energy conservation, renewable energy and living in balance and in tune with the planet? 

How can the political stance and lifestyle that values ecology and environmental protection be objectionable to anyone who loves nature, clean water, clean air and who wants their children and grandchildren to swim in clean seas and live without fear of water shortages and air pollution?

I love you but your right wing, semii-Libertarian angry white man politics are tiresome, insulting and quite frankly, very predictable. I hope you can evolve and push yourself to question your assumptions and beliefs, which I find infused with the racist resentment and bitterness of the stereotypical gun-toting libertarian living in the woods bemoaning the fate of his country and hating everyone and everything. 

I know you are not hateful person but all the links you send me and all your political beliefs are suffused, infused, and undergirded with animosity and venom toward so-called liberals, African Americans, environmentalists, the French, etc…

Do you see a patten here? 

I implore you to analyze the tone and source, the agenda and origin of this hate. 

Any website that puts up articles like these is pure junk and demeans anyone reading it. 

Photos of Al Gore breathing fire? Really? Is this where you get your news? 

This brings me to the revelation that you heaped upon me recently: your vote for Trump. That you voted for a madman and sociopath for President leaves me dismayed. This past election was arguably the most unusual and problematic of any American election in the past 100 years. The stakes are always high but never in our country’s history has there been a more despicable and humiliating excuse for a candidate as Donald Trump. How can anyone who loves this country and who claims to be educated and enlightened support this man? 

How can you vote for someone who is a misogynist, serial liar, and a cultural ignoramus who is entirely devoid of dignity, good taste and even a hint of respect for others (except for Vladimir Putin)? 

What level of anxiety and angst in your life could possible make you think Trump is worthy of being President more than Hilary Clinton? There is no rational, moral, legal, financial, political or cultural basis to support the conclusion that Trump is worthy of the office of President.

What emotional trauma or rage are you living with that could cloud your intellectual and moral judgement so badly, so completely? 

Do you not respect kindness, goodness, women, and the right of all human beings to have a good job and healthcare? 

How could you support Trump’s brazenly racist, xenophobic, proto-fascist beliefs?

By voting for Trump you voted against all the good sense, righteousness, tolerance, love, humanity, and humility you display in your life. 

Did you really think Trump will defend us from the corporatism that has ravaged and savaged every aspect of our lives, from real estate and healthcare to insurance and education? 

Do you really believe Trump will best represent the working men and women just trying to get by and feed their families? 

Did you really believe his lies, bogus promises and insidious comments about our economy and political structure? 

Did you really think he is competent, intelligent, and emotionally stable enough to represent the United States and lead us in a time of crisis?

Do you really think he will lead this country into a prosperous and peaceful future with his unstable mental state, his belligerence and his gargantuan ego matched only in magnitude by the smallness of his mind and his confidence? 

Don’t you see that all narcissists like Trump are really small, feeble, fragile, and scared individuals living in constant fear? 

Don’t you see how dangerous such people are? 

Don’t you recognize the ultimate form of courage is humility, as demonstrated in the life and teachings of great people like Jesus, and your own family members?

Don’t you see that true confidence, greatness, and strength in a political leader does not breed antagonism and strives for kindness, peace and understanding in defense of the poor, the weak and those less fortunate than our political and financial elites? 

How can someone who calls himself a Christian support the hateful, violent, mendacious, racist, and perpetually insulting and degrading behavior of Donald Trump?

Don’t you see that truly strong people believe in empathy and compassion, and more importantly, practice it to all without regard to wealth, status, or skin color? 

Don’t you see that Trump represents the very antithesis of honest, hard-working, and welcoming Americans? 

How could you vote for someone who, in every phase of his business practices, was fraudulent, mendacious, evil, and incompetent? 

The David I know is a very righteous and kind man. You have always been a warm friend and example of the authentic earnestness of the MidWest American spirt that I have admired ever since I met you and ever since I traveled across the country. 

Don’t you see that your support of these websites and this President is an affront to your very own beliefs and dignity? 

Your Friend,

George

The Etymology of Color

by
George Magalios

The names of colors are stories in themselves. There is poetry in “burnt sienna”, “royal blue” or “payne’s gray”. The names of colors are also tied to subjectivity, perspective, and even something as banal as branding. The paint samples at your local hardware stores are filled with pseudo-literary titles for hues that range from the mundane to the sublime. The great irony of names for color is that everyone conceives of a specific hue as uniquely as we conceive of love or experience the taste of a peach.

It is true that colors play on our emotions. We experience different sensations with different juxtapositions. But what about the names? Does a name sway us? For a painter, colors are both fetish objects to adore and the very elements of the art of putting paint to a surface. For conceptual artists as varied as Yves Klein or Gilbert and George, color can be suffused with symbolic power (International Yves Klein Blue or the gold of the performance “The Singing Sculpture”).

There is mystery and poetry in the relationship between language and color. There is no limit to the historical and political implications of this relationship. Politicians wear their predictable dark blue suits and the environmentalist clothes himself in the green of photosynthesis.

In Praise of The Church

by
George Magalios

Dear Mr. Kilbey, Mr. Koppes, Mr. Powles, and Mr. Wilson-Piper:

I am writing to ask for your forgiveness. My sin was that of a lack of faith in the Church. After listening to your band faithfully since 1984, I had lapsed into other musical tastes and wandered off away from the band’s music sometime around the release of Sometime Anywhere. I write you as a loving admirer and fellow artist as I have now re-discovered the band’s inspired and breath-taking output since then, most recently with Untitled #23, a work of sublime resistance against world-weariness. It is an album created in a world and an earth established on a plane of insight so far removed from our dreary time of financial crises and cynical politics that I frequently wonder if the band had made some sort of bargain with spirits from another world as they were creating it.

This album has been a spiritual and artistic tonic in my simple life of working and taking care of my elderly parents here in south Florida, a cultural and spiritual zone of daily barbarism and crass ignorance. To listen to Space Saviour, Dead Man’s Hand, and Happenstance in my modest apartment by the Atlantic is to be imbued with resolve, courage, and determination, as well as awe. The resolve is to continue to grow and develop as an artist and a son, lover, and friend. The courage is to want to grow as an artist (a painter and photographer). The determination is to never accept the simple-minded cynicism and deathly commercial spirit that envelops artistic practice in a world that reduces every action, every production, and every relationship to a dollar figure.

Untitled #23 comes from the muses, the gods, and the angels whose aura shines on The Church. That they choose The Church, and have never let them down in over 30 years, is a testament to the spirit and will of each of you to grow and gel as men and a band. As I now warmly embrace every single one of your albums that I had not encountered in my time of exile from the band, stupidly thinking that Sometime, Anywhere was the beginning of their end.

I first started listening to your music when I was about 17 years-old, on my way to high school. My friend Jerome Duran had lent me a compilation tape that included Electric Lash. From then on it was pure bliss, love, and lust. The music evolved and so did my love for the band, from The Blurred Crusade (to this day my favorite with “Fields of Mars” still being my favorite Church song) all the way to Priest=Aura, whose sublime atmospheric sonic booms resonate in the ether of my dreams and nightmares.

(to be continued)