Monday, July 11, 2011

Art review: Film villains, heroes share high sense of style at Norton show

Jim Carrey’s Riddler getup from Batman Forever‭ (‬1995‭)‬,‭
‬designed by Bob Ringwood.

By Gretel Sarmiento

In an ideal world,‭ ‬bad guys are easily identifiable and,‭ ‬thus,‭ ‬avoidable.‭ ‬Their crimes are not carried out with a pen but with heavy swords or devastating superpowers.‭ ‬And right before they get their way,‭ ‬a hero sporting flashy colors saves the day.‭

In that ideal world,‭ ‬evil and good share one thing:‭ ‬they are both stylish.‭

This is the world the Norton Museum of Art has chosen to display this summer.‭ ‬Running now until Sept.‭ ‬11,‭ ‬Out of this World:‭ ‬Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television consists of original costumes from memorable films and TV shows including‭ ‬The Terminator,‭ ‬Ghostbusters,‭ ‬Star Trek,‭ ‬Tron,‭ ‬Star Wars and‭ ‬a personal favorite,‭ ‬Blade Runner.

The exhibit is divided into three sections,‭ ‬the first of which is dedicated to heroes and villains.‭ ‬Every single gallery room has a spacey feeling to it due,‭ ‬partially,‭ ‬to the abstract music playing in the background.‭ ‬Their walls alternate between orange and gray.‭ ‬The outfits appear inside clear capsules as if in a deep sleep,‭ ‬waiting to be shipped back into space at any moment.‭

One of the first pieces to greet us is the Obi-Wan Kenobi robe worn by Sir Alec Guinness in‭ ‬Star Wars‭ ‬(1977‭)‬.‭ ‬Part samurai and part monk,‭ ‬the design could not be more simple or its color less extravagant.‭ ‬The piece was designed by British costume designer and‭ ‬Academy Award winner John Mollo,‭ ‬whose work includes‭ ‬Alien,‭ ‬King David and Gandhi.‭ ‬Though created expressively for the role of Obi-Wan,‭ ‬this robe is believed to have been used in other films,‭ ‬including The Name of the Rose‭ (‬1986‭)‬,‭ ‬starring Sean Connery.‭

Mollo’s known tendency for military uniforms is nowhere to be seen in the Obi-Wan piece.‭ ‬It is,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬in the elements he chose to complete the look of‭ ‬Darth Vader,‭ ‬standing here to the right.‭ ‬He lifted‭ ‬a monk's cloak from the ecclesiastical division,‭ ‬a World War II German helmet and gas mask from the military department,‭ ‬a leather undersuit from the motorcycle department,‭ ‬and a metal breastplate from the‭ ‬medieval section.‭

Two costumes by John Mollo for Star Wars‭ (‬1977‭)‬:‭ ‬
Obi-Wan Kenobi,‭ ‬left,‭ ‬and Darth Vader.

One look at the Darth Vader costume and you can tell this is a character who is good at being bad.‭ ‬The all-black ensemble suits him well and his face is concealed,‭ ‬as if hiding something.‭ ‬Bad guys,‭ ‬when not carrying a physical scar,‭ ‬carry emotional ones.‭ ‬In that,‭ ‬we are closer to them than the good guys,‭ ‬who always heal faster and miraculously.‭

Costumes as this one do not necessarily need a particular actor to come to life.‭ ‬The same happens with Batman’s.‭ ‬Whether it is George Clooney,‭ ‬Michael Keaton,‭ ‬Val Kilmer or Christian Bale playing the main role,‭ ‬anyone wearing the pointy mask,‭ ‬long cape and sharp gloves can more or less pull it off.‭ ‬Costumes of this sort have a personality of their own.‭

But when an outfit looks like recycling materials taken out the garbage:‭ ‬black sheer top,‭ ‬leggings,‭ ‬stockings full of holes and silver painted pumps,‭ ‬then you need all the emotion and expression you can get from an actor,‭ ‬plus good makeup.‭ ‬That was the outfit worn by‭ ‬Daryl Hannah as replicant Pris in‭ ‬Blade Runner‭ ‬(1982‭)‬.‭ ‬I wonder if Pris would have been the same had‭ ‬Deborah Harry,‭ ‬who was originally envisioned for the role,‭ ‬been chosen instead of Hannah.‭

The same question hits me when facing the pieces in the last room.‭ ‬Anyone can look cool wearing a‭ ‬black leather jacket,‭ ‬but only Arnold can be the Terminator.‭ ‬His jacket is massive,‭ ‬features zippers,‭ ‬a belt and even bullet holes.‭ ‬As in some cases,‭ ‬the description here includes a fun piece of trivia.‭ ‬The shooting for‭ ‬The Terminator was pushed back two days because the custom leather jacket,‭ ‬designed by Hilary Wright,‭ ‬did not fit the star.‭

And did you ever think the Seven of Nine uniform worn by Jeri Ryan in‭ ‬Star Trek:‭ ‬Voyager was too form-fitting‭? ‬It turns out it was.‭ ‬The one-piece blue leotard was so precise on her body that Ryan could not wear bras or panties to prevent the lines from showing.‭

Indiana Jones‭’s ‬leather jacket,‭ ‬designed by
Deborah Nadoolman Landis
for Raiders of the Lost Ark‭ (‬1981‭)‬.

By the way,‭ ‬if you are into jackets,‭ ‬the last room is definitely your spot.‭ ‬There is Indiana Jones’s brown leather bomber,‭ ‬which looks very wearable despite it being old and worn.‭ ‬It was designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis,‭ ‬who is‭ ‬also responsible for Michael Jackson’s zippered red jacket in‭ ‬Thriller.‭ ‬Accompanying the jacket are‭ ‬Indy’s whip from‭ ‬Raiders of Lost Ark‭ ‬(1981‭) ‬and the Holy Grail from‭ ‬The Last Crusade‭ ‬(1989‭)‬.‭

It is no surprise that the loudest suit of the show belongs to the eccentric Jim Carrey’s‭ ‬Riddler from‭ ‬Batman Forever‭ (‬1995‭)‬.‭ ‬It is covered with question marks,‭ ‬his favorite symbol,‭ ‬in a green sparkling color,‭ ‬a pink pin resting on his green tie being the only relief from the green insanity.‭ ‬An unexpected sweet touch on his suit is the green butterfly outlines.‭ ‬See‭?‬ Even bad guys have a soft spot.‭

Don’t head for the exit without seeing one of the highlights of the show:‭ ‬Connor Macleod’s costume,‭ ‬as worn by Christopher Lambert in‭ ‬Highlander‭ ‬(1986‭)‬.‭ ‬Macleod is an immortal Scottish swordsman who gains more power with every immortal opponent he defeats.‭ ‬The armor-like outfit was conceived by British costume designer James Acheson,‭ ‬who is a three-time Oscar winner for his creations in‭ ‬The Last Emperor‭ (‬1987‭)‬,‭ ‬Dangerous Liaisons‭ (‬1988‭) ‬and‭ ‬Restoration‭ (‬1995‭)‬.‭ ‬He also‭ ‬gave‭ ‬Tobey Maguire‭ ‬his flexible reds and blues.‭ The‭ ‬heavy structure and barbaric character of Macleod’s outfit matches the man’s nomadic rough lifestyle perfectly.‭

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s jacket for The Terminator‭ (‬1984‭)‬,
‭ ‬designed by Hilary Wright.

When I think of the show overall I cannot help but admire the elegance of‭ ‬both‭ ‬good and evil here.‭ ‬This is definitely a better world.‭ ‬The bad guys in my world do not have this presence and the good ones tend to overdo it.‭

You should not come‭ ‬to the exhibit‭ ‬to find out the absolute truth,‭ ‬but to see that the work of a costume designer is serious stuff and goes beyond the superficial.‭ ‬Clothes can play with our emotions.‭ ‬If what we see pleases us,‭ ‬we may feel more inclined to get to know the mind.‭ ‬Such is the power of a good outfit:‭ ‬it can make us fall in love even with the bad guys,‭ ‬respect them while disagreeing with their intentions and maybe even forgive them.‭ ‬Not to mention that Evil sporting cooler clothes can make Good look silly.

For a show featuring fabrics,‭ ‬Extraordinary Outcomes can be quite emotional,‭ ‬whether you are a hardcore fan or not.‭ ‬By the end we realize that no matter how much we try,‭ ‬we will never come close to looking like heroes or adventurers,‭ ‬not even bad guys.‭ ‬It starts with the clothes,‭ ‬and we do not even have that.‭

Out of this World:‭ ‬Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television ‬runs through‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬11‭ ‬at the Norton Museum of Art.‭ ‬Admission:‭ ‬$12,‭ ‬adults‭; ‬$5‭ ‬ages‭ ‬13-21.‭ ‬Hours:‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesdays through Saturdays‭; ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sundays‭; ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Thursdays‭; ‬closed Mondays.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬832-5196‭ ‬or visit

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