The Problem with Sex & the City 2.

sex and the city 2 carrie book review

I’ve been thinking and wanting to write about Sex & the City 2 for quite some time, but I was never sure of the right angle to take. Having just rewatched the whole series, culminating in the arguably ill-fated films, I think I’m ready to dip my toe in the shark-infested waters that surround Sex & the City 2.

SATC2 picks up where the first film left off: the franchise’s ascent into affluence but its decent of integrity. And where better to splash some new money than the “new” Middle East: Abu Dhabi.

I stand by the series and even the first movie, but Carrie and the girls are pressing my loyalty with their Arabian adventure. Samantha throwing condoms around the souk in an effort to assert her empowerment (a sentiment I don’t disagree with, but can we please respect multiculturalism?) followed by some covered Muslim women revealing their gaudy designer garb under their abayas and hijabs because FASHUN = the end of gender inequality could certainly have been omitted from the second cinematic outing and it still would have been a semi-palatable film. While these antics blatantly show how out of touch SATC has become, the girls’ ignorance is echoed throughout the film when Charlotte gets sucked into having “the Forbidden Experience” (purchasing black market designer wares) and questions what the call to prayer means. You’d think that before jetting off to the land of “desert moons, Scheherazade and magic carpets” women who are as free as they are would be a little more in touch with the culture and what’s expected of them there. Smart Traveller, hello?!

What I do like about the Middle Eastern flair of the film, though, is the thematic parallels between women wearing veils to silence their voices and the question of whether Carrie, after five books and countless “I couldn’t help but wonder”’s (literally; I lost count after about ten when I rewatched the series. Repetition, much?!), should shut up.

This seems to be the consensus, as New York magazine’s review of her latest book, I Do! Do I?, is titled “The Vow of Silence”. And in the accompanying illustration, Carrie is drawn with tape across her mouth, to echo the silencing of their Middle Eastern counterparts: “It’s like they don’t want them to have a voice,” Carrie observes. Synergy!

The concept of women’s voices is echoed elsewhere in the films’ storylines, with Miranda quitting her job because her misogynist boss didn’t respect her “strong female voice”, and Charlotte blaming Samantha for “open[ing] her big mouth” about her hot, braless nanny being a distraction for Harry.

Looking back on enlightenment of the series, it makes me sad that the insight into women’s lives, sex and otherwise, that it was so famous for has been completely erased from Sex & the City 2 in the name of capitalism and cultural insensitivity.

Related: In Defence of Sex & the City.

Movies: The Best Movies I’ve Seen This Year.

Tomorrow, When the War Began. Check out my review to see how strongly I feel about it.

Desk Set. This 1957 romantic comedy starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy takes place in a reference library, and deals with the incorporation of computers to help the ladies in their cataloguing. With a healthy dose of the trademark ’50s slapstick rom-com dynamic and TDF fashion, I loved this one.

Easy A. Again, another I’ve done a review on. While I had high hopes for this one, it didn’t live up to them fully, but it is one of the smarter teen movies in recent memory. On par with Mean Girls, perhaps?

Rear Window. What took me so long, right? I watched this one for the first time last Christmas, and continued the tradition again this holiday season. Grace Kelly is luminous as “his girl Friday” to James Stewart’s L.B. Jeffries, who is the ultimate leading man. Hitchcock at his best.

Toy Story 3. It is unanimous that Toy Story 3 is one of the best movies released in 2010. Perhaps the best of the Toy Story franchise? Nah, my money’s on the first instalment.

Desperately Seeking Susan. So bad it’s good. The fashion is fabulous (on Madonna’s part, anyway) and Her Madgesty is surprisingly likable in it.

Sorry about the dismal effort in this post, but seriously; there were no good movies this year! You only have to look at Sex & the City 2 (which I quite liked, but will admit was baaad), The Expendables and Killers for proof of that.

That’s why I spent a lot of my cinema-going money on the classics, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Beauty & the Beast in 3D. That counts as a movie I haven’t seen before this year, right? Right…?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Movies/Book Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Movie Review: Easy A.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Movie Review: Sex & the City 2.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Movie Review: The Expendables.

[Jezebel] Is Easy A The Next Mean Girls?

[Jezebel] I Went to See Killers & It’s All Your Fault.

Event: Girls Night In Dream Guests.

This year will be my first year hosting a Girls Night In event in the hopes of raising money to battle women’s cancers.

I’ve been planning to hold a supremely cheesy movie night (where Legally Blonde and Clueless are on the cards) for a while now, so I thought, why not raise money for cancer while we’re at it.

Those who I’ve actually invited know who you are, but in the spirit of raising awareness of female cancers, I thought I’d churn out a list of my ideal Girls Night In guests.

No Girls Night In would be complete without the hilariously self-deprecating musings of Mia Freedman. It’s true; any chance I could get to speak to Freedman face to face I will take, so of course she had to be at the very top of my list.

Next is my blog-crush, Girl with a Satchel’s Erica Bartle. I’ve said time and time again that Bartle’s blog was what inspired me to start my own, and I would love to pick her brain whilst chilling out with Cher & Co.

Rachel Hills’ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman is a fairly recent addition to my blogroll, but her insights into pop culture, feminism and sex would go down a treat with a glass of champers or two and some nibblies.

Ah, Gala Darling, where do I start? With her quirky personality and ever-changing hair colours, she would be the life of the party, and no doubt bring along some über-cool DVDs that no one else would’ve thought of.

I can’t include all my favourite bloggers and not include Sarah Ayoub of Wordsmith Lane. We seem to have a similar admiration for all the ladies listed above, and with a wedding on the horizon, I’m sure Sarah could use a bit of pampering.

Not many Scarlett Woman readers will be familiar with my next guest, but those of you who know me well won’t be surprise that I’ve included Stephanie McMahon on the list. Not only is she the daughter of World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon and wife of WWE Superstar Triple H (my favourite wrestler, BTW), but she is the Executive Vice President of Creative Development and Operations. At one point in my teenage angst years, I even claimed that McMahon had the life I wanted. So it’s only fitting that she be brought into the fold of women who have the lives I want now.

Sarah Jessica Parker has overstayed her welcome as Carrie perhaps a tad too long, judging from reactions to Sex & the City 2, however, I find Parker as a person fascinating and very normal. And in her honour, of course we would have to break out some Carrie fever in the form of the SATC box set.

Finally, provided she brings gifts from her fashion line and any number of her Hermes Birkin bags for us to caress, Victoria Beckham will be welcomed with open arms. I believe that, underneath it all, VB is a fairly normal person, with a tight reign of control over her public persona. I think everyone could learn a little something from Mrs Beckham.

And so concludes my dream guest list. I will be blogging about the actual event in a few weeks time, including the food, the flicks and, most importantly, how much we raised for the Cancer Council.

Related: Profile—Sarah Ayoub of Wordsmith Lane. 

Magazines: Vogue Schmogue—Why US Vogue Ain’t Everything it’s Cracked Up to Be.

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the conglomerate that is US Vogue.

If The Devil Wears Prada is anything to go by, hundreds of thousands of dollars are wasted on ample, professionally decorated office space, shoots that will never make it into the magazine, catering and gifts to pander to the fickle fashion industry.

Sure, Vogue is the foremost fashion magazine the world turns to to see what’s hot and what’s not, so they can afford to be a bit hoity-toity, right?

Well have you looked at a copy of US Vogue lately? The last one I bought was earlier this year, when I got a bit caught up in the hype of Sex & the City 2, with the movie’s star, Sarah Jessica Parker, on the cover. What a waste of money: if I’ve ever felt buyers remorse over a magazine, it was then.

The only other copies I own of the US edition is Blake Lively’s first outing on the cover, and the Michelle Obama edition, for obvious historical/social/cultural reasons, and both were fairly lacklustre.

So why does the title command such attention and reverence in the fashion industry, when other mags like rivals Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, and quirkier titles like NYLON, clearly possess higher qualities of writing and, oftentimes, fashion. Blasphemous, I know, but someone had to say it.

Personally, I think it might be time to employ a new editor. Anna Wintour has been at the helm for twenty years, and perhaps she’s overstayed her welcome. Sure, there have been some great fashion shoots by the likes of Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz, but if that’s all the mag has to offer (most of which you can access online), what’s the point of buying it?

A recent interview with Vogue creative director, the flame haired right-hand woman to Wintour, Grace Coddington, in Australian Vogue, made me wonder if she isn’t better suited to the editorship. She has an impeccable eye for composition and a quirky touch, something which the über-polished and stony Wintour does not.

But perhaps we should be looking to a younger, fresher take on the magazine, hence, a younger, fresher editor. Coddington is pushing 70 and god knows how old the elusive Wintour is. (A Wikipedia search reveals she turns 61 on November 3, one day after my birthday, but I liked the way the previous sentence sounds!) The staleness of the brand is evidenced by the same old cover girls, Lively, Sienna Miller (who fronted last year’s September issue) and Keira Knightly, actresses whom nobody really cares all that much about. The magazine’s effort to inject some much needed diversity saw the boring Halle Berry take the September issue’s cover, the first black woman to front it since Naomi Campbell in 1989! (Somewhat of a token gesture, perhaps?) Carey Mulligan is on the October cover, and while she’s definitely a step away from the usual Vogue-ette, she’s still a bit of a yawnfest.

Magazine retailer mag nation also laments the September issue, in that it is really the only popular edition of the title all year, and in order to make sure they have enough stock come August, they become overstocked with issues consumers don’t want because of three-monthly ordering increments.

While there’s no doubt US Vogue will always hold a spot on the newsstand, it seems as though today’s Vogue is a mere shadow of what the brand once was. A nice token, but if you’re looking for style and substance in your magazine, try Marie Claire.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Vogue Might Just Be Culturally Relevant Again.

[mag nation] Why is The September Issue a Big Deal?

Book Review: Sex & the City 2 Coffee Table Book.

Okay, so this tome is not exactly heavy on the text, but it certainly is heavy on the fashion, friends and film sets featured in the movie.

If you hated the movie (which you can read about here, here and here) like 80% of viewers, I would still recommend getting your hands on this book. The layouts are beautiful, every one of Carrie’s outfits is broken down with commentary by Sarah Jessica Parker and, my favourite aspect of the movie by far, the work that went into the set designs is fascinating.

And if you’re a fan of the series, fashion, or film in general, it is definitely worth checking out.

I’ve done all the hard work for you, so here’s a sneaky peek(y) at the book.

What They Wore

While I lamented in my earlier review of the movie that the fashions were a bit lacklustre, I have to argue, after reading this book, that the accessories are what really pushed SATC2 over the edge from mediocre to sartorial saviour. The vintage jewellery, especially, makes me glad I’m going to The Way We Wear vintage market next weekend in Williamstown, Melbourne, to pick some up for myself.

 

 

 

 

 Sets & the City

A lot of the movies I like aren’t exactly Oscar winning (more like Razzie winning; ie. 27 Dresses and Suddenly 30), but it’s the scenery they evoke that piques my interest. In that respect, SATC2 really raised the bar.

 

Stay tuned for a SATC(1) retrospective.

Movie Review: Sex & the City 2.

In lieu of Monday’s weekly book review, I went to see Sex & the City 2 on Friday night, so I will be reviewing that instead. Well, it is based on a book…

Having read all the 2-star reviews on blogs and in magazines over the past weeks, I went into the whole thing with very low expectations. I knew the flick would be an exercise in product placement even more so than the first one, what with Sarah Jessica Parker sitting on the board of, and now designing for, Halston Heritage. Not to mention the Manolos, Jimmy Choos and Louboutins that we’ve come to know and love because of SATC. Mr. Blahnik was even quoted as saying “that shoe [the blue satin shoe that Carrie goes back for in the first film and gets Big as well] saved our company”. (Ironically, he’s also slammed the show for making him famous.)

The controversy surrounding the heavily Photoshopped promo poster and the “sex in the Middle East” subject matter also overshadowed the film’s premier and the memories of the girls gallivanting around New York City, breaking boundaries for women in television, and in life.

While SATC2 itself wasn’t groundbreaking, it was much better than I thought it was going to be. It was a visual explosion, for one thing; the sets, particularly Carrie and Big’s apartment, were stunning and so inspirational, as Paula Joye reiterates in her e-newsletter, LifeStyled. I am having major apartment-envy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if SATC style becomes the interior du jour.

The main image fans have been bombarded with in the lead up to the film’s release was that of the four stars traipsing across the desert, Samantha in a studded helmet-like headdress and Charlotte channelling Olivia Newton John in “Let’s Get Physical”. Thank God this scene is not representative of the rest of their wardrobes. While costume designer Patricia Field should be sartorially ashamed, most of the other outfits really evoked a Middle Eastern flair.

In other areas, especially the scenes back in New York, Field fell flat. Yes, two years have passed since the first film, which was absolutely decadent in it’s use of fashion, replete with 50-plus costume changes for Carrie, and we are now in a recession. However, with an alleged $10 million costuming budget, you’d think Field could have jazzed it up a bit, especially when it came to Carrie. Boring white Halston with some gold accents, and a belly-caring gingham top with jeans aren’t very Carrie-esque.

But I will applaud the movie for bringing back some fashion favourites. In the ’80s flashback scene, you will notice Carrie’s navy hat box, which reappears on the Abu Dhabi trip some 25 years later. The pink and white suitcases Carrie uses when she moves to Paris with Petrovski are also used again in UAE. And during Carrie and Big’s marriage crisis, Big arrives at Carrie’s old apartment in his town car like the days of old, where she greets him in her Autumn/Winter 2000/2001 Dior newsprint dress. That certainly elicited a response from the movie-goers!

The new characters were endearing, especially Carrie’s butler in Abu Dhabi, Guarau , whose personal life made her reflect on her own. (Spoiler alert: Carrie begins to resent Big for wanting to spend more time at home, ie. on the couch, while she still wants to embrace her inner party girl. She decides to spend some time at her old apartment [see above] to “write”, and when she returns to their communal quarters, they have a wonderful night getting “reacquainted”. When Big suggests they make a habit of having “two days off from their marriage a week”, Carrie freaks out and flees to Abu Dhabi with the girls; Guarau’s wife still lives in India and he commutes whenever he has the time/money to see her.) And how Samantha referred to them was even better! Some gems were “‘Paula’ Abdul”, Samantha’s gay butler, and her UAE expat love interest, “Lawrence of Arabia my labia”.

In other sex-scandal related news, Samantha’s Birkin is broken at the spice market, and out spills a plethora of condoms. Samantha is shamed by the shoppers in the street, and in a display of sexual liberation, she throws her birth control at the Middle Easterners as only she could, which harkens back to other Samantha moments (ie. accusing a Playboy bunny of stealing her fake Fendi; throwing her wig into the audience at a breast cancer benefit). While this may not have been an appropriate way to represent attitudes to sex in this part of the world, it is Samantha, and it is Sex & the City.

What I found even less appropriate was the amount of cleavage on show, especially Carries! My friend and I mused about whether SJP’s had a boob job; I doubt she has, but her bountiful bosom was certainly out there. And don’t even get me started on the braless nanny!

The storylines were a bit disjointed, I will admit to that; Anthony’s revelation, during their Liza Minnelli-infused nuptuals, that he will most likely cheat on Stanford, Charlotte’s nanny neuroses, and Aidan’s disappearance after he kisses Carrie were all left unresolved. While it may be plausible for you to run a mile from the man you cheated on your husband with in the Middle East, it doesn’t make for formidable storytelling on the big screen. I will never forget how the audience rejoiced in gasps, followed by laughter at our mutual reactions, when Aidan deigned to kiss Carrie when they’re both happily married.

While the consensus does seem to be that the movie sucks (it’s worth seeing for Liza’s rendition of “Single Ladies” alone!) , I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it. My friends and I are a hard audience to please, and we all enjoyed it immensely. Can’t wait to get it on DVD and gift to all. Christmas, perhaps?

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Why SATC2 Never Stood a Chance.

[Jezebel] New Sex & the City 2 Poster: A Photoshop Oasis.

[Pop Crunch] Manolo Blahnik Slams Sex & the City.