Review With a Brew – Waconian Editor Picks

During their time at CHS, our Class of 2022 spent time writing reviews for the Waconian magazine! From Film, to musical, art exhibition, to fashion show, our Old Waconians consumed different areas of the arts and raised thought provoking observations that you might not have considered along the way.

‘The Devil Wears Prada’

Eva Mills, Class of 2022

America. A country that prides itself on being a powerful country without any royal family to go alongside. America has a strong global impact on the world when it comes to almost anything, but in my opinion it has the strongest impact on the material world. Having some of the most wealthy and influential people in modern life residing there. ‘The Devil wears Prada’ is the out and out testament to that, dealing with themes such as power, luxury, greed and of course fashion.

The film shows us a glimpse of the influential elite through the eyes of Andy Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway). She plays an unfashionable college graduate who goes to New York City and lands a job as the second assistant with the first wannabe assistant Emily (played by Emily Blunt) to one of the most distinguished women in fashion, Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep in an Oscar-nominated performance) who is the editor of the biggest fashion magazine ‘Runway’. She is told the job is one that “Thousands would kill for” however she is not convinced right away. As Miranda is first shown to act superior to those around her with the capacity to shatter or assemble others careers and far-fetched demands she has for her assistants.

In the film, ‘Runway’ is a part of a social system where there is no room for compromise. Miranda, with the persona of a queen ruling over her magazine, expects her employees to work around her nervously in the way that she wants, in the hope of pleasing her. Andy Sachs is thrown into a Madison Avenue abyss with no idea how to conduct herself in the industry and knowing nothing at all about the fashion world and the new society of the upper class in New York. The way the workers treat the real higher up people all trying to land success is almost like watching the way world leaders or royals are treated. It is obvious in the film that Miranda is aware of this and uses it to her advantage.

Having the film set in New York elevates the glamour and the prestige of the fashion industry through the eyes of the protagonist, Andy, whilst also showing the simple life that she lives outside her job. This is shown through her two friends and boyfriend who are excited about her new job but also get gradually concerned how much it has taken over her happy but simple life.

I would consider the film to have a dark comedic edge, for example, in my favourite scene in the film. Miranda is wailing over two belts that are almost identical and Andy does not see what the fuss is and giggles to herself, then realizes that Miranda has noticed. She decides to explain to Andy in the most belittling way possible that in actual fact these clothes are made by the fashion elite for people with no taste to wear, which again is a testament to how the powerful and rich have a huge influence even down to what you wear to work. It also suggests what I think is one of the most important messages in the film, that if you take out of the equation all the glamour, paparazzi, models and brands what is left and what fashion is about is the clothes and the shoes. Clothes are just simply clothes, flashy or not, and that’s what I think was trying to be portrayed here.

This fundamental realization that the film shares with the audience made me feel connected to the story. This is because ever since I watched this film, I have asked myself the question: ‘Why do we wear clothes?’ It helped to change my perceptions on what I want and do not want to wear and gave me a feeling of freedom. I do not have a favourite and least favourite character as I think they contribute completely different ideas and messages throughout the film and all develop their characters in ways that it is hard to pinpoint, as they all had key parts to play.

I would give ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ a 5/5. It is my favourite film, shining light on interesting topics that I think also can be extracted and added into the watcher’s own life, making them reflect on what is valuable to them and how to turn a bad situation around.

The Valentino Fall/Winter 20/21 Haute Couture Fashion Show

Alice Allkins, Class of 2022

The show, named “The Performance of Grace and Light”, took place on the 21st July 2020, in the famous Cinecitta film studios in Rome, Italy. There was a small live audience viewing it in the studio, whilst most of the audience were across the world viewing the performance via livestream. The 12- minute film was then uploaded to the Valentino website which was where I watched the show.

The only fashion show I had seen prior to this collection was the Vivienne Westwood Fall 1994 Collection, which I watched on Youtube. It showcased the models parading the designs by walking up and down the runway in the traditional format of a fashion show. With this being my only experience of watching a show, I had expected that the Valentino show would take a similar form with the classic runway presentation. I realised as soon as the show began this was not the case, as the first model that came into view appeared to be floating. The horizontally striped coat she was wearing had thin, white, ostrich feathers that were divided by strips of sheer chiffon. This coat was one of my favourite garments within the whole collection because I found the presentation to be immaculate, as the feathers seemed to float aimlessly around the model to make it appear as though she was swimming in the air around her.

In the fifteen looks of the show, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli continued to surprise me as the experience became more and more transcendent. All of the looks were styled and created in various textures and fabrics but they all conformed to the minimalistic yet celestial theme of the show. The ‘blank canvas’ concept was born from the difficulty of creating opulent embroideries and prints, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I thought that the silver and white colour scheme signified new beginnings in a time of hardship for many people and there was a sense of infinite possibilities in the designs.

I found that each moment was as dramatic as the next, as my eye was caught by each look that came onto my screen. The emphasis of the collection was clearly on volume and movement, to enhance the female silhouette in an angelic appearance. This was achieved by making some of the dresses and garments 10 feet long. The stunning lengths of the gowns were displayed with some models mounted on pedestals and others were suspended from aerial hoops and trapezes, which induced the feeling and creativity of a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The Performance of Grace and Light

To help bring into existence Piccioli’s vision, Valentino paired with Nick Knight, a British photographer, to create an exquisite show that combined fashion and technology. Throughout the first five minutes of the show, flowers in various different colours were projected across the white dresses and the petals seemed to melt into the clothes as the clothes melted into the petals. It was the perfect embodiment of physical and non-physical intwining. One of my favourite aspects of the show were the close-up shots of the looks, because I was able to observe the hours of handiwork that had been put into each garment by the atelier specialists. I thought that this aspect of the livestream made the show even better watching at home than it did watching it in the studio, as I was able to grasp a real understanding of each look as the camera panned over the details of the clothing.

For the final ‘scene’ the screen went black and a bright white spotlight isolated one look, then in a matter of seconds the light moved to showcase the next gown. This was repeated until all of the looks had been shown and then all of the dresses became illuminated in their own white spotlight. I thought this was an amazing way to close the show as the spotlight from above really enhanced the angelic nature of the gowns and it left a lasting impression of the collection once the show had finished.

The Andy Warhol Exhibition – Tate Modern

Esme Brown, Class of 2022

I will be reviewing the Andy Warhol Exhibition displayed in the Tate Modern. This exhibition is the first Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern in almost 20 years, and it also displays some art which has never been exhibited in the UK before as well as his well-known pop art. Some of his work in this exhibition, such as his Ladies and Gentlemen series hasn’t been shown in 30 years. The exhibition is being shown digitally, on the Tate Modern website. The website shows us images of his artwork from the twelve rooms featured in the exhibition, along with amazing information about Warhol throughout his life. I also watched a seven-minute video which walks you through the exhibition, guided by curators Gregor Muir and Fiontan Moran. Throughout the video they discuss Warhol “through the lens of the immigrant story, his LGTBQI identity and concerns with death and religion”.

After seeing the Andy Warhol Exhibition, for me one the most memorable pieces of art was definitely the pop art collection. The bright contrasting colours featured in the art made them stand out from the rest as they were, in my opinion, very different from his other collections. I also thought his artwork with the soup cans looked very intriguing. Initially it made me wonder what the significance of the soup cans was, however, when I read some information on Andy Warhol’s life I found that as a child he ate watered down ketchup and some salt for soup. This information made me see that a lot of thought had one into the artwork, rather than random soup cans, which is what some people might see it as.

I found that the photo of Warhol, taken by Richard Avedon, was extremely powerful as I think it is very brave to exhibit a photograph showing his own scars and stitches. I thought that the leather jacket he was wearing gives a sense of danger, adding to the connotations of the trauma of the injuries he is displaying. Because the photograph is in black and white, it could be suggesting that after the shooting his life may not be as interesting, as if it has lost its colour. I learnt from the video that after he recovered, he was extremely nervous around people and was never the same. And the absence of colour in the image could represent how this affected his life, and how it stopped him from socialising and having fun, contrasting the colours featured in his pop art.

I found the early illustrations of the men from the 50s very unique. The simplicity of the drawings is very effective and in my opinion the way the drawings are exhibited tells us more about Andy Warhol himself. Because each drawing is framed individually this suggests that each artwork was unplanned. This is further seen as each drawing is done on different paper, of different sizes, again showing that they were spontaneous drawings. I also like that the way that exhibition is displaying his gay identity in a subtle way. Because of the inconsistency of the paper the drawings are on, it could be suggested that the drawings were drawn whenever Warhol was out and saw someone he admired.

I think the exhibitions showing his toupé really made people react. Because it was mentioned that he began to go bald early on in his life, some may think that he would be embarrassed; however, he chose to react to this by displaying his toupés and showing the world that he did wear one. The fact that he was so open in his art shows how brave he was in his life, also displayed in the photograph by Richard Avedon. Overall, I really liked how the exhibition displays the art from his whole life as I think it tells a story of how his mood changes depended on what was going on in his life.

‘Hamilton’ the Musical

Benjamin Reed, Class of 2022

I watched the musical ‘Hamilton’ on the 13th of November on Disney +. The reason why I chose to do a review on the musical is because it’s a high pace dramatic piece that goes from hilarious to sad in a split second, which is something I really want to be able to use in the piece of drama I want to create. And I thought that reviewing the biggest theatre show of the last decade which began to take form when Tony-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda took a holiday would definitely help.

History books teach us that Alexander Hamilton was a soldier, statesman and legal scholar who founded the banking system still used today; became the first U.S. Secretary of Treasury under George Washington and died before the age of 50 in an 1804 pistol duel with then–Vice-President Aaron Burr. Hamilton had a hysterically mad life: from rags to riches via revolution, duels, scandal and tragedy. His life story therefore became a hip-hop musical, a densely plotted, endlessly energetic record of an extraordinary historical moment.

Some of my favourite bits of the show are the songs as they are funny, entertaining and very smart; some critics were even referencing Lin-Manuel Miranda as everything from Shakespeare to Tupac. That’s because Miranda’s Hamilton is a brilliantly complicated character, an arrogant, over-achieving nightmare and desperately insecure orphan at the same time, always trying to better himself and as the “bastard, orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman” who rose to fame from poverty on a Caribbean island “by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter,” Alexander Hamilton represented the American Dream for immigrants.

I would highly recommend this show. I thought it was beautifully done and flowed really well even though it spanned many years. The songs were tremendous and catchy, making me sing them even when I am doing something that has no correlation with ‘Hamilton’ at all. However, if I were to rate this out of 10 I would give it a 9 because at parts  – because although I know it’s a musical it just didn’t need a song at every point and sometimes needed just 30 seconds worth of dialogue instead to move the story along a bit quicker  – but apart from that it was tremendous.