It may not be the Grand Opening celebration that the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Sciences is going to be throwing when they launch the long-awaited Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures at some point in 2017 as is now planned, but the Los Angeles debut of the much-acclaimed Hollywood Costume exhibit imported by the Academy from the Victoria And Albert Museum in London is really something to see. The Academy’s Ellen Harrington told me at Wednesday night’s opening event (in the space at Wilshire and Fairfax that will eventually become the Acad’s Museum ) that it took them months just to get it in the kind of shape needed to house this remarkable exhibit celebrating the art of costume design and its vital importance, in so many ways, to the art of movies. With over 150 costumes including 40 newly added ones just for the Los Angeles version this is an event not to be missed and it will be available to the public through March 2nd . So we have this for the entire awards season – and it’s a gift from the Academy, and costume designer Deborah Nadoolman who really drove it into being, for movie lovers everywhere.
As you walk into the very dark and imposing exhibit the first thing you see lined up in a special glass enclosure are the eight Oscars won by costume icon Edith Head. Tarnished by time , they are still very cool to see in one fell swoop. But inside is where the real fun is. You name the iconic movie and a costume is somewhere here to represent it from Dorothy’s dress in The Wizard Of Oz to Mary Poppins and Charlie Chaplin to a whole lot of contemporary outfits including such recent films as The Social Network , Argo and The Bourne Identity. This is not just your father’s or grandmother’s show, it’s for everyone and from every generation of film enthusiast. In fact among the new entries for this L.A. version are duds from Django Unchained and new interviews with director Quentin Tarantino and designer Sharen Davis. That section where it is housed is called Creative Collaborations (each section has a theme) and it’s my favorite as together with the costumes and designs is a video conversation with directors and their frequent costume designers on opposite screens . A fascinating touch. So there’s Martin Scorsese opposite Sandy Powell talking costumes from Gangs Of New York or Tippi Hedren on Hitchcock’s The Birds or Tim Burton and Colleen Atwood or Mike Nichols and Ann Roth. Powell , who first saw the exhibit in London was there on Wednesday and told me it seemed it even bigger in terms of space in London , but in fact this version is larger. The multi-Oscar winning Powell told me she was impressed by it all in any venue.
Another great exhibit is strictly devoted to Meryl Streep and her many screen incarnations as she speaks to the importance of the costumes in relation to her roles in everything from The French Lieutenant’s Woman to Out Of Africa to It’s Complicated to her recent Oscar winner , The Iron Lady in which she played Margaret Thatcher. “I thought it was just as important to me to know what was in the purse I carried as Thatcher as the purse itself,” is just one of the fascinating tidbits you hear from her.
Another favorite stop of mine was seeing Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot next to Susan Hayward’s Valley Of The Dolls next to Jared Leto in complete drag in Dallas Buyers Club. As I said this show really runs the gamut and you could spend hours just soaking it all in as Hollywood Costume covers the waterfront from Hollywood’s earliest days to its still ever-changing digital age (check out the Avatar and Star Wars stuff). Academy CEO Dawn Hudson still seemed to be doing that when I caught up with her last night. Is this the model we can look forward to when the Academy actually does launch their museum in conunction with the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art ? “I wouldn’t necessarily say it is the ‘model’ but it definitely sets the bar for us. Instead of a staid museum where you just look at things we want an interactive experience like this that offers so much more , ” she said adding that they had a special event the previous night where the Board Of Governors saw it for the first time. “The Governors, many of whom have been working on this idea of a museum for so many years got teary eyed just seeing finally what it actually could become.”
Until that time we really have something to whet our appetites.