Oscars 2019: Cast Your Ballot

From left: Regina King, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Richard E. Grant, Melissa McCarthy.
From left: Regina King, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Richard E. Grant, Melissa McCarthy. Photo: From left: Annapurna Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures; AP; Twentieth Century Fox

Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern weighs in on who deserves to win the top awards at the 91st Academy Awards—and who will actually win. See his choices for key contests, and have your own say in our annual poll.

Best Picture

Should win and will win: “Roma”

Netflix ’s first best-picture nominee has ignited a debate over whether a film being distributed mostly via streaming even belongs in the category. But it shouldn’t matter. By any measure, Alfonso Cuarón has made a masterpiece, a movie that transcends formats, genres and business models. A tribute to Mr. Cuarón’s childhood nanny in 1970s Mexico City, “Roma” is both intimate and enormous, speaking eloquently to our need for stories that expand our understanding of love and family. In doing so it lights up screens of any size.

Watch the trailer for the movie “Roma.” Photo: Netflix
Best Director

Should win and will win: Alfonso Cuarón

Mr. Cuarón is—I was going to say “arguably,” but make that “inarguably”—the most important feature-film director of our time, having preceded “Roma” with “Gravity;” “Children of Men;” the best of the Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban;” and “Y Tu Mamá También.” What makes him so consistently distinctive is the suite of gifts that makes his most recent work worthy of an Oscar: his ability to deploy the techniques of modern filmmaking—pace, thematic density, dramatic fluency, visual power—with traditional human values. Stanley Kubrick would have admired “Roma;” Jean Renoir would have loved it.

Best Actor

Should win: Bradley Cooper

Will win: Viggo Mortensen

Why has “A Star Is Born” been coming up short during this awards season? Maybe because this mainstream studio production is so entertaining, as opposed to spectacular, controversial or didactic, and more easily dismissed as conventional. The film happens to be hugely entertaining, thanks in significant measure to Bradley Cooper’s direction, which gained no Academy respect at all, but also to his performance, which is exceptionally affecting, solidly grounded, impeccably musical, virile, tender and intelligent. Yes, he’s up against strong competition from Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book,” but what does a guy have to do to win an Oscar in this category? He’s done more than enough. Give him one.

Watch the trailer for “A Star Is Born,” starring Bradley Cooper, and Lady Gaga. Photo: Warner Bros.
Best Actress

Should win: Melissa McCarthy

Will win: Glenn Close

Logic and sentiment combine to make a strong case for Glenn Close in this category: She’s long overdue for an Oscar, and moviegoers have been stirred by her performance in “The Wife.” But I just can’t get Melissa McCarthy out of my head for her incarnation of Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” I can still hear her quirky line readings, feel the thwarted yet unquenchable intelligence of her character. She’s a new one on me, this down-and-out, though also up-and-coming, literary forger. In my review I called her a model of eccentricity descended from Dickens by way of that quintessential Manhattan chronicler Damon Runyon. Here I’ll just call her an original, played by an original.

Watch a clip from the movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” starring Melissa McCarthy, and Richard E. Grant. Photo: Fox Searchlight
Best Supporting Actor

Should win: Richard E. Grant

Will win: Mahershala Ali

The front-runner in this category is formidable: Mahershala Ali, who could move us by reading the proverbial phone book, has strong drama and formidable charm on his side in “Green Book.” Still, I’d like to think there’s still a winning place for performances that may seem less than consequential—one definition of a supporting player—yet are in fact indispensable. Melissa McCarthy couldn’t have achieved what she did without the counterpoint of Mr. Grant’s raffish Jack Hock. Thick as thieves only hints at the relationship; like her Lee, his Jack lives beneath thick layers of contradiction and complexity. It’s a brave characterization, full of life, devil-may-care wit and genuine deviltry.

Best Supporting Actress

Should win: Regina King

Will win: Rachel Weisz

It’s no reflection on Rachel Weisz to say this is an odd category this year. Lots of discussions in critics groups—and the real world—have turned on who starred and who supported in “The Favourite,” an ensemble piece if there ever was one. No such uncertainties concern “If Beale Street Could Talk,” a beautiful film in which Regina King gives the very essence of dramatic support. She does so quietly, at first, as Sharon, the heroine’s mother, then not at all quietly as she plays a leading role—a leading supporting role—in the effort to prove the innocence of the young man her daughter loves.

Watch a clip from the movie “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Write to Joe Morgenstern at joe.morgenstern@wsj.com

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Appeared in the February 22, 2019, print edition as ‘Our Critic Picks His Oscar Favorites.’

An Elite Ice Climber’s Year-Round Workout

Angela Limbach trains on weekends and evenings for ice-climbing competitions. She competes in speed ice climbing as well as dry tooling, where competitors use an ice pick and crampons on rock or plywood rather than ice.
Angela Limbach trains on weekends and evenings for ice-climbing competitions. She competes in speed ice climbing as well as dry tooling, where competitors use an ice pick and crampons on rock or plywood rather than ice. Photo: Lauren Justice for The Wall Street Journal

Angela Limbach’s idea of a perfect winter day involves hanging by the tip of an ice axe from a frozen waterfall above Lake Superior. “Even on the coldest days I’d rather be climbing above crashing waves instead of sitting on my couch,” she says. The 28-year-old data analyst started rock climbing in high school and discovered ice climbing while attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ice climbers ascend rocks and ice in winter with equipment such as crampons, ice axes and ice picks because it is too cold to climb with bare hands. The sport can look intimidating but Ms. Limbach, who is ranked 36th in the world among women, says it’s more about leg strength and flexibility than arm strength. In 2017, on a whim, she entered a competition at an ice park in Fenton, Mich. A second-place finish among the women earned her a spot on the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation World Cup tour in 2018. The federation, which has headquarters in Switzerland, is known as UIAA, the acronym for its name in French.

Competitions consist of two disciplines: lead climbing and speed ice climbing. Lead climbing generally takes place on structures made of plywood. The technique-driven discipline, also called dry tooling, is essentially ice climbing without ice. Results are based on the height a climber reaches in a given time. Speed ice climbing is a vertical sprint up an ice tower that is 40 to 50 feet high; the fastest climber wins.

Ms. Limbach, who lives in Milwaukee, competed in World Cup competitions in Beijing and Cheongsong, South Korea, last year. Because of her work schedule, she can’t compete in all six annual World Cup competitions. This weekend she competes in Denver in the final leg of the 2019 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season.

The Workout

During the springtime, Ms. Limbach works on strength with a mix of pull ups and push ups and climbing. “I have a rotating cast of people who work out with me,” she says. “It’s tough to motivate myself when I’m alone.” She focuses on building endurance and grip strength throughout the summer. “Your arms are almost always above your head and tire out,” she says. “My goal with training is to increase the amount of time I can stay on the wall and hold on to my tools,” she says. At the gym, she uses a fingerboard to help increase her finger strength. During the autumn, she works on building power and focuses on technical precision.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Ms. Limbach teaches classes at an indoor climbing gym. Afterward, she does her own workout, usually light climbing, stretching and core work. Tuesdays and Thursdays she begins with bouldering to focus on power, shifts to work on her core and then does exercises with gymnastic rings to hone her ice-climbing skills. She hangs her ice tools on a pull up bar and does repeats of specific climbing moves, like the figure 9 position, a move where her leg goes above her arm on the same side of the body. This transitions into the more stable figure 4 position, where the right leg goes above the left arm or vice versa. “Figure 4 is used on vertical walls to generate height while holding the ice in position, or on overhanging walls to keep feet from falling off the wall and the climber left dangling by their arms,” she says.

‘Even on the coldest days I’d rather be climbing,’ says Ms. Limbach, seen here in Bozeman, Mont., last winter.
‘Even on the coldest days I’d rather be climbing,’ says Ms. Limbach, seen here in Bozeman, Mont., last winter. Photo: Jake Bourdow

On Thursdays she adds in weight training, mainly deadlifts. Friday is generally a rest day. She tries to climb outdoors on weekends. This could be working on precision pick placements and big spans between holds on a wooden structure she built on her parents’ hunting property, about a two-hour drive from her home, or outdoor ice climbing in Wisconsin, Minnesota or Michigan.

The Diet

Ms. Limbach has coffee and a Power Bar for breakfast, usually at work. For lunch, she packs a turkey sandwich on sourdough loaded with spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted red pepper hummus and Muenster cheese. “I’m from Wisconsin so the cheese is very important,” she says. Generally, she goes straight from work to the gym and has a protein shake on the way. “It fills me up without getting that ‘I ate too much’ sluggish feeling,” she says. She gets home around 10 p.m. and usually makes eggs and veggies for dinner. Her indulgences are ice cream and a good bourbon Old Fashioned.

Ms. Limbach and Mr. Seefeldt ski back to their car after training on a wall she built at her parents’ property in Westfield, Wis.
Ms. Limbach and Mr. Seefeldt ski back to their car after training on a wall she built at her parents’ property in Westfield, Wis. Photo: Lauren Justice for The Wall Street Journal
The Gear & Cost

Ice-climbing gear can be pricey. Ms. Limbach borrows crampons and ice axes from a local mountain club. Her accreditation as an outdoor climbing instructor and her membership in the American Mountain Guides Association often gets her up to 50% off retail prices on gear. Like the sport, the equipment isn’t without its risks. “I am a safety squirrel,” Ms. Limbach says. “I had two friends knock out teeth with ice tools on the same day. I keep their lessons in mind and … never swing equipment in front of my face.”

Ms. Limbach’s competition dry-tooling gear includes Krukonogi Svarogs ice tools ($650 a pair), Scarpa Rebel Ice boots ($550) ice fifis, which are metal hooks, ($120 a pair), Petzl D-Lynx crampons ($150) and Krukonogi Speed Hunter crampons ($70). Her recreational ice-climbing gear includes Grivel Tech Machine ice axes ($380 a pair), Black Diamond Cyborg crampons ($150), Salomon boots ($40 on eBay). She climbs in a Black Diamond Lotus harness ($55), Glove It brand golf gloves ($40 for two), and a Grivel Salamander helmet ($50). “Pink has become my signature helmet color,” she says. As an instructor, she receives a free membership at Adventure Rock in Brookfield, Wis.

The Playlist

“When I run, I listen to a weird mix of musical soundtracks and folk rock, like Mumford & Sons,” she says. She also enjoys running to Croatian cellist duo, 2Cellos.

A detail of Ms. Limbach’s ice tool in a hold as she trains on a climbing wall.
A detail of Ms. Limbach’s ice tool in a hold as she trains on a climbing wall. Photo: Lauren Justice for The Wall Street Journal

Ice Climbing 101

Ice Climbing 101

Hacking your way up a wall of ice using an ice axe and ice pick might sound extreme, but the sport is surprisingly accessible, says Minneapolis-based professional ice climber Kendra Stritch. “In many ways it’s easier than rock climbing because you can go anywhere on the ice,” she says. “You aren’t restricted to holds.”

Finding a balanced, A-frame body position on the ice is key, Ms. Stritch says. Feet should be at the same height and your hips should stay close to the wall. “One tool should be at shoulder height and the other should be at extended arm height above your head to form a nice A,” she says. “After you move your feet up and stand again, swing the tool that was at shoulder height up above the other tool.”

Gripping the tools too tightly will make your hands get cold, she cautions, so try to stay relaxed. Josh Butson, owner and lead guide of Telluride, Colo.-based San Juan Outdoor Adventures reminds clients to swing tools overhead, never in front of their faces.

His rule of thumb: Use your feet twice as much as you use your arms. “Men in particular try to pull ourselves up the ice and we tire out,” he says. “You need to trust your lower body.” Because ice climbers spend a lot of time standing on the balls of their feet, Ms. Stritch says it’s important to have strong calves and ankles. Triceps strength also is helpful as climbers must repeatedly lift tools above their head.

Write to Jen Murphy at workout@wsj.com

Gene Simmons on KISS and Capitalism

‘Money is the blood and the fuel that powers Earth. Even God passes the hat around,’ says Gene Simmons, shown onstage with KISS earlier this month.
‘Money is the blood and the fuel that powers Earth. Even God passes the hat around,’ says Gene Simmons, shown onstage with KISS earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

Tacoma, Wash.

You can get through the door for $1,000 or less than $40. T-shirts go for $50, and for as much as $7,500 you get to meet the band, grab a selfie and even stand on stage.

This is KISS’s “End of the Road Tour,” which the band has said will be its last, though it has made that promise before. The concerts began in late January, and dates are announced through December.

Few bands have embraced dollars, cents and lunchboxes as part of their brand as much as KISS. The band says it has thousands of licensed products, including beer pong tables, throw pillows and waffle makers.

To some, the band’s comingling of money and art is heresy. But Gene Simmons, the band’s co-founder, bassist and co-lead singer, isn’t bothered.

“I really don’t care if somebody likes me or not,” says Mr. Simmons, who turns 70 years old in August. “I only care if I love me and my family loves me. Not everybody liked Jesus either.”

Backstage at the Tacoma Dome, before donning makeup and breathing fire in a pyrotechnic-heavy set on the third stop of the tour, Mr. Simmons, “The Demon,” discussed the intersection of music and money in his world. Edited excerpts follow.

KISS at the Whisky a Go Go earlier this month in West Hollywood, Calif.
KISS at the Whisky a Go Go earlier this month in West Hollywood, Calif. Photo: Associated Press

Do you think that money is a corrupting influence in music or an enabling one?

Money is the blood and the fuel that powers Earth. Even God passes the hat around. So, if you’re a church or a rock band or even The Wall Street Journal that you work for, try running a newspaper—who are all dying—without making money. It doesn’t work.

Money is the most important thing. Wars are fought for it. But without money there’s no philanthropy, you can’t feed your children, you can’t buy your mother the hip operation she needs. Without money, you’re f—ed.

People have said that even if artists like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan didn’t make a living off their music, they would continue making music even if that meant playing on a street corner. Do you believe that?

No. And by the way, I’ve met Bruce before and Dylan was over to my house, and we talked about it. And would they play for free? No, ‘cause you have to figure out a way to pay your rent and feed yourself, and insurance, and health, and so on. It takes a lot of money to be comfortable and live in health.

Why are you on tour in your 70th year?

To make more money. And we’re making bucket-loads, and I’m happy to say that. The guy that wins the lottery jumps up and down and runs to everybody and says, “Oh my God, I just made $100 million,” and everybody applauds. But the guy that works for it and makes $100 million, oh, he’s just boasting. Bitch, I worked for that money, I deserve the accolades more than the guy that walks in and did nothing to win the lottery.

So I tour, and I work hard. We have a restaurant chain, and I have a cannabis company, and soft drinks—Moneybag Sodas—and there’s all kinds of stuff coming that people can’t wrap their heads around. You’re alive, you’re supposed to pump your heart, keep making more money.

Gene Simmons with a KISS Kasket.
Gene Simmons with a KISS Kasket. Photo: Getty Images

How much money will you, personally, bring home tonight?

Let’s just say Paul [Stanley, KISS co-founder] and I are partners, and everybody else works for the organization. Everybody gets paid very well. I don’t want to quote figures, but this will be $150 or $200 million gross tour, not counting ancillaries, licensing, merchandise and stuff like that. It goes without saying that we also, in our restaurants and other places, hire vets, give to philanthropy and stuff like that. But how embarrassing is it before each show if I held up a check and said, “Look what a nice guy I am”?

Would you still be out touring in makeup if you were playing at the casino down the street rather than the Dome?

No, because we believe the makeup and the iconic imagery are perhaps the most famous four faces on planet Earth. And I can prove it to you. If you’re asking who the faces are on Mount Rushmore, [people] won’t know. Or, the king and queen of Sweden. Do you know what they look like? No. But everybody in Sweden knows what KISS looks like.

The Gene Simmons band toured last year when it was an off year for us, and we did, I don’t know, 50 shows, something like that, but I still made 5 million bucks just by getting up and strumming.

So, no, the answer to the question is I wouldn’t denigrate it by doing that. By protecting the trademark and the imagery, you can have the KISS [mini-]golf course in Las Vegas at the Rio hotel, you can have the KISS limo service, KISS Kondoms, KISS Kaskets.

Where do you draw the line in merchandising?

KISS crack is probably a non-starter.

Do you want to make another KISS album?

No. The model is broken. The kids are trained to download and file share for free.

KISS is not a charity and I’m not interested in giving away anything for free unless I decide it’s for free.

Who Is He?

  • Name: Gene Simmons
  • What He Does: Bassist and co-lead singer of KISS
  • How He Got There: Mr. Simmons formed KISS with Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss in 1973.
  • His Big Break: KISS’s 1975 album, “Alive!” featured a live rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite,” that became one of the band’s best-known songs.
  • His Obsession: Self-reliance. Mr. Simmons says his father left his family and as a “dirt-poor” 6-year-old in Israel, he picked cactus fruit to earn enough money to buy his first ice-cream cone. He gave the rest of the money to his mother. “I’ll never forget my mother coming up to me and hugging me and saying, ‘my little man.’ ”

The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better

DIMINISHING RETURNS? The sizes of the Light Phone, Palm and Punkt constrain how much you can do with a phone. But that’s the point.
DIMINISHING RETURNS? The sizes of the Light Phone, Palm and Punkt constrain how much you can do with a phone. But that’s the point. Photo: F. Martin Ramin/ The Wall Street Journal

LISTEN, iPhone, it’s not you. It’s me. You’re great, really. I just think it’d be healthy if we took some time apart. For years, I’ve been hopelessly seeking something a little smarter, a little sexier—more vibrant, nice curves, strong communication skills. Now it’s time I stepped back and decided what I really need from my soul mate.”

That’s what runs through my head, more or less, during Apple’s annual new-device announcements. My roving eye has even been known to wander flirtatiously over to the latest Google Pixel—I’m only human! But recently I’ve been more seriously seeking a little distance from my smartphone, and from the people who use it to find me at all hours, in all locations. What’s piquing my interest are “card phones,” a fresh category of wee mobile devices about the size of an AmEx expressly designed to do less and inspire something of a digital detox.

“The last thing the world needs is another smartphone app,” said Joe Hollier, co-founder of the ultra-minimalist Light Phone. “My happiest time is when I leave my phone at home to go skateboarding. There used to be a divide when we were online and offline. I want to encourage people that we can turn off.” As I learned, each type of card phone brings something different to this low-key relationship—not all good.

‘It’s made my everyday life better—because of what it doesn’t do.’

For instance, the tiny new Palm ($350, plus $30 activation, verizonwireless.com) remarkably mimics much of what big smartphones can do, including email and SMS text, music, internet, navigation and a shockingly impressive 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, great for snapping a sunrise mid-run. Its “Life Mode” function helpfully quiets all pings when its screen is dark, letting you use it on your terms. But you might be better off downloading detox apps to your main device. At not quite 2 inches wide, Palm’s screen won’t distract you like the attention-grabbing behemoths, but with a tiny 800 mAh battery to match its frame, doing just about anything burns out the Palm’s energy supply; sending a quick email and scanning sport scores online, even with the screen’s brightness at the absolute lowest setting, killed about 10% of the battery in minutes.

Worse, this Verizon exclusive won’t work as a stand-alone phone. It must be synced to your primary device and number for a monthly $10 fee, adding to its expense. And, ironically, it wasn’t comfortable in my palm. Typing on it took two hands, if only to keep the slippery little thing from tumbling to the ground—probably why they sell a lanyard-style case. Though, given how often I dropped the phone, the Gorilla Glass seems very sturdy.

If you want to shun any hint of smartphones—and much of modern society—for a long weekend there’s the Light Phone, a nifty device built for phone calls only. No texts and definitely no Facebook , Twitter or Tinder, though it can keep the time nicely and store up to nine of your most important numbers. Christian Madsbjerg, co-founder of ReD associates, a New York-based “human science” company that consults with brands to determine how products and tech might help people, recently tested the Light among a host of other card phones as a personal experiment with aims of avoiding the constant buzz of email on his Apple device. “I’m probably breaking the rules by just calling people. They might find it intrusive but I kind of don’t care,” he said. Mr. Madsbjerg eventually rejected the Light Phone because of its call quality, which uses antiquated 2G networks. “The thing it should do, it doesn’t do.”

The improved Light Phone 2, due out this summer ($300 for preorder, thelightphone.com), will keep the same thin design and handsome matte finish but upgrade to modern 4GLTE networks, the same as most smartphones. It also adds an e-ink screen, a la Amazon’s Kindle, along with Bluetooth, a bigger battery and a crisp suite of “tools” so you can send basic texts, enjoy music, navigate your way home or maybe hail an Uber—Mr. Hollier said the final list is still in the works—but still reject pesky news and social feeds.

Until then, the Goldilocks option seems to be the new Swiss-designed Punkt MP02 ($349, punkt.ch), which similarly streamlines a device down to its basics; the clever brand name is German for “full stop.” The call quality is superb and if need be you can send a taxing T9 text, where each letter corresponds to a number on the keypad, in case you have pangs of nostalgia for an old Nokia .

“My messages often end up being ‘OK’ or something like that. It’s not elaborate, it’s not eloquent, but it works,” said Mr. Madsbjerg. “I’ve had it for three months now. And it’s made my everyday remarkably better. And not because of what it does, but what it doesn’t do.”

He ultimately bought one for his 9-year-old daughter, too. “She can text me and ask ‘When are you coming home?’” Mr. Madsbjerg said. “But she can’t go hunting for likes on some social platform.”

Along with its minimal capabilities, the Punkt operates on 4G, helping it double as a Wi-Fi hotspot to get your laptop online. It also works as a stand-alone, is a touch bigger and supremely satisfying in hand, averages more than four days of average use per charge and connects to wireless headphones via Bluetooth, just in case, like me, about 87% of your calls are made while standing over a sink of dishes.

After flirting with all three, I have my eye on the Punkt, too, a nice mix of sexy, smart and stable. Low maintenance, no fuss. No, I’m not yet ready to settle down—but it’s probably time to have a serious heart-to-heart with my iPhone.

Degrees of Digital Detox

The extent to which four card phones, from smart to dumb, can limit your addiction.

The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Small but Smart

Palm’s “Life Mode” helpfully disables notifications when the screen is off, but it’s still brainy, so the onus for detoxing is mostly on you.

The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Uber? Yes. Twitter? No.

Light Phone 2, due this summer, will let you hail an Uber and enjoy distractions like music and texts but frees you of email and social media.

The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Text Your Kids

The Punkt MP02 is just for calls and short texts. But its built-in modem lets you turn the featureless phone into a hotspot for your laptop in a pinch.

The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Call Your Mom

The original Light Phone limits you to calls. No text or email, no camera, no internet, no sharing. But it has a clock, so at least you’ll be on time.

Cellphone Ups And Downs
The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Illustration: Chad Hagen
The Beyond-Basic Phone that Made an Exec’s Life Better
Illustration: Chad Hagen

The Motorola “brick” that Michael Douglas wielded along the beach in 1987’s “Wall Street” was a substantially sized, substantially priced block of battery and antenna that was big, bold, meant to be seen. Phone sizes have yo-yoed during the ensuing decades, driven as much by fashion as by technology. After the brick, the less-is-more aesthetic of ever-shrinking flip phones came into vogue. Then with smartphones, designers began testing the limits of what hands (and pockets) could hold. At the apex came “Phablets,” outsize devices never meant to be talked into. But in 2016, the pendulum swung back, with Apple introducing its iPhone SE, the company’s smallest—and according to many cognoscenti—best model ever. Now with card phones, this shrinking trend continues.

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

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Appeared in the February 23, 2019, print edition as ‘It’s Not-Quite-All In the Cards.’

A Slightly Surreal Floral Arrangement Inspired by Joan Miró

THE ARRANGEMENT Long stems of ranunculus mimic the whimsical lines in Joan Miró’s ‘The Hunter, Catalan Landscape’ (1924). Near left: Ikebana Vessel, $225, mariteacosta.com; others, stylist’s own.
THE ARRANGEMENT Long stems of ranunculus mimic the whimsical lines in Joan Miró’s ‘The Hunter, Catalan Landscape’ (1924). Near left: Ikebana Vessel, $225, mariteacosta.com; others, stylist’s own. Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson for The Wall Street Journal, Floral Styling by Lindsey Taylor, Prop Styling by Carla Gonzalez-Hart

At first glance, Joan Miró’s “The Hunter, Catalan Landscape” (1924) appears purely abstract, all squiggles and blobs. But a closer look at the piece—part of “Birth of the World,” an exhibit dedicated to the Spanish surrealist (1893-1983) that runs until June 15 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art—reveals elements of a classic scenic tableau, complete with bisecting shoreline or horizon. To the left, a stick figure likely representing the hunter smokes a pipe and holds a dead rabbit in one hand, his gun in the other. Various other country critters of Catalan, the artist’s childhood home, populate the scene.

THE INSPIRATION
THE INSPIRATION Photo: © 2018 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris

I zoomed in on a lineup of ceramic vessels rather than one alone. Their irregular dark clay forms echoed Miro’s playful, gestural lines as did stems of ranunculus (some in bud), eucalyptus and white tallow berry gone to seed. Blooms from the ranunculus, some from daffodils, an anemone dyed salmon and a broken stem of a blue delphinium pick up the colors and bigger shapes. Cutting the stems at different heights helped fill my imaginary canvas—but not too much. I like to show how few flowers one needs to make an impact.

More in Design & Decorating

Appeared in the February 23, 2019, print edition as ‘Miró, Miró Off the Wall.’

Secret Safaris: Little-Known National Parks in Africa

Zakouma National Park in Chad, one of the 15 parks and reserves currently managed by African Parks.
Zakouma National Park in Chad, one of the 15 parks and reserves currently managed by African Parks. Photo: African Parks/Marcus Westberg

MOST PEOPLE ON their first great African safari tend to flock to South Africa, Kenya and increasingly Botswana. Chad and the Central African Republic aren’t usually the first stop, or even the fourth. But African Parks, a Johannesburg-based nonprofit, is endeavoring to attract more daring wildlife lovers to lesser-known pockets of the continent.

Founded in 2000, the NGO has been tasked by nine African countries to take over existing national parks and protected areas that have been ravaged by poaching and deforestation. The group, which currently manages 15 parks, has brought back to life roughly 40,000 square miles of land in places as varied as Benin, Chad, Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. African Parks staff and partners fly in animals from other parts of Africa to repopulate species, cordon off areas so grasses can grow back and train locals in military tactics to deal with poachers. In an effort to make the parks self-sustaining, African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead says the group takes a business approach to conservation. It builds lodges and campsites and invites high-end operators like Wilderness Safaris and Robin Pope Safaris to create their own facilities. It even has the Windsor House stamp of approval—Britain’s Prince Harry has served as African Parks president since 2017.


The Next Safari Spots

A few of the national parks and reserves—from Malawi to Chad—in the Africa Parks portfolio

Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, which African Parks has managed since 2003.
African Parks/Marcus Westberg

Michael Lorentz, founder of Passage to Africa, takes tourists to Zakouma National Park in Chad, one of the parks in the African Parks portfolio. He has worked with the organization since 2011 and says the NGO’s top-to-tail approach has changed the conservation game. “So much of Africa is going the wrong way in terms of conservation,” said Mr. Lorentz. “But African Parks has created some good stories.”

African Parks demands complete control over the park, from staff and ranger training to how the money generated is used—it must be reinvested back into the park. Mr. Fearnhead said the cause of protecting animals and protecting people are closely intertwined. He noted that in Zakouma, Janjaweed militia would raid the park for ivory, upending crops with their horses and preying on village women. The park lost all but 400 elephants who were chronically miscarrying due to stress. The African Parks ranger force beat back the raiders and both the park and villagers live in a more secure environment, said Mr. Fearnhead. The elephant population has since risen to 600. Tourists are coming to the park, though their numbers remain small.

Some places are harder to resuscitate. The Central African Republic has struggled for years under a civil war. But African Parks is laying the groundwork to open the Chinko Nature Reserve—one of the few places in Africa where savannah and jungle animal share the landscape—to tourism. Mr. Fearnhead said the commercial future of the reserve lies in extreme fishing. In the Chinko River, avid sportsman can battle the goliath tigerfish, a vicious freshwater fish that can grow to 5 feet in length and have been known to attack humans. For those with a taste for adventure, but perhaps not that much adventure, here are three other rehabilitated parks that welcome visitors.

Camp Nomade at Zakouma National Park.
Camp Nomade at Zakouma National Park. Photo: African Parks/Kyle de Nobrega

Chad

Zakouma National Park

Unchecked poaching and a rebel insurgency between 2005 and 2010 reduced the park’s elephant population by 90%. Now the park has about 600 elephants and 50% of the existing Kordofan giraffe population (some 1,000 animals). Last year six black rhinos from South Africa were reintroduced. Zakouma, once an animal desert, is now known for its abundance.Visitors can stay at Camp Nomade, an upscale tented camp that operators set up in various places within the reserve depending on the time of year. Passage to Africa runs seven-day excursions (passagetoafrica.com).

Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
Akagera National Park in Rwanda. Photo: African Parks/Scott Ramsay

Rwanda

Akagera National Park

The 433-square-mile park sits in eastern Rwanda abutting the plains of Tanzania. After years of neglect and rampant poaching, the park was short of wildlife. In 2010, African Parks took over the management. In 2015, the park reintroduced lions and in 2017, the rare East black rhinoceros. Now the park hosts the big five, a sign of its ecological health. Ruzizi Tented Lodge offers nine tents with en-suite bathrooms (from $195 per person per night, africanparks.org). In late spring, luxury outfit Wilderness Safaris will open its Magashi camp (from $470 a night, wilderness-safaris.com).

Zambia

Bangweulu Wetlands
A shoebill stork in Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands.
A shoebill stork in Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands. Photo: African Parks/Mana Meadows

One of Africa’s greatest wetlands, Bangweulu offers a welcome alternative to the typical grassland safari. Overfishing and deforestation severely threatened the fish and bird population. When African Parks took over in 2008, they scaled back fishing and introduced a three-month ban to get stocks back to healthy levels. The shoebill stork population—the impressively leggy birds can stand 4 feet high—continues to expand, with 10 nests protected by community guards. The nicest accommodations, Shoebill Island Camp, opened last year with four comfortably furnished tents overlooking the vast plains and waterways (from $650 per person per night, africanparks.org). Steppes Travel also organizes custom trips to Bangweulu (steppestravel.com).

More in Off Duty Travel

Can This Tiny Device Fix Your Posture?

I STAND CORRECTED Testing the original posture gadget in 1923.
I STAND CORRECTED Testing the original posture gadget in 1923. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images

I’LL ADMIT, I had grand delusions that getting my posture fixed might involve being bound to a chair with Hermès scarfs—much like Anne Hathaway in “The Princess Diaries”—while Dame Julie Andrews casually insulted me into form. Instead I found myself sitting at my desk as a small device gently shocked my back like a dog testing an electric fence, reminding me to sit up straight vs. slouching almost sideways as is my wont.

Those who are worried about what desk work might be doing to their backs, or who are keen to receive thrilling little jolts, may find the small, tingly gadget known as the Upright Go ($80, uprightpose.com) appealing. At roughly the size of a USB drive, it clings firmly to your back all day thanks to adhesive strips, and zaps you each time you begin to hunch over your keyboard. It also syncs to an app that tracks your posture.

Can This Tiny Device Fix Your Posture?

Many trackers, like those meant to tally sleep patterns, often help identify a problem but do little to fix it. The Upright Go’s training mode aims higher, promising to help strengthen back muscles and eliminate fatigue. “The benefit of having a device that tracks posture is that it focuses on finding and correcting the source of the pain, not just treating it,” said Dr. Debra Maibach, a chiropractor in Stirling, N.J.

After I wore the device for 5 hours, obediently straightening at each shock, I was sitting taller—and so were my observing co-workers. But, boy, did my back ache. “Your core muscles are getting stronger to support your spine and have a long term effect,” said Ori Fruhauf, the brand’s co-founder, encouragingly. He recommended that I wear the device for at least two weeks to see permanent results, but donning it for a long weekend had my abs and lower back throbbing and I was itching to peel it off. For now, I think I’ll just stick to core workouts—or I could always try balancing a book atop my enchanting new tiara.

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.

More in Gear & Gadgets

I Drove a Screaming Fast Ferrari Among Ordinary Cars

GIMME A BRAKE The flashy Pista can go from 0-62 mph in 2.85 seconds and return to a dead stop in 93.5 feet.
GIMME A BRAKE The flashy Pista can go from 0-62 mph in 2.85 seconds and return to a dead stop in 93.5 feet. Photo: Ferrari

AS GREAT DRIVING roads go, Interstate 10 isn’t. The road between Phoenix and Los Angeles is nearly straight, almost featureless, an automotive conveyor belt through vault and valley 400 miles long. On some stretches the speed limit goes up to 75 mph, but last week, in my test car—a nuclear-tipped Ferrari 488 called the Pista—distance/time came to a droning standstill. My fellow travelers and I huddled together around 84 mph (the speed limit +9), hoping there would be safety in numbers. The desert scenery repeated like a cartoon backdrop. The tall saguaros mocked me.

The Pista ($445,437, as tested) has a top speed of 211 mph, but I’m no hero. I had been warned that if I were caught going over 100 mph in Arizona I would not be returning to the comfort of my hotel. Sure, I hammered the Pista around some remote desert roads and got a nice power drift going in an empty parking lot. The Pista wasn’t impressed. This track-hardened, mass-optimized rewrite of the 488 GTB (midengine berlinetta, aluminum space-frame) is up to 198 pounds lighter and 49 hp more potent (710 hp), breathing through gills in its hips and bristling with race-derived body bits.

2019 Ferrari 488 Pista

I Drove a Screaming Fast Ferrari Among Ordinary Cars

Base Price: $349,050

Price as Tested: $445,437

Powertrain: Mid-mounted turbocharged and intercooled direct-injection 3.9-liter DOHC V8; seven-speed dual-clutch rear transaxle; electronically limited rear differential

Power/Torque: 710 hp at 6,000 rpm/770 Newton-meters (569 lb-ft) at 3,000 rpm (in seventh gear)

Length/Width/Height/Wheelbase: 181.3/77.8/47.5/104.3 in.

Curb Weight: 3,053 pounds w/ optional carbon-fiber wheels

0-62 mph: 2.85 seconds

0-124 mph: 7.6 seconds

62-0 mph brake distance: 93.5 feet

EPA Fuel Economy: 15/20/17, city/highway/combined

Cargo Capacity: 6 cubic feet

But there was that one time, when the coast was clear, I was able to test a fascinating new Ferrari talking point. They don’t even have a name for it yet so I shall dub it the Mamma Mia function. At lower speeds, the Ferrari’s computer actually restrains the turbocharged engine from delivering maximum torque all at once, first to avoid overwhelming the tires and second to mimic the responses of a classic (non-turbo) Ferrari V8, where throttle demand, revs, sound and horsepower all rise and fall together. It’s a character thing. That’s nice.

But, if you are already chuffing along in seventh gear at highway speeds, the pedal map algorithm sort of works the other way. The full measure of the engine and transmission eagerness stays cued up like a thunderclap. Just press the button, after which comes a series of booster rocket-like upshifts, as many as you have road for. God’s passing maneuver.

I tightened my grip on the wheel, gritted my teeth, said a small prayer to St. Geppetto, patron saint of titanium con-rods, and romped it. There was still the briefest hesitation in the 3.9-liter, twin-turbo V8’s response, as if the car were asking, “Are you really sure you want this?”

Too late. The engine’s power was on me like an enraged mountain troll, stuffing me into the padded carbon seat. G-force butterflies swarmed in my stomach and saliva gushed in my mouth. Ooo, that tickles. In these noisy and dynamic few milliseconds the fat rear Michelins hazed and the Pista’s posterior waggled left, then right, violently, a 710-hp twerk. I laughed out loud but my blood ran cold. With the discreet help of the car’s traction-control system and the knot-tight steering, I gathered it back up in time for my appointment with fourth gear, still out of the wall and still in the throttle, wahooosh-BANG! OK, car, I’m only going to let you do that seven or eight more times, then I’m cutting you off.

Ferrari says the Pista—the name means “track” in Italian—surges from 62 to 124 mph in a can’t-breathe, can’t-blink 4.75 seconds. Fairly vigorous for a sportsman/collector’s track toy.

You know how on long trips you wind up synchronized with other motorists? First it was the guy in the blue Ford F-250 with a bent wheel wobbling violently, mile after mile. I kept back, watching and dreading the crash that I was sure would follow but never came. Ferrari says the Pista’s carbon-ceramic stoppers can halt the car from 62 mph in 93.5 feet. I took comfort in that.

I Drove a Screaming Fast Ferrari Among Ordinary Cars

Then there was the man in the black Mercedes-Benz sedan who, when he first spotted the Ferrari’s dorsal stripes, raced to catch up, then took phone video from every angle. For a long while, at least 50 miles, he followed behind, leering at the Pista’s magnificent derrière, the engine under its transparent cover, reclining in carbon-fiber lingerie.

And of course, my fellow motorists got to know me, Monsignor Sugar Daddy.

If you are in the market for the special-edition Pista, congratulations. I hope you and your sciatica are very happy together. Be reminded that this car doesn’t have the conveniences of your other Ferraris: no glove box, no smart door handles, no fluffy leather seats, no carpets and an impossible-to-find cruise control. To keep up with my friends I had to manually hold the revs around 3,000 rpm in seventh gear for a long while. Alas, three grand just happens to be the tipping point for the active exhaust system, when the Pista’s exhaust note morphs from its unprepossessing, razzy flatulence at low revs to something approaching a proper snarl.

I Drove a Screaming Fast Ferrari Among Ordinary Cars

As a result, on long stretches of I-10, the Pista’s exhaust note kept widening and narrowing, unrestricting and restricting, following the topography and lazy jostle of traffic, sounding like a lugubrious Italian trombone, hnhnhn-wHHHHAAAHHHH-hnhnhn. I know what I’d fix first if I were an owner.

One other note from the audio department: Lightweight Inconel exhaust manifolds supplant the GTB’s tubular headers, and the resulting high-rev resonances are brighter and louder, up to 8 dB in the Pista’s cabin, says Ferrari. The Inconel puts some thrill, some trill, back into Ferrari engine notes that have tended toward the anemic with turbocharging.

‘The man in the Benz raced to catch up with me, then took phone video from every angle.’

The Pista sheds nearly 200 pounds compared with the standard 488 GTB road car—almost 40 pounds from the engine alone (titanium con-rods, lightweight flywheel). The Pista’s carbon-fiber aero elements take weight off both ends. May I draw your attention to the S-Duct, the hurricane hole behind the front bumper, blasting downforce onto the nose of the car? That comes at a price of only 2 cubic feet of “frunk” space, compared with the GTB.

In the rear the curvaceous body-integrated spoiler—a blown wing, in the parlance—manages departing airflow while, on the underside, a vaned diffuser helps the Pista generate up to 529 pounds of downforce (at 124 mph), says Ferrari, an 18% increase over the 488 GTB.

Only do mind the trolls.

Write to Dan Neil at Dan.Neil@wsj.com

More in Gear & Gadgets

Why Are the Academy Awards So Long?

Average Time Per Category, 2014-18

Average Time Per Category, 2014-18

Average Time Per Category, 2014-18

Film clips, visual packages

All speeches

Host speaking

Intros, banter

Extended applause, filler

Opening envelopes

Last year’s Oscars show was the longest telecast in years, and also the lowest-rated one ever. Coincidence? Doubtful.

Such long nights—last year’s ran nearly four hours—help explain why the length of this year’s show is one of Hollywood’s biggest preoccupations.

Amid this awards-season angst, The Wall Street Journal set out to calculate precisely why the Oscars are so long. In the amount of time we spent viewing Oscar shows from 2014 to 2018, logging the number of minutes eaten up by speeches, songs, crowd shots and other staples of the annual broadcast, we could have plowed through the entire “Godfather” trilogy. Twice.

The Journal took a stopwatch to the last five years of Oscar broadcasts to breakdown what’s filling up those more than three-and-half hours. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports the findings. Photo Illustration: Drew Evans/The Wall Street Journal.

Which activities take up the most time? One of the most surprising revelations: Walking. Viewers watch an average 24 minutes of celebrities and winners walking to and from the stage. The figure is made primarily of victors ambling up to receive awards, as well as the generally quicker strides of presenters strolling to the microphone and guests heading offstage. This year, the academy is trying to curtail the walking shots, which can include cutaways of clapping celebrities, by urging winners to move more quickly.

The fastest walkers clocked around 22 seconds from seat to stage, including Mark Bridges, who didn’t waste precious seconds shaking hands or even kissing Eva Marie Saint when she handed him the Oscar for costume design last year.

By contrast, presenters spent an average 4 minutes on the main reason for the telecast: opening the envelopes and announcing who won.

Hosts fill an average 25 minutes and 27 seconds per broadcast, with roughly 8 to 11 minutes devoted to the opening monologue. Last year, host Jimmy Kimmel spent more than 7% of his roughly 27 minutes onstage talking about—what else?—how long the Oscars are. He did so with a comedy bit offering a jet ski to the winner with the fastest thank yous.

Acceptance speeches and other remarks filled just shy of 30 minutes of the show, on average, with nods to everyone from publicists to moms to “my dog Larry” (from a winner of best original screenplay, 2015, “Birdman”).

Songs can make the night seem never-ending: Our calculations show the longest songs were performed after 10 p.m. For this year’s show, the academy abandoned a plan to only air two best-song nominees and instead will show all five performances, according to industry trade publications. But these performances are among the least time-consuming, taking up just 13 minutes and 45 seconds on average.

When it comes to the Oscars, give any two people a stopwatch and a YouTube clip and they won’t log the action the same way. The Journal went to the Paley Center for Media in New York and watched the Oscars broadcasts as they appeared on television from 2014 to 2018. We did additional research by screening some footage posted online.

Long Songs
Lady Gaga performs during the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.
Lady Gaga performs during the 87th Academy Awards in 2015. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Lady Gaga notched the longest performance of the past five years with a 2015 Julie Andrews tribute that clocked in at four minutes and 11 seconds, not counting her standing ovation. Lady Gaga also scored the longest song in 2016 for her 3 minute and 29 second performance of the Oscar nominated song “Til It Happens To You” from the documentary “The Hunting Ground.”

Bette Midler’s 2014 tribute to deceased Hollywood figures with “Wind Beneath My Wings” was the second longest. With a song that lasted 3 minutes and 50 seconds, not counting her standing ovation, she had time to flap her arm like a bird on her final note.

Not-So-Speedy Speeches

Speeches grew longer with the hour. Eleven of the 13 speeches stretching over two minutes occurred in the second half of the show. (The exceptions: Viola Davis accepting the supporting actress Oscar for “Fences” in 2017 and Jared Leto’s supporting actor speech for “Dallas Buyers Club” in 2014, both the first awards of the night.)

Cate Blanchett, winning the best actress award in 2014 for “Blue Jasmine,” clocked the longest acceptance speech in the last five years at 3 minutes, 12 seconds. “Sit down,” she told the crowd over applause. “You’re too old to be standing.”

Tying for shortest speech: The 2014 best animated feature “Frozen,” when the three winners each delivered a third of the remarks, and the 2018 costume design award for “Phantom Thread,” whose winner also was offered a free jet ski for being so quick. Both speeches were 30 seconds.

When the Clock Is Ticking…

The time between major awards was fastest at the end of the evening, when trophies for best actor, best actress and best picture were announced in quick succession.

Time to Shine
Ennio Morricone accepts the best original score award for 'The Hateful Eight' in 2016.
Ennio Morricone accepts the best original score award for ‘The Hateful Eight’ in 2016. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Italian composer Ennio Morricone was the slowest walker: His trip to the stage in 2016 took 1 minute, 24 seconds. At 88 years old, he was helped down the aisle and up the steps, appearing to battle tears as he accepted the Oscar after five nominations. Mr. Morricone, who received an honorary Oscar more than a decade ago, picked up the trophy for best original music score for “The Hateful Eight.”

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph during the 2018 Oscars.
Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph during the 2018 Oscars. Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty Images

The category of documentary short film scored two of the three longest celebrity introductions. Last year, Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish did a comedy bit for one minute and 55 seconds before announcing the nominees in this category, awarding the Oscar and moving on to live-action short film. In 2016 comedian Louis C.K.’s lead-in to the list of contenders took one minute, 26 seconds.

Methodology

To gauge time spent walking, we started the clock at the moment the winner or presenter’s name or movie was called and stopped it when that person spoke; we started it again after the last word of a speech and stopped it when that person got offstage or the camera cut to a new segment. Celebrity banter before envelope opening, along with speeches and songs, were timed from the first word to the last and didn’t include extended applause framing those moments. Standing ovations, wide shots of the theater, views of Oscar statues and other footage—a combination of filler, celebrity close-ups and up-next teasers—were counted together.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

More in Film

Who Needs Gender? Why Men and Women Are Dressing Identically

Striped Sweater, $825, Henley Dress, $925, The Elder Statesman, 424-288-4221; T-shirts throughout, $90, sunspel.com; Gold Necklace, $185, Silver Necklace, $145, Miansai, 212-858-9710.
Striped Sweater, $825, Henley Dress, $925, The Elder Statesman, 424-288-4221; T-shirts throughout, $90, sunspel.com; Gold Necklace, $185, Silver Necklace, $145, Miansai, 212-858-9710. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal. See below for full credits.

“MEN’S” AND “WOMEN’S” categories still occupy the navigation menu on the website for 10-year-old retailer Totokaelo. Yet shoppers have increasingly crossed these virtual gender lines, said Fanny Damiette, vice president of brand and marketing for its parent company, Richmond, Va.-based NSTO. “We have data that shows that sometimes the girls will go in the men’s section and the men will go in the women’s section.” The shop leans into this fluidity, hiring transgender and nonbinary models and putting menswear in the women’s section.

Similar retail shifts are happening world-wide, as the fashion industry adjusts to customers who are challenging the gender binary. “Around 2015…gender identity [became] part of the national conversation,” said Ayako Homma, a consultant at market-research provider Euromonitor International. That same year Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender in the media; Target removed gender labels on kids’ clothing and toys; and a survey by Fusion Media Group found that half of millennials viewed gender as a spectrum. “These scripted ideas of what a man and woman should do are breaking down, and therefore what they’re wearing no longer has to follow those rigid lines either,” said Justin Berkowitz, men’s fashion director of Bloomingdale’s.

Officine Générale Hooded Jacket, $710, mrporter.com, White Shirt, $420, barneys.com, Pants, $290, 212-249-4053, Jacket, $630, Belted Pants, $325, Black Shirt, $320, officinegenerale.com; Socks, $10, gap.com; Shoes, $335, grenson.com; Bracelets throughout, $11,400, sidneygarber.com; Rolex Gold Watch throughout, $34,850, Rolex White Gold Watch throughout, $37,550, Tourneau Time Machine, 212-758-7300.
Officine Générale Hooded Jacket, $710, mrporter.com, White Shirt, $420, barneys.com, Pants, $290, 212-249-4053, Jacket, $630, Belted Pants, $325, Black Shirt, $320, officinegenerale.com; Socks, $10, gap.com; Shoes, $335, grenson.com; Bracelets throughout, $11,400, sidneygarber.com; Rolex Gold Watch throughout, $34,850, Rolex White Gold Watch throughout, $37,550, Tourneau Time Machine, 212-758-7300. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal
From left: Blazer, $4,800, Purple Top, $980, Pants, $1,700, White Hat, $980, Red Hat, $2,290, Gucci, 212-826-2600; Raf Simons Green Coat, $3,350, machine-a.com, Blue Coat, $5,258, Machine-A, +44-020-7734-4334.
From left: Blazer, $4,800, Purple Top, $980, Pants, $1,700, White Hat, $980, Red Hat, $2,290, Gucci, 212-826-2600; Raf Simons Green Coat, $3,350, machine-a.com, Blue Coat, $5,258, Machine-A, +44-020-7734-4334. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal

Also in 2015, with the appointment of creative director Alessandro Michele, Gucci began thumbing its nose at gender norms, mingling its collections and dressing men in pussy-bow blouses and women in ’70s pantsuits. Parisian brand Celine described all the clothing in its recent men’s show as unisex, and labels like Dior and Balenciaga have started marketing handbags as genderless.

Not everything can successfully be sold as unisex. As Ms. Homma noted, “We don’t see a lot of dresses or skirts in gender-neutral.” Cashmere brands the Elder Statesman and Naadam market their clothes as unisex, but most look like traditional men’s knits sized down for women.

More daring? Younger, millennial-led brands that have been ungendered since their inception. Earlier this month at New York Fashion Week, bicoastal label Eckhaus Latta showed dramatic balloon-sleeved jackets on men and boxy blazers on women. Los Angeles designers including 69, Smock and Olderbrother make flowy, loosefitting clothing that does not check any gendered boxes, a welcome option for the increasing number of people who don’t either.

We are still in the early days of a gender-questioning revolution, but fashion, for everyone, has become a lot more fluid.

What Unisex Style Means for Menswear
Cropped Blazer, $2,600, Black Pants, $2,200, White Shirt, $570, Striped Blazer, $2,500, Pants, $940, Striped Shirt, $580, Ties, $195, celine.com.
Cropped Blazer, $2,600, Black Pants, $2,200, White Shirt, $570, Striped Blazer, $2,500, Pants, $940, Striped Shirt, $580, Ties, $195, celine.com. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal

THE ENTIRE CONCEPT of what it means to dress like a man has morphed tremendously in the past decade. Damien Paul, head of menswear for English retailer MatchesFashion.com, pointed to entertainers and athletes as the catalysts behind this shift, including rapper A$AP Rocky who is “open to [experimenting] with different brands that maybe are womenswear.” Rocky has worn pearls and a fluid pink suit yet somehow avoids looking like he got lost on the way to the men’s department. Other influential stars who have moved the needle include Pharrell Williams, with his penchant for wearing Chanel cardigans, and actor Ezra Miller, who’s sported leopard-print coats.

Shapes and styles once arbitrarily designated as womenswear have bled into menswear. This season, Dior is selling a range of frilly lace shirts, while everything from Nike sneakers to Paul Smith suits comes in pink. “What we are seeing is men being unafraid to take a risk or wear something that’s a little bit bolder and that maybe historically has been more…seen in womenswear,” said Bloomingdale’s’s Justin Berkowitz. In a way, this is throwback style: During the Renaissance, lace shirts were a staple for male dandies, and pink was a masculine color in the 1920s well before Barbie took it over.

Marco Martinez, 25, a research analyst in Los Angeles, is part of a younger generation of men that’s rediscovering the power of permeability. He has begun to gravitate toward lively leopard prints and wider, women’s-inspired silhouettes. “That’s made the experience of dressing up much more rewarding for me,” said Mr. Martinez. “I’m not much of a loud talker. I let my own actions speak for themselves and by extension it’s nice to have clothes that speak when you enter the room.”

From left: Dries Van Noten Jacket, $1,560, Opening Ceremony, 212-219-2688, Shirt, $670, barneys.com, Blue Crop Top, $1,105, Bergdorf Goodman, 212-753-7300, Trousers, $680, barneys.com, Sweater, $545, jeffreynewyork.com, Printed Jeans, $665, Nordstrom, 818-884-7900; Shoes, $80, adidas.com; Camel Sweaters, $75, naadam.co; Shirts, $238, Pants, $258, mohawkgeneralstore.com; Shoes, $90, nike.com; Sunglasses, $220, illesteva.com.
From left: Dries Van Noten Jacket, $1,560, Opening Ceremony, 212-219-2688, Shirt, $670, barneys.com, Blue Crop Top, $1,105, Bergdorf Goodman, 212-753-7300, Trousers, $680, barneys.com, Sweater, $545, jeffreynewyork.com, Printed Jeans, $665, Nordstrom, 818-884-7900; Shoes, $80, adidas.com; Camel Sweaters, $75, naadam.co; Shirts, $238, Pants, $258, mohawkgeneralstore.com; Shoes, $90, nike.com; Sunglasses, $220, illesteva.com. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal

Today, a man like Mr. Martinez could satisfy his leopard craving with a woolly cardigan from Stella McCartney or a black-and-white fleece jacket by Los Angeles upstart Noon Goons. Citing the latter, Mr. Paul of Matches noted that a masc-leaning fleece that channels Jackie-O. leopard style can be “worn in quite a dressed-down way.” An open-minded attitude about prints doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the functionality and comfort of the menswear you’ve grown up with.

Another effect of the unisex shift: The menswear palette has broadened beyond navy blue. Mr. Paul said that pink and yellow are among Matches’s fastest-growing colors for men’s clothing. Dior Men’s latest collection includes suits in pink, though it’s a muted blush that perhaps crosses gender lines more easily than fuchsia.

Ms. Damiette of NSTO noted that designers are gender-blurring menswear with delicate details and accessories that formerly would have only been available in women’s clothing departments. See: Belgian Dries Van Noten, who stitches ornamental embroidery onto his overcoats and button-up men’s shirts. She also pointed to Camiel Fortgens, a young Dutch designer who makes pearl necklaces in addition to masculine checkered overcoats and wide-legged jeans.

About the Photographers

The photographers of these images, Isabelle Chaput and Nelson Tiberghien, aka Cesar Love Alexandre, are a French couple that chronicle their matching outfits on the entertaining Instagram account @young_emperors.

Silhouettes, too, are becoming less gender-specific. When Max Kingery and Bobby Bonaparte started Olderbrother, a Los Angeles-based unisex brand, they decided to adopt a sizing system that works for both sexes. The brand is still “masculine-leaning” and revolves around men’s staples like jeans, blazers and work jackets. But like other innovative brands such as Balenciaga and Jil Sander, Olderbrother’s clothes have a loose, oversize silhouette that doesn’t feel designed to flatter either gender specifically.

You may already be familiar with the concept of unisex clothing through the ubiquity of the athletic wear that both men and women sport everywhere from the gym to the coffee shop. And the 10 best-selling sneakers of 2018, including the Nike Air Force One and Converse All Stars, were all targeted at both men and women. “Men wearing oversize sweatshirts, women wearing oversize sweatshirts…that kind of idea, we’re seeing that in a big way,” said Bloomingdales’s Mr. Berkowitz. Which explains why you and the women in your life may lust after the same Ralph Lauren tie-dyed hoodie. One upside? Shared wardrobes.

Ami Sweaters, $580, amiparis.com.
Ami Sweaters, $580, amiparis.com. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal
What Unisex Style Means for Womenswear

Most days you can find Sarah Best, 30, founder of Toronto-based supper club Dirt, in a T-shirt, blazer and her favorite jeans, a pair worn in to perfection that she happened to steal from her boyfriend’s father. Looking at Ms. Best, with her mane of wavy blond hair, you’d never guess she’s wearing the jeans of a 60-something-year-old man. “It’s not really about looking androgynous,” she said of her penchant for wearing men’s and unisex clothing. “It’s dressing to be a bit more relaxed and chill, and at the same time functional and sharp.”

In the past, a woman wearing non-feminine clothing usually meant something: a symbol of resistance during the French Revolution; a challenge to the patriarchy for early-20th-century suffragettes; a bid for workplace inclusion in the 1970s and ’80s. Today, as gender lines continue to blur, more and more women, like Ms. Best, are dressing androgynously not with an agenda but with more of a shrug.

“It doesn’t feel like a big deal to us that these are unisex styles,” said Matthew Scanlan, founder of direct-to-consumer cashmere line Naadam, which offers identical styles for men and women. “It just felt normal, like of course it should be unisex. It’s almost things we take for granted as obvious. Yes, of course, men and women are equal…So why wouldn’t a girl wear a guy’s sweater and vice versa?”

Clockwise from top left: Dark Blue Jacket, $90, Dark Jeans, $168, Light Blue Jacket, $90, Light Jeans, $60, levi.com; Yellow Sweaters, $75, naadam.co; Boots, $335, grenson.com; Double-Breasted Jacket, $4,900, Pants, $2,300, Shoes, $940, Oblique Jacket, $4,700, Dior Men, 212-931-2951; Shirt, Pants, Jacket, Skirt, price upon request, Jil Sander, 212-838-6100; Red Loafers, $395, Carmina, 212-687-0222; Black Loafers, $750, carminashoemaker.us.
Clockwise from top left: Dark Blue Jacket, $90, Dark Jeans, $168, Light Blue Jacket, $90, Light Jeans, $60, levi.com; Yellow Sweaters, $75, naadam.co; Boots, $335, grenson.com; Double-Breasted Jacket, $4,900, Pants, $2,300, Shoes, $940, Oblique Jacket, $4,700, Dior Men, 212-931-2951; Shirt, Pants, Jacket, Skirt, price upon request, Jil Sander, 212-838-6100; Red Loafers, $395, Carmina, 212-687-0222; Black Loafers, $750, carminashoemaker.us. Photo: Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal

Kris Kim, founder of the New York City shop and e-boutique La Garçonne, which mainly sells to women, echoes the sentiment. “When I go on buying appointments now, I don’t even ask if something is men’s or women’s,” she said. “It just comes down to a sensibility thing.” Ms. Kim notes that in the past women typically shopped the men’s department in search of an oversize fit or a traditionally masculine look. But as menswear traffics less in stereotypical codes of manhood, and as women increasingly prioritize comfort over sex appeal, the distinction between menswear and womenswear has become, to many shoppers, irrelevant.

Both Naadam and La Garçonne sell a tightly edited selection of high-quality basics in a streamlined, minimalist setting. This business model is striking a chord with a growing number of women recently evangelized by Japanese organizational wizard Marie Kondo. Ms. Kondo holds that one should keep only items that “spark joy” and get rid of everything else. That ethos doesn’t square particularly well with traditional womenswear, which encourages different clothes for different occasions, a steady rotation of ever-changing accessories, seasonal updates and a general glut of clothing items. Having less means each item must do more: Women want clothes that are useful, comfortable and feel appropriate in a variety of settings, from the workplace to a dinner out—qualities that menswear has traditionally excelled at.

“I can’t be at my job without a pocket,” said Ms. Best, who often wears carpenter pants when she’s preparing for an event. “I need somewhere to put my tape!” Heels and body-conscious dresses and skirts are out, too: “I just don’t feel comfortable in them, I don’t feel like myself.”


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The minimalist aesthetic has bled into design on both sides: “I think everything is getting cleaner and more simplified,” said Ms. Kim. Women who are drawn to this aesthetic might choose to buy a pair of men’s Issey Miyake Pleats Please accordion pants, which are baggier and more forgiving than the women’s version by the same brand.

Naadam’s Prince Street store may just be the ultimate expression of this new KonMari consumerism: The entire shop carries a single item, a $75 unisex cashmere crew neck sweater in a variety of colors, from camel to cement. Sized down, it plays a classic role in a woman’s wardrobe, when paired with vintage Levi’s or simple slacks. Sized up, and paired with a voluminous parka and wide-legged pants, it makes a fashion-forward oversize statement.

Ultimately, for women, it comes down to choice. “It’s not about being masculine or being androgynous,” said Ms. Kim. “We are who we are. We’re not ‘borrowing’ from the boys. This is part of our wardrobe. We’re just wearing what we like.”

Photographs by Cesar Love Alexandre for The Wall Street Journal, Hair by Yasu Nakamura, Makeup by Kento Utsubo, Models: Varsha Gopalakrishna/Supreme and Max Fieschi/Wilhelmina, Fashion Editor: Rebecca Malinsky

10 Sci-Fi Films that Predicted Unisex Fashion
‘Star Trek’
‘Star Trek’ Photo: Everett Collection

IN 1979’S “Alien,” Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) stares down the film’s namesake intruder while wearing a shapeless, slate-gray jumpsuit. The movie predicted a future full of gender-nonspecific clothes, a recurring theme in many great sci-fi films. From the muddy drab workwear of the poor Panemeans in “Hunger Games” to the primary-colored, collarless tops on the “Star Trek” crew, men and women in sci-fi films and TV shows have long plucked their clothes from the same rack. This unisex garb would be almost utopian, if the poor souls on screen weren’t so busy battling aliens, asteroids or each other.

Here, a list of 10 as-it-turns-out visionary entertainment in which getting dressed, for better or worse, has little to do with gender.

1. ‘The Hunger Games’ (2012)

2. ‘Annihilation’ (2018)

3. ‘Alien Covenant’ (2017)

4. ‘Sunshine’ (2007)

5. ‘Maniac’ (2018)

6. ‘Stargate SG-1’ (1997)

7. ‘Alien’ (1979)

8. ‘Star Trek’ (1966 to now)

9. ‘Avatar’ (2009)

10. ‘Tron’ (1982)

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