After the three-legged debacle that was their 2018 Hollywood Issue cover, Vanity Fair rebounded with this year’s 25th Anniversary edition — and it’s good. Like, really good. Like, might be one of their best? It’s straight-forward, featuring a solid and diverse group of actors who are actually relevant to films of the past year: Chadwick Boseman, Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Nicholas Hoult, Yalitza Aparicio, Rami Malek, Regina King, John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki, Tessa Thompson, and Henry Golding.
There’s no weird theme or gimmick. There’s no pointless nudity. It’s classy, and refreshingly basic.
It also wasn’t shot by Annie Leibovitz.
The 25th Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue is here. V.F. teamed up with three-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki to capture, in eloquent motion, the Hollywood of today and tomorrow #VFHollywood https://t.co/pEz6DP8y06 pic.twitter.com/03MpkzHIZ9— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) January 24, 2019
This year, Vanity Fair brought in one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood: Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, who won Oscars for his work on The Revenant, Birdman, and Gravity (and should have won for Children of Men, let’s be honest). But what you see in the magazine isn’t the sum total of the work he did on the issue. He didn’t just photograph the actors — he filmed them, in motion, meaning if you check out the web version of the cover story you get… well, you get immediately bombarded by Chadwick Boseman dancing. Go ahead, take a look. I’ll wait.
Are you back? You ok? Need a minute to recover? It’s beautiful, right? I mean, sure, there are always things we could quibble about, but Chalamet’s weird hand placement on Ronan is more than counterbalanced by the power being unleashed between Debicki and Thompson’s fingertips (related: “between Debicki and Thompson’s fingertips” is also a place I’d very much like to visit!). I actually started looking through previous Hollywood Issue covers, trying to pin down why I’m so impressed by a cover that actually seems so effortless, and it almost immediately became apparent.
Because this year is the polar opposite of this shit right here:
That’s from Vanity Fair’s first Hollywood Issue in 1995, and sure, maybe it’s harsh to judge the very first attempt at such a thing. But I mean, did NO ONE think, “Gee, maybe putting a bunch of women in lingerie and Paltrow in a ball gown is weird?” Though props as always to Angela Bassett, who fucking SLAYS.
Or how about the following year:
I call this one “Messy White Men Against A White Background, Plus 3rd-Page Will Smith.” Tim Roth clearly has no idea why he’s in this line-up, Michael Rapaport just SHOULDN’T be in this line-up, and the only thing this cover is good for is reminding us that 1996 was a year when Stephen Dorff and Skeet Ulrich were Vanity Fair-level popular. What a time to be alive!
2002 had this yearbook photo-y mess right here, where a bunch of women I genuinely like were outfitted exclusively in GAP basicwear:
In 2007 we got “4 Dudes And Some Penguins”:
In 2010 it was “Non-Threatening Pretty White Girl Picnic” for… reasons?
But the worst has to be the 2006 cover, which is both boring and tasteless while also managing to be a sadly accurate snapshot of Hollywood (“Let’s drape a dude in naked young women!”):
No, not all the covers have been this bad. Some were creative and evocative and glamorous, and no matter what, EVERY year feels like an event. The bad covers may be memorable, but the good ones — the ones like this year — those are the ones that keep us coming back for more.