Wednesday, December 31, 2008

catherine the great

I finally saw "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" this evening and I have to say it's one of the best films I've seen this year. While I think on it a bit more before I begin any serious discussion, let's take in some vintage Cate Blanchett:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

penthouse pet

Ain't that the life? I have a not so guilty pleasure for E!'s "Girls Next Door" and while I was home over the holidays watching a marathon, Hef and the girls were going through his scrapbooks that detail his enviable life. Hef fondly reminisced the days of "Playboy After Dark", his short lived television series from the late 60's that purported the myth of the swanky, louche, playboy lifestyle his empire embodied. It may look silly and outdated, but it looks fun as hell. I wouldn't mind spending my New Years with a lemon schnapps and lounge singer entertainment.

Other great moments on the series via YouTube:
Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, and Hef discuss sex on film

James Brown performs "Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud"

George Carlin regaling the crowd

first look: gomorrah

directed by Matteo Garrone
Feb. 13, 2009 (limited)

Where have all the good gangster movies gone?

Monday, December 29, 2008

is 75 the new 50?

I've only lived in New York for three months and I've already encountered some sales that made me do this. Thank the recession, thank the generosity of the designers, thank anyone for what were the five best sales of the year:

5. Marc by Marc Jacobs
I didn't get the $10 rain boots that were flying off the shelves (I paid $28 a month earlier) during the holiday in store sale, but I did pick up a pair of cashmere socks for my grandmother for Christmas that were marked down to $14. Yes, less than $15, cashmere, and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
4. Bblessing
The prices weren't as low as I would preferred, but there were really good deals for the brands that rarely dip into the double digit range (Opening Ceremony and Surface to Air). I picked up a Raf by Raf Simons military style shirt that hasn't stopped receiving compliments.
3. The News Showroom
Young, stylish people knocking each other over the $30 Cheap Monday jeans was a bit of a scene to say the least. I tried on a few pairs and learned my body type doesn't work for their jeans, but I did pick up a black mac coat by their tailored line Kostym. The Shipley & Halmos polo I also bought was kind of expensive but I've had my eye on it for months and it's the perfect stripey polo. Oh, and changing in the unisex fitting room with scads of women in varying states of undress wasn't bad either. However, could those Common Projects please get marked down to less than $75? Pretty please?
2. Odin
Way back in August when I came up for interviews and to meet my roommates I made a quick stop into one of, if not the best, menswear boutiques in New York, Odin. They were having an incredible sale and I walked out with a pair of rag & bone shorts and a vest that were two of my favorite pieces I bought this year.
1. Scoop
My mouth dropped when I saw the 50% off rack and then I did a double take when I saw that it said take an additional 50% off pieces that were already marked down. I got two Rogan t-shirts for $13 a piece down from $70-80. I'm going back today because apparently things have been further marked down. Does this city want me to go bankrupt?

planes, trains, and automobiles

In the past ten hours I've had to deal with:
-parents who forget how to get the airport
-run ins with former Advanced French 4 classmates
-crowded planes
-overbooked planes
-angry, cursing Jamaicans
-screaming babies
-small children that like to play in airports
-fast food cravings
-discreetly watching Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" on my laptop while waiting for my flight
-lots and lots of magazines
-free train rides
-an empty apartment
-walking down Lafayette Avenue with a 50lb suitcase
-a pizza delivery boy who didn't accept checks

What a day, what a day. Oh, and this song helped me through it all:

Doesn't this sound like if New Order and My Bloody Valentine had a war off of awesomeness?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

oedipus wrecks

What film did I curl up on the couch and watch this holiday season? I finally got around to watching David O. Russell's debut film, "Spanking the Monkey." Yes, I watched a film about incest on Christmas Eve. Somehow Russell treats it with astute observation and sly black humor, resulting in one the best debut films I've seen in a while. It's kind of dated in early 90's indiedom, but it's definitely worth a watch.

"Spanking the Monkey" (1994)

It got me thinking that there are couple of other movies that I love about the disturbed mother-son relationships. Did I just say that?

"Ma Mère" (2004)
directed by Christophe Honoré

"Murmur of the Heart" (1971)
directed by Louis Malle"

"Psycho" (1960)
directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, December 22, 2008

the confessional

I didn't watch much new television this year, but this was definitely one of the best that I caught:

Peggy atones for her sins on the season finale of "Mad Men."

the sartorialists: the three best dressed women of 2008 pt. 3

Michelle Obama, lawyer, HBIC, mother
and soon-to-be First Lady of the United States of America

What other public figure this year drew so much attention for a simple color choice? Did the purple represent the unity between the red states and blue states? Royalty? Supremacy? Whatever it meant, Michelle looked good and it was the iconic moment in which Michelle Obama became the stylish anti-politician's wife (for the better, of course). Michelle Obama's purple Maria Pinto sheath with Azzedine Alaïa belt and gumball size pearl necklace that she wore during the primary's was an idiosyncratic and bold breath of fresh air that is so rarely seen in such a world of dull style and personality free dressing. Michelle understands what works for her and complements her tall, toned figure with sheath dresses and suits with lean, mean lines. Favoring American designers like Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu, and Thakoon as well as lower priced lines like J. Crew and H&M, Michelle embodies American modern glamour for those who can appreciate the high/low dichotomy that works for every budget. Change is everywhere this year and Michelle's sartorial choices have changed the game completely.

performance: the man who wasn't there

Philip Seymour Hoffman
photographed by Michael Thompson, GQ January 2001

This is no Photoshop job, ladies and gentlemen. Philip Seymour Hoffman was on the cover of GQ a couple of years ago and he looks pretty GQ, wouldn't you say? As one of the most consistent working actors (actor, not movie star) in contemporary cinema, Seymour Hoffman has the kind of pedigree attached to his name that you figure anything he's in must be good, or at the very least of interest for the scenes he's featured in. His pink face and unashamed rotund belly allow him to slip into the shadows of just about any character he plays, lending those features to portrayals of less than pretty people in less than pretty worlds. Last year he hit a trifecta with impressive turns in "When the Devil Knows You're Dead", "Charlie Wilson's War", and "The Savages" and this year he was perfectly pathetic as the theater director obsessed with his own mortality in Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" and a gentle giant mistaken for a monster in John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt." I know I said I wouldn't see the film, but if anything it was a chance to see some great Acting (it's such grandstanding acting that it deserves the capitalization). Seymour Hoffman goes up against Meryl Streep with confident ferocity in a movie that unfortunately feels like all of the action happens in a Tupperware container, and by that I mean it's too hermetically sealed in its own theatrical set pieces and uneven performance styles. It's an honest and convincing performance in a movie that doesn't always feel as such. I'd recommend checking out the lengthy article on the humble actor in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

days of our lives

"The Big Shave"
directed by Martin Scorsese

My first New York snow is falling outside. It's apparently 70 degrees at home. Where do you think I want to be?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

you don't know my name

"Movie Stills"
photographed by Peter Lindbergh
Vogue Italia, December 2008

This one may be too easy, but it's time again for guess that movie inspired editorial. Remember that my respect for your film literacy is at stake here.

top of the pops: the best music of 2008

Song of the Year: Estelle feat. Kanye West, "American Boy"
The perfect pop/soul song. This should have been the song of the summer.

Album Cover of the Year: Sebastien Tellier, "Sexuality"
Do I really have to explain?

the sartorialists: the three best dressed women of 2008 pt. 2

Charlize Theron, actress

And then God created Charlize. The remarkable thing about Charlize Theron's style is that you can quite pin it down. One day it's casual Bonnie Clyde chic at the Sundance Film Festival and the next day it's a dramatic Giambattista Valli cocktail dress at a film screening in Moscow. I guess it's like her career in a way. She's one of the few actresses that can perfectly oscillate between the babe and the hobo psycho killer. As one of the most stunning bodies and faces in Hollywood, Theron knows what looks good on her and as you can tell, it's just about anything. WARNING: Staring too long at these images might cause damage to your eyes and your computer. Yes, she's that hot.

Monday, December 15, 2008

soul train

Moments and Whatnauts

I heard this song when I was working a temp job at Dolce & Gabbana's corporate office last week. Could this song be more perfect?

p.s. Want some more 70s soul group costume nonsense?

performance: the argentine

Want to spend an afternoon at the movies taking in a flawed epic about a revolutionary anti-hero? Steven Sodbergh's latest film, "Che", is being shown this week in New York on a special roadshow presentation in which audiences have the chance to see the two films, "The Argentine" and "Guerilla", shown back to back as one complete portrait of the controversial figure. Do you learn much more about him in this new imagining of his mythical life? Not exactly, but the four-plus-hour feast of a film coupling is an ambitious feat to be appreciated in its broad scope of a determined man bent on exacting change in the world. Benecio Del Toro is watchable in every frame and Soderbergh is an excellent cinematographer (credited under the guise of Peter Andrews), but the pacing loses its footing here and there and cameos from Lou Diamond Phillips and Matt Damon are distracting. With a filmmaker whose career has included a major studio franchise (the "Ocean's" films), indie experiments ("Bubble"), and formalist driven personal projects (the misguided "Good German" and the sensationally underrated "Solaris"), Soderbergh is one to never bore you (well, I did catch a few winks during the overly long segment when Che was in the jungles of Bolivia), but I would recommend this to serious Del Toro and Soderbergh fans.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

want: carry all

Jack Spade, Plaid Market Tote
$149 (on sale)

Have you ever noticed that every so often a piece by Gap will last you a long time? Upon arriving in a city in which it's a necessity to have something that can hold more than just your keys and wallet, I've been carrying around my reliable old black messenger bag from Gap that I've owned since freshman year in college. However, it is starting to show its age and my mouth dropped at this tote I saw while doing some masochistic perusing at Barneys. Although the word SALE was splashed across almost every tag in the store, unfortunately I've indulged enough since I've moved here. And there's always next season. At any rate, I loved the texture, size, unique print, and lightness of the tote, but I wondered is it better to get a tote that can weather any storm (it's made out of cotton canvas, which looks nice but it's not always conducive to protecting your goods during a downpour like it was today) or go for what appeals to your sense? Functionality or style? That is the question.

P.S. A snippet of the random/awkward elevator chat I had on the way to the fifth floor:
Asian Guy in Trench: It's crazy out there.
Me: Yeah. It looks like there are some deals.
Asian Guy in Trench: Yeah, I just bought my mom a $10,000 ring and I still have more shopping to do.
Me: Zang!
Asian Guy in Trench: I have a Platinum Card, so it's okay. (laughs)

The Barneys elevator doors open.

Recession? What recession?

do hear what i hear?

Oh yeah, it's Christmas in two weeks. What would make for a perfect Christmas 08?

-Lots of eggnog.
-"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
-Lots of eggnog.
-Feasting with my family (all I want is as much ham and mac n' cheese as I can stomach)
-Lots of eggnog.
-Rubbing gleefully on my new DVDS: "Chungking Express" or the "The Dark Knight"
-Falling asleep to something on cable (I don't have a TV in NYC. Strange, right?)
-Lots of eggnog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the sartorialists: the three best dressed women of 2008 pt. 1

Gwyneth Paltrow, actress

It's funny how the way we dress can change our perception of a person. If there's anyone who recognized that and played it to new, sexier heights than Pepper Potts, or to non-Tony Stark obsessives, Gwyneth Paltrow. Considered the ultimate icy blonde, Paltrow broke through the cool this year with a new haircut and a predilection for showing a lot of leg. Looking healthy, relaxed, and confident, Paltrow exuded a new sense of MILFdom. We (or this lover of legs) can only be so grateful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

eye candy of the week: eniko mihalik

Eniko Mihalik
Velvet Magazine, September 2008
photographed by James Macari

Ohhhhh Eniko...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

the sartorialists: five best dressed men of 2008

In a year in which we elected a president who will be this century's most glamorous and iconic fearless leader and everyone was talking about the natty suits worn by ad men on Madison Avenue in the 60's, it's clear that male style was in a good place this year. All of these men look cool and confident, the true definition of personal style. Knowing how to wear a blazer doesn't hurt either.

Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
He is the definition swagger. He's everything we want from our man in charge--intelligent, confident, inspiring, charismatic, and really fucking stylish.

John Slaterry, actor
It's good to see a bit of the "Mad Men" cool carries over into his personal style. It's all about the pocket square this year, right?

Joshua Jackson, actor
I'm shocked by this choice as well. I guess once you get a hot German girlfriend who looks good in about anything, you start looking good as well. Proof positive that sometimes all it takes is a good woman to make you a better man.

Dominic Cooper, actor
I didn't see either one of his films that came out this year ("Mama Mia! and "The Duchess"), but I have admired his youthful but polished sense of style. It must be in the Brits bones to wear well cut blazers like no one else.

Jamie Hince, musician and boyfriend of Kate Moss
I don't listen to The Kills and I'm typically ambivalent about Kate Moss, but for some reason I love the paparazzi shots of them together. They complement each other really well and I love how comfortable he looks in a casual leather jacket and a three piece suit. A man for all seasons indeed.

Honorable Mention
Aaron Eckhart
Matthew Goode
George Clooney during award season

Worst Dressed
Daniel Day Lewis during award season
Chris Brown
Mickey Rourke

Friday, December 5, 2008

downtown, x-mas style

Have you ever read those features in fashion magazines about "downtown" dressing versus "uptown" dressing. Yeah, I now know what that means because it's exactly how this city dresses. I work and mainly roam downtown Manhattan and I love the mix of casual cool with urban sophistication. It's young, it's a mix between high and low, and it's always executing in those singular way you can imagine. I almost stopped a guy I saw the other day outside of my work who was wearing the perfect pair of slim jeans and the perfect plaid scarf, but that could have turned awkward. I don't know if I dress downtown enough, but if I did it would look something like this:

Rick Owens, Leather Motorcycle Jacket
Forever 21, Gingham Long Scarf
Lark & Wolff by Steven Alan, Wallace Shirt
J. Crew, Wool Herringbone Cambridge Tie
BDG, Dark Raw Skinny Jean
Common Projects, Black Patent Achilles Lowtop

Wouldn't this be perfect to wear to a holiday function?

performance: down in the delta

What is American independent cinema? Did it ever exist? Nowadays the definition has become more and more vague. An independent film can have a budget of $50,000 or $20 million. An independent film can be made outside of a large studio but still be distributed through a smaller division that is bankrolled by its parent studio. An independent movie can say all of the things and look a certain way that mainstream Hollywood fare just can't quite supply. In the past couple of years it's almost become a genre. The feel good "indie" movie that typically feeds us quirky characters battling with fractured families ("Little Miss Sunshine"), depression ("Garden State"), adolescence ("Juno"), an abusive relationship ("Waitress"), a hot button issue ("Thank You For Smoking"), or whatever else easily packaged conflict that can please the ignorant cinephiles who still believe that popcorn movies are useless and the mall moviegoers looking for something "different" outside their normal realm of film comprehension. As a result, it's become a smaller beast than it's bigger sibling, the Hollywood blockbuster. These are also troubling times for independent cinema when ideas about politics, gender, race, and class are being articulated better and more nuanced in mainstream film. "The Dark Knight", "Wall-E", "Baby Mama", "Sex and the City: The Movie", "Tropic Thunder", and "Quantum of Solace" were all very different viewing experiences (some more pleasurable than others), but the not so subtle agendas in those films didn't stop them from being very successful at the box office. Has independent cinema run out of ideas? One such film maybe prove otherwise. Lance Hammer's "Ballast" is not only one of the best films of the year, regardless of how much money it cost to make, it's a sensational exclamation that independent cinema is far from death.

"Ballast" is perhaps the most truly independent film to be released this year. Writer/director Hammer did have a distribution deal with IFC Films, but felt compelled to release the film his way by slowly releasing it and letting an audience grow through word of mouth. Bold move, but this is a bold film for the debut filmmaker. Hammer is a middle age white man and has made a film about a black family struggling to keep their head above water financially and emotionally. What could this former architect possibly have to say about an experience that on paper should be far from anything he could possibly grapple with? Watching "Ballast" was like being absorbed by the minimalist joy of Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" or the eruption of a clear, cinematically unrepresented voice in Spike Lee's "She's Got to Have It" or Terrence Malick's sublime portrait of youth in "Badlands." It's rare to have a filmmaker make you feel as though you're watching something new for the first time and with every quiet, contemplative moment in "Ballast", Hammer beautifully and confidently evokes the pain of loss and the failed attempts of togetherness in a way that feels like a wave of fresh, chilly air emanating from the screen.

Simple in its plot and yet profoundly moving in the way it sits in your heart and mind, "Ballast" weaves the tale of how the recent suicide of a convenient store owner grossly effects his twin brother, his ex-wife, and her troubled son. Set in the muddy waters of the Mississippi delta where black birds flit about the pale skies and fields of mossy grass look left behind or as if they'd been bombed out. It's the perfect backdrop for this fascinating story that is at once extremely bleak and yet never so dark you feel like you're watching a funeral procession. Micheal J. Smith Sr. stars as Michael, the twin left alive and in shock of his brother's untimely death. The camera rests easily next to his inexpressive face to capture his stunned, silent grief. The small home they share is permeated with a history so palpable you can almost imagine what their home must smell like or what the walls must feel like that are left with his blood to dry up and crackle with the paint. Smith Sr. doesn't have a word of dialogue for what feels like the first thirty minutes of the film. A kind neighbor wanting to reach out invites him over to dinner where they share a bottle of Yellow Tail and quietly eat their steaks. The ex-wife is played with such vitriolic anger and desperation to make a better life for her and her son by Tarra Riggs. The true standout of all these non-professional players is JimMyron Ross, who doesn't seem to be acting, but more so re-acting and purging the plights of young black men imprisoned by impoverishment and impossibility. As James, the son of the deceased twin, Ross is relentless in his pursuit of acceptance through a band of thugs, a basketball team he never joins, and the uncle he doesn't know that well. Watching him pull out a gun on his uncle, lay next to a new friend he has found in his uncle's dog, or wander the blank landscapes of Mississippi is not only a testament to excellent casting and performance, but also the film's ravishing and ravished Terrence Malick-esque cinematography by Lol Crawley. All of the film's parts culminate to a whole that won't soon leave you.

How does a movie about suicide, depression, embittered feelings, and poverty become a film that is essentially about redemption, healing, and hopefulness? Whatever stroke of genius Hammer has, I hope he holds onto it and keeps telling stories as sincere and resonate as this one.

want: stripes

Yigal Azrouel, Wool Jersey Top
$250 (on sale)

I was reading fashionista the other day (don't hate) and they made a pretty good point about how much we're willing to spend at a sale during these times. Is 25% off enough? 40? 50? I like it to be in the 60%-75% range. I've been seeing sales all around this city and I wonder if anyone is making any money that way and where are the droves of people that should be taking advantage of discounted designer goods? This economy has changed the game completely. I'm lusting after the above top, but unless it's %90 off, I can't commit.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

yo hips, yo thighs

"Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"
Directed by Jake Nava

Video of the year? Pay close attention to what happens at fifty-two seconds in. Yeah, uh huh.

the flood

It's that time of the year. No, not the holidays. No, not the weather. No, not the fact it's dark at 4:30. It's Award Season ladies and gentlemen and Hollywood is shoving everything down our throats during the prestigious and overcrowded month of December. The Independent Spirit nominations are out and the National Board of Review and the Gotham Awards announced their winners this week. It's on motherfuckers! There are some films that I'm foaming at the mouth in anticipation ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") and others, well, uh I have zero fucking interest in acknowledging their presence. Here are the five films I'll be avoiding this month:

Directed by John Patrick Shanley
I HATE THIS MOVIE. I HATE THIS MOVIE. Meryl is chewing scenery as if she hasn't had a decent meal in years.

"What Doesn't Kill You"
Directed by Brian Goodman
Didn't James Gray make this movie like twice? Ethan Hawke has a gold tooth, so count me out.

"Nothing But the Truth"
Directed by Rod Lurie
I defend Kate Beckinsale in "Last Days of Disco" but this movie looks abysmal.

Directed by Ron Howard

"Seven Pounds"
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
Woody Harrelson has a blind man in an awful wig, Will Smith in serious mode, Rosario Dawson in another throwaway role, and I bet there's a twist about someone being dead. Do I need to give you more reasons why I will not be seeing this movie?

black and gold

Sam Sparro
"Black and Gold"
Directed by Alex & Liane

Where have I heard this?

Monday, December 1, 2008

endorsement: samuel adams winter lager

Samuel Adams Winter Lager

I had crab cake sandwiches for dinner tonight and this seasonal beer could not have complemented it better. I know I've been posting quite a bit about food and beverage recently, but it's cold outside and it only seems appropriate to indulge as I become friendlier with my space heater.