Tony Sirico as “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in “Made in America”, The Sopranos‘ series finale.
Tony Sirico as “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri, mob captain and Army veteran
Kearny, New Jersey, Late Fall 2007
Series:The Sopranos Episode: “Made in America” (Episode 6.21) Air Date: June 10, 2007 Director: David Chase Creator: David Chase Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This weekend, fans of The Sopranos mourned the death of Tony Sirico, who had played the eccentric gangster “Paulie Walnuts” in addition to appearances in movies like Goodfellas, Dead Presidents, and Cop Land.
Sirico was born July 29, 1942 in Brooklyn, beginning a colorful life that would be paralleled by his character’s succinct autobiography as shared in a third-season episode:
I was born, grew up, spent a few years in the Army, a few more in the can, and here I am: a half a wise guy.
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, ambitious middleweight boxing contender
The Bronx, Summer 1941
Film:Raging Bull Release Date: December 19, 1980 Director: Martin Scorsese Costume Design: John Boxer & Richard Bruno
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Jake LaMotta, the tough middleweight boxer born July 10, 1922 who was cinematically immortalized by Robert De Niro’s Oscar-winning performance in Raging Bull. Now considered one of the best movies ever made, Raging Bull was adapted by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin from LaMotta’s similarly titled autobiography, inspired by his own nickname “the Bronx Bull”. Continue reading →
Don Johnson as Harry Madox, drifter and used car salesman
Texas, Summer 1990
Film:The Hot Spot Release Date: October 12, 1990 Director: Dennis Hopper Costume Designer: Mary Kay Stolz
I’m wrapping up this summer’s #CarWeek with the under-discussed neo-noir The Hot Spot, made among the wave of sweaty erotic crime dramas of the ’80s and ’90s exemplified by movies like Body Heat through Basic Instinct.
Don Johnson was nearing the end of his star-making tenure on Miami Vice when he was tapped for The Hot Spot‘s leading role as Harry Madox, an enigmatic drifter whose arrival in the quiet Texas berg of Landers sets forth a series of events straight out of James M. Cain or Jim Thompson’s poison pen.
The Hot Spot comes by its pulp credentials honestly, adapted from Charles Williams’ 1952 novel Hell Hath No Fury and originally intended to be adapted as a Robert Mitchum vehicle in the early ’60s. Though set in the present, The Hot Spot retains much of this retro style inspired by the era of its original conception, as seen in many of the costumes and cars, most specifically Harry’s black ’59 Studebaker Silver Hawk that he drives into town. Continue reading →
Warren Oates as “GTO”, an otherwise unnamed former TV producer
Arizona through Tennessee, Fall 1970
Film:Two-Lane Blacktop Release Date: July 7, 1971 Director: Monte Hellman Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
A race for pink slips between a ’55 Chevy and a GTO across a long-gone America when the road was much more than a shopping aisle. Three road hogs and an underage girl riding in back with the tools. The nights are warm and the roads are straight. This one’s built from scratch, and, as Warren Oates says, “Those satisfactions are permanent.” — Tom Waits
“Because there was once a god who walked the earth named Warren Oates,” Richard Linklater included among the sixteen reasons why he loves Two-Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman’s low-buedget 1971 road movie that has become a cult classic.
One of my favorite actors, Oates was born 94 years ago today on July 5, 1928 in Depoy, an unincorporated community in western Kentucky. His craggy features suited him well to early roles as cowboys and criminals, though he rose to more prominent stardom through the ’70s beginning with his co-starring role as the garrulous, tragi-comic motorist who impulsively bets his showroom-bought Pontiac GTO in a cross-country race against James Taylor and Dennis Wilson’s “homegrown” ’55 Chevy in Two-Lane Blacktop. Continue reading →
Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business (1983)
Tom Cruise as Joel Goodson, ambitious high school student
Chicago, Fall 1983
Film:Risky Business Release Date: August 5, 1983 Director: Paul Brickman Costume Designer: Robert De Mora
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is Tom Cruise’s 60th birthday, and the charismatic superstar has proved his staying power with the blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, currently the highest-grossing movie of 2022 and of Cruise’s prolific career. The original Top Gun had elevated Cruise to stardom, following his breakthrough performance in Paul Brickman’s sharp satire Risky Business.
Though perhaps remembered most—and unfairly dismissed—as a teen sex comedy, Risky Business critically explores the impact of capitalism and consumerism through the lens of our high-achieving high schooler, Joel Goodson, who’s spent these first years of his life knowing nothing other than a relentless drive to succeed. In addition to the professional pressure applied by his parents, Joel also feels both the internal and peer pressure to achieve in the sexual arena, which he satisfies after hiring an escort named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) after his parents leave him home alone for several weeks.
Joel and Lana’s relationship swiftly evolves from professional to personal… and then a combination of both after his father’s Porsche takes a swim in Lake Michigan while under Joel’s unauthorized care. To bankroll the car’s astronomical repair costs before his parents’ return, Joel tests his own entrepreneurial savvy by joining forces with Lana and turning his family home into a brothel for one night to turn a profit from his rich and horny classmates.
To kick off the first semi-annual #CarWeek series of 2022, let’s take a look at Joel’s all-American varsity style (apropos Cruise’s birthday on the eve of Independence Day) while behind the wheel of that prized Porsche 928. Continue reading →
Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran filming The Irishman (2019)
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New Castle, Delaware, Summer 1962
Film:The Irishman Release Date: November 1, 2019 Director: Martin Scorsese Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson Tailor: Leonard Logsdail
I recently had the pleasure to rejoin my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer) on Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, discussing The Irishman with master tailor Leonard Logsdail, who crafted many suits for the movie’s principals.
While recording the episode—released today and available to download via iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify—I had the opportunity to ask Leonard firsthand about one of my favorite sartorial moments from the film, the gold-suited reveal of a newly elevated Frank Sheeran as president of his local union, Teamsters #326, headquartered about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia in New Castle, Delaware.
The Irishman dramatizes the decades-long association between Sheeran, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the mob, uniting cinematic tough guys Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with director Martin Scorsese in a movie that’s less a flashy chronicle of mob history (like Goodfellas and Casino) and more a meditation on age and loyalty in a violent world. Continue reading →
Gary Busey as FBI Special Agent Angelo Pappas in Point Break (1991)
Gary Busey as Angelo Pappas, beleaguered FBI agent
Los Angeles, Summer 1991
Film:Point Break Release Date: July 12, 1991 Director: Kathryn Bigelow Costume Supervisors: Colby P. Bart & Louis Infante
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“When are you gonna write about Gary Busey?”
“Where are your posts about Busey’s style in Point Break?”
“Show us the Busey, you coward!”
These are the kinds of questions and comments I never get, and yet, on the 78th birthday on this most idiosyncratic of actors, I want to take a deep dive—or surf—into the wardrobe of one of Gary Busey’s best-known roles. Continue reading →
Elvis Presley as Mike Windgren, expat singer, part-time lifeguard, and former circus performer
Acapulco, Summer 1963
Film: Fun in Acapulco Release Date: November 27, 1963 Director: Richard Thorpe Costume Designer: Edith Head Tailor: Sy Devore
This weekend, I saw Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis chronicling the life of the King of Rock and Roll with Baz’s characteristic splendor. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, most likely due to Austin Butler’s revelatory performance. (I’d need some more dedicated Elvis experts to confirm for me whether or not Colonel Tom Parker actually sounded as much like Goldmember as Tom Hanks’ performance portrayed.)
Elvis addressed the King’s cinematic ambitions, hoping to follow in James Dean’s footsteps but arguably ill-treated by his frequently banal material, as illustrated by the 1963 vehicle Fun in Acapulco. Continue reading →
Film:The Thing Release Date: June 25, 1982 Director: John Carpenter Costume Supervisors: Ronald I. Caplan, Trish Keating, and Gilbert Loe
We’re not gettin’ out of here alive… but neither is that thing.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Thing, which premiered June 25, 1982 and remains the personal favorite of director John Carpenter. Four days ago on June 21, British Antarctic research stations would have observed their Midwinter Day celebration that typically includes watching horror movies about being trapped in the snow such as The Thing and The Shining.
Indeed, the action begins during “first goddamn week of winter” grumbles R.J. MacReady, a grizzled helicopter pilot embedded with an American scientific research crew stationed in Antarctica. The U.S. Outpost 31 crew is baffled by the sudden appearance of a Norwegian gunman shooting at what appears to be a relatively benign wolfdog (Jed). “Maybe we’re at war with Norway,” quips Nauls (T.K. Carter), the cook, who more helpfully offers that “five minutes is enough to put a man over down here” as the team mulls over the gunman’s possible motives.
That night, it’s not the Norwegian who the crew needs to be alarmed about, but instead the curious creature locked up with the dogs. As their canine handler Clark (Richard Masur) warns Mac:
Now that it’s summer—and already a hot one!—I’ve started rotating my favorite aloha shirts and tropical prints into my wardrobe. Luckily for me, bright Hawaiian-style resort shirts have been undergoing a wave of revival each summer, perhaps encouraged by Brad Pitt’s now-famous yellow aloha shirt in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Style in QT’s early movies typically conjures the well-armed professional criminals in their uniforms of black suits, white shirts, and black ties, but outside of this lethal look, characters in the Tarantino-verse often pulled from the Hawaiian shirts in their closet. The first example would be Harvey Keitel’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it palm-print shirt before taking Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange for tacos in Reservoir Dogs. Two years later, it was Roth himself that would be tropically attired for the next of Tarantino’s defining cinematic works. Continue reading →