John Wayne as Michael “Guns” Donovan, island saloon owner and U.S. Navy veteran
French Polynesia, December 1963
Film: Donovan’s Reef
Release Date: June 12, 1963
Director: John Ford
Costume Designer: Edith Head
A decade after John Wayne traveled to Hawaii to play the titular anti-communist agent in Big Jim McLain, the actor returned for the production of Donovan’s Reef, a more lighthearted and less politically motivated film and the final of Duke’s many cinematic collaborations with prolific director John Ford.
Donovan’s Reef is set during the holidays in French Polynesia where ex-Navy gunner’s mate Michael “Guns” Donovan operates a saloon on the fictional island of Haleakaloha. Continue reading
John Travolta as Tony Manero, aimless paint store clerk and disco god
Brooklyn, Spring 1977
Film: Saturday Night Fever
Release Date: December 14, 1977
Director: John Badham
Costume Designer: Patrizia Von Brandenstein
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Saturday Night Fever, the definitive film of the disco era. Often remembered for its soundtrack and street style, a closer look reveals an uncompromising film that wasn’t afraid to explore the dark themes that lurked beneath the era’s glittery polyester veneer, all propelled by an equally uncompromising star turn from a 23-year-old John Travolta. Continue reading
Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, eccentric consulting detective
London, November 1890
Film: Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan
Looking for a historical Halloween costume in a pinch? In the spirit of #SherlockSunday, grab a peacoat, a peaked cap, and a pair of suspenders, and you’re good to go!
But isn’t Sherlock Holmes most associated with the classic Basil Hathbone ensemble of a deerstalker cap and Ulster cape? Not so in the 2009 film starring Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic detective, as director Guy Ritchie insisted that his incarnation would neither wear the deerstalker nor say “Elementary, my dear Watson,” choosing instead to present what Roger Ebert would call a “cheerfully revisionist” take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s character. Continue reading
Ryan Reynolds as Curtis Vonn, charismatic drifter and gambler
Iowa to New Orleans, March 2014
Film: Mississippi Grind
Release Date: January 24, 2015
Director: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Costume Designer: Abby O’Sullivan
I was honored to correspond with Abby O’Sullivan, the talented costume designer who worked on Mississippi Grind, to learn firsthand insight about the inspiration, concept, and execution of the costumes that gave the film its distinctive look.
Abby recalls Mississippi Grind as “a special film” that stands out on her impressive resume due to the talents of the creative team, particularly directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and cinematographer Andrij Parekh, who all contributed to developing the “distinctive 1970s Americana road movie” attitude that radiates off the screen like neon bar lights through Marlboro smoke. Continue reading
Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, bank robber with “second sight”
Rural Louisiana, May 1934
Series Title: Bonnie and Clyde
Air Date: December 8, 2013
Director: Bruce Beresford
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Eighty years ago today, six Southern lawmen pulled off a feat that the federal government had been failing to do for months with the first real victory in the United States’ “War on Crime”.
With the advent of the Great Depression following the stock market crash of 1929, criminals abandoned gangsterdom and bootlegging (both “Machine Gun” Kelly and “Pretty Boy” Floyd were known to be bootleggers early in their career) in favor of motorized banditry. In the spirit of the Old West, bank robbers took to cars all across the country – with a special concentration in the poorest areas of the Midwest and the South.
This crime wave did not go unnoticed by the government. Soon, names like John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson, and Alvin Karpis were dominating the headlines, and they were surprisingly welcome by the people who were sick and tired of the perceived “fat cats” in the government. Some of the criminals, Dillinger and Floyd especially, even had the begrudging respect of some small-town lawmen. But the greatest disparity between public opinion and actual temperament is with the case of Bonnie and Clyde. Continue reading
Sorry this one took me long, fellas. I had planned to have it up by Tuesday (timed for the “polar vortex” ooooh…) but it’s a long-ass movie with a lot of clothes. However, this should still be pretty well-timed for anyone in North America dealing with record low temperatures this winter.
Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced Swedish investigative journalist
Hedestad, Sweden, Winter 2006
Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Trish Summerville
This isn’t one of those movies you pop in just for a laugh on a summer day or to fall asleep to. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very dark (both thematically and literally) film that’ll stick with you for days after watching. It’s long – closer to 3 hours than 2 – but the fast-paced, heart-racing sequences and the stellar acting, particularly from leads Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, make the time fly.
Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist in some hot water after his investigation into a corrupt businessman resulted in a libel case. He is mysteriously called to the home of Henrik Vanger (the always excellent and debonair Christopher Plummer) and thrown into a dark investigation of a forty-year-old murder. Continue reading
My girlfriend is a big fan of Brad Pitt, and her birthday is today so – as one of my gifts to her – I’m breaking down one of his more recent BAMF looks.
Brad Pitt as Jackie Cogan, freelance mob hitman
Boston*, November 2008
* The movie – like the source novel – was indeed set in the Boston area but was filmed in New Orleans.
Although it met with mixed reviews, fans of George V. Higgins appreciate the recent film version of his 1974 book Cogan’s Trade, released as Killing Them Softly based on a line from the novel’s titular protagonist, Jackie Cogan:
They cry. They plead. They beg. They piss themselves. They call for their mothers. It gets embarrassing. I like to kill ’em softly, from a distance. Not close enough for feelings. Don’t like feelings. Don’t want to think about them.