Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard, small-time car thief
Marseille, France, August 1959
(French title: À bout de souffle)
Release Date: March 16, 1960
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Happy birthday, Bébel! Jean-Paul Belmondo was born 86 years ago today in Neuilly-sur-Seine, west of Paris. Following a brief career as an amateur boxer and his compulsory military service, Belmondo began acting in the mid-1950s and found international stardom after his performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless to English-speaking audiences), a seminal example of the burgeoning French New Wave cinematic movement.
Tommy Wiseau as Johnny, a “misunderstood” banker and Lisa’s future husband
San Francisco, Fall 2002
Film: The Room
Release Date: June 27, 2003
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Costume Designer: Safowa Bright-Asare
It’s April Fools’ Day! The perfect time to switch gears from looking at timeless style in great movies and TV shows… and reflect on extremely questionable “style” from a movie celebrated as an unmitigated cinematic disaster.
The Room is nearly two hours of brain-numbing non-sequiturs, unresolved “plot” threads and an inconsistent narrative, more screen time for a single football than The Longest Yard, Any Given Sunday, and Rudy combined, and writing that fails to compare with a monkey pounding on a keyboard… and yet this bizarre melodrama has racked up one of the most loyal cult followings in American cinema. Its nonsensical dialogue (“Do you understand life? Do you?!”) has permeated pop culture and sent packs of people to midnight screenings each year, armed with plastic spoons and questions and praise for the film’s eccentric auteur, Tommy Wiseau. Continue reading
Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, eager baseball prodigy
Chicago, Spring 1923
Film: The Natural
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Design: Gloria Gresham & Bernie Pollack
Tomorrow is MLB Opening Day, meaning baseball season is back and in full swing (forgive the pun), so let’s take a look at a look from one of the most classic of baseball movies, The Natural.
“I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for,” are the words that must echo through Roy Hobbs’ brain every day for the 16 years after he was shot by a self-destructive—or just generally destructive—baseball groupie, Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey).
When Bernard Malamud was working on his debut novel, The Natural, he took inspiration from the story of Eddie Waitkus, the former first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies who was shot and nearly killed by an obsessive female stalker who, as she later told an assistant state attorney, wanted “to do something exciting in my life.”
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, December 2000
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Telltale Moozadell” (Episode 3.09)
Air Date: April 22, 2001
Director: Dan Attias
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
In a late second season episode of The Sopranos, Christopher Moltisanti warns his fellow Italian-American mobsters about his vision of hell, “an Irish bar where it’s St. Patrick’s Day everyday forever.” Thus, let’s take a look at a stylish outfit from this seminal HBO drama on the first #MafiaMonday after St. Patrick’s Day!
Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin, mob enforcer
Kansas City, summer 1972
Film: Prime Cut
Release Date: June 28, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Lee Marvin’s submachine gun-packing mob enforcer Nick Devlin gets plenty of opportunities for badass action in Michael Ritchie’s sophomore film, Prime Cut, but the smooth gangster also takes the chance to show a more genteel side, such as when escorting Poppy (Sissy Spacek) to a fancy dinner in a hotel restaurant.
Tony Musante as Eddie Hagan, smooth and ruthless fringe mobster
Kansas City, Summer 1931
Film: The Grissom Gang
Release Date: May 28, 1971
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch
The Grissom Gang had intrigued me ever since I was in eighth grade. I was flipping through a book about crime cinema from the school library when I found myself paused on a full-page photo of a man in a bloody white dinner jacket stumbled out of a roadster while Kim Darby sat in the passenger seat with her mouth agape. I had been newly introduced to Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, and other films depicting that famous 1930s crime wave, but The Grissom Gang remained elusive.
Half a decade later, I was a college student with a considerably better budget and the vast resources of the internet at my disposal. I finally managed to track down a DVD of The Grissom Gang and, despite what the critics said, I was far from disappointed. Granted, I had no idea what to expect, so a sweaty, exploitative period crime piece from The Dirty Dozen was exactly what I was happy to get.
The Grissom Gang was the second major cinematic adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s 1939 novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, following the poorly received British-made noir wannabe from 1948. When Robert Aldrich stepped into the wheelhouse for his adaptation, he kicked the setting back to the early 1930s when the Depression-era desperadoes reigned from powerful organized crime figures down to the lowliest highway robbers.
Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, Philadelphia homicide detective
Sparta, Mississippi, September 1966
Film: In the Heat of the Night
Release Date: August 2, 1967
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Happy birthday to the great Sidney Poitier, born 92 years ago today on February 20, 1927. The actor’s personal favorite among his prolific filmography is In the Heat of the Night, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1967, a year that found him pulling off a peerless hat trick that included that film as well as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and To Sir, with Love. Continue reading