Ryan Reynolds as Adam Reed, time-traveling fighter pilot
Washington State, Spring 2022… then fall 2018
Film: The Adam Project
Release Date: March 11, 2022
Director: Shawn Levy
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
For four weeks after it premiered, The Adam Project remained the #1 most streamed movie on Netflix, only recently surpassed. This adventure comedy incorporates elements of sci-fi and action into a fun and often touching celebration of nerdom, summed up by a character stating that “sometimes it pays to be a nerd, guys.” Continue reading
James Stewart as John “Chip” Hardesty, earnest FBI agent
Oklahoma, June 1930
Film: The FBI Story
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Costume Designer: Adele Palmer
One of the greatest stars of the 20th century, James Stewart—known to friends and fans as “Jimmy”—was born on this day in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, just about an hour west of Pittsburgh.
Among the less celebrated titles in the actor’s extensive filmography is The FBI Story, a J. Edgar Hoover-influenced epic exploring the early successes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jimmy plays our fictional all-American agent John “Chip” Hardesty, whose Forrest Gump-like decades-long career with the Bureau includes a role in nearly every major investigation from tracking down the bank-robbing “Public Enemies” of the Depression and World War II spies to the bombing of United Flight 629 in 1955.
An interesting chapter of The FBI Story sends Chip to Oklahoma in the summer of 1930 to investigate the “Reign of Terror” in Osage County, Oklahoma, represented on screen as the obsoletely named “Wade County”. These murders of dozens of Osage Native Americans throughout the ’20s were recently explored by David Grann in his fascinating book, Killers of the Flower Moon, which provided the basis for a Martin Scorsese film of the same name currently in production starring Jesse Plemons, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Continue reading
Warren Beatty as Joe Frady, maverick political reporter
Rural Washington state, Spring 1974
Film: The Parallax View
Release Date: June 14, 1974
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Costume Designer: Frank L. Thompson
Happy birthday to Warren Beatty, born 84 years ago today on March 30, 1937. A rising star through the ’60s, Beatty established himself as a forced to be reckoned with when he spearheaded production of Bonnie & Clyde in 1967, not only starring in but producing the acclaimed gangster film. Following his innovative success with Bonnie & Clyde, Beatty slowed down his career to only occasional movies, frequently going several years without acting while putting much of his energy into political activism and—more notoriously—dating his way through many of Hollywood’s hottest before marrying Annette Bening after the two co-starred in Bugsy.
One of Beatty’s most notable post-Bonnie & Clyde films was The Parallax View, the second in a trio of Alan J. Pakula’s paranoid political thrillers of the ’70s. Continue reading
Glenn Ford as Ben Wade, bandit leader
Arizona Territory, 1880s
Film: 3:10 to Yuma
Release Date: August 7, 1957
Director: Delmer Daves
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
Looking for a movie to watch on 3/10? I recommend 3:10 to Yuma, the swift, suspenseful, and compelling Western based on an early short story by Elmore Leonard.
Modern audiences may be more familiar with the 2007 adaptation starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as the outlaw and the rancher, respectively, though the original black-and-white version was produced in 1957, four years after Leonard’s story was published in Dime Western Magazine.
A decade before revisionist Westerns would become fashionable in “New Hollywood”, the original 3:10 to Yuma followed in the allegorical tradition of High Noon (1952) with complex characters and moral questions that paint a worldview where the concept of right and wrong are less black and white than the cinematography.
Clark Gable as Gay Langland, aging cowboy
Nevada desert, Summer 1960
Film: The Misfits
Release Date: February 1, 1961
Director: John Huston
The Misfits was released sixty years ago today on what would have been star Clark Gable’s 60th birthday. As the actor died three months earlier in November 1960 (just days after filming wrapped), audiences strolling into the theater were already aware that it had been the screen icon’s swan song but were tragically unaware that it would be the last for Marilyn Monroe, who died in 1962 before she could complete production in Something’s Gotta Give.
As it turned out, none of the film’s leading trio would survive the decade as third-billed Montgomery Clift died at the age of 45 in July 1966.
Though not warmly received at the time of its release, The Misfits‘ reputation has benefited from contemporary reconsideration over the years as critics have come to appreciate this somewhat offbeat take on a group of lovable losers and no-account boozers, to pinch a phrase from Billy Joe Shaver. Continue reading
Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, helpful handyman
Arizona, Summer 1963
Film: Lilies of the Field
Release Date: October 1, 1963
Director: Ralph Nelson
Wardrobe Credit: Wesley Sherrard
“That is your car?” Mother Maria asks Homer Smith, to which he proudly corrects: “That’s my home!” With that attitude, Homer would have been well-prepared for a road trip decades later in the 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic found Americans taking to the road for their summer getaways in increased numbers said to recall the age of the mid-century “great American road trip.”
In his Academy Award-winning role, Sidney Poitier plays handyman Homer Smith, traveling through the Arizona desert when his station wagon’s dire need for water brings him to the Catholic convent overseen by the solemn Maria (Lilia Skala), who requests that the newcomer stop to assist with a roofing repair. His initial reluctant assistance leads to staying for dinner and an enthusiastic English lesson (“phonograph… record!”) to the German sisters, parlayed into spending the night camped out in the back of his Plymouth, where Mother Maria corners him the next morning and asks—er, orders—him to stay and build the nuns a chapel. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, taciturn Hollywood stuntman and personal “gofer”
Los Angeles, February 1969
Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This summer’s Car Week posts are likely to be more embraced than usual as many are enthusiastically embracing the open road after months of global lockdown and road trips emerging as safer alternatives for summer travel.
My first official Car Week post of the year was an obvious one for me. I went into Once Upon a Time in Hollywood last year knowing I’d be entertained, but the absolute immersion into 1969 Southern California far exceeded my expectations. By the time we were joining Brad Pitt as he worked the gears of his sporty Karmann Ghia through the streets of L.A. to the shifting sounds of Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”, Joe Cocker’s “The Letter”, The Bob Seger System’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man”, and Aretha Franklin’s “The House That Jack Built”, I was hooked. It’s hardly two minutes of screen time, but the kinetic energy, superb soundtrack (how much did it cost to license music for this scene alone?), and electrifying sense of place made it one of the most memorable sequences I’d seen on the big screen in years and gave me a sense of the entertainment that was to follow. Continue reading
Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp, expatriate American journalist
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Summer 1960
Film: The Rum Diary
Release Date: October 28, 2011
Director: Bruce Robinson
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood
The end of this week means the start of summer, arguably the strangest summer I’ll have experienced in my thirty years. The global coronavirus pandemic has seen the cancellation of sunny getaways, a halt in peanut or crackerjack sales at old ballgames, and consumers foregoing bathing suit deals in favor of fashionable face masks (like these Magnum, P.I.-inspired masks made by my friends at Aloha Funwear!)
In the spirit of what promises to be a surreal summer, I’m exploring a functional look extracted from the chaos of The Rum Diary, adapted from Hunter S. Thompson’s semi-roman à clef inspired by his brief career with the Puerto Rican sporting magazine El Sportivo. More than a decade after he portrayed HST surrogate Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp returned to star in this somewhat less successful adaptation of a chapter from his late friend’s life.
Martin Sheen as Kit Carruthers, garbage collector-turned-spree killer
South Dakota through the Montana Badlands, Spring 1959
Release Date: October 15, 1973
Director: Terrence Malick
Costume Designer: Rosanna Norton (uncredited)
Wardrobe Credit: Dona Baldwin
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Terrence Malick made his impressive cinematic debut writing, producing, and directing Badlands, the romanticized re-interpretation of the infamously violent crime spree of Charles Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, that left ten dead across the Great Plains during eight brutal and bloody days in January 1958. Continue reading
Laurence Harvey as Dove Linkhorn, determined drifter
Texas to New Orleans, September 1933
Film: Walk on the Wild Side
Release Date: February 21, 1962
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Costume Designer: Charles Le Maire
While this may not be the ideal weekend for an outdoors adventure, we can at least walk vicariously with Depression-era drifter Dove Linkhorn (Laurence Harvey), whose solo trek from Texas to New Orleans is interrupted by the arrival of the fiery and opportunistic runaway Kitty (Jane Fonda). The two hitchhike and hop trains together, though Dove turns down her advances as he sticks to his single-minded goal of tracking down the woman he had loved and lost, Hallie Gerard (Capucine). Continue reading