Tag Archives: movies

Movie Project: The Tim Gunn Movie Guide to Style

After reading Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney’s book and reviewing it, I am interested in following up on some of the books mentioned within, as well as attacking the list of “Films of Style” in the appendices. Netflix operates a little slower here (since mail takes about 2 weeks to go one-way), so it will be interesting to find these movies at the library, in Italian, or end up perhaps purchasing them.

Here’s the list.

Seen it, loved it, remember it.

  1. Doctor Zhivago (Thank you PBS!)
  2. Auntie Mame  (Thanks Uncle Michael)
  3. All About Eve  (Thanks Uncle Michael)
  4. Austin Powers
  5. The Devil Wears Prada (“loved it” is too strong for this one – it is slightly above “meh” for me, but it was really fun to watch!)

Seen it, or have I? Better re-watch it.

  1. Funny Face
  2. Dinner at Eight (hommage paid via a tv series and a movie short by the same name)
  3. Funny Girl

High priority prior to reading it on this list.

  1. The Philadelphia Story
  2. Valley of the Dolls
  3. Infamous (A movie whose content and title always remind me of this movie, that I remember watching in high school and really grasping how artist’s can reach out and grab your heart, and you don’t even see it coming.)
  4. Shampoo
  5. Grey Gardens (and of course, the well-received update by HBO)
  6. A Place in the Sun
  7. Cleopatra (ah, Elizabeth Taylor! There seem to be two recent remakes, one a tv series from 1999 with Billy Zane and the other coming out in 2013 starring Angelina Jolie.)

Never heard of it – hope it’s great!

  1. Blow-Up
  2. The Women (yikes! remade in 2008 with an all-star cast, but it looks terrible!)
  3. Dark Victory
  4. Persona
  5. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  6. The Palm Beach Story
  7. The Fountainhead
  8. Sleeper
  9. L’Avventura
  10. Metropolitan
  11. The Draughtsman’s Contract
  12. The Go-Between (Julie Christie! I love her. She’s still got magic in this movie dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.)
  13. Prospero’s Books
  14. Mildred Pierce (ooh, there is a 2011 remake starring Kate Winslet, I wonder what Gunn will have to say about that?)
  15. Last Year at Marienbad
  16. Masculin Feminin
  17. Desk Set

And, that’s it! I’m not sure if they chose sufficient movie listings to fit the page dimensions, or if thirty-two holds some magical numerical significance, but here is the list of Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney’s top thirty-two Films of Style. I have rearranged the order of the movies to categorize the movies. The second category “Seen it, or have I? Better re-watch” is necessary for movies like “Shampoo” which sounds familiar, but I always confuse it with the movie/production of “Hair” – merely because of the title. The same goes for “Funny Face” and “Funny Girl” – totally different movies, but I have a difficult time remembering which is which – the titles trip me up.

It is evident from this list, and from Gunn’s prose in the book, that his influences are heavily French-based (even if they are an outlying French colony). I am disappointed not to see any other nationalities get so much coverage, surely there are stylistically beautiful films from film-prolific India, or Japan, too? Perhaps the editors trumped on this one and directed the list to be trimmed for the target audience of the book, maybe Gunn’s francophilia runs deeper than we know. Nonetheless this looks like a great list of movies to watch.

Which have you seen? Are any of your favorites on the list?

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Book Review: “A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style” by Tim Gunn with Kate Moloney

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this book”):

I picked up this book the day I found out I failed the interview. Okay, that doesn’t sound so positive, but it is the most active, efficient way to say it and it is true, after all. Although I was really disappointed, I have a lot of practice in keeping my chin up, so I did just that. After the follow-up phone call ended with the bad news, I sat for a moment and breathed hard. A few tears welled in my eyes and I took note of how the pit of my stomach felt intensely centered around the backs of my knees and my heart was pounding heavily, though not quickly. “So this is what disappointment feels like today.” I thought. After a minute or two, my breath returned to normal, along with my eyes and heart, though my stomach stayed out of whack the entire day (okay, okay, I cried again, too). Then, I picked myself up, returned to my daily to-do list and went along my less-merry-than-usual way.

I was still riding the subtly ebbing and flowing waves of disappointment when I got to the library. I was returning dvds and hadn’t intended to check out a book (what with a stack of blogging projects waiting for me at home). Yet, I craved a new distraction from the free time that might tempt me to engage in garbage talk about myself later that night (sort of a nasty habit I acquired in my early 20s, and I’ve been in rehab ever since). I have also been thinking about what role my clothes play in my self-expression lately. This thought arose from blog exploration that led to a whole community of fashion bloggers and consumeristas (as I call them). Could I be invested in a personal style without betraying my anti-consumerist soul? Would I be able to fit my personal outlook into a style of Tim Gunn’s approval?

There would be only one way to find out. I picked up the book, and with gleeful delight found that I adore Tim Gunn’s approach to style.


Gunn and his partner (sidekick?) Kate Moloney start by creating an atmosphere of open acceptance and genuine enthusiasm to share their belief that anyone can achieve the mantra of the book “Quality, Taste & Style,” no matter your heritage, socioeconomic status, philosophy, size, age, etc. – all of that makes you who you are. “Who you are” is the first chapter and it is Gunn and Moloney’s goal that you “be unflinchingly confident in who you are. Own that person. Own your look.” (30). Since I cracked open the book with a skeptic’s chip on my shoulder, I was pleasantly surprised by these beginnings. Still doubtful, I jumped ahead to scan the appendices in anticipation of a list of labels and brands out of my price range. Instead I met with a style guide that included a recommended film list, a literary section (!!!), AND a glossary, because “[f]ew activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary.” (191). Za-zing! A book after my own heart. Maybe this book could help me uncover my sartorial sense of self.

As I pressed on, the book presented useful information, including a closet organizing section, a brief overview of fashion mentors and icons and rolled on into physical beauty in posture, before leading into the retail sector. Gunn and Moloney offer tips for exercising discretion when shopping, including advocating for shopping less, and also raise the issue of emotional shopping and how detrimental it can be. Accessories were given a thorough once-over, including the advice to sniff around your environs and assess your emotional reaction to certain smells; this will help you know what to look for in a fragrance. Finally, the book ended with directives for different special events (think black-tie attire, vacation attire, etc.).

Looking back on it, the only pieces missing from the book were how to shampoo your hair and that you should never wear seersucker! (Personal distaste of mine, Gunn does restrict it to the summer months and says it must go away after Labor Day). Though these types of rules are not part of the book, that is a good thing. Gunn and Moloney produced a starter course in how to present your physical self in a way that reflects your personality, beliefs and tastes. They do demand that one should dress appropriately for the weather, and thus incorporate a seasonality to your wardrobe, the way there is a seasonality to fruits and vegetables, and even menu offerings (at least, there should be). For example, lightweight cotton sweaters are great for September, but should be shelved in favor of a more dense fabric by December.

Perhaps the most valuable part of this book (and most surprising to me), along with the simple posture tips (see below), are the fashion, artistic, literary and film references Gunn and Moloney drop in the text, they sparkle like the subtle accessories endorsed throughout the book, just enough to attract interest without overwhelming the intention of the outfit, er book, in this case. Names like Anna Piaggi, Leontyne Price, and Chita Rivera; movies like Doctor Zhivago, Grey Gardens, and Il Grido; and books like “Death in Venice” (Thomas Mann), “Either/or” (Søren Kierkegaard), and “I Shock Myself” (Beatrice Wood), are scattered among discussions of the basic shoe requirements of every woman’s closet (two pairs of boots, one fancy, one casual; one pair of flats suitable for the office and jeans; one pair dress-up-to-the-nines evening shoes). And, all the while, pressing the mantra: silhouette, proportion, fit.

Speaking of women, the book focuses exclusively on fashion for women and is written with a female audience in mind, but it’s sage advice would hold true for men, as well. Gunn and Moloney point out that fragrances are not gender-specific, only the marketing of fragrances is. Maybe ballet flats and a suitable pair of evening heels don’t apply to most men, but one never knows. As Gunn would say to those of us creating and maintaining personal style: “Make it work!”

Best Excerpts:

“I find that often students who struggle with an assignment are inclined to abandon the struggle and begin again. This practice unnerves me, because it’s like playing roulette with one’s work. What assurance does one have that the next spin of the wheel will be successful? Important learning occurs when a struggle is examined and analyzed, diagnosed, and a prescription offered. Ergo, make it work.” p. 16.

“Who you are embraces everything about you, from your family’s origins to your predilections for particular films and music, to your fantasies and reveries, to your weekly routines. It’s also your size, shape, and proportions, and your coloring. And it’s the city or town in which you live, your home, and your friends and colleagues. It’s milieu.” p. 18.

“Allow yourself to make a distinction between what appeals to you and what works for you. (If you love chartreuse but it looks dreadful on you, get your chartreuse fix around the house: perhaps some throw pillows would do it.)” p. 22.

“If you wouldn’t want to run into an ex-lover, that’s a sure sign you could do better.” p. 59.

“Style requires a “like it or lump it” attitude toward one’s public. Your public includes husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers, children, workmates, classmates, and the people who pass you on the street. You do not exist to win their approval.” p. 70.

“Focus on pulling the shoulders away from the ears. Imagine drawing the shoulder blades down the back and allowing the collarbone to be as open as possible without thrusting the breast forward. At no time should the shoulder blades be pinned together. This position makes keeping the head perfectly balanced on the neck far easier. This means you’ll sail through life and into old age with a limber body and not a trace of a dowager’s hump.” p. 95.

“There will always, always be something to fret over, and too often the fretting takes the place of actually taking care of oneself.” p. 104.

“Everyone with a good eye and a sensitive soul loves beauty. The ability to appreciate and feel joy when beholding something that speaks to you has nothing to do with your tax bracket.” p. 133.

“[Y]ou should never buy something on sale that you wouldn’t buy at full price.” p. 140.

ISBN: 0810992841

I couldn’t find a website for the book, so here is the amazon link.

I am thinking of incorporating some of the aspects of this book, particularly the closet organization, the shower routine, and the top ten shopping list. Once you check out the book, let me know what you think, and most importantly, whether you feel this book helped you become “unflinchingly confident in who you are.”


Filed under Book Review

Movie Review: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” Richard Brooks 1958

Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives

Personal Blurb-style Intro (aka “Why I picked up this dvd”):

It’s a classic. My Uncle Michael recommended this movie to me. I am recommending it to you. “Recommend” is an understatement in both instances; it is a must-see!


Based on the award winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams, all you need to know about this movie is that the carefully crafted dialog is matched only by the fiery intensity brought to the screen by the stars. Elizabeth Taylor is stunning and effective in her role of “Maggie the Cat.” Paul Newman’s eyes have thirty different shades of blue as his character “Brick” thrashes around inside his youthful physique, daring time to move on to a world he no longer recognizes. Burl Ives commands your attention, if not your oddly placed affection, as “Big Daddy.” The supporting performances are dynamic as well. Judith Anderson holds the family together as “Big Momma,” and is the perfect complement to the tyrannical Big Daddy. Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood add color and tension as Brick’s brother “Gooper” and sister-in-law “Mae” or “Sister woman,” respectively.

As I watch this movie, I am mesmerized by Burl Ives. He is so lithe and transformative; at times he melts into the background, acting as the inner voice we wish would guide us more directly. At other times he is commanding and coarse, saying truths cruelly to his most beloved family members. His face displays such open vulnerability, but only in glimpses – the moment of his birthday cake delivery and when he reminisces about his father; yet he has drastically different reactions that follow each moment. Which Big Daddy is the truth? Can we be so multi-faceted and still live with integrity?

Lastly, I really enjoy Elizabeth Taylor and the role she carries. Maggie is a strong, determined woman who acts on what she believes she wants from life; love, a financially secure home, and family. She has a comically contradictory relationship with Gooper and Mae’s antagonizing children – watch for the scene where Maggie smears ice cream into a little girl’s face! Yet, Maggie does want children. For me this is significant because I am a woman who grew up during the third-wave-feminism backlash, and living in the current climate where all women are expected to love all children, it is refreshing to see a portrayal of a woman who wants her own children but doesn’t need to concede defeat to becoming a mother like the orderly, over-bearing mother Mae.

Best Lines:

Maggie: “I’m not living with you! We occupy the same cage, that’s all.”

Dr. Baugh, played by Larry Gates: “Sometimes I wish I had a pill to make people disappear.”

Big Daddy: “I wanna think clear. I wanna see everything and I wanna feel everything. Then I won’t mind goin’. I’ve got the guts to die, what I wanna know is if you’ve got the guts to live!”

Big Daddy (to Brick): “I’ll outlive you. I’ll bury you. I’ll buy your coffin!”

Maggie: “Oh I’m more determined than you think. I’ll win all right.” Brick: “Win what? What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?” Maggie: “Just stayin’ on it, I guess. Long as she can.”

Big Daddy: “But it’s always there in the morning, isn’t it? The Truth! And it’s here now.”

Maggie: “Not looking at a fire doesn’t put it out.”

Big Daddy: “Truth is Pain, and Sweat, and Paying bills, and Making love to a woman you don’t love anymore. The Truth is Dreams that don’t come true and nobody prints your name in the paper until you die.”

Big Daddy: “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity?”

Big Daddy: “I hate sneakin’ and spyin’. It makes me PUKE!”


Personal Responsibility.


What is love – actions, intentions, feelings?

Truth v. Mendacity: who has control of the truth, how is the idea of truth manipulated. Pretenses and hypocrisy = staying with the same woman and going to church.

Grown-ups v. children.


Fashion of Elizabeth Taylor! No, seriously, she is gorgeous. Women and their figures are actually a theme, though. Also, the role of women in the family, to endure the cruelties of their husbands and all the while holding onto some sense of love. Big Daddy, Gooper and Brick each have at least once scene of significantly cruel dialog to his spouse, and the spouses each show her hurt, but each keeps fighting for her man, too. Pay attention to the scenes where the husband and wife have their backs to one another.

Use of Sound: Music, Children, Radio, Thunder.

Power and Locked Doors.

IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051459/

See also:  http://www.filmsite.org/cato.html


Filed under Movie Review



1. Realized that many Italians pull over to talk on their cell phones. Sweet!
2. Enjoyed an easy-like-Saturday-morning with Dave.
3. Knocked out chores and tasks.
4. Watched one terrible movie “The Open Road” (more on that later) and one brilliant movie “Gates of Heaven” (Thank you Errol Morris).
5. Soaked up more Sicilian sunshine; I am grateful daily for this beautiful sunshine.

Courtesy is highly valued on base. Signs in the locker room request courtesy, a sign posted in the commissary’s common area pleads “No offensive gestures or language.” Since these seem like basic courtesies,the mere presence of the signs makes me wonder what happened to necessitate the signs. Then, I spend two minutes in the middle of a group of sailors and hear “f**k” used nine times in as many ways, and I think “aha!” I like to use expletives for emphasis, too, but these sailors take it to another level. I am left only to wonder about the gestures…

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The Housing Inspection


  1.  Rememberance Run 5k.
  2. Got through all of my errands and connected with oodles of friends and family on skype!
  3. Felt extra super-duper ALIVE the whole day.
  4. Cozied in for the night with Dave and watched Change of Plans. It was a good movie with a thoughtful balance between action and dialog; fun enough to pull you along and make you laugh, yet serious enough to inspire contemplation and conversation.
  5. Finally uploaded the Pandora app to my iphone!

What is this business about a housing inspection? The military provides housing; in Sicily there is base housing at Marinai and another option is to live “on the economy.” When you live on the economy, the house/villa/apartment/condo must be inspected (unless it is already in the system). Inspection addresses two issues: rental standards (light fixtures, kitchen cabinets) and fraud prevention (overcharging and pocketing the difference). Standards verification is necessary because Italian renting differs from the U.S.: e.g., leases are a minimum of four years, lighting fixtures and kitchen cabinets are not provided. Fraud prevention is necessary because some people suck.

P.S. That’s the short and sweet on the housing inspection. Let me know in the comments or by email if you have more questions and I will answer them in future posts.

P.P.S. (this is starting to feel like a teenage note passed in class) If you have a Theme suggestion for a post, let me know!


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From Top Pot to “Che cos’e?”


  1. Successfully recovered Dave from the Catania airport, including not one, not two, but three failed attempts to find the passenger pick-up area before finally connecting! “Grazie mille” (thank you a thousand time) to all of the gracious Italians who either ignored me or gently told me I could not enter the lane clearly marked for Bus and Taxi only.
  2. Snuck in a 2-hour “riposo” (the Italian “siesta” or mid-afternoon downtime when some people nap), very indulgent, and it felt great.
  3. Took care of some financial tasks on the to-do list!
  4. Enjoyed a leisurely dinner with Dave; rucoletta pizza (tomato, buffalo mozzarella, arugula), Benuara wine (Nero d’Avola and Syrah), and Tartufo for dessert. We took our time, savoring the food, conversation, and temperate evening.
  5. Began Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. I’m a big RDJ fan and he looks great in this movie. I love a good comeback story and he has a great one. As for the moive, it is funny, has quirky character development, but it couldn’t keep me awake past the 1:30 mark. I will finish it tonight.

 I experience anxiety. This can apply to matters as simple as buying pastries. I don’t eat a whole lot of pastries in the first place, so when I see a line-up of delicious goodies staring at me with nary a name to them, I start to panic. Yet, faced with the same scenario at Top Pot, I had no anxiety about asking “what’s that?” Here, I barely know whether to order first or pay first, much less which name to call the pastry! As of today, I will ask “che cos’e?” (what’s that?) no matter how much anxiety lurks within.

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Food, glorious food.


  1. Basil pesto. Yummy. We had some pesto left over from pasta and I spread it on my sandwich with dinner.
  2. Caramelized onions. I made these at home tonight from onions we bought at the market. As they were room temperature when I started cutting, the air was ripe with the onion acid and even the kitties could not escape red-rimmed eyes (see Panther’s photo below). The deliciously sweet result made it all worth it.
  3. Back to Nature Nantucket Blend: Almonds, Raisins, Cranberries, Cherries, Pistacchios. 50 years of deliciousness and it all started in Madison, Wisconsin! How did Back to Nature escape my notice for the 10 years I lived in Madison?!!
  4. Post-run Gatorade I drank while skyping with my dear friend Z, thanks for getting up early to chat, Z! (Run was 1st training run: 1 mile warm-up, 4 x 250 repeats at 7.5 (8:00/mile), 1 mile warm-down.)
  5. Carrot & orange juice combo I sipped on while watching Evita last night. What a fun musical, and it was fun to watch Madonna in a movie when she’s not messing things up trying to act. Stick to singing and sing-acting, you are awesome at those!

Warning: More iphone love ahead!!! I promise I am not receiving any endorsements from Apple or iphone, it is just that I am really innamorata (enamored) with my smartphone. (Note: Steve Jobs resigned.) Specifically, yesterday I saved six articles, and then when I had a free moment, there they were in my pocket, just waiting for me to read them. Additionally, I bought Adele’s new album “21” yesterday and enjoyed the simplicity of ipod and phone in one! While I could have had these luxuries in the states, these discoveries are even more fun abroad. Now to start adding apps…

Panther recovering…

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