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Friday, July 18, 2008

Perfectly Natural Lips

I've never been much for lipgloss' or lipsticks, even though I'm constantly being told that I need "just a bit of color" on my lips. I simply don't see the point of reapplication every time I take a sip of water. They leave the most unflattering lipstains on the glass and it means that I'm effectively eating lipgloss/stick bit by bit. I'd also always have to worry about accidentally getting some on my clothes- they are the devil to wash. Besides, they are sticky (lipgloss in particular) and are not even particularly moisturizing even though they look juicy.
But then I keep seeing these perfectly colored lips in magazines and make-up advertising campaigns, which makes me want to give lipsticks another try. Typically I always pick colors that are pretty and pink, because red lipsticks scare me and orange is my least favourite color. But having seen so many ads where models/celebs have perfectly colored yet natural looking lips that are not just pretty and pink (like above, esp love Leighton Meister's lip color!), I'm beginning to think that maybe a tint of orange is not so bad after all. Besides the color when applied almost never matches its color in the tube. The aim should be to find a shade that comes naturally, like the color your lip looks when it has been bitten.

Unfortunately not everyone's lips are the same and what looks good on the model does not always look good on you. I know, because I tried buying the exact same color as the model in an ad campaign and it turned out to be waaay too red for me! So I guess it wouldn't be helpful to talk about exact lip colors here. We can however, talk about the effects to strive for and favourite lipcolor brands around.
The effect I love is sheer with just a bit of shine, which translates to ultra conditioning lipsticks. One of my favourite brand for ultra conditioning lipsticks is Shiseido. They really ARE conditioning. Some lipsticks on the other hand, only add color and actually feel like it is drying the lips instead *cough-mac-cough*. I'm loving this natural hue this model in their ad campaign is sporting. Perfect for the everyday look or to match with crazy eye make-up!
The younger Shiseido line, Maquillage, also make real nice moisturizing lipsticks. Besides their Neo Climax Lip, they also have it matte. I absolutely adore their advertising campaign looks. The lip shades are all different yet still very natural at the same time (well maybe the top left model's color is not quite natural...).
Another favourite lipstick brand is Cle de Peau. My mom adores this brand, it goes on smoothly and silkily.
And they come in the most darling elegantly shaped tubes too. Ironically this brand is also owned by Shiseido.... I guess they found the secret formula!

These ad campaigns with those fabulously natural yet gorgeous lip colors have finally inspired me to test out and wear lipstick more regularly (more than before anyway, which was zero......). I hope it has done the same for you!

Image Source: Lucky Mag, Allure, Shiseido, Maquillage and Cle de Peau

I'm Moving On Up

I'm moving on up
You're moving on out
Time to break free
Nothing can stop me, yeah.

I believe it was the M-people who sang those very do I remember that?
Actually I didn't, google helped me out a lot.

Anyway, sushizume's time with blogger is done!
Come check out our new pad over at

It is clean, it's fresh and I have got a lot of stories to tell ya. So fix up your links, change them to, just delete the blogspot and you are done!

I'll chop up some watermelon for you, sit back, feet up and wait for your arrival! mwah mwah

In Search of Mr. Soon Lee Guan

I have been trying to get in touch with Mr. Soon Lee Guan, a prolific photographer from Sibu. I called his home number in Sibu a few times but perhaps he is no longer using the number or he is travelling.

He is another man who owns two or perhaps even three Rollifex cameras.

Any one interested in black and white photos of Sibu and Sarawak of the 50-70's should try to find him and his albums in Sibu.

I managed to "re-photograph" these two photos from the souvenir booklet which shows his portfolio. This wonderful collectible belongs to a Foochow friend from Marudi,who keeps the book as a precious gift!!

A well known Sibu photographer, Soon Lee Guan, has travelled widely throughout Sarawak. He has special eyes for local colours and culture.

The little I know of Mr. Soon is that he has taken a lot of photos which show the culture of the Ibans, Kayans,kelabits, and Melanaus . He could have a lot of obstacles during his journeys. And I can imagine the dangers he might have met.

Our society should appreciate a courageous and intellectual photographer like Mr. Soon. Today only a few are following his footsteps. On the other hand, many of the scenic landscapes, cultural features and social lifestyle are disappearing.

So his photographs should remain well archived by our museums. And someone should write his biography!

Sushi Change

Image by ciah-ciah
Some unusual happenings around the sushi zume household have prompted an out with the old and in with the new wave. SO WE ARE MOVING! Today I said bye bye to blogger (even though technically I am still here if you are reading this) and Hello Word Press, I am just about to buy the sushizume domain, get everything sorted and we will have a new home in no time over at Soon my lovelies, soon!

One of the weirdest things has happened to me this week. I have back pain. Hoop stopping, tear jerking, nerve niggling back pain. Uh huh, not something I have ever really dealt with before and usually not something I would write about but...I am just gonna say - it is fucking annoying!

Two days of gritting my teeth and lying around feeling sorry for myself has sent me searching for the cause and the cure. I am not sure what happened exactly. I have been practicing a lot of foot hooping lately, lying on my back with legs extended in the air but I don't think it truly the cause.

I have a little bible that i whip out whenever I have so much as a spot or a sore bit it is titled You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay. You see I am a big believer in all physical afflictions and illnesses being a direct result of our internal states and emotions. In the back of this book are many pages divided into three columns. The first is the problem, second is the probable cause and the third is the new thought pattern. The reason why I have adored this book for so many years is because it is always, without a doubt on the money.

Two recent examples. On Wednesday night I was literally eaten alive by bugs in the park. The itching was unbearable, the rash hideous and the feeling bizarre. I found my trusty book, scanned down the page until I got to bug bites and low and behold it said the probably cause was Guilt over small things which of course could be interpreted in so many ways but as it turns out I had been grappling a bit with a few small things that I may have been feeling a wee bit guilty about. My new thought patter I am free of all irritations. All is well soon had me breathing easy and scratching less. Onto the back pain thing. I always know that backs are the pillars of support, the strength of life. So when backs are out of line or just not feeling their best it stands to reason that we are feeling unsupported in some way, internally or externally, we are worrying about our strength to accomplish things. Couldn't be more true for me right now. I am really, very much enjoying the choices I have made and the freedom that comes with that but am going through the transition from external support to self supporting. When I looked up sciatica in THE BOOK I found knowingly that the probably cause of my pain is Fear of money and of the future. My new thought patterns have not really kicked in, although I plan to lay down the law with many rounds of EFT tonight. I move into my greater good. My good is everywhere, and I am secure and safe.

On the off chance that that doesn't do the trick I am off to have my first taste on acupuncture in the morning. We had noticed many times walking from the station a sign saying English Available, always a draw card for me no matter what they are offering. I remembered that Masao had told me they do 'the needle thing' so after much tossing and turning last night and a great deal of pain today I decided to give them a call. The place is called Shinshin Kenkodo Medical Center. I steer clear of any kind of doctors office or pharmacy but luckily these guys offer only holistic therapy. So I am off to get some shiatsu and acupuncture in the morning. The great thing is the center is just a few minutes walk from our apartment in Nishi-Ogikubo and the therapist speaks English. I am really looking forward to it, not just because it may help with the pain.

I am not sure what to expect so would love to hear if you have ever had this kind of therapy before. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

fire flies over the Rejang - Will they come back again?

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My old friend quoted a Foochow kiddies' rhyme about fire flies bringing back a flood of heart warming memories.(Hui nang yin, hui nang yin......)

Again I am back in Sg. Maaw where I spent most of my school holidays with my cousins.It was a period of idyllic splendour, a time of care-free exploitation of nature, and a time of wonder. Tapping rubber and processing it was part of daily routine which we enjoyed because at the end of the day we had food on the proverbial table. Smoking rubber was a wonderful process because we could work almost twenty four hours and our help was appreciated. There was this hum of good work done that warmed the spirits and spurred us on. We would never be disappointed if we worked hard. Pigs feeding in the sties, norting away make us smile with satisfaction that we had something going and our life was just so good.

In the evenings apart from telling stories under the brilliant light of a kerosene lamp, we sometimes would go out to the jetty and watch the fire flies. There were lots of them. We could catch them and put them in bottles to watch them at close range. Going back to class when school reopened I proudly showed my science teacher what I caught. But alas the fire flies would not shine at night. I probably only caught a few fire flies of the same sex.

If only I could see the fire flies come flying again . I won't be afraid of the ghosts which came with them.

I remember now that the fire flies disappeared slowly as I grew older. After a few years because of urban development, they became fewer and fewer. Finally when I was in upper secondary school, no one could ever see a single fire fly over the Rejang River any more.

I went to Kuala Selangor not too long ago to enjoy the Kelip Kelip or fire flies. But they were no match to the wonderful light display I saw over the Rejang River when I was young, innocent and learning from underneath the rubber trees.

Today with all the knowledge available in the Internet, I have acquired the secrets of the fire flies. They are no longer the lamps of the ghosts who come around to avenge their untimely deaths.

Not too long ago some fire flies were seen in Pasai Siong in Sibu. That gave the residents there something to talk about. But again when original jungles are cleared out completely the fire flies disappear forever.

Fire flies thus can only be found in pristine jungles where clear waters flow as these very delicate beetles can only mate in pure atmospheric conditions. Food for thought there.

The Rejang has therefore lost its mysterious fire flies.

source from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lampyridae is a family in the beetle order Coleoptera, members of which are commonly called fireflies, lightning bugs or (ambiguously) "glow worms" due to their conspicuous nocturnal (or, more accurately, crepuscular) use of bioluminescence to attract mates or prey. Fireflies are capable of producing a "cold light" containing no ultraviolet or infrared rays, with a wavelength from 510 to 670 nanometers, pale reddish, yellowish or green in colour, with a lighting efficiency of up to 96%[citation needed].

There are more than 2000 species of firefly found in temperate and tropical environments around the world. Many species can be found in marshes or in wet, wooded areas where their larvae have abundant sources of food.

Fireflies in the woods near Nuremberg, Germany

Light production in fireflies is due to a chemical reaction that occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on the lower abdomen called bioluminescence. The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin in this organ to stimulate light emission. Genes coding for these substances have been inserted into many different organisms (see Luciferase - Applications). Luciferase is also used in forensics, and the enzyme has medical uses.

For adult beetles, it is primarily used to locate other individuals of the same species for reproduction. Many species, especially in the genus Photinus, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. Photinus females generally do not fly, but give a flash response to males of their own species.

Bioluminescence is a very efficient process. Some 90% of the energy a firefly uses to create light is actually converted into visible light. By comparison, an incandescent electric bulb can convert only 10 percent of total energy used into visible light, and the remainder is emitted as heat.

Firefly larvaTropical fireflies, particularly in Southeast Asia (Thailand and Malaysia), routinely synchronize their flashes among large groups, a startling example of spontaneous biological order. This phenomenon occurs through the night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles every day of the year. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurred near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the second week of June 2005[1]. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to the phenomenon [2].

Female Photuris fireflies are known for mimicking the mating flashes of other fireflies for the sole purpose of predation. Target males are attracted to what appears to be a suitable mate, and are then eaten. For this reason the Photuris female is sometimes referred to as "femme fatale".

Many fireflies do not produce light. Usually these species are diurnal, or day-flying, such as those in the genus Ellychnia. A few diurnal fireflies that primarily inhabit shadowy places, such as beneath tall plants or trees, are luminescent. One such genus is Lucidota.

In East Asia, the ancient Chinese sometimes captured fireflies in transparent or semi-transparent containers and used them as (short-term) lanterns[citation needed]. Some species of the genus Luciola (hotaru, 蛍) rival the famous sakura cherry blossoms as regards their significance in Japanese culture and folklore[citation needed].

The spectacular synchronized flashing by Pteroptyx and other Luciolinae fireflies has potential economic significance. Notably on the Selangor River at Kampong Kuantan (close to Kuala Selangor, Malaysia), it has become a major attraction for tourists, creating considerable revenue for the local economy.

Source :Wikipedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible nonprofit charity.


The Hat For Summer 08

Hats are all the rage this summer. More specifically, straw hats are all the rage. The aim to look chilled-out-rock chic or festival chic. The nice thing about this S/S08 trend is that on the runway, any style of straw hats will do, whether the hat is the smaller fedora style, or larger floppy style. And most importantly, hats are so useful for the summer days out. Actually on any given day, I'd prefer not to have to wear a hat (-hat hair!) but since I've been travelling a bit, I really wanted something to protect my skin from the sun. Thus my sudden interest in the hat trend.
The most practical hat for shading my face from the sun would be one of these huge floppy hats. And I figure I would feel less idiotic wearing one this summer since it was on the runway and hey, even Blair wore it in Gossip Girl (-bad logic, I know.) But since it's not really possible for me to fit such a large, irregular shape into my suitcase, I decided against it.

The shape I wanted was one like the one Rachel Bilson was wearing. It looks so cool on her!

It looks a lot like this fedora from Urban Outfitters. Unfortunately, it seems to be only available in the US.

I tried on a similar one to the one Kristen Dunst is wearing in the photo from Top Shop, butI thought it looked way too much like a cowboy hat. I wanted to look festival chic, not like I thought Halloween had come early. Plus the sides were so short it didn't seem like it would actually shade my face from the sun.

So I ended up settling for this hat -it's part practical and part festival chic. And it fits perfectly into my suitcase. I've been really loving it on my holidays!

I also debated between straw colour and black. I thought black was even more versatile than straw colour. But in the end, I decided to get into the spirit of travelling and the current trend and opted for a straw-coloured one. (The straw-coloured hats must have been much more popular than the black ones because the Top Shop I went to only had one straw-coloured hat left, whereas there were still many black ones.)

Anyone else been having fun with this trend this summer?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ooh The Bass Has Got Me Moving

Photo by Dindrigo

I was just over at Sigsy in Tokyo, poking around like I am known to do and noticed she was on an iTunes discovery adventure. Sigsy was calling out for tune suggestions. Thinking up a few of my own was a lot of fun and now I am hooked.

Now I need your help! I put together mixes for my HOOPLOVERS classes with tracklist titles like Hoop Jam, Hoop Beat, Hoop Groove. It is always a lot of fun but I often get the feeling there are wild and wonderful tracks that I am missing out on. I usually type in keywords like dance or electro and hope for the best. I listen to a lot of internet radio and when I hear a track that I love or I think would get hoops grooving I scrawl it down and search for it later.

I am open to new tunes and new vibes that don't necessarily have to be in the dance or electro genre. I would love to know what tracks get you grooving, stretching, moving or chilling? Your top 5 please!

Here are a few on my current play list.
Tomorrow Can Wait - David Guetta (Actually any thing David Guetta creates gives me shivers)
The Beat is Rockin' - Bodyrox (Also in love with all of their tracks)
My Life - Chanel
Moonlight Party - Fonzerelli
From Paris to Berlin - Infernal

Now it is your turn... I would love to hear your Top 5/10/100 please! Write em in the comments and I will start the iTunes hunt...might call it the hooping bloggers mix ??

50 Minute Painting Exercise 7/14/08 Part III

Topic: a shiny eyed gryphon greets a woman on hills burned by the sun.

Sean deemed this unworthy to be included in parts 1 and 2.

50 Minute Painting Exercise 7/14/08 Part II
Topic: a shiny eyed gryphon greets a woman on hills burned by the sun.

50 Minute Painting Exercise 7/14/08 Part I
Topic: a shiny eyed gryphon greets a woman on hills burned by the sun.

Hoot Fuzz

Fred Giovannitti

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Scooter - Vespa

John Wayne when not on horseback loved his Vespa.

In the 1960's and I was already in secondary school, but still too young to have a driving license, the Vespa took Sibu by storm. Pretty young office girls were riding Vespas and their huge skirts were flowing in the wind, making them such unforgettable and lovely sights to behold. Handsome young men were driving them around and very often had pretty pillion riders to show off. One guy in the school had a Vespa and he was admired by lots of girls. He has the nice guy who gave me the one and only Vespa ride in my whole life!! Even though it was only around the Methodist School compound in broad day light.

Then there was the news in the papers that a young lady died in a terrible road accident with her Vespa. Her burial was reported in detail as it was attended by a lot of people since she was from a noble family. We were told that the Vespa was part of her burial ,to accompany her to the other world,besides other valuables. This was a Melanau burial practice at that time. For years we remembered that. As it was one of the first young deaths on Sibu roads, I felt sad and that it was a great waste of a young life. Road accidents had always been painful to us in Sibu where there were many pedestrians and cyclists .

Several years later the Vespa lost its popularity to the Hondas which were more versatile in the rural areas. My relatives found that Hondas could carry more people, and more goods!! So they were good value for their money.

There are probably only a few Vespas left in Sibu. And it is still a good ride if you can borrow one!!

According to articles I have read there are millions of Vespas in Italy,the birthplace of Vespa, today.

Think of a Roman holiday. Ride a Vespa! Perhaps a Malaysian can enter the Guinness Book of Records by riding a Vespa around the Island of Borneo.

The Sarong Kebaya and Saloma

Saloma posing with a paper umbrella . This is a very famous advertisement photo of hers. The paper umbrella unknown to many, is a lacquered paper umbrella made in Fuzhou City, China. After 40 years Fuzhou city is still producing this kind of umbrellas but they are more beautiful and are snapped up by foreign tourists. Because of this photo many young girls carried umbrellas for their photographs.

Beautiful Saloma.

A more modern Malaysian beauty in a very up to date Sarong Kebaya

Joget girls and Kampong men doing a number in the 50's or 60's,the dancers do not touch each other. Known as a social dance then, it is not often performed publicly today. In private parties the Malays might still dance the joget. Perhaps it can be compared the the western barn dance or square dance. But the moves are not so varied. However it has lovely foot work.

A popular Umie Aida.

Living in Kampong Nyabor,Sibu gave me a chance to interact closely with my Malay neigbhours and school mates.This was another facet of my school life. My school provided a multi racial education. I cycled to school with my friends Hapipah and Hasnah every morning after I was given a bicycle. But what was very very exciting was our special love for P Ramlee, Saloma ,Siput Sarawak and the like. School girls like us talked non stop about our movie stars the way kids talk about their pop singers, or Malaysian Idols today. Malay movies were abundant whereas Elvis ,Cliff Richard and Doris Day came rather irregularly. Cathay Keris was doing better in those days. The Sibu Malay population consumed Malay language films voraciously.

My family had a wonderful Malay washerwoman (Kak) who also became a life long friend of my mother's and she would repeat the stories of Bujang Lapok,Orang Sebelah,etc to us. Perhaps that was how I picked up my Bahasa,Sarawak style. Until today I still cannot grasp Bahasa Malaysia, the National Standard totally.

It was always the cheap seats of 50 cents for us when the Pontianak movies came. We frightened ourselves out of our chairs being so near the screen. But it was childhood joy.

A very great longing however was developed in us school girls - to wear those see through Kebaya but we were not allowed them. Mum had said that the blouse was too sexy. My first sarong kebaya was a blue cotton batik set, made for my university orientation week. Thus it took me more than 7 years to get my kebaya after I first saw Saloma in her movies, although my own paternal grandmother Chong was a Nyonya from Java. (She had worn sarong kebaya when she first arrived in Sibu in the early 1920's. Later she turned totally Foochow and wore samfoo). My Chong cousins continued to wear beautiful made in Indonesia sarong kebaya on Important Occasions.

Associated with the Sarong Kebaya were the dances joget and the Cha Cha. We school girls were not allowed to learn them as was the norm of the time. But later at the university I picked up some clumsy steps but I never got to dance the joget wearing sarong kebaya. Nevertheless, I continue to think that the sarong kebaya has a very long lasting charm for the Asian women. Today it is back in fashion again.

But at my age,unfortunately, I don't have Saloma's tiny waist anymore.


Who is this intriguing lady named Saloma? She who captured the hearts of Malaysia’s foremost musician-actor, P. Ramlee, and millions who had the pleasure of watching her sing live or emote on the silver screen some 3 or 4 decades ago?

Salmah Ismail was born on 23 January 1935 in Singapore. Some believed that her stage name SALOMA was given to her by Run Run Shaw of Shaw Bros when the film Salome which starred Rita Hayworth hit the Box Office. While others said it was coined by the 'love of her life' husband, P.Ramlee.

As a child, she had dreams of becoming a big 'star' and it was no surprise that she was already a household name and a 'little singing sensation' at weddings, festive and family events barely at the age of 13.

'I Am In The Mood For Love', 'Once In A While' were among the first English numbers she learnt. With that, she broke into the nightclub circuit. Her acclaimed crystal clear and melodious voice captivated and mesmerised those who came far and wide to watch her perform. Soon after, offers to act came by and like the saying goes... the rest was history.

Charming , attractive and tinged with a look of innocence, she acted in numerous films and played lead roles which featured her prominent singing ability. Along with her husband, Saloma was a lead member of Panca Sitara Group. She also sung with the Kalung Senandung Group at Radio Singapura.

In 1961 Saloma married fellow actor P.Ramlee, an affable man of many talents. Adored by all, the country's very own 'screen couple' was a household name. Their movies were all 'sold-outs' and each a must-see and certainly 'not to be missed'.

Puan Sri Saloma passing at a young age of 48 on 25 April 1983 left the nation with profound sadness and an end to a era of screen romance. Till today, her movies and those acted along with Tan Sri P.Ramlee are classics and are still screened for the enjoyment of many... it's what legends are made of.

1975 Awarded the Ahli Mangku Negara (AMN)
1979 Biduanita Negara (National Celebrity Award)

Bila Larut Malam
Tiru Macam Saya
Burung Pungguk
Dimanakan Ku Cari Ganti
Taman Firdausi

Seniman Bujang Lapok
Ragam P.Ramlee
Labu dan Labi
Sabarudin Tukang Kasut
Ahmad Albab

2008 © Copyright All Reserved. SALOMA Theatre Restaurant. Disclaimer Notes

Cardigans II: The Long Ones

Beyond the classic cardigans, I am also obsessed with long cardigans. They give off that effortlessly chic look that is just so...well, chic.
The beauty of it is that the long cardigan look really IS effortless and easy to achieve. Take a plain long cardigan, like these two from UO (left) and American Apparel (right), and pair it with a tank top (black/white or more interestingly- contrasting colored!), skinny jeans (or shorts) and flats (or heels!) and you are good to go! And because the look is so plain and simple, it is also the perfect canvas to accessorize with. Throw on a sharp colored headband, a bold colored scarf, a funky long necklace, crazy earrings, chunky bangles or a fabulous bag for a touch of fun. If you are too lazy to even do that (like me!), then you are in luck. The long cardigan trend has been around long enough to evolve with sharp, geometric prints, contrasting colors and bold details like big gold buttons that it can be worn just as it is, sans accessories, and still look fabulous and fun. I am loving these two refreshingly colored cardigans from Marc by Marc Jacobs. The bold contrasting blue colors with the geometric prints and the gold lining (left) gives the cardigan an old fashioned yet retro look that is both refreshing and stylish. And I just LOVE the dark blue sleeves with the line of gold buttons on that pale yellow cardigan. That little details gives the otherwise ordinary yellow cardigan that extra something that makes it special.
For more washable options, there are these classic cardigans with bold contrasting colors from American Apparel. This is the perfect way to add some color to your summer wardrobe!
For something a bit more subtle that may even last you through fall, try these cardigans with details and trimmings from Vince (left) and Urban Outfitters (right). They are far from "mumsie"- just remember not to pair them with bermuda shorts like that model above (left), it should be paired with something either really long or really short!

Image Source: American Apparel, UO and Saks

My Hoot's Content

Christopher Bettley

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kevin's Favorite 25 Movies: 5 - 3

It's been awhile since I posted on here, so in lieu of a really long post about my top five favorite films, I will just post the top three for now, and then save the top two for tomorrow. Also, I have been real busy this week, so there shall be more blogging this week (mostly because Tieryn is gone for three weeks, so what else am I going to do) as I have reviews to put up here for Speed Racer, Hellboy, Indiana Jones (finally!), and Mad Men: Season One. Also a book review for Martin Amis' The Second Plane: September 11 Terror and Boredom. A brilliant collection of essays and two short stories by Britain's greatest author. Plus...much much more comin' your way here as I plan to finally get out the theater again regularly (the theater sabbatical was looong, as is evident by the fact that it took me two months to finally see Indiana Jones a film I was waiting on pins and needles to see...) and see Hellboy II, The Dark Knight, The Strangers, and the brilliantly titled Midnight Meat Train. On with the countdown!

Click to watch video

5) The Godfather
dir. by Francis Ford Coppola

What can one say about The Godfather that hasn't been said a million times, already? There is no real point in trying to give insight or praise the films many merits, because that has already been done to death. People a lot smarter than me have looked at Coppola's masterpiece frame by frame and dissected the film in ways I could never do justice. The film is a benchmark -- one of those films that you know you need to see, but you are never quite sure why until you lay eyes upon it -- a masterpiece of the crime saga that looks at all other copies in its rear view mirror. There will never be another film like The Godfather -- the closest anyone has come is Sergio Leone with his masterful, yet overly-long, Once Upon a Time in America. Coppola evokes so much nostalgia with his film that even for someone like me who obviously wasn't born then, feels a part of that nostalgia. It's the first truly 'classic' film I ever watched...and everything about is classic, there is really nothing monumentally groundbreaking about the film, but it never disappoints, and it paved the way for so many pretenders to try and be as poignant and violent, cruel and sincere as The Godfather.

But other crime films fail at creating a world where those dualities are so seamless, and oddly enough, even inviting. From the opening moments of the wedding scene, the viewer feels a part of the Corrleone family. A sly trick that Coppola uses (and later Scorsese would use in Goodfellas) in letting the viewer feel a part of this community; that way it's easier to dismiss the violent acts they commit and still view them as sympathetic characters. Coppola's film doesn't glamorize organized crime or the life they lead (especially the way they treat women), but they certainly look good doing it, and the films photography and sets and costumes are so authentic that the film truly does emit a genuine American Classic film aura. Even though it was made in the 70's, I cannot help but think of The Godfather in the same terms that I think of Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, and other landmark American film classics.

Plus...just look how awesome the cross-cutting is during the scene posted above. It's an ultimate (read: authoritative) and timeless textbook for any aspiring filmmaker.

Click to watch video

4) Blade Runner
dir. by Ridley Scott

Reprinted from an essay I wrote for a film class. The paper was on film noir, so the essay may make references to other films, but for the most part it involves most of what I find so fascinating and hypnotic about my fourth favorite film Blade Runner. It's beautiful, sad, poetic, exhilarating, and a rare film that will always leave who in contemplative state after viewing it (all experiences one feels in the moments of the scene posted above, all of which makes so much more sense in context, but watch it anyway). Just an amazing film. Now for the boring essay excerpt...enjoy!:

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner reverses this notion I have been discussing with Chinatown, the idea of what Jameson introduces that to look into the past, filmmakers are saying something about the present. With Blade Runner, we get the opposite, a look into the future to show the over consumerism and consumption of mass commercialism. So is Blade Runner a film noir? I would call it a cyber-noir, or postmodern-noir, with stylish elements that allow the viewer to think deeper about some of postmodernisms key ideas. Many critics like Roger Ebert, simply say that it is all style and no substance, a film that is only interested in its grandiose set design, and not in explaining or elaborating on the rich and complex storyline created by Philip K. Dick. I disagree with Ebert though, I think that if one looks at the film hard enough they can see the noir elements that are there as well as the ideas of one of postmodernism’s most influential thinkers, Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillard introduces in his book Simulations the idea of a “hyperreality” (2) and the “loss of the real” (25), copies become what we associate with real and Blade Runner seeks to explore these deep questions in two ways: one is through the idea of escaping this world and living a better life on the “off world” a kind of hyperreal existence, and looks to the characters of Roy and Pris replicants created by the Tyrell corporation, to see if we as a society can rise up against the corporations that look to control us through commercialism. The other way which the film explores Baudrillard’s thinking is through the relationship between Deckard and Rachel. Baudrillard’s claim can best represent all of the films discussed when he says: “when the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning” (12).

One of the first shots of the film, and one of its most famous, is of the city with its towering digitalized billboards (pictured above) and a voice that can be heard telling people to escape to the “off world” where there are no problems and you can start you life over, away from “reality.” This is a place where your “dreams can come true.” These are the sounds of an, “easy money,” get rich quick mentality that was rampant in the 1980’s. All of life’s problems go away if you run away from them. The voice is head over the city, a city that has turned into a large scale, run-down Chinatown. This “off world” idea is what Baudrillard is getting at with his idea of the simulacrum, the copy without an original, life is good and life is easy if you leave the “real” world for your own that you can create. This is the idea behind Baudrillard’s mention of the “reality” of Disneyland:

Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the ‘real’ country, all of ‘real’ America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral). Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. (25)

So, this “off world” vacation that is offered to those who live in the Los Angeles of 2012, is the same that is being offered to those who live in the present of 1982. This loss of the real and hyperreality show how Blade Runner is unlike any other noir, it is dealing with the questions of consumerism through the realm of what has been called cyber-noir. And even though the noirish qualities of the film best represent the relationship between Deckard and Rachel one cannot ignore the films main point: that through commercialism and over-consumption we can alleviate all of our problems, we can let the replicants, or Others, that look so much like us, “expire” while we buy and consume anything we can to make ourselves feel more like men or women, and we equate this commercialism to happiness, when in reality we are just as the replicants are, and the film asks us if we can be like Roy and Pris and rebel against the Tyrell corporation, if we as society, can rebel against the commercialism that plagues our society, that is turning us humans into robots. This leads me to my next point about the film, the “reality” of its characters, especially as it is seen through the relationship between Deckard and Rachel.

When the film was initially released in 1982 it had Ford’s narration guiding the viewer through the story, also providing a traditional nostalgic homage to the great noir films of 40’s and 50’s. The ending was left ambiguous, in fact, in the 1982 version you weren’t sure whether or not Deckard was a replicant or not. Creating an even bigger dilemma with him having to “expire” Roy and Rachel and the other replicants. When the film was released years later in a “director’s cut” the narration was axed and a happy ending tacked on. The ambiguity was gone, Deckard and Rachel leave for the “off world” and live happily ever after. In the original film you are never quite sure if Deckard is a human or not. For instance, the scene where Deckard kisses Rachel, before hand he keeps her from leaving his apartment and traps her by the window, the way Deckard moves is robotic, and when they kiss, Rachel shows more emotion than Deckard. In another scene we see Rachel crying, where Deckard, it seems, is incapable of emoting anything. Of course the problematic 'signs' of humanity are the crux of the film, built into the very images used to forward the story. I think it very telling that it was the aspects of Blade Runner that most challenged ideas of humanity that were cut or altered. In particular, the removal of the Unicorn Dream sequence also removed the most obvious suggestion that Deckard was a replicant. And Deckard's voice-over telling us "Rachel was special - no termination date," changes the impact of Gaff's final line: "Too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?” In the original release Gaff is seen as outsmarted, as opposed to philosophically correct in the Director's Cut. I think these changes give the film less impact at the end.

The themes/meaning behind the film changes, the ambiguity is gone, and all of the mystery of the replicant/human dilemma seems to be removed. That haunting last line loses all of its power. However, the form/techniques used to introduce these themes are as strong as ever. Especially the lighting in the film, the heavy use of backlighting, hard lighting and light coming through moving objects – fans – make the film's grim future alive. The lighting also adds to the feeling of film noir. Many science fiction movies are shot in an unnaturally hard light, as if they were shot in a hospital (for example Stanley Kubrick's 2001: Space Odyssey). In Blade Runner we have a vivid feeling of dark alleys, sinister rooms and chambers, which is essential to old detective stories. These lighting techniques also introduce us to the ambiguous love affair between Deckard and Rachel. Notice how Rachel and Ray are usually lit in bright light, and how Deckard and the other humans are always in darkness. The opposite is used in most film noir. Ridley Scott’s idea to light the film this way is brilliant as one can see though the still shot provided, Deckard looks nor more “alive” than the replicant Rachel. By looking into the future, the film questions the state of the world in 1982, a time when this kind of postmodern thinking was starting to be embraced. Simulations was published a year after this film was released, but already the short stories of Philip K. Dick were introducing people to these postmodern ideas.

All of this to say: Blade Runner is the quintessential neo-noir. It has been called neo-noir, cyber-punk, and postmodern, but it is the perfect example of how a filmmaker can take a genre like film noir, and create something completely new, something that is completely elevated above every other kind of noir picture. Only Blade Runner and David Lynch’s Blue Velvet succeed in taking the noir genre and elevating it into high art.

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3) Vertigo
dir. by Alfred Hitchcock

Vertigo just may be one of the rare films that will transcend all time. The film was made in 1958, but for me it is timeless. An always creepy tale of deception and obsession, it also plays as a self-reflexive psycho sex-thriller. Yes, that sounds like weird description for a film from the 50's, but Hitchcock did something amazing with Vertigo, he got it made in the 50's. I have no reason to believe he came across any kind of trouble making the film, I mean he could make anything he wanted and he had the All-American Jimmy Stewart as the films star, but I wonder what audiences thought as the film unfolded into a bizarre tale of obsession. It's one of the creepiest films I have ever seen, and I remember being younger and watching it ready to not be impressed, because obviously, some old movie from the 50's wasn't going to scare me. Boy was I wrong.

The film is hypnotic, from the first images of the vertigo you are sucked into the film and have given yourself to its powers. Watching it then I realized that the film was great because it held my attention at such a young age; watching it now, I am amazed at how much Hitch was allowed to get away with, and just how much of himself he put into this film via the Jimmy Stewart character. It was well known (and obvious when you watch his films) that Hitch loved certain actresses, especially if they were blond. Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh, and in Vertigo Kim Novak. It is also known through numerous books and documentaries, that he was somewhat living vicariously through his characters who were in love with these blond beauties. When one views Vertigo through this self-reflexive lens, the film takes on a whole other exhibitionist angle (not nearly as much as Rear Window); an angle that reveals a director who is not only particular, but almost creepy in how demanding he is about the particulars. Look at the scene above; I think it's safe to say that that could be Hitch and his actresses over the years.

But more than anything the film is classic Hitchcock with its tense mystery surrounding amazing set pieces and good looking actors. The film is not as heralded as Psycho (innovative) or Notorious (classic filmmaking), but for me it's the apex of Hitch's career, and a decade that saw him make his best films: I Confess, North by Northwest, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train, The Wrong Man, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, and Vertigo. A productive year that showcased his comedic side -- by making the fun To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest -- which would give way to his darkest film a year after his best decade: Psycho. I like to think of Vertigo as the foundation for what we would see in Psycho and the later films like Frenzy.

In Vertigo he created a film that must have been taboo for the era, a film that spends a lot of time on the topics of obsession and sex. What Hitchcock wanted to do with these always interesting topics (and usually the number one and two cause for murder) is show how easy it is for an innocent to get sucker punched by them. When the big reveal comes along about half way through the film, you breathe easy because you think you have all of it figured it out. But then Stewart's character, feeling embarrassed for having left himself so vulnerable, spirals into madness and takes his obsession to a level rarely seen in a movie theater in the 1950's. It's a perfect film, and is easily the greatest work Hitchcock ever did.

Cardigans I: The Classics

A few years ago, if you showed me a classic cardigan like these two below from J Crew, I would probably grimace and claim that it was too old for me.
Now that I've reached legality worldwide though, I can't seem to get enough of it. I've already bought this J Crew cardigan in both colors shown above. I've even raided my mom's wardrobe for cardigans and found some gems like classic Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren twin sets in a navy, gray and pink. They are the best staple a girl can have. It can be by itself with black pants, for a casual office look, Or with jeans for a casual but put together look. It can be worn over something pretty but sheer or summer dresses, to keep the chill away.
And it can paired with printed tees (like the ones above from UO- I LOVE these two printed shirts, one of the few things from UO over the years that I absolutely adore) or bold colored tanks for a fun combo. I personally love these two last ideas, it is put together, sophisticated but still casual and fun. And here's a quick tip: pair the blue printed tee (above) with the white cardigan and the red printed tee with the cobalt blue cardigan.The printed tees by itself may possibly be misconstrued as waitress-like (seriously, I tried mine on and that's what my cousin told me I reminded her of). But in combination with the contrasting colored cardigans that doesn't take away from the design, it is the perfect mix and match combo.

I'm so glad I rediscovered these gems that I'd previously discarded!

Image Source: J Crew and UO
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