A Shot Of Wood (Perfume Thoughts: Whiskey and Cedarwood, Jo Malone)

nd.42352A lot of recent winners from Jo Malone have been winners. I am tempted to say that ‘Whiskey and Cedarwood’ from this Spring’s The Bloomsbury Set is a fine addition to that list. This limited edition collection is inspired by the artists from the Bloomsbury set who lived in Sussex. Look at the wonderful art-insufed bottle on the left – it is intoxicating and alluring. I mean, I would buy this if only for that. What is most amazing for me is how this scent is so discordant from the Jo Malone aesthetic – it’s not light, airy, or floral. I don’t even know if it would even work as a layering piece, but then again I am not one to layer.Signed by Yann Vasnier, this would not be out of place in Tom Ford’s Private Collection, or Armani Privé. It skews masculine, for sure, but probably would work wonders with women. The whiskey starts out on top, and it’s gloriously boozy, like a trip to a man’s saloon. The woods give it depth, and it comes across as very dry. There’s something here – the ‘floorwax’ accord – that makes it not as dark, and that is what is most appealing for me – it gives it just that slight touch of Jo Malone. My only complaint – and it is a big one – is its longevity. An hour in, it has  become so faint I can barely smell it, and even the spritz on my scarf is tepid. I find that true with some Jo Malone scents, and unfortunately applies here. But this is a fine and unique perfume.

Mujer de España (Movie Thoughts: Julieta)

JulietaI cannot say I always agree with and enjoy Pedro Almodovar’s work but I am always engaged by them, and that is more than I can say for a lot of filmmakers. He is always something in his stories, and his characters, mostly the women, are colorful both literally and figuratively. In his twentieth film, ‘Julieta,’ Almodovar gives us another one of his women – and this one ranks among the best of them. Julieta is fierce, strong, vulnerable, flawed, and very very real.

Julieta is played by two women in different times of her life. There’s the middle aged Julieta, played by Emma Suarez, and in the beginning we see her as someone pulled together, only to have a chance encounter rock her world. We go back decades later to a young Julieta, played by Adriana Ugarte, and this Julieta looks and acts like Madonna from the Papa Don’ Preach video. And then we see her life unravel before her eyes, and what a mad and fascinating story. She goes from being a teacher to living in a seaside town with a hunky fisherman, only to be drawn back to Madrid because of her daughter, who we find out as an adult has abandoned her mother. But how did we get to this point? The story Almodovar weaves is as colorful as the sets and wallpapers of the homes these characters inhibit. Suarez and Ugarte are both fantastic, but I was particularly drawn to the former, who gives the character a more subtle approach. I read that originally this character was supposed to have been played by Meryl Streep and as good as Suarez is, can you even imagine?

Almodovar based the story on three Alice Munro short stories, and he nailed the feel of her prose – a lot of what transpires is open ended but realized, and situations and characters will make you ponder about life, mortality, Catholic guilt. He likens love here to addiction and in these characters, and the observation has never more apt. I think this is one of his best work – one that is mature and self-assured, and truly one of the best films of last year.

After Life (Book Thoughts: I Liked My Life, Abby Fabiaschi)

29875926I have been so behind on reading. Even with my yearly goal lessened by 25%, I am still right now eleven books behind on it, and I am making a new vow to set aside an hour or more each night to just decompress and read. It’s something I always loved to do, but nowadays the internet and social media usurps some of the time I used to allot on it.

But I finally did get to finish ‘I Liked My Life,’ by Abby Fabiaschi, and it took me a while. It started for me a little slow, and I had even asked my friend Melissa, who loved the book, if the story picked up. It did, and it even had a very satisfying and unexpected ending. The story is told from three points of view – Maddy, a mother who committed suicide, Eve, her teen aged daughter, and Brady, her husband. They all deal and process her lose, with Maddy ‘watching’ over them. I think perhaps there may be a little too much going on at times, but they were all wrapped up neatly at the end. I couldn’t help but feel for these characters, as I am also a member of that club where a parent passes away when one is still young. I thought this book was ultimately very satisfying, and you will be able to connect with all of these characters.

It Started Out Like A Song (Movie Thoughts: The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened)

bestworst-e1475245811818I discovered ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ not from an epiphany. There was a time I was reading everything I could about Broadway after I first arrived in the United States in 1984.  Of course, I had discovered Stephen Sondheim and his work. I listened to his shows on cassette, and there was just something that attracted me to ‘Merrily We Roll Along.’ I had read that it was a massive flop, but the score resonated a lot with me. I remember rewinding ‘Old Friend’ over and over again on my Walkman, and I remember mornings walking to my High School listening to ‘Good Thing Going.” Maybe because I was a teenager then, and I could somehow relate to this young people singing this very adult score.

Cut to now. I have since then seen quite a few productions of Merrily, and while I still marvel at its glorious score, I am jaded enough to realize it is a problematic show. The book is still clunky, and I know Sondheim won’t let it be touched. Still, though, there’s something about the show that just fascinates. It’s quite layered I always see something new in it, and it can be interpreted and updated with so many different eyes.

So it’s with great fascination that I watch Lonny Price’s ‘The Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened.” I have had a tempestuous relationship with this film – it was never shown in any movie theater near me, and I was obsessed with finding it, until I came to a point when I just gave up and told myself to wait for it on video. And of course, it is now streaming on Netflix, and couldn’t be more accessible.

And it’s glorious – telling the story of the young cast that got thrown into the wolves, meaning Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince. Imagine being a kid and being chosen to be in the company of those two mean. We see how their wide eyed innocence marred by the euphoria of being in the show, and the high fail when the show closed after only sixteen performances. I knew a lot of the details in the documentary, but to see these people talking and reliving their experiences gave the story with such a human angle that it touched me. We get to see what happened to some of these cast members after the fall – how Jason Alexander became a household name; how Ann Morrison ended up in Sarasota, Florida teaching disabled children; how Lonny Price ended up directing Sondheim’s later output. By the time we get to their reunion concert in 2002, and how they go back to their old Alvin Theater dressing rooms, nary an eye would be dry. This documentary is in itself a journey, and it is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever seen in a long long time.

Late At Night (Music Thoughts: Third Set, Oleta Adams)

third_set_oleta_adamsI remember reading a long time ago that Oleta Adams was discovered in a small dive singing an expanded soul/jazz version of Brenda Russell’s ‘Get Here.’  She was discovered by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of the pop duo Tears For Fears and was invited to sing/open on their current tour. And the rest, as they say, is history with her hitting it big with her own version of ‘Get Here.’

I have always fantasized about her own long meandering soulful version of that song and when I saw her new release titled ‘The Third Set,” I thought my dreams were coming true. usually, the third set is one musicians play for themselves and others, where they feel not encumbered by singing crowd-pleasing numbers. But alas, my hopes were shattered when I saw the song list. I did see that she has acoustic versions of ‘Evolution’ and ‘Circle Of One’ so I thought to myself this is not as disappointing. There are parts I like a lot – her upbeat ‘It’s Alright With Me,’ is uniquely hers and ‘Only The Lonely’ is great but the rest just plods. Maybe I need to be in a right mood – sipping a glass of whiskey, perhaps – to fully get this record but I have played it a couple of times already and it has not caught with me. Perhaps the key is seeing her live – some friends saw her at a jazz club recently and they were raving. Sometimes a record cannot capture the magic, however one tries.

It’s Mental (Film Thoughts: The Other Half)

large_other_halfMental Illness is a serious issue, but it could be hard to watch. Imagine if this was a premise for a movie, a love story to boot. ‘The Other Half’ has an appealing couple, played by Tom Cullen and Tatiana Maslany, but i found it unwatchable. It did not help that there was not much plot there, and I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing much ever did. The two actors are nice to look at, but that only takes you so far. This is a miss for me.

Leather On The Down Low (Perfume Thoughts: Dunhill Icon Elite, Dunhill)

downloadI never ever pay attention anymore to the Department Store Mens Fragrance Department because they all smell alike – if you close your eyes, I bet you will not be able to distinguish one from the other. I recently got a sample of Dunhill Icon elite, and I find out later that it is a flanker of Dunhill Icon, which I recently discover as a favorite of some perfumistas (I guess I better sample that)  I was going to use this sample for my pillows, but decided to put it on my skin before spritzing them on my sheets. The top notes are more of the same – those ‘fresh’ men’s fragrance notes like bergamot, cardamom, and really liek chemical interpretations of those. But then a couple of minutes later the scent turns a little darker – it becomes peppery, and here comes some leather. Actually a whole lot of leather – the notes list it as ‘Black Suede.’ I actually had to stop and sniff my arms, because you know me and my leathers. I had to admit it was quite nice, and unique. After a couple of minutes, it fades into the background and we get the usual woodsy sandalwood base note that they all have. While that spurt of leather was nice, you have to wait for it and is fleeting. But you have to give this perfume props for that little surprise. I see the bottle is kind of nice, in a tech kind of way – it looks like the Amazon Alexa or whatever that thing is called. Would I consider a purchase? Perhaps, but for very cheap. I see fragrance discounters already have this at a low price. With a generous coupon, I could be enticed, but don’t hold your breath.