12.29.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #1 Amélie



Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (also known simply as Amélie) is not only my favorite film of the decade… but is also my favorite film of all time. I’ll never forget the first time I saw this magical little gem by Jean Pierre Jeunet. It was 2001, I was living in Paris and went with a few of my friends to the cinema. I was completely unprepared for the utter enchantment I was about to experience from a film that would ultimately change my life.

Audrey Tautou plays Amélie, a shy waitress from Montmartre who one day comes across a box of childhood treasures in her Parisian apartment. She decides that evening to return the box to its original owner and if the owner is moved- she will devote her life to helping others. He is moved- and Amélie’s adventures begin- thrusting her out of her shell and allowing her to live life, make meaningful connections and ultimately… to love.

Everything about this movie- the music, the cinematography, the acting- reads like a love letter to Paris. It is so moving- so poetic… so ultimately unforgettable. Since Amélie was released I have noticed so many art forms influenced by its unique and whimsical style- which has happily assured me that this beautiful film has not only affected me, but millions of people who have seen it too.

I have really enjoyed doing this series on my top ten films of the past decade. I’m looking forward to another decade full of inspiring cinema and would love to know… what were your top ten films of the last decade?

And now... I'm off to Barbados... Happy New Year!


Audrey Tautou is pictured above in a scene from Amélie.

12.28.2009

New Years in Barbados


Dear Readers,

I will be spending New Years in Barbados this year. I haven't mentioned this earlier because it seems that every time I mention an upcoming trip on my blog it gets canceled- but it looks like this one is going full steam ahead!

I have packed lightly- but I find packing lightly for a tropical destination easy. I don't need much more than a few bathing suits, some long flowy dresses, white linen trousers, a hat and a good book.

I will post my number one film of the decade on Wednesday now and then I will take a short break from The Daily Connoisseur while on holiday.

Thank you for making this past year such a brilliant one. I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that 2010 brings you everything your heart desires...

With Love,

Jennifer xx

12.27.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #2 Match Point



Woody Allen’s 2005 thriller Match Point, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Scarlett Johansson is my second favorite film of the decade.

I came into this film knowing very little about it. I did know that Woody Allen directed it. I quite like Woody Allen films so I was expecting to be pleasantly entertained with neurotic characters looking for love and acceptance in New York City. Instead what I got was a complete shock- a thrilling 124 minutes that completely enveloped me in a tale of morality and seduction in modern day London.

Match Point follows Chris Wilton (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) a young Irish tennis teacher that has a passion for Dostoevsky, tennis, fine wine and the arts. He befriends a wealthy upper class British family that is composed of brother and sister Chloe and Tom Hewitt (played brilliantly by Emily Mortimer and Matthew Goode). Wilton makes his way into the Hewitt family by romancing Chloe but temptation constantly lurks around the corner in the form of Nola Rice (played seductively by Scarlett Johansson). This film is fluid, enthralling and utterly fascinating with just the perfect touch of darkness added...

Match Point
thrilled me in 2005 and continues to do so today and is, in my opinion, Woody Allen’s pivotal masterpiece…

I will announce my pick for the number one film of the decade on New Years Day. To recap my picks so far... here is my list:

10. Intimate Strangers
9. Drag Me to Hell
8. La Vie en Rose
7. Marie Antoinette
6. Lost in Translation
5. Y Tu Mamá También
4. The Dreamers
3. Gosford Park
2. Match Point


Any guess as to what #1 will be?


Scarlett Johansson is pictured in a scene from Match Point above.

12.23.2009

Christmas Wishes


Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year, from all of us at The Daily Connoisseur (and by all of us I mean Gatsby and me).

xxx

12.20.2009

Truly Happy Holidays or How Not to Overindulge


I generally love the holiday season- (not necessarily more than any other season, mind you, as I try to enjoy every day of my life- the holidays do bring that little sparkle of spirit...) but it is so easy to get carried away and overindulge in everything while not really savoring anything.

Does that make sense? How many times have I sat down to a particularly decadent holiday feast and overindulged in either food or libation? Now I know most people will say that’s what you’re supposed to do over the holidays- but I beg to differ. All of the hors d’oeuvres, roasts, candies and chocolates, cocktails, mince pies and eggnogs offered this time of year are all lovely- but I don’t really see the use of overindulging in them to the point where they are no longer special or considered a delicacy.

Now don't get me wrong- not overindulging is very difficult for me. I am a foodie and nothing delights me more than a delicious morsel of something to eat. But I am learning that it’s all about restraint- about relishing that delicious salmon in puffed pastry or that particularly tasty chocolate truffle. It is not, however, about having 7 more truffles after that one.

Oh, but how to not have the 7 other truffles? This goes back to Eating- Comme les Français- eating in the moment- savoring each bite in a sensuous, practically obscene manner. If I give that delicious chocolate truffle my entire attention when I’m eating it, rather than shoveling it nervously into my mouth while trying to socialize, I am more likely to enjoy it and less likely to reach for another.

So far this season, it has worked liked a charm. It could be that I find myself in L.A. rather than England, so I have less mince pies and mulled wines to fend off- or it could be that I am finally coming to the point where I can enjoy every little moment- every little morsel and be content with less…

How are your indulgences this holiday season?

Truffles from my favorite chocolatier in L.A., Chocolatt... from Belgium are pictured above.

12.16.2009

Christmas- Comme les Français


Every year around this time my elderly neighbors in the apartment across the street place two lighted menorahs in their windows- the glow of the candelabras dance off of their lace curtains. Next to them a young couple- newlyweds presumably- have erected a Christmas tree- decorated only with white lights. I love observing these subtle observances of the holidays… little things that people do to celebrate this time of year and what it means for them.

I am definitely in the camp that prefers subtle holiday decorations. As a kid, the more Christmas decorations the merrier, but now as an adult with my own family, my tastes have changed and I err on the side of subtlety. B and I put up a tiny four-foot Christmas tree decorated with white lights and red ribbons (pictured above). Two miniature rosemary trees sit on top of our fireplace and remind me with their soothing scent that the holidays are here… and our holiday cards are paraded neatly on a bow hanging over our hallway closet to cheer us when we enter the house. It’s not much but it is enough to remind us of the specialness of the season.

Not going too over the top and celebrating Christmas in a subtle but enjoyable fashion is a very French thing to do. I can’t imagine any blow up snowmen on the lawns of Famille Chic’s holiday home or massive piles of presents under the tree… After all this time of year is about spending time with your family, eating really good food and feeling grateful for what we already have- a great attitude that allows us to not stress out and remember what’s important…

I hope your holiday season so far is enjoyable and filled with magic and love…

12.13.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #3 Gosford Park



By now many of you know that I am writing (and nearly finished with!) my first mystery novel. I consider myself to be not only a daily connoisseur but a mystery connoisseur as well. I tend to usually like highbrow mysteries- mysteries with tea cups and whiskeys, bridge and evening gowns, servants and poisons- so it should be no surprise to you that I freaking loved Gosford Park.

This 2001 film, written by Julian Fellowes and directed by the late (and sorely missed) Robert Altman was the cinematic equivalent of heaven for me. The film takes place in 1932 in the English country manor of Sir William McCordle (played by Michael Gambon). A glamorous group of Britons, Americans and their servants gather in the austere McCordle home where, naturally, a murder is committed in the middle of the night. Altman weaves an enthralling tale that follows the whodunit from the perspective of two very different classes- those that live ‘above the stairs’ and those that live ‘below’.

The all star cast includes the likes of Kristen Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe and Clive Owen. This film was certainly a classic of this decade and will remain one, I believe, for decades to come…


Won’t you stay tuned for my number 2 pick?

12.11.2009

The Strange and Wonderful Joy I get out of Housework


For the past nine months I have been cleaning the house sans help. We are doing this partly to save money and partly because the wonderful lady helping us had to leave the country and I can't be bothered to get someone else in. I actually enjoy doing housework and do a little every day anyway so I didn't think it would be such a big deal.

At first it was all going smoothly. I had a schedule and I stuck to it. Then I found that the more I cleaned the more I needed to clean. (For example, I couldn't clean the kitchen counter tops without also doing the floors, the surfaces of the cupboards, the inside of the fridge... you get the idea...)

Then I found myself devoting a ridiculous 3+ hours a day to cleaning the house. B would look at me in astonishment. It was like I was a cleaning robot- incapable of doing anything else! I carried on like this for about three months. Then I burned out and completely let things go and only did about 20 minutes of cleaning a day (which for me wasn't really that bad... I just didn't do the details like clean the inside of the fridge... you get the idea...)

Where am I going with this? Oh yes. So today I had the day off and was in the mood to clean again. It was a glorious stormy, turbulent day in Santa Monica (very rare) so I lit the fire, played Anthea Turner Perfect Housewife on DVD in the background (you want to see a show that will motivate you to clean? This is the one!), and have made my home completely spotless for the past 5 hours (taking breaks in between, of course). I'm not sure what perverse pleasure I get out of doing this... but I think it has to do with wanting to live well and living well for me means looking at sparkling taps, gleaming floors and a gorgeously made bed...

I would love to know... do you get a kick out of cleaning?


Pictured above are my beloved pink gloves that I wear while cleaning- a very thoughtful present from my sister (Thanks L!)

12.08.2009

Breakfast- Comme les Français


The ritual of breakfast (or le petit déjeuner) in France is a very important one. Growing up in California, breakfast was certainly important, but never held much of a ritualistic value. I would usually scarf down a bowl of Cheerios or a piece of toast and call it a morning. Things, I would discover, were very different in Paris.

Monsieur Chic got up very early every morning to go to work (long before I would get up). He would rise for breakfast at 5:45am and be out the door by 6:30am. Madame Chic would rise before him and have his breakfast prepared by the time he got up(remember Famille Chic was very traditional- in fact I probably could have called them Famille Traditionnelle!) And as you can probably already imagine, breakfast chez Famille Chic was more than a piece of toast and a cup of coffee.

I discovered this on my first morning in the house. After getting ready for the day I walked timidly back to the kitchen (breakfast was the only meal served in the kitchen- the rest were strictly dining room only). There I heard the soft hum of the radio and the gentle clanking of dishes. Madame Chic made a comment about how I must like to faire la grasse matinée (sleep in). I remember looking at my watch and it being only 7:30am (and thinking, 'she doesn't know from sleeping in!')

Instead of saying that, however, I smiled politely as Madame Chic ushered me to the tiny kitchen table, which was adorned with a plethora of delicate little food items. She asked if I preferred tea or coffee (tea in the morning, merci) and she proceeded to pour my steaming cup of Ceylon tea into a breakfast bowl. Oui, you read that correctly- a breakfast bowl.

Yes, I thought perhaps I had gone mad or that the jet lag was getting to me or maybe Madame Chic ran out of teacups but the following day I noticed it again. In the morning, tea was drunk chez Famille Chic out of breakfast bowls. And it wasn’t just Famille Chic, I learned that most French people drink their morning beverage out of bowls. I found this quirky little ritual charming and decided to just go with it. After all, when in Paris...

Along with the tea (served ceremoniously in a bowl) a typical breakfast would include:

-a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice

-fromage blanc (a delightful fresh 'cheese' with similar consistency to yogurt that can be eaten with a sprinkling of sugar)

-a slice from last night's fruit tart (usually apple, cherry or strawberry- homemade by Madame Chic)

-toasted baguette with butter and jam (the jam was always homemade- strawberry, raspberry and orange marmalade were her favorites)

-a selection of cold meats (this was rare- but welcome from me as I like to have a little protein in the morning…)

I grew to adore those little breakfasts- they were a welcome departure from the dry cereal or heavy bacon and eggs I was used to. I was grateful to partake of those little delicacies every morning (I still miss my fromage blanc!) and enjoy my bowl of tea, the quiet hum of the radio and those lovely little moments shared with Madame Chic.

**Madame Chic served her tea out of a marvelous yellow tea pot. I found an almost identical one in England last year (pictured above) and had to have it for nostalgia purposes.

12.06.2009

My Top Ten Films of the Decade- #4 The Dreamers



The Dreamers
, released in 2003 and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci is my fourth favorite film of the decade. (**Disclaimer** Do not watch this film with your parents or your children unless you like being extremely uncomfortable. Only watch this film with cinema snobs that have a particularly open mind).

The Dreamers
is a film that might be disturbing to some as it explores explicit sexual and philosophical themes (I, however, happen to find that stuff rather interesting). It takes place in 1968 Paris and follows brother and sister Isabelle and Théo (played by Eva Green and Louis Garrel) and their misadventures with American exchange student Matthew (played by Michael Pitt).

The three bright young things are idealistically obsessed with art and cinema and hide away together determined to escape the unstable reality that was the 1968 student rebellions in France. A bizarre love triangle is formed that ultimately forces them to escape their escapism and face a stark reality…

This film was sexy, disturbing, fascinating and ultimately unforgettable… a modern masterpiece from the visionary director Bernardo Bertolucci…

Won’t you stay tuned for my number three pick? This is getting good…

12.04.2009

Recent Beauty Loves



I love Sephora and sometimes am alarmed by the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I walk through those black and white striped columns. Is that normal? What is it about beauty products that so easily elevates my mood? A glamorous lipstick, a compact little pot of rouge and my heart starts to flutter... But anyway, that is neither here nor there. I purchased four little gems and want to share them with you…

1. YSL Rouge Pure Shine lipstick in Natural Pink 24. Mon Dieu. This is the Holy Grail of nude lip color for my skin tone. I have been searching for it forever- years maybe! I took a gamble by purchasing it without trying it on (as I refuse to try any sample in Sephora for fear of catching a disease) but this color is silky, neutral and brilliant. If you have a medium/ tan skin tone this might look divine on you!

2. Lorac Blush in Soul. I really love Lorac’s blushes. I have used the shade Plum for years now (and was contemplating just sticking with it- I love it so much) but decided to branch out and chose Soul- which is a dusty rose with a very subtle shimmer. I really love this color- it’s great for winter and adds just the right hint of drama to the cheeks.

3. DiorShow Mascara Backstage Makeup in Black. This was recommended by The Coastal Chicster who has impeccable taste, so I thought I’d give it a try. I really love the drama it creates with my lashes- it's a sophisticated mascara and I'm really enjoying it.

4. And lastly, we all knew it was coming, YSL Parisienne. You read my raving review for this glamorous perfume here. I love this scent- it is my new favorite and smelling it on my wrist brings me joy throughout the day.

I would love to know what your beauty loves are this month…


All of the above products can be purchased at www.sephora.com

12.02.2009

Update

Dear Readers,

I have had to postpone my trip to England due to a family emergency. My husband is flying back to join me at home (he has been in London the past two weeks for business).

Thank you for your understanding during this time. I will return to The Daily Connoisseur as soon as I can.

Love,

Jennifer xx
 
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