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Shoot the Moon (1982)
This is the best film I've ever seen on how someone can destroy the very foundation that nourishes them, and then, ultimately, resort to the most dramatic measures when they realize what they've done. This is a case study in how couples grow apart. The acting on the part of Diane Keaton and Albert Finney is among the best of their distinguished careers. Ditto Karen Allen, Peter Weller, and most of all, Dana Hill. There are scenes in this film that will stay in my mind forever, especially the one where Diane Keaton is crying while singing "If I Fell" in the bathtub. The soundtrack is outstanding and the songs are used to perfection. Notice the use of "Play With Fire" when Diane Keaton and Peter Weller start their affair.
The movie to me is about how when one person loses touch with themselves, they take so many other people down with them. George is not a bad guy but he has grown irreparably apart from his family. As with many extremely successful people, living in one of the most prestigious counties in the United States, he lost touch of the man he was and what he needs most. The scenes between Albert Finney and Dana Hill, who plays his oldest daughter, are absolutely heart wrenching.
Personally, I think the ultra-dramatic ending is extremely raw and honest. It still haunts me after all these years.
I will always give this film a 10 out of 10.
Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
A Waste of a Good Premise
This movie should be shown to film students as the perfect example of how to waste a fine premise. I made a particular effort to see this movie as I had lived through the exact situation as the Reese Witherspoon character, both geographically and emotionally. The only thing that was different is that the New Yorker I was engaged to was not the Mayor of New York's son. I was very disappointed and annoyed with this movie long before the final credits rolled. This is one of the most predictable films I've ever seen.
The characters, both southern and northern, are stale cliches. At least both places are given equal treatment. The lead character, Melanie, is poorly written which makes her neither likable or sympathetic. No reflection on Reese Witherspoon, who does the best job anyone can do with such a weak role. The same goes for most of the usually stellar supporting cast, who are wasted in this tripe.
Most people from the south who I've known in New York feel caught between two worlds. They left that world behind for various reasons but still miss the slower pace of that lifestyle, the simplicity, the indigenous aroma of jasmine and honeysuckle, and various other aspects of home. However, when they go back home to visit, they often can't wait to return to New York long before the plane leaves, and come back pondering the famous saying of Thomas Wolfe, "you can't go home again." The things that drove them away in the first place are still there. The same can be said in reverse as well of many New Yorkers who leave the city for more rural surroundings.
This story was never for a minute real to me. It touched nothing inside me and I know this terrain very well. Her success in her career was taken to the extreme and didn't help to make her a real person. You can be quite successful without being engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor and being on the cover of magazines.
Those who made this film obviously know how to make a movie which is all the more puzzling. Why polish a piece of mediocrity when you are capable of doing something so much better? There is not one memorable line or scene in this film. It's just two hours of recycled cliches and cardboard characters strung together into a movie that is entirely forgettable.
The Love Letter (1999)
Fails To Live Up to It's Potential
When the New England coastal village where the story takes place steals the movie, there's a problem. I was really looking forward to seeing this film as it's premise was exactly what I was in the mood for. I was very disappointed. The possibilities of the premise are never realized.
The biggest problem is the main character, played by Kate Capshaw, is not someone I can care about -- she's not even that likeable. She's aloof and self-absorbed. Secondly, the supporting characters are woefully underdeveloped. The actors gave it their best and deserved much better.
With some rewrites focusing on character development this film may have been salvaged. As it is, I look forward to one day seeing a new film that will deliver what I was hoping for when I read the premise of this movie. If you want an old-fashioned romantic comedy in which a love letter is the most powerful expression of passion, there are a number of old films with similar themes that will satisfy far more than "The Love Letter".
At least the scenery is great. This movie served one purpose and reminded me it's been too long since I've been up to the New England coast.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
The Story Stays With You Long After the Movie Ends
This is one of my top five films of all time. I was somewhat skeptical the first time I saw it because I adored the book and I knew there were some changes, but I found the essence of Fannie Flagg's fabulous novel in tact. This is a story that burrows into your heart and mind and stays there. It is absolutely magical storytelling with a stellar cast and beautifully written characters that never fade from memory.
A time and place in America, filled with the best and the worst of our life and history, is impeccably captured. The flashbacks take us to the time of an Alabama whistle stop town that was a bustling hub when the railroad was the center of all movement. This was the era of hobos and simple pleasures. The scenes from the past become more powerful by the juxtaposition to modern times, where the story begins and returns at intervals.
Kathy Bates plays Evelyn Couch, an unhappy middle-aged housewife who stumbles on Ninny Threadgoode (the superb Jessica Tandy) one day by accident at the nursing home where she is visiting one of her husband's relatives. The two have an instant chemistry and a deep friendship begins. Ninny proceeds to tell Evelyn the story of Idgie and Ruth, two young women who shared an amazing friendship and love 50 years earlier.
This movie has to be experienced, as mere descriptions might sound like another southern-flavored movie about women or a weepy nostalgic tale. It is much more than that, and more than the most glowing review can ever convey. If you are reading this and haven't seen it, please make a point to. The actors are nothing short of magical. All four actresses (Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker) are at the top of their craft.
I will borrow a line from Ninny Threadgoode to describe how I always feel after seeing this film. "I may be sitting here in this nursing home but in my mind I'm over at the Whistle Stop Cafe having a plate of Fried Green Tomatoes".
I may be sitting here finishing this comment but in my mind I'm at the Whistle Stop Cafe. That's how powerful this story is for me.
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
An Underrated Gem
This is a faithful adaption of a brilliant novel. I have seen this movie a dozen times and it gets better with each viewing. It is subtle, yes, and that probably means it is not for everyone. Subtle, however, is not synonymous with boring, as unfortunately many people accustomed to a non-stop barrage of sense-dulling special effects and violence have come to believe. This film is as far from boring as it gets.
What I walked away from this story with is a reaffirmation of a force bigger than ourselves that takes our lives in a new direction -- one that we often consciously choose to reject. Macon Leary, as superbly played by William Hurt, has been sleepwalking through life for years. His profession says it all: he writes books for business travelers who have to visit exotic places but want to feel as if they never left home. Thus, the title, "The Accidental Tourist".
He is separated from his beloved wife, Sarah, played very well by Kathleen Turner. She could no longer live in with the waking death their life had become since the senseless murder of their young son years before. But he still wants nothing more than for her to return and resume that life. Even after a quirky dog-trainer played by Geena Davis (in her well-deserved Oscar-winning performance) enters his life and his heart he believes his future can only be with Sarah.
I don't want to give away the entire story, but I will say that the entire supporting cast, Macon's family (Ed Begley, Jr., Amy Wright, David Ogden Stiers) his editor (Bill Pullman), and a scene-stealing Welsh Corgi contribute richly and completely to the overall power of this story.
Some of the best dialogue I've ever heard on relationships, why they work, and why what we want so dearly to work just doesn't work anymore, is in this film. "Don't be lulled by a false sense of security". This powerful line, is what this film is all about, and it is placed perfectly, as all the memorable lines are. Give it a chance and an open mind because this film is the real deal. In my estimation, "The Accidental Tourist" is American cinema at it's best.
Bear in the Big Blue House (1997)
A Jewel in a Sea of Mediocrity
I can't say enough good things about this show. It is the only children's program that consistently addresses the everyday aspects of life, such as potty training, cleaning the house, bathing, brushing one's teeth, going to school, etc. The amazing thing is how it's all done in the most entertaining way with fun songs and lots of dancing -- not an easy thing to do well. My kids absolutely love it when Bear feels the Cha Cha Cha coming on! The entire cast is extremely talented. I never hear them talking down to children as I do on many other shows. The segment with Luna is wonderful to open children's minds to contemplation -- it is so soothing.
My children, now 3 and 1, have adored this show since they were old enough to hold their heads up and it's one of the few programs that I actually enjoy myself as there is a subtle humor that adults can appreciate. Most importantly, however, this is a show that actually teaches kids about real life while entertaining them and opening their imaginations. My personal favorite of all the current kids shows, and objectively speaking, one of the three best kids shows on TV. Also, the pacing is great and it does not contribute to the short attention span syndrome like so many other kids shows.
Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)
A haunting and evocative rock and roll movie.
This is a haunting and evocative rock and roll movie that retains its impact 16 years later. Great performances all around, especially from Tom Berenger and Michael Pare. What a shame Pare's career didn't live up to its early promise -- he's simply wonderful in this movie. The story borrows heavily from the Jim Morrison myth, but the sound and location is Springsteen all the way. The music is great! Without a doubt, this is a flawed film, especially in the last half hour, but the overall effect outweighs the weaknesses. The sequel, however, is pitiful.