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Dead On (1994)
If you like all sex and no plot, you'll love this movie
The best thing about this movie is the two nude scenes... Matt McCoy leans back in ecstasy as he climaxes with Shari Shattuck in the second one done almost entirely in silhouette; the first is a bit more wild due mostly to Shattuck's insatiable appetite. The rest of the film has terrible acting, a very weak script with very little to hold the viewer's attention and some tasteless costumes on Shattuck. If you feel like seeing this film, I suppose its worth a look but only one at that. It has a very little following to be sure which probably explains it not being available on DVD as yet. Please bear in mind that this film has nothing to recommend.
What a night!!! What a year!!! What a show!!!
This, by far, was the very best Oscar show I've ever seen in my entire life!!! Hugh Jackman was the best Oscar host since Johnny Carson and he needs to come back for the next three years at least. It was entirely tasteful that he gave no political statements and that his performance was full of excitement and appreciation for honoring excellence in cinema...
Apart from that, my favorite part of the whole evening involved all the acting categories where five past recipients all came out and presented the latest 'member of the club' into their circle... Eva Marie Saint, Goldie Hawn, Anjeclica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg and Tilda Swinton announced a most deserving Penelope Cruz as best supporting actress for her wild, dynamic portrayal in 'Vicky Christina Barcelona'; Joel Grey, Christopher Walken, Kevin Kline, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Alan Arkin awarded the late Heath Ledger's best supporting actor Oscar for 'The Dark Knight' to his grateful and honored father, mother and sister; Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Marillon Cotillard made a very emotional moment completely unforgettable when they proudly welcomed Kate Winslet into the Best Actress category for her emotionally gripping performance in 'The Reader'; and Robert DeNiro, Sir Ben Kingsley, Michael Douglas, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Adrien Brody announced Sean Penn as best actor for his dead-on portrayal of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk in the Gus Van Sant-directed biopic 'Milk'... and 'Wall-E', the darling of all the animated films from 2008, was named the best animated feature to little surprise. And then of course, there was the feel-good film of the year, 'Slumdog Millionaire' winning 8 out of the 10 nominations it received, including Best Song, Score, Adapted Screenplay, Director and Best Picture.
It was a magical, thoroughly pleasing night for the Oscars this year and I'm hoping five past recipients will be back next year to present each acting category and definitely Hugh Jackman will be greatly welcomed back as emcee.
One of the best in the annual AFI specials
I was very pleased with the selections made for this year's documentary... almost completely satisfied...
REDS is not one of the ten best epics of all time... it's beyond me why they chose it over DOCTOR ZHIVAGO which may not have been as great a film when compared to GONE WITH THE WIND or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA but it has much better quality than REDS just because Warren Beatty CANNOT act to save his own life... and THE APARTMENT was missing from romantic comedies list and neither HARVEY or GROUNDHOG DAY are favorite fantasies of mine certainly. The fantasy, animation and epic lists I think were the best ones, although GONE WITH THE WIND should have been ranked at #3 instead of #4. SCHINDLER'S LIST is a masterpiece but GONE WITH THE WIND has a longer legacy and is more of a favorite among millions.
What's Cooking? (2000)
Comfort food with controversy... but the kind of movie you can watch any day of the year!
With the exception of A WALK ON THE MOON starring Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen, this film is easily my favorite indie film. I first saw it four years ago when my sister was home from San Diego state for Easter vacation and we rented the DVD the following day from Blockbuster. Some of the most talented names in film (Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard, Oscar-winner Mercedes Rheul, Lainie Kazan and Joan Chen) and up-and-coming talent (Dennis Haysbert of FAR FROM HEAVEN and the ALLSTATE commercials) star in this terrific ensemble film with a brilliant script and first-rate performances most notably from Woodard, Rheul and Kyra Segewick.
The story (set throughout the Fairfax district of L.A.) revolves around four different families (focusing primarily on the women of each) all of four different ethnicities: one African-American, one Hispanic, one Jewish and one Vietnamese and the family conflicts they deal with over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Woodard's family is dealing with a marriage that is on the brink of a divorce with two subplots of an extremely irritating mother-in-law (Ann Weldon) and a troubled son in his early twenties; Rheul's family is confronting the fact that she has separated from her husband (Victor Rivers) and has moved on with her life and has a promising relationship with her boyfriend (A Martinez) despite what her son wants. Kazan's family is up in arms with her daughter (Segewick) involved in a lesbian relationship with her recently married life-partner (Julianna Margulies). Chen's family is most definitely the most dysfunctional while their daughter is involved in a relationship with a young white boy, their eldest son uses his midterms schedule as a false pretense to avoid coming home for the holidays and is seeing Rhuel's daughter and Chen's teenage son has been suspended from school for stealing a test while also being dangerously involved with a gang. One highlight of the films is where Woodard's friends come over to her house for Thanksgiving dinner and their rebellious, uptight teenage daughter wants nothing to do with any of them. When confronted by Woodard's mother-in-law about what she and Woodard's little daughter and her friend are doing, she states that "we're playing Thanksgiving... she's the mommy, she's the daddy and I'm the alcoholic, cult-worshiping, Satanic stepmother!"
The story moves in a very transitional pattern alternating between the four families with very interesting scenarios for each. Gurinder Chadha (director of BEND IT LIKE BEKHAM and the upcoming BRIDE AND PREJUDICE) has really outdone herself with the unique and oft-times exasperating ties that bring these families together. Another engaging aesthetic in this film (possibly the most important) is the incredibly diverse variety of delicious food each family cooks throughout the midsection of the film in preparation for the holiday tradition. You can almost smell the enticing scents of the apple and pumpkin pies and the turkey and mashed potatoes as well as the Asian and Hispanic dishes. The special features on the DVD of the films offers six different recipes as they were used in the actual film.
This is one film that my whole family and I love to watch every year on Thanksgiving and one we watch throughout the year as well. Go rent it sometime this weekend and see what you think. I really think you'll love it!
Searching for Debra Winger (2002)
even straight men can like this one...
I watched this documentary last night and even though I'm a guy and love a great looking woman, I still agree with the general premise of this film: women who truly know themselves and know what they want in life go after that goal even if it means either leaving the mainstream of the Hollywood elite or walking away from it altogether.
Diane Lane, Sharon Stone and Meg Ryan were the ones who stood out for me the most in terms of what they said.
In Diane, I found two strong points made: a) despite the fact that she would like to be in love with a great guy, her main focus in her life is on her child and her desire to have looked back on her life years from now and say to herself that she was a great mom. And b) that she doesn't perceive that beauty is fading; beauty is something that a woman in her 50s and 60s can manifest more as a character actress and be confident in herself because she's okay with the fact that she's not the fascinating beauty that she was when she was in her 20s and 30s. The fact that she can evolve over time into an older and still attractive woman without holding onto the "immaculate" beauty of her youth is what makes her beauty continuous.
With Meg, compromising is the name of her game. In the first 3 to 5 years of her motherhood, she would take her son Jack with her onto whatever movie set she would be working on at the time and once he started school she slowed down to doing only one film per year (on average of work being 3 months) and devoting the rest of her time towards her son's needs. Also, her life is not defined by having a man in her life. Regardless of what the press has written about her in terms of what happened with her relationship with Russell Crowe (sorry to see it didn't work out, however) she is more "empowered as a woman" because she hasn't made her career labeled as some sex symbol or sexy blonde but has played some really great roles about 3-dimensional women (WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN/SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE and PROOF OF LIFE are three good examples).
Sharon's point is about knowing when to let go of the care-free "fun stuff" of your youth and knowing that yes, it is scary and yes, it can either make you or break you but if you've got the guts to put it all behind yourself and walk on to the more mature woman and find more happiness and fulfillment and health. The key is to have the guts and determination to be willing to move on and act the age you've arrived at. Another good point is that being able to say fellow actresses are what inspire you to keep on working despite the fact that maybe "Susan Sarandon or Cate Blanchett or Julianne Moore can do that better than I can". Even if you start to feel less talented than somebody else, its not about competition, its about camaraderie and inspiration; those are tools that empower you to be better than you think you really are.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The world's biggest musical at long last on the big screen complete with grand piano, red velvet draperies, candles, and all the trimmings...
If you know nothing about PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, you may find a sentence in this review to be a slight spoiler. Otherwise, disregard.
If you've seen this masterpiece on the stage and you enjoyed that, then PHANTOM devotees will appreciate (if not absolutely love) the massive screen interpretation. In retrospect and after purchasing the 2-disc soundtrack of the film, I'm much more impressed by Gerard Butler's singing than Michael Crawford's. Crawford (whom I've never really been a fan) sounds like a shallow chorus boy with a sunny, benevolent tenor in his voice whereas Butler gives it all right from his gut and shows the tortured, ever-present dark side of his existence, only singing softly with the occasional lilt in his throat when absolutely necessary. I saw the San Francisco production ten years ago with Franc D'Ambrosio (most famous as Al Pacino's opera-singing son Anthony in THE GODFATHER PART III) and, thankfully, his performance was more equal to Gerry's rather than Crawford's. Ms. Emmy Rossum (a relative newcomer to the screen) has had classical training as an opera soprano with the New York Metropolitan Opera and as Christine, the Phantom's gorgeous muse, her voice is literally like listening to an angel (no pun intended, i.e. the Phantom's presence has been referred to as the Angel of Music throughout the film and the play). Patrick Wilson unfortunately was not at all a stand out as Christine's childhood sweetheart and prospective suitor; only at the very end of the film does he project his obvious vocal ability as I've seen and heard him do in other projects. Minnie Driver is a definite presence as Carlotta, the arrogant diva with a voice that causes many of her colleagues/managers as well as the audience to cover their ears when she hits the high notes. Her accent as the Italian beauty and facial expressions/body language are very good and utterly comical, allowing her to definitely steal each scene she is in. Mulit-talented British actress Miranda Richardson is Mdme. Giry, the opera ballet mistress who knows more than she lets on about the mysterious Phantom aka, Opera Ghost. Her french accent is good and her part is not as pushed into the background as those of us who saw the stage version would expect.
But for me, the central attraction of this musical epic is and forever shall be Gerry Butler and his bravura romantic/tortured portrayal of the unforgettable Phantom. I am man enough to admit that I was sobbing a watershed at the end if only because of his talent coupled with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's immortal score.
If you're a fan of either Sir Andrew and his music or of the PHANTOM itself or even if you know nothing or very little of the story I urge all of you to go see this film. Going into the cinema this afternoon I was thinking to myself, I hope this film lives up to its stage version. Rest assured, I really doubt if any of you will leave the theater disliking the film. You'll love it (as I did) or you'll think it a good film with good performances, but hate it?!!!... don't be absurd! Forget yourself and all your cares and let the Phantom cast his sweet seductive spell over you with his immortally blessed music of the night.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
A pulverizing account of His sacrifice that has shaken the world and changed forever the face of modern cinema
Some say Mel went too far with this film but in truth, Christ was beaten beyond recognition... his torso was so deeply cut into that you could see his lungs breathing, it was that intense. Jim Caviezel's portrayal was so real that the Academy should damn well give him a nomination next year... that's one thing about releasing a film really early on in the year: the Academy voters don't really have much remembrance prior to the big summer releases. But I really think Mel and the picture itself (plus the incredible cinematography, the sound, the score, the editing and the makeup) will all be given a nod come January.
A word of advice, this film is not for the faint of heart or ones who can't stand the sight of blood. It's a very brutal depiction in terms of the violence but it's good that this film was made and that it's received so much success at the box office. On it's first day of release on DVD it sold 2.4 million copies on the east coast by noon, alone. That's certainly saying something about what Mel has done. Controversy aside, THE PASSION OF THE Christ will go on to become a great epic over time and people will remember it with more reverence than disdain over how brutal it is.
Much of the scenes/character development was very clever, too. For instance, Satan had taken on the form of a woman (a very pale, sickly looking one without hair) who at one point in the film carries a baby in her arms while looking on as Christ is tortured. She uncovers the child's back to reveal it to be a ghastly midget with back hair and it turns to look at Christ with a very beastly grin and a vengeful glimmer in its eye.
Another fine conception is of Judas being relentlessly taunted by a large number of children who are really Satan's minions (demons) who chase him beyond the city with Satan among them watching their vicious game and gleefully awaiting the fateful result: Judas committing suicide.
Mel's film is really due all the praise and award recognition in the world. It's a lasting tribute to the deeply painful yet ultimately redeeming truth of what one Man went through to save all humanity.
Faerie Tale Theatre (1982)
A classic series that adults love too!
I grew up enraptured of FAERIE TALE THEATRE. My sister and I would watch them and then act them out later playing dress-up. We even went as far as re-enacting the publicity ad where Shelley Duvall (God bless her for coming up with the idea for this show!!!) would sit on the PRINCESS AND THE PEA set surrounded by hundreds of old antique books and introduce several different episodes of this timeless series. My favorites would have to be (1) LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD (2) THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA and (3) GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS. Others are THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, Cinderella, RAPUNZEL, THE DANCING PRINCESSES and THE LITTLE MERMAID. Malcolm McDowell as the Wolf in RED RIDING HOOD, Vanessa Redgrave as the evil queen in SNOW WHITE, Eve Arden as the Stepmother, Karen Black as the Sea Witch and Gena Rowlands as the Witch in RAPUNZEL are by far the best portrayals. And, miracle of miracles, they are FINALLY AVAILABLE ON DVD!!!! Praise Jesus!!!! Check them out at unbelievably discounted prices of just $6.98 each @starmaker2.com and amazon.com at the same price! This is truly a series that all can enjoy no matter what your age is.
Body Heat (1981)
Whole lotta intense sexual energy, but the plot is just pretty good, nothing great
BODY HEAT delivers when it comes to good nudity, palpable room temperatures, and some great leg shots of Kathleen Turner in the femme fatale role of her career. William Hurt has never looked better with or without his shirt on (his best scenes, however, were unfortunately only when his bare chest was in prime display). Being the good actor that he's always been, his part wasn't as meaty as his other parts are (ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, BIG CHILL, JANE EYRE and BROADCAST NEWS immediately come to mind). He's believable as the handsome attorney with one hell of a great body but writer/director Lawrence Kasdan needed just a little more improvement on his character's believabilty.
Kathleen Turner (who received the only major award nomination the film received: Best actress (drama) at the golden globes) is the real scene stealer here. Her presence on screen made you feel that all she wanted was to get rid of her weak husband (played rather well in this film by typically less-than-average actor Richard Crenna) and have Hurt's character, Ned, with her and to wake up evey morning with his body lying next to hers. For a while she played it really safe but then by the end of the film you knew he was just a helpless pawn in her clutches who couldn't resist a beautiful woman. Once again, just like in so many other film noir-type movies, the woman takes the man for a sap and gets him by the b***s and then leaves him to suffer the really, really tough consequences while she gets off scott-free with buttloads of money and no worries. This is not surprisingly written from a man's point of view, too. As with FATAL ATTRACTION, BODY HEAT is a movie for those enjoy a good suspense/thriller flick with lots of steamy nude scenes in it.
tomorrow is another day... and indeed another story
It's common knowledge and has been said before: No one can ever play Scarlett and Rhett like Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Joanne Whalley Kilmer (no longer Kilmer having been divorced from ex-hubby Val Kilmer) plays her own Scarlett and although this is a sequel and not a re-make (God-forbid!!!) she still cannot rise to the occasion (i.e. her voice sounds evil on several occasions, she's got brown eyes [Scarlett in both novels had green eyes and even Vivien Leigh's eyes were green] and her vocal power was not up to the job either. Scarlett is a Southern Belle; therefore she has an incredible talent for flirting (as she did in SCARLETT the novel and GWTW, of course) and to be a great flirt like Scarlett is, you would most likely need a higher-pitched voice, like Vivien Leigh.
I suppose I'm comparing Kilmer to Leigh a bit too much but when someone possesses a role so masterfully as Leigh did with Scarlett you simply can't help but to criticize any new prospective Scarletts. Timothy Dalton should have had no accent whatsoever, due to the fact that both Margaret Mitchell's Rhett and Gable in the film had none. His acting has never been truly noteworthy (except, maybe his portrayal of the evil, conniving King Phillip of France in THE LION IN WINTER) and he gives very little (if any) freshness or vitality to his Rhett.
Standouts in the cast are most notably Tina Kellagher (a born actress with plenty of authenticity in her deliverance) as the tragic victim Mary Boyle. And then of course there's Sean Bean as the cold, calculating and not to mention, almost demonically evil Lord Fenton, Mary's nemesis and Scarlett's eventual violator. One thing I could not forgive the writer for was the fact that Scarlett is raped in this movie (a fact that never occurred in the novel; Lord Fenton is cold and of ill-repute among the Irish in the book but he's nowhere near as heartless as his screen counterpart. Another omission from the novel but readded for the film is the character of Belle Watling, played most horribly by Ann-Margret in a cameo role, which we all could have lived without, seeing as how the book was such a run-away bestseller without requiring any assistance from Ms. Watling.
For a film by itself, SCARLETT is a very good one but not quite in that lofty of a place in terms of being GONE WITH THE WINDs sequel. Another actress was highly necessary for Scarlett as well as Rhett.
An incredible documentation!!!
By far, this is the best documentary I've ever seen, hands down! I first saw it when my sister taped it off PBS at our beach house back in 1987; I was seven years old. Afterwards, we watched it continuously over the years and I was thrilled when it was released on DVD in Nov., 2002. I still watch it at least once every 6-8 weeks simply because I love that vintage TV look it contains. Seeing those clips of Judy's incredibly impressive variety show (which was unforgivably canceled after only one season merely because its ratings could not compare to BONANZA which ran the same night on NBC, Judy's show was on CBS) still gives me that happy, nostalgic feeling. Standouts are her duets with Tony Bennett, Liza, Lena Horne and of course Barbra Streisand. Another must-have for Judy fans is the recent DVD release of her variety show which includes all the above guest appearances as well as dozens of other episodes, including her much-loved Christmas show episode (which has now become an annual holiday standard). The episode with Barbra's guest appearance is said to have been the most-requested home video release in all of TV history. With Judy's daughter, Lorna Luft as host, Melissa Manchester, Tony Bennett, Garland's arranger/conductor Mort Lindsay, Edward Albee, Nelson Riddle and Alan King are among the several commentators who voiced their opinions and praise for Judy and most, if not all, of what each of them said was exact and compliant with the level of talent and sheer charisma that she projected in every single performance she gave. This show is a loving tribute to the world's greatest entatertainer... Judy Garland!
The Hours (2002)
best picture of '02
Michael Cunningham's brilliantly insightful novel makes a flawless transfer to the screen. Nicole Kidman (possibly in the role of her career) is Ms. Virginia Woolf (prosthetic nose and all) writing her immortal MRS. DALLOWAY which Julianne Moore's Laura Brown is thoroughly absorbed in, circa 1951; the incomparable Meryl Streep is Clarissa Vaughn, a lesbian living in the present day (2001) with her live-in lover Sally (Allison Janney) in New York while taking care of her AIDS-ridden best friend Richard (Ed Harris). The plot revolves around one day in each of their lives in which the crux of their entire life unfolds forever altering their entire outlook on their personal lives.
Meryl's homosexuality is very subtle to the point where you think her lover is her best friend... until the end of the film when Meryl give her this huge, wet kiss. Julianne's Laura Brown, on the outside, is the epitome of the ideal '50s wife/mother but on the inside she's like an Oprah trying to find inner peace with herself, unfortunately with extremely devastating results.
While Meryl does have the most on-screen time Kidman steals the show... the viewer becomes more engrossed in her half of the story while Moore's half is thoroughly depressed and Streep's is teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, but still holding a tight grasp on the audiences attention span.
The story makes sense in every aspect where you don't feel like the screenwriter is mentally trying to confuse you with the jumping back and forth between eras. The script, score, Streep, Kidman, direction and the film itself will definitely be nominated for Oscars next month.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
THE film of 1968!
What were those Academy fools thinking?! They ignore a powerhouse performance by Peter O'Toole and trounce Anthony Harvey's inspiring direction! But the final indignity was in giving the best picture award to an over-praised, undeserving, insignificant musical called OLIVER! If they had a least half a brain in their heads they could've given to FUNNY GIRL but they only shoot themselves in the foot when the deserving go unrecognized. It only goes to show the Academy's just jealous. The script and Kate's performance at least were given the royal treatment but it still leaves bitter resentment when Cliff Roberston, one of Hollywood's most less-than-adequate actors cops the best actor away from O'Toole... possibly Hollywood's most underrated, not to mention unrecognized actors of the highest caliber. Hepburn's Eleanor of Aquitaine had witty lines, quiet but still present anger and fire underneath the surface but O'Toole as Henry II gave the more powerful performance... an aesthetic that echoed Taylor and Burton for WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? only Taylor was the gutsy performer and Burton doled out the cut-lows and the intellect. To coin a phrase from the British... "he (O'Toole) was bloody robbed!"
The story is set in Britain, 1183. Henry II is on the throne and has ten years earlier imprisoned his wife Eleanor of Acquitaine after co-conspirating a civil war against him. She and their three sons (Richard, the eldest, a brave warrior on the battlefield, whom Eleanor wants to succeed Henry as king; Geoffrey, the quietly vicious, unappreciated middle son of whom neither of them love with a plot for every occurrence and John, the piggish, dirty, thieving brat is their youngest whom Henry for some unknown reason wants on the throne) are all requested to appear at their palace of Chinon for the Christmas holidays. Also invited is young King Philip II of France whose elder sister Alais is the treasured and much-loved mistress to Henry. Philip wishes to have Alais mearried off to one of Henry's sons (preferably Richard) in order to form an alliance between England and France made between Henry and Philip's father, the late King Louis. But meanwhile, Philip is also plotting with all three boys and Eleanor to tear Henry's kingdom apart. Eleanor is merely in on it to get back at Henry for loving Alais (whom she had raised as a surrogate daughter) and the late Rosmund, an old rival of Eleanor's whom Henry replaced her with.
This film has it all: infidelity, betrayal, family dysfunction and a script that crackles with venom, wit and plot-twisting motivation. See it if only for O'Toole and Hepburn's first-rate performances.
A Cooler Climate (1999)
All-around good film w/very well done performances
I saw this last spring ('02) when I rented it from Blockbuster and really thought it a good film. It's a film from Showtime television so it just goes to show how much better pay TV is than basic. Sally & Judy (both nominees at the Emmys and Screen Actors Guild awards for best actress in a TV movie or a miniseries) turn in the best performances as Iris Prue (Field) and Paula Tanner (Davis), two women who you'd think would be the most unlikely pair of girlfriends. Iris is a middle-aged woman who ends up broke after filing for divorce and gets burned after a failed relationship with a man she's too good for and takes a position as housekeeper for Paula at her vacation house in up-state New York. Paula's a frigid, short-fused, frustrated-with-herself socialite who's going through a marriage that's heading down hill... FAST!!! and has a rebellious pre-20s daughter, Beth, who's heading for heartbreak and serious self-destruction. Iris and Beth at first are at odds but then become good friends. Meanwhile, Iris meets and falls in love with Jack (Winston Rekert), the first real man she's met in her life, possibly and things go well until she and Paula come to terms with their relationship. This was a very good film (8/10) that may just become one of those "women films" (I HATE that stereotype) that even us guys will end up liking. I want my mom and grandma to see it, too.
Not a truly great film, but one of the best musicals
Pop culture icon and legendary vocalist Barbra Streisand suffered 18 years of rejection from every major movie studio to finance this intriguing film (based on Isaac Bashevis Singer's 1962 short story) of a young Eastern-European Jewess who disguises herself as a yeshiva boy in order to study the Talmud and its commentaries. Then finally, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and United Artists agreed to back the project and Streisand was at last able to go ahead with her dream project.
Yentl is the young Jewess living with her father (Nehemiah Persoff) just outside a small village in Eastern Europe in 1905. Her father, a local rabbi, realizes that she is unlike all the other village girls who seem only more than willing to become a woman and fall into the stereotyped trap that's been set for them since birth that a man's home is where they belong, venturing to go no where beyond the duties of a housewife. But Yentl, in true Striesand fashion, is just the opposite. Since her childhood she has required a thirst for knowledge, and her father, seeing this passion, agrees to secretly teach her at night with the curtains drawn and the doors bolted. This aesthetic is applied due to the belief that in those days Jews saw women who wished to study where demons of the evil nature.
Many months later, Yentl's father dies and eight days later in the late afternoon, elder women of the village come to prepare her for life as a housewife and mother. There is a slight accident in moving her father's books and Yentl becomes somewhat defensive while the women quietly leave to give Yentl some time alone saying they'd be back later, one saying she'd keep the girl so busy she'd be unable to think of anything else. After moments of silence and thought, Yentl crosses over to the bureau mirror which has been covered my black mourning cloth. She rips it from the glass and stares into the mirror. She then takes a pair of scissors lying on the bureau, says to her father's spirit, "Forgive me, Papa," and begins to cut her beautiful hair until it's a boyish cut. This affirms her only choice: In order to continue studying, she must go out into the world by herself disguised as a man.
Shortly after sunset that evening, a covered wagon is traveling west from Yentl's village. A young boy dressed in the suit of a yeshiva and carrying a suitcase is walking in the same direction and asks for a ride. The "boy" is Yentl, now assuming the name of her late brother Anshel. The driver requires fare and Anshel gives some willingly but as he tries to get in the back three other passengers refuse him a seat and the wagon drives off into the gathering dusk. Anshel then has no choice but to go halfway across the field to a small thicket to sleep for the night. A few hours later, Yentl lights a candle and in spite of her great fear of being alone in a big world she speaks to her father in the film's most memorable tune, PAPA CAN YOU HEAR ME?
The next day Anshel arrives at an inn for Yeshiva students. There he meets Avigdor (Mandy Patinkin) who befriends him and invites him to join him on his trip to Beshiv, a city where one of the best Yeshiva schools in Eastern Europe is. Once there, Anshel and Avigdor become best friends and they share each other's great passion for study. But soon, Avigdor reveals to Anshel his love for a beautiful girl Hadass(Amy Irving-- in her Oscar nominated role), one of very well-to-do family and returns Avigdor's affection. At the same time, Yentl has begun to fall madly in love with Avigdor but naturally, due to the
circumstance she has put herself under, she can never tell him. Meanwhile, Hadass' parents refuse to allow them to marry due to their discovery that Avigdor's elder brother had committed suicide therefore leaving his family with the evil curse of bad luck. Eventually, Avigdor talks Anshel into marrying Hadass. Anshel doesn't agree to this until at the last minute Avigdor prepares to leave Beshiv and live his own life alone. Yentl fears the thought of life without her love and yells after him as he goes, "Nothing's impossible!" Several weeks later, Anshel and Hadass are married and if you want to know how Yentl gets away with the wedding night, you'll have to see the movie. Soon, Yentl is filling Hadass' head with the idea that she too should study Talmud and the commentaries. But as time goes by, Hadass begins to get over Avigdor and learns to love Anshel. Now, Yentl can not keep her deception going on any longer and must make a decision no matter what the cost.
The film is a standing testament to the great progress women have made since 1905 and even today are still realizing more and more emancipational possibilities about themselves. Streisand's singing quality in this film is surpassed only by her legendary renditions in FUNNY GIRL. Mandy Patinkin's portrayal of Avigdor is one of good delivery and a good balance between quiet pensiveness and sheer frustration. But the film's best performance belongs to Amy Irving. She is the perfect image of the innocent, stunningly beautiful virgin who realizes all the great potential she has in herself. There are too many great songs to single just one among them, by the way. This movie is too good to miss!
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
Easily one of '94s 10 best
It took me eight years to finally see this film all the way through when I saw the DVD at Target. I had seen most of it on TNT/TBS over the years and liked what I saw. Being a big fan of Whoop I felt obligated to buy the DVD... I was not in the least bit sorry. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, I watch it all the time. Whoop once again uses her charm, this time as a housekeeper/caretaker to a little sweetheart named Molly Singer (played to heart-stealing perfection by 9-year-old Tina Majorino), a motherless child with a loveable daddy (Ray Liotta) living in 50s suburbia. The aesthetic "kids always steal the show" is very much evident here. Majorino is the sweetest and most talented child actor today (she puts Hayley Joel Osment to total shame). Her laugh, smile and tears are so infectious you'd wish she were your own. Ray Liotta and Whoop are both memorable as Molly's two favorite people and the classy 50s soundtrack is a must-have. The story is evenly balanced to keep it from getting too maudlin and sickeningly-sweet. So if there's anyone who loves a great family movie who hasn't seen this winner, I highly recommend CORRINA, CORRINA.
the best Oscar presentation I've yet seen
This was by far the best Oscar show I've seen so far. The show for 2000 was a total bomb where the hi-tech computer look of the show was concerned but the outcome of all the winners were as I expected. This year was worth all the negativity from last year. Russell Crowe and Julia Roberts were my choices for best actor/actress. Marcia Gay Harden (in POLLOCK)was my choice for supporting actress but I figured it go to Kate Hudson for ALMOST FAMOUS (though she wasn't very good). The real surprise for me was Steven Soderbergh as best director of TRAFFIC over predicted winner Ang Lee for the over-hyped CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON... in my opinion he wouldn't have deserved it. It didn't deserve the art direction award either which should have gone to GLADIATOR. The Roman, Toga-donned epic wasn't a surprise winner for Best Picture of course though TRAFFIC did put up quite a good battle. I was happy to see Miss Roberts win best actress but after a while (especially after her over-excited acceptance speech) she started to turn me and a lot of other people off. Host Steve Martin was just adequate and his smart-aleck remarks towards Russell Crowe "hitting on" Ellen Burstyn and Tom Hanks alleged ring-leading of the plot to kidnap Russell Crowe were in really bad taste. I miss Whoopi! But the show was all-in-all a real enjoyment... if only because the sets were reasonably attractive and the winners were deserving.
A collection of her best
The first female mogul of the 21st century, Madonna made her mark on the entertainment industry in 1983 and since then things have never been the same. Her controversy has only managed to see her through one great success after another. While the Christians and other prudes criticize and rally against her for her obsession with sex, lude choreography and salacious attitude, millions have flocked to her concerts, purchased all of her highly-publicized albums and emulated her every move. While being a second-rate actress in the movies, her music videos have defined an entire generation.
And that is what this collection features, covering the first seven years of Madonna's career. From the primitive LUCKY STAR and BORDERLINE, following through the star-turning LIKE A VIRGIN and MATERIAL GIRL, the serious subject matter of PAPA DON'T PREACH, the religiously glorified LIKE A PRAYER, the futuristic EXPRESS YOURSELF, the fun-loving CHERISH and concluding with her 90s mega- triumph VOGUE, Madonna has proven that the feminine strength and sheer force of will can take a woman farther than a man would imagine. To take a chance and make material as risque as hers only adds to her legendary star power. This compilation is a standing testament to the determination of one woman.
the last of the Hollywood musicals
The finale of the big Hollywood musical genre ended with a rousing song and dance in OLIVER!. Sir Carol Reed directed what was to be one of the last musicals that would make it big at the box office. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, CABARET, MAN OF LA MANCHA, MAME, ANNIE and A CHORUS LINE would follow the transitional pattern of stage to screen and while ANNIE and CHORUS LINE are perennial favorites of millions only FIDDLER and CABARET remain big successes following the end of the musical genre; MAN OF LA MANCHA and MAME were both seriously embarrassing disasters and they lack the quality and stamina that their original stage predecessors conveyed.
In OLIVER!, Reed directed his nephew, the late Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes, the great Ron Moody as Fagin, the bewitching, pixie-like Shani Wallis as Nancy and newcomer Mark Lester as Oliver, the love-starved waif looking for a home of his own. The songs, most notably CONSIDER YOURSELF, WHERE IS LOVE?, AS LONG AS HE NEEDS ME and WHO WILL BUY? are among some of the best Broadway-to-Hollywood tunes ever filmed. The film does have a distinctive English look and sound to it but people everywhere (esp. the kiddies) are still enjoying it today. Television has been turning out several different musical remakes in the past ten years (including GYPSY, BYE, BYE BIRDIE, CINDERELLA, and ANNIE) as a way of recovering what the major studios had lost when those films didn't quite make it at the box office. It would be a grave mistake if they were to remake this film (let alone THE KING AND I, WEST SIDE STORY, MY FAIR LADY or THE SOUND OF MUSIC). Perhaps CAMELOT could be remade but other than that I don't think many other musicals should be touched.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
The GONE WITH THE WIND of the 60s
The incredible vistas... the intricate costumes... the star-making performances... and the great Peter O'Toole at the start of his career... LAWRENCE OF ARABIA offers up a rare type of motion picture that only the prolific Sir David Lean could fashion. This was O'Toole's first lead role and only a small percentage of his later work (BECKET and THE LION IN WINTER) would equal this part.
As Lawrence, O'Toole puts himself right at the center of danger, risk and compromise but he stands his ground through one conflict after another and still remains mysterious and elusive to all around him as well as the audience. Its a story that you want to understand only after one viewing but its the kind of movie that you have watch at least three or four times more before everything falls into place and the story makes sense.
Lean's vision is second to none when it comes to making an epic. There have been very few filmmakers like him... Spielberg and Scorsese don't come close to his type of stature. You can almost feel the sands blowing across your face during the windstorm sequences and taste the blood and sweat during the battles. The one drawback of the film was the endless, grueling shooting schedule, it took nearly two years due to the heat and the unforgiving sun beating down on the exteriors. But they managed to pull it all off and turn in a brilliant work of art that holds up extremely well 40 years later.
A sumptuous, irresistible morsel!
One of my favorite films of 2000 was CHOCOLAT. It has everything you could ask for of a romantic comedy... gentle, yet uncompromising heroines, crotchety yet kind-hearted old women and troubled yet hopeful wives. Those women are brilliantly portrayed by Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Lena Olin. They and the rest of the cast guided by Lasse Halstrom's gifted storytelling spin a captivating and delicious tale destined to be a great classic someday. Composer Rachel Portman (of EMMA and THE CIDER HOUSE RULES fame) wrote a perfectly spellbinding score and the script is a kaleidoscope of witty dialogue, unassuming subplots and the narrative is entirely genuine. Johnny Depp, Alfred Molina, Carrie Ann Moss, Victoire Thivisol and the great Leslie Caron round out the principle cast to perfection. The novel by Joanne Harris is a little different but the the film still is a very entertaining, original piece of art.
Unusually better than the original
The original with Barbara Stanwyk is saved only by Stanwyk's performance. The story and the other performances are too sickeningly sweet and the film itself is too dated to be really enjoyed today. Bette Midler's version is much more interesting. She is Stella Claire, an independent, free-spirited single woman who gets pregnant and refuses help from her boyfriend (Stephen Collins) or her friend (John Goodman in an underrated performance). She raises her daughter Jenny played so sweetly by Trini Alvarado and then comes to the conclusion that Jenny's father can do better for her and ultimately makes a life-altering decision. Through out the film, there are plenty of laughs, tears and memorable moments mostly between Midler and Alvarado. Marsha Mason co-stars as Jenny's would-be stepmother, who though wealthy turns out to be a very good influence on her. If you like Midler, Goodman or just good films with plenty of emotion you'll enjoy Bette Midler's version of STELLA.
Funny Girl (1968)
Barb's only great film!
I'm sorry to say that this is Streisand's only really good movie. As a singular film, it's brilliantly constructed but when compared to all her other films, she only has this to really be proud of. Of course, being an ego-maniac, she's proud of all her work and that point is legitimate but it seems that she only really made films that she liked and the public and her peers gave her a lot of bad press for it. Don't get me wrong, though. I liked THE WAY WE WERE, YENTL, THE PRINCE OF TIDES and THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES but FUNNY GIRL still to this day puts all those others to shame.
Streisand capitalizes on her Broadway success of FUNNY GIRL to a perfect pitch with the film version. As Fanny Brice, I can't help but speculate that maybe the real Brice was born to be played by Streisand. Her Fanny is the portrayal of legendary material. When she comes out on stage at the finale of the film, she has so much emotion in her voice as she sings the Brice standard, MY MAN that you want to throw a bouquet of roses to her from your seat. During the course of the film, she is lovably comedic, genuinely sad in her low moments and shows the world that you don't have to be a great beauty to woo a good looking guy like Omar Sharif. Sharif is perfect as Nick Arnstein, Brice's first husband, a gambler whose luck doesn't hold out too long and it shows in Sharif's face when it happens. Walter Pidgeon is Florence Zeigfeld, the mogul of moguls who is only out for himself and his business where all his Folly girls are concerned. Kay Medford is her mother, Rose, (who was in the Broadway cast as her mother) the only one as the film opens that thinks Fanny would be a success in show business and received an Oscar nomination for her efforts. Jule Styne and Bob Merrill's unforgettable score is filled with great tunes like PEOPLE, DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE and I'M THE GREATEST STAR. The one song from the stage version I wish they had kept in the film is CORNET MAN, replaced in the film by another Brice standard, I'D RATHER BE BLUE OVER YOU.
West Side Story (1961)
Without serious rivals as the greatest musical film ever!
The incredible choreography and the soaring melodies are the centerpiece of this dynamic, standard-setting epic musical. In my opinion the choreography is at its greatest during the Dance at the Gym sequence partly because the background music is so contagiously brilliant and the best song (not the most POPULAR, mind you) is the TONIGHT QUARTET that last note is so incredible you just can't but wish you were up there with the cast singing right from your soul.
Natalie Wood has been crucified by the press since day one for her lack of emotion in the part but it works just fine in reality. These days she's gotten more criticism over the fact that she's as Puerto Rican as Doris Day and maybe she is but I still prefer her in the part rather than Audrey Hepburn (whom I had read was offered the part as well as CLEOPATRA and THE SOUND OF MUSIC). They should have aimed all the backlashing reviews exclusively on Richard Beymer. The part calls for a love-struck, can't-see-any-other-perspective-than-my-girl's type of boy but Beymer's Tony is a bloodless whimp. The great performance in the film is Rita Moreno as Anita. She has even more nerve and determination than George Chakiris' Bernardo. Her final scene at the end of the film is summed up as raw, resonant and outstanding. Chakiris is more calm, cool and only so amped up in the Rumble scene. He plays the perfect Latino teen of the 50s, nothing ever really bothered him until his territory was invaded (i.e. his sister). The other standouts in the cast are Susan Oakes as the lovable, determined tomboy Anybodys and Russ Tamblyn as the fun-loving, acrobatic Riff. They both give underrated performances, maybe because they looked and played like two typical kids for their day.
As a film, WEST SIDE STORY is better than the original play. Carol Lawrence who played Maria on Broadway looked more Italian than Puerto Rican, Larry Kert was too old to play Tony and Chita Rivera as Anita didn't have enough vocal power to sing. It came to the stage the same year as THE MUSIC MAN (the corniest, most sickeningly-sweet film I've ever seen) and WEST SIDE the play only won two Tonys (no surprise, the film version is better) and MUSIC MAN took home the Lion's share of awards. When WEST SIDE came to the screen it took home ten Oscars (more than any other musical film has before or since) and MUSIC MAN came out a year later and only got two Oscars (ha! ha!). Just goes to show how wrong the theater critics can be about a bad play saying it can't be made into a great film.
The best epic for all generations
Aside from Heston's hammy acting, the film is still holding very well after 40+ years. The chariot race is still the best action sequence filmed (even better than the sinking of the mighty Titanic) and most of the performances are still inspiring. It's been judged as being just a mediocre film but on the contrary its far better than that. The script is a bit flowery in the romantic parts but the conflict between Judah and Messala is just as good as anything current. The hatred between the two is so distinctive that you could cut it with a knife. Hugh Griffith provides the comic relief as the Sheik and Haya Harareet is very beautiful as Esther, Judah's love interest. The others performances are a bit outdated including Heston. His acting (in all of his films) is a little too distrustful by today's standards so it may prove a little trite in most scenes. But the story is still terrific and the costumes, sets and the action are brilliant.