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Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
A movie by numbers
It's not just that I disliked this movie......it's that I disapprove of the technique used to carve this particular bird. I love romance movies and also romantic comedies. I have a problem with the sensibilities of Nora Ephron. This woman can really write dialog exactly as people DON'T talk. If I have to see one more 8 year old that talks like Woody Allen, I think I'll croke. This is a very conventional story written with every conceivable overused, worn out, tired plot devise that you never want to see again in your lifetime. The fact that this movie was and is a success.....I believe rests on the performances of the lead actors: Hanks and Meg Ryan. She is fetching and he is......well, Tom Hanks. If you are tempted to watch this movie, try "Tender Mercies", "Paris, Texas", or the original "Affair to Remember". Pass this one by. Sorry to the scads of people who think this is good cinema.
the beauty of the swings
This is a genuinely good movie, but it's strength lies in it's attention to detail. I have never seen a sports movie where the actors were so able to duplicate the particular movements of athletes from the past. This is a baseball film, but we've never seen the players brought to the screen like this effort. I really don't care about the story about 61. I recognize the loving detail to the swing of Roger Maris and more importantly........his homerun trot. These recreations are perfect. Mickey Mantle is more complicated as he was a switch hitter. Nonetheless, his portrayal was very much the way I remember him. Billy surely made this movie from his own memories. They are good ones. I just love the swings and trots!
This documentary tells the story of the Holocaust from a particularly human and "everyman" viewpoint. Claude Lanzmann realized that the victims of this horror were gradually dying off and took the initiative to search out the innocents who had these hidious tattoos on their arms and just talk to them. Not all wanted to be a part of the picture, but Lanzmann had a very unique ability to coax and sometimes browbeat the experiences out of these ordinary people who were subjected to unspeakable horrors. This is a long and extremely painful film to watch. Make no mistake. At the end is a better understanding of man's capacity for cruelty to his fellow man. I believe that is what Lanzmann wanted to pass down to the coming generations.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Laughs and Heart
This film does a tricky thing very well. It balances belly laughs with emotion. The performances of John Candy and Steve Martin as the "buddies from hell", are priceless. The screenplay delves into every possible permutation of complete opposites. Basically, Candy plays a man that is a human unmade bed and Martin is the guy who is driven to fold his socks. Somehow, the more Martin tries to get away from Candy, the more he gets sucked into his world. No sense in going into all the details because that is the joy of watching this movie. What is particularly moving is the way two different people can share a certain underlying warmth for each other. This is a delightful picture! BTW. How can a guy make a living selling shower curtain rings? Priceless!
The Civil War (1990)
A Stunning Masterpiece
This Ken Burns epic on the Civil War stands with "Shoah" and the work on World War 1 as the greatest achievements in documentary film. I can only imagine that Burns must have made a decision to either tell the WHOLE story about the war or none. He told the whole story. It is an extensive work and demands a generous measure of the viewer's time and attention. This work makes the case that to understand the United States of America is to view, with eyes wide open, a catastrophe that happened here in the 1860's. This grand effort reveals, in close detail, the causes, stradegy and carnage of this long painful conflict. If you have a short attention span, skip this........if, on the other hand, you have a yearning to understand history.....this is your film. And then there is that music that you will never....NEVER, get out of your head again!
The Sting (1973)
Newman and Redford at their best
In 1973 I cut classes in the afternoon in San Mateo, Calif. and went to the movies! I walked into this movie without a clue what it was about (it really didn't formally open til' that night). There was nobody else in the theatre. I preface my review with that personal note because this film has become so familiar today that people forget how good it was and is. I won't go into the details of the film other than to say that all of the performances are top notch and the story is very clever even on the 10th viewing. That day seeing this movie at the theatre across from the Hillsdale Mall, I knew........KNEW that it would get Best Picture. I think every parent does, and should wait for the day when their kids are old enough to watch and appreciate this American classic!
The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)
If the estate of J.D. Salinger ever sells the movie rights to "Catcher in the Rye", we can only pray that it doesn't fall into the hands of a director like this. The Tom Wolfe novel of Bonfires had everything........this horrid movie has nothing. How could this happen? I sat in stunned disbelief at this picture. I honestly don't understand how this story was so mishandled. Tom Wolfe's work has been done quite well for the screen before (See "the Right Stuff"). This movie takes all the wrong steps. I won't go into all the specifics about the plot, etc. The actors cannot be blamed for this flop......other than Bruce Willis, who is just painful to watch in this outing. No, the blame rests completely on the shoulders of the director, Brian de Palma. It's is almost incomprehensible that this is the same man that directed "Body Double". See THAT movie and skip this thing. This is a story that will be filmed again because it is very interesting. Just wait for that one.
The Accidental Tourist (1988)
Recovering from loss
This is a film about loss and how one man wanders through life and finally sees a light at the end of the tunnel. The man is Macon Leary and he recently lost his son to a senseless stick-up robbery at a hamburger joint. Macon wasn't particularly well adjusted before the death of his son, but after he is simply limping through each day. See how almost every scene in the early parts of this film are shot in the dark and you understand the depths of Macon's depression. The good news is that, although you will cry, this is not a depressing movie! Macon has this enchanting dog named Edward and finds that this little hound requires some training (for reasons you will find). At the ready is a quirky, stuggling woman named Murial. Murial has an eye for Macon and she gradually brings him back to the sunshine. There are all kinds of details I've left out and for good reason. This is a movie that should be savored and thought out. If anyone has experienced a personal loss......this rendition of the Anne Tyler Novel will bring some solice.
Paris, Texas (1984)
A Unique movie experience
It is truly rare in film when you are presented with a character whose life you are immediately intrigued by. Paris, Texas gives you that kind of character. From the first moments you see this man walking across the barren southwest in no particular direction you wonder.......where is he going and why? The entire film thoughtfully explains just those questions. This movie is subtle and deep. The performances are uniformly top notch with Harry Dean Stanton playing the role of his career. This is not a film for those who are drawn to big budget Hollywood pictures.........it is for those who want to truly consider the arc of a troubled man's life. This is a fantastic film!
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
A Flawed View of Sexual Tension
Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest film makers of all time. Unfortunately, he.....like most creative people, ran out of inspiration years and years ago. I've watched this movie over and over and I still come up with the same blank page. I remember walking out of the theatre after watching 2001 the first time and having that wondering. This movie begs the same instinct, but without the substance. Eyes Wide Shut is not a BAD movie, in fact.......it is very well worth watching. It is just not a Kubrick quality movie. As long as I am slamming this picture, I might as well take the time to say how awful Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were in this endeavor. I never believed him as a DR. or her as anything. Sydney Pollock worked in his role as the shadowy rich guy, but they didn't do much with him either. This movie is a disappointment.