Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Facing the Giants (2006)
There are enough things wrong with this movie that I should rate it a 2 but I love this movie so much I can overlook the flaws very easily. I've seen it so many times I've now lost count. First, what's wrong with this movie.
1.) With the exception of the main character, there are very few women in the picture. Grant Taylor has a wife, there is a teacher and there also is a clinic featuring 2 women but other than that, none of the boys seem to have a mother. Matt has a father as does David but neither boy has a "mom," although David's father does wear a wedding ring. A small point but a mighty one.
2.) The African-American coach is one step above "Steppin Fetchit" or "Amos & Andy." He talks in a rather lazy fashion and seems a little bit slow although he isn't. When he gives David a "unique" way of remembering how to get the ball in between the goal posts or when he keeps up with Larry, his coaching partner, in a game of one-upsmanship of famous names, you see how intelligent he is but for much of the movie, he seems to be a bit of a doofus. In this day and age of political correctness, it's NOT a good idea to portray an African-American character as slow or dim-witted.
3.) Coach Taylor's hair. C'mon, guys, you could have done better with the front of his hair than what we see. It makes the coach look stupid, dorky - kind of like a Jim Carrey character.
Now, what's Right about this movie:
1.) God. There is lots of "God Talk" in this movie and I don't mind. This is a fundamentalist Christian view of God and may seem somewhat simplistic but it works, at least in this movie. Too bad real life isn't that easy (trust God and you'll get what you want). I'm Roman Catholic but I found the "God parts" very inspirational, although somewhat hokey at times. 2.) The acting. While it's not Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet," you really believe Alex Kendrick as Coach Taylor and Shannen Field as Brooke. Some scenes are heartbreaking and others are very funny. But all in all, it's a delightful pairing of 2 obvious believers. 3.) Let's face it, some of those young football players are CUTE, especially David and Zach. Clean-cut, with short hair and decent clothes (David even wears a tie to the final game!) without looking like nerds or geeks. That's refreshing.
All in all, I love this movie. Ii'm not a football fanatic and so I fast-forward some of those scenes. Other readers have pointed out football mistakes; I wouldn't know and I really don't care. To me, this movie isn't so much about football as it is about faith. It would be far worse if the mistakes were in faith instead of football. When I find myself feeling down and this movie is on, I watch it and I'm immediately uplifted. There aren't too many movies that can say that. And I doubt this movie will ever air on network television --- too much religion - GOD FORBID. That's a shame, though, because it's an uplifting, inspiring movie and many young people would benefit from watching it.
Sor Teresa de los Andes (1989)
A young girl in Chile at the turn of the century decides to become a Carmelite sister. Hardly scandalous but also hardly typical. Born the 4th of 6 children, Juana Fernandez, known affectionately as Juanita, realizes early that the great love of her life is Jesus Christ. However, this young woman is no plaster saint - she loves clothes, parties and sports and she realizes she has a problem with pride and vanity. Nevertheless, she is willing to give up the comfort of her home and the warmth and companionship of her family for the cold, harsh life of the Carmelite sisters in the Andes. Once there, she takes the name Teresa, after her two heroines, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux. The edition I've seen is in Spanish with English subtitles. Normally, I wouldn't be caught dead watching a so-called "foreign" film but this production is exceptional. EWTN airs it annually, marking the birth of this wonderful modern saint who was canonized by Pope John Paul II. I recommend this production most highly. True, there is no violence or sex but it is highly dramatic and it takes you to a higher plain.
84 Charing Cross Road (1987)
A Quiet Gem
The British are known for movies that can tear your heart out without excessive emoting. "84 Charing Cross Road" is one such picture. It's been on many, many times and I know my mother loved this movie but I never saw it, who knows why. But having "discovered" Dame Judi Dench, who has a somewhat minor part, I wanted to see her in this movie. Well, I was mesmerized! There was no "snap and pop" here; just the quiet story of a book lover and a bookseller who live on 2 different continents and who are total opposites (or so it seems) but who form a friendship through letters --- what today's youngsters would call snail mail. She's a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker with a New York accent as thick as a deli sandwich. He's a dyed-in-the-wool Englishman whose accent isn't as thick but who is British through and through. Yet they both share a passion for books. This gentle true story, based on Helene Hanff's book, is told mainly through their correspondence and what a terrific correspondence it was.
Letter-writing, unfortunately, is a lost art. As convenient as Email is, it's not quite the same as a good, old-fashioned letter. This movie reminded me of that and of the 17-year correspondence I shared with my best friend (he has since died). I'm told I have a talent for letter-writing and I have 2 friends with whom I share this talent. I used to think those friends should get a computer but now I see I was wrong. Email is expedient but letter-writing is so much more long-lasting.
One of the reasons I stayed with the picture was one scene: Helene goes to the movies (remember, this was 1950) and what are they playing? My all-time favorite movie, "Brief Encounter." I couldn't turn away after that and I'm glad I stayed with it. This is one movie I definitely will add to my DVD and/or VHS collection. It's a keeper for sure.
The Egyptian (1954)
Swords and Sandals Saga
I'll start off right at the beginning by saying "I like this movie." It's sweeping, it's grand, it's gripping and it's fun. Sinhue the physician,sits in front of his small stone hut writing his memoirs. And what a story it is! Taken from a river and reared by an elderly couple who doted on him, he becomes a physician to the poor. He befriends Horemheb who sees glory while Sinhue sees healing. And both run into the future pharaoh Anknaten (forgive my spellings), who endures an epileptic fit.
And this pharaoh has another "flaw": He believes in one god instead of a pantheon of gods. Back then, this was totally revolutionary. Sinhue and Horemheb grow up. One night, Sinhue sees a woman who makes him lose his senses. He gives up his practice, sells his parents' home and even their tombs just to spend a night with her. Does he? I won't tell. Meanwhile, Merit, a tavern maid played with sweet simplicity belying strength by Jean Simmons, falls in love with Sinhue. She falls under his spell and under the spell of the belief in one god.
Victor Mature overacts perfectly as Horemheb. Edmond Purdom is sincere as Sinhue the lost physician (does he find redemption? Stay tuned). Even Bela Darvi, the woman who steals Sinhue's heart isn't as bad as everyone has said. The fact that she was Daryl F. Zanuck's mistress had nothing to do with the casting - right? Yeah, right...still, she wasn't that bad _ I've seen worse. I think she did better in "The Egyptian" than many of today's young actresses have done in anything. I said it before and I'll say it again -- I like this movie. I recommend it. It makes you think despite some hammy acting. Have fun with this movie; it's worth it.
Star Trek: The Menagerie: Part I (1966)
In the old commercial for blank audio cassettes, the tag line was "is it real or is it Memorex?" The same might be said for the events in this episode - a compilation and remix of "The Cage," the first pilot of Star Trek. Mr. Spock has cleverly commandeered the ship to take it to the forbidden planet Talos IV in order to allow Capt. Christopher Pike, his first captain who has been burned and paralyzed, to return there. Why the finagling? Because to have any contact at all with Talos IV invites a death sentence. Why this is so is never explained - that bothered me tremendously - but, if nothing else, it adds to the story. After he has gotten the ship to travel to Talos IV, Mr. Spock turns himself in to Dr. McCoy (the senior-most officer present; Capt. Kirk was off the ship) for arrest and says, "The charge is mutiny, Dr.; I never received orders to take over the ship." What follows is a court martial in which - thanks to the Talosians - we learn why it was so important (besides the obvious paralysis) for Capt. Pike to get to Talos IV even at risk of Mr. Spock's death. The illusions the Talosians create, the background music and the entire storyline are fantastic. And Meg Wyllie as The Keeper (the head Talosian) is wonderful. Call me sexist but it never occurred to me to have a woman in that role but she was perfect! The Talosians, having given up almost all physical activity and becoming almost completely reliant upon the power of illusion, are also unisex; you can't really tell if they're male or female and it really doesn't matter. This episode, more than almost any other in the series, makes me hope and pray there are other worlds out there and that there are civilizations that are so far advanced! What a neat thing if this were so! This is one of my favorite episodes and, no matter how many times I've seen it (I even have it on video), it never fails to fascinate me. Meg Wyllie LOOKS like an alien and I do NOT mean that unkindly.
Ahead of its time
Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey and Geraldine Brooks give outstanding performances in a movie that is well ahead of its time. It's the story of what happens after a woman suffers from psychosis. However, it's not the portrayal of a yowling inmate but a normal-appearing woman whose insanity comes upon her slowly but inevitably.
Miss Crawford portrays Louise Howell, nurse to the neurotic wife of oil tycoon (BEFORE we became dependent on Middle Eastern oil) Dean Graham. We never see Mrs. Graham but we hear her, constantly accusing her husband(played by Mr. Massey) of having an affair with Louise.
Louise is having an affair alright but it's not with Mr. Graham. Instead, it's with architect David Sutton, played so well by Van Heflin. For David, his relationship with Louise is little more than a lark - a good time was had by all - but he isn't ready to settle down. He tries to explain that to Louise but she gets bent out of shape and becomes possessive about and obsessed with him. Finally, however, David accepts a job FAR AWAY,with Mr. Graham's oil firm. After David leaves and Mrs. Graham dies (is it murder or suicide? Louise, in the beginnings of her confusion, isn't sure which), Louise decides to marry the lonely widower even though she tells him she's not in love with him and even though his daughter Carol (played so well by Gerladine Brooks) dislikes her intensely.
Later, in a cruel bit of irony, David comes home, meets Carol and the two fall in love. This time, David wants to get married but to Carol and not to Louise. Louise tries to talk her out of it but Carol becomes more determined than ever to marry the older, oafish architect. Things get pretty dicey after that and this is when Miss Crawford's performance goes from good to brilliant. If she wasn't nominated for an Academy Award, she should have been; in fact, she should have gotten it for her role in this movie. It's not easy playing a woman going slowly insane because it's not the obvious signs of insanity she has to convey; it's the slow insanity that results from years of inevitable tortures she must express. That's not easy but an actress of Miss Crawford's obvious brilliance was able to pull it off beautifully. This is a marvelous "woman's picture" and I highly recommend it. It's one of my all-time favorites and one of Miss Crawford's best pictures.
Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
The best by far
Of all the movies about Jesus Christ ever made, this one is the best by far. Perhaps the main reason is its lead, an unknown British actor named Robert Powell, who was 34 years old when this movie was made (there is a myth saying he was only 23 but that's not right; he was born in 1944 and the movie was made in 1978). His Jesus is ordinary - he is the typical, average Jewish male of ancient Israel - and yet he possesses a mysticism about him that ordinary folk cannot figure out (in the movie, that mysticism is accentuated by the fact that Mr. Powell rarely blinks!). Mr. Powell's portrayal of the man many consider the Messiah is nothing short of brilliant in its understated authenticity. I wasn't watching an actor portraying Jesus; at times, I felt like I was watching Jesus Himself.
Another favorite portrayal of mine is that of James Farentino as Simon Peter, who later would become the first pope, the holder of the Keys of the Kingdom. Mr. Farentino's Peter is no plaster-cast saint; instead, he is an ordinary fisherman, angry at the Roman taxes that grind him and his neighbors into deplorable poverty. And when his brother Andrew introduces Simon Peter to Jesus, his reaction is so perfect: "What, another Holy Man?" And he spits in anger when, upon returning from a long and useless day, this "holy man" tells him to go out again. Peter replies "Come - you can preach to the fish." Mr. Farentino perfectly captures the essence of Peter and it is a joy to watch.
Much of the supporting cast reads like a veritable "Who's Who" in Hollywood and England. Sir Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus; James Mason as Joseph of Arimathea; Cyril Cusak as Yehuda the Rabbi; Ralph Richardson as Simeon the Prophet; Anthony Quinn as Caiphus and Ian Holm as Zera add life and sparkle to the cast. Even the music, the authenticity of the costumes and the way the people live gives believability, a "you-are-there" feeling to this wonderful production. And when Mr. Powell speaks in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, in a few occasions, then it's an absolute revelation.
This is, as I said, the best portrayal of Jesus Christ that has ever been made. It's long and the 2nd segment tends to drag a bit but the final 2 hours make any lapses more than worth it. I'm sure anyone who knows the story of Christ knows what happens but I won't spoil it if you don't know. Suffice it to say Mr. Powell's performance alone in the last segment make his a magnificent performance. Please - run, don't walk, to the nearest video store to buy the DVD or VHS set.
Omnibus: Song of Summer (1968)
Song of Sadness and Hope
A middle-age composer is struck down by paralysis and blindness brought on by syphilis. All the music still living inside him must remain there forever, or so it seems, until a young man volunteers his time to bring that music to life. Such is the remarkable but true story of Frederic Delius and his amanuenses, Eric Fenby.
In 1929, Eric Fenby was a young man living in England, a frustrated musician earning money by playing background music for Laurel & Hardy films. One night, he reads in the paper of Frederic Delius' tragic plight and, possessing a young man's impulsiveness, decides to go to Grez-sur-Loing, where Delius lives with his wife, Jelka, and offer his assistance.
When they first meet, it is NOT a meeting of the minds. Delius (played so wickedly wonderfully well by Max Adrian) says he wants to compose and he starts humming. Fenby, in frustration, realizing the uphill battle he has taken on, asks, "What key is it in, Sir" and Delius loses patience with the well-meaning young man. An uneasy start, to be sure, but by the end, previously unheard music finds its way onto paper and into concert halls.
This is a wonderful little film, part of a PBS series titled "Biography." The series had been narrated by Lady Antonia Fraser and she did a wonderful job introducing the film and understanding just what a miracle had occurred in 1929 when Fenby decided to help Delius.
But this movie is far from being maudlin and you do NOT end up feeling sorry for Delius. Despite being blind and paralyzed, he is not without talent and he certainly isn't without wit.
When Fenby asks him what he thinks of certain composers, he says of one, "He would have set the entire Bible to music if he'd lived long enough." He also decides to act as a father to Fenby - not having children of his own and being so much older than Fenby, it probably was natural in the course of their relationship. Being an atheist, he suggests Fenby get rid of his "great Christian blinders" but Fenby, being a devout Roman Catholic, ignores this suggestion.
But, later in the film, Fenby ends up being the "parent" as Delius becomes sicker and Jelka develops stomach cancer and requires surgery. He had served as a confidant to Jelka and it is from her that he (and we) learns what Delius was like as a young man - his incredible womanizing, the brutal way he treated Jelka and finally, his contracting syphilis from the women with whom he had slept.
And in the end, no matter how tragic their plight, Delius and Fenby together brought to light some incredibly beautiful music - the music that inspired the title and the picture. It runs like a thread throughout the film and gives it a joy and a hope you would not expect considering the subject.
This wonderful movie is well worth a look if it ever appears on TV again. It's available on British DVD but not on American DVD or VHS. That's a shame. However, the music that inspired it is available on CD and is also well worth listening to. And viewers will be amazed at what Fenby gave up - and what we all got - as a result of his service - which lasted for 5 years until Delius died - to a great composer. We are all blessed by the sacrifice.
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
Blue Gardenia, the flower of murder
A date with a ne'er do well named Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" and "Ironsides" fame) leads a telephone operator into a web of deceit and murder in this 1940s-style (actually made in 1953) film-noir classic, "Blue Gardenia." Nora Larkin (Anne Baxter) gets a cruel birthday present in the form of a "Dear Jane" letter from her soldier boyfriend serving in Korea. Prebble, who draws for a living, "hits" on the telephone operators of a local company. He calls the apt. of 3 of the operators who live together in a flat. Nora Larkin answers and impulsively decides to accept Prebble's invitation to drinks and dinner at a Chinese restaurant nearby. The next thing Nora knows, she has a colossal hangover from too many "Polynesian Pearldiver" drinks and she learns her date was murdered. She doesn't remember killing him but she does recall trying to repel his sexual advances, grabbing a fireplace poker and shattering a mirror.
Assuming she did it, she because extremely testy and high strung; her 2 roommates - Crystal Carpenter (played so well by Ann Sothern) and Sally Ellis (Jeff Donnell) - try to figure out what's wrong. Finally, Crystal, a "party girl" figures it out.
An interesting plot twist is the addition of Casey Mayo (Richard Conte, who later went on to play Barzini in "The Godfather"), a hardboiled reporter for the Los Angeles Chronicle. He writes an open letter in the newspaper to the girl dubbed the "Blue Gardenia Killer" and Nora meets him at a local watering hole. She tells him it's a friend who committed the murder but Casey finds out later she is the one. But in the meantime, he has fallen in love with her and he and her roommates work to find the real killer which (unlike the OJ Simpson case) they do.
The real killer turns out to be a minor character and that was a disappointment. But Anne Baxter's portrayal as Nora, a complex character, and Ann Sothern's portrayal as the floozy with a heart of gold, make this a nice, decent little movie. I don't think I'd want to own a copy of this film but I'll watch it whenever it comes on because of the aforementioned performances and because I've always loved Raymond Burr, Nat "King" Cole and the song "Blue Gardenia."
Beauty and the Beast (1987)
Perhaps the Best Television Show ever
I found this show by accident one Friday night and became hooked immediately. Here was an intelligent, well-acted program for adults. It was not sexually explicit, nor gratuitously violent. It had something most TV shows do not have: Romance.
Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman were absolutely perfect together as the beautiful lawyer who lives above and Ron Perlman as the "hideous" beast whose curse is that he is ugly on the outside and who never gets a chance to reveal his inner beauty until he saves Catherine. Knowing how tormented he was because of his deformities was heart-breaking and yet he blossomed as he and Catherine found real love.
Normally, I would be pleased when an actress leaves a show to spend time with her son, as Miss Hamilton did. I'm all for women staying home to be with their children over spending time at a carer; at risk of being hopelessly old-fashioned, I believe women with children should stay home to care for them. However, in this case, it was one of her worst decisions because her marriage to the father of this child fizzled. She later had a child and then married James Cameron of "Titanic" fame, only to lose him to a star of that overblown ocean-going vehicle. She did have success with the Terminator movies but those were nothing but Schwarzenegger fests. Meanwhile B&B also suffered because they just couldn't find a woman to replace Catherine. Diana just didn't have it.
The fact that the show lasted 3 seasons (2 with Miss Hamilton) is a testament to its quality. Of course, we can't have quality on TV - there's not enough T&A, violence, or out and out stupidity (think Jessica Simpson here). But for the 3 years this show was on, it was a real Friday night Feast. And I do thank Mr. Perlman and Miss Hamilton for the years they gave us and I thank Mr. Perlman for the CD of music and poetry from the show. It's still heart-wrenchingly beautiful to listen to Vincent as he narrates works by Matthew Arnold, e.e. cummings and, of course, the King of all poetry, plays and prose, Mr. William Shakespeare.
It would be a miracle if CBS were to air a "reunion" movie but I think there will be a tropical heat wave in the South Pole before that happens. Too bad - it sure beats the stupidity of such shows as The Newlyweds, starring the aforementioned Jessica Simpson, or Reality TV, American Idol and the other slime that passes for decent television. Meanwhile, I'll be content with VHS copies of B&B or I'll wait patiently until the DVDs come out.
Same Time, Next Year (1978)
A Sheer Delight
Two people meet at a seaside inn one night in 1951 and are attracted to one another although each is married to someone else. After spending the night together and realizing they've fallen in love, each agrees to meet on the same weekend each year for a rendezvous and each keeps that promise. We see this couple age and grow together from 1951, just after the war, to 1977, just after Vietnam. Seeing each character grow as human beings together and apart is amazing.
Alan Alda plays the happily neurotic accountant beautifully off Ellen Burstyn's naive "stay-at-home" mother who blossoms into a confident, talented businesswoman. Mr. Alda's character, George, doesn't grow as obviously as Miss Burstyn's Doris, but both absorb and survive some of life's best and worst experiences. Some of Miss Burstyn's transformations are a bit jarring - arriving one year to the reunion 8 months pregnant comes to mind, as does her transformation from a suburban housewife to a Berkeley University hippie chick. And Alan Alda's transformation from an uptight Goldwater Republican to the typical 1970s man who ditches the corporate life, grows a mustache, wears his hair longer and also uses every typical 1970s cliché in existence is also a bit jarring but it can be forgiven because Mr. Alda pulls it off so well.
Two characters who make their presence deeply felt even though you never see them are George's wife, Helen, and Doris' husband, Harry. We learn about them and come to know and appreciate them even though they never appear. Only from George and Doris' "good" and "bad" stories about their spouses do you get to know what these 2 absent people are like and you find they are funny and sad, poignant and ordinary and totally human and three-dimensional in their foibles. It's a nice touch to a story that could easily have been one-dimensional.
"Same Time, Next Year" is based on a Broadway play and it makes the transition very smoothly. In fact, what makes the transition so smooth are the historical pictorial vignettes injected between "years." I remember many of the events depicted and you can't help but feel nostalgic. Also, the movie's theme song, played to accompany the vignettes, is wonderful! All in all this is a delightful little movie with some stark drama and hilarious comedy sometimes in the same scene. It's a rare actor who can do comedy and drama so convincingly and Mr. Alda and Miss Burstyn proved beyond the shadow of the doubt they are more than capable of doing this - they are superb!
My Last Love (1999)
Not 'Terms of Endearment'
Susan Morton (Nancy Travis) is an attorney and a single mother who learns she has cancer so she takes her daughter, Carson, age 9, back to California where she grew up and where her parents still live. While there, she meets and falls in love with Michael Blake (Scott Bairstow), a waiter. Later, after her young lover leaves her when she tells him she has cancer, she learns her disease is not responding. (Later, she finds out the cancer has spread to her brain and the inference is clear: the disease is terminal). Shortly after Michael leaves (we learn he lost his sister to cancer), Susan's precocious daughter finds him and convinces him to return to her mother, which he does.
Although the performances are above average, the things we see in this movie are disturbing and not for the obvious reasons of this being a "terminally-ill-mother disease of the week" movie. The daughter is a spoiled, precocious, angry child who is incredibly fresh to her mother. Granted, this was made in the late 1990s but even at my age, I would never think to speak to my mother or my grandparents the way this child speaks to her relatives. This really disturbed me and I did not and do not excuse it because the child's mother is dying.
Another disturbing thing is that this woman is living with a man who is neither her husband nor her daughter's father. Again, I realize this movie was made in the 1990s but a man and woman living together without being married but with a child in the house causes me some qualms.
Finally, there is the stereotypical "single mother vs. the old 'square' parents" (Susan's parents, played so well by character actors James Karen and Holland Taylor). Susan is a free-spirited professional woman who has had a couple of boyfriends after her divorce from Carson's father. Her parents, meanwhile, are portrayed as stuffed shirts who -- god forbid -- want their granddaughter to look like a feminine little girl instead of like a "member of a gang." Finally, Susan's parents want custody of Carson when Susan dies but instead, Susan sees to it her boyfriend gets custody. Maybe this is the "modern" thing to do but that doesn't make it right.
The last half hour of this movie is a little more universal - a dying woman asks her mother if she really loves her. This same woman then tells her daughter she is enough, to keep her heart open and to always be true. These are universal lessons and were told wonderfully in an incredible acting by However, we could have done without the modern morality tale and then it would have been worthy of being compared to "Terms of Endearment" or "Message from Holly."
Ordinary People (1980)
The perfect life of the perfect family is destroyed when the older of 2 sons dies in a sailing accident, leaving the parents and his younger brother to grieve, pick up and carry on. But how they accomplish this makes this movie a shattering but ultimately uplifting (in parts) experience.
Buck Jarrett drowns after he and his younger brother, Conrad, go sailing on a questionable day. Later, Conrad, feeling the guilt of his brother's death, tries to commit suicide by slashing his wrists. This turns out to be a blessing in disguise because the true personalities of his parents, Cal and Beth, as well as his own ability to grow are revealed when Conrad returns from the psychiatric hospital after a 4-month stay.
Conrad is given the name of Dr. Tyrone Berger, a psychiatrist (marvelously played by Judd Hirsch) who is unconventional to say the least. He dresses casually, drinks coffee he makes in his office and smokes incessantly (this is pre anti-tobacco). And he doesn't buy into the psychobabble practiced by many psychiatrists. At first, Conrad tells Dr. Berger he wants to gain control but what he really wants is to not feel - not feel the pain of his brother's death and what he believes is his part in it. But that unravels through a series of experiences he endures as the movie proceeds. In choir practice, Conrad is smitten with Jeannine Pratt (beautifully played by Elizabeth McGovern), a fellow singer who has an ability to recognize Conrad's pain without being amazed, horrified or judgmental. And Conrad also has a friend, Karen, (played nicely by Dinah Manoff)whom he'd met in the hospital and who can relate to his experiences there.
Donald Sutherland as Cal, Mary Tyler Moore as Beth and Timothy Hutton as Conrad give outstanding, Oscar-caliber performances. Cal tries to keep his feelings hidden by wearing a mask of bravado, carrying on and functioning in a world that has taken his son away. He loves Conrad and also recognizes his pain and his alienation fom his mother though he realizes he can't "fix it." But it's Mary Tyler Moore's performance as Beth that is so amazing. She is plastic through and through and it gets to the point of being downright annoying and yet MTM's portrayal is perfect. Of all the characters, hers is really the most disturbed. She wants to have things exactly as they were even though she mourns the loss of her firstborn son. She can't love Conrad because he committed the one unforgivable sin - he survived while her favorite did not.
Timothy Hutton, sadly, has never had a movie to top "Ordinary People." He has done other work, of course, (most notably in my opinion, "Taps") and can be seen currently as Archie in "Nero Wolf" on A&E. But his role as the troubled surviving son who rises from the pain in "Ordinary People" is truly magnificent and shattering. He earned the Oscar and he truly deserved it. And as he accepted his Academy Award, he remembered his father, actor Jim Hutton, who had died from liver cancer shortly before Timothy got the award. That was a classy thing to do. I hope Mr. Hutton gets another plum role like this one; everything else he has done since pales in comparison.
JEREMY BRETT IS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Last night "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes: The Creeping Man" aired on the Biography Channel. It started out scary but with a typical British flair for understatement. But it ended up amazingly! Charles Kay, a marvelous character actor if ever there was one, played a widower with a daughter engaged to his assistant. One morning she tells her father she has seen an intruder at her window. Her father gives her the "there-there" treatment, saying she was only dreaming because her bedroom is too high up for an intruder. But when the truth comes out, the story becomes a feat of sheer amazement, especially the end which I shall not spoil by giving it away here. All I can say is Charles Kay should have gotten the British equivalent of an Emmy for that performance. I think he even surpassed the (late) GREAT Jeremy Brett, whose Sherlock Holmes is so wonderful. Mr. Kay, if you can read this, I hope you know how much I enjoyed that scene last night and how much I've enjoyed all your works. And I wish with all my heart I could tell Jeremy Brett how marvelous I always thought he was, whether he was playing a toy soldier in 19th century Russia (Nicholas in "War & Peace,"), a martinet in "My Fair Lady" (even if he didn't really sing "On the Street Where You Live" to Audrey Hepburn) or as Sherlock Holmes. I used to think there was only one Sherlock Holmes - Mr. Basil Rathbone. Now I see there are 2. And I hope they're in heaven, talking to one another about Sherlock and talking with the "discoverer" (author) of Sherlock Holmes, namely, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Anyway, if you didn't see the episode last night, then wait until it comes back again or if you don't want to wait, then order the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. This was a marvelous episode in a truly marvelous series.
The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968)
Gulag worker Kiril Lakota is soldering pieces of metal together in a Soviet prison camp when he hears his number over a loudspeaker. He is summoned to the office of the premiere of the Soviet Union -- the same man who had imprisoned him 20 years earlier. The premiere asks the man, a bishop in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, if he is ready to go back into the world. The next thing he knows, Kiril is on a flight to the Vatican, where he is greeted and lauded by the pope. Later, the pope dies and through a complicated system, Kiril is elected pope and uses his own name as the name he will use during his papacy. Before being elected, Kiril has befriended Fr. David Telemond, a brilliant but controversial priest who is suffering from a terminal blood disorder and whose works are suspect. Later, as Pope Kiril I, he names Fr. Telemond as his personal secretary, over the advice of a well-meaning but jealous older cardinal. The petty squabbles of the cardinals, the love affair of a television journalist who covers the Vatican, the distress of the man's wife and the sharp differences between the rich and the poor of the Vatican soon pale, however, when World War III looms because the Chinese people are starving and no one has come forward to help. When Pope Kiril I comes up with a solution that will feed the Chinese people and avert a 3rd World War, the church is shocked and the people laud his actions. What does he decide to do? Watch the movie to find out ... it's well worth it.
The performance of Anthony Quinn as Kiril I is truly outstanding -- his Ukrainian accent, his almost mystical yet practical manner and his eloquent speeches make this an Oscar-worthy performance (why he wasn't nominated, I'll never know). Oskar Werner as Fr. Telemond was equally touching. Flattered at being chosen to be the pope's friend, secretary and confidant, he comes to realize he has taught the pope many things while learning a few things himself. Thinly based on the life of Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Oskar Werner gives a moving performance as the terminally ill, brilliant but troubled priest-philosopher-thinker. This is by no means a perfect movie --- some of the clothes are dated and the music at the party where the reporter meets up with his mistress is annoying. But minor flaws aside, this is a wonderful movie that gives tremendous insight into the workings of the Vatican, the papacy and even the human heart.
The Ten Commandments (1956)
A Holiday Tradition
This movie is absolute FUN! I look forward to Easter or, in this case, Palm Sunday and Passover, because I know ABC will air this 4-hour blockbuster (only 3+ hours but ABC has to have its share of commercials) What makes this movie so much fun to watch is the story, some of the truly classic lines and the special effects. The story, as the title implies, is about the 10 commandments -- how Moses received them and what happened to the Hebrews who were enslaved by Egypt. In other words, the Exodus. (If you're looking for accuracy, you won't find it here but the movie is so good it doesn't matter). Some of the classic lines include Ann Baxter as Nefriteri replying, "I prefer him as a man" when Sethi says people would prefer Moses as a god. Also, "I love you. That's the only truth I know," she responds when Moses wants to know if she killed the old slave Memnet. And Yul Brynner calling her a "treacherous, sharp-clawed little peacock" and telling Nefriteri, "You're food for the gods and I'm going to have all of you." Lines like this are almost laughable and might be edited out of any other movie but for some reason, they fit in this film and they actually add to it.
The special effects remain dazzling even in this day and age where you can have an entire movie with no real characters ("Finding Nemo" comes to mind). I still ask myself "How'd they DO that" when I see the famous parting of the Red Sea. Part of me wants to know and yet part of me would be terribly disillusioned if I found out. Even when Moses goes up to the burning bush with short-cropped hair and comes down with a salt-and-pepper lion's mane is amazing. And of course, turning the stick into a cobra and the other plagues that hit Egypt, are also amazing. I could say a lot more about this movie but suffice it to say this really is a terrific film, a lot of fun, a good, old-fashioned epic. It's a Joy to see such wondrous portrayals of Charlton Heston as Moses; John Derek as Joshua; Debra Paget as Lilia; Sir Cedrick Hardwicke as Sethi; Martha Scott as Yoshebel; Nina Foch as Bithia; Dame Judith Anderson as Memnet and, done with such delightful wickedness, Yul Brynner as Ramses; Edward G. Robinson as Dathan and Vincent Price as Baka. To add a cliche to this review: They just don't make 'em like this anymore. And that is too bad.
The Martian Chronicles (1980)
WHO ARE THE MARTIANS
Spoiler This version of Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" nearly knocks you senseless with the decidedly unsubtle way in which it conveys its message, namely, that it's not always a good idea to colonize a new land or planet simply because we can. That being said, this miniseries was excellent for many reasons (Rock Hudson was NOT one of them, however). First of all, the actors and actress who portrayed the Martians (pre-Earth colonization Martians, that is) were as eery and as beautiful and as mysterious as one would expect, with their golden eyes (how did they do that?) lyrical music, crystal-type cities and their cerebral lifestyle. Their beauty and intelligence complement the dolts who came from Earth to colonize (and steal) their planet. The pre-settlers Martians were as, I believe, Mr. Bradbury would have wanted them portrayed. But the settlers, for the most part, were idiots, totally devoid of any feeling for the planet they were conquering. Of course there were a few who appreciated the Martian culture - Capt. Wilder (Rock Hudson) and his colleague, astronaut Jeff Spender (Bernie Casey). But even they become twisted after a while; Wilder realizes he and his family are the Martians now and Spender's body is taken over by a Martian and ends up being killed, ironically, by Wilder.
The most interesting parts of this miniseries was the beginning of the 1st part ("The Explorers") where we get a glimpse of Martian life before the spaceship of "Rocket Summer" descends. My favorite segment came in the final segment when Capt. Wilder meets a Martian through a time warp. The Martian and Wilder get into a philosophic discussion and the Martian gives Wilder a philosphy of life by which to live. (I copied word for word, it is such a good philosophy). By the way, the Secret, as it is called, is not in the book, which is too bad. The worst segments are the one in which a lonely man finds a woman and the two decidedly don't hit it off. The acting, by Christopher Connelly and Bernadette Peters, is fine; it's just the story is annoying and too long. Even more annoying was the storyline of Sam Parkhill and his wife. Sam came with the Wilder expedition and, upon settling, he and his wife set up a roadside diner. Only toward the end, when Sam and his wife see Earth destroyed in a nuclear holocaust does the irritation change into something searingly frightening. But it goes back to being annoying when Sam meets a Martian who has come to give him a treaty bequeathing nearly half of Mars to Sam. Instead of being grateful or trying to understand what this tall, regal Martian is saying, Sam (dressed in a ridiculous toupee and cowboy outfit) shoots the Martian. Overall, this is an entertaining and thought-provoking (though NOT subtle) miniseries and is worth the time. I recommend it highly.
The Mortal Storm (1940)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Things we take for granted such as freedom to think as we believe and to express those thoughts were snatched away abruptly from the German people in 1933 when Adolph Hitler was "elected" chancellor of Germany. Freedom was replaced by the New Order and as most people know, millions of people were murdered simply because they didn't fit the racial "norms" or accept the dictates of what the government said one should believe,
It's 1933 and Professor Viktor Roth (Frank Morgan) lives with his wife, 2 step sons, daughter and young son in a comfortable home in a university town in the Alps. Although the word is never mentioned, it is clear Professor Roth is Jewish and his life becomes endangered when the Nazis take over. While his 2 stepsons join the party, as does Fritz, his daughter's fiance (played by Robert Young), his daughter and their old family friend Martin (played by Jimmy Stewart) defy the common tide and resist joining the party. And it is Jimmy Stewart who expresses it best - by saying freedom to believe as a person wants to is food and drink to him. And it turns out, it's food and drink to Freya Roth (played by Margaret Sullavan), the young daughter to whom he is attracted. She breaks her engagement to Fritz and escapes -- or tries to -- with Martin. He had already fled to still free Austria while helping a Jewish school teacher escape.
This movie says much about what we take for granted - the sacredness of the right to act, believe, speak and think as a person wishes to, unencumbered by government dictates or threats. These gifts are precious and we have no idea just how precious until they are threatened. If, God forbid, that should ever happen, it is only hoped we have the same courage as young Freya and Martin.
This movie is compelling in a quiet way. There are no shoot 'em ups, no gory prison or execution scenes, no barbarity is shown. But it is there nevertheless and perhaps that is what makes the viewer keep watching. The only drawback is that it was written in 1940 so viewers back then don't really know the ending because the war had another 4 y ears to go and victory was by no means certain in 1940. The U.S. hadn't entered the war yet but word was leaking out as to what was really going on in Germany at the time. It's a shame more people didn't listen and that more people didn't pay attention to the message delivered in such a subtle way in this movie.
Murder Ordained (1987)
FOR LOVE AND MONEY - SPOILERS
Married minister Tom Bird, the father of 3 children becomes attracted to and has an affair with Lorna Anderson, the local Jezebel, herself married and the mother of 4 (including a set of twins) girls. At first, Tom hires her to be his secretary, knowing her husband is a drunk and abusive. But then, one thing leads to another and Tom and Lorna begin a torrid affair. Meanwhile, Sandy Bird, Tom's wife, is a workaholic, seeming to care more for her career than her family and Martin, Lorna's husband, is an abusive alcoholic. To solve their problems, Tom and Lorna figure they could kill their spouses and be together with their 7 children. The crimes would have been perfect had it not been for the absolute determination of traffic officer John Rule, who suspects Mrs. Bird's automobile accident was anything but. Bird was convicted of conspiring to kill Lorna's husband and eventually was found guilty of murdering his wife. He beat her almost to unconsciousness, pushed her over the bridge until she dropped into the water and then put her body into the car and rolled the car off the bridge. What a vicious way to murder the mother of his children!
This is an excellent movie and one I've seen many, many times. JoBeth Williams as Lorna and Terry Kinney as Pastor Tom Bird are particularly well-acted. Ms. Williams' performance reveals the immature, promiscuous needy woman behind Lorna and Mr. Kinney's performance shows the hypocricy and pride hidden just beneath the veneer of the good pastor. It also shows the transformation from a wholesome, excellent minister to a greedy, prideful conniving man.
The only drawback is that, since it was made in 1987, the same year Lorna was eligible for parole, we have no idea of what has happened to the cast of characters. Tom is in jail and their children are living with their uncle but what about Lorna? Is she still married to the choir singer she met? Are John and Lorraine Rule still together? How are the Bird children doing today - 20 years after their mother's murder? Perhaps this movie isn't the place to find the answers to those questions but I still am curious about this.
102 Dalmatians (2000)
Cruella DeVil is at it again...
I saw the original "101 Dalmatians" 3 times while en route from England back home to the USA and I loved it. So when I saw there was a new dalmatians movie, "102 Dalmatians," I was elated and when I saw it, I was NOT disappointed. In fact, I liked this version even better than the first. Glenn Close's performance as "Ella" who has been imprisoned for 3 years for dognapping but who received behavioral modification but reverts to "Cruella" when Big Ben's chimes go off, is delightfully dastardly. And the performance by Gerard Depardieu as the loathsome LaPelt is extraordinary. But the best performances, the ones who "take the cake" are those by the Dalmatians, real or created, especially Oddball, the spotless dalmatian puppy who is obsessed with "S-P-O-T-S." The scene where she goes berserk when she sees a black and white sweater on a puppet in a Punch & Judy show is hilarious. There were scenes in which it looked like the puppies were in real danger but the magic lies in the fact that, when you read the credits, you realize those scenes were created; no puppy was ever in danger. I recommend this movie highly and I should; I've seen it at least 7 times and I also have the video.