‘The Bad News Bears’ at 40

I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw The Bad News Bears. It was just one of those movies that was ingrained in my psyche. I do remember specifically wanting to emulate Amanda, Tatum O’Neal’s character. I even took her dialogue and made it into a monologue for any theater auditions I had cause I loved it THAT MUCH.

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An insult that I believed was the height of sophistication…

If you’re not familiar, The Bad News Bears, made in 1976, follows a little league baseball team managed by an unenthusiastic, alcoholic coach,  played by Walter Matthau. The team is made up of the “losers,” the ones no other team wanted. They are the ultimate underdogs.

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You know it’s a top team if they’re sponsored by “Chico’s Bail Bonds”

In April, the film celebrated its 40th anniversary. The NY Daily News wrote a great piece about the film in which the author spoke with prolific producer Stanley Jaffe, as well as actors Tatum O’Neal, Jackie Earle Haley, Charlie Matthau, Erin Blunt, and David Pollock. It was eye opening to hear the actors speak about the making of the film.

Here are a just a few reasons you should give the Bears a try!

THE CAST

The movie really only works with Walter Matthau. Matthau had already won an academy award and was well established; yet, he was the third choice to play Morris Buttermaker. In front of him were actors Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty. Both turned down the part and thus the part went to Matthau, who apparently took to the kids right away and knew how to have fun on set. His effortless humor and curmudgeon aura were perfect for Buttermaker, or as Amanda calls him, Boilermaker.

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SO MANY THINGS WRONG HERE.

Tatum O’Neal was fresh off her Academy Award win for Paper Moon which she made with her father, Ryan O’Neal and Director Peter Bogdonavich. She spoke in the article about her fear in making The Bad News Bears. What she loved most about the experience was working with Walter Matthau. I, of course, wanted to be Amanda. She was tough and feminine and so sophisticated! I mean, she got to sell star maps on the street BY HERSELF.

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The height of pre-teen sophistication…

Jackie Earle Haley, who I discussed in my post on Breaking Away, is also notable as Kelly Leak. He was only 14 when he made the film, but he seemed like the essence of cool. He was also the bad boy, but he had a good heart in the end. In the Daily News article, Haley said he still gets approached by fans because of his part. He also spoke about what it was like to be around Matthau…

“There were actually some times where he’d[Matthau] pop a can of Olympia beer open, like mid-day, and if I was sitting next to him, he’d go, ‘Here, you want a sip?'” says Haley, who was 14 when the movie was filmed. “Just like at the end of the movie. It was hilarious “(Jackie Earle Haley).

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The Coolest Kid in Town

THE DIALOGUE

Unlike many of today’s comedies, this film was fully scripted. Penned by Bill Lancaster, the son of famous actor Burt Lancaster, there were some wonderful zingers! Some of my favorite lines:

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Quite possibly the best retort for those   arrogant Yankees.
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ONE WORD: SIR.

THE THEMES

The film didn’t always end the way it does now. They actually filmed an alternate ending with a different outcome to their last game. Stanley Jaffe put it best when he said, “It’s not about winning. It’s about trying. One person wins. But everybody can try and that’s what this picture is to me – everybody trying (Jaffe).”

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TRUE WINNERS.

There’s also a great scene between Matthau and O’Neal where she’s basically trying to get him to hang out with her and he tells her essentially that if he wanted her company, he would’ve looked her up years ago. The scene is completely understated and that only makes it more powerful – that tear going down Buttermaker’s cheek always gets me.

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Aw, Buttermaker…

THE FILM CELEBRATES OUR DIFFERENCES

That’s what I think I related to the most as a kid. All of the players on the team had their own quirks that made them different. They were the underdogs and you couldn’t help rooting for them. This is still a lesson that needs to be taught, especially to young people.

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Maybe they shouldn’t of been drinking though…haha

RANDOM TIDBITS

Doesn’t Charlie Matthau look EXACTLY like his father now??

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Charlie Matthau photographed at little league fields in Palisades Park. Charlie played for the A’s in the film. Portraits of actors in the film The Bad News Bears. This year is the 40th Anniversary, the movie came out in 1976. Palisades Park, CA. March 22, 2016. (Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

One of the other supporting actors, who played Ogilvie, was also known for his roles in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Woody Allen’s Love and Death. He has since stopped acting, but if you know those other films, you know he was talented!

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The film was a major critical and box office success and it’s one of my personal favorites. It certainly shaped who I was as a young person. Now, as an adult, I think I love it even more – the messages, the characters, the humor! If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat – and I swear, you don’t even have to like baseball!

Vintage trailer below:

 

 

 

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Why I Now Appreciate “The American President”

On my birthday, while in line for a ride for at Disney’s California Adventure theme park, I stopped mid-sentence and said to my friend, “I know this song. Why do I know this song?” That song was the main theme from the 1995 Rob Reiner film, The American President.

Back in the summer of 2012, I discovered Aaron Sorkin through his HBO series The Newsroom. I loved it because its fast paced dialogue and romantic antics reminded me of the screwball comedies I grew up watching. Of course, when I mentioned the show to my brother, he was like, “Well, yeah. That’s Sorkin.”

I binged The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip…if it was Sorkin, I watched it! And during this Sorkin binge, I discovered that another one of my mom’s favorite movies was actually written by him too. The American President was played several times during my childhood and since my brother and dad routinely made fun of it (mostly cause my mom watched it SO many times), I never thought it was high art.

A few years ago, I re-watched it and realized just how brilliant it was. It’s very much a prototype for what Sorkin’s signature style became and I fell in love with it. It has everything I love – idealism and fun and great one liners!

If you’ve never seen The American President, the Rob Reiner film follows POTUS, Andrew Shepard (Michael Douglas) who develops a crush on the new head of the environmental lobby, Sydney Ellen-Wade (Annette Bening). The crush becomes a relationship, but of course politics complicate everything. Couple that with the fact that Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfuss), Shepard’s nemesis, decides to run for President….craziness ensues!

Here are just a few reasons you should watch it ASAP.

The Cast

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Okay, so main cast first. Michael Douglas plays President Andrew Shepard. He’s at his best because he’s got Sorkin’s dialogue coming out of his mouth.

Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade is also fantastic. She delivers some of the best lines – most notably one my mom still can’t quote correctly about her sister having to live with regret. Ha.

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In addition, the film’s supporting cast is filled with wonderful characters actors. Martin Sheen plays the President’s right hand man, which is ironic considering he plays the POTUS in Sorkin’s The West Wing a few years later. It’s almost as if he was auditioning.

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Scandal fans will be excited to see Joshua Malina – David Rosen in Scandal – as David, Sydney’s co-worker. We can’t tell if he has a crush on her or what…not that it matters. Sydney is obviously into the President.

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Also, people seem to forget Michael J. Fox. Little trivia: Fox had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s before the film started shooting and he was afraid that during a routine physical before the movie, they’d find it with the small shaking in his hands. He’s in one of my favorite moments of the film.

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Jon Mahoney is also wonderful as Leo Solomon, Sydney’s boss. I know him as Diane Court’s father in Say Anything. Once again, he proves that he’s a very underrated character actor.

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Last, but certainly not least, Richard Dreyfuss plays Senator Bob Rumson, Douglas’s opponent. He’s revels in his character’s evilness.

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The Dialogue…

Sorkin is a master of dialogue and witty banter. The American President is filled with great lines. Probably my favorite is POTUS telling Sydney, “Let’s take him outside and beat the shit out of him” right after she insulted him not knowing he was in the room.

When Sydney is going through security at the White House, she tells the guard that she’s savoring the Capra-esque qualities which is funny because Frank Capra III was the 1st Asst Director. The dialogue is very Capra-esque which is probably one of the reasons the film struck a cord with me.

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The Music

The score of this film composed by Marc Shaiman is sweeping and romantic. You can’t not feel patriotic and idealistic just listening to it.

 

It’s Idealistic

Yeah, does this film really show what the White House is like? Um, no. Instead, Sorkin shows us the world that could be. This film is proof that old-style idealism and romance are still alive and well…or at least, they were in 1995. What made me fall in love with The Newsroom was that it took screwball romantic comedy antics and married it to well meaning values. The same is true in The American President. The ideals the film perpetuates are real and still resonate, even twenty-one years later. But, hey, I mean, it’s also just plain romantic…

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As it turns out this film falls in the same category as Working Girl – I owe my mother another apology. Maybe her taste isn’t so bad after all. 😉

If you’re a Sorkin fan, this film is obviously a must see. But, I will say, if you’re not a Sorkin fan, this film might just make you one. What can I say? I’m an optimist.

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Vintage trailer below:

 

Field of Dreams: A Modern Classic

This last Monday, TCM finally released their lineup for this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, which is set for the end of this month. Excitedly, I looked over the film descriptions and saw there was a screening of 1989’s Field of Dreams planned. Growing up, I watched this movie many times – mostly with my dad. And even though I had no interest in baseball, this movie meant a lot to me.

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So, you can imagine my surprise when I brought up the screening to my dad and he said, “Pass. Do you know how many times I’ve seen that movie?” I, of course, was outraged, “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it. It’s a great movie. Plus, it’s being shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theater!” But, unfortunately, he could not be moved. No, he has to see the vitaphone classics (I’m sure it’s great) which is playing at the same time. I’m not bitter…okay maybe I’m a little bit bitter.

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So, even though I’ll be attending the screening without my dad (cause he’s a Jerk – Jk. He’s my dad so I love him anyway), I wanted to write this post and explain why this film is important – both to me personally and in the context of film history.

Field of Dreams follows Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), an Iowa corn farmer who hears a voice while out in the fields one day. The voice tells him ominously, “If you build it, he will come.” He thinks he figures out what it means and for some reason, his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) goes along with it. Cue Ray building a baseball field on his farm in the hopes that the ghost of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson will come and get to play ball again after being thrown out of baseball for his part in the 1919 Black Box Scandal. Sound crazy? I know. Just go with it. Essentially, Ray goes on this journey to have closure with his father.

If you’ve never seen the film, here are just a few of the reasons I can watch it a million times over:

THE PREMISE.

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It’s nuts, I’ll give you that. But, I like it because it’s original. It’s different. It’s idealistic. It’s about characters. If you think it’s crazy, you’re not alone. 20th Century Fox passed on the project for years, thinking it just could never be commercially successful. In fact, most of the actors in the film didn’t quite “get it” at first. Burt Lancaster had to be convinced. Liotta apparently thought it was “silly.” Costner wasn’t initially wanted for the film because he had just done another baseball movie, Bull Durham. However, an exec gave him the script anyway. After reading it, Costner was convinced, seeing the film as another incarnation of the Holiday and Capra classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.

THE SCORE.

Okay, so once or twice on this blog I’ve discussed my love for old school, amazing movie scores. And my love of Field of Dreams weighs heavily on its brilliant score by the late James Horner. If you’re not familiar, James Horner also composed the scores for Titanic (Hello! GREATEST SCORE), Bravehart, Glory, Aliens, Apollo 13…the list goes on. His score for Field of Dreams gives you all the feels in the best way and its clear in listening to it, how much his score inspired other film composers. Plus, it’s just plain pleasant to listen to…

THE CAST. 

The cast is what sells this film. It could be really silly and stupid, but Kevin Costner’s performance as Ray Kinsella makes us buy it. James Earl Jones is also fantastic as the J.D. Salinger-esque Terrence Mann – he provides much of the comic relief. However, as a kid, it was actually Amy Madigan’s performance as Annie Kinsella which stood out for me. She’s not the star by any means, but her scene in the school, arguing about why Terrence Mann’s book shouldn’t be banned, is one of my favorites (below). Ray Liotta and Burt Lancaster are also great! Little tidbit: this film also marked the film debut for actress Gaby Hoffman who you may know from Amazon’s hit show, Transparent. The film also has some interesting extras – Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

IT’S ABOUT SOMETHING.

On the surface, it may be a movie about baseball player ghosts, but the underlying themes of the story reach far beyond that. It’s about nostalgia for our childhoods, understanding of our parents, and about the effect that we have on one another’s lives. As I mentioned before, my dad claims that it’s a father-son movie and while I understand him saying that, I disagree. I think it’s about more than gender. It’s about more than baseball. It’s a story about the choices we make and the small moments that make up our lives. To me, it’s an example of what cinema should do – make you feel and leave you with something to think about..

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In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he said it was “the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed and James Stewart might have starred in.” That makes more sense to me than anything since I love all things Capra (as you know if you’ve read any of my reviews). It is a true modern classic and I look forward to seeing it at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, even if it means I’ll be going stag!

Vintage trailer below:

 

 

 

 

The #1 Feel Good Movie of Cinema’s First Century

If I’m ever having a bad day, there is one movie that no matter why I’m down, will always cheer me up. I don’t care if you’re not into musicals. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I do care. But, putting that aside, I believe that even if you’re not typically into musicals, you can’t NOT appreciate 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain.

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I can’t remember when I saw this movie for the first time. I’ve seen it so many times at this point, I truly know it by heart. But, that’s one of the things I love most about it: you can be any age and enjoy this movie. Recently, when I saw it at the Aero, I happened to sit next to a 3 year-old girl and her father. The little girl turned to me periodically, exclaiming “This is a funny movie.” She was completely engaged and her enthusiasm made me fall in love with the film all over again.

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If you’ve never seen Singin’ in the Rain, here’s a little synopsis to catch you up. The film takes place in the late 1920’s, right before the film industry was changed forever with the advent of talkies. Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen play Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, a pair of silent film stars who just completed their latest effort, The Dueling Cavalier. Lockwood meets Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds), an aspiring actress, and falls in love with her. When The Jazz Singer hits the scene, the executives decide to make Dueling Cavalier a talkie.

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That fails altogether when they realize at a test screening that the silent acting techniques don’t work in a sound picture. Kathy has a brilliant idea – make Dueling Cavalier into a musical, The Dancing Cavalier. There’s one problem though; Lina’s voice. Kathy volunteers to dub Lina’s talking and singing, and thus The Dancing Cavalier is a success. But what does this mean for Kathy going forward? DRAAAMA.

I’ve seen the movie many times in a movie theater and it really is just one of those all around entertaining, funny, feel good experiences. While apparently Gene Kelly didn’t regard it as highly as his other musical film, On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain is the film that has taken on a life of its own. It’s just one of those movies where everything came together, from the casting to the musical numbers to the satirical plot.

I was lucky enough to see Debbie Reynolds introduce the film at The TCM Film Festival a few years ago. Little tidbit: my dad routinely brags that when he saw the film in the 1980’s, Gene Kelly walked out after the film, holding an umbrella. It should also be noted that I yell Jerk! every time he mentions this. Not my fault I wasn’t born yet…

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If you’ve never seen the film, here are just a few reasons to put Singin’ in the Rain on your must watch list.

THE MUSIC. 

Can I make this ten reasons? The music in this film is so good, I guarantee it will be playing in your head for weeks. Below is one of my favorite numbers:

THE SATIRE.

This movie is smart, entertaining satire. The way they portray not only the film industry of the 1920s, but the transition from silent pictures to sound, is both hilarious and true. If this clip doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

DONALD O’CONNOR.

Donald O’Connor was a true talent and he’s exceedingly charming in this film. Just watch Make ‘Em Laugh. I dare you not to laugh. For seriously.

 

GENE KELLY AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS.

Yeah, he’s a bit older than her. Who cares? Their chemistry in this film is fun and alight with energy. They have all the tropes: the meet-cute, the banter…you’ll swoon. Especially when Gene sings this song:

JEAN HAGEN.

Jean Hagen is severely underrated in this film. She’s a bulk of the comic relief, putting on a hilarious fake voice. In reality, she actually had a lovely singing voice and little trivia: when Debbie Reynolds’ character is supposed to be dubbing Hagen’s voice, you’re actually hearing Hagen’s real voice.

IT’S VERITABLE HAPPINESS.

We desperately need movies that lift our spirits, inspire us, and make us laugh. Singin’ in the Rain surely fits the bill. This is one film that I’ve shown to many friends, many of whom swore to me up and down that they could never love a musical. But, somehow, they ended up liking it anyway. IMHO this movie requires frequent viewings and if you have the chance to see it in a movie theater, please GO! The film is veritable happiness and to prove my point, try not to smile at the Gifs below!

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Vintage trailer below:

 

Atticus Finch and #FatherDaughterGoals

In the wake of Harper Lee’s death this morning, I thought it’d be a good time to talk about a film that’s pretty up there on my list of favorites.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why is this girl talking about that book/movie I was forced to read/watch multiple times throughout my educational career? Well, that’s how I used to feel too. I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time in middle school and I remember mostly skimming the book and then looking it up on sparks notes – C’mon, we all did it at one time or another! A few years later, when I was in high school, I was assigned to read the book again. This time, I decided to actually read it and promptly, fell in love.

I had seen the movie before I had heard anything about the book. I didn’t remember too much about it, but having fallen in love with the book, I felt like the film required a second viewing. I watched it with my dad and I’m not ashamed to say that by the end, I was tearing up a little. Well, I mean if we’re being honest, I was balling. It instantly became one of my favorite movies. It had all the things I love: great acting, coming of age fun and a story that really meant something.

So, here is my plea to you if you’re not in love with it. Give it another chance. Just because it’s a staple, we seem to discount it and forget just how powerful and poignant it  still is. And, of course, sadly, many of the racial tensions it comments on are still alive and well in our country today.

Here are just a few things you’ll miss by not watching To Kill a Mockingbird:

GREGORY PECK GIVES AN OSCAR WORTHY PERFORMANCE

I love Gregory Peck and before I really became obsessed with To Kill a Mockingbird, I knew him mostly from Roman Holiday in which he is fantastic. But Mockingbird introduced me to a different Gregory Peck, a more resolute, calm, and infinitely wise one. The scenes between him and his on-screen daughter, Scout (Mary Badham) should be required viewing for…well, everyone.

Here’s a little throwback to his 1963 Oscar Speech:

 

THE FILM’S SCORE IS ONE OF THE BEST EVER WRITTEN

As I’ve said before, music can have an enormous impact on a film. If it’s the right score, the music almost acts as another character. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Elmer Bernstein’s score is inextricable from the film’s themes and characters. When I saw the film in theaters a few years ago at the TCM Film Festival, the open sequence almost made me tear up — mostly because of the music. Watch and I think you’ll agree:

 

IT’S ONE OF THE BEST COURTROOM DRAMAS EVER MADE

The courtroom scenes in this film have major tension. And the performances of Brock Peters and Collin Wilcox Paxton are a huge part of that. They’re understated and intense. Gripping and thought provoking. And the film certainly inspired all the courtroom dramas that came after.

 

IT’S ABOUT SOMETHING

This seems almost ridiculous to say because all films should be about something. But, this film in particular just comments on so many things so beautifully. It’s about growing up, it’s about the south, it’s about the depression, it’s about civil rights, it’s about humanity.

 

AND IT ACHIEVES MAJOR #FatherDaughterGoals

This movie will always hold a special place in my heart if only because I shared it with my dad. The film is about a father and his children, but I, of course, always related to Scout, being a girl. I’m lucky that my dad has a lot in common with Atticus Finch.

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If you haven’t seen it or if you have, but were too young to appreciate it, then I urge you to give it another shot. If you have any problems with it, you can take it up with me!!

Vintage trailer below…

Why I Now Appreciate Mike Nichol’s “Working Girl”

Now, this is not a joke. I grew up making fun of Mike Nichol’s 1988 film, Working Girl. As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, my mom and I don’t always see eye to eye, movie taste-wise. And as a kid, I saw this film over and over and over again. My brothers and dad routinely poked fun at the film, much to my mom’s chagrin.

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I didn’t understand why my mom would keep coming back to it. She knew what was going to happen. She knew where the bony ass line was…even though she could never correctly quote it. When I was in my last semester of college, I came across the film while searching for something to watch – procrastination at its finest. I almost went past it, but, looking for something I could watch while pretending to study, I thought Working Girl would be just innocuous enough to work.

I. WAS. WRONG. I got absolutely no studying done that day – not even pretend studying. I was too busy watching Working Girl, really watching it for the first time and I found myself relating to it….A LOT. That semester, I had been interning at a company and essentially been an assistant to the assistants working there. I know it’s not the only reason I saw the film in a new light, but it certainly helped. I was Melanie Griffith’s character Tess McGill, ultra driven and a little bit naive. I don’t think I’d ever have the gumption to go where she goes in the film, but I could certainly see why she made the choices she made.

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For those who don’t know the film, Working Girl follows Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a driven secretary who thinks she’s found the perfect position. Her boss is a woman, Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) who says she wants Tess’s ideas and that she wants to help her get where she wants to go. However, when Katherine breaks her leg in a skiing accident, Tess finds out that Katherine intends to purport one of Tess’s ideas as her own. As such, Tess takes matters into her own hands, pretending to have her boss’s job. She meets Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) who helps her start to make the deal and also maybe falls in love with her…

The film is interesting in the lens of the current discussion of feminism in this country, of the wage gap and truly equal rights for women. Tess McGill’s predicament is still relevant today, sadly. The film is really about her empowerment and her realization that if you want something, you sometimes have to take it without being asked. She has to work to be taken seriously and her boyfriend at the beginning of the film, played by Alec Baldwin, doesn’t seem to understand that.

There are many reasons I love this film as just pure entertainment. The performances are wonderful. Whoever got Harrison Ford involved, kudos to you! He is truly at his swoon worthiest – equal parts tough and lovably vulnerable. If you need evidence…

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I was never Melanie Griffith’s biggest fan, but I’ve since come around to her in this film. As Tess McGill, she is all of us.

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Sigourney Weaver should really get an award for being such a lovable bitch in this film. She makes you laugh and pisses you off at the same time. Quite a feat.

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And not many people mention her, but Joan Cusack is also fabulous. She plays Tess’s friend and though she wears WAY TOO MUCH makeup, she’s still the Joan we all know and love!

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Side note – Kevin Spacey is in one scene as a coke addled wall street guy trying to take advantage of Tess. Let’s just say he makes the most of it.

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Additionally, I love the music of this film. I used to be turned off by how 80’s it all was, but now I can’t help feeling elated, listening to “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon. I don’t want to give away the end of the film if you’ve never seen it, but let me just say, you’ll feel good. Check out Carly’s music video for the film:

If you’ve never seen this film or you’ve just discounted it as I did for many years, I’d consider giving it another chance. I think this film does require some experience and maturity to fully appreciate. It’s become a favorite of mine and now, years later, I can apologize to my mom and finally say, I understand why you watched it to death. And now, we can watch it together.

The only criticism I might make of the film is that they made Jack Trainor way too perfect. He set unrealistic standards for all men everywhere. Not that I didn’t love it…

Vintage trailer below:

 

Tinkers, Letters, Laughter and Ghosts

Odds Bodkins!

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If you haven’t heard of Abbott and Costello, you are in for a treat. When I was in elementary school, there was only so much my dad could show to me. So, he stuck to comedies mostly and some of my favorite films featured the famous comedy duo, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

They started in radio and are most famous for their “Who’s on First?” sketch. As a kid, I watched them in a very simplistic way. Abbott was the straight man, Costello was the funny one. They were out to make people laugh, plain and simple.

 

 

The Time of Their Lives, made in 1946, stuck with me though as something more than a comical farce. I was a seven or eight when I first saw it and vividly remember running out of the room because I was scared. My dad yelled behind me, “It’s supposed to be funny!” Let me tell you. I was truly terrified of Abbott and Costello. True Story.

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To give you a little background, The Time of Their Lives follows Horatio Prim (Lou Costello), a Revolutionary War hero, who’s set on marrying his sweetheart, Nora (Anna Gillis). She’s a maid in Danbury manor and decides to take Horatio’s letter of commendation from George Washington to Mistress Melanie (Marjorie Reynolds).

One thing leads to another that results in the wrongful executions of Melanie and Horatio by soldiers who believe they are traitors. They throw their bodies in a well and curse their souls to be bound to Danbury Manor until crack of doom….unless some evidence proves them patriots. Melanie and Horatio hang around as ghosts until what was modern day (1946) when new tenants move in. One of them is an ancestor of a butler (who treated Lou like crap) from the revolutionary era, Dr. Ralph Greenway (Bud Abbott).

 

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Costello and Melanie decide to haunt the new tenants and fun antics ensue including the most terrifying while at the same time hilarious seance ever on screen. While this film is a lot of fun to watch, it was apparently not as fun to make. Costello and Abbott were having a feud during shooting and halfway through, Costello called the director and told him he wanted to switch roles with Abbott or he wouldn’t come back to set. Well, they waited him out and he was lovely when he finally returned.

 

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The great formula of the Abbott and Costello movies is real horror movie tropes contrasting the comedy antics of Bud and Lou. In Time of their Lives, there are parts that I truly find scary, despite knowing that it’s a comedy. It makes the laughs bigger when you feel it grounded in something as opposed to just watch a comedy sketch.

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I’m also a sucker for ghost stories and think this one is a lot of fun! There’s something for everyone genre-wise. Additionally, the special effects are great. Their rudimentary quality strangely makes me suspend my disbelief more. They don’t look perfect, but they don’t need to.

Also, Lou trying to dematerialize…you’ll understand.

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Vintage Trailer below:

‘The Apartment’: A Holiday Classic

One night, many, many years ago, my father showed me his favorite film for the first time. I wish I could tell you that I remember that viewing concretely, but the truth is, I don’t. I’ve seen this film so many times, I can’t even remember when the original viewing was, let alone what my first impressions were.

I do, however, remember a viewing from when I was in high school. Something clicked that time, resonated with me on a deeper level. But before I get to all that, a little background. The Apartment, made in 1960, was written and directed by Billy Wilder. If you’re not familiar, he’s responsible for some of the best films of the last century such as Sunset Blvd., Ace in the Hole, and Some Like it Hot. He was known for his snappy dialogue and his satirical edge.

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Billy Wilder was influenced to make The Apartment after seeing David Lean’s Brief Encounter. When the couple in Brief Encounter tried to use a friend’s apartment, Billy Wilder got stuck on the friend. What was his life like? With I.A.L. Diamond, he wrote a screenplay about that friend, giving life to Bud “C.C.” Baxter.

The hero, or I should say lead, of The Apartment is C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon), an ambitious clerk in a major New York insurance company. His superiors at the company use his apartment for their mistresses and he gets promotions. But, all of that becomes complicated when C.C. finds out that the head of his department, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) has been taking the elevator girl he’s in love with, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), to his apartment.

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Mr. Smith (aka) Jimmy Stewart is my MCM

 

Aw, Jimmy Stewart. Hard to believe that director Frank Capra was going to cast Gary Cooper. If you’ve never heard of Capra, (well, I’ll try not to judge you), but you are in for a major treat. As anyone who knows me knows, it’s one of my favorite things to introduce people to my favorite movies and this is most definitely one of them.

But, before we get to the movie itself, let me first set the scene. It was 1939, at the tail end of the great depression. That year is known to be a golden year for movies. It was a year of many classics: Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, The Women, Midnight and of course Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In a year with so many great movies, Mr. Smith was definitely a little lost in the shuffle. More than that, it was actually heavily criticized for its depiction of government and senate corruption.

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If you’ve ever heard the term Capra-esque, but didn’t know what that meant, Mr. Smith is the best explanation.

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It is the epitome of the Capra mindset: the idealism, the patriotism, the romance. Contemporary writer Aaron Sorkin was very influenced by Capra’s films – not just in the style of the dialogue he writes (which is in itself a throwback), but in the themes he uses. Sorkin wrote The American President, The West Wing, The Newsroom — films and television shows which are in essence a love letter to Capra’s films, following his tradition of honoring American ideals and depicting characters who are inherently good.

Now, to get to the movie itself. The film follows Jefferson Smith played by the wonderful Jimmy Stewart. If you’re not familiar, my guess is you’ve at least heard his voice somewhere. Jefferson Smith is the head of a youth program: The Boy Rangers. He’s a true American, an idealistic boy at heart. A new senator must be appointed to the Senate and a few senators plot to find a puppet, someone they can control easily. Thus, Jefferson Smith goes to Washington. Once he finds out that people are trying to control him, he rallies a filibuster. There’s also a little bit of a romance thing going on with Jean Arthur, who starts out cynical – a still modern female character.

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All in all, this movie is must see viewing. I saw it when I was in elementary school and it did a great deal in shaping the person I became, both in my ideals and in my movie taste. If you’re not in love with Jimmy Stewart by the end…well, you may have some sort of a medical condition. I would get that checked out if I were you.

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Instead of the vintage trailer, here’s one of my favorite scenes.