Films Worth Viewing Year 2

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"American Graffiti"-George Lucas-1973

Francis Ford Coppola made this film possible. Lucas only got to make this film because signed on as a producer. The script was written during film school. The film's budget was $770,000. It made $115 million in the US. It was filmed largely at night in San Rafael and Petaluma, California. Lucas missed his 10th year reunion at Mendocino High because he was shooting the film. Universal almost didn't release the film; they had no idea how to market. There were no bankable stars, and the target audience was unclear. This is a film set in the summer of 1962 reaching the theaters in 1973. The music wasn't the same; the car culture depicted in this picture didn't exist everywhere in the US, and almost the entire film takes place over a single night. One interesting note; this film introduced expanded credits because Lucas couldn't afford to pay most of the crew because of the very tight budget.

Originally Lucas planned to follow four stories in sequence during the night. First we have the high school couple Steve and Laurie (Ron Howard and Cindy). Steve has just graduated, but Cindy will be returning as
cheer leading captain. Their relationship has reached a crisis point. Then we have Curt (Richard Dreyfus) who drives a strange car and is supposed to be taking the plane to college with Steve. He is unsure about that decision; a series of strange experiences fill his night. Next up is Terry or Toad (Charles Martin Smith) who is a working class type. No college for him, but for the next 3 months; he gets to use Steve's car. He hopes to use the car to pick up a chick. Finally we have John the car god. He has the fastest hot rod in the Valley. He spends most of the night with an unlikely passenger Carol (Makenzie Phillips). She is a tween. John (Paul LeMat) struggles with the shame of being tied to a kid and becoming a prank partner.

What ties the stories together is the music. All the cars are listening to Wolfman Jack on the same radio station. Is there such a thing as a ubiquitous figure of mystery? There are stories about this legendary disc jockey. Many believe he is broadcasting from Mexico. It turns out that he is broadcasting from a local site.
Curt finds him and sends out a request for a beautiful mysterious stranger driving a white T-Bird. He knows the message will get through, because everyone listens to the Wolfman.

This film had an amazing cultural influence beginning with "Happy Days" and its sequels. Fonzie was derived from the Paul LeMat character. Does anyone remember the series "Cruising Years on DVD. I hold in my hand the the 58,59,60 set. It features well known DJ's from around the country doing replica radio shows including commercials with the songs from a particular year. In this case the DJ's were Jack Carney, Hunter Hancock, and Dick Biondi. This was AM radio before the rise of FM which played longer cuts and even gasp whole albums. It's almost like the Lone Ranger commercials with a return "to the thrilling days of yesteryear."

This template has been used dozens of times in movies "Back to the Future" for instance. I have seen this film a half dozen times. This time I'm getting more out of writing about it than I did watching it. This is available for free streaming if you have Comcast which is now featuring free Showtime. This is considered one of the top 100 American films by most critics. It is still a must see.
 
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"Rocketeer"-Joe Johnston-1991

This film commits the venial sin of too literal a translation from another medium. It was adapted from a graphic novel by Dave Stephens It centers on the theft of an experimental rocket developed by Howard Hughes. The rocket was stolen by gangsters led by Eddie Valentine( Paul Sorvino) contracted by Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton), a thinly disguised Erroll Flynn. Sinclair is a Nazi spy; surprisingly Flynn was rumored to have been a Nazi spy. I had never heard that before. There is a chase sequence which takes the trailing FBI and the gangsters to an airfield. The exchange of fire brings down a plane prepping for a famous air race.The pilot Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) barely escapes with his life when the plane explodes. There will be no race for Secord and his technical wiz Perry (Alan Arkin). One of the gangsters hides the rocket in the hangar where it is discovered by Secord and Perry. What follows is a series of wild chases involving the gangsters Secord and his girlfriend, Jenny (Jennifer Connelly). When the gangsters discover that Neville Sinclair is a Nazi agent,the gangsters switch sides.
Howard Hughes Terry O'Quinn re-emerges to give Cliff a new plane even after the rocket has been destroyed.

This is just fun; it can be a welcome change in atmosphere. It didn't do well at the box office, but it helped Johnston get the job directing the first Captain America film. If you have Comcast use the Showtime free service. Go to Classics; you'll find this there. I hope to get another comment in today to make up for missing yesterday.
 
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I should have mentioned that the acting was very good, particularly Dalton and Arkin. Dalton has an interesting line about doing his own stunts; I thought it referred to Flynn doing his own stunts, but I read that it referred to Dalton doing his own stunts as James Bond. Connelly looked like she was enjoying herself in the fight sequences. Contrast that with the "Princess Bride" where the heroine was a wuss. It looked like the whole cast had fun making this film. One last bit W.C. Fields makes an appearance for about two minutes in a clever,funny cameo. Once again a fun film.
 
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"Donnie Brasco"-Mike Newell-1997

The film is based on a book by Joseph D. Pistone the real Donnie Brasco. The script by Paul Anastasio is solid.
It depicts the Life of an undercover FBI agent in the Bonnano Family in New York. Pistone said the film was 85%
accurate. He actually spent six years undercover; he almost never saw his family. Anastasio had transcripts of the tapes. Johnny Depp spent a long time interviewing and observing Pistone. There is a funny story about the first day of shooting; it sounds unbelievable. Depp and Pacino had never worked together. Depp sat on a hidden whoopie cushion in the first scene. It sounded like he was continually farting; Pacino was put off, but when Depp showed him the cushion; they both laughed hysterically. That broke the ice, and they became friends.

The film is centered on the two men. One is a made Mafioso, the other is apparently a shady jewel man. When they are on screen together; it is compelling viewing. Other scenes suffer by comparison. The family scenes were shot after all the Mafia material was in the can. Mike Newell thought that they were two different stories.
The family scenes are the weakest part of the film. Pacino delighted in the Mafia language and customs. Remember how he introduces Brasco :He's a friend of mine" not He's a friend of ours." Then there is the whole fugazzi bit. This Depp exploits in a scene with an early Paul Giamatti, or was that faghet about it. The language, the clothes, the movements, the body language, and the customs like the morning line up for the boss add patina to the film. Surprisingly, 2/3rds of the total box office came from outside the US. This isn't on a par with the Godfather trilogy or "Goodfellas," but it has it's own charms.

Johnny Depp has more range than he is often given credit for, and Pacino is one of my all time favorites. Fortunately the film is basically about their friendship. I recommend this highly. It is available free through the Comcast/Showtime thingy. Two exceptional lead performances, excellent dialogue, an interesting story based on real undercover experience make this well worth viewing.
 
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"Destry Rides Again"-George Marshall-1939

"See what the boys in the backroom will have." This song was sung at The Last Chance Saloon in Bottleneck. The mayor/judge sits in the saloon playing checkers by himself; he is totally corrupt. Presiding over the gang running the saloon and the town is Kent (Brian Donlevy). He calls in Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich) who sings and otherwise entertains the crowd. She also "Helps"Kent with his poker games and runs the other girls. The town has an honest sheriff who tries to investigate Kent's latest rigged card game which cost a rancher his land and his herd. This allows Kent to control access to the town; he can charge twenty-five cents for each head of cattle crossing his property. The sheriff disappears and the corrupt mayor appoints the town drunk, Wash Dimsdale (Charlie Winniger) as the new sheriff. Dimsdale sends for Thomas Jefferson Destry (Jimmy Stewart) the son of the famous sheriff served under.

The new deputy arrives by stage. He helps a woman of the stagecoach while holding her parasol. This and the fact that he doesn't believe in using guns marks him as a figure of scorn. Dimsdale has reformed: "A man has to choose between the bottle and the badge." This sets up the rest of the film; the reformed drunk and the deputy who uses his wits instead of a gun against Kent and his gang.

This was released in 1939; it was a comeback for Dietrich and one of the key films which established Stewart as a top box office draw. It was Stewart's first Western. Dietrich and Stewart had an affair during the film. Dietrich gave Stewart a life sized doll of Flash Gordon. Stewart really liked comics. The Hayes office cut one great line: After winning at cards; she stuffs the winnings into her bodice and proclaims: "There's gold in them thar hills, boys." She also can't end up with the hero because she is morally flawed.

This is IMO a good to very good film and not a great film as rated by many critics. Still it has some very funny bits including the classic cat fight between Una Merkel and Dietrich. This is well worth viewing and is available for free on Comcast, and like almost all films before the mid-forties, it is available for free streaming.
 
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"Destry Rides Again"-George Marshall-1939

"See what the boys in the backroom will have." This song was sung at The Last Chance Saloon in Bottleneck. The mayor/judge sits in the saloon playing checkers by himself; he is totally corrupt. Presiding over the gang running the saloon and the town is Kent (Brian Donlevy). He calls in Frenchie (Marlene Dietrich) who sings and otherwise entertains the crowd. She also "Helps"Kent with his poker games and runs the other girls. The town has an honest sheriff who tries to investigate Kent's latest rigged card game which cost a rancher his land and his herd. This allows Kent to control access to the town; he can charge twenty-five cents for each head of cattle crossing his property. The sheriff disappears and the corrupt mayor appoints the town drunk, Wash Dimsdale (Charlie Winniger) as the new sheriff. Dimsdale sends for Thomas Jefferson Destry (Jimmy Stewart) the son of the famous sheriff served under.

The new deputy arrives by stage. He helps a woman of the stagecoach while holding her parasol. This and the fact that he doesn't believe in using guns marks him as a figure of scorn. Dimsdale has reformed: "A man has to choose between the bottle and the badge." This sets up the rest of the film; the reformed drunk and the deputy who uses his wits instead of a gun against Kent and his gang.

This was released in 1939; it was a comeback for Dietrich and one of the key films which established Stewart as a top box office draw. It was Stewart's first Western. Dietrich and Stewart had an affair during the film. Dietrich gave Stewart a life sized doll of Flash Gordon. Stewart really liked comics. The Hayes office cut one great line: After winning at cards; she stuffs the winnings into her bodice and proclaims: "There's gold in them thar hills, boys." She also can't end up with the hero because she is morally flawed.

This is IMO a good to very good film and not a great film as rated by many critics. Still it has some very funny bits including the classic cat fight between Una Merkel and Dietrich. This is well worth viewing and is available for free on Comcast, and like almost all films before the mid-forties, it is available for free streaming.
A very watchable and fun movie. This is one of the films that helped cement Jimmy Stewart's star power prior to the start of WWII, together with the pre war Capra movies he was in ("You Can't Take It With You" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"), plus "The Philadelphia Story" and "The Shop Around the Corner".
 
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"A Night at the Opera"-Sam Wood-1935

This is the Marx Brothers first film for MGM. It came about because Chico played bridge with Irving Thalberg. The film had as many writers as there were people in Graucho's cabin on the ocean liner. Surprisingly, "Duck Soup" was a failure, so Paramount lost interest. Thalberg was convinced that he could make a movie starring the Marx Brothers which would be both a popular and critical success. He was right. This is one of the great comedy classics of all time. The Marx Brothers are noted for being cinematic anarchists; pitting them against the supposed snobbery of Opera provided they with a perfect stage. Actually, most of the movie takes place well before the performance.

First we have to get the cast from Italy to New York. Since this is the 30's, we are traveling by ship. However, before we get on board' we have to meet the cast. There is a wicked tenor, Rudolpho Lassparri(Walter King) with a crazy dresser, Tomasso (Harpo). Rudolpho actually whips Tomasso, outside his door he is comforted by the pretty young soprano Rosa Castadi(Kitty Carlisle). Rudolpho is interested in her, but she is interested in a younger more talented tenor, Ricardo Barone(Alan Jones). He has no reputation, so he is going to stay in Italy while his love goes off to America. Wait he meets a friend from the conservatory, Fiorello (Chico) who becomes his agent and promises he will get him to America. Meanwhile, Otis Driftwood and Mrs. Claypool are not having dinner. The manager of the New York Opera Company, Herman Gottleib, is trying to woo Mrs Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to support his opera company,and he wants to sign the tenor Lassparri.

In the first of the comedy classic scenes, Driftwood believes he is signing Lassparri when he negotiates with Fiorello. Together, they literally tear up a contract until they come to the sanity clause, but as Fiorello knows; "You can't fool me there ain't no Santa Claus." Since Tomasso has been fired, he joins Riccardo and Fiorello
hiding in Driftwood's steamer trunk. This sets up the second classic scene. How many people and how cleverly can you get them in a tiny room? Watch this scene several times(the clips are available). In the first preview, the scene didn't work so they improvised it for the movie. This may well be the most famous extended gag in films.

There is more fun, much more fun before they get to New York. Then we have several bits involving impersonation of a world famous flying troop, and a mysterious sequence of events at Claypool's hotel room.
When we finally reach the Opera; we have a magnificent series of gags and stunts as the police and the Opera staff try to capture the four malefactors. Don't worry, the opera is completed and we hear Ricardo and Rosa sing one of Verdi's most famous duets. The actors sing they aren't dubbed.

I had trouble running down a workable free stream, but I have done so in the past. Still this is a classic; if possible beg borrow or steal the DVD. The commentaries and special features are worth it. This is my favorite Marx Brothers film.
 
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"A Night at the Opera"-Sam Wood-1935

This is the Marx Brothers first film for MGM. It came about because Chico played bridge with Irving Thalberg. The film had as many writers as there were people in Graucho's cabin on the ocean liner. Surprisingly, "Duck Soup" was a failure, so Paramount lost interest. Thalberg was convinced that he could make a movie starring the Marx Brothers which would be both a popular and critical success. He was right. This is one of the great comedy classics of all time. The Marx Brothers are noted for being cinematic anarchists; pitting them against the supposed snobbery of Opera provided they with a perfect stage. Actually, most of the movie takes place well before the performance.

First we have to get the cast from Italy to New York. Since this is the 30's, we are traveling by ship. However, before we get on board' we have to meet the cast. There is a wicked tenor, Rudolpho Lassparri(Walter King) with a crazy dresser, Tomasso (Harpo). Rudolpho actually whips Tomasso, outside his door he is comforted by the pretty young soprano Rosa Castadi(Kitty Carlisle). Rudolpho is interested in her, but she is interested in a younger more talented tenor, Ricardo Barone(Alan Jones). He has no reputation, so he is going to stay in Italy while his love goes off to America. Wait he meets a friend from the conservatory, Fiorello (Chico) who becomes his agent and promises he will get him to America. Meanwhile, Otis Driftwood and Mrs. Claypool are not having dinner. The manager of the New York Opera Company, Herman Gottleib, is trying to woo Mrs Claypool (Margaret Dumont) to support his opera company,and he wants to sign the tenor Lassparri.

In the first of the comedy classic scenes, Driftwood believes he is signing Lassparri when he negotiates with Fiorello. Together, they literally tear up a contract until they come to the sanity clause, but as Fiorello knows; "You can't fool me there ain't no Santa Claus." Since Tomasso has been fired, he joins Riccardo and Fiorello
hiding in Driftwood's steamer trunk. This sets up the second classic scene. How many people and how cleverly can you get them in a tiny room? Watch this scene several times(the clips are available). In the first preview, the scene didn't work so they improvised it for the movie. This may well be the most famous extended gag in films.

There is more fun, much more fun before they get to New York. Then we have several bits involving impersonation of a world famous flying troop, and a mysterious sequence of events at Claypool's hotel room.
When we finally reach the Opera; we have a magnificent series of gags and stunts as the police and the Opera staff try to capture the four malefactors. Don't worry, the opera is completed and we hear Ricardo and Rosa sing one of Verdi's most famous duets. The actors sing they aren't dubbed.

I had trouble running down a workable free stream, but I have done so in the past. Still this is a classic; if possible beg borrow or steal the DVD. The commentaries and special features are worth it. This is my favorite Marx Brothers film.
1930's crazy comedy doesn't get any better than the twin pillars of WC Fields and the Marx Brothers. Duck Soup remains my favorite from Groucho and company, but Night at the Opera is excellent as well.
 
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"Boyz in the Hood"-John Singleton-1991

Amazingly, this is Singleton's first film. It was budgeted at 6;5 $ million, and it grossed $57.5. It took in over $19 million the first week, In several places showings were closed by fights. Despite this film has remained onr of the top American films of the 90's. It is hard to believe that it is almost 30 years old. If you haven't seen it you should, and it is well worth a second look look if you have. How do you understand the hood, if you don't live there? What does it share with a more generalized american teen culture? Laurence Fishburne (Jason "Furious" Styles) has made some important films about coming of age in Black America. My favorite is "Akela and the Bee" a much different take and a more optimistic one on life in the hood. Fishburne and his wife (Angella Bassett) are separated. After an incident at school she sends her son Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to live with his father so he can learn how to be a man.

The film jumps ahead seven years; Tre is thinking about college, and he has a steady girlfriend (.Nia Long). He has bonded with a small group of friends in South Central. The two most significant are Ricky Baker (Morris Chesbnut) and Darren/Doughboy (Ice T). Ricky is a talented football player who is in line for a college scholarship. Darren has already been through juvie and carries. A seemingly simple incident in a car situation sets up the murder of Ricky by another gang. This is another type of car culture than we saw in American Graffiti.

The film opened in Cannes to great acclaim. Singleton has stated that he tried to make a film like those he wanted to see, but never did. Scorcese has often said similar things, for Scorcese he found the films of Elia Kazan. This film of Singleton's is often compared with Spike Lee's work. It is more direct and small scaled, and where Lee has a substantial body of work of substance; we have only this one film which is arguably more moving that Lee's best. My own personal experience draws me to this film. I spent about 15 years teaching in the inner city. Of course it was Hartford, and not LA. It was also from the late 60's through the mid eighties. It was before the crack epidemic, and just at the beginning of rap.

This is available for free streaming on YouTube. It is also available on Comcast. Very highly recommended, and I also suggest that you view some of the retrospective videos on YouTube. This helped me to put this film and the audience response into perspective. Taking a note from Shakespeare: "Oh, brave new world that has such creatures in it." For most of us this world is as foreign as the world of the "Tempest," but this is a very true world.
 
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"The Graduate"-Mike Nichols-1967

I'm not sure how I feel about this film. I think I fall more into the time capsule group, than in the enduring masterpiece group. Like most Americans of my generation; I do have some very specific memories, but one of the best things about writing about a very diverse universe of films is that I can go to school about these films.
I think it is only natural for an individual to view films through a personal prism based on life experiences, films viewed, what films one cherishes, and what background knowledge we can find to enhance the experience. I found out some interesting new to me information. Mike Nichols was born in Berlin in 1931; he came to the US when he was 8. Years later a parody in "Mad" caused him to reflect on his relationship to the film. Nichols is also Jewish. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is ostensibly a Wasp. Of course Hoffman is actually Jewish. While writing this "Goodbye Columbus" popped into my head. Leaving aside the Mrs Robinson part; the girls have more than a passing resemblance. Both Ross and Ali McGraw became iconic symbols in the respective movies and in general. McGraw is the Jewish Princess; Ross is the Wasp Princess.

Hoffman (Braddock) is an outsider because internally he is an outsider; Benjamin is an outsider because of class/money distinctions. Both pursue/stalk their erstwhile romantic fixations. If not for Braddock's internal make-up; he would be right for Elaine. In the resolution/end; Ben is determined to stop the marriage. In the Iconic scene where he pounds the glass and shouts Elaine; several endings were possible. In the film Elaine hears his impassioned cries and runs away with Ben. They board a bus and sit in the back. The passengers stare at them. Initially they look at each other, but then they stare blankly ahead. We are left with multiple questions, but we can reflect back to Mrs. Robinson's words to Elaine:" It's too late," and the response: "Not for Me." In "Goodbye Columbus" Richard Benjamin walks away from Ally McGraw because she is too dependent on her parent's approval.

In "the Graduate" the counterpart would be Elaine hearing and seeing Ben and then kissing her husband. "Here's to you Mrs. Robinson; Jesus loves you more than you will ever know." For me the key question is why Mrs. Robinson seduces Ben. Yes,she is unhappy in her marriage, but why the son of her husband's partner? Robert Redford was rejected for the Ben role because he exuded sexual magnetism and confidence.
Hoffman as Ben doesn't; he is confused and unsure about everything. Some critics felt that the movie falls apart when Ben moves from Mrs. Robinson to Elaine. Think plastics, Ben is looking for something; he isn't sure what. He realizes that his relationship with Mrs. Robinson is empty. He is cruel to Elaine when he takes her to a strip joint. Mrs. Robinson and Ben don't love each other; it isn't clear that Ben and Elaine love each other. What is clear is that neither wants what the adults want them to want.

The film was a huge box office success. Nichols won the Oscar for best director, but the film won no other Oscars. That is unheard of. I realize that this commentary can seem confusing, but the film confused me.
It clearly struck a chord with both audiences and critics. In the first decade of this century many commentators found the film lacking, but in this decade commentators on IMDb take a more positive view.
This is available on Prime, but I haven't been able to find other free streaming options. You should see the film for the performances of Hoffman and Bancroft and the direction of Nichols. The music is great. Highly recommended.
 
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"Seabiscuit"-Gary Ross-2003

This movie is a screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's excellent book by director Gary Ross. Ross has written some notable scripts beginning with "Big." This is a major production with flawless filming of the horse races. The period mileu is well conceived. I liked the intro by historian David McCullough. This loser or underdog horse became almost like a good luck charm in the late 30's. His exploits were shown in newsreels, some of his races were broadcast, and his name and story filled the newspapers. All of this makes a highly entertaining movie.

The movie focuses on 3 central characters in Seabiscuit's revitalized career. He was the grandson of Man o' War.
He was purchased by a rich automobile entrepreneur, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges). He built his fortune from nothing. He loses his only child a son in an automobile accident while he was in San Francisco. His marriage doesn't survive the trauma. In Mexico he meets Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) a down on his luck trainer who is living wild while rehabbing a horse. Tom Smith finds Red Pollard (Tobey McGuire) a down on his luck jockey and bare knuckle fighter with a way with horses. Together they find, re-train, and promote Seabiscuit. The three principals are all well developed. Together this unlikely group of misfits create or perhaps rehabilitate this great champion. I should mention the contribution of William H, Macy who plays an offbeat racing commentator on the radio. he's kooky,but funny.

If you haven't seen the movie; I don't want to spoil the conclusion. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a free streaming option. The DVD has useful extras. There is a documentary made in 1938 which is available for free if you have prime. I have seen "The Story of Seabiscuit", and I read the book which I recommend. This is well worth viewing.
 
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"The Graduate"-Mike Nichols-1967

I'm not sure how I feel about this film. I think I fall more into the time capsule group, than in the enduring masterpiece group. Like most Americans of my generation; I do have some very specific memories, but one of the best things about writing about a very diverse universe of films is that I can go to school about these films.
I think it is only natural for an individual to view films through a personal prism based on life experiences, films viewed, what films one cherishes, and what background knowledge we can find to enhance the experience. I found out some interesting new to me information. Mike Nichols was born in Berlin in 1931; he came to the US when he was 8. Years later a parody in "Mad" caused him to reflect on his relationship to the film. Nichols is also Jewish. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is ostensibly a Wasp. Of course Hoffman is actually Jewish. While writing this "Goodbye Columbus" popped into my head. Leaving aside the Mrs Robinson part; the girls have more than a passing resemblance. Both Ross and Ali McGraw became iconic symbols in the respective movies and in general. McGraw is the Jewish Princess; Ross is the Wasp Princess.

Hoffman (Braddock) is an outsider because internally he is an outsider; Benjamin is an outsider because of class/money distinctions. Both pursue/stalk their erstwhile romantic fixations. If not for Braddock's internal make-up; he would be right for Elaine. In the resolution/end; Ben is determined to stop the marriage. In the Iconic scene where he pounds the glass and shouts Elaine; several endings were possible. In the film Elaine hears his impassioned cries and runs away with Ben. They board a bus and sit in the back. The passengers stare at them. Initially they look at each other, but then they stare blankly ahead. We are left with multiple questions, but we can reflect back to Mrs. Robinson's words to Elaine:" It's too late," and the response: "Not for Me." In "Goodbye Columbus" Richard Benjamin walks away from Ally McGraw because she is too dependent on her parent's approval.

In "the Graduate" the counterpart would be Elaine hearing and seeing Ben and then kissing her husband. "Here's to you Mrs. Robinson; Jesus loves you more than you will ever know." For me the key question is why Mrs. Robinson seduces Ben. Yes,she is unhappy in her marriage, but why the son of her husband's partner? Robert Redford was rejected for the Ben role because he exuded sexual magnetism and confidence.
Hoffman as Ben doesn't; he is confused and unsure about everything. Some critics felt that the movie falls apart when Ben moves from Mrs. Robinson to Elaine. Think plastics, Ben is looking for something; he isn't sure what. He realizes that his relationship with Mrs. Robinson is empty. He is cruel to Elaine when he takes her to a strip joint. Mrs. Robinson and Ben don't love each other; it isn't clear that Ben and Elaine love each other. What is clear is that neither wants what the adults want them to want.

The film was a huge box office success. Nichols won the Oscar for best director, but the film won no other Oscars. That is unheard of. I realize that this commentary can seem confusing, but the film confused me.
It clearly struck a chord with both audiences and critics. In the first decade of this century many commentators found the film lacking, but in this decade commentators on IMDb take a more positive view.
This is available on Prime, but I haven't been able to find other free streaming options. You should see the film for the performances of Hoffman and Bancroft and the direction of Nichols. The music is great. Highly recommended.
When I was a teenager before I went to UConn "The Graduate" was my favorite film. "The Graduate" is indeed an excellent film, and the fact that I was a big Simon and Garfunkel fan at the time probably had something to do with my view on the film at the time as well. At some point "Casablanca" became my favorite film, probably right around the time I became a student at UConn ("The Maltese Falcon" is now my favorite film, with "Casablanca" clocking in at the second spot). Around the time I became a student at UConn I also started to see a lot more classic films. These days I still think "The Graduate" is an excellent film, but it would probably be well down the list of my favorite films, that is, if I were ever to sit down and make such a list.
 

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"Seabiscuit"-Gary Ross-2003
Tom Smith finds Red Pollard (Tobey McGuire) a down on his luck jockey and bare knuckle fighter with a way with horses.
I'd love to know how in hell Maguire got cast for this. He's not tall, but he's a good 4" taller than a typical jockey. And former "bare knuckle fighter"... laughable. Kid would fall over in a stiff wind.

Anyway, I found it OK, but IMO, "Secretariat" was the far better movie among recent vintage horse racing flicks.
 
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"Sweet Smell of Success"-Alexander McKendrick-1957

Burt Lancaster had a production company; this film was a financial disaster. Today it is highly regarded. McKendrick had some real success in Britain including "Whiskey Galore." ...

This is superb nastiness. This is available for free if you have Prime. This film is compelling viewing.
We did the McKendrick double last night and today. Both enjoyable but Sweet Smell is just brutal. Those weren't the good ol' days.
 
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Anyway, I found it OK, but IMO, "Secretariat" was the far better movie among recent vintage horse racing flicks.
It had Diane Lane so that was a big plus. But I hate that movie, it took dramatic license to the extreme. The inaccuracy was too great to overcome for me.
 
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"Seabiscuit"-Gary Ross-2003

This movie is a screen adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's excellent book by director Gary Ross. Ross has written some notable scripts beginning with "Big." This is a major production with flawless filming of the horse races. The period mileu is well conceived. I liked the intro by historian David McCullough. This loser or underdog horse became almost like a good luck charm in the late 30's. His exploits were shown in newsreels, some of his races were broadcast, and his name and story filled the newspapers. All of this makes a highly entertaining movie.

The movie focuses on 3 central characters in Seabiscuit's revitalized career. He was the grandson of Man o' War.
He was purchased by a rich automobile entrepreneur, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges). He built his fortune from nothing. He loses his only child a son in an automobile accident while he was in San Francisco. His marriage doesn't survive the trauma. In Mexico he meets Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) a down on his luck trainer who is living wild while rehabbing a horse. Tom Smith finds Red Pollard (Tobey McGuire) a down on his luck jockey and bare knuckle fighter with a way with horses. Together they find, re-train, and promote Seabiscuit. The three principals are all well developed. Together this unlikely group of misfits create or perhaps rehabilitate this great champion. I should mention the contribution of William H, Macy who plays an offbeat racing commentator on the radio. he's kooky,but funny.

If you haven't seen the movie; I don't want to spoil the conclusion. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a free streaming option. The DVD has useful extras. There is a documentary made in 1938 which is available for free if you have prime. I have seen "The Story of Seabiscuit", and I read the book which I recommend. This is well worth viewing.
You say the 3 principal characters are well developed, but I read the book first and their character development in the movie was (and still is) a huge reason I didn't care much for it. Hillenbrand is masterful in laying down the roads that all eventually converge at a later point and the movie, understandably due to time, just "smooshed" a lot into a 5 minute scene. If you didn't read the book, I would recommend it. It just felt forced to me.
 
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sorry all. Losing wifi wasonly the beginning. My card was hacked and no replacement yet. As soon as I can I will return to regular posting.
 
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Hillenbrand is masterful in laying down the roads that all eventually converge at a later point and the movie, understandably due to time, just "smooshed" a lot into a 5 minute scene. If you didn't read the book, I would recommend it. It just felt forced to me.
I see your point. The early scene where the trainer comes up against the barbed wire and gets the faraway look in his eye covers what, 20 pages of the book? It doesn't bother me as much, I guess.
 
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Finally, I haveboth my credit card and wifi problems solved. I hope to be back with with content tomorrow.
 

ClifSpliffy

surf's up
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"Boyz in the Hood"-John Singleton-1991

Amazingly, this is Singleton's first film. It was budgeted at 6;5 $ million, and it grossed $57.5. It took in over $19 million the first week, In several places showings were closed by fights. Despite this film has remained onr of the top American films of the 90's. It is hard to believe that it is almost 30 years old. If you haven't seen it you should, and it is well worth a second look look if you have. How do you understand the hood, if you don't live there? What does it share with a more generalized american teen culture? Laurence Fishburne (Jason "Furious" Styles) has made some important films about coming of age in Black America. My favorite is "Akela and the Bee" a much different take and a more optimistic one on life in the hood. Fishburne and his wife (Angella Bassett) are separated. After an incident at school she sends her son Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to live with his father so he can learn how to be a man.

The film jumps ahead seven years; Tre is thinking about college, and he has a steady girlfriend (.Nia Long). He has bonded with a small group of friends in South Central. The two most significant are Ricky Baker (Morris Chesbnut) and Darren/Doughboy (Ice T). Ricky is a talented football player who is in line for a college scholarship. Darren has already been through juvie and carries. A seemingly simple incident in a car situation sets up the murder of Ricky by another gang. This is another type of car culture than we saw in American Graffiti.

The film opened in Cannes to great acclaim. Singleton has stated that he tried to make a film like those he wanted to see, but never did. Scorcese has often said similar things, for Scorcese he found the films of Elia Kazan. This film of Singleton's is often compared with Spike Lee's work. It is more direct and small scaled, and where Lee has a substantial body of work of substance; we have only this one film which is arguably more moving that Lee's best. My own personal experience draws me to this film. I spent about 15 years teaching in the inner city. Of course it was Hartford, and not LA. It was also from the late 60's through the mid eighties. It was before the crack epidemic, and just at the beginning of rap.

This is available for free streaming on YouTube. It is also available on Comcast. Very highly recommended, and I also suggest that you view some of the retrospective videos on YouTube. This helped me to put this film and the audience response into perspective. Taking a note from Shakespeare: "Oh, brave new world that has such creatures in it." For most of us this world is as foreign as the world of the "Tempest," but this is a very true world.
first, reality. art imitates life. that 'great question' was easily answered for me in childhood. the reverse position is as ridiculous as can be, and only exists for those consumed by seeking meaning in everything, as opposed to the rest of us, who just live. as such, and as to the film at hand, this flick just held up a mirror to things as they are. good, bad or indifferent, 'it is what it is.' you are correct that the times depicted in boyz came during a period that percolated from, roughly, post nixon to pre bush, coincidentally a period that witnessed an explosion of single parent families and the wholesale decimation of our 'factory' economy. ie, weakened social structure and a serious lack of cash for many, including governments, to even perform the basics needed to maintain civil society. crime (you can literally chart 'crime in America' as a direct correlation to 'age in America,' with the past decades witnessing the line going straight down as average age went straight up) at that time was escalating, with hard drugs pouring in from foreign sources, and so death, depression, and dealing were on the rise. the premise that this was a 'woke' film is no more valuable than saying 'manchild in the promised land' or 'blackboard jungle' previous to that, or …. previous to that, or … previous to that, and so on and so on going back, at least, to the early 1800s in America. don't forget dickens! meh, just more mirrors as to then current realities in our nation. isn't that other film (graduate) just another 'woke' film? oooh, simon and garfunkel - how timely! or 'wall street,' how timely! as a child of Bridgeport with roots there since the civil war, these 'eras' are well known to me, whether personally like the 'boyz' experience, or anecdotally like that 'gangs of ny' flick. each and every time, some small component of folks go nutz ('The film opened in Cannes to great acclaim'), decide that 'this is the only thing!', and try to convince the rest of us that we should drop everything and focus on only this. wasn't that teenager just recently trying to shame everyone in the world around our impending doom in only 12 years? and while I support the overall idea, didn't that plastic bag 'most important' thing just disappear in a heartbeat? so, art is the mirror on life, worthy of use, yet capable at times of causing mini-manias. apparently, a lot of folks in, say, westport, or sausalito, or austin, don't get out much, and when they do, they tend to then start yelling at everybody else about their revelations, as if we're all stoopit. nice film, entertaining and such, but as a force 'woking' a bunch of shutins in france? meh, not so important. most younger men these days pull their pants up again, like everyone else. at least spike lee has a bit of humor in his reflections. in the long run, the 'grapes of wrath' will still stand as the 'woke' film of record, while this one, along with most of the others, will be just another snapshot. im thinking the current 'ccp virus' times should be good for a flick or two. maybe even a tome discussing 'globalism,' or at least nursing homes. heck, someone will prolly pen a classic about 'shady acres' that sounds in echos of upton sinclairs 'the jungle,' and then the ny times book review, triple moccachino latte in hand, will scream 'it's the only thing!' while the rest of us head to micky d's to grab a bag of burgers. and oh, as part of a new haven program for poor kids for a long time, i am quite happy to report that, now, the vast majority of them are decidedly not knuckleheads, as the girls aren't rushing to get pregnant, the boys aren't sneaking tallboys, and many just enjoy riding their bicycles around 'the hood.' all with their pants up, and an eye toward their future. nice. a far cry from the 4th grade overdose and such that was not uncommon in my grammar school times. progress. on the udder hand, the only thing that matters today, is our current problem of tens of millions jobless.
 
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"Hoosiers"-David Anspaugh-1986

I guess it is appropriate to write about this film as a comeback entry for this series. Anspaugh is better known for his TV work Hill Street Blues and Saint Elsewhere, his only other big screen credit which is well known is Rudy. The same can be said about screenwriter Angelo Pizzo.

Sports films play a much bigger role in American cinema than in any other country. Next to football (soccer), basketball is the most popular and widely played sport in the world. It is of course an American invention. Other American contributions include baseball and lacrosse. Sports are an important part of our culture. References turn up in odd places; Wendell Pierce's character in "The Wire",Bump. was a notable high school lacrosse player. This provides common ground between Bump and Omar. Foreign reviewers have trouble relating to American sports movies. When this film was shown abroad; it was titled "Best Shot." It was thought that foreign audiences wouldn't understand the title. Then there is the phenomena of high school sports which don't exist in most other countries. Certain high school sports are vital to towns. For Odessa, Texas (Friday Night Lights") it is American football; for Hickory, Indiana it is high school basketball. The film is based on the real life story of small town Milan with a high school enrollment of less than 200 beating the defending state champion from South Bend with an enrollment of around 2,000 students. There is a scene in the movie just before the final game where a preacher compares the state final to the battle between David and Goliath. "Hoosiers" offers New Testament references as well, both Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) and Shooter (Dennis Hopper) are reborn thru basketball.

There is a well used pattern in sports underdog films. Problems are many, and it appears that the leading character or team will not succeed. Of course there almost always a triumph at the end. An exception is "A Shot at Glory" where the final penalty kick is missed. The coach (Robert Duvall remarks "that's football." Hoosiers ends with the final shot going in. The shooter, Jimmy Chitwood (Maris Valanis) was discovered shooting baskets one late night at St. Luke's High School in Indianapolis. In real life his name is Bobby Plump who made the final shot for Milan. He went on to star for Butler.

There is almost a reverence for small town America. In our myths they are the home of true values. The director and the screenwriter wanted to release a 2 hour and 48 minute version of "Hoosiers." Orion insisted on a manageable 114 minutes. Anspaugh had his name removed from the credits for the TV version. Supposedly, the long version contained more development of the romance between Myra Fleener (Barbara Hershey) and Norman Dale. Roger Ebert notices this in his review. I really like his characterization of Hackman's performance as "gifted at combining likability and complexity." Hopper was nominated for an Oscar; the film was a solid moneymaker. The budget was six million; the US revenues were 28.6 million.

I assume that just about every Yarder has seen this film. most multiple times . The story arc is predictable, but everything else isn't. The opening sequence is an example. Dale is driving along country roads on his way to Hickory. There is no dialogue, no real music. The audience focuses on the view from the car window. We are not only traveling to a small farming town; we are going back in time. Dale is too old to be coming to a small farming town as a basketball coach. What is the back story? It isn't revealed right away. Dale is discovered as we watch. There is no single Eureka moment. There is the Dale of "My practices are not designed for your enjoyment" to the Dale quipping "The Lord wants you on the court." In the final game he draws up a solid last play with Chitwood as a decoy. The team looks at Coach without saying anything. Dale reads them, then Chitwood says: "I'll make it." Dale as well as the players have learned during the season. There is a new play with Chitwood set up for the final shot.

I love films which ... add your own reasons here.
 
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"This Gun For Hire"- Frank Tuttle-1942

This film is almost 80 years old. It is based on a Graham Green novel published in 1936. Paramount bought the screen rights for $12,000. Tuttle was a studio director. He worked regularly, but his career is devoid of peaks and valleys. W.R. Burnett who co-wrote the screenplay is a major Hollywood figure. His novels often were adapted for the screen beginning with "Little Caesar." He also wrote screenplays; one of the better known is "The Great Escape." Walz, his writing partner, was one of the Hollywood 10; he was blacklisted, He was a committed Communist.

Several commentators criticize the script for its use of remarkable coincidences. They were in Green's book as well. Raven (Allan Ladd) is a professional hitter. He is not one for staging accidents or suicides; he just shoots people at close range. Raven betrays little emotion. He likes cats; he believes they are his luck. In the beginning of the film Raven hits a blackmailer. He had been informed that the individual was alone. He ended up having to kill the girlfriend. Raven meets Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) who pays him $1,000 in counterfeit tens. Raven gave Gates incriminating technical documents, the chemical formula for a new poison gas which is being sold to the Japanese. Pearl Harbor occurred mid-way through the shooting. This is more contrivance than coincidence. Why would you pay your hitter in hot money? If he is caught; he has a story to tell. The police probably wouldn't believe him, but wait the company is already being investigated for trading with the enemy.

Raven sets out after Gates. Gates runs a nightclub in LA. He hires Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) a singing magician as an act for his club. Ellen is the girlfriend of LT. Crane (Robert Preston) who is investigating the marked money. Gates, Raven and Ellen Graham are all on the same train to LA. Raven and Graham are seatmates. Written out like this it sounds hokey. On the screen it works. Lake, Ladd, and Cregar are excellent. Preston is okay. This film made Ladd a star; it is easy to see why. This is one of the very happy accidents produced by the studio system. Highly recommended; this early noir really delivers.
 

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