2012 - LOGAN'S RUN
The remake produced by Silver Pictures may draw more from the 1967 novel.
2012 - BARBARELLA
A remake is coming. Kate Beckinsale would be great in the role, but it will never happen.
2012 - DALLAS
The Ewings hit the screen. It will be a comedy from what I understand.
2011 - WONDER WOMAN
The Wonder Woman character was created by William Marston in 1941. She is an Amazon from Paradise Island who calls herself Diana Prince. She has a magic lasso and bracelets and flies an invisible plane. I watched the series starring Lynda Carter. Lots of names are being mentioned as the potential new Wonder Woman. It should be an unknown, someone as fresh as Carter when she took the role.
2010 - SECRETARIAT
Biography of the super race horse and Triple Crown winner of 1973.
2010 - CLASH OF THE TITANS
A remake of the 1981 movie. It will retell the Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda.
2008 - MAMMA MIA!
The world's biggest stage musical became a major motion picture. It features the songs of ABBA. The plot is thin yet relevant to the songs. Sophie is getting married and wants to know who her father is. She gets into her mother's diary and narrows it down to three men. She invites all three to the Greek island where the wedding is taking place. Sophie's mother is played by Meryl Streep. She carries a torch for Sam, played by Pierce Brosnan. Mamma Mia! is ultimately an excuse for reviving the ABBA catalog.
2007 - IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON
Michael and I saw this documentary about the Apollo program. The surviving astronauts, in their 70s, speak their minds. For the first time they seem like real people. They tell what it was like going to the moon. They savored the beauty of the moon's desolation, yet understood it to be a hostile place. All returned with an appreciation of our fragile earth, an oasis floating in the void. Fear was negligible, but Michael Collins was concerned whether Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could fly the Eagle back to the command module. These old guys have a sense of humor.
2006 - WORLD TRADE CENTER
Oliver Stone abandons conspiracy theories for a tale of courage. Nicolas Cage is a policeman trapped in the rubble of 9/11. He and his buddy are rescued after baring their souls. Only the shadow of the first plane is seen as it flies toward the WTC. I recall the morning of September 11, 2001. I awoke at 6am, went into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and decided to shave my head. I had never done that in my life. I shaved my head, went back to bed and went to sleep. The phone woke me. It was my mother, and she was crying. She said, "They've hit New York. They've hit Washington, D.C." I thought, "My God! We're in a nuclear war with China!" I was relieved when I found out what happened.
2006 - SUPERMAN RETURNS
Superman as a Christ figure sent to earth to save humanity. Christianity penetrated Hollywood after 9/11. I wanted Superman to fight the War on Terror. Bin Laden would have made a more formidable villain than Lex Luthor. A three hundred million dollar price tag demands relevance. Superman Returns is a lot like the first film. Brandon Routh looks and sounds like Christopher Reeve. A refinement is that Superman and Lois Lane have a son. I still imagine a curse on the character. Television Superman committed suicide, and Reeve died paralyzed.
2005 - KING KONG
Set in the 1930s, Kong again climbs the Empire State Building. This version suffers from an excess of mayhem once our adventurers arrive at Skull Island. The bug scenes are annoying, and it would have been enough if Kong had vanquished two tyrannosaurs instead of three. A consolation is that Naomi Watts does not scream as much as Fay Wray. She develops an affection for the beast. Watts is pretty and slides into the role naturally. The natives are more sinister than in the original.
2005 - REVENGE OF THE SITH
Last of the Star Wars movies. Ewan McGregor rises to a strong Obi-Wan as Hayden Christensen sinks into Darth Vader. Anakin goes to the dark side after signing a pact with the devil in hell, a planet of volcanoes. He marries Natalie Portman, and Luke and Leia are their kids, making the younger Portman the mother of older Carrie Fisher. This episode links the trilogies.
2004 - DOWNFALL
Downfall dramatizes Adolf Hitler's life from his 56th birthday until he and Eva Braun commit suicide. The film comes from Germany and has subtitles. It treats Hitler as a human being. He is charming as well as brutal. The fall of Berlin is seen through the eyes of his secretary. She conveys the chaos and claustrophobia as Russians surround the city.
2004 - TROY
Michael and I watched this on TV from our room in New York City. I tried to explain it. It is from the Iliad written by the Greek poet Homer. Ilium is word for Troy. When Trojan Paris seduces Helen, the Greeks sack Troy, using a wooden horse to enter the city. Brad Pitt is Achilles, the Greek hero. He dies when Paris shoots an arrow into his heel. Michael asked if the part about the horse was true. I said the story is half true, half made-up. Homer lived in 800 B.C. The Trojan War was fought in 1200 B.C.
2004 - THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Mel Gibson answered Islam in the wake of 9/11 with his faith in Christ as the only means of salvation. He sought realism by using Latin and ancient Hebrew. He confronted accusations of anti-Semitism. In my astronomy paper, I prove that God does not exist. But the Holy Spirit reveals that God does exist. I had a religious experience at age 26. One night, I knelt beside my bed thumbing through the New Testament. Understanding poured into me. It was as if God pulled back a veil and allowed me to see the nature of things. The Holy Spirit showed me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on a cross for my sins and rose from the dead. The room lit up in an unearthly white light. It was an experience similar to the one Paul had on the road to Damascus. Jesus did not speak to me but revealed the essence of the New Testament as ultimate truth. I shall never forget it. "Jesus" will be the last word on my lips. The word "Passion" comes from the Latin word for "suffering." The Passion deals with the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
2002 - ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Star Wars #2. Roger Ebert accused Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme of being the clones. They speak in monotones, and Ebert said they sounded like lawyers. By now, character and spirited dialogue were taking a back seat to Lucas' fascination with computers. He gave mixed signals as to how many stories there were. At different times, he reported 6, 9 and 12 as if he were trying to be conservative on one hand and losing control of the series on the other. The later films were anti-climactic, playing second fiddle to advance publicity.
2001 - 61*
Comedian Billy Crystal produced this movie about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chasing Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs. Maris finished with 61 but hit the last two in games added to an expanded schedule. The Commissioner of Baseball placed an asterisk beside his record, tainting the achievement. Maris never fit in New York. Whether the stress was such that his hair fell out, I am not sure. Movies need drama. The actors who play Mantle and Maris look like them. Michael and I watched this before going to Yankee Stadium.
2001 - PEARL HARBOR
Triangle of lovers set against the Japanese attack which pulled America into World War II. Kate Beckinsale is a nurse torn between Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. Both are pilots. When Affleck is presumed dead, Josh gets Kate pregnant. Affeck returns, and the two men clash in Hawaii. The attack on Pearl Harbor is emotional and drawn out. After Josh is killed in Japan, Affleck marries Kate and raises her son. There is no mention of the atomic bomb, which I considered an omission. I journeyed to Oahu and saw the USS Arizona Memorial.
1999 - THE PHANTOM MENACE
The Phantom Menace was blasted by the generation which waited 16 years for a Star Wars prequel. Fortunately, I was not in that generation. Devoted fans may have learned a lesson, not to expect too much from a middle-age writer who has made his fortune. The kid who plays Anakin has no personality and exhibits no signs of being fated to become Darth Vader. Jar Jar Binks is controversial. Some saw a racial stereotype. I saw a duckbill dinosaur wandering into Star Wars from Jurassic Park.
1998 - THE GOVERNESS
Period piece about the early days of photography and a relationship between an older man and a younger woman. Minnie Driver plays a Jewess who finds work in Scotland after her father is murdered. She gets in with her employer. Driver is a second generation Jenny Agutter with those sweeping cheeks. She was born in London on January 31, 1970. Her real name is Amelia. Her sister called her Minnie because she could not pronounce it. Driver sang in jazz clubs and recorded an album for Rounder Records.
1997 - TITANIC
Michael and I saw this blockbuster. The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. It was sailing from Southampton, England, to New York. 1523 people drowned. 705 survived. The passenger list was a microcosm of society, and the tragedy continues to fascinate. Robert Ballard located Titanic on the ocean floor and recovered its contents. James Cameron felt inspired to make the film. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play Jack and Rose. Who can forget the image of the couple at the front of the ship? "I'm the king of the world!" Titanic won 11 Academy Awards, netting over $600 million.
1997 - CONTACT
Carl Sagan's novel about extraterrestrial intelligence stars Jodie Foster as Ellie. She pursues her passion for astronomy, working with SETI. When contact is made and a machine is built according to instructions sent by aliens, Ellie is transported through a wormhole to Vega. She encounters an alien whom she perceives as her deceased father. The ending is inconclusive which again shows that we cannot seek reality in science fiction. Foster achieved notoriety when John Hinckley, the man who shot Ronald Reagan, said he did it to get her attention.
1995 - TRINITY AND BEYOND
The Atomic Bomb Movie is a documentary tracing the development of nuclear weapons. There were many tests in the years after World War II both at the Nevada Test Site and in the Pacific Ocean. Those mushroom clouds have an intrinsic beauty, especially when accompanied by the music of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Atmospheric tests eventually gave way to underground testing, and there have been no tests at all since 1992.
1994 - FORREST GUMP
I hated this movie at first. I had to go out in the lobby during the combat scene. Even though I did not go to Vietnam, I felt like I did. Gump moves from Elvis and The Beatles to the disco era. He finds himself in Washington, D.C., an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I later developed an affection for Tom Hanks' character when I took my son to D.C. We joked about Jenny running through the Reflecting Pool. Unfolding the quintessential boomer life can be painful.
1994 - MAVERICK
Mel Gibson is Bret Maverick. James Garner is pappy and Jodie Foster is Annabelle. Bret and Annabelle struggle to get the entry fee for a poker game as action and comedy take turns. I took my son to see this because the I liked the Maverick series. There were 124 TV episodes between 1957 and 1962. It was James Garner as Bret one week and Jack Kelly as brother Bart the next. They often appeared together. The appeal of Maverick was its humor. It was an exception among westerns. I hear the theme song: "Riverboat ring your bell. Fare thee well Annabelle. Luck is the lady that he loves the best. Natchez to New Orleans. Living on jacks and queens. Maverick is a legend of the west."
1993 - JURASSIC PARK
Dinosaur-mania peaked with the movie based on Michael Crichton's novel. Dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic Era between 65 and 220 million years ago. The Mesozoic divides into Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Jurassic Park brings dinosaurs into the present by cloning them from DNA. They are confined on an island with plans of creating an attraction. They break loose. Velociraptors are fierce, and T Rex goes on a rampage. I felt there were not enough species represented. Where are triceratops and stegosaurus? Ankylosaurus! The theme that man should not tamper with nature is ridiculous because the whole point of science and technology is that we can better ourselves by understanding and harnessing natural forces. Movie makers are counter-productive. Both Lucas and Spielberg like dark, chaotic scenes.
1992 - HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID
The one sequel better than the original. An eccentric inventor accidentally zaps his two-year-old with a machine designed to enlarge things. Adam grows to over 100 feet tall. We are reminded of The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, although Adam is a little kid and means no harm. He terrorizes Las Vegas in his red overalls. When he went for the Hard Rock Cafe guitar, he reminded me of my own kid. Terrible twos!
1990 - HAMLET
Mel Gibson comes of age. Hamlet was produced by Franco Zeffirelli, the same guy who did Romeo and Juliet 22 years earlier. Great color: grays and browns of the Middle Ages! Biographies of William Shakespeare are sketchy. He was born in Stratford-on-the-Avon in 1564. Stratford is 100 miles from London. Avon is the river. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and fathered three children. He moved to London and established himself as a playwright. His plays were staged at the Globe. Hamlet is the best, written in 1601. It deals with insanity and revenge. Hamlet puts on an antic disposition to delay avenging his father's murder. The real issue is death. Why do we die? Why live at all if we must die? Shakespeare died in 1616 at age 52. His 36 plays divide into tragedies, comedies, histories and problem plays. Characters drop like flies in the tragedies.
1989 - BATMAN
I thought, "Why would anyone do Batman in 1989?" It turned out to be a strong movie. Kim Basinger is Batman's girl friend. Jack Nicholson is the Joker. Roger Ebert felt that Batman was mostly form with little substance, rich in atmosphere with very little happening. He was right. It is impossible to recall the plot. Comic book movies have certainly had their time. The Batman logo is an image of a bat flashed against a cloud cover. Beware of sequels.
1989 - BLAZE
Paul Newman made his best movie as an old man. He portrayed Governor Earl Long of Louisiana, who had a scandalous affair with stripper Blaze Starr. I remember this being in the news. Lolita Davidovich is Blaze. She makes her way from West Virginia to New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Earl is a liberal Democrat. This is a comedy, and there are some funny scenes: Earl shooting his lawn mower and having sex with his boots on. Robert Wuhl's character is interesting but has a small part. Blaze exits through a bathroom window to leave him, taking her mother's advice not to trust any man who tells her to trust him.
1988 - BIG
Fun movie about a boy in a man's body. A fortune telling machine grants Tom Hanks' wish to be big, and he is nerdy enough to pull it off. The piano scene is unforgettable. Hanks and the owner of a toy company play Chopsticks with their feet. Big is a forerunner of Forrest Gump. Both portray a simple mind in a mature body. Trouble in life often centers around women, and it is because Hanks wants to be with an older girl that he wishes to be big. After becoming a father, I leaned toward kid movies.
1987 - ROXANNE
Steve Martin is C.D. Bales, a perfect catch for any woman except for one drawback. He has a huge nose. It hypnotizes everyone. No one can ignore it. The movie is a take-off on the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. C.D. works for the fire department and falls in love with Roxanne, an astronomy student. Because of his nose he courts her through a friend. The scene in which Martin enumerates insults is brilliant.
1984 - GRAND CANYON: THE HIDDEN SECRETS
This documentary is shown at the IMAX theater in Tusayan near the entrance of the Grand Canyon. I like the opening line, "Man clings to the edge of eternity." The focus is on human activity. The Anasazi were the first people in the Canyon. The Spaniards found it in 1540. John Wesley Powell navigated the Colorado River in 1869. I was waiting for geology, but it never came. I wondered about the film's subtitle. It seemed that the secrets should be the fossils buried in the Canyon walls.
1984 - AMADEUS
Amadeus was Mozart's middle name. The film contrasts Mozart's genius with rival Salieri's mediocrity. It is really about Salieri with Mozart in a supporting role. Late in life, Salieri confesses to poisoning Mozart. Scholars generally agree that Mozart died from rheumatic fever. Another conspiracy theory debunked! Amadeus won 8 Academy Awards. The producer is Saul Zaentz, the man who clashed with John Fogerty over the rights to CCR songs. Zaentz headed Fantasy Records.
1983 - RASKENSTAM
Agnetha made one movie after ABBA, a Swedish comedy based on the life of Gustav Raskenstam, a womanizer and swindler. It is a silly movie, on this list because of ABBA.
1983 - RETURN OF THE JEDI
Star Wars #6 completed the story. Jabba the Hutt joins the cast. Luke battles Darth Vader, his father. In 1977, Vader was the epitome of evil. We accepted that the central characters were Luke, Leia and Solo. As the story expands, we see that it is about Anakin, that Vader was a nice guy who made bad choices. Anakin/Vader's redemption undermines the original premise. The second trilogy began 16 years later as a prequel.
1981 - OTHELLO
Desdemona marries Othello, a black soldier. He is a mix of good and evil. When Iago deceives him into thinking his wife is unfaithful, Othello kills her. Jenny Agutter is Desdemona. Jenny was born, December 20, 1952, in Taunton, Somerset, England. She is a beauty. She had a son at age 37. I did a paper in college about Othello and the theme of jealousy. Beyond jealousy, Shakespeare questions interracial relationships and their effect.
1981 - THIS IS ELVIS
Excellent biography about the life of Elvis Presley. Ral Donner, an Elvis clone, does his voice. Private archives were tapped, and a young Priscilla is shown at Elvis' birthday party in Germany. There is a condescending Ed Sullivan assuring us that Elvis is "a fine boy, thoroughly alright." Roger Ebert implied that Elvis was alcoholic. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He did not drink. There is a sharp contrast between Elvis in his 20s and Elvis in his 40s. I sense a grim exultation on the part of some at his decline.
1981 - AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Another cult film with Jenny Agutter. She nurses a guy turning into a werewolf. Moon songs are played, the best being Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. John Fogerty of CCR wrote 20 rock classics including Proud Mary and Green River. The scene with the guy turning into a werewolf is disturbing. Jenny has had some weird love interests. In Walkabout, she was with an aborigine. In Logan's Run, it was a Sandman. In Othello, it was a black soldier. Here it is a werewolf.
1981 - CLASH OF THE TITANS
This movie looked old when it was released with its aging cast and special effects by Ray Harryhausen. It begged for a remake. The sea monster threatening Andromeda is called the Kraken rather than Cetus. The Kraken was a monster in Norse mythology. Perseus rides the winged horse Pegasus.
1981 - RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
America entered a conservative period after the Iran hostage crisis. Reagan became president, and Raiders was the big movie. It was a throwback to the serials of the 1930s. Harrison Ford is archaeologist Indiana Jones, a fedora-wearing, bull whip-slinging, adventurer who fights Nazis while traveling the world in search of ancient treasure. The Ark is the chest which held the Ten Commandments. The Nazis want it because it is said that any army which possesses it will be invincible. Indy's droll instincts save the movie. Shooting the sword-wielding Arab is good. Narrow escapes and close calls are numbing.
1980 - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Yoda adds his name to the list of Star Wars characters. He started as a puppet and ended up as a computer image. I never cared for the venerable Yoda. He is too self-righteous. At 900 years old, he is not quite as old as Methuselah, who made it to 969. The exotic names and grotesque creatures of Star Wars became hard to deal with. Lightsaber duels afforded opportunities to doze. I saw this movie because I saw the one before it. Lucas made it because he made the one before it.
1980 - CAN'T STOP THE MUSIC
Valerie Perrine and the Village People party to a disco beat. Disco records were great with their incessant beat, bass runs and positive attitude! The Village People perform the classic YMCA. It is Village as in Greenwich Village, New York. They are an unforgettable group: construction worker, GI, cop, leatherman, cowboy and Indian. The soundtrack pulsates with I Love You To Death. Perrine was an ex-Las Vegas showgirl flaunting it in the post-Vietnam/Watergate era.
1980 - XANADU
Xanadu is disco colliding with Ronald Reagan. Critics loathed it. It will not go away. It opened on Broadway in 2007. Broadway shows normally become movies. Xanadu reversed the process. ELO saved their best music for Xanadu: I'm Alive and Magic. The Muses in the mural coming alive is fantastic! Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem reverberates: "In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea." A few tweaks could have made Xanadu more palatable. John Travolta opposite Olivia Newton-John would have broadened its appeal. The soundtrack is the redeeming element.
1980 - URBAN COWBOY
#3 in Travolta's trilogy of blockbusters. He dances to disco, rock & roll and country. He heads for Houston looking for work and love. Gilley's is the hot spot, and it is the era of the mechanical bull. Not to be outdone, I rode the bull at a club in Nashville. I saw this nearly forgotten film on television and remembered how good it was and what a good period it was in my life. I wore a black cowboy hat like Travolta. Debra Winger was in her prime and very sexy in her red top. Bud and Sissy make an ideal couple even if they are trailer trash.
1979 - THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN
Karen and I were in Las Vegas that summer. This desert yarn was relevant. The Jane Fonda and Robert Redford reunion served as her catharsis after Vietnam. Fonda went to Vietnam in 1972, and her picture was taken with North Vietnamese. A few veterans never forgave her. Fact is, Vietnam was playing out by the time she got there. Johnson and Nixon sacrificed 59,000 men while sitting on the atomic bomb. There was no Pearl Harbor, no oil and no 9/11. There was nothing to win and no reason not to leave. The idea of Electric Horseman was tired by the time the movie came out, a rodeo star bucking the establishment to free a horse.
1979 - HAIR
Proves my theory that Hollywood runs 10 years behind. This anti-war piece was passe when it came out. It is still a great film with music from the Age of Aquarius. Hippies revel in peace and love. They befriend a soldier and drive to Nevada to see him. We envy their freedom as they cruise through the desert to Good Morning, Starshine. Hippie Berger fills in for the soldier in his barracks to allow him time with his girl. Suddenly, Berger is whisked away to Vietnam and killed. We see his grave in a veterans cemetery. The insanity of Vietnam is driven home in a powerful conclusion.
1978 - SUPERMAN
Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor are the interesting couple. Christopher Reeve fell from a horse and spent his last years paralyzed. I saw irony in the superman myth and perhaps a curse on the character. Others noted Reeve's heroism. A quote from Hackman stayed with me, "Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."
1978 - ANIMAL HOUSE
The comedy of a generation takes place at Faber College during the Kennedy era. Delta House is the worst fraternity on campus. Members are known for sex, drinking and bad grades. The assortment of misfits is recognizable. John Belushi is the class clown. Neidermeyer is the gung-ho ROTC officer: "Drop and give me 20!" Boone and Katy are the incompatible couple. Otter is the ladies' man who beds the dean's wife. Dean Wormer's attempt to crack down on Delta is in vain. They simply take a road trip or have a toga party.
1978 - GREASE
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in this 70s version of the 50s. Olivia came from Australia and won the hearts of music fans. You're The One That I Want has the couple dressed in black: "Tell me about it, stud!" Grease appeals to every generation. Male/female duos perform Summer Nights in karaoke bars. The film exaggerates. There were no T-Birds or Pink Ladies where I came from, and this cast is long since out of high school.
1977 - SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
John Travolta and The Bee Gees teamed up for the biggest selling soundtrack in history. Travolta's feverish dancing put a face on the Gibb Brothers' disco beat. We still imitate him in his white suit, finger pointing to the sky. For a while, I thought The Bee Gees were singing "Bald Headed Woman." I was informed that it was "More Than A Woman." I particularly like Yvonne Elliman's rendition of If I Can't Have You. It was painful watching The Bee Gees discredit the disco era a few years later. They apologized for their best work.
1977 - ABBA THE MOVIE
Carl Magnus Palm shed light in the booklet accompanying the DVD. ABBA did eleven concerts in Australia. It rained during the first concert at the Sydney Showground. Water leaked into canisters and destroyed some of director Lasse Hallstrom's work. The plot featuring DJ Ashley Wallace was Hallstrom's idea. I would have settled for more concert footage.
1977 - ANNIE HALL
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton play themselves and get the Academy Award for Best Picture. The setting is Woody's beloved Manhattan. He is the intellectual Jew forever questioning himself. Much was made of Keaton's outfit. It was a mark of women's liberation but out of step with current disco fashion. I like the scene where they talk and their thoughts are shown at the bottom of the screen. Christopher Walken is Keaton's weird brother. He was on the boat the night Natalie Wood drowned. Rumors flew that they were having an affair. I drove into Nashville to see this movie and parked along the river. When I came out, my car had been towed. I understood Woody's contempt for authority.
1977 - CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
Hollywood runs 10 years behind. I was watching for UFOs in 1966. Dreyfuss somehow got into the three biggest movies of the 1970s. In Close Encounters, he is obsessed with an image in his mind. It draws him to an alien landing at Devil's Tower in Wyoming, a vertical monolith created by erosion and the nation's first National Monument. "The Third Kind" indicates actual contact with UFOs. So far, UFO stories have been hoaxes and science fiction.
1977 - STAR WARS
Star Wars plots are inconsequential. Only nerds, dorks and geeks know them. It is the characters we remember: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, C3PO & R2D2. George Lucas could have done the world a favor and let Darth Vader die at the end of A New Hope. I was 31 in 1977, and although I thought the film was okay, I was not swept away. I thought the dialogue was stiff and unemotional. Carrie Fisher had little or no charisma. My favorite was Obi-Wan. He was the one with perseverance, the one who waited years to set things right.
1976 - LOGAN'S RUN
Jenny Agutter in that green outfit! It is the 23rd century, and civilization is confined to a domed city. Logan and Jenny escape to find an imperfect world. Washington, D.C. is in ruins. Peter Ustinov and his cats point to the Lloyd Webber musical. I like Box in the caves of ice and the color as Logan and Jenny reach outside to see the sun for the first time. This is a generational piece about boomers turning 30. It takes liberties with the William F. Nolan novel.
1975 - LOVE AND DEATH
Woody Allen's spoof of War and Peace. He plays Boris, a farmer's son, in love with his cousin. When France invades Russia, he reluctantly joins the the army and becomes part of a plot to assassinate Napoleon. Funny scenes are Boris flirting with the Countess at the Opera and dancing with the Grim Reaper. Woody is always searching for the meaning of life. He wanted to call the movie, "Sex and Death," but United Artists disapproved. Diane Keaton is the perfect foil for his one-liners.
1975 - JAWS
I was reprimanded for comparing Peter Benchley's novel to Moby Dick. Jaws may not be the world in microcosm, but it did well at the box office. Great whites grow up to 20 feet. They are killing machines despite the claims of environmentalists. The shark in Jaws takes on a supernatural quality as it menaces the three men in the boat. Richard Dreyfuss is the shark expert.
1973 - SLEEPER
Woody Allen is frozen 200 years after entering a hospital for a routine operation. He awakens in a brave new world and must overthrow the repressive government. He is hilarious as he is in all his early films. Woody's comedy derives from a willingness to laugh at himself. He defines comedy as "tragedy plus time." Comedy being relative, different generations laugh at different things. Would a modern audience laugh at the robot bit? Diane Keaton is Woody's counterpart.
1973 - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote this irreverent rock gospel. It was the rage. Yvonne Elliman is Mary Magdalene. Agnetha Faltskog was Magdalene in Sweden. The Bible comes down to the essence of the New Testament. Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins and then rose again. The Holy Spirit is needed for eternal salvation.
1973 - AMERICAN GRAFFITI
California teenagers cruise on a night of self-discovery. Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Suzanne Somers rose from this movie. Suzanne is the blonde in the white Thunderbird whom Dreyfuss pursues. He chases his dream before flying off to college. In Close Encounters, he flies off with aliens. I wish the soundtrack had more rock & roll and less doo-wop.
1972 - ELVIS ON TOUR
Elvis takes us city to city. He dons jumpsuits and gains weight. We see his increasing boredom. Elvis disintegrated after the divorce from Priscilla. Burning Love was his last big record. They were good until the end, but there was little recording the last two years. This film got the Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary. It is chaotic but worthwhile because it is candid Elvis. The quote from his father about guitar players not being worth a damn would not have been used a decade earlier. Lawdy Miss Clawdy sounds as rootsy today as it did in the beginning.
1972 - THE NEW LAND
The story of the Swedes continues with their lives in Minnesota. Karl Oskar is satisfied. Kristina pines like Jerusha in Hawaii. Robert dies after searching for gold. and Ulrika starts over. Each character's fate is consistent with his or her personality. Liv Ullmann is actually Norwegian. She was born in Tokyo, where her dad worked as an aircraft technician.
1971 - MACBETH
Hugh Hefner put up the money for Roman Polanski's grim and gruesome adaptation of Shakespeare's MacBeth. Polanski was coming off the Sharon Tate murder by the Manson family, and MacBeth's words express his own nihilistic world view: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
1971 - WALKABOUT
I had a crush on Jenny Agutter and rented her movies. Walkabout is a challenge. Two kids are lost in the Australian outback. They are led to safety by an Aborigine on a desert trek to prove his manhood. Problems arise when he has feelings for the white girl. He commits suicide. It is curious that a decade later Jenny would play Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello. Walkabout draws a sharp contrast between civilization and nature.
1971 - THE EMIGRANTS
The Emigrants is a Swedish film based on a novel by Vilhelm Moberg. It is about the Swedish emigrants who came to the United States in the 1850s. Max von Sydow is patriarch Karl Oskar. Liv Ullmann is his faithful wife Kristina. The film shows the harsh conditions in Sweden, the agony of an ocean voyage and the promise of a better life in Minnesota. Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA turned the novel into a stage musical. Swedish folk music!
1970 - ELVIS: THAT'S THE WAY IT IS
Concert film of Elvis' Las Vegas act. His movies made money but hurt his career. As the movies phased out, the era of the white jumpsuit began. Elvis dug in at the International Hotel in August, 1969. "Suspicious Minds" climbed to #1. He was back, giving The Beatles all they could handle. Elvis performed at the International (now the Las Vegas Hilton) and did shows around the country for the next eight years.
1968 - BARBARELLA
Jane Fonda's transition from innocence to experience, a documentary of the anti-culture doing its thing. It is Jane showing daddy and the Hollywood establishment that she is a big girl and will take her pleasure where she finds it. As Queen of the Galaxy, she does just that. Durand-Durand is the actor who played Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet. He tries to kill Barbarella with ecstasy only to have his excessive machine shorted out by this insatiable woman. Barbarella was directed by Roger Vadim. Jane and Vadim married and had a daughter.
1968 - ROMEO AND JULIET
Candy Heim and I saw it on our first date: July 6, 1969. I wonder what became of her. She had the long, straight hair parted down the middle like Olivia Hussey. I struggled with Shakespeare. He would not leave me alone and had been dead for centuries. The idea is that love growing in a context of hate will be snuffed out. The song haunts: "A rose will bloom, it then will fade, so does a youth, so does the fairest maid." Fiery Michael York is Tybalt. Romeo and Juliet have their night.
1968 - 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Stanley Kubrick's vision based on Arthur C. Clarke's work. A scientific background helps. We encounter the idea that human intelligence was jump-started by aliens. When we reach into space, we are reaching toward our source. This is consistent with the Panspermia theory, that life did not originate on Earth but evolved from spores brought by comets. The film degenerates into a semblance of an LSD trip. No one knows what it means.
1967 - PLANET OF THE APES
We were headed for the moon, and astronauts were in. Charlton Heston plays an astronaut who returns to Earth after a nuclear war. Humans are reduced to animal status. Apes rule! This was around the time of Desmond Morris' book, The Naked Ape. Evolution was being accepted. We were viewing ourselves as members of the animal kingdom rather than as a special creation. I saw social comment. The Civil Rights movement was afoot and the race riots which went with it.
1966 - HAWAII
Max von Sydow pops up in this story of missionaries who went to Hawaii in the 1820s. It is really the story of his wife, Jerusha, who pines away in the island paradise. Von Sydow took a similar role in The Emigrants, a film in which he again uproots his wife only to see her disintegrate. Von Sydow the missionary is unyielding and out-of-touch. Themes are predictable. Native Hawaiians suffer as a result of contact with Europeans.
1965 - INSIDE DAISY CLOVER
My infatuation with Natalie Wood continued. I saw this movie three weekends in a row. Natalie plays a young star disillusioned by love. Robert Redford co-stars. Natalie's relationship with husband Robert Wagner was unique. They married young, divorced, married other people, divorced them, remarried and had a daughter. Natalie drowned at 43 when she fell off a boat.
1965 - THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
A ponderous retelling of the life of Christ with Swedish actor Max von Sydow in the lead. Swedish Jesus comes off as a spaced-out caricature. Maybe a man without sin has to be this way. I wondered why it was no sin when Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip. The cast is a Who's Who in Hollywood, and the fun part is picking out famous faces. John Wayne is the Roman soldier at the cross. "Truly, this man was the Son of God." The film ended the era of big budget Bible pictures.
1965 - DOCTOR ZHIVAGO
Lavish film about the Russian Revolution of 1917. When Russia pulled out of World War I, it went Communist. Zhivago is an idealistic doctor torn between his wife and Julie Christie. His ambiguity is mirrored in his poetry, judged too personal by the new order. Zhivago's half-brother tells the story to a girl believed to be an offspring of the illicit affair. We have the formula for historical fiction, made-up characters against the background of sweeping events. There are some beautiful scenes, snow and springtime flowers.
1965 - HELP!
John Lennon said The Beatles were extras in their own movie. Certainly the James Bond storyline was foreign to what The Beatles were. The Fab Four looked tired, and the songs, though of high quality, were downers. Help! and Ticket To Ride went number one but gave off a different vibe than the songs from the first film.
1965 - CAT BALLOU
As Cat Ballou, Jane Fonda stars in one of the funniest movies ever. Westerns were out of style, and this parody rang true. Jane is beautiful, in the prime of innocence. Dwayne Hickman is still quotable. "On the run, ma'am, hidin' out in a crowd." My roommate at college saw the movie so many times, he knew the script by heart. He recited it line for line. He had a picture of Jane Fonda taped on the ceiling above his bed.
1964 - A HARD DAYS NIGHT
The first Beatle song I heard was From Me To You. By October, 1963, I knew there was something was going on around this British group. In January, 1964, I saw a clip on the Jack Paar show. The Beatles were going wild! Girls were screaming and throwing jelly beans! It was their sound! It was the long hair! I started growing my hair that night. The Beatles revived the rock & roll of the late 1950s. John Lennon sang Chuck Berry. Paul McCartney sang Little Richard. They took it to another level. They wrote their own songs, incredible stuff! When I saw A Hard Days Night, the theater was packed with teenage girls. They screamed the whole time! I could not hear a word. This was Beatlemania, and there would never be anything like it again! You Can't Do That was cut from the film. John Lennon's jealousy was too potent for the young audience. The Beatles virtually invented LPs, and each was a development with Lennon pointing the way. After the split, Lennon joined the peace movement. He was gunned down in New York City in December, 1980, by Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan. He was finishing his first record in five years, an album showing his domestic side.
1964 - VIVA LAS VEGAS
Ann-Margret revives Elvis from his stupor. He feeds off her energy in this frolic through classic Vegas. Ann-Margret Olsson was from Sweden. Her mother brought her to the United States when she was five. Sparks fly as she and Elvis rendezvous at UNLV for Come On, Everybody. Ann dances in a pink top and black tights. She shakes her boobs and hips. Elvis pulls her to the stage. There is a wedding at the end. They only made one movie.
1963 - JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
I took three years of Latin in high school and got into astronomy in 1961. I was well-acquainted with the Greek myths. This is the story of Jason and how he sailed on the ship Argo to bring back the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts include Hercules, Castor and Pollux and Argus, the man who built the ship. The goddess Hera protects Jason and his crew through their adventures. They encounter bronze Talos, Harpies, Clashing Rocks and fighting skeletons. In the the end, Jason gets the Fleece. He also gets the girl, Medea. Medea is played by Nancy Kovak, and she performs a seductive dance. Animation is by Ray Harryhausen who would later do Clash of the Titans.
1962 - GYPSY
The memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee became a Broadway musical, then a film starring Natalie Wood as Gypsy with Rosalind Russell as her domineering mother. I wanted less about a mother/daughter relationship and more about stripping. The film has a great soundtrack. I introduced Let Me Entertain You to the music director at our high school through my girl friend who was in the band. They played it during halftime at football games. My record was returned scratched and with no thank you.
1962 - DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES
I saw this blueprint of how not to live. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick become alcoholics and separate after becoming parents. Lemmon sobers up. Remick does not. Lemmon was a great actor, the average businessman struggling to make it in the city, funny and tragic at the same time. The title came from a poem by Ernest Dowson. "Vitae Summa Brevis" laments the brevity of life: "They are not long, the days of wine and roses. Out of a misty dream our path emerges for a while, then closes within a dream."
1962 - ROME ADVENTURE
I was 16 when Rome Adventure came out. I did not see it at the time but had a movie magazine with Angie Dickinson's picture on the back. She talked about the fun of riding around Rome on motorcycles. Rome Adventure typifies the innocence of its period. Suzanne Pleshette is librarian Prudence Bell on her big trip to Rome. She looks for love and finds it. Dickinson is her competition. Al Di La is the song, perhaps the most romantic piece ever recorded. It takes us "beyond the beyond." Scenes of ancient Rome take us to another place and time.
1961 - KING OF KINGS
King of Kings traces the life of Jesus from His birth in Bethlehem through His years as a carpenter to His sermon on the mount, last supper, crucifixion and resurrection. Jeffrey Hunter is Jesus. You have to be tall and good-looking to be Jesus. They are all here: Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist and Barabbas. Barabbas is freed and becomes the first man for whom Jesus dies. Like other movies from the period, there is no blood in battle scenes. There is no humor unless you count the perverse glee of Herodias when given the head of John the Baptist. King of Kings is faithful to the gospels.
1961 - WEST SIDE STORY
Gangs clash in New York, new immigrants versus old immigrants. Natalie Wood is miscast as an Hispanic. She was a mediocre actress but managed to endear herself. Her real name was Natasha Gurdin. Her parents came from Russia. The movie is an American Romeo and Juliet. "Tonight" is its best song, full of anticipation. My cousin and I saw it in November, 1962. President Kennedy was due in Louisville, and I suggested we stay over to catch a glimpse. He came riding down 4th Street perched atop the back of a Convertible, waving. That kind of accessibility cost him a year later when he was assassinated in Dallas. I link West Side Story with Kennedy.
1960 - THE TEMPEST
Hollywood has never done justice to Shakespeare's Tempest, so I recommend this TV production. It is short and amateurish, but the cast is superb. Lovely Lee Remick is Prospero's daughter Miranda. Richard Burton plays Caliban although I would have cast him as Prospero. Burton was a heavyweight and would have brought dignity to the character. The Tempest is fun. There is something comforting about the island setting, a storm and an old man working magic to ensure his daughter's future.
1960 - G.I. BLUES
Elvis' first movie after his discharge. He was accepted now, mainstream. He was stationed in Germany, and G.I. Blues is set there. Juliet Prowse is the showgirl, famous for her legs. She was Elvis' equal and makes the film worthwhile. Speaking of Prowse, Elvis remarked, "She has a body that would make a bishop stamp his foot through a stained glass window." Elvis served in the the Army, 1958-60. He was drafted in peace time, too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam. That bit of luck made his fabulous career possible.
1959 - LI'L ABNER
Al Capp's characters went to Broadway, then to Hollywood. Having lost a leg in a trolley acident, Capp cloaked his bitterness in satire. My interest is Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones. She is a secret weapon created by Available Jones, a metaphor for the bomb. Jones unleashes her in the Sadie Hawkins Day race to stupefy men so that the women of Dogpatch can catch husbands. Newmar was devastating in seamed nylons. Not really an actress, she was cast in nonhuman roles. Ultimately, she proved more than a body, raising her son born with Down Syndrome. Li'l Abner is dated but still turns up on the stage. I saw it in Clarksville, Indiana, at the Derby Dinner Playhouse.
1959 - GREEN MANSIONS
A beautiful film based on a 1904 novel by William Henry Hudson. It is set in South America. The protagonist, Abel, is driven from Caraccas by political upheaval. He flees into the jungle where he encounters a nature girl named Rima. She is played by Audrey Hepburn. Romance, mysticism and raw reality entwine. My favorite films are those which do well as novels and works of art. This green piece could be a painting.
1958 - KING CREOLE
Elvis Presley's last film before being drafted into the Army. It is his best and has the best soundtrack. Songs like Dixieland Rock capture his essence. The King Creole is the club where he performs. Liliane Montevecchi is showgirl Forty Nina, decked out in bananas. The film is set in New Orleans' French Quarter (Vieux Carre).
1956 - FORBIDDEN PLANET
Shakespeare's Tempest is the model for this science fiction film. I saw differences. Prospero and Miranda are stranded on an island. Morbius and his daughter are marooned on the 4th planet circling the star Altair. Ariel is a spirit. Robby the Robot is a man-made servant. Caliban's evil does not match that of Monsters of the Id. Shakespeare spares Prospero. Morbius dies when Altair 4 blows up. Hopefully, mankind will not suffer the fate of the Krell.
1955 - WAR AND PEACE
A sprawling film from the even more sprawling Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy. It is the early 1800s, and Napoleon's army is moving from France into Russia and on to Moscow. Tolstoy depicts Russian society and how its world is torn apart. Henry Fonda is the bumbling, intellectual Pierre. Audrey Hepburn is the naive Natasha. Swede Anita Ekberg, dripping with sex, is Helene. As an astronomy buff, my favorite scene is Pierre observing the comet of 1812. While many people in those days believed comets to be bad omens, Pierre sees its beauty and feels a kinship with it. To him, the comet represents hope.
1952 - CARRIE
Based on Theodore Dreiser's novel, Sister Carrie. Jennifer Jones is Carrie Meeber, the young woman who moves to Chicago to seek her fortune. She learns the facts of life, that the big city is full of selfish people. She goes through two lovers, a young Eddie Albert and an older man whom she ruins. Laurence Olivier plays Hurstwood, the man who risks all to recapture his youth. Carrie loves the attention, and Hurstwood has his moment. My favorite scene is where he gives her the new hat. As their relationship plays out, Carrie becomes an actress and Hurstwood hits the skids.
1951 - THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD
James Arness is an evolved vegetable come from outer space in a flying saucer. The saucer crashes and is frozen in ice. The thing is retrieved and inadvertently thawed. Havoc ensues until it is killed using electric current. Even in 1951, we were thinking about the directions in which life in the galaxy might evolve. It is a chilling scene as the men circle the ice-covered ship to reveal its shape. We are admonished to "Watch the skies!"
1951 - THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
A futuristic film with Michael Rennie as Klaatu come to Earth to warn humans against taking nuclear weapons into space. The cast conveys a sense of hometown America. The title derives from Klaatu's demonstration of power in shutting down Earth's electricity. There is poignancy in watching the army oppose advanced technology. Gort is the robot: Klaatu barada nikto." At a time when UFOs were called flying saucers, Klaatu's is the prototype, landing on a baseball field in Washington, D.C. The second half of the 20th century emerges with movies contemplating possible ETs.
1942 - THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES
Gary Cooper plays Lou Gehrig, the New York Yankee first baseman who followed Babe Ruth in the line-up before succumbing to the disease which bears his name. Gehrig gave his Farewell Speech at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." Too bad that young audiences are reluctant to watch older films! This is a black and white classic. It is also a pity that baseball players from the steroids era have so little in common with Lou Gehrig, a man of integrity.
1939 - GONE WITH THE WIND
This story of the American Civil War from Margaret Mitchell's only novel is set in and around Atlanta. Scarlett O'Hara is the focus. She lives on a fictional plantation called Tara. Scarlett is spoiled before the war, hard and determined after it. She loves a man she cannot have before yielding to Rhett Butler. Vivien Leigh is perfect as Scarlett. When she arches that eyebrow, her arrogance causes us to shiver. Clark Gable is dashing as Rhett. The most lingering moment is when he turns to Scarlett and blurts: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!" Bold dialogue! Both the Old South and the era in which this movie reigned are gone, but their reputations live. Gone with the Wind won 8 Academy Awards.
1935 - A MIDSUMMER NIGHT DREAM
The classic Hollywood version of William Shakespeare's most likable play has Mickey Rooney as Puck. Puck was played by a girl dressed in green when I first saw the play staged, and I liked that. Fairies, Athenian nobility and commoners cross wooded paths to provide an escape which leaves us slightly hungover. I like the scene at the beginning when Theseus and Hippolyta are watching the moon. Hippolyta speaks: "The moon, like to a silver bow new-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities." Titania is the fairy queen.
1933 - KING KONG
Most classic movie of all. Movie maker Robert Armstrong hires Fay Wray as his star. They sail to Skull Island in Indonesia where evolution has gone awry. Dinosaurs roam, and a colossal ape rules. Natives have built a wall to contain King Kong. They capture Wray and offer her as a sacrifice. Armstrong and his crew rescue her and transport Kong to Manhattan as a headliner. Kong breaks loose and terrorizes yet another island. He climbs the Empire State Building with Wray and is riddled with bullets from planes. King Kong touches modern consciousness. It shows man clashing with the nature of which he is a part. There are racial overtones. Armstrong declares, "It was beauty killed the beast."
1915 - THE BIRTH OF A NATION
D. W. Griffith's silent film based on Thomas Dixon's The Clansman. Graphics tell the story. Two families, the Stonemans from the north and the Camerons from the south, have their friendship destroyed by the Civil War. Scenes move from Civil War battles to the Lincoln assassination to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. There were 625,000 casualties in the Civil War, and this is an anti-war film. Critics like Roger Ebert miss the point. Griffith's title refers to the birth of the United States, heretofore a loose confederation of former colonies, not to the birth of the Klan.
Internet Movie Database
Belcourt Theater - Nashville