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    FreemanGriffin
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    #1204770577

    I saw Sidney Lumet’s Running On Empty (1988) for the first time in at least 20 years. I have to post about one particular scene because it made me burst into copious tears! it’s the scene where “Michael” tells his girlfriend the truth about his family history – River Phoenix reached my soul with his performance and Martha Plimpton so ably assisted in his feat! How on earth did he lose the Oscar to Kevin Kline? And why oh why wasn’t he nominated in LEAD ACTOR where he belonged? That was simply one of the best acting performances ever! (I know: they don’t like younger actors, blah blah blah!)

    Also: the scene between Christine Lahti and Steven Hill in the restaurant also made me cry. What beautiful performances!

    The movie brought me back to 1988. I saw it in a movie theater and then many years later I saw it again. This was my third time and it was something so special. River Phoenix at his best – along with My Own Private Idaho. Oh how I wish he was still alive…

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    Atypical
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    #1204776752

    “Running on Empty” (1988): First time watching this, and for the most part, I was captivated by the story (based on the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, Wisconsin, as an anti-Vietnam War protest; the location was changed to University of Massachusetts in the film). Sidney Lumet’s direction was superb throughout, not only for the tight acting ensemble work, but for capturing the specificity of the surrounding era so beautifully. As much as I loved this ensemble, the main reason to watch is River Phoenix. I’ve barely seen any films he starred in, and this was his sole Oscar nomination. He’s incredible as Danny. None of the usual child prodigy precociousness that I hate seeing over and over again. He had an instinctive naturalness and awkwardness that served his character very well. I never wavered in my empathy with Danny’s plight, from wanting to fulfill his dreams in going to Juilliard to staying with his fugitive family to preserve the rouse longer. I’m saddened to think what his career could have been like had he lived. I did waver with some of the practicalities in Naomi Foner’s script (aka Jake’s and Maggie’s mom), like why the children weren’t home-schooled (they were living so meagerly to begin with, if money was the issue, and public schooling was so risky for them), or why the second child was given such little attention in the script that he didn’t need to be included at all. I didn’t realize Harry even went to school until one of the last scenes revealed it. A dogged school administrator would have probably caught on to the family’s flimsy excuses of where Danny’s records were (school fire, lost in the mail, etc.). You couldn’t get away with missing a new or transfer student’s full transcripts, immunization records, course credits, disciplinary file, standardized test scores, etc., even back then. I’d also seriously call shenanigans at Phoenix being supporting here when it’s clearly Danny’s story as lead. He has more screentime than Judd Hirsch, and if Phoenix had been campaigned in lead, it would have left room for the true supporting actors, being Steven Hill (heartbreaking in his single scene as Danny’s grandfather), L.M. Kit Carson (one of the parent’s exes and former revolutionary buddy), or even Ed Crowley (a Lumet regular playing Danny’s supportive music teacher and father to Danny’s girlfriend, played by Martha Plimpton). Nothing against Kevin Kline or “A Fish Called Wanda”–loved both, but I don’t think Kline was a done deal that year, and there was some fluidity in supporting actor. Christine Lahti was excellent as the mother and paired wonderfully with Judd Hirsch as the father. Ebert loved and championed this film at the time, and I can see why. Highly recommended viewing.

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    Atypical
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    #1204784288

    Watched “To Sir, With Love” (1967). TCM will conduct a Sidney Poitier marathon for 24 hours, starting on Saturday, February 19, 2022 @ 8 PM ET. 1967 might have been the biggest year of Poitier’s career (outside of his Oscar win). He starred in three films: “To Sir, With Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”, & “In the Heat of the Night” (the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner). The film is based on the memoir by E.R. Braithwaite and his experiences as a foreign-born black teacher in poor east-London during the 1950s. Braithwaite supposedly hated the film adaptation, as it made his experiences overly sentimental and marginalized. His real-life students reportedly said that he was a stern disciplinarian and even used corporal punishment on them. Regardless, Poitier fought hard for making this and was barely paid scale at the time. He asked for a gross of the back-end profits, which turned out to be huge for the time. He was the major box office draw who accomplished that. The film is best known for the theme song, “To Sir, With Love,” performed by Lulu in her feature film debut. The song was a #1 hit and criminally snubbed at the Oscars. Probably the weakest of Poitier’s three performances that year, but I still generally liked him and the supporting cast. It was as predictable and stilted as you can imagine, with the rough-and-tumble students of course coming around to Mark Thackeray by the ending. Poitier had such a regality and poise about him, and it particularly shows during this era.

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    Atypical
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    #1204808839

    TCM’s Sidney Poitier tribute marathon starts on Saturday, February 19, 2022 @ 8 PM ET for a full 24 hours. Set your DVRs accordingly!

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    Atypical
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    #1204828145

    Celebrating the Winners, beginning on March 1, 2022
    PRESENTED ON TCM AND HBO Max

    TCM’s annual 31 Days of Oscar programming returns for its 28th year, kicking off on March 1st with a month-long showcase of films recognized by the Academy.

    This year we will be Celebrating the Winners, where each of the featured films across the 31 days has won an Oscar.

    Plus, join us on HBO Max where one of 31 incredible Oscar®-winning films will be showcased each day in March alongside exclusive extras and hundreds of award-winning movies within the Classics Curated by TCM Hub.

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    Atypical
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    #1204942319

    “Flashdance” (1983): What a feeling! I’m far more interested in the lore surrounding the film than the actual film itself, which is really dumb and threadbare. So many of Hollywood’s A-list of the time wanted the lead roles of Alex & Nick and/or turned them down. Nonsensical plot twists, poor casting, dim cinematography, troubled production shoot. Probably one of Adrian Lyne’s worst films, yet also most iconic. Ebert said it best: “The result is great sound and flashdance, signifying nothing.” Jennifer Beals gave one of the most wooden debut performances I’ve ever seen. Glad that her career has clearly rebounded since the role, but it’s crazy all the films that she’s turned down in her career. Taking off time from Yale for this? Wild. The script gave her almost nothing to work with, just jumping from plot point to plot point and elaborate musical backdrop to another. No real attention was paid to hide the fact that body doubles did the dance routines (and let’s give some proper credit to the main one–her name is Marine Jahan), except for some convenient staging and close-ups of Beals’s face when it was time for some clunky dialogue. Michael Nouri was the love interest, and none of that worked with their nonexistent chemistry. Lilia Skala had a nice and brief role as Alex’s mentor, though no backstory was given to Hanna and her character dies abruptly. Glad that this was at least a box office hit, though it’s doubly sad that Maureen Marder, the inspiration of the film, was paid next to nothing for her story rights while the film made $100+ million, and the death of Sunny Johnson barely over a year after the film’s release. Getting back to the music, it really was a phenomenon of its day, from the MTV craze at the time to Billboard success to Irena Cara winning an Oscar AND a Grammy for the title song. I loved that both “Flashdance…What a Feeling” and “Maniac” were purposefully used within the first 15 minutes of the film and not slummed to the closing credits. These songs screamed 1980s, and I lived! Maybe that’s why I love Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” so much, b/c I hear remnants of Whitney, Irene Cara, Deniece Williams, Berlin, Donna Summer, Jennifer Warnes, Carly Simon, etc., all through it. The film’s legacy can’t be disputed, so there’s something to be said about how posterity is always the final decider. It’s turned award-winning films into relics and critical duds into camp classics. “Flashdance” isn’t even bad or funny enough to register as the latter, but for making its lasting mark on popular culture deserves a tip of the invisible hat, I guess.

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    Deloys
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    #1204981426

    A lifelong Patty Duke fan, I have wanted to watch this 1965 teen B film Billie for many years. Made in a mere 15 days, this surprising story of a confused high school girl is a thought provoking novelty.

    Fresh off her Oscar win and on hiatus from her television sit com, Patty Duke is burdened with an unnatural blonde dye job that makes her stand out. Billie is a gifted athlete who can outcompete any boy at her high school in track and field. The female runner attributes her talent to the beat of an internal rhythm that fires her speed.

    When alone in her bedroom, the filmmakers give Duke a handful of pop songs which serve as internal monologues that aid the viewer in understanding Billie as she grapples with her gender identity. Here is a link to the number, “The Lonely In Between”

    As the story progresses, Billie’s confusion grows. The film never resolves Billie’s angst. Rather her father assures her the on set of sexual desire will resolve her dilemma. This is a dated but eye opening look at transgender issues openly presented in mainstream cinema.

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    Deloys
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    #1205007904

    When I recall Oscar night on April 3, 1978, I still remember the surprise. The frontrunner Richard Burton was nominated for the seventh time. He was brilliant in the enthralling yet talky stage drama Equus. And yet when Sylvester Stallone called 30 year old Richard Dreyfuss as the Best Actor, the roar of the audience in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was thrilling. The prize had gone to an exuberant, energetic, beloved performance.

    That’s why we loved The Goodbye Girl 45 years ago. Quinn Cummings was Eve Arden as a ten year old. Marsha Mason had married Neil Simon following a whirlwind three week romance that began a mere three months after the death of his wife. This movie of falling in love after losing love felt like a glimpse into Mr. and Mrs. Simon’s private lives. But Dreyfuss made the movie.

    There is a scene when unconventional roommates Paula McFadden and Elliott Garfield first embrace their sexual attraction. To embody the joy, Dreyfuss grasps the door jamb to his bedroom and spins his legs, propelling the actor up into the air. We chortled and were charmed. This young man who couldn’t quite grow a beard, who was barely skirting an offensive stereotype in a gay interpretation of Richard III, and who was badly dressed still won over the audience. We shamelessly rooted for him.

    When I sat down to rewatch the popular Neil Simon original comedy in 2022, I expected to laugh. I didn’t.

    For the film’s first shot, director Herbert Ross chooses the reflection on the curved windshield of a New York City bus. The fish eye reflection shows a distorted reality. Paula McFadden and her ten year old daughter Lucy disembark, loaded with packages from a small shopping spree. Paula’s lover is moving them to California.

    Only he isn’t. The man, still married to another woman, has left a note, taken all his belongings and sublet their apartment. Paula loudly weeps. She allows Lucy to read the note. This habit of over sharing the more intimate details of her life with her prepubescent daughter is an ongoing pattern with Paula. Simon writes Lucy witty, sardonic observations more appropriate responses for a middle aged woman. When we study Lucy in quiet moments, we see a sad little girl.

    From the failed relationship, the lost new life in California, the reality of Paula’s penniless finances, and the agreement to accept a hand out to keep living in the sublet, this is a sad situation. Simon’s quips fade in the depiction of a mother and daughter living paycheck to paycheck. The reality of the situation felt more oppressive to me now than it did four decades ago.

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    Atypical
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    #1205010065

    “Cinderella Liberty” (1973): I’ve had this film in my queue for awhile, so in honor of James Caan’s recent passing, I decided to finally check it out. I shouldn’t have waited so long to see it. I was quite charmed by an endearing story about unconventional love and father figures. Much has been said about James Caan’s famed 70s run of “Brian’s Song,” “The Godfather,” “The Gambler,” “Rollerball,” & “Comes a Horseman” (give or take “Funny Lady”), particularly in the ways that Caan was able to exude effortless machismo and coolness without overshadowing his female leads or feeling uncomfortable showing his softer side. “Cinderella Liberty” certainly needs to be added to that famed list for his John Biggs, Jr. Shameful Caan only had one Oscar nomination to his credit and nothing for this performance. I’d already place him above Robert Redford in “The Sting,” but lead actor was super competitive that year. Maybe this helps speak to the general ambivalence Caan supposedly had toward his career, passing on many iconic roles and sometimes settling for mediocre starring vehicles. Regardless, he was superb opposite Marsha Mason, in the first of four nominations when the Academy was clearly in love with her. Mason was stunning in a now well-worn “hooker with a heart of gold” stereotype, or further complicated by the fact that she’s a single mother to a black son, pregnant again by another john, and isn’t nearly as conflicted about sex work as some modern audiences might want her to be. Ebert hated the film for its predictability and lack of nuance, basically saying that one only had to watch the first hour “and then leave, knowing that [everything] will be solved in the second hour. Not faced, but solved.” Darryl Ponicsan’s script based on his novel wasn’t very subtle at all, and as great as Mason was, Maggie could have been given much more depth as a whole. A female screenwriter probably could have done wonders with rewrites here and there for her. Mark Rydell’s direction was fine, but nothing inspired. Caan had excellent chemistry with not only Mason, but also Kirk Calloway as the young son (sad that he didn’t act much after this, since he had natural screen charisma) and Eli Wallach in a fun role as John’s former commander and surrogate father. There were some familiar faces in cameos and such, like Burt Young, Dabney Coleman, & Bruno Kirby. The ending’s crazy in its implausibility, but I took it more as a wish fulfillment/fantasy level conclusion than something grounded in real life. Highly recommended for the interplay between James Caan and Marsha Mason nevertheless. They paired up again in “Chapter Two,” which I found a copy of and will be watching next. Another sole Oscar nomination for Mason, and nothing for Caan, yet again.

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    Deloys
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    #1205023006

    Elvis Presley made music videos long before MTV. His movies were simple stories that provided a contrived event that prompted another song. Viva Las Vegas was originally scheduled to be an Arabian fantasy. Director George Sidney led a rewrite, completed in 11 days, that resulted in this smash hit that is correctly considered one of Presley’s most entertaining films.

    The primary reason for the success of the fast paced contemporary musical was the appearance of Ann Margret. The film’s choreographer David Winters created sensual dances that were performed impeccably by the leading lady. Critics at the time noted that the life the actress brought to the rom-com inspired Presley to up his game.

    The sensational musical numbers and the palpable sexual chemistry are the reason to watch Viva Las Vegas. In her autobiography Ann Margret sums up the 1964 cinema fireball, “From day one, when we gathered around the piano to run through the film’s songs, Elvis and I knew that it was going to be serious. That day, we discovered two things about each other. Once the music started, neither of us could stand still. Music ignited a fiery pent-up passion inside Elvis and inside me. It was an odd, embarrassing, funny, inspiring, and wonderful sensation. We looked at each other move and saw virtual mirror images. When Elvis thrust his pelvis, mine slammed forward too. When his shoulder dropped, I was down there with him. When he whirled, I was already on my heel. ‘It’s uncanny,’ I said. He grinned. Whatever it was, Elvis liked it and so did I.”

    Watch Ann-Margret blatantly steal the film from Presley

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    FreemanGriffin
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    #1205037177

    When I saw American Graffiti for the first time in years recently on TCM I was surprised by several things: Candy Clark was the least deserving of an Oscar nomination of any of the performers in the movie – Mackenzie Phillips and Cindy Williams were phenomenal, and all of the males: Dreyfuss, Howard, LeMat and Martin Smith were amazing. But I had two objections: the violence towards the end of the movie was sloppy and didn’t add anything to the movie, and especially the weird telling us what the four young men had happen to them since then but but about the three women/girl (MP’s character was a young girl). I also really enjoyed Wolfman Jack’s performance. The film wasn’t perfect but it was very enjoyable.

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    Deloys
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    #1205037611

    Because Candy Clark spent $1,700 of her own money to buy quart page ads in the trade papers promoting herself as a candidate for Best Supporting Actress, Oscar watchers tend to discount the worthiness of her nomination. Actually, Clark was quite well reviewed at the time.

    The Hollywood Reporter noted in its review at the time, “The comic duo is Candy Clark, a bleached blonde looking for liquor, sex and cheap thrills, and Charlie Martin Smith, a small guy who wears glasses and tries to pretend he’s not insecure. Clark and Smith are blessed with the best characterizations, and they take the movie away with their dizzy but warm bubble-headedness.”

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    FreemanGriffin
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    #1205037771

    Gene Kelly’s The Happy Road is a strange movie – half of it is truly wonderful and half of it is truly awful! The two youngsters – Bobby Clark and Brigitte Fossey – are the wonderful half of the movie! They play two kids who run away from school in Switzerland and travel 400 miles to Paris with the wish of spending more time with their single parents. Gene Kelly is his father and Barbara Laage is her mother – and they are the awful half of the film, as the film alternates between the kids and the bickering unpleasant adults. My wish: for a shorter version that only has all of the kids’ scenes! (:

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    Atypical
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    #1205103711

    BUMP

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    Sunrise1981
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    #1205103724

    TCM’s Sidney Poitier tribute marathon starts on Saturday, February 19, 2022 @ 8 PM ET for a full 24 hours. Set your DVRs accordingly!

    I love Sidney Poitier!! He’s a great actor!

    I watched him in A Patch of a Blue, The Defiant Ones and Lilies of the Field….. He has a long list of amazing movies!

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