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A Taste of Honey

Friendship and caring highlight this movie
A Touch of Honey, from 1961, is a part of the new wave of British movies in the 1960s that focused on the lives of people striving to break through the barriers of class, convention or social status. It is a very touching story with a genuine friendship that grows between Jo (Rita Tushingham) and Geoff (Murray Melvin).

The rest of the cast is Dora Bryan as Helen, Jo's mother, and Robert Stephens as Dora's love interest Peter.

The movie takes place in the industrial heart of England where a teenage girl Jo lives with her widowed mother, Helen. The mother ekes out a living, while moving from one small flat to another, paying scant attention to her daughter who wants to start a life of her own. One evening the girl discovers a romantic interest while exploring the gritty dockyards of her city. The romance, while very sweet, is short lived since her young man leaves on his ship the next day. However, while working in a shoe store she does find another friend, Geoff, played by a youthful Murray Melvin. The two immediately connect and become close. The friend moves in with her, cooks meals and generally organizes her flat. There is no obvious romance, just a strong mutual friendship. Geoff is exceptional for his time in that he is willing to be Jo's housekeeper. He doesn't fit the angry young man stereotype. Murray Melvin fits this role to a tee. Tony Richardson, the director of this movie, was one of the leading film-makers of the period. I was glad to catch this film on TCM because I've viewed his better known movies but I hadn't seen this one before. I'm very glad I did.

Sunday in New York

Very funny movie with confused identities
This is a very light and funny movie from 1964 set in New York City. The movie doles out a lot of on-location backgrounds like Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, Fifth Avenue and a short musical scene with Peter Nero at the piano. There is a lot of male-female role playing and confused identities among the four leads - Jane Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Rod Taylor and Robert Culp. Jane Fonda is at the centre of this fast-paced movie. In her early movies, she was one of Hollywood's most talented young women with a flair for comedy. With "They Shoot Horses, Don't They", she graduated to some great dramatic roles. In this movie, her male interest is Rod Taylor who she brings back to the Manhattan apartment she shares with her playboy brother, a pilot played by Cliff Robertson. Robert Culp is a former boyfriend who decides to come by and rekindle a romance. There are chases, cover ups and hide-and-seek scenes that create a lot of hilarity among the four. Jo Morrow and Jim Backus complete the cast. The male-female mating game is dated by today's standards but it is still good viewing entertainment.

Driving Miss Daisy

A strong friendship stands out in difficult times
Driving Miss Daisy, a 1989 movie, is set in small town Georgia, from the 1940's to the 1960's, and shows the friendship between an elderly Jewish woman and her black chauffeur. It is a time when the movement to give full civil rights to blacks is on the rise across the United States. The story has elements of drama and comedy as the plot unfolds during this watershed period in American history. The main characters are performed by Jessica Tandy as Miss Daisy and Morgan Freeman as Hoke, her chauffeur. Miss Daisy's son Boolie is played by Dan Aykroyd. All three are outstanding. The script is very witty and the actors fit their roles to a tee. The friendship is strained at first when Miss Daisy's son insists on his mother using a chauffeur following a car accident that he took as a wake-up call about his aging mother's driving ability. Hoke's patience and firm manner eventually win her respect. The chauffeur cannot read and Miss Daisy, a former teacher, steps in to help once she discovers how embarrassed he is about it. Hoke drives her to socials and family gatherings and in their spare time he shows her how to grow a vegetable garden. Miss Daisy learns to accept Hoke as a friend. On one occasion when the police harass Hoke for parking on the side of the road, she lets them know that she owns the car and they have to answer to her. Hoke is no stranger to police officers using their authority to humiliate blacks in the Jim Crow South. As a Jew, Miss Daisy would also knows the tyranny of nativist bigotry. Although she doesn't feel it in the same way, she sticks up for her friend. In the final analysis, this movie is about a personal relationship where two people from different backgrounds learn to accept one another as human beings. Both of the actors as the main characters project this respect and affection. Not to forget Dan Aykroyd's good sense and humor as the dutiful son keeping an eye on his mother and giving Hoke the leeway he needs. All in all, a movie that is pleasantly low key and throughly enjoyable.

An Inspector Calls

The British class system cross examined
This telefilm, based on a JB Priestley play of 1912 is a heart rending story about the arrogance and insensitivity of a wealthy family in Edwardian England. David Thewliss was impressive in the role of an inspector who arrives at the home of the Birling family in the midst of a family dinner party. His mission is to question each one about the suicide of a young woman Eva Smith, played by Sophie Rundle, and establish the relationship of family members to the deceased woman. Thewliss, as Inspector Gool, is not in the the least deferential but he is quite relentless in posing precise questions to everyone there. His attitude irritates the Birling family, who no doubt expect softball questions from the police. It is clear that Inspector Gool knew the exact relationship of each one to the girl. The inspector tries to link them to the downward spiral that led to the suicide of the young woman. Ken Stott and Miranda Richardson play Mr. and Mrs. Birling and their behaviour is not in any sense the "noblesse oblige" that the well heeled British upper class like to pride themselves on. Stott as Birling is a wealthy business tycoon whose main concern is any possible scandal that could block his pending knighthood. Miranda Richardson, as his wife, is the head of a local charity which patronizes and demeans the unfortunate souls who seek their help. All caste members are outstanding in their roles, with the younger generation gradually showing the remorse and compassion which the parents lack. The ending is rather quirky in a satisfying way. My feeling was that the movie brilliantly delivered a stinging rebuke to the established order.

Memory of the Camps

Horror of the camps exposed
This is a truly outstanding film. What it achieves is a true glimpse of the horror of man's inhumanity to man. We cannot truly understand the full extent of the evils perpetrated by the Nazi war machine, totally devoid of a speck of human compassion, and what went on day by day over years of the most vile persecution. This documentary tells us what the filmmakers found when they went to Belsen, Dachau etc. This glimpse in itself is mind numbing. What must it have been like to live through it? We can only imagine. The tortured souls in this film look like they were in "hell on earth". In fact, I would never have imagined hell being this brutalizing. The emaciated bodies, sunken eyes, glazed looks of men, women and children staggering around speaks for itself. This must never happen again. Yet, we know that unimaginable brutality still goes on around the world today. Maybe not as organized and efficient as the war machine in this film but the twisted and hateful minds of human beings is still at work in this world. This film needs to be shown. Some would object to the graphic pictures on the screen but this is what the Allied forces found when the arrived. Modern film makers could never reproduce evil on this scale. This is not a spoiler because most of us know what happened. What we need is a reminder of how false prophets can lead a people to such atrocities. The opening scenes show huge crowds cheering on Hitler and his party. This led 12 years later to the abominations that were suffered by Jews, clergy, dissidents, homosexuals and others not deemed to fit the plan a master race. Excellent film. We should all watch it.

Chariots of Fire

Great historical drama and superb viewing!
I saw this superb movie when it first came out in 1981 and watching it again on TCM was more of a delight than I ever imagined. Eric Liddell (Ian Charleston) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) are two of a group of athletes competing for Britain in the 1924 Paris Olympics. Liddell is a dedicated Scot and a strong Presbyterian who lives by a strict code of discipline. Abrahams is a Jew, the son of a self-made financier in the City of London. Both men are competing for a country that treats them as outsiders. Abrahams, who is fiercely proud of his country, is regularly treated with cutting remarks about his Jewish ancestry. Liddell is a Scot and an outsider to the closed society of the English upper class. He is particularly impressive as he stands up to the Olympic Committee and the Prince of Wales over running on the Sabbath. A compromise is proposed and accepted but it is clear that the dedicated Olympian is a man of conscience who places principle before winning. Other members of the track team are played by Nigel Havers and Nicholas Farrell, who both moved on to long careers as actors. John Gielgud is the head of the college Abrahams attends. Nigel Davenport is the aristocratic chief of the Olympic Committee who escorts the Prince Wales to the Olympic events. Ian Holm excels as Abrahams' Italian trainer seeking his first Olympic medal. The movie's historical background is highly interesting. Britain is entering the first Olympics since the end of the bitter and brutal World War that ended in 1918. It is a country still beset by class divisions and social strife. The United States has become a world power, strutting on the world stage. The final scene at the Olympics is high drama played out and repeated in slow motion that makes viewers feel like they are in the midst of a celebration that Is shared by everyone there, if only for a short time. I've seem many movies that entertain and uplift and this one has to rank with the best.

Our Friends in the North

Portrait of A Generation of Friends from the 1960's to the 1990's
This series is excellent, both heart warming and tragic, as the characters go through thirty years of youth to middle age experiencing the cycle of life as the society and its politics evolve in a very haphazard way. The major actors are Gina McKee, Daniel Craig, Mark Strong and Chris Ecclestone. I like the role of Gina McKee who is a favourite of mine. Aristocratic and sexy, she has a tremendous presence in any role she takes. The love scene with Chris Ecclestone in the first show is one of the most stunning I've ever seen. Over time, she evolves to become the most admirable character. Ecclestone is the political idealist who finds that the practise of politics doesn't measure up to his ambition to make life better for ordinary people. He's a man in a hurry. To his credit, he does care about people but his ambition overrules his judgement. Mark Strong seemed to be the least impressive and the one most likely to mess up. This he did. In time, however, he matured and found happiness in a second relationship. Daniel Craig grew up in a dysfunctional family. As a youth, he seemed to handle it well and was a model youth. Time and the wrong people eventually took their toll. When it was over, I was disappointed but also hopeful that sometimes things can go well. I seem to be one of the relatively few viewers in North America to follow this series. I was fortunate to be a subscriber to Britbox because I developed a taste for British television watching PBS from 1975 on. British television now provides more gritty fare than in the days of Alastair Cooke. I'm not complaining because this series is a good example of the best of British television. It was actually made in 1996 but I only became aware of it through Britbox.


Tension filled thriller
I liked the character of Julien Baptiste with his cool demeanour and calm resolve. Excellent acting also from the man caught in an ever tightening grip for a bundle of cash. The tension was so tight you could feel it pull you into the dark underworld of crime and corruption. The East European criminal ring operating in Amsterdam was merciless in pursuing him. Baptiste used his experience, tenacity and cunning to fight back. The background setting of Amsterdam works well. No artificiality. The rest of the extensive cast performs well in this world of international cat and mouse. I'd gladly watch the whole series again as you ride the jolts from one episode to another.

Grand Designs

Owner Inspired Homes-imaginative, while respecting the past
In this series, homeowner-builders frequently take old industrial buildings, dairies, barns, water towers etc. and incorporate or rebuild these structures into a new home. I like the idea that what is old can be made new again. I am very interested in the concept of conserving a well designed building made to last and reusing it, instead of discarding the labour, materials and design. As someone who hates to see buildings, that have stood the test of time, shipped off to a landfill, I am truly inspired by these grand designs that conserves and respects the past. Not only is that a worthwhile endeavour but it shows a perseverance that requires contractors to do things in ways that might never have seemed possible. Where I live, houses are demolished routinely to make way for gigantic infills that are out of scale in the neighbourhood. Small houses are the ones that get the axe when most of them could be fixed up or improved upon without removing the whole house with the bricks, woodwork and craftsmanship that have graced a street for 80 to 100 years. Often the new builds in this series are grandiose and very expensive but they build upon the existing design and materials. Also, I have to admire how people can envision a modern home using the bones of an old building whether it is a schoolhouse or country church. None of the self builds in the series is ever abandoned or do owners ever regret the final product, which is always a triumph. For that reason, I expect these people are carefully selected and coached through to the successful conclusion. Whatever the case, the program is driven by the hopes and dreams of owners and not an industry that encourages cookie cutter designs that lack imagination, do not respect the past and are not environmentally responsible.


Fontaine and Grant keep us on edge from scene to scene
Suspicion is one of the strangest movies I've ever seen with one suspense scene after another that keep fizzling out. The most outstanding attraction of the movie is the acting and beauty of Joan Fontaine, as an innocent young woman who falls hopelessly in love. The object of her love is a total scoundrel, played by Cary Grant, a dashing playboy with a devoted following among the horse-riding and gambling set, who treat him as one of their own. Through a combination of crime, trickery and clever deception, he has made his way into their world. The opening scene shows Johnny meeting Lina on a train, Hitchcock's favourite conveyance. Fontaine's character Lina, is attracted to him, even though she cannot fathom his shameless manner of taking money from her. Head over heels in love, Lina later marries Johnny. Despite her innocence, she has a large dose of common sense that is in constant conflict with her devotion to Johnnie, the character played by Grant. Nigel Bruce is Johnny's devoted friend, who revels in Johnny's live and be merry lifestyle. Lina's very upright parents are Cedric Hardwicke and May Whitty, stalwarts of British cinema in the 1940's and 1950's; both are actors in Hitch's cattle barn. Of course, they are at odds with Lina over her love for Johnny and Hardwicke behind the scenes, relishes keeping his money out of Johnny's hands as long as he lives and even after. Hitchcock does present us with his amusing sidebar scenes like the dinner at the home of a local mystery writer with a discussion of murder and its who's and how's. The wild driving scene around a curved highway near the the end is another scene from Hitchcock's bag of visual treats. The white lightbulb in the glass of milk near the end is something of a glow in the dark toy as Johnny moves up the darkened stairway. It's fun how Hitchcock plays with the audience who are constantly on the edge of their seats as the movie seems to go from one suspense scene to another with each one unravelling. For a fan of Hitchcock as I am, a Hitchcock movie is worth watching; however, the script, sets and story is very much in the mid tier of his work.

Quebec in Summertime

Old World City Still Endures Amid Change
James Fitzpatrick, narrator of travelogues from the mid 20th century, became a tourist in Canada for this film on the city of Quebec. As a Canadian, I noticed how much this film reflects many of the highlights that a visitor would seek out some 70 years later - the old world city, the Chateau Frontenac which overlooks the St Lawrence River, Our Lady of Victory Church, the architecture like the St Louis Gate, the breakneck steps separating Lowertown from Uppertown, Montmorency Falls, etc. We see the hooked rugs that attracts tourists to the old town, the market in Lowertown, the bake ovens used by families for generations to bake bread, and the famous Plains of Abraham. Before the American Revolution, as Fitzpatrick points out Quebec was a huge overseas territory that included half of Canada and large parts of the United States. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a surprise attack in 1749 which lasted about 10 minutes, made Canada a part of the British Empire. What has changed is the dominant Catholic culture that held sway from the early Quebec of the 1600's to the 1960's. It was a city in a time warp. As Fitzpatrick observed, even the French spoken in the streets of Quebec was more that of 17th century France and not the Paris of his day. The Quiet Revolution changed all that and made the city and province of Quebec very much part of the secular culture; however, the Old World City remains to a great extent the tourist attraction it has always been.

Queen Victoria and Her Tragic Family

The Queen We Never Knew
Watching "Queen Victoria and her Nine Children" on TVOntario, I was rewarded with a comprehensive and surprisingly frank documentary series on Victoria and her relationship with her children, particularly after the death of her husband Prince Albert. Albert was the love of her life who left an impressive legacy of public service as well as a family of nine children. When Albert died in 1861, the Queen was an emotional wreck with severe consequences for her family over the next 40 years.

This series shows us how devastated the Queen was by this tragedy through diary excerpts, photographs, letters and anecdotes. Albert's death sent the monarchy into a tailspin. Not only did Victoria go into seclusion for many years but she vented her grief and anger on her children.

This is the real tragedy of Albert's death. Victoria ridiculed and bullied her children instead of assigning them roles that could have averted some of the public hostility directed to the Queen, who became known as the Widow of Windsor. She did not spare any of them from her wrath, particularly her oldest son and heir Bertie, later King Edward VII. We find out the grim details about his life of indolence, debauchery, and serial promiscuity, in large part due to his mother's lack of confidence and her failure to give him a public role.

Young Bertie married the beautiful Danish Princess Alexandra who became the Princess of Wales and the Princess Diana of her era. The example of the young Victoria and Albert could have served the family well. But it was not to be. The young Prince Albert (Bertie) was a capable man who undertook an immensely successful tour of India. Instead of putting the Prince's positive qualities to the service of the nation, the spiteful Victoria used the publicity to have Disraeli declare her the Empress of India.

I knew that Victoria carried the hemophilia gene which was passed on to the son of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. However, I did not know that one of her sons, Prince Leopold, was also a victim of hemophilia. The Queen wanted to keep him closeted and out of the public domain. Leopold was often in great pain but he was a talented pianist who attended Oxford, married and had a child. He and Princess Louise were close and she nursed him through a number of critical health episodes.

Louise herself was a very beautiful young woman and evidence strongly suggests she had a child out of wedlock who was given up for adoption. The child and the family were paid off handsomely and any official documents or registrations related to the child were never found. She later married the Marquess of Lorne, a notable in London's gay underground, in an arranged marriage where both lived separate lives. One of her lovers was a French sculptor, who apparently died while she was making love to him. This event was never made public.

The Queen strived to conceal the private life of Bertie and his siblings. Yet her own love life after Prince Albert's untimely death was thought to revolve around a Scotsman named John Brown, a man who set himself up as her personal guard, not even allowing her family access to her room. He came into her life several years after Albert's death. Her family wanted a companion who would assist her in coming out of seclusion. But before long, they came to despise and resent his influence. There were widespread rumours about the two of them being lovers and there were notes and letters pointing to an intimate relationship.

Victoria's behaviour following Albert's death was alarming to the point where her family threatened to have her declared insane, which of course never came to pass. There was always a deep respect for the royal family as evidenced by the national concern over Bertie's brush with death ten years after his father's passing. Fortunately for the royals, Victoria's behaviour never went far enough to erode the monarchy as an institution.

Nevertheless, it seems that the monarchy survived despite her, not because of her. She certainly made life difficult for her family to the point of not letting them follow their own dreams; instead they were expected to do as she pleased, look after her and when conflicts arose, obey her orders. Some 40 years after Albert died, she passed from the scene. Bertie became a very able monarch in the ten years that remained of his life and beyond that a series of solid monarchs have reinforced the institution of the monarchy.

The Two Popes

Finding common ground
The Two Popes deals with the relationship between the two most senior Catholic prelates, who in other respects could not be more different. After a slow and bumpy opening, this move came together for me in a way I never expected.

Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) are shown in encounters that take place in 2012 near the time of Benedict's resignation as Pope and the election of Francis as the new Pope.

Francis, as the then Cardinal Brogolio, meets Pope Benedict at the pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gondolfo in the hope of handing the boss his resignation. What happens is a clash of views on the nature of the Church in the 21st century. The Pope gets a chance to focus on his differences of opinion with the South American cardinal. The cardinal does not bend an inch.

As they meet again, Benedict seems to favour a softer approach. What happens next is a major departure from the opening scenes as the two men show their human side and how each other feels lacking in their ability to lead the Catholic Church. A flashback to Brogolio's past as head of the Jesuits in Argentina is very moving.

The movie shows how the two men are able to put aside intellectual differences and find the humanity in one another.

Christmas Eve

One of the finest Christmas movies!
Christmas movies are meant to be soft-hearted and this one certainly fits the bill but more important, it leaves you feeling uplifted. An elegant, philanthropic widow Amanda Kingsley (Loretta Young), who befriends the homeless and hands out cash, is pitted against her business tycoon son Andrew Kingsley (Arthur Hill), who wants to demolish a tenement and displace the residents to make way for a development.

Trevor Howard is Maitland, the dutiful butler, chauffeur and companion to Mrs. Kingsley. Ron Leibman is the private investigator Morris Huffner, who locates missing members of the family Mrs. Kingsley attempts to bring together for a Christmas reconciliation. The initial conflict is over the inheritance and putting money towards a shelter for the homeless in her neighbourhood. For her own family, her deepest wish is to heal the relationship between her son Andrew and his children.

Loretta Young is the epitome of mature elegance and gentility. Trevor Howard fits the bill as the rock solid butler she has come to lean on. Ron Liebman, as the private eye, is sceptical about Mrs. Kingsley's efforts but stays the course until the tearful finale. Very sentimental for sure but one of my favourite Christmas movies.

Downton Abbey

Downton Movie Delivers What We Wanted
I was very happy when I heard that a movie would follow the "Downton Abbey" TV series. The great cast and script, historical accuracy, costumes, sets and landscape scenery made watching Downton a real treat. I was not disappointed for a moment and was happy to see the story continue to unfold as the characters grow and age. I could feel a great desire for a long-lasting family saga that may or may not happen. I can only wish. The visit of the King and Queen in 1927 made for a high point in the Downton story that played out in an unexpected way to the delight of the audience. King George and Queen Mary had by that point reached a point in their reign where they had forged a special bond with the British public-a conscious effort to ensure the continuity of the monarchy in an age when royalty was stumbling and falling across much of Europe. Both Geraldine James as the Queen and Simon Jones as a very regal George V are outstanding in their brief appearances. The difference between this show and the TV show was its large dose of humour and the absence of tragedy. In the long running TV show, we could see the family come back from a series of hear-breaking events and twists of fate that could only take place in a long running show. However, that does not detract from the show's enjoyment. The movie's producers have used the opportunity to allow the characters we love to shine and make us laugh as if we are in the company of dear friend. For Downton fans, not to be missed.

The Victim

Gripping series about tragedy and healing
Catching all episodes one rainy day on Britbox, I came away feeling this story was an example of great television viewing. We experience the deep tragedy of a mother and family when a brutal killing takes the life of a 9 year old child. There is a long and winding road to closure. Although this scenario is an exaggerated one, we can appreciate the range of emotions and the change that she and her family experience. The mother is played by Kelly McDonald (Gosford Park/Boardwalk Empire) and her performance is superb as goes through a series of stages before ending her quest. She shows her anger by posting a photo of a suspect whose identity has been concealed. She finds herself at odds with the law over this huge miscalculation which she feels is totally justified to prevent more heinous crimes. There were enough twists and turns to keep me reeling. We see what happens when a well-balanced, professional woman and her family become caught up in a terrible tragedy. The ending is totally unpredictable. Along the way, I experienced sympathy, confusion and revulsion. Both the mother and her intended target evoke conflicting emotions. What cannot be erased is the horror of the crime. At the end, we sense the need to let go as the emotions have been played out and acted upon - in a realistic and honest way.

Our Mother's House

Children react to tragedy with cunning and resolve
I found this movie by Jack Clayton to be another example of the many good movies to come out of Britain in the 1960's. The children are excellent and kept the film interesting through their intrigue and determination to survive on their own after the mother's death. Pamela Franklin, Mark Lester and Phoebe Nichols, to name a few, went on to acting careers. Dirk Bogarde, who shows up later in the film as the father, was also outstanding in a role that has some similarity to Bogarde's character in The Servant, also from the 1960's. The children were disciplined and formed a strong family until the father came into their life. I was impressed with the way the children show resilience and common sense of in the face of tragedy. Their father's return was welcomed at first but later disrupted their tight-knit family. This is a film that fits into British cinema in the 1960's and its treatment of the fragility of social order.

Les parapluies de Cherbourg

Beautiful, laid-back movie
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a very pleasant movie from 1964 that I was finally able to catch on TCM. I was drawn into the opening credits shown against the rain falling on a cobblestone street. I did hesitate to watch this movie because the dialogue is sung. In fact, this actually made this beautiful movie more of a treat. With severe hearing loss and trouble keeping up with rapid fire dialogue and captions, I found the movie a positive change from many reality shows that totally ignore the need for some of us in the viewing audience to hear clearly. The story is about a lovely young woman, played by Catherine Deneuve, who works with her mother in an umbrella shop in the wet, coastal climate of Cherbourg in France. Deneuve's character is wooed by two men who are literally too good to be true. Her first love is sidelined for two years when called up for military service. This absence results in another suitor who has more money and is just as sincere but he cannot replace her first love. Needless to say, circumstances change. How will it play out? Without giving anything away, it ends very naturally. With this movie, I can appreciate the satisfaction that comes from taking time to catch up with a little gem from the past. Turner Classic Movies to the rescue.


Likeable family but not scary
Poltergeist is an entertaining movie with good acting, a pleasant family and touches of humour but the horror scenes didn't deliver much impact.

The storyline of a real estate agent, his homemaker wife, and three kids in a new suburban development built over a cemetery is the perfect setting for a horror movie. Unfortunately, the movie just didn't register on the fright meter. Beatrice Straight, the woman scorned in the movie Network, was the main paranormal. Excellent theatrical voice and expressive eyes.

The whole movie had an undercurrent of humour and human warmth typical of writer Stephen Spielberg's early movies. I find it hard to watch a movie today with Craig Nelson without cracking a smile. Together with Jo Beth Williams, they reminded me of 1950's TV parents, the Nelsons or the Cleavers.

There is a certain nostalgia about the movie as I look back at middle class parents in the era just before mobile phones, the internet and other shifts in the social landscape. That is what stayed with me after viewing this movie. An interesting period movie but not quite up to expectations.

The Candidate

Great for political junkies and seasoned movie goers and still relevant
For someone who became a star as a glamour boy, Robert Redford has been involved in many successful, serious roles and movie projects that speak to seasoned movie goers. We recall his early movies like Barefoot in the Park, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting. He then went on to make his mark in more serious movies like this one, Jeremiah Johnson and All the President's Men. He also directed the award-winning Ordinary People and many others throughout his career. The Candidate certainly resonated with this political junkie. Its quality, however, would impress many viewers. Redford as the Candidate and Peter Boyle as his campaign manager show how a young activist with star appeal and an accomplished political handler can achieve success, but at a price. Boyle lures him into a race for the Senate against an accomplished insider who has a huge lead in the polls. As time goes by, Redford becomes more self assured as he realizes being himself is a key to success because of his confidence and good looks. But the road to that success was not what the candidate wanted. In fact, he shunned the world of politics with its artificiality, compromise and broken promises. His father, superbly performed by longtime stalwart Melvyn Douglas, is a former governor who at first seems to distance himself from his activist son. Don Porter is Redford's opponent. He is shown as the stereotype of the Republican candidate that Democrats love to hate. Porter is a shrewd politician and Redford, as a newcomer, has his hands full. This movie had me excited as it moved along at a very quick pace. There were cameos by television broadcasters Howard K. Smith, humorist Art Buchwald, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, etc. This and the styles and background of the 1970's give the movie added enjoyment. I was surprised, however, that the Vietnam War, which was still dragging on in 1972 was not mentioned once. The environmental movement was clearly becoming an issue and one that was dividing people, then as now. At a time when many young people were questioning politics as a profession, as they still are, this was a work that speaks volumes. It is a great movie and as relevant as ever.

Dog Day Afternoon

Pacino and the1970's setting stand out in this movie classic
I was delighted to get Dog Day Afternoon as a Christmas gift. I still watch DVDs and thank goodness for them. Other than TCM, there is only a slim chance of viewing this movie on television. Finally getting to see the movie and its star Al Pacino was a bigger treat than I expected. Watching this robbery/hostage drama made me feel like I was right there minute by minute as the story unfolded. Sidney Lumet, a director of so many great movies set in New York, knew the territory. The movie is set in 1970s Brooklyn and it captures the squalor and the mood of one New York neighbourhood. At the time, New York was dealing with crime, bankruptcy, racial strife and the loss of faith in government. Pacino, playing Sonny, is an unemployed Italian-American in a failing marriage. Part of the story is an alliance he builds with neighbours who cheer for him as he is surrounded by police, FBI, and media reporters. John Cazale plays his buddy Sal and Charles Durning is the seasoned police chief caught in a highly charged standoff between the police and the supportive crowd who cheer on the hostage takers. The full cast is great. Glad I finally saw this movie, which I can now add to the many other great movies I've seen from the 1970's. Highly recommend.

Our Souls at Night

Fonda and Redford reunion 50 years later
This movie is a long way from Barefoot in the Park, made in 1967, when Robert Redford and Jane Fonda were both 30. Now 80 they play two regular folk, Addie and Louis, who live alone in a small town and decide to spend their nights together to ease their loneliness. As Fonda put it, nights are the worst. The two had only known each other as acquaintances. So, when Addie knocks on his door with the proposal that the two sleep together, without sex, Louis is totally confounded but not scandalized. What I found interesting is how these 1960's sex symbols seemed to fit into these roles so naturally. The movie is slow and it takes a while for the two to get into the groove of being sleeping partners; however, it does pick up when Fonda's grandson comes into their lives. These 80 year olds take on all the energy and dedication of first time parents. The townsfolk were standoffish when they first found out about them but Addie was not bothered about gossip. Louis also adjusted to it. So what happens to spoil this bliss? Without giving it away, both Addie and Louis have acquired some baggage with their own grown children. They are able to face their own lives with a certain wisdom and honesty. The fact that these two actors, Fonda and Redford, can come together and star in a movie that breaks stereotypes is a positive note. It is refreshing to see a movie that treats older people as a loving, energetic couple. Thumbs up!


Two people crawl back from the depths of war
This movie was a very beautiful story about a relationship that springs from World War I (1914-1918). It caught my attention because of director François Ozon, whose originality and insight I've admired in his other movies. The characters in this movie are a German war widow and a French soldier; the dialogue is in French. Set in two countries that fought on opposite sides of the war, it presents the hostility that people on both sides felt towards one another. Yet a strong light of the human spirit shines through as the main characters deal with the burden of war. The movie is mainly in black/white which to me works well with the urban settings, good acting and script. The plot does not follow a predictable path as the two characters from opposite sides of German/French divide meet and become friends to honour someone whose life drew them together. This friendship is the central theme. The settings, whether in a cemetery, dance hall, beer house, or at a dinner table reinforce the period atmosphere. The movie doesn't have an ending that conveniently ties things up but it doesn't need to. It rests on its own merits.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Disappointing film noir
This movie has a fine cast of 1940's stars but failed to live up to my expectations. Lizabeth Scott's scenes were the real spark. She reminded me of Lauren Bacall with her husky voice and tall stature. I also liked Judith Anderson in her short appearance as the first Mrs. Ivers. Kirk Douglas, as the alcoholic political stand-in for his wife, delivered a strong performance in his first movie. As for the movie itself, it fell far short of other great film noir movies. It left me feeling disappointed. Stock script writing, and the lack of any real drama made for a rather weak film.

Half Nelson

Range of Acting Talents from Ryan Gosling
A great character role by Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne, an imaginative and creative high school teacher with a drug habit. Eventually his extra curricular life catches up with him when friends and colleagues see some bizarre behaviour. Ryan Gosling shows a range of acting talents as a dedicated teacher whose life spirals out of control. The hidden life is first discovered by one of his students, Drea, a good friend. I liked their initial friendship, which became more than just being friends. The student, played by Shareeka Epps, and Anthony Mackie as Frank, the nice guy dealer, are both outstanding among some other fine supporting actors. A great performance by Gosling with a fine cast behind him is a movie worth seeing.

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