Classic Cinema

“The Way We Were”

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in "The Way We Were" (© Columbia Pictures, 1973)

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in “The Way We Were” (© Columbia Pictures, 1973)

Opposites attract, but only for a while in the 1973 tear-jerker The Way We Were. Starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, the film is an American love story set amid the political turmoil before, during, and after World War II.

Streisand plays Katie Morosky, a strong-willed Jewish woman with penchant for political activism. Redford plays Hubbell Gardiner, a very WASP-y and privileged guy with the aspirations (and the talent) to become a writer. The two meet in college in the late 1930s, but it isn’t until a chance encounter in New York City after the war when they fall in love. The lovers end up moving to Hollywood where Hubbell pursues a career as a screenwriter. When the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities starts putting the smack down on suspected communist sympathizers in the entertainment industry, Katie takes a stand but Hubbell plays it safe in order to keep his job. You can see where this is going—the lovers’ future is sadly doomed by their lack of mutual conviction and shared values.

Written by Arthur Laurents and directed by Sydney Pollack, the film is a solid, albeit glossy, romantic drama. The interweaving of the political turmoil of the times provides a unique backdrop for both the romance and the demise of the relationship. And the star power and on-screen chemistry of Redford and Streisand is why we go to the movies in the first place.

Of notable mention is the film’s famous title track, with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman, and perfectly sung by Barbra Streisand. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song; Hamlisch also won an Academy Award for the Best Original Dramatic Score for the film and a Grammy for Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I watched The Way We Were on Turner Classic Movies. Thanks, TCM!

Have you seen The Way We Were? What do you think of the film? Leave a reply below.

Disney Movie of the Month

“Cool Runnings”

© Disney

Leon, Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and Doug E. Doug in “Cool Runnings” (1993) © Disney

Y’all know that I’m a big fan of the Walt Disney Studios. I thought it would be fun to watch one Disney film a month from here one out and blog about it. This month’s entry is Cool Runnings, the 1993 sports comedy based on the true story of the bobsled team from Jamaica that competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

The film tells the inspirational story of Jamaican runner Derice Bannock (played by actor Leon) who decides to form the island’s first bobsled team after an unfortunate event crushes his dreams of representing Jamaica in the Summer Olympics. Bannock meets former American bobsledder Irv Blitzer (played by John Candy) who happens to be living in Jamaica and they recruit three more locals for the team (Rawle D. Lewis, Malik Yoba, and Doug E. Doug). Blitzer becomes the team’s coach and together they overcome multiple obstacles to qualify and compete in Calgary. It’s also an ultimate fish-out-of-water story, with the Jamaicans trying to figure out what it means to compete in the cold and on the world stage.

While the film is in many regards your basic sports movie, it rises above the standard clichés with its winning (and funny) script, terrific acting, and great direction from director John Turteltaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure). It is a fun and inspiring film.

One final bit of trivia—Cool Runnings was released in October 1993, just months before John Candy’s untimely death in March 1994. I’m glad he was able to see his terrific performance in the film.

Rating: 4 of out 5 stars

Cool Runnings is currently available on Netflix.

Have you seen Cool Runnings? What do you think of it? Leave a reply below.

Cinema Italiano 2014

“Cinema Paradiso”

Philippe Noiret (Alfredo) and Salvatore Cascio (Toto) in 'Cinema Paradiso' (1988)

Philippe Noiret (Alfredo) and Salvatore Cascio (Toto) in ‘Cinema Paradiso’ (1988)

So I’m a few days late, but the final Italian film on my 2014 viewing list is the 1988 sentimental beauty Cinema Paradiso. The story, told in flashback, recounts the life of Salvatore (aka “Toto”), an Italian film director who returns to his home in Sicily for the first time in 30 years. His return is due to the passing of Alfredo, his dear friend and mentor who was a film projectionist at the town’s cinema. The film shows the highs and lows of Salvatore’s childhood, his love of movies, his first romantic love, and his decision to leave home to pursue his dreams.

I haven’t seen this film since 1990. I couldn’t help but be swept away in reflection of my own life over the past 25 years–of happiness, sadness, lost love, life decisions, and, most importantly, of dear people who cared for me and helped me along my way.

Written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the film also contains an unforgettable soundtrack by prolific Italian composer Ennio Morricone, It won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990. Nostalgic, heart-rending, and beautiful, Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to movies, to Italy, and to life.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cinema Paradiso is available on Netflix DVD.

Cinema Italiano 2014

“The Bicycle Thief”

Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani in 'The Bicycle Thief' (1948)

Enzo Staiola and Lamberto Maggiorani in ‘The Bicycle Thief’ (1948)

The 1948 Italian classic The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di biciclette, or Bicycle Thieves) is considered by many to be one of the best films ever made period, let alone one of the greatest Italian films of all time. Directed by Vittorio De Sica, the film tells the story of an impoverished family living in post-World War II Rome. Antonio, the father, gets a job that requires the use of a bicycle. When the bicycle gets stolen, Antonio and his son Bruno search throughout the Eternal City trying to find the bike and restore his job and dignity.

The film is Italian neorealism at its most stark, tangible, and in your face. As stated on The Criterion Collection website:

“The neorealist movement began in Italy at the end of World War II as an urgent response to the political turmoil and desperate economic conditions afflicting the country. Directors such as Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Luchino Visconti took up cameras to focus on lower-class characters and their concerns, using nonprofessional actors, outdoor shooting, (necessarily) very small budgets, and a realist aesthetic.”

Among the film’s many kudos, The Bicycle Thief also won a Special Foreign Language Film Oscar in 1949 “as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949.”

Frankly, I find the film to be depressing as all get out, but I guess that’s the point. It shows the ruinous toll that war and fascism wreaked on the people of Italy. It’s an important film and definitely one worth checking out and thinking about.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I watched The Bicycle Thief on TCM.

Current Cinema

First Look at “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

Image © Lucasfilm and Disney

One thing I never thought I’d see in my lifetime was another Star Wars movie with a storyline past Episode VI (and particularly with the prequel trilogy leaving such a bad aftertaste). Now, as we all know, that’s changed and Episode VII, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be coming to a galaxy near you in December 2015.

The first teaser trailer is here and it makes me feel like I’m 12 years old all over again. What do you think of it?

Thoughts on Movies

“The Little Mermaid” 25th Anniversary

Image © Disney

Image © Disney

Can you believe it’s been 25 years since this film was released? Disney Animation’s The Little Mermaid was issued in
wide release in U.S. theaters on November 17, 1989.

I re-watched the film this week and I don’t think I stopped smiling once. Pure charm and delight from start to finish. I hope you’ll re-watch it soon, too.

Thoughts on Movies

TCM to Sponsor The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park

Image © TCM and Disney

Image © TCM and Disney

Finally, some good news to come out of Walt Disney World. Last month, a Disney spokesperson confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that the giant, heinous “Sorcerer Mickey” hat that was plopped in front of the replica of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in 2001 is going bye-bye (more about my thoughts on this egregious structure are here). Then, yesterday it was announced that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) signed an agreement to sponsor The Great Movie Ride attraction, which is located inside the Chinese Theatre building and is one of the park’s original attractions. Vintage Disney movies and television programs will also be shown quarterly on TCM in a new “Treasures from the Disney Vault” programming block. TCM has put together a press release and a webpage about the new deal. I couldn’t be happier about this latest development.

Once the awful giant hat is removed and the beautiful views restored to the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, guests will then be able to see and enjoy The Great Movie Ride with new content at the beginning and end of the ride curated by the pros at TCM. Giant hat removal is scheduled to begin in January 2015. The TCM additions to The Great Movie Ride should hopefully be in place soon thereafter.

The ride has been in need of an update for a long time and TCM is the perfect partner to make this experience great again. I’m also glad that the classic movie theme is staying as the opening act at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, a celebration of “the Hollywood that never was and always will be.”