Tag: 1990′s


Private Parts

December 9th, 2014 — 9:07pm

Private Parts- nfScreen Shot 2014-12-08 at 11.52.53 PM  Howard Stern who refers to himself as “ King of All Media,” in addition to this 1997 film and another one a few years later, has a best selling 1993 autobiography also called Private Parts, a ground breaking radio career which was topped off by a 2004 $500 million dollar contract with Sirius Radio on which he currently appears on several of their channels, has had various TV shows and is now a regular judge on the popular TV show America’s Got Talent. This movie is produced by Ivan Reitman and directed by Mary Thomas. It features Stern playing himself (except some of the brief scenes of him as a child) and it follows his life and career through college and his early radio jobs in Westchester, Hartford, Detroit, Washington and then WNBC in New York. It shows how after a few false starts, he eventually found his voice and modus operandi which was talking about himself and his private parts, his sexual fantasies and just about anything else that entered his mind. This was cutting edge at the time to the consternation of radio executives and the FCC. One of those executives was a program director at NBC, who Stern nicknamed Pig Vomit and is magnificently depicted by Paul Giamatti in this film. Today the forbidden language and the various bits that were deemed outrageous at the time would be old hat on satellite radio. The freshness of his frank language in the film seems quite dated and at times quite juvenile (it probably always was the latter) but in the story that is being told which includes some actual video clips, it is quite clear how he captured the imagination and enthusiasm of a very large numbers of listeners who became his fans and have given him ratings off the charts. This movie is a also a tender love story about Stern and his first wife Allison, played by Mary McCormack to whom he was married for 23 years with 3 children. They were separated two years after this film was made and Stern married Beth Ostrosky in 2008. Also played by themselves in the movie are Robin Quivers, Fred Norris and Jackie Martling who have been part of his radio team for many years. The now 60-year-old Stern has clearly not finished his run. This movie, which was made at a time that he was exploring how he could project his persona into still another media, now stands as a historical recounting of the beginning of a most remarkable career. It is well worth seeing as a poignant tale of a a “slightly misfit” creative and courageous man “ahead of his time.”(1997)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Big Lebowski

October 28th, 2014 — 9:33pm

*** 
Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 11.33.05 PMThe Big Lebowski nf – There is nothing like a cross-country plane ride to find an old film that you missed and think you might like. In this case for us it turned out to be The Big Lebowski starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman. This movie is often affectionately referenced in various settings and we were curious to watch it. Bridges plays “The Dude” who might be described as a good old boy with a heart of gold who is usually content to mind his own business and hang out with his buddies at the bowling alley. He dresses as if he is walking around in his underwear, with a bathrobe thrown over him. He is, of course, very likeable. The biggest event in his life would seem to be the latest bowling tournament. That is until The Dude gets mistaken for some rich guy called The Big Lebowski and gets drawn into an apparent kidnapping and ransom scheme of The Big Lebowski’s wife. The Dude’s good friend Walter (John Goodman) gets involved. He sees himself as a tough guy who knows how to handle difficult situations but usually he makes things worse. But that doesn’t stop him from trying to help the Dude with some new twist that develops. These guys are the charm of the film. The more the Dude tries to work his way out of trouble, the deeper he gets into it. In fact, he gets punched out several times and there is always a very creative depiction of his journey being unconscious. The movie really doesn’t go any place. The Coen Brother who wrote and directed the film put together a supporting cast that includes Julianne Moore, Steve Bucemia, Ben Gazzara, John Turturro and others. In the end we see that life goes on. The Dude carries on his life. Perhaps we all know this guy in a small way or he is someone we think we know or maybe on some level he is us. (1998)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Don Juan DeMarco

July 29th, 2013 — 6:51am

***Don Juan DeMarco

Don Juan DeMarco nf   - When we chose this film for our next Netflix choice, we thought it might be quite interesting to see two great actors of different generations interacting. We also heard that Brando played a psychiatrist, which is always of special interest to us. We encountered an extremely obese Brando (almost 70 years at the time) playing Dr. Jack Mickler, a psychiatrist working in an hospital in Queens,  New York 10 days away from retirement, who encounters Depp, 31 years old at the time but playing Don Juan De Marco , 21 years old on the verge of suicide, who believes he is the greatest lover in the world, having made love to over a  1000 women. The young masked lover relates his tale of growing up in Mexico and having fallen in love with his tutor at age 16 and then the circumstances which  led to his having to revenge his father’s death in a dual while defending his mother’s honor. He goes on to relate  the unusual story which this young lover of women has experienced in his short life. It is told with such intensity, sensitivity and almost believability that the good doctor reexamines his relationship with his wife (still beautiful Faye Dunaway) and their romance seems revitalized. The story was written and directed by Jeremy Leven who shared the writing credits with Lord Byron , who wrote the original Don Juan. The magic of this movie is both the empathy which Depp elicits for the tale of his life and the empathic feelings and identification which Brando conveys for his patient. The latter is in contrast to the psychiatric colleagues who are insisting on antipsychotic medication rather than hearing him out and understanding his story (which is something we do encounter from time to time  in well meaning colleagues in various mental health settings). In the end we had the pleasure of getting a taste of the subtlety that Brando could bring to a role as he performed in  the 35th of what was to be a 39 film magnificent career. At the same time we saw Depp in his 12th film appearance which thus far has included 49 movies in which he often takes on as he did in this one, a very unusual and unique character. (1994)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Edward Scissorhands

July 18th, 2013 — 8:13pm

Edward Scissorhands***

Edward Scissorhands  nf    We had missed this classic 1990 film so we put in on our Netflix list. It is a fairytale like none that we have ever seen or  heard before. Edward (Johnny Depp) is boy who was born with no hands  was brought up in an old mansion on the hill by his inventor father (Vincent Price) who outfitted him with scissor hands and died before he could invent and attach  real ones  for him. The Avon lady, (you know the one who knocks on doors to sell cosmetics) played by Diane Wiest, takes him home to her typical 1950s suburbia house down the hill from the mansion where she lives with her husband (Alan Arkin), son and daughter (Winonna Ryder) We come to realize that Edward’s handicap is also a wonderful talent as he can sculpt hedges, women’s hair and do lots of other things with his scissor hands. Hence, we are being taught something about differences in people and certainly they are not always what they seem to be. Fairytales often have a special love story, a villain and unexpected but understandable endings and this one doesn’t disappoint. This whole story originated in the mind of a young Tim Burton, who when he grew up, co–wrote the story as well as co-produced and directed  the film. Johnny Depp is  quite remarkable, in that he hardly speaks in the film but he conveys so much. Ryder also shows great  emotion and feelingwith her facial  expressions and Diane Wiest absolutely inhabits the Avon lady. The music by Danny Elfman sets the underlying haunting mood of the film, We certainly think it was still  worth seeing 23 years after it was made (1990)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Grand Canyon

May 27th, 2012 — 7:30pm

****

The Grand Canyon nf– After recently seeing Director/Writer Larry Kasden’s latest film Darling Companion and liking it very much we decided to view this 1991 film also directed by Kasden and co- written with his wife Meg Kasden. This film was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay. It is set and made in Los Angeles about one year before the LA Riots. It is about people from different parts of town whose lives intersect due to some random circumstances. Kevin Kline plays Mac, a successful attorney who goes off the beaten path in more than one way but finds himself seemingly rescued by Simon (Danny Glover), a tow truck driver. Their lives and their life styles reflect their different social, racial and economic settings. The important people in each of their lives are struggling with their own identities and life crisis. Mack’s wife Claire (Mary McDonnell) questions her marriage and tries to deal with her feelings as she is watching her teenage son grow up and have his first romance. She has to decide how to fulfill her own life as well as that of a newborn abandoned child who she discovers while out jogging. Simon’s sister (Afre Woodard), on the other side of town is trying to figure out how to raise her teenage son who can’t see any other choices than being a gang member. Everyone’s lives are intersecting. Not only does the film contrast different life styles in Los Angeles that are only a few minutes car ride away from each other but also puts a mirror to the personal decisions that each person has to make. Kasden uses an ensemble cast of excellent actors and it seems that he has chosen Steve Martin to play the character closest to himself. In a non-comedic role Martin is Davis, a movie producer who wants to make honest films that show the human condition even if they contain realistic violent action that he does best. We come away from this movie reflecting that we are each a tiny spec in this universe that we can’t control but we still have decisions to make that can make a difference. (1991)

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

The Harmonists

March 9th, 2012 — 12:54am

***

The Harmonists – nf  This German film with English subtitles was originally titled the Comedic Harmonists which is the name of one of the most famous vocal groups to ever perform in Germany. This film is the story of  how Harry Frommermann, (Ulrich Noethen) originally pulled together this sextet in Germany during the depression from 4 other  talented singers and a piano player who were barely getting by in those hard times. They rehearsed for many months honing their style of syncopated but soothing harmony mostly choosing popular classics frequently with humorous lyrics. They became immensely popular in Germany. The story line shows how they came together as a group and also depicts some of their romantic connections. This is all based on a true story and the music that we hear is the actual music of the Comedic Harmonists of the 1930s.  However as we all know something else was going on in Germany during this period. Harry Frommermann and two other members of this group were Jewish. As we follow the now successful group  and perhaps identify with their joy in realizing their hopes and dreams, we also  begin to appreciate what was happening all around them. Some of the scenes  remind us  of the denial of so many proud older German Jews who couldn’t accept that they were slowly but surely being rejected by their beloved country. The Harmonists briefly perform in the United States and Harry has a conflict whether he should return to Germany. Each time we read a book or see a movie about this period of history we develop an iota more of insight into the plight of the Jewish people of that time and also of what can happen to any of us (Jews or not) when people are led to hate one group or another. The power of music to tap into our  emotions no doubt will help to embed this piece of history and this film into the viewers psyche. (1997)  

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Musical

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

January 23rd, 2012 — 8:29am

****

What’s  Eating Gilbert Grape?- nf  It is hard to believe that the same actor who we recently  saw play J Edgar Hoover this year was the playing a developmentally disabled 18 year old boy in this movie, who looked and acted like a kid even half that age. . Of course it was nine years ago, but nevertheless Leonardo DiCaprio well deserves the Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor he received in 1992 for his portrayal of Gilbert Grape’s (Johnny Depp) younger brother, Arnie, in this emotionally touching movie. The screenplay is based on the book, both by Peter Hedges,  and takes the viewers into a sleepy rural town. We meet Gilbert Grape’s family which consists of  Arnie and his two teenage sisters all of whom live and devote their lives to their mother who is at least a 500 pound women who has hardly moved around the house since her husband ended his life several years before. At first we couldn’t believe that this was an actual morbidly obese actress playing this mother and thought we were witnessing amazing special effects. However later we found out from the discussion about the film on the Netflix DVD that Darlene Cates was chosen for this part after an appearance on the Jessie Raphael TV show about obese women. She was able to bring to the screen role a sense of the despair she felt about her condition but yet the love and dependency in regard to her children. The storyline provides a setting about which most of us are unfamiliar, a set of characters who are quite unique but yet we can be touched by them and relate to each of their conflicts and attempts to find themselves. Mary Steenburgen plays the older women who have a need for attention from the Depp character. Juliette Lewis is a younger woman who is passing through town and encounters Gilbert Grape and ultimately his family. Her connection with Gilbert allows him to appreciate the possibilities he could have for himself. Director Lasse Hallsstrom and his cast all seemed to have sensitivity to this story and the film is beautifully made. While it may be geared toward sentimentality, it definitely works and has the potential to be unforgettable. You cannot help but be moved and inspired by the love and connection of the family throughout their challenges and changes. (1993)

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

My Father’s Glory

November 7th, 2011 — 4:48am

***

My Father’s Glory – nf  (In French with English voiceover or subtitles). The movie is based on the best selling memoirs of French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol and is directed by Yves Robert. If we had known the story of the movie, we probably would have passed on it. Somehow it ended up on our Netflix queue, which meant someone, or some publication recommended it highly, so we let it roll (so to speak). It is a beautifully framed picturesque film set in the early 1900s. It is seen through the eyes of an older Frenchmen who is the narrator recalling his childhood especially, his view of his father. Most of the movie shows his family’s summer vacation, which includes his mother, sibs, uncle and aunt and their small children in the countryside and mountains in southern France. Being a city boy he is intrigued with  nature and the wide open country experience with mountains, birds and game . He idolizes his schoolteacher father and has some problems with seeing his uncle, an experienced woodsman who is more knowledgeable in shooting and hunting. He encounters a young local boy his age with whom he becomes friendly and even considers sneaking off and staying by himself in the countryside. Aside from being magnificently photographed, it is a touching, heartwarming film with some comedic moments. I think it probably is the perfect movie to watch with a preadolescent son or grandson. (1990)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

In the Company of Men

September 6th, 2010 — 7:58am

In the Company of Men* * *
In the Company of Men
– nf – Early in the movie the premise of the story line is made clear. Two Yuppie businessmen away on a project in a branch office are discussing their relationships with women. They tell each other how badly they have been treated by them and how downtrodden they feel. This leads one of them to come up with a plan, which he convinces the other fellow to join in with him. They will find an unsuspecting, susceptible young woman during the six weeks that are away. They will each wine, dine and romance her simultaneously and then both will dump her and leave town. As one of them puts it, in the future no matter how badly they are treated by girlfriends, their wives or even their bosses, they will look back and know that nobody treated them as badly as they were going to treat this women. Nice guys? Now what does this movie show us? What insight into the human mind or into the mind of some subtype of men can we glean? Well, they carry out the plan albeit with some complications. When she realizes what was done to her, the young woman says to one of the men, “Why did you do this?” He answers, “Because I could?” Does that line sound familiar? Although the line became famous a few years after this movie was made Bill Clinton is the person who immortalized those words in response to a question from Dan Rather in a 60 Minute TV interview as to why he had his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton replied,

“I think I did something for the worst possible reason-just because I could. I think that’s the most, just about the most morally indefensible reason that anybody could have for doing anything. When you do something just because you could… I’ve thought about it a lot. And there are lots of more sophisticated explanations, more complicated psychological explanations. But none of them are an excuse.”

Those psychological reasons may vary from person to person and there were two male characters in the movie and of course Clinton is a character himself. In some there is a core of self-centeredness or narcissism, some of which may make you a good leader or a boss but too much of it will be a disaster. Then in some individuals there is a great insecurity, which can include jealousy and aggression. We saw a mixture of these in our characters in the movie. Director Neil LaBute made the six week time span move quickly and actors Aaron Eckhart and Matt Malloy were excellent. Although the performance of Stacy Edwards was also top notch, there was controversy in some circles who thought that a real deaf actress should have played the part. We should have mentioned that the character of the susceptible attractive young women who was to be dumped had lost her hearing at age 8 and had a speech impairment. Some may find this movie very thought provoking. Hopefully it won’t be too close to home. (1997)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Trainspotting

September 6th, 2010 — 3:00am

* * * *
Trainspotting
- nf – After hearing Danny Boyle, Director of the big hit Slumdog Millionaire in person at our film course, we decided we wanted to see this picture which was his earlier hit. It is a raw, realistic but yet empathic depiction of heroin addiction in England/Scotland with a mainly a cast of young men played by accomplished actors who interact extremely well. The scenes are creative and at times quite vivid. . You will especially appreciate this film if you are within memory of your twenty’s or if you can get yourself in the mindset of that time of life. If you see this film, it will probably be through Netflix which will give you the opportunity to listen to the discussion by the director, writer and producer in the special feature section. This will add to your appreciation of this excellent fil. 1996

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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