Monthly Archives: September 2015

“I’m a kid that’s my job.”

We watched this next one as a family.  Everyone except my sister.  She was a very busy high school student, had a lot of after school activities, and then came home and studied (she graduated in the top 10 in her class–nerd alert!)

This was one of those movies that I wish she could’ve been there with us to see for the first time.  Her perspective would’ve gone a long way.

I always like to call it the forgotten John Hughes gem.

This was another of our “fall back” movies.  My dad and I probably watched this movie together over 10 times.  He was always game for it.

I don’t think anyone would meet a bigger John Candy fan than my father, and “Uncle Buck” was probably his favorite “Candy Movie.”

The gist: There is a family “health emergency” and the parents of the family have to go and attend to it (mom’s grandfather is very sick and has almost died)…However, they know that it could be a very extended period of time that they will need to be gone and the kids cannot miss that amount of school.  They try EVERYONE and the only option–dad’s deadbeat-jobless-never-invited-to-Thanksgiving-dinner-brother, “Buck” Russell.

buck russell

It’s unfortunate that there was only one movie.  The character Candy was able to make out of “Buck” always seemed to be larger than just one movie.  I thought it would’ve been awesome to see Buck come back to save the day when the youngest daughter got into high school too.  There would’ve been a different dynamic, given that he had a good relationship with her as an adolescent, but at the end of the day, she still would’ve been a teenager….

I digress.

Long story short, Buck is great with the young children, he clashes major with the teenage daughter:

tia

Buck: “When I was his age, I was a guy zooming girls like you. Pretty face, good chip on your shoulder.”

The funniest scenes in the movie come from Buck tormenting the teenager’s (Tia’s) boyfriend, “Bug.”

To spoil you of seeing how Buck torments Bug for the first time would be foul play on my part.  Trust me, there are laugh-out-loud moments, that have a level of discomfort to go along with them.

I remember talking with my dad on our third or fourth viewing about whether or not he would do those things.

Dad: “For my niece?  You bet I would.”

Me: “Niece?  What about Beth?”

(Beth is my sister)

Dad: “I don’t need to worry about your sister, she’d be meaner to those boys than me or Buck ever could be.”

That statement is no bullshit.  My dad prepared my sister very well.  One of the most independent people I know.  Again, I would’ve loved to ask her about her impressions of the Tia character from a teenage girl’s point-of-view.  It would’ve been very interesting.  Tia isn’t a bad person, she was just an angry teenager.  Who hasn’t been one at some point?

The great thing about the conflict in the movie between Buck and Tia, is that I can see both sides to the argument.  Buck has been tasked with keeping his niece safe and does it in the only way he knows how; understanding the male teenager mind.  Tia uses what Buck has become as an adult against him.  Buck’s not the most eligible bachelor, being that he is closer to 50 than 40 and unemployed with no prospects.  Not the best example to be giving out strict orders to a rebellious teen.

We have another brilliant screenplay by the amazing John Hughes, and an actor that was born for this role.  Candy is very underrated as an actor in general.  Most people right him off as a large clown.  Movies like this and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”  prove otherwise.

The greatness with a lot of the dialogue is how Buck engages with the young children too.  He is gentle, but he treats and communicates with them like they are his equal.  He doesn’t try to talk down to them or make them feel that they do not have a voice too.  He is a good listener and acknowledges the things they have to contribute.

buck and kids

I have an “Uncle Buck” in my family too (in moments, I feel I have more than one).  I like to believe that everyone does.  For those of you that don’t, I feel a little sorry for you.  “Uncle Bucks” make family gatherings very interesting….

….and authentic…

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“I don’t want to hurt you! I just want to make you kosher!”

It’s difficult to try and label this next movie with a genre.

If I had to, I’d definitely say it is a comedy.  There are others though that would label it as a western.  Like “McLintock!,” I feel that it is a comedy and the American West happens to be the backdrop.

I remember this movie being one that I laughed at as a child, and that my parents laughed at as adults.  That is quite a feat for a contemporary comedy (at that time) to be able to throw enough adult humor in, and not cross the line so that your children can enjoy it with you.

That is what I remember doing. Watching “The Frisco Kid” with my parents, multiple times.

The gist:

A Polish rabbi, Avram (Gene Wilder) has been chosen to run a synagogue in San Francisco, CA.  He takes a boat from Poland to Philadelphia, PA where he runs into a small group of bandits that rob him and throw him alongside the road.  Beaten down, he is however determined to get to San Francisco.

avram

Along the way he runs into the Amish who aid him, works along the railroad line for enough money to buy a horse and supplies, and eventually he runs in with his guardian “angel,” Tommy (a very young and wily Harrison Ford).

tommy

To divulge on the history and character of Tommy would spoil you of some effective storytelling.  Let’s agree that he is a man that knows who he is.

The majority of the humor comes from Gene Wilder’s Avram.

His thick accent is quite humorous, and his uncanny world view on doing the right thing without judging others is a characteristic to envy in such a goofy protagonist.  There is also some major culture clash along the way that sets up some funny situations when Tommy’s style and Avram’s beliefs don’t see eye-to-eye.

The trek across the old American West is quite a major one, and Michael Elias and Frank Shaw did a great job of showing the common difficulties of that journey in their screenplay.

It is nice to watch a very young Ford fresh off his fame from Star Wars interact in a comedy with the brilliant timing of Gene Wilder.  I feel that Ford learned a lot on this picture and shows his comedy skills (even in moments of his dramas) after this movie debuted in 1979.

For me I will always remember this as a movie we watched as a family when we wanted a laugh.  There are a lot of them, and watching Wilder carry a picture was a joy.  It’s a shame he’s not seen much anymore.  Great talent.

  friscokid

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“Too erudite?”

This next one is probably my favorite movie that I forget about all the time.  I can easily say that I have never seen anything like it (even its sequel) and it will never be remade or duplicated because it was so unique and perfect.  It should always get a mention in my “top ten” when people ask me, but I ALWAYS forget about it.  I need to buy it and watch it once a month.

It wouldn’t get old for me, I love it so much.

There were times when I would come home from soccer and we’d have some movies that were ready to be viewed.  We knew what we were getting when dad rented them–car bombs, gun fights, car bombs, fist fights, car bombs, and death…except for the lead action star.

Just double-checking the car bomb references.  Yep, got ’em.

When mom rented them it was hit and miss.  She wasn’t afraid to give any movie a try (unless she knew it had nudity, prior–then it was notta).  As an eight-year-old boy, it annoyed me when mom rented the movies because I was like my dad…action, action, and more action (I was 8, I don’t know what my dad’s excuse was).  We were not always guaranteed an action movie when mom was the one renting the movies and there were some movies that I watched with them that I did not have an appreciation for until later when I matured.

So, as you can imagine, when I came home from soccer and saw the title of a movie that i did not recognize, and found out that mom was the one that picked it out, I felt defeated (I think we lost our game that day–might have played into the emotions I was feeling).

I almost pouted in my room rather than give this movie a shot…

I am so glad I decided to watch “The Gods Must be Crazy.”

This is another movie in which I wished I could’ve been there when they tried to pitch the story:

“Okay, we’re going to take a tribe of “bushmen” and drop a glass coca cola bottle (they all used to be glass back in the 70s and 80s) in their midst.  We will watch this amazing “tool” destroy their tribe from the inside out until they decide that they need to throw it off the end of the earth.  While this is happening deep in the Kalahari, there will be a rebel force on the run from the government, terrorizing the countryside in their wake, as we also meet a cute teacher and scientist slowly bumble into love over the course of the movie.”

*crickets*

That paragraph is the “gist” of the movie…IT IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT PITIFUL DESCRIPTION I JUST GAVE.

godsmustbecrazybottle

The “screwball” humor is on par with Hawks’ “Bringing up Baby.” I have never seen “time lapse” used so well and consistently to tell a story on film.  To bring all three story lines together and complete its telling the way Jamie Uys was able to do with a masterful use of character development and storytelling was similar to what I imagine Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz were doing behind closed doors when they started writing “Citizen Kane.” I also had the joy of learning about different cultures along the way.

I learned a very valuable life lesson too…where would any of us be if we didn’t start to trust that our mothers actually know what they are doing?

Answer:

Not as well off.

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“Insanity doesn’t run in my family, it practically gallops.”

When I posted my “Father Goose” essay, I felt that Grant was always going to be way larger than one post.  He is definitely on the short list of actors that deserve more than just another movie, but a list of the “bests.”

So I’ve decided to do another “Best of,” Cary Grant style.

Topper” was the next Grant movie that I watched with my mom and sister on another weekend that my dad was gone hunting.  I remember watching some scenes and having uncontrollable laughter.  The premise is very creative and I don’t want to give it away.  Roland Young plays the title character and is the straight man through much of the film being tossed between Constance Bennett and Grant. If you like Grant and are able to find this movie, it is a must see.  

Bringing up Baby” is often times mentioned as the first or second choice of Grant fans.  Rightly so.  I don’t know that there was a better screwball comedy duo than Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  Trying to explain this film would do it no justice as from start to finish, you jump from so many circumstances and so many different locations that you have to catch your breath after the first 20 minutes.  Get ready to laugh, it’s going to be harder to stop yourself from it.  

His Girl Friday” Was there a better adapted screenplay in 1940?  The genius move behind this movie was changing the Hildy Johnson character from a man into a woman and casting the talented Rosalind Russell.  Grant and Russell are brilliant with their delivery of the dialogue here.  The timing cannot be matched.  Ralph Bellamy deserves a lot of credit for holding his own between these two verbal aggressors, using their phrases like sharp knives.  There have been attempts to remake this movie (“Switching Channels” 1988). It was a brave effort (Christopher Reeve is the entire reason to watch this movie, taking on the role that Bellamy originally played–makes it worth a view), but the brilliance of Russel and Grant together cannot be matched.  Enjoy!

The Philadelphia Story” Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn (together again), and now Jimmy Stewart…I don’t know that I have to say much more.  This is a movie about being honest with yourself.  The honesty that rings true with Grant and Hepburn comes out in the dialogue that they share and two of the best performances of their careers is a result of that.  …  Jimmy Stewart was pretty good too…

Arsenic and Old Lace” This is my go to Cary Grant movie.  It is hands down my favorite stage play and my favorite Cary Grant movie.  His slapstick, goofy facial expressions, and precise comedic dialogue timing are all on display here.  He plays a man that feels he has to endure the “loonies” that are his family as outrageous shenanigans ensue.  I dare you not to laugh.

Grant worked with some of the best directors that Hollywood has ever produced: Howard Hawks (“Bringing Up Baby” and “His Girl Friday“), George Cukor (“The Philadelphia Story“) Frank Capra (“Arsenic and Old Lace“) Hitchcock (“North by Northwest,” “Notorious,” “To Catch a Thief“) and then some….

Worth a mention: “Charade“–Great plot.  The majority of the movie is Audrey Hepburn as Grant floats in and out of it.  “Operation Petticoat“–Directed by Blake Edwards (one of the best comedic directors) this one kept me laughing.  “The Bishop’s Wife“–Plenty of Grant, not enough David Niven in my opinion, but a great heartwarming Christmas story for the holiday season.

I’ve given you plenty to work with…

GET TO WORK

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