Monthly Archives: February 2017

“We all forget things. That’s what reminding is for.”

There was a “little” movie that you might’ve heard of in the early 90s called “Pretty Woman.”

…and a star was born.

Being a 13 year old boy, I had no interest in that film.  Mainly because at that point, my sister had a huge interest in it and I knew the kind of movies she loved when she was in high school: lame, comedy romance.  I avoided it…for a few years anyway…

Even though I had not seen it, pretty much every other person on the planet had, so there was no escaping it.  There were clips on “Entertainment Tonight,” trailers shown on every other television break, and trailers again whenever I went to a movie.  The scene that I remember is when Gere closes her hand in the jewelry box and she cries out her boisterous, yet feminine laugh.  I also remember seeing a scene of her singing in the bath tub to “Kiss” by Prince (RIP)…I remembered that because of the song.  She was America’s new sweetheart and she was not going away.

julia-kiss

Man, I sound like I wanted her to go away…I didn’t, I just wanted “Pretty Woman” to go away.  Which brings me to my very first Julia Roberts experience; and WOW-was-it unexpected.

I remember thinking that she was beautiful, yet she had this very honest, kind, and gentle quality about her.  She gave the impression that she could be talked to by anyone.  She wasn’t goofy like I had been made familiar with through all of “Pretty Woman‘s” advertising.

In “Sleeping with the Enemy,” Julia plays a very timid, kind, and gentle housewife that is the victim of an abusive husband played by Patrick Bergin in a very aggressive, haunting performance.

The great thing I remember about her performance was the fact that the audience is not witness to an actual case of physical abuse until the end of the first act; yet her unease makes us feel like Bergin is a pitbull, just waiting for a reason to lash out.  We find out that he is and before we do, we are as tense as Julia is.  That is because of Julia (although Bergin did help portraying a total psychopath).

This movie wasn’t just a basic woman escapes a monster through “the system.”  It is a clever psychological thriller that tells us what we need to know, when the writer felt we were ready to know it.

This is the part where I remind everyone that I would hate to give anything away.  Know this, the moment of truth is EXTREMELY satisfying.

Julia, like Denzel, was another “new” star, that we all wanted to see more of.  The rest of America knew that a little quicker than I did re: “Pretty Woman.” Just like I did with Denzel, I looked for prior movies and got excited for new ones with her.  I later found that Julia had already made a GREAT movie that just didn’t hit it too big unfortunately.  For those of you that have not seen “Mystic Pizza,” put it on your list.  It is a great coming-of-age story told through the eyes of teenage girls unlike any other.  Keep your eyes peeled for a very young and fresh Matt Damon.  If you blink, you’ll miss him.

She had a very minor role in “Steel Magnolias,” which I watched a number of years later as that was labeled another “sister” movie (cue gag noise). That is a sign of my immaturity, not that the film was bad.  I thoroughly enjoyed it later.

Julia made A LOT of different movies that I enjoyed over the next twenty years…but I can’t tell you all of them at once.  I have to write about something, after all.

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“I want to hear yes.”

There are some movies that come to mind and it takes everything that I can not to smirk.  So I give in and I smirk.

This can be awkward when you’re in a dreary meeting at work, lose consciousness, and then smirk.  People begin to wonder if you’re not taking things seriously.

You can’t just say, “No, really, I was just thinking about ‘The Freshman‘.”

Now with a title–and response–like that, people start to wonder if they need to call the authorities and have them check in on you.

I can’t help but smirk and sometimes giggle when I think about this absolute, underrated, perfect comedy from 1990.

For starters, it has one of my huge 80s man crushes in it in Matthew Broderick.  Add Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller in one of her earliest roles, and who makes better facial expressions when they know the heats on than Jon Polito.  If you’re unfamiliar with Jon (we’re close, it’s a thing) you should check him out in any Coen Brothers movie Following “Miller’s Crossing circa 1990.  He is a regular of theirs and he can play uncomfortably comedic and a ruthless villain within the same scene; and we buy it.  He’s very underrated.  

Broderick is perfect casting for this role.  He is one of the greatest lovable loser actors of all time.  I have mentioned “WarGames‘” David and “Ladyhawke‘s” Gaston, there is also Eugene Morris Jerome from “Biloxi Blues and Clark Kellogg from “The Freshman” is no different.  With slapstick, it can be very easy to look fake or forced.  Broderick as Clark makes it look seamless and true.

Oh shit…

Did I forget to mention Brando?  WOW. Yes.  I just did that.  I also forgot to mention that he “unintentionally” intentionally reprises his role as Don Vito Corleone in his Carmine Sabatini.

brando-broderick-freshman

It’s only fair that one make a disclaimer here.  If you have not seen or are not a decent sized fan of the “Godfather” films; you won’t get a lot of the jokes.  That might be why so many people I have talked to over the years either love (deeply I might add) or dislike this movie.  It’s hard to enjoy this fresh with no perspective of the “Godfather” films as so much of that character (Don Vito) is important to this story.

People ask me often about my favorite actors.  It is an unfair question as there are so many.  Brando is in the top five easy.  His influence is too deep not to include him on such a list.  He proves it here for me with a rare comedic turn in this film.

For those of you that are familiar with my blog, you know how important comedy is to me as a genre.  It is the one I share the deepest respect for.  Drama comes with its challenges, but we can all agree that death from a character we’ve grown to love is dramatic.  There are so many different variations of comedy out there that being able to get one of them right that a large group of people enjoy is quite a feat.  Mel Brooks and Woody Allen are two very different kind of directors and comedians.  Both funny.  Both work. Completely different.  Some people like Brooks, some prefer Allen, some don’t like either, some like both…where am I going here?  Brando is known for his deep seriousness within each of his dramatic characters.  He would develop amazing backstories that would explain why the character might react in this way and use it.  It’s enough to drive directors crazy, which he was known for, but it also worked and brought forth some of the most passionate performances one could have in a lifetime.  He then turned around and made this witty comedic play on one of his most famous roles and hit the right notes.  Every moment that he is on screen, he understands exactly the impact he has to make with his humor, and gives it just the right amount.

….

Yes.  I’m smirking thinking about him as I write this.

If you haven’t seen the first two “Godfather” pictures that’s a shame.  Not just for the simple fact that they are “classic” movies by every definition.  I feel sorry for you in that you won’t be able to enjoy such a great comedy on each level awarded.  Yes, you can watch this movie fresh and still have a good laugh and enjoy a very well told story (it’s not just funny, the plot is clever as well); but there is a cloud of underlying winking from Brando, Broderick, and the rest of the players that you will miss out on.

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“Sir, it’s tomato soup!”

It’s interesting what different generations assume as common knowledge.

Mom had rented a movie and I asked her about the title:

“What’s the “Memphis Belle?”

She looked at me, sideways.

I just threw her the “wuh?” arms and waited for a response.  I think she was too tired.  Her day job was cleaning houses and she would sometimes fit in two a day.  I think that was a double day.

She just said, “I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll just have to see it.”

You know I did.

I found out that it really is an underrated war picture for starters.  I’ve seen the movie twice.  This time with my mother when I was almost a freshman in high school and again when I was in college.

In my first viewing, I was bored with the first 20 minutes of the picture.  There was a lot of talking in big groups in rooms.  Then there was a party and I suppose we were supposed to familiarize ourselves with a few of the characters, but at my age, I found it boring.  In the second viewing, I had a higher appreciation for those opening scenes.

The real story starts when the Belle takes off.  You learn about the amount of men it takes to successfully drop one bomb.  Those ships were massive and carried a lot of heavy artillery.  I don’t think there was an angle that would be uncovered by a high calibre rifle.

b-12-bomber

You also learn how hard it is to accurately drop a bomb when given the chance, and that bombs sometimes, don’t “work.”

The gist of the story is that after 25 successful missions, the entire crew is able to go home, regardless if the war wants to cooperate or not.  We of course meet the members of the Belle between their 24th and 25th mission and then take the journey with them on the 25th.  The movie has quite a crew:

John Lithgow, David StrathairnSean AstinHarry Connick Jr.Billy ZaneMatthew ModineEric StoltzTate Donovan, and D.B. Sweeney to name a few.  

There is a lot of action, as you’d expect in a war picture, but it’s different…

For the most part, it’s claustrophobic. The majority of the movement happens “outside” of the bomber, and we can only see from each crew member’s point of view.  The enemy fighter planes are like sharks, circling in the air, in the frame for a split second and then gone, with each member trying to track it down with gunfire as they sweep around from different angles.  All the while firing at the bomber as well.

I count three laughs in the picture and a smirk.  There is one deep belly laugh that made it completely worth a view itself.

When I think about movies that attempt to make inorganic forms of transportation seem like another character, three come to mind instantly:

  1. The Millennium Falcon (this goes without saying for someone like me that grew up watching the trilogy a couple times in a row on summer Saturdays)
  2. The Delorean from Back to the Future, and
  3. The Memphis Belle

That’s the impact the belly of this monster made on me.  I’m sure that I am going to hear about it from a number of people, “What about the Orca from Jaws?” or “The VW Van on Little Miss Sunshine?”

Now you know my top 5…

I would hope that no one would mention Herby.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Herby movie, but that car is actually “Disney Alive,” okay?  Different category entirely.

I am sure that there are others, the point being that the writers and director did a great job bringing that wonderful flying beast to life and I hold it as a valuable and worthy character. I’m afraid if I tell more, I’ll give too much away…and you know I don’t like doing that.  Just know that this great cast–including the Belle– makes the journey worth it.

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