Stephen T. McCarthy to Alex J. Cavanaugh:
I most definitely wish to participate in this Blogfest, but I want to appeal to you first for special "dispensation".
Stephen, it's your list. Go for it!
East Of Eden (1955)
Featuring: James Dean, Julie Harris
When James Dean first appeared on the screen, the little girls started screaming and a legend was born. That same year he was dead. But make no mistake about it, Dean was much more than a teen scream screen star. In fact, Dean had the most God-given acting talent ever. His inventiveness was simply off-the-charts. I’m still amazed by Dean’s performance. Despite the greater fame of his second movie “Rebel Without A Cause” (released posthumously), this one was his best.
Dean plays the part of Cal, a misunderstood youth desperately seeking his father’s love and acceptance. Watch for his rebellious reading of Psalm 32 (“Selah. EIGHT!”) And watch for the moment where he sneaks a drag off of someone else’s cigarette and drinks wine with his finger while anxiously awaiting the arrival of his Dad at the surprise birthday party. Trust me, folks, stuffs like that is NOT written into the screenplay – it originated within the fertile imagination of a great, great actor. Cal’s reaction to his father’s rejection of his birthday gift is the silver screen’s most intense scene (only the Russian roulette scene in “The Deer Hunter” comes close).
I can understand why the young girls were captivated by this young rebel. Heck, I’m an old boy and I myself am captivated by him. If you’re a female, you will want to love and mother him; if you’re a male, you will want to BE him. “East Of Eden” is one of my Top 25 all-time favorite movies.
Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
Featuring: Robert Townsend
Townsend spent all of his money and then charged up his credit cards to pay for the making of this hilarious commentary on Blacks in the Hollywood movie-making machine. Some of the skits leave me rolling on the floor with tears in my eyes. Like that bit about ‘The Black Acting School’ where hopelessly unhip suburban Whites try to teach Black actors how to act more “Black”. My favorite, however, is probably ‘Sneakin’ In The Movies’, where two young hoods from the ‘hood sneak into movie theatres and then review the movies Siskel and Ebert-like for the young African-American community. One of my most frequently used expressions has been stolen from this laugh-out-loud segment: “That sh#t could really happen!”
Robert Townsend is the real life epitome of the “just have courage and follow your dream” story. Hollywood Shuffle was his dream, and HE MADE IT! It inspires me AND makes me laugh – how can ya beat that? Hollywood Shuffle: see it or be White.
Category: “Candied Cinematography”
The Black Stallion (1979)
Featuring: Mickey Rooney, Kelly Reno
The Black Stallion has some of the greatest, most beautiful and imaginative cinematography I’ve ever had the pleasure to view, AND it has the single most naturalistic performance ever filmed.
Mickey Rooney is astounding! Oh, his performance is so subtle and so natural that it won’t seem like he’s acting at all. And guess what. Hellooooo! THAT is the whole goal of acting! That’s what every actor is trying to achieve, although few do!
The photography is like a painting by one of the old masters! Gorgeous, creative. Watch for the clever way that they show the audience how the little boy has finally mounted the black stallion. It’s seen from just below the surface of the water and it’s exhilarating.
The Black Stallion, possibly the most beautiful movie I’ve ever viewed, was not even NOMINATED for an Academy Award in the cinematography category! An outrage! Rotten! Disgusting! Inexcusable! Worst snub in Oscar history! This, more than anything before or since, exposes the members of the Hollywood community for the losers that they really are. It’s 31 years later and I’M STILL PISSED! "The Black Stallion" is one of my Top 25 all-time favorite movies.
One From The Heart (1982)
Featuring: Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, Raul Julia, Harry Dean Stanton, Lainie Kazan
This is the movie that bankrupted Francis Ford Coppola’s new studio. Las Vegas was constructed inside sound stages. Every single shot was done indoors. Yes, even the airport was fake. Amazing! As I said to my buddy DiscConnected: “I've been to Vegas at times when the real place didn't even seem THAT real. The attention to detail just blew my mind.”
The story is too weak for all that expense, but the photography is beyond creative and is frequently breathtakingly beautiful. Someone once described One From The Heart as being “like eight courses of dessert”. The look of the movie is alone worth the price of admission, add to that the fantastic Tom Waits soundtrack (which really should have been included on my “Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites” music album list) and you have a movie worth watching despite a fairly anemic storyline.
There are also several subtly funny moments provided by Forrest, Stanton, Kazan, and Julia. (Notice how Julia goes to the motel ice machine in his bathrobe and then heads back to his room in a desperate attempt to regain some dignity after his half-naked girl has just been stolen from him and literally carried away following a loud, unseemly public demonstration).
The story is nearly nonexistent, but the music is great and the performances are slyly funny. However, the style is the thing. Watch it for its look.
Category: “Charming Fantasy”
On Borrowed Time (1939)
Featuring: Bobs Watson, Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi
Hurrah! Finally released on DVD after all these years!
The movie’s Foreward states:
“Mr. Chaucer liked the story and believed it – and so do we. If, perchance, you don’t believe it, we respectfully insist that we [and Mr. Chaucer] must be right. Because faith still performs miracles and a good deed does find its just reward.”
Take notice all ye “It’s A Wonderful Life” fans: the cast of this old movie includes the actors who played Henry Potter; Clarence the “angel, second class”; and Jimmy Stewart’s mother. Cedric Hardwicke plays the proper and debonair grim reaper “Mr. Brink” who is magically trapped in an apple tree and prevented from making his rounds. Barrymore is loveable as cantankerous “Gramps” and Bobs Watson is totally believable as his excitable little grandson “Pud”. In my opinion, this is the all-time best performance by a child actor; I’ll be damned if I can catch Bobs "acting". He’s like a taller Mickey Rooney!
A great tearjerker fantasy movie that I have recommended to countless people, and no one yet has been left disappointed. If you like fantasy films and the old black & white movies, I personally guarantee this one to please.
Category: “Chick Flick For Guys”
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)
Featuring: Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr
One of the most unusual (and frustrating) love stories put on celluloid. Robert Mitchum plays an American Marine marooned on a Pacific island with a nun during World War II. I’m not a fan of war movies, but THIS is something totally different. It’s more a character study than an action movie, although it does have its action, too.
This was one of my Ma’s all-time favorite movies, and I can certainly understand why. Robert Mitchum was as cool and manly as cool and manly gets. He had great screen presence and I have always enjoyed watching him, and in my opinion, this is his best of many fine performances. If you’re a woman, you will fall in love with the big lug, and if you’re a macho kind of guy, you will fall in love with the big lug.
This is an ill-fated, heartbreaking romance story that develops amidst the BOOM of warfare. There is enough action and suspense and machismo to satisfy the guys and enough doomed love to make the ladies reach for a tissue. All is fair in love and war? Hmmm… Well, we’ll see.
Category: “Colorful Comedy”
What A Way To Go (1964)
Featuring: Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke
“All Lousia May Foster wants is a man to love – who will live! But try as she might to hang onto her husbands, she keeps meeting and marrying men with a desire to strike it rich – and a habit of dying soon thereafter.”
That’s the story in a nutshell. Now look at that all-star cast! How d’ya beat THAT? Paul Newman as a crazy, expatriate painter; Dean Martin as a callous, self-centered playboy; Dick Van Dyke as a nice guy loser (“even the losers get lucky sometimes”); Robert Mitchum as a wealthy, jet-setting, mega-businessman; and my favorite, Gene Kelly as a nearly talentless, small-time song and dance man! (“Ah, the little people! I love ‘em.”)
If you dig those zany, silly, goofball comedies, I can GUARANTEE that you will enjoy this movie – it’s a “can’t miss.” It’s filled with funny twists and turns and so much color that it looks like Walt Disney threw up on it.
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
Featuring: Gene Tirney, Don Ameche, Charles Coburn
Funny. Fantasy. Full of color. Here we have a woman-chasing playboy who has died and taken the trip downstairs to meet his fate with the well groomed, high-styled devil. The devil asks him to explain why he believes his life warranted an enternity in hell and so the story is told in flashback. This is delightfully humorous. The cast includes Charles Coburn, my all-time favorite old-time character actor (any movie with Charles Coburn in it is definitely worth watching!) and Gene Tierney, the most gorgeous woman whom God ever invented! And not only is this the world’s most beautiful woman, but this is her at her most beautiful! Gene Tierney in that baby blue dress is just too scrumptious for words! Yum-Yum! Yow! [Alright, guess I’m going to hell.]
And then as if all that weren’t enough, this movie also features one of filmdom’s funniest scenes – my brother Nappy and I mention it and laugh about it probably every other month or so: You have Mr. and Mrs. Strable arguing with each other at the breakfast table and the sharp-minded Black butler, Jasper, trapped in the middle and trying his damndest to play the peacemaker and bring some calm to the house. (“Boss! Boss! Got good news!...”) Oh, sheesh, is that ever some funny, funny stuffs! (“I don’t see how he could have gotten out of that barrel!”...) I loves this movie! Top-notch comedy and top-notch eye candy: Gene Tierney… Mmmm… “Please, sir, may I have some more?”
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Featuring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon
Alright, guys, you know how every weekend it’s the same thing? You have that hassle with your wife or girlfriend about what to watch? You wanna see something with some muscle to it, but she wants to watch some weepy love story. Well, guess what! With the 1978 Heaven Can Wait (same name, different story entirely) you can both get your own way.
Based on the 1941 movie titled “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”, this is the story of Joe Pendleton, a professional quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who is involved in a bicycle/automobile accident. Unfortunately, his soul is removed from his body prematurely and so now the Powers That Be must find a new body for his soul so that he can resume his earthly life. After some searching, his soul is finally deposited into the body of a supposedly murdered ruthless, insensitive business tycoon. Joe, now in the form of this tyrant, meets a pretty female activist who is at odds with him.
Well, as Joe is falling in love with his adversary and attempting to clean up his corporate greed, he’s also trying to find a way to get back to the Los Angeles Rams and lead his team to the Super Bowl. The story is deftly handled and contains enough humor, football action and lovey-dovey stuffs to keep everyone happy. This rates high on my list of all-time favorite sports movies. This is one movie I can recommend to EVERYONE!
Category: “Mid ‘60s”
American Graffiti (1973)
Featuring: Charles Martin Smith, Paul Le Mat, Harrison Ford, Wolfman Jack, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard
This is a well known early George Lucas film, but if you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it lately, I suggest you do so. American Graffiti is the movie that single-handedly gave birth to a national nostalgia craze and was spun off into an extremely popular (but really bad) long-running TV sitcom, “Happy Days”.
Forget the TV show, but the movie is great. It’s a story of innocence lost in a more innocent time in America. I loved the movie the first time I saw it, but for me, its poignancy increases with each passing year of my life and each new viewing of it. This is possibly my brother Nappy’s very favorite film and I fully understand why.
In one twelve hour period, we see the “age of innocence” coming to an end for some of the characters. During the night, these young people have fun, socializing, cruising the streets in hot rods, and trying to score a little romance, but when the dawn arrives, there is a gloomy foreboding that is palpable. Things will never be the same again. And the older I get the more that melancholia seeps into my own heart and mind.
This movie is filled with memorable characters, charming and funny moments, and one heck of a great late ‘50s / early ‘60s Rock ‘N’ Roll soundtrack. Not to be missed! “American Graffiti” is one of my Top 25 all-time favorite movies.
Now you say you're leavin' home
'Cause you want to be alone.
Ain't it funny how you feel
When you're findin' out it's real?
Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that
You're leaving there too soon.
You're leaving there too soon.
Category: “Mid ‘70s”
The Spirit Of ’76 (1991)
Featuring: David Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Carl Reiner, Tommy Chong, Devo
OK, this one I recommend with great trepidation. The Spirit Of ’76 is a very goofy (and at times downright stupid) send-up of the 1970s. If you lived through that decade, you may find yourself laughing at how spot on they got it and at some of the attention to details. Remember how all the fire hydrants were painted red, white, and blue during the bicentennial year? I myself noticed how dogs stopped peeing on them because they were afraid they’d be desecrating the American flag.
And if you weren’t alive or old enough to remember the Disco Era, you’ll watch this movie and thank your lucky stars for that. The Spirit Of ’76 is one of those “guilty pleasures” for me, but I am self-confident and bold enough to publicly admit that I really like this movie. It takes me back to a time when my hair wasn’t grey and my pants were bell bottomed. Here’s a synopsis:
American time travelers from 2176 attempt to return to 1776, hoping to regain knowledge of their lost ancient heritage in order to save a dying planet. Unfortunately, a computer glitch lands them instead in . . . you guessed it . . . 1976. July fourth, nineteen seventy-six to be precise. DOH!
The movie shows or mentions just about every “artifact” from that era, including mood rings, gas lines, Grand Funk Railroad, and self-realization seminars. Pay special attention to the line that David Cassidy delivers when his character, Adam-11, sees the Partridge Family lunchbox. Ha!
This movie is certainly not for everyone, but if you find you can laugh at stupid stuffs, and if you lived through this very loud era, you might find the “trip” back down memory lane to be more fun than you would have expected.
Here are a couple of things I have written about The Spirit Of ’76 in years past:
A superstupid movie, but boy does it take me back to 1976 and my senior year at Santa Monica High School. I can't watch it without my face breaking out. I always bring soda, popcorn & Clearasil.
DON'T BOGART THAT (VERY) "GUILTY PLEASURE", DUDE
[*A Haiku Review]
Ya know, the Fourth Of July is just around the corner. Renting this movie might be a good way to celebrate . . . or not.
Category: “Virgin Love Affair”
A Little Romance (1979)
Featuring: Laurence Olivier, Diane Lane, Thelonious Bernard, Broderick Crawford
Two precocious kids meet in an unlikely way and fall in love. The American girl (Diane Lane in her first movie) is from the right side of the tracks – the child of a spoiled, wannabe socialite. And the French boy – obsessed with American movies - is from the wrong side of the tracks. It sounds a little like Romeo and Juliet only it’s better.
Our innocent little heroes accidentally “smack into” a finely cultured and talkative old gentleman named Julius who talks them into sealing their love forever by undertaking an improbable trip to Venice so they can kiss under the Bridge Of Sighs at sunset and live happily ever after, in accordance with an old legend.
Unfortunately, however, the legend isn’t really what it seems and neither is Julius.
I love this gentle movie and I probably watch it at least once every couple of years. It’s on my short list of “Greatest Romance Movies Ever”. Laurence Olivier is fabulous, Broderick Crawford makes a very funny cameo appearance playing himself, and the freeze-frame ending always leaves me on the brink of tears.
A Little Romance reminds me of a time when I too was young and innocent and sure that a meeting with my soulmate was just around the next corner. This is funny, sad, and beautifully, adorably romantic. Just writing about it, I think I’m gonna cry.
Category: “Western Masterpiece”
What, not even one Western movie on this list? Huh? Alright, who am I really and what have they done with Stephen T. McCarthy?
~ Stephen T. McImposter
My #1 favorite movie of all time is “Koyaanisqatsi”.