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Graduate 01The Graduate

One of the best films ever made, this 1967 classic, directed by Mike Nichols, features great performances by Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross in a story about a young man considering his future and the mother and daughter who most heavily influence his choices.  A brilliant comedy featuring great songs by Simon and Garfunkel, this is a true classic!


Gravity Sandra BullockGravity

Alfonso Cuarón’s 2013 science fiction film Gravity is extremely well-made, a tight thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for an hour and twenty-four minutes holding on for dear life.  It is almost a perfect movie.

 

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teresa wright & dana andrews - the best years of our lives 1946The Best Years of Our Lives

The stark reality of surviving life after war is best faced with the aid of friends and loved ones and that is story that is told in this 1946 film which remains one of the best films ever made.


The-Big-Sleep Bogart BacallThe Big Sleep

This 1946 film adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective novel remains one of the best films ever made for a variety of reasons.  Start with Chandler’s novel, written in a unique voice and style, that delved into the underworld of big city vice, using dangerous and edgy behavior that were normally hidden from the public eye: pornography, promiscuity, and homosexuality.


 Hitchcock The Birds 02The Birds

I was thirteen years old in 1963 when I went to a movie theater to Alfred Hitchcock’s latest move, The Birds, and I can still remember the effect it had, the tension it engendered, the thrill of fright, and my jangled nerves when I left the theater and stepped out into the sunlight.


 the-blind-side-22-550x366The Blind Side

The Blind Side, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, is a biographical drama that tells the story of how Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a rather large African-American, gets adopted into a white family, defeats his educational issues, and goes on to develop into a terrific left tackle on the football field.


Breakfast ClubThe Breakfast Club

Yelling one minute, giggling the next, while cool music plays throughout.  Welcome to The Breakfast Club, John Hughes’ 1985 comedy-drama about five teenagers confined to a Saturday detention in the Shermer High School library in Shermer, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.


 renee zellweger bridge jonesBridget Jones’s Diary

Based ever so loosely on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, this 2001 British romantic comedy directed by Sharon Maguire is full of hits and misses.  The hits are all punches thrown between the two men who seek Bridget’s attention and the misses are all those single women who wish they had a choice between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant.


bright-star cornish and wishawBright Star

Written and directed by Jane Campion and based on the John Keats biography by Andrew Motion, this 2009 film is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen and it captures one of the most touching romances in history.  It takes its title from one of Keats’ most moving poems, “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art.”


Broken Arrow Stewart PagetBroken Arrow

This 1950 movie was one of the first to portray western Native Americans in a balanced manner and carries as its message racial equality and peaceful relations between Indians and Anglos.  Based on the popular novel, Blood Brother, by Elliott Arnold, the film adaptation by Michael Blankfort dramatizes the historical relationship between Tom Jeffords (James Stewart) and Chiricahua Apache leader Cochise (Jeff Chandler).

Gravity

Gravity Sandra BullockAlfonso Cuarón’s 2013 science fiction film Gravity is extremely well-made, a tight thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat for an hour and twenty-four minutes holding on for dear life.  It is almost a perfect movie.

This review includes vital information about the plot that may prevent a first-time viewer from enjoying the movie. Please read on if you’ve already seen the film.

On a mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), on her first space shuttle mission, works to install upgrades to the system. Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) flits around her using his maneuvering back pack as he attempts to break the record for the longest space walk, knowing he will never have enough time to do it.  Mission Control interrupts them to abort the mission.  Apparently, Russia has demolished one of their satellites using a missile and debris is now hurtling through space toward them.  As they make their way back to the shuttle, Houston tells them that the debris is taking out other satellites and they will probably lose contact, which happens almost immediately.

Before they can get back into shuttle to return to earth, the junk comes shooting through their area. Although it misses the two astronauts, the shuttle is destroyed and the other mission specialists are killed.   Kowalski and Stone must now take a very long space walk to reach the International Space Station (ISS).  Time is of the essence because the debris will returns once it has made its way around the earth.  Unfortunately, the ISS has also suffered damage.  One of the two Soyuz escape modules has been used to evacuate the station and the other has been rendered useless because the parachute has already been deployed.  In spite of this Kowalski believes that they can use this useless module to reach the Chinese space station and use their escape module to return to earth.  Their approach is fast and they bounce off the craft, but finally Stone’s foot becomes entangled in the chute lines.  As Kowalski flies by her, she grabs his tether and holds him tight, but Kowalski’s momentum means pulls against her hold.  To save her, he unhooks his tether and drifts away.

From that point on, the film is sharply focussed on Stone’s survival from the Soyuz capsule to the Chinese space station, which is disintegrating in the upper atmosphere, to her entry into its escape module and flight to earth.

Obviously, in winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, it was clearly the best movie of the year and probably should have won Best Picture as well.

Cuarón’s hand is in most of the movie. Not only did he direct it, but he co-wrote the script with his son, Jonás, co-produced and co-edited it, so he deserved all of his awards, which also included six BAFTA Awards, including Outstanding British Film and Best Director, the Golden Globe Award for Best Director, and seven Critics Choice Awards.  The other artists that he surrounded himself with all made major contributions to the success of this movie.  The score by Steven Price is amazing, complimenting the action exactly as it should to keep the suspense at a high level.  The sound was so good that it was breathtaking at times.  Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is both flawless and inspired and the special effects by British artists Framestore is simply stunning.  Considering that nearly 80% of the movie consists of computer generated graphics, they certainly deserve a huge share of the praise for this awesome movie.

The human heart of the movie exists in Sandra Bullock’s inspired performance. Although George Clooney contributes somewhat to the action, his character is gone by the time the action really gets rolling and the only other in the movie is Dr. Stone.  This is Bullock’s film and she carries it from beginning to end with a high-energy emotional presence perfectly in compliment with the music, sound, cinematography.  Bullock has grown tremendously as an actress in the last ten years, especially with her role in Blind Side, but she tops that performance in Gravity.

Although it must be considered one of the best space films ever made, right up there with Apollo 13, there were a few things that bothered me and would probably keep the movie out of the top ten best science fiction films on my list.

There are many inaccuracies in the film, most of which can be easily overlooked, but not all. First, I do not believe that neither Kowalski’s mass, nor their speed would have realistically created the situation that forced him to un-tether himself so that Stone might be saved.  Their attempt to grab onto the ISS, hurtling into it and bouncing off, is a violent scene.  When Stone finally makes it inside, I expected to see bruises and contusions all over her body, but instead, she emerges from her space suit looking squeaky clean.  When she finally boards the Chinese space station, the same thing happens, but her grabbing a handhold while hurting at a prohibitive speed with the clumsy glove is extremely unrealistic.  The final problem for me occurred during her attempts to figure out how to operate the Chinese capsule as she pushed buttons at random and finally found the one that magically allowed her to re-enter earth’s atmosphere at the proper angle to avoid a complete burn-up.

I might be overly critical on these scenes—I’m sure most people wouldn’t have an objection—but I thought that all of these problems, with a little tweaking, could have been easily made more realistic and would have really made it a flawless film.

This is still a great and powerful film, a rollercoaster of a movie that shoots its way along an arc that is tightly plotted, with every aspect of the film working in complete harmony, and it does it with no discernable fat in terms of scenes or timing. Everybody should see this movie!

The Blind Side

the-blind-side-22-550x366The Blind Side, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, is a biographical drama that tells the story of how Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a rather large African-American, gets adopted into a white family, defeats his educational issues, and goes on to develop into a terrific left tackle on the football field (protecting the quarterback’s blind side, hence the title).

Born into a broken family in the projects of Memphis, Tennessee, with a mother who is a drug addict and no father, Oher was taken into child protective services and spent time with a number of foster parents that he always ran away from. At the beginning of the film, he has been sleeping on the couch of a friend’s family. The father, in an attempt to help the boy out, asks Burt Cotton (Ray McKinnon), the coach of the football team at Wingate Christian School, to see if he can get Michael admitted to play on his team. Although academically ineligible, Cotton nonetheless convinces the school to take a chance on him–not because of his abilities as a football player, but simply as the Christian thing to do.

When Michael hears the family he is staying with arguing over him, he leaves and takes to the streets, sleeping in a Laundromat. Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock), whose two children attend the school, sees Michael on the street and brings him home to sleep on their sofa. She and her husband, Sean (Tim McGraw) decide to give him a permanent home and to help him in school so that he can improve himself and play football.

Sandra Bullock is wonderful as Leigh Anne, giving the best performance of her career, for which she won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress of 2009. She creates a lovely Southern infused accent that’s not too heavy and very believable   Tough, yet very loving, she carries the film by herself. Quinton Aaron is very believable as Oher, playing him moody, quiet, and yet growing to trust Tuohy family, becoming very close to their son, SJ (Jae Head) and daughter Collins (Lily Collins). The other actors are all very good, especially Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, a teacher they recruit to tutor Michael. 

The script is tight, it is very well edited, and the cinematography is excellent. Although the film was nominated for Best Picture of 2009, it did not win.

I highly recommend this film to everyone!