Free for Father’s Day Weekend: My Ebook on the Best Movie Fathers

Posted on June 15, 2018 at 8:00 am

In honor of Father’s Day, my eBook, 50 Must-See Movies: Fathers is FREE through Father’s Day, this weekend, June 15-18, 2018.

50 must-see fathers smallWhat do “Wall Street” and the “Star Wars” saga and, seemingly, about half the movies ever made have in common? They are about fathers. In “Wall Street,” Charlie Sheen plays the ambitious Bud, who respects the integrity of his blue-collar father, played by his real-life father, Martin Sheen. But Bud is dazzled by the money and power and energy of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). The movie will up the ante with Bud’s father’s heart attack as we see him struggle between the examples and guidance of these two male role models.

In “Star Wars,” Luke (Mark Hamill) does not know until halfway through the original trilogy that (spoiler alert) the evil Darth Vader is his father. He was raised by his aunt and uncle, who are killed very early in the first film, but the father figures who are most meaningful in his life are the Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Like Bud in “Wall Street,” Luke must choose between the good and bad father figures. Like Luke, Harry Potter is raised by an aunt and uncle, but he finds a true father figure later. For Harry, it is headmaster Albus Dumbledore. In opposition is He Who Must Not Be Named. Like Luke, Harry has the opportunity for great power on the dark side, but he lives up to the example set for him by Dumbledore.

The first stories ever recorded are about fathers. The central human struggle to reconcile the need for a father’s approval and the need to out-do him is reflected in the “hero of a thousand faces” myths that occur in every culture. In Greek mythology, Zeus is the son of a god who swallowed his children to prevent them from besting him. Zeus, hidden by his mother, grows up to defeat his father and become the king of the gods. Ancient Greece also produced the story of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, and The Odyssey, whose narrator tells us “it is a wise man who knows his own father.”

These themes continue to be reflected in contemporary storytelling, including films that explore every aspect of the relationship between fathers and their children. There are kind, understanding fathers whose guidance and example is foundation for the way their children see the world. There are cruel, withholding fathers who leave scars and pain that their children spend the rest of their lives trying to heal. There are movies that reflect the off-screen real-life father-child relationships. Martin Sheen not only played his son’s father in “Wall Street;” he played the father of his other son, Emilio Estevez, in “The Way,” which was written and directed by Estevez, and which is about a father’s loss of his son. Will Smith has appeared with his son Jaden in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “After Earth.” John Mills appeared with his daughter Hayley in “Tiger Bay,” “The Truth About Spring,” and “The Chalk Garden.” Ryan and Tatum O’Neill memorably appeared together in “Paper Moon.” Jane Fonda produced and starred in “On Golden Pond” and cast her father Henry as the estranged father of her character. Jon Voight played the father of his real-life daughter Angelina Jolie in “Tomb Raider.” And Mario Van Peebles, whose father cast him as the younger version of the character he played in “Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song” made a movie about the making of that film when he grew up. It is called “Badasssss!” In the role of Melvin Van Peebles he cast himself.

Director John Huston deserves some sort of “Father’s Day” award. He directed both his father and his daughter in Oscar-winning performances, Walter Huston in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and Anjelica Huston in “Prizzi’s Honor.”

Some actors known for very non-paternal roles have delivered very touching performances as fathers. Edward G. Robinson is best remembered for playing tough guys, but in “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes” he gave a beautiful performance as a farmer who loves his daughter (Margaret O’Brien) deeply. Cary Grant, known for sophisticated romance, played loving – if often frustrated — fathers in “Houseboat” and “Room for One More.” “Batman” and “Beetlejuice” star Michael Keaton was also “Mr. Mom.” Comedian Albert Brooks is a devoted father in “Finding Nemo.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V74rUwMYHE

There are memorable movie fathers in comedies (“Austin Powers,” “A Christmas Story”) and dramas (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Boyz N the Hood”), in classics (“Gone With the Wind”), documentaries (“Chimpanzee,” “The Other F Word”), and animation (“The Lion King,” “The Incredibles”). There are great fathers (“Andy Hardy”) and terrible fathers (“The Shining”). There are fathers who take care of us (“John Q”) and fathers we have to take care of (“I Never Sang for My Father”). All of them are ways to try to understand, to reconcile, and to pay tribute to the men who, for better or worse, set our first example of how to decide who we are and what we will mean in the world.

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Interview: Jules Feiffer on “Bernard and Huey.”

Posted on June 14, 2018 at 8:00 am

It was truly an honor to get a chance to interview Jules Feiffer, who wrote the critically acclaimed “Carnal Knowledge,” a movie that was the subject of a Supreme Court case about whether it was obscene (they ruled that it was not). He also illustrated one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth, wrote a book about the history of comics, and many, many other books for children and adults. His latest movie is Bernard and Huey, based on a script he wrote thirty years ago.

The full interview is on The Credits. Here’s an excerpt:

Is the conquest more important than the sex for Bernard and Huey?

Conquest is major with Huey, but he also loves sex, and giving pleasure to women. Once it’s over, he’s indifferent, and wants them out of the way. This point was made more openly in Carnal Knowledge, where it’s clear that heterosexual men didn’t like women, they liked women’s bodies. And once the sex was over, and the cigarettes smoked, they wanted the girl gone, so they could go out with the guys (their real relationships), and talk about how, and with whom, they scored. Bernard would love a real relationship. He’s just too screwed up to maintain one.

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Interview Writers

Podcast: Kristen Lopez and I Talk About “Gilda” and Rita Hayworth

Posted on June 13, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Copyright 1946 Vidor Studios

Many thanks to the always-great Kristen Lopez for inviting me on her classic films podcast to talk about “Gilda” and the star who made her iconic, Rita Hayworth.

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Tag: The Real Story

Posted on June 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

This is how a lifelong game of tag helps the “tag brothers” literally stay in touch.

The taggers first got national attention in a Wall Street Journal story (though the reporter was a man, not a beautiful blonde as in the movie).

You can read the formal legal agreement signed by the real-life taggers.

The movie inspired by this story opens this Friday, starring Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Hannibal Burgess.

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The Real Story

Is 2018 the Best Year for Movies Featuring Women and Girls?

Posted on June 10, 2018 at 11:45 am

2017 was a good year for women in film, with “Wonder Woman” directed by Patty Jenkins and “Beauty and the Beast” in the top 10 for box office. 2018 looks even better, with “Oceans 8” doing better than its male-led predecessors with a very strong $41 million opening weekend.

Also worth noting:

The Washington Post’s The Lily, which focuses on news stories about and of interest to women, has a very good piece on upcoming movies and television shows with strong female characters. Recommendations on television include “Dietland,” “Claws,” “American Woman,” and the second season of “GLOW.”

And in movies, “The Spy Who Dumped Me,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Woman Walks Ahead,” “Whitney,” and “Brain on Fire.”

And Slate’s Lena Wilson says that horror movies have reached “the age of the monster girl.”

This year and the last in particular have seen a number of releases featuring monstrous young women. Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds and Julia Ducournau’s Raw both found widespread critical success, while features like The Lure, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Wildling, and Tribeca premiere The Dark feature lesser-known violent ladies. Regardless of Rotten Tomatoes score, each of the protagonists in these movies are girls with uncontrollable bloodlust, whether psychological (the sociopaths of Thoroughbreds and The Blackcoat’s Daughter) or physical (the flesh cravers of Wildling and Raw). None of these movies have overtly political plots, but it’s hard to dismiss the social implications of a spate of girls-bite-back films in the era of Trump.

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