Labor Day 2020: Thanks to Those Who Work

Posted on September 7, 2020 at 8:00 am

Today we pay tribute to workers, especially those who worked for better conditions for everyone.

Sally Field won an Oscar for “Norma Rae,” a real-life story about a courageous woman who helped mill workers form a union. It was inspired by Crystal Lee Sutton, a courageous advocate for workers’ rights.

Doris Day plays a union worker who falls for a new guy in management but doesn’t lose sight of the seven and a half cent raise the workers are bargaining for in the rollicking musical, “The Pajama Game.”

John Sayles’ “Matewan” tells the story of mine workers fighting for safer conditions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEMIvDEFy4

“Harlan County USA” is a documentary about a strike by mine workers.

“Bread and Roses” is based on the real-life story of a strike by undocumented janitorial workers, with Adrian Brody as their lawyer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrDpd4sCswY

“Salt of the Earth” was inspired by an actual miners’ strike against the Empire Zinc Co. and the cast includes real-life miners who were involved in the strike

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Movies for the Homebound XV: Summer!

Posted on July 7, 2020 at 8:00 am

More movies for families to enjoy at home together. This week, some great summer movies!

The Endless Summer and The Endless Summer II The classic 1966 documentary about surfing and the 2003 update are both laid-back pleasures, gorgeous beaches, rolling waves, and balance in every sense of the word. You’ll even meet the real-life Gidget. (Also try: Step Into Liquid and Riding Giants)

Gidget: Speaking of Gidget, here’s the movie that made her a sensation, with Sandra Dee as the “girl midget” who shows the boys on the beach that she can rock a surfboard. Followed by “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” and “Gidget Goes to Rome” and the Sally Field television series.

DogTown and Z Boys: This documentary (much better than the feature film it inspired), is a rare look at a history-changing moment. A bunch of kids left to themselves in a summer drought when pools were all drained turned the sleepy world of skateboarding upside down, creating not just crazy tricks but a whole new world of extreme sports.

A Goofy Movie Let’s face it. All kids think their parents are goofy. But Max’s dad is the real Goofy. And when they take a cross-country car trip together (ah, remember those?) you can imagine, they get into some goofy situations and some heartwarming ones as well.

The Inkwell More mature audiences will appreciate this story about a sweet teenager visiting Martha’s Vinyard with his family. Larenz Tate and Jada Pinkett Smith are both outstanding.

The Flamingo Kid: This is one of my very favorites. Matt Dillon stars as a kid from a lower-class family who gets a job at a posh country club. Matt Dillon and Richard Crenna are terrific.

The Parent Trap: Two girls show up at summer camp and discover they are identical twins separated when their parents divorced. Both the original with Hayley Mills and the remake with Lindsay Lohan are a lot of fun.

Roll Bounce: Another one of my favorites, this is the story of a group of kids from the poor side of town who decide to compete in a roller skate competition. Great story, great skating, great soundtrack.

The Sandlot: You can almost feel the sunshine in this beloved family classic about a bunch of kids in the neighborhood who play baseball.

The Way Way Back: A teenager and his mom visit her mean boyfriend’s summer home, and the boy finds friends at the local amusement park. Sam Rockwell has one of his best roles as a slacker with a kind heart.

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Movies for the Homebound XIV: 4th of July

Posted on July 1, 2020 at 8:00 am

No parades and picnics this year, so take some time to celebrate Independence Day with movies for the family.

Hamilton: LIn-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton will premiere on DisneyPlus this week with original Broadway cast in honor of the 4th of July.

Independence Day Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum star in one of the all-time great popcorn pleasures. Aliens attack the earth and it takes a quirky engineer, a plucky President, and a heroic military pilot to save the day. What does that have to do with the 4th of July? Listen to the President’s stirring pep talk.

The Patriot There are many films about the Civil War, but not many about the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson stars in this uneven but stirring film about a farmer pulled into the rebellion.

1776 I love this film, based on the Broadway musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with almost all of the stars from the acclaimed stage production, including William Daniels as the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Ken Howard as a dashing Thomas Jefferson, and Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin.

And don’t forget Schoolhouse Rock!

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Movies for the Homebound XIII: Before They Were Famous

Posted on June 23, 2020 at 9:07 am

Copyright Universal 1973
It is fun to look for early appearances of some of today’s biggest stars, including four Avengers.  Here are some great films with the added pleasure of seeing favorite performers before they were famous.

American Graffiti; This classic film about one night in the lives of a group of California teenagers features future stars Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Mackenzie Phillips (the original “One Day at a Time”), and future directors Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith.

“The Frisco Kid: Harrison Ford was not yet a star when he appeared with Gene Wilder in this westerrn about a cowboy and a rabbi.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story: Viola Davis plays a sympathetic therapist in this semi-autobiographical story about a teenager struggling with anxiety and depression who checks himself into a mental hospital.

School Ties: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck play classmates of a prep school’s star quarterback (Brendan Fraser) who is forced to conceal that he is a Jew.

Cellular: Before he was an Avenger, Chris Evans appeared in this nifty little thriller about a kidnapped woman (Kim Basinger).

Heart and Souls: And before he was an Avenger, Robert Downey Jr. starred in this bittersweet comedy about a man who has to help four souls complete their destiny so that they can get to heaven.

Mississippi Masala: Denzel Washington was already a successful actor, but not yet a major star when he appeared in his sweet love story about a Black American who falls for an immigrant from India, upsetting both of their families.

The Horse Whisperer: Before she was an Avenger, Scarlett Johansson played a traumatized girl whose mother seeks the help of a man who knows how to gentle horses and people.

Hoot: Another future Avenger, Brie Larson, stars in this story about Florida middle schoolers fighting to protect endangered owls.

Southland Tales: I can’t even begin to tell you what this strange and strangely fascinating movie is about. But I can tell you it has a really fun early appearance by Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). With hair.

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

Posted on June 17, 2020 at 5:00 am

In honor of Father’s Day, my eBook, 50 Must-See Movies: Fathers is FREE today through Father’s Day, this weekend, June 17-21, 2020.

What 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.

Copyright 20th Century Fox 1977

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” and “Finding Dory.”

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,” “Call Me By Your Name”) and terrible fathers (“The Shining,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The Barretts of Wimpole Street”). There are fathers who take care of us, as well as they can (“John Q,” “Toni Erdnmann,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” “Leave No Trace,” “The Road,” “Extraordinary Measures”) and fathers we have to take care of (“I Never Sang for My Father,” “Nothing in Common”). All of these stories 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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