Godzilla: A Look Back

Posted on May 30, 2019 at 12:11 pm

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” opens this week, so it’s time for a look back.

Godzilla, known as Gojira first appeared in a Japanese film in 1954. The film was recut for US release, retitled “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” with scenes of “Perry Mason” star Raymond Burr added in. It was inspired in part by King Kong and in part by the shock of the atomic age.  Godzilla is such a, well, towering figure in world culture that the name has been adapted for terms like Bridezilla.

Godzilla can stomp on skyscrapers.  He has grown a lot through the years.

Here’s some history:

Copyright 1960 Toho Studios

And then there is the gigantic insect goddess Mothra.

And the flying monster Rodan.

And the three-headed lightning-spitting dragon Ghidorah.

American-made versions of the Godzilla story include the 2014 version with Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, which was pretty good and the Matthew Broderick version of 1992, which has a truly dumb ending.

For more information: David Kalat’s comprehensive history and Memories from Monster Island by Travis Kirkland and Luca Saitta.

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Free This Week for 2019 Mother’s Day — 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers

Posted on May 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Copyright Columbia Pictures 1994

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, my ebook 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers will be free on Amazon from Monday, May 6 to Friday, May 10, 2019.Image

No relationship is more primal, more fraught, more influential, more worried over, more nourishing when good and more devastating when bad that our connection to our mothers. Mom inspires a lot of movies in every possible category, from comedy to romance to drama to crime to animation to horror, from the lowest-budget indie to the biggest-budget prestige film. A lot of women have been nominated for Oscars for playing mothers and just about every actress over age 20 has appeared as a mother in at least one movie. From beloved Marmee in “Little Women” (three great movie versions, a modern-day adaptation, and a PBS miniseries, and a forthcoming film directed by Greta Gerwig) and Mrs. Brown in “National Velvet” to mean moms in “Now Voyager” and “Mommie Dearest.”  Oscar winning classics and neglected gems, based on real-life like Sally Fields in “Places in the Heart” or fantasy like Dumbo’s lullaby-singing elephant mom, these are all must-see movies.

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Day 2019 — Irish Movies for Families!

Posted on March 17, 2019 at 7:09 am

Copyright Republic Pictures 1952

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Here are some movies from or set in Ireland for families to enjoy.

1. The Quiet Man John Wayne plays American Sean Thornton (John Wayne), who returns to in Innisfree, the small, beautiful Irish village where he was born, to buy his family’s old home. He meets fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), courts her, marries, her, and then really has to win her as both must learn some lessons about intimacy, pride, and trust. Yes, there are some moments that seem sexist but the underlying story is as glorious as the spectacular landscape and as touching as the endearing characters.

2. The Secret of Roan Inish A little Irish girl named Fiona goes to stay with her grandparents and becomes convinced that her baby brother, whose cradle was carried off to sea years before, is alive and being cared for by Selkies, seals who can transform themselves into humans. This is a quiet film, filled with lovely images that convey the magic surrounding anyone who believes in it. It explores themes of loyalty and commitment to family and following your heart.

3. The Commitments A group of hardscrabble Irish musicians come together to firm an American-style soul band and perform songs like “Mustang Sally” and “Try a Little Tenderness.” Look for future Frames and Once performer Glen Hansard in the group. (Mature material)

Copyright 2007 Summit Entertainment

4. Once The best song Oscar went to this bittersweet film about an Irish musician (Glen Hansard) who meets a pianist and singer (Markéta Irglová) from the Czech Republic.

5. Millions The Oscar-winning director of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle, also shows his gift for working with children in “Millions,” the story of a young boy who finds a bag of money.

6. My Left Foot Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Christy Brown in this true story of a writer and painter who was paralyzed and could only use his left foot — and of his indomitable mother (Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker).

7. The Secret of Kells This quietly exquisite animated film was a surprise Oscar nominee. It is about an 11th century boy who lives in a monastery run by his stern uncle and the gorgeous illuminated manuscript that changes his life.

8. Circle of Friends Minnie Driver and Chris O’Donnell star in Maeve Binchy’s story of love and friendship in 1950’s Ireland.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV9sHAHGE5A

9. “Hear My Song” A fast-talking small-time promoter has to persuade a retired performer to sing again.

10. In the Name of the Father Day-Lewis again, in another true story, this time the story of a father and son who were imprisoned for an IRA bombing. Emma Thompson plays his dedicated lawyer and Pete Postlethwaite was nominated for an Oscar as the father who ends up in prison as well.

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Reel/Real Women: AWFJ Pays Tribute to Movies About Real-Life Female Characters

Posted on March 6, 2019 at 6:59 pm

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists has published a new list in honor of Women’s History Month — our favorite portrayals of real-life women in feature films. AWFJ founder Jennifer Merin writes:

Throughout cinema history, films by and about women have enthralled audiences, accrued awards and honors worldwide and scored at the box office while influencing out social social mores and enriching our cultural conversation. Although some Hollywood honchos and haters assert that female-centric movies are less likely to be commercial successes, our list proves them wrong. Movies that tell women’s stories have legs.

Released to celebrate Women’s History Month, AWFJ’s REAL REEL WOMEN List is an annotated roster of 50 fascinating real women whose remarkable true stories have been told in narrative features since the earliest days of moviemaking. The REAL REEL WOMEN List is a companion to AWFJ’s WONDER WOMEN List of iconic fictional females, published as a five-part countdown series in 2016.

AWFJ members selected our 50 iconic REAL REEL WOMEN from more than 150 nominees, all of whom have had their stories told in watch-worthy films. Short essays about our REAL REEL WOMEN’s lives, accomplishments and the films made about them have been written by AWFJ members Betsy Bozdech, Liz Braun, Sandie Angulo Chen, Carol Cling, Leslie Combemale, Linda Cook, Laura Emerick, Marilyn Ferdinand, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Kimberley Jones, Loren King, Sarah Knight Adamson, Cate Marquis, Brandy McDonnell, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Lynn Venhaus, and Susan Wloszczyna.

We hope that reading about these REAL REEL princesses and pilots, artists and actors, poets, political activists and other women from all walks of life will prompt you to add all the films about them to your watch list, and that you’ll then be motivated to seek out and enjoy additional current and classic movies about other real women whose stories are memorialized in cinema.

One of my contributions to the list was Fanny Brice, unforgettably portrayed by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl.”

Fanny Brice, born Fania Borach, was the daughter of Jewish immigrants who dropped out of school as a teenager to work in burlesque and began her association with vaudeville impresario Flo Ziegfeld two years later. She headlined the Ziegfeld Follies from 1910 through part of the 1930s. Best known in sketch comedy as bratty little girl “Baby Snooks” and performing songs like the comically self-deprecatory “Second Hand Rose,” her signature was the heartbreaking torch song, “My Man,” which inspired her first film, My Man (1928). She played herself in the Oscar-winning The Great Ziegfeld (1936), acted in several other films, and had a hit on radio with the “The Baby Snooks Show,” but there is no question that her own fame has been eclipsed by the performer who starred as Brice on Broadway and in her first film—Oscar-winner Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968). It was a perfect match—one brash, prodigiously talented, unconventionally pretty, New York Jewish singer equally adept at comedy and drama portraying another. Streisand sings “Second Hand Rose,” “My Man,” and original songs created for the Broadway show, including the now-standard “People.” The story of Brice’s determination and resilience despite the heartbreak of her marriage to a handsome scoundrel is now a classic and prompted a sequel, also starring Streisand, that told more of Brice’s story, 1975’s Funny Lady. Brice helped pave the way for unconventional-looking lead performers, and her few films are well worth watching.

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Best Cinematography Oscar Winners

Posted on February 18, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Pure pleasure, and a powerful reminder of why the members of the Motion Picture Academy reacted so strongly when the producers of the Oscar telecast tried to take the award for best cinematography off the broadcast. Here’s a look at the Best Cinematography Oscar winners.

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