Family Movies for The Homebound

Posted on March 16, 2020 at 8:49 pm

Copyright 1999 Dreamworks
We all say we wish we had more quality family time. Well, here it is. Many parents will be looking for some good options for family viewing time, and here are some of our family’s favorites, all available on streaming services.

The Court Jester: This one has it all, action, comedy, romance, a brave heroine, and Danny Kaye singing. The “vessel with the pestle” scene is a comedy classic, but the semi-hypnotized sword fight (with Basil Rathbone!) is every bit as good.

The Dick van Dyke Show: When I was in 6th grade I was asked to write an essay about my favorite television show and I picked this one. Decades later, it’s still the top of my list. Inspired by Carl Reiner’s years as a writer on the popular variety series “Your Show of Shows,” it has one of the greatest ensembles in television history: Dick van Dyke as the head writer with Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie as his colleagues and Mary Tyler Moore as his wife. Reiner made occasional appearances as the egotistical star of the television show within a show. Start with these episodes: Coast to Coast Big Mouth, Never Bathe on Saturday, That’s My Boy, The Curious thing
Big Max Calvada, My Blonde-Haired Brunette, Buddy Can You Spare a Job, and — to see the cast in their own variety show, The Alan Brady Show Goes to Jail. For more: see “My Favorite Year” and “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” also inspired by the legendary writer’s room for “Your Show of Shows,” which included Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Selma Diamond, and Larry Gelbart.

The Great Race: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Natalie Wood star in this wildly entertaining story of an early 20th century car race from New York to Paris. Director Blake Edwards dedicated it to “Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy” and it has a delightfully old-school blend of adventure, romance, and slapstick, including the pie fight to end all pie fights and a Prisoner of Zenda-style dual role for Lemmon. The terrific supporting cast includes Peter Falk, Kennan Wynn, Vivian Vance, Ross Martin, and Dorothy Provine.

National Velvet: A young Elizabeth Taylor plays a girl who dreams of owning a horse she names Pie and entering him in England’s biggest race. Micky Rooney gives one of his best performances as the son of a family friend. My all-time favorite movie mother is Anne Revere, who tells her daughter that ” I, too, believe that everyone should have a chance at a breathtaking piece of folly once in his life.”

Ball of Fire: Inspired by “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” this sublimely witty romantic comedy has Barbara Stanwyck as a showgirl named Sugarpuss O’Shea hiding out with seven professors, played by six of the all-time great character actors plus Gary Cooper. The screenplay by the “Some Like it Hot” team is so clever you’ll have to watch it two or three times to get all the jokes and it has both a sensational drum solo by Gene Krupa and a swoon-worthy marriage proposal.

Galaxy Quest: Even if you are not a Star Trek fan, you will enjoy this hilarious love letter to television series about space explorers. An all-star cast including Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, Tim Allen, and Tony Shaloub play actors from an old but beloved television series who discover that aliens have made their show a reality. If you are a Star Trek fan, you will fall in love with this film, and you should follow it up with the behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of the film, “Never Surrender” and the great documentary about Star Trek fans, “Trekkies.”

Yellow Submarine: The Beatles have to save the world from Blue Meanies in this trippy, stunningly animated film featuring songs like “All Together Now,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and the title tune.

What We Do in the Shadows: It isn’t easy being a vampire. Your familiar nags you about a promotion. You need tech support so you can’t bite the IT guy. You have to avoid sunlight. Those werewolves are so annoying. And then there is The Beast, who is sure to show up at the annual Unholy Masquerade, a sort of vampire prom. Writers/directors/stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi somehow keep the tone understated and savagely funny. Follow it up with the television series.

Sky High: This neglected gem is a smart, exciting, funny story about a high school for superhero teenagers, where the students are divided up into heroes and sidekicks. There are a lot of surprises in the story and is a lot of fun to see universal adolescent anxieties and experiences filtered through the superhero universe.

This is Spinal Tap: This mockumentary about a fading rock band brought us the classic “It goes to 11” and “There’s such a fine line between clever and stupid.” A comedy classic.

What a Way to Go! Shirley MacLaine stars as a young woman who longs for the simple life but keeps marrying men who become fabulously wealthy. Those husbands are played by an astonishing all-star cast: Dick van Dyke, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin. Each marriage is portrayed as a different genre of movie, from silent to big-budget romance with over-the-top gowns and sets to fabulous musical (the dance number with Kelly is sensational).

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Podcast Revisits Neglected Movie Gems: Flashback with Dana Stevens and K. Austin Collins

Posted on June 17, 2019 at 8:00 am

Slate’s wonderful movie critic, Dana Stevens, has a new podcast with Vanity Fair’s K. Austin Collins. It’s called “Flashback,” and it’s a conversation about terrific older films today’s audiences might have missed. The first few episodes included “Gaslight,” “Wanda” and “The Straight Story.”

Every other Sunday, Kam and I will take one older movie and talk about what it meant in its time and what it might mean today. Older in this context might mean anything made between 1895 (the Lumière brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat? Two thumbs up!) and, say, the last year of the 20th century (does David Cronenberg’s Existenz hold up as a vision of the future of virtual reality?). The idea is not to plod chronologically through film history but to treat it as a mysterious storage chest with endless drawers to open, so we’ll skip from era to era and genre to genre, following our instincts and curiosity as well as whatever parallels we find in the movies and headlines of the present day.

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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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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted on November 22, 2018 at 7:00 am

My favorite Thanksgiving movie is “What’s Cooking?”

And everyone should listen to Arlo Guthrie’s classic “Alice’s Restaurant,” which tells the story of one Thanksgiving that led to an arrest for…garbage.

Have a peaceful and grateful Thanksgiving, everyone!

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