Critics Pay Tribute to a Guilty Pleasure: Ice Castles

Posted on March 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm

As part of rogerebert.com’s annual Women’s Week, three critics got together to pay tribute to one of their favorite films, the ice skating classic, Ice Castles.

Christy Lemire, Sheila O’Malley, and Susan Wloszczyna shared their memories of first seeing the film and acknowledged that despite its cheesiness and some uncomfortable elements, they can’t help loving it.

Released in 1978, it has disco-era signposts aplenty: Melissa Manchester’s unbridled rendition of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager’s magical Oscar-nominated theme song, “Through the Eyes of Love,” then-It Boy Robby Benson as the hockey hotshot romantic interest and Dorothy Hamill-inspired wedge haircuts galore….

CHRISTY LEMIRE: “Ice Castles” has a really great, gritty sense of place that also keeps it from being teenage nonsense. That town feels so real and so insular. Are there actual bowling alley/ice rink combos in the world?

SHEILA O’MALLEY: I was going to mention that! I totally agree. She really comes from somewhere. It’s very real. The snow, the bowling alley, the frozen pond. A boyfriend who plays hockey. I really hope there are such combos. I’d love to visit. Especially if Colleen Dewhurst is running the show, sipping whiskey from a flask.

CHRISTY LEMIRE: She gives this film so much weight, so much emotional heft.

SHEILA O’MALLEY: She is acting her ASS off, if you’ll pardon the expression. She’s ferocious and filled with emotion and personal regrets and smoking butts and sneaking sips of whiskey at the hockey game. She’s awesome.

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List: Winter Sports

Posted on February 10, 2010 at 3:49 pm

In honor of the Olympics, take a look at these classics about winter sports competitions:

The Cutting Edge A spoiled figure skater (named Kate as in “Taming of the Shrew”) and a working class hockey player team up in this romantic comedy on skates starring Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney. This was the first screenplay by “Michael Clayton’s” Tony Gilroy.

Miracle Sportscaster Al Michaels unforgettably called out “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” as the 1980 US Olympic hockey team beat the Russians. They then went on to win the gold medal. And so the team, the last group of amateurs sent by the US to play ice hockey, has been known ever after as the “Miracle on Ice.” Kurt Russell plays coach Herb Brooks and this movie shows us that the real story is better than a miracle because it is about a team that succeeded through heart and hard work and commitment. If it is a miracle, it is in the “God helps those who help themselves” category. Be sure to watch the documentary, “Do You Believe in Miracles?” as well.

Ice Castles A young figure skater on the brink of becoming a champion loses her sight in an accident and has to start all over. Melissa Manchester sings the hit theme song, “Through the Eyes of Love.” The remake, starring Taylor Firth, will be out on DVD this week.

Cool Runnings One of the biggest long shots in history was the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 winter Olympics. Yes, Jamaica is a tropical country and no, Jamaica does not have any snow. But a fast start is important in bobsledding and it does have sprinters. The actual footage of the real team’s crash is featured in the film. And while a lot of it is fictional, the grace and panache of the team is based on the real story. And they will be back for the 2010 games.

Downhill Racer Robert Redford plays an arrogant skiier who clashes with his coach (Gene Hackman) in this film, which captures the focus of the athletes and the exhilaration of the sport, filmed on location in the Alps.

Sonja Henie: Queen Of The Ice and It’s a Pleasure Real-life gold medalist Sonja Henie went on to become the highest-paid performer (we won’t say “actress”) in Hollywood for her very successful series of skating films. No one paid any attention to the plots even then, but the skating scenes hold up well and the documentary about her life as an athlete and performer is worth seeing.

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Interview: Taylor Firth of ‘Ice Castles’

Posted on February 4, 2010 at 8:00 am

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Figure skating champion Taylor Firth makes her acting debut in a remake of the beloved 1978 film Ice Castles. The original starred Lynn-Holly Johnson as the skater who has to start all over after an accident leaves her blind and Robby Benson as her hockey-player boyfriend. I spoke to Taylor about skating, acting, and her favorite Bible verse.

When you were growing up, did you have a favorite ice skating movie?

I would have to say Ice Castles is probably my favorite. It is the most realistic. And The Cutting Edge, that was a good one, too.

Ice skating and acting both require a lot of discipline and focus. How do you work on that?

You need a lot of patience. I’m a redhead so I am quick to anger, but God definitely gives me the patience and the strength I need to do it all with a good mind and a good heart.

What have you learned from your coaches and teachers?

My coaches that I have right now are amazing people. They definitely have given me some great tips about being the best that I can be and keeping on with what I love. Sometimes there are things that you don’t want to do or things that are hard for you, but usually when you keep going with them and are determined with it, they end up being some of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have. There are sometimes things that seem a little scary, but once you start doing them, you realize that everything was worth it in the end. It doesn’t matter what you are doing. As long as you are doing it with the right heart and the right mind and doing it for God’s glory, that is all that really matters.

So your connection to faith is very important to you.

Definitely. My figure skating is my God-given ability and so I want to use it for His glory.

And acting, too?

I don’t really know how good at it I am, but I have had some good feedback and would like to think that it is another way do do that.

As a person of faith, is it important to you to work on projects that communicate your values to the audience?

Oh, absolutely, yes! Definitely. There were some parts in “Ice Castles” that I had a difficult time doing, to play someone who is blind, to be honest about what someone who doesn’t have sight would be acting and how they would really feel. It was important to me to be sensitive to that experience, to be careful not to be offensive or portray a blind person as incompetent because they are really amazing people. My faith is a huge part of it and keeps me well-grounded.

Did you observe blind people? How did you prepare for the role?

I really have not had much acting experience, just the kids’ drama team at church. So it was a little hard to prepare for it. But Donald is a great guy and a great director and he really gave me the tools I needed to learn what I needed to learn in a really short time.

Could there really be a blind figure skater?

Yes, I definitely believe so. I did an ice show for SABAH, Skating for the Blind and Handicapped, and there’s people that skate blind all the times, and one of the main skaters they had the year I performed with them was a girl, she was about 12 at the time, she was blind and she was doing her own solo program. She didn’t really perform the way Lexi (in the movie) does. Lexi can perform on her own because she can see light and shadows. This girl was completely blind so she needed someone on either side of the boards to say her name so she knew how far she was from the boards, but it is definitely possible.

I am really interested in the way you make your musical choices. You have selected some songs for your programs that are unusual and I think exceptionally well chosen. What do you think about when you are looking for music?

The biggest part for me is trying to get into the character of the music. It’s music that I have to listen to every day for an entire year so I have to pick something I know that I’ll be able to thoroughly enjoy skating to and show that love on the ice. Two of my favorite programs, one was jazz and I loved it. My mom actually found that piece. I didn’t like it when I first heard it because I thought it was a little strange. But my choreographer loved it so I had to put my trust in her and it became one of my favorites that I have ever done.

Another one is a song called “Prayer for Taylor” by Michael W. Smith. That’s another one of my favorites. It was a year I was having a hard time finding something. I would like something and my coach wouldn’t like it or my coach would like something and I wouldn’t like it. And then my mother was in a store looking for music and a man brought out a new CD and the song was on it. I used it for quite a few years. I was praying that I would find the right music and there it was.

What makes you laugh?

I’m a little bit of a quirky personality, I guess. My boyfriend and I laugh, and my sisters, I have three sisters, the best in the world, and they are really supportive. If one of us makes a mistake, trips up or something, we all just laugh and we impersonate people and review movie scenes of our own. One of my sisters is like a one-girl movie. She can act out scenes and knows all the quotes. And that makes me laugh.

Do you plan to do more acting?

In my perfect world, I would like to do something with the Christian film industry. I want to act some more in projects with a good moral based and I want to be a good positive role model in the world.

And what is your favorite Bible verse?

2nd Timothy 2:22 — about fleeing from the things of the world and looking to God for His guidance.

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