Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mary Shelley Biopic

Mary Shelley tells the story of a young girl in England who wrote the famous Frankenstein novel back in the 1800s. Romance, imagination, misery, feminism and love of writing combine in this intriguing biopic starring Elle Fanning, who gives the performance of her career in the title role.

This movie had a special impact on me because in a way, Mary Shelley is responsible for my obsession with films. My first memory involves being a young child hiding under a theater seat looking up at the Frankenstein monster. I was both terrified and fascinated at the same time. From that day forward, I’ve been hooked on movies.

Women authors have faced the plight,
lack of respect, and that’s not right.
MARY SHELLEY, a fine movie,
shows how sad this fact can be.

Mary’s father and husband too
felt her writing just would not do.
But she earned fame despite their gall.
Her creation surprised them all.

Mary wrote the first sci-fi book.
With Gothic themes, just take a look.
Frankenstein makes life from the dead.
His Creature lives and causes dread.

This biopic is quite a treat.
Acting and visuals? Hard to beat.
Dramatic license – what’s the fuss?
That’s all done to entertain us.

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Friday, June 01, 2018


The poem below is my response to an important question many friends ask me about poetry.

How does a poem get to be?

Here’s the way it goes for me.

Thoughts and words dance in my brain

like whirling imps defying pain

They visit me in bed at night.

So we party until the light.

That’s how a poem seduces me

to write it down for all to see.

Those sleepless nights play a big part

in my attempt to create art.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Put the Blame on Me

Has any movie actress ever sizzled on celluloid like Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946)? I doubt it. When this “Love Goddess” of the 1940s sang “Put the Blame on Mame,” her sex appeal almost jumped off the screen. Women wanted to be her; men of all ages dreamed about her. And World War II servicemen couldn’t get enough Rita Hayworth pinups. I remember that this lovely movie star was a big favorite of mine then. However,  she was responsible for one of my most embarrassing teenage situations.

In the forties, students at my high school were expected to demonstrate school spirit every day --- which meant showing an interest in sports, especially football. Although that required an Oscar-caliber performance from me, I didn’t have to fake my enthusiasm for pep assemblies. I quickly became involved in writing skits plus choreographing and doing dance numbers for these almost weekly events. 

One of my favorites featured imitations of Al Jolson, Rita Hayworth, Mae West, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland. I’m sure Margie (my debate partner) and I had more fun performing this act than the students had watching it. Except for my “Put the Blame on Mame” rendition, that is.  Evoking so many laughs for impersonating Rita Hayworth didn’t sit well with me. I was going for Gilda’s sexy persona. Maybe that’s why my friends started calling me “Torchy” while giggling behind my back.         

In 1983, Lynda Carter portrayed Hayworth in a TV movie titled Rita Hayworth: The Love Goddess. Although Carter did her best to capture the essence of Hayworth’s appeal, her performance (as well as the production) failed to do justice to one of Hollywood’s most glamorous stars. Happily, because many of Hayworth’s films are shown on television and are also available on video, viewers can still enjoy her unique movie magic. 

Fortunately -- because of popular demand -- I never tried performing my Gilda impersonation again! 

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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Got the Horse Right Here

With the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend (May 5), my thoughts have been turning to films about racehorses, and Secretariat keeps popping up in my mind. Of course, central to this story of the greatest racehorse of all time are the racing sequences. 

Cinematographer Dean Semlar deserves credit for giving viewers a chance to view part of one race almost the way the jockey sees it as well as for fascinating shots of the horses inside the starting gate. Moments before a particular race begins, Secretariat seems to be giving one of his most important challengers the “evil eye” and vice versa. 

Details like this enhance the movie’s visual appeal. And, even though I knew how each race would turn out, I couldn’t help feeling excited as the powerful thoroughbreds thundered down the track. No wonder Secretariat ranks high on my list of all-time favorite racing films!  

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Henry Jaglom: On the Right Track

Two strangers bond while on a train.
Will their love last or end in pain?
SHE hates the Jews, but HE is one.
Should he tell her and spoil their fun?

In Poland before World War two,
it’s not a good time for a Jew.
This fine Henry Jaglom movie
is heartbreaking but a must-see.

Filmed mostly in old black and white,
enchanting scenes evoke delight.
A journey back to days gone by --
but bigotry still makes us cry.

“Train to Zakopané” rings true.
It’s message will long stay with you.

(Written and directed by Henry Jaglom, Train to Zakopané stars Tanna Frederick and Mike Falkow. The Rainbow Film Company plans a May 2 release in Los Angeles for this unique film. TBA for other areas) 

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Sunday, April 01, 2018

Great Family Film

When an orphaned dog and a fatherless schoolboy make eye contact on a busy street, both realize they were meant for each other. This remarkable early scene sets the tone for Benji, Brandon Camp’s charming remake of his father’s (Joe Camp) popular 1974 film.

The casting of these two main characters, Benji and Carter, plays a key role in the success of this 2018 Netflix movie. Benji (the dog’s real name) is scraggly but adorable and boasts extremely expressive eyes. No wonder this cute canine captivates us right away!  And, as Carter, Gabriel Bateman almost matches Benji in the eyes department. Plus, Bateman makes Carter believable right from the beginning because of the clever way he tries to make Benji follow him home as well as the caring way he treats his darling little sister, Frankie (Darby Camp).

Of course, Benji wants to find where Carter and Frankie live! He follows Carter’s Hansel and Gretel strategy as closely as he can despite the many   obstacles in his way. Undaunted, Benji arrives at his destination. Yay!

But, not so fast, folks. The children live with their widowed mom (Kiele Sanchez), who works hard as an emergency medical worker. She refuses to let the children keep Benji. I know what you’re thinking. Poor kids – and poor Benji.               

What can he do? He’s just a dog.
But Benji’s smart – not in a fog.

He loves two kids and needs a home.
No longer will he have to roam.

So as we watch this fun movie,
we hope good things come to Benji.

We hate to see him come to harm,
for Benji’s filled with lots of charm.

The kids he loves are also great.
When villains come, we fear their fate.

How will Benji help save the day?
You know that’s something I can’t say.

But dogs and kids can’t be ignored.
See this film? Well, you won’t be bored.

The not-so-smart villains are played seriously by Angus Sampson (Winchester) and Will Rothhaar (Division 19). They come across just scary enough for youngsters but not frightening enough to give the kids bad dreams. However, these robbers have a ferocious Rottweiler that might be a problem for toddler viewers.        

I must conclude with congratulations to Benji. Too bad there’s no Oscar for Best Animal Performance. Benji would win hands – er paws – down. 

(Released by Neflix; not rated by MPAA.)

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Monday, March 19, 2018

A Birthday Poem

My birthday today was filled with surprises! Thanks to my family and friends who made this particular birthday quite memorable.

A special thanks to film critic and author Richard Jack Smith for the poem below.  

The Best of Us: A Birthday Poem
Looking for an Ice Road Trucker?
Sign up Betty Jo Tucker.
She's the critic who tells it straight
Where other opinions emerge too late.

A love of musicals she has.
Of Shirley Temple, Busby Berkeley and jazz.
From her I have learned a lot
About the movies and things to spot.

She has a mastery of the poetic phrase
Her observations simply amaze.
An original voice
Because that's her choice.

That poem means a lot to me because Richard and I both include film poems in some of our movie reviews. In fact, Richard’s latest book is titled A Poet Among Critics,  and here’s what I wrote about that terrific book:

Richard Jack Smith writes poems with ease
about movies designed to please.
Plus even some he thinks fall flat
and keep him from tipping his hat.

A fine poet among critics,
rhymes and images he does mix.
His reviews earn two thumbs up
and a poetry Loving Cup!


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