Thursday, February 01, 2018

Fun Tap Dancing Film

Everyone loves to cheer for the underdog. If that underdog happens to be a wannabe tap dancer, I’m the loudest cheerleader of all. No wonder I’m so excited about Dance Baby Dance, written and directed by Stephen Kogon, who also plays the leading role in this delightful independent film. Movies about tap dancers don’t come along too frequently nowadays -- so whenever one shows up, I’m a happy camper.

The plot is simple. Jimmy (Kogon) always wanted to be a successful tap dancer but an injury has confined him to an office occupation. He’s never lost his passion for tap dancing and now hopes to be chosen for a touring dance show. Kogon endows Jimmy with such likability that we can’t help wanting this guy to be successful. Do his dreams come true? It’s worth watching Dance Baby Dance to find out. 

Although a low-budget offering with less than perfect production values, this film makes up for that with its great heart and passion for dance.

As a former tap dancer myself, I felt compelled to write the poem below. 

Just tap tap tap that old time step.

Give it pizzazz and lots of pep!

Or shuffle off to Buffalo.

It feels so good if fast or slow.

Then shimmy with real style and grace.

Remember this is not a race.

Next do some wings like it’s a dare.

Feet a-flyin’, hands circling air.

Tap dancing chases blues away.

It helps you get through every day.

So tap tap tap as time goes by.

Dance Baby Dance” will make you try

(Released by Indie Rights/Winds of Hope. Not rated by MPAA.)

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Hostiles Film Poem

Hostiles, a powerful Western, boasts memorable performances by Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi. It motivated me to write the short poem below.

After bloodshed, battles and gore,
anger boils deep within one’s core.
True today as in our Old West
where everyone faced one big test.

Can trust be built with former foes?
An answer to that “Hostiles” knows.
Settler, Captain and solemn Chief
learn lessons while suffering grief

Kindness and strength pave ways to heal.
They open up hearts and help us feel.
This film may be one hard to see --
but it’s a great Western to me.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Big TV Week for Annette Bening

It was a joy to watch Annette Bening on two television shows last week. She appeared on TCM to talk about her new movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, and was also interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel on his show. In her latest film, Bening plays film noir actress Gloria Grahame, so she gave TCM viewers important insights into Grahame’s career before introducing In a Lonely Place, a film co-starring Humphrey Bogart. From Bening’s articulate presentation, it became clear why she was chosen to play Gloria Grahame.

On the Kimmel show, Bening discussed her own acting career and seemed to have a great time bantering with this popular talk show host. She was very calm when Kimmel asked for her reactions to husband Warren Beatty’s handling of the “envelope glitch” at last year’s Oscar ceremony. She answered, “He handled it very well” –  of course.
But, to me, the icing on the cake of that discussion came when Bening mentioned attending San Diego’s Mesa College. I was fortunate to be Dean of Humanities at this community college for a few years after she graduated.  Because she was achieving such acting success, I asked Bening to return and conduct an acting workshop for our current drama students. Her enthusiasm for acting delighted everyone. “My goal is to become a very old woman playing all sorts of character parts,” she told the students. She also expressed a desire to play Hamlet, reminding the group about Dame Judith Anderson’s success in that leading role.

Bening had just completed filming Bugsy with Warren Beatty and appeared very careful when answering questions about him. Those two must be up to something, I thought to myself. So when they married each other within the next few months, it failed to surprise me. 

I feel certain that Bening’s fans and friends at Mesa College are still proud of her splendid contributions to the cinema.  

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

A Movie That Matters

Steven Spielberg’s The Post takes us back to a time when our government tried to stop the Pentagon Papers -- documents that exposed a cover up of U. S. actions regarding the Vietnam War and Southeast Asia -- from being published. This dramatic film pairs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee, publisher and editor of The Washington Post, respectively. What a treat it is to watch these great actors play off each other as their characters work together during a major crisis for freedom of the press in our democracy!  I felt like a fly on the wall during their conversations and even forgot that it’s Hanks and Streep up there on the screen.

As someone who lived through this crisis while it played out in reality, I am surprised at how suspenseful The Post was for me to watch.
Publish or not, they must decide.
Free press at risk, and it’s their guide.
“The Post” looks back to show the need
to make sure truth is there to read.

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks play roles
that evoke cheers for their fine goals.
As editor and publisher,
they muster courage, that’s for sure.

An injunction stands in their way --
and prison if they don’t obey.
Though slow a bit with its tense plot,
this powerful film means a lot.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Family Movie Premiere

We had a wonderful FAMILY PREMIERE of CAKE: A Love Story in our Cineroom (the living room) on Christmas afternoon. There was standing room only (16 people) so some viewers had to sit on the floor. 

Everyone clapped at the end of the movie – and they even applauded my introduction. Yay!

Two of our granddaughters actually teared-up during the film. And one of our grandsons, who’s a movie buff like me, told us how impressed he was with the filmmaking techniques.

Larry and I watched the audience as the movie was running. We could tell how much everyone enjoyed watching this short film that’s based on IT HAD TO BE US, an award-winning romantic memoir we wrote under the pen names of Harry and Elizabeth Lawrence.

It was truly one of the best Christmases we have ever experienced!!!

Thanks again to filmmakers Misha Zubarev and V. Ulea for making all this possible.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Five Holiday Film Treats

Merely thinking about certain movies can boost my holiday spirit. What do these films have in common? Most of them deliver stories filled with humor and messages of hope -– all wrapped up in an entertaining cinematic package. Below are five of these wonderful movies.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). This beautifully filmed offering celebrates the importance of love, family and friends. It boasts excellent performances, charming nostalgia and wonderful music galore, including Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “The Trolley Song.” Watching it takes us back to a simpler time – the beginning of the 1900s. Everything about this motion picture is still captivating.   

PLANES, TRAINS and AUTOMOBILES (1987).  Steve Martin and John Candy are very funny playing two men trying to get from New York to Chicago for Thanksgiving.  A blizzard causes the Chicago airport to shut down – so their plane lands somewhere in Kansas. Martin’s character finds himself burdened continuously with the overbearing guy portrayed by Candy. These two have terrific comic chemistry together – but Candy died shortly after this film was released, so their plans to work on other projects with each other didn’t come to fruition. But PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES is a gift to moviegoers because it shows how great these two actors were as co-stars.      

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. Kermit portrays Bob Cratchit and Gonzo plays Charles Dickens here, but it’s Michael Caine who steals the show. He’s absolutely wonderful as the grumpy, miserly Scrooge – and he even warbles a tune or two. This is my favorite version of the Dickens classic.  

THE GRINCH (2000). Jim Carrey’s astounding interpretation of the Grinch makes me laugh every time I think about this amazing movie. From his gruff voice and hairy green appearance to his wild physical antics and impossible grumpy attitude, Carrey simply is this incredible creature. I completely forgot Ace Ventura, Andy Kaufman, and Carrey’s hilarious In Living Color personas while watching him in this film. After seeing him transform himself into this character, I now admire Carrey primarily for his Grinchiness. And I loved the way the Dr. Seuss story illustrates the power of a child’s innate goodness to bring about redemption. “Maybe Christmas Can’t be bought in a store – maybe it’s just a little bit more.” 

 A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983). I think this movie is the best family Christmas comedy of all time. I never get tired of watching it – and that’s a good thing because it’s shown so much on TV around the holidays. It’s another nostalgic gem – taking us back to the 1940s and showing the magical quality of Christmas for kids back then – especially for our hero, nine-year-old Ralphie (Peter Billingsly), who makes sure everyone knows he wants a Red Ryder air rifle – even though he’s warned “You’ll shoot your eye out!” In our house, it wouldn’t be Christmas without watching A CHRISTMAS STORY.

As Tiny Tim says at the end of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, “God bless us, everyone!” I send that same wish out to movie fans everywhere.  


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Shape of Water Film Poem

A magical, poetic film titled “The Shape of Water” has been haunting me since watching it a couple of days ago. In fact, I couldn’t sleep at all the night before last because the poem below kept floating around in my head.

From waters deep the Creature came,
caught by a man who knows no shame

This Creature needs to be saved soon
or face the fate of certain ruin.

A daring mute might be the one
to rescue him when all is done.

Her love for him is true and strong.
She knows to kill him would be wrong.

A fairy tale told with great flair,
“The Shape of Water” makes us care. 

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