Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Dad

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. To celebrate this Sunday’s Father’s Day, this week’s Spotlight Movie is “Dad” (1989):

I never knew my father. My mother took me and left my father when I was six months old. She left him because she was working her fingers to the bone and my father would not work. I jokingly accuse my father of being the laziest man in the State of Alabama. So I always carried this burden around with me that he wasn’t there.

Now the story I heard was that my mother wouldn’t let him contact me when I was growing up. Then I became an adult and he could have made the effort. But he did not.

When I was younger, I got angry every time I thought about him. I’ve gotten over that. I have forgiven him. That’s his burden, not mine.

If I had a Dad, what would he have been like? I would hope he was like Jake Tremont (Jack Lemmon) who was a man with a heart as large as the great outdoors. A man who loved his family, and loved them so much he gave his life for his family. He did it with nary a complaint.

Now I know there are a lot worse fathers than a Jake Tremont. But I also know that a boy needs a father and mine was Missing In Action. And, on Father’s Day each year, I find myself missing the man more and more.

There are those who believe that a child doesn’t need a father. To me, that’s a lot of hogwash.

For all of you who had great Dads, I hope you really really appreciate the love they gave you and the role model they were for you. Because I am thinking that there are a lot more great Dads than there are lousy fathers.

For all those great Dads, here is a song to remind you what you mean to your children:



Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: I am a human being

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is the movie, “The Elephant Man” (1980):

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” These are the words of John Merrick (John Hurt). He is so deformed he becomes known as the Elephant Man. He is a side show freak when Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkns), a surgeon at London Hospital, discovers him. David Lynch’s film is the story of Merrick and Treves’ friendship.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” Mistreated most of his life, Merrick blossoms under the care of Treves. Treves discovers that despite his deformity Merrick holds no enmity toward any one. It turns out that he is quite intelligent and kind. Unbelievably kind and gentle.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” With his life, John Merrick teaches that it is not appearance that matters. It is the person inside. When the curtain of cruelty and unkindness is ripped away, John Merrick’s light shines brightly.

“I am not an animal. I am a human being.” As Merrick comes out of his shell, Treves is changed as well. Merrick gives Treves his soul back.

“My life is full. I know that I am loved.” These too are John Merrick’s words. “The Elephant Man” is a masterpiece and a tribute to the humanity that was John Merrick.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: The Original Sex & the City

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “BUtterfield 8” (1960):

“BUtterfield 8” is the original Sex & the City. Only the sex is on the darkside of the city. It has nothing to do with fashion or true love and happily ever afters. Elizabeth Taylor won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Gloria Wandrous. Gloria is one of those people who has been getting up on the wrong side of bed for so long she can’t quite remember when she wasn’t.

Gloria works as a model businessmen like to have at parties for companionship and to spice things up. She has a special relationship with one of the businessmen, Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey). He’s married and he wants to set her up as his mistress. He doesn’t want to marry her. It would mean he would have to give up his social status and his wife’s money. At one time, she thought he was her way to dig herself out of the life she’s buried herself in. He’s just as much a loser as she is. They’re a match made in hell.

There is one good thing in her life. It is her friend, Steve Carpenter (Eddie Fisher). They grew up together. He’s the only real family she has. He ended up looking after her when her father died and her mother went to work. Now he’s engaged to Norma and she’s not happy about his relationship with Gloria. It’s platonic but she feels threatened.

Weston has a wife, Emily (Dina Merrill), who knows about his wandering ways. But she makes a decision. She is not about to give up on him.

Unfortunately Gloria believes in fairy tales and happy endings. Until she realizes happy endings are not for her.

Based on John O’Hara’s book, this could have been turned into a cliché of a story. It is the powerful performances that redeem it. Especially Elizabeth Taylor’s.

Taylor transformed herself from the wonderful Velvet Brown to the loving daughter Kay Banks about to become a bride in “Father of the Bride” to the society girl Angela Vickers of “A Place in the Sun” to Maggie the Cat in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” the institutionalized and Catherine Holly of “Suddenly, Last Summer”. Finally she inhabited Gloria Wandrous, her most powerful performance until then. With it, she stamped her name in the stars.

Only once after that did she reach the epitome of performance she was capable of. That role was Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. With this transformation, she had become one of the great performers of tragedy in the 20th Century.

It is wonderful seeing a great actor or actress at the top of their game. And that is why I give ”Butterfield 8” a thumbs up.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Italy in the Spring

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Movie is “Enchanted April” (1992):

Remember “Gilligan’s Island”. “Enchanted April” (1992) is not a three-hour tour. It is not a shipwreck. It is not “Gilligan’s Island”. It isn’t even “Survivor”. It could pass for “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Like that movie, it is a leisurely stroll through an Italian landscape that only be described as paradise.

How did four English women find themselves in Italy? A small ad in the newspaper. The newspaper was the 1920s version of the internet. For a small price, a person could see the world laid out before them.

Adapted from Elizabeth von Armin’s novel, the movie begins with two married women, Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) and Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson). They are stuck in England with some really lousy Spring weather. They see an advertisement offer to stay in medieval castle for the month of April. Not only do they get a castle, they get Italy on the Mediterranean.

When they see the ad, they say, “What fun.” At least, Lottie does. After some persistence, Rose is persuaded. Each has their own reason to get away from her husband for a month. Alfred Molina (of “Frida” fame) and Jim Broadbent (from “Topsy Turvy”) are the husbands Lottie and Rose leave behind.

Since it’s a bit expensive, the two of them ask two more to come along. Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) is an older woman with her nose stuck in the air. Then she breaths in the Italian air and she is changed along with her three companions. Lady Caroline Dester (Polly Walker) is an attractive young aristocrat who is searching for direction.

Unfortunately, the Italian weather isn’t cooperating when Lottie and Rose arrive. But the next morning everything has changed. April is April and Italy is Italy. “Were you ever so happy?” Lottie asks Rose. Then the two come across Mrs. Fisher who speaks an “an ancient Italian, the Italian of Dante” and Lady Caroline who speaks “the kind of Italian the cooks understand”. I would say that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But you’ll have to find out for yourself.

And what happens when the men show up.

If you are partial to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, this one is for you.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A Washed Up Poet

inOnce a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “Reuben, Reuben” (1983):

National Poetry Month is coming up in April. So here’s a reminder to read a few poems during the month, the movie “Reuben, Reuben”. It’s charming and it’s funny and it has romance. The Reuben in the title is not the poet. It’s the supporting character dog in this small movie comedy. A very important supporting character.

Tom Conti is a washed up Scottish poet Gowen McGland. He has a huge case of writer’s block.  In his younger days, he wrote poems that became taught in college classrooms everywhere, though nobody seems to know what they mean. He has become more famous for his drinking and womanizing than for his poetry.

Julius J. Epstein wrote the screenplay. He adapted it from Herman Shumlin’s play “Spofford” which in turn was an adaptation of the Peter DeVries novel, “Reuben, Reuben”. There is a good chance that Dylan Thomas was a model for Gowen McGland.

Gowen makes his living travelling around, speaking to women’s clubs, small colleges and any other organization that pay a stipend. His latest destination is an affluent Connecticut suburb. There’s enough bored housewives there for him to seduce to make it worth the pittance of a stipend he’ll receive. But he doesn’t really do much seduction. A number of the bored are throwing themselves at him. After all, he has that Scottish accent.

Little does he realize that his life is about to change and it will be a Connecticut suburb that does it. He might even break through that writer’s block.