Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: The Perfect Halloween Movie

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 one for Halloween, “Arsenic & Old Lace” (1944):

Cary Grant meant to be here to tell you about Frank Capra’s “Arsenic and Old Lace”. But, as you can see, he’s all tied up. So he’s left it to me.

Seems that there were some strange events going on at the Brewster house. You see it all started when Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) showed up to let his aunts, Abby Brewster (Josephine Hull) and her sister Martha (Jean Adair), know he was getting married. To the daughter of their next door neighbor, Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), of all people.

And to think he had the bad fortune to find out about the aunts and their particular cure for loneliness. Psst. It’s elderberry wine. If that wasn’t enough, his uncle, Teddy Roosevelt (John Alexander) , has a number of yellow fever victims in the basement. He’s convinced they’ve been working on the Panama Canal.

Well, before you can count the yellow fever victims, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) showed up to do a facelift on Boris Karloff (Raymond Massey). Before you know it, the Brewster place was looking like Grand Central Station with all the people passing through. They include the Judge, the Psychiatrist and the police led by the cop on the beat (Jack Carson).

But no worries. Dr. Einstein went off to treat another patient. Boris Karloff returned to Hollywood (or some such similar place). The sisters and Teddy are off vacationing at Happy Vale Rest Home. Teddy’s been assured that “Happy Vale is full of staircases.” So there’ll be plenty of room for him to lead a charge up San Juan Hill.

And Mortimer? Rumor has it that he and his new bride have taken a barrel down Niagara Falls.

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Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A champion

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 the documentary “Harry & Snowman”:

We know who Seabiscuit was. We know who Secretariat was. We know who Trigger was. One horse that captured the imagination of the American public in the 1950s has almost been forgotten. Now director Ron Davis has reminded us of one of the greatest horses of the twentieth century, Snowman, with his documentary.

The documentary begins with a voice-over by Snowman’s owner, a man with a Dutch accent. “My name is Harry DeLeyer and I’ve spent my whole life with horses. I connect with them and they connect with me…I still love to be in the morning with my horses. I got many wonderful horses in my life. But Snowman was the most wonderful to me.”

Harry saved Snowman from the slaughterhouse. When Harry looked the horse in the eye and the horse looked Harry in the eye, there was a connection between the two that would last for the rest of the horse’s life. Harry paid $80 for a white English plow horse. The horse was filthy with only one shoe and a mark on his neck from pulling a plow.

The documentary is an American story. With hard work, commitment and talent, anything is possible. In 1958, a twelve-year-old plow horse beat the best show jumpers in the United States. By the end of the season, he won the triple crown of show jumping: the National Championship at Madison Square Garden and the year-end Jumper Championship Award, and and was named the Horse of the Year.

Harry was offered $100.000 for the horse he paid $80 for. He never sold. Snowman was too much a part of his family. At the end of his career, Snowman, “The Cinderella Horse”, took his final appearance at Madison Square Garden as one of the greatest snow jumpers of all time. He received a standing ovation.

This documentary reminds us that we never know when greatness will show its face. So let’s celebrate second chances. Just think of some of the great Second Chancers: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Colonel Sanders, Grandma Moses. And Snowman.

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: The Play’s the Thing. Sometimes.

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 “Me and Orson Welles” (2008), directed by Richard Linklater:

Some people have all the luck. In “Me and Orson Welles”, this high school kid, Richard Samuels (Zac Efron), is one of those people. He just shows up and the gods smile upon him. It’s 1937, and Richard’s come into the City, hanging loose with no particular goal in mind. He looks across the street and sees a group of actors waiting.

They are the Mercury Theater Troupe, and they are waiting for the man in charge. The director. And that director is none other than the Boy Genius, Orson Welles (Christian McKay). This was in the days before Welles flew off to Hollywood and made “Citizen Kane”.

Richard walks over to see what’s the deal. Welles shows up. The kid impresses Welles and Welles says, “You’re in the show, kid.” Or words to that effect.

The show is “Julius Caesar”. Welles’ production will wow the New York audiences like nothing since Edwin Booth played Brutus, the same role Welles plays.

Based on the novel by Robert Kaplow, the movie is the behind-the-scenes story of how Welles brought “Julius Caesar” to the New York stage. Christian McKay’s performance as Welles is a tour de force. The movie is well worth seeing for that reason alone. But there are many others, including Claire Danes.

There aren’t that many good movies about the behind-the-scenes work it takes to get a play on the stage. This is one of them.

Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: Framed

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 “Molly’s Game” (2017):

This is the opening of “Molly’s Game”. I gotta tell you I saw this and I was in for the count. There was no way I was going to quit this movie. A movie that was written and directed by the great screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

As much as I hated Sorkin’s “Steve Jobs”, that’s how much I love his “Molly’s Game”. With “Molly’s Game”, he’s on top with this one. With this screenplay, he shows what screenwriting is all about when it’s in the hands of a master. This one is so good I think screenwriters will be using it as a model for years to come. I can’t think of where there’s a hole in it and I’ve looked. In the first five minutes, which you saw above, I realized I was in for a great ride. This is one masterpiece of an opening.

Based on a true story, Molly Bloom goes from an Olympic skier to running poker games. With one fall, her ski career is done for. Not sure what to do next she makes for L.A. To get by till she can clear her head, she moves in with an athlete friend and gets a job as a waitress in one of the clubs.

One of her customers sizes her up as an above average possibility as an employee. He hires her as an administrative assistant. One thing leads to another and she’s running her boss’ poker game.

Molly dives in head first into the devil’s playground and just about drowns. Molly is smart and good at details. So soon she is out on her own. She’s running high class  poker games for the rich and the famous, men who have so much cash they can lose a million bucks without batting an eye.

Molly is an innocent in this world, a trusting soul, and so loyal to her customers that causes her to lose her game. She runs off to New York and puts her entrepreneurial skills to work, setting up a new game.

Despite how she is treated, she always keeps her dignity and never betrays people who’d betray her at a toss of a coin. And that’s what happens. She runs an honest game but she’s in a trade where honesty is a weakness.

And for Molly, Sorkin has cast the wonderful Jessica Chastain. As always, her performance is spot-on. The adult Molly is in almost all the scenes. The exceptions are when younger Molly appears. Like Sigourney Weaver in “Alien”, like Emma Thompson in “Wit”, she carries the movie on her back and delivers a powerful performance.

After seeing her in a number of movies, she reminds me of Katherine Hepburn. I would love to see her round her resume off with a comedy or two. For my money, I think she will be around for a long tine and give us many more performances to look forward to.

Supporting Jessica are Kevin Costner as Molly’s father and Idries Elba as her lawyer. Both do terrific performances.

“Molly’s Game” is one roller coaster of a film thanks to Aaron Sorkin. So jump on and ride.

 

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: A bull in a china shop

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 “Ferdinand” (2017):

Beginning with movies like “Toy Story” and “Lion KIng”, animated films stepped into a new golden age. Great animation, great stories and movies that could be appreciated by both children and adults are some of the qualities found in these movies.

Even though Pixar and Disney led the way, other studios like Blue Sky Studios, Nikelodeon, Dream  Works and Laika have stepped in and given us “Ice Age”, “Rango”, “Shrek” and “Kubo and the Two Strings”. When there are so many studios producing so many great features, that is a healthy sign. It means we will continue to get great animated features.

And now “Ferdinand” joins these first rate animated films. It is based on the book, “The Story of Ferdinand” (1936), written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.

What happens when a bull is a bull but does not want to be a bull? And not just any bull. A Spanish fighting bull.

Ferdinand is a calf being raised on a bull training ranch, Casa del Toro. His dad is a Spanish fighting bull. His friends are fighting bulls. Who knows? Maybe his mother was a Spanish fighting bull. All they live for is to get into the bull ring and charge. But not Ferdinand. All he wants to do is smell flowers.

So what does a bull with this particular dilemma do? He escapes. And finds a home with a young girl and her father. They raise flowers. Ferdinand grows up to be giganenormous bull. Despite following the directions of the father and girl, he follows them to the local village flower festival. And unleashes pandemonium and chaos. He is caught and taken back to Casa del Toro.

“Ferdinand” may be a bull in a china shop. But he is also a bull with a destiny. Folllow “Ferdinand” and watch him on his journey to reach that destiny. It will put a smile on your face.

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