Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Second Chances

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. Next week’s Valentine’s Day, so this week’s Spotlight Movie is for all the romantics out there. It’s Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005):

Remember Robert Carlyle. Back in ’97, he appeared in a little gem of a movie, “The Full Monty”. He played an unemployed working class guy who became a male stripper.

In “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School”, he plays Frank Keane, a baker who lost his wife to suicide. He’s engulfed by grief and can’t move on with his life. He meets weekly with a support group of widowers but that doesn’t seem to help him or any of the others.

When he least expects it, magic happens, and it happens out of the worst of circumstances. He is driving his bakery truck when he’s passed by Steve Mills (John Goodman). A few seconds later, he comes upon Steve in a car accident. The accident is serious.

As they are waiting for an ambulance, Steve tells Frank he was on his way to meet a childhood sweetheart at a ballroom dancing school. He is supposed to meet her on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millenium. He promised. Then he tells the story of their childhood romance and how it came to be.

Because of the accident, Steve can’t make it. So he gives Frank his ticket to Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. Explain to Lisa, his childhood sweetheart, why he can’t make.

Since he promised, he goes to School. Lisa isn’t there but there are others. Marilyn Hotchkiss isn’t there either. But her daughter, Marienne, is conducting the class with several men and women. Because he doesn’t know what else to do, Frank joins the class. Then something magically happens. From that moment on, his life, and the lives of the others in the support group, are changed. Sometimes all it takes is a little dancing to heal a whole lot of grief.

In addition to Robert Carlyle and John Goodman, this movie has Marissa Tormei, Sonia Braga, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Adam Arkin and Danny Devito. And I enjoyed it immensely. So it’s two thumbs up from this end of the cosmos.

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.