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By Joules Dellinger

As a child of the ‘70s (technically… I mean I was born in 1977), I have a special space in my heart for the movie musicals of that decade. As we are revisiting another decade of film every month on DVD Netflix, I thought it would be fun to revisit my favorite movie musicals from the 1970s!

 Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971)

Synopsis: During World War II, eccentric, self-styled witch Eglantine aims to use her newfound powers to ward off a Nazi incursion of England, taking the three children she's protecting with her on a magical bed to a fantastical, animated island.

My thoughts: I love how this film combines live action and animation with stars Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson. This is one of my absolute favorite Lansbury movies of all time and I actually just had to add it to my queue so I can enjoy it all over again!

I have two favorite songs from this movie. First up is Portbello Road:

Portobello Road - YouTube

And the second song that give me goosebumps every time I see it is the entire Substitutiary Locomotion scene:

Bedknobs Broomsticks Substitutiary Locomotion - YouTube
rent bedknobs & broomsticks  Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Synopsis: Eccentric candy man Willy Wonka ignites a worldwide frenzy when he announces that golden tickets hidden inside five of his delicious candy bars will admit their lucky holders into his top-secret confectionary.

My thoughts: This movie is soooo much better than the creepy 2005 remake! I mean, this movie is creepy too… but in a good nostalgic way of being creepy.

My favorite song is the Oompa Loompa song:

Oompa Loompa Doompa Dee Do Song - YouTube
rent willy wonka & the chocolate factory  The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Synopsis: This notorious horror parody and cult hit – a fast-paced potpourri of camp, sci-fi and rock 'n' roll, among other things – tracks the exploits of naïve couple Brad and Janet after they stumble upon the lair of transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

My thoughts: The first time I ever saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show was in the mid 1990s at a local small movie theater. People were all dressed up and they were performing it in front of the movie and I had NEVER seen anything like that before… and loved it!

My favorite song… Sweet Transvestite of course!

The Rocky Horror Picture Show "Sweet Transvestite" - YouTube
rent the rocky horror picture show  The Wiz (1978)

Synopsis: Motown's Oscar-nominated take on L. Frank Baum's ageless tale stars Diana Ross as Harlem schoolteacher Dorothy, who exits a family gathering to search for her lost pooch, Toto, gets caught in a blizzard, and is transported to the magical land of Oz.

My Thoughts: My high school theater department performed The Wiz when I was a senior and I played the part of Auntie Em. I had my own song and everything. Because of that, this movie has a special place in my heart!

My favorite song: OOOH, I have so many favorites that are intertwined with my high school memories. I narrowed it down to the following three.

Slide Some Oil to Me:

The Wiz - Slide Some Oil To Me - YouTube

Ease on Down the Road:

Michael Jackson ft. Diana Ross - Ease On Down The Road (The Wiz) - GMJHD - YouTube

No Bad News:

The Wiz (5/8) Movie CLIP - No Bad News (1978) HD - YouTube
rent the wiz  Grease (1978)

Synopsis: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John star in this hit musical comedy that chronicles the romantic entanglements of a group of high school seniors, starting with a summer fling between greaser Danny and good girl Sandy.

My Thoughts: As a kid who ran around singing show tunes, the Grease soundtrack was on constant rotation. While most girls wanted to be Sandy, I was a Rizzo girl. I mean, she had the best song…

There are Worse Things (I Could Do)

GREASE - "There Are Worse Things (I Could Do)" - YouTube
rent grease  

Joules Dellinger has been blogging since 2011 at Pocketful of Joules on everything from fashion, travel, parenting, thrifting and lots of lots of silliness.

She likes movies where the women kick butt and the men are goofy (and shirtless). She doesn’t care which Kardashian is pregnant and thinks Beyoncé is overrated. Follow her on Twitter at @JoulesDellinger or on Instagram at @PocketfulofJoules.

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By Jessica Pickens

When actor Basil Rathbone is mentioned, what do you think of?

Is it Rathbone with a deerstalker hat and pipe, in costume as Sherlock Holmes? Or perhaps him in a sword fight with the hero of a film?

Born June 13, 1892, Rathbone started as a Shakespearean actor on the stage and entered films in 1921. He started to grow in fame on the screen in the 1930s.

Basil Rathbone could seemingly perform in any role. He often played a villain, which was aided by authentic swordsmanship that helped him during a screen sword fight. But Rathbone could also play the hero or love interest.

Here are a few of his varied roles:


The Last Days of Pompeii (1935)

The film is set in Rome, beginning 20 years before Vesuvius erupts.

After the death of his wife and baby, a blacksmith named Marcus (Preston Foster) rises to fame as a gladiator in ancient Rome. Marcus raises an orphan, Flavius, who meets Jesus. Marcus also meets and partners with Pontius Pilate (Basil Rathbone) before he condemns Jesus.

Rathbone is outfitted in full Roman garb and his character of Pontius Pilate is written to be sympathetic. The Last Days of Pompeii is an odd film, which makes it an interesting, must-see watch.

rent the last days of pompeii  
Robin Hood Vs Sir Guy - YouTube
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

King Richard the Lion Heart (Ian Hunter) overthrown by his brother King John (Claude Rains). Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) leads his group of Merry Men to get King Richard back on his rightful thrown. Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone) is hired to kill Robin Hood.

The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of Basil Rathbone’s most famous film roles. Rathbone is excellent as the loathsome Sir Guy and his swordsmanship in fights with Errol Flynn is amazing to watch! The film is in Technicolor and spectacularly gorgeous.

rent the adventures of robin hood  
Son of Frankenstein - Trailer - YouTube
Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Twenty-five years after Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster’s death, his son Baron Wolf von Frankenstein (Basil Rathbone) and his family (Josephine Hutchinson, Donnie Dunagan) travel to the Frankenstein estate from the United States when it is willed to them. The whole town resents Baron von Frankenstein returning because of the terror his family brought on the village. When realizing the Monster (Boris Karloff) is still alive, he follows in his father’s footsteps to bring him back to life with the help of Ygor (Bela Lugosi).

Basil Rathbone’s character starts out as a friendly and normal fellow, but he is maddened by the power and genius of his father, who created a living being. In the end, Rathbone’s character manipulates the Monster just as his father had. Son of Frankenstein is the third Frankenstein film released by Universal, following Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). It is an enjoyable early horror film.

rent son of frankenstein  

Sherlock Holmes series (1939 to 1946)

Basil Rathbone started acting as the detective Sherlock Holmes starting in 1939 with the film The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939). Along with Robin Hood, the Holmes character is one of Rathbone’s most famous roles. From 1939 to 1946, Rathbone performed the role of Sherlock Holmes in 14 movies. Rathbone’s Holmes characterization is one who is wise, thoroughly thinks through the issue, and is also extremely distinguished. Nigel Bruce plays Dr. Watson in each of the films, and is a bit bumbling but still fun.

rent the hound of the baskervilles rent more of basil rathbone as sherlock holmes  
Bathing Beauty - YouTube
Bathing Beauty (1944)

George Adams (Basil Rathbone) is unhappy when his star songwriter Steve Elliot (Red Skelton) says he’s leaving the business to marry swim instructor Caroline Brooks (Esther Williams). George deliberately creates a shocking misunderstanding between the two that sends a newly single Caroline back to the all-girls college where she is an instructor. Determined to win her back, Steve finds a loophole in the school rules and enrolls.

To me, one of Basil Rathbone’s most random roles is in Bathing Beauty. If you aren’t familiar with Esther Williams films, Williams was an Olympic hopeful-turned-movie star. Each of her films featured Williams in elaborate swimming numbers. While Rathbone is the antagonist in Bathing Beauty, he isn’t nearly as dastardly as he is in other films. Here, he is a greedy business man who doesn’t want to lose his cash cow. Rathbone’s role is rather small, but I love that he is in a Technicolor MGM musical.

rent bathing beauty  
We're No Angels (8/9) Movie CLIP - Lovesick Isabelle (1955) HD - YouTube
We’re No Angels (1955)

Early Christmas Eve 1895, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray), Jules (Peter Ustinov) and Adolf the poisonous snake escape from prison on French colonial Devil’s Island. Joseph embezzled money and Albert and Jules are murderers. They are able to blend in easily in the town in their prison clothes, as many paroled convicts work out in the open.

They hide on the roof of shop owner Felix Ducotel (Leo G. Carroll). From the roof the three observe the family’s problems: Felix and his wife Amelie (Joan Bennett) aren’t making any money at the store owned by his cousin Andre Trochard (Basil Rathbone) and their daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott) is in love with Andre’s nephew Paul (John Baer), who lives in Paris with Andre.

Basil Rathbone’s character of Andre Trochard is especially cold blooded and despicable in We’re No Angels. First off, he’s a snob who believes that he is above the Ducotel family, including not permitting Isabelle to marry his nephew Paul. Andre is also fully prepared to throw the Ducotels in jail if his audit of their store does not please him. Basil Rathbone has a short role, but you quickly loathe him.

rent we're no angels rent basil rathbone films  

Jessica Pickens is a North Carolina-based writer. She has a degree in print journalism and now works in public relations. Outside of work, she writes about pre-1968 films at CometOverHollywood.com with a special interest in musicals, films released in 1939, and World War II-era films. You can follow her Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Exciting news ahead for DVD Netflix! The brand-new web series Set Life is scheduled to premiere on their YouTube platform on June 15, 2019, featuring host and acclaimed filmmaker Ethan Paisley, co-executive producer Tiffany Unscripted, and director Ben Escobar.

Creating web content to promote DVD Netflix was one of the first major marketing initiatives of DVD Netflix Director Tiffany Unscripted after she became a member of the rental service in November of 2013. Set Life is just one of many steps she has taken to promote Netflix’s enduring DVD business.

Co-executive producer Tiffany Unscripted

“I wanted a series that could resonate with movie lovers interested on how a film is produced. I reached out to Ethan, who has extensive experience in film production, and he pitched the idea to make it a docu-series. The idea was fantastic! I gave the nod, we discussed the concept, and he wrote the script. I knew Ethan would make an incredible host and I’m happy to have him on board. He’s the star! He makes Set Life shine. He’s also joins me as executive producer on the series,” said Tiffany Unscripted.

Set Life is a six-part docu-series that explores the six steps of filmmaking, all the way from development to distribution. Each episode will focus on Ethan shadowing a new industry figure and their project, giving viewers a sense of what it takes to make a movie in 2019.

Set Life host Ethan Paisley

“Set Life is something I wish I could’ve watched when I first started making movies. The goal is to inspire people from all different backgrounds to chase their passion for filmmaking, and hopefully give them insight into what the steps are in getting their first project made,” said Paisley.

Set Life stars Ethan Paisley (Point 453), Katie Chang (The Bling Ring), Jessica Morris (Ladies of the Lake), Kash Hovey (Plastic Daydream), and Amy Lyndon (Law & Order: LA).

Take18 Entertainment serves as executive producer, the company Paisley started in 2016. Ben Escobar of 418 Films is director and producer and Tiffany Unscripted of DVD Netflix and Your Film Review serve as co-executive producer. Ben Escobar directed all six episodes.

“I am excited that DVD Netflix has decided to tap into social media and YouTube to promote their services,” said Paisley. “It has been a blast getting to host this series and I’ve learned a lot more about my industry by doing it, so I hope the audience does too!”

Paisley is known for his two feature films The Art of Escape and Point 453 which have been distributed in 86+ countries. He is also known for multiple talks he’s given at venues including TEDxSonoma and Cannes Lions, and last year he was the inaugural recipient of the Best Young Filmmaker award at the Young Entertainer Awards. He produces alongside Dillon Jordan of PaperChase Films, who recently sold Skin (Jamie Bell, Vera Farmiga) to A24.

Paisley is repped by Cohen & Gardner.

View this post on Instagram

WRAPPED on @SetLifeSeries!!! Thank you @dvdnetflix for giving me this opportunity to inspire myself and others by creating this docuseries about indie filmmakers and what it takes to make a movie in 2019. Congrats to my director @ben.com_ for making this series what it is and thank you @tiffanyunscripted whom without, none of this would have happened...June release date TBD this week — can’t wait to share with you all! 🎬💥👊🏼👏🏼❤️✨ #SetLifeSeries #Wrapped #TVSeries #DVDNetflix #YourFilmReview #BenEscobar #EthanPaisley

A post shared by Ethan Paisley (@ethanbpaisley) on Apr 27, 2019 at 6:54pm PDT

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By Raquel Stecher

Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. His unorthodox approach to storytelling makes his work feel fresh and new even to a well-versed audience. In an interview with The Independent, Lanthimos said “I don’t know how to make a straightforward film.” And it’s true. Every single one of his films breaks the mold in one way or another. They’re thought-provoking and unnerving. They stir up deep philosophical questions about how humans function in society. These stories will get under your skin and make you uncomfortable.

Because of that, Lanthimos’ films can be polarizing. You’ll love them or you’ll hate them, but you can’t deny that Lanthimos is a brilliant filmmaker. If anything, these films are great conversation starters. You can’t watch The Lobster or The Killing of a Sacred Deer and not immediately want to find somebody to talk to about them. After I saw Dogtooth for the first time, I would find every possible excuse to bring it up in conversation.

Born in 1973 in Athens, Greece, Lanthimos got his start directing dance videos, music videos, TV commercials, short films, and theatrical productions. His feature film Kinetta was released in 2005 and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to much acclaim. He continued to make films in Greece until he transitioned to English-language films starting with The Lobster in 2016. His frequent collaborators include writer by Efthymis Filippou and his wife, actress and dancer Ariane Labed. Lanthimos’ most recent film The Favourite earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and he’s currently working on a Western, Pop. 1280.

Not familiar with Lanthimos? Dive into this filmography with these titles available to rent from DVD Netflix.

rent yorgos lanthimos films  
Dogtooth Extended Trailer- Must watch. - YouTube
Dogtooth (2009)

Isolation is a common theme in Lanthimos’ films and never more so than in Dogtooth. The story centers on a family of five who live in a sealed compound. The parents have kept their three adult children – two daughters (Angeliki Papoulia and Mary Tsoni) and son (Hristos Passalis) – in confinement with little exposure to and hardly any knowledge of the outside world. Only the father is allowed to leave the compound so he can make an income to maintain their lifestyle. The siblings are bored and often play violent games to pass the time. When the father brings home fellow coworker Christina (Anna Kalaitzidou), the only character with an actual name, to take care of their son’s sexual needs, their isolated existence is thrown off kilter.

This is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. I love how it explores the dangers of an insulated existence. Lanthimos took an unusual approach in casting the project by selecting actors who had no prior film experience.

rent dogtooth  
The Lobster Official Trailer #1 (2016) - Jacqueline Abrahams, Roger Ashton-Griffiths Movie HD - YouTube
The Lobster (2016)

What if society made it illegal to be single? This is the basis of Lanthimos’ English-language debut The Lobster which stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Olivia Colman, and Ariane Labed. In this dystopian world, single people are sent to a resort where they’re given a mere 45 days to find their mate. They can earn more time through some unusual activities. When their time runs out, the punishment for remaining single is to be transformed into an animal for the rest of their natural lives. Love is not necessary in finding a mate and emotions discouraged.

The story focuses on Farrell’s character David, who discovers a secret community of singles who live in the forest between the resort and the big city. All of the characters speak in a disturbing monotone voice that’s devoid of any emotion, making this film even more unsettling.

rent the lobster  
The Killing of a Sacred Deer | Official Trailer HD | A24 - YouTube
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)

That emotionless monotone delivery continues with the characters of Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which also stars Colin Farrell. Inspired by the ancient Greek play Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripedis, Farrell stars as a heart surgeon who must make a seemingly impossible decision to save his family. After a failed surgery, the doctor befriends his deceased patient’s teenage son (Barry Keoghan) out of pity. The teen worms his way into the surgeon’s life and places a curse on the family. To pay penance for the death of the teenage boy’s dad, the surgeon must sacrifice one family member. If he doesn’t, they’ll all die a slow horrible death.

Nicole Kidman co-stars as the surgeon’s wife and Alicia Silverstone plays the teenage boy’s mom. This psychological thriller will have you squirming in your seat. It’s a fascinating film; one of Lanthimos’ best. The central theme focuses on how narcissism makes us lose our sense of empathy.

rent the killing of a sacred deer  
THE FAVOURITE | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight - YouTube
The Favourite (2018)

The Favourite put Lanthimos on the map. This period drama was a hit with both critics and audiences alike. While this was a clear departure from Lanthimos’ previous work, it still has his brand of unusual storytelling and an exploration of the absurd. The film is based on the true story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the two women who vie for the coveted spot of being the Queen’s “favourite.” Rachel Weisz plays the headstrong Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough, and Emma Stone plays Abigail, Sarah’s poorer cousin and an eager social climber. As the two battle for the Queen’s attention, a contentious love triangle emerges.

The film features a unique approach to both period costumes and cinematography. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress for both Weisz and Stone. Olivia Colman won for Best Actress and her acceptance speech was one of the highlights of the ceremony.

rent the favourite  
Alps Teaser Trailer (2011) from the director of DOGTOOTH - Oscar Nominated Film - YouTube
Alps (2011)

The concept of this film will hook you but it will ultimately try your patience. Alps is a story about a group of individuals who offer grieving families an unusual service. They’ll pretend to be a deceased loved one by acting out final goodbyes, resolving arguments, or exploring scenarios that never came to fruition when the person was alive. This service is meant to be therapeutic and help family members find closure. However, the scenarios can go too far, especially when both parties are unable to separate fiction from reality. Ariane Labed stars as a gymnast/hired actor. Efthymis Filippou co-wrote the script with Lanthimos and appears in the movie as a lighting shop owner who runs the service.

rent the alps  
Attenberg Official Trailer #1 (2012) HD Movie - YouTube
Attenberg (2010)

Lanthimos gets in front of the camera for Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari’s film Attenberg. Ariane Labed stars as Marina, a virginal recluse who spends most of her time with her dying father Spyros (Vangelis Mourikis) and her best friend Bella (Evangelia Randou). Bella and Marina have an incredibly close bond. They wear matching outfits, practice kissing together, and do choreographed dances and walks on their way to work. Lanthimos plays an engineer and Marina’s first real boyfriend. The film is essentially an exploration on first and last sexual experiences. Marina has her sexual awakening and arranges for her father to have his last encounter. It’s a quiet and quirky film. This would be a good double bill with Lanthimos’ Dogtooth.

rent attenberg browse yorgos lanthimos films  

Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past, or find her on Twitter @RaquelStecher and @ClassicFilmRead, Facebook, and Instagram.

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By Ann Silverthorn

The 1970s marked significant advances for female equality in America. Although the equal rights amendment failed to ratify, federal law now outlawed discrimination in the workplace based on gender. Women were forging their place in the world as Barbara Jordan became the first woman to give the keynote address at a presidential convention and Barbara Walters became the first woman news anchor. These advances were reflected in film during the late 1970s in the form of strong, women characters (most became so after losing a man). Here’s a look at seven of those films.

Norma Rae, Martin Ritt, 1979 - Union Sign Scene - YouTube
Norma Rae – 1979 (R)

Most people employed at O.P. Henley Textiles accept their poor working conditions and unequal pay. Not Norma Rae Wilson, a widow trying to support her children. Against the advice of her family and friends, Norma joins forces with a union organizer and takes on her employer, risking her job, her reputation, and her safety.

rent norma rae  
An Unmarried Woman | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century FOX - YouTube
An Unmarried Woman – 1978 (R)

Erica (Jill Clayburgh) is living the good life, though completely dependent on her husband, when everything changes. After he leaves her for a younger woman, Erica must get to know herself, on her own, not as defined by anyone else. Along the way, she meets a man who challenges her new identity and makes her consider her future and self-respect.

rent an unmarried woman  
The Goodbye Girl Official Trailer #1 - Richard Dreyfuss Movie (1977) HD - YouTube
The Goodbye Girl – 1977 (PG)

Paula, a former Broadway chorus dancer, lives happily with her actor boyfriend and her daughter in Manhattan. That is, until the boyfriend leaves for the West Coast without warning and sublets the apartment to Eliot, another actor. Paula refuses to leave her home, so she and Eliot have to learn to coexist while each tries to make a living.

rent the goodbye girl  
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) – Go With The Flo - YouTube
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – 1974 (PG)

It’s 1974 and Alice, a stay-at-home mother with a controlling husband, is suddenly widowed. She has no employment skills and the only way she can think of to earn a living is by renewing her dream to be a singer. On a road trip back to her childhood home, she and her son stop off at a roadside diner and Alice finds herself learning how to be a waitress. She’s also getting involved with a new man. Will she give up her dream of being a singer?

rent alice doesn't live here anymore  
Carrie (9/12) Movie CLIP - Carrie Gets Angry (1976) HD - YouTube
Carrie – 1976 (R)

Poor Carrie White. She has no friends. Her fanatically religious mother has her on a short leash and constantly frets about her daughter’s purity. It seems that she has no hope for a date to the prom, but because of the kindness of a classmate, she’s asked by one of the most popular boys. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy about this and devise ways to ruin Carrie’s night (as does her mother). When enough is enough, Carrie unleashes her terrible power and things will never be the same for everyone involved.

rent carrie  
Daisy Miller - Trailer - YouTube
Daisy Miller – 1977 (G)

If you think a gentlewoman from the 1800s can’t be strong, think again. Henry James recognized this when he published the novel, Daisy Miller, in 1879 and her story was appealing to 1970s movie goers. Cybill Shepherd plays the title role as an unconventional young woman who knows how she can fit into high society, but she can’t quite bring herself to conform, and she’s prepared to realize the consequences.

rent daisy miller  
Julia, 1977 - Trailer - YouTube
Julia – 1977 (PG)

Playwright Lillian Hellman was quite an independent woman, and this film explores her relationship with a school friend during the years leading up to World War II. The friend, Julia, was a medical student who was also aiding the resistance. She asks Hellman (Jane Fonda) to do her a risky and dangerous favor. Whether true or not, the story stands on its own as a testament to friendship and courage. The film won three Oscars, one for best writing and also best actor/actress for Jason Robards as Dashiell Hammett and Vanessa Redgrave as Julia.

rent julia  

Browse more movies from the 1970s here.


Ann Silverthorn is a freelancer and blogger who writes in a wide variety of genres. She especially loves movies and sharing her thoughts about them.

Follow her blog at www.AnnSilverthorn.com and find her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

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I once read a theory that I’ve never been able to stop thinking about. It was in some publication and referred to a theory that connected Carl Jung, baseball, and fathers and sons. Carl Jung was a Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who wrote about psychology, philosophy, culture, art, and history. There is no evidence he ever wrote anything about baseball or, in fact, ever expressed any interest in baseball.

Regardless, here was the author’s unforgettable theory: baseball is a metaphorical Jungian psychodrama about the journey of the son through the world of the father. The father is the pitcher and the fielders are the father’s allies and friends. The pitch is a challenge by the father. The son can then meet that challenge by hitting back, and in order to return back home to safety, he embarks on a journey through the world of the father.

It’s a pretty cool theory, isn’t it? Most stories about fathers and sons usually involve some kind of failure. The son disappoints the father. The father disappoints the son. There’s often some kind of journey, some kind of uneasy reconciliation, and things end on a bittersweet note. There’s your formula for writing a father/son movie. Now all you have to do is add dialogue. Oh, and be sure to include some kind of Jungian psychodrama journey of the son through the world of the father.

Or just do what these movies do: tell really good stories really well. In honor of my two sons, here are my favorite movies about fathers and sons.

 East of Eden (1955)
East of Eden (1995) Official Trailer - James Dean Movie HD - YouTube

You’ve certainly seen those iconic photos of James Dean in sunglasses sitting at the wheel of a convertible, looking as cool as humanly possible. But have you actually seen a James Dean movie? He starred in only three. He had a bunch of minor uncredited roles prior to this one, but this is one of only three films in which he starred before his untimely death in a car crash at the age of 24. Directed by Elia Kazan, and based on the second half of John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, this tells a modern version of the story of Cain and Abel. Dean steps on to the screen and you can’t take your eyes off him. Raymond Massey puts in a wonderful performance of the complicated father, Adam Trask.  After you finish this, check out Dean’s two other movies: Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956).

Rent East of Eden (1955)  Back to the Future (1985)
Back To The Future (1985) Theatrical Trailer - Michael J. Fox Movie HD - YouTube

This may be the most clever concept for a screenplay ever written, right up there with Groundhog Day (1993). The premise here is that a teenage kid goes back in time to discover the reason his parents are such dorks. Ok, to be fair, that wasn’t the purpose of his journey, but it is what he learned, among other things. Co-written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, it was based on the rhetorical question Gale asked one day: if I went back in time and met my dad, would we be friends? In this case, maybe they don’t end up as best friends, but the son inspired the dad to stand up for himself, thereby winning his future wife’s heart. This is one of those movies that always seems as fresh as the first time I saw it.

Rent Back to the Future (1985)  Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Searching For Bobby Fischer Trailer 1993 - YouTube

“How many ballplayers grow up afraid of losing their father’s love every time they come to the plate? All of them.” There’s the gut punch line of this movie about a father attempting to manage his son’s prodigious talent for chess. Steve Zallian built a career as one of the best screenwriters of the past twenty years, penning such scripts as Schindler’s List (1993), Falcon and the Snowman (1985), and Moneyball (2011). Here, he writes, directs, and pulls marvelous performances out of Joe Mantegna and Max Pomeranc as a 7-year-old chess whiz. This is a moving and wonderful tale about the sometimes misguided love that parents have when they push their children to excel. A cautionary and inspiring tale.

Rent Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)  Big Fish (2003)
Big Fish (2003) Official Trailer 1 - Ewan McGregor Movie - YouTube

What do we make of a father whose make-believe stories cross well past the line of believability? Tim Burton and screenwriter John August bring Daniel Wallace’s novel of the same name to life in remarkably vivid ways. The father, Edward Bloom (played by Albert Finney as the old man), is dying of cancer and the story of his life is told by his son (Billy Crudup) in a series of flashbacks. The stories are fantastical and implausible and the son clearly doesn’t believe any of them as he tells them. Ewan McGregor plays the young Edward Bloom, and is completely winning. You’re nearly willing to go along with all these far-fetched sagas…until you learn in the end that the stories may actually be true. A lovely, lovely movie to watch on Father’s Day.

Rent Big Fish (2003)  Finding Nemo (2003)
Finding Nemo - Trailer - YouTube

When I was a kid growing up on the North side of Minneapolis, there was an outdoor supply store that had a big billboard on their roof that read: “It’s better to go hunting with your son than it is to go hunting for your son.” It’s an excellent point, and worth pondering. Although I am pretty sure nobody from Pixar ever saw that billboard, this film reminds me of this sweet plot where a daddy fish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) goes searching for his son, Nemo. What an adventure ensues. Many would argue that this is Pixar’s best movie. I’ll raise my hand to that. A simply remarkable film. The animation is as good as anything Pixar has ever done, the characters are vivid and familiar, and the voice acting—particularly by Ellen DeGeneres—is peerless. Time to rent this one again.

Rent Finding Nemo (2003)  Beginners (2010)
Beginners (2010) Official Trailer [HD] - Ewan McGregor | Christopher Plummer | Melanie Laurent - YouTube

You’ve probably already seen all the movies above and, while I hope you rent each of them and watch them again, this is one movie you may never have heard of. It is absolutely one of the loveliest movies I’ve ever seen. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, Ewan McGregor plays a young man who is coming to grips with the death of his father (Christopher Plummer). But there’s more. Five years prior, when his Dad was in his 70s and after his wife of many years had died, Dad comes out and tells his son he is gay and always has been. He then goes forward living the life and pursuing the love he always wanted. In the course of watching his father live his final years honestly and freely, the son learns to let go of his hangups about love as well. Written and directed by Mike Mills and based on his own life, this movie feels incredibly real and compassionate. Rent it.

Rent Beginners (2010)  

David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and theBBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.

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The 1970s were to the movies what the 1950s were to cars. In the US, Europe, and Japan especially, filmmakers were going big and bold; this was a decade of movie-making that brimmed with confidence, verve, and vision. I could have come up with 50 movies for this decade because movie after movie had an edge and energy to them that don’t appear in ensuing decades. Here are my favorite picks, separated into American and foreign film favorites.

 My Favorite American Movies of the 1970s
The Last Picture Show (1971)
The Last Picture Show - Trailer - YouTube

Based on Larry McMurtry’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel, this brilliant film is set in a small town in north Texas in the early 1950s. It’s a powerful film about two high school friends living through their final year in a dying town. Director Peter Bogdanovich draws some powerful performances out of a remarkable cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn, and Cloris Leachman, among others. Shot in black and white, this deeply melancholy movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and retains a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A year after this film came out, Bogdanovich went on to make one of my favorite comedies ever, What’s Up Doc? (1972). You should see that too, but first put The Last Picture Show in your queue.

Rent The Last Picture Show (1971)  The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather, Part II (1974)
The Godfather Part II - Trailer - YouTube

Many people have argued that Part II is the greatest American film of all time. I’m not going to get into that argument (even though I do like it far more than the generally-accepted champion, Citizen Kane (1941). Suffice it to say, these two films are a pair of high water marks in American moviemaking and culture. Director Francis Ford Coppola took Mario Puzo’s mafia potboiler novel and turned it into three magnificent tales showing the ruinous effect that a life of crime has on families and on a nation. Oh, so you’re saying that you just watched both of these a year ago? Enough time has passed. You can rent them again.

Rent The Godfather (1972) Rent The Godfather, Part II (1974)  Chinatown (1974)
Chinatown - Trailer - YouTube

The film producer Robert Evans tells the story of taking screenwriter Robert Towne out to lunch. He was pitching Towne on the idea of adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, for the screen. Towne demurred, saying he didn’t want to try to outdo Fitzgerald. Towne told Evans, however, he had a screenplay he had written about water rights in Los Angeles in the 1930s, which sounds about as dull a topic for a feature film as I could imagine. Evans reluctantly bought the script and then set about having it made. Shot in the style of a 1930s hard-bitten detective story, Chinatown is brilliant, troubling, and cynical in ways that are hard to even imagine. Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston give performances of a lifetime.

Rent Chinatown (1974)  Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975) - Original Trailer - YouTube

Two men enter a bank on a hot afternoon in New York City with the plan to rob it. Why? So one of the men (married with kids) can raise the money for his lover’s sex change operation. Yeah, right, you say. Except it pretty much actually happened in 1972 in Brooklyn. Sidney Lumet directs this great crime drama and pulls remarkable performances from Al Pacino and John Cazale. Originally, there were three robbers, but one panicked and took off and then the two robbers discovered they arrived after the daily cash pickup and there was virtually no money in the bank. It’s a frantic and sweaty story and you keep hoping that somehow these two knuckleheads get away with their idiotic plan. Which, of course, you know they can’t. One of the best-acted movies of the 1970s.

Rent Dog Day Afternoon (1975)  Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers - YouTube

In the more than 40 years since this movie opened, an extensive—and at times overburdened—mythology has sprung up surrounding this film’s universe. What is sometimes lost in all of this miasma of fandom and memorabilia and convoluted storylines is how utterly original and refreshing the first film was. I saw it on the day it opened in 1977, and remember walking out of the theater just giddy with what I had seen. This wasn’t another lame-o science fiction movie with cheap special effects and a tedious script. This movie was fun and exciting and a thrill ride from start to finish. Most importantly, it was clever. Director George Lucas took all the tropes of science fiction and turned them on their head. The characters were swashbuckling and funny. The space aliens hung out in dive bars and got into drunken fights. The robots—R2D2 and C-3PO—were a bickering middle-aged couple. And the bad guy wore a black cape… like all bad guys should! What more could you want? Turns out, people wanted plenty more…and they got and continue to get it as this seemingly endless story continues.

Rent Star Wars (1977)  My Favorite Foreign Films of the 1970s

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)
Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) - trailer - YouTube

Oh, I know what you’ve been looking for all this time: a bizarre and violent tale of the conquistadors pillaging the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, then getting lost and destroyed under the command of a madman. Am I right? And it’s in German, by the way. Don’t let any of this put you off this amazing movie. Director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski team up for a movie that is volatile, crazy, and a total masterpiece—a true cult classic that every film lover should see.

Rent Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)  Cries and Whispers (1972)
Cries & Whispers (1972) ORIGINAL TRAILER [HD 1080p] - YouTube

After you watch Aguirre, you might be up for something a little more restrained, quiet, and thoughtful. Three sisters gather in the family castle for the final days of one of the sisters. That’s pretty much all the heart-pumping action of the movie. The rest of it is muted emotional and psychological drama, worked out in quiet and desperate ways. Ingmar Bergman is one of the titans of 20th-century film, and if you’ve never seen a Bergman movie, this is a good one to start with. It’s powerful and affecting and a good movie to watch on a Sunday afternoon when the house is quiet and you’re home alone. Stunning cinematography by Sven Nykvist.

Rent Cries and Whispers (1972)  Solaris (1972)
Solaris (1972) trailer - YouTube

Andrei Tarkovsky is a legendary Russian film director who made just seven movies. I’ve seen two of them, and both were unforgettable. The first one I saw was Andrei Rublev (1966), a period drama about 15th century Russia with a title character who is considered one of the finest iconographers in Russian history. Doesn’t sound like compelling viewing, but it truly was. Solaris is a tremendous science fiction film. It tells the story of three astronauts stuck in a dead-end mission, orbiting endlessly around a distant planet named Solaris. Everyone is in a state of emotional distress and the psychologist sent to check on them goes into a crisis when he sees his long-dead wife on the space station. And then it gets weird. Don’t miss this movie. No less than Salman Rushdie has called it “a sci-fi masterpiece.”

Rent Solaris (1972)  The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie (Trailer) - YouTube

If these first three foreign films aren’t quite strange enough for you, try this French movie from the Spanish surrealist, Luis Buñuel. Here’s the synopsis: six upper-middle-class people sit down to a formal dinner and keep getting interrupted as they attempt to eat. And then it gets weird (but in a much different way from Solaris). This movie is a satire on the conventions and vanities of bourgeoisie. Some of the interruptions are real, some are surrealist products of their imaginations. The movie is also quite funny and farcical. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and Buñuel and his screenwriting partner shared the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, “original” being the operative word here.

Rent The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)  Amarcord (1973)
Amarcord (1973) Trailer - YouTube

If you’ve never seen a Federico Fellini movie, this is a good introduction to the Italian master filmmaker. The movie is a semi-autobiographical tale, a reminiscence by Fellini about his childhood in the 1930s in a village near the Adriatic coastline of Italy. The movie is filled with amusing and satiric portraits of village life…while underneath, the country and the village are blithely accepting the idiocies and dangers of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime. This is a sentimental journey with a biting edge.

Rent Amarcord (1973)  Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Ali Fear Eats the Soul 1974 Trailer with Subtitles - YouTube

I was going to recommend Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), but then I remembered this wonderful German movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. I first saw it in the mid-1970s at a University of Minnesota Film Society screening and have never forgotten it. It tells the story of an unlikely and tragic love affair between Emmi, a lumpy, 60-year-old widowed cleaning lady, and Ali, a Moroccan immigrant guest worker in West Germany. They begin to date, they fall in love, and they decide to marry. Societal and family disapprovals, however, conspire to destroy their love and marriage. This is a powerful and—it turns out—unforgettable film.

Rent Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)  

David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and the BBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.

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WEEK OF 6/04/2019

WEEK OF 6/11/2019

WEEK OF 6/18/2019

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By Raquel Stecher

All-star movies are so much fun to watch. I don’t claim to know the psychology of why a movie packed with a bunch of well-known actors brings us so much joy. I just know that they do. Every time I come across a film that boasts ensemble of actors and actresses I get giddy with glee. I bring up IMDb on my phone, scroll through the cast list and proclaim “everyone is in this film!” A good cast will always draw me in, even if the story itself would have been something I passed on. And if you think about it, you get more bang for your buck with an all-star movie. With just one 2 (or in some cases 3) hour movie, you may see a dozen of the best talents that Hollywood has to offer.

The 1960s had some of the best all-star movies. Whether they were sweeping epics, thrilling war dramas, sprawling Westerns and madcap comedies, these big productions lured audiences out of their homes and into theaters. The more familiar names you threw in the pot, the more alluring the final product. Here’s a look at several ensemble and all-star movies from the 1960s that are available to rent from DVD Netflix.

The Magnificent Seven Official Trailer #1 - Charles Bronson Movie (1960) HD - YouTube
The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Directed by John Sturges, The Magnificent Seven reimagines Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai as a Western. There is so much to love about this story of seven gunfighters who protect a Mexican village from bandits but the cast really makes it. Also available to rent is the sequel Return of the Magnificent Seven (1966) and the 2016 remake.

Star Power: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, Eli Wallach

rent the magnificent seven (1960) rent return of the magnificent seven rent the magnificent seven (2016)  
The Great Escape (1963) Official Trailer - Steve McQueen Movie - YouTube
The Great Escape (1963)

A few years after The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges teamed up again with producer Walter Mirisch to make the WWII film The Great Escape. The story follows a group of American and British POWs who plot an elaborate escape from a Nazi war camp. While the movie focuses on the two principals played by James Garner and Steve McQueen, the stellar cast each gets their time to shine.

Star Power: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum

rent the great escape  
Once Upon A Time In The West - Trailer - YouTube
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

After Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, he contemplated retiring, but eventually returned to filmmaking with his epic Spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s considered a masterpiece in filmmaking and spawned a trilogy that included A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). The cast was carefully selected with Western fans in mind.

Star Power: Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Elam, Keenan Wynn

rent once upon a time in the west rent a fistful of dynamite rent once upon a time in america  
The V.I.P.s (1963) Official Trailer #1 - Elizabeth Taylor Movie HD - YouTube
The V.I.P.s (1963)

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the glamorous days of air travel, watch The V.I.P.s. This sumptuous melodrama follows a group of wealthy passengers at Heathrow Airport in London. A bad case of fog delays their flight and while the passengers are stuck at the airport hotel, their lives inevitably change as they're forced to confront their personal and professional problems.

Star Power: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Louis Jourdan, Maggie Smith, Rod Taylor, Orson Welles

rent the v.i.p.s  
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1965) – Jeanne Moreau - YouTube
The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

On the heels of the success of The V.I.P.s, director Anthony Asquith and his team reunited to make The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964). The film tells the story of the three owners of a 1931 yellow Rolls-Royce Phantom II over an 11 year period. Like The V.I.P.s, this was another glossy drama about the wealthy elite meant to capitalize on the glitzy lifestyles and the big name cast.

Star Power: Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Shirley MacLaine, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, Jeanne Moreau

rent the yellow rolls-royce  
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) - Every Man for Himself Scene (1/10) | Movieclips - YouTube
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

When I think of ensemble casts, the first one that pops up in my mind is the madcap comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). It’s a difficult title to say but you need all four ‘mad’s to exemplify just how zany and whacky this movie truly is. Directed by Stanley Kramer, the story focuses on a group of strangers looking for a $350,000 buried under a big W. As more people catch wind of the treasure, the crazier the adventure gets. Every possible big name comedian they could throw in has a role, and the film did so well that it screened at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood for two years straight.

Star Power: Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Jonathan Winters, Jimmy Durante, Peter Falk, Sid Caesar, Buddy Jackett, Ethel Merman, Jerry Lewis, Buster Keaton

rent it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world  
Ocean's 11 (1960): Casino Walk Thru - YouTube
Ocean’s 11 (1960)

You may be familiar with the modern Ocean films (Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and 8) but have you seen the original? Ocean’s 11 (1960) is part heist film, part buddy film, part holiday film and all fun. I love to watch it as a time travel trip back to 1960s Las Vegas but the cast is the biggest draw. It’s the ultimate Rat Pack film with all the principal members including Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop.

Star Power: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Cesar Romero, Joey Bishop, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine

rent ocean's 11 (1960) rent ocean's eleven rent ocean's twelve ocean's thirteen rent ocean's 8  
How The West Was Won - Trailer - YouTube
How the West Was Won (1962)

This sweeping epic of a Western has one of the most impressive cast of actors. How the West Was Won (1962) is all about the number three. You have three directors (John Ford, Henry Hathaway, and George Marshall), it’s shot in almost triptych style with a three-strip Cinerama process, and it tells the story of one family over three generations. It has one of the biggest casts of the era but all the stars have their moment in the spotlight.

Star Power: Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, James Stewart, George Peppard, Gregory Peck, Karl Malden, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Eli Wallach, Lee J. Cobb, Thelma Ritter, Walter Brennan

rent how the west was won  
The Longest Day (2/3) Movie CLIP - The British Invasion (1962) HD - YouTube
The Longest Day (1962)

The epic war drama The Longest Day was an impressive undertaking in production and storytelling. I’ve always been astonished and a bit overwhelmed by how many notable actors are in this film. Shot on location, the film tells the story of the Normandy landings of D-Day during WWII. It chronicles the story from both sides and relied on Cornelius Ryan’s book of the same name as well as the D-Day veterans who lived to tell the tale and served as consultants on the movie.

Star Power: John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger, Peter Lawford, Sean Connery, Robert Ryan, Mel Ferrer, Richard Burton, Robert Wagner, Eddie Albert

Dirty Dozen (1967) Official Trailer - Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes World War 2 Movie HD - YouTube
The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Last but not least, director Robert Aldrich’s WWII film The Dirty Dozen is a must-see classic. It’s action-packed, violent, and features some fantastic performances from a motley crew of characters. It chronicles the tale of a group of convicts, sentenced to death or decades of hard labor, who are redeemed by being sent on a mission to destroy a stash of goods the Nazis have hidden in a small villa.

Star Power: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas

rent the dirty dozen  

Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past, or find her on Twitter @RaquelStecher and @ClassicFilmReadFacebook, and Instagram.

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No one enters a marriage thinking to themselves: “Well, I’ll give this a shot, but the next time I do this I’ll probably be better at it.” Marriage is generally viewed by the couple as a one-shot deal. It’s not like golf: the more rounds you do, the better you get at it. You find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. End of story.

But what if that’s not the end of the story? As many people know only too well, marriages fail, and at a pretty regular rate. So there you are in the middle of your life, starting over. After the initial shock wears off and your life settles into a routine that’s different from before but still sort of the same, the thought starts to occur to you that it would be nice to not be alone. It would be nice to have a person.

The romance that goes with that second time around is a different kind of love story. The principal characters are not beautiful 20-somethings with lives full of promise ahead of them. The principals are middle-aged, often a bit worn down by life, carrying their own disappointments and failings quite clearly around in their heads.

But guess what? While maybe not as sexy, these middle-age romance stories are richer and more interesting stories for exactly these reasons. The person who fails and tries again is always more interesting than the person who tries and succeeds. We’re going to look at my favorite movies that deal with this topic—all rich, wonderful, realistic, and, as a result, even more romantic.

 Starting Over (1979)
Starting Over (1979) Trailer - YouTube

This is one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time because, while the story is charming, the film contains two astonishing performances no one really saw coming. Throughout the 1970s, Burt Reynolds was the Hollywood male sex symbol, know for his manly man, good-old-boy performances in movies such as Deliverance (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), and Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Going completely against type, Reynolds plays a neurotic writer for an airline magazine who lives in Boston. He even has a panic attack in the mattress section of a department store.

Even better than Reynolds is an utterly brilliant Candice Bergen as his ex-wife. Bergen turns in one of the best comic performances in the last half-century of film here, playing an obnoxiously self-centered singer/songwriter who can neither sign nor write good songs. Jill Clayburgh is beguiling as the meek and lonely woman who Reynolds grudgingly falls in love with. If you haven’t seen this movie in a while, it is just as fresh, funny, and delightful as when it opened 40 years ago. Rent it.

Rent Starting Over (1979)  The American President (1995)
The American President Official Trailer #1 - Martin Sheen Movie (1995) HD - YouTube

In the history of our nation, only two men have entered the White House as bachelors. First, there was James Buchanan (1857-1861), who was probably gay, and Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and then 1893-1897), who was not. Cleveland got married while in office to a woman who was 27 years his junior. (Fun fact: the Baby Ruth candy bar was not named for Babe Ruth, but for Cleveland’s oldest of five children, Ruth.) This movie poses the question: what happens when the President decides to date? How does that work?

Directing a script by noted screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Rob Reiner puts together a delightful romantic movie about a widowed single dad (Michael Douglas) dating an exceptionally attractive and smart middle-aged woman (Annette Bening)—he is the most powerful man in the world and she is a lobbyist who isn’t particularly pleased with his politics. This movie is a textbook example of how to breathe extraordinary life into a standard premise. It’s fresh at every turn.

The American President (1995)  As Good As It Gets (1997)
As Good As It Gets - Trailer - YouTube

This movie has a couple of elements that should, under reasonable circumstances, make me dislike it.

1) Ugly and unpleasant older man wins the heart of a beautiful younger woman.

2) Helen Hunt.

And yet… I loved it and still do. Jack Nicholson is perfect as an ugly, unpleasant older man who ends up transforming himself and falling in love. Helen Hunt is completely believable and appealing as a struggling waitress and single mother to a chronically-ill son. Greg Kinnear and Cuba Gooding, Jr. turn in outstanding supporting performances as well. This is an exceptionally well-acted film, a fact that I attribute almost entirely to James Brooks’ masterful direction. The acting here is so real, compassionate, and close to the bone that you can’t help but go along for the ride. Bravo!

Rent As Good As It Gets (1997)  It’s Complicated (2009)
IT'S COMPLICATED (2009) - Official Movie Trailer - YouTube

This is my favorite Nancy Meyers movie. Normally, that is the kind of compliment that could be construed as “damning with faint praise” because normally I’m not a big fan of her movies. They tend to be about upper-middle-class or rich white people whose problems seem trivial and self-made. In this movie, for instance, Meryl Streep plays a divorced mom who lives in an enormous house in expensive Santa Barbara that she is expanding, all while running…a bakery? On what planet would this realistically happen?

But this movie I actually really like, mainly due to a fantastic performance by Alec Baldwin, as Streep’s ex-husband. While being politely and chastely wooed by her architect (Steve Martin), Streep falls back into an affair with a feral and lusty Baldwin, who is miserable in his second marriage to a much younger hottie (Lake Bell). You know what? It IS complicated. Baldwin makes this somewhat ludicrous premise completely work. There are not many movies where Meryl Streep has the lead in the movie and is outshined by her co-star. This is one of those cases, and it totally works.

Rent It’s Complicated (2009)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Official Trailer - YouTube

Seven completely unrelated British pensioners independently decide to move into a beautiful luxury retirement complex where their pensions will go further and the weather is better. One small problem with this genius scheme: the retirement complex is actually a shabby, rundown hotel in India where nothing works quite right. The unlikely love stories that unfold here are utterly winning and inspiring. A fantastic cast as well: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Dev Patel as the relentlessly optimistic and overwhelmed manager of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “Everything will be alright in the end. And if it isn’t alright, then it is not the end.” One of the best lines ever in a movie. It is that spirit that imbues this film and makes it relentlessly watchable.

Rent The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)  

David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and the BBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.

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