Monday, December 29, 2008

It's About Time

Hi there,

Hope your holidays were happy. I know, I know, they're not quite over yet, which is exactly why I thought I'd take a moment to offer up a few "timely"suggestions on movies you might enjoy watching as we head into the New Year.

All of the following movies center around 'time' in some fashion or another. Why time? Because New Year's Eve is all about time - from watching the hands of the clock move towards the midnight hour to watching some really good movies about time!

While some of these films will never make anyone's Top Ten list, each has something unique to offer. Chances are you’ve seen some - if not most of them, but I would bet there are at least one or two you’ve missed.

So here we go – Movies about time.

When Harry Met Sally – ends on New Year's Eve, which certainly makes it a candidate for New Year’s Eve watching. But it is also relevant in that it follows two people through a dozen or more years of their lives. If you love Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and/or Nora Ephron’s witty dialogue this movie is for you. The plot is basically this: Harry and Sally meet fresh out of college. She finds him annoying. He’s oblivious. Years later they meet again. They become friends. Then best friends, which works really well, until they have to deal with the question of whether or not they might ruin a good thing by taking their friendship to the next level. The plot is predictable, but who cares?

And here’s another time-related movie. Groundhog Day (1993)is a fanciful tale of a TV weatherman with a major cause of deja. Bill Murray stars as disagreeable sort of fella who re-lives the same day (Groundhog day) over and over again until he gets it right. Andi McDowell is Murray’s love interest. She, and the rest of the cast are perfectly cast – especially a character actor by the name of Stephen Tobolowsky who makes the part of nerdy insurance salesman Ned Ryerson his own. Directed by Harold Ramis, this one is a must-see. (P.S. Look for Murray’s brother as a local Puxatony official.)

Back to the Future (1985) – You’ve no doubt seen this one, but it may be time for a second look. Michael J. Fox takes us back to the 50's - and it's a great ride. Avoid the sequels.

1985 was a great year for time travel movies. Not only did we get Back to the Future, but a gem of a movie called Peggy Sue Got Married. Forget the fact that Nicholas Cage looks like Kathleen Turner’s son rather than her husband, the plot is warm and witty and nostalgic, and it’s just fun to watch. Look for Jim Carey in one of his earliest roles.

84 Charing Cross Road (1987) stars Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins as, respectively, a woman who loves to read, and a man who runs a book shop. The movie takes the viewer from the 1950s through the 1980s, and how these two people , separated by time and space (she in NYC, he in London) grow to admire and care about each other solely through their letters. This small movie is wonderfully cast and beautifully filmed. The set decorations are perfect, and the story is true. I interviewed author Helene Hanff shortly before she passed away. This was her story, lovingly told in her best-selling book by the same name. While the movie romanticised the relationship between Hanff and book-seller Frank Doel, Ms. Hanff said theirs was more of a friendship, based upon a love of books. I adore this little movie and hope you will as well. But be forwarned: after watching it there's a good chance you’ll want to head to your favorite antiquarian book store and buy something old, worn and bound in leather. I know I did.

Soylent Green (1973) is an entirely different type of movie – certainly not what you’d call a ‘fun’ flick, but certainly thought-provoking. Unfortunately, the Technicolor palate has not aged well, but if you can get past that, I think you’ll find the future seen from 1973 eyes, to be an intoxicating/distressing mix of predictions. I was never a Charlton Heston fan, but the movie succeeds despite him. Edward G. Robinson is marvelous, particularly in a key scene where the two men dine on - - - well, I’m not going to spoil it for you. But it’s well worth watching.

Random Harvest (1942) is one of my all-time favorite movies. Greer Garson is glorious, and Ronald Coleman does a wonderful job of taking on the look and feel of an amnesiac (a casualty of WW1) who looses years of his life, gains a new one, and then … well, here’s another case of my not wanting to spoil it for you. I adore this film. It’s as romantic as they come.

If you’ve seen all of the above, and yearn for something new and a bit different, you’ll want to rent Run Lola Run (1998). This German film combines animation with ‘regular’ film, and is a story built around a critical twenty-minute time frame. Because it is so (I hate this phrase, so forgive me) “cutting edge” in its execution, you may hate this movie. On the other hand….

Brigadoon is certainly a safer choice. This 1954 musicial stars Gene Kelly and Van Johnson as two New Yorkers who go on a hunting trip to Scotland, only to discover a town that appears once every one-hundred years. It could have been called “The Big Sleep” – but I suppose that name was already taken. All kidding aside, Lerner and Lowe’s score, Gene and Cyd Charisse’s dancing, and the fanciful plot make this one of the classic musicals of its time.

Now here’s one you may not have seen – although there’s a good chance you read Peter Mayle’s best selling memoir. It’s called A Year in Provence. This was never in ‘theatrical release’ but rather a four-part 1993 series on PBS. It stars John Thaw, Lindsay Duncan, Jean-Pierre Delage – names which are probably unfamiliar to you. But please, don’t let that stop you from watching this wonderful piece. It’s the tale of an advertising executive and his accountant wife who leave the rat race behind and move to the south of France where they set up housekeeping on an old, drafty cottage wreaking with charm and possibilities. The story revolves around them, their guests, the workmen who work on their home and the townspeople. But the region itself plays a major part in the story. You’ll want to book the next flight to Provence after watching it. It’s funny and charming and thoughtful and just plain wonderful. Each season has its own tape – or DVD. Be sure and watch them in the right sequence.

And finally, two time-related love stories: Same Time Next Year (1978) and Somewhere in Time (1980).

Same Time Next Year is the tale of two people who meet over dinner at a California Inn, and fall in love. Over the next thirty years or so they meet once a year, for a romantic weekend, that draws them together, despite the fact that they are each married to someone else. This romantic comedy stars Alan Alda and Burstyn, but time is an ever-present co-star, as we see how
Not only their characters change over the years, but how we as a nation are effected by the changing times.

Somewhere in Time is an imperfect movie, but is still well worth watching. For starters there’s that haunting musical theme, and then there’s Christopher Reeve – looking strong and healthy and the ever-lovely Jane Seymour. This time-travel movie is about a playwright who falls in love with a seventy-year-old photograph of an actress. So strong is his attraction to this photograph that he actually wills himself back in time, and winds up at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel where the now ‘young’ actress is performing. You have to throw away any thoughts about what is possible and just go with the flow.

And with that I want to thank you for reading my blog. May 2009 bring all of us peace, joy and good health. Take care, and let me hear from you.

Till the next time….

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