Sunday, February 26, 2017

Calculus and Chilaquiles

Film: Stand and Deliver
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

Years ago, before I was a teacher, I worked as a freelance writer and proofreader. It was a pretty cool job, but I wanted to do something more and different with my life. That’s relevant when today’s movie is Stand and Deliver. This is one of those “inspirational teacher” stories that says right in the beginning that it’s based on a true story. Fair enough. Good teacher, underprivileged kids and underserved community, Hollywood ending. Sometimes that’s what I need.

In this case, Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) is the teacher in question, who has given up his previous career to teach at the local high school. In this case, the local high school is one that is just about to lose its accreditation because of the failure of a great number of its students. Jaime is supposed to teach computers, but the school no longer has any computers and he’s instead turned into a math teacher.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oh, Jackie O

Film: Love Field
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Michelle Pfeiffer. When she’s good, she’s very good (a film like The Fabulous Baker Boys comes to mind), but most of the time, I find her kind of forgettable. I picked up a copy of Love Field some time ago, knowing that it would be a film I’d have to get to eventually, but not really thinking it was something I’d look forward to watching. Discovering that Dennis Haysbert is the costar worked in the film’s favor, though. I generally like Haysbert.

Love Field is about a Dallas housewife with the unlikely name of Lurene Hallett (Pfeiffer) and her obsession with Jackie Kennedy. On that fateful day in 1963, Lurene drives out to the airport to see the Kennedys arrive and misses her chance to speak to Jackie. Then, on the drive home, she finds out about Kennedy’s assassination. Having missed the chance to meet Jackie at the airport, Lurene decides to go to Kennedy’s funeral in Washington against the wishes of her husband Ray (Brian Kerwin).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Simon, Not So Pure

Film: Chapter Two
Format: Turner Classic Movies on rockin’ flatscreen.

I’ve had Chapter Two sitting on my DVR for just over two years. There are a lot of reasons I didn’t want to pull the trigger on it. I’m not in love with the work of Neil Simon for starters. I also generally don’t think a great deal of Marsha Mason as an actress; I find her generally unappealing and frustrating. Still, I had to get through it eventually, and removing the oldest movie has at least a psychological benefit.

Here’s the other thing about Marsha Mason, though. I’ve now seen three of her Best Actress-nominated performances. In The Goodbye Girl, she plays an aging, unsuccessful actress in a Neil Simon romantic comedy. In Only When I Laugh, she plays a recovering alcoholic actress trying to reestablish her relationship with her daughter in a Neil Simon dramedy. Wedged between those two performances is this one, where she plays a relatively successful stage actress in a romantic dramedy penned by Neil Simon. Are you sensing a pattern here? I sure as hell am. I wonder if Marsha Mason can do anything aside from playing a stage actress in a script written by Neil Simon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Horror: The Game

Film: The Game
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen.

The Game isn’t really a horror film at all despite my placing this as a part of watching horror movies on Wednesday. I’m kind of forced to label it thus, though, because it does appear on one of my horror lists. In reality, this is almost a pure psychological thriller, and it’s a pretty good one. This is something that more or less wants to sit the audience down and screw the viewers’ heads until the final credits roll. That’s pretty much it.

In this case, our main character/victim is Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas), a wealthy banker/investment manager type who has a very specific and regimented life. As the film starts, Nicholas is experiencing his 48th birthday. As it happens, he witnessed his father commit suicide on his 48th birthday, something that has haunted him since that day. His brother Conrad (Sean Penn) offers him a voucher for a game from a company called Consumer Recreation Services, telling him that the company changed his life completely.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nothing Hurts Like Family

Film: The Savages
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on rockin’ flatscreen.

My original plan for the past few days was to watch The Savages last Saturday. I ended up watching The Unsinkable Molly Brown instead because, well, my Blu-ray play crapped out on me. Worse, it wouldn’t turn on or open up, and the disc for The Savages was stuck inside. So here’s what I learned: If this happens to you, unplug the player from the outlet for one minute. Plug it back in, and without turning it on, just hit the eject button. It should pop open. As it happened, my player was fine; it just needed to be reset. So, now that things are working again, I could finally get around to the movie I had planned for three days ago.

I can’t say that I was thrilled with the prospect, honestly. I try to be as neutral as possible for as many films as I can, but there are some things that simply are going to either get me excited or cause me to have some misgivings. In the case of The Savages, my misgivings are twofold. First, I’ve never been a huge fan of Laura Linney. I don’t dislike her in particular; I’ve just never had much of an opinion of her one way or the other. Second, ever since his untimely and senseless death, I’ve been at least a little depressed every time I see Philip Seymour Hoffman. We were supposed to get decades more great movies out of him, and he pissed that away on us. It still hurts.