There are two primary reasons why I shell out money each month for the privilege of cable television. One is having access to a range of baseball games during the spring and summer months. The other is Turner Classic Movies, otherwise known as TCM.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (the 1938 and 1951 versions). CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER. THE BISHOP’S WIFE. A CHRISTMAS STORY. These are among the holiday perennials: the movies that we savor watching and enjoying, the films that are the equivalent of a warm fire on a cold night and the automatic smile that comes when you are handed a steaming cup of hot apple cider.
At this moment in time, so many Americans seem to have overdosed on presidential politics and, in particular, the wave of negative advertising that dominated the recently concluded election. Nevertheless, as the year nears its close, two new films spotlight certain aspects of the lives and personalities of revered American presidents. They are Steven Spielberg’s LINCOLN, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, and Roger Michell’s HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, which features Bill Murray as Franklin Roosevelt.
One new film that is sure to be high on this year’s Oscar buzz list is David O. Russell’s SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. While the film is predictable, it also is insightful and extremely entertaining. Its characters are flawed but likable, and are ever so human.
Decades ago, you could watch any number of films-- dramas, action-adventures, Westerns, swashbucklers-- in which good was pitted against evil. There would be villains: men who were power-mad or consumed by greed, or who would readily commit violent acts. Ultimately, they would be quashed by heroes: men who were honest, stalwart, moral.
In so many Hollywood films of yesteryear, American soldiers and war veterans-- particularly those of the World War II era-- are depicted as valiant, well-adjusted warriors who have fought for their country. They smile, even if they are wounded. Upon coming home, they are ever-willing to be embraced by their loved ones while disappearing into the mainstream and getting on with their lives.
On rare occasion do I see a film that so challenges me, that has so much going on in it, that I come out of the theater thinking, “I must give this movie a second look.” One such film is CLOUD ATLAS, which I saw at the Toronto Film Festival back in September and which I will re-see upon its theatrical release.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE, the latest Clint Eastwood movie, is as predictable as, well, any Hollywood movie could be. For one thing, the good guys and bad guys in the film are clear cut and, if you are accustomed to the typical “and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” Hollywood scenario, you can pretty much figure out where this film is headed.
In all the years I’ve been attending the just-concluded Toronto Film Festival, I have never received so many emails from publicists alerting me to screenings or inviting me to attend media events or parties associated with specific films. There is a special sense of urgency to many of these emails, which feature phrases like “Film Alert,” “The Best Suspense Thriller at the Festival,” “Must-See Documentary,” Invite Reminder,” “Rising Norwegian Film Talent,” and “Exclusive Website premiere” in their subject lines.