Chris Miksanek: The Med City Movie Guy

 

 

 
     
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Let’s Talk Genres: Thanksgiving Films

 
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

No film can really capture the true Thanksgiving experience but these Turkey Day-themed movies, are as close as it’s going to get. So give thanks for these DVDs:

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) With Steve Martin and John Candy at their comic apexes, this one is charming and hilarious any time of year. Martin is a Madison Avenue advertising executive who couldn’t be more different than the traveling shower curtain ring salesmen (Candy) on whom he depends to get back to his family in Chicago for Thanksgiving. One of the best (and most touching) of the buddy/roadtrip genre. Rated R (for language).
 
Scent of a Woman (1992) Chris O’Donnell is a middle-class student financially over his head, so to get back home for Christmas, he works through his Thanksgiving break looking after a gruff, bitter, and blind retired Army officer (Al Pacino ) who’s bent on going out in style. The two set out on a wild weekend in New York City that transforms them both. Though nominated eight times, it is Pacino’s only Oscar-winning performance. Hoo-Ah. Rated R.
 
Home for the Holidays (1995) Holly Hunter, Charles Durning and Robert Downey Jr. star in this Jodie Foster-directed under-the-radar “dramedy” that features some touching moments, but more laugh-out-loud ones (even mealtime grace is funny). A must-see for those who haven’t. Rated PG-13.
 
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Broadway Danny Rose (1984) Two of comic legend Woody Allen’s best.
     In the first, an ensemble including Michael Caine, Barbara Hershey and the underrated Diane Wiest bring all of their neurotic baggage to a Thanksgiving celebration hosted by eldest sister Mia Farrow. Allen’s own story thread, more of an afterthought than integrated, is the funniest though aged artist Max Von Sydow probably has the best line when he says, “I don’t sell my work by the yard!” Rated PG-13.
     The story of Danny Rose, a pitiable talent manager who can’t seem to hit the big time, makes this list because of a hysterical helium-fueled scene in the hangar where the Macy’s Parade balloons are stored. Allen is on the run after being mistaken as mob moll Mia Farrow’s paramour. Second only to Annie Hall. Rated PG.
 
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Today also marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season and no film better handles the commercialization of that holiday than this one, which famously unfolds with a narrowly avoided catastrophe at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Corny at times, it’s a treat watching young Natalie Wood go from a hardened cynic to a true believer. Not rated.
 
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving movie? Visit the Facebook page and let’s continue the conversation.







 
 
Let’s Talk Genres: Elvis Movies

 
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

Elvis Presley made 33 films, which critics calculate collectively took about an hour and a half to write. Most were mere bobbysoxer sustenance; a few, however, were pretty good. Here are the five notable ones.

Jailhouse Rock (1957) Presley plays a happy-go-lucky construction worker imprisoned for accidentally killing a drunk he stops from beating a woman. Now embittered and on the outside, his merciless pursuit of musical stardom has turned him into a class-A jerk who alienates those who help him. Void emotion, he finds that success is empty without someone to share the joy.

King Creole (1958) From, I kid you not, Casablanca director Michael Curtiz; wise men say this is the best Elvis film. Having failed school, Presley takes a singing gig in a New Orleans club to the displeasure of a rival club’s mob-connected owner (Walter Matthau). Carolyn Jones (a/k/a/ Morticia Addams) plays the moll caught between them. Solid story, acting and a fractured father/son relationship reminiscent of Rebel Without a Cause.

Follow That Dream (1962) Elvis and his hillbilly family exploit a loophole to homestead a popular Florida beachfront where they establish a small fishing business. When it takes off the area attracts all kinds including some Detroit undesirables who park a mobile casino there. The best of the bad Elvis films.  

Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970) One of the first rockumentaries made, it documents the opening of Elvis’ engagement at what would be his Las Vegas home: The International Hotel, then the city’s largest. Great backstory footage at MGM studios and a high-quality concert performance.

This is Elvis (1981) Not strictly an Elvis movie, this pseudo-documentary is a mix of film and music mortared with cleverly-shot footage of actors. Contains some fun inside bits including the only authentic video of upstairs Graceland. A must for Elvis fans though others may say, “No thank you, no thank you very much.”

Do you have a favorite Elvis film? Visit the Facebook page and let’s continue the conversation.







 
 
Let’s Talk Genres: Vigilante Films 

 
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

“Do you believe in Jesus? You’re about to meet him.”

Is it in us all? Is it a base instinct that we suppress? Are we just one “violation” away from snapping or do we just think we are? Is that what explains our love, or vicarious satisfaction anyway, with vigilante movies?

C’mon, who doesn’t cheer when Paul Kersey doles-out some street justice in the classic Death Wish (or the modern version: Jodie Foster’s The Brave One)? What about the over-the-top The Exterminator, Kevin Bacon’s dark Death Sentence or Norm MacDonald’s spoof revenge film Dirty Work?

What’s your favorite vigilante/revenge film and why? Visit the Facebook page and let’s continue the conversation.







 
 
Let’s Talk Genres: Rockumentaries

Jack Flash sat on a candlestick. Seriously, what did you think would happen when you hire the Hells Angels to maintain order? 
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

Musicals have been around since the ’78s (record speed, that is, not year).

Rock-themed musicals, like The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, are a little more contemporary, though obviously more ephemeral (does anyone even remember the Monkees’ Head).

But what’s here to stay is the rockumentary. Their format is pretty basic. Act I: intro. Act II: behind the scenes set-up. Act III: concert.

The Who’s 1979 The Kids Are Alright and Led Zeppelin’s 1976 The Song Remains the Same are regarded as standards in some circles but they’re certainly not alone in the genre.

Here’re a few others sharing the stage.

Gimme Shelter (1970)
Perhaps the first and best of the rockumentary genre. An amazing film by the Maysles brothers — and, if you believe the rumor, a young George Lucas as one of the camera operators — documenting the fiasco that was 1969 The Rolling Stones’ free concert at the Altamont Speedway... the anti-Woodstock. But the most remarkable thing about Gimme Shelter is not the murder of concertgoer Meredith Hunter caught on film, but the image of the ever-slim 26-year-old Mick Jagger trying to maintain order over 300,000 people and a few dozen rogue Hells Angels allegedly hired for security. “Everybody just cool-out!”

The Last Polka (1984)
An underrated off-the-radar “mockumentary” —  This Is Spinal Tap sucks the oxygen out of the sub-genre —  supposedly a send-up of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz (itself a rockumentary of The Band). This one follows the career ups and down of Lutonian twosome, the Schmenge Brothers (John Candy and Eugene Levy as Yosh and Stan, respectively), the highlight of which is the tuba solo. Really.

Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1987)
A tribute by Keith Richards, if you must know. Follows the career of the father of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Chuck Berry with a culminating concert in St. Louis featuring Berry and many of those whom he influenced like Eric Clapton. Especially interesting commentary by Bruce Springsteen.

... and, of course, it bears repeating, Young@Heart.


And you? What bangs your head? Visit the Facebook page and let’s continue the conversation.







 
 
Let’s Talk Genres: Gangster Movies

  Edward G. Robinson in the 1931 classic, 'Little Caesar.' Pizza! Pizza!
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

Of all the movie genres, probably the most beloved is the gangster film. For decades it’s been a cinema staple —  starting with classics like Public Enemy (James Cagney) and Little Caesar (Edward G. Robinson) through to today’s blockbusters, most recently Denzel Washington’s American Gangster.

Among the genre are many classics like The Godfather (Marlon Brando, Al Pacino; D Francis Ford Coppola) and Casino (Robert De Niro; D. Martin Scorsese). Other outstanding films include: Goodfellas (Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta; D. Martin Scorsese), Donnie Brasco (Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Johnny Depp; D. Mike Newell), and The Untouchables (Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro; D. Brian De Palma).

There have even been some mob “spoofs,” only one of which is worth mentioning: Robin and the 7 Hoods (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby, Peter Falk, Edward G. Robinson; D. Gordon Douglas).

Precisely what is it about this genre that we find entertaining? Is it that there is some semblance of loyalty, order, or that the bad guys get their comeuppance?

All you stand-up guys and dolls, visit the Facebook page and let’s continue the conversation.







 
 
Let’s Talk Genres: Father’s Day

 
CHRIS MIKSANEK - THE MED CITY MOVIE GUY

Things Remembered, the personalized gift shop that’s a fixture in malls across the county, sponsored a survey last year of 1000 people asking them to name the best movie dads. Here’re the results:

   1. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) in National Lampoon’s Vacation
   2. Mufasa (voice of James Earl Jones) in The Lion King
   3. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) in It’s a Wonderful Life
   4. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) in To Kill a Mockingbird
   5. Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) in The Godfather
   6. Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones) in Star Wars
   7. Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) in Finding Nemo
   8. Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) in Mr. Mom
   9. Gil Buckman (Steve Martin) in Parenthood
   10. Jason ‘Furious’ Styles (Laurence Fishburne) in Boyz n the Hood

I’m OK with most of them though I would add a few favorites in no particular order:

   Ralphie’s dad, a/k/a “The Old Man,” (Darren McGavin) in A Christmas Story
   Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) in Back to School
   Carl Fox (Martin Sheen) in Wall Street
   Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) in Blast From the Past

Did I leave any out? Visit the Facebook page and let me know.





 
     


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© 2008, 2016 Chris Miksanek, The Med City Movie Guy
  Last updated: 2016 June 2
  Contact: chris @ miksanek.com