Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, January 11, 2016

Movies (Part 1)

Am I showing my age by calling this movies? What if I said Flicks? Perhaps Edison's or Magic Lantern Shows? Whatever the jargon we want to assign to them at various decades, I admit I like them.

The photo that opens this little spiel is of the Warner Bros. Theater in West Chester, Pennsylvania, as it looked in 1948. I would have been seven that year and the Warner was one of three movie houses I frequented during my boyhood years. The other two were the Auditorium in Coatesville, and most of all, the Roosevelt in Downingtown. After all, for most of that time I lived in Downingtown. The Auditorium and Warner were First Run houses and your big A Movies played there. The Roosevelt featured second runs and B Pictures. I saw most of the old Universal Monsters at the Roosevelt along with a lot of old-time Oat Operas
(Westerns) staring Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and others of that ilk, as well as Gene Autry & Roy Rogers.

That is the interior of the Roosevelt on the right.  Sadly, although the buildings still exist, the Roosevelt and Warner are no longer showing films. The Warner is a hotel and last I saw it the Roosevelt was vacant and for sale.

But I really didn't intend for this to be a nostalgia piece, only a kind of review of some films I saw over the years that I liked. I also don't intend this to be considered a critique, even though in a galaxy far, far away I once was a critic, both of movies, live theater and books. I did movie and theater pieces for "Philadelphia After Dark" and book reviews for "Media & Methods" as well as some other places. I'm not a big fan of critics, however. I think people should make up their own mind about such things. Like what you like and dislike what you will, although I would suggest you also think about the films you view and consider why you like or dislike them. I don't mind reviews that give me a clue to what I may see in a film, but I am careful about the judgments of their worth and meaning as given by the critic. So All I want to do is mention some films I enjoyed a great deal and tell you what they were about without any spoilers, and let you decided if you care for them upon seeing.

I must warn I have some odd tastes in films. For example, let me explain some movies I saw in the past that I particularly like, but other people may find a little ...uh...bizarre.

For instance, "The Dark Backward, even the title is a bit strange and the film even stranger. I suppose this is something in the line of David Lynch's world (and I do also like David Lynch films). The movie came out in 1991 and was written and directed by Adam Rifkin. Rifkin is probably best known for directing "MouseHunt" and "Underdog",, movies somewhat removed from "The Dark Backward". He did this particular film in 1991 and it was named one of the ten best films of the year by the New York Post, although other critics weren't so kind. Neither was the public and it did very, very poorly at the box-office. Nonetheless, I liked the thing, which shows you how weird I can be.

How can I explain it? The main character, played by Judd Nelson, is a garbage man and would-be stand up comic, except his act is really garbage itself and he is going nowhere until one morning he wakes up and discovers he is growing a third arm. This new appendage is square in the center of his back. (Of course this can be handy for when he gets an itch between the shoulder blades.) His sudden acquisition does land him in a club where he becomes a featured act accompanied by his best friend, Gus (another trash man), who plays an accordion he is never without. From this point the story begins to be a bit strange.  Don't dismiss this as a bunch of amateur nobodies. Besides Nelson the movie stars Bill Paxton, Wayne Newton, Lara Flynn Boyle and James Caan.

Another film I saw several years ago that I liked a lot is "The Legend of 1900", a picture
written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore and released in 1998.  The 1900 legend is not about the year, but is the main character's name, as well as the year he was born. He was found as a newborn in a box aboard a luxury liner named the Virginian and destined to live his entire life about the ship. As he grows, he becomes a fabulous pianist, plays with the ship's orchestra and has a very exciting piano duel against Jelly Roll Morton, the immortal New Orleans Jazz man. I don't want to say much more because I don't want to spoil anything, but I feel it is a very beautiful film.

Now one of my all-time favorite films, one I have viewed a number of times and thought about often, is Frank and Eleanor Perry's version of the John Cheever short story, "The Swimmer".   It is something of a tour de force by Burt Lancaster, who stars in it. (He also has a nude scene, so be warned.)

I find the movie psychologically brilliant. I also find it profoundly sad.

Lancaster plays fit and tanned Ned Merrill. In the beginning he appear at an affluent Connecticut couple's swim party and while sipping his cocktail he observes how the swimming pools of these well-to-do homes spread across the valley like "a river" to his own distant house. He decides to swim home and dives into the pool, emerges from the other side and begins his odyssey across the valley and through his mind and time. What seems fairly straight forward at first, a middle-aged man proving he still has some youth by this marathon swim soon turns into something much deeper. One hint that something more than just a day in his life is occurring is close observation will let you see how part way along the summer day has actually become one of autumn. You really can't get this film on one viewing. neither it's meaning or out of your head.

One last film I'd like to mention here that I like a lot is "The Village".  This is a 2004 film by M. Night Shyamalan. It was not well received by the critics, dismissed by them as another twist ending gimmick by the director. Worse, the critics felt the twist was revealed too early and thus destroyed the effect.

Personally I disagree. I feel these critics missed the point. I don't consider the twist as the central part of the plot at all. I say the point being made is that we cannot escape evil in this world, that it will always find us out and we need to learn to face it, not hide away and try through fairytale to protect out children from it.  The Village Elders don't see this anymore than the critics did, but the blind girl Ivy Elizabeth Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the one who can face and see reality.

I find it a beautiful movie to watch.

I would also note it was filmed not far from where I live and nearby where I often walk. The filming was done in fields along side "The Devil's Road", which runs between Centerville, Delaware and Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This road is legendary in my neck of the woods. Sometimes called "the Valley", driving Cossart Road (my photograph of it on left) at night is something of a rite of passage among teenagers. Its haunted hills were a perfect setting to make this film.

I also say the production company marketed the picture wrong. The ads and trailers presented it as a horror film, a monster flick. The emphasis on the "Monster" really led to false expectations on the part of the audience and as a result it proved a let down and anti-climatical. If it had been marketed differently the reception would have been much greater in my option.

When I do Movies (Part 2), I will be talking about films I saw for the first time in 2015 and I will point out one of these that was grossly mis-marketed as well.

1 comment:

Tamela's Place said...

Hello Larry,

A lot of good movie memories I suppose! I work at the Library I will have to see if we have some of these oldies and watch one! It was good hearing from you :)