One of Newman’s best roles…in my humble opinion. OK — it also happens to be the role he probably looks his best in. Does that have something to do with it — you betcha! Playing a two-bit street kid, one of his petty crimes finally lands him in a prison…and part of a chain gang. Not wanting to be there, he makes trying to escape his new occupation…getting caught and sent back almost as often as he attempts to flee. Newman is not the only reason to watch here…George Kennedy won a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as one of the fellow inmates. And the other prisoners are also great…befriending Newman, cheering him on as he flees, and welcoming him back as he returns. Not a movie for all people…ladies, be where. This is the antithesis of a “chick flick.” But, then again, you can always mute it and just look at Mr. Newman!

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A fun, entertaining holiday movie with star of stars, Barbara Stanwyck. The premise seems a bit silly, but trust me, it works. Stanwyck plays a food/homemaking columnist (remember — this is the 1940s) who cannot do anything domestic herself…just write about it. But, low and behold, she is forced to become the domestic goddess when her editor makes her practice what she preaches. Stanwyck excelled in comedies like this…low key and very smart. She’s always excellent but in scatterbrained roles like this one, she’s priceless. Not just a holiday movie either — good all year around!

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If you can get past the annoying whistling (of the soldiers whistling a certain march, which is the movie’s theme music), this David Lean epic is one of film’s true masterpieces. William Holden stars as the tough, bitter Shears, who has been imprisoned in a POW camp for months when British colonel Alec Guinness and his troops are captured and sent to the camp. For me, this movie is one of the few large-scale epics I ever liked, mostly because it’s not too corny and sentimental. Don’t get me wrong…I like sentiment as much as the next gal but I prefer it in a romantic comedy or a melodrama. Corny romance and dialogue always seemed out of place, to me, in an epic. The one question I have, though, with the film is the ending. Not the finale—which ends with the train scene of all train scenes—but, rather just the second half of the film. After Holden’s character escapes from the camp, he finds himself enjoying his freedom. When he is propositioned by superiors to take them back to the camp so they can bomb a bridge the Japanese are building (with the help of Guinness’ soldiers), he reluctantly agrees. Reluctantly or not, I would never have agreed. We are told (through previous dialogue and through a montage of shots during the escape) that escaping the camp was an arduous ordeal and we already know that life inside the camp was hell. Nothing or no one would make me go back to hell once I got out, so I never really do get why Holden agrees. But, alas, if he didn’t there would not be a movie. And what a great movie it is! And that’s not just my opinion—ask the Academy. Winner of seven Oscars, including ones for Guinness and Lean.

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A fledging office clerk finds out the hard way that getting to the top of the corporate ladder is not easy after he falls for a lady he is unknowingly sharing with his boss. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. It’s not the plot that makes The Apartment a masterpiece…it’s Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray and director Billy Wilder all working together to make one of the best comedies ever. Or is it one of the best dramas ever? Some of the funniest movie moments ever are captured in this film…just as some of the darkest are as well. Before this, Wilder had proven he could excel at any genre of filmmaking…out-and-out comedies, dramas, thrillers, romances, and even other dark comedies (Stalag 17). With The Apartment, Wilder really sealed his mastery of cinema by combining most of those genres to make one fabulous film. Sadly, this is his last great public or critical success. Talk about going out with a bang!

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For film noir-buffs, this is as close to the Father of the genre as you can get. For a genre that came into its own AFTER WWII, this 1941 film still fits the “noir” bill even though it was made before we even entered into the War. Like other noir titles made before the end of the War, specifically Otto Preminger’s 1944 classic Laura and Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (also from 1944), The Maltese Falcon did a good job of molding what the noir genre was to become in its heyday…the 1950s. The first appearance of Bogart as legendary Hammett private dick Sam Spade, this also is the first pairing of Bogart with director John Huston, with whom Bogie made five subsequent films. Mary Astor plays possibly the first ever true femme fatale on screen…she’s cold, seductive and very conniving. Plot wise…Spade gets entangled with Astor after his partner dies investigating something for her. Astor turns out to be much more than an innocent victim. What Astor needed Spade’s partner to investigate was bogus and the true crime involves a golden falcon…which those who want are willing to do ANYTHING to get. A true noir classic!

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A dark, yet I’m sure realistic look at Hollywood in the 1950s through the eyes of a director, writer and actress. Kirk Douglas stars as the son of a vicious and unloved Hollywood studio head who even has to have his son bribe people to come to his funeral. His son, idealistic at first, soon has the movie business corrupt and harden him, just as it had done to his father. Told in a series of three flashbacks from each of the main players in Douglas’ life (the writer, the director and the actress), it is a well-done film that didn’t hold back any punches when it came to the truth about the movie business and its players.

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Fun and pure entertainment, this film won not only audiences around the world with its grifts and cons, but it won the Academy over as well, taking home the Best Picture Oscar. Newman and Robert Redford are back together (after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, along with director George Roy Hill (also a Butch Cassidy alum), for some high stakes shenanigans. The duo play two small-time conmen looking for that one magic job that will move them into the “con” hall of fame and set them up for life. A clever script and great performances by all…including Robert Shaw as one of the con-ees…makes this movie one of the best in its class.

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One of the most romantic films ever put on celluloid; this film has been copied, remade, emulated, talked about and cried over since its release. The story originated as Love Affair, a 1939 film directed by Leo McCarey and starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Then came this 1957 film, re-directed by McCarey. Then came Sleepless in Seattle, which was a pseudo-remake, followed by 1994’s Love Affair, which was back to being a traditional remake…just updated for the latter part of the 20th Century. Why all of these retellings? Well, it’s a good story and as close to a perfect romance as you can get. There’s everything here…comedy, tragedy, high drama, passion, sex appeal, tears, etc. Out of all of the versions, this one reigns supreme. Why? Two words: Cary Grant. Not to slight Deborah Kerr. She’s excellent here, but come on. It’s Cary Grant.

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Well, the wait is finally over for one of the last remaining hold-outs of DVD conversion. Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession is out of DVD…and a Criterion Collection edition, no less. A masterpiece of classic cinema, Magnificent Obsession is one of the best melodramas ever filmed. And Sirk’s use of color and light enhances every second of this one! RUN, do not walk, to your local store and buy or rent. It is a MUST see.

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When a wealthy and ultra-conservative banker’s son (James Stewart) falls for his secretary (Jean Arthur)…a stable girl from a flighty yet fun family…comedy ensues. Lionel Barrymore steals the show as Arthur’s happy-go-lucky grandfather. Based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, this film won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director (Frank Capra). Not Capra’s best work but a fun film to watch for good, entertaining amusement.

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