Another Oscar Wilde play comes to life…this time in one that is funny and charming and lively and sometimes even wicked… Set in late 19th Century London, the story revolves around an up-and-coming young politician who gets blackmailed by a “lady” into changing his opinion on an upcoming parliamentary bill. She has some evidence of how he got his early influence…and is willing and ready to use it if he doesn’t meet her demands. OK, so that’s the main plot, but as Wilde always does, the plot is only the beginning of the story. The best parts here are the supporting players and the smaller storylines about romances and the search for husbands, etc. Those are the juicy parts that offer the best snippets of Wilde-esque dialogue, innuendo and puns. One of the leaders in this smaller storylines is Rupert Everett, who plays a cad who has made it is goal in life never to marry. His story interweaves perfectly with the main storyline about the blackmail (he is friends with the politician and used to date the lady who is blackmailing him) but on its own, Everett’s story is a perfectly solid work. His entire character could be pulled out and turned into a full-length play or film, since there is so much meaty dialogue and so many stories to tell about him. If you have liked Wilde’s work in the past (such as A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windemere’s Fan’s, and most notably The Importance of Being Earnest), An Ideal Husband is guaranteed to please and if you’ve never seen anything written by Wilde, this is the one to start with. Trust me…you will want to see them all!

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Why is this considered a love story? The two main characters hardly even touch until the VERY ending…so doesn’t that make it the antithesis of a romance? Based on Tennessee Williams’ drama, the dialogue says it all here. These two characters, Brick and Maggie, have so much passion…so much desire inside of them, it seems to be eating them alive. Yet, they also cannot be more distance to each other. Their passion is brooding… brewing…boiling under the surface… patiently waiting to explode. It’s more of a simmering romance than we’re used to today and that simmering element, I feel, increases the desire in the audience as well. We are not thrown right into a loving, uncomplicated relationship. We have to get to know these characters and understand them first. And this is fine with us, because they’re Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor and we don’t mind having to spend time with them. So, grab a sweetie and pull up a chair for this one. Something just might boil inside of you…

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Annette Bening is just plain classy…as a woman, as an actress, as a working mother, etc. Her role in Being Julia is about a classy stage actress in 1930s London. Does the character resemble the real life woman? Well, honestly I don’t know since I am not on personal terms with Ms. Bening. But, I’m assuming, just on the basis that both are famous, well-respected actresses, that there are some parallels. Bening plays Julia Lambert, a spoiled, middle-aged West End (London’s “Broadway”) goddess used to getting her way. She is in a sexless marriage with her husband, played by Jeremy Irons, who also is her stage producer. Their marriage is more of a matter of convenience and business than one of love. So, when she takes up with a younger man, the void of love in her life is filled. Or is it? I know—sounds boring and more like an installment of Masterpiece Theatre than a captivating film. But, boring is the last thing this film is. Trust me. And, that’s mostly due to Bening and her marvelous performance. She brings light and air into Julia…humor when necessary and a sense of doom when called for. In the film, Julia is questioned on whether she is being true to her emotions or if she is just “acting.” I, for one, never knew the answer to that and really didn’t care. Bening is so convincing as Julia that the lines become intertwined between “real life” and “the stage.”

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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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A great movie that actually makes its audience think. I know — THE HORROR, THE HORROR. We have to THINK! A tough, hard film, Doubt is superbly acted and scripted. Why is it hard? Well, it deal with one of our most taboo subjects — priests and young boys and doing more than sipping the alter wine together. Meryl Streep places a nun running a school in the early 1960s. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the attached church’s priest. There is some suspicion about him with the alter boys, but Streep doesn’t have any proof. She just has her doubts. I walked out of the theater thinking I had just seen a good movie and that would be the end of it…but it stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did he or didn’t he? Did Streep’s nun do the right thing? What would have been a better solution? Etc… Sadly, most movies today don’t even make your brain click on. So, when one comes around where it keeps your thought processes going for days…it’s a keeper!

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An American businessman (Cary Grant) visiting London falls in love with a London stage actress (Ingrid Bergman). The only problem is that he is married…or is he? This confusion leads to a hilarious ending of mistaken identity and comical twists. This is Grant and Bergman’s second pairing (the first being 1946’s Notorious). Years have not affected this duo’s chemistry at all, allowing them to portray characters just as passionate and in love as they did over a decade earlier.

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A classic Hitchcock film that has a perfect cast but somehow doesn’t get the due it deserves. Made at the end of what I would call one of Hitchcock’s “off” periods (his biggest stinker Under Capricorn comes right before this one in 1949 and in 1951, Hitchcock makes Strangers on a Train which saves his ailing career). This film features many of the trademarks Hitchcock aficionados have come to know and love in his later films…the “wronged” man, the love interest, fair amounts of humor for comic relief, and a thrilling ending. So, why is it not up there with Rear Window and North by Northwest? Well, it’s not glitzy. Even though it’s about the theatre industry in London, it doesn’t shine like Hitchcock’s better-known works. I would say that has to do mostly with the acting. All of the performances here seem adequate but not stunning. Wyman and Sim are spot-on when playing the father-daughter act, but aside from that, they all seem lost in the script. Regardless, it’s a must-see for all thriller fans!

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