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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A true, classic tearjerker that makes other melodramas look like cutesy comedies. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne star as young lovers who experience hardship after hardship, usually leaning on the other for support. First, shortly after their honeymoon, Dunne’s character miscarries and finds out she will not be able to get pregnant again. Then, they have a series of adoption disappointments, finally ending with them getting a child. During all of this, Grant’s newspaperman character has occupational/financial ups and downs (mostly downs). Just when the adoption seems to be going through, his career setbacks almost jeopardize the whole thing. And, it does not end there…yes, I know it’s hard to believe but there is even more heartache. Why, you might ask, would I recommend this film? Well, many people love tearjerkers and, like I said, weepers do not get any better than this. And also, it is a good story with two solid performances by Grant and Dunne (who usually work together in romantic comedies…such as My Favorite Wife and The Awful Truth) and directed by legendary filmmaker George Stevens. So, hunker down on the couch with a large box of tissues for this one.

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Sometimes a movie comes and changes your world. I would like to say that this movie made me a better person, but I think that would be a fantasy. It did, though, move me. It reaffirmed my faith in movies and moviemaking and acting. No action here. No sex. No blockbuster styling or CGI. Just a touching story that is perfectly acted, simply directed, and one of the best movies I have seen all year…if not even longer than that. The main character here is Walter, a stuck-in-a-rut Connecticut college professor and widower who craves some “music” (meant both figuratively and literally) in his life. We see him in the beginning taking piano lessons. He’s not that good…but we can tell he wants to keep trying. He is a complacent person who we can tell is looking for something. But, what? He is so complacent he even balks at going to NYC to deliver a paper he co-authored (though he had little to do with it, apparently). In NYC, he finds a couple living in his apartment. This couple is Walter’s salvation. They are the “music” he has been looking for. I’m making it sound like Walter’s change is overnight. It is not. He’s a middle-aged man who is set in his ways and it takes time and energy to get him out of his rut. Though Walter’s transformation is a positive change, this movie does not paint everything in a rose-colored light. This is a tough world…dirty and stark. Walter’s awakening is just one ray of sunshine. But, what a ray it is! If there is a movie to change your world, this one just might be it.

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All I had heard about this movie is that it’s about a man who gets younger, rather than older. And that is an important part of the film…but it is far from the crux of the film. The film, at its true heart, is a love story, which is well-done, not contrived and very well plotted. This surprised me for several reasons. David Fincher is not exactly the “go to” guy for your Hollywood love story. He’s a action/thriller/gritty/dark director who’s films always have an edge. Here, I feel Fincher’s edge is the fantasy of the aging backwards gimmick, since the love story he creates is simple and gentle…a touching masterpiece of on-screen romance. This is the type of love story you would see with Tracy and Hepburn…magical and real. It reminded me a little of William Wyler’s Roman Holiday, which, like this film is known more for another aspect of the film (in Wyler’s case, his movie is known more for being a comedy) than for the more touching, more vivid true sentiment of the film. Fincher’s fantasy aspect adds emphasis to the love story, just like Wyler’s comic aspects of Roman Holiday accentuate the doomed relationship between Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. In addition to this multi-layered story, the performances by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have never been better…especially Pitt, who convinces us every step of the way that he really is a man who was born old and will die young.

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