As the dust settles on The Academy Awards for another year, it’s time, once again, to take another trip into my cinematic archive. I know I say this every time but this edition of My Life In Film… really is quite eclectic. Disasters, epics, romance and yutes all convene to bring such varied movie treats. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business…
MY GIRL (1991)
After the huge global success of Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin was one of Hollywood’s hottest properties. In the space of just a couple of years he made some of the biggest well-loved films including this one where he plays Thomas, best friend to Anna Chlumsky‘s Vada Sultenfuss, a bright, intelligent girl prone to being a hypochondriac. When her mortician father, Harry (Dan Aykroyd) hires a new secretary in the form of Shelly (Jamie Lee Curtis) life in their small town will never be the same again. The two young leads are superb as they navigate their tricky early adolescence in a film that could quite easily have turned into a sickly melodrama. Be warned, though, there may be tears by the end.
WATCH IT FOR: She’s My Best Friend
THE FISHER KING (1991)
Jeff Bridges plays Jack, a popular New York talk radio DJ who, during one of his shows raging against the rise of the Yuppie, inadvertently inspires a man to go on a rampage in a local bar. Feeling dreadful remorse for the incident, Jack descends into a spiral of drink and pity where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with Parry (Robin Williams), a former professor who became mentally unbalanced and homeless after witnessing his wife being gunned down in the bar attack. Parry believes himself to be on an important quest to track down the Holy Grail, a quest that Jack finds himself assisting with as a way of seeking his own redemption. Director Terry Gilliam brings his dazzling visual style to this modern fable and delights us with fine performances from the two leads as well as an Oscar-winning turn from Mercedes Ruehl as Jack’s girlfriend.
WATCH IT FOR: Grand Central Station
EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987)
Based on the autobiographical novel by J.G. Ballard, Empire of the Sun is the story of Jim Graham (Christian Bale) who has his life turned upside down with the Japanese invasion of December 1941. Living a privileged life, Jim soon finds himself separated from his parents, captured and interred in a concentration camp where he finds a new way of living and surviving. Steven Spielberg has expertly crafted a stunning visual epic that takes a different look at the war and the people involved. With a supporting cast that features the likes of John Malkovich, Nigel Havers, Leslie Phillips and Miranda Richardson, this is one of Spielberg’s more underappreciated films that, given the scale and depth of it, should really be given more love.
WATCH IT FOR: Cadillac Of The Sky
THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)
In this slice of seventies paranoia Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells, an opportunistic television reporter who stumbles across a huge cover-up at a nuclear power plant. While covering a story on the use of alternative energy sources at the plant Wells, and her cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) are witness to an accident. Keen to publicise the incident, Wells and Adams come up against the full weight of corporate power in the shape of Richard Herd‘s Evan McCormack who wants to silence the whole thing. With Jack Lemmon and Wilford Brimley as workers at the plant providing solid support, The China Syndrome is as bleak and relevant today as it was back then.
WATCH IT FOR: Trailer
AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
It’s the end of summer, 1962 in a small town in Southern California. A group of friends gather for one last night before they each head off to college. Director George Lucas brings us a love letter to a golden age of Americana with drag racers, drive-ins and the end of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams and a then unknown Harrison Ford remind us of a happier, more carefree time when the only problem a kid had was finding a way out of their dead-end town. Add in to the mix a spectacular soundtrack of classic hits and you’ve got yourself a bona fide cult smash.
WATCH IT FOR: “Must Be Your Mama’s Car”
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972)
In the 1970s there was a wave (pardon the pun!) of big budget epic disaster movies including this absolute classic. Concerning the final voyage of a majestic cruise ship on New Year’s Eve that takes a different route thanks to an undersea earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure throws everything at you. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from producer extraordinaire Irwin Allen. A huge, all-star cast that includes Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine and Roddy McDowall must battle against the elements as the ship is turned upside down in the middle of the ocean and the remaining passengers strive for power and survival.
WATCH IT FOR: The Ballroom Floods
MY COUSIN VINNY (1992)
In this courtroom comedy from director Jonathan Lynn, Joe Pesci stars as Vincent LaGuardia Gambini, an inexperienced lawyer who has never been to trial, who is called upon to represent his cousin, Bill (Ralph Macchio) and Bill’s friend, Stan (Mitchell Whitfield) when they are arrested for murder in rural Alabama. Vinny clashes with the locals as well as Judge Haller (the brilliant Fred Gwynne in his final screen role) as he desperately tries to get to the bottom of the case. Aided by his brash girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito (an Oscar-winning Marisa Tomei), Vinny soon finds that he might need some help.
WATCH IT FOR: Two “Yutes”
GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997)
Martin Q. Blank (John Cusack), a freelance hitman who has recently developed a conscience, is advised to attend his high school reunion in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Coincidentally, he has been contracted to kill someone in this very suburb. As he tries to justify not killing, he is pursued by the FBI, one assassin who wants to kill him and another assassin who wants to recruit him. All the while trying to reconnect with the girlfriend he left behind. It’s sharp, funny and has a brilliant soundtrack to boot. This film (and, indeed Cusack) deserves more love and appreciation. Get on it, people!
WATCH IT FOR: Work Less, Make More
THE THIRTY-NINE STEPS (1978)
There may be some that would disagree with this particular version of John Buchan‘s classic novel being included, especially when Hitchcock‘s (perhaps) definitive version has already been featured. I say to you, that I don’t care. It’s my list and I do what I want! That being said, it is far from being the best-loved of Richard Hannay’s adventure through wrongful arrest, murder, intrigue and espionage but I love it. Robert Powell takes the reins as the hero fighting his way through the quagmire of lies and deception that takes him to the highlands of Scotland and ends with a spectacular denouement in London. Featuring a veritable who’s who of British acting greats, this is great fun for a rainy Sunday afternoon.
WATCH IT FOR: Big Ben
If you’re only going to play James Bond once, you might as well make it one of the best films in the franchise. George Lazenby takes over the role in one of the most Bondian of Bond films as he travels to Switzerland to face off against Blofeld (Telly Savalas) one more time. Going undercover, Bond discovers the real reason behind Blofeld’s allergy clinic high above the mountains and even falls in love with Tracy (Diana Rigg). The action zips along and there are some spectacular set pieces but it is the romance between Bond and Tracy that really ignites this film. A romance that, we know, is doomed but is, ultimately, worthwhile. For whatever reasons Lazenby only made this one film, it remains a titan among the fold and still holds up today, fifty years on.
WATCH IT FOR: Blofeld
And that, as they say, is that. Another fine batch of films for your viewing pleasure and, once again, quite eclectic. I hope that this blog inspires you to seek out some of these films to watch, maybe for the first time or, perhaps, for the hundredth. Whatever your feelings, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to get in touch and let me know what you think. My door is always open. Until the next time…
“This never happened to the other fella”