Category Archives: Shirley

Spotlight: Women’s Pictures

Back in the day, moviegoers called chick flicks “women’s pictures.” Make sure you have a box of tissues handy as you watch these melodramatic tearjerkers. For an excellent discussion of the genre, visit AMC’s filmsite.org.

Some of my favorites include:

French Kiss (1995) PG-13

Scenes in this Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline romantic comedy had me laughing out loud. Terrified of flying, Kate musters her courage and flies to Paris after her fiancé falls for a French woman. On the plane, she meets charming petty thief Luc, who sees in her a way he can smuggle a necklace in to the country. He soon becomes involved in her love life. The leads have great comedy timing and chemistry. French Kiss is delightful, clever, and fun.

The Big Heat (1953)

Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame star as an honest police detective who goes after the gangsters who killed his wife and the gangster’s girlfriend who switches her allegiance. Police corruption and a conspiracy drive the plot. I consider The Big Heat to be one of the best noir movies of the 1950s. If you like classic film noir, add this tense, dark, and gritty film to your must-see list.

Check out our list of other 1950s Noir films.

Summer Stock (1950)

summerstockSummer Stock is a feel-good, corny (pun intended), let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn musical starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. His unforgettable dance with a newspaper and creaky floorboards, and Garland’s show stopping “Get Happy” highlight this cheerful, old-fashioned film.

Check out Turner Classic Movies’ article on Summer Stock, then watch the film.

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) PG-13

mirrorThis romantic comedy stars Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. They both teach at Columbia University. Good looking but stiff and awkward, Gregory (Bridges) has had his share of troubles with the gorgeous but none-too-stimulating women he dates as well as with engaging his students. Rose (Streisand), an intelligent, popular teacher with limited dating options, struggles to find her self-worth and confidence in relationships. Gregory advertises for an intellectual companion, “physical appearance unimportant,” and unbeknownst to Rose, her beautiful sister (Mimi Rogers) responds to the ad for her. This sets the stage for a meeting and subsequent relationship between Rose and Gregory. Respect and friendship vs. attraction and desire result in a witty, enjoyable film. Lauren Bacall and Pierce Brosnan have fun secondary roles in The Mirror Has Two Faces.

Spotlight: Johnny Depp

johnnydeppI have a theory that Johnny Depp does some of his best work in films with titles that include the names of people. This extraordinary actor has done wonderful work in such movies as Benny and Joon (goofy), Edward Scissorhands (heartbreaking), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (sensitive), Don Juan DeMarco (playful), Ed Wood (endearing), Donnie Brasco (subtle and gritty).

Even if you don’t care for the movie, you can appreciate the performance. Whether funny, animated, chewing the scenery, or quietly effective, he rarely disappoints. Take a look at his full filmography.

Spotlight: Melody Gardot

melodygardotI just discovered Melody Gardot while searching for singers similar to Diana Krall. I recommend her music for vocal jazz enthusiasts who enjoy a little pop and blues. Gardot has an intriguing backstory that may well have informed her style. Lovely orchestration accents the romantic, lyrically wonderful albums.

Some of my favorite songs: “Impossible Love” evokes a French café ambiance, “Goodbye” demonstrates her sensuous chanteuse quality, “Your Heart is as Black as the Night” has a sultry, bluesy vibe, and the vocal style of “So We Meet Again My Heartache” just gives me goosebumps. Don’t miss her delightful version of “Over the Rainbow.”

Check out her albums today: The Absence (2012) and My One and Only Thrill (2009).

3 Days of the Condor (1975) R

3 Days of the CondorThis exciting vehicle for Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway has him as a CIA researcher on the run after narrowly escaping a horrific event and her as his unwilling accomplice. What can he do and whom should he trust? He finds no easy answers in this taut, well-executed thriller. 3 Days of the Condor is based on the James Grady novel Six Days of the Condor.

Murphy’s Romance (1985) PG-13

James Garner and Sally Field star in Murphy’s Romance, a satisfying, intelligent romantic comedy about two very likeable people and their increasing affection for each other. Emma, a 30ish divorced mother of a teen, comes to a small town in hopes of starting a horse boarding business and meets Murphy, an older, widowed pharmacist. Their relationship slowly and believably grows. The stars have great chemistry. Stay tuned for the dance scene; I laughed out loud.

Consider watching this charmer for Valentine’s Day. Want more romantic comedies? Check out the movie lists under Romance & Love Stories.

Stagecoach (1939)

You know the Western clichés— outlaw looking for revenge, doctor done in by “the drink,” prostitute with the heart of gold, smooth gambler, Monument Valley locale. This fine film set the standard. Stagecoach carries a motley group of characters en route to their destinies in Apache territory. John Wayne impresses as the outlaw; he, along with the others, boards a stagecoach into that dangerous land and circumstances that will test them all.

I thoroughly enjoyed John Ford’s direction, the framing of scenes, the panoramic longshots and personality defining close-ups. –And then you have Yakima Canutt’s oft-imitated stunt work. Watch for the wordless moments that make the stage passengers unforgettable.

Check out a TCM article on Stagecoach for a behind-the-scenes look at the film, plus the partnership between John Wayne and John Ford.

For other movies from 1939, check out Bill’s spotlight on the most celebrated year in American film history. And for other classic westerns starring John Wayne, check out our list of movies.