Amy Adams portrays Margaret Keane, creator of the Big Eyed Waifs, whose talent was unrecognized for years, while her husband Walter (played by Christoph Waltz) took all the credit. Big Eyes follows their romance and the eventual deterioration of their marriage as Walter’s drinking, mental health, and the lie they lived became more than Margaret could bear. After reading The Muse by Jessie Burton about a fictitious couple who hide behind the same type of artistic ruse, one wonders how often this has occurred throughout art history. How many great women artists have had to hide their talent with a man’s signature?
Blythe Danner portrays widow Carol Petersen, who is grieving multiple losses. She survives her daily struggles with a little help from her friends (played by Martin Starr, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, and Rhea Perlman). In I’ll See You in My Dreams, 70ish Danner creates a very warm and realistic character in this first leading role of her career. She proves “tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Saving Mr. Banks is an engaging drama about Walt Disney’s quest to win the movie rights to the classic children’s fantasy Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Inspired by his daughters’ love of the series and motivated by his determined personality, Disney will not relent. Travers (portrayed by Emma Thompson), just as stubborn as Disney, refuses to let her masterpiece succumb to the big screen and most of all, transform into a musical with animated figures. She ignores her grim financial outlook and the encouragement of her agent and remains in seclusion for years.
Finally, she agrees to a short trip to the Disney studio offices in California. Once there, Walt Disney tries everything in his business arsenal to win her over, including a trip to Disneyland. It is finally a very personal insight into both characters that seals the deal. Tom Hanks does an excellent job portraying the many sides of American icon Walt Disney.
In Whiplash, an intense drama, promising young drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), newly accepted into the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City, is determined to rise to the top of the jazz world. He soon finds himself working under the Conservatory’s notoriously tough instructor, Mr. Fletcher. Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) is a dedicated teacher and musician, but is openly abusive towards his students. Andrew must decide the price he is willing to pay to succeed at Shaffer Conservatory and break into the music industry.
Christmas miracles happen when Dudley the Angel (Cary Grant) appears on the scene. The Reverend Henry Brougham (David Niven) is so caught up in his fundraising/building project that he loses sight of the importance of his work and his family. Dudley knows just what to do to make things right with his wife (Loretta Young). Grant, Young, and Niven do an excellent job of convincing us that angels really are an instrumental part of life on earth in The Bishop’s Wife.
Scrooged loosely follows the storyline of the classic Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol. Bill Murray’s comic sarcasm and a romance between Frank Cross (the Scrooge character played by Murray) and old flame Claire (played by Karen Allen) expand on the original theme.
The four ghosts are not lost amongst the modern tale of a selfish, greedy TV executive who learns his lesson the hard way during the holiday season. It was interesting watching this movie from a twenty first century perspective, as Christmas 1988 is already Christmas Past for us.
I love the classic story of A Christmas Carol and never tire of reading and viewing variations on Dickens’ theme. Disney’s A Christmas Carol, a 2009 version starring Jim Carrey as the voice of Ebenezer Scrooge, is good holiday entertainment. Scrooge is older and frailer than I have ever seen him, yet he flies through the skies at breakneck speeds, tumbles down snow covered hills, and seems none the worse for the wear.
Robert Zemeckis once again proves his skill at transforming classic Christmas stories into computer animated classics in their own right. As with The Polar Express, this film is not just for the kids. In fact, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come sequence is among the creepiest renditions. Disney’s 1983 version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, might be more suited to younger viewers…although there is no completely kid friendly way to lay the message on the line. Scrooge must repent now or else!
Check back next month for another movie based on Dickens’ classic story.
Hugh Grant plays a has-been pop star from the 80s doing backwoods promotional appearances when he is approached by a teen sensation to write a song for her. His strength has always been music, not lyrics. He unexpectedly finds a struggling young writer (Drew Barrymore) who insists she is not a lyricist. In the tradition of romantic comedies, we can figure out what happens but it is an entertaining journey complete with good old fashioned 80ish songs and music videos.
Despite the gap in their ages, Barrymore and Grant make a believable couple with chemistry bouncing off the screen in Music and Lyrics.
Joyce and Andrew Brewster embark on a cross-country trip that tests the limits of their mother/son relationship. Underneath all the overbearing mothering and the know-it-all son attitude, they discover some basic truths about life and each other. Barbra Streisand‘s comedic timing makes The Guilt Trip a fun pick. All it’s missing is a good sing-along on the road!
This film took me by surprise. It’s black and white. Most of the action takes place in a small room with the same twelve people for 90 minutes. The story is so well written, well directed, and well acted that the viewer doesn’t mind its simplicity.
In 12 Angry Men, the characters and plot evolve in a jury room. The jurors identified only as Juror #1, #2, etc., must decide the fate of an eighteen-year-old man accused of murdering his father. One brave man among the twelve votes innocent. He doesn’t necessarily believe he is innocent, but desperately believes he deserves some thoughtful discussion before being sent to the electric chair.
A thoughtful, angry discussion ensues. Eleven men are ready to write off this young man as a slum dweller who could easily commit murder. All the evidence points to the son as the killer, yet one man insists they examine the details. As a result, the personalities of the twelve begin to unfold.