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MOVIES

A Walk in the Sun (1945)

Can you have a good war film w/o an overkill of fighting?  Yes, and it can be funny, smart, and poignant, too.  This film has an ensemble cast (who have great chemistry together) lead by Dana Andrews.  (I’m sure that the recent Band of Brothers series was partly influenced by this film!)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038235/     

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) 

This is a big, sweeping, captivating drama starring (the always engaging) Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward, an undervalued English housemaid turned dedicated missionary.  The young, single, and determined Gladys puts her (Christian) faith into action, helping get rid of footbinding, lower illiteracy, and lessen cruelty in 1920s northern China.  Along the way, she adopts many children, who have been abandoned or orphaned.  She falls in love, though hers is not a typical Hollywood romance (which I REALLY liked).  This is a must-see for all fans of classic films!    

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0051776/

Up in the Air (2009)

This is a simple, sharp, and timely film that REALLY packs a punch!  I just saw it tonight, and was (pleasantly) surprised; I don’t want to have an empty backpack.  The always handsome/watcheable George Clooney fits his role to a tee, as do the two main ladies-gorgeous Vera Farmiga and newcomer Anna Kendrick.  Check it out on HBO.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1193138/ 

Vanity Fair (BBC; 1998)

British actress Natasha Little truly inhabits the role of Becky Sharp, the beautiful, charming, and clever Victorian woman who must live by her wits alone, as she has no connections or family wealth.  Becky’s oldest friend, Amelia Sedley is Melanie to Becky’s Scarlett.  Dashing/newly rich George Osborne is a male version of Becky (but more ruthless).  Rawdon Crawley (a mustached Nathaniel Parker) is the gambling man who loves, yet doesn’t quite understand, his wife Becky.  William Dobbin (Philip Glenister) is Amelia’s (often ignored) knight in shining armor.  (Natasha Little also co-starred in the big screen version alongside Reese Witherspoon.   Director Mira Nair said she was VERY impressed by her performance in this miniseries.)    

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0159090/

SONGS

In the past 2 wks, I’ve heard some great (classic) country songs.  Did you know that Freddy Fender is Mexican- American and sings in Spanish and English?  I was esp. impressed by Waylon Jennings’ voice! 

Below are some recent iTunes downloads:

David Allan Coe

The Ride

Willie, Waylon, and Me 

Freddy Fender 

Before the Next Teardrop Falls

Since I Met You Baby 

The Kendalls

Heaven’s Just a Sin Away

Makin’ Believe

Lynn Anderson

How Can I Unlove You 

Waylon Jennings

Sweet Dream Woman

The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Wanna Get Over You)

 

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I’m crazy about Crazy Heart!

This is a must-see film from 2009, esp. for fans of classic country music and Jeff Bridges, who completely disappears into his role of alcoholic/world weary/singer-songwriter Bad Blake.  Gone is the easygoing California-bred star; here Bridges is overweight, terribly dressed, and quite cranky (for most of the film).  The 57 y.o. Bad (his preferred nickname) has been reduced to performing in bowling alleys and hole-in-the-wall bars throughout the Southwest.  He hasn’t written a song in 3 yrs.  He’s under the power of his fave brand of whiskey for most of the day (and night).  But most sadly, he has become a disappointment to himself.

But he still has many fans out there, including a young arts reporter from Santa Fe, Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal).  Bad agrees to an interview w/ Jean; they have an easy rapport from which a romance quickly develops.

Jean has an adorable 3 y.o. boy, Buddy, who is very excited to meet Bad and spend time w/ him.  This is not the only kid in Bad’s life…

Bad needs to earn some real money, so he turns to country star Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell).  Tommy, a very thankful protege, would love to get some songs out of his mentor, but Bad is not sure he has it in him anymore.

Bridges is very watcheable (a character actor w/ a star’s looks, charisma, and confidence), bringing non-showy authenticity to the role.  He can sing very well, too.  My fave songs from Crazy Heart are Hold on You and I Don’t Know (2 versions sung by Bridges and Ryan Bingham, the young singer-songwriter who makes a cameo).

Bad is the main character of a novel by Thomas Cobb.  His personality is a mix of Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson.

East of Eden (1955)

But you must give him some sign, Mr. Trask, some sign that you love him… or he’ll never be a man.  All his life he’ll feel guilty and alone unless you release him.

Director Elia Kazan wanted Marlon Brando for the lead role that went to breakout star James Dean.  In this film, based on John Steinbeck’s novel, Dean plays bitter/tortured teen Caleb (Cal) Trask, who is constantly overshadowed by his sunny/easygoing brother Aron (Richard Davalos).  The boys’ farmer father Adam (Raymond Massey) is deeply religious, reading the Bible aloud each night.  He’s an emotionally closed-off man who admits that he’s “never understood” Cal’s moods/behaviors/desires.

Aron’s girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) is a pleasant/kind girl who finds Cal frightening at first, then slowly gets to know (and even sympathize) with him.  The setting, early 20th century Salinas valley of California, is “ironic” in this film because of the conflicted people (critic Kenneth Turan noted).  Cal believes Adam only loves Aron.  He (instinctively) finds out about his long absent mother, Kate (Jo Van Fleet).  Adam is described as “kind” and “conscientious” by his friends/neigbbors; Kate is a former “drifter” who is running a “sinful” house (where men drink, gamble, etc.).

East of Eden contains (obvious) biblical themes; Cal and Aron are compared to Cain and Abel at one point.  This film contains universal themes and intruiging characters who don’t always act how you expect; for example, Aron is strongly against fighting (WWI).  Viewers of his time must’ve been surprised by Dean’s performance, but he’s not unlike today’s  teenagers who are trying to prove their worth and and fit in. 

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