Run-up to the Olympics: Chariots of Fire (1981)

Continuing on the Olympic theme I started yesterday, I have decided to spotlight a couple of Olympic-themed films.

Let’s start in the location of this year’s games – the United Kingdom, or rather England to be exact. The first film I will highlight is the multiple Academy Award winning feature, Chariots of Fire. 

SYNOPSIS

Chariots of Fire is a 1981 British film. It tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. (Source: Wikipedia)

This is a film I have only seen within the past five years – as a youth I always felt that this film was always inaccessible to me. It always seemed a bit cold and remote to me.

After having seen it, I can honestly say that the needle has shifted, if only slightly. Do not get me wrong it is a well-crafted film, but the performances in particular felt a little stilted and stagey for my tastes. One would think that a film about running would have some “pace” to it; instead, I feel like the film was dragged down as a result of it. You certainly felt all of the 124 minute running time.

On the positive side, I did like the framing device by which the story was told – and oh yeah and that musical score (Vangelis) is iconic.

Favorite Films Set in Prague

With this installment, my cinematic journey through places I will visit in Central Europe for 2012 is complete. Previously, I mentioned my favorite films set in Vienna. Today I am going to focus on Prague, Czech Republic. When I say ‘focus’ I may be exaggerating a bit; in fact, I have only come up with one film that I have seen (and really liked) which are set in Prague.

 

Casino Royale (2006)

The film that made me think twice about the 007 franchise. I was never a HUGE fan of Bond films, but I was more than greatly entertained by this film. From the start, the action was non-stop and kept me on the edge of my seat. Prague was just one of several locations where the film takes place.

 

Honorable Mention: Mission Impossible (1996) This receives an honorable mention mainly because if memory serves, I did enjoy the film at the time of its release, but over the course of the years, my interest had waned a bit. So I cannot technically count this as a ‘favorite.’

 

Can you think of any other films set in Prague? They do not have to be in the English language.

Fifteen Movie Questions Meme

Happy Memorial Day All! Currently watching the French Open (and loving it) but I have decided to take some time to do some browsing around the ‘net to see what is going on on some of my favorite movie sites. That is when I came across this fantastic meme (respect to Cinematic Paradox via my friends at Anomalous Material). The meme is called 15 Movie Questions. So without further ado, here are my answers:

1. Movie you love with a passion.

Sure I can find minor quibbles with stuff as I have watched it over the years, but I am always drawn A Room With a View.

2. Movie you vow to never watch.

I refuse to see Revenge of the Sith in its entirety. Sure I have it on good authority that this was the best of the prequels but I was so let down by the first two I gave up on the prequel franchise.

3. Movie that literally left you speechless.

Children of Men


 

4. Movie you always recommend.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


5. Actor/actress you always watch, no matter how crappy the movie.

Kate Winslet!

 

6. Actor/actress you don’t get the appeal for.

Too many to name.

 

7. Actor/actress, living or dead, you’d love to meet.

It’s a tie: Rashida Jones and Drew Barrymore. They seem like cool ladies.

8. Sexiest actor/actress you’ve seen. (Picture required!)

Not  a fair question … so much hotness out there at the present moment. Guess I will go old-school with Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.


 

9. Dream cast.

Love Actually


 

10. Favorite actor pairing.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, Notorious


11. Favorite movie setting.

 

12. Favorite decade for movies.

The 1960’s – it was such a turbulent decade outside of film but a lot of that unrest and upheaval became part of cinematic history.

13. Chick flick or action movie?

An action flick featuring a bad-a** chick 🙂

14. Hero, villain or anti-hero?

Anti-hero all the way ….

 

15. Black and white or color?

Cut my movie-loving teeth in the world of good ole B&W. But that is not why it is my choice. Over the years, I have come to really love the interplay between shadow and light that is so evident in the best B&W cinematography.

 

Well that’s me! Tell me what you think.

For Movie Lovers in the NYC Area (Summer 2011)

It is that time of year again – summer is very nearly upon us. And for cinephiles in the greater NYC there are plenty of opportunities to catch some old and new movies in the great outdoor. Here are just a couple of events to whet your appetite:

Rooftop Films

Rooftop Films is celebrating its 15th year of offering some overlooked fare on – you guessed it – rooftops! Please go to the website for screening information as well as locations, tickets and to learn more about how you can contribute to this non-profit organization whose mission it is

to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

Every Monday during the summer, I walk by Bryant Park on my way home from work determined that this will be the year I stop and take a seat and catch a movie. I have yet to partake but having attended other events during the summer in this space, I can highly recommend that if you are in the area you should participate. Although the list of films has not yet been confirmed, if previous years are anything to go by, I would say you are in for a treat. Here is just a sampling of some of the things that have been screened:

  • The French Connection
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • 12 Angry Men
  • The Sting
  • How Green was My Valley
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Superman
  • High Noon
  • The Birds

… and on and on. Believe you-me, the full list is quite impressive. What I especially love is that it gives great exposure to some of the “classics” of cinema. For many passers-by this is their first experience seeing these landmarks of cinema. This year I am determined to go! Hope to see you there!

Now it is your turn – if you are not in the NYC area, post your favorite summer cinema activities wherever you are!

'Tis the Season! Christmas Pix, Volume 1

In the days leading up to the holiday, I hope to post “one movie (or more) a day” that is among my personal favorite in its celebration of Christmas. They will be featured in no particular order because each of them hold a special place in my heart and I cannot bring myself to order in lists of “best” or “favorites.”

For Volume 1,  I have chosen to feature not necessarily a motion picture but more of a feature made for television:

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Also available in [Blu-ray]

While the running time is only slightly over 20 minutes it still packs a meaningful touch for me. As a youth and even now as a youth at heart, I am touched by the sincerity of Charles Shultz’s capturing of the true spirit of the season.

Tennis Movies (Hollywood at the Net)

I am a self-confessed tennis junkie. No two ways about it.  I just finished watching a round robin match of the Sony Ericsson WTA season ending the tour season. It got me thinking about movies that features tennis as a sport. Yeah we have baseball, basketball, football (US and World–soccer), race car driving … you name it. In my research I have stumbled upon this really cool website:  Sports In Movies.

I then did the obligatory task of searching under the sport of tennis and this is what the search yielded:

Alphabetical List of Tennis Movies
TITLE YEAR RATING
Match Point 2005 R
Nobody’s Perfect 1989 PG-13
Tennis Anyone…? 2005 NR
Wimbledon 2004 PG-13

Chart Source: SportsInMovies.com

ONLY FOUR MOVIES? How can that be?  Before I rundown this list, there is obviously one significant omission Strangers on a Train. Who can forget this?

Now back to the list … I have seen 3 out of 4 the movies listed (Never heard of “Nobody’s Perfect” until I did the search). And while Match Point features a tennis player, it is essentially a very minor plot point (and part of the title). Tennis Anyone is pretty much a turkey made by folks who obviously love the game and just wanted to make a film about it.  But it has Draco Malfoy’s dad in it so it cannot be too horrific of a watch.

That just leaves Wimbledon. I was at first skeptical about this film because it was in and out of theater, which did not bode well. But I finally caught it on HBO a number of years ago. And I am glad I did. Paul Bettany and a pre-overly famous James McAvoy?  And it is shot in and around London? You really cannot get sweeter than that. Besides it is a cute story with characters who were doppelgangers/composites of real life players. If you love tennis I highly recommend this film.

Tuesday Evening Quarterback: The 2008 Oscars

Well it is official – these Oscars were the lowest rated (in the United States anyway) since the new ratings system was put in place in 1974. This is according to an article on the BBC.

I have a few theories in no particular order:

1.     Ambivalence due to the just recent writer’s strike

2.     The independent nature, or I daresay “spirit” of the films nominated

3.     Early talk that predicted many of possible winners were not originally from the USA

4.     American mainstream cinema was just pretty lame and catered to the lowest common denominator

5.     When I watched clips from the red carpet I immediately lost interest – I was like there are plenty of actors here tonight, but where are the movie stars?

6.     Many of the female stars are pregnant or just had a kid

7.     There was no Vanity Fair after party – a bit of a shaky point – seeing that many attendees of the annual party usually skipped the formal ceremony

8.     After being out of work all this time, many of the “celebs” were not red-carpet ready

9.     In a contradiction of #4, where were movies that achieved a critical and commercial appeal; “American Gangster” immediately comes to mind.

10.   Maybe with noted exceptions this was just one of those years of polar opposites (?)

(that is all I can think of now)

This comes to a head when one thinks the Academy may be at a tipping point. For years there has been much talk about the politicizing of the nomination and awarding process. With that talk has been the justifiable argument that what SHOULD be awarded is “excellence in filmmaking,” an objective measurement at best. For the first time when you look across all categories, I feel that if that is the objective of the Oscars, then they got it right. But they do it at the peril of holding on to the mainstream audience.

In addition, this highlights (as I do in reason #5 above) demonstrates that there is clearly a difference and being a movie star or idol and a genuine thespian. And what most people want to see at an event like this is star wattage. This in spite of the various questions people asked about “Why is Miley Cyrus/Jessica Alba/Katherine Heigl, etc. at the Oscars?” I guess you can have it both ways but this year it was not that way.

————————–

I can wholeheartedly admit that like every year I have not seen all the movies that were nominated. In fact I only saw “Atonement” (which I loved). But in discussions with other fans of cinema that saw any of the nominated films, there was not much of a real desire to, say, go out and catch “There Will be Blood.”

Also complicating the matter is that for studios it will continue to be a win-win; studios currently own the very indy film companies that produced many if not all of the nominated films. This makes the line drawn in the sand between mainstream and indy very hazy indeed.

Overall, from my understanding, those that were recognized did all deserve to be honored; with obviously many omissions. This process is never going to be to everyone’s satisfaction but this year the Academy was rather niche in its choices than in previous years.

As the rest of the industry and film going world tries to figure this one out, I am popping in “Hot Fuzz.”