Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Twilight (1998)

Alright before you start wigging out or anything, check out the date for the film. This is NOT the teen-vamp saga. Never seen it, likely never will.

Twilight Robert Benton Paul Newman Susan Sarandon Gene Hackman

Anyway, this Twilight came out in 1998 and stars Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon and (a young) Reese Witherspoon. It is directed and co-written by Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer, Places in the Heart, The Human Stain).

When I first saw Twilight I almost did not care what the plot was. As I sussed out, Harry Ross (Newman) is on the search for young Mel Ames (Witherspoon), scion of Hollywood parents Jack (Hackman) and Catherine (Sarandon). But this is only the beginning. Years pass and Ross, who boards on the Ames Estate, is asked to do another solid for the family. This is where the “fun” begins as the viewer is taken on a ride with plenty of twists and turns, including the reawakening of a 20-year old case involving the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband. (Plot Synopsis Source: Wikipedia)

 

I will relent and say that it does plod along at times during the film and the strength is in the performance of acting majesty. It has been years since I have seen this, but I am always fascinated and intrigued by contemporary efforts to capture the atmosphere and spirit of those noir films of the 1940s and 1950s.

Also, it is quite possible I have a thing for Paul Newman. Only just so. Seriously, I think if he had released a film in which he was reading the phone directory or staring at a wall watching paint dry, I’d be there.

But there is a sentimental reason why I love him so. As mentioned in this space before, he was an actor that my late father and me had a shared affinity for. So whenever I think of Paul Newman, a part of me is reminded of my beloved father.

Overlooked Film: Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

I have decided to return to something that I have not highlighted in quite some time on my website: overlooked/forgotten gems. so as we close the year out, allow me to submit the 2002 British drama/thriller Dirty Pretty Things for your approval.

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Dirty Pretty Things was directed by Stephen Frears and starred Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou, as star-crossed illegal immigrants working in a London hotel.  Check out the trailer here:

The film principally deals with themes surrounding the treatment (read: the exploitation) of illegal immigrants inhabiting a world with the more fortunate among us. This film does an admirable job of showing the underworld and how the plight of people who are simply seeking a better way of life often goes ignored.

Have you seen Dirty Pretty Things? Leave a lovely comment below and let me know what you thought of it.

Overlooked: Tight Spot (1955) Featuring Ginger Rogers

This week’s selection is truly an inspired choice; inspired because I just finished watching it on TCM. Tight Spot is a 1955 noir-ish melodrama that stars Ginger Rogers, Brian Keith, Edward G. Robinson and Lorne Greene.

I decided that this is an interesting film to call to your attention because it is yet another one of those non-singing, non-dancing Ginger Rogers roles. In it, she plays a woman who faces the challenge of testifying against a crime kingpin (Lorne Greene) in a federal trial.

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Overall it is a solidly put together film; but not groundbreaking. As I previously mentioned, it is noir-ish in so much as there exists the genre’s easily identifiable seedy, criminal underbelly in the form of Greene’s Benjamin Constain and his cronies who try to “get” to Rogers’ Sherry Conley, but the dramatic tension (for my part  at least) drives the film into the realm of the melodramatic. The best line is reserved for the final line of the film. Won’t spoil it for you here – I simply suggest you take a moment to catch this one when you can.

 

*Be sure to also check out other overlooked/forgotten titles at my colleague Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Express (2008)

Biopics that are equally informative and inspiring are kinda hard to do, aren’t they? In fact, at its basest they can be described as trite and overly reliant on cliché to pull these elements off.

In that light, a part of my basis for “judging” (term used advisedly) films of this is down to my actions following watching the film. Just how interested does this story make me about the truth behind what I am seeing on screen? I have been known to spend hours following viewing a film digging around the internet, hungry for more information to feed that hunger.

This week’s overlooked selection, The Express, fits that bill and is a fitting addition to the collection, as it comes ripe off of the first complete week of the NFL season.

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Rob Brown as Ernie Davis (left) and Dennis Quaid as Ben Schwartzwadler in “The Express”

The Express tells the tale of the nation’s first African-American Heisman Trophy winner, Ernie Davis of Syracuse University. For my non-sports enthusiasts out there, the Heisman Trophy is an award voted by a select panel and given to the nation’s top collegiate football player.

Certainly the film ticks all the boxes that make biopics so endearing and reassuring to American audiences about what is possible to us if we are determined and believe. In spite of this, I did not find it overly saccharine or schmaltzy. That may be due in part to the history-making feat being followed by the decidedly profound tragic turn that came immediately after.

Even if you are not a sports fan, I think you will appreciate this film.

Tuesday’s Overlooked: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

This week’s overlooked selection is a film I have only recently had the pleasure of seeing, and am all the happier for the experience. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a “classic Hollywood-styled” romantic comedy directed by British television/film director Bharat Nalluri. The story is based on a 1938 novel of the same name and adapted for the screen by co-writers by David Magee (Life of Pi) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty).

As I mentioned above, Miss Pettigrew is a charming film that harkens to cinema of a bygone era. I instantly think about Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day and its “remake” Pocketful of Miracles (the latter starring Bette Davis), where the audience sees the transformation of a down and out middle-aged woman.

While the circumstances and particulars are slightly different (here the titular Miss Pettigrew is a down on her luck English nanny who mistakenly is assigned a new “charge” in the form of American entertainer Delysia Lafosse), but the end results are the same. One of the things that make Miss Pettrigrew stand out is its talented cast, headed by the wonderful Frances McDormand (Miss Pettigrew) and Amy Adams (Delysia Lafosse). The supporting cast includes Lee Pace (a slight revelation for me here), Shirley Henderson, Ciaran Hinds and Mark Strong.

As a fan of classic and contemporary cinema, I constantly ask myself how successfully a film’s time and place can be replicated without coming across as too forced, anachronistic or lacking in charm. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day does not suffer from any of these issues in my opinion. It was obviously made by someone who understands the genre that charmed audiences in the 1930s and 1940s.

Check out Miss Pettigrew‘s Photo Gallery below:

Be sure to take a look at some other cinematic highlights for the week on Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Tuesday’s Overlooked: Return to Me (2000)

For more titles be sure to visit Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

My selection this week came as I was passing through the channels over the long holiday weekend. My movie-loving blogging colleague Ruth of Flixchatter, has recommended this film many times over and I just never got around to watching it. The film I am talking about is the 2000 romcom/dramedy Return to Me starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, directed by Bonnie Hunt.

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If ever there was a human transplant story to make you laugh, cry and ultimately feel romantically fulfilled, this is it. On the one hand, the grief and heartache (literal and figurative) are so pronounced – the combination of: the tragedy of losing a loved one, the agony, anticipation and hope of receiving a life-saving gift and a new lease on life is balanced with the most subtle yet effective comedic touches.

Everything about this film works for me: the setting, the characters (and the wonderful cast who portray them), and the music. It’s a shame that Bonnie Hunt has not directed more feature films. I think I might start a petition of something.

On a slightly sadder note, Return to Me also marks the final film appearances of both Carroll O’Connor and Dick Cusack (father of John and Joan).

For a more thorough look at the film (from several angles), I refer you to Ruth’s site.

Tuesday’s Overlooked: Love & Basketball (2000)

This week’s selection has been mentioned previously on my blog but never at great length. It is the 2000 Sundance fan-favorite Love & Basketball, directed by Gina Bryce-Bythewood (P.S. We need to see much more of her)! This film has everything I need as both self-confessed tomboy who loves sports and as one who appreciates a great love story. Add to that a jamming soundtrack and this is a movie I will not soon ever forget – even to this day.
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The film covers the 20-year relationship between Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), who share a love and passionate rivalry for basketball and find their lives inexorably linked as a result.

Check out the trailer here:

For MORE overlooked gems, check out Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

Tuesday’s Overlooked: The Josephine Baker Story (1991)

This week’s entry is another post in honor of Josephine Baker, who was born this week in 1906.

I previously mentioned a BBC documentary that will let you find out more about the legendary performer, but for me, as a youth, my first exposure to the impact of her life and world (including that beyond the world of entertainment) was captured in the 1991 biopic made for HBO. Lynne Whitfield stars as the icon who escaped abject poverty in the racially-charged South to become the toast of Paris.

Here are the opening credits for the film:

Granted I have not seen it in a while, so I am not sure how well it plays in a contemporary context. But I think this is a good entree into learning more about Ms. Baker.

Be sure to check out other films selected as overlooked on Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.
josephine baker story

Tuesday’s Overlooked: Summer Preview Edition

Well the summer blockbuster season is officially upon us. Often this time of year ushers in the relentless array of big budget films released for the sole purpose of parting us with our hard earned money (yeah still bitter about the IMAX 3D experience that was Iron Man 3).

However, there also exists in this space a smaller set of films that offer a counter-balance to the larger more extravagant fare on offer. So for this week’s “Overlooked” series (courtesy of bloggin’ buddy Todd Mason) I have decided to look into my crystal ball (don’t actually have one) and see what films coming out this summer I feel will not get their just desserts by the mainstream audience.

Frances Ha (actually will be seeing it this week)

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she’s not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren’t really speaking anymore. Frances throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has, but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. “Frances Ha” is a modern comic fable in which Noah Baumbach explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption. Courtesy of IFC Films. Opens May 17th in NY & LA with a staggered released throughout the country.

frances ha

 

Before Midnight (see previous post). Opens May 24th

 

The East

An operative for an elite private intelligence firm finds her priorities irrevocably changed after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. (Source: IMDB) Opens May 31

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Much Ado About Nothing

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words. (Source IMDB) Directed by Joss Whedon. Opens June 7

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The World’s End

Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. (Source: IMDB) From the team that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Opens August 23

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What films are you looking forward to this summer that you feel have the potential to be overlooked by the mainstream audience? Hit me up in the Comments section below.

 

Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Tall Target

This week’s ‘overlooked’ pick is the first (of certainly several) shout outs from the 2013 TCM Film Festival. The movie is 1951′s The Tall Target directed by Anthony Mann and starring Dick Powell.

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Powell is a New York City-based a police officer, hell bent stop the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore as he makes the train journey from Pennsylvania to his inauguration in Washington, DC.

Now I will readily admit (as I also discussed with another film-goer), that when I read the program description in the festival guide, I was not sure if this was some sort of contemporary, for the time hard-boiled crime thriller (Powell was in it after all) that happened to be anachronistic, given the “tall target” of the title. But soon in I realized that was not the case. Thanks in part to another WONDERFUL introduction by film historian Donald Bogle, we find out that this film is based in part on historical folklore that allegedly took place on the eve of Lincoln’s swearing-in.

There are quite a few twists and turns to this one so I will leave it up to you to enjoy for yourself.

Also starring in supporting roles are Adolphe Menjou and Ruby Dee, a young slave who has more moxie than one initially would think.

Check out Todd Mason’s site, Sweet Freedom for more overlooked, forgotten or otherwise under-appreciated cinematic gems.