Category Archives: Lists

2011/2012 Catch-up

skyfall
As you might recall (and that’d be awfully sweet of you), I created “wrap-up” posts for both 2011 and 2012. As part of those posts, I listed the five movies released in those years that I most wanted to see. Having watched one of said movies recently, I decided to revisit those lists to see what kind of progress I’d made, and I thought it’d be fun to share that progress with you. These are some pretty good movies, and I’d recommend nearly all of the ones I’ve seen so far; if you missed my reviews, here’s a chance to catch up. Let’s delve!

2011
Beginners: Check.
The Artist: Check.
Hugo: Check.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Check.
Midnight in Paris: Check.

Wow, all five! If you have yet to see Beginners, The Artist, or Midnight in Paris, you could definitely do worse. I was sadly disappointed with both Hugo and TTSS.

2012
Pitch Perfect: Just watched it! Super-funny, with a million great one-liners (hint: listen closely to Lily). I’m really not a fan of the a capella music craze, but most of it is palatable; overall the film is a great, sort of meta-teenage flick. Anna Kendrick seldom fails to disappoint, and if you liked Rebel Wilson’s scene-stealing turn in Bridesmaids, you’ll get more of the same here.
Moonrise Kingdom: Check.
Anna Karenina: Not yet. I have plans for a larger project involving this one, so it might be a while.
Skyfall: CHECK.
Cloud Atlas: Not yet.

Three out of five isn’t bad, I’d say, particularly since we’ve been busier this year and have seen fewer movies (I think) overall. Skyfall is the big winner here, and if you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you do, whether or not you’re a fan of the Bond films. I’ll just have to bump Cloud Atlas in the queue, I guess.

How about you? Any movies you’re still meaning to catch up on? I have to say, there are lots of movies due out this year that will find themselves under consideration for a 2013 wrap-up!

Happy Birthday, Judy Garland: Five Favorite Routines

judy
Today is the anniversary of Judy Garland’s birthday. I’m a latecomer to Garland fandom, but I think I’ve made up for lost time in the last couple of years. It doesn’t hurt that she made three movies with Gene Kelly, of course. Since I’ve got a few major films still to catch up on, I didn’t want to do a “favorite movies” post; obviously, since she’s known for her singing talents, a “favorite routines” post was the way to go. Here they are in chronological order, and before you ask: no. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” isn’t one of them. Enjoy!

For Me and My Gal (For Me and My Gal, 1942)

This is the first Garland/Kelly collaboration, and I just think it’s so charming. They’re both young and gorgeous and have such great chemistry. If you’ve spent any time on this blog you’ve already seen this multiple times, but I hope you won’t mind watching it again. I never do!

The Trolley Song (Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis is a great specimen of Judy Garland’s work. It was directed by Vincente Minelli, who married Garland shortly after making the movie. I think that viewers fall in love with Garland through Minelli’s lens, probably just as he was. “The Trolley Song” became a Garland standard for many years, and so it just barely edged out “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for this list.

We’re a Couple of Swells (Easter Parade, 1948)

Judy’s co-star this time around is Fred Astaire (stepping in for an injured Gene Kelly), and here’s my favorite number from this adorable movie. I love that it’s not the usual, glamorous kind of thing, and that both Garland and Astaire embrace the fun. Garland’s facial expressions and little added mannerisms prove what an amazingly talented and dedicated performer she was.

I Don’t Care (In the Good Old Summertime, 1949)

These last two picks are straight Judy with no help, and she nails them both. I just love this song, and it’s a major showcase for Garland’s singing. She looks like an absolute knock-out in that red dress, too, and a couple of shots of Van Johnson looking super-handsome in a tux certainly don’t go amiss. I highly recommend this movie, which is another version of “The Shop Around the Corner.” Johnson and Garland have fabulous chemistry, and as always, it’s such a cute story.

Get Happy (Summer Stock, 1950)

Summer Stock is the last movie that Judy Garland and Gene Kelly made together, and it’s the last musical she made for MGM. At this point, her many problems were working against her, and I think that seeps into the movie in some ways. It’s very inconsistent: there are some great numbers, but it lacks the sparkle of earlier Garland performances. The “Get Happy” number doesn’t entirely seem to fit the film, in some ways, but it’s such an electrifying moment that I always come back to it as a favorite. It’s a testament to Garland’s huge talent that even with all of her issues, she still commands the screen here.

Happy birthday, Judy!

Arbitrarily ranking the stars of He’s Just Not That Into You

I have to admit that He’s Just Not That Into You was not as bad as movie as I expected, especially not for a movie based on a self-help book. It’s not even quite as comedic as you might assume, either. The movie depicts several loosely-connected romantic relationships, good and bad, beginning and ending. It’s narrated by Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), who is unsuccessfully navigating the dating scene and trying to understand why we all say things we don’t really mean. I don’t have a lot more to say about the movie, though; I thought it would be more fun to rank the stars of the movie based upon my own arbitrary methods. All in good fun, folks, all in good fun. Let’s do it!

affleck1. Ben Affleck
C’mon, the guy just directed Best Picture and pretty much dominated awards season. Somehow he’s on the ascendant. Gotta put him first. Additionally, his character, Neil, is possibly the best one in the movie, even if he is involved with Jennifer Aniston.

2. Jennifer Connellyconnelly
I love Jennifer Connelly. I want to be her when I grow up. She’s the movie’s other Oscar winner, and she gives the best performance. Her character’s sympathetic but somewhat unlikeable. I sort of wished that she and Aniston had traded places, but my husband pointed out that Aniston probably couldn’t have played the more complex role as well.

barrymore3. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore pretty much plays Drew Barrymore here, but I’m still a fan, as you may recall from this recent post. I enjoyed her character’s arc: she was trying to figure out how to meet people in the “digital” age, what with Myspace (dated), PDAs, email, and all.

4. Ginnifer Goodwingoodwin
I think this might be the first thing I’ve seen Goodwin in, and she was pretty charming. Her character, Gigi, was naive without being annoying, and even managed a few decent dramatic moments. She’s also my current celebrity doppelganger, so she gets some love.

long5. Justin Long
This is my first time seeing Justin Long as well (aside from the Mac vs. PC commercials), and I was actually pretty surprised. He also has one of the better characters in the movie, starting out as a bit of a player, but ultimately revealing himself as a good guy. I don’t think he was doing a whole lot of difficult acting, but that’s ok. He was fun to watch. In random trivia, he is the only main member of the cast whose name contains no double letters. Interesting!

5. Scarlett Johansson83rd Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Oh, Scar Jo. We all know she’s not that great an actress, but I do have to give her points for kicking some butt in The Avengers. She fits her role in He’s Just Not That Into You pretty well, too, although somehow I’m not sure I totally buy her as a yoga instructor.

connolly6. Kevin Connolly
I really no opinion on this guy. He reminds me of Sean Astin, a little bit, and he seems to largely be second-string in rom-coms (he was also in The Ugly Truth). His voice is kind of annoying, and his character was a little lame.

7. Jennifer Aniston85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Zzzzz. Sorry, but Aniston always just bores me to tears. She’s just so bland, although I do admit she’s generally good as the straight man (see: Friends). Her character is also kind of run-of-the-mill. I sort of wondered why Ben Affleck liked her so much.

cooper8. Bradley Cooper-
Yuck. This is the first thing I’ve seen Mr. Cooper in, and he’s got the worst character, basically. This does, of course, mean that he did a good job, since I disliked him so much, but I just don’t get all the love. I find him extremely unattractive. He looks like an emu or a rodent, alternately. Maybe Silver Linings Playbook will change my mind?

Happy birthday, Cary Grant: Top Six Movies

grant
As the quote goes, everyone wants to be Cary Grant. The talented actor was the picture of suave urbanity for more than three decades, and is still well-regarded today. I’m a latecomer to the charms of the erstwhile Archibald Leach, but I’ve become a huge fan in a few short years. But what I love about him isn’t his charm or his way with women: Cary Grant is HILARIOUS. He got his start in vaudeville and acrobatics (!), and while he eventually traded in the physical humor, his earlier films are what make him one of my favorite actors. Since today is the anniversary of his birth, I decided to share with you my picks for his six best films. Pay close attention to some of them: if I ever do a similar post for Katharine Hepburn, you’ll see them again. A very happy birthday, Mr. Grant.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby is a madcap adventure involving a dinosaur bone, a zany and free-spirited socialite (Hepburn, of course), and a leopard. Directed by Howard Hawks, the dialogue is so fast and witty that you’ll need to see the movie more than once. I do recommend doing so: it just gets funnier every time. Also, keep an ear out for the best Cary Grant line ever. I promise you’ll know it when you hear it.



Holiday (1938)

How did Grant and Hepburn manage to make two supremely funny movies in the same year? I don’t know, but Holiday is every bit as hilarious as Bringing Up Baby. This time Grant is all set to marry into a wealthy family, but you’ll figure out quickly that he’s marrying the wrong sister. He gets to show off some of his acrobatic abilities, and Hepburn turns on the charm. Meanwhile, Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, and Jean Dixon all nearly manage to steal the show from its stars. Sadly, I couldn’t find a trailer, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: this is a really good movie.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The most famous of the Grant/Hepburn pairings; you knew I couldn’t leave it out. This time we throw in James Stewart just to make it even more awesome. Grant shows up to try and win his ex-wife (Hepburn) back before she marries another man, but a visiting reporter (Stewart) might throw a wrench in the works. Once again, this is fast-paced, brilliantly executed dialogue. Basically, if it’s directed by George Cukor (Holiday was, too), it’s hard to go wrong.



Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

In this adaptation (directed by Frank Capra) of a successful stage play, Grant stars as Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic. On his wedding day, he not only learns that insanity runs in his family, but that his two maiden aunts are serial killers. Despite how it sounds, this is a delightfully funny and heartwarming movie, and Grant’s impeccable comedic timing is on full display.



North by Northwest (1959)

Alfred Hitchcock’s tale of an ordinary man mistaken for a government agent is arguably his best film, and Grant’s, too. This is the suave Cary Grant, even as he is thrown into one extraordinary situation after another. Eva Marie Saint is an absolutely scorching femme fatale, and James Mason and Martin Landau are excellent villains. Simply an outstanding film.



Charade (1963)

Ah, that other Hepburn. Audrey, in this case, stars as a young woman whose late husband’s thievery has made her a target for some very bad men. She meets up with Cary Grant (who may or may not be a good guy) and the two must dash around Paris (how awful for them) trying to solve the mystery, outsmart the villains, and perhaps get in a little romance while they’re at it. Walter Matthau and James Coburn co-stars in this smart and stylish thriller, which, thanks to Grant’s wry wit, is also more than a little funny. This is later in his career, but he remains a joy to watch, particularly as he tries to rebuff Audrey Hepburn’s advances. Also, the score is excellent.




So, what’s your favorite Cary Grant? Did I miss it?

Halloween for cowards: Six favorite not-so-scary movies

I’m pretty positive I’m mentioned it here before, but I’m a chicken. I don’t like horror movies with lots of gore, and serious suspense just leaves me jumpy for days. Despite all that, there are some Halloween-related movies that I truly love, a few of which I regularly watch around October 31st. I thought I’d share my favorites with you, in case you’re on the lookout for something fun to watch this Halloween. There are even a couple that qualify as kind of scary, so don’t make too much fun of me.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Duh. This is one of my favorite movies ever. I know a lot of people who choose to watch it around Christmas time, but in my opinion, why limit yourself? It’s kind of spooky and dark and most of the characters are denizens of Halloweentown, so it totally qualifies. The story (written by Tim Burton, natch) is great, the voice talent is excellent, and the songs and score are some of Danny Elfman’s best work. I’m assuming most people reading this blog have already seen Nightmare multiple times, but just in case you’ve missed out, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. Go! Right now!

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Go ahead and scoff, but I love this one, too. Hocus Pocus definitely falls into the “silly” movie category, but I just think the performances of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker (c’mon, who doesn’t toss out “amok amok amok!” from time to time?) remain enjoyable year after year. Bonus little tiny Thora Birch!

Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968)

Ok, so Blackbeard’s Ghost is kind of obscure. It’s a funny Disney movie about the ghost of Blackbeard the Pirate, who is forced to perform a kind deed or else his spirit will never be able to rest. It stars Peter Ustinov (the voice of Disney’s Prince John), chewing the scenery for all he’s worth, and it is hilarious. It also stars Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and is very Disney 60s-ish (think The Love Bug and That Darn Cat), but seriously, Peter Ustinov is worth every second.

The Crow

Ah ha! I included one that’s not for kids! While it’s not scary, necessarily, The Crow is dark and violent, but it’s also kind of beautiful. It’s such a cultural touchstone for Generation X (I think), and for me personally. Starring Brandon Lee, who died during filming, and the brilliant Michael Wincott, The Crow is, above all, a love story. I admit I haven’t seen it in a long while, but I think I might pull it off the shelf this year to see how it holds up. Note: the sequels are best avoided. Stick with the original.

Watcher in the Woods (1980)

More Disney, but this one is actually kind of scary! A young woman and her sister have strange experiences upon moving into a creepy old mansion which seem to be tied to the tragic disappearance of a girl who lived in the house many years before. Bette Davis plays the old woman who owns the house. This movie was very late in her career, and it was the first thing I’d ever seen her in, and she is super-spooky. I have watched this one recently, and it remains creepy and suspenseful. My husband even said so, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t just humoring me.

Bell Book and Candle (1958)

You know I’ve got to sneak a classic in somewhere. Bell Book and Candle stars Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart as a modern-day witch and the man she falls in love with. It actually takes place around Christmas, but it’s about witches, so it totally counts. The supporting cast includes Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold, and a young and adorable Jack Lemmon. It’s really an odd little movie, but it’s very entertaining, if not particularly scary. It’s beautifully shot and has great costumes (at least Novak does). Upon first viewing it is a teenager, I thought it was weird and a little slow at point, but as an adult it’s come to be a favorite of mine. I’ll just leave you with this scene from the movie. It’s not a musical but a few scenes take place at a club, and this number is part of the entertainment. It’s apparently called “The Bored Assassin.”

Happy Halloween!

Favorite Gene Kelly routines

Tired of hearing about Gene Kelly yet? Too bad. I never really get tired of talking about him, and I definitely don’t get tired of watching him dance. You probably haven’t seen it, but he’s featured in a new car commercial, along with Donald O’Conner. My brother and I (also a big fan) are excited about the commercial, just because any time somebody wants to remind the world of Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner is just fine with us. However, Linda Holmes over at NPR’s Monkey See blog has a reasonable argument for disliking the ad. I do see the point, as I also think that the commercial is pretty tacky-looking.

In reading that blog post, in which she highlights various routines of Mr. Kelly’s, I got to thinking about my favorite numbers. And then I thought, “Hey! That’d be a great post.” And so here we are. In chronological order, the very best (according to me) Gene Kelly dancin’ (and singin’) moments. I’m sure I’ll hear some argument, since I prefer these to some of the more well-known appearances, but if you don’t like my picks, well, go get your own blog!

“For Me and My Gal” (For Me and My Gal, 1942)
This is Gene Kelly’s first movie. He was already well-established in New York, and like many performers, made his way West to break into movies. Unlike some others, though, he had a reasonably powerful ally in the person of Judy Garland. She helped him learn his way around the movie-making biz, and they would ultimately do three pictures together. In this number, Kelly already shows himself to be a star, easily sharing the screen with the famous Garland, and performing a really charming routine. Plus, how handsome is he here??

“On the Town” (On the Town, 1949)
What I like about this number is that it shows us that Kelly could be a team player. He was a notorious perfectionist, and he was supposedly very picky about his co-stars’ dancing abilities, but here, in a movie he co-directed, he doesn’t put himself forward in this ensemble piece. He shares equal time with co-stars Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller (Love her!!), Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett, and I think the result is perfect. Those harmonies! Sadly, the routine by itself is no longer available on Youtube. You’ll just have to enjoy the trailer instead.

Scene from Summer Stock, 1950
Summer Stock is the third and final collaboration between Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. This scene, in which Kelly incorporates a squeaky board and a newspaper into his dance, shows off Kelly’s innovative and inventive ideas, not to mention his talent. It’s a really nice little routine, subdued in comparison to the big show-stoppers, but no less impressive.

“I Got Rhythm” (An American in Paris, 1951)
I was already a pretty big fan of Kelly by the time I saw An American in Paris, but I was still blown away by the dancing in this routine. It’s pretty impressive, but what really makes this scene is Kelly’s interaction with the kids, and his ability to use big moves in close spaces. “Demain, le bubblegum pour tout!”

Embedding has been disabled, but you can check out the number HERE.

“Good Mornin’” (Singin’ in the Rain, 1952)
Yep. You didn’t think I’d leave it out, did you? The best movie musical (and the best movie, IMO) EVER. I know everyone loves the title number, but I seriously waffled between “Moses Supposes,” which you can see on the Monkey See post and “Good Mornin’”. I chose this one because of the fantastic way in which the three dancers (Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds) maintain the personalities and relationships between their characters throughout, and because I love watching Reynolds hold her own against two of the greats. And again, Kelly’s inventive choreography, utilizing his space and surroundings to the utmost degree. Have you seen this movie yet? Are you tired of me asking? Get on it!!

Geez, I love musicals. And Gene Kelly. How about you? Do you have a favorite scene that I didn’t include?

8 reasons I am not interested in The Dark Knight Rises.

1. Because Anne Hathaway and Marion Cotillard are both in a Batman movie, and Hathaway is the one playing Catwoman.


 

 

 

 

2. Because Christopher Nolan should be making original movies instead of comic book rehashes.

3. Because they took Tom Hardy, who looks like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

and made him look like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Because I like my super-hero movies fun, and not full of angst-ridden socio-political commentary.

5. Because Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks ridiculous in a policeman’s uniform.


 

 

 

 

 

 

(No wait, just kidding about that one.)

6. Because I thought The Dark Knight sucked.

7. Because of trailers in which you can’t actually understand what the bad guy is saying.

8. Mainly, because I don’t think a Batman movie should take itself so seriously.

Favorite Geoffrey Rush performances


It’s probably been mentioned in passing a time or two (he did top my list of favorite movie pirates), but I’m going to make it a bold statement here: Holy crud, Geoffrey Rush is an amazing actor. Interestingly enough, I think the first thing I ever saw him in was Shine, for which he won an Academy Award, so you’d think that maybe there’d be nowhere to go but down. Boy, would you be wrong. This Australian actor is fantastic whether he’s being extremely dramatic (as in Shine) or extremely funny (Captain Barbossa, anyone?) or extremely and amazingly subtle. And so, I thought I would list for you some of Rush’s best performances. Although he’s a huge talent, he’s sort of a second-string guy in terms of exposure, so let’s focus on him for a little while, shall we? He deserves no less.

Shine (1996)

Shine is the true story of David Helfgott, who was a child prodigy on the piano. Driven by his father to succeed, he eventually suffers a breakdown. The main action of the movie focuses on the adult Helfgott (played by Rush) who finds his way back to life and back to the activity he loves. It’s a highly dramatic and affecting movie, and pretty much all of the credit goes to Rush. It’s a truly great performance, and it surprises me to think that Rush’s career has actually taken off after this film. Sure, he won the Oscar, but he didn’t really become a known quantity until later on.

Elizabeth (1998)

While Rush is fabulous in intensely dramatic roles or particularly humorous ones, I think it may be his subtlety that really floors me the most. I recently rewatched 1998′s Elizabeth, and while I appreciated the overall film a lot more than I did the first time, the thing that stuck with me was Rush’s magnetic portrayal of Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s “spymaster”. He just totally inhabits that role and his every expression seems to speak volumes. Cate Blanchett is, of course, amazing and is the focal point of the whole movie, but I think that Rush ties things together in a certain way. His Walsingham is a catalyst for the movements and progressions of Elizabeth’s growth into her role as monarch. He leads her to the conclusions she needs to make, not in a manner of influencing or changing her mind, but rather showing her the course she already knows she needs to follow. It really does take an exceptionally gifted actor to give us all of that with a modicum of words and gestures.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Wow. Two Elizabethan pictures in the same year? And with markedly different characters? You’ve got to admit that’s impressive. Where Walsingham is mysterious and deadly and fascinating, Henslowe is, well, a little bit of a joke. He’s a fun character, though, and Rush plays him to the hilt, as he always does. My feelings about Shakespeare in Love are already documented, so we’ll just leave it at that.

Mystery Men (1999)

This campy superhero satire is admittedly not a great movie, but it’s achieved cult classic status at this point, and for good reason. It boasts a great cast that includes Ben Stiller, Greg Kinnear, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, and Janeane Garofalo, and of course, Mr. Rush as the film’s villain. Personally, I think Rush as a bad guy is an awesome idea, and his Frankenstein Casanova (an evil genius type) fits the tone of the movie perfectly. He’s ridiculously over-the-top, but still kind of scary.

Quills (2000)

Speaking of over-the-top and scary, Quills is not for the faint of heart. A fictionalized account of the last years of the Marquis de Sade, we are again treated to an acting tour-de-force, not only by Rush, but also courtesy of Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Winslet, and Michael Caine. It’s not what I would call an enjoyable movie (there’s lots of sex and violence of a somewhat twisted nature, and there’s lots of, well, Geoffrey Rush, if you get me), but Rush’s performance is pretty astonishing. He was nominated for Best Actor for this picture, and lost to Russell Crowe, and I will go on record as saying that I think maybe he should’ve won. If that tells you anything. It should.

The King’s Speech (2010)

Couldn’t leave this one out; you can read my review here. As you probably know, The King’s Speech was the Best Picture winner last year, and it picked up Best Director for Tom Hooper and Best Actor for Colin Firth as well. Mr. Rush was also nominated in the Best Supporting category, and his performance is certainly worthy. It’s a return to subtlety, and his Lionel Logue is the heart of the movie. My favorite scene, though, is when he’s auditioning for a role in Shakespeare’s Richard III. He’s so incredibly bad that I was immediately struck with how amazingly good he would be if he actually played the part. Mr. Rush, if you’re reading, could you make that happen? Call Kenneth Branagh, or something.

These are mine, but what’s your favorite Geoffrey Rush performance? I know some people will probably go for Barbossa, but I felt like that would be repeating myself. :)

Favorite Film Pirates

Apparently, it’s Pirate Week here at BOM. Despite my annoyance with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, it has motivated not one, but two posts! I suppose that this one was partly helped along as well by discussions of Johnny Depp. Just so you know? Captain Jack Sparrow will not be making an appearance on this list. Sorry.

It seems as though we’ve always had a fascination with pirates. They lead, on the surface, a pretty “romantic” existence: world travel, gold and jewels, a life of crime. Sometimes I have to remind myself that they were probably actually a dirty, disease-ridden, unpleasant bunch. These pirates, however, are a talented and often quite handsome bunch. Check them out, or walk the plank!


Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare (Stardust, 2007)

Captain Shakespeare is the meanest, roughest, toughest pirate out there … as far as you know. A lot of people had complaints about De Niro’s performance in this fantastic movie, but I’m here to tell you that they are mostly smoking crack. He is completely perfect, and an absolute joy to watch. He just seems to be having so much fun! I know, I know, he’s the Robert De Niro, and all, but who says the greats can’t be silly every now and then? Besides, Stardust is a much better movie than, say, Analyze This or those Meet the Parents movies. Bleh.


Cary Elwes as the Dread Pirate Roberts (The Princess Bride, 1987)

Duh. About the time I started paying attention to good-looking guys, here came The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes was IT back in the day, amirite, ladies? He was so smooth, and suave, and we already knew how handsome he was under that mask. Plus, he died and came back to life to rescue his lady-love. He gave piracy some class, and looked impossibly dashing doing it. That summer, I successfully led a bid for Movie Night at camp to feature The Princess Bride over Dirty Dancing, insisting that all those Patrick Swayze fans didn’t know what they were missing. And you know what? After it was over, most of them agreed with me.


Gene Kelly as Serafin (The Pirate, 1948)

Ok, so Serafin is not really a pirate. He’s actually a wandering minstrel who poses as legendary pirate Macoco in order to impress the girl with whom he’s fallen in love, played by Judy Garland. But still, he’s Gene Kelly, so naturally he succeeds in his goal, bringing Macoco to life with virility and swagger. Given the opportunity to use his physicality as a means of characterization, Kelly is going to get it right every time, and it’s the dance scenes that make the movie. The Pirate is not the best in either the Kelly or the Garland catalogue, but it’s a must-see for fans of either star.


Kevin Kline as The Pirate King (The Pirates of Penzance, 1983)

This little-known adaptation of the Gilbert & Sullivan musical is a fun romp, boasting some other big names (Linda Ronstadt, Angela Lansbury) in addition to the fabulous Kevin Kline. He really sets the tone for the entire production, capturing the pomp and braggadocio of the Pirate King while still managing to be properly ridiculous. And he totally rocks that puffy shirt look. It is, as they say, a glorious thing.


Geoffrey Rush as Captain Barbossa (Pirates of the Caribbean, 2003-2011)

Captain Jack, you say? Ha! Captain Barbossa is the proper pirate here. First of all, Geoffrey Rush is a brilliant actor, and it’s always fun to see brilliant actors cut loose and have a little fun. Second of all, I think that Barbossa is just a much better pirate. He’s got some menace, some bravado, and his own, special brand of lunacy. And he doesn’t wear guyliner. Plus, I mean, Captain Jack is really kind of incompetent. Who would you rather sail with? All in all, as the series has gone on (and on, and on …) I’ve heard more and more from audiences about how it’s Rush who steals the show. That doesn’t surprise me one bit, frankly. From his very first scene, Barbossa was the pirate to look out for.

And now, tell me … who’s your favorite pirate? I know there are some more tars* worthy of mention out there. You know, besides that one guy.

*Note: “Tar” is another term for “sailor”. So I’m not missing an S. Hey, you’ve learned something today! It’s an educational blog!

Update: Need more pirates? Check out these obscure favorites over at Fencing.Net!

Six favorite children’s movies (adapted from books), plus a future favorite?

I recently read 2008 Caldecott winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, which is a gorgeous historical novel for children. It’s sort of half text and half illustration, and it’s just a really lovely and interesting book. It’s also about to be a major motion picture, directed by (of all people) Martin Scorsese. Yes! A kid’s movie! It looks beautiful, and has a bang-up cast. Take a look:

It looks great, if a bit different from the novel, but that’s how adaptations go, right? Anyway, it got me to thinking about children’s movies, and about some of my favorites in particular. I realized after a while that most of those are adapted from kid’s books. I know, total shocker. And so, five of my favorite kid’s movies adapted from books. I have to admit that the list is a little old, but well, it’s been a while since I was a kid. I tried to include some more recent selections, but mostly I’m interested to hear what your favorites are. I had to narrow my list down, so I know that there are dozens of great movies/books that are not represented here. Check these out (in no particular order), and then weigh in!

Mary Poppins (1964)

Please. Mary Poppins is on everyone’s list, I would hope. This movie made a star out of Julie Andrews, and has been delighting children (and adults) for nearly 40 years now. I remember well my mom bringing it home, and insisting to me and my brothers that we’d love it. We were highly skeptical, and sat down grumbling. As soon as the credits started to roll, we turned around, looked at Mom, and said “Can we watch it again?” You might not have known that the story of the magical nanny is based upon a series of children’s books by P.L. Travers. I haven’t read any of them, but they sound fantastically imaginative … maybe I’ll check them out when my daughter’s old enough to care that we’re reading to her, eh?

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

This surprise animated hit is a truly delightful film. It bears little resemblance to the book of the same name (again part of a series) by Cressida Cowell, but I have to imagine that it got the feel of the characters and the stories right. The film boasts an impressive voice cast and some really stunning animation, and a sequel is due out in 2014. You can read my review of the movie here, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I still highly recommend it.

The Harry Potter franchise (2001-2011)

For the past ten years, audiences have flocked to see J.K. Rowling’s amazing world of witches and wizards come to life. The three young stars (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) will likely be famous for the rest of their lives, and their supporting cast was pretty much everyone who is anyone in British acting circles. Through several different directors, all with different visions, these movies have managed to remain hugely successful, and the grand finale this summer was a fitting end to the franchise as a whole. I don’t think any list of kid’s books-turned-movies would be complete without them.

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

This is possibly one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s just perfect. It’s based on the novel by T.H. White, which is part of a larger series about the life and times of King Arthur. The Sword in the Stone is about Arthur as a boy growing up and not really knowing who he will become. He encounters Merlin the Magician, who takes it upon himself to educate the boy who will become king of all England. There are fun adventures and animated animals (I love Archimedes!) and some good songs, too. After all, it is Disney. I might need to go home and watch this, now. Seriously, love.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)

You may be surprised to learn that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is by Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming. It’s the story of two children, their father (a somewhat-failed inventor), and a magical car. The film version stars Dick Van Dyke and is a joyous and colorful musical. It’s another one my brothers and I loved as children, and, like Mary Poppins, it’s on my shelves today. I think I probably know all the songs by heart, and my favorite scene is when they invade the castle disguised as toys. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch the movie!

Black Arrow (1985)

I was unable to find a good picture from this last movie. Black Arrow is based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (best known for Treasure Island, probably), and is about two young people caught in the midst of the War of the Roses in England. The movie was made by Disney, and IMDb says that it was made for television, although we always rented it from the local video store. It breaks my heart, but it’s not available on DVD at all, and seems pretty hard to find even on VHS. It’s a great dramatic movie, though, with some good action, a fiery heroine, and some excellent acting, courtesy of Donald Pleasence and Oliver Reed. Maybe if I can drum up enough interest in it, we can write to Disney and ask them for a DVD release, eh? Seriously, it’s so good.

That’s my list! There are so many other movies I could have included, but I tried to stick with ones that are near and dear to my heart. Yes, I suppose this list ages me a little, but that’s ok. I’m sure I will be up-to-date on all the latest kid’s movies in the next 10 years or so, and then maybe I’ll revisit this list. But for now, tell me: Which are your favorites?