BP Saturday Night Movie: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

When I think of Elizabeth Taylor, I return to my grandparents’ house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I visited there when I was very young, and the furniture, the decor–everything now seems to me to represent that time of the 1950s and early 60s so epitomized by actresses such as Taylor.

It’s like what George Costanza on Seinfeld said about affairs, which to him brought to mind cocktails and William Holden. That time did seem like a more adult version of America, when writers like Cheever were probing beyond the suburban facades.

But it likely was no different than now, perhaps even worse, as young men and women struggled with the expectations that once in their twenties, they would assume the roles held by their parents. Today, we have more leeway in that regard.

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Postscript: Man on Fire (2004)

One of these two is an alcoholic mercenary in need of the kind of redemption that can be only be delivered at the hands of an innocent child. (Hint: It’s not Dakota Fanning.)

I didn’t set out to watch three movies about kidnapped children in a row, but for whatever reason, it worked out that way. After High and Low and Changeling, however, Man on Fire comes at the viewer like a flying mallet.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, since the director is Tony Scott, the director of Top Gun, The Rock, et al. You know what you’re signing up for, which is typically a film as  a subtle as the WWF.

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Trapped Again

The Beau Lebowski?

I need an answer girl, can’t you see
I’m trapped again
Come and rescue me

— Southside Johnny

A rainy Sunday afternoon with my daughter–and this is the movie of choice.  I never appreciated the value of having plucky young girls as heroines in family films until I was the father of a plucky young girl.

Free Willy: Escape from Pirates Cove (2010), the fourth Willy film,  is a direct-to-DVD release that likely would drive you slightly batty if you didn’t have a plucky young daughter. It’s the story of an 11-year-old girl (Bindi Irwin, the daughter of the late Crocodile Hunter) who befriends a young orca.

And it is refreshingly free of princesses, magic, Hanna Montanas, talking animals, and snark. Irwin is smart, resourceful, serious, and–dare I say–a good role model.

Also, as an adult, you’ll never be happier to see Beau Bridges in your life than when he first pops up. It’s like seeing one other person you know at a party. And the word to define his performance is, well, Lebowskiesque. Sometimes it sounds as if he’s directly channeling his brother.

The South African scenery is lovely. The CGI whales, not so much.

By the way, this is a different whale. If the same Willy needed to be freed yet again, wouldn’t you start worrying about him?

BP Double Feature: Changeling (2008)/High and Low (1963)

I don’t believe they made lips like these in 1928

Both films center on the kidnapping of sons. Both films deal with power and its mirror image, helplessness.

Christine Collins, the heroine of Changeling, the more recent Eastwood film, has almost no station in society. A single mother in 1928 Los Angeles, she is effectively a non-person. Indeed, as has been in the case with many films about L.A., it’s the institutions, specifically the LAPD, that holds the power. The department, as personified by a squirrelly Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), blocks Collins at every turn, first by refusing to believe her son is gone, then by “substituting” one boy for another.

Kingo Gondo, a Yokohama corporate titan, on the other hand, literally stands above the citizenry, in a house that overlooks the city. When it appears his son has been kidnapped, the police move heaven and earth to solve the case, devoting massive resources to the investigation.

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