My list of 100 movies kept evolving. I added astronomy documentaries, having the feeling that one should eventually outgrow movies. I will not say these are my 100 favorites. I will say they are the 100 that for one reason or another made this list. Movies are like people, half good and half bad. My list is different! Thirteen titles relate to some of my favorite music (Elvis, Beatles, ABBA), followed by Broadway musicals gone Hollywood. There are comic book movies and those that feature some of the most beautiful actresses of their era (Natalie Wood, Jane Fonda, Jenny Agutter). There is comedy and Greek mythology. There is a Woody Allen flick balanced by two bios of Jesus. There is classic science fiction and war, no doubt because I was in the army. It is a baby boomer list and runs the gamut from Shakespeare to the New York Yankees. I like movies that teach, take me to foreign lands, maybe into the past or into the future. My annotations are personal and contain links to youtube trailers and reviews that enhance each entry.
2019 - WONDER WOMAN 2
Patty Jenkins will direct a sequel but wants to be paid what the men get. Turnoff! Women today want to be men, and men want to be women. I will see the sequel in the theater but will not buy the DVD. I am done giving money to Hollywood's homos.
2019 - CLASSICAL GREECE TOUR
I will go with Globus/Monograms if I go to Greece. These are the people I went to Hong Kong with. I will need another passport. Originally, I wanted to cruise the Greek islands. Then, I realized Classical Greece is more consistent with my personality. I have a basic plan.
2018 - MAMMA MIA! 2: HERE WE GO AGAIN
Bjorn said there would be no sequel, but there will be. They have to come up with a script from scratch this time. The setting will again be on the mythical Greek island of Kalokairi, which is really Skopelos, an island in the Aegean Sea. I wish they would dump Meryl Streep, who made an ass of herself during the 2016 election.
2017 - TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017 PATH THROUGH THE UNITED STATES
Eclipse chasers convened for the Great American Eclipse, August 21, 2017. The moon's shadow entered the U.S in Oregon and crossed the country in 1 hour and 31 minutes. The path of totality was 70 miles wide. During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes through the earth's shadow. During a solar eclipse, the earth passes through the moon's shadow. Both cast shadows into space. I saw the eclipse from Lebanon, Tennessee. It went by so quickly. I spotted the planet Venus. The corona reminded me of a paper mache flower. Maybe I had seen too many pictures and expected too much.
2017 - MOUNT RUSHMORE
Mount Rushmore is a National Memorial, not a National Park. Danish sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved the faces of 4 American presidents into a cliff in the Black Hills of South Dakota: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The work was done between 1927 and 1941. I watched this show after deciding to go to the Nebraska Star Party and on to South Dakota.
2017 - BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK
I thought I would slip across the South Dakota state line while attending the Nebraska Star Party. Badlands National Park is about geology. Erosion and fossils! No dinosaurs, however. Just mammals in these sedimentary rocks. Begin with the Visitors Center. Walk the one mile fossil exhibit trail.
2017 - NEBRASKA STAR PARTY
I will attend the NSP in July, 2017. It is held at the Merritt Reservoir near Valentine. John Johnson is my contact. There will be telescopes and astronomy classes. I will slip across the South Dakota state line and go to Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park.
2017 - WONDER WOMAN
Wonder Woman was created by William Moulton Marston and first appeared in 1942. Marston used the pseudonym, Charles Moulton. He was a psychologist and also invented the lie detector. Gal Gadot is Wonder Woman, and her movie is set during World War I. Gadot is skinny as a rail, although she does have a look. Lynda Carter is not easy to top, and I suppose Warner Brothers decided to take a different approach. Wonder Woman (Diana Prince) is from the island of Themyscira. Some say Paradise Island. I compiled a list of 25 Wonder Woman candidates and wanted Bridget Regan to get the part. Warner Brothers owns DC Comics. DC originally stood for Detective Comics.
In an era when movies are loud and violent, Wonder Woman has a humanness about it. And unlike other superhero films, there is some genuine humor. Patty Jenkins directed. Zack Snyder came up with the story. Mythology and history mix and, of course, all stories have inconsistencies. Wonder Woman was a little girl, then became a woman in her mid-20s. Will she continue to age? Hippolyta did! Are not the Amazons immortal? We must realize this is fantasy. Wonder Woman is a fictional character.
Gal Gadot is actually a great Wonder Woman. She has that look! Gal is Jewish, from Israel, and served in the Israeli army. She has a sweet smile as well as an intimidating scowl. Marksman Charlie, smooth-talking Sammy and Chief are comic characters. Sammy has one of the best lines: "I'm both frightened, and aroused," responding to Diana's physical prowess. Etta Candy is Steve Trevor's secretary and helps Diana find a suitable outfit while in London. Gadot is stunning in her hat and glasses! She is in modern-day Paris when the movie begins.
Wonder Woman was sculpted out of clay by her mother, Hippolyta, and brought to life by Zeus. We are shown her origin. 8-year-old Lilly Aspell plays the young Diana. Connie Nielsen is Hippolyta. Robin Wright (Jenny in Forrest Gump) is Antiope. Antiope trains Diana to fight but is killed on the beach during the battle with the Germans.
Chris Pine is Steve Trevor. When Trevor's plane goes down off the coast of Themyscira, Diana dives in the water and pulls him to safety. Trevor tells Diana about the war and takes her to London, then to the front. We see images associated with the war: trench warfare, poison gas and no man's land. It is ironic that while men cannot cross no man's land, a woman can. And she is awesome in her armor and tiara as she she deflects German fire.
The film uses Bullets and Bracelets and the Lasso of Truth (also known as the Lasso of Hestia). Lynda Carter's invisible plane was scrapped. Diana uses her lasso to make Trevor confess that he is a spy. Germans are the perennial bad guys, Warner Brothers being Jewish. It is a stretch to think women with bows and arrows could defeat Germans with guns, but these are Amazons. Is Themyscira in the Aegean? The Ottomon Empire is nearby, and it is there that Steve Trevor pilfers Doctor Poison's book.
Diana and Steve Trevor dance in the snow and spend the night together. We assume they have sex. Diana is curious about Steve's penis when he arises naked from his bath early in the film. He changes the subject by alluding to the watch given to him by his father. He gives this watch to Diana as a memento before blowing himself up in the plane. He tells her he wishes they had more time. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine accounts for much of Wonder Woman's success.
We think Ludendorff is Ares, the god of war, only to learn that Sir Patrick is Ares. Wonder Woman finally kills Ares, but war does not end because the desire for war exists in the hearts and minds of men. War gives us purpose. Nor is it the God Killer Sword that vanquishes Ares because only a god can kill a god. It is after Steve Trevor sacrifices his life by blowing up the plane with the poison gas that Wonder Woman summons the strength to defeat Ares. I wondered what was stashed in the back of Diana's blue dress upon meeting Ludendorff. It was the sword.
Wonder Woman is the ultimate movie. I thought it would be made in the mid-90s. It took another generation! The movie apparently begins in the 1980s because that is when the sequel will take place. Diana looks at the picture taken after the liberation of Veld and recalls her experiences in World War I.
WONDER WOMAN SYNOPSIS -
Wonder Woman opens with Diana Prince in Paris, probably in 1980. We see the Eiffel Tower, the Seine and the Pyramid in front of the Louvre. A vehicle from (Bruce) Wayne Enterprises delivers a picture taken during World War I. Then, we flash back to Diana's childhood on the island of Themyscira. Diana is an Amazon, intrigued by combat and training. Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) is protective of her daughter and hopes she never has to fight. Hippolyta sculpted Diana from clay, and Zeus brought her to life. Hippolyta recounts how Ares, the god of war, rebelled and killed all the gods except Zeus. Hippolyta takes young Diana to a tower and shows her the sword known as the God Killer. Time passes, and Antiope (Robin Wright) begins to train Diana. Antiope knows Ares is alive and will return. Grown-up Diana (Gal Gadot) stands on a cliff looking into the Aegean Sea. Steve Trevor's (Chris Pine) plane crashes into the water, and Diana dives in to save him. She drags him to the beach. She has never seen a man! The German's are pursuing Trevor because he is a spy and has stolen Dr. Isabel Maru's (Dr. Poison) book of formulas. There is a battle on the beach, and the Germans are no match for the Amazons. But Antiope is killed with her final word being "God Killer!" Hippolyta thinks Trevor is a German and wants to kill him. Diana assures her mother that he fought on her side. The Lasso of Truth compels Trevor to tell his story. He infiltrated the Germans, grabbed Dr. Poison's book and ran. Trevor tells the women about the war to end all wars, and Diana is certain that Ares is behind the conflict. Trevor bathes in healing water. Diana climbs the tower to get the God Killer. No easy task even for her! Gal Gadot looks like Wonder Woman! She and Steve leave the island by boat after a touching goodbye scene with her mother. Hippolyta gives her Antiope's tiera, and it is off to the war! Diana and Steve have some sex talk on the boat while sailing to London. They pass under the Tower Bridge, which I crossed on foot in 1994. Enter Erich Ludendorff (a real general in World War I) and his deadly chemist. Dr. Poison creates the mustard gas for which the war is famous. We meet Etta Candy, Steve's secretary and a comic character, who helps Diana choose appropriate clothes. Gal Gadot is charming as she tries on various outfits. She is stunning in her hat and glasses. Steve and Diana are followed and have to fight off assailants. Thank goodness for "bullets and bracelets!" The couple deliver the stolen notebook to Steve's superiors, and we encounter Sir Patrick Morgan (who is actually Ares). Diana translates the formulas written in Sumerian. Amazons know hundreds of languages! Diana is still convinced Ares is behind the war. She and Steve head for the front after Steve enlists the help of 3 oddballs. These are Sammy (a womanizer), Charlie (a marksman) and the Chief (a smuggler). Sammy likes women and when Wonder Woman does her thing, he is "both frightened and aroused." Steve wants to destroy a second weapons facility. At the front, Diana confronts the horrors of war! It is trench warfare. Frustrated by the lack of progress, she transforms herself into Wonder Woman and leads the charge across "no man's land." It is an inspiring scene with Wonder Woman taking all the fire, deflecting it with her shield. Goddess Gadot! She has that look! We stare into Gal's eyes! Or does she stare into ours? She uses her lasso, tossing Germans left and right. That eerie music from the soundtrack starts, and Wonder Woman demonstrates her strength. The Belgium town of Veld is liberated, and a period of calm follows. A picture is taken, the same one we saw at the beginning of the movie. Sammy says he wanted to be an actor but is the wrong color. Charlie sings and plays the piano. It starts snowing as Steve and Diana get romantic. They dance, then retire to an upstairs room where they make love. Diana now believes Ludendorff is Ares and sets out to kill him. She thinks it will stop the war. They crash the German high command's party. Gal is gorgeous in the blue dress! Diana and Ludendorff dance. Steve and Dr. Poison talk. Steve wants to find and destroy the gas. Diana realizes that all men are to blame for war, not just the Germans and not just Ares. As Wonder Woman, she follows Ludendorff and kills him. But the war continues! Great quote: "It's not about what you deserve. It's about what you believe." Suddenly, Sir Patrick shows! He is Ares! An epic fight ensues: Wonder Woman versus Sir Patrick! The God Killer proves useless, and Ares says only a god can kill another god. Steve hijacks the plane carrying mustard gas to London. He blows it up while sacrificing his own life. Ares is a formidable foe, even for Wonder Woman, providing the comic book violence so prevalent in modern movies. Steve gives Diana his watch to remember him by before running down the plane. She watches the plane explode and Steve die, and this gives her the adrenaline to defeat Ares. Gadot expresses emotions well. She was born to play Wonder Woman! She conveys her passion! Steve tells Diana he can save the day, but she can save the world. "I love you!" are his last words. With Ares' demise, the war ends. Should our history books give Wonder Woman credit for stopping World War I? We cut to celebrations and flag-waving in London. Diana touches a picture of Steve next to his plane. It is 1980 again, and she confides that only love can save the world. She has found her mission! Forever! Gal Gadot is the perfect Wonder Woman. At 5'10", she has those long legs. She served in the Israeli army and is very physical. The Wonder Woman sequel will be set in the 1980s. It will hit theaters in December, 2019. Patty Jenkins will direct.
2016 - THE TRUMP REVOLUTION
Democrats, the liberal media and members of his own party opposed him, but Donald Trump overcame all opposition to win the 2016 presidential election. Trump, a businessman who had never held political office, was elected because Americans were fed up with being called "racists," "sexists" and "homophobes." "I am your voice!" he assured his supporters. The more controversial Trump's remarks became, the more his support grew. Trump connected with voters on such issues as trade, immigration and the military. He reached out to the common man, not the men in suits. He called his campaign a "movement," and that is what it was.
2016 - THE MAKING OF DONALD TRUMP
Donald John Trump was born in Queens, New York City, June 14, 1946. He is a real estate developer. His father loaned him a million dollars, which he turned into a ten billion dollar empire. He heads the Trump Organization, which has erected buildings like Trump Tower in Manhattan. Trump owns golf courses and has authored best-selling books like "The Art Of The Deal." He is media-savvy and had a hit TV show called "The Apprentice." Trump has 5 kids, 3 sons and 2 daughters, by 3 wives. His wives are Ivana, Marla and Melania. Melania was born in Yugoslavia in 1970. Donald Trump announced on June 16, 2015, that he was running for president of the United States.
2015 - THE BOMB
Fear that Germany might get the atomic bomb drove the Manhattan Project. General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer became major players. Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford, Washington were the main locations where the bomb was developed. After Germany surrendered, Japan became the target, and atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, to end the worst war in history. The United States was fully justified in using the bomb in light of Japan's unrelenting aggression. The next step was Edward Teller and the hydrogen bomb. Competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union gave rise to what became known as the "Cold War." Fallout shelters became fashionable. The Korean and Vietnam Wars were fought to "contain Communism." The U.S. had 31,000 nuclear weapons by the late 1960's. I found myself in an Atomic Demolition Munitions platoon in Germany in 1970.
2014 - ALIEN PLANETS REVEALED
This documentary shown on NOVA tells the story of the Kepler Space Telescope and its search for earthlike exoplanets. Kepler found 3500 potential planets in a small patch of sky near the constellation Cygnus. Ultimately, Kepler is looking for extraterrestrial life, so it is interested in planets that are the right distances from their stars so that liquid water can exist. Not too hot, not too cold! It is assumed that alien life will obey the laws of chemistry and physics. It is also assumed that the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen will play an important role along with self-replicating DNA molecules. Planet hunter Geoff Marcy shows up.
2014 - HUBBLE'S AMAZING UNIVERSE
The achievements of the Hubble Space Telescope are reviewed. Hubble has relayed images of star-forming regions like the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, the Orion Nebula and the Carina Nebula. Stars evolve from gas and dust! It has shown us the future of our sun in the Helix Nebula. Red giant to white dwarf! Massive stars explode as Supernovas, the Crab Nebula being a remnant. Eta Carina will leave a black hole, and Hubble has provided evidence for their existence. The telescope produced the Hubble Deep Field and has aided in understanding Dark Matter and Dark Energy.
2013 - ANARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE
This film by Anthony Powell shows us what it is like to spend a year in Anarctica. The winters are killer! The temperature goes to -40 degrees and winds blow at 100 mph. The sun disappears for 4 months at McMurdo Station. This film is not about scientists. It is about the people who work at the base and keep it functional. We get inside their heads. There are people who fell in love with the place and can't seem to get enough of it. There are others who wonder if they did the right thing by coming here. I found myself wanting to spend some time in Anarctica while knowing it will never happen. The stars of the southern sky are compelling and, of course, we all love penguins!
2011 - FINDING LIFE BEYOND EARTH - Scientists search the solar system for places where life might exist. Mercury and Venus are too hostile. Mercury is basically a ball of iron, the core of a planet. The three ingredients making life possible on Earth are energy from the sun, water and organic compounds (those containing carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen). Planet formation is discussed, and the possible role of comets. Comets contain amino acids, the seeds of life. It is believed that water once flowed on Mars, and one guy calls Mars an ice cube covered with dirt. These people desperately want to find extraterrestrial life even as Curiosity roams Mars searching for organic molecules. Further out, it is hinted that Jupiter's moon Europa may harbor life in oceans beneath its ice. Finally, it is suggested that Saturn's moons Enceladus and Titan may have internal energy sources. Titan has lakes of liquid methane, and astrobiologists wonder whether life might form in liquids other than water. Planet-hunter Geoff Marcy closes the show. From TV's Nova.
2011 - HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWO HOURS
This documentary condenses the universe's 13.8 billion and the earth's 4.6 billion years. The Big Bang created all the energy that will ever be. Gravity shaped both the universe and the earth. Light elements were made inside stars while heavy elements were created by supernovas. Life evolved. Extinction of the dinosaurs gave rise to mammals. Continental drift and the ice age. Humans colonized the globe! They clustered near rivers. Humans got cut off from each other when the ice melted. Agriculture, cities, writing, governments, trade. Sumerians invented the wheel. Empires, religions, Columbus. The Industrial Revolution, coal and oil.
2010 - INSIDE THE MILKY WAY
According to this documentary, there are 200 billion stars in our galaxy. The Milky Way is a beautiful sight under dark skies. It is a spiral, a giant disk of stars. Our solar system lies between two of its spiral arms. Astronomers compare the Milky Way to the lovely M74. We visit the Orion Nebula and witness star birth from gas and dust. We journey to the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant from which heavy elements were created. We move to the galaxy's heart to discover a black hole. We travel upward to the globular clusters, the oldest stars. Dark matter is discussed, the glue holding the Milky Way together. Light passes right through it. We foresee the Milky Way colliding with the Andromeda galaxy to form an elliptical. Geoff Marcy talks about how galaxies have habitable zones much like stars while Seth Shostak adds some humor. National Geographic did this show.
2010 - A TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO THE PLANETS
We visit the planets. Mars is cold, and water exists only as solid ice and water vapor, not as a liquid. The atmosphere is too thin. Mercury and Venus are sizzling hot. The sun in Mercury's sky is enormous. Venus' clouds are made of sulfuric acid. Jupiter's clouds are stretched into bands because of the planet's rapid rotation. There is no surface. Jupiter is half a billion miles away. Saturn is twice as far as Jupiter at a billion miles. Cloud tops and rings! Uranus and Neptune are called the "ice giants." The sun is a point of light from blue Neptune.
2009 - WHO'S AFRAID OF A BIG BLACK HOLE?
Black holes form when massive stars explode as supernovas and their remains implode to a point known as a singularity. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku talks about Einstein and how gravity is caused by the bending of space/time and how it is space that pushes us to the ground. General relativity predicted black holes. However, the laws of physics and Einstein's theories break down inside a black hole. There is infinite gravity, and time stops! There is a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and everything circles it. Black holes may be crucial to the formation of galaxies. The universe itself came from a singularity, the same object at the center of a black hole.
2009 - EINSTEIN
Everybody knows Albert Einstein's equation E=mc2: energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. It shows that energy can become matter and matter can become energy. It led to the atomic bomb. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (1905) showed space and time to be the same thing, a fabric called space/time. The General Theory of Relativity (1915) redefined gravity. It showed that objects curve, bend and distort the space around them. Space itself pushes planets around the sun. Photos of curved starlight passing near the sun during a solar eclipse proved Einstein right. Light consists of particles called photons.
2009 - THE SUN
From the Discovery Channel. The sun is a star, lest we forget. It controls everything on Earth. It provides our light and heat. Light reaches us in 8 minutes. It is 30 million degrees at the sun's core, where nuclear fusion takes place. Photosphere, chromosphere, corona. Solar wind, magnetic field lines, sunspots. Prominences, flares, bursts of energy. Solar storms. We came from the stars! Astrophysicist Alex Filippenko is in ecstasy, and I am always fascinated by female astronomers and astrophysicists like Dr. Holly Gilbert.
2008 - DARK MATTER/DARK ENERGY
Dark matter holds stars and galaxies together, while dark energy tries to drive them apart. Dark energy will win as the universe will be torn apart. Gravitational lensing has provided proof of dark matter. It may be composed of particles called WIMPs. Dark matter neither emits nor reflects light. Light passes through it. Dark matter was created at the moment of the Big Bang and serves as the skeleton around which normal matter forms. This show was produced by Rebecca Graham Forde as an episode of The Universe.
2008 - THE UNIVERSE: LIGHT SPEED
The speed of light is an absolute. It travels 186,000 miles per second. It travels 6 trillion miles in a year. Nothing is faster! Light travels from the moon to the earth in 1.3 seconds. It travels from the sun to the earth in 8 minutes. A light-year measures distance: 6 trillion miles. Alpha Centauri is 4.4 light years away. A sphere 13.8 billion light years in all directions is as far as we can see. There has not been enough time for light to travel further than that. It is our light horizon. Space itself may be expanding faster than light. Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity has constant light speed at its center. We never see objects. What we see is light reflected by objects. Step into a dark closet, and this will be obvious.
2008 - MONSTER OF THE MILKY WAY
Eric Becklin, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez track the stars at the center of the Milky Way. In doing so, they determine that there is a black hole at our galaxy's heart. There are small stellar black holes and supermassive black holes like the ones at the centers of large galaxies. Infrared light is used to study the center of the Milky Way. Space falls into a black hole like water going over a waterfall. Hey, Becklin! Get a haircut! This is not 1969!
2008 - CONSTELLATIONS
I learned the constellations when I was 15 and 16. Latitude and longitude on Earth become declination and right ascension in the night sky. Parallax is measured from opposite points of Earth's orbit. Cepheid variables are used to measure distances. Three Egyptian pyramids may mimic Orion's belt. Michio Kaku talks about precession. There are really 13 Zodiac constellations when we count Ophiuchus. Astrology is superstition! Mesopotamians, Greeks and Romans named the constellations. Ptolemy listed 48. Crux is the smallest. In 1922, the International Astronomical Association divided the sky into 88 constellations. The night sky was a calendar to the ancients. Brittany Graham wrote this.
2008 - CHESS IN CONCERT
Tim Rice brought this production of the CHESS musical to London's Albert Hall, named after Queen Victoria's husband. Rice said he wanted this version to be the official one. It seems this show can be put together in any number of ways, like the game of chess itself. Adam Pascal is the American. Josh Groban is the Russian. Rice spent a good portion of his life wrestling with CHESS. My own paper ushers a steady stream of traffic to my site. CHESS is the most spiteful, cynical piece ever staged.
2008 - MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE
The world's biggest musical became a motion picture! It features the songs of ABBA. The plot is thin yet relevant to the songs. Sophie is getting married and wants to know who her father is. She gets into her mother's diary and narrows it down to three men. She invites the three to the Greek island where the wedding is to take place. Meryl Streep is Sophie's mother. She carries a torch for Sam, played by Pierce Brosnan. Michael and I saw Mamma Mia! August 24, 2008. I had him singing "Mamma Mia!" & "Slipping Through My Fingers" at age 5.
2007 - THE UNIVERSE: COSMIC HOLES
Cosmic holes are black holes, white holes and wormholes. White holes and wormholes are theoretical. There is an idea that theories from science fiction eventually prove to be science. Maybe this is true in some cases and not true in others. It is hard to believe in time travel. A hypothetical wormhole in space is compared to a worm eating its way through an apple. The hole becomes a shortcut to another place in the universe. Scientists at CERN in Switzerland are using the Hadron Collider to try to create mini black holes. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Familiar faces show up, notably Michio Kaku, who seems determined to outdo Einstein the way Einstein outdid Newton.
2007 - IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON
Michael and I saw this documentary about the Apollo program. The surviving astronauts, in their 70s, speak their minds. For the first time they seem like real people as they tell us what going to the moon is like. They savored the moon's beauty, yet understood it to be a hostile place. All returned with a deeper appreciation of Earth, an oasis floating in the void. Fear was negligible, although Michael Collins was concerned whether Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin could fly the Eagle back to the command module. These old guys have a sense of humor!
2007 - SEEING IN THE DARK
This is a Timothy Ferris film shown on PBS. Ferris talks about his experiences with astronomy and because he was born on August 29, 1944, he is someone I can relate to. His film focuses on amateur stargazers and their telescopes. Ferris explores the life of E.E. Barnard, a Nashville-born astronomer who photographed the Milky Way. It was the Horsehead Nebula that convinced Barnard the dark regions in the Milky Way were gas and dust. Ferris goes on to talk about exoplanets and the means by which they are detected. As much as I enjoy astronomy, I realize that it takes me out of a world in which I have to function.
2005 - MANTLE: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF MICKEY MANTLE
Mickey Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, October 20, 1931. Early on, he worked in the mines. His father introduced him to baseball, and Mickey was a natural. He went on to play 18 years with the New York Yankees 1951-68. He wore #7 and hit 536 home runs. I played baseball with C & R Colyer, a team sponsered by my father and uncle. I wanted to be like Mantle but did not have the ability. Mantle was plagued by injuries his entire career, otherwise he might have been the greatest baseball player ever. Tragically, he became an alcoholic and died at age 63.
2004 - 100 GREATEST DISCOVERIES EPISODE 1 ASTRONOMY
Bill Nye (the science guy) names 13. The planets move. Copernicus and his sun-centered system. Kepler determines that planets' orbits are ellipses. Galileo and the moons of Jupiter. Halley predicts a comet would return in 1758. Herschel discovers Uranus and figures out that the Milky Way is a disk of stars. Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Hubble's expanding universe and Big Bang. Jansky's radio astronomy. Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. Gamma Ray Bursts. Exoplanets. Dark Energy.
2004 - TROY
Michael and I watched this in our room in New York City. I tried to explain it! It is from the Iliad written by the Greek poet Homer, Ilium being a word for Troy. When Trojan Paris seduces Helen, the Greeks sack Troy, using a wooden horse to enter the city. Brad Pitt is Achilles, the Greek hero. He dies when Paris shoots an arrow into his heel. Michael asked if the part about the horse was true. I said the story is half true, half made-up. Homer lived in 800 B.C. The Trojan War was fought in 1200 B.C.
2001 - 61*
Comedian Billy Crystal produced this movie about Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris chasing Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs. Maris finished with 61 but hit his last two in games added to an expanded schedule. The Commissioner of Baseball placed an asterisk beside his record, tainting the achievement. Maris never fit in New York. Whether the stress was such that his hair fell out, I am not sure. Movies need drama! The actors who play Mantle and Maris look like them. Michael and I watched this before going to Yankee Stadium.
1999 - LIFE BEYOND EARTH
Timothy Ferris wrote and narrated this documentary. He contends that communication is more effective than exploration in the search for extraterrestrial life. Interstellar travel involves hopelessly vast distances. Radio signals, however, travel at the speed of light. Radio telescopes can be used to detect advanced civilizations that might be broadcasting. Ferris introduces SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and dedicates his show to Carl Sagan. Ferris recognizes that life requires an energy source (sun), water and organic (carbon-based) compounds.
1997 - TITANIC
Michael and I saw this blockbuster. The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912. It was sailing from Southampton, England, to New York. 1523 people drowned; 705 survived. The passenger list was a microcosm of society. Robert Ballard located the Titanic on the ocean floor and recovered its contents. James Cameron was inspired to make this film. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are Jack and Rose. Who can forget the image of Jack at the front of the ship? "I'm the king of the world!" The story focuses on a heart-shaped diamond necklace Rose's fiance gave her. The 101-year-old Rose throws it in the ocean. Titanic won 11 Academy Awards.
1997 - CONTACT
Carl Sagan's novel about extraterrestrial intelligence stars Jodie Foster as Ellie. She pursues her passion for astronomy, working with SETI. When contact is made and a machine built according to instructions sent by aliens, Ellie is transported through a wormhole to Vega. She encounters an alien whom she perceives as her deceased father. The ending is inconclusive, which again shows that we cannot seek reality in science fiction. Foster achieved notoriety when John Hinckley, the man who shot Ronald Reagan, said he did it to get her attention.
1997 - ELVIS MEETS NIXON
If you know the Elvis story and can stand Dick Cavett, this movie is entertaining and funny. Elvis and Nixon are caricatures. I was drafted in 1969 at age 23 and could see both Elvis's and Jane Fonda's points of view. I think most baby boomers loved their country while hating the Vietnam War. It is an anachronism that at one point Fonda is referred to as "Hanoi Jane." Elvis met Nixon on December 21, 1970. Jane did not go to Vietnam until July, 1972.
1995 - TRINITY AND BEYOND
The Atomic Bomb Movie is a documentary tracing the development of nuclear weapons. There were many tests in the years following World War II, both at the Nevada Test Site and in the Pacific Ocean. Those mushroom clouds have an intrinsic beauty, especially when accompanied by the music of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Atmospheric tests gave way to underground testing, and there have been no tests at all since 1992.
1994 - FORREST GUMP
I saw it with my mother. I had to go out in the lobby during the combat scene. Even though I did not go to Vietnam, I felt like I did. Gump moves from Elvis and The Beatles to the disco era. He finds himself in Washington, D.C., an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I developed an affection for Tom Hanks' character after taking my son to D.C. We joked about Jenny running through the Reflecting Pool. Revealing the quintessential boomer life can be painful.
1994 - MAVERICK
Mel Gibson is Bret Maverick. James Garner is pappy, and Jodie Foster is Annabelle. Bret and Annabelle struggle to get the entry fee for a poker game as action and comedy take turns. I took my son to see this because I liked the TV series. There were 124 episodes between 1957 and 1962. It was James Garner as Bret one week and Jack Kelly as brother Bart the next. They often appeared together. The appeal of Maverick was its humor. It was the exception among westerns. I hear the theme song: "Riverboat ring your bell. Fare thee well Annabelle. Luck is the lady that he loves the best. Natchez to New Orleans. Living on jacks and queens. Maverick is a legend of the west."
1993 - AMAZING SPACE
Classic astronomy from The Learning Channel. Equinoxes and solstices, spectra from the light of stars! This was before the discovery of exoplanets and before black holes became hot topics. The show is great for reviewing the constellations and major stars in our sky. The southern constellations are the inverse patterns of the north. The formation of the sun and nuclear fusion! Earth is called the ideal incubator for life. It spins, turns and rotates. It is we who are moving, not the sun and stars. The moon rotates as quickly as it revolves. Meteors are comet dust. Impact-mania sure caught on! The Voyager probes took us to the gas giants.
1993 - JURASSIC PARK
Dinosaur-mania peaked with the movie based on Michael Crichton's novel. Dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic Era between 65 and 220 million years ago. The Mesozoic divides into the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Jurassic Park brings dinosaurs into the present by cloning them from DNA. They are confined on an island with plans of creating an attraction. They break loose! Velociraptors are fierce, and T Rex goes on a rampage. I felt that not enough species were represented. Where are triceratops and stegosaurus? Ankylosaurus? The theme that man should not tamper with nature is absurd because the whole point of science and technology is that we can better ourselves by understanding and harnessing natural forces. Movie makers are counter-productive! Both Lucas and Spielberg employ dark, chaotic scenes.
1990 - HAMLET
Mel Gibson comes of age! Hamlet was produced by Franco Zeffirelli, the same guy who did Romeo and Juliet 22 years earlier. Great color: grays and browns of the Middle Ages! Biographies of William Shakespeare are sketchy. He was born in Stratford-on-the-Avon in 1564. Stratford is 100 miles from London. The Avon is a river. Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and fathered three children. He moved to London and established himself as a playwright, staging his plays at the Globe. Hamlet is the best, written in 1601. It deals with insanity and revenge. Hamlet puts on an antic disposition to delay avenging his father's murder. The real issue is death! Why do we die? Why live at all if we must die? Shakespeare died in 1616 at age 52. His 37 plays divide into tragedies, comedies, histories and problem plays. Characters drop like flies in the tragedies.
1989 - BATMAN
I thought, "Why would anyone do Batman in 1989?" It turned out to be a strong movie with Kim Basinger as Batman's girl friend and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Roger Ebert felt that Batman was mostly form with little substance, rich in atmosphere with very little happening. He had a point. It is impossible to recall the plot. Comic book movies have certainly had their day! The Batman logo is an image of a bat flashed against a cloud cover. Beware of sequels!
1989 - BLAZE
Paul Newman made his best movie as an old man. He portrayed Governor Earl Long of Louisiana, who had a scandalous affair with stripper Blaze Starr. I remember it being in the news. Lolita Davidovi>ch is Blaze. She makes her way from West Virginia to New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Earl is a liberal Democrat. This is comedy, and there are some funny scenes: Earl shooting his lawn mower and having sex with his boots on. Robert Wuhl's character is interesting but has a small part. Blaze exits through a bathroom window, taking her mother's advice not to trust any man who tells her to trust him.
1989 - CHRISTMAS VACATION
The third installment in Chevy Chase's Vacation series became a Christmas classic. The Griswolds are having a family Christmas, and Clark is determined to make it their best ever. Of course, everything that can possibly go wrong, goes wrong. In-laws show up, and they are a wacky group. Cousin Eddie is Clark's nemesis. Clark has decorated his house with 25,000 light bulbs, causing problems for the power company, while Uncle Lewis sets the tree on fire.
1987 - ROXANNE
Steve Martin is C.D. Bales, a perfect catch for any woman except for one drawback. He has a humongous nose. It hypnotizes! No one can ignore it. The movie is a take on the play, "Cyrano de Bergerac." C.D. works for the fire department and falls in love with Roxanne, an astronomy student. Because of his nose, he courts her through a friend. The scene in which Martin enumerates insults is brilliant.
1982 - THE ATOMIC CAFE
Footage from the early years of the Cold War. America and Russia square off as atomic bombs threaten. We see Paul Tibbets near the beginning of the film. Tibbets flew the Enola Gay, which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. The euphoria following World War II was short-lived.
1981 - THIS IS ELVIS
An Elvis Presley biography! Ral Donner, an Elvis clone, does his voice. Private archives are tapped, and a young Priscilla is shown at Elvis's birthday party in Germany. There is a condescending Ed Sullivan assuring us that Elvis is "a fine boy, thoroughly alright." Roger Ebert implied that Elvis was alcoholic, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Elvis did not drink! There is a marked difference between Elvis in his 20s and Elvis in his 40s. I sense a grim exultation on the part of his detractors.
1981 - CLASH OF THE TITANS
This movie looked old when it was released with its aging cast and special effects by Ray Harryhausen. It begged for a remake! The sea monster threatening Andromeda is called the Kraken rather than Cetus. The Kraken was a monster in Norse mythology. The Kraken and Medusa are the titans who clash. Perseus rides the winged horse Pegasus. "Find and fulfill your destiny!"
1981 - RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
America entered a conservative period after the Iran hostage crisis. Ronald Reagan became president, and Raiders was the big movie. It was a throwback to the serials of the 1930s. Harrison Ford is archaeologist Indiana Jones, a fedora-wearing, bull whip-slinging adventurer who fights Nazis while traveling the world in search of ancient treasure. The Ark is the chest that held the Ten Commandments. The Nazis want it because it is said that any army possessing it will be invincible. Indy's droll instincts save the movie! Shooting the sword-wielding Arab is good. Narrow escapes and close calls can be numbing.
1980 - XANADU
Xanadu is disco colliding with Ronald Reagan! Critics loathed it! It will not go away. It opened on Broadway in 2007. While Broadway shows normally become movies, Xanadu reversed the process. ELO's Jeff Lynne saved his best music for Xanadu: "Magic" and "I'm Alive." Muses coming to life in the mural is fantastic! Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem reverberates: "In Xanadu, did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea." A few tweaks would have made Xanadu more palatable. John Travolta opposite Olivia Newton-John would have broadened its appeal. The soundtrack redeems it!
1980 - URBAN COWBOY
#3 in Travolta's blockbuster trilogy. He dances to disco, rock n' roll and country. He heads for Houston looking for work. Gilley's is the hot spot, and it is the era of the mechanical bull. Not to be outdone, I rode the bull in a club in Nashville. I saw this nearly forgotten film on television and remembered how good it was and what a good period it was in my life. I wore a black cowboy hat like Travolta's. Debra Winger was sexy in her red top. Bud and Sissy make an ideal couple even if they are trailer trash.
1979 - THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN
Karen and I were in Las Vegas that summer, making this desert yarn relevant. The Jane Fonda/Robert Redford reunion served as her catharsis after Vietnam. Fonda went to Vietnam in 1972, and her picture was taken with North Vietnamese. Although a few veterans never forgave her, Vietnam was playing out by the time she got there. Johnson and Nixon sacrificed 59,000 men while sitting on the atomic bomb. There was no Pearl Harbor, no oil and no 9/11. There was nothing to win and no reason to be there. The premise of The Electric Horseman was tired by the time the movie was released, a rodeo star bucking the establishment by freeing a horse.
1978 - SUPERMAN THE MOVIE
Valerie Perrine as Eve Teschmacher and Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor are the interesting couple! Christopher Reeve fell from a horse and spent his last years paralyzed. I saw irony in the superman myth and perhaps a curse on the character. Others noted Reeve's heroism. A quote from Hackman stayed with me, "Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it's a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe."
1978 - GREASE
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John star in a 70s version of the 50s. Olivia came from Australia and won the hearts of music fans. "You're The One That I Want" has the couple dressed in black. "Tell me about it, stud!" Grease appeals to every generation. Male/female duos perform "Summer Nights" in karaoke bars. The film exaggerates! There were no T-Birds or Pink Ladies where I came from, and the cast is long since out of high school.
1977 - SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
John Travolta and The Bee Gees team up for the biggest selling soundtrack in history. Travolta's feverish dancing put a face on the Gibb Brothers' disco beat. We still imitate him in that white suit, fingers pointing to the sky! For a while, I thought The Bee Gees were singing "Bald Headed Woman." I was informed that it was "More Than A Woman." "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever" are high-steppers. Barry Gibb looked like Jesus, and The Bee Gees entered the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 during a disco revival.
1977 - ABBA THE MOVIE
Carl Magnus Palm shed light in the booklet accompanying the DVD. Agnetha Faltskog, Bjorn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson & Frida Lyngstad did eleven concerts in Australia. It rained during their first at the Sydney Showground, and some of director Lasse Hallstrom's work was lost. The plot involving the DJ was Hallstrom's idea. I would have preferred more concert footage.
1977 - CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND
Hollywood runs 10 years behind. I was watching for UFOs in 1966. Dreyfuss somehow got into the three biggest movies of the 1970s. In Close Encounters, he is obsessed with an image in his mind. It draws him to an alien landing at Devil's Tower in Wyoming, a vertical monolith created by erosion. "The Third Kind" indicates actual contact with UFOs. So far, UFO stories have been hoaxes and science fiction.
1977 - STAR WARS
Star Wars plots are inconsequential. Only nerds, dorks and geeks know them. It is the characters we remember: Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan, C3PO & R2D2. George Lucas could have done the world a favor and let Darth Vader die at the end of A New Hope. I was 31 in 1977, and although I thought the film was okay, I was not blown away. I thought the dialog was stiff and unemotional. Carrie Fisher had little or no charisma. Obi-Wan was my favorite, the one with perseverance, the one who waited years to set things right.
1976 - LOGAN'S RUN
Jenny Agutter in that green outfit! It is the 23rd century, and civilization is confined to a domed city. Logan and Jenny escape to find an imperfect world and Washington, D.C. in ruins. Peter Ustinov and his cats point to the Lloyd Webber musical. I like Box in the caves of ice and the color as Logan and Jenny reach outside to see the sun for the first time. This is a generational piece about boomers turning 30. It takes liberties with William F. Nolan's novel.
1975 - LOVE AND DEATH
In Woody Allen's parody of War and Peace, he plays a farmer's son in love with his cousin. When France invades Russia, Woody reluctantly joins the army and becomes part of a plot to assassinate Napoleon. Funny scenes find him flirting with the Countess at the opera and dancing with the Grim Reaper. Woody is always searching for the meaning of life and wanted to call his movie, "Sex and Death." Woody's comedy derives from a willingness to laugh at himself. He defines comedy as "tragedy plus time." Diane Keaton is his counterpart.
1975 - JAWS
I was reprimanded for comparing Peter Benchley's novel to Moby Dick. Well, Jaws may not be the world in microcosm, but it did well at the box office. Great whites grow up to 20 feet! They are killing machines despite the claims of environmentalists. The shark in Jaws takes on a supernatural quality as it menaces the three men in the boat. Richard Dreyfuss is a shark expert.
1973 - AMERICAN GRAFFITI
California teenagers cruise on a night of self-discovery. Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss and Suzanne Somers rose from this movie. Suzanne is the blonde in the white Thunderbird whom Dreyfuss pursues. He chases his dream and then flies off to college. In Close Encounters, he flies off with aliens. The soundtrack needed more rock n' roll and less doo-wop.
1973 - ELVIS: ALOHA FROM HAWAII
Elvis returned to Hawaii for what became his last great performance. It was broadcast around the world via satellite. Elvis was 38 and looking fit. Hard to believe he would be dead in just over four years! "Burning Love" was followed by The Beatles' "Something." It was all business as The King moved from one dramatic cover to another! Song selection reflected his divorce.
1972 - ELVIS ON TOUR
Elvis takes us from city to city! He dons jumpsuits and gains weight. We see his increasing boredom. He disintegrated after his divorce, and "Burning Love" was his last big record. They were good until the end, but there was little recording the last two years. This film got a Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary. It is chaotic but worthwhile because it is candid Elvis! The quote from his father about guitar players not being worth a damn would not have been used a decade earlier. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" sounds as raw now as it did when it came out.
1972 - THE NEW LAND
The story of the Swedish emigrants picks up in Minnesota. Karl Oskar is satisfied, but Kristina pines like Jerusha in Hawaii. Robert dies after searching for gold, and Ulrika starts a new life. Each character's fate is consistent with his or her personality. Liv Ullmann is actually Norwegian. She was born in Tokyo, where her father worked as an aircraft technician.
1971 - WALKABOUT
I had a crush on Jenny Agutter and rented her movies. Walkabout is a challenge! Two kids, lost in the Australian outback, are led to safety by an Aborigine on a desert trek to prove his manhood. Problems arise when he has feelings for the white girl, and he commits suicide. It is curious that a decade later Jenny would play Desdemona in Shakespeare's Othello. Walkabout draws a sharp contrast between nature and civilization.
1971 - THE EMIGRANTS
The Emigrants is a Swedish film based on a novel by Vilhelm Moberg. It is about Swedish emigrants who came to the United States in the 1850s. Max von Sydow is Karl Oskar. Liv Ullmann is his faithful wife Kristina. The film shows the harsh conditions in Sweden, the agony of an ocean voyage and the promise of a better life in Minnesota. ABBA's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus turned the novel into a stage musical. Swedish folk music!
1970 - ELVIS: THAT'S THE WAY IT IS
Concert film of Elvis's Las Vegas act. His movies made money but stalled his career. As the movies phased out, the era of the white jumpsuit began. Elvis dug in at the International Hotel in August, 1969, as "Suspicious Minds" climbed to #1. He was back, giving The Beatles all they could handle! Elvis performed at the International (now the Las Vegas Hilton) and did concerts around the country for the next eight years. Annie and I saw this at Opry Mills on August 17, 2014, one day after "Elvis day."
1969 - BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID
This offbeat western stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, two guys who acted with their good looks. Newman is Butch Cassidy, and Redford is Sundance. Butch is the leader of the Hole in the Wall gang. These are the train robbers we met earlier in Cat Ballou. Butch and Sundance end up in Bolivia, which is why I resurrected the movie, because I was going to Bolivia for a star party. The bicycle scene stands out!
1968 - ELVIS: 68 COMEBACK SPECIAL
Elvis's manager wanted a Christmas Special. Producer Steve Binder saw it as a chance to revive Elvis' career. Fortunately, Binder won out. Elvis appeared in a leather suit singing a medley of the songs that made him famous. He did an unplugged set surrounded by his cronies. It is notable that later renditions of 1950s hits never approached the excitement of the original records. "If I Can Dream" made a strong finale!
1968 - ROMEO AND JULIET
Candy Heim and I saw this on our first date: July 6, 1969. I wonder what became of her. She had the long, straight hair parted in the middle like Olivia Hussey. I struggled with Shakespeare! He had been dead for centuries and would not leave me alone. The idea is that love growing in a context of hate will be snuffed out. The song haunts: "A rose will bloom, it then will fade, so does a youth, so does the fairest maid." Fiery Michael York is Tybalt. Romeo and Juliet have their night!
1968 - 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Stanley Kubrick's vision based on Arthur C. Clarke's book! A scientific background helps as we encounter the idea that human intelligence was jump-started by aliens. When we reach into space, we are reaching toward our source. This is consistent with the Panspermia theory, that life did not originate on Earth but evolved from spores brought to Earth by comets. The film degenerates into a semblance of an LSD trip. No one knows what it means.
1966 - HAWAII
Max von Sydow pops up in this story of missionaries sent to Hawaii in the 1820s. It is really the story of his wife, Jerusha, who pines away in the island paradise. Von Sydow took a similar role in The Emigrants, a film in which he again uproots his wife only to see her disintegrate. Von Sydow the missionary is unyielding and out-of-touch. Themes are predictable, natives suffering as a result of contact with Europeans.
1965 - THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
A ponderous retelling of the life of Christ with Swedish actor Max von Sydow in the lead. Swedish Jesus is spaced-out! Maybe a man without sin has to be this way. I wondered why it was no sin driving moneychangers from the temple with a whip. The cast is a Who's Who in Hollywood, and the fun is in picking out famous faces. John Wayne is the Roman soldier at the cross. "Truly, this man was the Son of God." The film ended the era of big budget Bible flicks.
1965 - CAT BALLOU
As Cat Ballou, Jane Fonda stars in one of the funniest movies ever. Westerns were out of style, and the parody rang true. Jane is beautiful, in the prime of innocence! Dwayne Hickman is still quotable: "On the run, ma'am, hidin' out in a crowd." My roommate in college saw this movie so many times, he knew the script by heart. He recited it line for line. He had a picture of Jane taped to the ceiling above his bed.
1964 - A HARD DAYS NIGHT
The first Beatle song I heard was "From Me To You." By October, 1963, I knew something was going on with this British group. In January, 1964, I saw a clip on the Jack Paar show. The Beatles were going wild! Girls were screaming and throwing jelly beans! It was their sound! It was their hair! I started growing my hair that night! The Beatles revived the rock n' roll of the late 1950s. John Lennon sang Chuck Berry, and Paul McCartney sang Little Richard. They took it to another level. They wrote their own songs. When I saw A Hard Days Night, the theater was packed with teenage girls. They screamed the whole time! This was Beatlemania, and there would never be anything like it again! "You Can't Do That" was cut from the film, Lennon's jealousy being too potent for a young audience. The Beatles virtually invented LPs, and each was a progression with John pointing the way. After the split, Lennon joined the peace movement. He was gunned down in New York City in December, 1980, by a deranged fan named Mark David Chapman. He had finished his first record in five years, an album showing his domestic side.
1964 - VIVA LAS VEGAS
Ann-Margret revives Elvis from his stupor. He feeds off her energy in this frolic through Old Vegas. Ann-Margret Olsson was from Sweden. Her mother brought her to the United States when she was five. Sparks fly as she and Elvis rendezvous at UNLV for "Come On, Everybody." Ann dances in a red top and black tights. She shakes her boobs and hips, and Elvis pulls her on stage. There is a wedding at the end.
1963 - JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
I took three years of Latin in high school and got into astronomy in 1961. I became acquainted with the Greek myths. This is the story of Jason and how he sailed on the ship Argo to bring back the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts include Hercules, Castor and Pollux and Argus, the man who built the ship. The goddess Hera protects Jason and his crew through their adventures. They encounter bronze Talos, Harpies, Clashing Rocks and fighting skeletons. In the the end, Jason gets his Fleece. He also gets Medea. Medea is Nancy Kovak, and she performs a seductive dance. Animation is by Ray Harryhausen, who later did Clash of the Titans.
1962 - HOW THE WEST WAS WON
This sums up westward expansion in the United States and uses an old school Hollywood cast to do it. We encounter names like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Debbie Reynolds. How the West Was Won is in 5 parts: "The Rivers," "The Plains," "The Civil War," "The Railroad" and "The Outlaws." It covers the half century between 1839 and 1889, a sizable chunk of American history. This educational western is one of more than 500 films preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry. I saw it with my first girl friend in the summer of 1963. The Cinerama aspect was highly touted but somewhat disappointing.
1962 - GYPSY
The memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee became a Broadway musical, then a film starring Natalie Wood as Gypsy with Rosalind Russell as her domineering mother. I wanted less about a mother/daughter relationship and more about stripping. The film has a great soundtrack! I introduced "Let Me Entertain You" to the music director at our high school through my girl friend, who was in the band. They played it during halftime at football games. My record was returned scratched and with no thank you.
1962 - ROME ADVENTURE
Rome Adventure came out when I was 16.. I did not see it then but had a movie magazine with Angie Dickinson's picture on the back. She talked about the fun of riding motorcycles around Rome. The movie typifies the innocence of its period. Suzanne Pleshette is librarian Prudence Bell on a big trip. She looks for love and finds it. Dickinson is her competition. "Al Di La" is the song, perhaps the most romantic piece ever recorded. It takes us "beyond the beyond." Scenes of ancient Rome take us to another place and time.
1961 - KING OF KINGS
King of Kings traces the life of Jesus from his birth in Bethlehem through his years as a carpenter to his sermon on the mount, last supper, crucifixion and resurrection. Jeffrey Hunter is Jesus. You have to be tall and good-looking to be Jesus! They are all here: Pontius Pilate, John the Baptist and Barabbas. Barabbas is freed and becomes the first man for whom Jesus dies. Like other movies from this period, there is no blood in battle scenes. There is no humor unless you count the perverse glee of Salome when she is given the head of John the Baptist.
1961 - WEST SIDE STORY
Gangs clash in New York, new immigrants versus old. Natalie Wood is miscast as an Hispanic. She was a mediocre actress but managed to endear herself. Her real name was Natasha Gurdin, and her parents came from Russia. The musical is an American Romeo and Juliet. "Tonight" bursts with anticipation! My cousin and I saw it in November, 1962, and President Kennedy was due in Louisville. I suggested we stay over to catch a glimpse. He came riding down 4th Street perched atop the back of a Convertible. That kind of accessibility cost him a year later when he was assassinated in Dallas. I link West Side Story with Kennedy.
1960 - THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG
I am planning a 2016 trip to Hong Kong, and that is where this story takes place. I was 14 in 1960, and this movie would have been over my head. William Holden is an American architect who wants to become a painter. He goes to Hong Kong to pursue his dream and gets in with Nancy Kwan as Suzie Wong. She is a prostitute, although we have to read between the lines. I was more interested in the city than the drama that ensued between Holden and Kwan, but it was good to see an older man get the girl! Richard Mason wrote the novel.
1960 - THE TEMPEST
Hollywood has never done justice to Shakespeare's Tempest, so I recommend this TV production. It is short and amateurish, but the cast is superb. Lovely Lee Remick is Prospero's daughter Miranda. Richard Burton is Caliban although I would have cast him as Prospero. Burton was a heavyweight and would have brought dignity to the character. The Tempest is fun! There is something comforting about an island setting, a storm and an old man working magic to ensure his daughter's future.
1960 - G.I. BLUES
Elvis's first movie after his discharge. He was accepted now, mainstream. He served in Germany, and G.I. Blues is set there. Juliet Prowse is the showgirl, famous for her legs. She was Elvis' equal and makes this film worthwhile. Elvis served in the the Army 1958-60. He was drafted in peace time, too young for Korea and too old for Vietnam. That bit of luck made his fabulous career possible.
1959 - LI'L ABNER
Al Capp's characters went to Broadway, then to Hollywood. Having lost a leg in a trolley accident, Capp cloaked his bitterness in satire. My interest is Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones. She is a weapon created by Available Jones, a metaphor for the bomb. Jones unleashes her in the Sadie Hawkins Day race to stupefy men so that the women of Dogpatch can catch husbands. Not really an actress, Julie was cast in nonhuman roles. Li'l Abner still turns up on the stage. My mother and I saw it at the Derby Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Indiana.
1959 - GREEN MANSIONS
A beautiful film based on the 1904 novel by William Henry Hudson. It is set in South America. Abel, driven from Caracas by political upheaval, flees into the jungle where he encounters a nature girl named Rima. She is played by Audrey Hepburn. Romance, mysticism and raw reality entwine. This green piece is a work of art! It could be a painting.
1958 - KING CREOLE
Elvis Presley's last film before being drafted is his best, and it has the best soundtrack! Songs like "Dixieland Rock" capture his essence. King Creole is the club where Elvis performs, and Liliane Montevecchi is showgirl Forty Nina, decked out in bananas. The film is set in New Orleans' French Quarter (Vieux Carre).
1956 - FORBIDDEN PLANET
Shakespeare's Tempest is the model for this science fiction film. I saw differences. Prospero and Miranda are stranded on an island. Morbius and Altaira are marooned on the 4th planet around the star Altair. Ariel is a spirit. Robby the Robot is a man-made servant. Caliban's evil does not match that of Monsters from the Id. Finally, Shakespeare spares Prospero while Morbius dies when Altair 4 blows up. Hopefully, mankind will not suffer the fate of the Krell.
1954 - ULYSSES
It took 10 years for the Greek hero Ulysses to make his way back to Ithica after the Trojan War. Kirk Douglas is Ulysses. He overcomes the Cyclops, the Sirens, and Circe. His final challenge is the suitors who want his wife and throne. Chief among them is Antinoos (Anthony Quinn). With help from Athena, Ulysseus regains his kingdom and Penelope. Gorgeous Silvano Mangano plays both Penelope and the enchantress Circe. Scenes focus on Silvano's hypnotic eyes and sensuous lips.
1951 - THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD
James Arness is an evolved vegetable come from outer space. His flying saucer crashes and becomes frozen in ice. The Thing is retrieved and inadvertently thawed. Havoc ensues until it is killed using electric current. Even in 1951, we were thinking about the directions in which extraterrestrial life might evolve. It is a chilling scene as the men circle the ice-covered saucer to reveal its shape. We are admonished to "Watch the skies!"
1951 - THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
A futuristic film with Michael Rennie as Klaatu come to Earth to warn humans against taking nuclear weapons into space. The cast conveys a sense of hometown America. The title derives from Klaatu's demonstration of power in shutting down Earth's electricity. There is poignancy in watching the army oppose advanced technology. Gort is the robot: "Klaatu barada nikto." At a time when UFOs were called flying saucers, Klaatu's is the prototype, landing on a baseball field in Washington, D.C. The second half of the 20th century emerged with movies contemplating ETs.
1942 - THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES
Gary Cooper is Lou Gehrig, the New York Yankee first baseman who followed Babe Ruth in the line-up before succumbing to the disease that bears his name. Gehrig gave his Farewell Speech at Yankee Stadium, July 4, 1939: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for." Too bad young audiences are reluctant to watch older films! This is a black and white classic. It is also a pity that baseball players from the steroids era have little in common with this man of integrity.
1939 - GONE WITH THE WIND
This story of the American Civil War from Margaret Mitchell's only novel is set in and around Atlanta. Scarlett O'Hara is the focus. She lives on a fictional plantation called Tara. Scarlett is naive before the war, hard and determined after it. She loves a man she cannot have before yielding to Rhett Butler. Vivien Leigh is perfect as Scarlett. When she cocks her eyebrow, her arrogance causes us to shiver! Clark Gable is the dashing Rhett. The most lingering moment is when he turns to Scarlett and blurts: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!" My favorite quote is from Scarlett: "As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." Both the Old South and the era in which this film reigned are gone, but their reputations live on! Gone With The Wind won 10 Academy Awards.
1935 - A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
The classic Hollywood version of William Shakespeare's most likable play sports Mickey Rooney as Puck. Puck was a girl dressed in green when I originally saw the play, and I liked that. Athenian nobility, commoners and fairies cross wooded paths to provide an escapism that leaves us slightly hungover. I like the scene at the beginning when Theseus and Hippolyta are watching the moon. Hippolyta speaks: "The moon, like to a silver bow new-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities."
1933 - KING KONG
The most classic movie of all! After movie maker Robert Armstrong hires Fay Wray as his star, they sail to Skull Island in Indonesia where evolution has gone awry. Dinosaurs roam, and a colossal ape rules. The natives built a wall to contain King Kong. They capture Wray and offer her as a sacrifice. Armstrong and his crew rescue her and transport Kong to Manhattan as a headliner. The ape gets loose and terrorizes yet another island. He climbs the Empire State Building with Wray in tow and is riddled with bullets. King Kong touches modern consciousness! It shows humans clashing with the nature they are part of. Armstrong declares, "It was beauty killed the beast." Directed my Merian Cooper.