4 Star Double Feature – Coming of Age Flicks

Starter for 10 (2006)

The cast boasts the likes of James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, and even James Corden all in one film together! The year is 1985 and Brian is off to his first year at university which turns into a formative moment in his life of new experiences, romantic entanglements, and, yes, even trivia. He’s really good at trivia. But sometimes being good at trivia still cannot prepare you for the things that life throws at you. That’s what makes life, life and not a game show as he finds out.

Sing Street (2016)

Also set in 1985 but in this case in Dublin, Sing Street is a high school coming of age story about a boy who forms a band to get a girl. It’s a simple premise but John Carney’s film explores much of the turbulence as well as the glories of that time in life. It’s about love and music and personal exploration. It also happens to be a darn good musical with a steady stream of catchy 80s tunes both real and fictional.

10 Films to Watch if You Like Classic Bond

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North by Northwest (1959): It’s no surprise that Alfred Hitchcock was offered the chance to direct Dr. No because he had singlehandedly propelled the spy thriller into the public eye through such classic as The 39 Steps, Foreign Correspondent, and Notorious. It’s also no surprise that he turned down the chance because had essentially made the greatest spy thriller ever. There was no reason to attempt to make another. Cary Grant. Eva Marie Sainte. Bernard Hermann. Ernest Lehman. Mt. Rushmore. Cropdusters. Just a few of the things that make this film awesome. It’s a must for all Bond fans.

That Man from Rio (1964): So there’s no doubt that Philippe de Broca’s film was made in a world conscious of the James Bond phenomenon but it’s also a charming blend of Tintin-esque action serials and wild humor that’s anchored by the charming pair of Jean-Pierre Belmondo and Francoise Dorleac. Its mixture of lavish location shooting, fun-filled action, and consistent humor makes it a must for all Bond lovers.

Charade (1963): By now we’ve all heard that this picture from Stanley Donen was the best Hitchcock film that he never made. Sure, that’s probably true if you want to put any stock in such an assertion but beyond that, we have Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn starring opposite each other in a spy comedy romance. It sounds like an absolutely delightful proposition and it is. It’s funny as a rom-com but still exhibits enough intrigue to pass as a compelling thriller.

The Ipcress File (1965): Sir Michael Caine as British spy Harry Palmer should be enough to pull audiences into this franchise. But if not that then consider this. Although it was made by some of the minds behind Bond, this franchise was supposed to be its antithesis in its representation of the spy life. It’s the anti-Bond if you will. Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain would follow in the subsequent years.

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965): However, if you want something completely different from Bond with a sense of stark realism matched with a cynical edge you probably couldn’t get closer to the mark than watching this thriller based off the work of John Le Carre. Richard Burton is as disillusioned as any spy in the history of the movies and you get the strange sense that he has the right to be. If you looking for another tonal shift in the realm of spy thrillers look to The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. It’s demanding but certainly worthwhile.

Casino Royale (1967): We’re about to enter the territory of less demanding fare and the epitome of that is this initial Casino Royale (please don’t dare confuse this installment with Daniel Craig’s. Please don’t). All you need to know is that Peter Sellers plays Evelyn Tremble (ie James Bond), Ursula Andress is Vesper Lynd (ie James Bond), Orson Welles is Le Chiffre, Woody Allen is Jimmy Bond…must I go on or do you get the idea? If you had any preconception that this was a Bond movie you were mistaken.

Our Man Flint (1967): James Coburn the tough guy from such classics as The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape landed his own headlining gig as a spy in his own right. See him in Charade (previously mentioned) and the continuing installment In Like Flint.

Murderers Row (1966): Dean Martin as super spy Matt Helm. Need I say more? Is it any surprise that he’s a dashing ladies man who also seems to like the high life and hitting the sauce. It grabs hold of the Bond phase like any good (or mediocre copycat) although it was based on a number of novels by Donald Hamilton. A number of sequels followed including The Silencers, The Ambushers and The Wrecking Crew.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997): Mike Myers as Austin Powers the most ludicrous, wacky, grooviest, and strangely perverse spy you’ve ever known. But his arch nemesis Dr. Evil is far worse. Pit them off against each other and you’re bound to have a stupid good time amid all the outrageous bits of parody. Oh yeah, check out The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember too. Groovy Baby!

Get Smart (2008): This is a public service announcement. No offense to Steve Carell or Anne Hathaway whatsoever, but please just go ahead and watch the TV show with the iconic duo of Don Adams and Barbara Feldon with Edward Platt. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were comic geniuses and they knew a good fad when they saw one. Spies might come and go but “Shoe Phones” and “Cones of Silence” will never die. Would you believe? Because you should.

Bonus – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) et al: It might not feel exactly like Bond and Indiana Jones is a big enough star in his own right but there’s no doubt that the special mixture of thrills, humor, and iconic status also falls on the mantle of Dr. Jones. Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that his father is played by none other than Sean Connery the guy who was in Marnie, The Hunt for Red October, and, yes, a few other movies.

This is only a few options so please don’t think you have a license to kill me for leaving something off. But hope you enjoyed this assortment of 10 classic flicks for every Bond lover.

11 Classic Film Stars who Never Won an Oscar

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From the dawn of time, or at least as early as May, 1929, when the first Oscar Ceremony took place, all people from pundits to the general public have squabbled and made a general stink about the egregious omissions throughout the decades. After all, acting performances are subjective, each year is different, and so many things are going on behind the scenes. In a perfect world, everyone would be a winner but sadly we do not live in a perfect world. That goes for the Oscars too. Here are 11 Classic Hollywood stars who Never Won an Oscar.

Peter O’Toole – 8 Nominations without a win – The great Shakespearian titan of the stage and screen, O’Toole’s performance as WWI icon T.E. Lawrence will be forever emblematic of his career, although he lost the statuette to the equally revered performance of Gregory Peck as To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch.  Despite, a tumultuous life, O’Toole’s body of work speaks for itself.

His other nominations included nods for a diverse array of work including Beckett, Lion of Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and finally Venus in 2006.

Richard Burton – 7 Oscar Nominations without a win – O’Toole’s contemporary, there’s no doubt the Welshman who was famously twice married to Elizabeth Taylor was a stellar performer in his own right. Like O’Toole he was a trained Shakespearian actor, in fact, they both starred together in Beckett (1964). However, he’s perhaps best remembered for the cynical spy thriller The Man Who Came in From the Cold as well as his performance opposite his wife in the blistering Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

His other nominations include My Cousin Rachel, The Robe, Anne of The Thousand Days, and Equus.

Deborah Kerr6 Oscar Nominations without a win – Deborah Kerr made her name in the films of Powell & Pressburger before positioning herself as one of Hollywood’s most elegant and graceful leading ladies of the 1950s. Although one of her most iconic roles had her playing against type in From Here from Eternity (1953) opposite Burt Lancaster. She was equally beloved for her roles in The King and I (1956) and Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957).

Her other nominations include Edward My Son, Separate Tables, and The Sundowners.

Thelma Ritter6 Oscar Nominations without a win – Thelma Ritter is without a question one of the treasures of the studio age, lending life and dry wit to numerous supporting roles throughout the 50s and 60s in everything from All About Eve (1950) to Pillow Talk (1959). There’s something so satisfying about seeing her in a film because you know you’re not going to be disappointed.

Her other nominations came in The Mating Season, With a Song in My Heart, Pickup on South Street, and Birdman of Alcatraz.

Irene Dunne – 5 Oscar Nominations without a win – There’s a case to be made that Irene Dunne just might be one of Cary Grant’s best romantic partners. They made three pictures together and in their collaborations as well as her other roles Dunne showcases a surprising lassitude on screen, capable in drama, comedy, and even musical numbers being a trained singer. Her greatest turn opposite Grant came in their first pairing, the zany Leo McCary screwball The Awful Truth (1937) but perhaps her greatest performance came as the titular character in I Remember Mama (1948).

Her other nominations include Cimarron, Theodora Goes Wild, and Love Affair.

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Barbara Stanwyck – 4 Oscar Nominations without a win – Without a doubt, Barbara Stanwyck stands unequivocally as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars during the Golden Age. Her career spanned from the 1930s well into the 1950s when she continued her career with a transition to television by the 1960s. Her most heart-wrenching performance came as the loving mother in Stella Dallas (1937). In 1941 she could have probably been nominated for three films although she ended up receiving it for her lively turn in Ball of Fire. Her iconic and venomous turn as Phyllis Dietrichson also earned her a nomination for Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944).

Her other nomination came for Sorry Wrong Number.

Montgomery Clift – 4 Oscar Nominations without a win – An actor of immense intensity and investment in his craft, Clift was undoubtedly one of the premier stars of the late 1940s and early 50s making the transition from the stage seamlessly in the post-war classic The Search (1948). Although his most famous roles came opposite Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951) and with the all-star ensemble from From Here to Eternity (1953) including Burt Lancaster, Donna Reed, and Deborah Kerr (also on this list).

His other nomination was one of his final roles, a supporting nod for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).

Rosalind Russell4 Oscar Nominations without a win – Rosalind Russell was imbued with a vitality much like Barbara Stanwyck. She could be the catty gossip or the larger than life personality and while best remembered now for comedy she could function in dramas as well. She took the stage role of Auntie Mame (1958) and turned it into a truly iconic performance that’s hard to forget.

She was also nominated for My Sister Eileen, Sister Kenny, and Mourning Becomes Electra.

Peter Sellers3 Oscar Nominations without a win – Another Brit, Peter Sellers was the man of a thousand voices and even more quips, donning roles like people put on clothes and playing slapstick comedy and heartfelt drama with equal skill. His tour de force will always be his multirole in Dr. Strangelove, however, he was equally compelling as the ethereal Gardner in Being There

His other nomination was for the short subject The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film.

Natalie Wood3 Oscar Nominations without a win – Initially remembered as a child actor in a number of 1940s classics, Natalie Wood flourished into a surprisingly compelling actress gaining recognition for such films as Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Splendor in the Grass (1961), and Love with a Proper Stranger (1963) all coming before her tragic death in 1981.

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Cary Grant2 Oscar Nominations without a win – If you were to try and pinpoint the heart and soul of Classic Hollywood romance and comedy, the epitome of suavity and charm matched with comic timing and physical chops, Cary Grant is without question the gold standard and there’s no one that even comes close to touching him. With a career ranging from the 1930s well into the 1960s, he starred opposite everyone you could possibly dream of being in a film with. Although ironically, of all the classic, iconic, masterful pictures that he lent his charm, the two that he was nominated for are relatively unknown. Not surprisingly, both are dramas and not comedies. Perhaps there’s a bit of a genre bias in the Oscars?

Cary Grant was nominated for Penny Serenade and None But the Lonely Heart.

 

 

 

4 Star Films’ Favorite Movies: 16-20

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Okay, here we go with the next installment in the series of my favorite films. But, in case you missed #21-#25 and have a passing fancy to see what I fancy,  check them out Here…

Otherwise, enjoy part II!

16. Back to the Future (1985)
Doc Brown and Marty McFly. A delorean time machine. Awkward mother, son relationships. High School Dances circa 1955. Good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll. These are only a few of the reasons that Back to the Future is a perennial classic and the best time travel film around. Two more installments followed re-teaming Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, but it’s hard to top the original Sci-Fi classic.

17. Shane (1953)
There are numerous classic westerns from the Golden Age, but Shane is one of the most unassuming. It’s a treasure of a film, revolving around of the great iconic heroes of cinema, the eponymous Shane. He’s a gunslinger, upright and kind, but he’s also deadly. Within the expanse of George Stevens’s tale of the untamed West, is a human heart and also foreboding moments of darkness. It’s the complexities of this film that bring me back to it time and time again. Its main character being a fascinating man indeed.

18. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Walking on that beach in St. Andrews Scotland was one of the most enjoyable things in my life thus far. Partially because it’s so incredibly gorgeous in a raw, untouched sort of way. But the other reason is due to this film, full of heart and some of the most inspiring music ever. By telling the biographical story of the likes of world class sprinters Eric Liddel and Harold Abrahams, it successfully blends so many things that I like. Sports, history, Great Britain, and deep spiritual dilemmas. Let us remember those few men with hope in their hearts and wings on their heels.

19. The Odd Couple (1968)
I’m a fan of comedies that boast good unadulterated fun. The Odd Couple is one such film born of a Neil Simon play and subsequently turned into a successful television show. This is the rendition starring the bickering duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, both in fine form. They take this simple tale about two divorced men living together and make it a bellyful of laughs. Their poker playing buddies are a gas as well. It remains a classic with renewed value each and every time.

20. The Dark Knight (2008)
I am a product of the age of superhero films. Some mediocre, some simply run-of-the-mill, but few have left such an indelible mark as Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. What sets it apart is a villain, a most worthy adversary for the cape crusader. Heath Ledger’s Joker is the creme de la creme of cinematic bad guys, and he elevates this film to be one of the most intriguing moral tales released in the last decade. This is far more than a superficial action flick.

4 Star Films’ Favorite Movies: 21-25

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One of the reasons film is so engaging and fascinating is the discussion that it evokes from all people. Every person, no matter their age or knowledge, can have their own subjective opinion on a film and why they liked it, or better yet why they hated it so much that they wanted to throw up.

But I’m going to cut the discussion short and put my cinematic life on the line by being completely vulnerable with some of my admittedly subjective picks for my favorite movies. Any agreement is highly encouraged. All dissenting opinions will be disregarded without a thought. Enjoy #21-#25 in this ongoing series:

21. It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

This first title was love at first sight. All the things I love about a great comedy. Completely lacking sophistication and full of hilarious insanity. Also, Mad…World has arguably the greatest ensemble every assembled for one film. Everyone shows up for the party and it’s wonderful. Jonathan Winters was my favorite discovery from this film because he truly was a comic gem of a man.

22. Some Like it Hot (1959)

Jack Lemmon will always and forever be one of my favorite actors. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of my Grandpa because my Grandpa is a funny man. But that’s neither here nor there. Some Like it Hot stems from the genius of Billy Wilder, always ready with a funny storyline (two cross-dressing musicians fleeing Chicago gangsters) and a rapier wit. Of course, there’s Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe too, and the Hotel Del Coronado makes a memorable appearance filling in for Florida. Boy, oh boy, am I a boy!

23. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

Now this one might seem kind of random. But I quickly fell in love with the fateful whimsy of Jacques Demy. His love of American musicals is evident with the casting of both Gene Kelly and George Chakiris, but this is also undeniably a French production starring sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac. Michel Legrand’s music is surprisingly catchy and the fact that the film’s exposition is all given through song intrigued me from the beginning.

24. Laura

Film-Noir became a favorite genre, movement, style (whatever you want to call it) early on and Laura was one of the reasons why. I think I was smitten with Laura (Gene Tierney) much like our protagonists, and the film’s core mystery was gripping in more ways than one. David Raksin’s haunting score adds yet another layer to the drama as does Otto Preminger’s direction through the film’s interiors.

25. To Kill a Mockingbird

By now Harper Lee’s novel and Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus Finch are almost intertwined in my mind, so much so, it becomes difficult to separate the two. And since I loved the book growing up, it’s only fitting that the film adaption would also hold a special place. Its set of sentiment and moral uprightness is hard for me to disregard, even when I’m at my most cynical. Mary Badham does a wonderful job as does Brock Peters — the perfect foils for Peck’s monumental portrayal.

4 “Good Girls” of Film Noir

I do not particularly care for the term “Good Girl,” because it feels rather condescending toward the guardian angels of film-noir. In fact, on closer research, I’m not even sure if it’s a widely accepted term. However, they are the ones in stark juxtaposition to the femme fatales, acting as the beacons of light leading their men away from the path of destruction. As such, their roles should certainly not be discounted and here are four such women from four classic film-noir.

1. Anne Shirley in Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Taking her stage name from the plucky heroine out of E.L Montgomery’s perennial classic, Anne Shirley’s Ann Grayle is the one character of high moral standing in a film clogged with all sorts of undesirables. Even our protagonists Phillip Marlowe (Dick Powell) is cynical as all get out and Grayle’s seductive stepmother (Claire Trevor) cares more about her jewelry than her marriage.

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2.Jeanne Crain in Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

Leave Her to Heaven is noteworthy for several reasons. First, it is an obvious example of noir that is atypically shot in color. Furthermore, Gene Tierney gives the most chilling performance of her career as Ellen Harland. However, Tierney’s turn would not be so deathly icy if it were not for Jeanne Crain’s angelic role as her sister Ruth. The polarity of the roles, Ellen’s conniving smile, crossed with her sister’s utter sincerity makes the film work far more evocatively.

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3.Coleen Gray in Kiss of Death (1947)

Of all the “Guardian Angels” the late great Coleen Gray (who passed away last year) was perhaps the sweetest, kindest, most precious example you could ever conjure up. Her role as the faithful Nettie, tugs at our heartstrings. Though she doesn’t have a femme fatale counterpoint, the crazed Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark) more than fits the bill.

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4.Marsha Hunt in Raw Deal (1948)

Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal is a film that revolves around a man (Dennis O’Keefe) incarcerated in prison with a girl (Claire Trevor) on the outside ready to help him get out any way she can. But it’s the social worker Ann, who we first gravitate towards because she is the righteous one trying earnestly to reform Joe. It is his evolving character, after all, that is at the core of this one.

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4 Great Movies Set in a Single Location

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Great directors can take a restriction like a single, confined location and turn into something especially extraordinary. Because the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and Louis Malle prove that these are not limits at all, but sources of cinematic inspiration. It what you do with that space that is of the utmost importance.

1. Rear Window (1954)
The ultimate thriller, utilizing one Greenwich Village apartment complex to the nth degree. Jimmy Stewart being confined to a wheelchair has never been so compelling as he begins to suspect that his neighbor across courtyard is a wife murderer. Hitchcock builds up the tension by not allowing his character to escape, and he becomes embroiled in intrigue as well as romance. It all leads to a crackerjack ending.

2.12 Angry Men (1957)

There have been many courtroom dramas, but the beauty of this character study is its new perspective. Sidney Lumet’s debut is a thing of beauty, because he lets his characters work and there are 12 wonderful actors all playing off each other. The story is simple. These men must decide if a young boy should be sent to the electric chair. Put them together in a room for an hour and a half and we learn more about mankind than we could possibly imagine. There’s nothing to make the temperature rise like 12 angry men in a room together.

3.Lifeboat (1944)

Hitchcock was always one for technical challenges and Lifeboat is a film that reflects his penchant for cinematic experiments. After an ocean liner is sunk numerous passengers are forced to board a raft together, including friends and foes. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the war drama is how Hitch is able to keep the story from being stagnant. It’s surprisingly compelling  for how simple it looks at first glance.

4.My Dinner with Andre (1981)

This film is less about dramatic tension and more about a concept. Two men sit together and share a conversation over dinner, full of all sorts of philosophical musings. Once again a simple premise gives way to interesting discussion led by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory playing fictional versions of themselves.

The Best Films of Stanley Donen

“I think of myself as a meat-and-potatoes kind of director.”

  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Charade
  • On the Town
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Two for the Road
  • Funny Face
  • Royal Wedding
  • Indiscreet
  • Arabesque
  • Bedazzled
  • It’s Always Fair Weather
  • The Grass is Greener

Well-known Collaborations: Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in musicals