Some Films’ 25th Anniversary

The website www.IMDB.com recently posted a list of films that were celebrating their Silver anniversary this year (ie, 1994 – 2019).  Here are some comments regarding my favorite films on that list.

Forrest Gump:Received 13 Oscar nominations and won 6, including Best Film and Best Actor (Tom Hanks (see below)  received his 2ndConsecutive Oscar).  Only Spencer Tracy had won 2 in a row.

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Pulp Fiction:   Received 7 Oscar nominations; won one = Screenplay for Quentin Tarantiono

 The Shawshank Redemption:  Received 7 nominations (including Best Picture, Best Actor –Morgan Freeman); won 0 Oscars.  Thus was a great film, as viewers know.  See it when you can.

Bullets over Broadway:  Received 7 nominations (eg, Director and screenplay: Woody Allen); won one (Dianne Wiest, Best Supporting Actress).

The Lion King (1994):  Received 4 nominations; 3 for an original Song. Won 2 Oscars (for Best Original Song –“Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”, and Best Original Score.) Are you ready for 2019’s remake?  IMDB has a shot for shot comparison of the 2 films’ beginnings.  It’s worth a look.  Yes, James Earl Jones’ voice remains.

Legends of the Fall: Received 3 nominations; got one Oscar: Best Cinematography.  The film and Brad Pitt were in great shape.

Four Weddings and a Funeral:  Received 2 nominations; 0 Oscars.  But audiences saw Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell, and their acting careers continued.  For example: Grant in “Love Actually” and MacDowell in “Groundhog Day.”

Speed:  Received 2 nominations and 2 Oscars (for Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing). Have the stars been seen again? (ie, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, remember?)

Ed Wood:  Starring Johnny Depp as film maker “Ed Wood” and Marin Landau. The film received 2 nominations, and got 2 Oscars.  For Best Supporting Actor (Landau, as Bela Lugosi) and Best Makeup (on Mr. Landau I assume).

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.  Nominated for and won one Oscar, for Best Costume Design.  A wonderful, quirky film.  Plot: “Two drag performers and a transgender woman travel across the Australian desert to perform their unique style of cabaret.”  The bus in which they travel is named “Priscilla.”  In this film,  Americans see, perhaps for the first time, Guy Pearce  (“L. A. Comfidential”) and  Hugo Weaving (“The Matrix”, as Agent Smith).  Plus, Terence Stamp (as Bernadette) completes the traveling trio and gives a marvelous performance.  If you see him in this role, compare it to his “Mr. Wilson” in “The Limey.”   Fantastic!

Leon: The Professional.  This 1994 film received no Oscar nominations, but I like it. Maybe you do, too.  After all, it introduced us to Natalie Portman.  She learns a hit man’s skills from a favorite actor of mine:  Jean Reno. (see below)   If you’ve seen Mr. Reno with Robert DeNiro in “Ronin”, you saw a fine story, acting, and the best car chases I’ve ever seen.

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If you can see Imdb’s 25thanniversary films list, what would be your finest films choices?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

    

 

 

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Stand-Up Comedians

The cover story of Time magazine, March 11, 2019 is about Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  One part of the article is entitled “The 5 Funniest Stand-Up Specials Ever.”  Ms. Louis-Dreyfus gives her 5 top choices.  Three of the choices I can easily agree with.  Richard Pryor, Live on the Sunset Strip (1982).  Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy guy (1978).  For Ellen Degeneres, (see below)a 1996 performance is chosen.  I’d go with a 12/18/18 performance entitled, Relatable. It was her first stand-up performance in 15 years.  And as the title of her performance indicates, she is still indeed Relatable.

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I would have to replace two of her choices (ie, Steven Wright and Paula Poundstone) with 2 individuals I wrote about in a different article.  Specifically, George Carlin and Robin Williams.  If you need a specific performance to judge these individuals’, I’d say: “Why?”  You must have seen some of the many television specials by Carlin.   His “7 dirty words” routine is an example of his genius.   Other examples could be:  “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.”  And “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

And Robin Williams is my funniest favorite.  Of his TV performances, my favorite may have to be 1988’s “A Night at the Met.”  His show began with him realizing the 2 huge lights retracting into the ceiling looked like “Imelda Marcos’ earrings.” Williams gives everyone more jokes per minute than anyone.  You get quantity and quality of his work every time.

As a 6thcomedian, I’d chose someone I haven’t seen lately: Bob Newhart.  People familiar with his television shows may forget he started (as a bookkeeper turned) comedian.  My favorite piece of his work was him trying to explain the rules of baseball in a telephone call to someone unfamiliar with the game. I suddenly realized how complicated the game we were born with was to a stranger.

Who would make your “best 5” list?

 

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Forty Years Later…

I still remember an ad for “Alien” that told us: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”  Yes, it was 1979 when we first met the creature that attached itself to someone and, later, burst out of their body to kill the crew of a space ship.  And it was quite a crew/cast: Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, and the lone survivor, Sigourney Weaver (see below).  She has had quite a career, in more “Alien” films, plus other fine performances.  But, as you remember, the story came down to the creature versus Sigourney –a female hero!! In years previous, it would have been John Wayne versus the monster.  Ms. Weaver showed us another hero is possible.

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Do you remember how the film closed?  Ripley: “Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew –Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas –are dead.  Cargo and ship destroyed.  I should reach the frontier in about six weeks.  With a little luck, the network will pick me up.  This is Ripley, the last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.”  That’s how victory sounded.

And, 35 years later, another woman, Emily Blunt (see below) taught Tom Cruise how to defeat aliens who invaded Earth in the film “Edge of Tomorrow.”  And when Tom hesitated to continue using step 2 of the 3 step process that could bring victory (ie, “Live, Die, Repeat”), Ms. Blunt helped him with a single round. Somewhere, Ms. Weaver was smiling. Watch both films when and where you can.

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Most Important Person Who Never Lived

In 2013, Time Books published “The 100 Most Influencial  People Who Never Lived.”  Guess what: Donald Trump, George Clooney, and Billie Jean King are not among them.  Of course not.  The point is: the most important people in an event or story may not ever have drawn a breath.  Here are some examples.  Who is real and who is not?

A Middle East “Strongman” makes horrible news = Darth Vader.

Rosie the Riveter = A woman CAN do a man’s job.

Achilles = a heroic warrior.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy = Donald Trump and Melania

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde = someone REALLY bi-polar

A (Russian) secret agent eliminates a threat = Bond; James Bond

An abused woman seeks revenge = Lisbeth Salander

A woman goes to the big city, and makes it there = Mary Richards

An unemployed farmer fights to find work, somewhere = Tom Joad

And my favorite: Jim Rockford, or ANY private eye working on cases alone = Sherlock Holmes.  Guinness World records lists him as “the most portrayed movie character in history.”  “This character and his stories have had a profound and lasting effect on mystery writing.  Stories about him and his cases have  been radio plays, televisions shows, films, etc. for over 100 years.”

Actors I’ve seen perform Holmes: Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Nicole Williamson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller (see below; Holmes in modern NYC), Robert Downey, Jr.

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Perhaps the question should be: Is Sherlock Holmes The Most Important Person Who Never Lived?

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Women Meet Monsters

Actress Julie Adams died on 2/3/19 at age 92.  She had 149 film credits from her work in movies and television and was busy from 1949 into the 21stcentury. She worked with many stars (eg, Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson , Elvis Presley).  On television, she appeared regularly on “Murder, she Wrote” with Angela Lansbury.  She also was seen on Perry Mason and westerns (eg, Maverick).

But she was best remembered for her role as the endangered heroine in 1954’s “Creature from  the Black Lagoon.”  (see below)

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 It was a surprise hit with the public, especially a 7 year old boy, named Guillermo del Toro.  He said: “The creature was the most beautiful design I’d ever seen. I loved that the creature was in love with her and I felt a desire for them to end up together.”  (In the 1954 film, the merman was driven away by heroes Richard Carlson and Richard Denning. However, he returned in 2 sequels.) It wasn’t until the 2017 film, “The Shape of Water”, that any sympathy for the creature was felt by the female star, Sally Hawkins (a best actress nominee).

Once again in the new film, the creature was misunderstood and mistreated ….until it and its love (Ms. Hawkins) overcame the real evil: men.  Finally, good (and love) won out over true evil.  It took 4 films and more than 60 years for movie makers and goers to change their attitude toward men with gills.  The not-doomed-this-time lovers brought in almost $200 million and Oscars for the Film and director.

For a side by side comparison of creatures (see below).

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 But, perhaps, a better picture of the girl friend and her finned fellow can be seen in these two pictures: Ms. Adams in black and white (see below),

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and Ms. Hawkins and lover in color and underwater.  (see below)

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Perhaps the 2017 film may also have a sequel.  Entitled: where are they now?

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Pitchers and Catchers Report

Pitchers and catchers are reporting to their respective teams.  Spring Training is beginning.  Baseball has returned.

This is also the time of year when baseball magazines, full of pre-season predictions, make themselves available.  I got mine at CVS.  Reading through its 200+ pages, I chose a dozen players and topics I will follow through this season.  What will you look forward to in 2019?

Where will Bryce Harper and Manny Machado land?  And how much will it cost to obtain their services?  How much of an impact will they have on their teams? Harper has played 7 years.  Yes, he’s been here that long.  He was fantastic in his MVP year (2015).  He can produce 30+ home runs and work for walks, but can he be the dependable center of a team’s franchise –and is he worth what he’ll be paid?  For me the answers are: maybe, but he needs to show what he’s worth now (he’s 26) and, of course, he’ll be overpaid.

Machado is the same age and has the same amount of experience.  He’s a more consistent player.  He’ll give you 30+ home runs, hit .290 and provide fine defense at  shortstop or third base.  He’ll fit into a team’s plans easier and cost less.  I hope the Phillies get him.

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Mike Trout (see above) will be a joy to watch and appreciate.  The only question is: will he be a star or the G.O.A.T.?  Either way, he is more valuable than either Harper or Machado. He will be the face of the franchise on and off the field.  He’s the player who’s worth the money he’ll get. He’s Roy Hobbs without the need to be great; it’ll come naturally.  Remember when people realized Ken Griffey, Jr. was the real thing.  Trout is capable of being even better.  I think he IS baseball’s future, not Harper.

Nolan Arenado.  And how good is this guy?  I think in time he will be at least the equal of Mike Schmidt.  Obviously, he can hit.  And he wins a Gold Glove every year.  We could be watching the greatest third baseman ever.

Miguel Cabrera.  I remember when he was 22 and putting up a year of .323, 78 EBH, with 100+ RS and RBI. I thought: “How good can he be?” Answer:  We’re watching another Hall of Famer with 500+ home runs and 3,000 hits –unless injuries derail him again.

Ichiro Suzuki.  He will come back for a 2 game encore because he’ll open the year with 2 exhibition games and 2 for real games to start the season.  They will be played in Japan.  What a coincidence!  He will say good-bye in from of family and fans.  A fitting tribute for an exceptional player.  And, yes, he will also go to Cooperstown, as well.

Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.  He may begin the year in the minor leagues but will be in the majors this year.  Why? The scouts say he’s got nothing to learn about hitting. Plus, his Father V.G., SR. goes into the Hall of Fame in July.  HE could hit any pitch, including if it bounced.  For me, the 3 best players I ever saw were Mays, Clemente, and V. G., Sr.  Junior is following a tough act.  But if he does well, what a treat it will be.

Jose Altuve.  Another of my favorite players and a reason to welcome baseball’s return. Let’s see:  MVP in 2017; 3rdin 2016 MVP voting (behind Trout and Mookie Betts); 3 batting titles; 4 consecutive 200 hit seasons; hit “only” .316 last year because of injury; and the soul of the Astros.  Watching him is worth your ticket price, no matter the cost. At 5’6”, has there ever been a player this valuable?

Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.  In 2018, the NYY won 100 games in large part because they hit more home runs than any team in the AL.  But Stanton and Judge weren’t as productive as fans had hoped.  Stanton came on board and his HR total dropped from 58 to 38.  He hit only .266 with 211 strikeouts.  Judge didn’t do as well as expected either.  His HR total dropped from 50 to 27, with only 67 RBI.  Both of them need to improve their and the team’s records. The Yankees will field another good team, but the expectations for their team and its payroll is always for a title –it would be their 28th.  Will the two big –literally—home run hitters provide 80-100 round-trippers?  I won’t be the only one watching.

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 Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Clayton Kershaw. (see above) These are 3 pitchers whose performances I’ll be watching all season. All have a future in the Hall of Fame if they can continue the excellent performances they have provided in the past. Age could limit their effectiveness. Verlander and Scherzer are 35 and while Kershaw is only 30, his innings pitched have been reduced by injuries for the last 3 years.  Verlander was productive last year.  He finished second in the Cy Young voting because he had 16 wins, a 2.52 ERA, 214 IP, and 290 strikeouts.  Scherzer had a fine year as well.  He, too, was a second place finisher for the Cy Young as he posted a record of 18 wins, a 2.53 ERA, 220.2 IP, with 300 Ks.  For these two men, a sudden drop in performance is not expected.  And if they can produce like in the past for a few more years, Cooperstown will be calling.  But Kershaw is a different matter.  Generally considered the finest pitcher of his generation, back injuries have limited his starts and IP, if not his ERA (2.73 is his highest in the last 3 years). His overall record is fine (39 – 13) as is his WHIP (1.041 is his highest in 2016-18).  His career ERA of 2.39  and career WHIP of 1.005 say the talent could still be there.  But he’s had only 30+ starts in one of he last  5 years.  At their best, these three men deserve serious consideration for the HOF, but age or injury could rob them of future praise.

Joe Maddon   is a manager I have admired for his creativity and rapport in the clubhouse since he took over guidance of the Cubs in 2015. His 387 regular season wins and World Series win in 2016 also are evidence of his skill.  But his quick departure from post season play last year –and the fact that he’s on the last of his contract—may limit his stay in Chicago. I think his future depends on good health (for Kris Bryant), continued effectiveness by his offense (led by Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez) and more quality pitching from the entire staff (plus more innings from Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.  He has been colorful and creative so far in Chicago.  I hope he can continue to do well.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won more Championships than any other team in the NL (11).  They have had a winning record for the past 11 years.  But 2011 was their last Championship year.  They are known for a fine minor league system and knowledgeable and loyal fans.  But a winning year is not the same as a title.  Two additions in the off season may put them over the top.  Paul Goldschmidt has been added to improve their offense and reliever Andrew Miller will help the bullpen.  I think St. Louis will improve significantly in 2019.

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The Philadelphia Phillies. I’ve been a fan of the Phils since 1950, and I’ve seen some lean years.  Last season, they finished the year with a 17 -34 run.  I only saw 2 bright spots on the roster.  Aaron Nola (see above) had a fine year finishing 3rdin the Cy Young voting.  He went 17 – 6, with a 2.37 ERA.  And Rhys Hoskins finished his first full season with 34 homers and 96 RBIs. That is a small base upon which to build a winning team.  But the Phils, through trades and free  agent signings, have added 4  good players to their roster.  Catcher J. T. Realmuto, shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Andrew McCutchen, and reliever David Robertson should significantly improve the lineup.  Talk of the Phillies signing Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper may be blowing smoke, but they’ve made a number of steps in the right direction.  The season should benefit from new faces.

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

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The Hammer of God

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Nicknames have always been part of baseball.  Some of the better known and the players they refer to are:  “The Sultan of Swat” (Babe Ruth); “The Splendid Splinter” (a young, thin Ted Williams); “The Say Hey Kid” (Willie Mays); “The Big Train” (Walter Johnson); “The Great One” (Roberto Clemente); “Big 6” (Christy Mathewson); “The Georgia Peach” (Ty Cobb); “The Flying Dutchman” (Honus Wagner); “The Iron Horse” (Lou Gehrig).  Notice: the first 5 players inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame are included in this list.  But who is known as “The Hammer of God” according to a baseball writer?  Hint: none of those mentioned.  Answer = Mariano Rivera (see above).

Rivera was just voted into the Hall of Fame by Baseball Sportswriters.  He was the first player to be mentioned as worthy of entrance into the Hall by every sportswriter who voted.  That’s 425 out of 425.  Of course, any player who’s faced Rivera would agree.  But why the nickname?

He usually comes into a game in the ninth inning to preserve a win.  Every player knows that.  Every player knows he only throws one pitch: a cut fastball.  They know where the pitch will go, generally: inside to a left-handed batter, outside to a right-handed batter.  And they know he will succeed.

Unlike many relievers, he has no music playing when he comes in from the bullpen.  For example, Trevor Hoffman (who has the 2ndhighest career Save total) enters a game with AC/DC’s Hells Bells announcing his coming. The outcome is certain.  Since Rivera has the Highest career Save total, the outcome is even more certain.  Thus, he is:  The Hammer of God.  Everyone (batter, catcher,  all members of both teams, fans, sports writers) knows what will happen.  No one is successful versus Rivera.

Any statistical evidence to substantiate  the nickname and Rivera’s success?  He pitched 19 years for the New York Yankees, 18 as a reliever.  In his regular season work, he had a record 652 saves, an ERA of 2.21, and a WHIP of 1.00.  He was even better in post-season work: 42 saves, an ERA of 0.70, and a WHIP of 0.759. No wonder every sportswriter gave him a vote and the outcome of his every game is certain,  and the nickname could be very appropriate.

 

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