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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #22

Arsenic and Old Lace

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“Insanity runs in my family.  It practically gallops.”

    Now that we’re coming out of 80’s week, let’s jet back even farther in honor of Thanksgiving and holiday traditions.  This next week I’m going to lovingly refer to as “Ye Olde” week.  For me, Thanksgiving has always had a classic feel, and I thought what better to watch this week – with all the classics on television – thank some good old black and white films.
    I realize I probably just lost half of you because most people my age and younger hate black and white films, so let me just say something about that in case you’re still reading.  I get that some black and white films are slow moving, but if you love acting (I am a stickler for acting.  As someone who was set on doing that with their life, I grew to be very passionate and particular about actors.), it’s important to watch old movies.  In my opinion, actors from the 40s and 50s were significantly better than the majority of actors in film now.  If you compare Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, or Cary Grant to Olivia Wilde, Anne Hathaway, or Bradley Cooper, you see a significant difference (as in, the oldies are significantly better than the newbies).  There was so much more focus back then on articulation and facial expression and raw, pure, acting talent.  They didn’t have the computer capabilities that we have today, and soundtracks weren’t really a thing back then.  There wasn’t as much emotional manipulation with music or color, it was all on the actors and writers.  Some really beautiful films came out of that time period and they should be appreciated and not ignored.
    Alright, now that I’ve had a tiny rant, let’s focus.  Today’s movie is Arsenic and Old Lace.  This dark comedy is funny, quirky, and suspenseful, while maintaining a fun feel throughout the film.  It has just the right level of intensity and creepiness without overshadowing the comedy.  One thing I like about this film is that each character is given the chance to be comedic.  Typically, there’s one character who is the bland, straight character while one or two others are always comical.  In Arsenic and Old Lace, almost every character (except, maybe, Jonathan Brewster) is funny and goofy at some point in the movie.  I watched this for the first time in high school for a class assignment and I expected to hate it (much like The Breakfast Club), and instead fell absolutely in love with Cary Grant as an actor, and in love with this film.  This movie is one of my favorite classics and I hope that even if you hate black and white films, you’ll give this one a chance.

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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #21

The Breakfast Club


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“When you grow up, your heart dies.”

    Trust me, I’m just as surprised as you are about the surprising lack of Molly Ringwald in this week’s films.  Don’t worry, as we close out 80s week we are once again graced by the sass and overwhelmingly underwhelming performance of Molly Ringwald in the 80s cult classic The Breakfast Club.  Fun fact, Ringwald was originally going to play the role of Allison Reynolds (the basket case) but made a fuss and claimed she wanted the role of Claire and I’m assuming it all went something like, “Gosh, Molly Ringwald, stop crying.  Save that for the screen.  Okay, okay, here, have a cookie, you can play Claire.”  I had no idea there were so many recasts in this film, but apparently the role of Bender had come down to John Cusak, Nicholas Cage, and Judd Nelson.  I cannot imagine how ridiculous this movie would be if Nicholas Cage was the one doing the classic library-floor monologue, or the iconic fist pump at the end of the film.
    This is my favorite film from the 1980s, hands down.  Every time I watch this movie, I’m reminded of the first time I saw it; I expected to hate it, and watched it begrudgingly.  Despite my attitude, the movie totally won me over.  Excellent cast, excellent writing, excellent everything.  I’ve heard rumors that the entire library floor scene was improvised by the actors, but I can’t find any source validating that.  However, the scene where Claire is smoking pot was actually improvised by Molly Ringwald.  There was a lot of freedom given to the actors by John Hughes to explore their characters through improvisation while cameras were rolling.


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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #20

The NeverEnding Story
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“Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!”

    The 80s brought with them loads and loads of fantasy films.  With ET, Back to the Future, Batman, Ghostbusters, and The Star Wars trilogy (the ACTUAL Star Wars movies*), fantasy became the highest grossing genres of the 80s.  One of the lesser known (but still pretty famous) fantasy movies from the 80s is The NeverEnding Story.
    The NeverEnding Story was based on a novel (same title), and when the author, Michael Ende, was so appalled by the fact that the movie was nothing like his book, he sued the filmmakers and lost, which makes me glad I never read the book.  The movie centers around a kid named Bastian who is being furiously bullied at school.  He ends up stealing a book, and hiding out in his school for the day in an attic of some kind.  I wish I could say that the attic full of terrifying cobwebs and skeletons is the creepiest part of the film, but the majority of the film takes place in a haunting fantasy land called Fantasia, which is facing destruction (just wait until you meet Gmork).
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Most underrated characters: ARTAX.  OH MY GOSH.  IF YOU WATCH THIS MOVIE, BE IN AN EMOTIONALLY STABLE STATE BECAUSE I CANNOT AND WILL NOT EVER BE ABLE TO HANDLE THE SWAMP OF SADNESS.

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“The neverending soooodaaa.  oh oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh oh…”


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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #19

Back To The Future

Image     “Where are my pants?” “Over there, on my hope chest.”

    If you haven’t seen Back To The Future, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.  BTTF is a time-traveling film set in the 80s and the 50s.  Christopher Lloyd and young Michael J. Fox are a fantastic team in this fun, fast-paced adventure.  The supporting cast includes the delightfully talented Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson.  If you have the time and the energy, I suggest watching at least the first two in the trilogy back to back.  The third movie is widely regarded as the least well made of the three, but I thought it was alright.
The mix of comedy and time-sensitive-time-traveling adventure is brilliant.  The characters will keep you laughing, and the action will keep you intrigued.  This is one of those films it’s safe to say is a classic, despite the out-dated special effects.

Most underrated characters: George McFly – He has some of the best lines (“I’m your density”) and Crispin is such a talented actor.


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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #18

An American Tail

Image “There are no cats in America, and the streets are paved with cheese.”

    Guys, I don’t know if you know this (I didn’t at all) but An American Tail came out in the 80s.  How old do you feel right now? I don’t think you understand, this film is actually OLDER than I am.  That’s incredible.  This movie is cute, but intense, and is pretty bold when it comes to children’s films speaking about persecution and immigration.  
    In this film, a cutie-patootie (albeit, moderately clueless) little mouse called Fievel leaves Russia with his family to go to America.  I don’t think you understand how awesome this movie is – so I’m going to tell you.  Fievel’s family represents a family of Jewish immigrants who come to America to escape persecution but end up being persecuted in the US as well.  Throughout the film, these mice deal with issues that echo real-life issues for immigrants coming to the states in the 1800s, like family members or friends dying on the boat or drowning.  I think it’s so cool that a film about a cartoon mouse could emulate the idea of immigration and persecution without being so overwhelming as to terrify children.  I’m just really excited about this film.

Most underrated character(s): Tiger – HE’S A VEGETARIAN CAT, YOU GUYS.


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Confession #1

One trait I value in my friends is honesty.  I want people to call me out on stuff, and I’ve been working a lot these past few months on being able to handle criticism.  My instinct reaction is to be defensive and closed off, but I recognize that sometimes I can’t see the mistakes I’m making until years later, and if someone has some constructive criticism for me, I want to be able to take it to heart without feeling insulted.

Yesterday I had some honesty thrown at me, and it kind of knocked me off-balance for a bit.  It’s always hard to hear negative feedback when you think you’re doing okay.  I wanted to address what was brought up and sort of explain myself, because, honestly, I know my head hasn’t been in the game, so to speak.

As Ron Swanson once said, “Never half-ass two things.  Whole-ass one thing.”  As important as I think this statement is, and as much as I would love to say I live by it, I don’t.  I have the habit of biting off way more than I can chew, panicking, and then not finishing any of it or backing out of everything.  I retreat when I’m scared, and I get scared quite frequently.
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I want to say that I recognize that my blog has not been eloquently written, or especially informative or intellectual.  It’s been the basics, and will continue to be the basics for the rest of November.  I started this blog the day I started writing my November novel, and I think we all knew that would not be my wisest choice as a writer.  My novel is really important to me, and I fully intend to finish that.  However, blogging about movies until Christmas is also important to me.  I like it; I like writing about it.

I refuse to quit – blogging about movies (as stupid as you might think that is) or writing my novel.  I have a habit of quitting – retreating – and I don’t want to be in that habit anymore.  I want to finish something – somethings.

As much as you might believe this is all for you, it’s also for me, and for my sanity and to help me progress as a writer.  Many of you know this about me, but I try to be open and up front about everything.  I’m unemployed, unhappy and unmotivated, and frankly I’m out of ideas.  Writing gives me hope.  Maybe you don’t understand that, but that’s okay.  I just wanted to express this notion.  I can tell you it will get better once November is over, and I can tell you that in the future I will focus on one creative concept at a time.

I want to thank those who have been encouraging me.  I recognize that this is a really hard time in my life, and I am handling it as best as I possibly can.  I was hoping this novel would change my life – even in a really small way.  I appreciate all those who are supporting me.  Thank you for understanding that ultimately, I’m writing for myself.  I’m not writing to impress you or befuddle you, I’m writing because it gives me hope.


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55 Movies to Get You to Christmas – #17

 Say Anything
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“Are you here because you need someone or because you need me? Forget it, I don’t care.”

   One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that Hollywood directors still cast young adults to play high school students.  In Say Anything, Lloyd Dobler is portrayed by John Cusak, who was 23 at the time.  The film follows Dobler after graduation as he pursues his class’ valedictorian, Diane.  The film was highly esteemed as one of the best teen-romance films of its time, and put John Cusak on the map.  
    The story is rocky but sweet.  It follows the same up and down pattern that most 80s teen flicks follow, but Lloyd Dobler is such a lovable, sincere protagonist, you can’t help but to root for him.  Despite the age of this film, it’s still easy to enjoy and just as heartwarming as when it first came out in 1989.

Most underrated characters: Lloyd Dobler – despite being the main male figure in this film, he is totally underrated.  His female friends actually refer to him as the perfect guy, and he really is an all-around great guy throughout the whole film.  Even at the end, when he is given the opportunity to be resentful and bitter, he demonstrates patience and compassion.