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11 Classic Films That Haven’t Aged Well

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Ever had that sad feeling of dialing up a great, old movie and discovering it hasn’t aged well? I have. It’s kind of a shame, because it’s not the movie’s fault. Times and tastes simply changed.  For instance …

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)

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Here’s a classic melodrama that is beloved by many. You’ve got Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr and oodles of sophisticated charm. The problem comes when you get to the tragic plot twist, involving a car accident. From that moment on, the dialogue and acting might as well be from a Victorian era stage play. Cary ends up saying something like, “If it had to happen to one of us, why couldn’t it have been me?” Oh, boy. Give me George Costanza’s “It’s not you, it’s me” speech any day.

DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967)

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This film, once considered a delightful lark about a dude who could talk to animals, now moves so slowly that the animals have time to evolve into creatures with the power of human speech. I don’t think any critters were harmed during filming, but I got a little woozy the last time I tried to watch it.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)

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Great actor, James Dean. And there have been lots of good movies about the treacherous nature of high school. But “Rebel Without a Cause” goes a little over the top, from our vantage point in the age of cyber bullying. Dean tells his weak-willed dad, “You’re tearing me apart!” Today, he’d just give dad a long stare and say, “Seriously?”

DARK VICTORY (1939)

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No disrespect to the one and only Bette Davis, but acting styles are MUCH more realistic now than they were when this epic melodrama wowed audiences. For example, today an actress wouldn’t portray sudden blindness by slightly crossing her eyes and staring vaguely to one side. Also, succumbing to an  inoperable brain tumor tends to be more complicated than curling up on your bed after spending the morning in the garden. Just saying.

BATMAN (1989)

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I remember enjoying this movie so much when it debuted. Director Tim Burton’s genius was in every frame – and it still is. He created an original, distinct world for these characters to inhabit. What’s happened is that the Christopher Nolan Batman films of recent years are that much better. Heath Ledger as the Joker made Jack Nicholson look like a second-rate sideshow clown.

EASY RIDER (1969)

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Sorry to double-thump Nicholson, but “Easy Rider” got kind of creaky, too. If it’s any consolation, he’s the best thing in this movie. Much of the rest of the proceedings seem incredibly narcissistic and needlessly confusing. The bikes are still cool, though.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)

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Truly an all-star cast, headed by David Niven and Cantinflas and dotted with appearances by Frank Sinatra, John Gielgud, Noel Coward, Shirley MacLaine, Buster Keaton, Red Skelton and dozens of others. The thing is, we’ve come to expect more from our epic, all-star adventures than just special guests. We need pizzazz. We need action. We need a pace quicker than a hot air balloon.

THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (1952)

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Not even Jimmy Stewart in clown make-up can save 1952’s Best Picture winner, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” It’s a sprawling, soapy mess of a movie, and it seems to get more antiquated with each passing year. Mainly, it takes itself way too seriously – particularly in the scenes involving no-nonsense circus manager Chuck Heston. And the narration by Cecil B. DeMille, so perfect in “The Ten Commandments,” backfires badly here.

BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960)

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Decades after the heyday of the women’s rights movement, “Butterfield 8” now feels more and more like a museum piece. It posits Elizabeth Taylor as a tragic, fatalistic party girl who is trapped by her own sexual allure. Watching it today, you’re struck by how stifling American society was for most women, even as recently as a generation ago. I’d rather wait for “Mad Men” to return.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957)

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Similarly, many years of zesty courtroom dramas have rendered “Witness for the Prosecution” a bit lame. Shocking testimony? Been there. Surprising plot twists? Done that. Marlene Dietrich, you can’t handle the truth!

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)

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Try not to hate me for this. All I ask is that you hear me out. As stellar as Gregory Peck is as Atticus Finch, and as great as this story is, the set design and overall look of the movie just don’t make the grade anymore. The Finch house and neighborhood look like they were filmed on the old “Leave It to Beaver” lot when the studio security guards were on break. Not to mention, the musical score lays it on a bit thick. Thank goodness, the sound of Peck saying the name “Scout” remains timeless.

So there you have it. And now I ask you, which other old favorites are showing their age?

Best Olympics Movies Ever

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As we head into another edition of the Summer Olympics, here’s a List of Olympics-related film dramas and comedies to get us in the mood. No documentaries, though – the Games will provide all the reality we need for the next two weeks.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981)

Let’s start with the gold medalist. While it’s debatable whether “Chariots of Fire” deserved its Oscar for Best Picture, the fact that it is a classic character study told with grace and dignity is undeniable. The film presents running in the 1924 Olympics as a matter of religious faith, personal struggle, patriotic duty and elite frolic, depending on the individual.

JIM THORPE — ALL-AMERICAN (1951)

This one is more of a tragedy. Burt Lancaster plays the great Jim Thorpe, who won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics, only to have the medals taken away because he’d been paid once to play summer baseball. In the 1980s, after his death, Thorpe’s medals were reinstated. This movie, in some of the action scenes, used actual footage of Thorpe.

DOWNHILL RACER (1969)

Now for a little Winter Olympics action, with plenty of star power. Robert Redford is excellent as an aloof, driven Olympic skier. What I like so much about “Downhill Racer” is the way it showcases the rivalries, politics and competitiveness among athletes and even coaches on the same team.

PERSONAL BEST (1982)

Mariel Hemingway stars in this drama set around the 1980 Olympic games. The story works on two fronts. First you have the various personal relationships involving women’s track and field athletes. Then you have the emotional aftermath of President Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 games.

COOL RUNNINGS (1993)

Highly enjoyable, Disney version of the Jamaican bobsled team that took the Olympics – and the world – by storm in 1988. Far from being a documentary, it stars John Candy, Doug E. Doug and the always-charismatic Leon Robinson.

WALK DON’T RUN (1966)

The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is the backdrop for this old-fashioned romantic comedy. Cary Grant, in his final film role, plays matchmaker to speed walker Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar. It’s very sweet.

WITHOUT LIMITS (1998)

“Without Limits” was one of two films in the 1990s to profile Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine, who ran in the 1972 Munich games. I prefer this one, which stars the fine actor Billy Crudup as Prefontaine and Donald Sutherland as his coach. As a side note, “Without Limits” also features the legendary runner Frank Shorter – although he doesn’t play himself (Jeremy Sisto plays Shorter).

MUNICH (2005)

I think this is one of Steven Spielberg’s great films. It starts with an extended recounting of the brutal terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich games and continues forward with a story of Israeli agents responding to the attack in the years that followed. Eric Bana and Daniel Craig star. The movie ends with a visual that some might find cliched, but I found to be among the most haunting I’ve ever seen.

MIRACLE (2004)

We finish on an inspirational note. “Miracle” gives us one of the truly joyous moments (for Americans) in sports, with the U.S. hockey team’s incredible run at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Kurt Russell is perfect as coach Herb Brooks.

Did I leave any good ones out? Add them to The List!

Best Fireworks on Film & TV

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Hollywood fireworks can’t match the spectacle of a live show in the night sky – but that doesn’t stop movie and TV folks from trying. They use fireworks to illustrate everything from patriotism and protest to love and longing. See for yourself.

LOVE AMERICAN STYLE

I have fond memories of watching this anthology TV series from 1969-74, which was perfect for its era and featured everyone from Flip Wilson to Julie Newmar. Particularly memorable was its intro, which had some groovy fireworks.

MANHATTAN

Woody Allen’s use of fireworks – black and white fireworks, no less – and the music of George Gershwin is nothing short of brilliant. In the opening of his 1979 ode to the Big Apple, Woody shows us a wide shot of fireworks over the city skyline to suggest the excitement and majesty of New York.

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING

Old Gandalf (Ian McKellen) was sort of the Grucci Brothers of Middle Earth. Here, in the 2001 movie adaptation of the book, Gandalf’s pyrotechnics are peerless.

TO CATCH A THIEF

Ba-Boom! Film fireworks have never been sexier than in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant.

V FOR VENDETTA

Fireworks stand for liberty in “V For Vendetta,” a 2005 movie about freedom fighters trying to overturn a fictitious, totalitarian regime. The explosions might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but the fireworks are amazing.

RETURN OF THE JEDI

There’s only one thing to do after you’ve defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and you find yourself on a planet full of teddy bears: set off some kickass fireworks. This is how George Lucas did it back in 1983.

MARY POPPINS

In one of the most magical sequences in 1964’s “Mary Poppins,” a fusillade of fireworks chase a group of dancing chimney sweeps off the rooftops of London. Despite one of the goofier British accents in film history, Dick Van Dyke is still too cool for words.

THE GATHERING

What are fireworks doing in this 1977 TV Christmas movie? Well, they’re a sign that you have to live for today. Ed Asner plays a cold, distant father who brings his family together for one last holiday before he meets his maker.

THE BOY WHO COULD FLY

“The Boy Who Could Fly,” from 1986, is not a terribly well-known movie. Among other things, it is the story of a new kid in town who befriends an autistic boy. One of film’s most beautiful scenes is a dreamlike flight with fireworks.

AVALON

Best fireworks scene ever. 1990’s “Avalon” has a lot to say about families and about America, but here it’s simply about one immigrant’s first Fourth of July in Baltimore.

 

 

 

To all those seeing fireworks in the next week, enjoy!