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Great Poetry Scenes

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Roses are red, violets are blue. Great poetry scenes? Here are a few.

BULL DURHAM (1988)

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Adding to the richness and fun of this bawdy baseball classic are some nice flourishes of poetry. My favorite is when Susan Sarandon tosses a William Blake line from “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” at Kevin Costner and he replies, “William Blake?!” Beautiful.

MAGIC TOWN (1947)

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At the time, this satire about a pollster who found a town with perfect demographics was considered somewhat edgy. Today it’s decidedly on the hokey side. But there’s one scene that I love, where Jimmy Stewart and Jane Wyman are flirting with each other and give an impromptu, dual poetry recitation.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)

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Kirsten Dunst is a side character in this terrific movie about memories, love and pain, but she gets a nice poetry moment thanks to Alexander Pope’s “Elisa to Abelard.”

MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004)

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In the excellent Clint Eastwood film “Million Dollar Baby,” old Clint uses lines from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats, to convey a deep well of love and a sense of comfort to his tragic young boxing protegee, Hilary Swank.

THE OUTSIDERS (1983)

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Actor C. Thomas Howell, as Ponyboy, does right by Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” Totally appropriate for a bittersweet story of youth and the yearning to find your place in the world.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)

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Painful and perfect use of poetry here, as married man Michael Caine attempts to woo his sister-in-law, Barbara Hershey, with the e.e. cummings poem, “somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond.”

EL DORADO (1966)

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Yes, even westerns can have poetry. James Caan made fine use of Edgar Allan Poe’s “El Dorado” in this one. Of course, John Wayne thought he was nuts.

BACK TO SCHOOL (1986)

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I doubt very much that Dylan Thomas, when he wrote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” envisioned a day when it would be recited by comedian Rodney Dangerfield in the slob comedy, “Back to School.” Having said that, Rodney rocks.

APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)

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Like the rest of his performance in “Apocalypse Now,” Marlon Brando’s reading of “The Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot, is haunting, ominous and captivating.

DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989)

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The liberating, soul-nourishing nature of poetry is part of the theme of “Dead Poets Society.” Robin Williams is an English teacher at a rigid Vermont boarding school who shows his students that poetry and literature help you see the world from a different perspective. If you read poetry while standing on your desk – Whitman’s “Oh Captain! My Captain,” for instance – it’s even better.

THE GATHERING (1977)

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Ed Asner belts out a fine rendition of “Christmas Day in the Workhouse,” in this old TV movie about a dying father trying to bring his family back together for one last holiday.

SKYFALL (2012)

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Here we have poetry being used to add gravitas to the proceedings. Judy Dench, in “Skyfall,” deals with some government bureaucrats in a hearing by reciting part of Tennyson’s “Ulysses.” It didn’t help her situation, let me say.

SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982)

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At the end of the almost unbearably sad “Sophie’s Choice,” Stingo lets some words from Emily Dickinson try to make sense of the world’s senselessness. That sort of grace is a much appreciated counterpoint to the sudden, harsh choice that haunts the story.

JIMMY STEWART ON “THE TONIGHT SHOW” (1981)

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One night on Johnny Carson’s old “Tonight Show,” Jimmy Stewart pulled out a couple of pieces of paper and read a poem he’d composed about his late, beloved dog, Beau. It was sweet, incredibly corny and amazingly moving.

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994)

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My Favorite Private Eyes

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The private eye is an evergreen character for a very good reason. No matter what era or locale you choose for your story, there’s going to be greed and there’s going to be the occasional crime of passion. And the only way to sort it all out is to find an intrepid sleuth-for-hire. Here are the ones I prefer.

HUMPHREY BOGART IN “THE MALTESE FALCON”

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For a good many people, Bogey is the gumshoe gold standard. His whole vibe told you that he expected the worst from people, but hoped for the best. In “The Maltese Falcon,” a true classic, he gets to rub elbows with such stellar character actors as Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre.

JACK NICHOLSON IN “CHINATOWN”

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Nicholson channeled more than a little bit of Bogart in “Chinatown,” one of the best movies of the 1970s. He was feisty and dogged in his search for answers in a case that reached operatic heights (and depths) of corruption and depravity. Yet Jack also managed to be a real smartass. That’s saying something, considering what happens to his nose.

RICHARD ROUNDTREE IN “SHAFT”

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The most excellent “Shaft” song gets so much attention, you tend to forget how cool Richard Roundtree was in the title role. Unlike a lot of private eyes, he looked damn good while was chasing down leads and busting heads.

DAVID JANSSEN IN “HARRY O”

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“Harry O” wasn’t on TV for all that long, and it wasn’t a hit, but it featured a rich, nuanced role for David Janssen. His Harry Orwell was complicated, compassionate and filled with deep reservoirs of unspoken feeling. And get this – he didn’t have his own car! He would actually ride the bus around San Diego to work on his cases.

WILLIAM POWELL AND MYRNA LOY IN “THE THIN MAN”

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Powell and Loy were terrific as a team of married sleuths in “The Thin Man” and its sequels. More often than not, Powell’s Nick Charles was nursing a bad hangover, which wife Nora loved to point out. Loy and Powell’s dialogue just sparkled, no matter what sort of situation presented itself. Few movie duos since have matched their obvious chemistry.

HARRISON FORD IN “BLADE RUNNER”

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The juxtaposition of old-time, private eye tropes and futuristic gizmos served “Blade Runner” very well. Ford was a grim investigator trying to track down a bunch of violent, artificial life forms trying to blend in with the general populace. He discovered it wasn’t quite that simple. That’s how it is with private eyes. They always see the shades of gray.

ROBERT MITCHUM IN “OUT OF THE PAST”

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Quite simply, it’s one of the best film noir performances ever put on film. Mitchum personifies fatalistic stoicism as a smitten gumshoe who falls under the spell of a dangerous, mysterious dame. When the bad guy shows up, it’s – holy crap – Kirk Douglas!

JAMES GARNER IN “THE ROCKFORD FILES”

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Garner was smooth as silk as Jim Rockford, an LA private eye who lived in a trailer on the beach. Like most of the folks on this List, he was a jaded guy who still managed to be a soft touch when someone was in trouble. Garner gave the character easy humor, natural charm and a hard-earned intelligence.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN IN “BORED TO DEATH”

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The private eye as a Brooklyn hipster/struggling writer. It’s a brilliant twist on the genre, with Schwartzman perfectly cast as the self-involved, yet surprisingly effective, investigator. The supporting cast is great, too, headed up by Ted Danson.

ROBERT URICH IN “SPENSER: FOR HIRE”

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Urich’s likability, combined with the literary pedigree of Robert B. Parker’s source material, made “Spenser: For Hire” a pleasing way to spend an hour. I also liked that the show was set in Boston, that Spenser drove a Mustang and that he had the best side character on TV. That would be Avery Brooks as Hawk.

MIKE CONNORS IN “MANNIX”

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Okay, I’ll admit it. My favorite part of “Mannix” was the theme song. Connors did a fine job – but that theme song was dynamite.

JIMMY STEWART IN “VERTIGO”

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In “Vertigo,” Jimmy Stewart’s character isn’t so much trying to solve a case as he is surrendering to a personal obsession. He becomes unhinged by Kim Novak’s death and goes completely off the deep end when he encounters a woman who looks exactly like her. As always director Alfred Hitchcock pounces on the dark side of human personality.

DONALD SUTHERLAND IN “KLUTE”

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This is such an underrated performance, mainly because it’s Jane Fonda’s character who dominates the film. But Sutherland is masterful as the quiet, conservative investigator who watches everything with a piercing gaze. As the plot plays out, his strength and resolve radiate wonderfully.

KRISTEN BELL IN “VERONICA MARS”

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“Veronica Mars” took the private eye story to a scary place: high school. These weren’t soft mysteries. Young Veronica, played with plucky toughness by Kristen Bell, had to deal with murders, sexual assaults and spurned lovers, as well as a gaggle of mean girls who hated her.

DENZEL WASHINGTON IN “DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS”

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Here we have a wonderful blend of politics, a search for a missing woman, hidden motives and a dash of racism in 1940s Los Angeles. Denzel Washington plays Easy Rawlins, a guy who loses his job and tries to pay his mortgage as a private investigator. Luckily for him, he’s got crazy Don Cheadle helping him out of a few jams.

ELLIOT GOULD IN “THE LONG GOODBYE”

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For the life of me, I don’t know why this version of Philip Marlowe works so well. It’s set in ’70s California, with lots of drugs, free love and groovy people – not exactly the usual surroundings. Gould is the key. He’s still a dour, relentless seeker of truth, like this brethren of other eras.

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH IN “SHERLOCK”

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I thought long and hard about whether Sherlock Holmes belonged anywhere on this List. Ultimately, I decided he did, and for me the very best Sherlock is the one on British TV, played by Cumberbatch. He’s set in the current day, but he retains the razor-sharp mind and massive quirks that make the character iconic.

PAUL NEWMAN IN “HARPER”

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Here’s the one I put at the head of the table: Paul Newman as Lew Harper, based on novelist Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series of books. Everything about this performance is excellent. He’s able to seem smart and dumb, honorable and sleezy, energetic and exhausted – all without breaking character. Newman would return as Harper years later in 1975’s “The Drowning Pool.”

Feel free to add your own favorites. And may all your herrings be red ones. Also, here’s a little treat for you:

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?

Guys Who Didn’t Get the Girl

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Here’s a tip of the cap to some memorable dudes in movie history who DIDN’T get the girl. Even when they’re bland or banal, they serve a necessary purpose. Without them, where would we get our plot twists and dramatic tension?

OWEN WILSON IN “MEET THE PARENTS”

Threw you a curve there, didn’t I? Wilson usually gets the girl in his films, but I thought he was equally effective in “Meet the Parents,” where he lost out to Ben Stiller. Wilson played it without diminishing his personal charm, which was the key.

RALPH BELLAMY IN “HIS GIRL FRIDAY”

Here’s one from a classic comedy. Bellamy is the earnest, gullible guy set to marry newshound Rosalind Russell. There’s just one problem, and his name is Cary Grant. No contest, obviously, but Bellamy’s timing and manner are a funny contrast to the rest of the fast-talking characters.

BILL PULLMAN IN “SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE”

Pullman’s performance is a smart updating of the Ralph Bellamy model. He’s still earnest and mild mannered, but he maintains a sense of awareness and personal dignity. The allergies were a nice touch.

HUGH GRANT IN “BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY”

Grant seemed to revel in this part, playing the selfish jerk who ends up competing with Colin Firth for Renee Zellweger’s attention. He was great at it, frankly. He had many of the best lines in the movie.

JIMMY STEWART IN “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY”

Truly, one of the very best examples of the guy who didn’t get the girl. In “The Philadelphia Story,” Stewart and Katharine Hepburn are totally incompatible (he’s a working class reporter and she’s a wealthy society woman), yet they get some of the coziest, wittiest, most flirtatious scenes you’ll find in any movie. If it weren’t for Cary Grant (him again!), the result might have been different.

ERIQ LA SALLE IN “COMING TO AMERICA”

What’s great about La Salle in “Coming to America” is that he offered himself up for scorn in every way, from his hairstyle to his arrogance to his poor treatment of Shari Headley. He made Eddie Murphy look gooooood.

TIM ROBBINS IN “HIGH FIDELITY”

Similarly, Tim Robbins is a real pantload in “High Fidelity.” So self-righteous. So condescending. The world, as presented in this movie, cannot be operating correctly as long as John Cusack is losing out to this doofus. Nicely done, Mr. Robbins.

JOHN WAYNE IN “THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE”

It’s not a misprint. John Wayne actually comes in second in “Liberty Valance” – to Jimmy Stewart, no less. The lovely Vera Miles has a choice between a rugged individualist (Wayne) and an idealist with a social conscience (Stewart). Something really interesting here is that director John Ford allows for the notion that Vera might have made the wrong choice.

GREG KINNEAR IN “YOU’VE GOT MAIL”

Excellent work by Kinnear, playing a slightly pompous columnist who ultimately can’t compete against Tom Hanks in the Meg Ryan Sweep-Her-Off-Her-Feet-Stakes. I think Kinnear’s intelligence and humor are better suited to roles like this than when he plays the leading man.

WENDELL COREY IN “HOLIDAY AFFAIR”

This isn’t a well-known movie, but I wanted to include it because Corey is a very specific type of “guy who didn’t get the girl.” He has the thankless job of being the character the leading lady has to settle for until she meets … Robert Mitchum. Corey has no shot here. The audience knows it; even he knows it. But he gamely soldiers on until a few minutes before the closing credits.

PATRICK WILSON IN “THE SWITCH”

Wilson gives his character some interesting twists in “The Switch.” He’s honorable, vulnerable and loyal, which is just the type of guy Jennifer Aniston is looking for. At the same time, he’s an emotional basket case. Jason Bateman does him a huge favor by stepping in and taking charge of the situation.

HUMPHREY BOGART IN “CASABLANCA”

There’s only one way to close-out  this List. Bogart’s Rick is a one-of-a-kind, iconic character. He’s full of pain, anger and stoicism. He actually chooses not to get the girl, Ingrid Bergman, out of a sense of nobility. And that choice gives us one of the best movie endings ever.

So who are YOUR favorites?

Actors You Don’t Expect to See in a Hollywood Musical

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Later this year, we’ll see dramatic tough guy Russell Crowe singing his way through a role in the movie version of “Les Miserables.” That got the staff here at The Jimbo List thinking: how many other unexpected actors have popped up in Hollywood musicals? See what you think.

ALBERT FINNEY IN “ANNIE”

Who could forget Finney as Daddy Warbucks? As I recall, it was something of a shocking choice back in 1982. The movie did okay at the box office, and I thought Finney brought a full-bodied energy to the character – even if he wasn’t necessarily a gifted singer or dancer. And he looked good with the chrome dome.

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN IN “HAIRSPRAY”

Here was some inspired casting, having the sublimely strange Walken play the husband of John Travolta-in-drag. Walken’s warbling isn’t great, but it works fine in this situation. He’s being ironic, sarcastic and yet somehow real, all at once.

CLINT EASTWOOD AND LEE MARVIN IN “PAINT YOUR WAGON”

This casting, on the other hand, did not work. Listen, I love Clint, but his singing sounds like a guy with a mouth full of Saltines trying to hail a cab. Marvin, meanwhile, has a voice so rumbling it needs to be measured by a seismograph. Luckily, the story is funny and bawdy enough to make the singing seem like comic relief.

RICHARD GERE IN “CHICAGO”

Gere deserves plenty of credit for his terrific work in the terrific movie version of “Chicago.” He can’t dance and can’t sing, yet he’s very effective as shady lawyer Billy Flynn. How is this possible? Movie magic, I tell ya.

SUSAN SARANDON IN “ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW”

It’s easy to forget how daring Sarandon’s performance was in “Rocky Horror” in 1975. She played Janet, who went from demure to devilishly sexy during the course of the movie. “Rocky Horror,” of course, became one of the greatest cult films of all time, while Sarandon went on to fame as a dramatic actress.

ROD STEIGER IN “OKLAHOMA”

Hard to picture, isn’t it? Steiger, the sturdy, intense dude from “The Pawnbroker,” as bad guy cowpoke Judd in “Oklahoma”? It’s true, though. Surrey with the fringe on top, indeed.

THE CAST OF “EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU”

Woody Allen assembled perhaps the most unlikely cast for any musical of any era: Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn and Allen himself. That was the gimmick, actually – the absurdity of these serious people just breaking into song.

JIMMY STEWART IN “BORN TO DANCE”

Later in his career, Mr. Stewart got a lot of mileage out of his crummy crooning in 1936’s “Born to Dance.” He sang a song called “Easy to Love,” and it’s so bad it’s sort of cute.

CHRIS COOPER IN “THE MUPPET MOVIE”

Oh, this is a bad bit of rap. Cooper is a wonderful actor, and he gets props for attempting this, but it’s painful. He plays a bad guy who expresses his greed and low-down ways in a rap song that is best experienced via the fast-forward button.

TREAT WILLIAMS IN “HAIR”

Williams gives this one his all, and I liked his performance. My gripe with the movie is that although it is well made, it was oddly dated by 1979, when it played in theaters. It was a story rooted deeply in the anti-war, hippie culture of the late 1960s; it seemed like a period piece a decade later.

JOHNNY DEPP IN “SWEENEY TODD”

In a movie that surprised audiences with its stylized, graphic violence, Depp does some amazing work. He plays a deranged barber who takes out his grievances with a straight-edged razor. He also does one hell of a lot of singing. Depp doesn’t shy away from a single note.

PIERCE BROSNAN, COLIN FIRTH AND STELLAN SKARSGARD IN “MAMMA MIA!”

I know this was Meryl Streep’s movie, but who in the world gave the green light to Brosnan, Firth & Skarsgard? That trio couldn’t carry a tune even if you spotted them the first two verses and the melody. They’re so bad, in fact, that I developed a new respect for their bravery as performers. We’ve all got to hope there’s never a “Mamma Mia II.”

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Crowe.

Best Imaginary Friends

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Some fictional characters are more fictional than others. Take imaginary friends, for instance. In movies, TV, books and comic strips, they’re one step removed from the action – but they provide key insights into the minds of other characters. Here are some great ones.

HOBBES

Hobbes is an awesome, witty, slightly moody tiger who roars to life in the mind of a young boy named Calvin. Their comic strip adventures together – snowball fights, wagon rides and the like – are rivaled only by their hilarious banter. Calvin is all about impulse and action; Hobbes is a calmer, more playful influence.

MRS. BEASLEY

Mrs. Beasley, the doll carried around by Buffy (Anissa Jones) on TV’s “Family Affair,” hewed pretty closely to the classic, imaginary friend. She was part security blanket, part confidant, to a little girl who had lost her parents.

TYLER DURDEN

Here was a great role for Brad Pitt. In the 1999 movie “Fight Club,” he got to combine his penchant for bug-eyed comedy with some macho coolness as Durden, a guy who liked to punch and be punched. This film’s cult popularity has taken on a life of its own, and Pitt is the big reason why.

HUMPHREY BOGART

A fictional, imaginary version of Bogie is the gimmick in Woody Allen’s Broadway play and 1972 film, “Play It Again, Sam.” Bogart appears periodically to give Woody dating advice, usually with comic results.

MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS

Aw, who doesn’t like Snuffy? Here’s the thing, though: Initially, Snuffleupagus was Big Bird’s imaginary friend. No one else around “Sesame Street” could see him. But then the TV show’s producers had a change of heart and made Snuffy a character who interacted with everyone.

TONY

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining,” based on the Stephen King novel, has one of the great imaginary friends ever. It’s “Tony,” and he exists only as the bent index finger of a little boy. Tony speaks through young Danny in a croaky voice; he knows there are evil spirits at the deserted mountain resort where Danny’s parents (Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall) are working. In a freaky sort of way, Tony is the only rational character in the whole affair.

HARVEY

Likewise, the audience doesn’t really get to see Harvey, the giant rabbit friend of Jimmy Stewart in the popular 1950 movie, “Harvey.” Although mental illness is certainly brought up in the movie (and stage play version), the central message seems to be that imagination and pleasantness are preferable to conformity and rational intelligence.

CHARLES HERMAN

In “A Beautiful Mind,” imaginary friends (and enemies) hold the protagonist back rather than help him. Paul Bettany played one such friend, Charles, in this acclaimed 2001 movie biography of Nobel prize winner John Nash.

WINNIE THE POOH

Pooh Bear, as everyone knows, headed up a stable of stuffed animal friends for young Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood. His lumbering, good-natured manner made him all the more endearing.

BIANCA

In the little-seen 2007 movie, “Lars and the Real Girl,” Ryan Gosling plays a disturbed man who pretends a sex doll, Bianca, is his girlfriend. Even more amazing, various relatives and townspeople decide to go along with the idea. Gosling is very good here.

WILSON

Really, has there ever been a ball that sparked so much emotion, outside of the World Cup? Wilson, Tom Hanks’ silent companion in “Cast Away,” was a brilliant construct. Without him, the audience would have been adrift about Hanks’ inner thoughts and gradual descent into madness. WILSON!!!

But those are only MY favorites. Now tell me YOURS.

Great Swimming Pool Scenes

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Let’s celebrate the first official weekend of summer The Jimbo List way – with a slate of great swimming pool scenes from movies and television. Go ahead. Dive in!

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

The technological wonders of 1946 are on full display in this delightful scene, in which Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing in a high school gymnasium. Someone flips a switch and – wouldn’t you know it – the gym floor opens up to reveal a swimming pool!

NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION (1983)

Christie Brinkley will be forever known for her sexy pool scene with Chevy Chase in this 1980s comedy classic. Oh, the things that happen on the way to Walley World.

MEET THE PARENTS (2000)

Of course, there’s plenty of adventure to be found in the pool right at your own home. One of the many humiliations that Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) endured at the hands of his in-laws, including Robert DeNiro, was a brutal game of pool volleyball. Hilarious.

SNL’S “SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING” (1984)

This filmed bit from “Saturday Night Live” is absolute brilliance. Harry Shearer and the great Martin Short play a couple of guys hoping to make the summer Olympics as male synchronized swimmers.

THE SWIMMER (1968)

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve always found this movie compelling. Burt Lancaster stars as a Connecticut suburbanite who decides to swim home via all the backyard swimming pools in his path. Because this is an adaptation of a John Cheever story, you know there’s going to be plenty of alienation and dysfunction along the way.

CADDYSHACK (1980)

On a much less serious note, we have that masterpiece of attitude and snarky charm, “Caddyshack.” You’ll never look at a candy bar the same way again, thanks to a particular scene featuring a stray Baby Ruth.

RUSHMORE (1998)

Bill Murray gets a back-to-back visit to The List. This is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, “Rushmore.” No one rocks Budweiser trunks like our man Murray.

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

“Sunset Boulevard” takes the swimming pool scene into the realm of film noir. Poor William Holden plays a Hollywood screenwriter who winds up in the deep end of things.

FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)

Bueller’s buddy, played by Alan Ruck, tries to distance himself from his youthful fears and hurt by sinking to the bottom of the family pool.

WILD THINGS (1998)

Although it was not a great film, “Wild Things” did make waves due to a steamy pool scene with Neve Campbell and Denise Richards.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S THE BEWITCHIN’ POOL (1964)

In this episode, two unhappy children discover, at the bottom of their parents’ pool, a doorway to a special place where mom and dad don’t fight. Bad acting, but a bracing concept.

COCOON (1985)

For those who thought they’d never want to see Wilford Brimley topless, I offer “Cocoon.” A key scene has Brimley and a cadre of duffers taking a VERY rejuvenating swim.

TOWER HEIST (2011)

“Tower Heist” didn’t get great reviews, but it really wasn’t bad. It also happened to include one of the coolest pools in movie history.

BATHING BEAUTY (1944)

This film gives us one of the true wonders of cinema – Esther Williams and a phalanx of swimmers, turning a pool into a Technicolor playground. The cast of this odd musical featured the unlikely duo of Red Skelton and Basil Rathbone.

SPECIES (1995)

The sci-fi/horror movie genre takes a memorable dip in “Species.” Natasha Henstridge plays a gorgeous woman looking for love, but she isn’t exactly what she appears to be.

TOMORROWLAND EPISODE OF MAD MEN (2010)

“Mad Men” fans will remember how important it was when Don Draper saw his kids playing in the hotel pool with his secretary, Megan. The watery frolic showed him the possibility of a young, fun, fresh new start.

THE GRADUATE (1967)

Rarely has there been such a perfect blend of acting, directing and zeitgeist. This scene makes a swimming pool the focal point for a larger statement about youthful anxiety and discontent.

So that’s my List. What would you add?

Hollywood’s Best Fearful Heroes

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A healthy dose of fear can be a good thing, even for a movie hero. It adds just a hint of reality to what is often a preposterous situation, such as fending off aliens. The problem is, not many actors and actresses are able to do it well. They either play bravery well or play fear well, but not both. Consider this a salute to those movie heroes who aren’t afraid to be afraid.

JODIE FOSTER

There is no one who conveys pluck in the face of fear better than Jodie Foster. In “Silence of the Lambs,” “Panic Room” and even “Contact,” Foster has moments when her face is paralyzed with fear. Yet her characters soldier on, moving forward as best they can.

HARRISON FORD

Ford, for all his appeal, has a limited range as an actor. Something he does exceptionally well is show how a frightened man still has the nerve to do what needs to be done. Think of his endangered President in “Air Force One,” his beleaguered private eye of the future in “Blade Runner,” or his innocent man on the run in “The Fugitive.” He’s much more believable in those situations than when he’s attempting more subtle emotions.

GARY COOPER

Cooper makes The List for one great movie, “High Noon.” Here’s an old-school movie hero who takes on the role of a sheriff waiting for a gang of outlaws to come looking for him. His deputy and his fellow townspeople abandon him, but he chooses to stay and fight even though he’s scared out of his wits. It’s stunning to see an actor of so few words lose his cool. Amazing stuff.

DON KNOTTS

On the other end of the heroic spectrum, we have the star of such gems as “The Reluctant Astronaut” and “The Shakiest Gun in the West.” Knotts was a genius at nervous fright, giving his characters just enough good humor and spunk to win audiences over despite his twitchy tendencies.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER

Sigourney Weaver is one of the greatest movie action heroes of all time. Her work as Ripley in the “Alien” films shows an incredible range of bravery, anger, bitterness, resourcefulness, ambiguity and white-knuckle fear. Take this moment from “Alien3,” for instance.

JIMMY STEWART

They all, to a degree, owe a debt to Jimmy Stewart, whose career is filled with roles requiring him to be scared. Scared of heights (“Vertigo”). Scared of personal ruin (“It’s A Wonderful Life”). Scared of being gunned down in the street (“The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”). And he had a certain physical awkwardness, to boot. Yet we all trust his characters and believe they’ll do the right thing. That’s what made him a movie star.

So who did I leave out? Add your fearful heroes to The List!

Tops in Hops: Best Rabbits in Movies & TV

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The Easter Bunny will get all the attention this weekend, but he’s not the only rabbit to hop down the pop culture pike. Here are a few hares from TV and movies that I’ve come to admire.

BUGS BUNNY

Who doesn’t love this wascawy wabbit? With a great Brooklyn accent, courtesy of Mel Blanc, and an endless supply of wiseguy bravado, Bugs glides smoothly through life (crazy hunters, cowboys and Tasmanian Devils notwithstanding). Also, his “Rabbit of Seville” is priceless.

HARVEY

For those not familiar with the 1950 film (or the stage play it was based upon), “Harvey” is an invisible rabbit who likes to tag along with Jimmy Stewart to the local pub. It’s an appealing meditation on the virtues of pleasant goofiness over cold, harsh rationality. Stewart does a nice job with it, at a time when special effects were severely limited.

SID

We proceed from a rabbit that is never actually heard to one that is heard all too well. Sid, part of Craig Ferguson’s late-night puppet gallery on CBS, is almost certainly the most foul-mouthed rabbit in TV history. Got to admit, though, the little stinker makes me laugh.

WHITE RABBIT

We’re going back into the musical vault for this 1967 gem of psychedelic rock from Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick sprinkled lots of references to Alice in Wonderland in “White Rabbit.” She also gave it a trippy, drugged-out vibe. Best of all, it’s a cool song, full of drama.

CRUSADER RABBIT

I love this little guy’s ears. They’re like loaves of French bread stuck on the back of his head. “Crusader Rabbit” was a pioneering bit of TV animation from the 1950s that managed to work its way onto the air occasionally in reruns even in the ’60s and ’70s. Crusader went on cliffhanger-type adventures, had a tiger (Rags) for a sidekick and – my favorite part – had episode names such as “Sahara You.”

A BUNNY’S TALE

The famous feminist Gloria Steinem worked briefly as a Playboy Bunny in the 1960s in order to write a magazine article about the experience. The result, “A Bunny’s Tale,” turned heads by showing how demeaning such work. The article was turned into a movie in 1985 starring … Kirstie Alley.

ENERGIZER BUNNY

Admittedly, I found the Energizer Bunny somewhat loathsome at first. But, like his product, he simply kept going. And you know what? The commercials kept getting better. The Energizer Bunny has smartly hitched his TV wagon to some of the most iconic characters in our culture, from King Kong to Darth Vader.

RABBIT, RUN

The first of John Updike’s famous “Rabbit” books got the Hollywood treatment in 1970. James Caan played Rabbit Angstrom, the self-obsessed guy who runs away from his wife and life and finds nothing but confusion. It was like a highly literary version of “Mad Men.”

ROGER RABBIT

Believe it or not, 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was considered a technological breakthrough. It blended animation with live action better than anything up to that point, and it gave us a smart look at older characters such as Betty Boop and Daffy Duck.

“TELL ME ABOUT THE RABBITS, GEORGE.”

John Steinbeck’s timeless novella, “Of Mice and Men,” has been the basis for several movies and TV productions. Two of the best were in 1939 (Lon Chaney, Jr., and Burgess Meredith) and 1992 (John Malkovich and Gary Sinise). Steinbeck used the imagery of rabbits in a powerful way. The story is about two drifters, protective George and man-child Lennie, who find jobs on a California ranch during the Great Depression. Something tragic happens, and the only way Lennie can be soothed is by hearing George talk about their dream of having their own farm. The farm would have soft, calming, lovely rabbits to pet – which is not a bad stand-in for the dreams we all have tucked away to keep the demons at bay.

Fine rabbits, all. So – do you have other favorites?  Be sure to add them to The List!

Great Cast, Terrible Movie

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Sometimes, a movie’s casting math just doesn’t add up. You get a couple of terrific leads, surround them with dynamite supporting players and you end up with – a great big mess. It’s quite amazing, actually. Here are some of my favorite, star-studded disasters.

MIXED NUTS (1994)

Get a load of this cast: Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Jon Stewart, Madeline Kahn, Garry Shandling, Robert Klein and Rob Reiner, plus Liev Schreiber, Rita Wilson, Juliette Lewis and Anthony LaPaglia. Its a comedy juggernaut, except it’s really, really not. This royal stinker, about a suicide hotline at Christmas, is stunningly bad.

AIRPORT ’77

I could have chosen just about any disaster flick of the 1970s, such as “Earthquake,” or “The Towering Inferno,” but this is the one I always found particularly annoying. You had heavyweights such as Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, Olivia de Havilland, Joseph Cotten, M. Emmet Walsh, Christopher Lee and, of course, George Kennedy, all pretending they were in a better movie.

AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS (2001)

This one is inexplicable. The cast included John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Christopher Walken, Stanley Tucci, Alan Arkin, Seth Green and Rainn Wilson. To say this romantic comedy didn’t gel is a vast understatement.

LOVE AFFAIR (1994)

Speaking of bad romantic comedies, this Warren Beatty-Annette Bening picture is one of the worst ever. It’s stultifyingly bad. The thing is, it also dragged down the great Katharine Hepburn, Garry Shandling, Pierce Brosnan, Harold Ramis and Lisa Edelstein with it. This was no way to treat Hollywood royalty.

SHADOWS AND FOG (1991)

I’m using one example here to represent the many, later-period Woody Allen films that wasted great casts. “Shadows and Fog,” an ode to German expressionist films, was a boring movie that seemed to taunt audiences with all the talent going underutilized: Woody, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Wallace Shawn and Madonna. And that’s just a partial list.

EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1988)

Underneath all that colorful fur are Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans and Jeff Goldblum. It’s a shame, really. The movie makes a great effort to be fun and funky – but that fur!? Come on. Also along for the ride are Geena Davis and Michael McKean.

DEATH TO SMOOCHY (2002)

Dark, dark comedy here that might have been too caustic for its own good. It’s a story about egos gone amok in the children’s entertainment industry, with valiant efforts by Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart and Danny DeVito. No sale.

SPHERE (1998)

Sorry, but Dustin Hoffman in space does not work for me. When I see Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone and Liev Schreiber on a cast list together, I want a feisty, gritty urban drama – not a cold, slow-moving space thriller.

THE AVENGERS (1998)

This update on the stylish Brit TV series is a bit of a steaming pile, wot wot. It’s like some horrible hallucination in which Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Jim Broadbent and Eddie Izzard recite gibberish and run around in odd clothing. As I mentioned in a previous list, Connery actually dons a teddy bear costume in this one. Yikes.

BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES (1990)

Tom Wolfe’s famous novel about class collisions in New York City made for a glorious train wreck of a film. There was absolutely no chemistry, and often the actors seemed to be taking wild stabs at how to play the material. We may never see Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Kirsten Dunst in another movie together.

That should get us started. Add to The List!