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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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The Slow Motion Hall of Fame

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No matter how elaborate the world of special effects becomes, there’s one gimmick that never seems to go out of style: Slow Motion. It draws attention, heightens emotion and allows a director to be master of the universe. And it’s cheaper than 3D! See what you think of these examples.

INCEPTION

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Let’s start with the ultimate, thinking man’s use of slow motion. There are MULTIPLE layers of it in Christopher Nolan’s modern sci-fi classic. Frankly, it’s so challenging to keep up with the various stories-within-stories (the plot has to do with dreams you can create and insert into someone’s subconscious mind) that you almost need the slow motion as a tiny respite. Cool beans.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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Director Stanley Kubrick will be mentioned more than once on this List. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he expertly lets slow motion convey a sense of the vast, impenetrable nature of both space and time. I think we’re still waiting for that animal bone the man-ape threw in the air to come down.

THE MATRIX

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Rarely, if ever, has slo-mo been more badass than in “The Matrix.” Come on! That dude, Neo, limbos his way out of the path of bullets without so much as adjusting his sunglasses! On a related note, I can’t reach back to grab my TV remote without spraining something.

INSTANT REPLAY

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Thanks to the advent of slow motion replays in televised sports, fans everywhere can judge for themselves how bad the umpires are. Unfortunately, it also means we occasionally have to endure Tim McCarver or some other knucklehead repeat the phrase, “He missed the tag!” about eight zillion times.

THELMA AND LOUISE

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The slow motion ending of “Thelma and Louise” driving off a cliff was so perfect, I’m surprised more movies don’t use the device. Who knows? “Battleship” might have made some money if they’d steered the boat off a cliff.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

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This was some cutting-edge, slow motion violence. In 1967, audiences were stunned by the stylized way Arthur Penn had “Bonnie and Clyde” meet their demise.

BRIAN’S SONG

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I believe “Brian’s Song” was what they call a “male weepie.” Man, that sounds bad. Anyway, Billy Dee Williams and James Caan starred in this 1971 TV movie about about real-life Chicago Bears players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. There’s friendship, there’s loss – and there’s slow motion to wring out every last ounce of emotion.

ZOMBIELAND

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Oh, but the opening of “Zombieland” is a bit of gory genius. With snazzy graphic elements and a witty voice-over, a series of zombies chase down dinner in slow motion to illustrate the rules of staying out of their hungry clutches.

THE SHINING

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Kubrick again creates an iconic image in slow motion for 1980’s “The Shining.” Something yucky and unexpected is about to issue forth from this elevator, and it takes its sweet time.

HOOSIERS

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Sports and slow motion are a natural combination. It’s all about savoring certain moments, such as the big shot in the big game of the big tournament. Everyone has his or her favorite, and mine is the old-fashioned, high school basketball saga, “Hoosiers.” What makes it particularly nice is that the slow motion here is incredibly subtle.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” series very effectively speeds up and slows down the action as a way to illustrate the hero’s brilliant, lightning fast mind. You get to experience what Holmes thinks will happen, then see if it actually transpires.

10

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Slow motion accentuates the sex appeal of Bo Derek in “10,” showing her running along a beach as Dudley Moore gapes admiringly. This is a device often used to indicate physical beauty or desire.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE

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Or it can stand in for basic sentimentality and reverie. In “Chariots of Fire,” you have slow motion as an ode to the pure joy of pursuing a personal quest for God and country.

THE UNTOUCHABLES

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“The Untouchables,” starring Kevin Costner, featured an elaborate scene in which a gangster pushes a baby carriage down a flight of steps in order to escape the law. It’s grand, operatic – and based on a scene from the 1925 silent film, “Battleship Potemkin.”

THE WILD BUNCH

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Nobody did masculine, gritty violence quite like director Sam Peckinpah. For “The Wild Bunch,” which deals with a band of aging mercenaries, Peckinpah decided to slow the camera each time one of his geezers bit the dust at the end of the film.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

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Back in the 1970s, pretty much every wisenheimer worth his bell-bottoms did a stupid impression of Lee Majors in slow motion, as bionic agent Steve Austin in “The Six Million Dollar Man.” There was a silly sound effect to go along with it. Thanks, slow motion!

And now comes the part where I encourage you to add to The List. No rush. Take … your … time.

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 Evil Queens in Movies

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Charlize Theron certainly cuts quite a figure as the Evil Queen character in the new “Snow White and the Huntsman” movie. But she’ll have to do more than just look the part to keep up with the best evil queens in movie history. Here are nine of them.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER

“ALICE IN WONDERLAND” (2010)

Bonham Carter, who has built up quite a collection of interesting supporting roles, does the whole regal nutjob thing perfectly. She has a little help here from special effects, but it’s her crazy, menacing manner as the Red Queen that seals the deal.

MALEFICENT

“SLEEPING BEAUTY” (1959)

As animated villains go, Maleficent was languidly, elegantly evil. She had no problem putting the whammy on people (i.e., Sleeping Beauty), and she looked good doing it. Bonus points for the horns.

SUSAN SARANDON

“ENCHANTED” (2007)

Sarandon is wonderful as Queen Narissa, who lives in an animated realm and banishes a beautiful princess to real-life Manhattan. Sarandon dispenses with subtlety and unleashes the full power of her personal charisma.

ALICE KRIGE

“STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT” (1996)

Charisma isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind with the Borg Queen, played by Krige. In the world of “Star Trek,” the Borg collective is all about conquering and assimilating other cultures into zombie-like cyborgs. Of course, Krige does manage to make her Queen character sexy in a cold, calculated sort of way.

ANJELICA HUSTON

“EVER AFTER” (1998)

I’m breaking my own rules here, because Huston doesn’t play a queen in “Ever After.” In this more realistic telling of the Cinderella story, Huston plays Rodmilla, evil stepmother to Drew Barrymore. She’s brilliant in the part, injecting sly humor and full-out slapstick where necessary. And her raised eyebrow, pictured above, almost deserves its own line in the cast list.

JULIA ROBERTS

“MIRROR MIRROR” (2012)

She’s going to be seriously overshadowed and left in the dust by the new Snow White film, but Julia’s take on The Queen is a success nonetheless. She used her image as an A-list movie star to shape a satirical, deliciously dark character.

ALIEN QUEEN

“ALIENS” (1986)

Possibly the most evil queen ever. In one of the greatest movie sequels in history, Sigourney Weaver takes on the mother of the bloodthirsty “aliens” that threaten the universe. This is absolute white-knuckle territory, in part because the queen is so utterly, thoroughly … evil.

DAME JUDI DENCH

“MACBETH” (1979)

Yes, yes, it’s a TV version of Shakespeare’s epic tragedy. So sue me. Dame Judi is spectacular as Lady Macbeth, the power hungry noblewoman who gets to be Queen of Scotland the hard way.

WICKED QUEEN

“SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES” (1937)

She’s the best, without a doubt. Lucille La Verne did the voice work for the Wicked Queen, and she’s simply indelible. Let’s put it this way: Would you ever want to get on her bad side? Thought not.

So are there any great, evil queens I’ve forgotten? Add them to The List!