Maleficent- The Great Villain Blogathon

When I heard that Silver Screenings, Shadows & Satin, and Speakeasy were going to do a blogathon about villains, I was extremely excited. After all, I have a life long obsession with screen villains, and all of their nastiness. Although some find it hard to appreciate a good villain, I for one, find them to (typically) be the more interesting characters in a movie. Their motivations are all-encompassing, and their dedication to achieving whatever their goals may be, is a true testament as to how far someone is willing to go in order to succeed. The list of great villains is a long one that made picking one monumentally difficult. The one villain, however, that has stuck with me the longest as being the most evil-most devoid of anything good- is Aurora’s nemesis from Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), Maleficent.

 Maleficent

There are several reasons for my believing Maleficent to be such an important and unforgettable screen villain. Her name, for instance, which isn’t even really a name, you know? It’s an adjective meaning: doing evil or harm, and is itself a portmanteau of malevolent and magnificent. Malevolent and magnificent. Think about that combination for a second!

And have you seen this woman? I say woman, really she is just a (very evil) fairy godmother, hence the magic spells, teleportation abilities, and lightning bolts that she shoots from her fingers. Not to mention that whole turning into a dragon thing. The first thing that you notice about Maleficent is that she knows how to make an entrance. The doors burst open, making the candles go out and the room go dark. Everyone gasps, but still nothing, that is except for her pet raven, Diablo. Then there comes a will-o-the-wisp that travels to the center of the room, and the center of everyone’s attention. She transforms into the light-green skinned fairy with a gown of black and dark purple wrapped around her. She glides (not walks) across the room with the beauty of a ballet dancer, making an entrance that has the reverence of royalty. Everyone stays silent and in awe because of their fear of her, and their respect for what she can accomplish. She announces that her presence here in the castle is only to congratulate the kingdom on the birth of the new princess, as her lack of an invitation to the Royal Christening surely must have been an oversight.

 Maleficent

Of course, it wasn’t an accident that Maleficent was left off of the guest list, just like it wasn’t an accident that she showed up anyway.  You see, like so many screen villains, Maleficent is doomed because of her hatred toward others. Why is she this way? It doesn’t matter. After all, she had to have made some bad life decisions somewhere along the lines to end up at this point. Unfortunately, her hatred has grown too large. For instance, forget the fact that she dooms the poor infant Princess Aurora to death. That isn’t enough.  She chooses to draw it out, so that her death will occur some time in the next 16 years. The worry of a parent to know every day could be “the” day is an awful fate to have to endure. Then, once Maleficent is successful in putting Aurora into her “deep slumber”, Maleficent does something so spiteful and mean, I can’t even begin to fathom how far and deep her hatred runs. She captures Aurora’s true love- the one man who can bring her back to life- and instead of killing him, ensuring her own victory, she imprisons him, explaining that she is going to keep him alive for 100 years, and then release him to ride to his princess’ rescue. Of course he will be too old to have a life with her, but that is just what Maleficent wants. She’s not going to keep them apart forever, just longer enough to destroy their lives and ensure their misery.

Maleficent

You see, the nickname Mistress of all Evil is not an exaggeration. If you need any more convincing, look at the fact that it takes three “good” fairies, and all their abilities to get Prince Philip out of his dungeon, and then when good finally has a chance to triumph, Maleficent pulls out all the stops and transforms into the most incredible dragon ever seen. Donning the same purple and black, with eyes that look like dark pits into the recesses of Hell, Maleficent attacks Philip and toys with him, giving the three good fairies plenty of time to pull all of their good magic together and finally come up with some way to defeat her. Even in the end, it took all their strength to kill her. No one person or fairy could have done it on their own.

Maleficent

Marc Davis was the principal animator in charge of Maleficent. As one of Disney’s famous Nine Old Men, Davis was responsible for many important Disney characters, such as Cinderella, Alice, Tinkerbell, and later Cruella De Vil. He also was responsible for Aurora. Davis is one of the greatest animators of all time, and is also one of the few recipients of the prestigious “mousecar” award. (Half mouse/half Oscar.) Eleanor Audley provided the vile voice of Maleficent (after also being Lady Tremaine in “Cinderella”), and while working on “Sleeping Beauty”, Davis listened to voice recordings that she had made of her dialogue. The evilness of her voice helped to inspire her final look.  Audley, along with dancer Jane Fowler, were also used as live action references to the animation team.

There are many great villains throughout the history of film. Some are scary, some are fearsome, and others still, have a psychological effect that stays with their audiences. Maleficent is scary. She is fearsome, and she will toy with everyone psychologically. The one area where she surpasses so many others is that she truly is pure evil. Nothing good could ever come from her. If you mess with her, be prepared for hate, revenge, anger, and all the powers of Hell to come with her to the fight. Beware and be ready, because you have been warned.

Maleficent

This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings, Shadows & Satin, and Speakeasy. I want to thank them for hosting such an enjoyable event, and I want to encourage you to read more of the many posts from the world of movie lovers.

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Remembering Elmore Leonard (1925-2013)

Famed author Elmore Leonard died this morning from complication of a stroke he suffered on July 29th. He was 87.

I was twenty-years-old the first time I picked up an Elmore Leonard novel on the recommendation of a friend, but was never sorry that I did. His writing seemed simple, but the stories were so complicated and intriguing that it was almost as if the simplicity was just a disguise, lowering the readers guard, to only surprise and delight in the final chapters. He never tried to overcomplicate things, but his characters were so deeply written that it’s impossible to read any of his stories without becoming engrossed.Get Shorty (1995) Since that time, I have read several more of his novels, short stories and other literary endeavors, but because this is a site dedicated to my love of movies, I will limit today’s thoughts to the memory of his contributions to the cinematic world.

More than twenty of his stories have been adapted for the screen (both theatrical and television), and even though I haven’t seen them all, each one that I have sought out perfectly exemplified his talent and ability to be a great story-teller. Anyone can put words on a page and try to entertain their readers, but Leonard invited us into his characters’ world, where we can share an experience with them, even if just for a brief time. The stories that he has left behind will live on forever, as will my memory of him and his undeniable brilliance. Thank you, Elmore, for making movies better.

My Elmore Leonard “must see” list includes seven films- some westerns, some crime films- all amazing. What is your favorite Leonard adaptations?

  • “Get Shorty” (1995): Jackie Brown (1997)Starring John Travolta, Rene Russo, Gene Hackman, Danny Devito, Dennis Farina, Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini and David Paymer. Based on the 1990 novel of the same name.
  • “The Tall T” (1957): Randolph Scott teamed with director Budd Boetticher for this western classic based on Leonard’s 1955 short story, “The Captives”.
  • “Joe Kidd” (1972): Starring Clint Eastwood and directed by John Sturges, this western film wasn’t based on anything, but was instead an original screenplay written by Leonard.
  • “Out of Sight” (1998): An all-star cast headlined by George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Steve Zahn and Albert Brooks- based on Leonard’s 1996 novel of the same name.
  • “Hombre” (1967): 3:10 to Yuma (1957)Based on his 1961 novel, “Hombre” is still considered to be one of the finest western stories ever told, and is often cited as Leonard’s most acclaimed literary work. The film stars Paul Newman and Fredric March.
  • “Jackie Brown” (1997): Quentin Tarantino adapted Leonard’s 1992 novel “Rum Punch” into this masterfully woven crime story. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton and Robert De Niro
  • “3:10 to Yuma” (1957 & 2007): Last, but certainly not least on my list are the two different films version of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story (“Three-Ten to Yuma”). Although I enjoy both film versions of this story, the 1957 film starring Glen Ford and Van Heflin, and directed by Delmer Daves, is an absolute masterpiece.

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

There is a serious Hollywood oversight when it comes to July 4th. So few films take place on or around this holiday, or for that matter, the American Revolution in general. Why has this happened? Who knows really, but it has. Of all the holidays in existence, the 4th of July is almost certainly the least represented on the silver screen.American Flags This strikes me as especially ironic considering how much money is made over this holiday weekend at the theaters.

So what are you going to watch today between the baseball games, bar-b-que, watermelon and fireworks? Over the years there have been some American Revolution movies, but few of them can be considered great. Likewise, you can always go the route of “Great American” movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) or “All the President’s Men” (1976), but rather than go that way, here is this year’s official Lasso the Movies list of films that are connected in some way, shape or form to the 4th of July. I have provided links to rent these films through Amazon Instant Video streaming (where available). Have a happy and safe holiday, and don’t forget to enjoy one of these great films.

10. “The Time of Their Lives” (1946): The Time of Their LivesI know what you’re thinking, Abbott and Costello, really? Yes, really! In this classic comedy film set in 1780, Costello is a tinker named Horatio, who, with a letter of recommendation from George Washington, hopes to marry a housemaid (Anne Gillis). Of course, there is a rival for her affections in Cuthbert (Abbott), who will stop at nothing to get rid of Horatio. The owner of the estate is involved in the Benedict Arnold plot, and his fiancee overhears the plan. She goes to seek help with Horatio at her side, but tragically the are both killed, and slandered as traitors. Now their ghosts will forever be stuck haunting these grounds, until their innocence can be proven.
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9. “The Music Man” The Music Man (1962)(1962): This musical film starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones might not make you instantly think about 4th of July, but I’m including it simply because the climactic scene takes place at the 4th of July picnic. The story, about a con man posing as a band leader in a small Iowa town, never gets old, and the song and overall atmosphere are not to be missed. It’s exactly that small town 4th of July I always picture, like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and with a big brass band (headed by 76 trombones), what better way is there to spend the afternoon?  It’s also a great opportunity to see Ron Howard singing!
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8. “The Pride of the Yankees” The Pride of the Yankees (1942)(1942): July 4th, 1939. The great Lou Gehrig said goodbye to baseball and his fans in one of the most memorable speeches in history. This film, starring Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan, is an absolutely amazing film, fully capturing everything that is great about this American icon. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s a baseball movie either.) Surprisingly, “The Pride of the Yankees,” although not necessarily about the 4th of July, is a film that resonates with audiences, leaving them in a mood to truly appreciate and embrace the holiday at hand.
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7. “1776” 1776 (1973)(1972): This musical film directed by Peter H. Hunt is based on the stage musical of the same name, and centers on the lives of those involved in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.This epic film (168 minutes on the DVD version) is actually the perfect 4th of July movie if you’re looking for a good way to celebrate America’s independence. It is well made, and despite some historical inaccuracies, it stays fairly close to the truth, and even includes dialogue taken from letters written by the real people.
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6. “Johnny Tremain” Johnny Tremain (1957)(1957): In this Walt Disney produced adaptation of Esther Forbes novel, a young boy living in Massachusetts is training to be a blacksmith, but has aspirations of so much more. Of course with the history of his country about to change forever, and young Johnny’s connections to people like Paul Revere and John Quincy Adams, you can only imagine how much Johnny can achieve before he’s done. Directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Hal Stalmaster, “Johnny Tremain” is a wonderfully entertaining, family friendly film that is easy to enjoy; especially today.
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5. “Drums Along the Mohawk” Drums Along the Mohawk (!939)Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert in "Drums Along the Mohawk" (1939)(1939): From director John Ford comes this adventures romp of a film that takes place in central New York during the American Revolution. Gilbert (Henry Fonda) and Lana (Claudette Colbert) have a farm, but with the constant British, Indian and Tory attacks, they can’t seem to keep their lives in order. This was the first color film for John Ford, and he used it well. Each scene is carefully crafted and presented, mixing action drama and romance without ever letting the story drag. “Drums Along the Mohawk” was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Cinematography (Ray Rennahan & Bert Glennon) and Best Supporting Actress (Edna May Oliver).
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4. “The Patriot” The Patriot (2000)(2000): Although it’s not one of my favorites, there is no denying that this film from director Roland Emmerich is a perfect mix of violence and drama, all surrounding America’s independence. Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger give stirring performances, and Jason Isaacs will forever be remembered as one of the most cold-hearted villains simply because of his ridiculously evil smile. Sure at almost three hours it can seem a little drawn-out, but with carefully choreographed action sequences, there is plenty of blood and destruction to hold anyone’s attention.
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3. “Jaws” Jaws (1975)(1975): Swimming is one of the most popular 4th of July activities, but before you go running into the water, you might want to keep your ears open for John Williams’ unforgettably haunting score and Bruce’s never-ending ferocity. Steven Spielberg directs this Best Picture nominated film that is still just as intense and frightening as ever, and promises to make any July 4th better.
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2. “Independence Day” Independence Day (1996)(1996): Sure, in 1776, America had to fight for their independence on the ground, but by 1996 everything had changed. No longer did the opposition wear red and march towards battle, now the attack came from space and flies through the air with the greatest of ease. Roland Emmerich makes the list for the second time, with what is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time. With an all-star cast including Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Mary McDonald and Judd Hirsch, killing aliens and saving the world has never been more fun.
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1. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)(1942): The great James Cagney stars in this film as real life legend George M. Cohan. This biographical-musical covers his life, from his early days on-stage as a child, all the way though to the start of WWII. Directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Walter Huston and Joan Leslie, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a sure-fire, can’t miss classic that is a must see for all. James Cagney won an Academy Award for his remarkable performance in this film, as he carries the entire story on his back, and looks good doing it.

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Father’s Day Gift Buying Guide from Lasso the Movies

Father’s Day is just a few days away, and just to help you out with your shopping, Lasso the Movies has compiled this brilliant (and somewhat extensive) gift buying guide. What better way to show your father how much you appreciate him than with one of these awesome DVD or blu-ray gift sets? There is something here for everyone, and no judgment will be passed if you shop for yourself as well. Happy browsing, and have a happy Father’s Day.

    • James BondBond 50: The 22 Film Collection (1962-2008): This blu-ray collection includes the first 22 James Bond films, produced through Eon Productions. Since this set was released in early 2012, it doesn’t include Bond number 23, “Skyfall” (2012), but all the other classics are there. This set also includes over 130 hours of bonus features, perfectly designed for fans that just can’t get enough of this legendary action star.

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    • Indiana JonesIndiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (1981-2008): This collection is available on both blu-ray and DVD, and contains all four Steven Spielberg films: “Raiders  of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984), “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom  of the Crystal Skull” (2008).

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    • The Godfather “The Godfather” Trilogy (1972-1990): Available  on blu-ray and DVD, this set includes all three “Godfather” films directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola, fully restored. Also included is a fourth disc with over four hours of bonus content.

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    • BatmanBatman’s “The Dark Knight” Trilogy (2005-2012): This set includes the three Christopher Nolan directed “Batman” films: “Batman Begins” (2005), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012).

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    • Dirty HarryDirty Harry Collection (1971-1988): In this set, Clint Eastwood stars as one of the most iconic film policemen of all time! On either blu-ray or DVD, this set includes all five Dirty Harry films: “Dirty Harry” (1971), “Magnum Force” (1973), “The Enforcer” (1976), “Sudden Impact” (1983) and “The Dead Pool” (1988).

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    • Blazing Saddles (1974)The Mel Brooks Collection (1970-1993): No Father’s Day shopping guide would be complete without some comedy, right? This collection on either blu-ray or DVD includes: “The Twelves Chairs” (1970), “Blazing Saddles” (1974), “Young Frankenstein” (1974), “Silent Movie” (1976), “High Anxiety” (1977), “The History of the World- Part 1” (1981), “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), “Spaceballs” (1987) and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993).

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    • Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Star Trek(1979-1991): This set includes: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979), “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn” (1982), “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984), “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989) and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991).

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    • Star Trek: The Next Generation (1994-2002): This second Star Trek set includes: “Star Trek Generations” (1994), “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998) and “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002).

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    • A Fistful of Dollars The Man with No Name Trilogy (1964-1966): Clint Eastwood stars in this western trilogy from director Sergio Leone, also known as the Dollars Trilogy. This set includes: “A Fistful of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and “The Good the Bad and the Ugly” (1966).

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    • Star WarsStar Wars: The Complete Saga (1977-2005): And here we have the saga that needs no introduction or explanation. You can also purchase this set divided between either the original trilogy (Episodes 4, 5 & 6) and the newer trilogy (Episodes 1, 2 & 3).

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    • Abbott & CostelloAbbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (1940-1955): This amazing box set includes all 28 films during their time with Universal, including “Buck Privates” (1941), “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) and “Naughty Nineties” (1945), featuring their famous “Who’s on First” routinee.

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    • Alien (1979)Alien Anthology (1979-1997): Included in this set is “Alien” (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, “Aliens” (1986), directed by James Cameron, “Alien 3” (1993) directed by David Fincher and “Alien Resurection” (1997) directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Each film is presented in it’s original version, as well as an extended cut. There are also enough bonus features to make your head spin.

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    • Fargo (1996)Coen Brothers Collection (1984-1996): This wonderful little collection offers four of the Coen Brothers most prestigious and entertaining films: “Blood Simple” (1984), “Raising Arizona” (1987), “Miller’s Crossing” (1990) and “Fargo” (1996).

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    • The Bride of Frankenstein Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (1931-1954): This eight film set includes some of the greatest horror films ever made, including “Dracula” (1931), “Frankenstein” (1931), “The Mummy” (1932), “The Invisible Man” (1933), “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), “The Wolf Man” (1941), “Phantom of the Opera” (1943) and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” (1954).

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    • The Public Enemy (1931)Ultimate Gangster Collection (1931-1949): This set from Warner Brothers (which I have promoted before, and for good reason), includes four of the greatest gangster films of all time: “Little Caesar” (1931), “The Public Enemy” (1931), “The Petrified Forest” (1936) and “White Heat” (1949).

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Memorial Day Movies You Don’t Want to Miss

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!

Memorial Day is the day in which to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Since Lasso the Movies is a site dedicated to honoring the cinematic world, and Memorial Day is a day to remember America’s fallen soldiers, what could be more appropriate than to countMemorial Day down the Lasso the Movies top ten American war movies of all time.

When I set out to put this list together I soon discovered a much greater challenge than I had expected. There are so many amazing war films, and to pick only ten became quite difficult. In order to help make my job easier I set out one major rule.

  • The films must center around American soldiers. Some of my favorite war movies like Paths of Glory (1957), “Das Boot” (1981),The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and “Army of Shadows” (1969) are primarily about those fighting from other countries. Since Memorial Day is about honoring the Armed Forces from America, these films became ineligible.

With that being said, here is Lasso the Movies official Memorial Day watch list:

10.) “Mister Roberts”  (1955) Not Rated- 122 minutes: Sure this film has flaws, but there is something very special about the way it all comes together.  Lt. Douglas Roberts (Henry Fonda) is stationed on a Navy cargo ship in the Pacific Ocean during WWII. Roberts desperately wants to escape his mundane life here,Mister Roberts (1955) and continuously is requesting for a transfer. However, his superior, Lieutenant Commander Morton (James Cagney), refuses to endorse Roberts’s request. Much of the film is spent with Roberts’s two closest friends, Ensign Frank Thrlowe Pulver (Jack Lemmon in an Academy Award winning role) and Lieutenant “Doc” (William Powell in his final film). The dialogue is inspiring, the performances are enthralling, and the spirit and determination of Roberts to be a bigger part of war is exactly why this is a perfect Memorial Day film.

“Mister Roberts” was based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Heggen, and the play written by Heggen and Joshua Logan. The film (directed by Mervyn LeRoy and John Ford) was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

9.) Platoon (1986) Rated R-120 minutes: No list of any kind of war films would be complete with Oliver Stone’s Best PicturePlatoon (1986) winning “Platoon”. Charlie Sheen stars as a college drop-out who volunteers for combat duty during the Vietnam War. While there, he is not only forced to deal with the horrific trials and tribulations of war, but also the divided and dysfunctional Bravo Company where he has been assigned. This gritty and unflinching film is powerful, enthralling and one of the most honest looks at the life of a soldier during war.

“Platoon” also stars Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Keith David and John C. McGinley, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four (including Best Picture).

8.) “Buck Privates” (1941) Not Rated-85 minutes: Just because we are talking about war moviesBuck Privates (1941) doesn’t mean there can’t be a few laughs along the way. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello star in this film about two sidewalk peddlers who, while trying to avoid a policeman, accidentally enlist in the Army.

Short on plot but long on laughs, “Buck Privates” is a wonderful film, and remains among the most popular and successful films in the Abbott and Costello series. In addition to the humor of this film, The Andrew Sisters appear and perform four songs, including their hit, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. If you still find yourself looking for more fun after this one ends, you can always check out “Buck Privates Come Home” (1947) as well.

7.) “Glory” (1989) Rated R-122 minutes: No list of Memorial Day films would be complete without Edward Glory (1989)Zwick’s unforgettable Civil War film, “Glory”. Starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Cary Elwes and Andre Braugher, this film is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, made up completely of African American soldiers.

“Glory” is truly a “must see” film, and has been praised by critics and audiences since its initially release. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.

6.) Saving Private Ryan (1998) Rated R-169 minutes: Steven Spielberg’s WWII drama about a group of soldiers searching for one young man with a free ticket home has quickly become one of the mostSaving Private Ryan (1998) watched and talked about war films of all time. It is intense, realistic, and at times, almost too much to endure. Tom Hanks gives one of his finest performances, and he is surrounded by amazing actors with smaller, but equally impressive portrayals including Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Gibisi and Jeremy Davies.

There is no denying the realistic portrayal of the invasion of Normandy in this film, and because of that, “Saving Private Ryan” is sure to be a highly watched film this (and every) Memorial Day. “Saving Private Ryan” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

5.) “From Here to Eternity” (1953) Not Rated-118 minutes: Directed by Fred Zinnemann, this amazing film based on the novel by James Jones tells the story of Private Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) and aFrom Here to Eternity (1953) series of events that take place at the Schofield Barracks in Oahu, leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. What is most amazing about this film is how much happens in under two hours. There is plenty of action, drama, romance and suspense as the film moves at a brisk pace, keeping viewers enthralled for each and every minute. Every member of the cast is absolutely perfect, including Deborah Kerr, Burt Landcaster, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine and Frank Sinatra in his Academy Award winning performance.

“From Here to Eternity” was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning eight (including Best Picture).

4.) “Sergeant York” (1941) Not Rated-134 minutes: Gary Cooper gives an Academy Award winningSergeant York (1941) performance in this drama about the most decorated soldier of WWI, Alvin York. The story is actually more about York’s personal beliefs as a pacifist versus his desire to be a patriot. Directed by the great Howard Hawks and co-starring Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie and Ward Bond, “Sergeant York” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

3.) “The Hurt Locker” (2009) Rated R-130 minutes: This Best Picture winner from acclaimedThe Hurt Locker (2009) director Kathryn Bigelow left critics and audiences pleasantly surprised in 2009, and it might be even better today than it was then. Jeremy Renner plays the head of a three man bomb disposal team during the Iraq War. The film also stars Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, and opened the doors for a new kind of war picture. “The Hurt Locker” was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning six including Best Picture.

2.) “They Were Expendable” (1945) Not Rated-135 minutes: Another film that takes placeThey Were Expendable (1945) surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor, but this time John Wayne and Robert Montgomery are using their PT boats to defend the Philippines from a Japanese invasion. This joyous action film is filled with intensity, and is one of director John Ford’s lesser watched masterpieces. Jack Holt, Donna Reed and Ward Bond all give wonderful supporting performances, but this is clearly Montgomery and Wayne’s show.

“They Were Expendable” was nominated for two Academy Awards, one of which was for its magnificent visual effects.

1.) The Thin Red Line” (1998) Rated R- 171 minutes: Over the years I have had to argue this one with many people, but I still find Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” to be the most amazing and beautifully filmed war movie in history. During WWII, C Company lands on Guadalcanal, where they embark in an epic The Thin Red Line (1998)battle against the Japanese.

“The Thin Red Line” stars Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, Ben Chaplin, Elias Koteas, John Cusack, Adrien Brody, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson and Jared Leto. There are also several smaller roles in which big name actors appear, but I hate to throw those names out there because it will just disappoint you when you see how small of roles they have.

Based on another James Jones novel, Malick poetically combines the horrors of war with the inner feeling of his characters, with the greatest of ease. “The Thin Red Line” was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The film is powerful, emotional, mesmerizing, and above all, perfect. John Toll’s breathtaking cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s emotionally gripping score and Malick’s always impeccable directing make this film a must see film, and the perfect movie to watch this Memorial Day.

The Thin Red Line (1998)Well, that’s my list. 21 hours and 46 minutes of great war films is enough to make anyone appreciate the sacrifice of so many. Have a great Memorial Day everyone, and thanks to those who have given so much and have inspired all of these (and so many other) films.

Cinemark Theaters Presents: Cleopatra (1963): 50th Anniversary Celebration

Cinemark theaters have announced that in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’sCleopatra (1963) “Cleopatra” (1963), they will be showing a restored print of the original 243 minute version in their theaters nationwide. (The theater is listing the running time at 260 minutes, and I can only assume that this running time includes an intermission.) The film is being shown at the Cannes Film Festival on May 21st, and then it will be in several Cinemark theaters the following day, Wednesday, May 22nd, at both 2:00 and 7:00. There will also be an additional showing on Sunday, May 26th at 2:00. Don’t miss this chance to see this classic film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison in some of their most remembered roles. It is truly a film that everyone should see Cleopatra (1963)at some point, and I can’t think of a better way, than on the big screen.

This release is also coinciding with the blu-ray and DVD release of “Cleopatra” in its completely restored glory.  The blu-ray and DVD will be available on Tuesday, May 28th. You can get more information and tickets at the Cinemark website.

The Power of Hindsight: 1963 at the Movies

It is incredibly difficult to pick the best films of a given year-especially while still in that year. Each winter, when the Academy Award nominees are announced, I sit back and contemplate all of the nominees, as well Tom Jones (1963)as those who I feel were snubbed in some way. Of course years later when we look back, many of our opinions have changed because time has altered things.

I know it sounds crazy, but imagine if you could go back years later and recast your votes for the best films of a given year. Hindsight would have affected things on many levels. Perhaps a movie that played well with audiences upon it’s release became tired after just a couple of viewings; or maybe there was a film that struck a chord inside us, but it wasn’t until later that we finally realized how brilliantly that movie was crafted. Many films are nominated, not because they are Lilies of the Field (1963)great, but rather due to studios that promoted them well, in order to secure themselves a nomination. Then you must also factor in the foreign films that weren’t seen until later, because let’s be honest, the foreign market is often overlooked, come awards season. And then there are the smaller, underground films that stayed in our hearts and minds over the passing years, until they finally achieved their deserved recognition.

Well, here at Lasso the Movies, that is exactly what has happened. It is time to go back and examine which films have survived the torment of time, and stillAmerica America (1963) captivate audiences today. We don’t have to vote for a film just because everyone is calling it a “masterpiece”. We know which films are great and which ones are mediocre, due to the power of hindsight.

In order to be as fair and honest as possible, I have decided to use the same type of format that is in place for the Academy Awards today. There must be five nominees, but there cannot be more than ten. I will examine as many films from that year as possible, and pick which ones I feel are worthy of my nomination. The Great Escape (1963)Please feel free to share your thoughts on these films, and mention any that you feel I may have overlooked.

I will also point out that I am a firm believer in the saying, “It’s an honor just to be nominated”. I am not picking a winner for the group; just a group of films that after all these years, are worthy of being called the best.

So without further ado, here is the year of 1963:

The five Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards were:

“America America”, “Cleopatra”, “How the West was Won”, “Lilies of the Field” and “Tom Jones”

Despite their grandiose exterior and all star casts, both “Cleopatra” and “How the West was Won” are no longer considered “great” films. They had potential, but unfortunately, never reached the high goals the filmmakers were striving towards. They could have made the list, but there just isn’t enough room, so they’re8 1/2 (1963) out. Perhaps “Cleopatra” still has what it takes to be one of the films on the final list, but it certainly didn’t end up being as great as was expected. The remaining three films are all still brilliant movies that certainly deserve a nomination (and another viewing).

In the foreign film market, there is no question that Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” has become one of the most respected and influential films of all time, putting it on the list. Also, Akira Kurosawa’s crime saga, “High and Low” reached American audiences in November of that year, and Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo” or “The Leopard” opened in mid July.

The Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama was awarded to Otto Preminger’s “The Cardinal”. This film about a Catholic priest who becomes a cardinal on the eve of WWII, was nominated for six AcademyThe Cardinal (1963) Awards, including Best Director, but failed to receive a Best Picture nomination. (No film since has won the top prize at the Golden Globes without at least being nominated at the Oscars.)

Other possible contenders are John Sturges’ classic WWII adventure film, “The Great Escape”, the perfectly acted character piece, “Hud”, and Samuel Fuller’s gritty and highly controversial look at the world through theCleopatra (1963) eyes of an insane asylum, “Shock Corridor”. Some of the more popular films from this year also include “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, “Lord of the Flies”, “El Dorado” and “The V.I.P.’s” , but I don’t feel that any of those particular films have the same lasting ability or overwhelming feeling of greatness. Of course no look at 1963 could be complete without factoring in the importance of Alfred Hitchcock’s immortal thriller, “The Birds”.

Now there is a great collection of films! So which ones have made the final cut? Here are the Lasso the Movies’ nominees for Best Picture, 1963.

“8 1/2”The Birds (1963)

“America America”

“The Birds”

“The Cardinal”

“Cleopatra”

“The Great Escape”

“Hud”Shock Corridor (1963)

“Lilies of the Field”

“Shock Corridor”

“Tom Jones”

Then again, that’s just my thoughts. What do you think?