The Fox and the Hound is the unlikely tale of natural enemies that turned out to be the best of friends. As their twenty-fourth production, this was the first animated Disney movie released in the turbulent 80’s and the very first to have no Walt Disney involvement whatsoever. The rights to the book were purchased a year after Disney’s death and production only picked up 10 years after. The story was just as dark as everything else released at the time, but darker parts of the book still needed to be lightened up. Despite its initial successful, The Fox and the Hound had one of the most troubled productions. The decade change meant the transition of legendary animators with several familiar younger animators. The age gap lead to many story clashes. It got so bad that notable 80’s animation competitor Don Bluth left the company to start his own. Of course my brother and I watched The Fox and the Hound when we were younger, but only a few times due to the harsher tone.
The Fox and the Hound uses the natural enemies of a red fox and a hound dog to tackle social prejudice. Just like in Bambi, a young fox loses his mother to a hunter’s rifle. Caring motherly owl Big Mama helps find him a home. Pearl Bailey is a much more positively depicted black woman with soulful musical talent. In between the heavier story is a subplot about two birds trying to catch a caterpillar. Which doesn’t add much. It’s really the relationship between the poor Widow Tweed and fox that she raises as Tod that gives the film heart. On the other side is tempered hunter Amos Slade who relies on his aging hunting dog Chief before adopting a puppy hound dog named Copper. When the two cross paths, their childlike innocence makes them fast friends. It’s a precious friendship, but sadly life doesn’t always work out that way.
When they grow up, they’re destined to be enemies. Tweed leaves Tod in the forest and Copper becomes Slade’s lead hunting dog. Their first reunion ends in Chief being injured, but it would have made a lot more sense if he died. Tod falls for Vixie, but their happiness doesn’t last as the vengeful hunters try to put an end to them. Only a bear attack brings them together. Copper stands up for Tod, but they still go their separate ways in the end. The animation is much more high quality and the backgrounds are just as detailed as The Rescuers were. The music is mostly left to Big Mama and the most notable song is probably “Best of Friends.” Although it’s really the big name voices of Mickey Rooney, Kurt Russell, Corey Feldman, and Keith Mitchell that deserve a mention. The Fox and the Hound has a moral we’ve all heard before, but it takes enough chances to stand out.
Tod meets Copper
Before I Fall is one of many movies made featuring a time loop. I swear it’s practically become a genre at this point. But while most of them can be labeled comedies, Before I Fall is much more dramatic. While at the same time utilizing the YA teen subgenre. I was somewhat intrigued since it’s really difficult to go wrong with the time loop gimmick. Even though I didn’t read the book, I very nearly went to see the movie. I didn’t, but luckily another time loop movie was released the same year (Happy Death Day).
Before I Fall centers its time loop on teenager Samantha. On the fictional holiday Cupid’s Day (a possible reference to Groundhog Day), Sam hangs with her popular sort of mean girl best friends and douchey boyfriend. She attends a party and apart from a nasty incident, all seems normal. Until she’s killed in a car crash at precisely 12:39AM. The first loop feels like a dream. Then Sam does whatever she can to avoid dying, but she gives up when there appears to be no way out.
Like most time loop movies, Sam ends up doing whatever she wants to whoever she wants. The dramatic tone makes it feel a lot harsher. So she begins a path of self improvement that addresses whether or not she’s a good person. Zoey Deutch is a natural just like her mother Lea Thompson. Who ironically also played a teenager in a movie about time. Sam repairs her relationships, but this isn’t exactly a happy ending. I get the moral, but it’s more than a little depressing. Before I Fall is an underrated time loop scenario with a not often explored existential tone.
Sam’s life passes her by
Network has some of the greatest acting I’ve ever seen in a single film. Literally every actor big or small is at the top of their game. I don’t normally mention screenwriters, but Paddy Chayefsky’s masterful writing made all the difference. Along with Sidney Lumet’s direction, Network became one of the most prolific movies ever made. It’s a satire that wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Featuring an ensemble of lost individuals who’ve chosen to center their lives around television.
At the forefront is aging newscaster Howard Beale. Beale was let go due to the low ratings of fictitious channel UBS. With nothing left to live for Beale announces his plans to commit suicide on live TV. Made all the more eerie by an infamous incident that occured mere months after the script was written. Tragically, the hunger for sensationalized news is enough to drive a person mad with insanity. It’s what turns Howard Beale into an overnight success. Being the leeches that they are, UBS decides to exploit the opportunity by giving Beale a platform to “tell it like it is.”
Through his mental breakdown, Beale tells an audience of billions to get angry at the world that pushes them around. It’s enough to start a movement fueled by the phrase “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Beale is thus dubbed “The mad prophet of the airwaves.” He spreads his commentary on human behavior, overconsumption of Television, and big business. All is well until his message backfires on the station. Only for them to realize they’ve created a monster that’ll only continue to affect ratings unless drastic measures are taken.
Peter Finch lost himself in a magnetic performance that earned him the first ever posthumous Oscar win for Best Actor. Equally brilliant was Faye Dunaway’s Oscar winning take on a woman that’ll do anything for high ratings. Another focal point in Network is her adulterous affair with her superior played with finesse by William Holden. He didn’t win, but Beatrice Straight won with the shortest Academy Award winning performance in history. In 5 short minutes, Straight managed to convey the anger, sadness, and acceptance of the wife of a cheating husband. Even Ned Beatty is magnificent with a haunting speech about the all mighty dollar. I’ve never seen anything quite like Network. Yet I feel as though I’m seeing it everyday of my life. Network was 100% ahead of its time.
“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
The Mighty is a tale of adolescent nobility. Like so many other people my age, I was introduced to the book Freak the Mighty in my 6th grade Reading class. The book stood out for its relatable coming of age story. We were also assigned a project where we had to make a sequel to the book. Since I used to create comic books when I was younger, I made my own comic book sequel (I got an A++ for project). Of course like most school books, we watched the movie as well. The Mighty was made 5 years after the book was published. It tells the tale of two outcasts who couldn’t be more different.
Max is the narrator who’s picked on for his enormous size, low intelligence, and father in jail. Freak (Kevin) is highly intelligent, but struggles with a condition known as Morquio syndrome. Where his body is too small for his heart. They form an unlikely bond where Max benefits from Freak’s brain and Freak benefits from Max’s legs. Freak’s fascination with King Arthur gives them a greater sense of purpose. They face bullies, return belongings, and eventually deal with their problems. With an all-star cast, it’s possible The Mighty was written off as Oscar bait.
It features the likes of Harry Dean Stanton and Gena Rowlands. Along with odder choices like Gillian Anderson and Meat Loaf. James Gandolfini is pretty much proto-Tony Soprano. But it’s actually Sharon Stone who gives a surprisingly strong performance as a struggling single mother. Elden Henson fits Max’s description, but Kieran Culkin is probably too big. He also shares several similarities to at least three of his brother’s characters. He’s named Kevin (Home Alone), wears glasses (The Pagemaster), and the role will definitely make you cry (My Girl). The Mighty is an underrated gem that shouldn’t be forgotten.
Max carries Freak
To Sir, with Love places Sidney Poitier in another dignified profession. This time he’s a black teacher to a bunch of mostly white students. At this point I’d already seen Poitier’s Oscar winning role and his other two groundbreaking movies released in 1967. So my mom informed me that To Sir, with Love was the next one my brother and I should see. It’s one of the earliest movies to popularize the “teacher helps a group of troubled inner city youths” genre. Ironically placing Poitier in the teacher role, instead of the student role (like in Blackboard Jungle).
Mark Thackeray is an American stuck teaching cockney poorly behaved students in England. At first they think they can just walk all over him, but he’s much too proper for that. When he loses his temper, Mr. Thackeray realizes the only way to teach these students is to literally throw out the books. Now deciding it’s best to treat each of the blossoming adults as such. By helping them to respect themselves, teaching them to cook, how to find a spouse, and discussing any part of the adult world. Even enriching their minds with trips to the museum.
Teaching methods that modern education could benefit from. Of course there are always hold outs, but by the end everyone comes to respect Sir. The issue of race doesn’t even come up very often. Since a lot of the students are dealing with problems at home that help them relate with one another. Lulu plays a student and sings the successful titular song that inspires him to stay. To Sir, with Love demenstates why teaching and understanding go hand in hand.
Sir teaches his class
From Here to Eternity is the Best Picture winner that brought us the iconic moment of a man and woman kissing on a beach. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I thought I’d talk about one of the most recognized scenes in romantic movie history. Since the passionate water soaked kiss was very racy for the time. To the point that most people don’t even know what the rest of the movie is about. How surprised I was to learn that it’s a war picture. Not just that, it’s also a far more competently made movie about Pearl Harbor. The beach kiss is only a small piece of the puzzle.
From Here to Eternity actually follows a couple of World War II soldiers and their love lives. Burt Lancaster is Warden, a Sergeant who begins a scandalous affair with his commanding officer’s wife Karen played by Deborah Kerr. They fool around in secret (including kissing on a beach), but the Captain is a cheating jerk. He insistently torments Private Prewitt played by Montgomery Clift. He’s a former boogie woogie bugle boy that refuses to box in the Captain’s team.
The only thing keeping Prewitt happy is the love of beautiful club attendant Lorene and often drunk friend Angelo played by Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra respectively. Both of whom won Oscars for their performances. Ol’ Blue Eyes may or may not have gotten the role through mob connections. Along with those wins, the film was nominated in every acting category with 13 nominations overall (and 8 wins). Proving From Here to Eternity is more than just a steamy kiss on the beach.
Warden and Karen kiss on a beach
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is Quentin Tarantino’s most mature film. And I don’t mean in terms of its R rating. Rather the film keeps Tarantino’s penchant for shocking often controversial material to a minimum. It’s also when the director finally ditched the Weinstein Company. That and its full embrace of Hollywood, are most likely why its received more awards attention than any other Tarantino flick. Including a nomination for Best Picture. It was at this point I realized I couldn’t keep ignoring his films. Now all I have left is his self-proclaimed 10th retirement film.
Since Tarantino loves bygone eras, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood puts all of its focus into recreating every detail of classic 1969 Hollywood. Really it’s a modern fairy tale that follows the respective fading careers of Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth. Rick was once known for a 50’s western TV show (and cheesy WWII picture), but now he barely gets by on one-off villain parts. Leonardo DiCaprio shouldn’t be overlooked as Rick struggles to get through scenes and beats himself up. Although brief, a child actress steals the show as well. However, all the major awards were focused on Brad Pitt. He’s certainly great as a laid back stuntman, but Best Supporting Actor is probably a legacy win.
While these fictional events take place, next door lives the very real Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. Margot Robbie beautifully recaptures Tate’s youthful optimism. Best seen when she goes to see her own movie The Wrecking Crew. Where she learned martial arts from Bruce Lee himself. Lee plays a memorable part when Cliff picks a fight with him. The casting is uncanny, but I agree the boastful portrayal is iffy. Although Once Upon a Time in Hollywood can generate plenty of laughs, there’s nothing funny about the Manson Family murders. Cliff is unknowingly taken to Spahn ranch where bare feet are plentiful.
Since this is Tarantino, do I even need to say SPOILER ALERT! Of course history is altered. Only this time the Manson family chooses to murder Cliff, Rick, and his wife. Instead the evil hippie followers of Charles Manson are deservedly killed in the most violent over-the-top Tarantino way possible. With an A-list cast of hundreds, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood gave classic cinema the respect it deserved.
Rick Dalton vents to stuntman Cliff Booth
For the beginning of Black History Month, I decided to review Do the Right Thing. The first Spike Lee joint that I’ve seen. Although I have mixed feelings towards him, I agree this is his Magnum opus. Spike Lee directed, produced, wrote, and starred in Do the Right Thing when he was 31. He was inspired by real life race riots. Like most of his joints, Do the Right Thing takes place in New York. Brooklyn is filled with many colorful residents. Like Da Mayor, Mother Sister, or Mister Señor Love Daddy. The latter is Samuel L. Jackson narrating events as a local radio personality.
It showcases many comedians, as well as many up and coming stars. Like Martin Lawrence, Rosie Perez, and Bill Nunn. Nunn stands out as a radiohead with love/hate on his hands who always blasts “Fight the Power” named Radio Raheem. Similar to 12 Angry Men, there’s a massive heat wave that makes everyone angrier. At the center of everyone’s frustration is a popular local pizzeria that Mookie works as a delivery boy. Sal and his boys Pino and Vito have varying opinions of their clientele. Although originally written for Robert De Niro, Danny Aiello proves De Niro wasn’t the only great Italian actor working at the time.
Over the course of one day, overly passionate customer Buggin’ Out questions why there aren’t black people on Sal’s “Wall of Fame.” This sparks an intense debate that shows hate from all sides. Until a riot breaks out after a cop kills one of the black citizens. I’m not sure Mookie did the right thing, but it’s complicated. It depends who you ask (“and that’s the double truth, Ruth”). Do the Right Thing is an important 80’s movie with a message. “I got it, I’m gone.”
Mookie delivers pizzas
Old Yeller is the quintessential sad dog movie. Which isn’t exactly a spoiler if you’re at all familiar with the story. I’ve known about Old Yeller for years, but I knew I needed to build up the courage to watch it. Old Yeller was made by Disney and it retains a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It focuses on a cunning Labrador mutt dubbed “Old Yeller.” Due to his yellow coat. He’s a troublemaker that Old Yeller.
Eventually he crosses paths with the Coates family during the 1800’s. When the father leaves, Travis is made the man of the house. Despite the trouble he’s caused, Old Yeller is given to youngest son Arliss since a boy oughta have a dog. Travis doesn’t like the dog at first, but takes a likely to him when he fights off a bear. From there they become thick as thieves. From hunting and fishing to cattle rustling and hog catching. His mother has to get him out of that one considering there’s an outbreak of rabies going around. That’s when things get really sad.
Unfortunately, Old Yeller contracts rabies after protecting the family from a wild wolf. The tears really start to well up when the brave dog slowly goes mad. I never had a dog, but I was crying like a baby when (SPOILER ALERT!) Travis is forced to put down his best friend. There have been many dog deaths in movies, but this will always be the saddest. At least there’s a happy ending with “Young Yeller” carrying on his father’s legacy. Old Yeller is a perfect lesson in life, loss, and friendship.
A boy and his dog
The Founder takes us back to the high stakes world of fast food. McDonald’s is the single most successful fast food burger franchise on Earth. I doubt there’s a person alive who hasn’t eaten at McDonald’s. From the Big Mac to the french fry, you can never go wrong with the cheap, simple, and extremely easy to find option. It was my favorite fast food place growing up. By this point I’ve tried everything on the menu at least once. I even made a Happy Meal box in my Senior art class.
So I was very intrigued to see a movie about how McDonald’s became what we all know today. Before the playplace and even before Ronald McDonald, McDonald’s was just a humble burger stand. In 1954, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc happened upon the opportunity of a lifetime. McDonald’s stood out for its speedy service, on the go option, and friendly clientele. Back when the menu only consisted of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, Coke, and shakes. The cost ranged from 10-20¢.
Michael Keaton is burgerman. I never knew just how underhanded the formation of McDonald’s was. Ray Kroc can certainly come off as a greedy jerk. Especially for his treatment of the original McDonald brothers. Yet he was such a good businessman. He personally ensured every franchise stuck to the menu. Persistence was key. The result is the tastefully done McMovie The Founder. Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I’m Lovin’ It!
Ray Kroc opens another McDonald’s