Robert Zemeckis’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” is a charming, if flawed tribute to the Beatles and the rampant Beatles Mania that ran throughout much of the late sixties. I’m sure Zemeckis bear witness to a lot of the “Beatlemania,” and his film seems to come from a place of experience. For folks that loved movies like “American Graffiti” or “Dazed and Confused,” Zemeckis’ 1978 comedy is one of those movie set over the course of a night that centers on a group of teenagers that are so devoted to the Beatles, they risk just about everything to see them on the Ed Sullivan Show.
I confess I’ve never seen much from Harold Lloyd, even though I’d heard a lot about him over the years. Even during my days when I was looking to explore silent film, Lloyd seems to stand in a league of his own. “The Kid Brother” is one of his arguable best, it’s not a raucous comedy, but it manages to be a well paced, and charming underdog tale nevertheless. Lloyd embodies a lot of the underdog hero traits that we like, right down to the humble trademark glasses, something that becomes a unique trait in his quest to fight for the girl of his dreams and his family.
Norman Jewison’s “In the Heat of the Night” remains one of Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger’s banner dramas, it’s a tense, taut, and engrossing crime thriller that brings to life one of the most compelling on screen heroes I’ve ever seen. Based on John Ball’s series of books about African American gumshoe named Virgil Tibbs, Jewison brings to the screen the first of the books. “Heat,” as written by Stirling Silliphant for the big screen is an imperfect drama with a little bit too much fat to the narrative, but in the end it comes out as a pretty as remarkable drama about the racially turbulent South and a man trying to uncover a crime that reaches far deeper than anyone, even the police chief, realizes.
Samuel Fuller’s “Forty Guns” is very much a B western but one filled with such eccentricities and ahead of its time role reversals that it’s hard not to be a little charmed by it. The idea of Barbara Stanwyck as a villain in the old west is appealing enough, but “Forty Guns” packs such a unique and fun premise. Along with it, there are so many weird twists and turns including two musical numbers, a wedding scene, and a premise that feels to have slightly influenced 1993’s “Tombstone” (?).
If there was ever a movie that could be an introduction to the sheer indescribable beauty and sexiness that was Marilyn Monroe, it’s “Some Like It Hot.” My first introduction to the movie was when I was a pre-teen in 1997, in the middle of a busy classroom on a free day. The teacher slipped the movie on for everyone to watch, and every one of my classmates had run off to chat or goof around, but I sat and watched “Some Like It Hot.” Suffice to say Billy Wilder’s romance comedy was a first real taste of classic film I’d ever had and it sparked an interest I never really got over.
What we see in “Sisters” is the template for what would become the basic mold for most Brian De Palma films. So enamored is he with Hitchcock that he essentially pays tribute to the man’s filmmaking techniques and films consciously and sometimes sub-consciously. “Sisters” is rough around the edges, but an otherwise fascinating thriller about the perversion of voyeurism, and the suppression of sexuality and female independence in an often matriarchal society. De Palma unfolds an interesting murder mystery filled with psycho sexual overtones that almost feel like nods to the Giallos of the decade.
It’s surprising that “A Raisin in the Sun” is just as socially and politically relevant today as it was in 1961. Deep down while “A Raisin in the Sun” is a family drama, it’s also a film about inequality both in housing and socially. It’s about the poor and have nots looking for their own big break in a world that’s unfairly balanced in another direction entirely. It’s very easy to see where the stage play ends and the film begins, as “A Raisin in the Sun” is primarily a one setting drama about people looking for their own exit from a situation that offers them absolutely no future of wider horizons.
It’s not hard to figure out why “The Princess Bride” is considered one of the all time great cinematic fantasy classics. Even today it manages to stand as a movie that’s way ahead of its time and deconstructs a lot of the fairy tale and hero’s journey tropes way before “Shrek” ever popularized the idea. Rob Reiner injects a meta-mold to “The Princess Bride” helping it stand apart from a lot of the other fantasy epics we would have seen from the decade. His choice to make the story of Princess Buttercup told by a grandfather to his sick grandson is a testament to the incomparable experience of being swept away in a good book.