Five Great Movies According to My Dad

For Father’s Day, I asked my dad to talk about his five favorite movies and he was up to the challenge.

This is my father

First there are some basics you should know about my father. He is a slightly bitter retired man who spends his nights watching the Nightly Business Report and the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Since his retirement, he has taken up biking, playing solitaire, and occasionally woodworking. He hails from the Bronx and speaks with a fairly heavy New York accent. He loves Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, and Martina McBride, which makes no sense because he is from the Bronx. He has worked at a liquor store, an ice cream cart, a fish market and as a freight elevator operator. (But I won’t tell you which one had questionable mob ties.) He loves our cat, Salem, more than his four children combined (“Salem is the only one in this family who doesn’t bother me”). He hates lima beans and loves a good cannoli. In sum, my dad is ridiculous.

Our interview took place in my parents bedroom right before they went to bed. They were not too pleased that I bothered them. My mom tried to ignore us but she couldn’t resist interjecting some colorful commentary every now and then. After the interview I told my dad that he was about to blow up on the Internet. He replied, “Yeah. Whatever.”

So here they are. Enjoy and Happy Father’s Day! Continue reading “Five Great Movies According to My Dad”

Henry Bumstead (1915-2006)

Henry Bumstead is probably a man you never heard of. He’s wasn’t the big bucks actor or high profile director.

But if you love movies such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sting, Vertigo,Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby, then you know his work.

A four-time Oscar nominee and two- time Oscar winner (for To Kill a Mockingbird and The Sting) Henry Bumstead, was a major behind the scene’s player, serving as set and production designer for over 100 films.

He collaborated with Clint Eastwood on 13 movies including Flags of Our Fathers, which is currently in post-production.

Eastwood told The Los Angeles Times, (He was) one of a kind. He seamlessly bridged the gap between what I saw on the page and what I saw through the camera lens. He is a legend in his field and a cherished friend. We will all miss him terribly.”


Harper Lee

The lives of real-life characters are constantly turned into biopics. This year the stories of Truman Capote, Johnny Cash, June Carter, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents), Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron in North Country), and Edward R. Murrow, were all translated for the screen.

Author Harper Lee is also included on that list. The release of Capote has renewed interest in the author (she was childhood friends with Truman Capote). Catherine Keener (in an Oscar-nominated role) plays Lee in Capote and Sandra Bullock will portray the author in Infamous, another release about Truman Capote.

Harper Lee, Gregarious for a Day
By Ginia Bellafante Published: January 30, 2006 NY TIMES

TUSCALOOSA, Ala., Jan. 27 — Of all the functions at the president’s mansion of the University of Alabama here, none has acquired the mystique surrounding a modest annual luncheon attended by high school students from around the state.

They come with cameras dangling on their wrists and dressed, respectfully, as if they were about to issue an insurance policy or anchor the news. An awards ceremony for an essay contest on the subject of To Kill a Mockingbird, the occasion attracts no actor, politician or music figure. Instead, it draws someone to whom Alabamians collectively attach far more obsession: the author of the book itself, Harper Lee, who lives in the small town of Monroeville, Ala., one of the most reclusive writers in the history of American letters.

With more than 10,000,000 copies sold since it first appeared in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird exists as one of the best-selling novels of all time. For decades, Ms. Lee has remained fiercely mindful of her privacy, politely but resolutely refusing to talk to the press and making only rare public appearances, in which she always declines to speak. She has maintained her resolve despite renewed attention in the wake of the film Capote, in which Ms. Lee is portrayed as the moral conscience of her childhood friend Truman Capote; the coming Infamous, another Capote movie in which Sandra Bullock plays Ms. Lee; and a biography of Ms. Lee scheduled for May.

continue reading the article

America in 10 Films

I found this tag on Kung Fu Monkey. Thought it was an interesting challenge and decided to give it a whirl.

The challenge is to explain America to someone from somewhere else by giving them 10 movies to watch.

The idea is not to give them a history lesson, so you don’t have to start with The New World and end with Jarhead. What you’re trying to do is give them a sense of who we are — your take on our dreams, our attitudes, our idioms, what we think we are, what we are afraid we are, what we really might be.”

I’m not sure how well I did, but I tried. Here are my picks:

1) Field of Dreams (1989) – One word: baseball. Paired with a touch of magical realism, a game of catch between father and son, road trips with no destination, Burt Lancaster’s last role, dreaming big when no one else believes, and listening to voices no one else hears.

2) Almost Famous (2000) – A witty coming of age picture with great music. You could probably argue that this one doesn’t belong on the list, but I think it shows a fun and loving side to America.

3) Woman of the Year (1942) The first pairing of Hepburn and Tracy. It’s all about career, love, and the battle of the sexes. It all about the compromises to have a successful marriage and career.

4) The Searchers (1956)– To have a list of American movies without including a Western, is sacreligious. To have a Western but not a John Ford directed picture, is just crazy. But including a Western on any list and it NOT starring John Wayne would be like a day without sunshine. Westerns are America. Simple enough.

The Searchers (dir. John Ford, 1956)

5) To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)- A man who possesses great honesty, integrity, and wisdom, stands up against the injustice of a fellow man. Atticus Finch, the greatest hero in American film. We can learn a lot from him.

6. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – A naive man takes on the supremeacy and corruption of the US Senate. Politics in this country aren’t always pretty and this movie shows that.

7. The Breakfast Club (1985) – A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. The stereotypes of an American high school. 20 years later and this film still resonates.

8. Manhattan (1979) – Most Woody Allen films are a testimate to New York City. From the black and white cinematography to the shots of the NY skyline, this film showcases how far the love of a city and of home stretches. This is my city…. I’ve been through a lot with her over the years.

9. Out of the Past (1947) – The first film noir ever. Romance, mystery, thriller. Every person has their skeletons and you may never know the truth.

10. The Graduate (1967) At some point in life, we all feel like Benjamin. We’re a little lost in the big world and in Benjamin’s case, being smart and wealthy isn’t much help. If only we had Mrs. Robinson to fill the void.

The Runners Up:

In the Heat of the Night
Singin’ in the Rain
Stand by Me
North by Norhtwest
The Maltese Falcon
Norma Rae
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Bonnie and Clyde
Erin Brokovich
The Best Years of Our Lives
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Rear Window
Blade Runner
The Philadelphia Story
From Here to Eternity
Touch of Evil

What’s missing from my list?

Obviously, there is a lack of romantic comedies and not every great star is represented. Perhaps a documentary could have been included. But ten is a small number when it comes to selecting films. There are so many good movies that represent American ideals and culture, picking ten was enough work.

I tried. Now it’s your turn.