Pick your movie of the week: Spider-Man! (May 26-June 1/17)

Spider-Man: Homecoming is opening in theatres this summer, so it’s a good time to stop and make for ourselves a bit of a review. In your opinion, which is the greatest Spidey movie to date?

Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

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Are you sure you saw what you think you saw?

I was a ten, maybe 11 and I was about to see a grown man eaten alive. My friend and I, along with at least one of my siblings, were watching Jaws on TV while the adults chatted it up in the kitchen. I was scared out of my wits, but I loved it. What I saw, of course, wasn’t really a man getting eaten alive. I was watching a man playing in the water. He was literally pretending to be fighting for his life with a giant toy shark. But that didn’t matter. I was wrapped in the story and in the moment. His acting, the camera work, the props, the fake blood—it all worked on me.

We all know that in movies we aren’t really seeing what it appears that we’re seeing. And there are moments that we talk about where we saw a scene and it got to us. Those that really do this well are the ones that draw our imaginations in and make us think we’re seeing something that we’re not. American History X has a scene like that. Another movie famously has a human head in a box in the story (For those of you who saw the movie, you know. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t say which one it is so as not to spoil). Many viewers will swear up and down that they saw a small glimpse of the head. But they didn’t. Their mind tells them they saw it, but that doesn’t change what is actually shown on screen. Others who have watched the movie more than once will insist that the reason why so many people think they see the head is because a blonde hair or two blows in the wind, peeking up out of the box. But nope. That’s not there either. The psychology in the storytelling is so powerful that we are duped into seeing what’s not there.

Sometimes I think our difficulty with seeing certain scenes in movies is more about us than about what’s in the scene. I mean, it is true that a lot of movies are immoderate with their depiction of violence or graphic situations, but the ones we all talk about that freaked us out are often ones that show considerable restraint. The arm in 127 Hours. The ear in Reservoir Dogs. The shower in Psycho. American History X is not the easiest movie to watch. It makes you face things you’d rather not face. It’s not enough to simply say, “I can’t handle that.” It’s important to ask yourself why you can’t. Talk about the subjects that these movies expose us to. Learn more about the subject. Learn more about yourself.

And for anyone who would say, “How can you watch stuff like that? Why open yourself up to that?” I like to respond the same way everyone did to me for years when they learned I enjoyed professional wrestling. “You do know it’s not real. Don’t you?”

Congratulations American History X. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in Selma.

Best Actor: Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard in American History X.

Best Quote:My son is dying, and I’m broke. If I don’t qualify for Medicare, WHO THE HELL DOES?” — Denzel Washington as John Q. Archibald.

Again, just to confirm, I do agree that there are many movies that seem to wallow in their own gore and/or shocking content. But movies that not only fit the description above, but also have something important to say to us today should get a pass. Or at least a chance.

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Pick your movie of the week: social justice! (May 19-25/17)

This is such a critical and relevant topic for all of us, and we probably should be watching more of these kinds of movies. Which one would you choose to be this week’s movie?

American History X (1998)

John Q (2002)

Blood Diamond (2006)

Selma (2014)

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A Boy’s Best Friend is His (Evil) Mother

In the past I’ve written about great movie moms, but this year I say we spotlight the bad ones. In fact, if you’re a mom and you wonder sometimes if you are good enough, well this post might just make you feel like the best in the world.

Ruth Dewitt Bukater, Titanic (1997). This mom deserves her #10 spot seeing as she really wanted what was best for her daughter, but her misguided intentions are both cruel and selfish. A good mom would want her child to be free and happy.



The Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). This stepmom is so evil that she puts her own life in jeopardy to destroy the child she is supposed to love and care for. I always thought it was ironic that her plan was to kill Snow because she was jealous of her beauty and replaced her as “fairest one of all,” and to accomplish her goal she turns herself into an ugly old crone. Welp, suit yourself. You’re the Queen. Knock yourself out.

Aunt Petunia Dursley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001). This mom takes in her nephew and treats him like crap. Perhaps worse, she treats her biological son as if he’s more important than said nephew and gives him too big a head, resulting in his becoming a huge deuce. Bad form Petunia!


Mother Gothel, Tangled (2010). Wow. So selfish that you’re willing imprison your child in a tower? And then have the gall to guilt her when she suggests leaving? Sheesh!



Mama Fratelli, The Goonies (1985). She gets her boys to do her evil bidding which involves scaring and attempting to harm (and kill?) other children.



Momma, Throw Momma From the Train (1987). This mom does not give her son a break. Constantly telling him how much of a disappointment he is, even though he’s stuck by her miserable side for years into his adulthood. No wonder he wants to have her tossed from the train. (That’s two in a row for Anne Ramsey. She sure plays a good bad-mom.)


The Alien Queen, Aliens 2 (1986). Hmmm. Maybe I just find her such a bad mom because she’s big, ugly, and tries to kill humans. But I’m sure that’s reason enough.



Mary Johnston, Precious (2009). Mo’Nique won an Academy Award for her performance as a bad mom. I actually don’t want to tell you why she’s bad because it would spoil the movie. It’s heart-wrenching, but so good. And yes, you’ll probably hate Mary.


Norma Bates, Psycho (1960). Again, you really need to see this movie. But I can tell you that the reason she’s a bad mother is in the title.



Lady Tremaine, Cinderella (1950). I remember watching clips of this movie when I was a young child. Words can’t express how much I hated this woman! When she is giving Cinderella her orders while drinking tea in bed she personifies evil.



Happy Mothers Day everyone!

Congratulations The Blind Side. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. This was definitely the movie—and the movie mom—that I would have picked.
Best Actor: Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone in The Incredibles.
Best Quote:Hey… crotchmouth! Yeah, you! Zip it, or I’ll come up there and zip if for ya!” — Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Touhy, yelling at a redneck heckler at a football game in The Blind Side.

Two years ago I offered a top ten list of greatest movie moms, and there is one I feel I’ve left out: Peg (Dianne Wiest) from Edward Scissorhands. The whole movie is touching, but the love and compassion she shows to the title character is the very heart of the movie. Here’s the list I gave in May, 2015:

10. Lorraine McFly in Back to the Future)
9. Fiona Brewer (About a Boy)
8. Nawal Marwan (Incendies)
7. Mason’s Mom (Boyhood)
6. Ellen Griswold (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)
5. Dora (Life is Beautiful)
4. Dorothy Boyd (Jerry Maguire)
3. Mary (The Passion of the Christ)
2. Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo)
1. Sarah Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)


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Pick your movie of the week: Movie Moms! (May 12-18/17)

Mother’s Day is coming and AMC has a running list of the greatest movie moms based on user votes. You can go there and vote yourself, though right now the #1 is Sally Field as Mrs. Gump in Forrest Gump. Below are the #2, #3, and #4 spots. Which of them do you think should be our Mother’s Day Movie of the Week?

P.S. Do you agree with the top pics on AMC’s site? If not, feel free to share who you think should be considered amoung the greatest of movie moms.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
(1991, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor)

The Incredibles
(2004, Holly Hunter as Elastigirl)

The Blind Side
(2009, Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy)

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Rain Man is… Special

In the English language today, “special” is a packed word, especially when used to refer to people. Imagine you are about to go on a blind date. Your friend knows this person you are about to go to dinner with and they tell you that s/he is special. Everyone knows what will come out of your mouth immediately after: “What do you mean?” Does that mean this person stands out as better than the rest? Does it mean they are quirky? Are they genuinely mentally challenged in the medical sense?

But despite the loaded nature of it, special is a handy word. How else can you describe someone like Raymond? After the movie you want to see more of him. He is different, to be sure, but that’s what’s so great about him. You could find baseball stats boring, hate Jeopardy, and buy your underwear at Kmart, and still you would want to hear more from Raymond.

Todd was a special friend of mine back in high school. I saw him once a week when we rode on the bus together to church. He was deaf and unable to speak, though he believed he could speak. He would move his jaw and lips in all directions while letting out unintelligible grunts and squawks with his voice box. I had learned the alphabet in sign language from a book my mother had when she was learning the language and we discovered we could communicate by spelling words and following them up with a game of charades. The greatest day was when we realized that we both loved watching wrestling! We had such great conversations about yesterday’s matches that we didn’t want to get off the bus. I remember he hated Ravishing Rick Rude with a passion. But he really liked The Ultimate Warrior.

I realized years later that Todd truly was special. Not in the sense that he was limited and thank God I was there to be a help to him. Not in the sense that his limitations made him funny and, therefore, entertained me. He really was very, very special. I’ll never meet another one like him and the impression he left on me was so unique, no one could possibly duplicate it. Perhaps that’s why the word is so handy. He was no better and, literally, no worse than anyone else. Just different, which is so cool.

Congratulations Rain Man. this is your week.

And the Oscar goes to

Best Actress: Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

Best Actor: Bill Murray as Jeff in Tootsie.

Best Quote:Kmart sucks.” — Dustin Hoffman as Raymond in Rain Man.

If you find Hoffman’s Rain Man character fascinating, check out this article from the Wisconsin Medical Society: “Rain Man the Movie / Rain Man Real Life.

And for the record, I don’t mean to downplay the challenges that the deaf or autistic have to endure in my final statements above. However, we all have challenges, and it seems to me that those who have physical or mental ones just aren’t able to hide them like the rest of us do.

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Pick your movie of the week: Dustin Hoffman! (May 5-11/17)

Truly one of the very best actors, and like Glenn Close he is highly versatile. Most movie fans would point to his portrayal of Ratso in Midnight Cowboy as his best performance, but the fact is he rarely has a bad one. I’ve chosen 4 other very memorable Hoffman movies, so what say you? Which would you choose to be this week’s movie?

The Graduate (1967)

Tootsie (1982)

Rain Man (1988)

Hook (1991)


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