28 Days Later, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Aliens, Film, Halloween, Movies, Night of the Living Dead, Psycho, The Dead Zone, The Exorcist, The Omen, The Stand

Halloween 2015: Ten Must-See Movies

Though I don’t celebrate like I used to, I still look forward to Halloween. Long gone are the days of dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, and gorging on candy. Those activities no longer appeal to me. Instead I enjoy watching scary movies — but not just any scary movies. I prefer movies with a plot, character development, suspense, and no gratuitous violence and gore. Based on these standards, here are my ten favorite films to watch for Halloween in chronological order.

1.  Psycho (1960)


2.  Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead

3.  The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

4.  The Omen (1976)


5.  Halloween (1978)


6.  The Dead Zone (1983)


7.  Aliens (1986)


8.  A Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors (1987)


9.  The Stand (1994)

The Stand

10.  28 Days Later (2002)

28 days later

Before Sunset, Carmen Jones, Coming to America, It Happened One Night, Love & Basketball, Mi Familia, Movies, North by Northwest, Scenes, Silver Linings Playbook, The Best Man Holiday, The Way We Were, Valentine's Day

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: 10 Memorable Scenes

imagesValentine’s Day – synonymous with love and romance – is celebrated with hearts, chocolates and flowers. When it comes to love and romance in movies, what makes a scene noteworthy? Is it the steamy physical connection, or is it the emotional baring of one’s soul? Is it fighting for love, or is it letting go? Is it being in the moment, or is it revisiting the past? Is it the promise of what’s to come, or is it mourning the one who got away? These memorable scenes represent all the above and more. Enjoy!


1.  It Happened One Night (1934)


Clip:  Do you love my daughter?


2.  Carmen Jones (1954)


Clip: Blow on ’em, sugar.


3. North by Northwest (1959)



Clip:  I never discuss love on an empty stomach.


4.  The Way We Were (1973)


Clip:  Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.


5.  Coming to America (1988)


Clip:  To be loved.


6. Mi Familia (1995)


Clip:  It’s time to get new.


7.  Love & Basketball (2000)


 Clip:  Double or nothing.


8.  Before Sunset (2004)


Clip: Relationships


9.  Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


Clip: Where’s Tiffany?


10.  The Best Man Holiday (2013)

9 Random Facts About 'The Best Man Holiday' Cast

Believe in Yourself, Climb Every Mountain, Don't Rain on My Parade, Film, God Is Trying to Tell You Something, Gonna Fly Now, I Am Changing, I Believe I Can Fly, I Believe in You and Me, Movies, Music, Musicals, Over the Rainbow, The Greatest Love of All, When You Believe, Wind Beneath My Wings

The 12 Movie Songs of Inspiration

three dimensional negative roll with musical notes

In the spirit of the holiday season, this variation of “The 12 Days of Christmas” features movie songs that uplift and inspire.  Enjoy these songs of love, faith and reconciliation by clicking on the titles.  To all of you, Happy Holidays and Best Wishes!

1.  “Over the Rainbow”The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Over the Rainbow


2.  “Climb Every Mountain”The Sound of Music (1965)

Sound of Music


3.  “Don’t Rain on My Parade”Funny Girl (1968)

Funny Girl


4.  “Gonna Fly Now”Rocky (1976)

rocky steps


5.  “The Greatest Love of All”The Greatest (1977)



6.  “Believe in Yourself”The Wiz (1978)

The Wiz


7.  “God Is Trying to Tell You Something”The Color Purple (1985)



8.  “Wind Beneath My Wings”Beaches (1988)



9.  “I Believe in You and Me”The Preacher’s Wife (1996)



10. “I Believe I Can Fly”Space Jam (1996)

Space Jam


11. “When You Believe”The Prince of Egypt (1998)

When You Believe


12. “I Am Changing”Dreamgirls (2006)



1930's, Cheek to Cheek, cinema, Classics, Film, film industry, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Hays Code, Hollywood, motion picture industry, motion picture production, Movies, Musicals, Top Hat

Cheek to Cheek with Fred and Ginger

“She gave him sex and he gave her class.” – Katharine Hepburn

Ironically, many of my favorite movies were produced during the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s when moral restrictions were strongly regulated and enforced by the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (“Hays Code”).  Its guidelines addressed violence, nudity, profanity and sex.  By the late 1950s, the Hays Code’s influence on the film industry was greatly reduced due to anti-trust rulings and competition from television and foreign films.  The Hays Code was eventually replaced by the current MPAA film rating system in 1968.

Sometimes I miss the Hays Code and the inventiveness it inspired.  Top Hat exemplifies the creative and subtle qualities that are often lacking in today’s more explicit films.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers effectively convey romance and passion in “Cheek to Cheek” – the film’s classic centerpiece – without removing any clothes or sharing a kiss.  Watch Fred and Ginger elegantly dance through the stages of seduction from courtship to afterglow.  Cigarette, anyone?

All the King's Men, Being There, Election 2012, JFK, Movies, Primary Colors, Seven Days in May, The Best Man, The Candidate, The Dead Zone, The Man, The Manchurian Candidate

Election 2012: Ten Movies to Watch

During these final days of the 2012 election campaign season, I am revisiting some of my favorite politically themed movies.  They span over six decades and explore political issues that continue to resonate, such as moral character and special interests.  These films offer both entertainment and food for thought regarding America’s governmental process.

1.    All the King’s Men (1949)

The story of Willie Stark’s (Broderick Crawford) gubernatorial rise and fall raises the following questions:  Can an honest, principled person succeed in politics?  Or does the political system attract those who are corruptible?

2.    The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

During the Korean War, Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and their captured platoon were brainwashed by Communists seeking to take over the United States.  The tendencies to fear and demonize the other continue today.  What distinguishes justified concerns from paranoia?  The distinction becomes even blurrier when those making the most forceful accusations are the very ones to be wary of.

3.    The Best Man (1964)

As William Russell (Henry Fonda) and Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson) vie for their party’s presidential nomination, charges of infidelity, mental illness and homosexuality emerge.  Though this film is outdated in its portrayal of how nominees are selected at conventions, the manipulation of public image and perception is still very relevant.  Does the current electoral process make it more or less likely that the best man or woman is chosen?

4.    Seven Days in May (1964)

Air Force General James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) plots a coup d’état after U.S. President Jordan Lyman (Frederic March) signs a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union.  Should there ever be an appropriate occasion to suspend constitutional rights for the good of the country, or does the desire to do so reveal a perverted sense of patriotism?

5.    The Candidate (1972)

Bill McKay (Robert Redford) runs for what appears to be an unwinnable seat in the U.S. Senate.  McKay’s ideals are manipulated as he adjusts his message to win more votes.  How honest are candidates with the public and themselves when campaigning?  How far should they be willing to go in order to win?

6.    The Man (1972)

Through a series of unforeseen events, Douglass Dilman (James Earl Jones) becomes America’s first black president and encounters unprecedented resistance.  Forty years later fantasy meets reality as President Obama faces similar challenges regarding his citizenship, qualifications and legitimacy.

7.    Being There (1979)

Chance (Peter Sellers), a simple-minded gardener, rises to national prominence based on misperceptions.  His good fortune is reminiscent of reality television “stars” who achieve undeserved celebrity status through the exploitation of their dysfunctional behavior.

8.    The Dead Zone (1983)

The Dead Zone is the best film adaptation of a Stephen King novel, and it may seem out of place on this list at first glance.  Johnny (Christopher Walken) awakens from a coma with psychic powers.  He meets Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a charismatic candidate for the U.S. Senate, and foresees an ominous future.  How much do we really know regarding the true motives of political candidates?

9.    JFK (1991)

Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) loses his political innocence while searching for the truth behind President Kennedy’s assassination.  How many of us have similarly transitioned from blind trust to healthy skepticism regarding our government and other matters?

10. Primary Colors (1998)

Henry Burton’s (Adrian Lester) political idealism is thoroughly tested when he joins the presidential campaign of Jack Stanton (John Travolta).   Should past and/or present indiscretions be held against political candidates?  Can a morally flawed person be an effective office-bearer?

What are your favorite political films?

American Dream, Analysis, cinema, controversy, D.W. Griffith, Film, hero, history, Hollywood, motion picture production, Movies, race relations, racial stereotypes, silent movies, The Clansman, Trayvon Martin, villain, War

The Rebirth of a Nation — Part 1: Heroes and Villains

“The nation [the founders] envisioned and created was a white supremacist nation. Meaning, it was founded on the notion that whites should rule, that whites had superior ability to rule, that the nation should be a white republic, and that people of color surely should not have equal rights with whites.” – Tim Wise

When The Birth of a Nation (“BOAN”) was released 97 years ago in 1915, it was heralded for its technical innovations and was the first film screened at the White House.  However, many – including the NAACP – protested BOAN’s degrading black stereotypes, glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, and its racist propaganda dressed up as historical representation.  Despite its controversies, BOAN is a valuable part of my film collection.  It is a movie that I watch and refer to regularly.  The hegemonic worldview expressed in BOAN is still very relevant, unfortunately, and offers great insights about the ongoing pervasiveness of American racism, even more so in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy.

BOAN dramatizes the Civil War and its consequences from the perspectives of two families – the Stonemans from the North and the Camerons from the South.  Life in the South before the war was depicted as idyllic.  Whites reigned supreme while blacks were carefree and content in their subservient roles.  After the war, however, the defeated Southerners fell under the rule of “carpetbaggers.”  They also found themselves vulnerable to the newly freed slaves who outnumbered them, had voting rights, violent tendencies and the audacity to pursue white women.  The Southerners responded to this threat to their existence by forming an underground vigilante group to restore “order” to the South, and hence the Ku Klux Klan was born.

“Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state…?  Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained…will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.” – Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

Jefferson’s quote reflects the inconsistencies on which this nation was founded – contradictions that have yet to be meaningfully recognized.  On the one hand, this slave-owning author of the Declaration of Independence acknowledged the “injuries” inflicted on blacks due to racial discrimination.  On the other hand, however, Jefferson rationalized that it was in America’s best interest to deny blacks equal rights and protections under the Constitution in order to avoid retaliation and anarchy.  

“I felt a little bit threatened, if you will, in the attitude that [President Obama] had.” – Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

As if taking a cue from Jefferson, BOAN depicted the newly emancipated blacks as irresponsible, brutal and out of control.  The abuse of their newly acquired political power left whites disenfranchised and helpless to do anything about it.  Left to their own devices, blacks were well on their way to taking over the nation.  That is until the Ku Klux Klan rode in and saved America.   Using intimidation, coercion and violence to oppress blacks, the Klan’s methods were deemed necessary to preserve the nation.  The end justified the means.  Could this be why an unarmed man can be shot 41 times and his murderers set free?  Perhaps this explains why a man who was outnumbered and beaten savagely on videotape was perceived as the aggressor.  Is this why Trayvon Martin, armed only with a cell phone, Skittles and ice tea, was shot to death and his assailant, George Zimmerman, has so far avoided murder charges by claiming self-defense?  Adding insult to injury, it has been reported Zimmerman “suffers” from PTSD – as if that’s any comparison to being DEAD.  

“It’s time this generation learned the difference between a villain and a hero.” – J. Edgar Hoover

The irony of quoting Hoover on this topic aside, the concept of heroes and villains works well in fiction.  In BOAN, the villainous blacks are returned to a submissive position by the heroic Ku Klux Klan.  The Klan’s savior status is denoted by the superimposed images of Christ and a Klansman in the final minutes of the film.  Therefore, it stands to reason, according to BOAN, that if the Klan is godly, then blacks are the direct opposite.  However, in real life using the “good versus evil” rubric to assess others often leads to tragic consequences.  Dehumanizing and demonizing one’s opponents and/or those with whom you are unfamiliar results in a delusional sense of self-righteousness and an unwillingness to consider different points of view.  Peaceful resolutions are replaced by ongoing conflict and domination. 

“If you’re black, you gotta look at America a little bit different. You gotta look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college but molested you.” – Chris Rock

America likes to see itself as the land of freedom, justice and opportunity – a harmonious, multi-cultural melting pot.  That is not my reality though I yearn for that ideal.  In my America, racial discrimination and stereotyping are constant companions.  Racism does not always involve physical violence, although its emotional toll can be just as destructive over time.  Its more subtle forms include low expectations, backhanded compliments and hasty assumptions. 

History informs me that demanding Zimmerman’s arrest is not enough.  Based on the way this case has been handled so far and the efforts to criminalize Martin, the state of Florida is incapable of conducting a fair trial.  This case must be prosecuted on the federal level.  There also needs to be a major shake-up in the Sanford Police Department. Resignations/terminations are not sufficient.  The conduct of the police and state attorney’s office should be thoroughly investigated.  Negligent law enforcement officers must be prosecuted and their pensions should be revoked.  Maybe then they will value the rights of everyone they are supposed to “serve and protect.”  Finally, looking to the future, now is the time to push for legislation about racial profiling with specific guidelines and consequences applicable to both law enforcement officials and civilians. 

Frank Costello: “When I was growing up, they would say you could become cops or criminals. But what I’m saying is this. When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – The Departed

The Ku Klux Klan’s hoods versus Trayvon Martin’s hoodie – who’s the hero and who’s the villain?  Whether it’s on the screen in BOAN or in real life, the designation of heroes and villains is not absolute.  There are many shades of gray.  The real dilemma is not in the “hero” and “villain” designations; it is in the desire to categorize them in the first place.  After all, the concept of heroes and villains is relative.  Much depends on which end of the proverbial loaded gun you find yourself on. 

What will it take for this nation to be reborn? 


“The Rebirth of a Nation – Part 2: Truth and Reconciliation”

Frank Farmer, Movies, Rachel Marron, The Bodyguard, Whitney Houston

Not Every Woman: Whitney Remembered

“I know that when you look at me, there’s so much that you just don’t see…”  — lyrics from “Run to You”

The most disturbing aspect about Whitney Houston’s death last week has been the baseless speculations touted by gossipmongers masquerading as newscasters.  I found myself wondering whatever happened to at least the appearance of fact-based, objective journalism.  Disgusted, I avoided all media coverage and remembered Houston in my own way, focusing on her phenomenal talent and enjoying her music.  It was comforting to watch Houston’s homegoing service today as those who knew and loved her shared their remembrances, tributes and farewells – from Stevie Wonder’s “secret crush” to Kevin Costner’s insistence that Houston co-star with him in The Bodyguard to BeBe Winans’ loving recollection of “crazy” Whitney.  Even with those new insights, as a fan who never met Houston, a scene from The Bodyguard remains foremost on my mind when I think of her.   

In The Bodyguard Houston’s character, Rachel Marron, reluctantly hires a bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner), to protect her from a stalker.  From an upstairs window, Rachel catches Frank transfixed by her image in the “Run to You” music video.  She realizes at that moment that the brusque bodyguard is attracted to her.  As I recognized how similar Houston’s life was to Rachel’s, I was struck by the irony and sadness.  How often did Houston wonder if adoring fans preferred the carefully created image over her “real” self?  Did the line between fantasy and reality blur from time to time?  Was it difficult to distinguish genuine affection from the obsequiousness of hangers-on?  Did Houston ever feel safe enough to be herself and with whom?  I can only imagine how lonely that could have been for her.

As I revisited that scene in The Bodyguard over the past week, the sadness was replaced by feelings of happiness and inspiration.  Instead of Rachel looking down from the window, I now see Houston, serene and beautiful, gazing down from an enlightened perspective where she is loved and finally able to fully appreciate the joy her music continues to bring to people worldwide.  Houston is at peace.  She is safe.  She is free. 

Excerpt from The Bodyguard: