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The Sound of Music

“The Sound of Music” is one of the most popular and entertaining films of all time. Like “The Wizard of Oz”, this family friendly feature is well known the world over and beloved by generations, due in large part to becoming an annual television event. In the days before VCRs I remember the excitement of being allowed to eat dinner in front of the television because “The Sound of Music” was on. This was a rare privilege, bestowed on only the most special occasions.

Upon it’s initial release the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic received a multitude of awards including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Music Score and Best Director for the flawless direction of the versatile and highly honored Robert Wise, who also directed Best Picture winner “Westside Story” (Interestingly enough, Wise only agreed to direct after it had been abandoned by William Wyler if 20th Century-Fox agreed to finance his next picture, “The Sand Pebbles”).

Based on a real family and the events in their life, this audience favorite tells the story of Maria, who, after proving too high-spirited for the other nuns in her convent, is sent off to work as a governess for the unruly children in the Von Trapp family in 1930s Austria just before the outbreak of World War II. Julie Andrews (in only her third film) stars as the young and effervescent novice who charms her charges and wins the heart of their strict military father (played by the incredibly sexy Christopher Plummer who ironically is known to actually despise the film). Although the chemistry between the two is palpable, their blossoming romance is conducted on the highest of moral grounds, making it a love story any adult can enjoy while in the presence of children. Throw in some Nazis for some villainous adventure and some angelic nuns for comic relief and you’ve got a well constructed, perfectly written, wonderfully acted, and brilliantly executed film. Simply put,” The Sound of Music” has everything one could want in a movie. It’s the timeless classic every family should share.

For many film fans, this is the 70mm experience! And Director Robert Wise doesn’t waste a moment of 70mm magic from the very first shots across the Salzburg woods to the final camera sweeps over the Austrian Alps, from the energetic “Do, Re, Mi” montage sequence with Maria and the children scampering through picturesque scenery, to the Cathedral wedding scene with the bridal train that goes on and on and would never fit on 35mm. If you’re a fan of classic cinema, or just looking for a unique outing the whole family can enjoy, I recommend you take advantage of this rare opportunity to see a great film the way it was originally presented.

Rating: A+
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It Happened One Night

If you haven’t had the pleasure of previously seeing this exceptional example of the “screwball” comedy then I highly recommend that you take advantage of seeing it on the big screen. Actually, I envy you the unique opportunity of seeing a truly classic film for the first time the way it’s meant to be seen: in a darkened theater, with a bag of popcorn and a cuddly date.

“It Happened One Night” was the first film to win all five major Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. And for good reason. This exceptionally entertaining film stars Clark Gable as a pushy news-hungry reporter chasing runaway rich girl Claudette Colbert from Miami to New York. The story follows what is now the formulaic routine of a mismatched couple fighting and rubbing each other the wrong way as they make a road trip, eventually falling in love in between their snappy dialogue and bickering.

This film marked the beginning of Capra’s reign as the master craftsman of the light comedy, which in his hands would evolve into the comedy/drama with “Mr. Deed’s Goes to Town” and later, “Meet John Doe”. This comedy also cemented Clark Gable as the “King” of Hollywood, a title he would hold for the duration of his career. Gable’s popularity with women and men was such that, when he removed his shirt in the famous motel scene and showed that he was not wearing an undershirt (something every man wore at the time), there was an immediate and lasting negative impact upon undershirt sales. Handled by a lesser personality, this stock reporter would flounder as a two dimensional character. But it’s a testament to Gable’s off screen popularity and bigger than life personae that he is able to give “Peter” the cinematic weight needed to ensure this character an enduring place in film history.

Lovely Claudette Colbert is in her prime, creating the original mold for the obnoxious young woman who whines and complains, moaning about life’s little everyday inconveniences that we humble folk never think twice about. Colbert’s caustic and witty feminine foil precedes Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katherine Hepburn, all of whom would play similar rolls in later Capra films.

It’s been said that they just don’t make movies like this any more. And they really don’t, nor could they if they tried. So do yourself a favor, and don’t miss this great opportunity for a perfect “date movie”.

Rating: A
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Battleground

This Friday the 26th at 5 pm Pacific Standard Time, Turner Classic Movies kicks off a four day Memorial Day Weekend marathon with director William Wellman’s 1950 production of “BATTLEGROUND”.

“Battleground” is not your typical war movie with lots of shoot ‘em ups, explosions or dogfights. Set in December of 1941, this engrossing battle film focuses on a particular group of men just days before Christmas in Bastogne, Belgium where the 47th German Panzer Corps is advancing through the allied lines and our guys are meant to hold the line until reinforces can arrive. This truly ensemble cast has no discernable lead, but features such notable stars as Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban and James Whitmore among many other exceptional character actors.

Unlike many other war films, there are no major conflicts or historical moments depicted or reenacted. Instead, we are exposed to the life of our men in the field, the moment-to-moment events as they perform their every day tasks. As a group they have various skirmishes and encounters with the enemy and locals alike. Through the course of these events we learn that each man is going through some crisis emotionally, mentally or physically. The subtle power and depth of the performances is a testament to the fine ability of the actors to portray regular guys without being boring, and to remain interesting without resulting to melodrama. The true to life portrayal of our fighting men is due in large part to Wellman’s acclaimed ability as a director. He has a unique talent of eliciting detailed nuances from an actor that speak volumes in a moment. as to what the troops were going through, and what they suffered along the way.

Many of the men we get to know and care about ultimately die. Often these deaths happen suddenly and in confusion, placing us momentarily in their boots so to speak, as we understand what it is like to come to care for someone only to have them gone in a fleeting moment of violence. The impact of these moments has a quiet power that resonates and draws you in closer to the remaining men. At one point it seems inevitable that all of these men will perish, but true to most war films of its era the battle worn survivors are saved at the last moment by the much anticipated air support.

Battleground stands as a great representation of the life lead in the battlefield and the camaraderie that naturally develops to bind men to one another, to depend on each other and to care for each other. The film also reveals the hardships that are not readily tangible; the great losses one has to endure in the course of performing one’s duty and the personal price of survival. All in all, “Battleground” is an excellent choice to begin a well-deserved tribute to our fighting forces.

Through out the holiday weekend the TCM marathon will showcase a wide spectrum of war themed films representing a diverse cross section of the various conflicts fought by the US since the Civil War. Other not to be missed films include “Sergeant York” airing May 26th at 9:15pm, “From Here to Eternity” airing Saturday May 27th at 5pm and Sunday the 28th at 3 pm, and “Bridge on the River Kwai” also on Sunday the 29th at 11:15 am. “Destination Tokyo” concludes the marathon on Monday the 30th at 12:15 am.

Rating: A-
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