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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Movies She Knows Now

One of the joys of this summer has been having the time to introduce my daughter to movies she's never heard of, while giving me more titles for my Movies You Might Not Know list.

The other day we watched the original "Taking Of Pelham One Two Three." Seeing the way Manhattan was portrayed in 1974 was a time-warp shock, and the scenes in Gracie Mansion were too cartoonish, but the movie's simple plot (a hijacked subway train?) worked because of the clever dialogue and solid acting. I'm sure Denzel Washington and John Travolta are good in the remake, but it would be hard for them to be better than Walter Matthau, Martin Balsam, and Robert Shaw (plus nice smaller performances by Jerry Stiller, Hector Elizondo, and Tony Roberts).

Yesterday, we watched Woody Allen's 1985 fantasy, "The Purple Rose of Cairo."

It stars Mia Farrow as a depression-era wife who finds the only escape from her lonely world and abusive loser husband in the local movie theater. One day, as she's sitting through that week's feature for the fifth time, one of the movie characters notices her from the screen and is so taken that he steps out of the movie and into the real world. She's shocked, but elated, to find herself swept off her feet by the adventurer and raconteur, and he's so giddy with the thought of exploring what real life is like that he refuses to return to the movie. Meanwhile, the other characters in the movie can't proceed with their plot, so they sit around talking and begging the theater owner not to turn off the projector.

Jeff Daniels plays both the wandering movie character (Tom Baxter) and the actor who plays him (Gil Shepherd) to perfection, and Allen manages several scenes with real-life and fictional characters interacting very smoothly, especially considering the technical limitations he worked under a quarter-century ago. Best of all are the Hollywood executives who fear that the Baxter character might walk off the screen in other cities, and who knows what they'd be responsible for then.

If only today's Hollywood executives were responsible for original ideas like this.