Movie sequels can be perilous. It’s tough to match the magic of the original tour de force. I doubt whether movie reviews qualify as literary masterpieces.
Nonetheless, again I will share my thoughts, as I did last week, about six movies that have captivated my wife and me, and at other times simply interested us during our partial incarceration after the rude imposition of COVID-19.
One piece of insight into our diverse choices: we’ve often picked an actor/actress as our focal point and then reviewed his/her portfolio of work. As mentioned last week, we steer away from violence (it’s an age thing, I guess) and lean toward happy or redemptive endings (also age-related, I suspect).
Okay, enough with the chatter and onto reviews of six films:
The “Devil Wears Prada” showcases Meryl Streep’s immense talent, her well-acknowledged ability to inhabit any character, whoever that might. In this instance, she portrays a ruthless, driven and self-centered fashion magazine editor who treats her employees poorly and condescendingly. She’s easy to dislike. The movie, which also features Anne Hathaway, succeeds because Streep fills the screen with malice and mastery.
Who would ever think that a movie about a high-school music teacher and his deaf son would be an unforgettable film? Richard Dreyfuss in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” dedicates himself, reluctantly at first, to teach teenagers not only to play but appreciate music, while working decades to compose his own musical creation. He’s a better teacher than he is a father. His classroom also represents his artistic canvass. My wife and I loved this movie.
Robin Williams, known as a comic genius, won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Good Will Hunting, “a riveting psychological drama that brings out the best not only in the normally manic Williams but also Matt Damon. The fraught relationship between the Williams and Damon characters constitutes the major draw to this audience member. South Boston, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provide contrasting venues for this film.
On a more subdued scale but no less entertaining than the previous movie, “Shadowlands,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, tells the touching story of an unlikely romance between the famed author of Christian fables for children and Oxford University professor, C.S. Lewis, and an American writer and divorcee, Joy Grisham. It’s a wonderful drama that describes an increasingly warm relationship between a lifelong, emotionally detached bachelor and a brash, volatile woman. Did I say we really enjoyed this cinema?
“Monument Men,” directed by and starring George Clooney, is easy to overlook as a quality World War II movie, if it were not for the riveting and revolting tale it tells about the Nazi’s theft of millions and millions of dollars’ worth of world-class art—and the incredible effort by a select group of American soldiers (and art historians) to retrieve the artistic treasures. Performances not only by Clooney but Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Kate Blanchett add to the allure of this underrated movie.
Finally, I can’t stop enjoying “Steel Magnolias,” starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis and the incomparable Shirley MacLaine. Combining pathos, humor, sisterhood, strong-mindedness and small-town Southern charm, this movie grabs your heart and never lets go. The men in this film are mere props to the powerful women.
Our isolation continues. Our need for organic entertainment is now nearing six months. I’m not complaining, just explaining my fascination with fantasy.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.