Movies and more movies

Since I have emerged from quarantine and am more than fine post-COVID infection, I wanted to share that I have been watching a number of movies. A large number. While the vaccines and booster kept the COVID wolves at bay, I still wanted to keep in “my hole” as I called it, until time passed and my wife and other son got their boosters.

So, between reading, puzzles and exercise, I watched a lot of movies. Here are a few that I found of interest. I will tell you some of these got low scores on Rotten Tomatoes, but were still a nice investment of time. I only turned away from a couple that I will not mention. If I watched again with my wife, I will note her reaction as well.

Since the number is large, I will just mention the movies with a brief blurb. In no particular order:

  • Queen of the Morning Calm (2019) – I had to watch this one because of the cool title. Tina Jung stars as a sex worker with a nine-year old daughter trying to make a better life for her family, in spite of an unreliable boyfriend. I did not recognize any of the cast, but my wife and I both enjoyed it.
  • The Last Right (2019) – Starring Michiel Huisman, Niamh Algar and Samuel Bottomley, the movie is about three people on a quest to take a man’s deceased body across Ireland to be buried with his brother who had died the week before. The interaction between the three and the underlying context makes this an enjoyable film we both liked. “Right” is spelled that way for a reason – doing something right.
  • Feast of Love (2007) – Starring a large cast with Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Jane Alexander, Rahda Mitchell, Billy Burke, Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway et al, this movie takes us through a range of emotions of love gained and lost. If watching with minors, beware of some surprising erotic scenes for such a known cast. Yet, the movie is good and we both enjoyed it.
  • Reindeer Games (2000) – Starring Ben Afleck, Charlize Theron, and Gary Sinise, the movie is about a group of truckers taking advantage of a released prisoner who had become a romantic pen pal with Theron’s character. The goal was to use his knowledge to rob a casino on Christmas Eve. It had a little more violence than my wife liked, but the story was interesting.
  • Downeast (2021) – Starring Greg Finley and Dylan Silver with a largely unknown cast, the story takes place in a harbor town on the coast of Maine. Finley and Silver are former lovers and she has returned to town to find out what happened to her deceased brother, Finley’s friend. The story is good, but the violence is prevalent, so my wife would only watch this one as we have relatives up there.
  • Defining Moments (2021) – this is a less acclaimed movie, but is still charming as Burt Reynolds leads an ensemble cast in his final movie. It also stars Sienna Guillory, Tammy Blanchard, Eric Peterson (who steals the film), Shawn Roberts, Kelly Van der Burg, Polly Shannon, Lara Jean Chorastecki, Christian McKenna, Graham Greene, et al. Reynolds’ character is dying which is why the added poignancy, but the movie involves the others’ stories as much as Reynolds’ character. Have some tissue handy.
  • The Station Agent (2003) – if you are in for quirky and poignant, this movie is for you. Peter Dinklage stars in this well before “Game of Thrones,” as a man who inherited a vacant train station manager’s house from his friend. It also stars Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Michelle Williams. The movie is about an unexpected friendship between Dinklage, Clarkson and Cannavale after Dinklage moves in. Dinklage does an excellent job at revealing why a person of small stature is untrusting of people and the difficulty for sincere friends trying to break through that protective shell. Cannavale’s character offers this genuine innocence as he will not stop trying to be Dinklage’s friend. We both liked it, but thought it was a little bizarre.

I was planning on including “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show,” but mentioned them last week after Peter Bogdanovich’s death. Both of these movies received acclaim and are worth the watch. Another couple of more violent movies that are good are “Safe House” with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds and “Crisis” with Armie Hammer, Gary Odman, Evangeline Lilly and Greg Kinnear.

Tell me if you have seen these or about any other movies that caught your fancy.

Peter Bogdanovich in three movies (may he RIP)

The acclaimed movie director Peter Bogdanovich passed away yesterday at the age of 82. He directed several excellent films, but let me highlight three to give people a look into his work. Ironically, I watched two of his older films, “Paper Moon” and “The Last Picture Show” in the last few days, so I wonder if someone new the end was near and aired them..

Yet, the one I like the most he made in 1985 with Cher as a caring but tough mother in “Mask.” “Mask” starred Eric Stolz as a young teen whose facial bones grew in a distorted manner causing acute, tremendous pain and leaving him with a mask-like look. His mother would help him meditate through the pain to avoid giving him debilitating pain medicine. In my view, this movie was Cher’s best work, even better than in “Moonstruck,” where she won an Oscar.

The first scene in which you realize she is comforting her in-pain son is extremely poignant. Sam Elliot stars as Cher’s biker boyfriend. In spite of the pain and scary countenance, the teen was very smart and congenial, making fun of himself before others would. And, unless you saw the credits, you would never know the lead is played by Stolz, who is excellent, as well.

“The Last Picture Show” usually gets the most fanfare. Based on Larry McMurtry’s book and his co-written screen play with Bogdanovich, it is a black and white movie about small town life in Anarene, Texas in 1953. Cybil Shephard (in her first role), Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Sam Bottoms and Randy Quaid are the high schoolers featured, but a great cast of adults play key roles with Cloris Leachman (who won an Oscar for Supporting Actress), Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager.

Teen and adult angst are the key themes portrayed showing people will look for love even when they appear to have someone who fills the role. Interestingly, the only overtly protagonist is the silent role played by Sam Bottoms and maybe the sage like role of Ben Johnson, with all of the other characters being various shades of gray revealing our imperfections. Yet, you do feel for many of them at times, even though they do things you may not care for. Leachman’s Oscar is very deserving as she plays a dramatic role very different from her comedic future ones.

“Paper Moon” is another black and white film about a depression era con man played by Ryan O’Neal who travels Kansas and Missouri with his daughter. His actual daughter, Tatum O’Neal steals the show in the role and wins a deserved Oscar for her first performance. Madeline Kahn also plays a key role as the father’s new girlfriend and threat to the welfare of the younger O’Neal.

The lessons of making money through cons are passed down to the daughter, who he is traveling with to take her to stay with her aunt after her mother passes. She turns out to be an even savvier business-person than her father, knowing when to push on the accelerator or hit the brakes. She could also give an up-to-date accounting of the money her father owed her.

I wonder if the adult actor realized he was the straight man for this rising star. He does a great job in the role, but your eyes are on her facial expressions most of the time, as she is frustrated and bewildered by her father. Bogdanovich would later team with Ryan O’Neal in “What’s up Doc? with Barbra Streisand.

All three are excellent movies. “The Last Picture Show” though had an extra hurdle to overcome when it was given an X rating. It included a skinny dipping scene where some full frontal nudity is visible for a few females. To me, the scene was unneeded the way it was shot and much could have been accomplished with more subtlety. I forewarn you in case there are younger eyes in the room. Nonetheless, the story is good and worth the effort, as are the other two.

Monday morning you sure look “fine” – December 6, 2021

Since I believe I have used this title before, I will date this post. Fleetwood Mac fans will recognize the title as a lyric sung by Lindsey Buckingham in “Monday Morning.” The word “fine” has different meanings that fall in and out of favor. It also takes on different meanings with the tone of your voice.

It can mean things are going OK and don’t ask any more questions with a rebuttal tone. Or, it can mean a certain action is OK with you when askef permission. With a more welcoming response, fine can mean things are better than OK, actually pretty good or even good. And, it can be used as a noun to mean a penalty one must pay for a transgression.

My favorite meaning is from older times. Using a line from the Liam Neeson movie “Rob Roy,” about an honorable and heroic Scot, he would tell his wife, played by the lovely Jessica Lange, “You are fine to me.” In this case, he is telling her how beautiful she is to him. So, we have gone from OK to good to punitive to beautiful with one word.

It also finds itself in humor. I will avoid using a very funny, but very risque line from Richard Pryor in his bit the “Wino and the Junkie.” This is far from a PG line, so if you embark to hear it, you have been forewarned. Yet, it does address a couple of the definitions above in one sentence. One of my favorite cleaner lines about being “fine” comes from an unknown comic; “She is so fine the fine folks call her fine.”

After having my COVID booster shot on Friday, I am now fine after a sluggish Saturday. I may not look fine in the eyes of the fine folks, but I do feel fine and hopefully will avoid any fines in the future. Since it is the holiday season and we are eager to see friends and familly, let me quote two lines from the song “Fine fine day” by Tony Carey:

“It’s a fine, fine day for a reunion
It’s a fine, fine day for comin’ home”

Things are so fine, it has to be said twice. Have a fine, fine day.

Sports movies that echo real life lessons (a reprise)

Last month, I highlighted a sports movie that made even men cry called “Brian’s Song.”  The movie was about friendship between men of different backgrounds who were competing for the same job on a football team. So, the movie inspired me to note a few other sports movies, that echo longer, due to the story and/ or circumstances. There are many sports movies that can easily be forgotten, so those that are not have a reason for lasting in our memories.

To me, the most profound sports movie is called “Invictus” which chronicles the greatness of Nelson Mandela using the example of the national rugby team. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in the movie directed by Clint Eastwood. Mandela would not let the Springbok team favored by white South Africans lose its support and galvanized a whole country behind it as it hosted and won the world championship. The team was a metaphor for inclusion and showed why Mandela was able to bring a fractured country together. Mohammed Morsi should have taken notes when he took over Egypt and he may still have a job.

“42” about Jackie Robinson becoming the first African-American major league baseball player is of the same ilk. The story is far more than about baseball, as Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) and Dodger owner Branch Rickey (played by Harrison Ford), showed a huge amount of courage to break the color barrier years before the Civil Rights Act. Both received death threats, but Robinson had to face so many obstacles, hatred and abuse by racists, fans, players and even teammates and do so, without responding with anger. Many people would not be up to this challenge and, at some point, would have reacted. By example, he helped pave the way for others.

A movie some might be surprised is on this short list is “Bull Durham.” The reason I picked this one is it captures the camaraderie of teams quite well and shows the not so glamorous side of baseball in the minor leagues. But, the movie is about an old player and unique woman mentoring a young talented pitcher with a “million dollar arm and a five cents head.” Kevin Costner plays the veteran catcher, while Susan Sarandon plays a unique and astute baseball fan. Ironically, Tim Robbins, who becomes her husband in real life, plays Nuke Laloosh, the pitcher who needs seasoning. It also provides advice for that would resonate in the non-baseball world.  Here a few:

– Strikeouts are fascist. Throw more ground balls, they are more democratic.

– Don’t mess with a streak. If you think you are on a streak because of….then you are.

– I am not interested in anyone who is interested in that boy.

– Don’t think, just throw.

But, one you may not have seen is a worth the watch – “Bang the Drum Slowly” which is similar to “Brian’s Song,” but about baseball. It stars Michael Moriarty as a pitcher who will not play unless his catcher played by Robert De Niro can play. The catcher has cancer, so this will be his final season, a secret only Moriarty knows.

There are several others that could have been highlighted. “Hoosiers” with Gene Hackman as the imperfect coach of a high school Indiana basketball team that beats all odds to win, is excellent. “Field of Dreams” is also excellent where Costner creates a baseball diamond in his corn field and has the best game of catch at the end. “Seabiscuit” and “Phar Lap” are two movies about race horses and people who should not win, but do while overcoming great adversity. The latter is an Australian movie and is worth the watch. “The Greatest Game Ever Played” about a teenage golfer, Francis Ouimet, who beat three of the best golfers in the world is a little cheesy, but excellent. “The Lou Gehrig Story” is cheesy at times, but with Gary Cooper playing Gehrig, it is worth it. And, even “Rocky” is a classic, although they should have stopped at one.

Let me know your favorites. I know I have left off some good ones,but would love to hear your thoughts.

Dune – a remake that surpasses the original movie

“Dune” is a very good, complex movie about Frank Herbert’s complex novel. Yet, unlike the OK first movie, the remake did not take it on as one movie. So, there will be a sequel forthcoming.

Dune is a science fiction story around the politics and power of controlling production of a spice that aids in the navigation through the universe. The spice is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, where only the resilient can survive, primarily a vast tribe of people called the Fremen who value water and survival of the fittest.

The patriarch (the Duke Leto) of the Atreides family has been asked to oversee production on Arrakis by the emperor, but he is being set-up for failure. The story is more around his son Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica who both have a capability that makes them each a powerful force. Paul is played by Timothee Challamet, Lady Jessica by Rebecca Ferguson, and the Duke by Oscar Isaac. Zendaya plays Chani who Paul dreams of and finally meets on the planet. 

Dune has a great ensemble cast to support the primary characters. Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard, Jason Mamoa, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Babs Olusanmokun, et al, all add value to their roles. Skarsgard is quite good as major antagonist Baron Harkonnen, who used to oversee the spice production. Bardem and Zendaya will feature more in the sequel as Paul and the Lady Jessica have shown their worth to the Fremen toward the end of the movie.

The screenplay was written by the director Denis Villeneuve, Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth. They deserve a lot of credit for boiling the plot down from the book. While the movie includes violence, the underlying story of intrigue comes out. Plus, there is an allegiance to the unrelenting desert life in the filming. For example, Lady Jessica appears without make-up throughout which would not serve her well in the sandy heat. The Fremen debate whether an infiltrator is worthy of being kept alive versus the water his or death would result in for their benefit. The mechanical transport and machinery must withstand the deterioration of the sand.

I will leave out more detailed plot description. The movie is quite good, even for those who are not huge science fiction fans. Yet, I don’t want to undersell the plot intrigue and otherworldly context. It helped me to have seen the first movie. One of my sons has read the novel, so he said this version is more closely resembling the book the earlier one. So, he and my other son join me in giving it a thumbs up.

Four more movies worth a look

I decided to mention a couple of movies that are more mainstream. Some of these, you may have seen. So, here goes. I will not spoil the endings, but must caution you on reading the comments.

A Perfect Man – released in 2013, it stars Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with a co-starring role for Louise Fletcher. I have always liked Tripplehorn, as she brings a vulnerability to the role of the wife of a womanizing husband played by Schreiber. She continued to give multiple chances to her husband until she finally leaves him. After over-hearing him talk to a perfect stranger on the phone as he canceled airline tickets for them, she decided to call him as a wrong number and fake persona to hear him flirt and open up with her. She learns why he is the way he is and that he does, in fact, love her. The movie is directed by Kees van Oostrin and is written by Larry Brand and Peter Elkoff.

The Good Heart – released in 2009, it stars Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Isild Le Besco. Cox is a cantankerous bar owner who has a bad heart, which is not a surprise given how he lives. He befriends Dano in the hospital who is his roommate after Dano tried to commit suicide. Dano is a kind soul who is in need of a helping hand, so Cox’s character brings him into the bar to help him. They learn from each other, but their relationship is tested when Le Besco, a woman who has no place to go, is invited to stay with them over the bar owner’s objections. Cox plays irascible characters quite well and Dano has this innocent countenance about him. The movie is written and directed by Dagur Kari.

Tully – released in 2018, it stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass. Theron plays a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression while nursing her third child with her husband played by Duplass. Theron has never hesitated to play roles of women who are struggling. Davis plays Tully who is hired to be a night time nanny, so the mother can get some sleep and recover. Davis tells her she is only there to help her get over this period. The two women bond as Theron sees a lot of who she used to be in Davis. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody.

The Sixth Sense – released in 1999, it stars Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. Osment and Collette were nominated for Oscars as was M. Night Shyamalan as director. and writer, and the movie itself. My wife was puzzled that I had not seen such an acclaimed movie. Willis plays a child psychologist who helps a tormented young boy who we know from many movie advertisements, “I see dead people.” Collette plays Osment mother and there is a reason she also gets an Oscar nomination. Olivia Williams plays Willis’ wife who we learn is suffering from depression. While the movie focuses on the boy and his doctor, the mother-son relationship is also key. And, Willis and his wife’s relationship is not unimportant as we see him struggle with his wife’s depression wanting him to do more to help her.

All four movies are good, but the latter two get more acclaim and rightfully so. Let me know what you think below. Also, I will repeat to those who have not seen the movies to be mindful of spoiler alerts below in the comments. Commenters, please edit your comments to not reveal too much of the plots. .

A few more movies worth a visit

We have seen a few more movies since I last gave an update. Some we rented from the local non-profit video store I have mentioned, others we saw on the television and one we just saw in the theater. Let me start with the more recent theater one and go back in time from there.

Dear Evan Hansen – This is a movie based on the highly successful musical play starring Ben Platt who played the first Evan Hansen on Broadway. The theme is complex and very sobering and the music is well done sung by a host of high school and parent singers. You will go through a range of emotions, so please bring some tissue. The story is advertised in the previews, so it won’t be telling too much to say Evan Hansen, a troubled teen, was asked by his therapist to write a letter to himself. Another troubled teen steals the letter from Evan and unfortunately commits suicide leading his parents to believe Evan was their son’s friend, when they thought he had none. The movie was directed by Stephen Chbosky and also stars Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Julianne Moore.

16 Blocks – This one is surprisingly good, but I wondered why I did not remember it coming out a few years back. In essence, Bruce Willis plays a disgruntled, weather-beaten cop who was set up to fail in delivering Mos Def’s character in protective custody sixteen blocks to testify against a rogue cop. The relationship between the two men evolves especially when Willis’ character decided to do something unusual – the right thing. It is directed by Richard Donner and also stars David Morse, Jenna Stern, David Zayas.

Local Color – This movie is also surprisingly good. It is a coming age of movie based on a true story about an artistic (and observant) eighteen year-old who wants to learn from a renowned, but reclusive artist who lives near by. The teen is played by Trevor Morgan with Armin Mueller-Stahl playing the curmudgeonly artist who is far more complex. Samantha Mathis plays a nearby friend of the artist who reminds him of his long ago deceased wife. She is getting over the loss of her son due to a car accident, so she is also in need of some healing. Key small roles are played by Ray Liotta as Trevor’s father, Ron Perlman as a self-professed art expert and Charles Durning as an early mentor. The movie is directed by George Gallo.

Conflict – an old black and white film is an excellent movie as well. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Sidney Greenstreet, but this time in reversed roles. Bogart plays the antagonist in this one, with Greenstreet an observant doctor. The movie is advertised as Bogart’s character killing his wife because he is in love with her sister, which happens early on. From there I will leave it to your imagination. I was wondering why I had not heard of this movie before and it may be due to Bogart playing the heavy. The movie was directed by Curtis Bernhardt and also stars Rose Hobart as the fated wife and Alexis Smith as her sister.

A couple of other movies that are also good are “Trucker” with Michelle Monaghan and Nathan Fillion about a mother who has to take care of her son while being a trucker, as his father is dying and “Phone Booth” starring Colin Ferrell, Forrest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes and Kiefer Sutherland which is about a sniper forcing a selected man to stay in a phone booth until he gets satisfaction with the man confessing his sins to his wife and mistress. I would also give high marks to “Biutiful” with Javier Bardem, but this one is in Spanish with subtitles and “3:10 to Yuma” with Christian Bale and Russel Crowe.

Let me know what you think. If you have seen them, please share your feedback. Are there others you have seen that are worth letting others know?

The Flowers of War – a movie that belies its criticism

I have written recently about the wonderful video store in my city that continues on as a non-profit with its 30,000 plus movies. Recently, a movie that caught my attention from previews is “The Flowers of War,” with Christian Bale, a Chinese actress named Ni Ni and a mostly Chinese and Japanese cast. The movie was written by Geling Yan and Heng Liu based on Geling’s fictional story the “Flowers of Nanjing,” which was based on the diary of a missionary named Minnie Vautrin during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War.

Per IMDb, “An American mortician, John Miller (Bale), arrives in Nanjing in order to bury the foreign head priest of a convent for Catholic girls, just after the city was bombed and invaded by the Japanese forces. A short time after his arrival at the convent, a group of flamboyant prostitutes from the local red-light district find their way to the compound looking for shelter, as foreigners and foreign institutions seem to be left alone by the marauding Japanese soldiers.

While the prostitutes hide out in the cellar, Miller struggles with and finally gives in to his feelings of responsibility to protect the teenage schoolgirls, and poses as the convent’s priest when the compound is repeatedly visited by Japanese soldiers looking for girls to rape. With the help of Chinese collaborator Mr. Meng (Kefan), who is the father of one of the girls, he starts to repair the convent’s truck in case there should be an opportunity to bring the girls out of Nanjing.”

The author and screenwriters pushed back on criticism the movie was anti-Japanese as that was not their intent. This may be a reason it did not get the foreign film accolades it otherwise deserved. The Japanese soldiers overran the city during a war and some of the soldiers took advantage of others. But, the movie is much more than that context. The movie offers a compelling story of disparate groups who learn their preconceived notions of one another can be melted away through mutual beneficial interaction. It offers a story of a western man who finds his better nature in the strangest of places. As I make these observations, I am doing my best not to give away the story.

The movie was directed by Zhang Yimou and also starred Tong Danei as a Chinese major who survived to help the convent early on and Atsuro Watabi as a Japanese colonel who loved music and apologized for the actions of some soldiers offering some temporary protections while he could. The story is narrated by Ling, one the girls in the convent played by Doudou Zhang. A young boy named George (played by Huang Tianyuan), who helped the priest and now Miller, plays the conscience of the movie.

The movie is in English for the interactions between Miller and George, the young students, and Yu Mo, the prostitute played by Ni Ni. Yu Mo had been a young school girl like these girls before she was raped and forced into being a prostitute. Her evolving relationship with Miller is a key part of the movie. The other parts of the movie are in Chinese and Japanese with good subtitles. The Japanese colonel also speaks English to Miller.

My wife and I enjoyed the movie. It is funny, of the four movies we rented, the ones with the highest critical ratings did not lend themselves to the highest enjoyment level.

RESPECT – a movie worth watching about Aretha

My wife and I saw the terrific biopic about Aretha Franklin called “RESPECT” yesterday starring Jennifer Hudson. Hudson does a highly commendable job as Franklin, but that is less a surprise given her credentials and that Franklin asked her to play the role before she passed.

The acting is excellent with Forest Whittaker playing her dominant father, Audra McDonald playing her mother, Marlon Wayans as a first love interest, and Skye as a young Aretha. The movie pulls few punches showing Franklin’s shortcomings (such as her bout with alcohol) as well as her many successes.

However, the music, its creation and its performance, is what got folks clapping in the theater. Seeing Hudson as Franklin work with musicians to create “I’ve never loved a man” or with her sisters to adapt Otis Redding’s “Respect” is worth the ticket by themselves. Seeing Hudson perform “Natural Woman” and “Amazing Grace” are quite eventful.

The movie is directed by Liesl Tommy off the screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson based on the story by Callie Khouri. I will not give any more of the plot away, but simply encourage you to go see it.

A few movies worth a nostalgic look (a revisit)

My wife and I rented few new releases and enjoyed them, but felt nostalgic about some older movies. “Gone Girl” was good, but the characters were not very redeeming. “Interstellar” was good for the relationship between father and daughter, but was on the bizarre side toward the end. Of the three, we did enjoy “Wild” the most with Reece Witherspoon hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself, but Laura Dern helps the movie greatly in flash backs as her mother.

I was thinking about some older movies that may be under the radar screen on searches for movies, but offer a sense of nostalgia as well as coming of age. So, in no particular order:

Breaking Away – made in 1979 and won an Oscar for best screenplay. Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley and Daniel Stern star in a movie about four kids who have graduated high school and are trying to find themselves in Bloomington, Indiana where Indiana University is located. Christopher is fascinated by all things Italian as he has become a world-class bicyclist and the Italian team is the best and coming to town. Paul Dooley, as the former stone cutter and now used car salesman, steals many a scene.

Summer of 42 – made in 1971 and won an Oscar for best music score. Jennifer O’Neill, who every boy falls in love with in the movie and audience, Gary Grimes, Jerry Houser star in the movie based on a summer on the Nantucket shore. The boys are coming of age during the onset of WWII and O’Neill’s husband has been deployed. The story is told from Grimes’ character’s perspective looking back at that summer as he discovers love and loss.

American Graffiti – made in 1973 by George Lucas and starring a huge cast of soon to be famous young actors – Richard Dreyfus, Ron Howard (was only known as Opie at that time), Cindy Williams, Paul Le Mat, Mackenzie Phillips, Harrison Ford, Charles Martin Smith, Bo Hopkins, Candy Clark and Wolfman Jack. It is nostalgic and mirror into a different time as Dreyfus and Howard’s characters are headed off to college the next day. The movie spawned the TV show “Happy Days” which eventually led to “Laverne and Shirley” as a spin-off.

Each of these movies are nostalgic in nature. Kids are coming of age and wondering what it is all about. “Breaking Away” is set in the 1970s, “Summer of 42” is obviously set during the 1940s and “American Graffiti” is at the brink of the 1960s. Kids have not changed in this outlook to discover what is it all about. Today’s kids are more technologically advanced and are seeing a world change at a fast pace, yet they have many of the same questions.

To me, I go back to “Breaking Away” and the father son chat at the end between Christopher and Dooley’s characters. Christopher and his fellow mates have always felt and been put down as “cutters” short for stone cutters. As they walked through IU’s campus, the father notes “we” carved these beautiful stones that made these buildings on campus, but once they were erected, we felt the buildings were too good for us. The son responds “I don’t mind being a cutter.” The Dad says, “You’re not a cutter. I am cutter.” He is telling his son, do not limit yourself by what I accomplished. Go find yourself.

And, that is the best advice for any of us. Go find yourself. That may be why we liked “Wild” the most of the three newer movies, as Witherspoon’s character was looking to find the woman her mother knew was always there.