Cinema Toast

Say U.N.C.L.E.

Posted on
2015-07-09 19.28.29
Me with the waxed James Bond, Daniel Craig, at Madame Tussaud’s in Las Vegas.

I like spies. I like spy novels. I like spy movies. I grew up with James Bond, Jack Ryan, Mission: Impossible, The Saint, and Man from U.N.C.L.E.— not to mention all the TV shows, books and movies that follow individual spy stories, like the classic Our Man in Havana, featuring Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara (1959).

I love the conflict that is inherent in these good versus evil tales, because the spies themselves so often are conflicted in their own motivation. James Bond is cold and calculated one minute as he’s defending queen and country, and then warm and charming the next while wooing the curvy Russian assassin sent to end him. The Impossible Missions Force members all know that they will hung out to dry by their own countrymen if they are caught, yet they constantly do the right thing, whatever that may be. Simon Templar is a selfish thief that somehow finds the greater reward in helping good triumph over evil. And Illya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo (natural enemies) must join forces to save the world. The spies themselves are complex and interesting even without the stormy situations.

2015-08-01 11.33.50
My 1965 Man from UNCLE coloring book. (Okay, this wasn’t originally mine– I found it at a vintage booksellers’ booth.)

I happen to know (from my own secret sources) that the real lives of spies are usually not as exciting or adventurous as the movies depict. And though they may have some pretty cool tech at their disposal, they don’t have all the Q-Branch gadgets or a sporty car that converts into a helicopter or submarine at the touch of a button. But it’s fun to imagine, and that’s why spy movies, books, and television series always seem to be popular.

For true fans, the gadgets, cars, and signature quotes will always be en vogue. We will always treasure our Man from U.N.C.L.E. coloring books. And we will always stand in line to see the movies.

Cinema Toast

With Whom?

Posted on

Have you ever watched a movie, formed an opinion about it, watched it again—maybe several years later—and wondered, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe you hated it the second time. Maybe you loved it. Either way, you completely reversed your outlook on the picture. Why? Was it that you matured? Maybe your tastes have just changed.

Another possibility to consider: the person with whom you saw the movie. Did you see it with your sweetheart the first time? Did you watch with your best friend? Were you sitting with your parents (and totally embarrassed and weirded-out) that first time?

I believe that whom you share a movie experience with has a huge impact on your opinion of the film. Think about how you feel when you’re with someone you love. Think about spending a carefree night with a close friend. It seems that friends and loved ones make everything better. (Unless you’re stuck with your mom covering your eyes during a surprise love scene.) Having a friend with you sets the stage for your expectations.

Think about how it is to go through something exciting, thrilling, frightening, or beautiful with another person. It will either draw you closer or tear you apart. Though the story on the screen isn’t real, the feelings you experience can be. The way you feel about the person you share this event with can cast a shade over the whole thing.

AND, I will go on to suggest that how your relationship grows or changes over the years can affect the way you look back on the movie, as well.

The memories that I have from seeing Superman, Jaws 3D, Return of the Jedi, Midnight Madness, Mission Impossible, and The Right Stuff, are vastly different from the memories I have from seeing Christmas Story, Weird Science, or The Ghost and the Darkness. The latter bunch I saw with my husband, and the former I saw with family and friends. They each, in their own way, altered how I saw each film at the time, and how I feel about them now.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!


Cinema Toast

Watching and Watching Again

Posted on

Whenever a sequel, prequel, third or fourth installment of a movie series comes out, I get the urge to refresh my memory of the past episodes by watching them again. I know I’m not the only one with this desire, because cable channels fill up with movie marathons every time a new Bond film is released.

We recently purchased M:I 4, Ghost Protocol on Blu-ray, and then realized that we didn’t have the first three chapters on disc. We purchased a trilogy set as well, and introduced the franchise to our boys, who were too young to watch the first one in 1996. (We actually pulled up the Mission: Impossible TV pilot from the ‘60’s on Netflix first. It was terrific.)

We re-watched Mission: Impossible as a family, and I discovered that I had forgotten a great deal of the story. I saw a few things that I missed from watching it before, but I suppose that’s how it always is.

Next my husband and I had a quiet night at home, so we watched M:I 2. I laughed as I heard myself say, “Are you sure we’ve seen this movie?”

I know we saw it when it first debuted in 2000, but I couldn’t remember much at all. There was enough to recall the basic story, but the details were fuzzy. I was worried.

Last week we watched M:I 3 again, and I had that same blurry feeling. I watched from the edge of my seat. I had no idea what was going to happen next. In six short years my mind had erased 90% of the movie. How rude. How fantastic.

All four of these movies are fun. The whole concept is an adventure, with twists and turns and double-agents and car chases and explosions and everything. My heart pounds faster when I watch these types of movies. My adrenaline surges. My imagination soars. My brain’s recording device shuts down completely.

It’s frustrating for a little while. How could I have forgotten THAT scene? But then I let go of the worry and allowed myself to enjoy the movie as though I were watching for the first time. The thrill returned. I recommend it.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.


Cinema Toast

It Takes All Kinds

Posted on

Over the last few weeks, I have watched several movies from varying genres. I enjoy everything, well—almost everything.

I watched the silent film, Metropolis (1927), and found myself mesmerized by it. Though it has 25 minutes of footage that has lost its battle with time, the story still holds up. Watching the movie for the first time (I had seen excerpts before, but never the whole thing.) I discovered how the masterpiece had obviously influenced the entire movie industry. Some parts were comically Seussian, and others were dark and Orwellian. The film was certainly ahead of its time cinematically.

I revisited a few of my favorite comedies like Young Frankenstein (1974), Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971), and Duck Soup (1933). These silly features range from horror spoof to western to political satire. In Duck Soup, Harpo Marx takes the idea of running with scissors to the extreme.

I watched a few action flicks, too. I tried to watch Gamer (2009), but the whole thing sickened me and I turned the movie off after about eight minutes. I can count the number of movies that I’ve quit on one hand, so this is a big deal to me. This is NOT family friendly, and I don’t recommend it at all. Considering the cast, I was extremely disappointed.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Source Code (2011) much more than I expected. It included twists and turns and explosions, and just enough romance to keep your attention. It was a little bit like Groundhog Day meets Quantum Leap, but with a serious tone. I especially appreciated the nod to QL with Scott Bakula playing (voice) the main character’s father. It was smart and witty, and, even with the mind-bending twists; the audience empathizes very quickly with the leads.

We watched the 1965 version of Agatha Christie’s ‘Ten Little Indians.’ With a cast that included the manly Hugh O’Brien and the beautiful Shirley Eaton, we guessed right away that this interpretation would not stay accurate to the book’s ending, and we were right. Fabian and Wilfrid Hyde-White added their unique touches as well. It was still fun to watch, and the fashion was terrific!

We finished the parade of our private Spring Break film fest with the first installment of Mission: Impossible (1996). Our boys hadn’t seen the first three of the M: I series, and we wanted them to have a background before we watched Ghost Protocol. As we watched, I marveled at how much I had forgotten about the story. If you haven’t seen it in a while, watch it again. It honors the 1960’s TV series, and brings the technology into the present. The fact that in 1996 email was new and cell phones weren’t common made me wonder at the rapid advancement of technology. It’s fun.

I like watching different types of movies from different times. It pulls me away from my tendency toward mysteries and romantic comedies. It helps me notice and appreciate camera work and technical details in film. It encourages me understand the artistry and passion that goes into each film.

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.