5. My Bodyguard (1980); directed by Tony Bill; coming of age drama. A portrayal of boyhood and friendship that manages to be realistic and poignant without wading into sexual pranks and gross-outs.
Normally sardonic character actor Martin Mull interacts effortlessly with the two unknown leads, Adam Baldwin and Chris Makepeace, both outcast, in a spin off the Of Mice and Men dynamic. Matt Dillon exudes the thuggish sensuality that made him an object of desire to women my age. Like with Rocky, we cheer for what we want without shame–or the intrusion of irony. Refreshing.
4. The Incredible Journey (1963); directed by Fletcher Markle; Walt Disney Productions; live action, family drama. A beautifully photographed natural drama about a Bull Terrier, a Golden Lab and a Siamese cat who become separated from their family and embark on a 250 mile trek back home. Along the way, they encounter an angry mother bear, a raging river and a hungry lynx all the while battling cold and hunger with the help of kindly strangers. Rex Allen–the Arizona Cowboy–masterfully narrates.
3. That Darn Cat (1965); directed by Robert Stevenson; Walt Disney Productions; family friendly thriller. Cute flick about a sleek and indifferent Siamese cat (a.k.a., D.C.) that belongs to two sisters–one a teenager, Pattie (Haley Mills) and one a young adult, Inkie. (No, I’m not kidding. It’s Inkie, played by Dorthy Provine.) To all intents and purposes, D.C. belongs to the whole upper middle class, artisan white bread, neighborhood. Everybody either feeds him or admires him.
Sooooo…D.C. starts hanging out with a couple of bank robbers and their bank teller hostage. (Yeah, they’re hiding in plain sight in Leave it to Beaver land, which is, actually, pretty darn smart.) The hostage exchanges D.C.’s collar with her wrist watch, but not before she scratches “HELP” into the back of it. Pattie discovers it and becomes convinced that the watch belongs to the kidnapping victim that’s all over the news. And guess what? Nobody takes her seriously. And you know what else? Somehow director Robert Stevenson pulls it all off. Saccharine, but good. Kind of like an occasional Nu Grape soda.
2. Pollyanna (1960); directed by David Swift: Walt Disney Productions; family drama. Wholesome production about an eternally optimistic, orphaned daughter of missionaries (Haley Mills) whose wealthy namesake aunt, takes her in out of duty instead of love. Pollyanna makes the best of her situation, befriending the townspeople including, even, the notoriously mean Mrs. Snow.
Everyday, Pollyanna, passes lavish empty bedroom suites as she trudges up and down servants steps to and from her attic living quarters, more befitting the servants. Being a precocious, adventurous child, she climbs a magnificent oak tree as a short cut to her room. One day she falls and critically injures her spine. For the first time her sunny disposition is threatened just as her emotionally distant aunt realizes what a…well, you know…she’s been. A life affirming film and suitable bookend to Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful World.
1. La La Land (2016); directed by Damien Chazelle; musical. Pure joy. A treasure. A marvel in cinematography and score, Chazelle’s brilliant, exuberant film has an opening dance scene that ranks with Gene Kelley’s athletic frolicking in Singing in the Rain and Liza Minnelli’s no hold’s barred revue, Liza With a Z. Ryan Gosling is predictably charming and earnest and sexy. So much so that we can forgive his middling dancing. But it’s Emma Stone’s show. She’s fantastic…And then there’s the love story…And the jazz. Choreographer Mandy Moore gets the slow clap.