You Oughta Be In Pictures

17 comments

My mother was a movie buff who loved telling me the plots of her favorite films as though they were a children’s story. She instilled a love of movies in me, and I adored watching the great movies she recommended to me. I’m going to share some of them with you!

Now, Voyager (1942): Bette Davis, transformed from ugly and plain to gorgeous and alluring by engaging in psychotherapy! Definitely ahead of its time.

Dark Victory (1939): Bette Davis again, this time with an inoperable brain tumor, going blind. Ronald Reagan was in this movie.

Kings Row (1942): Not only was Ronald Reagan one of the stars of this movie, but there was a female character named Randy, and that inspired Mom to give that name to her daughter (changed to Randi). So I have numerous reasons to dislike Ronald Reagan, and this is only one of them. In this movie, he loses his legs in a terrible accident and exclaims, “Randy, Randy, where’s the rest of me?” Not quite as famous as “Win one for the Gipper,” but a great line anyway.

Imitation of Life (1959): Two women, one black and one white, and their daughters through the years. The daughter of the black woman pretends to be white as she grows up and spurns her mother in a heart-wrenching way. Perfect movie if you need a good cry.

An Affair to Remember (1957): Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as star-crossed lovers who have a series of misunderstandings that really mess up their lives, but of course, there is a happy ending.

This is just a small sampling of my mother’s recommendations. She also made up a phrase to signify that something dire was about to happen in a movie. Whenever the camera would focus on the wheel of a stagecoach in a Western, that meant the wheel was about to fall off and disaster was imminent. So based on that, she would always say, “Uh oh, wagon wheel!” whenever any obvious plot twist was telegraphed by the director’s tight close-up on ANYTHING. I still say it to this day.

She taught me to love all the big musicals: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, West Side Story, and my all-time favorite, The Wizard of Oz. Mom liked movies with beautiful people in them, plus a lot of drama and then ultimately a happy ending. She didn’t like gritty realistic movies about unpleasant miserable lives. She hated Midnight Cowboy – she felt she knew enough about the seamy side of life from her childhood, so why would she pay good money to revisit those people in those neighborhoods?

Most importantly, she taught me that the key to a good movie was a great story. No matter who the actors were, the story had to grab you. It couldn’t be too predictable, or too improbable. It was good to have a bad guy so you could root for the good guy. Well-intentioned, kind people overcoming adversity was one of her favorite themes.

The best movies for me are the ones that, when you are surfing around the cable TV dial, COMPEL YOU to stop and watch, no matter where in the movie you land. They are that mesmerizing! Some examples are The Green Mile, A League of Their Own, Cast Away, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, That Thing You Do, Big…are you noticing a theme here? Yep, any Tom Hanks movie is pretty much a guaranteed winner in my book. Denzel Washington is another favorite of mine. You can never go wrong with any Christopher Guest movie, especially Best in Show.

E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind stop me in my tracks whenever they are on TV, as does almost any Coen Brothers movie, with the exception of No Country for Old Men, which I hated. But Fargo, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink and Oh Brother Where Art Thou are just perfect. Anything with John Goodman in it makes me smile. Flight had Denzel AND John Goodman – what a great movie that was.

I can get into silly movies if they have a certain underlying sweetness to them. Believe it or not, I became a huge Adam Sandler fan because of The Water Boy, which was very poignant and touching, reminding me of the Jerry Lewis movies of my youth, which always made me cry (I know, who cries at a comedy? But Jerry was a master at manipulating my emotions). I also loved Adam’s Fifty First Dates. I recently watched The Campaign and The Five Year Engagement, both very silly and pretty raunchy, but really good. Recently, some other CTWorkingMoms and I were roaring with laughter while remembering scenes from So I Married an Axe Murderer, which is a completely goofy movie but hilarious.  OMG, don’t forget Bridesmaids! And Mother! I could keep going for hours and hours.  I apologize to all the movies I have left out.  I still love you.

So thanks, Mom, for passing on the love of the cinema, and for telling me all those Hollywood plotlines that I never forgot. I am lucky to continue to share this love of movies with my children and my husband (who can identify movies without seeing them or hearing dialogue, just by hearing their soundtracks!).

Please join in and share some of your favorite movies!

17 comments on “You Oughta Be In Pictures”

  1. I have bookmarked this so I can remember to add these all to my Netflix queue! Thanks Randi (and your Mom)!

    1. You are welcome and I hope you like them. Come back and tell us what you think. My sister and I have a rule that if she likes a movie, I am sure to hate it (with some exceptions), so I can’t guarantee you will love the movies I love, but it’s worth a try.

  2. Secret (or not so secret) crush on Tom Hanks? All GREAT movies.

    I sadly haven’t seen a movie in AGES. I make myself feel better by saying that I have many years to watch movies when my kids are out with their friends prior to curfew and I am sitting up at home worrying about them.

    Have you seen all of those classic movies you listed? They sounds SO wonderful!

    1. Vivian, LOL about your future movie-watching plans! I am waaaaay older than most of the other CTWMs, with grown-up kids, so yes, I have seen lots of classic movies while sitting at home worrying about my kids when they had a curfew. A two-hour baby naptime was a good opportunity, too.

      After my first son was born, I turned into a magazine reader instead of a book reader, because 1) the articles were short, 2) no plot to remember if I was interrupted, 3) able to turn pages with one hand while nursing with the other! 32 years later, I read way more mags than books, to my great regret. The things we do for our kids!

      I don’t have a crush on Tom Hanks — I just loooove him, kind of like a brother or close friend. By the way, he is the most trusted man in America, according to a recent poll, so I guess a lot of other people feel the same. Denzel, on the other hand — NOT like a brother. And my latest crush is Bradley Cooper, who loves his mom and is pure confection for the eyes.

  3. I felt inspired to watch more movies after writing this. I was lamenting to the husband that we don’t have any favorite weekly TV shows (except for my love affair with “Call the Midwife” on PBS). We came to the conclusion that we’d rather watch a movie every night than some insipid reality show or sitcom. Watching “Crossfire” right now — Robert Mitchum, Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Gloria Grahame (Ado Annie and Violet Bick!).

    I haven’t seen either The Heiress OR The Women, but they are on my list now! Thanks!

  4. Great post and as a classic film buff, it is fabulous to read. Now for some Bette Davis movies and otehr classics. What about The Heiress???? The Women?

  5. What a great post. I love movies and I have quite a few that stop me in my tracks when I am channel surfing. Some of the great classics that I love are “Singing in the Rain”, “My Fair Lady”, “Gigi”, “White Christmas”, and “Gone with the Wind”. Every Christmas I have to watch “White Christmas” and every Passover I have to watch “The Ten Commandments”.

    Not to spoil any future movies for you, but water represents change. Any time you see water (Rain, ocean, bath tub of water, etc…) in a movie, something is about to change. It might be in the plot or the main character might change their point of view.

    1. Wow — that is great to know about water & change! I will have to start looking for that. Not a spoiler at all, but an enhancer. I took film history courses in college and learned about all kinds of serious symbolism, but my really favorite thing to do is spot actors with teeny roles who then go on to have huge careers, or actors who are unrecognizable in a particular role (The terrifying Jame Gumb from “Silence of the Lambs” = Ted Levine, who was Captain Stottlemeyer on “Monk”!). That is much more fun, even though not as intellectual.

      By the way, if anyone is a “Silence of the Lambs” fan, there is a musical version on Broadway currently. I saw it when it was off-Broadway, and I have never laughed so hard in my life. I KNOW! One of the scariest movies ever! But very, very cleverly done as a musical.

      1. I forgot to say I love your holiday movie traditions! Before the availability of video magic, everything in my family life was put on hold when “The Wizard of Oz” came on once a year, and of course, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” at Christmastime. The rarity made the experience very special.

  6. Oh I loved this. I can just picture your mom shouting “uh, oh, wagon wheel!”. And I too love everything Coen Bros. EXCEPT No country for Old Men. Barton Fink, so overlooked as an incredible movie. What’s in the bowling bag?! I could name movies all day long.

    1. Really, what was with “No Country for Old Men”? It was gratuitously violent and upsetting (much more so than Steve Buscemi in the woodchipper in “Fargo,” which had a certain humor to it). Of all things for which to win the Oscar, when there were so many other great Coen-y choices over the years. It’s like Paul Newman getting the Oscar for “The Color of Money” — what? Not for “The Verdict”? Or “The Sting”? Travesty! You can see I take this way too seriously.

  7. Randi, what an awesome-super-fun post! Yup, Close Encounters, Bridesmaids, League of Their Own (among others) stop me every time. And I’m with your Mom ~ if it doesn’t have a happy ending, it ain’t worth watching!

    1. Roger Ebert of blessed memory said that a truly great movie is one in which you see something new/different every time you watch it. I thought that was brilliant, and it’s absolutely true for all those surfing-stoppers! I could watch any of them 100 times and never be bored.

      Happy endings stay with me for days and are completely uplifting. I really have a problem with violence in movies and spend a lot of time with my shirt over my face when I watch them. “I Am Legend” haunts me to this day. Also the quicksand scene in “Lawrence of Arabia,” which, while not strictly violent, was just terrifying.

  8. A League of Their Own—LOVE IT! I also adore Forrest Gump! I remember going to the movies in middle school to watch Forrest Gump when it first came out and crying at the end…I was so embarassed that a boy I liked would see me crying! Now I openly weep in public without issue! Great post.

    1. Crying at movies is my hobby. That’s what makes a movie REALLY good. “One-Eyed Jacks,” a movie that is otherwise not too special, had a scene in which Marlon Brando was whipped and beaten by evil Karl Malden, I had a big thing for Marlon at the time I watched this on TV, and sobbed for hours because of this terrible treatment of him. It gets my personal top rating: 5 Kleenex!

      My husband is also a cryer (crier?) — even from commercials. I always say, “Oh look, your eyeballs are sweating!” to help him save face and retain his macho image (haha, he is just a big old teddy bear, not macho in the least).

  9. Randi, you and your mother are women after my own heart! I haven’t seen many of those older ones but I love the synopses. And don’t get me started on “So I Married an Axe Murderer” again, I said those lines all day!

    1. Thanks, Jen! Check out the Turner Classic Movies channel and you will find some of these oldies, from when the world was still black and white, and overacting was the gold standard.

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