The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2021

Like I said in my list of the worst movies I saw in 2021, this year is a little different. Since 2018, most of the movies on my best list have been those I have reviewed. But a few titles on those lists weren’t covered on my blog. 2021 is the first year where every film on my best list has been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane! It should also be noted how each of these titles were either blogathon entries or Blog Follower Dedication Reviews. Therefore, I will include a link to each of these reviews on my list! As I said in my worst movies of 2021 list, I saw several films this year that I liked. This article is reflective of those feelings. But unlike my aforementioned list, there will be Honorable Mentions. So, with that said, let’s end 2021 on a high note with the top ten best movies I saw in 2021!

Honorable Mentions

Cape Fear (1962), Bathing Beauty, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part, Elizabeth Is Missing, and The Girl Who Spelled Freedom

<a href=”http://<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com</a>&quot; data-type=”URL” data-id=”<a href=”https://www.freepik.com/vectors/christmas”>Christmas vector created by BiZkettE1 – http://www.freepik.com2021 New Year image created by BiZkettE1 at freepik.com.

10. Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery

Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is a newer story that began last year. Despite how young this series is, it has grown over the course of four movies! This chapter not only recognizes its strengths, but also improves on some of the previous movies’ mistakes. Giving equal focus to the main and side mysteries is one example. Speaking of the mysteries, the overarching story was intriguing and engaging. There were even new characters added to this film I wanted to know more about. In Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff’s story didn’t receive a lot of development. With this and everything else said, I hope this series continues in 2022!

Take 3: Poisoned in Paradise: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Review + 360, 365, 370, and 375 Follower Thank You

9. A Star Is Born (1937)

In my three (soon to be four) years of movie blogging, I never thought I’d ever see any version of A Star Is Born. But now that I have seen the original from the ‘30s, I can honestly say it was better than I expected! The story’s honesty about the entertainment industry and maturity toward heavier subjects was such a surprise. What was also a surprise was the use of mixed-media throughout the film, as it was ahead of its time. Even though A Star Is Born was released toward the beginning of the Breen Code era, it highlights the quality storytelling that came from this period in time. With the constant changes in the entertainment landscape, as well as technology, I can kind of see why this story has been remade on more than one occasion.

Take 3: A Star Is Born (1937) Review

8. The King and I (1956)

In 2021, there is at least one movie from the ‘50s on my best and worst movies list. But since I already talked about I Dream of Jeanie and The Trap, it’s time for The King and I to shine! This was the first time I had seen this version of the story in its entirety. Despite that, I found the film to be quite enjoyable! It is a good looking and sounding film, with the costume design, musical numbers, and set design building an aesthetically pleasing picture. The most memorable part of the movie was Tuptim’s interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin! As I said in my review, it served as a good example of how everyone can view a text differently. The scene itself was more interesting than I expected.

Take 3: The King and I (1956) Review

7. Holly and Ivy

Because Hallmark creates so many Christmas movies, it can sometimes feel like they blend together. However, that is not the case for Holly and Ivy! What helps this title stand out is showing realistic characters dealing with realistic situations. This is quite different from those Hallmark pictures where the conflict either revolves around returning to a small town, saving a beloved establishment, or planning a major event. The emotional balance within this story added to my enjoyment of the picture. It never felt like the creative team was trying to emotionally manipulate me or force a reaction out of me. Looking back on the few Christmas films I reviewed this year, I can say with all honesty that Holly and Ivy was the best one!

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

6. Rigoletto

In my opinion, Rigoletto is to Beauty and the Beast what Ever After: A Cinderella Story was for Cinderella. What I mean by this is Rigoletto does an effective job at executing a non-magical version of Beauty and the Beast! Even though there have been musical versions of this particular story, such as the 1991 animated production from Disney, the 1993 film chose music as one of the story’s themes. This was an interesting choice, as it showed the audience the talent and skill it takes to be a good singer. Another interesting choice was the story taking place during The Great Depression. As I said in my review, this creative decision helped the film achieve its own identity.

Take 3: Rigoletto Review + 350 and 355 Follower Thank You

A Star Is Born (1937) poster created by Selznick International Pictures and United Artists

5. Sincerely, Yours, Truly

This is the first year an UP Network movie has appeared on any of my best lists! While Sincerely, Yours, Truly does contain a similar story to those found on Hallmark Channel, it makes up of that in genuineness and sincerity. The movie also presented interesting ideas, such as a grant proposal process and avoiding the “it’s not what you think” cliché. The on-screen chemistry and witty banter between the lead actor and actress definitely added to my enjoyment of this film! I don’t know what’s in store for UP Network in 2022. But I hope they continue to release quality productions like Sincerely, Yours, Truly!

Take 3: Sincerely, Yours, Truly Review + 295, 300, 305, 310, and 315 Follower Thank You

4. Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host

This entry in the Perry Mason movie series is one of the most memorable titles! One of the reasons why was the titular talk show host. Featuring real life talk show hosts in this story was a good idea. Having them portray talk show hosts on the radio was an even better idea, especially since some of those hosts had their own television show. That creative decision gave them new material to work with. The engaging nature of the mystery, where the outcome unfolds as the story goes on, maintained a steady amount of intrigue. This served as another way Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host stood out in the mystery genre!

Take 3: Perry Mason: The Case of the Telltale Talk Show Host Review + 290 Follower Thank You

3.  The Love Letter

Over the years, I have enjoyed finding and watching Hallmark Hall of Fame movies from years, even decades past. Sometimes, there are hidden gems that can be discovered. 1998’s The Love Letter is one of those gems! Unlike Chasing Leprechauns, the creative team behind the Hallmark Hall of Fame title found a way to allow the realistic and whimsical aspects of the story to co-exist. In fact, the whimsical part of the movie is what made the project one of the most unique in Hallmark Hall of Fame history! The film does contain the elements you’d usually find in a production of this nature, such as historical accuracy. But that just adds to the strength of The Love Letter!

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s The Love Letter Review

2. The Three Musketeers (1948)

Isn’t it interesting how another Gene Kelly movie made it to my best list’s top three? Despite the weird coincidence, I did enjoy this version of The Three Musketeers! There was so much about this project I liked, from the strength of the ensemble cast to the stellar fight choreography. However, the best part of the film was how much detail went into it. This can be seen in the set design and costumes, where research and care are also reflected. While I still haven’t gotten around to reading the novel this movie is based on, The Three Musketeers was definitely an entertaining story!

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

1. The Karate Kid (1984)

When it comes to the world of cinema, nothing beats the classics! The timelessness of 1984’s The Karate Kid allows the film to have a strong rate of re-watchability. The film’s story also contained ideas and messages that caused me to think, which is not something I’d expect from a sports movie. As I write this list, Mr. Miyagi’s words immediately come to mind. Whether it’s the famous “Wax on, Wax off” quote or his wisdom about karate, these words not only help The Karate Kid remain a memorable picture, but also give the audience something to apply to their lives. Add some exciting karate sequences and you have a solid film that has stood the test of time!

Take 3: The Karate Kid (1984) Review (Olympic Dreams Double Feature Part 1)

The Karate Kid (1984) poster created by Delphi II Productions, Jerry Weintraub Productions, and Columbia Pictures

Have fun in 2022!

Sally Silverscreen

In Defense of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

When I was invited by The Classic Movie Muse to join their It’s a Wonderful Life Blogathon, I had no idea what to write about. Because there are so many moving parts to this seventy-five-year-old film, it was kind of overwhelming to choose just one aspect. But then I remembered an editorial written by fellow blogger, J-Dub. On their blog, Dubsism, they have a series called ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’. The first entry was about It’s a Wonderful Life. In this editorial, J-Dub explains, without the sugar-coating, bells, or whistles, why they don’t like the Christmas classic. While I respect J-Dub’s opinion, I personally disagree with them. These differing viewpoints inspired me to write my editorial, where I defend It’s a Wonderful Life. Like I have said in previous editorials, my article is not meant to be mean-spirited or negative. It is only meant to express my opinion and present a different view to the subject of It’s a Wonderful Life. If you are interested in reading J-Dub’s article, you can visit their blog at dubsism.com.

It’s A Wonderful Life Blogathon: A 75th Anniversary Celebration banner created by The Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse

Debunking the “Lie” of It’s a Wonderful Life

Throughout the editorial, ‘Movies Everybody Loves That I Hate’: Episode 1 – “It’s A Wonderful Life”, J-Dub claims the film is a lie. They believe the film is not only filled with nihilism, but that Pottersville is wrongfully villainized. J-Dub also says the film tells the viewer they are among “jerks who will crush our dreams for no other reason so they can suck the life out of us”. This statement relates to J-Dub’s belief that everyone in George’s life is trying to hold him back. For this part of the editorial, I’m going to discuss three points. The first point is about Pottersville. While the glitzy sparkle of the “dream town” may give the appearance of a successful paradise, it’s what the city represents that is important.

When George first visits Pottersville, he is unfamiliar with his surroundings. Beloved locals have drastically changed, but so have its citizens. One of these citizens is Nick, a bartender who works at Martini’s Bar. In the “dream town”, Nick owns the bar. With this ownership comes a mean attitude. He not only treats George and Clarence horribly, he also embarrasses Mr. Gower. The pharmacist in this “dream town” is now an ostracized criminal who is known for poisoning a patient. This leads me to my second point. The idea of success is not a bad one. However, it has the ability to change people for the worse. Pottersville is also the complete opposite of Bedford Falls, with Bedford Falls representing familiarity. Why do so many movie studios and companies choose to revisit well known franchises and IPs? It’s because they can, sometimes, capitalize on a fandom’s familiarity with certain characters and stories. Familiarity can also be experienced during the Christmas/holiday season, as people may choose to gather with those they are familiar with or carry on familiar traditions. Therefore, Bedford Falls’ representation of familiarity debunks J-Dub’s claim of the film containing nihilism.

My third point involves the people in George’s life. Earlier in this part of my argument, I mentioned how J-Dub feels the characters surrounding George are holding him back. But when you pay attention to what these same characters are saying and doing, this is not the case. Let me bring up Mary as just one example. Ever since they were children, Mary knew George wanted to travel the world. That was the plan after they got married. But when the Bailey Building & Loan was in financial trouble due to the Great Depression, those plans quickly changed. After seeing George desperately trying to help his clients, it was Mary’s idea to use their honeymoon money to pay these clients. To make up for the financial sacrifice, Mary organizes a honeymoon dinner at the infamous Sycamore House. The living room in this house is decorated with posters of faraway lands. Music fills the room to help elaborate the immersion of travel. Throughout the scene, Bert and Ernie can be seen assisting Mary in her plan of giving George a thoughtful alternative. If she was truly a “millstone” around George’s neck, why would Mary bother helping George save the Building & Loan on more than one occasion? Why would she plan the honeymoon dinner on the same day as the aforementioned crisis? Heck, why would Mary take the time to pray for George at the beginning of the movie? Personally, I think Mary serves as George’s reminder of what really matters the most.

Because this blogathon is celebrating one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time, I thought sharing my cat ornament would make sense. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

George is the “Every Person”, Not a Criminal

A point J-Dub stresses in their editorial is how George Bailey is a criminal. This is because they see the protagonist as “a predatory lender” by “economically enslaving a large part of the town’s population by saddling them with debt they can never pay”. There are instances throughout the movie where Bailey’s Building & Loan is struggling to get by. Potter is explained the operations of “Bailey Park”, where the homes are lower in initial value. But these things are not done to cheat the system or live above the law. As the audience can see even from George’s younger years, the folks at Bailey’s Building & Loan simply care about people.

When the viewer is first introduced to George’s father, he is conducting a meeting with Potter. In this meeting, Potter claims the establishment’s payments are late. While this statement is true, Mr. Bailey tells Potter he is waiting payment from his clients, as he extended their deadline in order to prevent them from losing their homes. As George grows up and eventually takes over the Building & Loan, he chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps by putting the customer first. The purpose of “Bailey Park” was to provide their customers with the option of owning a house, instead of renting one through Potter. Even when Uncle Billy loses the $8,000 the Building & Loan needs to stay afloat, the situation is nothing more than an accident. Though Potter does threaten to have George arrested for the missing $8,000, he does this because he thinks his plan will help him finally achieve the Building & Loan, the same establishment he has always wanted to own. As George’s father said about Potter, “He hates anybody that has what he can’t have”.

George Bailey is one of the most beloved characters in not only the realm of Christmas movies, but within the world of cinema. Like I said in the title of my second argument, George is the “every person”, which makes him a memorable and likable character. Throughout the story of It’s a Wonderful Life, George experiences his ups and downs. He can become so frustrated, he destroys the architectural corner of his living room. But there are moments where he places others before himself, with George helping Violet start a new chapter in her life by giving her money as one example. Even though George’s life plays out differently from those in the audience, it does contain a sense of relatability. While working in the drug store one day, George is mistreated by Mr. Gower. The pharmacist physically hurts and yells at George for not delivering a bundle of pills. During this ordeal, George stands up to his employer, explaining how the pharmacist mistakenly placed poison in the pill capsules. This mistake was caused by Mr. Gower’s consuming grief, due to his son, Robert, dying of Influenza. Everyone has experienced a time in their life when bravery was needed. Because bravery can look different for each individual, the audience may see George’s decision as a huge step in his story. They may also see it as “something big, something important”.

Similar to what I said about my cat ornament, I thought posting my Christmas tree from last year would make sense for this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Standing Up for Clarence

Another aspect of disagreement between J-Dub and I is Clarence the Angel. J-Dub is not a fan of this character. They claim Clarence uses “predatory skills” to give George a false narrative by “misrepresenting reality in order to make an exceptionally nihilistic point”. Even as the film begins, the script makes it pretty clear Clarence really wants to earn his wings. But if you’ve been waiting over 200 years to get what you wanted, you’d make sure you did your job as best you could. Plus, with Clarence having the “heart of a child”, he wants to find the best in George’s character. While Clarence accepts his mission with awaiting wings in mind, he is not selfish. At the end of the film, Clarence gives George his copy of Tom Sawyer. Also, when George makes his ultimate wish of having never been born, Clarence gives George what he wants. But this granted wish is used as a teachable moment; showing how getting what you want doesn’t always mean getting it the way you want.

The “dream world” Clarence creates was never meant to be literal or mess up time. Instead, this exaggerated alternate universe was simply a visual example of a very important point. After being kicked out of Nick’s Bar in the “dream world”, Clarence tells George “Each man’s life touches so many other lives”. Even though this can be said about any other character in this film, George is the one who needed to hear it the most. At that point in the story, George is filled with fear, insecurities, and self-doubt. In fact, one of George’s reasons for considering suicide was Potter’s harsh claim that George is “worth more dead than alive”. If it’s anybody giving a false narrative, it’s Potter. With that said, Clarence tries to expose Potter’s lies throughout his mission.

Since Clarence is an angel, sharing this angel ornament was appropriate for this part of the editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

George Plays His Part

In their editorial, J-Dub claims George “runs into a gigantic example of “crab in the bucket” syndrome”. This connects to their previously stated belief that the people in George’s life are holding him back. Toward the beginning of the film, George told his father he wanted to do “something big, something important”. That’s why he had dreams of going to college to become an architect. George’s father reminds him how working at the Building & Loan is important, as they are helping people acquire a home. As the story plays out, George’s father is proven right. Another way Mr. Bailey is proven right is during World War II. Everyone in Bedford Falls does their part to help the war effort. One of George’s responsibilities is hosting various drives, such as a scrap metal drive. Even though this seems like a small role in the grand scheme of things, it is “something big, something important”. United States history will tell you every aspect of the war effort provided a huge help in winning World War II. This includes things like scrap metal drives, as the metal was used to create weapons and machinery for the U.S. troops. Having those materials available was not only “big”, but “important” as well. George’s role may not have been glamourous like Potter’s life or news worthy like Harry’s military achievements. But to everyone who was helped by George, his role made a tremendous difference.

Cute Christmas image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

In Conclusion

Though this editorial was submitted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of It’s a Wonderful Life, it was written to present a different opinion from that of a fellow blogger. J-Dub is not wrong for disliking this film and I’m not correct for defending it. What I’m emphasizing is how subjective film is. Both J-Dub and I approached the same movie. We each wrote an editorial, presenting the material in two differing ways. This provides more content for the reader and an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Maybe this is why It’s a Wonderful Life has been well-regarded for so long. Remember when I said how there are so many moving parts to this film? Well, I’m starting to realize that’s the beauty of it. No matter which aspect of the story you choose, there’s a conversation waiting to be spoken. With that said, I hope you check out J-Dub’s editorial. They put as much work into theirs as I did into mine. When it comes to blogathons, that’s what it’s really all about.

Have fun at the anniversary!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Review

Whenever I think of Dorian Gray as a character, Stuart Townsend’s portrayal in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind. While I’ve never seen that film, I did watch a video review of it years ago. However, I know that, sometimes, no singular portrayal of a given character is the “end all, be all” when it comes to story-telling. This is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The other reason is Peter Lawford’s involvement in the project. Once again, I am participating in the Peter Lawford Blogathon, hosted by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes. Last year, I wrote about 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven. At the time, I was not familiar with Peter’s filmography. Now that I have seen at least one of his movies, I had a starting point for which film to choose next! Before Dorian’s portrait transforms on us, let’s get this review started!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I haven’t seen many of Peter Lawford’s films. But based on 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seems like he can be found in movies with larger ensembles. When it comes to the 1945 title, I was disappointed by this, as I was hoping to see more of his performance. Nevertheless, Peter did do a good job with the material he was given! Portraying David Stone, a man interested in courting Gladys Hallward, he resembled the youth Dorian himself desperately sought after. Despite appearing in a handful of scenes, David’s concern of Gladys felt genuine. You can hear it in the inflection of Peter’s voice and the expressions on his face. In a way, these things made David seem like a “voice of reason”.

During the film’s opening credits, I was surprised to discover Angela Lansbury also starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But similar to Peter Lawford, she also appeared in a handful of scenes. Despite this, I enjoyed seeing her portrayal of Sibyl Vane! Within this film, she sang a song called “The Little Yellow Bird”. It was nice to hear a musical performance from Angela, as I feel her singing abilities are underrated. When it came to her acting performance, Angela carried her character with a youthfulness I haven’t noticed in her other roles I’ve seen. Her expressions were more subtle, but worked for her character. Another actor who had subtle expressions was Hurd Hatfield. I’m not familiar with his acting work. But based on his portrayal of the titular character, he carried himself with a sense of professionalism. Hurd did, however, have very expressive eyes. At one point during the story, Dorian makes a mistake. When he realizes what he did, his eyes grow wide with alarm. Meanwhile, Hurd still shows a composure that he partly gave to Dorian, which maintains consistency.

The lessons and morals: Since this film premiered in 1945, that means it had to follow the Breen Code guidelines. The Picture of Dorian Gray certainly obeys those guidelines, but it also serves up some good lessons and morals. Toward the beginning of the story, Lord Henry tells Dorian how lucky he is to be young and attractive. He also tells Dorian to not squander his youth. These pieces of conversation can be used as lessons to appreciate the things you have and to not take anything for granted. Certain events in Dorian’s life highlight these lessons well. Another idea that is addressed in this script is actions speaking louder than words. This can be seen throughout Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl. While I won’t spoil what happens, I will say something comes up that relates to the aforementioned idea.

The cinematography: A surprising element in The Picture of Dorian Gray was the cinematography. This is because of how creative and well filmed it was! My favorite use of cinematography was when Sibyl visits Dorian’s house. As Dorian is playing the piano, Sibyl enters his study. But before she walks through the doorway, you can only see Sibyl’s shadow. Even when she does appear in the doorway, Sibyl’s face isn’t shown until she reaches Dorian’s piano. That was a good way to building anticipation for Sibyl’s appearance. A filming technique that appeared in several moments of the film was framing a scene as if the camera was following a character or hiding from them. A great example is when Dorian was placing a letter in his fireplace. The camera is positioned inside the fireplace while he is burning the letter. It provides the illusion of the audience watching from the outside looking in.

The 2nd Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited use of Technicolor: In the movie’s opening credits, it was mentioned that Technicolor was used in the movie. This made me excited to see how Technicolor would be utilized in the story. While I wasn’t expecting as much Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, I was hoping it would be consistently featured throughout the film. Unfortunately, that is not the case for The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Technicolor was applied to Dorian’s painting. But it was only used three times during the whole movie. I think if Dorian’s painting had been consistently presented in Technicolor, it would have highlighted the importance of the painting within the story.

The painting is kind of an afterthought: For those who don’t know, a MacGuffin can be an object that progresses a story forward. In the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s painting is that story’s MacGuffin. However, its presence wasn’t as significant as I expected. In the script, the state of Dorian’s relationships is given more focus than the painting. In fact, the painting is sometimes not shown on-screen. This made the painting itself kind of seem like an afterthought.

Dorian’s confusing choices: There were times when Dorian made choices that left me confused. One of these choices took place during his relationship with Sibyl. Throughout that relationship, Dorian appears to truly love her. He even seriously considers marrying Sibyl. But, out of the blue, Dorian changes his mind. Even the build-up toward that moment was confusing, making it difficult to interpret what happened. I realize all of that connects with the lessons I mentioned earlier. However, Dorian’s sudden change in attitude and choices was, to me, confusing.

Paint palette image created by Freepik at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-artsy-tools_836777.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/hand”>Hand vector created by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

My overall impression:

There are movies that have fallen short of my expectations. Not all of these films have been bad. However, I was left desiring more from them. The Picture of Dorian Gray has now become one of those movies. Before watching this adaptation, I was familiar with the premise of this story. But that premise led me to believe the film would be more profound and thought-provoking than it was. The script did provide good lessons and morals. But I’m not left contemplating any deeper meaning on any particular theme. I was also disappointed by Peter Lawford’s limited appearance in the movie. Peter’s involvement in the project is one of the reasons why I chose to review it in the first place. Even though I liked his portrayal of David, I was expecting to see him receive a larger spotlight than in Ocean’s Eleven. If the Peter Lawford Blogathon returns for a third year, I’ll try to find a film where Peter was a leading actor.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray? Would you like for me to read the book? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Bathing Beauty Review

Since I participated in last year’s Esther Williams Blogathon, it made sense for me to join the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blogathon. Hosted again by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood, I wanted to review one of Esther’s films this time. I try to watch and write about as many movie recommendations as I can. Because Rebecca from Taking Up Room suggested I check out Bathing Beauty, that’s the film I chose to review! In 2020, for a different blogathon, I saw my first film of Esther’s; 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. That film gave Esther only one swimming scene, with the majority of her scenes taking place on land. With a movie titled Bathing Beauty, I was excited to see more of Esther’s swimming routines! Also, in 2020, I saw my first movie of Red Skelton’s; 1953’s The Clown. So, I was looking forward to talking about one of his earlier films! Now, let’s dive into this review of Bathing Beauty!

Bathing Beauty poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Things I liked about the film:

The costume designs: One thing I noticed while watching Bathing Beauty was the use of vibrant colors. This can definitely be seen within the film’s costume designs! At the very beginning of the film, Esther wore a hot pink swimsuit with a matching bow. The show-stopping piece, however, was her over-the-shoulder cape! This cream-colored piece was adorned in colorful flower appliques, adding touches of bright green, yellow, and pink. Besides pink, red was a common color found among the costumes. The students at Victoria College wore a uniform that consisted of a khaki dress. Red berets and neck ties provided a pop of color, not only pairing nicely with the khaki material, but also complimenting light and dark hair colors. During the performance of “I Cried for You”, Helen Forrest wore a rusty red colored dress. While the shape and style of the dress itself was simple, there was a sparkly belt and neckline. This small detail helped Helen’s dress appear elegant and appealing to the eye.

Red Skelton’s comedy: As I mentioned in my review of The Clown, I am familiar with Red Skelton as an entertainer. This knowledge caused me to be disappointed by the limited use of comedy in that film. Because Bathing Beauty is a romantic comedy, the material gave Red Skelton more opportunities to showcase his comedic talents. The ballet lesson from The Clown also appeared in Bathing Beauty. This time, Red’s character, Steve, took the lesson because it was a part of the college curriculum. Even after a year of first seeing it, this scene is still hilarious! The slapstick nature of Red’s comedy and the graceful reputation of ballet creates a funny oxymoron. Sometimes, Red’s comedy could be heard within the script. While at a local bar, Steve and a fellow patron explain their problems using nearby fruit. When Steve chooses to represent himself through a pineapple, he makes a comment about how he needs a haircut. Little comments like that one help include comedy into conversations among the characters!

The cinematography: An element within Bathing Beauty that stood out was the cinematography! It surprised me how good it was, especially for a film released in 1944! Anytime Esther swam underwater, those scenes were captured very well, presenting a clear view of what was happening under the surface. This added to the appeal of the swimming/water related scenes within the movie. In one scene, Esther’s character, Caroline, kisses Steve by the poolside. As she slowly dips under the water, Steve’s face follows her, with a close-up shot of his face shown under the water as well. Keeping in mind the limited technology of the ‘40s, these scenes were, to an extent, ahead of their time. A few scenes featured Harry James and His Music Makers. During these scenes, Harry was captured in close-up and medium shots. The camera also moved with him, presenting the illusion that Harry was floating among the orchestra. Because he was the star of those performances, this was a interesting way of highlighting Harry’s importance in those scenes!

100 Years of Esther Williams blogathon banner created by Michaela from Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat misleading title: This movie is not only called Bathing Beauty, but it also stars Esther Williams. Therefore, certain expectations are placed on the film for those reasons. While we do see Esther in the pool, this was shown for two scenes: toward the beginning and end of the movie. The rest of the film shows Esther spending more time on land. Even when Basil Rathbone’s character, George, mentions a water pageant on several occasions, this was not the main focus of the overall story. After having Take Me Out to the Ball Game as my introduction to Esther’s filmography, I was left a little disappointed.

Red and Esther’s on-screen chemistry: While I have seen at least one film of Esther’s and Red’s, this was my first time seeing a movie starring both of them. Throughout the movie, they had nice on-chemistry. However, I thought Red had stronger on-screen chemistry with Jean Porter. Portraying one of the students at Victoria College, Jean displayed an on-screen personality that was similar to Red’s, coming across as easy-going and spunky. During the musical number, “I’ll Take the High Note”, Red and Jean performed so well together. I wanted Steve and Caroline to work out their relationship issues. But because of “I’ll Take the High Note”, I wish Jean and Red had led a film together.

A weak connection between the story and musical numbers: Musicals can be an enjoyable experience. Songs and instrumentals can progress a story forward, as well as help the audience get to know the story’s characters. With Bathing Beauty, there were several musical numbers sprinkled throughout the film. But anytime a musical number took place, it caused the story to pause. Even though these musical numbers were entertaining, the only one that directly connected to the film’s narrative was “I’ll Take the High Note”. This is because the number was a part of an assignment Steve had to complete in order to pass his music class. As I mentioned earlier, a water pageant is brought up on multiple occasions. However, this was the only water related spectacle in the movie. Because Esther was one of the stars of the film and because the story takes place in two states surrounding water (California and New Jersey), this feels, to an extent, like a missed opportunity for more water related numbers.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The end of any Olympics is an exciting time. A closing ceremony filled with spectacle and awe give athletes, fans, and people from that host country something to look forward to. As this year’s Tokyo Olympics come to a close, I can’t help but think of blogathons being similar to the Olympics. Think of it like this: the athletes that represent a particular country share one common goal. That goal is to bring home as many medals as realistically possible. The Olympics themselves have a start and end date, taking place in a different location. While there are typically no prizes involved in blogathons, participants share a common goal: talk about and celebrate the chosen subject. In this case, that subject is Esther Williams. Like the Olympics, Michaela’s event is an annual one that has a clear start and end date. Yes, it is known that Esther never went to the Olympics as planned. But I’d like to think she became a champion in her own right. An Olympic podium turned into an aqua-musical stage. Gold medals became a thirty-three project filmography. Instead of hearing the National Anthem after an Olympic win, show tunes are the chosen sound within Esther’s performances. I’d also like to think Esther paved the way for swimmers that came after her. Maybe aquamusicals haven’t made a comeback, but swimmers have been able to find own their success, almost like Esther did.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Esther Williams’ films? If so, which one would you want me to review next? Tell me in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Three Musketeers (1948) Review

Last year, I participated in the Classic Literature On Film Blogathon. Since I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird at the time, I chose to review the book’s film adaptation. For this year’s event, I selected the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers! Because I’m using my TBR Tin to choose which book to read next, I wasn’t able to read the source material before I saw the movie, as I’m currently reading The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. I was recommended this film by Patricia from Caftan Woman. As I try to see as many film suggestions as I can, this became one reason why I selected The Three Musketeers for this blogathon. I have seen the 1993 adaptation of the story. But I can’t give an honest opinion on that film, as I haven’t seen the movie in years. What will my thoughts be on the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers? Keep reading to find out!

The Three Musketeers (1948) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s, Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because The Three Musketeers contained an ensemble cast, it’s difficult to choose a favorite performance. However, I will still mention a few of them. For me, Gene Kelly is always going to be known for his performances in musicals. Seeing him work with different acting material was very interesting, as it forced him to utilize his expressions and emotions more. Out of Gene’s films I’ve seen so far, his portrayal of D’Artagnan has become one of my favorites! This performance was so well-rounded, D’Artagnan came across as a mutli-layered character. As Gene had a variety of expressions at his disposal, he was able to adapt to any situation D’Artagnan faced. I am not familiar with Van Heflin as an actor. But I was impressed with his portrayal of fellower Musketeer, Athos! Van’s best scene was when Athos drunkenly tells a story of an aristocrat who was betrayed by a woman from the country he fell in love with. Even though Athos is disoriented by the alcohol, you can tell there is deep emotion in his voice and eyes. Another performance that also became a favorite came from Lana Turner, who portrayed Countess de Winter! Her standout scene was when her character was in prison. The Countess appears disheveled as she begs for her life to end. What made this scene so memorable was the amount of emotion Lana put into her role. She presented a character that was so desperate, she’d be willing to do anything to get out of it.

The costumes: When it comes to scene-stealers, the costumes in The Three Musketeers definitely stole the show! I liked how colorful they were, as bright hues were used on various pieces of apparel. It not only made the characters stand out, but it also helped when telling characters apart from one another. The amount of detail on these costumes was also exquisite! In one scene, the Duke of Buckingham wore a purple shawl. Gold embroidery complimented the shawl’s shade of purple and prevented the piece from becoming plain. At a dinner party, Queen Anne wore a white gown. This gown also contained gold details, which were found on the skirt and bodice. Small jewels near the top of the dress completed Queen Anne’s elegant look!

The set design: If you’re going to create a period film, you have to pay attention to the finer details that go into each set. These details will reflect the effort, research, and care that went into how these sets look. The sets in The Three Musketeers show how much the film’s creative team cared about the presentation of their final product! What I love about the sets in this movie are the fine details that can be found. Carved images are shown in the Duke of Buckingham’s study, covering the fireplace and doorframe in these wooden pictures. They can also be found in other rooms and on other materials, such as on a tin-plated cabinet in a General’s office. My favorite design detail can be found in Queen Anne’s sitting room. As Queen Anne and the Duke of Buckingham are standing near the fireplace, Queen Anne turns a knob found near the top of the fireplace. This action reveals a secret compartment that hides a box of diamonds.

The fight choreography: Any action movie is just as good as its fight choreography. The performative presentation of the fights in The Three Musketeers helped make these fights so memorable! Because of Gene Kelly’s dancing skills, he was able to incorporate leaps into his fight sequences. Watching D’Artagnan leap from place to place gave him a natural superpower that he was able to use to his advantage! Humor can also be found during these fight sequences, which prevented them from being too dark or serious. D’Artagnan’s first duel was against the head of the French police. During this duel, hilarity ensued, from D’Artagnan splashing water in his opponent’s face to pushing his opponent in a pond. This inclusion of humor in the fight choreography allowed the creative team to present these fights in creative and interesting ways!

The 2021 Classic Literature On Film Blogathon banner created by Paul from Silver Screen Classics.

What I didn’t like about the film:

D’Artagnan’s romantic relationships: After rescuing Constance from a home invasion, D’Artagnan falls in love with her. He not only tells Constance he loves her, but they also share a romantic kiss. While I liked Constance and D’Artagnan’s relationship, I felt it was developed too quickly. Later in the film, Constance is kidnapped. In order to save her, D’Artagnan pretends to fall in love with Countess de Winter. However, after his initial meeting with the Countess, D’Artagnan tells Athos how much he loves her. If D’Artagnan was romantically interested in Constance, why would he even bother having feelings for the Countess? That part of the story was confusing.

A weaker villain: There are two villains in The Three Musketeers; Countess de Winter and Richelieu. But one of them definitely outshined the other. Countess de Winter was the stronger villain. She is a criminal by legal context and the audience can witness her committing several crimes. Richelieu, on the other hand, is not presented in the same way. The audience does see him commit a crime of theft, but it is never explained how this was done. Richelieu was also friends with the King of France, a character that was not written or portrayed as a villain. This made me puzzled as to what Richelieu’s true intentions were, whether he was a villain or simply a man who follows his own rules.

The Musketeers spending little time together: When you think of The Three Musketeers, you think of these heroes fighting alongside each other and saving the day together. As I watched this film, I noticed how they spent more time apart. I was disappointed to discover this because that team dynamic the Musketeers are known for had a limited presence. While this separation did allow the audience to get to know these characters individually, we didn’t really get to see this group of friends grow over time. Though there was a lot of content in this movie, I wish more time was given to show the Musketeers together.

Castle photo created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/old-castle-in-the-mountians_1286237.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/tree”>Tree image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Anchors Aweigh was the best movie I saw in 2020. This was a pleasant surprise, as I never expected one of Gene Kelly’s films to receive this honor. Even though it’s only April, the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers has now become the best movie I’ve seen so far! There is so much effort that was put into this project, which is reflected in many parts. The costumes and set designs were impressive because of the detail that was incorporated into them. Many good acting performances can be found, making it difficult to choose the best one. These actors not only did a good job individually, but they also worked well together as a group! Similar to what I said in my Oliver! review, I might read The Three Musketeers because of how much I enjoyed its film adaptation! For now, my top priority is reading the books that are currently on my TBR shelf.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Have you read or seen The Three Musketeers? What adaptations of classic literature do you like? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Worst Movies I Saw in 2020

While I saw more good movies than bad this year, I wasn’t able to avoid some stinkers. Now that I’ve published my best movies of the year list, I can now discuss which movies were the worst ones I saw in 2020! I watch movies in the hopes of them being good. However, some stories turn out better than others. As I have stated before on my blog, my worst films of the year lists are not meant to be mean-spirited or negative toward anyone’s opinions/cinematic preferences. These lists are just ways for me express my opinion in an honest and informed way. Similar to my best movies of 2020 list, I will start this post with my dishonorable mentions and then move on to the official list!

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Dishonorable Mentions

Working Miracles, Her Deadly Reflections, The Cabin, Thicker Than Water, Touched by Romance, The Wrong Wedding Planner, Murder in the Vineyard, Jane Doe: Yes, I Remember It Well, JL Family Ranch: The Wedding Gift, Is There a Killer on my Street?, and Stolen in Plain Sight

10. Angel on My Shoulder

When choosing which movie would end up in the tenth spot, it was between The Cabin and Angel on My Shoulder. Because I had higher expectations for the 1946 movie, that’s the one that was placed on this list. The overall film is painfully average, as I said in my review. Even though there is a clear conflict, it takes quite some time for that to be resolved. The personal journey of the protagonist, Eddie, is stunted. This is due to the character spending most of the story as an unchanged man. After watching Angel on My Shoulder, it makes me thankful that a story about a dog going to heaven was executed so well.

Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

9. Jane Doe: Vanishing Act

In 2020, I watched most of the movies from Hallmark’s Jane Doe series. Within the nine-film collection, the first chapter is certainly the worst. What makes a good mystery movie is a strong sense of excitement. This is a quality that Jane Doe: Vanishing Act was, sadly, devoid of. Everyone involved with this project looked like their hearts were not fully invested in what they doing. It was as if they wanted to get the film done and over with just to move on to something else. While I continued on with the series, it was in the hopes that the next film would be better than the introduction. If you plan on creating a series, this is not the way you get an audience invested in it.

8. My Husband’s Deadly Past

There are two kinds of Lifetime movies; those that are surprisingly good and those that are predictably unenjoyable. My Husband’s Deadly Past perfectly fits into the latter category. Even though I found the inclusion of psychology/hypnosis to be interesting, the story’s focus on ripping off the 1993 movie, The Fugitive, overshadows any of the film’s strengths. The protagonist in My Husband’s Deadly Past is the type of character that makes one poor decision after another. It also doesn’t help that the movie contains a few romantic moments that feel out of place within the overall tone. Two other films on this list make the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did. But, to avoid spoilers, I’ll talk about them more later.

7. Out of the Woods

I can honestly say Out of the Woods is one of the most meandering films I’ve ever seen. It takes so long for the story to get to its intended point, that story points are either completely ignored or are not fully developed. One example is how a white wolf continuously crosses paths with the protagonist. No explanation is given as to what the purpose of this wolf was or whether it was real. Another disappointment is how Native American culture is glossed over. Native American stories are rarely found in Hallmark’s library, so it is a letdown when a film containing Native American culture doesn’t work out. If you want to watch an Ed Asner led Hallmark movie with similar ideas and themes, I’d recommend the 2008 movie, Generation Gap. It does a better job at telling a story of two people trying to understand each other.

6. Mystery Woman: At First Sight

Before there was Hailey Dean, there was Samantha Kinsey from Hallmark’s Mystery Woman series. This early collection from the network is one where I’ve seen most of its installments. Out of the movies I have watched, Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the one I disliked the most. Both of the overarching mysteries in this story are poorly written. They are also overshadowed by the drama within the plot. Mystery Woman: At First Sight is the seventh movie in this series, which is a shame because its previous chapters created an enjoyable cinematic run. I’m not sure how much directorial experience Kellie Martin had prior to working on this project. Even though I think it would be interesting to see her direct a Hailey Dean Mysteries movie, her effort on Mystery Woman: At First Sight was not her strongest.

Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama poster created by Dune Films, Norwegian Pirates, Storm Films, Storm Productions, and Ketchup Entertainment. Image found at https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/captain_sabertooth_and_the_treasure_of_lama_rama.
5. Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama

It breaks my heart how this movie disappointed me so much. In fact, Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama is the most disappointing movie I saw in 2020. It copied Pirates of the Caribbean’s homework without trying to understand what made that trilogy of films work. Also, for a movie called Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama, Captain Sabertooth himself sat on the sidelines of his own story. Pinky was a likable character, but making him the protagonist made the title seem misleading. I just hope this film doesn’t dissuade other studios from creating their own pirate narratives.

Take 3: Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama Review

4. Anniversary Nightmare

Remember when I said there were two films that made the same major mistake My Husband’s Deadly Past did? Well, Anniversary Nightmare is one of them. Like My Husband’s Deadly Past, Anniversary Nightmare rips off The Fugitive. But this Lifetime title is so bad, it is, at times, laughable. Both the acting and writing are poor. All of the movie’s flashback scenes are terribly filmed, captured through heavy “shaky cam” and covered in a red film. These two factors made it difficult to see what was happening on screen when a flashback arrived. I haven’t seen a Lifetime movie this bad in quite some time. If you’re interested in participating in Taking Up Room’s So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, Anniversary Nightmare might be an option.

3. I’m Not Ready for Christmas

I didn’t see as many Christmas movies this year as I did in 2019. But I can confidently say that 2015’s I’m Not Ready for Christmas is the worst Christmas film I saw in 2020. While it doesn’t rip off The Fugitive, the movie does place more emphasis on being a pointless, Christmas remake of Liar Liar, a well-known title from the ‘90s. Therefore, I’m Not Ready for Christmas also makes the same mistake A Cheerful Christmas did last year. There were parts of this story that didn’t make sense. Even the title, I’m Not Ready for Christmas, had nothing to do with the events in the plot. When you look past the typical Christmas aesthetic Hallmark can’t get enough of, you realize the story itself isn’t Christmas-y. If the creative team behind this project knew their script wasn’t exclusive to the Christmas season, they should have focused on the messages and themes of the holiday, like If You Believe did sixteen years prior. For their New Year’s Resolution, maybe Hallmark and Lifetime should move away from famous ‘90s films as their source of inspiration.

Take 3: I’m Not Ready for Christmas Review

2. Marriage on the Rocks

This movie was so bad, it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. That was because the film’s overarching view on marriage and divorce was so one-sided and skewed. I’ve been told Marriage on the Rocks was originally intended to be a satire. Sadly, that’s not the movie I ended up seeing. What I got instead was a comedy that I didn’t find very funny. The “comedy of errors” direction the screenwriter took just made the character’s situations more complicated, as most of the errors do not receive a satisfying resolution. It’s also a film that feels longer than its designated run-time. If you have never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s, Dean Martin’s, or Deborah Kerr’s movies before, please don’t let Marriage on the Rocks be your starting point.

Take 3: Marriage on the Rocks Review

1. Twentieth Century

For most of 2020, I thought Marriage on the Rocks would be the worst movie I saw this year. That was until Twentieth Century came along and proved me wrong. Where Marriage on the Rocks made me uncomfortable, Twentieth Century made me appalled. The fact Lily and Oscar’s relationship was so abusive in a movie classified as a “romantic comedy” serves as one example. Last time I checked, unhealthy relationships were not funny or romantic. To Marriage on the Rocks’ credit, the story featured characters that didn’t support the film’s narrative. Even though, more often than not, they were looked down upon, they always stood up for what they believed in and tried to help the main characters see the fault in their ways. With Twentieth Century, however, there were no “voices of reason”. None of the characters faced accountability whenever they did something wrong or made any attempt to change their ways. When I reflect on this movie, I question what the creative team was trying to tell its audience. But based on my reaction to the final product, maybe I don’t want to know.

Take 3: Twentieth Century Review

Twentieth Century poster created by Columbia Pictures.

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

The Top 10 Best Movies I Saw in 2020

2020 was a year that threw a huge wrench into a lot of movie-goers’ plans. As theaters shut their doors and new releases continuously changed dates, there were movie related content creators that had to either adapt as best they could or completely change their formula. Fortunately for 18 Cinema Lane, the impact of this year’s Coronavirus didn’t change the type of content published on the site. As with the previous two years, I saw more good movies than bad. This is honestly the first year where I had difficulty creating my top ten best movies list because of the quantity of enjoyable films that left a memorable impression on me. Since I published my worst movies of the year list first last year, I’ll post my best movies of the year list first this time around. As usual, I will begin the list with my honorable mentions and then move on to the official top ten list. Now let’s get this list started!

Sparkly and starry 2020 image created by Kjpargeter at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by kjpargeter – http://www.freepik.com</a&gt; Image found at freepik.com.
Honorable Mentions

Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, Where There’s a Will, Generation Gap, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Sweet Surrender, Picture Perfect Mysteries: Dead Over Diamonds, Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder, House of the Long Shadows, Up in the Air, The Crow, Mystery Woman: Game Time, Fashionably Yours, Finding Forrester, Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Expecting a Miracle, Time Share, Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf, Mystery Woman: Mystery Weekend, Perry Mason Returns, Perry Mason and the Notorious Nun, Perry Mason: The Case of the Shooting Star, The Terry Fox Story, Follow Your Heart, House of Wax, Funny Face, and The Christmas Bow

10. Nicholas Nickleby (2002)

Looking back on the four film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ work I’ve reviewed, I realize how lucky I am to come across those I enjoyed. Despite having never read Nicholas Nickleby, this production was both understandable and engaging! With the 2002 version of this story, its balance of joy and despair is a staple of the world-famous author’s I recognize from his other stories like Oliver Twist. As I said in my review of Nicholas Nickleby, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer, especially during a year like 2020. I don’t often come across a movie that is so good, it makes me want to seek out its original source material. For this film, however, I just found an exception!

Take 3: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) Review

9. The Unfinished Dance

This is an interesting entry from the Breen Code era. It’s a darker musical that is dark in nature for the sake of providing thought-provoking commentary. Like I said in my review, The Unfinished Dance does a good job exploring what happens when truth disappears from the world. All of the musical numbers in this film have a strong reason for being in the story, as opposed to typical musicals where the numbers feel more spontaneous than planned. Even though dance is emphasized more than the story, the quality of the routines themselves make this film worth a watch! The movie is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about.

Take 3: The Unfinished Dance Review + 190 Follower Thank You

8. If You Believe

I’m glad I was given an opportunity to re-watch this film, as it was just as enjoyable as when I first saw it! The story moves away from the aesthetic that most Christmas movies adopt. Instead, it relies on the messages and themes associated with the Christmas holiday. This creative decision is a breath of fresh air, bringing a different kind of narrative that isn’t often found during that time of year. If You Believe is a film that does what it sets out to do. It also helps that it has stood the test of time.

Take 3: If You Believe Review

7. Sweet Nothing in My Ear

This is the kind of Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I wish was made more often, one where unique concepts are explored and celebrated. Instead of following a plot, the story revolves around a debate. The subject matter was not only handled with reverence, but each perspective was shown in a respectful light. I’m not a fan of this film’s ending, but I respect Hallmark’s decision to include it in the script, as it respects the audience’s intelligence. Sweet Nothing in My Ear is a title from this collection that can be used as an introduction to Hallmark Hall of Fame!

6. From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli has a reputation for giving it their all when it comes to making movies. Besides their signature animation style, they also take the time to create fantastic worlds and memorable characters. While From Up on Poppy Hill doesn’t contain any of the magical elements that can sometimes be found in Studio Ghibli’s stories, the project doesn’t feel out of place in their collection. The plot is a simple one, but the inclusion of interesting characters and world-building is what makes it work. It also contains a great message about history that fits into the script very well.

Take 3: From Up on Poppy Hill Review + 200 Follower Thank You

Howl’s Moving Castle poster created by Studio Ghibli, Toho, and The Walt Disney Company. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1798188/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0.
5. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is more than just a story about Batman. It’s a chance for audience members to see a side of this superhero that doesn’t often get presented in the world of film. The movie is a good example of how impressive 2-D animation can be. Even though the world has moved on to the wonders of 3-D and computer graphics, there will always be a place for older styles of animation. Despite having seen only a handful of Batman films, I can honestly say Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is one of the better options! The story itself is just as interesting as the world of Gotham City.

Take 3: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

4. Grace & Glorie

Grace & Glorie contains Hallmark’s favorite cliché of featuring a woman from a big city moving to a small town. But what sets this story apart is how that cliché is not the main focus of the film. Instead, the plot revolves around the friendship of Grace and Gloria. Because the titular characters were portrayed by two strong actresses, it made the dynamic between Grace and Gloria interesting to watch. Similar to From Up on Poppy Hill, this Hallmark Hall of Fame title has a simpler plot that works in its favor. Grace & Glorie is a type of story that is rarely seen on Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. The movie is also an underrated gem that I wish more Hallmark fans were aware of.

3. Matinee

With the way the theatrical landscape was affected in 2020, it kind of feels weird that a film like Matinee would appear on a best movies of the year list for 2020. But instead of making me miss the cinema or feel jealous of the characters as they get to see a movie in a theater, this particular 1993 title reminded me of what I love about film. Because I have a special place in my heart for Phantom of the Megaplex, Matinee showed me that there is more than one story that could show people how movies can be fun. One of the messages of this narrative is that film can provide a much-needed break from the troubles of the real world. With the way 2020 turned out, Matinee seemed to come at the right place and time.

Take 3: Matinee Review + 220 Follower Thank You

2. The Boy Who Could Fly

Every year, there is that one movie that catches me by surprise because of how good it is. The Boy Who Could Fly was definitely that film in 2020! I was pleasantly surprised by how well the overall story has aged. Given the subject material and the time it was released in, I can certainly say that my expectations were subverted. While The Boy Who Could Fly would be considered a “teen movie”, it doesn’t follow a lot of the patterns that most of these types of stories would contain. The themes of showing compassion for others, dealing with grief, and understanding people’s differences are given center stage.

Take 3: The Boy Who Could Fly Review (PB & J Double Feature Part 2)

1. Anchors Aweigh

Who knew a Frank Sinatra movie would become the best one I saw in 2020? When I look back on this film, I remember how much fun I had watching it! As I said in my review, I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, which shows how the film’s joyful nature can certainly help anyone improve their mood. Anchors Aweigh is a strong movie on so many different levels. The acting, story, and musical numbers alone showcase how much thought and effort went into the overall production. If I were to introduce someone to the Breen Code era or musicals in general, this is the film I’d show them. Anchors Aweigh was certainly a bright spot in a year like 2020.

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Have fun in 2021!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

Last November, I participated in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon. My contribution was a review of the 1963 movie, Twilight of Honor, which I thought was ok. I also recognize the film was released outside of the Breen Code era. This year, I will write about the 1946 film, Angel on My Shoulder. I chose to review this title for two reasons. The first is my curiosity in seeing how a film from the Breen Code era would address topics such as the afterlife and the devil. The second is how the story’s basic concept reminded me of the animated film,  All Dogs Go To Heaven. As I mentioned in my Twilight of Honor review, I have seen some of Claude Rains’ films. Since Angel on My Shoulder is the sixth movie of his I have watched, I knew what to expect from him as an actor!

Angel on My Shoulder poster created by Premier Productions and United Artists.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Claude Rains is one of the reasons why I chose to review this movie, I’ll talk about his performance first. His role as Nick, the devil, was very different from his other roles I’ve seen. In Angel on My Shoulder, Claude carried himself with a kind of confidence that one would expect from a villainous character. Nick was an arrogant person. However, Claude made this component work by keeping his performance consistent. Another consistent performance came from Paul Muni! Throughout the movie, Eddie was on the edge of his seat, unsure of who to trust. This was an interesting quality for Paul to add to his character, as gangsters in movies sometimes deal with untrust-worthy people. Eddie also tells things as they are, another piece of his personality that Paul pulls off! Anne Baxter did a good job portraying Barbara Foster! In her performance, she utilized emotion, especially through her eyes, to make her character believable. When Eddie, as Judge Frederick Parker, interacts with Barbara for the first time, it is clear she is very uncomfortable with the way her fiancée is behaving. She pushes him away and attempts to walk away from the situation, showing her displeasure the entire time.

The depiction of Hell: Like I said in the introduction, I was curious to see how a Breen Code film would approach the subject of Hell and the devil. The way Hell is depicted in Angel on My Shoulder evokes fear into audience members who support good winning over evil. The underworld is a dark environment that only uses fire as its source of light. Shadows were cast over the characters, with light only being shown over the characters’ eyes. In entertainment media that features the devil, he will sometimes appear as an other-worldly creature. In Angel on My Shoulder, Nick, the name the devil goes by, appears as a human. This shows the reality of how someone can turn to the dark side.

The dialogue: Since Angel on My Shoulder was released during the Breen Code era, any talk of Hell or the devil needed to meet Breen Code standards. Within the story, the word “hell” is never spoken. Nick is not called “the devil”, but Mephistopheles instead. The script does feature subtle references to who Nick is that respects the intelligence of the audience. One scene shows Eddie and Nick riding in a plane. When Eddie notices how Nick appears uncomfortable, he asks Nick if he is ok. Nick tells Eddie that he likes being near the ground more than in the sky.

The Third Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited use of music: Music in film can help set a tone for a particular scene. One example is when suspenseful music is played during a scene that is more intense. Without music, the scene would be missing an emotional component. Angel on My Shoulder is an hour and forty-minute film. In that amount of time, about seven scenes feature music. To me, this seems disproportionate to the movie’s run-time. It also forbids certain moments in the film from having a more emotional impact.

A mostly static character: In a story like Angel on My Shoulder, it’s common for the audience to witness the protagonist grow as an individual over the course of the movie. While we do see Eddie change his ways, the transformation doesn’t happen until sometime between an hour and eleven to twenty-three minutes into the film. Beforehand, Eddie remains the same as he did before he died. He even refuses to act more like Judge Frederick Parker, even though acting more like Frederick would have helped avoid suspicion from those around him. Breen Code era movies typically feature a core lesson or message for the audience to take away. Even though Angel on My Shoulder does have a good message, it takes quite some time to get there.

A meandering story: Angel on My Shoulder is about a recently deceased gangster who works with Nick, the devil, to satisfy a favor. As I mentioned in the introduction, this concept reminded me of All Dogs Go To Heaven. But where Angel on My Shoulder failed is not having a sense of urgency. Because of this decision, the majority of the movie is spent showing Eddie reliving his life as Judge Frederick Parker. Any course of action for Nick and Eddie’s plan doesn’t appear in the story until an hour and eleven minutes into the movie. For me, I was waiting for something interesting to happen instead of actually watching something interesting happen.

Angelic statue image created by Marcelo Gerpe at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Marcelo Gerpe.”

My overall impression:

 Angel on My Shoulder is a painfully average film. Because the movie placed more emphasis on showing Eddie reliving his life as someone else, it took almost the entire story just to get to the intended point. I liked seeing how this film addressed subjects such as the afterlife, Hell, and the devil in the time of the Breen Code era. But it should have been included in a stronger script. There were aspects of this movie I did like. The acting was enjoyable to watch and the script was intelligently written. But when I find myself checking the time on multiple occasions in order to see when this film would end, my unenjoyment of the overall project overshadows its strengths. If you’d like to watch a movie with a similar concept to Angel on My Shoulder, I would recommend All Dogs Go To Heaven. In my opinion, that movie did a better job executing almost the same idea.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen Claude Rains’ films? If so, which one is your favorite? Comment below in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 1)

Because Heidi’s new blogathon celebrates two classic film stars, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided to write a double feature in their honor. I’m starting with one of Gene Kelly’s movies first, as my movie selection had a shorter run-time. On 18 Cinema Lane’s Pinterest account, there is a recommendation board where people who visit the blog can make a suggestion for future reviews. That board hosts some Gene Kelly titles, so I had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, I picked the 1949 film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was recommended by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes! The idea of a musical surrounding an athletic sport was a fascinating concept. It also gave me an excuse to finally watch one of Esther Williams’ films, as I had not seen one up until this point. 2020 has become the year of Frank Sinatra films on this blog, as Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now the fifth film from Frank’s filmography I’ve reviewed. An interesting coincidence I just noticed is how most of these movies have had a musical element included.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I reviewed Anchors Aweigh back in September. In that review, I said that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen because of how different their characters were from each other. Because of Frank and Gene’s experience working together, it allowed them to be familiar with the other performer and know what to expect from them in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Like Anchors Aweigh, their characters in the 1949 film, Dennis and Eddie, were opposites of one another. This time, however, it was for different reasons. While Eddie was interested in the night life of his world, Dennis has a quieter soul that seems to notice the finer details within his surroundings. While I wrote a list article about the travels of Esther Williams, this was my first time watching one of her films. Even though Esther spent more time on land than in the water, she appeared at ease in her role as K.C. Higgins! When people tried to stand in her way, K.C. always stood her ground. At the same time, she tried to instill fairness into the situation. One great example is when she insists on a curfew penalty for every member of the Chicago Wolves. On the surface, it seems like K.C. is being unfair toward the team. In reality, she is looking out for their best interests by making sure they get a good night’s sleep so the team can perform better on in their baseball games.

The set design: Because a significant amount of time in Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in Florida, the sets surrounding the characters are going to reflect the Sunshine State. This is done through a variety of design choices. What made me like these sets so much was how appealing they were! When Dennis and Eddie arrive in Florida for Spring Training, the audience is introduced to the stadium, located right on the beach. With fair weather in the scene and the sandy shore taking center stage, the beach looked inviting! At night, when K.C. is interacting with both Dennis and Eddie near the pool area, lights illuminated this location to show off its exterior design. The white balcony of K.C.’s hotel room complimented the dark sky shown in the background. Light colored outdoor furniture consistently carried the color scheme this set was striving for! In an outdoor sitting area occupied by K.C. and Eddie, tan wicker chairs were paired well with green plants placed in various spots. This design choice showcased a good color combination!

The majority of the musical numbers: For the most part, I liked seeing the musical numbers in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! They were well choreographed and each performer looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing. Like I said earlier, Frank and Gene’s experience working together helped them become familiar with the acting/performance style of the other actor. This certainly worked in their favor when it came to the musical numbers! In the opening number, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, both actors wonderfully pull off a tap-dance duet! Even though tap was out of Frank’s creative comfort zone, he was able to hold his own throughout the routine. Like I also said in this review, Esther spends more time on land than water. However, she was given one scene where she swam and sang the song from the movie’s opening number. Because of Esther’s experience with musicals, she was able play her own unique role in the film’s musical department that allowed her to stand out. Esther also appeared comfortable with the performance material given.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Two songs that didn’t age well: In Take Me Out to the Ball Game, there are two songs that have aged poorly. The first song, “Yes, Indeedy”, is performed by Frank and Gene when their characters are telling the Chicago Wolves about the females they met during their traveling talent tour. The lyrics reveal how one woman committed suicide and another female was 11 years old. Because the song itself is faster paced and upbeat, it almost sounds like Dennis and Eddie make light of the woman’s passing. Even though they say they didn’t interact with the 11-year-old for long, it makes me wonder why this child would have anything to do with Dennis and Eddie in the first place? The second song, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, is performed by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett. The purpose of this song is for Betty’s character, Shirley, to share her feelings for Dennis. How she does it is very forceful, with the musical number showing Shirley blocking Dennis’ path, chasing him through the stadium, and picking him up against his will. Because of her aggression in the situation and her lack of accepting rejection, it feels like a unhealthy relationship in the works.

The character of Shirley: While Betty Garrett did a good job with the acting material she was given, I was not a fan of her character. Personally, I found Shirley to be a selfish individual who didn’t seem to care about the feelings of others. As I just mentioned, Shirley is very forceful when it comes to expressing her feelings for Dennis. If her musical number, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, wasn’t bad enough, she wants to treat Dennis like she’s his mother. The way she talks to him in a scene where she blocks Dennis’ path with her horse and buggy shows Shirley talking to Dennis like she has more authority than him. More often than not, Dennis expresses how he doesn’t like Shirley in a romantic sense. He goes out of his way to avoid her and shows displeasure when she’s nearby. However, everyone surrounding him overlooks Shirley’s actions and encourages Dennis to spend more time with her.

An unclear time period: According to Wikipedia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in 1908. Certain aspects of the movie reflect this, with the various modes of transportation being one example. But there were some outfit choices that appeared to belong in a different decade. Whenever the Chicago Wolves are spending time in the hotel, all the team members wear team sweaters featuring their team logo. This style of sweater looked like it came from somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘50s. Like previously said, Esther has a swimming scene in this film. Her swimsuit resembles the style she wore in her “aqua musicals” of the ‘40s and ‘50s. These costume choices prevented me from getting fully immersed in the movie’s world.

Baseball game image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/baseball-game-illustration_2871359.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/man”>Man vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:  

Even though Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration I’ve seen, I’d still prefer Anchors Aweigh over the aforementioned film. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a fine movie, I feel the 1945 film was a stronger picture overall. However, I’m not going to dismiss the movie completely. One of the strengths of the 1949 project is the acting performances! Musical experience from Frank, Esther, and Gene definitely worked in this movie’s favor, with each actor appearing comfortable in their roles! I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers! They were certainly entertaining and fun to watch! Even though I didn’t mention it in my review, I feel the film’s conflict was underutilized. Within the last thirty minutes, Eddie tries to juggle baseball and performing in a café. Eventually, he learns that he can’t have everything he wants. Story wise, I think the film’s main conflict should have been Eddie’s struggle to fit his love of performing and baseball into his life. I actually found this part of the story more interesting than the Chicago Wolves dealing with a new team owner.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game? Which Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

This is it, my 200th movie review! It’s hard to believe I’ve reached this accomplishment in only two years! The recent occurrence and my participation in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Joe Pasternak Blogathon caused me to choose Anchors Aweigh as the next movie to review! This film was recommended to me by The Classic Movie Muse from the blog, The Classic Movie Muse. Anchors Aweigh is also the fourth Frank Sinatra picture I’ve written about in 2020. When reading about Joe Pasternak in the announcement post for the blogathon, I learned that Joe put a lot of thought into the films he produced. Prior to joining the event, the only movie of his I’ve seen is The Unfinished Dance. Back in April, when I reviewed the project, I said it was a good, solid picture! I also mentioned how the movie did a good job at exploring thought-provoking ideas, such as the disappearance of truth. I’m looking forward to talking about Anchors Aweigh, as it is very different from The Unfinished Dance!

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anchors Aweigh is the fourth movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve seen, as I said in the introduction. His performance as Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle was different from his roles in Marriage on the Rocks, High Society, and Ocean’s Eleven. This is because his on-screen personality was sweet-natured. It was a good contrast to Gene Kelly’s character, Joseph “Joe” Brady. In Anchors Aweigh, Gene displayed a confident and headstrong personality. This set of opposites is what helped Gene and Frank become one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen in film! Despite watching only one of Joe Pasternak’s films, I have noticed how the female characters are intelligent women who always hold their head up high. Kathryn Grayson’s character, Susan Abbott, is a great example! Even though she is a single parent, she never gives up on her dreams of being a singer. Because of a believable performance, Kathryn made Susan someone worth rooting for! While Pamela Britton appears in Anchors Aweigh for a limited time, I really liked her character! She not only had a good on-screen personality, but she also had good-screen chemistry with Frank Sinatra. Watching Pamela in Anchors Aweigh was a joy to watch, as her presence brought a bright light to any of her scenes!

The comedy: I found Anchors Aweigh to be a genuinely funny movie. That’s because the humor in this film was well-written and delivered! When Susan and Clarence are on their way to dinner, Clarence suggests that Joe join them. When Joe asks Clarence why he should go, Clarence tells him he won’t know what was said in Joe’s phone conversation. Not only was this conversation clever, but it was also executed well by Frank and Gene. Another funny scene involving Gene and Frank is when Joe is chasing Clarence around the service lodge. This moment was caused by Joe sleeping in, making him miss his meeting with Lola.

The musical numbers: In Anchors Aweigh, the musical numbers were definitely a highlight! There were so many good scenes, it is difficult to choose a favorite. Gene’s dancing talents were utilized to their fullest extent, from his duet with Jerry (the animated mouse) to his Latin inspired solo. These dance numbers were very colorful. The costumes and set design were bright and cheery, allowing the overall mood to be light-hearted and joyful. Frank’s singing abilities were also well incorporated into the story. His solos were slower, ballad pieces. This choice complimented the more romantic moments of the narrative. Having Frank and Gene perform together was a great decision! They were able to keep up with each other’s fortes as well as work well with one another. “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie” showcases this creative partnership wonderfully!

The joining of animation and live-action: In one scene, Joe finds himself in a magical make-believe land where he interacts with animated animals. This is because he is telling a story to the children of Hollywood Day School how he earned his Silver Star. This part of the movie looked really good, especially for a film released in the mid-‘40s! It felt like Gene was actually in that world, as the technology of the time appeared top-notch. I also liked the quality of the animation! It contained bright colors and clear lines, reminding me of the older films from Disney.  Seeing Gene and Jerry dance together was impressive, as it seemed like they were in the same room. Before the actual dance routine, Gene led Jerry onto the ballroom floor by holding his hand. Because of how good the technology looked, this interaction between these two characters was convincing!

The Joe Pasternak Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/announcing-the-joe-pasternak-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: The main conflict of Anchors Aweigh shows Joe and Clarence trying to set up an audition for Susan. While conflicts take time to be resolved, I wasn’t expecting the conflict in this film to last the entire story. Quality script-writing made the conflict itself interesting. But I honestly feel it could have been resolved sooner.

Less Tom, More Jerry: Tom and Jerry, the famous animated cat and mouse, are listed in the opening credits of Anchors Aweigh. I was not expecting this special guest appearance, so seeing these characters in the film was a pleasant surprise. Even though I liked Jerry’s duet with Gene, Tom showed up for only a few seconds. I found their cast listing misleading, as an equal amount of screen time is expected when Tom and Jerry are included in a program.

I had this patch lying around my house and thought it would be perfect to include in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

For someone who had never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s films, I have really made up for lost time in 2020. By selecting Anchors Aweigh for the Joe Pasternak Blogathon, I gave myself an opportunity to watch one of Frank’s earlier works. It also gave me an excuse to see more of Joe’s films. I can honestly say Anchors Aweigh is, so far, the best movie I’ve watched this year! There is so much to like about this project and it was pleasantly joyful! I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, as the humor was one of the strengths of this story. The entire movie was well thought out, showcasing an engaging film that was also entertaining. Thank you, Classic Movie Muse, for suggesting this film to me. If not for your recommendation, I might have never seen this delightful movie!

Overall score: 8.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Joe Pasternak’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen