I know my fourth blogathon, the ‘Travel Gone Wrong’ Blogathon, ended two weeks ago. However, I wanted to provide enough time for participants to submit later entries. But now that the event has come and gone, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who “boarded” this year’s blogathon! As usual, the ‘Travel Gone Wrong’ Blogathon was successful, with a variety of topics being discussed. I enjoyed reading every article sent in, as they provided a great collection of written work! The fun continues because I’ll be hosting my fifth blogathon! But that official announcement will come later this year. Stay tuned!
May’s theme for Genre Grandeur is ‘Best Picture Nominated Movies that didn’t win’. As the Oscars have been around for more than fifty years, there were plenty of titles for me to choose from. But I knew the main-stream, bigger name films were going to get selected by other participants of Genre Grandeur. So, I decided to choose a movie that was not only off the beaten path, but also less talked about than other films. This is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing Children of a Lesser God. Eric Binford, from Diary of A Movie Maniac, is another reason why I chose to write about the 1986 project. While talking about non-preachy movies containing messages, I brought up the Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Sweet Nothing in My Ear. After Eric mentioned how he loves Marlee Matlin, I realized I have never reviewed any project from Marlee’s filmography. I have seen Sweet Nothing in My Ear, as well as a handful of Switched at Birth episodes. But I’ve never discussed the ABC Family show on 18 Cinema Lane and I didn’t review the 2008 Hallmark Hall of Fame film. It should also be noted how the last time I wrote about an ’80s movie was last September.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Since Marlee Matlin is one of the reasons why I chose to review Children of a Lesser God, I will talk about her performance first. While portraying Sarah, Marlee’s facial expressions and body language were expressive. They were also as fluid as her sign language. During an assembly, Sarah witnesses a performance from James’ students. At first, she appears content, not seeing any issue with the performance. But as the performance goes on, Sarah’s face progressively changes, appearing angry for reasons not yet revealed. In fact, Sarah becomes so upset by this performance, she ends up breaking a mirror. The strength of Marlee’s acting abilities not only allowed her to stand on her own, talent-wise, but also go toe-to-toe with William Hurt!
In Children of a Lesser God, William Hurt portrays James. The first thing I noticed about his acting performance was how he was able to balance the light-hearted and serious moments of the story! Toward the beginning of the film, James is explaining to his students why they should learn to speak. To demonstrate a likely scenario, James does a hand-stand, in an attempt to make his point. Later in the film, James learns more about Sarah. She explains how, in high school, her male peers would desire an intimate relationship with her, yet refuse to take the time to get to know her. During this conversation, James becomes frustrated over things he can’t change, such as Sarah’s past. Similar to what I said about Marlee’s performance, William was also expressive in his role. The expressive nature of his performance is what helped him maintain a consistent portrayal!
Several scenes show James interacting with the students in his speech class. These scenes are meant to serve as the more light-hearted moments of the film. One of the students in this class is Lydia. Portrayed by Allison Gompf, Lydia was not afraid to try new things. In fact, she was one of the first students to try speaking. What helped Allison and her character be memorable was her on-screen personality. It was so bubbly and up-beat, you can’t help but smile every time she appears on screen!
The on-screen chemistry: As I just mentioned, both Marlee and William gave solid performances individually. However, they also performed well together! The strength and expressiveness of their acting abilities worked in their favor and complimented one another. These aspects of their combined performance allowed them to showcase a relationship that felt realistic. One of my favorite scenes in Children of a Lesser God takes place when James wants to listen to one of his records. But shortly after he puts on a Bach record, he is overcome with guilt. James turns off the record, telling Sarah he can’t enjoy the music because she can’t hear it. A few moments later, Sarah puts the record back on, as she knows how much James enjoys the music. Through the acting, as well as the screenwriting, this scene is a great example of the sacrifices and compromises that can take place within a romantic relationship.
An introduction to deaf culture: Whenever I talk about a movie highlighting a specific culture/community, I try to remind my readers that the film in question is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to discussing that culture/community. This is the case when talking about Children of a Lesser God. The students in James’ speech class are their own individuals, displaying distinct styles and expressing unique perspectives. These students, including Sarah, have their reasons why they either want or don’t want to speak. At one point in the film, James’ students perform in their school’s assembly. Throughout this performance, they sing, dance, and sign while on stage. The joy expressed by these characters can be seen and felt. This scene shows one can experience joy when they’ve found a place to belong.
What I didn’t like about the film:
A confusing title: With a title like Children of a Lesser God, I’m going to safely assume “children” is referencing deaf people, with the title itself emphasizing how deaf people are just as important to society as hearing people. But in the movie, Sarah is the only deaf character the story revolves around. Yes, there are deaf characters featured throughout the film. However, these characters are shown as well-adjusted individuals who aren’t prejudiced or mistreated. As I mentioned before, Sarah recounts a situation that happened to her in high school. Sarah’s mother, portrayed by Piper Laurie, shares traumatic events Sarah experienced in her life. But all of these events happened prior to the film. With all this said, the title, Children of a Lesser God, seems confusing.
A limited presence of James’ students: As I said earlier in this review, the moments where James interacts with his students were meant to be the more light-hearted moments of the film. But throughout the movie, the presence of the students themselves were limited. I really liked the camaraderie between these characters, as it made their connection seem believable. Because of the student’s limited presence, it left few opportunities to get to know them. Sure, we learn about them through their experiences in James’ speech class. But compared to James and Sarah, I felt like I, as an audience member, only became familiar with James’ students. I kind of wish they had received their own subplot.
No appearances from Ruth: When Sarah’s mom is talking to James about Sarah’s past, she mentions her other daughter, Ruth. She also mentions how, in high school, Ruth’s male peers were more interested in Sarah. Despite Ruth getting brought up in the story, Sarah’s sister never appears in the film. Personally, I think this was a missed opportunity. It would have been interesting to hear the perspective of a sibling of someone with a disability. I also wanted to know how Ruth felt about what Sarah went through in high school. In the movie’s opening credits, I learned Children of a Lesser God was based on a Broadway play. I haven’t seen this play, so I don’t know if Ruth is a character that is meant to be in the story. But, like I said, it still feels like a missed opportunity.
My overall impression:
Children of a Lesser God is a character-driven movie. With these types of films, you need a cast that is so strong, it gives the audience a reason to stay invested in the overall story. That is exactly what this 1986 production achieved! Even though Children of a Lesser God primarily revolves around Sarah and James, the supporting cast was great to watch. Presenting an introduction to the deaf culture also helps. Though I liked this movie, there were some aspects of this project that could have been stronger. I wish James’ students had received their own subplot and Ruth had appeared in the story. But as I said in this review, Children of a Lesser God is based on a Broadway play. Therefore, I don’t know what was in the original source material. As I close this review, I’d like to say I can’t speak for whether Children of a Lesser God should have received the Best Picture award. That’s because I haven’t seen Platoon or the other films nominated in 1987.
Overall score: 7.7-7.8 out of 10
Have you seen Children of a Lesser God? Which movie do you think should have won Best Picture in 1987? Please let me know in the comment section below!
Shock and sadness. That’s how I felt when I discovered the passing of Patricia, from Caftan Woman, on Twitter. Upon hearing the announcement of the Caftan Woman Blogathon, I wanted to participate as a way to pay my respects to a fellow blogger. Over the years, Patricia has recommended several films for future reviews. So, it was only fitting for me to choose one of her suggestions for the event. Since the blogathon is commemorating a loss, I felt The Song of Bernadette was the most appropriate choice out of the recommendations on my Pinterest board. This also compliments other religious/faith-based films I’ve reviewed in the past, such as Ben-Hur and The Carpenter’s Miracle. With all that said, let’s start this review of The Song of Bernadette.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: One of my favorite movies is Portrait of Jennie. Jennifer Jones’ consistent and captivating performance is one of the reasons why I love that film so much. In The Song of Bernadette, Jennifer’s portrayal of the titular character reminded me of her portrayal of Jennie. This is because she has a talent for pulling off an innocent demeanor without coming across as childish or immature. Throughout the film, Bernadette claims she is dumb. Yet, when asked what a sinner is, she tells the local reverend a sinner “is someone who loves sin”. The reverend even comments how Bernadette chose to say “loves sin” instead of “commits sin”. Personality wise, Jennifer brought a gentleness to her character. When speaking with one of Lourdes’ members of police, the policeman gets details of Bernadette’s story wrong. In a polite manner, Bernadette corrects him, pointing out the policeman’s errors in a soft-spoken voice. This innocence and gentleness allowed Bernadette to be taken seriously by the audience.
On 18 Cinema Lane, I have reviewed several of Vincent Price’s films. In most of these movies, Vincent portrays a character that can exude a sense of fear for the audience. But in The Song of Bernadette, his role of Vital Dutour was very different from his other roles. One reason is how Vincent is a part of an ensemble instead of a main focus in the story. Another reason is how Vital’s actions and choices were not chosen to cause fear. Despite all of this, Vincent carries his character with elegance and arrogance. In an effort to get to the bottom of Bernadette’s “visions”, Vital questions her story in his office. He speaks to Bernadette with a stern voice and presents a no-nonsense attitude. By interacting with her in this way, Vital is attempting in enforce his authority, thinking he will get his way. But because of Bernadette’s strength in her faith and her innocent demeanor, she is able to stand up to Vital. With that, both Jennifer Jones and Vincent Price are able to, acting-wise, go toe-to-toe with each other!
The set design: The Song of Bernadette takes place in the French countryside of 1858. But according to IMDB, the movie was filmed in California. Despite this, the set didn’t look like a set. Instead, it looked like a small French town from the 1850s! The architecture of Lourdes’ buildings was simple. Materials such as stone cover these structures. A traditional roof shingle design is displayed on top of these buildings. Like any well-researched production, the attention to detail was not overlooked! Vital’s office boasts two impressive things: a large desk and fireplace. The desk is a big piece of furniture that is coated in darker wood. Small, gold detailing can be found on the side of the desk. The fireplace is a massive marble structure, with etched detailing just below the mantle. Attention to detail and thorough research made this on-screen world an immersive environment!
Correlations with Biblical stories: When I reviewed the 1959 film, Ben-Hur, I talked about how certain Biblical events were incorporated into the overall story. With The Song of Bernadette, I could pick out moments that felt like unintentional correlations with some stories from the Bible. Toward the beginning of the film, Bernadette’s father is hired to dispose dirty rags from hospital patients. Shortly after being hired, Bernadette’s father can be seen pulling the wagon filled with dirty rags up a hill. This scene reminded me of the Crucifixion story, when Jesus is carrying the cross. The scene can also serve as a reminder how everyone has their own cross to bear, literally or figuratively. After Bernadette sees her first “vison”, Bernadette’s neighbors offer Bernadette’s family extra food they had acquired. The neighbors’ multiplying of food is reminiscent of the story where Jesus multiplied two fish and five loaves. Because this scene takes place after the first “vision”, I saw it as a miracle similar to the aforementioned Biblical story.
Using little to no dialogue: In two scenes, the movie’s creative team did a great job using little to no dialogue! One of them was the aforementioned scene where Bernadette’s father climbed up the hill. Orchestral music replaces any dialogue, which captures the emotions of Bernadette’s father. A long shot showcases the journey, elaborating how small Bernadette’s father is compared to the hill. This scene visually explained how difficult his life is. Another scene that used no dialogue is when Bernadette experiences her first “vision”. Not only is orchestral and choir music incorporated, the creative team uses a spotlight to accentuate Jennifer’s facial expressions. At one point in this scene, wind blew unexpectedly, signaling something was about to happen. Both scenes were able to say so much while saying so little!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother: In The Song of Bernadette, the titular character appears to be friends with a man named Antoine. Antoine also appears to be close with his mother. These two characters were only shown in a handful of scenes. Even when they were included in the story, their significance in the overall plot was weaker. The under-utilization of Antoine and his mother was disappointing, as I felt they could have offered more to the story. But since this movie was based on a book I haven’t read, I’m not sure if the limited presence of these characters is close to the source material.
A few ignored details: Toward the beginning of the movie, a friend of Bernadette’s explains to their teacher how Bernadette has asthma. This diagnosis is brought up on a few occasions by Bernadette’s family throughout the movie. But, for the most part, this detail was ignored and had little significance in the story. There were times when Vital Dutour was seen wiping his nose with a handkerchief. At one point in the story, he claims it’s “influenza”. However, it isn’t clearly explained what he’s medically dealing with. As I already said, The Song of Bernadette is based on a book I haven’t read. But if the creative team knew they weren’t going to utilize these details, it makes me wonder why they would include them in the movie?
My overall impression:
Incorporating faith into film can be a tricky task. On the one hand, you don’t want to run the risk of alienating those who aren’t religious. At the same time, you want to acknowledge the beliefs of those who choose to include religion in their lives. The Song of Bernadettefinds a way to achieve “the best of both worlds”! Bernadette’s story is shown as a procession, a good exploration of how religious phenomena can affect a small town. The film doesn’t seem to take sides when it comes to the actual topic. Yes, some people make fun of Bernadette because of her “visions”. But there’s no antagonist or villain in the movie. Lourdes’ mayor and his friends don’t believe Bernadette. However, none of the men are religious, approaching the situation from a legal and literal perspective. Even the town’s reverend isn’t quick to assume the “visions” are religious. Out of all the movies I’ve seen this year, so far, I’d say The Song of Bernadette is the strongest one! If you are interested in checking this film out, I think Easter would be an appropriate time to see it. Personally, I wish I had seen it sooner, especially since I can no longer thank Patricia for the recommendation.
Movies and television not only provide entertainment, they also tell a story through a visual medium. Something else movies and television do is teach lessons through those stories. Throughout my life, I have learned so many lessons from various movies and television shows. How to travel smart has been one of them. As my blogathon’s theme this year is ‘Travel Gone Wrong’, I have decided to share a list of six travel related lessons I’ve learned over the years! This is especially exciting, as it’s the first list I’ve created for one of my blogathons! The list is based off of movies and shows I have personally watched. I also tried to present a combination of programs where the mishaps were met with either hilarious or horrifying results. Now, have your boarding ticket ready, as we’re about to start this list!
Never Tell Strangers Where You Will be Staying (Especially if You’re Traveling Alone)
When I reviewed the 1962 film, Cape Fear, I said the most effective “scary movies” are the ones that involve real-life situations. A movie that definitely belongs in that discussion is the classic, Taken. The 2008 title showcases the dangers that can sometimes present themselves in international travel, without coming across as a PSA/cautionary tale/“after school special” type story. This is because the film places more emphasis on the action within the project. Every time I think of this movie, I always speculate how Kim and Amanda might have avoided their plight had they not told a group of strangers, who ended up being human traffickers, which hotel they were staying at. It also didn’t help how they revealed they were both traveling alone. There’s a saying that goes “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”. Well, as Kim and Amanda’s situation shows, that isn’t always the case, especially since some people’s intentions are not great. Watching Taken reminded me how you should only share your hotel and travel status with people you know and trust.
If You Want to Start any Relationships with the “Locals”, Take the Time to Know Them First
When I refer to “locals”, I’m referring to anyone who is from a particular travel destination, whether it’s “across the pond” or across town. For this point, I have two examples to share. The first is from a movie I reviewed back in January, Red Corner. While in China for business related reasons, Jack becomes attracted to a woman he briefly met at a nightclub. Attraction gets the better of them, as they end up sharing intimate relations with one another. The woman is discovered dead the following morning, with Jack declared a suspect in her murder. The second example, which also involves a man named Jack, is the Lost episode “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Within the flashbacks from that episode, Jack forms a month-long, intimate relationship with Achara, a character I mentioned in my latest Sunset Over Hope Valley re-cap. During their relationship, Jack becomes frustrated that Achara won’t share what her “gift” is with him. Taking matters into his own hands, he barges into her place of employment and demands an explanation. When Achara’s revelation isn’t enough, Jack forces her to give him a tattoo, even though she initially refuses his request. Their relationship ends disastrously, with Achara in tears and Jack unofficially banned from Thailand.
I’ve said before that, in my opinion, starting or ending a relationship shouldn’t be taken lightly. I’ve also said that both members of a relationship should be equal to one another. Taking that into account, it’s important to remember when two people come together to form a relationship, they bring with them elements of their lives, which includes their respective cultures. This is where my two examples come in. Despite Jack from Red Corner spending such a short amount of time with the aforementioned woman, he had to deal with her government, a government he was not familiar with. He was also not familiar with the Chinese language and cultural beliefs. This, to an extent, left Jack at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, in Thailand, Jack from Lost didn’t respect Achara’s cultural boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, she initially refused his tattoo request. During their confrontation, Achara told Jack her tattoos are “not decoration, it is definition”. Achara also said Jack couldn’t receive a tattoo because he was “an outsider”. Though she doesn’t provide details to her comments, Achara implies her tattoos have a strong connection to her culture. But whenever Jack and Achara are shown having a conversation, they seem to purposefully avoid talking about anything personal. When I first reflected on “Stranger in a Strange Land”, I knew Achara and Jack’s relationship didn’t last for a reason. Rewatching it years later reminded me why. Honestly, both parties from both relationships could have avoided so much heartache if they had taken the time to learn about and from one another. Sometimes, the best way to know more about a specific culture is to interact with those who are a part of it. Seems to me both aforementioned relationships missed a great opportunity.
Be Mindful Who You Place Your Valuable Belongings With
Traveling with valuable belongings is inevitable. This has been the case since the concept of traveling was born. A valuable belonging can be almost anything, especially according to the decade. In the 1980s, one of these valuable belongings was camcorders/video cameras. Priceless, irreplaceable family memories were captured on these devices. At the time, they also carried an expensive price tag. I’ve only seen about half of National Lampoon’s European Vacation. The one scene I vividly remember is when the Griswald family have their video camera stolen. Clark asks a passerby to take his family’s picture with the camera. During this photo session, the passerby suggests the family stand in a nearby fountain. After the Griswalds take this suggestion, the passerby runs away with their video camera. While this scene is meant to be played for laughs, a serious point is to be made. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to take a picture of you with your chosen electronic device. However, if you are in possession of a valuable item, being mindful is key. If something doesn’t add up, don’t hesitate to say or do something about the situation. Similar to what I said about Taken, place your belongings with those you trust.
On Your Trip, Know Where Every Member of Your Party Is
A movie I have never talked about on my blog before is the live-action adaptation, Madeline. I’ll admit it has been years since I’ve seen this film. But from what I remember, there is one scene that perfectly fits this discussion. The titular character and her classmates are at a local carnival on a field trip. Toward the end of this trip, Madeline is late for their bus ride home. To avoid getting in trouble, one of Madeline’s classmates holds up a hat to look like Madeline was sitting in her seat. This leads Miss Clavel to assume Madeline was with the rest of the class. But, in reality, she was somewhere else. During any trip, there is so much to think about. Keeping your party together is one of them. If Madeline had told one of her classmates or even Miss Clavel where she was going or how long she would be gone for, the school community would have one less thing to worry about. There’s no “modern” technology present in this film. But if Madeline had access to a cell phone, she should have kept it on and with her at all times. Miss Clavel is known for saying “Something is not right”. Had Madeline been in worse danger than was depicted in the movie, something would have been very wrong.
Leave Enough Time to Gather All Your Belongings
A running joke on The Middle is “the blue bag”. This blue bag contains important items, such as snacks, and is meant to travel with the Heck family whenever they go on a trip. Unfortunately, this bag is, more often than not, forgotten. When this realization occurs, the family typically asks in unison, “You forgot the blue bag”? A reason why this bag gets left behind is because the Heck family usually rushes to get to their destination. In my years of travelling and watching The Middle, I know how essential it is to be prepared. This is why I always pack the day before I leave for a trip. The day before I plan to leave, I also gather what I know I will pack and put those items in one place. This has saved me so much headache and stress.
Take Advantage of the Opportunities Around You
Ok, so I know I’ve been sharing lessons I’ve learned relating to more serious, travel related situations. Well, this lesson is serious, but not in the same way. Travelling, whether near or far, can give you opportunities to explore new places, meet new people, and grow as an individual. Two characters who take advantage of this are Brooklyn and Joe from Anchors Aweigh! For the majority of this story, Joe and Brooklyn travel to Los Angeles/Hollywood after receiving permission to leave their Navy base. During their travels, they make new friends, fall in love, even helping make a dream come true. Brooklyn and Joe also visit places not highlighted in a travel guide. But none of that would have been possible if they hadn’t been open to the possibilities of their surroundings. So many discoveries are waiting to be found when you travel. They can come in all different shapes and sizes. How do you find them, you ask? Just be aware of what your surroundings have to offer.
When MovieRob announced ‘Sports Themed Films’ as April’s Genre Grandeur theme, I knew right away which movie I would review: the 1971 tv movie, Brian’s Song! One reason for this decision was the fact I had this film on my DVR. But when I recently checked my DVR, Brian’s Song was nowhere to be found. This is not the first time this has happened to me, where a recorded program on my DVR has suddenly disappeared. But it did not deter me from reviewing Brian’s Song. On a recent trip to the library, I found a DVD copy of the film. It was perfect timing, as I was soon going to watch and write about the movie! In the world of made-for-tv film productions, there are those that are well-known, for better or worse. Brian’s Song is one of the more respected titles, garnering praise since its 1971 release. But will I join the choir and sing this movie’s praises? Or will I skip a trip on the bandwagon? You won’t know if Brian’s Song scored a touchdown unless you read this review!
Before I begin this review, I would like to point out there will be a few spoilers within this article.
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I really liked the cast of Brian’s Song! But because this story primarily revolves around Brian and Gale’s friendship, this review will focus on the performances of James Caan and Billy Dee Williams. When I think of Billy Dee Williams, I think of Lando from Star Wars! It has been years since I’ve seen the original trilogy in the Star Wars franchise. But from what I remember, Billy’s on-screen personality was charismatic and larger-than-life. His portrayal of Gale Sayers was very different from his portrayal of Lando, as it was more reserved. However, it was packed with emotion! When Gale first meets Brian, he is taken aback by Brian’s outgoing personality. Gale’s eyes contain the awkwardness of the situation and his body language appeared tenser than Brian’s. Gale also spoke with few words, carefully choosing what to say next. Meanwhile, as I’ve just said, Brian was outgoing and confident. In this first meeting, Brian walks up to Gale, immediately recalling a conversation they had prior to training. At the first team dinner, Brian sings his alma mater’s fight song, not afraid to look silly in front of his team members. This on-screen personality was different from James’ westerns I’ve seen, where his character has typically been rugged and serious.
One of the best scenes in Brian’s Song is when Brian is building exercise equipment for Gale. Before this gesture, Gale injured his leg during a game. Angry about the situation, he is bitter toward Brian. Gale angrily objects to Brian’s plan, with this objection meeting Brian’s reason for the gesture. Brian recalls how, in high school, he was demoted on his football team due to a more talented team member. He also shares how he was demoted again, as Gale is the stronger player among the two of them. Now that Brian has a top position on the Chicago Bears, he would rather help Gale heal from his injury, as Brian claims his recent top position was given to him “for the wrong reasons”. This is one of those scenes where the audience can understand both characters’ reasoning. Through Billy’s expressions, Gale is less reserved, gaining some of Brian’s confidence to angrily explain his objections. James shows a side of gentle humbleness, as Brian recounts moments of self-doubt. It is a good example of how the differences in acting performances can complement both of them!
The football game footage: Brian’s Song featured game footage whenever the Chicago Bears made a game appearance. I’m not sure if this footage was taken from actual games or if it was filmed for the sake of the movie. Either way, its inclusion added a sense of realism to the overall narrative. In one scene, Gale and Brian are talking to each other on the sidelines. This scene was filmed as if it was part of a television broadcast, captured in a grainier image. This cinematography felt consistent to the game footage I talked about. It also presented a different way to include football games in a story, as most football themed movies place, at least, one football game during their story’s climax.
The voice-overs: During the aforementioned game footage, voice-overs of Brian and Gale could be heard. These voice-overs consisted of conversations between the two, with different topics being discussed. I like how the voice-overs were added over the footage. It reminded me of sports commentators, except the game itself was never brought up in these conversations. The voice-overs provided insight into Brian and Gale’s friendship. Their humor and perspectives could be picked up in these voice-overs, allowing the audience to learn more about them.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Glossed over racism: After football training for the Chicago Bears begins, Gale is told by the team’s head coach that he and Brian will be the first interracial roommates in professional football history. Because of this, Chicago Bears’ staff prepare Gale for the racism he will likely experience. I know there is only so much to cover in a made-for-tv movie, especially one that is about an hour and thirteen minutes. But when it comes to the racism Gale encounters, there was more telling than showing. Besides the staff’s preparations, the only racism present in the story is when Brian reads Gale a mean letter through a voice-over. The glossing over of racism surprised me, since the story takes place in 1965, a year within a decade known for the Civil Rights Movement.
Confusing aspects of the football training process: The story of Brian’s Song starts at the beginning of Chicago Bears’ training. When this process began, I found myself confused by what was happening on screen. I wondered why a professional football team was gathering on a college campus? Why was the coach and his staff talking about cutting team members? Was a draft supposed to take place before training began? I know a certain amount of information about professional football. However, the training process isn’t one of those subjects. It also doesn’t help how the script was written as if expecting the audience to know that kind of information from that specific period in time. I wish explanations were provided in the dialogue.
Omitted grief of the team: Remember when I said there were a few spoilers in this review? Well, this is where I will bring those up. At one point in the story, Brian is diagnosed with cancer. After learning of Brian’s diagnosis, Gale makes an emotional pep talk to the Bears, vowing to dedicate their upcoming game to Brian. At the end of the movie, Gale reveals through a voice-over Brian passed away. In the aforementioned scene featuring Gale’s pep talk, the sadness of the news could be seen on the faces of the team members. While they all carried long, heartbroken faces, some of them even held tears in their eyes. With that said, I would guess Brian’s passing would leave everyone involved with the team devastated. As I said before in this review, there is only so much to cover in a made-for-tv movie. But I think a final scene/epilogue showing how the Bears dealt with Brian’s passing should have been included. Was Brian’s jersey honorably retired? Did he receive a posthumous MVP award? I’m not familiar with Chicago Bears’ history, so I’m not sure how the team responded to Brian’s passing in real life. However, omitting it from the script seems like a disservice to the team members who knew him.
My overall impression:
Before Billy Dee Williams entered a galaxy far, far away and before James visited the wild, wild west, there was a little made-for-tv film called Brian’s Song. Fifty-one years after this movie debuted, it has still held a favorable reputation, regarded as one of the most beloved television films of all time. Brian’s Song is a fine production with its heart in the right place. But I wasn’t as emotionally affected by it as I expected. Yes, this movie’s story is a sad one. However, I was familiar with Brian and Gale’s story before I saw the film. This knowledge prevented me from being emotionally caught off guard when a sadder, more dramatic moment happened. Like I just said, this movie had its heart in the right place. One way this statement is put into action is how the cast appears to truly care about the respective material. The film also features interesting creative decisions, such as football game footage and voice-overs over that footage. Before I end this review, I would like to point out how accessible Brian’s Song is, as I happened to chance upon a copy of it on DVD. Not every made-for-tv movie is lucky, as some of them are either harder to find or lost to time.
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen Brian’s Song? Which made-for-tv movie would you consider a “classic”? Let me know in the comment section!
William Holden is an actor who I am familiar with. I have seen some of the films on his filmography and have even reviewed a few. So, when I came across the announcement post for The 5th Golden Boy Blogathon, I saw it as a great opportunity to explore William’s filmography some more! As I was signing up, though, I noticed how The Bridge on the River Kwai hadn’t been selected yet. Surprised by this, I found another good opportunity to check out a “classic”! For years, I had heard of the 1957 film. It is even featured on the American Film Institute’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time. At the publication of this review, I have seen twenty-nine of the movies on this list, in their entirety. Some of these titles have been enjoyable, but there are others I wasn’t a fan of. Where does The Bridge on the River Kwai fall on that spectrum? Keep reading to find out!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Since William Holden is one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai, I’ll talk about his performance first. This is not the first war film William has starred in. Four years prior to the release of The Bridge on the River Kwai, he appeared in Stalag 17. What makes his portrayal of Shears different from Sgt. J.J. Sefton is the material allowed William to expand his acting abilities. While on a beach at a nearby hospital, Shears is flirting with a female nurse. In this scene, William turns on the charm, sharing nice on-screen chemistry with Ann Sears. In the next scene, Shears carries a serious demeanor as he is called upon for a military mission. Out of Williams’ films I have seen, his character presents one of two personas: the “charmer” or the serious, no-nonsense man. In The Bridge on the River Kwai, Shears displayed both.
One of my favorite scenes is when Colonels Nicholson and Saito are attempting to make a negotiation. Colonel Saito, portrayed by Sessue Hayakawa, wants every member of Nicholson’s team to work on the bridge. Colonel Nicholson, portrayed by Alec Guinness, refuses this order. Prior to this scene, Nicholson stood his ground. He was even locked in a small hut because of his refusal. But Nicholson persevered, even carrying a dignified persona that ends up boosting the morale of his team. He consistently maintains this persona, especially during his meeting with Colonel Saito. This dignified, confident demeanor of Nicholson angers Saito. Up until that point, Saito presents himself in a professional manner. He is no-nonsense and doesn’t allow anyone to step out of line. But in his meeting with Nicholson, his anger becomes visible. Both Sessue and Alec gave different performances, portraying two different military leaders. Yet the strength of their acting abilities allowed them to go toe-to-toe with one another.
The scenery: The Bridge on the River Kwai had such magnificent scenery, it honestly stole the show! There are two locations I loved so much, I wanted to talk about them in my review. The first location is the hospital I just mentioned. The Mount Lavinia Hotel was the stand-in for the hospital. When looking at the exterior and grounds, one could see why this location was chosen. The trimmed lawn was a great contrast to the small white structure. The manicured gardens surrounding the hospital created a pleasant outdoor space. In the scene the hospital was featured in, a nearby beach was primarily showcased. The clear blue waters and bright sandy shore paired with the garden-esque surroundings illustrated a tropical oasis!
The second location is Major Warden’s office! Any time a scene took place in his office, glass windows in wooden frames were always open. This allowed the audience to see the beautiful view! Major Warden’s office overlooked a river. Sloping green hills sat on the sides of this river, contributing to the visually appealing view. Similar to the aforementioned hospital, Warden’s office also oversaw a trimmed lawn and manicured gardens. The spacious surroundings of this location presented the audience a peaceful atmosphere!
The music: There were some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai that included little to no dialogue. This decision led the film’s creative team to use music to elevate a scene’s tone. While stumbling through the jungle, Shears notices a group of vultures sitting on a nearby tree. As he walks through this environment, quiet orchestral music becomes louder. A “bird” appears out of nowhere, adding to the scene’s tension. The music gets even louder when Shears crosses paths with the “bird”. When the “bird” is revealed as a bird-shaped kite, the music stops. The tension and suspense of this scenario was accomplished by a combination of music and visuals!
What I didn’t like about the film:
A confusing first half: During the first half of The Bridge on the River Kwai, I was confused by what was happening in the story. This confusion was caused by the lack of explanations. At the prisoner camp, Colonel Saito continuously mentioned the importance of the titular bridge. He stresses how the bridge needs to be built on a specific day, even going so far as to claim he’ll commit suicide if the bridge isn’t built. What Colonel Saito failed to mentioned is the bridge’s purpose. Even though an explanation was eventually provided, it is given at the film’s half-way point. Had this information been given sooner, so much confusion could have been avoided.
A limited amount of urgency: In war films or films that involve a significant amount of action, a strong sense of urgency can be felt throughout the story. This sense of urgency encourages the audience to care about the safety and wellbeing of the characters. But because some scenes in The Bridge on the River Kwai were drawn out, the sense of urgency was limited. Toward the end of the movie, a climactic moment involving the story’s major players takes place. While I won’t spoil the movie, I will say this moment was drawn out a little longer than necessary. The action moved at a slower pace, which also effected the urgency. It seems like this creative decision was made to build suspense. However, it left me, at times, frustrated.
Inconsistent halves: Earlier in this review, I said William Holden was one of the reasons why I chose to watch The Bridge on the River Kwai. Interestingly, his character’s story was the one I found the most engaging. This movie features two major storylines: Colonel Nicholson’s team in the prisoner camp and Shears’ experiences in the military. Since Shears’ story was prominently featured in the film’s second half, I found that half the most interesting. With Shears’ story, there was a strong conflict and an even stronger part of the plot. Meanwhile, Colonel Nicholson’s story seemed to remain at a standstill. Like I also mentioned in this review, the film’s first half was confusing due to the lack of explanations. If The Bridge on the River Kwai had just focused on Shears’ story, the film as a whole would have been more intriguing.
My overall impression:
Why is The Bridge on the River Kwai on AFI’s list of The 100 Greatest American Movies Of All Time? I’m not asking this to be disrespectful or mean. I’m asking out of curiosity. When I think of lists like AFI’s, I think of movies that fit one of two categories: those that represent the time they were released and those that brought something new to the cinematic table. With The Bridge on the River Kwai, I can’t see this film fitting into either category. As I mentioned in this review, Stalag 17 was released four years prior to The Bridge on the River Kwai. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was also released in 1957. With that said, what makes those two films less deserving of being on AFI’s list than The Bridge on the River Kwai? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any cinematic advancements The Bridge on the River Kwai had to offer. The more films I watch from AFI’s list and the more I think of lists of this nature, I wonder what the criteria is? Was there criteria to begin with or is the list purely subjective? As I explore more “classics”, those are questions I will keep in mind.
Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10
Have you watched any of William Holden’s movies? If so, which one would you like me to review next? Please tell me in the comment section!
Hi everyone! I just wanted to let you know that if you’re interested in participating in my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, you have a month left to sign up! Just click on the link in this post to learn more about the event!
Two years ago, when I reviewed the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, I was given a movie recommendation by Le from Crítica Retrô. That recommendation was Cyrano de Bergerac’s 1950 adaptation! Like any film suggestion I’m given, I wanted to make the time to watch and/or review this title. The opportunity finally came this month! March’s film for Genre Grandeur is Oscar Nominated /Winning Films. From what I’ve gathered, 1950’s Cyrano de Bergerac was nominated for and won an Oscar for Best Actor. Then I discovered The Bonnets and Bustles: Costume Blogathon. While thinking about what to write for the event, I realized Cyrano de Bergerac would be an eligible topic. Therefore, I’ve decided to review this movie for both blogathons!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I am not familiar with José Ferrer’s filmography. Despite this, the one word I would use to describe his performance in Cyrano de Bergerac is confident! The confidence within José’s portrayal helped him stand out against Gérard Depardieu’s portrayal in the 1990 adaptation. This confidence was also a consistent component that made Cyrano a force to be reckoned with! Toward the beginning of the film, Cyrano engages in a duel at the local theater. Throughout this scene, the protagonist speaks eloquently and with sophistication. He holds his own in the duel, with his posture and skills showing the audience that he knows what he’s doing. But this aforementioned confidence never comes across as cocky. Instead, Cyrano is presented as being sure of himself, despite his flaws and imperfections.
Christian de Neuvillette is portrayed by William Prince. What makes his portrayal stand out from Vincent Perez’s performance is how Christian came across as a hopeless romantic. This can be seen when he visits Roxane one evening. During their conversation, Christian becomes tongue-tied. He struggles to find the right words without Cyrano’s help. But the passion he feels for Roxane is displayed on his face. William’s body language also proved how much his character wanted to be with Roxane. Speaking of Roxane, let’s talk about Mala Powers’ performance. In this adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxane was mesmerized by the romantic words of Cyrano and passionate gestures of Christian. The balcony scene is a perfect example. As Christian quotes Cyrano’s poetry, Roxane is overcome by her feelings. Her voice contains emotion, expressing through words what is in her heart. Roxane’s body language longs for a romantic embrace, as she searches in the night for the one she loves. Mala’s performance is one of the reasons why that scene packed such a punch!
The sword fights: In this adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, there were some exciting sword fights! Part of that excitement comes from the quality of the choreography! As I said earlier in this review, I talked about Cyrano’s involvement in a duel at a theater. While that fight was captivating to watch, that wasn’t the only fight to feature good choreography. One evening, Cyrano guards a local baker on his way home. Along the way, they become surrounded by the baker’s enemies. Throughout this scene, the fight choreography is sharp, fast-paced, and precise. These elements allow the fights to appear professional, like the actors involved are taking this part of their performance seriously. What also made these fights exciting was the different camera angles used to capture the shots. The various angles let the audience witness the fights from different perspectives.
Cyrano and Roxane’s interactions: Because Cyrano and Roxane have known each other prior to the events of the film, they have a pre-existing friendship. The on-screen camaraderie between José Ferrer and Mala Powers made my experience watching Cyrano and Roxane’s interactions enjoyable! During these interactions, Roxane and Cyrano share a genuine tenderness that comes across as sweet and good-natured. At the bakery one day, Cyrano learns Roxane has developed feelings for Christian. Even though he is not pleased to learn this news, Cyrano seems to place Roxane’s happiness before his own. Later in the film, when Roxane is sharing Christian’s “poetry” with Cyrano, Cyrano adopts a protectiveness toward Roxane. Meanwhile, Roxane doesn’t miss a beat. She recites Cyrano’s words in a heart-felt way, her vocal inflections indicating how much she enjoys the words. Interactions like this one make me wish Roxane appeared more in the film.
What I didn’t like about the film:
An orange tint: Throughout the film, the picture was coated in an orange tint. Though this tint was not consistently present, it was somewhat distracting. The colors of the costumes and set design appeared faded because of this tint. However, I’m not sure if the tint was caused by the use of lighting or the cinematic technology of the ‘50s.
Few interactions with Christian and Roxane: A major plot-point in Cyrano de Bergerac is the growing relationship between Roxane and Christian de Neuvillette. What makes this plot-point so memorable is how Roxane is smitten by Christian’s words, which were composed by Cyrano. In this adaptation of the story, Christian and Roxane don’t spend much time together. Looking back on the film, I can think of only three scenes featuring their interactions. Because of Roxane and Christian’s limited time together, Mala and William’s on-screen chemistry wasn’t as strong as it could have been.
No build-up to the war storyline: When I reviewed the 1990 adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, I wrote about the war storyline that dominated the movie’s second half. In my review, I said this storyline pulled a “bait and switch” with the film’s overall tone. I also said the build-up toward the war and the reasoning behind it felt too “inside baseball”. While there is a war in the 1950 adaptation, there is no build-up or reason for this event. It feels like the war was placed in the middle of the movie for the sake of providing more action in the story. I still have not read this story’s source material, so I don’t know the historical context of this text. However, some build-up and/or a reason for the war would have been appreciated in the 1950 adaptation.
My overall impression:
A singular adaptation of any story is not the “end all, be all”. Part of that is due to film itself being so subjective. Cyrano de Bergerac from 1950 is the second adaptation of this narrative I’ve seen. But I ended up liking it about as much as the 1990 version. 1950’s Cyrano de Bergerac follows similar beats to 1990’s adaptation. But the movie itself is distinct enough to stand out on its own. The differences in the 1950 version added enjoyment to the overall project, such as the sword fights. But, like the 1990 film, the 1950 project had its flaws. I will say Cyrano de Bergerac from 1950 is the more accessible movie of the two. But no matter which version you choose, the romance, wit, and ways with words are still the same.
Overall score: 7.5 out of 10
Have you seen any adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!
When Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, invited me to join the Wilhelm Scream Blogathon, I had no idea the “Wilhelm Scream” was even a thing. However, I was determined to find the perfect selection for the event! After searching high and low on the internet, it was down to two choices: F9 and Sailor Moon S: The Movie. I ultimately selected the latter because it’s been some time since I last reviewed an animated movie. As a matter of fact, the most recent animated film reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane was 1990’s The Nutcracker Prince back in December of 2021. I was also surprised to discover the “Wilhelm Scream” was featured in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! Even though this is my first time writing about anything Sailor Moon related, I have watched the English dub version of the show years ago. With that said, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. To avoid confusion for my readers, I will refer to the characters by their Japanese and Americanized names, if applicable. The version of Sailor Moon S: The Movie I watched is the English dub version. So, “in the name of the moon”, let’s start this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The animation: Despite Sailor Moon being released in the ‘90s and 2000s, the animation quality still holds up! One consistent element was the use of color! Princess Snow Kaguya, the film’s villain, wants to blanket the world in an infinite layer of snow and ice. Even though wintery environments typically don’t feature an expansive color palette, Kaguya was presented in hues of blue, green, and purple. The wardrobe of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts boasted bright hues; from Makoto’s/Lita’s orange sweatshirt to Usagi’s/Serena’s pale green sweater. This showed the creative team’s incentive to use as much color as possible. In some scenes, sparkles were added to provide a layer of dimension to a specific piece of animation. One example is when Luna is looking out at the ocean, as the sparkles give the illusion of the water moving. Another example involving Luna is when she is crying, with the sparkles emphasizing Luna’s emotions. Though the sparkles don’t make the animation 3-D, they do bring depth, in varying degrees, to the film. The fluidity of the animation’s movements also showcase the impressiveness of the movie! In some scenes, snow falls from the sky. The snowflakes fall in a steady progression, to the point where you forget it was likely added as an extra layer of animation. The fluid movement of these snowflakes brought realism to a given scene as well as the world of Sailor Moon!
Interconnected stories: Sailor Moon S: The Movie contains three plots. But it never felt like these plots were clashing or in competition with one another. Instead, they were interconnected, woven together by a strong thread! Two of the plots, Luna’s growing feelings for Kakeru and Himeko’s space journey were heavily affected by Kaguya’s attempts to cover Earth in snow and ice. While Kaguya’s plans provided the tenser moments of the movie, the other two plots served gentler moments, where the scripts messages of selflessness, dreams, and doing the right thing are instilled on the audience. The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts are the glue that keeps the stories together, as they have some connection to each one. All of these components help the script move in a cycle.
Differing views on astronomy: In the Diagnosis Murder episode, “An Education in Murder”, Dr. Mark Sloan explains to his class how medicine is both an art and a science. This statement, though applying to astronomy this time, is brought to life in Sailor Moon S: The Movie! As I just mentioned, Himeko, a local astronaut, is preparing to make a journey to space. Her approach to astronomy is more scientific, as she chooses to think logically and “by the book”. Her friend, Kakeru, is also an astronomer. But his approach to the subject is more artistic. This is because he uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. These characters don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to their respective scientific field. However, they not only care about one another, but they also recognize the importance of space exploration. Himeko and Kakeru’s story shows the audience how everyone can come to any subject differently.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Not feeling cinematic: When I choose to watch a movie, I expect that production to feel cinematic in some capacity. However, that wasn’t really the case for Sailor Moon S: The Movie. Most of the story was episodic, as these plots could have also been featured on the show. As good as the animation was, it looked like it came straight from one of the show’s episodes. The moment that truly felt cinematic was the final battle, with the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts going up against Kaguya. Every member of the Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts present and the high energy excitement serve as two reasons for the cinematic feel. Even Usagi’s/Serena’s monologue about protecting life made that scene feel larger in scale. But outside that moment, Sailor Moon S: The Movie feels more like an extended episode.
The limited presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista: The Sailor Guardians/Sailor Scouts from the Outer Planets, Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make an appearance in Sailor Moon S: The Movie. But outside of their transformations as Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, and Sailor Pluto, they only appeared in the film twice. Their limited presence was a missed opportunity to learn more about Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista. It also prevented these characters from having a stronger connection to the three aforementioned plots. If anything, the presence of Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista make it feel like they were there for plot convenience.
Confusion over the moon princess: As I mentioned earlier, Kakeru uses his knowledge and skills to prove the existence of a moon princess. While this part of the movie was easy to understand, I was confused over the true identity of who this princess was. Based on what some of the characters said, it seemed like Kaguya claimed to be the moon princess. Her place of origin happened to be the moon itself. But Luna planned on pretending to be the moon princess, in order to make Kakeru’s dream come true. When everything was said and done, I don’t feel like I received a definitive answer of who the moon princess was meant to be.
My overall impression:
One of my reasons for reviewing Sailor Moon S: The Movie was the inclusion of the “Wilhelm Scream”. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear this scream while watching the film. Then again, I was so engrossed in the story that I must have missed it. As I said in the introduction, it has been years since I’ve seen anything Sailor Moon related. However, it was nice to revisit the series, even for an hour! The animation still holds up, maintaining its color, depth, and fluidity over twenty years later. Like the show, Sailor Moon S: The Movie features important messages and themes. But it also contained differing views on astronomy, a topic that wouldn’t typically be found in the Sailor Moon series. Despite all these strengths, I wish the movie felt like a movie, instead of an extended tv episode. I also wish Haruka/Amara, Michiru/Michelle, and Setsuna/Trista had more appearances in the story. If you are a fan of Sailor Moon, ‘90s entertainment, or animation in general, then this is worth an hour of your time!
Overall score: 7.5 out of 10
Have you watched Sailor Moon? Do you prefer the Japanese version or the English dubbed version? Let me know in the comment section!
First, it was All Dogs Go to Heaven 2. Then, it was The Cabin, followed by Scarlett. Now, for the fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, I am continuing my saga to find the one movie that can rightfully claim this coveted title! As you can see by the aforementioned films, my track record has been two ‘90s projects that were just ok and one 2011 Hallmark movie that was so bad, it was unenjoyable. This time around, I traveled further back in time to choose my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie. In my review of The Lion, I mentioned Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. This is because that book introduced me to the 1962 title. Through this publication, Leonard introduced me to another movie. That film is 1978’s The New Adventures of Heidi! According to Leonard’s review of this picture, the movie contains the following:
A) A “modern” retelling of a well-known story
B) Musical numbers
C) New York City
To me, these facts sounded like the ingredients of a “so bad it’s good” project. But has The New Adventures of Heidi finally claimed this sought-after title? Keep reading to see what’s on the other side of the mountain!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: When it comes to acting performances in made-for-tv movies, it can be hit or miss. But in The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was stronger than initially expected! Portraying the titular character, Katy Kurtzman gave a performance that appeared genuine, like the character’s goodness was true all along. Whenever Heidi is with her friend, Elizabeth, you can see they truly enjoy spending time together. Elizabeth meets Heidi after running away from school. Despite knowing each other for a short amount of time, they display a strong camaraderie. This camaraderie was displayed through a down-to-earth personality, pleasant facial expressions, and a kind demeanor from Katy. Executed with consistency, Katy also displayed authentic emotion. When Heidi first learns about her grandfather’s plans to send her away, her emotions effortlessly change over the course of the scene. Happiness turns to thoughtful concern, her eyes intently set on her grandfather. As the conversation continues, Heidi’s eyes grow sadder, eventually leading to shed tears. Because of Katy’s acting strength, her overall performance was enjoyable to watch!
Since I mentioned Elizabeth, I’ll talk about Sherrie Wills’ performance! On the surface, Elizabeth seems like aspoiled child who is rough around the edges. But beyond the surface, she doesn’t seem like a stereotype. Because of Sherrie’s acting abilities, Elizabeth is a character that gives the audience a reason to be sympathetic toward her. A great example is when she and Heidi go Christmas shopping. When they arrive toa toy store, they are overcome with happiness and wonder at the sights of the season. But as soon as Elizabeth sees a carousel music box, she immediately bursts into tears. This is because Elizabeth’s mother, who passed away before the film’s events, used to give her father a music box every Christmas. It is scenes like this one that show how there is more than meets the eye.
Back in 2019, I reviewed Summer Magic, a Disney production from 1963. One of the reasons why I wanted to see that particular film was Burl Ives’ involvement in the project. When I discovered he was cast in The New Adventures of Heidi, I was curious to see how his performance differed from Osh Popham of Summer Magic. Like his previous performance, I liked his portrayal of Heidi’s grandfather! While his acting abilities were expressive, there was a lot of heart in his performance. This heart can be seen during the musical number, “Heidi”. In that number, Heidi’s grandfather is singing about how thankful he is to have Heidi in his life. Throughout this scene, he appears genuinely happy, reminiscing over all the joy Heidi brought so far. A warm smile appears on his face and a pleasant demeanor is heard in his voice. Heidi’s grandfather seems approachable, showing him as a friendly man and lovable parental figure. Even though he was in a handful of scenes, Burl Ives did a good job with his role!
The messages and themes: The original Heidi is known for containing messages and themes of family, friendship, and finding a silver lining. Like the original, The New Adventures of Heidi also features themes and messages that are timeless and relatable! Before Christmas, Elizabeth’s father, Dan, tells his secretary how he’ll be too busy to celebrate the holiday with his daughter. His secretary, Mady, tells him “But no two are the same. And you’ll never have this one back again”. This simple statement reminds the audience how unpredictable time is. Therefore, it is wise to spend that time with those you love. When Heidi comes home, she is upset because her grandfather hasn’t returned. Dan shares with Heidi how even though it’s important to hold on to the memory of lost loved ones, time needs to be made to open hearts for those still living. This message is just as meaningful today as it was in 1978. That could also be said about all the messages and themes in The New Adventures of Heidi!
The scenery: This movie was filmed in California and Colorado, according to IMDB. For the scenes taking place in the Alps, my guess is they were filmed in Snowmass, Colorado. Despite this, the setting looked like a pretty convincing Switzerland! In some establishing shots, large mountains and dark green hills are captured in long to medium shots. A color palette of greens, browns, and white illustrated a natural landscape whose justice likely can’t be done through filmography. Red poppies are sprinkled around Heidi and her grandfather’s home. They can also be seen in expansive green fields. The vibrant hue of the flowers provide a striking component to this landscape. When all this is added together and paired with a bright blue sky, a welcoming and picturesque environment is presented to the audience!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Glaring cases of discontinuity: What makes or breaks any story is its continuity. This component is like a thread, tightly holding each piece of the story together, if strong enough. But when it comes to The New Adventures of Heidi, there were a few aspects that caused this thread to be looser. In the introduction, I mentioned the movie was a “modern” retelling of Heidi. While this statement is true, it looks like Heidi, hergrandfather, and Peter didn’t get the memo. That’s because their attire reflects the time period of the originalstory, which is set in the 1880s. Even Heidi and her grandfather’s home is reflective of an era gone by. During the movie, Heidi’s grandfather begins to lose his eyesight. Because of this, he decides to send Heidi to live with her cousins. But while singing the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, Heidi’s grandfather prays to God to have Heidi stay in the Alps, even going so far as to sacrifice his eyesight just to make his prayer a reality. It seems like he has forgotten that this decision was in his control since the very beginning. This example shows howdiscontinuity can muddy the waters of character development.
The musical numbers: As I mentioned in the introduction, there are musical numbers in The New Adventures of Heidi. I can tell the film’s creative team wanted to include musical numbers in an effort to give their project its own unique identity. In all honesty, though, I don’t think this movie needed musical numbers. My reason is how weak these numbers were. Some of these musical numbers were performed by Katy and Sherrie. I’m not going to give these actresses too much criticism, as they were children at the time of the movie’s production. But I will say they are better actresses than singers. Sherrie’s voice was flat, unable to reach higher notes. Meanwhile, Katy’s voice was stronger, but she couldn’t reach some higher notes either. This highlighted the actresses’ weaknesses, giving the audience the impression of how Katy and Sherrie werelikely not professionally trained singers. Even professional singers couldn’t catch a break either. Burl Ives is a talent who can do no wrong, singing wise. But he was caught up in one major weakness in these numbers: talking throughout the song instead of singing. This happened during the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, where Heidi’s grandfather is speaking his prayer when he’s meant to be singing it. Marlyn Mason also fell into this trap with the song, “That Man”. Because she tried to sing and talk through her lyrics at the same time, she performed the song faster than the music. To me, this felt so jarring, as the music and execution of the lyrics seemed like they belonged to two separate pieces.
A regurgitated story: This film is titled The New Adventures of Heidi. If you take the time to watch it, you’d see how the movie rehashes most of the story points fromJohanna Spyri’s original. Take for instance, the character of Elizabeth. In The New Adventures of Heidi, she’s meant to be a Clara representative; a wealthy young girl dealing with her own conflict that Heidi helps to resolve. But instead of dealing with a serious medical situation, Elizabeth wants to spend more time with her workaholic father, especially after the death of her mother. Similar to the original story, there is a medical situation present in The New Adventures of Heidi. But this time, Heidi’s grandfather is losing his eyesight, as I explained in my paragraph about the film’sdiscontinuity. The longer I watched this movie, the more I questioned what it’s intended point was.
My overall impression:
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The answer to whether The New Adventures of Heidi will claim the title of “so bad it’s good” is…an unfortunate no. The longer I think about this film, the more I see how spectacularly average it is. As I mentioned throughout my review, there were musical numbers included in this production. I also noted how Christmas makes an appearance in the story. But when you look past allthe silver and gold decorations (that Burl Ives reference was definitely intentional), the movie is the same story as the original wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. Despite the title boasting “new adventures” with theworld’s favorite Swiss mountain girl, the script spends more time repeating history. At the same time, parts ofthe movie are treated as if the project were a sequel, the creative team expecting the audience to know exactly what is happening on screen. Reflecting on my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie,I realize a script’s strength can determine a film’s overall quality. In the case of The New Adventures of Heidi,the acting was strong and the film itself did have other merits. But not even Burl Ives himself could save this picture. Bottom line is if a cinematic project chooses to use bells and whistles, that may mean the creative team is trying to make up for a loss in another department.
Overall score: 5.1 out of 10
Do you have a “so bad it’s good” film in your life? If so, what is it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!