“The Kid Stays In The Picture”

Mar 20, 2011
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This 2002 documentary is based on Robert Evans' 1994 autobiography of the same title. It tells the incredibly dramatic story  of one of Hollywood's greatest producers, story Robert Evans. Starting with his acting career in the 50's, check it continues through to the mid 90's. It is engrossing, opisthorchiasis hilarious, heart-breaking and incredibly fascinating. With Evans narrating the whole thing (what a voice!), you get this wonderful first person account of Hollywood through the 50-80s. He's a great story-teller and the stories are even greater. From nasty dealings with Francis Ford Coppola to countless romances at his legendary "Woodland" mansion, Evans has lived enough life to fit into 10 lifetimes. Particularly heart-breaking is the story of his one true love, then famous actress, Ali MacGraw. While Evans has had six -- count 'em, six -- wives, there's no doubt that his marriage to Ali was his truest. But, as with most of Evans' life, all good things must come to an end and she left him in '72 for the biggest actor in Tinseltown, Steve McQueen. His account of this in the movie is profoundly sad and moving. But there are also lots of fun, amazing stories. Like Evans' relationships with Roman Polanski, Jack Nicholson and the like. While he has had lots of skeptics, enemies and haters, he has certainly been blessed with a few very deep, true friendships. And the archival footage throughout the movie is amazing. You don't just hear Evans talk about his friends. There is tonnes of footage, photo montages, etc...showing him chumming it up with people like Henry Kissinger, Kirk Douglas and Slash from G'n'R. Throughout the film he recounts his seemingly ever-increasing moxie and luck. He narrates with pride and fondness of those times in his journey. He also speaks with authentic regret of the bad choices he made. Those often led to the hard times. Dramatic, life-changing hard times. Fights with studio heads, drug-busts and psych wards. His life plays out like a mad roller coaster. Yet throughout the film I couldn't help but feel it's an honest retelling. Well, as honest as you can get from a Hollywood autobiography. I'm sure there are moments of "embellishment". But the storytelling is so good, one can forgive, even ignore, any potential fiction. If you're a fan of Tinseltown and/or enjoy exceptional autobiographies, this is one documentary you must see. Thoroughly entertaining, great archival footage and incredible storytelling.

“Saint Ralph”

Mar 15, 2011
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This fictional, ophthalmologist Canadian film was brought to my attention by a good friend of mine. He's a runner and this film centres around an extraordinary young runner from Hamilton, search Ontario in the early 1950's. Steeped in a Catholic upbringing, 14 yr. old Ralph Walker is looking for a miracle. His father was lost to the war and his mother is lost to a coma. He is lost to his desire for a miracle. Young Ralph is a delightful character; honest, real and unconventional. Like any young teenager, he is curious and caught up in discovering the joys and pains of youthful passions. He is also regularly caught in his indulgences and chastised harshly by the stern, Father Fitzpatrick (the school's Head Master). One of his punishments is being sent to run with the school's running club. Let me be clear; Ralph is not an athlete.  So, this is actually a significant punishment for our hero. But none of it keeps Ralph from carving out his own path. He keeps on as a classic dreamer and free-spirit, speaking his mind and following his heart. But, when he's faced with the very real possibility of his mother never waking from her coma, Ralph earnestly searches for an answer, a miracle. He comes up with a crazy idea...well, crazy to everyone but Ralph. Based on very poor theological reasoning, he believes that if he can win the Boston Marathon (a miraculous achievement) then God will wake his mother and they'll live happily ever after. A miracle for a miracle. Seems fair, right? Well, no one takes him too seriously at first. After all, this is Ralph; head-in-the-clouds, day-dreaming Ralph. But he is serious. He intensifies his training, outrunning his older club counterparts. He enters into Hamilton's classic, "Around the Bay" race (30K) and he wins! This convinces Ralph that he is ready to go to Boston and make a miracle happen. But his seniors (mainly Father Fitzpatrick) become increasingly concerned that this little boy is going to set himself up for extreme failure. Slowly the one man who comes to Ralph's side is the running club's coach, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott). Father Hibbert trains Ralph for the Boston Marathon despite his boss' explicit instruction to stop. Ooooo, nothing says "rebel" like a junior priest disobeying a senior priest! You get the picture. The tension increases, the stakes get higher and Father Hibbert and ambitious Ralph arrive in Boston. Of course, this is the pinnacle of the film, so I won't give away the ending. On the surface, "Saint Ralph" is a basic, even cliché, underdog drama. The directing is standard; effective but not outstanding. The actors are great, but held down by stereotyped character writing and a predictable script. All that said, it kept my attention, raised my pulse at the right times and was very satisfying. I'm not sure if it was because I live in Hamilton and therefore felt connected to the heritage and locations. Or maybe it's because, like Ralph, I'm not much of an athlete but have enjoyed the discipline and rush of running myself. Whatever it was, I personally enjoyed this film a great deal. As a critic, I found it to be "okay" and unexceptional. If you're a runner yourself (or a Hamiltonian) I think you'll likely have a good time watching this one. It's nowhere near as compelling as running classics like, "Chariots of Fire" or "Prefontaine". But then again, there isn't an abundance of films that revolve around such a popular and addictive activity. So, you're likely eager to find whatever you can. And "Saint Ralph" does not disappoint. This saint connects with the soul of the runner, underdogs and dreamers everywhere.

…and the Oscar goes to…

Feb 28, 2011
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Oscar mania is over for another year and I'm sure there are many a hung-over celebrity sprinkled throughout the hotels of Hollywood today. But the show must go on and I must blog my thoughts on it all. Read More »

Two more sleeps…

Feb 25, 2011
Ever since I can remember, obesity I've been obsessed with watching the Oscars. As a kid I would cut the nominations' page out of the newspaper and star the ones I believe would win the statuette. I've always prided myself in figuring out what the academy would decide. Of course, for sale I haven't always agreed. I often disagree. But that's not the point. The challenge of getting into the minds of Hollywood's elite, pharm figuring out who is the chosen darling of the year...this is the point. And yes, it is a decent reflection of what films are the worth watching each year. Read More »


Feb 24, 2011
Alright. I finally did it. For years I've dreamt about it. And now my dream has finally come true! Read More »