MAGIC MOVIE MOMENTS                   

Few people who know me, family included, would describe me as particularly emotional, especially when it comes to the movies. An understandable assessment, of course, given my disillusionment with the industry and many (but certainly not all) of its employees and employers. However, every once in a while a scene of sheer movie magic is created, a moment or two in which the camera, the music, the acting, and (at times) the script, combine to present a truly moving experience. When that occurs, I find myself welling up unexpectedly and unashamedly, no matter how many times I witness it.

The very first time I experienced this, however, was not even in a movie. I was a teenager watching a newsreel clip of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne when Australia’s own Betty Cuthbert won gold in the 220 yards (I think), and the race caller referred to her as ‘Our Bett’. Just thinking about it as I write brings tears to my eyes. Always has. The sight of Betty, head back, mouth open, giving her all for her country was highly emotional stuff. Well, it was for me, personally, anyway. Similarly, I cannot listen to the final notes in the song ‘Nessum Dorma’ without getting emotional. The mere fact that human beings can possess such talent as ‘The Three Tenors’, for example, gives me renewed hope for our species. All the other times that performances have reduced me to tears, however, have happened in movies, each one in films based on real events. Five in particular stand out and they are: A League of Their Own (1992), Glory (1989), October Sky (1999), Cool Runnings (1993) and Chariots of Fire (1981).

My Meaningful Movies: Glory

GLORY (1989)

Glory (1989)

Matthew Broderick as Colonel Shaw, inspecting his troops in Glory.

I hasten to point out that I find nothing glorious about any aspect of warfare, nothing whatsoever. The fact that our leaders seem to be forever dragging us into conflict after conflict fills me with utter despair. It is, therefore, testament to the makers of Glory that they were able to create a scene that deeply moved me. The entire lead up to the assault on Fort Wagner; from the moment that Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick) emerged from his tent to inspect his troops, to the measured advance along the beach towards the fort, is hugely stirring, made more so through my knowledge of what was about to transpire. Broderick demonstrated his mettle as an actor in these moments without saying very much in the process. The look of admiration on his face as he walked along the line, before addressing his troops, said it all. The film is aptly named Glory, as director Edward Zwick appeared to focus on the glorification of warfare. I find it fascinating but unforgiveable.

Cool Runnings |Piano Trax


Someone Stole The 'Cool Runnings' Bobsled From A Calgary Bar - LADbible

The Jamaican team carrying their crashed bobsled to the finish line

This is a lightweight Disney ‘feel-good’ movie, one that takes more liberties with what actually happened in reality than you can poke a stick at, yet it manages to project a moving (albeit orchestrated) scene at the end that I imagine many cinema-goers were touched by. The Jamaican bobsled team crash during a run, then extract themselves from the wreckage and carry their disabled sled to the finish line. The entire crowd is silent (in reality that simply never happens), whereupon the chief protagonist, (the captain of the Swiss team), dispels with his (until now) utterly nasty persona and leads the crowd in clapping. Equally unbelievable, the former American sledding coach (who loathes John Candy’s character and has done all in his power to derail the Jamaicans’ entry into the event), also heartily joins in the applause! It is typical Hollywood hokum, but whatever the reason – it works. Totally contrived, of course. Good direction by Jon Turteltaub, possibly.

October Sky | The Soul of the Plot


WEIRDLAND: Happy 60th birthday, Chris Cooper! October Sky clips with Jake Gyllenhaal

Chris Cooper & Jake Gyllenhaal in October Sky

Another film loosely based on actual events, this picture focuses on a coal miner’s son named Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) who becomes inspired by the Russian Sputnik launch, in 1957, to pursue the science of rocketry. His father (a coal-miner played by Chris Cooper) wants him to have a life in the mines and therein lies the major issue of contention in the story. Once again, dramatic license is used throughout the movie by director Joe Johnston. It seems that very few features ‘based on actual events’ even remotely stick to what actually happened. Admittedly, having to squeeze into a movie of only a couple of hours’ duration incidents that may have occurred over several years, makes it necessary to kaleidoscope time. That is both acceptable and understandable. Twisting the facts and/or inventing drama that never happened is something else entirely. I suppose, the primary functions of any movie are twofold – to entertain and to turn a profit – so we must be prepared to cut the makers a little slack. There is a scene in which Homer tells his dad that Wernher von Braun is not his hero. ‘I only hope I can be as good a man as you’, he says. Maybe, I am swayed by the presence of one of my all-time favourite actors (Chris Cooper) in that scene, but it gets me every time. Gyllenhaal is very good also.



Los Angeles Morgue Files: Character Actress Lynn Cartwright 2004 Hollywood Forever Cemetery | Character actress, Hollywood forever cemetery, Actresses

Lynn Cartwright as the ‘older’ Dottie Hinson

There is absolutely nothing that I dislike about this film. Geena Davis is terrific as Dottie Hinson; Tom Hanks is hilarious as Coach Jimmy Dugan, and Lori Petty is at her best as Kit Keller. I love all the supporting players, too, in particular Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn, Bitty Schram and Lynn Cartwright, the lady who played the ‘older’ Dottie Hinson. There are some truly wonderful, poignant moments in this movie; the delivery of the war telegram informing one of the girls that her husband has been killed being just one of them, but it is the opening of the Hall of Fame at the climax of the picture that is most moving. Much of this rests squarely on the shoulders of Lynn Cartwright’s outstanding performance. I am not ashamed to admit that I love everything about this movie, not least of all the direction by Penny Marshall.

Is Chariots of Fire (1981) on Netflix USA?


Struan Rodger

Struan Rodger and that look

In direct contrast to the previously mentioned film, Chariots of Fire is not one of my favourites. Ben Cross (he plays sprinter Harold Abrahams) comes across as a somewhat petulant, immature individual who, frankly, becomes annoying. Ian Charleson (as Eric Liddell) is extremely likeable and believable except when he is running. No doubt, the makers probably studied shots (or film, if any exists from 1924) of Liddell running and more than likely asked Charleson to emulate the man’s style, but if he was the fastest runner in the world with that technique I would be very much surprised. The highlight of the movie, however, occurred after he won the gold medal and was carried to the front of the grandstand by his team-mates. The camera cuts to the face of Liddell’s friend Sandy McGrath (beautifully portrayed by Struan Rodger), and the look of pride and admiration on that face, coupled with the score, is extraordinary. That look also said, ‘I knew you would do it.’ One of my most beloved moments in cinema history; courtesy of director Hugh Hudson

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