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PEARLIE MAE’S WORDS OF WISDOM

 

Two 1950s record albums by Pearl Bailey illustrate her popularity as a vocalist.

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This brief column offers some insight into how celebrities grant interviews to the media to publicize a new movie, book, music album, whatever. Especially to smaller outlets in smaller markets, which the Deseret News certainly was (and is). Pearl Bailey passed in 1990 at the age of 72 but my interview with her a couple of years earlier was a memorable one for me and after it was published I wrote this ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, which ran March 27, 1988, under the headline, ’15 minutes on the phone with Pearl is a lesson in life.”

One of the true pleasures of this job is being able occasionally to speak with artists you’ve admired for years, and that happened to me last week when I did a brief telephone interview with Pearl Bailey.

I’ve loved Pearl Bailey since my childhood and it was a particular thrill to be able to talk to her as she gave out a series of interviews for the re-issue of the Disney animated film “The Fox and the Hound” which features her voice.

The publicist informed me that I was to keep the interview to 15 minutes sharp, which I did. But Bailey was someone I could have talked with for hours.

It’s not always like that, of course. There have been interviews with other celebrities that seemed long after five minutes.

And part of that is due to the nature of celebrity interviews. Whenever they have a new movie, TV show, record or book to promote, celebrities have to do so many interviews back to back — whether by phone, satellite or in person — that it must become extremely tiring.

     

Pearl Bailey and the animated character she voices in 'The Fox and the Hound' (1981).

After a dozen or so sessions, talking about themselves constantly, especially with the realization that no one is going to ask a question that hasn’t been asked 12 times already, it’s understandable that they might become bored or restless or even a bit testy.

Still, it’s the real professionals who can pull it off well — making you seem like you’re the first interview of the day — though you may be No. 29.

So it’s better to be among the first three or four interviews than the last five or six.

In the case of Bailey, she did 45 15-minute phoners over Tuesday and Wednesday, speaking from her hotel room in Chicago. She was so bouncy and fresh, however — seemingly enjoying herself so thoroughly — that it’s hard to imagine her becoming bored by it. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Pearl Bailey ever becoming bored at all.

Few celebrities have the ability to seem friendly, homey and genuine all at once. But that’s because few know how to just be themselves.

There are no airs about Pearl Bailey. She is just herself. As she puts it. “What you see is what you get.”

 

Pearl Bailey co-starred in 'Porgy and Bess' (1959) and 'Carmen Jones' (1954).

And how does she manage to seem just as fresh for No. 44 as she does for No. 2?

I have to do it and I might just as well do it to best of my ability,” Bailey said. “And that’s what life is, honey.”

It’s even fewer celebrities who give you a lesson in life in so short a conversation.

As she hung up Bailey said, “We’ll meet again.”

Well, maybe. But if not, 15 minutes with Pearlie Mae can keep a smile on your face for a long time.


New Movies This Week New Movies This Week

THE NEED FOR SPEED

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

A true story, an elderly thriller and a remake lead off this weekend’s new movies in theaters. It’s the serious vs. the silly; welcome to fall flicks

“Ford v Ferrari” (PG-13). Auto designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is hired by Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) to build a racecar to challenge Ferrari at Les Mans, the world’s oldest sports-car endurance race. Shelby recruits driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), a wild card but the one guy he believes can beat Ferrari. True story directed by James Mangold (“Logan,” “Walk the Line”). With Josh Lucas and Jon Bernthal.

“The Good Liar” (R). An aging career con artist (Ian McKellen) sets his sights on someone he’s met online, a recently widowed millionairess (Helen Mirren), and he means to take all her money. But in time it becomes clears that things are not what they seem. A twisty thriller from director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “Beauty and the Beast”).

  

“Charlie’s Angels” (PG-13). Sabina (Kristen Stewart), Elena (Naomi Scott) and Jane (Ella Balinska) are investigators for the Townsend Agency who take down bad guys all across the globe. An action-filled reboot of the TV series and 2000s movies, written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (“Pitch Perfect,” “The Hunger Games”), who also co-stars (as Bosley). With Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin and Patrick Stewart.

“The Report” (R). The true story of an idealistic CIA staffer (Adam Driver) who is assigned to lead an investigation of the Detention and Interrogation program created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. But what he finds leads to a cover-up as the CIA tries to bury his report. With Annette Bening, Jon Hamm, Tim Blake Nelson, Maura Tierney and Corey Stoll.

“Radioflash” (Not Rated). After a nuclear strike causes an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that cuts off power, water and communication for the entire western United States, a teenage girl (Brighton Sharbino), who revels in virtual-reality survival games, and her father (Dominic Monaghan) begin a desperate journey in this apocalyptic thriller. With Will Patton and Fionnula Flanagan. Filmed in Idaho, Washington and Montana.

  

“The Warrior Queen of Jhansi” (R). The story of Rani (Hindi for “Queen”) of Jhansi (Devika Bhise), a freedom fighter in 1850s India who became known as the “Joan of Arc of the East” for leading her people into battle against the British Empire  is given epic cinematic treatment in this historical biography. With Rupert Everett, Derek Jacobi, Jodhi May and Nathaniel Parker.

“Fantastic Fungi” (Not Rated). Brie Larson narrates this documentary about the medicinal world of fungi, of which there are a million-and-a-half species, 20,000 of which produce mushrooms. And mycologists interviewed here feel they could be useful in saving the planet. (Exclusively at the Tower Theater.)

“No Safe Spaces” (PG-13). This documentary has comic podcaster Adam Carolla and conservative radio talk-show host Dennis Prager traveling the country to interview experts on what they consider an attack in the public forum on free speech.


New DVDS/Blu-rays New DVDS/Blu-rays

THE BOSTONIANS

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 14, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Merchant Ivory Productions was a notable movie company in the 1980s having produced such Oscar winners as ‘Howards End’ and ‘A Room with a View,’ among many others. Another film in its canon, which seems to have been forgotten, is this one, now getting new life with a Blu-ray upgrade from the boutique label the Cohen Media Group. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 15, 1985. (And by the way, Vanessa Redgrave did receive an Oscar nomination for her performance here.)

So, the question is, does Vanessa Redgrave deserve an Oscar nomination for her role in “The Bostonians”? And the answer is yes, most assuredly.

But then, so does the entire cast here, including Christopher Reeve in what has to be his single best onscreen performance yet.

Based on the Henry James novel, “The Bostonians” is about a psychological tug-of-war as Olive Chancellor (Redgrave), a repressed middle-aged matron, vies with her distant cousin Basil Ransome (Reeve), a male chauvinist of the first order, for the affection of Verena Tarrant (Madeleine Potter), a young woman who has become a vibrant symbol of the women’s movement in 1875, struggling to get women to vote.

As the opening scenes set it up, Verena is an up-and-coming representative/spokesperson of the movement but her presentation is as much a sideshow as anything else, with her charlatan father performing spiritual tricks first.

Olive sees in Verena something special, however, and becomes her Svengali, taking Verena into her home and convincing her she should commit her life to the movement, even urging her to never marry.

     

Vanessa Redgrave, left, Madeleine Potter, 'The Bostonians'

Basil is also taken with Verena, however, though for decidedly different reasons. He is a struggling young lawyer in New York, trying to get published some of his outdated views, formed largely through his upbringing as an old-fashioned Southern gentleman. His politics are completely the opposite of hers and Verena looks upon him as a challenge to convert.

Olive, however, sees Basil as “the enemy.” She doesn’t seem to care for men at all but Basil in particular is a threat — and not just to the movement. As a result, Basil and Verena meet only surreptitiously at first, then more openly. Soon, Verena is in love with him, despite their disparate views, and Olive fears losing her forever.

“The Bostonians” is a low-key, intelligent look at people and obsessions, wrapped up in an interesting view of the women’s movement, which makes it an extremely timely film — more so than most movies that are set in our modern day and age.

In that regard, however, the women’s cause is not always viewed favorably, and the ending of this film may disturb some. But there are more levels being explored here than lie on the surface, and they are perhaps best summed up with a brief speech by a supporting character late in the film, as she makes note of deeper-running human motivations.

Linda Hunt, the Oscar-winning actress who played Billy Kwan in “The Year of Living Dangerously,” has that role, and she is excellent as a doctor who seems rather indifferent to the cause but whose wise observation of it from a more distant view makes her the one character who probably understands it best.

     

There are other mesmerizing supporting performances in this film, including Jessica Tandy, wonderful as an older woman in the movement; Nancy Marchand, as a wealthy New York woman whose son is in love with Verena; Nancy New as Olive’s sister, who has her eyes on Basil; and Wallace Shawn, as a greedy journalist out to exploit Verena.

But in the three leads, Reeve, who uses his considerable physical presence and charm to great advantage here, proves once and for all that he has the talent when he’s given the script; Redgrave as a most unhappy woman who lives through what she helps Verena become, is fascinating; and Potter, as a woman who seems to have always been something of a pawn for others, is quite complex and carries it off very well. All are magnificent.

Director James Ivory has an exciting eye for detail and photography, and obviously knows how to get the best from his performers. And the script, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, is intelligent and very well developed.

My only complaints about this film have to do with its opening and closing scenes. The first few set-up moments come all too fast and are a bit jumbled, as if it’s in too great a hurry to escape the starting gate. And the ending is far too flat and unsatisfying, considering all that has gone before.

“The Bostonians” on the whole, however, is a fine-tuned film, with a great cast, and should more than satisfy those who have missed having a nice adult piece of entertainment in local theaters.

It is unrated, but would doubtless carry a PG – and then purely for its adult themes. There is no profanity, sex, nudity or violence.


Welcome Welcome

Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.

But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.

I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).

This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.

My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.

The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned (with permission) from my 40 years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.

I'm no longer writing for the D-News so this is mostly archival stuff, primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.

Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.

Cheers,
Chris H.

Shameless Hucksterism Shameless Hucksterism

 

Click here for Deseret News interview.

Click here for Deseret News review.

Click here for Amazon store.

Golden Oldies On the Big Screen Golden Oldies On the Big Screen

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY ...

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: This fondly remembered romantic comedy is the quintessential cinematic examination of the age-old question, ‘Can men and women ever just be friends?’ You can see it in select local theaters, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, on Sunday, Dec. 1, at 4 p.m., and Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. My review was published July 21, 1989, in the Deseret News.

Director Rob Reiner, who, with screenwriter Nora Ephron also wrote much of "When Harry Met Sally … ” (though he gets no screen credit for that), seems to pride himself on doing films that are very different from each other.

First there was the hilarious spoof of rock documentaries, "This Is Spinal Tap!," followed by the teen comedy "The Sure Thing," the preadolescence drama "Stand By Me" and his biggest hit, the fantasy-comedy "The Princess Bride."

Now comes Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally … ” — which could be called his Woody Allen movie. Or more correctly, a Woody Allen movie without the angst. Unfortunately, it's also a Woody Allen movie without the complexity of character. But most moviegoers won't mind.

Despite a certain superficiality, "When Harry Met Sally … ” is an adult romantic comedy in a time when we don't get very many, and it has one thing going for it that gives it an enormous boost — it's very funny.

     

Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, 'When Harry met Sally ... ’ (1989)

Billy Crystal is "Harry" and Meg Ryan is "Sally," who meet as college graduates driving together to New York City (shades of "The Sure Thing"). It's hate-at-first-sight, as Harry, an opinionated snob, spouts off theories about men and women, as well as his own penchant for promiscuity, then tries to get Sally to go to bed with him. She declines and they part ways.

Several years later they bump into each other on an airplane but this meeting isn't much more successful than the first, and besides, Sally's in love and Harry's about to be married.

Several more years pass and they meet again. This time both are licking their wounds from failed relationships, but they have matured and somehow hit it off to become friends. Just friends.

We know, of course, that they will eventually acknowledge their love for each other, and recognize that romance and friendship should go hand in hand rather than be mutually exclusive, and in the end there is a nice endorsement of both — and of marriage as well.

But the bulk of the film is made up of comic set pieces that are at once very funny and helpful to the narrative. Some, like this movie's most notorious moment during a restaurant scene, get big laughs, but in retrospect don't seem very realistic. Others are both amusing and insightful.

      

"Harry/Sally" is well cast, with special kudos to the stars — Meg Ryan is a complete delight, with some wonderful little character nuances that make her role utterly real, and Billy Crystal controls his penchant for doing shtick, which has marred some of his other film appearances, and uses to advantage his natural tendency to be a bit overbearing in creating a character who is occasionally obnoxious but not without charm.

Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, as their respective best friends, are also excellent. Fisher is carving out a nice post-"Star Wars" niche for herself with "best friend" character roles, and she's good at it. Will she evolve into the Eve Arden of the ’90s?

As for the Woody Allen comparisons — fans will see them easily, from the stark black-and-white credits that open the film to the "interview"-testimonials to the old tunes in the background to the ending that parallels "Manhattan."

Call it Rob Reiner's "Annie Hall." But it's funny in its own right and should appeal to a broad audience looking for something other than the slam-bang special effects dominating theater screens at the moment.

"When Harry Met Sally. … ” is rated R for profanity, though there isn't really a lot, and vulgarity as the characters talk frankly about sex.


Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray Oldies New to DVD/Blu-ray

NIGHT ON EARTH

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch has been making quirky low-budget movies and amassing a cult audience since his breakthrough film ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ made a splash at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. One of his more interesting efforts is this five-part anthology that is nothing if not offbeat (a word applied by critics to most of his work). And it’s now on Blu-ray on the Criterion Collection label. My review was published on June 5, 1992.

An unusual anthology film, “Night On Earth” is the latest from minimalist filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who wrote, directed and produced each episode in different cities around the world. (He also translated the subtitles for foreign-language sequences.)

Jarmusch, whose earlier works include "Stranger Than Paradise," "Down By Law" and "Mystery Train," specializes in spare filmmaking, deliberate stories with characters whose motivations are by and large internal and who find themselves tossed about by the winds of fate.

There's not a lot of action in his pictures; character motivation is more the order of the day, along with eccentric humor. As such, Jarmusch's movies aren't for everyone — but for the sophisticated audience he pursues there are sometimes great rewards.

     

Gena Rowlands, left, Winona Ryder, 'Night on Earth' (1992)

In the case of "Night On Earth," each of its five stories is set in precisely the same time period, though each is quite different.

The first has Winona Ryder as a tomboyish cabbie who picks up high-rolling Hollywood casting agent Gena Rowlands at LAX and drives her to Beverly Hills. The entire episode is made up of their conversation during the ride, the upshot being that Ryder is quite content, though she aspires to be a mechanic — and Rowlands can't believe she wouldn't rather be a movie star.

The second is set in New York, with Giancarlo Esposito, and later his sister (Rosie Perez), getting a ride from Eastern European immigrant Armin Mueller-Stahl, who can't speak English and doesn't drive very well. The soft-spoken Mueller-Stahl and the fiery Esposito and Perez are comic counterpoints, of course, but the story turns surprisingly poignant before it's over.

The third, in Paris, has a blind woman being picked up by a black cab driver — but don't expect a variation on "A Patch of Blue." This one has some gentle surprises.

     

The fourth is set in Rome, a riotous ride with zany cabbie Roberto Benigni spilling his life to his passengers, who react incredulously. Benigni's wild, improvisational style may remind you of Robin Williams (he's just signed on as Inspector Clouseau for a new series of "Pink Panther" films).

And finally, a cab ride in Helsinki has three drunken friends sharing tales of woe with their barely tolerant driver. This sequence is reminiscent of the films of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki ("Leningrad Cowboys Go America," "Ariel") and features some actors from Kaurismaki’s films.

My favorites were the sweet, quiet Ryder/Rowlands piece and the hilarious Rome sequence, and Perez certainly lights up the New York sequence, though her constant stream of profanities is the primary reason for the film's R rating (there is also some sex and violence).

There are moments here that are a bit self-indulgent and certainly the film is too long at more than two hours. But this is a movie for Jarmusch fans and the general art-house crowd that appreciates offbeat humor and is looking for something quite different from the run-of-the-mill Hollywood product. To them it is highly recommended.