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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

LATE AND LATER NIGHT

  

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 14, 2019

Late-night television and late-night zombie attacks, along with a pair of franchise sequels, mark this weekend’s entries in the summer-movie sweepstakes.

“Late Night” (R). Emma Thompson plays a pioneering late-night talk-show host in this comedy-drama but her reputation is tarnished by accusations that she hates women because she has an all-male writing staff. When she learns that she’s in danger of being replaced by a younger, hipper male host, she impulsively hires a new writer, an inexperienced woman (Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the script). With John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy, Max Casella and Amy Ryan.

“Men in Black: International” (PG-13). This reboot/sequel to the sci-fi comedy “Men in Black” trilogy has serious-minded new recruit Tessa Thompson teamed up with goofball veteran Chris Hemsworth, and Emma Thompson reprises her role (from “MIB3”) as MIB’s boss. With Liam Neeson and Rebecca Ferguson.

“Shaft” (R). Although it carries the same title used for the Samuel L. Jackson 2000 reboot of the cops ‘n’ robbers franchise about maverick detective John Shaft — which was also the title of the original 1971 film with Richard Roundtree — this is a new mystery-thriller with Jackson, Roundtree and Jessie Usher as three generations of the titular character. With Regina Hall.

  

“The Dead Don’t Die” (R). A series of odd events and missing animals in and around a small town, to include an array of empty graves in the cemetery, lead locals to realize that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing. A dark comedy written and directed by quirky independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch with an eclectic cast that includes Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez and Tom Waits.

“American Woman” (R). When her daughter goes missing, a 32-year-old woman (Sienna Miller) in a small blue-collar town in Pennsylvania spends the next 11 years raising her grandson alone while grieving the mystery of her daughter’s disappearance. With Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul and Amy Madigan.

“The Outsider” (R). The wife of a Chinese railroad worker (Jon Foo) is raped and killed, sending him on a kung-fu fury of vengeance. The corrupt local sheriff (country singer Trace Adkins) tries to stop him in this low-budget western. With Sean Patrick Flanery and Danny Trejo. (Exclusively at the Megaplex Gateway Theater.)


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

NEW YORK STORIES

     

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

EDITOR’S NOTE: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen walk into a bar. … Just kidding. But the mismatched trio did collaborate on an anthology film some 31 years ago, and it’s just catching up with Blu-ray, courtesty of Kino Lorber. My review was published on March 10, 1989.

“New York Stories” is actually a triple-feature packed into a two-hour movie. But unlike most anthology films, such as “Woman Times Seven” or “Plaza Suite” or “Twilight Zone — The Movie,” the only binding link here is that all three stories take place in Manhattan and all are essentially light comedies with elements of romance.

And since each film is its own significant work, each one really deserves its own review. Hence, three reviews in the order the films appear in “New York Stories”:

     

Nick Nolte, Rosanna Arquette; Martin Scorsese's 'Life Lessons'

—"Life Lessons" is Martin Scorsese's contribution, a stylized tour de force of razzle-dazzle directorial technique, with a wonderful performance by Nick Nolte as an eccentric SoHo artist who paints oversized canvases to loud heavy metal, using a trash can lid as a palette.

Rosanna Arquette is appealing, if a bit shrill, as his live-in assistant, an aspiring painter herself, who is insecure and flighty and who routinely rejects Nolte's advances and declarations of love.

The story is ostensibly about Nolte's pursuit of Arquette, who has fallen for a loutish performance artist, and of Arquette's continual rebuffs. But it’s really about Nolte's artistic passions, which seem to thrive on personal pain.

Scorsese has developed an incredible 45-minute treatise on the creative mind and its self-destructive side, and Nolte has never been better as the embodiment of both.

Despite the presence of Scorsese's fascinating style, it never intrudes upon the story, giving the entire film a feeling of effortlessness. And it is the one short film in this trio that probably could have sustained feature length.

     

Don Novello, Heather McComb; Francis Ford Coppola's 'Life Without Zoe'

—"Life Without Zoe" is from Francis Ford Coppola, the least of the three films here, and the shortest (33 minutes), a slight, rambling tale about a poor little rich girl who lives in the Sherry Netherlands Hotel and whose parents (Talia Shire, Giancarlo Giannini) are never home.

So young Zoe (Heather McComb) is alone much of the time, helped with daily chores by the butler (Don Novello, better known as “Saturday Night Live’s” Father Guido Sarducci, in a funny, scene-stealing performance).

The problem with this story is that it goes nowhere. There is the beginning of a plot device, as Zoe rescues a priceless earring during a robbery and discovers her father may have had an indiscretion, but that also goes nowhere.

Despite charming performers and some nice moments, this is a flat, lifeless effort and rather a disappointment after Scorcese's triumph.

     

Mae Questel, left, Mia Farrow, Woody Allen, 'Oedipus Wrecks'

—"Oedipus Wrecks" more than makes up for "Zoe's" failure, however, and Woody Allen fans will be happy to know this is a comedy and Allen himself stars.

Allen is a 50-year-old Jewish lawyer with a domineering mother — the ultimate stereotypical Jewish Mother. But you don't have to be Jewish to identify with his angst at being a successful adult attorney and still being told by his mother that he doesn't know how to run his life.

So Allen secretly wishes his mother would "disappear," and one day he gets his wish in a rather unexpected manner. The result of that occurrence is also unexpected.

To reveal what happens in this comic fantasy, essentially an extended Jewish Mother joke, would spoil the fun, but suffice to say there are some hilarious sight gags and one-liners, and an ending that is both ironic and perfectly satisfying.

This is essentially a one-joke film, and Allen, who initiated this anthology project, rightly knew it needed to be a short, not a feature. The result, 40 minutes in length, perfectly suits the material.

Mia Farrow has a rather small part without much to do here, but Mae Questel as Allen's mother and Julie Kavner as a looney psychic are thoroughly delightful. And the best news, of course, is that Allen is back in rare form.

"New York Stories" is rated PG, for profanity and implied sex in the first and third films.


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.