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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

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

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 12, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: You can thank the Utah Symphony and the Deer Valley Music Festival for this one, an outdoor big-screen showing of Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic with live musical accompaniment of John Williams’ Oscar-winning score. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Snowpark Outdoor Amphitheater in Deer Valley. My review of the film was published on June 11, 1982, in the Deseret News.

As far as I’m concerned, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” is the best film Steven Spielberg has come up with to date.

This picture has more heart, more soul and more entertainment value than most movies ever hope for. There are touches of — or perhaps homages to — other artists and other films, from “Peter Pan” to “The Wizard of Oz,” from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” to his own “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

And yet “E.T.” is unique.

One of the nice things that seems to permeate all of Spielberg’s films is a strong sense of hope and it has never been so fulfilling as it is here.

The story is difficult to describe, since it’s impossible to convey the sense of wonder and delight that Spielberg and his screenwriter, Melissa Mathison, manage to conjure up on the screen.

Basically, a crew of extra-terrestrial beings lands its ship in Southern California and sets out to collect plant specimens, when a sense of danger fills the air. A group of mysterious men, shown only from the waist down as threatening images, comes into the area, frightening the beings away.

But the alien crew is forced to take off before one member can make it back, and he is left behind to fend for himself.

Cold and hungry, he is soon befriended by young Elliott (Henry Thomas), a 10-year-old boy whose father has just abandoned the family (which includes his mother, Dee Wallace; older brother, Robert MacNaughton; and younger sister, Drew Barrymore).

     

Drew Barrymore sees 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' for the first time.

Elliott becomes the creature’s protector, takes him up to his bedroom and begins treating him like a pet. Soon, however, a mutual respect and understanding develops, and both provide necessary elements of growth for each other.

Elliott dubs his new friend “E.T.,” and tries to help him find a way back home.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, “E.T.” could have become a truly idiotic or silly film, but Spielberg, who also outlined the basic storyline, understands every character, including, or perhaps especially, “E.T.”

The little creature looks like an overgrown frog that has been stepped on; short, squat and less than attractive, it also has the huge eyes that genuinely qualify it as a bug-eyed monster.

Thought not a Muppet — “E.T.” is more mechanical than that — the most obvious comparison is Yoda, from “The Empire Strikes Back.” You may recall that Yoda, after a short time, took on human qualities that belied its rubber origins. So it is with “E.T.,” which, after a very short while, is a most sympathetic character. It’s hard to believe that a face so expressive and eyes so endearing could have been created from metal and plastic.

Though adults of all ages will love this film, “E.T.” is also very much a family film. Young children can learn a lot from Spielberg’s vision and there are some elements here that could make for some wonderful parent-child discussion.

     

Robert MacNaughton, left, Henry Thomas and E.T., 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial'

But the emphasis is on entertainment, and that is without question Spielberg’s strong suit.

There are so many vignettes that will alternately make you laugh, move you to tears, thrill you and even frighten you, that it’s a strong temptation to describe some of them — but I won’t.

Much of the joy of this film is in the discovery.

There is also a thoroughly satisfying John Williams score (my personal favorite so far) and the children are more like real children here than in any movie I can think of in some years (with the possible exception of “Shoot the Moon”).

Young Henry Thomas is on screen throughout most of the movie, and he never falters in his interpretation of a youngster who must take on paternal qualities. Young Robert MacNaughton is also very natural, as an older brother who ridicules Thomas at first, then decides to help him. And little Drew Barrymore is delightfully precocious as the youngest of the clan.

Rated PG for just a few strong words, “E.T.” is a rare movie experience you won’t want to miss.


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.