Movies is the magic word this weekend, with the 89th annual Academy Awards, at 8:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC (WPDE-TV 15 of Myrtle Beach, WCIV-TV 4 of Charleston, and WWAY-TV 3 of Wilmington) from Hollywood, Calif., after a red-carpet gala at 7 p.m. See the full list of nominees at oscar.go.com.
Amid this grandest of celebrations of filmmaking – and the 12th annual Myrtle Beach International Film Festival scheduled for April 19-22 (check for updates at www.myrtlebeachfilmfestival.com, or call 843-497-0220) – the timing’s also ripe to take a look for some obscure, more unknown productions that might be worth people’s times and heart. They come in all shapes and sizes of stories, through such vehicles as animals, music, documentaries, and specialized animation. Take these 10, off the cuff:
▪ “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” from 2009, but never released in theaters in the United States, based on a true story from Japan, more than a decade before World War II. It follows a college professor (Richard Gere) who befriends a homeless Akita he would see at the train station on commutes to and from work. The ultimate loyalty and love built between person and pooch continues long after the first of the two dies suddenly, until the other’s exit from this world quite a while later. As a side whim: Compare the viewpoints of Hachi’s world through black and white, versus the various dogs in Bailey’s lives as seen in color in “A Dog’s Purpose,” which opened Jan. 27 in theaters. (Also, an Akita named Nik – registered formally as Mojo’s Continuation Of A Myth – from northern California, finished second place last week in the working group at the 2017 Westminster Dog Show.)
▪ “Fly Away Home” – based on a true story and nominated for an Oscar in 1997 for best cinematography – about an orphaned girl (Anna Paquin – a native Canadian in real life, from Winnipeg, Manitoba) who moves from Australia to Ontario to live with her father (Jeff Daniels), and encounters an abandoned nest of Canada geese eggs, then rears the brood after hatching. Plain and simple to say, but not orchestrated so easily: Both parties learn to fly, on the fly, ultimately to warm up the waterfowl to go long distance, migrating from Canada to North Carolina.
▪ “Eraser,” from 1996, starring a former real-life Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger – in what could be tallied as his last major hit movie – as a U.S. marshal shielding a former real-life Miss America, Vanessa Williams, in a witness protection program, from a hunt led by a corrupt U.S. marshal (James Caan). This builds into a thriller, right through the exit after the court scene, after which viewers will have something to truly rail about. In “You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other),” her autobiography from 2012, co-authored with her mother, Helen Williams, and Irene Zutell, Vanessa Williams said the idea to cast her in “Eraser” arose from Schwarzenegger’s then-wife, Maria Shriver. Williams also wrote about flying on her own dime to meet with the movie’s producer and director, and that in filming, she appreciated repeated Schwarzenegger’s catch phrase, “Well done.”
▪ “Quick Change,” from 1990, starring Bill Murray and Geena Davis as a couple, with tag-along Randy Quaid, as the trio robs a bank – led by Murray, dressed as a “crying on the inside” kind of clown – stumbling into a Murphy’s Law sequence of nightmares in trying to flee New York City for their flight out of the country. Look for Tony Shalhoub, later of “Monk” TV series fame from 2002-09, as the humble taxi driver trying to communicate profusely to police without speaking a word of English.
▪ “While You Were Sleeping,” from 1995. A Christmas/New Year’s-week movie, which like the original “Miracle on 34th Street,” from 1947, hit the screens in springtime. Sandra Bullock falls in love with a man (Peter Gallagher) knocked unconscious at her workplace, but later winds up being smitten by his brother (Bill Pullman). In the meantime, the brothers’ family thinks she’s engaged with the former as wedding plans progress. Listen for salient words uttered by the patriarch, Ox Callahan (the late Peter Boyle – best known as Frank Barone from the “Everybody Loves Raymond” sitcom), who shares with his other son, a moment of reflection, too, about life’s fleeting rewards: “Life is a pain in the a--. ... You work hard, try to provide for the family, and then, for one minute, everything’ good. Everyone’s well. Everyone’s happy. ln that one minute, you have peace.”
▪ “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” from 2002. This biography salutes The Funk Brothers, the group of background musicians who laid down the groove, the unparalleled sound, for Motown Records’ hit parade from the late 1950s into the 1970s, with some surviving members sharing memories, and footage of others such as the late James Jamerson, a bassist born in Edisto Island. The documentary’s interspersed with performances of some classics, such as Chaka Khan’s take on one of the late Marvin Gaye’s hits, “What’s Going On?” For extra credit for your ears, find a copy of “Christmas in the City,” a Motown compilation CD from 1993, and cue up The Funk Brothers’ “Winter Wonderland” instrumental jam.
▪ “Buster,” from 1988. Speaking of Motown: Phil Collins portrays the life led by Ronald “Buster” Edwards, known most of all for his role in the robbery of a stash of cash from a British mail train robbery in 1963, and who evaded capture From Scotland Yard across Europe and Mexico before serving prison time into the mid-1970s. For this movie soundtrack, Collins also teamed up with Lamont Dozier from the colossal Motown songwriting trio – with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland – to pen three new numbers to sing: “Two Hearts,” “Big Noise,” and sharing the mic with all four original members of the Four Tops (Abdul “Duke” Fakir is the lone co-founder still alive), “Loco in Acapulco.”
▪ “Shergar,” from 1999. Based on the true-life events in England of the kidnapping in 1983 of the world’s then-most valuable racehorse, who had won the 1981 Epsom Derby by a then-record 10 lengths, this movie follows an an orphaned jockey’s son who strives to shield Shergar from the armed gang who commanded a massive ransom. Derby history data at www.epsomderby.co.uk states the stallion was killed by his captors within days, however the movie shows the sacrifice the boy made to keep the bay colt at bay from the thieves, reported widely as the Provisional Irish Republican Army. Be ready to weep at the cliffhanger of an ending, and how the spirit of Shergar carried on.
▪ “Breaking Away,” from 1979 – just a few years before the album of the same name by the late Al Jarreau. Bicycling enthusiasts might appreciate this Golden Globe winner for best picture and Oscar honoree for best original screenplay, inspired by Dave Blase’s forays into Little 500 team cycling races – and ultimately a win in 1962 – at Indiana University, in the area where this whole movie was filmed. The four teammates in the plot include Dennis Quaid (Randy Quaid’s younger brother), most recently seen at the close of “A Dog’s Purpose.” Have some laughs, too, at a character named Dave Stohler, played by Dennis Christopher, who despite letting down his parents with no gainful career hopes, he’s right at home with a saddle and handlebars over to wheels, and infatuated with Italian culture, in and out of his home, never mind the rude, abrasive nature of a champion Italian team that tries to foil him on the road.
▪ “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” from 1964. The late Don Knotts – about whom the case can be made that “The Andy Griffith Show” never was the same after his five years in the black-and-white era of that series – made quite the splash as a bespectacled bookkeeper-turned-into-fish in this movie so cleverly melding animation with live scenes. Although lacking qualifications for enlistment with the U.S. Navy, Henry Limpet makes up for that void by causing quite a resonating underwater roar in helping the military fend off German U-boats in the Atlantic during World War II. This movie also includes a romantic transition for Limpet, who was married when he took his sea spill. Listen for the slow-motionlike pronunciation of “Lim-pet,” by the love interest that surfaces with Ladyfish, voiced by Fayetteville native Elizabeth MacRae. She might be most identified with playing Lou Ann Poovie, the girlfriend from the namesake in the Griffith spinoff “Gomer Pyle: USMC.”
Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.