Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #141: Underdogs

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is underdogs. I being a fan of old movies have once again picked three older movies:

National Velvet (1944). Elizabeth Taylor plays Velvet Brown (Velvet is a girl, not a horse), an English girl with a beautiful horse that she thinks is fast, and can jump. So she gets the idea of entering it into the Grand National, the big British steeplechase. Mickey Rooney plays Mi Taylor, a former jockey who helps train the horse as well as getting the horse into the race. It's an absurd dream, but this is a Hollywood movie, so of course little Velvet is able to ride the horse in the race. Actually, this is a pretty good family movie, and the Technicolor cinematography is gorgeous.

The 300 Spartans (1962). The legend of the 300 Spartans who held the pass at Thermopylae long enough to allow the Greeks behind it to build up adequate defenses against the Persians is one of the underdog stories of all time. In this "sword and sandal" version of the story, before special effects and impossibly buff men, Richard Egan plays King Leonidas, who leads the 300. There's some location shooting, which is a plus.

Marie: a True Story (1985). I thought I had done a full-length post on this one, but apparently not. Sissy Spacek stars as Marie Ragghinatti, a single mother who got a job in Tennessee's Parole Bureau, only to find that there was corruption going on as the governor was selling pardons to politically favored people. Marie tried to expose this, and of course the government (including her boss, played by Jeff Daniels who is pretty good here) goes after her. Fred Thompson plays Fred Thompson, the lawyer who took Marie's case in the wrongful-termination suit. (Yes, Thompson plays himself.)


Daniel said...

National Velvet is one of my absolute favorites. Great choice for this theme. I actually think it's my favorite Liz Taylor performance (after Virginia Woolf of course). I haven't seen the other two, unfortunately.

Birgit said...

Glad you are an old movie lover and I have not seen any of these! I can't believe National Velvet is a film that has escaped my eyes but I need to rectify this. I have seen the newer film, 300, but not this rendition and would like to see it. This theirs film sounds really quite good and would like to see it too.

Wendell Ottley said...

The only one I've seen is The 300 Spartans. Solid film, but for me, it doesn't stand up to the Gerard Butler version. If you care to see why I think so, I once did a comparison between the two.

joel65913 said...

Love your choices!! I like don't love National Velvet. It's winsome and sweet with that great cast, though as much as I love Anne Revere I don't about her winning best supporting actress for this but I'm glad she was awarded for something before being blacklisted.

I watched 300 Spartans because of my love for Diane Baker, even if she was absurdly miscast, I enjoyed it though Egan while attractive in his galootish way was hardly the most expressive actor.

So happy to see Marie mentioned. I missed it in the theatre and then it took decades to track down and finally see. Odd for something containing a Best Actress nominated performance by a popular and award winning star plus it was a good and interesting film. Fortunately TCM unearthed it and I've seen it scheduled a few times since that initial showing so hopefully it will become better known. It deserves to be.

I went a bit more contemporary with mine this week but I'm a fan of all three particular my last which is one of my all time favs.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)-Young Olive (Abigail Breslin) has a dream shared by her grandfather (Alan Arkin). She wants to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine contest but that requires a road trip with her dysfunctional family, inventor dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), willfully mute brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), suicidal Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) and flustered mom Sheryl (Toni Collette). At first it looks doubtful but then they all pile into the van and go on a bumpy road to give Olive her chance despite the odds. Just quirky enough to be charming without wearing out its welcome thanks to a great cast all doing terrific work. Arkin won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Miracle (2004)-The true story of Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) the hockey coach who took the rough material that was the US hockey team and whipped them into Olympic gold medal winning shape. Wonderfully detailed with athletes rather than actors as the team mates, though they perform their lines well, and a powerfully convincing lead performance from Russell, one of his best. Despite the known outcome the film is quite involving and the end exciting.

October Sky (1999)-Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is just another backwoods teen in a slowly dying coal town in the 50’s until he witnesses Sputnik flying by one night. Filled with the wonder of space and encouraged by his young teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) he convinces his friends O’Dell & Roy Lee to work with him to try and build rockets. Enlisting the school outcast and brain Quentin they plunge in against many obstacles, including the stubborn resistance of Homer’s good but pigheaded father (Chris Cooper). Meeting with some success they determine to enter the national science competition in pursuit of college scholarships. A great film with tremendous performances full of determination to succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds and all around American can-doism with one of the most beautifully evocative and fitting scores ever.

pilch92 15andmeowing said...

I like Sissy Spacek, I will have to look for Marie.

Katie Hogan said...

Ah National Velvet, I always thought it was the horse not the girl. Never seen it though. Maire sounds like a great story!!