Writers Beware

May 8, 2017 – Replacing human jobs with computers is nothing new. However, to realize that robots will replace five million jobs by 2020, according to Digital Trends, or half the jobs within 30 years, according to Business Insider, is frightening.

Thankfully, I am a writer so I don’t have to worry about replacement, right?

Scrolling through the LinkedIn feed recently, this headline caught my eye: “What if Hollywood Replaced Writers with AI?” Of course, I clicked to read more and discovered that artificial intelligence algorithms wrote a short film, It’s No Game. They made it into a short film and cast David Hasselhoff to star the main role.

That’s right. AI wrote every line of the screenplay. All seven minutes and 40 seconds of it.

At first, I thought, how cool. A few seconds later, I began to feel envious. My human brain has been plugging away at this game for years, and though I consider myself lucky that I receive a paycheck to write nonfiction all day, I haven’t had any real success with fiction, my real passion.

I watched the film, and although I can’t wrap my head around the technology, or if the guy who programmed the AI could be considered the actual author because created the “author”, I’m back to thinking it is cool. Weird, cheesy and nonsensical, but cool. How did AI come up with a plot? It didn’t make any sense, but there was still a solid plot. And how did it write that ever so evasive first line? They are my biggest struggles.

I’m also relieved to see that with the product AI put out, human screenwriters aren’t likely to lose their jobs anytime soon. But in 50 years, who knows.

Music and Film: Perfect Together

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young performing in The Last Waltz

April 3, 2017 – What do you get when you combine music and film?

Aside from two of my favorite things – or a great soundtrack – if you’re a Philadelphia area resident, you get the WXPN Music Film Festival.

WXPN is a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which broadcasts adult alternative music, and may be best known for its World Café music programs. This year’s festival, which ran from March 31 through April 2 at the Prince Theater, celebrated the 25th anniversaries of both the World Café music radio program and the Philadelphia Film Festival. It featured classic concert films as Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and The Band’s The Last Waltz. It also featured movies about music, like High Fidelity, Singles and Almost Famous.

I attended the viewing of The Last Waltz on Saturday night, and although I’ve seen it several times, the experience of watching it on the big screen, and at the loud volume it was meant to be shown, made the great concert film even better. Martin Scorsese directed the film, which chronicles The Band’s farewell performance in 1976, and features guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and several other notable artists.

The WXPN Music Festival and Philadelphia Film Festival are perfect ways to celebrate the spring and the fall each year. The Music Film Festival takes place each March/April, and the Philadelphia Film Festival in September/October.

Great Cinema: 19 family picks for the best movie ever

great-cinimaMarch 6, 2017 — Ask your family to pick their favorite movie of all time, and if they can do it, you’re bound to get a variety of selections from several different genres. At a recent family get together, I posed that exact question, and although none of us chose the same movie, there are definite patterns that emerged, including movies from the David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino film libraries.

It’s not easy to narrow your favorite movie down to ONE, so I thank my family for participating. It’s also a lot more difficult than picking the worst movie of all time, which we did back in September.

Casablanca. My Dad’s choice for favorite shows up on many “best” lists. Casablanca, released in November 1942, tells the story of an American bar owner (Humphrey Bogart) in Morocco during the early days of World War II, and the woman who broke his heart (Ingrid Bergman). The Bogie/Bergman classic is one of my faves, too, and has given us some of the best quotable lines ever: “We’ll always have Paris,” “Here’s looking at you kid,” “Round up the usual suspects”, and “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” That’s just a few quotable mentions, which is impressive for a 75-year-old film.

My Fair Lady. My Mom passed away two years ago, but I can safely say her favorite was the musical classic from the 1960s My Fair Lady. She loved the music and the story, and of course, Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle. Her favorite scene by far was when Professor Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, takes Eliza to a horse race to test her newly acquired language skills. All is well at first as he glows with pride, but it soon turns to embarrassment when Eliza slips back into Cockney while cheering on the horse. Sure, Mom thought it the language was “fresh”, but she laughed just the same.

Moonstruck. My sister, Linda’s favorite is the charming Moonstruck from 1987. The romantic comedy stars Cher and Nicholas Cage in the lead roles, as the couple that fall in love while the widow Loretta (Cher) waits for her fiancé (Danny Aiello), to come back from Sicily, where he is visiting his dying mother. It’s an enchanting, but funny story that uses an incredibly gorgeous moon as the backdrop. Nominated for six Academy Awards, it won three of them, including Best Actress and Supporting Actress for Cher and Olympia Dukakis, along with Best Screenplay.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. My brother-in-law, Roland’s pick is the great American western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s hard to get behind criminals in a movie, but Director George Roy Hill made these train robbers delightful enough to cheer for. Based loosely on fact, the film tells the story of Butch Cassidy (Newman) and Sundance (Redford) on the run from the sheriff and his posse, trying to escape the country with Sundance’s love interest (Katherine Ross). It was the top grossing movie of the year in 1969, and is the 34th top-grossing movie of all time.

Notorious. Alfred Hitchcock’s spine tingling Notorious is tops my list. Cary Grant stars opposite a very creepy Claude Raines and Ingrid Bergman (their second mention on the list). Bergman plays the woman the FBI hires to get the goods on Nazis who they believe is planning something big in South America right after WWII. Grant falls in love with Bergman’s character, the girl with the tainted past, and he is often as cruel and he is romantic with her. There are so many thrillingly tense scenes and fine performances in this movie, it’s easily one of the cleverest scripts ever written.

The Matrix. Alas, the first one on the list that I haven’t seen all the way through is my brother-in-law, Rex’s pick, The Matrix. Obviously, Rex, doesn’t share my problem with understanding technology or sci-fi films. The Matrix starred Keanu Reeves, who lives in dystopian future where reality is simulated and known as “the Matrix”. Reeves plays Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer, who is also a hacker known as “Neo”. After he discovers the truth about “the Matrix”, he rebels, of course. The movie has been called one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, and I apologize that I can’t give it the credit it likely deserves.

Gone with the Wind. My sister, Patti’s pick is Gone With the Wind, which is on my top ten favorites list. There’s no greater heroine than Scarlett O’Hara. She may have been a spoiled young woman, but she also maneuvered her way through the challenges of the Civil War with brilliance. She was definitely the mentally strongest in her family and in the story. Despite its four-hour length, Patti can be swept in this saga every time it’s on television. I share her genes, so we’re a lot alike in that regard. I even traveled to see it at the theater on the big screen.

Saving Private Ryan. The World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan, is my cousin David’s favorite pick. The 1998 film directed by Stephen Spielberg tells the story four brothers in the Ryan family, all in Europe fighting the war. Three of the four brothers are killed in action, and the fourth is missing in action when a squad sets out to find him and send him home to his grieving family. The movie opens the morning of June 6, 1944, during the Normandy invasion, and said to be the most intense and realistic 27 minutes on film, which makes it difficult to watch. It’s also been deemed by the Library of Congress to be “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

Gladiator. The 2000 epic historical drama Gladiator is my brother David’s pick for best movie ever. Starring Russell Crowe, who plays a Roman general named Maximus. Maximus is betrayed when the Emperor murders his father to seize the thrown and all hell breaks loose. David considers this not only the best movie ever, but also the most entertaining, as well. And I’d have to agree it would be on my top fifteen list, at least. Crowe picked up a Best Actor Oscar for his efforts, and the film also won Best Picture and several other category awards that year. Gladiator has also been credited with sparking interest in other films and stories centered on the ancient Greek and Roman culture.

Fargo. If you’re picking the best pictures, you’re bound to have a film show up on the list by Joel and Ethan Coen. My nephew Rick’s choice for best picture ever is Fargo. The 1996 dark comedy crime film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where the brothers won the Best Director award. The story focuses on a supposed true crime, but I’m not sure if that has ever been proven. There is a lot of fact vs. fiction surrounding this film. The entire cast is incredible, but it’s Coen Brothers’ regular Frances McDormand who steals the show. She also won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the quirky Police Chief with the perfect North Dakota accent.

Magnolia. My niece Lauren selected another film on the list I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing…yet. The ensemble drama Magnolia is her choice for best movie ever. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who has quite an impressive resume, the story is described as “a mosaic of interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness and meaning.” Magnolia may have struggled at the box office, but received plenty of critical acclaim. Many people who have experienced it say that there is no other film in history that has made them think, feel or question a film like Magnolia.

Anything in the David Lynch Library. My nephew, Ryan doesn’t profess to be the world’s biggest movie fan, and it take a lot to make him notice. However, he does give special mention to anything in the David Lynch collection. From Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive to The Elephant Man and everything in between, including the television show, Twin Peaks, David Lynch is able to make Ryan stop, look and listen.

2001: A Space Odyssey. My son, Charlie’s pick is the third film on the list I didn’t see and the second I didn’t understand. It’s a 1968 sci-fi film epic written and directed by Stanley Kubrick, also one of his favorites. When released in ’68, the film received mixed reviews from critics and audiences, who didn’t know what to make of its space imagery, classical music and little dialogue. Since then, it’s grown in popularity and has a cult following. Like The Matrix, I tried to enjoy it, but the plot was completely over my head. I still question if there really was a plot at all. Honestly, I’ve never gotten through the entire movie; the music, which is fantastic, always lulls me to sleep.

Blue Velvet. David Lynch’s sophomore effort gets the favorite picture vote from my niece, Leigh. Unfortunately, it’s another movie I didn’t see in its entirety because I don’t understand it, and therefore can’t do it justice. The 1986 mystery film had Lynch blending psychological horror with film noir, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Like most of his films, however, it seemed to gain more attention and a cult following as time passed. Blue Velvet starred Kyle McLaughlin and Isabella Rossellini, and in 2008, the American Film Institute named it one of the greatest American mystery films ever made.

Old School. Finally, a flat out comedy on the list, chosen by my nephew, Adam. The 1993 comedy starring the usual suspects Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson focuses on three middle-aged college friends who attempt to recapture the glory days by opening up a fraternity house near their “old school”. You get the rest. I’d be willing to bet that Adam’s choice has the widest viewership out of any other movie on this list. As the tagline suggests, the film is “all of the fun of college, but none of the education.” Ain’t that the truth.

Pulp Fiction. Like Coen Brothers, I’d be surprised to put together a list like this without Quentin Tarantino. My nephew, Macey’s pick, is the first mention of a Tarantino film, and he chose Pulp Fiction. This movie was my first taste of Tarantino, and I’d left the theater thinking it was one of the most interesting cinematic experiences ever. With so many odd characters like Honey Bunny and Pumpkin, and so many crazy stories intertwined, the 1994 black comedy, crime film was a breath of fresh air. It also revitalized the career of John Travolta.

Whiplash. The movie from 2014 is latest movie on the list and the choice of best movie ever from my niece, Carly. Interesting choice, for sure, and extremely intense. Whiplash tells the story of an ambitious jazz student and his abusive instructor at a music conservatory school in New York. It stars J.K. Simmons (the instructor) and Miles Teller (the student), and was the opening film at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It earned Simmons a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and plenty of critical acclaim. Prior, he had been known, at least to me, as that Farmer’s Insurance guy.

A Dark Knight. Did you think we’d get through the entire list without a superhero crime thriller? A Dark Knight is my nephew, David’s choice for best movie ever. The 2008 movie was written and directed by Christopher Nolan and stared Christian Bale as Batman and Heath Ledger as The Joker. Right after filming Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose, and that may have garnered a lot of attention for the film, as well. Ledger was also posthumously awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work a year later. It’s the darkest of the Batman movies for sure, and quite an interesting adaptation of the comic book hero.

Reservoir Dogs. My nephew Jack’s pick is the second mention of Quentin Tarantino on the list, the crime thriller Reservoir Dogs. The epitome of the classic cult film, the 1992 movie was named the greatest independent film of all time by Empire Film Magazine. The story and film has even been ripped off by Bollywood and remade as Kaante, in 2002. It’s violent and bloody, with an interesting 70s soundtrack piped in. Let’s just say that these days, I can’t hear the song “Stuck in the Middle with You,” without picturing a horrendous torture scene along with it.

Jane’s World: The 10 Best Movies of All Time

February 20, 2017 – I’ve wanted to put together this list for a long time, but had trouble narrowing it down to only 10. So, in honor of the Academy Awards — I’ve decided to pass on award show but not the movies — here’s a list of what would be considered the top ten movies of all time if I ran the world:

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10. Muriel’s Wedding/Betsy’s Wedding – Yes, we have a tie and not because I’m too lazy to pick one, but because both wedding themed movies are equally good for different reasons. Muriel’s Wedding is a unique Australian film that introduced two of today’s finer actresses to American audiences. Toni Collette plays the socially inept Muriel, a girl willing to go to extremes to get married, and Rachel Griffiths, of Six Feet Under and Brothers and Sisters fame, plays her best friend. Muriel’s Wedding is a better movie than the other as far as the script and storyline, but Anthony LaPaglia’s hilarious Stevie D and Madeline Kahn’s wonderfully modest mother of the bride in Betsy’s wedding deserve a special mention and shouldn’t be missed.


9. Airplane! – I love comedies as much as the next guy, but normally slapstick isn’t my thing. Airplane, however, defies those rules and is hands down the best comedy ever made. It’s definitely the king of all disaster spoofs, which paved the way for many more to come – some wonderfully good and some dreadfully bad. Airplane also has to be the most quotable movie of all time, and perhaps even the most viewed. I dare you to find someone who hasn’t seen it. Better yet, without it we wouldn’t know the comic genius of Leslie Neilson, or the Naked Gun movies, which deserve special mention because it gave us another truly quotable line, “Hey, that’s Enrico Palazzo!”


8. Gone with the Wind – There’s no greater heroine than Katie Scarlett O’Hara. She may have been a spoiled young woman, but she also brilliantly maneuvered her way through the challenges of the Civil War. She was definitely the mentally strongest character in her family, and in the story. Sure, there are plenty of wonderful performances in the film, but all pale in comparison to Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett. Despite its four-hour length, I can get swept in this saga every time it’s on television, and have even traveled to the theater to see it on the big screen. This film swept the Oscars in 1939, winning Best Picture, Best Actor for Clark Gable, Best Actress for Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, to name a few.


7. Imitation of Life – The earlier version with Claudette Colbert is good and closer to the original story, but the 1959 film with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee is so full of wonderful drama, it has to be crowned as the queen of all tear-jerkers. Based on a 1933 Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, the story seems almost modern as two single mothers, one black and one white, struggle to raise their daughters alone, until they find each other and combine efforts. The drama occurs when the black daughter, who often passes as white, decides to lie about her roots and completely deny where she came from, which breaks her mother’s heart. Good Hollywood stuff, and if you plan to watch, have plenty of tissues on hand. The film was nominated for two Oscars for Best Actress for Juanita Moore and Best Supporting Actress for Susan Kohner.


6. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Of all the action movies out there, this is one of the best. When my friends and I first saw this as a new release back in 1981, we loved it so much we stayed to watch it again at the next showing. Of course, it was back in the day when you could get away with that sort of thing. I adore this movie for many reasons, but mostly because it’s not your typical “blood fest” action movie, but rather it entertains with a compelling storyline and great performances that captivate you from the beginning. In other words, it’s a thrilling movie that the whole family can enjoy. And watching the handsome Harrison Ford as the dashing and debonair Indiana Jones isn’t bad, either. The movie won four Oscars for Best Art Direction, Editing, Visual Effects and Sound.


5. When Harry Met Sally – A witty script, a fine cast and a timeless soundtrack all combine to make When Harry Met Sally the best romantic comedy of all time. Plus it asks the age-old question can men and women be just friends, or does sexual attraction always get in the way? The movie features Meg Ryan at her absolute best and Billy Crystal, who’s always funny in each role he chooses. Kudos to the supporting cast, Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby, who play it well as their best friends who coax them along and try to show them they really do belong together. This film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay.


4. Ordinary People – Robert Redford’s masterpiece, Ordinary People, may be the movie that had the most impact on me at that point of my young life. I was still a teenager when I saw this heart wrenching drama of a family trying to cope with the death of one of their own, and a son desperately trying to forgive himself, and gain his mother’s love. In addition, the film featured Mary Tyler Moore as I had never seen her before, playing the cold, distant mother, who worried too much about what her society friends thought, and was incapable of showing her younger son that she cared. Timothy Hutton won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role, his first, and Redford won for Best Director. The film also won for Best Picture.


3. Charade – Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are a perfect combination in this fun Hitchcock like classic, despite their 25-year age difference. Supposedly Grant wanted it written in to the script, which is as thrilling as it is funny and charming, that Hepburn’s character is pursuing him rather than vice versa because he felt odd about the age difference. Charade earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, and was remade albeit poorly as “The Truth About Charlie” with Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. But don’t waste your time. See the original.


2. The Big Chill – What happens when old college friends get together for the funeral of one of their own? Great music and conversation and plenty of surprising twists and turns. I especially love the storyline between William Hurt, who plays a former radio psychologist, and Meg Tilly, the young girlfriend of the deceased friend. The rest of cast is also superb and features Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Mary Kay Place, Jo Beth Williams, Tom Berenger and Jeff Goldblum. It also was the first film appearance by a young Kevin Costner, but his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. The film earned Best Picture and Best Actress (Glenn Close) nominations.


1. Notorious – Alfred Hitchcock’s spine tingling Notorious is tops on the list. Cary Grant stars opposite a very creepy Claude Raines and Ingrid Bergman, the woman the FBI hires to get the goods on Nazis they believe are planning something in South America after WWII. Grant falls in love with Bergman’s character, the girl with the tainted past, and he is often as cruel and he is romantic with her. There are so many thrillingly tense scenes and fine performances in this movie, there is no better. Not only is it the most romantic movie of all time, with just enough ups and downs along the way that make for good drama, but it’s also has one of the cleverest scripts ever written. Grant is a fine actor, and Bergman is luminous.

P.S. Special mention goes to the following, which made the initial list and had to be cut to narrow it ten, a painfully difficult task: Annie Hall, Amelie, The Big Lebowski, The Graduate, Groundhog Day, A Hard Day’s Night, Casablanca, Terms of Endearment, Thelma and Louise, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, many of which were featured on TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar this month.

The 25 best sports movies of all time

041414-sportsmovies-fieldofdreamsstill-vnocropresize-940-529-medium-87September 23, 2016 – In honor of baseball’s upcoming playoffs (better luck next year Phillies) and the football excitement that has returned to Philadelphia and the Eagles, courtesy of Carson Wentz, here is Time Magazine’s all-time 25 best sports movies.

It’s nice to see four baseball movies made the list, namely Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, and Major League, but there should have been a few more. What about Pride of the Yankees or The Natural?

Just about every sport imaginable is represented, even the obscure ones like synchronized swimming. It is a little odd that the only football movie is The Freshman from 1925. I never saw it but I’ll go out on a limb and say they could have made a better choice.

Bad Cinema – 18 family pics for the worst movie ever

cinemashutterstock_129623003September 9, 2016 – A family gathering provided a perfect opportunity to ask everyone to name the worst movie they ever saw. Here is The McMaster’s List of Bad Cinema, better known as movies you want to avoid.

Night of the Living Dead. The cult classic from 1968, a small, independent horror film that cost only $114,000 to make, is my father’s selection. Since it’s gone on to make $18 million internationally, that original $114,000 seems like a rather good investment. Yet, the story is laughable; two teenagers drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. They find something amiss at the cemetery; all of the corpses have come back to life with the sole purpose of killing every human in sight. I’m still puzzled by this, since the zombies move slower than a snails’ pace and any typical human could out run them with ease.

Love Me Tender. Elvis Presley starred in my mother’s pick for the worst movie she’s ever seen. It was his first movie role, which should explain volumes, and viewing it was a part of her first date with my father. The 1956 black and white movie cast Elvis as a Civil War soldier, and a corny one at that. Although I’ve never seen it, Mom says that the death scene, where Elvis succumbs to whatever kills him, is laughable. But Elvis went on to have a pretty lucrative movie career despite her poor review. My parents went on to have four children and nine grandchildren, so things worked out pretty well for them, too.

Hot Tub Time Machine. I’ve never heard of this movie from 2010, but it’s my sister, Linda’s pick for worst ever. Just by the title alone, it sounds awful. The premise may be creative: a malfunctioning hot tub (which also happens to be a time machine) at a ski resort takes a group of young men back to 1986 where they must relive a fateful night. The cast includes John Cusack (who signifies the 1980s on film). Alas, she tells me it is one “really immature piece of filmmaking.”

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I’m not too familiar with this film, selected by my brother-in-law, Roland, but at least I’ve heard of it. This British spy film from 1965 starred Richard Burton in the lead role and focused on espionage during the cold war. Although it did get some good reviews, it’s definitely not a movie that you should expect a child to love. Roland admits he was young when he saw it, and it obviously left a terrible impression. Perhaps another viewing as an adult is in order to form a true opinion, but Roland decided to stick to his guns on this one.

Water World. Another one that would make my all-time bad list is the selection of my brother-in-law, Rex. This bleak futuristic piece of garbage from 1995 has humans has surviving some kind of disaster (perhaps the polar caps melted) and searching for dry land. While some viewers thought it was the most underrated movie ever, I think Rex agrees with me that this feature deserved a Razzie, which it earned, instead of an Oscar, and is regarded as one of the biggest flops in the history of motion pictures.

The English Patient. Speaking of Oscars, my sister, Patti’s pick won a whopping nine of them, including Best Picture in 1997. However, I have to agree that it was pretty bad. Perhaps you could argue that the cinematography was great, but the story was too long and dreadfully boring. I didn’t hate it, but Patti did, and so did Elaine Benes, on Seinfeld who said the movie “stunk!”

Tree of Life. Despite its critical acclaim and award nominations, my brother David has named this movie the biggest piece of crap he’s ever seen in his life. While his opinion may seem harsh, I admit I didn’t like it either, mainly because I didn’t understand it. The film, nominated for the 2011 Best Picture, stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, so you’d think it would be a powerhouse. Instead, it turns into a collection of scenes that never fit together and were not entertaining in the least. For me, this is a huge wasted effort on the part of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and apparently for my brother, too.

Mom and Dad Save the World. My nephew, Rick’s pick as the worst movie he’s ever seen, is a stupid comedy from 1992 that defies all imaginable logic. I remember seeing this when it was out on video back in the day, and I agree with his assessment. It stars Jeffrey Jones, the man who played the principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and who just happens to totally freak me out in every role he plays. He’s just one of those actors that gives me the creeps! There are so many brilliant comedies out there, so why anyone would want to waste their time on this one is beyond me, and apparently, Rick too.

Troll 2. My niece, Lauren’s pick is another one that I’ve missed (thankfully) but a little research tells me it showed up on a lot of best worst movie lists in 1990. There are no well-known stars in the horror movie comedy, but Rotten Tomatoes has this to say about it: “There are movies that are bad. Then there are movies that are so bad, they’re good.” Still, it only scores 6 percent on the Tomatometer, so it can’t be that bad good.

Titanic. Admittedly, my nephew Ryan isn’t a movie person. He considers watching one too much of an investment of his time because it’s two hours you’ll never get back, or in this case, the three hours plus it would take to see this 1997 James Cameron vehicle. Therefore, he considers “Titanic” the worst movie ever made, and while I wasn’t a huge fan, I think it had its good moments, but I know plenty of people who would give him a high-five for his brave choice.

Limitless. I never saw or heard of this thriller from 2011, but it’s my son, Charlie’s pick for worst movie. At the first read of the review, the plot seems a little intriguing. A writer, played by Bradley Cooper, who is suffering from writer’s block, decides he has nothing to lose and tries a new drug that allows him to tap into his full potential. But oh, those damn side effects. The movie also stars Robert DeNiro, who’s had his share of stinkers lately, and also appears in another movie further down on our family list.

Constantine. My niece Leigh’s selection for the movie she ‘s loathed the most is the 2005 fantasy thriller “Constantine”. The film deals with your basic nightmare, and stars Keanu Reeves (hmm … stars and Keanu Reeves … isn’t that an oxymoron) as the man who sees all and therefore must save the world from the evils of hell. I think Leigh and I both agree that the poor script and the casting is truly the devil’s work indeed.

Birdman. Apparently my family doesn’t care much for the Oscar winners. My nephew, Adam’s pick won Best Picture and Best Actor (Michael Keaton) in 2014. This is another I haven’t seen, and I’m not sure I want to add it to my list after Adam’s review. Honestly, I had no desire to see it before Adam’s review! I know a lot of people who loved it, but they are equaled by those like Adam, who hated every minute of it. Happy birthday, Adam!

The Green Lantern. Another recent film from 2011 that made our most despised list is this pick from my nephew, Macey. Strange, he’s the targeted age group for super hero movies, yet he says it was the stupidest movie ever. This is another movie I haven’t seen, but I’m not really into the super hero thing. I think I can live the rest of my life comfortably if I skip this one altogether, and I can safely assume that Macey doesn’t ever want to see it again, either.

The Intern. My niece, Carly’s pick, is the most recent release on the list. This 2015 Robert DeNiro, Anne Hathaway vehicle is probably fresh in everyone’s minds since it is running on cable TV right now, and I watched it about a month ago. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it as much as Carly did. I need to ask her if it’s an Anne Hathaway thing (since many people despise her) or it was the movie itself that was a turnoff. It made me a little uncomfortable to know that Hathaway’s character was DeNiro’s boss in the film, since he can run circles around her every which way, but I suppose that’s why they call it acting.

Avatar the Airbender. I never heard of my nephew, David’s pick, from 2010. I know the original Avatar, if they are at all related, but the name of this movie escapes me completely, so it took a bit of research to discover that it’s an action fantasy adventure written and directed by none other than M. Night Shyamalan. Reading the reviews, it seems like David is not alone in his assessment. Many people sat in the theater praying for this movie to end. Shyamalan defends his movie, though, and about a year ago, it was announced that he’s making a sequel. Yikes.

Jack and Jill. This Adam Sandler comedy, about a set of brother and sister twins, both played by Sandler, is my nephew, Jack’s selection. The movie was released in 2011, when Sandler was cranking out one bad comedy movie after another and likely making a fortune, but I have to agree with Jack, that this one is the worst of the bunch. It only scored 3 percent on the Tomatometer, the lowest I ever saw. I also couldn’t find one positive review from a critic, and I’m not sure that ever happened before.

Nothing But Trouble. This insane piece of celluloid is my pick for the Worst. Movie. Ever! You’d think a movie that starred Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy (all in their prime) and Demi Moore (fresh off her success in the mega hit “Ghost”) had a lot of potential. I certainly thought so when I went to see this so-called comedy in 1991. Turns out it was the scariest movie I ever saw and not because it was supposed to be. It tells the story of a four people who get arrested for speeding in route from New York City to Atlantic City. They become prisoners of the kooky bunch of nut jobs who live in the small, quaint New Jersey town. I feel awful that I forced my son to see this piece of monstrosity when he was a young, impressionable boy.

Now it’s your turn. I encourage you to add your selections to the comments below so we can save other readers wasting their time on bad cinema.

The Test of Time

hourglassAugust 19, 2016 – This month marks the 77th anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” As a fan of old movies, it is one of my favorites. I can quote from it and sing along with its upbeat tunes as if I were performing it myself.

A true classic appeals to all generations. Here are a few other entertainment vehicles stands the test of time.

Movies:
There is abundant of movies to choose from, but the first two that pop into my mind is “Casablanca” and  “Citizen Kane”, although the latter isn’t one of my favorites. And, of course, “The Wizard of Oz”. Honorable mention goes out to anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 1960s, such as “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. My own personal favorite, “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, makes me stop flipping through the channels immediately.

Television Shows:
Classic TV shows are readily available to new generations now that so many cable channels broadcast them. However, classic and stand the test of time do not always go hand in hand. “Seinfeld”, for example, is relatively new, but it can stand against any classic now and probably in years to come. Others include “Bewitched”,  my personal fave from childhood, “MASH”, “Cheers” and “I Love Lucy”. They are examples from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. I’m not sure any television show beyond that (at least so far) qualifies.

Singers/Bands:
How about Frank Sinatra, or anyone in the Rat Pack to start? They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan in the mix because all of their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs were recorded 50 years ago. I wonder how many people will listen to Kanye West or Justin Bieber in 50 years. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say not many.

Songs:
Funny how Led Zeplin didn’t cross my mind as a band, but their song “Stairway to Heaven” certainly makes the cut for songs that stand the test of time. At least it continuously makes top five of every classic rock list. “Hey Jude”, “Let it Be” or anything by the Beatles is also a qualifier, and it’s the same for any hits by the Stones or The Who. Let’s reach back a little further and consider those romantic ditties from crooners past, such as “The Way You Look Tonight” or “Fly Me to the Moon”? They are still making present generations swoon. Or,  how about the most popular song ever—“Happy Birthday”?

Books:
This is probably the easiest category because schools will always push the classics on students, although they probably won’t really appreciate them until they are adults. So, what books stand out? How about “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, and “The Bell Jar”, to name a few? I would be remiss not to mention Judy Blume because I know that young girls in the future will still likely be captivated with “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?”. And something tells me the Harry Potter books will stick around for a long time, too.

I could add more, but this post might end up as long as a Marcel Proust novel, and I’ve been working on knowing my limits.