It's safe to say that it's been an interesting start to 2021 already. With everything that's happened these first two weeks, it makes you wonder what more we can expect.
But without getting too ahead of ourselves (or giving us more anxiety), it's time to take a step back. As I'm waiting for new films to debut — Netflix announced Tuesday it will release a new movie every week this year — I've been catching up with some old classics that I haven't gotten around to yet. I've said it once and I'll say it again, watching old Hollywood greats on the big screen puts me in a great mood, and I think we all need some of that these days.
Musicals tend to do the trick for me — there's singing, dancing and often-crazy situations people find themselves in — so I finally watched one of the greats: "Singin' in the Rain."
It starts off at the premiere of silent film star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and his not-so-pleasant leading lady Lina Lamont's (Jean Hagen) latest movie. Everyone loves them, but times are a-changin' and talking pictures seem to be on the rise. When rival Warner Bros. has an enormous hit with its first talking picture "The Jazz Singer," the studio has no choice but to convert the next Don and Lina film into a talkie as well.
Some film stars are better seen than heard, and that's the case with Lina. Her voice is shrill with a heavy New York accent, and overall there's problems picking up audio. All of those problems lead to a less than ideal screening of the film. A lot of people would be asking for their money back if this were to premiere today.
The movie doesn't work as is, so Don comes up with the idea of turning it into a musical. The only problem is Lina doesn't have the vocal capabilities. Enter Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a stage actress who deserves her big break. They could dub Lina's voice with Kathy's, have a hit on their hands and build up a new actress. They just can't tell Lina about it; the two women had a less than sweet introduction in the beginning of the film.
If you have Kelly in a movie, you know you're going to be delighted from start to finish. He's one of the Hollywood musical icons of the 1940s and 1950s, and his role in "Singin' in the Rain" is no exception. You have some excellent dancing, such as the "Broadway Melody" sequence, and of course a lot of great songs you won't be able to get out of your head, like "Good Morning" and the titular number.
Aside from Kelly's fancy footwork and singing capabilities, his chemistry with Reynolds stands out, making this musical an enduring favorite nearly 70 years later.
"Singin' in the Rain" can be streamed on HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.
Many great films have come out of the rebellious teen genre but "Rebel Without a Cause" stands above its peers, with an ultra-cool James Dean, great Los Angeles backdrop, and lots of ridiculous and totally avoidable drama.
We're introduced to Jim Stark (Dean) after he's been arrested for drunkenness — he's a rebel after all. Inside the police station are Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood). Though they don't know each other, these three teenagers are all experiencing problems at home, leading them to rebel in their own ways. Jim's parents are constantly yelling at each other and never standing up for him; Judy's father is becoming more cold toward her as she grows up; and Plato's father abandoned him while his mother doesn't spend enough time with him.
On Jim's first day of school, he runs into Judy again, but she doesn't seem too interested in getting to know him. Plato, on the other hand, immediately gravitates toward Jim, viewing him as a sort of father figure.
The school goes on a field trip to the Griffith Observatory (one of the coolest places to have a field trip, in my opinion) and tensions quickly rise between Jim and a gang of bullies. Jim may not look like a threat, but he quickly shows them who's boss. Lead bully Buzz isn't too pleased, so he invites Jim to have a "chickie run" at a seaside cliff that night. Two drivers, headed full speed toward a cliff, must jump out in time, and the first person who jumps is "chicken." Spoiler alert, I'd rather be called a chicken than have Buzz's fate. From this point on, more tensions rise among the bullies and Jim, before it leads to an explosive climax.
This is an interesting movie that tries to say a lot with each of its main characters. Even though a lot of films from this era portray teenagers as more innocent, this gives you the less-than-stellar teen moments many probably related to. As times were changing and teens started doing things their parents weren't fond of, I'm sure that caused tension between them, leading to more rebellious behavior. Now, I'm not saying everyone drove their cars off cliffs or broke into places, but Judy, for example, was convinced her father didn't notice her because she's not a little girl anymore. So, she wore "racier" clothing, which only led him to call her degrading names.
There are some parts that make you roll your eyes, mainly how quickly Jim and Judy fall in love (it took barely a day). But overall, this is a film you can still enjoy today.
"Rebel Without a Cause" can be streamed on HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video.