What’s In a Logo?

I’m approaching the level of movie geekdom where I sometimes start to judge a movie based on the opening studio logo and opening credits.  I know that with each film the credits can play an integral role in setting the tone (Bond films being one shining example) while other credits simply take the time to say the name of the movie.  Steven Spielberg rarely does a full credit sequence, Woody Allen lists the entire cast, and Jonathan Demme lists practically everyone involved with the picture.  Even before the credits roll the studio logo is what first signals that the movie is starting.  Much like an overture in a musical, I believe once the logo starts the movie has begun and everyone better pay attention.

I’ve found that many European films that could have a multitude of different producers can have a hefty amount of producing house logos.  By the seventh or eigth pre-credit logo it becomes almost comical — it all seems like a huge build-up for another adaptation of a Jane Austen novel or a samurai epic.

I love it when studios change up their logos and do something creative/unique/special with them to coincide with a release.  Warner Bros is one studio that sticks out for changing up their color scheme and sequencing for certain films.  David Fincher famously convinced Paramount and Warner Brothers to use their logos from the 70’s when he released Zodiac several years back.  Filmmakers like Fincher make these brilliant choices because right away the audience was transported back to a different era where the events of that movie took place.

Two studios are celebrating their 100th anniversaries this year and are trotting out new logos to commemorate the occasion.  Paramount Pictures has already released its 100th Anniversary logo staring with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol back in December while Universal is debuting its new look before Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax this coming weekend.  In honor of this occasion I thought I’d take a quick look back at the evolution of their logos over the last 100 years.

Paramount:

I’ve always been partial to Paramount’s “Majestic Mountain” visage over the years.  It has a certain regal-ness to it that doesn’t require great fanfare (like 20th Century Fox) and it’s nice that there hasn’t been too much variation over the years.  Some of the movies I’m most familiar with use the logo from 1968-1975 and even the ’75-’87 logo used the previous one before blending into the ice blue shadow version.  The update in ’87 utilized some new techniques that were fine tuned when the logo changed again in ’03.  The new logo is a smooth, crisp update for the centennial year and should carry Paramount forward as it looks toward the next 100 years.  Check out the full intro below:

 

Universal:

Ah…the good old Universal globe.  This logo seems to have had the fullest transitions over the years.  While Paramount has stuck with primarily the same sequence, Universal seems to find new ways to display their globe and it usually is very topical and “of the time”.  The glittering art deco globe (#5 in the sequence below) is a nice reminder of an age where movie-going was an event and people dressed up to see a movie on a Saturday night.  It’s a far cry from the cell phone noise, loud patrons, and crying babies we have to deal with now.  I’m sure the rude people were always there, but I like to think back then people were of a different mindset to popular entertainment.

I’ll always love the Universal logo from the 70’s and 80’s…I saw it so often watching Jaws that I could time exactly how many of the rings you could see when the brilliant underwater sound design started.  The most recent two updates have been creative updates and I’m looking forward to seeing what this beautiful new logo looks like on the big screen (yes, I’ll even see The Lorax in 3D just to experience it firsthand).

Here is a close-up view of the new Universal Logo:

 In a future column I’ll take a look at the logos for other studios and show their evolution over the years.  Some of the studios had bang-up logos in the classic days and I feel like there is a return to that innovative design in our new age and advances in technology.  There are a few studios that could use an update (Warner Brothers and Columbia/Sony for instance) and I’ll be interested to see if more revamps are on the way!

So what about you?  Are there logos that you are partial to?  Are there any special movies that the logos have been changed up for that were creative? 

Oh…and don’t forget to vote in my poll!

Down From the Shelf ~ Radio Days

The Facts:

Synopsis: A nostalgic look at radio’s golden age focusing on one ordinary family and the various performers in the medium.

Stars: Seth Green, Mia Farrow, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker

Director: Woody Allen

Rated: PG

Running Length: 88 minutes

TMMM Score: (8.5/10)

Review:  Like the Cohen Bros, Allen seems to churn out movies with regularity but with a certain ‘hit or miss’ quality for me.  I think Allen of the 70’s was bit more successful but in the following decades he has had his share of good ideas that don’t necessarily make great movies.  Radio Days catches Allen in a nice streak having just come off the great success of Hannah and Her Sisters.  He’d follow this up with more somber fare for the next few years but what you get here is classic Allen in his best nostalgia mode.

I’ve always responded best to Allen’s films that take place in the past with elements of his own up bringing and memories sprinkled around.  Taking place in the early forties, Allen himself doesn’t appear in this one and lets Greene take on what has become known as the “Woody Allen role”.  Even at eight, Greene displayed a knack for the brand of smug delivery he’s mine later in his career.  As the youngest member of a large family that lives in the same apartment, the movie isn’t totally seen through his eyes but as more of an observance of how radio played an important part in his childhood.  With Kavner and Tucker working well as Greene’s lovingly squabbling parents, Allen creates some nice moments of familial relations that are framework for telling fanciful stories relating to the ‘radio days’ and the era they existed in.

Unfortunately, Allen was still with Farrow at this point and somehow felt the need to shoehorn a plot line for her that is totally separate from the central family that are infinitely more interesting than she is.  As a ditzy cigarette girl and wannabe radio star, Farrow isn’t really to blame here.  Her character is one part Lina Lamont from Singin’ in the Rain and two parts Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly’s character from Bullets Over Broadway).  It’s almost as if Allen had two scripts that he combined into one once he realized there wasn’t enough material for two different pictures.  It’s too bad that he didn’t take the time to flesh out both so they were full pictures independently.

Even with this strange juxtaposition of storylines, I found myself laughing a great deal and enjoying the ride back in time to a point in history where families ate their dinner to the sounds of big band music, women tuned in for radio dramas, and kids enjoyed the adventure heroes that always saved the day.  I wouldn’t call this a minor Allen film – it’s absolutely worth the watch.

Oh…and don’t forget to vote in my poll!

Down From the Shelf ~ Falling In Love

The Facts:

Synopsis: Commuting to Manhattan on the same train, two married strangers meet by accident and have an affair.

Stars: Meryl Streep, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Dianne Wiest, Jane Kaczmarek

Director: Ulu Grosbard

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 106 minutes

TMMM Score: (6/10)

Review:  In 1984 Streep and DeNiro were already on their way into the history books of movie performances.  She had already won two Oscars and was coming off the success of Silkwood.  He was riding the great reviews of The King of Comedy and Once Upon a Time in America.  So it’s odd then, that these two actors took a chance on this slightly slight romantic drama which ended up not really going anywhere.

Both play married people that meet by chance on a commuter train into Manhattan.  There is your typical “meet cute” that turns into an infatuation and then more.  What Streep and DeNiro do with these roles is to give them real weight and pathos.  You see decisions on their faces and consequences cross their minds in a way that lesser actors wouldn’t bother going displaying.  They really do make the movie work better than it probably should and it makes this an interesting entry on their resumes.

It’s not that the movie is without value.  Even though it’s classified overall as a drama, there is a certain breeziness to the proceedings that make it quite watchable.  Maybe it’s the jazzy score by Dave Grusin or the unobtrusive direction by Grosbard.  Michael Cristofer’s script has some zip to it and both our leads deliver it well.  It has a few unexpected moments as well – such as DeNiro’s response to Streep asking him “Is there anything you want to know about me?”  What he asks isn’t quite polite but it’s a breath of fresh air.

Supporting performances by Keitel and Weist give this a very When Harry Met Sally… feeling and I wonder if Falling in Love didn’t inspire some of that later film.  Fans of Streep and DeNiro would probably enjoy this, as well as anyone looking for a romantic drama with some unexpected pedigree to it.

Oh…and don’t forget to vote in my poll!

Oscar Winners – 2012

So how did I do???

(*) are next to the categories I predicted correctly and for the ones I missed, the winner is included in {}

*Best Picture: “The Artist”

*Directing Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

Actor in a Leading Role George Clooney in “The Descendants” {Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”}

*Actress in a Leading Role Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”

*Actor in a Supporting Role  Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”

*Actress in a Supporting Role Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

*Writing (Adapted Screenplay) “The Descendants” Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Writing (Original Screenplay) “Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig  (***I know this won’t win but I wanted to vote for it anyway) {“Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen}

*Foreign Language Film  “A Separation” Iran

*Animated Feature Film “Rango” Gore Verbinski

*Art Direction  “Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Cinematography  “The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki {“Hugo” Robert Richardson }

*Costume Design “The Artist” Mark Bridges

Film Editing “The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius {“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall}

Documentary (Feature)  “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs {“Undefeated” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas}

Makeup  “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng {“The Iron Lady” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland}

*Music (Original Score)  “The Artist” Ludovic Bource

*Music (Original Song) “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie

*Sound Mixing “Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Sound Editing  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce {“Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty }

Visual Effects  “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett {“Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning}

Documentary (Short Subject)  “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen {“Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy}

*Short Film (Animated)  “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

*Short Film (Live Action)  “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George

That makes a grand total of 15 out of 24…not my best but I was actually happy I was wrong about a few of them!

Overall it was a good telecast with Crystal reminding us why he is such a damn fine host.  It didn’t feel overlong and the show was reservedly flashy without being over the top or dull.  The witty banter was kept to a minimum and no one went too crazy.  Good speeches and good looks capped off a night that was very “Old Hollywood”.

Is it wrong that I’m already looking forward to next year?

What did you think?  Feel free to comment away!

Oh…and don’t forget to vote in my poll!

Oscar Predictions – 2012

There comes a time in every movie lovers life (OK…once every year) where you have to buckle down and stick by your predictions for the Oscar winners.  What follows is who I think will be taking home the gold this year…it’s not to say it’s who I necessarily think SHOULD win but who I think will win.  Some of them are so close (Best Actor and Best Actress) for instance that I’m not going to beat up on myself if I make the wrong selection. There were so many great movies/performances/acheivements this year that I’m not overly concerned with having the most right.  After all, I’ve seen the majority of movies nominated so some of it is purely opinion based.

Take a read…and let’s see how many are on the money.

Best Picture: “The Artist”

Directing Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

Actor in a Leading Role George Clooney in “The Descendants”

Actress in a Leading Role Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”

Actor in a Supporting Role  Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”

Actress in a Supporting Role Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) “The Descendants” Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Writing (Original Screenplay) “Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig  (***I know this won’t win but I wanted to vote for it anyway)

Foreign Language Film  “A Separation” Iran

Animated Feature Film “Rango” Gore Verbinski

Art Direction  “Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

Cinematography  “The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki

Costume Design “The Artist” Mark Bridges

Film Editing “The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius

Documentary (Feature)  “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Makeup  “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng

Music (Original Score)  “The Artist” Ludovic Bource

Music (Original Song) “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie

Sound Mixing “Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Sound Editing  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce “

Visual Effects  “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett

Documentary (Short Subject)  “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Short Film (Animated)  “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

Short Film (Live Action)  “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George

Movie Review ~ Albert Nobbs

The Facts:

Synopsis: A woman is passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland. Some thirty years after donning men’s clothing, she finds herself trapped in a prison of her own making.

Stars: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson, Janet McTeer, Pauline Collins, Brendan Gleeson

Director: Rodrigo García

Rated: R

Running Length: 113 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Extras Coordinator – Ciara Lyons

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review: Much like our title character, Albert Nobbs is a quiet and strange little film.  It’s a film where everyone speaks in a mannered, even tone barely loud enough to hear.  It is, after all, the final years of the 1800’s where manners and status were paramount.  Set in Ireland, our tale is a delicate one that is handled with care and respect.  At the end of the day I think it may have been a bit too quiet, mannered, and delicate to remember the movie as a whole, though the performance of Close is one to look upon with praise.

Albert Nobbs works in a hotel run by uppity Mrs. Baker (Collins) as a butler and has a secret.  He’s actually a she…more comfortable in a suit than a dress Nobbs has lived his life fully as a man.  Close originally performed this role onstage back in the early 80’s and she has worked for the following decades to bring Nobbs from stage to screen.  I think this Nobbs works better than it would have if Close had gotten this made when she was younger.  Now, Nobbs has some more life lived in him and the whole feelings of wanting to share his life with someone resonates more.  Close fills each look and gesture with feeling – bringing you with her as Nobbs reaches out for companionship first out of necessity and then out of love.

McTeer shines in a supporting role as Hubert Page, another female masquerading as a male.  What works so well in this movie is that the whole deception is not used as a plot device where women have to dress up like men for advancement.  Close and McTeer play women who simply live their lives as men because that is what they feel deep in their core.  Page is a handyman of sorts and when he is put up with Nobbs for the night he discovers the secret.  When Nobbs learns that Page has lived a life parallel to his, you can see the dawning on his face that he is no longer alone in this secret life.  When Nobbs sees the normal life that Page has set-up (a wife, house, job) he begins to desire that for himself too and starts to pursue young Helen (Wasikowska) who herself is in love with a rough lad that is wrong for her (Johnson).

The movie makes for a pleasant but at times frustrating examination of the lives of these people.  Nobbs is so used to being invisible that when he finally reaches out for love it’s to Helen who we see is undeserving.  It doesn’t help that Wasikowska makes for a bland love interest.  Aside from Jane Eyre where her blank face-edness worked in her favor, I’ve not been on her bandwagon.  Her line readings seem rote and her subtlety lulls you into slumber.  Would the role have been played by a different actress some of what happens later in the film may have landed better.  McTeer has a tough role here but ultimately is a winning presence and a bonus for the film (though I still wouldn’t have nominated her for an Oscar over Shailene Woodley from The Descendants).  Johnson and Collins are both strong in their roles as is Gleeson as a kindly doctor.

Director García puts a nice touch on the Irish setting and has good attention to framing his shots, he wisely lets the story unfold on its own terms and doesn’t push the audience into an uncomfortable narrative.  I enjoyed the score by Brian Byrne and Close adds lyrics to a lovely closing credit song sung by Sinead O’Connor.

Speaking of Close, in any other year her performance may have netted her that elusive Academy Award.  I find myself never bored while watching her whether she is playing characters like Nobbs, unhinged women, or supportive wives/mothers.  It’s still a mystery why she hasn’t taken home the Oscar but I feel her time is coming…most likely in a supporting role within the next five years.  This movie was clearly a labor of love and it was not all for naught.  Albert Nobbs is a strong picture with performances to recommend…even if the movie itself may be too formal on the whole.

Movie Review – 2012 Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

While I would have also liked to have seen the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts and Live Action Shorts, I decided instead to focus on the Documentary Shorts.  I’m a huge documentary fan (any suggestions on your favorites?) and seem to gravitate toward these first if my Oscar viewing gets down to the wire.

Showing 4 of the 5 nominees (one wasn’t available due to licensing issues), this was 130 minutes of good viewing entertainment.  Some will be shown on HBO in March and April or you can see them all now OnDemand or via iTunes.

Here are my capsule reviews…in the order they were shown.

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Incident in New Baghdad

I must admit, I’ve about had all I can with movies/documentaries/news reports on the war in Iraq.  Yes, there are important stories to tell and we must never forget those that fought and are fighting for our country.  I just am finding the constant retelling of the same variation of story to be exhausting to watch.  Last year three of the five nominees were on the topic of the war and this year we only have one entry.

This is a story of a returning war vet with PTSD that is thrust back into his memories when a video is released via WikiLeaks that exposed an incident the army would have liked to keep under wraps.  Were the rules of engagement followed?  The film isn’t long enough to really dig deep into these issues and it wisely focuses on the man and not on uncovering new truths.  The shortest of the nominees, it was also the least memorable when all was said and done.

Saving Face

Soon to be broadcast on HBO, Saving Face tunes its lens on Pakistan and the women who have been horribly disfigured when acid has been thrown in their faces.  We follow two women as they recount how they came to be the victims of these deplorable crimes, the doctor who has come back to his hometown to help them, and the politicians that are fighting to pass a law ensuring that the persons responsible for these crimes are punished to the full extent of the law.

Far less gruesome than it sounds (the previous film, Incident in New Baghdad has some nearly gag inducing photos of carnage in war), the film is ultimately uplifting when focused on the courage and pride of these women.  The plastic surgeon storyline drops off for a bit but comes back in a big way by the end to cap off an inspiring journey.

The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom

No big budgeted special effects summer blockbuster could ever duplicate the opening shot that stretches on in this nominee.  Helpless residents watch in horror as their town is literally washed away in front of their eyes by the massive waters raised by the 2011 hurricane and subsequent Tsunami that ravaged Japan’s coast. It’s a gut-wrenching few minutes watching houses, debris, and people being taken away in an instant.

The focus soon moves from destruction to rebirth of the town and rebirth of the cherry blossoms that play such an important role in Japanese culture.  Attempts to link the mythology of the popular blossom to the lives of the people affected by the disaster never feel forced or false. Told through the faces and voices of the Japanese people and fully subtitled, this doc felt the most well produced and complete.  A narrative is established that I responded to making the longest of the docs feel the shortest to me, there were great interviews and it was well made.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement

The most light-hearted of the group of documentary shorts, though I’d bet that God Is the Bigger Elvis would have been equally as genial (the fifth nominee wasn’t shown due to licensing issues…it too is coming to HBO in April).  I enjoyed this short and sweet look at the life of Mr. Armstrong, a Birmingham barber that was a ‘foot soldier’ in the civil rights movement.  With the inauguration of our country’s first black president, Mr. Armstrong mediates on the changes he’s seen over the years.  His two boys were the first to be integrated in the Birmingham school district and he was a part of the Bloody Sunday march.

Through historical footage we get a brief history lesson of the times the town has seen.  While it could have been a bit more in depth with a goldmine topic and central character, it’s easy to see why this was a selection that made the short list of the Academy.

Down From the Shelf ~ In the Heat of the Night

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The Facts:

Synopsis: An African American detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racist southern town.

Stars: Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Beah Richards

Director: Norman Jewison

Rated: Approved (back  in the days before the rating system)

Running Length: 109 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review:  The first movie I’m reviewing as part of my “What Movie Should Joe See?” poll where I put it to you, my readers, to tell me which movie I should be seeing.  I’m finding these movies from my list of films I’ve never seen or don’t remember seeing.  A multiple Oscar winner (Best Picture, Actor, Director to name a few), In the Heat of the Night was one of the movies I’d never gotten around to seeing, much to my chagrin.  To my great pleasure, I was totally knocked out by this picture which was very much ahead of its time. It’s the kind of movie you don’t want to start late at night because you’ll be up past your bedtime, fully involved with the characters and invested in the story.

Poitier and Steiger are perfectly cast and deliver well rounded performances in this murder mystery crime drama that pushes boundaries on the topic of race relations.  Steiger deservedly took home the Oscar for his role as a relatively new to town Sheriff that is still finding his way around the politics of town.  When a prominent local businessman is murdered, Poitier is the main suspect and jailed simply because of the color of his skin and being in the right place at the wrong time.  When its revealed that he’s a West Coast detective passing through town, Steiger is forced to confront his own prejudicial first judgments and Poitier must put aside his own personal beliefs to see eye to eye with Steiger.

When they are forced to work together by a plot device that actually works and feels honest, the two make for an unlikely pair of sleuths.  Poitier brings his detective eye to the investigation while Steiger brings his cool reserve and slowly begins to trust the man he originally threw behind bars.  This isn’t a film where everyone has a change of heart and sees the error in their ways and that’s why it holds up so well these many years later.   A bonus: the mystery to solve isn’t just a plot device used to shake a disapproving finger at racism – it’s actually a well constructed crime that I was genuinely interested in seeing a resolution to.

Along the road to discovering “who done it” the director Jewison gives us some classic moments that I rewound several times to watch over.  This is the film where Poitier delivers the classic line, “They call me MISTER Tibbs!”  and where he also delivers a well deserved slap to an unsuspecting character that I’m sure had audiences both shocked and cheering.

Opening and closing with Ray Charles singing the title song, this was one movie I was so glad I finally discovered.  Days later I found myself still remembering moments and characters  — wondering what ended up happening to them.  As much of a perfect slice of life film this was, Poitier reprised his role in two more features with Detective TIbbs, They Call Me Mister Tibbs and The Organization.  I have both of these sequels queued up, though I doubt they could live up to the knockout original.  If you were like me and hadn’t seen this, do yourself a favor and get to it!

What Movie Should Joe See? ~ Defiant/Diner/Passage

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It’s poll time again!

Even me, a die-hard movie fan, has a list of movies they are ashamed to admit they either haven’t seen or don’t remember seeing.  I’m not going to air all my shameful misses now…but here are three that I sincerely regret not seeing.

You hold the cards (or remote, if you will)…let your vote be counted!

Voting is open until next Friday (March 2) and please leave a comment as to why you chose what you chose :)

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Why Haven’t You Seen This Movie? ~ The Secret Garden (1993)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: From the classic Frances Hodgon Burnett novel, a young girl discovers an abandoned garden on her uncle’s large Victorian country estate, as well as an invalid cousin she didn’t realize she had. With the help of a local boy, the girl sets out to restore the garden.

Stars: Kate Maberly, Maggie Smith, Heydon Prowse, John Lynch, Laura Crossley, Andrew Knott  

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Rated: G

Running Length: 101 minutes

TMMM Score: (9/10)

Review:  I’m always surprised that more people haven’t seen this excellent adaptation of the beloved children’s book.  Perhaps it is Holland’s adult slant on the tale that really pushes it to the next level.  Everything here is handled with a sure hand from a mature perspective so you never feel like you’re watching a “kid’s” movie…it just happens to be a story involving children.

This slightly Jane Eyre-eqse tale is one we’ve seen told in other film adaptations (the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is also pretty good), stage versions and even a Broadway musical.  Young Mary Lennox is spoiled, selfish, and has just lost her parents in India.  Returning to England to live as a ward to her only relative she is becomes another inhabitant of Mistelthwaite Manor.  Her adventures around the house lead her to the titular secret garden and suddenly a world/home that looked dark has a ray of light.

Maberly makes a good Mary with her pinched face and haughty attitude brought on by being treated as an afterthought by her equally entitled parents.  As she learns to do things on her own and keep herself company we see her cold exterior melt and her youth return.  Prowse and Knott are her two companions…and regardless of position they are truly her equals.  Smith can do no wrong and leaves no eyebrow un-raised as an uptight housekeeper that knows things should change but feels it is out of her place to do so. 

All told, this is a film that has only gotten better as the years go by.  It’s absolutely a product of 90’s family-fare filmmaking but it is wonderful to see a movie free of animation or obtrusive special effects.  The studio has wisely put the telling of this story in the hands of a capable crew and company.