Loving Annabelle – 100 Best Lesbian Movies


First up on my list of the 100 Best Lesbian Movies is Loving Annabelle.

Loving Annabelle Plot Summary (Spoilers):

carLoving Annabelle begins with a girl riding in a limo. We see someone looking at a newspaper with the headline, “Senator’s Daughter Causes Trouble Again.” The limo drops the girl, whose name is Annabelle, off in front of a Catholic school, where she is told someone will be out to collect her soon. A girl named Kristin introduces herself and recognizes Annabelle as the daughter of Senator Tillman. Kristen is super impressed and tells Annabelle that her mother is her idol. Another student, named Catherine (Cat), is not so impressed. She notes that Annabelle is in a band, like her dad, who Kristen informs her is in rehab, and warns Annabelle not to let “them” catch her smoking.

A teacher named Simone, gives Annabelle the dime tour and warns her she might want to hide her Buddhist prayer beads under her shirt and take her nose ring out, but Annabelle doesn’t heed her advice. Simone leaves Annabelle at the dining hall, where she sits at a table by herself, but is soon joined by a student named Collins, however when Cat shows up, Collins leaves. Kristen joins them, freaking out about failing chemistry, which Cat tells Annabelle is because it’s Kristen’s second go round as a senior.

prissyAnnabelle shares her dorm room with Kristen, Cat, Collins and a porcupine named “Prissy” that Collins found in the woods. The scene shifts to the classroom, where Simone is reading a poem by Walt Whitman. Cat pipes up that Walt Whitman was gay, which Simone confirms. Cat goes on to point out that he must have been writing the poem about a man then, while some of the other girls giggle. Cat gets kicked out of the class for picking on Collins.

The setting shifts again, to Simone having dinner with another teacher named Michael. Michael wants to know if she’s thought any more about moving in with him and she tells him that she isn’t ready to leave the school. He points out that she can live off-campus and still teach at the school, the way he does. She changes the subject.

annabelleWhen Annabelle interprets a poem as being about sex, during one of Simone’s classes, Simone asks to speak to her after class and accuses her of trying to “get a rise out of” her. Annabelle flirtatiously tells Simone that she is “intrigued” by her. Simone asks her to be more appropriate with her comments in her class.

Mother Immaculata, the woman in charge of the school, calls Simone into her office and tells her they need to have a serious talk about Annabelle. Meanwhile, Annabelle and her roommates are drinking liquor, a gift from Cat’s father. Annabelle opines that Cat’s dad seems cool and Cat responds, “when he’s sober.” Cat decides they should play a drinking game called “I never.” Annabelle opens up with “I’ve never had sex with another woman,” and then takes a drink, indicating that she has. Cat calls bullshit, but Anna says it’s not that big a deal. Cat remarks that they finally have another lesbian, which she was worried they’d never have after the last one graduated.

beadsSimone catches them drinking and they all leave, except for Annabelle. Simone tells Annabelle that she really needs her to start trying to fit in. Anna points out that she’s not even Catholic. Anna agrees to lose the nose ring, but she balks at getting rid of her Buddhist prayer beads. The scene shifts to Mother Immaculata demanding Annabelle hand over the beads. Anna refuses and Mother Immaculata asks her if getting kicked out of her first two schools wasn’t enough for her. She then commands Anna to wear this big honkin cross and add another one for every day she refuses to remove the beads. Anna refuses to wear the cross and Mother Immaculata informs her that her mother has told her that if she doesn’t comply, she’ll be sent to military school next. Anna puts the cross on and leaves the room. Simone tells Mother Immaculata that she should move Annabelle to another dorm, because Simone can’t control her. Mother Immaculata responds that it shouldn’t be too hard, after all, she was able to control Simone.

Cat passes Anna a note in class, asking if she has a girlfriend. Anna writes, “women suck!!” on the note and passes it back. Simone confiscates the note and tosses it in the garbage. She keeps Anna after class and asks her why she isn’t wearing her rosary. Anna approaches Simone and grabs the cross she wears around her neck and asks her if she would take it off if Mother Immaculata told her to. Simone doesn’t answer. Anna puts on her rosary and leaves.

simoneBack in her room, Simone leafs through a photo album which contains photos of her and another woman she appears to have been romantically involved with.

Simone approaches Anna in the library and hands her a book. She suggests that maybe Anna could carry her prayer beads in her pocket or hide them in her bag where no one can see them. Anna tells her that she’ll think about it. Simone asks why Anna is making this so hard and she tells her that the first person she fell in love with gave them to her. Simone asks if Anna is still in love with him and Anna responds that she moved to Europe with her family. Later on, Anna thanks Simone for the book and Simone thanks her for taking off the beads.

Anna spots Simone working on some photographs and complements her on her photography skills. She finds a photo of Simone’s parents, who Simone says she isn’t close to, and notes that her mother looks like Mother Immaculata. Simone tells her that’s because they are sisters. Anna spots some photos of the woman from the photo album and remarks that Simone and the woman looked “close.” Simone says that the woman’s name was Amanda and they grew up together, but she died a few years ago. Collins interrupts and tells Simone that she thinks Prissy is dead.

collinsCat tells Collins that at least she doesn’t have to smell Prissy’s gas anymore and Collins runs out of the room crying. Anna follows and tries to comfort her. Anna examines Collins wrist, where she has been cutting, while Simone watches in the background.

That night, Cat joins Anna outside and they share a joint, another gift from Cat’s dad. Cat asks Anna how it’s going with Simone and Anna says nothing is going with Simone. Cat says she had a crush on Simone when she was a freshman, but she’s not gay, she’s into guys too. She tells Anna that the previously graduated lesbian used to be obsessed with Simone. Anna tells Cat that she’s not obsessed with Simone, but doesn’t deny that she likes her.

eye-rollSimone has dinner with Michael and another couple, who announce they are renewing their vows. She surreptitiously watches a lesbian couple cuddling over at the bar, while the others celebrate. She has sex with MIchael later that night, but doesn’t look all that into it. Simone tries to sneak back into the dorm, but her aunt hears her and asks her to come sit with her. She comments that she doesn’t understand why Simone is still with Michael, because he’s not good enough for her. Simone tells her she’s really tired and is going to bed.

cat-annaAnna is swimming in the pool. Cat joins her and then begins kissing her. Anna stops her and tells her that she’s not interested in being her “science project.”

The next day, Simone receives a bouquet of flowers. The card has no signature, but the sender has written the same quote that Simone wrote in the book she gave Anna.

Anna goes to see Simone in Simone’s room and Simone tells her that she can’t be in there. Anna ignores her. She tells Simone that Cat kissed her, but that Cat isn’t her type and then Anna tries to kiss Simone, but Simone tells her to stop and Anna leaves. Later, Simone goes to the chapel and fantasizes about Anna touching her.

Anna has to remain at the dorms during Spring Break, and as a result, so does Simone, even though she protests to her aunt that she really  needs to get away.

beachAnna talks Simone into taking her off campus, even though she’s not supposed to. Simone takes her to her house on the beach. Anna asks Simone if she was in love with Amanda and Simone says that she was. Anna remarks that Simone is still wearing Amanda’s cross, which she noticed Amanda wearing in Simone’s photos. This seems to upset Simone and she takes off down the beach.

Anna goes looking for Simone at the house, but she isn’t there. Anna finds and reads what appears to be Amanda’s suicide note. Simone returns and sees Anna with the letter and is angry. Anna tells Simone that she’s sorry that she read the letter, but that Simone can’t keep running away from this. Anna tries to comfort Simone, in spite of Simone’s protests. Anna embraces Simone and Simone begins to weep.

sleepThe scene shifts to Anna & Simone asleep in bed. Simone takes Anna back to the school. Anna approaches Simone’s room that night, but then changes her mind and leaves.

The other girls return to school and while they are eating breakfast, Cat accuses Anna of having slept with Simone, which Anna denies. Mother Immaculata announces that Friday is their annual end of the year dance with St. Paul’s. Most of the girls celebrate, but Anna does not look enthused. Cat tells them that her brother and his band are playing at the dance and suggests that maybe Anna could play with them. Cat remarks that they’ve never seen Anna sing or play the guitar and maybe it’s just all for show. Anna storms off.

simone-michaelAnna continues to flirt with Simone and Simone continues to rebuff her advances. When Simone continues to hem and haw on giving Michael an answer about moving in with him, he tells her that he wants to be with someone who knows they want to be with him. Simone tells Michael that she wants that for him too and he is less than pleased with her response.

Back at school, Anna asks Simone why she hasn’t spoken to her in two weeks and Simone responds that she, “can’t do this.” Anna tells her that they aren’t doing anything wrong. Mother Immaculata notices them and watches through the window in the classroom door. Simone repeats that she can’t do this and Anna leaves. Mother Immaculata asks Simone if something is wrong and she denies it. Simone’s aunt tells her that she’d like to think that if anything were wrong, or if Simone needed anything, she would ask. Simone tells her aunt that she doesn’t need anything.

fightCat continues to harass Anna about Simone and Anna tells her that she’s sick of Cat’s smart-ass comments. Cat continues with her needling and a fist fight ensues, which Simone breaks up. She tells Anna to see the nurse, but Anna refuses. Anna storms out of the room and Simone follows, but Anna angrily tells Simone not to touch her.

Later, Anna walks into the school dance and sees Simone dancing with Michael and she turns around and leaves. Cat’s brother finds Anna outside smoking and she returns to the dorm and grabs her guitar and the lyrics to a song she wrote, puts on her prayer beads and returns to the dance. Anna gives Simone some meaningful looks, while she sings the song she wrote. Simone listens for a while, but then goes outside.

kissAnna follows Simone and the two kiss and then head back to Simone’s room, where they have sex.

The next morning, at breakfast, Collins wonders aloud where Anna was, since she didn’t spend the night in their room. Cat tells the other girls that she was probably with Simone, but Kristen immediately rejects the idea. Collins says she doesn’t care if they’re together, because she likes them both. Cat goes over to Mother Immaculata’s table and tells her that she’s concerned about Simone and Annabelle.

When Simone realizes they  have overslept, she wakes Anna in a panic, but Mother Immaculata arrives while they are still getting dressed. Mother Immaculata demands to see Simone in her office, “right now.” Simone tells Anna to leave.

beads2Mother Immaculata asks Simone how she could let something like this happen. Simone tells her that she’s not saying what she did was right and that she doesn’t expect her aunt to understand, but she loves Anna. Some sort of police or government officials or something arrive and escort Simone from the building. Anna spots the government cars outside and rushes to the school, where she runs up to Simone and hands her, her prayer beads. The other students stare at Anna as she walks back to her dorm.

Anna returns to Simone’s room and looks at the photos Simone took of her at the beach, while Simone fingers the prayer beads Anna gave her in the car. The film ends with the quote:

“For one human being to love another; That is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks…The work for which all other work is but preparation. -Rainer Maria Rilke.”

Loving Annabelle Commentary (Spoilers):

I’m neither a fan of May-December romances nor of student-teacher romances, so I didn’t go into Loving Annabelle with particularly high expectations. Nevertheless, I found myself actually enjoying the movie.

I thought the film tackled its controversial subject thoughtfully and for the most part tastefully. My one point of contention with the film is that, at least by the quote at the end and by the alternate ending on the DVD, where Simone doesn’t face any charges and it is implied that she and Anna continue their “romance,” is the idea that this story is some sort of great romance.

We have Simone, who’s first love committed suicide (because all movie lesbians are required to have at least one dead girlfriend by the age of 35), attempting to live the heterosexual lifestyle with her boyfriend Michael. However, instead of doing something sensible like teaching at a normal school or at least living off-campus, she continues to teach at an all-girl school and live in the dorms, so she is surrounded by temptation at all times. Perhaps the school reminds her of happier times with Amanda. Maybe she thought immersing herself in Catholic dogma, with her strict aunt as overseer would keep her on the straight and narrow. Or perhaps, Anna isn’t the first obsessed teenager Simone “gave in to.” Whatever the explanation, I can’t help but think that if Simone had been pursing a healthy relationship with an adult woman, instead of suppressing her homosexual desires, perhaps she wouldn’t have found Anna so appealing. While, I don’t doubt Simone felt genuine affection and empathy for Anna, I’m skeptical that her attraction was as much “love” as it was lust, mixed with a  healthy dose of unresolved issues with her dead ex and exacerbated by her attempts to deny her true sexuality.

Annabelle, on the other hand, is 17. At that age, everyone thinks every relationship is “the one.” She’s obviously infatuated with Simone, but she doesn’t seem to pause to consider the potential serious consequences pursuing a relationship with Simone could have for Simone at any point. That doesn’t suggest love to me either. She seems more like a horny teenager with some mommy issues (another lesbian movie trope). Again, I believe that she does care about Simone, but I don’t think she’s really in love with her.

What I did like about the film is how it presented Simone as conflicted about her own actions. She knows that a relationship with Anna is a bad and morally questionable idea, but she feels drawn to her anyway. She has multiple chances to get herself out of the situation….she could have moved out of the dorm. She could have confessed her conflict to her aunt, etc., but she doesn’t take any of them. In the end, she does what she knows she shouldn’t but wants anyway, because the heart (and some other body parts) wants what the heart wants.

The movie also briefly touches on some other lesbian and teenagery issues, but doesn’t really dwell on them. Collins, who actually ended up being my favorite character in the movie, is the victim of constant bullying by Cat and she is also a cutter. Cat is possibly an asshole because of her shitty and neglectful parents. Kristen has already been held back once and is still struggling with her academics. None of that gets much attention.

Cat’s maybe lesbian, maybe bisexual, maybe experimenting straight-girl status plays a larger role in the film. Cat presents as a bit of a tomboy/soft butch type and seems to have a bad case of ADS, but she’s either not ready to claim the lesbian label or she’s just a butchy bisexual/bicurious girl with a bad attitude. Either way, her attempt to romance Anna results in the classic lesbian/bisexual conflict of “is she really into me or does she just want to get her kicks and then hop back on a dick.” Personally, I think Cat actually liked Anna, but was too afraid to just come out and say it and I think Anna was just not really into Cat and was mostly being a jerk with her “I don’t want to be your science-experiment” rebuff. The end result was, Cat felt angry and rejected and decided to get her revenge by telling Mother Immaculata about Anna’s relationship with Simone, which was probably actually the right thing to do, but I doubt her motivation was actual concern for Anna.

It all adds up to a film that isn’t perfect, but that is enjoyable and gives you something to think about. Thumbs up to those of you out there who had this one on your “best of” list.


Dirty Dancing – 100 Best Chick Flicks


The first movie up on my list of 100 Best Chick Flicks is Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing is also on my list of the 100 Best Coming of Age Films.

Dirty Dancing Plot Summary (Spoilers):

kellermansDirty Dancing begins, as you might expect, with a bunch of people dancing. The scene shifts to a family, riding somewhere in their car. A girl, named Baby, played by Jennifer Grey, provides a voiceover in which she declares it is the summer of 1963. The family is on their way to a resort called Kellerman’s.

Shortly after arrival, the family heads over to the gazebo for a Merengue class, taught by a former Rockette. That evening, Baby heads up to the main house, where she eavesdrops on Mr. Kellerman telling the wait staff to make sure they show all the daughters, even the dogs, a good time. The entertainment staff, lead by Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, enters the room. Johnny makes a snarky remark and Mr. Kellerman tells him that the entertainment staff’s job is to dance with the daughters, but to otherwise keep their hands off them.

At dinner, a medical student named Robbie Gould, is assigned to wait on Baby’s table. Robbie flirts with Baby’s sister Lisa. Mr. Kellerman fixes Baby up with his nephew Neil, who is studying hotel management. Lisa spends the evening with Robbie, while Baby ends up with Neil. When Johnny and Penny, the Rockette from the Merengue class, show up to show off the mambo, Baby is quite taken with them.

Baby’s father volunteers her to assist Neil in running the games for the night and she ends up being the girl getting sawed in half in the magic show. While walking up an outside path, Baby runs across Johnny making out with one of the resort guests. He promises to try to meet the woman later and then sneaks off through the woods and Baby follows him.

She runs across Johnny’s cousin Billy, who also works at the resort, carrying watermelons up to a party in the staff quarters. Baby tries to help him with the watermelons, but he tells her guests aren’t allowed. However, he reconsiders and allows Baby to tote one of his watermelons up to the party.

watermelonsBaby stares, with her mouth hanging open, as she watches a number of young people dancing suggestively with each other. Johnny and Penny arrive and begin dancing together. Baby comments that they “look great together,” and Billy agrees, remarking that “you’d think they were a couple.” He goes on to clarify that they used to date when they were kids, but aren’t together anymore.

dirty-dancingJohnny spots Baby and asks his cousin what she is doing there. Billy proudly proclaims, “she’s with me,” but Baby interjects that she, “carried a watermelon,” much to Billy and her own horror. Johnny pulls Baby out on the dance floor and teaches her a few dance moves. He dances with her for a while and then wanders off.

The next day, Robbie continues to flirt with Lisa and Lisa asks Baby to cover for her, while she is out with Robbie that night. Baby tells Penny that she’s a wonderful dancer and that she envies her. Penny says her mom kicked her out when she was 16 and she’s been dancing ever since.

bungalow-bunnyThat evening, Baby watches Johnny dancing with an older woman named Vivian at the pavilion. Mr. Kellerman gossips with her father, telling him that Vivian is one of the “bungalow bunnies,” a group of women who stay at the resort all week, while their husbands are away on business. Neil interrupts and demands to know where Penny is. Johnny tells him that she’s taking a break.

Neil gathers up Baby and tells her to come walk with him. Baby tries to come up with an excuse to get away from him, but he is oblivious and assures her that he is the “catch of the county.” Baby spots her sister limping, adjusting her clothing and demanding an apology from Robbie. Robbie tells her to go back to mommy and daddy and maybe she’ll hear one in her dreams.

Neil takes Baby up to the kitchen to get something to eat and she spots Penny sitting on the floor, against the wall, crying. Baby tells Neil that she needs to go check on her sister and they return to the pavilion. Baby tells Billy about Penny and Billy tells Johnny and the three of them rush back to the kitchen.

Along the way, Baby asks what’s wrong with Penny and Billy tells her that she’s “knocked up.” Baby asks what Johnny is going to do about it and he is angry that she assumes the baby is his. Johnny tries to comfort Penny and then carries her to some sort of dressing room, where he scolds her for not coming to him for help. Penny tells him that she didn’t want to take the rest of his salary and it wouldn’t be enough anyway.

When Penny learns that Billy told Baby that she is pregnant, she fears Baby will tell Neil that she got knocked up by Robbie and they will all get fired. Baby is shocked to hear that Robbie is the father. Billy explains to Baby that there is a doctor that will be in town for one night that could perform an abortion for $250. Baby assures Penny that Robbie has the money, but Penny tells her that Robbie already knows about the baby and he isn’t going to pay for anything. She tells Baby to “go back to your playpen.”

Baby tries to shake Robbie down for the money, but he tells her that he’s not going to spend his money bailing out a chick who has probably slept with every guy in the place. He then tells her that “some people count and some don’t” and hands her a copy of The Fountainhead. Baby tells Robbie he makes her sick and commands him to stay away from her and her sister, or she’s going to get him fired. She then pours a pitcher of water on him and leaves.

Baby tells her father that someone is in trouble and she needs to borrow $250 to help them out, but she can’t tell him what for. She assures her father that it’s not illegal and he agrees to give her the money. That night, Baby hands Penny the money and Penny is ecstatic, thinking Baby convinced Robbie to come through, but Baby tells her that she was right that Robbie wouldn’t help. When Penny asks where Baby got the money, Johnny snarkily remarks that, “it takes a real saint to ask daddy,” and Penny refuses the money. Johnny urges Penny to take the money. Billy explains to Baby that he could only get an appointment for Thursday and that’s the day she and Johnny have to perform at the Sheldrake, otherwise they lose their money for the whole season. Baby asks if someone else can’t fill in and Johnny explains that the other dancers all have to work. Billy suggests that perhaps Baby could fill in and Johnny vetoes it, but Penny tells him that he’s a strong partner and he could teach anyone.

boot-campThe scene shifts to Johnny trying to teach Baby the mambo. Johnny and Penny put Baby through a dance boot camp and she makes a lot of progress, but Johnny is still frustrated that she isn’t progressing as fast as he’d like. When Johnny makes a snarky comment to Baby, she fires back that the performance is in two days, he won’t teach her lifts, she’s not sure of turns and she’s doing all this to save his ass, when all she really wants to do is drop him on it. Johnny decides they need a change of venue.

liftJohnny takes Baby out into the woods and tries to teach her the lift on a log over a creek, saying that the most important thing about lifts is balance. After dancing on the log and then practicing the lift in a field, Johnny decides to move to the lake, where Baby appears to be making some progress.

The night of the show, Penny is helping Baby get fitted for her costume and she thanks her and tells her that she wants her to know that she doesn’t sleep around and that she thought Robbie loved her. She also confides that she is scared and Baby assures her that everything will be fine.

Baby asks Lisa to cover for her with their parents and Lisa refuses, saying she’s going to tell their parents that Baby has been coming and going at all hours and there’s something “fishy” about it. Baby threatens to tell her parents that Lisa left her alone when they were out-of-town, to spend the weekend with a boy, even though that isn’t the truth, and that they’ll believe her, because she never lies.

Baby makes a few mistakes and doesn’t do the lift, but overall, the performance at the Sheldrake goes well and Johnny is pleased with it, telling her that she did a good job. They thought they were caught when an older couple from the resort showed up in the audience at the Sheldrake, but they didn’t seem to notice them.

When they get back to Kellerman’s they discover Penny in a great deal of pain. Billy tells them that the doctor didn’t even use any anesthetic and had a dirty knife and a folding table. He tried to get in to stop the procedure, but the door was locked and he could hear Penny screaming in the hall. Baby rushes off to get her father, who is a doctor.

Baby’s father takes care of Penny, but gives Johnny the cold shoulder when he tries to thank him, before taking Baby back to their suit. Baby’s father demands to know if that’s what his money paid for. Baby apologizes for lying to him, but he is angry. He tells Baby that she’s not the person he thought she was and forbids her to ever see “those people” again.

sexy-timesBaby ignores his command and goes to see Johnny in his room that night. She apologizes to him for the way her father treated him. Johnny says it’s OK and that people treat him like he’s nothing, because he is nothing. Baby tells him that isn’t true. Johnny praises Baby for thinking she can make the world better and says she’s not scared of anything. Baby tells him she’s scared of everything, but most of all, she’s afraid she’ll never feel again the way she feels when she’s with Johnny. The two dance briefly, and then have sex.

The next day, Baby tells her sister that she wouldn’t really have lied to their parents, but Lisa isn’t convinced and tells Baby that she used to admire her. The family has an awkward breakfast together. When Neil asks if everyone is going to be in the end of season show, Baby’s father tells him they have decided to leave early to miss the weekend traffic, even though they are paid up through Sunday. Lisa protests, saying she was going to sing in the show and Baby’s father changes his mind and decides to stay.

Baby goes to see Penny and Johnny shows up. Penny tells them that Baby’s father said she’s going to be fine and she can still have children. Penny figures out, from the way Baby and Johnny are acting, that they are having sex and asks Johnny what he’s doing. After all, he has told her a million times never to get mixed up with “them.” Johnny assures Penny that he knows what he’s doing, but she tells him that he has to “stop it now.”

Johnny doesn’t listen and continues his relationship with Baby. After having sex, Baby asks him if he’s “had many women.” Johnny explains to her that the women at the resort are always throwing themselves at him and at first, he thought it was because they actually cared about him, but eventually he realized they were just using him. He then asks Baby what her real name is and she tells him, “Francis,” which he declares is a real grown-up name.

That night, Lisa tells Baby that she plans to have sex with Robbie. Baby tells her, her first time shouldn’t be with someone like Robbie, it should be with someone she loves. Lisa tells Baby that she doesn’t really care about her. She thinks Baby is just jealous, because she’s not daddy’s girl anymore and he actually listens when Lisa talks now.

sylviaNeil interrupts Baby and Johnny in the dance studio, but thinks she’s just taking lessons. Neil tells Johnny that he’s in charge of the final show and he wants to do something different and more progressive for the final dance. Johnny gets excited and tells him he has a lot of ideas, but Neil condescendingly tells him he’s out of his depth and that his brilliant idea for the final dance is to do the Pachanga instead of the Mambo. When Johnny is obviously not impressed, Neil threatens to find another “dance person” next season and Johnny assures Neil that the Pachanga is a “great idea.” Neil leaves, advising Baby to make sure she gets the full half hour she’s paying for.

fight-harderWhen Johnny rants to Baby about Neil and his idea, Baby scolds him for letting Neil talk to him that way and suggests that he should “fight harder.” Johnny tells her that these people are rich and they’re mean and he needs this job lined up for next summer. When Baby hides, when she spots her father walking with Robbie and Lisa, Johnny accuses her of being a hypocrite. She assures him that she plans to tell her father about their relationship, but he doesn’t believe her.

slummingBaby goes to Penny’s cabin to find Johnny. When Robbie spots the two of them kissing on Penny’s front porch, he accuses Baby of “going slumming,” but says it’s OK, because he went slumming too. Johnny leaps off the porch and attacks Robbie, knocking him to the ground, but eventually lets up, saying that he’s not worth it.

Vivian propositions Johnny at the practice run for the final show. Her husband offers Johnny a wad of cash to give his wife some “extra dance lessons,” during his all night card game. Johnny refuses the money, saying he is booked up all weekend and Vivian looks stunned as he walks away.

That night, Lisa heads to the staff quarters to surprise Robbie with the news that tonight is the night they’re going to get it on. However, she discovers he is already occupied, with Vivian.

The next morning, Johnny tells Baby that he dreamt that he met her father and he put his arm around him, just like he did with Robbie. While leaving Robbie’s cabin, Vivian spots Johnny kissing Baby outside his room and she does not look pleased.

At breakfast, Mr. Kellerman tells Baby’s father that Vivian’s husband’s wallet was stolen while he was playing cards last night and Vivian told him that she saw Johnny walking by and she thinks he took it. Johnny claimed he was alone in his room reading, but Mr. Kellerman didn’t believe him. Neil adds that there have been similar thefts at the Sheldrake. Baby insists that Johnny didn’t do it and tries to convince her father, but he no longer trusts her word. She suggests maybe the Schumachers did it, because she saw them with a couple of wallets and they were also at the Sheldrake, but Baby’s father admonishes her for accusing them without proof. When Mr. Kellerman tells Neil to come with him, so he can learn how to fire an employee, Baby tells him that she knows Johnny was in his room all night, because she was with him.

Baby apologizes to her father for lying to him, but tells him that he lied to her also. She accuses him of telling her that everyone is the same and deserves a fair chance, but then treating people who weren’t just like him differently. She tells her father that she’s sorry she let him down, but that he let her down too and then rushes off in tears.

Johnny tracks Baby down and tells her that they caught and arrested the Schumachers for the wallet thefts, but that he was fired anyway, because of his relationship with Baby. Baby rants that it was all for nothing, and that Johnny was right that you can’t win, no matter what you do. Johnny tells her that it wasn’t for nothing, that no one has ever stood up for him the way she did and that he doesn’t want to hear her talk that way.

Johnny goes to talk to Baby’s father and tries to tell him how wonderful Baby is, but her father won’t listen. He tells Johnny that he sees someone who got his partner in trouble and then moved on to an innocent young girl. Johnny tells him, “I guess that’s what you would see,” and storms off.

Johnny packs up his things and says his goodbyes to Penny and Baby. He tells Baby he’ll never be sorry and she agrees. They kiss and he drives away.

Lisa tries to comfort her sister and the two appear to make up. However, Baby’s father continues to give her the cold shoulder. At the final show, Baby’s father hands Robbie a letter of recommendation for medical school. Thinking Baby has already told him, Robbie thanks him for helping out with the “Penny situation,” and then tries to back pedal, saying he can’t be sure the baby was even his, after all a girl like that is liable to pin it on anyone. Baby’s father grabs the letter away from Robbie and returns to his table.

Johnny shows up and spotting Baby sitting in the corner at her table, marches over, announces that “nobody puts Baby in a corner,” grabs Baby’s hand and leads her away from the table. Her father starts to pursue them, but her mother stops him.

Johnny leads Baby up on stage and then tells the crowd that he always does the last dance of the season, but this year, someone told him not to, so he’s going to do his kind of dancing with a great partner. He tells them Baby taught him that there are people in the world who are willing to stand up for others, no matter what it costs them and that’s the kind of person he wants to be. Meanwhile, Baby’s father is steaming at his table, but when he starts to stand up, Baby’s mother tells him to sit down.

lift-completedBilly puts “I’ve Had the Time of my Life” on the record player and Johnny and Baby proceed to dance. Baby’s mother and sister watch on, admiringly, and her mother tells her father that she thinks, “she gets it from me.” Johnny leaps off the stage and dances his way up the aisle and gets the rest of the staff to join him as he dances his way back towards the stage. He motions to Baby and she nods and then proceeds to do the lift she was unable to attempt at the Sheldrake.

The staff begins to pull the crowd into the dance and even Neil gets into it. Mr. Kellerman begins to see this new style of dancing as a way to attract a younger crowd to his resort. Baby’s father approaches Johnny and tells him that he knows he wasn’t the one that got Penny in trouble and that when he’s wrong he says he’s wrong. He then tells Baby that she looked wonderful up there and the two embrace.

Everyone gets into the dancing, including Mr. Kellerman and Baby’s parents. Johnny mouths the words of the song to Baby, before kissing her and then resuming the dancing and the film ends.

Dirty Dancing Commentary(Spoilers):

I was in the 8th grade when this movie was originally released. The movie was a huge hit with my classmates and I’ve Had the Time of my Life was even the theme of our 8th grade dance. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” became the girl power catchphrase of the year.

I loved the movie as much as my classmates, but probably not for exactly the same reasons. I didn’t really care much about the romance aspect of the story, but I was fascinated with the movie all the same.

It was probably Baby’s desire to break out of her good girl mold that spoke to me the most. I didn’t have Baby’s ambitions to change the world back then, but I was definitely the smart, obedient child, who got good grades and never got in trouble, up until my high school years.

I didn’t become a wild child or anything, but I did engage in some minor mischief (prank phone calls, hitching rides, ditching class, etc.) and my parents pretty much flipped out about it and I went from that good kid, who my parents trusted, to the bad seed who suddenly wasn’t the person they thought I was and it wasn’t much fun and they didn’t even know about the “worst” stuff.

In spite of all that, I do kind of feel like Baby’s father gets an undeserved bad rap in this film. Sure, he was a bit uptight and the fact that Johnny was a working class member of the entertainment staff, while Robbie was a wealthy pre-med, student likely played into his initial attitudes about the two of them. But, I think he did have some legitimate beefs. Baby did lie to him. She used his money to fund an illegal and dangerous back-alley, abortion. She was sneaking around behind his back to carry on her relationship with Johnny and while I don’t think Johnny was supposed to be as old as Swayze was, he was still at least in his mid-twenties or so, while she was 17, so there was a significant age and experience gap involved, that I think her father might reasonably be concerned about.

However, in an ideal world, it would have been nice if her father had listened to her and her reasons for doing what she did, instead of just freaking out, because his perfect, innocent daughter, turned out to be a horny teenager, just like everyone else’s 17-year-old.

That’s the part of the movie that I think most of us can identify with on some level. We were all teens once, dealing with our parents expectations and our own struggle to transition from childhood to adulthood and all the crazy, confusing stuff that goes along with it.

The movie also tackles class issues. Mr. Kellerman, Neil, Robbie and likely many of the guests, treat the “entertainment staff” like second-class citizens. It’s OK for the bungalow bunnies to treat the men like prostitutes, and the wait-staff to bone the daughters, but it’s off-limits for the entertainment staff to have any sort of meaningful relationship with any of the wealthy guests.

I think it’s perfectly legitimate for Kellerman’s to have a policy against employees fraternizing with the guests. However, the double standard between the instructions given to the rich, college boys in the wait staff and the entertainment staff is difficult to condone.

The end of the movie is mostly pure fantasy. Johnny wins over all the snobby rich people through the power of dance and everyone makes up and presumably lives happily ever after. I think it’s more likely that Mr. Kellerman would have called the police to haul Johnny out of there and while I can see Baby’s father easing up on Johnny a bit, once he realized it was golden-boy Robbie and not Johnny who impregnated Penny, I doubt he’d actually want him dating his daughter. The movie ending is more fun though.

On a shallow note, I have to admit that I’ve always found the scene where Baby dances with Penny to be kind of hot.








Wild Hearts – Nancy McKeon


Nancy McKeon was one of my favorite actresses when I was a kid and I recently re-discovered her when I ran across some reruns of The Facts Of Life on TV.

A lot of her other work happened during a period of time when I didn’t watch much TV, so I decided to try to catch up on some of her other projects. I’m starting with the 2006 Hallmark TV movie Wild HeartsThe reason I picked this as my starting point, is the movie is already on my DVR.

Wild Hearts Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Wild Hearts begins with a girl at a skate park. Or maybe it’s not a skate park, since when a cop car shows up, most of the skaters take off running. Two cops get out of the car and one of them, played by Richard (John-Boy) Thomas, asks the girl how many times he’s going to have to ask her not to do this down here. The girl, whose name is Madison, snarkily asks if he’s going to arrest her and he gives her the bad news that her grandfather died last night. Madison replies, “I’m sorry dad,” before getting in the backseat of the cop car and leaving.

Back at the house, Madison and her dad, whose name is Bob, are saying their goodbyes to their friends, since they are preparing to move from L.A. to the ranch they just inherited in a small town in Montana. Madison doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the move. Madison leafs through some sort of scrap-book, which contains a newspaper clipping with the headline “Cop’s Wife Slain.”

On the car ride to Montana, Madison questions why she never met her grandfather. Bob explains that his mother died when he was 6 and after that all his father seemed to care about was the ranch. Madison’s mother wanted to move to L.A. and Bob just wanted to get away from the ranch, so they left. His father told him that if he left the ranch, not to call or come back, so he didn’t. Sounds like grandpa was a bit of a hard ass.

Once they arrive in town, Bob has a conversation with the mayor, who excitedly tells him about all the progress their small town is making. They’re building a mall and after that they’re planning on condos and a casino. Bob is apparently taking over for his father as town sheriff until the next election comes along, even though the mayor assures him that there is no crime in their town.

Madison’s nose ring gets quite a lot of attention from the locals, including a cowboy hat wearing, straw chewing young man, named Tim, who engages in a bit of meet cute, as Madison waits for her father outside city hall. Tim turns out to be the grandson of the mayor.

Madison and Bob arrive at the Hart Ranch and are introduced to the mustangs. One of the mustangs, named Lucinda, lost her mother and the local vet has been looking after her, while they try to get her to eat. Shortly after, the vet, whose name is Emily, played by Nancy McKeon, shows up at the barn to check on the filly. Emily tells a surprised Bob that his father was very charming and she loved him. She also wins some points with Madison, by letting her listen to Lucinda’s heartbeat with her stethoscope. She discusses Lucinda with Hank, the man who has been looking after the ranch, and Hank says she isn’t showing much improvement, but he’d hate to put her down. Madison quickly vetoes the idea of putting Lucinda down and Emily says they will keep trying to get her to eat and see what happens, before saying she has to leave to look after a sick goat.

A former classmate of Bob’s, named Cody, shows up. He is involved in building the new mall the mayor told them about. He tells everyone he gave Bob a hard time back in their school days, when Bob was a “runt” and Cody was captain of the football team. Cody wants to buy the ranch, but Bob turns him down.

Madison goes for a walk with Emily, who’s sick goat is apparently not that pressing a concern. Emily tells her that she dated Cody when she first moved to town, until she found out he was married. Worse yet, she suspects he only dated her to begin with, because he wanted to buy her land. Not cool Cody. She tells Madison that her dad did a good thing coming back to take care of the ranch, but Madison isn’t so sure. She refers to the town as “Hicksville.” Emily responds that not everyone can live in L.A. or wants to.

When Bob goes to visit his father’s grave, he finds evidence that someone has been “dry drilling” on the land. He questions Hank about whether his father ever hired any surveyors to come out and test for a well and Hank says “no.”

Tim makes another appearance and Emily tells Madison that he is her assistant. They attend to the sick goat, which sneezes all over Madison’s hand and then Emily asks Tim to give Madison “the tour.”

Later on, Madison grabs an apple from the house and takes it out to the barn, where she manages to persuade Lucinda to eat. She returns to the house and e-mails her friend. At first she celebrates that she doesn’t think her father will stay in Montana long, but then reconsiders and writes a much more enthusiastic sounding message about life on the ranch.

Bob heads off to work and orders Hank to keep Madison busy cleaning stalls and mending fences and such. Hank teaches Madison to ride a horse. That evening, Bob discovers that his father had kept a collection of newspaper clippings about Bob’s accomplishments in L.A. and that he also had a packet of letters he exchanged with Bob’s late wife. Madison discovers her father crying over the letters, but returns to her room without saying anything to him. She spots a wolf howling outside her window.

breakfastAt breakfast, Madison tells Bob how amazing she thought the wolf she saw was. Hank interrupts Bob and Madison’s breakfast with the disturbing news that one of the horses has been killed. The three of them go to look at the dead horse and Hank tells them that wolves did it. Madison objects, suggesting her father should do a bit more investigating before he blames wolves for the death. Madison wants to know if there is something they can do besides kill the wolves and Hank suggests Emily could bring a tranquilizer gun and they could tranq the wolf and then take it to the mountains and turn it loose.

Emily shows up with a tranquilizer gun, which Bob takes from her and then heads off with Hank, ordering Madison to stay by the truck. Madison stays behind with Tim and Emily goes off with Hank and Bob. Tim asks Madison if she’s going to come to the über fun 4th of July hoe-down at the community center, but Madison hops out of the truck without answering and then proceeds to head off after her father, motioning for Tim to come with.

Madison tells Tim that she’s sure it wasn’t wolves that killed the horse and that she felt a real connection with the wolf she saw outside her window. Tim tells Madison he thinks she watches too much TV. Madison and Tim catch up to the adults, just as a wolf approaches. Bob shoots the wolf with the tranquilizer dart and she falls from the ledge she was standing on.

pupsEmily checks on the wolf and announces that she’s alright, but has a broken leg, just as two wolf pups emerge from the woods. Madison and Tim collect the pups and they transport the mother wolf back to Emily’s place, where Emily patches up her leg. Emily assures the others that the wolf will be fine, while Madison fawns over the pups. Bob warns Madison not to get too attached to the pups, since they aren’t pets and will soon be back in the wild, where they belong.

hoe-downMadison and Tim go to the hoe-down, where Tim coerces Madison into dancing with him. Bob also shows up at the dance and Emily tries to strike up a conversation, but he wanders off to talk to some guy he knows named Sam, after confirming that Cody is married to the mayor’s daughter. Shortly after, Bob gets a call that Sam’s place is on fire. Most of the town appears to be gathered in front of Sam’s store and the mayor tells Bob that Sam probably left some machinery on or something, like he’s done many times before and suggests that “the old codger” is losing it. Bob tells the mayor that he’ll begin investigating tomorrow and the mayor questions why, after all this isn’t L.A. and people don’t go setting fires.

Bob begins investigating the fire and Sam assures him that he didn’t leave anything on, or at least he doesn’t think he did. Sam muses that maybe he should have sold out to that mall when he had a chance. Back at the ranch, Madison is alone with the wolves and shares her thoughts about  her mom’s death. She tells them that she learned about her mother’s death on TV and whenever she questioned her dad about it, he would get angry, so she stopped asking. Emily quietly approaches from behind and listens to Madison talk. After Madison declares how great her mom was, Emily walks off.

Bob tracks down Cody and asks him where he was yesterday. Cody claims he was playing pool and gets an employee named Jake, to confirm his alibi. Cody asks Bob what he wants for the ranch and Bob replies, “What do you want it for? Are you going to burn it down if I say no?”

Back at Emily’s place, Emily is trying to check on the mother wolf’s broken leg, but the wolf snarls and snaps at her. Emily and Tim are surprised when the wolf immediately calms down when Madison shows up with some pb&j sandwiches and Emily asks Madison to stand by the wolf’s pen and keep talking, while she tries to examine the wolf again. Madison keeps the wolf calm and Emily manages to successfully examine her.

Madison writes another e-mail to her friend and reveals that her father has been staying up all night guarding the animals, because they have now had two mustangs killed. However, she notes that she thinks both she and her father are happier now than they have been in a long time. She also tells her friend how cute and good and funny Tim is.

Bob calls the mayor into his office and tells him that he’s convinced the fire at Sam’s was no accident. However, the mayor insists that the fire was probably caused by Sam leaving his equipment on. Bob reveals that he has been going through the files on all the land deals around town and points out that Cody and his San Francisco group have been buying up as much land as they can. The mayor is flustered and decides to go out to lunch.

Back at the ranch, Lucinda is doing much better and has been eating on her own. Emily stays for dinner and Bob invites her to stay and drink some of his fancy L.A. wine. Madison and Tim wander off, to give them some space, but then return to spy on them.

Emily tells Bob he has an amazing daughter and talks about Madison’s connection with the mother wolf. Bob is pissed that Madison has been hanging out with the wolves, because he didn’t want her getting too attached to them. He tells Emily that Madison can put things in her ear and her nose, but she’s still a child. Emily tells him that she didn’t know, since Madison told her he said it was OK. Emily tells Bob that Madison is growing up and he’s going to have to deal with that at some point. Furthermore, she thinks Madison has a “gift” and if she shows up at her place again, she’s not sending her home. Guess she told you. Emily leaves Bob to drink his fancy wine by himself and Madison tells Tim she’ll see him later. That night, Emily takes her ear and nose rings out.

The next morning at breakfast, Bob lectures Madison about not doing what she was told, regarding the wolves. Hank interrupts again, to tell them that two more horses have been killed. Madison takes this as proof that it wasn’t her wolf who killed the other horses. Bob finds motor oil on the ground near the dead horses and commands Hank to keep a watch over the others that night.

Bob continues to investigate the fire at Sam’s place. Cody and the mayor complain that Bob’s investigation is holding up progress on the new mall. Bob finds a lighter in the rubble of the building and the mayor urges him to keep it quiet, lest the criminals try to sneak out-of-town.

Back at Emily’s, Emily tells Madison and Tim that they’ll keep the mother wolf one more night for observation, but that she should be ready to return to the wild tomorrow. Madison doesn’t look too happy and Emily reminds her that they can’t keep the wolves forever. Tim tries to comfort her, but is interrupted when the mother wolf begins to howl. Madison immediately panics and runs off searching for one of the pups.

Madison finds one of the pups near the grate of some sort of pipe and decides the other must have gone inside. Tim tells her to wait for him and goes to get a flashlight and some rope, but Madison ignores him and goes into the pipe. Madison retrieves the pup and tells Tim that she thinks he’s going to make a really great vet.

Bob goes back to talk to Jake and shows him the lighter he found in the rubble at Sam’s. He tells Jake he thinks he found Cody’s lighter and Jake looks at it and confirms that it is Cody’s. Meanwhile, Cody is having an argument with the mayor about the land deals he is trying to push through. The mayor asks him if he burned down Sam’s store and Cody tells the mayor to just make it go away, or else he will.

Emily invites Bob to have some lemonade in the park. She apologizes to him for being “out of line” about Madison. Bob tells her that he thought a lot about what she said and he doesn’t want to break Madison’s spirit. Plus, he knew Madison was going to Emily’s place the whole time. Emily tells Bob that the wolves are ready to be released and asks to borrow Hank. She also confirms with him that everything is alright between her and Bob.

Bob returns to the ranch and has a bonding moment with Madison. He tells her that he’s not mad about the wolves and Madison tells him that she’s alright, even though releasing the wolves is sad for her. She asks him to let her comfort him when he is sad, the way he comforts her.

Bob shows the mayor the lighter he found and tells him that it belongs to his son-in-law and that arson is a crime. The mayor says he doesn’t know anything about it. He also denies knowing anything about silver, dry-drilling or killing horses. He tells the mayor he plans to arrest Cody when he returns from San Francisco and anyone else who was involved. The mayor calls Cody and warns him not to come into town when he returns, but instead to meet him at the mine.

Madison, Tim, Hank and Emily release the wolves. Madison decides she wants to walk home by herself and Emily suggests she take Tim with her. Tim nervously kisses Madison and then takes her to the abandoned silver mine (surprise, surprise!). Madison immediately decides to pick the lock on the gate and go take a look at the mine, in spite of Tim’s protests. They discover a bunch of stuff marked with the name of the company that is building the new mall.

The mayor shows up and Tim and Madison hide behind some crates. After seeing the unlocked gate, the mayor searches for them, but is interrupted by a beat up looking Cody. Cody tells him that the “Hillridge boys” are not very happy. The mayor replies that neither is he and Cody is sloppy and impatient. Cody tells the mayor if he thinks Cody is bad, he doesn’t want to meet the boys from San Francisco, because they’ll slit his throat or get Cody to do it. The Mayor demands to know if Cody killed Bob’s horses. Cody says, “so what if I did?” and the mayor tells him he didn’t agree to that or to arson either. Cody tells him he plans to poison the rest of the horses tonight. The mayor objects, but Cody threatens him and tells him once Bob is gone, they’ll be strip mining in no time.

Madison mouths “go tell my dad” to Tim and Tim sneaks out of the mine. The mayor tells Cody that Bob is going to arrest him, but Cody says he can’t arrest him, if he can’t find him. He’s also planning to burn down Emily’s barn, to try to force her into accepting his offer to buy her land. The mayor tells Cody he doesn’t want any part of this and Cody threatens him with a knife. Madison runs out from behind the crate and Cody trips her. Madison appears to be out cold.

Bob shows up at Emily’s, looking for Madison. When he finds out she isn’t there, he decides to wait. Tim arrives at the ranch, hollering for the sheriff and Hank calls him on his cell. Back at the mine, Cody ties Madison up. The mayor tries to convince Madison that he didn’t do anything illegal. Cody tells Madison to keep quiet and when she refuses, he suggests he is going to make her disappear, in spite of the mayor’s objections. As Cody prepares to duct tape Madison’s mouth, the mother wolf shows up and backs him off.

Bob and Hank arrive at the mine and head in, with guns drawn. Bob commands Emily and Tim to wait by the truck, but they don’t listen. When Bob spots the snarling wolf, Madison urges him to put his gun away and approach her very slowly, while she reassures the wolf that her dad is there to help her. Bob unties Madison and the wolf runs off. He then arrests Cody and the mayor.

bob-emilyMadison says her goodbyes to Tim, who has to return to school, bur promises to visit her on weekends. She tells him she wants to be a vet also. Bob plants a kiss on Emily after confirming that they are done apologizing to each other. Madison and Tim think Emily and Bob make a great couple, just like they do.

Wild Hearts Commentary (Spoilers):

I’m not sure I’d exactly call Wild Hearts a good movie, but it was a decent enough pieces of light entertainment.

The plot is pretty predictable. As soon as the mayor said there was no crime in their little town, I knew there was going to be some big case for Bob to solve.

As soon as Tim and Emily showed up, I knew they’d end up in some sort of romance plot with Madison and Bob. Similarly, it was pretty obvious Cody was going to end up being the villain.

Probably the most surprising thing for me was that Madison didn’t end up discovering some sort of damning evidence about Cody’s evil plans while crawling around in the pipe looking for the wolf pup.

Even though the film didn’t really give her that much to do, I thought the role of Emily suited Nancy. Her best scene was probably the one where she tells Bob that he’s going to have to let his daughter grow up some day. Nancy has always been good at portraying feisty women.

Shallowly, I was kind of glad that the actual romance between Bob, who has no game whatsoever, and Emily was pretty minimal. Emily is entirely too hot for Bob. The dating pool in that town must be pretty darn shallow if the best she could do was Cody and Bob.

Tim and Madison’s romance seems like the sort of thing that probably won’t last much beyond the summer, but then again, maybe they’ll all be together forever and go on to found a veterinary empire.

I think the story would have been more interesting had it focused more on the relationships of the main characters and less on the wacky schemes of Cody and the mayor or the silliness with Madison being the wolf-whisperer.

I mean, sure one of my favorite book series, The Wheel of Time, features a character who can communicate with wolves, but that sort of thing doesn’t play as well in a story that is supposed to be set in the real world.

That said, I think the movie works well enough for what it is. Fluffy, family oriented entertainment.

On a personal note, one of my best friends grew up on a ranch in Montana and I’ve heard her tell many stories about the conflict between native Montanans and outsiders moving in and yuppifying the place, so that did help the story ring a bit more true for me.

It’s also of interest that Nancy took this role not long after she, a native New Yorker and former L.A. resident, married a Texas boy and moved to his ranch near Austin. I suppose she might have been able to relate to the movie’s plot or at least setting on a personal level because of that.











28 Days Later – Watch All My Movies


When I was reorganizing my living room, I realized that I have quite a few movies that I received as gifts or purchased at some point because it was on sale that I have never watched, so I decided to add watching my movie backlog to my bucket list.

First up is the zombie flick 28 Days Later

28 Days Later Plot Summary (Spoilers):

28 Days Later begins with a montage of violent scenes playing on television monitors. A chimp is strapped to a table in front of the monitors. Some people in black ski masks break into the facility and begin taking photos.

chimp-labA man in a lab coat notices the break in and attempts to call security, but one of the infiltrators stops him. He tells them that the chimps are all infected and highly contagious. When one of the infiltrators demands to know what they are infected with, he tells them “rage.”

spewThe infiltrators blow him off and say they are going to take all of his “torture victims” with them. A woman opens one of the cages and the chimp immediately attacks her. The would-be chimp rescuers beat the chimp to death, but the woman has already been bitten and seriously injured. She begins spewing blood everywhere. The man in the lab coat rushes at her with a chair, intending to kill her.

nakedThe scene fades to a black screen, overlayed with the words “28 days later…” A naked man awakes in what appears to be some sort of medical facility. He makes his way through a hospital that seems to be completely empty and in disarray. When no one answers his calls, he leaves the building, to find the streets are similarly abandoned and disordered.

empty-streetsThe man wanders through the empty streets, calling for anyone. He discovers a newspaper with an article about some sort of mass evacuation in the trash. He enters a church, where he discovers a bunch of corpses and a priest who appears to be acting very strangely. The priest attacks him and he fights him off and then runs from the church, only to be pursued by a bunch of other erratic and aggressive people.

fire-bombsHe is rescued by two people who attack his pursuers with fire bombs. His attackers continue to pursue, even while fully engulfed in flames, until a massive explosion, set off by his rescuers, finally stops them. The two people, a man and a woman, take him to their hideout. They question him and he tells them that he is a bicycle courier and was taken to the hospital after being hit by a car. He tells them his name is Jim. They give their names as Mark and Selena.

They tell Jim that what he has seen is the result of some sort of bloodborne virus. By the time they tried to evacuate the cities, it was too late and had already spread as far as New York and Paris. The TV and radio have stopped broadcasting, the government is defunct and Jim is the first non-infected person they have seen in days.

parentsJim wants to go and find his family, but Mark and Selena tell him they are surely dead and that it isn’t safe to travel alone or at night. The next day, Mark and Selena take Jim to look for his family. He finds his parents dead in their bed, apparently by suicide. They spend the night at Jim’s house.

markJim is watching some home movies of his parents, when an infected bursts through the window and attacks him. Frank and Selena kill Jim’s attacker and then demand to know if he was bitten. Jim denies being bitten, but Mark was bitten on the arm. Selena immediately kills Mark with a machete. She orders Jim to get the infected’s blood cleaned off himself, get dressed and get ready to leave before more infected show up.

Selena explains to Jim that the virus spreads through the blood and overwhelms the victim in 10 – 20 seconds. She tells Jim if he should be infected, she will kill him as well. The pair spot what seems to be some sort of signal on the side of a skyscraper and go to investigate. When they stop to rest in a stairwell, they hear several infected pursuing them and flee further up the stairs.

riot-gearAt the top of the stairwell, they encounter a man dressed in riot gear, who directs them down the corridor and stays behind to deal with the infected. Once he has dealt with the infected, the man, whose name is Frank, commands his daughter Hannah to allow Selena and Jim into their home.

Selena and Jim discuss Frank and Hannah. Selena thinks Frank and Hannah need Selena and Jim more than they need Frank and Hannah. Jim thinks they are good people, but Selena tells him he should be more concerned about whether they will slow him down.

waterFrank tells Jim that they aren’t going to be able to stay where they are, because among other things, they are running out of water. Frank plays them a recording he has picked up on his radio which claims to be from soldiers offering salvation and an answer to the infection. Frank wants the four of them to make for the blockade, 27 miles north of Manchester, where the broadcast says the soldiers are located, but Selena objects, saying the soldiers could all be dead. However, Hannah convinces them to give it a try.

boyThe group head out in Frank’s cab. They get a flat tire, while attempting to travel through a tunnel and have a close call with a pack of infected, while changing the tire, barely getting the car running in time to escape. The group stocks up on supplies at an abandoned supermarket. When they stop to get gas, Jim is forced to kill an infected child who attacks him. Selena tells Jim that watching Frank and his daughter together has changed her mind about there not being anything better than mere survival available to them.

frankWhen the group nears Manchester, they see that the whole city appears to be burning. They reach the blockade named in the broadcast, but it appears to be abandoned. When a distraught Frank tries to frighten off a crow, a drop of blood from a dead body drops into his eye. Frank succumbs to the infection and Selena orders Jim to kill him, but before he can do anything, Frank is shot by soldiers.

major-westThe soldiers escort Selena, Hannah and Jim to their base, where they are greeted by Major Henry West. Selena takes the loss of Frank hard. She didn’t want Hannah to become just another broken person clinging to survival like the rest of them. Jim tries to comfort her and the two kiss, but Selena runs from the room.

cookMajor West tells Jim that the answer to infection is at the base, though it may not be what Jim imagined. He also tells him that they were lucky to find them, since the fire drove hundreds of infected out of Manchester and the surrounded area is full of them. He then shows Jim the base’s defenses and their plans for trying to rebuild. Finally, he shows Jim the infected solider they have chained up, in the hopes that they could learn something about the infection from him, like how long it takes an infected person to starve to death.

The compound is attacked by infected during dinner. The soldiers manage to fight them off. When they return, one of the soldiers, named Mitch, harasses Selena, until he is stopped by the Major and Sgt. Farrell. The Major pulls Jim aside and tells him that he promised his men women, so that they would have a hope of having a future beyond just fighting infected and waiting to die.

Jim rushes back to Selena and Hannah and tells them they have to leave immediately, but one of the soldiers knocks Jim out with the butt of his gun before they can escape. Jim awakes to find Sgt. Farrell attempting to force the other men to let Selena and Hannah go, but he is outnumbered. The Major tells Jim that he can be with them, but he can’t let Selena and Hannah go. When Jim doesn’t comply, the soldiers chain Jim up with Sgt. Farrell.

Farrell rants to Jim about how he thinks that the infection did not spread outside of the U.K. and instead the rest of the world quarantined them and then made them think the infection had spread worldwide. A pair of soldiers march Jim and the Sergeant out into the woods. When Mitch, prepares to kill the Sergeant slowly, instead of shoot him, the other solider shoots the Sergeant, sending Mitch into a rage. While Mitch is shouting at the other solider, Jim escapes. The soldiers pursue Jim, spraying gunfire everywhere. When Jim collapses on the ground, he spots a plane flying overhead.

selenaBack at the compound, the Major informs Selena and Hannah that the first thing they’re going to do is make them more presentable, by outfitting them with clothing from the dead lady of the house’s wardrobe. After struggling with the soldiers, Selena convinces them to leave the room while she and Hannah change clothing. Once the men leave, she urges Hannah to take some pills that she says will make Hannah “not care.” One of the soldiers bursts in the room and knocks the pills out of Selena’s hand. They hear sirens going off at the blockade and some of the soldiers leave. The solider guarding Selena and Hannah order them to put the dresses on.

rambo-jimWhen the soldiers arrive at the blockade, Jim kills one of them and sabotages their vehicle. The Major is attacked by infected and runs into the forest, after killing them. Jim returns to the compound and shoots the chain of the infected solider, releasing him. The infected solider bursts through the window and attacks one of Selena and Hannah’s guards, infecting him. The other runs away. Selena and Hannah also run, but are stopped by two other soldiers.

guttedMitch commands the women to go upstairs. The other soldiers attempt to deal with the infected soldiers. Jim stabs one of the soldiers in the gut, as he attempts to flee the infected. Hannah narrowly avoids one of the infected, by hiding behind a mirror, while Jim frantically searches the house for her and Selena.

selena-jimJim finds Selena with Mitch. He attacks Mitch and kills him by jamming his fingers into Mitch’s eyes. Thinking Jim is infected, Selena prepares to kill him with her machete, but stops when she realizes that he is not. The pair kiss passionately and Jim assures Selena that they are going to be OK and “it’s not all fucked.” Hannah enters the room and smashes something over Jim’s head, thinking that he was infected and that he was biting Selena.

Hannah, Jim and Selena run out of the house and attempt to get in Frank’s cab, but they discover the major sitting in it. He shoots Jim. Hannah jumps in the front seat of the cab and drives off. She stops and one of the infected solders grabs the major through the rear window and kills him. Hannah returns for Selena and Jim and they get into the cab and drive away. They discover that the gates out of the compound are locked. At Jim’s urging, Hannah drives the cab into the locked gates and the screen once again fades to black and displays the message “28 days later…”

helloJim awakes in a house he is sharing with Selena and Hannah. He discovers Selena working on something with an old-fashioned, non-electric sewing machine. Hannah bursts in and tells them that “it’s coming” and they grab a giant “hello” sign they have created and lay it out on the grass and start waving frantically as a jet plane, marked with the flag of Finland, passes over. The pilot calls for a rescue helicopter. Selena turns to the others and asks, “do you think he saw us this time?” and the film ends.

28 Days Later Commentary (Spoilers):

I’m not really that into the whole zombie genre, so I mostly bought this movie because of all the hype. I went into it not really expecting much and was pleasantly surprised.

I really enjoyed the film. Jim’s transformation into some sort of Rambo action hero at the end seemed a bit odd and difficult to believe, but I thought the movie was an interesting take on the genre.

The two most interesting aspects of the film for me were Selena’s transformation from her fatalistic view that there’s nothing to look forward to above mere survival, to seeing value in relationships with other people, even under the brutal circumstances in which they find themselves and the whole rounding up women to give the men hope for a future plot.

In theory, if a person really believed that the whole world had suffered the same fate and humanity was on the verge of dying out, it would make sense, from the standpoint of keeping the species going, to try to start over. However, given that the men don’t even attempt to find women willing to consent to this plan and instead jump straight to plans of enslaving the women and raping them, I’m pretty skeptical that their scheme had anything to do with keeping the species going and was probably a lot more about coming up with what seemed like a legitimate excuse to just take what they want. Most likely the women would have ended up dead one way or another and the species would be no better off than before.

Jim takes a pretty big gamble with turning the infected solider loose, but in the end it works out, with all the good guys getting away without being raped or murdered and all the bad guys paying the price for their asshattery. It appears that Farrell’s theory that the rest of the world was not infected was correct and that they are looking for survivors, now that the infected appear to be dying of starvation at the end of the film.

I like Jim, but I kind of wish they had stuck to the original ending, in which Jim dies and the two women carry on, on their own, instead of changing things because the test audiences didn’t like it. I suppose they preferred the warm and fuzzy feeling that Jim and Selena may get their happily ever after, but I kind of like the message of carrying on, in spite of everything that has happened in the original ending.



Back to the Future II – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies


The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is the Back To The Future TrilogyThis post covers the second movie.

Back to the Future II Plot Summary (Spoilers):

truckBack to the Future II begins with Marty admiring the fancy truck he returned to the present to find was now his in the first film. Jennifer joins him and the pair share a kiss which is interrupted by the arrival of the DeLorean.

mr-fusionThe Doc hops out of the DeLorean and tells Marty that he and Jennifer have to head back to the future with him, because something has gone wrong with their kids. The Doc tosses some garbage into the DeLorean’s new Mr. Fusion and the three of them hop in. Marty warns the Doc that they don’t have enough road to get up to 88 m.p.h. and the Doc replies, “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Biff exits the house just in time to see the DeLorean fly away.

sleepThe DeLorean emerges from time travel in a lane full of flying cars. The Doc explains to Marty that they are now in Hill Valley on October 21, 2015. Jennifer becomes very excited about the prospect of being in the future and starts rattling off questions. The Doc whips out some kind of gadget that puts her to sleep, because he doesn’t want her learning too much about her own future.

future-dudsThe Doc lands the DeLorean and orders Marty to change into some futuristic clothing, which includes a pair of self lacing sneakers and a jacket that adjusts in size to custom fit the wearer. Once Marty has his future duds on, the Doc declares he looks like the spitting image of his future son.

jenniferThe Doc and Marty stash the still sleeping Jennifer in a pile of garbage and the Doc commands Marty to enter the cafe around the corner in exactly 2 minutes, meet up with a guy named Griff and when Griff asks him if he’s in or if he’s out, to tell Griff that he is out and then return to the alley and meet up with the Doc. The Doc warns Marty to interact with the future world as little as possible and then explains to him that the reason they are doing this is because his son is going to be arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison and his daughter will end up with a 20 year sentence after she tries to break him out. The Doc rushes off to intercept the real Marty Jr. and assures Marty that Jennifer will be safe in the alley for the few minutes until they get back.

biff-martyMarty heads to the cafe ’80s, where he encounters an elderly version of Biff. Biff tells Marty that his “old man” is a total loser. Griff arrives and immediately jumps on his grandpa Biff for not satisfactorily waxing his car and then hauls Biff out of the cafe, before ordering Marty to wait for him to return.

marty-jrWhile Marty is playing a vintage 80’s arcade game, the real Marty Jr. shows up and Marty quickly ducks out of sight. Griff confronts Marty Jr. about the “opportunity” and Marty Jr. tries to back out, saying it sounds dangerous. Griff is not pleased and hurls Marty Jr. over the counter Marty is hiding behind.

marty-marty-jrMarty tells Jr. to stay down and shut up and when Jr. appears to black out, Marty decides to impersonate him. Marty hops over the counter and tells Griff no. Griff asks Marty if he is “chicken.” Marty responds that “nobody calls me chicken.”

hoverboardGriff whips out a baseball bat and takes a swing at Marty, but misses. Marty kicks Griff in the nuts and then runs for it. Marty spots some little girls on scooters and decides to pull the same stunt he pulled in the first movie. When he goes to pull the handlebars off, he realizes the board doesn’t have any wheels. He proceeds to rip the handlebars off and sets off on his newly fashioned hover board.

griffMarty takes off on the hoverboard, but has some trouble controlling it and unfortunately for him, Griff and his gang also have hoverboards. Marty manages to evade Griff’s gang, but runs into trouble when he gets stuck trying to cross over a fountain. His hoverboard won’t work on water, but Griff’s will. Griff closes in on Marty, with his bat at the ready, but Marty leaps into the water as Griff approaches, sending Griff and his gang flying into a plate-glass window. Marty tries to return the hoverboard to the girl he stole it from, but she tells him to keep it, since she has now confiscated Griff’s fancier board.

cubs-winWhen Marty sees an announcement that the Cubs have swept Miami in the World Series, a man trying to collect money to save the clock tower muses that he wishes he’d known ahead of time, so he could have put money on the Cubs. This gives Marty an idea. Marty returns to the antique store, where he saw a sports almanac on display, and purchases the book, with the intention of using it to make money by betting on sporting events in the past.

old-biffThe Doc brings the DeLorean around to the front of the cafe and old Biff remarks that he hasn’t seen one of those in 30 years. When the real Marty Jr. bumps into old Biff on the way out of the cafe, Biff begins to realize something fishy is going on and decides to spy on Marty and Doc.

gang-jailedDoc asks Marty what the heck happened and Marty tells him his kid showed up and all hell broke loose. The Doc surmises that because he used the sleep gadget on Jennifer, it didn’t have enough juice to knock out Marty Jr. for the full hour. Marty picks up the newspaper Doc showed him and notices the front page story has changed from his son being arrested, to Griff and his gang being arrested. The Doc decides that even though their plans got all fouled up, the end result was what they wanted and it’s time to go home.

policeMarty tosses the hoverboard into the DeLorean, but when he picks up the sports almanac, it falls out of the bag and the Doc spots it. The Doc lectures Marty about how he didn’t invent the time machine for personal gain. When he goes to throw the almanac in the trash, he spots the police picking up the unconscious Jennifer, thinking she’s a passed out addict. The police run her thumbprint and since she doesn’t have any record, decide to just take her home, thinking she is the Jennifer from 2015. The Doc worries that if Jennifer sees her 2015 self, it might create some sort of paradox that could destroy the universe, but then again, it might just cause her to pass out. The Doc throws the almanac in the trash, before leaving with Marty to go retrieve Jennifer. Old Biff, who has been eavesdropping the whole time, fishes the book out of the trash.

marlene-mcflyThe police drop Jennifer at her future home. She tries to get out of the house, but ends up having to hide in the closet when her future daughter and in-laws appear. Jennifer overhears Marty’s mom talking about how Marty loses his cool every time someone calls him chicken and how 30 years ago he ended up in a car accident with a Rolls Royce, because someone called him chicken.

time-theifMarty and the Doc arrive in Hilldale and old Biff follows. The Doc tells Marty to wait in the DeLorean, while he goes to get Jennifer. Back at the house, Marty’s mom is explaining to Marty’s daughter, how that car accident causes a chain reaction that sent Marty’s life “straight down the tubes.” Marty leaves the DeLorean to look at a dog walking robot and Old Biff hops in and takes off.

needlesBack at the house, Old Marty gets a phone call from Needles. Needles goads Old Marty into participating in some sort of illegal business activity by calling him chicken. Shortly after Needles gets off the call, Old Marty’s boss appears on-screen and tells Old Marty that he has been terminated.

jennifersThe Doc shows up and tells Jennifer to meet him at the front door. Jennifer sneaks through the house, as Old Marty sadly noodles on his guitar. Jennifer makes it to the front door without being seen, but when she encounters the older version of herself coming in the door, they both pass out. The Doc collects young Jennifer and drags her out of the house. He summons Marty to the house, as Old Biff returns in the DeLorean, snapping off a piece of his cane as he exits the vehicle.


Marty and the Doc carry Jennifer back to the DeLorean. The Doc tells Marty he has decided to destroy the time machine, because the risks of something catastrophic happening as the result of using it are too high. His only regret is that he’ll never get to visit the Old West.

break-inThe Doc and Marty arrive back in 1985 and dump the unconscious Jennifer in the swing in front of her house. The Doc thinks Marty can convince her that it was all just a dream when she wakes up. The Doc drops Marty at his house and then leaves to tear down the time machine. Marty’s house is locked up, so he crawls in through his bedroom window, only to discover a screaming girl in his room. The girl’s father confronts Marty with a baseball bat and tells him to tell the realty company that they won’t be terrorized into selling. Marty flees through the very rundown looking neighborhood. Convinced that he must be in the wrong year, he picks up a newspaper off someone’s porch and verifies that he is in 1985. The house turns out to belong to principle Strickland, who orders Marty off his porch at gunpoint. Strickland claims to have never seen Marty before in his life. Strickland threatens to blow Marty’s nuts off, but is interrupted by a drive-by shooting before he can carry out his threat.

biffs-pleasure-palaceMarty flees from his neighborhood, discovering that a very changed Hill Valley is now dominated by Biff’s Pleasure Palace. Thanks to a bit of automated exposition at the Biff Tannen museum, Marty learns that Biff is now one of the richest men in America, after winning millions of dollars at the racetrack on his 21st birthday and parlaying a winning streak that earned him the nickname “the luckiest man alive” into a business empire. Biff also married Marty’s mom in 1973. Marty freaks out upon learning the news about his mom and casino security knocks him out.

cut-offMarty wakes up to his mother’s comforting voice and thinks he just had a bad dream. However, Marty quickly realizes it was no dream. Biff shows up complaining about how much money he has blown on Marty, who he thinks has gotten himself kicked out of another boarding school. Biff insults Marty’s father and then shoves his mother to the floor before punching Marty in the gut. Marty’s mom threatens to leave Biff, but ends up backing down after Biff says he’ll cut her and her kids off and get them all thrown in jail if she does. Marty is stunned that his mother left his father for Biff, but his mother tells him that his father died 12 years ago.

graveMarty rushes to the cemetery and confirms that his father is dead. The Doc shows up and takes Marty back to his lab, which is a shambles. He shows him a newspaper article which indicates his father was murdered. The Doc explains to Marty that something must have happened in the past to alter the timeline. He then shows Marty the bag and receipt from the sports almanac Marty purchased and the piece of Old Biff’s cane, which the Doc found in the DeLorean. The Doc deduces that Old Biff must have stolen the book and the time machine and then traveled back in time and given the book to his younger self, resulting in Biff’s spectacular winning streak and the changes to the timeline. The Doc tells Marty that this is yet another example of how time travel can be mis-used and that he must destroy the time machine after they straighten the mess they have created out.

Marty suggests they travel back to the future and stop Biff from stealing the time machine, but the Doc vetoes that plan, saying they would be traveling into the future of the alternate timeline, where Biff is corrupt and powerful and the Doc has been committed to a mental institute. Instead, they need to travel to the exact date in the past when young Biff was given the sports almanac. Marty tells the Doc he’ll go ask present day Biff when that day was.

hot-tubMarty interrupts Biff in the hot tub with a couple of young ladies and tells him they need to discuss the sports almanac. Marty demands to know how, where and when Biff got the book. Biff tells Marty an old man, claiming to be a distant relative, showed up on Nov. 12th, 1955, the same day Marty went back in time in the first film, and gave young Biff the book and the instructions to make his fortune. Biff then cocks a pistol and tells Marty that he was also warned that some day a crazy, wild-eyed scientist or a kid may show up asking about that book. Biff attempts to shoot Marty several times, but he flees the room. When Biff’s thugs pursue Marty through the hotel, he flees to the roof. Biff follows and tells Marty to either jump or be shot. He also confesses to having murdered Marty’s father. Marty jumps off the building and lands on top of the DeLorean. The Doc knocks Biff out with the car door.

The Doc & Marty head back to 1955. Doc orders Marty to head into town and track down Young Biff, but not to interfere with Old Biff giving him the book, otherwise Old Biff may not return to 2015 with the time machine. Once Old Biff is gone, Marty is to get the almanac away from Young Biff by any means necessary. He hands Marty some cash and orders him to get some 1955 clothes and to avoid encountering the other version of himself.

biffsMarty follows Young Biff to his car and while Biff is arguing with the guy from the body shop, Marty hides in the backseat. After taking some time to harass Marty’s mom, Young Biff returns to his car, to discover Old Biff sitting in the front seat. Old Biff drives them to Young Biff’s garage and then hands Young Biff the sports almanac. Young Biff doesn’t believe Old Biff is for real at first, but Old Biff convinces him, by turning on the radio and correctly predicting the improbable outcome of a football game. Old Biff then gives Young Biff the almanac a second time and warns him to keep it secret; keep it safe. He also warns him about the kid and the wild-eyed old man who might come looking for the book. Marty hops out of the car once they leave, only to discover he has been locked in the garage. He uses the walkie-talkie the Doc gave him to radio for help.

stricklandMarty is still stuck in the garage when Biff returns to head to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Marty hides in the backseat of Biff’s car again. The Doc arrives to discover Marty gone. Marty radios the Doc to let him know where he is and then pursues Biff into the dance. Marty follows Biff around the dance, trying to find an opportunity to snatch the almanac away from him, but Principal Strickland beats him to the punch. Marty triumphantly retrieves the almanac from the trash when Strickland leaves his office, but much to his dismay, he discovers it’s just a girly mag stuffed inside the dust jacket of the real almanac. Marty radios the Doc in a panic, saying he lost track of Biff, who still has the book. However, when he hears his mother pleading with Biff to turn George loose, he realizes Biff is in the parking lot, about to get layed out by his dad.

thiefMarty approaches the barely conscious Biff and tries to inconspicuously grab the almanac, but when Biff starts to come to, Marty punches him in the face, grabs the book and takes off running, prompting one of the onlookers to accuse him of stealing Biff’s wallet. Marty radios Doc and tells him he has the book and the Doc replies that he’ll meet Marty on the roof on the gym in the DeLorean.

Marty tries to make his way to the roof, but runs into Young Biff’s friends. They chase him into the gym, where he hides under a table. When they spot the other Marty playing Johnny B. Goode on stage, they decide to wait for him to get off stage and jump him. The Marty under the table, radios the Doc and tells him what happened. The Doc tells Marty he has to stop those guys from jumping the other version of Marty, or else he could miss the lightning bolt that sends him back to the future and create a time paradox that could destroy the universe.


Marty climbs into the rigging and drops a bunch of sandbags on Biff’s friends, preventing them from jumping the other Marty. He radios the Doc and tells him everything is cool, but then runs into Young Biff before he can get to the roof. Biff goads Marty into a fight by calling him chicken, but they are interrupted by the other Marty opening the door and knocking the Marty who was about to fight Biff to the ground. Biff spots the almanac in the still dazed Marty’s jacket and grabs it, kicks Marty in the gut a couple of times and then takes off in his car.

struggleMarty meets Doc on the roof and tells him that Biff took off with the almanac. Doc and Marty pursue Biff in the DeLorean. The Doc moves in behind Biff’s car and Marty uses the hover board he kept from 2015 to latch on to the side of Biff’s car. Marty tries to steal the book from Biff’s car, but Biff spots him and a struggle ensues. Marty manages to get the book, but Biff is on the verge of running Marty over with his car, when the Doc shows up and lowers a rope from the DeLorean, allowing Marty to escape. Biff crashes into a truck full of manure, as the DeLorean flies away.

burn-baby-burnThe Doc drops Marty off at the Lyons estates sign. At the Doc’s command, Marty burns the almanac. As the book burns, Marty observes the matchbook he pocketed from Biff’s Pleasure Palace change to one that says Biff’s auto detailing and the newspaper article with the headline “George McFly Murdered” change to “George McFly Honored” and he surmises that they have successfully reverted to the 1985 from the end of the first film. The Doc also sees the article about his being committed change to one about him receiving an award and declares “mission accomplished.”

western-unionThey decide it’s time to go home, but the DeLorean is struck by lightning and disappears, with the Doc in it. Shortly after the DeLorean disappears, a man emerges from a car behind Marty. He hands Marty a letter and explains he is from Western Union and that they’ve had that letter in their possession for the past 70 years. Marty reads the letter and discovers that the Doc has been living in the year 1885 for 8 months.

back-from-the-futureEcstatic to learn the Doc is still alive, Marty rushes back to the 1955 Doc, who has just successfully sent the other Marty back to the future. Marty tells a shocked Doc that he is back from the future and the Doc passes out. The movie ends with a “to be concluded” message.


Back to the Future II Commentary (Spoilers):

I don’t think Back to the Future II was quite as good as the first film, but as far as sequels go, it was better than most. When I first saw the movie back in the ’80s, the best thing about it was the flying cars and all of the wonderment of what seemed like an impossibly far off future in 2015.

Now that 2015 is in the past, it’s fun to spot the technological advances that the movie got right, or at least almost right (video calls, 3D movies, Miami having a baseball team, the 80’s nostalgia fad, drones), the ones that are still a fantasy (flying cars, the Cubs winning the World Series, food hydrators, self-drying clothing) and even the ones that seem quaint, like the widespread use of fax machines.

The movie relies pretty heavily on inside jokes at times, with a lot of the humor coming from the wackiness of having the same sort of scenarios repeat in 1955 and 2015 and then 1955 again. There’s also quite a few gags like the reference to the shocking idea that the Cubs might finally win the World Series in 2015 and the shark still looking fake in Jaws 19.

Even more so than the first movie, the misogynistic attitudes of the ’80s are on full display, with Jennifer being little more than a prop to be unceremoniously dumped off while the men do all the work and Marty’s mother deciding to marry billionaire Biff after her husband dies in the alternate 1985 timeline, as if she had no other option, even though he’s quite obviously abusive and more or less tried to rape her back in 1955. The few women who appear in the first two Back to the Future films don’t have much agency and end up playing the damsel in distress quite a bit. In addition, it’s a bit disturbing the way they have Marty’s mom change so much, not based on changes to her own life, but changes to her husband’s life. In the first film, when George becomes successful as the result of his standing up to Biff in the first alternate 1985, Lorrain also changes from an overweight, heavy-drinker, to a slim, much more put-together version of herself. Similarly, when George is murdered in the second alternate timeline, Lorrain reverts to a heavy-drinking, gold-digger, apparently completely reliant on her abusive husband for financial support and unwilling to stand up to him, even when he physically abuses her and her son. Meanwhile, when Jennifer learn she’s in 2015, she’s instantly obsessed with seeing her wedding photos and such and doesn’t express much interest in learning anything about her future self that doesn’t revolve around her relationship with Marty.

The special effects are definitely showing their age. In addition to the old age makeups still not being very convincing, the flying cars look pretty fake.

In spite of all that, the film is still a fun and nostalgic romp. Griff was too much of a OTT comic book villain for me and the whole “nobody calls me chicken” bit seems silly, but the twists and turns of the plot make for a fun ride and the revelation that Doc was back in the Old West was a fun moment when I saw the movie for the first time as a kid.


Like a Rolling Stone – 100 Best Songs


Next up on my list of the 100 Best Songs of all time, is Like a Rolling Stone by  Bob Dylan.

This song just doesn’t really do it for me. Maybe I’m neither old enough, nor young enough to really relate to the lyrics or maybe Dylan just isn’t my bag. I found the song to be a bit monotonous to listen to and I just couldn’t connect with the lyrics.



The Greatest Show on Earth – Best Picture Winners


The next movie I tackled on my list of Best Picture Winners is the 1952 Best Picture winner The Greatest Show on Earth.

The Greatest Show on Earth Plot Summary (Spoilers):

highwireThe Greatest Show on Earth begins with a voice over and various scenes from a circus. A man named Brad Bradon, played by Charlton Heston, checks in with various circus employees, several of which question him about rumors that the circus will be running a short season that year. Brad assures them that the circus will be running a full season.

The scene shifts to a group of suits discussing the merits of only playing the big cities. One of them breaks the news to Brad that they only plan to run for 10 weeks. Brad objects, saying they can’t put 1400 people out of work. The suits counter that they can’t risk $25k a day on a “sentimental journey.” Brad tells them that playing only the big cities would cut the heart out of the show and destroy it within 2 seasons. One of the suits suggests that he might consider more dates if only they had a bigger headliner. Brad tells them they have “The Great Sebastian.” The suits point out that he has wrecked every show he’s been with, but Brad insists that the patrons he will draw is worth the risk. He wins the suits over to the merits of signing The Great Sebastian, but points out that the only way to sign him was to promise him a full season. One of the suits is pissed about that, but Brad counters that you can’t get good acts for a 10 week show. The suits agree to go with Brad’s plan, as long as they are making money.

After Brad leaves the meeting, one of the suits points out that The Great Sebastian only works in the center ring. Brad acknowledges this and the suit says he’d rather crawl in the cage with the lions than have to tell Holly she’s out of the center ring. Brad agrees, but declines the suit’s offer to take the blame.

hollyBrad goes to find Holly, who is rehearsing her trapeze act. He orders her to get down and she dismounts the trapeze and lands in Brad’s arms. She enthusastically kisses Brad and says that’s for getting the circus a full season. Holly annouces that Brad got them a full season to the rest of the performers and they all celebrate. Brad tries to temper their enthusiasm by telling them they only get the full season if they make money. News that The Great Sebastian will be joining the show gets out and Holly seems upset, though the rest of the cast seems happy about it.

Brad tries to console Holly, saying he didn’t want to sign Sebastian, but it was the only way to get a full season, but she doesn’t want to hear it. Eventually, Holly gives in and Brad tells her she’ll be performing in ring 1. Holly tells Brad that she’d do anything for him. Brad tells her that “out under the sky” she knows how he feels about her, but under the big top, she’s just another performer that he has to treat like any other. Holly is pissed and storms off after accusing Brad of having sawdust in his veins.

The scene shifts to a couple of men discussing their plans for the show. One of them warns the other that Brad is a tougher customer than he’s used to dealing with, but the man insists he’ll roll right over Brad if he has to. The man in charge, named Mr. Henderson, advises the other man, named Harry, not to tangle with Brad or try to bribe him. Mr. Henderson hands Harry a bag of peanuts and walks off. Harry discovers a roll of cash in the bag, that is meant to bankroll his operations.

holly-buttonsHolly commiserates with the clown Buttons, played by James Stewart, about her troubles with Brad. Buttons tricks Holly into seeing the situation from Brad’s point of view and she decides she’s been acting like a big idiot. However, she’s still unhappy that she feels Brad loves the circus more than her. She questions Buttons about why he never tries to romance any of the girls in the show and he tells her that he already has a love, though he won’t say who. Holly compliments Buttons on how well he wraps the gauze around her trapeze bar and Buttons looks concerned.

The circus is ready to move out, but Sebastian has not arrived. Just as Brad barks orders for someone to find him, he pulls up, trailed by a pack of police officers. The Police have been pursuing Sebastian thanks to a number of traffic infractions and one of them tells him he’ll need to pay $100 in fines or spend 60 days in jail. Sebastian shows them his empty wallet and then tells Brad he’d hate to miss the first two months of the show. Brad agrees to pay Sebastian’s fines.

A few of the ladies are already aquainted with Sebastian from past jobs. Angel tells a jealous elephant trainer named Klaus that she wouldn’t want Sebastian if he were dipped in gold, but Phyllis seems much more enthusiastic about him. Sebastian takes a shine to Holly, but Phyllis warns him that he just put Holly out of the center ring and she’s not real keen on him because of it.

sebastian-hollySebastian ignores Phyllis’ advise to avoid Holly and runs up to introduce himself. He apologizes for putting her out of the center ring and then goes into flirt mode. Sebastian tells Holly to come with him to speak to the boss and he will have Holly put back in the center ring. She excitedly agrees.

The pair go to speak to Brad and Holly tells him that Sebastian wants to give her the center ring. Brad tells Holly that Sebastian is the star of the show and the star plays the center ring. Holly angrily tells Brad that if he won’t give her the center ring, she’ll take it by making herself the star of the show. Sebastian tells her there’s no way she’s going to take the center ring from him. Holly promises Sebastian that whatever he does, she’s going to do it better and the auidiences are going to be watching her.

The press latches on the story of Holy and Sebastian’s competition for the center ring, as word of their death defying duel spreads. The auidiences go crazy over their one-upmanship, but Buttons expresses concern to Brad that this can’t go on much longer before one of them gets hurt or killed. Brad blows him off, saying this is the circus. Holly nearly falls, while doing a chair balancing trick, but catches herself on the bar. After they come down, Brad tells them to cut out the “dogfights” and stick to their acts. Holly tells Brad that he just doesn’t understand and that only another flyer like Sebastian could truly understand what it’s like to be her. Angel tries to warn Holly off pursuing Sebastian, telling her that she already has a good man in Brad, but Holly insists that Brad only cares about the circus.

buttonsDuring the parade, an older lady signals to Buttons and he hops off his float and puts on a show for the kids around the lady’s section. He then offers her a fake bunch of flowers and she whispers in his ear that they’ve been asking about him again. He assures her that they’ll never find him behind this nose. He asks the lady for a smile he can remember until next year and then leaves, saying “it’s alright mother.”

The circus moves on to another city. In spite of being told not to, Holly is doing a dangerous act, that a previous performer was killed during, and her rigging is not set up for. When Brad learns of it, he orders some workers to bring her down. When they do, the crowd laughs and Holly is furious at Brad. She accuses him of being jealous. Sebastian and Angel both critsize Brad for turning Holly into a laughing stock. Brad shows Angel the frayed rope Holly had been swinging on and Angel urges him to show Holly how his actions saved her, or else she’ll never forgive him.

holly-bradSebastian attempts to romance Holly, but Angel interrupts by having her elephant pick Holly up and carry her off. Angel escorts Holly over to Brad and leaves her there. Holly tells Angel to keep her nose out of her business. Brad shows Holly the frayed rope she had been swinging on and it finally dawns on her that Brad probably saved her life. Brad tells Holly to knock off her duel with Sebastian before she gets hurt. Holly is pleased that Brad says he cares about her and not just the circus. Brad tells her that if she doesn’t tone down her act, he’s putting a net under her and the same goes for Sebastian.

harrySebastian continues his pursuit of Holly, which prompts her to advise Brad to marry her quick or lose her forever. Meanwhile, Harry is stirring up trouble on the mid-way by ripping off customers in his rigged games of chance. Brad busts in on one of Harry’s scams and forces him to refund the money he swindled his customers out of. Harry threatens Brad for getting involved, but Brad insists that he runs a clean show. Brad kicks Harry’s ass and throws him in a mud puddle and then tells him to get lost.

Mr. Henderson confronts Brad about throwing Harry out of the show. Brad refuses to take Harry back, saying wherever Henderson operates, the midway is full of pickpockets and shady gambling. Henderson tells Brad he won’t stand a chance fighting against his outfit, but Brad refuses to back down.

sebastianWhen Holly antagonizes Sebastian about working with a net, while she does not, Sebastian annouces he is about to do a new, dangerous trick and then dramatically cuts one of the ropes holding his net up, before going on for his act. Holly screams at Sebastian not to attempt the trick without a net, but he does it anyway. Sebastian misses the bar and falls to the ground, as the audience screams. Brad rushes to help Sebastian, but commands the other employees to keep the show rolling. An obviously injured Sebastian commands Brad to walk him off, rather than have him carried off in a stretcher. Brad and Buttons help Sebastian leave the show ring, to the applause of the crowd. The MC tells the crowd to stay in their seats and that The Great Sebastian is shaken, but not badly hurt.

Contrary to the MC’s annoucement, Sebastian is pretty busted up and after receiving treatment from the circus doctor and Buttons at the first aid tent, he is transported by ambulance to the hospital. The circus doctor is impressed by Buttons’ medical skills and Buttons claims to have been a pharmacist’s mate in the Navy. Holly praises Sebastian for attempting such a “wonderful” trick and he assures her that he’ll do it next time and she’ll be the one falling….for him. Holly sobs in Brad’s arms and he assures her that Sebastian will live. He also tells her that she will be playing center ring tomorrow. Holly protests that she didn’t want it like this.

sourpussThe show goes on and eventually Sebastian returns from his hospital stay. Most of the performers are excited to see him again, though Klaus is still jealous. Brad seems initially happy to have Sebastian back, but when Sebastian refuses to shake his hand and Holly is over the top enthusiastic about his return, Brad seems to sour on him a bit. Sebastian annouces that he doesn’t want the center ring back from Holly and Brad questions why. Sebastian says that he only returned to collect his things. Sebastian tells them that he ran into some girl he hadn’t seen since Paris at a rival show and he plans to work there. Brad doesn’t buy it and snatches Sebastian’s coat away to reveal his severely damaged right hand and arm. Holly blames herself for Sebastian’s injury, but he tells her that it isn’t her fault. Brad offers Sebastian a job with the show, but he refuses. After Sebastian leaves, Holly begins to blame herself again for pushing him into taking the net down. Brad tries to console her. Holly insists that she’s at fault and she thinks that Sebastian’s attempt to hide his injury from her is proof that he loves her and that she should leave with him and try to make things up to him. Brad tries to stop her, saying Sebastian doesn’t need her pity, but Holly leaves.

Holly finds Sebastian packing his things and tells him that she wants to be with him, but he doesn’t believe her. Sebastian tells her that she just feels guilty for goading him into cutting down the net. Holly tells Sebastian that he came back because he loves her, but he denies it. He also tells Holly that no one is to blame for his injury, but him. Eventually, Holly manages to convince Sebastian that he should stay, because she loves him.

holly-angelTensions escalate between Angel and Holly. Angel thinks Holly is just playing noble by staying with Sebastian and that eventually her lies will be exposed. Holly wants to know why Angel cares so much about what she does with Sebastian and Angel responds that she doesn’t care what happens to Sebastian, but that Brad doesn’t deserve to be treated the way Holly treats him. Angel declares that if Holly doesn’t want Brad, she does.

Angel makes her move on Brad and Klaus is not happy about it. Harry goads Klaus about it and tells him that he’ll never manage to get Angel away from Brad, unless he has the money to buy her stuff like Brad does. Harry tells Klaus he can help him get the money and revenge.

klausDuring the next show, Holly rushes to Brad and tells him that he better watch Angel, because word on the street is that she’s headed for trouble. During the act where Angel puts her head under the foot of one of the elephants, Klaus asks her if she thinks Brad would be as interested in her if the elephant were to lean a bit too hard on her face. Angel panics and tries to get up, but Klaus stops her. Klaus tells Angel she will never go to any other man, but before he can do anything else, Brad interrupts and gets the elephant to lift its foot so Angel can get up. Brad orders Klaus to get his things and get off the lot.

That night, an investigator shows up looking for a doctor. He shows Brad a picture of the man they are looking for, but Brad says he doesn’t recognize him. He asks the investigator what the man is wanted for. He replies that the man is wanted for murdering his young wife, who was dying anyway. He tells Brad that he is looking for him at the circus, because the doctor used to chase circuses as a kid. He wants to ride along and fingerprint some of Brad’s employees at the next town. Brad agrees.

brad-buttonsBrad has a conversation with Buttons on the train. He tells him that there is a cop riding with them who is looking for a former doctor who murdered his wife. Buttons tells Brad that he has learned that Sebastian still has feeling in his injured hand and that means that a complete recovery might still be possible for him. Brad asks Buttons if that’s a professional opinion and Buttons responds that it’s a “clown’s opinion.” He then suggests that if Brad riles Sebastian up a bit, he might get his flyer back. Brad tells Buttons that the cop is planning on taking some fingerprints when they get to the next town.

Brad accuses Sebastian of faking his injury in order to get Holly, in order to rile him into trying to move the arm, which Sebastian does. They are all excited when Sebastian is able to successfully move his arm, when he tries to punch Brad. The circus doctor thinks with additional treatment that it’s possible Sebastian may regain use of his arm and Sebastian thanks Brad for doing this for him.

bad-klausMeanwhile, Klaus and Harry stop the train by placing a flare on the tracks and then board the car where the money is kept. Harry orders the occupant of the car out at gunpoint and when he exits the car, Klaus knocks him out with his elephant goad. Klaus and Harry grab the money and flee in their car.

trainwreckKlaus stops the car when he sees the second circus train approaching the first, which is stopped on the tracks. Sebastian enters the women’s sleeping car and proposes to Holly. Meanwhile, Klaus is dismayed that Angel is on the train that appears ready to crash into the first train. Harry urges Klaus to take the money and run, but Klaus is determined to turn the lights back on to prevent the trains from crashing. Klaus whacks Harry with his goad and then begins yelling for them to stop the train. He then drives his car up the tracks, still yelling for the other train to stop. They hit the brakes when they see Klaus’ car on the tracks, but they are unable to stop in time and plow into the rear of the first train, after hitting Klaus’ car and sending it flying off the tracks. The second train derails, sending people and animals everywhere.

Angel gets pinned in the debris of her wrecked car, but Holly and Sebastian rescue her. Brad is also pinned under some wreckage. Many of the workers are injured and a number of dangerous animals are freed from their cages. The circus doctor is knocked out cold. When the men are unable to free Brad from the wreckage, Angel grabs one of the elephants and uses her to pull the wreckage off him. Even while he is still trapped under the wreckage, Brad is insisting the show will carry on, in spite of the men’s insistence that there’s been too much damage.

holly-buttons2Brad is seriously injured and possibly bleeding to death. Holly goes in search of Buttons, remembering how he patched up Sebastian after his accident. Holly finds Buttons trying to leave the scene of the wreck. She stops him and tells him that Brad is hurt and the doctor is knocked out. She reveals that she suspects Buttons is the man from the newspaper article she saw about a doctor who killed his wife. Holly begs Buttons to help Brad, because she loves him and Buttons agrees.

Brad warns Buttons that if that detective sees him helping Brad, he won’t need fingerprints to indentify him, but Buttons refuses to leave. Buttons determines that Brad needs a blood transfusion, but is dismayed to learn that Brad has AB negative blood, which is a rare type. Fortunately for Brad, Sebastian also has AB negative blood. Brad protests that he doesn’t want Sebastian’s blood, but Buttons ignores him. Brad continues to be determined to put on a show, in spite of everything that has happened. When he passes out, Holly takes up the charge, insisting that they will put on a show, no matter what they have to do. Holly frantically urges the men to round up anyone who is still able to perform and get them ready. Angel eventually joins the cause, saying she’ll gather all the elephants who can still walk. Holly charges Buttons with keeping Brad alive and says the rest of them will roll the show. Meanwhile, one of the baby gorillas flings money about as we see a shot of what appears to be Klaus’ dead body, crushed in the wreckage.

sebastian-angelThe performers put on a parade for the town, urging the townspeople to come out to the site of the wreck to see the show.


Buttons manages to save Brad’s life. Henderson shows up to gloat over the wreckage, telling Brad that he’s all washed up. The parade returns, with a hoard of townspeople, come to see the show, in tow. Henderson admits that Brad runs a good circus and tells him that he’ll wait for him to get back on his feet again, before he knocks him off them for good. The police officer shakes Buttons’ hand, before putting him in cuffs and hauling him off to jail.

the-greatest-show-on-earthBrad calls Holly over, who is still frantically trying to get the circus running. Brad tries to tell Holly that he loves her, but she is too busy barking orders to listen to him. As she rushes off to attend to the show, Brad declares that she has nothing but sawdust in her veins. Assuming Holly and Brad have reunited, Sebastian proposes to Angel and she accepts. Brad smiles as the show goes on. The film ends with a closing shot of the narrator urging the crowds to come again to see The Greatest Show on Earth.

The Greatest Show on Earth Commentary (Spoilers):

I’ve never been that big a fan of the circus and The Greatest Show on Earth has oft been cited as one of the worst films ever to win an Academy award, so I didn’t have high hopes going into it.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Sure, the whole romance plot was kind of silly and soap operaish. Some of the acting was a bit suspect and at times, the movie didn’t seem to have much plot at all.

However, I still found myself enjoying it. The creators’ love of the circus shines through all the overwrought drama. Some of the special effects are a bit ragged around the edges, but the train crash sequence is truly impressive and emotionally devastating.

I’m not sure if the whole uber “the show must go on” mentality was more inspiring than foolhardy, but I did enjoy Brad getting a taste of his own medicine at the end, when suddenly Holly was too concerned about keeping the show going to be bothered with Brad and his professions of undying love.

I’m not going to say this movie was necessairly a great example of filmmaking, but it was an entertaining watch and at the end of the day, that’s still worth something.

Double Indemnity – 100 Best Movies


The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity Plot Summary (Spoilers):

opening-sceneDouble Indemnity begins with a man on crutches walking towards the camera. The scene shifts to a car speeding through traffic. The car arrives at an office building, after hours, and a man, named Walter Neff, gets out and gingerly approaches the door. He taps on the glass and the janitor lets him in the building.

confessionWalter arrives at his office at the insurance company he works for and takes off his coat, revealing what appears to be a gunshot wound in his left shoulder. He proceeds to record a confession for the claims manager, named Barton Keyes,  that he was the man who killed the victim in a claim that was under investigation as fraudulent. Walter says he committed the crime for money and a woman, but ended up with neither. The scene then shifts to a flashback that follows Walter’s account of his crime.

phyllisWalter meets Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, on a house call to one of his clients. Walter is immediately attracted to Phyllis. He goes on to give her his spiel about renewing her husband’s auto policies and Phyllis inquires whether his company also handles accident insurance, which Walter affirms. Walter flirts with Phyllis, but she shuts him down, telling him to come back tomorrow around 8:30 when her husband will be home.

Walter returns to his office to find that Phyllis has left him a message, asking him to meet her at 3:30 Thursday afternoon, instead of 8:30 Wednesday evening. Walter meets with Phyllis and conveniently, both her husband and the maid are not home. Phyllis tells Walter that her husband has decided to renew the auto-policies, but that she is also interested in purchasing accident insurance for her husband, because she fears he may be injured on the job. However, she also wants to purchase the policy without her husband knowing about it, because she claims he is superstitious about it. Walter accuses Phyllis of wanting to bump her husband off to collect the insurance money and she feigns outrage. Walter tells her that she’d never get away with it.  Walter refuses to assist Phyllis with her scheme and leaves her house.

kissLater that evening, Phyllis shows up at Walter’s house, saying he forgot his hat. She assures him that he has the wrong impression about her. She flirts with Walter and implies that her husband doesn’t treat her very well. Walter tries to play it cool, but then gives in and kisses her.

Walter tells Phyllis about several cases where a wife tried to kill her husband and collect the insurance money, but ended up in prison instead. Phyllis tells Walter her husband is mean to her and cares about his daughter more than her. She adds that even his life insurance money goes entirely to his daughter. She claims she doesn’t want to kill her husband, even when he gets drunk and slaps her around, but admits that sometimes she wishes he was dead. Walter reiterates that if she tries to kill her husband and collect the insurance, the insurance company will see right through her and she’ll end up getting caught. However, by the time Phyllis is ready to leave, Walter has talked himself into helping her pull of the scheme and tells her so.

Walter tricks Mr. Dietrichson into signing an application for an accident policy, by telling him he’s signing an application for renewal on his auto policy. Walter learns that Mr. Dietrichson is planning a trip to attend his class reunion. He tells Phyllis to make sure her husband takes the train instead of driving, because if he were to die on the train, the double indemnity clause of his policy would kick in and she’d collect $100,000 instead of just $50,000.

groceryWalter begins meeting Phyllis at the local grocery, so they can discuss their plans without being seen or heard by anyone who might suspect them. Their plans hit a snag when Phyllis reveals that her husband fell and broke his leg and as a result, no longer plans to make the trip to his class reunion. Phyllis is getting antsy to end things sooner, rather than later, but Walter insists that she should wait until they can do it right.

Phyllis calls Walter at his office, while Mr. Keyes is trying to convince Walter to give up sales and become his assistant in the claims office. Phyllis tells Walter that her husband will be getting on the train after all and confirms their plans to initiate her husband’s “accident.” Walter turns down Keyes’ job offer.

Walter proceeds with his plans, setting up his alibi and then dressing in a suit similar to the one Mr. Dietrichson would be wearing. He walks over to the Dietrichson’s house and then hides in the backseat of the car Phyllis plans to drive her husband to the train station in. Phyllis loads her husband into the front seat of the car and then as planned, turns down a dark alley and signals to Walter. Walter kills Phyllis’ husband.

murderWalter impersonates Phyllis’ husband and boards the train. Walter tells the porter that he’s going out to the observation car to smoke. When Walter arrives, he discovers another passenger already seated on the deck. He claims to have forgotten his cigar case and the passenger offers to go back into the train to get it for him. Once the other passenger is gone, Walter hops off the train. Phyllis is waiting for him in her car. Walter tells her to take her husband’s hat and go collect the crutches Walter was using off the train tracks. He then grabs Mr. Dietrichson’s body out of the car and hauls it out to the tracks. He tosses the hat and crutches by the body and the pair leave in Phyllis’ car.

In the days following the murder, Walter becomes increasingly convinced that he is going to be caught. His problems compound when Mr. Norton, the big boss man at the insurance company, is determined that even though the police and the coroner have ruled Mr. Dietrichson’s death accidental, that it was not an accident. Mr. Norton calls Phyllis in to his meeting with Keyes and Walter and tells her that they suspect her husband’s death was a suicide. Mr. Norton takes a very combative stance with Phyllis and closes with an offer to settle for an agreed upon amount, rather than going to court. Phyllis shuts him down and storms out of the office.

After Phyllis leaves, Keyes jumps all over Mr. Norton for his suicide accusations, saying he had already considered that possibility and discarded it. He points out that the train was only going 15 miles per hour and it’s highly unlikely anyone would think jumping off the back of a slow-moving train would result in their own death. Keyes’ take down of Norton’s suicide theory eases Walter’s mind, since Keyes was the person he was most afraid would uncover the truth of Dietrichson’s death.

doorLater that evening, Phyllis calls Walter from the drug store and arranges to meet him at his apartment. Walter tells her not to let anyone see her. Shortly after he gets off the phone with Phyllis, Mr. Keyes rings his bell. Keyes is wondering why Dietrichson didn’t file a claim when he broke his leg. He suspects that Dietrichson didn’t know he was insured. However, he discards this notion, since Walter claims to have delivered the policy to him, himself. However, Keyes is still convinced something is wrong. Phyllis arrives and listens at the door, just as Keyes and Walter begin discussing the possibility that Phyllis arranged to have her husband murdered. Keyes leaves and Phyllis hides behind the door. Walter tells Phyllis that Keyes will be watching her every move, so they can’t see each other again until things die down. Phyllis accuses Walter of not caring whether they see each other or not.

Dietrichson’s daughter Lola comes to see Walter at his office and tells him that she feels something is wrong concerning her father’s death. She tells Walter she’d had this same bad feeling before, when her mother died. Lola suspects that Phyllis, who was her mother’s nurse, had something to do with her death, but she was unable to convince her father. Lola is convinced that Phyllis killed her father for the money and vows she isn’t going to let her get away with it this time. Walter tries to convince her that she’s just imagining things because she doesn’t like Phyllis. When that doesn’t work, he decides to try and cheer her up, in the hopes that will stop her from telling anyone else her suspicions about Phyllis.

Keyes calls Walter into his office and tells him that he has the Dietrichson case all figured out. He has determined that Dietrichson was never on the train, after all, you can’t count on throwing a man off a train going 15 miles an hour resulting in death. Keyes is convinced that Phyllis and an accomplice killed Dietrichson somewhere off the train and then an impersonator boarded the train and jumped off and then placed the body on the tracks. Keyes has called Mr. Jackson, the passenger who was on the observation deck with Walter, in to question him, as he was the only person who got a good look at the Dietrichson impersonator.

Mr. Jackson has studied the photos of the late Mr. Dietrichson and tells Keyes that he is willing to swear that the man on the train was not Dietrichson. He doesn’t appear to recognize Walter, however before he leaves the office, he becomes convinced that he knows Walter from somewhere.

meetingWalter arranges to meet Phyllis at the market and tells her that Keyes is rejecting her claim. Walter urges her not to sue, because he thinks Keyes has too much evidence against her. When Walter brings up Lola’s suspicions about Phyllis killing her mother, Phyllis becomes convinced that Walter wants to back off because he feels bad about killing Lola’s father. Walter tries to convince her that he is worried about the two of them getting caught, but Phyllis doesn’t buy it. Phyllis insists that they have to see things through to the end and that nobody is pulling out, because after all, it was Walter who came up with the plan to kill her husband, not Phyllis.

Walter continues to see Lola and on one of their excursions she tells him that she’s convinced her ex-boyfriend Nino conspired with Phyllis to kill her father. She tells Walter that Nino has been meeting Phyllis at her house and that he claimed to be sick the night of the murder as an excuse for standing her up that night. Walter wonders why Nino has been meeting Phyllis, but can’t come up with an explanation.

snoopingKeyes tells Walter that he has discovered who Phyllis’ accomplice was and that she has filed suit against the insurance company and Keyes intends to tear them apart. Walter worries that Keyes is playing cat and mouse with him. Walter snoops in Keyes’ office and finds a recording that indicates that Keyes did investigate Walter, but has ruled him out as a suspect. Instead, Keyes is convinced that it was Nino who helped Phyllis murder her husband.

walter-phyllisWalter arranges to meet Phyllis at 11 that night, at her home. He tells her that Keyes is no longer watching her house, but to turn the lights off, so the neighbors won’t see them. Walter tells Phyllis that he plans to murder her and pin it on Nino, who Keyes is convinced was her accomplice in the murder of her husband. He claims he has already arranged for Nino to show up in 15 minutes, with the police right behind him. Phyllis tells Walter that she’s been meeting Nino, because she’s been trying to send him into one of his jealous rages, by convincing him that Lola has been seeing another man, in the hopes that Nino would eliminate Lola before she had a chance to talk. Walter responds that Phyllis probably intended to have Nino take him out too and then she’d have someone else take out Nino, so she could have the money all to herself.

dead-phyllisWalter goes to close the window and while his back is turned, Phyllis draws the gun she has hidden under the cushion of her chair and shoots him in the shoulder when he turns around. Walter taunts Phyllis, but she doesn’t fire a second shot, claiming that she has realized that she loved Walter after all. Walter takes the gun from Phyllis and shoots Phyllis dead.

As Walter is leaving the house, he hears Nino approaching and hides in the bushes. However, before Nino can enter the house, Walter calls out to him. He gives Nino a nickel and tells him to go call Lola, explaining that Lola still loves him and that Phyllis was lying to him.

closing-sceneBack in the present, Walter finishes his recording by asking Keyes to look after Lola and Nino. Keyes walks in the door and discovers Walter sitting in his office. Keyes explains the janitor summoned him, after discovering some of Walter’s blood. Keyes starts to call a doctor for Walter, but Walter stops him and asks him to pretend he never found him, so that Walter can continue with his plan to cross the border, before the recordings are discovered. Keyes tells Walter he’ll never make the border and he’s right, as Walter collapses before he even gets out of the office. Keyes calls for an ambulance. Walter tells Keyes that he was unable to solve the case because he was right across the desk from the man involved. Keyes says he was “closer than that,” and Walter responds, “I love you too.” Keyes helps Walter light a cigarette and the end credits roll.

Double Indemnity Commentary (Spoilers):

I enjoyed this film, but didn’t find the story to be very plausible. First of all, it seems unlikely that a woman who has potentially already gotten away with one murder, would just randomly hatch a plan with an insurance salesman who just happened by her door, no matter how smitten he seemed with her. Second, while I can see how someone who worked in the insurance industry might find themselves tempted to try and beat the system and file a fraudulent claim, it’s a long way from willing to defraud the insurance company to willing to murder two people in cold blood. Maybe Walter’s past is a bit more checkered than we are made aware, but it seems odd that he would go so quickly from mild-mannered insurance salesman to murderer, just because he’d been pondering trying to rip of the company he worked for and found himself in lust with a woman who just, so happened, wanted to hatch a scheme to kill her husband and collect the money.

I used to be a claims adjuster, so that part of the film was interesting to me. I don’t think the world of claims is quite so dramatic as the film made it out to be, but parts of the movie rang true, particularly the part where the suit tries to settle the claim, because he knows he can’t actually prove it was a suicide, but he thinks he can intimidate Phyllis into settling for a lesser amount by threatening court. The courts have cracked down on unfair claims practices since this film was shot and I don’t think insurance companies are quite as shady as they once were, but I’ve known a few execs who would probably try something like that.

Insurance companies do investigate fraud, but most would take more of Keyes’ approach. Gut feelings that a claim is a fraud isn’t enough. If you can’t prove something is fraud in court, you have to pay the claim, no matter how fishy it smells. This is why Keyes needed to find hard evidence, like the witness who was willing to testify that the man on the train was not the victim, in order to actually deny the claim. This is even more the case in today’s environment, because there are serious penalties involved if a court decides a company unfairly denied a claim.

Both Phyllis and Walter were pretty scuzzy people, but I still found myself rooting for her to kill him in the end.  I found both her sudden case of the feels and his decision to confess and his concern for Lola and Nino to be a bit disingenuous, but I suppose even bad people can have a change of heart. The whole, let me explain my evil plan to you, before I kill you bit was kind of silly as well. I also found it interesting that Keyes still seemed to have affection for Walter, even after finding out he was twice a murderer. I’m assuming we were meant to see their declaration of love for each other as the love between good friends, but they did make a point of Keyes never having gotten married, so who knows.

100 Best Sports Movies – The List

To compile this list of the 100 Best Sports Movies, I looked at lists on the Internet and selected the 100 movies with the most appearances.

  1. Bull Durham
  2. Rocky
  3. A League of Their Own
  4. Field of Dreams
  5. Raging Bull
  6. The Natural
  7. Caddyshack
  8. Chariots of Fire
  9. Hoosiers
  10. Jerry Maguire
  11. Miracle
  12. The Karate Kid
  13. Bend it Like Beckham
  14. Friday Night Lights
  15. Million Dollar Baby
  16. Remember the Titans
  17. Rudy
  18. Slap Shot
  19. The Bad News Bears
  20. White Men Can’t Jump
  21. Any Given Sunday
  22. Hoop Dreams
  23. Major League
  24. The Hustler
  25. Ali
  26. Breaking Away
  27. Eight Men Out
  28. Moneyball
  29. North Dallas Forty
  30. Pride of the Yankees
  31. Seabiscuit
  32. The Longest Yard
  33. The Sandlot
  34. The Wrestler
  35. Tin Cup
  36. Victory
  37. Cinderella Man
  38. He Got Game
  39. Rocky II
  40. Rocky IV
  41. Space Jam
  42. The Endless Summer
  43. When We Were Kings
  44. Big Fan
  45. Big Wednesday
  46. Brian’s Song
  47. Bring It On
  48. Coach Carter
  49. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  50. Dogtown and Z-Boys
  51. Fat City
  52. Gentleman Jim
  53. Goal II: Living the Dream
  54. Goal! The Dream Begins
  55. Gridiron Gang
  56. Invincible
  57. Knute Rockne All American
  58. Murderball
  59. Mystery, Alaska
  60. Offside
  61. Olympia
  62. Pumping Iron
  63. Rocky Balboa
  64. Rocky III
  65. Rollerball
  66. Rounders
  67. Senna
  68. The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Movie Kings
  69. The Color of Money
  70. The Fighter
  71. The Greatest Game Ever Played
  72. The Hurricane
  73. The Legend of Bagger Vance
  74. The Mighty Ducks
  75. The Pride of St. Louis
  76. The Replacements
  77. The Rookie
  78. The Set-Up
  79. Whip It
  80. 42
  81. 8 Seconds
  82. Bang the Drum Slowly
  83. All the Right Moves
  84. Cool Runnings
  85. Damn! Yankees
  86. Days of Thunder
  87. For Love of the Game
  88. Foxcatcher
  89. Hard Ball
  90. Leatherheads
  91. Million Dollar Arm
  92. National Velvet
  93. Personal Best
  94. Rad
  95. Real Steel
  96. Searching for Bobby Fischer
  97. The Basketball Diaries
  98. The Big Lebowski
  99. The Blind Side
  100. Trouble with the Curve