Thursday, June 12, 2014
By MICHAEL WALSH
Starting out eight months ago, I had the idea that building a website was going to be an interesting retirement project. I had no idea how interesting. Although the first question on Reeling Back's FAQ page suggests that the website is based on film reviews from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s, the actual films included range further — to as far back as 1927's The Jazz Singer, and ahead to Much Ado about Nothing (2012).
At one point, an old friend wrote to tell me that he'd noticed that the introductions to my restored reviews all seemed to be based on date associations. And, yes, I had to admit that Reeling Back's alternative title might be Date Associations R Us. It's a game, but it's a game that I've been having fun with. It evolved from the the site's punning motto, Everything Old Is News Again, and it has been a source of more work than I'd planned for, as well as more discoveries than I expected.
The result has been much new material to accompany the old. After a short break, I look forward to new items to come. My ten most recent postings are:
LEON: THE PROFESSIONAL — Inspired by the pacing and sensibility of the best of France's adult bandes dessinees, director Luc Besson made his English-language film debut with an ultraviolent 1994 shoot-em-up that introduced child actress Natalie Portman to the world. (Posted June 9)
SCHINDLER'S LIST — It seemed only right to note the June 7 1952 birth of Irish actor Liam Neeson with my review of his Oscar-nominated performance as Oskar Schindler, whose unexpected Second World War heroism is celebrated in Steven Spielberg's harrowing 1993 feature. (Posted June 7)
SCANDAL — Before there was a "Swinging London," there was a sleazy moment of British bad behaviour in 1963 known as the "Profumo affair." In 1989, director Michael Caton-Jones recalled the story of "the minister, the model and the Russian spy" in his adaptation of showgirl Christine Keeler's memoir. (Posted June 5)
TRIBUTE — Is playwright Bernard Slade a funnier writer than Neil Simon? I thought so when I reviewed director Bob Clark's 1981 adaptation of Canadian-born Slade's 1978 Broadway comedy, a show that was tailored to the distinctive talents of Jack Lemmon. (Posted June 3)
GOODBYE, NORMA JEAN — Less a tribute than a travesty, this 1976 biopic was the first of many features that have attempted to tell the story of the woman who became Marilyn Monroe, the screen actress most associated with the phrase "sex symbol." (Posted June 1)
ANIMAL HOUSE — We've come a long way since the days of kegger culture recalled in director John Landis's 1978 campus comedy, and Vancouver's Craft Beer Week is the malt 'n' hops event that was my excuse to make that very point. (Posted May 30)
NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN — To mark the anniversary of English author Ian Fleming's birth, it seemed fitting to recall this 1983 movie, the better of the two James Bond features not made by the producers of the long-running "official" series. It's paired with a film quiz from 1980, James Bond at 18. (Posted May 28)
THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), with DON JUAN (1926) — With an ad-libbed line, Al Jolson made movie history, turning the story of an irrepressible entertainer (and the second movie to use synchronized sound) into the first talking picture. (Posted May 26)
VOLUNTEERS — A personal film favourite, director Nicholas Meyer's 1985 comedy satirized the idealistic cultural imperialism of New Frontier America with a tale of bridge building that became a real-life love story for its stars, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. (Posted May 24)
MURDER BY DECREE — It's hard to say what Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle would have made of the many recent variations on his charismatic consulting detective. One striking re-imagination occurred in director Bob Clark's 1979 feature. (Posted May 22)