Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
Ah, Father’s Day when we celebrate dear old dad. This year instead of giving him an lousy tie, consider a family bonding experience like going out to the movies. Or staying in with one of the following movies about the paternal bond.
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) Robert Benton adapted and directed this tearjerker from the novel by Avery Corman. Workaholic ad-man Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) is shocked when his wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) leaves him to raise their son Billy alone. It’s tough going for a while, but over time Ted and Billy develop a closer bond – at which point Joanna comes back wanting custody. It received five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress.
Father of the Bride (1991) A remake of the 1950 comedy of the same name. George Banks (Steve Martin) is a successful businessman, happily married to Nina (Diane Keaton) and with an extremely close relationship to his eldest child and only daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams in her film debut). When Annie announces her whirlwind romance and engagement to rich young Brian McKenzie (George Newbern) dad finds he’s not ready to give his little girl away. There’s an hysterical performance by Martin Short as the wedding planner the family hires. The film was both financially successfully earning back four times its budget and positively reviewed by critics as well.
In the Name of the Father (1993) Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America) directed and co-wrote this courtroom drama based on the true story of the Guildford Four. Young hoodlum Gerry Conlon (the only and only Daniel Day-Lewis) is arrested on false suspicion of terrorism and tortured to confess along with three of his compatriots. When Gerry’s father Giusseppe (the late great Peter Postlethwaite) goes to England to help his son, he’s arrested as well as a co-conspirator. After a ridiculous sham trial everyone is sent to prison with Gerry and Guisseppe being assigned to the same facility and indeed being cellmates. The movie gets a lot of great drama from the courtroom antics with Emma Thompson playing Gerry’s lawyer, but the heart of the film is the bonding that takes place between father and son behind bars. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for Thompson, Best Supporting Actor for Postlethwaite, and yet another Best Actor nomination for Day-Lewis.
He Got Game (1998) This sports drama was written and directed by Spike Lee starring Denzel Washington, in the third of the four movie collaborations the two have done together. Denzel plays Jake Shuttlesworth a convicted murderer whose son Jesus (real life NBA star Ray Allen) is the number one high school basketball player in the country with colleges fighting over him. Jake is given an one week furlough by the governor with the condition; if he gets Jesus to play for the governor’s alma mater, he’ll be released early from prison. Milla Jovovich , John Turturro, and Rosario Dawson round out the cast. It has an 80% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for three NAACP film awards.
Finding Nemo(2003) Overprotective clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks in one of his best roles,) goes across the ocean to rescue his lost son Nemo, and along the way has a series of adventures while meeting a fabulous cast of characters including Dory (Ellen Degeneres) a blue tang who suffers from short term memory loss, surfer dude tortoise Crush (Andrew Stanton) and Bruce (Barry Humphries) a white shark trying to go vegetarian with mixed results. It was the highest grossing animated movie of all time AND helped establish Pixar’s reputation not only for CGI wizardry but also heartfelt storytelling. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture and was nominated for three other awards including Best Original Screenplay.
Father’s Day is coming up, and besides the obligatory gifts of ties, coffee mugs, and socks consider watching one of the following movies with dear old dad.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) The film adaption of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning work starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as his daughter Scout in what is possibly the most adorable father-daughter pairing ever on screen. It also features Robert Duvall in a legendary turn as Boo Radley. To Kill a Mockingbird deals with fatherhood, race, prejudice, the limits of the legal system, and more. It won three Academy Awards including Best Actor for Peck, was nominated for eight more including Best Picture and is nearly universally considered one of the best films of all time.
Paper Moon(1973) This American comedy-drama directed by Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show) starred real life father-daughter pair Ryan and Tatum O’Neal as Moze and Addie. Moze is a shady grafter who takes on the nine year old Addie (who may or may not be his biological daughter) as his mascot/sidekick/protégé on a madcap road trip through plains country during the Great Depression. Filmed in black and white it was nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay and Tatum O’Neal won for Best Supporting Actress making her the youngest performer to ever win an competitive Oscar.
Field of Dreams (1989) Phil Alden wrote and directed this fantasy drama starring Kevin Costner as novice farmer Ray who becomes convinced that he’s supposed to turn his corn fields into a baseball diamond. The movies ostensible focus is on letting Shoeless Joe Jackson (among others) play ball again but the not so hidden underlying theme is Ray repairing his relationship with his own now deceased father. Co-starring Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta, Field of Dreams was nominated for three Academy Awards and “If You Build It, He Will Come,” is now part of the cultural lexicon.
Finding Nemo (2003) The Pixar Blockbuster about how Marlin (Al Brooks) the clownfish sets off on a voyage through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to find his lost son Nemo encountering Dory (Ellen Degeneres) a regal blue-tang who suffers from short term memory loss, sharks trying to kick the fish eating habit, and surfer dude turtles was an instant classic that won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was nominated in three other categories including Best Original Screenplay. It also inspired a long-gestating sequel Finding Dory that opened on June 17, 2016.
The Descendants (2011) Alexander Payne (Sideways, Nebraska) directed this film adaption of the novel by the same name. George Clooney stars as land baron Matt King whose wife Elizabeth is in a coma and then learns from his elder daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley in her breakout role) that Elizabeth had an affair. Matt’s emotional journey is momentous and important decisions are made but the movie’s ultimate focus is on Matt’s struggle to form a stronger bond with his daughters. The Descendants won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as two Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture-Drama and Best Actor-Drama for Clooney.
With sequels, one of the primary concerns isn’t necessarily whether it’ll be good or not, it’s whether or not it will taint my love for the original or if it’ll add to it instead. Such is the case with Finding Dory, a sequel to Pixar’s very successful and beautifully made Finding Nemo. The successor is 13 years in the making and, while it brings back some familiar faces, it feels fresh and engaging, but still manages to make us feel like we’re visiting with old friends.
One year after Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) find Nemo (Hayden Rolence), Dory remembers that she lost her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Somehow, a few years back, and due to short term memory loss, Dory found herself wandering the ocean alone. Not knowing where she comes from or how she got to where she is now, Dory spends a lot of time searching for the parents she lost, as well as forgetting she lost them to begin with. Once she remembers she forgot her parents, she takes a journey that sets her on the path to California, where her parents are housed in the Marine Life Institute.
Of course, Marlin and Nemo tag along, helping Dory and making sure she doesn’t get lost. The film doesn’t spend too long on the journey getting to the Marine Life Institute, where Sigourney Weaver’s voice hilariously plays over the intercoms, but it’s rather about the adventure Dory experiences while there. Befriending a cranky and bitter octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), whose primary goal is to find himself in quarantine and on the next truck to Cleveland, Dory finds herself recalling her childhood at every turn and scouring the institute’s every corner looking for her family. But is she too late?
Going into the movie without enormously high expectations is difficult. Thankfully, Finding Dory is as adorable as it looks and strikes all the right chords. The themes of letting go are still there, but it’s the particular theme of being a part of a family, even though there is no DNA relation, that is what really pulls at the heartstrings. Young Dory’s scenes with her parents are precious and if Disney and Pixar get anything right, it’s the astoundingly lovable portrayals of the younger versions of their characters. Young Dory is just as doe-eyed and her personality full of wonder and openness. Adult Dory is the same, which is why it’s so easy to love her and understandable why even the most cantankerous characters are drawn to her positive energy.
The film draws a bit from its predecessor, but it’s brave enough to go out on its own and bring in new characters. Only two characters outside of the main cast of fish make brief appearances. This shows that Pixar isn’t willing to rely on what worked before. And even though Finding Nemo‘s supporting characters are beloved, this is a new journey and their presence wouldn’t have worked within the scope of this film’s premise. New and fun-loving characters like Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a near-sighted and happy whale, and Bailey (Ty Burrell), a disheartened whale who’s lost his talent, fill in the space with their grand and memorable presence.
The CGI animation is beautiful. The 3D effects makes it all the more eye-popping. The Pixar team makes even the emptiness of certain parts of the ocean look both wondrous and irksome all at once. The visuals are further reinforced and more appreciated because the film aims to tell a story that is heartwarming, engaging, funny, and touching in ways that made Finding Nemo so memorable. And with a great and simple story, gorgeous visuals, and adorable characters, Finding Dory makes for a worthy sequel.