Title: Bill Cunningham New York Release Date: March 16, 2011 Director: Richard Press Production Company: First Thought Films Summary/Review:
The movie starts with a man photographing passing pedestrians on a street corner in Midtown Manhattan. It’s a bit creepy, and not too far into the movie a pair of women yell at him to stop. We learn the man is a fashion photographer for the New York Times who publishes collages of street fashion as well from fundraising soirees and models strutting down the catwalk. But as we get to know the humble man behind the camera, all the preconceived notions of fashion photographer.
Cunningham is not at all fashionable himself, consistently wearing the same blue jacket as he bikes around Manhattan with his camera. He lives modestly in a studio apartment within Carnegie Hall filled with filing cabinets of his photographs (part of the movie documents Carnegie Hall management evicting Cunningham and other aging artists to make more room for revenue-producing office space). He never accepts payment or even food and drink at the events he covers. He does try to photograph celebrities, but focuses on photographing fashionable clothing that captures his eye. And he never mocks the everyday people he photographs, instead celebrating their fashion sense. Indeed he’s something of an anthropologist documenting fashion trends that emerge from the populist.
Every Blogging A to Z Challenge I’ve done on documentary movies has included one on a street photographer – previously Finding Vivian Maier and Zimbelism – and they’re all complex and a bit odd people. I’m not terribly interested in fashion photography but do feel I learned to appreciate something about it through Bill Cunningham’s unique life story.
I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge by watching and reviewing some of my favorite movies of all time that I haven’t watched in a long time. This post contains SPOILERS!
Title: Back to the Future Release Date: July 3, 1985 Director: Robert Zemeckis Production Company: Amblin Entertainment | Universal Pictures Summary/Review:
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is the black sheep of his family. While his parents and siblings are irredeemable losers, Marty has a cute girlfriend (Claudia Wells), rides a skateboard, and plays guitar in a band. He also maintains an odd friendship with a mad scientist, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd).
One night, Doc invites Marty to help him out on his new project, a time machine … made from a Delorean. Through a series of misadventures, Marty is sent back from 1985 to 1955. After interfering with his parents’ first meeting, he faces the challenges of his future mother, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), falling in love with him and helping his father, George (Crispin Glover), stand up to the bully, Biff (Thomas F. Wilson). Meanwhile, the younger version of Doc must figure out how to get Marty “back to the future!”
When Did I First See This Movie?:
I saw this movie with my family in the movie theaters not long after its release in July 1985. Then I saw it again in the theaters and then several times on VHS and cable tv. But it’s probably been 30 years since the last time I watched it. There was a time when this was my favorite ever made and “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News my favorite song. But by 1989 when the sequels came out, I’d lost interest, and I’ve still never seen them.
What Did I Remember?:
I remembered everything pretty well, as I really did see it a lot of times at an impressionable age.
What Did I Forget?:
Surprisingly, nothing significant.
What Makes This Movie Great?:
The casting is perfect, Doc Brown and Marty McFly, most notably. But I think Lea Thomson and Crispin Glover deserve a lot of credit for being younger than Michael J. Fox and still convincingly portraying his parents. Thomson as the teenage Lorraine is terrific at conveying both sweetness and a persistent horniness, while Glover is the ultimate geek.
I’ve also always been impressed with how everything that’s set up early in the movie gets paid off later on. This goes for the main plots of when Doc Brown and Marty’s parents talk about their past, but also little details like the clock tower, Marty’s uncle (a recidivist criminal) being in the playpen as a baby, or the Twin Pines Mall becoming the Lone Pines Mall. This also may be the only time travel story ever told where changing the past makes things better.
What Doesn’t Hold Up?:
The depiction of Libyans as a pack of terrorists who smuggle uranium and travel around in a van with machine guns and bazookas is a nasty stereotype. There are also a couple of instances of casual racism where Marty influences the future in a way that takes agency away from Black men. The first is when he inspires young Goldie Wilson to run for mayor (which he would’ve done anyway). It’s also disconcerting that young Goldie says he’s going to clean the town up but in 1985 the city is in a state of decay. I’m sure the filmmakers intended to show that most US cities had become rundown between the 50s and 80s rather than imply that it was because of a Black mayor, but the optics are bad. The other scene is when Marvin Berry calls his cousin Chuck to let him hear Marty playing “Johnny Be Good.” Again, it’s a gag because Marty is playing a song that Chuck Berry wrote, but I have just a twinge of uneasiness about it.
Is It a Classic?:
Most definitely. Despite that fact that more time has passed since 1985 and today than 1955 and 1985, this movie hasn’t aged poorly. Instead, it’s picked up a patina of nostalgia for two different eras of the past.