Space Children: Jack Arnold Classic

DATELINE:  1958 Gem

brothersPlaying brothers: Johnny Crawford & Michel Ray

One of the great under-appreciated directors of the 1950s is largely forgotten now, Jack Arnold. Among his best known films are Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man and No Name on the Bullet. He transcended genre.

In 1958 he tried another science fiction flick that didn’t quite win the cult following of his earlier movies. That was his interesting examination of a space alien that puts mind control on kids in The Space Children.

Mind you: this was way before sweet E.T. and monstrous Children of the Damned took over the minds of juveniles.

It helped that Arnold was fearless with child actors. He simply found the best and let them play it. In this case he used Johnny Crawford, before the Rifleman, and Michel Ray, before Lawrence of Arabia. As brothers, they are as good as the Hardy Boys.

He also cast some of the well-known character actors of the era:  Raymond Bailey (of Beverly Hillbillies), Jackie Coogan (of Addams Family), and Russell Johnson (of Gilligan’s Island), as his adult problems for the kids.

Michel Ray is particularly effective with eyes that seem to presage Nick Hoult 60 years later. It’s Ray who has the ray-beam power to paralyze adults, through his alien host.

These kids are children of rocket scientists—and their mission is to sabotage their fathers’ prototype Star Wars missile program. Yes, this movie is a tad ahead of its time.

The film is subtle and not given over to the histrionics we have come to expect from puerile space movies.

Perhaps the title misled audiences: this was clearly a movie for adults to ponder, not to titillate the popcorn set.

This lost gem can be streamed on your viewing device and clocks in at 68 minutes: it’s a dreamy entertainment.

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Last Days of Warner Oland: On Anniversary of Death

DATELINE: Charlie Chan & Curry College

WO Oland in character

Ten years ago a little documentary biography was put together on actor Warner Oland. It can be found online.

We have long been a fan of his gentle, Method-acting style, immersing himself into playing (and living life) as the legendary Charlie Chan, Earl Derr Biggers’s famous detective.

Oland, with his exotic name, was the first and best of all the Chans—so much so that many thought he was Asian. His heavy eyelids made him look the part. However, he was born in Sweden, next to Garbo, one of their earliest American immigrants to acting.

Oland loved playing Chan, and even gave interviews in character—but his drinking problem seemed to have exacerbated with a doomed marriage in 1938.  On the set of his last film Charlie Chan Ringside, he simply walked off the studio lot and disappeared.

The movie was shelved, and Oland went back to his native Sweden in the pre-war turmoil of Nazi troubles. There, welcomed home by Swedes, he caught pneumonia and died. His last Chan film was Charlie Chan in Monte Carlo, a delightful performance. His close friend Keye Luke loved him as a Number One son might! Oland was cultured and cerebral.

Oland caught our attention years earlier, of course, on old-TV film festivals—but our real fascination came when we discovered he graduated from Curry College, then located in Boston as an elocution/speech school for actors.

We cut our own teeth at Curry for 30 years as a professor, of film studies, no less.

When we watched a Chan film this week, we went to the ubiquitous Youtube to find all our favorites. To our shock, we learned Warner Oland died 79 years ago the day we found a slight biographical movie called Charlie Chan is Missing: the Last Days of Warner Oland.

Charming and mysterious, Oland preferred his home in central Massachusetts, not far from our preferred home, and his wife had his body brought back to Southboro where his gravestone was the step to his beloved home in that town.

The film is short and chock full of info, but the clues to Warner Oland’s strange character disappeared with him.

Boy Culture TV: Sequel for the Ages!

 DATELINE:   Producers Wanted!

 BC

One of the cleverest and surprising films of 2006 is prepping to have a ten-years later style sequel with all the original cast.

If you remember the delightful novella by Matthew Rettemund turned into a top-drawer comedy of manners by Q. Allan Brocka, you may be in for a big treat. Boy Culture wants to return.

They have a deadline of 29 days to find movie producers to contribute to a new Los Angeles production that will be short TV episodes transformed into a feature-length film.

Yes, Derek Magyar will be in the film as X, with Darryl Stephens reprising Andrew, and Jonathon Trent returning with his extra-long tongue. We are being tongue in cheeky, for sure.

If you ever wondered about all those people who are thanked at the end of a movie, here is your chance to join the conga line that passes quickly while most people are ready to hit the remote button. Well, if you are on the list, you may stick around to the utter end.

It doesn’t cost much to become a recognized Hollywood producer on a big production like this. Immortality seldom reaches out to movie fans, but the filmmakers have gone the Kickstarter way. It’s how small budget, big heart movies are put together:  with love of fans.

If you have a big wallet, you might even end up with a walk-on cameo in one of the scenes. Talk about becoming a Hollywood legend. It might repay you with dinner invitations for years to come—as you explain the thrill of it all.

We hate to say what it costs to be one of the co-executive producers but the benefits of being with the cast may be your last chance for groupie rights that only X would appreciate.

Quite frankly, our favorite character was Gregory Talbot in the original: the wonderful actor Patrick Bauchau played the reclusive, well-heeled patron of the extended family of boys.

Yes, we want in on this. But we want to see the movie produced successfully and be part of a legendary hit.

When they call action, Boy Culture TV may be your calling.

Bob Hope Takes Sweden

DATELINE: Long in the Tooth?

long in the tooth?

In 1965 Bob Hope was still wise-cracking his way through movies, but he was mostly a TV star by then, or his popularity among young people was nearly at its nadir over his political stand on Vietnam, defending soldiers.

So, the film I’ll Take Sweden casts him as a smart aleck father of a California girl with eyes for a motorcycle driving, guitar-strumming, poverty-stricken young man.

The solution is to break them up by moving to Sweden.

The boy and girl could have been Elvis and Ann-Margaret, or Fabian and Annette, or some other early 1960s icons who were out of touch with the growing anti-war, hippie, Beatles-loving American baby boomers.

The film was also directed by Fred DeCordova of My Three Sons, Burns & Allen, and Johnny Carson TV fame. It looks like a TV movie with Tuesday Weld and Frankie Avalon playing the teenagers, when they both were already slightly past Dobie Gillis and Beach Party.

Yet, 50 years later, Hope is rather droll, wise-cracking and looks marvelous for a man in his 60s, even doing a few stunts.

This was not the vintage Hope of the 1950s when he was priceless and at his peak. Yet, he’s still risqué, bemused and cynical at the world, and you can’t beat that. He throws out those one-liners with aplomb.

He’d soon be replaced by the new generation with liberal Woody Allen who used the same jokes and attitude with a New York disdain.

If you put Woody Allen and Hope side by side, we still will take his Sweden movie with Hope’s smug and topical comments. He was a master.

 

 

Long Live King Kong

 DATELINE:  Still Kicking 85 Years Later

kong

 

If you want to be enchanted and taken back to childhood, the little documentary on the history of King Kong is pure escape and delight.

Kong! What an actor. They literally don’t make them like him anymore.

A bunch of Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes creative people were most influenced to go into the artistic end of movies because of their experience with the 1933 stop-action classic that still amazes and thrills nearly 85 years later.

Oh, yes, they have clips from all the major rip-offs and poor productions, which are somewhat enjoyable, but all the subsequent Kongs were dwarfed by the original.

There are anecdotes about people knowing Fay Wray over the years—and what a devotee she was to Kong, ever faithful to the ape who loved her.

Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake follows most closely as an act of love, updated, to pay homage to the Merriam C. Cooper version. The film omits the latest Kong movie called Skull Island, which features some interesting actors, all willing to play co-star to the big monkey.

Brady in Manhattan

There is no real answer as to why Kong remains beloved, despite the carnage he creates in New York for Carl Denham, the hilarious Robert Armstrong’s legendary performance as a rapacious movie producer.

Kong holds up as the eighth wonder of the world because the filmmakers managed to give a puppet all the range of emotions and powerful communication skills that are often missing in most action stars.

Long Live King Kong is certainly not the best documentary of the year, but it is one to most likely give you a smile of long-ago fun when monster movies defied your kid’s understanding of special effects and gave you mesmerizing appreciation for film.

 

Deep Impact: 20 Years Later

 DATELINE:  Stars Die to Save Humanity

deep impact

We heard that the premise of this old disaster movie was actually based on a government plan of what would happen in an Extinction Level Event. The first 20 minutes of this film are marvelous, intelligent, and suddenly undone.

Its special effects are not bad, even by today’s hyped-up computer special-effects level of distinction. Yet, there is something sadly wasteful about the movie. And, some of the scenes are way off:  World Trade Center meets a horrible fictional end.

Oh, this disaster had a woman director, Mimi Leder and was produced by Stephen Spielberg and Richard Zanuck. The film throws some great performers into the mix in small, unimportant roles: Vanessa Redgrave and Maximilian Schell are not given much to do as Tea Leoni’s parents. Why are they there, except for a paycheck?

Morgan Freeman plays an Obama-style president ten years before Obama actually became the first black president. You can throw in James Cromwell for a few minutes, and Elijah Wood looks downright adolescent as the kid who first discovers the deadly impact is coming on his small telescope.

Oh, you will see Jon Favreau and Blair Underwood as Robert Duvall’s astronaut crew—and Leelee Sobleski hangs around too.

All these wonderful performers were faced with a deplorable situation: and it wasn’t the plot. It was a bad music score that often drowns out their most dramatic moments and lines. Who decided to Mickey Mouse the film like it was a Road Runner cartoon?

Most fans of disaster will hang around to see the world crumble. It’s 1997, folks, so the World Trade Center is standing until a tidal wave hits. The Statue of Liberty loses her head, and the Brooklyn Bridge is awash.

It’s the big pay-off, but the film is not so awful as to kill everyone. Hope spring eternal when stars sacrifice their lives (and careers) to save humanity. If this is a spoiler, we plead guilty.

What a disappointing movie.

Brandon DeWilde: Gone 45 Years Ago

DATELINE: Memories

Audie with Brandon DeWilde

Audie Murphy with Brandon on set of Night Passage

Forty-five years is a long time, no matter how old you are.

It is especially long when you think that young actor Brandon DeWilde died on a road in Denver that many years ago. He’s buried in East Farmingdale, New York.

Brandon is likely remembered as the little boy in the movie Shane who cried, “Come back, Shane, come back!” as the mysterious gunman kept on riding his horse into the clouds.

Our personal favorite movie with Brandon was Hud, though when he stood up to father figure John Wayne, his costar for In Harm’s Way, he gave another interesting performance. Challenging the man playing your father is not an easy trick when it’s the Duke.

Julie Harris starred on Broadway in 1950 and in the movie version of Member of the Wedding, largely forgotten nowadays, with Brandon as her little friend. She once told us in an interview that their bare feet would be so dirty after a stage performance of pretending to be outdoors in the Old South. For years afterward, he would greet her by announcing his feet were clean. She remembered him fondly as her costar on stage and in film.

Who didn’t adore Brandon?

He glowed in every performance, not like so many insipid child actors.

Brandon was such a scene stealer that, when he costarred with dangerous war hero Audie Murphy in Night Passage, he was knocked on his keester by Audie, wearing a black hat and black leather vest for this bad guy role, in one scene. Yes, it was in the script.

You could put Brandon up against Warren Beatty and Paul Newman—and he matched their intensity.

DeWilde is now a trivia piece of history for many movie fans. But his demise so long ago was a shock when it happened. He rode off into the clouds, leaving us to cry out, “Come back, Brandon. Come back.”

Alas, he can only do it in his marvelous movie roles.

 

 

 

Hurricane Clint Eastwood Downgraded to Breezy

DATELINE: Better to Stay Lost

breezy

In his third directorial effort, back in 1973, Clint Eastwood took up the challenge of a romantic comedy.  It probably sounded easier than he expected because he had William Holden, even aging and falling apart, as his charming, cynical leading man.

This atrocity is called Breezy, rhymes with easy, named after the hippie free spirit who haunts William Holden. It might have been more hilarious if Breezy was a teenage boy. But Clint doesn’t eat sweets.

However, the moribund script features one fantasy hippie girl who believed in free love of the era. Perhaps it was realistic back in the early 1970s in L.A., but Kay Lenz presents one of the most annoying, anachronistic versions of a promiscuous teenager we have seen in decades.

We cannot figure out why Holden’s well-to-do businessman didn’t toss this annoying and cloying girl out on her keester when she first appears to panhandle and try to con him. Are all men victims of their sex drive?

That Holden falls in love with her seems to stretch credulity for a character who never has fallen in love with any woman.

On top of all this, we are then faced with the embarrassments of May-December romance being denigrated by every other character Holden knows in the movie script. Really, Clint?

We almost hoped Holden would turn into Dirty Sex Harry and shoot the whole lot of slut hustlers. Of course, it’s not that kind of film, alas.

If the saccharine hippie girl isn’t enough to rot the script, you have an overlay of Michel Legrand music. Apparently, Clint gave himself plenty of challenges to overcome. You may drown in movie sweetness, not typical Eastwood.

Clint fans knew better than the novice director—and ran away from this clinkeroo. This was not even a good character-driven story, though you can see how Eastwood wants to develop it. The film wastes William Holden– and Eastwood too.

Many critics in hindsight think this was Clint’s most “personal” film. We doubt it. He was still learning his craft by directing in an unusual setting and genre.

Destroying the film negative might be a better challenge to undertake. Clint likely chose to ignore the movie as time passed as an experiment in directing. This movie is a freak of his oeuvre.

Depp is Really a Dope

 DATELINE: Actors & Politics

Tonto Means Dopey Depp Johnny Dope

They don’t call him Johnny Dope for nothing.

The semi-intoxicated movie star named Johnny Depp called for the assassination of President Trump at a British music festival this week. He compared himself to another actor named John Wilkes Booth.

That comparison raises Depp a few steps above his talent range.

Wilkes Booth was a noted actor of stage, known for his good looks and his explosive talent. Depp has always fallen short on both levels.

Booth, of course, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln with a group of misfits he assembled. There’s no doubt the Depp probably can muster up a group of misfits from his devotees. That’s his likely fan club.

As far as actors killing presidents is concerned, we believe Booth was a better actor, but as Depp brags: he’s a better liar than Booth. Heavens, there is no end to his talent: until now.

Threatening to kill a president you disagree with is a new low even for Hollywood liberals.

John Wilkes Booth was a great Shakespearean actor even at a young age. However, Booth was dead at 27, after a manhunt by authorities. Depp is still alive and kicking and pushing 60.  After his recent comment, nobody will be chasing him, especially film producers.

We also believe the Depp has never really tried Shakespeare, which separates the actors from the drunken liars.

The Secret Service is said to be aware of Depp’s Kathy Griffin moment. If we are lucky, the man who has played Tonto will be sent into retirement, not a moment too soon. His performance was an insult to all Native Americans.

In case you’re wondering, Tonto is Spanish for stupid. That may be the highlight of Johnny Dope’s career. Put it on his tombstone.

Dramatic Musical: The Bolero

DATELINE:  Best Short Film 1974 Oscar

Mehta

Winning the Best Short Subject Oscar for 1974, The Bolero may be one of the most breathtaking documentaries about music put on film.

From its opening scenes, setting up chairs for musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, to its climax, you will have a deep appreciation for the challenge and creativity of symphony orchestras.

Most people know Ravel’s “Bolero” from the Walt Disney animated classic, as the music that portends the end of the dinosaurs. Or, worse, you may recall Bo Derek.

At first you have violinists, bassoonists, and flutists, all making mention of the difficulty of small solos in the overall performance. Behind them you hear the occasional melody from the piece.

Zubin Mehta was young and dynamic as the conductor, expressive and humorous. He notes after this performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic he never wants to do The Bolero ever again. His tongue is firmly in cheek.

Drama always builds slowly, and if Mehta has any real challenge here, it is in keeping the pace of the music in check.

When the orchestra begins to play the entire score, you see them lit against a satin black background—and you are faced with fierce concentration from individual players as they read their music, look up to the conductor, and listen to their colleagues in the symphony. It mirrors any struggle Jack London ever described in Nature.

Mehta plays a conductor as you always expected one to be. When he is in full charge, his face shows how much he loves music, art, and helps director Alan Miller create something so special that 45 years later, you will be thrilled and delighted by the 25-minute experience.

 

 

Dangerous Warsaw, or Suicide Squad (American Title)

 

warsaw

DATELINE: Dangerous Moonlight!

Exasperating comments like “out-dated,” or “old-fashioned,” start to grate on our nerves more often nowadays. So, we did not take kindly to the Amazon comments about the 1941 movie Dangerous Moonlight.

The film stars the debonair Teutonic star Anton Walbrook, who always looks grand in a tux when he sits down at the piano to play “classical” music.

In this curio, he is a Polish composer—and the story revolves around Walbrook trying to finish his great creation while World War II and the Nazis decimate his homeland of Poland. He must go to the United States and do a concert tour to raise money to help Polish refugees.

Rachmaninoff reportedly declined the offer to write a composition for the movie character to compose. So, the British film classic went to studio composer Richard Addinsell who wrote the “Warsaw Concerto.”  The film may be stunning for the music alone.

Daring in a way that today’s movies would never attempt, the first 14 minutes of the movie are basically the “Warsaw Concerto” being played to help Walbrook regain his memory lost in war—and explain how he met his wife. Movies about amnesia were big in 1941 with Random Harvest about another war hero with memory problems.

That the British film chose to make a film about an American girl who happens to be a millionaire who marries a Polish composer is a surprise too.

The music is so stirring and became so famous that it outrivals Rachmaninoff, though purists think of it as fast food classical music. When Walbrook sits down to play, the movie is a catalogue of audience reactions. Nearly 25 minutes of the 75-minute movie is given over to the music being played by a symphony or by Walbrook’s composer character.

In between moments of the “Warsaw Concerto,” he prefers to fly a fighter plane against Nazis in dogfights on suicide missions. It’s certainly true they don’t make movies like this any more. No one would dare to produce it.

Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

Who Was Heath Ledger?

DATELINE:  No Answers in I am Heath Ledger

 heath

Derik Murray has put together a series of “I am..” documentaries. They are intimate, unflinching, and hypnotic films about subjects with charisma and cult interest. Something went wrong along the way on this one called I am Heath Ledger.

So it is not surprising to find Heath Ledger being given the mythic figure treatment. He is no James Dean because he was filled with joie d’vivre and was a man with a cause and a mission.

Ledger said openly that he was on a mission to push his artistic feelings to the limit. He surrounded himself with his Australian friends from boyhood as an entourage for the most part, but there were no naysayers in the bunch. There was also no one to help him discipline himself. He was brilliant, a chess prodigy and potential major film director.

Going without sleep and pushing his physical limits, Heath Ledger was a whirling dervish of inspired talents. He was into music and film in particular, but showed unlimited artistic abilities. He took endless videos of himself, almost each snippet a movie in miniature. He was observing and teaching himself what reactions worked in a role.

He managed to improve with each role, but seemingly his happy demeanor hinted at a less satisfying deeper sense. His marriage fell apart, and he increasingly covered his beautiful body with tattoos. He used himself as a laboratory for life.

He spoke that he had limited time, like so many music and movie legends who went beyond before age 30. Was he prescient, or just a workaholic?

Heath left several stunning performances in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, but his colleagues do not line up to appear in this film tribute—only family and close friends are anguished and full of love.  Naomi Watts and Ang Lee speak about him, but the film turns on the achievements of his friends, rather than on Heath finally.

The spin of final repeated clips at the end of the documentary without words may be more telling as the film seems to spin away too.

 

 

Everywhere a Movie Set in La-La Land

DATELINE: Movie Myths in Song & Dance

lalla land

 

You may remember La La Land as the film that won the Oscar for five minutes. It was a mistake, for sure. We aren’t sure if the film is supposed to be a take off, or a throwback, or just to feel good old-fashioned musical. It may be much more.

La la Land is some mystic, mythic American place where gridlock results in a mile-long sing-along.  If this is your cup of tea, stay out of Starbucks. If you love movies, this has more movie references than a Mel Brooks comedy. Yet, this one is a romantic gem.

Director Damien Chazelle manages to squeeze everything from Fellini’s 8 & a Half to Rebel without a Cause into his film, while resonating Gene Kelly’s American in Paris.

Ryan Gosling’s character wants to single-handedly save jazz for a new generation—and Chazelle does too. We thought there must be a trick to Gosling’s piano performance, which is bravura at the least. He sings and dances too.

Emma Stone’s eyes may be reminiscent of Bette Davis, but she is show busy to the nth degree. Attention, movie fans, we have a movie here, right down to the fluorescent green drapes out of Vertigo.

Dreams in La-La Land may be achievable—but at great cost, though the journey is richly detailed in this hypnotic movie.

The last musical we enjoyed was A Chorus Line, which we saw a dozen times because our friend Jimmy Kirkwood wrote it. He loved show biz stories too, and this would have grabbed him.

Though this movie missed out on its big Oscar, it’s the sort that will live in legend and re-telling and re-viewing in the generations to come. You cannot miss this film and call yourself a fan of Hollywood, jazz, or creative impulse.

Early Mohican Epic: The Last Shall Be First

DATELINE:  Bad Indians

Bruce Cabot   Bruce Cabot

Fenimore Cooper’s Romantic epic of the West takes place in upstate New York, of course, in 1757. It’s where and when the wild west begins in The Last of the Mohicans.

The 1936 version of the classic is extremely well-done, but has what you might expect from a studio version in the black & white age. The American Indians (before becoming Native Americans) are played by actors with fair skin and blue eyes. This is particularly noticeable for the most noble of all American Savages, Chingachgook.

The last of the bad Indians, Magua, is played terrifically by underrated Bruce Cabot, fresh off fighting as a stalwart hero against King Kong. This time he is barely recognizable with his Mohawk haircut and bare midriff. He is sullen, dangerous, and quite impressive.

The King Kong hangover continues for him. The musical score for the film is a rip-off of the overwrought music for the giant ape. In several sequences, Cabot seems to be re-enacting his other role on Skull Island in native garb.

His foil is Randolph Scott as the first true rifleman, Hawkeye. And, no one could be better in the role, as the actor shows early on his subtle humor in the part.

One of the truly odd changes is the reversal of Alice and Cora, the two daughters of the regiment. In the original story, Cora is dark-haired and tempestuous. She is called Alice here, and her blonde sister becomes Magua’s obsession. In Cooper’s book he appreciates her dark looks, not her blonde locks.

The story is further muddled by putting the key scenes with the last Mohican somewhere earlier in the plot—and ending with some kind of court-martial of Hawkeye. It doesn’t matter too much, as this turns out to be a pleasing version overall, hitting on the key moments of the story and casting truly fine actors.