Playing the titular character, partially, as the Coal Miner in COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, The Band drummer and lead vocalist Levon Helm can really act; a beyond-natural that seems like the real deal, especially as Sam Shepard’s sidekick in THE RIGHT STUFF… His character, Riley, helps Sam’s real life Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier by breaking a broom so the injured pilot can use one arm instead of two, and most importantly, to those in the know, he spins the stick like only a drummer can.
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A Film Noir mentioned in the 1980 horror flick, FADE TO BLACK, by Dennis Christopher as Eric Binford, a psychopathic movie geek, BIG HOUSE U.S.A. is the best movie by a low budget company, Bel Air Productions, and has a great ensemble cast including, above, a young Charles Bronson as a jazz loving, muscle-bound young hood behind bars along with his gang including Broderick Crawford, Lon Chaney Jr., William Talman and, last but not least, buried lead Ralph Meeker, pictured below as he gets roughed up by Bronson: he’s a kidnapper in adventurously lethal scenes bookended the prison melodrama in the great outdoors.
In 1959, director Richard Fleischer made the first movie based on the Roaring Twenties era Leopold and Loeb murder case in which two rich, brilliant graduate students, both under nineteen, killed a neighborhood boy for kicks, considered a Thrill Kill, and while Orson Welles, playing the defending lawyer in COMPULSION who controls the last act completely, and the more vulnerable of the two killers, Dean Stockwell, had memorable and icon careers before and after, it’s relatively unknown Bradford Dillman, as the more talkative and confident, that really steals the show: here dancing to a 1920’s swing-band right before hearing about the boy’s body being found. And the picture below, he’s quoting one of his old teachers, who called the kids “Spoiled brats,” while throwing red-herring curves to one of several cops, bewildered on the case, going in circles.
In Alexander Payne’s ABOUT SCHMIDT, Jack Nicholson plays the title character, first name Warren, who, like the director’s movie a decade later, THE DESCENDANTS, centers on a man’s life after finding out his dead wife had been cheating (in a coma in that case, dead in this one): A road trip odyssey involving a man in his RV seeing the country, winding up at his banal son-in-law’s family’s house where, in his childhood room that he obviously occupied throughout his teens, and a short while thereafter, there’s a Van Halen poster (or sign) from the David Lee Roth era, 1979 to be exact: the artwork from their second album, Van Halen II…. And the next morning, Jack’s so sore from a waterbed that somebody gets him a doctor, or close: Kathy Bates provides a pain pill that blasts him into orbit so he can make it through the wedding rehearsal: Light up the sky!
From the Wim Wenders classic about Angels haunting West Berlin, WINGS OF DESIRE from 1987… As we center on who will become one of the main characters under angel Bruno Ganz’s watch, a beautiful circus trapeze artist, lost in pallid repose about the show closing down, is nicely interrupted by the sound of a baby elephant alone, preparing for its own little part of the show…