A movie fan’s winter favorites

It’s that time of year for lighter and brighter days, a time to be outside for much of our waking hours and maybe even get up early to enjoy the sunrise along with a first cup of coffee.

In the midst of all that, there’s still time to think back several months to what we did when it wasn’t as pleasant to experience nature’s elements. We found ways to bring some spark to a cold, dark landscape.

One of my ways was to venture several blocks across the Redwood River to Marshall’s downtown business district, for one of Hollywood’s latest big screen offerings at Marshall 6.

I made that trek six times altogether this past winter. It was for the most part a random process, based on whatever happened to look interesting and on whether or not I could fit it into my weekend plans. It resulted in an interesting variety of movie entertainment.

Here’s a sampling based on my personal favorites from all six films, strictly from my humble point of view. It doesn’t compare to those of the Academy, but there are just as many interpretations as there are movie fans. Enjoy mine for what they’re worth.

My best actor is Clint Eastwood from “The Mule.” His title portrayal of Korean War veteran Earl Stone caught up in 21st century craziness goes beyond the DJ who played Misty, Dirty Harry, Josey Wales and “right turn Clyde” from two truck-driving adventures. It made my whole week.

He’s one of four that I thought were outstanding. The others were Bryan Cranston of “The Upside” with a portrayal of a wealthy disabled man that was much more cutting edge than “Malcolm in the Middle,” Kevin Hart of “The Upside” who applied his comedian notoriety to a role as a street smart guy with potential, and Liam Neeson of “Cold Pursuit” for his role as a Rambo-like father seeking justice.

Best actress? Nicole Kidman in “The Upside.” Contrary to some reviews, I felt she seemed very much a part of what motivated some critics to label it the comedy hit of the year. She was part of what brought out the best in both Cranston and Hart, definitely providing added depth.

Rebel Wilson of “Isn’t it Romantic” and Anne Hathaway of “Serenity” both also got the most out of their roles. Wilson’s had almost a “can’t miss” Cinderella-like storyline, while Hathaway faced the challenge of playing a “film noir” villainess in a story with an ending that changed the whole context (much like the 1980s dream season of “Dallas”).

My best supporting actor is Tom Jackson who played Chief White Bull in “Cold Pursuit.” His character was on the wrong side of the law even more than Earl Stone, but was created and portrayed to be recognized as a good guy at heart. He cared not just about himself, but also his family and his people. Along with Neeson, he became one of the two final scene survivors.

Len Cariou was also great in “Bumblebee” as junkyard owner Hank, the guy who gives Bumblebee to a teenager yearning for a set of wheels. His short but sweet role had the same flair he showed in the 1960s as a lead actor at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, as the “demon barber” title character in the Broadway musical “Sweeney Todd,” and currently as patriarch Henry Reagan in my favorite network TV show “Blue Bloods.”

For best supporting actress my choice is Dianne Wiest, Earl’s ex-wife Mary in “The Mule.” She was effective as his “better half,” part of what elevated the movie to being more than just plain old good.

Laura Dern had the same kind of success in “Cold Pursuit.” Again a better half, only able to briefly shine in a movie that was first and foremost pure action.

Lastly Best Picture is “Bumblebee” because of how it bridged the wide chasm between prequel (pong video like) simplicity and the kind of complex animation created in 2019.

Bee was another ultimate survivor. Bee seriously rocked and did a lot of other things for better or worse, but all turned out for the best in the end.

There you have it. A winter’s worth of box office favorites.

One of the great things about movies is that, unlike many other expenses in life, their admission price has stayed on par with the minimum wage. About two hours of entertainment for an hour of work at the most. Not a bad deal!

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