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PIX Flix Spotlight On The Board: Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner

“Now, I have some instructions for you….” DON’T MISS THIS FILM!

I fear I am not a good enough writer to describe the myriad of reasons to come see Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, on February 11 at 6:30 p.m. I also don’t have enough room on the page.

Wikipedia tells us it is a 1967 American comedy-drama, starring film-legends Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy and is one of the few of that time to depict interracial marriage in a positive light. At the time of its release, laws prohibiting interracial marriage had only recently been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frank Rich, in a 2008 New York Times article, noted that “[t]hough the film was a box-office smash and received 10 Oscar nominations, even four decades ago it was widely ridiculed as dated by liberal critics. The hero, played by the first black Hollywood superstar, Sidney Poitier, was seen as too perfect and too ‘white’.” But, according to director Stanley Kramer, the film was intentionally structured to debunk ethnic stereotypes and purposely created idealistically perfect, so that the only possible objection to him would be his race, or the brevity of the 10-day engagement. This factor lends itself to the concerns of both sets of parents: the lack of thought and consideration to what a mix-race marriage would mean.

While a victim of its times, with all the clichés and what some will find politically-incorrect positions, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner transcends the shallow, ridicule-filled approach of today’s films, with a subtle, empathetic and non-judgmental recognition of the very real, and very personal, struggles of all its characters. Though it may have all of the flaws its critics claim, it is still a great film that recognizes that there is always more than a single layer or motivation behind our behavior and portrays this internal deliberation with sensitivity and understanding. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of scenes where blatant racism is called out and ridiculed, not the least of which is Hepburn’s surgeon-like extraction of her snoopy, ill-mannered employee.

For me, the beauty of this film is not the obvious. It is not the crackling dialog addressing the issue of race in a way few movies of its time dared, but rather, it is the study of two mature marriages and the generational conflict of a father and son. Both concepts are portrayed throughout the film, but most beautifully by Beah Richards as she reproaches Spencer Tracy’s character in the most dignified and heartfelt scene in the movie, juxtaposed artfully with Poitier’s angry, yet loving, discussion with his father’s character about their difference in self-image and what it means to him as a man.

In 2017, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” It was the winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar and gave Hepburn her second Oscar for Best Actress. It is the last time Hepburn/Tracy were on screen together and indeed, the last film of Tracy’s career – he died just days after its release and it was questionable he would even complete filming. Hepburn and Tracy may be the main dishes of this fantastic meal, but delicious performances by Poitier, Beah Richards, Isabel Sanford (best known for her role as Weezy in the T.V. sitcom The Jeffersons) and Cecil Kellaway make for a banquet to be savored. Just as a fine chef layers flavor upon flavor to achieve a culinary masterpiece, Kramer and the all-star cast serve up a multi-layered film that makes us not only laugh and cry, but critically consider our biases and relationships.

Will you be coming?!

 

 

Jane Klett

Board Director

 

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PIX Flix Spotlight On The Staff: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

After a run of 694 performances on Broadway during the 1955-1956 season, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof made it to the big screen in 1958, just in time for Elizabeth Taylor to get her second Best Actress Oscar nomination in two years. The film was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and it received five additional Oscar nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Paul Newman); Best Director (Richard Brooks); Best Writing; Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Brooks and James Poe); and Best Cinematography – Color (William Daniels).

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is truly an actor’s movie, and it is one of those rare films where every single actor is perfect.

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor are both brilliant as Brick and Maggie. Not very often is there a screen couple that have the same chemistry together that they do. And those eyes! It is hard to say which of them had the most captivating eyes. Taylor and Newman were more than extraordinarily beautiful. She was an amazing actress, and he is arguably one of the greatest actors of all time. The relationship between Brick and Maggie is fascinating; full of confusion, betrayal, honesty, dishonesty, love, desire, and trust.

As Big Daddy, Burl Ives gives one of the best performances of his exceptional career. Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, and Judith Anderson round out the cast as Gooper, Mae (Sister Woman), and Big Momma, and all deliver performances that are astoundingly memorable.

Tennessee Williams was reportedly unhappy with the screenplay, which removed almost all of the homosexual themes and diminished the original play’s critique of homophobia and sexism. But it is important to remember that the play and the film are two separate entities. The film is an adaptation, and they are not meant to be the same. They should be judged each on their own merit!

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is one of the great pieces of 20th century American literature and cinema. It has some universal lessons we could all profit by in viewing it.

 

 

John Cramer

Managing Artistic Director

PIX Flix Spotlight On The Board: Mr. Holland’s Opus

Next month, on Monday, March 20th, we bring Mr. Holland’s Opus back to the big screen. Friends, bring tissues.

Glenn Holland is a composer who wants to write the great American symphony. Instead he grinds out a career teaching high school music for decades to children of widely varying attitude and aptitude, while fighting his administration for funding and appreciation.

At home he’d love nothing more than to share his love of music with his only child, but tragedy strikes and his son is born deaf. Along with this heartbreak, Holland’s stubbornness causes him to estrange himself from the boy for years.

Michael Kamen was so moved by his experience composing for this movie that afterward he founded the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (www.mhopus.org) to “[keep] music alive in our schools by donating musical instruments to under-funded music programs nationwide.”

Richard Dreyfuss gives us yet another Oscar and Golden Globe nominated performance in this modern family classic, with an ending evocative of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Please join me on Monday, March 20th for the feel-good movie of 1995. I’m not crying – you are!

Penzkover Angela 2012Angela Penzkover

Board President

PIX Flix: Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

“I wouldn’t give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too.” – Jefferson Smith

Waukesha Civic Theatre’s next PIX Flix presentation is Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, starring James Stewart, Claude Rains, and Jean Arthur, and directed by Frank Capra.

“Aah, he’ll never get started. I’ll make public opinion out there within five hours! I’ve done it all my life. I’ll blacken this punk so that he’ll – You leave public opinion to me. Now, Joe, I think you’d better go back into the Senate and keep those Senators lined up.” – Jim Taylor

When it premiered in 1939, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was a widely celebrated, highly controversial film. The story of idealistic everyman Jefferson Smith, who is temporarily appointed to the United States Senate only to find it filled with corruption, has inspired audiences for over seventy-five years.

“You can’t count on people voting, half the time they don’t vote, anyway.” – Senator Joseph Paine

Politics may seem inescapable at times, but this film still speaks to audiences today. Neither the Republican nor Democrat parties are ever mentioned or even hinted at on screen, and at the time of its release, it was both lauded for its patriotism and decried as pro-communist and anti-American. Washington insiders hated it, but fascist states in Europe banned it for fear that it showed that democracy worked.

“This is the most titanic battle of modern times. A David without even a slingshot rises to do battle against the mighty Goliath, the Taylor machine, allegedly crooked inside and out.” – Diz Moore

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, one of the great films of 1939 (a prestigious company that includes classics such as The Wizard Of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips), was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, ultimately winning for Best Original Story. It made the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Movies list, ranking at number 26, and it is widely considered one of Frank Capra’s best films.

“Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust.” – Jefferson Smith

For only $5, join us at 6:30 on Monday, November 7th for this classic American film. And don’t forget to vote!

hopper-meghan-2014Meghan Hopper

Office Manager

PIX Flix Spotlight On The Board: Young Frankenstein

“For what we are about to see next, we must enter quietly into the realm of genius.” – Dr. Frederick Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein is our third PIX Flix in our 60th season! Gene Wilder called this his favorite of all the films he made. Join us as we celebrate his legacy! Get in the Halloween spirit by joining us for this spoof of Mary Shelley’s classic tale on October 10th at 6:30 pm! Tickets are $5 for everyone – you won’t find a better deal than that!

As in all his roles, Gene Wilder lent a certain genius to this film. Playing the grandson of the legendary Dr. Frankenstein, he sets out to explore his grandfather’s castle and writings. While trying to prove that he is not as crazy as people think he is, he discovers the secret to reanimate the dead. What follows is a treat you won’t want to miss!

When Mel Brooks was preparing this film, he found that Ken Strickfaden, who had made the elaborate electrical machinery for the lab sequences in the Universal Frankenstein films, was still alive and in the Los Angeles area. Brooks visited Strickfaden and found that he had saved all the equipment and stored it in his garage. Brooks made a deal to rent the equipment for his film and gave Strickfaden the screen credit he’d deserved, but hadn’t gotten, for the original films. –IMDb

The film has been critically acclaimed. Among other nominations and awards, Young Frankenstein was nominated for two Oscars, a Golden Globe, and a Writers Guild of America Award in 1975. It won a Golden Scroll from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films, USA in 1976. And as of 2016, it’s been inducted into the OFTA Film Hall Of Fame.

For only $5, join us on October 10th to celebrate the legacy of Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, the Halloween season, and our 60th anniversary all at once! See you at the PIX!

danner-jonathan-2010Jonathan Danner

WCT Board Secretary