Two awful movies released last week, “Extract” and “All About Steve,” give me an opportunity to discuss one of my favorite topics, character actors. One of the best appears in both of them, the wonderful Beth Grant. Character actors are those people who seem vaguely familiar, but don’t often get mentioned in reviews or photographed on red carpets. They play the family members, best friends, thorns in the side, co-workers, explainers, or, often, the fiances/fiancees who get dumped so that the big romantic arc of the movie can reach a successful conclusion.
Beth Grant works steadily and often plays high-strung, picky types, as in “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Donny Darko.” Her appearances in these two most recent films provide some of the very few bright spots. I especially liked seeing her in “All About Steve” in a less straight-laced role.
Here is one of her most famous scenes, from “Donnie Darko:”
I was lucky enough to meet her at the Critic’s Choice awards in January of 2007. I made a short video of her dancing at the party afterward. She was gracious and completely charming.
So, cheers, Beth Grant! I hope you’re in a better movie next time, but know whether it is as good as “Donnie Darko” or as awful as “All About Steve,” you will never let me down.
Based on the book by based on the book by Mary Norton (also the author of The Borrowers,” Bedknobs and Broomsticks is the story of three Cockney children evacuated from London during WWII, who are placed with Miss Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury), though she is reluctant to take them and insists it can only be temporary.
Miss Price is completing a correspondence course in witchcraft and has reached the level of “apprentice witch,” permitting her to fly on a broomstick. When she takes it out for a spin, the children see her, and, threatening to expose her, persuade her to let them into the magic. She then enchants the bedknob so that when it is twisted, it will take them wherever they want to go. When she receives word that the correspondence course has been canceled, she and the children go off together in search of the teacher, Professor Brown (David Tomlinson). He joins them, as they travel on the bed, first undersea and then to an island in another dimension, where the inhabitants are talking animals. On the island, they find the necklace containing the secret magic words they need for a spell to make intimate objects behave as though they were alive. Home again, they use that spell to fight off Nazi invaders. Afterward, Miss Price retires from witchcraft and Professor Brown joins the army, but it is clear they have become a family.
Many of the people behind “Mary Poppins” worked on this movie. While it does not have the same magic as “Mary Poppins,” there are some delightful moments, especially as Miss Price struggles to master basic witchcraft skills. The animated scenes on the island are done with a great deal of verve and imagination, especially the fast-moving slapstick of a soccer game featuring animal athletes, including an ostrich who sticks his head into the field whenever trouble approaches. The movie is long and episodic, and so lends itself well to viewing in shorter segments for restless younger children.
1. The Magic School Bus Oh, if only every school field trip could be as exciting and informative as the ones the indefatigable Miss Frizzle goes on with her students. From the farthest reaches of the solar system to the smallest cells of the human body, Miss Frizzle and her students take us with them.
2. Miss Nelson Has a Field Day Miss Nelson is a sweet-tempered soul, but when students do not behave, watch out! Miss Viola Swamp is the substitute teacher. Between them, they teach their students many very important lessons.
3. High School Musical Go Wildcats! Jocks and brainiacs find common ground in singing and dancing in these tuneful, irresistibly disarming instant classics from Disney.
4. Lucas Everyone — yes everyone — feels like an insecure outsider at some point in school. I like the way this film shows us from the beginning that while its main character may still be a caterpillar, we know he will be a butterfly long before he does. Great performances by all, including a young Charlie Sheen, and props to the film-makers for staying far away from easy stereotypes.
5. Mad Hot Ballroom A program to teach ballroom dancing to New York City 5th graders in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens sounds like the last thing in the world that would be interesting or relevant to today’s 5th graders. But the beauty of this movie is the way that it shows that grace, dignity, elegance, and pride in mastering a skill are important, thrilling, and transformational.
Mr. Peabody to Appear on Jeopardy! Everyone's favorite educated canine appears tonight on Jeopardy to match his matchless historical knowledge against the contestants. He will be the first dog to host an entire category.
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Tribute: Kevin "Moochie" Corcoran We mourn the loss of actor/producer Kevin Corcoran, a child star in classic Disney movies and then a producer and director.
Kevin was one of several Corcoran siblings to appear on television and in movies in the 1950's-60's. His sister ...
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