So last week brought me two movies that I’ve had recommended to me for over a decade, and somehow have never seen. When it comes to films about the South, they are either offensively simple or attract my affections instantaneously. These two are Southern classics, so glad to finally catch them.
Steel Magnolias (1989) Directed by Hebert Ross, Written by Robert Harling
Starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts & Daryl Hannah
Nominated for 1 Oscar, Best Supporting Actress (Roberts)
The Last Picture Show (1971) Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, Written by Bogdanovich & Larry McMurtry
Starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman & Ellen Burstyn
Won 2 Oscars including Supporting Actor (Johnson) and Supporting Actress (Leachman); Nominated for 6 more including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Bridges), Supporting Actress (Burstyn), Adapted Screenplay & Cinematography
What can one even say about Steel Magnolias? To those of us partial to our southern women. While I know few of them with as many one-liners are these six–something about this film is like instantly going home. Surpassing the humor though is the unrepressed heart of this film. These women who have been poised to take care of each other through marriage, children, and death are a wonderfully simple tribute to the power of friendship. Often the film that has the simplest thing to say delivers it the best. Oscar like his women young, which is why I supposed Julia Roberts walked away with the sole nomination (she DOES drink her juice very well) though I would give best in show to Olympia Dukakis as Clairee. Though Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine would be not far behind.
The Last Picture Show was a genuine masterpiece, it’s like a meditation on nostalgia and small town America. In fact, I’m pretty sure The Tree of Life wanted to have an ounce of truthfulness that this had in spades. I honestly have very little to say about it, my feelings were all visceral and felt in the gut instead of the head, so it’s tough to describe its genius. Just go see it if you haven’t, and then let’s talk.
After my week of this, and discovering during a night of cocktails that a friend hadn’t seen it, I had one of my semi-annual rewatchings of Fried Green Tomatoes, one of my favorite films of all time. Some of my cinephile friends have never understood its inclusion among my very favorites. It’s this: I have seen it easily over 50 times and it never grabs anything less than my absolute undivided attention. I can’t think of another movie that grips by the heart so strongly.