Based on…

A River Runs Through It: adapted from the story by Norman Maclean by Richard Friedenberg; directed by Robert Redford; starring Craig Sheffer (Norman Maclean), Brad Pitt (Paul Maclean), Tom Skerrit (Reverend Maclean), Brenda Blethyn (Mrs. Maclean), Emily Lloyd (Jessie Burns), and Robert Redford (Narrator) (1992): Winner of the 1992 Oscar for Best Cinematography for Philippe Rousselot, A River Runs Through It reverentially adapts Norman Maclean’s beloved novella/memoir to the big screen. It’s a tale of two brothers, fly-fishing, and a rural world mostly lost today. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the script and the direction by Robert Redford nonetheless keep the small-scale, human story of the Maclean family front and centre amongst the splendour in the grass.

Brad Pitt has never been better than his naturalistic portrayal of cocky, doomed Paul Maclean. Redford’s greatest touch has been with actors, and that’s true here — either this performance should have made Craig Sheffer a star, or Redford got a performance out of Sheffer he could never again approach. Tom Skerrit and Brenda Blethyn are terrific as the Maclean parents, and Englander Emily Lloyd is charming and American as Norman’s love interest. I think this is far and away Redford’s finest film as a totality of direction, cinematography, writing, and acting. Highly recommended.

Somebody Up There Likes Me:  adapted from the book by Rocky Graziano and Rowland Barber by Ernest Lehman; directed by Robert Wise; starring Paul Newman (Rocky), Pier Angeli (Norma), Everett Sloane (Irving Cohen), Eileen Heckart (Ma), Sal Mineo (Romolo) and Harold J. Stone (Nick) (1956): Paul Newman’s first critically acclaimed film has its moments, especially once the story actually gets to the real-life boxer Rocky Graziano’s rise as a boxer. Common for the period, the regional accents are quite broad, including Newman’s. He’d eventually fare better as an actor once people realized that his strengths lay in underplaying a role, and rolling with his own natural charm, preferably without showy accent or dialect work. Nonetheless, the real story of Graziano is a doozy, and increasingly involving as we move towards the climactic title bout. Recommended.

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