I’m a movie guy. For me, cinema is the ultimate archive of humanity’s last gasp…an archive and a mirror, reflecting back to us our best and worst qualities, impulses, desires and proclivities. On a personal level, the films I’ve seen throughout my life are like mileposts, each movie has a connected memory attached to it; the small story of how I came to watch it, what ways it affected me and where I was at that point in time (physically and mentally). For the next 365 days, I am committing myself to see – at least – one film a day, which I will not only review but also diarize my associated thoughts. Why do I choose the movies that I do? How did I feel when I made the selection? Was some sort of anxiety gnawing at my chest? Did I just ingest a poisonous tuna melt from the unreliable diner down my block?

Here are the rules – there are no rules, journalistic or otherwise. The genre/era of film is of no consequence…only the reason why I picked it. It can be something I see in the theatre, but more likely it’ll be a streaming deal. I don’t have cable…so probably a flick off YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, or iTunes.

It’s a grand experiment, to be sure. At the end, I hope to gain some insight into how our daily lives influence the reasons we watch the movies we do, and in turn, how the movies we watch influence our daily lives. I think I’ll call it…shit what do I call it? Daily Movie? Nah…too mundane. My Movie Year? Nope…too…somethingLiving With Movies? Sounds like I’ve got a disease.  Hmmm…how about, 365: A Cinematic Sojourn? Now, that has a bit of class – and alliteration. I think I’ll go with that…for the time being anyway.

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23 June 2017
9:30pm

The day job worked my last nerve…but most people shouldn’t quit them — their day jobs. At least that what they say, anyway. I picked up a ham and American cheese on a roll from the bodega on the corner. Cooling fare for a stifling night. When I came back to my apartment, I realized I’d wanted bologna. Life is a series of small tragedies. Earlier at work, my brother texted to ask whether I remembered this TV-film we saw as children called The Marva Collins Story. Absolutely…Cicely Tyson’s best work in my opinion. I specifically recall loving Morgan Freeman’s performance. So, of course I feel compelled to watch it again to see whether my taste in movies remains the same. Ok…I found it on YouTube…here we go – I’ll see you on the other side.

Review: The Marva Collins Story (1981)

Right off the bat, I’m pleased to report that I found this charming little bio-pic to be as delightful as I remembered. It’s the true story of Marva Collins (Cicely Tyson), an educator of Chicago’s inner city kids with an exceptional talent. Frustrated with the apathy of the teaching and administrative faculty she works with and the bureaucracy of Chicago’s educational system, she sets out to start a school of her own. She’s a remarkable woman, with a hardworking  and supportive husband (Morgan Freeman) and through their sheer determination and spirit, they get her little school – run out of the family home – off the ground. The Westfield Preparatory School. I was right about Freeman, he exudes a warmth and intelligence that stands out from the usual ‘hard-assed, black male stereotypes depicted onscreen at that time. The interactions with his children are especially striking, lovingly kissing his boys goodbye as they set off to school in the morning. It’s powerful to see a strong masculine presence showing that sort of fatherly affection.

Tyson is also excellent, thoroughly losing herself in the role. As a young boy growing up in a school that was run predominantly by women of color, she totally nails it. The dedication and genuine compassion she expresses got to me. There were a few tear-jerking moments, I tell you. The Marva Collins Story is significant as being one of the first biopics of an inner city school…To Sir With Love doesn’t count, as it’s fictional! In my opinion, it holds up nicely against the fantastic Lean On Me and Stand And Deliver. Like both those films, the climax comes with a test her children must pass in order for her struggling little school to get recognition from the State. No surprise, they all do with flying colors.

The children – her students – are adorable, putting in impactful performances, one and all. And the ending is a happy one…just what I needed after a dismal, delving day at the office.

A few observations:

  • Cicely Tyson was 57 at the time (13 years older than Freeman)…she didn’t look a day over 40. What a woman.
  • Reagan wanted to make Marva Collins Secretary of Education, but she turned the offer down to remain teaching…mind blowing, that a Republican president would make such a choice when you think about who the rotting squash in the oval office installed in that position.
  • Man, I miss little TV movies like these. The only thing comparable today is the whitebread, Christian-y dreck they sling over on the Hallmark Channel.

Final verdict: A moving little film with a lot of heart. All performances were exceptional. It was truly a worthy story, beautifully told.

How I feel: Redeemed. I feel reconnected with my inner child. It was a nice trip down memory lane. No work tomorrow…I’m going to be up for a while. Maybe indulge in a scotch and marinate in the Proustian rush.

 

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Lives in Manhattan around the corner from a diner which serves poisonous tuna melts and adequate java. My dissections, commentaries, and occasional rantings have been published by a wide range of online sites, pulpy outposts, and fugitive rags.

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