Friday, March 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—My Favorite Year (1982) ***

PG, 92 min.
Director: Richard Benjamin
Writers: Norman Steinberg, Dennis Palumbo
Starring: Mark Linn-Baker, Peter O’Toole, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy, Lainie Kazan, Anne De Salvo, Basil Hoffman, Lou Jacobi, Adolph Green, Tony DiBenedetto, George Wyner, Selma Diamond

When I was a kid—long before I had developed my infatuation with cinema—“My Favorite Year” played a for a little while on HBO in one of their endless loops of movies that played over and over. I loved it. I watched this movie just about every time I could catch it. I didn’t know who Peter O’Toole was. I didn’t know anything about those variety television programs of television’s golden era. I hadn’t seen any of the swashbuckling movies that O’Toole’s character was supposed to have been a star of. I didn’t know that 30 Rock was a real place. I didn’t know there was any cultural difference between Jewish people and WASPs like myself, and I certainly didn’t drink. But, for some reason I loved this movie.

Like many of the classic movies this one takes its premise from, this one was obviously made mostly on Hollywood studio lots. It has that wacky feel of an old timey live radio show, but with pictures. O’Toole is as brilliant as ever as an early studio star who has passed his sell by date. Lainie Kazan—whom I would meet later in life—was brilliant as the Jewish mother of the central character, a first year writer on the variety show on which O’Toole’s character appears. I believe she just reprised her role over and over again throughout her career, but she was great at it.

The sequence where O’Toole and the writer ride a horse through central park is a little hokey, but that’s what the movie is. This isn’t going to go down as great cinema, but it’s sweet, innocent, and fun. At the time it was made it was a relic from a bygone age. It’s an age that no film buff should ever forget. The innocent foundation of fun upon which this movie is based is an integral part of what spurned filmmaking to begin with. It’s a world of make believe meshed with the world that really surrounds us. Without that nobody ever would’ve gotten up on a stage or turned a camera on that process.

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