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Eleanor’s recommendations for ‘stay-at-home’ movies

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window"

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Not surprisingly, staying inside appeals more to some than others.

Still, I was surprised to hear comic John Mulvaney put it so perfectly the other night when he was talking to Stephen Colbert. Basically, those most comfortable with quarantine tend toward the lazy and anti-social.

Not so in the movies, though. Being stuck in one room or one place is usually a sticky wicket of some sort.

Consider these examples:

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”

“Rear Window”: Alfred Hitchcock gives photojournalist Jimmy Stewart a broken leg and places him, well, next to the rear window of his apartment where he passes the time watching his Greenwich Village neighbors. For the most part, they’re an assortment of Village bohemians, mid-‘50’s style. But one bulky guy (Raymond Burr, later TV’s Perry Mason) somehow seems more murderous than madcap.

“The Diary of Anne Frank”: Hidden from the Nazis in a secret apartment, Anne, her family and several assorted friends and acquaintances can’t even risk moving about during the day, lest they be discovered and shipped to the camps. It’s a heartbreaking true story, as popular and well known in its time as “To Kill a Mockingbird” is in ours. Nominated for eight Oscars, it won three.

Poster of “Dirary of Anne Frank” movie

“Misery”: It initially looks like best-selling author James Caan has lucked out when he’s rescued from a bad car wreck by his self-proclaimed “biggest fan,” played by Kathy Bates (who won an Oscar for her performance). But fandom is a, well, funny thing. Or more to the point, not always so funny. Bates’ proprietary interest in Caan takes a dangerous turn. And her isolated, snow-bound cabin makes rescue not so easy.

“Panic Room”: Newly-divorced Jodie Foster and her adolescent daughter (a pre-“Twilight” Kristen Stewart) have just moved into their new Manhattan brownstone when a trio of bad guys – Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto and Dwight Yoakam – break in, looking for a hidden cache of cash. Foster and Stewart lock themselves in a state-of-the-art panic room, but that doesn’t mean the threat goes away. Directed by David Fincher.

“12 Angry Men”: Directed by Sidney Lumet, this is a prime slice of Conscionable White Male Drama (i.e., social context is dated, but intentions aren’t). Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman and Jack Warden are among the dozen sequestered jurors who hold a man’s life in their hands. This was Lumet’s debut. He went on to make such classics as “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Network” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Eleanor Ringel

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


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