64 posts categorized "Academy Awards"

16 May 2017

You must, you will remember this

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Bottled-up sorrow: Rick (Humphrey Bogart) drowning in despair. (Courtesy: www.google.com)

I don't remember the first time I saw Casablanca, the mesmerizing romantic World War II drama classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, but I remember the best.

It was in the mid-1970s.  If you wanted to see a movie back then you pretty much had to go to a movie house.  There was no Internet.  No cellphones.  No movies on demand on your Wi-Fi-connected TV.  Social media in a time that now seems locked in a galaxy far, far away meant chatting about a movie on the way home.

Continue reading "You must, you will remember this" »

12 April 2017

Cinematic genealogy: Popcorn in the family tree

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Courtesy: google.com

I have very little interest in scampering out and back on every branch of the family tree to discover if I might be a direct descendant of royalty, a great writer from centuries past or, gasp!, rodents (the name Ratliff, you see).  I'm much more interested in getting to the root of my love and appreciation for movies.

It's deep-seated, but where did it come from?

I only have to look back one generation to find out all I need to know.  My mom and dad both loved movies.  I can remember my dad telling the story (over and over, actually) about falling asleep in the Hico (Texas) Theater and waking up in the dark to two startling discoveries:  The movie had ended some time ago and everyone was long gone and that he was locked in.

Continue reading "Cinematic genealogy: Popcorn in the family tree" »

19 March 2017

'Beauty' and the bean counters

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Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast (Dan Stevens) trip the candlelight fantastic. (Courtesy: www.digitalspy.com)

We probably shouldn't scold the Disney Studio or its bean counters too severely for rolling out a live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, the Mouse House's animated golden oldie that swept up a boffo $425 million worldwide in 1991.

Disney has been raiding its own vault of animated treasures for years; Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016) with Dumbo and Mulan on the way next year.  That, folks, is why they call it show business with the emphasis clearly on the second word.

Continue reading "'Beauty' and the bean counters" »

27 February 2017

And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!

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Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty fumble through the not-so-grand Oscar finale. (Courtesy: www.google.com)

See, this is what happens when you trust Bonnie and Clyde to hand out the Best Picture award at the Academy Awards.

The only thing I can think of that would have been more bizarre would be if Warren Beatty, looking totally confused and lost (for good reason, it turns out) had said, "We're Bonnie and Clyde.  We rob ballots!"

In case you missed it, the 89th Academy Awards telecast was putt-putting along fairly smoothly Sunday night until, of all things, the all-important finale.

Continue reading "And the Oscar goes to ... chaos!" »

01 February 2017

Founders keepers? Not so fast McDonald's

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Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc in "The Founder" (Courtesy: IMDB.com)

Do you want lies with that?

You'll get plenty -- supersized, in fact -- in the compelling Ray Kroc biopic The Founder.

Michael Keaton shines as brightly as McDonald's iconic golden arches in this blistering tale of deceit, egomania and franchised burgers.

Let's put it this way.  When it comes to how McDonald's erupted into a worldwide empire from humble beginnings in California, the secrets weren't just in the sauce.

Continue reading "Founders keepers? Not so fast McDonald's" »

28 October 2016

Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest

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"Young @ Heart" (Courtesy: imdb.com)

Remember movies?

You know, the good ones.

The ones that moved you so much that you didn't just suggest to friends and family that they go see them, but the ones so good you actually gathered up a carload and took them to the movie house yourself just to see the look on their faces when something that can only be described as magical unfolded on screen.

Continue reading "Coming attraction: The Movie Memories Film Fest" »

16 September 2016

Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?

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Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in "Bonnie and Clyde." (Courtesy: google.com)

I was honored to speak to a group in Dallas last week about movies shot in and around Dallas.

I always come away from The Movie Memories presentation "Lights, Camera, Dallas!" with the music from Bonnie and Clyde bouncing around in my head.  Arthur Penn's 1967 action-crime thriller showcased Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the notorious outlaw duo that terrorized North Texas and surrounding states in the early 1930s.

Continue reading "Blood, guts and, uh, bluegrass?" »

04 August 2016

Jones: A career reborn in 'Bourne'

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Tommy Lee Jones in "Jason Bourne." (Courtesy: www.google.com)

It's good to see Tommy Lee Jones back on the big screen in a big way in Jason Bourne.

San Antonio's resident Academy Award winner (The Fugitive, 1993) stars opposite Matt Damon's title character as CIA Director Robert Dewey in the fifth installment of the Bourne action-spy-thrillers.

Continue reading "Jones: A career reborn in 'Bourne'" »

01 July 2016

Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers

Yankee330rI make no apologies for star-spangled banter when it comes to Independence Day.

So, proudly fly the U.S. flag, thump an ice-cold watermelon, crank some homemade ice cream and get the family together, it's the Fourth of July weekend, time to celebrate this great country of ours.

Continue reading "Flags of our great grandfathers and grandmothers" »

13 May 2016

Cannes 2016: Woody, could he, did he?

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Kristen Stewart, left, Woody Allen and Blake Lively draw quite a crowd at the Cannes Film Festival. (Courtesy: www.wsfa.com)

After more than 35 years sitting down with world-famous movie actors, you know, cinematic royalty, if you will, people often ask me if I am nervous or awed in their presence.

Absolutely not!  Except twice.

Continue reading "Cannes 2016: Woody, could he, did he?" »

28 March 2016

Screen Gems: All sweaty on the Western front

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Gary Cooper goes it alone in "High Noon." (Courtesy: loopedblog.com)

Have you ever put out the call for a little help and nobody showed up; maybe for a move or some heavy lifting?

Imagine how Gary Cooper's stone-faced Marshal Will Kane felt in the classic 1952 Western High Noon?

Call it the other Kane mutiny in the history of classic movies.

Continue reading "Screen Gems: All sweaty on the Western front" »

12 January 2016

Joy and 'Joy,' my review, to the world

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Jennifer Lawrence takes aim at becoming a successful entrepreneur in "Joy." (Google.com)

A quick note about joy, that inner-tingling feeling of delight, and Joy, the award-winning movie.

It is my pleasure to inform anyone who doesn't already know that The Senior Voice is now a dual North Texas publication serving both Dallas and Fort Worth with separate issues.

That makes the circulation of Carol Butler's soon-to-be-monthly brainchild to bring news, features and other articles of interest to seniors and those who deal with that special section of the population to a whopping 100,000.

It's an exciting new year for Carol and the staff, which includes this semi-humble scribe as the film columnist/critic.

The (soon-to-be) monthly format will allow more access to timely movie releases.  We'll start the film review party with Joy, which earned Jennifer Lawrence, its star, a Golden Globe award as best performance by an actress in a motion picture - comedy or musical Sunday night in Los Angeles.

My review begins thusly:

Watching Joy, the mesmerizing dysfunctional family drama-with-comedy starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper, this thought kept running through my mind:

“Is there anything Jennifer Lawrence can’t do?”

Click here to read my full Joy review.  And, while you're on the Senior Voice website, take a little time to look around at a new major player in North Texas media.

   

04 January 2016

Close encounters of the Vilmos kind

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Courtesy: est.hu

The first time a cinematographer truly rocked my cinematic soul was November 1977.

Steven Spielberg's wonder-filled sci-fi adventure Close Encounters of the Third Kind transfixed many of us to the screen with possibilities that we are not alone in the vastness of space.  John Williams' five-tone symphonic magnificence brought much to the party, of course, as did director Spielberg.

It wasn't until that afternoon at the movies in 1977, however, that I fully appreciated the contribution a gifted cinematographer adds to the movie magic.  I can still remember my insides rattling with the ferocity of those vibrating mailboxes that Richard Dreyfuss, portraying a soon-to-be-befuddled lineman for the county, was experiencing with a mixture of wide-eyed fear and curiosity.

Those unforgettable images in Close Encounters came from the creativity of master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who died January 1 at 85, according to published reports.

The Hungary native hop-scotched in and around San Antonio to shoot Spielberg's breakout film, The Sugarland Express, in 1974.  My Zsigmond favorites, in addition to Close Encounters, include The Deer Hunter (1978), Deliverance (1972) and, especially, The Rose, showcasing Bette Midler channeling Janis Joplin in 1979.

According to Zsigmond's obit posted on the Hollywood Reporter website, the master behind the camera, who took home home his only Academy Award for Close Encounters "was taught in the European style of cinematography with particular appreciation for light gradations and color tone.

"Zsigmond’s work was noted for its use of natural light and often subdued palette, as visible in such films as McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). To attain this look, he utilized a photographic technique known as 'flashing,' exposing the negative to a small amount of light before lensing. The procedure would ultimately mute the colors," the Hollywood Reporter post stated.

Let me just add this.  Vilos Zsigmond shot film, baby, when shooting film -- celluloid, not that digital stuff we see today -- was not only cool, but truly magical.

Rest in peace, Vilmos, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of movie fans around the world will not soon forget your spellbinding contributions to our movie memories.

 

01 December 2015

Lawrence the cinematic conqueror

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Jennifer Lawrence on the run in "Winter's Bone." (Courtesy: outnow.ch)

Would you skin a squirrel in your back yard to land a movie role?

Jennifer Lawrence apparently would and, if an article posted on the Variety website is accurate, did to land the role as a tough Ozark Mountains girl searching for her drug-dealing dad in Winter's Bone (2010).

Lawrence has risen to worldwide fame as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games franchise monster as the fearless bow-and-arrow defender of the common people.  The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay -- Part 2, the fourth and final (so they say) installment in the series, is riding high on the box-office charts.

But where did Lawrence come from?

That might just surprise you.  Aspiring young actresses and actors might be shocked to hear that Ms. Lawrence, a three-time Academy Award nominee and winner for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, never took acting lessons.

"Lawrence had never taken an acting class, but explained how she prepared for the role: 'My brother’s friend came over with a squirrel he’d shot and we skinned it in my backyard.'

"The film earned four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress," the Variety article states.

If you ask me, Lawrence has risen to the top of the fame game because she isn't just a celebrity riding the wave of a huge movie franchise.  She's on top because she's the real deal; an actress with a natural gift and, from all appearances, enough smarts to keep ego and fame in check.

She's also savvy enough to step out of the movie studio tent-pole (mass market appeal) projects to flex her acting skills in less-gadget-driven movies with character depth.  I'm really looking forward to Joy, a based-on-truth drama with comedy starring Lawrence along with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.

Joy director David O. Russell has worked with Lawrence before with tremendous success.  He called the shots on Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle (2013).

As Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, Lawrence takes on something perhaps scarier than the cutthroat competition in the Hunger Games fantasy series.  This time she's fighting against the all-powerful forces of Corporate America.

Joy opens Christmas Day.

  

13 November 2015

Movie magic: A keystone cop-out

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Jack Nicholson and "friend" in "As Good As It Gets"

Thanks to everyone over at Bonaventure Dallas for a memorable Movie Memories evening last night. 

Even though my projector opted to sit down on us a little and offer up only a slightly lopsided image (a keystone issue, according to the unhelpful "help" button), we soldiered on through memories of Hollywood's finest romantic films.

I love performing at the Bonaventure because the audience fills the room with enthusiasm and a willingness to ignore small distractions and get on with the show.

"Hollywood's Great Romantic Scenes" leans heavily on well-known classics like Gone With the Wind, On Golden Pond and West Side Story, of course.  One of the favorite moments for me, however, is the showcase of As Good As It Gets (1997), which resulted in Academy Awards for co-stars Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

Thanks again, Bonaventure folks, It was a memorable Movie Memories evening.

  

22 October 2015

The Oscars: Caught between Rock and a hard place, once again

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Chris Rock hosting the 77th Oscars in 2005. (Courtesy: flavorwire.com)

Nothing against Chris Rock, he's about as sharp and quick as any comedian working today.

But the announcement yesterday that Rock will host the 88th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC Feb. 28 comes as a ho-hum, no big whoop.

Why?  Because it's the 88th year they've been doing this, that's why.  Quick, what's the last thing that inspired goosebumps or made you go "Wheeeeeeee!" the 88th time you did it?

Well, there's that.  But huge bowls of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream don't count.

The Oscars, despite recent attempts to appeal to a younger audience like the 2011 debacle hosted feebly by Anne Hathaway and an extremely detached James Franco, have aged like a stoic, grumpy old grandpa.

And there's this:  The Academy Awards make the huge mistake of being last.  And I don't mean second or third.  I mean the final weak blip on an awards season that begins about six months earlier and drags on and on. 

Need proof?  Well, before the golden statuettes are passed out in late February, the movie industry and keen industry scribes and watchers have already endured the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Directors Guild of America Awards, the Golden Bear Awards (Berlin), the British Academy Film Awards and the Cesar Awards (France).

Let's not forget to mention kudos from local film critics groups from every semi-major city in this fine country of ours and a couple of neighborhood associations thrown in for good measure.

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That's me, right, at the Academy Awards sometime in the past century.

So by the time the Oscars open with a tired fanfare, the winners' speeches are too-well rehearsed, the bloom is off the red carpet arrivals and, let's just go ahead and say it, the tux tails are dragging.

I have much respect for Rock's ability to seize what little energy is likely to still be in the room by the time late February gets here.  He was sharp and way too fast for the dozing audience when the hosted for the first time in 2005.

Maybe, however, it's time to bring in a fresh face, an outside insider, if you will.

Someone like, well, me. 

I can take a selfie with the best of them.

19 October 2015

You want the 'Truth'?

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Robert Redford as Dan Rather in "Truth" (Sony Pictures Classics)

CBS can't handle the "Truth."

In what might very well be a case of reverse benefits, CBS has refused to air commercials for Truth, the dramatic-biography that focuses on Dan Rather's 60 Minutes report on the television network in 2004 that questioned then-President George W. Bush's military service.

The firestorm eventually cost Rather, once a CBS darling, and Mary Mapes, his producer, their careers.

According to a post on the Variety.com website, "The head of the firm handling media buying for the Sony Pictures Classics-distributed movie told the Associated Press that an effort to buy spots in 60 Minutes, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and other programs was turned down by CBS."

Veteran actor Robert Redford, a best director Oscar winner for Ordinary People in 1980, takes on the role of Rather in Truth, while Mapes is portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who took home a best actress Academy Award in 2014 for her fine work in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.

Despite the fact that CBS is quite possibly giving Truth inflated free publicity by refusing to run the movie ads (which would have generated solid income), I suppose the execs in the carpeted offices thought the situation over and decided when it came to Truth, they'd rather (or Rather) not.

 

15 September 2015

From the bottle to the bottom: It's a crying fame

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(Courtesy: MGM)

Susan Hayward had quite a bit to cry about in the 1950s.

She won her only Academy Award (Best Actress) playing a hooker sentenced to the gas chamber for alleged murder in I Want To Live in 1958.

Three years earlier, however, Hayward channeled young Broadway star Lillian Roth, whose serious bumps in the emotional road led her to using the unsteady crutch of alcohol in the grisly biographical-drama I'll Cry Tomorrow.

Hayward was nominated for Best Actress for I'll Cry Tomorrow as well, but lost out to Anna Magnani of The Rose Tattoo (as did Katharine Hepburn for Summertime and Jennifer Jones for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing).

Ms. Hayward may "cry tomorrow" in the powerful drama, but we'll have to wait until Thursday to see her do it.  I'll Cry Tomorrow airs Thursday at 11 p.m. on TCM.

 

Please remember that all times listed in this weekly classic films on TV update are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)  

The theme of serious trouble continues this week with The Asphalt Jungle at 7:15 a.m. Friday on TCM.  Even though Marilyn Monroe gets 11th billing in this one and is featured on the poster, the 1950 heist drama directed by John Huston stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen.

Those looking for something gritty, smart and very well done, but more contemporary, need look no further than Erin Brockovich (2000) and Cinderella Man (2005). 

Both chronicle Hollywood's version of real-life stories.  Julia Roberts took home a Best Actress Academy Award for portraying Brockovich, a legal assistant fighting to protect victims from polluted water (9 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday on AMC), and Russell Crowe got under the tormented skin of world heavyweight boxing champion James BraddockCinderella Man airs Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at noon on the Sundance TV Channel.

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(Courtesy: United Artists)

If I had to pick just one classic movie to see this week, you know as a great escape from reality, it would be The Great Escape.  The 1963 World War II prisoner-of-war drama stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson, just to name a few of the impressive actors at work here.

If it's McQueen, there must be a motorcycle involved.  And as Hilts "The Cooler King," McQueen finds one in this tale that ranks as one of the great war flicks.

The unique thing about The Great Escape (9 p.m. Sunday on MGM HD) is that the first half of this based-on-truth story has a comic theme as POWs work to escape from an "escape proof" camp.  In the final reels, however, the mood turns more serious.

  

01 September 2015

Celebrating Bergman, classic movies

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Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca." (Courtesy: ona.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

Had legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman not died on her 67th birthday (Aug. 29) in 1982, the radiant screen star and three-time Academy Award winner would have turned 100 years old last Saturday.

We noted Bergman's lofty place in Hollywood history Sunday night during my "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" Movie Memories presentation at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas.

Bergman won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).  Since the "Savor Those Tunes" presentation is a focus on the best movie songs in history, we celebrated Bergman's performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), which also happens to be my favorite film of all time.

Bergman, who could shed a tear on screen like no other, commanded the camera and audience attention as she asked Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By "for old times sake."

Thanks to Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator, and all the great folks at Highland Springs for an enchanted evening of Movie Memories.

Harvesting the Fields of classic movie comedy

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(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

Maybe it was the fourth-grade education, or perhaps it was the fact that his alcoholic father allegedly hit young William Claude Dunkenfield over the head with a shovel.  Whatever it was, caustic comedy came flowing out of W.C. Fields with a flourish.

One of our objectives here is to scan the classic movie TV channels early in the week to offer suggestions for viewing or recording what we consider to be the prime offerings.

That's where W.C. Fields comes in.  TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Fields day, if you will, on Friday.  The high jinks begin at 7 p.m. with The Bank Dick, written by Fields (under the nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves) and starring Fields as a henpecked guy who replaces a film director, appears to capture a bank robber and eventually gets hired as a guard at the bank.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

If that's not enough, TCM follows up with It's a Gift (1934) at 8:30 Friday evening and caps off the wacky comedy at 10 with You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), in which Fields shares the screen with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  It's up to you to decide which one is the dummy.

That's just the tip of the classic movies iceberg this week, though.  My favorite Western of all time, John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) fills the screen with a great cast of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Edmond O'Brien at 9 a.m. Saturday on AMC.

Later Saturday, at 7 p.m. on TCM, those in the mood for a little romance can enjoy a tangled web of romance and drama starring Bette Davis as a repressed and depressed woman looking for love in some of the wrong places in Now, Voyager (1942), co-starring Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

If you're like me and you can't pass up a drama featuring the cinematic trifecta of Tennessee Williams (who wrote the stage play), director John Huston and gifted actor Richard Burton, check out The Night of the Iguana, co-starring Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, at 5 p.m. Thursday on TCM.

And, you might want to consider:

  • Dr. No (1962) -- The first in a long line of James Bond action-spy thrillers features a very young Sean Connery as British secret Agent 007.  Ursula Andress provides the eye candy as Honey Ryder.  (3 p.m. Friday on MGM HD)
  • How to Steal a Million (1966) -- Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole join forces in a romantic crime comedy.  (Noon Saturday on the FX Movie Channel)
  • Lars and the Real Girl (2007) -- OK, it's not quite a classic yet, but if you're in the mood for something filled with touching moments with just the right amount of dark, dark, comedy, try this extremely offbeat tale featuring Ryan Gosling as a lonely young man who falls in love with a real doll.  Note:  When I say a real doll, I do mean a real doll.  (4:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD)

If I had to choose just one classic film to see, this week, I would settle in at 10 Friday night on TCM to see the great W.C. Fields do his comic magic in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.  I'm a sucker for the outrageous ping pong match.

   

03 August 2015

(Dan) Rather interesting, this

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Robert Redford, left, portrays Dan Rather in "Truth." (Courtesy: hollywoodreporter.com)

Can you see Robert Redford as Dan Rather?

Let me put that another way.

You can see screen legend Redford as the Houston-born news legend Rather on the big screen as early as Oct. 16, according to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website.

The film, to be released by Sony Pictures Classics, is titled Truth.  According to the Hollywood Reporter post, it "tells of the firestorm that erupted in September of 2004 after Rather reported that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

In addition to the drama starring Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett portrays Mary Mapes, Rather’s producer.  The plot, of course, is driven by the former CBS anchor’s fall from grace.

The plan appears to be a slow roll-out.  Truth will only be told in New York and L.A. at first with other cities to be added later, apparently.

So, as they say, stay tuned.

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