The movies are back. I mean movies on the big screen as certainly every producer imagines them in his or her head rather than on an iPad or even, God forbid, on a phone. The newest huge screens and premium sound systems are surely the best way to deliver today's gorgeous cinematography, which can be an experience in itself regardless of plot, characters or dialogue.
Last month, a friend of mine rented out a theater -- one of many in a multicomplex -- and invited 12 of us to see, "Queen Bees" starring Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margret, Loretta Devine, Jane Curtin and James Caan. We divided the $150 fee so for the reasonable price of $12.50 we had a topnotch viewing experience, including friends in nearby seats so we could laugh, gasp and tear up together.
This movie is a story of aging, apparently inspired by the true story of producer Harrison Powell's grandmother who moved into a senior living complex and found later-life love. The title refers to a clique that would give any high school "mean girls" a run for their money; you can guess what the B stands for.
I found it invigorating to see actresses I had watched for decades advancing into their mature lives alongside me. But the wrinkles! For more than a year I'd been enjoying movies on small screens at home so to see those lovely faces magnified multiple times was a shock. Is there special movie makeup for wrinkled faces, designed to still show the wrinkles but not get stuck in the cracks?
I know the prevailing belief is that men age better than women, but let me just say, if you loved James Caan in his prime -- fantasies about a tryst with Sonny Corleone, anyone? -- then give this movie a skip. But the women were all in great shape, lively and intelligent if becoming a bit forgetful and coping with various health issues.
Speaking of fun things to view, the Olympics are here. I've watched a few events but I wish TV would take a world view of the events rather than focusing on the Americans. I mean I root for the Americans, but the other athletes aren't just there for the Americans to beat.
A highlight last Saturday night was watching 18-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui when he pulled off a surprise upset in the 400-meter freestyle swimming event. He catapulted out of the pool in his joy at winning. I really could not be sorry that he was about a half-second ahead of American Kieran Smith, who took the bronze. Smith was quoted as saying he had not before heard of Hafnaoui, who barely qualified and was in the far lane, but said, "I'm very proud of him." That made me very proud of Smith.
TCM is currently presenting historical films from past Olympics. "The Games of the Vth Olympiad, Stockholm, 1912," a two-hour, 50-minute documentary produced in 2016, has beautifully restored footage showing every detail of the athletes, observers (including King Gustaf in the royal box) and the newly built Stockholm Olympic Stadium. The athletes run, dive, wrestle and otherwise compete to the sound of a snappy piano player.
"The White Stadium (1928)" was thought to be lost until 2011 and was then reconstructed by the International Olympic Committee using original title cards wherever possible. The images in St. Moritz are not just of the athletes but of well-dressed spectators arriving by train, scenes of villagers playing in the snow, and enough lovely winter images to adorn a lifetime of Christmas cards.
The Olympics documentaries include "Visions of Eight," combining footage from eight noted directors documenting the Munich games in 1972, and other films made in 1965, 1973 and 1986.
"16 Days of Glory" captures highlights of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles and runs almost five hours. It is thought-provoking to realize that these athletic youths now qualify to move into the senior residence with Ellen Burstyn and James Caan.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears on the second and fourth Fridays of each month -- and sometimes on the fifth Friday.