July and August are big travel times—especially after so many vacations got canceled last year. So this month, Lycoming Critic’s Corner takes up the venerable category “road movies.”
Here are 12 such stories—six+six, in honor of America’s legendary Route 66, from Chicago to L.A.
Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe landed a well-deserved Oscar for his screenplay to this comical charmer about an 11-year-old prodigy who wheedles his way into a writing assignment for Rolling Stone magazine. Said gig has young William traveling round the country with the fictitious rock band Stillwater, pursued by anxious phone calls from his tough-talking mother (Frances McDormand). This acclaimed film co-stars Kate Hudson, Anna Paquin, Billy Crudup and (briefly) Philip Seymour Hoffman; Jimmy Fallon is almost unrecognizable in an early role.
Rated R for language and sexuality.
The accomplished actor-director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man I” and “II,” plus the live-action “Jungle Book” & “Lion King”) doesn’t always write his own films. But he took up the pen for this winsome winner about a talented chef who has a public meltdown and thereafter hits the road in a food truck in order to lie low for a while; and then this trip—from Florida to L.A.—winds up enabling Chef Carl (Favreau) to reconnect with his pre-teen son.
Laced with luscious food footage and a tasty soundtrack, “Chef” is a bona fide crowd-pleaser. Co-starring Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara and in a terrific cameo, Robert Downey Jr.
Rated R for language.
Green Book (2018)
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, this sleeper fires on every cylinder. Loosely based on actual events, it stars Viggo Mortensen as a burly and somewhat bigoted nightclub bouncer hired to drive a black pianist on a concert tour of the American South—in 1962, at the very height of the civil rights era.
Equal parts buddy movie, travelogue, musical tribute, nostalgia piece and indictment of racism, “Book” features an Oscar-winning performance from Mahershala Ali as pianist Don Shirley. (His playing, however, was done by keyboard virtuoso Kris Bowers, whose hands were spliced into Ali’s concert footage.)
Rated PG-13 for racial epithets, some language and mature subject matter.
Harry and Tonto (1974)
After entertaining generations as Ed Norton on TV’s “The Honeymooners,” Art Carney grabbed a late-career Oscar playing Harry Coombes—a role turned down by Cary Grant, James Cagney and Laurence Olivier. Harry’s an aging widower who, forced to vacate his Manhattan apartment, hits the road with his cat, dropping in on his three children and also connecting with a cross-cultural cast of kooky characters.
Directed by Paul Mazursky (“An Unmarried Woman,” “Moscow on the Hudson”), the film is wistful, funny and utterly without an agenda—except to paint a portrait of mid-seventies America … and maybe make us fall in love with Harry too.
Rated R for language, and brief nudity & sexuality.
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