Another week, another bunch of film programming to run down for the Film on TV column on Row Three. Here are my top five picks coming up this week, and of course, you can head over to Row Three for all the rest. A note on these picks – I usually put a “must see” tag on my most recommended films on the post on Row Three. These are not necessarily just those films; these may be absolute must-sees, or they may be things that I think are underseen, or underrated and deserve another look. It’s also not necessarily things that haven’t been featured in the column before. So there’s an arbitrary nature to the picks, but I’ll always put my wholehearted support behind any of the ones I pull out to mention over here.
Monday, March 5 at 8:00pm on IFC
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
Tuesday, March 6 at 11:30am on IFC
Though Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is unconventional, it is a solid and riveting re-interpretation of the giddy but not untroubled courts of Louis XVI and Louis XVII. The use of actors like Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman, who are not known as period actors, as well as anachronistic music, sounds like an ill-conceived attempt to make the story feel contemporary, but it actually works. Coppola took some serious risks with this film, but they paid off beyond all expectation.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne.
(repeats at 8:00pm and 12:45am on the 7th)
A Town Called Panic
Tuesday, March 6 at 7:45am on Sundance
One of the most delightful films I saw in 2009, a whacked out stop-motion film from Belgium that follows Horse, Cowboy, and Indian throughout a series of adventures, mostly focused on trying to rebuild their house which keeps getting stolen every night. This is mile-a-minute absurdity with more inventiveness in 75 minutes than I usually see all year.
2009 Belium. Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar. Starring: Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Pater.
(repeats at 1:00pm)
The Big Sleep
Thursday, March 8 at 11:00am on TCM
One of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
The Razor’s Edge
Saturday, March 10 at 8:00pm on TCM
There’s a lot going on in this film based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, from rich young Tyrone Power heading off to India to “find himself” to the financial troubles facing his socialite ex-girlfriend Gene Tierney and her husband to their rekindled affair when Power returns, but what you’ll mostly remember is Anne Baxter in a deservedly Oscar-winning performance as the former friend whose life has hit rock bottom. It’s one of Baxter’s best roles (Eve Harrington notwithstanding), and it’s worth watching just for her.
1946 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Lucile Watson.