Film on TV: April 30-May 6

Monday, April 30

8:00pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge!
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
2001 USA. Director: Baz Lurhmann. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo.

10:45pm – IFC – Night of the Living Dead
Zombie movies can be conveniently subcategorized into pre-Romero and post-Romero, so influential has this film been. Eschewing voodoo and zombie masters, Romero posited a zombie created by our own nuclear follies and motivated by nothing more than insatiable hunger. More than that, the layer of social commentary makes Night of the Living Dead far more than the B-movie schlocker it seems like on the surface. It changed zombie films, and probably horror films in general to an extent, forever.
1968 USA. Director: George A. Romero. Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 1st)

12:45am (1st) – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.)
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.

Tuesday, May 1

6:30am – IFC – Caché
Very deliberate but intensely thought-provoking film from director Michael Haneke, delving into issues from privacy and surveillance to war guilt and revenge. It’s a difficult film, and one that stretches the limits of the suspense thriller, but if you’re willing to go along with it, it’s well worthwhile.
2005 France. Director: Michael Haneke. Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou.
(repeats at 12:30pm)

Wednesday, May 2

9:30am – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 4:15pm)

5:00pm – TCM – My Fair Lady
George Cukor finally won an Oscar in 1964 for this film, a high-quality adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, itself based on the Greek story of Svengali and Trilby. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn acquit themselves well as phonetics professor Henry Higgens and street urchin Eliza Doolittle. I guess I just find it a bit overlong and overproduced, as most 1960s musicals were, but I’m in the minority.
1964 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White.

8:00pm – IFC – The Thin Red Line
Breaking Terrence Malick’s twenty-year filmmaking silence since 1978′s Days of Heaven, this film applies his contemplative and poetic view of the world to a WWII story. It remains a favorite among Malick fans, and an interesting counterpoint to Spielberg’s action-oriented Saving Private Ryan, released the same year.
1998 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 3rd)

8:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.
Must See

9:45pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

11:30pm – TCM – The More the Merrier
A World War II housing shortage has Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur sharing an apartment; soon Coburn is matchmaking for McCrea and Arthur, and we get a wonderful, adorable romance out of it.
1943 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Jane Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn.

Thursday, May 3

9:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.

8:00pm – TCM – In Cold Blood
The film version of Truman Capote’s chilling retelling of the murders committed by Dick Hickcock and Perry Smith, and their subsequent incarceration and trial.
1967 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart.

Friday, May 4

7:45am – TCM – The Ladykillers
One of the most delightful of the Ealing comedies, with Alec Guinness leading a bunch of crooks (including a young Peter Sellers) whose bankrobbing plans get flustered by an unlikely old lady.
1955 UK. Director: Alexander Mackendrick. Starring: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers.
Must See

9:30am – TCM – The Lavender Hill Mob
Alec Guinness leads the Ealing Studios regulars in this delightful heist comedy, one of the greats among a bunch of great late ’40s, early ’50s Ealing films. Also look for a really young Audrey Hepburn in a walk-on (this is her first film, I believe).
1951 UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Marjorie Fielding.

6:00pm – TCM – Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman set upon by a trio of home invaders in search of some smuggled heroin they think ended up hidden at her house – an all-around good little thriller, with a fantastic climactic set-piece.
1967 USA. Director: Terence Young. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

8:00pm – IFC – The Prestige
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up, a wonderfully twisty and evocative period thriller about a pair of stage magicians and their potentially deadly rivalry. Some great ideas elevate this far above what you might expect, and solid performances all around carry it through nicely. Definitely deserves mention among the finest thinking-man’s films of the past decade.
2006 USA. Director: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall.

8:00pm – TCM – The Three Faces of Eve
Joanne Woodward portrays a woman with multiple personalities in an Oscar-winning role; Lee J. Cobb is allowed an uncharacteristically sympathetic role as her doctor (usually he’s the villain, or at least antagonist).
1957 USA. Director: Nunnally Johnson. Starring: Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, David Wayne.

9:45pm – TCM – 12 Angry Men
A brilliant exercise in minimalist filmmaking; after a brief courtroom scene, twelve jurors discuss the fate of a young man accused of murder. What’s assumed to be a cut-and-dried conviction is contested by Henry Fonda, who isn’t convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, and slowly works through the evidence to pull the other jurors one by one to his side. The stifling heat, claustrophobic room, prejudices and preconceptions of the jurors, logic and emotions, everything plays into this film, which is much more engaging than it has any right to be.
1957 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Ed Begley.
Must See

2:00am (5th) – TCM – They Live
3:45am (5th) – TCM – Escape from New York
TCM’s hitting some newer classics, bringing out a pair of John Carpenter favorites. They Live is one I haven’t seen yet, though I really want to, about a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that when worn, reveal that aliens have taken over the world unbeknownst to anyone else. Sounds just crazy enough to be awesome. And of course, Kurt Russell is on hand to save the President when he crash lands in the high security prison of futuristic Manhattan.
1988 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster.
1981 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine.

Newly Featured!

Saturday, May 5

6:00am – TCM – The Thief of Bagdad
An early Michael Powell film (in collaboration with several others), before he teamed up with Emeric Pressburger, but no less an impressive display of stunning Technicolor cinematography on the fantastic Arabian Nights story.
1940 UK. Director: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger. Starring: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez.

6:00am – Sundance – Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s fascination with the duality of nature’s beauty and destructiveness continues into documentary, as he brings the story of grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell to the screen.
2005 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

5:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

8:00pm – IFC – Training Day
A rookie cop heads out with a seasoned detective to learn the ropes, but the experienced cop isn’t exactly on the straight and narrow. Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his portrayal of the volatile detective.
2001 USA. Director: Antoine Fuqua. Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:30pm)

12:00M – TCM – Written on the Wind
Whenever I’m tempted to use the term “melodrama” in a derogatory sense, I stop and remind myself of Douglas Sirk, and especially of this film. Taking lush domestic struggles with soap opera potential and making them into stunning films was Sirk’s specialty, and this is one of his best, chock full of alcoholic husbands, love triangles, nymphomaniacs, and class prejudice, but with a heart and sense of tragedy that turns “melodrama” into a compliment. Add in Sirk’s exquisite eye for composition and a deservedly Oscar-winning supporting turn from Dorothy Malone, and this one isn’t to be missed.
1956 USA. Director: Douglas Sirk. Starring: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith.
Must See

Sunday, May 6

2:00pm – TCM – Jane Eyre
The definitive classic-era version of Bronte’s gothic novel, with a touch of noirish style to add to the overall moodiness. Joan Fontaine isn’t quite plain enough or fiery enough to be believable as Jane, but Orson Welles (only acting here, not directing) is a fairly imposing Rochester. Also be on the lookout for a very young Elizabeth Taylor in one of her first roles as Jane’s childhood friend Helen Burns.
1944 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles, Margaret O’Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, John Sutton, Sara Allgood, Henry Daniell, Agnes Moorehead.

6:00pm – TCM – Marty
Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his role as the schlubby, lonely title character, resigned to being unloved, until he meets a plain schoolteacher whose similar resignedness might make her his perfect match. The idea of having unlovely people in lead roles was a new one in Hollywood in the 1950s, and Marty capitalized on Paddy Chayefsky’s story with great results.
1955 USA. Director: Delbert Mann. Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti.

8:00pm – IFC – Fight Club
This film is so good on so many different levels, it’s difficult to even know where to start. Masculinity, consumerism, terrorism, black comedy, mindbending narrative…yeah, those are not all parallel, making it a poorly-structured list. I don’t really care, you’ve all probably seen this movie before, but here’s a chance to see it again.
1999 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham-Carter.
Must See
(repeats at 11pm)

8:00pm – Sundance – Thank You For Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 1:05am on the 7th)

  • Jonathan A.

    Exactly how I feel about Moulin Rouge! I’ve seen it so many times I think its charm has worn a bit thin, but still a great movie.

    And I have to admit, I’ve never seen Fight Club. Suppose I should rectify that.

    • I happened to catch some of Moulin Rouge last time it was on TV, and found myself sitting and watching just about the whole thing again. Still pretty mesmerizing.

      And yes, you should! Fight Club is pretty awesome.