Tag Archives: Anatomy of a Murder

Stream It!: Witness for the Prosecution

[Showcasing the best and highlighting the newest additions to the various streaming services, including but not limited to Netflix Instant, HuluPlus, Amazon Prime, and Warner Archive Instant.]

Stream on Netflix: Witness for the Prosecution

si-witness_for_the_prosecutionI really want to start doing these more often, since a ton of great stuff is dropping onto on demand subscription services all the time. This is one that’s actually been on Netflix Instant for quite a while, but it’s a great movie, I’ve got Billy Wilder on the mind right now, and it has a great double feature combination that’s also on Netflix Instant. Win all around.

Witness for the Prosecution is a late film in three acting careers – Charles Laughton, as experienced but physically ailing barrister Sir Wilfred; Tyrone Power (this is his final credited film), as the murder suspect Leonard Vole whom Laughton defends; and Marlene Dietrich, as Power’s beautiful and devoted wife. It may be late in their careers, but they are all at the top of their game, and so is Wilder, delivering a consistently witty and surprising courtroom drama with a dose of mystery. Laughton’s delightful wife Elsa Lanchester also plays his nurse, who emphatically thinks he is not ready to take on a case after recently suffering a heart attack.

Laughton is always great to watch, from his early villain-type roles like Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls and Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty to his imposing girth as King Henry VIII a few times to his witty charm in movies like this one. He’s got a reputation as a scenery-chewer, and that’s not entirely wrong, but he’s one of the absolute best scenery-chewers ever in the movies, and comes across more as a scene-stealer here. Dietrich has her share of meaty roles, but this may be one of her absolute best, as her duplicity (or is it?) comes to light. The script will keep you guessing, all the way up to the delicious ending.

Double Feature: Anatomy of a Murder

si-anatomy_of_a_murder_ver2In some ways, Anatomy of a Murder is a more traditional courtroom drama than Witness for the Prosecution, with more courtroom scenes (and American ones, which feel a bit more familiar to us on this side of the pond) and a battle of lawyers front and center as James Stewart defends and George C. Scott prosecutes a man (Ben Gazzara) claiming a temporary insanity defense for killing a man who allegedly raped his wife (Lee Remick). There’s a mystery at the heart of this one, too, as Stewart digs into the evidence to find out what really happened, but it’s not as whimsical or twisty as Witness for the Prosecution.

In 1959, a film touching on the subject of rape was fairly rare and pretty controversial. Director Otto Preminger was no stranger to controversy, having pushed the limits of the Production Code already, notably in 1953 when his film The Moon is Blue included the word “virgin.” Here Remick’s character is known to be something of a flirt or worse, and Gazzara’s is known to be violent and possessive, which brings his plea of temporary insanity into question. The film is also well-remembered for its brilliant Duke Ellington jazz score (also unusual at the time) and the focus on Stewart as a character rather than simply focusing on the plot. That said, his courtroom scenes opposite Scott are electric.

Besides both being courtroom films about a dubious murder case, the films have another connection in terms of the surprising outcomes of each case – which I obviously can’t talk about in any detail without spoiling stuff. I’ve probably said too much already. Both films are streaming on Netflix for the low low price of “included in your $8 a month subscription,” so just watch them. You’ll have a delightful time.

Film on TV: January 11-17

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Henry V, playing on TCM Saturday at 6:00am.

There haven’t been so many newly featured films to highlight for quite a while as there are this week. Nice to have some new stuff to write up for a change! We have a couple of 1940s British classics in Henry V and Kind Hearts and Coronets on Saturday and Sunday respectively, plus some adaptations of great 19th and 20th century literature – A Streetcar Named Desire on Monday, and The Heiress and Cyrano de Bergerac on Sunday. This is the 1950 version of Cyrano, which I don’t think is quite as good as Gerard Depardieu’s 1990 version, but hey. It’s on right after Steve Martin’s Cyrano-inspired Roxanne, so there’s the fun of comparing and contrasting them. For musical fans, a couple of not-quite-classic but still enjoyable MGM productions: Ziegfeld Follies on Tuesday and Broadway Melody of 1936 on Sunday. And a few more recent offerings are also new to us this week, like Brian DePalma’s Blow Out on Sunday and the more-fun-than-I-expected Go on Monday.

Monday, January 11

8:00pm – IFC – Go
In the first section of this tripartite film, bored grocery store clerk Sarah Polley seizes an opportunity to broker a drug deal when her dealing coworker takes a trip to Vegas. It goes very wrong. Meanwhile, her coworker in Vegas gets mixed up in a murder there. Also meanwhile, two actors work with a narcotics officer to break up the drug ring. All three stories tie up together in the end, but not before a lot of well-constructed Pulp Fiction-esque jumping around. A lot of fun, and better than you might expect.
1999 USA. Director: Doug Liman. Starring: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am)

10:15pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ southern gothic play unleashed Marlon Brando upon the world and served as a strong comeback for Vivien Leigh – all in all, not a bad day’s work.
1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Kim Stanley.

Tuesday, January 12

3:00pm – TCM – Ziegfeld Follies
A plotless film, intended to recreate the revue-style musical show that Ziegfeld was so well known for in the early days of Broadway. Not every segment is worthwhile, but Fred Astaire’s three numbers (one of them with Gene Kelly, the only time they worked together until That’s Entertainment!) are great, and Judy Garland has a fun spot doing a Greer Garson parody.
1946 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Lucille Bremer, William Powell.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, January 13

6:00am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 12:00N)

10:00pm – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.
1939 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.

Thursday, January 14

8:15am – Sundance – Bob le Flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

3:30pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

6:15pm – TCM – While the City Sleeps
The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price’s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile.
1956 United States. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Ida Lupino, George Sanders

8:00pm – 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 – Kill Bill Vol. 1
A lot of people would point to Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best film, and I think Inglourious Basterds is right up there, too, but I vote Kill Bill Vol. 1 for sheer amount of fun. He homages spaghetti westerns, Hong Kong fighting flicks, and revenge-sploitation, and ties it all together with incredible style.
2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.
Must See

10:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill Vol. 2
On the one hand, Kill Bill Vol 1 isn’t quite complete without Kill Bill Vol 2. And there are a lot of good parts in here – the film noirish opening as the Bride catches us up on what’s going on, the fight with Daryl Hannah in the trailer, training with the kung fu master, her getting out of the coffin, etc. But the ending lags a little too much for me to truly say I enjoy watching it as much as Vol. 1.
2004 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.

10:00pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
(repeats at 3:00am on the 15th)

3:00am (15th) – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.

Friday, January 15

9:15pm – IFC – The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

Saturday, January 16

6:00am – TCM – Henry V (1944)
Laurence Olivier’s version of Shakespeare’s historical epic was made during WWII and reflects England’s need of a national hero to look up to – his Henry is the epitome of English goodness and strength, making it interesting to compare this version with Kenneth Branagh’s much more conflicted Henry. Also notable for its art direction, borrowed from medieval illustrations.
1944 UK. Director: Laurence Olivier. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Renee Asherson, Leslie Banks.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Sunday, January 17

6:00am – TCM – Broadway Melody of 1936
MGM made four films under the Broadway Melody title (in 1929, 1935, 1936 and 1940), and this is easily the best – a polished, sparkling show biz tale with the production detail you expect from 1930s MGM. Eleanor Powell can dance up a storm no matter what film she’s in, and this is one of the few she did, honestly, that has any interest outside of her tap numbers.
1935 USA. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Starring: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen.

10:00am – TCM – Kind Hearts and Coronets
In one of the zaniest of the zany comedies that Alec Guinness was best known for in his early career, he plays eight, count ’em, eight characters – all relatives in line to receive a duke’s massive fortune upon his death. The last in line plots to murder all the others to make himself the sole heir.
1949 UK. Director: Robert Hamer. Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price.
Newly Featured!

4:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Blow Out
Sound man John Travolta is recording sound samples one night, and may have accidentally recorded a murder occurring. As he tries to investigate, he’s drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Inspired to some degree by Antonioni’s photography-based Blow-Up, but this is definitely DePalma’s film all the way.
1981 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.
Newly Featured!
(repeats 12:45am on the 18th)

8:00pm – TCM – Roxanne
Steve Martin takes on the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac and his doomed love for the oblivious Roxanne, transposing it into modern times and making it much more consciously comedic.
1987 USA. Director: Fred Schepisi. Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
And here’s a straight version of Cyrano. This time Jose Ferrer (who won an Oscar for the role) plays the title character, a poet marred by the extreme size of his nose, whose love for Roxanne is such that he helps handsome but dull Christian woo her since he thinks she’ll never notice him.
1950 USA. Director: Michael Gordon. Starring: Jose Ferrer, Mala Powers, William Prince.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.

2:15am (18th) – TCM – Wild Strawberries
On his way to accept an honorary degree, elderly medical doctor Victor Sjöström thinks back and re-evaluates his life while being plagued by nightmares. Sounds kinda depressing, but then again, it is Ingmar Bergman. And he has a way of making depressing seem AWESOME.
1957 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Victor Sjöstroöm, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand.

Film on TV: December 28-January 3rd

Renaissance.jpg
Renaissance, playing Monday at 8:25am on IFC

Not too many new ones this week, but still plenty of great films to round out the year, including a marathon of Hitchcock’s best films on TCM on New Year’s Eve, followed by the entire Thin Man series overnight.

Monday, December 28

6:15am – Sundance – Adaptation.
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s follow-up to Being John Malkovich is slightly less bizarre, but still pretty out there – just in a more subtle way. Nicolas Cage plays a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman who’s stuck in his attempt to adapt a bestseller; it doesn’t help when his successful brother (also played by Cage) shows up. The end feels like it’s going off the rails, but that’s all part of the genius.
2002 USA. Director: Spike Jonze. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Chris Cooper.

8:25am – IFC – Renaissance
In near-future Paris, a brilliant young scientist is kidnapped; her employer Avalon (a highly influential company that sells youth and beauty itself) wants her found, but her importance to them may be more sinister than first meets the eye. The story’s not handled perfectly here, but it’s worth watching for the beautifully stark black and white animation.
2006 France. Director: Christian Volckman. Starring (English version): Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 2:05pm)

10:45am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 4:00pm, and 5:05am on the 29th)

Tuesday, December 29

6:50am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 3:45pm)

8:45am – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

12:00N – TCM – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Preston Sturges’ zaniest and most irreverent comedy gives Betty Hutton her best role as Trudy Kockenlocker, who goes out for a night on the town with a group of soldiers about to ship out. A few months later, she finds out she’s pregnant and can only vaguely remember an impromptu wedding ceremony with a soldier who may or may not be named Ratskiwatski. I’m always impressed that Sturges got away with as much as he did in this film in 1944.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest.

8:00pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over.
1954 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint.
Must See

12:00M – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Wednesday, December 30

9:15am – TCM – In a Lonely Place
Simply a brilliant film from director Nicholas Ray – Humphrey Bogart gives probably his best performance as washed-up screenwriter Dixon Steele, who’s trying to make a comeback with a new adaptation. When a coatcheck girl gets murdered after he was the last to see her, he naturally comes under suspicion, but his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi and soon the two begin a relationship which just might save Dix from more than a murder charge – or might not. There’s a raw intensity here that few films have ever matched.
1951 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 1
A lot of people would point to Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best film, and I think Inglourious Basterds is right up there, too, but I vote Kill Bill Vol. 1 for sheer amount of fun. He homages spaghetti westerns, Hong Kong fighting flicks, and revenge-sploitation, and ties it all together with incredible style.
2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.
Must See
(repeats at 2:05am on the 31st)

10:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 2
On the one hand, Kill Bill Vol 1 isn’t quite complete without Kill Bill Vol 2. And there are a lot of good parts in here – the film noirish opening as the Bride catches us up on what’s going on, the fight with Daryl Hannah in the trailer, training with the kung fu master, her getting out of the coffin, etc. But the ending lags a little too much for me to truly say I enjoy watching it as much as Vol. 1.
2004 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.
(repeats at 3:55am on the 31st)

1:30am (31st) – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg is a piece of work, and by that I mean some of the best work Bogart has on film. He’s neurotic, paranoid, and generally mentally unstable. Or is he? That’s the question after first officer Van Johnson relieves him of duty as being unfit to serve and faces charges of mutiny.
1954 USA. Director: Edward Dmytryk. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer.

Thursday, December 31

7:00am – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Hitchcock’s second version of this story (the first was 1934) has Doris Day and James Stewart as a couple who discover an assassination plot and have their son kidnapped to try to keep them quiet. It’s a well-done film and worth watching, though not quite up to many of Hitchcock’s other classics.
1956 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Doris Day, Bernard Miles, Brenda De Banzie.

9:00am – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 4:35pm)

9:15am – TCM – Marnie
Marnie gets something of a bad rap, I think, because it comes right after Hitchcock’s amazing Vertigo-North by Northwest-Psycho-The Birds streak of genius, but I think it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films, despite a few somewhat obvious plot devices and the fact that ‘Tippi’ Hedren can’t act. In some ways, the imperfections in this one are what makes it interesting.
1964 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: ‘Tippi’ Hedren, Sean Connery.

11:30am – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Somewhat lesser-known Hitchcock film that ought to be top-tier. Small-town girl Teresa Wright idolizes her uncle Charlie, but we know that he’s an infamous murderer on the run. Hitchcock once made a distinction between mystery and suspense: mystery is when there’s tension because the audience doesn’t know whodunit, suspense is when there’s tension because the audience does. This film is a perfect example of suspense, and Hitchcock’s preference for telling the audience whodunit very early in the film and letting them squirm.
1942 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten.

12:45pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See

1:30pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with his classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its greatness.
1960 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam.
Must See

3:30pm – TCM – Vertigo
James Stewart is a detective recovering from a vertigo-inducing fall who’s asked by an old friend to help his wife, who has developed strange behavior. Hitchcock plays with doubling, fate, and obsession, all the while creating one of his moodiest and most mesmerizing films. And watch for a great supporting turn by Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s long-suffering best friend.
1958 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
Must See

6:00pm – TCM – Rear Window
Hitchcock, Stewart, and Kelly mix equal parts suspense thriller, murder mystery, romance, voyeristic expose, ethical drama, caustic comedy and cinematographic experiment to create one of the greatest films of all time.
1954 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – The Thin Man
If there’s such a genre as “sophisticated comedy-mystery,” The Thin Man is the apex of it. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in thirteen films together, but never did their chemistry sparkle quite so much as here, in their first of six outings as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. In between cocktails and marital moments, they investigate the disappearance of the titular thin man (later in the series, “thin man” erroneously became associated with Nick). There’s so much to love about this film – the great dialogue, hilarious supporting characters (only a few of which go too far over the top), and honestly, most of all, the amazing portrayal of a solid, loving marriage in the midst of so much chaos.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.
Must See

9:45pm – TCM – After the Thin Man
TCM is playing all of the Thin Man movies today, so keep watching if you’re enjoying them, but this one (second in the series), is the only other one that’s actually worth seeking out. Returning to Nora’s home for a visit, she and Nick find a hubbub surrounding a killed fiance and are pressed into service to find the killer. A young Jimmy Stewart’s on hand, as well.
1936 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi.
Newly Featured!

12:30pm (1st) – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Must See

Friday, January 1

8:30am – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

9:00am – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.
(repeats at 4:30pm)

1:15pm – TCM – The Man From Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

3:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.

10:00pm – TCM – Fahrenheit 451
François Truffaut’s first foray in English-language film was this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, following fireman (that is, book-burner) Montag as he comes into contact with a group of fugitives intent on preserving the knowledge in books even as the government tries to destroy them, and he begins to wonder if perhaps they are right. It’s a great book, and a pretty good film, with Julie Christie in an interestingly-cast double role.
1966 UK. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – IFC – Pulp Fiction
Tarantino’s enormously influential and entertaining film pretty much needs no introduction from me. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta give the performances of their careers, Tarantino’s dialogue is spot-on in its pop-culture-infused wit, and the chronology-shifting, story-hopping editing style has inspired a host of imitators, most nowhere near as good.
1994 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames.
Must See

Saturday, January 2

10:20am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 3:15pm, and 5:40am on the 3rd)

6:30pm – TCM – Old Yeller
One of the great tear-jerker family films, about a family in the old west who adopt a stray dog, growing to love and depend on the animal in the absence of their father (away on a cattle drive). Ah, yes, the good old days, when kids movies weren’t all happy-peppy all the time.
1957 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran.

Sunday, January 3

11:00pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 4:35am on the 4th)

Film on TV: November 2-8

mariamovie.jpg

Nearly everything’s a repeat this week, but many of them haven’t been on for months, so check anyway, there may be something worthwhile. And since there aren’t really that many exciting Newly Featured films this week, let me take the opportunity to plug Maria Full of Grace, which is one of those movies that I recommend to people all the time, whenever I can, as a sort of under the radar film that ought to be far more noticed than it is. It’s playing Sunday the 8th at 4:15pm (on IFC).

Monday, November 2

8:05am – IFC – Three Times
Hsiao-hsien Hou directs this tripartite film – three stories set in three different time periods (1911, 1966, and 2005), each with the same actors, and each depicting a relationship that’s both very specific and individual and also sheds light on the mores of its respective time period. I liked the 1966 story the best, but they were all intriguing, and the contrast between them even more so.
2005 Hong Kong. Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou. Starring: Qi Shu, Chen Chang.
(repeats at 2:00pm, and 5:25am on the 3rd)

12:00N – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
In what is probably Capra’s zaniest, least Capra-corn-esque film, Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster – a perfectly normal man until he discovers that his sweet old maid aunts have accumulated several dead bodies in the basement due to poisoning lonely old men. Add in another nephew who is a serial killer, a quack plastic surgeon, and an uncle who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and Mortimer’s got his hands full trying to keep his family secrets away from the girl he loves. It’s over-the-top, sure, but you gotta love the crazy.
1944 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre.

8:00pm – TCM – Vertigo
James Stewart is a detective recovering from a vertigo-inducing fall who’s asked by an old friend to help his wife, who has developed strange behavior. Hitchcock plays with doubling, fate, and obsession, all the while creating one of his moodiest and most mesmerizing films. And watch for a great supporting turn by Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s long-suffering best friend.
1958 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
Must See

10:15pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all.
1959 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.
Must See

12:45am (3rd) – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

Tuesday, November 3

Catch-up Day!

Wednesday, November 4

6:15pm – Sundance – Bob le flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.
(repeats at 9:10am and 3:45pm on the 5th)

8:00pm – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
Newly featured!

(repeats at 2:00am on the 5th)

12:45am – Sundance – Black Book
Paul Verhoeven invests Black Book with just enough of his signature over-the-top brashness to give the WWII story of a Dutch Jewish woman infiltrating the Gestapo for the Resistance a healthy dose of panache. Every time you think it won’t go the next step, it does, and it’s ravishingly entertaining the whole time.
2006 Netherlands. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman.

2:00am (5th) – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.
1954 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn.

Thursday, November 5

10:00pm – TCM – High Noon
An Oscar-winning performance by Gary Cooper and an early role for Grace Kelly in Fred Zinnemann’s classic cowboy showdown drama. Follow it up with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, something of a response to High Noon, which Hawks disliked.
1952 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado.

Friday, November 6

5:00am – TCM – Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn’s first lead role, and the one that immediately catapulted her into stardom. She’s a princess who runs away to try out being normal, and spends an adventurous day exploring Rome with incognito journalist Gregory Peck. Pretty much delightful right the way through.
1953 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert.

9:15am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 3:00pm)

11:45am – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
1962 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, René Lefèvre.
(repeats at 5:00pm)

4:00pm – TCM – Tarzan, the Ape Man
Get your pre-code action right here, as swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller brings Tarzan to life and Maureen O’Sullivan teaches him the ways of the human world as Jane. Generally, the sequel Tarzan and His Mate is considered the best of the series, but hey. Gotta start somewhere.
1932 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan.

6:15pm – IFC – Pulp Fiction
Tarantino’s enormously influential and entertaining film pretty much needs no introduction from me. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta give the performances of their careers, Tarantino’s dialogue is spot-on in its pop-culture-infused wit, and the chronology-shifting, story-hopping editing style has inspired a host of imitators, most nowhere near as good.
1994 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Saturday, November 7

12:30pm – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Take the Money and Run
An early Woody Allen movie, when he was mostly focused on being funny and absurd, and this film about a set of totally inept bank robbers is both. It’s actually my favorite of the pre-Annie Hall Allen films.
1969 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Janet Margolin.

Sunday, November 8

12:00N – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart inhabits the role of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating one of the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective (vying only with Bogart’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, really). Not mention setting the early benchmark for noir films.
1941 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook Jr, Walter Huston.
Must See

4:15pm – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.

8:15pm – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 9th)

10:00pm – IFC – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 5:30am on the 9th)

Film on TV: October 12-18th

O Brother.jpg
O Brother Where Art Thou, playing on October 15th at 10pm on TCM

Mostly a lot of repeats this week, but a lot of those are extremely good – be sure to check through for anything you might’ve missed in previous weeks. Among the newly featured films, don’t miss Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2 on Monday, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (a film which ought to be better-known than it is) on Tuesday, and The Misfits (the last film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe) on Sunday. Also, TCM’s doing a tribute to the Depression era on Thursday night, showing two of my favorite ’30s throwback films, Paper Moon and O Brother Where Art Thou, as well as They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, which I have yet to see. And TCM’s one notable horror entry of the month is Dreyer’s Vampyr, playing late on Sunday.

Monday, October 12th

7:00am – IFC – Broadway Danny Rose
It’s lesser Woody Allen, but it’s still Woody Allen. Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not very substantial, but enjoyable.
1984 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte.
(repeats at 12:00N and 5:00pm)

8:25am – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
2004 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford.
(repeats at 1:25pm)

1:45pm – TCM – 8 1/2
Federico Fellini translates his creative block in making his next film into a film about a director with a creative block – and in so doing, makes one of the most brilliant and creative films of all time.
1963 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée.
Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 1:45am and 1:45pm on the 13th)

9:45pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 3:35am and 10:15am on the 13th)

Tuesday, October 13th

8:35am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 4:00am on the 14th)

12:00M – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.
Newly Featured!

3:45am (14th) – TCM – Angels with Dirty Faces
One of the classic gangster pictures has James Cagney as a criminal idolized by the youth of Hell’s Kitchen and Pat O’Brien as Cagney’s boyhood buddy who grew up to be a priest. Though the two remain friends, they wind up understandably at odds with each other when O’Brien starts working to clean up the neighborhood.
1938 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: James Cangye, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart.

Wednesday, October 14th

11:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly.
2003 USA. Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis.
(repeats at 4:30pm)

7:40pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator working for the Nazis assigned is to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working for the Resistance – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.

8:00pm – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall

8:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments.
1990 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Albert Finney.

10:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Barton Fink
One of the Coen Brothers’ most brilliant dark comedies (heh, I think I say that about all of their dark comedies, though), Barton Fink follows its title character, a New York playwright whose hit play brings him to the attention of Hollywood, where he goes to work for the movies. And it all goes downhill from there. Surreal, quirky, and offbeat, even among the Coens work. It’s based loosely on the experiences of Clifford Odets, whose heightened poetic style of writing has clearly been influential on the Coens throughout their career.
1991 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 15th)

10:30pm – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it.
2007 Romania. Director: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean.
Must See
(repeats at 4:20am on the 15th)

Thursday, October 15th

2:30pm – TCM – The War of the Worlds (1953)
The post-H.G. Wells, post-Orson Welles, pre-Steven Spielberg version. Mysterious ships land, disintegrate people with their laser beams, and generally wreak havok. The special effects are hokey now, of course, but still pretty cool-looking in a retro way; the really interesting thing is the way Haskin cut in actual newsreel war footage to lend an air of realism in with all of George Pal’s science fiction effects.
1953 USA. Director: Byron Haskin. Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson.

8:00pm – TCM – Paper Moon
Peter Bogdanovich is known for his nostalgic streak, and he’s never worn it more firmly on his sleeve than with this film – a homage both to the 1930s and the films from that time period. Shot in lovely black and white, it follows the exploits of a con man and the young girl he begrudgingly lets accompany him, only to discover that she’s a tremendous asset to his “business.” Real-life father and daughter Ryan and Tatum O’Neal play off each other perfectly (so well on Tatum’s part that at age ten she became the youngest person to ever win an Oscar). There’s not a lot to the story, but Bogdanovich’s loving attention to detail, a strong script and performances, and a scene-stealing turn by Madeline Khan can’t fail to charm.
1973 USA. Director: Peter Bogdanovich. Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeline Khan, John Hillerman, P.J. Johnson.
Must See
Newly Featured!

8:15pm – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.
2006 USA. Director: Goran Dukic. Starring: Patrick Fujit, Shannyn Sossamon, Abraham Benrubi, Will Arnett.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 16th)

10:00pm – TCM – O Brother Where Art Thou
I have great love for nearly all the Coen Brothers films, but O Brother Where Art Thou is the one I keep coming back to again and again. From its brilliant appropriation of The Odyssey to its oddball evocation of the American South, from the sublime to the just plain goofy, from its use of classic cinema tropes to the washed-out color scheme, it’s simply perfect.
2000 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, Holly Hunter, John Goodman.
Must See
Newly Featured

10:30pm – IFC – The Cooler
In this under-the-radar film, William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

Friday, October 16th

5:00pm – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 9:45am and 3:15pm on the 17th)

Saturday, October 17th

4:30pm – Fox Movie Channel – Two for the Road
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and blindsides me with brilliance. Two for the Road is directed by Stanley Donen, best known for lighthearted musicals, comedies, and mysteries. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney; Hepburn at least also best known for lighthearted, whimsical fare. But Two for the Road is one of the most thoughtful and adult films of the 1960s, and I mean that in a good way. It dissects Hepburn’s and Finney’s relationship, cutting back and forth between their meeting, their marriage, and their separation almost as if all three are happening at the same time – every moment of their life together becomes part of who they are and part of the sum of their relationship, and Donen has found the perfect way to depict that.
1967 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney.
Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Eraserhead
David Lynch’s first feature is a weird post-apocalyptic dreamscape of a film – what, you were expecting something normal? When you can have industrial decay and mutant babies?
1977 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart.

2:30am (18th) – TCM – The African Queen
One of several films John Huston and Humphrey Bogart made together pits Bogart against the Amazon river – and straight-laced missionary Katharine Hepburn, who is forced to travel with him to escape Germany enemies. Well, boats are small, and one things leads to another, you know.
1951 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley.

Sunday, October 18th

7:45am – Fox Movie Channel – My Darling Clementine
John Ford’s version of the famous confrontation at the OK Corral actually focuses more on Wyatt Earp’s fictional romance with the fictional Clementine than on the real-life Earp/Clanton feud, but history aside, this is one of the greatest and most poetic westerns on film, proving yet again Ford’s mastery of the genre and of cinema.
1946 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt.
Must See

1:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

4:00pm – TCM – The Misfits
John Huston directs and Arthur Miller writes this final film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. Though the film is remembered for that tragic fact, it’s also a pretty solid film on its own, about a divorcee caught between two rough and ready men of the west (Gable and Montgomery Clift), then opposing them when she discovers their plans for the wild horses in the area. And of course, with Miller behind it, there’s far more going on than just that.
1961 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach.
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6:15pm – TCM – High Sierra
Bogart’s breakout role as an on-the-run con man who gets involved with the lame Joan Leslie. (No, I mean actually crippled.) He’d been bumming around for a few years as a Warner second lead or villain, but with 1941’s double punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, he unequivocally arrived.
1941 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie, Ida Lupino.

10:00pm – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See
(repeats at 5:15am on the 19th)

2:00am (19th) – TCM – Vampyr (1932)
Carl Theodor Dreyer takes on the vampire genre with this moody and imaginative entry. Dreyer and his cinematographer Rudolph Mate are both visual artists of the highest degree, and though I haven’t seen Vampyr yet, it’s one I’ve been anticipating for a long while, so I’m thankful TCM is including it this month.
1932 Germany. Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer. Starring: Julian West, Maurice Schutz, Rena Mandel, Sybille Schmitz.
Newly Featured!