Tag Archives: Arsenic and Old Lace

Film on TV: December 7-13

more-the-merrier.jpg
The More the Merrier, playing on TCM on Thursday, December 10th, at 6pm

After last week’s sparse pair of newly featured films, we’ve got a few more to highlight this week. Jean Arthur costars in a Capra classic in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town on Monday, then moves on to the war-time romance The More the Merrier on Thursday. Quintessential film noir D.O.A. stumbles in on Friday, and of my favorites of this decade, Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 hits the Friday midnight slot. On Saturday, TCM has a pair of 1960s greats, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and The Lion in Winter, then check out the 1925 version of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ on Silent Sunday Nights. Plenty of great stuff we haven’t seen for a while, too, like The Big Heat and The Third Man on Tuesday, and Bergman’s Persona late Friday/early Saturday.

Monday, December 7

6:50am – IFC – Love’s Labour’s Lost
Kenneth Branagh has taken on a lot of Shakespeare plays and usually does them with incredible fidelity (like his uncut, four-plus hour-long Hamlet). This time around, he takes a lesser-known comedy and adds music by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern to turn it into a 1930s style musical. It doesn’t work all the time, but for fans of Shakespeare and old musicals (like me), it’s still a fun watch.
2000 USA. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Alessandro Nivolo, Alicia Silverstone, Natascha McElhone, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Lillard.
(repeats at 12:45pm)

8:30am – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

8:30am – IFC – Bride & Prejudice
Laugh at me if you must for recommending Chadha’s Bollywood-infused version of Pride and Prejudice, but I love it. It’s silly, it’s beautiful, it’s a fun exercise in adaptation of literary classics, and it’s only slightly weighed down by Martin Henderson’s woodenness.
2005 UK. Director: Gurinder Chadha. Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews, Alexis Bledel.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

8:00pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
Must See

9:35pm – TCM – 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.
(repeats at 4:05am on the 8th)

10:00pm – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
One of Frank Capra’s most whimsical films stars Gary Cooper as an unassuming country boy who suddenly inherits a great amount of money. When he decides to give it all away to whoever comes and asks for some, he garners a media frenzy, everyone thinking he’s crazy. Idealistic, warmly funny, and, yes, Capracorny. But as corn goes, it’s among the best. Also, any chance to see Jean Arthur is worth taking.
1936 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Spring Byington.

2:15am (8th) – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
In what is probably Frank 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.

Tuesday, December 8

7:30am – TCM – The Big Heat
Director Fritz Lang came out of the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, so it’s not surprising that he ended up making some of the better noir films, given film noir’s borrowing of Expressionist style. Glenn Ford is a cop working against his corrupt department, but the parts you’ll remember from the film all belong to Gloria Grahame in a supporting role as a beaten-up gangster’s moll. Her performance and Lang’s attention to detail raise the otherwise average story to a new level.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame.

1:00pm – 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

8:00pm – TCM – Radio Days
This essentially plotless Woody Allen film consists of a series of nostalgic vignettes about a 1940s working class New York family. The title comes from their love for the radio, the center of pop culture at the time; the radio also provides the subplot following Mia Farrow as a wanna-be radio singer who gets mixed up with gangsters. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s also pretty enjoyable.
1987 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Julie Kavner, Mia Farrow, Seth Green, Dianne Wiest.
Newly Featured!

1:00am (9th) – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed.
1949 UK/US. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles.
Must See

Wednesday, December 9

11:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 10th)

11:30pm – TCM – They Drive By Night
Humphrey Bogart and George Raft play truck driver brothers, trying to get ahead before they get killed (who knew truck driving was so dangerous?), or, you know, framed into murder plots by Ida Lupino – their boss’s wife who has amorous designs on Raft, despite his much healthier relationship with a young Ann Sheridan. Not a great movie, but a solid example of Warner’s pre-noirish studio style.
1940 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, George Raft, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan.

1:30am (10th) – 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.

Thursday, December 10

6:45am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with Aussie director Peter Weir. His films are almost always slow and methodical, which works for me sometimes and not others. It works in Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of his earlier films, in which a group of schoolgirls goes into the wilderness for a picnic and mysteriously disappear.
1975 Australia. Director: Peter Weir. Starring: Anne-Louise Lambert, Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Karen Robson.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

9:00am – TCM – Brief Encounter
In this quiet little doomed romance, a married woman bored with her dull husband meets a man on a train – and continues to meet him every week, indulging herself in the way he makes her feel, even though she knows it can’t really be. David Lean brings a lushness and depth to this deceptively simple story (by Noel Coward), making into one of the most memorable romances of the 1940s.
1945 UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Cyril Raymond.

6:00pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

4:00am (11th) – TCM – Little Women (1933)
This first sound version of Little Women has a young Katharine Hepburn in the lead, along with a roll-call of great 1930s starlets and character actors. It’s a bit wooden compared to the 1994 version, but it’s got a lot of charm nonetheless.
1933 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Edna May Oliver, Jean Parker, Frances Dee.
Newly Featured!

Friday, December 11

9:00am – 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 2:30pm)

5:15pm – TCM – D.O.A.
A man staggers into a police office to report a murder…his own. He’s been poisoned with an antidote-less poison, and he spends the rest of the film trying to convince the police what’s happened and trying to figure out who poisoned him and why. It’s not my favorite film noir, but it’s unusual premise and solid quality makes it worth watching.
1950 USA. Director: Rudolph Maté. Starring: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – 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
Newly Featured!

3:45am (12th) – TCM – Persona
Of all of Ingmar Bergman’s films, Persona is the one I always come back to. A nurse takes her patient, a former actress who one day simply refused to talk any more, to a lonely island to try to help her recover. They soon engage in a battle of the wills, and their identities start merging. Meanwhile, Bergman interrogates not only the concept of identity within the film, but the apparatus of film itself and its capacity for understanding and communication. There’s more to it every time I watch it.
1966 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Bib Andersson, Liv Ullmann.
Must See

Saturday, December 12

10:00am – 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 3:30pm)

3:15pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

5:30pm – TCM – The Lion in Winter
Katharine Hepburn won her third (of four) Oscars for her role in this film as Plantagenet matriarch Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who probably had more to do with the course of British and European history than most men. The film concerns her, her husband King Henry II of England, and their quarrelsome sons Richard and John (who’d make their fair share of history as King Richard Coeur de Leone and King John, of the Magna Carta) during a particularly tense Christmas reunion. It can be difficult to make medieval-set films seem immediate, but this one does.
1968 UK. Director: Anthony Harvey. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, Jane Merrow.
Newly Featured!

11:00pm – TCM – Father of the Bride
Long before Steve Martin kicked of his nearly twenty-year run of remaking classic comedies with his version of this film, Spencer Tracy was the Father of the Bride, dealing with the difficulty of letting his only daughter, Elizabeth Taylor, go to some other man. I don’t hate the Martin version, but this one is better. The family’s son is played by a young Russ Tamblyn (of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story).
1950 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett, Russ Tamblyn.

11:00pm – TCM – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See

Sunday, December 13

4:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

12:00M – TCM – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ
Everyone knows about Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur. You know, the one that won eleven Oscars, a record which stood for, like, fifty years? This isn’t that one. This is the 1925 silent version of the same story, with pre-talkie hearththrob Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur, and an equally impressive (for its time) chariot race sequence. In some ways, I actually prefer this version to the bombastic 1959 version, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
1925 USA. Director: Fred Niblo. Starring: Ramon Novarro, Francis X. Bushman, May McAvoy, Betty Bronson, Kathleen Key.
Newly Featured!

2:30am (14th) – TCM – Ordet
This one I haven’t seen, but it’s on my list as I work my way toward watching more Carl Theodor Dreyer films. I have to admit that it is work for me; I watched Day of Wrath a couple of years ago and found it rather tedious (I appreciate it more in retrospect). I’m going to tape Ordet and see what happens, but I think I’m more likely to find my Dreyer “aha” moment with Vampyr or The Passion of Joan of Arc. Thoughts, any Dreyer fans?
1955 Denmark. Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer. Starring: Emil Haas Christiansen, Birgitte Federspiel, Sylvia Eckhausen, Ejner Federspiel.
Newly Featured!

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: June 1-7

Persona
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, playing at 12:30am on the 5th on TCM

Turner Classic Movies is apparently highlighting a different Great Director every night in June, showing some of their best movies. That means they are showing a BOATLOAD of great films. I’ve included a tiny intro to each director – note that after the director blurb, all the rest of the films that day on TCM are by that director. There may be films on other channels interspersed, because I’ve kept the times chronological.

All times are Eastern Standard.

Monday, June 1

9:30am – TCM – Love Affair (1939)
This film is not as well known as its remake, 1957’s An Affair to Remember, which has the advantage of having the more famous Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr rather than Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer – who were both huge stars at the time, but are less known now. Both films were directed by Leo McCarey, and tell of a shipboard romance and a fateful rendezvous. I actually like Love Affair a tad better, but that could be just because I like being contrarian.

2:30pm – TCM – Duck Soup
Leo McCarey directs the Marx Brothers in what many think is their best and zaniest film. This is the one with Groucho becoming the dictator of Freedonia and declaring war on nearby Sylvania. Frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont is on board as the wealthy woman who causes the rivalry that leads to the war. Personally, I prefer A Night at the Opera to Duck Soup, but this may be your best bet if the idea of musical interludes from Allan Jones (of which Opera has several) turns you off. Must See

6:15pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
This is one of the definitive screwball comedies (along with Bringing Up Baby), starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple who constantly fight and decide to divorce, only to wind up meddling in each other’s lives (and screw up other relationship attempts) because they just can’t quit each other. Dunne’s impersonation of a Southern belle showgirl is a highlight. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Clerks
Kevin Smith’s first feature, done for cheap, has become a cult classic, and though I think he’s done better films since Clerks, it’s definitely a worthwhile watch.
(repeats at 2:05am on the 2nd)

TCM – Great Director: John Ford
TCM starts off their celebration of great directors with John Ford, usually considered one of the greatest auteurs of the American studio era. He’s best known for westerns (like Stagecoach and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, playing tonight) and war films, but turned out plenty of quality dramas as well (like The Quiet Man). Disappointingly, TCM is not playing The Searchers, arguably his best film. Pick it up on Blu-ray, though – it’s not very expensive and it looks incredible.

10:00pm – TCM – Stagecoach
Major breakthrough for John Wayne, here playing outlaw Cisco Kid – he and the various other people on a stagecoach form a cross-section of old West society that has to learn to get on together to make it to the end of the ride alive. The most memorable, though, is Claire Trevor’s prostitute – a woman who does what she must to survive, and is shunned by everyone except Wayne. Her reaction to him treating her as a lady is perfect. Must See

2:00am (2nd) – TCM – The Quiet Man
John Wayne plays a retired boxer returning to his ancestral home in Ireland, where he meets spitfire Maureen O’Hara and decides to marry her. She’s game, except her somewhat boorish brother Victor McLaglen disapproves and refuses to give up her dowry, and tradition is tradition! A great supporting cast of character actors and an epic (and comic) boxing match round out The Quiet Man into one of the most entertaining and endearing films John Ford ever made. Though I will say the last time I watched it, I was a little more concerned by its gender politics than I had been in the past.

4:15am (2nd) – TCM – She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The first of John Ford’s informal “Cavalry trilogy,” which continued with Fort Apache and Rio Grande – all three films star John Wayne, though they’re unrelated in plot and character. Technically, I guess that makes them both westerns and war films, doesn’t it? Heh.

Tuesday, June 2

12:00N – TCM – Captains Courageous
Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for this film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s adventure story about a spoiled rich kid who falls off a steamship and ends up having to work on a fishing vessel to get home. A young Mickey Rooney plays the ship captain’s rough-and-tumble son.

6:00pm – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
There have been a lot of versions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and this one isn’t considered one of the better ones. It’s interesting to me, though, to contast it to the 1932 version, which won an Oscar for Fredric March. In March’s version, the highly effective transformation into Hyde is done with heaps of makeup that render March unrecognizable. In this 1941 version, Spencer Tracy plays the doctor and his alter-ego, expressing the transformation almost solely through his facial expressions and physical bearing – no change in makeup – and his intensity makes it work.

TCM – Great Director: Frank Capra
Frank Capra is sometimes derided these days for what is seen as over-sentimentalism, dubbed “Capra-corn” in his honor. I think that’s mostly a mistake – his most well-known film It’s a Wonderful Life is extremely dark, and his idealistic heroes and sometimes overly hopeful endings are usually balanced by a cynical character or two that can’t quite be shaken as easily as it seems, or at least a tacit knowledge that the victories won aren’t necessarily for keeps. And for every Capra-corn Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, there’s a zany screwball comedy that reminds us that Capra was an excellent comedic director, whether you buy his idealistic side or not.

8:00pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director (Capra), Screenplay (Robert Riskin), Actor (Clark Gable), and Actress (Claudette Colbert). Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Extremely underrated comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.

11:00pm – Sundance – The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Tommy Lee Jones takes up the directorial reins for the first time with this revisionist western about a rancher whose Mexican right-hand-man dies, his last request being that his body be returned across the border to his family. Thus begins an odyssey that’s more about mood and character than anything else. It’s not wholly even, but Jones has an excellent eye, and this was one of the more surprisingly good films of its year.

12:15am (3rd) – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night, see above, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.

2:30am (3rd) – 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.

Wednesday, June 3

8:10am – 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.
(repeats 2:15pm)

TCM – Great Director: King Vidor
I’ve got to admit I don’t know very much about King Vidor, other than he directed some stuff. Maybe I should watch the documentary about him at 8:00pm, before I move on to his films?

9:00pm – TCM – The Crowd
This silent film has been on my to-watch list for a LONG time, so I’m glad TCM is giving me the opportunity to cross it off. It’s about a young couple moving to the big city, and their struggles against the impersonal, all-consuming nature of the city and the husband’s cog-in-the-wheel job.

10:45pm – TCM – The Champ
Wallace Beery earned an Oscar for his role as a has-been prizefighter, living hand to mouth with his adoring son. But then the boy has a chance to go live with his mother, long-divorced from Beery and now married to a well-to-do man. This is a great example of a high-end Warner Bros. programmer from the early 1930s – it’s very lean, nothing extra in it, but it’s got a heart that I didn’t expect.

Thursday, June 4

6:00pm – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. You do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.

TCM – Great Director: Ingmar Bergman
When Ingmar Bergman died a couple of years ago, floods of blog posts and articles came out, some valorizing his work and mentioning the profound effect his films had on the authors, others positing that he’s overrated and only wanna-be elitists claim to enjoy his films. But whether you love him or hate him, you can’t get around the staying power that images from The Seventh Seal, Persona and others have had. He’s sometimes a difficult director, but I believe the rewards are there.

9:00pm – TCM – The Seventh Seal
A medieval knight has a chess match with Death for the fate of his soul in one of Bergman’s best-known films. It’s not one of my favorites, although I’m probably due for a rewatch. It ought to be seen, but I don’t think it should be the only Bergman people see, nor the first.

10:45pm – TCM – Wild Strawberries
I’m looking forward to catching Wild Strawberries for the first time this week; I’ve got no excuse for not having watched it, other than the plot descriptions I’ve read (from IMDb: “After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.”) don’t sound that interesting. But Bergman’s strength is in mood, so I’m giving that plot the benefit of the doubt.

12:30am (5th) – TCM – Persona
Of all Bergman’s films, Persona is the one I always come back to. A nurse takes her patient, a former actress who one day simply refused to talk any more, to a lonely island to try to help her recover. They soon engage in a battle of the wills, and their identities start merging. Meanwhile, Bergman interrogates not only the concept of identity within the film, but the apparatus of film itself and its capacity for understanding and communication. There’s more to it every time I watch it. Must See

1:30am (5th) – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria and La Strada, two films that Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase in the mid-1950s with Giulietta Masina, always stand out to me almost even more than his more famous, more flamboyant 1960s films like 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. Nights of Cabiria 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. Must See

2:00am (5th) – TCM – Hour of the Wolf
Another Bergman I haven’t seen yet, but am really excited about. From IMDb: “An artist in crisis is haunted by nightmares from the past in Ingmar Bergman’s only horror film, which takes place on a windy island. During ‘the hour of the wolf’ – between midnight and dawn – he tells his wife about his most painful memories.” Everything I have heard about it suggests it’s nice and surreal, and probably an influence on David Lynch. I AM THERE.

Friday, June 5

5:15pm – IFC – Before Sunrise
Though some people think Richard Linklater’s 2004 follow-up Before Sunset is better than this 1995 original, I’m going to disagree, at least until I get the chance to see both together again. 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. Must See
(repeats at 3:45pm on the 6th)

6:00pm – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed. Must See

TCM – Great Director: Steven Spielberg
Spielberg needs no introduction. Interestingly, TCM is only playing one really good Spielberg film – the other ones are, like, 1941. Not sure what’s up with that, unless they had trouble getting rights clearances or maybe just wanted to do some lesser known entries in his catalog.

9:30pm – TCM – Saving Private Ryan
I’m sure most everyone reading this has seen Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg’s take on D-Day and a post-D-Day rescue mission, so I’ll save my breath on it, and just point out when it’s on in case someone wants a rewatch.

3:35am (6th) – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit (Almost Famous) 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.

Saturday, June 6

6:15am – IFC – Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s first foray into overlaid animation is a philosophical dreamscape that’ll either leave you cold or inhabit your thoughts for weeks. It’s the latter for me. Like most of Linklater’s films, it’s largely made up of people talking, but with the added interest of the unique ever-shifting, never-solid animation style (which he’d reuse with a slightly more standard sci-fi story in A Scanner Darkly).
(repeats at 2pm)

TCM – Great Director – William Wyler
William Wyler was one of the most consistently reliable directors in the Hollywood studio system, helming many of the most prestigious studio pictures of the time and guiding Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland, and Audrey Hepburn to Oscars (and winning three of his own in the meantime).

9:30am – TCM – The Little Foxes
Bette Davis is at her most vicious here, as the conniving matriarch who uses her daughter to play upon her estranged husband’s weaknesses in order to carry off a money-making scheme.

11:30am – TCM – Mrs. Miniver
One of the more celebrated World War II home front films has Greer Garson in an Oscar-winning turn as the stalwart title character, holding her home together against the German Blitz. It’s the kind of movie that could only be made in 1942, and it won awards all over the place. It comes off a bit over-earnest today, though.

2:00pm – TCM – Ben-Hur (1959)
The epic of epics. Chariot race and all. Except I’m not really that huge a fan. But it’s epic!

6:00pm – TCM – Jezebel
Bette Davis got one of her Oscars for this film, playing a suspiciously Scarlett O’Hara-like Southern belle the year before Gone With the Wind made it onto the screen.

8:00pm – TCM – The Letter
In this cut-above-average melodrama, Bette Davis shoots a man in self-defense. Or was it self-defense?

9:35pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman takes on Hollywood in this story of a script screener (Tim Robbins) who gets drawn further and further into a web of blackmail and double-crosses when he’s threatened by a screenwriter whose script he rejected. You gotta love it for the virtuosic opening pan at the very least; the rest of the Hollywood insider references are just gravy.
(repeats 3:45am on the 7th)

9:45pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
Not Audrey Hepburn’s first film, as is often thought, but her 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.

Sunday, June 7

8:00am – IFC – Les Diaboliques
In Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller, a man’s wife and mistress plot together to murder him (gee, I wonder why?), but find it more difficult than they expected to get rid of him for good.

TCM – Great Director: Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was a solid workhorse director for Warner Bros. throughout the 1930s and 1940s. However, he tended more toward adventure and genre pictures and thus didn’t get the prestige pictures that, say, William Wyler was known for. That said, I find a lot more enjoyment in most Curtiz pictures than in most Wyler pictures.

8:15am – 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.

10:00am – IFC – The Wages of Fear
Many people think The Wages of Fear is Henri-Georges Clouzot’s finest film. It’s certainly intense, as a group of drifters in South America hoping to earn some money to get home take on the dangerous job of transporting truckloads of nitroglycerin to a burning oil drilling site. Every bump or snag in the road turns deadly – and there are a lot of bumps and snags.

2:00pm – TCM – Dodge City
Dodge City, not a particularly great movie. It’s a fun entry in the group of Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland matchups, as Flynn deals with the outlaw element in the western frontier town of Dodge. The real reason I like it? Fantastic barroom brawl at one point.

4:00pm – TCM – Captain Blood
This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s first of eight films together, and it’s one of the best. Flynn is the eponymous captain, a dentist named Blood who gets captured by pirates and ends up escaping and taking over the pirate ship himself. Full of swashbuckling and derring-do.

6:15pm – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films). I recently splurged on the Blu-ray, and at $13 from Amazon, it’s a total steal. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney won an Oscar putting on his dancing shoes to play song-and-dance man and Broadway composer George M. Cohan in this biopic. Though it seems strange to think of gangster picture regular Cagney in a musical, he actually got his start in show business as a hoofer, and returned to musicals many times throughout his career, though this remains the most notable example.

12:30am (8th) – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.

2:30am (8th) – TCM – Casablanca
Curtiz’s crowing achievement also happens to be one of the best films Hollywood ever turned out. I won’t bother telling you about it, though – I’m sure you’ve all seen it. Must See

Film on TV: January 12-18

Monday, January 12

7:30am / 6:30am – IFC – The Seventh Seal
One of Ingmar Bergman’s better-known films, though I don’t like it as much as some of his others. I guess the image of a medieval knight playing chess with Death is an image that’s hard to get out of your head, though.
(repeats 12:35pm EST)

9:15am / 8:15am – IFC – American Splendor
Paul Giamatti burst on the scene with this film about unconventional comic book artist Harvey Pekar. It’s an appropriately offbeat, funny, cynical, and yet warm film.
(repeats 2:35pm EST)

Tuesday, January 13

2:00am / 1:00am (14th) – TCM – Annie Hall
TCM’s playing this, one of Woody Allen’s best, a lot lately, and that’s not a bad thing. Must See

Wednesday, January 14

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – The Apartment
Also a frequent TCM film, but always worth another look. Tonight it’s part of a Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder marathon. Must See

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
But if you only see one Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder film, see this one. If you only see one Marilyn Monroe film, see this one (or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but I digress). If you only see one Tony Curtis film…you get the idea. Must See

Thursday, January 15

12:30am / 11:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
And if you only see one Billy Wilder film, see THIS one. :) Still one of the most iconic and definitive film noirs ever made (seriously, when people ask you “what is film noir, anyway,” you could almost just say Double Indemnity – almost). Also provides Barbara Stanwyck another chance to be AWESOME. Must See

2:30am / 1:30am (16th) – TCM – Shaft
The original black private eye who got all the ladies. There was a huge wave of African-American-centric films in the 1970s (so-called blaxploitation films), and Shaft is one of the first and one of the best.

4:15am / 3:15am (16th) – TCM – The Big Sleep
I think I’ve already highlighted this one a few times since I started this post series. I don’t care. This is one of my favorite movies, the best hard-boiled detective film ever made, one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, and the best pairing of Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It’s full of win any way you look at it. Must See

Friday, January 16

6:15am / 5:15am – TCM – Thousands Cheer
There’s nothing particularly special about Thousands Cheer, a fairly routine 1943 war-time musical, except that it ends with a spectacular revue of MGM stars including June Allyson, Frank Sinatra (both in probably their first or second screen appearance), Virginia O’Brien, pianist Jose Iturbi, Judy Garland, and the actual stars of the picture, Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson.

6:20am / 5:20am – IFC – Fanny and Alexander
One of Ingmar Bergman’s later films; I haven’t seen it yet, but hopefully this will be the time that my DVR decides not to randomly delete it before I watch it. I know it’s about a couple of kids, which is an unusual subject for Bergman, but I’ve heard so many good things about it I can’t wait.
(repeats 12:25pm EST)

8:30am / 7:30am – TCM – National Velvet
Being as how I grew up loving old movies AND horses, I probably don’t need to state that I pretty much wore out my tape of National Velvet. It’s one of the greatest kid-friendly films in existence, with a young Elizabeth Taylor and an exciting horse race. Ah, good times.

Saturday, January 17

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford in one of those late 1960s revisionist westerns that managed to simultaneously revitalize a genre whose traditional values were out of step with the times and kill the genre for future filmmakers. Well, that aside, Butch Cassidy is a great film any way you cut it.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – 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.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – IFC – Raging Bull
It’s a huge black mark on my cinephile record that I haven’t seen Raging Bull, widely acclaimed as a high point (or maybe THE high point) in the careers of both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Situation will hopefully soon be rectified.
(repeats 1:30am EST and 11:30am EST on the 18th)

Sunday, January 18

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
The Brewster sisters are kindly old ladies – even if they are poisoning lonely old gentleman callers. As an act of kindness! Such is the premise of one of the screwiest of all comedies, which never lets up on the hilarity. Cary Grant turns in one of his most sustained comic performances, and even the usually quite serious Peter Lorre gets in on the fun.

10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – Notorious
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films (and if you know how I feel about Hitchcock, that’s saying a lot), and one of the greatest spy films ever. Spy Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman because of her relationship with suspected enemy spy Claude Rains – but how far is she willing to go? Simply fantastic on every level. Must See

12:35am / 11:35am – TCM – The Cameraman
Buster Keaton works as a cameraman on a film to try to get closer to the attractive leading lady. I’ve seen this years ago, and remember enjoying it quite a lot. Plus, any chance to see Keaton is a chance worth taking.

Film on TV: 24-30 Nov 2008

Monday, November 24

9:00pm EST / 8:00pm CST – IFC – The Proposition
One of the best reviewed westerns in recent memory hails from Australia; the “proposition” is that outlaw Guy Pearce, in order to save himself and his younger brothers from corrupt lawmen, must find and kill his estranged oldest brother. I honestly didn’t like the movie as much as most critics – a bit too realistically violent for me – but it’s been influential already on newer westerns like 3:10 to Yuma. And director John Hillcoat is currently working on the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which should be pretty stark (in a good way), if this film is any indication. (repeats at 1:00am, Tuesday Nov. 24)

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
The last great film for three classic Hollywood actors: Charles Laughton (as a brilliant but ailing laywer), Tyrone Power (as the murder suspect Laughton defends), and Marlene Dietrich (as Power’s wife and the titular witness). Billy Wilder writes and directs this twisty-turny courtroom drama, which is beginning to creak a little more than Wilder’s best, but is still worth it for Laughton and Dietrich’s performances.

Tuesday, November 25

1:15pm / 12:15pm – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
One of the zaniest comedies you’ll ever see has kindly old ladies poisoning lonely men for their own good. When their nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) finds out he tries to get them committed, but even more hijinks are in order when another murdering relative turns up (Raymond Massey, with sidekick Peter Lorre in tow). A change of pace for director Frank Capra, and a good one at that.

Wednesday, November 26

12:00pm / 11:00am – 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.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – West Side Story
Stylized musicals based on Shakespeare for the win!

10:45pm / 9:45pm – TCM – The King and I
I still love Oklahoma! the best of all the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, but The King and I is a really close second. Having Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr around doesn’t hurt.

1:00am / 12:00am (27th) – TCM – My Fair Lady
You oughta see My Fair Lady at least once, so here it is.

Thursday, November 27

6:30am / 5:30am – TCM – That’s Entertainment!
In 1974, MGM celebrated its glorious musical past by producing this compilation film hosted by Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, and others looking back on MGM’s history (specifically musicals) from the advent of sound through the 1950s. It’s a great overview of Hollywood’s golden age, studio-specific as it is, and chock-full of great musical moments. Two years later, That’s Entertainment! Part 2 showed that MGM had more than one feature worth of great moments, and added in some non-musical sections as well.

10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – Guys and Dolls
Damon Runyon’s slice-of-Broadway-life musical comes to film with Marlon Brando as an unlikely musical leading man, but he muscles through, with the help of Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine, who steal the show as a fast-talking gambler and his long-suffering fiancee. Some great tunes, including “Luck Be a Lady,” don’t hurt either.

1:00pm / 12:00pm – Sundance – Monsoon Wedding
A good intro to Indian film (though it’s not really an Indian film) from Mira Nair – she’s got a great visual eye and this is easily her best film.

4:45pm / 3:45pm – TCM – Fiddler on the Roof
A Tzarist-era Russian Jewish village doesn’t seem a particularly likely place to set a musical, but Fiddler on the Roof does a good job of it, exploring the clashing cultures as patriarch Tevye tries to marry his daughters off to good Jewish husbands with decreasing success.

3:15am / 2:15am – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Frank Capra’s Best Picture Oscar winner from 1938 is still a wacky good time, as Jean Arthur’s unconventional family bumps heads with her new boyfriend Jimmy Stewart’s family of conservative bankers. There’s perhaps more fluff than substance here, but that’s not always bad.

Friday, November 28

10:00am / 9:00am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with Aussie director Peter Weir. His films are almost always slow and methodical, which works for me sometimes and not others. It works in Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of his earlier films, in which a group of schoolgirls goes into the wilderness for a picnic and mysteriously disappear. (Repeats at 4:05pm EST.)

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
I used to roll my eyes at the very idea of melodrama. Mildred Pierce is one of the films that changed my mind, and taught me to see value in the melodrama as a legitimate genre. Joan Crawford, despite her star status, isn’t a terribly versatile actress, but Mildred is possibly her most perfectly fitting role – a working class woman who claws her way to prosperity in any way she can, much as Crawford herself had done working her way into the movies in the 1920s. Oh, and there’s murder and evil children and stuff along the way, too.

11:30pm / 10:30pm – TCM – The Misfits
I swear I have seen this, but I couldn’t tell you much about the plot. *sets own DVR* What I can tell you is that this is the last completed film for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and they both go out at the top of their game.

Saturday, November 29

6:15am / 5:15am – IFC – Everyone Says I Love You
Nowhere near Woody Allen’s best, but a sunny fun time nonetheless, with a great cast randomly breaking out into song and dance. I will admit a large soft spot for movies in which people randomly break out into song and dance. Just for the record. (Repeats at 2:45pm EST.)

8:00am / 7:00am – IFC – Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa does Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I haven’t seen this one myself, but it’s got a good rep, and if it’s anything like as good as Ran (his version of King Lear, which is essentially the only version of King Lear I like, including the original play), it’s pretty darn good.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.

Sunday, November 30

10:00am / 9:00am – TCM – Twentieth Century
In one of the films that defines “screwball comedy” (along with The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby), John Barrymore plays a histrionic theatre producer trying to convince his star Carole Lombard to come back to him – both professionally and personally. Lombard is luminous as usual, and Barrymore can chew scenery with the best of them, which is precisely what his role calls for. Howard Hawks directs, yet more proof that the man can do anything.