I went ahead and threw some films on the IFC and Sundance channels this time. Just because I don’t get them (yet) doesn’t mean other people don’t, and they show some quality stuff. (Right now, I’m mostly salivating over Sundance’s Live from Abbey Road music series, though…)
Monday, November 3
4:00am EST / 3:00am CST – IFC – Blue Velvet
I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite David Lynch film. Sacrilege, I know. There are a lot of things I like about it. The unsettling take on suburbia, the gorgeously disturbing photography, the kids playing detective, the severed ear, you know, the normal Lynch stuff. But then it just gets to be too cruel for me. Still, it’s a Lynch classic, and you oughta see it once, if only to say you have.
Tuesday, November 4
12:00pm EST / 11:00am CST – TCM – The Desperate Hours
In one of Humphrey Bogart’s last films, he plays the leader of a group of escaped convicts who takes a suburban family hostage in their home to try to preserve their freedom. Fredric March matches Bogart’s intensity as the father of the family. It’s not a total classic, but it’s a solid suspenser. (An earlier reaction is here.)
5:00pm / 4:00pm – TCM – Psycho
Hitchcock’s classic. Do I really need to say more? I didn’t think so.
3:15am / 2:15am (5th) – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Go vote, and then watch Frank Capra’s ode to a simpler, gentler political climate. Idealistic Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is elected to Congress as a bumpkin foil for his co-senator Claude Rains. When Smith decides he really wants to accomplish something instead, he mounts an historic filibuster. And journalist Jean Arthur is right there to capture it all. It’s Capracorn, but it’s quality Capracorn.
Wednesday, November 5
3:00pm / 2:00pm – TCM – Rope
Hitchcock is well-known for his formal experimentation. In Rope, he shoots everything from a single camera position – on top of the chest containing the body of the boy that John Dall and Farley Granger killed before inviting several people over for a party. It’s also meant to appear as one take, though the ten-minute max reel length of the time forced him to fudge a bit on that. The story is based on the Leopold-Loeb murder case, where two young men killed an acquaintance just to see if they could pull it off.
Thursday, November 6
10:00am / 9:00am – Sundance – Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
Sophie Scholl was a German student who, along with her brother and some friends, distributed pamphlets against Hitler during World War II. Not a healthy activity, and the group was captured and interrogated. Even though it’s not difficult to guess the end of the story, Scholl displays such faith and strength against her interrogators that at times she seems infinitely more powerful than they. Great performances and a strong script made this one of the best films of 2005.
2:45pm / 1:45pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
One of the films that defines “screwball comedy,” The Awful Truth follows couple Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as they decide to divorce, then make each other’s lives miserable until they finally decide they can’t live without each other. All in hysterical hilarity. Grant is often remembered as a dapper, suave leading man, but truth be told, he’s much more at home in comedic roles like this one. And Dunne, who often played leads in romantic melodramas, proves herself a gifted comedienne.
5:00am / 4:00am (7th) – TCM – West Side Story
The Leonard Bernstein/Steven Sondheim all-singing, all-dancing, all-street-fighting version of Romeo and Juliet. It’s not perfect (Natalie Wood is gorgeous, but hardly Latin, and Richard Beymer might be made out of wood), yet it has remained near the top of my list of favorite films for years. I’m a sucker for heavily stylized dancing? Guilty. And Rita Moreno and George Chakiris more than make up for the lead actors’ deficiencies.
Friday, November 7
6:30pm / 5:30pm – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Okay, honestly, I have no idea what this film is about. But it is directed by John Cassavetes, one of the first independent filmmakers emerging in the 1960s, and he’s currently on my short list of “people whose films I need to see.” So I thought I’d point it out.
8:30pm / 7:30pm – TCM – Annie Hall
This is usually touted as Woody Allen’s best film. I personally prefer Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen Anne Hall. Maybe this will be the time it finally reveals itself to me as his absolute masterwork. If nothing else, it gave Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn a modern-day masculine-wear counterpart in Diane Keaton’s fashion choices.
11:00pm / 10:00pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the films I’m most embarrassed to say I’ve never seen. I even have it on DVD somewhere! So, yeah, I’ll probably watch that version rather than the TCM one, but still. Here’s your chance to see it before me, if you haven’t already.
1:15am / 12:15am (8th) – TCM – La Jetée
Let’s throw some avant-garde in here, shall we? La Jetée is a short film (28 min.), told in a series of still photographs with narration and sound. I always forget the exact details of the plot, but basically a man is sent back in time to try to stop an apocalyptic war. Instead, he courts a girl and ends up discovering the terrible truth about an event he had witnessed from afar as a child. (The film Twelve Monkeys is based on La Jetée, so if you’ve seen that, there you go.)
Saturday, November 8
4:00pm / 3:00pm – Sundance – Avenue Montaigne
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for an unassuming, heartwarming little French film. Avenue Montaigne fits the bill well, following a waitress working on the titular Parisian avenue (an arty area with art galleries and a concert hall nearby) and the people she interacts with. There’s not a LOT of substance here, but the French can carry these slight things off with a great deal more panache than we Americans can, and Avenue Montaigne is likely to put a smile on your face. (An earlier reaction is here.)
Sunday, November 9
6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Grand Hotel
This 1932 Best Picture Oscar-winner is honestly pretty creaky around the joints these days, but if you wanna see how they used to do ensemble pictures in the studio days, this is it. Greta Garbo, John and Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, etc. are all hand. Personally, as ensemble pictures go, I prefer 1933’s comedy Dinner at Eight, which has largely the same cast, minus Garbo and Crawford, plus Harlow and Marie Dressler. But we’ll get to that when TCM plays it.
10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Preston Sturges’ highly irreverent but hilarious film tells of Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton), who may or may not have married a soldier (whose name may or may not be Ignatz Ratzkywatzky) in a drunken whim before he shipped out, then finds herself pregnant with only her hapless suitor Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) to save her reputation. Sturges uses his zany wit and superb stock cast to great effect, even if I’m in the minority in thinking Miracle a lesser film than his The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels.