Tag Archives: Bringing Up Baby

Scorecard: September 2011

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

What. I actually got a monthly recap type post in on time? Even early (which is okay, I’m not planning to watch a movie tonight)! This has never happened, to my remembrance, in the history of my blog. Don’t get used to it, though I’m going to try to stay on task. A decent variety this month. Incidentally, in other postings about the two silent films, people have asked me where they can see them. I wish I had a better answer, but as of right now, both these films can only be seen if a repertory cinema in your area screens them. They’re not on DVD, and both of them are rare enough, I think, that they can’t be found online. I’ll see if I can find out more next time I see the archivists who run The Silent Treatment shows; a web archive of some of these harder-to-find movies would be fantastic, but either the archives that own the prints aren’t interested in doing that or they simply don’t have the funding.

What I Loved

Changing Husbands

I always love the Silent Treatment nights at Cinefamily, where a couple of UCLA and Academy archivists bring in rare silents, but I have to admit (as do they) that a lot of the films are more historically/academically interesting than actually good. But this one is genuinely charming and entertaining, and I pretty much loved every second of it. Leatrice Joy plays two roles – one a bored wife of a rich man who only wants to be a stage actress despite her husband’s wishes to live a quiet life, the other a struggling actress who just wants to be out of the spotlight. Yep, you guessed it, these women meet, realize their resemblance, and switch places – supposedly just for a few days, but the rich husband turns up and takes the actress home for the holidays, never suspecting the switcheroo. Joy does great in both roles, and the two men who confuse the women are charmingly hapless. There’s quite a bit of wonderful innuendo, giving pre-Code fans a lot to enjoy in the film.
1924 USA. Directors: Paul Iribe and Frank Urson (supervised by Cecil B. DeMille). Starring: Leatrice Joy, Victor Varconi, Raymond Griffith.
Seen September 7 at Cinefamily.

Night Train to Munich

A recent addition to the Criterion library, but I recorded it from TCM a few months ago and just now got around to watching it. Well, that’s not QUITE true. I started watching it a while back, but my mood wasn’t right and I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I was missing stuff…so I held off until I could concentrate on it. And I’m really glad I did, because though it’s not a particularly complicated film, it does have a number of plot turns, as befits a WWII spy thriller. Margaret Lockwood’s dad is a Czech scientist who needs to escape before Prague is taken over by the Nazis; he does, but she gets intercepted by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, where she meets Paul Henreid, a freedom fighter who manages to help her escape. But is he what he seems, and what of the dashing British agent played by a very young Rex Harrison? Double-crosses abound, and it all leads to a tense cross-continent train trip where precarious identities may be uncovered at any second, and a final action scene that prefigures whichever Bond film had the gondola setpiece. It starts off a little slow, but man does it pay off by the end, and they know just when to stop it, too. No awkward overlong coda, just DONE. Love it.
1940 UK. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Rex Harrison, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Henreid.
Seen September 19, on TCM (via DVR)

What I Liked

Contagion

I wasn’t too interested in the plot of this film when I first heard about it, but with Soderbergh directing and a cast like THIS? I mean, look at it. Yeah. In an all-too-possible scenario, a deadly virus quickly spreads across the whole world, involving the CDC, the WHO, bloggers and media, ordinary citizens, scientists, government officials, etc. as they try to stop the spread of both the virus and the growing panic of the population. There’s a LOT going on here, and the pace is brisk, but steady. The balance between micro and macro is held quite well throughout, though the connections of the Marion Cotillard story and to some extent the Jude Law story were a bit tenuous. Overall, though, it’s a tremendous achievement of pure craft, and the use of major stars allow quick identification with characters that otherwise have little time to develop. Full review here.
2011 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle.
Seen September 10 at an AMC multiplex.

My Winnipeg

There aren’t any other filmmakers quite like Guy Maddin. Not that I’ve seen anyway. A Canadian filmmaker working somewhere on the fringe of experimental, Maddin uses styles and techniques from early cinema that have all but faded from use by pretty much everybody else. It’s as if in some alternate universe, German Expressionism and Soviet montage live side by side, accompanied by classic Hollywood tinting and iris fades, with voiceovers, dialogue, and title cards all working together for maximum effect. This is one of the more accessible Maddin films I’ve seen, a sort of documentary, sort of memoir, sort of fantasy about his home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating.
2007 Canada. Director: Guy Maddin. Starring: Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage.
Seen September 22 and 23 on Netflix Instant.

Hard Boiled

I’ve been meaning to see this for quite some time, but my desire got stronger after seeing the film name-checked in Matthias Stork’s video on chaos cinema, as a stellar example of action setpieces. He was talking about the final shoot-out, which unfolds in a few very long traveling shots that manage to never lose spatial orientation no matter how hectic the action gets. And that sequence is for sure incredible, the standout in the film. The rest of it is good, too, but I have to admit to zoning out a bit here and there during some of the “plot” parts due to tiredness – thankfully it didn’t seem to matter too much, but I would like to go back sometime and fill in the gaps. It gets a little ridiculous what with the baby and all (pretty sure this was a major influence on the goofy Shoot ‘Em Up), but Chow Yun-Fat is earnest enough in his role to make it work.
1992 Hong Kong. Director: John Woo. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu Wai.
Seen September 2 on DVD.

Falling Down

My boyfriend Jonathan and I have been taking turns showing each other films that mean a lot to us, and this was one of his for me. I’d never ever heard of it before he started talking about it, but since then I’ve come across a lot of other people who think pretty highly of it, too – a good sign that Schumacher can’t be simply written off based on his involvement in Batman & Robin. When he does smaller things or more indie things, he’s got quite a good eye and sensibility. This film has Michael Douglas basically in “I can’t take this anymore” mode as he leaves his car in a huge traffic jam and heads across Los Angeles on foot to see his daughter on her birthday – sounds like a great idea, except his ex-wife has taken out a restraining order against him, our first sign that maybe not all is quite right with Mr. Douglas. It’s kind of fascinating though, how the script and Douglas’s performance paint this character – he’s psychotic to some degree, but at the same time, you kind of totally understand where he’s coming from, and a good bit of the financial angst it is certainly still relevant. And it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t even realize how his actions come across to others – when he invades a pool party with a machine gun he’s picked up along the way, it doesn’t occur to him why the people are scared of him. I didn’t love it as much as Jonathan does, but it’s certainly solid, and I’d rewatch it at some point.
1993 USA. Director: Joel Schumacher. Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall.
Seen September 17 on DVD.

The White Shadow

In a way, it’s tough to review this one, since only three reels of it exist. But on the other hand, it’s not like I’ll ever get to see the rest of it. Unless by some miracle the rest of it pops up somewhere. This film was discovered among the New Zealand Film Archive silents by an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archivist working to catalog the American films being held there. You may recall the big “discovery” of these films a couple of years ago – a lot was made of finding John Ford’s Upstream and some others. More are being identified all the time, and this one turns out to be one of the earliest films Alfred Hitchcock worked on, as assistant director to Graham Cutts. The story involves a pair of sisters played by Betty Compson, one sweet and demure, the other wild and “soulless”. The rather convoluted plot involves mistaken identity, the wild daughter running away, the repentent father trying to find her, and the sweet girl marrying a man who was attracted to the wild daughter and never realized she had a double. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy, and the ending (read to us at the screening by Eva Marie Saint based on the copyright documents, since the last two reels of the film are still lost) sounds even crazier. But the opportunity to see films like this is such a treat – it’s both a saddening reminder of the state of silent film preservation (some 50-80% of all silent films are lost) and a hopeful indication that perhaps some films long thought lost actually do exist somewhere, in some form.
1924 UK. Director: Graham Cutts. Assistant Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Betty Compson.
Seen September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A Foreign Affair

I’m a big fan of Billy Wilder and have seen most of his films, but I put this one off for quite a while because I’d heard mixed things about it, and that’s pretty close to right. Jean Arthur as a stuffed-up congresswoman investigating the unseemly conduct of American servicemen in post-WWII Berlin doesn’t quite fly, and her transformation into someone with actual emotions thanks to the attentions of a not-quite-on-the-level John Lund is a bit unbelievable. I frankly found her character so irritating in the beginning I didn’t care much about the turn, which says a lot, because I LOVE Jean Arthur. That said, all the parts with Marlene Dietrich are ace, especially the two nightclub numbers she does in her inimitable way. Arthur has some good isolated scenes, like when she breaks down telling about a past failed love affair, but they’re not enough. There’s also a Nazi spy subplot that’s intriguing but doesn’t quite go anywhere. When the ending came, it felt pretty opposite what I wanted to happen. Some really good parts, fairly unsatisfying whole.
1948 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Millard Mitchell.
Seen September 26 on TCM (via DVR)

What I Didn’t Like

Stone

I mostly watched this so I could have another film to add to my Milla Jovovich post on Row Three, but I did think I’d like it more than I did. Edward Norton is a guy in jail about to come up for parole, Robert De Niro is the case officer who will decide whether he’s fit to leave or not, and Milla Jovovich is Norton’s wife who tries to get De Niro to look favorably on her husband. Which she does by seducing him. It looks like a cat-and-mouse thriller, but it’s a lot more about De Niro’s own demons and how the situation with Norton and Jovovich affects him. Meanwhile, Norton has a whole religious experience that didn’t work for me at all, and while Jovovich gives a really good performance, I couldn’t ever really grasp her character’s motivations. Plus the whole thing has this dour, broody feel going on – and not in a good way.
2010 USA. Director: John Curran. Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich.
Seen September 5 on Netflix Instant Watch.

Rewatches – Love

Drive

I saw this back at the LA Film Festival (my review) and promptly declared my love for it. I was curious whether a second viewing would diminish my love, as festival screenings carry their own high with them that sometimes fades under normal moviewatching conditions, but no. If anything, I liked it BETTER the second time, because I could just sit back and enjoy the leisurely pacing, the gorgeous cinematography, the bursts of violence, and the whole dreamy/brutal tone of it all without worrying about what I thought about it or what to write about it. It will almost certainly be near the top of my Best of 2011 list.
2011 USA. Director: Nicholas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks.
Second viewing September 17 at an AMC multiplex. First seen June 2011 at the LA Film Festival.

Bringing Up Baby

It’s been a long, long time since I saw this movie, and I was really glad Jonathan picked it out of my collection to watch. It’s still among the zaniest movies ever made, and I can’t help but get caught up in its breakneck pacing. I don’t care if Hepburn’s character is a manipulative, conniving piece of work, or that Grant’s 180 degree turn towards loving her is totally unbelievable. She’s a force of nature in this film, and it somehow seems natural that everything else gets caught up in her wake. And as utter farce, it’s jaw-achingly funny.
1938 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Dame May Whitty, Charlie Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald.
Umpteenth viewing September 25 on DVD. First seen many, many years ago, probably on VHS.

Marie Antoinette

Can I just say how much I love that Jonathan chose this himself as one to watch, because he wanted to get more familiar with Sofia Coppola’s films? I figured he would like it, because its pop-art take on history is a flavor that both of us like, and he did. I did, too…I actually haven’t seen it since it first came out on DVD, so I was glad of the rewatch on it to confirm that it really is as surprisingly good as I thought it was.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn.
Second viewing September 18 on DVD. First seen soon after DVD release on DVD.

Totals:

Films seen for the first time in September: 9
Rewatches in September: 3
Films seen in theatres in September: 4
List of Shame films seen in September: 0
2011 films seen in September: 2 (1 rewatch)
2000s films seen in September: 5 (2 rewatches)
1990s films seen in September: 2
1940s films seen in September: 2
1930s films seen in September: 1 (1 rewatch)
1920s films seen in September: 2
American films seen in September: 8 (3 rewatches)
British films seen in September: 2
Canadian films seen in September: 1
Hong Kong films seen in September: 1

Film on TV: June 8-14

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Singin’ in the Rain, playing Tuesday, June 9th at 12:30am on TCM

This week, TCM continues their celebration of great directors with Stanley Donen, Fred Zinnemann, Preston Sturges, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, and Howard Hawks. They also seem to be doing director mini-marathons for John Huston, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, and Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur, though they aren’t officially in the Great Director series. Whether they should be or not is definitely arguable. And IFC and Sundance have a few gems to throw in, as well.

Monday, June 8

12:45pm – 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).

6:15pm – 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.

Great Directors on TCM: Stanley Donen
Stanley Donen shone at directing flashy musicals and mod comedies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The films he co-directed with Gene Kelly (On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain, see below) stand among the best musicals ever made, and his later films like Charade and Arabesque merged Hitchcockian thrills with 1960s comic panache in a way that no-one else really matched.

9:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location. Must See

9:45pm – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt. Moore plays a 1950s housewife, trapped in her marriage to a man struggling with his own sexual identity (Dennis Quaid), and slowly falling into an affair with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert).
(repeats at 3:30am)

10:45pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).

12:30am (9th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
After On the Town, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly teamed up for what is now usually considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by songs written by MGM producer Arthur Freed at the beginning the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain takes that seismic shift in film history for its setting, focusing on heartthrob screen couple Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the hilarious Jean Hagen) as the transition into sound – problem being that Lamont’s voice, like many actual silent screen stars, doesn’t fit her onscreen persona. Hollywood’s often best when it turns on its own foibles, and this is no exception. Must See

2:30am (9th) – 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.

Tuesday, June 9

6:00am – TCM – I Know Where I’m Going!
This is one of those little films that doesn’t get much press and is very quiet and unassuming, but once you watch it you won’t easily forget it. Wendy Hiller is a confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and where she’s going – that is, to meet her wealthy fiance and marry him on one of the Scottish Hebrides. But when a storm strands her on the way, she finds herself thrown off-course in more ways than one. There’s nothing wasted here, and I Know Where I’m Going! stands as one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning achievements, even if it’s not as well-known as Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes.

1:00pm – TCM – A Matter of Life and Death
An RAP pilot bails out of his crashing plane and survives, even though he was meant to die, due to a mix-up in heaven. He’s granted the chance to plead his case for life in a heavenly trial in Powell & Pressburger’s fantasy drama. I haven’t seen this one, but I have friends who place it among their all-time favorites, so I’m looking forward to it.

5:15pm – TCM – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Another Powell & Pressburger film I haven’t seen, this one follows an idealistic army colonel from the Boer War through WWII, focusing on his romantic pursuits as well as the changes in military strategy and notions of honor. I find WWI films interesting for the juxtaposition of modern warfare with 19th century nobility, and looks like this will draw on that. Plus, really young Deborah Kerr.

6:05pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.

Great Directors on TCM: Fred Zinnemann
I don’t tend to think of Fred Zinnemann when I think of great directors, and I’m sure that’s influenced by my auteurist outlook. Yet I do quite like several of the films he’s directed, such as the ones below.

8:00pm – 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.

9:30pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on). It’s worthwhile just for the surreal dream ballet in the middle.

12:00M – 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.

Wednesday, June 10

6:00am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew‘s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.

7:00am – 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
(repeats at 6:00pm, and 1:00pm on the 13th, and 5:00am on the 14th)

Great Directors on TCM: Preston Sturges
Preston Sturges is responsible, as writer and director, for many of the most insane, provocative, and lasting comedies of the early 1940s. He consistently pushed envelopes, and while some of his films may come across a little shrill today, I still love them to pieces.

8:00pm – TCM – The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck and her father Charles Coburn are cardplayers, cheating cruise ship denizens of their wealth. Millionaire (and snake afficianado) Henry Fonda is a good mark, especially since he’s a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyck’s plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and she’s a delight from start to finish. As she usually is. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion. Must See

12:00M – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.

2:00am (11th) – 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.

Thursday, June 11

7:45am – TCM – The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle was really MGM’s first foray into noirish crime films. Being MGM, it’s more polished and, to me, less interesting than the crime dramas that Warner Bros. and the smaller studios were putting out, but hey. It’s still pretty good. And has a really young Marilyn Monroe.

2:00pm – 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. Must See

3:45pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.

6:00pm – TCM – The African Queen
Yet another team up of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart 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.

Great Directors on TCM : Akira Kurosawa
Between his flawless translations of American genre films (especially crime films and westerns) to Japanese settings both contemporary and medieval, his groundbreaking experiments with cinematic point of view and narrative reliability, and his brilliant juxtapositions of Shakespeare with Japanese tradition, Akira Kurosawa can easily claim to be one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time.

8:00pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai
Probably Kurosawa’s best-known film, The Seven Samurai is an eastern version of a Western, with down-on-their-luck samurai (led by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) working together to help a ravaged village hold off bandit invaders. Completing the cycle of cinematic borrowing, the film was remade in the US as The Magnificent Seven. Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Talk to Her
Talk to Her is one of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s finest and most moving works, drawing heavily on the passion of bullfighting and dancing. Marco and Benigno develop a friendship as they care two women in comas – Marco’s girlfriend Lydia, a bullfighter gored in the ring, and nurse Benigno’s patient Alicia, whom he has fallen in love with. There’s a touch of the bizarre, as there always is in Almodóvar, but the film is richly rewarding in mood and vision.

Friday, June 12

12:30pm – TCM – Out of the Past
Out of the Past comes up in most conversations about film noir. It’s got all the elements: low-key lighting (due in this case to budgetary concerns), an existential anti-hero (Robert Mitchum), a femme fatale (Jane Greer), etc. It’s honestly not my favorite noir, but it’s a good one to see once.

2:00pm – 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.

5:15pm – TCM – I Walked With a Zombie
Or, Jane Eyre in the West Indies. In Val Lewton’s moody little fantastic horror flick, mousy nurse Betsy goes to the Caribbean to care for afflicted Jessica, the wife of an important plantation owner. Turns out her affliction is due to zombification, a curse of the voodoo-practicing natives. Certainly the acting and script are nothing special here, but the noirish cinematography and direction by Jacques Tourneur as well as producer Lewton’s peculiarly literary sensibility certainly are.

6:30pm – TCM – Cat People
Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur team up for this suggestive horror film, tapping into Eastern European legends of women who turn into cats to protect themselves against oppressive male attention. Highly creepy while showing almost nothing – and I happen to quite like that in a film.

Great Directors on TCM: Woody Allen
Woody Allen is one of the most prolific writer/directors currently working, having turned out a new film nearly every year since the early 1970s. He’s gone through several creative phases, gained and lost popularity, been in and out of the tabloids, etc etc ad nauseum. But when he’s on, he manages to create films that are by turn watchably philosophical, absurdly hilarious, movingly emotional, cinematically and personally nostalgic, and caustically witty. TCM’s hitting almost every base with the films they’ve chosen – throw in Crimes and Misdemeanors and it’d be perfect.

9:45pm – TCM – Broadway Danny Rose
In this lesser Woody Allen film, 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 only does Danny worry about the tenor’s wife, he also gets himself in trouble with the woman’s family.

11:15pm – TCM – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall and even Manhattan, both of which I love, 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. Must See

1:15am (13th) – TCM – The Purple Rose of Cairo
A love letter to cinema, The Purple Rose of Cairo has Woody Allen at his most romantic. Unhappy housewife Cecilia (Mia Farrow) escapes to the cinema to see The Purple Rose of Cairo again and again, where she fantasizes over hunky character Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Much to her surprise (and the other characters’ consternation), Baxter steps off the screen to join her. It makes it even more complicated when Gil, the actor who played Baxter, turns up as well.

2:45am (13th) – TCM – Interiors
In case anyone doubted Woody Allen’s admiration for Ingmar Bergman, he made this film to prove it. Interiors is about the best imitation of a Bergman chamber drama you could ask for, down to the spare set design, strained family relations, and a climax involving an angry sea. Still, it is also very much Allen’s film – his first straight drama – focusing on deeply neurotic, introspective characters unable to get outside their own heads for long enough to form really true relationships.

4:30am (13th) – 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.

Saturday, June 13

Great Directors on TCM: Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder had an incredible ability to make definitive films in most genres – screwball comedy, film noir, socially conscious drama, bittersweet comedy-drama. Rarely are his films bad; most of the time they’re brilliant.

8:30am – TCM – The Apartment
Wilder had a knack for combining comedy and drama into bittersweet goodness, and that’s exactly what he does here, garnering Oscars for Picture, Director, and Screenplay in the process. Jack Lemmon lends his apartment to his boss Fred MacMurray for romantic trysts – a situation that gets even more complicated when MacMurray trysts with Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon happens to love from afar. Everything comes together perfectly in this film, one of Wilder’s best. MUST SEE

3:30pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 14th)

10:15pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Quite probably the most definitive film noir film in existence (vying only with The Big Sleep in my head, anyway) has insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) being seduced by bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and convinced by her to help murder her husband for the insurance money. Wilder’s crackling dialogue and Stanwyck’s perfectly tuned mixture of calculation and innocence can hardly be beat. Must See

12:15am (14th) – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond and actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit. Must See

Sunday, June 14

Great Directors on TCM: Howard Hawks
Even more so than Wilder, Howard Hawks genre-shifted with ease, including westerns and musicals along with comedies, action films, noir and drama. Yet they all somehow bore his stamp, making him one of the first directors given auteur status by the French film critics who coined the term. (I tend to have more difficulty finding his stamp than I do with, say, Hitchcock – someday I’m going to a specifically auterist study of Hawks so I can write about him more knowledgably. For now I only know that I usually like most everything he did.)

9:30am – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for this film, portraying pacifist-turned-WWI hero Alvin C. York. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually seen it all the way through, so I don’t have much more to offer about it.

12:00N – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Poor Cary Grant just can’t get away from delightfully ditzy Katharine Hepburn, especially after her dog steals his museum’s priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and after her pet leopard escapes (and a dangerous zoo leopard escapes at the same time). Incredible situation follows incredible situation in this screwiest of all screwball comedies. Must See

2:00pm – 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.

4:00pm – TCM – His Girl Friday
This is a remake of a 1931 film called The Front Page about newspaper buddies who go after a major story – Hawks took it to a whole new level by turning one of the men into a woman, and setting reporters Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as a former couple, now divorced who can’t seem to stay apart, either personally or professionally. The dialogue is a stroke of genius, as well, overlapping in a maelstrom of words that’s overwhelming and delightful all at the same time. I call this one of the greatest American films ever made. Must See

6:00pm – TCM – Ball of Fire
Hawks tries to recapture a little bit of Bringing Up Baby in this tale of a showgirl (Barbara Stanwyck, who’s trying to recapture a bit of The Lady Eve) who ends up among a bunch of stuffy professors, including Gary Cooper. Ball of Fire isn’t as memorable as either of those other films, but it has its own charm, and it’s certainly worth a watch.

8:00pm – TCM – To Have and Have Not
It’s said that this film came about because Howard Hawks bet Earnest Hemingway that he (Hawks) could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst book. Of course, to do that, Hawks ended up basically changing the story entirely, but hey. It’s the thought that counts. It’s honestly mostly notable for being Lauren Bacall’s first film, the one where she met Humphrey Bogart, and the one that spawned the immortal “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve” bit of dialogue. That one scene? Worth the whole film.

10:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
Only one of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl. Must See

12:00M – TCM – Only Angels Have Wings
I’ve never gotten into Only Angels Have Wings as much as I have into other Hawks’ films – why I don’t know. It has elements I like – Cary Grant as a daring pilot making dangerous cargo runs in exotic locales, Jean Arthur in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn, and a sighting of a young Rita Hayworth. Just doesn’t seem to come together in a memorable whole for me.

Film on TV: May 11-17

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The Third Man, playing on TCM, May 15th at 10:45am

As always, if I didn’t write anything for a film, it’s usually because I’ve pitched it in earlier posts. Use the tags at the bottom to find earlier posts regarding the same film if you so desire.

Monday, May 11th

4:15am (12th) – TCM – Network
Newscaster Peter Finch is as mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore. To see why, watch this incendiary unmasking of the ruthless world of network television. And this was 1976. Think what it’s like now!

Tuesday, May 12th

6:30am – TCM – Little Women (1933)
Katharine Hepburn is Jo March in this early adaptation of Alcott’s classic novel. There’s a bit of creak to this one, but Hepburn is luminous. I grew up with this one, so I have a special place in my heart for it, as well.

9:45am – TCM – Holiday
Kate Hepburn teams up with Cary Grant for their second film (TCM is playing all their pairings except the first, Sylvia Scarlet, for some reason) – this is the same year as Bringing Up Baby and has been overshadowed by it, but Holiday is also well worth a look.

11:30am – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Must See

1:15pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Hepburn here 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.
Must See

5:30pm – TCM – The Lion in Winter

Wednesday, May 13th

10:45am – TCM – I Know Where I’m Going!
This is one of those films you probably haven’t heard of, doesn’t get much press, is very quiet and unassuming, but once you watch it you won’t easily forget it. Wendy Hiller is a confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and where she’s going – that is, to meet her wealthy fiance and marry him on one of the Scottish Hebrides. But when a storm strands her on the way, she finds herself thrown off-course in more ways than one. There’s nothing wasted here, and I Know Where I’m Going! stands as one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning achievements, even if it’s not as well-known as Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes.

5:45pm – TCM – I Could Go On Singing
I haven’t actually seen this one, but it’s Judy Garland’s final film. So there’s that. Also, TCM is apparently doing a series of films today that start with “I” – which is just an interesting approach to programming. :)

Thursday, May 14th

5:00am – TCM – Dinner At Eight

7:00am – TCM – Remember the Night
Not a great film, this one, but it has Barbara Stanwyck, who always managed to transcend her material and make whatever she was in worth watching. This is no exception.

8:45am – TCM – The Letter
Bette Davis shoots a man on her front porch. But…is it self-defense? Murder? Something else? Classic melodrama on display here.

12:45pm – TCM – Anna Christie
Garbo Talks. And thus, silent screen superstar Greta Garbo leapt into the sound era. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen this one, either. But it has the tagline Garbo Talks. I have to work that in.)

5:45pm – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film every made. :) Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written. It’s tremendous fun every time I see it. And I’ve seen it like ten or fifteen times.
Must See

10:00pm – IFC – Blue Velvet
(repeats at 3:15am on the 15th)

Friday, May 15th

7:15am – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Must See

9:25am – IFC – Primer
(repeats at 2:35pm)

10:45am – TCM – The Third Man
Carol Reed directs Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in a Graham Greene script with a film noir style that seems to point directly toward European filmmaking styles of the 1950s and 1960s. Can’t be beat, I tell you. Can’t.
Must See

9:30pm – 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, but it definitely brought new life to the Western genre – maybe it’s finally due to recover in the 2000s?
(repeats at 3:00am on the 16th)

Saturday, May 16th

6:00am – TCM – Murder!
Best.Title.Ever for a Hitchcock film, right down to the included exclamation point. :) It’s an early Hitchcock, one of his first sound pictures.

Sunday, May 17th

9:45am – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt.
(repeats at 2:15pm)

11:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
Must See

6:00pm – TCM – In the Heat of the Night
Northern police officer Sidney Poitier is brought in to aid racist small-town cop Rod Steiger. It’s 1967. You think sparks aren’t gonna fly from that? Come on. Steiger won an Oscar.

Film on TV: 19-25 January

It has come to my attention that the movie channels don’t tend to delay programming for the west coast; I somehow always assumed all stations did that, which was why I was giving EST and CST (figuring MST and PST would be the same as EST), but I suppose when there’s no specific primetime programming there’s no real need. So I’m just going to put up the EST start time from now on; subtract one, two, or three hours depending on where you are, and double-checking the listings for your time zone wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Monday, January 19

Ha, this was today. There wasn’t anything on. It’s nice for me how the networks keep scheduling nothing good on Mondays so I can be lazy Sunday afternoons.

Tuesday, January 20

9:45am EST – IFC – The Cat’s Meow
Slight but enjoyable Peter Bogdanovich-directed period piece, with Edward Herrmann as publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and Kirsten Dunst well-cast as his actress mistress Marion Davies. Based on the real-life events surrounding the mysterious death of wunderkind producer Thomas Ince at one of Hearst’s yacht parties.
(repeats 2:30pm)

8:00pm EST – TCM – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
It’s fitting that Spencer Tracy’s last role was opposite Katharine Hepburn; they play a couple whose daughter plans to marry a black man (Sidney Poitier), a volatile topic in 1967.

10:00pm EST – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Classic screwball comedy, Kate Hepburn, Cary Grant, Howard Hawks, pet leopards, dinosaur bones, the dog from The Thin Man, cross-dressing, paleontology, broken heels, yada yada yada. It’s amazing, watch it, love it.

2:00am EST (21st) – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Strangely, after 1938, the year of Bringing Up Baby and Holiday, Katharine Hepburn was declared box office poison and shunted out of Hollywood for a couple of years. The Philadelphia Story marked her return in 1940, and what a return. A sparkling high society comedy that still sets the standard for old Hollywood class.

Wednesday, January 21

Not a thing to watch, oh dear, what shall I do? Oh, right, catch up on all those other things I was supposed to watch…

Thursday, January 22

8:00pm EST – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1932 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 looks creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.

9:45pm EST – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds the story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.

11:45pm EST – TCM – All About Eve
If you wanna talk great movies about Broadway, you gotta start with All About Eve. The titular Eve (Anne Baxter) fangirls her way right into Broadway diva Margo’s (Bette Davis) dressing room and life, but her fawning attention masks her scheming motives. It takes a lot to match Bette Davis on screen, but Baxter holds her own wonderfully, and the rest of the ensemble cast (Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, and a young Marilyn Monroe) plus a brilliantly catty script round this out to one of the best films ever made.

2:15am EST (23rd) – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
I wish I were as big a fan of Sunset Boulevard as I feel like I ought to be. Film noirish? Check. Seedy underbelly of Hollywood? Check. Steeped in cinematic lore? Check. Written and directed by Billy Wilder? Check and check. And yet – it has never quite caught me the way I want it to. You know what that means… Rewatch!

4:15am EST (23rd) – TCM – The Producers (1968)
The original, non-musical version of the recent Broadway hit. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder play theatrical producers who figure out that they can make more money by producing a flop then by producing a hit, and they find the perfect vehicle: a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler.” Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Friday, January 23

5:45am EST – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
You don’t need to be told to see this. So I won’t tell you. I’ll just casually point out the fact that it’s on.

8:00pm EST – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Stanley Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.

Saturday, January 24

9:45am EST – 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.

Sunday, January 25

6:00am EST – 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.

2:00am EST (26th) – TCM – Jules and Jim
Jules and Jim are best friends. Then Catherine falls into their lives like a hurricane – she’s almost a force of chaotic primal nature. She marries Jules, but when Jim reconnects with the couple after WWII (in which the two friends fought on opposite sides), their relationship gets…um…complicated. I keep trying to write more, because I just saw this again in the cinema, and it’s all roiling around in my head, but Truffaut will do that to you. Not as much as Godard does, but then Jules and Jim feels quite Godardian to me, but with more angst. But I won’t go into it all right now. Just know that this is one of the classics of the New Wave, and exemplifies the movement’s realistic style, dispassionate camera and narration, and intellectual pursuits.

Film on TV: 29 Dec – 4 Jan

A bit late again. Good thing there wasn’t a lot on Monday or Tuesday worth looking at anyway. So we’ll start in on Wednesday. The movie channels apparently decided to dump EVERYTHING they had for the turn of the new year, because the 31st and 1st are jam packed. Craziness. I also threw in some listings from the Fox Movie Channel, since I noticed some great stuff while setting my DVR this week.

Wednesday, December 31

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Stagecoach
TCM is apparently doing a John Ford/John Wayne tribute today, and that’s never a bad thing. In this 1939 film, Wayne is an outlaw traveling in a cramped stagecoach along with a prostitute (Claire Trevor, who turns in an amazing performance) and various other staple characters of the Western genre perfectly calculated for maximum uncomfortability.

7:45am / 6:45am – TCM – They Were Expendable
One of the best WWII films made during the war (1945). Wayne is the only one who thinks u-boats have any use in combat, but he proves everyone else wrong. Equal parts action and pathos, this is one that seems fairly routine at any given moment, but put all the moments together (especially the last few) and you get blown away by how good it is.

12:30pm / 11:30am – TCM – The Quiet Man
Ford and Wayne are probably best known for the westerns and war movies they made together, but this romantic drama may be the best of the bunch. Wayne is an American former boxer who travels to Ireland to seek his roots; he finds frequent costar Maureen O’Hara there and wants to marry her, but has to overcome her stubborn streak and her lunkish brother’s objections before he can. Filled with charm and humor, Ford received one of his Oscars for it. One wonders if it would’ve won Best Picture if it had come from a major studio instead of upstart Republic (consider that overblown corker The Greatest Show on Earth won that year). Must See

7:00pm / 6:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Planet of the Apes
I saw this not knowing anything about the ending. I suggest that if you haven’t seen it and don’t already know the ending that you do the same. One of the classic sci-fi films.
(repeats at 4pm EST on the 1st and 3:30am EST on the 2nd)

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – That’s Entertainment!
If you like musicals, you’ll love That’s Entertainment!, MGM’s celebration of its history of movie musicals. If you don’t like musicals…you won’t. It’s that simple. This was put together in 1974 as a theatrical release in honor of MGM’s 50th anniversary, so it’s really well put together and hosted by many of the stars who were there at the time (and some whose connection to MGM is tenuous at best – like Paramount’s Bing Crosby).

10:00pm / 9:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 5:00am EST on the 1st)

10:30pm / 9:30pm – TCM – That’s Entertainment, Part 2
MGM couldn’t get all their great musical clips into one compilation film, so two years later they made another one. And it’s almost as good, especially because it includes some great non-musical moments as well.

12:00am / 11:00pm – Sundance – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman again, this time with Michel Gondry instead of Spike Jonze, and this may be his greatest collaboration – in fact, neither Kaufman nor Gondry apart from each other have matched the perfection of this film. After a painful breakup with his girlfriend Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey decides to undergo a procedure to remove her completely from his memory. But is forgetting the bad times worth losing the good? Must See

12:45pm / 11:45pm – TCM – That’s Entertainment III
This completes the That’s Entertainment! series, really (they did a straight-to-video That’s More Entertainment later), and they are starting to run out of clips. Still. If you liked the first two, it’s worth a watch.

3:00am / 2:00am – TCM – That’s Dancing!
The only downside to the That’s Entertainment series is that it only includes MGM films. That’s Dancing does rectify that, bringing in clips from other studios, but it doesn’t have the panache of MGM’s series.

Thursday, January 1

6:00am / 5:00am – Cartoon Network – Looney Tunes Marathon
Okay, folks, there’s a lot going on today moviewise, and you probably have other stuff going on on New Years, but Cartoon Network is showing like fourteen straight hours of Looney Tunes. This is like a gold mine. These cartoons are like sixty years old, and they’re still among the most hilarious and innovative films ever made, cartoon or live-action, short or feature-length. I’m pretty much going to be parked here all day, since I’ve seen almost all the stuff on TCM today. :) Not that I haven’t seen most of the Looney Tunes…never mind, reasoning broke down.

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Nothing Sacred
And TCM is devoting New Year’s Day (during the day at least) to screwball comedy, and that’s hard to pass up. In this one, terminally ill Carole Lombard gets a big newspaper to pay her way to New York and the high society life in exchange for her human interest story. Except she’s only pretending to be terminally ill. Oops.

6:00am / 5:00am – Fox Movie – The Seven Year Itch
I actually can’t remember much about this film (Tom Ewell had a mid-life crisis and dabbles with neighbor Marilyn Monroe), but it is the one with the iconic image of Marilyn’s skirt being blown up as she walks over a grate. So there’s that.
(repeats at 1:30pm EST)

9:00am / 8:00am – TCM – Libeled Lady
Throw William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow all together in an MGM comedy, and you’re almost guaranteed a winner. And Libeled Lady delivers with a twisty story, fast-talking script, and the best these stars have to offer.

11:00am / 10:00am – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Poor Cary Grant just can’t get away from delightfully ditzy Katharine Hepburn, especially after her dog steals his museum’s priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and after her pet leopard escapes (and a dangerous zoo leopard escapes at the same time). Incredible situation follows incredible situation in this zaniest of all screwball comedies. Must See

4:15pm / 3:15pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
Married couple Cary Grant and Irene Dunne can’t stand living together any more and divorce, but they also can’t live apart and end up working overtime to sabotage each other’s new relationships. Epitomizes the battle-of-the-sexes aspect of screwball comedy perhaps better than any other film.

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
Spoiled heiress Claudette Colbert runs off to marry against Daddy’s wishes, but gets sidetracked by reporter Clark Gable, who wants her story but ends up winning her heart. (Damn, that was corny. I apologize.) MGM sent Gable to Columbia to make this picture as a punishment for getting too big for his contract’s britches, but it backfired – he won an Oscar for his role, as did Colbert, director Frank Capra, writer Robert Riskin, and the film itself. Must See

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – King Kong
The 1933 special effects are a bit creaky at times, but by and large with a little imagination, King Kong more than holds up to its remakes and imitators. I’m one that didn’t mind Peter Jackson’s version as much as a lot fo cinephiles did, but for the real King Kong, go back to the original.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Them!
Atomic anxiety strikes again, this time in the form of radiation-created giant ants that threaten Texas and then California. I was actually far more entranced with this surprisingly solid 1950s sci-fi B-movie than I expected to be. Frankly, I loved it, and I wish we could still manage to make creature feature as simple and as simply great as this one.

11:00pm / 10:00pm – Fox Movie – Die Hard
All John McClane wants to do is get home for Christmas. But plans change, especially when a bunch of terrorists take over his wife’s office building and McClane has to take them out almost singlehandedly. And give us one of the best action movies ever made. The sequels are not that good. Skip ’em.

Friday, January 2

The networks overcrowded the 31st and the 1st, and ran out of good stuff for the 2nd. But then found a bunch more for the 3rd. Go figure.

Saturday, January 3

10:00am / 9:00am – IFC – The Cat’s Meow
I throw this in here because for a while it was one of my arguments that Kirsten Dunst is actually good if given the right part. Now Marie Antoinette is my argument for that, but The Cat’s Meow remains a fun little Hollywood period piece. Dunst plays Marion Davies, a 1920s actress who’s now better known for being William Randolph Hearst’s mistress – the film is set at one of Hearst’s parties at which producer Thomas Ince mysteriously died. Director Peter Bogdanovich has made 1920s-1930s nostalgia (often with a cinematic twist) his specialty, and while The Cat’s Meow ain’t no Last Picture Show or even Paper Moon, it’s still enjoyable.
(repeats at 4pm EST)

12:00pm / 11:00am – Fox Movie – 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. Must See

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – Invasion of the Body Snatchers
My favorite thing about this 1956 sci-fi classic is that it can be read either as pro-Left or pro-Right with very little difficulty (which shows just how close totalitarian Fascism and Communism end up being in practice). So it’s politically charged, but never in a way that feels overly heavy-handed and manipulative. Aliens are invading by taking over people’s bodies, turning them into emotionless pod people. They’ve tried remaking it a couple of times, but somehow it never ends up packing quite the punch of the original.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Modern Times
Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece (to my mind, anyway) thrusts our hapless Little Tramp into an overly mechanized factory world, brilliantly skewering the industrial revolution and its reduction of humanity to gears and cogs. He escapes with the gamine Paulette Goddard, who shines as much here as in any of her other films. It’s a mostly silent film, despite being made in 1936, but it’s hard to argue with any conviction that Chaplin was behind the times. Must See

8:00pm / 7:00pm – IFC – Fargo
This blackest of black comedies has it all: hitmen, theft, blackmail, murder, and woodchipper-as-body-disposal-mechanism, not to mention an extremely pregnant policewoman to sort it all out. The Coen Brothers spin one of their finest yarns (I place it third behind O Brother Where Art Thou and No Country For Old Men, which still leaves it really darn high in my overall film list), proving why they’re the masters of the everyday macabre. Must See
(repeats at 1:00am EST on the 4th)

11:00pm / 10:00pm – TCM – The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T
Ooh, I haven’t seen this for such a long time! Let’s see what I remember…it’s based on a Dr. Seuss story about a kid who dreams his piano teacher is an evil prison-master. What I really remember is that it’s just about the most surreal and innovative children’s movie I’ve ever seen. I’d compare it only to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children, except I wouldn’t actually show Jeunet’s film to kids. In any case, Dr. T‘s a trip that’s well-worth taking.

2:30am / 1:30am (4th) – TCM – Shall We Dance
Not one of Fred and Ginger’s best, but hey. It’s still Fred and Ginger.

Sunday, January 4

10:30pm / 9:30pm – TCM – The Red Shoes
Real ballerina Moira Shearer plays an aspiring ballerina in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s version of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale. Actually, the fairy tale is the story within the story – the main story is more Svengali and Trilby, as a producer extraordinaire takes Shearer under his wing, but is outraged when she falls in love with poor young composer instead. In between all this is probably the greatest ballet sequence ever put on film (on a set that would never have fit on any stage), as the Anderson story becomes Shearer’s signature role. The Technicolor is breathtaking, too.

Non-related, probably non-interesting side note. I write a lot more when I’m tired (i.e., longer descriptions of the movies). Apparently the energy-intensive part of writing for me is not the actual writing, but the editing. Or the writing concisely.