Tag Archives: Cleo from 5 to 7

Film on TV: November 9-15

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Ride the High Country, playing on TCM Friday, November 13.

A few interesting new ones this week. I haven’t seen Nicholas Ray’s Bitter Victory, playing on Wednesday, but it comes highly recommended by Jean-Luc Godard. So there. Then there’s Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder on Thursday, which I can’t believe we haven’t seen in this feature before, and Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country on Friday – a film which sits, like many of Peckinpah’s films, right on the cusp between traditional and revisionist westerns – and Jean Cocteau’s poetic Orpheus late on Sunday. Finally, Sundance has both parts of Steven Soderbergh’s Che on Saturday, probably the first time it’s played on TV outside of PPV or premium cable.

Monday, November 9

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

5:35pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:30am on the 10th)

Tuesday, November 10

5:25am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
Almost all New Wave films were directed by men, and there’s a definite undercurrent of misogyny in most of them – or at least a clear lack of understanding of women. Enter Agnès Varda, who took New Wave sensibilities, added in her own painterly touches, and a strong feminine perspective – and you get incredible films like this one, a spare story of a woman who discovers she has cancer. The mix of New Wave detachment and the evocation of the woman’s flittering emotions just under the surface combine perfectly to skyrocket the film onto my all-time favorites list.
1962 France. Director: Agnès Varda. Starring: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray, Dorothée Blank, Michel Legrand.
Must See

Wednesday, November 11

5:15am – TCM – Bitter Victory
The major thing I know about this film is that it’s the one that prompted Jean-Luc Godard to write “Henceforth there is cinema. And cinema is Nicholas Ray” in his Cahiers du cinema review. And I love other Nicholas Ray films, so that’s enough for me to be interested in catching this one. TCM’s description: “A World War II commander jeopardizes his mission to endanger a colleague involved with his wife.”
1958 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Richard Burton, Curd Jürgens, Ruth Roman, Raymond Pellegrin.
Newly Featured!

6:55am – 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 12:30pm)

Thursday, November 12

9:00am – 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 4:30pm, and 4:25am on the 13th)

6:35pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Dial M For Murder
A bit of a lesser Hitchcock film to my mind, but still pretty damn good – and any chance to see Grace Kelly is worthwhile. Ray Milland plays her husband whose plans to have her murdered go awry when her self-defense skills prove too good.
1954 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, Robert Cummings.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Rear Window
Hitchcock, Stewart, and Kelly mix equal parts suspense thriller, murder mystery, romance, voyeristic expose, ethical drama, caustic comedy and cinematographic experiment to create one of the greatest films of all time.
1954 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr.
Must See

10:30pm – IFC – Gangs of New York
It’s hard to argue with the concept of a Scorsese/diCaprio/Day-Lewis trifecta in a story about Irish gangs at the dawn of New York’s existence, though I found myself underwhelmed with it.
2003 USA. Director: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo diCaprio, Cameron Diaz.

Friday, November 13

8:00am – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring; Cary Grant, Grace Kelly.

12:00N – TCM – Gigi
Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” might come off as more pervy now than it was originally intended, but as a whole Gigi stands as one of the most well-produced and grown-up musicals made during the studio era. Vincente Minnelli gives it a wonderful visual richness and sophistication, while music from Lerner & Loewe (usually) stresses the right combination of innocence, exuberance, and ennui for its decadent French story.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.

3:30pm – 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 10pm on the 15th)

8:00pm – TCM – Ride the High Country
In the 1960s, Sam Peckinpah contributed to the beginnings of the revisionist western, taking complicated heroes and violence to new levels – in Ride the High Country, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (who had both starred in many westerns throughout the 1930s and 1940s) play jaded cowboys hired to transport gold who get caught up in a family feud that forces them to confront their own differences and troubled pasts. It’s a fairly simple plot on the surface, but goes much deeper than you’d expect.
1962 USA. Director: Sam Peckinpah. Starring: Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr.
Must See
Newly Featured!

1:35am (14th) – 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.

3:30am (14th) – TCM – The Night of the Hunter
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Laughton. Starring: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish.
Must See

Saturday, November 14

10:00am – TCM – White Heat
James Cagney in one of his most powerful roles as the slightly (okay, make that more-than-slightly) unbalanced criminal Cody Jarrett. Probably counts as one of the last truly great Warner crime films, too.
1949 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Margaret Wycherly.

2:00pm – 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).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

2:00pm – Sundance – Che (parts 1 and 2)
Sundance is getting an early shot at Steven Soderbergh’s opus about South American freedom fighter Che Guevara, starring Benicio Del Toro as the titular character. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s apparently worthy of Criterion release next year.
2008 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Demián Bichir, Carlos Bardem.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgiousie
Luis Buñuel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
(repeats at 7:40am and 4:15pm on the 15th)

Sunday, November 15

6:45am – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home.
1985 Sweden. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman.
(repeats at 2:50pm)

2:15pm – TCM – Wuthering Heights
William Wyler’s moody 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s moody gothic novel, with Laurence Olivier as the moody Heathcliff. It’s moody. Get it? Interestingly, I’m more impressed generally with Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Isabella than Merle Oberon’s Catherine/Cathy, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.
1939 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson.

4:35pm – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 5:25am on the 16th)

11:00pm – 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

2:00am (16th) – TCM – Orpheus
Orpheus, a poet in post-war France, finds himself caught up with Death in the visage of a beautiful woman and her minions. When Death takes his wife Euridyce, Orpheus follows them into the underworld–but is it really Euridyce he desires, or is it Death herself? Director Cocteau was as much a poet as a filmmaker, and that poetic sense is in full force in this lovely film.
1950 France. Director: Jean Cocteau. Starring: Jean Marais, María Casare, Maria Déa, François Périer.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: July 20-26

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In a Lonely Place, playing on TCM on Thursday, July 23rd, at 10:45am.

I started looking at the Fox Movie Channel as well this week – only one addition this time, but there may well be more in the future. Things on it keep catching my eye as I’m setting my DVR, so I figured I might as well add it to my list, especially this month as the other channels seem to be doing a lot of repeats. I also added a “Newly Featured!” tag at the bottom of entries that are NOT repeats. I still think the repeats are worth posting, though, in case someone wasn’t able to see them the first time and for new readers – that’s why I leave them on.

All times are Eastern.

Monday, July 20

6:05am – IFC – Umberto D
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic about an aging man struggling to live on his meager pension in post-war Rome. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and granted, not a lot happens. But by the end, you’ll have extraordinary sympathy for gentle Umberto and his dog. Oh, and a fantastic performance by non-actress Maria Pia Casillio – she offered to take acting lessons for the part but De Sica forbade her. Good choice.
(repeats at 10:45am and 3:20pm)

8:55am – 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.
Newly Featured!

1:35pm – 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.

6:05pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
Kevin Smith’s third film, not as low-fi indie as Clerks, as goofy as Mallrats, as irreverently genius as Dogma, as self-referential as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or as racy as Zach and Miri Make a Porno, but perhaps sweeter than all of them – Ben Affleck falls for Joey Lauren Adams, with the only slight obstacle being that she’s a lesbian.

8:00pm – TCM – A Trip to the Moon
Georges Méliès’ 1903 sci-fi film is the best example of his innovations in trick photography and special effects. He figured out that if you stopped the camera, changed the scene, and then restarted it, you could create illusions of appearances and disappearances, which he used to great effect in his story of scientists traveling to the moon and meeting fantastic creatures there. It’s a piece of film history that every film buff should see at least once.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 21st)

1:05am (21st) – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business. Must See
(repeats 11:30am on the 21st, and 8:20am and 3:50pm on the 23rd)

Tuesday, July 21

4:15pm – TCM – The Night of the Hunter
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way. Must See

Wednesday, July 22

5:45pm – 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.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 23rd)

7:30pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
This German film beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, but The Lives of Others is good enough that I managed to get over it. Mostly. Anyway, in the film, a surveillance operator working for the Nazis assigned is to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working for the Resistance – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.

1:00am (23rd) – 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). Must See

Thursday, July 23

8:45am – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Somewhat lesser-known Hitchcock film that ought to be top-tier. Small-town girl Teresa Wright idolizes her uncle Charlie, but we know that he’s an infamous murderer on the run. Hitchcock once made a distinction between mystery and suspense: mystery is when there’s tension because the audience doesn’t know whodunit, suspense is when there’s tension because the audience does. This film is a perfect example of suspense, and Hitchcock’s preference for telling the audience whodunit very early in the film and letting them squirm.
Newly Featured!

10:05am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
Almost all New Wave films were directed by men, and there’s a definite undercurrent of misogyny in most of them – or at least a clear lack of understanding of women. Enter Agnes Varda, who took New Wave sensibilities, added in her own painterly touches, and a strong feminine perspective – and you get incredible films like this one, a spare story of a woman who discovers she has cancer. The mix of New Wave detachment and the evocation of the woman’s flittering emotions just under the surface combine perfectly to skyrocket the film onto my all-time favorites list. Must See
(repeats at 3:05pm)

10:45am – TCM – In a Lonely Place
Simply a brilliant film from director Nicholas Ray – Humphrey Bogart gives probably his best performance as washed-up screenwriter Dixon Steele, who’s trying to make a comeback with a new adaptation. When a coatcheck girl gets murdered after he was the last to see her, he naturally comes under suspicion, but his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi and soon the two begin a relationship which just might save Dix from more than a murder charge – or might not. There’s a raw intensity here that few films have ever matched. Must See
Newly Featured!

12:30pm – 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

2:00am (24th) – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank 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. Wonderful 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.

Friday, July 24

10:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly. This is a favorite among Row Three writers, so check it out.
(repeats at 3:45pm)

12:00N – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, July 25

6:15am – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:15pm)

10:00am – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home (his behavior is both caused by and threatens his mother’s poor health).
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:30pm)

8:00pm – TCM – A Night at the Opera
One of the best of the Marx Brothers’ zany comedies finds them running awry through the world of opera. This is the one that contains the famous “how much stuff can we stuff into a stateroom” scene. And subplot with Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but that’s best ignored as much as possible. Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Young Frankenstein
My pick for best Mel Brooks movie of all time, yes, over Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. Gene Wilder is the title character, a relative of the original Dr. Frankenstein who derides the research into the animation of dead tissue as poppycock. Until he inherits the Frankenstein castle and starts doing some experimenting of his own. And hilarity ensues. Pretty much right up there with the most quotable movies ever for me. Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:00pm and 12:00M)

10:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 26th)

4:15am (26th) – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.

Sunday, July 26

8:00am – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments and I think a rewatch would jump it up in my estimation greatly.
(repeats at 3:15pm)

10:30am – TCM – Topper
Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are hard-living young couple who crash their fancy car after a night of drinking and end up as ghosts. They choose to spend their afterlife haunting Grant’s uptight boss Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) and teaching him to enjoy life again. Something of a screwball comedy without the battle of the sexes part; slight but a lot of fun.
Newly Featured!

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.

10:00pm – 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. Must See

10:45pm – 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 real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case, where two young men killed an acquaintance just to see if they could pull it off.

3:30am (27th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it. Must See

Film on TV: June 29-July 5

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Cléo from 5 to 7, playing on IFC at 6:45am on July 4th

Well, TCM’s showcase of great directors is winding down this week, but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of great cinema playing. On Thursday, TCM is running a bit of a tribute to 1939, widely considered one of the best years in filmmaking history, at least in terms of the sheer quantity of great films released that year. Also, IFC really picked up the ball this week, and are showing a bunch of really great films.

Monday, June 29

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 2:30am on the 30th)

9:45pm – 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 4:05am on the 30th)

Tuesday, June 30

Great Directors on TCM: Anthony Mann
Though Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah and later Clint Eastwood often get well-deserved credit for developing the revisionist western, some of it should also probably go to Anthony Mann. Along with frequent star James Stewart, Mann tapped into a darker side of the quintessential American cowboy hero, showing him as a little more morally compromised, a little more expedient, and a little more personally haunted than most classic westerns.

8:00pm – TCM – The Man from Laramie
Of course TCM is playing the one Mann-Stewart western I HAVEN’T seen. But given the high quality of their other films together, I set my DVR for it immediately.

Wednesday, July 1

7:45am – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments and I think a rewatch would jump it up in my estimation greatly.
(repeats 2:15pm)

9:45pm – IFC – Mad Max
The first entry in the post-apocalyptic punk-action series that made Mel Gibson a star.
(repeats at 3:45am on the 2nd)

12:00M – IFC – Platoon
Director Oliver Stone won an Oscar for this Vietnam film (as did the film itself). I haven’t seen it, but I’m gonna DVR it and see if I get around to it.

12:30am (2nd) – TCM – The Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film
Warner Bros. basically created the gangster film in the 1930s with a series of great, gritty and hard-hitting (for the time) crime films. This documentary looks to be a nice introduction to the genre.

2:30am (2nd) – TCM – The Petrified Forest
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard are top billed in this 1936 crime drama, but the thing you’ll remember is Humphrey Bogart in his first major film role as criminal-on-the-run Duke Mantee. They’re all holed up in a remote gas station while Mantee figures out his scheme to escape the manhunt for him. He fairly sizzles on screen.

4:00am (2nd) – 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.

Thursday, July 2

11:15am – 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.
(repeats at 4:30pm)

5:30pm – 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 real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case, where two young men killed an acquaintance just to see if they could pull it off.

8:00pm – TCM – The Wizard of Oz
I’ve simply got nothing bad to say about The Wizard of Oz. It’s been one of my favorite movies for years, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon – one of the great classics of imagination, wonder, and self-fulfillment. Must See
(repeats 6:00pm on the 3rd)

11:15pm – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film every made (there are no men at all, so of course George Cukor directed it, right?). 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. Must See

1:30am (3rd) – 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.

Friday, July 3

9:00am – TCM – Bachelor Mother
Slight Ginger Rogers vehicle, but one I always enjoy – she picks up a baby left on the steps of an orphanage just in time for everyone to think it’s hers, including her boss (David Niven) at the department store where she works. So she has to keep it.

9:15pm – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home (his behavior is both caused by and threatens his mother’s poor health).
(repeats at 2:00pm)

Saturday, July 4

6:45am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
Almost all New Wave films were directed by men, and there’s a definite undercurrent of misogyny in most of them – or at least a clear lack of understanding of women. Enter Agnes Varda, who took New Wave sensibilities, added in her own painterly touches, and a strong feminine perspective – and you get incredible films like this one, a spare story of a woman who discovers she has cancer. The mix of New Wave detachment and the evocation of the woman’s flittering emotions just under the surface combine perfectly to skyrocket the film onto my all-time favorites list. Must See
(repeats at 1:30pm)

3:30pm – 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. Wonderful 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.

5:45pm – 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.

9:45pm – IFC – Fargo
Still one of the Coen Brothers’ best films, despite over a decade of mostly good films in the intervening years. Dark comedy is not an easy genre, and Fargo is the gold standard, blending shocking violence and a noir-ish crime story with comical inept criminals and a perfectly rendered performance from Frances McDormand. Must See
(repeats at 3:30am on the 5th)

1:15am (5th) – 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. Must See

Sunday, July 5

12:00N – 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 – War of the Worlds
The 1953 version of H.G. Wells’ classic Martian attack story – the alien ships land mysteriously, then start randomly attacking without warning. The mix of realistic March-of-Time style narration, incorporation of actual war/newsreel footage within the film, and fairly decent special effects for the time make it one of the more interesting of 1950s sci-fi efforts. The ending is a little deus ex machina, but up until that, very enjoyable.

7:15pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
(repeats 4:30am on the 6th)

8:00pm – TCM – Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
French writer/actor/director Jacques Tati specialized in nearly-silent physical comedy that reminds one at times of Chaplin or Keaton, but with a slightly more ironic French flair about it. In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, a trip to the seashore turns out to be anything but relaxing.

9:30pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
(repeats 3:00am on the 6th)

10:00pm – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.

12:00M – IFC – Trainspotting
Days in the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. Sounds like a downer, and I won’t say it’s not, but it’s also brilliant and searing. Danny Boyle seems to always be able to take stories that could be routine and make them into something special. (Though I won’t deny he often loses control of his endings – the rest of the film is usually worth it, though.)

Film on TV: 9-15 March

Okay, I can haz new computer now. It’s a shiny, pretty Macbook that anyone who happens to follow me on Twitter or FriendFeed has already heard WAY too much about. Suffice it to say that it is much more fun writing these on a computer than on an iPhone (finding the greater than/more than symbols for all the html tags got old REAL quick on the phone). Looked like it was gonna be slim pickings this week with TCM’s lineup, but IFC more than picked up the slack.

Monday, March 9th

8:35am – IFC – Diabolique
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s tense thriller about a man whose wife and lover decide to join forces to off him. But there’s another twist beyond that.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

8:00pm – IFC – Day Watch
The sequel to the moody apocalyptic sci-fi film Night Watch from a couple of years ago. Night Watch was far from perfect (way better in concept than in execution, which was quite muddled), but still interesting, and I’m curious to see if Day Watch improved on it. It’s eventually supposed to be a trilogy.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 10th)

12:00M – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the forerunners of Romania’s ongoing New Wave, focused on a spare, minimalist style of realism – my beloved 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days belongs to this movement as well. Lazarescu is an indictment of the Romanian healthcare system, following a dying man as a parademic tries to get him into hospital after hospital over the course of a night.

Tuesday, March 10th

8:30am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
(repeats at 2:05pm)

11:00am – TCM – Detour
If you wanna see some classic B-level film noir, look no further. This is one of the touchstones – you got low-budget, dim lighting, fatalistic anti-hero, femme fatale, the works.

2:45pm – Sundance – Avenue Montaigne
Sweet and unassuming ensemble film, set in Paris. That’s all it takes to hook me.
(repeats at 1:00pm on the 14th)

1:00am (11th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai

Wednesday, March 11th

10:00am – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
Doris Day turns in her best performance ever as the abused girlfriend of gangster James Cagney.

Thursday, March 12th

8:00pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman. Tim Robbins as a hotshot Hollywood producer who may just get his comeuppance. Virtuosic opening tracking shot.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 13th)

10:15pm – IFC – The Royal Tenenbaums
(repeats at 4:25am on the 13th)

2:00am (13th) – TCM – The Third Man

Friday, March 13th

6:25am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with director Peter Weir, and I’m never sure which side of the fence this film falls on. I don’t really understand it, but it’s stuck in my head for years. I think I’m assigning that to love.
(repeats at 11:40am and 4:55pm)

7:45am – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
One of the first teacher-in-an-inner-city-school films, with a very young Sidney Poitier as one of the unruly students.

9:10am – Sundance – Mutual Appreciation
I actually just watched this today. It’s part of the so-called Mumblecore movement, which is largely associated with a group of New York indie filmmakers including Andrew Bujalski (who directed Mutual Appreciation), Joe Swanberg, Mark and Jay Duplass, Mary and Ronald Bronstein, actress Greta Gerwig, etc. Mumblecore often comes under fire for being pointless and navel-gazing, and sure. It’s that. I’m not even sure I like Mumblecore-labeled films that much, but if you’re interested in seeing some real DIY filmmaking (not what passes for indie in the world of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno), check this one out. It has a bit more plot than some of the others, plus it stars Justin Rice, the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for Bishop Allen, which is fun.
(repeats at 4:35pm)

2:45pm – TCM – To Sir, With Love
Another teacher film, but this time Sidney Poitier’s the teacher, and the school is in inner-city London.

8:00pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
It’s James M Cain night over at TCM tonight, and all three of these films (this one, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice are well worth watching, straddling the film noir-melodrama line perfectly.

10:00pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce

12:00M – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice

Saturday, March 14th

9:45am – IFC – Waking Life
It may be a while before you see another film like Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped Waking Life, which doubles as philosophic treatise. It’s one of the most interesting, innovative, and brilliant films of the 21st century.
(repeats at 2:35pm)

4:00pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity

Sunday, March 15th

8:00am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
At the end of last year, I posted a list of the best films I had seen. Cléo from 5 to 7 was at the top of that list. It combines a New Wave sensibility with a female director’s eye, which turned out to be such a perfect combination for me that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since, and I can’t wait to see it again. And again.

9:35am – IFC – Vagabond
Vagabond is by the same director as Cléo from 5 to 7, Agnès Varda. Haven’t seen it yet, but hope to this time around.
(repeats at 4:15pm)

8:00pm – IFC – Raging Bull

9:45pm – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
I still have this John Cassavetes film on my DVR from the last time it was on. I should rectify that at some point.
(repeats at 5:30pm on the 16th)

12:00M – TCM – Nosferatu
F.W. Murnau’s 1922 version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula still ends up being one of the best versions of the story. For a great double feature, watch this and then 2001’s Shadow of the Vampire, a fun little film that wonders if Nosferatu actor Max Shrenk actually WAS a vampire.

My 2008 Recap

As per usual, I haven’t seen enough 2008 releases to be justified making a Best of 2008 list, so here is my much more egocentric list of my favorite movies that I saw during 2008, no matter when they were released. And I threw in books, music, and games, with the same caveat. The links go to my reviews, reactions, or other previous writings about them. The non-linked ones I, uh, didn’t write about. Because I am lazy. So I’ll throw in a line about them, but I may still write about the more in the future. Or not. Because I am lazy.

Oh, and also, don’t even think these are lists of bests. They’re lists of favorites, 100% subjective. And highly subject to change.

FILM

LOVED

Cleo from 5 to 7

Cleo from 5 to 7 (imdb) – A New Wave film from a female director (Agnes Varda). It’s an excellent combination.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sunrise
Wall-E (imdb) – edit: I managed to forget this one upon publishing this post. BAD JANDY. A breathtakingly beautiful, heartwarming but not maudlin, and prescient sci-fi animated film. Virtually perfect in every way.
Divided We Fall
Easy Rider

The Fall

The Fall (imdb) – A dazzlingly imaginative film set partly in war-torn Spain and partly in the story a dying soldier tells a young girl. Not as cohesive as Pan’s Labyrinth, but very much in the same vein.
Kicking and Screaming
All That Jazz
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Speed Racer (imdb) – One of the most criminally underrated films of the year. A visionary expression of sensory overload and invention. Plus, shiny!
I Walked With a Zombie
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Planet Terror

REALLY LIKED

I'm Not There

I’m Not There
Rachel Getting Married (imdb) – Fantastic acting and script. Just misses being in the “Loved” section because I could strangle Jonathan Demme for misusing the shakicam.
The Savages
Orpheus
Werckmeister Harmonies (imdb) – Director Bela Tarr is known for using reaaaallllly long takes, and he does. But the slow pacing soon becomes mesmerizing and stunningly beautiful.
Iron Man
The Dark Knight (imdb) – I’m sorry, but I have to say I think The Dark Knight is a little overrated. Ledger is fantastic, and the Joker is the best villain the movies have seen in a long time. But I pretty much can’t remember ANY of the scenes without him.
Go
All the President’s Men
Repulsion

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading (imdb) – The black humor Coens return in force (and farce) here. It’s nothing like No Country, but it’s an over-the-top great time.
The Innocents (imdb) – This should’ve been in my Month of Horror post; don’t know how I forgot it. Very well-done quiet (maybe) evil kid horror film based on The Turn of the Screw.
Them!
Let the Right One In
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (imdb) – Perhaps a movie about hipsters running around New York City in search of an elusive band is just made for me. Granted, it’s slight, but it’s really enjoyable.
Australia (imdb) – There are admittedly a lot of tonal problems with Australia, but I enjoyed watching every second of it.
Tell No One (imdb) – A man’s wife is murdered…or is she? When he starts seeing her and hearing from her years later, it quickly becomes clear there’s much more going on in this twisty French thriller.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Transsiberian (imdb) – A couple travels from China via the Transsiberian Railway, but gets pulled into trouble by a couple of young drifters. A solid thriller with a good twist or two.
Shaft (1971) (imdb) – I saw Samuel L. Jackson’s remake a few years ago. As cool as Sam Jackson is, he WISHES he were as cool as Richard Roundtree, the original iconoclastic black private eye facing off with Harlem and Italian gangsters and the NYPD.
Night of the Living Dead

Saawariya

Saawariya (imdb) – This fairy-tale Bollywood film is extremely stylized and imaginative – one of the more interesting Indian films I’ve seen so far. They’re always visually sumptuous, but this one takes it to a whole new level.
The Flower of My Secret (imdb) – Pedro Almodovar film similar to All About My Mother in tone. Not as good, but still very worthwhile.
Synecdoche, New York (imdb) – I can’t do this one justice in a few sentences. I’m still working out in my head what I think about it. The best quote I’ve seen about it, though, is from Roger Ebert: “a film that should never be seen unless you’ve already seen it at least once.”
Les bonnes femmes
Atonement
Village of the Damned (imdb) – Evil alien children take over a rural English town. It’s way better than it sounds, a classic old-school British horror flick.
My Blueberry Nights (imdb) – Wong Kar-Wai’s first English-language film is a visually beautiful odyssey following a girl as she tries to find out what she wants. I’m excited to see his other films now, which I’ve heard are better.
Sunshine
Metropolitan
Some Came Running (imdb) – Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well.
Lars and the Real Girl

Ace in the Hole

Ace in the Hole (imdb) – Reporter Kirk Douglas will do anything to get a good story, even keeping a trapped miner trapped as long as he can to increase the media frenzy. It’s Billy Wilder, so you know it’s going to be solid, and it is.
Two-Lane Blacktop
The Body Snatcher
Wristcutters: A Love Story
Isle of the Dead
Do You Like Hitchcock (imdb) – This Dario Argento film has a film student getting involved with a murder that bears a close resemblance to Strangers on a Train; the overall film also had plenty of Rear Window and I like to think a little Vertigo in there.
Be Kind, Rewind
Leatherheads
Shadows (imdb) – John Cassavetes’ first film, and often hailed as the beginning of American independent film. Touches on show business, youth, and sibling rivalry, but the tough look at 1960s racial issues is the most interesting aspect.
In Bruges (imdb) – I expected a comic action film, and it is that sometimes, but it’s also got a huge dose of thoughtful philosophy in there, as two hitmen go to Bruges (read: Purgatory) to wait out a botched job.

RECOMMENDED

Hannah Takes the Stairs
Lacombe, Lucien (imdb) – A young German boy falls into working with the Nazis during WWII, but finds his loyalties divided when he befriends a Jewish family – and falls in love with the family’s daughter. It’s a big tough at first to relate to the implacable boy, but there’s more here than meets the eye.
The Seventh Victim (imdb) – Val Lewton, occultism, missing sisters, overall creepiness – what more do you want?

Made in USA

Made in USA
The Blue Angel
Lola Montes (imdb) – Max Ophuls’ only widescreen, color feature about the rise and fall of a the title character in the courts of Europe is sumptuous, but a little distancing. Perhaps purposefully.
Paprika
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Lantana
Mickey One
Michael Clayton
The Cool World (imdb) – Another early independent film, this is the story of a young Harlem boy who thinks everything in his life would be better if he just had a gun, and thus some power and authority. Hard to see due to rights issues, so if you get the chance, jump on it.
I Am Legend
Papillon
Bottle Rocket
Ghost Ship

BOOKS

LOVED

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James – First thing I’ve read by James, and I was highly impressed. His mastery of depicting the interior life is a great foreshadowing of Modernism.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons – Proof that graphic novels can be just as complex and well-written as traditional novels.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – The basis for my current revaluation of Hemingway, who I used to not like. But this one is great.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – A Victorian mystery, and with my general dislike of Victorian lit, I was shocked at how much I liked it. It’s perfectly written, and so much more than *just* a mystery.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers – Similarly here, as this is technically a Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, but the mystery is almost secondary to Sayers’ exploration of life at an Oxford women’s college, with side notes on feminism, class, and academia.

LIKED

Good Night Mr. Holmes by Carol Nelson Douglas – Douglas rewrites Sherlock Holmes from a woman’s point of view, making Irene Adler, the only person to outwit Holmes (in A Scandal in Bohemia), the heroine.
Alias Grace Margaret Atwood – Grace is a convicted murderess, shuttled between prison and mental institution; she tells her story to a sympathetic doctor who hopes to absolve her. But the truth of the matter is elusive, even to the reader.
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Ichebe – A leader in an African tribe struggles with pride and the conflict between tribal customs and the incoming Christian missionaries. Achebe is known for being among the first to bring a truly African voice into English-language literature, and his minimalist style suits the story perfectly.
Spook Country by William Gibson

MUSIC

With music it’s more “these are what I’ve been listening to the most in 2008.” Although I think I did acquire all of these albums in 2008, even though several of them are from earlier. All 2006-2008, though, I think. I linked Music Monday or concert coverage posts where I had them; otherwise tacked on a MySpace link so you can hear them yourself.

LOVED

Jenny LewisAcid Tongue
The SubmarinesHoneysuckle Weeks
BabyshamblesShotters Nation (MySpace)
Mates of StateRearrange Us
Los Campesinos!We Are Beautiful, We are Doomed / Hold On Now, Youngster
MetricLive It Out (MySpace)
Army NavyArmy Navy
Silversun PickupsCarnavas
The Apples in StereoNew Magnetic Wonder (MySpace)
Arcade FireNeon Bible (MySpace)

REALLY LIKE

Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes (MySpace)
We are ScientistsBrain Thrust Mastery (MySpace)
She & HimVolume One (MySpace)
I’m From BarcelonaWho Killed Harry Houdini / Let Me Introduce My Friends (MySpace)
The RosebudsLife Like
Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend
The FratellisHere We Stand

GAMES

LOVE

Mass Effect
Bioshock – One of the most amazing stories and art direction in any game ever.
Bully – Like GTA, but at a boarding school. :) Not particularly innovative, but a blast to play.
Portal – The only problem with Portal is it’s too short! Fantastic puzzle game with a fun story to boot.
Fallout 3 – I’ve only played a few hours of this, but I can already tell it’s headed to the “loved” category. Looks fantastic and plays like Oblivion (aka, my fave game of all time).
Rock Band 2 – Not much different than Rock Band, but don’t fix what ain’t broken, and the improvements made are good. I just keeping coming back for more.

REALLY LIKE

Fable 2 – Does a nice job of improving on the first Fable, which was already good. The difficulty’s not perfect, though – I found I got through the whole main quest with very little leveling.
Guitar Hero: World Tour – The first Guitar Hero game that remotely gives Rock Band any competition, to my mind. I actually think the gameplay is a bit better, but the overall experience was less enjoyable.
Assassin’s Creed – Climbing up every building in town and running over rooftops never got old. The gameplay here is spectacular, but it’s not one I’d ever play again. Looking forward to seeing what the sequels do with the story, though.
Mirror’s Edge – Again, groundbreaking gameplay, once you get the hang of it. But I’m about halfway through and I’m already bored with the story and missions. Still, paves the way for potentially stupendous games in the future.
Lost Odyssey