The Conversation, playing at 10pm on the 21st on TCM
Sorry about completely missing last week! I have been Tweeting reminders about the films over on Row Three’s Twitter account (Row Three being the group film blog I write for and crosspost these entries to), so if you’re on Twitter and want daily reminders about what’s coming to your TV, make sure you’re subscribed to the Row Three account.
Monday, August 17
8:30am – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
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.
6:25pm – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Laurence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
Tuesday, August 18
10:15pm – TCM – True Grit
John Wayne won an Oscar for this film, one of his last. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say whether it was deserved or not, but hey. There it is.
4:30am (19th) – TCM – Baby Face
This film often comes up as a prime example of a pre-Code film, as Barbara Stanwyck very explicitly (and fairly literally) sleeps her way to the top of a corporation, using her body and manipulative skills to get what she wants every step of the way. Also look for a young John Wayne as an office assistant – he looks extremely uncomfortable in his suit!
Wednesday, August 19
8:35am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
(repeats at 2:30pm)
9:35pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 20th)
12:00M – 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 5:15am and 11:15am on the 20th)
Thursday, August 20
9:45pm – TCM – Trouble in Paradise
This film and the next one, Design for Living, both date from the early 1930s, both star Miriam Hopkins, and were both directed by Ernest Lubitsch. Consequently, I cannot keep them straight in my head. I’m not even sure I’ve seen both. In any case, you can’t get much better than Lubitsch’s early ’30s comedies (the height of sophistication), so check them both out.
11:15pm – TCM – Design for Living
Friday, August 21
8:00pm – TCM – Bonnie & Clyde
This is a perfect film. If you have not seen it, see it. If you have seen it, see it again. In either case, rather than write again how much I love it, I will just refer you here.
10:00pm – TCM – The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance expert who eavesdrops on people for hire. When he overhears something that may lead to a murder, he has to decide what to do with his (possible) knowledge. I honestly prefer this Francis Ford Coppola film to The Godfather, and its exploration of the ethics of surveillance is certainly still very timely today. Must See
Saturday, August 22
8:00am – IFC – Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa takes on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, transposing it into feudal Japan, much as he did with King Lear in Ran. Kurosawa has a knack for getting the spirit of Shakespeare perfectly, while also staying true to his own country’s traditions.
10:05am – IFC – Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati’s Chaplin-esque character, Mr. Hulot, this time takes on modern life in the form of his sister’s house that has been mechanized with all the most modern electronic aids – think Disney’s 1950s House of Tomorrow. Of course, everything goes wrong. Must See
(repeats at 3:30pm)
12:30pm – 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. Must See
8:00pm – 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.
12:00M – 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. Must See
Sunday, August 23
1:00pm – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The original 1962 version, not the pale comparison of a 2004 remake. Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia. Must See