Tag Archives: film festivals

Heading to the TCM Classic Film Festival 2012

In just about two weeks’ time, the TCM Classic Film Festival will descend on Los Angeles once again, turning downtown Hollywood into a mecca for film fans hungry for the glamour and nostalgia of the days of yore. Waxing poetic aside, this is the third year for the festival, and it seems to be going as strong as ever. Last year, attendance nearly doubled over the first festival, so we’ll see what the crowds are like this year! In any case, with Robert Osborne and the TCM crew bringing in films big and small, essential and rare, along with star appearances and special events galore, it’s sure to be a weekend of fun for anybody who loves classic Hollywood. The theme this year is “Style in the Movies” – with an apparent eye toward costume design and set decoration. There are sidebars for specific designers, specific “looks,” especially style-conscious directors, and even the broader Essentials section has been curated to favor films that feature a unique design aesthetic. Confirmed special guests include Kirk Douglas (who was fantastic last year at a screening of Spartacus), Debbie Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Shirley Jones, Kim Novak, Robert Wagner, Angie Dickinson, director Norman Jewison, and more.

Along with the festival, TCM sponsors a Road to Hollywood series of screenings in various cities throughout the weeks leading up to the festival, with Robert Osborne and special guests presenting the screening. That series continues with The Last Picture Show March 31st in Toronto, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers April 3rd in Denver, and Marty April 5th in Portland. TCM did this last year as well, bringing a taste of the festival to other cities, so even if you don’t live in LA, keep an eye on where TCM is holding these (free!) screenings. Plus, you may learn insider info before the rest of us – at a recent screening, Robert Osborne let it slip that Mel Brooks will be a special guest. But he caught himself before revealing what film Brooks will be introducing – could even be something not announced yet!

As far as the main event in Hollywood, taking place April 12-15, Festival Passes are still available, and individual tickets will be on sale before each screening. With no further ado, here is the line-up thus far announced. I got the schedule while I was working on this, so some of the entries reflect my knowledge that I won’t be seeing them due to scheduling conflicts. There will be many more that will fall to the vagaries of a very full three-day schedule. (Note: I took most of the synopses below from IMDb, so my apologies if they’re bland.)

Essentials

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Director: Richard Fleischer
Starring: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre
Synopsis: A ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious sinkings encounters the advanced submarine, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo.
My take: I’ve not seen this before, but Disney’s first live-action feature film promises practical special effects galore, and I’m a sucker for those. Plus, any chance to see Kirk Douglas live is probably worth taking. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Kirk Douglas

Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst
Synopsis: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
My take: I love this film a lot; in fact, it’s a constant battle between this and Manhattan for the title of my favorite Woody Allen film. Still, I think I’ll skip this in favor of things I haven’t seen a dozen times. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

Auntie Mame (1958)

Director: Morton DaCosta
Starring: Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne
Synopsis: An orphan goes to live with his free-spirited aunt. Conflict ensues when the executor of his father’s estate objects to the aunt’s lifestyle.
My take: I haven’t seen this film, despite liking Rosalind Russell a good bit. That said, it’s not that high on my list and scheduling being what it is, this probably isn’t the time. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Todd Oldham

Black Narcissus (1947)

Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons
Synopsis: After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension – both with the natives and also within their own group – as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
My take: I have seen this, but it’s been so long I don’t remember much of it. I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for quite some time now, and I’d definitely love the opportunity to see Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor cinematography on the big screen. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Thelma Schoonmaker

Cabaret (1972)

Director: Bob Fosse
Starring: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey
Synopsis: A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them.
My take: I love this movie, but this is the opening night premiere film, which is very difficult to get into. I’ve seen the film a lot of times, so I won’t bother with it here. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Opening night film; World Premiere of 40th anniversary restoration
In attendance: Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey

Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Pete rLorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, Conrad Veidt
Synopsis: Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
My take: I’ve seen this film more times than I can count, and it seems like they show it every year. So if you’re coming in from out of town and haven’t seen this on the big screen, by all means, do so. But I’ll save my time for other things. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening notes: 70th Anniversary digital restoration

Dr. No (1962)

Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bernard Lee, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord
Synopsis: James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program.
My take: This remains one of the best Bond movies, though I still place it lower than Connery’s next two outings. It’d be fun to rewatch it on the big screen, but other things claim my time more strongly. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Eunice Gayson, Maud Adams

Duck Soup (1933)

Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Leonid Kinskey
Synopsis: Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale.
My take: I usually place A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races as my favorite Marx Brothers film, but most people like this one the best. Time to re-evaluate? Since it’s a midnight movie with no timeslot competition, I think yes. Planning to see
Festival Guide

Elmer Gantry (1960)

Director: Richard Brooks
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Shirley Jones
Synopsis: Smitten with lay preacher Sister Sharon, fast-talking traveling salesman Elmer Gantry uses his swift wit and persuasiveness to join her ministry; but his unsavory past isn’t far behind.
My take: This film won Oscars for both Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones, which I’ve known forever due to my early obsession with Oscars as well as my enjoyment of Jones’s Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. Yet I’ve never actually seen it. If scheduling works out, I definitely wouldn’t mind catching up with it now. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Shirley Jones

Grand Illusion (1937)

Director: Jean Renoir
Starring: Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay
Synopsis: During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
My take: This movie blew me away when I first saw it, and I absolutely wouldn’t mind seeing it again. (Anyone who hasn’t seen it needs to NOW.) But I’m not dead set on revisiting it, and will let the schedule dictate this one. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: US Premiere of 75th Anniversary restoration

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Director: John Ford
Starring: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, John Qualen
Synopsis: A poor Midwest family is forced off of their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
My take: I saw this for the first time last year and was more than impressed with it, especially on a visual level (which I hadn’t expected); that would show up even better on the big screen, but I’m not sure I’m quite up fr a rewatch just yet. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

High Society (1956)

Director: Charles Walters
Starring: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Louis Armstrong
Synopsis: Tracy Lord is getting remarried, but her wedding is about to be crashed by her ex-husband and two reporters hoping for a big society scoop.
My take: As much fun as it sounds like it would be to watch a film poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and as innocuously enjoyable as this film is, I’m not a big enough fan of it to make much of an effort. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening Notes: Presented poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt

The Longest Day (1962)

Director: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
Starring: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Paul Anka, Arletty, Sal Mineo, Robert Wagner, Richard Beymer, Jean-Louis Barrault, Bourvil, Red Buttons, Sean Connery
Synopsis: The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.
My take: Even though I generally like war films more than the next girl, I haven’t taken the time to see this one yet, despite the all-star cast, and I likely won’t take three hours of time to watch it here. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Wagner

The Pink Panther (1964)

Director: Blake Edwards
Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Claudie Cardinale, Capucine, Robert Wagner
Synopsis: Bumbling and conceited French police inspector Clouseau tries to catch The Phantom, a daring jewel thief whose identity and features are unknown – and is acting right under his nose.
My take: I have seen this film and enjoyed it a lot, but it pales in comparison with its sequel, A Shot in the Dark, which I rewatched just a few weeks ago. So as fun as it is, I’ll give this a pass. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Wagner

Rio Bravo (1959)

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan
Synopsis: A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.
My take: Oh man, it’s incredibly tempting to sit down and relax with this film for the umpteenth time. And if the scheduling works out, I might just do it. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Angie Dickinson

Sabrina (1954)

Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden
Synopsis: A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur. But it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her.
My take: As a big fan of Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn, AND Humphrey Bogart, I’m a little surprised at how underwhelming I tend to find this film, especially since a lot of people like it a whole lot. If I take time to watch it here, it’ll be in full-on Rewatched and Reconsidered mode. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Janie Bryant

The Searchers (1956)

Director: John Ford
Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, John Qualen
Synopsis: As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable.
My take: Seeing this film on the big screen (and not just any big screen, but Grauman’s Chinese) would be a treat, for sure. I may pass it up for one of the less ubiquitous films at the fest, but I dunno. It’s really tempting. Might see
Festival Guide

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen
Synopsis: A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.
My take: Tempting, very tempting to catch one of my all-time favorite movies on the big screen. But I’ve seen it so many times and it plays the American Cinematheque with some frequency, so I can’t justify it unless the schedule is very, very forgiving. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: World Premiere of 60th Anniversary restoration
In attendance: Debbie Reynolds, Patricia Kelly

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Director: Ben Sharpsteen, William Cottrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey Perce Pearce
Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell, Lucille La Verne
Synopsis: Snow White, pursued by a jealous queen, hides with the Dwarfs; the queen feeds her a poison apple, but Prince Charming awakens her with a kiss.
My take: I made time for Fantasia last year, and I might just make time for Disney’s pioneering animated feature this time (I am due for a rewatch on it). Might see
Festival Guide

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Director: Preston Sturges
Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Eric Blore
Synopsis: A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about Life…which gives him a rude awakening.
My take: This and The Lady Eve duke it out constantly as my favorite Preston Sturges film, and I’m more than overdue for a rewatch on this. But the scheduling doesn’t quite work out, unfortunately. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Ron Perlman

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway
Synopsis: A debonair, adventuresome bank executive believes he has pulled off the perfect multi-million dollar heist, only to match wits with a sexy insurance investigator who will do anything to get her man.
My take: Mostly all I remember from this film is the incredibly awesome chess-playing seduction scene, and I’d really love a refresher on the rest of it, even if it is largely a film of cool style over substance. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Norman Jewison

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis
Synopsis: When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence.
My take: This has never been among my favorite Hitchcock films, but I have to admit, it’s the one to choose when your theme is “Style in the Movies.” Style this movie has in spades. Still, I rewatched it hoping for a better reevaluation last year, and I’m not up for doing it again just yet. Not seeing
Festival Guide

Vertigo (1958)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Synopsis: A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
My take: My second-favorite Hitchcock film, always worthy of a big-screen rewatch. But I’m even more gung-ho about it this time since my husband has never seen it. This is the time. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Kim Novak

Wings (1927)

Director: William A. Wellman
Starring: Richard Arlen, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Clara Bow
Synopsis: Two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, become fighter pilots in World War I.
My take: I saw this movie way back when I was intent on watching all the Academy Award winning films (this won the first Best Picture award); so, like, fifteen years ago. Now with my renewed interest in silent cinema, I’d love to look at it again with fresh and better-educated eyes. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: A.C. Lyles, Bill Wellman Jr.

The Women (1939)

Director: George Cukor
Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, Virginia Wiedler
Synopsis: A study of the lives and romantic entanglements of various interconnected women.
My take: I have seen this film a dozen times, and I will take any excuse offered to see it again. It’s that much fun watching all these fabulous ladies duke it out over men who never appear onscreen. And I’m dragging Jonathan to it, too. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Todd Oldham

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars
Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad’s castle and repeats the experiments.
My take: When Robert Osborne leaked that Mel Brooks would be a guest, I wondered if he might be introducing this film (especially with the Universal sidebar going on at the Fest), and I was right. I love this film dearly, but the 1000 times I’ve seen it might count against it here. I’m still undecided, though. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Mel Brooks

Discoveries

Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Director: Otto Preminger
Starring: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylène Demongeot, Geoffrey Horne
Synopsis: Cecile is a decadent young girl who lives with her rich playboy father Raymond. When Anne, Raymond’s old love interest, comes to Raymond’s villa, Cecile is afraid for her way of life.
My take: I’ve vaguely heard of this film quite a bit, but I never knew very much about it until looking it up right now. Jean Seberg just before Breathless is certainly a tempting proposition. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Barbara Tfank

Call Her Savage (1932)

Director: John Francis Dillon
Starring: Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Thelma Todd
Synopsis: Sexy Texas gal storms her way through life, brawling and boozing until her luck runs out, forcing her to learn the errors of her ways.
My take: Now we’re into ones that I know less about, and that’s all the better. I really enjoyed seeing Clara Bow’s final film Hoop-la at last year’s festival, and I’m more than down to see her in another pre-Code talkie. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New 35mm preservation print from Museum of Modern Art
Presented by: David Stenn and Katie Trainor, Anne Morra (at different screenings)

Fall Guy (1947)

Director: Reginald Le Borg
Starring: Robert Armstrong, Leo Penn, Teala Loring, Elisha Cook Jr
Synopsis: Penn stars as a hard-drinking veteran who awakens from a drug-induced blackout with vague memories of a murdered blonde. His search for the truth leads him through a demimonde populated by drug dealers, addicts, bar girls and even a stoolie (the screen’s best, Elisha Cook, Jr.).
My take: The festival guide calls in one of the “noirest of all noir.” I pretty much have to see that to find out if it’s more noir than Detour. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Walter Mirisch

Lonesome (1928)

Director: Pál Fejös
Starring: Barbara Kent, Glenn Tryon, Andy Devine
Synopsis: Two lonely people in the big city meet and enjoy the thrills of an amusement park, only to lose each other in the crowd after spending a great day together. Will they ever see each other again?
My take: I have never ever heard of this film, but the descriptions I’m seeing (“a truly American approach to German Expressionism”, etc.) are giving me Sunrise vibes. This kind of thing is absolutely what I come to this festival to see. Planning to see
Festival Guide

The Macomber Affair

Director: Zoltan Korda
Starring: Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, Robert Preston, Reginald Denny
Synopsis: Robert Wilson leads safaris on the Kenyan savanna, and is taking Mr. and Mrs. Macomber out to hunt buffalo. The obnoxious ways of Margaret Macomber make the three of them get on each others nerves, but sparks are about to fly.
My take: Another I’ve never heard of, apparently a Hemingway safari love triangle adventure story. I’m not against any of those things in any way, but this will come down to scheduling. Hoping to see
Festival Guide

A Night to Remember (1958)

Director: Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Blackman
Synopsis: The Titanic disaster is depicted in straightforward fashion without the addition of fictional subplots.
My take: I wasn’t too much interested in this one (I’ve already seen a couple of versions of the Titanic story – the boat goes down in them all), but the description of it as a non-fictionalized almost-documentary is kind of intriguing. We’ll see. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Newly restored print
Presented by: Don Lynch

Phase IV (1974)

Director: Saul Bass
Starring: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick, Alan Gifford
Synopsis: Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the desert inhabitants. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to destroy them. But the ants have other ideas.
My take: Okay, hold up. Saul Bass directed a movie? And it sounds like a combination of “Leiningen vs.the Ants” and Them!? Oh yeah, I’m there. Thanks, TCM, for programming some midnight stuff. :) Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Michael Murphy

Seconds (1966)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Rock Hudson, Frank Campanella, John Randolph
Synopsis: Want out of your life? Just pay the fee and we’ll fake your death, change your face, and set up a new identity for you…but you may or may not be pleased with the results.
My take: Now, this is one I definitely SHOULD rewatch. When I first saw it ages ago, I was rather underwhelmed, but it routinely makes “hidden gem” lists, so I definitely need to check it out again. But the scheduling may do me in once again. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Richard Anderson

Who Done It? (1942)

Director: Erle C. Kenton
Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patric Knowles, William Gargan, Louise Allbritton
Synopsis: Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.
My take: I have a soft spot for Abbott & Costello, but even though I went through a bunch of their films as a teenager, I don’t think ever saw this one. I definitely would, though, as comedy-mysteries are always fun. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Will be screened with the 1949 Three Stooges short Who Done It?
In attendance: Michael Schlesinger

Built by Design: Architecture in Film

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald, Virginia Walker
Synopsis: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard “Baby.”
My take: I actually rewatched Bringing Up Baby a few months ago, and even though I love it, it’s a bit too manic for me to want to watch it again so soon. Maybe next time. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Presented by: Matt Tyrnauer

The Fountainhead (1949)

Director: King Vidor
Starring: Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith, Robert Douglas, Henry Hull
Synopsis: An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.
My take: Not a film I’ve ever been particularly interested in seeing; a film fraught with Ayn Rand’s philosophy just sounds too heavy to be any fun. On the other hand, the screencap above is pretty gorgeous. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Eric Lloyd Wright, Matt Tyrnauer

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Director: H.C. Potter
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Louise Beavers
Synopsis: A man and his wife decide they can afford to have a house in the country built to their specifications. It’s a lot more trouble than they think.
My take: Despite being a big Cary Grant fan and this being one of Grant’s more popular movies among his fans, I have never caught up with it. This may or may not be the time. Might see
Festival Guide

My Architect: A Son’s Journey (2003)

Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Synopsis: Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974.
My take: I’m not that much of a documentary person, and with only the tenuous “architecture in film” tying this into the festival, I’ll skip it. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Matt Tyrnauer, Nathaniel Kahn

Deco Design

Counsellor-at-Law (1933)

Director: William Wyler
Starring: John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon, Isabel Jewell, Melvyn Douglas, Thelma Todd
Synopsis: Successful attorney has his Jewish heritage and poverty-stricken background brought home to him when he learns his wife has been unfaithful.
My take: I’ve totally never heard of this film, but it’s definitely got an intriguing cast and director, plus the tagline on the Kino DVD case is “William Wyler’s hard-boiled comedy.” Still, I’m not sure that can over come potential scheduling difficulties. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Illeana Douglas

Our Dancing Daughters (1928)

Director: Harry Beaumont
Starring: Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown, Anita Page
Synopsis: Diana is outwardly the hit of the party but inwardly virtuous and idealistic. Her friend Ann is thoroughly selfish and amoral. Both are attracted to Ben Black, soon-to-be millionaire.
My take: I’ve actually been dying to see some of Joan Crawford’s silent stuff, but haven’t had a good opportunity. This is one of the best opportunities, so I’m pretty much not going to miss it. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Linda Snyder-Sterne

Swing Time (1936)

Director: George Stevens
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore
Synopsis: A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer.
My take: This is one of my comfort movies; I can put it on any time and it cheers me up immediately. That said, I’ve seen it a hundred times, so I’ll likely skip it. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Starring: Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith
Synopsis: A gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket join forces to con a beautiful perfume company owner. Romantic entanglements and jealousies confuse the scheme.
My take: Last year TCM Fest played Design for Living, and I was really disappointed I had to miss it. Hopefully that won’t happen this time, because I’ve been dying to rewatch both these early ’30 Lubitsch films for quite a while. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Matt Tyrnaver, Deborah Nadoolman Landis (at different screenings)

The Noir Style

Criss Cross (1949)

Director: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally
Synopsis: An armored truck driver and his lovely ex-wife conspire with a gang to have his own truck robbed on the route.
My take: This film noir has been on my list for a LONG time and I’ve never gotten around to it. It looks like this may finally be the time, and I’m really looking forward to it. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Eddie Muller

Cry Danger (1951)

Director: Robert Parrish
Starring: Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, William Conrad, Regis Toomey
Synopsis: Ex-con Rocky Mulloy seeks the real culprit in the crime he was framed for, in a night world of deceptive dames and double crosses.
My take: Noir film I haven’t heard of AND it stars Dick Powell? Sign me up. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Preservation funded by The Film Noir Foundation
In attendance: Rhonda Fleming, Eddie Muller

Gun Crazy (1950)

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Starring: Peggy Cummins, John Dall
Synopsis: A well meaning crack shot husband is pressured by his beautiful marksman wife to go on an interstate robbery spree, where he finds out just how depraved and deadly she really is.
My take: This is a noir I always recommend to people; despite getting a lot of love from noir fans, it remains surprisingly underseen, and it’s loads of fun. If I can get to it, I’m due a rewatch. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Peggy Cummins, Eddie Muller

Night and the City (1950)

Director: Jules Dassin
Starring: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Herbert Lom
Synopsis: A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter.
My take: It’s been a while since I saw this one, but I enjoyed it quite a bit – really great use of on-location London filming with a noir style. Not one I’m necessarily jumping to see again, especially with so many noirs I haven’t seen playing. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Presented by: Eddie Muller

Raw Deal (1948)

Director: Anthony Mann
Starring: Dennis O’Keefe, Raymond Burr, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt
Synopsis: After taking a prison rap for a friend, Joe mounts an escapes despite his friend’s double-cross.
My take: Another noir I’ve never heard of, AND it stars Claire Trevor, AND it’s directed by Anthony Mann? Sign me up twice. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Marsha Hunt, Eddie Muller

Legendary Costumes of Travis Banton

Cleopatra (1934)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon, Joseph Schildkraut
Synopsis: The man-hungry Queen of Egypt leads Julius Caesar and Marc Antony astray, amid scenes of DeMillean splendor.
My take: I’ve got to admit, I’m morbidly curious to see this; it doesn’t have the best reputation among DeMille’s canon, but sometimes a little over-the-top excess isn’t such a bad thing. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Bob Mackie

Cover Girl (1944)

Director: Charles Vidor
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Lee Bowman, Phil Silvers, Leslie Brooks, Eve Arden, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Rusty Parker wins a contest and becomes a celebrated cover girl; this endangers her romance with dancing mentor Danny.
My take: Frankly, this movie is fairly forgettable, aside from the dancing-with-himself number Gene Kelly did, prefiguring his later iconic ballet numbers. It’s worth watching once, but that’s it. Not seeing
Festival Guide

I’m No Angel (1933)

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold
Synopsis: Working as a lion-tamer and flirting with rich men to get presents on the side, Tira seeks the man a fortune-teller promised is the love of her life.
My take: I saw the other West-Grant film She Done Him Wrong aaaages ago and wasn’t too impressed; but that was aaaages ago and I’m actually really interested to check this out. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Director: Max Ophüls
Starring: Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan
Synopsis: A pianist about to flee from a duel receives a letter from a woman he cannot remember whom may hold the key to his downfall.
My take: I’ve seen this before, quite a while ago, and I remember being pretty bored and frustrated by it. But I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and I’m kind of curious to see if I was wrong. But I don’t know if I’m all THAT curious. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Preservation funded by The Film Foundation

Nothing Sacred (1937)

Director: William A. Wellman
Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Sig Ruman
Synopsis: When a diagnosis of a terminal illness turns out to be incorrect, Hazel Flagg decides to milk it anyway, becoming the toast of New York thanks to a reporter hungry for a heartwarming story.
My take: This is one of Carole Lombard’s most iconic roles, solidifying her madcap comedienne persona; I remember it being a tad on the shrill side, but it’s been a while since the last time I saw it. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser, C. Aubrey Smith
Synopsis: Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, but prefers Russian soldiers instead; eventually engineering a coup d’etat, she becomes Catherine the Great.
My take: I’ve spent weeks excited about this because I thought it was Shanghai Express. Now that I’ve learned better, I’m less excited. I’ve actually seen half of this movie and it looks nice, for sure, but beyond that it was kind of bland. Still, I guess I should finish it, just for completeness’ sake. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

The Films of Stanley Donen

Charade (1963)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn
Synopsis: Romance and suspense in Paris, as a woman is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Who can she trust?
My take: This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and one I recommend to everybody I know (and I’ve never had anyone disappointed yet). I’m sure I’d be right there for it again if I hadn’t JUST watched it like three times over the past couple of months. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Stanley Donen

Funny Face (1957)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
Synopsis: A photographer, fashion editor, and bookish model head to Paris for a fashion shoot, punctuated by music and romance.
My take: I’ve never been as into this film as a lot of Audrey Hepburn fans; it’s the height of stylishness, that’s for sure, and has some solid Gershwin songs, but I doubt I’ll go far out of my way for a rewatch. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Stanley Donen

Two for the Road (1967)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels
Synopsis: A couple in the south of France non-sequentially spin down the highways of infidelity in their troubled ten-year marriage.
My take: This film nigh unto blew me away when I saw it several years ago – one of the most grown-up films I’ve ever seen, with great performances and a fascinating non-linear structure to boot. Definitely love a rewatch, as it’s been a while. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: World Premiere of 45th Anniversary restoration
In attendance: Stanley Donen

The Paramount Renaissance

Black Sunday (1977)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Robert Shaw, Fritz Weaver, Bruce Dern
Synopsis: An Israeli anti-terrorist agent must stop a disgruntled Vietnam vet cooperating in a plot to commit a terrorist plot at the Super Bowl.
My take: I don’t know much about this film (I spent a few misused minutes trying to figure out how a Mario Bava film could be in a Paramount sidebar), but Frankenheimer is always solid, and it sounds interesting. We’ll leave this one up to scheduling. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Synopsis: A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water.
My take: This is another one I’m definitely hoping to see with Jonathan; for me, it’s probably the quintessential neo-noir crossed with a peculiarly ’70s sense of alienation that hits on all cylinders. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Towne

Love Story (1970)

Director: Arthur Hiller
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Ali MacGraw
Synopsis: A pair of class-crossed lovers defy their parents’ distaste for their union, but can’t stop the inevitable as Jenny faces a terminal illness.
My take: I’ve never seen this, but I don’t have much desire to, either, except as pure academic curiosity. Which doesn’t take me very far in a very crowded festival. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Marathon Man (1976)

Director: John Schlesinger
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider, Laurence Olivier
Synopsis: A graduate history student is unwittingly caught in the middle of an international conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, an exiled Nazi war criminal, and a rogue government agent.
My take: Another one I only know about in bits and snatches, but that synopsis sounds AWESOME (much better than my mental picture of Dustin Hoffman running a marathon for two hours). If I can make time for this, I probably will. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Rosemary’s Baby

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Elisha Cook Jr.
Synopsis: A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.
My take: TWO Roman Polanski films at the fest, how about that? I watched this a couple of years ago and wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be, though there are certainly some good moments. I should re-evaluate at some point, but this probably isn’t the time. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Universal’s Legacy of Horror

The Black Cat (1934)

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi
Synopsis: American honeymooners in Hungary are trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.
My take: I feel like I’ve seen this before, but maybe not – I definitely don’t recall Karloff and Lugosi playing chess. And I think I need to see that. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Sara Karloff, Bela G. Lugosi

Dracula (1931)

Director: Tod Browning
Starring: Bela Lugosi
Synopsis: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
My take: Neither my favorite version of Dracula nor my favorite Universal horror film; you definitely ought to see it once, but it creaks far more than even I like. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Carla Laemmle

Frankenstein (1931)

Director: James Whale
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles
Synopsis: Horror classic in which an obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.
My take: This one is my favorite of the Universal horror cycle, and since Jonathan hasn’t seen it yet, I’m hoping to save a place for it on my schedule. But I have seen it a lot of times and I’m not going to be disappointed if I miss it. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New restoration, with restored cuts made in post-1931 reissues to comply with the Production Code
In attendance: John Carpenter

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Director: Rowland V. Lee
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff
Synopsis: One of the sons of Frankenstein finds his father’s monster in a comma and revives him, only to find out he is controlled by Ygor who is bent on revenge.
My take: I initially blew this off looking at the schedule (sequels to sequels to sequels of horror films, nah), but the more I think about it, the more I’m curious to check it out. Maybe it’s just Lugosi and Karloff together again, but yeah. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: John Landis

The Wolf Man (1941)

Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya
Synopsis: A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.
My take: This is one of the few major Universal horrors I haven’t, and it’s one of the stories that interests me the most. I’ve had it on my list forever, and this is a great time to cross it off. Hoping to see
Festival Guide\
In attendance: Rick Baker

Special Presentations

A Fine Mess: Laurel and Hardy

Program of shorts includes: Helpmates (1932), County Hospital (1932), Busy Bodies (1933)
Starring: Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Synopsis: A collection of three sound Laurel & Hardy shorts made for the Hal Roach studios, but after Leo McCarey left. Laurel supervised these films, though uncredited.
My take: I’ve liked the few Laurel and Hardy films I’ve seen (I’ve mostly seen silents, because they show them before silent features at Cinefamily sometimes), and I wouldn’t say no to these. But other things are likely to eclipse it on the schedule. Might see
Festival Guide

“A Trip to the Moon” and Other Trips Through Time, Color and Space

Program of early cinema shorts includes: A Trip to the Moon (1902, Georges Méliès), Apr&eagrave;s le bal (1897, Georges Méliès), A Trip Down Market Street (1906, Miles Brothers), Caruso sings “La Donna 7egrave; Mobile” (1908, Alfred Duskes), The Acrobatic Fly (1910, F. Percy Smith), Balloon Land (1935, Ub Iwerks), and more
Synopsis: A curated collection of early films focusing on technical experiments and flights of fancy.
My take: I would LOVE to see the newly restored version of A Trip to the Moon, that’s for sure, and the other things listed on the program also intrigue me a lot, with my current fascination with early cinema. I’ll definitely make an effort to get to this program. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: 2011 restoration of A Trip to the Moon, with original hand-coloring and new score by AIR
Presented by: Director, producer, and historian Serge Bromberg

Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room

Director: Vera Iwerebor
Starring: “Baby Peggy” Diana Serra Cary
Synopsis: A documentary about “Baby Peggy,” one of cinema’s first child stars, doing pretty much all of her work by the age of 11, and all in the silent era.
My take: Cinefamily has shown Baby Peggy-related things before; in fact, I think they’ve shown one of her few surviving films (Captain January) with her in attendance. I’d frankly rather see that than a documentary about her, so as wonderful as it is that she’s still with us and willing to do appearances like this, I might have to skip this. EDIT: They are now also showing a program of her shorts. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: “Baby Peggy” Diana Serra Cary, Vera Iwerebor

Girl Shy (1924)

Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Starring: Harold Lloyd
Synopsis: A shy, young man, who is completely incapable of talking to women, decides to write a book that details to other bachelors how to find a girlfriend.
My take: I’ve only seen a couple of Harold Lloyd films, and I enjoyed them both – this one is supposed to be one of his best, just shy of Safety Last, so if I can get to this, I will. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New score composed and conducted by Robert Israel

How the West Was Won (1962)

Director: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall
Starring: Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Thelma Ritter, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton
Synopsis: A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century–including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.
My take: I’m not a huge fan of this star-studded, bloating attempt to encapsulate the entire history of the Old West in less than three hours, but I am being swayed mightily by the opportunity to see one of the only Cinerama films ever made in one of the last remaining Cinerama domes. That alone is tempting. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Sponsored by ArcLight Cinemas and presented at ArcLight’s Cinerama Dome

Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D

Program of shorts includes: L’Arivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (1935 3D version, Lumière Brothers), Musical Memories (1935, Max Fleischer), Melody (1953, Disney), Motor Rhythm (1939), Falling in Love Again (2003, Munro Ferguson), Murder in 3-D (1941, Pete Smith)
Synopsis: A curated collection of 3D films and experiments from the 1930s through 1950s (and a few outliers).
My take: I don’t like 3D in general, but the opportunity to see films made with older and experimental 3D processes is kind of intriguing. And given several of these are animated, I’m not sure I can resist. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Director, producer, and historian Serge Bromberg

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Director: Raoul Walsh
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Julane Johnston, Anna May Wong, Snitz Edwards, Charles Belcher, Sojin
Synopsis: A recalcitrant thief vies with a duplicitous Mongol ruler for the hand of a beautiful princess.
My take: Cinefamily played this last year along with their Fairbanks retrospective, and I missed both screenings. I’d love to rectify that here. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Club TCM

Also vying for time are panels, lectures, displays, and events held at the passholder-only Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel. I usually try to hit one of these just for variety’s sake, but which one is dictated mostly by scheduling.

Meet TCM: The People Behind the Network
Thursday, April 12 1pm-2pm

The Maltese Touch of Evil: New Perspectives on Film Noir
TCM brand manager Shannon Clute and film scholar Richard Edwards – cohosts of podcast Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir
Thursday, April 12 3pm-4pm

The History of Oscars’ Red Carpet
Friday, April 13 12:30pm-1:30pm

The Ultimate Film Noir
Film noir expert Eddie Muller and actress Rose McGowan
Friday, April 13 2:30pm-4pm

So You Think You Know Movies
New York Film Forum’s Bruce Goldstein hosts movie trivia
Friday, April 13 5:30pm-6:30pm

The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful
Costume designer and author Deborah Nadoolman Landis
Saturday, April 14 12:30pm-2pm

African Americans On-Screen: 1903 to the Present
Film historian Donald Bogle
Saturday, April 14 3:30pm-4:30pm

Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive Collection
Presented by AMPAS representatives Randy Haberkamp and Lynne Kirste, with special guests Margaret O’Brien, and members of the MacMurray, McQueen, and Koster families
Saturday, April 14 6pm-7pm

Classic Movie Memorabilia Appraisals by Bonhams
Sunday, April 15 10am-2pm

Imagemakers: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s PR Machine from the Golden Age to Now
Moderator: Pete Hammond. Panelists: Henri Bollinger, Dick Guttman, Arnold Robinson
Sunday, April 15 12:30pm-1:30pm

Designing Iconic Movie Imagery
Moderator: Randy Haberkamp. Panelists: Jim Bissell, Terence March, Jim Pascale
Sunday, April 15 2:30pm-3:30pm

The Brown Derby: A Hollywood Legend
Mark Willems
Sunday, April 15 4:30pm-5:30pm

Heading to the AFI Film Festival 2011

One of my three big festivals of the year starts today (for me; the opening night premiere was J. Edgar last night, but I didn’t go to that), and there are a boat-load of fantastic films at AFI Fest 2001 Presented by Audi. Thanks to Audi’s sponsorship (among others), tickets are again free for all screenings this year, and if you’re in the LA area, there’s still time to reserve tickets to various screenings at the AFI Fest website. A lot of things are still available, other things aren’t right now, but they always release more tickets the day before the screening online, or at the box office the day of, or you can wait in the rush line and there’s a good chance you’ll make it in. The fest gathers the best of the other festivals throughout the year, with high-profile films from TIFF, Venice, Cannes, Sundance, SXSW and others showing up. Here’s the list of what I’ll likely be seeing (getting some major things I won’t be out of the way first). My main reviews will be going up on Row Three, but I’ll try to get festival impressions and capsules up over here as well.

All the trailer links open in a lightbox, so you won’t have to leave the site to watch them.

Big-Name Films I Won’t Be Seeing

Some of these are gala screenings I’d hoped to see but ended up not being able to get tickets, a few others are ones that fell to the vagaries of scheduling because as much as I wanted to see them, they were against ones I wanted to see more. The good news is most of these are going to be easily available in regular release within a few weeks, so it’s no great loss.

The Artist

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Béjo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller
Country: USA/France
Synopsis:Silence is golden in director Michel Hazanavicius’ delightful and dialogue-less black-and-white feature about Hollywood’s bumpy transition from silent films to “talkies.”
My take: Let’s see, a B&W silent film made in 2011 set in Hollywood during the late 1920s? HELL YES. This movie was friggin’ MADE for me, and the fact that it’s gotten raves at every festival so far this year doesn’t hurt, either. Most anticipated not just of the festival, but of the year.

Carnage

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Country: France/Germany/Poland/Spain
Synopsis:Razor-sharp and acidly funny, CARNAGE strips away the thin veneer of civilization to find the savage heart beating just below the surface. Adapting Yasmina Reza’s smash comedy play “God of Carnage” to the screen, Roman Polanski assembles a dream cast to portray two sets of New York City parents locked in a showdown after their children clash on a playground.
My take: Polanski plus these four actors piqued my interest already (as well as hearing very positive feedback from the play), but seeing the trailer sealed the deal. This looks HILARIOUS in the best way.

Shame

Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie
Synopsis: A searing examination of sexual compulsion, the film features two extraordinary performances. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a seemingly normal New Yorker trapped by his erotic compulsions. Carey Mulligan pivots 180 degrees from her sweet and vulnerable performance in AN EDUCATION as Sissy, Brandon’s needy, neurotic sister.
My take: This sounds both incredible and really hard to watch, at least it would be for me. I want to see it eventually, though, for sure, if only to see what is almost sure to be an Oscar-nominated performance from Fassbender.

My Week With Marilyn

Director: Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper
Country: United Kingdom
Synopsis: Michelle Williams gives a luminous performance as Marilyn Monroe, ably supported by Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench in this intimate portrait of the tragic Hollywood icon.
My take: Advance reviews from people I trust take the film down a few notches for being pretty much your standard biopic, reinforcing the legend more than looking at the actress, but have had nothing but praise for Williams’ performance. As a huge fan of both Williams and Monroe, that’s enough for me.

A Separation

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Leila Hatami, Peyman Moadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Babak Karimi, Merila Zarei
Country: Iran
Synopsis: Winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin, this drama is a complex portrait of an Iranian family torn apart by a divorce and an escalating feud.
My take: This is Iran’s official Oscar entry, and everything I’ve heard about it has been great. As I said above, I’m into Iranian film lately, but I’ve mostly seen the underground variety; I bet this is not one of those, what with the country choosing it to represent them at the Oscars and all.

My Planned Screenings

I likely won’t make it to quite all of these, because some of my schedule for later days is still a bit in flux. But they’re all at least tentatively on there for now. I’m also planning on hitting two or three of the short programs, but I don’t usually research those in advance, just fit them into my schedule as possible. I will recommend Shorts Program 1 if you’re attending the fest because it has The Eagleman Stag in it, which was easily the best short I saw at LAFF – it won the best short subject award at that fest, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t come up for an animated short nomination at the Oscars.

Melancholia

Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Brady Corbet, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, Kiefer Sutherland
Country: Denmark/Sweden/France/Italy
Synopsis: Denmark’s most celebrated and notorious filmmaker returns with a drama about depression, severely dysfunctional families, and the end of the world.
My take: I’m generally a fan of von Trier, provocateur that he is, and if anything, this looks like his most accessible, most lyrical film in…ever, really. It’s getting praise even from people who don’t like him, while not losing the support of those that do. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.

The Day He Arrives

Director: Hong Sang-soo
Starring: Yu Jun-sang, Kim Sang-joong, Song Sun-mi, Kim Bok-yung
Country: South Korea
Synopsis: In director Hong Sang-soo’s sublime black-and-white vision of Seoul in winter, a filmmaker’s visit to an old friend reverberates with déjà vu-inducing parallels and repetitions.
My take: Hong Sang-soo’s HaHaHa was one of my favorite films of last year’s AFI Fest, so I was excited about this as soon as I heard about it a few months ago and was really hoping AFI would program it.

This is Not a Film

Director: Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
Starring: Jafar Panahi
Country: Iran
Synopsis: Banned by Iran from filmmaking for 20 years and threatened with imprisonment, Jafar Panahi offers a remarkable portrait of an artist at the crossroads.
My take: I’m slowly gaining a thing for Iranian film, especially underground Iranian film (I’ve seen and enjoyed one at every festival I’ve been to so far), and though I haven’t seen any of Jafar Panahi’s films, I’ve certainly heard of some – The Circle and Offside are both well-known in world cinema circles. Filmmaking is risky in Iran, though, requiring permits and government approval – Panahi’s personal account of running afoul of the government is sure to be amazing.

Pina

Director: Wim Wenders
Country: Germany/France
Synopsis: Wim Wenders captures the world of choreographer Pina Bausch and her dance company in spectacular 3D with thrilling performances of many of her most famous works.
My take: I’m not a huge fan of 3D, but my best experience with it was Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams last year, and I think Wenders’ use of it in a dance performance piece could be amazing as well. Even the 2D clips in the trailer are pretty exhilarating.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Country: United Kingdom
Synopsis: Tilda Swinton gives a remarkable performance as Eva, a reluctant mother whose life is shattered beyond repair by her son’s Columbine-like atrocity.
My take: Personally, I don’t gravitate toward school-shooting movies, but everything I’ve heard about this one says that it’s far from your typical take on the genre, instead focusing on the parents in a way that almost turns the film into psychological horror.

Continue reading

TCM Film Festival 2011

Once again I am heading to the TCM Classic Film Festival, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s such a great opportunity to see classic films the best way possible – on the big screen with audiences who love them. The overall theme of this year’s festival is Music in the Movies, with sidebars on George and Ira Gershwin, Bernard Herrmann, Disney, and Roy Rogers. The largest groups of selections, in the Essentials and Discoveries categories, are not just about music, though, but cover everything from little-known pre-Code films to beloved classics like All About Eve to what many consider the greatest Hollywood film of them all, Citizen Kane.

You’ll find me mostly haunting the Discoveries screenings, though – many of those films are rare and hard to find, so this might be the only chance to see them. Of course, seeing anything on the giant screen in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, one of the few remaining true movie palaces in the country, is tempting, so I’ll sneak in there for some of the big-name screenings.

I’ve posted the full full lineup at Row Three, and my reviews and reports on the festival will be going over there too (under the TCM Film Festival tag). But here’s a quick rundown of what I’m planning to see over the weekend, and I’ll try to post some casual updates over here, too. I’ll be updating Twitter regularly @faithx5 as well.

Thursday

LaughOGram.jpgLAUGH-O-GRAMS
Walt Disney

Before he started the studio that would bear his name, Disney started the Laugh-O-Grams studio in Kansas City, Missouri. This collection of recently discovered and restored works heralds the earliest days of Walt Disney’s career. When I first saw this on the program, I was really hoping I’d get a chance to see them – the festival is also screening a set of Silly Symphonies, which would be great, but I’ve seen a bunch of those before. These I hadn’t even heard of and with my growing interest in silent film and animation history, the opportunity see something like this is pretty cool. TCM Festival.

Under-Western-Stars.jpgUNDER WESTERN STARS (1938)
Joseph Kane; Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnett, Carol Hughes, Guy Usherf

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a Roy Rogers film; I was afraid at first I wasn’t going to be able to get to any of the series celebrating his 100th birthday, but it turned out that scheduling allowed this one, his first starring role. No Dale Evans yet, but Roy and Trigger are already going strong. It’s also the only Rogers film in the National Film Registry, so there’s that. I also love that they’re showing this and several other films with accompanying shorts, this time the cartoon Deputy Droopy. That’s what I call a good old time at the movies. TCM Festival.

The-Devil-is-a-Woman.jpgTHE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (1935)
Josef von Sternberg; Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, Edward Everett Horton, Alison Skipworth, Cesar Romero

It’s been weighing on me pretty heavily lately that I’ve never gotten around to seeing any of Josef von Sternberg’s collaborations with Marlene Dietrich – in fact, my exposure to both von Sternberg and Dietrich in general is pretty meager. Apparently this film is a controversial one, too – got into trouble with both Production Code head Joe Breen and the Spanish government for the unrepentant sensuality of Dietrich’s Concha Perez (and the depiction of the Spanish police). It will hopefully be the first of many Dietrich-von Sternberg films I see this year. TCM Festival.

Friday

Taxi.jpgTAXI! (1932)
Roy Del Ruth; James Cagney, Loretta Young, George E. Stone, Guy Kibbee

This one stuck in last on my schedule when I realized that I had somehow left an empty spot early on Friday. Of course, early is 8:15am, so we’ll see if I actually make it down there in time for it. Anyway, I have never heard of this film, but it’s just after James Cagney’s star-making turn in The Public Enemy, placing him as a cab driver fighting the mob. So, like, still a gangster picture but he’s not a gangster. Loretta Young is his love interest; she impressed me in Platinum Blonde, another early sound picture (where I liked her more than in her later films), so I’m hoping for the same result here. Also of note, this is apparently the film that Cagney’s “You dirty rat” misquote comes from. TCM Festival.

The-Constant-Nymph.jpgTHE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943)
Edmund Goulding; Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Brenda Marshall, Alexis Smith, Charles Coburn, Dame May Whitty, Peter Lorre

Choosing this over A Streetcar Named Desire (which is on my List of Shame of unwatched films) was one of the hardest choices I had to make. But The Constant Nymph has been caught up in legal battles for ages, which has prevented its release on DVD and even, I think, kept it from playing on TCM. It’s been one of their most-requested films for years. So I had to go with the one I may never get a chance to see again (and that garnered and Oscar nomination for Joan Fontaine) rather than the one that’s easily available on DVD. TCM Festival.

Bigger-Than-Life.jpgBIGGER THAN LIFE (1956)
Nicholas Ray; James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau, Robert F. Simon, Christopher Olsen

I became a huge Nicholas Ray fan after seeing In a Lonely Place, but I haven’t gotten around to this one yet, which was rejected by its original audience but championed by Cahiers du cinema writers Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I agree with like 90% of their taste, so I’m really looking forward to checking out this tale of disquieted middle America, with a teacher’s prescription drug addiction turning him into a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde. The widescreen, Technicolor cinematography looks luscious as well. TCM Festival.

The-7th-Voyage-of-Sinbad.jpgTHE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)
Nathan Juran; Kerwin Matthews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer, Torin Thatcher

This is part of the Bernard Herrmann series; I had no idea he had written the music for this, but that’s just icing on the cake. I’ve got a real soft spot for stop-motion effects, and I’ve sadly not seen very many films by the master of stop-motion effects, Ray Harryhausen. This is one of his best-known, and I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to see it on the big screen. TCM Festival.

Design-for-Living.jpgDESIGN FOR LIVING (1933)
Ernst Lubitsch; Fredric March, Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins, Edward Everett Horton, Franklin Pangborn, Isabel Jewell, Jane Darwell

One of only two or three films I’m catching that I’ve seen before, but it’s been so long and I remember so little of it that it’ll be like seeing it for the first time. Lubitsch is always a fantastic director (well, almost – I’ve got no love for Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife) and the pre-Code era really let him indulge his European sensibilities, as in this film about a trio of Bohemian artists; even toned down a bit from the original Noel Coward play, it’s far racier than the screen would allow only a year or two later. TCM Festival.

Spartacus.jpgSPARTACUS (1960)
Stanley Kubrick; Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov

I’m only planning to see a few in the classic Chinese theatre this year, and this is one of them – a sword and sandal epic from Stanley Kubrick, Kirk Douglas, and Dalton Trumbo, all powerful personalities fighting to get their vision on screen. I’ve never seen it before, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been on my list for a looooong time. Plus, Kirk Douglas is gonna be there. TCM Festival.

Saturday

This-is-the-Night.jpgTHIS IS THE NIGHT (1932)
Frank Tuttle; Lili Damita, Charles Ruggles, Roland Young, Thelma Todd, Cary Grant

Cary Grant’s debut film! That’s all you need to say to perk up my interest, even though he’s fifth-billed and ends up having his wife stolen by Roland Young (!). In any case, the double-crossing plot to get her back sounds entertaining, and seeing such a young Grant will be a treat. This is newly restored by UCLA, too, so the print should look gorgeous. TCM Festival.

Hoop-la.jpgHOOP-LA (1933)
Frank Lloyd; Clara Bow, Preston Foster, Richard Cromwell, Herbert Mundin, James Gleason

My second hard choice was The Outlaw Josey Wales vs. this film, which is Clara Bow’s final film performance and a difficult one to find. Again, I had to go with the rarer film, since Josey Wales is readily available and even plays rep cinemas with some frequency. Whereas I might never get to see this again. Still a very difficult choice. But I’ve never seen Bow in a sound film, so I’m curious about that as well as the tension between her trying to move beyond her It Girl persona and the studio very much wanting to keep her in it. TCM Festival.

The-Man-with-the-Golden-Arm-2.jpgTHE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955)
Otto Preminger; Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker, Arnold Stang, Darren McGavin

The program had me on this one when it mentioned there was a jazz trumpet over the opening titles. For some reason, 1950s and 1960s films with jazz scores are totally my thing right now, and I know Otto Preminger used jazz perfectly in Anatomy of a Murder; I’m hoping for the same thing here. Oh, and it’s also the film where Sinatra proved (again) that he had real acting chops, playing a drug addict trying to stay clean. Add in a new restoration print, and I have high hopes for this one. TCM Festival.

Pennies-from-Heaven.jpgPENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981)
Herbert Ross; Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, Jessica Harper, Vernel Bagneris, Christopher Walken

I initially wrote this one off my short list because 1981 is a stretch for me as a “classic”, and because I distrust musicals from the 1980s, but then I noticed it has Bernadette Peters in it. And that put it right back on the list because Bernadette Peters is awesome. The program describes it as a “mash-up of two popular Hollywood genres of the ’30s — the glamorous musical and the gritty social problem picture,” and with that, I’m fully on board. Looks like it’s a definite throwback to the old-school musicals I know and love, and I’m excited to discover it. TCM Festival.

gaslight.jpgGASLIGHT (1944)
George Cukor; Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury

This was a really tough choice because it’s up against La Dolce Vita and Shaft – I’ve seen all of these movies (plus the other two in the same slot), and would’ve loved to see them again. Gaslight barely got the nod because I remember it the least well of the three, making it due for a rewatch, plus Angela Lansbury is going to be here talking about it, and she’s a treasure. TCM Festival.

The-Mummy.jpgTHE MUMMY (1932)
Karl Freund; Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners

The original 1932 version of The Mummy has been on my October horror to-watch list for at least two years now, and I’ve never managed to fit it in. So happy to have the chance now, and at a midnight screening no less. Last year the midnight cult screening was Bride of Frankenstein, which I’d seen before – it’s gonna be fun to share a new one (to me) with a midnight audience, who are always rowdy fun. TCM Festival.

Sunday

Night-Flight.jpgNIGHT FLIGHT (1933)
Clarence Brown; John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy

The program is calling this “the Grand Hotel of adventure films,” playing off the star-studded ensemble cast that both films boast. Apparently this one is a little more disjointed (one criticism is that the superstars are rarely in scenes together), but I’m still looking forward to seeing them. Both male Barrymores, plus Gable, plus Loy, plus Helen Hayes, plus ad nauseum…yeah. And produced by David O. Selznick is not usually a bad thing. Plus it’s been out of circulation since 1942 (why? I don’t know), so it’s pretty rare to get a chance to see it. TCM Festival.

Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood
The festival has a number of panels with academics, historians, or filmmakers discussing specific topics; I try to make it to at least one of these, and this year I’m pretty sure it’s going to be this one, with historian Donald Bogle talking about the history of African-Americans in Hollywood during the studio era. Last year he curated and introduced a program of Warner Bros. cartoons that were pulled from circulation because of racist content in the 1960s, and he had some really helpful and perceptive things to say; I’m looking forward to hearing more about the topic in a less specific context.

Nicholas-Brothers.jpgA TRIBUTE TO THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS
The Nicholas Brothers

If you watch many 1940s musicals, you’ll become acquainted with The Nicholas Brothers before too long, as they’re responsible for some of the most down-right incredible dance numbers ever put on film. They also had stunning careers on Broadway, television, vaudeville, and nightclubs, and it’s not hard to see why as soon as you see them perform. On film, all you see of them is specialty numbers – this tribute will I’m sure fill in the blanks of their lives and careers. TCM Festival.

Fantasia.jpgFANTASIA (1940)
various; Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor

The Closing Night Gala is a brand-new digital restoration of one of Walt Disney’s crowning achievements. I’ve seen this before, obviously, but only on television. Seeing a restoration print, in Grauman’s Chinese theatre? Yeah, that’s not something I’m going to pass up. TCM Festival.

What I’m Missing

Even with all those fifteen or so films listed above that I am planning to see, there are dozens more I’m having to skip. The most painful are the aforementioned The Outlaw Josey Wales and A Streetcar Named Desire, both ones I passed over in order to go to harder-to-find films, but that are very high on my personal to-watch list. Also, I’m skipping An American in Paris, but mostly because it’s the Opening Gala and I didn’t want to go to the hassle of getting the additional credential required for that. I would’ve loved to have seen Gold Diggers of 1933 on the big screen with an audience, but I’ve seen it a dozen times and I couldn’t justify it over one I haven’t. Ditto lots of others, including Girl Crazy, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, All About Eve, The Third Man (which is still tempting), Carousel, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Goldfinger, La Dolce Vita, Manhattan and West Side Story. There’s also Citizen Kane, Taxi Driver, and The Godfather, all great films I think are swell, but are up against things I haven’t seen and lost out. So many others, really, I could list the whole schedule. There’s enough incredible films here to fill up three or four festivals. I hope they saved some good stuff for next year!

AFI Film Festival Wrap-Up

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I spent most of the first week of November (October 30-November 7) at the AFI Film Festival which, for the first time ever and thanks to sponsors Audi and others, was completely free. It was my first real film festival, and it was an incredible experience – sixteen films in ten days. I exhausted myself a few times during it, but it was completely worth it just to be in that atmosphere of film, filmmakers, film critics, and filmgoers. I posted my immediate thoughts during the festival on Twitter with the hashtag #afifest and full reviews over on RowThree, but I wanted to provide a more personal view of my festival experience here.

The AFI Festival positions itself as a “festival of festivals,” bringing the best of the earlier festivals (Toronto, Sundance, Cannes, etc.) to LA, and capping it off with five days of gala premieres of Oscar-bait studio films at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I avoided the gala premieres because it was difficult to impossible to get advanced tickets and getting there early enough to join the rush lines (where people waited to take any seats left-over after pass-holders and ticket-holders took their seats) was problematic, plus the one night I was outside the Chinese theatre before a premiere, it was INSANE and I remembered why I generally avoid the tourist-ridden Hollywood-Highland area.

Instead, I spent my time catching foreign and smaller films, and it was well worth it – I found several films that will easily make my best of the year list, and saw a few that may not even get distribution, which I feel fortunate to have been able to see in a theatre. I’m not sure what to make of the fact, actually, that all three films with well-known actors (in the US, anyway – some are major stars in their home countries) are near the bottom of my list.

Festival Highlights

SIX FILMS IN ONE DAY, BABY. Yeah. Films from 10am through 2am the next morning, that’s what I call a good day. And still plenty of time to stretch my legs and get food in between.

grauman's.jpgSeeing a film in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. That thing is SWANK. Screen the size of an IMAX, just about, I swear, and really ornate decorations everywhere. The seats, though, weren’t quite as comfortable as the regular Mann theatre next door. So perhaps it’s good that only one of the six films I saw that day was in Grauman’s.

Checking out the changing crowd over Halloween – normal tourists in the morning, families with costumed kids in the afternoon, then costumed 20-30somethings overnight. They were still out in force when I left at 2am, though the rest of the nights thinned out fairly rapidly approaching midnight. Possibly a weekend thing as well as a Halloween thing; I haven’t spent too much time in Hollywood.

Meeting Karina Longworth, one of my favorite film critics (founding editor of Cinematical, then editor-in-chief of Spoutblog, now freelancing), albeit briefly. I knew she was at the festival from Twitter, but she doesn’t know me from Eve, so I didn’t want to be all “hey, @karinalongworth, I’m here too, come meet me!” so I just hoped I’d run into her and recognize her. And I did! She came in and sat right in front of me for Woman Without Piano, and we chatted briefly about the Chabrol film she’d just come from. And I dropped my end of the conversation completely because I realized that the only Chabrol film I’d seen was his first one, from 1960. Oops.

A completely full house for Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank. I was a fan of her debut feature Red Road, and it was so great to see such a good turnout for her second feature. With that kind of audience, in that atmosphere, the film crackled. It was the epitome of a perfect festival screening.

Being at the front of the After.Life rush line when Justin Long and Christina Ricci arrived. I’m not a celebrity watcher, but it’s still fun to have a good view when people come to the premieres of their films. Christina Ricci is TINY. And she was funny in the Q&A section, as well.

Festival Lowlights

Not knowing where to park or go the first night. I ended up having to walk way around to avoid the gawkers checking out the Fantastic Mr. Fox premiere. That’s one I would’ve really wanted to go to, but considering how much difficulty I had getting to the one I was going to on time, I would’ve had little chance at rushing it, plus I was already annoyed just walking around all the tourists, much less making my way through them to find the rush line. It wasn’t worth the hassle for a film that came out only a few weeks later (I’ve already seen it now, as a matter of fact). And that decided me against trying for any of the other gala premieres later in the week.

Having to miss the Troll 2 documentary Best Worst Movie, due to a scheduling conflict. It was the only serious scheduling conflict I had, aside from ones that involved gala premieres, which as I said above, I had decided to skip anyway.

Following the amazing I Killed My Mother with the lackluster The Messenger – the latter film opened in theatres last week to quite positive reviews, which leads me to think that at least part of my dislike of it was due to seeing it so soon after one one of the best films of the year, hands down. The downside of double-features and seeing so many films in close proximity to each other.

Not having anything to see on Wednesday. It was good in one way, because I was so physically beat by Tuesday night that I needed a day off, but I had withdrawal, too, like coming down off a high. I mean, I guess it was like that. I’ve never actually…moving on now.

Changing venues to Santa Monica for Saturday’s shows. I love Laemmle cinemas, and that’s not a bad one at all (and I did enjoy the chance to hang around the Promenade in between shows), but it has nowhere near the atmosphere of Grauman’s/Mann’s. Plus I parked in the wrong place the first time, which was a super-pain.

Being really disappointed with After.Life. I wanted to like it so much, and it was so mediocre. I didn’t even review it for Row Three, because I couldn’t bear to think about it that much.

The Films, Best to Worst

I have a few reviews by other Row Three writers linked in here (I didn’t write about them again if someone else had already covered them at TIFF or elsewhere). If there’s no link, none of us wrote a full review.

i_killed_my_mother_006.jpgI Killed My Mother
Right now, this Canadian film (Canada’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award) is sitting in my #2 spot for the whole year, second only to Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I Killed My Mother is a coming of age tale, a coming out tale, a teenage rebellion tale, and an artistic freedom tale, but it’s more than all those things. I literally came out of the theatre too overwhelmed to do anything but sink against the wall and breathe. The fact that the writer/director/star Xavier Dolan was only 19 when the film was made (he’s 20 now, one of the youngest recipients of a Cannes award) only makes an incredible film that much more amazing. Every note, every look, every line of dialogue is perfect. FULL REVIEW

 

Fish_Tank_2.jpgFish Tank
After being suitably impressed with Andrea Arnold’s first feature Red Road, I had extremely high hopes for this follow-up. And she actually exceeded my expectations, creating a film that is realistic and fanciful, personal and ambiguous, beautiful and ugly in all the right ways. 15-year-old Mia struggles with her lowerclass family, her grades in school, conflicts with neighbors, and her own rebelliousness – Katie Jarvis is a revelation in the role, imbuing Mia with just the right mix of tough exterior and wistful dreams. Through it all, Arnold managed to make me hope against hope that certain things wouldn’t happen (because I cared about the characters so much I didn’t want them to) and then when they did happen, convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the narrative couldn’t have gone any other way. That, my friends, is how you make a story. FULL REVIEW

 

intheattic01.jpgIn the Attic
One of three stop-motion films at the festival, from Jiri Barta, one of the masters of Czech stop-motion animation. The Czechs have excelled at the art form for decades, and if this is any indication, they’re not slowing down at all. The whole thing takes place among discarded toys and other items in an attic, but an attic transformed by imagination into a whole world. It’s a fantastic tribute to childsplay and the incredible innovation that children can bring to their world as they make up stories and use everyday items in new and unexpected ways. My jaw was dropping every few minutes at the sheer inventiveness. FULL REVIEW

 

loved_ones.jpgThe Loved Ones
I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going to a midnight screening of a horror movie, even (especially?) one that got as much praise as this one got at TIFF’s Midnight Madness earlier this year. But I’m so, so glad I stayed. This was a riot from start to finish, a perfectly balanced mix of horror and comedy with a surprising amount of emotional depth (that never threatened to overcome the fun, though). Any fans of over-the-top horror (think Evil Dead meets Carrie) are going to love this one. FULL REVIEW (by Andrew James)

 

white_ribbon.jpgThe White Ribbon
Now, The White Ribbon is a better film than most of the ones above it (excepting I Killed My Mother and possibly Fish Tank), but it’s not one that I can really say I enjoyed watching. The film is set in a small German village in the years just before WWI, and everything seems to be pretty normal there, until a series of astoundingly violent and cruel events occur, and no one can figure out who caused them. But this is a thriller with few thrills, much more of a mood piece punctuated with both physical and verbal outbursts that are that much more powerful because the rest of the film is so subdued. Michael Haneke’s mastery of his art is clear from this film, and I expect it will take a few more viewings to even being to get all of the nuances in his themes (it’s not unimportant, for instance, that the children in this film will grow up to be the vanguard of Hitler’s regime). There’s definitely a LOT to chew on here. FULL REVIEW (by Mike Rot)

 

town_called_panic.jpgA Town Called Panic
In this manic and hugely entertaining stop-motion film, Cowboy, Indian, and Horse all reside together, until Cowboy and Indian make a horrible miscalculation when ordering Horse’s birthday present and end up burying their house in a huge pile of bricks. Then they rebuild the house, only to have it stolen. So they follow the thief, only to end up in a series of adventures too wacky to enumerate. I mean, I could enumerate them, but that would spoil the “OMG, WTF NOW” quality you’ll have when you see it. :) Let’s just say a snowball-hurling giant mechanical penguin isn’t the strangest part. If you’d like a taste, search on YouTube – the film is based on a Belgian television show, many episodes of which are on YouTube (mostly in English; the film is in French).

 

GuyandMadeline02.jpgGuy and Madeline on a Park Bench
I first heard of this on Getafilm, where Daniel Getahun described it as “as a “verite-style romantic musical dramedy” with a jazz score. That’s accurate, and his mention of both current mumblecore-esque and New Wave influences is as well – it definitely wears its influences on its sleeve, and since I love those influences (among which I’d include early Cassavettes and Jacques Demy), I loved this film. Meeting director Damien Chazelle after the film, I said how much I enjoyed the way the musical numbers just pop out of nowhere, and he said that he didn’t think musicals should apologize for being musicals. Exactly. FULL REVIEW

 

Reporter.jpgReporter
I don’t see too many documentaries, though I should probably actively try to see more. This one follows New York Times columnist Nicholas Cristof, well-known for his coverage of the Darfur humanitarian crisis, as he goes to the Congo in search of a story that will ignite his readers’ compassion. And really, that’s what the film’s about – how to overcome the psychic numbing that occurs when people are faced with the suffering of millions, and also, to what degree Cristof is compromised in his ideals by his need to find the most horrifying stories. FULL REVIEW

 

NoOneKnowsAboutPersianCats.jpgNo One Knows About Persian Cats
An Iranian underground film about an Iranian underground indie rock band trying to pull off performances and get visas to leave the country without getting arrested for performing with permits? Sign me up. Especially since it’s starring an actual pair of musicians (who are now in London, having successfully gotten the visas their alter-egos needed). I enjoyed the music a lot and hope to find some more of it. The story was pretty spare; it would’ve been nice to have a little more depth in it (and a little more clarity for those of us not familiar with Iranian laws). FULL REVIEW

 

redriding2.jpgRed Riding: 1974
Red Riding: 1980
Red Riding: 1983
England’s Channel 4 aired this trilogy as a miniseries last year; it’s due to release theatrically in the US in 2010. As a whole, the three parts follow a police investigation into a couple of serial killers in 1970s-1980s Yorkshire, all while the corruption within the police force itself shows itself to be more and more widespread and insidious. It’s gritty and frequently disturbing, but with a lot of ongoing interest and integrity, even watching all three back to back. Each part has a different director and is shot using a different method (i.e., one is on 35mm, another using RED digital cameras), giving each a distinct style and look, while still being clearly part of the same universe. On their own, 1980 (directed by Man on Wire‘s James Marsh) is easily the most solid, with Paddy Considine stepping in as an outside officer investigating the Yorkshire police and uncovering just how deep the corruption goes. It has a very good self-contained story that only tangetially relates to the events in the first film and has a greater depth of character and world than the other two films. 1974 is good as well, benefiting from a very violent and unflinching style, but went a little off-track toward the end. 1983 basically continues the story from 1974 almost without any reference to 1980 – it’s good in that it wraps up the story that was left somewhat unresolved from 1974, but it’s also overly meandering and neglects to include hardly any characters to identify with.

 

LondonRiver01.jpgLondon River
London River is set in the aftermath of the July 2005 London Underground bombings, as a conservative English mother and an Algerian father search London for their missing children, only to discover that they were living together. All mixed in are themes of racial and religous prejudice, urban vs. rural life, and relationships between parents and absent children. It was all right, but nothing particularly memorable. FULL REVIEW.

 

woman_without_piano_2009.jpgWoman Without Piano
This had a lot going for it – a relatively new director in Spanish cinema, inspired by the silent cinema of Chaplin and Keaton, comparisons by the program directors to Fellini and Masina – but for me, it didn’t really live up to all those expectations. After a day of mundane housework and errands, a housewife dons a wig and heads out into nighttime Madrid, meeting a mixture of people and having a number of ill-timed misadventures. It had its moments, and maybe on rewatch I’d “get” it (it shared a festival prize with Fish Tank, which I LOVED), but I left feeling pretty “meh” about it. FULL REVIEW

 

messenger.jpgThe Messenger
After a tour of duty in Iraq, Ben Foster gets assigned to Notification Duty, pairing with Woody Harrelson to be the ones tasked with telling widows and families when their loved ones have been killed in action. As difficult as this job is, it begins to help Foster deal with some of his own demons, especially after he takes a special interest in one of the widows, played with sensitivity by Samantha Morton. Harrelson plays up his role for both comic and emotional results, and it’s a good role for Foster, who’s moving up nicely in his career. But the story as a whole struck me as fairly routine and not nearly as groundbreaking as it thought it was. But it’s been getting decent reviews since it opened theatrically last week, so I may be biased by having seen it immediately after I Killed My Mother.

 

after.life.jpgAfter.Life
What a disappointment. Christina Ricci is psychologically haunted by who knows what, and has difficulty connecting with her boyfriend Justin Long. When she’s in a car accident, she wakes up in a morgue to have mortician Liam Neeson tell her that she’s dead, that he has the power to talk to those hovering just after life, unable to quite let go and believe they’re dead. There’s a decent premise in here somewhere, and there’s a solid tension as we’re not quite sure, either, whether she’s actually dead or alive and held prisoner by Neeson. But director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo doesn’t really believe in her film, throws a lot of unnecessary dramatic music, lets it drag to a standstill in the middle, and keeps Ricci naked for an unbelievable amount of time. It can’t decide whether it wants to be an over-the-top cheesy horror flick or a thoughtful meditation on the meaning of life and death, and so it ends up not being very good at either one.