Tag Archives: Frank Capra

Scorecard: November-December 2012

Usually November is a huge movie-watching month for me thanks to maxing out on AFI Fest (last year I think I saw upwards of 15-20 films at the festival), but I cut back significantly this year, skipping midnights and not planning more than two programs per day, which also included a number of shorts programs. So I only ended up with six features from the fest, which was a much more manageable number for me this year. I’ve largely used the same brief reviews I posted earlier on Row Three (some slightly condensed, but not much), but you can also read rundowns of the shorts programs over there if you’re so inclined. Then I was typically late getting all this together, and since I watched relatively few films in December as well, decided to throw those into the same post.

What I Loved

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I saw the 2D version, in 24fps, and I’m glad I did, so I wouldn’t be distracted/thinking about tech things instead of the story itself. I really enjoyed the film, at least as much if not more than the LOTR films. I was worried about the length, given the snappiness of the book, and they’re definitely giving it a more epic feeling than the novel, but it works. The added and adapted stuff from the LOTR appendices fits well, and ties the story closer to LOTR in nice ways, while still keeping some of the lighter, more humorous tone of The Hobbit. The pacing is much better than I expected, with only a bit of padding/repetitiveness toward the beginning causing me any doubts at all. (NOTE: We went back to see the 48fps version later, and I don’t want to get into here, but you can see my reaction specifically to the technical aspects on Letterboxd.)

2012 USA/New Zealand. Director: Peter Jackson. Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Stephen Fry, Hugo Weaving.
Seen December 15 at The Rave.

Django Unchained

Any new Tarantino movie is automatically near the top of my anticipated list, and this one was no different. It didn’t disappoint. With Christoph Waltz in his meatiest role since, well, Inglourious Bastards, as a bounty hunter joining forces with freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx) to take down some bounty targets and eventually get Django’s wife back, it’s a Southern-style spaghetti western revenge tale that was bound to tickle my fancy. Everyone is having gleeful fun with this, right down to Leonardo diCaprio’s slimy Southern aristocrat. Tarantino doesn’t shy away from the subject either, with some brutality is sometimes quite difficult to watch (though there’s plenty of the cool kind of violence as well), and just wait until you see what role he’s got for Samuel L. Jackson. The whole cast gives it their all, whether heroes or villains, and though there’s plenty of Tarantino’s signature dialogue and scene-making, it also moves rather faster and seems less self-indulgent on the script side than often is the case. I don’t think it’s the masterpiece that Inglourious Bastards is, but it’s a whole lot of fun, and there’s no arguing that.

2012 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo diCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson.
Seen December 26 at The Rave.

Wrong

I was a pretty big fan of Quentin Dupieux’s previous film Rubber, and I may have loved Wrong even more, with its full-blown absurdity bolstered by an ever-so-slightly more substantial story. Dolph Springer wakes up one morning to find his beloved dog missing, an event that sends his already spiraling life even more out of control. Other things he’s dealing with: his workplace is constantly raining (yes, inside the office), his coworkers seem very intent that he doesn’t belong there, his neighbor and seemingly only friend leaves suddenly on a driving trip to find himself or something, the girl at the pizza place seems to have developed an obsession with him, and what’s more, the palm tree in his backyard has mysteriously turned into a pine tree. “There shouldn’t be a pine tree here. It doesn’t make sense.” No, it doesn’t, and neither does anything else in the film – except, as true absurdity should, it sort of does, right down to the eventually-revealed reason for the dog’s disappearance. Everything in the film is wrong, from obvious things like it raining indoors and trees randomly changing types to the ways people interact with each other. It’s a perfect storm of the awkward and nonsensical, and thanks to the deadpan script and actors’ perfect timing throughout, it’s absolutely hilarious even as you feel bad for these people who can’t quite manage to get along in any way that even resembles normalcy. It’s definitely getting my vote for funniest film I’ve seen this year, and I think it’s safe to say that Dupieux is perfectly tapped into my sense of humor.

2012 France. Director: Quentin Dupieux. Starring: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner, Regan Burns, Mark Burnham.
Seen November 2 at AFI Fest, Chinese Theatres.

Anna Karenina

I went into this knowing next to nothing about the story of Anna Karenina except that it’s about a scandalous affair in 19th century Russia, and Anna’s fate. I’ve never been particularly interested in the story before, as it sounded dreary and depressing (i.e., stereotypically Russian), but I’ve loved every Joe Wright film I’ve seen, and I’ve seen them all except The Soloist. I figured it would at least be a spectacle worth seeing, and I was sure right about that. Between the sets, costumes, score, and camerawork, I was mesmerized for the entire film. I have no idea how close it is to the novel – I hear people complaining that Wright left Tolstoy behind in making the film, but you know what? I don’t care. This is a gorgeous movie that manages to get across its points about a decadent society and its focus on appearances, the contrast between selfish and selfless love, and the gender inequality of the time while never failing to be visually sumptuous. I was worried about the conceit of having everything on a single set, but it worked completely for me – the long takes sometimes taking us from one place to a completely different place without ever cutting are virtuosic and when the film DOES take a break from the stage-bound set, it’s for good thematic reasons. To me, this is possibly Wright’s best adaptation, because it doesn’t feel so stiflingly bound to the book as Atonement, but rather takes flight with Wright’s imagination, and that’s what I want to see in an adaptation – the director’s vision of what the source material could be cinematically.

2012 UK. Director: Joe Wright. Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Matthew Macfadyen, Alicia Vikander, Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery.
Seen November 18 at Arclight Hollywood.

Les Miserables

I think I may be enough biased towards this story and music that it would’ve been hard for Tom Hooper to screw it up to the point where I wouldn’t like it. I mean, the version I’ve seen the most is the Royal Albert Hall concert version which isn’t even staged, and it still affects me greatly. But the good news is that Hooper didn’t actually screw it up at all. It’s easy to nitpick if you want (they cut out parts of songs and moved them around; they filmed in intense close-up and shallow focus most of the time; not all the singers are as good as the Broadway counterparts, etc etc etc.), but I’d rather not. Russell Crowe is the weak link voice-wise, and it’s noticeable on his two solos, but he’s actually quite good when interacting with the rest of the cast, even while singing. Amanda Seyfried managed to make me care more about Cosette than I ever have before. Anne Hathaway and Eddie Redmayne ran off with the film, making the most of Hooper’s closeups to put pure raw emotion on screen. Samantha Barks brought the same humanity and expansiveness to Eponine that she did on Broadway. The shooting style is aggressively close-up, but intentionally so – it focuses in on the pain of these people, and their joys, and when a wide shot is needed, Hooper uses them. I was fully moved and taken with the story yet again, and I was quite satisfied.

2012 USA. Director: Tom Hooper. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter.
Seen December 29 at The Rave.

The Driver

I’d heard that Drive (one of my favorite films of 2011) called back to this film especially among its 1970s and 1980s influences, and that’s absolutely true. The character of The Driver is pretty similar – laconic guy who’s an amazing getaway driver but has to get his hands dirty when a job turns out to be a set-up – plus the opening sequence of Drive is clearly modeled on the opening sequence here. The Driver doesn’t have near the stylistic overload that Drive does, but that’s okay – the aesthetics of this film work for it. Most of the car chases (which are fantastic – it’s amazing to me this film isn’t always mentioned in the company of Bullitt, The French Connection, Ronin, etc., when talking about great car chase movies) are done without music, it’s got a pretty toned down visual style, and pretty straight-forward character dynamics. But yeah, it all works, does what it sets out to do, and is quite satisfying.

1978 USA. Director: Walter Hill. Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Dern.
Seen December 9 at home.

In Another Country

The last three AFI Fests have all included films from South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo, and it’s a trend I certainly hope continues, because though he’s virtually unknown here aside from avid festival-goers, his films are consistently delightful and refreshing. In Another Country has a framing device of a young Korean girl writing three versions of a story, each involving a Frenchwoman (Isabelle Huppert) visiting the same Korean seaside town; each time she’s a slightly different character in different circumstances, but with many similar experiences. Hong’s previous film The Day He Arrives was also interested in repetition with variation, but In Another Country feels more finished and polished than that film did. It’s also more broadly funny, with Hong exploiting the language barrier for all its worth (all the characters speak English with each other, as neither French nor Korean is a shared language), but never cheaply or meanly. It’s an utterly charming film that uses character interactions and conversations to drive its ever-so-slight plot (or plots), and Hong’s mastery of conversation-driven scripting is second-to-none. Also, having Huppert on board is never a bad thing. She brings a slight melancholy to her three characters, each of whom is in Korea for a different but not necessarily happy reason, and inquiring curiosity about the folk around her. Even though we’re only with each one of her characters for about twenty minutes, it’s impossible not to be drawn right into her story each time. Meanwhile, the Korean actor who plays the lifeguard matches her in charisma, his upbeat cheerfulness and interest in her overcoming the linguistic and cultural barriers between them. Not a whole lot happens in the film beyond a lot of eating, drinking, and conversation, but it’s never less than enthralling.

2012 South Korea. Director: Hong Sang-Soo. Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Kwon Hye Hyo, Jung Yu Mi, So-ri Moon, Moon Sung Keun.
Seen November 4 at AFI Fest, Chinese Theatres.

Rewatches

One Week (1920; rewatched December 25) – Popped this one in to check the transfer on the Buster Keaton Blu-ray set my wonderful husband gave me for Christmas, and it looks gorgeous. Also, the film is hilarious, with Keaton and his new bride trying to set up a proto-Ikea do-it-yourself house.
Shadow of a Doubt (1942; rewatched December 31) – Of all the films in the Hitchcock Blu-ray set, this is the one I most wanted Jonathan to watch, so we did on the last night of the year. Still great, and the crisp B&W fairly pops out of the screen on Blu-ray.
A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992; rewatched December 25) – One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies, and I haven’t had the chance to watch it in a few years, so we made sure to make time for it this Christmas.

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Film on TV: June 1-7

Persona
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, playing at 12:30am on the 5th on TCM

Turner Classic Movies is apparently highlighting a different Great Director every night in June, showing some of their best movies. That means they are showing a BOATLOAD of great films. I’ve included a tiny intro to each director – note that after the director blurb, all the rest of the films that day on TCM are by that director. There may be films on other channels interspersed, because I’ve kept the times chronological.

All times are Eastern Standard.

Monday, June 1

9:30am – TCM – Love Affair (1939)
This film is not as well known as its remake, 1957’s An Affair to Remember, which has the advantage of having the more famous Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr rather than Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer – who were both huge stars at the time, but are less known now. Both films were directed by Leo McCarey, and tell of a shipboard romance and a fateful rendezvous. I actually like Love Affair a tad better, but that could be just because I like being contrarian.

2:30pm – TCM – Duck Soup
Leo McCarey directs the Marx Brothers in what many think is their best and zaniest film. This is the one with Groucho becoming the dictator of Freedonia and declaring war on nearby Sylvania. Frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont is on board as the wealthy woman who causes the rivalry that leads to the war. Personally, I prefer A Night at the Opera to Duck Soup, but this may be your best bet if the idea of musical interludes from Allan Jones (of which Opera has several) turns you off. Must See

6:15pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
This is one of the definitive screwball comedies (along with Bringing Up Baby), starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple who constantly fight and decide to divorce, only to wind up meddling in each other’s lives (and screw up other relationship attempts) because they just can’t quit each other. Dunne’s impersonation of a Southern belle showgirl is a highlight. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Clerks
Kevin Smith’s first feature, done for cheap, has become a cult classic, and though I think he’s done better films since Clerks, it’s definitely a worthwhile watch.
(repeats at 2:05am on the 2nd)

TCM – Great Director: John Ford
TCM starts off their celebration of great directors with John Ford, usually considered one of the greatest auteurs of the American studio era. He’s best known for westerns (like Stagecoach and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, playing tonight) and war films, but turned out plenty of quality dramas as well (like The Quiet Man). Disappointingly, TCM is not playing The Searchers, arguably his best film. Pick it up on Blu-ray, though – it’s not very expensive and it looks incredible.

10:00pm – TCM – Stagecoach
Major breakthrough for John Wayne, here playing outlaw Cisco Kid – he and the various other people on a stagecoach form a cross-section of old West society that has to learn to get on together to make it to the end of the ride alive. The most memorable, though, is Claire Trevor’s prostitute – a woman who does what she must to survive, and is shunned by everyone except Wayne. Her reaction to him treating her as a lady is perfect. Must See

2:00am (2nd) – TCM – The Quiet Man
John Wayne plays a retired boxer returning to his ancestral home in Ireland, where he meets spitfire Maureen O’Hara and decides to marry her. She’s game, except her somewhat boorish brother Victor McLaglen disapproves and refuses to give up her dowry, and tradition is tradition! A great supporting cast of character actors and an epic (and comic) boxing match round out The Quiet Man into one of the most entertaining and endearing films John Ford ever made. Though I will say the last time I watched it, I was a little more concerned by its gender politics than I had been in the past.

4:15am (2nd) – TCM – She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
The first of John Ford’s informal “Cavalry trilogy,” which continued with Fort Apache and Rio Grande – all three films star John Wayne, though they’re unrelated in plot and character. Technically, I guess that makes them both westerns and war films, doesn’t it? Heh.

Tuesday, June 2

12:00N – TCM – Captains Courageous
Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for this film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s adventure story about a spoiled rich kid who falls off a steamship and ends up having to work on a fishing vessel to get home. A young Mickey Rooney plays the ship captain’s rough-and-tumble son.

6:00pm – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
There have been a lot of versions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and this one isn’t considered one of the better ones. It’s interesting to me, though, to contast it to the 1932 version, which won an Oscar for Fredric March. In March’s version, the highly effective transformation into Hyde is done with heaps of makeup that render March unrecognizable. In this 1941 version, Spencer Tracy plays the doctor and his alter-ego, expressing the transformation almost solely through his facial expressions and physical bearing – no change in makeup – and his intensity makes it work.

TCM – Great Director: Frank Capra
Frank Capra is sometimes derided these days for what is seen as over-sentimentalism, dubbed “Capra-corn” in his honor. I think that’s mostly a mistake – his most well-known film It’s a Wonderful Life is extremely dark, and his idealistic heroes and sometimes overly hopeful endings are usually balanced by a cynical character or two that can’t quite be shaken as easily as it seems, or at least a tacit knowledge that the victories won aren’t necessarily for keeps. And for every Capra-corn Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, there’s a zany screwball comedy that reminds us that Capra was an excellent comedic director, whether you buy his idealistic side or not.

8:00pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director (Capra), Screenplay (Robert Riskin), Actor (Clark Gable), and Actress (Claudette Colbert). Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Extremely underrated comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.

11:00pm – Sundance – The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Tommy Lee Jones takes up the directorial reins for the first time with this revisionist western about a rancher whose Mexican right-hand-man dies, his last request being that his body be returned across the border to his family. Thus begins an odyssey that’s more about mood and character than anything else. It’s not wholly even, but Jones has an excellent eye, and this was one of the more surprisingly good films of its year.

12:15am (3rd) – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night, see above, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.

2:30am (3rd) – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
In what is probably Capra’s zaniest, least Capra-corn-esque film, Cary Grant plays Mortimer Brewster – a perfectly normal man until he discovers that his sweet old maid aunts have accumulated several dead bodies in the basement due to poisoning lonely old men. Add in another nephew who is a serial killer, a quack plastic surgeon, and an uncle who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and Mortimer’s got his hands full trying to keep his family secrets away from the girl he loves. It’s over-the-top, sure, but you gotta love the crazy.

Wednesday, June 3

8:10am – IFC – Three Times
Hsiao-hsien Hou directs this tripartite film – three stories set in three different time periods (1911, 1966, and 2005), each with the same actors, and each depicting a relationship that’s both very specific and individual and also sheds light on the mores of its respective time period. I liked the 1966 story the best, but they were all intriguing, and the contrast between them even more so.
(repeats 2:15pm)

TCM – Great Director: King Vidor
I’ve got to admit I don’t know very much about King Vidor, other than he directed some stuff. Maybe I should watch the documentary about him at 8:00pm, before I move on to his films?

9:00pm – TCM – The Crowd
This silent film has been on my to-watch list for a LONG time, so I’m glad TCM is giving me the opportunity to cross it off. It’s about a young couple moving to the big city, and their struggles against the impersonal, all-consuming nature of the city and the husband’s cog-in-the-wheel job.

10:45pm – TCM – The Champ
Wallace Beery earned an Oscar for his role as a has-been prizefighter, living hand to mouth with his adoring son. But then the boy has a chance to go live with his mother, long-divorced from Beery and now married to a well-to-do man. This is a great example of a high-end Warner Bros. programmer from the early 1930s – it’s very lean, nothing extra in it, but it’s got a heart that I didn’t expect.

Thursday, June 4

6:00pm – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. You do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.

TCM – Great Director: Ingmar Bergman
When Ingmar Bergman died a couple of years ago, floods of blog posts and articles came out, some valorizing his work and mentioning the profound effect his films had on the authors, others positing that he’s overrated and only wanna-be elitists claim to enjoy his films. But whether you love him or hate him, you can’t get around the staying power that images from The Seventh Seal, Persona and others have had. He’s sometimes a difficult director, but I believe the rewards are there.

9:00pm – TCM – The Seventh Seal
A medieval knight has a chess match with Death for the fate of his soul in one of Bergman’s best-known films. It’s not one of my favorites, although I’m probably due for a rewatch. It ought to be seen, but I don’t think it should be the only Bergman people see, nor the first.

10:45pm – TCM – Wild Strawberries
I’m looking forward to catching Wild Strawberries for the first time this week; I’ve got no excuse for not having watched it, other than the plot descriptions I’ve read (from IMDb: “After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.”) don’t sound that interesting. But Bergman’s strength is in mood, so I’m giving that plot the benefit of the doubt.

12:30am (5th) – TCM – Persona
Of all Bergman’s films, Persona is the one I always come back to. A nurse takes her patient, a former actress who one day simply refused to talk any more, to a lonely island to try to help her recover. They soon engage in a battle of the wills, and their identities start merging. Meanwhile, Bergman interrogates not only the concept of identity within the film, but the apparatus of film itself and its capacity for understanding and communication. There’s more to it every time I watch it. Must See

1:30am (5th) – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria and La Strada, two films that Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase in the mid-1950s with Giulietta Masina, always stand out to me almost even more than his more famous, more flamboyant 1960s films like 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. Nights of Cabiria casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen. Must See

2:00am (5th) – TCM – Hour of the Wolf
Another Bergman I haven’t seen yet, but am really excited about. From IMDb: “An artist in crisis is haunted by nightmares from the past in Ingmar Bergman’s only horror film, which takes place on a windy island. During ‘the hour of the wolf’ – between midnight and dawn – he tells his wife about his most painful memories.” Everything I have heard about it suggests it’s nice and surreal, and probably an influence on David Lynch. I AM THERE.

Friday, June 5

5:15pm – IFC – Before Sunrise
Though some people think Richard Linklater’s 2004 follow-up Before Sunset is better than this 1995 original, I’m going to disagree, at least until I get the chance to see both together again. Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done. Must See
(repeats at 3:45pm on the 6th)

6:00pm – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed. Must See

TCM – Great Director: Steven Spielberg
Spielberg needs no introduction. Interestingly, TCM is only playing one really good Spielberg film – the other ones are, like, 1941. Not sure what’s up with that, unless they had trouble getting rights clearances or maybe just wanted to do some lesser known entries in his catalog.

9:30pm – TCM – Saving Private Ryan
I’m sure most everyone reading this has seen Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg’s take on D-Day and a post-D-Day rescue mission, so I’ll save my breath on it, and just point out when it’s on in case someone wants a rewatch.

3:35am (6th) – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit (Almost Famous) slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Saturday, June 6

6:15am – IFC – Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s first foray into overlaid animation is a philosophical dreamscape that’ll either leave you cold or inhabit your thoughts for weeks. It’s the latter for me. Like most of Linklater’s films, it’s largely made up of people talking, but with the added interest of the unique ever-shifting, never-solid animation style (which he’d reuse with a slightly more standard sci-fi story in A Scanner Darkly).
(repeats at 2pm)

TCM – Great Director – William Wyler
William Wyler was one of the most consistently reliable directors in the Hollywood studio system, helming many of the most prestigious studio pictures of the time and guiding Bette Davis, Greer Garson, Fredric March, Olivia de Havilland, and Audrey Hepburn to Oscars (and winning three of his own in the meantime).

9:30am – TCM – The Little Foxes
Bette Davis is at her most vicious here, as the conniving matriarch who uses her daughter to play upon her estranged husband’s weaknesses in order to carry off a money-making scheme.

11:30am – TCM – Mrs. Miniver
One of the more celebrated World War II home front films has Greer Garson in an Oscar-winning turn as the stalwart title character, holding her home together against the German Blitz. It’s the kind of movie that could only be made in 1942, and it won awards all over the place. It comes off a bit over-earnest today, though.

2:00pm – TCM – Ben-Hur (1959)
The epic of epics. Chariot race and all. Except I’m not really that huge a fan. But it’s epic!

6:00pm – TCM – Jezebel
Bette Davis got one of her Oscars for this film, playing a suspiciously Scarlett O’Hara-like Southern belle the year before Gone With the Wind made it onto the screen.

8:00pm – TCM – The Letter
In this cut-above-average melodrama, Bette Davis shoots a man in self-defense. Or was it self-defense?

9:35pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman takes on Hollywood in this story of a script screener (Tim Robbins) who gets drawn further and further into a web of blackmail and double-crosses when he’s threatened by a screenwriter whose script he rejected. You gotta love it for the virtuosic opening pan at the very least; the rest of the Hollywood insider references are just gravy.
(repeats 3:45am on the 7th)

9:45pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
Not Audrey Hepburn’s first film, as is often thought, but her first lead role, and the one that immediately catapulted her into stardom. She’s a princess who runs away to try out being normal, and spends an adventurous day exploring Rome with incognito journalist Gregory Peck. Pretty much delightful right the way through.

Sunday, June 7

8:00am – IFC – Les Diaboliques
In Henri-Georges Clouzot’s thriller, a man’s wife and mistress plot together to murder him (gee, I wonder why?), but find it more difficult than they expected to get rid of him for good.

TCM – Great Director: Michael Curtiz
Michael Curtiz was a solid workhorse director for Warner Bros. throughout the 1930s and 1940s. However, he tended more toward adventure and genre pictures and thus didn’t get the prestige pictures that, say, William Wyler was known for. That said, I find a lot more enjoyment in most Curtiz pictures than in most Wyler pictures.

8:15am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
One of the classic gangster pictures has James Cagney as a criminal idolized by the youth of Hell’s Kitchen and Pat O’Brien as Cagney’s boyhood buddy who grew up to be a priest. Though the two remain friends, they wind up understandably at odds with each other when O’Brien starts working to clean up the neighborhood.

10:00am – IFC – The Wages of Fear
Many people think The Wages of Fear is Henri-Georges Clouzot’s finest film. It’s certainly intense, as a group of drifters in South America hoping to earn some money to get home take on the dangerous job of transporting truckloads of nitroglycerin to a burning oil drilling site. Every bump or snag in the road turns deadly – and there are a lot of bumps and snags.

2:00pm – TCM – Dodge City
Dodge City, not a particularly great movie. It’s a fun entry in the group of Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland matchups, as Flynn deals with the outlaw element in the western frontier town of Dodge. The real reason I like it? Fantastic barroom brawl at one point.

4:00pm – TCM – Captain Blood
This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s first of eight films together, and it’s one of the best. Flynn is the eponymous captain, a dentist named Blood who gets captured by pirates and ends up escaping and taking over the pirate ship himself. Full of swashbuckling and derring-do.

6:15pm – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films). I recently splurged on the Blu-ray, and at $13 from Amazon, it’s a total steal. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney won an Oscar putting on his dancing shoes to play song-and-dance man and Broadway composer George M. Cohan in this biopic. Though it seems strange to think of gangster picture regular Cagney in a musical, he actually got his start in show business as a hoofer, and returned to musicals many times throughout his career, though this remains the most notable example.

12:30am (8th) – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.

2:30am (8th) – TCM – Casablanca
Curtiz’s crowing achievement also happens to be one of the best films Hollywood ever turned out. I won’t bother telling you about it, though – I’m sure you’ve all seen it. Must See