Tag Archives: Girl Crazy

Top Ten: Judy Garland Films

When I was younger, I went through a phase of wanting to celebrate my favorite stars’ birthdays by watching their movies. The only one I managed to very successfully was Judy Garland, whose birthday on June 10th I celebrated with marathon viewings several years in a row. To this day, June 10th never comes around with me thinking of Judy, one of the greatest entertainers of all time. At this point, I’ve seen all but a handful of her films, so let’s use Flickchart to see what my favorites are.

Flickchart is a movie ranking website that pits two random films against each other and asks you to choose which one is better, meanwhile building a list of your favorite films. I rank according to what I like the best, prioritizing personal preferences and emotional connections, so my Flickchart is in no way meant to be objective.

10 – Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

In the 1940s, several of the studios had such impressive arrays of talent under contract that they liked to do films that basically just showcased them all. Musicals were great ways to do this, since they could just cram in musical numbers featuring different people. Ostensibly a recreation of the Follies of Broadway fame, and starring William Powell reprising his role as Ziegfeld from 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld in a very thin frame device, this is really just a series of sketches and musical numbers with no connecting material whatsoever. It’s a revue, pure and simple, something that never really caught on in film, despite a few attempts in the late 1920s. So calling this “a Judy Garland film” is a bit of a stretch, since she appears in one sketch and that’s it. But she’s pretty hilarious in it, and I do enjoy the movie as a whole, which is a pretty great excuse for a lot of solid singing and dancing, and some fair to middling comedy. Garland’s bit is “A Great Lady Gives an Interview,” a pastiche on an actress who thinks she’s all that (the role was apparently supposed to go to Greer Garson in a bit of self-parody, but I guess it hit a little too close to home and she refused to do it). It’s over the top, but Garland seems to be having a ball with it.

9 – Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

I have this much higher on my list than it appears on Flickchart’s global list (where it’s near the bottom of Garland’s filmography), partially because it’s not that well known and I doubt many Flickcharters have seen it, but it also seems to be relatively maligned even among classic movie fans. I remember looking it up in Leonard Maltin’s guide (I did that for almost everything I watched back then), and being severely disappointed that he gave it ** stars, or maybe even *1/2. I even remember the gist of the one-line review: “Well, there she is, and there the movie festers.” Okay, so it ain’t a masterpiece. But it’s one of Garland’s first adult roles, and she’s fresh-faced and delightful as the title character dogging Van Heflin’s producer to try to get a job on Broadway. Along the way are numbers like “Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son” showcase not only Judy’s magnificent pipes, but her burgeoning talent as a comedienne as well.

8 – The Pirate (1948)

This highly underrated movie was something of a flop when first released; you can kind of see why, as its story of a young girl infatuated with tales of the pirate Mack the Black and a circus performer who gets mistaken for said pirate is a bit all over the place, and the musical numbers fall toward the overly frenzied. This is a fever dream of a movie in a time period that was used to far less outre entertainment. Today parts of the film might fall under the classification of camp, as in Judy’s wild performance of “Mack the Black” (in the film, she’s under the power of hypnosis and revealing her innermost passions), while others are simply fantastically silly, like Gene Kelly being outdanced by the Nicholas Brothers in Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown.” Supporting turns from the always dependable Mildred Natwick and Walter Slezak don’t hurt, either.

Continue reading

Film on TV: June 7-13

cache2.jpg
Caché, playing on IFC on Friday

This week, look out for TCM’s memorial tribute to Dennis Hopper, with four of his films on Tuesday night, culminating in the iconic Easy Rider. Also, Thursday would be Judy Garland’s birthday, so TCM has a marathon for that, with a few good, off-beat choices, and a few pretty mediocre films, but your mileage may vary. IFC’s also bringing out a few new ones, including Thank You For Smoking on Wednesday and Caché on Friday. Also newly featured this week, classic cop-and-car-chase movie Bullitt, on TCM on Saturday. And something I’m not sure has ever happened before – both IFC and TCM are playing Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic thriller Les Diaboliques, so look out for it on either channel.

Monday, June 7

8:30m – IFC – Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati’s Chaplin-esque character, Mr. Hulot, this time takes on modern life in the form of his sister’s house that has been mechanized with all the most modern electronic aids – think Disney’s 1950s House of Tomorrow. Of course, everything goes wrong, hilariously.
1958 France. Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie, Jean-François Martial.
(repeats at 2:05pm)

11:30am – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but thanks to strong performances and incredibly well-done yet subtle mise-en-scene from Minnelli, ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.
1959 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine.

12:15pm – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 3:00am and 1:05pm on the 8th)

Tuesday, June 8

9:15am – 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. Twisty turny gem of a thriller with a few terrifying moments.
1955 France. Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot. Starring: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse.
(repeats at 4:45pm, and 8pm on TCM)

4:30pm – TCM – Doctor Zhivago
Idealistic Zhivago experiences the Bolshevik Revolution while also dealing with his conflicting feelings for his wife Tonya and young nurse Lara. There are a few things about the romance side of the story that bother me, mostly the fact that I liked Tonya way more than Lara, but I have to admit Lean knows how to make epic films, and Maurice Jarre’s score is unforgettable.
1965 UK/USA. Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness.

8:10pm – IFC – Go
In the first section of this tripartite film, bored grocery store clerk Sarah Polley seizes an opportunity to broker a drug deal when her dealing coworker takes a trip to Vegas. It goes very wrong. Meanwhile, her coworker in Vegas gets mixed up in a murder there. Also meanwhile, two actors work with a narcotics officer to break up the drug ring. All three stories tie up together in the end, but not before a lot of quite well-constructed Pulp Fiction-esque jumping around. A lot of fun, and better than you might expect.
1999 USA. Director: Doug Liman. Starring: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf.

10:15pm – TCM – True Grit
John Wayne had a career full of iconic western roles before he won an Oscar for this one, as tough old U.S. Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn, recruited by a young woman to help her avenge her father’s death, a quest that takes them deep into Indian territory.
1969 USA. Director: Henry Hathaway. Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper.

12:30pm – TCM – Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s best-known movie (though not, I’d argue, his best), likely because it’s one of James Dean’s three films. Dean is a rebellious teen, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whose parents don’t understand him. It all seems a little overwrought these days, but there’s an intensity to Dean and the film that manages to make it still relatable.
1955 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo.

2:30am (9th) – TCM – Easy Rider
The story of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda trying to make this film is almost as interesting as the film itself; it’s fitting, though, that a film about bikers on the fringe of society, completely outcast in some places, would be made at great personal difficulty outside the studio system. As a whole, the tension works for the film, which is brilliant, iconoclastic, and marks, along with Bonnie and Clyde, the beginning of the New Hollywood that would blossom in the 1970s.
1969 USA. Director: Dennis Hopper. Starring: Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson.
Must See

Wednesday, June 9

7:15am – Sundance – Paris je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

10:00pm – TCM – Gilda
Gilda was the last person Johnny ever expected to meet again, much less as the wife of his boss, a sleazy casino operator in South America. Glenn Ford plays a quintessential defeated noir narrator in Johnny, while Rita Hayworth imbues Gilda with all her available mystique to make Gilda one of the more memorable films of the 1940s.
1946 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, George Macready

10:00pm – IFC – Thank You For Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, June 10

7:15am – IFC – Broadway Danny Rose
It’s lesser Woody Allen, but it’s still Woody Allen. Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not very substantial, but enjoyable.
1984 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte.
(repeats at 1:15pm)

9:15am – TCM – Girl Crazy
The best of many films costarring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, partially due to the fantastic score, including stuff like “Embraceable You,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “But Not For Me,” and a bunch of other top-notch Gershwin songs. The story’s pretty routine, but aren’t they all? That’s not why you watch Garland-Rooney movies.
1943 USA. Directors: Norman Taurog and Busby Berkeley. Starring: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Gil Stratton, Rags Ragland, June Allyson.
Newly Featured!

12:45pm – TCM – The Clock
This was Judy Garland’s first real purely dramatic role, directed by her then-husband Vincente Minnelli in 1945. It’s a wartime story of a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who meets a girl (Garland) and their attempts to get married before he has to return to his unit. It’s a sweet, unassuming little film that showcases Garland’s charm quite well, and has a nice supporting role for comedian Keenan Wynn.
1945 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Keenan Wynn.

2:30pm – TCM – The Pirate
A flop when first released, The Pirate looks more and more like a potential cult classic all the time. Gene Kelly is an entertainer who impersonates the dread pirate Mack the Black Mococo to get close to Spanish heiress Judy Garland in a period Caribbean seaport. It’s over-the-top, has some of Cole Porter’s most outlandish songs, and is somehow immensely, compulsively watchable.
1948 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Walter Slezak, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, the Nicholas Brothers.

8:00pm – TCM – 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. Twisty turny gem of a thriller with a few terrifying moments.
1955 France. Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot. Starring: Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, Paul Meurisse.

4:15am (11th) – TCM – La Ronde
A dazzling cyclical story following an interconnected series of lovers from encounter to encounter in turn of the century Vienna. Sounds lascivious, but in the hands of Ophüls, it’s charmingly sophisticated and beautifully realized. See also Ophüls’ The Earrings of Madade de…, which has a similar structure, but centered on the travels of the titular earrings.
1950 France. Director: Max Ophüls. Starring: Anton Walbrook, Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, Danielle Darrieux.

Friday, June 11

6:40am – IFC – Caché
Very deliberate but intensely thought-provoking film from director Michael Haneke, delving into issues from privacy and surveillance to war guilt and revenge. It’s a difficult film, and one that stretches the limits of the suspense thriller, but if you’re willing to go along with it, it’s well worthwhile.
2005 France. Director: Michael Haneke. Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 1:00pm)

8:40am – IFC – Paranoid Park
I go back and forth on whether I think Gus Van Sant is brilliant or a pretentious bore – maybe some of both. But I really quite liked the slow, oblique approach in this film about a wanna-be skateboarder kid who relishes hanging out with the bigger skateboarders at the titular skate park – but there’s a death not far from there, and it takes the rest of the movie to slowly reveal what exactly happened that one night near Paranoid Park. Gets by on mood and cinematography.
2007 USA Director: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Lu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney.
(repeats at 3:05pm)

9:30am – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.
(repeats at 5:15pm)

10:05am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with Aussie director Peter Weir. His films are almost always slow and methodical, which works for me sometimes and not others. It works in Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of his earlier films, in which a group of schoolgirls goes into the wilderness for a picnic and mysteriously disappear.
1975 Australia. Director: Peter Weir. Starring: Anne-Louise Lambert, Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Karen Robson.
(repeats at 4:35pm)

Saturday, June 12

12:30am (13th) – TCM – Bullitt
No nonsense cop Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen, holding onto his crown as king of 1960s cool, American class) is tasked with guarding an important witness in a Mafia trial; when his partner and the witness are targeted in a hit, he goes after the killers directly, leading to the justly famous car chase through hills of San Francisco.
1968 USA. Director: Peter Yates. Starring: Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn, Robert Duvall.
Newly Featured!

Sunday, June 13

2:00pm – IFC – La Jetée
Very few short films become classics (outside of silent films and arguably Looney Tunes), but Chris Marker’s La Jetee, told entirely in sequences of still photographs, is one of them. In a postapocalyptic future, a man is sent back in time to try and stop WWIII from happening. But he both falls in love and is haunted by a childhood memory – two things that are fatefully interconnected.
1962 France. Director: Chris Marker. Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich.

5:45pm – IFC – Blow Out
Sound man John Travolta is recording sound samples one night, and may have accidentally recorded a murder occurring. As he tries to investigate, he’s drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Inspired to some degree by Antonioni’s photography-based Blow-Up, but this is definitely DePalma’s film all the way.
1981 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.

8:00pm – 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.
1933 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern.
Must See

2:00am (14th) – TCM – The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut’s first feature, a semi-autobiographical look at a boy’s childhood in Paris, dealing with strict teachers, fighting parents, etc. This film along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless usually mark the beginning of the New Wave. Truffaut’s sentimental tendencies come out already, as well as his incredible ability to direct children to great performances. Jean-Pierre Leaud would go on to star in many more Truffaut films, but for me, his adult roles never match this one.
1959 France. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Jean-Piere Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble.
Must See

3:45am (14th) – TCM – Fahrenheit 451
François Truffaut’s first foray in English-language film was this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, following fireman (that is, book-burner) Montag as he comes into contact with a group of fugitives intent on preserving the knowledge in books even as the government tries to destroy them, and he begins to wonder if perhaps they are right. It’s a great book, and a pretty good film, with Julie Christie in an interestingly-cast double role.
1966 UK. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.