Tag Archives: Howard Hawks

Challenge Week 7: Come and Get It

My knowledge of this one going in was limited to the fact that Walter Brennan won the very first Best Supporting Actor Oscar for it – thank you, high school-era Oscar obsession! When I realized it was based on an Edna Ferber novel, I had a bit more idea what to expect, as I’m familiar with several other Ferber books and their film adaptations, and they generally have a few things in common: sprawling, multi-generational stories featuring self-made Americans in some particular 19th century-specific profession. Cimarron is about pioneers entering the Oklahoma territory, Show Boat is about performers and gamblers on Mississippi River show boats, So Big about a teacher/farmer in an Illinois Dutch community, and Come and Get It is about a logger/paper mill magnate.

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Multi-generational stories tend not to be my favorite thing, but I can be persuaded. Generally I prefer the earlier parts of these stories the best, before they move on to the second generation, and that’s the case here. In the first half of the story, Barney Glasgow (Edward Arnold) is a go-getter young businessman who gets his hands dirty with his logging crew, pushing for more productivity, but also right there pushing the timber into the river for transport, hanging out in the saloon after the work is done, etc. He meets and quickly falls for the saloon singer Lotta (Frances Farmer), but opts to marry his intended back east and continue his rise to the top of the business. All of these scenes have a lot of vitality and humor, capturing the scope of the frontier and the kind of men (and women) who made their way in it. I’m a big fan of westerns in general, so I loved that stuff, even if the attempt to point out how devastating over-logging is to the land kind of fell flat against the epic visuals of logs being transported and processed.

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Scorecard: March-May 2013

Three months at a whack this time. Somehow May got away from me, but then again it didn’t really matter too much, since I only watched one movie in May. WHAT. I know, right? I did okay watching some movies when I was just taking care of Karina, but now I’m back at work, working from home, and taking care of Karina at the same time, and that leaves ZERO time for movies. Someday this will all even out and I will get back to watching movies. In the meantime, I’m not sure where my lack of time leaves this blog. If I were smart I’d take an official leave of absence. But I’m not smart. What I’d rather do is just do shorter, more bite-sized posts and not feel like everything has to be either an in-depth review or a long recap with a dozen capsule reviews. Sometimes I just get too ambitious and feel like I just shouldn’t bother posting anything that isn’t ambitious in some way, but I don’t really want to feel like that. So the blog may get a bit more personal and stream-of-consciousness for a while. That is, if I ever actually post at all.

Okay, introspection over. On to the movies!

What I Loved

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

My husband has been after me to watch this almost since we started dating; I had never really considered watching it, but that’s because I clearly had no idea how awesome it is. Thank goodness Jonathan understands my sense of humor and knew I’d love this. The absurdity of Pee-Wee’s existential journey to find his stolen bike is right up my alley, and pretty much all the vignettes hit immediately. I can definitely tell this is one we’ll be quoting a LOT as the years go by.

1985 USA. Director: Tim Burton. Starring: Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger.
Seen April 24 on HBO.

The Stranger

Apparently this was Orson Welles’ least favorite of his own films, and I’m not really surprised – it’s far less ambitious and personal than most of his other films. Still, it’s too bad it tends to fall through the cracks, because regardless of how it stacks up against Welles’ masterpieces, it’s an extremely solid film noir, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s 1940s noirs (especially Shadow of a Doubt). Robinson is a detective searching for Nazi war criminals who have gone incognito after the war, and he thinks he’s found one in small-town America. Some great visuals and suspense, though perhaps a bit too dogmatic at times.

1946 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young, Orson Welles.
Seen April 28 on Netflix Instant.

El Dorado

I love me a good western, and when I heard the credentials of this one, I knew I was in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed. Hawks and Wayne reteam seven years after Rio Bravo with another hanging-out style western, as Wayne and rookie James Caan help out drunken sheriff Robert Mitchum against baddies. It’s a very similar vibe to Rio Bravo to be honest, and I enjoyed it just about as much.

1966 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan.
Seen March 6 on Netflix Instant.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Did I mention I love me a good western? I did? Oh. I’ve about run out of name-brand classic westerns on Netflix Instant, but thankfully I found this one on there. Lancaster is lawman Wyatt Earp, who’s consistently thrown together with drunkard gambler Doc Holliday (Douglas) despite their differing viewpoints on, like, being law-abiding. It all eventually leads to the titular gunfight, but getting there is actually more fun than the climax itself. The little narrative bits of song sung by Frankie Laine are a bit on the cheesy side, but I loved them, too. Douglas’ performance is a great asset, too, bringing a devil-may-care facade on top of a man struggling greatly with illness and loneliness. I figured I’d like this film, but I think it was even better than I expected.

1957 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet.
Seen April 26 on Netflix Instant.

Rewatches

Mildred Pierce (1945; Michael Curtiz) – The film that taught me that melodrama isn’t a bad word, and it still holds up. I had actually forgotten how the murder played out, so the suspense even worked the second time around (I have a notoriously bad memory for the resolution of mysteries).

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Scorecard: September 2011

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

What. I actually got a monthly recap type post in on time? Even early (which is okay, I’m not planning to watch a movie tonight)! This has never happened, to my remembrance, in the history of my blog. Don’t get used to it, though I’m going to try to stay on task. A decent variety this month. Incidentally, in other postings about the two silent films, people have asked me where they can see them. I wish I had a better answer, but as of right now, both these films can only be seen if a repertory cinema in your area screens them. They’re not on DVD, and both of them are rare enough, I think, that they can’t be found online. I’ll see if I can find out more next time I see the archivists who run The Silent Treatment shows; a web archive of some of these harder-to-find movies would be fantastic, but either the archives that own the prints aren’t interested in doing that or they simply don’t have the funding.

What I Loved

Changing Husbands

I always love the Silent Treatment nights at Cinefamily, where a couple of UCLA and Academy archivists bring in rare silents, but I have to admit (as do they) that a lot of the films are more historically/academically interesting than actually good. But this one is genuinely charming and entertaining, and I pretty much loved every second of it. Leatrice Joy plays two roles – one a bored wife of a rich man who only wants to be a stage actress despite her husband’s wishes to live a quiet life, the other a struggling actress who just wants to be out of the spotlight. Yep, you guessed it, these women meet, realize their resemblance, and switch places – supposedly just for a few days, but the rich husband turns up and takes the actress home for the holidays, never suspecting the switcheroo. Joy does great in both roles, and the two men who confuse the women are charmingly hapless. There’s quite a bit of wonderful innuendo, giving pre-Code fans a lot to enjoy in the film.
1924 USA. Directors: Paul Iribe and Frank Urson (supervised by Cecil B. DeMille). Starring: Leatrice Joy, Victor Varconi, Raymond Griffith.
Seen September 7 at Cinefamily.

Night Train to Munich

A recent addition to the Criterion library, but I recorded it from TCM a few months ago and just now got around to watching it. Well, that’s not QUITE true. I started watching it a while back, but my mood wasn’t right and I wasn’t paying close enough attention and I was missing stuff…so I held off until I could concentrate on it. And I’m really glad I did, because though it’s not a particularly complicated film, it does have a number of plot turns, as befits a WWII spy thriller. Margaret Lockwood’s dad is a Czech scientist who needs to escape before Prague is taken over by the Nazis; he does, but she gets intercepted by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, where she meets Paul Henreid, a freedom fighter who manages to help her escape. But is he what he seems, and what of the dashing British agent played by a very young Rex Harrison? Double-crosses abound, and it all leads to a tense cross-continent train trip where precarious identities may be uncovered at any second, and a final action scene that prefigures whichever Bond film had the gondola setpiece. It starts off a little slow, but man does it pay off by the end, and they know just when to stop it, too. No awkward overlong coda, just DONE. Love it.
1940 UK. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Rex Harrison, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Henreid.
Seen September 19, on TCM (via DVR)

What I Liked

Contagion

I wasn’t too interested in the plot of this film when I first heard about it, but with Soderbergh directing and a cast like THIS? I mean, look at it. Yeah. In an all-too-possible scenario, a deadly virus quickly spreads across the whole world, involving the CDC, the WHO, bloggers and media, ordinary citizens, scientists, government officials, etc. as they try to stop the spread of both the virus and the growing panic of the population. There’s a LOT going on here, and the pace is brisk, but steady. The balance between micro and macro is held quite well throughout, though the connections of the Marion Cotillard story and to some extent the Jude Law story were a bit tenuous. Overall, though, it’s a tremendous achievement of pure craft, and the use of major stars allow quick identification with characters that otherwise have little time to develop. Full review here.
2011 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle.
Seen September 10 at an AMC multiplex.

My Winnipeg

There aren’t any other filmmakers quite like Guy Maddin. Not that I’ve seen anyway. A Canadian filmmaker working somewhere on the fringe of experimental, Maddin uses styles and techniques from early cinema that have all but faded from use by pretty much everybody else. It’s as if in some alternate universe, German Expressionism and Soviet montage live side by side, accompanied by classic Hollywood tinting and iris fades, with voiceovers, dialogue, and title cards all working together for maximum effect. This is one of the more accessible Maddin films I’ve seen, a sort of documentary, sort of memoir, sort of fantasy about his home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It’s mesmerizing and fascinating.
2007 Canada. Director: Guy Maddin. Starring: Darcy Fehr, Ann Savage.
Seen September 22 and 23 on Netflix Instant.

Hard Boiled

I’ve been meaning to see this for quite some time, but my desire got stronger after seeing the film name-checked in Matthias Stork’s video on chaos cinema, as a stellar example of action setpieces. He was talking about the final shoot-out, which unfolds in a few very long traveling shots that manage to never lose spatial orientation no matter how hectic the action gets. And that sequence is for sure incredible, the standout in the film. The rest of it is good, too, but I have to admit to zoning out a bit here and there during some of the “plot” parts due to tiredness – thankfully it didn’t seem to matter too much, but I would like to go back sometime and fill in the gaps. It gets a little ridiculous what with the baby and all (pretty sure this was a major influence on the goofy Shoot ‘Em Up), but Chow Yun-Fat is earnest enough in his role to make it work.
1992 Hong Kong. Director: John Woo. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu Wai.
Seen September 2 on DVD.

Falling Down

My boyfriend Jonathan and I have been taking turns showing each other films that mean a lot to us, and this was one of his for me. I’d never ever heard of it before he started talking about it, but since then I’ve come across a lot of other people who think pretty highly of it, too – a good sign that Schumacher can’t be simply written off based on his involvement in Batman & Robin. When he does smaller things or more indie things, he’s got quite a good eye and sensibility. This film has Michael Douglas basically in “I can’t take this anymore” mode as he leaves his car in a huge traffic jam and heads across Los Angeles on foot to see his daughter on her birthday – sounds like a great idea, except his ex-wife has taken out a restraining order against him, our first sign that maybe not all is quite right with Mr. Douglas. It’s kind of fascinating though, how the script and Douglas’s performance paint this character – he’s psychotic to some degree, but at the same time, you kind of totally understand where he’s coming from, and a good bit of the financial angst it is certainly still relevant. And it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t even realize how his actions come across to others – when he invades a pool party with a machine gun he’s picked up along the way, it doesn’t occur to him why the people are scared of him. I didn’t love it as much as Jonathan does, but it’s certainly solid, and I’d rewatch it at some point.
1993 USA. Director: Joel Schumacher. Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall.
Seen September 17 on DVD.

The White Shadow

In a way, it’s tough to review this one, since only three reels of it exist. But on the other hand, it’s not like I’ll ever get to see the rest of it. Unless by some miracle the rest of it pops up somewhere. This film was discovered among the New Zealand Film Archive silents by an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences archivist working to catalog the American films being held there. You may recall the big “discovery” of these films a couple of years ago – a lot was made of finding John Ford’s Upstream and some others. More are being identified all the time, and this one turns out to be one of the earliest films Alfred Hitchcock worked on, as assistant director to Graham Cutts. The story involves a pair of sisters played by Betty Compson, one sweet and demure, the other wild and “soulless”. The rather convoluted plot involves mistaken identity, the wild daughter running away, the repentent father trying to find her, and the sweet girl marrying a man who was attracted to the wild daughter and never realized she had a double. Yeah. It’s pretty crazy, and the ending (read to us at the screening by Eva Marie Saint based on the copyright documents, since the last two reels of the film are still lost) sounds even crazier. But the opportunity to see films like this is such a treat – it’s both a saddening reminder of the state of silent film preservation (some 50-80% of all silent films are lost) and a hopeful indication that perhaps some films long thought lost actually do exist somewhere, in some form.
1924 UK. Director: Graham Cutts. Assistant Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Betty Compson.
Seen September 22 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A Foreign Affair

I’m a big fan of Billy Wilder and have seen most of his films, but I put this one off for quite a while because I’d heard mixed things about it, and that’s pretty close to right. Jean Arthur as a stuffed-up congresswoman investigating the unseemly conduct of American servicemen in post-WWII Berlin doesn’t quite fly, and her transformation into someone with actual emotions thanks to the attentions of a not-quite-on-the-level John Lund is a bit unbelievable. I frankly found her character so irritating in the beginning I didn’t care much about the turn, which says a lot, because I LOVE Jean Arthur. That said, all the parts with Marlene Dietrich are ace, especially the two nightclub numbers she does in her inimitable way. Arthur has some good isolated scenes, like when she breaks down telling about a past failed love affair, but they’re not enough. There’s also a Nazi spy subplot that’s intriguing but doesn’t quite go anywhere. When the ending came, it felt pretty opposite what I wanted to happen. Some really good parts, fairly unsatisfying whole.
1948 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund, Millard Mitchell.
Seen September 26 on TCM (via DVR)

What I Didn’t Like

Stone

I mostly watched this so I could have another film to add to my Milla Jovovich post on Row Three, but I did think I’d like it more than I did. Edward Norton is a guy in jail about to come up for parole, Robert De Niro is the case officer who will decide whether he’s fit to leave or not, and Milla Jovovich is Norton’s wife who tries to get De Niro to look favorably on her husband. Which she does by seducing him. It looks like a cat-and-mouse thriller, but it’s a lot more about De Niro’s own demons and how the situation with Norton and Jovovich affects him. Meanwhile, Norton has a whole religious experience that didn’t work for me at all, and while Jovovich gives a really good performance, I couldn’t ever really grasp her character’s motivations. Plus the whole thing has this dour, broody feel going on – and not in a good way.
2010 USA. Director: John Curran. Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich.
Seen September 5 on Netflix Instant Watch.

Rewatches – Love

Drive

I saw this back at the LA Film Festival (my review) and promptly declared my love for it. I was curious whether a second viewing would diminish my love, as festival screenings carry their own high with them that sometimes fades under normal moviewatching conditions, but no. If anything, I liked it BETTER the second time, because I could just sit back and enjoy the leisurely pacing, the gorgeous cinematography, the bursts of violence, and the whole dreamy/brutal tone of it all without worrying about what I thought about it or what to write about it. It will almost certainly be near the top of my Best of 2011 list.
2011 USA. Director: Nicholas Winding Refn. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks.
Second viewing September 17 at an AMC multiplex. First seen June 2011 at the LA Film Festival.

Bringing Up Baby

It’s been a long, long time since I saw this movie, and I was really glad Jonathan picked it out of my collection to watch. It’s still among the zaniest movies ever made, and I can’t help but get caught up in its breakneck pacing. I don’t care if Hepburn’s character is a manipulative, conniving piece of work, or that Grant’s 180 degree turn towards loving her is totally unbelievable. She’s a force of nature in this film, and it somehow seems natural that everything else gets caught up in her wake. And as utter farce, it’s jaw-achingly funny.
1938 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Dame May Whitty, Charlie Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald.
Umpteenth viewing September 25 on DVD. First seen many, many years ago, probably on VHS.

Marie Antoinette

Can I just say how much I love that Jonathan chose this himself as one to watch, because he wanted to get more familiar with Sofia Coppola’s films? I figured he would like it, because its pop-art take on history is a flavor that both of us like, and he did. I did, too…I actually haven’t seen it since it first came out on DVD, so I was glad of the rewatch on it to confirm that it really is as surprisingly good as I thought it was.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn.
Second viewing September 18 on DVD. First seen soon after DVD release on DVD.

Totals:

Films seen for the first time in September: 9
Rewatches in September: 3
Films seen in theatres in September: 4
List of Shame films seen in September: 0
2011 films seen in September: 2 (1 rewatch)
2000s films seen in September: 5 (2 rewatches)
1990s films seen in September: 2
1940s films seen in September: 2
1930s films seen in September: 1 (1 rewatch)
1920s films seen in September: 2
American films seen in September: 8 (3 rewatches)
British films seen in September: 2
Canadian films seen in September: 1
Hong Kong films seen in September: 1

Great Scenes: The Big Sleep

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Originally posted on Row Three.

There’s pretty much nothing I don’t love about Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep – Bogart’s world-weary but somehow still idealistic private eye Philip Marlowe, the chemistry between him and Lauren Bacall (now an off-screen couple starring in their second film together), the cast of colorful supporting characters like Martha Vickers as Bacall’s crazy sister, the witty and caustic script, the florid dialogue, yes, even the fact that some of the mystery isn’t even resolved. I love the very messiness of it. But when I think back about The Big Sleep, the scene that usually pops into my head is essentially extraneous to the main mystery, is unrelated to Marlowe’s relationship with Bacall’s character, and is basically an all-but-unnecessary interlude to the entire rest of the film. I’m talking about the scene where Philip Marlowe goes to a pair of rare bookstores to follow up on a clue.

Now, there are two parts to the scene, set in two bookstores. The first is plot-essential, as Marlowe follows up on a clue that leads him to Geiger’s Rare Books – it is Geiger who holds the promissory gambling notes that are being held over the Sternwood family. It’s really the second half of the sequence in the second bookstore that I find so memorable, but I’ve included both in the clip merely because Bogart delights me so much in the first part. Marlowe affects an effeminate persona with far more ease than you’d expect, presenting the brusque clerk with a erudite proto-nerd in search of rare editions. But Geiger’s is a front, as Marlowe is hoping this conversation will prove, and he is correct – the clerk sluffs off his queries without ever realizing the books he mentions don’t exist, while surreptitiously motioning a suspicious-looking character into the back room. I love that even after their business is complete from a plot perspective, she goes out of her way to attack him for saying “CER-amics” instead of “cer-A-mics,” understanding at some level his contempt for her and determined to regain the upper hand – he rebuffs with a backhanded slag suggesting the superficiality of her knowledge, leaving her little recourse beyond a childish retort.

After Marlowe establishes that Geiger’s bookshop ain’t all about the books, the plot requires him to wait a little while so he can tail Geiger to find out more. This could be done in a number of ways, none of which necessitate the second half of this sequence. But instead, we get a tiny little evocative scene as Marlowe goes to the bookstore across the street ostensibly to get a description of Geiger, where the girl DOES know something about rare books, confirming what we’d already guessed about Geiger’s being a fake. More importantly, she’s a quick study and figures out almost before Marlowe tells her what he’s up to, and gives him a description of Geiger with a level of observation worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Her immediate connection to Marlowe is both a mutual admiration based on intellect perceived in a matter of seconds and an attraction based on the promise of a brief but memorable encounter with a detective (a rather dashing and dangerous profession, at least in the minds of those who read novels, as she likely does) – she doesn’t hesitate at all to close her shop to spend an hour alone with this man, a stolen interlude before she puts her glasses back on and returns to the librarian-esque stereotype of her job and he walks out the door to continue his romanticized detective work.

Watching this scene, it feels like there’s a whole story here, a whole movie that could be written from this woman’s point of view about her brief involvement with this mystery. We hope she turns up again in the story we see, but she does not. Her character doesn’t even have a name. Yet she feels like a fully-formed character, and Dorothy Malone gives her far more of a personality and a presence than the script really necessitates. In a mere three and a half minutes of screen time, she manages to make us forget about Lauren Bacall’s existence in the film, and make her single scene as memorable as anything else in this supremely memorable film. I’ve only seen Malone in this and in Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind (for which she won a well-deserved supporting Academy Award ten years after The Big Sleep), but based on those two roles alone, I salute her.

Film on TV: June 8-14

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Singin’ in the Rain, playing Tuesday, June 9th at 12:30am on TCM

This week, TCM continues their celebration of great directors with Stanley Donen, Fred Zinnemann, Preston Sturges, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, and Howard Hawks. They also seem to be doing director mini-marathons for John Huston, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, and Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur, though they aren’t officially in the Great Director series. Whether they should be or not is definitely arguable. And IFC and Sundance have a few gems to throw in, as well.

Monday, June 8

12:45pm – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).

6:15pm – TCM – The Big Heat
Director Fritz Lang came out of the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, so it’s not surprising that he ended up making some of the better noir films, given film noir’s borrowing of Expressionist style. Glenn Ford is a cop working against his corrupt department, but the parts you’ll remember from the film all belong to Gloria Grahame in a supporting role as a beaten-up gangster’s moll. Her performance and Lang’s attention to detail raise the otherwise average story to a new level.

Great Directors on TCM: Stanley Donen
Stanley Donen shone at directing flashy musicals and mod comedies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The films he co-directed with Gene Kelly (On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain, see below) stand among the best musicals ever made, and his later films like Charade and Arabesque merged Hitchcockian thrills with 1960s comic panache in a way that no-one else really matched.

9:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location. Must See

9:45pm – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt. Moore plays a 1950s housewife, trapped in her marriage to a man struggling with his own sexual identity (Dennis Quaid), and slowly falling into an affair with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert).
(repeats at 3:30am)

10:45pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).

12:30am (9th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
After On the Town, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly teamed up for what is now usually considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by songs written by MGM producer Arthur Freed at the beginning the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain takes that seismic shift in film history for its setting, focusing on heartthrob screen couple Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the hilarious Jean Hagen) as the transition into sound – problem being that Lamont’s voice, like many actual silent screen stars, doesn’t fit her onscreen persona. Hollywood’s often best when it turns on its own foibles, and this is no exception. Must See

2:30am (9th) – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.

Tuesday, June 9

6:00am – TCM – I Know Where I’m Going!
This is one of those little films that doesn’t get much press and is very quiet and unassuming, but once you watch it you won’t easily forget it. Wendy Hiller is a confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and where she’s going – that is, to meet her wealthy fiance and marry him on one of the Scottish Hebrides. But when a storm strands her on the way, she finds herself thrown off-course in more ways than one. There’s nothing wasted here, and I Know Where I’m Going! stands as one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning achievements, even if it’s not as well-known as Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes.

1:00pm – TCM – A Matter of Life and Death
An RAP pilot bails out of his crashing plane and survives, even though he was meant to die, due to a mix-up in heaven. He’s granted the chance to plead his case for life in a heavenly trial in Powell & Pressburger’s fantasy drama. I haven’t seen this one, but I have friends who place it among their all-time favorites, so I’m looking forward to it.

5:15pm – TCM – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Another Powell & Pressburger film I haven’t seen, this one follows an idealistic army colonel from the Boer War through WWII, focusing on his romantic pursuits as well as the changes in military strategy and notions of honor. I find WWI films interesting for the juxtaposition of modern warfare with 19th century nobility, and looks like this will draw on that. Plus, really young Deborah Kerr.

6:05pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.

Great Directors on TCM: Fred Zinnemann
I don’t tend to think of Fred Zinnemann when I think of great directors, and I’m sure that’s influenced by my auteurist outlook. Yet I do quite like several of the films he’s directed, such as the ones below.

8:00pm – TCM – High Noon
An Oscar-winning performance by Gary Cooper and an early role for Grace Kelly in Fred Zinnemann’s classic cowboy showdown drama. Follow it up with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, something of a response to High Noon, which Hawks disliked.

9:30pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on). It’s worthwhile just for the surreal dream ballet in the middle.

12:00M – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.

Wednesday, June 10

6:00am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew‘s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.

7:00am – 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
(repeats at 6:00pm, and 1:00pm on the 13th, and 5:00am on the 14th)

Great Directors on TCM: Preston Sturges
Preston Sturges is responsible, as writer and director, for many of the most insane, provocative, and lasting comedies of the early 1940s. He consistently pushed envelopes, and while some of his films may come across a little shrill today, I still love them to pieces.

8:00pm – TCM – The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck and her father Charles Coburn are cardplayers, cheating cruise ship denizens of their wealth. Millionaire (and snake afficianado) Henry Fonda is a good mark, especially since he’s a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyck’s plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and she’s a delight from start to finish. As she usually is. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion. Must See

12:00M – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.

2:00am (11th) – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Preston Sturges’ zaniest and most irreverent comedy gives Betty Hutton her best role as Trudy Kockenlocker, who goes out for a night on the town with a group of soldiers about to ship out. A few months later, she finds out she’s pregnant and can only vaguely remember an impromptu wedding ceremony with a soldier who may or may not be named Ratskiwatski. I’m always impressed that Sturges got away with as much as he did in this film in 1944.

Thursday, June 11

7:45am – TCM – The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle was really MGM’s first foray into noirish crime films. Being MGM, it’s more polished and, to me, less interesting than the crime dramas that Warner Bros. and the smaller studios were putting out, but hey. It’s still pretty good. And has a really young Marilyn Monroe.

2:00pm – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart inhabits the role of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating one of the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective (vying only with Bogart’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, really). Not mention setting the early benchmark for noir films. Must See

3:45pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.

6:00pm – TCM – The African Queen
Yet another team up of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart pits Bogart against the Amazon river – and straight-laced missionary Katharine Hepburn, who is forced to travel with him to escape Germany enemies. Well, boats are small, and one things leads to another, you know.

Great Directors on TCM : Akira Kurosawa
Between his flawless translations of American genre films (especially crime films and westerns) to Japanese settings both contemporary and medieval, his groundbreaking experiments with cinematic point of view and narrative reliability, and his brilliant juxtapositions of Shakespeare with Japanese tradition, Akira Kurosawa can easily claim to be one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time.

8:00pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai
Probably Kurosawa’s best-known film, The Seven Samurai is an eastern version of a Western, with down-on-their-luck samurai (led by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) working together to help a ravaged village hold off bandit invaders. Completing the cycle of cinematic borrowing, the film was remade in the US as The Magnificent Seven. Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Talk to Her
Talk to Her is one of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s finest and most moving works, drawing heavily on the passion of bullfighting and dancing. Marco and Benigno develop a friendship as they care two women in comas – Marco’s girlfriend Lydia, a bullfighter gored in the ring, and nurse Benigno’s patient Alicia, whom he has fallen in love with. There’s a touch of the bizarre, as there always is in Almodóvar, but the film is richly rewarding in mood and vision.

Friday, June 12

12:30pm – TCM – Out of the Past
Out of the Past comes up in most conversations about film noir. It’s got all the elements: low-key lighting (due in this case to budgetary concerns), an existential anti-hero (Robert Mitchum), a femme fatale (Jane Greer), etc. It’s honestly not my favorite noir, but it’s a good one to see once.

2:00pm – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.

5:15pm – TCM – I Walked With a Zombie
Or, Jane Eyre in the West Indies. In Val Lewton’s moody little fantastic horror flick, mousy nurse Betsy goes to the Caribbean to care for afflicted Jessica, the wife of an important plantation owner. Turns out her affliction is due to zombification, a curse of the voodoo-practicing natives. Certainly the acting and script are nothing special here, but the noirish cinematography and direction by Jacques Tourneur as well as producer Lewton’s peculiarly literary sensibility certainly are.

6:30pm – TCM – Cat People
Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur team up for this suggestive horror film, tapping into Eastern European legends of women who turn into cats to protect themselves against oppressive male attention. Highly creepy while showing almost nothing – and I happen to quite like that in a film.

Great Directors on TCM: Woody Allen
Woody Allen is one of the most prolific writer/directors currently working, having turned out a new film nearly every year since the early 1970s. He’s gone through several creative phases, gained and lost popularity, been in and out of the tabloids, etc etc ad nauseum. But when he’s on, he manages to create films that are by turn watchably philosophical, absurdly hilarious, movingly emotional, cinematically and personally nostalgic, and caustically witty. TCM’s hitting almost every base with the films they’ve chosen – throw in Crimes and Misdemeanors and it’d be perfect.

9:45pm – TCM – Broadway Danny Rose
In this lesser Woody Allen film, 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 only does Danny worry about the tenor’s wife, he also gets himself in trouble with the woman’s family.

11:15pm – TCM – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall and even Manhattan, both of which I love, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do. Must See

1:15am (13th) – TCM – The Purple Rose of Cairo
A love letter to cinema, The Purple Rose of Cairo has Woody Allen at his most romantic. Unhappy housewife Cecilia (Mia Farrow) escapes to the cinema to see The Purple Rose of Cairo again and again, where she fantasizes over hunky character Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Much to her surprise (and the other characters’ consternation), Baxter steps off the screen to join her. It makes it even more complicated when Gil, the actor who played Baxter, turns up as well.

2:45am (13th) – TCM – Interiors
In case anyone doubted Woody Allen’s admiration for Ingmar Bergman, he made this film to prove it. Interiors is about the best imitation of a Bergman chamber drama you could ask for, down to the spare set design, strained family relations, and a climax involving an angry sea. Still, it is also very much Allen’s film – his first straight drama – focusing on deeply neurotic, introspective characters unable to get outside their own heads for long enough to form really true relationships.

4:30am (13th) – TCM – Take the Money and Run
An early Woody Allen movie, when he was mostly focused on being funny and absurd, and this film about a set of totally inept bank robbers is both. It’s actually my favorite of the pre-Annie Hall Allen films.

Saturday, June 13

Great Directors on TCM: Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder had an incredible ability to make definitive films in most genres – screwball comedy, film noir, socially conscious drama, bittersweet comedy-drama. Rarely are his films bad; most of the time they’re brilliant.

8:30am – TCM – The Apartment
Wilder had a knack for combining comedy and drama into bittersweet goodness, and that’s exactly what he does here, garnering Oscars for Picture, Director, and Screenplay in the process. Jack Lemmon lends his apartment to his boss Fred MacMurray for romantic trysts – a situation that gets even more complicated when MacMurray trysts with Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon happens to love from afar. Everything comes together perfectly in this film, one of Wilder’s best. MUST SEE

3:30pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 14th)

10:15pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Quite probably the most definitive film noir film in existence (vying only with The Big Sleep in my head, anyway) has insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) being seduced by bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and convinced by her to help murder her husband for the insurance money. Wilder’s crackling dialogue and Stanwyck’s perfectly tuned mixture of calculation and innocence can hardly be beat. Must See

12:15am (14th) – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond and actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit. Must See

Sunday, June 14

Great Directors on TCM: Howard Hawks
Even more so than Wilder, Howard Hawks genre-shifted with ease, including westerns and musicals along with comedies, action films, noir and drama. Yet they all somehow bore his stamp, making him one of the first directors given auteur status by the French film critics who coined the term. (I tend to have more difficulty finding his stamp than I do with, say, Hitchcock – someday I’m going to a specifically auterist study of Hawks so I can write about him more knowledgably. For now I only know that I usually like most everything he did.)

9:30am – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for this film, portraying pacifist-turned-WWI hero Alvin C. York. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually seen it all the way through, so I don’t have much more to offer about it.

12:00N – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Poor Cary Grant just can’t get away from delightfully ditzy Katharine Hepburn, especially after her dog steals his museum’s priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and after her pet leopard escapes (and a dangerous zoo leopard escapes at the same time). Incredible situation follows incredible situation in this screwiest of all screwball comedies. Must See

2:00pm – TCM – Twentieth Century
In one of the films that defines “screwball comedy” (along with The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby), John Barrymore plays a histrionic theatre producer trying to convince his star Carole Lombard to come back to him – both professionally and personally. Lombard is luminous as usual, and Barrymore can chew scenery with the best of them, which is precisely what his role calls for.

4:00pm – TCM – His Girl Friday
This is a remake of a 1931 film called The Front Page about newspaper buddies who go after a major story – Hawks took it to a whole new level by turning one of the men into a woman, and setting reporters Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as a former couple, now divorced who can’t seem to stay apart, either personally or professionally. The dialogue is a stroke of genius, as well, overlapping in a maelstrom of words that’s overwhelming and delightful all at the same time. I call this one of the greatest American films ever made. Must See

6:00pm – TCM – Ball of Fire
Hawks tries to recapture a little bit of Bringing Up Baby in this tale of a showgirl (Barbara Stanwyck, who’s trying to recapture a bit of The Lady Eve) who ends up among a bunch of stuffy professors, including Gary Cooper. Ball of Fire isn’t as memorable as either of those other films, but it has its own charm, and it’s certainly worth a watch.

8:00pm – TCM – To Have and Have Not
It’s said that this film came about because Howard Hawks bet Earnest Hemingway that he (Hawks) could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst book. Of course, to do that, Hawks ended up basically changing the story entirely, but hey. It’s the thought that counts. It’s honestly mostly notable for being Lauren Bacall’s first film, the one where she met Humphrey Bogart, and the one that spawned the immortal “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve” bit of dialogue. That one scene? Worth the whole film.

10:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
Only one of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl. Must See

12:00M – TCM – Only Angels Have Wings
I’ve never gotten into Only Angels Have Wings as much as I have into other Hawks’ films – why I don’t know. It has elements I like – Cary Grant as a daring pilot making dangerous cargo runs in exotic locales, Jean Arthur in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn, and a sighting of a young Rita Hayworth. Just doesn’t seem to come together in a memorable whole for me.