Volver, playing on IFC at 12:35pm on the 31st and 4:15am on the 1st
I apologize in advance for the relative brevity of this week’s post. I’ve been fighting a fever all weekend, so I pretty much only included things I had already written about somewhere or could throw something up without thinking. The quality of my prose probably isn’t that great either.
Monday, July 27
6:15pm – TCM – Tarzan, the Ape Man
Get your pre-code action right here, as swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller brings Tarzan to life and Maureen O’Sullivan teaches him the ways of the human world as Jane. Generally, the sequel Tarzan and His Mate is considered the best of the series, but hey. Gotta start somewhere.
8:15am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles-starring film straddles several genres – musical, concert film, documentary, comedy. The good news is that it’s an excellent film in any genre. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any film an exuberant as this one, and with the Beatles right on the cusp of becoming the greatest band of all time… Must See
(repeats at 1:15pm)
8:00pm – IFC – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Certainly not Wes Anderson’s best – it seems a bit too self-consciously quirky and a bit too awkwardly artificial even for him. It’s as if he took “Wes Anderson-ness” and turned it up just a little too far and it couldn’t sustain itself. But there are still a number of good moments that make it worthwhile, especially for Anderson fans.
(repeats 4:00am on the 28th)
Tuesday, July 28
8:00pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
Kevin Smith’s third film, not as low-fi indie as Clerks, as goofy as Mallrats, as irreverently genius as Dogma, as self-referential as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or as racy as Zach and Miri Make a Porno, but perhaps sweeter than all of them – Ben Affleck falls for Joey Lauren Adams, with the only slight obstacle being that she’s a lesbian.
(repeats at 3:30am on the 29th)
Wednesday, July 29
2:45pm – TCM – Funny Girl
Barbra Streisand tied Katharine Hepburn, no less, to win an Oscar for her role as Ziegfeld comedienne Fanny Brice. I’m neither a big Brice fan nor a big Streisand fan, so I haven’t seen it, but maybe I’ll get around to it one day.
5:15pm – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business. Must See
9:15pm – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
Still one of my favorite Warner Bros. pre-code show business musicals, even if the romantic subplot is decidedly sub-par. The musical numbers and comic supporting roles make up for it.
11:00pm – TCM – Footlight Parade
James Cagney is well-known for playing gangsters and hoods, but he was also a talented dancer, and this is a rare chance to see him showcase that side of his abilities. He’s opposite standard 1930s Warner Bros’ leading lady Ruby Keeler.
Thursday, July 30
7:15am – 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.
12:45pm – 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.
4:00pm – TCM – While the City Sleeps
The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price’s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile.
6:00pm – TCM – Spellbound
Hitchcock indulged the 1940s Freudian craze with this suspenser starring Gregory Peck as a disturbed individual and Ingrid Bergman as his psychiatrist. Throw in a trippy Salvador Dali dream sequence and you’re all set!
8:00pm – IFC – Mad Max
The first entry in the post-apocalyptic punk-action series that made Mel Gibson a star.
(repeats at 3:30am)
8:15pm – Sundance – Bob le flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
10:00pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
2:00am (24th) – TCM – Wuthering Heights
William Wyler’s moody 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s moody gothic novel, with Laurence Olivier as the moody Heathcliff. It’s moody. Get it? Interestingly, I’m more impressed generally with Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Isabella than Merle Oberon’s Catherine/Cathy, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.
2:30am (24th) – Sundance – Army of Shadows
This Melville film about the French Resistance during WWII wasn’t actually released in the US until 2006 (it was made in 1969), so getting to see it at all is something of a treat. I haven’t had the opportunity yet (though as of this morning I had it on my DVR not once but TWICE). Hopefully I’ll get around to it soon.
(repeats at 2:45pm on the 31st)
Friday, July 31
5:15am – TCM – Love Affair
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.
8:45am – 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.
9:00am – TCM – Midnight
A lesser-known screwball comedy written by Billy Wilder before he started directing (it’s directed by Mitchell Leisen), starring Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, and Mary Astor. It’s relatively slight as these things go, but it definitely has its delights, and ought to be better remembered than it is, I think.
12:35pm – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodovar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodovar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penelope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene. Must See
(repeats at 4:15am on the 1st)
2:00pm – TCM – Dark Passage
Okay, so this is the least memorable of the four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. It’s still Bogart and Bacall, and it’s a perfectly respectable and enjoyable film noir.
5:45pm – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 1st)
9:15pm – IFC – The Cooler
In this under-the-radar film, William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 1st)
2:30am (1st) – Sundance – That Obscure Object of Desire
Luis Buñuel, ever one to come up with outlandish conceits, here directs two women playing the same role. The result is trippy and mesmerizing.
Saturday, August 1
6:00pm – TCM – The Wrong Man
Alfred Hitchcock made many variations on the “wrong man” scenario, but none so direct as this one, starring Henry Fonda as a man mistakenly arrested. It’s not one of my favorite Hitchcock films, but it has a lot of interesting things going on, especially the way he depicts Fonda’s terror and helplessness in the face of the unrelenting police.
8:00pm – TCM – The Grapes of Wrath
This is one of those huge omissions in my film-watching repertoire. I’ve meant to watch John Ford’s homage to the dust bowl farmers of the 1930s for years, but have never quite gotten around to it.
Sunday, August 2
2:00pm – TCM – A Star is Born (1954)
Judy Garland’s big comeback film after four years away from the screen dealing with drug problems doesn’t disappoint – she’s a starlet who’s discovered by nearly-washed-up actor James Mason, who marries her and gives her a career break only to see her star rise far above his. Musical numbers like “The Man That Got Away” show Judy at her best and most tragic simultaneously.
5:40pm – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties. And there’s an undertow. Oh, and by the way, that’s a good thing. ;)
10:00pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all. Must See