Tag Archives: Mister Roberts

Film on TV: May 26-30

nanook.jpg
Nanook of the North, playing on TCM on Thursday.

I apologize for the lateness of this post this week; life happened and I got behind on stuff. I thought it was still worth posting late, though, to point out TCM’s war film marathon over Memorial Day Weekend, running straight through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve highlighted a few here, many of them repeats for this column, but a couple of newly featured ones like Mister Roberts on Sunday and the Abbott-Costello slapstick Buck Privates on Saturday. If you like WWII films, though, just tune it to TCM this weekend and be done with it. They’ve also got a couple of really good ones tonight (From Here to Eternity and They Were Expendable) which they’re counting as part of their Donna Reed series, but would fit just as easily in a Memorial Day series. Also look out for the granddaddy of documentaries, Nanook of the North, on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 26

6:00pm – 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. Excellent performances and stunt-filled action sequences make this one of the best westerns ever made.
1939 USA. Director: John Wayne. Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

8:00pm – 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.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
Must See

Thursday, May 27

10:05am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 4:50pm)

6:25pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 5:35am on the 28th)

8:00pm – TCM – Nanook of the North
Widely considered the grandfather of the narrative documentary film, Robert Flaherty spent a year shooting footage among the Inuits in Canada, following Nanook in his daily life. This is one I’ve yet to catch up with myself, but I’m anxious to do so.
1922 USA. Director: Robert Flaherty.
Newly Featured!

Friday, May 28

12:00M – 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.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.

5:30pm – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York, a pacifist who somehow decided that the fastest way to stop the killing was to join up and kill as many Germans as he could to end the war.
1941 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond.

8:00pm – TCM – Stalag 17
William Holden won an Academy Award as a POW in this Billy Wilder film. Wilder had a knack for making top-of-the-line films in just about every genre, so even though I haven’t gotten around to seeing this one myself yet, I’m willing to give it a shot just based on Wilder’s involvement.
1953 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves.

10:15pm – TCM – The Great Escape
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

1:15pm (29th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

Saturday, May 29

8:00am – TCM – Buck Privates
Abbott and Costello take on WWII with one of their better films, as a pair of street vendors who accidentally enlist in the army. There’s also a romantic subplot with a couple of other soldiers, and frequent musical interludes from The Andrews Sisters to keep things lively. Interestingly, the film was released in January of 1941 – several months before the US entered WWII (see also the Bob Hope comedy Caught in the Draft, released around the same time).
1941 USA. Director: Arthur Lubin. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, The Andrews Sisters.
Newly Featured!

1:35pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 4:55am on the 30th)

8:00pm – TCM – The Best Years of Our Lives
One of the first films to deal with the aftermath of WWII, as servicemen return home to find both themselves and their homes changed by the long years of war. Director William Wyler and a solid ensemble cast do a great job of balancing drama and realism without delving too much into sentimentality.
1946 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Herbert Russell, Cathy O’Donnell.

9:45pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Sunday, May 30

10:00am – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 31st)

8:00pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda is the title character, an XO on a cargo ship who often butts heads with the captain (James Cagney), who runs the ship with an iron fist. The tone is a satisfying combination of comedy and drama, and with a cast that also includes William Powell in his last role and Jack Lemmon in one of his first, you can hardly go wrong. Though John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy share credit for the film, it’s mostly Ford – LeRoy was brought in to finish it when Ford had to undergo emergency surgery, but he tried to emulate Ford’s style as much as possible.
1955 USA. Director: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.
(repeats at 4:20am on the 31st)

Film on TV: 5-11 January

You know, there’s no excuse for this lateness. I just need to write these earlier. It’s not like the networks don’t have their schedules up weeks in advance. Again, though, there was nothing on Monday worth noting anyway.

Tuesday, 6 January

9:45pm / 8:45pm – TCM – The Fallen Idol
A murder mystery unusually told through the eyes of a child. The “idol” of the title is a butler, highly regarded by his employer’s lonely young son. When the butler’s wife (generally a shrewish woman that neither the butler nor the son particularly like) meets an untimely end, the boy is certain she was murdered – but how badly may he have misconstrued what he’s seen? It’s a simple plot, but the point of view and how it changes the way we react to the events in question is astoundingly well done. Written by Graham Greene.

3:45am / 2:45am (7th) – TCM – The Third Man
Also written by Graham Greene, and much better known – in fact, most film buffs will place The Third Man among the best films ever made.

Wednesday, 7 January

9:45pm / 8:45pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
A comic sea drama, with a great cast including Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon, in the first film that got him noticed (his character Ensign Pulver even got an eponymous sequel).

9:45pm / 8:45pm – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen Brothers take on the gangster film, and do so very adeptly. As they do nearly everything adeptly. Not that I’m complaining.
(repeats 4:15am EST on the 8th)

Thursday, 8 January

7:50am / 6:50am – IFC – The Importance of Being Earnest
Whatever you may think of Oscar Wilde’s personal life, the man wrote some of the most hilarious and trenchant plays ever, and this 2002 version of his most famous is a worthy adaptation. Rupert Everett plays Algy with dripping sarcasm, while Colin Firth’s Jack is, well, earnest.
(repeats 2:45pm EST, and 5:05am EST on the 9th)

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin are sailors on leave in New York City; once they meet up with Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett, and Ann Miller, they’re in for one of the greatest movie musicals ever made. It’s also the first major musical shot on location, so there’s that for your historical tidbit archive.

9:45pm / 8:45pm – TCM – Anchors Aweigh
Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra made good sailors, apparently; before On the Town they weighed anchor in Anchors Aweigh. (*groan* I apologize for that.) It’s not quite the quality of the later film, but it’s fairly solid as MGM musicals go. Plus, Gene dances with Jerry the Mouse in an early live-action-animation combination.

Friday, 9 January

10:00am / 9:00am – Fox Movie Channel – My Darling Clementine
One of the best cinematic depictions of the Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday saga that led to the OK Corral shootout (though Tombstone holds its own); it actually focuses more, as the title indicates, on Earp’s romantic relationships. In the hands of John Ford, however, this is better than it sounds. In fact, it’s pretty darn good.

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg is a piece of work, and by that I mean some of the best work Bogart has on film. He’s neurotic, paranoid, and generally mentally unstable. Or is he? That’s the question after first officer Van Johnson relieves him of duty as being unfit to serve and faces charges of mutiny.

6:15pm / 5:15pm – TCM – Key Largo
It’s bad enough to be stuck in the Florida Keys with a hurricane coming on, as Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Lionel Barrymore are in this film. But being threatened by gangster Edward G. Robinson at the same time? That’s just too much. Or, from the audience’s perspective, just the right amount.

Saturday, 10 January

7:30am / 6:30am – TCM – Little Caesar
Warner Bros. invented the gangster film in the early 1930s with a set of gritty, “torn from the headlines” films that usually ended with the gangster getting their comeuppance, but yet retaining the audience’s sympathy. Little Caesar established Edward G. Robinson as one of the major gangster actors; the other was James Cagney (see The Public Enemy below).

10:00am / 9:00am – IFC – Millions
Danny Boyle has a way of making very simple stories into something special, and this is no exception. A young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
(repeats 3:00pm EST)

12:00pm / 11:00am – TCM – Dodge City
Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland made eight films together between 1935 and 1942. This is nowhere near the best. However. It has one of the best barroom brawl scenes in any film ever, and is a decent western outside of that scene. But I love me some barroom brawl scenes, so there you go.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Dinner at Eight
The best example of a 1930s MGM ensemble drama is Grand Hotel. Dinner at Eight is the best example of a 1930s MGM ensemble comedy, and it’s held up far better than its overwrought cousin over the years. You got two Barrymores (Lionel and John), Jean Harlow (one of her top couple of roles), Wallace Beery (fresh off an Oscar win), Marie Dressler (forgotten now, but also just a recent Oscar winner at the time), and others converging for a dinner party. Sparkling dialogue is the real star here.

3:00am / 2:00am (11th) – TCM – The Public Enemy
Famous for the scene where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Marsh’s face, it’s one of the gold standards of early gangster films, along with Little Caesar and Howard Hawks’s Scarface.

Sunday, 11 January

9:35am / 8:35am – IFC – Umberto D
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic about an aging man struggling to live on his meager pension in post-war Rome. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and granted, not a lot happens. But by the end, you’ll have extraordinary sympathy for gentle Umberto and his dog. Oh, and a fantastic performance by non-actress Maria Pia Casillio – she offered to take acting lessons for the part but De Sica forbade her. Good choice.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – IFC – Amores Perros
I was really disappointed in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest film, Babel, and Amores Perros is a large part of the reason why. Because, see, Amores Perros is a perfect example of the multiple interlocking stories/themes filmmaking conceit. The stories are loosely tied together by the various protagonists’ relationships with dogs (the title roughly translates to “Love’s a Bitch”), and by a car crash. But the themes are handled subtly and have to be teased out, not like the anvil-thwaking that Inarritu reduced himself to in Babel. See this one instead, folks.