Tag Archives: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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Top Ten: Americana Films

Wikipedia defines “Americana” as “artifacts related to the history, geography, folklore, and cultural heritage of the United States,” with “patriotism and nostalgia playing a defining role in the subject.” Since we’re coming up on the American Independence Day this week, I thought it would be a good time to look at some movies that celebrate American history and culture. My instant reaction on hearing the term Americana is to think of sentimental, somewhat simplistic and possibly jingoistic stories or art that glorify a past and a culture that doesn’t necessarily deserve it, so I was glad to see that I really do love the top ten films labeled Americana on my Flickchart.

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 – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

To me, Meet Me in St. Louis is practically the definition of Americana. It’s certainly got the nostalgia part of it down pat, with its look at turn-of-the-century St. Louis and the hosting of the World’s Fair. It’s chock-full of little details, like an ice wagon going on its rounds, difficult calls on an early model telephone, old-fashioned Halloween rituals, trolley rides, and reminders of simpler times where the biggest worry was that the boy next door won’t like you. To be fair, the main conflict of the possibility of having to move for the father’s job is still relevant. There’s a sentimentality to the film, for sure, but the more serious issues and the weirdness of some of Tootie’s subplots keep it from being totally schmaltzy.

9 – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

From John Steinbeck’s classic Dust Bowl novel, John Ford’s film takes the story of Okies traveling west to seek a brighter future in California and makes it resonate on both the level of the individual family and the whole generation. This could be a very depressing film, and I put off watching it for quite a while because of that (and because I feared it would be kind of boring), but I was pleasantly surprised by how watchable it is. It certainly has some gut-punching moments, but thanks to a crime subplot, moody cinematography from Gregg Toland, and charismatic performances, it remains engrossing and ultimately inspirational in the good way.

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Film on TV: June 28-July 4

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The beginning of June marked the one year anniversary for this column, and in that time we’ve featured over 400 different films spanning years from 1903-2008 and representing more than eighteen different countries and pretty much every genre. I think that’s not bad at all. But I’m the first to admit that I haven’t seen everything, so I’m going to start including just title and basic info for films that I’ve heard positive things about but haven’t seen myself; if you have seen a film that’s listed without a blurb, please feel free to write a little blurb and either send it to me (faithx5 AT gmail DOT com) or post it in the comments, and I’ll include it for any future showings of that film, credited to you.

Monday, June 28

6:05am – 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 12:05pm and 5:30pm)

10:15am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.
(repeats at 3:35pm, and 4:45am on the 29th)

Tuesday, June 29

10:00am – TCM – Theodora Goes Wild
Irene Dunne got a few chances to test her screwball comedy skills, and while I don’t think Theodora Goes Wild is as solid as The Awful Truth on any level, it’s still a fun showcase for Dunne’s comedic talents.
1936 USA. Director: Richard Boleslawski. Starring: Irene Dunne, Melvyn Douglas, Thomas Mitchell, Thurston Hall.
Newly Featured!

12:00N – TCM – Too Many Husbands
This is not that good a movie, but it makes an interesting comparison with another 1940 film, My Favorite Wife. That film stars Irene Dunne, and this one stars Jean Arthur, two of the better comediennes of the 1930s, but both have essentially the same story, only gender-flopped – here Arthur’s husband is believed dead so several years later she remarries, only to have her husband turn back up. This is a weaker film overall than its role-switched doppelganger, but I’d argue that Arthur still manages to prove herself a stronger comedienne than Dunne.
1940 USA. Director: Wesley Ruggles. Starring: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas, Harry Davenport.
Newly Featured!

12:00N – IFC – La Jetee
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.

3:15am (30th) – TCM – Thank Your Lucky Stars
Notable solely because it’s one of a handful of films made during WWII with, like, every star a studio could possibly muster in cameos or musical numbers. In this case, the studio is Warner Bros, so they could muster a lot. And where else are you going to be able to see Bette Davis do a musical number? For reals.
1943 USA. Director: David Butler. Starring: Joan Leslie, Eddie Cantor, Dennis Morgan, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan, Dinah Shore, Alexis Smith, Jack Carson, Alan Hale, ETC.
Newly Featured!

5:55pm – IFC – Days of Glory
One I haven’t seen, but it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars that year. And apparently has Mélanie Laurent pre-Inglourious Basterds, so I might have to check it out now.
2006 France/Algeria. Director: Rachid Bouchareb. Starring: Mathieu Simonet, Assaad Bouab, Mélanie Laurent.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, June 30

8:00pm – IFC – Heathers
I’ve actually had this on my DVR for like three months now, and still haven’t gotten around to it. One of these days…
1988 USA. Director: Michael Lehrmann. Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am on the 1st)

11:30pm – IFC – Antichrist
Lars von Trier’s latest film isn’t exactly what I’d call fun to watch, but it definitely has its compelling moments in its story of a couple grieving over the death of their son and the lengths the husband will go to in order to help his wife recover her sanity – and the lengths to which her sanity is gone. Extremely strong performances from the two principals and von Trier’s way of mixing arthouse mood with extremely disturbing content make Antichrist hard to forget.
2009 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Thursday, July 1

10:30am – TCM – Lili
Slight but charming tale of an orphan girl “adopted” by a circus troupe. I enjoyed this as a kid, and strangely enough, I can still sing the entire theme song to it. Even though I knew, even then, that Leslie Caron had to be way too old to play this part.
1953 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Leslie Caron, Mel Ferrer, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Newly Featured!

2:00pm – TCM – Dodge City
Dodge City, not a particularly great movie. It’s a fun entry in the group of Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland matchups, as Flynn deals with the outlaw element in the western frontier town of Dodge. The real reason I like it? It has one of the best barroom brawls ever put on film.
1939 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Alan Hale.

3:45pm – TCM – To Each His Own
Olivia de Havilland’s first Academy Award was for this film about a woman forced to give up her illegitimate child during WWII, yet continuing to love and sacrifice for him from afar. I have not seen it.
1946 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Olivia de Havilland,Mary Anderson, Roland Culver, Phillip Terry.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland’s second Academy Award was for this film, based on Henry James’ novel Washington Square, about an aging woman (in those days, aging meant like “older than 25″) forbidden by her father from loving an earnest but non-socially-equal young man.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – 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.

10:00pm – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
Glenn Ford is the teacher who takes on rowdy inner-city kids in one of the earlier “heroic teacher” films. A young Sidney Poitier is one of the students, and a scene in which a record of “Rock Around the Clock” is played is reputed to be the first time rock n’ roll appeared in a film.
1955 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier.

Friday, July 2

5:00am – TCM – The Wild One
1953 USA. Director: Laslo Benedek. Starring: Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith, Lee Marvin.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – The Wizard of Oz
Breakout role for Judy Garland, one of the earlier Technicolor films (and one of the first to mix black and white with Technicolor to dramatic effect), and one of the few adaptations where the film is better than the book. Oh, right, it’s also one of the most magical, beautiful, and wonderful films ever made.
1939 USA. Director: Victor Fleming. Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton.
Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 6:00pm on the 3rd)

10:30pm – TCM – Fury
I haven’t seen this one, but it’s Fritz Lang directing a young Spencer Tracy in one of his breakout films as a victim of a lynch mob attack. Definitely one I ought to have seen by now.
1936 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney, Walter Abel, Bruce Cabot, Walter Brennan.
Newly Featured!

2:00am (3rd) – TCM – Blue Velvet
I’ll be honest, this is not one of my favorite David Lynch films. There are a lot of things I like about it. The unsettling take on suburbia, the gorgeously disturbing photography, the kids playing detective, the severed ear, you know, the normal Lynch stuff. But then it just gets to be too cruel for me. Still, it’s a Lynch classic, and you oughta see it. And I oughta see it again, see if my opinion has changed.
1986 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Kyle McLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper.

4:15am (3rd) – TCM – Persona
Of all the Ingmar Bergman films I’ve seen, Persona is the one I always come back to. A nurse takes her patient, a former actress who one day simply refused to talk any more, to a lonely island to try to help her recover. They soon engage in a battle of the wills, and their identities start merging. Meanwhile, Bergman interrogates not only the concept of identity within the film, but the apparatus of film itself and its capacity for understanding and communication. There’s more to it every time I watch it.
1966 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Bib Andersson, Liv Ullmann.
Must See

Saturday, July 3

2:00pm – 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.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
Must See

4:00pm – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris, meets Leslie Caron, woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

6:00pm – 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 11:50pm)

8:00pm – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
The ultimate nostalgia film, harking back to the turn of the century and the year leading up to the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair. Judy Garland holds the film and the family in it together as the girl who only wants to love the boy next door, but it’s Margaret O’Brien as the little willful sister who adds the extra bit of oomph, especially in the manic Halloween scene and the violent Christmas scene that carries the film from an exercise in sentimentality into a deeper territory of loss and distress.
1944 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – The Usual Suspects
One of the earliest in the late 90s wave of “twist” films, and still one of the few that did it best. Spoiler warnings may not have been invented for The Usual Suspects, but it was certainly one of the films that popularized anti-spoiler sentiment (and the converse glee for spoiling, I suppose). Thanks to Christopher McQuarrie’s tight script and great acting turns, though, the film is about more than the twist, which is what makes it continue to be worthwhile over a decade and multiple viewings later.
1995 USA. Director: Bryan Singer. Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Bryne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 1:30am on the 4th)

10:00pm – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Bu˜uel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 4th)

1:30am (4th) – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film ever made. Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written.
1939 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Weidler, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main, Hedda Hopper.

Sunday, July 4

7:15am – IFC – Solaris
2002 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone.

8:30am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

5:30pm – TCM – Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney won an Oscar putting on his dancing shoes to play song-and-dance man and Broadway composer George M. Cohan in this biopic. Though it seems strange to think of gangster picture regular Cagney in a musical, he actually got his start in show business as a hoofer, and returned to musicals many times throughout his career, though this remains the most notable example.
1942 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie.

8:00pm – Sundance – A Prairie Home Companion
2006 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin.
(repeats at 5:10am on the 5th)

10:00pm – 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 routine but darker-than-usual story for a musical, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. But the way the music and dancing is integrated is wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

11:30pm – Sundance – Eraserhead
David Lynch’s first feature is a weird post-apocalyptic dreamscape of a film – what, you were expecting something normal? When you can have industrial decay and mutant babies?
1977 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart.

12:30am (5th) – TCM – The General
One of the greatest silent comedies of all time; no, scratch that, one of the greatest any kind of comedies of all time. Buster Keaton is at the top of his game as a Civil War era engineer whose train (with his girl on it) gets captured by the Union army, and he’s got to get them both back, with many an amazing stunt along the way. No one did stunt-based comedy better than Keaton, and he’s never been better than this.
1926 USA. Director: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman. Starring: Buster Keaton, Marion Mack.
Must See
Newly Featured!

2:00am (5th) – TCM – Gigi (1949)
I don’t actually know much about this French non-musical version of the Gigi story, but I saw TCM had it on in tandem with better-known American version, and thought, hey, that could be interesting.
1949 France. Director: Jacqueline Audry. Starring: Gaby Morlay, Jean Tissier, Yvonne de Bray, Franck Villard.
Newly Featured!

3:30am (5th) – TCM – Gigi (1958)
Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” might come off as more pervy now than it was originally intended, but as a whole Gigi stands as one of the most well-produced and grown-up musicals made during the studio era. Vincente Minnelli gives it a wonderful visual richness and sophistication, while music from Lerner & Loewe (usually) stresses the right combination of innocence, exuberance, and ennui for its decadent French story.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.

Film on TV: May 17-23

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Private Lives, playing on TCM on Friday

Almost a manageable number of films this week – only three or four per day, with nothing particularly of note on Sunday at all. Well, okay, maybe that’s not actually manageable unless you’re retired or something. Whatever. A lot of those are repeats, but we do have some good newly featured ones, too. Like 1975′s Oscar sweeper One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Tuesday. And the above-pictured Private Lives, which is a treat if you like early 1930s comedies, and the Lena Horne-featuring Cabin in the Sky on Friday. Also just, as a heads-up, Sundance is playing several films throughout the week that I haven’t seen (so am thus not including because I find it difficult to write about things I haven’t seen), but I’m interested in checking out myself, including Jindabyne, Chalk, War Dance, Man on Wire, and Intacto, so check out Sundance‘s schedule for yourself on those. Hopefully they’ll pop up in future editions of the column. And if anyone wants to speak up for those or anything else playing that I’ve left off, feel free to do so in the comments.

Monday, May 17

9:45am – 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 2:45pm)

5:55pm – 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

Tuesday, May 18

6:00am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.

8:00am – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935
This movie is not even as good as Gold Diggers of 1933 (to which it is unrelated in plot), but it does have one thing that makes it eminently worth watching – the epic “Lullaby of Broadway” number that closes the show, with a full story-within-a-dance playing out through three verses of the song. It is possibly the most definitive number of 1930s backstage musicals.
1935 USA. Director: Busby Berkeley. Starring: Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Gloria Stuart, Alice Brady.
Newly Featured!

8:00am – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 2:05pm)

10:00pm – TCM – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Criminal Jack Nicholson gets put into a psychiatric hospital to see if maybe he’s crazy, and he ends up shaking the place up a bunch, especially the extremely strict by-the-book Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). I like this film but I’m not as big a fan as a lot of people; but if you’re a fan of Nicholson, he’s never better than here.
1975 USA. Director: Milos Forman. Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, May 19

7:00am – 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.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

2:30am (20th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it.
2007 Romania. Director: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean.
Must See

4:25am (20th) – 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.
1977 France/Spain. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernandy Rey, Carole Bouquet, Ángela Molina.

Thursday, May 20

10:00am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

4:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.

6:15pm – TCM – The Man From Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

Friday, May 21

6:45am – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, 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.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 1:15pm)

7:15am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 1:20pm)

8:35am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.
(repeats at 3:05pm)

9:30am – TCM – Private Lives
A sparkling battle-of-the-sexes comedy from the witty pen of Noel Coward. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery play a divorced couple recently remarried to other people – until they end up honeymooning in adjoining suites and can’t manage to stay away from each other. It’s deliciously pre-code in dialogue and innuendo. It is pretty clearly early in the sound era, though, which tends to make some of it come across a little shrill.
1931 USA. Director: Sidney Franklin. Starring: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny, Una Merkel.
Newly Featured!

9:30pm – TCM – Cabin in the Sky
In honor of Lena Horne’s passing last week, TCM is playing three of her films. This is the only one I’ve seen, but it’s the middle of the three if you’re interested in checking out the others. This is also Vincente Minnelli’s first directorial effort, a musical fantasy about the battle over a man’s soul. If you happen to check out the post I just did on Row Three about the Out of Circulation Cartoon program at the TCM Festival, you’ll find a lot of the same stereotypes and storyline here as you will in those cartoons, but it does have stylish direction and some great musical moments from Ethel Waters, Horne, Louis Armstrong, and others.
1943 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Ethel Waters, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Rex Ingram.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, May 22

8:45am – 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 1:45pm)

4:15pm – 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.
1932 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O’Sullivan.

8:00pm – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
1939 USA. Director: William Dieterle. Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O’Brien.

8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 23rd)

Sunday, May 23

Catch-up day, apparently!

Film on TV: March 29-April 4

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The Passion of Joan of Arc, playing late Sunday/early Monday on TCM.

Check out a little Marx Brothers marathon on TCM Monday night, from early work like Monkey Business at 8pm to the best of the best starting with Duck Soup at 10:45pm. And the last night of the Kurosawa celebration hits on Tuesday, with some of his later work. A few newly featured ones on TCM, but other than Dreyer’s silent The Passion of Joan of Arc next Sunday, which I’m actually looking forward to seeing for the first time, I’ll let you find those below on your own. Beyond that, there’s numerous worthwhile repeats (including some contemporary greats like Before Sunrise and The Station Agent on IFC) to make sure you haven’t missed on all channels.

Monday, March 29

9:45am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 3:30pm)

11:30am – 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
(repeats at 5:15pm)

9:30pm – TCM – Horse Feathers
Most film comedians do a college-set film at some point, and this is the Marx Brothers entry into higher education. This is a relatively early film for them, and it’s not quite as great as the Duck Soup-A Night at the Opera-A Day at the Races trifecta, but it’s still really solid, one of my favorites of their pre-1933 films.
1932 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd, David Landau.
Newly Featured!

10:45pm – 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, Leonid Kinskey.
Must See

12:00M – TCM – A Night at the Opera
One of the best of the Marx Brothers’ zany comedies finds them running awry through the world of opera. This is the one that contains the famous “how much stuff can we stuff into a stateroom” scene. And a subplot with Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but that’s best ignored as much as possible.
1935 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Kitty Carlisle, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

12:00M – IFC – The Cooler
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.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

2:00am (30th) – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.
1937 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

Tuesday, March 30

9:15am – IFC – The Station Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises (for me, anyway) of 2003. Peter Dinklage moves into a train depot to indulge his love for trains and stay away from people, only to find himself befriended by a loquacious Cuban hot-dog stand keeper and an emotionally delicate Patricia Clarkson. A quiet but richly rewarding film.
2003 USA. Director: Thomas McCarthy. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

4:00pm – TCM – The Blue Gardenia
This may be a lesser Fritz Lang noir, but a Lang noir is still a Lang noir. Anne Baxter is a mousy telephone operator who has an uncharacteristic night out drinking with a near-stranger; the next day she wakens with little memory of the night, but the stranger is dead. That setup leads to police investigation, and her own questioning whether or not she is a murderer. Baxter’s an underrated talent, I think, and even though this film has its flaws, it’s still quite enjoyable in its way.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Anne Sothern, Raymond Burr.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – Kurosawa Centennial Marathon
TCM is rounding out its month celebrating Akira Kurosawa with three of his later films – all three of which Row Three contributors reviewed as part of the Row Three Kurosawa celebration. So check out the films and check out our reviews, if you haven’t already.
8:00pm – Dersu Uzala (Kurt’s review)
10:30pm – Kagemusha (Matt Brown’s review)
1:45am (31st) – Ran (Bob’s review)

12:00M – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.

Wednesday, March 31

11:30pm – TCM – The Major and the Minor
A rather slight and sometimes shrill comedy that still has its moments, notable for being Billy Wilder’s first Hollywood film as a director (he also wrote it, of course, with Charles Brackett). Ginger Rogers plays a young woman who pretends to be a twelve-year-old child to get half-fare on a train; in so doing, she catches the attention of a soldier who takes her under his wing, thinking she’s actually twelve. Events snowball from there. I have a soft spot for this film, personally, and especially for Diana Lynn as the sarcastic and much-wiser-than-her-years kid who becomes Rogers’ confidant.
1942 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, April 1

8:00pm – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting.
1949 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, Gig Young

10:00pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

12:15am (2nd) – TCM – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn’s signature role in a career full of memorable films, as party girl Holly Golightly, trying to make her way in mod New York City. Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me encapsulates 1960s style probably more than any other film, and with a grace and warmth that never grows old.
1961 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney.
Must See

2:15am (2nd) – 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. 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.
1944 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan.

Friday, April 2

6:00am – TCM – Broadway Melody of 1936
MGM made four films under the Broadway Melody title (in 1929, 1935, 1936 and 1940), and this is easily the best – a polished, sparkling show biz tale with the production detail you expect from 1930s MGM. Eleanor Powell can dance up a storm no matter what film she’s in, and this is one of the few she did, honestly, that has any interest outside of her tap numbers.
1935 USA. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Starring: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Una Merkel.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, April 3

9:00am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

9:00am – TCM – Red Dust
You want some pre-Code action? We got your pre-Code action right here! Clark Gable and Jean Harlow made several films together, and Red Dust is one of the most entertaining, in no small part because its story of a love triangle on a South Seas rubber plantation gives them plenty of opportunity to push the sensuality envelope. It was remade as Mogambo in 1953 with Gable and Ava Gardner, but that version isn’t nearly as, um, interesting as this one.
1932 USA. Director: Victor Fleming. Starring: Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Gene Raymond, Mary Astor, Donald Crisp.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – Bonnie & Clyde
This is a perfect film. If you have not seen it, see it. If you have seen it, see it again. In either case, rather than write again how much I love it, I will just refer you here.
1967 USA. Director: Arthur Penn. Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons.
Must See

Sunday, April 4

10:00am – TCM – Easter Parade
Fred Astaire actually retired in 1946, and managed to stay off the screen for two years – until Gene Kelly broke his leg playing football and Fred was asked to take over his role in Easter Parade. Of course, then Fred kept making movies nearly every year for another 15 or 20 years. Easter Parade remains an enjoyable entry into his and Judy Garland’s respective filmographies, due to solid Irving Berlin tunes and the winning combination of Astaire’s dancing and Garland’s singing (and comedic abilities). Oh, this was also tap star Ann Miller’s first of many MGM films.
1948 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller.
Newly Featured!

1:45am (5th) – The Passion of Joan of Arc
It pains me to reveal this. I have not yet seen Dreyer’s classic silent version of Joan of Arc with Maria Falconetti’s legendary performance as Joan. The time will come. I believe pretty much every other Row Three-er has seen it, so they can talk it up in the comments should they so desire. From everything I’ve heard, it’s not to be missed given the opportunity to see it, and here is the opportunity.
1928 Denmark. Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer. Starring: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: December 21-27

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Bicycle Thieves, playing late Sunday night on TCM

Well, it’s Christmas this week, and TCM’s throwing a Christmas party of course, with some of Robert Osbourne’s favorite Christmas films – they aren’t all the obvious well-known ones you might expect, though, which is part of the fun. That starts on Christmas Eve with Remember the Night and Christmas in July, then moving on to Meet Me in St. Louis and The Shop Around the Corner. On Christmas Day, they’re throwing us a marathon of Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films – whether they’re consciously trying to counter Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, opening on Christmas, I’m not sure. But I figure you can never have too much Holmes. Meanwhile, it’s still Humphrey Bogart month, and all four Bogart-Bacall films are lined up on Wednesday night.

Among our newly featured films this week, IFC has Fellini’s nostalgic Amarcord on Monday, Sundance breaks out hard-hitting thriller 13 Tzameti on Thursday, and late Sunday TCM is showing Bicycle Thieves, a masterpiece of Neo-Realist cinema that should not be missed.

Monday, December 21

6:15am – 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).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 1:05pm)

8:15am – TCM – Jules and Jim
Jules and Jim are best friends. Then Catherine falls into their lives like a hurricane – she’s almost a force of chaotic primal nature. She marries Jules, but when Jim reconnects with the couple after WWII (in which the two friends fought on opposite sides), their relationship gets…um…complicated. This is one of the classics of the New Wave, and exemplifies the movement’s realistic style, dispassionate camera and narration, and intellectual pursuits.
1963 France. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre.

10:30am – IFC – Amarcord
One of Federico Fellini’s four Best Foreign Film statuettes is for this film, and though I rail against many of Oscar’s choices when it comes to foreign films, Fellini deserved all of his. Amarcord is a slice-of-life film showcasing a small 1930s Italian village, with Fellini’s typically flair.
1973 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Bruno Zanin, Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia, Josiane Tanzilli.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 5:20pm)

12:15pm – TCM – Tom Jones
The book Tom Jones, written in the late 1700s by Henry Fielding, is usually considered one of the earliest novels, and part of its charm is the way it pastiches earlier literary forms as it tells its story of a rakish young English nobleman and his adventures with women. Though the film version can’t really claim the same place in cinematic history that the novel does in literary history, it’s still quite enjoyable, and manages to convey a similar playfulness by pastiching earlier filmmaking styles – which never fails to earn it a spot in texts on adaptation.
1963 UK. Director: Tony Richardson. Starring: Albert Finney, Susanna York, Hugh Griffiths.

8:00pm – IFC – Garden State
First-time director Braff brings his quirky personality and taste in indie music to this story of a young man who returns to his home town for the first time in years for his mother’s funeral. While there, he meets a girl who teaches him how to feel for the first time since his father started prescribing meds to him as a child. It’s become a popular pastime to hate on Garden State and its self-conscious quirk, but I refuse. I loved it when I first saw it, and I love it now.
2004 USA. Director: Zach Braff. Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard.
(repeats at 2:00am, 12:30pm, and 4:00pm on the 22nd)

10:15pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

Tuesday, December 22

7:45am – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film ever made. Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written.
1939 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Weidler, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main, Hedda Hopper.

10:00am – TCM – Fiddler on the Roof
A Tzarist-era Russian Jewish village doesn’t seem a particularly likely place to set a musical, but Fiddler on the Roof does a good job of it, exploring the clashing cultures as patriarch Tevye tries to marry his daughters off to good Jewish husbands with decreasing success.
1971 USA. Director: Norman Jewison. Starring: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh, Neva Small, Michael Glaser.

Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – My Fair Lady
George Cukor finally won an Oscar in 1964 for this film, a high-quality adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, itself based on the Greek story of Svengali and Trilby. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn acquit themselves well as phonetics professor Henry Higgens and street urchin Eliza Doolittle. I guess I just find it a bit overlong and overproduced, as most 1960s musicals were, but I’m in the minority.
1964 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White.

1:00am (23rd) – TCM – Silk Stockings
The musical version of Ninotchka, about a staid, repressed Communist woman who goes to Paris on a mission, only to get loosened up by a Western guy. You’re better off with Ninotchka, honestly (and this week, you’re in luck, it’s on next). Silk Stocking substitutes Cyd Charisse (who’s really only ever convincing when she’s dancing), Fred Astaire (who’s fine, though a bit on the old side by 1957), and adds Cole Porter music, which is really the major reason to check this version out.
1957 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias.
Newly Featured!

3:00am (23rd) – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.
1939 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.

Wednesday, December 23

7:45am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Giulietta 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.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See
(repeats at 6:20am on the 26th)

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. 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.
1944 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan.

10:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
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.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
Must See

12:00M – 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.
1947 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett.

2:00am (24th) – TCM – Key Largo
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall team up for the final time on this great noirish melodrama of a group of people, including a wheelchair-bound hotel owner, his recently widowed daughter-in-law (Bacall), a war veteran (Bogart), and a ruthless gangster and his girl, forced to take refuge against a fierce hurricane. Among the best films for all involved, and that’s saying something considering who all is involved.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor.
Must See

Thursday, December 24

5:45pm – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 5:00am on the 25th)

8:00pm – TCM – Remember the Night
Barbara Stanwyck is caught shoplifting just before Christmas. The prosecuting attorney, Fred MacMurray, puts off the trial till after Christmas and ends up feeling sorry for her, bailing her out, and taking her home with him so she won’t have to spend Christmas alone in jail. It’s fairly predictable what’s going to happen next, but as usual, Stanwyck makes relatively routine material worth watching. And of course, a Preston Sturges script doesn’t hurt either.
1940 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Elizabeth Patterson, Sterling Holloway.
Newly Featured!

9:45pm – TCM – Christmas in July
A bit of a lesser Preston Sturges film to my mind, but it has its vociferous defenders. A lowly office clerk dreams of winning a contest that would make his fortune and allow him to marry the girl he loves; as a joke, his friends fake a telegram telling him he’s won one, but things get out of hand quickly. It’s pretty slight, but has a lot of charm.
1940 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Buñuel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.

1:00am (25th) – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
The ultimate nostalgia film, harking back to the turn of the century and the year leading up to the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair. Judy Garland holds the film and the family in it together as the girl who only wants to love the boy next door, but it’s Margaret O’Brien as the little willful sister who adds the extra bit of oomph, especially in the manic Halloween scene and the violent Christmas scene that carries the film from an exercise in sentimentality into a deeper territory of loss and distress.
1944 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor.
Must See

5:00am (25th) – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original version of You’ve Got Mail has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding employees of a shop who are unknowingly exchanging romantic letters. Ernst Lubitsch directs, bringing his warm European wit to bear.
1940 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan.

6:00am (25th) – Sundance – 13 Tzameti
A young man acquires instructions meant for someone else and decides to follow them anyway, soon finding himself immersed in an underground gambling ring betting on the lives of desperate men. Ultra-low budget and minimalistic, but does a lot with what it’s got. This is in process of being remade in the US, but check out the original first.
2005 France. Director: Géla Babluani. Starring: George Babluani, Pascal Bongard, Aurélien Recoing, Fred Ulysse.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 12:00N on the 25th)

Friday, December 25

7:00am – TCM – Little Women (1933)
This first sound version of Little Women has a young Katharine Hepburn in the lead, along with a roll-call of great 1930s starlets and character actors. It’s a bit wooden compared to the 1994 version, but it’s got a lot of charm nonetheless.
1933 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas, Edna May Oliver, Jean Parker, Frances Dee.

10:15am – TCM – The Man Who Came to Dinner
A rare comedic film for Bette Davis, though the film mainly focuses on Monty Woolley as an acerbic newspaper critic forced to take up residence with a midwestern family when he breaks his hip outside their house. Woolley was a great character actor here given the spotlight, and he takes it and runs with it. A great script by Julius and Philip Epstein (of Casablanca) doesn’t hurt, either.
1942 USA. Director: William Keighley. Starring: Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolley, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke.

12:15pm – TCM – Christmas in Connecticut
The always-worth-watching Barbara Stanwyck is a magazine columnist who makes up a traditional country home for her column while living in New York, a subterfuge which causes no problems until a serviceman on leave wants nothing more than to spend Christmas on her farm and her editor thinks it’s a great human interest piece. Her attempts to recreate that world while falling for the serviceman are funny, warm, and enjoyable enough to add this to your holiday rotation.
1945 USA. Director: Peter Godfrey. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Una O’Connor.

8:00pm-6:30pm 26th – TCM – Sherlock Holmes marathon
Guy Ritchie’s new Sherlock Holmes movie comes out on Christmas day, but TCM reminds us that Basil Rathbone made literally dozens of Holmes films in the 1930s and 1940s by playing a whole slew of them, starting at 8pm on Christmas Eve and running all the way through 6:30pm on Christmas Day. I haven’t seen most of these, but if you’re tired of family festivities and feel like kicking back with some old-school mystery serials, here you go.

12:00M – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol 2
On the one hand, Kill Bill Vol 1 isn’t quite complete without Kill Bill Vol 2. And there are a lot of good parts in here – the film noirish opening as the Bride catches us up on what’s going on, the fight with Daryl Hannah in the trailer, training with the kung fu master, her getting out of the coffin, etc. But the ending lags a little too much for me to truly say I enjoy watching it as much as Vol. 1.
2004 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.

4:15am (26th) – Sundance – Oldboy
Ultra-violent revenge films don’t get much better than this. A man is inexplicably locked up in a room for several years then just as inexplicably released, at which point he seeks revenge. A bloody and at times disturbing film, but with an underlying thoughtfulness that sets it apart.
2003 Korea. Director: Park Chan-Wook. Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang.

Saturday, December 26

8:00pm – 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.
1950 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe.

10:00pm – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting.
1949 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, Gig Young

2:00am (27th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly team 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.
1952 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.
Must See

Sunday, December 27

6:00am – IFC – The Station Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises (for me, anyway) of 2003. Peter Dinklage moves into a train depot to indulge his love for trains and stay away from people, only to find himself befriended by a loquacious Cuban hot-dog stand keeper and an emotionally delicate Patricia Clarkson. A quiet but richly rewarding film.
2003 USA. Director: Thomas McCarthy. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale.
(repeats at 2:45pm)

8:00am – TCM – Top Hat
For me, Top Hat and Swing Time battle it out for the top spot constantly, with the one I’ve seen more recently usually taking the crown. Mistaken identity follows mistaken identity here, as Ginger thinks Fred is her best friend’s husband, causing her a lot of consternation when Fred starts romancing her. That’s far from the end of it all, though. Also has the most definitive collection of Astaire-Rogers supporting actors.
1935 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.
Must See

4:00pm – TCM – The Odd Couple
Before Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau became grumpy old men, they originated these neat-freak and slob characters forced to share an apartment. They actually did a lot of other films together all the way through the 1960s and 1970s, but this is the one that’s usually remembered the most, not least of all because it was turned into a highly successful TV series with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. But the movie (itself based on a play by Neil Simon, which he adapted himself) is quite funny and worth a watch.
1968 USA. Director: Gene Saks. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, John Fiedler, Herb Edelman, David Sheiner.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar 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 Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope 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.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
Must See

2:00am (28th) – TCM – Bicycle Thieves
One of the best and most iconic films from the Italian Neo-Realist movement. A man finally acquires a job, because he has the requisite bicycle needed to do the job. But when his bicycle is stolen, he and his son go on an increasingly desperate odyssey to try to recover it. Neo-Realism is known for its use of urban, location shooting and non-actors to deliver an authentic picture of life, and Bicycle Thieves succeeds superbly on every front. (aka The Bicycle Thief)
1948 Italy. Director: Vittorio De Sica. Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola, Lianella Carell, Gino Saltamerenda.
Must See
Newly Featured!

2:35am (28th) – 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.