Tag Archives: National Velvet

Film on TV: January 25-31

Ladykillers.jpg
The Ladykillers, playing on TCM on Monday at 3:15pm

 

We had classic Ealing/Alec Guinness comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets recently, and now here comes The Ladykillers, possibly my favorite Ealing/Guinness comedy, playing on TCM on Monday. Not a lot of other newly featured stuff, though I did throw in some lower-level MGM musicals. Because I like musicals. And I can. Still a lot of great stuff among the repeats, and a lot of variety, too.

Monday, January 25

3:15pm – TCM – The Ladykillers
One of the most delightful of the Ealing comedies, with Alec Guinness leading a bunch of crooks (including a young Peter Sellers) whose bankrobbing plans get flustered by an unlikely old lady.
1955 UK. Director: Alexander Mackendrick. Starring: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers.
Must See
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Tuesday, January 26

7:05pm – IFC – Blow Out
Sound man John Travolta is recording sound samples one night, and may have accidentally recorded a murder occurring. As he tries to investigate, he’s drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Inspired to some degree by Antonioni’s photography-based Blow-Up, but this is definitely DePalma’s film all the way.
1981 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.

8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:10am on the 27th)

Wednesday, January 27

12:30pm – TCM – I Love Melvin
Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but a fun one-off MGM musical starring Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. So if they were your favorite part of Singin’ in the Rain and you just wish Gene Kelly had got out of their way, here you go.
1953 USA. Director: Don Weis. Starring: Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Una Merkel, Richard Anderson.
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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
(repeats 4:50am on the 28th)

12:00M – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.
Must See

12:45am – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.
2006 USA. Director: Goran Dukic. Starring: Patrick Fujit, Shannyn Sossamon, Abraham Benrubi, Will Arnett.

Thursday, January 28

8:30am – 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

11:45am – TCM – Only Angels Have Wings
I’ve never gotten into Only Angels Have Wings as much as I have into other Howard Hawks films – why I don’t know. It has elements I like – Cary Grant as a daring pilot making dangerous cargo runs in exotic locales, Jean Arthur in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn, and a sighting of a young Rita Hayworth. Just doesn’t seem to come together in a memorable whole for me.
1939 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell.

2:00pm – 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.

4:00pm – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original, better 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.

6:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

7:30pm – IFC – Go
In the first section of this tripartite film, bored grocery store clerk Sarah Polley seizes an opportunity to broker a drug deal when her dealing coworker takes a trip to Vegas. It goes very wrong. Meanwhile, her coworker in Vegas gets mixed up in a murder there. Also meanwhile, two actors work with a narcotics officer to break up the drug ring. All three stories tie up together in the end, but not before a lot of quite well-constructed Pulp Fiction-esque jumping around. A lot of fun, and better than you might expect.
1999 USA. Director: Doug Liman. Starring: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf.

8:00pm-4:00am – TCM – The Road Movies
Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour made seven Road to… movies between 1940 and 1962, and TCM is playing all but two of them (skipping 1947’s Road to Rio and 1962’s afterthought The Road to Hong Kong). There’s not a lot to them other than some tunes and back-lot versions of exotic locations, but they’re good fun. Road to Morocco is probably the best of the bunch, starting at 11:15pm.
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11:15pm – IFC – Pulp Fiction
Tarantino’s enormously influential and entertaining film pretty much needs no introduction from me. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta give the performances of their careers, Tarantino’s dialogue is spot-on in its pop-culture-infused wit, and the chronology-shifting, story-hopping editing style has inspired a host of imitators, most nowhere near as good.
1994 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames.
Must See

Friday, January 29

10:30am – TCM – Johnny Guitar
Nicholas Ray’s rather strange feminist western has become something of a cult classic – Joan Crawford is Vienna, a tough-but-vulnerable saloon owner that all the other women in town want gone. She calls on old friend Johnny Guitar to help her out, but he many not be quite as advertised either. I didn’t love this the way I wanted to when I first saw it, but I feel like some of that was just not knowing what to expect (also, I had a craptastic VHS copy). Hoping to improve its standing with a second viewing.
1954 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Ward Bond, Ernest Borgnine.

8:05pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:05am on the 30th)

Saturday, January 30

7:05am – 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 1:15pm)

8:15am – 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.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.

2:15pm – 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.

5:30pm – TCM – National Velvet
One of my favorite movies growing up, probably not least of all because I was mad about anything to do with horses. Even so, National Velvet stands pretty tall among family friendly films, with a young Elizabeth Taylor fighting to run her beloved horse in England’s most prestigious steeplechase with the help of world-weary youth Mickey Rooney.
1944 USA. Director: Clarence Brown. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere, Angela Lansbury.

8:00pm – 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? With the recent news that Andrea Arnold will be directing a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, now’s the perfect time to catch up on the earlier versions, of which this is the best.
1939 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson.

Sunday, January 31

7:45am – 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 2:00pm)

10:00pm – TCM – Annie Get Your Gun
The best part about this film for me is imagining what it would’ve been like had Judy Garland played Annie Oakley, as she was meant to do, instead of semi-retiring for four years to deal with her drug problems. She had basically the whole Irving Berlin soundtrack recorded already (those tracks are available on TCM/Rhino Records). But looking past the fact that Betty Hutton ain’t no Judy Garland, the film still has a great bunch of songs and is a fair amount of fun.
1950 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Louis Calhern, J. Carrol Naish, Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold.
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Film on TV: June 15-21

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The 400 Blows, playing Thursday, June 18th, at 10pm on TCM

This week TCM pays tribute to Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, William A. Wellman, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Mervyn LeRoy, and Vincente Minnelli, as well as throwing in some shorter director marathons for Tony Richardson (on Wednesday) and Blake Edwards (on Friday). I only highlighted a couple from those last two, but if you like them, check out the full morning schedule on TCM for those days.

Monday, June 15

3:30pm – TCM – National Velvet
One of my favorite movies growing up, probably not least of all because I was mad about anything to do with horses. Even so, National Velvet stands pretty tall among family friendly films, with a young Elizabeth Taylor fighting to run her beloved horse in England’s most prestigious steeplechase with the help of world-weary youth Mickey Rooney.

Great Directors on TCM: Elia Kazan
I gotta say I don’t really count Elia Kazan among my favorite directors – he tends to be a little message-y for me. Still, he got some great performances out of some great actors, and the Academy Awards loved him – although I’m not entirely sure that’s a positive.

9:30pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over. Must See

12:00M – Sundance – Sex and Lucia
This isn’t a favorite of mine, but a lot of people around Row Three like it a lot, so I’ll let them defend it in the comments if they so choose. :)

Tuesday, June 16

8:30am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
(repeats 5:30pm on the 21st)

6:00pm – TCM – The Haunting
No worries, this is the good, 1963 version of The Haunting, not the overblown 1999 remake. The story’s the same, but Robert Wise’s original is creepy, disturbing, and, like, good.

7:55pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman takes on Hollywood in this story of a script screener (Tim Robbins) who gets drawn further and further into a web of blackmail and double-crosses when he’s threatened by a screenwriter whose script he rejected. You gotta love it for the virtuosic opening pan at the very least; the rest of the Hollywood insider references are just gravy.

Great Directors on TCM: Orson Welles
Hollywood’s wunderkind director/writer/actor/producer always seemed to run afoul of studio interference, but he still managed to make many of the best things ever put on film.

8:00pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made, I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. The quest for what makes publisher/politician Charles Foster Kane tick takes a journalist through a fractured narrative that never seems to give any definitive answers. Personally, I respect and recommend Kane for its innovations in narrative, cinematography, and cinema language, but I find it a difficult film to love (yet even that is fitting, as the difficulty of loving or being loved by Kane himself is a central theme). Must See

10:15pm – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth).

12:00M – TCM – The Magnificent Ambersons
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with this film about a wealthy but decaying American family, but wasn’t given nearly as much creative freedom. But even with studio interference, it’s well worth seeing.

12:00M – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit (Almost Famous) slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Wednesday, June 17

3:45pm – 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.

Great Directors on TCM: William A. Wellman
William Wellman was a workhorse director in the 1930s, directing mostly gangster films and dramas – I’m not familiar enough with him to write very competently about him, though.

9:00pm – 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.

9:35pm – IFC – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
(repeats at 3:30am on the 18th)

2:45am (18th) – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds this story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.

Thursday, June 18

7:00am – 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. It’s the basis for the film Twelve Monkeys, which I’ve tried to watch but haven’t ever made it through – partially, I think, because La Jetee is so hauntingly beautiful and I haven’t found that beauty in Twelve Monkeys.

7:35am – IFC – Three Times
Hsiao-hsien Hou directs this tripartite film – three stories set in three different time periods (1911, 1966, and 2005), each with the same actors, and each depicting a relationship that’s both very specific and individual and also sheds light on the mores of its respective time period. I liked the 1966 story the best, but they were all intriguing, and the contrast between them even more so.
(repeats at 1:45pm)

4:00pm – TCM – Topkapi
One of the classic heist capers, with a group of ragtag criminals (led by Melina Mercouri and including comic relief Peter Ustinov) planning to steal a jewel-encrusted dagger from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Suspenseful and funny, with great scenery.

Great Directors on TCM: François Truffaut
Oh, Truffaut, Truffaut. I can credit Truffaut with a huge amount of my cinephiliac tendencies – he was one of the first directors that got me truly interested in foreign film and the New Wave, and I can pretty much say without question that my life wouldn’t be the same now if I hadn’t ever seen The 400 Blows. His criticism as a writer for the Cahiers du cinema is just as important as his filmmaking, too – he’s the one who first started the idea behind the auteur theory, though many others have modified it far from his original intent

8:00pm – 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.

10:00pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut’s first feature, a semi-autobiographical look at a boy’s childhood in Paris, dealing with strict teachers, fighting parents, etc. This film along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless usually mark the beginning of the New Wave. Truffaut’s sentimental tendencies come out already, as well as his incredible ability to direct children to great performances. Jean-Pierre Leaud would go on to star in many more Truffaut films, but for me, his adult roles never match this one. Must See

12:00M – TCM – The Bride Wore Black
Truffaut was an especial fan of Alfred Hitchcock (even devoted an entire book to a series of interviews with him), and that comes out in this revenge thriller. That I haven’t seen. Yet. But it’s Truffaut imitating Hitchcock with Jeanne Moreau onscreen – that combination can’t hardly help but be good, right?

Friday, June 19

6:00am – IFC – Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s first foray into overlaid animation is a philosophical dreamscape that’ll either leave you cold or inhabit your thoughts for weeks. It’s the latter for me. Like most of Linklater’s films, it’s largely made up of people talking, but with the added interest of the unique ever-shifting, never-solid animation style (which he’d reuse with a slightly more standard sci-fi story in A Scanner Darkly).
(repeats at 12:00N)

4:00pm – TCM – A Shot in the Dark
Here’s your counter example for the “sequels are never as good as the original” argument. This second film in the Pink Panther series is easily the best, and stands as ones of the zaniest 1960s comedies ever.

6:00pm – TCM – The Pink Panther
Why TCM decided to show A Shot in the Dark before The Pink Panther is anybody’s guess. Most people would agree that A Shot in the Dark is the best of the series, but the first entry is still well worth watching. Peter Sellers is perfect as bumbling detective Jacques Clouseau, trying to recover a stolen diamond for David Niven.

7:15pm – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt. Moore plays a 1950s housewife, trapped in her marriage to a man struggling with his own sexual identity (Dennis Quaid), and slowly falling into an affair with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert).
(repeats 12:45pm on the 20th)

Great Directors on TCM: Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese has been a leading American director since the 1970s, when he burst on the New Hollywood scene with gritty urban dramas like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver – and he’s stayed on top pretty much ever since, and shows no signs of slowing down. I have to admit to being woefully behind on my Scorsese watching, so I’m going to link to a Row Three post – Dave’s Scorsese marathon from March, in which he talks both about Scorsese as a director and every one of his films. For here, I’m just going to list the films TCM is playing. The only one I’ve seen is GoodFellas, which ranks among my favorite gangster films of all time.

8:00pm – TCM – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

11:30pm – TCM – The King of Comedy

1:30am (20th) – TCM – GoodFellas

4:00am (20th) – TCM – Mean Streets

Saturday, June 20

Great Directors on TCM: Mervyn LeRoy
One of Warner Bros. and later MGM’s most reliable contract directors, most everything LeRoy put his hands on turned out to be a little better than the average programmer. Unfortunately, I’d say very few of them turn out be bona-fide classics, but maybe that’s just me. His films are enjoyable enough, but that’s about it.

7:15am – TCM – I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.

9:00am – TCM – Little Caesar
One of the classic early 1930s gangster films, the one that essentially typecast Edward G. Robinson in the role of the cigar-chewing tough guy.

9:45pm – 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 his best role until 30 Rock.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 21st)

Sunday, June 21

Great Directors on TCM: Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli pretty much exemplifies the MGM studio style of the 1940s and 1950s – lush and colorful with A-list actors. Yet there’s something more about Minnelli; other MGM directors of the time had similar things to work with, but despite how gorgeous his films are on the surface, there’s nothing purely superficial about them. There’s a depth to a Minnelli film, both in story and use of cinematic space, that most studio directors never achieved.

8:00am – 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. Must See

10:00am – TCM – The Band Wagon
There are many reasons to consider The Band Wagon among the best movie musicals ever made. The satirical plot involving a Shakespearean director who tries to turn a lighthearted musical into a doom-and-gloom version of Faust, the bright yet sardonic script and score by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who basically appear in the film as the characters played by Nanette Fabrey and Oscar Levant), the last really great role for Fred Astaire (maybe Funny Face is a contender, but barely), and of course, the never-surpassed beauty of dance numbers like “Dancing in the Dark” with Fred and Cyd Charisse. But even if it didn’t have all that, I’d still rank it among my favorites for the epic “Girl Hunt Ballet” number spoofing hard-boiled detective fiction. Must See

12:00N – 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. Must See

2:00pm – TCM – Gigi
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.

8:00pm – TCM – Father of the Bride
Long before Steve Martin kicked of his nearly twenty-year run of remaking classic comedies with his version of this film, Spencer Tracy was the Father of the Bride, dealing with the difficulty of letting his only daughter, Elizabeth Taylor, go to some other man. I don’t hate the Martin version, but this one is better. The family’s son is played by a young Russ Tamblyn (of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story).

11:15pm – TCM – The Bad and the Beautiful
Vincente Minnelli directs Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and Gloria Grahame in one of the best dark-side-of-Hollywood noirish films this side of Sunset Boulevard.

3:30am (22nd) – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.

Film on TV: 9-15 February

It’s February. That means TCM is pulling out their big guns in honor of the Oscars. Which means lots of good movies in the next few weeks. :)

All times are Eastern. Subtract 1 hour for Central, 2 for Mountain, 3 for Pacific. Don’t necessarily trust what I just said – double check your listings because movie channels don’t follow the same logic as primetime network programming.

Monday, February 9

9:15am – TCM – The Apartment
One of Billy Wilder’s best, a bitter-sweet romantic comedy-drama (Wilder sometimes has issues sticking to one genre, and in this case, that’s a compliment) involving lower-level company employee Jack Lemmon, who lends his apartment to his hotshot boss Fred MacMurray, who uses it for trysts with various secretaries including Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon coincidentally loves from afar. Think Mad Men, except actually made in 1960.

9:20am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things.
(repeats at 2:45pm)

1:45pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Just pointing out that it’s on. No need to sell it.

3:45pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
I used to think melodramas were just silly, crappy movies. Then I saw Mildred Pierce which can BY ITSELF give the melodrama genre respectability. It’s that good. It’s also one of the few movies in which I actually like Joan Crawford.

Tuesday, February 10

6:00am – TCM – Waiting for Guffman
The first of Christopher Guest’s brilliant series of mockumentaries (followed by Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, and possibly others – I lose track); in this one a bunch of Midwesterners try to put on a stage show, with awkwardly hilarious results.
(repeats at 10:35am and 4:05pm)

2:45pm – TCM – Henry V (1944)
One of my favorite things to do is compare different versions of Shakespeare’s plays, because there are so many different ways to stage/film them and they still work. Case in point: Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (this one) was made at the tail end of WWII and is a gung-ho rallying cry around an English war hero. It’s very stylized, with the set design based on English and French renaissance art. Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 version is very gritty and realistic, and questions Henry’s war-mongering, becoming a troubled anti-war story rather than a call to arms. Yet the script is almost 100% the same (yes, I have checked this; I wrote a paper about it). Both films are quality. So see both; it’s interesting.

3:45am (11th) – TCM – Rebecca
Hitchcock’s first American film and the first to garner him an Oscar nomination. The film has a lot of supporters, but I still think it would’ve been a lot better if they’d stuck to Daphne du Maurier’s novel’s original ending. And I’m rarely a book purist. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching, because it is.

Wednesday, February 11

1:30pm – TCM – Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati’s Chaplin-esque character, Mr. Hulot, this time takes on modern life in the form of his sister’s house that has been mechanized with all the most modern electronic aids – think Disney’s 1950s House of Tomorrow. Of course, everything goes wrong. Of the Hulot films I’ve seen, this is my favorite.

3:30pm – TCM – The Birds
Everyone knows they’re supposed to be scared by Psycho, so I wasn’t. But The Birds scared the crap out of me, and even though I’ve now seen it five or six times at least, it still does. One of the most perfectly paced films of all time.

10:00pm – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit (Almost Famous) slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s something of a strange film, yes, but it’s also very sweet and if you like quirky, Sundancy films, you’ll enjoy this one.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 12th)

10:00pm – TCM – Lassie Come Home
Family classic that has every kid wanting a collie at some point in their lives. Hint: Get a border collie. Regular collies are quite high-strung.

11:45pm – TCM – National Velvet
Family classic that has every kid wanting a horse. I plead guilty to both the collie and the horse, by the way.

Thursday, February 12

1:00pm – TCM – White Heat
James Cagney in one of his most powerful roles as the slightly (okay, make that more-than-slightly) unbalanced criminal Cody Jarrett. Probably counts as one of the last truly great Warner crime films, too.

8:00pm – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
Fredric March won an Oscar for his portrayal of the title character(s), with some truly amazing makeup work as well.

12:00am – TCM – The Man With the Golden Arm
After winning a supporting actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra solidified his serious acting ability with this drug-user film – always a good subject for anyone trying to solidify acting skillz, incidentally. Not to be confused with The Man With the Golden Gun, which is a James Bond movie from the Roger Moore years – one of the better ones, but still.

2:15am (13th) – TCM – Easy Rider
The story of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda trying to make this film is almost as interesting as the film itself; if you get a DVD copy of this, make sure to watch the documentary about it. It’s fitting, though, that a film about bikers on the fringe of society, completely outcast in some places, would be made at great personal difficulty outside the studio system. As a whole, the tension works for the film, which is brilliant, iconoclastic, and marks, along with Bonnie and Clyde, the beginning of the New Hollywood that would blossom in the 1970s.

4:00am (13th) – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
It’s interesting to watch and compare this version of Jekyll and Hyde with the 1932 version (see above). The earlier one uses extensive makeup to depict the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde, but in this one, Spencer Tracy shows the change purely by his facial expressions and acting style. It’s been a while since I saw either one, but I remember Tracy being surprisingly convincing, even though the 1941 version seems to be largely forgotten.

Friday, February 13

8:00am – TCM – Lilies of the Field
Sidney Poitier made history with this film, becoming the first black actor to win an Oscar for a leading role (Hattie McDaniel had won a supporting award for Gone With the Wind back in 1939 – between 1939 and 1963? No-one). I, uh, haven’t seen it, but I thought that was worth mentioning.

12:30pm – TCM – Topper
A truly zany, delightful screwball comedy with a twist. Constance Bennett and Cary Grant are a high-rolling society couple who get killed in a car crash. But they hang around as ghosts and take it as their mission to teach harried businessman Roland Young to learn how to live again. The film spawned a couple of sequels (Topper Takes a Trip, with Young and Bennett but no Grant, and Topper Returns, with Joan Blondell taking the Bennett role), both of which are fun, but no match for the brilliant original.

Saturday, February 14

4:15pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
If you’re talking screwball comedy, The Awful Truth is going to come up. It’s that definitive and that fantastic. Gold standard of screwball, battle-of-the-sexes, 1930s comedy right here.

10:00pm – TCM – The King and I
I love most of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musicals more than I probably should, but The King and I is a step above all the others. Perhaps it’s Yul Brynner, perfectly at home in the role he originated on Broadway. Perhaps it’s Deborah Kerr, a more accomplished actress than usually appeared in R&H musicals. Perhaps it’s the real-life story of the conflict between tradition and modernization, regional culture and imperial imposition. I dunno. But I think it’s the best of the bunch, objectively speaking. (Subjectively speaking, I love Oklahoma! best, but that’s neither here nor there.)

10:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
Eighteen directors each contribute a short film about Paris, ranging from tiny but poignant vignettes to ironic comedy to romantic drama to horror. The films are obviously of varying quality, but taken as a whole – let me just say that if you don’t already love Paris, you probably will by the time the film is over. The directors include: Joel & Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuaron, Isabel Coixet, Gerard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Gurinder Chadha, Alexander Payne, and Gus Van Sant.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 15th)

12:00am – IFC – Garden State
Unfashionable though it may be at the moment, I still love Garden State unconditionally. So sue me.
(repeats on the 15th at 6:10am and 12:15pm)

Sunday, February 15

9:00am – 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.

9:30pm – TCM – Funny Face
If there’s a list of most fashionable films, Funny Face has to be on it. Fred Astaire is a fashion photographer who finds the fresh face he’s been looking for in Audrey Hepburn and whisks her off to Paris for a shoot. Throw in Gershwin songs and some Sartre-ridden existential jazzy nightclubs, and you’ve got…well, okay, not one of the all-time great musicals perhaps, but a very solid one.

11:45pm – IFC – Amores Perros
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrítu specializes in films with multiple intersecting storylines, and he does it best here, in his breakthrough Mexican film (starring Gael Garcia Bernal, also just beginning to become a household name at this point). The three largely independent stories are tied together by the characters’ relationship with dogs and involvement in a climactic car crash – though this may sound like his later film Babel or Paul Haggis’ Crash, Amores Perros differs from films by being, like, actually GOOD, not heavy-handed or anvil-obvious.

2:00am (16th) – TCM – Blow-Up
Michelangelo Antonioni made his English-language debut with this 1966 swinging London film, focusing on a photographer (no pun intended) who may have accidentally photographed a murder in the background of one of his shots. A frustrating film for those who seek closure, but a revealing one for those who prefer ambiguity, Blow-Up is a detective story that refuses to abide by the rules of detective stories. If that sounds interesting to you, you may like it. If not, you probably won’t.

Next Week Sneak Preview

Monday, February 16th
10:00am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
3:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
9:35am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night (repeats 2:45pm)
10:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
2:45am (17th) – TCM – Shaft
4:30am (17th) – TCM – The Public Enemy

Tuesday, February 17th
8:15am – TCM – The Red Shoes
3:30pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
12:45am (18th) – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
2:30am (18th) – TCM – 42nd Street
4:15am (18th) – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935

Wednesday, February 18th
6:05am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom (repeats 1:20pm)
3:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
6:00pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny

Film on TV: January 12-18

Monday, January 12

7:30am / 6:30am – IFC – The Seventh Seal
One of Ingmar Bergman’s better-known films, though I don’t like it as much as some of his others. I guess the image of a medieval knight playing chess with Death is an image that’s hard to get out of your head, though.
(repeats 12:35pm EST)

9:15am / 8:15am – IFC – American Splendor
Paul Giamatti burst on the scene with this film about unconventional comic book artist Harvey Pekar. It’s an appropriately offbeat, funny, cynical, and yet warm film.
(repeats 2:35pm EST)

Tuesday, January 13

2:00am / 1:00am (14th) – TCM – Annie Hall
TCM’s playing this, one of Woody Allen’s best, a lot lately, and that’s not a bad thing. Must See

Wednesday, January 14

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – The Apartment
Also a frequent TCM film, but always worth another look. Tonight it’s part of a Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder marathon. Must See

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
But if you only see one Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder film, see this one. If you only see one Marilyn Monroe film, see this one (or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but I digress). If you only see one Tony Curtis film…you get the idea. Must See

Thursday, January 15

12:30am / 11:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
And if you only see one Billy Wilder film, see THIS one. :) Still one of the most iconic and definitive film noirs ever made (seriously, when people ask you “what is film noir, anyway,” you could almost just say Double Indemnity – almost). Also provides Barbara Stanwyck another chance to be AWESOME. Must See

2:30am / 1:30am (16th) – TCM – Shaft
The original black private eye who got all the ladies. There was a huge wave of African-American-centric films in the 1970s (so-called blaxploitation films), and Shaft is one of the first and one of the best.

4:15am / 3:15am (16th) – TCM – The Big Sleep
I think I’ve already highlighted this one a few times since I started this post series. I don’t care. This is one of my favorite movies, the best hard-boiled detective film ever made, one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, and the best pairing of Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It’s full of win any way you look at it. Must See

Friday, January 16

6:15am / 5:15am – TCM – Thousands Cheer
There’s nothing particularly special about Thousands Cheer, a fairly routine 1943 war-time musical, except that it ends with a spectacular revue of MGM stars including June Allyson, Frank Sinatra (both in probably their first or second screen appearance), Virginia O’Brien, pianist Jose Iturbi, Judy Garland, and the actual stars of the picture, Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson.

6:20am / 5:20am – IFC – Fanny and Alexander
One of Ingmar Bergman’s later films; I haven’t seen it yet, but hopefully this will be the time that my DVR decides not to randomly delete it before I watch it. I know it’s about a couple of kids, which is an unusual subject for Bergman, but I’ve heard so many good things about it I can’t wait.
(repeats 12:25pm EST)

8:30am / 7:30am – TCM – National Velvet
Being as how I grew up loving old movies AND horses, I probably don’t need to state that I pretty much wore out my tape of National Velvet. It’s one of the greatest kid-friendly films in existence, with a young Elizabeth Taylor and an exciting horse race. Ah, good times.

Saturday, January 17

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford in one of those late 1960s revisionist westerns that managed to simultaneously revitalize a genre whose traditional values were out of step with the times and kill the genre for future filmmakers. Well, that aside, Butch Cassidy is a great film any way you cut it.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – IFC – Raging Bull
It’s a huge black mark on my cinephile record that I haven’t seen Raging Bull, widely acclaimed as a high point (or maybe THE high point) in the careers of both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Situation will hopefully soon be rectified.
(repeats 1:30am EST and 11:30am EST on the 18th)

Sunday, January 18

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
The Brewster sisters are kindly old ladies – even if they are poisoning lonely old gentleman callers. As an act of kindness! Such is the premise of one of the screwiest of all comedies, which never lets up on the hilarity. Cary Grant turns in one of his most sustained comic performances, and even the usually quite serious Peter Lorre gets in on the fun.

10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – Notorious
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films (and if you know how I feel about Hitchcock, that’s saying a lot), and one of the greatest spy films ever. Spy Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman because of her relationship with suspected enemy spy Claude Rains – but how far is she willing to go? Simply fantastic on every level. Must See

12:35am / 11:35am – TCM – The Cameraman
Buster Keaton works as a cameraman on a film to try to get closer to the attractive leading lady. I’ve seen this years ago, and remember enjoying it quite a lot. Plus, any chance to see Keaton is a chance worth taking.