Tag Archives: Ninotchka

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
Newly Featured!

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.
Newly Featured!

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.
Newly Featured!

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.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: January 11-17

henryV.jpg
Henry V, playing on TCM Saturday at 6:00am.

There haven’t been so many newly featured films to highlight for quite a while as there are this week. Nice to have some new stuff to write up for a change! We have a couple of 1940s British classics in Henry V and Kind Hearts and Coronets on Saturday and Sunday respectively, plus some adaptations of great 19th and 20th century literature – A Streetcar Named Desire on Monday, and The Heiress and Cyrano de Bergerac on Sunday. This is the 1950 version of Cyrano, which I don’t think is quite as good as Gerard Depardieu’s 1990 version, but hey. It’s on right after Steve Martin’s Cyrano-inspired Roxanne, so there’s the fun of comparing and contrasting them. For musical fans, a couple of not-quite-classic but still enjoyable MGM productions: Ziegfeld Follies on Tuesday and Broadway Melody of 1936 on Sunday. And a few more recent offerings are also new to us this week, like Brian DePalma’s Blow Out on Sunday and the more-fun-than-I-expected Go on Monday.

Monday, January 11

8:00pm – 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 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.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am)

10:15pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ southern gothic play unleashed Marlon Brando upon the world and served as a strong comeback for Vivien Leigh – all in all, not a bad day’s work.
1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Kim Stanley.

Tuesday, January 12

3:00pm – TCM – Ziegfeld Follies
A plotless film, intended to recreate the revue-style musical show that Ziegfeld was so well known for in the early days of Broadway. Not every segment is worthwhile, but Fred Astaire’s three numbers (one of them with Gene Kelly, the only time they worked together until That’s Entertainment!) are great, and Judy Garland has a fun spot doing a Greer Garson parody.
1946 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Lucille Bremer, William Powell.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, January 13

6:00am – 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.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 12:00N)

10:00pm – 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.

Thursday, January 14

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.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

3:30pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

6:15pm – TCM – While the City Sleeps
The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price’s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile.
1956 United States. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Ida Lupino, George Sanders

8:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

8:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill Vol. 1
A lot of people would point to Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best film, and I think Inglourious Basterds is right up there, too, but I vote Kill Bill Vol. 1 for sheer amount of fun. He homages spaghetti westerns, Hong Kong fighting flicks, and revenge-sploitation, and ties it all together with incredible style.
2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.
Must See

10:00pm – 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.

10:00pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
(repeats at 3:00am on the 15th)

3:00am (15th) – 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.

Friday, January 15

9:15pm – 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.

Saturday, January 16

6:00am – TCM – Henry V (1944)
Laurence Olivier’s version of Shakespeare’s historical epic was made during WWII and reflects England’s need of a national hero to look up to – his Henry is the epitome of English goodness and strength, making it interesting to compare this version with Kenneth Branagh’s much more conflicted Henry. Also notable for its art direction, borrowed from medieval illustrations.
1944 UK. Director: Laurence Olivier. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Renee Asherson, Leslie Banks.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Sunday, January 17

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: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen.

10:00am – TCM – Kind Hearts and Coronets
In one of the zaniest of the zany comedies that Alec Guinness was best known for in his early career, he plays eight, count ’em, eight characters – all relatives in line to receive a duke’s massive fortune upon his death. The last in line plots to murder all the others to make himself the sole heir.
1949 UK. Director: Robert Hamer. Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price.
Newly Featured!

4:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.
Newly Featured!

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.
Newly Featured!
(repeats 12:45am on the 18th)

8:00pm – TCM – Roxanne
Steve Martin takes on the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac and his doomed love for the oblivious Roxanne, transposing it into modern times and making it much more consciously comedic.
1987 USA. Director: Fred Schepisi. Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
And here’s a straight version of Cyrano. This time Jose Ferrer (who won an Oscar for the role) plays the title character, a poet marred by the extreme size of his nose, whose love for Roxanne is such that he helps handsome but dull Christian woo her since he thinks she’ll never notice him.
1950 USA. Director: Michael Gordon. Starring: Jose Ferrer, Mala Powers, William Prince.
Newly Featured!

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

2:15am (18th) – TCM – Wild Strawberries
On his way to accept an honorary degree, elderly medical doctor Victor Sjöström thinks back and re-evaluates his life while being plagued by nightmares. Sounds kinda depressing, but then again, it is Ingmar Bergman. And he has a way of making depressing seem AWESOME.
1957 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Victor Sjöstroöm, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand.

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.

Film on TV: June 29-July 5

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Cléo from 5 to 7, playing on IFC at 6:45am on July 4th

Well, TCM’s showcase of great directors is winding down this week, but don’t worry, there’s still plenty of great cinema playing. On Thursday, TCM is running a bit of a tribute to 1939, widely considered one of the best years in filmmaking history, at least in terms of the sheer quantity of great films released that year. Also, IFC really picked up the ball this week, and are showing a bunch of really great films.

Monday, June 29

8:00pm – IFC – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
(repeats 2:30am on the 30th)

9:45pm – 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.
(repeats 4:05am on the 30th)

Tuesday, June 30

Great Directors on TCM: Anthony Mann
Though Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah and later Clint Eastwood often get well-deserved credit for developing the revisionist western, some of it should also probably go to Anthony Mann. Along with frequent star James Stewart, Mann tapped into a darker side of the quintessential American cowboy hero, showing him as a little more morally compromised, a little more expedient, and a little more personally haunted than most classic westerns.

8:00pm – TCM – The Man from Laramie
Of course TCM is playing the one Mann-Stewart western I HAVEN’T seen. But given the high quality of their other films together, I set my DVR for it immediately.

Wednesday, July 1

7:45am – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments and I think a rewatch would jump it up in my estimation greatly.
(repeats 2:15pm)

9:45pm – IFC – Mad Max
The first entry in the post-apocalyptic punk-action series that made Mel Gibson a star.
(repeats at 3:45am on the 2nd)

12:00M – IFC – Platoon
Director Oliver Stone won an Oscar for this Vietnam film (as did the film itself). I haven’t seen it, but I’m gonna DVR it and see if I get around to it.

12:30am (2nd) – TCM – The Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film
Warner Bros. basically created the gangster film in the 1930s with a series of great, gritty and hard-hitting (for the time) crime films. This documentary looks to be a nice introduction to the genre.

2:30am (2nd) – TCM – The Petrified Forest
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard are top billed in this 1936 crime drama, but the thing you’ll remember is Humphrey Bogart in his first major film role as criminal-on-the-run Duke Mantee. They’re all holed up in a remote gas station while Mantee figures out his scheme to escape the manhunt for him. He fairly sizzles on screen.

4:00am (2nd) – TCM – High Sierra
Bogart’s breakout role as an on-the-run con man who gets involved with the lame Joan Leslie. (No, I mean actually crippled.) He’d been bumming around for a few years as a Warner second lead or villain, but with 1941’s double punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, he unequivocally arrived.

Thursday, July 2

11:15am – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
(repeats at 4:30pm)

5:30pm – TCM – Rope
Hitchcock is well-known for his formal experimentation. In Rope, he shoots everything from a single camera position – on top of the chest containing the body of the boy that John Dall and Farley Granger killed before inviting several people over for a party. It’s also meant to appear as one take, though the ten-minute max reel length of the time forced him to fudge a bit on that. The story is based on the real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case, where two young men killed an acquaintance just to see if they could pull it off.

8:00pm – TCM – The Wizard of Oz
I’ve simply got nothing bad to say about The Wizard of Oz. It’s been one of my favorite movies for years, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon – one of the great classics of imagination, wonder, and self-fulfillment. Must See
(repeats 6:00pm on the 3rd)

11:15pm – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film every made (there are no men at all, so of course George Cukor directed it, right?). 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. Must See

1:30am (3rd) – 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.

Friday, July 3

9:00am – TCM – Bachelor Mother
Slight Ginger Rogers vehicle, but one I always enjoy – she picks up a baby left on the steps of an orphanage just in time for everyone to think it’s hers, including her boss (David Niven) at the department store where she works. So she has to keep it.

9:15pm – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home (his behavior is both caused by and threatens his mother’s poor health).
(repeats at 2:00pm)

Saturday, July 4

6:45am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
Almost all New Wave films were directed by men, and there’s a definite undercurrent of misogyny in most of them – or at least a clear lack of understanding of women. Enter Agnes Varda, who took New Wave sensibilities, added in her own painterly touches, and a strong feminine perspective – and you get incredible films like this one, a spare story of a woman who discovers she has cancer. The mix of New Wave detachment and the evocation of the woman’s flittering emotions just under the surface combine perfectly to skyrocket the film onto my all-time favorites list. Must See
(repeats at 1:30pm)

3:30pm – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
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.

5:45pm – 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.

9:45pm – IFC – Fargo
Still one of the Coen Brothers’ best films, despite over a decade of mostly good films in the intervening years. Dark comedy is not an easy genre, and Fargo is the gold standard, blending shocking violence and a noir-ish crime story with comical inept criminals and a perfectly rendered performance from Frances McDormand. Must See
(repeats at 3:30am on the 5th)

1:15am (5th) – 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. Must See

Sunday, July 5

12:00N – TCM – The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle was really MGM’s first foray into noirish crime films. Being MGM, it’s more polished and, to me, less interesting than the crime dramas that Warner Bros. and the smaller studios were putting out, but hey. It’s still pretty good. And has a really young Marilyn Monroe.

2:00pm – TCM – War of the Worlds
The 1953 version of H.G. Wells’ classic Martian attack story – the alien ships land mysteriously, then start randomly attacking without warning. The mix of realistic March-of-Time style narration, incorporation of actual war/newsreel footage within the film, and fairly decent special effects for the time make it one of the more interesting of 1950s sci-fi efforts. The ending is a little deus ex machina, but up until that, very enjoyable.

7:15pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
(repeats 4:30am on the 6th)

8:00pm – TCM – Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
French writer/actor/director Jacques Tati specialized in nearly-silent physical comedy that reminds one at times of Chaplin or Keaton, but with a slightly more ironic French flair about it. In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, a trip to the seashore turns out to be anything but relaxing.

9:30pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
(repeats 3:00am on the 6th)

10:00pm – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.

12:00M – IFC – Trainspotting
Days in the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. Sounds like a downer, and I won’t say it’s not, but it’s also brilliant and searing. Danny Boyle seems to always be able to take stories that could be routine and make them into something special. (Though I won’t deny he often loses control of his endings – the rest of the film is usually worth it, though.)

Film on TV: June 22-28

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Rear Window, playing on TCM on Sunday, June 28th at 12:15am

As TCM nears the end of their month of Great Directors, they shine the spotlight on George Stevens, Ernst Lubitsch, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, and George Cukor. And a mini-spotlight on David Lean on Friday morning.

Monday, June 22

10:45am – IFC – 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.
(repeats 5:05am on the 23rd)

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

Great Directors on TCM: George Stevens
I’m not a huge fan of Stevens, personally, but I think my apathy is largely based on how overrated I think Giant is, and TCM isn’t playing that anyway.

10:00pm – TCM – Shane
Alan Ladd plays the titular cowboy, idolized by the young son of the family he takes refuge with as he tries to escape outlaw Jack Palance.

12:00M – Sundance – Talk to Her
Talk to Her is one of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s finest and most moving works, drawing heavily on the passion of bullfighting and dancing. Marco and Benigno develop a friendship as they care two women in comas – Marco’s girlfriend Lydia, a bullfighter gored in the ring, and nurse Benigno’s patient Alicia, whom he has fallen in love with. There’s a touch of the bizarre, as there always is in Almodóvar, but the film is richly rewarding in mood and vision.

2:15am (23rd) – TCM – Swing Time
Many people call Swing Time the best of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, and it’s certainly up there. Frothy story? Check. Jerome Kern music? Check. Fantastic dances? Check. Of course. Must See

Tuesday, June 23

7:00am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen. Must See
(repeats at 10:00pm on the 28th)

9:00am – 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).
(repeats 2:35pm)

3:15pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film. Must See

Great Directors on TCM: Ernst Lubitsch
Lubitsch was one of several directors who came over to the US from Germany in the 1920s – while Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau and others brought German Expressionism and the moody sensibility that would become film noir, Lubitsch brought a sparkling continental wit and sophistication that informed the screwball comedy. The famed “Lubitsch touch” proved inimitable, though, and his best films are impossible to mistake for anyone else’s. I feel a little let down by TCM, though, that they’re not playing To Be or Not to Be, not only Lubitsch’s finest hour, but one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen.

8:00pm – 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 brings his warm European wit to bear, making this dramedy a cut above the norm.

10:00pm – 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.

2:00am (24th) – TCM – The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
In this silent film, Ramon Novarro is the titular prince and Norma Shearer the barmaid whose love tempts him away from his royal duty – a bit like Roman Holiday in reverse. There’s a later musical version, but even with the voice of tenor Mario Lanza, it can’t really compare to Lubtisch’s original.

Wednesday, June 24

4:00pm – TCM – The Thin Man
William Powell and Myrna Loy made eight or ten films together, but none more memorable, witty, sophisticated, or enjoyable as The Thin Man. Their portrayal of Nick and Nora Charles, a married detective couple pulled into a case of disappearance by an old friend, remains one of the most refreshing views of married life in all of cinema. Plus the script is fantastic, the plot decent (though a bit reliant on familiar Agatha Christie techniques), and the wildly varying acting styles of the supporting cast amusing. No seriously, I promise. Must See

6:00pm – TCM – After the Thin Man
The Thin Man was such a rousing success that it spawned five sequels – this second in the series the only other one really worth watching (though Powell and Loy are generally worth watching anyway). It also boasts an extremely young James Stewart in only his second or third year in Hollywood.

Great Directors on TCM: Stanley Kubrick
Too bad Kubrick tended to make rather long movies; TCM is only playing two of them tonight, and neither one is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Boo. There’s not much I need to say about Kubrick – he was a visionary in both form and content, constantly pushing the envelope on what he could put in movies, from the Cold War satire of Dr. Strangelove, the ultraviolence of A Clockwork Orange and the bloody glee of The Shining, to the sexual obsessions of Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut. And the man had an eye for visuals like no other.

10:30pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.

12:15am (25th) – TCM – Lolita
I haven’t seen Kubrick’s Lolita, and having just finished reading and being heavily disturbed by the book, I’m debating whether or not I want to. But it is on, and it is Kubrick, so I’ll list it.

Thursday, June 25

6:30pm – IFC – Pi
Darren Aronofsky’s first feature is this fever dream of a mathematician searching for the numeric patterns that will unlock the secrets of the stock market – paranoid, fearful of human contact, and beset by terrible headaches, he’s also pursued by Wall Street factions and Hasidic Jews, each seeking the results of his formulas. It’s heady stuff, but Aronofsky’s the right guy for that.

Great Directors on TCM: Federico Fellini
Fellini is one of the touchstone figures of European cinema, no question. From his sort-of neo-realist (but too quirky to really be neo-realist) films of the 1950s through his autobiographical opuses of the 1960s and his flamboyantly surreal 1970s films, he never made a film that wasn’t undeniably Fellini, and yet it’s easy to see his ties to nearly every cinematic movement that took place during his long career. (See also Nights of Cabiria, playing on Sundance on the 23rd and 28th.)

8:00pm – TCM – La Strada
Fellini’s most enduring muse, Giulietta Masina, here plays the apparently simple but amazingly good-hearted Gelsomina, indentured to circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) – her loyalty unshaken despite his cruelty. Masina is perfection here. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Juliet of the Spirits
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Juliet of the Spirits, and I remember finding it difficult when I did see it, but it makes a nice double feature with La Strada. Both start Giulietta Masina, but they’re from distinctly different periods in Fellini’s career. He’s quite surrealist here, from what I recall, having Juliet retreat into fantastic reveries to escape her life with an unfaithful husband, as opposed to La Strada‘s distinct tendency toward neo-realism.

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 a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey.

2:45am (26th) – Roma
Fellini returns to nostalgic auto-biography here, giving a series of impressionistic and over-the-top scenes of Rome through the eyes of a returning filmmaker who grew up there.

Friday, June 26

12:00N – TCM – Brief Encounter
Beautifully understated romantic drama of a chance encounter at a railway station cafe between two married people who know better than to indulge their burgeoning love for each other, but do so anyway. David Lean directs.

5:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.

5:50pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.

Saturday, June 27

Great Directors on TCM: Alfred Hitchcock
I figured TCM was saving Hitchcock for the last weekend of their Great Director’s month. They really like Hitchcock over there, which works out for me, since he’s one of my all-time favorite directors.

7:15am – TCM – Suspicion
Joan Fontaine thinks her husband Cary Grant is poisoning her, but she can’t be quite sure. Neither can the audience, really, although that depends on whether you go with Hitchcock’s original ending or the one the studio tacked on because they thought Hitchcock’s would be unpalatable to audiences.

9:00am – TCM – Rebecca
Hitchcock’s first American film, based on Daphne du Maurier’s romantic novel. Rebecca is actually the previous wife of our mousy narrator’s new husband – her greatest fear is that he still loves Rebecca too much to care for her, but the truth may be more sinister than that. A lot of people really love this film, but I personally dislike the Hollywoodized ending enough that I’m not a huge fan.

11:15pm – TCM – Spellbound
Hitchcock indulged the 1940s Freudian craze with this suspenser starring Gregory Peck as a disturbed individual and Ingrid Bergman as his psychiatrist. Throw in a trippy Salvador Dali dream sequence and you’re all set!

1:15pm – TCM – Marnie
Marnie gets something of a bad rap, I think, because it comes right after Hitchcock’s amazing VertigoNorth by NorthwestPsychoThe Birds streak of genius, but I think it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films, despite a few somewhat obvious plot devices and the fact that ‘Tippi’ Hedren can’t act. In some ways, the imperfections in this one are what makes it interesting. And Sean Connery’s husband is fascinating, whether or not you agree with everything he does.

3:30pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with this classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its brilliance, because it doesn’t depend on scares, really, for its greatness. Must See

5:30pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Notorious
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, 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

12:15am (28th) – TCM – Rear Window
Hitchcock, Stewart, and Kelly mix equal parts suspense thriller, murder mystery, romance, voyeristic expose, ethical drama, caustic comedy and cinematographic experiment to create my favorite film of all time. Must See

2:15am (28th) – TCM – Vertigo
James Stewart is a detective recovering from a vertigo-inducing fall who’s asked by an old friend to help his wife, who has developed strange behavior. Hitchcock plays with doubling, fate, and obsession, all the while creating one of his moodiest and most mesmerizing films. And watch for a great supporting turn by Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s long-suffering best friend. Must See

4:30am (28th) – TCM – The 39 Steps
My vote for Hitchcock’s finest British-era film follows Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll though a twisty and witty tale of spies and mistaken identities.

Sunday, June 28

Great Directors on TCM: George Cukor
Cukor has a reputation for being a great woman’s director, and he was, in fact, a favorite of many of MGM’s most bankable female stars, from Norma Shearer and Vivien Leigh to Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn. His films are great exemplars of MGM’s polished studio style, while yet having a vitality that not every MGM director managed to capture.

8:00am – TCM – Dinner at Eight
Dinner at Eight is the best example of a 1930s MGM ensemble comedy. You got two Barrymores (Lionel and John), Jean Harlow (one of her top couple of roles), Wallace Beery (fresh off an Oscar win), Marie Dressler (forgotten now, but also just a recent Oscar winner at the time), and others converging for a dinner party. Sparkling dialogue is the real star here.

12:15pm – 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.

8:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Hepburn here 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. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film every made (there are no men at all, so of course George Cukor directed it, right?). 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. I don’t know if this is really a must-see in the grand scheme of cinematic history, but dang it, I don’t care. I find it incredibly entertaining. Must See

12:30am (29th) – 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 may be in the minority.