The Cranes are Flying, playing on TCM Monday the 21st at 2:00am (or really late Sunday night, depending on your point of view)
Mostly repeats this week, but a few really cool new additions this week, all courtesy of TCM. First, one of Hitchcock’s most lighthearted thrillers, The Trouble With Harry, is showing on Tuesday. Then Friday night/Saturday morning, don’t miss one of the all-time great so-bad-it’s-good movies, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. And then The Cranes are Flying, a Soviet classic I’ve never seen TCM run before, is playing late Sunday night/early Monday morning.
Monday, September 14
8:00pm – 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.
1996 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi.
(repeats at 2:00am)
Tuesday, September 15
7:15am – 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).
2001 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:35pm)
8:00pm – TCM – The Trouble With Harry
A group of small-town New Englanders find a dead body (that of Harry) in the woods and, fearing they’ll be murder suspects if it’s found, conspire to hide it. One of Hitchcock’s funniest films, mixing the macabre and the absurd adeptly.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick.
(repeats at 10:00am on the 20th)
8:05pm – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.
10:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Hitchcock’s second version of this story (the first was 1934) has Doris Day and James Stewart as a couple who discover an assassination plot and have their son kidnapped to try to keep them quiet. It’s a well-done film and worth watching, though not quite up to many of Hitchcock’s other classics.
1956 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Doris Day, Bernard Miles, Brenda De Banzie.
12:15am (16th) – 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.
1958 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
Wednesday, September 16
7:10am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles-starring film straddles several genres – musical, concert film, documentary, comedy. The good news is that it’s an excellent film in any genre. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any film an exuberant as this one, and with the Beatles right on the cusp of becoming the greatest band of all time.
1964 UK. Director: Richard Lester. Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr.
(repeats at 12:30pm)
11:45am – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
3:45pm – TCM – Nothing Sacred
A newspaper offers to give terminally-ill Carole Lombard her dream trip to New York City in exchange for publishing her experiences. Only problem is, she’s lying about being terminally ill. One of the zaniest of all 1930s zany comedies – that said, it can be a little on the shrill side.
1937 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly.
8:00pm – 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.
1992 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopie Goldberg.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 17th)
12:00M – 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.
(repeats at 11:35am on the 17th)
Thursday, September 17
10:30am – Fox Movie – How Green Was My Valley
This film won Oscars for Best Picture and director John Ford; it’s a bit overly sentimental at times, perhaps, but by and large its simple story of Welsh mining village is pretty solid, thanks in no small part to great supporting turns by its stellar supporting cast.
1941 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O’Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, Roddy McDowall, Sara Allgood, Barry Fitzgerald.
10:00pm – 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.
10:00pm – 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
(repeats at 5:15am on the 18th)
10:05pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge!
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.
2001 USA. Director: Baz Lurhmann. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 18th)
12:15am (18th) – IFC – Bride & Prejudice
Laugh at me if you must for recommending Chadha’s Bollywood-infused version of Pride and Prejudice, but I love it. It’s silly, it’s beautiful, it’s a fun exercise in adaptation of literary classics, and it’s only slightly weighed down by Martin Henderson’s woodenness.
2005 UK. Director: Gurinder Chadha. Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews, Alexis Bledel.
Friday, September 18
7:30am – TCM – Grand Hotel
This 1932 Best Picture Oscar-winner is honestly pretty creaky around the joints these days, but if you wanna see how they used to do ensemble pictures in the studio days, this is it. MGM’s top talent, from Garbo and Crawford to Beery and two Barrymores are all on hand.
1932 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt.
8:25am – IFC – Vagabond
One of Agnès Varda’s best-known films, about the last few weeks of wandering woman’s life as she struggles to make it. I absolutely loved the only Varda film I’ve seen (Cléo from 5 to 7), so I’m anxious to see more.
1985 France. Director: Angès Varda. Starring: Sandrine Bonnaire.
(repeats at 2:00pm on the 18th and 5:15am on the 19th)
7:15pm – IFC – Wassup Rockers
Small film about a group of teenage Latino skateboarders from South Central LA. They go up to Beverly Hills to skateboard, get caught by cops, escape, meet up with some girls, get in fights with preppy 90210 guys, and try to get home. But the moments that’ll get you are when they’re just talking, to the camera, or to the girls, about their life and what it’s like to live in South Central. It doesn’t go anywhere, really, but it’s a wonderful slice of life.
2005 USA. Director: Larry Clark. Starring: Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa, Milton Velasquez, Usvaldo Panameno, Eddie Velasquez.
8:00pm – TCM – Carmen Jones
Oscar Hammerstein takes on Bizet’s Carmen, transposing it into a contemporary setting at a Korean War army base and writing new lyrics to go with Bizet’s operatic melodies. It’s interesting not only for the adaptation of opera to musical, but also its use of an all-African American cast – giving Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte and many others lead roles in an era when they were still all-too-often relegated to roles as servants or one-off entertainers.
1954 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey.
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.
1996 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, JOnny Lee Miller, Kelly McDonald.
2:00am (19th) – TCM – Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Russ Meyer is known for making great trashy movies, and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of his greatest. Three girls race their car around the desert, taking a defeated competitor’s girlfriend hostage when they hear about the possibility of scoring a bunch of cash from an old guy who lives nearby. This is one of those films that has you constantly going “they did not just do/say that, did they? OH YES THEY DID” and “it can’t possibly get more messed up than this, can it? OH YES IT CAN.” A gold standard of awesome bad movies, right here.
1965 USA. Director: Russ Meyer. Starring: Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Sue Bernard.
Saturday, September 19
6:45pm – Sundance – Paris je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 6:25am on the 20th)
8:00pm – TCM – Wuthering Heights (1939)
William Wyler’s moody 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s moody gothic novel, with Laurence Olivier as the moody Heathcliff. It’s moody. Get it? Interestingly, I’m more impressed generally with Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Isabella than Merle Oberon’s Catherine/Cathy, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.
1939 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson.
8:00pm – 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.1999 USA. Director: Mike Judge. Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 20th)
Sunday, September 20
12:30pm – Fox Movie – The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The original The Day the Earth Stood Still is a classic of 1950s Cold War paranoia sci-fi. Alien Klaatu lands on Earth to warn us to abandon our penchant for war and destruction; seeing the world through his eyes as he lives among us for a time is thoughtful and a little sobering, especially in its original context.
1951 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe.
3:00pm – 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.
10:30pm – Fox Movie – Die Hard
All John McClane wants to do is get home for Christmas. But plans change, especially when a bunch of terrorists take over his wife’s office building and McClane has to take them out almost singlehandedly. And give us one of the best action movies ever made.
1988 USA. Director: John McTiernan. Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
2:00am (21st) – TCM – The Cranes are Flying
Young lovers Boris and Veronika are separated when he volunteers for WWII. Never hearing from him, she marries his cousin, who has an exemption from the draft. Later, she realizes her mistake and continues to hope against hope (and reports from the front) that Boris remains alive and will return to her when the war ends. This Soviet film combines the strength of Soviet montage with the overwrought beauty of expressionism to depict the extremes of peace and war in a very visceral way. And Tatyana Samojlova gives a tour-de-force performance, encompassing both the silly pre-war girl and the strong woman she grows into, a woman battered, but not broken, by war. (More indepth piece.)
1957 USSR. Director: Mikhail Kalatozov. Starring: Tatyana Samojlova, Aleksey Batalov, Aleksandr Shvorin.