Tag Archives: Notorious

Film on TV: January 12-18

Monday, January 12

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

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

Tuesday, January 13

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

Wednesday, January 14

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

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

Thursday, January 15

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

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

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

Friday, January 16

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

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

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

Saturday, January 17

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

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

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

Sunday, January 18

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

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

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

Film on TV (Oct 27-Nov 2)

Monday, Oct 27

2:00pm EST / 1:00pm CST – TCM – Roman Holiday
Not Audrey Hepburn’s film debut (that would be a brief walk-on in the British crime caper The Lavender Hill Mob), but the film that thrust into international stardom. She plays a sheltered princess who runs away to see real life and falls in with reporter Gregory Peck and photographer Eddie Albert. Slight story, but Hepburn’s charm fills the screen.

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – An American in Paris
American ex-pat Gene Kelly dances around Paris, snagging Leslie Caron along the way. Oh, yeah, and dancing a mind-blowing modern ballet through Parisian art to Gershwin’s title piece. These days it usually plays second fiddle to Singin’ in the Rain, but American in Paris rewards a viewing.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – To Be or Not To Be
If you never listen to anything else I ever say, listen to this: To Be or Not To Be is one of the greatest films of all time, and you should see it. It’s a comedy about Nazi Germany. I know. Jack Benny plays the leader of a Polish theatre troupe, specializing in playing Hamlet along side his wife Carole Lombard. I know. When Hitler takes over Poland, the troupe engages in an act of espionage both dangerous and ridiculous. I know! It’s simultaneously hilarious, ominous, and heartbreaking. Director Ernst Lubitsch’s finest hour? For me it is. Carole Lombard’s best role (the final one of her career, before she was killed in a plane crash returning from a war bond tour)? For me it is.

Tuesday, Oct 28

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond, actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler, and Buster Keaton makes an appearance as an old friend.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Ace in the Hole
This is a Wilder film I haven’t seen yet, but it’s got a reputation for being one of the most cynical films of all time. Sign me up for that!

4:00am / 3:00am (29th) – TCM – Some Like It Hot
And if Wilder-does-depressing-noir and Wilder-does-cynical-drama doesn’t grab you, how about Wilder-does-madcap-cross-dressing-comedy? Quite probably the best comedy ever made, in fact. Musicians Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress as women to join an all-girl band and escape the mob after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Keeping their cover as women becomes quite a chore after they discover the charms of Marilyn Monroe are ALSO in the band.

Wednesday, Oct 29

7:45am / 6:45am – TCM – Notorious
Hitchcock turns in his finest spy drama; US agent Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman to get close to enemy target Claude Rains. When “get close” becomes “get married to” their own budding romance is in jeopardy, not to mention Bergman’s life if Rains discovers her true affiliation.

11:45pm / 10:45pm – TCM – Out of the Past
Out of the Past comes up in most conversations about film noir. It’s got all the elements: low-key lighting (due in this case to budgetary concerns), an existential anti-hero (Robert Mitchum), a femme fatale (Jane Greer), etc. It’s honestly not my favorite noir, but it’s a good one to see once.

Thursday, Oct 30

9:00am / 8:00am – TCM – I Walked With a Zombie
In case you missed it during the Val Lewton festival last week.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Dead of Night
A group of people gather at a lonely English country house and tell scary stories. One of the earliest horror anthology films, it remains one of the best. The framing device particularly makes me happy, and I’m really looking forward to revisiting the film.

2:00am / 1:00am (31st) – TCM – Kwaidan
One of the more famous and lauded horror anthology films, Kwaidan is a set of Japanese ghost stories. I watched and didn’t completely love Kwaidan earlier this year, but I promised myself I’d give it another chance. I was highly distracted the first time.

4:45am / 3:45am (31st) – TCM – Spirits of the Dead
I haven’t heard of this film, but I looked it up, and it’s an anthology film of Edgar Allan Poe stories directed by Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, and Roger Vadim. I know, right?! So I have to check that out.

Friday, Oct 31

7:30am / 6:30am – TCM – Cat People
In case you missed it during the Val Lewton festival last week.

Saturday, Nov 1

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
In case you missed it last week. Wow, lots of repeats, TCM. What’s up with that?

6:15pm / 5:15pm – TCM – Forbidden Planet
What’s better than Shakespeare’s The Tempest? Why, a science fiction The Tempest set on a planet run by a maverick genius, his robot, and his daughter, of course. Okay, Forbidden Planet isn’t really better than The Tempest, but it is an interesting take on the play, and an obvious influence on the original Star Trek.

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – A Star is Born (1954)
After four years away from the screen trying to recover from depression and addiction, Judy Garland returned for this film of a singer/actress getting her big break in show business just as her actor husband’s career is falling off the rails. Along the way, she belts “The Man That Got Away” and other great tunes that define her late career. (The 1937 non-musical version of the film with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March is also worth watching; I couldn’t say about the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, because I have not yet personally found it worth watching.)

1:15am / 12:15am (2nd) – TCM – All About Eve
The ultimate backstage drama. Superfan Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) worms her way into working for Broadway diva Margo Channing (Bette Davis), but she really aims to replace her. The superb supporting cast includes Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter, and a young Marilyn Monroe, all spouting crackling dialogue by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Sunday, Nov. 2

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – Gigi
Vincente Minnelli’s Oscar-winning musical seeks to answer the age-old question – can a Parisian playboy marry for love? This is quite a mature-themed musical, focusing as it does on Louis Jourdan’s intent to make Leslie Caron his mistress rather than his wife, not to mention Maurice Chevalier’s slightly disturbing rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” but it has many rewards in a wonderful score and beautiful art direction. You just may not want to make it family movie night.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – All the President’s Men
The Watergate scandal becomes a follow-the-money mystery of investigative reporting by main characters Bernstein and Woodward of the Washington Post. Great filmmaking, and tour de force performances from Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the rookie/outcast reporters who earn their stripes on the story of the decade.

Ebert on How to Read a Movie

I’ve mentioned to many acquaintances my distaste for Roger Ebert’s binary thumb system of film reviewing, and I often tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against his overall film ratings. On the other hand, his criticism (rather than his reviewing) is highly sound, readable, and I wish he’d do more of it.

Just to be clear, reviewing is the week-to-week activity of watching and recommending (or not recommending) films, especially new releases, to audiences that haven’t yet seen the films. It’s intended to tell you whether or not you should go see a given film, whether a film is good or bad. Criticism is more indepth analysis of a film intended to help those who have already seen a film to better understand or appreciate it (or not). Criticism is not inherently negative; in fact, it’s often not evaluative at all. Rather, it’s analytical.

On his blog, Ebert recently posted an article entitled “How to Read a Movie”, in which he gives a few basics of visual composition, explaining how he goes through a film with his students shot by shot. This is criticism, and I’m always thankful when he writes something like this. It reminds me that there’s so much more to him than thumbs.

He talks about how we instinctively understand the way shots are laid out and blocked (people moving to the left feels negative, while people moving to the right seems positive – as I read this, I happened to be watching 12 Angry Men and noted that when the jurors leave the courtroom to deliver their “not guilty” verdict, they’re walking, yes, to the right), then gives an example from Hitchcock’s Notorious. This is right when spy Cary Grant learns that he’s basically condemned Ingrid Bergman to sleep with the enemy for the sake of gathering intelligence, and that she’s willing to do it.

In the Rio office of U.S. intelligence, Grant’s chief is positioned on the strong axis. Grant enters and talks to him, standing on the right (positive). Bergman enters, and begins to discuss her relationship with Rains [the enemy]. As she speaks, Grant walks to the left of the composition. She continues. He turns his back to us. We all instinctively read this as negative/rejecting/angry. Bergman goes into still more detail. Grant walks into the background. Wow. Now the picture has the intelligence chief as the stable presence on the strong axis, Bergman in the positive right foreground, Grant in the negative left background, and the “movement” from right front to left back, underlining the central emotional reality of the film, which will inform all of Grant’s behavior.

These are things that we as viewers subconsciously “get”, but having someone go through a scene like this and explain why we have the reactions we do (or at least, what within the shot triggers the reactions we have; I suppose it would take a psychologist to take the next step – a direction some film criticism has gone) is invaluable. In my experience with Ebert (to be honest, I rarely read his current reviews all the way through, in large part because I simply don’t like reviews as much as criticism), he tends to do this more in writing about older film, probably because of the seen/haven’t seen dilemma – it’s difficult to do quality criticism if you’re worried about spoiling the film for an audience that hasn’t seen it yet. His The Great Movies books are excellent, as are several of his articles about criticism collected in Alone in the Dark. I just wish his popular legacy could be those rather than his thumbs.

(Read the rest of the post and comments as well; I only quoted a bit, and it’ll make more sense in context. If the general topic is interesting, David Bordwell has written a number of good books on visual style and cinematic staging, and James Monaco’s How to Read a Film is a touchstone.)