Tag Archives: On the Town

Film on TV: June 28-July 4

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

Monday, June 28

6:05am – IFC – Broadway Danny Rose
It’s lesser Woody Allen, but it’s still Woody Allen. Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not very substantial, but enjoyable.
1984 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte.
(repeats at 12:05pm and 5:30pm)

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

Tuesday, June 29

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

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

12:00N – IFC – La Jetee
Very few short films become classics (outside of silent films and arguably Looney Tunes), but Chris Marker’s La Jetee, told entirely in sequences of still photographs, is one of them. In a postapocalyptic future, a man is sent back in time to try and stop WWIII from happening. But he both falls in love and is haunted by a childhood memory – two things that are fatefully interconnected.
1962 France. Director: Chris Marker. Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich.

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

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

Wednesday, June 30

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

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

Thursday, July 1

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

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

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

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

8:00pm – TCM – Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s best-known movie (though not, I’d argue, his best), likely because it’s one of James Dean’s three films. Dean is a rebellious teen, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whose parents don’t understand him. It all seems a little overwrought these days, but there’s an intensity to Dean and the film that manages to make it still relatable.
1955 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo.

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

Friday, July 2

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 3

2:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
Must See

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

6:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 11:50pm)

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 4

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

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

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

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

10:00pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a routine but darker-than-usual story for a musical, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. But the way the music and dancing is integrated is wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

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

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

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

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

Film on TV: April 12-18

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Pan’s Labyrinth, playing Sunday the 18th on Sundance.

Among the newly featured films this week: two very different but very good thrillers in Se7en on Monday and The Crying Game on Wednesday, both on IFC; some classic sci-fi in The Thing from Another World on Thursday; zany comedy Airplane! on Friday; underrated Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train on Saturday; and a bunch of stuff on Sunday, from classic silent comedy Steamboat Bill Jr. to visionary contemporary fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. And a lot of great repeats, from French crime (Bob le flambeur repeating throughout the week on Sundance) and Golden Age musicals (On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain) to Italian neo-surrealism (Nights of Cabiria, and yes, I made up that term, it’s not a real thing) and mind-bending Lynch masterpieces (INLAND EMPIRE).

Monday, April 12

9:45pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

10:00pm – 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 3:00am and 7:45am on the 13th, and 8:15am and 5:30pm on the 17th)

11:45pm – IFC – Se7en
A taut and dark film, as you might expect from David Fincher, of a pair of homicide detectives hunting a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as a template for his murders, seeing himself as a righteous justice-dealer against those who indulge in these particular sins. Good performances all around as well as the intricate script and solid direction take Se7en a notch above the average serial killer thriller.
1995 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, April 13

6:00am – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
Must See

7:45am – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).
1951 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Sarah Churchill, Peter Lawford.

12:30pm – 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

10:30pm – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)
2005 Romania. Director: Cristi Puiu. Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Boguta.
(repeats at 4:25am on the 14th)

Wednesday, April 14

8:00pm – IFC – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Any half-decent film about three drag queens driving a bus through the Australian outback in outlandish costumes (and sometimes lipsynching to opera while sitting in an enormous shoe strapped on top of the bus) pretty much has to be fabulous, and this one is. Hugo Weaving is the one with the secret former marriage and son, Terence Stamp the aging one who tends to be somewhat bitter but can also be the consummate lady, and Guy Pearce is the flamboyant youth. As they move through the Outback toward their next proposed gig as lipsynching dancers, they run into mechanical difficulties, bigotry, and interpersonal conflicts that get into more thoughtful territory than you might expect.
1994 Australia. Director: Stephan Elliott. Starring: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Rebel Penfold-Russell.
(repeats at 3:00am)

12:00M – IFC – The Crying Game
British soldier Forest Whitaker is captured by an IRA cell, and one of the IRA members (Stephen Rea), against his better judgement, befriends him. Later, Rea leaves the cell and makes his way to London to find Whitaker’s lover and ends up getting involved with her under an assumed identity. There’s an additional twist that you likely know if you play any film trivia at all, but the rest of the film is a solid exploration of terrorist guilt with director Neil Jordan’s characteristic angst.
1992 UK. Director: Neil Jordan. Starring: Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Jaye Davidson.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, April 15

6:05am – 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.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See
(repeats at 12:15pm)

7:50am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 4:45pm)

9:30am – TCM – The Thing From Another World
An team of scientists in the arctic discover an ice-bound spacecraft, but when they bring the dead pilot back to their station, they discover he’s carrying a bloodthirsty alien parasite. Through credited to Christian Nyby, the film is at least partially directed by Howard Hawks (who produced). Also, this is one of the very few situations where I think the remake (John Carpenter’s The Thing) is actually better than the original. But this one is still worth watching, especially if you’re into 1950s sci-fi/horror.
1951 USA. Director: Christian Nyby. Starring: Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, James Arness.
Newly Featured!

Friday, April 16

8:00am – 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).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 1:05pm)

11:15pm – TCM – Airplane!
The classic Abrahams/Zucker spoof of 1970s disaster and airplane crash movies has the all the crew and passengers fall ill, leaving a former war pilot who’s now terrified of flying the only one who can land the plane safely. But the plot pales in comparison to the random collection of wacky characters and the script full of snappy one-liners – lines that have been repeated in and out of context ad nauseum since the film’s release.
1980 USA. Director: Jim Abrahams, David & Jerry Zucker. Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Haggerty, Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Peter Graves, Robert Stack.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, April 17

6:30am – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:05pm)

10:15am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction on his part, has meek Miles Monroe cryogenically frozen only to wake in a totalitarian future as part of a radical movement to overthrow the government. A rather different film for Woody, but still with his signature anxious wit and awkwardness.
1973 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 18th)

8:00pm – TCM – Strangers on a Train
Guy Haines is a tennis star all set to marry into a posh, loving family, if it weren’t for that pesky and annoying wife he’s already got – a problem that fellow train-passenger Bruno has a solution for: all Guy has to do is kill Bruno’s troublesome father and Bruno will take care of Guy’s wife. This criss-cross setup begins one of Hitchcock’s best films, full of memorable shots and set-pieces, not to mention one of the most mesmerizingly psychotic performances in all of cinema in Robert Walker’s portrayal of Bruno.
1951 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock, Leo G. Carroll, Laura Elliott.
Must See
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Must See

Sunday, April 18

8:00pm – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds this story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.
1937 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson.
Newly Featured!

10:00am – TCM – You Were Never Lovelier
Fred Astaire once called Rita Hayworth his favorite dancing partner; truth be told, it may be because he had a little crush on her or something (and who could blame him), because she’s not, as a dancer, up to par with many of his other costars – but she is very charming and lovely in both this and their other pairing, You’ll Never Get Rich. Neither are great films, but both are quite enjoyable, and You Were Never Lovelier usually gets the edge in reputation.
1941 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Adolphe Menjou.
Newly Featured!

12:00N – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film.
1959 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft.
Must See

2:15pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

10:00pm – Sundance – Pan’s Labyrinth
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
Must See
Newly Featured!

12:00M – TCM – Steamboat Bill, Jr.
One of Buster Keaton’s best-loved films; Keaton is a city boy from Boston who goes to visit his estranged father, a steamboat captain who tries to train Keaton in the ways of the river while holding off a competing shipowner (Keaton doesn’t help matters by wanting to date the rival’s daughter). Everything comes to a head in an amazing extended set-piece with Keaton attempting to rescue his father from being arrested – during a hurricane.
1928 USA. Director: Charles Reisner. Starring: Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Tom McGuire, Marion Byron.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: December 28-January 3rd

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Renaissance, playing Monday at 8:25am on IFC

Not too many new ones this week, but still plenty of great films to round out the year, including a marathon of Hitchcock’s best films on TCM on New Year’s Eve, followed by the entire Thin Man series overnight.

Monday, December 28

6:15am – Sundance – Adaptation.
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s follow-up to Being John Malkovich is slightly less bizarre, but still pretty out there – just in a more subtle way. Nicolas Cage plays a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman who’s stuck in his attempt to adapt a bestseller; it doesn’t help when his successful brother (also played by Cage) shows up. The end feels like it’s going off the rails, but that’s all part of the genius.
2002 USA. Director: Spike Jonze. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Chris Cooper.

8:25am – IFC – Renaissance
In near-future Paris, a brilliant young scientist is kidnapped; her employer Avalon (a highly influential company that sells youth and beauty itself) wants her found, but her importance to them may be more sinister than first meets the eye. The story’s not handled perfectly here, but it’s worth watching for the beautifully stark black and white animation.
2006 France. Director: Christian Volckman. Starring (English version): Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 2:05pm)

10:45am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 4:00pm, and 5:05am on the 29th)

Tuesday, December 29

6:50am – 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 3:45pm)

8:45am – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

12:00N – TCM – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Preston Sturges’ zaniest and most irreverent comedy gives Betty Hutton her best role as Trudy Kockenlocker, who goes out for a night on the town with a group of soldiers about to ship out. A few months later, she finds out she’s pregnant and can only vaguely remember an impromptu wedding ceremony with a soldier who may or may not be named Ratskiwatski. I’m always impressed that Sturges got away with as much as he did in this film in 1944.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest.

8:00pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over.
1954 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint.
Must See

12:00M – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Wednesday, December 30

9:15am – TCM – In a Lonely Place
Simply a brilliant film from director Nicholas Ray – Humphrey Bogart gives probably his best performance as washed-up screenwriter Dixon Steele, who’s trying to make a comeback with a new adaptation. When a coatcheck girl gets murdered after he was the last to see her, he naturally comes under suspicion, but his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi and soon the two begin a relationship which just might save Dix from more than a murder charge – or might not. There’s a raw intensity here that few films have ever matched.
1951 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame.
Must See

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
(repeats at 2:05am on the 31st)

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.
(repeats at 3:55am on the 31st)

1:30am (31st) – 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.
1954 USA. Director: Edward Dmytryk. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer.

Thursday, December 31

7:00am – 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.

9:00am – 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 at 4:35pm)

9:15am – TCM – Marnie
Marnie gets something of a bad rap, I think, because it comes right after Hitchcock’s amazing Vertigo-North by Northwest-Psycho-The 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.
1964 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: ‘Tippi’ Hedren, Sean Connery.

11:30am – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Somewhat lesser-known Hitchcock film that ought to be top-tier. Small-town girl Teresa Wright idolizes her uncle Charlie, but we know that he’s an infamous murderer on the run. Hitchcock once made a distinction between mystery and suspense: mystery is when there’s tension because the audience doesn’t know whodunit, suspense is when there’s tension because the audience does. This film is a perfect example of suspense, and Hitchcock’s preference for telling the audience whodunit very early in the film and letting them squirm.
1942 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten.

12:45pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See

1:30pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with his classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its greatness.
1960 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam.
Must See

3:30pm – 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.
Must See

6:00pm – 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 one of the greatest films of all time.
1954 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – The Thin Man
If there’s such a genre as “sophisticated comedy-mystery,” The Thin Man is the apex of it. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in thirteen films together, but never did their chemistry sparkle quite so much as here, in their first of six outings as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. In between cocktails and marital moments, they investigate the disappearance of the titular thin man (later in the series, “thin man” erroneously became associated with Nick). There’s so much to love about this film – the great dialogue, hilarious supporting characters (only a few of which go too far over the top), and honestly, most of all, the amazing portrayal of a solid, loving marriage in the midst of so much chaos.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.
Must See

9:45pm – TCM – After the Thin Man
TCM is playing all of the Thin Man movies today, so keep watching if you’re enjoying them, but this one (second in the series), is the only other one that’s actually worth seeking out. Returning to Nora’s home for a visit, she and Nick find a hubbub surrounding a killed fiance and are pressed into service to find the killer. A young Jimmy Stewart’s on hand, as well.
1936 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi.
Newly Featured!

12:30pm (1st) – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Must See

Friday, January 1

8:30am – 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

9:00am – 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.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.
(repeats at 4:30pm)

1:15pm – TCM – The Man From Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

3:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.

10:00pm – TCM – Fahrenheit 451
François Truffaut’s first foray in English-language film was this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, following fireman (that is, book-burner) Montag as he comes into contact with a group of fugitives intent on preserving the knowledge in books even as the government tries to destroy them, and he begins to wonder if perhaps they are right. It’s a great book, and a pretty good film, with Julie Christie in an interestingly-cast double role.
1966 UK. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – 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

Saturday, January 2

10:20am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 3:15pm, and 5:40am on the 3rd)

6:30pm – TCM – Old Yeller
One of the great tear-jerker family films, about a family in the old west who adopt a stray dog, growing to love and depend on the animal in the absence of their father (away on a cattle drive). Ah, yes, the good old days, when kids movies weren’t all happy-peppy all the time.
1957 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran.

Sunday, January 3

11:00pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 4:35am on the 4th)

Film on TV: November 16-22

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, playing on TCM on Wednesday at midnight.

Among the new offerings this week: Woody Allen’s geopolitical farce Bananas on Tuesday, the quintessentially 1960s vision Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Wednesday, and the gritty Mann-Stewart western The Naked Spur on Saturday. Also, the chance to watch and compare two of the movies considered by many critics (including myself) to be the worst ever granted Best Picture Academy Awards: 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth on Thursday, and 2004’s Crash. See both and decide for yourself which deserves the dubious honor.

Monday, November 16

6:10am – 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.

5:35pm – 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.
2004 UK. Director: Richard Eyre. Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin.

Tuesday, November 17

6:15am – 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 2:00pm)

8:15am – 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, hilariously.
1958 France. Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie, Jean-François Martial.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

3:00pm – IFC – Bananas
Woody Allen in full-on zany mode in one of his earlier films, as the wonderfully named Fielding Mellish. In an attempt to impress a politically-minded girl, Mellish runs off to a Latin American country and takes it over.
1971 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – Once Upon a Time in the West
A disparate group of characters interact and intertwine on America’s western frontier – a young widow seeking those who killed her family, the outlaw suspected (but innocent) of the murders, the ruthless leader of a gang in the employ of a railroad tycoon, and a harmonica-playing stranger. With that as a starting point, Sergio Leone creates what is possibly the ultimate epic western to end all westerns.
1969 Italy/USA. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson.
Must See

11:00pm – TCM – 8 1/2
Federico Fellini translates his creative block in making his next film into a film about a director with a creative block – and in so doing, makes one of the most brilliant and creative films of all time.
1963 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée.
Must See

Wednesday, November 18

6:00pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
1962 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, René Lefèvre.
(repeats 7:00am on the 19th)

12:00M – TCM – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn’s signature role in a career full of memorable films, as party girl Holly Golightly, trying to make her way in mod New York City. Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me encapsulates 1960s style probably more than any other film, and with a grace and warmth that never grows old.
1961 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney.
Must See
Newly Featured!

12:30am (19th) – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.

Thursday, November 19

9:00am – 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

11:00am – TCM – The Greatest Show on Earth
Widely considered one of the least deserving films ever to win the Best Picture Academy Award, Cecil B. DeMille’s circus picture is big, loud, and gaudy – and okay, kinda fun. No, it didn’t deserve an Oscar that year, but in terms of spectacle, you get death-defying trapeze acts, clowns with shady pasts, and one of the most incredible train crashes ever on film.
1952 USA. Director: Cecil B. DeMille. Starring: Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, James Stewart, Gloria Grahame, Dorothy Lamour.
Newly Featured!

11:00am – 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.
(repeats at 4:45pm)

1:45pm – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.
1946 USA. Director: Tay Garnett. Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn.

5:30pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
Must See

2:15am (20th) – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)
2005 Romania. Director: Cristi Puiu. Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Boguta.

Friday, November 20

2:00am (21st) – TCM – The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy
I have never heard of this film before, and I know absolutely nothing about it beyond TCM’s brief description: “A mad scientist creates a murderous robot to steal an ancient Aztec treasure.” BUT. It is called THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY. What more do you really need to know? Oh, I know something else – it was one of the first movies to be MST3K’d.
1958 Mexico. Director: Rafael Portillo. Starring: Ramón Gay, Rosa Arenas, Crox Alverado.

Saturday, November 21

10:05am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

12:00N – TCM – The Naked Spur
One of several westerns that teamed director Anthony Mann and James Stewart in the 1950, this one is a fine example of the darker turn that both the western as a genre and Jimmy Stewart’s roles took in the hands of Anthony Mann. Stewart is a bitter bounty hunter who takes on two suspect partners to track down a fugitive – a wily man indeed who psychologically manipulates the three men into turning on each other.
1953 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – 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.

Sunday, November 22

8:00pm – IFC – Crash
A strong contender for the title “worst movie to ever win the Best Picture Oscar,” at least among many critics. I’m really only putting it here because both it and The Greatest Show on Earth, another much-maligned Best Picture winner, are playing this week. Comparison time! May the worst picture win! (My vote’s on Crash, by the way.)
2004 USA. Director: Paul Haggis. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe.
(repeats at 1:15am on the 23rd)
Newly Featured! (and may not ever be again)

Film on TV: August 24-30

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Some Came Running, playing Friday, August 28th, at 8pm EST on TCM.

Monday, August 24

7:30am – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds this story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.
1937 USA. Director: William A. Wellman. Starring: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou

8:30am – IFC – 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.
1953 France. Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati
(repeats at 1:30pm and 5:00am on the 25th)

6:45pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
Fredric March won his first Oscar for his role as the meek doctor and his violent alter ego, but honestly, the make-up department deserves most of those accolades. Well-done, posh version of the story.
1931 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, August 25

6:15pm – 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, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Stephane Audran.
(repeats at 10:15am on the 26th)

8:00pm – IFC – Blue Velvet
I’ll be honest, this is not one of my favorite David Lynch films. There are a lot of things I like about it. The unsettling take on suburbia, the gorgeously disturbing photography, the kids playing detective, the severed ear, you know, the normal Lynch stuff. But then it just gets to be too cruel for me. Still, it’s a Lynch classic, and you oughta see it. And I oughta see it again, see if my opinion has changed.
1986 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper.
(repeats at 3:45am on the 26th)

2:30am (26th) – 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? 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.

Wednesday, August 26

8:00pm – TCM – The King and I
Oklahoma! is my unabashed favorite Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, but I have a lot of admiration for The King and I, if only because it addresses far more serious topics with far less happy outcomes than most musicals ever do.
1956 USA. Director: Walter Lang. Starring: Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr, Rita Moreno.
Newly Featured!

10:30pm – TCM – The Magnificent Seven
Homage comes full circle as American John Sturges remakes Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai as a western – Kurosawa’s film itself was a western transposed into a Japanese setting. Sturges ain’t no Kurosawa, but the story of a group of outcast cowboys banding together to protect an oppressed village is still a good one, plus there’s a young Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in the cast.
1960 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, James Coburn.

11:00pm – Sundance – Black Book
Paul Verhoeven invests Black Book with just enough of his signature over-the-top brashness to give the WWII story of a Dutch Jewish woman infiltrating the Gestapo for the Resistance a healthy dose of panache. Every time you think it won’t go the next step, it does, and it’s ravishingly entertaining the whole time.
2006 Netherlands. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – IFC – Pulp Fiction
With Quentin Tarantino’s newest film Inglourious Basterds out in cinemas this week, what better time to revisit his most iconic, game-changing film of all? Must See
1994 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Bruce Willis, Eric Stoltz, Ving Rhames.
Newly Featured!

4:30am (27th) – Sundance – Hannah Takes the Stairs
One of the first Mumblecore films to get a decent release, Hannah shows the rather mundane existence of a girl trying to decide which relationship to pursue. It’s talky, it’s low-fi, it’s simultaneously naturalistic and affected, but there’s something raw about it that’s compelling. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad there’s a place for films like this in our cinematic landscape.
2007 USA. Director: Joe Swanberg. Starring: Greta Gerwig, Andrew Bujalski, Kent Osborne, Mark Duplass.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, August 27

4:00pm – TCM – The Big Knife
Clifford Odets’ searing play about his hatred of Hollywood comes to the screen, with Jack Palance mugging as a frustrated actor who wants out of his contract, but can’t get out because the studio is blackmailing him. Between Odets’ overly poetic dialogue, director Robert Aldrich’s melodramatic style, and Palance’s scenery-chewing, this is a camptastic good time.
1955 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – 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 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Ida Lupino.

6:15pm – IFC – Wassup Rockers
Small, intimate little 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, Iris Zelaya.

2:00am (28th) – 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.
1941 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie, Ida Lupino.

Friday, August 28

11:30am – TCM – Anchors Aweigh
What’s that you say? Your life won’t be complete until you see Gene Kelly dance with an animated Jerry the Mouse from the Tom & Jerry cartoons? Well, you’re in luck with this film. Oh, right, there’s also a story-type thing with Kelly and Frank Sinatra as sailors and Kathryn Grayson as the love interest, but really, it’s all about Gene and Jerry.
1945 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, José Iturbi, Dean Stockwell.

2:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett.

8:00pm – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but ends up more memorable than it seems at first, thanks to Vincente Minnelli’s subtle but effective direction. Also, right up there with Douglas Sirk’s best work in terms of widescreen mise-en-scène and use of cinematic space.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, Arthur Kennedy.

10:30pm – TCM – High Society
This is not one of the best music-centric films ever made, but it is the musical version of The Philadelphia Story, with both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooning it up with songs by Cole Porter. Oh, and one of Grace Kelly’s last roles before she retired to become a princess and stuff. Still, you wish with that pedigree that it were better than it is. Ah, well.
1956 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern.

Saturday, August 29

8:00am – IFC – Yojimbo
One of oh-so-many Akira Kurosawa films I have not yet scene, despite everyone from respected film critics to the clerk I used to work with at the video store singing its praises. Toshirô Mifune is a samurai who plays the two violent factions controlling a village against each other. Maybe I’ll rectify my non-watching of it this time around. (But I also keep saying that, and all these films keep piling up on my DVR.)
1961 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai.
Newly Featured!

12:00M – IFC – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The combination of mysticism and martial arts on wires turned magical in this film, spawning a mess of imitators in the subsequent years, though none have quite equaled Crouching Tiger‘s success. Must See
2000 Taiwan. Director: Ang Lee. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Chang, Cheng Pei-Pei.
(repeats at 12:15pm on the 30th)

Sunday, August 30

2:00pm – 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 Jack Palance.
1953 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance.

5:45pm – 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. Must See
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold, Guy Kibbee, Eugene Pallette.

8:00pm – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Spring Byington, Ann Miller.