Tag Archives: Renaissance

Film on TV: May 10-16

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Murder, My Sweet, playing on TCM on Tuesday.

Not a lot of new stuff this week, but a few 1940s films worth checking out: Murder, My Sweet on Tuesday, Gaslight on Friday, and Hail the Conquering Hero on Sunday. And a lot of really worthwhile repeats, as always.

Monday, May 10

11:00am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 4:00pm)

5:35pm – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 4:45am on the 11th)

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

12:30am (11th) – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
One of Doris Day’s better roles places her as a singer in an abusive relationship with gangster/career supporter James Cagney. She’s tough yet vulnerable, and her rendition of the title song is suberb.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: James Cagney, Doris Day, Cameron Mitchell, Brian Keith.

Tuesday, May 11

6:15pm – TCM – Murder, My Sweet
The definitive depiction of Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe is by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, but this well-done film starring Dick Powell as Marlowe shouldn’t be discounted either; it’s pretty solid stuff, based on Chandler’s novel Farewell, My Lovely.
1944 USA. Director: Edward Dmytryk. Starring: Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, May 12

6:00am – 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.
(repeats at 10:45am and 4:45pm)

Thursday, May 13

8:00pm – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 14th)

9:45pm – 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

11:45pm – IFC – The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

Friday, May 14

10:30am – TCM – Gaslight
A Victorian thriller of murder and insanity, with Ingrid Bergman as a young ingenue being slowly driven mad by her husband in the house where ten years previously her aunt had been murdered. Charles Boyer is the chilling husband, and look for Angela Lansbury in her first film role.
1944 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury.
Newly Featured!

12:15pm – 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.
(repeats at 4:45am on the 15th)

2:30pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all.
1959 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.
Must See

Saturday, May 15

8:05am – IFC – Garden State
First-time director Braff brings his quirky personality and taste in indie music to this story of a young man who returns to his home town for the first time in years for his mother’s funeral. While there, he meets a girl who teaches him how to feel for the first time since his father started prescribing meds to him as a child. It’s become a popular pastime to hate on Garden State and its self-conscious quirk, but I refuse. I loved it when I first saw it, and I love it now.
2004 USA. Director: Zach Braff. Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard.
(repeats at 1:30pm, and 5:10am on the 16th)

9:00am – TCM – Horse Feathers
Most film comedians do a college-set film at some point, and this is the Marx Brothers entry into higher education. This is a relatively early film for them, and it’s not quite as great as the Duck SoupA Night at the OperaA Day at the Races trifecta, but it’s still really solid, one of my favorites of their pre-1933 films.
1932 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd, David Landau.

9:50am – IFC – Spirited Away
Often considered Hayao Miyazaki’s finest film, it’s easily among the best family-friendly animated films in existence, full of magic and wonder, gods and spirits, and shapeshifting spells.
2001 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Rumi Hiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki.
(repeats at 3:15pm)

4:15pm – TCM – The Big Heat
Director Fritz Lang came out of the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, so it’s not surprising that he ended up making some of the better noir films, given film noir’s borrowing of Expressionist style. Glenn Ford is a cop working against his corrupt department, but the parts you’ll remember from the film all belong to Gloria Grahame in a supporting role as a beaten-up gangster’s moll. Her performance and Lang’s attention to detail raise the otherwise average story to a new level.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 16th)

9:50pm – IFC – Spider (short film)
This is a one-reel short film directed by Nash Edgerton, who has the feature film The Square in limited release in the US right now. Spider is being shown with a lot of the prints in release here, including the one I saw, and it’s pretty enjoyable – a one-bad-thing-leads-to-another domino effect film with a morbid sense of humor. So, yeah, a lot like The Square in tone. Worth a look-see.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:20am on the 16th)

2:00am (16th) – TCM – What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
The first film Woody Allen directed was this redubbed Japanese film – he stripped off the original sound track and redid it with his own dialogue, making a spy film into a crazy comedy. Anticipating today’s remix culture by a few decades, I’d say!
1966 USA/Japan. Director: Woody Allen/Senkichi Taniguchi. Starring: Woody Allen, Tatsuyo Mihashi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, John Sebastian.

Sunday, May 16

5:00am – TCM – The Blue Gardenia
This may be a lesser Fritz Lang noir, but a Lang noir is still a Lang noir. Anne Baxter is a mousy telephone operator who has an uncharacteristic night out drinking with a near-stranger; the next day she wakens with little memory of the night, but the stranger is dead. That setup leads to police investigation, and her own questioning whether or not she is a murderer. Baxter’s an underrated talent, I think, and even though this film has its flaws, it’s still quite enjoyable in its way.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Anne Sothern, Raymond Burr.

8:30am – 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 2:30pm)

2:00pm – 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

8:00pm – TCM – Hail the Conquering Hero
After being discharged from the Army as 4F, Eddie Bracken is pressured into pretending to be a war hero by a group of marines when he returns to his small home town; as things escalate in his honor, he tries to set things straight, but can’t get anyone to listen. This is one of Preston Sturges’ best-known absurd comedies, and he has quite an impressive string of absurd comedies, so that’s saying a lot.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Raymond Walburn.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Tommy Lee Jones takes up the directorial reins for the first time with this revisionist western about a rancher whose Mexican right-hand-man dies, his last request being that his body be returned across the border to his family. Thus begins an odyssey that’s more about mood and character than anything else. It’s not wholly even, but Jones has an excellent eye, and this was one of the more surprisingly good films of its year.
2005 USA. Director: Tommy Lee Jones. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, Melissa Leo.
(repeats at 2:35am n the 17th)

2:00am (17th) – TCM – Tokyo Story
One of my goals in life is to learn to truly appreciate and like Japanese cinema; I’m getting there, having made some breakthroughs with J-horror, anime, Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi, but I’ll know I’ve finally made it, I think, when I can appreciate Yasujiro Ozu. This is Ozu’s best-known film, I believe, and I have tried to watch it at least two or three times and always stalled out – Ozu is a very patient filmmaker who likes his long takes; that’s something I usually like as well, but for whatever reason, I’ve found this film difficult to connect with. I’m not sure I’m ready to try it again just yet, but for anyone who is further along than I am, here it is.
1953 Japan. Director: Yasujiro Ozu. Starring: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: May 3-9

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The Searchers, playing on TCM on Tuesday

There are three films playing this week that I honestly can’t believe I haven’t featured before. TCM is playing John Ford’s classic The Searchers on Tuesday and King Kong on Saturday, both of which are definitely must-sees if you haven’t seen them before. Then one of my all-time favorite films (I’ve probably seen it fifteen times) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is on Sunday on Fox Movie Channel; I don’t always include Fox Movie in this column, so that could explain why that one hasn’t come up before. Other notable newly featured films include the better-than-you’d-expect noirish Nightmare Alley, a more than adequate adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s difficult-to-film novel Mrs. Dalloway, Tommy Lee Jones’s strong directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and the unjustly forgotten William Powell-led mystery The Kennel Murder Case. Lots of variety and good stuff to choose from this week.

Monday, May 3

4:15pm – TCM – Midnight
Solid Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett-penned screwball comedy that ought to be better known than it is. Claudette Colbert ends up in the middle of a millionare-wife-gigolo triangle, paid by the millionaire husband to break up the wife and gigolo by impersonating a baroness; meanwhile, a poor taxi driver she’d met previously is smitten with her and seeks her out, only to find her in her new guise. Sparkling dialogue and a strong cast give this a sophisticated twist that doesn’t quite match Lubitsch at his best, but is on the same track.
1939 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer.

9:00am – Fox Movie – Nightmare Alley
Fox didn’t make too many noir films, and this one just barely sneaks in by virtue of…some high contrast lighting here and there? Okay, we’ll give it to them. Anyway, Tyrone Power gives one of his better performances here as an opportunistic carney who takes a chance to turn a sideshow fortune telling act into a high-profile nightclub show, no matter who he takes down on his way to the top. What it does to his personal life and his own psyche is pretty dark and kind of fascinating, and Helen Walker is great as a psychiatrist who may have her own angle to work. Also, look out for one of the more off-putting definitions of the word “geek.”
1947 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Fox Movie – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments.
1990 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Albert Finney.

3:30am (4th) – 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.

Tuesday, May 4

4:00pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn’s first lead role, and the one that immediately catapulted her into stardom. She’s a princess who runs away to try out being normal, and spends an adventurous day exploring Rome with incognito journalist Gregory Peck. Pretty much delightful right the way through.
1953 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert.

6:00pm – 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

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

8:00pm – TCM – Stagecoach
Major breakthrough for John Wayne, here playing outlaw Cisco Kid – he and the various other people on a stagecoach form a cross-section of old West society that has to learn to get on together to make it to the end of the ride alive. Excellent performances and stunt-filled action sequences make this one of the best westerns ever made.
1939 USA. Director: John Wayne. Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

10:00pm – TCM – The Searchers
Deservedly considered one of the greatest westerns ever made, a high point in the careers of both John Wayne and John Ford. Wayne is the almost anti-heroic main character Ethan Edwards, driven by anger and revenge to find the group of Indians who killed his nearly estranged family and kidnapped his young niece. Along with the contemporary films of Anthony Mann, The Searchers marks a point in the Western genre where we can no longer necessarily accept the motives of the good guys to be pure, and in fact, are forced to question if the good guys are actually good – perhaps the beginning of the revisionist western. Ford’s command of cinematic space and the language of the frame here is unparalleled, and the performances and everything else in the film match it.
1956 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, May 5

6:15am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 12:30pm, and 10pm on the 8th, and 4:10am on the 9th)

7:45am – IFC – Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is likely my all-time favorite book or very close to it, and it’s a book that you’d never expect could be made into a good film. It depends an awful lot on stream of consciousness, internal monologue and memory, and a subjective experience of time – all stylistic and narrative elements that don’t translate well to film. However, this 1997 version of the novel with Vanessa Redgrave perfectly cast as the older Clarissa Dalloway and Natascha McElhone (why the heck isn’t she in more stuff?) as flashback-Clarissa comes about as close as I think is cinematically possible. It doesn’t come close to matching the book for me, but it is a solid film and captures a lot of Woolf’s spirit.
1997 USA/UK. Director: Marleen Gorris. Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, Lena Headey, John Standing.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 12:45pm)

5:45pm – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 5:05am on the 6th)

10:05pm – IFC – The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Tommy Lee Jones takes up the directorial reins for the first time with this revisionist western about a rancher whose Mexican right-hand-man dies, his last request being that his body be returned across the border to his family. Thus begins an odyssey that’s more about mood and character than anything else. It’s not wholly even, but Jones has an excellent eye, and this was one of the more surprisingly good films of its year.
2005 USA. Director: Tommy Lee Jones. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, Melissa Leo.
Newly Featured!

12:05am (6th) – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.

Thursday, May 6

4:00pm – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed.
1949 UK/US. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles.
Must See

5:45pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made, I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. The quest for what makes publisher/politician Charles Foster Kane tick takes a journalist through a fractured narrative that never seems to give any definitive answers. Personally, I respect and recommend Kane for its innovations in narrative, cinematography, and cinema language, but I find it a difficult film to love (yet even that is fitting, as the difficulty of loving or being loved by Kane himself is a central theme).
1941 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
Must See

10:05pm – 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.

Friday, May 7

1:00pm – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York, a pacifist who somehow decided that the fastest way to stop the killing was to join up and kill as many Germans as he could to end the war.
1941 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond.

3:30pm – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
One of Frank Capra’s most whimsical films stars Gary Cooper as an unassuming country boy who suddenly inherits a great amount of money. When he decides to give it all away to whoever comes and asks for some, he garners a media frenzy, everyone thinking he’s crazy. Idealistic, warmly funny, and, yes, Capracorny. But as corn goes, it’s among the best. Also, any chance to see Jean Arthur is worth taking.
1936 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.

10:00pm – TCM – Doctor Zhivago
Idealistic Zhivago experiences the Bolshevik Revolution while also dealing with his conflicting feelings for his wife Tonya and young nurse Lara. There are a few things about the romance side of the story that bother me, mostly the fact that I liked Tonya way more than Lara, but I have to admit Lean knows how to make epic films, and Maurice Jarre’s score is unforgettable.
1965 UK/USA. Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness.

Saturday, May 8

7:30am – TCM – The Kennel Murder Case
William Powell is well-known for playing detective Nick Charles in the Thin Man series of movies, but he also played private eye Philo Vance in a less well-remembered series of films based on detective novels by S.S. Van Dine. This is probably the best of the lot, a witty mystery that’s not really too far off from the Thin Man vibe.
1932 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan.
Newly Featured!

7:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.
(repeats at 1:30pm)

9:00am – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth). And noir set-pieces don’t get much better than the chase sequence set in a bewildering hall of mirrors.
1948 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth.

11:30am – 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 5:15pm)

12:00N – TCM – King Kong
The grand-daddy of sound creature features, stop-motion special effects, and perhaps surprisingly, original film scores – despite a couple of creaky moments in the special effects, Kong holds up far better than it has any right to do. There’s a purity and a sincerity about it that makes you instantly forget 80 years of advances in technology and enter fully into the magic of its story.
1933 USA. Director: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Starring: Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Fay Wray.
Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – The Lion in Winter
Katharine Hepburn won her third (of four) Oscars for her role in this film as Plantagenet matriarch Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who probably had more to do with the course of British and European history than most men. The film concerns her, her husband King Henry II of England, and their quarrelsome sons Richard and John (who’d make their fair share of history as King Richard Coeur de Leone and King John, of the Magna Carta) during a particularly tense Christmas reunion. It can be difficult to make medieval-set films seem immediate, but this one does.
1968 UK. Director: Anthony Harvey. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, Jane Merrow.

10:30pm – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
Must See

Sunday, May 9

6:30am – TCM – Bachelor Mother
A very slight but rather charming Ginger Rogers vehicle that I like far more than I probably should. Ginger is a struggling department store clerk who happens by an orphanage just after someone leaves a baby there; she’s mistaken for the mother and through a series of miscommunications with the orphanage and her boss at the store (David Niven), ends up having to take the baby. It’s fairly silly at times, but also kind of heartwarming, and Ginger’s honestly at her best here.
1939 USA. Director: Garson Kanin. Starring: Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Albertson.

10:00am – TCM – The Magnificent Ambersons
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with this film about a wealthy but decaying American family, but wasn’t given nearly as much creative freedom. But even with studio interference, it’s well worth seeing.
1942 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Anne Baxter, Agnes Moorehead.

10:05am – 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.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 10th)

1:15pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.
1945 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.
Must See

2:30pm – Fox Movie – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
A solidly entertaining and slyly witty film, quite worthy of being one of Howard Hawks’ few ventures into the musical genre. Marilyn Monroe gets probably her best role here – yes, better than Some Like It Hot for my money – and her wide-eyed dumb blonde show (which is exactly what it is, a show) is perfectly complemented by Jane Russell’s cynical but playful wit. Add in iconic moments like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and you have a film that I refuse to call a guilty pleasure. It’s simply wonderful.
1954 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: January 18-24

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Away from Her, playing on IFC on Tuesday, January 20

Among the new offerings this week: A pair of “great teacher” movies on Monday with Blackboard Jungle and To Sir, With Love, the classic and not very often screened Max Ophuls film Lola Montes late Sunday night, and Sarah Polley’s highly impressive directorial debut Away from Her on Wednesday. Not a lot of new stuff, but what’s there is good.

Monday, January 18

3:45pm – Sundance – Man on Wire
One of last year’s most highly-acclaimed documentaries tells the story of high-wire walker Philippe Petit as he embarks on perhaps his most dangerous stunt yet.
2008 UK/USA. Director: James Marsh. Starring: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau.

4:00pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – TCM – To Sir, With Love
Twelve years after being the troubled student in Blackboard Jungle, Sidney Poitier takes on the role of the teacher, trying to take hold of a bunch of bored, acting-out London teenagers.
1967 UK. Director: James Clavell. Starring: Sidney Poitier, Judy Gleeson, Christian Roberts, Suzy Kendall, Lulu.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, January 19

7:30am – TCM – The Band Wagon
There are many reasons to consider The Band Wagon among the best movie musicals ever made. The satirical plot involving a Shakespearean director who tries to turn a lighthearted musical into a doom-and-gloom version of Faust, the bright yet sardonic script and score by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who basically appear in the film as the characters played by Nanette Fabrey and Oscar Levant), the last really great role for Fred Astaire (maybe Funny Face is a contender, but barely), and of course, the never-surpassed beauty of dance numbers like “Dancing in the Dark” with Fred and Cyd Charisse. But even if it didn’t have all that, I’d still rank it among my favorites for the epic “Girl Hunt Ballet” number spoofing hard-boiled detective fiction.
1953 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabrey.
Must See

11:15pm – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) 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 and 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.
1950 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olsen, Erich Von Stroheim, Buster Keaton.
Must See

4:15am (20th) – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines 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

Wednesday, January 20

6:05pm – 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 6:35am and 2:15pm on the 21st)

9:35pm – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:35am on the 21st)

Thursday, January 21

11:30pm – IFC – The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

4:45am (22nd) – IFC – The Seven Samurai
Probably Kurosawa’s best-known film, The Seven Samurai is an eastern version of a Western, with down-on-their-luck samurai (led by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) working together to help a ravaged village hold off bandit invaders. Completing the cycle of cinematic borrowing, the film was remade in the US as The Magnificent Seven.
1954 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima.
Must See

Friday, January 22

8:45am – 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 3:15pm)

9:00am – 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.

10:45am – TCM – Father of the Bride (1950)
Long before Steve Martin kicked off his nearly twenty-year run of remaking classic comedies with his version of this film, Spencer Tracy was the Father of the Bride, dealing with the difficulty of letting his only daughter, Elizabeth Taylor, go to some other man. I don’t hate the Martin version, but this one is better. The family’s son is played by a young Russ Tamblyn (of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story).
1950 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Bennett, Russ Tamblyn.

8:30pm – 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 3:00am on the 23rd)

Saturday, January 23

8:00am – 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

8:15am – 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.
(repeats at 3:15pm)

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 5:15pm)

8:00pm – 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

8:00pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
(repeats at 4:10am on the 24th)

10:35pm – IFC – Gangs of New York
It’s hard to argue with the concept of a Scorsese/diCaprio/Day-Lewis trifecta in a story about Irish gangs at the dawn of New York’s existence, though I found myself underwhelmed with it.
2003 USA. Director: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo diCaprio, Cameron Diaz.

Sunday, January 24

4:00pm – 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

2:45am (25th) – TCM – Lola Montes
Max Ophuls’ only widescreen, color feature about the rise and fall of the title character in the courts of Europe is sumptuous and a great example of the circular plotting he tends toward as well as the elaborate tracking shots he’s known for. Quite lovely visually, and recently restored, so hopefully this is that version.
1955 France. Director: Max Ophuls. Starring: Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov, Anton Walbrook.
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)

July 2007 Reading/Watching Recap

In an effort to get caught up on these recap posts, I did shorter write-ups on some of the films I didn’t care about as much (and I’m going to do the same thing for August, hoping to get it out by, you know, the end of September so I can, you know, do September’s). I intended there to be more shorter ones, but it turned out, I cared about a lot of the films this month. Ah well. If I give a quickie reaction to something you’d like to hear more about, let me know and I’ll do a more detailed writeup on it later. I doubt most people read all these anyway. Not that that’s why I write them; I write them so in ten years I can look back and see how stupid my reactions to thing were when I first saw them. ;)

After the jump, reactions to Happy Feet, Orlando (book and film), Vivre sa vie, The Fountain, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the Three Colours Trilogy, Winter Light, Renaissance, Little Children, Sophie’s World, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and more.

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