Tag Archives: Royal Wedding

Film on TV: April 12-18

panslabyrinth.jpg
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: March 1-7

Contempt.jpg
Contempt, playing on TCM late Sunday/early Monday.

Of the new ones this week, I’m most excited about catching Days of Heaven myself (Monday on TCM), since it’s part of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls marathon. Don’t know if I’ll watch it right away, though; I’m trying to keep in somewhat chronological order watching those. Other notable newly features ones: West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause on Tuesday, Alien on Wednesday (I’m long overdue a rewatch on that one), All the President’s Men on Thursday, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt late Sunday/early Monday.

Monday, March 1

8:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly.
2003 USA. Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

10:15pm – TCM – Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick has made his reputation on only four films; this is his second, some five years after debut Badlands. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Marathon list, so I will be before long – and judging by the screencaps I’ve already seen, I’m expecting to love it.
1978 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, March 2

9:30am – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart inhabits the role of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating one of the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective (vying only with Bogart’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, really). Not mention setting the early benchmark for noir films.
1941 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook Jr, Walter Huston.
Must See

10:15am – 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 3:45pm)

11:00am – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.

4:00pm – 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.

6:00pm – TCM – West Side Story
I unabashedly love musicals, Shakespeare, and stylized choreography. Hence, I love West Side Story. I wish Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood were a little more interesting as the leads, but the supporting cast is electrifying enough that it doesn’t much matter, especially with Bernstein and Sondheim music and Jerome Robbins choreography.
1961 USA. Director: Richard Wise & Jerome Robbins. Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Rita Moreno.
Must See
Newly Featured!

11:00pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, March 3

11:30am – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting.
1949 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, Gig Young

1:30pm – TCM – The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle was really MGM’s first foray into noirish crime films. Being MGM, it’s more polished and, to me, less interesting than the crime dramas that Warner Bros. and the smaller studios were putting out, but hey. It’s still pretty good. And has a really young Marilyn Monroe.
1950 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe.

3:30pm – 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 nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s 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.

9:45pm – IFC – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
Must See

10:15pm – TCM – Alien
Often considered one of the best sci-fi/horror creature features of all time (or just behind its sequel Aliens). Sigourney Weaver gets an iconic role as ass-kicking astronaut Ripley.
1979 USA. Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, John Hurt.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, March 4

6:00am – TCM – Four Daughters
Something of a high-B-level programmer, Four Daughters tells the fairly routine story of four sisters and their love interests; there’s more to it than meets the eye, though, and starlet Priscilla Lane (notably of Arsenic and Old Lace) carries it well with her two sisters Lola and Rosemary. It’s interesting to contrast with its 1954 musical remake Young at Heart, which boasts the greater star power of Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. They’re virtually identical in script, but this one strikes a more sincere note with me.
1938 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Priscilla Lane, Claude Rains, John Garfield.

5:30pm – 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.

8:00pm – Sundance – A Prairie Home Companion
I’ve been taken to task for ignoring Robert Altman films in these write-ups, and I’ll confess that’s true due to my woeful ignorance of Altman films. Though I’m working to rectify this blind spot, I just haven’t seen that many of his films, including this one, the last one he made before he died.
2006 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Woody Harrelson, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Lily Tomlin.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:10am on the 5th)

9:00pm – TCM – To Have and Have Not
It’s said that this film came about because Howard Hawks bet Earnest Hemingway that he (Hawks) could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst book. Of course, to do that, Hawks ended up basically changing the story entirely, but hey. It’s the thought that counts. Mostly notable for being Lauren Bacall’s first film, the one where she met Humphrey Bogart, and the one that spawned the immortal “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve” bit of dialogue. That one scene? Worth the whole film.
1944 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan.

11:00pm – TCM – All the President’s Men
The Nixon and Watergate scandal is presented as a mystery almost, from the point of view of Woodward and Bernstein, the rookie Washington Post investigative reporters who broke the story. The film unfolds like a very good procedural, balancing the fact-finding itself with the roadblocks Woodward has to overcome at the paper because of his youth and inexperience. Not a showy film, but a really well-made one with excellent performances from Redford and Hoffman.
1976 USA. Director: Alan J. Pakula. Starring: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook.
Newly Featured!

1:30am (5th) – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazrescu
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, March 5

7:00am – IFC – The Station Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises (for me, anyway) of 2003. Peter Dinklage moves into a train depot to indulge his love for trains and stay away from people, only to find himself befriended by a loquacious Cuban hot-dog stand keeper and an emotionally delicate Patricia Clarkson. A quiet but richly rewarding film.
2003 USA. Director: Thomas McCarthy. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale.
(repeats at 12:30pm)

8:35am – 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 2:00pm)

Saturday, March 6

8:30am – TCM – The Ladykillers
One of the most delightful of the Ealing comedies, with Alec Guinness leading a bunch of crooks (including a young Peter Sellers) whose bankrobbing plans get flustered by an unlikely old lady.
1955 UK. Director: Alexander Mackendrick. Starring: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers.
Must See

1:30pm – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home.
1985 Sweden. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 7th)

5:30pm – TCM – On the Beach
After nuclear war, most of humanity is destroyed; a small outpost in Australia survives, but not for long. See David’s longer take here;.
1959 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire.

8:00pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire won Vivien Leigh her second Oscar as fading Southern belle Blanche DuBois, and made a star out of Marlon Brando. It’s also one of the films I’m most embarrassed to say I’ve never seen. I even have it on DVD somewhere! Someday, I will get to it.
1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Stanley, Karl Malden.

10:00pm – 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 4:20am on the 7th)

2:30am (7th) – 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.

4:15am (7th) – TCM – The Killers (1946)
Burt Lancaster made his film debut in this excellent noir, an expansion of an Ernest Hemingway short story. Lancaster is a quiet gas station attendant killed in the opening of the film by two hitmen – the events that lead up to his death (involving, among other things, a classic femme fatale played by Ava Gardner) are told in flashback throughout the rest of the film.
1946 USA. Director: Robert Siodmak. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Albert Dekker, Sam Levene.

Sunday, March 7

10:15pm – 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.

2:00am (8th) – TCM – Contempt
One of Jean-Luc Godard’s most consciously self-reflexive films, and that is saying a lot for someone who uses self-reflexivity the way most people use water. It took me longer to warm to this film than most of Godard’s (perhaps because of seeing it earlier than some of his lighter fare), but there’s a lot here to chew on, and a lot to enjoy, from the comments on his own relationship with Anna Karina to the foibles of filmmaking to the misunderstandings of translation.
1963 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Fritz Lang.
Must See
Newly Featured!

4:00am (8th) – TCM – The Bad and the Beautiful
Vincente Minnelli directs Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and Gloria Grahame in one of the best dark-side-of-Hollywood noirish films this side of Sunset Boulevard.
1952 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame.

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: June 8-14

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Singin’ in the Rain, playing Tuesday, June 9th at 12:30am on TCM

This week, TCM continues their celebration of great directors with Stanley Donen, Fred Zinnemann, Preston Sturges, Akira Kurosawa, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder, and Howard Hawks. They also seem to be doing director mini-marathons for John Huston, Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, and Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur, though they aren’t officially in the Great Director series. Whether they should be or not is definitely arguable. And IFC and Sundance have a few gems to throw in, as well.

Monday, June 8

12:45pm – 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).

6:15pm – 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.

Great Directors on TCM: Stanley Donen
Stanley Donen shone at directing flashy musicals and mod comedies throughout the 1950s and 1960s. The films he co-directed with Gene Kelly (On the Town and Singin’ in the Rain, see below) stand among the best musicals ever made, and his later films like Charade and Arabesque merged Hitchcockian thrills with 1960s comic panache in a way that no-one else really matched.

9:00pm – 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. Must See

9:45pm – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt. Moore plays a 1950s housewife, trapped in her marriage to a man struggling with his own sexual identity (Dennis Quaid), and slowly falling into an affair with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert).
(repeats at 3:30am)

10:45pm – 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).

12:30am (9th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
After On the Town, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly teamed 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. Must See

2:30am (9th) – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.

Tuesday, June 9

6:00am – TCM – I Know Where I’m Going!
This is one of those little films that doesn’t get much press and is very quiet and unassuming, but once you watch it you won’t easily forget it. Wendy Hiller is a confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and where she’s going – that is, to meet her wealthy fiance and marry him on one of the Scottish Hebrides. But when a storm strands her on the way, she finds herself thrown off-course in more ways than one. There’s nothing wasted here, and I Know Where I’m Going! stands as one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning achievements, even if it’s not as well-known as Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes.

1:00pm – TCM – A Matter of Life and Death
An RAP pilot bails out of his crashing plane and survives, even though he was meant to die, due to a mix-up in heaven. He’s granted the chance to plead his case for life in a heavenly trial in Powell & Pressburger’s fantasy drama. I haven’t seen this one, but I have friends who place it among their all-time favorites, so I’m looking forward to it.

5:15pm – TCM – The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Another Powell & Pressburger film I haven’t seen, this one follows an idealistic army colonel from the Boer War through WWII, focusing on his romantic pursuits as well as the changes in military strategy and notions of honor. I find WWI films interesting for the juxtaposition of modern warfare with 19th century nobility, and looks like this will draw on that. Plus, really young Deborah Kerr.

6:05pm – 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.

Great Directors on TCM: Fred Zinnemann
I don’t tend to think of Fred Zinnemann when I think of great directors, and I’m sure that’s influenced by my auteurist outlook. Yet I do quite like several of the films he’s directed, such as the ones below.

8:00pm – TCM – High Noon
An Oscar-winning performance by Gary Cooper and an early role for Grace Kelly in Fred Zinnemann’s classic cowboy showdown drama. Follow it up with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, something of a response to High Noon, which Hawks disliked.

9:30pm – 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 nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on). It’s worthwhile just for the surreal dream ballet in the middle.

12:00M – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.

Wednesday, June 10

6:00am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew‘s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.

7:00am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria and La Strada, two films that Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase in the mid-1950s with Giulietta Masina, always stand out to me almost even more than his more famous, more flamboyant 1960s films like 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita. Nights of Cabiria casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen. Must See
(repeats at 6:00pm, and 1:00pm on the 13th, and 5:00am on the 14th)

Great Directors on TCM: Preston Sturges
Preston Sturges is responsible, as writer and director, for many of the most insane, provocative, and lasting comedies of the early 1940s. He consistently pushed envelopes, and while some of his films may come across a little shrill today, I still love them to pieces.

8:00pm – TCM – The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck and her father Charles Coburn are cardplayers, cheating cruise ship denizens of their wealth. Millionaire (and snake afficianado) Henry Fonda is a good mark, especially since he’s a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyck’s plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and she’s a delight from start to finish. As she usually is. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion. Must See

12:00M – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this 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.

2:00am (11th) – 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.

Thursday, June 11

7:45am – TCM – The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle was really MGM’s first foray into noirish crime films. Being MGM, it’s more polished and, to me, less interesting than the crime dramas that Warner Bros. and the smaller studios were putting out, but hey. It’s still pretty good. And has a really young Marilyn Monroe.

2:00pm – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart inhabits the role of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating one of the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective (vying only with Bogart’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, really). Not mention setting the early benchmark for noir films. Must See

3:45pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.

6:00pm – TCM – The African Queen
Yet another team up of John Huston and Humphrey Bogart pits Bogart against the Amazon river – and straight-laced missionary Katharine Hepburn, who is forced to travel with him to escape Germany enemies. Well, boats are small, and one things leads to another, you know.

Great Directors on TCM : Akira Kurosawa
Between his flawless translations of American genre films (especially crime films and westerns) to Japanese settings both contemporary and medieval, his groundbreaking experiments with cinematic point of view and narrative reliability, and his brilliant juxtapositions of Shakespeare with Japanese tradition, Akira Kurosawa can easily claim to be one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time.

8:00pm – TCM – 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. Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Talk to Her
Talk to Her is one of Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s finest and most moving works, drawing heavily on the passion of bullfighting and dancing. Marco and Benigno develop a friendship as they care two women in comas – Marco’s girlfriend Lydia, a bullfighter gored in the ring, and nurse Benigno’s patient Alicia, whom he has fallen in love with. There’s a touch of the bizarre, as there always is in Almodóvar, but the film is richly rewarding in mood and vision.

Friday, June 12

12:30pm – TCM – Out of the Past
Out of the Past comes up in most conversations about film noir. It’s got all the elements: low-key lighting (due in this case to budgetary concerns), an existential anti-hero (Robert Mitchum), a femme fatale (Jane Greer), etc. It’s honestly not my favorite noir, but it’s a good one to see once.

2:00pm – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.

5:15pm – TCM – I Walked With a Zombie
Or, Jane Eyre in the West Indies. In Val Lewton’s moody little fantastic horror flick, mousy nurse Betsy goes to the Caribbean to care for afflicted Jessica, the wife of an important plantation owner. Turns out her affliction is due to zombification, a curse of the voodoo-practicing natives. Certainly the acting and script are nothing special here, but the noirish cinematography and direction by Jacques Tourneur as well as producer Lewton’s peculiarly literary sensibility certainly are.

6:30pm – TCM – Cat People
Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur team up for this suggestive horror film, tapping into Eastern European legends of women who turn into cats to protect themselves against oppressive male attention. Highly creepy while showing almost nothing – and I happen to quite like that in a film.

Great Directors on TCM: Woody Allen
Woody Allen is one of the most prolific writer/directors currently working, having turned out a new film nearly every year since the early 1970s. He’s gone through several creative phases, gained and lost popularity, been in and out of the tabloids, etc etc ad nauseum. But when he’s on, he manages to create films that are by turn watchably philosophical, absurdly hilarious, movingly emotional, cinematically and personally nostalgic, and caustically witty. TCM’s hitting almost every base with the films they’ve chosen – throw in Crimes and Misdemeanors and it’d be perfect.

9:45pm – TCM – Broadway Danny Rose
In this lesser Woody Allen film, 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 only does Danny worry about the tenor’s wife, he also gets himself in trouble with the woman’s family.

11:15pm – TCM – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall and even Manhattan, both of which I love, 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. Must See

1:15am (13th) – TCM – The Purple Rose of Cairo
A love letter to cinema, The Purple Rose of Cairo has Woody Allen at his most romantic. Unhappy housewife Cecilia (Mia Farrow) escapes to the cinema to see The Purple Rose of Cairo again and again, where she fantasizes over hunky character Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Much to her surprise (and the other characters’ consternation), Baxter steps off the screen to join her. It makes it even more complicated when Gil, the actor who played Baxter, turns up as well.

2:45am (13th) – TCM – Interiors
In case anyone doubted Woody Allen’s admiration for Ingmar Bergman, he made this film to prove it. Interiors is about the best imitation of a Bergman chamber drama you could ask for, down to the spare set design, strained family relations, and a climax involving an angry sea. Still, it is also very much Allen’s film – his first straight drama – focusing on deeply neurotic, introspective characters unable to get outside their own heads for long enough to form really true relationships.

4:30am (13th) – TCM – Take the Money and Run
An early Woody Allen movie, when he was mostly focused on being funny and absurd, and this film about a set of totally inept bank robbers is both. It’s actually my favorite of the pre-Annie Hall Allen films.

Saturday, June 13

Great Directors on TCM: Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder had an incredible ability to make definitive films in most genres – screwball comedy, film noir, socially conscious drama, bittersweet comedy-drama. Rarely are his films bad; most of the time they’re brilliant.

8:30am – TCM – The Apartment
Wilder had a knack for combining comedy and drama into bittersweet goodness, and that’s exactly what he does here, garnering Oscars for Picture, Director, and Screenplay in the process. Jack Lemmon lends his apartment to his boss Fred MacMurray for romantic trysts – a situation that gets even more complicated when MacMurray trysts with Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon happens to love from afar. Everything comes together perfectly in this film, one of Wilder’s best. MUST SEE

3:30pm – 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. Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 14th)

10:15pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Quite probably the most definitive film noir film in existence (vying only with The Big Sleep in my head, anyway) has insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) being seduced by bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and convinced by her to help murder her husband for the insurance money. Wilder’s crackling dialogue and Stanwyck’s perfectly tuned mixture of calculation and innocence can hardly be beat. Must See

12:15am (14th) – 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. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit. Must See

Sunday, June 14

Great Directors on TCM: Howard Hawks
Even more so than Wilder, Howard Hawks genre-shifted with ease, including westerns and musicals along with comedies, action films, noir and drama. Yet they all somehow bore his stamp, making him one of the first directors given auteur status by the French film critics who coined the term. (I tend to have more difficulty finding his stamp than I do with, say, Hitchcock – someday I’m going to a specifically auterist study of Hawks so I can write about him more knowledgably. For now I only know that I usually like most everything he did.)

9:30am – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for this film, portraying pacifist-turned-WWI hero Alvin C. York. Unfortunately, I’ve never actually seen it all the way through, so I don’t have much more to offer about it.

12:00N – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Poor Cary Grant just can’t get away from delightfully ditzy Katharine Hepburn, especially after her dog steals his museum’s priceless dinosaur bone. Oh, and after her pet leopard escapes (and a dangerous zoo leopard escapes at the same time). Incredible situation follows incredible situation in this screwiest of all screwball comedies. Must See

2:00pm – TCM – Twentieth Century
In one of the films that defines “screwball comedy” (along with The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby), John Barrymore plays a histrionic theatre producer trying to convince his star Carole Lombard to come back to him – both professionally and personally. Lombard is luminous as usual, and Barrymore can chew scenery with the best of them, which is precisely what his role calls for.

4:00pm – TCM – His Girl Friday
This is a remake of a 1931 film called The Front Page about newspaper buddies who go after a major story – Hawks took it to a whole new level by turning one of the men into a woman, and setting reporters Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant as a former couple, now divorced who can’t seem to stay apart, either personally or professionally. The dialogue is a stroke of genius, as well, overlapping in a maelstrom of words that’s overwhelming and delightful all at the same time. I call this one of the greatest American films ever made. Must See

6:00pm – TCM – Ball of Fire
Hawks tries to recapture a little bit of Bringing Up Baby in this tale of a showgirl (Barbara Stanwyck, who’s trying to recapture a bit of The Lady Eve) who ends up among a bunch of stuffy professors, including Gary Cooper. Ball of Fire isn’t as memorable as either of those other films, but it has its own charm, and it’s certainly worth a watch.

8:00pm – TCM – To Have and Have Not
It’s said that this film came about because Howard Hawks bet Earnest Hemingway that he (Hawks) could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst book. Of course, to do that, Hawks ended up basically changing the story entirely, but hey. It’s the thought that counts. It’s honestly mostly notable for being Lauren Bacall’s first film, the one where she met Humphrey Bogart, and the one that spawned the immortal “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve” bit of dialogue. That one scene? Worth the whole film.

10:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
Only one of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl. Must See

12:00M – TCM – Only Angels Have Wings
I’ve never gotten into Only Angels Have Wings as much as I have into other Hawks’ films – why I don’t know. It has elements I like – Cary Grant as a daring pilot making dangerous cargo runs in exotic locales, Jean Arthur in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn, and a sighting of a young Rita Hayworth. Just doesn’t seem to come together in a memorable whole for me.

Film on TV: Feb 16-22

Monday, February 16th

9:35am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles-starring film straddles several genres – musical, concert film, documentary, comedy. The good news is that it’s an excellent film in any genre. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any film an exuberant as this one, and with the Beatles right on the cusp of becoming the greatest band of all time… Must See
(repeats at 2:45pm)

10:00am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
James Cagney is a local criminal idolized by a gang of young boys. When he’s caught, it’s up to his childhood friend-turned-priest Pat O’Brien to convince him to do what he can to keep the boys from following in his footsteps. One of several gangster films that Cagney’s best known for.

3:30pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Billy Wilder. Barbara Stanwyck. Fred MacMurray. Edward G. Robinson. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest film noir ever made. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play this titular outlaws in this 1969 western, one of the greats of the 1960s revisionist cycle. Many great moments and shootouts make this one worth coming back.

10:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder. Marilyn Monroe. Jack Lemmon. Tony Curtis. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest comedy ever made. (Yes, I can do this with Billy Wilder movies for a long time…) Must See

Tuesday, February 17th

8:15am – TCM – The Red Shoes
Michael Powell. Emeric Pressburger. Moira Shearer…Okay, enough of that. But this really is one of the best ballet films ever made, though that’s a fairly small genre. The story is basically Svengali and comes across a little cliched today, but the extended ballet sequence has yet to be matched.

3:30pm – 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).

1:00am (18th) – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
18 great directors, 18 short films about Paris. There was no way I was not going to love this film, given my ongoing love affair with cinematic Paris. But there’s enough variety in the film that most anyone is going to find something to like here.

2:30am (18th) – TCM – 42nd Street
The definitive backstage musical creaks a bit around the edges, but it still pretty darn solid.

4:15am (18th) – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935
There is absolutely nothing distinguished about most of Gold Diggers of 1935 (unlike Gold Diggers of 1933, which is a hidden gem right the way through). However, it includes the dazzling Busby Berkeley-choreographed “Lullaby of Broadway” routine, which follows a young socialite through her nights and days of being a “Broadway baby” – with a shockingly tragic turn for a musical of the time. The whole rest of the movie is worth sitting through to see it, or honestly, just fast-forward to it. It’s near the end.

Wednesday, February 18th

3:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
Lawyers James Stewart and George C. Scott face off over a murky rape/murder/self-defense case. A great combination of character study and courtroom drama, with a fantastic original jazz score by Duke Ellington and a gorgeous title sequence by Saul Bass thrown in.

10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg may be insane. Or he may just be quirky. When his paranoid behavior goes over the edge, Van Johnson leads the crew in a mutiny – but are they right? One of Bogart’s best performances.

Thursday, February 19th

8:00am – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
An early example of the “great teacher in a difficult classroom” films also cuts across the race issues of the 1950s, as Glenn Ford takes a job as teacher in one of the roughest schools in the city, butting heads against a very young Sidney Poitier. Also notable as, I believe, the first time a rock song (“Rock Around the Clock”) was played in a film.

1:00am (20th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
There’s very little question that this is the greatest musical in existence. Must See

Friday, February 20th

7:00am – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting. :)

10:30am – TCM – The Battle of Algiers
This would be one of those I’m recommending without having seen, simply because it ends up so near the top of critical best lists all the time. It’s a 1966 French film about the Algerian war, using a very realistic, almost documentary filming style. Looking forward to seeing it myself.

10:00pm – TCM – The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance operator, paid to listen in to other’s conversations. But when he thinks he overhears something connected with a murder, how far should he go to uncover the truth? And, in fact, how much of what he heard was his own interpretation? In this film along the lines of Blow-up and Blow Out, what he hears may or may not be accurate, but where is the line between privacy and responsibility when fallible humans are in the middle? This film was timely when it was released in 1974, and it’s pretty much remained so ever since. Must See

Saturday, February 21st

5:30pm – TCM – Glory
Matthew Broderick commands a platoon of black soldiers in the Civil War’s Union army (the platoon includes Morgan Freeman and a young Denzel Washington, who earned a supporting Oscar). Director Edward Zwick has been trying for a Best Picture Oscar with his over-earnest “important” action dramas for years, but 1989’s Glory remains his best work.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
John Ford’s 1945 film captures the daily life of a PT Boat unit commander (John Wayne) in the Philippines near the end of WWII; this is one of those films that doesn’t seem that amazing during any given scene, but by the end, the cumulative effect is staggering, and the film’s solid reputation among WWII films is well-deserved.

Sunday, February 22nd

8:00am – IFC – Amarcord
Something of a combination of Fellini’s neo-Realist and surrealist phases, as a film director’s memories of his childhood in Italy become larger and crazier than life. I get it mixed up in my head with Roma a bit, so I could use a rewatch on it myself. It’s in theatrical rerelease right now, so keep an eye for it to hit a theatre near you. (It’s in LA till the 20th.)

8:45am – TCM – The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon combines the dancing of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse with the lush directorial style of Vincente Minnelli and a witty script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green to create one of the best movie musicals ever. Second to Singin’ in the Rain, of course. “The Girl Hunt Ballet” alone is worth the price of admission, but you get so much more. Must See

10:45am – TCM – The Producers (1968)
Sometimes it’s easier to make money on Broadway when your show flops – at least, that’s what producer Zero Mostel and accountant Gene Wilder hope when they seek out the worst play they can find to put on stage: A musical called “Springtime for Hitler.” I haven’t seen the musical remake (which I’ve heard is terrible) based on the musical stage version (which I’ve heard is great), but the original non-musical is fantastic enough that I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

8:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I can’t even tell you how many times I borrowed this film from the library when I was younger. It was many times, in the double digits surely. Katharine Hepburn is a privileged heiress who wants to prove she can be an actress without daddy’s money, so she goes to live incognito at a boarding house for theatrical wannabes and starts on the audition circuit. That’s the main strand of the story, but the real draw is the wonderful script and supporting cast that pulls together a snarky Ginger Rogers (Kate’s unwilling roommate), a REALLY young Lucille Ball, a REALLY young Ann Miller (the other half of Ginger’s dance act), a catty Gail Patrick, a wry Eve Arden, and a tragic Andrea Leeds (the talented actress with a hit last year who’s starving this year), as well as smarmy producer Adolphe Menjou. I now own the DVD, and on a recent rewatch, I fell in love with it just as much as I ever did ten years ago. This isn’t a film that’s too well known these days, but that’s a shame, and I recommend it in a heartbeat. Must See

Next Week Sneak Peek

Tuesday, February 24th
1:45pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
3:45pm – TCM – Au revoir, les enfants
10:00pm – TCM – Rashomon
11:30pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai