The Thin Man, playing on TCM at noon at Saturday
Ach. TCM is trying to kill us this week. Prepare your DVRs. In addition to a great slate of repeating content, we have a slew of new stuff. Like both versions of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 on Monday, 1956 on Saturday), and his very early British film Blackmail, also on Monday. Thursday we have a marathon of Astaire-Rogers classics, including the top tier trio Swing Time, Top Hat, and The Gay Divorcee, as well as some lesser but still worthwhile entries. If you didn’t get enough musicals out of that, come back Saturday and get some inspiration from That’s Entertainment!, MGM’s admittedly self-congratulatory celebration of their own musical prowess, but you know what? They earned it, and this film is proof. Then stick around for sci-fi gold with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and one of the greatest films ever with mystery-comedy The Thin Man. Don’t go away quite so quick, because they’re bringing out the Brits with the hilarious and underappreciated Bedazzled. And Saturday, check out a lesser-known Billy Wilder film in One, Two, Three.
And that’s not even considering all the fantastic films this week that we’ve already discussed in previous entries in this series, both older and newer – Primer, The Big Sleep, Volver, The Squid and the Whale, Some Like It Hot, Singin’ in the Rain, Casablanca, and many more. Lots to be thankful for this week, cinematically at least (and hopefully not only cinematically) – so enjoy your holiday if you’re celebrating it, and save time for some movies in between all that turkey and dressing.
Monday, November 23
9:05am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.
(repeats at 2:05pm)
11:00pm – 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.
1:30am (24th) – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Hitchcock’s first take on this story of an attempted assassination and associated kidnapping stars Peter Lorre as one of the bad guys. I haven’t seen it myself yet, but many people claim it’s better than his glossier Hollywood remake (which is playing on Saturday, so you get an easy chance to compare).
1934 UK. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Peter Lorre, Leslie Banks, Edna Best.
3:00am (24th) – TCM – Blackmail
I’m not sure from TCM’s description whether this is the silent or sound version of this early Hitchcock film; made in 1929, it was produced both ways. I’ve only seen the silent (which I’ve heard is better), and it’s classic Hitchcock – as early as it is, it’s very easy to point out elements and tropes that Hitch would use throughout the rest of his career.
1929 UK. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Anny Ondra, Sara Allgood, Charles Paton, John Longden, Cyril Ritchard.
Tuesday, November 24
8:00am – 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 2:25pm)
9:45am – IFC- Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 4:05pm)
1:00am – 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 4:05pm)
2:00pm – 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.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
5:50pm – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
(repeats at 4:20am and 12:35pm on the 25th)
11:00pm – TCM – Dark Passage
Okay, so this is the least memorable of the four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together. It’s still Bogart and Bacall, and it’s a perfectly respectable and enjoyable film noir.
1947 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead, Bruce Bennett.
Wednesday, November 25
8:15pm – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Buñuel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
4:30am (26th) – TCM – Flying Down to Rio
TCM is playing nearly all of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles throughout Thanksgiving day, and let me tell you, they are something to be thankful for, so if you’re not completely busy with family and friends and turkey, plop yourself down and enjoy some of the greatest dancing ever put on film, all day. In this first Astaire-Rogers outing, they’re actually supporting leads Gene Raymond and Dolores Del Rio – the less said about them and the story, the better. But Fred and Ginger do have a couple of good numbers (notably the Busby Berkeley-esque “The Carioca”).
1933 USA. Director: Thornton Freeland. Starring: Gene Raymond, Dolores Del Rio, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers.
Thursday, November 26
6:30am – TCM – Roberta
Apparently the studio still didn’t trust Fred and Ginger to carry a film; this time they’re second leads behind Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, but at least Dunne and Scott are decent actors and Roberta has a fair bit of charm outside of Astaire and Rogers, due in no small part to a solid score by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach.
1935 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers.
7:00am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 12:45pm)
8:30am – TCM – The Gay Divorcee
I have a huge love for The Gay Divorcee. Ginger hires a gigolo to try to force her husband to divorce her, but then thinks Fred (who wants to court her) is the gigolo. Mistaken identities for the win, and the stellar supporting cast doesn’t hurt at all, either. Plus, a young Betty Grable in a musical number with Edward Everett Horton. How can you go wrong?
1934 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Alice Brady, Eric Rhodes, Eric Blore.
10:30am – TCM – Swing Time
Now we’re to the cream of the crop. Many people consider Swing Time the best of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, and it’s certainly up there. Frothy story? Check. Jerome Kern music? Check. Fantastic dances? Check. Of course.
1936 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.
11:15am – 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.
1987 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, Frances McDormand.
(repeats at 5:35pm and 11:35pm)
12:30pm – TCM – Shall We Dance (1937)
I know intellectually that these next two Fred and Ginger films (Shall We Dance and Carefree) are not really that good, but I still love them to death every time I see them. Here Fred’s a ballet dancer who wants to do tap, and is obsessed with meeting his idol, Ginger. When he does, somehow it all snowballs into rumors of a secret wedding and all sorts of things that just kind of get in the way of the dancing.
1937 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore.
2:30pm – TCM – Carefree
A lot of people will put this at the very bottom of the Fred-Ginger oevre, and they’re probably right. This one brings in all kinds of crazy-ass Freudian psychology, dream interpretation and other things that were all the rage in 1938, and lead to Ginger walking around like she’s drunk (she’s supposed to be hypnotized) a lot. Which I find more amusing than I probably should.
1938 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Ralph Bellamy, Louella Gear, Jack Carson.
4:00pm – TCM – Top Hat
Ah, back to top shelf Astaire-Rogers here to finish out TCM’s little marathon (they only skipped two of the 1930s ones, the inconsequential biopic The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and Follow the Fleet, which is actually quite good – sorry they didn’t show it). For me, Top Hat and Swing Time battle it out for the top spot constantly, with the one I’ve seen more recently usually taking the crown. Mistaken identity follows mistaken identity here, as Ginger thinks Fred is her best friend’s husband, causing her a lot of consternation when Fred starts romancing her. That’s far from the end of it all, though. Also has the most definitive collection of Astaire-Rogers supporting actors.
1935 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.
8:00pm – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring; Cary Grant, Grace Kelly.
9:45pm – 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 3:00am)
10:00pm – 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.
10:00pm – TCM – High Society
This is not one of the best music-centric films ever made, but it is the musical version of The Philadelphia Story, with both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooning it up with songs by Cole Porter. Oh, and one of Grace Kelly’s last roles before she retired to become a princess and stuff. Still, you wish with that pedigree that it were better than it is. Ah, well.
1956 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, Louis Calhern.
Friday, November 27
5:45pm – 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.
Saturday, November 28
6:00am – 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.
1952 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.
8:00am – TCM – That’s Entertainment!
If you like musicals, you’ll love That’s Entertainment!, MGM’s celebration of its history of movie musicals. If you don’t like musicals…you won’t. It’s that simple. This was put together in 1974 as a theatrical release in honor of MGM’s 50th anniversary, so it’s really well put together and hosted by many of the stars who were there at the time (and some whose connection to MGM is tenuous at best – like Paramount’s Bing Crosby). That’s Entertainment! Part II is also worth checking out; it includes drama and comedy highlights as well as musicals.
1974 USA. Director: Jack Haley, Jr. Starring: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor.
8:00am – 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: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Seiji Miyaguchi.
10:30am – TCM – Invasion of the Body Snatchers
This is classic paranoia sci-fi at its very best, from a time when sci-fi was more about reflecting our fears of scientific possibilities and political threats (try reading this as either anti-Communist or anti-McCarthy; it works pretty well either way). Aliens are invading by taking over people’s bodies, turning them into emotionless pod people. They’ve tried remaking it a couple of times, but somehow it never ends up packing quite the punch of the original.
1956 USA. Director: Don Siegel. Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, Carolyn Jones.
12:00N – 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.
2:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Hitchcock’s second version of this story 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.
3:20pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
1962 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, René Lefèvre.
6:00pm – TCM – Casablanca
Against all odds, one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, focusing on Bogart’s sad-eyed and world-weary expatriot Rick Blaine, his former lover Ingrid Bergman, and her current husband Paul Henreid, who needs safe passage to America to escape the Nazis and continue his work with the Resistance. It’s the crackling script that carries the day here, and the wealth of memorable characters that fill WWII Casablanca with life and energy.
1943 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.
10:00pm – TCM – Bedazzled (1967)
In this hilarious kinda-sorta Faustian story, Dudley Moore is a frumpy short-order cook dreaming over waitress Eleanor Bron. When the Devil in the form of Peter Cook offers him seven wishes in exchange for his soul, he jumps at the opportunity to make Bron fall in love with him. Predictably, things go horribly (and hilariously) wrong. Add in Raquel Welch as one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, naturally), a lot of great dialogue, and an authentic 1960s London vibe, and you’ve got a film that ought to be touted much more than it is. Oh, and forget the lame 2000 remake. It’s lame.
1967 UK. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Peter Cook, Raquel Welch.
Sunday, November 29
6:00am – TCM – Anchors Aweigh
What’s that you say? Your life won’t be complete until you see Gene Kelly dance with an animated Jerry the Mouse from the Tom & Jerry cartoons? Well, you’re in luck with this film. Oh, right, there’s also a story-type thing with Kelly and Frank Sinatra as sailors and Kathryn Grayson as the love interest, but really, it’s all about Gene and Jerry.
1945 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, José Iturbi, Dean Stockwell.
8:30am – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
1939 USA. Director: William Dieterle. Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O’Brien.
6:00pm – TCM – One, Two, Three
Billy Wilder directs James Cagney in fast-talking near mania as a Coca-Cola manager in Berlin tasked with keeping tabs on the boss’s daughter. This comedy moves at breakneck speed, showcasing Wilder and screenwriting partner I.A.L. Diamond’s genius for dialogue. Not as memorable as many of Wilder’s others, perhaps, but a hidden gem.
1961 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: James Cagney, Pamela Tiffin, Arlene Francis, Horst Buchholz.
6:30pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.
2004 UK. Director: Richard Eyre. Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin.
(repeats at 2:35am on the 30th)
9:45pm – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original version of You’ve Got Mail has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding employees of a shop who are unknowingly exchanging romantic letters. Ernst Lubitsch directs, bringing his warm European wit to bear.
1940 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan.
10:00pm – Sundance – Black Book
Paul Verhoeven invests Black Book with just enough of his signature over-the-top brashness to give the WWII story of a Dutch Jewish woman infiltrating the Gestapo for the Resistance a healthy dose of panache. Every time you think it won’t go the next step, it does, and it’s ravishingly entertaining the whole time.
2006 Netherlands. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman.