Tag Archives: Strictly Ballroom

Film on TV: April 26 – May 2

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Annie Hall, playing on Saturday on TCM

Well, this is a first. Everything that jumped out at me on the schedule I’ve already included in these posts before, so there are no newly featured films at all. It’s almost as if TCM decided to give me a break since they knew I’d be busy at their festival all weekend. Anyway. Just because I don’t have anything new for the column this week doesn’t mean there’s not great stuff. A lot of it. And please, if you notice something that I didn’t mention, put it in the comments – there are always films that I haven’t seen and thus don’t feel comfortable recommending (or don’t even know about!).

Monday, April 26

4:00pm – TCM – The Snake Pit
One of the earlier films to deal with the realities of mental illness seriously, with Olivia de Havilland as a woman in an insane asylum, brilliantly moving back and forth between lucidity and falling back in the fog of illness. She got an Oscar nom for her role, based on a true story.
1948 USA. Director: Anatole Litvak. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm.

8:00pm – TCM – The More the Merrier
A World War II housing shortage has Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur sharing an apartment; soon Coburn is matchmaking for McCrea and Arthur, and we get a wonderful, adorable romance out of it.
1943 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Jane Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn.

2:15am (27th) – TCM – Swing Time
Many people call 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.
Must See

Tuesday, April 27

8:00am – TCM – Gilda
Gilda was the last person Johnny ever expected to meet again, much less as the wife of his boss, a sleazy casino operator in South America. Glenn Ford plays a quintessential defeated noir narrator in Johnny, while Rita Hayworth imbues Gilda with all her available mystique to make Gilda one of the more memorable films of the 1940s.
1946 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, George Macready

5:05pm – 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.

8:00pm – TCM – Midnight
Solid Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett-penned screwball comedy that ought to be better known than it is. Claudette Colbert ends up in the middle of a millionare-wife-gigolo triangle, paid by the millionaire husband to break up the wife and gigolo by impersonating a baroness; meanwhile, a poor taxi driver she’d met previously is smitten with her and seeks her out, only to find her in her new guise. Sparkling dialogue and a strong cast give this a sophisticated twist that doesn’t quite match Lubitsch at his best, but is on the same track.
1939 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer.

Wednesday, April 28

8:00am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things. A little shrill at times, but mostly funny and endearing, and less borderline schizophrenic than the rest of the trilogy (which I love, don’t get me wrong).
1992 Australia. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides.
(repeats at 1:15pm)

2:30pm – TCM – High Society
This is not one of the best music-centric films ever made, but it is the musical version of The Philadelphia Story, with both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooning it up with songs by Cole Porter. Oh, and one of Grace Kelly’s last roles before she retired to become a princess and stuff. Still, you wish with that pedigree that it were better than it is. Ah, well.
1956 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, Louis Calhern.

7:00pm – 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
(repeats at 1:20am on the 29th)

Thursday, April 29

8:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 1
A lot of people would point to Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best film, and I think Inglourious Basterds is right up there, too, but I vote Kill Bill Vol. 1 for sheer amount of fun. He homages spaghetti westerns, Hong Kong fighting flicks, and revenge-sploitation, and ties it all together with incredible style.
2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.
Must See
(repeats at 3:00am on the 30th)

10:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 2
On the one hand, Kill Bill Vol 1 isn’t quite complete without Kill Bill Vol 2. And there are a lot of good parts in here – the film noirish opening as the Bride catches us up on what’s going on, the fight with Daryl Hannah in the trailer, training with the kung fu master, her getting out of the coffin, etc. But the ending lags a little too much for me to truly say I enjoy watching it as much as Vol. 1.
2004 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.

Friday, April 30

10:05am – 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 3:45pm)

10:35am – 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 4:15pm)

12:00M – 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

Saturday, May 1

6:20am – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 12:25pm and 5:25pm)

10:35am – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 3:30pm and 5:15pm)

4:15pm – TCM – My Darling Clementine
John Ford’s version of the famous confrontation at the OK Corral actually focuses more on Wyatt Earp’s fictional romance with the fictional Clementine than on the real-life Earp/Clanton feud, but history aside, this is one of the greatest and most poetic westerns on film, proving yet again Ford’s mastery of the genre and of cinema.
1946 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt.
Must See

10:15pm – 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

2:45am (2nd) – TCM – The Major and the Minor
A rather slight and sometimes shrill comedy that still has its moments, notable for being Billy Wilder’s first Hollywood film as a director (he also wrote it, of course, with Charles Brackett). Ginger Rogers plays a young woman who pretends to be a twelve-year-old child to get half-fare on a train; in so doing, she catches the attention of a soldier who takes her under his wing, thinking she’s actually twelve. Events snowball from there. I have a soft spot for this film, personally, and especially for Diana Lynn as the sarcastic and much-wiser-than-her-years kid who becomes Rogers’ confidant.
1942 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson, Robert Benchley, Diana Lynn.

Sunday, May 2

9:05am – 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.

5:30pm – TCM – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Musical tones and volcano images haunt Richard Dreyfuss, eventually leading to an encounter with some of the most strangely beuatiful and mysterious, yet apparently friendly, aliens ever put on film.
1977 USA. Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban.

Film on TV: April 19-25

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The Red Shoes, playing on TCM on Thursday

Can’t complain about this week one little bit. We’ve got newly featured stuff from the final Flynn-de Havilland pairing in They Died With Their Boots On to a rare non-suspense film from Hitchcock, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, both on Monday. We’ve also got classics from Peckinpah and McQueen (Junior Bonner on Wednesday) and Powell and Pressburger (The Red Shoes on Thursday), plus the quintessential coming-of-age film The Graduate on Saturday. And that’s just the stuff we haven’t featured before – lots of excellent repeats throughout the week as well.

Monday, April 19

10:00am – TCM – They Died With Their Boots On
Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s last of ten films together is this highly fictionalized account of General Custer, from his days at West Point through his legendary last stand against the Sioux Indians. History’s out the window here, but rousing Hollywood western action takes its place, and Flynn & de Havilland are always worth watching, especially together.
1941 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Charley Grapewin, Gene Lockhart, Anthony Quinn.
Newly Featured!

4:15am (20th) – TCM – Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
No relation to the 2005 Pitt-Jolie vehicle, this Mr. and Mrs. Smith is one of Hitchcock’s only straight comedies, no suspense or mystery plot in sight. It’s a serviceable screwball comedy, with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard as the title couple who discover their marriage may not be legally binding. It’s worth watching once, but overall it’s a relatively minor entry in both Hitchcock’s career and the annals of screwball comedy.
1941 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Robert Montgomery, Carole Lombard, Gene Raymond, Jack Carson.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, April 20

6:35am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things. A little shrill at times, but mostly funny and endearing, and less borderline schizophrenic than the rest of the trilogy (which I love, don’t get me wrong).
1992 Australia. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides.
(repeats at 12:05pm)

6:45pm – 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.

Wednesday, April 21

2:00pm – TCM – Broadway Melody of 1936
MGM made four films under the Broadway Melody title (in 1929, 1935, 1936 and 1940), and this is easily the best – a polished, sparkling show biz tale with the production detail you expect from 1930s MGM. Eleanor Powell can dance up a storm no matter what film she’s in, and this is one of the few she did, honestly, that has any interest outside of her tap numbers.
1935 USA. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Starring: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Una Merkel.
Newly Featured!

3:45pm – 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.

8:00pm – 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
(repeats at 4:00am on the 22nd)

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 pretty damned entertaining the whole time.
2006 Netherlands. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman.

3:00am (22nd) – TCM – Junior Bonner
Steve McQueen is Junior Bonner, an aging cowboy continuing to compete in rodeos and longing to hold onto the old ways as the world moves on around him. His brother, a lousy cowboy but a savvy businessman, leads the change from the Old West as reality to the Old West as tourist attraction, and the contrast and conflict mingled with family ties carries through the film – Sam Peckinpah’s bittersweet and nostalgic but also rousingly entertaining reverie on the passing of an age.
1972 USA. Director: Sam Peckinpah. Starring: Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, Ben Johnson, Joe Don Baker, Barbara Leigh.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, April 22

8:10am – IFC – Wild Strawberries
On his way to accept an honorary degree, elderly medical doctor Victor Sjöström thinks back and re-evaluates his life while being plagued by nightmares. Sounds kinda depressing, but then again, it is Ingmar Bergman. And he has a way of making depressing seem AWESOME.
1957 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Victor Sjöstroöm, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand.

8:00pm – TCM – The Red Shoes
Almost all of the films Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger made together are incredibly good, but The Red Shoes might just be the best. In the film, a mix of the tale of Svengali and of Hans Christian Anderson’s story about a ballerina who couldn’t remove the red shoes and was doomed to dance to her death, actual ballerina Moira Shearer is the dancer made successful by a jealous ballet impresario, though she loves a poor composer. The centerpiece of the film is a Technicolor extravaganza performance of the titular ballet, still one of the greatest ballet sequences on film.
1948 UK. Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. Starring: Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, Anton Walbrook.
Must See
Newly Featured!

10:30pm – TCM – Once Upon a Time in the West
A disparate group of characters interact and intertwine on America’s western frontier – a young widow seeking those who killed her family, the outlaw suspected (but innocent) of the murders, the ruthless leader of a gang in the employ of a railroad tycoon, and a harmonica-playing stranger. With that as a starting point, Sergio Leone creates what is possibly the ultimate epic western to end all westerns.
1969 Italy/USA. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson.
Must See

Friday, April 23

8:00pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
The benchmark for intellectual science fiction, Kubrick’s probable masterpiece is a mindbending ride through a mysteriously alien-driven evolution, with plenty of time for man vs. machine conflict, beautiful space ballet, and gorgeous cinematography.
1968 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester.
Must See

11:00pm – TCM – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Musical tones and volcano images haunt Richard Dreyfuss, eventually leading to an encounter with some of the most strangely beuatiful and mysterious, yet apparently friendly, aliens ever put on film.
1977 USA. Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban.

Saturday, April 24

4:00pm – TCM – Fahrenheit 451
François Truffaut’s first foray in English-language film was this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel, following fireman (that is, book-burner) Montag as he comes into contact with a group of fugitives intent on preserving the knowledge in books even as the government tries to destroy them, and he begins to wonder if perhaps they are right. It’s a great book, and a pretty good film, with Julie Christie in an interestingly-cast double role.
1966 UK. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack.

6:00pm – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – The Graduate
One of the classic coming-of-age stories, with Dustin Hoffman in one of his first roles as the recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock. Unsure of what to do with his life after college, he takes advantage of his family’s upper middle-class wealth and does nothing – oh, except for fall into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, his father’s partner’s wife. When Elaine Robinson returns home from Berkeley, Benjamin’s attentions waver from mother and daughter. There’s no question that the film has become a cultural milestone.
1967 USA. Director: Mike Nichols. Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross.
Must See
Newly Featured!

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

3:30am (25th) – 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.

Sunday, April 25

7:55am – 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

8:25am – 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 5:00am on the 26th)

5:00pm – TCM – The Best Years of Our Lives
One of the first films to deal with the aftermath of WWII, as servicemen return home to find both themselves and their homes changed by the long years of war. Director William Wyler and a solid ensemble cast do a great job of balancing drama and realism without delving too much into sentimentality.
1946 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Herbert Russell, Cathy O’Donnell.

8:00pm – 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

8:05pm – 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.
(repeats at 12:45am on the 26th)

10:00pm – 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.
1950 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olsen, Erich Von Stroheim, Buster Keaton.
Must See

1:15am (26th) – 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.

Film on TV: April 5-11

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A Fistful of Dollars, playing on TCM on Saturday, April 10th.

A bit sparse this week, but still plenty of things worth checking out. Among the newly featured films are a couple of Australian comedies, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Monday and Strictly Ballroom on Friday, the early Woody Allen sci-fi comedy Sleeper on Tuesday, sparkling screwball comedy Libeled Lady on Thursday, quintessential spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars on Friday, and Garbo showcase Queen Christina on Sunday.

Monday, April 5

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.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am on the 6th)

10:00pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
1962 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, René Lefèvre.
(repeats at 5:25am on the 6th, and 6:25am and 2:15pm on the 10th)

1:30am (6th) – TCM – Shane
Alan Ladd plays the titular cowboy, idolized by the young son of the family he takes refuge with as he tries to escape Jack Palance.
1953 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance.

Tuesday, April 6

10:35am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction, 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.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:15pm)

Wednesday, April 7

6:10am – 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 11:30am and 4:45pm)

11:15pm – TCM – Captain Blood
This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s first of eight films together, and it’s one of the best. Flynn is the eponymous captain, a dentist named Blood who gets captured by pirates and ends up escaping and taking over the pirate ship himself. Full of swashbuckling and derring-do.
1935 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Guy Kibbee.

1:30am (8th) – TCM – The Pirate
A flop when first released, The Pirate looks more and more like a potential cult classic all the time. Gene Kelly is an entertainer who impersonates the dread pirate Mack the Black Mococo to get close to Spanish heiress Judy Garland in a period Caribbean seaport. It’s over-the-top, has some of Cole Porter’s most outlandish songs, and is somehow immensely, compulsively watchable.
1948 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Walter Slezak, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, the Nicholas Brothers.

Thursday, April 8

8:00pm – TCM – Libeled Lady
Throw William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow all together in an MGM comedy, and you’re almost guaranteed a winner. And Libeled Lady delivers with a twisty story, fast-talking script, and the best these stars have to offer.
1936 USA. Director: Jack Conway. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Walter Connolly, Charley Grapewin.
Newly Featured!

12:05am (9th) – IFC – Hard Candy
Ellen Page burst onto the scene as a teenage girl getting involved with an older guy she met on the internet – initially looks like a cautionary tale about internet chat relationships, but goes into even more twisted realms than that, with Ellen owning the screen every second.
2005 USA. Director: David Slade. Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh.

Friday, April 9

8:15am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things. A little shrill at times, but mostly funny and endearing, and less borderline schizophrenic than the rest of the trilogy (which I love, don’t get me wrong).
1992 Australia. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 1:30pm)

4:55pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 4:35am on the 10th)

6:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

Saturday, April 10

12:00N – TCM – The Man from Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

4:00pm – TCM – A Fistful of Dollars
The first of the Leone-Eastwood “Man With No Name” trilogy has Eastwood loping into a small Texas town out nowhere and finding himself caught in the middle of an ongoing feud between the two powerful families that run the town. In true revisionist Western style, he wavers back and forth between amoral mercenary desires and noble actions – he’s not classical Hollywood’s Western hero, but he draws on that mythology, breathing new life into the genre.
1964 Italy. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volonté, Wolfgang Lukschy.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – 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 1:00am on the 11th)

4:15am (11th) – TCM – Kiss Me Deadly
Fairly iconic noir film, with hard-boiled action, nuclear paranoia, and one of the more memorable non-Hitchcock McGuffins in movie history. Plus some great LA locations. I didn’t quite love it as much as I wanted to the first time I saw it, but I’m due for a rewatch, and it definitely needs to be seen at least once, especially if you’re a noir fan.
1955 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman, Marian Carr.

Sunday, April 11

8:00am – TCM – Queen Christina
Quite possibly the supreme example of Greta Garbo’s extraordinary power over the camera, portraying the 17th-century monarch of Sweden whose unanticipated love affair with a Spanish emissary complicates her life and her reign. Her frequent silent film costar John Gilbert comes off a little less well in sound pictures, but Garbo more than makes up for that and for the film’s occasional creakiness.
1933 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone.
Newly Featured!

12:00N – TCM – Duck Soup
Leo McCarey directs the Marx Brothers in what many think is their best and zaniest film. This is the one with Groucho becoming the dictator of Freedonia and declaring war on nearby Sylvania. Frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont is on board as the wealthy woman who causes the rivalry that leads to the war. Personally, I prefer A Night at the Opera to Duck Soup, but this may be your best bet if the idea of musical interludes from Allan Jones (of which Opera has several) turns you off.
1933 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern.
Must See

3:00pm – 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

Film on TV: 9-15 February

It’s February. That means TCM is pulling out their big guns in honor of the Oscars. Which means lots of good movies in the next few weeks. :)

All times are Eastern. Subtract 1 hour for Central, 2 for Mountain, 3 for Pacific. Don’t necessarily trust what I just said – double check your listings because movie channels don’t follow the same logic as primetime network programming.

Monday, February 9

9:15am – TCM – The Apartment
One of Billy Wilder’s best, a bitter-sweet romantic comedy-drama (Wilder sometimes has issues sticking to one genre, and in this case, that’s a compliment) involving lower-level company employee Jack Lemmon, who lends his apartment to his hotshot boss Fred MacMurray, who uses it for trysts with various secretaries including Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon coincidentally loves from afar. Think Mad Men, except actually made in 1960.

9:20am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things.
(repeats at 2:45pm)

1:45pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Just pointing out that it’s on. No need to sell it.

3:45pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
I used to think melodramas were just silly, crappy movies. Then I saw Mildred Pierce which can BY ITSELF give the melodrama genre respectability. It’s that good. It’s also one of the few movies in which I actually like Joan Crawford.

Tuesday, February 10

6:00am – TCM – Waiting for Guffman
The first of Christopher Guest’s brilliant series of mockumentaries (followed by Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, and possibly others – I lose track); in this one a bunch of Midwesterners try to put on a stage show, with awkwardly hilarious results.
(repeats at 10:35am and 4:05pm)

2:45pm – TCM – Henry V (1944)
One of my favorite things to do is compare different versions of Shakespeare’s plays, because there are so many different ways to stage/film them and they still work. Case in point: Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (this one) was made at the tail end of WWII and is a gung-ho rallying cry around an English war hero. It’s very stylized, with the set design based on English and French renaissance art. Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 version is very gritty and realistic, and questions Henry’s war-mongering, becoming a troubled anti-war story rather than a call to arms. Yet the script is almost 100% the same (yes, I have checked this; I wrote a paper about it). Both films are quality. So see both; it’s interesting.

3:45am (11th) – TCM – Rebecca
Hitchcock’s first American film and the first to garner him an Oscar nomination. The film has a lot of supporters, but I still think it would’ve been a lot better if they’d stuck to Daphne du Maurier’s novel’s original ending. And I’m rarely a book purist. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching, because it is.

Wednesday, February 11

1:30pm – TCM – Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati’s Chaplin-esque character, Mr. Hulot, this time takes on modern life in the form of his sister’s house that has been mechanized with all the most modern electronic aids – think Disney’s 1950s House of Tomorrow. Of course, everything goes wrong. Of the Hulot films I’ve seen, this is my favorite.

3:30pm – TCM – The Birds
Everyone knows they’re supposed to be scared by Psycho, so I wasn’t. But The Birds scared the crap out of me, and even though I’ve now seen it five or six times at least, it still does. One of the most perfectly paced films of all time.

10:00pm – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit (Almost Famous) slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s something of a strange film, yes, but it’s also very sweet and if you like quirky, Sundancy films, you’ll enjoy this one.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 12th)

10:00pm – TCM – Lassie Come Home
Family classic that has every kid wanting a collie at some point in their lives. Hint: Get a border collie. Regular collies are quite high-strung.

11:45pm – TCM – National Velvet
Family classic that has every kid wanting a horse. I plead guilty to both the collie and the horse, by the way.

Thursday, February 12

1:00pm – TCM – White Heat
James Cagney in one of his most powerful roles as the slightly (okay, make that more-than-slightly) unbalanced criminal Cody Jarrett. Probably counts as one of the last truly great Warner crime films, too.

8:00pm – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
Fredric March won an Oscar for his portrayal of the title character(s), with some truly amazing makeup work as well.

12:00am – TCM – The Man With the Golden Arm
After winning a supporting actor Oscar for From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra solidified his serious acting ability with this drug-user film – always a good subject for anyone trying to solidify acting skillz, incidentally. Not to be confused with The Man With the Golden Gun, which is a James Bond movie from the Roger Moore years – one of the better ones, but still.

2:15am (13th) – TCM – Easy Rider
The story of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda trying to make this film is almost as interesting as the film itself; if you get a DVD copy of this, make sure to watch the documentary about it. It’s fitting, though, that a film about bikers on the fringe of society, completely outcast in some places, would be made at great personal difficulty outside the studio system. As a whole, the tension works for the film, which is brilliant, iconoclastic, and marks, along with Bonnie and Clyde, the beginning of the New Hollywood that would blossom in the 1970s.

4:00am (13th) – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
It’s interesting to watch and compare this version of Jekyll and Hyde with the 1932 version (see above). The earlier one uses extensive makeup to depict the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde, but in this one, Spencer Tracy shows the change purely by his facial expressions and acting style. It’s been a while since I saw either one, but I remember Tracy being surprisingly convincing, even though the 1941 version seems to be largely forgotten.

Friday, February 13

8:00am – TCM – Lilies of the Field
Sidney Poitier made history with this film, becoming the first black actor to win an Oscar for a leading role (Hattie McDaniel had won a supporting award for Gone With the Wind back in 1939 – between 1939 and 1963? No-one). I, uh, haven’t seen it, but I thought that was worth mentioning.

12:30pm – TCM – Topper
A truly zany, delightful screwball comedy with a twist. Constance Bennett and Cary Grant are a high-rolling society couple who get killed in a car crash. But they hang around as ghosts and take it as their mission to teach harried businessman Roland Young to learn how to live again. The film spawned a couple of sequels (Topper Takes a Trip, with Young and Bennett but no Grant, and Topper Returns, with Joan Blondell taking the Bennett role), both of which are fun, but no match for the brilliant original.

Saturday, February 14

4:15pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
If you’re talking screwball comedy, The Awful Truth is going to come up. It’s that definitive and that fantastic. Gold standard of screwball, battle-of-the-sexes, 1930s comedy right here.

10:00pm – TCM – The King and I
I love most of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musicals more than I probably should, but The King and I is a step above all the others. Perhaps it’s Yul Brynner, perfectly at home in the role he originated on Broadway. Perhaps it’s Deborah Kerr, a more accomplished actress than usually appeared in R&H musicals. Perhaps it’s the real-life story of the conflict between tradition and modernization, regional culture and imperial imposition. I dunno. But I think it’s the best of the bunch, objectively speaking. (Subjectively speaking, I love Oklahoma! best, but that’s neither here nor there.)

10:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
Eighteen directors each contribute a short film about Paris, ranging from tiny but poignant vignettes to ironic comedy to romantic drama to horror. The films are obviously of varying quality, but taken as a whole – let me just say that if you don’t already love Paris, you probably will by the time the film is over. The directors include: Joel & Ethan Coen, Alfonso Cuaron, Isabel Coixet, Gerard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Tom Tykwer, Gurinder Chadha, Alexander Payne, and Gus Van Sant.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 15th)

12:00am – IFC – Garden State
Unfashionable though it may be at the moment, I still love Garden State unconditionally. So sue me.
(repeats on the 15th at 6:10am and 12:15pm)

Sunday, February 15

9:00am – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris, meets Leslie Caron, woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece.

9:30pm – TCM – Funny Face
If there’s a list of most fashionable films, Funny Face has to be on it. Fred Astaire is a fashion photographer who finds the fresh face he’s been looking for in Audrey Hepburn and whisks her off to Paris for a shoot. Throw in Gershwin songs and some Sartre-ridden existential jazzy nightclubs, and you’ve got…well, okay, not one of the all-time great musicals perhaps, but a very solid one.

11:45pm – IFC – Amores Perros
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrítu specializes in films with multiple intersecting storylines, and he does it best here, in his breakthrough Mexican film (starring Gael Garcia Bernal, also just beginning to become a household name at this point). The three largely independent stories are tied together by the characters’ relationship with dogs and involvement in a climactic car crash – though this may sound like his later film Babel or Paul Haggis’ Crash, Amores Perros differs from films by being, like, actually GOOD, not heavy-handed or anvil-obvious.

2:00am (16th) – TCM – Blow-Up
Michelangelo Antonioni made his English-language debut with this 1966 swinging London film, focusing on a photographer (no pun intended) who may have accidentally photographed a murder in the background of one of his shots. A frustrating film for those who seek closure, but a revealing one for those who prefer ambiguity, Blow-Up is a detective story that refuses to abide by the rules of detective stories. If that sounds interesting to you, you may like it. If not, you probably won’t.

Next Week Sneak Preview

Monday, February 16th
10:00am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
3:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
9:35am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night (repeats 2:45pm)
10:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
2:45am (17th) – TCM – Shaft
4:30am (17th) – TCM – The Public Enemy

Tuesday, February 17th
8:15am – TCM – The Red Shoes
3:30pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
12:45am (18th) – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
2:30am (18th) – TCM – 42nd Street
4:15am (18th) – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935

Wednesday, February 18th
6:05am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom (repeats 1:20pm)
3:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
6:00pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny

Film on TV: 15-21 December

Though I obviously recommend all these films (or I wouldn’t list them here), I’m going to start putting MUST-SEE on ones that I’d say you, well, must see. That is, if you aren’t able to catch them on TV this week, put them in your Netflix queue. Or buy them. Something.

Thanks to those of you who’ve mentioned liking these recommendations. If you do end up seeing any of them, it’d be fun to hear what you thought!

Monday, 15 December

10:30am EST / 9:30am CST – TCM – My Favorite Wife
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne made three films together, and though My Favorite Wife doesn’t hold a candle to their earlier outing The Awful Truth, it’s still an enjoyable screwball comedy, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing. Dunne returns to her husband Grant after seven years of being shipwrecked and believed dead, only to find him about to be remarried. Oh, and she’s brought fellow shipwreckee Randolph Scott with her.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Guys and Dolls
Marlon Brando gets his musical on as charming gambler Sky Masterson and romances straight-laced Jean Simmons as part of a bet – at first. But Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine steal the show as the city’s go-to craps game host and his long-suffering fiance.

9:00pm / 8:00pm – IFC – Trainspotting
Days in the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. Sounds like a downer, and I won’t say it’s not, but it’s also brilliant and searing. Danny Boyle is a director who can take stories that could be routine and make them into something special. His current film Slumdog Millionaire is getting rave reviews, so check that one out, too.
(repeats at 1:00am EST 16th)

10:45pm / 9:45pm – TCM – Hamlet (1948)
Is Laurence Olivier’s moody Dane the definitive Hamlet? I’m not sure, so take a look for yourself and get back to me.

Tuesday, 16 December

11:25am / 10:25am – 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).

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Said to be Hitchcock’s personal favorite of all of his films – an interesting choice, given the plethora of more iconic films from him, but Shadow of a Doubt definitely has its charms. The ever-great and too often underused Teresa Wright is young Charlie, who idolizes her namesake Uncle Charlie, who we know (though she does not) is the infamous Black Widow murderer.

12:00pm / 11:00pm – TCM – The Third Man
Orson Welles is the elusive Harry Lime in this intelligent thriller from director Carol Reed and screenwriter Graham Greene, Joseph Cotten the journalist trying to track him down. From the moody noir lighting to Lime’s ingenious monologue about power and cuckoo clocks, The Third Man is one of the greatest films of all time. MUST SEE

1:00am / 12:00pm (17th) – Sundance – Topsy-Turvy
Gilbert & Sullivan played a large part in the development of the musical comedy, and Topsy-Turvy details their tumultuous working relationship and their stage successes. This film flew under the radar a bit a few years ago, but got a fair amount of critical praise and deserves more play than it’s had.

Wednesday, 17 December

2:45pm / 1:45pm – TCM – The Apartment
Billy 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

5:00pm / 4:00pm – TCM – The Great Escape
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
In case you hadn’t noticed, I pretty much think this film is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Okay, that might be a little much. (Or not, since I’m not really a sliced bread fan. But that’s by the by.) Anyway, I’ve hyped 4 Months just about every chance I’ve gotten, so why should I stop now? See it. See it now. Or, like, Wednesday at 10pm. MUST SEE

Thursday, 18 December

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – Topkapi
If The Great Escape is the greatest example of a reverse heist film, then Topkapi is at least one of the top five actual heist films. I love me some heist films.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – 12 Angry Men
My dad is fond of pointing out that 12 Angry Men must’ve been one of the most economical movies to make ever, given that it basically only needed one set. And yet, watching and listening to twelve jurors debate the fate of one defendant accused of murder remains a riveting experience, even sixty years later.

Friday, 19 December

9:45am / 8:45am – TCM – Paths of Glory
In this early Stanley Kubrick film, Kirk Douglas argues against implacable military brass for the lives of his soldiers, accused of cowardice in battle because they refused to obey an idiotic order calling for a suicidal charge. I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to, but there are definitely a lot of interesting things going on – I particularly liked the exploration of the disconnect between old military tactics and new warfare reality (which is a particular favorite historical topic of mine, somehow, and likely the source of my fascination with World War I).

7:15pm / 6:15pm – IFC – The Player
I forget what all happens in this Robert Altman film. I remember it being good, except that Tim Robbins for some reason annoys me so I had a difficult time caring about his character, which was kind of a problem. So why did I put it on here? Because it has an amazing opening tracking shot, intentionally meant to beat the record for longest opening tracking shot but also serving as an extremely good introduction to the world of the Hollywood film studio within which the film is set.

9:30pm / 8:30pm – IFC – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This is the one Wes Anderson film I haven’t seen. I need to rectify that, because I LOVE everything else he’s done.

Saturday, 20 December

10:25am / 9:25am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first in Baz Luhrmann’s informal Red Curtain trilogy, set in the world of Australian ballroom dancing, which gets shook up when one of the dancers dares to introduce *gasp* his own flavor of Latin dancing into the highly-regulated competition.
(repeats 3:15pm EST)

12:15pm / 11:15am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Naive and idealistic James Stewart gets appointed junior senator at the behest of conniving senator Claude Rains, who expects to control the state with Stewart in his pocket. But Rains underestimated Stewart’s drive for goodness and justice, which leads to one of the most famous filibusters in cinematic (or probably real-life) history. Capra favorite Jean Arthur is on hand as the hardboiled cynic warmed by Stewart’s presence. MUST SEE

6:35pm / 5:35pm – IFC – Gosford Park
Murder, intrigue, and understated class strife rule the day in Altman’s foray into British drama, though he keeps his signature ensemble cast.
(repeats 1:15pm EST on the 21st)

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Capra again, with Stewart and Arthur again, this time as a newly affianced couple whose families – one conservative bankers, the other unconventional kooks – clash as they get to know each other.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – Sundance – All About My Mother
I have yet to see all of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s films, but if he had just made this one, he’d go down as a master in my book. A mother loses her son in a car accident, and in the process of mourning him returns to her home town to reconnect with her past. Oh, and there’s a lot of theatre (the title is a take-off from theatre story All About Eve), a pregnant nun, and some transvestites. Par for the course for Almodovar, really, but All About My Mother has such heart and depth that I can’t help falling in love with it every time, due in no small part to a terrific performance by Cecilia Roth. MUST SEE

Sunday, 21 December

6:30am / 5:30am – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
As far as I know, this is the only film Hitchcock made twice, directing a remake in 1956 with James Stewart and Doris Day. I actually haven’t seen the earlier version myself yet, but it has Peter Lorre in it, and that’s never a bad thing.

8:00am / 7:00am – TCM – Good News
If you’re the type of person who a) likes people randomly breaking out into song and b) is willing to believe that thirty-somethings June Allyson and Peter Lawford could be college students, you’ll probably like Good News. It’s mindless fun of the type MGM did so well, as braniac Allyson takes on the arduous task of tutoring jock Lawford in French. One of those that isn’t that great a film, but everyone seems to have had a lot of fun making it, and I’m willing to reciprocate by enjoying myself watching it.

1:15am / 12:15am (22nd) – TCM – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1926)
Everyone knows about Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur. You know, the one that won eleven Oscars, a record which stood for, like, fifty years? This isn’t that one. This is the 1926 silent version of the same story, with pre-talkie hearththrob Ramon Novarro as Ben-Hur, and an equally impressive (for its time) chariot race sequence. In some ways, I actually prefer this version to the bombastic 1959 version, and it’s definitely worth a watch.

3:45am / 2:45am (22nd) – TCM – The 400 Blows
Ah, Truffaut. Oh, The 400 Blows. Words can hardly describe how much I love this film, and what it has meant to me, cinematically speaking. It was the beginning of my love affair with the French New Wave, one of the first non-English films I whole-heartedly loved, and really opened up a whole world of filmic experience and critical thought to me. Beyond that, it’s a beautiful and unforgettable film in and of itself, a remarkably real, moving, and unmanipulative (okay, maybe a little manipulative) foray into the life of a young Parisian boy on the cusp of adulthood. Don’t miss it. MUST SEE