Tag Archives: The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Film on TV: May 31-June 6

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, playing on TCM on Monday.

On Monday, TCM pays tribute to Clint Eastwood, showing all three of his Man With No Name Leone films, plus a couple of the Dirty Harry films, and others in between. If you’re an Eastwood fan, be sure to check out the whole schedule at TCM.com. Then on Wednesday, IFC has Lars von Trier’s latest Antichrist – it’s at the very least another solidly-made and thought-provoking if somewhat offputting entry in that provocateur’s filmography. Most everything else are repeats, but some very good ones.

Monday, May 31

8:00am – 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.

9:45am – TCM – For a Few Dollars More
The follow-up to A Fistful of Dollars, which I have not yet seen myself; but I bought it recently on the cheap, so I really have no excuse. Soon.
1965 Italy. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonté, Mara Krupp, Klaus Kinski.
Newly Featured!

10:00am – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.
(repeats at 12:15am on the 1st)

12:00N – TCM – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The final film of the Leone-Eastwood Man With No Name series, and possibly the height of the spaghetti western genre. Here Eastwood and Eli Wallach as feuding partners-in-bounty-rigging stumble upon a promise of hidden treasure along with Lee Van Cleef and try to get to it while skirting the edges of the Civil War. Breathtaking on nearly every level.
1966 Italy. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef.
Must See
Newly Featured!

9:45pm – IFC – 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.

12:15am (1st) – TCM – Dirty Harry
Eastwood hung up his spaghetti western spurs and picked up a cop’s sidearm to play Harry Callahan, a cop who doesn’t always play by the rules but definitely gets what he’s after; in this case, a serial killer who begins to play a cat-and-mouse game with Callahan.
1977 USA. Director: Don Siegel. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, Andrew Robinson.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, June 1

6:15am – IFC – Paranoid Park
I go back and forth on whether I think Gus Van Sant is brilliant or a pretentious bore – maybe some of both. But I really quite liked the slow, oblique approach in this film about a wanna-be skateboarder kid who relishes hanging out with the bigger skateboarders at the titular skate park – but there’s a death not far from there, and it takes the rest of the movie to slowly reveal what exactly happened that one night near Paranoid Park. Gets by on mood and cinematography.
2007 USA Director: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Lu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney.
(repeats at 11:15am and 5:05pm)

8:45am – 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.
1950 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe.

1:00pm – 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

1:30am (2nd) – IFC – La Jetée
Very few short films become classics (outside of silent films and arguably Looney Tunes), but Chris Marker’s La Jetee, told entirely in sequences of still photographs, is one of them. In a postapocalyptic future, a man is sent back in time to try and stop WWIII from happening. But he both falls in love and is haunted by a childhood memory – two things that are fatefully interconnected.
1962 France. Director: Chris Marker. Starring: Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich.

Wednesday, June 2

9:30pm – TCM – The African Queen
One of several films John Huston and Humphrey Bogart made together 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.
1951 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley.

12:00M – IFC – Antichrist
Lars von Trier’s latest film isn’t exactly what I’d call fun to watch, but it definitely has its compelling moments in its story of a couple grieving over the death of their son and the lengths the husband will go to in order to help his wife recover her sanity – and the lengths to which her sanity is gone. Extremely strong performances from the two principals and von Trier’s way of mixing arthouse mood with extremely disturbing content make Antichrist hard to forget.
2009 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Newly Featured!

4:35am (3rd) – IFC – Pi
Darren Aronofsky’s first feature is this fever dream of a mathematician searching for the numeric patterns that will unlock the secrets of the stock market – paranoid, fearful of human contact, and beset by terrible headaches, he’s also pursued by Wall Street factions and Hasidic Jews, each seeking the results of his formulas. It’s heady stuff, but Aronofsky’s the right guy for that.
1998 USA. Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman.

Thursday, June 3

6:15am – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 11:45am, and 12:00N and 5:25pm on the 5th)

6:30pm – 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 on the 4th)

Friday, June 4

4:00pm – TCM – The Women
The cattiest, most man-less film ever made. Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written.
1939 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Weidler, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main, Hedda Hopper.

Saturday, June 5

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 6th)

8:15am – 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.
(repeats at 3:45pm)

12:00M – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.

Sunday, June 6

10:15am – 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

5:15pm – TCM – Funny Girl
Barbra Streisand tied Katharine Hepburn, no less, to win an Oscar for her role as Ziegfeld comedienne Fanny Brice, and well-deserved, too – she captures Brice’s mannerisms and her combination of winsome self-deprecation mixed with raucous comedic talent perfectly. The film is crafted strongly around her, too, with Wyler (with one of his last films) filling the widescreen beautifully and not letting the film, despite its long running time, stray too far into indulgence.
1968 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Barbra Streisand, Omar Sharif, Kay Medford, Anne Francis, Walter Pidgeon.

8:00pm – TCM – Old Yeller
One of the great tear-jerker family films, about a family in the old west who adopt a stray dog, growing to love and depend on the animal in the absence of their father (away on a cattle drive). Ah, yes, the good old days, when kids movies weren’t all happy-peppy all the time.
1957 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran.

Film on TV: April 12-18

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

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

Monday, April 12

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

10:00pm – Sundance – Bob le flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.
(repeats at 3:00am and 7:45am on the 13th, and 8:15am and 5:30pm on the 17th)

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

Tuesday, April 13

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

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

12:30pm – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly team up for what is now usually considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by songs written by MGM producer Arthur Freed at the beginning the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain takes that seismic shift in film history for its setting, focusing on heartthrob screen couple Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the hilarious Jean Hagen) as the transition into sound – problem being that Lamont’s voice, like many actual silent screen stars, doesn’t fit her onscreen persona. Hollywood’s often best when it turns on its own foibles, and this is no exception.
1952 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.
Must See

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

Wednesday, April 14

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

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

Thursday, April 15

6:05am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See
(repeats at 12:15pm)

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

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

Friday, April 16

8:00am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 1:05pm)

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

Saturday, April 17

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film on TV: 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

Independent and World Cinema: Catch-Up Post

I’m being arbitrary once again with my definition of “independent.” In this category, I’m going to include a) indie or non-mainstream films that are not new releases, like the first two films below, and b) new release films that are truly small films, i.e., did not get a lot of studio publicity and a wide release, and probably were not financed by a major studio, even their speciality arms. I don’t always know about the financing side, though, so I don’t want to use that as an absolute standard, even though it should be. Basically, this means that films like Juno or No Country for Old Men would appear in the New on DVD category rather than here. When in doubt, my logic goes “if a moviegoer who only goes to multiplexes knows about the film, it doesn’t go in the independent category.” I want to use it to highlight lesser-known films.

When I start writing on a film-by-film basis, Indie Cinema and World Cinema will be separate categories; I just threw them together here because there weren’t too many of either one.

Kicking and Screaming
NOT the Will Ferrell soccer movie. :) No, this is an early film from the guy who did The Squid and the Whale, one of my favorite movies from a couple of years ago. And this one is similarly excellent, though with much less plot. Basically take Slacker, throw in some Metropolitan, and then maybe a dash of Wes Anderson. The nominal plot follows a group of recent college graduates trying to figure out what to do next with their lives (a concept that hit very close to home among our group of grad students; after all, why else were we getting graduate degrees in English if not because we were unable to figure out what to do after college?). The story falls off a bit toward the end, but the characters are so identifiable and the script so outstanding that it comes very close to Richard Linklater’s best, which is a high compliment from me. Also, the cover of the Criterion edition is quite possibly the most awesome DVD cover ever, so I’m using it in lieu of the poster. Click on it to see it bigger and read the quotes, which are good in context, but perhaps even better out of context. ;)
Well Above Average
USA 1995; dir: Noah Baumbach; starring: Chris Eigeman, Samuel Gould, Olivia d’Abo
IMDb | The Frame

Dazed and Confused
My experience with other Linklater films had me anticipating this one to a possibly unhealthy degree, and it didn’t live up to my expectations. I think he does better with college and later than with high school, because Dazed and Confused was all right, but not great. Basically it follows a couple of freshmen as they try to survive the hazing given them by the older students and ingratiate themselves into the booze-and-drug ridden high school world. Yay! *eyeroll* It’s not that that story couldn’t work, it’s just that it doesn’t – it doesn’t go anywhere, and in a much less satisfying way than the way, say, Slacker didn’t go anywhere. I think because it felt like it was meant to go somewhere, whereas Slacker fit the meandering style much better. Plus, any movie wherein Matthew McConaughey (who I usually can’t stand) is the most entertaining part? Yeah.
Average
USA 1993; dir: Richard Linklater; starring: Jason London, Rory Cochrane, Wiley Wiggins
IMDb | The Frame

Wristcutters: A Love Story
While the opening credits run, Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) slits his wrists. Soon he finds himself in a limbo-esque place, full of other suicides who all go about relatively normal lives – working dead-end (no pun intended) jobs and wandering around aimlessly. It sort of reminded me of C.S. Lewis’s hell in The Great Divorce; just a dismal, grey place characterized more by depression and boredom than pain. Anyway, Shannyn Sossamon shows up one day, claiming that she’s not supposed to be there because she didn’t commit suicide. She snags Fugit and another friend and they start seeking whoever runs the place to fix the apparent administrative mix-up. Oh, and they’re also looking for Fugit’s ex-girlfriend, who committed suicide a few weeks after he did. I could go on with the plot; there’s a commune at one point, and a guy with Jesus delusions (played by the guy who played Gob on Arrested Development; I have such a hard time disassociating him with that role enough to see him in anything else), etc. Even though the story gets fairly unbelievable at times, even for a film that’s about suicide-limbo, it remains quirkily engaging.
Above Average
USA 2006; dir: Goran Dukic; starring: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon, Will Arnett
IMDb | The Frame

Hannah Takes the Stairs
I’m not wholly against considering films like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno as indie films, despite the fact that they had financing from specialty divisions of major studios and clearly straddle the line between mainstream and indie, but sometimes I’m tempted to just point at films like Hannah Takes the Stairs and say “Now THIS is an independent film.” Swanberg, Gerwig, and a group of other filmmakers including Ronald and Mary Bronstein, Mark and Jay Duplass (whose Baghead is in limited release now), and Andrew Bujalsi have made a number of films at this point loosely grouped together by critics under the name “Mumblecore.” Hannah got wider distribution than most of the others, but still was hardly seen outside of New York, Los Angeles, and Austin. Following a largely improvised script, Hannah is a twenty-something struggling through a failing relationship with her boyfriend and the possibility of relationships with two of her coworkers. There isn’t much more plot to mention, and the film comes under perhaps deserved criticism for its lack of development and the frustrating uncertainty of its heroine. On the other hand, there’s a rawness here that feels more real than most films, a rawness that gets polished away by the mainstream, a rawness I found quite refreshing. I certainly wouldn’t say that all films should be more like Hannah, but I think it’s important that there’s a space in the filmmaking/distribution world for these willfully non-mainstream films that push the envelope by refusing to play by the rules.
Above Average
USA 2007; dir: Joe Swanberg; starring: Greta Gerwig, Mark Duplass, Andrew Bujalski
IMDb | The Frame

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Fabulous. But then, you pretty much have to call any half-way decent film about three drag queens driving a bus (the eponymous Priscilla) through the Australian outback in outlandish costumes (and sometimes lipsynching to opera while sitting in an enormous shoe strapped on top of the bus) fabulous. 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. Ultimately, though, it’s a fun journey, at least for the audience if not necessarily for the three guys. Let me just say, though, that Hugo Weaving makes one ugly woman. Also interesting to see Guy Pearce before his big Hollywood roles – as my Australian friend Anna pointed out, I wonder who saw this film and thought, “you know what, I bet he’d be perfect for that straight-laced cop in L.A. Confidential!”
Above Average
Australia 1994; dir: Stephan Elliott; starring: Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce
IMDb | The Frame

Kwaidan
I’m working on my appreciation for Japanese film. I’m getting there with anime, especially Miyazaki, but even Kurosawa I often don’t connect to on the level I would like. My friend Kat suggested I try Kwaidan, since she feels roughly the same way and now places Kwaidan among her all-time favorite films. Unfortunately, I don’t know whether it’s because I watched it during a time of moving stress or what, but it didn’t have the same effect on me. Basically, it’s a collection of unrelated ghost stories, none of which are particularly scary. Or memorable, to me. Well, there was one I quite liked, about a blind monk who gets drawn away from the monastery at night to recite poems to a mystical court which only he can see. Honestly, most of the others I don’t remember. Given my level of distraction, though, I’ll put it on the rewatch list.
Average
Japan 1966; dir: Masaki Kobayashi; starring: Katsuo Nakamura, Rentaro Mikuni, Tatsuyo Nakadai
IMDb | The Frame