Tag Archives: The Apartment

Elsewhere: Billy Wilder and More Billy Wilder

A couple of elsewheres this time, but both are about Billy Wilder. You can expect a lot of that, since I’ve been researching him and his films extensively and I want to get as much content out of that as I can. :)

Over at the Flickchart blog, I wrote a career overview and Top Ten, using Flickchart’s global Top Ten rather than my own.

And over at Row Three, I resurrected the “Finite Focus” feature to highlight a scene from The Apartment.

Check them out!

Film on TV: June 8-14

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

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

Monday, June 8

12:45pm – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).

6:15pm – TCM – The Big Heat
Director Fritz Lang came out of the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, so it’s not surprising that he ended up making some of the better noir films, given film noir’s borrowing of Expressionist style. Glenn Ford is a cop working against his corrupt department, but the parts you’ll remember from the film all belong to Gloria Grahame in a supporting role as a beaten-up gangster’s moll. Her performance and Lang’s attention to detail raise the otherwise average story to a new level.

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

9:00pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location. Must See

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

10:45pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).

12:30am (9th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
After On the Town, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly teamed up for what is now usually considered one of the greatest musicals of all time. Inspired by songs written by MGM producer Arthur Freed at the beginning the sound era, Singin’ in the Rain takes that seismic shift in film history for its setting, focusing on heartthrob screen couple Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (the hilarious Jean Hagen) as the transition into sound – problem being that Lamont’s voice, like many actual silent screen stars, doesn’t fit her onscreen persona. Hollywood’s often best when it turns on its own foibles, and this is no exception. Must See

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

Tuesday, June 9

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

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

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

6:05pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.

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

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

9:30pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on). It’s worthwhile just for the surreal dream ballet in the middle.

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

Wednesday, June 10

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

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

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

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

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

12:00M – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.

2:00am (11th) – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Preston Sturges’ zaniest and most irreverent comedy gives Betty Hutton her best role as Trudy Kockenlocker, who goes out for a night on the town with a group of soldiers about to ship out. A few months later, she finds out she’s pregnant and can only vaguely remember an impromptu wedding ceremony with a soldier who may or may not be named Ratskiwatski. I’m always impressed that Sturges got away with as much as he did in this film in 1944.

Thursday, June 11

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

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

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

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

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

8:00pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai
Probably Kurosawa’s best-known film, The Seven Samurai is an eastern version of a Western, with down-on-their-luck samurai (led by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune) working together to help a ravaged village hold off bandit invaders. Completing the cycle of cinematic borrowing, the film was remade in the US as The Magnificent Seven. Must See

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

Friday, June 12

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

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

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

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

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

9:45pm – TCM – Broadway Danny Rose
In this lesser Woody Allen film, Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not only does Danny worry about the tenor’s wife, he also gets himself in trouble with the woman’s family.

11:15pm – TCM – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall and even Manhattan, both of which I love, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do. Must See

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13

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

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

3:30pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film. Must See

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

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

12:15am (14th) – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond and actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit. Must See

Sunday, June 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film on TV: 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: January 12-18

Monday, January 12

7:30am / 6:30am – IFC – The Seventh Seal
One of Ingmar Bergman’s better-known films, though I don’t like it as much as some of his others. I guess the image of a medieval knight playing chess with Death is an image that’s hard to get out of your head, though.
(repeats 12:35pm EST)

9:15am / 8:15am – IFC – American Splendor
Paul Giamatti burst on the scene with this film about unconventional comic book artist Harvey Pekar. It’s an appropriately offbeat, funny, cynical, and yet warm film.
(repeats 2:35pm EST)

Tuesday, January 13

2:00am / 1:00am (14th) – TCM – Annie Hall
TCM’s playing this, one of Woody Allen’s best, a lot lately, and that’s not a bad thing. Must See

Wednesday, January 14

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – The Apartment
Also a frequent TCM film, but always worth another look. Tonight it’s part of a Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder marathon. Must See

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
But if you only see one Jack Lemmon-Billy Wilder film, see this one. If you only see one Marilyn Monroe film, see this one (or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but I digress). If you only see one Tony Curtis film…you get the idea. Must See

Thursday, January 15

12:30am / 11:30am – TCM – Double Indemnity
And if you only see one Billy Wilder film, see THIS one. :) Still one of the most iconic and definitive film noirs ever made (seriously, when people ask you “what is film noir, anyway,” you could almost just say Double Indemnity – almost). Also provides Barbara Stanwyck another chance to be AWESOME. Must See

2:30am / 1:30am (16th) – TCM – Shaft
The original black private eye who got all the ladies. There was a huge wave of African-American-centric films in the 1970s (so-called blaxploitation films), and Shaft is one of the first and one of the best.

4:15am / 3:15am (16th) – TCM – The Big Sleep
I think I’ve already highlighted this one a few times since I started this post series. I don’t care. This is one of my favorite movies, the best hard-boiled detective film ever made, one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, and the best pairing of Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It’s full of win any way you look at it. Must See

Friday, January 16

6:15am / 5:15am – TCM – Thousands Cheer
There’s nothing particularly special about Thousands Cheer, a fairly routine 1943 war-time musical, except that it ends with a spectacular revue of MGM stars including June Allyson, Frank Sinatra (both in probably their first or second screen appearance), Virginia O’Brien, pianist Jose Iturbi, Judy Garland, and the actual stars of the picture, Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson.

6:20am / 5:20am – IFC – Fanny and Alexander
One of Ingmar Bergman’s later films; I haven’t seen it yet, but hopefully this will be the time that my DVR decides not to randomly delete it before I watch it. I know it’s about a couple of kids, which is an unusual subject for Bergman, but I’ve heard so many good things about it I can’t wait.
(repeats 12:25pm EST)

8:30am / 7:30am – TCM – National Velvet
Being as how I grew up loving old movies AND horses, I probably don’t need to state that I pretty much wore out my tape of National Velvet. It’s one of the greatest kid-friendly films in existence, with a young Elizabeth Taylor and an exciting horse race. Ah, good times.

Saturday, January 17

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford in one of those late 1960s revisionist westerns that managed to simultaneously revitalize a genre whose traditional values were out of step with the times and kill the genre for future filmmakers. Well, that aside, Butch Cassidy is a great film any way you cut it.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – IFC – Raging Bull
It’s a huge black mark on my cinephile record that I haven’t seen Raging Bull, widely acclaimed as a high point (or maybe THE high point) in the careers of both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Situation will hopefully soon be rectified.
(repeats 1:30am EST and 11:30am EST on the 18th)

Sunday, January 18

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
The Brewster sisters are kindly old ladies – even if they are poisoning lonely old gentleman callers. As an act of kindness! Such is the premise of one of the screwiest of all comedies, which never lets up on the hilarity. Cary Grant turns in one of his most sustained comic performances, and even the usually quite serious Peter Lorre gets in on the fun.

10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – Notorious
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films (and if you know how I feel about Hitchcock, that’s saying a lot), and one of the greatest spy films ever. Spy Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman because of her relationship with suspected enemy spy Claude Rains – but how far is she willing to go? Simply fantastic on every level. Must See

12:35am / 11:35am – TCM – The Cameraman
Buster Keaton works as a cameraman on a film to try to get closer to the attractive leading lady. I’ve seen this years ago, and remember enjoying it quite a lot. Plus, any chance to see Keaton is a chance worth taking.

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