Tag Archives: The Big Sleep

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: 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 – 22-28 December

Merry Christmas, everyone! I apologize for not getting this out on Sunday. I was having eureka moments in programming and it completely slipped my mind.

Tuesday, 23 December

12:35am / 11:35pm (24th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Another chance at one of the best movies from last year.

Wednesday, 24 December

11:10am / 10:10am – Sundance – Fahrenheit 451
Truffaut’s first English-language film, an adaptation of Bradbury’s famous anti-censorship, anti-passive media novel. Rewatched it recently, and found it better than I had remembered.

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – The Bishop’s Wife
Not one of my favorite Christmas films, but its popularity continues despite my ambivalence. :)

1:00am / 12:00am (25th) – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
I forget to count this as a Christmas film, but it is the origin of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” so I guess it is. It’s also just plain great.

Thursday, 25 December

4:00pm / 3:00pm – Sundance – The Constant Gardener
I’d have to check and make sure, but I think The Constant Gardener is sitting pretty right at the top of my Best of 2005 list. Its combination of love story, conspiracy thriller, and human rights drama meshes perfectly, and isn’t hurt by gorgeous cinematography, a moody and contemplative tone, and a terrific performance from Rachel Weisz (which earned her an Oscar).

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – Ben-Hur (1959)
TCM showed the silent version of Ben-Hur a couple of weeks ago; here’s the Charlton Heston version. They’re also doing King of Kings and The Greatest Story Ever Told earlier in the day, if your need for life-of-Jesus epics isn’t satiated.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Casablanca
Bogart. Bergman. Witty bon mots. Thwarted romance and nobility. Classic.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – The Big Sleep
Bogart and Bacall in Howard Hawks’ version of Raymond Chandler’s best detective novel. Can’t get any better than that.

12:00pm /11:00pm – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Bogart inhabits Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating pretty much the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective. Not mention setting the early benchmark for noirs films.

2:00am / 1:00am (26th) – TCM – The African Queen
I didn’t love The African Queen as much as I wanted to, and I don’t know why. Bad mood probably. I felt like Bogart, despite his Oscar win for this, was phoning it in a little, and Hepburn felt over the top. Anyway, it’s still one you oughta see once, just so you can say you have.

4:00am / 3:00am (26th) – TCM – High Sierra
Bogart’s breakout role as an on-the-run con man who gets involved with the lame Joan Leslie. (No, I mean actually crippled.) He’d been bumming around as a Warner second lead or villain, but with 1941’s double punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, he unequivocally arrived.

Friday, 26 December

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Lawrence of Arabia
There were a lot of epics made in the 1950s and ’60s. Today most of them are laughable to one degree or another. But Lawrence of Arabia stands as tall as it ever did, refusing to reduce its enigmatic subject into the confines of normal biography or explain his conflicting actions and traits. Plus, the most gorgeous desert cinematography you’ll ever see. Ever.

Saturday, 27 December

8:00am / 7:00am – IFC – The Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai epic usually appears very near the top of any list of favorite/best foreign films. My difficulty with Japanese cinema means it’s not that high for me yet, but I respect it for its influence alone. It’s basically Kurosawa’s take on the Western, and in return it spawned the revisionist Western of the 1960s with its complicated heroes and moral ambiguity.

12:00pm / 11:00am – TCM – The Great Escape
Steve McQueen, cool as only Steve McQueen could be, leads an elaborate escape attempt from a WWII POW camp. It’s a lot more fun than that sounds.

3:00pm / 2:00pm – TCM – True Grit
John Wayne won an Oscar for his role in this. I feel like it may have been a lifetime achievement sort of thing, despite being in a competitive category, but hey – what do I know? I actually haven’t seen it yet.

3:30pm / 2:30pm – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
My favorite of Hayao Miyazaki’s fantastic animated features.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Woman of the Year
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, together for the first time. And would you believe that this is one of only a couple of their eight films together that I haven’t seen yet? I’ve DVR’d it at least twice, but it keeps getting deleted before I watch it. Third time’s the charm?

10:45pm / 9:45pm – IFC – The Cooler
I mentioned The Cooler as one of my favorite Maria Bello films in my 20 Favorite Actresses post, and in fact, it’s one of my favorite recent indie films, no qualifications. William H. Macy, who’s always worth watching, turns in one of his most sympathetic performances, and Alec Baldwin hones his ironic boss skills before he moved on to 30 Rock.

2:00am / 1:00am (28th) – TCM – Annie Hall
I’ve been denigrating Annie Hall in favor of Manhattan for a long time now, but I just rewatched Annie Hall last week, and wow. It’s way better than I remembered. I still love Manhattan to bits, but it’s at least a tie now between them. Brilliant writing. Brilliant.

Sunday, 28 December

8:00am / 7:00am – IFC – Rashomon
I actually like Kurosawa’s Rashomon quite a bit better than The Seven Samurai, and I imagine that’s due to my love of ambiguous narratives. A woman and two men meet in the woods. One man is killed. But what caused his death is unknown – we have conflicting stories from three witnesses, but cannot judge the truth. Rashomon is the first film to a) have completely unreliable cinematic segments and b) refuse to tell the audience which is true. It breaks the rule that what you see on screen is real, and it doesn’t allow either the characters or the audience any way to figure out what is real. Truly groundbreaking.

5:00pm / 4:00pm – IFC – The Princess and the Warrior
Tom Tykwer’s second film with Franka Potente isn’t as frenetic as the first (Run Lola Run), but has a quieter sort of mesmerizing power all its own. It never gained the traction that Lola did, but it deserves more of an audience than it’s gotten.

3:00am / 2:00am (29th) – TCM – Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
French writer/actor/director Jacques Tati specialized in nearly-silent physical comedy that reminds one at times of Chaplin or Keaton, but with a slightly more ironic French flair about it. In Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, a trip to the seashore turns out to be anything but relaxing.

Film on TV (22-26 Oct)

The Screengrab has started doing a feature highlighting films on TV worth setting your DVR for, and I figured, hey. Good idea. They generally pick a few off TCM, some of AMC, and fill it out with IFC and Sundance. I’ll probably lean heavily on TCM; I just went through next week’s listings on my DVR, and there were a LOT of good ones. Watching TCM is like a film education in and of itself. And I don’t get IFC and Sundance, so looking through those listings just depresses me.

Ideally I will do this on, like, Sunday. In the future.

Wednesday, 22 Oct

(And early Thursday morning; you’d have to set your DVR by Wednesday anyway, so it makes more sense to group them this way.)

10pm EST / 9pm CST – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Here’s your chance to see it, see it again, or pride yourself on not having to see it because you already own the DVD.

1:45am / 12:45am (23 Oct) – TCM – Val Lewton festival
All of these four Val Lewton-produced films are worth it. Classic 1940s B-movie horror. People ask me sometimes why these are considered B-movies; they have fairly high production values, but they don’t have top-tier casts. That’s usually the reason. Also, almost ALL horror films during the studio era were B-level productions, because they weren’t considered prestigious. Anyway, Lewton took a more high-minded approach, taking the titles he was given by the studio and creating highly atmospheric, often literary psychological dramas rather than the schlock the titles seem to indicate.
Cat People (1:45am) – An Eastern European woman arrives in the United States and gets married, but fears an ancient curse on her people that would cause her to turn on her husband. Oh, yeah, by turning her into a cat. Sounds silly, and sometimes it is, but the moody photography keeps it haunting.
I Walked With a Zombie (3:00am) – Or, Jane Eyre in the West Indies. Really. This is the cream of the Lewton crop. I’ve seen it probably five times, and I still enjoy it every time.
Isle of the Dead (4:15am) – A lesser Lewton, perhaps, but has a fantastic climax. Several people are quarantined on an island due to a plague outbreak; one of them may be a vorvolaka, a vampire-like creature in Greek legend.
The Body Snatcher (5:30am) – Boris Karloff turns in arguably his best performance as a 19th-century grave robber. More drama than horror, though the last sequence is a little terrifying.

Thursday, 23 Oct

11:30am / 10:30 am – 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.

8:00pm / 7:00 pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
I’ve recorded and watched this the last couple of times it was on TCM. I need to just buy the DVD already. Stanley Kubrick’s visually stunning journey through thousands of years of technological evolution and man-vs-machine conflict is still one of the ultimate science fiction films.

10:45pm / 9:45pm – TCM – Touch of Evil
Well, I wrote last week about the controversy over the new Touch of Evil DVD’s aspect ratio, and here’s the chance to see the film. I’m assuming TCM is showing the widescreen version. In any case, where else are you going to get to see Charlton Heston playing a Mexican policeman? Seriously, though, this is the last of the great films noir, more so for Orson Welles’ direction and performance as a corrupt cop than for Heston’s questionable ethnicity.

12:45am / 11:45pm – TCM – The Red Shoes
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger put out a string of fantastic films in the 1940s, and The Red Shoes is one of the best. Real ballerina Moira Shearer plays a wanna-be ballerina who finds her Svengali and rises to the heights of the art in a ballet based on Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the ballerina who could never stop dancing once she put on the red shoes. The love triangle that develops between Shearer, her Svengali manager, and her composer is second fiddle to the ballet itself – one of the greatest instances of dance ever put on film.

Saturday, 25 Oct

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with his classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its greatness.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Peeping Tom
One of Michael Powell’s few films where he didn’t work with Emeric Pressburger is this disturbing psychotic thriller about a man who kills women while taking pictures of their terror. Makes you wonder how much Pressburger was reining him in on their collaborations… I tend to get this confused in my head with Hitchcock’s Frenzy, so I’ll see if a rewatch helps differentiate them a bit.

Sunday, 26 Oct

6:00am / 5:00am – TCM – The Gay Divorcee
Most film buffs will put Top Hat and/or Swing Time at the top of the list of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, but I somehow have a huge love for The Gay Divorcee. Ginger hires a gigolo to try to force her husband to divorce her, but then thinks Fred (who wants to court her) is the gigolo. Mistaken identities for the win, and the stellar supporting cast doesn’t hurt at all, either. Plus, a young Betty Grable in a musical number with Edward Everett Horton. How can you go wrong?

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – The Birds
Say whatever you want, The Birds scares the crap out of me. In a good way. Honestly, I cannot breathe for like the last ten minutes of the film. In a good way. Every time I want to point out perfect pacing and timing in film, I always point to The Birds (and sometimes Jaws). Hitchcock (and Spielberg) knows just how long he can wait before springing the gotcha shot on you. The birds-on-the-jungle-gym scene? That’s what I’m talking about.

3:30pm / 2:30pm – AMC – An American Werewolf in London
This is one of the better werewolf movies out there. It’s sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris? Less so.

2:30am / 1:30am (27th) TCM – Vampyr
I haven’t actually seen this Carl Theodor Dreyer version of Dracula myself yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Especially since Netflix just told me that they don’t have it available anymore. So this may be the only easy way to see it for a while, just a heads up.

Okay, that gets us through Sunday, when I’ll hopefully get one for the next week ready. I’m sure you all know how well I stick to schedules. *eyeroll*