Tag Archives: The Bridge on the River Kwai

Film on TV: May 26-30

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Nanook of the North, playing on TCM on Thursday.

I apologize for the lateness of this post this week; life happened and I got behind on stuff. I thought it was still worth posting late, though, to point out TCM’s war film marathon over Memorial Day Weekend, running straight through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve highlighted a few here, many of them repeats for this column, but a couple of newly featured ones like Mister Roberts on Sunday and the Abbott-Costello slapstick Buck Privates on Saturday. If you like WWII films, though, just tune it to TCM this weekend and be done with it. They’ve also got a couple of really good ones tonight (From Here to Eternity and They Were Expendable) which they’re counting as part of their Donna Reed series, but would fit just as easily in a Memorial Day series. Also look out for the granddaddy of documentaries, Nanook of the North, on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 26

6:00pm – TCM – Stagecoach
Major breakthrough for John Wayne, here playing outlaw Cisco Kid – he and the various other people on a stagecoach form a cross-section of old West society that has to learn to get on together to make it to the end of the ride alive. Excellent performances and stunt-filled action sequences make this one of the best westerns ever made.
1939 USA. Director: John Wayne. Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

8:00pm – 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.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
Must See

Thursday, May 27

10:05am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 4:50pm)

6:25pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 5:35am on the 28th)

8:00pm – TCM – Nanook of the North
Widely considered the grandfather of the narrative documentary film, Robert Flaherty spent a year shooting footage among the Inuits in Canada, following Nanook in his daily life. This is one I’ve yet to catch up with myself, but I’m anxious to do so.
1922 USA. Director: Robert Flaherty.
Newly Featured!

Friday, May 28

12:00M – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.

5:30pm – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York, a pacifist who somehow decided that the fastest way to stop the killing was to join up and kill as many Germans as he could to end the war.
1941 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond.

8:00pm – TCM – Stalag 17
William Holden won an Academy Award as a POW in this Billy Wilder film. Wilder had a knack for making top-of-the-line films in just about every genre, so even though I haven’t gotten around to seeing this one myself yet, I’m willing to give it a shot just based on Wilder’s involvement.
1953 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves.

10:15pm – 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.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

1:15pm (29th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

Saturday, May 29

8:00am – TCM – Buck Privates
Abbott and Costello take on WWII with one of their better films, as a pair of street vendors who accidentally enlist in the army. There’s also a romantic subplot with a couple of other soldiers, and frequent musical interludes from The Andrews Sisters to keep things lively. Interestingly, the film was released in January of 1941 – several months before the US entered WWII (see also the Bob Hope comedy Caught in the Draft, released around the same time).
1941 USA. Director: Arthur Lubin. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, The Andrews Sisters.
Newly Featured!

1:35pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 4:55am on the 30th)

8:00pm – TCM – The Best Years of Our Lives
One of the first films to deal with the aftermath of WWII, as servicemen return home to find both themselves and their homes changed by the long years of war. Director William Wyler and a solid ensemble cast do a great job of balancing drama and realism without delving too much into sentimentality.
1946 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Herbert Russell, Cathy O’Donnell.

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

Sunday, May 30

10:00am – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 31st)

8:00pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda is the title character, an XO on a cargo ship who often butts heads with the captain (James Cagney), who runs the ship with an iron fist. The tone is a satisfying combination of comedy and drama, and with a cast that also includes William Powell in his last role and Jack Lemmon in one of his first, you can hardly go wrong. Though John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy share credit for the film, it’s mostly Ford – LeRoy was brought in to finish it when Ford had to undergo emergency surgery, but he tried to emulate Ford’s style as much as possible.
1955 USA. Director: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.
(repeats at 4:20am on the 31st)

Film on TV: February 15-22

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Spirited Away, playing on Sunday at 9:45am on IFC

A few new ones this week – the still powerful mental illness drama The Snake Pit on Monday, the mismatched buddy comedy The Odd Couple on Tuesday, Meryl Streep’s first Oscar-winning role in Kramer vs. Kramer on Wednesday, a great teaming for Taylor and Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Saturday, and one of Miyazaki’s best, Spirited Away on Sunday. A lot of great repeats, too – some Bogart and Bacall, some of Woody Allen’s best, a few of our favorite films of the decade (The Squid and the Whale and The New World), a pair of Soderberghs, some classic sci-fi from Kubrick and Spielberg, and a pair of Hitchcocks to finish out the week.

Monday, February 15

7:30am – TCM – I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Paul Muni plays an initially optimistic and energetic young man who struggles to find a job during the Depression. Eventually he ends up unwillingly involved in a robbery and sentenced to the chain gang. One of Warner Bros’ best “ripped from the headlines” socially conscious films – they did a lot of them in the 1930s.
1931 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson.

8:00pm – TCM – The Snake Pit
One of the earlier films to deal with the realities of mental illness seriously, with Olivia de Havilland as a woman in an insane asylum, brilliantly moving back and forth between lucidity and falling back in the fog of illness. She got an Oscar nom for her role, based on a true story.
1948 USA. Director: Anatole Litvak. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.

12:00M – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.

Tuesday, February 16

7:05am – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 3:05pm)

10:15am – TCM – Key Largo
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall team up for the final time on this great noirish melodrama of a group of people, including a wheelchair-bound hotel owner, his recently widowed daughter-in-law (Bacall), a war veteran (Bogart), and a ruthless gangster and his girl, forced to take refuge against a fierce hurricane. Among the best films for all involved, and that’s saying something considering who all is involved.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor.
Must See

10:15am – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 3:55pm)

2:00pm – TCM – Grand Hotel
This 1932 Best Picture Oscar-winner is honestly pretty creaky around the joints these days, but if you wanna see how they used to do ensemble pictures in the studio days, this is it. MGM’s top talent, from Garbo and Crawford to Beery and two Barrymores are all on hand.
1932 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt.

5:45pm – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
2004 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford.
(repeats at 8:30am and 1:15pm on the 17th)

8:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film.
1959 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft.
Must See

10:15pm – TCM – The Odd Couple
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have made a lot of movies together over the years, and this mismatched buddy film (written by Neil Simon) remains one of the best, as neatnik Felix (Lemmon) and slob Oscar (Matthau) become roommates and try not to drive each other nuts.
1968 USA. Director: Gene Saks. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, February 17

6:00am – IFC – Bananas
Woody Allen in full-on zany mode in one of his earlier films, as the wonderfully named Fielding Mellish. In an attempt to impress a politically-minded girl, Mellish runs off to a Latin American country and takes it over.
1971 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán.
(repeats at 11:45am and 4:35pm)

8:00am – TCM – The Private Life of Henry VIII
The first of several times Charles Laughton played England’s King Henry VIII, and he won an Oscar for it – it was a role that “fit” him very well, if you get my drift.
1933 USA. Director: Alexander Korda. Starring: Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon, Elsa Lanchester, Wendy Barrie, Binnie Barnes.
Newly Featured!

3:30pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
Must See

8:00pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
(repeats at 2:45am on the 18th)

2:15am (18th) – TCM – Kramer vs. Kramer
Meryl Streep won her first Oscar for this film, as the female Kramer in the title, opposite Dustin Hoffman in a realistic look at a couple going through the pains of divorce – and the affects of that split on their young son.
1979 USA. Director: Robert Benton. Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexaner.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, February 18

8:00am – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 2:00pm)

10:45am – IFC – Solaris (2002)
Kurt recently made a case for Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris being better than Tarkovsky’s original. I still haven’t seen either, but here’s your chance to re-evaluate Soderbergh’s, should you so desire.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone.
(repeats at 4:20pm)

6:05pm – IFC – The Good German
Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.

7:40pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.

8:00pm – IFC – Gangs of New York
It’s hard to argue with the concept of a Scorsese/diCaprio/Day-Lewis trifecta in a story about Irish gangs at the dawn of New York’s existence, though I found myself underwhelmed with it.
2003 USA. Director: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo diCaprio, Cameron Diaz.
(repeats at 3:15 am on the 19th)

1:30am (19th) – TCM – The Bad and the Beautiful
Vincente Minnelli directs Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and Gloria Grahame in one of the best dark-side-of-Hollywood noirish films this side of Sunset Boulevard.
1952 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame.

Friday, February 19

7:50am – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 12:45pm)

10:00am – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but thanks to strong performances and incredibly well-done yet subtle mise-en-scene from Minnelli, ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.
1959 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine.

10:30am – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.

12:30pm – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
One of Doris Day’s better roles places her as a singer in an abusive relationship with gangster/career supporter James Cagney. She’s tough yet vulnerable, and her rendition of the title song is suberb.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: James Cagney, Doris Day, Cameron Mitchell, Brian Keith.

2:45pm – TCM – Forbidden Planet
What’s better than Shakespeare’s The Tempest? Why, a science fiction film set on a planet run by a maverick genius, his robot, and his daughter, of course. Okay, Forbidden Planet isn’t really better than The Tempest, but it is an interesting take on the play, and an obvious influence on the original Star Trek.
1956 USA. Director: Fred M. Wilcox. Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis.

4:30pm – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
Glenn Ford is the teacher who takes on rowdy inner-city kids in one of the earlier “heroic teacher” films. A young Sidney Poitier is one of the students, and a scene in which a record of “Rock Around the Clock” is played is reputed to be the first time rock n’ roll appeared in a film.
1955 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier.

8:00pm – TCM – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn’s signature role in a career full of memorable films, as party girl Holly Golightly, trying to make her way in mod New York City. Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me encapsulates 1960s style probably more than any other film, and with a grace and warmth that never grows old.
1961 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney.
Must See

12:00M – TCM – Shane
Alan Ladd plays the titular cowboy, idolized by the young son of the family he takes refuge with as he tries to escape Jack Palance.
1953 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance.

6:00am (20th) – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 4:15pm on the 20th)

Saturday, February 20

6:15am – IFC – Love’s Labour’s Lost
Kenneth Branagh has taken on a lot of Shakespeare plays and usually does them with incredible fidelity (like his uncut, four-plus hour-long Hamlet). This time around, he takes a lesser-known comedy and adds music by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern to turn it into a 1930s style musical. It doesn’t work all the time, but for fans of Shakespeare and old musicals (like me), it’s still a fun watch.
2000 USA. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Alessandro Nivolo, Alicia Silverstone, Natascha McElhone, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Lillard.
(repeats at 11:00am and 3:45pm)

9:20am – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 2:05pm)

10:30am – TCM – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis both won acting awards for their parts in Mike Nichols’ version of Edward Albee’s dysfunctional dinner party play. Remains probably the most well-remembered team-up of erstwhile couple Taylor and Richard Burton.
1966 USA. Director: Mike Nichols. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis, George Segal.
Newly Featured!

3:15pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
The benchmark for intellectual science fiction, Kubrick’s probable masterpiece is a mindbending ride through a mysteriously alien-driven evolution, with plenty of time for man vs. machine conflict, beautiful space ballet, and gorgeous cinematography.
1968 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Musical tones and volcano images haunt Richard Dreyfuss, eventually leading to an encounter with some of the most strangely beuatiful and mysterious, yet apparently friendly, aliens ever put on film.
1977 USA. Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban.

Sunday, February 21

9:00am – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made. The quest for what makes publisher/politician Charles Foster Kane tick takes a journalist through a fractured narrative that never seems to give any definitive answers. Personally, I respect and recommend Kane for its innovations in narrative, cinematography, and cinema language, but I find it a difficult film to love (yet even that is fitting, as the difficulty of loving or being loved by Kane himself is a central theme).
1941 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
Must See

9:45am – IFC – Spirited Away
Often considered Hayao Miyazaki’s finest film, it’s easily among the best family-friendly animated films in existence, full of magic and wonder, gods and spirits, and shapeshifting spells.
2001 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Rumi Hiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:45am on the 22nd)

1:30pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

4:30pm – TCM – Doctor Zhivago
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this film, but I also haven’t seen it for many years – probably so long that I was too young to really get it. Idealistic Zhivago experiences the Bolshevik Revolution while also dealing with his conflicting feelings for his wife Tonya and young nurse Lara. Many things about the romance side of the story bothered me, mostly the fact that I liked Tonya way more than Lara, and I never understood why Zhivago wanted Lara so badly. Although Maurice Jarre did write her a lovely musical theme, I’ll say that.
1965 UK/USA. Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness.

8:00pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over.
1954 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint.
Must See

10:00pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all.
1959 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.
Must See

12:30am (22nd) – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring; Cary Grant, Grace Kelly.

Film on TV: January 11-17

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Henry V, playing on TCM Saturday at 6:00am.

There haven’t been so many newly featured films to highlight for quite a while as there are this week. Nice to have some new stuff to write up for a change! We have a couple of 1940s British classics in Henry V and Kind Hearts and Coronets on Saturday and Sunday respectively, plus some adaptations of great 19th and 20th century literature – A Streetcar Named Desire on Monday, and The Heiress and Cyrano de Bergerac on Sunday. This is the 1950 version of Cyrano, which I don’t think is quite as good as Gerard Depardieu’s 1990 version, but hey. It’s on right after Steve Martin’s Cyrano-inspired Roxanne, so there’s the fun of comparing and contrasting them. For musical fans, a couple of not-quite-classic but still enjoyable MGM productions: Ziegfeld Follies on Tuesday and Broadway Melody of 1936 on Sunday. And a few more recent offerings are also new to us this week, like Brian DePalma’s Blow Out on Sunday and the more-fun-than-I-expected Go on Monday.

Monday, January 11

8:00pm – IFC – Go
In the first section of this tripartite film, bored grocery store clerk Sarah Polley seizes an opportunity to broker a drug deal when her dealing coworker takes a trip to Vegas. It goes very wrong. Meanwhile, her coworker in Vegas gets mixed up in a murder there. Also meanwhile, two actors work with a narcotics officer to break up the drug ring. All three stories tie up together in the end, but not before a lot of well-constructed Pulp Fiction-esque jumping around. A lot of fun, and better than you might expect.
1999 USA. Director: Doug Liman. Starring: Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am)

10:15pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
Elia Kazan’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ southern gothic play unleashed Marlon Brando upon the world and served as a strong comeback for Vivien Leigh – all in all, not a bad day’s work.
1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Kim Stanley.

Tuesday, January 12

3:00pm – TCM – Ziegfeld Follies
A plotless film, intended to recreate the revue-style musical show that Ziegfeld was so well known for in the early days of Broadway. Not every segment is worthwhile, but Fred Astaire’s three numbers (one of them with Gene Kelly, the only time they worked together until That’s Entertainment!) are great, and Judy Garland has a fun spot doing a Greer Garson parody.
1946 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Lucille Bremer, William Powell.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, January 13

6:00am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 12:00N)

10:00pm – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.
1939 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.

Thursday, January 14

8:15am – Sundance – Bob le Flambeur
Jean-Pierre Melville’s noirish crime film about an aging gambler/thief who takes on one last job – knocking over a casino. Melville was the master of French crime films, and an important figure leading up to the New Wave – Godard name-checks this film in Breathless, mentioning Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as an associate of Michel’s.
1956 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Gérard Buhr, Daniel Gauchy.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

3:30pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film.
1959 USA. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: James Stewart, George C. Scott, Lee Remick.
Must See

6:15pm – TCM – While the City Sleeps
The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price’s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile.
1956 United States. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Ida Lupino, George Sanders

8:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

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

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

10:00pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
(repeats at 3:00am on the 15th)

3:00am (15th) – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.

Friday, January 15

9:15pm – IFC – The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

Saturday, January 16

6:00am – TCM – Henry V (1944)
Laurence Olivier’s version of Shakespeare’s historical epic was made during WWII and reflects England’s need of a national hero to look up to – his Henry is the epitome of English goodness and strength, making it interesting to compare this version with Kenneth Branagh’s much more conflicted Henry. Also notable for its art direction, borrowed from medieval illustrations.
1944 UK. Director: Laurence Olivier. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Renee Asherson, Leslie Banks.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Sunday, January 17

6:00am – TCM – Broadway Melody of 1936
MGM made four films under the Broadway Melody title (in 1929, 1935, 1936 and 1940), and this is easily the best – a polished, sparkling show biz tale with the production detail you expect from 1930s MGM. Eleanor Powell can dance up a storm no matter what film she’s in, and this is one of the few she did, honestly, that has any interest outside of her tap numbers.
1935 USA. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Starring: Robert Taylor, Eleanor Powell, Jack Benny, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen.

10:00am – TCM – Kind Hearts and Coronets
In one of the zaniest of the zany comedies that Alec Guinness was best known for in his early career, he plays eight, count ’em, eight characters – all relatives in line to receive a duke’s massive fortune upon his death. The last in line plots to murder all the others to make himself the sole heir.
1949 UK. Director: Robert Hamer. Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price.
Newly Featured!

4:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Blow Out
Sound man John Travolta is recording sound samples one night, and may have accidentally recorded a murder occurring. As he tries to investigate, he’s drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. Inspired to some degree by Antonioni’s photography-based Blow-Up, but this is definitely DePalma’s film all the way.
1981 USA. Director: Brian DePalma. Starring: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz.
Newly Featured!
(repeats 12:45am on the 18th)

8:00pm – TCM – Roxanne
Steve Martin takes on the classic story of Cyrano de Bergerac and his doomed love for the oblivious Roxanne, transposing it into modern times and making it much more consciously comedic.
1987 USA. Director: Fred Schepisi. Starring: Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)
And here’s a straight version of Cyrano. This time Jose Ferrer (who won an Oscar for the role) plays the title character, a poet marred by the extreme size of his nose, whose love for Roxanne is such that he helps handsome but dull Christian woo her since he thinks she’ll never notice him.
1950 USA. Director: Michael Gordon. Starring: Jose Ferrer, Mala Powers, William Prince.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.

2:15am (18th) – TCM – Wild Strawberries
On his way to accept an honorary degree, elderly medical doctor Victor Sjöström thinks back and re-evaluates his life while being plagued by nightmares. Sounds kinda depressing, but then again, it is Ingmar Bergman. And he has a way of making depressing seem AWESOME.
1957 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Victor Sjöstroöm, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin, Gunnar Björnstrand.

Film on TV: July 20-26

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In a Lonely Place, playing on TCM on Thursday, July 23rd, at 10:45am.

I started looking at the Fox Movie Channel as well this week – only one addition this time, but there may well be more in the future. Things on it keep catching my eye as I’m setting my DVR, so I figured I might as well add it to my list, especially this month as the other channels seem to be doing a lot of repeats. I also added a “Newly Featured!” tag at the bottom of entries that are NOT repeats. I still think the repeats are worth posting, though, in case someone wasn’t able to see them the first time and for new readers – that’s why I leave them on.

All times are Eastern.

Monday, July 20

6:05am – IFC – Umberto D
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic about an aging man struggling to live on his meager pension in post-war Rome. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and granted, not a lot happens. But by the end, you’ll have extraordinary sympathy for gentle Umberto and his dog. Oh, and a fantastic performance by non-actress Maria Pia Casillio – she offered to take acting lessons for the part but De Sica forbade her. Good choice.
(repeats at 10:45am and 3:20pm)

8:55am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with Aussie director Peter Weir. His films are almost always slow and methodical, which works for me sometimes and not others. It works in Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of his earlier films, in which a group of schoolgirls goes into the wilderness for a picnic and mysteriously disappear.
Newly Featured!

1:35pm – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.

6:05pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
Kevin Smith’s third film, not as low-fi indie as Clerks, as goofy as Mallrats, as irreverently genius as Dogma, as self-referential as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or as racy as Zach and Miri Make a Porno, but perhaps sweeter than all of them – Ben Affleck falls for Joey Lauren Adams, with the only slight obstacle being that she’s a lesbian.

8:00pm – TCM – A Trip to the Moon
Georges Méliès’ 1903 sci-fi film is the best example of his innovations in trick photography and special effects. He figured out that if you stopped the camera, changed the scene, and then restarted it, you could create illusions of appearances and disappearances, which he used to great effect in his story of scientists traveling to the moon and meeting fantastic creatures there. It’s a piece of film history that every film buff should see at least once.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 21st)

1:05am (21st) – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business. Must See
(repeats 11:30am on the 21st, and 8:20am and 3:50pm on the 23rd)

Tuesday, July 21

4:15pm – TCM – The Night of the Hunter
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way. Must See

Wednesday, July 22

5:45pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 23rd)

7:30pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
This German film beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, but The Lives of Others is good enough that I managed to get over it. Mostly. Anyway, in the film, a surveillance operator working for the Nazis assigned is to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working for the Resistance – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.

1:00am (23rd) – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films). Must See

Thursday, July 23

8:45am – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
Somewhat lesser-known Hitchcock film that ought to be top-tier. Small-town girl Teresa Wright idolizes her uncle Charlie, but we know that he’s an infamous murderer on the run. Hitchcock once made a distinction between mystery and suspense: mystery is when there’s tension because the audience doesn’t know whodunit, suspense is when there’s tension because the audience does. This film is a perfect example of suspense, and Hitchcock’s preference for telling the audience whodunit very early in the film and letting them squirm.
Newly Featured!

10:05am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
Almost all New Wave films were directed by men, and there’s a definite undercurrent of misogyny in most of them – or at least a clear lack of understanding of women. Enter Agnes Varda, who took New Wave sensibilities, added in her own painterly touches, and a strong feminine perspective – and you get incredible films like this one, a spare story of a woman who discovers she has cancer. The mix of New Wave detachment and the evocation of the woman’s flittering emotions just under the surface combine perfectly to skyrocket the film onto my all-time favorites list. Must See
(repeats at 3:05pm)

10:45am – TCM – In a Lonely Place
Simply a brilliant film from director Nicholas Ray – Humphrey Bogart gives probably his best performance as washed-up screenwriter Dixon Steele, who’s trying to make a comeback with a new adaptation. When a coatcheck girl gets murdered after he was the last to see her, he naturally comes under suspicion, but his neighbor Laurel (Gloria Grahame) gives him an alibi and soon the two begin a relationship which just might save Dix from more than a murder charge – or might not. There’s a raw intensity here that few films have ever matched. Must See
Newly Featured!

12:30pm – 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

2:00am (24th) – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks he’ll be easy to control. But Smith doesn’t toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.

Friday, July 24

10:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly. This is a favorite among Row Three writers, so check it out.
(repeats at 3:45pm)

12:00N – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, July 25

6:15am – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:15pm)

10:00am – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home (his behavior is both caused by and threatens his mother’s poor health).
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:30pm)

8:00pm – TCM – A Night at the Opera
One of the best of the Marx Brothers’ zany comedies finds them running awry through the world of opera. This is the one that contains the famous “how much stuff can we stuff into a stateroom” scene. And subplot with Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but that’s best ignored as much as possible. Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Young Frankenstein
My pick for best Mel Brooks movie of all time, yes, over Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. Gene Wilder is the title character, a relative of the original Dr. Frankenstein who derides the research into the animation of dead tissue as poppycock. Until he inherits the Frankenstein castle and starts doing some experimenting of his own. And hilarity ensues. Pretty much right up there with the most quotable movies ever for me. Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:00pm and 12:00M)

10:00pm – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 26th)

4:15am (26th) – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.

Sunday, July 26

8:00am – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments and I think a rewatch would jump it up in my estimation greatly.
(repeats at 3:15pm)

10:30am – TCM – Topper
Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are hard-living young couple who crash their fancy car after a night of drinking and end up as ghosts. They choose to spend their afterlife haunting Grant’s uptight boss Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) and teaching him to enjoy life again. Something of a screwball comedy without the battle of the sexes part; slight but a lot of fun.
Newly Featured!

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.

10:00pm – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene. Must See

10:45pm – TCM – Rope
Hitchcock is well-known for his formal experimentation. In Rope, he shoots everything from a single camera position – on top of the chest containing the body of the boy that John Dall and Farley Granger killed before inviting several people over for a party. It’s also meant to appear as one take, though the ten-minute max reel length of the time forced him to fudge a bit on that. The story is based on the real-life Leopold-Loeb murder case, where two young men killed an acquaintance just to see if they could pull it off.

3:30am (27th) – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it. Must See

Film on TV: June 22-28

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Rear Window, playing on TCM on Sunday, June 28th at 12:15am

As TCM nears the end of their month of Great Directors, they shine the spotlight on George Stevens, Ernst Lubitsch, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, and George Cukor. And a mini-spotlight on David Lean on Friday morning.

Monday, June 22

10:45am – IFC – 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.
(repeats 5:05am on the 23rd)

4:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg is a piece of work, and by that I mean some of the best work Bogart has on film. He’s neurotic, paranoid, and generally mentally unstable. Or is he? That’s the question after first officer Van Johnson relieves him of duty as being unfit to serve and faces charges of mutiny.

Great Directors on TCM: George Stevens
I’m not a huge fan of Stevens, personally, but I think my apathy is largely based on how overrated I think Giant is, and TCM isn’t playing that anyway.

10:00pm – TCM – Shane
Alan Ladd plays the titular cowboy, idolized by the young son of the family he takes refuge with as he tries to escape outlaw Jack Palance.

12:00M – 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.

2:15am (23rd) – TCM – Swing Time
Many people call Swing Time the best of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, and it’s certainly up there. Frothy story? Check. Jerome Kern music? Check. Fantastic dances? Check. Of course. Must See

Tuesday, June 23

7:00am – Sundance – Nights of Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria, one of the films Federico Fellini made during his sorta-neo-realist phase, casts Masina as a woman of the night, following her around almost non-committally, yet with a lot of care and heart. And Masina is simply amazing in everything she does – not classically beautiful, but somehow incredibly engaging for every second she’s onscreen. Must See
(repeats at 10:00pm on the 28th)

9:00am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
(repeats 2:35pm)

3:15pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
One of the best courtroom dramas ever made – James Stewart vs. George C. Scott as lawyers on a murder/rape trial that may not be quite what it seems. And that’s aside from the top-notch jazz score by Duke Ellington, which is in itself reason enough to see the film. Must See

Great Directors on TCM: Ernst Lubitsch
Lubitsch was one of several directors who came over to the US from Germany in the 1920s – while Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau and others brought German Expressionism and the moody sensibility that would become film noir, Lubitsch brought a sparkling continental wit and sophistication that informed the screwball comedy. The famed “Lubitsch touch” proved inimitable, though, and his best films are impossible to mistake for anyone else’s. I feel a little let down by TCM, though, that they’re not playing To Be or Not to Be, not only Lubitsch’s finest hour, but one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen.

8:00pm – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original version of You’ve Got Mail has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding employees of a shop who are unknowingly exchanging romantic letters. Ernst Lubitsch brings his warm European wit to bear, making this dramedy a cut above the norm.

10:00pm – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.

2:00am (24th) – TCM – The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
In this silent film, Ramon Novarro is the titular prince and Norma Shearer the barmaid whose love tempts him away from his royal duty – a bit like Roman Holiday in reverse. There’s a later musical version, but even with the voice of tenor Mario Lanza, it can’t really compare to Lubtisch’s original.

Wednesday, June 24

4:00pm – TCM – The Thin Man
William Powell and Myrna Loy made eight or ten films together, but none more memorable, witty, sophisticated, or enjoyable as The Thin Man. Their portrayal of Nick and Nora Charles, a married detective couple pulled into a case of disappearance by an old friend, remains one of the most refreshing views of married life in all of cinema. Plus the script is fantastic, the plot decent (though a bit reliant on familiar Agatha Christie techniques), and the wildly varying acting styles of the supporting cast amusing. No seriously, I promise. Must See

6:00pm – TCM – After the Thin Man
The Thin Man was such a rousing success that it spawned five sequels – this second in the series the only other one really worth watching (though Powell and Loy are generally worth watching anyway). It also boasts an extremely young James Stewart in only his second or third year in Hollywood.

Great Directors on TCM: Stanley Kubrick
Too bad Kubrick tended to make rather long movies; TCM is only playing two of them tonight, and neither one is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Boo. There’s not much I need to say about Kubrick – he was a visionary in both form and content, constantly pushing the envelope on what he could put in movies, from the Cold War satire of Dr. Strangelove, the ultraviolence of A Clockwork Orange and the bloody glee of The Shining, to the sexual obsessions of Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut. And the man had an eye for visuals like no other.

10:30pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.

12:15am (25th) – TCM – Lolita
I haven’t seen Kubrick’s Lolita, and having just finished reading and being heavily disturbed by the book, I’m debating whether or not I want to. But it is on, and it is Kubrick, so I’ll list it.

Thursday, June 25

6:30pm – IFC – Pi
Darren Aronofsky’s first feature is this fever dream of a mathematician searching for the numeric patterns that will unlock the secrets of the stock market – paranoid, fearful of human contact, and beset by terrible headaches, he’s also pursued by Wall Street factions and Hasidic Jews, each seeking the results of his formulas. It’s heady stuff, but Aronofsky’s the right guy for that.

Great Directors on TCM: Federico Fellini
Fellini is one of the touchstone figures of European cinema, no question. From his sort-of neo-realist (but too quirky to really be neo-realist) films of the 1950s through his autobiographical opuses of the 1960s and his flamboyantly surreal 1970s films, he never made a film that wasn’t undeniably Fellini, and yet it’s easy to see his ties to nearly every cinematic movement that took place during his long career. (See also Nights of Cabiria, playing on Sundance on the 23rd and 28th.)

8:00pm – TCM – La Strada
Fellini’s most enduring muse, Giulietta Masina, here plays the apparently simple but amazingly good-hearted Gelsomina, indentured to circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) – her loyalty unshaken despite his cruelty. Masina is perfection here. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – Juliet of the Spirits
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Juliet of the Spirits, and I remember finding it difficult when I did see it, but it makes a nice double feature with La Strada. Both start Giulietta Masina, but they’re from distinctly different periods in Fellini’s career. He’s quite surrealist here, from what I recall, having Juliet retreat into fantastic reveries to escape her life with an unfaithful husband, as opposed to La Strada‘s distinct tendency toward neo-realism.

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 a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey.

2:45am (26th) – Roma
Fellini returns to nostalgic auto-biography here, giving a series of impressionistic and over-the-top scenes of Rome through the eyes of a returning filmmaker who grew up there.

Friday, June 26

12:00N – TCM – Brief Encounter
Beautifully understated romantic drama of a chance encounter at a railway station cafe between two married people who know better than to indulge their burgeoning love for each other, but do so anyway. David Lean directs.

5:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.

5:50pm – 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.

Saturday, June 27

Great Directors on TCM: Alfred Hitchcock
I figured TCM was saving Hitchcock for the last weekend of their Great Director’s month. They really like Hitchcock over there, which works out for me, since he’s one of my all-time favorite directors.

7:15am – TCM – Suspicion
Joan Fontaine thinks her husband Cary Grant is poisoning her, but she can’t be quite sure. Neither can the audience, really, although that depends on whether you go with Hitchcock’s original ending or the one the studio tacked on because they thought Hitchcock’s would be unpalatable to audiences.

9:00am – TCM – Rebecca
Hitchcock’s first American film, based on Daphne du Maurier’s romantic novel. Rebecca is actually the previous wife of our mousy narrator’s new husband – her greatest fear is that he still loves Rebecca too much to care for her, but the truth may be more sinister than that. A lot of people really love this film, but I personally dislike the Hollywoodized ending enough that I’m not a huge fan.

11:15pm – TCM – Spellbound
Hitchcock indulged the 1940s Freudian craze with this suspenser starring Gregory Peck as a disturbed individual and Ingrid Bergman as his psychiatrist. Throw in a trippy Salvador Dali dream sequence and you’re all set!

1:15pm – TCM – Marnie
Marnie gets something of a bad rap, I think, because it comes right after Hitchcock’s amazing VertigoNorth by NorthwestPsychoThe Birds streak of genius, but I think it’s one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films, despite a few somewhat obvious plot devices and the fact that ‘Tippi’ Hedren can’t act. In some ways, the imperfections in this one are what makes it interesting. And Sean Connery’s husband is fascinating, whether or not you agree with everything he does.

3:30pm – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with this classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its brilliance, because it doesn’t depend on scares, really, for its greatness. Must See

5:30pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Notorious
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, 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

12:15am (28th) – TCM – Rear Window
Hitchcock, Stewart, and Kelly mix equal parts suspense thriller, murder mystery, romance, voyeristic expose, ethical drama, caustic comedy and cinematographic experiment to create my favorite film of all time. Must See

2:15am (28th) – TCM – Vertigo
James Stewart is a detective recovering from a vertigo-inducing fall who’s asked by an old friend to help his wife, who has developed strange behavior. Hitchcock plays with doubling, fate, and obsession, all the while creating one of his moodiest and most mesmerizing films. And watch for a great supporting turn by Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s long-suffering best friend. Must See

4:30am (28th) – TCM – The 39 Steps
My vote for Hitchcock’s finest British-era film follows Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll though a twisty and witty tale of spies and mistaken identities.

Sunday, June 28

Great Directors on TCM: George Cukor
Cukor has a reputation for being a great woman’s director, and he was, in fact, a favorite of many of MGM’s most bankable female stars, from Norma Shearer and Vivien Leigh to Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn. His films are great exemplars of MGM’s polished studio style, while yet having a vitality that not every MGM director managed to capture.

8:00am – TCM – Dinner at Eight
Dinner at Eight is the best example of a 1930s MGM ensemble comedy. You got two Barrymores (Lionel and John), Jean Harlow (one of her top couple of roles), Wallace Beery (fresh off an Oscar win), Marie Dressler (forgotten now, but also just a recent Oscar winner at the time), and others converging for a dinner party. Sparkling dialogue is the real star here.

12:15pm – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting.

8:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Hepburn here is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made. Must See

10:00pm – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film every made (there are no men at all, so of course George Cukor directed it, right?). Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written. I don’t know if this is really a must-see in the grand scheme of cinematic history, but dang it, I don’t care. I find it incredibly entertaining. Must See

12:30am (29th) – TCM – My Fair Lady
George Cukor finally won an Oscar in 1964 for this film, a high-quality adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, itself based on the Greek story of Svengali and Trilby. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn acquit themselves well as phonetics professor Henry Higgens and street urchin Eliza Doolittle. I guess I just find it a bit overlong and overproduced, as most 1960s musicals were, but I may be in the minority.