Tag Archives: The Conversation

Film on TV: August 17-23

Conversation.jpg
The Conversation, playing at 10pm on the 21st on TCM

Sorry about completely missing last week! I have been Tweeting reminders about the films over on Row Three’s Twitter account (Row Three being the group film blog I write for and crosspost these entries to), so if you’re on Twitter and want daily reminders about what’s coming to your TV, make sure you’re subscribed to the Row Three account.

Monday, August 17

8:30am – Sundance – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Luis Buñuel made a career out of making surrealist anti-bourgeois films, and this is one of the most surreal, most anti-bourgeois, and best films he ever made, about a dinner party that just can’t quite get started due to completely absurd interruptions.

6:25pm – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Laurence 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.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, August 18

10:15pm – TCM – True Grit
John Wayne won an Oscar for this film, one of his last. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say whether it was deserved or not, but hey. There it is.
Newly Featured!

4:30am (19th) – TCM – Baby Face
This film often comes up as a prime example of a pre-Code film, as Barbara Stanwyck very explicitly (and fairly literally) sleeps her way to the top of a corporation, using her body and manipulative skills to get what she wants every step of the way. Also look for a young John Wayne as an office assistant – he looks extremely uncomfortable in his suit!
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, August 19

8:35am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

9:35pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 20th)

12:00M – 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 5:15am and 11:15am on the 20th)

Thursday, August 20

9:45pm – TCM – Trouble in Paradise
This film and the next one, Design for Living, both date from the early 1930s, both star Miriam Hopkins, and were both directed by Ernest Lubitsch. Consequently, I cannot keep them straight in my head. I’m not even sure I’ve seen both. In any case, you can’t get much better than Lubitsch’s early ’30s comedies (the height of sophistication), so check them both out.
Newly Featured!

11:15pm – TCM – Design for Living
See above.
Newly Featured!

Friday, August 21

8:00pm – TCM – Bonnie & Clyde
This is a perfect film. If you have not seen it, see it. If you have seen it, see it again. In either case, rather than write again how much I love it, I will just refer you here.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance expert who eavesdrops on people for hire. When he overhears something that may lead to a murder, he has to decide what to do with his (possible) knowledge. I honestly prefer this Francis Ford Coppola film to The Godfather, and its exploration of the ethics of surveillance is certainly still very timely today. Must See
Newly Featured!

Saturday, August 22

8:00am – IFC – Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa takes on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, transposing it into feudal Japan, much as he did with King Lear in Ran. Kurosawa has a knack for getting the spirit of Shakespeare perfectly, while also staying true to his own country’s traditions.
Newly Featured!

10:05am – 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. Must See
(repeats at 3:30pm)

12:30pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Stanley 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. Must See

8:00pm – 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.

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. Must See

Sunday, August 23

1:00pm – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
The original 1962 version, not the pale comparison of a 2004 remake. Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia. Must See

Film on TV: Feb 16-22

Monday, February 16th

9:35am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s 1964 Beatles-starring film straddles several genres – musical, concert film, documentary, comedy. The good news is that it’s an excellent film in any genre. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any film an exuberant as this one, and with the Beatles right on the cusp of becoming the greatest band of all time… Must See
(repeats at 2:45pm)

10:00am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
James Cagney is a local criminal idolized by a gang of young boys. When he’s caught, it’s up to his childhood friend-turned-priest Pat O’Brien to convince him to do what he can to keep the boys from following in his footsteps. One of several gangster films that Cagney’s best known for.

3:30pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Billy Wilder. Barbara Stanwyck. Fred MacMurray. Edward G. Robinson. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest film noir ever made. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play this titular outlaws in this 1969 western, one of the greats of the 1960s revisionist cycle. Many great moments and shootouts make this one worth coming back.

10:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder. Marilyn Monroe. Jack Lemmon. Tony Curtis. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest comedy ever made. (Yes, I can do this with Billy Wilder movies for a long time…) Must See

Tuesday, February 17th

8:15am – TCM – The Red Shoes
Michael Powell. Emeric Pressburger. Moira Shearer…Okay, enough of that. But this really is one of the best ballet films ever made, though that’s a fairly small genre. The story is basically Svengali and comes across a little cliched today, but the extended ballet sequence has yet to be matched.

3:30pm – 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).

1:00am (18th) – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
18 great directors, 18 short films about Paris. There was no way I was not going to love this film, given my ongoing love affair with cinematic Paris. But there’s enough variety in the film that most anyone is going to find something to like here.

2:30am (18th) – TCM – 42nd Street
The definitive backstage musical creaks a bit around the edges, but it still pretty darn solid.

4:15am (18th) – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935
There is absolutely nothing distinguished about most of Gold Diggers of 1935 (unlike Gold Diggers of 1933, which is a hidden gem right the way through). However, it includes the dazzling Busby Berkeley-choreographed “Lullaby of Broadway” routine, which follows a young socialite through her nights and days of being a “Broadway baby” – with a shockingly tragic turn for a musical of the time. The whole rest of the movie is worth sitting through to see it, or honestly, just fast-forward to it. It’s near the end.

Wednesday, February 18th

3:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
Lawyers James Stewart and George C. Scott face off over a murky rape/murder/self-defense case. A great combination of character study and courtroom drama, with a fantastic original jazz score by Duke Ellington and a gorgeous title sequence by Saul Bass thrown in.

10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg may be insane. Or he may just be quirky. When his paranoid behavior goes over the edge, Van Johnson leads the crew in a mutiny – but are they right? One of Bogart’s best performances.

Thursday, February 19th

8:00am – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
An early example of the “great teacher in a difficult classroom” films also cuts across the race issues of the 1950s, as Glenn Ford takes a job as teacher in one of the roughest schools in the city, butting heads against a very young Sidney Poitier. Also notable as, I believe, the first time a rock song (“Rock Around the Clock”) was played in a film.

1:00am (20th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
There’s very little question that this is the greatest musical in existence. Must See

Friday, February 20th

7:00am – 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. :)

10:30am – TCM – The Battle of Algiers
This would be one of those I’m recommending without having seen, simply because it ends up so near the top of critical best lists all the time. It’s a 1966 French film about the Algerian war, using a very realistic, almost documentary filming style. Looking forward to seeing it myself.

10:00pm – TCM – The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance operator, paid to listen in to other’s conversations. But when he thinks he overhears something connected with a murder, how far should he go to uncover the truth? And, in fact, how much of what he heard was his own interpretation? In this film along the lines of Blow-up and Blow Out, what he hears may or may not be accurate, but where is the line between privacy and responsibility when fallible humans are in the middle? This film was timely when it was released in 1974, and it’s pretty much remained so ever since. Must See

Saturday, February 21st

5:30pm – TCM – Glory
Matthew Broderick commands a platoon of black soldiers in the Civil War’s Union army (the platoon includes Morgan Freeman and a young Denzel Washington, who earned a supporting Oscar). Director Edward Zwick has been trying for a Best Picture Oscar with his over-earnest “important” action dramas for years, but 1989’s Glory remains his best work.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
John Ford’s 1945 film captures the daily life of a PT Boat unit commander (John Wayne) in the Philippines near the end of WWII; this is one of those films that doesn’t seem that amazing during any given scene, but by the end, the cumulative effect is staggering, and the film’s solid reputation among WWII films is well-deserved.

Sunday, February 22nd

8:00am – IFC – Amarcord
Something of a combination of Fellini’s neo-Realist and surrealist phases, as a film director’s memories of his childhood in Italy become larger and crazier than life. I get it mixed up in my head with Roma a bit, so I could use a rewatch on it myself. It’s in theatrical rerelease right now, so keep an eye for it to hit a theatre near you. (It’s in LA till the 20th.)

8:45am – TCM – The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon combines the dancing of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse with the lush directorial style of Vincente Minnelli and a witty script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green to create one of the best movie musicals ever. Second to Singin’ in the Rain, of course. “The Girl Hunt Ballet” alone is worth the price of admission, but you get so much more. Must See

10:45am – TCM – The Producers (1968)
Sometimes it’s easier to make money on Broadway when your show flops – at least, that’s what producer Zero Mostel and accountant Gene Wilder hope when they seek out the worst play they can find to put on stage: A musical called “Springtime for Hitler.” I haven’t seen the musical remake (which I’ve heard is terrible) based on the musical stage version (which I’ve heard is great), but the original non-musical is fantastic enough that I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

8:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I can’t even tell you how many times I borrowed this film from the library when I was younger. It was many times, in the double digits surely. Katharine Hepburn is a privileged heiress who wants to prove she can be an actress without daddy’s money, so she goes to live incognito at a boarding house for theatrical wannabes and starts on the audition circuit. That’s the main strand of the story, but the real draw is the wonderful script and supporting cast that pulls together a snarky Ginger Rogers (Kate’s unwilling roommate), a REALLY young Lucille Ball, a REALLY young Ann Miller (the other half of Ginger’s dance act), a catty Gail Patrick, a wry Eve Arden, and a tragic Andrea Leeds (the talented actress with a hit last year who’s starving this year), as well as smarmy producer Adolphe Menjou. I now own the DVD, and on a recent rewatch, I fell in love with it just as much as I ever did ten years ago. This isn’t a film that’s too well known these days, but that’s a shame, and I recommend it in a heartbeat. Must See

Next Week Sneak Peek

Tuesday, February 24th
1:45pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
3:45pm – TCM – Au revoir, les enfants
10:00pm – TCM – Rashomon
11:30pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai