Murder, My Sweet, playing on TCM on Tuesday.
Not a lot of new stuff this week, but a few 1940s films worth checking out: Murder, My Sweet on Tuesday, Gaslight on Friday, and Hail the Conquering Hero on Sunday. And a lot of really worthwhile repeats, as always.
Monday, May 10
11:00am – 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 4:00pm)
5:35pm – 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.
(repeats at 4:45am on the 11th)
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.
12:30am (11th) – 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.
Tuesday, May 11
6:15pm – TCM – Murder, My Sweet
The definitive depiction of Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe is by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, but this well-done film starring Dick Powell as Marlowe shouldn’t be discounted either; it’s pretty solid stuff, based on Chandler’s novel Farewell, My Lovely.
1944 USA. Director: Edward Dmytryk. Starring: Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger.
Wednesday, May 12
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 10:45am and 4:45pm)
Thursday, May 13
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 14th)
9:45pm – 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.
11:45pm – 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.
Friday, May 14
10:30am – TCM – Gaslight
A Victorian thriller of murder and insanity, with Ingrid Bergman as a young ingenue being slowly driven mad by her husband in the house where ten years previously her aunt had been murdered. Charles Boyer is the chilling husband, and look for Angela Lansbury in her first film role.
1944 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury.
12:15pm – IFC – Renaissance
In near-future Paris, a brilliant young scientist is kidnapped; her employer Avalon (a highly influential company that sells youth and beauty itself) wants her found, but her importance to them may be more sinister than first meets the eye. The story’s not handled perfectly here, but it’s worth watching for the beautifully stark black and white animation.
2006 France. Director: Christian Volckman. Starring (English version): Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce.
(repeats at 4:45am on the 15th)
2:30pm – 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.
1959 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.
Saturday, May 15
8:05am – IFC – Garden State
First-time director Braff brings his quirky personality and taste in indie music to this story of a young man who returns to his home town for the first time in years for his mother’s funeral. While there, he meets a girl who teaches him how to feel for the first time since his father started prescribing meds to him as a child. It’s become a popular pastime to hate on Garden State and its self-conscious quirk, but I refuse. I loved it when I first saw it, and I love it now.
2004 USA. Director: Zach Braff. Starring: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard.
(repeats at 1:30pm, and 5:10am on the 16th)
9:00am – TCM – Horse Feathers
Most film comedians do a college-set film at some point, and this is the Marx Brothers entry into higher education. This is a relatively early film for them, and it’s not quite as great as the Duck Soup-A Night at the Opera-A Day at the Races trifecta, but it’s still really solid, one of my favorites of their pre-1933 films.
1932 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd, David Landau.
9:50am – 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.
(repeats at 3:15pm)
4:15pm – 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.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame.
8:00pm – 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 1:30am on the 16th)
9:50pm – IFC – Spider (short film)
This is a one-reel short film directed by Nash Edgerton, who has the feature film The Square in limited release in the US right now. Spider is being shown with a lot of the prints in release here, including the one I saw, and it’s pretty enjoyable – a one-bad-thing-leads-to-another domino effect film with a morbid sense of humor. So, yeah, a lot like The Square in tone. Worth a look-see.
(repeats at 3:20am on the 16th)
2:00am (16th) – TCM – What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
The first film Woody Allen directed was this redubbed Japanese film – he stripped off the original sound track and redid it with his own dialogue, making a spy film into a crazy comedy. Anticipating today’s remix culture by a few decades, I’d say!
1966 USA/Japan. Director: Woody Allen/Senkichi Taniguchi. Starring: Woody Allen, Tatsuyo Mihashi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, John Sebastian.
Sunday, May 16
5:00am – TCM – The Blue Gardenia
This may be a lesser Fritz Lang noir, but a Lang noir is still a Lang noir. Anne Baxter is a mousy telephone operator who has an uncharacteristic night out drinking with a near-stranger; the next day she wakens with little memory of the night, but the stranger is dead. That setup leads to police investigation, and her own questioning whether or not she is a murderer. Baxter’s an underrated talent, I think, and even though this film has its flaws, it’s still quite enjoyable in its way.
1953 USA. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Anne Sothern, Raymond Burr.
8:30am – 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.
(repeats at 2:30pm)
2:00pm – 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.
8:00pm – TCM – Hail the Conquering Hero
After being discharged from the Army as 4F, Eddie Bracken is pressured into pretending to be a war hero by a group of marines when he returns to his small home town; as things escalate in his honor, he tries to set things straight, but can’t get anyone to listen. This is one of Preston Sturges’ best-known absurd comedies, and he has quite an impressive string of absurd comedies, so that’s saying a lot.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Raymond Walburn.
8:00pm – IFC – The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Tommy Lee Jones takes up the directorial reins for the first time with this revisionist western about a rancher whose Mexican right-hand-man dies, his last request being that his body be returned across the border to his family. Thus begins an odyssey that’s more about mood and character than anything else. It’s not wholly even, but Jones has an excellent eye, and this was one of the more surprisingly good films of its year.
2005 USA. Director: Tommy Lee Jones. Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cedillo, Dwight Yoakam, January Jones, Melissa Leo.
(repeats at 2:35am n the 17th)
2:00am (17th) – TCM – Tokyo Story
One of my goals in life is to learn to truly appreciate and like Japanese cinema; I’m getting there, having made some breakthroughs with J-horror, anime, Kurosawa, and Mizoguchi, but I’ll know I’ve finally made it, I think, when I can appreciate Yasujiro Ozu. This is Ozu’s best-known film, I believe, and I have tried to watch it at least two or three times and always stalled out – Ozu is a very patient filmmaker who likes his long takes; that’s something I usually like as well, but for whatever reason, I’ve found this film difficult to connect with. I’m not sure I’m ready to try it again just yet, but for anyone who is further along than I am, here it is.
1953 Japan. Director: Yasujiro Ozu. Starring: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura.