Tag Archives: The Lady from Shanghai

Film on TV: May 3-9

Searchers.jpg
The Searchers, playing on TCM on Tuesday

There are three films playing this week that I honestly can’t believe I haven’t featured before. TCM is playing John Ford’s classic The Searchers on Tuesday and King Kong on Saturday, both of which are definitely must-sees if you haven’t seen them before. Then one of my all-time favorite films (I’ve probably seen it fifteen times) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is on Sunday on Fox Movie Channel; I don’t always include Fox Movie in this column, so that could explain why that one hasn’t come up before. Other notable newly featured films include the better-than-you’d-expect noirish Nightmare Alley, a more than adequate adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s difficult-to-film novel Mrs. Dalloway, Tommy Lee Jones’s strong directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and the unjustly forgotten William Powell-led mystery The Kennel Murder Case. Lots of variety and good stuff to choose from this week.

Monday, May 3

4:15pm – TCM – Midnight
Solid Billy Wilder/Charles Brackett-penned screwball comedy that ought to be better known than it is. Claudette Colbert ends up in the middle of a millionare-wife-gigolo triangle, paid by the millionaire husband to break up the wife and gigolo by impersonating a baroness; meanwhile, a poor taxi driver she’d met previously is smitten with her and seeks her out, only to find her in her new guise. Sparkling dialogue and a strong cast give this a sophisticated twist that doesn’t quite match Lubitsch at his best, but is on the same track.
1939 USA. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, John Barrymore, Mary Astor, Francis Lederer.

9:00am – Fox Movie – Nightmare Alley
Fox didn’t make too many noir films, and this one just barely sneaks in by virtue of…some high contrast lighting here and there? Okay, we’ll give it to them. Anyway, Tyrone Power gives one of his better performances here as an opportunistic carney who takes a chance to turn a sideshow fortune telling act into a high-profile nightclub show, no matter who he takes down on his way to the top. What it does to his personal life and his own psyche is pretty dark and kind of fascinating, and Helen Walker is great as a psychiatrist who may have her own angle to work. Also, look out for one of the more off-putting definitions of the word “geek.”
1947 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, Helen Walker.
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10:00pm – Fox Movie – 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.
1990 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, Albert Finney.

3:30am (4th) – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a routine but darker-than-usual story for a musical, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. But the way the music and dancing is integrated is wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

Tuesday, May 4

4:00pm – TCM – Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn’s first lead role, and the one that immediately catapulted her into stardom. She’s a princess who runs away to try out being normal, and spends an adventurous day exploring Rome with incognito journalist Gregory Peck. Pretty much delightful right the way through.
1953 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert.

6:00pm – 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

7:05pm – 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.

8:00pm – 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

10:00pm – TCM – The Searchers
Deservedly considered one of the greatest westerns ever made, a high point in the careers of both John Wayne and John Ford. Wayne is the almost anti-heroic main character Ethan Edwards, driven by anger and revenge to find the group of Indians who killed his nearly estranged family and kidnapped his young niece. Along with the contemporary films of Anthony Mann, The Searchers marks a point in the Western genre where we can no longer necessarily accept the motives of the good guys to be pure, and in fact, are forced to question if the good guys are actually good – perhaps the beginning of the revisionist western. Ford’s command of cinematic space and the language of the frame here is unparalleled, and the performances and everything else in the film match it.
1956 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood.
Must See
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Wednesday, May 5

6:15am – 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 12:30pm, and 10pm on the 8th, and 4:10am on the 9th)

7:45am – IFC – Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is likely my all-time favorite book or very close to it, and it’s a book that you’d never expect could be made into a good film. It depends an awful lot on stream of consciousness, internal monologue and memory, and a subjective experience of time – all stylistic and narrative elements that don’t translate well to film. However, this 1997 version of the novel with Vanessa Redgrave perfectly cast as the older Clarissa Dalloway and Natascha McElhone (why the heck isn’t she in more stuff?) as flashback-Clarissa comes about as close as I think is cinematically possible. It doesn’t come close to matching the book for me, but it is a solid film and captures a lot of Woolf’s spirit.
1997 USA/UK. Director: Marleen Gorris. Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, Lena Headey, John Standing.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 12:45pm)

5:45pm – 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 5:05am on the 6th)

10:05pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

12:05am (6th) – 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.

Thursday, May 6

4:00pm – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed.
1949 UK/US. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles.
Must See

5:45pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made, I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. 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

10:05pm – 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.

Friday, May 7

1:00pm – 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.

3:30pm – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
One of Frank Capra’s most whimsical films stars Gary Cooper as an unassuming country boy who suddenly inherits a great amount of money. When he decides to give it all away to whoever comes and asks for some, he garners a media frenzy, everyone thinking he’s crazy. Idealistic, warmly funny, and, yes, Capracorny. But as corn goes, it’s among the best. Also, any chance to see Jean Arthur is worth taking.
1936 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.

10:00pm – TCM – Doctor Zhivago
Idealistic Zhivago experiences the Bolshevik Revolution while also dealing with his conflicting feelings for his wife Tonya and young nurse Lara. There are a few things about the romance side of the story that bother me, mostly the fact that I liked Tonya way more than Lara, but I have to admit Lean knows how to make epic films, and Maurice Jarre’s score is unforgettable.
1965 UK/USA. Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness.

Saturday, May 8

7:30am – TCM – The Kennel Murder Case
William Powell is well-known for playing detective Nick Charles in the Thin Man series of movies, but he also played private eye Philo Vance in a less well-remembered series of films based on detective novels by S.S. Van Dine. This is probably the best of the lot, a witty mystery that’s not really too far off from the Thin Man vibe.
1932 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan.
Newly Featured!

7:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.
(repeats at 1:30pm)

9:00am – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth). And noir set-pieces don’t get much better than the chase sequence set in a bewildering hall of mirrors.
1948 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth.

11:30am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 5:15pm)

12:00N – TCM – King Kong
The grand-daddy of sound creature features, stop-motion special effects, and perhaps surprisingly, original film scores – despite a couple of creaky moments in the special effects, Kong holds up far better than it has any right to do. There’s a purity and a sincerity about it that makes you instantly forget 80 years of advances in technology and enter fully into the magic of its story.
1933 USA. Director: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Starring: Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Fay Wray.
Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – TCM – The Lion in Winter
Katharine Hepburn won her third (of four) Oscars for her role in this film as Plantagenet matriarch Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who probably had more to do with the course of British and European history than most men. The film concerns her, her husband King Henry II of England, and their quarrelsome sons Richard and John (who’d make their fair share of history as King Richard Coeur de Leone and King John, of the Magna Carta) during a particularly tense Christmas reunion. It can be difficult to make medieval-set films seem immediate, but this one does.
1968 UK. Director: Anthony Harvey. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, Jane Merrow.

10:30pm – 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).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
Must See

Sunday, May 9

6:30am – TCM – Bachelor Mother
A very slight but rather charming Ginger Rogers vehicle that I like far more than I probably should. Ginger is a struggling department store clerk who happens by an orphanage just after someone leaves a baby there; she’s mistaken for the mother and through a series of miscommunications with the orphanage and her boss at the store (David Niven), ends up having to take the baby. It’s fairly silly at times, but also kind of heartwarming, and Ginger’s honestly at her best here.
1939 USA. Director: Garson Kanin. Starring: Ginger Rogers, David Niven, Charles Coburn, Frank Albertson.

10:00am – TCM – The Magnificent Ambersons
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with this film about a wealthy but decaying American family, but wasn’t given nearly as much creative freedom. But even with studio interference, it’s well worth seeing.
1942 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Anne Baxter, Agnes Moorehead.

10:05am – 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 4:30am on the 10th)

1:15pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.
1945 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.
Must See

2:30pm – Fox Movie – Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
A solidly entertaining and slyly witty film, quite worthy of being one of Howard Hawks’ few ventures into the musical genre. Marilyn Monroe gets probably her best role here – yes, better than Some Like It Hot for my money – and her wide-eyed dumb blonde show (which is exactly what it is, a show) is perfectly complemented by Jane Russell’s cynical but playful wit. Add in iconic moments like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and you have a film that I refuse to call a guilty pleasure. It’s simply wonderful.
1954 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid.
Must See
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Film on TV: November 30-December 6

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Old Yeller, playing on TCM on Friday at 6:00am

Almost ALL repeats this week – seriously, the only two ones I added are Old Yeller, playing on TCM on Friday, and Christmas in Connecticut, on TCM on Sunday. The former is a family classic that every kid should grow up seeing (I’m of the school, though, that believes children shouldn’t be sheltered from death in film) and the latter is a lesser holiday entry that’s still enjoyable thanks to Barbara Stanwyck’s engaging performance. There are still plenty of good repeats to go around, though, so check for stuff you may have missed.

I’m really sorry for not getting this posted last night; I have no excuse, really. I simply forgot – had the template all laid out and then didn’t think about it again until this morning. I’ll try not to let it happen again.

Tuesday, December 1

6:30am – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Hitchcock’s first take on this story of an attempted assassination and associated kidnapping stars Peter Lorre as one of the bad guys. I haven’t seen it myself yet, but many people claim it’s better than his glossier Hollywood remake.
1934 UK. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Peter Lorre, Leslie Banks, Edna Best.

9:30am – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth).
1948 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth.

6:00pm – TCM – Take the Money and Run
An early Woody Allen movie, when he was mostly focused on being funny and absurd, and this film about a set of totally inept bank robbers is both. It’s actually my favorite of the pre-Annie Hall Allen films.
1969 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Janet Margolin.

7:15pm – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 7:45am and 1:15pm on the 2nd)

Wednesday, December 2

9:30am – IFC – Broadway Danny Rose
It’s lesser Woody Allen, but it’s still Woody Allen. Danny Rose (Woody) is a theatrical agent whose clients always leave him when they start becoming successful. His current client, a has-been tenor trying to make a comeback, gives him further grief by having an affair with a young woman (Mia Farrow) with gangster connections. Not very substantial, but enjoyable.
1984 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte.
(repeats at 3:00pm)

7:55pm – 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.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – The Petrified Forest
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard are top billed in this 1936 crime drama, but the thing you’ll remember is Humphrey Bogart in his first major film role as criminal-on-the-run Duke Mantee. They’re all holed up in a remote gas station while Mantee figures out his scheme to escape the manhunt for him. He fairly sizzles on screen.
1936 USA. Director: Archie Mayo. Starring: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran.

1:30m (3rd) – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
One of the classic gangster pictures has James Cagney as a criminal idolized by the youth of Hell’s Kitchen and Pat O’Brien as Cagney’s boyhood buddy who grew up to be a priest. Though the two remain friends, they wind up understandably at odds with each other when O’Brien starts working to clean up the neighborhood.
1938 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: James Cangye, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart.

Thursday, December 3

12:30am (4th) – 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

Friday, December 4

6:00am – TCM – Old Yeller
One of the great tear-jerker family films, about a family in the old west who adopt a stray dog, growing to love and depend on the animal in the absence of their father (away on a cattle drive). Ah, yes, the good old days, when kids movies weren’t all happy-peppy all the time.
1957 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, Fess Parker, Tommy Kirk, Kevin Corcoran.
Must See
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7:30am – TCM – The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut’s first feature, a semi-autobiographical look at a boy’s childhood in Paris, dealing with strict teachers, fighting parents, etc. This film along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless usually mark the beginning of the New Wave. Truffaut’s sentimental tendencies come out already, as well as his incredible ability to direct children to great performances. Jean-Pierre Leaud would go on to star in many more Truffaut films, but for me, his adult roles never match this one.
Must See

8:15am – IFC – The Station Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises (for me, anyway) of 2003. Peter Dinklage moves into a train depot to indulge his love for trains and stay away from people, only to find himself befriended by a loquacious Cuban hot-dog stand keeper and an emotionally delicate Patricia Clarkson. A quiet but richly rewarding film.
2003 USA. Director: Thomas McCarthy. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale.
(repeats at 4:00pm)

12:00M – IFC – Shadow of the Vampire
What if actor Max Schreck, who played the vampire in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu, actually WAS a vampire and kept eating various members of the cast and crew? That’s the premise set forth by this slight but entertaining film, with John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as the eccentric Schreck.
2000 USA. Director: E. Elias Merhige. Starring: John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack.

Saturday, December 5

9:55am – 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 3:05pm)

3:15pm – TCM – The Clock
This was Judy Garland’s first real purely dramatic role, directed by her then-husband Vincente Minnelli in 1945. It’s a wartime story of a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who meets a girl (Garland) and their attempts to get married before he has to return to his unit. It’s a sweet, unassuming little film that showcases Garland’s charm quite well, and has a nice supporting role for comedian Keenan Wynn.
1945 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Keenan Wynn.

5:00pm – 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’m in the minority.
1964 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White.

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.1999 USA. Director: Mike Judge. Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 6th)

10:00pm – Sundance – Adaptation.
Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s follow-up to Being John Malkovich is slightly less bizarre, but still pretty out there – just in a more subtle way. Nicolas Cage plays a screenwriter named Charlie Kaufman who’s stuck in his attempt to adapt a bestseller; it doesn’t help when his successful brother (also played by Cage) shows up. The end feels like it’s going off the rails, but that’s all part of the genius.
2002 USA. Director: Spike Jonze. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Chris Cooper.
(repeats at 3:35am on the 6th)

11:15pm – 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 4:15am and 12:30pm on the 6th)

Sunday, December 6

6:00am – 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 2:15pm)

12:00N – TCM – Christmas in Connecticut
Not in the upper echelon of great Christmas movies, but really, how many times in a row can you watch those over and over (okay, actually, a lot, but I digress). The always-worth-watching Barbara Stanwyck is a magazine columnist who makes up a traditional country home for her column while living in New York, a subterfuge which causes no problems until a serviceman on leave wants nothing more than to spend Christmas on her farm and her editor thinks it’s a great human interest piece. Her attempts to recreate that world while falling for the serviceman are funny, warm, and enjoyable enough to add this to your holiday rotation.
1945 USA. Director: Peter Godfrey. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall, Una O’Connor.
Newly Featured!

5:55am (7th) 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.
1957 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Must See

Film on TV: June 15-21

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The 400 Blows, playing Thursday, June 18th, at 10pm on TCM

This week TCM pays tribute to Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, William A. Wellman, François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Mervyn LeRoy, and Vincente Minnelli, as well as throwing in some shorter director marathons for Tony Richardson (on Wednesday) and Blake Edwards (on Friday). I only highlighted a couple from those last two, but if you like them, check out the full morning schedule on TCM for those days.

Monday, June 15

3:30pm – TCM – National Velvet
One of my favorite movies growing up, probably not least of all because I was mad about anything to do with horses. Even so, National Velvet stands pretty tall among family friendly films, with a young Elizabeth Taylor fighting to run her beloved horse in England’s most prestigious steeplechase with the help of world-weary youth Mickey Rooney.

Great Directors on TCM: Elia Kazan
I gotta say I don’t really count Elia Kazan among my favorite directors – he tends to be a little message-y for me. Still, he got some great performances out of some great actors, and the Academy Awards loved him – although I’m not entirely sure that’s a positive.

9:30pm – 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. Must See

12:00M – Sundance – Sex and Lucia
This isn’t a favorite of mine, but a lot of people around Row Three like it a lot, so I’ll let them defend it in the comments if they so choose. :)

Tuesday, June 16

8:30am – 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.
(repeats 5:30pm on the 21st)

6:00pm – TCM – The Haunting
No worries, this is the good, 1963 version of The Haunting, not the overblown 1999 remake. The story’s the same, but Robert Wise’s original is creepy, disturbing, and, like, good.

7:55pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman takes on Hollywood in this story of a script screener (Tim Robbins) who gets drawn further and further into a web of blackmail and double-crosses when he’s threatened by a screenwriter whose script he rejected. You gotta love it for the virtuosic opening pan at the very least; the rest of the Hollywood insider references are just gravy.

Great Directors on TCM: Orson Welles
Hollywood’s wunderkind director/writer/actor/producer always seemed to run afoul of studio interference, but he still managed to make many of the best things ever put on film.

8:00pm – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made, I’d be very surprised if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it. 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). Must See

10:15pm – TCM – The Lady from Shanghai
Most of Welles’ films, no matter the genre, feel a little noirish in mood, but The Lady from Shanghai is the real thing, complete with fatalistic hero who gets dragged into a murder plot by a femme fatale (Rita Hayworth).

12:00M – TCM – The Magnificent Ambersons
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with this film about a wealthy but decaying American family, but wasn’t given nearly as much creative freedom. But even with studio interference, it’s well worth seeing.

12:00M – 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, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.

Wednesday, June 17

3:45pm – TCM – Tom Jones
The book Tom Jones, written in the late 1700s by Henry Fielding, is usually considered one of the earliest novels, and part of its charm is the way it pastiches earlier literary forms as it tells its story of a rakish young English nobleman and his adventures with women. Though the film version can’t really claim the same place in cinematic history that the novel does in literary history, it’s still quite enjoyable, and manages to convey a similar playfulness by pastiching earlier filmmaking styles – which never fails to earn it a spot in texts on adaptation.

Great Directors on TCM: William A. Wellman
William Wellman was a workhorse director in the 1930s, directing mostly gangster films and dramas – I’m not familiar enough with him to write very competently about him, though.

9:00pm – TCM – The Public Enemy
Famous for the scene where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Marsh’s face, it’s one of the gold standards of early gangster films, along with Little Caesar and Howard Hawks’s Scarface.

9:35pm – 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 3:30am on the 18th)

2:45am (18th) – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds this story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.

Thursday, June 18

7:00am – IFC – La Jetee
Very few short films become classics (outside of silent films and arguably Looney Tunes), but Chris Marker’s La Jetee, told entirely in sequences of still photographs, is one of them. In a postapocalyptic future, a man is sent back in time to try and stop WWIII from happening. But he both falls in love and is haunted by a childhood memory – two things that are fatefully interconnected. It’s the basis for the film Twelve Monkeys, which I’ve tried to watch but haven’t ever made it through – partially, I think, because La Jetee is so hauntingly beautiful and I haven’t found that beauty in Twelve Monkeys.

7:35am – IFC – Three Times
Hsiao-hsien Hou directs this tripartite film – three stories set in three different time periods (1911, 1966, and 2005), each with the same actors, and each depicting a relationship that’s both very specific and individual and also sheds light on the mores of its respective time period. I liked the 1966 story the best, but they were all intriguing, and the contrast between them even more so.
(repeats at 1:45pm)

4:00pm – TCM – Topkapi
One of the classic heist capers, with a group of ragtag criminals (led by Melina Mercouri and including comic relief Peter Ustinov) planning to steal a jewel-encrusted dagger from the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Suspenseful and funny, with great scenery.

Great Directors on TCM: François Truffaut
Oh, Truffaut, Truffaut. I can credit Truffaut with a huge amount of my cinephiliac tendencies – he was one of the first directors that got me truly interested in foreign film and the New Wave, and I can pretty much say without question that my life wouldn’t be the same now if I hadn’t ever seen The 400 Blows. His criticism as a writer for the Cahiers du cinema is just as important as his filmmaking, too – he’s the one who first started the idea behind the auteur theory, though many others have modified it far from his original intent

8:00pm – TCM – Jules and Jim
Jules and Jim are best friends. Then Catherine falls into their lives like a hurricane – she’s almost a force of chaotic primal nature. She marries Jules, but when Jim reconnects with the couple after WWII (in which the two friends fought on opposite sides), their relationship gets…um…complicated. This is one of the classics of the New Wave, and exemplifies the movement’s realistic style, dispassionate camera and narration, and intellectual pursuits.

10:00pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
Francois Truffaut’s first feature, a semi-autobiographical look at a boy’s childhood in Paris, dealing with strict teachers, fighting parents, etc. This film along with Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless usually mark the beginning of the New Wave. Truffaut’s sentimental tendencies come out already, as well as his incredible ability to direct children to great performances. Jean-Pierre Leaud would go on to star in many more Truffaut films, but for me, his adult roles never match this one. Must See

12:00M – TCM – The Bride Wore Black
Truffaut was an especial fan of Alfred Hitchcock (even devoted an entire book to a series of interviews with him), and that comes out in this revenge thriller. That I haven’t seen. Yet. But it’s Truffaut imitating Hitchcock with Jeanne Moreau onscreen – that combination can’t hardly help but be good, right?

Friday, June 19

6:00am – IFC – Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s first foray into overlaid animation is a philosophical dreamscape that’ll either leave you cold or inhabit your thoughts for weeks. It’s the latter for me. Like most of Linklater’s films, it’s largely made up of people talking, but with the added interest of the unique ever-shifting, never-solid animation style (which he’d reuse with a slightly more standard sci-fi story in A Scanner Darkly).
(repeats at 12:00N)

4:00pm – TCM – A Shot in the Dark
Here’s your counter example for the “sequels are never as good as the original” argument. This second film in the Pink Panther series is easily the best, and stands as ones of the zaniest 1960s comedies ever.

6:00pm – TCM – The Pink Panther
Why TCM decided to show A Shot in the Dark before The Pink Panther is anybody’s guess. Most people would agree that A Shot in the Dark is the best of the series, but the first entry is still well worth watching. Peter Sellers is perfect as bumbling detective Jacques Clouseau, trying to recover a stolen diamond for David Niven.

7:15pm – IFC – Far From Heaven
Director Todd Haynes homages 1950s melodrama king Douglas Sirk with this film, loosely based on Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. I don’t think he succeeded as well as he might’ve (Sirk’s sort of in a class by himself), but he and lead Julianne Moore make a darn good attempt. Moore plays a 1950s housewife, trapped in her marriage to a man struggling with his own sexual identity (Dennis Quaid), and slowly falling into an affair with her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert).
(repeats 12:45pm on the 20th)

Great Directors on TCM: Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese has been a leading American director since the 1970s, when he burst on the New Hollywood scene with gritty urban dramas like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver – and he’s stayed on top pretty much ever since, and shows no signs of slowing down. I have to admit to being woefully behind on my Scorsese watching, so I’m going to link to a Row Three post – Dave’s Scorsese marathon from March, in which he talks both about Scorsese as a director and every one of his films. For here, I’m just going to list the films TCM is playing. The only one I’ve seen is GoodFellas, which ranks among my favorite gangster films of all time.

8:00pm – TCM – Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

11:30pm – TCM – The King of Comedy

1:30am (20th) – TCM – GoodFellas

4:00am (20th) – TCM – Mean Streets

Saturday, June 20

Great Directors on TCM: Mervyn LeRoy
One of Warner Bros. and later MGM’s most reliable contract directors, most everything LeRoy put his hands on turned out to be a little better than the average programmer. Unfortunately, I’d say very few of them turn out be bona-fide classics, but maybe that’s just me. His films are enjoyable enough, but that’s about it.

7:15am – 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.

9:00am – TCM – Little Caesar
One of the classic early 1930s gangster films, the one that essentially typecast Edward G. Robinson in the role of the cigar-chewing tough guy.

9:45pm – IFC – The Cooler
In this under-the-radar film, 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 his best role until 30 Rock.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 21st)

Sunday, June 21

Great Directors on TCM: Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli pretty much exemplifies the MGM studio style of the 1940s and 1950s – lush and colorful with A-list actors. Yet there’s something more about Minnelli; other MGM directors of the time had similar things to work with, but despite how gorgeous his films are on the surface, there’s nothing purely superficial about them. There’s a depth to a Minnelli film, both in story and use of cinematic space, that most studio directors never achieved.

8:00am – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
The ultimate nostalgia film, harking back to the turn of the century and the year leading up to the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair. Judy Garland holds the film and the family in it together as the girl who only wants to love the boy next door, but it’s Margaret O’Brien as the little willful sister who adds the extra bit of oomph, especially in the manic Halloween scene and the violent Christmas scene that carries the film from an exercise in sentimentality into a deeper territory of loss and distress. Must See

10:00am – TCM – The Band Wagon
There are many reasons to consider The Band Wagon among the best movie musicals ever made. The satirical plot involving a Shakespearean director who tries to turn a lighthearted musical into a doom-and-gloom version of Faust, the bright yet sardonic script and score by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who basically appear in the film as the characters played by Nanette Fabrey and Oscar Levant), the last really great role for Fred Astaire (maybe Funny Face is a contender, but barely), and of course, the never-surpassed beauty of dance numbers like “Dancing in the Dark” with Fred and Cyd Charisse. But even if it didn’t have all that, I’d still rank it among my favorites for the epic “Girl Hunt Ballet” number spoofing hard-boiled detective fiction. Must See

12:00N – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris, meets Leslie Caron, woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece. Must See

2:00pm – TCM – Gigi
Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” might come off as more pervy now than it was originally intended, but as a whole Gigi stands as one of the most well-produced and grown-up musicals made during the studio era. Vincente Minnelli gives it a wonderful visual richness and sophistication, while music from Lerner & Loewe (usually) stresses the right combination of innocence, exuberance, and ennui for its decadent French story.

8:00pm – TCM – Father of the Bride
Long before Steve Martin kicked of his nearly twenty-year run of remaking classic comedies with his version of this film, Spencer Tracy was the Father of the Bride, dealing with the difficulty of letting his only daughter, Elizabeth Taylor, go to some other man. I don’t hate the Martin version, but this one is better. The family’s son is played by a young Russ Tamblyn (of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story).

11:15pm – 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.

3:30am (22nd) – 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 ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.