Them!, playing on TCM late Friday, early Saturday
The Oscars are over for another year, but Film on TV continues apace, and it’s another quite good week with a bunch of quality films across the board. Among newly featured films, TCM has a Kurosawa mini-marathon on Tuesday night through Wednesday morning – I’ve only seen a few Kurosawa films myself, so I’m hoping to catch up on a few myself. We’ve also got the first film with synchronized sound, The Jazz Singer and Ellen Page’s breakout film, Hard Candy – how’s that for a near-double feature? Friday’s got some real B-level treats, including The Collector, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2, and one of my absolute favorite 1950s atomic creature-features, Them!.
Monday, March 8
4:00am – 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.
6:15am – 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 12:05pm and 5:30pm)
8:15am – 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.
1953 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabrey.
9:35am – IFC – Bride and Prejudice
Laugh at me if you must for recommending Chadha’s Bollywood-infused version of Pride and Prejudice, but I love it. It’s silly, it’s beautiful, it’s a fun exercise in adaptation of literary classics, and it’s only slightly weighed down by Martin Henderson’s woodenness.
2005 UK. Director: Gurinder Chadha. Starring: Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews, Alexis Bledel.
(repeats at 3:30pm)
4:00pm – TCM – Silk Stockings
The musical version of Ninotchka, about a staid, repressed Communist woman who goes to Paris on a mission, only to get loosened up by a Western guy. You’re better off with Ninotchka, honestly (and this week, you’re in luck, it’s on next). Silk Stocking substitutes Cyd Charisse (who’s really only ever convincing when she’s dancing), Fred Astaire (who’s fine, though a bit on the old side by 1957), and adds Cole Porter music, which is really the major reason to check this version out.
1957 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias.
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 quite 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.
(repeats 12:30am on the 9th, 10:30pm on the 11th, and 2:15am on the 12th)
9:45pm – TCM – The Jazz Singer
This one is pretty darn creaky these days, but in terms of historical significance, ought to be watched once. Al Jolson sings “Mammy” and then tells us “You ain’t heard nothing yet” in the first instance of synchronized sound in movie history. The whole film isn’t sound, but the musical sequences that are sounded the death knell for silent film.
1927 USA. Director: Alan Crosland. Starring: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland, Eugenie Besserer.
10:30pm – IFC – Hard Candy
Ellen Page burst onto the scene as a teenage girl getting involved with an older guy she met on the internet – initially looks like a cautionary tale about internet chat relationships, but goes into even more twisted realms than that, with Ellen owning the screen every second.
2005 USA. Director: David Slade. Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh.
(repeats at 2:45am on the 9th, 8:00pm on the 12th, and 1:30am on the 13th)
11:30pm – 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.
Tuesday, March 9
5:00am – TCM – Casablanca
Against all odds, one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, focusing on Bogart’s sad-eyed and world-weary expatriot Rick Blaine, his former lover Ingrid Bergman, and her current husband Paul Henreid, who needs safe passage to America to escape the Nazis and continue his work with the Resistance. It’s the crackling script that carries the day here, and the wealth of memorable characters that fill WWII Casablanca with life and energy.
1943 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.
8:15am – IFC – Dancer in the Dark
Bjork plays a factory worker whose increasing blindness threatens to keep her from being able to do her job, which will keep her from earning the money she needs for an operation that will prevent her son from suffering the same blindness. Add in the relationship with her not-as-happy-as-they-seem neighbors and a trenchant critique of the justice system and death penalty, not to mention several musical numbers juxtaposed throughout, and you have a film that’s unlike any other.
2000 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare.
(repeats at 2:30pm)
9:45am – 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.
1944 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor.
8:00pm – TCM – Ikiru
TCM is doing a mini-Kurosawa marathon tonight, which maybe will give me a chance to catch up on some more of his work – I’ve only seen one of the ones they’re showing. This one is a drama about a government employee who, upon learning he has terminal cancer, decides to stop wasting his life and do some good with it instead. I’ve not been as impressed with Kurosawa’s samurai films as I feel like I should be, so I’m wondering if maybe a drama like this will help me appreciate him more.
1953 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Takashi Shimura, Shinichi Himori, Haruo Tanaka, Minoru Chiaki.
10:30pm – TCM – Throne of Blood
This is Kurosawa’s version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is in and of itself enough to get me interested. I do like Ran, and I can’t explain why I’ve never gotten around to Throne of Blood.
1957 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, Takashi Shimura, Akira Kubo.
12:30am (10th) – TCM – The Hidden Fortress
Perhaps best known as a major inspiration for Star Wars, but also a fine film in its own right – though I tended to find its two meandering servants (who C-3PO and R2D2 are modeled on) more annoying than endearing.
1958 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshir⊚ Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Katamari Fujiwara.
The Kurosawa mini-fest continues with a couple more films into the morning, so if you’re a fan or a wanna-be fan, check those out too.
Wednesday, March 10
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.
(repeats at 1:00am on the 11th)
8:00pm – TCM – The Gay Divorcee
Most film buffs will put Top Hat and/or Swing Time at the top of the list of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals, but I somehow have a huge love for The Gay Divorcee. Ginger hires a gigolo to try to force her husband to divorce her, but then thinks Fred (who wants to court her) is the gigolo. Mistaken identities for the win, and the stellar supporting cast doesn’t hurt at all, either. Plus, a young Betty Grable in a musical number with Edward Everett Horton. How can you go wrong?
1934 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Alice Brady, Eric Rhodes, Eric Blore.
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:45am on the 11th)
10:00pm – TCM – Top Hat
For me, Top Hat and Swing Time battle it out for the top spot constantly, with the one I’ve seen more recently usually taking the crown. Mistaken identity follows mistaken identity here, as Ginger thinks Fred is her best friend’s husband, causing her a lot of consternation when Fred starts romancing her. That’s far from the end of it all, though. Also has the most definitive collection of Astaire-Rogers supporting actors.
1935 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.
10:30pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 11th)
12:00M – 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.
1936 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.
2:00am (11th) – TCM – Roberta
Apparently the studio still didn’t trust Fred and Ginger to carry a film after their debut pairing as second leads in Flying Down to Rio; this time they’re second leads behind Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, but at least Dunne and Scott are decent actors and Roberta has a fair bit of charm outside of Astaire and Rogers, due in no small part to a solid score by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach.
1935 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers.
4:00am (11th) – TCM – Follow the Fleet
Follow the Fleet‘s title isn’t thrown around as much as some of Fred and Ginger’s other films, but it’s actually one of their best, with a great set of Irving Berlin songs, a mixture of sailor and show business settings, and a decent second-lead pairing of Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard (better known as Harriet Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet).
1936 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard.
Pretty much the whole rest of the Fred and Ginger catalog play on through Thursday morning, but the ones above are the best. The rest, including Shall We Dance, Carefree, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, and The Barkleys of Broadway are recommended only for serious F&G fans.
Thursday, March 11
11:15am – 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.
2005 Hong Kong. Director: Hsiao-hsien Hou. Starring: Qi Shu, Chen Chang.
(repeats at 4:05am on the 12th)
8:00pm – TCM – The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck and her father Charles Coburn are cardplayers, cheating cruise ship denizens of their wealth. Millionaire (and snake afficianado) Henry Fonda is a good mark, especially since he’s a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyck’s plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and she’s a delight from start to finish. As she usually is.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette.
10:00pm – TCM – The More the Merrier
A World War II housing shortage has Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur sharing an apartment; soon Coburn is matchmaking for McCrea and Arthur, and we get a wonderful, adorable romance out of it.
1943 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Jane Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn.
Friday, March 12
12:00N – TCM – The Collector
This is the 1965 Terence Stamp film that was discussed on the Row Three Cinecast a couple of weeks ago. I immediately put it in my Netflix queue when I heard that segment, because it sounds awesome. And then it popped up on TCM to save me the trouble!
1965 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar.
10:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:30am and 8:15am on the 13th)
12:05am (13th) – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.
12:30am (13th) – TCM – Them!
I love a good classic sci-fi film and this one hits all the high points. Radioactive material? Check. Mutant insects? Check. Scientists? Check. Nuclear paranoia? Check. Giant mutant ants (created by radioactivity left by atomic bomb tests in Arizona) start attacking people, first in Arizona, then to Texas and Mexico, and finally in the middle of Los Angeles. A team of scientists works with the police to take the monsters down. One of the better examples of the “atomic mutant” sci-fi films, of which there were many; it builds intensity perfectly (in fact, it’s at least half an hour in before you come close to finding out what’s happening, adding in a very welcome mystery element) and doesn’t spend to long on its obligatory romantic subplot.
1954 USA. Director: Gordon Douglas. Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.
Saturday, March 13
6:25am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
(repeats at 12:00N and 5:15pm)
4:00pm – TCM – True Grit
John Wayne had a career full of iconic western roles before he won an Oscar for this one, as tough old U.S. Marshall “Rooster” Cogburn, recruited by a young woman to help her avenge her father’s death, a quest that takes them deep into Indian territory.
1969 USA. Director: Henry Hathaway. Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper.
6:15pm – TCM – Ride the High Country
In the 1960s, Sam Peckinpah contributed to the beginnings of the revisionist western, taking complicated heroes and violence to new levels – in Ride the High Country, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (who had both starred in many westerns throughout the 1930s and 1940s) play jaded cowboys hired to transport gold who get caught up in a family feud that forces them to confront their own differences and troubled pasts. It’s a fairly simple plot on the surface, but goes much deeper than you’d expect.
1962 USA. Director: Sam Peckinpah. Starring: Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr.
8:00pm – TCM – White Heat
James Cagney in one of his most powerful roles as the slightly (okay, make that more-than-slightly) unbalanced criminal Cody Jarrett. Probably counts as one of the last truly great Warner crime films, too.
1949 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Margaret Wycherly.
10:30pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:00am and 8:45am on the 14th)
12:00M – 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.
5:15am (14th) – IFC – Paranoid Park
I go back and forth on whether I think Gus Van Sant is brilliant or a pretentious bore – maybe some of both. But I really quite liked the oblique, moody approach in this film about a wanna-be skateboarder kid who relishes hanging out with the bigger skateboarders at the titular skate park – but there’s a death not far from there, and it takes the rest of the movie to slowly reveal what exactly happened that one night near Paranoid Park.
2007 USA Director: Gus Van Sant. Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Lu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney.
(repeats at 10:30am and 4:30pm on the 14th)
Sunday, March 14
11:30pm – 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.