Tag Archives: The Manchurian Candidate

Film on TV: February 22-28

stagedoor.jpg
Stage Door, playing at 3:30am on Sunday, Febuary 28th (late Saturday)

As TCM’s Oscar-celebratory month winds down, they’ve still got a few new ones to throw at us – the first musical to win a Best Picture Oscar, The Broadway Melody, shows on Monday; an actual good Merchant-Ivory film in A Room With a View turns up on Thursday; and fantastic underrated film noir The Killers plays on Thursday; finally, one of my personal all-time favorite films, Stage Door, hits the screen late Saturday/early Sunday (trust me, picture quality is higher than the still above; couldn’t find a decent cap). Sundance also springs Zhang Yimou historical actioner Curse of the Golden Flower to us on Sunday. As expected, the rest of the week is filled out with great repeats on all channels – many classics, both new and old.

Monday, February 22

2:00pm – TCM – The Broadway Melody
After Warner Bros. thrust the film industry into the sound era with Jolson’s musical numbers in The Jazz Singer, it wasn’t long before other studios latched onto the musical possibilities provided by the debut of synchronized sound. MGM led the way with this backstage entry (the first of a series of unrelated “Broadway Melody” films) and earned themselves a Best Picture Academy Award. That’d never hold up today – this is extremely creaky and old-fashioned now – but hey. It has historical interest.
1929 USA. Director: Harry Beaumont. Starring: Charles King, Anita Page, Bessie Love.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond and actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit.
1950 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olsen, Erich Von Stroheim, Buster Keaton.
Must See

11:45pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
Must See

Tuesday, February 23

8:45am – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

2:45pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
This is one of the definitive screwball comedies, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple who constantly fight and decide to divorce, only to wind up meddling in each other’s lives (and screw up other relationship attempts) because they just can’t quit each other. Dunne’s impersonation of a Southern belle showgirl is a highlight.
1937 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy.
Must See

5:45pm – 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.

6:15pm – TCM – Topper
Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are hard-living young couple who crash their fancy car after a night of drinking and end up as ghosts. They choose to spend their afterlife haunting Grant’s uptight boss Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) and teaching him to enjoy life again. Something of a screwball comedy without the battle of the sexes part; slight but a lot of fun.
1937 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: Roland Young, Cary Grant, Constance Bennett.

10:30pm – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it.
2007 Romania. Director: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean.
Must See

11:15pm – 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.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.

12:00M – 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.

1:15am (24th) – 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.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

Wednesday, February 24

10:30am – 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

12:30pm – 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.

2:00pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Humphrey Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, Walter Huston.
Must See

6:00pm – Sundance – Paris je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 25th)

8:00pm – 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 2:55pm on the 25th)

1:15am (25th) – TCM – A Room With a View
One of Merchant-Ivory’s best films out of their many classy adaptations of period literary classics – and less, uh, stuffy than they often tend to be. For me, it vies only with Howards End (another E.M. Forster adaptation) in their repertoire. A young Helena Bonham Carter, a veteran Maggie Smith, and Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his earliest film roles, don’t hurt at all.
1985 UK. Director: James Ivory. Starring: Helen Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, February 25

2:00pm – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.
1937 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

4:00pm – 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.

5:45pm – 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 11:20am on the 26th)

8:00pm – TCM – The Killers (1946)
Burt Lancaster made his film debut in this excellent noir, an expansion of an Ernest Hemingway short story. Lancaster is a quiet gas station attendant killed in the opening of the film by two hitmen – the events that lead up to his death (involving, among other things, a classic femme fatale played by Ava Gardner) are told in flashback throughout the rest of the film.
1946 USA. Director: Robert Siodmak. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Albert Dekker, Sam Levene.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.

Friday, February 26

9:30am – TCM – Mrs. Miniver
One of the more celebrated World War II home front films has Greer Garson in an Oscar-winning turn as the stalwart title character, holding her home together against the German Blitz. It’s the kind of movie that could only be made in 1942, and it won awards all over the place. It comes off a bit over-earnest today, though.
1942 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright.

5:45pm – TCM – Victor/Victoria
Making a living proves tough for singer Julie Andrews, until she decides to try cross-dressing, pretending to be a man performing as a female impersonator. This creates, um, interesting situations in her personal life, as well. Andrews’ husband Blake Edwards directs this amusing farce.
1982 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Julia Andrews, Robert Preston, James Garner, Lesley Ann Warren.
Newly Featured!

7:45pm – IFC – Se7en
Detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman pursue a serial killer who bases his murders on the seven deadly sins. One of the great serial killer thrillers, with one of the great serial killer speeches of all time.
1995 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:05am on the 27th)

Saturday, February 27

6:00am – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
2004 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford.
(repeats at 11:35am and 5:15pm)

10:30am – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
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.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.

12:45pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

8:00pm – 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.
1963 UK. Director: Tony Richardson. Starring: Albert Finney, Susanna York, Hugh Griffiths.

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.

12:20am (28th) – Sundance – Oldboy
Ultra-violent revenge films don’t get much better than this. A man is inexplicably locked up in a room for several years then just as inexplicably released, at which point he seeks revenge. A bloody and at times disturbing film, but with an underlying thoughtfulness that sets it apart.
2003 Korea. Director: Park Chan-Wook. Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang.

3:30am (28th) – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Sunday, February 28

6:05am – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 2:05pm)

8:15am – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

10:15am – TCM – You Can’t Take it With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Spring Byington.

5:15pm – TCM – The Greatest Show on Earth
Widely considered one of the least deserving films ever to win the Best Picture Academy Award, Cecil B. DeMille’s circus picture is big, loud, and gaudy – and okay, kinda fun. No, it didn’t deserve an Oscar that year, but in terms of spectacle, you get death-defying trapeze acts, clowns with shady pasts, and one of the most incredible train crashes ever on film.
1952 USA. Director: Cecil B. DeMille. Starring: Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, James Stewart, Gloria Grahame, Dorothy Lamour.

8:00pm – TCM – Ben-Hur
Charlton Heston is the titular character, going through pretty much everything a Jew in the first century could expect – mistreatment from the Romans, being sold as a galley slave as punishment for a minor offense, fighting for his life as an arena chariot racer, and becoming convinced by Jesus of Nazareth’s promises of hope and a better kingdom to come. Ben-Hur practically defines the word “epic,” and remains one of the best of the sword-and-sandal films so popular in the ’50s and ’60s.
1959 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith, Cathy O’Donnell, Martha Scott.
Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Curse of the Golden Flower
One of the weaker entries in Zhang Yimou’s series of historical martial-arts-on-wires films, but it still has its moments – and the production design, as usual, is flawlessly beautiful. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of the style.
2006 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Ye Liu.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:15am on the 29th)

12:00M – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See

Film on TV: January 25-31

Ladykillers.jpg
The Ladykillers, playing on TCM on Monday at 3:15pm

 

We had classic Ealing/Alec Guinness comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets recently, and now here comes The Ladykillers, possibly my favorite Ealing/Guinness comedy, playing on TCM on Monday. Not a lot of other newly featured stuff, though I did throw in some lower-level MGM musicals. Because I like musicals. And I can. Still a lot of great stuff among the repeats, and a lot of variety, too.

Monday, January 25

3:15pm – TCM – The Ladykillers
One of the most delightful of the Ealing comedies, with Alec Guinness leading a bunch of crooks (including a young Peter Sellers) whose bankrobbing plans get flustered by an unlikely old lady.
1955 UK. Director: Alexander Mackendrick. Starring: Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, January 26

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 – Sundance – Oldboy
Ultra-violent revenge films don’t get much better than this. A man is inexplicably locked up in a room for several years then just as inexplicably released, at which point he seeks revenge. A bloody and at times disturbing film, but with an underlying thoughtfulness that sets it apart.
2003 Korea. Director: Park Chan-Wook. Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang.
(repeats at 3:10am on the 27th)

Wednesday, January 27

12:30pm – TCM – I Love Melvin
Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but a fun one-off MGM musical starring Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. So if they were your favorite part of Singin’ in the Rain and you just wish Gene Kelly had got out of their way, here you go.
1953 USA. Director: Don Weis. Starring: Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Una Merkel, Richard Anderson.
Newly Featured!

5:55pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats 4:50am on the 28th)

12:00M – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
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.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.
Must See

12:45am – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit 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.
2006 USA. Director: Goran Dukic. Starring: Patrick Fujit, Shannyn Sossamon, Abraham Benrubi, Will Arnett.

Thursday, January 28

8:30am – TCM – A Night at the Opera
One of the best of the Marx Brothers’ zany comedies finds them running awry through the world of opera. This is the one that contains the famous “how much stuff can we stuff into a stateroom” scene. And a subplot with Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but that’s best ignored as much as possible.
1935 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Kitty Carlisle, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

11:45am – TCM – Only Angels Have Wings
I’ve never gotten into Only Angels Have Wings as much as I have into other Howard Hawks films – why I don’t know. It has elements I like – Cary Grant as a daring pilot making dangerous cargo runs in exotic locales, Jean Arthur in an uncharacteristically dramatic turn, and a sighting of a young Rita Hayworth. Just doesn’t seem to come together in a memorable whole for me.
1939 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell.

2:00pm – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.
1939 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.

4:00pm – TCM – The Shop Around the Corner
The original, better version of You’ve Got Mail has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as feuding employees of a shop who are unknowingly exchanging romantic letters. Ernst Lubitsch directs, bringing his warm European wit to bear.
1940 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan.

6:00pm – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

7:30pm – 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.

8:00pm-4:00am – TCM – The Road Movies
Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour made seven Road to… movies between 1940 and 1962, and TCM is playing all but two of them (skipping 1947’s Road to Rio and 1962’s afterthought The Road to Hong Kong). There’s not a lot to them other than some tunes and back-lot versions of exotic locations, but they’re good fun. Road to Morocco is probably the best of the bunch, starting at 11:15pm.
Newly Featured!

11:15pm – IFC – Pulp Fiction
Tarantino’s enormously influential and entertaining film pretty much needs no introduction from me. Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta give the performances of their careers, Tarantino’s dialogue is spot-on in its pop-culture-infused wit, and the chronology-shifting, story-hopping editing style has inspired a host of imitators, most nowhere near as good.
1994 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Tim Roth, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames.
Must See

Friday, January 29

10:30am – TCM – Johnny Guitar
Nicholas Ray’s rather strange feminist western has become something of a cult classic – Joan Crawford is Vienna, a tough-but-vulnerable saloon owner that all the other women in town want gone. She calls on old friend Johnny Guitar to help her out, but he many not be quite as advertised either. I didn’t love this the way I wanted to when I first saw it, but I feel like some of that was just not knowing what to expect (also, I had a craptastic VHS copy). Hoping to improve its standing with a second viewing.
1954 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Ward Bond, Ernest Borgnine.

8:05pm – 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 3:05am on the 30th)

Saturday, January 30

7:05am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 1:15pm)

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

2:15pm – TCM – Fiddler on the Roof
A Tzarist-era Russian Jewish village doesn’t seem a particularly likely place to set a musical, but Fiddler on the Roof does a good job of it, exploring the clashing cultures as patriarch Tevye tries to marry his daughters off to good Jewish husbands with decreasing success.
1971 USA. Director: Norman Jewison. Starring: Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Rosalind Harris, Michele Marsh, Neva Small, Michael Glaser.

5:30pm – 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.
1944 USA. Director: Clarence Brown. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere, Angela Lansbury.

8:00pm – TCM – Wuthering Heights
William Wyler’s moody 1939 version of Emily Bronte’s moody gothic novel, with Laurence Olivier as the moody Heathcliff. It’s moody. Get it? With the recent news that Andrea Arnold will be directing a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights, now’s the perfect time to catch up on the earlier versions, of which this is the best.
1939 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, Geraldine Fitzgerald, David Niven, Flora Robson.

Sunday, January 31

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 2:00pm)

10:00pm – TCM – Annie Get Your Gun
The best part about this film for me is imagining what it would’ve been like had Judy Garland played Annie Oakley, as she was meant to do, instead of semi-retiring for four years to deal with her drug problems. She had basically the whole Irving Berlin soundtrack recorded already (those tracks are available on TCM/Rhino Records). But looking past the fact that Betty Hutton ain’t no Judy Garland, the film still has a great bunch of songs and is a fair amount of fun.
1950 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Louis Calhern, J. Carrol Naish, Keenan Wynn, Edward Arnold.
Newly Featured!

Film on TV: October 5th-11th

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Once Upon a Time in the West, playing Sunday, October 11th, at 5pm on TCM

This is quite possibly the best week for movies since I started writing these things. So many of my favorite films this week! A trio of Woody Allen’s best films: Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters on Monday, and Annie Hall on Thursday. David Lynch’s brilliantly surreal INLAND EMPIRE late Monday/early Tuesday. The seriously amazing The Squid and the Whale on Wednesday. Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, and Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels on Thursday. And a wealth of stuff on Sunday, including Once Upon a Time in the West, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Barton Fink. Not to mention, it’s October, so horror movies are starting to turn up on the schedules – check out TCM’s weekend morning line-up with double features of Roger Corman and Val Lewton.

Monday, October 5th

8:00pm – 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.
Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 1:45am on the 6th)

9:00pm – 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.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

9:45pm – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Say what you want about Annie Hall, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 3:35am on the 6th)

11:00pm – 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.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.

3:15am (6th) – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Must See
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, October 6th

8:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – 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.

12:00M – IFC – From Hell
Johnny Depp takes on the role of a troubled Victorian police detective on the trail of Jack the Ripper in this adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Not quite as memorable as would hope, but worth a watch.
2001 USA. Directors: Albert and Allen Hughes. Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane.
(repeats at 4:00am)

Wednesday, October 7th

4:35pm – IFC – Häxan
Or, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages – a silent film telling the history of witchcraft using several different visual styles. I haven’t seen this yet, and I’m going to hold out until the local rep cinema plays it later this month. Probably my most-looked-forward-to film of their Halloween festival this year.
1922 Sweden/Denmark. Director: Benjamin Christensen. Starring: Maren Pedersen, Clara Pontoppidan, Elith Pio.
Newly Featured!

5:05pm – Sundance – Eraserhead
David Lynch’s first feature is a weird post-apocalyptic dreamscape of a film – what, you were expecting something normal? When you can have industrial decay and mutant babies?
1977 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 8th)

8:35pm – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am on the 8th)

Thursday, October 8th

6:00am – Fox Movie Channel – Anna and the King of Siam
The earlier/non-musical version of The King and I stars Irene Dunne in one of her last films and Rex Harrison in one of his earliest. Both do a fine job.
1946 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Irene Dunne, Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, Gale Sondergaard.

7:50am – IFC – 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.
1963 France. Director: François Truffaut. Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre.
(repeats at 1:05pm)

11:30am – 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
(repeats at 4:55pm)

8:00pm – TCM – Sullivan’s Travels
Sullivan’s Travels is slightly more serious than most of writer/director Preston Sturges’ films, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Annie Hall
Often considered Woody Allen’s transition film from “funny Woody” to “serious Woody,” Annie Hall is both funny, thoughtful, and fantastic. One of the best scripts ever written, a lot of warmth as well as paranoid cynicism, and a career-making role for Diane Keaton (not to mention fashion-making).
1977 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane.
Must See
(repeats at 1:05am on the 9th)

11:15pm – TCM – My Man Godfrey
A great combination of two classic 1930s cinematic tropes: the dazzling screwball comedy, set in the world of wacky high society looneys, and the depression-era forgotten man story. The never-disappointing Carole Lombard is one of the society looneys who whimsically hires homeless derelict Godfrey (William Powell) as her butler; the film invites social commentary while never ever losing its comedic sparkle.
1936 USA. Director: Gregory LaCava. Starring: Carole Lombard, William Powell, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Eugene Pallette.
Newly Featured!

Friday, October 9th

8:00pm – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
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.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.

2:15am – TCM – Evil Dead II
Sam Raimi’s sequel/remake of The Evil Dead, apparently after deciding that the first film wasn’t intentionally funny enough. I’ve not actually seen it yet, but it’s pretty much top of my list to watch this Halloween season, now that I’ve gotten over my silly dislike of horror.
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Ted Raimi.
Newly Featured!

Saturday, October 10th

6:00am – TCM – Tales of Terror
Roger Corman directs this omnibus of three Edgar Allen Poe stories, all starring Vincent Price.
1962 USA. Director: Roger Corman. Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone.
Newly Featured!

7:30am – TCM – The Pit and the Pendulum
Another Corman-Poe-Price collaboration, expanding one of Poe’s most famous stories.
1961 USA. Director: Roger Corman. Starring: Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele.
Newly Featured

6:15pm – TCM – 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
The original version of 2007’s highly successful Christian Bale-Russell Crowe western is well worth watching in its own right – a little less actiony, a little more thoughtful, though its story of a peaceful farmer shuffled into the role of law enforcement to get a criminal to the train for his trial without having him rescued by his gang remains largely identical.
1957 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Glenn Ford, Van Heflin, Felicia Farr, Leora Dana.

8:00pm – 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.

Sunday, October 11th

6:30am – TCM – The Body Snatcher
Producer Val Lewton is known for his extraordinarily literate 1940s B-level horror films, and this one is more of a drama with a lot of creepiness throughout and a scary climax. In 19th century Britain, a couple of doctors carry out their medical research on corpses snatched from cemeteries – but what if there aren’t enough viable corpses to snatch? Leave that up to Boris Karloff, as the menacing cab driver who acquires them. A little slow to get going, but rewarding.
1945 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell, Russell Wade, Edith Atwater, Bela Lugosi.
Newly Featured!

7:45am – TCM – Isle of the Dead
In this Val Lewton-produced film, Boris Karloff is a Greek general who, along with a few others, is quarantined on an island when a strange sickness threatens them. Could it be the work of a vorvoloka, a vampire-like creature from Greek folklore? The film itself is uneven and poorly paced, but the last forty minutes or so are extremely effective. Well worth watching if you like Lewton’s stuff.
1945 USA. Director: Mark Robson. Starring: Boris Karloff, Ellen Drew, Marc Cramer, Katherine Emery, Helen Thimig.
Newly Featured!

11:35am – IFC – Au revoir, les enfants
A new boy arrives at a French school and becomes close friends with one of the French boys. But it’s the early 1940s and the new boy turns out to be Jewish, and hiding from the Nazis. Louis Malle directs this achingly lovely portrait of schoolboy friendship in an uncertain time.
1987 France. Director: Louis Malle. Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette.

1:00pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, Walter Huston.
Must See

5:00pm – TCM – Once Upon a Time in the West
A disparate group of characters interact and intertwine on America’s western frontier – a young widow seeking those who killed her family, the outlaw suspected (but innocent) of the murders, the ruthless leader of a gang in the employ of a railroad tycoon, and a harmonica-playing stranger. With that as a starting point, Sergio Leone creates what is possibly the ultimate epic western to end all westerns.
1969 Italy/USA. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson.
Must See
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – Fox Movie Channel – Die Hard
All John McClane wants to do is get home for Christmas. But plans change, especially when a bunch of terrorists take over his wife’s office building and McClane has to take them out almost singlehandedly. And give us one of the best action movies ever made.
1988 USA. Director: John McTiernan. Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Love Affair
This film is not as well known as its remake, 1957’s An Affair to Remember, which has the advantage of having the more famous Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr rather than Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer – who were both huge stars at the time, but are less known now. Both films were directed by Leo McCarey, and tell of a shipboard romance and a fateful rendezvous.
1939 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Maria Ouspenskaya.

9:45pm – TCM – An Affair to Remember
If you’re the type who likes to compare originals and remakes, here’s your chance. As remakes go, An Affair to Remember is a little unusual for two reasons: both versions are directed by Leo McCarey, and the remake is the one everyone knows and remembers. Anyway, watch Love Affair and An Affair to Remember back-to-back and let us know which one you like better.
1957 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr.

10:30pm – Fox Movie Channel – Barton Fink
One of the Coen Brothers’ most brilliant dark comedies (heh, I think I say that about all of their dark comedies, though), Barton Fink follows its title character, a New York playwright whose hit play brings him to the attention of Hollywood, where he goes to work for the movies. And it all goes downhill from there. Surreal, quirky, and offbeat, even among the Coens work. It’s based loosely on the experiences of Clifford Odet, whose heightened poetic style of writing has clearly been influential on the Coens throughout their career.
1991 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, Tony Shalhoub.

11:15pm – IFC – Amores Perros
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrítu specializes in films with multiple intersecting storylines, and he does it best here, in his breakthrough Mexican film (starring Gael Garcia Bernal, also just beginning to become a household name at this point). The three largely independent stories are tied together by the characters’ relationship with dogs and involvement in a climactic car crash – though the idea is similar to his later film Babel or Paul Haggis’ Crash, Amores Perros is much more subtle and memorable.
2000 Mexico. Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarrítu. Starring: Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal, Goya Toledo.

Film on TV: August 17-23

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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: July 6-12

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4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, playing on Sundance on Thursday, July 9th, at 8pm

In my haste to get this post ready this week, I nearly skipped checking Sundance’s schedule, since they usually only have a couple I want to highlight anyway. Glad I didn’t, because they’re running some of my favorite foreign films from recent years, including Romania’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, which I’ve been touting everywhere I can since it came out. TCM of course has its usual high quality stuff as well.

Monday, July 6

6:00am – TCM – Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock built the foundation for all future psycho-killer movies with his classic. It’s not as terrifying as it once was, but that doesn’t at all diminish its greatness. Must See

8:00am – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
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.

6:15pm – IFC – Millions
Danny Boyle has a way of making very simple stories into something special, and this is no exception. A young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
(repeats at 4:00am and 11:30am on the 7th)

8:00pm – TCM – 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. Must See

2:35am (7th) – Sundance – Volver
Pedro Almodovar 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 Almodovar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penelope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene. Must See
(repeats at 2:15pm on the 7th)

Tuesday, July 7

8:00pm – TCM – Scaramouche
Stewart Granger was sort of a poor man’s Errol Flynn in his 1950s swashbucklers – never quite had Flynn’s panache, but hey, he tried. Scaramouche is one of his better films, and does boast the longest sword fight in cinema history. So there’s that.

12:00M – 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 4:00am on the 8th)

Wednesday, July 8

8:00am – TCM – Till the Clouds Roll By
MGM throws its bevy of musical stars at a biopic of Jerome Kern that, like most of MGM’s 1940s biopics, has very little in common with Kern’s actual life. What it does have, is Kern’s great songs performed by some great singers and dancers. The most interesting section looking back on it now is an extended section from Show Boat starring Kathryn Grayson and Lena Horne – Grayson would get the part of Magnolia five years later when MGM produced Show Boat in full, but they were unwilling to actually cast Horne as mulatto Julie, instead giving the role to Ava Gardner.

10:15am – TCM – Ziegfeld Follies
Rather than go the biopic route to exploit Ziegfeld and their cast of thousands (oh, wait, they already did that with The Great Ziegfeld 10 years earlier), MGM instead modeled Ziegfeld Follies after an actual Ziegfeld show – it’s basically just a series of sketches and musical sequences in revue format. Most are decent, a few are duds, and a few are exceptional, as you might expect. But it’s worth it at least for Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dancing together, Judy Garland imitating Greer Garson, and a rare cinema sighting of Fanny Brice (who was in many of the original Ziegfeld shows on Broadway).

11:30am – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.

12:15pm – TCM – Words and Music
Words and Music is another excuse for MGM to bring out their stable of stars to retell of the career of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and it’s pretty routine. What isn’t routine is Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen’s dazzling rendition of “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” a ten-minute dance number that is 100% worth the price of the film.

12:00M – TCM – I Know Where I’m Going!
This is one of those little films that doesn’t get much press and is very quiet and unassuming, but once you watch it you won’t easily forget it. Wendy Hiller is a confident young woman who knows exactly what she wants and where she’s going – that is, to meet her wealthy fiance and marry him on one of the Scottish Hebrides. But when a storm strands her on the way, she finds herself thrown off-course in more ways than one. There’s nothing wasted here, and I Know Where I’m Going! stands as one of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s crowning achievements, even if it’s not as well-known as Black Narcissus or The Red Shoes.

12:00M – 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, it’s a definite Must See

4:30am (9th) – TCM – Lassie Come Home
Family classic that has every kid wanting a collie at some point in their lives. Hint: Get a border collie. Regular collies are quite high-strung.

Thursday, July 9

8:00pm – IFC – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
This is the one Wes Anderson film I haven’t seen. I need to rectify that, because I LOVE everything else he’s done.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 10th)

8:00pm – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it. Must See

10:00pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
Kevin Smith’s third film, not as low-fi indie as Clerks, as goofy as Mallrats, as irreverently genius as Dogma, as self-referential as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or as racy as Zach and Miri Make a Porno, but perhaps sweeter than all of them – Ben Affleck falls for Joey Lauren Adams, with the only slight obstacle being that she’s a lesbian.
(repeats at 4:00am on the 10th)

10:30pm – TCM – Dodge City
Dodge City, not a particularly great movie. It’s a fun entry in the group of Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland matchups, as Flynn deals with the outlaw element in the western frontier town of Dodge. The real reason I like it? Fantastic barroom brawl at one point.

12:00M – Sundance – That Obscure Object of Desire
Luis Buñuel, ever one to come up with outlandish conceits, here directs two women playing the same role. The result is trippy and mesmerizing.

12:30am (10th) – 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. The most memorable, though, is Claire Trevor’s prostitute – a woman who does what she must to survive, and is shunned by everyone except Wayne. Her reaction to him treating her as a lady is perfect. Must See

Friday, July 10

6:00am – IFC – Umberto D
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic about an aging man struggling to live on his meager pension in post-war Rome. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and granted, not a lot happens. But by the end, you’ll have extraordinary sympathy for gentle Umberto and his dog. Oh, and a fantastic performance by non-actress Maria Pia Casillio – she offered to take acting lessons for the part but De Sica forbade her. Good choice.
(repeats at 12:15pm)

7:00am – Sundance – Avenue Montaigne
Sometimes you’re just in the mood for an unassuming, heartwarming little French film. Avenue Montaigne fits the bill well, following a waitress working on the titular Parisian avenue (an arty area with art galleries and a concert hall nearby) and the people she interacts with. There’s not a LOT of substance here, but the French can carry these slight things off with a great deal more panache than we Americans can, and Avenue Montaigne is likely to put a smile on your face.
(repeats 2:35pm)

10:15am – IFC – Miller’s Crossing
The Coen brothers take on 1930s gangland with this film, and do so admirably well. As they do most things. I have to admit I wasn’t quite as enamored of it as I usually am of Coen films, but it definitely has its moments and I think a rewatch would jump it up in my estimation greatly.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

8:00pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over. Must See

8:45pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge!
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
(repeats at 5:15am on the 11th)

10:00pm – TCM – A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire won Vivien Leigh her second Oscar as fading Southern belle Blanche DuBois, and made a star out of Marlon Brando. It’s also one of the films I’m most embarrassed to say I’ve never seen. I even have it on DVD somewhere! Someday, I will get to it.

Saturday, July 11

4:00pm – TCM – The Magnificent Seven
Homage comes full circle as American John Sturges remakes Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai as a western – Kurosawa’s film itself was a western transposed into a Japanese setting. Sturges ain’t no Kurosawa, but the story of a group of outcast cowboys banding together to protect an oppressed village is still a good one, plus there’s a young Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in the cast.

Sunday, July 12

7:30am – TCM – Baby Face
If you want a good dose of Pre-Code film style, look no further than 1933’s Baby Face, starring Barbara Stanwyck as a girl quite willing to sleep her way to the top of a downtown firm – literally moving up floor by floor as she moves from conquest to conquest. Look quickly to see a young John Wayne, in a suit, no less!

4:00pm – TCM – High Society
This is not one of the best music-centric films ever made, but it is the musical version of The Philadelphia Story, with both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra crooning it up with songs by Cole Porter. Oh, and one of Grace Kelly’s last roles before she retired to become a princess and stuff. Still, you wish with that pedigree that it were better than it is. Ah, well.

7:15pm – IFC – Garden State
Somehow it has apparently become fashionable to hate on Garden State, but I refuse. I love it, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 13th)

8:00pm – TCM – The African Queen
One of several films John Huston and Humphrey Bogart did together pits Bogart against the Amazon river – and straight-laced missionary Katharine Hepburn, who is forced to travel with him to escape Germany enemies. Well, boats are small, and one things leads to another, you know.

9:00pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
John Cleese and Michael Palin bring their patented Monty Python-esque slapstick humor to this comedy of a jewel-heist gone terribly wrong. Also along for the farcical ride are Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline (who won an Oscar for his role).
(repeats at 3:00am on the 13th)

10:00pm – TCM – Night of the Hunter
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way. Must See