Tag Archives: The Postman Always Rings Twice

Film on TV: March 1-7

Contempt.jpg
Contempt, playing on TCM late Sunday/early Monday.

Of the new ones this week, I’m most excited about catching Days of Heaven myself (Monday on TCM), since it’s part of the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls marathon. Don’t know if I’ll watch it right away, though; I’m trying to keep in somewhat chronological order watching those. Other notable newly features ones: West Side Story and Rebel Without a Cause on Tuesday, Alien on Wednesday (I’m long overdue a rewatch on that one), All the President’s Men on Thursday, and Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt late Sunday/early Monday.

Monday, March 1

8:30am – IFC – American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is one of the more idiosyncratic graphic novelists there is (”comic book” doesn’t quite cover his very adult, neurotic art), and Paul Giamatti brings him to life perfectly.
2003 USA. Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini. Starring: Paul Giamatti, Hope Davis.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

10:15pm – TCM – Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick has made his reputation on only four films; this is his second, some five years after debut Badlands. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Marathon list, so I will be before long – and judging by the screencaps I’ve already seen, I’m expecting to love it.
1978 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard.
Newly Featured!

Tuesday, March 2

9:30am – TCM – The Maltese Falcon
Humphrey Bogart inhabits the role of Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade, creating one of the definitive on-screen hard-boiled detective (vying only with Bogart’s Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, really). Not mention setting the early benchmark for noir films.
1941 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Elisha Cook Jr, Walter Huston.
Must See

10:15am – 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
(repeats at 3:45pm)

11:00am – 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.

4:00pm – TCM – Royal Wedding
This isn’t one of the all-time great Fred Astaire musicals, but it’s quite charming in its small way, and has the distinction of including the Fred’s “dancing on the ceiling” extravaganza, as well as a few surprisingly competent dance numbers from Fred and not-dancer Jane Powell. Oh, and Fred’s love interest is Sarah Churchill, Winston Churchill’s daughter, which is interesting (Powell plays his sister).
1951 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Sarah Churchill, Peter Lawford.

6:00pm – TCM – West Side Story
I unabashedly love musicals, Shakespeare, and stylized choreography. Hence, I love West Side Story. I wish Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood were a little more interesting as the leads, but the supporting cast is electrifying enough that it doesn’t much matter, especially with Bernstein and Sondheim music and Jerome Robbins choreography.
1961 USA. Director: Richard Wise & Jerome Robbins. Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Rita Moreno.
Must See
Newly Featured!

11:00pm – TCM – Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s best-known movie (though not, I’d argue, his best), likely because it’s one of James Dean’s three films. Dean is a rebellious teen, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whose parents don’t understand him. It all seems a little overwrought these days, but there’s an intensity to Dean and the film that manages to make it still relatable.
1955 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, March 3

11:30am – TCM – Adam’s Rib
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn take on the battle of the sexes as married lawyers on opposite sides of an assault case involving gender politics. It’s a great movie in dialogue and acting, and still interesting for the 1949 view of women struggling for even basic equality. Some of its approach to gender may be a bit strange today, but…that’s why it’s interesting.
1949 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, Gig Young

1:30pm – 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.
1950 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe.

3:30pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I can’t begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but it’s well into double-digits. It’s a nothing story, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. It’s the way the music and dancing is integrated that’s wonderful (and groundbreaking in the 1943 play the film is based on).
1955 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger, Gloria Grahame, Gene Nelson, Eddie Albert, Charlotte Greenwood, James Whitmore.

9:45pm – IFC – Volver
Pedro Almodóvar deftly straddles the line between drama and comedy in one of his more accessible films. Two sisters return to their home at the death of their aunt, only to find their mother’s ghost – or is it a ghost? And as always in Almodóvar’s films, there are related subplots aplenty. Penélope Cruz is incredible as the younger, fierier sister – she’s never been more moving than in her passionate rendition of the title song, nor funnier than when calmly cleaning up a murder scene.
2006 Spain. Director: Pedro Almodóvar. Starring: Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanco Portillo, Yohana Cobo
Must See

10:15pm – TCM – Alien
Often considered one of the best sci-fi/horror creature features of all time (or just behind its sequel Aliens). Sigourney Weaver gets an iconic role as ass-kicking astronaut Ripley.
1979 USA. Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, John Hurt.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, March 4

6:00am – TCM – Four Daughters
Something of a high-B-level programmer, Four Daughters tells the fairly routine story of four sisters and their love interests; there’s more to it than meets the eye, though, and starlet Priscilla Lane (notably of Arsenic and Old Lace) carries it well with her two sisters Lola and Rosemary. It’s interesting to contrast with its 1954 musical remake Young at Heart, which boasts the greater star power of Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. They’re virtually identical in script, but this one strikes a more sincere note with me.
1938 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Priscilla Lane, Claude Rains, John Garfield.

5:30pm – TCM –The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.
1946 USA. Director: Tay Garnett. Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn.

8:00pm – Sundance – A Prairie Home Companion
I’ve been taken to task for ignoring Robert Altman films in these write-ups, and I’ll confess that’s true due to my woeful ignorance of Altman films. Though I’m working to rectify this blind spot, I just haven’t seen that many of his films, including this one, the last one he made before he died.
2006 USA. Director: Robert Altman. Starring: Woody Harrelson, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Lily Tomlin.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:10am on the 5th)

9:00pm – TCM – To Have and Have Not
It’s said that this film came about because Howard Hawks bet Earnest Hemingway that he (Hawks) could make a good film out of Hemingway’s worst book. Of course, to do that, Hawks ended up basically changing the story entirely, but hey. It’s the thought that counts. Mostly notable for being Lauren Bacall’s first film, the one where she met Humphrey Bogart, and the one that spawned the immortal “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve” bit of dialogue. That one scene? Worth the whole film.
1944 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan.

11:00pm – TCM – All the President’s Men
The Nixon and Watergate scandal is presented as a mystery almost, from the point of view of Woodward and Bernstein, the rookie Washington Post investigative reporters who broke the story. The film unfolds like a very good procedural, balancing the fact-finding itself with the roadblocks Woodward has to overcome at the paper because of his youth and inexperience. Not a showy film, but a really well-made one with excellent performances from Redford and Hoffman.
1976 USA. Director: Alan J. Pakula. Starring: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook.
Newly Featured!

1:30am (5th) – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazrescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)
2005 Romania. Director: Cristi Puiu. Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Boguta.

Friday, March 5

7:00am – IFC – The Station Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises (for me, anyway) of 2003. Peter Dinklage moves into a train depot to indulge his love for trains and stay away from people, only to find himself befriended by a loquacious Cuban hot-dog stand keeper and an emotionally delicate Patricia Clarkson. A quiet but richly rewarding film.
2003 USA. Director: Thomas McCarthy. Starring: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale.
(repeats at 12:30pm)

8:35am – IFC – Maria Full of Grace
Once in a while a film comes out of nowhere and floors me – this quiet little film about a group of South American women who agree to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing packets of cocaine did just that. Everything in the film is perfectly balanced, no element overwhelms anything else, and it all comes together with great empathy, but without sentimentality.
2004 USA. Director: Joshua Marston. Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

Saturday, March 6

8:30am – 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

1:30pm – IFC – My Life as a Dog
Lasse Hallstrom gives us this simple but effective coming-of-age story, focusing on the every day life of a young boy as he’s sent to live in a provincial village after acting out at home.
1985 Sweden. Director: Lasse Hallstrom. Starring: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, Melinda Kinnaman.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 7th)

5:30pm – TCM – On the Beach
After nuclear war, most of humanity is destroyed; a small outpost in Australia survives, but not for long. See David’s longer take here;.
1959 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire.

8:00pm – 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.
1951 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Kim Stanley, Karl Malden.

10:00pm – 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.
Must See
(repeats at 4:20am on the 7th)

2:30am (7th) – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
Glenn Ford is the teacher who takes on rowdy inner-city kids in one of the earlier “heroic teacher” films. A young Sidney Poitier is one of the students, and a scene in which a record of “Rock Around the Clock” is played is reputed to be the first time rock n’ roll appeared in a film.
1955 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Glenn Ford, Anne Francis, Louis Calhern, Sidney Poitier.

4:15am (7th) – 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.

Sunday, March 7

10:15pm – TCM – The Big Knife
Clifford Odets’ searing play about his hatred of Hollywood comes to the screen, with Jack Palance mugging as a frustrated actor who wants out of his contract, but can’t get out because the studio is blackmailing him. Between Odets’ overly poetic dialogue, director Robert Aldrich’s melodramatic style, and Palance’s scenery-chewing, this is a camptastic good time.
1955 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Jean Hagen, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters.

2:00am (8th) – TCM – Contempt
One of Jean-Luc Godard’s most consciously self-reflexive films, and that is saying a lot for someone who uses self-reflexivity the way most people use water. It took me longer to warm to this film than most of Godard’s (perhaps because of seeing it earlier than some of his lighter fare), but there’s a lot here to chew on, and a lot to enjoy, from the comments on his own relationship with Anna Karina to the foibles of filmmaking to the misunderstandings of translation.
1963 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Michel Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Palance, Fritz Lang.
Must See
Newly Featured!

4:00am (8th) – 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.

Film on TV: November 16-22

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, playing on TCM on Wednesday at midnight.

Among the new offerings this week: Woody Allen’s geopolitical farce Bananas on Tuesday, the quintessentially 1960s vision Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Wednesday, and the gritty Mann-Stewart western The Naked Spur on Saturday. Also, the chance to watch and compare two of the movies considered by many critics (including myself) to be the worst ever granted Best Picture Academy Awards: 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth on Thursday, and 2004’s Crash. See both and decide for yourself which deserves the dubious honor.

Monday, November 16

6:10am – 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.

5:35pm – IFC – Stage Beauty
Sometime around Shakespeare’s time, theatrical convention changed from having all female parts played by males on stage to allowing women to perform female roles themselves. Caught in this shift were the effeminate men who had made their careers and indeed, their identities, out of playing women. Stage Beauty is about one such man and his crisis of self when he no longer had a professional or personal identity. It’s a fascinating film in many ways.
2004 UK. Director: Richard Eyre. Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin.

Tuesday, November 17

6:15am – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
Gena Rowlands gives a tour-de-force performance as Mabel, a woman whose teetering madness threatens her marriage to Nick (Peter Falk). Their relationship edges back and forth between love, frustration, and anger with amazing quickness, yet it’s not clear whether Mabel’s instability is causing the problems, or the other way around. John Cassavetes directs with an unwavering camera, refusing to look away.
1974 USA. Director: John Cassavetes. Starring: Gena Rowlands, Peter Falk, Fred Draper, Lady Rowlands.
(repeats at 2:00pm)

8:15am – 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, hilariously.
1958 France. Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie, Jean-François Martial.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

3:00pm – 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.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – 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

11:00pm – TCM – 8 1/2
Federico Fellini translates his creative block in making his next film into a film about a director with a creative block – and in so doing, makes one of the most brilliant and creative films of all time.
1963 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée.
Must See

Wednesday, November 18

6:00pm – Sundance – Le doulos
Jean-Paul Belmondo brings his signature style to Jean-Pierre Meville’s excellent crime film as a possible police informant working with another criminal on a jewel heist. These two men are played off each other in a sort of doubling motif – it’s often even difficult to tell which is which, due to careful cinematography and lighting work by Melville.
1962 France. Director: Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, René Lefèvre.
(repeats 7:00am on the 19th)

12:00M – TCM – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn’s signature role in a career full of memorable films, as party girl Holly Golightly, trying to make her way in mod New York City. Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me encapsulates 1960s style probably more than any other film, and with a grace and warmth that never grows old.
1961 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney.
Must See
Newly Featured!

12:30am (19th) – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.

Thursday, November 19

9:00am – 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

11:00am – 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.
Newly Featured!

11:00am – 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.
1972 France. Director: Luis Buñuel. Starring: Fernando Rey, Paul Fankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel.
(repeats at 4:45pm)

1:45pm – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.
1946 USA. Director: Tay Garnett. Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn.

5:30pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
Must See

2:15am (20th) – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the major films in Romania’s current cinematic resurgence – emphasis on realism, slow pacing, and in this case, the failures of the Romanian health care system, which shunts poor Mr. Lazarescu around from hospital to hospital as he gets sicker and sicker. I wasn’t as captivated by this as I was by 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days by a longshot, but if you’re interested in Romanian film, you oughta see it. If you didn’t like 4 Months, though, you almost certainly won’t like this. ;)
2005 Romania. Director: Cristi Puiu. Starring: Ion Fiscuteanu, Doru Ana, Monica Barladeanu, Doru Boguta.

Friday, November 20

2:00am (21st) – TCM – The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy
I have never heard of this film before, and I know absolutely nothing about it beyond TCM’s brief description: “A mad scientist creates a murderous robot to steal an ancient Aztec treasure.” BUT. It is called THE ROBOT VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY. What more do you really need to know? Oh, I know something else – it was one of the first movies to be MST3K’d.
1958 Mexico. Director: Rafael Portillo. Starring: Ramón Gay, Rosa Arenas, Crox Alverado.

Saturday, November 21

10:05am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

12:00N – TCM – The Naked Spur
One of several westerns that teamed director Anthony Mann and James Stewart in the 1950, this one is a fine example of the darker turn that both the western as a genre and Jimmy Stewart’s roles took in the hands of Anthony Mann. Stewart is a bitter bounty hunter who takes on two suspect partners to track down a fugitive – a wily man indeed who psychologically manipulates the three men into turning on each other.
1953 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell.
Newly Featured!

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.

Sunday, November 22

8:00pm – IFC – Crash
A strong contender for the title “worst movie to ever win the Best Picture Oscar,” at least among many critics. I’m really only putting it here because both it and The Greatest Show on Earth, another much-maligned Best Picture winner, are playing this week. Comparison time! May the worst picture win! (My vote’s on Crash, by the way.)
2004 USA. Director: Paul Haggis. Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe.
(repeats at 1:15am on the 23rd)
Newly Featured! (and may not ever be again)

Film on TV: 9-15 March

Okay, I can haz new computer now. It’s a shiny, pretty Macbook that anyone who happens to follow me on Twitter or FriendFeed has already heard WAY too much about. Suffice it to say that it is much more fun writing these on a computer than on an iPhone (finding the greater than/more than symbols for all the html tags got old REAL quick on the phone). Looked like it was gonna be slim pickings this week with TCM’s lineup, but IFC more than picked up the slack.

Monday, March 9th

8:35am – IFC – Diabolique
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s tense thriller about a man whose wife and lover decide to join forces to off him. But there’s another twist beyond that.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

8:00pm – IFC – Day Watch
The sequel to the moody apocalyptic sci-fi film Night Watch from a couple of years ago. Night Watch was far from perfect (way better in concept than in execution, which was quite muddled), but still interesting, and I’m curious to see if Day Watch improved on it. It’s eventually supposed to be a trilogy.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 10th)

12:00M – Sundance – The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
One of the forerunners of Romania’s ongoing New Wave, focused on a spare, minimalist style of realism – my beloved 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days belongs to this movement as well. Lazarescu is an indictment of the Romanian healthcare system, following a dying man as a parademic tries to get him into hospital after hospital over the course of a night.

Tuesday, March 10th

8:30am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
(repeats at 2:05pm)

11:00am – TCM – Detour
If you wanna see some classic B-level film noir, look no further. This is one of the touchstones – you got low-budget, dim lighting, fatalistic anti-hero, femme fatale, the works.

2:45pm – Sundance – Avenue Montaigne
Sweet and unassuming ensemble film, set in Paris. That’s all it takes to hook me.
(repeats at 1:00pm on the 14th)

1:00am (11th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai

Wednesday, March 11th

10:00am – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
Doris Day turns in her best performance ever as the abused girlfriend of gangster James Cagney.

Thursday, March 12th

8:00pm – IFC – The Player
Robert Altman. Tim Robbins as a hotshot Hollywood producer who may just get his comeuppance. Virtuosic opening tracking shot.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 13th)

10:15pm – IFC – The Royal Tenenbaums
(repeats at 4:25am on the 13th)

2:00am (13th) – TCM – The Third Man

Friday, March 13th

6:25am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with director Peter Weir, and I’m never sure which side of the fence this film falls on. I don’t really understand it, but it’s stuck in my head for years. I think I’m assigning that to love.
(repeats at 11:40am and 4:55pm)

7:45am – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
One of the first teacher-in-an-inner-city-school films, with a very young Sidney Poitier as one of the unruly students.

9:10am – Sundance – Mutual Appreciation
I actually just watched this today. It’s part of the so-called Mumblecore movement, which is largely associated with a group of New York indie filmmakers including Andrew Bujalski (who directed Mutual Appreciation), Joe Swanberg, Mark and Jay Duplass, Mary and Ronald Bronstein, actress Greta Gerwig, etc. Mumblecore often comes under fire for being pointless and navel-gazing, and sure. It’s that. I’m not even sure I like Mumblecore-labeled films that much, but if you’re interested in seeing some real DIY filmmaking (not what passes for indie in the world of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno), check this one out. It has a bit more plot than some of the others, plus it stars Justin Rice, the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for Bishop Allen, which is fun.
(repeats at 4:35pm)

2:45pm – TCM – To Sir, With Love
Another teacher film, but this time Sidney Poitier’s the teacher, and the school is in inner-city London.

8:00pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
It’s James M Cain night over at TCM tonight, and all three of these films (this one, Mildred Pierce, and The Postman Always Rings Twice are well worth watching, straddling the film noir-melodrama line perfectly.

10:00pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce

12:00M – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice

Saturday, March 14th

9:45am – IFC – Waking Life
It may be a while before you see another film like Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped Waking Life, which doubles as philosophic treatise. It’s one of the most interesting, innovative, and brilliant films of the 21st century.
(repeats at 2:35pm)

4:00pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity

Sunday, March 15th

8:00am – IFC – Cléo from 5 to 7
At the end of last year, I posted a list of the best films I had seen. Cléo from 5 to 7 was at the top of that list. It combines a New Wave sensibility with a female director’s eye, which turned out to be such a perfect combination for me that I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since, and I can’t wait to see it again. And again.

9:35am – IFC – Vagabond
Vagabond is by the same director as Cléo from 5 to 7, Agnès Varda. Haven’t seen it yet, but hope to this time around.
(repeats at 4:15pm)

8:00pm – IFC – Raging Bull

9:45pm – Sundance – A Woman Under the Influence
I still have this John Cassavetes film on my DVR from the last time it was on. I should rectify that at some point.
(repeats at 5:30pm on the 16th)

12:00M – TCM – Nosferatu
F.W. Murnau’s 1922 version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula still ends up being one of the best versions of the story. For a great double feature, watch this and then 2001’s Shadow of the Vampire, a fun little film that wonders if Nosferatu actor Max Shrenk actually WAS a vampire.

Film on TV: 24-30 Nov 2008

Monday, November 24

9:00pm EST / 8:00pm CST – IFC – The Proposition
One of the best reviewed westerns in recent memory hails from Australia; the “proposition” is that outlaw Guy Pearce, in order to save himself and his younger brothers from corrupt lawmen, must find and kill his estranged oldest brother. I honestly didn’t like the movie as much as most critics – a bit too realistically violent for me – but it’s been influential already on newer westerns like 3:10 to Yuma. And director John Hillcoat is currently working on the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which should be pretty stark (in a good way), if this film is any indication. (repeats at 1:00am, Tuesday Nov. 24)

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – Witness for the Prosecution
The last great film for three classic Hollywood actors: Charles Laughton (as a brilliant but ailing laywer), Tyrone Power (as the murder suspect Laughton defends), and Marlene Dietrich (as Power’s wife and the titular witness). Billy Wilder writes and directs this twisty-turny courtroom drama, which is beginning to creak a little more than Wilder’s best, but is still worth it for Laughton and Dietrich’s performances.

Tuesday, November 25

1:15pm / 12:15pm – TCM – Arsenic and Old Lace
One of the zaniest comedies you’ll ever see has kindly old ladies poisoning lonely men for their own good. When their nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) finds out he tries to get them committed, but even more hijinks are in order when another murdering relative turns up (Raymond Massey, with sidekick Peter Lorre in tow). A change of pace for director Frank Capra, and a good one at that.

Wednesday, November 26

12:00pm / 11:00am – TCM – High Noon
An Oscar-winning performance by Gary Cooper and an early role for Grace Kelly in Fred Zinnemann’s classic cowboy showdown drama. Follow it up with Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo, something of a response to High Noon, which Hawks disliked.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – West Side Story
Stylized musicals based on Shakespeare for the win!

10:45pm / 9:45pm – TCM – The King and I
I still love Oklahoma! the best of all the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, but The King and I is a really close second. Having Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr around doesn’t hurt.

1:00am / 12:00am (27th) – TCM – My Fair Lady
You oughta see My Fair Lady at least once, so here it is.

Thursday, November 27

6:30am / 5:30am – TCM – That’s Entertainment!
In 1974, MGM celebrated its glorious musical past by producing this compilation film hosted by Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, and others looking back on MGM’s history (specifically musicals) from the advent of sound through the 1950s. It’s a great overview of Hollywood’s golden age, studio-specific as it is, and chock-full of great musical moments. Two years later, That’s Entertainment! Part 2 showed that MGM had more than one feature worth of great moments, and added in some non-musical sections as well.

10:15am / 9:15am – TCM – Guys and Dolls
Damon Runyon’s slice-of-Broadway-life musical comes to film with Marlon Brando as an unlikely musical leading man, but he muscles through, with the help of Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine, who steal the show as a fast-talking gambler and his long-suffering fiancee. Some great tunes, including “Luck Be a Lady,” don’t hurt either.

1:00pm / 12:00pm – Sundance – Monsoon Wedding
A good intro to Indian film (though it’s not really an Indian film) from Mira Nair – she’s got a great visual eye and this is easily her best film.

4:45pm / 3:45pm – 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.

3:15am / 2:15am – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Frank Capra’s Best Picture Oscar winner from 1938 is still a wacky good time, as Jean Arthur’s unconventional family bumps heads with her new boyfriend Jimmy Stewart’s family of conservative bankers. There’s perhaps more fluff than substance here, but that’s not always bad.

Friday, November 28

10:00am / 9:00am – IFC – Picnic at Hanging Rock
I have a love-hate relationship with Aussie director Peter Weir. His films are almost always slow and methodical, which works for me sometimes and not others. It works in Picnic at Hanging Rock, one of his earlier films, in which a group of schoolgirls goes into the wilderness for a picnic and mysteriously disappear. (Repeats at 4:05pm EST.)

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
I used to roll my eyes at the very idea of melodrama. Mildred Pierce is one of the films that changed my mind, and taught me to see value in the melodrama as a legitimate genre. Joan Crawford, despite her star status, isn’t a terribly versatile actress, but Mildred is possibly her most perfectly fitting role – a working class woman who claws her way to prosperity in any way she can, much as Crawford herself had done working her way into the movies in the 1920s. Oh, and there’s murder and evil children and stuff along the way, too.

11:30pm / 10:30pm – TCM – The Misfits
I swear I have seen this, but I couldn’t tell you much about the plot. *sets own DVR* What I can tell you is that this is the last completed film for both Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and they both go out at the top of their game.

Saturday, November 29

6:15am / 5:15am – IFC – Everyone Says I Love You
Nowhere near Woody Allen’s best, but a sunny fun time nonetheless, with a great cast randomly breaking out into song and dance. I will admit a large soft spot for movies in which people randomly break out into song and dance. Just for the record. (Repeats at 2:45pm EST.)

8:00am / 7:00am – IFC – Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa does Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I haven’t seen this one myself, but it’s got a good rep, and if it’s anything like as good as Ran (his version of King Lear, which is essentially the only version of King Lear I like, including the original play), it’s pretty darn good.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – 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.

Sunday, November 30

10:00am / 9:00am – TCM – Twentieth Century
In one of the films that defines “screwball comedy” (along with The Awful Truth and Bringing Up Baby), John Barrymore plays a histrionic theatre producer trying to convince his star Carole Lombard to come back to him – both professionally and personally. Lombard is luminous as usual, and Barrymore can chew scenery with the best of them, which is precisely what his role calls for. Howard Hawks directs, yet more proof that the man can do anything.