Tag Archives: They Were Expendable

Film on TV: May 26-30

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Nanook of the North, playing on TCM on Thursday.

I apologize for the lateness of this post this week; life happened and I got behind on stuff. I thought it was still worth posting late, though, to point out TCM’s war film marathon over Memorial Day Weekend, running straight through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’ve highlighted a few here, many of them repeats for this column, but a couple of newly featured ones like Mister Roberts on Sunday and the Abbott-Costello slapstick Buck Privates on Saturday. If you like WWII films, though, just tune it to TCM this weekend and be done with it. They’ve also got a couple of really good ones tonight (From Here to Eternity and They Were Expendable) which they’re counting as part of their Donna Reed series, but would fit just as easily in a Memorial Day series. Also look out for the granddaddy of documentaries, Nanook of the North, on Thursday.

Wednesday, May 26

6:00pm – TCM – Stagecoach
Major breakthrough for John Wayne, here playing outlaw Cisco Kid – he and the various other people on a stagecoach form a cross-section of old West society that has to learn to get on together to make it to the end of the ride alive. Excellent performances and stunt-filled action sequences make this one of the best westerns ever made.
1939 USA. Director: John Wayne. Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell.
Must See

8:00pm – 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.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
Must See

Thursday, May 27

10:05am – IFC – Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Lawrence Sterne’s 1769 proto-postmodern novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy has long been considered unfilmable. So what does director Michael Winterbottom do? He makes a film about the difficulty of filming Tristram Shandy. Winterbottom’s film is something of an experiment, but it’s a delightful one, showing the behind-the-scenes antics of production as well as highlighting the circularity and self-defeating narrative of Sterne’s novel in the film-within-the-film.
2005 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Jeremy Northam.
(repeats at 4:50pm)

6:25pm – 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 5:35am on the 28th)

8:00pm – TCM – Nanook of the North
Widely considered the grandfather of the narrative documentary film, Robert Flaherty spent a year shooting footage among the Inuits in Canada, following Nanook in his daily life. This is one I’ve yet to catch up with myself, but I’m anxious to do so.
1922 USA. Director: Robert Flaherty.
Newly Featured!

Friday, May 28

12:00M – 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.

5:30pm – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York, a pacifist who somehow decided that the fastest way to stop the killing was to join up and kill as many Germans as he could to end the war.
1941 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond.

8:00pm – TCM – Stalag 17
William Holden won an Academy Award as a POW in this Billy Wilder film. Wilder had a knack for making top-of-the-line films in just about every genre, so even though I haven’t gotten around to seeing this one myself yet, I’m willing to give it a shot just based on Wilder’s involvement.
1953 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Peter Graves.

10:15pm – TCM – The Great Escape
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

1:15pm (29th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

Saturday, May 29

8:00am – TCM – Buck Privates
Abbott and Costello take on WWII with one of their better films, as a pair of street vendors who accidentally enlist in the army. There’s also a romantic subplot with a couple of other soldiers, and frequent musical interludes from The Andrews Sisters to keep things lively. Interestingly, the film was released in January of 1941 – several months before the US entered WWII (see also the Bob Hope comedy Caught in the Draft, released around the same time).
1941 USA. Director: Arthur Lubin. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, The Andrews Sisters.
Newly Featured!

1:35pm – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 4:55am on the 30th)

8:00pm – TCM – The Best Years of Our Lives
One of the first films to deal with the aftermath of WWII, as servicemen return home to find both themselves and their homes changed by the long years of war. Director William Wyler and a solid ensemble cast do a great job of balancing drama and realism without delving too much into sentimentality.
1946 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Herbert Russell, Cathy O’Donnell.

9:45pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Sunday, May 30

10:00am – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 31st)

8:00pm – TCM – Mister Roberts
Henry Fonda is the title character, an XO on a cargo ship who often butts heads with the captain (James Cagney), who runs the ship with an iron fist. The tone is a satisfying combination of comedy and drama, and with a cast that also includes William Powell in his last role and Jack Lemmon in one of his first, you can hardly go wrong. Though John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy share credit for the film, it’s mostly Ford – LeRoy was brought in to finish it when Ford had to undergo emergency surgery, but he tried to emulate Ford’s style as much as possible.
1955 USA. Director: John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, Jack Lemmon, Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond.
Newly Featured!

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.
(repeats at 4:20am on the 31st)

Film on TV: February 15-22

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Spirited Away, playing on Sunday at 9:45am on IFC

A few new ones this week – the still powerful mental illness drama The Snake Pit on Monday, the mismatched buddy comedy The Odd Couple on Tuesday, Meryl Streep’s first Oscar-winning role in Kramer vs. Kramer on Wednesday, a great teaming for Taylor and Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on Saturday, and one of Miyazaki’s best, Spirited Away on Sunday. A lot of great repeats, too – some Bogart and Bacall, some of Woody Allen’s best, a few of our favorite films of the decade (The Squid and the Whale and The New World), a pair of Soderberghs, some classic sci-fi from Kubrick and Spielberg, and a pair of Hitchcocks to finish out the week.

Monday, February 15

7:30am – 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.

8:00pm – TCM – The Snake Pit
One of the earlier films to deal with the realities of mental illness seriously, with Olivia de Havilland as a woman in an insane asylum, brilliantly moving back and forth between lucidity and falling back in the fog of illness. She got an Oscar nom for her role, based on a true story.
1948 USA. Director: Anatole Litvak. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Heiress
Olivia de Havilland won her Oscar for her role as the title character in this adaptation of Henry James’ Washington Square, a woman forbidden from love with a young suitor because her controlling father fears the suitor is only a fortune hunter.
1949 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson, Miriam Hopkins.

12:00M – IFC – The Proposition
Australia’s answer to the western; Guy Pearce must hunt down and capture his brothers for the law in order to save his own skin. Gritty and violent almost to a fault, and it definitely brought new life to the Western genre.
2005 Australia. Director: John Hillcoat. Starring: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone.

Tuesday, February 16

7:05am – 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 3:05pm)

10:15am – TCM – Key Largo
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall team up for the final time on this great noirish melodrama of a group of people, including a wheelchair-bound hotel owner, his recently widowed daughter-in-law (Bacall), a war veteran (Bogart), and a ruthless gangster and his girl, forced to take refuge against a fierce hurricane. Among the best films for all involved, and that’s saying something considering who all is involved.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor.
Must See

10:15am – IFC – Hannah and Her Sisters
Though I love Manhattan and Annie Hall to bits, I throw my vote for best Woody Allen movie ever to Hannah and Her Sisters. It has all the elements Allen is known for – neurotic characters, infidelity, a tendency to philosophize randomly, New York City, dysfunctional family dynamics, acerbic wit – and blends them together much more cogently and evenly than most of his films do.
1986 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Barbara Hershey, Mia Farrow, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen.
Must See
(repeats at 3:55pm)

2:00pm – TCM – Grand Hotel
This 1932 Best Picture Oscar-winner is honestly pretty creaky around the joints these days, but if you wanna see how they used to do ensemble pictures in the studio days, this is it. MGM’s top talent, from Garbo and Crawford to Beery and two Barrymores are all on hand.
1932 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone, Jean Hersholt.

5:45pm – 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 8:30am and 1:15pm on the 17th)

8:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentines Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film.
1959 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft.
Must See

10:15pm – TCM – The Odd Couple
Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have made a lot of movies together over the years, and this mismatched buddy film (written by Neil Simon) remains one of the best, as neatnik Felix (Lemmon) and slob Oscar (Matthau) become roommates and try not to drive each other nuts.
1968 USA. Director: Gene Saks. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau.
Newly Featured!

Wednesday, February 17

6:00am – IFC – Bananas
Woody Allen in full-on zany mode in one of his earlier films, as the wonderfully named Fielding Mellish. In an attempt to impress a politically-minded girl, Mellish runs off to a Latin American country and takes it over.
1971 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán.
(repeats at 11:45am and 4:35pm)

8:00am – TCM – The Private Life of Henry VIII
The first of several times Charles Laughton played England’s King Henry VIII, and he won an Oscar for it – it was a role that “fit” him very well, if you get my drift.
1933 USA. Director: Alexander Korda. Starring: Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Merle Oberon, Elsa Lanchester, Wendy Barrie, Binnie Barnes.
Newly Featured!

3:30pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more.
1945 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Robert Montgomery, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond.
Must See

8:00pm – 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
(repeats at 2:45am on the 18th)

2:15am (18th) – TCM – Kramer vs. Kramer
Meryl Streep won her first Oscar for this film, as the female Kramer in the title, opposite Dustin Hoffman in a realistic look at a couple going through the pains of divorce – and the affects of that split on their young son.
1979 USA. Director: Robert Benton. Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexaner.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, February 18

8:00am – IFC – The New World
Terrence Malick may not make many films, but the ones he does make, wow. Superficially the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, The New World is really something that transcends mere narrative – this is poetry on film. Every scene, every shot has a rhythm and an ethereal that belies the familiarity of the story we know. I expected to dislike this film when I saw it, quite honestly. It ended up moving me in ways I didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
Must See
(repeats at 2:00pm)

10:45am – IFC – Solaris (2002)
Kurt recently made a case for Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris being better than Tarkovsky’s original. I still haven’t seen either, but here’s your chance to re-evaluate Soderbergh’s, should you so desire.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone.
(repeats at 4:20pm)

6:05pm – IFC – The Good German
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.

7:40pm – 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.

8:00pm – IFC – Gangs of New York
It’s hard to argue with the concept of a Scorsese/diCaprio/Day-Lewis trifecta in a story about Irish gangs at the dawn of New York’s existence, though I found myself underwhelmed with it.
2003 USA. Director: Martin Scorsese. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo diCaprio, Cameron Diaz.
(repeats at 3:15 am on the 19th)

1:30am (19th) – 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.

Friday, February 19

7:50am – 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 12:45pm)

10:00am – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but thanks to strong performances and incredibly well-done yet subtle mise-en-scene from Minnelli, ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.
1959 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine.

10:30am – 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.

12:30pm – TCM – Love Me or Leave Me
One of Doris Day’s better roles places her as a singer in an abusive relationship with gangster/career supporter James Cagney. She’s tough yet vulnerable, and her rendition of the title song is suberb.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: James Cagney, Doris Day, Cameron Mitchell, Brian Keith.

2:45pm – TCM – Forbidden Planet
What’s better than Shakespeare’s The Tempest? Why, a science fiction film set on a planet run by a maverick genius, his robot, and his daughter, of course. Okay, Forbidden Planet isn’t really better than The Tempest, but it is an interesting take on the play, and an obvious influence on the original Star Trek.
1956 USA. Director: Fred M. Wilcox. Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Leslie Nielsen, Anne Francis.

4:30pm – 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.

8:00pm – TCM – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Audrey Hepburn’s signature role in a career full of memorable films, as party girl Holly Golightly, trying to make her way in mod New York City. Breakfast at Tiffany’s for me encapsulates 1960s style probably more than any other film, and with a grace and warmth that never grows old.
1961 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Mickey Rooney.
Must See

12:00M – TCM – Shane
Alan Ladd plays the titular cowboy, idolized by the young son of the family he takes refuge with as he tries to escape Jack Palance.
1953 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance.

6:00am (20th) – 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 4:15pm on the 20th)

Saturday, February 20

6:15am – IFC – Love’s Labour’s Lost
Kenneth Branagh has taken on a lot of Shakespeare plays and usually does them with incredible fidelity (like his uncut, four-plus hour-long Hamlet). This time around, he takes a lesser-known comedy and adds music by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern to turn it into a 1930s style musical. It doesn’t work all the time, but for fans of Shakespeare and old musicals (like me), it’s still a fun watch.
2000 USA. Director: Kenneth Branagh. Starring: Alessandro Nivolo, Alicia Silverstone, Natascha McElhone, Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Lillard.
(repeats at 11:00am and 3:45pm)

9:20am – IFC – Manhattan
In one of Woody Allen’s best films, he’s a neurotic intellectual New Yorker (surprise!) caught between his ex-wife Meryl Streep, his teenage mistress Mariel Hemingway, and Diane Keaton, who just might be his match. Black and white cinematography, a great script, and a Gershwin soundtrack combine to create near perfection.
1979 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Mariel Hemingway, Alan Alda.
Must See
(repeats at 2:05pm)

10:30am – TCM – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis both won acting awards for their parts in Mike Nichols’ version of Edward Albee’s dysfunctional dinner party play. Remains probably the most well-remembered team-up of erstwhile couple Taylor and Richard Burton.
1966 USA. Director: Mike Nichols. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis, George Segal.
Newly Featured!

3:15pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
The benchmark for intellectual science fiction, Kubrick’s probable masterpiece is a mindbending ride through a mysteriously alien-driven evolution, with plenty of time for man vs. machine conflict, beautiful space ballet, and gorgeous cinematography.
1968 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester.
Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Musical tones and volcano images haunt Richard Dreyfuss, eventually leading to an encounter with some of the most strangely beuatiful and mysterious, yet apparently friendly, aliens ever put on film.
1977 USA. Director: Steven Spielberg. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Bob Balaban.

Sunday, February 21

9:00am – TCM – Citizen Kane
Widely considered the greatest American film ever made. The quest for what makes publisher/politician Charles Foster Kane tick takes a journalist through a fractured narrative that never seems to give any definitive answers. Personally, I respect and recommend Kane for its innovations in narrative, cinematography, and cinema language, but I find it a difficult film to love (yet even that is fitting, as the difficulty of loving or being loved by Kane himself is a central theme).
1941 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Agnes Moorehead.
Must See

9:45am – IFC – Spirited Away
Often considered Hayao Miyazaki’s finest film, it’s easily among the best family-friendly animated films in existence, full of magic and wonder, gods and spirits, and shapeshifting spells.
2001 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Rumi Hiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:45am on the 22nd)

1:30pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.

4:30pm – TCM – Doctor Zhivago
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this film, but I also haven’t seen it for many years – probably so long that I was too young to really get it. Idealistic Zhivago experiences the Bolshevik Revolution while also dealing with his conflicting feelings for his wife Tonya and young nurse Lara. Many things about the romance side of the story bothered me, mostly the fact that I liked Tonya way more than Lara, and I never understood why Zhivago wanted Lara so badly. Although Maurice Jarre did write her a lovely musical theme, I’ll say that.
1965 UK/USA. Director: David Lean. Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness.

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.
1954 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint.
Must See

10:00pm – TCM – North by Northwest
Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) gets mistaken for George Kaplan and pulled into an elaborate web of espionage in one of Hitchcock’s most enjoyable and funniest thrillers. So many great scenes it’s impossible to list them all.
1959 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau.
Must See

12:30am (22nd) – TCM – To Catch a Thief
Not one of my personal favorite Hitchcock films, but certainly one of his classiest, most sophisticated entries. Cary Grant is a notorious cat burglar, Grace Kelly the Monte Carlo socialite he woos. It’s one of Kelly’s last films, and she’s already looking like the princess she was about to become.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring; Cary Grant, Grace Kelly.

Film on TV: May 18-24

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All About My Mother, playing on Sundance at 3:30am on the 24th

Tuesday, May 19

3:00am (20th) – 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.

Wednesday, May 20

6:30am – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
From rock n’ roll to jazz – sure, this is a great courtroom drama with attorneys James Stewart and George C. Scott facing off in an attempted rape case, but what always sticks in my mind more than anything else is the amazing original jazz score by Duke Ellington.

9:30am – TCM – You Can’t Take It With You
Millionaire’s son James Stewart falls for Jean Arthur, the most normal one of her eccentric family – which isn’t say a whole lot. Frank Capra’s socially-conscious family-clash drama won Oscars film himself as director and the film as the best of the year.

11:45am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Stewart joins Capra again, this time taking Washington by storm as wide-eyed junior Senator Jefferson Smith, who isn’t quite prepared to take the corruption he finds in Washington in stride. Must See

2:00pm – TCM – Rear Window
Hitchcock and Stewart and Grace Kelly. MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF ALL TIME. Must See

4:00pm – TCM – Vertigo
Hitchcock and Stewart and Kim Novak. ONE OF MY OTHER FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Must See

6:15pm – TCM – Bell, Book, and Candle
Made the same year as Vertigo and also starring Stewart and Novak (as well as Jack Lemmon). There’s a touch of witchcraft in the air, but it’s all in good fun – a bit of a lighter, happier romp after the obsessive instability of Vertigo.

8:00pm – IFC – Elephant
Gus Van Sant’s thoughtful take on school shootings. I’m still trying to get around to rewatching it (I think I’ve taped it five times, only to have my DVR delete it before I get to it) and rethinking my dismissal of it as pretentious. Too many people whose opinions I trust rate it highly.
(repeats 1:35am on the 21st)

4:00am (21st) – TCM – Family Plot
Certainly not among Hitchcock’s greatest films, but it was his last. So there’s that.

Thursday, May 21

2:45pm – TCM – Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
And here’s a bit of a change for Hitch – a full-on screwball comedy with nary a crime in sight. Instead, Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery play the titular couple, who swing between the poles of their love-hate relationship with alarming speed. Lombard’s worth watching in everything, and it’s interesting to see Hitchcock try his hand at something different.

4:30pm – TCM – Here Comes Mr. Jordan
Unassuming but delightful fantasy of a boxer who dies too early (his guardian angel jumped the gun a bit on taking his soul after a plane crash), and is given another chance in another body. Whimsical, I think would be an apt descriptor.

6:15pm – TCM – Lady in the Lake
A not-entirely-successful experiment in first-person filmmaking, Lady in the Lake casts Robert Montgomery as Raymond Chandler’s private eye Philip Marlowe, but shoots everything from his point of view. Meaning, we only actually get to see Montgomery when he’s looking in mirrors. :) It ends up a bit awkward, but hey – experiments are worthy, even when they fail.

8:00pm – IFC – Chasing Amy
(repeats 1:15am on the 22nd)

9:30pm – TCM – West Side Story
I unabashedly love musicals, Shakespeare, and stylized choreography. Hence, West Side Story was in my top five favorite films for a very long time (finally ousted when I got into Godard, I think), and I still love it. 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. Must See

Friday, May 22

10:30am – TCM – Rebecca
Not one of my favorite Hitchcock’s, but a lot of people like it, and it’s notable for being his first American film.

8:00pm – TCM – Marnie
Now this, on the other hand, seems to me to be one of Hitchcock’s most underrated films. ‘Tippi’ Hedren can’t act any better than she can in The Birds, but Sean Connery’s husband is fascinating, whether or not you agree with everything he does (and you probably won’t).

Saturday, May 23

TCM is running a Memorial Day marathon of war movies on both Saturday and Sunday. I only picked out a couple (mostly because I haven’t seen many of them), but if you like classic war films, just tune it in all weekend.

5:30pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
There are films that don’t seem to be all that while you’re watching them – no particularly powerful scenes, not a particularly moving plot, characters that are developed but don’t jump out at you – and yet by the time you reach the end, you’re somehow struck with what a great movie you’ve seen. This film was like that for me – it’s mostly a lot of vignettes from a U-boat squadron led by John Wayne, the only one who thought the U-boat could be useful in combat. But it all adds up to something much more. It seems meandering in the middle, but I think director John Ford knew what he was doing all along. Must See

12:00M – IFC – Blue Velvet

3:30am (24th) – Sundance – All About My Mother
A mother loses her son in an auto accident and goes on something of a personal odyssey back to her home town to find his father, who she hasn’t seen since before the boy was born. Like any self-respecting Almodovar film, there’s plenty of shocking material – pregnant nuns, transvestite prostitutes – but the film as a whole is one of the most human and most humane I’ve ever seen. It’s powerful and moving in an extremely visceral way, without being overly manipulative. Must See

Sunday, May 24

5:15pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.

6:15pm – IFC – The Proposition

Film on TV: April 11-12

Well, I had a bit of an internet outage this week, preventing me from posting the Film on TV post. I would’ve just skipped it, but Saturday has a HUGE AMOUNT of fantastic movies playing. So a late and truncated post will have to do. Please direct any complaints to Time Warner Cable of Los Angeles. They should be used to it by now.

Saturday, April 11

6:00am – IFC – A Hard Day’s Night
(repeats at 12:35pm)

6:00am – TCM – The Kennel Murder Case
Before taking on the role of detective Nick Charles in the Thin Man movies, William Powell did a couple of films as Philo Vance, another witty private eye. Here he’s joined by Mary Astor, who nearly matches Myrna Loy as his counterpart.

7:30am – TCM – The 39 Steps
My vote for Hitchcock’s finest British-era film follows Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll though a twisty and witty tale of spies and mistaken identities.

8:00am – IFC – Throne of Blood
Shakespeare often seems to work better, or at least take on new vitality, when transposed into different times and places – here his Macbeth moves into medieval Japan in the capable hands of Akira Kurosawa.

9:50am – 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.
(repeats at 3:30pm)

12:00N – TCM – They Were Expendable

5:00pm – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai

8:00pm – TCM – Saboteur
Not a particularly memorable Hitchcock film, but it does have a great sequence with the hero and villain chasing each other and hanging off the Statue of Liberty.

10:00pm – TCM – Shadow of a Doubt
And this is a somewhat lesser-known Hitchcock film that ought to be top-tier. Small-town girl Teresa Wright idolizes her uncle Charlie, but we know that he’s an infamous murderer on the run. Hitchcock once made a distinction between mystery and suspense: mystery is when there’s tension because the audience doesn’t know whodunit, suspense is when there’s tension because the audience does. This film is a perfect example of suspense, and Hitchcock’s preference for telling the audience whodunit very early in the film and letting them squirm.

12:00M – TCM – Foreign Correspondent
Another lesser-known Hitchcock film that’s nonetheless well worth watching.

2:15am (12th) – TCM – Rebecca
Hitchcock’s first American film isn’t one of my favorites, but a lot of people like it quite a lot. For me it’s more that the ending cops out from the book, and I know that’s the studio’s influence, not Hitchcock’s. And that bugs me.

Sunday, April 12

4:30am – TCM – Spellbound
Hitchcock + Ingrid Bergman + Gregory Peck + Freudianism + Salvador Dali dream sequences. There was something else you wanted? I didn’t think so.

8:00am – IFC – Au revoir, les enfants

12:30pm – TCM – Ben-Hur (1959)

1:05pm – IFC – Millions

7:00pm – TCM – Easter Parade
One of the better examples of MGM’s opulent musical style – having Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and Ann Miller on board doesn’t hurt.

10:15pm – IFC – Amores Perros

Film on TV: Feb 16-22

Monday, February 16th

9:35am – 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… Must See
(repeats at 2:45pm)

10:00am – TCM – Angels With Dirty Faces
James Cagney is a local criminal idolized by a gang of young boys. When he’s caught, it’s up to his childhood friend-turned-priest Pat O’Brien to convince him to do what he can to keep the boys from following in his footsteps. One of several gangster films that Cagney’s best known for.

3:30pm – TCM – Double Indemnity
Billy Wilder. Barbara Stanwyck. Fred MacMurray. Edward G. Robinson. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest film noir ever made. Must See

8:00pm – TCM – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play this titular outlaws in this 1969 western, one of the greats of the 1960s revisionist cycle. Many great moments and shootouts make this one worth coming back.

10:00pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder. Marilyn Monroe. Jack Lemmon. Tony Curtis. One of two or three contenders for the title of greatest comedy ever made. (Yes, I can do this with Billy Wilder movies for a long time…) Must See

Tuesday, February 17th

8:15am – TCM – The Red Shoes
Michael Powell. Emeric Pressburger. Moira Shearer…Okay, enough of that. But this really is one of the best ballet films ever made, though that’s a fairly small genre. The story is basically Svengali and comes across a little cliched today, but the extended ballet sequence has yet to be matched.

3:30pm – 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).

1:00am (18th) – Sundance – Paris, je t’aime
18 great directors, 18 short films about Paris. There was no way I was not going to love this film, given my ongoing love affair with cinematic Paris. But there’s enough variety in the film that most anyone is going to find something to like here.

2:30am (18th) – TCM – 42nd Street
The definitive backstage musical creaks a bit around the edges, but it still pretty darn solid.

4:15am (18th) – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1935
There is absolutely nothing distinguished about most of Gold Diggers of 1935 (unlike Gold Diggers of 1933, which is a hidden gem right the way through). However, it includes the dazzling Busby Berkeley-choreographed “Lullaby of Broadway” routine, which follows a young socialite through her nights and days of being a “Broadway baby” – with a shockingly tragic turn for a musical of the time. The whole rest of the movie is worth sitting through to see it, or honestly, just fast-forward to it. It’s near the end.

Wednesday, February 18th

3:00pm – TCM – Anatomy of a Murder
Lawyers James Stewart and George C. Scott face off over a murky rape/murder/self-defense case. A great combination of character study and courtroom drama, with a fantastic original jazz score by Duke Ellington and a gorgeous title sequence by Saul Bass thrown in.

10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg may be insane. Or he may just be quirky. When his paranoid behavior goes over the edge, Van Johnson leads the crew in a mutiny – but are they right? One of Bogart’s best performances.

Thursday, February 19th

8:00am – TCM – Blackboard Jungle
An early example of the “great teacher in a difficult classroom” films also cuts across the race issues of the 1950s, as Glenn Ford takes a job as teacher in one of the roughest schools in the city, butting heads against a very young Sidney Poitier. Also notable as, I believe, the first time a rock song (“Rock Around the Clock”) was played in a film.

1:00am (20th) – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
There’s very little question that this is the greatest musical in existence. Must See

Friday, February 20th

7:00am – 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. :)

10:30am – TCM – The Battle of Algiers
This would be one of those I’m recommending without having seen, simply because it ends up so near the top of critical best lists all the time. It’s a 1966 French film about the Algerian war, using a very realistic, almost documentary filming style. Looking forward to seeing it myself.

10:00pm – TCM – The Conversation
Gene Hackman is a surveillance operator, paid to listen in to other’s conversations. But when he thinks he overhears something connected with a murder, how far should he go to uncover the truth? And, in fact, how much of what he heard was his own interpretation? In this film along the lines of Blow-up and Blow Out, what he hears may or may not be accurate, but where is the line between privacy and responsibility when fallible humans are in the middle? This film was timely when it was released in 1974, and it’s pretty much remained so ever since. Must See

Saturday, February 21st

5:30pm – TCM – Glory
Matthew Broderick commands a platoon of black soldiers in the Civil War’s Union army (the platoon includes Morgan Freeman and a young Denzel Washington, who earned a supporting Oscar). Director Edward Zwick has been trying for a Best Picture Oscar with his over-earnest “important” action dramas for years, but 1989’s Glory remains his best work.

10:15pm – TCM – They Were Expendable
John Ford’s 1945 film captures the daily life of a PT Boat unit commander (John Wayne) in the Philippines near the end of WWII; this is one of those films that doesn’t seem that amazing during any given scene, but by the end, the cumulative effect is staggering, and the film’s solid reputation among WWII films is well-deserved.

Sunday, February 22nd

8:00am – IFC – Amarcord
Something of a combination of Fellini’s neo-Realist and surrealist phases, as a film director’s memories of his childhood in Italy become larger and crazier than life. I get it mixed up in my head with Roma a bit, so I could use a rewatch on it myself. It’s in theatrical rerelease right now, so keep an eye for it to hit a theatre near you. (It’s in LA till the 20th.)

8:45am – TCM – The Band Wagon
The Band Wagon combines the dancing of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse with the lush directorial style of Vincente Minnelli and a witty script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green to create one of the best movie musicals ever. Second to Singin’ in the Rain, of course. “The Girl Hunt Ballet” alone is worth the price of admission, but you get so much more. Must See

10:45am – TCM – The Producers (1968)
Sometimes it’s easier to make money on Broadway when your show flops – at least, that’s what producer Zero Mostel and accountant Gene Wilder hope when they seek out the worst play they can find to put on stage: A musical called “Springtime for Hitler.” I haven’t seen the musical remake (which I’ve heard is terrible) based on the musical stage version (which I’ve heard is great), but the original non-musical is fantastic enough that I don’t feel like I’ve missed out.

8:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I can’t even tell you how many times I borrowed this film from the library when I was younger. It was many times, in the double digits surely. Katharine Hepburn is a privileged heiress who wants to prove she can be an actress without daddy’s money, so she goes to live incognito at a boarding house for theatrical wannabes and starts on the audition circuit. That’s the main strand of the story, but the real draw is the wonderful script and supporting cast that pulls together a snarky Ginger Rogers (Kate’s unwilling roommate), a REALLY young Lucille Ball, a REALLY young Ann Miller (the other half of Ginger’s dance act), a catty Gail Patrick, a wry Eve Arden, and a tragic Andrea Leeds (the talented actress with a hit last year who’s starving this year), as well as smarmy producer Adolphe Menjou. I now own the DVD, and on a recent rewatch, I fell in love with it just as much as I ever did ten years ago. This isn’t a film that’s too well known these days, but that’s a shame, and I recommend it in a heartbeat. Must See

Next Week Sneak Peek

Tuesday, February 24th
1:45pm – TCM – The 400 Blows
3:45pm – TCM – Au revoir, les enfants
10:00pm – TCM – Rashomon
11:30pm – TCM – The Seven Samurai