Tag Archives: West Side Story

Top Ten: Roger Ebert’s Great Movies

Today would have been Roger Ebert’s 71st birthday had he not recently passed away. What better way to celebrate his life than to remember the films that he singled out for particular praise in his Great Movies series? Ebert did not rank these films; in fact, he added them only after he had a chance to reevaluate them and write about them, so there’s no hierarchy here at all. The ones he identified as Great Movies are likely only a fraction of what he would consider the Greatest Movies of All Time, and possibly not even the top fraction. But because the list of Great Movies is unranked by Ebert, it’s a perfect filter for Flickchart, letting us see how I personally and Flickchart users globally rank the conglomerate.

Flickchart is a movie ranking website that pits two random films against each other and asks you to choose which one is better, meanwhile building a list of your favorite films. I rank according to what I like the best, prioritizing personal preferences and emotional connections, so my Flickchart is in no way meant to be objective.

10 – The Thin Man (1934)

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more times in the future – Nick and Nora Charles are my favorite on-screen married couple. They flirt and joke with each other, get through disagreements and have friendly competitions, are totally secure in each others’ love, and each is ready to take a bullet for the other if it becomes necessary. And oh, it does, because this is a murder mystery that crosses the Hammett-style detective story (Hammett actually wrote the novel the film is based on) with a touch of Agatha Christie, and a whole lot of ’30s-style witty comedy. The balance is perfect, and this is a film I can watch over and over and never get tired of.

9 – Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director, and a whole bunch of his movies are in my Top 100, so it’s not surprising to find two on this list. First up, Vertigo, which is one of the first Hitchcock films I remember watching, when my cousin decided we should watch it when I was probably much too young for it. I liked it anyway, and I’ve only liked it better with every (frequent) rewatch. I love everything about this movie – the dark side of Jimmy Stewart, the lush and unrealistic colors, the slow burn, and perhaps especially the tragic Midge, who gave Scottie everything she had knowing he’d give her nothing in return. The fact that Midge’s story exists alongside and underneath the Scottie/Madeline/Judy story simply shows the breadth and nuance of Vertigo.

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50DMC #35: Favorite Adaptation

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s your favorite book-to-screen adaptation?

Like the “favorite remake” question, this one has a number of ways to approach it. Favorite movie that happens to be an adaptation? Favorite movie AS an adaptation (that is, something about the transition from book to screen is particularly loveable)? The first approach would be way too broad, so I tried to find one that does something interesting with the adaptation itself, which meant I had to have read the book. That knocked off a bunch of possibilities right there. Heh.

For a long while, West Side Story was one of my top five favorite films. It’s not quite that high anymore, but I do still love it a lot, and a good portion of that love is due to the way it takes the story of Romeo and Juliet and plops it into a modern and more relatable milieu. This is, in fact, a thing I like in most any Shakespeare adaptations, and something that’s quite common in stage versions of his shows, albeit they usually keep the language and West Side Story does not. The film version of West Side Story is a double adaptation; directly an adaptation of the 1950s Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim, which is adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy. And even though the majority of the adaptation is between Shakespeare and Sondheim, the film has a few changes up its sleeve as well, most notably in the performance of a couple of the songs – the film swaps “Cool” and “Hey Officer Krupke”, which makes a lot more sense in the flow of the story (the ordering in the play is largely due to needing an upbeat song at a particular point for the peculiar pacing purposes of stage productions), and it also has both male and female members of the Sharks performing “America” instead of just female, as it was in the play. I prefer “America” as it is in the play, but swapping the other two songs for the movie as a great choice, and shows that the were really thinking about how this is going to play AS A MOVIE – a key consideration in adaptation that not every filmmaker takes into account as much as they should. Not to mention it looks incredibly cinematic, transcending its roots on the stage.

Both as a movie, then, and as an adaptation, West Side Story hits my sweet spots. Here’s the opening:

Film on TV: April 5-11

fistful-of-dollars.jpg
A Fistful of Dollars, playing on TCM on Saturday, April 10th.

A bit sparse this week, but still plenty of things worth checking out. Among the newly featured films are a couple of Australian comedies, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Monday and Strictly Ballroom on Friday, the early Woody Allen sci-fi comedy Sleeper on Tuesday, sparkling screwball comedy Libeled Lady on Thursday, quintessential spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars on Friday, and Garbo showcase Queen Christina on Sunday.

Monday, April 5

8:00pm – IFC – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Any half-decent film about three drag queens driving a bus through the Australian outback in outlandish costumes (and sometimes lipsynching to opera while sitting in an enormous shoe strapped on top of the bus) pretty much has to be fabulous, and this one is. Hugo Weaving is the one with the secret former marriage and son, Terence Stamp the aging one who tends to be somewhat bitter but can also be the consummate lady, and Guy Pearce is the flamboyant youth. As they move through the Outback toward their next proposed gig as lipsynching dancers, they run into mechanical difficulties, bigotry, and interpersonal conflicts that get into more thoughtful territory than you might expect.
1994 Australia. Director: Stephan Elliott. Starring: Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Rebel Penfold-Russell.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:00am on the 6th)

10:00pm – 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 at 5:25am on the 6th, and 6:25am and 2:15pm on the 10th)

1:30am (6th) – 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.

Tuesday, April 6

10:35am – IFC – Sleeper
One of Woody Allen’s early films, and a rare attempt at science fiction, has meek Miles Monroe cryogenically frozen only to wake in a totalitarian future as part of a radical movement to overthrow the government. A rather different film for Woody, but still with his signature anxious wit and awkwardness.
1973 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:15pm)

Wednesday, April 7

6:10am – 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 11:30am and 4:45pm)

11:15pm – TCM – Captain Blood
This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s first of eight films together, and it’s one of the best. Flynn is the eponymous captain, a dentist named Blood who gets captured by pirates and ends up escaping and taking over the pirate ship himself. Full of swashbuckling and derring-do.
1935 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Guy Kibbee.

1:30am (8th) – TCM – The Pirate
A flop when first released, The Pirate looks more and more like a potential cult classic all the time. Gene Kelly is an entertainer who impersonates the dread pirate Mack the Black Mococo to get close to Spanish heiress Judy Garland in a period Caribbean seaport. It’s over-the-top, has some of Cole Porter’s most outlandish songs, and is somehow immensely, compulsively watchable.
1948 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Walter Slezak, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Owen, the Nicholas Brothers.

Thursday, April 8

8:00pm – TCM – Libeled Lady
Throw William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow all together in an MGM comedy, and you’re almost guaranteed a winner. And Libeled Lady delivers with a twisty story, fast-talking script, and the best these stars have to offer.
1936 USA. Director: Jack Conway. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Walter Connolly, Charley Grapewin.
Newly Featured!

12:05am (9th) – IFC – Hard Candy
Ellen Page burst onto the scene as a teenage girl getting involved with an older guy she met on the internet – initially looks like a cautionary tale about internet chat relationships, but goes into even more twisted realms than that, with Ellen owning the screen every second.
2005 USA. Director: David Slade. Starring: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh.

Friday, April 9

8:15am – IFC – Strictly Ballroom
The first of Baz Lurhmann’s “Red Curtain” trilogy, about a Latin ballroom dancer who shakes up the Australian ballroom competition circuit with his unorthodox choreography. Among other things. A little shrill at times, but mostly funny and endearing, and less borderline schizophrenic than the rest of the trilogy (which I love, don’t get me wrong).
1992 Australia. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thomson, Gia Carides.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 1:30pm)

4:55pm – 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.
(repeats at 4:35am on the 10th)

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

Saturday, April 10

12:00N – TCM – The Man from Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.

4:00pm – TCM – A Fistful of Dollars
The first of the Leone-Eastwood “Man With No Name” trilogy has Eastwood loping into a small Texas town out nowhere and finding himself caught in the middle of an ongoing feud between the two powerful families that run the town. In true revisionist Western style, he wavers back and forth between amoral mercenary desires and noble actions – he’s not classical Hollywood’s Western hero, but he draws on that mythology, breathing new life into the genre.
1964 Italy. Director: Sergio Leone. Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volonté, Wolfgang Lukschy.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – 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 1:00am on the 11th)

4:15am (11th) – TCM – Kiss Me Deadly
Fairly iconic noir film, with hard-boiled action, nuclear paranoia, and one of the more memorable non-Hitchcock McGuffins in movie history. Plus some great LA locations. I didn’t quite love it as much as I wanted to the first time I saw it, but I’m due for a rewatch, and it definitely needs to be seen at least once, especially if you’re a noir fan.
1955 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman, Marian Carr.

Sunday, April 11

8:00am – TCM – Queen Christina
Quite possibly the supreme example of Greta Garbo’s extraordinary power over the camera, portraying the 17th-century monarch of Sweden whose unanticipated love affair with a Spanish emissary complicates her life and her reign. Her frequent silent film costar John Gilbert comes off a little less well in sound pictures, but Garbo more than makes up for that and for the film’s occasional creakiness.
1933 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone.
Newly Featured!

12:00N – TCM – Duck Soup
Leo McCarey directs the Marx Brothers in what many think is their best and zaniest film. This is the one with Groucho becoming the dictator of Freedonia and declaring war on nearby Sylvania. Frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont is on board as the wealthy woman who causes the rivalry that leads to the war. Personally, I prefer A Night at the Opera to Duck Soup, but this may be your best bet if the idea of musical interludes from Allan Jones (of which Opera has several) turns you off.
1933 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern.
Must See

3:00pm – 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

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
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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: 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