Monday, May 23, 2022

Archive for the ‘Film on TV’ Category

West Side Story, playing Wednesday on TCM

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

Possessed

Tuesday at 8:00pm on TCM
A pulpy noir with Joan Crawford driving herself crazy (literally) pining over a man who strings her along. He’s basically an homme fatale, which is interesting, with Crawford taking on the typically male noir role of the one pulled into ever darker despair by trampled-on love. The film tries to do too much, throwing in all sorts of other noirish plot points, but remains a really good watch for noir fans.
1947 USA. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Starring: Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks.
Newly Featured!

West Side Story

Wednesday at 8:00pm on TCM
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

The Spiral Staircase

Thursday at 3:15pm on TCM
A classic example of the “old dark house” atmospheric thriller, with Dorothy Maguire as a mute domestic servant whose life is endangered when a serial killer seems to be targeting people with disabilities like her. In the subgenre of creepy old mansions horror films, this one is often mentioned right up there with The Haunting and The Innocents.
1945 USA. Director: Robert Siodmak. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester.
Newly Featured!

Hausu

Late Friday/Early Saturday at 2:30am on TCM
This is quite possibly the most insane movie I have ever seen. Japanese schoolgirls set to go on holiday arrive at the house where they plan to stay, and are beset by crazy cats, carnivorous pianos, deadly pools, and I don’t even remember what all else. As soon as you think Nobuhiko Ohbayashi has certainly included everything he could possibly think of, he throws in more stuff. It’s like he took every cinematic element ever and every filmmaking technique ever and just mashed them all up together into one glorious, ridiculous, amazing film. You gotta see it.
1977 Japan. Director: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi. Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba.
Newly Featured!

Rio Bravo

Sunday at 8:00pm on TCM
A ragtag group made up of a sheriff, a cripple, a drunk, and an untried youth guard a man in jail against the expected rescue attempts by his brother, the local bad guy. One of the most enjoyable westerns ever made, with all the actors having a great time with their characters.
1959 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan.
Must See

An excellent week coming up on TCM, with a few scattered cool things on other channels, but for the most part, this week is all TCM all the time, and I’m hardly exaggerating. Especially look out for the Frank Capra marathon on Friday, including some of his early works, which are a whole lot of fun, even if Capracorn isn’t quite your thing.

Monday, May 14

6:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
Must See

11:30pm – TCM – 100 Men and a Girl
Deanna Durbin was Universal’s answer to Judy Garland back in the 1930s and early ’40s, a fresh-faced ingenue with a grown-up sounding set of pipes. Deanna’s voice tends more toward the operatic than the pop, though, which could conceivably be a turn-off to modern audiences. She’s still delightful on screen, though, and this is one of her most charming films, playing a young girl determined to save her father’s struggling orchestra by getting renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz (playing himself) to play with them.
1938 USA. Director: Henry Koster. Starring: Deanna Durbin, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Jascha Heifetz, Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer, Billy Gilbert.
Newly Featured!

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Monday, May 7

10:00pm – 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

12:15am (8th) – IFC – From Hell
Johnny Depp takes on the role of a troubled Victorian police detective on the trail of Jack the Ripper in this adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Not quite as memorable as one would hope, but worth a watch.
2001 USA. Directors: Albert and Allen Hughes. Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane.

Tuesday, May 8

4:15pm – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris meets Leslie Caron and woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

8:00pm – IFC – Layer Cake
Sounds like an unusual title for a crime film, but it’s also an unusually solid crime film, with Daniel Craig in one of his breakthrough roles as a drug dealer given a couple of tough jobs just before planning to retire. Last jobs never go well, so you can kind of predict all won’t go as planned.
2004 UK. Director: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, Sally Hawkins, Burn Gorman.

1:15am (9th) – IFC – The Thin Red Line
Breaking Terrence Malick’s twenty-year filmmaking silence since 1978′s Days of Heaven, this film applies his contemplative and poetic view of the world to a WWII story. It remains a favorite among Malick fans, and an interesting counterpoint to Spielberg’s action-oriented Saving Private Ryan, released the same year.
1998 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin.

2:45am (9th) – Sundance – Certified Copy
A fascinating inquiry into the ideas of originals and copies, and whether a copy can have as much (or more) value than an original – sounds like a stuffy documentary, but it’s one of the most human stories I’ve seen, as Kiarostami deftly shifts the philosophical discussions of the first half into an examination of a marriage that may or may not be real. Bolstered by an incredibly subtle and genuine performance from Juliette Binoche, this is that rare film that expanded both my mind and emotions by the end.
2010 France. Director: Abbas Kiarostami. Starring: Juliette Binoche, William Shimell.
Newly Featured!

3:15am (9th) – TCM – Spartacus
An historical epic of a Greek slave rebellion brought to the screen by the passion and personal investment of Kirk Douglas, but with some of the stylistic flair of director Stanley Kubrick (still relatively early in his career). Lots of great actors fill out the supporting parts with scenery-chewing glee, making every scene a whole lot of fun to watch – but there are a whole lot of scenes, and it does kind of drag by the end.
1960 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, John Gavin, Nina Foch.

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Monday, April 30

8:00pm – IFC – Moulin Rouge!
Baz Lurhmann admittedly has a love-it-or-hate-it flamboyantly trippy aesthetic, especially in the informal Red Curtain trilogy which Moulin Rogue! closes. And sure, it’s over the top; sure, the story is fairly routine; sure, the acting is so-so. I love it to pieces anyway.
2001 USA. Director: Baz Lurhmann. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo.

10:45pm – IFC – Night of the Living Dead
Zombie movies can be conveniently subcategorized into pre-Romero and post-Romero, so influential has this film been. Eschewing voodoo and zombie masters, Romero posited a zombie created by our own nuclear follies and motivated by nothing more than insatiable hunger. More than that, the layer of social commentary makes Night of the Living Dead far more than the B-movie schlocker it seems like on the surface. It changed zombie films, and probably horror films in general to an extent, forever.
1968 USA. Director: George A. Romero. Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 1st)

12:45am (1st) – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.)
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.

Tuesday, May 1

6:30am – IFC – Caché
Very deliberate but intensely thought-provoking film from director Michael Haneke, delving into issues from privacy and surveillance to war guilt and revenge. It’s a difficult film, and one that stretches the limits of the suspense thriller, but if you’re willing to go along with it, it’s well worthwhile.
2005 France. Director: Michael Haneke. Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou.
(repeats at 12:30pm)

Wednesday, May 2

9:30am – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 4:15pm)

5:00pm – TCM – My Fair Lady
George Cukor finally won an Oscar in 1964 for this film, a high-quality adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s musical, itself an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, itself based on the Greek story of Svengali and Trilby. Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn acquit themselves well as phonetics professor Henry Higgens and street urchin Eliza Doolittle. I guess I just find it a bit overlong and overproduced, as most 1960s musicals were, but I’m in the minority.
1964 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White.

8:00pm – IFC – The Thin Red Line
Breaking Terrence Malick’s twenty-year filmmaking silence since 1978′s Days of Heaven, this film applies his contemplative and poetic view of the world to a WWII story. It remains a favorite among Malick fans, and an interesting counterpoint to Spielberg’s action-oriented Saving Private Ryan, released the same year.
1998 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 3rd)

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

9:45pm – TCM – The Palm Beach Story
Similar in tone but less consistent than The Lady Eve, this Preston Sturges film follows bickering couple Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert as she leaves him to gold dig for a richer man. He follows her, pretending to be her brother, and they get all entangled with a wealthy brother and sister. The ending is a weak bit of trickery, but there are enough moments of hilarity to make it worth watching.
1942 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee, Mary Astor.

11:30pm – TCM – The More the Merrier
A World War II housing shortage has Charles Coburn, Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur sharing an apartment; soon Coburn is matchmaking for McCrea and Arthur, and we get a wonderful, adorable romance out of it.
1943 USA. Director: George Stevens. Starring: Jane Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn.

Thursday, May 3

9:45am – IFC – Away from Her
A very strong directing debut film from actress Sarah Polley, about an older woman (Julie Christie) suffering from Alzheimer’s and her husband’s difficulty in dealing with essentially the loss of his wife as she has more and more difficulty remembering their life together. It’s a lovely, heartbreaking film, bolstered by great understated performances.
2006 Canada. Director: Sarah Polley. Starring: Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Olympia Dukakis, Stacey LaBerge.

8:00pm – TCM – In Cold Blood
The film version of Truman Capote’s chilling retelling of the murders committed by Dick Hickcock and Perry Smith, and their subsequent incarceration and trial.
1967 USA. Director: Richard Brooks. Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson, John Forsythe, Paul Stewart.

Friday, May 4

7:45am – 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

9:30am – TCM – The Lavender Hill Mob
Alec Guinness leads the Ealing Studios regulars in this delightful heist comedy, one of the greats among a bunch of great late ’40s, early ’50s Ealing films. Also look for a really young Audrey Hepburn in a walk-on (this is her first film, I believe).
1951 UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sid James, Marjorie Fielding.

6:00pm – TCM – Wait Until Dark
Audrey Hepburn is a blind woman set upon by a trio of home invaders in search of some smuggled heroin they think ended up hidden at her house – an all-around good little thriller, with a fantastic climactic set-piece.
1967 USA. Director: Terence Young. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

8:00pm – IFC – The Prestige
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up, a wonderfully twisty and evocative period thriller about a pair of stage magicians and their potentially deadly rivalry. Some great ideas elevate this far above what you might expect, and solid performances all around carry it through nicely. Definitely deserves mention among the finest thinking-man’s films of the past decade.
2006 USA. Director: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall.

8:00pm – TCM – The Three Faces of Eve
Joanne Woodward portrays a woman with multiple personalities in an Oscar-winning role; Lee J. Cobb is allowed an uncharacteristically sympathetic role as her doctor (usually he’s the villain, or at least antagonist).
1957 USA. Director: Nunnally Johnson. Starring: Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, David Wayne.

9:45pm – TCM – 12 Angry Men
A brilliant exercise in minimalist filmmaking; after a brief courtroom scene, twelve jurors discuss the fate of a young man accused of murder. What’s assumed to be a cut-and-dried conviction is contested by Henry Fonda, who isn’t convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, and slowly works through the evidence to pull the other jurors one by one to his side. The stifling heat, claustrophobic room, prejudices and preconceptions of the jurors, logic and emotions, everything plays into this film, which is much more engaging than it has any right to be.
1957 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Ed Begley.
Must See

2:00am (5th) – TCM – They Live
3:45am (5th) – TCM – Escape from New York
TCM’s hitting some newer classics, bringing out a pair of John Carpenter favorites. They Live is one I haven’t seen yet, though I really want to, about a man who finds a pair of sunglasses that when worn, reveal that aliens have taken over the world unbeknownst to anyone else. Sounds just crazy enough to be awesome. And of course, Kurt Russell is on hand to save the President when he crash lands in the high security prison of futuristic Manhattan.
1988 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster.
1981 USA. Director: John Carpenter. Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine.

Newly Featured!

Saturday, May 5

6:00am – TCM – The Thief of Bagdad
An early Michael Powell film (in collaboration with several others), before he teamed up with Emeric Pressburger, but no less an impressive display of stunning Technicolor cinematography on the fantastic Arabian Nights story.
1940 UK. Director: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger. Starring: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez.

6:00am – Sundance – Grizzly Man
Werner Herzog’s fascination with the duality of nature’s beauty and destructiveness continues into documentary, as he brings the story of grizzly researcher Timothy Treadwell to the screen.
2005 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
(repeats at 2:30pm)

5:00pm – 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.

8:00pm – IFC – Training Day
A rookie cop heads out with a seasoned detective to learn the ropes, but the experienced cop isn’t exactly on the straight and narrow. Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his portrayal of the volatile detective.
2001 USA. Director: Antoine Fuqua. Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:30pm)

12:00M – TCM – Written on the Wind
Whenever I’m tempted to use the term “melodrama” in a derogatory sense, I stop and remind myself of Douglas Sirk, and especially of this film. Taking lush domestic struggles with soap opera potential and making them into stunning films was Sirk’s specialty, and this is one of his best, chock full of alcoholic husbands, love triangles, nymphomaniacs, and class prejudice, but with a heart and sense of tragedy that turns “melodrama” into a compliment. Add in Sirk’s exquisite eye for composition and a deservedly Oscar-winning supporting turn from Dorothy Malone, and this one isn’t to be missed.
1956 USA. Director: Douglas Sirk. Starring: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith.
Must See

Sunday, May 6

2:00pm – TCM – Jane Eyre
The definitive classic-era version of Bronte’s gothic novel, with a touch of noirish style to add to the overall moodiness. Joan Fontaine isn’t quite plain enough or fiery enough to be believable as Jane, but Orson Welles (only acting here, not directing) is a fairly imposing Rochester. Also be on the lookout for a very young Elizabeth Taylor in one of her first roles as Jane’s childhood friend Helen Burns.
1944 USA. Director: Robert Stevenson. Starring: Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles, Margaret O’Brien, Peggy Ann Garner, John Sutton, Sara Allgood, Henry Daniell, Agnes Moorehead.

6:00pm – TCM – Marty
Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his role as the schlubby, lonely title character, resigned to being unloved, until he meets a plain schoolteacher whose similar resignedness might make her his perfect match. The idea of having unlovely people in lead roles was a new one in Hollywood in the 1950s, and Marty capitalized on Paddy Chayefsky’s story with great results.
1955 USA. Director: Delbert Mann. Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti.

8:00pm – IFC – Fight Club
This film is so good on so many different levels, it’s difficult to even know where to start. Masculinity, consumerism, terrorism, black comedy, mindbending narrative…yeah, those are not all parallel, making it a poorly-structured list. I don’t really care, you’ve all probably seen this movie before, but here’s a chance to see it again.
1999 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham-Carter.
Must See
(repeats at 11pm)

8:00pm – Sundance – Thank You For Smoking
Jason Reitman’s breakout film was also one of my favorites of 2005 – sure, it’s a bit slight and isn’t perfect, but its story of a hotshot PR guy working for cigarette companies struck just the right note of cynical and absurd humor. The really high-quality cast doesn’t hurt either, with everybody, no matter how small their role, making a memorable impression.
2005 USA. Director: Jason Reitman. Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Katie Holmes, Rob Lowe, Maria Bello, David Koechner, J.K. Simmons, Adam Brody, Sam Elliott.
(repeats at 1:05am on the 7th)

Here are my top five picks out of the movies playing this week on cable. All these happen to be on TCM, which isn’t too surprising – click over to Row Three to see the full post, which also includes some really nice choices from IFC and Sundance. Lots of good stuff on this week, and a lot of stuff that hasn’t appeared in the column before, too.

The Searchers

Tuesday at 8:00pm on TCM
Deservedly considered one of the greatest westerns ever made, a high point in the careers of both John Wayne and John Ford. Wayne is the almost anti-heroic main character Ethan Edwards, driven by anger and revenge to find the group of Indians who killed his nearly estranged family and kidnapped his young niece. Along with the contemporary films of Anthony Mann, The Searchers marks a point in the Western genre where we can no longer necessarily accept the motives of the good guys to be pure, and in fact, are forced to question if the good guys are actually good – perhaps the beginning of the revisionist western. Ford’s command of cinematic space and the language of the frame here is unparalleled, and the performances and everything else in the film match it.
1956 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Natalie Wood.
Must See

Eyes Without a Face

Tuesday at 10:15pm on TCM
This French horror film relies on atmosphere rather than actual scares, with a doctor single-mindedly pursuing a skin graft treatment that would restore his daughter’s scarred face, resorting to grave-robbing and worse to get experimental tissue. The dreamy and detached feel of the film sets it apart from most horror films, in a way that makes it sneak under your skin (heh), becoming more disturbing as you think back on it even than it was while viewing.
1960 France. Director: Georges Franju. Starring: Pierre Brassuer, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel, Edith Scob.

Lawrence of Arabia

Wednesday/early Thursday at 12:30am on TCM
Most epics are over-determined and so focused on spectacle that they end up being superficial – all big sets and sweeping music with no depth. The brilliance of Lawrence of Arabia is that it looks like an epic with all the big sets and sweeping music and widescreen vistas, but at its center is an enigmatic character study of a man who lives bigger-than-life, but is as personally conflicted as any intimate drama has ever portrayed.
1962 UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Jose Ferrer.
Must See

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Saturday at 9:15am on TCM
One of the most genius comedy-horror mashups ever made, with the duo playing bumbling freight handlers responsible for shipping the remains of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster – until Dracula escapes, taking the monster with him. Some genuine scares and many, many earned laughs ensue, with The Wolf Man also making an appearance, trying to stop Dracula. Most of Abbott & Costello’s movies are throw-away fun, but this one is top-notch on any scale of quality, thanks in no small part to having many of the original actors playing the monsters.
1948 USA. Director: Charles Barton. Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Glenn Strange, Lenore Aubert.
Must See

Written on the Wind

Sunday at 4:00pm on TCM
Whenever I’m tempted to use the term “melodrama” in a derogatory sense, I stop and remind myself of Douglas Sirk, and especially of this film. Taking lush domestic struggles with soap opera potential and making them into stunning films was Sirk’s specialty, and this is one of his best, chock full of alcoholic husbands, love triangles, nymphomaniacs, and class prejudice, but with a heart and sense of tragedy that turns “melodrama” into a compliment. Add in Sirk’s exquisite eye for composition and a deservedly Oscar-winning supporting turn from Dorothy Malone, and this one isn’t to be missed.
1956 USA. Director: Douglas Sirk. Starring: Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Keith.
Must See

There seems to be a crime/thriller theme going on in my picks to highlight this week – I didn’t initially do that on purpose, but I guess I do kind of like that sort of thing. Also, TCM is still doing their film noir thing, I think, which means a lot of good crime-related stuff to choose from. A lot more good stuff is playing this week, though, including a higher-than-usual number of things I’m featuring for the first time, so head on over to Row Three to see the rest.

The Night of the Hunter

Tuesday, March 27 at 12:00M on TCM
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Laughton. Starring: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish.
Must See

Love Crime

Friday, March 30 (late Thursday) at 12:05am on Sundance
Alain Corneau’s final film is a Hitchcockian thriller of business intrigue heightened by personal emotions, with icy blondes facing off against each other trying to gain the upper hand both at their company and in their personal lives. It’s got a lot of twisty turns, and ends up being quite satisfying by the end. My only complaint is that the stylistics don’t match up to the plotting or the acting, but I guess in the grand scheme of things, that’s a quibble.
2010 France. Director: Alain Corneau. Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille.

The Others

Friday, March 30 at 8:00pm on IFC
More than ten years later, this film remains one of my favorite horror films, because it perfectly captures that ghostly, creepy atmosphere I love so much. Nicole Kidman does her best Grace Kelly homage as a mother sequestered on a remote British island (awaiting her husband’s return from WWII) along with her children, who have a unique skin condition that means they cannot be exposed to sunlight. Swapping the safety factor of lightness and darkness is a brilliant move, and the ultimate twist is pretty good, too. But this film lives and dies by its atmosphere – menacing housekeepers, dust-covered furniture, creepy photographs, it’s all here.
2001 USA. Director: Alejandro Amenabar. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Saturday, March 31 at 8:00pm on TCM
I credit this film with my real interest in silent film. Silent comedy was a big entry point, but Sunrise, with its simple but lovely story of marital infidelity, potential murder, and reconciliation, convinced me that silent films wasn’t just about being funny, but that they could really and truly be art in and of themselves. Murnau does so much with so little here, filling every frame with such visual beauty and storytelling that he barely needs any title cards, that I was immediately sold and I’ve never turned back.
1927 USA. Director: F.W. Murnau. Starring: George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston.
Must See

Born to Kill

Saturday, March 31 at 12:00M on TCM
A film noir that had slipped past me until last year, but I certainly am glad I caught up with it. The always reliable Claire Trevor leads the film as a woman who leaves town instead of dealing with the aftermath of finding her friend murdered; unfortunately, the murderer has unwittingly left on the same train and the two end up inextricably entwined in a love-hate relationship. It’s got some obvious film noir tropes, but also plays along the edges of others (Laurence Tierney is basically an homme fatale, instead of Trevor being a femme fatale). Definitely a film worth your time if you’re into noir or classic crime dramas.
1947 USA. Director: Robert Wise. Starring: Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney, Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Isabel Jewell.

I picked out a bunch of classics to pull over from this week’s Film on TV post over at Row Three. Some film noir, some Depression-era musicals, some 1950s creature features, and some Czech New Wave classics. Okay, just one of each of those things. But these are all solid films with some variety, and there’s definitely a lot more to choose from if you click over and see the whole post.

Gold Diggers of 1933

Tuesday, March 20 at 8:00pm on TCM
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.

This Gun for Hire

Wednesday, March 21 at 1:30am on TCM (that’s late Tuesday night)
This early noir depicts a hitman (Alan Ladd in his first big role) trying to revenge himself on a former-employer-turned-police-informant, while evading the police (led by Robert Preston), with the help of the policeman’s girlfriend (Veronica Lake), who also happens to be a spy trying to ferret out information on the informant, who is smuggling bomb plans out of the country. Confused yet? It’s intricately-plotted, but most of it makes sense, and the shifting alliances make for engaging viewing. Throw in a sultry magic act for Lake posing as a showgirl, and This Gun for Hire is a more than solid example of a 1940s B-level crime film.
1942 USA. Director: Frank Tuttle. Starring: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar.

Them!

Thursday, March 22 at 6:15pm on TCM
I love a good classic sci-fi film and this one hits all the high points. Radioactive material? Check. Mutant insects? Check. Scientists? Check. Nuclear paranoia? Check. Giant mutant ants (created by radioactivity left by atomic bomb tests in Arizona) start attacking people, first in Arizona, then to Texas and Mexico, and finally in the middle of Los Angeles. A team of scientists works with the police to take the monsters down. One of the better examples of the “atomic mutant” sci-fi films, of which there were many; it builds intensity perfectly (in fact, it’s at least half an hour in before you come close to finding out what’s happening, adding in a very welcome mystery element) and doesn’t spend to long on its obligatory romantic subplot.
1954 USA. Director: Gordon Douglas. Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.

Bunny Lake is Missing

Friday, March 24 at 5:45pm on TCM
As the title suggests, this is a missing person mystery, but with a twist. When four-year-old Bunny Lake goes missing, her mother frantically tries to track her down, but no one else, including her nursery school teachers, will acknowledge the child ever existed. Is this a vast conspiracy, or a woman gone mad? Otto Preminger keeps the tension tight in this foray into British cinema, and I’ll set this credit sequence against anything else Saul Bass has ever done.
1965 UK. Director: Otto Preminger. Starring: Carol Lynley, Laurence Olivier, Keir Dullea, Martita Hunt, Anna Massey.

Closely Watched Trains

Monday, March 26 at 4:30am on TCM (that’s late Sunday night)
One of the most highly regarded films of the Czech New Wave is, typically, about a seemingly mundane subject – a young man who takes a job as a conductor at his tiny town’s train station and seeks to come of age sexually. The basic story has been told many, many times, but the undertones of the Czech resistance to Nazi occupation along with the surprisingly sweet treatment of Milos’ personal quest make this engaging and memorable. Also, you’ll never look at stamp pads quite the same way again.
1966 Czechoslovakia. Director: Jirí Menzel. Starring: Václav Neckár, Josef Somr and Vlastimil Brodský.

Another week, another bunch of film programming to run down for the Film on TV column on Row Three. Here are my top five picks coming up this week, and of course, you can head over to Row Three for all the rest. A note on these picks – I usually put a “must see” tag on my most recommended films on the post on Row Three. These are not necessarily just those films; these may be absolute must-sees, or they may be things that I think are underseen, or underrated and deserve another look. It’s also not necessarily things that haven’t been featured in the column before. So there’s an arbitrary nature to the picks, but I’ll always put my wholehearted support behind any of the ones I pull out to mention over here.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Monday, March 5 at 8:00pm on IFC
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
Must See

Marie Antoinette

Tuesday, March 6 at 11:30am on IFC
Though Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette is unconventional, it is a solid and riveting re-interpretation of the giddy but not untroubled courts of Louis XVI and Louis XVII. The use of actors like Kirsten Dunst and Jason Schwartzman, who are not known as period actors, as well as anachronistic music, sounds like an ill-conceived attempt to make the story feel contemporary, but it actually works. Coppola took some serious risks with this film, but they paid off beyond all expectation.
2006 USA. Director: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne.
(repeats at 8:00pm and 12:45am on the 7th)

A Town Called Panic

Tuesday, March 6 at 7:45am on Sundance
One of the most delightful films I saw in 2009, a whacked out stop-motion film from Belgium that follows Horse, Cowboy, and Indian throughout a series of adventures, mostly focused on trying to rebuild their house which keeps getting stolen every night. This is mile-a-minute absurdity with more inventiveness in 75 minutes than I usually see all year.
2009 Belium. Directors: Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar. Starring: Stéphane Aubier, Jeanne Balibar, Bruce Ellison, Vincent Pater.
(repeats at 1:00pm)

The Big Sleep

Thursday, March 8 at 11:00am on TCM
One of the greatest detective/mysteries/films noir ever made. Humphrey Bogart is the definite hard-boiled detective, Lauren Bacall is the potential love interest/femme fatale. Don’t try to follow the story; whodunit is far less important than crackling dialogue and dry humor. Watch out for future Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone (Written on the Wind) in the small but extremely memorable part of the bookshop girl.
1946 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers, Elisha Cook Jr., Dorothy Malone.
Must See

The Razor’s Edge

Saturday, March 10 at 8:00pm on TCM
There’s a lot going on in this film based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, from rich young Tyrone Power heading off to India to “find himself” to the financial troubles facing his socialite ex-girlfriend Gene Tierney and her husband to their rekindled affair when Power returns, but what you’ll mostly remember is Anne Baxter in a deservedly Oscar-winning performance as the former friend whose life has hit rock bottom. It’s one of Baxter’s best roles (Eve Harrington notwithstanding), and it’s worth watching just for her.
1946 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Lucile Watson.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird, playing Sunday on IFC

This week’s Film on TV post is up over on Row Three. Quite a lot of good stuff, as usual, from TCM, with IFC and Sundance rounding out a very solid week. Here are my top five picks. This was an EXTREMELY hard week to only pick five from, though. Definitely click through to see what else is going on.

Strangers on a Train

Wednesday, Feb 22 at 8:00pm on TCM
Guy Haines is a tennis star all set to marry into a posh, loving family, if it weren’t for that pesky and annoying wife he’s already got – a problem that fellow train-passenger Bruno has a solution for: all Guy has to do is kill Bruno’s troublesome father and Bruno will take care of Guy’s wife. This criss-cross setup begins one of Hitchcock’s best films, full of memorable shots and set-pieces, not to mention one of the most mesmerizingly psychotic performances in all of cinema in Robert Walker’s portrayal of Bruno.
1951 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock, Leo G. Carroll, Laura Elliott.
Must See

All the President’s Men

Thursday, Feb 23 at 12:15am on TCM
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.

Them!

Saturday, Feb 25 at 2:30am on TCM
I love a good classic sci-fi film and this one hits all the high points. Radioactive material? Check. Mutant insects? Check. Scientists? Check. Nuclear paranoia? Check. Giant mutant ants (created by radioactivity left by atomic bomb tests in Arizona) start attacking people, first in Arizona, then to Texas and Mexico, and finally in the middle of Los Angeles. A team of scientists works with the police to take the monsters down. One of the better examples of the “atomic mutant” sci-fi films, of which there were many; it builds intensity perfectly (in fact, it’s at least half an hour in before you come close to finding out what’s happening, adding in a very welcome mystery element) and doesn’t spend to long on its obligatory romantic subplot.
1954 USA. Director: Gordon Douglas. Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Sunday, Feb 26 at 5:45pm on IFC
An utterly wacky and awesome Korean reimagining of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, with a somewhat hapless trio (okay, at least one of them is hapless) attempting to get to a treasure before a pair of conflicting armies prevent them. It is ridiculous, action-packed, and did I mention awesome?
2008 South Korean. Director: Jee-woon Kim. Starring: Kang-ho Sang, Byung-hun Lee, Woo-sung Jung.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Sunday, Feb 26 at 9:45pm on TCM
Perhaps the definition of Hollywood Gothic, with aging stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as aging former actresses. Davis was a child star whose glory was utterly usurped by sister Crawford as they grew up, making her bitterly long for their roles to be switched again. Add in a crippling car accident, psychological abuse, and delusions of continued fame, and you have an engrossing (and deliciously campy) cult film and possibly one of Davis’s best performances ever.
1962 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Wesley Addy, Maidie Norman.

After a hiatus much longer than I intended, the Film on TV column is active again over on Row Three. I’m not going to cross-post this and the DVD Triage column as much as I used to. Instead, I’ll just post notices over here when I post something over there, maybe with a highlight or two. So here are my top five recommendations for films playing on TV next week. All times are EST.

North by Northwest

Monday, Feb 13 at 5:30pm on TCM
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.

Z

Monday, Feb 13 at 8:00pm on TCM
Extremely solid political thriller following the true story of the overthrow of Greece’s democratic government. Equal parts historically accurate political document and detective thriller as the magistrate tries to uncover the conspiracy behind a liberal politician’s assassination, the whole thing is riveting.
1969 France/Algeria. Director: Costa-Gavros. Starring: Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Irene Papas.

Top Hat

Tuesday, Feb 14 at 8:00pm on TCM
For me, Top Hat and Swing Time battle it out for the top Astaire-Rogers film constantly, with the one I’ve seen more recently usually taking the crown. Mistaken identity follows mistaken identity here, as Ginger thinks Fred is her best friend’s husband, causing her a lot of consternation when Fred starts romancing her. That’s far from the end of it all, though. Also has the most definitive collection of Astaire-Rogers supporting actors.
1935 USA. Director: Mark Sandrich. Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore.

Sunshine

Wednesday Feb 15 at 6:00am on IFC
I think this film, like many of Danny Boyle’s, falls to pieces in the third act. Still, the set-up and middle are right up there with the best sci-fi I’ve ever seen – a sci-fi of ideas and existential contemplation – so I still give it a hearty recommendation.
2007 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Mark Strong.
(repeats at 1:45pm)

They Were Expendable

Wednesday, Feb 15 at 3:15pm on TCM
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.

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