The Mark of Zorro, playing late Wednesday/early Thursday on TCM
Not a lot in the way of newly featured stuff this week – most of the new ones are part of TCM’s Moguls & Movie Stars History of Hollywood series, which moves into the dawn of the studio era this week, with 1910s films from Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford. There’s plenty of fine repeats, though, if the early silent era isn’t your thing.
Monday, November 8
7:00pm – TCM – Moguls & Movie Stars: The Birth of Hollywood
Part Two of TCM’s History of Hollywood series, moving on from the so-called primitive film of the early 1900s and into the beginnings of the studio era in the 1910s. This is still Hollywood finding its feet, moving into features as well as shorts, studios beginning to develop brand identities. Programmed alongside are representative films from the era, including a western by Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking and controversial Birth of a Nation, and Within Our Gates from pioneering black director Oscar Micheaux (almost certainly programmed as a counter to Birth of a Nation‘s inherent racism, but also an important film on its own – there are precious few black directors in Hollywood even today, so Micheaux is a pretty amazing guy).
Tuesday, November 9
7:35am – IFC – Che
Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious two-part epic about South American revolutionary Che Guevara. IFC is playing both parts back to back.
2008 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro.
12:25pm – 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 ñ 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 didnít know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Qíorianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
(repeats at 9:45am on the 10th)
6:20pm – 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.
(repeats at 8:45am on the 10th)
8:00pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Stanley Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.
1964 USA/UK. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott.
2:00am (10th) – TCM – Kind Hearts and Coronets
In one of the zaniest of the zany comedies that Alec Guinness was best known for in his early career, he plays eight, count ‘em, eight characters – all relatives in line to receive a duke’s massive fortune upon his death. The last in line plots to murder all the others to make himself the sole heir.
1949 UK. Director: Robert Hamer. Starring: Alec Guinness, Joan Greenwood, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price.
Wednesday, November 10
6:30am – IFC – Harlan County, U.S.A.
Often considered one of the finest documentaries ever put on film, Barbara Kopple’s film documents a 1973 coal miner’s strike in Kentucky which lasted over a year.
1976 USA. Director: Barbara Kopple.
(repeats at 12:05pm)
7:45am – TCM – The Adventures of Robin Hood
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe itís a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and itís all done in gorgeous Technicolor (itís one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
8:15am – 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 2:00pm, and 6:00am on the 11th)
9:30am – TCM – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra puts on his idealist hat to tell the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), an inexperienced young man appointed as a junior senator because the corrupt senior senator thinks heíll be easy to control. But Smith doesnít toe the party line, instead launching a filibuster for what he believes in. Wonderful comedienne Jean Arthur is the journalist who initially encourages Smith so she can get a great story from his seemingly inevitable downfall, but soon joins his cause.
1939 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Eugene Pallette, Thomas Mitchell.
1:30pm – TCM – Now, Voyager
One of the more polished among a streak of melodramas Bette Davis made in the 1940s; Davis is great in her prime, and she holds the show here as a psychiatric patient learning to reconect with the world, though Paul Henreid does get his moments, notably the now-iconic gesture of lighting two cigarettes and passing one to Davis.
1942 USA. Director: Irving Rapper. Starring: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Gladys Cooper.
8:00pm – TCM – The Immigrant
This is one of my favorite Chaplin shorts, with the little tramp playing the role of an immigrant making his way into America amidst all sorts of setbacks and troubles. Chaplin’s trademark combination of laugh-out-loud physical humor and pathos come together as well in this film as in any of his others.
1917 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell.
11:15pm – TCM – The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
What Shirley Temple was in the 1930s, Mary Pickford was in the 1910s – an enormously popular image of childlike innocence, making her America’s Sweetheart. In fact, this film was remade by Temple almost twenty years later, but I’m looking forward to getting a chance to see Pickford’s original. If you doubt how much influence Pickford had, remember that she was one of the four original United Artists, the first studio formed by directors and actors rather than producers and businessmen.
1917 USA. Director: Maurice Tourneur. Starring: Mary Pickford, Madlaine Traverse, Charles Wellesley.
2:00am (11th) – TCM – The Squaw Man
We mostly know Cecil B. DeMille from his sword and sandal epics of the 1950s, but he started way back in 1914 with this film, about a British man exiled to the Americas, where he marries a Native American woman. I’ve not seen it, but I’m definitely interested in checking it out. Trivia note – it was the first feature film shot in Hollywood.
1914 USA. Director: Cecil B. DeMille. Starring: Dustin Farnum, Red Wing, William Elmer, Winifred Kingston.
3:30am (11th) – TCM – The Mark of Zorro (1920)
The tale of Zorro has been told many times, but this is the first – a swashbuckling showcase for silent action star Douglas Fairbanks, doing all his own stunts.
1920 USA. DIrector: Fred Niblo. Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Noah Beery, Marguerite De La Motte, Robert McKim.
Thursday, November 11
11:00pm – IFC – Bad Lieutenant
The Abel Ferrara original version of Bad Lieutenant, before Werner Herzog decided to co-opt the name for his own over-the-top opus. Here Harvey Keitel is the eponymous lawman working through his own deep-seated issues with a surprising amount of depth.
1992 USA. Director: Abel Ferrera. Starring: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Robin Burrows, Frankie Thom.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 12th)
Friday, November 12
9:45am – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawaís inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobodyís business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
(repeats at 3:50pm)
6:40pm – Sundance – No One Knows About Persian Cats
A pair of Iranian rock musicians, unable to perform their music publicly because the government won’t give them a permit, try to put together a final underground gig to raise money to escape the country – it’s based on the actual story of the two people playing the musicians, so there’s an intriguing intersection of reality and fiction. Plus I’m always fascinated by underground Iranian film, and I’m glad to see Sundance playing this one.
2009 Iran. Director: Bahman Ghobadi. Starring: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad.
(repeats at 5:05am on the 13th)
11:45pm – TCM – Oklahoma!
I canít begin to guess how many times I watched Oklahoma! growing up, but itís well into double-digits. Itís a routine but darker-than-usual story for a musical, about minor conflicts between farmers and cowboys, a couple of young lovers, and the obsessive farmhand who wants the girl for himself. But the way the music and dancing is integrated is 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.
Saturday, November 13
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.
10:15pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone whoís ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, Iím gonna call this required viewing.
1999 USA. Director: Mike Judge. Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston.
(repeats at 4:15am on the 14th)
11:00pm – TCM – Mrs. Miniver
One of the more celebrated World War II home front films has Greer Garson in an Oscar-winning turn as the stalwart title character, holding her home together against the German Blitz. Itís the kind of movie that could only be made in 1942, and it won awards all over the place. It comes off a bit over-earnest today, though.
1942 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright.
1:30am (14th) – TCM – The Little Foxes
Bette Davis is at her most vicious here, as the conniving matriarch who uses her daughter to play upon her estranged husbandís weaknesses in order to carry off a money-making scheme.
1941 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Bette Davis, Teresa Wright, Herbert Marshall.
Sunday, November 14
6:00am – IFC – Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is likely my all-time favorite book or very close to it, and it’s a book that you’d never expect could be made into a good film. It depends an awful lot on stream of consciousness, internal monologue and memory, and a subjective experience of time – all stylistic and narrative elements that don’t translate well to film. However, this 1997 version of the novel with Vanessa Redgrave perfectly cast as the older Clarissa Dalloway and Natascha McElhone (why the heck isn’t she in more stuff?) as flashback-Clarissa comes about as close as I think is cinematically possible. It doesn’t come close to matching the book for me, but it is a solid film and captures a lot of Woolf’s spirit.
1997 USA/UK. Director: Marleen Gorris. Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Natascha McElhone, Michael Kitchen, Alan Cox, Sarah Badel, Lena Headey, John Standing.
8:05am – IFC – Spirited Away
Often considered Hayao Miyazakiís finest film, itís 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.
10:15am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
10:15am – TCM – Morocco
My knowledge of the Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich cycle of films is woefully slight, but the one I have seen (The Blue Angel) was pretty impressive, so itís an oversight I intend to fix at some point. Dietrich here takes a leap of androgyny with her tuxedo-clad cabaret numbers, while an extremely young Gary Cooper is along for the ride as a Legionnaire.
1930 USA. Director: Josef von Sternberg. Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou.
12:00N – TCM – I Confess
The most obvious example of Hitchcock’s usually subdued theme of Catholic guilt has priest Montgomery Clift refusing to reveal a murderer’s confession due to the sanctity of the the confessional. 1953 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne.
3:45pm – TCM – The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck and her father Charles Coburn are cardplayers, cheating cruise ship denizens of their wealth. Millionaire (and snake afficianado) Henry Fonda is a good mark, especially since heís a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyckís plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and sheís a delight from start to finish. As she usually is.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette.
10:00pm – Sundance – Little Children
Todd Fieldís perfectly written (and acted) story of intersecting unhappy suburbanites reminds us why melodrama shouldnít be a bad word ñ this is melodrama at its very best, and its very best is stunning. Kate Winslet turns in a shouldíve-been-Oscar-winning performance as the frustrated wife and mother grasping for an emotional connection with another neighborhood dad (Patrick Wilson), while Jackie Earle Haley registered a comeback as a sex offender.
2006 USA. Director: Todd Field. Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Gregg Edelman, Jackie Earle Haley.
(repeats at 3:30am on the 15th)
2:00am (15th) – TCM – Rashomon
Two men and a woman are in the woods, and one of the men dies. But we get three different eyewitness versions of how his death transpired, and the film shows us all three without ever privileging any of them as true ñ any of them or none of them may be what really happened. With this brilliant film, Akira Kurosawa forever banished any sense that what you see on film is narrative truth.
1950 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, Masayuki Mori, Takashi Shimura.