Film on TV: May 29 – June 3
Tuesday, May 29
12:45am (30th) – Sundance – The Housemaid
A remake of a classic Korean film, famous in 1960 for pushing the content envelope, and quite a good film on its own (I admit to not having seen the original). A young girl becomes the housemaid to a rich man and his very pregnant wife, and becomes embroiled in a domestic and sexual powerplay between them. It’s melodramatic in a good way, and includes the patented Korean third-act WTFery. So what more could you want?
2010 South Korea. Director: Sang-soo Im. Starring: Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-Jae Lee, Yeo-Jong Yun.
Wednesday, May 30
8:00pm – TCM – Ride the High Country
In the 1960s, Sam Peckinpah contributed to the beginnings of the revisionist western, taking complicated heroes and violence to new levels – in Ride the High Country, Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott (who had both starred in many westerns throughout the 1930s and 1940s) play jaded cowboys hired to transport gold who get caught up in a family feud that forces them to confront their own differences and troubled pasts. It’s a fairly simple plot on the surface, but goes much deeper than you’d expect.
1962 USA. Director: Sam Peckinpah. Starring: Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr.
Thursday, May 31
10:15am – 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 – Badlands
Terrence Malick’s first film is a meditative outlaw film, as two youths commit a murder and go on the run. The combination of road trip, crime spree, young romance, and nature-filled hideaway has been imitated (notably by the Tarantino-Scott True Romance, though that was less interested in the meditative aspects), but never matched.
1973 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint, Gary Littlejohn, John Carter.
10:00pm – TCM – Bonnie and Clyde
This is a perfect film. If you have not seen it, see it. If you have seen it, see it again. In either case, rather than write again how much I love it, I will just refer you here.
1967 USA. Director: Arthur Penn. Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons.
11:00pm – TCM – 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.
(repeats at 10:15pm on the 3rd, and 3:00am on the 4th)
12:00M – TCM – Dog Day Afternoon
A straight-forward bank robbery turns into a hostage situation and media circus before long, but the strength of the film is not just the procedural aspects of the robbery and its aftermath (though in Sidney Lumet’s hands, those are handled extremely well), but in the characterization of Sonny and the spot-on performances from Pacino and everyone in the cast. A very simple concept becomes a very rich film.
1975 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon.
12:30am (1st) – Sundance – 24 Hour Party People
An idiosyncratic look at the creation and heyday of Factory Records, the home of Manchester punk bands Joy Division/New Order, James and the Happy Mondays, and others, under the direction of Tony Wilson. But this is not documentary, nor standard biography, but a stylistically bold and funny film as only Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan can put together.
2002 UK. Director: Michael Winterbottom. Starring: Steve Coogan, Lennie James, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, John Simm.
1:30am (1st) – 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.
(repeats at 8:00pm on the 1st, and 1:15am on the 2nd)
Friday, June 1
8:45am – IFC – Dancer in the Dark
Bjork plays a factory worker whose increasing blindness threatens to keep her from being able to do her job, which will keep her from earning the money she needs for an operation that will prevent her son from suffering the same blindness. Add in the relationship with her not-as-happy-as-they-seem neighbors and a trenchant critique of the justice system and death penalty, not to mention several musical numbers juxtaposed throughout, and you have a film that’s unlike any other.
2000 Denmark. Director: Lars von Trier. Starring: Bjork, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare.
11:45am – IFC – The Cat’s Meow
Over the years, it’s become increasingly clear that Kirsten Dunst is a capable actress in the right roles and with the right director, and an underwhelming one in the wrong roles or with the wrong director. I was saying that way back in 2001 when this film was out, because while I wouldn’t call it a great film or a great performance, her particular talents fit a 1920s Hollywood star to a T, and that’s what this film is about – a few days surrounding a party on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht during which wunderkind producer Thomas Ince died under mysterious circumstances. The story is based on truth, but also much speculation – what’s fun here is the obvious love and attention to detail (especially in the superb casting) from professed cinephile director Peter Bogdanovich.
2001 USA. Director: Peter Bogdanovich. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Edward Herrmann, Eddie Izzard, Cary Elwes.
11:45am – TCM – A Face in the Crowd
A rare film role for homespun comedian Andy Griffith really shows his chops as he plays an Ozark hobo who becomes an overnight sensation on radio and TV; when the fame and power starts going to his head, the film shows the cynical dark underbelly of media sensations. One of the recently late Patricia Neal’s best roles, too, as the girl who discovers him.
1957 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick.
8:00pm – Sundance – Wassup Rockers
Small film about a group of teenage Latino skateboarders from South Central LA. They go up to Beverly Hills to skateboard, get caught by cops, escape, meet up with some girls, get in fights with preppy 90210 guys, and try to get home. But the moments that’ll get you are when they’re just talking, to the camera, or to the girls, about their life and what it’s like to live in South Central. It doesn’t go anywhere, really, but it’s a wonderful slice of life.
2005 USA. Director: Larry Clark. Starring: Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa, Milton Velasquez, Usvaldo Panameno, Eddie Velasquez.
Saturday, June 2
1:00pm – 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.
8:00pm – Sundance – Wendy & Lucy
This is a favorite among Row Three writers, following a young woman on the verge of financial collapse as she’s about to lose a major job opportunity as well as her beloved dog.
2008 USA. Director: Kelly Reichardt. Starring: Michelle Williams, Will Oldham, Michell Worthey, John Robinson.
(repeats at 12:00N on the 3rd)
8:00pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 1
A lot of people would point to Pulp Fiction as Tarantino’s best film, and I think Inglourious Basterds is right up there, too, but I vote Kill Bill Vol. 1 for sheer amount of fun. He homages spaghetti westerns, Hong Kong fighting flicks, and revenge-sploitation, and ties it all together with incredible style.
2003 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine.
(repeats at 1:15am on the 3rd)
10:15pm – IFC – Kill Bill, Vol. 2
On the one hand, Kill Bill Vol 1 isn’t quite complete without Kill Bill Vol 2. And there are a lot of good parts in here – the film noirish opening as the Bride catches us up on what’s going on, the fight with Daryl Hannah in the trailer, training with the kung fu master, her getting out of the coffin, etc. But the ending lags a little too much for me to truly say I enjoy watching it as much as Vol. 1.
2004 USA. Director: Quentin Tarantino. Starring: Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, David Carradine, Michael Madsen.
1:40am (3rd) – Sundance – Fish Tank
Andrea Arnold’s electrifying sophomore film isn’t to be missed. Newcomer Katie Jarvis is brilliant as a disaffected working class teen in industrial England (as is Michael Fassbender as the stepfather figure), and Arnold never compromises the harshness here, but also manages to introduce a strangely lyrical quality – both together make the film nearly transcendent, and one of the best films of the year.
2009 UK. Director: Andrea Arnold. Starring Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender.
Sunday, June 3
6:00am – Sundance – A Town Called Panic
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 3:30pm)
8:00am – TCM – Kiss Me Kate
It’s hard to improve Shakespeare, but it usually works best to place his stories and words in a new context. Kiss Me Kate does just that by coupling a musical version of Taming of the Shrew with a backstage story that mirrors Shrew’s fighting protagonists. Great supporting work from Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, etc. helps out leads Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson considerably, as do Cole Porter’s songs.
1953 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn.
12:00N – TCM – Annie
This film has a lot of sentimental value to me, as one of the earliest films I remember having on VHS tape and watching over and over (we taped it off TV, and I can still quote nearly all the commercials, that’s how often I watched it). But revisiting it recently actually proved that it holds up. The casting is great, the songs solid, and it’s a charming nostalgic evocation of the 1930s time period it takes place in, both in terms of content (the radio show, the Rockettes-preceeded movie, etc.) and style – it’s one of the better post-Golden Age examples of a full-on musical with production numbers out the wazoo. Plus rare chances to see Broadway legends like Ann Reinking and Bernadette Peters on screen.
1982 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry.
2:15pm – 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.
4:00pm – TCM – Scaramouche
Stewart Granger was sort of a poor man’s Errol Flynn in his 1950s swashbucklers – never quite had Flynn’s panache, but hey, he tried. Scaramouche (from the novel by Rafael Sabatini, who also wrote Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk, which became Flynn vehicles) is one of his better films, and does boast the longest sword fight in cinema history. So there’s that.
1952 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Stewart Granger, Janet Leigh, Eleanor Parker, Mel Ferrer.
5:00pm – IFC – The Good, the Bad, the Weird
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.
8:00pm – IFC – District 9
I admit to wishing that District 9 had stuck to its socially-conscious faux-documentary style and theme throughout rather than turning into a conventional action film at the end, but I still think it’s a film well worth watching, and one of the more innovative and intriguing science fiction films of the past several years. A sign of the more thoughtful sci-fi happening these days at the edges of Hollywood and internationally.
2009 USA. Director: Neill Blomkamp. Starring: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope.
(repeats at 12:45am on the 4th)
8:00pm – 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.
10:00pm – TCM – The Caine Mutiny
Humphrey Bogart’s Captain Queeg is a piece of work, and by that I mean some of the best work Bogart has on film. He’s neurotic, paranoid, and generally mentally unstable. Or is he? That’s the question after first officer Van Johnson relieves him of duty as being unfit to serve and faces charges of mutiny.
1954 USA. Director: Edward Dmytryk. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, Jose Ferrer.
12:00M – Sundance – The Boss of It All
This is a comedy by Lars von Trier. No, you didn’t read that wrong. I’m intrigued by the very idea. A business owner has been pretending that there’s a boss above him so he can pass the buck for unpopular decisions up to his nonexistent superior – but when he tries to sell the business, he has to produce the boss of it all, so he hires an actor to play the part, with comedic consequences. The real von Trier part of the film is in the experimental editing, which used a computer program to randomly time the edits. I’m not convinced on the efficacy of that technique, but I haven’t seen the film yet.