Film on TV: June 4-10
A few new ones this week and some very good repeats. Most of all, I’d like to point out that next Sunday, June 10th, would be Judy Garland’s 90th birthday, and TCM is fittingly playing her movies all day. Now, I freely admit to being a Garland fanatic (I staged my own Garland birthday marathon when I was about fourteen or fifteen), but she really was an incredible talent, and that shone through even when her personal life was at its absolute depths. TCM is going from her earliest films with Mickey Rooney up through her very final film on Sunday, showing the highlights of her career all the way through. Plus they’re randomly showing The Harvey Girls and The Clock earlier in the week, so check those out as well. Especially The Clock, which I think is highly underrated.
Monday, June 4
8:00am – TCM – The Women
Only the cattiest, most man-less film ever made. Several of Hollywood’s greatest female stars, from established divas like Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to up-and-comers like Rosalind Russell and Joan Fontaine to character actresses like Mary Boland and Marjorie Main (and even non-actresses like gossip columnist Hedda Hopper), give their all to one of the wittiest scripts ever written.
1939 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Virginia Weidler, Mary Boland, Marjorie Main, Hedda Hopper.
8:20pm – Sundance – Little Miss Sunshine
One of the most successful indie-circuit-to-mainstream films in recent years, this crowd-pleasing favorite has just enough quirk to set apart its story of an unhappy family tied together by the beauty pageant aspirations of the young daughter and just enough of a dark edge to keep it from becoming too treacly. The solid cast doesn’t hurt either.
2006 USA. Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris. Starring: Toni Colette, Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano.
(repeats at 11:00pm)
12:00M – TCM – The Sting
A couple of conmen team up to pull an elaborate con on criminal kingpin who killed one of their partners. A great 1920s setting and the solid chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford make their follow-up to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a highly enjoyable romp, if not quite the quintessential classic that film is.
1973 USA. Director: George Roy Hill. Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan.
Tuesday, June 5
9:30am – IFC – Renaissance
In near-future Paris, a brilliant young scientist is kidnapped; her employer Avalon (a highly influential company that sells youth and beauty itself) wants her found, but her importance to them may be more sinister than first meets the eye. The story’s not handled perfectly here, but it’s worth watching for the beautifully stark black and white animation.
2006 France. Director: Christian Volckman. Starring (English version): Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack, Jonathan Pryce.
8:00pm – TCM – Since You Went Away
A WWII homefront story of a middle America family offering a room for rent to help make ends meet while the husband/father is off at war. The great ensemble cast helps sell this, which covers day to day issues like food rations as well as major events like the daughter’s romance. Not as immediate or gripping as something like Mrs. Miniver, but still a solid and entertaining look at the American homefront.
1944 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Claudette Colbert, Monty Woolley, Jennifer Jones, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple, Lionel Barrymore, Hattie McDaniel, Agnes Moorehead.
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 12:30am on the 6th)
11:00pm – TCM – The Clock
This was Judy Garland’s first real purely dramatic role, directed by her then-husband Vincente Minnelli in 1945. It’s a wartime story of a soldier on leave (Robert Walker) who meets a girl (Garland) and their attempts to get married before he has to return to his unit. It’s a sweet, unassuming little film that showcases Garland’s charm quite well, and has a nice supporting role for comedian Keenan Wynn.
1945 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Keenan Wynn.
2:00am (6th) – TCM – In the Heat of the Night
Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger make an unlikely pair of cops working a case in a racist town in the South. Steiger won an Oscar for his portrayal of a southern police chief.
1967 USA. Director: Norman Jewison. Starring: Rod Steiger, Sidney Poitier, Warren Oates.
4:00am (6th) – TCM – The Harvey Girls
A standard-grade MGM musical, but any time you have Judy Garland leading a production number like “On the Atchison, Topkea, and the Santa Fe,” backup from such as Virginia O’Brien, Cyd Charisse and Angela Lansbury (both very young), and a western setting, I’m along for the ride. I actually enjoy this movie far more than I probably should.
1946 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Judy Garland, John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, Angela Lansbury, Preston Foster, Virginia O’Brien, Marjorie Main, Cyd Charisse.
Wednesday, June 6
6:00am – TCM – Frankenstein
The most recognizable image of Frankenstein’s monster comes from this film, rather a departure from Mary Shelley’s novel, but nonetheless iconic as a film. More a tragedy than a horror film, almost, with Dr. Frankenstein’s god-like experiments yielding a monster whose very simplicity becomes his downfall, and self-righteous townspeople who become monsters themselves. Lots more subtlety and tenderness than you’d expect.
1931 USA. Director: James Whale. Starring: Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Mae Clarke.
8:45am – TCM – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Fredric March won his first Oscar for his role as the meek doctor and his violent alter ego, but honestly, the make-up department deserves most of those accolades. Well-done, posh version of the story.
1931 USA. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins.
9:00am – IFC – The Protector
Whatever you do, don’t mess with Tony Jaa’s elephants. Consider yourself warned. Here Jaa takes on a city full of gangsters intent on stealing his elephant (and the mystical power they possess); the story here isn’t anything special, but Jaa’s fighting ability and choreography certainly is.
1995 Thailand. Director: Prachya Pinkaew. Starring: Tony Jaa, Nathan Jones, Petchtel Wongkamlao.
(repeats at 3:00pm)
10:30am – TCM – Freaks
Or, Tod Browing’s circsploitation film, featuring many actual sideshow performers, which has been banned here and there, on and off, since its initial release in 1932. I actually haven’t seen it myself, though it’s been on my list for some time.
1932 USA. Director: Tod Browning. Starring: Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams.
6:00pm – TCM – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Charles Laughton plays the put-upon hunchback Quasimodo, a young Maureen O’Hara the lovely Esmerelda in one of the best film versions of Victor Hugo’s classic of gothic romanticism.
1939 USA. Director: William Dieterle. Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Edmond O’Brien.
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 7th)
8:00pm – Sundance – Wristcutters: A Love Story
Patrick Fujit slits his wrists and finds himself in a strange, limbo-like place where all the suicides get stuck after they die. But then he meets Shannyn Sossamon, who claims she’s there by mistake, and embarks on an odyssey to get her out of limbo. It’s a bit of a strange film, but it’s also very sweet and Sundancey, if you like that sort of thing. And I do.
2006 USA. Director: Goran Dukic. Starring: Patrick Fujit, Shannyn Sossamon, Abraham Benrubi, Will Arnett.
(repeats at 9:30pm)
11:00pm – 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.
Thursday, June 7
9:00am – 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 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.
(repeats at 2:45pm)
2:15pm – TCM – Born Free
I won’t lie, this was one of my favorite movies growing up; it’s a heartwarming film (based on a true story) about the attempts of a British couple to raise, and then release into the wild, a young lion they’d saved as a cub. There’s enough darkness and defeat in it to keep it from being too treacly, despite the uplifting ending and soaring title song.
1966 USA/UK. Director: James Hill. Starring: Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Geoffrey Keen.
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 8th)
10:15pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 8th)
11:00pm – Sundance – Enter the Void
One of the most unusual films to come out over the past several years, I’ll grant you that. Gaspar Noë’s first-person erotic dreamscape is sure to polarize. It’s got some staunch supporters in the Third Row, though I myself am still hesitant to form an opinion on it.
2009 France. Director: Gaspar Noë. Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Nathaniel Brown, Cyril Roy, Olly Alexander, Masato Tanno.
12:00M – 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.
Friday, June 8
9:30am – TCM – The Constant Nymph
After being caught up in rights issues for decades, this film is finally cleared to be shown on TCM. It tends a bit toward the melodramatic front, but a lot of the film is pretty unique in the way Joan Fontaine’s child-woman is written, especially in the pastoral first half of the film.
1943 USA. Director: Edmund Goulding. Starring: Charles Boyer, Joan Fontaine, Alexis Smith, Brenda Marshall, Charles Coburn, Dame May Whitty, Peter Lorre.
9:30pm – TCM – The Innocents
A genuinely creepy and disturbing little horror film, with Deborah Kerr as a new governess hired to raise a young boy and girl on a lonely Victorian estate. She becomes convinced the two are possessed by the spirits of two former employees – but the truth may be even weirder than that. Extremely effective; this is honestly my favorite type of horror, and few are better at it than this.
1961 UK. Director: Jack Clayton. Starring: Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Michael Redgrave, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Megs Jenkins.
10:00pm – 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.
11:15pm – TCM – The Black Cat
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi playing antagonists in a gothic horror mystery? Yes, please. Lugosi plays the hero of sorts, returning to Karloff’s Eastern European home to suss out a mystery involving Lugosi’s wife – who Karloff had also loved. There’s also a young honeymooning couple, but they’re essentially pawns in the game Karloff and Lugosi are playing. The chemistry between the two is great, and both get to play outside their normal unrecognizable monster roles, a refreshing change.
1934 USA. Director: Edgar G. Ulmer. Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Jacqueline Wells.
12:40am (9th) – TCM – Gaslight (1940)
Not the more famous 1944 Victorian suspenser that won Ingrid Bergman an Oscar, but the 1940 British film that it was based on. This film was almost suppressed completely by MGM as they tried to focus attention solely on their remake and eliminate any potential competition from the earlier film; thankfully, the original survived, and it’s quite compelling in its own right.
1940 UK. Director: Thorold Dickinson. Starring: Anton Walbrook, Diana Wynyard, Frank Pettingell.
3:30am (9th) – 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.
Saturday, June 9
3:30pm – IFC – Marie Antoinette
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 7:30am on the 10th)
8:00pm – TCM – Jezebel
Bette Davis got one of her Oscars for this film, playing a suspiciously Scarlett O’Hara-like Southern belle the year before Gone With the Wind made it onto the screen.
1938 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Fay Bainter.
10:00pm – TCM – Drums Along the Mohawk
A Western unusually set in the Allegheny Mountains, with Colonial pioneers in the 1770s struggling against Tory-led Indian attacks while the Revolutionary War rages a bit to the south. A solid drama, as usual, from director John Ford.
1939 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudette Colbert, Edna May Oliver.
10:15pm – IFC – Alien3
More to come later on this week about the much-maligned and beleaguered third installment of the Alien series, so keep an eye out for that. And if you haven’t seen it yet or need a refresher, IFC is here to help.
(repeats at 2:45am on the 10th)
Sunday, June 10
7:30am – Sundance – Waltz with Bashir
An unusual animation style for an unusual animated film – a sort of documentary, sort of memoir of writer/director Ari Folman’s memories of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. This is one I’ve meant to see for quite a long time, and haven’t managed to do so yet.
2008 Israel. Director: Ari Folman. Starring: Ari Folman, Ron Ben-Yishal, Ronny Dayag.
7:45am – TCM – Love Finds Andy Hardy
The Andy Hardy series was immensely popular in the 1930s and early 1940s, a strong family-friendly vehicle that helped make Mickey Rooney one of the top box office draws at the time. They’re all fairly similar and bland to modern eyes, but if you want to watch one, this is the one to watch – not only is it a solid example of the series, but it has a very young Judy Garland (in one of ten films she’d make with Rooney) AND a very young Lana Turner as Andy’s object of infatuation.
1938 USA. Director: George B. Seitz. Starring: Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford.
12:00N – TCM – For Me and My Gal
The film that marked Judy Garland’s shift from child and teen roles into fully adult roles with actual romances, as well as Gene Kelly’s film debut. It’d be nice if the film itself were a little more memorable aside from those two pieces of trivia – still, it’s a fairly solid musical and worth watching if you’re a fan of either of the stars.
1942 USA. Director: Busby Berekeley. Starring: Judy Garland, George Murphy, Gene Kelly.
2:00pm – TCM – Girl Crazy
Mickey Rooney is a city boy sent out west when his hard-partying ways get him in trouble. Seems like he’s in for a tough, boring time – until he meets the local postmistress, Judy Garland. A slightly more grown-up romance for the formerly teen couple plus a boatload of Gershwin classics (including “Embraceable You,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and “But Not For Me”) make this arguably the best of the ten Rooney-Garland collaborations.
1943 USA. Director: Norman Taurog, Busby Berkeley. Starring: Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Rags Ragland, Gil Stratton, June Allyson.
3:45pm – TCM – A Star is Born
Judy Garland’s comeback role after several years off the screen remains one of her best, crystalizing both the hope and sorrow that her later life represents. The fact that she’s playing a wanna-be star at the beginning of her career makes it just that much more poignant – and watch out for her rendition of “The Man That Got Away.”
1954 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Judy Garland, James Mason.
8:00pm – TCM – The Wizard of Oz
Breakout role for Judy Garland, one of the earlier Technicolor films (and one of the first to mix black and white with Technicolor to dramatic effect), and one of the few adaptations where the film is better than the book. Oh, right, it’s also one of the most magical, beautiful, and wonderful films ever made.
1939 USA. Director: Victor Fleming. Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton.
8:00pm – Sundance – A Girl Cut in Two
One of the last films from great French director Claude Chabrol before his death, with Ludivine Sagnier as an up-and-coming TV personality faced with choosing between two men – with Chabrol at the helm, you know there’s more than that to it, and his touch for black comedy thrillers should make this one an enjoyable watch.
2007 France. Director: Claude Chabrol. Starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Benoît magimel, François Berléand.
10:00pm – TCM – Meet Me in St. Louis
The ultimate nostalgia film, harking back to the turn of the century and the year leading up to the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair. Judy Garland holds the film and the family in it together as the girl who only wants to love the boy next door, but it’s Margaret O’Brien as the little willful sister who adds the extra bit of oomph, especially in the manic Halloween scene and the violent Christmas scene that carries the film from an exercise in sentimentality into a deeper territory of loss and distress.
1944 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Judy Garland, Tom Drake, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O’Brien, Leon Ames, Mary Astor.
12:00M – TCM – Easter Parade
Fred Astaire actually retired in 1946, and managed to stay off the screen for two years – until Gene Kelly broke his leg playing football and Fred was asked to take over his role in Easter Parade. Of course, then Fred kept making movies nearly every year for another 15 or 20 years. Easter Parade remains an enjoyable entry into his and Judy Garland’s respective filmographies, due to solid Irving Berlin tunes and the winning combination of Astaire’s dancing and Garland’s singing (and comedic abilities). Oh, this was also tap star Ann Miller’s first of many MGM films.
1948 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller.
12:00M – 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.
2:00am (11th) – TCM – Summer Stock
The last film Judy Garland made at MGM before her health and drug problems led them to terminate her contract, and you can tell the strain she was under while making it. She and Gene Kelly put on a game effort with the story about putting on a summer stock show at Garland’s character’s farm, but the film stands mostly as a sad reminder of Garland’s devastating personal life at the time. The fact that it ends with the number “Get Happy”, shot several months later after Garland had lost a bunch of weight, is the kind of thing that makes me smile through my tears.
1950 USA. Director: Charles Walters. Starring: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven.
4:00am (11th) – TCM – I Could Go On Singing!
Judy Garland’s final film, as a successful concert singer who yearns to spend time with the son who’s never gotten a chance to know her very well. Coming in the middle of a 15-year run of successful concert performances for Garland in real life, the film is a fitting cinematic swan song for the tremendous yet troubled singer.
1963 UK. Director: Ronald Neame. Starring: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Klugman, Gregory Phillips, Aline MacMahon.