Monday, June 18
8:30am – 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)
9:30am – Sundance – Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman
As an architectural photographer covering modernist architecture during the mid-twentieth century, Julius Shulman captured some of the most iconic images ever of homes and other buildings, basically creating an entire generation’s perception of Los Angeles and Palm Springs especially. This well-designed documentary is a great primer on his life and work, and through his work, on modernist ideals and architecture itself. Definitely worth a look if you’re interested in photography, architecture, modernism, or Los Angeles.
2008 USA. Director: Eric Brickner. Starring: Julius Shulman, Dustin Hoffman.
(repeats at 4:30pm)
8:00pm – TCM – Fat City
Lauded as a return to form for John Huston as a director, a character-driven boxing story with a grit and realism that calls back to his triumphs of the 1940s. The rare film to be considered a fringe New Hollywood entry while being directed by a member of the studio era establishment, thanks to its embracing of a hard-hitting and bleak 1970s attitude.
1972 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark.
10:00pm – TCM – 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.
11:00pm – 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.
12:15am (19th) – TCM – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis both won acting awards for their parts in Mike Nichols’ version of Edward Albee’s dysfunctional dinner party play. In a film part black comedy and part deeply angsty relationship drama, Taylor and Burton play for keeps, in performances by turns histrionic, interior, bombastic, and heartbreaking. Sometimes frustrating to watch, but ultimately well worth it.
1966 USA. Director: Mike Nichols. Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis, George Segal.
2:45am (19th) – TCM – The Last Picture Show
In my opinion one of the best films to come out of New Hollywood; interestingly it’s a period piece, one that both honors and rejects that which went before in a way that strikingly codifies New Hollywood itself, while also being a great story of coming of age in 1950s Texas. Note Oscar winning supporting turns by both Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson (both older characters in this story of youth), plus a very young Jeff Bridges.
1971 USA. Director: Peter Bogdanovich. Starring: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan.
Tuesday, June 19
9:00am – 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.
10:45am – TCM – The Swan
In a case of art-imitates-life, Grace Kelly made this film (her next-to-last), where she plays a princess whose status and fortune depends on her successfully courting a European prince and forging a marriage alliance with his nation, the same year that she married Prince Rainier of Monaco, becoming a princess in real life.
1956 USA. Director: King Vidor. Starring: Grace Kelly, Louis Jourdan, Alec Guinness, Agnes Moorehead, Jessie Royce Landis, Brian Aherne.
12:45pm – TCM – Gigi
Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” might come off as more pervy now than it was originally intended, but as a whole Gigi stands as one of the most well-produced and grown-up musicals made during the studio era. Vincente Minnelli gives it a wonderful visual richness and sophistication, while music from Lerner & Loewe (usually) stresses the right combination of innocence, exuberance, and ennui for its decadent French story.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.
8:00pm – 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.
Wednesday, June 20
8:15am – 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)
9:15am – 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 1:40pm)
11:30am – TCM – The Charge of the Light Brigade
Taking its inspiration from the Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem about a fateful battle of the Crimean War, the film functions as a slight but enjoyable vehicle for Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. The film follows the poem in ascribing a strategic importance to the battle that isn’t borne out by history, but as a piece of heroic historical fiction, it’s pretty fun.
1936 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Patric Knowles, Henry Stephenson, Nigel Bruce, Donald Crisp, David Niven.
8:00pm – IFC – 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 10:15 on the 24th, on Sundance)
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 9:50pm)
10:15pm – IFC – Monster’s Ball
Halle Berry won an Academy Award in this film about a prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who has to re-evaluate his racist attitudes when he starts falling in love with the wife (Berry) of one of the prisoners recently executed at his prison.
2001 USA. Director: Marc Forster. Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Tyler Simpson, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle.
(repeats at 3:15am on the 21st)
Thursday, June 21
6:00am – TCM – Thank Your Lucky Stars
One of several musicals put out in the early 1940s that basically served as showcases for each studio’s major stars, revues in service of the war. Warners had this one plus Hollywood Canteen; that one is better as these things go, but this one has Bette Davis doing a musical number. So there’s that.
1943 USA. Director: David Butler. Starring: Eddie Cantor, Dennis Morgan, Humphrey Bogart, many others.
3:15pm – TCM – On Dangerous Ground
A tough cop gets too tough once too often and gets sent away from the city to upstate New York to cool off for a bit and investigate a murder up there; in the process, he meets and is captivated by a blind woman whose simple brother is a prime suspect in the case. A quieter than usual take on film noir (and unusually set in the country), but worth watching, as is most anything from director Nicholas Ray.
1952 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: Robert Ryan, Ida Lupino, Ward Bond.
4:45pm – TCM – The Bigamist
You can just about count the number of female directors working in studio-era Hollywood on one hand, and Ida Lupino is one of them. With this film, she delves into the potentially censor-unfriendly world of a bigamist, and also plays one of the wives of this man who carries on two families in different states, each of which has no idea of the other’s existence until an adoption process throws his delicate double life into jeopardy.
1953 USA. Director: Ida Lupino. Starring: Joan Fontaine, Ida Lupino, Edmond O’Brien, Edmund Gwenn, Jane Darwell.
6:15pm – TCM – While the City Sleeps
The head of a New York newspaper dies, leaving it in his son Vincent Price’s hands to choose someone to promote: managing editor Thomas Mitchell, lead reporter Dana Andrews, or a couple of other people. The way to get the job? Get the scoop on the serial killer taking out women around the city. It gets a little plot-heavy at times, but it’s so full of classic character actors and the noirish feel that director Fritz Lang does so well that it’s still very worthwhile.
1956 United States. Director: Fritz Lang. Starring: Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Ida Lupino, George Sanders
Friday, June 22
6:00am – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.
1939 USA. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas.
8:00am – TCM – The Seven-Year-Itch
Far from my favorite Billy Wilder movie – or Marilyn Monroe movie, for that matter, but it does contain one of Marilyn’s most iconic roles, the next-door-neighbor who infatuates middle-aged main character Tom Ewell as he becomes afflicted with the titular condition when his wife and family go on vacation for the summer. It’s a slight film that stretches the limits of incredulity to their breaking point, but watching Marilyn basically play herself is a fun time.
1955 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Tom Ewell, Marilyn Monroe, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts.
10:00am – 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 4:15pm)
12:15pm – TCM – The Spirit of St. Louis
A lesser Billy Wilder film perhaps, but a fairly solid biopic of Charles Lindbergh and his first solo flight across the Atlantic. A lot of it depends on Jimmy Stewart alone in a cockpit, but he’s up to the task, and it’s kind of a fascinating part of aviation history (okay, more fascinating if you’re from St. Louis, as Lindbergh and I both are).
1957 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jmaes Stewart, Murray Hamilton, Patricia Smith.
2:45pm – TCM – Some Like It Hot
After musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon unwittingly witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, they have to escape the mob by impersonating women and joining an all-girls band. The fact that Marilyn Monroe is the band’s lead singer doesn’t help them stay undercover. Easily one of the greatest comedies ever put on film.
1959 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft.
5:00pm – TCM – The Apartment
Billy Wilder had a knack for combining comedy and drama into bittersweet goodness, and that’s exactly what he does here, garnering Oscars for Picture, Director, and Screenplay in the process. Jack Lemmon lends his apartment to his boss Fred MacMurray for romantic trysts – a situation that gets even more complicated when MacMurray trysts with Shirley MacLaine, who Lemmon happens to love from afar. Everything comes together perfectly in this film, one of Wilder’s best.
1960 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MaLaine, Fred MacMurray.
11:00pm – IFC – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Not the TV show, but the much more comedic film version that inspired it (Joss Whedon is said to have wanted to make the TV show after being disappointed with what the movie based on his script turned into) – it’s certainly nowhere near as good as the series, but it’s decent fun and plays into the Buffy mythology more than you might expect, especially leading into Season One of the show.
1992 USA. Director: Fran Rubel Kuzui. Starring: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens.
(repeats at 2:00am on the 23rd)
4:05am (23rd) – 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.
2009 Iran. Director: Bahman Ghobadi. Starring: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad.
Saturday, June 23
1:15pm – TCM – The Bad Seed
A classic of the “evil child” subgenre of horror, with a perfect American wife realizing her “perfect” daughter may be anything but. Combining horror with American gothic is usually a good idea; I’d definitely give this one a look-see.
1956 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Patty McCormack, Nancy Kelly, Henry Jones.
8:00pm – TCM – Rebel Without a Cause
Nicholas Ray’s best-known movie (though not, I’d argue, his best), likely because it’s one of James Dean’s three films. Dean is a rebellious teen, hanging out with the wrong crowd, whose parents don’t understand him. It all seems a little overwrought these days, but there’s an intensity to Dean and the film that manages to make it still relatable.
1955 USA. Director: Nicholas Ray. Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo.
10:00pm – 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 3:30am on the 24th)
2:00am (24th) – TCM – Splendor in the Grass
Warren Beatty made his screen debut in this film of frustrated young love (written by Thomas Inge), fairly racy for the time as Beatty and Natalie Wood struggle with sexual repression and social mores.
1961 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle, Audrey Christie, Barbara Loden.
Sunday, June 24
6:00am – 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.
8:00am – TCM – Hollywood Canteen
One of several films made during WWII that largely functioned as excuses for studios to parade their stable of stars on-screen in cameos, musical numbers, and comedy bits – in this case, the central device is the major Hollywood USO location of the title with a standard soldier-starlet romance plot, and the film has basically the whole Warner Bros. lot running around. It’s entertaining though not that good, and fun to see so many big stars playing themselves for a change.
1944 USA. Director: Delmer Daves. Starring: Robert Hutton, Joan Leslie, Dane Clark.
2:00pm – 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.
4:00pm – TCM – Born Yesterday
Judy Holliday nabbed an Oscar as the showgirl wife of an uncouth tycoon crashing around Washington DC with his newfound wealth – he hires William Holden to teach her to be a lady, but things don’t quite turn out as he expected.
1950 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden.
8:00pm – TCM – The Circus
One of Chaplin’s last films of the 1920s (though not his last silent) has the Little Tramp joining a circus after a run-in with the police. Though it’s not quite as well-known as many of Chaplin’s other features, it’s due for a re-evaluation – it’s very well-done and as enjoyable a combination of comedy and pathos as any of his other features.
1928 USA. Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Henry Bergman, Al LErnest Garcia, Harry Crocker.
1:45am – Sundance – Heartbeats
The second film from wunderkind Xavier Dolan isn’t quite as impressive as his debut I Killed My Mother, but it’s still a really enjoyable watch, with two best friends silently fighting over the androgynous object of both their affection. It’s stylized as all get out, but there’s a fair bit of depth beneath its New Wave-inspired superficial veneer.
2010 Canada. Director: Xavier Dolan. Starring: Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niel Schneider.
2:15am (24th) – TCM – La Strada
One of Fellini’s more neo-realist films (though he had a surrealistic flair already), La Strada follows a simple-minded innocent played beautifully by Giulietta Masina as she travels with brutish circus strongman Anthony Quinn. There simply are no faces in cinema quite like Masina’s, and Fellini’s camera loves her so much it’s impossible not to be caught under her spell, and the film’s.
1954 Italy. Director: Federico Fellini. Starring: Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart.