There really wasn’t anything playing yesterday that I would’ve featured, so don’t feel like you’ve missed out because I’m running late with this. It’s okay, really. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. But seriously, yesterday was a catch-up day anyway.
Tuesday, June 26
10:00am – 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.
12:15pm – TCM – Words and Music
MGM liked to do largely fictionalized composer biopics in the 1940s and ’50s, mostly because it gave them an opportunity to show off their stable of singing and dancing stars. Words and Music is their retelling of the career of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and it’s pretty routine. What isn’t routine is Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen’s dazzling rendition of “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” a ten-minute dance number that is 100% worth the price of the film.
1948 USA. Director: Norman Taurog. Starring: Tom Drake, Mickey Rooney, Betty Garrett, Janet Leigh, Cyd Charisse, June Allyson, Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, James Mitchell, Lena Horne, Kathryn Grayson, Judy Garland.
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 2:00am on the 27)
11:30pm – 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.
Wednesday, June 27
2:15pm – TCM – The Long, Long Trailer
After doing I Love Lucy for a few years, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did a couple of films that largely play on the same basic characters. In this one, the couple buys a mobile home and sets off on the road trip of their life – complete with everything going wrong that can go wrong in such a scenario. The film gets a bit too far into shrill slapstick for me, but it does have a number of funny moments, and the bonus of seeing essentially Lucy and Ricky in color.
1953 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Luciell Ball, Desi Arnaz, Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn.
8:00pm – 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.
10:00pm – TCM – The Immigrant
One of Charlie Chaplin’s finest short films, featuring the little tramp going through the immigrant experience, from traveling over on an overcrowded boat to trying to make his way in a new country. It’s filled with all the slapstick and pathos you expect from Chaplin, and in fact, is probably the most balanced early template for his particular approach to silent comedy.
1917 USA. Director: Charles Chaplin. Starring: Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell.
10:00pm – IFC – Alien3
The much-maligned third entry in the Alien series deserves to be maligned, in my opinion, though I did appreciate some aspects of the tone and creature design. But it has its vehement supporters, even right here in the Third Row, so don’t take my word for it and check it out for yourself. Given the runtime listed, this is the theatrical cut, rather than the longer Assembly Cut.
(repeats at 2:30am on the 28th)
Thursday, June 28
6:00am – TCM – The Time Machine
George Pal’s 1960 version of H.G. Wells’ classic time travel novel mixes Victorian/Edwardian costume picture, steampunk-esque devices, and futuristic worlds with awesome stop-motion and practical effects with utterly charming results. I love sci-fi like this, and I think watching this film last year is really the thing that got me on the current B-movie sci-fi/horror kick that I’m happily indulging whenever I have time.
1960 USA. Director: George Pal. Starring: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot.
8:000pm – TCM – Village of the Damned
A highlight of 1960s British horror, with a group of children all born mysteriously nine months after a village experienced “lost time.” They all have the same blonde hair, creepy vacantness, and the apparent ability to communicate telepathically. It’s a very quiet, chilling film, with a fine central performance from child actor Martin Stephens, who would bring his preternatural creepiness to The Innocents the following year. George Sanders is his inimitable self as the schoolteacher/parent trying to solve the mystery.
1960 UK. Director: Wolf Rilla. Starring: George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens.
Friday, June 29
6:00am – TCM – The Letter
In this cut-above-average melodrama, Bette Davis shoots a man in self-defense. Or was it self-defense? Film noir hadn’t quite come into its own yet by this point, and it plays more like a well-produced domestic drama, but it’s an enjoyable precursor to the grittier crime dramas to come.
1940 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall.
7:45am – TCM – High Sierra
Bogart’s breakout role as an on-the-run con man who gets involved with the lame Joan Leslie. (No, I mean actually crippled.) He’d been bumming around for a few years as a Warner second lead or villain, but with 1941’s double punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon, he unequivocally arrived.
1941 USA. Director: Raoul Walsh. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Joan Leslie, Ida Lupino.
10:00am – 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.
2:45pm – TCM – The Postman Always Rings Twice
Sizzling adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic pulp novel has Lana Turner as the unhappy wife of a middle-of-nowhere gas station owner and John Garfield as the drifter who drops in and plots her husband’s demise with her. Skip the 1982 remake, from what I’ve heard, but if you’re feeling adventurous, check out Luchino Visconti’s Ossession, a 1943 Italian adaptation of the novel widely considered to be a forerunner of the Italian Neo-Realist movement.
1946 USA. Director: Tay Garnett. Starring: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn.
12:00M – TCM – The Two Mrs. Carrolls
My movie record spreadsheet claims I’ve actually seen this movie, but I don’t remember anything about it, not even having seen it. Which is really weird, because Bogart + Stanwyck + film noir is exactly my kind of film. In any case, I’m pretty eager to watch it again, because an insane bigamist murderer Bogart has got to be a pretty great thing to watch.
1947 USA. Director: Peter Godfrey. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith.
4:00am (30th) – IFC – Monty Python’s Life of Brian
After dismantling the King Arthur legends, Monty Python turn their attention to the Bible itself, satirically suggesting what might happen if a random 1st century baby got mistaken for the Messiah. Irreverent and hilarious, though not as consistently so for me as Holy Grail.
1979 UK. Director: Terry Jones. Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin.
Saturday, June 30
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.
8:00pm – IFC – Sin City
Frank Miller joined Robert Rodriguez in creating this adaptation of Miller’s graphic novel series, a highly stylized evocation of film noir tropes that’s rather overdone in many ways, but still so visually striking that I really enjoyed watching it. Most of it.
2005 USA. Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller. Starring: Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson.
9:45pm – TCM – Christmas in July
A bit of a lesser Preston Sturges film to my mind, but it has its vociferous defenders. A lowly office clerk dreams of winning a contest that would make his fortune and allow him to marry the girl he loves; as a joke, his friends fake a telegram telling him he’s won one, but things get out of hand quickly. It’s pretty slight, but has a lot of charm.
1940 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn.
11:00pm – TCM – The Great McGinty
The story goes that Preston Sturges, a well-regarded and successful screenwriter, took this script to Paramount and said he’d sell it to them for $10 if they let him direct it. They said yes, and thankfully the film was successful, opening the door not only for Sturges to become one of the best writer/directors of the 1940s, but also writers like Billy Wilder and others to make the jump into directing. The story involves a crooked politician and the fake marriage he concocts to gain voters.
1940 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angeles, Akim Tamiroff, Allyn Joslyn, William Demarest.
12:30am (1st) – 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 he’s a bit dense and spacey. Stanwyck’s plot is hugely elaborate, only a little muddled by her falling in love with Fonda as well, and she’s 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.
2:15am (1st) – TCM – Hail the Conquering Hero
After being discharged from the Army as 4F, Eddie Bracken is pressured into pretending to be a war hero by a group of marines when he returns to his small home town; as things escalate in his honor, he tries to set things straight, but can’t get anyone to listen. This is one of Preston Sturges’ best-known absurd comedies, and he has quite an impressive string of absurd comedies, so that’s saying a lot.
1944 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Raymond Walburn.
4:00am (1st) – 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.
Sunday, July 1
6:00am – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.
6:45am- IFC – The Others
Creepy atmospheric horror is one of my favorite things, and The Others does that extremely well, spinning its tale of a WWII mother and children left in a lonely mansion on a British island. Add in some unique elements like the fact that the children’s rare light allergy requires the house to be always blanketed in gloom and the strange hallucinations (or are they?) that the family starts experiencing, and it only gets better. Nicole Kidman is great here, doing her best Grace Kelly imitation (at least until she plays Kelly in an upcoming film).
2001 USA. Director: Alejandro Amenabar. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan.
(repeats at 3:15pm)
7:30am – TCM – Show Boat
This is a fairly average 1950s MGM musical version of a play that had already been done as a movie once (in 1936, which many argue is the better film), but I’ve loved it for a long time nonetheless. The story gets a bit treacly sentimental at the end, but a dark subplot, wonderful Jerome Kern music, and a strong supporting cast help a lot.
1951 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ava Gardner, Joe E. Brown, Marge & Gower Champion, Agnes Moorehead.
9:00am – 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 – 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 didn’t know cinema could.
2005 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer.
(repeats at 5:30pm)
9:30am – TCM – Annie Get Your Gun
Musical and western blend in this retelling of the Annie Oakley-Frank Butler story, really only notable for its solid Irving Berlin score. Betty Hutton is fine as Annie, but one can only wonder how great the movie might’ve been had Judy Garland been healthy enough to play it, as originally intended.
1950 USA. Director: George Sidney. Starring: Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Louis Calhern.
11:30am – TCM – Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
What do you do when you’re seven brothers in the backwoods and need wives? Why, go kidnap them of course! Patriarchal values aside, Seven Brides is one of the most entertaining movie musicals ever made, and I defy anyone to outdo the barn dance/raising scene.
1954 USA. Director: Stanley Donen. Starring: Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn.
3:15pm – TCM – On the Town
Sailors on leave Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin hit New York City, spending the day sightseeing and searching for Kelly’s dream girl Vera-Ellen, meanwhile picking up Betty Garrett and Ann Miller for the other boys. Not much plot here, but enough to precipitate some of the best song and dance numbers on film. Also one of the first musicals shot on location.
1949 USA. Directors: Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Starring: Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Alice Pearce.
5:15pm – TCM – The Music Man
A musical favorite of many (though not of me personally), with conman Robert Preston entering River City to play his con of selling the town on the idea of a marching band, then absconding with the money raised for instruments and uniforms. However, his plans run awry when he falls for the town’s librarian.
1962 USA. Director: Morton DaCosta. Starring: Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold.
8:00pm – TCM – Lassie Come Home
Family classic that has every kid wanting a collie at some point in their lives. Hint: Get a border collie. Regular collies are quite high-strung. The film itself is sure-fire old-school sentiment, but in a way that charms me every time, shushing every cynical bone in my body. Yes, I cry at this movie. What of it?
1943 USA. Director: Fred M. Wilcox. Starring: Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Elsa Lanchester, Elizabeth Taylor.
12:30am (2nd) – TCM – Never Weaken and A Sailor-Made Man
For TCM’s weekly Silent Sunday Night, they’re showcasing two Harold Lloyd shorts. I haven’t seen either of these, but coming off three of his films being at the top of my favorites list in April, I’d be down to watch anything and everything of his. Never Weaken has Lloyd trying to commit suicide after the girl he loves plans to marry someone else (and failing miserably and hilariously), while A Sailor-Made Man has a wealthy playboy joining the Navy to try to impress his girl’s father. The girl in both films is Mildred Davis, who Lloyd would marry in 1923.
(same info for both films) 1921, USA. Director: Fred C. Newmeyer. Starring: Harold Loyd, Mildred Davis.
2:00am (2nd) – TCM – Umberto D.
Vittorio De Sica’s neorealist classic about an aging man struggling to live on his meager pension in post-war Rome. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and granted, not a lot happens. But by the end, you’ll have extraordinary sympathy for gentle Umberto and his dog. Oh, and a fantastic performance by non-actress Maria Pia Casillio – she offered to take acting lessons for the part but De Sica forbade her. Good choice.
1952 Italy. Director: Vittorio De Sica. Starring: Carlo Battisti, Maria Pia Casilio, Lina Gennari.
3:45am (2nd) – TCM – American Graffiti
Seems a little hard to believe now, but before George Lucas started in on Star Wars, he actually made other totally unrelated movies. Like this one, an excellent coming of age story set in the 1950s, with a 1970s New Hollywood spin on it. Richard Dreyfuss before Jaws, Ron Howard back in the Happy Days days, Cindy Williams before Laverne & Shirley, Harrison Ford in a bit part, it’s a lot of good fun.
1973 USA. Director: George Lucas. Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack.