Film on TV: July 2-8
Monday, July 2
7:45pm – Sundance – Little Children
Todd Field’s perfectly written (and acted) story of intersecting unhappy suburbanites reminds us why melodrama shouldn’t be a bad word – this is melodrama at its very best, and its very best is stunning. Kate Winslet turns in a should’ve-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 3:00am on the 3rd)
8:00pm – TCM – Mogambo
A remake of 1932′s Red Dust, also starring Gable, this suffers a bit in comparison by not being pre-Code, but with John Ford at the helm and Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly taking the Mary Astor/Jean Harlow roles, it can’t be all bad, and it isn’t. It’s still a solid little love triangle/adventure film.
1953 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly.
Tuesday, July 3
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.
9:00am – 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.
10:45am – TCM – Pride and Prejudice (1940)
A Golden Age adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, which means, among other things, the use of Victorian-era costuming rather than Empire-era, but nitpicking aside, this is a decent version of the story. It’s still third on my list behind the A&E miniseries and Joe Wright’s version, but for classic film fans, Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier make quite a compelling couple, and they’re surrounded by a nice group of MGM stock players.
1940 USA. Director: Robert Z. Leonard. Starring: Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Mary Boland, Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ann Rutherford.
4:30pm – 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.
8:00pm – TCM – Gone with the Wind
Margaret Mitchell’s sprawling best-seller became David O. Selznick’s sprawling epic, the story of spoiled southern belle Scarlett O’Hara coping with the horrors of unrequited love, threats to her family’s plantation, and oh, yeah, the Civil War. Gone With the Wind needs no introduction, really.
1939 USA. Director: Victor Fleming. Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel.
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 11:30pm)
10:00pm – IFC – Y tu mamá también
Though he’d done some films previously, this one really brought Alfonso Cuarón (as well as its two young stars) to international attention with its envelope-pushing story of two Mexican teens on a road trip and the older Spanish woman that tags along with them, creating three-way sexual tension. The film is frank yet often profound in its depiction of both sexuality and friendship.
2001 Mexico. Director: Alfonso Cuarón. Starring: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Maribel Verdú.
3:00am (4th) – IFC – Black Book
Paul Verhoeven invests Black Book with just enough of his signature over-the-top brashness to give the WWII story of a Dutch Jewish woman infiltrating the Gestapo for the Resistance a healthy dose of panache. Every time you think it won’t go the next step, it does, and it’s ravishingly entertaining the whole time.
2006 Netherlands. Director: Paul Verhoeven. Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman.
Wednesday, July 4
3:00pm – 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.
8:00pm – TCM – Yankee Doodle Dandy
James Cagney won an Oscar putting on his dancing shoes to play song-and-dance man and Broadway composer George M. Cohan in this biopic. Though it seems strange to think of gangster picture regular Cagney in a musical, he actually got his start in show business as a hoofer, and returned to musicals many times throughout his career, though this remains the most notable example.
1942 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: James Cagney, Joan Leslie.
10:30pm – IFC – The Prestige
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins follow-up, a wonderfully twisty and evocative period thriller about a pair of stage magicians and their potentially deadly rivalry. Some great ideas elevate this far above what you might expect, and solid performances all around carry it through nicely. Definitely deserves mention among the finest thinking-man’s films of the past decade.
2006 USA. Director: Christopher Nolan. Starring: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 5th)
12:00M – TCM – The Glenn Miller Story
An admittedly sentimentalized retelling of big band leader Glenn Miller, from forming his band and becoming one of the biggest names in swing music to joining the army and being killed in action. I’m a big fan of swing music in general, so just hearing Glenn Miller music throughout is good enough for me; throw in Jimmy Stewart and some great chemistry with June Allyson as his wife, and I’m perfectly willing to go along with this somewhat cornball film.
1954 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, June Allyson, Harry Morgan.
Thursday, July 5
10:15am – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.
1945 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.
8:00pm – TCM – Ace in the Hole
Billy Wilder is known for his cynical streak, and this is pretty much Exhibit A. Kirk Douglas is a reporter, sent to middle-of-nowhere New Mexico after disgracing his paper, who gets wind of a cave-in trapping a lone miner. He pounces on the story, but manipulates everything to create the biggest media circus he can, with little thought of the trapped man’s safety. It’s an indictment both of media self-focus and of those who like to watch it, and aside from the safe ending, it’s lost none of its biting power.
1951 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur.
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 1:15am on the 6th)
9:00pm – Sundance – Blue Velvet
I’ll be honest, this is not one of my favorite David Lynch films. There are a lot of things I like about it. The unsettling take on suburbia, the gorgeously disturbing photography, the kids playing detective, the severed ear, you know, the normal Lynch stuff. But then it just gets to be too cruel for me. Still, it’s a Lynch classic, and you oughta see it. And I oughta see it again, see if my opinion has changed.
1986 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Kyle McLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper.
(repeats at 2:10am on the 6th)
10:00pm – TCM – The Night of the Hunter
If there’s ever a film that defined “Southern gothic,” it’s this one. Underhanded “preacher” Robert Mitchum weasels his way into a young widowed family to try to gain the money the late father hid before he died. But what starts off as a well-done but fairly standard crime thriller turns into a surreal fable somewhere in the middle, and at that moment, jumps from “good film” to “film you will be able to get out of your head NEVER.” In a good way.
1955 USA. Director: Charles Laughton. Starring: Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish.
11:45pm – TCM – On the Waterfront
Marlon Brando’s performance as a former boxer pulled into a labor dispute among dock workers goes down as one of the greatest in cinematic history. I’m not even a huge fan of Brando, but this film wins me over.
1954 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint.
1:45am (6th) – 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.
Friday, July 6
6:00am – IFC – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s intensely moving retelling of the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was almost completely paralyzed in a car accident, able only to move his left eye. The impressionist storytelling lends an otherworldly beauty to the film, already solid due to the script and acting.
2007 France. Director: Julian Schnabel. Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze.
(repeats at 12:15pm)
3:45pm – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.
8:00pm – TCM – The Man from Laramie
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.
8:00pm – 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.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 7th)
10:00pm – TCM – The Naked Spur
One of several westerns that teamed director Anthony Mann and James Stewart in the 1950, this one is a fine example of the darker turn that both the western as a genre and Jimmy Stewart’s roles took in the hands of Anthony Mann. Stewart is a bitter bounty hunter who takes on two suspect partners to track down a fugitive – a wily man indeed who psychologically manipulates the three men into turning on each other.
1953 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell.
10:00pm – Sundance – Raising Arizona
This relatively early Coen Brothers comedy has Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter as a childless ex-con couple who decide to rectify that situation by stealing one of a set of quintuplets. They’ll never miss him, right? Wrong. Zany complications ensue.
1987 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, Trey Wilson, John Goodman, Frances McDormand.
4:15am (7th) – TCM – Repulsion
Psychological horror of the best kind, with Roman Polanski directing Catherine Deneuve in the role of a repressed young woman whose fantasies come out to play in very destructive ways when she’s left alone in her sister’s apartment for a few days. Her terror of men and sexuality leads to hallucinations of grasping hands reaching through the walls in one of the movie’s more famous scenes. Deneuve is basically batshit crazy here, and beautifully so.
1965 UK. Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser.
Saturday, July 7
1:05pm – Sundance – Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog has made the savage beauty of nature one of his themes throughout most of his fiction films, so perhaps it’s only natural that he has moved onto explicitly non-fiction explorations of some of nature’s most remote locales, in this case, Antarctica.2007 USA. Director: Werner Herzog.
4:15pm – TCM – Dr. Strangelove
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.
4:45pm – 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.
2:30am (8th) – TCM – The Bridge on the River Kwai
British prisoners of war are commanded to build a bridge over the River Kwai for their Japanese captors – a task which becomes a source of pride for old-school British commander Alec Guinness. But American William Holden is having none of that and makes it his mission to blow the bridge up. One of the great war films.
1957 USA/UK. Director: David Lean. Starring: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa.
Sunday, July 8
10:00am – TCM – Gilda
Gilda was the last person Johnny ever expected to meet again, much less as the wife of his boss, a sleazy casino operator in South America. Glenn Ford plays a quintessential defeated noir narrator in Johnny, while Rita Hayworth imbues Gilda with all her available mystique to make Gilda one of the more memorable films of the 1940s.
1946 USA. Director: Charles Vidor. Starring: Glenn Ford, Rita Hayworth, George Macready
12:00N – TCM – East of Eden
The first of James Dean’s three films, playing Steinbeck’s Cal Trask – a WWI-era youth struggling against frustrations at his relationship with his family, the war, his future, and life in general. Jo Van Fleet won an Oscar for playing Trask’s estranged mother, and Dean of course became an overnight sensation.
1956 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Richard Davalos.
2:15pm – TCM – The Thin Man
If there’s such a genre as “goofy yet sophisticated comedy-mystery,” The Thin Man is the apex of it. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in thirteen films together, but never did their chemistry sparkle quite so much as here, in their first of six outings as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. In between cocktails and marital moments, they investigate the disappearance of the titular thin man (later in the series, “thin man” erroneously became associated with Nick). There’s so much to love about this film – the great dialogue, hilarious supporting characters (only a few of which go too far over the top), and honestly, most of all, the amazing portrayal of a solid, loving marriage in the midst of so much chaos.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.
8:00pm – TCM – The Bank Dick
One of W.C. Fields’ most sustained comedies, with the henpecked Egbert Sousè skipping jobs a bit before landing as a bank detective. Not exactly the best man for the job, he convinces his daughter’s fiance to embezzle some money from the bank, but when the bank examiner shows up, all hell breaks lose. Great showcase for Fields, who’s ably supported by some of the best character actors in the business.
1940 USA. Director: Edward F. Cline. Starring: W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Jessie Ralph, Franklin Pangborn, Shemp Howard.
2:00am (9th) – TCM – Band of Outsiders
This relatively unassuming film about a trio of young people wandering Paris, taking English classes, talking in cafes, and oh yeah, planning to steal some money from the girl’s employer, is currently sitting pretty in fourth place on my all-time favorite film list. Its combination of dispassionate narrative with far-more-complex-than-they-seem relationships and motivatations hits my sweet spot, made Godard one of my favorite directors, and got me obsessed with the New Wave. Not bad.
1964 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur.