Film on TV: December 13-19

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Fish Tank, playing Wednesday on Sundance.

Mostly repeats this week, but some great ones. TCM closes out the Moguls and Movie Stars series, reaching the end of the classical Hollywood studio system, and has a bunch of 1960s greats on Monday and Wednesday to go along with that, plus Cabaret on Tuesday, Ingrid Bergman’s first American film on Friday, Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe on Saturday, and the always enjoyable Grease on Sunday. But if you only watch one thing this week, and you have the Sundance channel, please catch Andrea Arnold’s amazing Fish Tank on Wednesday night. It’s due out on DVD from Criterion in February, so this is a great chance to see it early if you missed its limited theatrical run earlier this year.

Monday, December 13

3:35pm – 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.

7:00pm – Sundance – Eraserhead
David Lynchís first feature is a weird post-apocalyptic dreamscape of a film ñ what, you were expecting something normal? When you can have industrial decay and mutant babies?
1977 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart.
(repeats at 3:30am on the 14th. and 10:00pm on the 18th)

8:00pm – TCM – Moguls & Movie Stars: Fade Out, Fade In
TCM’s History of Hollywood wraps up this week with the 1960s, the end of the classical studio system period. As the moguls who basically created Hollywood in the 1920s began losing control of the studios, the system itself broke down, mirroring the upheavals in the society around them and allowing an influx of new, young talent that would take us into New Hollywood and beyond. But that’s beyond the scope of this documentary series. This is one of the most exciting decades in film history for me, and TCM has programmed a nice collection of films to go along with it, representing socially conscious prestige pictures, lower budget cult films, and two of the films that truly signaled the beginning of the New: Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider (on Wednesday).

9:00pm – TCM – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Interracial marriage may not be quite the hot topic now that it was in 1967 (although if you check some parts of the American South, you might be surprised), but at the time, Katharine Houghton bringing home Sidney Poitier to meet her parents Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film) was the height of socially conscious filmmaking.
1967 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Cecil Kellaway.

12:00M – TCM – Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Aging stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play an aging child star and her sister in Robert Aldrichís cult favorite. Hard to think of better casting for a story like this.
1962 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Wesley Addy, Maidie Norman.

2:30am (14th) – TCM – The Magnificent Seven
Homage comes full circle as American John Sturges remakes Akira Kurosawaís The Seven Samurai as a western – Kurosawaís film itself was a western transposed into a Japanese setting. Sturges ainít no Kurosawa, but the story of a group of outcast cowboys banding together to protect an oppressed village is still a good one, plus thereís a young Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in the cast.
1960 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson.

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Film on TV: September 27-October 3

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Badlands, playing on TCM on Saturday

Not a lot of newly featured ones this week, but a lot of good stuff nonetheless. TCM kicks off October with a set of Hammer Dracula films on Friday night, then has a really nice quintuple feature of “young lovers on the run” films on Saturday, hitting everything Bonnie & Clyde and Badlands to Gun Crazy, They Live By Night, and Boxcar Bertha. It’s such a cool set of films I wish I’d thought of it for the Row Three Rep series! Also enjoy a look back at the Coen Brothers’s debut feature Blood Simple on Sunday.

Monday, September 27

6:00am – IFC – I Heart Huckabees
Not too many films take philosophy as their base, but this one basically does, following a man (Jason Schwartzman) plagued by coincidence who hires a couple of existentialists to figure out what’s going on.
2004 USA. Director: David O. Russell. Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, Mark Wahlberg, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law.

8:05am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 1:35pm)

6:45pm – IFC – 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.
(repeats at 1:45am on the 28th)

12:00M – IFC – Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky’s breakthrough film (Pi remains a cult favorite) follows a quartet of people as their lives spiral out of control due to drug addiction.
2000 USA. Director: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans.

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Film on TV: August 9-15

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Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, playing on Sundance on Wednesday

A few newly featured things this week, of varying degrees of interestingness. A day of Warren Beatty films on TCM on Monday bring bona fide classic Bonnie & Clyde, as well as his Best Director-winning film Reds and the not-particularly-successful but still interesting Mickey One, among others. A few notable documentaries show up throughout the week in Harlan County USA, Visual Acoustics, and Cropsey. IFC has both parts of Soderbergh’s Che playing back to back on Tuesday, and TCM brings out revisionist western The Wild Bunch on Friday.

Monday, August 9

7:35am – IFC – Spirited Away
Often considered Hayao Miyazaki’s finest film, it’s easily among the best family-friendly animated films in existence, full of magic and wonder, gods and spirits, and shapeshifting spells.
2001 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring: Rumi Hiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki.
(repeats at 2:15pm)

4:00pm – TCM – Mickey One
This is not a particularly great film, but it is interesting as a pre-Bonnie and Clyde collaboration between Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty, where they’re trying to do some of the same things in terms of bringing European style to an American story. It’s not nearly as successful as Bonnie and Clyde, but it does have its moments.
1965 USA. Director: Arthur Penn. Starring: Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield, Franchot Tone.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – 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.
Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 4:15am on the 10th)

10:30pm – TCM – Reds
Warren Beatty hasn’t directed a lot of movies in his career, but he won an Academy Award for this one, telling the story of John Reed, a real-life radical American journalist who witnessed the 1917 Russian Revolution and tried to bring Communist ideals to the United States.
1981 United States. Director: Warren Beatty. Starring: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Edward Herrmann, Jack Nicholson.
Newly Featured!

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Film on TV: July 19-25

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Shaft, playing late Saturday/early Sunday on TCM

A lot of repeats this week, but also a few notable newly featured ones, including Werner Herzog’s documentary Grizzly Man on Monday, David Lean’s definitive version of Oliver Twist on Thursday, quintessential blaxploitation film Shaft late Saturday night, and a pair of Oscar-winning foreign films in Black Orpheus and Two Women on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Monday, July 19

8:00am – IFC – Howl’s Moving Castle
Hayao Miyazaki has been a leader in the world of kid-friendly anime films for several years now, and while many would point to Spirited Away as his best film, I actually enjoyed Howl’s Moving Castle the most of all his films. Japanese animation takes some getting used to, but Miyazaki’s films are well worth it, and serve as a wonderful antidote to the current stagnation going on in American animation (always excepting Pixar).
2004 Japan. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (dubbed voices): Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall
(repeats at 3:05pm)

10:05am – IFC – Hero
Jet Li is the titular hero in this Zhang Yimou film, arguably the best of Yimou’s period action-on-wires films (though I’m partial to House of Flying Daggers myself). The story unfolds in flashback as Li explains to a warlord how he eliminated three would-be assassins (who happen to be three of Hong Kong cinema’s biggest stars, incidentally) – but all may not be precisely how it seems.
2002 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung.
(repeats at 5:15pm)

3:30pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
The benchmark for intellectual science fiction, Kubrick’s probable masterpiece is a mindbending ride through a mysteriously alien-driven evolution, with plenty of time for man vs. machine conflict, beautiful space ballet, and gorgeous cinematography.
1968 USA. Director: Stanley Kubrick. Starring: Keir Dullea, Douglas Rain, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester.
Must See

8:00pm – 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.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 8:15am and 3:20pm on the 24th)

4:45am (20th) – TCM – On the Beach
After nuclear war, most of humanity is destroyed; a small outpost in Australia survives, but not for long. See David’s longer take here;.
1959 USA. Director: Stanley Kramer. Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire.

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Film on TV: March 29-April 4

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The Passion of Joan of Arc, playing late Sunday/early Monday on TCM.

Check out a little Marx Brothers marathon on TCM Monday night, from early work like Monkey Business at 8pm to the best of the best starting with Duck Soup at 10:45pm. And the last night of the Kurosawa celebration hits on Tuesday, with some of his later work. A few newly featured ones on TCM, but other than Dreyer’s silent The Passion of Joan of Arc next Sunday, which I’m actually looking forward to seeing for the first time, I’ll let you find those below on your own. Beyond that, there’s numerous worthwhile repeats (including some contemporary greats like Before Sunrise and The Station Agent on IFC) to make sure you haven’t missed on all channels.

Monday, March 29

9:45am – IFC – Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise may be little more than an extended conversation between two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend all night talking and walking the streets of Vienna, I fell in love with it at first sight. Linklater has a way of making movies where nothing happens seem vibrant and fascinating, and call me a romantic if you wish, but this is my favorite of everything he’s done.
1995 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Must See
(repeats at 3:30pm)

11:30am – IFC – Crimes and Misdemeanors
When Martin Landau’s long-time mistress threatens to expose their affair unless he marries her, he’s faced with the decision to let her ruin his life and career or have her murdered. In a tangentially and thematically-related story, Woody Allen is a documentary filmmaker forced into making a profile of a successful TV producer rather than the socially-conscious films he wants to make. One of Allen’s most thoughtful and philosophically astute films – there are few answers here, but the questions will stay in your mind forever.
1989 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason.
Must See
(repeats at 5:15pm)

9:30pm – TCM – Horse Feathers
Most film comedians do a college-set film at some point, and this is the Marx Brothers entry into higher education. This is a relatively early film for them, and it’s not quite as great as the Duck SoupA Night at the OperaA Day at the Races trifecta, but it’s still really solid, one of my favorites of their pre-1933 films.
1932 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd, David Landau.
Newly Featured!

10:45pm – TCM – Duck Soup
Leo McCarey directs the Marx Brothers in what many think is their best and zaniest film. This is the one with Groucho becoming the dictator of Freedonia and declaring war on nearby Sylvania. Frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont is on board as the wealthy woman who causes the rivalry that leads to the war. Personally, I prefer A Night at the Opera to Duck Soup, but this may be your best bet if the idea of musical interludes from Allan Jones (of which Opera has several) turns you off.
1933 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Leonid Kinskey.
Must See

12:00M – TCM – A Night at the Opera
One of the best of the Marx Brothers’ zany comedies finds them running awry through the world of opera. This is the one that contains the famous “how much stuff can we stuff into a stateroom” scene. And a subplot with Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, but that’s best ignored as much as possible.
1935 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Kitty Carlisle, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

12:00M – IFC – The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a loser whose bad luck gets him a job as a “cooler” at a casino – his luck spreads and cools off any hot winning streaks that might be going on. But when he starts a relationship with Maria Bello, his new-found love and acceptance turns his luck. This film reinforced my knowledge of Bill Macy’s talent, made me take notice of Maria Bello, and gave Alec Baldwin pretty much his best role until 30 Rock.
2003 USA. Director: Wayne Cramer. Starring: William H. Macy, Mario Bello, Alec Baldwin.

2:00am (30th) – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.
1937 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: New Hollywood Marathon

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My largest and most glaring gap of cinematic knowledge, at least of American film, is easily the 1970s. I grew up watching the films of the Hollywood studios’ golden era, the 1930s-1950s, and of my own generation, the 1990s-current, but have only sporadically caught the films in between. Given that many of the greatest and most iconoclastic American films of all time come from the 1970s, I have decided that enough is enough, and this year I am going to eliminate my New Hollywood list of shame, which includes: The Godfather Part II, M*A*S*H, The Exorcist, Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Badlands, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, and others.

easy-riders-raging-bulls.jpgBecause my knowledge of the whole era is a little superficial, I’m reading Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood to give myself a background in the history and temperament of the era, and watching the films he discusses while I’m reading. And I figured, might as well share my journey through New Hollywood as I go. The list of films you’ll find after the cut is culled from Biskind’s book and Wikipedia’s entry on New Hollywood, leaving out some that I have already seen.

One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are – drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.

This quote from Biskind’s introduction I think sums it up nicely:

[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work — work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. […] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which today’s news is tomorrow’s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, ’70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. […] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heaven’s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.

And it wasn’t only the landmark movies that made the late ’60s and ’70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, “It was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.” Film was no less than a secular religion.

A few Row Three contributors have already shown an interest in writing about some of these as well; if you’d like to watch and share your thoughts about any of them, please do! See also the list at the bottom, which includes several films I’ve already seen and don’t intend to rewatch and write about, but someone else certainly could. If you’re not a R3 contributor and would like to join in, just email me and I’ll post your reviews with credit.

 

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