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: June 7-13

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Caché, playing on IFC on Friday

This week, look out for TCM’s memorial tribute to Dennis Hopper, with four of his films on Tuesday night, culminating in the iconic Easy Rider. Also, Thursday would be Judy Garland’s birthday, so TCM has a marathon for that, with a few good, off-beat choices, and a few pretty mediocre films, but your mileage may vary. IFC’s also bringing out a few new ones, including Thank You For Smoking on Wednesday and Caché on Friday. Also newly featured this week, classic cop-and-car-chase movie Bullitt, on TCM on Saturday. And something I’m not sure has ever happened before – both IFC and TCM are playing Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic thriller Les Diaboliques, so look out for it on either channel.

Monday, June 7

8:30m – IFC – Mon Oncle
Jacques Tati’s Chaplin-esque character, Mr. Hulot, this time takes on modern life in the form of his sister’s house that has been mechanized with all the most modern electronic aids – think Disney’s 1950s House of Tomorrow. Of course, everything goes wrong, hilariously.
1958 France. Director: Jacques Tati. Starring: Jacques Tati, Jean-Pierre Zola, Adrienne Servantie, Jean-François Martial.
(repeats at 2:05pm)

11:30am – TCM – Some Came Running
Frank Sinatra gets to prove his acting chops again as a cynical soldier returning to his small-town home. Shirley MacLaine is a revelation, and Dean Martin gets probably his best role, as well. Meanders a bit in the middle, but thanks to strong performances and incredibly well-done yet subtle mise-en-scene from Minnelli, ends up staying more memorable than you might expect.
1959 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine.

12:15pm – 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

8:00pm – IFC – A Fish Called Wanda
It’s not a Monty Python picture, but with John Cleese and Michael Palin on board as participants in a zany crime story, along with ambiguous-relationshiped Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, it has some of the same absurd charm.
1988 USA/UK. Director: Charles Crichton. Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Maria Aitken, Tom Georgeson.
(repeats at 3:00am and 1:05pm on the 8th)

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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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Film on TV: October 26-November 1

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Village of the Damned, playing on TCM at 2:00am on Wednesday, October 28th (late Tuesday night)

 

This week we get to Halloween, and while TCM’s been doing a slow build for the past three weeks, this week they start really piling on the classic horror, starting with a double feature of The Haunting (the good one) and Village of the Damned at midnight on Tuesday. Then they’ve got some Val Lewton on the Friday and Saturday, hitting both highlights (Cat People at 5pm on Saturday) and lesser-known but still quite good films (Isle of the Dead on Friday, The Body Snatcher on Saturday). And you can compare two versions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on Saturday night. Finally, DO NOT MISS the oft-overlooked Dead of Night on TCM Saturday morning. If you like 1940s understated British horror, this is a winner.

In non-horror offerings, IFC is showing Les enfants du paradis on Wednesday, a film that absolutely bowled me over when I first saw it, and Kurosawa’s classic of ambiguity Rashomon on Saturday. Not to be outdone, TCM’s got the New Hollywood classic Easy Rider on Wednesday. Also plenty of repeats that are masterful films, so check for any of those you haven’t caught up with yet.

Monday, October 26th

5:05am – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See

8:30am – IFC – Au revoir, les enfants
A new boy arrives at a French school and becomes close friends with one of the French boys. But it’s the early 1940s and the new boy turns out to be Jewish, and hiding from the Nazis. Louis Malle directs this achingly lovely portrait of schoolboy friendship in an uncertain time.
1987 France. Director: Louis Malle. Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette.
(repeats at 2:25pm)

5:55pm – IFC – Trainspotting
Days in the lives of Scottish heroin addicts. Sounds like a downer, and I won’t say it’s not, but it’s also brilliant and searing. It’s actually one of the scariest movies I’ve seen, despite not being in any way a horror film.
1996 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly McDonald.
Must See

10:30pm – Sundance – INLAND EMPIRE
David Lynch’s latest magnum opus, which pretty much can’t be understood by any use of normal narrative logic. However, it works thematically and emotionally as well as any movie I’ve seen ever. Stories weave in and out of each other, characters merge and separate, the plot you thought you had a hold of becomes elusive and it’s essentially impossible to tell what’s real. But if you let yourself go to it, you’re in for a special treat. You know those 3D images that you can only see by throwing your eyes out of focus? Do that with your mind in order to “see” INLAND EMPIRE.
2006 USA. Director: David Lynch. Starring: Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Jan Hencz, Karolina Gruszka, Grace Zabriski
Must See

12:00M – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.
(repeats at Midnight on the 30th)

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