2014 TCM Film Festival: How Green Was My Valley

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[Spoiler content: I describe a couple of comical vignettes in relative detail, and I mention vaguely the trajectory of Angharad’s plot thread.]

This timeslot was easily the toughest choice of the festival for me, with John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley in the El Capitan with Maureen O’Hara in attendance vying with a specially curated program of John and Faith Hubley animated shorts introduced by Leonard Maltin (among other tempting things, but those were the most tempting for me). Neither one is likely to be repeatable. I’m not usually a star-watcher and I rarely choose TCM Fest screenings based on the guests, but I finally decided that I’d regret missing the chance to see a 94-year-old Maureen O’Hara more and headed over to the El Capitan line super-early, because the buzz going around was that this was going to be a HOT ticket. And that was certainly true – I got there an hour early, and I was somewhere around number 260 in the passholder’s line. Every seat was full in the 1000-seat theatre.

tff-Maureen

The love for O’Hara as soon as she came on the stage was just about overwhelming. I was up in the balcony, far from the stage, but looking at the press photos later, she looks pretty great at 94, eh? Robert Osborne started off asking her about John Ford; her response: “I thought I was here to talk about me.” Fabulous, and with a gorgeous Irish lilt. After that, Robert’s planned list of questions fell by the wayside as Maureen clearly had her thoughts on the end of life, the comfort of her faith, and the importance of joy, especially in later life. It wasn’t necessarily what you’d expect of a guest appearance, but the audience didn’t care. I felt privileged to have seen her at all, and heard what she wanted to talk about, and in a way it was refreshing to have that instead of yet another response to “what was it like to work with [insert director and actor].” It also set the mood well for the pleasures of How Green Was My Valley, which deals with the nostalgia, joy, simple pleasures, and hope of a Welsh coal mining community in the face of everyday danger and death.

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Film on TV: September 14-20

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The Cranes are Flying, playing on TCM Monday the 21st at 2:00am (or really late Sunday night, depending on your point of view)

 

Mostly repeats this week, but a few really cool new additions, all courtesy of TCM. First, one of Hitchcock’s most lighthearted thrillers, The Trouble With Harry, is showing on Tuesday. Then Friday night/Saturday morning, don’t miss one of the all-time great so-bad-it’s-good movies, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. And then The Cranes are Flying, a Soviet classic I’ve never seen TCM run before, is playing late Sunday night/early Monday morning.

Monday, September 14

8:00pm – IFC – Fargo
Still one of the Coen Brothers’ best films, despite over a decade of mostly good films in the intervening years. Dark comedy is not an easy genre, and Fargo is the gold standard, blending shocking violence and a noir-ish crime story with comical inept criminals and a perfectly rendered performance from Frances McDormand.
1996 USA. Director: Joel Coen. Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi.
Must See
(repeats at 2:00am)

Tuesday, September 15

7:15am – IFC – Waking Life
Richard Linklater’s first foray into overlaid animation is a philosophical dreamscape that’ll either leave you cold or inhabit your thoughts for weeks. It’s the latter for me. Like most of Linklater’s films, it’s largely made up of people talking, but with the added interest of the unique ever-shifting, never-solid animation style (which he’d reuse with a slightly more standard sci-fi story in A Scanner Darkly).
2001 USA. Director: Richard Linklater. Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
(repeats at 11:45am and 5:35pm)

8:00pm – TCM – The Trouble With Harry
A group of small-town New Englanders find a dead body (that of Harry) in the woods and, fearing they’ll be murder suspects if it’s found, conspire to hide it. One of Hitchcock’s funniest films, mixing the macabre and the absurd adeptly.
1955 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Mildred Natwick.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 10:00am on the 20th)

8:05pm – 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.

10:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Hitchcock’s second version of this story (the first was 1934) has Doris Day and James Stewart as a couple who discover an assassination plot and have their son kidnapped to try to keep them quiet. It’s a well-done film and worth watching, though not quite up to many of Hitchcock’s other classics.
1956 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Doris Day, Bernard Miles, Brenda De Banzie.
Newly Featured!

12:15am (16th) – TCM – Vertigo
James Stewart is a detective recovering from a vertigo-inducing fall who’s asked by an old friend to help his wife, who has developed strange behavior. Hitchcock plays with doubling, fate, and obsession, all the while creating one of his moodiest and most mesmerizing films. And watch for a great supporting turn by Barbara Bel Geddes as Stewart’s long-suffering best friend.
1958 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes.
Must See

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Film on TV: September 7-13

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The New World, playing Thursday, September 10th, at 10:05pm on IFC.

 

A lot of good stuff this week, including a bunch we haven’t featured yet in these posts. I added in a few playing on Fox Movie Channel this week; on my channel guide, FMC is right next to IFC, and I keep seeing great stuff on there as I’m setting my DVR, so I figured it’d be a good idea to go ahead and start monitoring it as well.

Monday, September 7th

9:00am – TCM – King Kong
The granddaddy of special effects monster films still holds up pretty well, considering it’s almost 80 years old. The real beauty is that even though the effects are obvious today, you’ll care enough about Kong that it won’t matter. For more, check out guest author Chris Edwards’ great post.
1933 USA. Director: Merian C.Copper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. Starring: Robert Armstrong, Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot.
Must See
Newly Featured!

5:30pm – TCM – The Dot and the Line
A Chuck Jones-directed animated short is almost always worth highlighting. This is a later one, post-Looney Tunes, and shows very well his later experimentation into minimalist art. A straight line falls in love with a dot, but she’s enamored of an unruly squiggle. There’s an undercurrent of distrust toward the “anything goes” hippie culture of the 1960s, which is kind of interesting, too.
1965 USA. Director: Chuck Jones. Starring: Robert Morley.
Newly Featured!

8:00pm – IFC – Office Space
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office will identify with Office Space immediately – with the paper-jamming printers, the piles of beaurocratic paperwork, and the difficulty of keeping up with staplers if not the plot to make off with boatloads of money due to an accounting loophole. In fact, if you do or have worked an office job, I’m gonna call this required viewing.
1999 USA. Director: Mike Judge. Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston.
(repeats at 1:30am on the 8th)

9:30pm – IFC – Secretary
Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader – making sado-masochism fun since 2002! But seriously, this was Maggie’s breakout role, and it’s still probably her best, as a damaged young woman whose only outlet is pain. And despite the subject, Secretary is somehow one of the sweetest and most tender romances of recent years.
2002 USA. Director: Steven Shainberg. Starring:James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal.
(repeats at 3:00am on the 8th)

10:00pm – TCM – I’m Not Scared
While playing one day, a young Italian boy discovers another boy chained up in a dark hole and befriends him. But why is he there, and is it safe to tell anyone about it? A well-done little thriller, with a good many twists and turns and a great performance from twelve-year-old Giuseppe Cristiano.
2003 Italy. Director: Gabriele Salvatores. Starring: Giuseppe Cristiano, Mattia Di Pierro.
Newly Featured!

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