Monday, November 23, 2015

TCM for December 2015

TCM celebrates this holiday month with a wide variety of film festivals to suit all tastes. With everything from Ma and Pa Kettle to Eric Rohmer in the mix, they'll be no airing of grievances this Festivus!  My picks below. All times Eastern. Full schedule Here.

1 Tuesday

The great Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main in Ma and Pa Kettle.
8:00 PM
On the verge of eviction, the hillbilly family wins a slogan contest and moves into an automated home.
BW-76 mins,

9:30 PM
The hillbilly farmers win a contest and take off for New York City.
BW-79 mins,

11:00 PM
The hillbilly farmers take off in search of uranium.
BW-81 mins,

12:30 AM
The Ozark farmers try to clean up their act to help their son win a college scholarship.
BW-80 mins,

2 Wednesday

5:30 PM
A beautiful young woman stands trial for poisoning her lover.
BW-115 mins, CC,

Sinatra does it his way in this TV special from 1965.

8:00 PM
Frank Sinatra performs many of his classics for a TV audience.
C-52 mins,

4 Friday

12:30 AM
A newlywed couple's honeymoon is disrupted by their friends' marital problems.
BW-111 mins, CC,

5 Saturday
5:45 AM
A juvenile court judge investigates the tragedy of marijuana addiction in this short film.
C-10 mins,

6 Sunday

2:00 AM
A liberal Japanese family pays for its opposition to World War II.
BW-81 mins,

3:30 AM
A schoolteacher struggles to imbue her students with a positive view of the world and their place in it, despite the fact that she knows of the oncoming war.
BW-156 mins,

7 Monday 

6:30 PM
Gregg Toland takes the director's chair for December 7th.

After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fights to survive the early days of World War II.
BW-82 mins,

11:45 PM
When her mother tries to end her closest friendship, a high school girl plots her murder.
C-99 mins,

12 Saturday

4:45 AM
In this short documentary, police officers are trained in the assistance and management of mentally ill and confused persons.
BW-32 mins,

4:45 AM
In this short film, a drug dealer seduces a high-school student into drug addiction.
C-29 mins,

13 Sunday

2:30 AM
A young boy comes of age at Christmas in rural Quebec.
C-105 mins, Letterbox Format

17 Thursday

An early version of the iPhone in Babes in Toyland.
10:00 PM
The town miser plots to force Mary Quite Contrary to marry him.
C-106 mins,

12:00 AM
A government researcher fights to survive when he's marooned in the Canadian wilderness.
C-105 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

2:00 AM
Walt Disney's photographers capture the wildlife of the Arctic.
Dir: James Algar Cast:  Winston Hibler ,
C-72 mins,

3:30 AM
Donald and Goofy are trappers in Antarctica with different approaches.
C-8 mins,

19 Saturday

2:00 AM
In search of his missing wife, a man uncovers a deadly motive for her behavior.
C-127 mins,

4:15 AM
To escape a war between men and women, a young girl moves into a fantasy world.
BW-100 mins, Letterbox Format

20 Sunday

A Rohmer mini festival on the 20th

2:30 AM
A young man is snowed in with his best friend's amorous mistress.
BW-106 mins,

4:30 AM
A self-absorbed young man fights his attraction to a woman notorious for collecting men.
C-82 mins,

21 Monday

11:30 PM
A young photographer fights to build her career while coping with her best friend's marriage.
C-88 mins, CC,

1:30 AM
A young working woman in New York vies with her flighty roommate for a doctor's heart.
C-113 mins,

3:30 AM

DeNiro is electric in Mean Streets.

A small-time hood must choose from among love, friendship and the chance to rise within the mob.
C-112 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

22 Tuesday

6:00 AM
A quarrelsome couple discovers their marriage isn't legal.
BW-95 mins, CC,

7:45 AM
Newly arrived in Australia, a man discovers his childhood love is now an alcoholic.
C-117 mins, CC,

9:45 AM
An acting student goes undercover to prove a singing star killed her husband.
BW-110 mins, CC,

11:45 AM
A man's joking suggestion that he and a chance acquaintance trade murders turns deadly.
BW-101 mins, CC,

1:30 PM
A straying husband frames his wife for the murder of the man he'd hired to kill her.
C-105 mins, CC,

3:30 PM
A musician is mistaken for a vicious thief, with devastating results.
BW-105 mins, CC,

5:30 PM
An advertising man is mistaken for a spy, triggering a deadly cross-country chase.
C-136 mins, CC,

27 Sunday

10:00 AM

Recover from Christmas with classic Sci-Fi on the 27th.

An alien demands that Earth's leaders choose between peace and destruction.
BW-92 mins, CC,

5:30 PM
England's Henry II and his estranged queen battle over the choice of an heir.
C-134 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

2:45 AM
A widowed actress and her children suffer hardships when she mistakenly marries a conservative church leader.
C-189 mins, Letterbox Format

29 Tuesday

6:30 AM
A giant octopus attacks San Francisco.
BW-79 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

8:00 AM
A crashed spaceship unleashes a rapidly growing monster from Venus.
BW-83 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

9:45 AM
Cowboys discover a lost world populated by dinosaurs.
C-95 mins, Letterbox Format

11:30 AM
A rebellious caveman leaves his tribe in search of a better life.
C-100 mins, CC,

Chicken riding is a popular sport on Mysterious Island.
1:15 PM
Escaped Civil War POWs end up on an island populated by giant animals.
C-101 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

3:00 PM
Space invaders attack the nation's capital.
BW-84 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

4:30 PM
Sinbad hunts for a roc's egg to save his love from an evil sorcerer.
C-88 mins, CC,

31 Thursday

8:15 AM
While running a hotel in Florida, three clowns get caught up in the search for stolen jewels.
BW-93 mins,

Say goodbye to 2015 with a Marx Brothers festival on New Years Eve.
10:00 AM
A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl's sanitarium.
BW-109 mins, CC,

12:00 PM
Three zanies turn an operatic performance into chaos in their efforts to promote their protege's romance with the leading lady.
BW-91 mins, CC,

2:00 PM
Three zanies try to recover a stolen painting during a madcap house party.
BW-97 mins, CC,

4:00 PM
Four stowaways get mixed up with gangsters while running riot on an ocean liner.
BW-78 mins, CC,

5:30 PM
In an effort to beef up his school's football team, a college president mistakenly recruits two loonies.
BW-67 mins, CC,

6:45 PM
When he's named dictator of Freedonia, a con artist declares war on the neighboring kingdom.
BW-69 mins, CC,

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Le petit lieutenant Turns 10

Released 10 years ago today, Le petit lieutenant is an emotionally wrenching police procedural that delves deeply into the stressful personal lives of a group of Paris detectives. It is not a cops and robbers thriller in the conventional sense - although it does feature a few action packed set pieces - favoring instead a clear eyed look at the unique camaraderie that develops among an investigative team, and their dependence on each other’s professionalism and good judgement. One slip up in the chain can bring far reaching and disastrous results, and even cases that appear dull and routine can be fraught with peril.

Le petit lieutenant is the story of a newly minted police academy graduate named Antoine (Jalil Lespert) who declines assignment in his sleepy hometown in Normandy. Antoine wants the exciting life of a big city policeman, and soon finds himself stationed in Paris’ rough and tumble 20th arrondissement. He is placed under the command of Caroline Vaudieu (Natalie Baye), a recovering alcoholic who has recently returned to work after a long leave of absence. Antoine’s youthful, gung ho enthusiasm strikes a stark, at times humorous contrast with his wary and jaded cohorts, impressing the middle aged Baye with whom he forms a strong filial bond. But while investigating a spate of street muggings, Antoine’s aggressive instincts get the better of him, and his rash decision to go cowboy may demand of him the ultimate price.

Writer/director Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men) excels with stories of culture clash, specifically tales of civilized society faced with increasingly desperate barbarism from the third world. Those elements provide Le petit lieutenant with a compelling subtext, as fashionable French vineyards and their insatiable demand for cheap, undocumented labor eventually lead Baye and her tenacious detectives to the culprits. Nathalie Baye won a César award for this performance, bringing her career total of the prestigious statuettes to four. An early protégé of Truffaut, Baye’s filmography has spanned nearly 50 years, making her one of Europe’s most enduring and prolific talents. She has recently become a favorite of the young, highly acclaimed director Xavier Dolan, and their collaboration promises to be long and fruitful. In Le petit lieutenant, her deeply damaged character grapples with a wide range of situations and emotions, and Baye’s intensity never falters or hits a false beat. While Hollywood tends to discard its aging starlets, mature talents remain revered and sought after in the French film industry. And like an oaky cabernet, Nathalie Baye just gets better with age.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Recently Viewed: November 2015

About Elly (2009) ✭✭✭✭½

Asghar Farhadi constructs his films the way bricklayers build houses. Slowly and methodically each tiny, humble piece of his narrative is put into place and linked together, eventually creating a strong and spellbinding structure. At first, About Elly appears to be a lighthearted and humorous story of a group of friends on a poorly planned seaside vacation. But this Iranian version of The Big Chill soon takes a chilling turn, as Farhadi introduces a surprising catalyst that will alter the film to its core, and ultimately reveal all his characters' falsehoods and frailties. About Elly becomes an intense drama that never lets up. It is demanding to watch, not all together pleasant, and some viewers will find its resolution unsatisfying. But it's one of those films you don't soon forget.

Local Color (2014) ✭✭✭

Amusing liberal fantasy about political strife giving way to racial harmony in a small town in Provence. Beautiful scenics and equally beautiful ideas.

Last Love (2015) ✭✭✭

This May-December romantic tale runs a little long and strains credulity before all is said and done. Michael Caine's American accent is all over the place and not that good. Worth it for Clémence Poésy
and beautiful shots of Paris.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) ✭✭✭✭✭

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence completes Swedish director Roy Andersson’s three part commentary on the human condition. If you’ve seen any other parts of the trilogy -- Songs From the Second Floor (2000),  You the Living (2007) -- you know to expect long unedited scenes of the dazed and dumbfounded going about the plodding processes of their daily lives. Andersson’s constructions feel like a string of comedic blackouts emanating from some surreal, bizarro theme park version of planet Earth. In his gleefully fractured facsimile, modern life has been replicated in great detail but slightly out of square.

The narrative framework for Andersson’s far flung, absurdist observations is built around the sad sack tale of Sam and Jonathan (Nils Westblom and Holger Andersson, respectively), a pair of traveling salesmen with sample cases full of vampire teeth, laughing bags and other party novelties. The film follows these glum dullards as they trudge from appointment to appointment; their dour personalities and hapless sales techniques in sharp contrast to their wacky product line. Other recurring Andersson flourishes involve a wandering airline pilot who seems perpetually lost and a series of telephone conversations that end with “Glad to hear you’re doing well.”

Exactly what Andersson is trying to say in each scene is open to interpretation, to say the least, yet they all provoke reactions. The most common is hilarity -- the film has many laugh out loud moments -- but Pigeon delivers its share of deeply disturbing set pieces as well. Jonathan’s dream of a fiendish musical instrument powered by suffering slave labor for the amusement of doddering aristocrats is a stunning image that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. And in an impressive bit of complex production, Andersson timeshifts a story from Swedish history to a modern day diner, utilizing a seemingly endless supply of extras.

Andersson has hinted that A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence will be his last film. It serves as a fitting conclusion to his ludicrous ring cycle and, frame for frame, is probably the best film of the series. Here the director not only holds modern society up for ridicule, but seems to reexamine some of his own tropes and techniques. The film includes a scene with a group of special needs children putting on a talent show in which the unique stylistics of Andersson’s approach are made manifest by unadorned reality. On one hand he seems to be trying to make amends for all these years of poking fun at the slow-witted, while simultaneously celebrating them. The trilogy’s lingua franca comes full circle, as the family of man continues its inexorable slog into an unknown future. The old retreat to make way for the young, and Roy Andersson repairs to retirement, having made this befuddled world a  better place.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Beautiful Launderette Turns 30

If you are blessed with no living memory of the 1980s, Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Launderette offers a full immersion in the era’s visual, social and political aesthetic. Set in Margaret Thatcher’s rugged, greed-is-good London of 30 years ago, the film paints an intimate portrait of a family of Pakistani immigrants as they hustle and dodge their way to something that resembles economic prosperity. However, as these small time capitalists will eventually learn, money is no substitute for happiness.

At the center of the cultural maelstrom is young Omar (Gordon Warnecke) who has dropped out of college and gone on the dole to care for his alcoholic, poetry spouting father (Roshan Seth). But with the help of a rich uncle (Saeed Jaffrey) who owns a variety of thriving - if not strictly legal - businesses, Omar works his way up the family hierarchy and eventually takes over a decrepit laundromat in a decaying south London neighborhood. There, he gets reacquainted with a childhood friend (Daniel Day-Lewis) with whom he shared much more than a passion for Crystal Palace football. Together, they work to rehab the laundry, making it a badly needed source of pride for this downtrodden community.

To movie goers in 1985, My Beautiful Launderette caused quite a stir for its frank, non judgmental depiction of a gay romance. Equally unique, this unconventional relationship wasn’t the main focus of the story, but merely an intriguing subplot. The film was one of the first to suggest that gay people were capable of living successful, well rounded lives with their sexual preference comprising just one piece of a much larger mosaic. Despite its groundbreaking approach, My Beautiful Launderette also fits into the classic traditions of the British New Wave films of the 1950s, when the spy thrillers and costume epics that defined British cinema prior to WWII were replaced by gritty, realistic portrayals of the UK’s class struggles and social ills.

My Beautiful Launderette is also notable for giving the world its first glimpse of a young force of nature named Daniel Day-Lewis in a featured role. In fact, a year later when this film and Room with a View (1985) opened in New York simultaneously, the actor’s career was given a double boost to stardom. Here, his portrayal of a laconic, slack jawed post-punker gives him only a few opportunities to shine, yet even at this early stage his performance is peppered with subtle details that verge on perfection. All great journeys must begin somewhere, and with My Beautiful Launderette Daniel Day-Lewis set out on a course to master his craft, winning 3 Oscars en route to his destination.