Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TCM Schedule for March 2013


March roars in with a grab bag of classics and oddities. There's a Kim Novak festival (hotcha!), a couple of Reefer Madness type ditties, some Driver's Ed films and even a marketing short about the late, lamented Chevy Corvair. What other network wound give you In Vanda's Room AND Thunder Road? Below are my suggestions. As always, your mileage may vary.

3/2

5:45 PM
An aspiring executive lets his bosses use his apartment for assignations, only to fall for the big chief's mistress.
BW-125 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


11:15 PM
A young couple from dueling street gangs falls in love.
C-153 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

3/3

12:00 AM
A Wyoming sheriff tries to protect immigrant farmers from ruthless ranchers.
C-219 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format

3/4

6:00 PM
A military officer becomes obsessed with an enlisted man.
C-109 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format
8:00 PM


A cold-hearted teacher becomes the school favorite when he's thawed by a beautiful young woman.
BW-114 mins, TV-PG, CC,


3/5

2:30 AM
A group of zanies tries to save a pretty girl's sanitarium.
BW-109 mins, TV-G, CC,

3/6 


KIM NOVAK FESTIVAL!


9:00 PM
A beautiful witch puts a love spell on an unknowing publisher.
C-102 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format
11:00 PM


12:00 AM
A handsome drifter ignites passions at a small-town Labor Day picnic.
C-113 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


2:00 AM
A junkie must face his true self to kick his drug addiction.
BW-119 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format


4:15 AM
A medical student risks his future when he falls for a low-class waitress.
C-100 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

3/8

5:30 AM
A monkey's prank on a turtle demonstrates how to survive a nuclear attack.
BW-9 mins, TV-PG,

3/9

12:30 AM
A friend's death brings together a group of former college activists.
C-105 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format

3/10

10:00 AM
A husband and wife fight to conquer alcoholism.
BW-117 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

3:45 AM
Private eye Philip Marlowe investigates a society girl's involvement in the murder of a pornographer.
BW-114 mins, TV-PG, CC,


3/13

9:15 PM
A documentary that chronicles the life of a black South African living under the rule of the harsh apartheid government in 1959.
BW-85 mins,


3/14

6:00 AM
In this silent film, a pampered East Coast lad is sent west to be toughened up.
Dir: Hal Roach Cast:  Harold Lloyd ,
BW-24 mins, TV-G,

3/15

ROSSELLINI/BERGMAN FESTIVAL!

8:00 PM
A refugee marries a Sicilian fisherman but can't cope with the harshness of her new life.
BW-107 mins, TV-14, CC,

10:00 PM
When a well-off woman loses her son, her recovery confronts her with the problems of the less fortunate.
BW-110 mins, TV-14,

12:00 AM
A married couple seek insight and direction within their relationship in Italy.
BW-86 mins,

1:45 AM
The wife of a prominent scientist is blackmailed after her extramarital affair is discovered.
BW-78 mins,

3/16

3:00 PM
Scientists track a prehistoric monster in the South American jungle while it tracks them.
BW-79 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

4:30 PM
A Spanish nobleman becomes a masked outlaw by night to battle a local tyrant.
C-94 mins, TV-G, CC,



DUSTIN HOFFMAN FESTIVAL!

8:00 PM
An unemployed actor masquerades as a woman to win a soap-opera role.
C-116 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
An American pioneer raised by Indians ends up fighting alongside General Custer.
C-140 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

12:30 AM
Two young singles meet at a bar, sleep together, and spend the next day getting to know each other.
C-92 mins, TV-14, Letterbox Format

2:15 AM
A recent college graduate has an affair with his neighbor's wife, then falls for their daughter.
C-106 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format

4:15 AM
When his wife leaves him, an ad exec gets a crash course in parenting.
C-105 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


3/17

5:15 AM
Hitler summons the Axis leaders to a secret island meeting with disastrous results.
BW-43 mins, TV-PG,


3/18

5:15 AM
An all-star adaptation of Shakespeare's classic about Julius Caesar's assassination and its aftermath.
BW-121 mins, TV-PG, CC,


3/19

3:30 PM
Truck driving brothers are framed for murder by a lady psycho.
BW-95 mins, TV-PG, CC,

8:00 PM
Three returning servicemen fight to adjust to life after World War II.
BW-170 mins, TV-PG, CC,

1:15 AM
A young stevedore takes on the mobster who rules the docks.
BW-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


3/20

4:00 PM
Legendary jazz musician Gene Krupa faces highs and lows along the path of his life.
BW-101 mins, TV-PG, CC,

6:00 PM
A woman falls in love with a musician in a band and learns about life as an orchestra wife.
BW-98 mins, TV-G,

8:00 PM
Documentary footage traces the progress of the Apollo missions.
C-80 mins,

3/21

8:00 PM
Two wealthy law-school students go on trial for murder in this version of the Leopold-Loeb case.
BW-103 mins, TV-PG, Letterbox Format

10:00 PM
A re-make of the 1922 silent film that details the lives of the people in a small Quaker community and the adventures of a whaling ship.
BW-120 mins,

12:15 AM
Rudyard Kipling's classic tale of an orphaned boy who helps the British Army against Indian rebels.
C-113 mins, TV-PG, CC,


The Boy with Green Hair (1948)


2:15 AM
An orphaned boy mystically acquires green hair and a mission to end war.
C-82 mins, TV-G, CC,

3:45 AM
A rich girl and her poor boyfriend flee to Mexico to escape family disapproval.
BW-73 mins, TV-G,

5:00 AM
An army deserter on the run risks his freedom to protect a beautiful young woman.
BW-91 mins, TV-14,


3/22

5:30 AM
Driving safety short directed by legendary social guidance film director Sid Davis.
C-10 mins, TV-PG,

5:30 AM
Technicians herald the arrival of a new car that "delivers the goods as no other compact car can."
C-6 mins, TV-G,

3/23

1:45 AM
Instead of going to jail, a convicted felon is given a new identity and trained as a top secret assassin.
C-118 mins, TV-MA,

4:00 AM
A working class woman in occupied France makes ends meet by performing abortions.
C-108 mins, TV-14,


3/24

4:00 PM
A U.S. agent recruits a German expatriate to infiltrate a Nazi spy ring in Brazil.
BW-101 mins, TV-PG, CC,

6:00 PM
A straying husband frames his wife for the murder of the man he'd hired to kill her.
C-105 mins, TV-PG, CC,

2:00 AM
A young salary man and his wife struggle within the confines of their passionless relationship while he has an extramarital affair.
BW-144 mins, TV-PG,

3/27

Thunder Road (1958)

1:00 AM
A fast-driving moonshiner locks horns with a Chicago gangster.
BW-93 mins, TV-PG, CC,

3:00 AM
A maverick trucker tries to save a runaway bride and a shipment of contraband beer from a small-town sheriff.
C-96 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format


3/29

12:30 AM
Two soldiers from an unnamed country are caught up in an absurd war.
BW-76 mins, TV-14,

3:30 AM
A manufactured rock group tries to find its own identity in a world gone mad.
C-86 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format


5:00 AM
A juvenile court judge investigates the tragedy of marijuana addiction.
C-10 mins, TV-14,

5:00 AM
A round-up of drug addicts reveals the perils of experimenting with marijuana.
C-21 mins, TV-14,

3/31

3:00 AM
An unflinching view into the daily life of Vanda Duarte, a heroin addict, in the shanty outskirts of Lisbon.
C-170 mins, TV-MA,


Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Oscar Predictions 2013


Best Supporting Actress



Will Win: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

Should Win: Probably Hathaway. I haven't seen Lay Miz because I generally detest musicals, but the Mrs. has and says she was great in it. And obviously the Mrs. has exquisite taste.




Best Supporting Actor



Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Should Win: I really liked DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook, but I'd be ok with either guy.




Best Actress



Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Should Win: SLP was kind of sucky, but Lawrence was great in it. The Academy will get this right.




Best Actor



Will Win: Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln) 1/50 odds in Vegas.

Should Win: The Academy will get this one right too. If Bradley Cooper wins, I'm going to finally give up on America and move to Spain.




Best Director



Will Win: Spielberg (Lincoln)

Should Win: Out of these nominees, yeah, he probably should.




Best Picture



Will Win: I'm sensing a groundswell for Argo

Should Win: Argo or Lincoln would be fine with me.




Oh and this guy's movie for Best Furin




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quickies for February 2013: Part 2


Courage fuyons! (1979) ✭✭✭


Courage, Let’s Run! is one of those ultralight, rather silly comedies the French churn out by the bushel. This one stars Jean Rochefort as a cowardly pharmacist who gets caught up in the Paris riots of 1968. Through a series of misadventures, he ends up in bed with Catherine Deneuve in a swanky Amsterdam hotel. Yes, some guys have all the luck. Written and directed by the talented Yves Robert (My Mother’s Castle, My Father’s Glory) this domestic consumption fluff succeeds due to unrelenting breeziness. Not to mention vistas of Deneuve at her youthful peak, back when she washed her golden mane in a mixture of morning dew and Chanel No.5 and rinsed it with the tears of the saints.




A Secret (2007) ✭✭✭1/2



A well made, plot driven memoir about a Parisian Jewish family’s struggle to cope with the barbarism of the German occupation and retain a shred of dignity in the process. Told through the awkward childhood recollections of a psychologist (Mathieu Amalric), A Secret roils with adultery, deception and betrayal. Although you will likely have guessed its outcome long before the unveiling, Ludivine Sagnier, Patrick Bruel, Julie Depardieu and doe-eyed Cecile De France add to the film’s compelling attractions.




Quartet (2012) ✭✭✭✭



If you're thinking of heading to the cinema this weekend, I highly recommend Quartet, a charming sentimental comedy about a group of former opera singers who stage a benefit concert to save their retirement home. Filled with great performances and great music, the film stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay and a host of familiar British character actors, all of whom appear to be having the time of their lives. The movie marks Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, but he shows the steady hand of a seasoned vet. I guess you don't work on film sets for 50 years without learning something. If you enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I suspect you'll like this just as much.





Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Misfits (1961) on Blu-ray ✭✭✭✭ 1/2




John Huston’s The Misfits has attained a historical stature that dominates any discussion of its merits as cinema. Known mainly as the last screen appearance of icons Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, the film is a breathless encyclopedia of lurid behind-the scenes lore – chock full of the stuff that made Hollywood gossip such a profitable industry. The whispered tales of binge drinking, petty jealousies and devastating emotional breakdowns were exposed and exploited by the media when Gable suffered a fatal heart attack a mere 10 days after the film wrapped. When Monroe died from an apparent suicide 18 months later, The Misfits’ decadent tinge only grew darker; her legions of grieving fans left to hopelessly wonder what had really gone on out there in the Nevada wilderness.


Both by design and by accident, The Misfits is a remarkably prescient farewell to an era. Huston’s intent was to chronicle the death rattles of the American cowboy tradition; the demise of rugged individualism in a modern world that rewarded conformity and commerce. The adventurous riders of the western plains were being corralled by the material pressures of consumerism; their free spirits permanently altered by the crushing need to draw steady paychecks in a new, commodity based, reality.

But from today’s perspective, it’s no stretch to say The Misfits was also a harbinger of the iconoclastic American cinema of the late 60s and early 70s. Its rebellious, wholesale questioning of the nation’s underpinnings was echoed in countless later films, from The Graduate to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In addition, the film presented an evolving image of women - of blond bombshells anyway – that, while not exactly feminist, at least conceded that broads were capable of serious thought and opinions, not to mention melancholy and deep regret. With The Misfits, Huston and writer Arthur Miller may well have created the very first hippie film.


Miller’s august ability as a writer of popular Broadway dramas is apparent in the film’s libretto-like structure. Conceived in three acts, The Misfits builds like an inverted pyramid, with the bearing point squarely on the back of Eli Wallach, who plays a cowboy turned tow truck driver named Guido and serves, largely by default, as the film’s witness. One day while appraising a wrecked Cadillac in a leafy Reno neighborhood, he encounters an eccentric boarding house proprietor (the great Thelma Ritter) and her tenant Roslyn (Marilyn Monroe), a woman of astonishing sensuality. Monroe is prepping for a court appearance as part of her divorce proceedings, and the smitten Guido is all too happy to offer the shapely blond a ride downtown in his greasy, rattling conveyance. The film features no shortage of scene stealers, and here Ritter takes the early lead in a brilliantly written expository conversation detailing her assortment of broken clocks that’s as funny as it is informative. With just a few deft strokes, Miller establishes setting, sexual intrigue, plausible backstory and a fascinating narrative path forward before we even realize what he’s up to.

Gable’s introduction is equally inspired. Here he plays an aging, hard drinking cowpoke named Gay Langland. We meet him at the train station, where he is in the process of dumping a chatty heiress from St. Louis in such a smooth, tender manner she’s oblivious to the break-up. This is clearly not the first time Gable has discarded his romantic baggage on eastbound trains, and in dizzyingly effective visual shorthand he becomes the embodiment of the wildly macho frontier spirit. But in the relatively civilized confines of downtown Reno, that spirit seems more caddish and irresponsible than ruggedly heroic, and this conflict of perceptions will drive the rest of the film.


But Act One undoubtedly belongs to Monroe, as she runs a spectrum of reactions, from the weepy to the dangerously curious with a riveting, poignant grace. Her crow’s feet and nascent double chin only add to her famous beauty, and bring her into the realm of earth mother mysticism. When the starry eyed Gable attempts his time-worn seductive formula, Monroe makes it clear that she’s on her own romantic timetable.

When Monroe and Ritter accompany the men to Wallach’s rustic desert cabin for an evening of drinking and dancing, Monroe’s breathy voice becomes a celebratory instrument of the splendors of Existence, without a hint of the sexual double-entendre that laced her oratory in earlier films. Monroe’s work here is truly impressive, and if Arthur Miller’s intent was to establish his wife’s dramatic bona-fides, as is often rumored, then his efforts were wildly successful.

Act Two expands the palette to encompass a new character, Montgomery Clift as Perce Howland, a rodeo stunt rider so damaged by head injuries and deep emotional wounds he seems on the verge of either horrific violence or a permanent retreat into the fetal position. In a sense, Clift’s performance is a thing of wonder – it’s either pitch perfect or appalling – and the verdict seems to vary by the frame. When he joins the principals for yet another bender, his inebriated character exudes prissiness in loud tones that would make Sean Hayes blush, but this motivational avenue is never explored. The middle section is rife with drunken mad scenes, and the film comes very close to being sunk by excessive emoting. Gable pines for a lost child, and eventually works himself into a deafening froth that’s more embarrassing and illuminating. Wallach, the former bomber pilot, reveals dark suicidal tendencies as part of an early form of PTSD. And all of it is accompanied by Alex North’s aggressively cornball strings that compete with, rather than support, the performances.


All is forgiven in Act Three, an excitingly executed set piece that brings the film’s muddled and meandering thematics into sharp relief. Our heroes depart for a remote desert valley, where we learn a haunting lesson about the stiff price of freedom and independence. According to legend, this sequence is more in line with the type of film John Huston wanted to make, and that’s certainly reflected in its grand visual structure. Russell Metty’s day-for-night cinematography is harrowingly effective, not for its evocation of moonlight, but for a darkening mood of advancing storm clouds; clouds that threaten to snuff out the principals in a deluge of modernity. The sandy valley floor is transformed into a deathbed for the Western Movie ethos, as cowboys and horses no longer exist in respectful symbiosis, but have become bitter competitors for ever dwindling resources. But Gable’s constant rationalization that “They’ve changed everything” ultimately sounds like no excuse at all, and with Monroe’s loud protests ringing in his ears, he allows himself to be dragged, literally, into a contemporary mode of thought. The film’s ending strikes cathartic tones of justice and mercy and, most amazing of all, feels totally organic and devoid of even a hint of contrivance. And this reviewer can count on one hand the number of American films to which that description applies.


Disc Review

A splendid job has been done with the B/W transfer. It’s clean, rangy and crackles with a vibrant tonality. The day-for-night scenes have an other-worldly glow that’s simply beautiful to behold. While shot with nets – supposedly to hide Monroe’s emerging wrinkles – the image retains a pleasing crispness and all the detail one could want. The diffusion gets a bit heavy in one scene - an intercut conversation between Gable and Monroe at the breakfast table and the shots don’t really match - but otherwise DP Russell Metty shows extremely good judgment with the use of filtration.

The audio track, available here only in the original mono, is remarkably robust and clean for a film featuring so many noisy, uncontrollable locations. If there was significant dialogue replacement, as logic suggests, it’s blended so seamlessly there are no audible hints.

Theatrical Trailer

The only bonus material on offer is The Misfits’ teaser, and it’s an interesting blend of the film’s rather stark title animation – moving graphics were all the rage in 1961 – and freeze frames from the production. As one would expect with this heavyweight cast, the trailer focuses mainly on the stars while revealing little in the way of narrative.


Final Thoughts

It would take a long time for The Misfits to recover from the critical drubbing it received in 1961 - along with its perception as a cursed production – and be recognized as an American cinema essential. Despite some unevenness and a draggy second act, The Misfits successfully captures a disturbing spirit of iconic transition and shifting zeitgeist. Ardent fans of Gable and Monroe weren’t ready for Huston and Miller’s warning of national decline and decadence; a warning that has been borne out a thousand times in the following decades. This fiftieth anniversary edition offers illuminating perspective on the film’s uncanny predictive powers. It is not unusual for a movie to be a reflection of its times. But with chilling accuracy, The Misfits was an ominous reflection of times to come