Saturday, March 28, 2015

TCM for April 2015

April showers bring cinematic flowers this month on TCM. My picks below. All times Eastern. Full schedule HERE.

5 Sunday

The overheated Italian melodramas of Raffaello Matarazzo are celebrated on the 5th.
2:45 AM
Youthful rebellion leads a young woman to single motherhood.
BW-87 mins,

4:30 AM
A recently married woman involves herself her sister's traumatic experience.
BW-97 mins,

8 Wednesday

8:00 PM
A traveling strongman buys a peasant girl to be his wife and co-star.
BW-108 mins,

9 Thursday

7:30 AM
Two ranchers fend off a crooked land grabber.
BW-57 mins,

8:30 AM
Texas rangers try to infiltrate a band of counterfeiters.
BW-60 mins,

9:45 AM
Two cowboys hunt down the killers of a young boy's parents.
BW-61 mins,

11:00 AM
Outlaw brothers turned Mounties clash over their different attitudes toward law and order.
C-75 mins, CC,

12:30 PM
A deserter takes on his dead captain's identity to save a wagon train.
C-80 mins, CC,

2:00 PM
A man returns to wreak vengeance against a cattle baron and claim the land that is rightfully his.
C-83 mins, CC,

The workmanlike cinema of prolific director Lesley Selander is featured on the 9th.

3:30 PM
The masked lawman races to save the owners of a set of medallions leading to a legendary treasure.
C-81 mins,

5:00 PM
A war widow spies for the U.S. in Japanese-occupied Manila.
BW-85 mins,

6:30 PM
A sailor vows to give up his wandering ways when he falls for a waitress.
BW-79 mins,

11 Saturday

Early works by Scorsese and Coppola on the 11th.

8:00 PM
A widow dreaming of a singing career ends up waiting tables in Phoenix.
C-112 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

10:15 PM
A housewife who feels trapped leaves home and takes up with a hitchhiker.
C-101 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

16 Thursday

8:30 AM
Five friends struggle to escape the boredom of their provincial hometown in Italy.
BW-108 mins,

10:30 AM
BW-79 mins,

12:00 PM
A sailor falls for a young girl who believes she's a mermaid.
BW-86 mins, Letterbox Format

4:30 PM
A coast guardsman begins to think his mistress's blind husband can really see.
BW-71 mins, CC,

18 Saturday

12:15 PM
Space invaders impregnate six women with super-powered offspring.
BW-90 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

2:00 PM
A space visitor's touch turns an unhappy heiress into a vengeful giant.
BW-66 mins, CC,

19 Sunday

6:15 PM
A man's investigation of a friend's death uncovers corruption in post-World War II Vienna.
BW-104 mins, CC,

Modern ideas disrupt a traditional Japanese family in The Makioka Sisters

3:30 AM
As Japanese society changes, four sisters gather each year to watch the cherry blossoms bloom.
C-140 mins,

20 Monday

6:00 AM
A headstrong girl fights the strictures of the Catholic church in Europe and the Belgian Congo.
C-152 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

6:15 PM
An American missionary falls in love with a Chinese warlord.
BW-87 mins, CC,

Get your Noir on with the great Kiss Me Deadly on the 20th.

8:00 PM
Detective Mike Hammer fights to solve the murder of a beautiful hitchhiker with a mysterious connection to the Mob.
BW-106 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

11:45 PM
A pretty female hitchhiker creates tension between two friends touring France.
C-105 mins, Letterbox Format

1:45 AM
A young businessman and a hitchhiker develop a deadly rivalry during a boating weekend.
BW-94 mins,

21 Tuesday

6:15 PM
A porn star thinks he's become a werewolf.
C-92 mins, Letterbox Format

8:00 PM

Human Voice,  a new short film starring Sophia Loren, debuts on the 21st.

An aging beauty tries desperately to win back a lover drawn to a younger woman.
C-35 mins,

8:30 PM
A businessman's discarded mistress refuses to tell him which of her three sons is his.
C-102 mins,

24 Friday

8:30 AM
A conservative teacher struggles with her values while teaching natives in New Zealand.
C-97 mins, Letterbox Format

10:30 AM
A Parisian policeman gives up everything for the love of a free-living prostitute.
BW-143 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

1:00 PM
Political pundits mistake an illiterate gardener for a media genius and turn him into a national hero.
C-130 mins, Letterbox Format

3:15 PM
An aspiring executive lets his bosses use his apartment for assignations, only to fall for the big chief's mistress.
BW-125 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

5:30 PM
A veteran returns home to deal with family secrets and small-town scandals.
C-136 mins, CC, Letterbox Format

26 Sunday

A double feature of gems from the Czech New Wave on the 26th.

2:00 AM
Five comic tales of love showcase the growing Czechoslovakian film industry.
BW-105 mins,

4:00 AM
Picnickers are held captive by a sadist and his gang.
BW-71 mins,

27 Monday

12:15 AM
An L.A. private detective puts aside his own marital woes while tracing a topless nymphet to the Florida Keys.
C-100 mins,

29 Wednesday

11:30 PM
A modern-day Native leader launches an uprising against the U.S. government.
C-106 mins,

1:30 AM
During World War II, Italian villagers hide their wine from the German army.
C-140 mins, Letterbox Format

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Newspaper Movie Ads: Part 1

Remember when we had to look in the newspaper to see what movies were playing? The ads were an art form in themselves.

Santa Cruz Sentinel Feb. 5, 1988

The Bridgeport Post June 4, 1963

Kansas City Times, August 19, 1966

The Bridgeport Telegram, October 7, 1958

Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 30, 1977

Kansas City Times October 1, 1965

San Antonio Express July 15, 1965

Monday, March 23, 2015

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 (1968) ✭✭✭✭

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 (1968) is an experimental anti-film film that’s as precious, messy and unwieldy as its name implies. What begins as an attempt to make a film about a feuding married couple eventually morphs into a clusterfuck of behind the scenes incompetence and recrimination. Recording the whole fiasco is writer/ director William Greaves’s fledgling crew, who’ve been instructed to document the entire process of making the film; from the loading of magazines to negotiations with curious local policemen. As Greaves and company hold forth in Central Park one steamy week in the summer of 1968, the tentacles of revolution were slowly gripping American society and, as this film proves, the sacrosanct nature of moviemaking was not immune to social upheaval.

As Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 proceeds, it becomes clear to everyone, especially the crew, that the dreadfulness of Greaves’s script is surpassed only by his horrendous direction. Totally unencumbered by vision or talent, Greaves flounders like a smooth talking car salesman at a quantum physics debate. After a few days of this, the crew lock themselves in a storage room to vent their frustrations and the ensuing rap session offers a much needed catharsis. As these fuzzy-cheeked technicians transform into a counter-culture Greek chorus, their beefs echoing our own confusion about what the hell Greaves is trying to do, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 reveals its true intentions.

While films about moviemaking such as and The Stunt Man attempted to blur the boundary between projected and physical reality, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 finds the very distinction meaningless. Greaves’s dramatic scenes - gamely executed by actors Patricia Ree Gilbert and Don Fellows - are laughably soapy and inane, and only become worse when Greaves attempts to tweak. His encouragement that the actors push the envelope results in a profane take that sounds more like two longshoreman squaring off than a lovers‘ quarrel. As their confidence in Greaves erodes, Gilbert and Fellows take on the ashen complexions of actors on a death march. Fellows would go on to a long and successful career, appearing in a number of Hollywood hits and popular BBC TV series before his death in 2007 at the age of 84. The fact that he stuck to the business after this nightmarish early gig speaks volumes.

Greaves falls prey to another pitfall of bad directors when he has his picture stolen by a passing homeless drunkard with a sonorous speaking voice. Infinitely more interesting than anything Greaves has come up with, the loud musings of this tortured soul comprise the bulk of the film’s final reel, as Greaves and company can only watch awestruck at their serendipitous comic relief. As viewers we are left wondering how much of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 is truly by design or the result of numerous happy accidents, but there’s no doubting the wisdom of the film’s commentary and observations. And there’s a certain genius to Greaves‘s machinations, be they craftily contrived or mere happenstance or - most likely - some combination of the two.

While Greaves attempts to flip the notion of omnipotent directors on its ear, he finds himself still cast in the unlikely role of demigod; a director’s default position. When attempting to soothe the jangled nerves of Gilbert, Greaves struggles mightily not to use the word “faith” when asking for her patience. And in a later scene, Greaves is shown wandering alone, nimbly striding one of the park’s many beautiful rock formations. Perhaps he was climbing Mt. Olympus, or just looking for a public bathroom, but nonetheless Greaves emits an undeniable air of regal majesty, like a baron surveying his vast holdings. In the constantly shifting world of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1, even hack directors get to play God, at least for a little while, and we’re all too happy to render unto them our undying devotion.

Ultimately, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 1 is an inside baseball art film for the entertainment industry. It’s doubtful that anyone who hasn’t spent time on a film set could fully appreciate the surreal universe Greaves constructs beneath the canopy of Central Park’s massive oak trees. In this world, the dramas behind the camera far surpass the hokey illusions for which filmmakers strive. But the film also contains a transcendent message, and it's as pertinent today as it was in the tumult of 1968. According to Greaves, we’ve all been paying attention to wrong things. While the warming glow of flickering images entertain and distract us, just offscreen things have gone completely to hell.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Recently Viewed March 2015

My Father's Guests (2010) ✭✭✭½ 

Amusing, well written French comedy. All about a lively retiree (Michel Aumont) who is happy to be taken advantage off by a dodgy young Hungarian immigrant (Veronika Novak). Also stars Fabrice Luchini and Karin Viard,…what more do you need?

Draft Day (2014) ✭✭

A cheesy - and surprisingly dull -  commercial for the NFL.

Wadjda (2012) ✭✭✭✭

This terrific little movie blew me away. Really interesting immersion in Saudi lifestyles, with constant reminders of the many ways women are mistreated. Amusing and infuriating at the same time. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

News and Notes March 2015

Disney's Cinderella is raking it in. I wonder if we've seen the last of Lily James on Downton Abbey.

Cable cutters will be interested in Tubi TV, a new streaming service with a good selection of classic films and foreign titles. Best of all, it's free!

Check out Time Out's list of The 50 Best Gangster Movies of All Time.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's BFI's list of The Worst Irish Accents in Film History.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Turns 40

When I first saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail in the theater, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; perhaps a large wooden badger? As I sat in the dark and contemplated the airspeed of an unladen swallow - African or European - some French people with outrageous accents catapulted a giant cow into the air while a nearby patron launched a fart in my general direction that smelled of elderberries. I then drifted into thoughts of peril - being a young man I often thought of peril - and realized I hadn’t had any peril in quite some time.

But there was some lovely filth down here Dennis, and Graham Chapman was hilarious as King Arthur, and we recognized him because he didn’t have shit all over him. He and his knights trotted all over medieval England, accompanied by the sound of coconuts as was their IDIOM! Eventually the holy hand grenade was dispatched, for that rabbit’s dynamite, while an Enchanter named Tim destroyed mountain tops with a mere wave of his hand. The search for a shrubbery - something nice and not too expensive - was interrupted by a sexually ambiguous lad in a tower and we had to wait and make sure he didn’t leave as Sir Not-Appearing -in-this-Film surveyed the carnage and huge tracts of land. Eventually one thing became clear, The Knights Who Say “Ni” now say..."Ekki-ekki-ekki-ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing, z'nourrwringmm.".

I knew the Pythons were funny, but not THIS bloody funny! I laughed so hard I thought I would die...

But it was only a flesh wound. I got better.

Friday, March 13, 2015

New on TV March 2015

Schitt's Creek (2015) ✭✭✭✭½

My gosh this show is freaking funny. Now showing on POP TV (available on satellite, select cable systems and this Canadian production stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as a mega-wealthy couple who lose it all, and end up flat broke in a small backwater town. The show makes good use of Levy and O'Hara's well documented comedic chemistry, but the revelation here is Levy's real life son Daniel, who is absolutely brilliant as a 30ish neurotic metrosexual. Schitt's Creek is scream, do give it a try.

Barnwood Builders (2014) ✭✭✭✭

Have you ever seen an old, abandoned log cabin out in field somewhere and thought to yourself, "Somebody should move that and restore it"? Well contractor Mark Bowe and his burly crew do just that every week on Barnwood Builders, a reality show now playing on GAC. In each episode Bowe and company locate, painstakingly dismantle, haul and reassemble a historic structure for a delighted new owner. Not every project goes smoothly, and there are a lot surprising items - and critters - hiding in those dusty hand hewn beams, but the guys get through it with hard work, determination and humorous good ol' boy bonhomie.

House of Cards Season 3 (2015)

Unless you've been hiding in one of those log cabins, you know that season 3 of the hit Netflix original production is now available to stream. I haven't had a chance to wade through it yet, but the reviews on Netflix are all over the place, with the negative notices sounding like jilted lovers who've gotten a raw deal. I hope they haven't screwed up this terrific show. If you've seen it, leave a comment and let me know what you think.

You Bet Your Life (1950) ✭✭✭✭✭

Everything old is new again with JLTV's nightly airings of the classic Groucho Marx quiz show. The program must be in public domain - several times over - by now, and it looks like some product of a lost civilization. Yet Groucho is still witty as hell, and the interplay between him and the ultra-square George Fenneman is a thing to behold. I've probably seen every episode 3 or 4 times over the years. Don't care, they just get funnier every time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Night and Day (2008) ✭✭✭½

Director Sang-soo Hong has quietly - very quietly - built an extensive filmography in recent years of scant, simple stories that push the minimalist envelope. His work attempts to capture fleeting moments of reality, warts and all, and he is not afraid to stick with a scene that appears to be going nowhere as long as it serves a larger purpose within his ambivalent world view. Night and Day (2008) is all about an artist from Seoul (Kim Yeong-ho) who comes to Paris ostensibly to immerse himself in the city’s creative culture. However, due to his unambitious nature, he spends most of his time simply wandering the streets, lost in thought. Eventually KIm becomes involved with a network of fellow Korean expats, and creates some of the same problems for himself he thought he had left behind in Seoul.

Night and Day is really more a story of places than people, with Hong’s array of personalities often dwarfed, minimized and occasionally defeated by the spaces they occupy. The film is set mainly in nondescript Parisian neighborhoods and sidewalk cafes, with only brief glimpses of the city’s famous landmarks and tourist attractions. Yet, these sedate, narrow storefronts and apartment buildings seem alive with their own vague secrets and possibilities, and Hong’s laconic Korean cloister often seem slightly overwhelmed by their new surroundings. Only Kim’s would-be girlfriend, a flighty art student named Yoo-jung Lee (Eun-hye Park), seems ready to fully embrace the new light and landscape that lies before her. Her immature energy serves as a jolt to both Kim and the film at large, and their high school-ish romance serves to reveal some of Kim’s true nature.

Night and Day is in many ways a tribute to the work of Eric Rohmer, including the use of diary pages as an editorial device and a couple of scenes that are direct lifts from Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale (1999) and Pauline at the Beach (1984). But while Rohmer’s oeuvre dealt with the seasons of life, Hong’s interest, just like his leading man’s, is rooted in the temporal and immediate. Kim’s lack of planning for a weekend trip with Yoo-jung speaks volumes about his rustiness at relationships and personal disdain for anything concerning the long term. The film’s final act, set back in Korea, reveal’s Kim’s true reason for his Parisian trip, and the impetus was not quite as lofty as previously portrayed. Kim’s foibles and weaknesses are given a harsh display under the cloudy skies of Seoul, with Hong offering little in the way of catharsis or justification.

Rohmer fans will find many aspects of the film mesmerizing, but at nearly 2½ hours, Night and Day may be too much of a good thing. The film is recommended only to those who have seen and liked the director’s previous features such as Woman is the Future of Man (2004) or Another Country (2010). Night and Day is constructed with the same languid pacing and dialogue driven scenarios that many viewers will find challenging, although the slog will be worth it to those in tune with the director’s unvarnished harmonies. One thing is certain, Sang-soo Hong will never be in the running for a superhero movie. And he couldn't care less.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Quickies for March 2015

Hello I Must be Going (2012) ✭✭✭

Melanie Lynsky deals with first-world problems in Connecticut. Cute and kind of funny. Excellent supporting cast features Blythe Danner and John Rubinstein.

My Mother's Smile (2002)✭✭✭½

An intriguing allegory on the role of religion in modern life, and the similarities between the Church and a large insurance company. Marco Bellocchio is an interesting director; I'll seek out more of his work.

Petite Fille (2010) ✭✭✭

Hélène Fillières stars as a young woman so desperate to escape her suffocating parents she makes some unwise choices. Generally interesting but the ending gets over the top crazy.