Friday, July 6, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for July 8-14

July 8 – July 14


THE PETRIFIED FOREST (July 10, 8:00 pm):  A well-acted 1936 Warner Brothers movie that is a film noir, a few years before the term was coined. In his first major film success, Humphrey Bogart is outstanding as Duke Mantee, a well-known gangster running from the police who ends up in a diner, taking all of the patrons - including Alan Squier (played by Leslie Howard), a drunk who was once a writer, and Gabrielle Maple (played by Bette Davis), who's father owns the place - hostage. Because Squier is indifferent to death, he engages Duke in conversations. There is great give-and-take between Bogart and Howard throughout the movie, which seems very much like a play, primarily because it was with the two male leads reprising their stage roles for the big screen. Bogart was so good that he ended up playing gangster after gangster for the next five years. 

SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (July 13, 6:00 am): An unusual, but very interesting British film from 1964 with Kim Stanley as a mentally unstable medium who convinces her weak-willed, hen-pecked husband (played by Richard Attenborough) to kidnap the young daughter of a rich man. She wants to help the police solve the kidnapping so she can become famous. Nothing goes right as Stanley's character gets more and more crazy, and has her husband kill the girl. Stanley and Attenborough are splendid in their roles in this outstanding psychological thriller.


BAND OF OUTSIDERS (July 8, 2:00 am): This film represents director Jean-Luc Godard at his best, exploring the petty crime scene and his fascination with pop-culture. Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) are two lowlifes that like to quote and re-enact B-movies. They meet Odile (Anna Karina) at an English class and a plot soon becomes hatched to steal the money that Odile’s father has embezzled from the government and hidden inside their house. But as with anything else by Godard, it is not so much the destination as the journey that is interesting. The interaction between the characters as they run about, dance, read newspaper stories to each other and pretend to have shoot-outs is augmented by Godard’s voice-over narration and his habit of letting the characters talk to the camera. Look for the “Madison dance” sequence where the three dance in a cafeteria. It was a definite influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

THEM! (July 11, 10:00 am): Not only is this the best of the “big bug” films that came out in the 1950’s, but it also has elements of a noir mystery. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the best “Red Scare” films of the period. The cast is terrific: James Whitmore, pre-Gunsmoke James Arness, veteran supporting actor Onslow Stevens, promising actress Joan Weldon, a young Fess Parker, and the great Edmund Gwenn. And look sharp for a very young Leonard Nimoy in a small role. It’s proof that when a sci-fi film is made intelligently, it’s a legitimate classic.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE NATURAL (July 11, 10:15 pm)

David: C. For the most part, Hollywood has done a terrible job with baseball movies. Of the dozen or so I've seen, my two favorites areEight Men Out (1988) and The Bad News Bears (1976). The Natural is filled with cliches and corny scenes that if I watch it by myself, I'm embarrassed if anyone comes into the room and sees what's on. The acting is OK, but the plot is absurd, implausible and ridiculous at times. Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, a "natural" baseball player whose career ends before it gets started after he is shot by a woman, who kills up-and-coming athletes. Sixteen years later, Hobbs attempts a comeback, but because of his age, he struggles to get a contract. He signs on with the New York Knights, an awful team, and first rides the bench before he gets to play. Of course, with Hobbs in the starting lineup, the team becomes a winner - like when Kelly Leak joins the Bears Little League team. The ending that has Hobbs hitting a pennant-winning home run into the stadium lights, which are broken causing sparks to fall on to the field, is as corny as it gets. 

Ed: A-. If this were simply a film about a baseball player named Roy Hobbs and his comeback in a game he loved so much, then I would certainly rate it lower, especially as it does not follow Bernard Malamud's excellent novel. But it's not. Rather, it is a metaphor for the American Dream, the victory of the underdog, and a tale related to King Arthur and The Odyssey. Roy Hobbs was a player that had it all. Today we would describe him as "a five tool player." But just as he was on the precipice of greatness, he is shot by a crazed female fan dressed all in black. Years later he shows up on the roster of the New York Knights, a decrepit baseball club on the verge of being sold by manager/owner "Pop" Fisher to the evil Judge, who is in cahoots with Rothstein-esque gambler Gus Sands (the unfilled Darren McGavin). Fisher has a niece, Memo, who is also in with Gus and the Judge, and, also dressed in black, tries to keep Hobbs from leading the Knights to the pennant. If one watches it from the viewpoint of King Arthur and Homer, it all makes sense in a completely different and wonderful way, mixing the myths and legends of the past with America's most mythic pastime - baseball.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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