TCM TiVo ALERT
November 8 – November 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
TOP HAT (November 8, 9:45 pm): As a general rule, I don't like musicals, especially those with dancing. (Don't confuse that with movies with great music in which people don't suddenly break out in song. I like a lot of those.) So what's different about Top Hat? At the top of the list is Fred Astaire. As with most musicals, the plot is secondary. He's a dancer who wakes up the woman (Ginger Rogers) living in an apartment below him while he's tap dancing. He falls in love, there are a few misunderstandings, and the two eventually get together. Astaire has great charisma and charm, and his dancing is so natural looking. He makes it look as easy as walking. The storyline is typical of a good screwball comedies from the 1930s (this one came out in 1935). But it's the dancing and the memorable songs, written by Irving Berlin, such as "Cheek to Cheek" and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," which can be seen here, that make this movie a must-see and among my favorite musicals.
THE THIN MAN (November 10, 10:00 pm): When it comes to cinema's greatest couple, no one can touch William Powell and Myrna Loy, and this is their best film together. Add W.S. Van Dyke as the director and you have a classic. Powell is Nick Charles, a charming (did he ever play a character who wasn't charming?) ex-private detective who knows every cop and criminal in the big city and both sides of the law love him. Loy is Nora, his new wife and a socialite, who doesn't mind that Nick is a hard-drinking ex-private eye. Actually, she rather enjoys the excitement and wants to help her husband solve a murder. Loy, who was a stunningly beautiful woman, was also an outstanding actress. The two of them are so in sync with each other and hysterically funny as they piece the clues together. It’s a funny, entertaining film that really showcases these two incredible talents. This film spawned five sequels. While the first sequel, After the Thin Man, is very good, they get progressively worse. But the interaction between the two leads remains solid.
ED’S BEST BETS:
BREATHLESS (November 8, 8:00 pm): It’s Jean-Luc Godard’s first – and some say still his best – film. Jean-Paul Belmondo shines as a petty crook who impulsively kills a motorcycle cop after stealing a car. Idolizing Bogart and acting out his life as if he were Bogart, he tries to convince his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg) to flee with him to Rome. No studio sets here, with a budget of only about $80,000, Godard used the streets, hotel rooms and cafes of Paris as his studio, melding street life into a veritable symphony of chaotic sounds. Through the use of hand-held cameras and placing the cameraman in a wheelchair, Godard makes maximum use of jump shots to convey the chaotic atmosphere felt by the main characters. Besides, who can dislike a film dedicated to Monogram Studios?
THE MALTESE FALCON (November 10, 7:30 am): This is not the 1941 classic that we all know, but rather it’s 1931 Pre-Code antecedent. Ricardo Cortez plays Sam Spade as much more of a ladies’ man and low-life than in the 1941 version. Also, the homosexual relationship between Joel Cairo (Otto Matieson), Kasper Gutman (Dudley Digges) and Wilmer Cook (Dwight Frye) is more heavily implied than in the ’41 version. While Digges is not nearly as good in the role as Sydney Greenstreet was, Bebe Daniels as Brigid is far better than Mary Astor in the ’41 version – and better looking at that. Also, look for beautiful Thelma Todd as Iva Archer. It’s a rarity, even on TCM, and should be seen by every cinema buff.
WE DISAGREE ON . . . KING KONG (November 10, 1:15 pm)
ED: A++. This is one of the greatest horror/fantasy films ever made, period. From the minute Carl Denham and his crew alight in the jungle looking to shoot footage of a giant ape, we’re on the edge of our seats. And the movie never disappoints, never lets up. The fact that the special effects are just as impressive today as they were when the movie was first screened is a testament to the art of Willis O’Brien, who created Kong and his dinosaur adversaries. There were no big-name actors cast – in fact, Fay Wray may have been the best known – but the picture didn’t really need them, for who could compare to Kong? It’s one of America’s best-loved movies and remains embedded in our collective cultural consciousness to this day. Two remakes were even attempted, neither of which even came close to the original.
DAVID: C+. I'm likely in the minority, but I've never understood the appeal of this film. Anyone watching the film for the first time, even those who saw it when it was released in 1933, has to see every plot turn coming minutes before they occur. Kong is captured, Kong is put on display, Kong escapes, Kong makes a mess of Manhattan, Kong grabs Fay Wray (who, he understandably has the hots for throughout the film) and heads for the tallest building, Kong gets shot at by planes, Kong put a screaming Wray down, Kong falls off the building, Kong dies, movie ends. The special effects are mixed. The fights between Kong and the other creatures on the island are kind of cool. But I'm not impressed with the stop-motion movement of Kong. It reminds me of the Bumble (which is probably no accident) in 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. The film's storyline is simple and the acting is generally pretty bad, but Kong is the entire movie with everything else taking a backseat. The problem is after 20 minutes, the novelty of Kong wears off.