Friday, December 14, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for December 15-22

December 15–December 22


MY FAVORITE YEAR (December 15, 2:00 am): While this delightful 1982 comedy is largely fictional, the characters are based on some very famous real people. It's about a young comedy writer, Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker, yup, Cousin Larry from Perfect Strangers), remembering his time on a 1950 comedy-variety TV show inspired by Your Show of Shows. Stone is a cross between Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, the latter was executive producer of this film. He babysits Alan Swann, a famous ex-swashbuckling movie actor who's now a drunk, and is appearing on the TV show. Peter O'Toole is fantastic playing Swann (inspired by Errol Flynn). Brooks has said the storyline is just that, a story. The film, however, is much more than that. It is funny, touching and charming.

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (December 22, 6:00 pm): An enjoyable screwball comedy about an arrogant and obnoxious radio personality (played by Monty Woolley) who hurts himself at the home of a wealthy Ohio family and is stuck there around Christmas time. He soon takes over the entire house with his personal assistant (Bette Davis) falling in love with a local newspaper reporter. Outrageously funny at times, it’s an enjoyable film with great acting. Like My Favorite Year, the main characters in this film are also loosely based on real people. Among the best is Jimmy Durante as Banjo, a Harpo Marx character. The film has the appearance of being a Broadway play on the "big screen" largely because that's exactly what it is.


IL POSTO (December 16, 2:00 am): A clever and perceptive satire about how the white-collar world crushes the hopes and ambitions of those that work for it. As the director, Ermanno Olmi, wrote in 1964, “ . . . everything – epic adventure, humor, and a feeling – is contained in the normal human condition.” Indicative of the new wave of Post-Realist Italian directors, the film stars Sandro Panseri, a non-professional actor. The female lead is another non-professional, Loredana Detto, who later became Signora Olmi. (Way to go, Ermanno!) It’s funny, touching and compelling. Watch for the end scene when a worker dies and his desk is up for grabs. Real? I’ve seen it. It’s all too real.

LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT (December 20, 2:15 pm):  Barbara Stanwyck goes to prison in this Pre-Code gem – the genesis of the Women’s Prison Picture. And it showcases al the stereotypes of the genre, stereotypes that would be enlarged and improved upon in later genre films. Babs is a hoot in this riot of a picture. Catch it; you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss it.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THE NUN'S STORY (December 17, 7:15 am)

ED: A+. This is an exquisite film searching the depths of the human psyche and the internal conflict within one woman to honor her vows on one hand and her natural inclinations towards rebellion. Audrey Hepburn gives a beautiful performance as Gabrielle Van der Mal, a headstrong young woman who wants with all her heart to be obedient to the order she joins. She is absolutely wonderful in a role that calls for the exact opposite of the society women she plated over the years. The first part of the film focuses on her transition to a Catholic nun, named Sister Luke, while the second sees her already firm in her vocation and dispatched to the Congo as a nurse, where she assists Dr. Fortunati, described in the movie as “a genius, a devil, and a non-believer.” Fortunati (in a brilliant turn by Peter Finch) challenges her faith and tempts her every step of the way. A lesser film would have them involved in a full-clinch romance, but Zinnemann is far too subtle to engage in such obvious shortcuts. Instead he balances Sister Luke’s struggles with scenes awe striking in their utter simplicity; scenes that drive home the points of the film far better than dialogue alone. Also, pay close attention to the superb score by Franz Waxman, a score that highlights each section of the movie without overpowering it. Hepburn stands out in a cast filled with great performances, and she proves her mettle as a serious actress. It’s lengthy and somewhat slow-paced, but stick with it. Before the first half hour had gone by, you’ll be deeply absorbed in the story. Suffice it to say that a film this spiritual and this deep cannot be made today; more’s the pity.

DAVID: C-. I wish I would see this film the same way Ed does. His review makes The Nun's Story sound compelling and beautiful. What I took away from the movie was "that's about two-and-a-half hours I'll never get back" and "it was only two-and-a-half hours? It seemed like four hours." The movie goes into painstaking detail about how Sister Luke and others become nuns. Some of the leaders of the Catholic Church, particularly the top nuns, come across as being unnecessarily harsh, spending most of their time drilling submission and conformity into the potential nuns. Hell, I'd quit if I was trying to do something to help humanity and was treated that way. Sister Luke wants to be a nurse in the Congo, not exactly an ideal place to be. To teach her humility, she is initially denied that opportunity by a Reverend Mother. When she finally gets to the Congo, she is placed in a hospital that treats white people and not the underprivileged blacks in desperate need of medical care. The storyline made it impossible for me to have empathy for any of the characters. Worse, the plot develops at an incredibly slow pace that I struggled to pay attention. Audrey Hepburn's acting is fine, but the script doesn't permit her to do much. The brightest spot is Peter Fitch as Dr. Fortunati, a brilliant but hard-living surgeon who challenges the sister and makes her a better nurse. There is some subtle sexual tension between the two, but they don’t act on those impulses. In the end, Belgium is occupied by the Nazis, Hepburn kicks the habit as she can't stay neutral in the war - something the church insists - and goes home to, I guess, help her homeland in some capacity.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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