Sunday, October 6, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for October 8-14

October 8–October 14


LOVE AND DEATH (October 9, 8:00 pm): When people mention they like Woody Allen's "early, funny" films, this 1975 classic is in the top three along with Take the Money and Run, and Sleeper. Woody is Boris, a Russian pacifist, who is love with Sonja, his cousin "twice removed," and of course, played by Diane Keaton, during the Napoleonic Wars. It's incredibly funny with pseudo philosophical double speak and tributes to many of Allen's favorites including the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin and Ingmar Bergman with a perfect spoof of the latter's The Seventh Seal

THIS IS SPINAL TAP (October 9, 1:00 am): One of the funniest and most clever films ever made. It's a groundbreaking mockumentary that I watch regularly. Apparently I'm not alone as TCM airs it often - and it never grows old. If you've never seen it, watch it and pay close attention to the great lines, many of them ad-libbed, and enjoy the surprisingly excellent music. If you've seen it before, there is always a line you missed that will make you laugh. On a scale of one to 10, this one goes to 11. Click here to read a full review of the film I wrote last year. 


HORROR OF DRACULA (October 11, 8:00 pm): A sumptuous retelling of Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing at the top of their games as Count Dracula and Professor Van Helsing, respectively. Filming the story in color forever changed the paradigm of horror films for better or worse, with shadows being replaced by blood. But with a great atmospheric story, a great score by James Bernard, and supporting performances that serve to enhance the work of the leads. And who can forget Valerie Gaunt as one of Drac’s vampire women?

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (October 14, 8:00 pm): Only Fellini could get away with this story about the hooker with the proverbial heart of gold, a plot so old it has mold all over it. His take on a prostitute always dreaming of a rich, wonderful life but finding nothing but heartbreak and sorrow is so well done, so original a take on the old chestnut, that it seems entirely fresh. It helps, of course, when one has a star as waifish and as engaging as Giuletta Masina. With this film she cements her roles one of the great tragicomic mimes, playing off – and yet expanding – her previous triumph as Gelsomina in La Strada. She is so powerful that we immediately feel a connection with her, a connection that grows stronger as the film progresses, and even after her last “disappointment,” one that would crush a lesser soul, we actively rejoice in her optimism to go on. It’s a film that is often overlooked in the Fellini oeuvre, but one of his most important, nevertheless.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . SHIP OF FOOLS (October 11, 3:45 pm) 

ED: C+. The fact that I’m giving this film so much as a C-plus is for the actors, certainly not the story or the director. Stanley Kramer and Abby Mann, Masters of Social Significance as applied with a sledgehammer, gives us yet another tedious trip into the Land of Two Hours You’ll Never Get Back. While he tries to paint an important theme into this boatload of Germans sailing back to Der Vaterland from Vera Cruz (taking with them some Spanish laborers in steerage to be repatriated to Spain along the way), it comes off more like a bizarre anticipation of The Love Boat rather than world-shaking social commentary. We’ve seen these characters before in a panorama of movies from Grand Hotel to Between Two Worlds; there’s nothing new under this sun. Two things in particular, though, struck me about this mess: One, for a film set in the ‘30s, the hairstyles and some of the clothing is straight out of the ‘60s. Normally, I overlook this, but this is a film with weighty pretensions. Two, a film set entirely aboard ship must be necessity by talky, but this has some of the dullest conversations this side of an office holiday party. The love scenes between Elizabeth Ashley and George Segal are downright gruesome. Both deserved better. Speaking of actors, this was the last appearance of the great Vivien Leigh, but Simone Signoret, in only about 20 minutes of screen time, walks away with the film; her scenes with Oskar Werner was the only thing that kept my interest. Screenwriter Abby Mann accepted his Oscar (of course he would get an Oscar; Hollywood is the home of the Phony Liberal) in the name of “all intellectuals everywhere.” To quote a reviewer on IMDB: “I have a feeling that when he was writing Ship of Fools it didn't occur to him that he might himself be aboard.” How apt.

DAVID: B+. Incredible acting performances highlight this compelling drama about a ship of all kinds of people heading for Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. The movie is familiar as Ed mentions above with each character having a story to tell, mostly tragic. But the cinematography is wonderful and whoever cast this 1965 film did a brilliant job. The interaction between Oskar Werner as the ship's dying doctor and Simone Signoret as a drug-addicted Spanish countess on her way to a German prison, is touching and tragic. They were nominated for Best Lead Actor and Actress Oscars and the movie received a Best Picture nomination. It won two Oscars (including for Best Cinematography, Black and White) and was nominated for three more. Oscars certainly aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to quality films, but the Academy got it right with this movie. In her last film, Vivien Leigh plays an aging divorced woman trying unsuccessfully to relive her youth. Also, great work by Michael Dunn for his "Greek chorus" performance as a philosophical dwarf (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). We know that when the ship docks in Germany that life for everyone aboard will change forever and almost certainly not for the better. The film captures that feeling of helplessness and/or ignorance that will follow the characters long after the movie fades to black. 

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

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