Wednesday, May 7, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for May 8-14

May 8–May 14


THE BEST MAN (May 8, 8:00 pm): While dated primarily because political party national conventions are no longer where presidential nominees are selected, this 1964 film is among the finest ever made about politics. Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson play the two leading presidential nominees of a political party (while never specified, it's likely the Democrats as Fonda's character is very similar to Adlai Stevenson and you can see Bobby Kennedy, Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson in others). The backroom deals, exploiting the opponent's weaknesses and not-so-hidden secrets, and political trading are expertly portrayed by a fine cast – with Lee Tracy as the Truman-like former president stealing nearly every scene he's in – along with an excellent script from Gore Vidal, who wrote the play of which the film is based.

WALKABOUT (May 9, 1:45 am): A marvelous 1971 Australian film about a teenage girl and her younger brother who become stranded in the outback after their father goes crazy, tries to shoot them and then kills himself. The two are hopelessly out of their element and are as good as dead when a young Aborigine boy, who is on a right-of-passage quest, helps them survive. Even though they don't speak the same language, the Aborigine and white siblings learn to communicate and become close friends. The images and the powerful connection between the three are incredible to experience. It's a beautiful, emotional film and an important one in cinematic history.


STELLA DALLAS (May 10, 8:00 pm): It’s Barbara Stanwyck giving one of her finest performances in what is really the definitive soap opera. Stanwyck is Stella Dallas, a woman who had it all when she married rich, socially prominent mill owner Stephen Dallas (John Boles), but her refusal to control her wild ways led to divorce. Now Stella must sacrifice by stepping out of her daughter Laurel‘s life so Laurel (Anne Shirley) can marry and achieve a place in society. Also look for Alan Hale in his best performance as Stella’s trashy boyfriend. But in the end, the reason to watch is Stanwyck, who gives a five-hankie performance in a film that catapulted her to superstardom.

HAUSU (May 10, 3:45 am): One of the most surreal films ever to come from Japan, Hausu can best be described as a teens-meet-demon-killers-in-a-haunted-house movie filmed as a surreal fairy tale and decked out in bright candy colors. The girls, who have names such as Gorgeous, Melody, Prof, Fantasy, Kung Fu, Sweet, and Mac, go with Gorgeous to meet her benign spinster aunt. But once they arrive they discover that nothing is as it seems and the girls disappear one by one until the horrible secret is revealed. When I first saw this I had to see it twice because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. You may have the same experience. At any rate, it’s one helluva ride.

WE DISAGREE ON ... BOOM TOWN (May 9, 1:30 pm)

ED: A-. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy made for one the best buddy combos in movies. Basically, they’re playing the same characters they did in San Francisco: Gable is a colorful, rough-hewn Texas version of Rhett Butler. He lives and romances large. Tracy is the solid, down-to-earth partner who performs as Gable’s conscience, as he did in San Francisco. Their friendship and their fortunes survive several ups and downs over the years, and they mesh well together, with Tracy underplaying his role to the larger-than-life Gable. The reason I didn’t grade this higher was because I felt the female leads could have been better cast. Colbert is good, but someone in the mold of Jean Arthur would have been better. As for Hedy Lamarr, well, at this point in her career she couldn’t act to save her life; anyone would have been an improvement. However, we’re not tuning in to this movie to see Colbert and Lamarr. We’re watching for Gable and Tracy, and they do not let us down. Boom Town is solid entertainment.

DAVID: B-. With a casting boasting Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Claudette Colbert, Frank Morgan and Hedy Lamarr, I expected significantly more than what I got from Boom Town, a 1940 release from MGM. Gable and Tracy are oil wildcatters who go from one rig to another, all the while trying to strike it rich. Overall, the acting isn't that strong, which is very disappointing. The slapstick is too much at times, and the film is sometimes boring as the love-story angle hurts the movie as we get more of that than action. The film isn't awful, but fails to deliver as I was expecting excellent and got above average. It's too predictable for me to give it a grade higher than a B- and even then the grade is more for the film's potential and casting than its actual execution.

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

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