Friday, August 22, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for August 23-31

August 23–August 31


THE ROARING TWENTIES (August 24, 6:00 pm): This 1939 film features my favorite pairing of Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. Yeah, they only did three films together (and this is the last one), but it's a classic gangster movie from Warner Brothers, the studio that perfected the genre. Bogie and Cagney are two buddies during World War I, who, along with Jeffrey Lynn, become fast friends in a foxhole during the waning days of the war. The film follows them from those last days of the war to the final days of Prohibition. Lynn's secondary (and that's being kind) character becomes a lawyer while Bogart becomes a bootlegger and lets Cagney in on the action. While Bogart was never a big fan of his earlier films in which he plays the stereotypical conniving gangster, he is outstanding in this film as is Cagney. It's a lot of fun with shootouts, double crosses, dramatic deaths and everything I (and others) love about these gritty Warners films.

TWO WOMEN (August 26, 8:00 pm): This is Sophia Loren's best film and put her on the map as far as being an outstanding actress and not just an incredibly beautiful woman. She plays Cesira, a Roman woman who has to flee her hometown with her 13-year-old daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown) during World War II with the Allies bombing the city. She goes to incredible lengths to protect her child only for the two to be raped in an abandoned church by Moroccan Allied soldiers. It's a hard-hitting film with a powerful message and brilliant acting - Loren won the Oscar for Best Actress, the first to earn that honor in a non-English speaking role. 


THE THIRD MAN (August 29, 12:15 am): For a cinephile this is a no-brainer if there ever was one. Screenplay by Graham Greene; direction by Carol Reed; and starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in perhaps their greatest teaming (yes, even better than Citizen Kane). This has been cited as the greatest British films of all time and it’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to argue with that assessment. Greene and Reed – along with the wonderful work of cinematographer Robert Krasker – capture perfectly the decay of postwar Vienna, once the jewel of European capitals. Cotten, as the nominal hero, is ineffective almost to the point where we in the audience become cynical and begin rooting for Harry Lime (Welles playing a great, complex villain) to get away with his crimes. Those familiar with the fiction of Graham Greene know that the dividing line between good and evil is always thin and blurred. The Third Man is a prime example of that philosophy.

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (August 31, 10:15 pm): Every star has that moment when he or she broke through the barrier from supporting player to lead actor. For Alan Ladd, this was the film that established him as a force to be reckoned with in the movies. Directed by Frank Tuttle, it was adapted by W.R. Burnett and Albert Maltz from Graham Greene’s novel, A Gun For Sale. The screenwriters took the liberty of shifting the action from England to America and gave the film a political slant (it was made in 1942 at the height of World War II). Ladd is brilliantly menacing as Raven, a hired gun out for revenge on his treacherous employer. Co-star Veronica Lake also registers an impressive performance, as does Laird Cregar, at his villainous best as Raven’s double-crossing employer. Interestingly, Greene’s sequel to this book was also turned into one of the classics of film, by the Boulting Brothers, and their film made a star out of its lead, Richard Attenborough. The film? Brighton Rock.


ED: B-. If you enjoy Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, or more to the point, enjoy looking at Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, this is your cup of tea. For me, as a fan of director Vittorio De Sica, this is somewhat of a misfire. They star in three vignettes, the first of which, about a woman who keeps getting pregnant to avoid prison for petty theft is long and excruciating. The second, about a spoiled selfish woman, is shorter, but has no punch line, as it were. (This is a comedy, after all.) The third is the most interesting, with Sophia as a high-class prostitute who befriends a young man studying for the priesthood, saves me from giving the film an even lower grade. Marcello is a steady customer with something more on his mind, but he can’t get to first base. Sophia does her now renowned strip tease for Marcello in this vignette, an act she would repeat in 1994’s Pret a Porter (another disappointing film). The biggest crime the film commits is in having two of the most beautiful people in film history and no sparks between them. Zero chemistry. That’s what ultimately does the film in, although with the grade I’ve given it, I still recommend it strongly.

DAVID: A. Legendary Italian Neorealist Director Vittorio De Sica built his well-deserved reputation on films such as The Bicycle ThiefUmberto D., and Two Women. That's what makes Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow even more impressive as De Sica does a superb job with a completely different film genre: a sex comedy. And this is a very funny sex comedy. If you're going to make a sex comedy in 1963, you couldn't do any better than to cast Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. But De Sica doesn't forget his roots and what made him a great director. Each of the three vignettes in the film focuses on social classes and the struggles of those in those groups to survive. For example, each of Loren's characters use sex in different ways to exist. Above, Ed describes the basics of the three segments. Of course, we differ on the quality though we agree that the final one with Loren as a prostitute and Mastroianni as a regular customer is the best. The chemistry between the two actors and the ability of the director to capture and showcase that chemistry in a way that is fun and entertaining to watch is a testament to the talents and skills of the trio. The first and third segments could have been made into quality full-length motion pictures. Instead, we are treated to three shorter films, which are all excellent and very sexy, particularly the final one with Loren's iconic strip tease.

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

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