Monday, September 22, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for September 23-30

September 23–September 30


CLAIRE'S KNEE (September 28, 2:30 am): This 1970 French film, directed by Eric Rohmer, is an excellent erotic comedy about a diplomat in his 30s who becomes obsessed with a teenage girl. Well, not really her - he's in love with the thought of touching the young girl's knee as a sort of sexual conquest. However, the film is so much more than that. It's about a man trying to recapture his youth before getting married with the implication that marriage means his life will forever change and not for the better. It's about a younger teenage girl, Laura, Claire's half-sister, and her maturation. It's about Claire, who appears to be care-free and not very bright, but someone who is also insecure and vulnerable. Its story is brilliant and incredibly emotional. The legendary Roger Ebert described it as "a movie for people who still read good novels, care about good films, and think occasionally." That sums it up quite nicely.

THE INFORMER (September 29, 2:00 am): This 1935 film, directed by John Ford, is a fascinating and intelligent drama about a simple man in desperate need of money and even more so in desperate need of attention. Victor McLaglen is captivating as Gypo Nolan, the simple man in question. He is kicked out of the Irish Republican Army during its 1922 War of Independence for not killing an English Black-and-Tan as retribution for that man's murder of an IRA member. Now even more desperate and an outcast in his hometon, Gypo sells out a friend wanted as a fugitive, for 20 pounds. Gypo proceeds to spend nearly all of the money on liquor, food and showing off. After passing the blame for the incident, that leads to the death of Ford's character, onto someone else, Gypo finally admits what he did and realizes how wrong he was. The film - with Oscar wins for McLaglen and John Ford - is a morality story that is dark, tragic and raw.  


PATTON (September 25, 8:00 pm): George C. Scott was never better in this biopic of World War II’s most iconic general, and the Academy knew it as well, awarding him the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts (which he refused). It’s a good, old-fashioned epic. We knew who the Good Guys were and who the Bad Guys were, and never the twain did meet. There are historical inaccuracies galore, but this is Hollywood. If it’s a case of legend versus fact, print the legend. Karl Malden is excellent as General Omar Bradley, and Michael Bates makes for a feisty Montgomery, with whom Patton was always in competition. Does it tell us much about the inner Patton? Not really, but just go along for the ride. You won’t be disappointed.

THREE ON A MATCH (September 26, 1:00 am): The Pre-Code era was noted for producing some pretty strong films, and this entry was among the strongest. Ann Dvorak, Joan Blondell, and Bette Davis are three childhood friends who have a reunion at a restaurant and vow to stay in touch. They then light their cigarettes on one match, hence the title. The famous superstition predicts bad things for those who do so, and each suffers her share of the bad life. However, the one who falls the furthest gives the movie both its twist and its reputation as among the most lurid of the Pre-Code films. Humphrey Bogart is on hand as well as (what else?) a gangster. He turns in a good performance, as does Warren William, playing a good guy for once. For those new to Pre-Code films, this is one to watch.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . HUD (September 24, 9:45 pm)

ED: AHud is one great movie, boasting a good story, a great script, excellent acting from its leads, wonderful photography from the great James Wong Howe, and taut direction from Martin Ritt. Based on Larry McMurtry’s novel, Horseman, Pass By, it’s a uncompromising look at the gulf between the values of the Old West, personified by Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas) and the New West, more ruthless, less traditional, personified by Paul Newman. Newman gave one of his greatest performances as the amoral Hud Bannon, whose philosophy of life was that he interpreted the law in a lenient manner: “Sometimes I lean to one side and sometimes I lean to the other.” Hud is one of the great heels of film, and Newman's usual scenery chewing actually helps, rather than hinders, the progression of the plot. When his father discovers his herd has contracted hoof and mouth disease, Hud’s solution is to sell them off before anyone finds out. Hud also wants to lease out the ranch for oil exploration, which Homer is dead set against. In between the two are Hud’s nephew, Lonnie (Brandon DeWilde) and housekeeper Alma Brown (Patricia Neal), who Hud is forever trying to seduce. Hud is also a wonderful character study. As we get to know the Bannons, we gradually discover why they are what they are, especially Hud. And near the end, with Homer’s death, there is no soapy deathbed scene, where Hud sees the error of his way and promises to reform, Alma returns (after Hud has driven her away), and Hud and nephew Lonnie work the ranch together while Hud learns the value of good, hard work. Academy awards went to Douglas, Neal, and cinematographer Howe. Shooting the film in black and white was a terrific idea, for it emphasizes the rift between father and son and keeps the film somber. If ever a film deserved to a labeled “Essential,” it is Hud.

DAVID: C+. First, a declaimer: I'm not a big Paul Newman fan and really don't understand why people consider him a great actor. I can't stand Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and can only tolerate Cool Hand LukeThe Hustler and Nobody's Fool. I don't dismiss him as he's made some excellent pictures; just not enough of them to earn his status as a Hollywood legend. Hud definitely falls into the "can only tolerate" category. Newman was often given the anti-hero role, and this film is yet another though numerous reviews of the 1963 film state the viewing audience saw his character as the hero, unable to tell the difference. To summarize, Hud (Newman in the title role) is an arrogant, self-centered, hard-living son of Homer Bannon (Melvyn Douglas, who is splendid in this film), a successful and honorable rancher. The two clash with a full-scale blow-up when their cattle get hoof and mouth disease. Hud wants to sell the cattle without disclosing the disease while Homer is dead-set against it. The film fails to provide insight into the troubled father-son relationship except to show their personality differences. Also, Patricia Neal is very good as a middle-aged housekeeper abused by Hud, and Brandon DeWilde is fine as Lonnie, Hud's nephew who idolizes his uncle to the point of being blind to his many faults until the end. But the storyline is weak and lacks originality. Some have called it a Western ripoff of 1955's Rebel Without a Cause, another highly-overrated. I can somewhat see it except Hud is a stronger character than James Dean's brooding Jim Stark. Despite some good performances, Hud is a dull and shallow movie. Among the memorable lines in this flat film are: "It don't take long to kill things, not like it takes to grow," from Homer, and "Nobody gets out of life alive," from Hud. Words to live, or die, by.

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

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