Monday, January 12, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for January 15-22

January 15–January 22


THE GOODBYE GIRL (January 16, 8:00 pm): Before Richard Dreyfuss thought he was God's gift to acting, he was an excellent actor. This 1977 film, in which he won an Oscar for Best Actor (becoming, at the time, the youngest to win the award), is a perfect example of that. The screenplay, written by Neil Simon, is good, but the acting and interaction between Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason and Quinn Cummings (the latter two were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively) are outstanding. Cummings, who was 10 when the film was released (and flaming out as an actress a couple of years later), is marvelous as Mason's precocious daughter. It's a very charming and entertaining romantic comedy.

EDGE OF THE CITY (January 19, 4:15 am): An impressive film starring John Cassavetes as a drifter, later revealed to be an Army deserter, who befriends Sidney Poitier when he gets a job as a longshoreman. The interaction between the two is excellent, but Jack Warden as Malik, a vicious racist who hates blacks and is blackmailing Cassavetes, is the best part of this 1957 film. The two fight scenes he has, first with Poitier and then with Cassavetes are powerful. The racial themes of the film, including having Cassavetes' character having a relationship with a black woman, were groundbreaking for its time.


SAHARA (January 17, 2:15 pm): In 1943, Humphrey Bogart was loaned out to Columbia to star in this war picture about a British-American tank crew stranded in North Africa just ahead of a horde of German soldiers. Bogart is accompanied by his surviving crewmen (Bruce Bennett and Dan Duryea), a Sudanese soldier (Rex Ingram), his Italian prisoner (J. Carroll Naish), and a downed German pilot (Kurt Krueger) as they search for water in the desert. This little multi-cultural cast makes for some fine drama as they must find and defend their source of water before the Germans arrive. Based on a Soviet film Trinadtstat (1937), the screenplay was penned by Communist Party stalwart John Howard Lawson, along with the director, Zoltan Korda. Thanks to Korda, much of the propaganda was toned down in favor of the grim tension that makes this film one worth catching. It was shot in Brawley, California, in the Borego Desert just north of Mexico. There’s little actual fighting in the film. Bogart and wife Mayo Methot provided most of the fighting during the off-hours in the aptly named Brawley. The battling couple went at it almost every night after getting liquored up. This s a film that will please both fans of war films and fans of Bogart alike.

A FACE IN THE CROWD (January 20, 3:00 pm): Budd Schulberg wrote and Elia Kazan directed this prescient look at celebrity and media-made pundits in the story of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a drifter discovered in jail by the hostess (Patricia Neal) of a morning radio show in Pickett, Arkansas, and who, through the sheer force of his “down home” personality eventually makes his way to New York, where he becomes not only an entertainment superstar, but a respected wielder of opinion; powerful enough to make a nondescript senator into a formidable presidential candidate. Rhodes, however, is rotten to the core, and as his fame and power increase, the monster within him begins to break out. It’s up to Neal, as a latter-day Frankenstein, to destroy the monster she created before he destroys us, and she does it in a quite unique way. Neal, of course, is her usual superb, and Griffith gave the best performance of his career, playing against type and should have gotten the Oscar. But he wasn’t even nominated, in due to the less than stellar box office of the movie and the Liberal backlash against director Kazan for supposedly “naming names” before Congress. (In reality, he didn’t name anyone that wasn’t already named again and again.) What eventually brought critics around to giving this film another look was Francois Truffaut, who championed the film as a modern-day classic and a warning.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . LOGAN'S RUN (January 17, 4:00 am)

ED: C. As with most movies set in the future, Logan’s Run is a child of its times. Made in 1976, we see that the year 2274 pretty much resembles 1976, except everyone lives in a shopping mall and dresses as if going to the disco. Survivors of some sort of holocaust live in a domed city. To control the population the computers that run the city have mandated that anyone over 30 is to be liquidated. The policy is enforced by policemen called “Sandmen.” Of course, Michael York, one of the “Sandmen,” begins to question the policy and becomes a rebel himself. Please, this is a hackneyed plot to begin with, and the “special affects” do nothing to enhance the goings-on. For one, the domed city looks as if it were made for a bad Japanese monster movie - note the miniatures. On the other hand, the cheesy fire-guns used by the sandmen look like something out of a bad Italian sci-fi movie. Speaking of, the special effects in this film are, to put it mildly, atrocious. You can see the strings, for God’s sake. And check out Box the robot. Does it get any worse - or sillier? Truly cringe inducing. As for the acting, Michael York, normally a good actor, is difficult to differentiate from the tress he walks among. Jenny Agutter looks great in those short-short negligees, but she seems to be reading her lines from cue cards. Peter Ustinov has nothing better to do than ham it up and mumble his way through. And Farrah Fawcett-Majors? Well, the less said the better. The duel to the death between York and fellow Sandman Richard Jordan only serves to remind Darth and Obi-Wan that they had nothing to worry about as per competition. And speaking of, can you believe that Star Wars was only a year away? It seems as if it were light years away. I think that in giving this mess a “C” I was being far too generous.

DAVID: B+. After reading Ed's review of Logan's Run, I was stunned by how much he dislikes it. Did we watch the same movie? I'm a huge fan of early and mid-1970s futuristic dystopian films such as this, Soylent GreenOmega Man and Rollerball. As an aside, the three films I named were subjects of previous We Disagrees with me liking them and Ed not being much of a fan of any. In Logan's Run, it's the year 2274 and some sort of apocalypse has occurred leaving people to live in a domed society with everything they do handled by a super-computer. That leaves them a lot of time for wine, women (or men, though futuristic sex is a little strange) and song. Most everyone is very happy leading a hedonistic life. Among those not thrilled are people approaching and then reaching the age of 30. That's because there's one catch to this society: once you get to be 30, you go through a ritualistic death in a place called "Carousel." It is there where the birthday boys and girls are incinerated and supposedly renewed elsewhere while spectators cheer with each death. Logan 5 (Michael York) is a "Sandman," a cop who hunts down "Runners," those who want to live past 30 and attempt to run for their lives. After killing a Runner, Logan discovers a curious-looking pendant worn by him. Logan takes it to society's computer, which tells him what it is and that he must find a supposed "Sanctuary," where the successful Runners are and destroy it. To make sure Logan does what he's told, the computer adds four years to his life, thus making him 30 and someone with a vested interest in keeping society in order because he's now a Runner. Unlike Ed, I find the plot compelling, and while some of the special effects look straight out of 1976, they were good enough to receive a "Special Achievement" Academy Award for visual effects. It was also nominated for two Oscars – Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and six Saturn Awards (given by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films – you know, people who love sci-fi), including one for Best Science Fiction Film. The prior winner was Rollerball and the year after Logan's RunStar Wars received that honor. Gravity won last year. The acting is fine though far from great. However, Peter Ustinov is exceptional as an old man living outside the dome. He is the first person anyone from inside the dome sees who is old. The scene in which the dome is destroyed by the computer, after it essentially self-destructs, and those who escape that society see, touch and marvel at Ustinov's character as he is old with wrinkles has a beauty to it. There's a morality tale in this film, but I'm not going to argue it's a classic or even a highly-sophisticated film. What is it? It's an enjoyable and fun science-fiction film with a lot of action and women in very mini miniskirts. 

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

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