TCM TiVo ALERT
January 23–January 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
INHERIT THE WIND (January 25, 4:00 pm): An all-star cast – featuring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Claude Akins, and Harry Morgan – do a splendid job in this well-written film adaption of this fictionalized version of the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in which a teacher in the South is brought up on criminal charges for teaching the theory of evolution to his high school class. Most of the film takes place in a courtroom. The film, expertly directed by Stanley Kramer, gives viewers the feeling of being in that hot, packed courtroom with hostility in the air. While the storyline is an attack on Creationism, the actual target of this 1960 film is McCarthyism.
THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (January 26, 10:00 pm): Expertly directed by the great Luis Bunuel, this 1972 surrealist movie, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, mixes reality with dreams as a group of six bourgeoisie friends repeatedly try to have dinner together only to have it fail every time. The first effort is a scheduling mistake, but with each passing attempt, the excuses become more and more bizarre from going to an empty restaurant with lousy service and loud crying as the owner died a few hours prior and the staff is crying over his dead body to the interruption of French soldiers to learning they don't really exist and are part of a stage play. The movie has everything from exceptionally funny scenes to biting satire with a strong, and very strange, storyline and solid performances by the actors. It's a scathing indictment of the shallowness of the ruling class yet it also portrays them in a sympathetic light. It's a difficult balancing act but this film manages to pull it off in an approachable and entertaining way.
ED’S BEST BETS:
CARRY ON CABBY (January 24, 10:30 am): The Carry On films have always held a special place in my heart. When I was in the 8th grade, they were shown at 1:00 on Monday mornings by Channel 4 in New York, and I used to stay up to catch them, which made for some sleepy Mondays in school. But I loved them; their lowbrow humor never failed to make me laugh, and I count this one as my personal favorite. The great Sidney James is the owner of a successful taxicab company who is so involved in his business that he forgets his wedding anniversary. To get revenge, his wife, played by the hilarious Hattie Jacques, starts her own cab company, called “Glamcabs” and staffed by female drivers. Soon she’s dominating the business and poor Sid can’t figure out why his competition is always one step ahead of him. Also starring series regulars Kenneth Connor and Charles Hawtrey.
TOKYO STORY (January 25, 3:00 am): One of the true and enduring classics of the cinema. Director Yazujiro Ozu’s portrait of the elderly in a rapidly changing Postwar Japan is both touching and poignant. An elderly couple (Chishu Ryu and Chiyeko Higashiyama) travel to the city to visit their children, who have no time for them and treat them rather tactlessly. It is a powerful look at the problems of the elderly, the disappointments parents face with their children, the children’s fear of growing older, and how the traditional values as pertains to families are disappearing as Japan becomes more and more modernized. To put it succinctly, it’s a masterpiece that should not be missed.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE CANDIDATE (January 27, 8:00 pm)
ED: B. The Candidate is a slickly produced, well-acted film that, unfortunately, comes up short on substance. The film expects us to believe that a politician running for the Senate can be a hardcore idealist, and, further, would be more concerned about having the campaign be based on "truth and values" rather than opinion polls and winning. Of course, our candidate has to be a Democrat, because the Republicans – as we know – are just evil and must be destroyed. But being as this is Hollywood and Redford, what can we expect? In the end, rather than being a study of the American electoral process, it's a motion picture advertisement for the Democratic Party. That is the only insight one will walk away with after this movie is over.
DAVID: A. This film is among the finest political satires I've ever seen, and its message of having to sell your soul and give up your integrity to get elected is more relevant today than it was when The Candidate came out in 1972. Robert Redford is Bill McKay, a liberal attorney and son of a former California governor (played by the great Melvyn Douglas), recruited by Democratic political operative Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) for a longshot challenge to popular Republican Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter). No known Democrat will challenge Jarmon so the party is just looking for anyone to get into the race. Lucas tells McKay he can say whatever he wants on the campaign trail if he runs. McKay agrees, but the plan isn't working. McKay appeals to other liberals, but he isn't making much headway with anyone else. The Democrats expect McKay to lose, but polls show he'll get destroyed, and that's not acceptable. At Lucas' recommendation, McKay softens his message a little bit, compromising his principles – and it works. So McKay continues further down the road, talking in platitudes while gaining popularity. I don't understand why Ed believes this film is a "motion picture advertisement for the Democratic Party" as they are the ones who come across as insincere and willing to do anything to get elected. Jarmon stays true to his good-old-boy Republican character. McKay and Jarmon essentially become one as both say the same thing, but the difference is McKay is young and good-looking, and Jarmon is older and doesn't look like Robert Redford. During a debate between the candidates, McKay stays true to what Lucas tells him to say and then says the debate is a farce as real issues aren't being addressed. He's about to get a wave of negative publicity. But the press is distracted by the appearance of McKay's father after the debate and his support of his son that the debate outburst is quickly forgotten. McKay wins, but loses his identity and integrity, leading to two memorable lines. The first is from McKay's father said sarcastically to his son, "You're a politician." The other is a panic-stricken McKay grabbing Lucas, bringing him into a room and asking, "What do we do now?" as the movie ends. The storyline is intelligent and compelling, giving viewers a fascinating inside look at the political process in a documentary-style of filming. The acting is top-notch, particularly Boyle and Redford, with Douglas memorable in his secondary role. Interestingly, this could be a biography of California Gov. Jerry Brown.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.