TCM TiVo ALERT
March 1–March 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (March 1, 12:30 am): While I'm a classic film fan, my Best Bets this week are newer movies. This 1998 film, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, is based on a great premise. William Shakespeare has writer's block as he works on Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter, and becomes inspired by a talented actor (Gwyneth Paltrow disguised as a boy). After discovering her real identity, the two fall in love and he's inspired to write Romeo and Juliet. There's some wonderful acting (I'm not a fan of Paltrow, but there's no denying she is great in this role), and a fantastic story with a witty and clever plot. A winner of seven Oscars, it's a superb romantic-comedy that will be fresh for decades to come.
THE KING'S SPEECH (March 3, 10:00 pm): When it comes to newer films, at least I have good taste. The King's Speech was nominated for 12 Oscars, winning four including for Best Picture. It's well-deserved. The plot is unique and one that you wouldn't think would work – King George VI (Colin Firth delivers an amazing performance) has a stammer and goes to see a quirky speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush also giving a fabulous performance) to solve the problem. The two develop a friendship that is the primary focus of the film. The acting is out of this world with performances that come across as so authentic with beautiful cinematography. It's deeply moving and a must see.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE ARTIST (March 3, 8:00 pm): A silent film made in 2011? Are you kidding me? No, I’m not, and this is a great film to catch, even considering it’s hook of being a modern silent film. Borrowing its storyline somewhat from A Star is Born, it concerns one George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a superstar of the silent screen. But sound is coming, and George is not only unimpressed, but refuses to do any “talkies.” One night in 1927, at the premiere of his latest hit, George bumps into Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) while exiting the theater. They seem to bond instantly, and the next day, Variety runs her photo on the front page as the “mystery girl” in George’s life. She begins her own movie career, first as an extra, but as time goes on, her star rises fast, and as George refuses the talkies, Peppy not only acquiesces, but goes on to become the crossover star that was predicted for Clara Bow. While George falls, Peppy rises. It’s a simple story, and, of course, there’s more to it, but the thing to do is to forget our prejudices and go with the film’s flow. That’s what I did when I first saw it, and soon, I forgot I was watching a silent film. The Artist is a totally enchanting movie.
THE QUEEN (March 3, 2:45 am): The death of Princess Diana was one of those momentous events where we can remember where we were when we heard the news, especially for those in England. It was a time of a schism between the English public, who were bereaved over Diana’s death, and the Monarchy, who were at a loss as how to proceed in the face of mounting public and political pressure to do something -- anything -- to express publicly their grief over her loss. For a moment, it almost looked as if the Monarchy could topple. Director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Peter Morgan have combined to make a sublime comedy of manners showcasing the Royal Family’s plight in those times. But the biggest coup was the casting of Dame Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II. It is the combination of director, writer and star that brings what could very well be an empty sentimental melodrama and makes it into a cheeky look at both the Royals and Prime Minister Tony Blair and his irrepressible wife, Cherri, who views the Royal Family as a bunch of “freeloading, emotionally retarded nutters.” The strength of the movie is its refusal to take sides, instead combing the facts with the suppositions into an excellent kind of docudrama, all riding on the talent of Mirren’s performance as the Queen. Michael Sheen is wonderful as Blair, and James Cromwell a sheer delight as the disdainful Prince Philip. For those who haven’t yet seen this masterpiece, I recommend recording it due to the ungodly hour at which it is being aired.
WE DISAGREE ON . . . A BUCKET OF BLOOD (March 4, 6:00 am)
ED: C. A Bucket of Blood is a watchable, enjoyable little B-horror flick. It’s the typical Roger Corman formula for his horror-comedies: Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), a dorky character, works as a busboy at a beatnik café. He envies the more talented customers, such as the poets and artists, but he just doesn’t fit in with the cool scene. Trying to impress the café’s hostess, Carla (Barboura Morris), with whom he’s in love, he decides to create a sculpture, but his clumsiness results in the death of the landlady’s cat. Seeking to hide the evidence, he covers the dead cat in clay. The next day he shows her the sculpture. It’s a hit and patrons demand more of the same, so Walter has to keep upping the ante. But despite a great performance from Dick Miller, the film never rises above the usual level of Corman’s quickies (filmed in five days at a cost of $50,000). The humor is obvious, and the tongue-in-cheek attitude ultimately brings the film down. There’s something to be said for playing a bad film seriously. Like I said, it is watchable and enjoyable, but nothing worth going out of you way about.
DAVID: B+. I've put myself in an awkward position – defending Roger Corman. I was outraged when he was given an honorary Oscar in 2010 alongside Lauren Bacall. The "King of the Bs" made a career by being a lazy filmmaker who let others do most of the work. In the process, he helped launch the behind-the-camera careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, among others. However, I must admit A Bucket of Blood – the name is another one of Corman's gimmicks; give a film an outrageous name to bring in the audience – is among his two best movies along with Little Shop of Horrors (hmm, another outrageous name). In "The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film," Michael Weldon calls A Bucket of Blood "an all-time classic," as well as "a wonderful beatnik horror comedy shot in five days." I suppose there aren't many other movies in the quickly-made beatnik horror comedy genre, but this is enjoyable and charming even for those not looking for films in that category. Dick Miller, who went on to appear in many of Corman's films, plays Walter Paisley, a coffeehouse busboy loser who dreams of being in with the in-crowd. In a ridiculously-quirky twist, Paisley accidentally kills his landlady's cat and covers it in clay making what the beatniks consider to be an amazing piece of art. He ups the ante when he kills people, first by accident and then intentionally. The story is funny and the beatnik "Daddy-O" dialogue is equally amusing. It's funny and suspenseful, and is nicely paced, wrapping everything up in 66 minutes.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.