Saturday, May 30, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for June 1-7

June 1–June 7


KEY LARGO (June 2, 4:00 pm): This is, hands down, one of the 10 greatest films, the best film noir in cinematic history, and the most incredible ensemble cast you'll find a movie. It stars three of my favorite actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lionel Barrymore. Bogart is a former military man who checks into the Hotel Largo in Key Largo, Florida, in the middle of hurricane season. The real storm hits when we see gangster Johnny Rocco (Eddie G) walk down the hotel steps. Bogart had top billing, but it's Robinson who you can't stop watching. The action in this film is intense, and the acting is incredibly strong (also including Claire Trevor as Rocco's neglected gangster moll, a role that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and Lauren Bacall as Barrymore's daughter and, of course, Bogart's love interest). Legendary director John Huston could not have done a better job, and the use of the storm to parallel what's happening to the film's characters is ideal. Needless to say, this is one of those films you can watch over and over again, and enjoy it more with each viewing.

GILDA (June 3, 9:30 pm): Rita Hayworth is cinema's greatest femme fatale in the title role of this 1946 film noir classic. She incredibly gorgeous, and her form-fitting dresses and how she is filmed only adds to her sex appeal. Glenn Ford had a number of memorable roles in his career, but his portrayal of Johnny Farrell, a down-on-his-luck hustler in this film, is among his best. George Macready is strong as Ballin Mundson, a casino owner who also happens to be working with the Nazis. Little does anyone know that Gilda, married to Mundson, had a torrid affair with Farrell years earlier, and the two haven't resolved their feelings. In this role, Hayworth could have chemistry with a rock. Fortunately, Ford has considerably more talent than said rock and the two sizzle on the screen. The cinematography, Hayworth's performance and the dynamics between the three main characters makes this a classic even though the plot could use some assistance.


A FACE IN THE CROWD (June 4, 7:15 am): 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 letter-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 superb, and Griffith gave the best performance of his career, playing against type. He should have gotten the Oscar, but 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.

LA BETE HUMAINE (June 5, 8:00 am): Jean Renoir wrote and directed this masterful adaptation of Zola’s novel of the same name, setting it in modern times. The focus of the film is train engineer Lantier (Jean Gabin), who, while waiting for his train to be repaired at the Le Havre station, witnesses a murder committed by the station master, Roubard (Fernand Ledoux). Roubard, realizing Lantier saw everything, encourages his wife, Severine (Simone Simon) to become Lantier’s lover in order to buy his silence. Needless to say, this results in tragedy. Gabin is mesmerizing in the role of Lantier, who turns violent whenever he has an epileptic attack. And it’s good to see Simone Simon, who most American film fans know as the doomed Irina from RKO and producer Val Lewton’s Cat People. This film is a must for those who would like to see the earlier Simon and for anyone who loves the films of Renoir, as I do.


ED: A. Steven Spielberg was taking a chance by making an “A” budget science fiction film back in the mid-70s. The last “A” budget sci-fi film that did real business was Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey back in 1968. But George Lucas released Star Wars earlier in the year and proved that science fiction films can be successful once again. But Columbia was a bit anxious about Spielberg’s film, as it wasn’t on the cartoony level of Star Wars. They need not have worried, as Spielberg’s film appealed to a broader spectrum of the adult film going audience. This is an extremely well made film about what happens when ordinary people encounter something totally extraordinary. In this respect it harkens back to the days of It Came From Outer Space in 1953 in that it’s a film made with intelligence. Spielberg hits all the right notes in this film, crafting a film whose human storyline strikes at our emotions and makes it compelling viewing. Also the pre-CGI special effects not only enhance, but also contribute to the movie’s atmosphere of sheer wonderment. And the wonderment is what we take away from this film, a pleasant memory that never fades as the years go on.

DAVID: B. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a very good film, but I reserve A grades for excellent ones. In terms of Steven Spielberg's directing career, this was his next film after Jaws. In comparison, Close Encounters falls short. While significantly better than his next film, 1941Close Encounters also doesn't measure up to the next two: Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Perhaps it's not fair to judge Close Encounters to the other films Spielberg made around the same time, but not everything is fair. I agree with Ed that this movie's special effects enhance the movie and I'll add that they are spectacular for 1977. The issues I have with this film are it's too long, clocking in at 2 hours and 17 minutes and it drags, the storyline is sometimes difficult to follow, and the editing of the movie could have been better (the latter is a criticism Spielberg has acknowledged). However, overall, the film is enjoyable, touching and for perhaps the first time a big-budget science fiction film portrayed aliens as friendly. Of course, Spielberg would take the friendly-alien concept much further in E.T. For the most part, the acting is exceptional, particularly Richard Dreyfuss, an electrical lineman who becomes obsessed with aliens after seeing a UFO. And any film with legendary French director Francois Truffaut in an acting role has to be good.

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

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