Wednesday, October 14, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for October 15-22

October 15–October 22


HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A. (October 15, 9:30 pm): A powerful advocacy documentary about southeastern Kentucky mine workers who go on a lengthy strike in part because the proposed labor contract from a subsidiary of the Duke Power Co. includes a provision banning union strikes. The documentary team, led by Barbara Kopple, the director and producer, spent a couple of years filming the strikers. There are some extraordinarily intimate scenes about the struggles of the strikers and their families during the lengthy work stoppage. There is no narration to the film  but there are a few key pieces of information that is shown on the screen  with the strikers and their families telling their stories. After a while, the national union's presence is gone leaving the local workers to fight one of the nation's largest energy companies, and still one to this day, on their own. One of the film's flaws is it's told almost entirely from the side of the workers. But that was because the company had no interest in participating in the film. Even with that challenge, the film is exceptional. It won the 1977 Oscar for Best Documentary.

THE PETRIFIED FOREST (October 17, 10:00 pm): This is film noir before the term was coined. In one of his first major roles, Humphrey Bogart plays Duke Mantee, a notorious gangster on the run. Bogart was so great in this 1936 film as the heavy – bringing depth, emotion and character to the role – that Warner Brothers spent nearly five years casting Bogart in other movies as the bad guy. But very few were of this quality. Duke and his gang end up in a diner near the Petrified Forest in Arizona with the police chasing them. The gang takes everyone inside hostage, including Alan Squier (Leslie Howard), a once great writer who is now an alcoholic. Not fearing death because of what life has become for him, Squier engages Duke in conversation, pushing his buttons. The interaction between the two is outstanding. The film is an adaption of the play that featured Howard and Bogart in the same roles. Also at the dinner is Gabrielle Maple (Bette Davis), who owns it with her father and grandfather. Davis is excellent and even subdued as a secondary character.


THREE ON A MATCH (October 15, 7:15 am): The Pre-Code era was noted for producing some pretty strong films, and this entry was amongst 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.

THE PRODUCERS (October 21, 8:00 pm): Mel Brooks began his directorial career with a film reviled at the time by many critics, but now justly seen as one of the classics of cinema. Two Broadway producers (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) discover that they can make more money putting on a flop than financing a hit. All they have to do is raise more cash than they need for the play. But they just find a sure-fire flop, for they have pre-sold somewhere around 10,000% of the play, and if it’s a hit, they can’t pay off the backers. Their vehicle is a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler,” the love story of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in song. They chose the worst director, the worst actor, and have signed the play’s author, a nutty Nazi living in Greenwich Village. I won’t say any more in case you’re one of the few that hasn’t yet seen this classic.

WE DISAGREE ON ... HEAVY METAL (October 17, 4:15 am)

ED: B+Heavy Metal is a quirky animated adaptation of the cult magazine that was originally adapted from a French adult comic book and which predated the rise of the graphic novel. Though the animation was quickly surpassed in quality by the Japanese anime of the mid-‘80s, the strength of the movie lies in its stories, most of which are quite enjoyable, with one, “B-17,” being a classic of its genre. Another strong point of the film is its soundtrack, featuring the likes of Devo, Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, Donald Fagan, Stevie Nicks, Nazareth, Grand Funk Railroad, Journey, Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, Don Felder, Riggs, and Trust. Besides the dated animation, another drawback of the film is its cult status, which has quickly worn off as its audience died off. Like the vast majority of films, it cannot transcend its zeitgeist and so is relegated to antiquity. Watching it can be like seeing a film from the early sound days. However, in the final analysis this only becomes another reason for seeing it, as it’s an example of a genre that has not survived into the present.

DAVID: D+. To be blunt, this movie is garbage and a huge waste of 90 minutes. The "stories" are pointless except to show tons of gratuitous sex and violence in cartoon form. Inspired by the graphic novel of the same name, the viewer goes from one ridiculous scene to the next. Some are connected, but good luck figuring out what's happening. You'd think that with the cartoon sex and violence that it would keep the attention of the viewer. You'd be wrong. It's rather dull and lifeless. The movie came out in 1981 when I was 14 years old. I was the exact target audience for this film. At that age, many guys are into sex and violence even if it's with animated characters. I wasn't impressed then and after seeing it again two years ago, I'm even less impressed. While many of the musicians whose songs are used in this movie are excellent, the ones in this film are largely throw-away. The only song most people recognize is Journey's "Open Arms." There's also an inferior remake by Devo of "Working in the Coal Mine." The only reason this film doesn't get an F grade is because some of the characters' voices are done by legendary SCTV actors, including John Candy, Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty  and I'm a huge fan of that classic TV show.

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

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