Wednesday, January 13, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for January 15-22

January 15–January 22


DEAD END (January 15, 3:15 am): I hate the Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys. But their first movie: a gritty, authentic look at life in the slums of New York City is a keeper. It's based on a play of the same name and the movie is filmed like a play. Humphrey Bogart as Baby Face Martin, a gangster who returns to his childhood neighborhood, shows flashes of brilliance in this 1937 film that would return in movies such as CasablancaThe Big SleepThe Maltese Falcon and Key Largo. As for the Kids, Billy Halop (as Tommy Gordon, the leader of the gang) is one of the most annoying movie actors I've seen. This is easily his best role as it's downhill for him after this film. Also, the other kids – Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and Billy Jordan – peak with this film. The film also sports nice performances by Joel McCrea as an unemployed architect down on his luck and Claire Trevor as the neighborhood prostitute with syphilis.

SLEEPER (January 16, 4:00 pm): Besides Take the Money and RunSleeper is the best, most clever and entertaining of Woody Allen's "earlier, funnier movies." Allen's character, Miles Monroe, is frozen in 1973 when a routine gall bladder operation goes bad. He's defrosted 200 years later by doctors who are members of a resistance group living in a police state. The gags are fast and funny. One of my favorites is when the scientists ask Miles about life 200 years earlier, including this gem. Allen's interaction with Diane Keaton (Luna, a self-centered socialite) is pure magic, particularly when she helps Miles relive a scene from his younger days and when the two are disguised as surgeons stealing the government leader's nose  all that's left of him after a rebel bomb blows up the rest of him. While the dialogue is smart and funny, Allen also proves himself to be an incredibly talented physical actor. Allen's slapstick comedic talent – think Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – shines best in this role.


STAGECOACH (January 15, 8:00 pm): This John Ford movie was not only a big hit with moviegoers at the time, but also marked a change in the maturing of the Western, emphasizing character development over mere bang-bang, shoot ‘em up action and bringing the Western out of the Bs and onto the top of the marquee. Oh yeah, there’s lots of action sequences in the film, but they’re nicely balanced by characters with depth and about whom we actually care. Even John Wayne does a nice job here, though it took Ford lots of work to wrangle a good performance out of him. Watch for the Indian attack and keep your eye on the peerless stunt work by second unit director Yakima Canutt. In his Westerns, Ford always provided work for neighboring Navaho tribesmen, and even made sure they received union wages. They, in turn (as per his biography) named him “Natani Nez,” which means “Tall Leader.”

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (January 22, 10:00 pm): Emma Thompson’s delightful adaptation of Jane Austen’s oft-forgotten first novel won her the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. It also landed on many critics’ ten-best lists and helped propel Kate Winslet to stardom. But more than that, this is simply a delightful film, produced by Lindsay Doran and directed by Ang Lee. When the film was first announced, it may have seemed that Lee was a strange choice, but anyone who saw his films The Wedding Banquet (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman (1995) knew he would make this film one worth watching. Besides Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Thompson herself combine for one of the best ensemble performances of the ‘90s, guided by Lee’s firm hand, with the chemistry between Thompson and Winslet absolutely enthralling. Leave it to Emma Thompson to resurrect the intelligent romantic comedy.

WE DISAGREE ON ... COOLEY HIGH (January 18, 12:00 am)

ED: BCooley High has often been referred to, unfairly, as the “black American Graffiti.” It’s better than American Graffiti and represents a huge step forward in African-American cinema as it puts an end to the “Blaxploitation” era by showing that young African-Americans can indeed live normal lives and get up to the hijinx their white counterparts have been doing for decades. Both the cast, with standout performances from leads Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, and the direction by Michael Schultz are superb. Writer Eric Monte (who conceived The Jeffersons, and brought about Good Times with Michael Evans) has written a warm, funny tale of young kids enjoying life to its fullest until two of the group get mixed up with a pair of career criminals and are falsely arrested for stealing a Cadillac. It’s a bittersweet journey through the maze known as high school, and the cast pulled it off admirably.

DAVID: A. What I love and admire about Cooley High is its honesty in telling a funny, tragic and poignant story about two close friends – Preach (Glynn Turman) and Cochise (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) – enjoying life as seniors at Edwin G. Cooley Vocational High School in Chicago in the mid-1960s. The two have big dreams though they are always looking for a good time with women, drinking, getting high and shooting dice. While they are barely in class during the movie, the two have big dreams. Preach hopes to become a writer while Cochise's ticket gets punched for a college scholarship as he's one of the best basketball players in the city. The funniest scene in this 1975 film has the two of them on a joy ride with two older guys from the neighborhood who steal a car. Preach, who often makes up elaborate stories, convinces everyone he's an excellent driver. He's behind the wheel when the vehicle pulls up next to a police car, and he panics. They end up on a high-speed chase, finally eluding the cops in a warehouse only to have Preach crash the car into another vehicle. Everything is OK until the two are pulled out of class accused of grand theft auto. The two guys who stole the car are busted and while out on bail, they look for Preach and Cochise mistakenly thinking the boys squealed on them to the police. The little adventure results in a tragic ending. This all occurs with an amazing soundtrack largely consisting of Motown songs. When the film ends with the Four Tops' "(Reach Out) I'll Be There," I admit to tearing up even though I've seen the movie at least a dozen times. Based on this film, Hilton-Jacobs was almost immediately cast as Freddie "Boom Boom" Washington on the Welcome Back, Kotter TV show. Already a blaxploitation veteran, that is where Turman primarily remained until the genre died out. He showed up more than a decade later on the awful A Different World TV show, spending five seasons as a college math teacher/retired Army colonel. The first time I saw the words "Cooley High" was during the closing credits of the TV show What's Happening!! (yes, it has two exclamation points). The credits said the show was based on Cooley High even though the only similarities were Preach and Raj, the show's lead character, both wore black plastic-frame glasses and the casts were primarily black.

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

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