Saturday, February 6, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for February 8-14

February 8–February 14


THE GRADUATE (February 8, 3:30 am): 1967 is a landmark year in cinema. Films were more daring and adventurous such as Bonnie and ClydeIn the Heat of the NightPoint BlankBelle de JourClosely Watched Trains and The Graduate. The latter features Dustin Hoffman in his breakout role as Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate trying to figure out what to do with his life. One of his parents' friends, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), a bored and sexy suburban housewife, has something in mind for Benjamin. She carries on an affair that pushes the envelope of sexuality that was rarely seen before in an American film. It's funny, it's dramatic, it's got a great soundtrack from Simon and Garfunkel (even though it's three songs sung differently), and it challenges the conventional Hollywood movie fan. "Plastics."

TOOTSIE (February 12, 8:00 pm): This is a movie that has disaster written all over it. How many times can Hollywood make a movie about a man dressed as a woman? And why in the world would anyone cast Dustin Hoffman for that role? However, this is an outstanding and genuinely funny film largely for Hoffman's performance. (Yes, I'm recommending two Hoffman films this week. He's that good.) My praise of Hoffman isn't meant to dismiss the rest of the cast, which is terrific. Bill Murray has a small part and steals every scene he's in. Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning and director Syndey Pollack (his first, but definitely not his last acting role in years) are exceptional. And the scene in which Hoffman's character reveals his true identity is outrageous and makes me laugh every time I see it.


THE GREAT ESCAPE (February 10, 8:00 pm): Based on one of the biggest mass escapes from a POW camp in World War II, it boasts an all-star cast that includes James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Donald, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson. The plot is relatively simple: The Nazis have built an escape-proof camp to which every escape artist is being sent to stop them from even thinking about another attempt. But the duty of every prisoner is to escape, and this lot is up to the task. It’s a great film that never stops moving with a plot that adds new obstacles and challenges to the prisoners’ dilemma. Attenborough is “The Big X,” a veteran escape artist whose arrival sets the plot in motion. The film also solidified the image of Steve McQueen as the King of Cool through his portrayal of the individualistic prisoner Hilts, as witnessed by the scene near the end when he attempts to jump a border fence with a stolen motorcycle. This is also a film that one can watch numerous times without getting bored. Watch for the scene where the Germans catch Attenborough and Gordon Jackson. It’s one of the best ironic scenes in the history of the movies. Also keep an eye of James Garner and Donald Pleasance and the chemistry between them. The Great Escape is one of those rare movies that comes along every once in a while where the audience is entertained through the use of intelligent plotting and restrained performances. That’s the main reason I have watched it numerous times, even though I’m not exactly a Steve McQueen fan.

CASABLANCA (February 14, 8:00 pm): When recommending movies I usually look for the interesting, but not so well known. Not in this case – this is a no-brainer if ever one existed. It’s one of the greatest romances ever made and turned Humphrey Bogart into a most unlikely romantic hero. It’s easy, however, to be romantic when Ingrid Bergman is the object of one’s affections. I don’t think Bergman has looked any more beautiful than in this film, and the way she was photographed only added to her beauty. We all know the story and the fact it’s a metaphor for America’s becoming involved in the war. But what has always amazed me is the number of lines from the movie that have found their way into pop culture, like “Round up the usual suspects,” “I’m shocked . . .shocked to discover gambling is going on here,” and “I’m just a poor corrupt official.” Behind Bogart and Bergman is one of the greatest supporting casts ever assembled, with several European refugees, such as Marcel Dalio, in the mix. I watch this just about every time it airs. I’m hooked.

WE DISAGREE ON ... STEEL MAGNOLIAS (February 13, 8:00 pm)

ED: A-. There are few things done better than a good “women’s” film, and this excellent comedy-drama-romance of a close knit group of six Southern women of varying ages in a small Louisiana town fits the bill perfectly. We view the ongoing relationship between the six women who frequent the same beauty parlor as the film alternates between humorous, everyday happenings that bring out good-natured quips and the seriousness and heartache that accompany life's unexpected tragedies. The casting is superb and the film a peerless example of ensemble acting, with Sally Field (M'Lynn), a mother still worried over her very grown up daughter; Julia Roberts (Shelby), a young woman who feels that having a baby is worth risking everything; Dolly Parton (Truvy), the married but lonely beautician who lights up when her shop is full of customers; Olympia Dukakis (Clairee), the gossipy widow and town bigwig; Daryl Hannah (Annelle), a young woman with a mysterious past who gets a job at the parlor working for Truvy; and Shirley MacLaine (Ouiser), a cantankerous older spinster who carries her dog around and exchanges barbs with M’Lynn’s husband, Drum (Tom Skerrit). Although the plot is extremely manipulative and somewhat predictable, the impeccable writing sees everything through to a satisfying conclusion. And pay close attention for the score of Georges Delerue, which gets the viewer through some of the slower spots.

DAVID: C-. I guess it's nice to see Ed's feminine side. But that's probably the best part of this overacted, overscripted faux sensitive movie that seems to never end. Its goal is to make you laugh and then to make you cry – and it doesn't care how manufactured it has to get to make viewers feel those emotions. Steel Magnolias boasts an impressive ensemble cast, but the script is so contrived that it leaves the actresses playing stereotypes rather than real people. The film is about a half-dozen women in the South who spend their days at a hair salon owned by the kindly Truvy (Dolly Parton), who's in a loveless marriage. Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) is the town gossip – though they all love gossip – while Annelle (Daryl Hannah) is the new girl at the salon trying to start over, Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine) is the town's rich bitch, M'Lynn (Sally Field) is the protective mother to Shelby (Julia Roberts), the martyred pretty young thing who dies a tragic and prolonged death. Field gets her monologue yelling at God at Shelby's gravesite. I don't care about any of the characters and except for the dying Shelby, there's little in the way of a story. Among the Hollywood heavyweights, country singer Parton easily gives the best performance. And what's with all the strange first names?

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

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