Thursday, April 7, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for April 8-14

April 8–April 14


BRUTE FORCE (April 8, 11:30 am): This is one of the best films about life in prison. The central focus is the tense-filled relationship between Hume Cronyn, the prison's chief of security, and Burt Lancaster as Joe Collins, the tough inmate who cannot be broken. Lancaster, as usual, is brilliant, compelling and authentic in Brute Force, only his second film. This is easily Cronyn's best performance. The lessons of the film are important, particularly that nobody can truly escape prison even upon release as the scars stay with ex-cons forever. It's brutal and realistic and well worth seeing.

KEY LARGO (April 11, 1:00 am): This is one of the 10 greatest films, the best film noir in cinematic history, and the most incredible ensemble cast you'll find in 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 perfect.


ANIMAL CRACKERS (April 10, 10:00 am); The Marx Brothers’ second film and a laugh riot from beginning to end. Grouch is Captain Spauldng, the famous explorer. He’s been invited to the house of Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) for the weekend. Also spending the weekend is Roscoe Chandler, who will unveil a classic painting. Somehow, Chico and Harpo are invited and the fun begins. Plenty of classic routines, like the bridge game, Groucho’s speech on exploring Africa, the dictated letter by Groucho to Zeppo, and Harpo hiding seemingly mountains of silverware up his sleeve. It’s a filming of the Broadway play, so it’s a bit static, but that shouldn’t deter your fun. A Must See if ever there was one.

THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (April 13, 8:00 pm): The film that revolutionized filmmaking. A thoroughly engrossing film about a madman’s revenge. The expressionistic sets give it a surreal, otherworldly feeling, as if one was in a nightmare. And though many critics and historians see the ending as a cop out, it still fits the film as a whole. (Really, how else could they have ended it?) When they speak of “Essentials” on TCM, this is one of those true essentials.


ED: A. Jacques Demy follows up The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with another musical about missed opportunities and second chances, but this one is a more animated and buoyant, though every bit as confectionery. Twins Delphine and Solange (played by real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorleac) yearn for big-city life. One day, a fair comes to their quiet port town, bringing with it the possibility of escape. With a great jazz score from Michel Legrand, dazzling sherbet pastel colors throughout, a great supporting cast, including Gene Kelly, and the chance to see sisters Deneuve and Dorleac together,, this is a film that would have done Ernst Lubitsch proud. It is a delightful film.

DAVID: C. Jacques Demy made beautiful-looking movies. They were filled with beautiful colors and beautiful actors – most notably Catherine Deneuve. My biggest issue with most of Demy's films, including The Young Girls of Rochefort, is he chose style over substance. He could have had both, but often neglected the storylines and focused on the cinematography, the fantasy aspect of his movies and the music. That's fine if you're looking for a light, whimsical, simplistic, almost fluffy film. There's no harm in making movies like that, but if you go down that road, please entertain me. This 1967 film failed to do that. And I know Demy could do better as he did with The Pied Piper in 1972 though that film, based on the classic fairy tale, is dark. I found myself disappointed watching The Young Girls of Rochefort with my mind wandering elsewhere during Demy's most famous film. The potential is there for an excellent movie, but it never reaches that potential. The characters don't evolve, and you can figure out the plot in the first 15 minutes of a movie that goes on for two hours. There's a focus on the singing and dancing – and there is way too much of both that's mediocre. The songs become repetitive and despite having Gene Kelly, the dancing isn't that good. As I mentioned, it's a pretty film, but that only rises to a grade of C. It's a perfect example of the old saying that beauty is only skin deep.

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

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