Monday, May 30, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for June 1-7

June 1–June 7


THE SEVEN UPS (June 4, 10:00 pm): This is just a hair below SerpicoThe French ConnectionDog Day AfternoonTaxi Driver, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three when it comes to great early to mid-1970s films that capture the grit, grime, danger, disgust, excitement and anything-goes attitude of New York City in that era. Roy Scheider is great as the head of a renegade group of cops who'll stop at nothing, particularly after one of their own is killed, and go beyond the law to catch the bad guys. It's certainly not the most sophisticated movie ever made, but it's among the most entertaining.

ON THE WATERFRONT (June 6, 7:15 am): There is so much to enjoy and admire about this 1954 film. The story is complex yet simple – the struggle facing Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) as to whether he should do the right thing or the smart thing, and the repercussions that decision has on him, his brother, other longshoremen and those living near the dock. The acting is brilliant with Brando at his best and incredible performances by the supporting cast, in particular, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger. The film takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions – anger, joy, hostility, frustration, sympathy, sadness and happiness. It's rare for a movie to not only do that, but do it exceptionally well. 


THE LOWER DEPTHS (June 2, 7:45 am): An interesting, though talky, drama from Akira Kurosawa about poverty in the “lower depths” of society. It’s based on Maxim Gorky’s play, At Bottom. Kurosawa changed the setting from Imperial Russia to Edo (as Tokyo used to be known) in the mid-19th century. Toshiro Mifune, the leading man in many of Kurosawa’s films, is the thief Sutekichi. He lives in a small hostel where the landlady Osugi (Isuzu Yamada) treats all for tenants badly; even a newly arrived priest. Though she is married, she is crazy about Sutekichi. Sutekichi, however, is in love with Okayo (Kyoko Kagawa), Osugi’s sister. When Osugi discovers the truth she goes into a jealous rage and incites Sutekichi to kill her husband. The consequences are dire, and neither Sutekichi nor Osugi have a happy ending. The film illustrates one of Kurosawa’s strength’s  the ability to adapt material from other sources and give it a spin all his own. A definite Must See.

BRIGHTON ROCK (June 7, 10:00 pm): From the Boulting Brothers comes this excellent adaptation (by Terence Rattigan) of Graham Greene’s novel about a gang of lowlife hoods in Brighton, England, and their teenage leader, Pinkie Brown. It’s a sequel of sorts to Greene’s novel, This Gun for Sale (published in the U.S as This Gun for Hire and made into a film in 1941 starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake). It’s also the breakthrough role for young Richard Attenborough as Pinkie. It was the most popular film in England when released in 1947, but didn’t do that much business here under the title Young Scarface. It also scored an incredible 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes website. if you’re looking for any further reason to watch. Oh, by the way, it has one of the best – and most cynical – endings of any film.

WE AGREE ON ... MY FAVORITE YEAR (June 5, 6:00 pm)

ED: A+. Richard Benjamin’s first outing as a director is a resounding success thanks to a great screenplay and outstanding performances from practically the entire cast. It’s based on a real life incident where Mel Brooks, then a junior writer on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, had to mind that week’s guest star, Errol Flynn, who was notorious for his love of the bottle and and diversion that came his way. It’s also the story of how Brooks met Anne Bancroft, who at the time worked for the station. Peter O’Toole, as Allen Swann, based on Flynn, is hilarious, as is Joseph Bologna laying a thinly veiled Sid Caesar. Anne DiSalvo is Selma Diamond and Basil Hoffman is Neil Simon. Finally, Mark Linn-Baker, as junior writer Benjy Stone, makes for a fine Mel Brooks. This film gently harkens back to a time when television was in its infancy and live and neatly captures the spirit of the era. Also, it has one of the best endings of any comedy I’ve seen. 

DAVID: A+. This film really has no business being as excellent as it is. Richard Benjamin was a fine actor, but an awful director  and this was his first film as a director. Mark Linn-Baker (best known as Cousin Larry on the TV show Perfect Strangers) was a mediocre actor, and he is given the supporting actor lead here. Jessica Harper, the most prominent female actress in this movie, also wasn't much of a talent. They all greatly exceed their abilities in this 1982 movie. But what makes My Favorite Year a great film is the wonderfully charming screenplay written by Dennis Palumbo, and Peter O'Toole as Allen Swann, based on Errol Flynn. O'Toole gives one of the funniest and entertaining over-the-top performances I've ever seen. The lines are great: "I'm not an actor. I'm a movie star!" "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard." and "My good man, what I choose to do with my schlong is my business," to name a few. But it's O'Toole's delivery that make them memorable. He was nominated for a Best Leading Actor Oscar for this film, his seventh nomination and seventh loss. He would later be nominated and lose a record eight times. As Ed mentions, the film is based on real people who worked on Your Show of Shows, and is funny and sweet without overdoing it – which can certainly be a challenge.

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

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