TCM TiVo ALERT
June 23-June 30
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
EXECUTIVE SUITE (June 24, 12:30 pm): A fascinating look inside the cutthroat world of the business boardroom as allegiances are formed through a variety of ways, including blackmail and seduction. Top executives at a major furniture company are fighting it out to see who will run the company after the president drops dead on the sidewalk. The dialogue is riveting and the storyline is compelling. A large part of the film takes place inside an office, particularly the boardroom, which normally detracts from a film. But this is quite the engaging movie. The film's greatest strength is its all-star cast – William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Frederic March and Walter Pidgeon at the top of the bill.
JULIUS CAESAR (June 25, 4:00 pm): This 1953 film is among my two favorite cinematic adaptions of William Shakespeare along with Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (which is on June 29 at 10:00 pm). Marlon Brando at his method acting mumbling peak is brilliant as Mark Antony. Brando more than holds his own in a film that features an all-star cast of Shakespearean veterans such as James Mason, John Gielgud and John Hoyt as well as other talented actors including Louis Calhern (as Caesar), Edmond O'Brien, George Macready, Greer Garson and Deborah Kerr. That it came from MGM, known for its slick production values, and was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who made numerous fine films but nothing even remotely close to Shakespeare, are pleasant surprises.
ED’S BEST BETS:
BLACK ORPHEUS (June 23, 4:00 pm): A beautifully lyrical updating of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend set during Brazil’s Carnival as streetcar conductor Orfeo (Bruno Mello) meets, loses, finds, and finally loses his Eurydice, country girl Mira (Marpessa Dawn). Wonderfully acted, directed and scored, this is the ultimate eye candy, with vivid images of Carnival drawing us in to the proceedings, a testament to the power of film to entrance and entertain. The soundtrack, with is mixture of samba and bossa nova, was a bestselling album and it’s easy to understand why. This is a film that cries out to be seen. It’s one of my Essentials.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (June 26, 8:15 am): During the late ‘50s and into the ‘60s, Britain made a series of what became to be known as “Angry Young Man” films. This is one of the best. It’s centered on Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney), a Nottingham factory worker who combines a hatred of authority with his anger at his co-workers’ acceptance of it. The anger constantly eats at him, even during off work hours making pub tours with his mates. But though he is a rebel with a cause, he has no plan of how to escape the oppressive conformity that’s crushing his soul. To assuage himself, he adopts the motto of “What I want is a good time. The remainder is all propaganda.” In other words, live for the moment and see what tomorrow may bring and deal with it then. He channels his anger into drinking bouts and an affair with his best friend’s wife, Brenda (Rachel Rebuts), whom he ends up impregnating. At the same time, he’s head over heels for Doreen (Shirley Anne Field), a young woman whose extraordinary beauty masks her shallowness and desire for conformist respectability. Directed by Karel Reisz from a script from Alan Sillitoe.
WE DISAGREE ON ... JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (June 30, 12:30 am)
ED: D+. Hollywood has always had a tenuous relationship with religion, with the question being how to make the most money with the least criticism. And for the most part, the depictions of Christ in the movies followed the cultural and political mores of the time. And this film is no different. Based on the musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Kings of Kitsch, it gives us a distinctly ‘70s approach to its subject, making him out as some type of hippie up against the Establishment. Aside from the music, it fails as a film: poorly directed and badly acted, especially by its lead, Ted Neely, whose voice wasn’t up to the task. (In fact, the vocals are all dubbed, with really poor sync, plus the film suffers from some serious continuity errors with the chorus dubs.) The anachronistic prop and costume choices were inconsistent, to say the least: sometimes they were period, sometimes they were modern, and sometimes in-between. The movie is supposed to be as look at Christ through the eyes of Judas, the film’s anti-hero. Unfortunately, Judas seems to be shrieking his songs like a mad dog. Josh Mostel’s Herod comes off as a camp figure and his scenes with Neely were pathetic. This was the first film that gave us Jesus as James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause – he’s so confused. In fact, the Jesus in this atrocity is so wimpy it’s hard to imagine anyone following him around the corner, much less to Jerusalem. Neely won a Golden Turkey from the Medved Brothers for his performance. For those who want to see a good feature on the life of Christ, try Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings with Jeffrey Hunter from 1961 or Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 mini-series, Jesus of Nazareth.
DAVID: C. First, I'm not a fan of this film as you can tell by my grade. But I felt that Ed's D+ was too harsh as the movie has a few redeeming qualities. Carl Anderson is very good as Judas, Josh Mostel as an over-the-top Herod is campy fun, and Yvonne Elliman (who plays Mary Magdalene) is an excellent singer, but a terrible actress. The location shots are beautiful, some of the songs are good, and Jesus as the leader of a group of "Jesus Freak Hippies" is an interesting twist as is having Judas be a sympathetic character who thinks he's doing the right thing. I like how the film reflects its time during the early 1970s though Ed is correct that it's unclear whether it wants to be in biblical times or what was modern times in 1973. The “Superstar” musical number toward the end of the film is completely outrageous and enjoyable. Now for the bad – and there's a lot of it so I won't write everything. The biggest problem is casting Ted Neely as Jesus. He's awful. He can't sing, he can't act, and has no personality or charisma. If that was really Jesus, the Christian religion would not exist. Ian Gillan, Deep Purple's lead singer, sang Jesus' parts on the original 1970 rock opera album, and would have been a major improvement over Neely in terms of his vocals and presence. Gillan turned down the offer to play the title role in the film to focus on his work with the classic heavy-metal rock band. Everyone knows that nothing good comes from a singing dialogue and this film is Exhibit A on the subject. The movie is also about as anti-Semitic as it gets with the Jewish religious leaders plotting to have Jesus killed and the crowd of Jews portrayed as a blood-thirsty mob. I saw this film when it was in the theaters in 1973. I was six years old and my father didn't really understand parental responsibility. To say I was freaked out after seeing it would be an understatement. To this day even seeing clips unnerves me. As I've explained, the film isn't terrible, but its multiple flaws greatly exceed its good points.
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