TCM TiVo ALERT
June 8–June 14
ACE IN THE HOLE (June 10, 10:00 pm): The best journalism movie ever made with Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum, a hard-hitting, hard-boiled, cynical reporter fired from 11 newspapers for a variety of reasons, none of them good. Tatum's car breaks down in Albuquerque, and his quick talking and nose for news get him a job at the local newspaper. Things are quiet for a year until he learns that a guy is trapped in a collapsed cave. Being the sharp reporter, Tatum realizes he can turn this into a huge story and return to the national spotlight if he can properly exploit it and convince the locals that he should have the exclusive. That's exactly what happens as the cave collapse evolves into an actual carnival with rides and games. Tatum finally realizes what he's doing is horribly wrong, but it's too late by that time. Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival) is an excellent, though exaggerated, example of how the media can sometimes exploit a story without realizing the consequences. This is my favorite Billy Wilder film. He produced, directed and co-wrote the film.
THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (June 14, 8:00 pm): This is Humphrey Bogart's finest performance in a career of outstanding performances. This 1948 classic showed Bogart's versatility at a time when he could have played the tough guy with a heart of gold for the rest of his career. In this film, he is in dire straits and desperate enough to do anything. He meets another guy (Tim Holt) in a similar situation. They meet an old kooky prospector (Walter Huston in one of his best roles) and the three decide to search for gold. Huston's son, John, wrote and directed this movie. Things go well, but Bogart's character becomes consumed with paranoia and convinced the others are trying to cheat him. It's an excellent morality tale with an ironic ending. And it's got that iconic. though often misquoted, line: "Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges."
ED'S BEST BETS:
SUNSET BOULEVARD (June 10, 8:00 pm): Billy Wilder has made many excellent films over the years, but this may just be his masterpiece. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a down-on-his-luck screenwriter escaping from the repo men, has the dubious fortune of parking his car at the estate of faded silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Norma is lost in the dreams and memories of her former glory as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Though at first hostile, Norma warms to Gillis when she discovers he’s a screenwriter and wants him to work on the script for her comeback film. Desperate for money, Gillis agrees, and soon becomes a kept man, discovering that Norma is so possessive that it becomes impossible for him. Erich Von Stroheim is Norma’s butler, and former director and husband. When Norma discovers Joe has fallen in love with fellow screenwriter Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), Joe in turn discovers that hell hath no fury like a former Hollywood goddess scorned. The film has been hailed by critics as the definitive insider portrait of Hollywood, sort of a Hollywood Babylon in just under two hours. In one word, it is sublime. Gloria Swanson gives the performance of a lifetime, and today is remembered among film buffs not for her many silent triumphs, but for her performance in this film.
THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE (June 14, 12:15 am): The films of Max Ophuls are noted for their subtlety, and this film is a prime example. Taking a simple premiss, that of a French woman whose series of white lies does her in, Ophuls raises it to the level of high tragedy. although it opened in the U.S. to mild praise, the film is viewed today as one of the greatest gems of movie history, and perhaps the acme of Ophuls’ career. Of course, a good cast helps, and Ophuls has a terrific one with Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux and Vittorio De Sica as his leads. Ophuls is in his element here, painstakingly designing mies-en-scenes that frame and define his characters, and combining that with close-ups that allow us some psychological insight into the characters. The plot is beautifully staged, opening and closing on the consideration of the eponymous piece of jewelry that passes from owner to owner until returning to Darrieux. This is a film of charm and beauty with a marvelous subtext of the pain that goes hand in hand with vanity and which no amount of lies can cover or explain.
ED: C. The Last Detail is a film that boasts a terrific performance by Jack Nicholson, and good supporting performance from Randy Quaid and Otis Young. This film couldn’t have been more tailored to its star if it was followed directly from a blueprint. However, the premise of the film was already passé by 1973 when it was made. One doesn’t have to be Roger Ebert to see where this is going – that Nicholson and Young will gradually empathize with their prisoner (Quaid) and alter their plan. Watching this film I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between it and two previous Nicholson films: Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces. Like The Last Detail they are classic road movies that follow Nicholson’s characters as they gradually shed their layers of disinterest until they learn – always too late – that indifference only helps corrupt government, with its Byzantine rules, operate with smoother efficiency. Another thing all three films have in common is that none of them have aged well. Looking at The Last Detail, I see early ‘70s mentality written all over it. The fact it can’t transcend that mentality, despite those three great performances, keeps it firmly in the realm of the ordinary.
DAVID: B+. This 1973 film is one of Jack Nicholson's finest performances in a period when he was among cinema's top three actors. He and Otis Young play Billy Buddusky and Richard Mulhall, respectively, who are career Navy sailors required to take Larry Meadows, a naive kleptomaniac (Randy Quaid), to a naval prison to serve an eight-year sentence for attempted robbery. He stole $40 in polio contributions. The punishment doesn't fit the crime so the two officers try to show Meadows a good time before delivering him to brig. Quaid is outstanding and Young, who never did anything else of note, is quite good. It's a buddy/road film with a focus more on the characters than the plot. It's cynical, engrossing, tough and between the three actors, a great script by Robert Towne and Hal Ashby's directing, the viewer becomes captivated by the characters and their circumstances. They travel to Washington, New York City, and Boston, among other places, exposing Meadows to new experiences including getting drunk for the first time, a Nichiren Shoshu prayer meeting, and to a whorehouse for his first sexual encounter. Is it predictable as Ed contends? Sometimes, and it loses some points for that. But the changes in the three characters from their time together stays with the viewer. Ed also mentioned you don't have to be Roger Ebert to see where the film is going. So what did Ebert think of this film? He listed it in 1974 as the fifth best film he saw ahead of classic movies such as Day for Night, Mean Streets and The Conversation.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.