TCM TiVo ALERT
July 8-July 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
MODERN TIMES (June 8, 12:00 pm): This is the film in which Charlie Chaplin plays his iconic Little Tramp character and his last silent movie though this 1936 classic includes sound effects. On the surface, it's a clever, brilliantly choreographed film about struggling to keep up with the changing technological times and the desperate lengths people went to in order to work during the Great Depression. Chaplin is a factory worker on an assembly line who is in way over his head. His giant gear machine scene is one of the greatest physical comedy bits in cinematic history. If you did deeper, the comedy is a sharp criticism of technology and how close-minded people treat those who are different, mistaking them for something they're not. Dig even deeper, and it's Chaplin's damning indictment of the "talkies," which were already the norm in Hollywood. Chaplin wasn't a fan, and realizing this was his last silent film – though we hear his voice in a movie for the first time singing The Nonsense Song – he wanted his audience to realize what they'd be missing with the change in cinema.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (July 13, 10:00 pm): As an admirer of Akira Kurosawa-directed films, I would normally dismiss an American remake of his work. When you consider The Magnificent Seven (1960) is a Western based on Kurosawa's legendary Seven Samurai (1954), it's surprising I ever gave it a chance. Thankfully I did because not only is it an excellent movie, it's better than Seven Samurai, which is a classic. John Sturges does a splendid job directing this film with an all-star cast, including Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn (my personal favorite among the seven gunslingers) with Eli Wallach, the leader of the Mexican bandits who terrorize a small rural town. It's filled with action, making the 128-minute film seem like it zipped by.
ED’S BEST BETS:
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (January 11, 2:45 am): This film is rightly said to be writer/director Preston Sturges’s masterpiece. John L. Sullivan is a noted director of light musical fare such as Ants in Your Plants of 1939 and Hey, Hey in the Hayloft. However, he wants to make an Important Film, and he has one in mind, namely O Brother, Where Art Thou, a leaden novel concerned with the struggle between Capital and Labor. The studio execs pooh-pooh it, noting that he grew up rich and never suffered. So, Sullivan sets out to see how the other half lives, and ends up with far more than he bargained for when everybody assumes he died. It’s both hilarious and touching with many insights from Sturges into the human ego versus the human condition. It’s best to record it to be seen again later – and you will definitely want to see it again.
DOWNSTAIRS (July 9, 10:00 pm): John Gilbert, maligned as a lost “talkie” actor, completely redeems his reputation – and then some – in this crackling drama about Karl, a heel chauffeur who cajoles, sleeps, and blackmails his way through a wealthy household. Karl doesn’t miss a trick, even seducing the cook to get his hands on her life savings. Gilbert gives us pause to wonder just how far he would have gone if not for the factors that brought him down, factors that seem more in line with office politics than the real tone of his voice.
WE DISAGREE ON ... ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (July 14, 8:00 pm)
ED. A. Martin Scorsese tries his hand at the “Women’s film” and scores with it, mainly due to a great script by Robert Getchell and bravura performances by Ellen Burstyn and Diane Ladd. Burstyn was never better than she was here, and Ladd almost steals the picture as Flo the waitress. Scorsese has given us a human drama instead of pulling out the ideological stops and presenting a shrill feminist tract. It’s the human element that makes this one worth catching, even though it went on to spawn an atrocious TV sitcom.