Wednesday, September 21, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for September 23-30

September 23–September 30


CAGED (September 24, 6:30 am): Unlike nearly all the others in the unusual but often-visited women-in-prison film genre, Caged is well acted. Eleanor Parker was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the young innocent Marie Allen, Agnes Moorehead is great as warden Ruth Benton, and Hope Emerson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the deliciously evil matron Evelyn Harper. Almost anything bad you can imagine happens to Marie: her new husband is killed in a robbery, she ends up in prison because she is waiting in the getaway car, she's pregnant while serving her sentence, she's victimized by other inmates and Harper, she has to give up her baby for adoption, and finally becomes bitter and hardened from all of her bad experiences. The story is similar to other women-in-prison movies minus the T&A. We still get a shower scene (no nudity as this is during the Code era) and the stereotypical prison lesbian. But there's a huge difference between Caged and the women-in-prison films of the 1970s. It's not only the excellent acting, but the powerful dialogue and actual plot – it was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar – that makes this gritty, stark, realistic film stand out among others in the genre.

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (September 25, 2:45 am): I'm a huge fan of the British kitchen sink/angry young man film genre, and there are very few finer than this one. Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay in his brilliant film debut) is a rebellious teenager in post-World War II England who ends up in a juvenile delinquent institution. While there, he discovers he has a talent for long-distance running. He's able to avoid the hard labor the other boys must endure because of his abilities. But the anger and resentment against a system that chews kids like him up and spits them out when they are no longer of any use is always in the back of his mind. The big race against the nearby public school is an opportunity to for Colin, but leaves him conflicted. In the end, he does what he believes to be the right thing to maintain his integrity and independence despite the consequences. It's a lousy time to air a great movie.


THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (September 24, 8:30 am): This is the original – and the best – version of James M. Cain’s classic novel (which also inspired Albert Camus, by the way). When it comes to noir, one would think that the MGM gloss was off-putting, but I think it actually helps the film. Garfield has never been better and Turner has never been more gorgeous. Not only can we see that they’re going to hook up, we can understand why they must hook up. The performances from the supporting cast are superb, the photography by Sidney Wagner is sharp and inviting, and Tay Garnett’s direction workmanlike, as he keeps the characters and the story in constant play. Despite the complaints of the changes in Cain’s original story (for censorship purposes), the film still outdoes the 1981 Nicholson-Lange remake in terms of the heat between the stars, not to mention the fact that Turner, while hardly a serious actress, ran rings around Lange’s performance.

TOP SECRET (September 28, 9:45 pm): This follow-up to the wildly popular Airplane wasn’t as well received at the box office, but it is still hysterically funny, with gaga flying everywhere. This spoof of rock ’n’ roll musicals and espionage pictures stars Val Kilmer as an Elvis-type rocker touring East Germany who gets mixed up with a woman whose father is being held in prison and who herself works for the Resistance. The Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams leave no stone unturned in search of a gag. Some gags are painfully obvious while others are subtle, taking us by surprise. Kilmer turns in an excellent performance as signer Nick Rivers and is ably assisted by a slew of famous actors in cameo roles. It may not quite be Airplane, but it’s still hilarious in its own right.


ED: D. I have never found Will Farrell to be funny. Given a stronger plot, as in Elf or Old School, he can be tolerable – barely. But here, with a plot that is paper thin at best and a lousy script, Farrell is exposed for the boor he really is. It begins with as bang, but quickly fizzles as the plot gives way and we discover that Farrell is incapable of carrying what’s left. What’s left is the usual collection of potty jokes and situations that only go to show how dumbed down comedies and our expectations of them have become over the years. Both Christina Applegate and Fred Willard, two talented comic actors, are totally wasted playing second bananas to a piece of rotted fruit. Those tuning in expecting to see a parody in the manner of Ted Baxter at WJM will be very disappointed by this witless comedy. Shame on you, TCM, for wasting valuable resources on this turkey.

DAVID: C-. I don't dislike this film as much as Ed. While it has some funny moments and lines that spoof the 1970s, it's inconsistent and largely forgettable. More so than the movie, that it's being shown is what disturbs me. TCM is a network that shows classic films and not-so-classic films from decades ago. If TCM is going to show movies from the early 2000s, they better be of excellent quality. Anchorman is most definitely not. If I want to watch mediocre films from a decade ago, I have a dozen stations from which to choose. Among several TCM viewers, there have been growing concerns and complaints about the network showing films from the 1990s and 2000s as the "C" in "TCM" stands for "classic." Again, not everything shown on TCM is a classic, but if the decision has been made to show movies like this rather than films from long ago, it's a disturbing trend. One movie is not going to ruin TCM. However, if this isn't an isolated incident, I'm concerned about the future of TCM. Let's hope this is simply an anomaly. 

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

No comments:

Post a Comment