TCM TiVo ALERT
April 1–April 7
DAVID'S BEST BETS:
SLEEPER (April 1, 8:00 pm): Besides Take the Money and Run, Sleeper is the best, most clever and entertaining of Woody Allen's "earlier, funnier movies." Allen's character, Miles Monroe, is frozen in 1973 when a routine gall bladder operation goes bad. He's defrosted 200 years later by doctors who are members of a resistance group living in a police state. The gags are fast and funny. One of my favorites is when the scientists ask Miles about life 200 years earlier, including this gem. Allen's interaction with Diane Keaton (Luna, a self-centered socialite) is pure magic, particularly when she helps Miles relive a scene from his younger days and when the two are disguised as surgeons stealing the government leader's nose – all that's left of him after a rebel bomb blows up the rest of him. While the dialogue is smart and funny, Allen also proves himself to be an incredibly talented physical actor. Allen's slapstick comedic talent – think Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton – shines best in this role.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (April 7, 10:15 pm): An authentic film that pulls no punches about three soldiers returning home from World War II attempting to adjust to life. The film features incredible performances by the legendary and lovely Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March and Harold Russell (an actual WWII vet who lost both his hands in the war). The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Unlike some multi-Oscar films, this one is truly a classic that remains as real and as powerful as it must have been to movie-goers when it was released in 1946. It's very touching and beautiful.
ED’S BEST BETS:
SHADOW OF A DOUBT (April 2, 6:00 pm): One of the things that made Alfred Hitchcock the master of suspense was his attention to the finer points of human nature. And this movie is an insightful essay on what happens when evil comes to a place where no one would expect it; when it is right there sitting nest to you at the dinner table. Teresa Wright is Charlie, an extremely happy young girl in the happy and charming town of Santa Rosa, California, a picture-postcard kind of place. She is elated when her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) comes to pay a visit, for she is especially devoted to him, with the two sharing almost a sort of telepathic relationship. But what she doesn’t know is that her beloved Uncle Charlie is on the lam, being suspected by the police as the “Merry Widow Murderer,” responsible for bumping off a number of rich widows back east. The fun in the film is her gradual realization that not all is well with Uncle Charlie and her growing suspicion that he’s not what he appears to be. Hitchcock is at his best in exploring their relationship as it develops and starts to change. But what really makes the film so effective is Hitchcock’s emphasis on what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.” To look at Uncle Charlie or talk with him, one wouldn’t notice anything especially unusual. He is nondescript in almost every way, his only talent being in his ability to poison so many women. That a child completely undoes him only adds another dimension of irony to the picture. It was one of Hitchcock’s favorites and it is a film that I don’t believe gets the credit it should when compared to his thrillers of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
DAY FOR NIGHT (April 2, 4:00 am): This is one of Francois Truffaut’s wittiest and most subtle films – a film about the making of a film. While on the set of Je vous presente Pamela (Introducing Pamela), the story of an English wife running off with her French father-in-law, we also get to know the cast and crew shooting the film, each with his or her own set of problems. Hence the title: a technical cinematographic term for simulating a night scene while shooting during the day. Special filters and optical processors are employed to create the illusion. While Nathalie Baye and Jean-Pierre Leaud are wonderful in their roles, Valentia Cortese steals the picture as the fading actress Severine. For those new to Truffaut, this is the perfect introduction and one not to miss.
WE AGREE ON ... CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (April 2, 12:00 pm)
ED: A. As film noir caught on in the late ‘40s, it begat a new sub-genre: the semi-documentary. Of all the films shot in this format, Call Northside 777 is exceeded only by He Walked by Night. Jimmy Stewart is in top form as reporter P. James McNeal, who, the more he digs, comes to believe that Frank Wiecek, (Richard Conte) imprisoned for the murder of a policeman back in 1932, is innocent. To prove Wiecek’s innocence, McNeal must take on City Hall and the corridors of police corruption. Though the odds are greatly stacked against him, the dogged reporter digs through the piles of testimony, eyewitness accounts, and the like to prove his case. The film as the brainchild of producer Louis De Rochemont, famous as the producer of The March of Time newsreels, who came to Fox after the war and put together a unit to make semi-documentary dramas. In the hands of Fox’s best director, Henry Hathaway, a movie that could have bogged down in its own details instead comes to life as an absorbing and compelling slice of life, especially as experienced by the lower classes in Chicago. The only glitch in the film is the obligatory statement from McNeal to Wiecek that not many governments in the worlds would admit to such a mistake, but it is minor and comes at the end, almost as a afterthought. Besides Stewart several performances stand out: Conte as Wiecek. Lee. J. Cobb as McNeal’s editor, and Betty Garde as Wanda Skutnik, whose testimony sent Wiecek to the pen. It’s a film that should be seen, not only by noir lovers, but by all those interested in a good movie.
DAVID: A. As a journalist, I love movies that make reporters look like superheroes. This 1948 film, done in documentary style and based on a true story, stars screen-legend Jimmy Stewart as Chicago Times newspaper reporter P.J. McNeal. After his editor, played by the underrated Lee J. Cobb, sees an ad in the newspaper placed by a woman who believes her son was falsely convicted 11 years earlier of killing a police officer, he sends a skeptical McNeal to talk to her for an article. Over time, McNeal believes the son, Frank Wiecek, played by Richard Conte, is innocent. Despite roadblocks put in his way by state officials who don't want to be embarrassed by a potentially mistaken prosecution and conviction of a cop-killer, McNeal fights on. Do I really need to tell you how it ends? The movie is at its best when Stewart's questioning and tenacity are front and center. This is one of Stewart's finest and lesser-known performances.
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.