Thursday, May 22, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for May 23-31

May 23–May 31


THE DIRTY DOZEN (May 24, 8:00 pm): This 1967 war film is maligned by cinematic elitists who criticize it for its premise of a band of misfits put together to kill Nazi military leaders just before D-Day and its cast, lead by Lee Marvin and including Charles Bronson, Jim Brown and Telly Savalas. I'm not going to defend the acting prowess of most of those in The Dirty Dozen, but Marvin is one of film's most underrated actors. And it's not like this is Shakespeare. This is a pure action film and it delivers more than nearly every action film ever made. Lots of stuff gets blown up, including a few of the dozen, and is a lot of fun to watch.

METROPOLIS (May 30, 6:00 am): This 1926 silent film, directed by Fritz Lang, is one of the most important and best ever made. The storyline is as current today as it was 88 years ago, perhaps even more relevant now. This is the restored 2010 version which includes still photos and additional live film that was discovered in a museum in Argentina. Set in a dystopian society in the future, the rich live in high-rises that reach into the heavens and the workers, who supply the power through grueling physical labor, are literally underground. The repressed workers stage an uprising in scenes that feature thousands of extras. That Lang is able to capture it on film is a testament to his brilliance as a director. The film also features special effects that are as good or better than any seen until about the mid-1970s. Others have made remakes or films inspired by Metropolis, but even with the advancements in technology, including something as basic as sound so you can hear actors speak, none can touch the original. If you've never seen it or have viewed earlier versions without the restoration, I urge you to make sure you seen this film. It is a cinematic masterpiece.


DODSWORTH (May 23, 6:00 am): Walter Huston, recreating his Broadway role, shines in this adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’s novel about an industrialist who retires, travels to Europe, and discovers that he and his wife are rapidly growing apart in what should be their golden years together. Beautifully adapted by Sidney Howard and wonderfully photographed by Rudolph Mate, it’s unusual for its time in the mature treatment of its subject. William Wyler’s direction moves everything along with no dead spots, and he is backed by strong performances all around. Mary Astor, as the woman Huston discovers in Europe, is enchanting in her role, but unfortunately was sandbagged by her ex-husband during their divorce trial when he unearthed her diary detailing her affair with George S. Kaufman, probably killing her chances for any sort of awards. Unlike many other films with the same subject matter, this one holds up well today.

CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS (May 25, 2:00 am): This is director Jacques Feyder’s wonderfully staged farce about a Spanish invasion of a small Flemish town in the 17th century. While the men all find excuses to leave town, the women remain behind and conquer the invaders with a combination of romance and revelry, so that instead of razing the town, the Spanish invaders leave it standing and give it a year off from paying taxes. It is a razor sharp satire of war and heroism and was quite popular on the “art house” revival circuit. It’s also one not to miss.

WE DISAGREE ON ... A GUY NAMED JOE (May 30, 9:15 am)

ED: B. This is an entertaining romantic fantasy set in World War II with a great performance by Spencer Tracy playing the two types of characters he was known for: the cynical tough guy and, later on, the fatherly figure. Also worth applauding is the chemistry he cooks up with Irene Dunne, who plays his ladylove in the flick. The film begins with Tracy as a hotshot pilot fighting in Europe. His constant risk-taking worries girlfriend Dunne, herself a pilot, and her worst fear is realized when he is killed in action. Spence goes to heaven, but he’s not ready to exchange his worldly body for a harp just yet, so he becomes a guardian angel to a young pilot, played by Van Johnson. It’s when Van meets Irene, still carrying the torch for Spence, and begins to woo her that Tracy’s mettle is tested. And this is where Tracy grows into the fatherly figure he would become in his Postwar films. Though this may seem a rather simplistic film, note that Spielberg remade it in 1989 as Always, which came off as maudlin rather than romantic. I myself am not a big fan of romantic fantasies, but this is the exception to the rule. A well-made and plotted film can play anywhere.

DAVID: D. How do I put this nicely? This is a pretty bad movie. Spencer Tracy was a wonderful actor and made many excellent and important films. This is not one of them. I'm surprised Katharine Hepburn isn't in this movie as nearly all of the lousy ones he made over an incredible career co-starred her. If you're looking for a good Tracy film this week, I strongly recommend Fury at 9:15 am May 30. But A Guy Named Joe is corny sentimental garbage. The love stories are contrived and the acting is strained to put it politely. After crashing his plane, Tracy is a ghost that no one but the audience can see or hear. The concept of this film gets out of hand quickly and the dialogue comes across as fake and insincere. To top it off, it's a film about pilots in World War II and the flying scenes were staged on an MGM lot, something that is almost immediately obvious. If the fake flying scenes were this movie's only problem, I could look passed it. But add on a bad script, some pretty bad acting and a ridiculous plot, and you have a movie that is painful to watch. There's nothing redeeming, interesting or entertaining here. Stay away, Joe – and everyone else.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

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