Friday, November 7, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for November 8-14

November 8–November 14


LIMELIGHT (November 8, 3:00 pm): One of Charlie Chaplin's last and greatest films, Limelight is tragic, touching, beautiful, captivating and funny. This movie never fails to make me tear up with laughter or sadness. For someone who mastered silent films, and went into sound practically kicking and screaming, Chaplin's "talkies" are among his finest movies. This 1952 film, Chaplin's final one made in the United States, has him playing Calvero, a washed-up clown looking to make a comeback. He meets Terry (Claire Bloom), a suicidal younger ballet dancer, and takes care of her while helping to revitalize her career. The two are wonderful together. The final scene is one for the ages with Calvero reuniting with his old partner (played by Buster Keaton) on stage making a comeback that runs the gambit of emotions. It's the only film to include Chaplin and Keaton, and one to not miss.

LOST IN AMERICA (November 14, 12:00 am): Albert Brooks is one of cinema's most underappreciated actors/directors/writers of the last 30 years; so much so that he's made far too few films in which he's able to show off all three of those talents. This 1985 film is his best. It's a movie with dry humor that sometimes has you laughing, but often has you thinking, "This film is very funny, very clever and all too real." Brooks is a yuppie, back when they truly existed, who misses out on a promotion and becomes disenchanted with his life. He and his wife (Julie Hagerty) leave Los Angeles and everything and everyone behind, buy a mobile home and hit the road. Very quickly things go bad for them as his wife loses all their money in a gambling casino. The scene in which Brooks tries to convince the casino owner (brilliantly played by Garry Marshall) is hysterical. The couple work dead-end jobs until realizing their new life sucks in comparison to the old, and try to go back to the way things were. 


THE BIG KNIFE (November 8, 10:45 pm): A wonderful look at Hollywood courtesy of playwright Clifford Odets and director Robert Aldrich. Based on Odets’s 1949 Broadway play, it’s a look over two days in the career of one Charlie Castle (Jack Palance) as he agonizes over his career. Although he is a success, his career is built on a solid foundation of deceit, artistic compromises, and plain unethical practices - a career masterminded by studio boss Rod Steiger and his yes men. Will he sign a new seven-year contract? That is his overriding question. Solid performances by the cast and sharp direction make this not only a film to see, but also one to enjoy.

WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD (November 14, 1:45 am): From director William Wellman, it’s one of the best, and most unusual “social conscience” films to come from Warner Brothers during the Depression. Imagine groups of teenagers riding the rails and looking for work, having left home because they didn’t want to be a burden to their families during the hard times. It still retains its shock value, although some of it seems dated, and the ending is pure saccharine optimism. It’s a film that cries to be seen.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . THE DIRTY DOZEN (November 8, 8:00 pm)

ED. B. This is a great over-the-top war movie with the requisite over-the-top performances from its cast, but for me it just goes too far in throwing out plot logic in favor of derring-do. For instance, in the scene where the ex-convicts raid the big party the Germans are throwing with their playladies, The boys have the Krauts party trapped in the bomb shelter, and screw off the tops of the air shafts so they can drop unexploded grenades down below. But the Germans intercept these grenades, with great scenes of everyone in the shelter going berserk trying to get the bombs away from the shaft. But, logic dictates, wouldn’t it be better to pull the pin on one grenade and drop it? The explosion would drive people away, thus enabling the troops to drop even more grenades. But no - way too easy. What they do instead is pour gallons of gasoline down the shaft and then drop the grenade. It’s scenes such as this, and some of the hammy performances of the cast, that lead me give it the grade I did. It’s just too much, which is why it has influenced many other films since, from The Devil’s Brigade (1968), with William Holden and Vince Edwards, to Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastereds (2009). To repeat, it’s a great war movie, it’s just not an Essential.

DAVID: A. Simply put - this movie kicks ass. In this particular case, I'm not looking for a movie with a deep meaning or one that teaches me something about myself or humanity. I'm looking for a movie that includes misfits blowing up stuff and people, particularly Nazis, while not only entertaining me, but keeping me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. There are few movies like The Dirty Dozen that are able to deliver all of that. The cast is excellent, led by Lee Marvin (who's always great in these types of war films), Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes. Yes, there's a dozen guys on this mission and yet director Robert Aldrich is able to show the personalities of each of them. He takes about two-and-a-half hours to do so, but it's worth it. This 1967 film, as Ed wrote above, greatly influenced other directors and other studios - this was a huge box-office success - to do movies of the similar violent genre. But nothing has been able to surpass the original. While violent for its time, it's also very funny and a lot of fun to watch.

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

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