Wednesday, July 29, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for August 1-7

August 1–August 7


TOP HAT (August 5, 11:00 am): As a general rule, I don't like musicals, especially those with dancing. (Don't confuse that with movies with great music in which people don't suddenly break out in song. I like a lot of those.) So what's different about Top Hat? At the top of the list is Fred Astaire. As with most musicals, the plot is secondary. He's a dancer who wakes up the woman (Ginger Rogers) living in an apartment below him with his tap dancing. He falls in love, there are a few misunderstandings, and the two eventually get together. Astaire has great charisma and charm, and his dancing is so natural looking. He makes it look as easy as walking. The storyline is typical of a good screwball comedies from the 1930s (this one came out in 1935). But it's the dancing and the memorable songs, written by Irving Berlin, such as "Cheek to Cheek" and "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails," that make this movie a must-see and among my favorite musicals.

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (August 6, 8:00 pm): Like me, Woody Allen loves Ingmar Bergman films. Unlike me, he gets to make films that steal, um, borrow from Bergman. You have to give Allen credit, he does great adaptations. For example, this film is very similar in structure to Bergman's excellent  Fanny and Alexander . In this 1986 film, Mia Farrow is Hannah, whose husband (played by Michael Caine), falls in love with one of her sisters, a free-spirit (Barbara Hershey). Woody, as Hannah's ex-husband, steals every scene as a hypochondriac convinced he's going to die. He ends up with Hannah's other sister (Dianne Wiest). The acting is spectacular, with Caine winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and Wiest for Best Supporting Actress, and an all-star cast. 


THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (August 2, 8:00 pm): When one looks up the term “action picture,” a still from this film should be under the definition. Quite simply, this is the role Errol Flynn was born to play, and he’s quite good in it. Give him such villains to play against as Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone, and this film just can’t be beaten. Olivia de Havilland shines as Maid Marian, with Una O’Connor and Herbert Mundin in fine form as the comic relief. The best thing about the film is its refusal to take itself seriously, which amps up our enjoyment even more. Michael Curtiz directed with a nearly flawless style. It’s simply one of those rare films I can watch over and over without growing bored.

THE BAND WAGON (August 5, 12:00 am): In my estimation, this is the greatest musical ever to come out of Hollywood. Fred Astaire has never been better than he is here playing a faded Hollywood musical star lured out of retirement to star in a stage musical based on Faust, of all things. He has tremendous support from the lovely Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray, English song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan, and Oscar Levant, who, although playing Oscar Levant as in every other film, has never done it better than this. There are lots of great numbers topped off by Astaire and Charisse in “Girl Hunt,” a mystery set in swingtime. Fabulous. It really doesn’t get any better than this.


ED: AThis film has the distinction of being the first mythic sports film ever made. If anyone was made for mythologizing, it was Lou Gehrig, who slid ever so comfortably into a role established in Greek myths. Gary Cooper was pitch perfect to play Gehrig, as both were of the strong, silent type. Watching it today, it’s hard to imagine anyone except Cooper in the role. Granted, there are some pictures he was never cut out to do, but this is the perfect role, as it plays to his strengths as an actor, especially in the last scene where the hero, to god-man, is forced to accept his mortality. The real prize in the film, though, is Teresa Wright, who practically steals the show as Gehrig’s devoted wife Eleanor. Another who deserves credit is cinematographer Rudolph Mate, who made the 41-year old Cooper look good enough to play the young Gehrig simply through the use of lighting and camera angle. This is one of the greatest sports movies ever made, and some critics today still count it the best ever made.

DAVID: B-. A good, but certainly not great, film that is more fantasy than reality. Gary Cooper does a decent job playing baseball legend Lou Gehrig, but despite what Ed wrote, he looks like an old man playing the younger Gehrig in college (?!) and during his early years in the major leagues. Adding Yankees, such as Babe Ruth, who played with Gehrig decades earlier, in cameo roles doesn't help matters as they also look too old. In this movie, Cooper reminds me of Robert Redford playing a ball player who is supposed to be much younger than he actually was in The Natural. For some reason, Hollywood has done an overall poor job making baseball films with the original Bad News Bears being its best effort and that film is certainly not a classic. However, this is an effective tear-jerker and the chemistry between Coop and Teresa Wright, as Gehrig's wife, is solid. Cooper makes Gehrig's "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" speech, with the echo from Yankee Stadium, an iconic movie moment. Again, it's a good movie. It just has some dull spots and flawed moments.

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

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