Check your local listings; also a lot of these films are shown throughout the month -- some are in a semi-permanent rotation -- so you may want to look at previous DVD alerts for December and January.
Monday, January 4
Midnight-1:30AM, TCM: THE FRESHMAN, 76m.
TCM's Silent Sunday film this week is a fine go-getter Harold Lloyd football movie, co-starring Jobyna Ralston and Brooks Benedict.
12:30AM-2:45AM, Sun: CHE "Part 1: The Argentine," 134m.
The first half of director Steven Soderbergh and writer Peter Buchman's epic about revolutionary/fashion icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, focusing on the Cuban Revolution. It was a great idea to cut the Che legend down into a series of low-key human-sized vignettes and chronologically shuffling them just enough to tell the stories of the Revolutions in Cuba and Bolivia that's both epic and accessible.
1:30AM-2:45AM, TCM: COLLEGE, 65m.
It's Buster Keaton's turn to be the nerd gone football hero. Anne Cornwall and Harold Goodwin co-star.
2:45AM-5AM, Sun: CHE "Part 2: Guerrilla," 135m.
The concluding half of the story is not nearly as easy to take in as the Cuban film -- I joked that the first two & a half hours rip by in half that time and the last two hours make up for it -- but that might been intentional; unlike Cuba, Che's campaign in Bolivia was a frustrating non-starter, [SPOILER] even if he hadn't been executed at the end of it. [END SPOILER] It's also ingenious that director/cinematographer Soderbergh changed aspect ratios from the epic 2.35 of the Cuba film to a much smaller 1.85 for Bolivia, which does amplify the conclusion's claustrophobic feel along with the much more washed-out coloring.
2:30PM-3:54PM, TCM: TOP BANANA, 84m.
What an oddball movie; producer Albert Zugsmith [and maybe director Alfred E. Green] optioned the rights to Phil Silvers' Broadway musical-comedy with the plan to film it as a stage show but in 3-D to simulate seeing it live, "from the best seat in the house!" But then the 3D boom goes bust and rather than stick to their guns, they push the movie out as a regular 2-D film with rather odd coloring. Rose Marie and Jack Albertson co-starred.
3:55PM-4:04PM, TCM Short: PETE SMITH SPECIALTY "A Wife's Life," 8m.
This sounds like "Just Suppose," but Dave O'Brien's wife plays his wife this time.
6PM-8PM, TCM: A THOUSAND CLOWNS, 118m.
Still a gold standard for eccentric-uncle-assisted coming-of-age movies. Jason Robards Jr., Martin Balsam, William Daniels and Barbara Harris star.
8PM-9:32 pm, FMC: THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES' SMARTER BROTHER, 91m.
If you squint, this movie could look like a lost mid-'70s Mel Brooks film; Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars with Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Dom Deluise in this specifically sub-genre specific spoof, complete the inspired Brooksian stunt-casting of Leo McKern as Professor Moriarty. But Wilder also directed the film, and showed that he is no borscht-belt fartypants like his one-time mentor; I remember this being a far more adult piece of silliness than YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or HIGH ANXIETY.
Tuesday, January 5
8AM-2PM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE
The History Channel is apparently having a "HOLY FUCKING SHIT WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE IN A CATACLYSM [some scientists and maniacs suggest]" Week, ringing in the new year with lots and lots of programs about how the Earth is living on borrowed time, maybe. I find most of these documentaries cheesy and dishonest, but the original LIFE AFTER PEOPLE two-hour doc serves up the Apocalypse with generous amounts of real-sounding science; what happens to all the stuff we've made after humanity is suddenly eliminated? This six-hour marathon leads off with the "pilot" and then four episodes of the later series, and reairs in the afternoon and evening, then two more episodes air at 10PM and 11PM.
8:15AM-9:55 AM, Sun: JUMP TOMORROW, 97m.
I'm a sucker for multi-national, indie romantic comedies set in upstate New York, especially when they are occasionally funny and have a leading lady like Natalia Verbeke with support from character actors like Hippolyte Girardot and the old man who plays the deaf grandfather. [Reairs at 4PM.]
3:45PM-5:45PM, TCM: GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, 108m.
The first few layers of this movie haven't aged well, which is understandable; it's a movie made at a time when interracial dating was literally dangerous and interracial marriage was still illegal in 16 or 17 States, and it takes a stand on racial politics, which isn't something Hollywood A-pictures did. Its stand is hedged somewhat -- Sidney Poitier plays another saint in a suit and the only physical intimacy his character shows his would-be bride is a kiss that couldn't be any shorter or more obscured and still register, even subliminally, to the viewer. The sociopolitical status quo of the country was so volatile at the time that several lines of dialogue that referenced politics and law were inaccurate even before the film was released. I mention all this because I'm afraid I'd feel like an asshole if I didn't. What remains after you strip out the torn-from-the-headlines hot topics, and the unexamined but undeniably condescending view of young women pre-Women's Liberation, is a beautifully acted, somewhat stagey, comedic drama of manners about the parents and their children struggling to navigate the gray area where the children aren't children and the parents don't know what to do if not parenting, but they haven't reached the next state, where the adult children become the parents/guardians of their parents. I could watch the scene where Poitier yells at his dad for hours; for me that's the best speech of the film, Spencer Tracy's summation in the last reel be damned.
5:45PM-8PM, TCM: UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE, 124m.
I know nothing about this movie except that it was made the same year as DINNER , it's another spin on the new-teacher-in-ghetto-school-overcomes-delinquents-and-the-system plot and it stars a young Sandy Dennis. Two-plus hours seems very long for this sort of movie, though.
10:15PM-12:45AM, Sun: BLACK BOOK, 146m.
Paul Verhoeven is the man. It's not just that he's the only cerebral filmmaker of his generation to develop and retain a sense of humor, he's somehow the most honest of his peers, even if it's a emotional or metaphorical honesty that often gets him in trouble. This film is his big Holland homecoming, a WWII spy thriller that gives you The Full Verhoeven: slyly funny characters tossed through a twisting plot told largely in amazing images and juxtapositions. Also, tits.
Wednesday, January 6
6AM-6:30AM, Sun: HUMAN REMAINS, 29m.
I like this engaging little documentary, which presents those charming madmen Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Josef Stalin, Francisco Franco and Mao Tse Tung in their own words.
6:45AM-8PM, TCM: LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH, 74m.
TCM kicks off an all-day tribute to Loretta Young with this 1928 silent movie. It's a vehicle for Lon Chaney Sr., who plays a circus clown in love with a young woman who loves another man. If you've ever seen a Lon Chaney movie before, you already know where this tale goes and where it ends.
10:30AM- 11:45AM, HBO: TED WILLIAMS, 75m.
A solid documentary about the baseball-hitting genius and eternal cryogenically frozen footnote/punchline. Armchair-directing it, I would have shoehorned in more funny/odd Ted anecdotes and gotten the bizarre postscript of the Boston Red Sox legend laying in suspended animation at a lab somewhere over and done as quickly as possible.
Noon-1:15PM, TCM: SHE HAD TO SAY YES, 66m.
Another Loretta Young film, this time she stars in a surprisingly progressive-sounding Great Depression-made [Busby Berkeley co-directed] melodrama about secretaries being pressured into dating prospective customers for their company. Lyle Talbot and Hugh Herbert co-star.
1:15PM-3PM, TCM: THE STRANGER, 95m.
Orson Welles insisted on expurgating this movie, made largely to show that he could be a commercially viable studio director after his campaigns to be a successful radio comedian and a political activist/commentator began to fail, from his official filmography. Despite its obvious producer-ordered scene deletions and less-than-artistic origins, it's scarcely worse than THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI [which suffered more from studio-made edits] and more successful as a whole than most versions of MR. ARKADIN/CONFIDENTIAL REPORT I've seen. In his book HELLO AMERICANS, Simon Callow's recreation of STRANGER's missing scenes, which explain much of what's really going on in the last half of the movie, are exceptionally vivid even in a biography that's packed with lively writing and analysis. It's a shame that Welles didn't get his first choice for the lead investigator, Agnes Moorehead, and had Edward G. Robinson instead [it's that kind of movie].
3PM-4:30PM, TCM: RACHEL AND THE STRANGER, 79m.
This sounds like another post-war women's picture -- mail-order bride falls for a handsome, mysterious drifter, starring Young, William Holden and Robert Mitchum -- but Norman Foster is one of a handful of directors who jam my critical senses; was he a really good craftsman who had to make a hash of an occasionally interrupted stream of lousy scripts and bad casting choices, or was he a hack who got lucky a few times and worked with the perfect set of collaborators? [See: Robert Wise.]
6:15PM-8PM, IFC: THE FLORENTINE, 104m.
I'm oddly nostalgic for this kind of '90s B+ list cast indie movies, but loathe the entire subgenre of indie gangster movies. This one subverts the formula just enough to make me want to watch all of it -- yes, it features Luke Perry, Jim Belushi, Burt Young and the late Chris Penn in support roles, but what I've seen of the movie was more about accepting that you've grown up [Tom Sizemore's character returns to town to find out his ex-girlfriend Virginia Madsen is getting married] than any gangster shit. Also, how often do we get a chance to realize that the character actor in Hollywood is not entirely dead? [Reairs tomorrow at 7:30AM and 12:35PM]
10:05 PM-Midnight, IFC: BLOW OUT, 107m.
I still don't quite know what to make of John Travolta being cast as the lead in this remake/homage/theft of Michelangelo Antonioni's BLOW-UP -- one of the most rewarding aspects of Brian De Palma's movies is that he casts the right star for a part, even when it sounds like a terrible idea. [Michael J. Fox is perfectly cast in CASUALTIES OF WAR precisely because he's such an acting lightweight, just as his character is so outclassed by the other soldiers.] Anyway, I guess I don't know enough about where Travolta was at that time in his life & career that casting him as an ex-police tech turned slasher-flick soundman who unwittingly records an assassination makes meta-sense for the film. It can't just be that a Sweathog was working out of his depth and gets poor Nancy Allen killed, is it? Oop, SPOILERS!
Thursday, January 7
6AM-8AM, FMC: THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS, 99m.
Frank Tashlin and Tom Ewell's first collaboration -- they made THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT later the same year -- this is a about the pressure to re-enlist felt by the only male "civilian wife" on an Air Force base. This better be in widescreen or I'm gonna tell it to the Marines. Sheree North and Rita Moreno co-star.
6:45PM-8PM, TCM: INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE, 63m.
One amazingly short 1954 melodrama from Vittorio De Sica, starring Jennifer Jones, Montgomery Clift and Richard Beymer. [Reairs at 2:15AM]
10:30PM-12:15AM, TCM: BEAT THE DEVIL, 90m.
Released the same year as the above De Sica, this John Huston comedy really does play like they threw out the serious script about a group of con artists jockeying for ownership of a bogus uranium mine and ad-libbed themselves a comedy. Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Peter Lorre co-star.
Friday, January 8
Elvis turns 75 today, and TCM celebrates …. by, um, showing his movies all day. I dunno, if I was Elvis I'd probably would appreciate them airing movies I liked rather than my comparative stinkers.
8AM-10AM, FMC: HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON, 108m.
Those irascible drunks John Huston and Robert Mitchum are back with a WWII yarn about a Marine and a Roman Catholic nun [Deborah Kerr] being marooned on an island in the South Pacific. John Boorman later remade this elliptical romance as HELL IN THE PACIFIC with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune.
1:30PM-3:05PM, IFC: TAPEHEADS, 93m.
I've done no research to confirm this, but: Everyone who was cool in 1988 is in this movie.
10PM-Midnight, ESPN12: FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS "Roman Karmazin vs. Dionisio Miranda"
The warhorse boxing series returns, boasting fights with boxers whose names sound sorta familiar if you're a fight fan. I still haven't decided if I'm really going to resume watching FNF; if I do it's probably only because Teddy Atlas can always be counted on to take a big, heaping shit on obvious mismatches before, during and after the promoter-arranged execution is completed.
10PM-11:35PM, IFC: THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE, 90m.
So odd that the primary engine of both I SHOT ANDY WARHOL and AMERICAN PSYCHO could take the pin-up icon's fascinating life and work, a decent-sized budget and a well-selected cast [Gretchen Mol, Chris Bauer, Lili Taylor, David Strathairn, Jared Harris, Sarah Paulson] and then make a movie that plays about as well as any made-for-HBO movie. [Reairs the next day at 3:45AM]
11:35PM-1:45AM, IFC: THE PLAYER, 123m.
That Robert Altman, what a card.
Saturday, January 9
2AM-3:45AM, TCM: THE BIG CUBE, 98m.
For no explicable reason, I love LSD movies -- this one sounds a little too square to give Corman's THE TRIP any competition for Best LSD Movie in my personal awards, but the prospect of seeing Lana Turner on acid may beat out Jackie Gleason's acid trip in SKIDOO. George Chakiris and Richard Egan co-star.
3:45AM-5:30AM, TCM: I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS, 94m.
It's certainly not the best-made Peter Sellers movie, it's not even Sellers' best performance, but TOKLAS is my favorite Sellers movie. I think it's that he gets so many types to play off of -- his oversexed business partner [Herb Edelman]; his batshit mother [Jo Van Fleet, who has the only laugh that makes me laugh]; his brittle, baffled fiance [Joyce Van Patten]; his hippie-injun brother [David Arkin]; the very pretty, very blank canvas of Leigh Taylor-Young; and nearly every bit player in the film from Louis Gottlieb's guru [In my memory, he's doing a fine John Huston imitation but that can't be correct] to the screenplay authors/hippie hitchhikers Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker. Also, I like the Lincoln Continental he drives. [I never promised that I had good reasons to recommend these movies.]
6AM-8AM, TCM: THE SEVENTH CROSS, 112m.
Fred Zinnemann: Another studio auteur who may have been a great filmmaker who was saddled with many bad projects or a hack who got lucky more than once? I can't decide. This is an oddly cast WWII Holocaustic potboiler: Spencer Tracy leads a group of six other men in an escape from a German concentration camp. The men who are caught and returned to the camp are crucified on crosses. You can probably guess who is slated to receive the title object. Signe Hasso, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Agnes Moorehead co-star.
10AM-Noon, TCM: MAN HUNT, 102m.
It's somewhat-loony WWII movie morning at TCM: This is an immaculately made but somewhat narratively clumsy Fritz Lang thriller about an English hunter sneaking into Germany to kill Hitler but engaging in a battle of wills and skills with a Nazi who fancies himself the real big-game hunter. [And the most dangerous game is ….. Whatever or Whoever Stands Against The Aryan!, etc.] Walter Pidgeon, Joan Bennett and George Sanders star.
8PM-10PM, TCM: NOTORIOUS, 101m.
I think this was my first Cary Grant movie; I remember thinking he was a real dick and not understanding why we were supposed to root for him and that drunken party girl Ingrid Bergman. You never hear about how star-casting fails if the viewer's never seen the star before, do you. Obviously, I get it and take Grant the right way now, but I still feel the most for poor little Claude Rains.
8PM-9PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "Jose Luis Castillo vs. Diego Corrales II"
The less pyrotechnical but much shorter rematch between the two lightweight legends.
9PM-10PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "Bobby Pacquiao vs. Carlos Hernandez"
Manny's brother fights at lightweight in 2005. I often think about boxing brothers -- Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, José and Miguel Cotto, Leon and Michael Spinks, Roger and Floyd Sr. [and Jeff?] Mayweather, Jerry and Mike Quarry, the Roach brothers and my favorite, Rahman and Muhammad Ali. It's a topic that doesn't get much play.
10PM-10:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "Carlos Quintana vs. Miguel Cotto"
Cotto made his debut at welterweight with this title bout to fill the vacant WBA title.
Sunday, January 10
10-11AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC POOL "1999 BCA championship finals"
11AM-Noon, ESPNC: CLASSIC POOL "2008 semifinals: Women's 9-ball championships"
It would be nice if they showed all of a tournament in one block of time, but spending Sunday mornings watching ladies play pool is OK by me.
5:15PM-7PM, Sun: BOB LE FLAMBEUR, 102m.
Jean-Pierre Melville's 1956 thriller essentially wrote the book for all heist movies that followed. Roger Duchesne and several tons of coolness star.
10PM-Midnight, TCM: THE HOSPITAL, 103m.
Arthur Hiller and Paddy Chayefsky's bleak, black office comedy stars George C. Scott, Diana Rigg, Barnard Hughes and Richard Dysart.
Monday, January 11
Midnight-1:30AM, TCM: BARDELYS THE MAGNIFICENT, 90m.
This Sunday Silent movie is a 1926 swashbuckling-ish romance from director King Vidor and writer Dorothy Farnum. John Gilbert and Eleanor Boardman star, with bit parts for waiter-character-actor extraordinaire Gino Corrado and a 19-year-old John Wayne, in his second film appearance.
1:30AM-2:15AM, TCM Short: REDISCOVERING JOHN GILBERT, 32m.
Profile of the long eclipsed silent leading man.
2:15AM-4AM, TCM: BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING, 85m.
I've never been able to get into this Jean Renoir comedy nearly as much as any of his other movies; I blame it on the pain of the '80s Hollywood remake DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS being so annoyingly ubiquitous when I was a kid.
10:15AM-1135AM, Sun: THE CRUISE, 76m.
Monday is "Doc Day" on Sundance, showing a handful of documentaries all day. This is Bennett Miller's oddly moving portrait of Timothy "Speed" Levitch, a deeply eccentric NYC tour-bus guide with the kind of POV on living in the big city that is admirable as it is untenable for anyone else. It's inaccurate to call this guy an outsider; as I recall his monologues, they present a view so thorough that you can help but feel like you're the one on the outside. Of course, I haven't seen this movie in ten-plus years. [Reairs at 4:30PM and tomorrow at 6:25AM.]
3:30PM-5:30PM, TCM: THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT, 110m.
I'm starting to think Frank Tashlin was an alchemist disguised as a comedy director; either that, or the stars have aligned just so that I can enjoy movie vehicles for Jayne Mansfield, Debbie Reynolds and maybe, just maybe …. Doris Day playing an important scientist's biographer who has been mistaken for a spy? The mighty Tash could pull it off, although doing it in 1966 seems like a stretch, even for him. Rod Taylor and Arthur Godfrey co-star.
5:55PM-6PM, Sun: JEU, 4m.
The scherzo of Prokofiev's Second Piano Concerto + M.C. Escher-esque animation x being too short to be tedious = awesome. [Reairs tomorrow at 7:25PM and 11:25PM]
11:35AM-12:55PM, Sun: A WALK INTO THE SEA: DANNY WILLIAMS AND THE WARHOL FACTORY, 77m.
Whatever happened to Danny Williams? Well, first: Who is Danny Williams? He was a key member of the filmmaking section of Andy Warhol's factory, who reportedly "edited some of Warhol's films and created the revolutionary lighting design for a notable stage show. Additionally, Williams was also Warhol's sometime lover." Williams' niece Esther B. Robinson made this documentary to investigate her uncle's life, work and 1966 disappearance. [Reairs at 6PM and tomorrow at 4AM.]
9:20PM-9:40PM, Sun: MADAME TUTLI PUTLI, 17m.
The still in this short's information page looks nice, and I find the combination of phrases "a night train" and "a timid woman in red" irresistible.
And there's another week.