Weekly DVD Alert Nine: February 1-8, 2010

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, February 1

2AM-3:45AM, TCM: TASTE OF CHERRY, 99m.
TCM's foreign import for the week is a cheerful Iranian film about a man looking for someone to assist his suicide. Now c'mon, how hard is it to help? The poor bastard already dug his grave, all the heavy lifting is already done. Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri and Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari star, Abbas Kiraosatami writes and directs.

9AM-10:30AM, Sun: LUCKEY, 84m.
Laura Longsworth's portrait of sculptor Tom Luckey, his son and wives and their life following Tom's freak fall through a window and subsequent quadriplegia. I only saw a few moments of the film a few months ago, but I was intrigued by the implied question of how power can and should be distributed between collaborators -- specifically, how I think his son decides that Tom's idea for the sculpture they're making is wrong, and ignores the old man's vision for his own. If Tom wasn't dead from the shoulders down, how would the finished piece have turned out? etc. [Reairs at 1:35PM.]

6PM-8PM, FMC: JOHN AND MARY, 92m.
Normally, a 1969 romantic comedy starring Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman in New York City would give me hives, but dude -- John Mortimer wrote it [?!?] and Peter Yates directed it. Who cares if it was Bizarro-Earth Mortimer who wrote it and Peter Yates had his AD direct everything except the scenes in cars -- MORTIMER AND YATES! Tyne Daly, Michael Tolan and Olympia Dukakis co-star.

8PM-10PM, FMC: A PERFECT COUPLE, 110m.
This is shaping up to be "Creative Misfire Monday" on the Fox Movie Channel -- this is a long eclipsed Robert Altman movie about a middle-aged Los Angeles man meeting a young torch singer via a dating service. It doesn't boast the cast nor the reputation of NASHVILLE, but I remember it being within name-dropping distance of it. Of all of the absurd number of overlong, underthought movies Altman banged out at the tail-end of the '70s -- you would think that he was going to die, or the ideas were all going to turn into pumpkins if they weren't on film, at the first moment of 1980. Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin star, Altman wrote the screenplay, or whatever they used to shoot the movie, with Allan F. Nicholls.

11PM-12:35AM, IFC: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS, 93m.
I'll never understand how anyone could take one look at any heavy-metal band of the '80s and not start laughing until some time in 1993 or so. Penelope Spheeris, we salute you.


Tuesday, February 2

5AM-6AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2007: Diego Corrales vs. Joshua Clottey"
I think this was "Chico's" last fight before his fatal motorcycle accident; I missed it originally, but it's a pretty sure thing that it was an action fight.

8:45AM- 10:20AM, IFC: DOUBLE HAPPINESS, 92m.
Writer/director Mina Shum's debut feature is a little clunky in spots, but it's easy to enjoy its Canadian-ness, early '90s indie feel [the correct word would be "vibe" but I refuse to use it] and the performances of Sandra Oh, Alannah Ong, Stephen Chang and even Callum Keith Rennie, who makes the best of a thankless weenie-white-guy part. [Reairs at 2PM.]

8:55AM-10:35AM, Sun: METROPOLITAN, 98m.
Christopher Eigeman! EIGE-MAN! EIGE-MAN!! EIGE-MAN!!! [Reairs at 10:30PM.]

10:35AM-11:50AM, Sun: THIS IS NOT A ROBBERY
Documentary about J.L. Rountree, a businessman who spent his last five years of life [late '90s-early '00s] robbing banks after losing his fortune in what he apparently blamed on bank errors.


Wednesday, February 3

7:45AM-9:30AM, IFC: HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, 103m.
I don't know, reading the film's synopsis just assassinated my interest in seeing this film again, but you've been spared, so far.[Reairs at 1PM and 4:35AM.]

11:15AM-1PM, Sun: FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO, 95m.
Documentary-style essay about how homosexuality can be reconciled with a literal interpretation of Scripture. Just once, I wish someone would buttonhole these fundamentalist maniacs and ask them A.] Did your God create this universe and all that is in it? B.] If yes, then did your God know what He was doing when he made it? C.] If yes, then your God make teh gays gay on purpose, so where the hell do you get off criticizing/second-guessing His work? [Extra-credit questions: D.] Do you like gladiator movies? E.] How closely have you known my friend, Heywood Jablowme?]

11PM-12:45AM, Sun: CHANGING TIMES, 100m.
Recent Andre Techine-directed romance starring Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve. Ooo la la.


Thursday, February 4

6:45AM-8:15AM, Sun: MONSTER IN A BOX, 87m.
I sorta miss Spalding Gray. BOX isn't my favorite of his movies -- GRAY'S ANATOMY is far zippier and has the kind of subject matter that speaks to me -- but this monologue about his struggle to finish writing his novel IMPOSSIBLE VACATION has a lot to enjoy. Has Criterion/Eclipse released a box of the four Gray monologue films? They should. [Reairs at 1:45PM.]

7:15AM-9:15AM, TCM: CAPTAIN BLOOD, 119m.
Olivia de Havilland was an undeniably beautiful woman and had good chemistry with her frequent co-star Errol Flynn, but lately I've been enjoying watching Flynn act off frequent foil/antagonist Basil Rathbone. Michael Curtiz directed this swashbuckler.

9:15AM-11:15AM, TCM: DESPERATE JOURNEY, 108m.
I wish this film had been made a couple of years later than it was; Raoul Walsh is his most enjoyable when he was allowed to be his most ferocious and vivid, and this movie's plot -- "American pilots stranded in Germany fight their way to freedom." -- would probably have been too much for 1942 audiences if Walsh had cut loose. Errol Flynn, Alan Hale and Ronald Reagan star.

10:30AM-11:45AM, Sun: THE PLEASURE OF BEING ROBBED, 71m.
Indie about a day in the life of a young kleptomaniac, from director/writers/stars Joshua Safdie and Eleonore Hendricks -- could be entertaining and engaging, could be self-indulgent shit. At least you don't have to go find the art movie theater's manager to get your money back if it sucks. Cable is awesome.

11:45AM-1:45PM, Sun: FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, 115m.
Arthouse auteur Hsiao-hsien Hou [THREE TIMES] wrote and directed what sounds like another charming Hou movie, only this one was made in France. Juliette Binoche stars.

10:45AM-12:30PM, FMC: THE LIEUTENANT WORE SKIRTS, 99m.
12:30PM-2PM, FMC: BACHELOR FLAT, 91m.
Frank Tashlin double feature. All hail the Tash.

3:30PM-5:45PM, TCM: ABOVE AND BEYOND, 122m.
I've never seen this 1952 biographical drama about Captain Paul Tibbets, the commander of the Enola Gay, and what's described as his "struggles with the demands of the dangerous mission" to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. That the movie has two directors [Melvin Frank and Norman Panama] and goes critically unheralded in a fairly small field -- the number of Pacific War movies are dwarfed by their European brethren -- don't bode well for it, but I'll watch anything about the A-bombings. Robert Taylor, Eleanor Parker and James Whitmore star.


Friday, February 5

Midnight-1:40AM, Sun: THEATER OF WAR, 95m.
John W. Walter's documentary about George C. Wolfe's recent staging of Bertolt Brecht's antiwar play MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN sounds like it has a little something for everyone: An appreciation of Brecht's work, a look at how modern [off-]Broadway works, a fly-on-the-wall view of how stars Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline work before the curtain rises, etc.

Midnight-2AM, TCM: THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, 102m.
Or you can rock out to more derring-do from Flynn, de Havilland, Rathbone and Curtiz, filmed in glorious full Technicolor and boasting a tremendous score from Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

6:15AM-7:30AM, TCM: ADDRESS UNKNOWN, 72m.
I had no idea this was ever made into a movie. Seventy-two minutes is an absurdly short amount of time to adapt
Kathrine Kressmann Taylor's ingenious proto-postmodern novella to the screen -- the terror and sadness in the book, which is told entirely in letters between partner art dealers after one moves himself and family back to Germany shortly after Hitler is elected, comes from the bumpy gaps of time between his letters as much as the way that Nazi propaganda twists his mind almost beyond recognition. Well, maybe it's better to have a short running time, so long as the storytelling isn't smooth in the usual Hollywood-studio style. Paul Lukas, Carl Esmond and Peter Van Eyck star; William Cameron Menzies directs from a script by Taylor and Herbert Dalmas.

10PM-Midnight, ESPN2: FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS
The light-heavyweight fight between Glen Johnson vs. Yusaf Mack that headlines this card should be good stuff. So far this year, FNF has been good for at least one fight per broadcast that hasn't made me regret watching it -- I was planning to skip last Friday's show but heard a hilariously overconfident interview with Curtis Stevens just a few minutes before the show started that compelled me to watch him fail in what turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining super-middleweight fight with Jesse Brinkley. [I saw the tail end of the SHOBOX: THE NEW GENERATION broadcast, which did not rock me -- again, I don't know if it's my television or the cable or what, but Showtime's boxing broadcasts look like they're already badly compressed YouTube clips to me. It was very cool to see Nick Charles back on the air following his fight with cancer.]


Saturday, February 6

6:35AM-8:30AM, IFC: LET HIM HAVE IT, 115m.
Peter Medak's dark retelling of the 1952 Derek Bentley Case: Two British boys, one of whom has a handgun, get caught trying to break into to a building. Cop tells the kid with the gun to put it down, the other kid tells him "Let him have it." The debate over what that phrase meant -- "give him the gun" or "lettim have it" like the mugs in some gangster movie woulda lettim have it -- has raged ever since. The boy assumed he meant shoot the cop and was tried, convicted and quickly executed for it. Chris Eccleston and Paul Reynolds star. [Reairs at 1:30PM.]

SHO, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Edwin Valero vs. Antonio DeMarco
Another sure to be entertaining Showtime fight: The headliners battle for the WBC lightweight title, with hopefully the undercard of the welterweight match between Luis Carlos Abregu and Richard Gutierrez also being broadcast. I'm very interested to see Abregu fight.


Sunday, February 7

10AM-11:30AM, TCM: KIND LADY, 78m.
It's always interesting to see how John Sturges handled material outside of the epic adventure movies he's known for. This 1951 programmer -- con artist Maurice Evans and his gang invade the home of old kind lady Ethel Barrymore and keep her captive -- also requires doing the fun mental calisthenics of remembering that Angela Lansbury was not always the old kind lady in everything she made as an actress.

6PM-8PM, TCM: THE PINK PANTHER, 115m.
Did the Peters Sellers and Ustinov ever make a movie together? Nearly any movie would collapse under the weight of their compulsive scene-stealing, but it would be fun to watch them compete even as the movie failed. Anyway, Sellers was famously Blake Edwards' second choice to play Inspector Clouseau in this farce after Ustinov passed on it; the role and the movie took Sellers to a new level of world fame, so much so that it's easy to forget that the first PANTHER movie is a vehicle for David Niven and Robert Wagner.

8PM-10:30PM, TCM: 8 1/2, 138m.
I don't know if this is Federico Fellini's masterpiece, or just his most popular, but it's a lot of fun to watch even now. Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale and Anouk Aimee star.

10:30PM-1AM, TCM: JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, 137m.
Fellini should have filmed an introduction for this film where he said "This one's for THA LADEEEEZZZZZZZZZZ" and then licked a finger, touch his ass and make a sizzling noise. This is why none of my films are in the Criterion collection, or any other. Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo and Valentina Coretese star.


Monday, February 8

3:15AM-5:30AM, TCM: ON THE BEACH, 134m.
A cheerful post-nuclear apocalypse from that barrel-of-monkeys Stanley Kramer [JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, INHERIT THE WIND]. U.S. sailors stationed in Australia miss out on the armageddon, struggle to figure out what to do next. Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Fred Astaire star.

[To be a Monday-morning armchair executive producer 50 years later: I would have cast teeny-bopper actors [were Frankie & Annette making movies by 1959?] and set it all to look like a beach movie interrupted by the end of Western civilization by an atomic holocaust at the end of the second reel, then marketed the movie without ever mentioning the world dies screaming about 20 minutes in.]

[Also, It must have been a real pain in the ass keeping track of which director named Stanley was which in the late '50s-'60s, although it is fun to imagine Stanley Kubrick's IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD or Stanley Donen's DR. STRANGELOVE or Kramer making the court-martial scenes in PATHS OF GLORY more exciting than the battlefield chaos.]

7:35AM-9AM, IFC: BANANAS, 82m.
I bet Woody Allen is sick to death of hearing people talk about how much funnier his early movies were. Can you imagine him banging out a short comedy where he goes to Pakistan to impress a woman? Well, anyone can imagine that -- I mean imagine it being really funny. [Reairs at 12:25PM and 5:30PM

8:35AM-10:15AM, Sun: YOU'RE GONNA MISS ME, 91m.
A remarkable and truly moving portrait of Roky Erickson, the singer/guitarist of the 13th Floor Elevators and the Aliens, as he slowly remerges out of a miasma of mental illness, codependent relationships with his family and drug abuse. [Reairs at 1:30PM.]

10:15AM-11:45AM, Sun: AUDIENCE OF ONE, 88m.
A documentary about a Pentecostal minister who claims God told him to form a movie studio and make a huge sci-fi version of the Bible. Presumably Jesus got an Executive Producer credit in return for his dad's initial investment. [Reairs at 3:15PM.]

11:45AM-1:30PM, Sun: A BIGGER SPLASH, 106m.
David Hockney breaks up with his boyfriend and struggles to get back into his painting. I wonder if this was the period when he decided that, as he can't draw freehand as well as the best Renaissance painters, those artists must have used rudimentary tracing tools, like the camera obscura, just as Hockney uses artographs and such. [Reairs at 4:45PM.]

9:15AM-11:30AM, TCM: MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, 130m.
Frank Capra may be the unsung master of the core principle that gives termite-art its power: You really can say nearly anything unpleasant but true about whatever you want in popular art so long as you give the audience a decently made happy ending. If you stop this movie or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE [the most sarcastic title ever?] at the moment where Jimmy Stewart realizes how fucked he and everyone he cares about are, these are some dark, flinty-hearted movies about small-town life and politics. That people only remember Stewart running around yelling with joy or struggling to keep talking in his filibuster just shows how good Capra was at his sleight of hand. Jean Arthur and Claude Rains co-star.

1:30PM-4PM, TCM: HANGMEN ALSO DIE, 134m.
One epically long anti-Nazi Hollywood movie from Fritz Lang, about the underground resistance in Czechoslovakia. Did Lang spend the entire War making these kinds of pictures? I bet Hitler and the boys loved ribbing Josef Goebbels about him offering Lang the directorship of the German Cinema Institute, which went so smoothly that Lang quietly fled Germany for Paris and then the United States. Smooth move, Ex-Lax! Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan and Anna Lee star.

4PM-6PM, TCM: THE SEVENTH CROSS, 112m.
I missed this when it aired a few weeks ago. It sounds nuts: Spencer Tracy stars as a civilian who escapes from a German concentration camp with six other men. As each man is caught, it returned the camp and crucified. You can guess who gets the title.
Signe Hasso and Hume Cronyn co-star, Fred Zinnemann directs.

6PM-8PM, TCM: SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, 118m.
I love John Frankenheimer, but this 1964 movie doesn't sound like it plays to any of his strengths as a filmmaker. Young military man Kirk Douglas uncovers a plot by his superior officers to stage a military coup of the country. I've seen scenes between Douglas and Burt Lancaster in a bumper that TCM often airs where Michael Douglas talks about his dad; the scenes make the movie look like it will be a lot of granite-chinned men standing tall and shooting conflicting platitudes at each other for two hours. I'm hoping I'm wrong.

8PM-10:15PM TCM: A THOUSAND CLOWNS, 118m.
A highwater mark for American films in my favorite subgenre, the my-eccentric-uncle-figure section of coming-of-age movies. Jason Robards Jr., Barbara Harris Martin Balsam and Barry Gordon star in Fred Coe's adaptation of Herb Gardner's play.

8PM-9:40PM, IFC: AMERICAN PSYCHO, 97m.
It's a terrible balancing act -- for most media satires to garner a significant amount of attention, they have to be violent. [When even ostensibly indie/womens movies about weddings feature fistfights and car chases, I think we can mostly agree that virtually everything in our movie culture has to be violent to get that attention.] But that violence makes it easy for the cultural powers that the satire attacks to easily deflect criticism by focusing on the carnage. It's why Congressional hacks will go after video games that have some amount of satire and commentary like GRAND THEFT AUTO [where the player has a remarkable amount of free will and leeway to achieve a lot of the game's goals without much violence] over its violence, but not bellow on about a straight-up smashing game like GOD OF WAR. I'd like to think that somewhere in EB Games' remainder bins is a game that's not incredibly violent but features even more cutting cultural commentary than GTA; I assume those are the games that are still in their original shrinkwrap because no one, including me, bought them.

Anyway, AMERICAN PSYCHO: Bret Easton Ellis [and director Mary Harron] almost made it too easy for cultural conservatives of all stripes to attack this movie for its most irrelevant aspects. It undoubtedly put asses in theater seats to watch it, but the excess weakens the movie's impact and a lot of its jokes. The scene about the business cards kills me every time. Christian Bale stars, with Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Chloe Sevigny and Guinevere Turner, who co-wrote the adaptation. [Reairs at 1:05AM.]

And there's another week.

The 2050th step on the last road home.

My depression is too great to be contained in 140 characters.

A few people have asked about my depression lately; I thought it best to park as many of my thoughts, such as they are, about it here. I don't want to turn even just this post into a livejournal TMI whine list, so here's the diagnosis in thumbnail: have had Seasonal Affective Disorder [winter depression] as long as I can remember, but it went off the rails a few years back when my eyesight crapped out for a while. Still have the occasional bit of Charles Bonnet Syndrome [seeing abstract shapes that obviously aren't there] when I'm very tired, and I apparently do have Non-24 disorder, a common malady for severely sight-impaired people where their days stretch out to 25 or 26 hours. It's 4:27AM and I'm wide awake; it feels like early afternoon. Given the choice, I chose to accept that I'll be cycling through everyone else's sleep pattern every two weeks or so, rather than drug myself and feel like crap but be [technically] awake 6AM-10PM. I've wasted years struggling to work on other people's schedules.

OK, enough of that crap, alow me to entertain you, maybe: I love reading Dylan Horrocks' thoughts about depression, art and how writing other people's books will eventually drive you crazy. Here are a couple of my thoughts, posted in response to this page of his serial SAM ZABEL AND THE MAGIC PEN:

It’s deeply annoying how so many dopamine-typicals think that “Are you depressed because _____ or are you _____ because you’re depressed?” is the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket/Come To Jesus express lane to recovery — especially the assholes who throw the question out like they’re Captain Kirk and your depression is an inscrutable, invincible robot that can be easily destroyed by a logical paradox. What's ironic is that throwing a Kirkly hard right cross to a depressed jaw would probably be more constructive than tossing out a passively aggressive either/or rhetorical question.

Having thought more about it, my depression is not NOMAD but rather the lizard-man Gorn who beats the crap out of Kirk until he pulls gunpowder out of his ass to blast him and win their duel — only my lizard-man’s growling and hissing translates to something that sounds a lot like “Zodiac Motherfucker” from the Onion/AV Club comments sections. THAT IS THE PRICE A CANDYASS PAYS WHEN HE GETS TOTALLY PWNED BY SOME PIDDLYASS DOPAMINE LEVELS.


Yes, the best metaphors I can come up with about my life right now are STAR TREK references; fuck you, it's all I can do to literally stay on my feet for most of a day when the floor sings to me about how nice it is to lay on. "Oh floor, I wish I knew how to quit you." There, a BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN ref -- is that good enough for your highness? No? Well, crap, I thought that would do it, but it has been quite a while since the film was released. Um, AVATAR? The blue people are reportedly turning a lot of nerds blue? Bah. You know, I've been thinking about how reading a letter that's missing its last page and sign-off somehow commands more attention and stays more vivid in the reader's mind afterward. I think I'm going to start stopping my posts and letters in the middle of a sentence and see how it works. Obviously, I won't do that for cover letters but in one kind of business proposal it

It's true; you can bake anything if you mix it with an egg.

I made (theoretically low-carb) peanut-butter cookies with a recipie exracted largely from my ass, and they are as delicious as they are stupidly simple to make. You will need:

* a measuring cup, a fairly big bowl, a fork and at least one, probably two cookie sheets
* 1 cup of peanut butter, whatever kind you like or have handy
* 1 egg
* any amount from 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar/splenda/whatever, depending on your sweet tooth and/or carb threshold

(optional ingredients: oatmeal, another egg, vanilla extract, a sprinkle of cocoa, the blood of your enemies, etc.)

Throw everything in the bowl, mix the bejeezus out of it until you have a little mound of "dough" in the bowl, then make roughly 20 balls out of it.

Set your oven to 350.

Throw a little sugar/splenda/whatever in the bowl. Roll each ball in the sugar a little and then place it on a greased/sprayed cookie sheet. (you'll probably need two sheets; these cookies need to cool before taking off the sheet, and there will be more dough than sheet.)

With a fork, push the balls into the crosshatched little monsters you see above. Or don't -- use a spoon and push the balls into regular looking cookies, see if I give a shit.

Place the sheet(s) in the oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on how soft you like your cookie. Enjoy the vague smell (hot peanut oil) of your favorite Chinese takeout joint, revise your resume and/or enemies list -- time does not fly when you're waiting for cookies to finish baking.

The cookies will be very soft and squishy when you take them out -- try to resist pawing at them until they've had time to firm up. I suppose you could compromise these cookies' integrity by pushing a Hershey's Kiss into each and making them peanut-butter blossoms after the fact, but I think we're all above such chicanery. Respect your cookies.

Enjoy.

The 2049th step on the last road home.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The President of the United States

Didn't get a chance to watch it live; had a half-century old Leo McCarey movie to watch. Priorities, man. Parking an archive stream of it here to watch when I have 72 minutes to kill.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



adding this debate Obama had with some House Republicans:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I'm reasonably certain this is not my grave, sir.


I presume it's not your grave, either. Click for larger.


I hope Noel Coward had his ashes scattered at sea or in his favorite whorehouse or something. If he's just buried under a stone marked COWARD like this, that's a celebrity grave sadder than Elvis being parked in his back yard like an old Ford that's never gonna run again, under a stone engraved with a typo for eternity.

[An oldie but a mediocrity: "Standing At My Grave" con Microsoft Paint.]

The 2046th step on the last road home.

Stop me if you've heard this before

John Houseman, as described in Simon Callow's THE ROAD TO XANADU:

[Quoting Houseman, who said his mother] 'believed she was giving me the best of all possible lives. It didn't work out that way ... divided between my two worlds, I belonged to neither.'

...

No existing group seemed to have a a place for him, with his inflated reputation and diminished sense of identity. What he needed was a sense of purpose and a channel for his own unrealized gifts. He had reached an absolute impasse -- a writer lacking the courage to write, a director terrified of entering the rehearsal room ....

...

[In his memoirs, Houseman] observes with a novelist's eye, he dramatizes with a playwright's skill and analyses with a psychologist's precision, sparing neither himself nor anyone else.

...

Self-knowledge is, above all else, what differentiates him from Welles. On the other hand, spontaneity is is not his chief quality. He observes, others and himself, with hawk-like eye; but it is almost impossible for him to surrender to impulse without pre-meditation. In Satre's famous phrase about Baudelaire, he is a man without immediacy ....


No wonder I'm so gay for Orson Welles.

The 2044th step on the last road home.

Weekly DVD Alert Nine: January 25-February 1, 2010

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 25

12:15AM-2:45AM, TCM: THE MERRY WIDOW, 137m.
I've not seen this film; when I've seen it in guides I always confuse it with Ernst Lubitsch's 1934 musical of the same name, which I have seen a dozen times. This is the 1925 silent made by the infamous Erich von Stroheim, which our old pal John Gilbert and Mae Murray, the model for SUNSET BLVD.'s Norma Desmond.

10:45AM-12:30PM, Sun: F.T.A., 97m.
In the middle of the Vietnam war, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Peter Boyle, Holly Near and Dalton Trumbo joined up to produce a subversive-hip alternative to Bob Hope's U.S.O. shows: F.T.A. [you can probably guess what that stands for] entertained servicemen stationed throughout the Pacific with anti-war comedy skits and folk protest songs for about as long as you'd expect the U.S. Military would allow. This is Francine Parker's rarely seen documentary of the show and its effect on some troops. [Reairs at 4:45PM.]

3:15PM-5PM, TCM: THE LADYKILLERS, 91m.
There's not a single unfunny frame of Alec Guinness to be seen anywhere in this film; it's not an argument held often, probably for a reason, but this film makes an airtight case that an actor has an inherent advantage over a comedian when it comes to being funny in a motion picture. Peter Sellers, Katie Johnson, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom and Danny Green co-star, and Alexander Mackendrick directs from the original screenplay by William Rose. Don't let the Coen Brothers remake scare you off; if you've not seen this, you should.

6:30PM-8PM, TCM: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, 87m.
Sherlock Holmes! Peter Cushing! Christopher Lee! The Most Lurid Technicolors Ever Projected! Thrill to the cinematic experience that's rapidly becoming the most overplayed-on-TCM film since ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN!


Tuesday, January 26

4:35AM-6:05AM, IFC: A GOOD WOMAN, 93m.
A screen adaptation of Oscar Wilde's comedy LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN starring Helen Hunt, Mark Umbers, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Campbell Moore and Tom Wilkinson. Here's hoping it's closer to John Schlesinger's COLD COMFORT FARM than, um, any of the recently made period films I've not been able to sit all the way through because they were terrible.

8AM-9:30AM, IFC: DEATH OF A CYCLIST, 85m.
I'm always interested in vintage Spanish cinema, especially its stunted, circumscribed neorealist era, as there's not a lot of journalism/criticism available in English that really digs into the story. As best as I can tell: While the rest of Western Europe spent years as a launch pad for classical neorealists [and their rambunctious little brothers, the New Wave] to make a splash in the world's cinemas, Spain's neorealism boiled down to a handful of under-supported films by a handful of genuinely courageous writer-directors like Luis Garcia Berlanga, Antonio Nieves Conde and the auteur of this 1955 film, Juan Antonio Bardem. Around the same time that CYCLIST was released, Bardem published an essay on how his homeland's cinema was dying under Franco's rule, which I'm sure endeared him to el Generalissimo; Spain's film community remained at best a country-sized backlot for foreign filmmakers and a backwater to escape from for its most talented local creators for years even after Franco was gone. Lucia Bose, Otello Toso, Alberto Closas and Carlos Casaravilla star. [Reairs at 1:45PM.]

9:30AM-10:15AM, TCM: THE OUTRAGE, 96m.
I raved about William Shatner a few weeks back. The Shat "held his own opposite Edward G. Robinson and Howard Da Silva in THE OUTRAGE [Martin Ritt & Michael Kanin's remake of Kurosawa's RASHOMON]" but didn't mention how unfortunate Paul Newman's Mexican makeup was. Maybe I saw this movie too young to be able to let these things slide, but Newman's brownface lives in my memory just a couple levels above the borderline-minstrel look Charlton Heston had in those terrible studio-ordered additional scenes in TOUCH OF EVIL. I didn't have the most flexible of disbelief-suspenders back then, but I guess I'll find out in a few days. Regardless, is there a reason why the bandit/rapist has to be Mexican in this story? Toshiro Mifune played a Japanese bandit/rapist in the original because he was Japanese, right? Claire Bloom and Laurence Harvey co-star as the assaulted couple; I forget if they played it as hispanic too. If they did, ay caramba.

Noon-1:45, FMC: AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES, 105m.
Even when that pussy MacArthur took off and left the Flips high and dry, Tyrone Power stayed behind to help them help themselves … kill as many Japanese invaders as they could. It's been a million years since I saw this 1950 potboiler, but I recall it being largely free of the worst, spear-carrying condescension for the Filipinos. The movie comes off as more Lamar Trotti's [who produced the film and wrote the adaptation of Ira Wolfert's novel] than director Fritz Lang's, alas, who shows almost none of his usual stylishness nor his usual obsessions -- except maybe his love for secret communication apparatus; Power and Ewell spend most of the time building broadcasters in preparation for Mac's return. Co-starring Micheline Presle, Tom Ewell, Bob Patten and Tommy Cook.

3:15PM-5:15 PM, TCM, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, 114m.
Yeah, it's a boxing biopic. Yes, it co-stars the wonderful Pier Angeli. But it does star Paul Newman at his actorliest and the vivid, unflaggingly bold auteurship of Robert Wise, who really did have a personality as an artist, honest. I don't know about you, but I was sold on this movie at "Angeli."

5:15PM-7:15PM, TCM: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, 108m.
If schools and parents really wanted to curtail drinking in teenagers, especially boys, they would give them a DVD that collects [and deletes the audio tracks from] of all the scenes where Elizabeth Taylor undresses before Paul Newman, who can't take his eyes of his drink. Of course, the masturbation rates would skyrocket, but no kid wrap the family car around a telephone pole driving home from a party if that was all that was going on. Richard Brooks directed and co-wrote this adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play with James Poe, which costarred Burl Ives and Jack Carson.

9:49PM-10PM, TCM Short: GEORGETOWN, PRIDE OF PENANG, 9m.
Another fine travelogue from James A. FitzPatrick's TRAVELTALK series.

10PM-Midnight, TCM: MAN HUNT, 102m.
I missed it two weeks back: 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.


Wednesday, January 27

8AM-9:45AM, IFC: WILD MAN BLUES, 105m.
I don't know how much of this portrait of writer-filmmaker-clarinetist Woody Allen I believe -- on one hand, it was made by the rock-solid documentarian Barbara Kopple; on the other hand, it was produced by longtime Allen crony Jean Doumanian; on the third hand, it was originally directed by Terry Zwigoff until he clashed with Doumanian and Allen over who got final cut of the film. Regardless, it's pretty funny and features a number of great "scenes" that underline that Woody Allen the man is not Woody Allen the film persona in a way that a dozen variations on STARDUST MEMORIES couldn't achieve. And yes, it's hilarious to see how his former stepdaughter, now wife Soon Yi Previn seems to be the bigger adult in their relationship. [Reairs at 12:55PM.]

8AM-10AM, H: REAL TOMB HUNTERS: SNAKES, CURSES, AND BOOBY TRAPS
We all love documentaries about this Indiana Jones-type stuff, right? [Reairs at 2PM.]

9:50AM-11:15AM, IFC: MAN OF THE CENTURY, 80m.
Oh, '90s indie cinema -- even when you weren't great at least you were interesting, especially when you take a short film's amount of ideas and stretch it to almost feature length. Frank Gorshin's cameo as a dignified old Italian patron of the performing arts is still funny, even when Johnny Twenties busts the door open on his audition of poor Virginia. [Reairs at 2:45PM.]

10AM-Noon, H: INDIANA JONES AND THE ULTIMATE QUEST
I say again: We all love documentaries about this Indiana Jones-type stuff, right? This one might be a little too on-the-nose for me to enjoy as much as the earlier doc, but eh. [Reairs at 4PM.]

8PM-10:15PM MY SON JOHN, 122m.
I hope it's just my shitty memory and not the film's quality that the only thing I remember about this one is that Francois Truffaut once said the closest cinematic representation of the kind of man Andre Bazin was is the father in this movie. Actually, no -- it's the father in GOOD SAM I'm thinking of. Oh well, nevermind. I saw MY SON JOHN as a very young man, though -- even if it's just another anti-commie potboiler, I can always enjoy watching another skirmish in the meta-war of attrition [between conservative ideology and unsinkable comedic timing] that Leo McCarey waged against himself for at least the last quarter of his career. Helen Hayes, Robert Walker and Van Heflin star.

8PM-9PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1986: Mike Tyson vs. James 'Quick' Tillis"
Iron Mike's 20th fight was the first to last long enough to be decided on the judges' score cards. Six months and seven fights [!] later, he demolished Trevor Berbick in two rounds for his first championship.

9PM-10PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2006: Sergei Liakhovich vs. Shannon Briggs"
Probably the most boring heavyweight title fight of the television age, but I love that big palooka Briggs.

10PM-11PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1993: Lennox Lewis vs. Frank Bruno"
I wish this fight was much more interesting as a fight than as the answer to the trivia question "Who were the first pair of British-born boxers to fight each other for the world heavyweight title?"


Thursday, January 28

12:45AM-2:30AM, FMC: DEATH HUNT, 97m.
I've very fond of Lee Marvin's informal cycle of movies where he faced off against other tough guys, GOJIRA TAI style: vs. Toshiro Mifune in HELL IN THE PACIFIC, vs. Ernest Borgnine in EMPEROR OF THE NORTH POLE, vs. Robert Ryan in THE ICEMAN COMETH, etc. Marvin thrived on having a foil who gave as good as he got. Bronson holds his own opposite Marvin, but the movie itself doesn't give either actor enough elbow room to expand to a proper, Godzilla-esque film size -- which is weird considering the movie was largely filmed out in the open Canadian wilderness. Co-stars Angie Dickinson and Carl Weathers.

2:15AM-4:15AM, TCM: THE BEDFORD INCIDENT, 102m.
It's easy to understand why this is the least heralded of the movies Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark made together; this Cold War cat & mouse game between an American destroyer and a Soviet submarine in the North Atlantic has the overall pace of a drifting iceberg. It's also a fairly rare Poitier vehicle where, as race is barely an issue -- he's a journalist onboard the destroyer -- he's not the absolute purest of pure [an asset to "the negro race," etc.] and clearly enjoyed cutting loose a bit. A crazy-young Donald Sutherland makes his credited American feature-film debut.

6AM-7:30AM, FMC: BACHELOR FLAT, 91 or 88m.
ALL HAIL FRANK TASHLIN! TASHLIN IS THE WAY AND THE LIGHT!! A 1962 comedy starring Tuesday Weld, with Terry-Thomas in the sexually-put-upon leading-man role that actors like Robert Cummings, Dick Powell and Tom Ewell filled in Tash's '50s films? Sold! Richard Beymer and Celeste Holm co-star.

8:30AM-10:15AM, TCM: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, 91m.
The first Marx Brothers movie to feature the boys as a trio and not a quintet -- you know, it really didn't help to drop Zeppo, who was a better comedian than a crooner/leading-man, but then replace him with random crooners/romantic leads who couldn't carry their part of a bit if it had handles on it. This is undoubtedly the best-made movie in the Brothers' oeuvre, but I dunno if it's the funniest or best Marx Bros. movie, if you savvy. Co-stars Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle, directed by Sam Wood from a script by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, with Al Boasberg, Groucho and Buster Keaton, based on a story by James Kevin McGuinness. So much for the theory that too many cooks ruin the Stateroom scene.

11:45AM-2PM, TCM: ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, 121m.
I imagine that Howard Hawks wanted Jean Arthur to be more of the iconic "Hawks woman," but I like how she seems to be from a universe other than the one that Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth and the rest of the cast are in.

2PM-4PM, TCM: NINOTCHKA, 111m.
4PM-6PM, TCM: THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, 99m.
I'm not a Greta Garbo fan and still can't purge YOU'VE GOT MAIL from my mind to be able to enjoy SHOP, but this is a nice Ernst Lubitsch double feature.

6PM-8PM, TCM: THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, 112m.
The last of the four films Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made as a team and the third with director George Cukor. As I remember it, the timing and pace in this movie is near-perfect but almost every scene crackles with energy like you're watching an improvisation between actors only just out of arm's reach. James Stewart co-stars.

6:30PM-8PM, Sun: SWIMMERS, 90m.
Coming-of-age working-class family drama -- I caught a few minutes of it a few months ago and was impressed by Sarah Paulson. Then again, I'm always impressed by Paulson, if it's her turn in that Jamie Foxx convenience-store robbery movie or as Bunny Yeager in that bizarrely sedate Bettie Page biopic. Tara Devon Gallagher, Robert Knott and Cherry Jones star. [Reairs at 5:15AM.]


Friday, January 29

9AM-10:30AM, TCM: I SHOT JESSE JAMES, 81m.
Early Western from Sam Fuller, starring Preston Foster, Barbara Britton and John Ireland.

10AM-11:35AM, Sun: BRIGHT FUTURE, 92m.
I like what I've seen of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's movies -- CURE was a decent police procedural with a handful of engagingly odd character aspects [the entire wife subplot, etc.] and the movie itself was visually gorgeous. I've never been in a good place to sit down and really dig into FUTURE -- either that or it's too subtle for me to follow -- but once it's going there seems to be a new amazing image every few minutes like a subway stop for beauty or disturbance or just plain awesomeness. [Reairs at 4:25PM.]

10:30AM-12:30PM, TCM: JOHNNY GUITAR, 110m.
I love this Nick Ray Western despite Joan Crawford. Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge co-star.

12:30PM-2:30PM, TCM: SANTA FE TRAIL, 110m.
The sort of all-star, blazingly dishonest treatment of history that would have been filmed in Cinemascope and Technicolor 15 years later, this mid-Western epic finally gives liberal Hollywood what's for; slaveowners were peaceful, law-abiding good guys and slaves were OK with the deal, y'geddit? On the other hand, abolitionist-extremist John Brown may actually have the voice on God on his internal shortwave radio. Who sez Hollywood hedged the hedges on its bets, even going so far as to title the few movies it made about slavery something that makes it sound like a Western when it really wasn't? This film also boasts what may be the hilariously stupid ending ever released by a Hollywood studio: As [Errol Flynn] J.E.B. Stuart's renamed-for-no-good-reason wife, "Kit Carson Holiday," Olivia de Havilland sets up Union General George Custer [Ronald Reagan] with the daughter of Jefferson Davis' daughter [Susan Peters]. An open letter to the screenwriters of Earth: If you're going to make shit up in your historical epics, at least make shit up that still makes a little sense after a moment's worth of thought. Thanks in advance. Raymond Massey co-stars as John Brown, Michael Curtiz directs from what is …. appropriately called an "original screenplay" by Robert Buckner.

2:30PM-4:30PM, TCM: THE BARON OF ARIZONA, 97m.
Another early Fuller Western, this one starring Vincent Price, Ellen Drew and Beulah Bondi.

11PM-1AM, SHO: SHOBOX: THE NEW GENERATION
I have no idea who's on this card. Showtime, when are you going to hire me to design PDF catalogs for your channels?


Saturday, January 30
[History's listings have gone dark]

Midnight-1:30AM, IFC: IT'S ALIVE, 80m.
Cheap-ass but entertaining sci-fi Larry Buchanan movie, precisely the sort of thing that should be on television in the wee small hours of a Friday-into-Saturday. Maniac farmer kidnaps three protagonists to feed to the prehistoric monster who nests on his land.

Midnight-2AM, TCM: SEE HERE, PRIVATE HARGROVE, 101m.
I'm very interested in Robert Walker, who seemed to have a lot more talent wasted by the Hollywood system than it used. I'm fascinated by the story of how, even though Walker and Jennifer Jones were married, Walker was so quickly and thoroughly cockblocked by David O. Selznick. Anyway, HARGROVE is another greenhorn-in-the-army picture, and this one co-stars Donna Reed and Keenan Wynn.

1AM-1:30AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2005: Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez"
1:30AM-2AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2005: Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez II"
2AM-3AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2007: Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vazquez III"
All three of their classic super-bantamweight fights from 2005 and 2007. They're scheduled to meet for a fourth fight in May; as thrilling as these fights were -- they're genuine classics -- I don't think I need or even want to see them tear into each other again, especially as Marquez only won one of the fights, and that was after Vazquez's breathing was drastically impaired by a broken nose. All a fourth fight does is put more money in everyone's pockets and bigger medical bills in the fighters' mailboxes. [Reairs at 9PM.]

2AM-3:30AM, Sun: CHRISTMAS ON MARS, 82m.
Missed it last week: The Flaming Lips' D.I.Y. science-fiction Xmas opus.

5AM-5:13AM, TCM Short: THE TROUBLE MAKER, 12m.
5:15AM-5:32AM, TCM Short: WHY VANDALISM, 16m.
A pair of late-1950s short documentaries about how the kids are not alright, dammit.

10AM-Noon, TCM: THE DARK CORNER, 99m.
Solid film noir starring Mark Stevens, Lucille Ball [yes really] and Clifton Webb, with support from William Bendix. Henry Hathaway directs from Jay Dratler's & Bernard C. Schoenfeld's screenplays from Leo Rosten's story.

1PM-8PM, Sun: SPECTACLE: ELVIS COSTELLO WITH ...
1PM: "Bono & The Edge"
2PM: "Levon Helm, Nick Lowe, Richard Thompson, Allen Toussaint"
3PM: "Neko Case, Sheryl Crow, Ron Sexsmith, Jesse Winchester"
4PM: "Elvis Costello"
5PM: "John Prine, Ray LaMontagne, Lyle Lovett"
6PM: "Bruce Springsteen - Part 1"
7PM: "Bruce Springsteen - Part 2"
Mini-marathon of the Sundance talk/rock series. On paper, this should be the greatest thing ever broadcast -- Elvis is perceptive, funny and a far more versatile musician than he gets credit for -- but it just sort of lays there for an hour at a time. Again, I don't know if I've just not been in a place where I could really watch the show, so this is a good jumping-on point.


Sunday, January 31

8AM-10:15AM, FMC: BLOOD AND SAND, 125m.
Tyrone Power! Linda Darnell! Rita Hayworth! Rouben Mamoulian! A young Anthony Quinn! Vicente Blasco Ibanez's novel! Bull fights! Passion! More Technicolor!

10AM-11:30AM, TCM: FIVE CAME BACK, 75m.
Another non-comedy featuring Lucille Ball, it sounds like this no-budget, pre-war RKO programmer lives or dies by how well its cast is fleshed out: The dozen passengers to survive of a plane crash in the South American jungle realize that, if the repaired plane flies at all, it can only carry five people.

8PM-9:35PM, Sun: ANGEL-A, 91m.
Luc Besson returns to the director's chair for what I'm guessing is a hyperkinetic valentine to Paris. [Reairs at 3:45AM.]

8PM-10PM, IFC: BEYOND THE SEA, 118m.
I guess this is supposed to be a huge bomb and an embarrassment? Really? Much like ISHTAR, which is a fine movie [Criterion/Eclipse would do well to release a box of Elaine May's four movies as a writer-director], this Kevin Spacey vehicle is quite enjoyable if you ignore all the horseshit surrounding its reception. Bob Hoskins, Caroline Aaron, John Goodman and Kate Bosworth co-star. [Reairs at 2:30AM]

11PM-Midnight, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1983: Alexis Arguello vs. Aaron Pryor"
This is their second fight, not the infamous "Gimme the water bottle -- no, the one that I mixed" original. Pryor's record of 39-1 [35KO] is remarkable -- the one loss came long after he had retired and had gone to seed -- but his standing as one of the greatest light-welterweights ever seems to be fading, especially as things like YouTube and the documentary ASSAULT IN THE RING remind boxing fans of the mystery of what exactly Panama Lewis had mixed in that bottle of water.


Monday, February 1

Midnight-2AM, TCM: TORRENT, 88m.
Again, not a Garbo fan, but this sounds amusing: This week's Sunday Silent is a 1926 adaptation of another Ibanez novel, this one about a country girl moving to Paris to pursue her dream of being an opera singer. I think I like Garbo a lot more in silent movies because it's a lot easier to understand, I think it was Kenneth Tynan's notion that her power comes not from her acting skills but how she allowed the camera to record her. Monta Bell directs, Ricardo Cortez and Gertrude Olmstead co-star.

2AM-3:45AM, TCM: TASTE OF CHERRY, 99m.
TCM's foreign import for the week is a cheerful Iranian film about a man looking for someone to assist his suicide. Now c'mon, how hard is it to help? The poor bastard already dug his grave, all the heavy lifting is already done. Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri and Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari star, Abbas Kiraosatami writes and directs.

9AM-10:30AM, Sun: LUCKEY, 84m.
Laura Longsworth's portrait of sculptor Tom Luckey, his son and wives and their life following Tom's freak fall through a window and subsequent quadriplegia. I only saw a few moments of the film a few months ago, but I was intrigued by the implied question of how power can and should be distributed between collaborators -- specifically, how I think his son decides that Tom's idea for the sculpture they're making is wrong, and ignores the old man's vision for his own. If Tom wasn't dead from the shoulders down, how would the finished piece have turned out? etc. [Reairs at 1:35PM.]

6PM-8PM, FMC: JOHN AND MARY, 92m.
Normally, a 1969 romantic comedy starring Mia Farrow and Dustin Hoffman in New York City would give me hives, but dude -- John Mortimer wrote it [?!?] and Peter Yates directed it. Who cares if it was Bizarro-Earth Mortimer who wrote it and Peter Yates had his AD direct everything except the scenes in cars -- MORTIMER AND YATES! Tyne Daly, Michael Tolan and Olympia Dukakis co-star.

8PM-10PM, FMC: A PERFECT COUPLE, 110m.
This is shaping up to be "Creative Misfire Monday" on the Fox Movie Channel -- this is a long eclipsed Robert Altman movie about a middle-aged Los Angeles man meeting a young torch singer via a dating service. It doesn't boast the cast nor the reputation of NASHVILLE, but I remember it being within name-dropping distance of it. Of all of the absurd number of overlong, underthought movies Altman banged out at the tail-end of the '70s -- you would think that he was going to die, or the ideas were all going to turn into pumpkins if they weren't on film, at the first moment of 1980. Paul Dooley and Marta Heflin star, Altman wrote the screenplay, or whatever they used to shoot the movie, with Allan F. Nicholls.

11PM-12:35AM, IFC: THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS, 93m.
I'll never understand how anyone could take one look at any heavy-metal band of the '80s and not start laughing until some time in 1993 or so. Penelope Spheeris, we salute you.

And there's another week.

The 2043rd step on the last road home.

Friday Night Fights: The Big, Bad Bear



Charles "Sonny" Liston could have been a real champion. The tragedy of his career isn't so much how the mob traded away his long-term value as a century-class fighter for short-term cash betting on [and in two or three extra-profitable cases, against him], it's that they and he either couldn't or wouldn't place him in fights whose outcome wasn't 100% assured.

Regardless, Liston's official record easily makes the Top Ten of all time: 50 wins [39 by KO] and 4 losses [3 by KO]. Those losses: An early split-decision loss to Marty Marshall because of a broken jaw [those mouthguards don't protect much if your mouth's open; he was literally laughing at Marshall when he got cracked]; the first loss to Muhammad Ali blamed on an injured shoulder [I sez he threw it], the rematch one of the most blatant throwing of a fight ever caught on film; and his final loss was another KO to Leotis Martin, a boxer who did not have a knockout artist's resume [19KOs in 31 wins, almost all in his early career against unheralded opposition], for a freshly created new heavyweight title. Liston pummeled Martin so badly that not only did the poor guy drop from a left-hand bodyshot in the fourth round, he was forced to retire after this fight with a detached retina. It sounds to me more like an aging, out-of-shape Liston ran out of gas rather than Martin knocked him out.

Unlike Mike Tyson's Ring Executioner persona -- which seemed more the psychological armor of an insecure, hollow young man -- Liston seemed like the real deal; looking into those dead-man's eyes, watching him stalk his opponent, I rarely ever get the sense that his punches were thrown with bad intentions; they were thrown beyond intention, slamming into and often through their targets with the indifferent destructive power of falling trees collapsing the lesser-built houses within their reach.

That so elemental a force could be so totally controlled by something as contemptible as a handful of Mafioso is obscene. It not only stunted -- eventually ended -- Liston's life and career, even now it limits him in fight fans' fading memory [as he's already been forgotten by the casual fan, except as an Ali opponent]; Liston rarely pops up in "What If ____ had fought ____?" debates, a parlor game for fans that regularly headlines generationally blessed shoulda-been Shoulda-Beens like Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson. What If Sonny Liston had fought a young George Foreman or Ken Norton? What If Liston had fought a prime Ezzard Charles? What if a very young Liston had fought Marciano? What if Liston had really fought Muhammad Ali?

Maybe Liston was born to die young, unsung, but having left so much squandered potential behind that his memory doesn't merit another moment of anyone's imagination. To think about Charles Liston for too long is to have his ghost laugh in your face while it rubs your nose in the unavoidable conclusion that he straight-up didn't give a shit that he could have been The Greatest. I still like watching him fight, though.

The 2041st step on the last road home.

Los Angeles, California! Land of the free, home of the ... Rams and the Dodgers!

I think it's really funny that Google Maps has an alternate ID for this store as "F&B Ambulance Co," since that's the block where a lot of MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED was filmed.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel feh.



Had to explain to my nephew today why the world's not going to end in two years, and how the end has been predicted since the beginning with endlessly entertaining results. Since it's always better to show than to tell, I dug up this site, which has a fine catalog of "Predictions that the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it would happen" from Jesus to cranks who place TEOTWAWKI occurring some time past 2020.

My favorite doomsday quotes:

"Our world has reached a critical stage. Children no longer listen to their parents. The end of the world cannot be far away." - an Egyptian priest, 2000 B.C.

"The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound. Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching." - Assyrian tablet, c. 2800 B.C.

The second one is funny because it's true, but I keep waiting and waiting but I only have blue balls for Armageddon. I guess I should and/or shouldn't give up hope.

The 2039th step on the last road home.

OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH

There's a fairy glorious moment in the first few chords of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" where the song could break toward being Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Big Star or Bruce Springsteen -- especially if it's playing at near-maximum volume. This has been a random thought that's too big to twit. Thank you.

The 2037th step on the last road home.

Weekly DVD Alert Nine: January 18-25, 2010

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 18

Midnight-1:30AM, TCM: THE CONQUERING POWER, 89m.
1:30AM-2:15AM, TCM: STOLEN MOMENTS, 35m.
TCM's Silent Sunday this week is a double-header of Rudolph Valentino films.

2:15AM-4AM, TCM: WILD STRAWBERRIES, 91m.
Ingmar Bergman! Exotic Sweden, filmed in glorious Black and White! Victor Sjostrom! Ingrid Thulin! Young Max Von Sydow!

8:30AM-10:30AM, TCM: CABIN IN THE SKY, 99m.
It's astounding that a "race" movie could be made in 1943 that's as unpatronizing as this one is. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson stars with Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, etc. Vincente Minnelli makes his directorial debut; he originally directed CABIN on Broadway.

10:10AM-10:20AM, TCM Short: PETE SMITH SPECIALTY: "Studio Visit," 10m.
Mr. Smith goes to a film studio's backlots and investigates what happens behind the scenes.

10:30AM-11:45AM, TCM: BRIGHT ROAD, 68m.
This 1953 school drama sounds like every other school drama -- will NAMEOFSTARPLAYINGTHETEACHERHERE be able to reach the troubled child/children before it's too late for them? -- but the pre-CARMEN JONES combination of Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte sounds too good to pass on.

Noon-1:15PM, IFC: THE FIREMEN'S BALL, 73m.
Milos Forman's first color film and his last feature to be made in his home country of Czechoslovakia is a surprisingly funny and spry little movie. [Reairs at 4:40PM.]

2:45PM-4:15PM, IFC: MAN OF THE CENTURY, 80m.
This indie sounds like it will either be fun or a total flop: Johnny Twenties lives in the 1920s in his mind, but everything else is in the '90s.

4:30PM-6:15PM, Sun: MAN ON WIRE, 94m.
Everyone I know who has seen this documentary says that it is genuinely moving. On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit spent nearly 45 minutes performing something of a high-wire act on a cable connecting Towers One and Two of the World Trade Center. [Reairs at 5AM.]

6:15PM-8PM, Sun: DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, 96m.
My favorite moments in this profile of everyone's pal, writer Harlan Ellison, are the silences just after he bellows out some of his tough-guy schtick -- you can see he's trying to script the next line that would flow from what his character "HARLAN FUCKING ELLISON, THE ONLY WRITER WHO TAKES NO SHIT, FIGHTS ALL COMERS AND DOESN'T EVEN TAKE A LEAK WITHOUT MAKING MONEY OFF IT" just said. All successful writers adopt or drift into a set persona for their interviews [sometimes, for their lives] but Harlan's is the best, I think because it fits whoever he really is so badly. [Reairs at 6:45AM.]

9:45PM-11:15PM, IFC: LARRY FLYNT: THE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE, 80m.
Joan Brooker-Marks's portrait of HUSTER publisher Larry Flynt and his First Amendment, publishing and political battles.


Tuesday, January 19

8:00PM-10:15PM, TCM: INHERIT THE WIND, 128m.
I've never been wild about the liberties taken with the Scopes Monkey Trial, especially the romance between the movie John Scopes and "Reverend Brown's daughter" [which the movie William Jennings Bryan later uses against her in court, one of the most dramatic moments in the film that doesn't feature Spencer Tracy and Fredric March roaring at each other] that, um, never happened. I suppose the original Broadway or the film's producers wanted to inject a little sex into the show, but even the suggestion of Dick York and Donna Anderson making out doesn't add much to this production. The meta-joke of the first big Hollywood movie about evolution starring the two actors to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde battling each other is delicious; once again, March wins in the acting demolition derby. Gene Kelly co-stars in a remarkably physical non-physical [the man radiates it, even when he's just standing still] role.

10:15PM-11:15PM, TCM: BLOCK-HEADS, 57m.
I'm not an expert on Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy's films, but I believe tonight is Bob Newhart's guest-programmer evening and I'm sure he knows from funny.

11PM-12:01AM, H: APOCALYPSE MAN
If Laurel & Hardy isn't your idea of comedy, perhaps you will find this as funny as it sounds to me: "Former Marine Rudy Reyes, a martial-arts expert, demonstrates survival techniques needed in the event of a worldwide catastrophe. Included: making fire, etc." not to sound like a broken record week-to-week, but does anyone remember when the "H" in the History Channel's logo stood for "History" or perhaps "Hitler?" [Reairs at 03:01am.]


Wednesday, January 20

10AM-11:30AM, TCM: THE BIG HANGOVER, 82m.
This sounds like a total piece of piffle, but I'm amusing and intrigued to see how writer-director-producer Norman Krasna handles a plot that hinges on a young lawyer's career being endangered because he's allergic to alcohol. Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor star.

11:30AM-12:30PM, TCM: PRIVATE SCREENINGS: "Patricia Neal," 40m.
Today must be Neal's birthday; TCM is showing her films all day. I'm a little leery of watching this 2004 chat between her and host Robert Osborne; I'd love to hear her thoughts about her career and work but I think I'd rather keep my primary mental image of her being her 50 years ago, not 5 years ago. It's like how you remember your grandma at the end in the hospital dying and not when she was younger and healthier. Except that your grandmother was never as smoldering hot as Patricia Neal.

9:35PM-11:25PM, IFC: AWAY FROM HER, 109m.
It's sexy grandma day, apparently. Sarah Polley makes her writer-director debut with this refreshingly bullshit-free little drama about aging and love. Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie star, with support from Olympia Dukakis, Michael Murphy and Wendy Crewson. [Reairs at 4:35AM]


Thursday, January 21

[ESPNC listings have gone dark.]

12:15AM-2:15AM, TCM: THE KREMLIN LETTER, 120m.
I'm starting to regret not framing a structure to my project to watch every John Huston film I can; watching them as they present themselves on television is probably not doing me any favors in getting a better sense of Huston's sensibilities and obsessions as well as how he changed as a creator as he aged. I saw this movie as part of my Watch-Every-Orson-Welles-Movie project 15 years ago [which I did watch in sequence as much as possible] and thought it was just a mess. Here's hoping I was wrong, again.

4AM-5:45AM, TCM: COUNTER-ATTACK, 90m.
This sounds like the kind of psychological thriller that could only escape from studio-era Hollywood disguised as something else; in this case a piece of WWII "The Russians Are The Best Allies A Feller Could Have" rah-rah movie. Paul Muni and Marguerite Chapman star as a pair of Russian fighters who are trapped in a bombed-out building with seven Nazi soldiers. Zoltan Korda directs from John Howard Lawson's screenplay of Janet & Philip Stevenson's translation and adaptation of the play POBYEDA by Ilya & Mikhail Vershinin.

4:31AM-6AM, FMC: WIZARDS, 80m.
This Ralph Bakshi fantasy is well worth watching. Once. I'm afraid it's more interesting for its avoidable flaws than its achieved intentions.

9AM-10:15AM, TCM: THE HATCHET MAN, 74m.
There seems to be a small, ill-advised cycle of pre-war Hollywood movies that featured caucasian actors in extensive make-up to look Asian but are more sentimental than outright racist [i.e. slap-a-Jap jingoism of WWII or Mickey Rooney's yellowface]: THE BITTER TEA OF GENERAL YEN, THE GOOD EARTH, THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN, later DRAGONSEED with Katherine Hepburn. HATCHET stars Edward G. Robinson as a Tong hitman who promises his best friend [J. Carroll Naish] that he'll marry the guy's daughter [Loretta Young] when she comes of age. Then Robinson assassinates him with a hatchet. It's that kind of a movie.

8PM-10PM, TCM: POINT BLANK, 92m.
A film tribute to Alcatraz kicks off with this subtly unsubtle revenge-addled fever dream of a movie. One of the most valuable things related to the massive DVD boom is that, with virtually every movie extant either commercially available or at least obtainable, we no longer have to rely on second-hand impressions of films. To read reviews and articles about BLANK from the around the time of its release, you'd think it was just as …. Savage as Gil Kane's sledgehammer-smart magazine homage/ripoff implies. The film has a surprising amount of commentary for a movie driven by a nearly mute Lee Marvin. Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, John Vernon and Carroll O'Connor co-star in John Boorman's production of Alexander Jacobs and Rafe & David Newhouse adaptation of Donald E. Westlake's novel THE HUNTER.

10PM-Midnight, TCM: ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, 112m.
A typically lean Don Siegel movie with a typically terse Clint Eastwood lead performance. I'm watching it to figure out how Patrick McGoohan could devour the scenery without ever unclenching his jaw.

10PM-10:30PM, SHO2: FIGHT CAMP
10:30PM-Midnight, SHO2: SUPER SIX WORLD BOXING CLASSIC: "Mikkel Kessler vs. Andre Ward"
A replay of the final fight of the super-middleweight mega-tournament's first round. For my money, this was easily the best, most dramatic and entertaining fight of the three. FIGHT CAMP is presumably the name of Showtime's 24/7 behind-the-scenes docuhype program.


Friday, January 22

1:15AM-2:45 AM, Sun: CHRISTMAS ON MARS, 82m.
The Flaming Lips' D.I.Y. science-fiction Xmas opus.

4:45AM-8:10AM, IFC: THE SEVEN SAMURAI, 204m.
We all know Akira Kurosawa's 1954 epic kicks ass, right?

8AM-10AM, DOGFIGHTS: "Kamikazes"
Man, I wish the History Channel's Web site was actually useful for learning what's airing on the History Channel. [Reairs at 2PM.]

8:10AM-9:45AM, IFC: TSOTSI, 91m.
This sounds like a laff riot -- violent South African street kid cares for an infant whose mother he murdered while stealing her car -- but I'm putting on here to show the ladies that I'm a deeply sensitive, culturally curious man who cares. Hello ladies. [Reairs at 1:15PM.]

9:45AM-11:30AM, IFC: MAD DOG MORGAN, 102m.
Very excited to see a proper print of Philippe Mora's Outback Western, which showcases either a brilliant or a grossly indulgent lead performance from Dennis Hopper. [Reairs at 3PM and 5AM.]

10PM-10:30PM SHO2 FIGHT CAMP
10:30PM-1:30AM SHO2 SUPER SIX WORLD BOXING CLASSIC: "Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell; Arthur Abraham vs. Jermaine Taylor"
A replay of the first two fights of the super-middleweight Classic. The former was largely a waste of the viewer's personal investment -- the only consistency in a Dirrell performance is the growing sense of frustration that one gets watching his fights as it becomes clearer how unreconcilable the difference is between his vast potential and his limited ability [or desire] to realize it. Like far too many fighters of his emerging generation, Andre Dirrell essentially takes every test as a pass/fail, doing just enough to win and little more. The only thought I have about Carl Froch is that I wish I could buy him for what he's truly worth and then sell him for what he thinks he's worth. Abraham-Taylor was a far less active fight -- King Arthur warms up like an old vacuum-tube radio -- but far more satisfying to watch, if only to see the tragedy of Taylor's last few fights [winning the fight almost literally every round until losing it with minutes/seconds until the final bell because he runs out of gas but keeps engaging in exchanges] reach a climax that was so horrifying that even the most bloodthirsty of fight fans would really rather see Taylor retire before he gets maimed or killed in the ring. Abraham's KO of Taylor and the aftermath -- flat on his back, his arms straining to raise in something that looked more like an epileptic seizure [or an exorcism] than the usual knock out -- may define the brutality of the sport in the same way Shane Mosley's scream of pain after a Vernon Forrest body shot did seven years ago.

Taylor's promoter Lou DiBella deserves a ton of praise for calling on his fighter to retire and then leaving a lot of money on the table [Taylor was guaranteed two more big-money Showtime fights before he could be eliminated from the competition] by walking away after Taylor announced he would fight on. Of course, the most likely alternate to replace Taylor if he drops out is another DiBella super-middleweight, the less-shot but also less-tested Allan Green, but I still think it's extremely cool of DiBella to be the boxing promoter who doesn't cash-in an over-the-hill but still popular fighter until the palooka's just a half-blind, slurring wreck. Thankfully Taylor has come to his senses, or been guided to them by his people, and has withdrawn from the tournament, and from boxing for the foreseeable future. [BTW: The likelihood of Green being Taylor's replacement just became less likely now that Showtime has announced that Green and Saiko Bika will fight for Taylor's vacated slot in the Classic in an ad hoc eliminator match on SHOBOX February 5. It should be the second- or third-best fight of this second stage of Super Six competition.]


Saturday, January 23

8PM-10PM, H: SNIPER: INSIDE THE CROSSHAIRS
I love sniper stories. This History documentary recounts/reenacts a number of famous shots and discusses technique and other terribly interesting, ultimately useless things to know. [Reairs at 12:01AM.]

9:45PM-11:45PM, HBO: BOXING AFTER DARK "Steve Luevano vs. Juan Manuel Lopez; Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Rogers Mtagwa."
Lopez and Gamboa have both looked great in showcases against the usual tomato cans, but it's heartening to see them matched HBO-tough [take that any way you want to] to kick off B.A.D.'s 2010 season. It should be most educational and exciting to see how Gamboa handles Mtagwa, one limited but hard-headed beast who took JuanMa into fairly deep waters when they fought a few months ago. Luevano doesn't have a thrilling resume, but his one loss reeks of homecooked/outright incompetent judging [the other guy lost three points but wasn't disqualified, and still won 92-95, 93-94 and 93-96].

10PM-Midnight, H: EXTREME MARKSMEN
More of the same, only without much of an apparent history connection. [Reairs at 2:01AM.]


Sunday, January 24

6AM-8AM, TCM: I LOVE YOU AGAIN, 99m.
This non-THIN MAN vehicle for actors William Powell & Myrna Loy and director W.S. Van Dyke II has a potentially brilliant plot: A respectable married man discovers he's forgotten his past existence as a con artist.

7:35AM-9:30AM, IFC: THE FIELD, 113m.
I'm pretty sure a movie can't get more Irish than this unless someone in Craft Services dies from a potato famine. Richard Harris faces off against Tom Berenger over ownership of a gawd-forsaken patch of rocky farmland. John Hurt provides support as the village idiot. [Reairs at 5:05AM]

10:30AM-12:30PM, TCM: ANIMAL CRACKERS, 97m.
I sometime wonder if I'm the only Marx Bros. fan who still has a blind spot for this movie -- I'm pretty sure I'm too young to have been affected by the rights dispute that kept CRACKERS from being widely seen for decades, yet I never saw the movie until years after I started seeking out all things Marx as a kid. DUCK SOUP I know by heart, THE COCONUTS I have in my DNA, even A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA is still within easy grasp in my memory [A&E couldn't show the movie at 5AM often enough, as I recall] -- but ANIMAL CRACKERS is like some disowned older cousin who rejoined the family after your uncle dies but there's no personal connection to be had between you.

4PM-5:35PM, Sun: ON THE ROAD WITH JUDAS, 93m.
This J.J. Lask film sounds like it will either be fun like a Rubik's Cube or a pain in the ass like a Rubik's Cube: Kevin Corrigan plays Lask, who's adapting his novel for the screen while interacting with the actual people who inspired the story and the actors who play the characters, etc. etc. didn't we all like ADAPTATION. and TRISTAM SHANDY etc. [Reairs at 4:55AM.]

6:15 PM-8:25PM, IFC: DAYS OF GLORY,
Indie war movie about how North Africans/Arabs/Muslims in French-controlled colonies volunteered to fight Nazis and liberate France despite the kind of discriminatory treatment one normally only imagines black American soldiers received during World War II. Directed by Rachid Bouchareb from a screenplay co-written with Olivier Lorelle. [Reairs at 1:15AM]


Monday, January 25

12:15AM-2:45AM, TCM: THE MERRY WIDOW, 137m.
I've not seen this film; when I've seen it in guides I always confuse it with Ernst Lubitsch's 1934 musical of the same name, which I have seen a dozen times. This is the 1925 silent made by the infamous Erich von Stroheim, which our old pal John Gilbert and Mae Murray, the model for SUNSET BLVD.'s Norma Desmond.

10:45AM-12:30PM, Sun: F.T.A., 97m.
In the middle of the Vietnam war, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Peter Boyle, Holly Near and Dalton Trumbo joined up to produce a subversive-hip alternative to Bob Hope's U.S.O. shows: F.T.A. [you can probably guess what that stands for] entertained servicemen stationed throughout the Pacific with anti-war comedy skits and folk protest songs for about as long as you'd expect the U.S. Military would allow. This is Francine Parker's rarely seen documentary of the show and its effect on some troops. [Reairs at 4:45PM.]

3:15PM-5PM, TCM: THE LADYKILLERS, 91m.
There's not a single unfunny frame of Alec Guinness to be seen anywhere in this film; it's not an argument held often, probably for a reason, but this film makes an airtight case that an actor has an inherent advantage over a comedian when it comes to being funny in a motion picture. Peter Sellers, Katie Johnson, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom and Danny Green co-star, and Alexander Mackendrick directs from the original screenplay by William Rose. Don't let the Coen Brothers remake scare you off; if you've not seen this, you should.

6:30PM-8PM, TCM: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, 87m.
Sherlock Holmes! Peter Cushing! Christopher Lee! The Most Lurid Technicolors Ever Projected! Thrill to the cinematic experience that's rapidly becoming the most overplayed-on-TCM film since ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN!

And there's another week.

The 2036th step on the last road home.

The 2035th step on the last road home.

bargain-hunter linkpark

The Bargainist
Deal News
Ben's Bargains
My Coupons
Room Saver
Las Vegas Advisor Hotel Guide

I'm tempted to give goozex.com a try to get rid of the bo of Xbox games I don't want to even look at anymore.

Not like the rest, but I have no other furniture links to make a linkpark, so it goes here: It's nice to browse highbrowfurniture.com and try to remember what it was like to have a home.

What begins in poverty, ends in rawk.

Via Offsetguitars.com's Dressing Room feature: "Why I should not be allowed to design Jaguars"



Although I swear that if I made this guitar, I would load it with Orange Drop capacitors, which I've been told will kick my ass with awesomeness [easy to believe; I've often felt that there's no way a cap fished out of a Radio Shack drawer could possibly be the most toneful option available], tune and intonate with a real strobe tuner [even if the best one in my current price range is the Peterson Strobostomp foot pedal] and play through the JMI AC30 combo amp. I might even attempt to copy it with a Copy Carver. Yeah, I know, even in my vague future dreams I won't spend a few hundred bucks for a full-fledged strobe tuner but I'll drop $2-3K on a Vox boutique amplifier. One look at my ideal Jag above should underline how unrealistic my dreams are.

Friday Night Fights: Corruption Edition



Yeah, ha ha, Howard Cosell loses his toupee, but what's truly notable about this clip [followed by a recent interview with the kicker in question] is that it's the media moment [albeit not the legal and business ones] where one of the biggest scams in a field as scammy as boxing was forced into the light and seriously damaged the reputations of THE RING magazine, ABC Sports, the New York State Athletic Commission and scads of fighters, trainers, judges and managers but curiously not the man in the center of this hurricane of shit, Don King. Interestingly enough, there's currently zero mention of it on King's Wikipedia page; to read it, you'd think he's only controversies were not paying boxers enough and maybe kinda sorta ripping off Lloyd's of London on an insurance claim. [King was arrested, tried and convicted of pistol-whipping and stomping a man to death.] There's not even a mention of this scandal on Alex Wallau's page, who was one of the key players inside of ABC to expose the whole sordid affair. I'm not going to bother looking at THE RING's page; I trust there's no mention of it there either.

The heavyweight match between Scott LeDoux and Johnny Boudreaux was the headlining fight of the second card in King & ABC Sports' 1977 "United States Boxing Championships," which theoretically was supposed to dutch-door off the country's Cinderella-Men Olympic-boxing glory from the previous year by serving up tournaments in all eight of the classic weight classes to crown an undisputed champion in each division. It was a downright grubby operation that would wet the beaks of King's cronies and ultimately leave him with with options on all of the champions' next three fights, effectively giving him a monopoly on championship boxing. Even if the tourney hadn't collapsed, the best would not have fought the best, as the contracts a fighter would have to sign to join the competition would effectively give King control over him for years if he won -- understandably, the elite of the field knew they deserved and could get better, so fighters like Marvin Hagler and a significant number of the then-current champs were not included. What to do?

John Ort, the RING editor who was in charge of providing King and ABC with rankings to decide who should be signed to compete, shuffled the rankings to favor King's and his pals' fighters, even fabricating some fighters' records to make them look better. Of the 56 fighters, only 25 of them truly deserved to compete for an undisputed crown. The damage to THE RING's rankings and their yearly record books was such that I understand some trainers and historians simply considered the post-scandal books unusable; the series limped on for a few years before being canceled.

ABC, after commissioning an extensive and thorough investigation, sorta-released [reporters had one day to read it at ABC headquarters] a 400+ page report that declared itself innocent of any criminal doings. King had some of his people read it earlier, and held a big press conference to crow about how the report found him innocent too. Only In America [tm]!

As for the fight itself, LeDoux knocked Boudreaux down in the third and was busting him up for pretty much all eight rounds. Even as corrupted as the fight was, it also showed why the "round" system really is inferior to the current scoring method in professional boxing: Referee Joe Bunsa scored it 3-2-3 for Boudreaux with 3 rounds even; judge Chris Polis scored it 4-3-1 for Boudreaux with 1 even; and judge Harold Valan scored it 5-3 for Boudreaux. It was not that close.

Yesterday's Sunset

It was more amazing a few moments before these were taken; I could see the colors fade while my phone's camera software was loading.

The 2034th step on the last road home.

Weekly DVD Alert Eight: January 11-18, 2010

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 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-11:35AM, 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 * 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.


Tuesday, January 12

6AM-7:45AM, TCM: PARTY GIRL, 99m.
Nicholas Ray makes something out of a mismash of a gangster movie and a vehicle for acting dancer Cyd Charisse. Robert Taylor and Lee J. Cobb co-star.

10:45AM-12:39PM, TCM: COVER GIRL, 107m.
I've been told that this movie actually does have a plot; I'm sure it's a fine story, but who cares when you have young Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth [and even Phil Silvers, Otto Kruger and Eve Arden] onscreen in glorious Technicolor. [The film is followed by a short, four-minute biographical film of Hayworth made in 1962.]

8PM-9PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1996: Riddick Bowe vs. Andrew Golata"
The rematch between washed-up heavyweight champion and the Polish cock-puncher. I forget if it's was this fight or the previous one that triggered a riot in the arena.


Wednesday, January 13

12:30AM-2AM, TCM: BIG CITY, 80m.
At one point in my first blush of Spencer Tracy mania, I tried to acquire copies of all five [well, more like four and a quarter] movies he made with producer-director Frank Borzage; of the group BIG CITY is the nuttiest. The war of cab drivers! Unions! Luise Rainer's eyes!

Wednesday is Kay Francis day, featuring her [presumably less-unfortunate] movies all day -- a veritable parade of journeyman Warner Bros. directors of the late '30s; Alfred E. Green, William Dieterle, W.S. Van Dyke II, John Farrow, William A. Seiter, etc.

8:20AM-9:40AM, IFC: KILL THE POOR, 78m.
David Krumholtz stars in what's promised to be a dark comedy about "down-and-dirty side of building management in pre-gentrification Manhattan." Junkies! Squatters! Burglars! Screenplay by Daniel Handler [the LEMONY SNICKET guy]! [Reairs at 12:40PM and 5PM.]


Thursday, January 14

4:50AM-6:05AM, IFC: REEFER MADNESS, 67m.
The 1936 original propaganda film; because we all have blank DVDs with a little more than an hour of free time left on them. Tell Your Children! The part where Kenneth Craig is sucking on a joint and making the pianist play faster and faster kills me every time. [Reairs Saturday the 16th at 6:50AM]

7:45AM-10:30AM, IFC: A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE, 139m.
Even half-assed, compromised Sergio Leone is worth watching. Sometimes. My head swims at the idea that the lead roles were intended for Jason Robards and Eli Wallach, with Malcolm McDowell in a support role. Instead, we got Rod Steiger, James Coburn and David Warbeck and a Leone who had no interest in directing the film until he was forced into the helm. DUCK, YOU SUCKER is such a great title, too. [Reairs at 1:50PM]

10AM-Noon, FMC: BANDOLERO!, 106m
Noon-2:30PM, FMC: THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, 142m.
Just a nice James Stewart double feature.

2PM-4PM, H: DAY AFTER DISASTER
It's sad that the History Channel is struggling to make its subject sexy mostly by programming stuff that's not, um, history: ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, MONSTER QUEST, PAWN STARS, etc. This program, which promises to "Examine the Department of Homeland Security's plan in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington DC," at least points toward something that could at least become history ... even if it would mean the destruction of most of our corner of civilization.


Friday, January 15

9AM-10:35AM, Sun: DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT, 94m.
This sounds like it could be quite good: "A newspaper story about a female Chechen suicide bomber inspired Russian-born filmmaker Julia Loktev's tense, unnerving story, which follows a teenage girl's preparations to blow herself up in Times Square. Shot in tight, confining close-ups, the film avoids analysis of character and motives, and focuses instead on the girl (Luisa Williams) as she receives final instructions, straps on a backpack of explosives, and arrives in New York City to fulfill her goal. Winner of the Prix Regards Jeune at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival." [Reairs at 2:30PM]

2PM-4PM, H: NAZI AMERICA: A SECRET HISTORY
Decent documentary about the parallel rise of Nazism in America in the 1930s. Ratzis!

9:15PM-11PM, IFC: The Cooler, 103m.
I'm not complaining, but: Is it my imagination or has Maria Bello landed every lead role, playing either a prostitute or a cocktail waitress, in every indie movie set in Las Vegas made this decade? Is it a HAWAII 5-0 kind of thing, where she's cast because she's a great actress and she's local, but mainly because she's local? William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin and Ron Livingston costar.


Saturday, January 16

12:45AM-2:30AM, TCM: THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, 99m.
Even more than BLAST OF SILENCE and DODES'KA-DEN, Criterion made me gasp with surprise and delight when they announced this film was going to be released in their Collection; unlike the other two, I've never seen this movie in its correct aspect ratio. Peter Yates is criminally underrated. Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan and Alex Rocco star

2:30AM-4AM, TCM: DEEP END, 91m.
4AM-5:30AM, TCM: THE SHOUT, 86m.
A pair of iconoclast filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski's films. Definitely a must-record if you're at all curious in work that's more underground than Nic Roeg's but less-so than, say, Ken Jacobs', as these films are unlikely to ever be commercially released in this country. THE SHOUT, by the way, contains the trifecta of young Alan Bates, John Hurt and Tim Curry. Don't see that every day, do you.

2PM-4PM, TCM: MAN OF THE WEST, 99m.
The last of Anthony Mann's '50s genre-redefining Westerns, starring a too-old Gary Cooper, a too-broad Lee J. Cobb and a Julie London strip-tease that will make you feel like a total asshole if you enjoy it.

6:30PM-8PM, Sun: CHALK, 85m.
How bad can an independent mockumentary about four high-school faculty members be? [Reairs at 6:45AM.]

10PM-11:45PM, Sun: THE BOSS OF IT ALL, 100m.
I'm feeling lazy; This sounds like Lars Von Trier's OFFICE SPACE. The End. [Reairs at 3AM.]


Sunday, January 17

Muhammad Ali turns 68 today; ESPN Classic celebrates by airing his fights all day:

9AM-10AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Doug Jones, 1963"
10AM-11AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Zora Folley, 1967"
11AM-Noon, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Floyd Patterson, 1965"
Noon-1PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Karl Mildenberger, 1966"
1PM-2:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Oscar Bonavena, 1970"
2:30PM-4PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Chuck Wepner, 1975"
4PM-5PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Sonny Liston, 1964"
5PM-5:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Sonny Liston II, 1964"
5:30PM-6:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "George Foreman, 1974" [The Rumble in the Jungle]
6:30PM-8PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING: "Joe Frazier III, 1975" [The Thrilla in Manila]

8PM-9PM, ESPNC: ALI RAP, 44m.
Celebrities give with dramatic readings of the champion's quotes, quips and speeches, including Sidney Poitier, James Earl Jones, Angelo Dundee and Ludacris.

9PM-10PM, ESPNC: ALI'S DOZEN, 44m.
Profile in which Muhammad picks and discusses the key rounds of his life in the ring.

10PM-11PM, ESPNC: SPORTSCENTURY "Muhammad Ali"
ESPN-produced general documentary examining his life and legacy.

11PM-2AM, ESPNC: RINGSIDE: "Muhammad Ali: King of the World"
Burt Sugar and the gang present and discuss the Cassius Clay years of Ali's career in depth.

If watching The Greatest all day isn't your thing, may we suggest:

10AM-Noon, TCM: KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, 106m.
Here's hoping this is the original cut, not the one that tacked on an ending that really should have had "HOLY SHIT YOU AMERICANS REALLY DO NEED EVERYTHING SPELLED OUT FOR YOU" flashing across the screen. Dennis Price plays a young man of D'Ascoyne who's not going to let his family stand between him and the D'Ascoyne fortune; Alec Guinness plays the family. Joan Greenwood costars, Robert Hamer writes and directs.

Noon-2PM, TCM: GOD'S LITTLE ACRE, 118m.
A rare non-Western from Anthony Mann's '50s work, it's curiously sedate and undercooked for an oversexed Southern melodrama based on the then-mega popular novel of the same name. Mann and cinematographer Ernie Haller seem more turned on by the location scenery than Tina Louise's body -- no one over the age of 12 was ever aroused by Ginger's acting -- but the movie has a full house of faces that are always nice to see: Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Buddy Hackett [pump that water nice, boy!] Jack Lord, Fay Spain, Vic Morrow, Helen Westcott, Rex Ingram, and a young Michael Landon as … an albino. Blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow [THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, THE WILD ONES] adapted the book for the screen using Philip Yordan as a front.

4PM-6PM, TCM: THE HEIRESS, 115m.
Great period drama that plays less with womens-rights issues than with the inter-generation emotional war of attrition that often occupies the time of the idle rich. Olivia de Havilland owns our asses, Montgomery Clift and Ralph Richardson co-star, and William Wyler directs Augustus & Ruth Goetz' adaptation of their play, which was based on Henry James' novel WASHINGTON SQUARE.


Monday, January 18

Midnight-1:30AM, TCM: THE CONQUERING POWER, 89m.
1:30AM-2:15AM, TCM: STOLEN MOMENTS, 35m.
TCM's Silent Sunday this week is a double-header of Rudolph Valentino films.

2:15AM-4AM, TCM: WILD STRAWBERRIES, 91m.
Ingmar Bergman! Exotic Sweden, filmed in glorious Black and White! Victor Sjostrom! Ingrid Thulin! Young Max Von Sydow!

8:30AM-10:30AM, TCM: CABIN IN THE SKY, 99m.
It's astounding that a "race" movie could be made in 1943 that's as unpatronizing as this one is. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson stars with Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, etc. Vincente Minnelli makes his directorial debut; he originally directed CABIN on Broadway.

10:30AM-11:45AM, TCM: BRIGHT ROAD, 68m.
This 1953 school drama sounds like every other school drama -- will NAMEOFSTARPLAYINGTHETEACHERHERE be able to reach the troubled child/children before it's too late for them? -- but the pre-CARMEN JONES combination of Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte sounds too good to pass on.

Noon-1:15PM, IFC: THE FIREMEN'S BALL, 73m.
Milos Forman's first color film and his last feature to be made in his home country of Czechoslovakia is a surprisingly funny and spry little movie. [Reairs at 4:40PM.]

2:45PM-4:15PM, IFC: MAN OF THE CENTURY, 80m.
This indie sounds like it will either be fun or a total flop: Johnny Twenties lives in the 1920s in his mind, but everything else is in the '90s.

4:30PM-6:15PM, Sun: MAN ON WIRE, 94m.
Everyone I know who has seen this documentary says that it is genuinely moving. On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit spent nearly 45 minutes performing something of a high-wire act on a cable connecting Towers One and Two of the World Trade Center. [Reairs at 5AM.]

6:15PM-8PM, Sun: DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH, 96m.
My favorite moments in this profile of everyone's pal, writer Harlan Ellison, are the silences just after he bellows out some of his tough-guy schtick -- you can see he's trying to script the next line that would flow from what his character "HARLAN FUCKING ELLISON, THE ONLY WRITER WHO TAKES NO SHIT, FIGHTS ALL COMERS AND DOESN'T EVEN TAKE A LEAK WITHOUT MAKING MONEY OFF IT" just said. All successful writers adopt or drift into a set persona for their interviews [sometimes, for their lives] but Harlan's is the best, I think because it fits whoever he really is so badly. [Reairs at 6:45AM.]

9:45PM-11:15PM, IFC: LARRY FLYNT: THE RIGHT TO BE LEFT ALONE, 80m.
Joan Brooker-Marks's portrait of HUSTER publisher Larry Flynt and his First Amendment, publishing and political battles.

And there's another week.