The 2075th step on the last road home.

What a waste of a perfectly good underground lair.

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I don't smoke marijuana, but I don't think you have to have any interest in drugs to covet The Great Tennessee Pot Cave. Who didn't dream of having a secret sanctum in their house when they grew up? This one was like the Bat-Cave for stoners, only Batman would have been smart enough to hire a migrant worker or two run on a treadmill to power the grow lights instead of stealing a massive amount of electricity from the local utilities company.

Some of those photos remind me of the chocolate river, "Pure Imagination" set from WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY -- bright greens framed on all sides by gray and gray-brown -- maybe these pot farmers could have painted and dressed the migrant workers like Oompa-Loompas and have them run on the treadmills. Shame is a great motivator for runners who hit the wall .... I would assume.

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These guys made an estimated $6-8 million a year, but no one wanted to throw a few bucks toward buying a generator or two, or cook up a clever way to get the juice they needed legally but in a way that wouldn't raise suspicion [separate accounts, extension cords, etc.]? Dumbasses. Why go to the trouble of putting a heavy, hydraulically powered door on your secret headquarters if you're going to do anything that draws attention to it?

A fairly cool-looking house sitting atop a massive furnished cave complete with an escape hatch to the back yard -- whoever burned it down committed a crime against the collective dreams of every sentient male human being who reached the age of 12.

New Comics Wednesday: Movies are better than Comics edition II

It may not be true but it's comforting to think that there's nothing so terrible that injecting a little KIDS IN THE HALL into it doesn't make it enjoyable. Here's the original:

Maybe WATCHMEN wouldn't be so punishing to sit through if it was mostly about Rorscharch trying to find Bruce McCulloch's stolen bicycle tire. Or his pen.

The 2074th step on the last road home.

Tuesday Night Fight blather

Dan Rafael rends a garment over an early stoppage in the Vivian Harris-Lucas Matthysse fight last weekend, claiming it was an "abomination [that] makes Richard Steele's famous stoppage in the Julio Cesar Chavez-Meldrick Taylor fight look like the best stoppage in boxing history."

First of all, dude. Chavez-Taylor was a war between two brilliant fighters -- an aging but still unyielding blood & guts warrior and the slick boxer who seemed destined to be the greatest junior-welterweight of his generation -- with styles and sensibilities that guaranteed a fight of the decade. The fight had drama, it had pathos and it even had irony. Harris-Matthysse was not Chavez-Taylor; it was barely more than Chavez Jr.-TopRankTomatoCan.

[Also, Steele stopping the fight with two seconds to go in the fight was the right call; Taylor clearly took a hell of a beating before he was knocked down. When he got up, he didn't respond to either of Steele's "Are you OK?" questions. This wasn't Taylor's first fight; he either knew that a fighter's job after a getting knocked down is to prove to the ref that he can continue, or he was so damaged that he didn't know it anymore. This should be a no-brainer, but: A boxer should never take his eyes of his opponent when they're fighting, never take take his eyes off his coach in the break between rounds and never ever take his eyes off the referee after a knockdown and until the fight resumes or ends. Taylor screwed himself by looking over to his corner when Steele was trying to check that he was able to continue before resuming the last two seconds of the fight.]

Anyway, the last time we saw Vivian Harris was on a FRIDAY NIGHT FIGHTS card last summer, where he left the ring immobilized on a stretcher after collapsing with a scary-as-fuck concussion from a mild-looking clash of heads. Now, I'm not saying the stoppage wasn't early/corrupt, but I can understand a referee or athletic commission not wanting to take any chances in this case. That said, this is the shittiest stoppage I've seen in a long time, but I don't get why Rafael is agonizing over it.

Oh, wait -- before I show a YouTube of the fight, I should pass along Rafael's warning: You may throw up watching the referee stop this fight. Seriously. I didn't but I suppose I was too distracted trying to find a trace of Chavez-Taylor in the fight, beyond Harris and Matthysse having more or less the right complexions, to vomit over a bad call from a referee. [Also, don't adjust your speakers: Los locutores luchadores hablan en Espanol. Por que? Este combate no era digno de BOXING AFTER DARK en HBO proper. Vera por que, mis amigos.] Enjoy:

Weekly DVD Alert Twelve: February 23-March 1, 2010

Hi, sorry I'm late; had two piles of paying work land on me Sunday and Monday. I'm going to try writing a month-sized block of Alerts the next time work's really slow.

Tuesday, February 23

9PM-10PM, H: WWII in HD "Darkness Falls"
10PM-11PM, H: WWII in HD "Hard Way Back"
The "H" goes back to its roots, more or less, this week with blocks and blocks of WWII programming. This is Parts One and Two of the ten-part History Channel's fancypants new series recounting The War with all the coolest CGI and color war footage, presumably to at least try to appeal to these goddamn kids today. In this episode, the Nazis totally own Europe's ass and the Japanese kick Pearl Harbor's ass. Some isolationists in America want it to move to the front of the bus, but soon leave Tunisia and Midway leaking and in need of the Amber Lamps. [Reairs at 1:01AM and 2:01AM, respectively.]

9:45PM-11:40PM, Retro: NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, 113m.
It's strange how this movie .. well, it rarely pops up at all in conversations, but I was going to say that it's strange that it rarely pops up in discussions of artistically successful film adaptations of novels. There's really nothing you could add or subtract from it to improve it, is there? The sets are the right kind of squalid futurism, the script doesn't whitewash the more horrifying ideas in Orwell's book and the casting couldn't be better -- John Hurt was the perfect choice for Winston Smith; Richard Burton made an ideal O'Brien and Suzanna Hamilton's Julia is the right mix of heartless and sensual. Michael Radford, we salute you.

10PM-12:15AM, SHO2: SUPER SIX WORLD BOXING CLASSIC "Carl Froch vs. Andre Dirrell & Arthur Abraham vs. Jermaine Taylor"
A rebroadcast of the first stage of Showtime's super-middleweight tournament. The brutal knockout in the latter fight continues to horrify me, while the amateur-hour potshotting and wrestling in the former still make me wish I could fast-forward life about a year, when both fighters will be gone from the competition.

11PM-12:01AM, H: PATTON 360 "Rommel's Last Stand"
Another slick new repackaging of old Army signal-corps footage. I don't know why 360 and the HD series irritate me, considering I love DOGFIGHTS and my first-person-shooter genre of choice is WWII, but I think it's something about how videogame-like what I've seen of each series has been. [Reairs at 3:01AM.]

Wednesday, February 24

Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly clearly didn't have the telepathic rapport that Kelly enjoyed with Stanley Donen, but this Parisian musical romance is possibly the most visually beautiful of Kelly's '50s peak. Leslie Caron and Oscar Levant co-star.

An epic-length "wart & all" profile of Abraham Lincoln. [Reairs at 2PM.]

8:32AM-8:44AM, TCM Short: SO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE RADIO, 11m.
George O'Hanlon and Richard L. Bare give radio the Joe McDoakes treatment in an apparently Oscar-winning short film.

8:45AM-10:30AM, TCM: THE FALLEN IDOL, 95m.
10:30 AM-11:45AM,TCM: THE THIRD MAN, 104m.
Extraordinary to think that Carol Reed and Graham Greene made these classics back-to-back. Ralph Richardson, Sonia Dresdel, Michele Morgan and Bobby Henrey star in the former; Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles and Alida Valli in the latter.

10AM-11:30AM, IFC: L'ARGENT, 84m.
I've not seen it, but I'm a little sad that Robert Bresson's swan song as an auteur was a 1983 crime thriller, even if it's a loose adaptation of a Tolstoy short story. Then again, if De Sica can make THE BICYCLE THIEVES and AFTER THE FOX and make it work, I should get the stick out of my ass about this one. [Reairs at 3PM.]

I don't rank this as the greatest in Orson Welles' collection of butchered masterpieces -- I think he made several bad choices that would have weakened the film's effectiveness as art even before RKO panicked and had that hack Robert Wise chop up and reshoot it -- but it's still a truly great movie that rewards multiple viewings. Tim Holt, Joseph Cotten, Delores Costello and Agnes Moorehead star.

I like that the link between these classic movies is that they're the high-water marks of Tim Holt's career as an actor who was otherwise happy to work in Westerns and potboilers; it makes you wonder what he could have achieved if he hadn't taken life as a pass/fail test. Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston co-star in this John Huston film.

4:15PM-6:45PM, TCM: DUEL IN THE SUN, 144m.
I've never seen SUN for three good reasons: One, you'll rarely regret skipping any Western that hinges on the character type "Fiery Half-Breed." Two, you'll rarely regret skipping any movie written/produced by the spouse [David O. Selznick] of the star of the film [Jennifer Jones]. Three, you'll rarely regret skipping any movie that was helmed by more than a half-dozen directors in tandem [Otto Brower, William Dieterle, Sidney Franklin, William Cameron Menzies, Selznick, Josef von Sternberg and finally, Charles "King" Vidor]. Selznick intended this to be the GONE WITH THE WIND for the post-WWII world, and it essentially destroyed his career; how entertainingly bad could it be? Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotten co-star with support from Lionel Barrymore, Walter Huston, Herbert Marshall and Lillian Gish.
As for WIFE, Jennifer Jones returns for a very small Vittorio De Sica melodrama with Montgomery Clift and Richard Beymer.

5PM-6PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1957: Gene Fullmer vs. Sugar Ray Robinson"
6PM-7PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1965: Muhammad Ali vs. Floyd Patterson"
9PM-10PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1951: Sugar Ray Robinson vs. Jake LaMotta"
An Ali-Sugar Ray sandwich. The Patterson fight is the one where Ali deliberately prolonged Patterson's agony by beating him up but stopping just shy of knocking him out after he made a point to call Ali "Cassius Clay" and claim that he wanted to reclaim the heavyweight championship to "bring the title back to America" in the lead-up to the fight. I assume the Sugar Ray-Fullmer is their second fight, in which Robinson avenged his first loss with a fifth-round KO. The LaMotta is their final match, the "St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

8PM-9:45PM, Sun: METROPOLITAN, 98m.
Whit Stillman's debut as a writer-director, a Wilde-esque comedy of manners and another fine movie that makes you love Christopher Eigeman at the same time you want to punch his character in the mouth. Edward Clements co-stars. [Reairs Thursday at 2:55PM.]

9PM-10PM, H: WWII IN HD "Bloody Resolve"
10PM-11PM, H: WWII IN HD "Battle Stations"
Parts Three and Four of History's fancypants series continues with short documentaries on the invasions of Tarawa Island, Italy, the Philippines and Normandy. [Reairs at 1:01AM and 2:01AM, respectively.]

If you haven't seen this spoof in 10 years, now's the time. Then wait another decade to watch it again. Keenen Ivory Wayans, Damon Wayans, Bernie Casey, Isaac Hayes, Jim Brown, John Vernon star.

10PM-11PM, SHO2: SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING "Nonito Donaire vs. Vic Darchinyan"
It's unfortunate that Donaire has mostly fought mediocrities on easily ignored Top Rank pay-per-view shows ever since his upset knock out of the previously undefeated beast Darchinyan. At the time of this fight I was rooting for Donaire -- who fought ofter enough on TV-boxing's backwaters that I had a good sense of the guy as a meat & potatoes fighter with heart and pretty fast hands -- and against Darchinyan, who comes off as a smug asshole who truly enjoyed hurting people [his Web site used to list reports of when his opponents entered/left the hospital after their fights and what injuries they sustained]. But in the few years since this fight, Donaire has all but disappeared while Darchinyan has fought on in what's more or less the mainstream media [Showtime isn't as big HBO, but it dwarfs the numbers those homebrewed PPVs must really get] against solid opposition: Wins over super-flyweight champions Dimitri Kirilov, Cristian Mijares and [interim champ]Tomas Rojas as well as champion crowd-pleaser Jorge Arce. Even Darchinyan's loss to bantamweight champ Joseph King Kong Agbeko was exciting and made even a hater like me want to see "The Raging Bull" again. [March 6, on Showtime, in a title defense against the less-than-thrilling-sounding Rodrigo Guerrero; it's a shame that the Andre Dirrell-Arthur Abraham fight has been pushed forward a few weeks over a training injury.]

10:55PM-11:15PM, TCM Short: MR. BLABBERMOUTH, 19m.
1942 Oscar-winning short that both assures Americans that rumors that the Japanese had them outgunned were clearly untrue, and admonishes them to not spread any rumors themselves.

11:15PM-1:15AM, TCM: ALFIE, 114m.
This Michael Caine vehicle really isn't all that great, but I'm going to list it until the entire world agrees with me that Eleanor Bron was one of the hottest actresses of the '60s. Vivien Merchant and Shelley Winters co-star, with direction by Lewis Gilbert from Bill Naughton's screen adaptation of his play.

11:35PM-1:10AM, Retro: THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, 93m.
We love Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, even though their collaborations aren't the invincible, gestalt powerhouses you would expect -- Reiner's done better directing on other projects so I almost wonder if he was coasting or serving as a junior partner to Martin, who was undoubtedly dead center in his supernova as a comedy writer and performer. BRAINS isn't as balls-out as THE JERK, as clever as DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID or as fully realized as ALL OF ME, but fuck you, it's still a Steve Martin and Carl Reiner movie. Kathleen Turner, David Warner and James Cromwell costar.

Thursday, February 25

Midnight-1:50AM, IFC: THE GOOD GERMAN, 107m.
Steven Soderbergh's post-WWII mystery/romance adapts Joseph Kanon's novel, stars George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire and was filmed [by Soderbergh, natch] with strictly '40s-era technology. Oh, I hope this is really good.

I caught a couple of these slice-of-life short-shorts waiting for a movie to start a few days ago -- I remember reading Lev Yilmaz' original minicomics that these stories are drawn from, although I don't remember the material itself. They make a far stronger and longer-lasting impression as minimovies.

6:35AM-8:15AM, Sun: NOTHING BUT A MAN, 95m.
One of the nicest things about the home-video boom is how it's helped so many unfairly obscure movies find their audience: If it hasn't already, Michael Roemer's 1964 indie film is close to claiming its rightful place as an icon in the pantheon of early Black [as compared to "Colored" and "African-American"] cinema. [See also: Marvin Van Peebles' THE STORY OF A THREE-DAY PASS.]Ivan Dixon and Abby Lincoln star. [Reairs at 11:15AM.]

7AM-9:10AM, Retro: HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, 123m.
William Wyler! Audrey Hepburn! Hugh Griffith! Peter O'Toole! Charles Boyer! Eli Wallach! [Reairs at 4:05PM and 1:20AM.]

John Ford's first color film, and his most gorgeous. Henry Fonda! Claudette Colbert! The Revolutionary War!

Dude, archaeologists may have uncovered a fourth pyramid at Giza? May have? I imagine that it would take a lot of sand-excavation but, for something as large as a Egyptian pyramid, it seems to me that this should be an either/or question. [Reairs at 2PM.]

Another fine History documentary about the clever and hard-working slaves who spent their entire lives working on massive public works for their betters. Slaves! Oh, I suppose they won't linger much about the slaves part -- check out how awesome this old viaduct was, amazing that they could make such a thing back then, etc. [Reairs at 4PM.]

HOLY FUCKING SHIT. I've wanted to see this [barely] feature-length Our Gang/Little Rascals movie for years. By most reports, it's a lame movie -- Spanky, Buckwheat and Alfalfa wind up in the middle of the Civil War -- but who cares? It's the Little Rascals! George McFarland, Billie Thomas and Carl Switzer star, Gordon Douglas and Fred C. Newmeyer direct. I'm trying not to think about how many writers worked on the script. Little Rascals!

The first of the post-Zeppo Marx Brothers comedies that make you seriously question the wisdom of dropping Zep but keeping his role of crooner/leading man in the act. If Zeppo had been in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, can there be any doubt that its awesomeness would have torn this universe a new ass? Groucho, Chico and Harpo star with support from Allan Jones and Maureen O'Sullivan and direction from Sam Wood.

4:05PM-6PM, FMC: H.E.A.L.T.H., 105m.
In the abstract, this should be fantastic: A ensemble comedy about a health-food convention by Robert Altman in his prime, with a cast boasting of James Garner, Alfre Woodard, Lauren Bacall, Paul Dooley, Donald Moffat, Henry Gibson, Dick Cavett, Dinah Shore, et al. I remember it being comparatively saggy and directionless -- this, along with QUINTET, A PERFECT COUPLE and POPEYE were all released within two years -- you would think that Altman had a terminal illness or these movies were all going to turn into pumpkins if they weren't released faster than humanly possible. FYI: I understand that securing the music rights for HEALTH may prove too difficult for it to see a commercial DVD release any time soon.

Preston Sturges at his peak: HERO isn't his best film, but the sheer writing and directing skill he brings to a little farce about a bunch of real WWII vets helping out a podunk piker is breathtaking. The entire movie collapses if you stop to think about the story and character you're watching, but Sturges never gives you a chance. Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest and the rest of Sturges' wrecking crew of classic character actors star.

9PM-10PM, H: WWII in HD "Day of Days"
10PM-11PM, H: WWII in HD "Point of No Return"
Parts Five and Six of the History Channel's hi-def repackaging of the second World War. More of the Normandy invasion, then the Battle of Saipan, the Allies' liberation of France and the drive toward Berlin and the Battle of Peleliu in the Pacific. [Reairs at 1:01AM and 2:01AM.]

A good rule of thumb if you ever find yourself in a classic American Western: Don't mess with Jimmy Stewart. I know he wrote bad poetry and sounded like a wimp, but this is a man who DROPPED REAL FIRE ON REAL NAZIS [… and several thousand German civilians] in World War II. The guy kept flying bombing missions even after Black Thursday, which is like Dieppe for Canadians, which is like Market Garden for paratroopers, which is like, um, look it was really fucking bad and Stewart could've asked to be transferred anywhere else but he didn't, which is why the dude had real guts. Also, don't fuck with Lee Marvin, who served as a sniper/scout in the Pacific Theatre. Now that candyass John Wayne, he's only a tough guy on screen; kick his ass twice. John Ford directs from a script by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck.

Friday, February 26

I used to think that I like my Luis Bunuel movies funny, then I discovered that they're all funny. This one probably makes a great double feature with MY DINNER WITH ANDRE. Fernando Rey, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Cassel and Stephane Audran star.

12:15AM-3AM, TCM: THE DIRTY DOZEN, 150m.
Turner Classic Movies programs a five-hour double feature sure to delight insomniatic man's men and the ghost of Howard Hughes. As much as I love Robert Aldrich and so many of the other movies made by the cast [Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, even Charles Bronson and George Kennedy], I've never been able to sit down for DOZEN. As for ZEBRA: Sometimes you just have to stare slack-jawed and think "Patrick McGoohan dropped THE PRISONER for a few months to go make this? And MGM pulled 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY from theaters early to make room for ZEBRA's release??" John Sturges directs Douglas Heyes' script [based on Harry Julian Fink's story adapted from Alistair MacLean's novel, all with an uncredited punch-up from W.R. Burnett], starring Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown. I will either figuratively shit a brick or kiss Robert Osborne on the lips if they choose to cite Brown and not Borgnine as the link connecting these two movies.

5:45AM-7:30AM, TCM: AN AMERICAN DREAM, 103m.
I was talking to a friend who had just seen Norman Mailer's TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE and couldn't believe how riveting it was at the same time it was terrible. People expect Mailer to be more literary with his pedigree -- it seems no one actually reads his books anymore -- not pulpy. For a moment, I was going to compare Mailer to Samuel Fuller, another novelist-filmmaker who made overwrought pulp in both media, but then I remembered Fuller never acquired a scalpel to go with his storytelling toolkit of various-sized hammers and axes. Mailer could do subtle, he just didn't. This movie is supposed to be a mess, who knows who's the most to blame: Robert Gist's direction, Mann Rubin's and Howard Rodman's adaptation, Mailer's original story [a television blowhard claims that the police and the Mafia are in cahoots; his ex-wife is found murdered and he finds himself on the lam with both the cops and the gangsters after him. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh and Eleanor Parker star, with support from Barry Sullivan and Lloyd Nolan and a bit part from a pre-STAR TREK George Takei.

The final Sherlock Holmes programmer set during World War II and my favorite of the entire series of the Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce series. Henry Daniell made a superb Professor Moriarty.

8AM-9AM, H: PATTON 360 "Leading the Charge"
9AM-10AM, H: PATTON 360 "On Hitler's Doorstep"
10AM-11AM, H: PATTON 360 "Siege Warfare"
11AM-12PM, H: PATTON 360 "Battle of the Bulge"
12PM-1PM, H: PATTON 360 "Crushing the Third Reich"
This mini-marathon of the History Channel series about America's most colorful badass General of World War II takes Patton from his early 1944 drive to liberate Paris [he was cockblocked by some local armored divisions], the Lorraine campaign, the siege of Metz, the Winter "rescue" of the paratroopers at Bastogne,
crossing the Rhine river in 1945 [Patton stopped to take a semi-famous piss in the river; take that, you Huns], the discovery and liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp; and Patton's curious death just prior to Christmas 1945. [Reairs from 2PM-6PM.]

9:30AM-11:45 AM, TCM: MRS. MINIVER, 134m.
William Wyler's lengthy family drama about one family's struggle to survive the Battle of Britain. Stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon and Teresa Wright.

Those irascible drunks John Huston and Robert Mitchum spin a WWII yarn about a Marine and a Roman Catholic nun [Deborah Kerr] being marooned on an island in the South Pacific. John Boorman later remade this elliptical romance as HELL IN THE PACIFIC with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, which I'm going to keep claiming until either someone calls me on it or it gets added to both films' Wikipedia entries.

3:30PM-5:30PM FMC: THE SEVEN-UPS, 103m.
What happened to Philip D'Antoni? He produced BULLITT, then THE FRENCH CONNECTION and then produced and directed this film, which is said to have an even more amazing car chase than the previous two, collected an Academy Award or two, produced a few things for TV and then …. nothing. Is there a story there?

Larry Gelbart! Richard Lester! Stephen Sondheim! Zero Mostel! Phil Silvers! Buster Keaton! Jack Gilford! [Reairs at 1:30AM.]

9PM-10PM, H: WWII in HD "Striking Distance"
10PM-11PM, H: WWII in HD "Glory and Guts"
Parts Seven and Eight of the series covers action in the Philippines and Iwo Jima as well as some personal stories of pilots who were shot down over Europe and seamen who survived their ship being sunk. [Reairs at 1:01AM and 2:01AM.]

10PM-11:30PM, 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, although Andre Ward is in danger of becoming a 3/4 scale version of Evander Holyfield, with all the good and bad things that implies.

"A Golden Boy card from Texas." Um, yeah. I'm tempted to pass on this one, but I'm interested to see light-welterweight prospect Danny Garcia box again.

Saturday, February 27

3AM-5AM, TCM: SECONDS, 106m.
John Frankenheimer's best, and another example of DVD's power to rehabilitate reputations and awareness just by making unfairly rare movies easily available. John Randolph and Rock Hudson star as a middle-aged man who ultimately can't afford the new life he gets from a shadowy organization. In my more deranged/lazy moments, I place James Wong Howe's work on this movie at the very top of the cinematographer mountain.

Steve McQueen's entry in my second- or third-favorite film sub-genre, the my-nonconformist-uncle section of coming-of-age movies. Based on William Faulkner's final novel -- the plot sounds like it was taken from Faulkner fanfic, the writing "lighter" than his usual tone; so curious how often dying artists try to put on a happy face so close to death [see also: Bill Hicks' Cosby sweaters the last few months of his life] -- written by another husband & wife writing team, Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch and directed by Mark Rydell.

8:40AM-9:50AM, Retro: THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, 69m.
John Huston! Audie Murphy! The Civil War! I have no idea why this film is barely an hour long!

A nice double-header of 20th Century Fox potboilers, ideal watching for a rainy/snowy Saturday morning. Torn from still-wet headlines and widely cited as the first modern-style docudrama, this 92ND STREET is about Nazi secret agents tearassing around NYC trying to steal our atomic-bomb secrets; Leo G. Carroll, William Blythe, Signe Hasso, Gene Lockhart star [with a very young E.G. Marshall making his screen debut] under the direction of Henry Hathaway. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's NIGHT follows an amnesiac soldier as he returns home to recover his identity; it turns out that he may not have been that nice a guy. John Hodiak, Nancy Guild and Lloyd Nolan star. [Reairs on Mar. 1 at 10AM.]

Another double feature, this one focusing on Frank Sinatra in the brief period that he actually tried to be a movie actor instead of being Frank Sinatra in front of a movie camera. If you don't find at least parts of CANDIDATE laugh-out-loud funny, we can't be friends; Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury co-star under direction by John Frankenheimer. I've never seen ETERNITY -- I shy away from movies that hoover up the awards and acclaim but don't live within easy grasp of filmmakers and critics, and I've rarely regretted the practice when I have seen that kind of movie -- but now I'm sort of curious. Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift co-star under Fred Zinnemann's direction.

10:35AM-12:15PM, Indie: RAISING ARIZONA, 94m.
12:15PM-2:15PM, Indie: BARTON FINK, 116m.
Just a pair of beloved Coen Brothers comedies back-to-back. [ARIZONA reairs at 11PM. FINK reairs at 9PM on IndiePlex, and on Fox Movie Channel on Feb. 24 at midnight and on Feb. 28 at 2AM.]

2:45PM-5:15PM, TCM: ELMER GANTRY, 147m.
I think Richard Brooks' 1960 film adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis book works the best* of all of his prestige pictures because it comes off as one of the least highfalutin' -- oh, how I hate you, Tennessee Williams -- and it's an ideal vehicle for all of star Burt Lancaster's talents. Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones co-star.

[* GANTRY loses points for not having Elizabeth Taylor walking around in a white slip for at least a filmreel.]

A new episode of the network's version of HBO's 24/7; 360 does a lot of things better than 24/7 -- it comes off more as cinéma vérité than infomercial, for one thing -- but I may have to hire a goddamn secretary to keep track of when the next episode airs. Considering how much the network has riding on the success of this tournament, you'd think that they wouldn't throw a major promotional tool on the air at utterly random times and days. HBO has this shit down cold: If the fight's on, say, Saturday March 6, you know their 24/7s will air around 8PM on Sat. February 6, 13, 20 and 26 with a marathon of all four airing just before the big show starts on the 6th. This episode may have been canceled & rescheduled to accommodate the new March 27 date for the Dirrell-Abraham fight; then again, this series is so random that maybe it will air now regardless.

Or, if you'd rather spend the day in front of the television watching World War II:

8AM-9AM, H: PATTON 360 "Blood & Guts"
The first episode of the Gen. Patton series, another "real story" repackaging of Pearl Harbor footage, and an entertaining documentary about the assassination plot hatched by a handful of Germany's top military officers which failed so badly it even ruined Tom Cruise's box-office averages 60 years later. It's an odd mix of programs, but serve as an appetizer for

1PM-2PM, H: WWII in HD "Darkness Falls"
2PM-3PM, H: WWII in HD "Hard Way Back"
3PM-4PM, H: WWII in HD "Bloody Resolve"
4PM-5PM, H: WWII in HD "Battle Stations"
5PM-6PM, H: WWII in HD "Day of Days"
6PM-7PM, H: WWII in HD "Point of No Return"
7PM-8PM, H: WWII in HD "Striking Distance"
8PM-9PM, H: WWII in HD "Glory and Guts"
9PM-10PM, H: WWII in HD "Edge of the Abyss"
10PM-11PM, H: WWII in HD "End Game"
The whole damn war, in glorious high-definition. [Parts Eight, Nine and Ten reair at 12:01AM, 1:01AM and 2:01AM respectively.]

It's a shame that American society is so hypocritical and uptight that a little documentary about how Grandpa may have gotten a blowjob from a Hotel Street whore in Honolulu before his destroyer set sail and he and his buddies risked their lives to destroy the Japanese fleet can't be broadcast on even cable television until later in the night. [Reairs at 3:01AM.]

Sunday, February 28

Midnight-1:30AM, Sun: THE SQUID AND THE WHALE, 81m.
It's wonderful to have Noah Baumbach back and making movies again, although I'm not wild about the stylistic tics he's apparently picked up from working with Wes Anderson; part of me died the moment Pink Floyd infected the soundtrack. Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney star.

6:30AM-8:30AM, Sun: A BITTERSWEET LIFE, 119m.
Sometimes, a stylish Korean gangster punch-'em-up scratches an itch perfectly. Director Ji-woon Kim spins a yarn about a mob enforcer gets all soft-hearted when he decides not to follow orders to kill his boss' unfaithful girlfriend. Kim Jee-woon, Lee Byeong-hun and Shin Min-ah star.

10:15AM-12:30PM, TCM: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, 126m.
Frank's sweetest Capra-corn. A charming ensemble comedy about an uptight man falling in love with a girl from an eccentric family. Robert Riskin adapted George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's play for the screen; Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore and James Stewart star.

The original movie, not the remake -- although I am interested to see the 2005 version, mostly to see Giovanni Ribisi and Hugh Laurie as well as see how big a shit the writer/director/producers take on Robert Aldrich & Lukas Heller's original song to group effort and rationality in the face of all-consuming hostility. I'm guessing the remakers missed that point and focussed more on shit blowing up but good. James Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Peter Finch, Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy and Hardy Krueger star.

1:10PM-3:20PM, Indie: THE GENERAL, 124m.
Not the Buster Keaton Civil War classic, this is a recent crime thriller/biopic by the occasionally brilliant John Boorman. Brendan Gleeson stars as real-life Irish crime boss Martin Cahill, who struggles to steal an honest living despite the police, the Irish Republican Army and dirty dealings from his own gang.

3PM-4PM, ESPNC: 30 FOR 30: "Muhammad and Larry"
A remarkable, heartbreaking documentary showing the lead-up to the 1980 heavyweight championship bout between a shot Muhammad Ali and a prime Larry Holmes. Albert Maysles and his brother were embedded with Ali in his training camp to make a movie about his planned triumphant, unprecedented return to boxing glory; what they recorded and initially abandoned was the shattering of the Ali myth that had been created after his world-shocking upset defeat of George Foreman in Zaire.

3:30PM-5:25PM, IFC: STREAMERS, 118m.
I like this early '80s Altman, despite it being so stagey it gets distracting after a while. Four young Army recruits get more and more tense as they wait to be shipped off to Vietnam. Matthew Modine, Michael Wright, Mitchell Lichtenstein and David Alan Grier star; David Rabe adapted his play for the screen.

5PM-6PM, ESPNC: 30 FOR 30 "The Legend of Jimmy the Greek"
I've not seen this, but how could a doc about Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder not be entertaining? Television sports lost a big piece of its soul the day that they stopped including betting oddsmakers on their pre-shows.

8PM-Midnight, TCM: BEN-HUR (1959), 222m.
Charlton Heston double feature: Cecil B. DeMille made terrible movies and compelling entertainment; I don't think 20 minutes goes by watching SHOW that I don't think "This movie is fucking terrible; why am I still watching it?" but it keeps me watching. Heston, Betty Hutton and James Stewart star. I only recently saw William Wyler's HUR; it really is a movie that can only be appreciated in letterbox, which really isn't true for a lot of widescreen movies. Chuck, Stephen Boyd and Jack Hawkins star.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, I'll say it until the day I die: More musicals should have car chases. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi star, with support from Carrie Fisher, Cab Calloway, Henry Gibson, John Candy, Steve Cropper & the MGs and musical cameos from James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles and non-musical cameos from what seems like a long line of film directors. John Landis directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Aykroyd.

John Ford's gentle, elegiac classic about a family of Welsh coal miners beat out CITIZEN KANE, HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, THE LITTLE FOXES, THE MALTESE FALCON, SERGEANT YORK and SUSPICION for the Best Picture Oscar in 1941. I don't know if it deserved it -- the film raked in more Awards for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography as well as nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing Best Music for a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound Recording and Best Writing -- but it's undoubtedly one of John Ford's, Philip Dunne's, Walter Pidgeon's, Maureen O'Hara's, Donald Crisp's, Sara Allgood's and Roddy McDowall's greatest efforts. Warning: This is a "Fox Legacy" presentation of the movie, so the first 20 minutes or so will be FoxFilm CEO Tom Rothman talking about how awesome the movie and Fox are, so don't lowball the recording time on your TIVO/DVDR/Betamax timer.

10PM-Midnight, Sun: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER, 114m.
I've not given Zhang Yimou's recent [post-SHANGHAI TRIAD] movies a fair shake; it's mostly my own laziness, cheapness and eye injury [I can't watch movies in theaters anymore], not anything Zhang did. Still, it's difficult to not see his moving from intense little dramas to action movies as selling out. This film sounds like he split the difference between the two. Zhang even reunited with his cinematic muse/longtime girlfriend Gong Li! Chow Yun Fat co-stars. [Reairs at 4:15AM.]

11PM-12:05AM, IFC: FACTOTUM, 94m.
Bent Hamer adapts Charles Bukowski's semi-auto-biographical novel for the screen, with Matt Dillon playing Hank Chinaski. I wonder how this version compares to BARFLY. Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei co-star.

11PM-Midnight, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "Best of Butterbean I"
Midnight-1AM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "Best of Butterbean II"
ESPN seriously compromises the integrity of the words "classic," "best" and maybe even "boxing" with these programs, but as side-show rumbles go, Butterbean was the most entertaining. Features his '90s fights with Doug Norris, Kenny Myers, Patrick Jackson, Joe Wiggins, Kevin Tallon, Russell Chasteen, Bill Johnson and Marcus Rhode.

Monday, March 1

1AM-4AM, ESPNC: RINGSIDE "Sugar Ray Leonard"
Well, the one nice thing about this Alert being so late is that I can list this week's topic of Bert Sugar's fine discussion series. It's great that the station's producers give this program a generous three-hour block to really dig into a legendary fighter's career and story, but then they bury in at 1AM Monday mornings.

1:30AM-3:10AM, Sun: HUNGER, 96m.
[Not that] Steve McQueen's critically acclaimed recounting of the hunger strike held by Bobby Sands and nine other I.R.A. members in Belfast's Maze Prison sounds great: An entire film told in set pieces "ranging from an extraordinary 20-minute dialogue to controversial allusions to religious art."

4:30AM-7:30AM, TCM: LOLITA, 153m.
As far as LOLITA goes, it's not that Peter Sellers was born to play Clare Quilty; it's that Vladimir Nabokov was born to write the character for Sellers to play. Nabokov adapted his novel for the screen with director Stanley Kubrick; James Mason, Shelley Winters and Sue Lyons co-star.

9:15AM-11AM, Sun: A PERFECT CANDIDATE, 105m.
R. J. Cutler and David Van Taylor's documentary about the 1994 Virginian Senatorial race between incumbent Charles Robb and a bizarre motley crew of challengers [which inevitably dwindles to a doesn't-feel-a-shred-of-disgrace Republican candidate Oliver North] presents a remarkable fly-on-a-wall view of North's campaign machinery. I imagine that North's apparatchiks assumed, quite rightly, that they could be as candid as they wanted, since the voters they clearly have contempt for would never actually seek out and watch such a documentary. [Reairs at 3PM.]

10:15 AM-11:50PM, IFC: TAPEHEADS, 93m.
I've still done no research to confirm this, but I'm reasonably sure that everyone who was cool in 1988 is in this movie. [Reairs at 5:20PM.]

Tyrone Power, getting ground into the dirt and then ground even further! Joan Blondell, being so lovely you'll want to punch yourself in the face after a while! Edmund Goulding, in a once-in-a-lifetime performance as a director! George Jessel, earning a producer credit in his filmography guaranteed to trigger generations of double-takes to come! Circus Noir Overdrive!

Rathbone's Holmes + a priceless diamond + jewel thieves - any patriotic speeches designed to bolster morale, which was a staple of the series up until now = another agreeable 63 minutes of your life spent. [Reairs at 7PM.]

Richard Fleischer did better work in B movies, but this one's worth your time just for Orson Welles' Clarence Darrow character's final remarks near the end of the film. I'd love to believe Welles' claim that he delivered the speech in one uninterrupted take with the aid of an off-camera prompter, but I know too much about his bullshit artistry. Co-stars Dean Stockwell and E.G. Marshall as Leopold and Loeb, or as Loeb and Leopold, I can never tell them apart.

If you squint, this movie could look like a lost mid-'70s Mel Brooks film; Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars with Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Leo McKern and Dom Deluise in this specifically sub-genre specific spoof, complete the inspired Brooksian stunt-casting of Leo McKern as Professor Moriarty. But Wilder also directed the film and showed that he is no borscht-belt fartypants like his one-time mentor, producing a far more adult piece of silliness than YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or HIGH ANXIETY.

I really can't tell these "Tony Rome" movies apart, but they're good potsimmerers. I think this is the one where he plays Rome with a different name, and the film ends with Sinatra admiring Lee Remick's ass as she walks away. Class. Features supporting acting from a small army of solid character actors, including Jack Klugman, Lloyd Bochner, Ralph Meeker, William Windom, Tony Musante and Robert Duvall, and a bit part from Sugar Ray Robinson. Gordon Douglas directs from Abby Mann's screenplay based on Roderick Thorp's novel.

Double feature of '70s takes on the immortal sleuth; We covered BROTHER above. PRIVATE LIFE is writer-director Billy Wilder and actor Robert Stephens' version of Holmes, which I'm looking forward to seeing. Colin Blakely co-stars as Watson, with Christopher Lee as Mycroft.

11:45PM-1:20AM, Retro: LOST IN AMERICA, 91m.
An Albert Brooks movie about middle-aged yuppies getting thrown out of the rat race and into a Winnebago, where they go explore America. Julie Hagerty and Brooks star.

10:15PM-Midnight, TCM: DAYS OF HEAVEN, 94m.
Only Terrence Malick can make you not want to punch Richard Gere in the face. Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard and Linda Manz co-star.

And there's another week.

The 2073rd step on the last road home.

Monday Morning Audiolink One: X MINUS ONE and DIMENSION X

One of the finest radio shows of the 1950s -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a better science-fiction/fantasy radio show in any generation before or after it -- "X-1" featured adaptations of short stories from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Robert Bloch, Fletcher Pratt, Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley, L. Sprague de Camp, Fritz Leiber, Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon. Admittedly, even the most tony and literate of these stories were still turned into sausage to be broadcast on a weekly half-hour anthology program, but the technology and sophistication of radio production had reached its apex just as X-1 made its debut. Much like silent film, radio drama had ironed out most of its kinks and its best practitioners had absolutely mastered the art form just as it collapsed and disappeared in favor of a sexier new medium [sound movies and television, respectively].

Once again, shows itself to be the Comstock Lode of public-domain intellectual property -- enjoy the shows.

The 2072nd step on the last road home.

I thought only print designers didn't actually read the copy they lay out.

ESQUIRE's profile of Roger Ebert is a great read -- his recent medical history is as grueling to read as his rational, positive attitude and hardcore commitment to writing are inspiring -- but a webmonkey at the magazine really needs to have his ass handed to him for this "Recently Published" sidebar blurb:

Ebert does have surprisingly good hair -- after the initial shock of seeing Ebert without his jaw quickly wore off, I was more surprised to see that his hair was actually combed -- but this is obviously not the photo meant for that article.

The 2068th step on the last road home.

Watching the old Holyfield-Bowe fights

Considering Bowe abruptly retired from professional boxing to join the Marines (an idea crazier than catshit), it's very funny to see USMC ads on every commercial break.

New Comics Wednesday: Movies are better than Comics edition

I imagine that links to this page of links to Paul G. Baker's [presumably made as DVD special features] documentaries have already gone around the nerdisphere twice already, but it's still cool to encounter an editor/producer who can profile Jack Kirby, John Ford's STAGECOACH and Grand Guignol. Not at once, of course.

The 2067th step on the last road home.

Remember, just because a song gets stuck in one's head doesn't mean it's a good one.

I've already worn out the soundtracks to A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN and SNOOPY COME HOME; now, only the grocery-store version of "Joe Cool" is hearty enough to slam around in my head for hours. If I remember right, it's from THERE'S NO TIME FOR LOVE CHARLIE BROWN, or whatever the TV special that featured the Peanuts accidentally winding up in a supermarket [they think it's an avant-garde museum] on a field trip is titled.

Watching slave-ship documentaries

Dear Africans c.1700,

Hey guys, how's it going. Look, I know your businesses and governments need to import iron bars from the honkies because it's a complete pain in the ass to mine the iron deposits you have but trust me, you guys (and everyone else) will be much better off if you don't trade your neighbors for the stuff. Most of that iron's just going to be made into handcuffs and leg irons and get exported back out of your countries anyway. I think you know what I'm talking about. Slavery is for old assholes who thought it was a good idea to build walls around their cities and dig moats around their houses. You're better than that.

all the best,
-- Milos George

The 2066th step on the last road home.

Weekly DVD Alert Eleven: February 15-22, 2010

Weekly DVD Alert Ten: February 15-22, 2010

Monday, February 15

Midnight-2AM, TCM: SUMMERTIME, 100m.
As I remember it, this movie does for romances what BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK did for Westerns around the same time; both are about how WWII changed our world without really ever being about WWII at all. This Katharine Hepburn vehicle was director/co-writer David Lean's last "small" movie prior to BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but it's just as visually stunning as those "big" movies. Rossano Brazzi, Isa Miranda and Darren McGavin co-star.

6AM-7:30AM, Sun: MONSTER IN A BOX, 87m.
I miss Spalding Gray. BOX isn't my favorite of his movies -- GRAY'S ANATOMY is far zippier and has the kind of eyeball 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 12:30PM.]

7:30AM-9:05AM, Sun: ARRANGED, 92m.
Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo directed this indie ensemble comedy about an Orthodox Jew and a devout Muslim public-school teachers and their more secular co-workers. We all love a good one-world, be-respectful-of-other's-beliefs movies when they're smart, perceptive and honest, right?

Peter Weller is New Wave Doc Savage! John Lithgow spilling his acting all over the place! Inexplicable watermelons! Jeff Goldblum, dressed as a cowboy! When is that sequel gonna get made, anyway? [Reairs at 12:20PM and 5:15PM.]

9:05AM-9:35AM, Sun: ALOHA, NEW YORK, 21m.
Short documentary about the surfer community in New York City. I didn't know they had one, either. Surf's up, you assholes! GET DAFUG OUTTA MY WAY!

For my money, this is the least insufferable of the self-congratulatory Baby Boomer festival rockumentaries, largely because it's the most honest about how half-assed the whole thing was: rock promoter decides to hire a train to take Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band, Buddy Guy, the Flying Burrito Brothers and other across Canada to rock out in various cities. What's the worst that could happen, right? [Reairs at 2:05PM.]

9:15AM-11:45AM, TCM: SMART MONEY, 81m.
11:45AM-1:15PM, THE SEA WOLF, 87m.
Two of Edward G. Robinson's more interesting roles: First as a cheerful barber who winds up a badass gambler [a hens-tooth rare instance of Robinson sharing the screen with a young James Cagney] and then as Jack London's crazed, violent sea captain in a clever adaptation/pre-War meta-commentary on Nazism.

10:45AM-12:15PM, FMC: AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL, 77m.
Small-budget comedy about an old man fighting back against his company forcing him to retire. Monty Woolley is the [old] man, with support from Jean Peters, Thelma Ritter, David Wayne and a young Marilyn Monroe and direction from Harmon Jones from old Lamar Trotti's adaptation of young Paddy Chayefsky's story.

12:15PM-1:30PM, FMC: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?, 74m.
An oddly obscure rah-rah WWII patriotic musical fantasy: You would think, even if it's terrible, that a movie with a Morrie Ryskind screenplay, songs by Kurt Weill and Irving Berlin and a lead performance from Fred MacMurray near his peak as a movie idol would get at least some play. A young Anthony Quinn and Joan Leslie co-star, with direction from Gregory Ratoff.

10PM-Midnight, TCM: THE HEIRESS, 115m.
Olivia de Havilland really excelled at playing these damaged, fragile roles after the Errol Flynn years. In PIT she's supposed to be crazy; in HEIRESS she's supposed to be homely.

I love and hate this movie for the opposite reason I hate and love THE LAST WALTZ: In WALTZ, the musical performances shine while the documentary/interviews never fail to enrage me with Martin Scorcese's shittiness, especially now that half of The Band's original members are dead. In STANDING, however, Paul Justman handles and presents the Funk Brothers in a positive but honest light; it's just that the musical performances push the Brothers back into the shadows, only instead of backing a genuine legend like Marvin Gaye or The Supremes, they're backing …. um, Montell Jordan and Joan Osborne. The performances also disserve the Funks by framing their contribution as being live performers and not as the studio creators they were. Now that the genius of their collective creativity has been preserved on magnetic tape and transcriptions, any competent group of sight-reading musicians can play those songs live -- and that's exactly what the Funk Brothers were in 2001. One thing that WALTZ does right that STANDING doesn't is place each band's performances in a specific historical context; there's a damn good reason why The Band is playing as a backing band to almost every guest who they shared their final stage with; even Neil Diamond serves as a living link to the Tin Pan Alley-kind of songwriting they tried to emulate at times. The singers in STANDING, with one exception, all seem to simply be the biggest names the producers could sign to perform, and the results rarely rise above the kind of cover songs usually recorded to fill out the track listings of Greatest Hits collections. The exception to this being bassist/singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, who provides not only the most moving of moments in the backstage behind-the-scenes but also the most "alive" performance with "Cloud Nine." Ndegeocello comes off as focused without being tense, deeply engaged without being overzealous; just like a really good James Jamerson bassline. [Reairs Tuesday at 3AM and 12:15PM.]

A new episode of the network's version of HBO's 24/7; 360 does a lot of things better than 24/7 -- it comes off more as cinéma vérité than infomercial, for one thing -- but I may have to hire a goddamn secretary to keep track of when the next episode airs. Considering how much the network has riding on the success of this tournament, you'd think that they wouldn't throw a major promotional tool on the air at utterly random times and days. HBO has this shit down cold: If the fight's on, say, Saturday March 6, you know their 24/7s will air around 8PM on Sat. February 6, 13, 20 and 26 with a marathon of all four airing just before the big show starts on the 6th.

I caught a couple of these slice-of-life short-shorts waiting for a movie to start a few days ago -- I remember reading Lev Yilmaz' original minicomics that these stories are drawn from, although I don't remember the material itself. They make a far stronger and longer-lasting impression as minimovies.

Tuesday, February 16

2:15AM-4:15AM, TCM: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, 108m.
I saw this for the first time in years a few weeks ago -- while I still think it probably could do with less family drama and Southern-Gothic method acting and more Elizabeth Taylor walking around in a very thin white slip, the movie as a whole was a lot stronger than the Kazan-fanfic-level melodrama I recalled. Paul Newman and Burl Ives costar, with direction by Richard Brooks, who co-adapted Tennessee Williams' play for the screen with James Poe.

Probably 4:03AM-4:15AM, TCM Short: "Stairway To Light," 10m.
Turner's Web site has this scheduled to air at 4:33AM, placing it near the end of the first reel of SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH; I'm going to guess that they mistyped 4:03AM, which would be just after CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Anyway, this episode in John Nesbitt's PASSING PARADE series profiles Dr. Phillipe Pinel, a French pioneer in the care and treatment of the mentally ill. You remember those opening scenes in AMADEUS where the Priest is led through the asylum and the patients are chained and caged and screaming and all that? Yeah, Pinel is widely credited as the first to end those horrifying practices.

Tyrone Power, getting ground into the dirt and then ground even further! Joan Blondell, being so lovely you'll want to punch yourself in the face after a while!Tod Browning Edmund Goulding, in a once-in-a-lifetime performance as a director! George Jessel, earning a producer credit in his filmography guaranteed to trigger generations of double-takes to come! Circus Noir Overdrive!

History Channel documentary about the flagship of the U.S. Africa Squadron, the pre-Civil War group charged with intercepting slave ships bound for the States. Now that's a cool job. [Reairs at 2PM.]

10AM-11AM, H: DEEP SEA DETECTIVES "Slave Ship Uncovered!"
This episode takes a look at the "Henrietta Marie," 310-year-old slave ship currently residing off the coast of Florida. [Reairs at 4PM.]

10:15AM-Noon, TCM: KEY LARGO, 101m.
Bogie! Bacall! John Huston! Edward G. Robinson!

6:30PM-8PM, TCM: THE RACKET, 84m.
I still think it's weird, even if TCM's doing a month-long Oscar tribute with a programming conceit that each film is linked to the next by a notable cast or crew member they share, that they can't show a silent movie in their Silent Sunday slot. This late-period silent thriller from Lewis Milestone, based on Bartlett Cormack's Broadway play, is about a police captain with an almost Ahab-like obsessed with bringing down a brutal mobster. I remember this being a remarkably sophisticated and complex for a 1928 gangster movie, but then I also remember it featuring actors who aren't in it. Thomas Meighan, Marie Prevost and Louis Wolheim are in it, however.

8:30PM-9PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1995: Lennox Lewis vs. Tommy Morrison"
As Morrison knockouts go, this one isn't nearly as savage as the one Ray Mercer gave him, but it's always fun to see how Lewis could so thoroughly impose his will on an opponent.

10:45PM-Midnight, Sun: MILTON GLASER: TO INFORM & DELIGHT, 73m.
Wendy Keys' profile of the iconic designer and art director behind icons like the I "heart" NY campaign, the rainbow-hair poster of Bob Dylan and the DC Comics bullet logo. Boy howdy, the man still has a lot of ideas and the pep to realize them. [Reairs at 4:15AM.]

Wednesday, February 17

12:15AM-2:15AM, TCM: THE SUNSHINE BOYS, 111m.
After slogging through the heartbreakingly lousy CALIFORNIA SUITE and I OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES, I feel like Charlie Brown scheduling another kick at Lucy's football in giving Neil Simon and Herbert Ross another chance to waste two more hours of my life -- and it would have been fantastic to see the movie as originally planned [Jack Benny & Red Skelton as Al & Willie, with Woody Allen 1975 directing] but how do you pass on a movie that can boast of a rare sighting of George Burns without his toupee and the line "He pulled a knife on me -- a kitchen knife! It was still dirty from breakfast!"? Walter Matthau and Richard Benjamin co-star, with support from Carol Arthur and very young F. Murray Abraham and Howard Hesseman.

6AM-7:30AM, 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 11:45AM and 4:35PM.]

Was Robert Donat the greatest character actor ever? Maybe. This is a fine King Vidor film about love and the unwritten laws of society, co-starring Rosalind Russell and Ralph Richardson.

John Huston does the big book in the last of the first cycle of widescreen Biblical epics. Starring Huston as Noah, George C. Scott as Abraham, Ava Gardner as Sarah, Richard Harris as Cain, Franco Nero as Abel, Peter O'Toole as the Three Angels and Gabriele Ferzetti as Lot. If Nick Ray can pull off making one of these things that engages and holds believers and non-believers alike, I trust Huston can do it too.

Those irascible drunks John Huston and Robert Mitchum spin a WWII yarn about a Marine and a Roman Catholic nun [Deborah Kerr] being marooned on an island in the South Pacific. John Boorman later remade this elliptical romance as HELL IN THE PACIFIC with Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, which I'm going to keep claiming until either someone calls me on it or it gets added to both films' Wikipedia entries.

I don't think I've ever seen this -- I'm really hoping to see Donat face off against fellow greatest-character-actor-ever Charles Laughton and see who dissolves into their character the most. Elsa Lanchester and Merle Oberon co-star, Lajos Biró writes and Alexander Korda directs.

Korda returns with an epic romance as veiled WWII propaganda, starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in their last on-screen pairing and Winston Churchill's finest 10 or so minutes as a ghostwriter.

10:15AM-11:50AM, 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 3PM.]

10:30AM-12:15PM, HBO: INTO THE STORM, 99m.
This is a by-the-numbers HBO biopic, but Brendan Gleeson owns as Winston Churchill, which is exactly what you want from anyone playing the Prime Minister in a movie that spans World War II and its political aftermath in Britain. Janet McTeer co-stars as his wife Clemmie.

A powerful, ideologically rigid Beltway Republican widow takes the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor on her birthday personally and chooses to simply ignore World War II. This being a wartime programmer movie, I trust you already know that she eventually stops being a willfully clueless asshole in the last reel, which only happens in the movies. HADLEY is a decidedly lesser entry in the cycle of '40s homefront movies -- SINCE YOU WENT AWAY might sign its yearbook at the end of the year, but they never sat together at lunch -- but it's great for fans of studio-era character actors; normally, you only see this many of them in the bigger Westerns. Fay Bainter stars with Edward Arnold, Van Johnson, Sara Allgood, Jean Rogers and Richard Ney, with direction by Harold S. Bucquet from George Oppenheimer's script.

John Ford and Robert Montgomery returned from combat in the Navy with an appropriately somber, serious 1945 Navy epic: It's a by-the-numbers story -- Montgomery stars as the U.S. commander who struggles to convince the top brass that the PT [Patrol-Torpedo] Boat could be a major force in future battles, John Wayne stars as his initially skeptical aide-de-camp and Donna Reed plays the girl.

5PM-6PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1992: Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe"
6PM-7:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1993: Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield II"
7:30PM-8:30PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1995: Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield III"
A classic-ish trilogy of heavyweight fights that established Bowe as … well, he was a better fighter than Holyfield, at least. Even by boxing standards, the '90s heavyweight division was defined by squalid politics, unfulfilled promise and dozens of what-if-NAME-had-fought-NAME imaginary fights between contemporaries [even if you leave Mike Tyson out for four years over his rape conviction] except that none of those fighters can hold even a fan's imagination for long. When a 40-something grill-selling pastor is the most charismatic fighter in your division, you know you're a part of another "Lost Generation" of fighters.

It's wonderful to have Noah Baumbach back and making movies again, although I'm not wild about the stylistic tics he's apparently picked up from working with Wes Anderson; part of me died the moment Pink Floyd infected the soundtrack. [Reairs at 2:45AM.]

This adaptation of Roddy Doyle's story about a ragtag bunch of Dublin aspiring musicians assembled to form a classic-soul band is charming and fun, and unique in that it may be the only film adaptation that takes more time to ingest than the original book does. Director Alan Parker and screenwriters Doyle, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais score major points with me for using "Mustang Sally" as the first song the band tries to play, as it's a tune that can be mauled and defaced enough. Even Buddy Guy, Los Lobos, Albert Collins and the Coasters can't make that song not bite into a wet bag of shit.

8:30PM-9PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "1989: Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno"
9PM-10PM, ESPNC: CLASSIC BOXING "2006: Nonito Donaire vs. Kahren Harutyunyan"
Playing armchair programmer, I would have aired these fine but totally random matches at 5PM and moved the Bowe-Holyfield fights into prime time.

Not the funniest of Richard L. Bare's "Joe McDoakes" series, but you have to enjoy the meta-fun of George O'Hanlon playing McDoakes and himself playing McDoakes as his own stand-in. Ronald Reagan has a brief cameo.

Thursday, February 18

Midnight-1:45AM, , IFC: AMERICAN PSYCHO, 97m.
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 aspect, the extreme violence*. It undoubtedly put asses in theater seats, 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.

[* I would say the same thing goes for Ellis' original novel, only no one cares about books anymore; the powers that be only go after new subversion in the most popular media, whether it's THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN in 1885, TALES FROM THE CRYPT in 1954, "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" in 1972, 2-Live Crew in 1989, GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS in 2005.]

12:15AM-1:45AM, Sun: GARAGE, 82m.
A West Ireland indie film about a mildly retarded petrol-station man and how he [doesn't really] relates to people in their slowly dying neighborhood. Leonard Abrahamson directs, Pat Shortt and Conor Ryan, and Anne-Marie Duff star. [Reairs at 4:15AM.]

Still the funniest movie about how scummy the boxing business is -- granted, that's an incredibly small field to dominate -- and it's nice to go back and visit a time when we weren't kind of tired of seeing Samuel L. Jackson in every third Hollywood movie released. Watching it again, I can't help but wonder if the choppiness of the story is due to the screenplay being written by Ron [TIN CUP, WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP, BULL DURHAM] Shelton and Tony [NATIONAL LAMPOON'S LEMMINGS, THIS IS SPINAL TAP] Hendra -- I assume they didn't write it as a team but who rewrote whom, I don't know -- or if director Reginald Hudlin and/or the producers cut a lot of scenes to keep things moving. Or both.

4:15AM-6AM, NAKED CITY, 96m.
This Jules Dassin police procedural is rigorously documentary-like -- we can't know, of course, but this certainly feels like the real streets of New York City, 1947. But, you will never want to delete a voiceover track more than you will with this film -- and that includes BLADE RUNNER and any Japanese sci-fi movie dubbed into English in the 1960s. Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff and Dorothy Hart star.

5:45AM-7:20AM, 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 11:45AM.]

7:19AM-7:28AM, TCM Short: AUDIOSCOPIKS, 8m.
A 1935 film about 3-D film. Was there ever a technological advance in film technology that didn't take decades for the industry to adopt?

7:30AM-8:45AM, TCM: THE LOST PATROL, 72m.
An early John Ford sound film: A British Calvary patrol gets lost in the deserts of Iraq as Arab snipers pick them off one by one. Yeah, you know this one's gonna be remade sooner rather than later. Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff and John's brother Wallace Ford star.

8:45AM-10:15AM, TCM: FIVE STAR FINAL, 89m.
Edward G. Robinson is the editor of a tabloid-style newspaper who develops a conscience after seeing how his drive to boost circulation hurts an innocent family. Yeah, see? N'yeah. H.B. Warner and Marian Marsh co-star as the couple, with superb support from Aline MacMahon, Ona Munson, Boris Karloff, Oscar Apfel and George Stone. Mervyn LeRoy directs from a script by Byron Morgan based on Louis Weitzenkorn's play.

10:45AM-12:30PM, IFC: SOLARIS, 99m.
Steven Soderbergh delights and awes again, remaking Stanislaw Lem's thoughtful science-fiction novel and/or Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 mindfuck into a soulful little $60,000,000 movie about memory and regret. If Jeremy Davies' style has ever been better deployed, I'd love to know where. [Reairs at 4:20PM]

Everyone makes a big deal about the earthquake scenes, which still impress almost 75 years later, but what I enjoy the most in this movie is the irrationally massive, unexplained shifts in attitude Clark Gable's saloon owner expresses toward Jeanette MacDonald's singer. This is probably the only movie ever made where Gable's leading man could have called his leading lady a cunt and it wouldn't have completely stopped the movie in its tracks. Spencer Tracy co-stars as a two-fisted priest and W.S. Van Dyke II directs from Anita Loos' adaptation of Robert E. Hopkins' story.

8PM-9:35PM, TCM: THE CROWD, 93m.
Another fine King Vidor film about love and the unwritten laws of society, this is his 1928 silent masterwork -- an unflaggingly inventive little movie about a little office clerk's little life. Artists can fill thousands of sketchbook pages copying the compositions in this movie. Jimmy Murray, Eleanor Boardman [Vidor's second wife] and Bert Roach star.

Friday, February 19

Vincente Minnelli & Charles Schnee's trashy piss take on producer David O. Selznick is far too beautifully made for its own good, but making a smaller, less polished movie based on Selznick's life probably would have offended him more than making a movie about what a dick he was in the first place. You're gonna do it, do it big and do it right. Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner and Dick Powell star.

1:40AM-3:40AM, Sun: A BITTERSWEET LIFE, 119m.
Sometimes, a stylish Korean gangster punch-'em-up scratches an itch perfectly. Director Ji-woon Kim spins a yarn about a mob enforcer gets all soft-hearted when he decides not to follow orders to kill his boss' unfaithful girlfriend.

That a 1960 musical starring Dean Martin and Judy Holliday, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and directed by Vincente Minnelli is known best only for being Holliday's last movie before her tragically early death suggests that the results were less than stellar. But who cares? Dino and Judy Holliday, singing and dancing! Jean Stapleton co-stars, with cameos from Bernie West, Frank Gorshin [doing a Brando impersonation] and Gerry Mulligan.

This is the original special, which I've been told took the History Channel's executives totally by surprise when its viewers went bananas for it, which was followed by the ongoing series a full year later. From Eddie Rickenbacker in WWI to Duke Cunningham and Irish Driscoll in Vietnam, a still exciting mix of CGI animation, stock footage and participant interviews show the hows and whys of aerial combat. If you don't love this show, I can assure you that you are not a man. [Reairs at 2PM.]

10AM-11AM, H: DOGFIGHTS "Tuskegee Airmen"
An episode presenting notable battles from America's first all-black fighter-pilot squadron. [Reairs at 4PM.]

11:30AM-1:30PM, FMC: BANDOLERO!, 106m.
You would think that Dean Martin would be a bad fit for Westerns, but he's often the best part of the ones he's in -- even RIO BRAVO wouldn't be as great without Dino. BANDOLERO! is no BRAVO but it can sit proudly next to THE PROFESSIONALS, which shares a lot of the same tropes and possibly a few character actors, and the better late '60s light Westerns. The scene where Dean and Jimmy Stewart talk about what Indians there are in Montana should be a classic, but it might rely too much on context to appreciate. Raquel Welch, Will Geer, Andrew Prine and George Kennedy co-star, Andrew V. Mclaglen directs from James Lee Barrett's screenplay based on Stanley Hough's story.

I've avoided seeing this science-fiction classic mostly because THE TEMPEST is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and how could Leslie Nielsen [in his serious thespian days] and Robby the Robot starring in the movie not guarantee disappointment? I'm pretty sure I've finally gotten that peeled lemon out of my ass so that I can just enjoy art on its own terms. Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis costar and Fred M. Wilcox directs from Cyril Hume's screenplay.

Chapters 1-12 of R&B singer/piss-enthusiast R. Kelly's adventures in being trapped in a closet will probably damage the weaker psyches amongst us. It's a movie where you really need to get the DVD if you can handle sitting through all 90 minutes of the movie; in a musical formed of non-stop narration, the DVD's commentary track is Kelly's non-stop narration of the non-stop musical narration of the movie. Somewhere, there's an ever-widening black hole torn in the meta-space continuum and eventually this entire universe will be sucked into it, one viewing of this movie's DVD at a time. [Reairs at 3AM.]

John Ford's gentle, elegiac classic about a family of Welsh coal miners beat out CITIZEN KANE, HERE COMES MR. JORDAN, THE LITTLE FOXES, THE MALTESE FALCON, SERGEANT YORK and SUSPICION for the Best Picture Oscar in 1941. I don't know if it deserved it -- the film raked in more Awards for Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography as well as nominations for Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing Best Music for a Dramatic Picture, Best Sound Recording and Best Writing -- but it's undoubtedly one of John Ford's, Philip Dunne's, Walter Pidgeon's, Maureen O'Hara's, Donald Crisp's, Sara Allgood's and Roddy McDowall's greatest efforts. Warning: This is a "Fox Legacy" presentation of the movie, so the first 20 minutes or so will be FoxFilm CEO Tom Rothman talking about how awesome the movie and Fox are, so don't lowball the recording time on your TIVO/DVDR/Betamax timer. [Reairs at 10:30PM and 1AM.]

9:35PM-11:10PM, RetroPlex: THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, 93m.
We love Steve Martin and Carl Reiner, even though their collaborations aren't the invincible, gestalt powerhouses you would expect -- Reiner's done better directing on other projects so I almost wonder if he was coasting or serving as a junior partner to Martin, who was undoubtedly dead center in his supernova as a comedy writer and performer. BRAINS isn't as balls-out as THE JERK, as clever as DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID or as fully realized as ALL OF ME, but fuck you, it's still a Steve Martin and Carl Reiner movie. Kathleen Turner, David Warner and James Cromwell costar.

It's easy to like prospect Shawn Porter, although I don't know if he's a] ready to headline a FNF [but then, ESPN's boxing programming has been so marginalized that eventually boxers whose biggest prior media exposure was being visible in audience shots at HBO fights will be headlining FNF] and b] really going to be showcased well by fighting Russell Jordan for the vacant WBO-NABO light-middleweight title. But, with no live boxing on my cable service for weeks [chinga tu madres, Time-Warner and FOX Sports] until HBO and Showtime air fights at the same time on March 6 [chinga sus madres], I'll take it.

Saturday, February 20

Midnight-1:45AM, IFC: THE WICKER MAN, 100m.
The creepy, thoughtful original, not the hilariously awful Nic Cage/IN THE COMPANY OF MEN guy's remake. It's always impressive how seemingly easy it was for the filmmakers to guide the audience from rooting for Edward Woodward's investigator to against him and back, all the way up to the conclusion that's still shocking even when you know what's coming.

10AM-11AM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE "Wrath of God"
11AM-12PM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE "Toxic Revenge"
12PM-1PM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE "Crypt of Civilization"
2PM-3PM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE "Home Wrecked Homes"
3PM-4PM, H: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE "Holiday Hell"
A cheerful marathon of documentaries about what would probably happen if the human race was annihilated overnight.

This is one of those movies that make me regret launching a project to watch every John Huston movie that I find. Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr and Ava Gardner star and Anthony Veiller & Huston adapted Tennessee Williams' play for the screen.

9:20AM-11AM, IFC: MANHATTAN, 96m.
I know it's not Woody Allen's fault that two generations of filmmakers think that if they set their movie in New York City, it has to be both one of the main characters in the story and a source for musical montages that do nothing but remind the audience HEY WE'RE IN NYC ISN'T IT GREAT THIS MUSIC WAS PROBABLY RECORDED HERE TOO. Anyway, I can believe Allen's claim that he pleaded with United Artists to not release this film, even offering to make a movie for free if they would shelve MANHATTAN; I'm going to watch it again to see if it's as much of a misfire as I remember. Allen directs, co-stars and co-writes with Marshall Brickman; Diane Keaton, Michael Murphy, Mariel Hemingway and Meryl Streep costar. [Reairs at 2:05PM.]

Have Mike Nichols and the Antichrist ever been seen together? I doubt it; almost every last movie Nichols has made is an "abomination that causes desolations" especially when he tries to be thoughtful. I've avoided seeing WOOLF for decades, expecting it to be another embarrassingly glib Nichols movie, but I recently noticed that the film was produced and written by Ernest Lehman, which explains why it's apparently not Edward Albee presented as sketch comedy. Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal and Sandy Dennis star.

3:15PM-6PM, TCM: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, 149m.
A fine opportunity to get your photos and videos in the can early in preparation for International "Record Your Pet Reacting To 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Day 2010, this April 2nd.

If you squint, this movie could look like a lost mid-'70s Mel Brooks film; Gene Wilder wrote the screenplay and stars with Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Dom Deluise in this specifically sub-genre specific spoof, complete the inspired Brooksian stunt-casting of Leo McKern as Professor Moriarty. But Wilder also directed the film and showed that he is no borscht-belt fartypants like his one-time mentor, producing a far more adult piece of silliness than YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN or HIGH ANXIETY.

I'm sure I saw Spielberg's 1977 science-fantasy as a kid, but I don't remember anything except Richard Dreyfuss sculpting a model of the mountain out of mashed potatoes and saying that it means something. It's funny how many scenes in his sci-fi movies revolve around the dinner table. Teri Garr and Francois Truffaut co-star.

I hope this documentary about the first 24 hours following John F. Kennedy's assassination is directly connected to Steven M. GIllon's recent book, probably best known for the amazing, recently declassified oral account that Lyndon Johnson sequestered himself in Air Force One's Presidential-bedroom bathroom -- the Kennedy people didn't even know he was on the plane -- to completely lose his shit in private before taking the Oath of Office and getting the fuck out of Dallas. [Reairs at 2:01AM.]

Sunday, February 21

9AM-11:15AM, TCM: CITIZEN KANE, 120m.
I think it's hilarious that the generation just coming up may recognize this movie more as the lyrics of the White Stripes song "Union Forever" than as the nearly undisputed Greatest American Movie Ever Made™. Orson Welles stars with Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore and Everett Sloane, with support from George Coulouris, Agnes Moorehead and the Mercury Theatre. Welles directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Herman Mankiewicz and John Houseman. Score by Bernard Herrmann, cinematography by Gregg Toland and editing by Robert Wise.

9:45AM-Noon, IFC: SPIRITED AWAY, 125m.
Even some dubbed Hayao Miyazaki anime is better than no Hayao Miyazaki anime. [Reairs at 4:45AM.]

11:15AM-1:30 LUST FOR LIFE, 122m.
Vincente Minnelli is back, and this time it's personal. Kirk Douglas acts the fuck out of his role as Vincent van Gogh in this gorgeous, probably dishonest 1956 biopic. The mighty Norman Corwin wrote the screenplay, based on Irving Stone's book. Anthony Quinn co-stars/steals scenes as Paul Gauguin.

Does anyone else find it really weird that the same novelist wrote both this story and THE PLANET OF THE APES? David Lean's first epic stars William Holden, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa and was written by Michael Wilson and Carl Foreman.

12:30AM-2:30AM, TCM: TO CATCH A THIEF, 106m.
Excellent Cary Grant & Alfred Hitchcock color double feature. Maybe it's because NxNW has been talked to death over the years, but I've found TCAT far more rewatchable.

Monday, February 22

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.

2:30AM-4:30AM, FMC: THE VAN, 100m.
The final part of Roddy Doyle's "Barrytown Trilogy," [following THE COMMITMENTS and THE SNAPPER] is a more straightforward comedy about two goofs deciding to make their living selling fish & chips out of a van. Colm Meaney and Donal O'Kelly star, and Stephen Frears directs from Doyle's screenplay adaptation of his novel.

Another Judy Holliday vehicle: In this one, she plays a penny-ante stockholder with a lot of moxie and a whole lotta questions for the corrupt board of directors of her favorite company. Paul Douglas and Fred Clark co-star with narration from George Burns, and Richard Quine directs Abe Burrows' screen adaptation of the George S. Kaufman & Howard Teichmann play.

There are simply too many vital, creative forces at play in this big-business drama -- screenwriter Ernest Lehman, producer John Houseman, editor Ralph E. Winters and a cast boasting William Holden, June Allyson, Barbara Stanwyck, Fredric March, Walter Pidgeon and Shelley Winters -- for the often-hopeless director Robert Wise to disprove Orson Welles' theory that if you can assemble a good script, a good cast and a good cutter, you can't stop a good movie from being made. [I'd like to think that Welles had Wise specifically in mind when he said that "Directing is the perfect refuge for the mediocre," but nothing in any of Welles' biographies suggest that he thought of Wise much at all past 1944.]

Pirates in the 1600s-1700s! Avast! [Reairs at 2PM.]

Pirates in the 1900s-2000s! Yargh! [Reairs at 4PM.]

12:10PM-1:40PM, Sun: BODY OF WAR, 88m.
Does it make me a bad person that, as heartbreaking and thoughtful as Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue's documentary about a young paraplegic Iraq War veteran's struggle to come to terms with his new disabilities, life and view of the war is, the guy's [I think] girlfriend distracted me with her awesomeness? Or am I just bad because I used the word "awesomeness?" Or both?

9:45PM-Midnight, IFC: BAMBOOZLED, 135m.
Happy Black History month! My favorite Spike Lee film, largely for how its failures raise far more interesting questions than the ones Lee tries to raise -- he apparently thought that Damon Wayans doing a phonetically perfect Sidney Poitier impersonation was a good idea that modern audiences would get; that the same audience would forgive the fuzzed-out results of shooting the film on early all-digital equipment; that the old minstrel stereotype is on the same level as the modern gangsta one, except when it's not, etc. I wish Lee would try to rip Flava Flav a new asshole as often as he goes after Clint Eastwood; both of them deserve it, but Flav has gotten away with cashing his Public Enemy cred on VH1 stardom doing shit that even Steppin Fetchit wouldn't do.

10PM-11:45PM, SHO2: SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING "Carl Froch vs. Jermaine Taylor"
A rebroadcast of their pre-Super Six super-middleweight fight.

And there's another week.

The 2064th step on the last road home.

Happiness Is a Warm Sharity Blog

So, I finally found a copy of the original soundtrack to the 1969 feature film A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, which has never been released on CD for some deranged reason probably for a couple good reasons, which I'll get to eventually.

You would have a hard time finding an adult who doesn't know at least fragments of the songs by heart -- Rod McKuen's title track, "Failure Face" and "Champion Charlie Brown," John Scott Trotter's "I Before E" and maybe even some of the themes from Vince Guaraldi's richer-than-the-TV-Specials score. Well, I'd like to think that you would have a hard time finding one, at least.

There is an OST CD titled A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN that's widely available, but it's actually music Guaraldi made for a documentary about Charles Schulz and the PEANUTS comic strip made in 1963 -- two years before the first Peanuts animated special, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS -- but was never actually broadcast. I don't know which is harder to accept: That any television network would pass on a half-hour of PEANUTS, still a nationwide smash hit in 1964, albeit nothing like the global powerhouse it would shortly become, for relatively cheap, or that the iconic "Linus and Lucy" theme was composed and recorded for a small, independent TV project that went nowhere.

There is a never-released-on-CD OST that lists A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN in big letters and even boasts an original [I presume] Schulz strip that references McKuen on its cover, but that's not the actual soundtrack to the movie either; it's a sort of Greatest Hits package of McKuen's movie songs.

This is the album we [thought we] want on CD, dammit:

It doesn't sound like the most attractive of packages -- a two LP set that intercuts the songs with dialogue to tell a pared-down version of the movie -- but if it eventually gets an MP3 of the line "And in the race to be STUPID, You've set a brand-new kind of pace" onto my media card and into my ears whenever I want it, then great.

I bought a hopefully good-condition, not too hideously expensive copy of the original two-record set -- it hasn't arrived, but I just stumbled across the first mp3 blog The Cheerful Earful, which is easily the most likable sharity blog I've ever encountered. You ever go to a big party at a friend of a friend's house, and they have the kind of tasteful record collection that makes you like them before you're even introduced? Cheerful Earful was like that even before I discovered the Vince Guaraldi post that has MP3s of the OST. Yay! I don't have to buy a USB record player just yet!

So, literally as the ZIP files of the soundtrack were downloading, I finally saw the forest for the trees and realized what doofus I've been; duh, why hasn't there been a reissue of the soundtrack? Uh, because a CD now costs about as much as a bare-bones DVD and the OST is just an audio abridged version of the movie? Because only a hardcore Guaraldi/PEANUTS-music fan would want a CD consisting of a handful of very short songs and a handful of themes and instrumentals? Nevermind the possible rights issues between that group of creators and/or rights holders, much less the big if of what condition the master audio recordings are in for dumping the sound effects and dialogue to showcase the score. Maybe a champion pop-culture curator like the geniuses at Shout! Factory could produce a collection greatest-hits package of music from the four PEANUTS feature films -- A BOY NAMED CHARLIE BROWN, SNOOPY COME HOME, RACE FOR YOUR LIFE CHARLIE BROWN and BON VOYAGE, CHARLIE BROWN [AND DON'T COME BACK] -- and then monkeys can fly out of my ass and pry the rifle from Bright Eyes' cold, dead hands. Huzzah!

The 2063rd step on the last road home.

Friday Night Fights:

With only some blotchy YouTube clips to go by, I had expected Edwin Valero to be the kind of beast who doesn't mind getting hit if that means you're close enough to be crushed and left crying on the ring canvas from a left hook. In other words, he reminded me of the most unsung welterweight/light-middleweight of the early 1990s, "Saigon" Skipper Kelp -- a fighter who was always thrilling to watch in the ring even if he never quite made it to the upper echelons of his weight classes. This highlights video gives you a good taste of Kelp at his best.

By the way, regarding Valero: He's much better than the hype and his 100% KO ratio promised, if that's possible. He's not a Kelp and he's not really a young Manny Pacquiao; he's a much better boxer and more developed than either boxer was at this stage in his career. For one thing, unlike Manny, Valero already has two hands; all he really needs is a Freddie Roach to fill in the holes in his defense and a Bruce Trampler to guide him to whatever level his heart allows. Let's hope that Valero stays in the lightweight division and cleans as much of it out as he can until making weight becomes an issue for him: Valero vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, Valero vs. Funeka, Valero vs. Juan Diaz, Valero vs. Katsidis, Valero vs. Reyes -- not a boring-sounding match in the bunch.

Friday Night Fights: Thinking Out Loud Pre-show

Maybe I'm growing jaded, but the big boxing stories -- there's a global shortage of fainting couches after everyone in boxing ran out and bought one when it became clear that a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight would not come together perfectly on the first try; loudmouth asshole NAME-HERE says he will murderate OPPONENT-NAME-HERE when they fight on DATE-HERE; daily reports on Ricky Hatton's losing battle with carbs, complete with aerial photographs -- just don't interest me anymore.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about two kinds of unsung, forgotten boxers: First, prospects whose lives or careers are cut short -- the example freshest in most people's minds right now is probably Billy Collins, who had his career and perhaps his will to live beaten out of him with loaded gloves worn by his opponent Luis Resto, following HBO's wide release of the fine documentary ASSAULT IN THE RING. Second, the class often referred to, fairly or unfairly, as "opponents" -- or, more bluntly, "tomato cans" because they're so easy to knock around.

All promoters pad out their prospects' resumes with fights against opponents, fairly comfortable that tomato cans couldn't knock their boys out short of clobbering them with the corner stool. It's difficult to not think of opponents as bums, but if you think about it, it takes a lot of courage to step into a boxing ring, knowing that another man is about to spend up to the next hour or so trying to beat you up until you either fall and can't rise or you lose consciousness on your feet and the referee literally has to throw himself in front of you to make the beating stop. Opponents go in knowing that they're probably outgunned and are going to lose but step up anyway, which takes more courage than normal. Sure, lots of them do it strictly for the money --- a lot of the biggest and greatest boxers fight solely for the money -- but no one wants to risk his life for nothing.

Looking through records for a little documentary I'm just sketching, out I happened across a fighter with a record that literally left me slack-jawed:

Reggie Strickland, super-middleweight from Indianapolis, IN. His record: 66 wins, 14 by KO; 276 losses, 25 by KO; 17 draws in 363 fights! Active from 1987-2005, he boxed 2033 rounds as a professional, with a KO percentage of 3.86%. Let's look at that loss count again: 276 losses, 25 by KO. Holy fucking shit, dude. I'm certainly no warrior, but I think I would call it quits once the running tally of times my consciousness had been forcibly separated from my body broke into double digits. Hell, I would probably quit blogging if it ever gave me more than one concussion. Twenty-five knockouts. We salute you, Mr. Strickland, wherever you are and whatever that many fights has done to you.

On the prospect side, lately I've been wondering if there's a story to the short life and quick death of David "The Hammer" Harris, a 25-year-old light-heavyweight prospect who died in 1985 in some kind of freak incident while sparring just a few days before his twelfth fight as a pro. According to the one report I've been able to find, an unsigned short article in THE NEW YORK TIMES says that

Harris was sparring with Ken Styles at the Ringside Gym at Eighth Avenue and 40th Street when he suddenly slumped through the ropes without being hit, slamming his head against a wall and then the apron of the ring. He was taken to St. Clare's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead 10 minutes later.

And that's it; there doesn't seem to have been any follow-up reports from the newspaper of record about an autopsy to determine cause of death, no reactions from Harris' trainer, manager or promoter, no announcement from the New York State Athletic Commission, nothing. Of course, the tragedy is that this kid died young and never had a chance to fully develop himself as a man and an athlete, but something in how totally he's gone is a little scary. Hardcore boxing fanatics may have an even finer eye for trivia and fringe characters than comics nerds and vinyl snobs, but would even the old-timers at Gleason's Gym or wherever the refugees from the Times Square Gym hang out now remember David Harris?

By the way, I started wondering about Harris after a conversation where a friend and I took turns trying to name the oddest name for a boxer in history. I think I won with "Understanding Allah," a 2-7 tomato can whom Harris retired in 1984.

[By the way: Hello, future search-engine visitors. You might as well leave now; I don't understand any god or religion. There might be a post somewhere in my archives about those basphemous cartoons that right-wing Danish newspaper published to provoke the Muslims, and maybe a memoir post about how i used to visit chain bookstores and restock The Bible in the science-fiction anthology section, but that's about it. Sorry.]