"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
Happy New Year Everyone!
There are 10 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
A sterling example of how to present complex and enthralling characters, all of whom develop naturally while still holding our intense fascination is Citizen Kane, a previous TCM recommendation here. This American film masterpiece, the only U.S. film represented on our Top Ten: World Cinema Treasures, will begin Wednesday, January 4 at 10:30pm PST.
One of Britain's finest contributions to the cinematic arts was previously reviewed at length in Opening Up a Treasure: Brief Encounter and is scheduled to begin Sunday, January 8 at 1am PST (technically Monday morning).
Raoul Walsh’s 1949 crime thriller White Heat is a hard blow to the gut and keeps on punching all the way through to its literally explosive finale.
Gangster Cagney from The Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties transforms into psycho Cagney in White Heat. His psychological dependency on Ma, (the gutsy co-leader of his crew based on real-life gang leader Ma Barker), persistent migraines, confessed evening soliloquies and sadistic glee at dispatching others, vigorously yanks this picture straight into noir territory. In Cagney’s younger days his criminal motive was simple: To be rich and posses that lifestyle. Now he’s older and takes seasoned pride in cleverly outsmarting the law. That, coupled with his aforementioned degeneracies, distinguishes this 40’s film noir from the predominant crime films of the previous decades. As bonus features, there’s an undercover cop played by Edmond O’Brien who has to get awful cosy with Cagney’s psycho to garner his trust and later fondness, a double-crossing partner played with that typical slick assurance by Steve Cochran, and Cagney’s gorgeous trophy moll (Virginia Mayo) who’s as duplicitous as any noir femme-fatale looking out exclusively for herself. Even that Warner Bros. gangster go-to composer Max Steiner gets into the noir groove by appropriately jazzing up the proceedings. Finally there are Cagney’s physically white-hot but mentally noir-black iconic bursts of energy to treasure, and for the uninitiated, best (like revenge) served "cold". The heat is on (updated) Thursday, March 2 (technically Friday morning) at 2:45am PST. TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on the above image. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.
One of last month's TCM recommendations, previously reviewed here, is The Lost Weekend. Billy Wilder's portrayal of a struggling alcoholic contains a powerhouse performance by Ray Milland. This mesmerising film can be found on TCM Thursday, January 12 at 9:15pm PST.
Then there's John Ford's enigmatic masterpiece The Searchers, previously reviewed here. It is Top Ten Western #2 and is as likely as any film to provide one with a truly unforgettable, rich and rewarding movie watching experience. The search will begin Saturday, January 14 at 1pm PST.
The multi-talented Gordon Parks made his directorial debut at age 57 with 1969's The Learning Tree based on his semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. This touching coming of age story was previously lauded, along with its creator Parks, in an article entitled: Exploring the Artifacts #5: The Alchemist. Included are some clips of Parks' music compositions for The Learning Tree and Shaft's Big Score. The Learning Tree can be studied Monday, January 16 at 9:30am PST.
For an uproarious and thoroughly engaging movie-watching experience, it's hard to beat Bringing Up Baby previously recommended here. The antics will begin on TCM Wednesday, January 18 (early morning) at 3:30am PST.
My next TCM recommendation is really for those who enjoy gritty and efficient crime dramas, inventive and engagingly formulated but admittedly without much meaningful purpose. Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972) is expertly crafted as one might expect from the precise keen-eyed director but is severely lacking in character depth mostly due to an under-developed, practically abandoned, opening premise.
The subsequent focus is simply on our two anti-heroes' (Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw), attempts to hold on to their ill-gotten gains and stay clear of both the law and those seeking personal revenge. One of those nasty reprobates trying to catch up with our couple on the move is Al Lettieri's Rudy whose numerous scenes mostly act as excessively unpleasant filler. MacGraw, at times, struggles with her part. Peckinpah's panache, however, provides as perfect a fit for McQueen as the guns the actor so authoritatively wields. The director and his star's perfect synergy, especially evident in the prison opening, heist scene, hell all of the stuff with the "king of cool", loads The Getaway to the max with realistic suspense and excitement ending the drama on an unexpected, "let's thumb our noses at the Production Code", high. The Getaway will take off Wednesday, January 25 at 9:15pm PST.
Singin' in the Rain is a bittersweet selection due to the recent heart-breaking loss of motion-picture star Debbie Reynolds. Hopefully, the pain can be tempered by this joyous top tier musical's abundant creativity, innovation, and driving energy. Singin' in the Rain was a previous Blu-ray recommendation here and will dance its way onto TCM Friday, January 27 at 3pm PST.
My last TCM pick of the month is another musical and, like Singin' in the Rain, is about putting on a show but instead of a motion picture, these participants are trying to produce a stage production. Please have a read here and see why Gold Diggers of 1933 is as enjoyable and pertinent as the shows these spirited characters struggle to produce. The show must go on Sunday, January 29 (early morning) at 3:30am PST.
TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.
Anyone in or around the San Francisco area (or those who can afford to travel there) may wish to consider attending this:
This year's schedule plus a promotional video can be seen by clicking on the image.
This month's Happy Birthday shout-out goes to Anne Jeffreys who turns 94 on January 26th. In the early 1950s, a highly successful club act with her husband Robert Sterling led to both being cast as Marion and George Kirby, the clever and engaging ghosts in the 1953 - 1955 Topper sitcom, probably their best known roles.
Her first credited film appearance was in 1942's I Married an Angel with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. She additionally made striking impressions co-starring in some notable films noir including 1945's Dillinger with Lawrence Tierney, 1947's Riff-Raff with Pat O'Brien, and westerns such as 1947's Trail Street and 1948's Return of the Bad Men both with Randolph Scott and Robert Ryan. More contemporary TV roles included those reoccurring in Falcon Crest (1982 - 1983) Baywatch (1993 - 1998) and General Hospital (1984 - 2004).
January's Soundtrack recommendation is to The French Connection and The French Connection II both composed by the masterful jazz artistry of Don Ellis.
These stylish and inventive scores, remastered to produce excellent fidelity, are contained along with Brad Fiedel's original score to the TV pilot Popeye Doyle, in The French Connection Collection a very limited (only 2000 produced) 2-CD set issued by La La Land Records and currently available from Screen Archives Entertainment. Click on the image for more information including international ordering.
The Blu-ray recommendation this month is the above-reviewed White Heat issued by Turner Classic Movie and can be ordered from Amazon U.S. by clicking on the image.