Saturday, August 28, 2010

This Week on... TCM (August 29 - September 4)

Sunday, August 29 (star: Henry Fonda)
12 Angry Men (1957) 10:00 PM - At first I wrote '23 Angry Men'. That's a WHOLE lot of angry men.

Monday, August 30 (star: Thelma Todd - A lot of shorts and short comedies. Probably worth tuning in at any time.)
Monkey Business (1931) 8:00 PM
Horse Feathers (1932) 9:30 PM
The Maltese Falcon (1931) 3:15 AM - The inferior original version starring Ricardo Cortez as 'the blond Satan,' Sam Spade and Thelma Todd as Archer's widow. If you're a Maltese Falcon fan (especially if you've read the book and seen the 1941 version), it's definitely worth watching this for comparison purposes. Some of the book's original content that was deemed unsavory make it into this version, so, in some respects this is more true to the Dashiell Hammett book. However, it is, ultimately, inferior, especially in the acting. While Ricardo Cortez might look more appropriate for the part, Humphrey Bogart redefined Sam Spade and made the role his own.

Wednesday, September 1 (theme: Kim Novak)
Picnic (1955) 6:00 PM
Pal Joey (1957) 12:00 AM
The Notorious Landlady (1962) 4:15 AM

Friday, September 3 (theme: Alan Ladd)
They Met In Bombay (1941) 12:30 PM - Clark Gable and Peter Lorre
The Blue Dahlia (1946) 2:15 PM - This is one of my favorite movies!
Burnt Offerings (1976) 2:00 AM - Boy, is this one a creepy b-movie! Good for an uneasy laugh.
House On Haunted Hill (1959) 4:00 AM - The original Vincent Price version

Saturday, September 4
That's Entertainment II (1976) 6:00 AM - Hosted by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly
The Graduate (1967) 8:00 PM
The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (1961) 3:30 AM

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fluorescerama: On The Waterfront

See, Johnny used to work on the docks, but the union's been on strike..

Once you see this movie, believe me, you'll be hooked, too!

What's in Marlon Brando's refrigerator? Coke and lots of it. Butter. Del Monte Tomato Juice. Carnation Yogurt. Something else Carnation. It looks like a lot of wrapped stuff (meats and produce maybe). Various bottles of stuff.
- - -

I never thought much about Marlon Brando until December 18, 2009. That was the day I saw On The Waterfront. At first, I was merely impressed with his acting (and, of course, all the other fine actors in the movie, including Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, and Lee J. Cobb). Despite his undeniably fine acting, I couldn't see what the big attraction was.. until halfway through the movie when I realized that I found him absolutely enthralling. Now I consider him practically perfect: possibly the single most desirable man ever made. I know his looks and acting went to pot in the late 1970s or so, but that can never truly spoil his greatness.

On The Waterfront is about the complex workings of a union: corrupt bossmen (headed by Cobb's Johnny Friendly) and the workers who have no choice but to ignore the greed and nepotism on the docks if they want to continue collecting a paycheck... and stay alive. After Edie's (Saint) brother is killed off, the 'coulda been a contender' Terry (Brando) becomes embroiled in a dilemma as to whether to settle into the comfy niche that his brother Charley's (Steiger -- a far cry from po' Jud Fry!) loyalty has carved out for him or stand up to Friendly and his cadre along with Edie and Father Barry (Malden). This sounds more like a Bon Jovi song than something I would normally want to watch, but it is strangely riveting. Brando's acting seems so effortless and cerebral, and you're left guessing his thoughts and motivations as the most subtle and vulnerable nuances of emotion wash over his roughly hewn face. It's this contradicting combination of tenderness and harshness that makes Marlon Brando so compelling and attractive. He seems untouchable and yet more human than anyone in the world all at the same time.

On The Waterfront is easily my pick as his most essential movie, though he is equally worth looking at in A Streetcar Named Desire. His character is an unforgiveable brute, however, he is also at his sultry best. While Stanley Kowalski's final beastly act is so abominable that he should be considered one of the most despicable characters ever to be portrayed on stage or screen, it's hard not to understand Stella's magnetic attraction to her savage husband.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This Week on... TCM (August 22-28)

Monday, August 23 (star: Elizabeth Taylor)
Lassie Come Home (1943) 6:00 AM
A Place In The Sun (1951) 1:45 PM - Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor sure made one gorgeous couple in this movie. Shelley Winters never could catch a break, though.
The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954) 4:00 PM
BUtterfield 8 (1960) 6:00 PM
Raintree County (1957) 8:00 PM - Also with Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966) 11:00 PM
The V.I.P.s (1963) 1:30 AM

Tuesday, August 24 (star: John Gilbert)
The Phantom Of Paris (1931) 5:00 PM
Downstairs (1932) 6:30 PM

Wednesday, August 25 (star: Lauren Bacall)
Dark Passage (1947) 8:00 AM
Designing Woman (1957) 4:30 PM
Private Screenings: Lauren Bacall (2005) 6:45 PM - Interview with Robert Osborne
To Have And Have Not (1944) 8:00 PM - The best Bogie and Bacall movie
The Big Sleep (1946) 2:00 AM - A close second.
Sex And The Single Girl (1964) 4:00 AM

Thursday, August 26 (star: Lee Remick)
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) 10:30 PM

Friday, August 27 (star: Olivia De Havilland -- She's still alive!?)
Light In The Piazza (1962) 6:00 PM - With Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux, and a handsome, very young George Hamilton. I actually found this movie kind of disturbing.
The Heiress (1949) 8:00 PM - Very Jane Austen-y with Montgomery Clift as her very own Willougby
To Each His Own (1946) 10:00 PM - A good wartime tearjerker with John Lund
The Snake Pit (1948) 12:15 AM - Good, though mainly for de Havilland's excellent acting

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This week on... TCM

Sunday, August 15 (star: Margaret O'Brien)
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) 3:45 PM - This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I used to put an orange towel over my head and roll it up at the front and pretend I was Judy Garland. You'll be on the edge of your seat as Marjorie Main makes the most irresistible catsup ever! Plus, there are great songs like 'Under The Bamboo Tree', 'The Boy Next Door', 'The Trolley Song', and more! Like, 'Skip To My Lou'! Also notable for the sublime haminess of Margaret O'Brien. 'I hate you, Mr. Braukoff!' Will they ever have a happy Christmas again?!!?

Tuesday, August 17 (star: Maureen O'Hara)
The Parent Trap (1961) 5:45 PM - Let's get together, yeah yeah yeah, and watch The Parent Trap! Hayley Mills! And Hayley Mills!

Wednesday, August 18 (star: Ann Sheridan)
George Washington Slept Here (1942) 6:15 PM
The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) 12:00 AM

Friday, August 20 (star: Katharine Hepburn - I think probably all the movies are worth watching)
Katharine Hepburn: All About Me (1993) 9:00 AM - Documentary/Interview
Undercurrent (1946) 2:00 PM - With the handsome Robert Taylor. A good sounding suspense story.
Woman Of The Year (1942) 8:00 PM
Bringing Up Baby (1938) 12:00 AM - One of my favorite movies! Watch it and you'll just go gay all of a sudden!
The Philadelphia Story (1940) 2:00 AM - Another favorite!
Summertime (1955) 4:00 AM - This was a beautiful movie with Rossano Brazzi! Beautiful Venetian scenery!

Saturday, August 21 (star: Paul Newman - I think probably all the movies are worth watching)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) 1:45 PM
Hud (1963) 3:45 PM - Hey Hud! Where's Hud? Oh, that Hud! ..HUD!
Harper (1966) 5:45 PM - A private eye story with Lauren Bacall! Sign me up for that!
The Sting (1973) 8:00 PM - I'll FINALLY get to see this!!
Cool Hand Luke (1967) 10:15 PM - Paul Newman really does play the same 'misunderstood' ne'er-do-well characters over and over again -- well, at least he looks good doing it, so I guess that's okay.
Rachel, Rachel (1968) 12:30 AM - Paul Newman directs wife Joanne Woodward
Sweet Bird Of Youth (1962) 4:00 AM - He looked good in this movie, but that's about it. Look for a REALLY young Rip Torn (who, also, surprisingly wasn't that bad looking). Plus, you can laugh at all the ridiculous character names that are the trademark of everything Tennessee Williams has ever done.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fluorescerama: It Happened One Night

Dear me, Clark Gable's practically naked!

How to dunk a donut the right way.

Once Clark Gable's naked torso and Claudette Colbert's angelic face graced the silver screen, the modern romantic comedy was born. Frank Capra's 1934 screwball comedy is a seamless masterpiece. It's hard to imagine anyone else as the gruff newspaperman, Peter Warne, and the spoiled heiress, Ellie Andrews (although, I think Myrna Loy could have been suitable).

Here's a YouTube clip of one of my favorite scenes from the film (when all the bus passengers join in a rousing version of 'The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze'). If you're already familiar with this Academy Award winner, you may be interested in reading the script for the Lux Radio Theater version with Gable and Colbert reprising their roles. Or you can find an mp3 of the March 20, 1939 recording at this wonderful old-time radio (OTR) blog (look about a third of the way down -- or search for 'Lux Radio Theater-390320-211-It Happened One Night.mp3').

IMDB | Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spotlight on... Pop Culture Documentaries

Recently, I watched an exciting documentary on the Documentary Channel about the preservation of American popular culture that spotlighted several incredible museums and collections. The documentary was called Rewind America (2002), and it featured several segments, including a collection of burlesque memorabilia, the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas, and Forrest J Ackerman's legendary collection of science fiction and horror collectibles. The segment on the Liberace Museum was dazzling, but it was the breadth of the sci-fi and horror collection that was really awe-inspiring. The collection took up the entirety of Forrest J Ackerman's house, and it was jam-packed. He would have been a good contender for one of those programs about hoarders had it not been for the uniqueness and collectibility of the huge mass of stuff. Every inch of space was crammed full of movie memorabilia, including original movie posters and props from well-known films of the genre. He even had a special type of shelving system installed to allow for maximum storage of all his science fiction books! I couldn't help but admire both the completeness of the collection and his generosity in sharing it.

The engrossing documentary may have centered on these collections that were vital to, perhaps, fringe interests, but it said a lot about our national identity as a whole. It emphasized the accessibility of the collections; these were collections to be shared with the general public, to celebrate bygone personalities and subjects in the rich legacy of American twentieth-century popular culture. The thing that I love most about pop culture documentaries is that they delve into an aspect (or aspects, as the case may be) of ourselves that we often take for granted: that we love the cheap thrills of crappy b-movies, the campy decadence of celebrity, unhealthy convenience foods. No topic is too low-brow or mundane. They may not be gems, objets d'art, or priceless dinosaur bones, but, at least at one time in our lives, toys and fads, food, advertising, movies, pop music, and our favorite shows were just as vital (or more so) than relics in a museum. And, most importantly, all of these topics are as fun to read and write about as they are to experience first-hand. I was perusing a very dry academic book about the study of popular culture, and the only thing of merit that I took away from it was a very apt and wonderful definition for popular culture: it is the study of having fun. And that's just what pop culture should be. I don't know if I'm merely biased, but when I look at today's pop culture, I find it boring, and I have a hard time believing that I'll look back on the past decade with any sort of nostalgia or affection.

The past can be a dangerous thing to wallow in because it can be very distressing when a beloved aspect of your past fades into oblivion, or, inevitably, is completely snuffed out to make way for 'modernity' and 'progress.' The younger set (not that I'm much older than they) seem to be of the attitude that anything that happened before their birth is not worth knowing about or preserving. As the world is inexorably changing, we need documentarians, be they filmmakers; writers; or archivists (collectors, historians, librarians) to collect, maintain, and distribute our collective memories. Whether these are professionals working in actual libraries, archives, or film preservation labs or just a person with a pile of ephemera and a scanner, I believe this is Very Important Work, and I appreciate their efforts and contributions to preserving any and every aspect of twentieth-century popular culture. I believe we're in danger of losing all the things that made us who we were in the last century, and that, as time passes, so too will our memories of the past wash away. I suppose this can be seen as the mission statement for my blog(s) and Flickr, as well as what I really hope to devote the rest of my life to. I would love to spend the rest of my life preserving and writing about pop culture, and I admire (and envy!) those people who have been able to make a living out of it. Jim Heimann is, especially, a hero of mine. I know nothing about him as an individual, but when I look at the amazing collection of work that he's done for Taschen and Chronicle books (two of the best publishers of pop culture references -- please hire me!), I'm just so grateful for his work (as well as his keen eye for design). His books are works of art. I salute all the other bloggers, writers, archivists, and guardians of the past who feel the same way and who have devoted time, effort, and money into sharing their collections and writing about these precious tokens of the past.

Check out pop culture documentarian Mark McLaughlin's website, which includes, not only Rewind America, but also Hollywood Singing And Dancing (which I saw on PBS) and a few other titles that sound very promising. I know I'm going to be checking out his other works, too! I don't know if this is a link for Rewind America as I can't get it to load. Maybe. Maybe not.

Other pop culture documentaries that I highly recommend:
- Sandwiches That You Will Like (2002) [another link]
- A Hotdog Program (1999)
- An Ice Cream Show (1996)
- Things That Aren't There Anymore (1990)
- Every other documentary by Rick Sebak
- Philly's Favorite Kids Show Hosts (WHYY's Ed Cunningham is responsible for this one.)
- Drive-in Movie Memories (2001)

Many of these are Pennsylvania and Philadelphia-centric, but they're all very entertaining.

Of course, besides PBS, there are excellent shows on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and the History Channel in this tradition, as well. Can you recommend any other pop culture documentaries (museums, collections, roadside attractions, foods, regional culture, etc.)?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This week on... TV

Did you see the ludicrous display last night?

I just found out (an hour late!) that IFC will be airing the fourth series of the hit British comedy, The IT Crowd, starring Richard Ayoade and Chris O'Dowd as the super-geeky in-house tech support staff at a company (Reynholm Industries) and Katherine Parkinson as their supervisor. The IT Crowd was created by the great Graham Linehan, who was also responsible for Father Ted and Black Books. All three shows are highly recommended, but The IT Crowd is my favorite. The fourth series begins (ahem, began) Tuesday night at 10:30 PM (although, it will reair at 3:30 AM, so it's worth checking your listings -- it might be reshown again) on IFC. There are six new episodes in the fourth series, and I don't know anything at all about this new series. Here's hoping it's even better than the third!

(Fans of The IT Crowd should also check out everything else that Richard Ayoade has ever done, namely Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, which aired briefly on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, along with other FANTASTIC British shows like The Mighty Boosh, Look Around You, and the original series of The Office.)

Also, much to my delight, Cash Cab is back with a batch of all-new shows on the Discovery Channel! What's Cash Cab? It's a TV game show that takes place in the back seat of Ben Bailey's taxi! He asks contestants a bunch of general knowledge questions, and contestants earn cash money en route to their destination. Last night's Cash Cab: Las Vegas specials were kind of schlocky, but the new season looks good so far! Cash Cab airs on the Discovery Channel (weeknights from 6 to 8 PM -- Check your local listings for actual times!)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

This Week On... TCM

The second week of TCM's Summer Under The Stars series! These are some movies I either recommend or I'm planning to watch.

Sunday, August 8 (star: Bob Hope)
Road To Singapore (1940) 1:15 PM
Road To Zanzibar (1941) 2:45 PM
Road To Utopia (1946) 4:30 PM
Road To Bali (1952) 6:15 PM
Road To Morocco (1942) 8:00 PM - The best one I've seen!

Monday, August 9 (star: Warren Beatty)
Bonnie And Clyde (1967) 6:00 PM
Reds (1981) 10:30 PM - This was good just for Jack Nicholson as Eugene O'Neill

Tuesday, August 10 (star: Kathryn Grayson)
It Happened In Brooklyn (1947) 2:30 PM
Show Boat (1951) 8:00 PM - I love Show Boat, though I admit I've never seen the original
Kiss Me Kate (1953) 2:00 AM
Lovely To Look At (1952) 4:00 AM - A remake of Roberta!

Wednesday, August 11 (star: Walter Matthau)
The Odd Couple (1968) 10:00 PM - One of my favorites!

Thursday, August 12 (star: Norma Shearer)
Idiot's Delight (1939) 6:00 PM - I would mostly recommend this for Clark Gable's rendition of 'Puttin' On The Ritz'.

Saturday, August 14 (star: Gene Tierney)
Leave Her To Heaven (1945) 8:00 PM
Dragonwyck (1946) 10:00 PM - I was confused about what genre this movie was supposed to be. I felt it was trying to be too many different things and had hints of several genres and then kind of abandoned all of them. Still, this was interesting to see a young Vincent Price (who was surprisingly handsome!).

Monday, August 2, 2010

This Week On... TCM

TCM's theme for August is Summer Under The Stars. Each day in August TCM will be airing 24 hours of one star. Here's some of the movies I might be watching (or that I recommend):

Monday, August 2 (star: Julie Christie)
The Go-Between (1971) 11:30 AM - This is a very good novel by L.P. Hartley. I've never seen the movie, but I'm looking forward.
Doctor Zhivago (1965) 1:30 PM
Far From The Madding Crowd (1967) 5:00 PM
Billy Liar (1963) 8:00 PM - This is a very good novel by Keith Waterhouse. I've never seen the movie, but I'm looking forward.
Darling (1965) 9:45 PM
Shampoo (1975) 2:00 AM - With Warren Beatty

Friday, August 6 (star: Ingrid Bergman)
Notorious (1946) 11:30 PM - Hitchcock