Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TCM Tuesday #4

TCM Tuesday is a weekly feature where I'll take a look at the upcoming week's schedule on Turner Classic Movies—the best and greatest of all television channels—and pick some stuff for you to watch or save to your DVR. All times are EST, all dates based on the SCHEDULE date on TCM.com. Check your local listings.

TCM Tuesday Picks for the Week of 10/29/13–11/04/13
(Full Schedule)

Killer of Sheep (1979), airing (technically on) Wednesday, 10/30 at 5:30 AM (see Tuesday's schedule)
Writer/director Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep is a fascinating film. Inspired, seemingly, by Italian neorealism and perhaps the indie ethos of Cassavetes, Burnett sculpts a multifaceted look at working-class African-American culture in Los Angeles's vibrant, potentially volatile Watts neighborhood. A series of scenes, many of them focused on slaughterhouse worker Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders) and his family and friends, takes a wide view of Watts's residents and the struggles and opportunities they face. But even though Stan is prominent, the film doesn't follow him or even craft a real overarching narrative. Watts serves as the connective tissue between otherwise stand-alone bits, making Killer of Sheep almost like a cinematic Winesburg, Ohio. Burnett employs non-professional actors and shoots on location, documenting the neighborhood as it was when he shot it in the early 70's. His deft touch highlights the social realities of being an urban black person in one of the wealthiest cities on Earth without turning the film into an over-obvious "issue" picture. He simply lets the people and the location speak for themselves. Killer of Sheep is this week's pick because it's still not as known as it should be. The film was once very hard to find due to music rights issues that prevented an official release, but it finally became widely available only six years ago. This delay turns the film into a sort of time capsule that shows how much has changed since it was filmed... but also how little.

The rest of this week's picks are hiding out below the jump!

Vincent Price: Thursday, 10/31
It's the final night of Vincent Price's reign as TCM's Star of the Month, and I'm terribly sad about that. Tonight, a few of his and Roger Corman's Poe collaborations air, highlighted by The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) at 8:00 PM and The Masque of the Red Death (1964) at 11:15 PM. Chosing between those two, I'd say the latter is the more interesting. As for non-Poe Price movies, the campy revenge thriller The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) comes on at 1:15 AM, while another, even campier revenge picture, the Shakespeare-themed Theatre of Blood (1973) airs Friday, 11/1 at 8:00 AM. These movies are ridiculous, gory, and devilishly fun, and give Price the opportunity to run wild with his every hammy instinct.

Halloween Horror: Thursday, 10/31
Today is also the last day of TCM's annual October horror fest, and you should basically just leave the TV or DVR on all day; there are too many horror classics to mention even BEFORE those Vincent Price ones come on in prime time. This year, TCM is going with a slate from famed British studio Hammer, home of lavish looking, cheaply produced, casually titillating horror movies. My personal highlights are The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) at 6:00 AM, then The Mummy (1959) at 7:30 AM, and finally Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965) at 12:15 PM. This gives you a taste of Hammer's take on the three biggest "classic" monsters, and you get to see plenty of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, which is never a bad thing.

The Story of Film: Tuesday, 10/29 and Monday, 11/04
Last week's new The Story of Film: An Odyssey, about the New American Cinema of the '70s, reruns Tuesday at 4:15 AM, and the slate of films scheduled around it is fantastic. Terence Malick's debut, the lyrical coming-of-age/crime movie Badlands (1973), leads things off at 8:00 PM. Then, Bob Fosse's brilliant adaptation of the musical Cabaret (1972), starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, comes on at 9:45 PM. After that, catch Robert Altman's trippy Korean War picture M-A-S-H at 12:00 AM, and (if you've never seen it) learn how much stranger and more anarchic the film is compared to the classic TV show. Finally, Roman Polanski's incredible neo-noir Chinatown (1974), wherein he merges a story of murder and duplicity with the history of L. A. itself, airs at 2:00 AM.

Then on Monday, a new first-run episode of The Story of Film: An Odyssey airs at 2:15 AM, for some reason. It focuses on the more experimental, boundary pushing side of the '70s world cinema. The highlight of the associated films, for me, is Peter Weir's off-putting, haunting disappearance-at-a-girls'-school picture, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), airing at 10:15 PM. Also worth noting is Ousmane Sembene's Xala (1975) which deals with gender inequality, politics, and impotence in Senegal, but couches its social criticisms in comedy.

Guest Programmer: Wednesday, 10/30
This month, Gilbert Gottfried is serving as guest programmer, and he and TCM's indomitable host Robert Osborne will talk about and present some interesting movie picks. First, Lewis Milestone's Of Mice and Men (1939), which must have felt like a big-time contemporary adaptation since the book was only 2 years old at the time, comes on at 8:00 PM. Later, Gottfried presents Tod Browning's Freaks (1932) at 12:00 AM (which we discussed in a previous TCM Tuesday) and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) at 1:15 AM (which we discussed in a previous Weekend Stream). Whether or not you've already watched these films, it's always fun to see what celebrities have to say about their picks, and Gottfried is rarely shy to speak his mind, so it should be a fun night.

Screwball Comedies: Friday, 11/01
Tonight's prime time choices focus on one of the most entertaining classic genres, the screwball comedy. Watch some of the greats, starting at 8:00 PM with the first film to sweep the "Big Five" Oscars, It Happened One Night (1934), directed by Frank Capra and starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. Following that, catch some of the fastest dialogue in any film with Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday (1940), featuring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, at 10:00 PM. Finally, Nothing Sacred (1937), which we JUST talked about, airs at 1:30 AM.

Experimental Films: Saturday, 11/02
I'm not much of an experimental film fan... I tend to watch for stories and characters, and often experimental films are missing one or both of those things. Still, TCM is airing a documentary about some of the great experimentalists, Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film (2010) at 2:30 AM, followed by a whole slew of strange, interesting, and important shorts from the genre beginning at 4:00 AM. I know very little about any of them in particular, but I would certainly be DVRing the whole lot if I had that option.

Miscellaneous Picks
- Watch Antonioni's Blow-up (1966), a moddish '60s film with an engaging central mystery and a critique of capitalist decadence, on Wednesday, 10/30 at 3:15 AM.
- A funny, countercultural war flick, Kelly's Heroes (1970), airs on Saturday, 11/2 at 5:30 PM. It has a great ensemble cast led by Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland, among others, and is a great counterpoint to darker war epics of the era.
- The quirky Judy Holliday rom-com It Should Happen to You (1954), about a woman who rents a billboard to make herself a famous model, airs on Sunday, 11/3 at 2:00 PM. This is Jack Lemmon's film debut, and a light, fun watch.
- Finally, Seijun Suzuki's The Story of a Prostitute airs on Sunday, 11/3 at 2:00 AM. I've never seen this one, but Suzuki's films are unique, anarchic, and hugely influential, so why not try it out?

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