Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Last Month on TCM

So recently, having risen out of the depths of poverty (and into the ranks of the plain old lower class), my girlfriend and I installed CABLE TELEVISION. Needless to say, it's been a delight (LOST is so much cooler in HD). One of the things we splurged on was a package that included the thoroughly wonderful Turner Classic Movies, which is like having a second Netflix subscription, only they choose what movies to send to you. Having spent a month with it, I felt compelled to share some highlights. 

The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) - Okay, Orson Welles, you've just made the greatest film of all time. Now you're just showing off. Ambersons is a hugely ambitious film, and although in its 88-minute running time (footage that comprised Welles' longer cut is assumed lost) it can feel a bit abridged, the heights it reaches are nevertheless staggering. By the end I felt much as I feel when I watch Barry Lyndon - elated by the filmmaking accomplishment, and thoroughly eviscerated by the tale I've been told.

More after the jump...

Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) - Patience is a virtue, and if one is willing to invest, this can prove to be not only a suprisingly tense experience, but a wonderful tale about the founding of the American West.

The Fortune Cookie (Billy Wilder, 1966) - It's a Billy Wilder movie about Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau scamming an insurance company. It comes quite close to living up to that promise. It could have been an evisceration of a certain type of American greed similar to Ace in the Hole, and for a good deal it is, but Wilder oddly softens his blows towards the end, eventually removing the teeth from the story entirely. It's still a very, very funny movie.

The Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder, 1942) - Wilder's American debut as a director is a very assured one, with the sort of "wacky situation" he'd perfect in Some Like it Hot - in this case, a woman (Ginger Rogers) tries to pass herself off as a twelve-year-old to get a cheaper fare on a train ticket home. Along the way, she meets a charming Major for the U.S. Army, and through a variety of slightly-stretched circumstances (this is the weakest part of the film, which pays the film a huge compliment), has to keep the act up. Look for great WWII propaganda for women.

Journey Into Fear (Norman Foster, 1943) - The only screenplay credited to Joseph Cotten is a pretty engaging piece of tension. It jumps through some hoops to get him there, but the main thrust of the story has Cotten (who also stars) being chased around a cargo ship by Nazis. Orson Welles shows up as member of the Turkish police, and there's a great, if slightly unmotivated, finale.

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