THE VOICE OF ENERGY VOL. 042.5
Apologies, again, for not getting the supplemental newsletter out last week. Lots going on leading up to my trip to the coast to care for my parents. But I’m back in business now with another week full of streaming suggestions for you.
This time around, the focus is on films airing on TCM. The cable network is in the midst of their month-long celebration of films nominated for Academy Awards, which they are quaintly running in alphabetical order. True to their noble cause, the programmers have organized an impressively diverse lineup that digs deep into cult favorites and little seen gems from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
You’d do well to let the channel run all day long but if you only want to dip in now and again, here are some suggestions of films that you should plan your week around. (All times below are PT.)
Monday Apr 12
It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, dir. Stanley Kramer)
One of the first, and best, cinematic posse cuts. The plot about a group of strangers zipping around the country to nab a sack of stolen cash is a threadbare excuse to bring together dozens of comic actors - and Spencer Tracy - and let them bump against each other and spark like charged particles. It’s a long, long, long, long film, but the energy and madcap spirit keeps it from dragging even for a moment. (airs on TCM at 2:15 pm)
Tuesday Apr 13
Juliet of the Spirits (1965, dir. Federico Fellini)
A beautiful fever dream of a film and a perfect showcase for the brilliance of Giulietta Masina in the titular role of a woman finding the strength to leave her unfaithful spouse. This was also director Federico Fellini’s first full-length color film so he and cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo throw themselves into the paintbox, splashing bright primary tones and magically realistic imagery throughout the film to reflect Juliet’s struggle and rebirth. (airs on TCM at 8:15 am; also available to stream on Criterion Channel and HBO Max)
Wednesday Apr 14
The Ladykillers (1955, dir. Alexander Mackendrick)
One big problem I have with the Star Wars phenomenon is that it has long overshadowed the greatness of Alec Guinness. Long before he was throwing laser swords around, he was a fantastic comic actor, as proven in no small way by his work in this Ealing Studios gem. In the role of the overly patrician Professor Marcus, a crook using his railway adjacent apartment as home base for his efforts to steal millions from an armored car, Guinness is the picture of unearned nobility and barely concealed contempt, swishing and twitching through each scene like Nureyev. (airs on TCM at 7 pm; also available to stream on Criterion Channel)
Thursday Apr 15
Logan’s Run (1976, dir. Michael Anderson)
Part of an amazing run of cult science fiction films from the ’70s, Logan’s Run places us in a future utopia where citizens of the world are killed off when they reach the age of 30. Nearing his fateful birthday is Logan 5 (Michael York), someone whose day job is murder those folks who are trying to escape their fate. Naturally, he decides to try and avoid his own death and a journey into the unknown ensues. Seen today, it’s a charmingly campy work with garish “futuristic” set design and costumes and some perfectly over-the-top acting by York, character actor great Richard Jordan, and Peter Ustinov. (airs on TCM at 10:30 pm)
Friday Apr 16
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, dir. Orson Welles)
Like many cinephiles, I love hearing stories of long-lost films recovered in archives and closets and from the bottom of the ocean. And I keep waiting to hear that someone will trip over the cans of the rough cut of The Magnificent Ambersons in a basement in Brazil or a storage space and let us get close to Orson Welles’ original vision for this film. To be fair, this film is great as it stands, but I would love to see how Welles could have deepened this story of a family slowly falling apart as they fail to adapt to a changing world. (airs on TCM at 1:15 pm)
Saturday Apr 17
Mona Lisa (1986, dir. Neil Jordan)
Another actor rarely talked about in the breathless tones that he deserves is Bob Hoskins. The British thespian, who passed away in 2014, is likely best known for lead role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but before Hollywood came calling, he made his mark in a pair of dark crime dramas: 1980’s The Long Good Friday, and this gem. Here, he plays George, an ex-con whose former boss gives him a job driving around a high-priced sex worker in order to gain info on her clients. Through the film, George finds his loyalties pulled in various directions as he seeks to protect his charge and try to connect with his teen daughter. Everyone in this film is great, including the equally brilliant Cathy Tyson as Simone, the woman George is chaffeuring around, but Hoskins steals every moment with simple shifts in his demeanor and a physicality that reflects the vise his character is slowly being squeezed by. (airs on TCM at 11:30 pm; also available to stream on HBO Max and Criterion Channel)
Sunday Apr 18
My Favorite Year (1982, dir. Richard Benjamin)
An entirely personal choice as I’m sure folks might be put off by the film’s sitcom-y atmosphere and Mark Linn-Baker’s manic lead performance. But if you’ve never seen this, you owe yourself one viewing to fully appreciate Peter O’Toole’s nuanced and sharp performance as Alan Swann, an ex-matinee idol and current alcoholic in New York to appear on a popular Sid Caesar-type comedy show. While everyone else in the film runs back and forth trying to keep their plates spinning, O’Toole is resolute and subtle, even when he’s in the throes of a booze binge. And to watch his growing fear at the notion of doing live TV and doing so free of his crutch is the kind of masterful acting that a film as lightweight as this hardly deserved. (airs on TCM at 9:30 am; also available to stream on HBO Max)
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One way or another, I’ll be back on Friday with a full newsletter, featuring an interview with Scottish post-punk greats Nightshift and more.