Some notes about what’s showing this week on Turner Classic Movies:
Withnail & I (Saturday, 11/17, Midnight ET) — I tried this cult film years ago, and I didn’t get it. I’m giving it another try for three reasons:
- The cast — Paul McGann (Doctor Who in the TV movie) and Richard E. Grant (many many things, including Doctor Who in “The Curse of Fatal Death”)
- I’m a different person now
- Tracey Ullman is introducing it, and I’m looking forward to her explanation and praise
It might be a bit too far out of my time, though, since it was made in 1987 and set in 1969. And it seems to be all about drinking.
This month is all Guest Programmer nights, and Sunday it’s Graydon Carter. I had to look up who that was (editor of Vanity Fair), but I quite admire his taste in films — he’s selected The Philadelphia Story, Casablanca, North by Northwest, and
The Awful Truth (Sunday, 11/18, 8:00 PM ET) — Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in a classic screwball comedy about a divorcing couple who screw up each other’s new loves because they’re really meant for each other. Leo McCarey won the 1937 Oscar for Best Director for it. This film set up some of the conventions of the genre, including the ex pretending to be lower class to upset new in-laws. Guest-starring Asta (The Thin Man) as the dog they fight for custody over.
My favorite guest host, though, has to be Kermit the Frog (Wednesday, 11/21). He’s selected two classic musicals about the movies: Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon. The first pretends to tell the story of the transition to sound films, and how careers were made and destroyed by it. The second satirizes artistic expectations as a waning star (played by Fred Astaire) returns to Broadway, picking audience-pleasing mass entertainment over pretentious art.
Both are self-referential, drawing aside the curtain of Hollywood pretense (but only so far). Both have large modern ballet set pieces, as was the trend during the 1950s when popular entertainment still had dreams of being educational and uplifting. Both have terrific songs and performances. Both are some of the best Hollywood ever put out.
Later the puppet picks two doggie films, Lassie Come Home and Benji, which makes sense for the family audience (except for the beginning at 2 AM part). What I can’t figure out is what Cyrano de Bergerac is doing in between the two groups.
And that’s it for this week, unless you want to watch 16 Andy Hardy films. Along with Guest Programmer Month, during the days, TCM is running movie series from the 30s and 40s, which is truly a gift to the fan of the obscure.
Did you miss this writeup? I had a few months where nothing much seemed worth talking about, but I hope with the holidays, the schedule is improving.