Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/1 - 9/7

Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/1 - 9/7

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Classic Pick of the Week – The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

Very few films have been as economically and powerfully rendered as William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident.  Running a scant 75 minutes, this is as lean as feature films get as this taut adaptation of Walter Van Tilberg Clark’s novel about a case of vigilante justice gone horribly wrong resonates long after its haunting final image fades from the screen. Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan star as drifters who get wrangled into joining a posse looking for three men suspected of killing a local rancher.  When the group finds them, impulsive decisions are made in regards to circumstantial evidence and the trio is soon hanged.  Only afterwards do the men realize the heavy load their consciences will have to bear, especially when evidence comes to light that they may have made an error in judgment.  Dana Andrews, Anthony Quinn and Francis Ford are unforgettable as the doomed men, at first defiant, then pleading and finally resigned to their fate while Fonda personifies the conscience of the group, only listened to after its far too late.  Gripping from the first moment, this indictment of mob hysteria still packs a devastating punch. Encore Western Channel – 10:10 AM – Thursday

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Tuesday – September 2nd – One of the better films to come out of Australia in the last five years, David Michod’s Animal Kingdom (2010), which airs at 1:50 pm on the Encore Suspense Channel, is a taut coming-of-age tale about a 17 year-old named Josh who's forced to live with Smurf (Jacki Weaver), his grandmother who, unbeknownst to him, pulls all the strings in their criminal family.  This gritty look at low-level organized crime creates a sense of dread that grows as we see just what Smurf is capable of and as the police, led by Detective Leckie (Guy Pearce), continue to build a case against them.  It’s no surprise that Weaver was nominated for an Oscar as she convinces us in her chilling turn that for some, blood isn’t necessarily thicker than water. 

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Thursday – September 4th – Before going Hollywood with Blade II and Hellboy and garnering international acclaim with Pan’s Labyrinth, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro wrote and directed The Devil’s Backbone (2001), showing at 4:00 AM on the Indieplex Channel.  Set in an orphanage in Spain in the late 1930’s as that country’s civil war raged, the film focuses on ten year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve), who’s abandoned at the institution and must contend not only with a bully and cruel caretaker but a ghost he senses that no one else can.  The eerie atmosphere del Toro creates is palpable but what’s striking about this horror film is how quiet it is as well as the background surrounding the ghost who is hardly the sort of malevolent spirit we’ve come to expect.

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Friday - September 5th – On each Friday in September, Turner Classic Movies will be devoting their entire 24-hour block to Pre-Code movies.  These are films made before the Hays Code, a strict set of rules used to govern content went into effect in 1935.  This was done in an effort to stave off governmental agencies from stepping in and censoring films on.  What you find in movies from this era is that they are surprisingly frank and rather racy in the way the handle issues of sex and gender roles.  One of the best from this time period is Baby Face (1933), which is being shown at 7:00 pm.  Barbara Stanwyck stars in the title role as a young woman whose father prostituted her from a young age and realizes she can start a new life when he dies in a fire.  Aware of her sexual power, she has no problem sleeping her way to the top of the business world.  Note how director Alfred Green charts her rise by moving the camera up the outside of the Manhattan office building where she works each time she makes a conquest, while Stanwyck’s passionate, human performance keeps us from despising her character.  Look for a young John Wayne as one of the young men who’s cast to the wayside.

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Saturday – September 6th – Chemistry is key where love stories are concerned and there’s no better example on display in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1961).  Airing at 7:00 am on TCM, this delightful film features Jack Lemmon as an up-and-coming business executive who falls for an elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) who just happens to be his boss’s (Fred MacMurray) mistress.  Needless to say, many comedic and dramatic conflicts ensue and it’s to Wilder’s credit that he’s able to sustain both of these moods without ever letting one dominate the other.  But it’s the work of the two leads that keep us hooked.  By small gradations, you feel as though the characters Lemmon and MacLaine portray are falling in love, helping make the conclusion all the more satisfying…Blog Photo

Sissy Spacek won the Academy Award for her portrayal of county music legend Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) being shown at 7:00 pm on TCM.  Playing the character from a teenager to a middle-age woman, the actress does nothing less than dominate each scene she’s in – doing her own signing as well – in this rag-to-riches story of the woman who went from abject poverty to international stardom.  Tommy Lee Jones manages to keep up with Spacek as Lynn’s husband Doolittle, as these two help make this one of the best biopics ever made.

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Sunday – September 7th – The subject of obsession is a theme director Werner Herzog has explored again and again in his work and one of the best examples of this is his gripping documentary Grizzly Man (2005) showing at 6:40 am on the Indieplex Channel.  The subject is grizzly bear activist Timothy Treadwell who, while working with the best of intentions to raise awareness of the threat to the animal’s environment, lets his unhealthy fascination with these creatures get the best of him. Living among them in the Alaskan wild, tragedy strikes as it was destined to and while Herzog attempts to uncover why Treadwell acted as he did, the mystery only deepens.  Unforgettable, the viewer comes away with a portrait of a man whose passion – or perhaps madness- blinds him to common sense…Blog Photo

One of the most deftly executed comic performances you’re likely to see is delivered by Charles Laughton in Ruggles of Red Gap showing at 7:45 am on TCM.  In the title role, the actor plays an English butler whose employer loses him to an American oilman in a poker game.  Before you know it, the gentleman’s gentleman is out west, trying to navigate an environment where good manners and proper behavior simply don’t exist.  Laughton shows us that less can be so much more as he reacts in an increasingly reserved manner as his character’s situation becomes more and more outlandish.  

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