Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/15 - 9/21

Chuck's Classic Movie Picks 9/15 - 9/21

Blog Photo

Classic Pick of the Week – Red River (1948)

Can a film still be considered a classic even though it contains an obvious flaw?  In the case of Howard Hawks’ Red River, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Epic in scope and featuring a clash between old Hollywood screen acting, in the person of John Wayne as the ruthless cattle baron Tom Dunson, and Method Actor Montgomery Clift as his adopted son Matthew Garth, the film is a mythic tale of the Old West about a cattle drive that tests the mettle of the men who attempt it (a favorite theme of Hawks) as they must deal with extreme weather, little sleep or food and the psychosis of Dunson, who pushes them too hard and must eventually be sent away. Obviously based on Mutiny on the Bounty, which author Borden Chase readily admitted, this is a thrilling film that has stood the test of time. However, there is the question of the ending, which frankly is a disastrous change in tone that makes little sense and mars what is otherwise one of the classics of American cinema.   MGM-HD Channel – 4:10 pm – Monday.

 

Blog Photo

Friday – September 19th – Following up a sensation like The Sixth Sense is an unenviable position to be in, yet writer/director M. Night Shyamalan managed to be up to the task when he made Unbreakable (2000), a film that wasn’t fully appreciated at the time of its release and deserves to be re-examined what with the recent glut of superhero movies.  Showing at 10:20 a.m. on the Encore Suspense Channel, the movie looks at the life of mild-mannered family man David Dunn (a very good (Bruce Willis) who’s the only survivor of a horrific train crash.  He comes to realize that he’s not like other people, a suspicion that’s confirmed when he’s approached by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) who proves to be just as unique in his own way.  The less said about the specifics of the plot the better, but suffice it to say, the ending proves just as satisfying as that of Sense, something later Shyamalan features couldn’t lay claim to.

Blog Photo

As timely today as it was when it was first releases, Gus Van Sant’s To Die For (1995), showing at 4:20 p.m. on the Encore Suspense Channel tells the true life story of Suzanne Stone, a woman pursuing fame and success willing to pay any price to succeed.  With a script by Buck Henry, adapting the book by Joyce Maynard, there’s no shortage of savage wit being bandied about by Nicole Kidman, sexy and ice-cold as Stone, and Matt Damon as her rather dim husband who’s unaware of the extent of his wife’s determination.  Van Sant is uncompromising in the way he indicts our society’s emphasis on success but also the malleable sense of morality he suggests we all fall victim to at one time or another.   

 

Blog Photo

Saturday – September 20th – Colin Farrell first caught my attention in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth (2002), a taut little thriller airing at 3:15 a.m. on the Encore Channel that showcases the breadth of the actor’s ability as his character, slick New York publicist Stuart Shepard, has his life slowly ripped to shreds when he finds himself tormented by an unseen sniper while trapped in a phone booth. Having just used the payphone he always does to phone his mistress (Katie Holmes), Shepard picks up the receiver, as it rings immediately after he hangs it up. Big mistake, as it proves to be an extortionist (Keifer Sutherland) who promises to shoot him if he hangs up.  He blows away an innocent bystander to show he means business, and as their conversation progresses, Shepard finds that this mystery man knows a great deal about him, exposing secrets that force him to come clean regarding a wide variety of sins. Schumacher has never been a director that’s impressed me, but he excels here, finding a myriad of imaginative perspectives to invigorate this potentially static exercise while the relentless pace he adopts helps this Hitchockian exercise in suspense be one the master himself would be proud to call his own.  Farrell carries most of the morality tale on his shoulders, and he pulls off the neat trick of making you feel for his heel of a character despite his faults.  

Blog Photo

One of the best Stephen King adaptations, David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone (1983), showing at 7:00 p.m. on the Encore Channel, features Christopher Walken in one of his most sympathetic and complex roles, as Johnny Smith, a high school teacher who’s involved in an auto accident that puts him into a five-year coma which leaves him with a psychic gift that proves to be both a blessing and a curse. The educator learns that when he touches certain people he can see their future, something that enables him to help one of his nurses save her family from a house fire as well as foretell that a presidential candidate will ultimately start a nuclear war if elected.  Smith is forced to deal with one moral quandary after another as he wrestles with whether he should act in a way that will alter fate or simply let things play out as they should.  Cronenberg’s dark humor is at play here – check out what’s responsible for Smith’s coma – as is his innovative style, putting Smith in the middle of whatever future acts he’s witnessing.  Engaging from the start, this is movie that’s truly haunting.

 

Blog Photo

The rule of thumb where movie scripts are concerned is that one page equals one minute of screen time.  Charles Lederer’s script for His Girl Friday (1940), showing at 7:00 p.m. on TCM, is said to have been 130 pages in length.  The film has a running time of 92 minutes.  This is due to director Howard Hawks’ insistence that the dialogue be delivered at a rapid-fire rate as he wanted to amplify the urgency of the story and provide a fresh approach to the material, knowing that audiences would likely already be familiar with the movie’s story as it was based on the hit play and movie The Front Page, a hit from less than a decade before.  Cary Grant is at his best as newspaper editor Walter Burns, a guy who bleeds printer’s ink and needs a big story covered.  The only person for the job is his star reporter, sassy Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) who unfortunately has just quit to run off and marry milquetoast Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy).  The story to be covered – the planned execution of a man who may be innocent - proves inconsequential. This is all about comic execution, star power and sexual tension, all of which are on display in this timeless classic.  

 

 

 

 

Comments

Login or register to post comments

-