Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mid-September revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the next week. Sorry for the delay, but I spent enough time at the U.S. Open, that catching films of any age wasn't possible. This list could have been longer, but better to post a few for better focus. Here we go:

HOWARDS END (1992)- Tues Sept 13- Thurs Sept 15 at  6:30 and 9:20- Film Forum- 3 more days to see this, and then bye-bye. A 4K DCP restoration, from the original camera negative. In time for the 25th anniversary, for an open ended engagement. Since this means we don't know when this will end, it's just easier to post the start date, the current screening times, and we'll just let you decide for yourself. For me, once the U.S. Open occurs, I won't have much time for this picture. But if that's when it works for you, go right ahead.

The third and last adaptation of a E.M Forester novel from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory. Arguably their best film. Now the plot is a little complex to break down here, especially since we're dealing with 3 families from different classes. The title home, Howards End, represents England and who might inherit it (figuratively and literally). We start off with  two Liberal sisters (Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter, full into her corset role portion of her career), and lets just it gets very hard to maintain their various levels of idealism.

Oscars for Thompson for Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Art Direction. Nominations for Picture, Director, Vanessa Redgrave for Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Score and Costume Design. A hit on the art house circuit back in the Spring  of 1992, and was considered a leading contender to win Best Picture. Then Unforgiven came along late that summer, and so much for that. As the years have gone by, Unforgiven became a classic film from 1992, as did Aladdin and A Few Good Men. You want to argue the same for My Cousin Vinny and Basic Instinct, do that elsewhere. Reservoir Dogs gained cult status,  arguably so has Glengarry Glen Ross. Do you note Howards End anywhere there? No, you didn't.  This anniversary restoration could change that:

BLAZING SADDLES (1974)- Tues Sept 13 and Wed Sept 14 at 7:30- AMC Empire and AMC Loews 19th St East- The film gets special screenings at some AMC screens, as a tribute to the late Gene Wilder. Same days and times, the engagements end on Wednseday.

Mel Brooks' comedy classic, that still works as incisive satire even today. Brooks told the story on Bob Costas' Later about how the Warner Bros. studio heads loved the film when they screened it the morning before it's big test screening. They told Mel how much they loved the flick, but they wanted a few changes. They then proceeded to give him a laundry list of what they wanted cut, of all which Mel just nodded his head and kept saying yes. "The bean farting scene, we want out, the sheriff is a niGONG, we want out, all n-word jokes, out, etc.". And after they were done giving notes and departed, Mel told his assistant "Fuck em. Send the film out as is.". Supposedly at the time, it was the most successful screening Warners ever had for a comedy. Oscar nominations for Madeline Kahn for Supporting Actress, Editing and Brooks' title song. If nothing else, it would be better to spend dollars to catch this, as opposed to most of the late summer/ early September dumps:

ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958/61)- Fri Sept 16 (a question for me), Sat Sept 17 (also a question for me), Wed Sept 21 and Thurs Sept 22 at 7 and 9:15- Film Forum- The French Film Noir classic in a digital restoration. The one week run of this restoration was so popular for the Forum back in August, it's been brought back for another week-long run. 

Louis Malle's first film. A man and a woman plot the murder of her husband, succeed, and then things begin to fall apart. An almost real time escape attempt from the police before they discover the body. Made stars out of director Malle and Jeanne Moreau as the descendant to Barbara Stanwyck's character in Double Indemnity, and the ancestor to Kathleen Turner's character in Body Heat. With a wonderful Miles Davis score:

ALMOST FAMOUS (2000)- Sun Sept 18 at 7:15- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum's Phillip Seymour Hoffman retrospective. He's not the lead in Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical take of a high school kid's coming of age. The coming of age as he follows an up-and-coming rock band on tour, as he tries to write a Rolling Stone article about them. No, Hoffman doesn't play the kid, but he plays kind of the wise soul music critic, who tries to guide the kid. Billed to be the film of 2000. Technically it was a flop, but a beloved flop. The likes of Crouching Tiger and Traffic overshadowed the film critically and at awards time. Films like Meet The Parents, Remember The Titans and the re-release of The Exorcist overshadowed it at the box office. But those who love it, really love it, and it's kinda kept the film out in the ether, so to speak. Though also being known as director Crowe's last watchable film doesn't help. Oh, like you sat through Aloha or We Bought A Zoo?

An Oscar for Crowe for Original Screenplay, nominations for Frances McDormand for Supporting Actress and Editing. Also, a Supporting Actress for Kate Hudson, who was made a star from this film. And she appears to still be a star, despite some really shitty movies. But then again, this is a Phillip Seymour Hoffman retrospective, no need to go on:

Let me know if there's interest, take care.

Friday, August 12, 2016

August revivals

Hey all. Mike here with my longest list in quite a while. At one point, I had at least one film revival possibility every day, from August 13th-30th, before I started to whittle it down. This has not been easy. There are still a few conflicts, but they'll sort themselves out, they usually do. Note that I tried to keep my descriptions as brief as possible. Here we go:

THE WILD BUNCH (1969)- Sat Aug 13 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big 70mm retrospective. The last time I posted this film at the Museum was last December. They promised to show a 70mm screening of this weeks, and then switched to a 35mm print at the last moment, because of the alleged poor condition of the print. I hope they found a better 70mm print this time arrives, because this film deserves to be seen in as fine a manner as possible.

The Wild Bunch, the film that John Wayne complained destroyed the myth of the Old West. Follows a group of older outlaws, still robbing and shooting to make a living. The times have changed, they've gotten a lot older and their foes are seemingly younger and stronger. They want to rob to retire, but that only gets a group of bounty hunters after them, led by a former member of the group. They escape to Mexico for one last go. But dealing with the corrupt forces there and the bounty hunters on their tail, the old group of outlaws basically to go out on their own terms. Violent, bloody, and taking hundreds of the enemy with them. Holden is the leader of the Bunch, Ernest Borgnine is his best friend, and Robert Ryan is their former friend; a bounty hunter forced to pursue them without relent. Plus Western stalwarts like Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin and future director Alfonso Arau (A Walk In The Clouds) in the cast as well.

Sam Peckinpah's film was approved mainly to compete with what they thought was the similar Buthch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Similar, Warner Bros.? Oops. He wanted to show a certain macho code that was not holding up in the start of the 20th Century. But no matter what code you live by, betrayal is unacceptable. From others and especially from yourself. Another thing Peckinpah wanted to show was the violent world of this time. Not sanitized like in most Westerns, nor in TV Westerns of the time like Gunsmoke, but closer to what was shown on the news in Vietnam. He wanted to horrify his audience with its brutality. The climatic shootout was supposed to convey this. With 6 different cameras all shooting at different speeds, its an amazing combination of choreography, cinematography and editing. Despite about 20 minutes cut before its release to avoid an X rating, the violence was still considered controversial. But what shocked Peckinpah was how much of his audience was thrilled by the violence as opposed to being repulsed by it. Oops for Sam. When Warner Bros tried to re-release the film back in 1994 with 10 extra minutes, the MPAA gave it an NC-17 rating, complaining about the violence! It took a year of resubmission before an R rating was finally granted.

2 Oscar nominations, including Screenplay, but NOT for Editing. On both AFI Top 100 lists. May or may not be on my Top 100 list, but very close. If you don't know it, this is a great chance to change that.

MY BEST FIEND (1999)- Sat Aug 13 at 9:15- IFC Center- From IFC's retrospective of Werner Herzog documentaries. One of the more explosive actor director collaborations, was between director Werner Herzog, and actor Klaus Kinski. To call this a love/hate relationship, might be an insult to the terms love and hate. We see behind the scenes footage from all 5 films, and none of it quiet. To give you an idea, the natives of Aguirre, The Wrath of God, offered to kill Kinski for Herzog. You see the offer! Should be very interesting to watch:

JAWS (1975)- Sat Aug 13 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- A DCP projection.  I don't care if I've posted this before and done it before. Jaws is one of my all time faves, the big screen is a great place to catch it, and summertime is the perfect time period to do it. If you've heard of it, then i don't need to go into it. If you've never seen it on the big screen, this is as good a time as any. And if you've never seen on the big screen and can stay up late, why won't you? Maybe because on this date, you'll have to choose between My Best Fiend or Jaws. But aside from that very good reason, why wouldn't you?

COLD TURKEY (1971)- Mon Aug 15 at 7- BAM- Part of BAM's Joe Dante retrospective. Not only films that Dante made, but also of films he is a big fan of. Sorry to say, the only film I will post on this list, is one he didn't make. Cold Turkey, the only film Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons) ever directed. A tobacco company (headed by 30s and 40s character actor Edward Everett Horton, in his last film) is so desperate for good publicity, they offer $25,000 (about $161 mil today), to any town that quit smoking, go cold turkey, for 30 days. The only town that takes up the challenge is a small one in Iowa, pushed into it by community leaders, including their influential Reverend (Dick Van Dyke). When the company realizes there's a slight chance the town might succeed, they send the P.R. man (Bob Newhart) who came up with the idea, to sabotage the town's efforts. Any way he can. Featuring Tom Poston, Bob and Ray (in multiple roles, spoofing various media people of the day), and actors that Lear would use during the 70s on his own shows (Jean Stapleton, Vincent Gardenia, Paul Benedict, and Barnard Hughes).

The score from Randy Newman was his first for films, and it works. But back in 1969/70, United Artists had no faith in the film, and had it sitting on the shelf  for over a year. Cold Turkey was dumped into theaters in February 1971, where it received good reviews and surprising box office success. Whenever it aired on CBS from the mid70s-early80s, the recognizable faces and director Lear's connection to All in the Family and The Jeffersons (among others), almost insured good ratings. But by the late 1980s, the film had essentially disappeared. A slapped together VHS/Laserdisc release in 1993, and a slapped together DVD release in 2010 has done nothing to change that. But this little gem of a black satire deserves better. It might seem like a time capsule these days, but it still carries enough satirical bite to make any viewing worthwhile:  

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE (1975)- Wed Aug 17 at 2 and 7- AMC Empire and Regal Union Square- A DCP screening. Sponsored by TCM, with an introduction from the network's own Ben Mankiewicz. 

The comedy classic that dominated the summer of 1978 and gave us the gross-out genre, based on the college fraternity experiences of writers Ramis, Douglas Kennedy and Chris Miller, and producer Ivan Reitman. Snobs versus Slobs, as we follow the adventures over the course of a semester of Delta House. Episodic in structure (from stories from the National Lampoon magazine), we follow as the Deltas try their best to avoid studying, while drinking, partying (TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!), having sex, and basically having fun. Especially if it's at the expense of rival Omega House and school head Dean Wormer (seriously Dean, Double Secret Probation?!?).

With Food Fights, a Horse that doesn't like the sound of gunfire, a song that makes you want to JUMP!, nudity, and the knowledge that we will forever know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (used as a rallying cry when the Mets and Pirates are behind in a game.). With just enough satire about the fraternity system and the differences in class in an Ivy League school to keep the film notable, kept at a steady pace by director John Landis, until the outlandish and elaborate parade/revenge sequence at the end.

Yes, even more notable than the casting. With one exception. No, not the young women; all attractive, though only Karen Allen sustained a lengthy career for a variety of reasons I won't detail here. No, not the veterans, like Donald Sutherland and John Vernon as Dean Wormer. No, not most of the young men though some, like Tom Hulce, Peter Riegert, Kevin Bacon and character actor extraordinaire Bruce McGill are among the men who have enjoyed lengthy careers.

No, the one exception is John Belushi, as Bluto Blutarsky. The head slob/ force of nature of Delta House, Belushi didn't need dialogue to pull off the film's biggest laughs. Sometimes it was with a prop, like food, a jar of mustard, or someone else's guitar. And sometimes with a look, like whenever he's near a female (bleachers, the parade, outside their window). Even the dialogue can be brief, like "Sorry" and FOOD FIGHT!". But when he is given something long to say, like the Nazis bomb Pearl Harbor monologue . . .ah yes, we miss him still . . . .   

WAR GAMES (1983)- Wed Aug 17 at 7:30- Metrograph- From the Metrograph's Shall We Play A Game series of films that were heavily influenced (subject matter or otherwise), by the video games of the 1980s, and its culture. The only film from the series I can do. Sorry I didn't have the time for say, Tron, or the burning desire for say, The Wizard, Resident Evil, or Super Mario Brothers. Never mind that I've seen Wreck It Ralph once, and I don't need to make it twice anytime soon. No, the film I could do (assuming Animal House isn't the choice instead), is the film where the title of this series comes from, War Games.

From 1983, where the Pentagon is concerned how many soldiers didn't turn their nuclear missile keys during a surprise drill. Smarmy civilian expert Dabney Coleman (when didn't he play smarmy in the 80s?) suggests they take most of the human element out of it, and have most of the nuclear missiles, under the control of computers. Specifically, the WOPR (whopper) computer. Despite the objections of NORAD General Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure), the switch is implemented. 

But things stop working smoothly, thanks to high school delinquent/ teen hacker Matthew Broderick. Looking for a new computer game to play, he thinks he hacks into a game company and decides to play the newest game, Global Thermonuclear War. But whoops, he actually hacked into WOPR, who immediately starts a real life simulation, causing chaos in the process. Broderick realizes some of what happened and stops playing. But does WOPR? Why would it? The idea is to Win The Game. Aw Jeez . . . 

One of the big hits from the summer of 1983. Pure popcorn movie these days, treated slightly more seriously in its day. Winning cast, including Ally Sheedy (perfect as the crush next door), and a fun script from the creators of Sneakers. Oscar nominations for Original Screenplay, Cinematography and Sound. Cmon, it's fun:

LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (1997)- Thurs Aug 18 at 9:20- IFC Center- Part of the Werner Herzog documentary series. Ever see Rescue Dawn? The Herzog film where Christian Bale plays a German ex-pat-turned American fighter pilot, who was shot down in Laos, held as a POW, and made an amazing escape. Meet the real-life man who accomplished all this and more, Dieter Dengle. Watch him pleasantly chat about everything, both at home in San Francisco, and back in Southeast Asia, to help re-enact some of what he went thru, for Herzog's camera. And take note of the occasional pain Dieter seems to desperately try to hide from Herzog's camera as well. A little slight, but worth seeing:

VERTIGO (1958) and REAR WINDOW (1954)- Fri Aug 19 at 12:30 (Vertigo), 3 (Rear), 5:10 (Vertigo), and 7:40 (Rear)- Film Forum- The start of Film forum's Double Feature series. Where you pay for one film and stay for the other. Specifically, films that are connected by either star, director, or type of story. And so we have DCP screenings of Alfred Hitchcock's best films. Vertigo and Rear Window. 

First, Vertigo. Screened in probably the highest quality digital presentation we're ever gonna get. A tragic romance with poor guy Jimmy Stewart, going down the emotional Rabbit Hole of Doom as he falls for Kim Novack, and tries not to literally fall due to his vertigo. The story of obsessive love that has never been done better than this. Not on the big screen anyway. A film that was ignored at best and derided at worst in its initial release, but attained instant classic status upon its 1984 re-release. a near permanent fixture on most AFI Top 100 lists. In some recent film articles listing best movies, Vertigo has made the leap to 1st or 2nd. Not quite sure about that, but on my own Top 40 for sure.

Now again, note that I haven't written much at all about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists has seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story and how it connects with you.
Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was also influenced by Vertigo, to quote Mr. Weiner:
Released to negative reviews, it now ranks for many as the greatest film ever made. I had not seen it before the show began, but finally caught it on a break after the first season. I was overwhelmed with its beauty, mystery, and obsessive detail. I remember watching the camera dolly-in on Kim Novak’s hair and thinking, “this is exactly what we are trying to do.” Vertigo feels like you are watching someone else’s dream. −Matthew Weiner

Next, Rear Window. My all time favorite Hitchcock, and in my top 25 overall. Also the best film in Jimmy Stewart's career, with a knockout entrance from Grace Kelly that matches or tops anything done today. Possibly the best screenplay Hitch has ever worked with. Even better than anything Ernest Lehman has written. On both AFI Top 100 lists:

HOOP DREAMS (1994) with post film discussion with director Steve James- Sun Aug 21 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image- A DCP screening, from the Museum's Kartemquin at 50 retrospective. Celebrating 50 years of the work of the Chicago-based, documentary film company. I've seen, liked, and recommend both The Interrupters and The Trials of Muhammad Lewis. But the only film I have both the time and inclination to include is Hoop Dreams; almost in arguably, the best of the bunch. For almost 3 hours and over the course of about 5 years, director Steve James covered 2 the lives of 2 teenagers, Arthur Agee and William Gates. They have basketball skills that could get them out of the inner city. But this ain't Rocky, people: the road is paved with metaphorical land mines, and questions about the kids troubles, the unfairness of their varying situations, and their own immaturity, are not unfair to ask. But they are not Supermen, just kids trying.

I don't want to say this launched a love affair or newfound respect for documentaries. But Hoop Dreams is one of the landmarks of the genre, almost doing in its way, what Pulp Fiction did that same year for crime films (and films in general). Oscar nominated, but for its Editing, NOT for Best Documentary. I won't even bother to mention what was nominated instead. Worthy subjects, but not worthy films. Director Steve James will participate in a post-film discussion: 

THE KILLING (1956) and PATHS OF GLORY (1957)- Sun Aug 21 at 5:45 (Killing), 7:30 (Paths) and 9:15 (Killing), and Mon Aug 22 at 2:15 (Killing) and 4 (Paths)- Film Forum- A double feature of two black and white, ninety something minute Stanley Kubrick films from the 1950s. Pay for one and stay for the other. Do it either late Sunday afternoon and evening of the 21st, or do it Monday afternoon of the 22nd. 

First, The Killing, from 1956. Before Tarantino was making crime films that twisted the timeline back and forth, Stanley Kubrick made this film noir very early in his career. A film that made his reputation forever more. Kubrick adapted the novel "Clean Break", with additional dialogue from pulp author Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden is the leader of a group robbing a race track. Of course, things go wrong, with a memorable ending. Among the standout performances, take note of Elisha Cook Jr. as Sap Incarnate, and Marie Windsor as his scheming wife.

United Artists had no faith in The Killing, and threw it out there as part of a B movie double feature. But critics took notice, and so did Kirk Douglas, who desperately needed a director for Paths of Glory. A classic of the Film Noir genre, with one of the most memorable endings of all of Kubrick's films. And don't worry, its only 83 minutes long.

And speaking of Paths of Glory, here's the other film in this double feature, from 1957. Adapted from a novel, loosely based on a true incident in 1915. During WW I, a pompous French general, more annoyed by the stagnation of trench warfare and in love with his own hubris, orders an attack on a German position that borders on suicide. When the mission obviously fails, the General, attempting to save face, orders the execution of a few from the attacking regiment, for cowardice. Not any 4 soliders in particular, but picked at random, as a "lesson" to the rest of the regiment. And it falls upon Kirk Douglas, the Colonel forced to lead the assault on the ground and now tries to defend the four accused, in a hearing that more resembles a kangaroo court.

The first great film in Kubrick's career, and the first of his three anti-war films. Someone I know tried to rephrase/ re-categorize it as anti-stupidity, as opposed to anti-war. While I might appreciate the reasoning, no, sorry, you can't. Anti-war is what Humphrey Cobb strived for when he wrote the original book, and it's what Kubrick strove for when he made this. Just like he did with Dr Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket later on.

A great colorful cast, lead by Kirk, in what I think is his career performance. He and Stanley got along so well on Paths of Glory, when Kirk's film Spartacus was in trouble, he brought Stanley in to direct. Much to his regret, which filmgoers have benefited from ever since:

SUNRISE (1927) and NOSFERATU (1922/29, with live piano accompaniment)- Mon Aug 22 at 5:45 (Sunrise) and 7:40 (Nosferatu)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Double Feature series, where you pay for one and stay for the other. A double feature of silent film classics from director F.W. Murnau. 

First, Sunrise, from 1927. A restored DCP with its original soundtrack.  Its views of love, adultery, and temptation might be subtle as a brick, and at times a little on the hammy side in terms of some its performances, but it's still considered a classic (despite its disappointing box office), and hasn't been screened often until the film's recent restoration. George O'Brien plays a farmer who loves his wife. Until he goes into the city and falls for some sort of tramp. She convinces him to kill his wife. But can he?

Winners of the first Oscars for Janet Gaynor for Actress (who also won for two other films she starred in, something that would never happen again) and for Cinematography. It also won for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production, as opposed to Best Picture as we know it, which Wings had won. The Unique and Artistic Production category was discontinued afterwards by the way.

Sunrise was not on the first AFI Top 100 list, but made it to the second list. I wonder if it should be on that second list, as opposed to films I enjoyed that were dropped, like Fargo, Dr. Zhivago, The Third Man and Fantasia. I'd like to find out.

Next, Nosferatu. Originally released in Germany in 1922, you could call this the first rip-off. Bram Stoker's estate certainly though so, as they successfully sued for copyright infringement, with regards to Dracula. Luckily for us, despite the court order to destroy all copies, at least one print got out. That's what was released i the U.S. back in 1929, and what restorations could be done have come from. As for the film, you have an idea of the story basics, but it's the mood and the visuals that have elevated it from unknown, to cult status, to classic status. The nature shots used more often for mood, and of course, the visuals and performance of Max Schrek as Dracu, er, I mean Count Orlok, has stayed with us to this day. Even in Spongebob Square Pants.

Played with live piano accompaniment, which is the reason why this will probably sell out. So planning will be needed to be done:

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) for free- Mon Aug 22 at sundown- Bryant Park- A free screening of the 1982 classic, and yes, I do mean classic. Starts at sundown, probably with a Looney Tunes or Merrie Melodies cartoon preceding it. The best of the admittedly inconsistent Star Trek series, as William Shatner's Admiral James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, must deal with obsessed-for-revenge Khan Noonien Singh. I know I've done this revival before, but I enjoy it too much and after 30 years, it still works. Good effects and score, decent mix of Star Trek, On Golden Pond and Moby Dick (among other influences), good use of Spock if you know what I mean, and a Shatner performance you can respect. But Ricardo Montalban's performance is worth the price of admission; scenery chewing, bug eyed, but passionate, and obviously an actor in the midst of having a fun time being very very bad. I know it's been done before, but I enjoy it too much. Don't want to hear from the haters, time is on my side with this one; besides most of the haters haven't even seen it. And hey, you can compare Kirk's first entrance with Trump's first appearance at the RNC. Left unmentioned was how similar they were, but you can decide for yourself:

DJANGO (1966/67/72) and YOJIMBO (1961)- Tues Aug 23 at 6:30 (Django), 8:20 (Yojimbo), and 10:25 (Django)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series of double features. 2 films from the 1960s, featuring loner anti-heroes, trying to clean up a corrupt hell hole of a town. 

First, Django. Released in Europe in 1966, played for a very brief time in the U.S. in 1967, but not receiving an official American release (thanks to Jack Nicholson) until 1972. A DCP of the Spaghetti Western classic, not the same as Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The film that inspired many copies and inspirations (including Tarantino's), had one official sequel, and made Franco Nero a star everywhere (except here I guess). Somewhat similar to A Fistful of Dollars(and a certain Japanese film), where you have two sides fighting with each other and our (anti)hero in the middle, and said (anti)hero is trying to financially profit off of this. A little more romantic in the sense that Django has a woman by his side. But this was considered one of the more violent Westerns pre-Wild Bunch, a reputation it has taken decades to put aside. Fits as a late night screening.

Next, speaking of a film that looks VERY similar to Django and A Fistful of Dollars, is the superior Yojimbo, from 1961. A Toshiro Mifune- Akira Kurosawa team-up. Here, Mifune plays arguably his most famous character, a wandering ronin, who plays both sides of warring clans in a small town against each other to maximize profit, until it goes too far. Toshiro plays a man with a gruff, almost belligerent exterior, that hides a code of honor. With another frequent Kurosawa collaborator, Tatsuya Nakadai, as a formidable villain. Yojimbo is in my personal top 100 and is better than its 2 official remakes: the quite good A Fistful of Dollars, and the lousy Last Man Standing. Overall, a very good drama, with just enough dark comedy and action to keep things. 7 Samurai is my favorite Kurosawa, but Yojimbo is a film I can see over and over again, and if you've never seen it, now is a great time:

WHERE'S POPPA? (1970) and HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971)- Thurs Aug 25 at 7:30 (Poppa) and 9:15 (Maude)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Double Feature series. Two black comedies from the early 1970s. both with cult followings. The second film has one for sure, while the first film may no longer has such standing. 

First, Where's Poppa, from director Carl Reiner. A very New York film that could only have been made in the 1970s. Well, let me rephrase that. The idea of an adult trying to take care of their senile and/or elderly parent has been covered before, most recently in The Savages. But the black comic depths could not be done today. George Segal plays a failing lawyer, going nuts over taking care of his senile old bat of a mother, played by Ruth Gordon. He finally gets help from a nurse, who turns out to be his dream girl. But wait till Momma does things her way. Ron Liebman, Barnard Hughes, Vincent Gardenia and Paul Sorvino are among the cast. With the original, controversial punchline/ending. Basically, before there was South Park, there was Where's Poppa. View it as such.

Next is Harold and Maude, from 1971, screened as a DCP. Perhaps no other director in the 1970s, who made at least three films released in that decade, had as consistent a level of quality product as Hal Ashby. Coppola, Scorsese, and Fosse are the only ones I can think of that exceed him. Spielberg, Lucas, Altman, Polanski, Friedkin and Woody all reached greater heights, but Ashby's output never reached their lows. Not that audiences back then agreed. A major example, is Harold and Maude. Any film where suicidal young Harold (Bud Cort), after many attempts played mostly for dark laughs, finds the will to live and a great love, in elderly Maude (Ruth Gordon); audiences and some critics at time were far from embracing it. But a decades old cult following has been loyal, and they'll be the reason why this screening at the forum might sell out, so plan ahead:

HOWARDS END (1992)- Starting Friday Aug 26 at 12:40, 3:30, 6:30 and 9:20- Film Forum- A 4K DCP restoration, from the original camera negative. In time for the 25th anniversary, for an open ended engagement. Since this means we don't know when this will end, it's just easier to post the start date, the current screening times, and we'll just let you decide for yourself. For me, once the U.S. Open occurs, I won't have much time for this picture. But if that's when it works for you, go right ahead.

The third and last adaptation of a E.M Forester novel from producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory. Arguably their best film. Now the plot is a little complex to break down here, especially since we're dealing with 3 families from different classes. The title home, Howards End, represents England and who might inherit it (figuratively and literally). We start off with  two Liberal sisters (Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter, full into her corset role portion of her career), and lets just it gets very hard to maintain their various levels of idealism.

Oscars for Thompson for Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, and Art Direction. Nominations for Picture, Director, Vanessa Redgrave for Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Score and Costume Design. A hit on the art house circuit back in the Spring  of 1992, and was considered a leading contender to win Best Picture. Then Unforgiven came along late that summer, and so much for that. As the years have gone by, Unforgiven became a classic film from 1992, as did Aladdin and A Few Good Men. You want to argue the same for My Cousin Vinny and Basic Instinct, do that elsewhere. Reservoir Dogs gained cult status,  arguably so has Glengarry Glen Ross. Do you note Howards End anywhere there? No, you didn't.  This anniversary restoration could change that:

PSYCHO (1960) and REPULSION (1965)- Fri Aug 26 at 4:50 (Psycho) and 7 (Repulsion)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Double Feature series. Two films from the 1960s, with European directors depicting insanity on screen.

First, Psycho from 1960, in a DCP screening. Honestly, I'm not trying to make a habit of posting this film each and every time it comes up. It's that I haven't seen it each time I've posted, and I'm gonna try again when it's playing at a convenient time for me. Which it is here.

Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. Now you know the film's story, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.

And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.

There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's (alleged) feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.

But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting. Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination), Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100.

Next is Repulsion, from 1965. Roman Polanski film with Catherine Deneuve. In his first English-language film, Polanski transforms a London apartment into a prison 
cell, and house of horrors, for an increasingly disturbed young woman. She might be  repressed as all hell when she arrives in the apartment, but as she is left alone and grows even more repulsed by sex, watch out. And don't look in her purse! with Cinematography from Gilbert Taylor (Hard Days Night, Dr Strangelove, Star Wars):

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)- Sun Aug 28 at 4:30 and 7- BAM- Part of BAM's That's Entertainment retrospective. The best of the MGM musicals that were featured in the first edition of the hit 70s documentary That's Entertainment!

A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS. Before the Sci-Fi channel comes out with some annoying "re-imagining" of this story ( I don't remember the name because it seems annoying), you can catch the most popular version. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch.

Now I've seen this too many times to say on TV, either on its numerous CBS airings, or when TBS/TNT aired it a few times. As you might be able to tell, always with commercials. I liked it, but it wasn't until I saw it in a restored 3-D digital IMAX screen that I truly embraced, put in my personal Top 100, and basically had a blast. Kansas no longer seemed like filler/ delayed gratification, making Oz all the more magical. It was worth the effort to go into the city the first time, and worth it the second time:

Let me know if there's interest. Take care.

Friday, July 22, 2016

July revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the rest of July. Sorry I didn't have any revival screenings for most of this month. but a combination of schedule issues and some meh choices didn't inspire me to write a list. Actually, there were a couple of revivals that I was interested in, and I caught one: Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Very much a Grindhouse film, and as long as you're ok with that going in, you'll like the film. And even if you don't, there was a terrific lead performance by Warren Oates to savor. And based on the conversations Oates's character had with the title head, I have to think Robert Zemeckis had this film in mind while working on Cast Away. Very little difference between Oates and Garcia's head, and Tom Hanks and Wilson. Overall, I understand why it would be on a list of 1001 movies to see before you die. Maybe not in the top 1001 all time, but certainly different enough to pay attention. Now on with the list:

THE SICILIAN CLAN (1969/70)-  Sat July 23 at 8:50- Film Forum- From the Forum's Les Durs: 3 French Tough Guys retrospective. Honoring the work of character acting/ tough guy leading Frenchmen Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Some of the films in this retrospective are those I've done at least once at the Forum (Le Doulos, Breathless, Army of Shadows, Grand Illusion), so I won't post them here. Maybe another time, but not this month. But here's one that fits my schedule: The Sicilian Clan, from 1969, released in the U.S. in 1970.  Sorry to say this is the English dubbed version, but beggars can't be choosers. Now I'm afraid I don't know the film, so I'll have post the Forum's description of the film for better clarity:

(1969, Henri Verneuil) Three great tough guys: after fiery killer Alain Delon memorably escapes from the slammer, it’s time to team up with gang boss Gabin to heist a plane-load of jewels. But there’s cop Lino Ventura to contend with. English-language version. 35mm. Approx. 121 mins.

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)- Sun July 24 (Preferred)  at 7 and Wed July 27 (if need be for me) at 2- AMC Empire 25 and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas -  A special digital restoration, sponsored by TCM. The screening will be introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, who will have an "interview" with Dr Zaius about the effect of the movie. So to speak, just enjoy the tongue and cheek aspect.

Now as for the original Planet of the Apes, for those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels on your own, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after. It means enough these days to be highlighted in the 1968-set season of Mad Men.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I saw a new print back on July 2011, and it plays great. The new DCP should play just as well:

LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)- Tues July 26 at 6:45 and 9:30- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films, Native to America, featuring films depicting Native American life. A favorite "forgotten" Dustin Hoffman film from 1970. A Western Comedy-Drama that mixes Fable, History, and even a bit of political activism. Hoffman plays a 110 year old man (under impressive make-up from Dick Smith who did the makeup work on The Exorcist and The Godfather), who looks back on his life. How he went back and forth as a young boy and man, from the world of the Indians to the world of the white man in the old West. Meeting characters as varied as Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer. Maybe there's a bit of legend in his tale, but it's his tale and he's gonna tell it his way.

Terrific script and lead performance from Hoffman who is in the Guinness Book of Records for playing the largest age span of a character (17-121). With good support from, among others, Faye Dunaway (a favor after Penn's Bonnie & Clyde made her a star?), Martin Balsam and Richard Mulligan (chewing the scenery, countryside and possibly the horses, as Custer). But the supporting performance you'll probably leave the film remembering most, is Oscar-nominated Chief Dan George, as the tribal chief who adopts the orphan boy who grows up to be Hoffman. Many scenes in Little Big Man take place among the tribe, and it's probably the most humane, well rounded depiction of Native Americans ever on film. Definitely better than say, the typical John Wayne Western or even Dances With Wolves. And that humanity is important, since it needs to effect you so that the attacks by the Army. Any similarities between the Vietnam War and the Army-Indian battles are intentional, even though the scenes at times, matched up with government records of the encounters. An artistic/political decision supposedly made by Penn and screenwriter Calder Willingham (The Graduate, Paths of Glory), that didn't thrill the novelist who originally conceived Little Big Man, Thomas Berger.

Maybe Little Big Man is a little too long and meandering. But it's an interesting journey, that I prefer to think of as eccentric as opposed to weird. Essentially forgotten today, and just because it's a Western, it's ripe for re-discovery.

LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (SECOND BREATH) (1966)- Thurs July 28 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's "Les Durs" 3 Tough French Guys retrospective. A 35mm print imported from France specifically for this series. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. If you know, or paid cursory attention to these lists, you know how much I'm a fan of Melville's work. It started from Army of Shadows and grown from there. Le Doulos and Le Circe Rouge were obviously very good, the same goes for Bob Le Flambeur. Melville's change of pace, Leon Morin, Priest, was a pleasant surprise. Even merely ok Melville (Un Flic), is a cut above quite a number of films. So the chance to see this Melville film I don't know, is an opportunity I'm jumping on. And since I don't know this film, I'll have to rely on the old cut-and-paste method, and rely on the Forum's description:

(1966) En route to the border after a successful prison break, Lino Ventura (Army of Shadows, Elevator To The Gallows) takes time for an electrifying highway robbery, but then finds, after ruthless cop Paul Meurisse has turned him into an unwitting informer, that reputation is worth more than life. In French, with English subtitles. Approx. 150 mins. 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)- Fri July 29 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- The start of the return of 70mm screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Very similar to the 70mm retrospective that Lincoln Center held during the holiday season of 2012, and the successful 70mm retrospective the Museum had last summerAfter the success of such revival screenings as Hello, Dolly! and The Sound of Music, as well as renewed interest in the format thanks to Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and P.T. Anderson's The Master, the Museum of the Moving Image will screen this special retrospective. While the format has been around since the creation of film itself, it wasn't until the mid-1950s when this became popular for event movies. Consider 70mm as the grandfather of IMAX, which also makes use of 70mm film cameras by the way (the films not shot digitally that is). If you've been to the Ziegfeld, the late Loews Astor Plaza or the Paris theater in Manhattan, then you know what the format looks like in a non-revival house. But unless you've done a previous 70mm revival screening with me, or you saw The Master at the Ziegfeld and/or Interstellar at the Ziegfeld or in a 70mm IMAX screening, or The Hateful Eight at one of the 100 70mm screens this past winter, you probably haven't seen a 70mm film. Especially if you're under the age of 21.

Popularity waned in the 1970s, and the format wasn't used for a while, except horizontally in IMAX cameras. By the time I read how the original 70mm print of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was chopped up and pieces were individually sold, I figured the format was as dead as the Betamax. But directors like Anderson, Nolan, and Martin Scorsese still champion the format, and curiosity and changing technologies has fueled renewed interest 70mm. Much like IMAX, 70mm was reserved for event films, and some of those very event films will be screened at the Museum. I've posted a couple of these films on this blog over the years. But most of these films haven't been screened since the early 80s.

Now almost everything screened in this retrospective also screened at Lincoln Center back in 2012, but not every film from the 2012 retrospective will screen here. Either because the 70mm screening of Sound of Music has been screened before at the Museum this year (and probably again next February), they won't settle for any kind of print (no thanks to a grainy My Fair Lady print with Swedish subtitles) , or they're going with most mainstream choices. I admired Lincoln Center's choices of Khartoum and Ryan's Daughter, but Lord Jim? Interesting . . . I won't post all the films from this retrospective. Partially because I'm splitting up their list into several parts to fit mine so there would be no point listing everything now, and partially because I have neither the time to do The Master and Interstellar, nor the burning desire to see Brainstorm. i saw Natalie Wood's last film recently on TCM, and it hasn't held up compared to when I saw it over twenty five years ago.

Now as for 2001, I have nothing new to say about. It's one of my favorites, I've seen it multiple times over the years and I'm willing to go again, it's a great film, if you've never seen it on the big screen, see it once, that's it. What I will do is reprint part of what I wrote regarding this 70mm restoration back in January 2013:

Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw this past summer (not sure who did the respective restorations). Sound quality was equally superior, but there were noticeable image issues with the 2001 print that didn't crop up with Dolly. In particular the colors red and white were difficult to pull off without some sort of cloudy distortion. Not every time mind, you. No issues with the color red when it came to anything involving Hal, but with the trip at the end. And as for white, there were no issues with say, the space station or the various shuttles.  But anything lit with what appears to white halogen lighting (or the mid-1960s British equivalent), such as the lighting in the station, the moon base meeting room, and especially the French suite environment the Monolith creates, the restoration wasn't that effective. Or the restoration wasn't able to fix all the problems of the original negative, not sure what the reasons are. The colors were more effective overall with the Digital restoration of 2001 that I saw in March. Sound quality was about equal, but I consider the 70mm print superior to the DCP print in one section: The Dawn of Man. For some reason all of it looked completely fake on the DCP, even the leopard and the second unit footage. Not so with the 70mm, the textures of everything, the sets, the matte paintings and the incredible make-up, all looked more realistic. Enough texture to allow one to believe the illusion quickly, without distraction.

POLTERGEIST (1982)- Sat July 30 at 9- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films that have questionably received a PG rating. This one certainly qualifies. A little over the top in its last half hour, but still quite effective. Just enough humor to set you up for more scares. Cited as one of the reasons for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, though how much of the film was made by Hooper and how much was made by producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg still seems to be a topic for conjecture. Though there's nothing as creepy here, as when a clip was used for DirectTV's series of commercials. My first thought: "This commercial is freaking me out. They're using the little dead girl to sell DirectTV. You have to be kidding!". 3 Oscar nominations, including the visual effects and Jerry Goldsmith's score

Let me know if there's interest, later all.