Friday, July 18, 2014

July revivals for the next week









Hey all, Mike here with another week of revivals. I wanted to do the rest of the month, but scheduling on my end doesn't allow me to do more than one week at a time. Pain in the ass, but that's the way it is right now. So here we go:



DUCK AMUCK and other Chuck Jones cartoons- Fri July 18 at 6 (members only), and Sat July 19 and Sun July 20 at 1 (Duck) and 6 (Foxes)- Museum of the Moving Image- This marks the beginning of the Museum of the Moving Image's Chuck Jones retrospective. After a popular run in D.C., it begins it's New York run from Friday July 18th, thru Martin Luther King Day 2015. The third floor exhibit includes cels, storyboards, influences, sketches, drawings, and how Jones and his associates put their work together. 

Jones did some good Tom And Jerry cartoons from the 1960s, some interesting TV specials with Dr. Seuss (Horton Hears A Who, The Lorax and The Grinch) and without him (including Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and The Cricket and Times Square), handled the animation on the original version of The Electric Company, and did work on films as varied as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Disney's Sleeping Beauty, Mrs. Doubtfire, Gremlins 2 and Gay-Purree (one of Judy Garland's last films). But Jones is best known for his work with the Looney Tunes characters; specifically the creation of the likes of Sylvester & Tweety, Speedy Gonzalez, and Wile E. Coyote & The Road Runner, as well as the perfecting of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

I get the impression that every weekend or so over the next 27 weeks, the Museum will screen Jones's works. This weekend, the Museum will screen the following cartoon shorts: 

Rabbit Seasoning (the second of the three Rabbit Season/ Duck Season cartoons, which doesn't end in the snow or with Elmer Season), 
Feed The Kitty (where a big bulldog unexpectedly bonds with a tiny stray kitten), 
Bully For Bugs (where Bugs ends up making the wrong turn at Albuquerque and ends up bull fighting), 
Duck Amuck (one of Jones's best, a 4th wall breaker where Daffy is tormented by his animator),
Hare-way to the Stars (the first time Bugs took on Marvin the Martian),
Zoom and Bored (Road Runner versus Wile E. Coyote),
One Froggy Evening (featuring Michigan J. Frog singing "Hello My Baby". Referenced in Spaceballs, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, South Park and referred to by Spielberg as the Citizen Kane of cartoons),
and What's Opera, Doc? (generally considered Jones's best cartoon, where Elmer hunts Bugs into a Wagnerian opera).

All cartoons will be 35mm screenings. The Friday screenings are for members only, but Saturday and Sunday screenings are for all. For one admission, you can do the cartoons, the Chuck Jones exhibit, the Museum's other exhibits, pieces of from shorts depicting the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs, and films as varied as The Little Foxes, Voyage To Italy, and The Trial of Muhammad Ali:   



A SUMMER'S TALE-  Fri July 18 and Tues July 22- Thurs July 24 at 7:35 and 9:50 at Quad Cinema, plus Fri July 18 and Tues July 22- Thurs July 24 at 9:30- The Eric Rohmer film that is receiving its first U.S. release plays for at least a few more days. I wrote about it 2 lists ago, go there. Have never seen it and I'm curious. If you're patient with dialogue-heavy films shot in long takes with attractive 20somethings, this might be for you. I don't know if this will play beyond July 16th at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, but at least some of their screenings are doable for me. Not so the afternoon only screenings at IFC Center, which is why I'm not posting them here:  



AMERICAN PSYCHO- Fri July 18 at 11- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's late night horror series, Freaky Fridays. This isn't horror per say. It certainly would have been had director Mary Harron chosen to make a more literal adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's controversial novel. But freaky, I'll buy that.

One of the best films of 2000, we follow one Patrick Bateman. A successful Wall Street banker-type with a lovely fiancee (Reese Witherspoon) and a respectable amount of wealth for someone so relatively young. But none of this satisfies Bateman. Becoming a Master of the Universe isn't satisfying either; not when something as small as a somewhat more attractive business card can send you into a tailspin. So he has a mistress and hires prostitutes from time to time. But none of this satisfies Bateman either, even if he beats his prostitutes. No, the only thing that seems to give poor Patrick any satisfaction is killing someone. Anyone who stands in his way. Anyway powerless to stop him. Anyone will do. Like any addiction, Bateman can only be satisfied by killing more and more. Like anyone with a few remaining twinges of a conscious, he wants to stop, or be stopped. But . . . . well the ending I leave to you to decide how you feel.

Controversial from the get-go, thanks to the source material. Ideas to humanize Patrick as opposed to giving him twinges of conscious (as was the plan in an attempted DiCaprio- Oliver Stone adaptation) were shot down by both fans and Gloria Steinem. The subdued approach and the aim to make this a comedy/satire of manners by director/ writer Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner works. In part to give the violence consequences when it does occur/ threatens to occur. In a East Coast variation of Fight Club, we see him get everything he wants or "needs", it gives him nothing. And despite keeping it in the late 80s to maintain the attack on Reagan/ Bush 1 era yuppie/preppie-types, narcissism, and overall thinking, it felt just as relevant in 2000 as it did then. And unfortunately in 2014, this film feels as relevant as ever. Right down to the type of profession that has gotten away with financial crimes with slaps on the wrists, if even that much.

But that didn't make the film a hit in 2000. Audiences and critics were divided. Even though the film toned down the book's brutality, the scenes that did stay in that avoided the dreaded NC-17 rating (the Hip to be Square scene, the chainsaw sequence), pissed some people off. And since some of the satire was subtle, I think some people from the day confused said subtlety with approval by the filmmakers. The ending didn't help. It made enough money to avoid being considered a flop and supposedly has developed a cult following. But if you're talking about films remembered from the year 2000, you're talking about say, Cast Away, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, maybe X-Men because of Hugh Jackman's star-making turn. 
 
Speaking of star making turns, that might be the reason why anyone watches this film anymore. Christian Bale, rising from nearly forgotten child actor to British art house lead (and former Jesus of Nazareth) to leading man in American films. A few missteps and some underrated American art house films were to come before Batman Begins, but as far as I was concerned, American Psycho showed us an actor who would be around for a long while to come. Narcissistic yet occasionally empathetic, funny yet dangerous enough to make you think what he could have done as Hannibal Lecter. Able to switch on a dime; whether we're talking about the Hip To Be Square scene (opposite Jared Leto), or the scene were Bateman brings his smitten secretary (Chloe Sevigny) back to his apartment with some hard decisions to make . . . 

In some ways, it was appropriate for Christopher Nolan to cast Bale in his series of Batman films. Though with Bateman, he seems more akin to Harvey Two-Face Dent than Bruce Wayne. The monster gains more control over time, but that other face, clean, handsome, keeps popping up. Is it a mask? Is it that last sign of positive humanity left in him? Is it guilt mixed with the need to be punished? A face that contorts farther as his behavior goes ignored, possibly excused? No matter how bat shit the film gets (still more muted than the novel), Bale allows you to believe it and follow it. And even this performance polarized critics and audiences. Too on the nose, too over the top were some of the complaints. But it's not a complaint of mine. We got a three-dimensional person, whose heights tend to be on the bloody side (or are they?). Go see this if you've never seen it before. Unless you prefer the other Midnight movie playing below:
 


ROBOCOP (1987)- Fri July 18 at 12:25AM- IFC Center- The sleeper hit from the summer of 1987. One part kick in the teeth action film, one part kick in the teeth social commentary. Peter Weller is the poor schnook patrolman who gets killed in the line of duty lead by sadistic Kurtwood Smith, only to be rebuilt almost against his will by a multinational corporation as the title character, carrying out their contract to protect Old Detroit. The company thinks they erased or overrode his old identity and memories, but such human elements are hard to get rid of . . . Mix of sharp satire, tragedy, and good action scenes from director Paul Verhoven. Accept no substitutes, stick with the original:



A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- Mon July 21- Thurs July 24 at Film Forum at 8:30 and at Cinema Arts Centre (423 Park Avenue in Huntington) at 7:40 and 9:30- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that was supposed to finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17, was given an extension of at least one more week. Limited screening times, but extended none the less. But now the film will also play for at least a week at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, so now you Long Islanders don't have to consider travelling into the city for this. 

A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer then a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun:





NIAGARA and ANGEL FACE- Tues July 22 at 7 (Niagara) and 9:15 (Angel)- Film Forum- Two films from the Film Forum's Femme Fatale series, showing film-noirs where one of the more important characters, is a bad, bad, woman. First, a DCP restoration of Niagara, a rare Technicolor noir. A young couple takes a delayed honeymoon at Niagara Falls. There, they get to know another married couple, young vivacious Marilyn Monroe, and older, depressed and seething Joseph Cotton. Monroe and Cotton's marriage is on the rocks to put it mildly. But this troubled marriage will lead to murder, draw the young married couple into this mess, and to reveal more would spoil surprises if you've never seen this. Underrated, successful back in the day, though praised more for the look of the falls and the look of Marilyn. But her performance and the film itself was reevaluated after her death. Give it a try.

Next, Angel Face. From 1952, directed by Otto Preminger. Ambulance driver Robert Mitchum is not the world's best boyfriend, and is happy to trade up to rich girl Jean Simmons. But she's not what she appears to be, and if you've seen The Postman Always Rings Twice, then you have an idea about what will go right, and what will go very wrong. Never seen it, but I'm curious:




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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mid-July revivals











Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the next week or so of July. I can't believe how chock full of revivals the month of July is. So the best I can do is post films for the next 7-8 days, and see how the rest of the list shakes out. Let me not waste any time, here we go:



NORTH BY NORTHWEST introduced by Royal S. Brown- Thurs July 10 at 7- Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington- A DCP screening. The same restoration I did in Queens back in early 2012, and also played at the Forum in 2013, comes out to the lovely Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, for one night only. The screening will be introduced by Queens College film professor Royal Brown. At least I hope that's the person. The Cinema Arts Centre's website doesn't give his credentials and Goggling his name makes me think the Queens College profile is the most likely person. Either way, the film is why I'm going out there, not the person doing an intro.

The best of all the lightweight Alfred Hitchcock films. No big morals here. Just sit back and relax, as 'everyman' Cary Grant gets confused as a secret agent by sinister forces led by James Mason. He runs from them and runs from the law, for a murder at the United Nations he didn't commit. Of course all this running around doesn't stop Grant from taking time to flirt with mysterious Eva Marie Saint, in some of the most fun innuendo that the remnants of the Production Code would allow. And watch out for not only a crop duster, but Martin Landau and his "woman's intuition".

I use the term everyman loosely when describing Grant as an Everyman. But according to Gene Wilder on his episode of Inside The Actors Studio, that's how Grant described himself during a chance meeting on a cruise ship, where the Northwest homage Silver Streak, was playing. Wilder was pleasantly stunned to here this description, as well as how Grant was nice enough to include Wilder as being on the same level, but I digress.Fun film, with good performances, a snappy though unsubtle Bernard Herrmann score, and featuring one of Saul Bass's best opening credit sequences. Oscar nominations for the great Editing, Art Direction (check out say, the U.N. and Mount Rushmore), and Ernest Lehman's script.

I tried to see this on the big screen multiple times over the past 10 years. I missed my chance about 9 or so years back, when it was screened for several weekends at midnight at the Paris theater. I'm sorry I missed catching it on the Paris's large screen, but I blame a girl named Amanda for that. Then I finally saw a digital projection at the Museum of the Moving Image almost two years ago. A near sell-out, that looked and sounded great. The jokes landed great, and the audience was in hushed, rapt attention thru out the Mount Rushmore finale (except for the bits of humor sprinkled in). The Forum's screen will be more than adequate for this occasion, and the picture and sound should come off well with this new restoration. Their sound system should rock the hell out of Herrmann's score so to speak, one of the few scores I've hummed after a screening days and weeks afterwards.



A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- Thurs July 10 and Tues July 15- Thurs July 17 at 7:30 and 9:45 (Wed July 16 at 7:30 is sold out)-plus Sat July 12 at 9:45 Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that will finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17. 

A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer then a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun:



SQUIRM- Fri July 11 at 11- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's late night movie series, called Freaky Fridays. Here we have Squirm, a Southern Jaws on the ground, or the Ben-Hur of worm films, according to the late 92nd Y's website. Worms get a shock of electricity down in a small Georgia town, and somehow become flesh eaters. Meanwhile, city slicker Don Scardino (best known for his off-screen work on 30 Rock) goes down to visit his girlfriend (Patricia Pearcy), and runs into some characters who not only appear to be either stereotypes or rejects from Deliverance, but also seem to have Worm Attack victim tattooed on their foreheads.

Trust me, it's more fun than I'm making it sound. Tongue is firmly planted in cheek here, when it isn't filled with rubber things passing for killer worms instead. Seriously, you can't take the threat of killer worms too seriously, and the filmmakers know this. Nobody got any acting awards for this, and once you see it, you'll know why. But I do have a fondness for our lead heroine Patricia Pearcy. Maybe she was a little too delicate looking, a little too close to say, Sissy Spacek for some casting directors tastes. Aside from the soap Ryan's Hope and a small role in The Goodbye Girl, she didn't seem to get much of a chance for substantial screen roles, except for this fun junk. She does well with it, just wish it was for something better. Nevertheless, this is fun, so if you don't mind sitting thru some cheap looking 70s fun, let's try it: 



THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE- Fri July 11 and Sat July 12 at Midnight- IFC Center- A 40th Anniversary screening of the horror and independent film classic, a DCP restoration. The same one that played at Lincoln Center last month seems to have found a home this summer at IFC Center. Not sure for how long, seems to be on a weekend by weekend basis.

One of the few that can elicit some jumps even on home video. Not nearly as bloody as you think. Shot and edited in such a way that it is implied, but usually not shown. Helped put New Line Cinema on the map. Forget all imitators/remakes. For horror fans and those who came to like well made films of all genres, go. Not as scary as when I first saw it as a teenager. But definitely creepy as all hell from beginning to end. A respectable print; I thought it was occasionally out of focus, but I'm guessing it was the way it was shot. And great, the last section with the family all gathered together, with Grandpa with the hammer, rotting meat and actual skeleton had to be clearly in focus. The best 83,000 film I've ever seen:



2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Sun July 13 at 3- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big: Science Fiction series, for one more weekend. I can only do the Sunday July 13th screening, not the Saturday July 12th screening at 3:30. But if that works for you, by all means, go and enjoy. On either day for one admission, you can also enjoy Brainstorm at 7pm. Not me because I'm not the biggest fan of that film. Maybe the rare 70mm screening would change my mind, but I have little desire and no time right now. 

There are films that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly qualifies. One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. I've seen it, I love it, and need no excuse to see Stanley Kubrick's classic. Some of you have done this before with me and some of you, more then once. But this is too good to ignore. Every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older.

Here's a quote from Neil Degrasse Tyson about one of his favorite sci-fi films: "Perhaps the first film to be all about the discovery of alien intelligence yet not show what it looks like, knowing that our imagination could surely do a better job than Hollywood. In any case, it was a visual orgy of space travel and space exploration that we remain far from achieving, even 13 years after the 33 years-in-the-future it portrayed." 

2001 will be screened all weekend long at the Moving Image. In fact, it will be the only film screening there this Fourth of July-esque weekend. But this will be a rare 70mm screening. I saw the last 70mm screening of this at Lincoln Center, and I'll repost what I thought of the print. I did have complaints, but nothing that would keep me from seeing it again (assuming this is the same print, of course):

"Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw . . .  (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.":



A SUMMER'S TALE-  Tues July 15- Thurs July 17 at 9:30- Lincoln Plaza Cinema- The Eric Rohmer film that is receiving its first U.S. release plays for at least a few more days. I wrote about it 2 lists ago, go there. Have never seen it and I'm curious. If you're patient with dialogue-heavy films shot in long takes with attractive 20somethings, this might be for you. I don't know if this will play beyond July 16th at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, but at least some of their screenings are doable for me. Not so the afternoon only screenings at IFC Center, which is why I'm not posting them here:  



AMERICAN PSYCHO- Fri July 18 at 11- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's late night horror series, Freaky Fridays. This isn't horror per say. It certainly would have been had director Mary Harron chosen to make a more literal adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's controversial novel. But freaky, I'll buy that.

One of the best films of 2000, we follow one Patrick Bateman. A successful Wall Street banker-type with a lovely fiancee (Reese Witherspoon) and a respectable amount of wealth for someone so relatively young. But none of this satisfies Bateman. Becoming a Master of the Universe isn't satisfying either; not when something as small as a somewhat more attractive business card can send you into a tailspin. So he has a mistress and hires prostitutes from time to time. But none of this satisfies Bateman either, even if he beats his prostitutes. No, the only thing that seems to give poor Patrick any satisfaction is killing someone. Anyone who stands in his way. Anyway powerless to stop him. Anyone will do. Like any addiction, Bateman can only be satisfied by killing more and more. Like anyone with a few remaining twinges of a conscious, he wants to stop, or be stopped. But . . . . well the ending I leave to you to decide how you feel.

Controversial from the get-go, thanks to the source material. Ideas to humanize Patrick as opposed to giving him twinges of conscious (as was the plan in an attempted DiCaprio- Oliver Stone adaptation) were shot down by both fans and Gloria Steinem. The subdued approach and the aim to make this a comedy/satire of manners by director/ writer Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner works. In part to give the violence consequences when it does occur/ threatens to occur. In a East Coast variation of Fight Club, we see him get everything he wants or "needs", it gives him nothing. And despite keeping it in the late 80s to maintain the attack on Reagan/ Bush 1 era yuppie/preppie-types, narcissism, and overall thinking, it felt just as relevant in 2000 as it did then. And unfortunately in 2014, this film feels as relevant as ever. Right down to the type of profession that has gotten away with financial crimes with slaps on the wrists, if even that much.

But that didn't make the film a hit in 2000. Audiences and critics were divided. Even though the film toned down the book's brutality, the scenes that did stay in that avoided the dreaded NC-17 rating (the Hip to be Square scene, the chainsaw sequence), pissed some people off. And since some of the satire was subtle, I think some people from the day confused said subtlety with approval by the filmmakers. The ending didn't help. It made enough money to avoid being considered a flop and supposedly has developed a cult following. But if you're talking about films remembered from the year 2000, you're talking about say, Cast Away, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, maybe X-Men because of Hugh Jackman's star-making turn. 
 
Speaking of star making turns, that might be the reason why anyone watches this film anymore. Christian Bale, rising from nearly forgotten child actor to British art house lead (and former Jesus of Nazareth) to leading man in American films. A few missteps and some underrated American art house films were to come before Batman Begins, but as far as I was concerned, American Psycho showed us an actor who would be around for a long while to come. Narcissistic yet occasionally empathetic, funny yet dangerous enough to make you think what he could have done as Hannibal Lecter. Able to switch on a dime; whether we're talking about the Hip To Be Square scene (opposite Jared Leto), or the scene were Bateman brings his smitten secretary (Chloe Sevigny) back to his apartment with some hard decisions to make . . . 

In some ways, it was appropriate for Christopher Nolan to cast Bale in his series of Batman films. Though with Bateman, he seems more akin to Harvey Two-Face Dent than Bruce Wayne. The monster gains more control over time, but that other face, clean, handsome, keeps popping up. Is it a mask? Is it that last sign of positive humanity left in him? Is it guilt mixed with the need to be punished? A face that contorts farther as his behavior goes ignored, possibly excused? No matter how bat shit the film gets (still more muted than the novel), Bale allows you to believe it and follow it. And even this performance polarized critics and audiences. Too on the nose, too over the top were some of the complaints. But it's not a complaint of mine. We got a three-dimensional person, whose heights tend to be on the bloody side (or are they?). Go see this if you've never seen it before. Unless you prefer the other Midnight movie playing below:
 


ROBOCOP (1987)- Fri July 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- The sleeper hit from the summer of 1987. One part kick in the teeth action film, one part kick in the teeth social commentary. Peter Weller is the poor schnook patrolman who gets killed in the line of duty lead by sadistic Kurtwood Smith, only to be rebuilt almost against his will by a multinational corporation as the title character, carrying out their contract to protect Old Detroit. The company thinks they erased or overrode his old identity and memories, but such human elements are hard to get rid of . . . Mix of sharp satire, tragedy, and good action scenes from director Paul Verhoven. Accept no substitutes, stick with the original:




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

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

July revivals: first week







Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the first week of July. This will include the Fourth of July weekend. A lot of these conflict with each other, but these tend  to sort themselves out. A few of these films extend beyond July 7th, so they could end up on the next list. Let me not waste time since this list is a bit long, so here we go:



KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS- Tues July 1 at 4:40- Film Forum- A DCP restoration. Part of the Alec Guinness retrospective. Kind Hearts and Coronets, from 1949 though released in the U.S. in 1950. Based loosely on a 1907 novel, Guinness plays a young man grieving the loss of his mother. She had married her father, an opera singer, and was disinherited by her powerful family because of it. After the deaths of both parents, and no visible means to move up in society or marry the girl he loves. Guinness sees only one way to advance. By seeking revenge on the family who shunned him, by killing all 7 members of the family that are in the way between poverty and riches. Oh, did I mention Guinness plays the other seven family members, all of different ages and gender? 

So yes, while the new musical A Gentleman's Guide To Love and Murder is a joy and I hope it wins a lot of Tonys, it's far from original. If nothing else, the film plays up the class distinctions more than the musical. Not a complaint, just an observation. At times it's fairly gentle when this black comedy delivers its kicks to the teeth, but any film where the lead lovably tries to kill 7 people isn't completely gentle. But always funny.

Arguably the best comedy Guinness ever made, though there are one or two films later in this retrospective that I'll probably bring up that, if you tell me they're better, I won't argue much. One in particular I wouldn't argue about at all, but that's for later. Before the likes of Peter Sellers, Eddie Murphy,and Mike Myers, you had Guinness playing multiple roles convincingly. You can see the influence directly with Sellers in The Mouse Who Roared as well as, to an extent, Dr. Strangelove. And with this kind of dark tweaking of class, you can see Kind Hearts and similar Guinness comedies influencing the likes of the Goon Squad and Monty Python, which in turn influenced Saturday Night Live, which in turn . . . You get the point, the film is influential and still funny:



A SUMMER'S TALE- Tues July 1- Thurs July 3 at 8 at IFC Center- and Tues July 1- Thurs July 10 at 6:30 and 9 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema- The Eric Rohmer film that is receiving its first U.S. release plays for at least a few more days. I wrote about it on the last list, go there. Have never seen it and I'm curious. If you're patient with dialogue-heavy films shot in long takes, this might be for you. i don't know if this will play beyond July 3rd at IFC Center, but it will play at until at least July 10th at Lincoln Plaza Cinema:  



THE GODFATHER PART 2- Wed July 2 at 2 and 7 (not likely for me) for $8.00- AMC Empire- A DCP restoration at a cheap price. I caught Godfather this past weekend, and the restoration looked, and especially sounded, great. The same restoration process has been done to The Godfather Part 2. I remember seeing an old 3 strip Technicolor print at AMMI a few years back. A scratchy print, but the color hues in the Vito Corleone scenes from Ellis Island through Robert de Niro's shooting scene blew me away. Totally different from every other time I've seen it on video or cable. If the quality of that is captured in this restoration, it should rock. It will anyway, but still. I think I prefer the first Godfather, but that's probably because the passion speaks to me a bit more. But we're talking such a tiny difference between the two and if you've never seen it on the big screen, this is a great chance.

On both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal top 35. 11 Oscar nominations, including Actor for Pacino and Supporting Actress for Talia Shire. 6 Oscars, including Picture, Director and Screenplay for Coppola. A Supporting Actor Oscar for De Niro in a career making turn, beating fellow nominated co-stars Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo:



TUNES OF GLORY- Wed July 2 at 9:45- Film Forum- Of all the films I mentioned to people that are part of the Alec Guinness retrospective, Kind Hearts and Coronets received the most interest. But the movie that received the most passionate interest  was Tunes of Glory. Partially because people have seen Zhivago, Lawrence and River Kwai with me, but still I was surprised about the passionate interest in this.









From 1960, featuring a battle of wills between two men in charge of a Highlander brigade. On the one hand, you have Guinness's Major; from the lower classes, pressed into command during WW 2, with a love for his men but even more love for himself and his ideas of what it is to be a real man. And on the other hand we have John Mills's Colonel: aristocratic third generation solider, smarter than the Major but scarred from his experience as a POW. Both men want the command, both feel they're better than the other. While Guinness's Major thinks he's smarter (he's probably wrong), he is crueler and will get rid of the Colonel by any means necessary.

A very big deal in Britain, where its themes and shortly-after-WW2 setting expressed by the likes of Sir Alec and Sir John resonated greatly with critics and moviegoers. But reaction in the States seems to be less so, especially with filmgoers busily embracing the likes of The Apartment, Elmer Gantry, The Alamo and Inherit The Wind (not to mention Psycho and Sparatcus). Can't say I blame them with those options, except for The Alamo, what the hell people?!?!?! An Oscar nomination only for Screenplay Adaptation and after the 1970s, Tunes of Glory seems to be a film forgotten in these parts. This makes me think this is the film from the Guinness retrospective that needs re-discovery more than any other. So join me in doing that if you're not doing Godfather 2 instead:



KING KONG (1933) for $8.00- Thurs July 3 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of the 1933 classic film, with an intro by Hedda Lettuce. Bow Tie Cinemas appears to have chosen to no longer do the 9:30 screenings after the 7pm of the older films. Can't blame them, a good film would only screen to 6-12 people on average. The likes of Laura and Muriel's Wedding might have drawn 15. So the new owners of the Chelsea Cinema seems to be tightening their belts a bit . . . 

The original King Kong, the one where Fay Wray screams her head off. I liked it as a kid, thanks to those endless Kong triple features WOR-TV used to do on Thanksgiving weekend. But I hadn't seen it for almost 2 decades until a few years ago, at a midnight screening at Landmark Sunshine. There, I began to appreciate this film real fast. Moves great, thanks to not being bogged down by back story that the remakes felt were needed. And while I quite like Peter Jackson's version, and I can have some fun with the 1976 version (despite some MASSIVE problems), this is superior if for no better reason then how Kong itself is handled. This is an ape, and no attempt is made to humanize it. It's an ape, and it doesn't have any moral issues about squashing people or flinging them like confetti, and doing this multiple times. One of the best action films ever made. On both AFI top 100 lists, and on my personal top 100 list as well:



A PASSAGE TO INDIA- Thurs July 3 at 7:30- Film Forum- The last film in the Alec Guinness retrospective, and the last team-up of actor Guinness and director David Lean. From 1984, set in the 1920s during the growing Indian Independence against the British Raj. Two English women travel to India to visit the same man. For the older woman (Dame Peggy Ashcroft), that man is her son. For the young woman (Judy Davis in her first film lead outside of Australia), that same man is her fiancee. The two women are close, and they are intrigued and exhilarated by India. The women are interested in knowing more about the country, and far more interested in learning about the people than almost all their upper crust white friends/family/associates. Two natives they get to know is a young doctor and an eccentric Professor (Guinness). But a cave exploring trip to see "the Real India" leaves the young English woman injured and disheveled, and the Indian Doctor arrested and charged with attempted rape. The country becomes divided between those in power backing the alleged victim, and the native population backing the accused.

Felt like a throwback when it was released in December 1984, especially in the same marketplace as Amadeus, The Killing Fields, Beverly Hills Cop, and three American-farmer-in-trouble films released at around the same time. A film that takes full advantage of its locales to bring us to into a world that seems alien to both the main female characters, and to those of us who saw this in the mid 1980s and beyond. But the intimate one on ones are never forsaken, even if the courtroom scenes seem a little Law and Order-like, and about twenty percent of the book was cut out. A few critics complained about not matching the tone of Forster's novel, but I'll trust Lean's judgement of literary material, thank you very much. 

Oscar nominations helped the film gain some business. 11 in total, including Picture Director Screenplay and Editing for Lean, and Davis for Actress. But with only 2 Oscar wins (for Dame Peggy for Supporting Actress and for Maurice Jarre's Score), business dropped. The combination of pan-and-scan home video and cable screenings for over a decade afterwards, and that Passage is not on the level of River Kwai or Lawrence (sorry to Vincent Camby of the Times for disagreeing), has kept this film from being better known. Especially if you're under 40, regardless of whether you read the book or not. Now you can see Lean's last film, and Guinness's last film of note, and judge for yourself: 



WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?- Thurs July 3- Sat Jul 5 at Midnight for $10- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Plays for the entire July 4th weekend, including Thursday July 3rd. The big hit of the summer of 1988 where Bob Hoskins is a film-noirish gumshoe, tracking a killer while dealing with all types of people, human and animated. This Disney film is a blast on the big screen, and innovative in its time for the mixing of animation and live action. 4 Oscars, including an award for visual effects that still holds up today, and a special achievement in animation:



JAWS- Thurs July 3- Sat July 5 at Midnight- A DCP screening, and if it's the same DCP I saw at the Film Forum in the summer of 2012, then we're getting a good one. Jaws, a popular film over at IFC Center (file under Yeah: No Kidding), plays once again late at night all July 4th weekend long. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:



A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- Fri July 4- Thurs July 17 at 12:45, 3, 5:10, 7:30 and 9:45 (Wed July 16 at 7:30 is sold out)- Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that will play for two weeks. Not sure what day and time I can do specifically, so I'll just post them all. 

A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer then a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun:



2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Sat July 5 at 3 and 6:30 and Sun July 6 at 3 - Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big: Science Fiction series,  in what seems to be a July 4th weekend tradition for them. Now there are films that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly qualifies. One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. I've seen it, I love it, and need no excuse to see Stanley Kubrick's classic. Some of you have done this before with me and some of you, more then once. But this is too good to ignore. Every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older.

Here's a quote from Neil Degrasse Tyson about one of his favorite sci-fi films: "Perhaps the first film to be all about the discovery of alien intelligence yet not show what it looks like, knowing that our imagination could surely do a better job than Hollywood. In any case, it was a visual orgy of space travel and space exploration that we remain far from achieving, even 13 years after the 33 years-in-the-future it portrayed." 

2001 will be screened all weekend long at the Moving Image. In fact, it will be the only film screening there this Fourth of July-esque weekend. But this will be a rare 70mm screening. I saw the last 70mm screening of this at Lincoln Center, and I'll repost what I thought of the print. I did have complaints, but nothing that would keep me from seeing it again (assuming this is the same print, of course):

"Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw . . .  (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.":



BLAZING SADDLES for free- Mon July 7 at sundown- Bryant Park- A free screening of 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 noting else, it would be better to spend 11 dollars to catch this then full price to catch Brooks' stage version of Young Frankenstein. Don't get me wrong, I was entertained. The cast was enjoyable (no Andrea Martin but I didn't miss her; the understudy was fine). But except for the Puttin' On The Ritz number, the stage version rarely rises above the film. The Producers, it is not. Even Spamalot at times rises above Monty Python and the Holy Grail a lot more than Young Frankenstein does. Anyway, I'd love to catch it if we can. Unless you prefer . . .



HIGH NOON- Mon July 7 at 9:30 IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's series: Time Regained. In honor of Richard Linklater's new film Boyhood. Films that try to honor or manipulate time on screen. Sometimes in decades, and sometimes in real time, like with High Noon. One of the best Westerns, and one of the best films ever made. Told in almost real time, Marshall Gary Cooper has just gotten married to Quaker Grace Kelly, and about to give up being a lawman to be a storekeeper. But before he can go off and start his new life, word comes down that a criminal the Marshall arrested is out of jail on a technicality, and coming to town with his gang, presumably seeking revenge. Thinking it would be better to fight the gang now as a lawman then to be blasted away as a civilian, the Marshall stays in town. Even though his pacifist wife threatens to leave him alone. As a jealous former deputy refuses to help, alongside the escaping judge and the rest of the townspeople. Whether they think it's better to try to appease the returning criminal gang, or if they think the town is better off without such a stern lawman, or whether they're just afraid of dying, they will not help the Marshall. As he awaits the noon train to arrive and with that his fate.

Effective as a Western, as a drama, and as allegory against the House Un-American Activities Committee, or at least the Hollywood community's refusal to stand up to them.. How much credit goes to soon-to-be blacklisted Carl Foreman or to producer Stanley Kramer is still being argued today. But credit them and director Fred Zinnemann with a fine film. A film John Wayne and Howard Hawks despised and made Rio Bravo as a response. Also despised by the likes of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn. Some audiences and critics missed the multiple action scenes, shootouts and wide scenic shots they had come to expect from Westerns, and Hitchcock thought Grace Kelly was misused. But audiences came in droves, if for no other reason than the stoic appeal of Cooper as a man alone, nervously and bitterly standing up for himself, for the law, and for people who probably don't deserve his help.

4 Oscars including Cooper for Actor, and for Editing. The editing is notable not only for how the last few minutes were put together, but that the whole real-time aspect was an experiment that surprisingly work, when the rough cut was a near disaster to all involved. Nominations for Picture, Zinnemann for Director and Foreman for Screenplay. Cited alongside the likes of Goodfellas and Dr. Strangelove as films that were gypped out of an Oscar for Best Picture. Given to The Greatest Show on Earth; try to watch it now, I dare you. A favorite of Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton. On both AFI Top 100 lists and on my own personal top 100:



ROPE- Mon July 7 at 10:30 and Tues July 8 at 9:15- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Time Regained series, screening films that try to honor or manipulate time on screen. Sometimes in decades, and sometimes in real time, like with Rope. A DCP restoration from a few years back, so it looks better than you've ever seen it before. I wouldn't have posted Rope at all if someone didn't express interest in seeing it, and only at night. Since this is the only evening performance of Rope and I have no interest in I Confess (I'd rather sit through Torn Curtain), here's Rope at its only evening time in this retrospective.
Alfred Hitchcock shot this film in a series of 8-minute continuous takes, the maximum amount of film that a camera could hold. Yes, it feels unnatural at times, but the story is compelling enough, so you accept the experiment. The story is a variation of the real life Leopold and Loeb murder. Two men murder a classmate/ friend of theirs, just for the moral superiority of it. They then have a dinner party over his hidden body, which his friend, relatives and fiancee attend. Also in attendance is their former professor, played by Jimmy Stewart. Ruh-roh.

For years I have seen Rope on TV, semi-popular after it's return as part of the Hitchcock 5; films that disappeared for over a decade until Universal Studios were able to re-release them in the early-mid 1980s. Rear Window and Vertigo became instant classics, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake did ok with critics and audiences, The Trouble With Harry, not so well. And Rope was kinda in the middle. The experiment was tolerated by critics (less so as the years went by), the film didn't play well in theaters, but played like gangbusters on home video and syndicated TV broadcasts.
For me, I enjoy it. It's less cinema, more like filmed theater. Like a proto- Dial M For Murder. It's fun, even for the content: 




Let me know if there's interest. Enjoy the 4th, later all.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June revivals: second half













Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of June. I will do my best to make myself available for these screenings, even with a few conflicts here and there. The list will be divided into three parts: films playing at the Film Forum as part of the Alec Guinness retrospective, films at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria as part of their Science Fiction retrospective, and the other films that don't fit in either category. That's the category I'll start with first:



CUL-DE-SAC- Thurs June 19 at 7:50- IFC Center- Part of the Roman Polanski retrospective. Most of the films I have either done at other revival houses, or saw when it originally played as in the case of Death and the Maiden, or I rather pay to see at a cheaper theater (hopefully I'll get to see Chinatown in August in Astoria). Cul-De-Sac is the only film that is semi-convenient to do, so I'm posting it now. 

A dark comedy from 1965 that I don't know anything about. But I'm curious. It came through the Criterion Collection a while back, after decades of no home video availability or poor quality prints in this country. So if I'm going to pitch this, I'll have to use the brief description from the Criterion website. The ol' cut and paste I'm afraid, I'm not proud:

SYNOPSIS: Roman Polanski orchestrates a mental ménage à trois in this slyly absurd tale of paranoia from the director’s golden 1960s period. Donald Pleasence and Françoise Dorléac star as a withdrawn couple whose isolated house is invaded by a rude, burly American gangster on the run, played by Lionel Stander. The three engage in role-playing games of sexual and emotional humiliation. Cul-de-sac is an evocative, claustrophobic, and morbidly funny tale of the modern world in chaos:



A SUMMER TALE- Starting Fri June 20 for at least one week- - Lincoln Plaza Cinema at 12, 2:10, 4:30, 6:45 and 9- and IFC Center at 12:50, 2:10, 5, 7:10 and 9:40- Eric Rohmer's 1996 film finally gets a U.S. release. It will play for at least one week at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and IFC Center. Not sure if it will play more than one week Uptown, but it might last a little longer at IFC Center. We'll see.

Rohmer's films are an acquired taste. Small films about regular people, trying to live their lives, going thru things like us, that are small scale in comparison to the world at large, but mean everything in their sphere. Heavy on dialogue, heavy on long takes, heavy on silent gestures, heavy on the leads' inability to articulate their needs, light on any music whatsoever. And boy, did Rohmer really like to tell these tales when they revolve around mostly attractive young people (28 and younger), during the summertime. I liked Summer, and really like Pauline At The Beach, so I'm up to catching this. But since this has never received a U.S. release, I'll have to rely on a cut-and-paste of IFC Center's description to sell you on this:

Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a recent university graduate, arrives at the seaside in Bretagne for three weeks’ vacation before starting a new job. He’s hoping his sort-of girlfriend, the fickle Léna (Aurélia Nolin), will join him there; but as the days pass, he welcomes the interest of Margot (Amanda Langlet, the titular character from Rohmer’s Pauline at the Beach), a student of ethnology working as a waitress for the summer. Things start to get complicated when the spoken-for Margot encourages Gaspard to have a summer romance with her friend, Solène (Gwenaëlle Simon), and he complies. When Léna turns up, and scheduling complications abound, Gaspard will have to make a choice…

Rohmer’s characteristically light touch allows his characters to discourse on love and friendship, even as their body language complicates and even contradicts their words. Diane Baratier’s cinematography perfectly captures the languor of youth and the feeling of a French beach vacation–the sea, the sunlight and the lovely surroundings convey the openness of a world of possibilities faced by these young people. 




THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)- Sat July 21 at 11- Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- A 40th Anniversary screening of the horror and independent film classic, a DCP restoration. One of the few that can elicit some jumps even on home video. Not nearly as bloody as you think. Shot and edited in such a way that it is implied, but usually not shown. Helped put New Line Cinema on the map. Forget all imitators/remakes. For horror fans and those who came to like well made films of all genres, go. Not as scary as when I first saw it as a teenager. But definitely creepy as all hell from beginning to end. A respectable print; I thought it was occasionally out of focus, but I'm guessing it was the way it was shot. And great, the last section with the family all gathered together, with Grandpa with the hammer, rotting meat and actual skeleton had to be clearly in focus. The best 83,000 film I've ever seen:



MANHATTAN- Sunday June 22 at 4, with a pre-film concert  by Jenny Lin, pre-film interview with Fred Blankfein and a short- United Palace of Cultural Arts- 4140 Broadway in Washington Heights- The UPCA is a restored movie palace that has various events there. Questionable sound system, but a great looking theater with a large screen. I can finally do a screening there, and Woody Allen's Manhattan fills the bill. Never has the borough been more beautifully photographed. A digital projection, with Spanish subtitles. Before the screening, there will be a half hour concert by Jenny Lin performing Gershwin tunes, including the ones in the movie. Followed by an interview by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Fred Blankfein, who was an assistant director on a number of Allen's films, including Manhattan. Followed by a short, The Incredible Spectacular Dyckman Fireworks Co, depicting the people who live on Dyckman Street in Inwood, as they put on their annual 4th of July Fireworks display.

After all of that, we finally see Manhattan, one of those films that should be seen on and can only be truly embraced on the big screen. Arguably Woody Allen's best film. On the short list with Allen's Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He wanted to make a film where he wanted to captured what he thought of as life in Manhattan, late 1970s. Put into the filter of one of his favorite films, Jean Renoir's The Rules of The Game. Allegedly, at some point after post production was completed, Allen was so unhappy with the final product, he offered to make a new film for free if United Artists either shelved or destroyed Manhattan. UA execs, happy with what they received, politely declined. Despite the praise and acclaim, Allen felt/feels he got away with one in this case. It may not be a typical life in New York circa late 1970s, but worth catching.

Hell of a cast. Diane Keaton, Micheal Murphy, Meryl Streep and Allen were the better known actors; Mark-Linn Baker, Karen Allen and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy in smaller roles. 2 Oscar nominations for the Screenplay (written by Allen and Marshall Brickman), and Mariel Hemingway for Supporting Actress. I hope as the relationship between Allen's and Hemingway's characters develops, all cries of "Soon-Yi" are held to a dull roar.

What it wasn't nominated for, which still stuns me, is the late Gordon Willis's stunning black and white Cinematography. Hard to say who should have been dropped from the category, considering the excellent work done in Apocalypse Now (the winner), All That Jazz, 1941 and The Black Hole. Wait, I know, drop Néstor Almendros for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer. But wait, he worked on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. DAMNIT!!! Anyway, a must see on the big screen.

Click on the UPCA link below to click on buying tix ahead of time. It's cheaper than at the door. Those in tuxes and evening gowns get a free bag of popcorn:



THE GODFATHER- Wed June 25 at 7- AMC Empire- Both this and Godfather 2 are being screened this month at AMC Empire as part of AMC's Classic film series. I believe they're both the DCP restorations.. Much like the restoration for Apocalypse Now Redux, these Francis Ford Coppola films received a major cleanup and improvement of sight and sound. If these restored discs, overseen by Coppola, cinematographer Gordon Willis and Robert A Harris, are as good as the restored DVDs of both versions of Apocalypse Now, then the home viewer should be in for a treat.

Now that I've said all that, do I really need to pitch this? Brando comeback, blah blah blah, rise of Pacino, blah blah blah, great cast that I'm not in the mood to breakdown, blah blah blah, on all great films lists worth a damn and most that are not, blah blah blah . . .

10 Oscar nominations, 11 if you include the one for Nino Rota's score that was later ruled ineligible because he supposedly reused his score from the film Fortunella. Among the nominations it lost was Supporting Actor for Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall, Coppola for Director, Editing and Sound. It lost all those noms to Cabaret. If this shocks you, it's because you're not into musicals or you have no idea how good and how influential Cabaret director Bob Fosse was/is. What shocked the hell out of me was that The Godfather WASN'T nominated for Cinematography. No Art Direction nod, I could understand that; look it up and you'll know what I mean. But you mean to tell me 1776, Butterflies Are Free, Cabaret (the eventual winner), The Poseidon Adventure and Travels With My Aunt ALL deserved votes more than Godfather? I'm not saying it should have won. I had no problem if they thought Cabaret, the eventual winner, was better. But that's because I have a soft spot for the work of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Murder on the Orient Express, Becket, Superman: The Movie, among other credits). But Gordon Willis not even being nominated for his work is Bullshit.

But it did win 3 key Oscars: Picture, Screenplay Adaptation for Coppola and Mario Puzo and Brando for Actor. No need to mention the Oscar controversy in this list about Brando that night. No need to mention its high place on both AFI lists. No need to mention its place in my personal top 35 (pretty high, yet not as high as Godfather 2). Just need to say; unless you're over the age of 46, you saw its brief re-release in 1997 or saw a crappy print when it's played at Midnight at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, you're just like me. You've only seen this on tv. And you've never seen it look as great or as intended. Now is a great time to correct this.



Now we go to the films playing at the Museum of the Moving Image. For all these screenings, you can see episodes from the Captain America serial from 1943. Far from what we're accustomed to with the Marvel films, though I'm sure there's plenty of kitsch value, and they're only about 15 minutes long. All can be seen in the Tut's Fever Palace on the second floor of the museum, with screening times at 1, 2 and 3:30. One admission will let you check out the Museum, see the serial, and any of the films below:
 

VIDEODRONE and/or THE TERMINATOR- Sat June 21 at 4 (Videodrone) and 7 (Terminator)- A potential double feature of two films from the Museum's Sci-Fi retrospective. First, Videodrone, from 1983. One of the few studio films from director David Cronenberg. James Woods stars as a sleazy cable tv programmer, who gets hooked to Videodrome, an S and M, snuff-ish film show, that tends to distort things, physically and mentally, for the viewer. If you don't know this, I won't spoil it much more, except this is NOT for the physically or emotionally squeamish. Cronenberg's statement on overdosing on the varying visual media, and trashy TV (sounds timely, doesn't it?). Featuring a quite sensuous Debbie Harry.

Next, The Terminator. Not Cameron's first full-length film, that would be the awful Piranha 2: The Spawning. Hey, it was a Roger Corman production, Cameron was lucky to get to direct at all. But I'm sure The Terminator is the earliest work he would like us to remember. And working under Corman probably taught Cameron how far one can stretch a dollar. Cameron never work with a budget this small for any other non-documentary picture I'm sure, but this doesn't look like it. It's been a few years since I've seen this, but it's the storytelling I remember far better.

From 1984, you probably know the story. Killer robot from the future tries to kill a woman from the past who is important to said future, and her only hope is a human time traveler sent to stop the relentless killer. Successful in relation to its budget, but didn't get a ton of respect in theaters, or play for a long while either. Not exactly blow-out business overseas either. It took home video to put The Terminator on the road to becoming a sci-fi classic, though I'm not sure how often we would talk about it if Terminator 2 hadn't been so phenomenal. And, it provided Schwarzenegger with his classic role, and it at least kept him out of making Conan the Barbarian 3.

Here's what Neil Degrasse Tyson said about The Terminator, one of his favorite sci-fi films (alongside 2001, the original Planet of the Apes and Watchmen): "Deftly woven action, violence, sentient machines, a heroine and time travel. All stitched together in a tight and scarily plausible storyline. And, when you think about it, a perfect acting vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a mostly mute terminator, whom many would rather look at than listen to."




ROBOCOP- Fri June 27 at 7- The original Robocop, screened as part of the Museum's Sci-Fi film retrospective. The sleeper hit from the summer of 1987. One part kick in the teeth action film, one part kick in the teeth social commentary. Peter Weller is the poor schnook patrolman who gets killed in the line of duty lead by sadistic Kurtwood Smith, only to be rebuilt almost against his will by a multinational corporation as the title character, carrying out their contract to protect Old Detroit. The company thinks they erased or overrode his old identity and memories, but such human elements are hard to get rid of . . . Mix of sharp satire, tragedy, and good action scenes from director Paul Verhoven. Accept no substitutes, stick with the original:



THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) and/or SILENT RUNNING- Sat June 28- 2 (Earth) and 7 (Silent)- Two more films from the Museum's Sci-Fi retrospective. Could be done separately or together, majority rules on this as far as my attending. At 2, we have the original The Day The Earth Stood Still, in a digital restoration. I didn't dislike the remake on cable, but can understand why one would be pissed if they spent full price at a theater, or over 20 dollars for an IMAX screening. A couple hundred million in visual effects doesn't improve a mediocre script. Especially when it runs almost one hour fifty minutes, and feels like it goes two hours and counting. No worries with the efficient Robert Wise classic original. The state of science fiction on whatever size screen has changed tremendously. Whether you lean to the hope for humanity side, like in 2001 or the Battlestar Galactica reboot, or stay with the pessimism of most of Wall-E or Terminator 2 ("It is in your nature to destroy yourselves".) This film straddles both sides; that goes it beyond the Red Scare going on in that film's era, seems incredible, a little unfortunate and great film making all at once. Go Gort go.

Followed by the rarely screened Silent Running, from 1972. Set in a far off future, where Earth has been ravaged and agriculture can only be maintained on freighter ships, like the ones orbiting Saturn when the film begins. Bruce Dern is a botanist who doesn't get along with the other members of the crew, one of whom is played by Ron Rifikin (Alias). Dern's character would much rather spend time with the trees, crops, and the three robots named Huey, Dewey, and Louie who help maintain the ecosystem. It's clear that while Dern's heart is in the right place, he doesn't have all his oars in the water. When the crew receives orders to destroy the vegetation (the unnamed Earth government has deemed the ship's ability to transport cargo to be more important), Dern decides to take matters into his own hands . . .

Flawed but decent film, directed by special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull in his directorial debut. A little obvious since, like Dern's character, Trumbull seems more at ease with technical aspects and kinda lets Dern do his thing. Luckily Dern is charismatic enough to hold our attention, acting either by himself or opposite the little robots, played by double amputees. Not a big budget for this, but effective art direction (mixing futuristic nature areas with scenes in a decommissioned aircraft carrier) and decent visual effects (with Saturn scenes that were initially developed by Trumbull for his earlier film, 2001) go a long way on this brief, 89 minute film.

Don't have any idea how big this film was. It appears to have done just ok at the box office. Critics seemed to have thought well of the effects and the overall eco-friendly story, but with heavy criticism toward pacing and some complaints about Dern's possible "overacting". Critics now appear to be more generous toward Silent Running. So what you get here is a flawed, environmentally friendly, film. The kind of film Hollywood studios would stop making less than a decade latter. A film with a heavy influence in science fiction; you can see heavy influencing here with Wall-E, Moon, and both versions of Battlestar Galactica:
      



E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL and/or CLOSE ENCOUNTERS- Sun June 29 at 1:30 (E.T.) and 4 (Close)- More from the Museum's Sci-Fi retrospective. Only this time we have a specific pairing. A potential double feature of Steven Spielberg films, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Actually one can do a potential triple feature of Spielberg films, with A.I. at 7pm. I like A.I., I still consider it the best film of 2001, but not enough to devote over 9 hours of my day and night for this. If you wish to do that, enjoy, and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that. 

First, E.T., the classic Spielberg film, on both AFI Top 100 lists and my own Top 35, though we don't know yet what format this will be screened. But it appears we're getting the original 1982 cut, as opposed to the 2002 release with extra scenes and federal agents with walkie talkies as opposed to shotguns. The film itself you probably know, so I'll move on to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A new 35mm print of The "Definitive Director's Cut" will be screened; basically a combination of the original 1977 release and the 1980 Special Edition. But without the ending where we see the inside of the spaceship. i think Steven wants all of us, especially those over the age of 37, to consider it like a bad dream.
 
As opposed to War of the Worlds, here is a Spielberg film with nice aliens. Also one of his best, as well as one of the best ever made. Was a hit in 77, but would have been more popular if that pesky Star Wars wasn't playing around the same time. For those who've never seen it on the big screen, go. It's a different beast all together on the big screen. Especially the abduction sequence and the last 40 minutes. 8 Oscar nominations, 2 Oscars including one for Cinematography. An AFI Top 100 film and in my personal top 100 as well:






Now we'll finish up with movies at the Film Forum from the Alec Guinness Centennial retrospective. I'll try to be as brief as possible: 


DOCTOR ZHIVAGO- Thurs June 19 at 7:15- Not the best David Lean/ Alec Guinness film on this list, but that just tells you how damn good Dr. Zhivago is. A DCP restoration of the classic film. While the Forum's screen size won't compare to say, the Ziegfeld or the Walter Reade, it'll still look and sound great. Somewhat mixed reviews back in the day, a classic for decades despite them. On both AFI Top 100 lists and on my own personal top 100 list as well:



THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT- Sat June 21 at 4:10 (Mob), 6 (Suit), and 7:50 (Mob)- Next is a double feature of two of the better Ealing studio comedies starring Guinness that are not named Kind Hearts and Coronets. Both being screened in new DCP restorations.

First, The Lavender Hill Mob, from 1951. Guinness plays a seemingly mild-mannered bank clerk with a secret ambition to steal all the gold bullion under his watch. He supposedly has the perfect plan in terms of how to steal the bullion, but no way to get it out of the country. That is, until he meets a stranger in his boarding house, played by Stanley Holloway of My Fair Lady fame. So now that it appears to be easy to get the bullion out of the country, is it any easier to spend the loot? An Oscar nomination for Guinness for Best Actor, an Oscar for the Screenplay. And keep an eye out for early screen appearances by Audrey Hepburn and Robert Shaw. 

Next, The Man in the White Suit, also a very good Guinness/Ealing Studios comedies. Also from 1951 (released in the U.S. in 1952), Guinness plays a Cambridge graduate, whose obsession to build an everlasting fabric gets him drummed out of textile jobs up and down Northern England, reducing him to washing dishes. But he never gives up his dreams and he soon succeeds in his creation: a white suit that doesn't crease, won't stink, keeps dirt from clinging on, and never needs to be washed dry-cleaned or even vacuumed. Guinness' character is celebrated, for a while. But business owners get nervous over the idea of the companies going bankrupt once demand is (permanently) satisfied. Meantime, labor unions and their brethren get very nervous about their fabric making/repairing/cleaning jobs disappearing if the fabric becomes a big seller. So like the Peter Lorre film M, where the Law and the Mob go through different methods to get rid of a common threat, Business and Labor do the same thing here. Therefore, if you don't see the political satire going on here, then you must be laughing too hard. Or enjoying Guinness' naive-yet-energetic performance. 

An Oscar nomination for its Screenplay, which somehow lost to The Bad and the Beautiful. SAY WHAT?!?!? I can understand losing to fellow nominee High Noon, but to the Kirk Douglas film that hasn't aged very well, EEK! Anyway, The Man in The White Suit might not on the same level of previous Guinness/Ealing films like say, Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Lavender Hill Mob. But it's still pretty darn good:



DAMN THE DEFIANT! and THE PRISONER- Mon June 23 at 5:20 (Defiant), 7:30 (Prisoner) and 9:40 (Defiant)- A double feature, both 35mm prints, both films I've never seen, but I am curious about them. First, Damn The Defiant!, from 1962. Actually that's the American title for the film H.M.S. Defiant. Kind of a variation of Mutiny on the Bounty. Guinness plays a newly appointed Captain of the Defiant, during the French Revolutionary Wars. The gentlemanly Captain ends up in a war of wills with the First Officer (Dirk Bogarde) he inherits. A First Officer who found ways to disgrace and get rid of his two previous Captains. But with the Captain's son serving as a Midshipman, a crew led by Seaman Anthony Quayle on the verge of mutiny, and Napoleon's Naval fleet on the prowl, the conflict gets very complicated indeed. From director Lewis Gilbert (Educating Rita and three James Bond films, including The Spy Who Loved Me).

Next, The Prisoner, from 1955. Takes place in an unnamed country, could be Hungary, Poland, or Croatia. Guinness plays the title role, a Cardinal who was a hero in the Resistance against the Nazis. But that was a decade ago, and we have another battle of wills, between the Cardinal and his childhood friend (Jack Hawkins), a Communist attempting to break his old friend via interrogation:


  
THE SCAPEGOAT and THE SWAN- Tues June 24 at 7:40 (Scapegoat) and 9:55 (Swan)- A double feature of Alec Guinness films that would qualify under My Year of Flops. First, The Scapegoat from 1959. From a novel by Daphne du Maurier (Rebecca), and co-adapted by Gore Vidal. Guinness plays a lonely French professor who, while on vacation, meets a lookalike rich man also played by Guinness. After a night of drinking, the professor has no ID, and is thought of for most of the movie as the rich man. The professor has inherited a business, a wife (Irene Worth), a sister, a mistress, and a battleaxe of a mother (Bette Davis).

Next, The Swan, from 1956. One of Grace Kelly's last films, and the last one to be released as MGM held its release to be timed with her wedding to Prince Rainier. In this comedy, set in 1910, this Princess Grace is pressured into a marriage with Prince Guinness so that the family can regain the throne the family lost when Napoleon ripped it from them. But Alec would rather go hunting and play football than engage with Grace, So she attempts to make the Prince jealous by pretending to be enamored with her tutor. But her tutor (Louis Jordan) does have feelings for her . . . Talented character actors in the cast. Jessie Royce Landis (Grace's onscreen mom in To Catch A Thief) and Estelle Winwood (The Producers, Murder By Death) are some of Grace's relatives, Leo G. Carroll (North By Northwest, Topper) plays Grace's butler, and Agnes Moorehead as a battleaxe of a Queen:



FATHER BROWN and THE CAPTAIN'S PARADISE- Wed June 25 at 5:10 (Father), 7:20 (Paradise) and 9:30 (Father)- A comedic double feature. First, Father Brown from 1954. If you don't know the books, you may know the various BBC TV versions that have played on PBS's Mystery series. This film is about as light, as Guinness's Father must transport a historically important cross to Rome, while protecting it from a jewel thief (Peter Finch, Network) and from an interfering police inspector (Bernard Lee, M from the 60s and 70s Bond films). Next, The Captain's Paradise, from 1953. In this comedy, Guinness plays a ferry Captain. He leads a double life; a happy simple one with his stay-at-home wife who is close to her age, and a swinging party life with his much younger girlfriend, Yvonne De Carlo. It seems like a Paradise for the Captain. But the Paradise leads to misunderstanding, which leads to bigamy, which leads to both wives wanting the opposite lifestyle they're living, leading to many difficulties for the Captain. Never saw the first film, barely remember parts of the second film, but I am curious:

   

THE LADYKILLERS (1955)- Fri June 27 and Sat June 28 at 5:10, 7:20 and 9:30- Another DCP restoration of an Ealing comedy. This time, Guinness re-teams with his director from Man in the White Suit, Alexander Mackendrick, who would come to the States to direct Sweet Smell of Success after this. In this black comedy from 1955 (released in the U.S. in 1956), we have an eccentric old lady, known by officers in the nearby police precinct to be likable but known to tell tales of crimes that are greatly exaggerated. Now who should approach this woman whom the Police consider as a variation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf? Some bucktoothed "Professor" (Guinness) who wants to rent rooms in her home, for himself and his "string quartet". Really these men are together to pull off a heist, and they think this little old lady can't do anything about it. And they're probably right that she isn't competent enough to outwit them. Hell she may not even be mentally competent, and yet . . . . The last of the great Ealing comedies, with early performances from Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom as members of the "string quartet". Oscar nominated for its Screenplay:

  

STAR WARS- Sun June 29 at 1- My favorite film of all time. There are a number of them that are better I will admit, but this one is mine. It's completely biased but I don't care. This is the film I put at number One in my Top 100, and it will take much to knock it down. I've waited a long time for this to play in a theater again, and I suspect so have you. It's been seventeen years since this played in New York theaters, and now it returns. To the Film Forum. For one day only. For one screening only. And it's the 1997 Special Edition, as in the Greedo-Shot-First edition. And it's a studio archive print. I wouldn't be surprised if the people who run the Forum had to be willing to give up at least one child/grandchild if anything happened to this print. Damn, not even a DCP Mr. Lucas? Despite these, um, massive inconveniences, I'm still hoping I can do this:



LAWRENCE OF ARABIA- Mon June 30 at 7:15-  I've seen this before on the Ziegfeld's screen, and the Forum obviously can't compare, screen-wise. But this is one of top 5 all time favorite films. That is TOP 5 all time. Whenever one of my top 5 is available to see, I must post it, no matter if I own it, or how many times I've seen it on screen. The best film on the list; maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, but noticeably better. The intimate moments are treated with as much care and respect as the epic scenes, the script deserves just as much respect as the visuals, and has there been a better leading debut for a star than Peter O'Toole in the title role? Ok, Chaplin and Brando, but I can't think of any better lead debuts in color films.

On both AFI Top 100 lists. 10 Nominations, including Actor for O'Toole, the Screenplay, and Supporting Actor for Omar Sharif (don't get me started on his entrance!). 7 Oscars, including Picture, Score (maybe the best film score ever; not sure, but if you have better choices, let me know), and Director for Lean. If you haven't seen it, the big screen is THE way, there isn't a TV screen big enough to pull this entirely off.




Let me know if there's interest, later all