Thursday, November 13, 2014

November revivals: pre Thanksgiving edition











Hey all, Mike here with a bunch of revivals in November. Specifically revivals being screened prior to Thanksgiving weekend. I'll split the list into two sections. First, here are the films not being screened at Lincoln Center:


VERTIGO (1958)- Mon Nov 17 at 6:45 and 9:20- Film Forum- 209 West Houston St.- The return of Vertigo at the Forum. Now thru November 18th, though I can only attempt the 17th. A 4k digital restoration. Possibly the same glorious DCP restoration that premiered at the Forum a few years back. If you're the kind of person who looks at sites like this, than you're familiar with the Hitchcock classic. 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. Now you have a week to see this, I'm only posting the possible days and times I could do it in theory: 



THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) for a 10 dollar food/drink/bookstore purchase- Fri Nov 21 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- 150 West 17th St.- If you haven't gotten enough this year of Alejandro Jodorowsky, what with his The Dance of Reality, the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune and Midnight screenings at IFC Center of El Topo, let's bring up a cheapish screening of The Holy Mountain. Jodorowsky's other Midnight movie will be screened at the Rubin as part of Cabaret Cinema. You use to have to pay 7 dollars for a drink at the bar to get your ticket. Now it's 10, but you can also purchase something at the bookstore or buy food and get a ticket as well as purchase something from the bar. Best to get there at or before 6:45 for your ticket, and decide to eat dinner and/or check out the glorious Rubin before 9:30.

Now as for the film itself, where a Jesus looking thief infiltrates the domain of an Alchemist, played by Jodorowsky. Once inside, the thief joins the Alchemist's crusade for . . . . something. Soon captains of industry, the masters and mistresses of their respective fields (politics, manufacturing, fashion, the arts, orgasm inducing- don't ask) soon join the Alchemist on his crusade. It's quite weird before all I just described, and it keeps getting weirder. Will it make a lot of linear sense? Eh. Is it boring? Hell no. Very much a Midnight movie screened at a reasonable time. Maybe you can interpret as something drug hazy, and one can certainly interpret attacks against organized religion and politics,  but I can't say one is pushed to feel a single overarching thing. Much like I wrote before that there's no film quite like El Topo, there's no film quite like The Holy Mountain, in a good way:   



PURPLE RAIN (1984)- Sat Nov 22 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 east Houston bet 1st and 2nd Ave- A cheapish screening of the hit film from the summer of 1984. For the rest, I'll repost what I wrote the last time I listed it:

"Pauline Kael once said in the late 60's that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That's what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That's what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today's contemporary recording artists."

I think that fits in the case of Once, where you had recording artists doing their songs. And it certainly applies to Prince with this film. Can't imagine a good actor from that period pulling off these kind of songs, no matter who wrote them. Not the greatest film ever made, and not what you call great acting by Prince. But with performances of songs like "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track, the sleeper hit of the summer of 1984 literally rocks whenever the music comes up. Watch how Prince went from successful rock act to icon status. Granted, he would later throw it away with crap like "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge", change his name to a symbol with no real meaning, and basically become strange to the point of uninteresting. But watching and listening to him here, anything seemed possible back then. Prince did win an Oscar for music, in a category that no longer exists.


 

For the rest of this list I'll post some options from Lincoln Center's Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective. There was one this summer that covered the first half of his career, and this one covers the rest. Films from 1975 on, where Rainer wasn't any less ambitious, but usually had a larger budget, more emotional maturity (relatively speaking), and a surer hand with the camera, the written word, and in the editing room. Not all films from the retrospective will be posted here. The only I'm not posting is his most successful and most accessible, The Marriage of Maria Braun. I really wish I had the time. One can pay for three films for the price of one and a half, but you have to be ready to commit to all three when purchasing at the box office. All films will screen at the Walter Reade site on 165 West 65th Street:


DESPAIR (1978/79)- Fri Nov 14 at 1:30-  A DCP restoration of one of Fassbinder's favorites. An English language adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel from Tom Stoppard. From 1978, released in the U.S. in 1979. Dirk Bogarde is Russian Jewish immigrant Hermann Hermann, who is a successful chocolate manager. But things don't look good as his dumb wife is cheating on him, and he's facing bankruptcy as the Nazis rise to power. His own way out, in his mind, is to fake his own death by killing his doppelganger. Not a good time to begin losing your sanity, and if you don't know the rest, I'm not spoiling it for you. 

With Cinematography from Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, Last Temptation of Christ). Nominated for the Golden palm at Cannes. The biggest film Fassbinder ever made up to that point, and the favorite of his career. The film's financial failure supposedly crushed him for a while: 



LOLA (1981/82)- Fri Nov 14 at 6:30 and Mon Nov 17 at 9- Walter Reade- From 1981, released after Fassbinder's death in the U.S. in 1982. A dark satire, a variation of The Blue Angel. Set in 1957 during West Germany's economic boom, Armin Mueller-Stahl plays a building commissioner determined to clean up the town of Coburg. He's willing to take on all comers, despite the town's lack of desire for cleaning up corruption; it made us rich, so why bother changing things? Yet the commissioner is blind about the woman he falls in love with, a prostitute/ lounge singer named Lola (Barbara Sukowa). A woman who knows what she is, will not let the denigration of her job keep her from fighting for herself and her child. Another dark film from Rainer, yet with enough humor to keep things moving and keep the kick in the teeth ever so gentle. With good looking, warm (deceptively) Cinematography from Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, Last Temptation of Christ):



VERONIKA VOSS (1982)- Tues Nov 18 at 6:15- Walter Reade- One of Fassbinder's best as far as I'm concerned; his even darker variation of Sunset Blvd. But only a variation because Fassbinder also based this in part on the life of a German actress who enjoyed her greatest success while the Nazis where in power, but who had trouble finding work afterwards. A younger writer is enthralled with the older actress, but he can't save her from her demons, both from outside and within, as well as her chemical addictions. The film gained pathos here in the States with the similarities of addictions between the director and the title character, since it was released here mere months after Fassbinder's fatal overdose.  Certainly Rainer was a far higher functioning addict than his title character; his command of storytelling and depiction of time and space (and addiction) may never had been better. Throw in terrific Black and White Cinematography from Xaver SChwarzenberger (Lola, Lili Marleen) and a well cast lead in Rosel Zech, and you have a sad yet well crafted tale: 



LILI MARLEEN (1981)- Tues Nov 18 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Another big budget film from Fassbinder. Controversial in his native West Germany for depicting the time period in a kitschy, irresponsible manner. How dare he throw in Busby Burkley elements! Fassbinder was more interested in telling a love story, and would not let historical accuracy get in his way. More than a little reminiscent of Verhoven's Black Book. It was originally shot in English for American distribution, then dubbed in German. I don't know if there will be any subtitle reading or not for this. But anyway, I'm going to be a little lazy, and just cut and paste from MOMA's website from back in 2007:

Screenplay by Fassbinder, based on unproduced screenplays by Joshua Sinclair, Manfred Purzer; adapted from the autobiography of Lale Andersen. With Hanna Schygulla, Mel Ferrer, Christine Kaufmann. In Fassbinder’s only film set during the Third Reich, Schygulla, a fine singer, plays an emotional chanteuse who falls in love with her Jewish accompanist and becomes a recording star by performing “Lili Marleen,” the song that Goebbels derided and Hitler loved.

"A movie with a fantastic plot and very rich and energetic mise-en-scene. The feelings Fassbinder expresses in Lili Marleen are sweeter and more compassionate than any he has expressed before"
Andrew Sarris

http://www.filmlinc.com/films/on-sale/lili-marleen


THE THIRD GENERATION (1979)- Mon Nov 24 at 8:30- Walter Reade- A Fassbinder I haven't seen and I'm curious about. If you know the Oscar nominated German film The Baader Mienhof Complex, then you have an idea of where this film is going. But no romancing of these homegrown here in this 1979 Western German film as opposed to the 2008 film I just mentioned. The people depicted here didn't even found a group like the Red Army Faction. These are youngish men and women from well to due families, who would qualify for Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year Award skit. These idiots may extol Marxist ideals, they may verbally attack consumerism and their Nazi collaborating parents/grandparents, but their kidnappings and terrorist attacks are more about looking cool and killing time then anything else. But they do have guns, a desire to commit terror attacks in country, and this makes them vulnerable to manipulation. Specifically, manipulation by security companies seeking more money and contracts to fund efforts to strike down said terrorist groups.

The film was hit with American critics, possibly only The Marriage of Maria Braun and Verionkia Voss had better reviews upon their American releases, though I'd have to go onto a site like Rotten Tomatoes to see if that has changed over the decades. But this kind of praise in Germany didn't come at all until Reunification, and even it took years and it seems it was muted. In Western Germany, this film was torn to shreds by critics and people sympathetic to groups like the Red Army Faction were beyond pissed. Fassbinder was considered a class traitor, and allegedly more than once was a projectionist screening this film was beaten.

The following analogy is not a great one, but the best one I can give, to allow you to imagine what a similar film here in the States would be like. Imagine one year after Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino made a film about a group of well-to-do Americans under 35 who are pro-choice, who bomb abortion clinics and post their deeds on social media because it's cool. Then imagine said group being manipulated to go after larger targets, like airports and sporting events. Then imagine said group spouting their beliefs but more interested in getting high and having sex. Then imagine said group being manipulated into such actions by security groups and a media conglomerate who see opportunities for contracts and profits by this group actions, and imagine a kind of federal cooperation so that the status quo can be maintained. Now imagine Tarantino hiring the kind of recognizable and bankable actors needed to draw an audience. No, I'm not talking about something like Syriana, I'm talking about a film people would actually be curious to see going in, and would leave pissed off.

Not the perfect analogy to The Third Generation, but it gives you the kind of firecracker Fassbinder set off in his country, that American critics and art house audiences fully supported. Decide for yourself. Not only am I including the link to the film on Lincoln Center's film site, but also Vincent Camby's rave review on the Times:





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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October revivals part 2











Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the rest of October. Small list, but let me not waste time, here we go:



RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) and THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976)- Thurs Oct 23 at 6:30- Howard Gillman Theater at Lincoln Center- One admission for both films. A double feature of a couple of the biggest comedy hits of the 1970s. Also among the most successful comedy sequels ever made (adjusted for inflation). Return of The Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, screened in time for the 40th anniversary of the start of the Panther series. The key for me wanting to see this double feature is Return, which is NEVER shown in revival houses around here. United Artists refused to fund the film, after A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau (without Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers) flopped in the Sixties. Lew Grade's ITC funded the film (UA refused to partner, merely to distribute), and enjoyed the bulk of the profits. After Grade died and his estate was (still is?) in disarray, many works from ITC languished in rights/distribution limbo, including Return of. Only available in a slapdash, pan-and-scan DVD (and not on Blu-ray), you would have to wait for the occasional TCM screening to see this film the way it was shown in 75-76. Until now, for one night only.

2 films that revived the careers of star Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards, that some fans of the series prefer over the first two from the 1960s. Or at least prefer certain sequences over whole films in the series. First, Return, from 1975. Once again, the famous Pink Panther jewel has been stolen from the museum of Lugash, and once again Inspector Clouseau has been assigned, over his increasingly manic boss Dreyfus' objections, to find the jewel. The inspector has the notorious Phantom, Sir Charles Lytton, as his prime suspect. But Sir Litton didn't do it, not wanting to lose his luxurious retirement life or time with his beautiful wife (Catherine Schell). So as Clouseau travels around Europe trying to pin this on Lytton (nearly destroying his mansion in the process), Lytton's wife tries to stymie Clouseau at every turn, while her husband travels to find the real thief. As all this goes on, the Lugash secret police has its own issues, and Dreyfus stews with that blinking eye of his . . .

Lots of plot(s) as you can see, something that hurts the pacing as we are forced to slow down from hysterical moments to merely ok moments. Christopher Plummer is an interesting replacement for David Niven. Not really given much that is humorous, but arguably more virile and physical than Niven. Fans of Plummer's work over the past 10 or so years or strictly from Sound of Music might be surprised by his physicality. And Schell, as his wife is probably a secret ingredient to the success of this film. Beautiful, with chemistry with her husband similar to Nick and Nora Charles, and more than a match for anyone she goes up against. 

Many elements that are considered important elements to those Panther films were established in the first two Panther films, but stood out more in a film that was more successful than either The Pink Panther or A Shot in the Dark. Henry Mancini's music. Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's overly aggressive man-servant Cato. Herbert Lom as Dreyfus, the Chief Inspector slowly driven mad the incompetent and oblivious Clouseau. Edwards's favorite character actor Graham Stark stealing his scenes from Plummer. DePatie-Freleng's animated credits, featuring the cartoon Pink Panther and Inspector characters; Return features the best animated credits of  the entire series.

And then we have Peter Sellers, returning to A ist status as Clouseau. Not a role he wanted to return to, but whose success kept him as an A-lister until his death five years later. Return has what I feel is Seller's best scenes in the entire series. His argument with "the Be-lind Bee- gaarrr" with his "min-key" while a bank robbery takes place, his losing battles with a doorbell, a vacuum cleaner, a telephone, and a parrot. His examining the crime scene. Plus the best confrontations with Cato and Dreyfus in the entire series. Throw in cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth's work and the great location work in France, Morocco and Switzerland, and you have a gem of a film rarely seen in the way it was intended. Time to change that.

Followed by The Pink Panther Strikes Again, from 1976. Dreyfus is driven insane one time too many by Clouseau. To the point that Dreyfus is driven permanently insane. To the point that the former Chief Inspector becomes a criminal mastermind, forming his own gang, and threatening world domination. Dreyfus won't commit that last act if all the nations of the world don't conspire to kill Clouseau. A harder job than it looks for all involved. A broader film than most in the Panther series, but a tighter film than Return. This film has a few excellent scenes: When Clouseau accidentally undoes a year of Dreyfus's therapy in mere minutes, another Cato/ Clouseau fight plus Clouseau's time in his Hunchback disguise, Clouseau's interrogation of a manor's staff in England, all the world's best assassins trying to kill Clouseau at an Oktoberfest. Plus there's the scenes most famous line, where Clouseau asks "Does your dog bite?". Overall, a fun night for all:
       
http://www.filmlinc.com/films/on-sale/pink-panther-50th-anniversary


VERTIGO (1958)- Sat Oct 25, Mon Oct 27, Tues Oct 28 and Thurs Oct 30 at 7 and 9:45, plus Sat Oct 25 at 3:30- Film Forum- A 4k digital restoration. Possibly the same glorious DCP restoration that premiered at the Forum a few years back. If you're the kind of person who looks at sites like this, than you're familiar with the Hitchcock classic. 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. Now you have a week to see this, I'm only posting the possible days and times I could do it in theory:

http://filmforum.org/film/vertigo-film-page


Next we have two films playing at the same time at IFC Center. Majority rules as to which one is done:


LIQUID SKY (1982)- Tues Oct 28 at 8 with post film discussion by Slava Mogutin- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Queer Art Film series, singling out films that involved and or influenced an artist in New York's Gay/Lesbian community. A New York cult film from 1983, that played for several years as a Midnight movie, at the old theater on the same site as the IFC Center, the Waverly. Aliens land on Earth, seeking the substance they find vital, heroin. Landing on what they think is normal Earth, downtown New York during the punk scene, they become fascinated with a female model and her casual sex ways. They also become interested in an androgynous male model. Both models played by actress Anne Carlisle. And if you don't know the film, I'm not going any further.

The film had champions in a way, in the form of Siskel and Ebert. But after the 1980's, the film has dropped out of sight. Some put it on their list of bad films. Others put it in their list of fascinating cult films. A time capsule of the look and feel of the downtown scene of early 80's New York, in a sci-fi filter. As for who is doing the post film discussion, I'll cut and paste from IFC center's description of this:

 . . . The film’s vision of New York City as the coolest, strangest, most exciting place on Earth was particularly appealing to a generation of artists, freaks and queers, including our guest presenter, Russian-American artist and writer Slava Mogutin who moved here after being exiled for his subversive and pro-gay writings and activism in 1995:

http://www.ifccenter.com/films/liquid-sky/


MOON OVER BROADWAY (1998) with post-film Q and A with Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker- Tues Oct 28 at 8- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's D.A. Pennebaker/ Chris Hegedus retrospective. A rare screening of 1998's Moon Over Broadway, the documentary that covered the very difficult task of getting Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo rwady and open for Broadway. From the press conference, to the clashes involving playwright Ludwig, the producers, director Tom Moore, and leads Carol Burnett (TV star attempting a Broadway comeback thirty years after her last show flopped under murky circumstances) and Philip Bosco (who might have wished he was never born by the time we get to opening night). Disagreements, backstabbing, bad reviews during tryouts, the kind of thing that made Nathan Lane (when he was praising the film) probably think There But For The Grace of God Go I. Due to rights issues (possibly by people who didn't like the way they were portrayed?), this film is NOT on DVD (therefore not on Netflix), and is rarely screened on cable. So this might be the only chance you get to see this documentary. Directors Pennebaker and Hegedus will talk about the film and the show afterwards:

http://www.ifccenter.com/films/moon-over-broadway/


PSYCHO (1960) for 6 dollars- Wed Oct 29 at 2 and 7- AMC Empire- 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:

https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/classic-series-psycho-1960



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

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

October revival: part 1













Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the bulk of October. I intended to post earlier and include one or two additional films, but I just ran out of time. I'm not doing an even split with the calendar. That's because I may not post another October list, or if I do, I suspect it will be a small list. But that's in the future, here we go with the present list: 



MASH for 6 dollars- Wed Oct 8 at 7- AMC Empire- A cheap screening of one of my favorites, MASH, gets a cheap screening at AMC Empire. One of the best comedies ever made, one of the best satires ever made, one of the best anti-war films ever made. More of a mosaic as opposed to a linear story, put together by Robert Altman in what would soon be noticed as a signature style. Overlapping or overlaying dialogue, long shots, music and sound effects drifting in and out and to either obscure or enhance said overlapping dialogue. All in the service of the story of an American hospital unit during the Korean War and the crazy eccentric Army doctors (Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Tom Skerritt) doing their best to keep their patients alive, to buck the efforts of ramrod regular Army types (Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman among them), and keep themselves and their friends and colleagues sane. Not a testament to screenwriting, since almost all the dialogue was improvised. More a triumph of editing and of a director who managed to piece together his vision in the editing room. Also a triumph in the casting department, considering how many working character actor types had careers thanks to MASH (use IMDB on your own for this).

Oscar nominations for Picture, Altman for Director, Kellerman for Supporting Actress, and for Editing. An Oscar for Screenplay Adaptation. An award screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr. took has sweet revenge for how little of his dialogue was used. Altman was fine with it, crediting Laudner Jr. for providing the template from where all the ideas would eventually spring forth from. In both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal Top 40 all time as well:  




YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN- Thurs Oct 9 at 7:30- Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington- One of the great comedies gets a relatively rare revival screening out in Huntington. Of the two Mel Brooks comedies from 1974, I prefer Blazing Saddles, but boy is it close. I've seen this enough times where I just smile but laugh out loud? Not so much. But then Marty Feldman comes onscreen as Igor (pronounced Eye-Gore), we have Gene Hackman as the blind man who puts the monster thru Hell, we have Putting On The Ritz, that's pronounced Frank-en-stein, and all is right with the world. Never mind Put The Candle BACK!!! 2 Oscar nominations, for Sound and for Gene Wilder's and Brooks' Screenplay. Can you believe the script lost to Godfather Part 2. You can? Well never mind then, just come out and enjoy:



LOST HORIZON (1937)- Fri Oct 10 at 4, 7 and 9:45- Film Forum- A 4k restoration which kicks off the Forum's Frank Capra retrospective. A plane crashes in the Himalayan Mountains, carrying British diplomat Ronald Coleman (modeled after T.E. Lawrence) and several Westerners (including character actor supremos Thomas Mitchell and Edward Everett Sloane) trying to get away from armed revolutionaries in 1935 China. Coleman and the few Western survivors are rescued by mysterious people taken to paradise. As in Paradise, as in Shangri-La, where the High Lama (Sam Jaffe) tells Coleman that not only was the plane crash NOT an accident, but that Coleman himself has been chosen to become the new High Lama. So how would you feel if you arrived at the fabled paradise and found out you could stay forever? How would you feel if you found out you got to run Paradise? What if you found out if Paradise wouldn't survive for long without you? What if you didn't believe in Paradise or pre-destination at all? Then again, why wouldn't you stay in such a beautiful place if the world you're trying to return to is going to Hell (mentions of The Great War and hints of a second World War are dropped throughout).

Capra's Golden Ticket project after the huge success of It Happened One Night. Columbia Pictures gave it the largest film budget ever (in the mid 1930s), and overruns ballooned the budget. The attempt to make this fantasy/drama look fantastical yet not something cheap on a soundstage had Capra shooting in various outdoor locales, including the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mojave Desert. Snow scenes, airplane scenes and even the Shangri-La sets were also outside studio confines, with Paradise depicted with an opulence rivaling a Busby Berkeley film.

Capra whittled down the 6 hours of film he shot (and occasionally re-shot) into a three and a half edit, which had a legendary preview. And when I say legendary, I mean disastrous. Walkouts, laughter in some of the serious parts, the kind of audience reaction that drove Capra and Columbia to anxiety and depression. Eventually, Capra cut away over 80 minutes of footage, and re-shot portions to emphasis how close to war the world around Shangri-La was. Eventually Capra turned in a 2 hour 12 minute cut, but the film tanked as a roadshow attraction. So yes, this qualifies as an entry in someone's My Year of Flops. 7 Oscar nominations and 4 Oscars including Best Picture didn't help, at least not initially. Neither did taking Lost Horizon out of theaters and cutting out 14 more minutes without Capra's approval or input (resulting in a lawsuit and out-of-court settlement).

Future re-releases and further studio edits, including a 95 minute version from 1949 done to show that Shangri-La did NOT equal Communism, is what finally helped Columbia see profit from this. But some of the footage cut has never been found. Some missing footage has been restored over the years, though some scenes were only reinstated by mixing stills with the original soundtrack. Combined with one recently rediscovered scene is what the Forum will screen. Not the 3 and a half hour original preview, but the original theatrical release; as close to what few audiences paid to see initially as we may ever get. Whether this is a film is something of an undiscovered classic or a film whose strengths far outnumber its weaknesses, is up to you to decide: 



ALIEN: DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979/2003) for 10 dollars- Fri Oct 10 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Yep, I'm posting Alien again, in part because there are still people who haven't experienced it on the big screen, and in part because I need no excuse to catch this on the big screen. This time it's back as a cheap-ish Midnight screening, at Landmark Sunshine Cinema. A screening of the director cuts release, as opposed to the original 1979 release. It means we get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to its enjoyment. Whatever cut we get, this film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound all of which as played well before, and should do so again. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun: 



ORIGINAL CAST ALBUM: COMPANY (1970) with LAMBERT AND CO (1964) with post film Q and A with D.A. Pennebaker- Tues Oct 14 at 8:30- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's retrospective of the work of documentarian  D.A. Pennebaker. The main selection, Original Cast Album: Company, was chosen mostly in honor of the late Elaine Strich. A documentary (originally intended as a pilot) covering the 18 and a half hour recording session of the Broadway show Company, with its original cast. You see performers such as Dean Jones and Donna McKechnie record. You see the men running the recording session: director Hal Prince, composer/ creator/ control freak Stephen Sondheim and album producer Thomas Z. Shepard. But what captured the viewers imagination (then and now), was Elaine Strich, as she struggled to provide an acceptable take of The Ladies Who Lunch. And struggled. And struggled. And STRUGGLED, clashing with Sondheim and Shepard along the way. This film was popular enough at the New York Film Festival for there to be a push to release theatrically, despite its one hour running time. Rights issues helped kill that idea, but you can see it now the way those New Yorkers from 1970 hoped you would see it.

Pennebaker himself will do a post film Q and A about this, mainly about Company. But not entirely, because Company will be preceded by a documentary short Pennebaker released in 1964, Lambert and Co. It is the only record of a 15 minute recording session Dave Lambert did of some new songs of his, in a RCA recording studio. The group performing the songs weren't accepted by RCA, who then erased the tapes of the session. After Lambert died a few months later, this sole record of the session became notable and on demand worldwide. The film itself is a footnote, but an important one. Bob Dylan's manager saw it and hired Pennebaker to document Dylan's 1965 London tour, resulting in the documentary Don't Look Back, changing the careers of both men:



ARSENIC AND OLD LACE(1944)- Wed Oct 15 at 8- Film Forum- From the Forum's Frank Capra retro. This is one of my favorite comedies. Not the best in this weekend series, but my favorite. Thanks to that late unlamented form of home video known as CED Disc from RCA, this was my introduction to both Cary Grant and Frank Capra. I almost wore that disc down, along with other films, but that's for another time.

Despite the play having been done to death in community theater, this Capra comedy is still gold to me. Grant plays a man who comes home to find his beloved aunts are serial killers, who thoughtfully kill lonely old men, and then bury them in the basement with the aid of the uncle who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. It's a good thing his serial killer brother returns home on the same night; looking like Boris Karloff and accompanied by his "doctor" who looks like Peter Lorre and is played by Lorre.

Grant thought it was his weakest, most over the top performance. History has been quite kind, disagreeing with Cary. Pitch perfect cast and production. If I had to see only one comedy in this weekend, this would be the one, and not just for sentimental reasons. It is available on DVD, but only in a no-frills version put out by Warner Bros over 10 years ago, give or take. So Netflix may not necessarily come through for you right away. Catch this:




PSYCHO (1960)- Fri Oct 17 and Sat Oct 18 at Midnight for 10 dollars- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 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:



EL TOPO- Fri Oct 17 and Sat Oct 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- The start of Midnight movie screenings are usually traced back to this Mexican film, El Topo, from 1970. Starts off as a somewhat slow moving Spaghetti Western, as a man seeking revenge against bad guys, and then it gets progressively weirder. If you don't know what goes in the film, I won't spoil it for you. The swinging in tone, from comedy to action to drama to metaphysical to romantic to tragic and back to any of the other types I've just described, might drive you nuts. And because it was shot in the late 60s, it has a very trippy quality to it as well. But the episodic style and part-time trippiness does help as does, for me, what writer/director/star/ costume designer/production designer/co-composer Alejandro Jodorowsky said about it: "This is the story of a man searching for peace, and can never find it.". At the very least, you'll walk away from the screening saying, I've NEVER seen a film like El Topo before, never. And I don't think that's a bad thing. Screened in a beautiful looking digital restoration:



FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH- Fri Oct 17 and Sat Oct 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's series of stoner comedies (partial or totally stoner) screened at Midnight. Here we get a sleeper hit from the summer of 1982. A film Universal had no confidence in, and seemed to try to just dump out there. Word of mouth, plus some key good reviews from Siskel and Ebert among others, turned the distribution scheme into a happy accident. Just as the film was dying out on the West Coast, it starts to play big in the East Coast. Sometimes, studio execs are so lucky . . . From Amy Heckerling, who would never direct a better film. So what is this film best remembered for? The realistic glimpse of high school life during a certain time from soon-to-be-very-well-known Cameron Crowe? The compilation of young acting talent, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stolz, Judge Reinhold, Nicolas Cage, and Anthony Edwards? The shots of Cates rising from the pool, and Leigh lying on the couch? Or for the casting of Sean Penn? His ascent in the acting world, begins with his perf as the iconic partying surfer dude. His scenes with Ray Walston as Mr. Hand still hold up today. I'm guessing all who read this have seen this film. I'm guessing maybe one at best, actually saw this film on the big screen. Time to correct this:





IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)- Sat Oct 18 at 7:10 and 9:20- Film Forum- Part of the Frank Capra retrospective. A 4K digital restoration of the Capra classic. Possibly Capra's best film, possibly the best romantic comedy Hollywood ever produced. I'm not exactly sure which Capra film I'd pick as my favorite; maybe Arsenic and Old Lace in terms of repeat-ability, but I'm not putting over Mr. Smith Goes To Washington or this in terms of best. And in terms of best romantic comedy, I lean to The Philadelphia Story but I can be persuaded to change my mind with a screening of It Happened One Night.

Spoiled heiress Claudette Colbert marries against her father's wishes. She escapes from Dad's clutches, only to eventually end alone and penniless. She doesn't like the man she meets on the road, cynical reporter Clark Gable. But she agrees to have this unemployed man accompany her to New York and write a story about her. Unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as the alternative: that he 'turns her in' for the $10,000 reward (a lot of money during the Depression) offered by her father for her safe return. These two opposites bicker along the way, but will they get along? What do you think, especially after Colbert shows how she successfully hitchhikes, in the film's most memorable scene.

Romantic comedies might not be respected or as popular as they once were, but it's about the writing, the execution, the casting. It Happened One Night has all that in spades, arguably Capra's best. The first film to win all the major Oscars: Picture, Capra for Director, Gable for Actor, Colbert for Actress and Robert Riskin (Capra's collaborator on films like Meet John Doe and You Can't Take It With You) for the Screenplay. Only One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Silence of the Lambs have matched it. On both AFI Top 100 lists. People, this is not one of those films you say no to. Especially with a pristine digital restoration :





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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sept revivals: second half











Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the second half of September. A small list, a list made smaller by the fact that I can't make the special TCM sponsored screenings of Gone With The Wind on Sunday September 28 and Wed October 1 at various locations. I've done the film once before, but the Wednesday screenings are impossible for me to make as is the Sunday night screenings, and the Sunday afternoon screening makes it too close for comfort for me to do other things that night. If you've never see it on the big screen and you have any available time, jump on this chance. But I'll have to let you do the research on your own, now here we go with this list:



ROME OPEN CITY (1946)- Tues Sept 23- Thurs Sept 25 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of Robert Rossellini's film. The film plays thru Thursday Sept 25th, but I'm committed to Tues Sept 23rd, specifically the 7:30 screening. Shot shortly after the Nazi occupation of France was over in a documentary style, we follow Resistance members. One in particular, the leader, is trying to escape a pursuing Gestapo. Won the Grand Prize at Cannes, an Oscar nomination for its Screenplay. All this despite being banned in several countries (including West Germany, go figure) and having 15 minutes removed in America (don't worry, we're getting the original cut here). With Anna Magnani, who was only known for comedy, but became popular worldwide with this film. Basically this is the introduction of Italian Neorealisim to the world at large. Not the first film of its kind, but the one that took off worldwide:



DR STRANGELOVE (1964)- Wed Sept 24 at 7 for 8 dollars- AMC Empire- The classic film gets a cheap DCP screening, possibly the 4k DCP that has screened elsewhere. Now as for Dr. Strangelove, if you ever bother to put your eyes on this list more than two or three times a year then you know what this film is, and you don't need me to describe this to you. Several of you have seen this in theaters with me before. Some of you have even seen it twice with me before. One of the few dark satires to get it exactly right. Just the everyday story of an insane general, who sends out his bomber unit to attack Russia. Considered one of the best anti-war films ever made. But for those who hate that term (seriously, are you that dumb to refuse to put this into historical context), then consider this an anti-rigidity and anti-stupidity film instead, OK? An excellent mixture of farce and action. And accurate enough in terms of military capability and military speak, that the Air Force demanded answers and questioned Stanley Kubrick.

If you've never seen it with an audience, make time for it. On as many AFI Top 100 lists that it could qualify for. One of the prime examples of Oscar screwing up, when it comes to not giving a film Best Picture. Strangelove is usually Exhibit A, while something like Goodfellas and Raging Bull would be considered Exhibits B and C, respectively. One of my top 5 favorite films ever, and my second favorite Kubrick film, after 2001. And as good a cast as this has, 3 top performances from Peter Sellers . . . , the range this man had is stunning. I dare any of you to find the seams where his performances don't work. Though some of you may prefer George C. Scott's performance; forced out of his comfort zone by Kubrick to get progressively more over-the-top, and is funny as hell:



GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)- Wed Sept 24 at 9:30 and Thurs Sept 25 at 6:40- Regal Union Square Stadium 14- Hey lookahere, Ghostbusters is still playing in Union Square. Not what I would describe as miraculous, but somewhat surprising. Not sure if it play beyond the 25th, any addition playdates won't be published until sometime between the evening of the 23rd and the evening of the 24th. If there is an extension, I would be interested, but we'll see if that occurs:



A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)- Fri Sept 25 at 5:30 and 8 (introduced by writer John Lahr) and Sat Sept 26 at 12:30, 5:30 and 8- Film Forum- This film kicks off the Forum's Tennessee Williams retrospective. Films that were either adapted from Williams' work (regardless of whether Tennessee had anything to do with the film or not), or based on an original screenplay of his. Actually Williams only has two produced original screenplays to his name, the hard to sit through The Loss of a Teardrop (not in the retrospective) and Baby Doll (the next film on this list). The rest are adaptations of varying quality, and the Forum starts with the vest of the bunch, A Streetcar Named Desire.

The best of the Williams adaptations. I won't focus on the story here. But Auntie Mame came to mind when I started to think about writing this post. I saw the film at a revival screening in Chelsea a few years ago. While I did like Auntie Mame, my first impression was that this was little more than a recorded play. Two standout performances were preserved for posterity, but little more than that, barely a movie at all. Now you might think it's not fair to compare a comedy with a heavy drama, and hey, director Elia Kazan also used some cast members from the original production of his play as well. But Kazan and Williams (plus co-screenwriter Oscar Saul) were successful in both expanding and shrinking the world compared to the stage version. Small bits of New Orleans exteriors mixed with a household set, whose walls Kazan incrementally brought in to emphasize Blanche DuBois's growing claustrophobia and growing mental instability. It also helps to have one of the greatest game-changing performances in the history of recorded acting in Marlon Brando's Stanley. 

But while it's a shame there are few living today who can let us know how good Jessica Tandy's Blanche was on stage, the producers's insistence on having Vivian Leigh star as Blanche gave us some hauntingly special. Perhaps the most underrated of lead female performances in film; I know this sounds strange considering how long this film/play has been with us. But the attention, both by the typical viewer and pop culture's collective memory, is usual attached to both Brando (and his "STTEELLLLAAAA!"). But he had to have someone to work off of, and besides this is more Blanche's story. A Steel Magnolia worn down to the nub, desperate for one more chance, but not strong enough to withstand a Stanley Kowlaski.

Oscars for Art Direction, Leigh for Actress, Kim Stanley as Stella for Supporting Actress, and Karl Malden for Supporting Actor,making Streetcar the first film to win 3 Oscars for its acting. Nominations for Picturs, Brando for Acting (losing to Bogart for The African Queen), Kazan for Director, Williams for Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound, Costume Design and for Alex North's sensitive, character driven Score (rare in its day). On both AFI Top 100 lists. Writer John Lahr, author of the new biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, will introduce the Friday 8PM screening and sign copies of his book afterwards. If you prefer not to deal with the potential crowd, Street car will also screen on Saturday the 26th, though I'm not sure which screening I can do: 



BABY DOLL (1956)- Mon Sept 28 at 8 introduced by Carroll Baker- Film Forum-  Part of the Tennessee Williams on screen retrospective. If this isn't agreed upon and planned out within minutes of you reading this, the chance of getting in will be minimal. An original screenplay from Williams, and directed by Elia Kazan. Carroll Baker plays the title role, as a 19 year old child bride, who refuses to give in to husband Karl Malden's "demands". She ends caught in the middle, as her virginity becomes a prize, between Malden, and an angry Mexican business rival (Eli Wallach in his film debut) who tries to take revenge, by taking Baby Doll. Funnier then you might expect, but as well acted, written and directed as you might think from all the names I mentioned here.

Controversial back in the mid 50s for the subject matter (in the 1950s? Gee, you THINK?!?!?!). Condemned by the Legion of Decency, this arm of the Catholic Church tried to organize a nationwide boycott. Cardinal Spellman in St. Patrick's Cathedral condemned the film during mass, telling Catholics to not see Baby Doll "under pain of sin". A surprising indirect ally was Time Magazine, who called the film the dirtiest American picture ever legally screened. The boycott didn't completely work. The backlash eventually killed the Catholics out of giving films the Production Code seal of approval; a step that would eventually lead to the ratings system and board we have today. But it did kill any chance Baby Doll ever had to be profitable. The boycott succeeded to the point that over 50 years later, this film is still criminally under seen. You might have heard of this film, but you have to be an ardent buff to anything about this film. For the record, a bit on the tame side, and far from pornographic.

Baker will introduce the screening, unknown if she'll do a Q and A . Tickets on sale via credit card on the forum's website, with a small number tickets to be sold once the box office opens on Monday afternoon. If we do this, mucho planning needs to be done.




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

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Sept revivals: first half







Hey all, Mike here with a quick list for the first half of September. Sorry I didn't post sooner, but the U.S. Open was ongoing. Now that it's not (gonna miss it), on we go with a brief list:



FEDORA- Tues Sept 9 at 7:35 and 10 and Wed Sept 10 at 2:50, 5:10, 7:35 and 10- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of an almost completely unknown and little seen Billy Wilder film from 1978 (released in the U.S. in 79). Wilder and screenwriting partner I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment) re-teamed for a variation of Sunset Blvd, right down to the casting of William Holden as the male lead. Hollywood is still being acted here; not just for losing control of their star contract system, but also for shunning talented men once they turn 65, and for shunning and pressuring actresses who have the audacity to age at all.

Holden plays a down on his luck producer, narrating the story of his desperate need to cast a Garbo/ Dietrich-like reclusive actress (Marthe Keller) as the lead for his new movie. This actress, Fedora, appears surrounded by people controlling her, including plastic surgeon Jose Ferrer and servant Frances Sternhagen, and is desperate for Holden's help to escape from them. Yet not everything is as it seems, and if you don't know the twist, I'm not spoiling it for you. 

For someone as popular and well known as Wilder, you might wonder how did Fedora crash and burn back in the late 1970s? Not for any one reason but for multiple reasons I fear, which I'll go thru without getting into spoiler territory about a film most of you have never heard of prior to this and similar postings. Starting with Wilder not getting his original choice for the title role, Marlene Dietrich, or his second choice, Faye Dunaway, but settling on rising actress Keller. His regret about casting Keller seems to have crept into production, and her seemingly erratic performance here used as evidence for both Fedora's major weaknesses and for why Keller's Hollywood career came to an end before she turned 37. American preview audiences laughed at the more serious scenes, and the reaction to its 1978 Cannes Film Festival premiere was tepid at best. A minimal international and American release by United Artists, after Wilder would do nothing more than to redub Keller and another actress and cut out twelve minutes, accompanied by reviews that were two-three stars at best, helped to bury Fedora. A few screenings on CBS, and slapped together home video releases back in the early 90s and about 3 years ago helped to keep Fedora buried.

Was the film considered too old fashioned compared to the work by the then-contemporary film school types that Holden's character felt was ruining Hollywood? Apparently this was NOT the perception when the digitally restored Fedora was re-screened at last year's Cannes festival. A flawed yet compelling and contemporary-feeling movie from a master filmmaker was the reaction. Let's see if you share the same reaction:  



GHOSTBUSTERS- UA Kaufman Astoria Studios Cinema 14 on Tues Sept 9 and Wed Sept 10 at 9:15,  and AMC Empire at 7:50-  Ghostbusters, in a restored DCP re-release screening. It was advertised as playing for one week only. Well,as you can see, the re-release did just well enough to play a second week. In very few theaters in NYC mind you. Just the Regal theater in Astoria by the Museum of the Moving Image, and AMC Empire in Times Square. Not sure if it will get a third week, but if it does, I suppose those will be the only theaters it might still play in. We'll see. As for the film itself, I like it, fun not-so-little New York movie, which gave me pleasant throwback memories to childhood. The visual effects don't hold up, it feels longer than it felt back then, and though there are quite a few great supporting performances, the film is held together by Bill Murray. A believable X factor whose unpredictability, even if you know the film by heart, keeps you interested and laughing. Hard to believe what this could have looked like if John Belushi lived to tackle the role.


FORREST GUMP on  IMAX- at AMC Empire- Tues Sept 9 and Wed Sept 10 at 7:45 and at AMC Lowes 34th Street on Tues Sept 9 and Wed Sept 10 at 7- Here's another re-release, Forrest Gump, in a digitally restored IMAX presentation. Based on this weekend's box office figures, it'll be lucky to play next week. It appears families and and others were willing to play regular prices for a comedy, but were bot willing to pay IMAX prices for Forrest Gump. We'll know for sure by late Tuesday evening, but I can't wait for that. So let's just say that if it's still playing next week, I'll be interested, just like with Ghostbusters.

As for the film itself, I liked it quite a bit back in 1994. Acting was superb and the film worked best as comedy, except for the sequences involving Bubba's family and the scene where Forrest first meets his son. Don't think it was in my top 10; not in a year that gave me Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, Quiz Show, The Madness of King George, 4 Weddings and a Funeral, Heavenly Creatures, Eat Drink Man Woman, Speed, The Lion King, Three Colors: White and Natural Born Killers. And even if I did put Forrest Gump in my top 10 back then, it would probably in the back of the list. A tenuous position made more tenuous when I saw Gump on HBO for the first time The obvious manipulation and part-time heavy handedness in the dramatic scenes seemed too much on the small screen. Then as i got older, I caught up with Hoop Dreams, Three Colors: Red and Queen Margot, so now I probably don't have Forrest as nothing more than a thumbs-up. But I'm willing to give it another chance. Especially if it plays next week, but if it has to be this week, so be it.


FEMALE TROUBLE- Wed Sept 10 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The only film from Lincoln Center's John Waters retrospective that I'll have any time for. For those who like his films, here's a Midnight cult-classic doozy from his 70's days. When the parents of Dawn Davenport (Divine) neglect to get the deviant high schooler the one Yuletide gift she longs for- a pair of cha-cha heels- she throws the tree over on her mother and leaves, only to have a sexual encounter with a slob (also Divine) who picks her up hitchhiking. Nine months later, she has a daughter, Taffy (Mink Stole). Dawn's life turns around when she marries Gator (Michael Potter), a hairdresser. Gator's employers the Dashers have a philosophy that "crime equals beauty," and they turn Dawn into their own private superstar, photographing her committing outrageous acts. Rated X for a reason:



KING KONG (1976)- Thurs Sept 11 at 9:30- Nitehawk Cinema- I've been very curious to check out this Williamsburg theater, but it's location means a long mass transit trip for me. So it has to be something that catches my fancy to get me to make the trip there, something I'm not likely to find screening elsewhere, and the 1976 remake of King Kong fits the bill. Mostly forgotten as for the film where Jessica Lange looked hot and acted terribly, until 2005 when it was deemed terrible next to the original classic and the Peter Jackson remake, and it's been in forgotten purgatory ever since. I agree it's not better than the AFI Top 100 original or the Jackson remake, but I have affection for this film.

Set in the then modern day of 1976 as opposed to being in a period piece, Charles Grodin works for an Exxon-like company, leading an expedition for large oil deposits in a formerly unseen island in the Indian Ocean. But en route to the island he gets two unexpected passengers: a hippie stowaway (Jeff Bridges) who happens to be a doctor of whatever the script needs him to be, and the beautiful sole survivor (Jessica Lange in her screen debut) stranded at sea. Everyone gets on the tanker, goes to the mysterious island, sees natives, meets giant monkey, takes him back to New York, I skipped some beats, who cares HOT CHICK AND GIANT MONKEY TIME. Aided by a good John Barry score.

Dialogue isn't the greatest. Tell us Dr Bridges, can fog really be formed by animal perspiration? But he's snarky before it was cool (and a bit of an asshole to boot), and he can handle the action scenes with a cool per-Lebowski beard to boot. Yet he's not as charming as Grodin's shady oil man. The film is surrounded with likable character actor types like Ed Lauter, Rene Auberjonis, Julius Harris and John Lone. Jessica Lange is gorgeous, doing her best to play a quick thinking  Marilyn Monore wannabe for the 1970s, but her inexperience, lousy dialogue, and a director in John Guillerman (The Towering Inferno) who apparently was better dealing with visuals than people, it's amazing we got something decent. That said, she didn't deserve the critical attacks that took Lange years to overcome.

There's strong levels of camp here, and the Oscar winning visual effects sporadically hold up. The film got hit with mixed reviews. Surprisingly, the likes of Kael and Ebert liked the mix of seriousness and camp, but the New York reviewers killed it. Producer Dino De Laurentis and Paramount Pictures billed this film as The Most Exciting Original Motion Picture Event of All Time, complete with the kind of wall to wall promotion and fast food tie ins and toys and t shirts more associated with Star Wars 6 plus months later. It was one of the most expensive films of that year. It turned out a hefty profit, but audience word of mouth doesn't appear to be good. The film turned in huge ratings whenever it aired on NBC, but it would be screened in two parts with almost an hour of extra footage, with said footage supposedly doing a good job filling in the gaps. And then there was the 1.7 million dollar 40 foot tall Kong. Advertised as the film's crowning achievement, it turned out so hideous it was only used for about 10 or so seconds. So we got a guy in a monkey suit. A highly expressive face, thanks to the work by Rick Baker and Carlo Rambaldi, but only a decent upgrade over the most advanced Godzilla suit.

Actually we had other elements that were different with Kong. The island was more of a fantasy realm as opposed to something from a horror film, and Kong is more like Frankenstein's monster, a victim of sorts, more likable less frightening. Not quite the Kong whose death would make everyone cry as Dino said on press tours (which John Belushi would unmercifully mock on SNL). But there will be some form of tearing or at least emotion at this screening. Showing the 1976 King Kong, where the last 15 or so minutes take place at the World Trade Center, on September 11, 2014, will stir up some emotion I'm sure. Whatever it takes to get this cheesy, corny, sluggish at times, yet overall fun film back on the screen. It ain't Casablanca, but not everything needs to be:



ROME OPEN CITY- Tues Sept 16- Tues Sept 23 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of Robert Rossellini's film. Plays for two weeks, I'm not sure which day or time I can do, so I'll post this with a bunch of dates and we'll see what happens. Shot shortly after the Nazi occupation of France was over in a documentary style, we follow Resistance members. One in particular, the leader, is trying to escape a pursuing Gestapo. Won the Grand Prize at Cannes, an Oscar nomination for its Screenplay. All this despite being banned in several countries (including West Germany, go figure) and having 15 minutes removed in America (don't worry, we're getting the original cut here). With Anna Magnani, who was only known for comedy, but became popular worldwide with this film:



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