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.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the second half of August. Not as large a list as I can put together mind you. But with the U.S. Open coming up, I will be spending most of my time waking time there, and not at any films, whether they be new releases or revivals. Which means I won't be posting the upcoming re-release of Ghostbusters starting August 25th. Sony/Columbia says this will only be a one week re-release. Similar things were said about the recent re-releases of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Top Gun, Titanic, and The Wizard of Oz. All of them lasted more than a week, and I'm hoping for the same with Ghostbusters. If it lasts a second week, I'll be able to post it on the next list (dates and locations TBD). In the meantime, on with the list:

INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989) for 10 dollars- Fri Aug 15 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- A cheap-ish Midnight screening of the best of all the Indiana Jones sequels/prequel. Also one of the best summer blockbusters of the past 25 years. The good visual effects may have dated a smidge, but nothing has dulled the pace, John Williams's Oscar nominated score, the wish we could see more of the late River Phoenix, and especially the chemistry between Harrison Ford and one of the few on-screen dads Ford would ever have, Sean Connery. The last standout "light and fun" film Spielberg has directed. Yes, over Jurassic Park: 

THE KILLING (1956) and GUN CRAZY (1950)- Sat Aug 16 at 2:30 (Killing) 4:10 (Gun) 6:10 (Killing) and 8 (Gun), and Mon Aug 18 at 2:30 (Killing) and 4:10 (Gun)- Film Forum- A double feature of what was supposedly the most successful double feature the Forum had in its recent Femme Noir series, where the action is determined or permanently changed by a very bad dame. Both films are DCP restorations and plays for a week. I'm posting the only days I know I can probably do.

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

United Artists had no faith in The Killing, and threw it out there as part of a B movie double feature. But critics took notice, and so did Kirk Douglas, who desperately needed a director for Paths of Glory. A classic of the genre, with one of the most memorable endings of all of Kubrick's films. And don't worry, its only 84 minutes long.

Next, Gun Crazy, from 1950. A quickie film-noir, where a former juvenile delinquent grows up and tries to be an upstanding citizen. When he gets out of reform school, he soon falls in love with what seems to be a good girl. They get married, but she turns to robbery when the money runs low. He doesn't think this is a good thing to do, but she loves the money and adrenaline rush, and threatens to leave him if he doesn't help her rob stores and banks. Thus a crime spree begins and the body count begins to rise . . . 

A film that was merely suppose to be a B picture, but became a critical and box office hit. Chosen to be preserved by the Library of Congress in 1998, and once you see this, you'll see how much Arthur Penn used of Gun Crazy to make Bonnie and Clyde:

THE SHINING (1980) for free at Bryant Park at sundown on Mon Aug 18- Yet another chance to catch this Kubrick-Nicholson film, this time for free, as the concluding film of the Bryant Park series. Everything starts at sundown, around 8:20 , with a Looney Tunes/ Merrie Melodies cartoon of some sort, followed by some HBO feature presentation tag, and then The Shining itself. So expect to leave the park a little before or a little after 11.

Do I really need to go into the film's story, people? You either know it, or you're a 20 year old who accidentally clicked on this, instead of one of the 1500 Project Runway blogs. Stephen King was not thrilled with the way Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel. And while I don't recall this film being wrecked by critics back in 1980, there was no out pour to proclaim this a classic then, as opposed to now. Nicholson's already mildly eccentric performance at the start before he goes into complete psychosis, was quite different from the book, and in most forms of reality. But I'll stop comparing the book with the film now. Especially when Stephen King got to make his own version of The Shining; that 1997 mini-series was borderline unwatchable. I saw most of it, scattered over 8 years, out of curiosity. Don't do the same. Watch this film instead.

The film has its own creepy build up that pays off well. Jack does psychosis better then most actors around. You may not believe Shelley Duvall could have ever been married to Jack, but you buy her as a mother isolated and at her wits end, only to find inner strength. The best performance in the film was pulled out of child actor Danny Lloyd, protected from knowing this was a scary movie until it was released. Not the best film of that year, or even among horror flicks, but still pretty good.

ZULU (1964)- Tues Aug 19 at 6:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A DCP 50th anniversary restoration. Zulu, one of the best war films ever made. Consider this an early (slightly embellished) variation of Black Hawk Down. Both are true stories, both set up the conflict in the first half-hour or so, and the rest of the film is a brutal, well-edited battle between the sides. Stanley Baker and Michael Caine play the two officers in command of a small British outpost on Jan. 22 1879. Baker's character is an engineer, and not the upper class solider-gentleman Caine's character is. Neither has combat experience. But they must lead their 149 men (about a third were in the infirmary that day), against over 4000 Zulu warriors; who had just massacred over 1500 British soldiers earlier that morning, in the worst massacre the Army had ever suffered up to that point. The rest of the picture depicts the next 12 plus hours as the Zulus attack without relent, while the Brits desperately try to withstand the onslaught.

Despite the vast difference in accents and technology, both in the story and the storytelling, it compares quite favorably to the similar Black Hawk Down. Considering how macho the film gets and how important the big success Zulu was to the British Film Industry, I wouldn't be surprised if Ridley Scott knew and loved this film. Never are the Zulus depicted as evil savages. We don't get to know them as well as most of the British soldiers and the misguided missionaries, but they are people, and brutal adversaries. Good cast; Baker was the star and co-producer, but Michael Caine became a leading man forever because of this. Narration by Richard Burton. Also, take note of John Barry's very good score, who incorporated actual Zulu chants and songs into his music.

POLA X (1999/2000)- Wed Aug 20 at 9:15- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Leos Carax retrospective. Didn't know his name until Holy Motors came out last year. Now I'm curious. Pola X, an adaptation of Melville's Pierre from 1999 (released in the U.S. in 2000). Guillaume Depardeiu plays the title role; a big time novelist who kinda loves his fiancee, and has an unusually close relationship with his mother (Catherine Deneuve). But then a young woman emerges from the forest connected to his mansion, claims to be his half-sister, and boom goes the emotional and sexual dynamite. Haven't seem it, but I'm curious:

LES AMANTS DU PONT NEUF or LOVERS ON THE BRIDGE (1991/1999)- Sat Aug 16 at 4:40 and Thurs Aug 21 at 9:15- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Leos Carax retro. Carax's most successful film in France, from 1991 though not released in the U.S. until 1999. The story of two homeless lovers of questionable sanity that live under the title bridge; a drug and alcohol addicted street performer (Holy Motor's Denis Lavant) and an artist (Juliette Binoche) who's damaged by both a failed relationship and her deteriorating eyesight. But with her family desperately searching to get her to a surgeon who could restore her sight, her boyfriend will go to great lengths for them to go undiscovered. Never seen it, sounds subtle as a brick, still curious:  

BLUE VELVET (1986)- Fri Aug 22 or Sat Aug 23 at Midnight- IFC Center- David Lynch's Blue Velvet gets another DCP Midnight movie screening. Not sure which screening I can do and won't until the 18th. So I'll list both dates for now.

In my top 5 ever, possibly higher. I saw Blue Velvet when it was released back in 1986. Ok, 1987, thanks to critical acclaim. I was WAY too young to get all of what was going on, but what I did get was disturbing, fascinating, and told me that movies could be very different from Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz, or Casablanca. Now yes, the journey depicted here is somewhat similar to Dorothy's journey through Oz (intentional). But this precursor to Twin Peaks is it's own world. The shock factor may not be nearly the same for you compared to what 1986/87 audiences endured, but the story, the performances and Angelo Baldalamenti's beautiful score has endured.

What Shadow of a Doubt pushed in terms of evil in a small town Americana, Blue Velvet cranked to 11 and turned it on its (severed) ear. A very 50s town, with a very 50s kinda young man (Kyle MacLachlan) dealing with the kind of dark crisis a 50s era hero isn't obviously equipped to handle. Not without help, love and support that is. But oh what a dark journey to get to that point . . . This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and MacLachlan's career back from the dead. Isabella Rossellini established herself as an actress once and for all, and Dennis Hopper became a working character actor forever, in a career performance. Also drew major controversy in its day for its, let's just say, sexual connotations, and what was required of Rossellini in her role. I believe it was Ebert who called this film the most vile thing he had ever seen (or something along those lines) and Rosselini attacked him (verbally) in response. A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself:

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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

August revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with a bunch of August revivals. Back with the twice a month format of revival listings, so this list will carry us to the middle of the month. Filled almost entirely with repeats from other lists, with one or two exceptions. But I haven't seen the majority of them, and most of you have seen maybe one or two of these films at most on the big screen. So here we go, a good time to be had for at least one of you with at least one of these options:

A HARD DAYS NIGHT- Fri Aug 1- Thurs Aug 7 at 3:30 and 8:10- Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that was supposed to finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17,has been given yet another extension of at least one more week. Limited screening times, but extended none the less. There's a chance it's run might be extended until either August 12th or 14th, but that's not official, so just work with the idea of this only running until the 7th.

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 than 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:

DOUBLE INDEMNITY- Fri Aug 1 at 5:10, 7:30 and 9:45, Sat Aug 2 at 9:45, and Tues Aug 5- Thurs Aug 7 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of the classic film that ends the Forum's retrospective of film-noirs where the main female character is a bad to the bone kind of woman But unlike the other films in this retrospective, Double Indemnity gets a week-long run. The granddaddy of film-noirs with bad bad women at the heart of it all, much more so than The Maltese Falcon.

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are both cool as they plot her husband for the insurance money, but pesky investigator/moral compass Edward G. Robinson keeps getting in the way. I shouldn't be that way; if Eddie G. didn't turn in such a humane performance as basically both the audience's stand-in and the incorruptible everyman (as opposed to MacMurray's fine performance as the corrupted everyman), maybe this film would be slightly less better remembered. That last sentence probably made little grammatical sense, but I have little time, so I'm just moving on. Except that it's not like Eddie G. created the performance out of a vacuum. He had Wilder as a director, and Wilder and Raymond Chandler as screenwriters (the screenwriters detested each other. Reading a little about this makes me think it was karma that Wilder had to deal with Monroe for Some Like It Hot). And let me not forget the source material: James M. Cain's novel, based on actual murder case from the 1920s.

7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Wilder for Director, Stanwyck for Actress, and Wilder and Chandler for Screenplay. Surprisingly nothing for MacMurray or Robinson. No wins, since Going My Way was a juggernaut that year. On the short list for the best film noirs ever made. While I can't put this above Laura, which was released the same year as this, I do enjoy the dance Wilder and cast do around the Production Code:

BLACK NARCISSUS introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker for a 10 dollar minimum- Fri Aug 1 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's  1947 film gets a screening at the Rubin. The policy now is you can spend a minimum of 10 dollars either at the bar, the restaurant or at the gift shop, which allows you to get a ticket for the screening (first come, first served). A DVD projection of the restoration supervised by the film's Cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Powell's widow, editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Adapted by Rummer Godden's 1939 novel, a group of Anglican nuns go to their new order, up in the Himalayan mountains, to establish a school and a hospital. But it's hard to do when you're tempted by the land and the people around you, and you've dragged issues like failed romances and possible insanity up the mountain with you. You can go with those statements, or accept this as an allegory of Britain's last glory days as an Empire, and the dignified way the Empire comes to an end. Starring Deborah Kerr as the head Sister whose escaped one failed romance,and might get tempted into another, and Jean Simmons as, in the words of author Godden, "a basket of fruit, piled high and luscious and ready to eat."

Oscar nominations for Cardiff's Cinematography and Art Direction. I think I saw this a long time ago. I don't remember it clearly, but I could have sworn I've seen it and liked what I saw. And even if I haven't, a film from the directors of The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp becomes a must-see in my book. Unless you prefer Double Indemnity, I can understand that. Schoonmaker herself will introduce the screening: 

EL TOPO- Fri Aug 1 and Sat Aug 2 at 12:05AM- 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:

BATON BUNNY with other Chuck Jones cartoons and CHINATOWN with a post film Q and A with Kenneth Turan- Sun Aug 3 at 1 (Bunny) and 2:30 (Chinatown)- Museum of the Moving Image- A potential double feature at the Museum of the Moving Image. For one admission, you can see one or both items on visual display on Sunday August 3rd. First, the Chuck Jones retrospective continues with another set of cartoons to be screened. I wished that the Museum would have laid out its schedule of Jones' cartoons sooner, but at least now we have a schedule of cartoons thru early September so that's something. I won't post all of them because I don't have time to see all of them. But once you click on any of the links to the Moving Image below, you can follow along and see what else the Museum is doing in terms of Chuck Jones cartoons, other films, exhibits, etc.

Anyway, here are the following Chuck Jones cartoons that will be screened this weekend, on both Saturday August 2nd and Sunday August 3rd at 1PM:

The Dover Boys from 1942, though the Museum claims is from 1940. The first of his of his cartoons that Jones actually liked to watch, marking the first uses of smear animation, which showed characters going into sudden extremes of speed. The Dover Boys were not used again until Animaniacs (usually with Slappy Squirrel) in limited doses, so if you think these characters are familiar, that might be why.

Drip-along Daffy from 1951, a Western spoof where incompetent Daffy Duck and infinitely smarter Porky Pig, try to clean up "a one horse town".

A Bear For Punishment from 1951. One of the Three Bear cartoons, featuring angry Pa, calming Ma, and dum-dum Junior. Those cartoons I can take or leave them, usually. Here, Ma and Junior try to cheer up Pa on Father's Day. Good luck on that.

Much Ado About Nutting from 1953. This one I enjoy, where a squirrel on a nut hunt thinks he's hit the Mother Lode, when he finds a coconut. But good luck trying to crack that thing . . . 

Baton Bunny from 1959. The last of the Bugs Bunny cartoons with no dialogue. Here, Bugs is an orchestra conductor, and he would succeed in his job if it wasn't for an annoying fly . . .

Whoa Be-Gone from 1958. A Road Runner- Wile E. Coyote cartoon, though I don't recall what's distinctive about this.

High Note from 1961. An Oscar nominee for Animated Short. Here, the Blue Danube can't be performed, because one of the notes is drunk as a skunk. The conductor tries to get the note straightened out, with extreme difficulty.

And finally, Chariots of Fur. Originally screened with the 1994 Macaulay Culkin disappointment Richie Rich, it was the first new Road Runner- Wile E. Coyote cartoon since 1980, and the last Road Runner cartoon Jones would ever direct.      

Next is Chinatown, the last of the great film-noirs. Ok, it's more of a modern or neo-noir. While there would be some very good to excellent modern noirs afterwards (L.A. Confidential, Blue Velvet and Fargo chief among them), none would go the dark paths Roman Polanski's film would travel, not even Lynch's film.  Based on events from the California Water Wars of the 1930s, Jack Nicholson's private eye (the role that made hime  a star forever)is hired by Faye Dunaway to spy on her husband. But nothing is as it seems, and if you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you here. One of the great period films, one of the great mysteries, and if wasn't for Paramount's own Godfather Part 2, it might have been the best film from that year. An Oscar for Robert Towne's Screenplay; 10 other nominations including Picture, Polanski for Director (who also turns in a memorable performance as a thug), Nicholson for Actor, and Dunaway for Actress. Sorry there was no room for John Huston for Supporting Actor, but boy does he make a memorably repellent villain. On both AFI Top 100 films and in my personal top 100.

L.A. Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan will introduce the film, discuss it in a post film Q and A, and will then sign copies of his new book, "Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From A Lifetime of Film".

JAWS for free on a first come first served basis- Wed Aug 6 at 6:30- Museum of Jewish Heritage- 36 Battery Place- A free screening of Jaws, on a first come first served basis. This time at a venue I'm not familiar with at all: the Museum of Jewish Heritage, down in Battery Park City near the Bowling Green, Rector Street and Whitehall Street stations. The Museum has been doing a Steven Spielberg retrospective all summer long, but only now do I have any time for it. At worst, if you don't get there in time for a free ticket (4PM), the Museum is free from 4-8, and then you can catch something else. I have no idea how the venue is or how it will be projected, guess we'll wait and see.

as for Jaws itself, 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:

THE BIG LEBOWSKI for 8.50- Wed Aug 6 at 7- AMC Empire- The Big Lebowski is a film that has a major cult following. But I'm not a member of this cult. I admire and at times, like this Cohen brothers film. But it's hard for me to hate one of their films, unless it's The Hudsucker Proxy. That's easy. But I'm willing to give this a second chance. Especially a non-Midnight screening and at a relatively cheap price:

METROPOLIS- Sun Aug 10 at 2- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- In a world where one group of people are in charge of doing all the "thinking" and another group actually has to do the manual labor, not everyone is happy in this city full of skyscrapers. So let's keep the masses happy through the temptations of a beautiful woman, who's actually a robot. Throw in a young man who's not only in love, but also sees for the first time that not everyone is equal.

After decades where this film bounced around, was chopped, and at one point, colorized and had music from Queen and Bonnie Tyler as part of the new soundtrack, a major restoration took place. Not everything could be found, either due to age, no ideas about preserving film history, the flimsiness of the material or the bombings in World War 2. But the original score was found and recorded in stereo. All seven versions were combined and restored, with title cards filling in the story blanks. This 2002 restoration, now returns to Film Forum, and this 2 hour, 19 minute version is as close as we'll probably ever get to definitive.

Fritz Lang was inspired by the Manhattan skyline when he created Metropolis's look. Huge sets that held thousands of extras. Live action and miniatures shot together for the first time. A robot who's initial look influenced C-3PO, and whose existence influenced HAL 9000, the Blade Runner androids and who knows what else. And as influential as the city looks of films like Blade Runner, Brazil, and Dark City have been, they had a source material to work from here. I've caught this before, and may not get to go again this time around. But by all means, go yourselves.

Yeah, that's what I wrote back in mid July 2007. I could have added how the robot in female human form enticing the men seems like it influenced Madonna, and now it appears to have influenced Lady Gaga. Anyway, since then, 23 additional minutes, found in a beaten-up 16mm print down in Argentina, was restored (as much as possible), and edited into the 2002 restoration. This version is being advertised as "Presented in High Definition". Don't know quite what that means, but this means that now only about 5 minutes are missing from Lang's original cut. This will probably be as close as we'll ever get to what was screened in Berlin back in '27. I enjoyed seeing this at the Film forum, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again. If you're ambitious, here you go:

REAR WINDOW- Tues Aug 12 at 7- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- Also an DCP screening. My all time favorite Hitchcock, and in my top 25 overall. Also the best film in Jimmy Stewart's career, with a knockout entrance from Grace Kelly that matches or tops anything done today. On both AFI Top 100 lists.

BEVERLY HILLS COP for 8.50- Wed Aug 13 at 7- AMC Empire- A cheap screening of the biggest hit of 1984. Ok, Ghostbusters is higher on the all time box office charts, but that's only because of a 1985 re-release. The film that made Eddie Murphy a Leading Man Forever, or at least until his post-Shrek career damaged goodwill and his appeal. Simple story of a brash young police detective from Detroit who comes out to Beverly Hills, to find the people behind the murder of his best friend. Once there, it takes plenty of sass and improvisation to get those stick in the mud Beverly Hills officers to get with the program. 

Now do I mean Murphy's Axel Foley do the improvising, or Murphy himself, seemingly treating the script alternatively like a blueprint and used tissues. Ok, let me calm down. It's still far better than the original concept, an action drama where Sylvester Stallone tried to stop a cough syrup ring. Far better. The comedy and the serious action scenes still work, thanks to both Murphy and a fun supporting cast (Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Steven Berkoff, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Reiser, Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks, et all). Also thanks to a cool for its day soundtrack (Patti Labelle, The Pointer Sisters, Glenn Frey and Harold Faltermeyer with his memorable theme music, among others), and a surprising deft touch from director Martin Brest (a touch we wouldn't see from Meet Joe Black on). Still, the idea that this film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay is laughable. Still a good time for a relatively cheap price:  

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN for 8.00- Thurs Aug 14 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of Christopher Guest's comedy, introduced by Hedda Lettuce. The first official Christopher Guest mockumentary comedy, since credit for This Is Spinal Tap must be shared with Rob Reiner. But here Guest is at the helm, as well the nominal lead. Here plays an eccentric (gay in the closet?) man from New York, who moved to a small town in Missouri with his (always unseen and never heard from) wife, and is now a director. Specifically of a musical of the history of the small town, filled with a cast of decent people. No professional actors, some talented, some delusional, but all decent. 

Anyone who ever worked in theatre, community semi-professional or professional, would or should carry a soft spot for the people in the film and for the film itself. Too small a crowd to make this film successful at the box office. But the success of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind (barely) has kept Waiting For Guffman from becoming a mere footnote. The quality of Guffman, mixing laughs with honest believable humanity and a believable atmosphere, has also kept it from being a footnote, as opposed to Guest's last film, For Your Consideration. Plus we have the core cast that would be important in other Guest films: Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara and Bob Balaban. This film rarely gets a revival screening, so let's take advantage:  

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

End of July revivals

Hey, all. Mike here, still doing the one week at a time drill with regards to film revivals. This one runs thru the end of July, don't mind me if any of these conflict. So let me not waste any time, here we go:

A HARD DAYS NIGHT- Fri July 24- Thurs July 31 at 3:30 and 8:10- Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that was supposed to finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17,has been given yet another extension of at least one more week. Limited screening times, but extended none the less. But the Long Island run in Cinema Arts Centre is over, so now it's Film Forum or nada.

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:

THE MALTESE FALCON and MURDER, MY SWEET- Fri July 25 at 7:30 (Falcon) and 9:50 (Murder)- Film Forum-  Part of the Forum's Essential Film Noir series. One of the best ever and an AFI Top 100 film (both lists), Falcon made Bogart a leading man for life and was also John Huston's directorial debut. Proof that Tarantino did not have the best start to a film career. Okay maybe Welles did, but no one went to see Citizen Kane when it came out, but they did go to see Falcon in the same year. And oh by the way, its one of the best films ever made. I'm sorry did I say this already instead of going on about the film? If you know this site is known to you at all, then this is the kind of film you know well. "The kind that dreams are made of". I hope we can go.

Followed by Murder, My Sweet. Never saw this, but wouldn't mind at all. To quote from the website: "I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in." Dick Powell's Philip Marlowe, sweating through a police grilling, flashes back to tell this story of murder, blackmail, sadism, and sexual servitude, in the picture Chandler considered the best of all his novel adaptations (based on Farewell, My Lovely) - and the prototypical 40s noir.

PULP FICTION for 10 dollars- Fri July 25 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Now here's a film that probably fits the title "The Greatest Independent Film Ever Made" Not quite sure if it is, but it fits the title a lot better than Reservoir Dogs, and if you pitch it right, I might buy your argument. A film that doesn't feel old, and while the ride might feel familiar, you'll quickly remember how great the ride is. An Oscar winner for the Screenplay, nominations including Best Picture, Director for Tarantino, Actor for John Travolta, Supporting Actor for Samuel L. Jackson and Supporting Actress for Uma Thurman. Like Maltese Falcon, on both AFI Top 100 lists and in my own personal Top 40:

PAPER MOON introduced by Alena Smith- Mon July 28 at 8- IFC Center-  Oscar winning film that rarely gets a revival screening. A dramedy, where Ryan O'Neal and daughter Tatum are con artists during the Depression. They may or may not actually be father and daughter, they pose as such often enough for their various cons. The last film Peter Bogdanovich ever directed that audiences gave a crap about, at least until Mask. A big hit back in 1973, Oscar nominated for Madeline Kahn for Supporting Actress, Sound and Alvin Sargent's Screenplay Adaptation, an Oscar for Tatum; the youngest to ever win the award. Writer Alena Smith (HBO's The Newsroom among other credits), will talk about the film:

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL for 8 dollars- Wed July 30 at 7- AMC Empire- A cheap screening of the comedy classic. A lot of fun on a warm summer night, without the pesky nudity and crucifixion that keeps Life of Brian off some other screens. And since it's Python, you'll probably be sitting near a fanatic who silently mouths some of the lines. Whether this sounds like a blast to be around fans, or it feels like the seventh level of Hell, is up to you. I understand either way, but I'll post it anyway in case there's interest. I would be easy to spot; I'll be the one with the killer rabbit puppet. Wait, they'll probably be at least twenty guys doing that. Never mind about that, if you've never seen it on the big screen, just go . . . .

CASABLANCA for free- Wed July 30 at 8 or sundown- Maspeth Savings Bank Parking Lot- 69th St and Grand Ave in Maspeth, Queens- So yes, there have been free movies being screened at the parking lot of a bank. I already did The Lego Movie so no need to go again. But if you want to bring a chair to a parking lot in Maspeth to see one of the greatest movies ever made, here you go. I am curious, especially since I have no idea what the conditions will be like, except that this screening is weather permitted:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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.