Sunday, March 15, 2015

March revivals: second half






Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the second half of March. Again, because life is getting a bit in the way, we have another small list. And this list has films all in one location: the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. I didn't intend to do that, but we have 3 films here that are too good to ignore. We'll start off with a film I've waited a long while to become available on a list like this:


THE APARTMENT (1960) introduced by Matthew Weiner- Fri Mar 20 at 9:15- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's retrospective of films and TV series that influenced Matthew Weiner, either in his own life, or in the creation and/or development of his hit series Mad Men. Now before this screening, Weiner will do a discussion/ Q and A about the series and himself, with clips from the series. This event is sold out, though you might be able to get standby tickets on the evening of. But tickets for the screening of Billy Wilder's The Apartment, with an introduction from Weiner, are available and should still be on the afternoon of the 20th.
 
If North By Northwest was one of the films to heavily influence the pilot of Mad Men, The Apartment is another. The other two, Joan Crawford's The Best of Everything and Glenn Ford's Dear Heart, will screen at the Museum in April. But sticking with The Apartment, to quote Mr. Weiner:
 
I had seen this for the first time in film school and was bowled over by the dynamic writing and the passive nature of its hero, Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter. It is definitely a story of its times, firmly rooted in a Manhattan where seemingly regular men behave unscrupulously, and it completely engaged my imagination as a representation of office and sexual politics at the time. It blends humor and pathos effortlessly. −Matthew Weiner
 
In this dramedy, from 1960, Jack Lemmon's character is near the bottom of the totem pole, in a big insurance company in New York. One way to get ahead is to allow his mid-level managers to use his apartment for extramarital affairs. It gets him both a promotion and the attention of the big boss, played by Fred MacMurray. This leads to even further use of his apartment, and problems with the woman he has a crush on, played by Shirley MacClaine.
 
A big hit in its day, a classic today. Praised by many critics, but attacked by a few for its seemingly caviler displays of adultery in the workplace, with all these very proper people. Maybe the amoral attitudes of our "hero" Lemmon upset some people, but it provided a respectable template for Weiner and his world of Mad Men.
 
10 Oscar nominations, including Lemmon for Actor and MacClaine for Actress. 5 Oscars, including Picture, Wilder for Director, Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond for Screenplay, and Editing. On both AFI top 100 lists, though not as well remembered or beloved as another classic released that year, Psycho. Whoa, what nerves did The Apartment hit that it isn't as beloved as a film about a disturbed young man who stabs a woman to death in the shower. Hmm, interesting . . . :
 
 

VERTIGO (1958) and/or BLUE VELVET (1986)- Sun March 22 at 4 (Vertigo) and 7 (Velvet)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. A potential double feature of two films that influenced Matthew Weiner, the creator/showrunner of Mad Men. The first film was influence starting in the hiatus between Seasons 1 and 2, while the second film was a major influence on Weiner himself back in college. One admission gets you into both films, along with a chance to check out the Museum itself, including the new Mad Men exhibit.
 
First, Vertigo. A revival screening of the Hitchcock classic isn't a rarity. That we're getting a presentation of it in an original IB 35mm print is highly unusual. Meaning while we may not get the highest quality digital presentation, we 're probably getting a well preserved reel of the film that's probably closer to it s original color and presentation than any of the post-1980s restoration efforts.
 
As for the film itself, 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 as for how Matthew Weiner was influenced by Vertigo, to quote Mr. Weiner:
 
Released to negative reviews, it now ranks for many as the greatest film ever made. I had not seen it before the show began, but finally caught it on a break after the first season. I was overwhelmed with its beauty, mystery, and obsessive detail. I remember watching the camera dolly-in on Kim Novak’s hair and thinking, “this is exactly what we are trying to do.” Vertigo feels like you are watching someone else’s dream. −Matthew Weiner
 
Next, Blue Velvet.   a darker variation of Shadow of a Doubt, with more than a little Wizard of Oz, in its way. In my top 5 ever, possibly higher. 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. This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got David Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and Kyle 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).Rosselini attacked him in response (verbally attacked I meant). A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself.
 
Now as for the film's influence on Matthew Weiner, to quote Mr. Weiner one last time:
 
Remarkably original for its time, this film had an impact on my generation that can’t be underestimated. I saw it as I was finishing college and applied to film school soon after. Indefinable in genre, Blue Velvet moves from murder mystery to film noir to black comedy to coming-of-age story, almost from scene to scene. With stylistic richness and psychological complexity, it celebrates the horror of the mundane and is filled with reference to a kitschy and ironic “’50s” milieu. This incredible observation informed much of the 1980s and became an inspiration for the series and its attempt to equally revise our mythical perception of the period. :




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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March revivals: first half








Hello all, Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of March. I didn't mean to keep it isolated to 2 theaters for this posting, but my schedule and the films I'm interested in dictate otherwise. Here we go, starting with a holdover from the last list:



ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976)- Fri Feb 27 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- From the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective. Alan J. Pakula's classic film depicting the slow but steady investigation of the Watergate break-ins by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein. Difficult to make when the most of the answers and the climax were known by billions, and hard to make visually interesting inside the Post offices. A leap of faith by Lead actor/ uncredited producer Robert Redford that the audience would be willing to stick with following the story (or the money) with Woodward (Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) But I'll be darned if the filmmakers didn't find a way. Emphasize the danger, the impossible-to-believe aspects of a bungled burglary, the success the cover-up seemed to have for at least a portion of the film, make the reporter's environment as realistic and true to life as possible, especially in the case of the finely duplicated Post offices. And above all, make sure you don't show the reporters succeeding, but stuck in an almost unending struggle to find the truth, with only the audience's knowledge of history and a typewritten montage to provide relief. Basically, shoot it like a paranoid thriller; the kind that were popular in the 70s and not well known today, unless you saw Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Pakula for Director, Jane Alexander for Supporting Actress, and Editing. Oscars for Jason Robards for Supporting Actor, William Goldman for Adapted Screenplay, Sound and Art Direction. It might have won more, but that was the year of Network, Taxi Driver and Rocky. On the second AFI Top 100 list. This almost never gets a revival screening, so take advantage of this opportunity:



PENNIES FROM HEAVEN- Sun Mar 1 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- A restored 35mm print from the Academy Film Archive. The conclusion of the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective. From 1981, from director Herbert Ross (The Turning Point, The Goodbye Girl) and acclaimed British writer Dennis Potter, who successfully adapted his highly praised BBC mini-series to the big screen. The last of the MGM musicals and a kick in the teeth to those musicals that offer too fantastical a release from reality, especially the Fred and Ginger and Busby Berkeley kind of musicals.

Steve Martin, in his first dramatic role, is a struggling song sheet salesman during the Depression, trapped in a loveless marriage. He'd like to live the happy life depicted in the songs of the day, but to no avail. He escapes from his depressing circumstances, by escaping into his fantasies and indulging in whatever immediate pleasures he can get. That includes having an affair with a schoolteacher (Bernadette Peters), and trying to start his own business with no money or support. This won't end well . . .

Critics at the time were not praising this to the hilt, Pauline Kael not withstanding. Even critics who liked portions of it, like a Vincent Camby or Roger Ebert, were vocal about its problems, like its grimness and chilliness. But since then, we've been able to accept the darkness in something like Chicago, so maybe Pennies From Heaven was just ahead of its time. Fred Astaire, who couldn't stop one of his scenes from being used in the picture which led to Martin and Peters then performing said number, felt the 1930s was an innocent time, and that the film was vulgar and cruel. Since Pennies From Heaven took the position that his kind of films widened the chasm between fantasy and reality in an era where poverty crushed many. Astaire himself created the dances that were among the most popular of said destructive fantasies, so Fred must have taken it real personal. As for the audiences, who were faced with upbeat advertising and critics saying it was something darker, and had the option of On Golden Pond or Raiders of the Lost Ark (still playing even at that point), they stayed away from Pennies From Heaven in droves.

3 Oscar nominations, including Potter for Screenplay and Costume Design for Bob Mackie. Much praise for Gordon Willis's color and B/W Cinematography, as well for the lead performances by Peters and Martin. Now Steve may not have been a dancer on the level of Vernel Bagneris performing to the title song, or to Christopher Walken's showstopping Let's Misbehave. But unlike Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Steve Martin actually danced, and did quite well. This film screams for re-evaluation:



PLAYTIME (1967/1973)- Fri Mar 6 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum's See It Big series, for films that can't be fully appreciated on small screens. Normally this might be screened in all its 70mm glory, since that is how it was filmed. Guess we'll have to settle for a 35mm print.

From 1967, though it didn't reach the U.S. until the summer of 1973. A French comedy directed, co-written by, and starring Jacques Tati, as his famous M. Hulot character. If you saw the Oscar nominee, The Illusionist, based on an unproduced screenplay of Tati's, then you are familiar with the character. Imagine the klutzy M. Hulot needing to get some paperwork from Paris. M. Hulot goes from his country town to some place not completely resembling Paris. Not just any Paris, not just any metropolis, but to an actual Metropolis. As in a place similar to the city from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but with enough alienation and little use for individuality, that Tom Stoppard and/or Terry Gilliam had to know this film when making Brazil. A mega-flop in its day, but with ever growing appreciation for it as the years have gone by:



GREY GARDENS (1975/76)- Fri Mar 6 at 7:10 and 9:20, Sat Mar 7 at 9:50 and Thurs Mar 13 at 9:50- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the cult classic. Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. But the Mayseles brothers are who tend to get the main credit for the project. They were the ones originally interested in telling the story of Lee Radzwill, Jacqueline Onassis's sister. At the time the brothers were interested in telling the story, the two sisters had already spent money to fix the house of their aunt and first cousin, Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, and her daughter "Little Edie" Edith Beale. The mother daughter combo living in squalor despite the minimum repairs made, proved more interesting to the Maysles brothers. After a year of negotiating/ gaining the Beales and the other relatives' trust, the four directors began shooting in and around the home. Using a similar Cinema Verite technique used on their previous projects like Salesman and Gimme Shelter, the women told their stories to the cameras, to each other, to the cats and the raccoons, to whoever. Little to no interference, just an attempt to capture of these two eccentrics; decaying, almost completely isolated, yet still breathing.

No, Grey Gardens didn't win an Oscar. Hell, it wasn't even nominated! I'm not saying it shouldn't have beaten say, Hollywood On Trial or Harlan County U.S.A. (the eventual winner which I've posted here once or twice before). But to not even get nominated makes me shake my head and wonder what was going on back then. Maybe the Academy regrets this, what with the film being considered one of the classics in documentary filmmaking, and being selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in 2010. Regrets it, yeah right. Watch it and decide for yourself:



NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)- Sun Mar 15 at 5:30- Museum of the Moving Image- This film starts a retrospective of films that influenced Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men. Either it influenced the show prior to filming, or became an influence over the course of production, or was an influence on Weiner in college or earlier. This film is credited by Weiner as a direct influence on the Mad Men pilot. Here's Weiner's own words, pulled from the Moving Image's website: 

This film became an important influence on the pilot because it was shot in New York City, right around the time the first episode takes place. While more overtly stylized than we wanted to imitate, we felt the low angles and contemporary feel were a useful reflection of our artistic mindset. I had studied the film in depth at USC film school and absorbed much of its “ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances” narrative drive. It is worth noting that Cary Grant is playing an Adman named Roger, who is forced to assume another man’s identity. —Matthew Weiner

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

I use the term everyman loosely when describing Grant. But according to Gene Wilder on his episode of Inside The Actors Studio, that's how Grant described himself during a chance meeting on a cruise ship, where the Northwest homage Silver Streak, was playing. Wilder was pleasantly stunned to here this description, as well as how Grant was nice enough to include Wilder as being on the same level, but I digress.

Fun film, with good performances, a snappy though unsubtle Herrmann score, with one of Saul Bass's best opening credit sequences. Oscar nominations for the great Editing, Art Direction, and Ernest Lehman's script. I've done this film several times on the big screen, and will keep doing it as long as there are people I know who haven't experienced in the same way, as well as being financially and geographically viable for me. So if you haven't caught it on a screen larger than your tv, try it:



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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February revivals









Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of the month. Let's keep it brief:



THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)- Sun Feb 15 at 5:10, 7:05 and 9- Film Forum- A DCP restoration from the Forum's Charles Laughton retrospective. And I'm afraid the only one I would have any time for, especially since I've already seen Witness For the Prosecution and Ruggles of Red Gap. 

The original Night of the Hunter, one of the better film noirs. Yep, I'll just keep posting this until I catch a screening somewhere. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear.

When I saw Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watching good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Somewhat kidding about that last part.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton never to direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.



ZARDOZ (1974)- Sun Feb 15 at 9:45- Film Forum- From the Forum's John Boorman retrospective. Zardoz, one of my favorite What The Fuck kind of films. I admire its audacity, and I can't believe that anyone in Britain or at Fox thought people would pay to see this in droves. I like that director John Boorman really tried to go out there, but in his most recent DVD commentary about Zardoz, even he can't figure out What The Fuck is happening, or why he chose to do certain scenes the way he did.
I'll attempt the Cliff Notes version here. In post-apocalyptic Britain, Sean Connery plays the leader of a group of tough guys, who stumbles on a highly advanced, Utopian village. It comprises of three types of people: youngish Brits with hot bodies bright minds and snooty attitudes, youngish Brits whose brains don't seem to be working, and babbling old people. Throw in a God named Zardoz, and there's a mystery to be solved. Though why Connery is forced to do this in a long black wig, Fu Manchu-esque mustache and shiny red diaper, I have no idea. I'm serious, it looks like Sean spends more than half the film in a shiny red diaper. With Charlotte Rampling, who's smoking here.

There are parts of the film that I don't want to spoil. There are parts of the film where I think "YOU GOTTA BE SHITTING ME!!!!". Though the ending is cool. You'll either admire it, hate it with a passion, or laugh at it. Don't worry, I've done all three. Let the film experimentation begin

 http://filmforum.org/film/zardoz-boorman-film


BLUE VELVET (1986)- Sun Feb 15 at 12:10AM- IFC Center- A special Sunday midnight screening, thanks to this weekend containing President's Day. 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.

http://www.ifccenter.com/films/blue-velvet/

MANHATTAN (1979)- Fri Feb 20 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- From the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective, covering the best of the late Cinematographer's work. Manhattan, one of those films that should be seen on and can only be truly embraced on the big screen. It would be very hard for Arguably Woody Allen's best film. On the short list with Allen's Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors. He wanted to make a film where he wanted to captured what he thought of as life in Manhattan, late 1970s. Put into the filter of one of his favorite films, Jean Renoir's The Rules of The Game. Allegedly, at some point after post production was completed, Allen was so unhappy with the final product, he offered to make a new film for free if United Artists either shelved or destroyed Manhattan. UA execs, happy with what they received, politely declined. Despite the praise and acclaim, Allen felt/feels he got away with one in this case. It may not be a typical life in New York circa late 1970s, but worth catching.

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

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


http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2015/02/20/detail/manhattan


ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (1976)- Fri Feb 27 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- From the Museum's Gordon Willis retrospective. Alan J. Pakula's classic film depicting the slow but steady investigation of the Watergate break-ins by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein. Difficult to make when the most of the answers and the climax were known by billions, and hard to make visually interesting inside the Post offices. A leap of faith by Lead actor/ uncredited producer Robert Redford that the audience would be willing to stick with following the story (or the money) with Woodward (Redford) and Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) But I'll be darned if the filmmakers didn't find a way. Emphasize the danger, the impossible-to-believe aspects of a bungled burglary, the success the cover-up seemed to have for at least a portion of the film, make the reporter's environment as realistic and true to life as possible, especially in the case of the finely duplicated Post offices. And above all, make sure you don't show the reporters succeeding, but stuck in an almost unending struggle to find the truth, with only the audience's knowledge of history and a typewritten montage to provide relief. Basically, shoot it like a paranoid thriller; the kind that were popular in the 70s and not well known today, unless you saw Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Pakula for Director, Jane Alexander for Supporting Actress, and Editing. Oscars for Jason Robards for Supporting Actor, William Goldman for Adapted Screenplay, Sound and Art Direction. It might have won more, but that was the year of Network, Taxi Driver and Rocky. On the second AFI Top 100 list. This almost never gets a revival screening, so take advantage of this opportunity:

http://www.movingimage.us/visit/calendar/2015/02/27/detail/all-the-presidents-men



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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January revivals: small list





Hi all, Mike here with a short revival list for the month of January. Very short list, as in a three film list. Sorry, but life is getting in the way now, so on with the list we go:



THE THIRD MAN (1949/1950) and THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947/48)- Fri Jan 23 at 8:25 (Man) and 10:30 (Lady)- Film Forum- A double feature from the Forum's Orson Welles retrospective; both for one admission. Plays for two days and nights, but  I'm only posting the night screenings for Friday, January 23rd. If the Saturday day/night screenings on Saturday, January 24th, are the only ones you can do, go for it. Note that Lady From Shanghai is a restored DCP, while Third Man will be a 35mm screening.

First, The Third Man, from 1949. Though in America, it came out in 1950, where it would rise to classic status at about the exact same time as Sunset Blvd., All About Eve and Harvey. Talk about when being the third or fourth best film of that particular year meant a lot more than usual. Seriously, it's seems to me to be among the least seen of all the post silent flim era flicks I would label classic, at least stateside. As the older audience dies out, younger ones may not know it. But once they see it, boom, it's got them, and they'll probably see it everytime it comes on TCM as well. Film students must also have to see this at least once I would imagine. If not, then it's probably not all that reputable a film school.

Simple fish out of water story, where American Joseph Cotton, who seems to hold black belts in screwups and stumbling blindly into situations, attends a funeral for his friend in post-war divided Vienna. And yet things, as usual in these kind of film noirs, are not what they appear to be. Thus, what I said about the story being simple, eeeeehhhhh, not so much. The film seems to exist entirely in states of gray, with camera angles that seem to have made it the Blair Witch Project of its day.

Standing out in the colorful supporting cast are Trevor Howard with what appears to be a permanent British stiff upper lip, and Alida Valli, who can keep many men's interest, but keeps pining for the one who treats her like shit. And, oh yeah, Orson Welles; who brought charm, gravitas, and the memorable, though historically inaccurate, cuckoo clock monologue. The only part of the film not written by Graham Greene, who adapted his book with some uncredited help.

Oh yeah, he didn't write the ending either. Director Carol Reed didn't like the book's ending, but still wasn't sure what to do. But he came up with a solution, over Greene's objections. At the end of shooting, just placed his camera and himself far away so the actors couldn't hear him say cut, and let it roll. Whatever would be, would be. Hey, it worked.

An Oscar for the black and white cinematography, nominations for Editing and Reed for Director. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes, on the first AFI Top 100 list (though not the second!), number one on Britain's similar film list, Japan's number one film on it's own similar list of non-Japanese films, and in my personal top 100. Not sure where exactly, but it's somewhere. It would be higher in my mind if there wasn't so much zither music. Yes, it fits, and after 60 years, we can't exactly do anything about that now, but still. That damn zither theme can still pop into my head from time to time. Despite that, you will enjoy it, whether you've seen it a bunch of times, or for the first time.

Next is The Lady From Shanghai, from 1948. Orson plays an Irish sailor (dialect questionable, later abandoned) who save platinum blond Rita Hayworth from muggers. In gratitude, her husband, a rich criminal lawyer (Everett Sloane-Citizen Kane) hires him to be their seaman for a cruise from New York to San Francisco, cutting through the Panama Canal. Now if you know film noirs, you can imagine how much a femme fatale Hayworth's character could be, and you can imagine, and the twist and turns that come right at you.

But here, the twists and turns feel far more out of nowhere. Partly due to the script, and partly because after a disastrous preview, Columbia Pictures took the film away from Welles, and came up with their own edit. An edit where numerous re -writes and re-shoots blew up the film's budget. The blame for this would fall to Welles, even though he had nothing to do with it, since his original cut came on time and on budget. The Lady From Shanghai flopped in the U.S. with both critics and audiences, and gave a permanent black mark to Welles' Hollywood reputation. But it gained respect and an audience in Europe. Below is a recent quote from a film website that I don't remember. Sorry, but in my haste to cut and paste the paragraph, I missed who I should give credit to. Google on your if you want: 

After the release of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI ('48), "friends avoided me," Orson Welles told filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich. "Whenever [the film] was mentioned, people would clear their throats and change the subject very quickly out of consideration for my feelings. I only found out that it was considered a good picture when I got to Europe. The first nice thing I ever heard about it from an American was from Truman Capote. One night in Sicily, he quoted whole pages of dialogue word for word."

So yes, thanks to European critics/audiences, plus TV viewings over the years, The Lady From Shanghai did gain some sort of cult status here. In part because of good casting, though Hayworth has little to do but look good. In part because of the enjoyably stylized way this story is told. In part because a chunk of the dialogue is funny, intentionally funny as opposed to Welles's wandering accent. And in part because of the fantastic Hall of Mirrors climax; a scene that would heavily influence the likes of Enter The Dragon, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and almost any film that plays with funhouse mirrors:



ANNIE HALL (1977)- Fri Jan 30 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Moving Images's Gordon Willis retrospectives. In honor of the great cinematographer who died last May. Not all of his films, just the very best of an illustrious career. I won't have time for some films I've caught from previous revival lists, such as Interiors, Klute, and the first two Godfather films. And as much as I would love to catch the likes of The Parallax View and Broadway Danny Rose, I'm afraid I will miss those screenings as well. There's a chance I can see something from the end of the series, but for now, there's Annie Hall.

Now for years, I waffled back and forth between which film was my favorite of Woody Allen's career, Annie Hall or Manhattan. While the borough of Manhattan has never been more beautifully captured on film with Manhattan, and it should be seen on either the big screen or at least on a 50"-70" TV screen, Annie Hall became my number Allen film back in June 2012. Superior dialogue, best use of Diane Keaton, and a marvel in editing, especially considering the much longer murder mystery story this was a part of.

But that's about all I'll say about this film. Blah blah, Woody Allen's best film right along with Manhattan. Blah blah, on both AFI Top 100 lists and in my own personal top 100. Blah Blah, Multiple Oscar winner including Best Picture. Blah blah, Diane Keaton becomes movie icon and feminist icon of all time. Blah blah, the Annie Hall character was to women then as Juno is to young women right now. Blah blah, one of the best romantic comedies ever made, despite the dramatic/sad tinges to it. Blah blah, just see it, all right



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

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Revivals: post Christmas edition









Hey all, Mike here with revivals for the post Christmas Day winter break, for those who can take a break that is. But don't worry, plenty of weekend options here. This list runs into early January, since that kinda counts as a long weekend for some as well. I tried to keep the descriptions as brief as possible. No time to waste, here we go:



THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) or THE DEAD (1988) for 10 dollars- Fri Dec 26 at 2:30 (Falcon) or 8:30 (Dead)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Two films from the John Huston retrospective. Separate admission only, unless you go for the 5 films for 5 dollars deal for this retrospective. Ten dollars for each film otherwise.

First, The Maltese Falcon. One of the best ever and an AFI Top 100 film (both lists), Falcon made Bogart a leading man for life and was also 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.

Next, The Dead, Huston's last film. Released posthumously in 1987, Huston's adaptation of James Joyce's short story might have received the best reviews of Huston's career. Or at least on par with the likes of Maltese Falcon and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann are a married couple in Dublin, attending the 1904 Epiphany dinner of his elderly aunts. But amid the good cheer the husband goes through his own epiphanies, and not all of them are pleasant. Oscar nominations for for son Tony Huston's Screenplay and the Costume Design, with a cast that includes Dan O'Herlihy and Deep Space Nine's Colm Meaney, and a lush Alex North score:
  



DIE HARD (1988)- Fri Dec 26 at 11:50pm- IFC Center- A DCP projection, part of IFC Center's series of Christmas films. An offbeat choice for the holiday season, but since everything takes place on Christmas Eve, it fits. An off beat change of pace for Christmas, but one of the best action films of the past 25 years or so. Bruce Willis jumps from TV star to Superstar status with this film, as everyman cop John McClane, saving his wife and co-workers in a giant office tower, from the clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his machine gun toting cohorts. True, you might feel Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Hart Bochner slow down the fun a bit by playing variations of the American Asshole, but two out of three pay off.

Compared to a lot of action films made after say, True Lies, Die Hard looks better and better each year. CGI alone does not make an action film exciting or even interesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Transformers 1 and 2, just to pick on two films almost at random. Die Hard was just another above average hit from 1988. A little bigger in popularity than say, Beetlejuice, but not on the level of Crocodile Dundee 2. Home video and cable, plus the even bigger success of Die Hard 2, helped move Die Hard to the level of classic status. But if you're reading this, then you've probably only experienced this on TV. A large TV perhaps with an ok sound system, but not the big screen. Time to change that.



THE FLY (1986)- Fri Dec 26 at Midnight- IFC Center- The Fly, Cronenberg's only big career hit, the surprise hit of the summer of 86, and one of the best films of that year. At that time, despite the praise, saying something like that was considered surprising, daring, or greeted with a "oh, please". History says differently, if you can get by the Oscar winning, and at times disgusting, makeup effects.

But underneath the horror film aesthetic, is a well done tragic love story, where the love suffers terminal problems, when one of them suffers a crippling disease or addiction. This kind of story, as Cronenberg knows well, has universal appeal. Instead of say, AIDS or drug addiction, or the ravages of aging as Cronenberg has stated in more than one interview, you have Jeff Goldblum transforming into a man-sized insect. His physical deterioration and changing behavior does mimic disease, aging and addiction, despite the disintegrating fly vomit. With Geena Davis, at her most beautiful, turning in her best performance.



WISE BLOOD (1979/80) for 10 dollars- Sat Dec 27 at 3:30 and Thurs Jan 1 at 6:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From the John Huston retrospective at Lincoln Center, one were there are two possible dates I can do. From 1979, released in the U.S. in 1980. Huston's dark dramedy adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel. Haven't seen it, would like to see it. But for the rest of this post, I'll have to cut and paste from Lincoln Center's filmlinc website:

“Where you’re going doesn’t matter,” insists the impassioned young hero of Huston’s deepest, thorniest reflection on religious faith. “And where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it.” Brad Dourif gives the performance of his career as Hazel Motes, a recent war veteran who comes to a small Southern town advocating with Pentecostal fervor for the “Church of Christ Without Christ.” Huston fills the fringes of the movie with an indelible cast of American eccentrics, including the great Harry Dean Stanton as a (possibly) blind preacher. Adapted from Flannery O’Connor’s legendary first novel,Wise Blood is a comic, unsettling parable about, in the novelist Francine Prose’s words, “a Christian in spite of himself.”



HEALTH (1980) with Go To Health- Sat Dec 27 at 4- MOMA- HealtH (the way the title is spelled; no typo.). Inspired by (his feelings of anger toward) Watergate, HealtH depicts a convention, where several people battle to win an election for president of a health organization that lobbies Washington. Lauren Bacall plays one candidate, who claims that every orgasm takes 28 days off a woman's life, while she occasionally slips into a coma. Glenda Jackson plays another candidate who can't talk without lapsing into a bored speech. How you can tell if she can be effective when she doesn't know how to present herself (a topic Altman would later cover on HBO's Tanner 88). Paul Dooley (co-writer and frequent actor for Altman) plays an independent candidate who claims to be for the little guy, but you have to wonder . . . James Garner plays bacillus campaign manager, and Carol Burnett plays the Presiden'ts personal observer ("I just want everyone to know the President is very pro-health!"). A young Alfre Woodard plays the hotel manager, and Dick Cavett plays himself.

The film was supposed to send up the condition of the American political process in the 70s. Bacall playing a variation of an empty platitude Dwight Eisenhower, and Jackson play a variation of the useless Adlai Stevenson. It was supposed to be released during the 1980 presidential campaign, but after one disastrous screening, 20th Century Fox essentially buried the film and called it "unreleasable". One week in L.A. in Sept 1980, one week at the old Film Forum in 1982, and then mostly buried. A 1983 summer screening on CBS, and the rare screening on Fox Movie Channel, plus several showings at Film Forum and similar type of revival houses. Not the best Altman, but pretty decent.

Preceded by Go To HealTh, a documentary where Cavett interviews the cast. Seen by even fewer people than HealTh itself:



CITIZEN KANE (1941)- Thurs Jan 1 at 7:30 and 9:50, Fri Jan 2 at 2:50 and (tentative for me) 9:50, Sat Jan 3 at 2:50 and (tentative for me) 7:30 and 9:50, and Wed Jan 7 and Thurs Jan 8 at 7:30 and 9:50- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the film that kicks off the Forum's Orson Welles retrospective. Ok people, show of hands, how many of you have ever heard of Citizen Kane? Ok, good. If you even bother to look at this list at all, you at least know of Orson Welles' film. Didn't expect to see any hands from those under 18 anyway. Now, how many of you know more about Kane than just Rosebud, even if it's aided by memories of HBO's passable version of the making of Kane, RKO 281? Similar number of hands, fine.

Seeing this on the big screen as opposed to watching it on TV, there's a world of difference. In terms of storytelling, pacing and emotional depth (as well as innovative in its use of visual effects, make-up and music), as modern a film as what we have now in release, and a lot better than all but a hand full (I'm trying to be nice and not be considered a snob. I probably failed at that a long time ago). Now, how many of you have actually seen Citizen Kane from beginning to end? Ok, the number of hands have dropped, but I'll let you decide if that would be a fairly low number. I mean, some of have seen it through the very occasional airings on TCM. Maybe 1 or 2 of have seen it/ own it on DVD. New York/ New Jersey people as recent as the early 80s saw this on one of Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie airings. Or maybe 1 or 2 of you saw it in a film class or some sort. Now, how many of you have actually seen this on the big screen? Yeah, that's what I thought. The 1 or 2 of you who saw this with me at the Forum, when Kane ran for a week back in March 2004, or the one who saw it with me at the Forum last April.

A flop in its day (when you do a thinly veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst, and he still wields considerable influence, it's amazing no one burned the negatives behind RKO's backs), a classic today. First, in France, where it was screened shortly after WW 2, and had the praise and backing of filmmakers like Goddard. Then in the mid to late 50s, when it aired on TV and had a major re-release. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Welles for Actor and Director, Herrmann for his Score, and Editing for Robert Wise. An Oscar to Welles and Joseph J. Mankiewicz for the Screenplay. Number one on both AFI Top 100 lists, and along with Casablanca and The Godfather, always in the conversation for greatest American films ever made. That it's in my personal top 6 should be a little obvious.



MCCABE AND MRS MILLER (1971) with Zinc Ointment- Fri Jan 2 at 7- MOMA- From MOMA's Robert Altman retrospective.Unlike other Friday nights there, this one isn't free, we'll have to pay to see this. 

A Western that must have heavily influenced at least the look of HBO's Deadwood, as well as Unforgiven. Warren Beatty (cast for box office purposes, over Altman's original choice of Elliot Gould) plays a gambler/hustler type who sets up a whorehouse/saloon with the help of Julie Christie (Oscar nominated). When mining companies try to buy out their successful business, things get bloody. But since we're in 70s Altman territory, expect some revisionist changes to the usual formula. Plus an ending that makes The Wild Bunch and Heaven's Gate look cheery in comparison, though comparatively less bloody.

This film got lost in the shuffle back in 71; released in the summer around hits like Klute and Shaft, and with influential films like French Connection, A Clockwork Orange and Last Picture Show coming later on, forget remembering this back then. Over the years, it's developed a cult following, among Western fans and Altman fans. At first, it was at least better than Altman's previous picture, Brewster McCloud. A 1990 revival/ mini re-release in London helped. Vilmos Zigmond (Close Encounters, Heaven's Gate, The Deer Hunter)'s Cinematography and Leonard Cohen's songs certainly helped, as did future revisionist Westerns like Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven. Also filled with a lot of actors from other Altman films, including Keith Carradine, Rene Auberjonois, and Shelley Duvall.

Preceded by Zinc Ointment, a 9 minute short about the making of this film:



TENTACLES (1977)- Fri Jan 2 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The last from the John Huston retrospective that I will be able to post, and boy do we have a doozy of a bad film. Henry Fonda's evil corporation does some oil drilling off the coast of whatever beach town, California. They shouldn't be drilling out there but DAMMNIT, we need energy! Anyway, the drilling somehow messes with the octopus population, and said octopus population somehow become maneaters.

Awful action, questionable editing, terrible score (both in quality and inappropriateness), a campy awful ripoff of Jaws. Not the only ripoff of Jaws, but notable in terms of cast and shoddiness. The money went straight to the cast: with Huston (a rare lead role as a reporter who uncovers the drilling), Fonda as the evil businessman (a handful of scenes, sitting in a chair), Shelly Winters (as Huston's sister; all over the place with a terrible scene when she tries to reach her son via walkie talkie), and a stiff Bo Hopkins as the actor who could do the "action scenes" (but darn it, I liked him in The Wild Bunch and Dynasty). If you like bad movies, Tentacles is for you: 



VIDEODRONE (1983)- Fri Jan 2 at Midnight- IFC Center- From IFC Center's David Cronenberg retrospective. Videodrone, from 1983. One of the few studio films from director David Cronenberg. James Woods stars as a sleazy cable tv programmer, who gets hooked to Videodrome, an S and M, snuff-ish film show, that tends to distort things, physically and mentally, for the viewer. If you don't know this, I won't spoil it much more, except this is NOT for the physically or emotionally squeamish. Cronenberg's statement on overdosing on the varying visual media, and trashy TV (sounds timely, doesn't it?). Featuring a quite sensuous Debbie Harry:




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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December revivals: pre-Christmas edition















Hey all, Mike here with a list of revivals for December. Pre-Christmas that is. This was a difficult list to pare down, and it still feels like a damn long one. And the first five or so days on this list are jammed packed with conflicting options that I'll have to just go with majority rules or first come first served. Not a bad problem to have. Let's not delay this any longer, here we go:



THE PASSIONATE THIEF (1960/63)- Fri Dec 12, Sat Dec 13, and Mon Dec 15 at 4:45, 7:15 and 9:30 and Tues Dec 16 at 7:15 and 9:30- Film Forum- A week long run of a big deal Italian comedy that concludes the Forum's Mario Monicelli retrospective. Sorry I didn't post anything here. I had no time for Big Deal on Madonna Street or any of the others prior to this film. I'm not even posting all days that this film is playing, since it conflicts with the remaining films on this list.

From 1960, released in the U.S. in 1963. Anna Magnani is a delusional and lonely actress working background. When the crew takes a holiday break, she jumps into a New Years Eve party with a blonde wig, brassy dress, and silver fox (with head), and throws herself at any available man. This includes her fellow performer and friend (Toto, a big name in Italian comedy) and a good looking American (Ben Gazzara). Both men are trying to steal from the party guests and she keeps interfering. Don't know the film, but curious:



IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)- Fri Dec 12, Sat Dec 13, Mon Dec 15- Thurs Dec 19, Mon Dec 22 and Tues Dec 23 at 7, plus Tues Dec 23 at 9:40- IFC Center- Once again, IFC Center shows the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic for about two weeks. This kicks off IFC Center's series of Christmas films, and this is by far the most traditional, as you'll see with a couple of other selections below. It's only shown once or twice a year on NBC, once this year on USA Network, and not much more after that, if at all. So if you're in the mood, here it is. I'm sorry that you don't get a little bell with the title of the film on it, like you do with the recent DVD release, but how bad do need to give out angel wings?

As for the film itself, you probably know it, and your familiarity is probably why you're hesitant to go out and see it on the big screen. Don't worry, unless you're one of those who've made it a tradition to come out and see it in a venue like IFC Center every year or every other year, relatively few people know what it's like to experience this on the big screen, without commercial interruption. So maybe this is the year you'll do it?  Once again, Mary Owens, Reed's daughter will make introductions to selected screenings, on Dec 16th, 20th, and 23rd at 7PM:




THE BIG SLEEP and THE BLUE DAHLIA (both 1946)- Fri Dec 12 at 5:10 (Dahlia), 7 (Sleep) and 9:30 (Dahlia)- and Sat Dec 14 at 5:10 (Sleep), 7:30 (Blue) and 9:45 (Sleep)- Film Forum- The start of the Film Forum's noir series of films that were the book and/or screenplay was written by one or more of the following: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, and Cornell Woolrich. Sorry that I probably won't post anything from this retrospective except this double feature. Maybe not, depending on whether the first two Thin Man films are doable for me on Christmas Eve. But that's for the next list.

First, The Big Sleep, another standout noir from Bogart, this time as Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe. Co-written by William Faulkner and Leigh Brackett, and directed by Howard Hawks. To paraphrase from the Forum's website: Hired by a hothouse-ensconced retired general to investigate his nympho daughter's gambling debts, Marlowe, finds the dames, including a very young Dorothy Malone as the bookseller, keep throwing themselves at him even as corpses keep dropping, while he and Lauren Bacall take time for a memorable double entendre conversation about race horses. 
Note that this is the version released in theaters, after the film ran into enforced edits by those in charge with enforcing the Production Code.  Specifically who aided the killer, the overt sexuality of  and the mention of both nature of the gangster's business and sexual preference, were not permissible by the Code. The original version of the Big Sleep will also play in this retrospective, but I'm afraid I have no time for it. The plot barely makes sense no matter which cut you see, even if the set-up is decent. But the reason to catch it is the coolness of Bogie and Bacall, Bogie's scenes in the bookstore with Malone, and some cool dialogue.

Next, The Blue Dahlia, an original Chandler screenplay (Oscar nominated) from an unfinished Marlowe novel and the third film team-up of leads Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Ladd is a returning Navy pilot who sees his wife philandering around the title nightclub, and finds out she's responsible for their son's accidental death. Ladd nearly shoots her, but restrains himself and walks away. Imagine his surprise when his wife is found dead and he's the prime suspect. You might think this would make Ladd frightened. But he's fought before, and will coolly take on all comers to find the murderer. But what is mysterious Lake's angle? Unfortunately this would be Chandler's only original screenplay, but it's a cool one with a cast to match. The best of the two noirs playing, but both are worth catching:


DIE HARD- Fri Dec 12 and Sat Dec 13 at 9:40- IFC Center- A DCP projection, part of IFC Center's series of Christmas films. An offbeat choice for the holiday season, but since everything takes place on Christmas Eve, it fits. An off beat change of pace for Christmas, but one of the best action films of the past 25 years or so. Bruce Willis jumps from TV star to Superstar status with this film, as everyman cop John McClane, saving his wife and co-workers in a giant office tower, from the clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his machine gun toting cohorts. True, you might feel Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Hart Bochner slow down the fun a bit by playing variations of the American Asshole, but two out of three pay off.

Compared to a lot of action films made after say, True Lies, Die Hard looks better and better each year. CGI alone does not make an action film exciting or even interesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Transformers 1 and 2, just to pick on two films almost at random. Die Hard was just another above average hit from 1988. A little bigger in popularity than say, Beetlejuice, but not on the level of Crocodile Dundee 2. Home video and cable, plus the even bigger success of Die Hard 2, helped move Die Hard to the level of classic status. But if you're reading this, then you've probably only experienced this on TV. A large TV perhaps with an ok sound system, but not the big screen. Time to change that. Hey, be glad it's not a Midnight screening. Well they are showing this at Midnight as well, but I won't be up for that right now, so let's do it:



IMAGES (1972) with Damages and/or THIEVES LIKE US (1974)- Sat Dec 13 at 4 (Images) and 7:30 (Thieves)- MOMA- A potential double feature of more stuff from the Robert Altman retrospective. You can see both films for one admission, but if you only want to see one, well you can do that to. First, Images, from 1972. Children's book writer Susannah York goes on vacation with husband Rene Auberjonois to a remote-ish Irish cottage. She may not have been the most stable person prior to the road trip, but as the film delves into her inner life, things begin to go downhill. Altman's attempt at a non-linear narrative. If you're a fan of 1960 Ingmar Bergman films or David Lynch films from the 2000s, then you can get into Images. If nothing else, York's performance and Vilmos Zsigmond's Cinematography make this worthy of interest. Preceded by Damages, a 2001 short Altman put together from home movies shot on the set of Images.

Next, Thieves Like Us from 1974. Unfortunately, like Images, this was also a flop. An adaptation of Edward Anderson's novel. While it might be considered a more faithful adaptation than the Nicolas Ray film They Live By Night, most of us have never read it. This film feels like a more realistic version of Bonnie and Clyde. 3 bank robbers elude the law. One of them falls in love with a girl. But instead of the sexiness of a Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway couple, we have a more realistic Keith Carradine-Shelley Duvall pairing. You feel for them, the romance between them feels more tangible, but you know in this time period it won't work out. Lots of Mississippi locations and superior art direction and costume design help with the authentic feel. Catch this:




WHITE CHRISTMAS- Mon Dec 15 at 7- AMC Empire- A special DCP screening.  Christmas classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney. The first widescreen film made by Paramount and more successful than the original Holiday Inn. In short, before It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and Home Alone became American holiday classics, this was it. If you didn't prefer Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol that is, this was it. And what's more Christmas than Bing and Danny, Irving Berlin shows, helping out our veterans, with a couple of hot blondes. That is what Christmas is all about, just as Allah intended. At least that's what Santa Claus said on an episode of Family Guy:



THE EPIC OF EVEREST (1924)- Wed Dec 17 at 7- Rubin Museum of Art- Now here's a film I normally would not have considered. But a friend brought it up, sent me the link to both the page at the Rubin Museum about it, as well as the link to the trailer of the restored silent film with new score. I saw it, I'm sold, and I'm going. It's been playing prior to the 17th, but I'm posting the only date I'm doing. Now since I'm not familiar with it, I'll copy and paste the Rubin's description of the film, and I'll include a link to the trailer below:

“Spooky, entrancing.” - TimeOut London
“The sequences in Tibet before the climb, of daily life among the Sherpas and their families, are of rare and magical ethnographic value.” - The Daily Telegraph
Capt. John Noel’s The Epic of Everest (1924) has been newly restored by the British Film Institute, with a mesmerizing and evocative new score by Simon Fisher Turner, and with the original tinting restored for the striking mountain sequences.
“This movie is all about the awe-inspiring visuals, mist rolling off the mountain top, glaciers twinkling in the evening light – and the crowning glory is the blue-tinted Fairyland of Ice sequence.” - Silent London
The third attempt to climb Everest famously culminated in the deaths of two of the finest climbers of their generation, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, and sparked an on-going debate over whether or not they did indeed reach the summit. Filming in brutally harsh conditions with a hand-cranked camera, Captain John Noel captured images of breathtaking beauty and considerable historic significance. The film is probably the earliest filmed records of life in Tibet and features sequences at Phari Dzong (Pagri), Shekar Dzong (Xegar) and Rongbuk monastery. But what resonates so deeply is Noel’s ability to frame the vulnerability, isolation and courage of people persevering in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.



A WEDDING (1978) with Dinah Goes To A Wedding- Thurs Dec 18 at 7- MOMA- A Wedding, one of the last Altman studio films to receive a proper release. Basically, it covers the story of a wedding, the 2 families that come together, and the secrets, lies and other contrivances that come forth during this social event that doesn't run smoothly. Over the top at times, but likable. Strong ensemble acting, including Carol Burnett, Mia Farrow, Lillian Gish, and a number of others who had appeared in previous Altman films. Not a hit, took some grief by critics, but I think it's held up surprisingly well. Preceded by Dinah Goes To A Wedding, a ten minute clip from Dinah Shore's old talk show Dinah! From 1977, Dinah visited the set of A Wedding and interviewed Altman:



NASHVILLE (1975)- Fri Dec 19 at 7:30 for free (subject to ticket availability)- introduced by Michael Murphy and Joan Tewkesbury- MOMA- Robert Altman's other masterpiece, from 1975, gets a big screen showing. Tickets are free and distributed at 3:30. Because there's a 6pm book signing of Altman by authors Giulia D'Angolo and Kathryn Reed Altman (the director's widow), and because the screening will be introduced by screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury and costar Michael Murphy, expect said free tickets will fly.

Country music types were not thrilled with Altman's attack of their world, but they weren't a target. This was Altman's cinematic State of the Union address; while hope is expressed for some of the Individuals, the country was rotting and it would only get worse. Bad enough that it kinda predicts the coming of both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley. So let's sort of frame it as a musical!

We're following 23 characters, who'll all eventually come together for the Parthenon concert in Nashville's Bicentennial Park. Lily Tomlin is a married gospel singer who ends up becoming one of the many conquests of rock star Keith Carradine. Ned Beatty is Tomlin's husband, who has his own wandering eye, is a local organizer for an unseen Presidential candidate, and his tying in a campaign rally with the concert. Henry Gibson is Country Music Royalty, with an ego, an eye for political office, and a loud, drunk girlfriend who worships the late Kennedy boys, JFK and RFK, a bit much. Ronee Blakley is the most popular female country singer, whose constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown and whose husband is struggling to keep her sane. Scott Glenn is a Vietnam vet, walking around in uniform and gets maybe a little too close to Blakley's character. Karen Black is another popular country singer, though more ruthless off-stage and mediocre on-stage than Blakley's character. Murphy is the two-faced campaign manager. Shelley Duvall is a man-chasing groupie, chased by uncle Keenan Wynn, whose wife is dying. Barbara Harris and Gwen Welles are two aspiring singers trying to get into the concert; the former is not conventionally pretty and has been struggling for a while, the later is lovely, and is forced to move up through her body than through her voice. Geraldine Chaplin as a reporter (or is she?), who seems a lot closer to starfucker than serious journalist. With Elliot Gould, Julie Christie (as themselves), and Jeff Goldblum in an early role.

A film that Altman had difficulty finding financing for years. All the major studios didn't want to touch the heavy political aspects of Nashville, no matter what possible actors and big time soundtrack would come along with it. It wasn't until Jerry Weintraub came along, became producer of the project and got creative with the financing before Nashville could get made (at least according to Weintraub's interesting autobiography). The last Altman film that both drew an audience and had critics (lead by Pauline Kael) praising it to the hilt.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Altman for Director, and both Tomlin and Blakley for Supporting Actress. An Oscar for Carradine, who wrote the song, I'm Easy. On the second AFI Top 100 list. The main reason it's not on mine is because it's been a long while since I've seen this on cable, and I've never seen this on the big screen before. Now is a great chance to change that:



GREMLINS- Fri Dec 19 and Sat Dec 20 at 9:40- IFC Center- A DCP projection, part of IFC Center's Christmas Films series. Certainly the darkest in their series. Works well in making one both laugh and jump. Recently appeared in a list blog among the worst gifts ever given in a movie set in Christmas time. Cute little Gizmo given as a gift to a son by screw-up Dad, who just can't keep his pet from getting wet, thus multiplying, or keeping them from eating after midnight. Turning them into evil little things. I steal this from someone on imdb who talked about this: like The Matrix, be careful with your ever improving technology, or else you're screwed.

Laugh either loudly, at say, when the Gremlins enjoy Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or darkly, at Phoebe Cates' monologue involving her dad, a Santa Claus suit, and a chimney two sizes two small, so to speak. No laughing when the film came out, but now . . . And make you jump, when say, Mom is attacked by multiple Gremlins. One of the big hits of the summer of 1984, from director Joe Dante, and writer Chris Columbus:




3 WOMEN with Girl Talk- Sat Dec 20 at 4- MOMA- Part of the Robert Altman retrospective. Definitely a 70s film, but one heavily influenced by Bergman's Persona. Lots of obsession and some switching of personalities. Hard to describe a film that had no screenplay, but was completely influenced by some dreams Altman had. Gone are the days when a major director and the head of a major studio (in this case, Alan Ladd Jr. of Fox) could have an exchange possibly resembling something like this:

Altman: Hi, Alan. I just had some dreams, and I'd like you to give me some money to make a movie about them. I promise I won't write a screenplay.
Ladd: Oh. Ok.
Altman: I don't need much.
Ladd: How about 1.5 Million? (the actual estimated budget)
Altman: Great. I've got a plane to catch. Will call you later.
Ladd: Have a good flight. (The situation actually happened, minus this dialogue, according to the book "Easy Riders" by Peter Biskind).

Starring Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall. Never seen all of this and I'm very curious




CHINATOWN  for 10 dollars (7 for Seniors/Students)- Tues Dec 23 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's John Huston retrospective. All films will be 10 dollars, 7 for Seniors and Students. Every film he directed, and a couple where he just acted in. Sorry this is the earliest I have the time to post something from it. For the record, I won't post many films from the series. Mostly because I've done my share of Huston films on the big screen already, from The Maltese Falcon, to Treasure of the Sierra Madre, to The Asphalt Jungle, to Casino Royale, to Annie. And partly because there are a few I wish I had the time for but no go, like Prizzi's Honor. Ok, plus a couple I'm thinking no way in Hell, like Phobia, The Bible and Victory. Is it bad that I'm think of doing Tentacles during the holiday season? Such a good bad movie, Ill have to think about that one . . .

A DCP screening of 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 him 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 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:



Let me know if there's interest, have a Happy Festivus.