Friday, July 03, 2015

July revivals: first half








Mike here with revival options for the first half of July. I've wasted more than enough time trying to spit a list out. No intro, here we go:



THE THIRD MAN (1949/50)- Fri July 3 and Mon July 6- Thurs July 9 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A 4k digital restoration, running thru Thursday, July 9. 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.



KISS ME KATE (1953) in 3-D- Fri July 3 at 7:30 for free (first come first served)- MOMA- A repeat posting, just like with The Third Man. But unlike that film, this one is free, on a first come first served basis. Tickets will be given out starting at 4pm.

Hey, film's like Mad Max: Fury Road, Avatar, Coraline, or Jaws 3-D (I only cite the best) didn't start the craze. And MOMA will show films that were shot in the original 3-D process. But they won't be SCREENED the way it was, with 2 projectors. Instead, much like the version of Dial M For Murder that was screened a couple of times at the Forum, MOMA will screen several films shot in 3-D back in the 1950s, that have been digitally restored and will screen in digital 3-D, via a process somewhat different than what is used at the multiplexes. Kiss Me Kate is not the first film in this retrospective, but it might be the only one I'll post. Sorry, but I can't work up a lot of interest in Hondo, with John Wayne. Kiss Me Kate use to be a staple of Ch. 13 broadcasting from the 80s and 90s, but my memories are a bit hazy since TCM doesn't screen it often. But I know I've never seen it in 3-D.

Now the film itself. One part variation of Taming of the Shrew, one part the fictionalized backstage bickering of Lunt and Fontanne, a fun musical. Has its footprint in film history for Ann Miller's Too Darn Hot (turned into a solo for her talents, smart move), and for the duet between Bob Fosse and Carol Haney in "From This Moment On". It's only about a minute long, and it was the only sequence Fosse choreographed, but it was enough to get him noticed as a choreographer, getting him work in that field for the rest of his life. Yeah, there's more about the film, but who gives a crap about the plot. Enjoy the jokes, enjoy Cole Porter's music and lyrics, enjoy the dancing, and enjoy it all in 3-D:



Next is your choice of Midnight movie options at IFC Center on Friday July 3rd: 

BATMAN (1989)- Fri July 3 at Midnight- IFC Center- The start of IFC's series of Superheroes films that were popular prior to Blade and all the other official and unofficial Marvel films. Not as good as Batman Begins, but still one of the best films of 1989. The psychological analysis and battle of wills between hero and villain seems to just scratch the surface compared to the Christopher Nolan film from last year, but back in 89, this was heavy. And considering its history, it's amazing it even came out the way it did.

A difficult shoot. Took years for Warners Bros. to find someone who could tackle the project, until they noticed Tim Burton's work on Beetlejuice. Burton brought along Michael Keaton for Bruce Wayne/Batman; a move that made studio heads a little nervous, and pissed off most fans worldwide.
Jack Nicohlson and Kim Basinger were cast in part to help out the box office. During shooting, Burton tussled (and sometimes lost) in the struggle between bringing Dark Knight mood and angst, against producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber's desire for more action and adventure. Luckily, Nicholson tended to side more with Burton.

The struggle brought out that rare thing, the modern Hollywood summer blockbuster that works big time. Wonderful cinematography, good songs from Prince and a terrific score from Danny Elfman don't overwhelm the film; they enhance and improve. Keaton is no Christian Bale, but you can see why for one brief instant, he became a superstar.

What does overwhelm the film, but not in a bad way was Nicholson's Joker and the Art Direction. Talk about one performance dominating a film, check out Jack. The cast and crew must have felt the same way. Those who had a day off made sure to be there to watch the scenes Jack had with Jack Palance as the other crime boss. As for the Art Direction, you had a fully imagined Gotham City, with minimal help from CGI. This film took the visual concepts of both Blade Runner and Brazil, and along with those films, influenced neo-noir or dark forbidding city design ever since. A deserved Oscar for the Art Direction (but its only nomination?!?!?!):



ROBOCOP (1987)- Fri July 3 at 12:05AM- 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:



THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) for free- Fri July 6 at sundown- Bryant Park-  A free screening as part of the Bryant Park film festival. Not the first film from this summer's selections, but I had no time for Ghostbusters and little faith that the dialogue heavy film The Killers would play well. The Great Lawn area opens at 5, and the screening will start near sundown with the old two minute intro to HBO (the series sponsor), probably a Looney Tunes cartoon as well. So expect to leave sometime between 10:55-11:05.

I've been waiting for this film for awhile. The best disaster film ever made. The only other disaster film I'd consider posting is The Towering Inferno. Ok, I'd also post The Concorde: Airport 1979, but that film I file under So Bad It's Fun. Actually, this film's sequel, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure is also in that category, but I digress.

One part action film, one part adventure film and one part religious parable, a group of passengers try to survive when the ocean liner they were on completely capsizes. They're attempting to reach the bottom or outer hull of the ship, which is the thinnest part of the ship and is above the surface. It's a theory that help will come in that direction, and that theory comes from a young boy, but those who haven't given up feel it's the only way to survive and see The Morning After (the title of the Oscar winning song). Gene Hackman plays an atypical hero, an ultra-self-righteous, Captain Ahab-esque, defrocked preacher whose personality clashes with loud doubter Ernest Borgnine may proof more problematic than the fires and leaks the group encounters. Throw in aspects of The Flying Dutchmen, Ship of Fools, other survivors wandering the ship like they were in the desert, and all the survivors looking for salvation of some sort, and you got parables right in your face. Or you can enjoy the strong acting and good action set pieces. Fine cast that includes Red Buttons, Jack Albertson, Leslie Neilsen, Roddy McDowell and Oscar nominated Shelley Winters. A special Oscar for its Visual Effects. 8 nominations in total, including Cinematography, Editing and for John Williams' fine score.



THE LAST DETAIL (1973)- Fri July 10 at 4:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From Lincoln Center's Judd Apatow retrospective. Not just the films and TV work Apatow directed and/or produced, but also a few hand picked influences. While I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and This Is 40 (in that order), I'm not running to do a revival screening of any of them. But this also includes 2 of Apatow's influences, chosen by him for this retrospective.

Here's the first, a DCP screening of The Last Detail, directed by Hal Ashby. Jack Nicholson is one of 2 Navy MPs who decide to give their prisoner (Oscar nominated Randy Quaid) a good time on the way to prison. Like Nicholson's then popular character said, which was used in the advertising "No *#@!!* Navy's going to give some poor **!!@* kid eight years in the #@!* brig without me taking him out for the time of his *#@!!* life.". Nominations for Nicholson and screenwriter Robert Towne, who would later reteam for Chinatown, Note the early appearances of Michael Moriarty, Nancy Allen, Gilda Radner and a very cute Carol Kane. Before the likes of Mamet and Tarantino, a good Towne screenplay combing obscenities, humor and pathos among macho men. Ashby's first hit that supposedly has influenced Apatow thru out his career:



BEING THERE (1979)- Sat July 11 at 1:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The other film from Lincoln Center's Judd Apatow retrospective that I will be posting. Again, not one of his films, but a film of Apatow's biggest influence (at least cinematically), director Hal Ashby. Again, no disrespect intended, I just have no interest in posting one of Apatow's work, and every interest in posting the last of Ashby's 1970s creative hot streak, Being There.

Before Forest Gump, there was Chance The Gardner, from Jerrzy Kosinski's great novella, who adapted it for the big screen. Peter Sellers plays Chance, who was raised by an unnamed millionaire. Hidden from the outside world, unable to read or write, Chance gains the skills of a highly qualified gardener, but with the mental acuity of a schoolboy. A schoolboy who is raised more by television, but whose lack of proof of identity leaves him alone and homeless after his benefactor dies. The now middle-aged Chance explores the outside world (Washington D.C.), and thru some mishaps, is brought into the world of tycoon and Presidential confidant Melvyn Douglas. After a chance meeting between him and the President (Jack Warden), Chance the Gardner is mistaken for Chancey Gardner; a genius about world affairs whose every simple utterance is taken as something of importance. Soon the media gets a hold of him, and he grows into a phenomenon, while all Chance wants is to work in a garden and watch TV.

Highly effective satire, done in a effective way never to be seen in an American film ever again. On TV and overseas, certainly. But in a Hollywood backed film (Lorimar funded, United Artists distributed), never again. Or if it happens, it probably won't end in the same manner. And I'm not just talking about how the story ended, but the final image as well. One hidden from Lorimar by Ashby until it was too late to rework it. A good idea, based on the after-the-fact reactions from studio brass.

One of the best films of 1979. Successful, but thanks mainly to great reviews and Oscar nominations. An Oscar for Douglas for Supporting Actor. A nomination for Best Actor for Peter Sellers, in his last great performance. The simplicity of the outward emotions, the almost textbook definition of childlike from an adult. As good as Hanks is in Forest Gump, Sellers was better. Yes I'm biased toward Sellers and his acting. Good luck living life without bias:
    


IN COLD BLOOD (1967)-  Sat July 11 at  5:30 and 8- Film Forum- The Forum's new weeks-long series of True Crimes revival series kicks  off with In Cold Blood. A new 4k digital restoration, especially helpful for Quincy Jones's score. Almost 40 years before Capote, director Richard Brooks cast Robert Blake (former child star/ TVs Baretta/ acquitted murder suspect) and Scott Wilson as Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, whose arrest and conviction for the brutal murder of a family in Kansas attracted the attention of the very urban Capote. On November 15, 1959, a quiet night in western Kansas, ex-cons Smith and Hickock broke into the home a successful farmer, supposedly to commit burglary. But instead they murdered Clutter, his wife and two of their teenage kids with a shotgun.

"Based on a true story.", the tag line for every other Movie of the Week; but when Brooks adapted Capote's best-seller about the case, his realistic treatment was not only a breakthrough in American filmmaking and the granddaddy of a genre, but has arguably never been topped. Casting mostly little-known actors who bore uncanny resemblances to the actual participants, and authentic locals as bit players, Brooks shot the murders in the actual rooms in which they took place, with Conrad Hall's widescreen black-and-white photography (cited in the documentary Visions of Light as a seminal work of 60s cinematography) giving a near-documentary feel, and with even the parallel editing of the multiple storylines reproducing the pacing of the book. Blake and Wilson give powerful, and oddly sympathetic, portrayals as Smith and Hickock, with John Forsythe as Kansas Bureau of Investigation detective Alvin Dewey. 4 Oscar nominations, for Director, Cinematography, Original Score, and Screenplay Adaptation:




Let me know if there's interest. Have a Happy 4th.

Friday, June 19, 2015

June revivals: second half














Hi all, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of June. Not a complete list; I'm not up for Midnight screenings of Scream, Fargo and The Holy Mountain at IFC Center this month (the last two I would strongly consider later this year however), nor for Fathers Day films like Eyes Without A Face and The Shining at Museum of the Moving Image, or even Ghostbusters kicking off the Bryant Park Film Festival. It's been a little hard to narrow the options and I accept how some of these screenings will conflict. I'll point out where as this list goes on. No more delay, here we go:


JAWS- Sun June 21 at 7 and Wed June 24 at 2 and 7- AMC Empire, Regal Union Square, and AMC Westbury- Jaws, a popular film (file under Yeah: No Kidding), plays once again.  But this time, it's actually playing at reasonable times. No Midnight screenings this go around. These screenings are sponsored by TCM, and will include an intro from Ben Mankiewicz. These TCM screenings tend to sell out about 2-4 hours before the scheduled time, so much planning is needed.
 
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, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. 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:



GOODFELLAS (1990)- Sun June 21 at 7:10 and Tues June 23- Thurs June 25 at 7, plus Wed June 24 at 4- Film Forum- A Digital restoration of the classic film. The same restoration screened to wide acclaim at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. Has probably never looked and sounded so well since the film's original 1990 release. And if you know this from slapped together-ish home video releases, or the 50,000 times (a rough estimate) it has aired of IFC, now is a good time to change that. Take note, one Film Forum screening has already sold out (Mon June 22 at 7) with no Q and A involved. So it looks like this will also take mucho planning to see this.

Goodfellas itself, I won't go much into. The Sopranos, and to extend this new Golden Age of Television (at least most new HBO shows after 2000 and any shows from Sopranos staff writers, like Mad Men) owe a great debt to Goodfellas. Either in tone  (a realistic world of mid-level gangsters, where hysterical comedy can turn to brutal violence on a dime) or by direct or indirect influence ( Sopranos influenced by Goodfellas who in turn would influence the likes of Breaking Bad Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, and whose success on HBO would give the network the critical and financial sheen to tackle 6 Feet Under, Game of Thrones, etc).

Until Return of the King, the last new release I paid three times to see in a theater. If you're reading this, you've probably heard of it. On both AFI Top 100 lists. On my personal top 35, and probably much much higher then that. Used as an example of what Oscar got wrong for Best Picture. As much as I like Dances With Wolves (I'm annoyed with the attacks it gets), it was NOT Best Picture of 1990.



The next two films conflict with Goodfellas on Tuesday, June 23rd at 7. Rather than trying to decide, as well as acknowledging that Goodfellas is a weeklong engagement, I'll post them anyway. For people I know who may want to see any of this with me, I'm going majority rules here:


AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)- Tues June 23 at 7- MOMA- If you can't get to the Broadway show, you can try the classic film, screened by MOMA as part of their best of early Technicolor retrospective. Yeah, there's a story about WW 2 vet Gene Kelly returning to Paris to try to make it as a painter. But we're not here for the story, though we do get some punchy dialogue from Alan Jay Lerner. We're here for the great Gershwin tunes (I Got Rhythm, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Our Love Is Hear To Stay, among others plus the lyric-less title piece), the great dancing involving Kelly and/or Leslie Caron (choreographed by Kelly), and the vivid use of Technicolor by director Vincent Minnelli. And of course, the 16 minute title ballet; whichever you may have seen isolated from That's Entertainment, Youtube, or from some other source, but perhaps not within the context of the film itself. 

Oscar nominations for Minnelli for Director and Editing, Oscars for Best Picture, Lerner for Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Musical Score (not to the Gershwins, long story, not going on about that here.). Nothing for Kelly, since we're talking about no category for his Choreography, and his work onscreen didn't garner merit over actors doing more serious films. I'm not saying to ignore from that year say, Bogart from The African Queen, Brando in Streetcar, or Montgomery Clift from A Place in the Sun, just giving filler information:



AN UNMARRIED WOMAN with post film discussion with Michael Murphy- Tues June 23 at 7- IFC Center- A studio archival print, in tribute to the late writer-director Paul Mazursky. Rare since aside from the occasional revival screening, there's little chance to see this film. It hasn't played on HBO in a long time, it's rarely screened on TCM, and the DVD of it is long out of print.

An early-ish form of the dramedy, and a very New York film as well. Jill Clayburgh briefly reached superstar status as a woman on her own, after her picture perfect marriage is ripped apart by her husband, who dumps her for another woman. Through trial and error, she becomes something she wasn't in her marriage: comfortable with herself, her personality, her sexuality, and her independence. But when she falls hard for another man, is she willing to change again? And if she doesn't, is she willing to be alone again, temporarily or otherwise?

During that time, with the work of NOW, especially their push for the ERA Amendment, An Unmarried Woman hit the cultural zeitgeist like a ton of bricks. A woman unsure of her self, muddling through, but determined to do it, and doing it without a man swooping down to solve the problem. And with a performance from Jill Clayburgh, probably the most influential in the feminist movement, that didn't contain the past tics of Diane Keaton's Annie Hall perf, or the future tics of Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love perf. A highly naturalistic performance, which was needed for that ending. An ending that made some happy, and made others waiting for the Prince Charming ending, quite upset.

One of the best films of 1978, with Oscar nominations for Clayburgh for Actress, and Picture and Screenplay for Mazursky. Yes, let's not forget his script and direction; Clayburgh's performance was wonderful, but it didn't come from a vacuum. Clayburgh and Mazursky won or were just nominated by almost every other award from critics, guilds, etc. Clayburgh even won Best Actress at Cannes, while Mazursky was nominated for the Palm D'or. Try not to miss this one people. After the screening, Michael Murphy, who played Clayburgh's husband, will discuss the film:




WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JUNE? (1962) for 10 dollars- Thurs June 25 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap(ish) screening of A-list Campfest incarnate. The plot is simple enough that I'll just copy it from imdb: "In a decaying Hollywood mansion, Jane Hudson, a former child star, and her sister Blanche, a movie queen forced into retirement after a crippling accident, live in virtual isolation." Shot in terrific black and white, it deserves attention just from the teaming of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I don't know if the simmering rivalry that exploded into a full-fledged feud is obvious in Crawford's performance, but the rage certainly fuels Davis performance as the former child star/ alcoholic/ tormentor. An Oscar for Costume Design. 4 other nominations, including Black and White Cinematography, and Davis for Best Actress. The story of what happened with that category, as well as the whole making of the picture itself is too damn long to go over here. Just see the film if you haven't



THE THIRD MAN (1949/50)- Fri June 26, Sat June 27, and Mon June 29- Thurs July 9 at 7:30 and 9:40, plus Sun June 28 at 3:20, 5:25 and 7:30- Film Forum- A 4k digital restoration that gets a full 2 week run. 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 film 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.



MOMMIE DEAREST (1981)- Fri June 26 at 9:30- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A special screening of the cult classic from 1981. This film has been given the MST3K treatment every so often, and it will receive it again, in time for Gay Pride Month. It will cost about as much as an IMAX screening, so plan ahead.

Adapted from the payback novel by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, this is how Crawford will be thought of forever more. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. That doesn't make this a good film. But it also doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. I don't know if this was supposed to be serious or camp, and I'm not sure if everyone else involved knew what tone to take either. It seems Paramount advertised it as a serious film, though it was released in September so that it couldn't be confused as an Oscar contender (totally a guess on my part). But back in Sept-Oct 1981, when the wire hanger scene came up, a pop culture moment was born. And you can watch Faye Dunaway's A list film career end, though who thought it was a good idea to have Diana Scarwid start playing adult Christina Crawford at age 13?!?!? No wonder she went from an Oscar nominee to a Razzie award winner. If you want to enjoy yourself, catch this campy crappy fun film. And don't forget the wire hangers:



KISS ME KATE (1953) in 3-D-Sun June 28 at 5:30, and Mon June 29- Thurs July 2 at 7- MOMA- Hey, film's like Mad Max: Fury Road, Avatar, Coraline, or Jaws 3-D (I only cite the best) didn't start the craze. And MOMA will show films that were shot in the original 3-D process. But they won't be SCREENED the way it was, with 2 projectors. Instead, much like the version of Dial M For Murder that was screened a couple of times at the Forum, MOMA will screen several films shot in 3-D back in the 1950s, that have been digitally restored and will screen in digital 3-D, via a process somewhat different than what is used at the multiplexes. Kiss Me Kate is not the first film in this retrospective, but it might be the only one I'll post. Sorry, but I can't work up a lot of interest in Hondo, with John Wayne. Kiss Me Kate use to be a staple of Ch. 13 broadcasting from the 80s and 90s, but my memories are a bit hazy since TCM doesn't screen it often. But I know I've never seen it in 3-D.

Now the film itself. One part variation of Taming of the Shrew, one part the fictionalized backstage bickering of Lunt and Fontanne, a fun musical. Has its footprint in film history for Ann Miller's Too Darn Hot (turned into a solo for her talents, smart move), and for the duet between Bob Fosse and Carol Haney in "From This Moment On". It's only about a minute long, and it was the only sequence Fosse choreographed, but it was enough to get him noticed as a choreographer, getting him work in that field for the rest of his life. Yeah, there's more about the film, but who gives a crap about the plot. Enjoy the jokes, enjoy Cole Porter's music and lyrics, enjoy the dancing, and enjoy it all in 3-D:




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

Thursday, June 04, 2015

June revivals: first third









Hey all. Mike here with a list of revival options for the first third of June. Not an even third, mind you. But I was grasping about how to do a write-up about Judy Garland's The Pirate and John Wayne's Hondo, but I said screw it, this list has to come out sometime. If I feel like putting it on the next list, fine. And if I choose to ignore the breakdown of all this and just write up the second half or last third of June. As long as the films are possibly decent options, I don't think they'll be much complaints coming my way. Here we go:



WIZARD OF OZ (1939) for free on a first come first served basis- Fri June 5 at 7- MOMA- A free screening of the classic film, as part of MOMA's new retrospective of what they consider to be the best of Technicolor usage by studio films from the 1930s to the 1950s. Tickets are first come first served, so if you don't grab them around 3:30-4PM that Friday, it won't be easy after that. 

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

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



MAHOGANY (1975) with post film discussion with Colman Domingo and Rhonda Ross- Mon June 8 at 8- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Queer/Art Film series: Black Summer Nights division. BAD MOVIE ALERT! BAD MOVIE ALERT! Ok, some of you may not say bad, but we're in cheesy soap opera territory, with a camp chaser. Diana Ross plays a struggling young woman in Chicago; working for a bitchy boss at a big department store by day, art/fashion student by night. She cute/meets Billy Dee Williams in the ways that are contrived, yet still strain believability. Williams, by the way, plays a community activist running for public office. I wonder if Chicago African-American community activists have any future in politics? 

Anyway, this relationship is in danger, when Ross becomes the muse of sexist (some of the Mad Men would be proud) fashion photographer Anthony Perkins. Once she accepts the new name he gives her, Mahogany, Ross takes the fashion world by storm. First as a model and then as a mogul of some sort (sorry, it's been a few years I've seen it), Ross dominates. But when she becomes just as much of a bitch as her old department store, does that mean she "forgot where she came from"? Can Ross go back to her roots and Billy Dee? Not if Perkins can help it. Seriously, I think with the exception of The Black Hole, Perkins was forced to spend the rest of his post- Psycho career playing one variation of Norman Bates after another, and Mahogany is no exception. Especially when we get to the non-verbally expressed closeted gay self-hatred aspects of Perkins's role. And I haven't even mentioned his fight scene with Billy Dee! It goes exactly where you expect it to go, until it doesn't and veers a little toward Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Remember in the second half of Dreamgirls, where Beyonce's Diana Ross-like character was depicted starring in some seemingly lousy movie, directed by Jaime Foxx's Berry Gordy-type character? That was supposed to be Mahogany. In real life, Berry fired original director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) for reasons I don't know. What he specifically did, except for maybe not get in the way of the shot setup of cinematographer David Watkin (Out of Africa, Chariots of Fire) and pressure the Academy to get the song "Do You Know Where You're Going To" an Oscar nomination (in a way, allegedly), I have no idea. I doubt reading the script was one of his tasks as Director.

The film was profitably, but far from loved. It has a cult following, which Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln, Passing Strange and lots of other stage credits) will discuss after the film via Skype. Appearing in person to also discuss the film is Ross and Gordy's daughter, Rhonda Ross. I hope they're not defending the film as quality. I won't, but it ain't boring:



NIAGARA (1952)- Tues June 9 at 7- MOMA- Part of MOMA's retrospective of films that used Technicolor well from the 1930s thru the 1950s. 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:



UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984)- Thurs June 11 at 6:30- Film Forum- John Huston's effort to adapt Malcolm Lowery's semi-autobiographical novel. Mostly taking place on the Day of the Dead in Mexico 1938, Albert Finney plays a British Consul in the midst of a day/night long stupor. The world is changing around him (go Google the history around November 1938 on your own) , and he can't seem to stop himself from drinking himself out of it. His estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset) and brother try to help him, but it's hard to stop someone with a death wish, especially someone who goes about it one drink after another. Flawed film, but Finney's Oscar nominated performance is the draw here. Possibly the best performance of drunkenness ever captured on film,  certainly the most subtle:



BLUE VELVET (1986) for 10 dollars, introduced by Kyle MacLachlan- Fri June 12 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art-  Another posting of Blue Velvet, I know. A little different this time. One, instead of a theater environment, it will be downstairs in the Rubin Museum's Cabaret-style screening room. It will cost ten dollars for non-members of the Museum, and can be bought at the front desk, as opposed to previous ways like buying a drink at the bar or buying food or something from the bookstore. You still get to enjoy the Museum for free after 5pm (every Friday, not just on the 12th), and I strongly urge you to take advantage. Don't think you can do the whole museum prior to the screening, there's just too much to take in, process, and enjoy. So just pick a floor or two, and enjoy. And two, this film will be introduced by the film's lead, Kyle MacLachlan. So expect these tickets to go quickly.

Now as for the film itself, a darker variation of Shadow of a Doubt, with more than a little Wizard of Oz, in its way. 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. I can say that after I saw it back in March, I had to turn down my love for this film ever so slightly. Maybe the Suburbia aspects haven't aged as well since it's been done often since Blue Velvet's release. But the going down the rabbit hole aspects and psycho-sexual aspects still making this a button pushing and fascinating ride. So instead of this becoming my second favorite film of all time, it becomes my third favorite all time. Oh well.




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

Friday, May 22, 2015

May revivals: the rest of the month








Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of May. Ok, so one of the films extends into June, but whatever. Here we go:



LOST HIGHWAY (1997)- Fri May 22 and Sun May 24 at Midnight- IFC Center- IFC Film Center will have a midnight screening of David Lynch's 1997 film, part of  a series of films selected by staff members. Because this is a four day weekend, it will also play on Sunday at Midnight as well. Similar to Mulholland Drive, where dreams push the film and put the "plot" on the back burner, not that far in the case of Highway. Better clarity of dreams and reality that combine more effectively I think. The best I've heard this described, was that this was Lynch's idea of "O.J's dreams after he committed the murders" (it came out about a year and a half after the criminal trial's verdict). Note that Lynch himself never said this, but judge for yourself.

Strong cast includes Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Richard Pryor, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Robert Loggia, and in a post-film ironic twist, Robert Blake. He has the most outlandish role, and he is good. But since then, you could now replace O.J's name from the previous paragraph with Blake's. Gives the film an additional edge:



PEEPING TOM (1960/62) and BURDEN OF DREAMS (1982)- Sat May 23 at 3 (Peeping) and 5:30 (Burden)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A last minute double feature set up by the museum. Two out of three films that are significant in the upcoming indie film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. No time on my end for Rashomon on Friday May 22, but you can on your own and enjoy. Two films for one admission, plus you still have a chance to see the Museum's Mad Men exhibit.

First, Peeping Tom from 1960, released in the U.S. in 1962. A British horror film from director Michael Powell (Red Shoes, Colonel Blimp), about a young man, damaged by years of experimentation by his psychologist father, who hires attractive models and simultaneously tries to kill them and film their fearful expressions. The kind of film the young man can enjoy at home when he's not killing. But who has it worse; the models hired, or the young female neighbor who tries to make friends with the young man, and stumbles into this mess.

Because the weapon of choice is (in a way) the camera, Powell gets us the audience, even closer to the murders than its contemporary of which it was usually compared to, Psycho. And that was probably the aspect that pissed off critics back in the day, made Peeping Tom controversial, got banned in some countries and edited prior to release in others. All of which damaged Powell's career in the U.K., forcing to spend most of the rest of his life working away from home. History has been much kinder to Peeping Tom, thanks to the film's biggest fan, Martin Scorsese, funding a proper re-release back in the late 70s. Yet this isn't screened often, either on TV or revival houses. The film still has those elements of perversion and danger that interest some and repulse others, sight unseen. So if you've never seen Peeping Tom, take advantage of this.

Next, Burden of Dreams, from 1982. A 16mm screening of Les Blank's documentary of the making of Fitzcarraldo. The four years  it took Werner Herzog to make the film. 4 hard years shooting in and around the Brazilian rainforest. Dealing with Indians occasionally trying to kill him and his cast and crew, having to replace his leads Jason Robards and Mick Jagger (the former due to illness), reshooting with insane Klaus Kinski as the new lead, and an accident that injured crew members with little to no explanation. Plus, oh yeah, the difficulty of  pushing a 3000 ton steamboat up a hill with a bulldozer and capturing said effort on film.

This is similar to the Apocalypse Now documentary, Hearts of Darkness. Both feature difficult shoots in jungle terrains that drove their director to the edge of insanity. But unlike Hearts of Darkness, Burden of Dreams was released around the same time as Fitzcarraldo. It didn't have the chance to look back and see if director Herzog would keep his vow of never directing another film (he directed plenty more) or if the film would be successful (respected, but I believe only moderately successful). If nothing else, an interesting time capsule:




SUNSET BLVD (1950) for 10 dollars- Thurs May 28 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap-ish screening of the classic film, with an intro from Hedda Lettuce. Now I'm not going into Sunset Blvd here. If you look at sites like this for any length of time, then you know this classic and I don't need to take up a lot of time. For those who haven't seen this on the big screen, you now have a chance to catch this. An AFI Top 100 film, 3 Oscars including Best Screenplay, 8 other nominations including Picture, Director for Billy Wilder, Actor for William Holden and Actress for Gloria Swanson. It lost Best Picture to All About Eve, another favorite of mine; please don't ask me to pick one over the other. In my personal top 40. Go, just go:



PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953)- Fri May 29 and Mon June 1- Thurs June 4 at 5:40, 7:20 and 9, plus Sun May 31 at 5:20, 7 and 8:40- Film Forum- A 4K digital restoration. A week-long run of arguably the best film of director Samuel Fuller's career. Jean Peters plays a woman who delivers a wallet for her creep of an ex-boyfriend (Richard Kiley). She doesn't know the ex is a Commie spy or that the wallet contains microfilm of some kind of American government info. Richard Widmark, as the low life pickpocket that steals said wallet, could care less. As far as he's concerned, "Who cares? Your money's as good as anybody else's.".  Quick, gritty film noir, with scene stealing Thelma Ritter (Oscar nominated) as a kind of salt-of-the-earth professional snitch:




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

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May revivals: this weekend






Hi, Mike here. Normally I would have a list for the second half of May. But since I don't know what my life will be like around Memorial Day weekend, I'll post some revival options for the next few days. Here we go:


WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) for 10 dollars- Thurs May 14 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of a film I really enjoy. I told some of you when i had my CED collection in the mid 80's, there were films i would watch in heavy or semi-heavy rotation. This film from director Billy Wilder, was one of the later. I saw a revival screening of this 5 years ago, and it holds up quite well. A screening hosted by Hedda Lettuce.

Ailing attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton-Oscar nominated) has been advised by his doctors to retire. When he's asked to take the case of murder suspect Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power, in his last completed film role), who stood to gain financially from the victim's death, his interest is piqued. But the case becomes even more of an uphill battle when the defendant's supposedly loving wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) decides to testify as a witness for the prosecution. Wilder expanded Agatha Christie's play, creating the role of Robarts' housekeeper Miss Plimsoll (played by Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester-Oscar nominated), whose back-and-forth with her employer provides a funny counterpoint to the film's melodrama. Also nominated for Picture and Director for Wilder. If you've never seen it, now would be a good time:



SAMURAI REBELLION (1967)- Fri May 15 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Takemitsu retro. Another Toshiro Mifune samurai film, but not directed by Kurosawa. Mifune is stuck with his Lordship's mistress. She falls in love with his son, and they have a child. But now his Lordship wants her back, now. Yeah, Mifune's not taking this well, and out comes the sword. Featuring another confrontation with Tatsuya Nakadai, who fought each other in the climaxes of Yojimbo and Sanjuro. Never seen it, but sounds interesting:



AFTER HOURS (1985)- Fri May 15 and Sat May 16 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC's retrospective, where they let their staff members pick a film for Midnight. A midnight(ish) screening of Martin Scorsese's sleeper hit from 1985, that seems to have been unfairly forgotten. A change of pace (a dark comedy) and a minor career comeback for Scorsese, after the his emotional breakdown after "The King of Comedy", the film being shunned at the box office despite good reviews, and the money problems that forced a major delay in "Last Temptation of Christ".

A New York City yuppie (Griffin Dunne) has a 'very strange night' when he goes out on a late-night date with a woman he just meets, which turns into a nightmare when he's trapped in an unfamiliar neighborhood (Soho) and has one mishap after another in his quest to get home. Dunne is ably supported in the comic mishaps with a strong roster of performers (Rosanna Arquette, Teri Garr, Cheech and Chong, Linda Fiorentino, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Will Patton, Bronson Pinchot, etc.):



JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)- Sat May 16 at 4:45 and Tues May 19 at 7- Anthology Film Archives- 32 Second Ave- A simple Western, starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford, Ernest Borgnine and Mercedes McCambridge, and directed by Ray, that was successful back in 1954, then went away. Until Francois Truffaut and some gay film buffs got ahold of it. They're the ones reminding us about the hidden lesbian story, the links to the HUAC hearings, and the irony of casting HUAC namer of names Hayden as the possible hero (though we didn't know until recently that he was an actually secret agent of some sort who actually knew at least a little something about Communists). Though no male hero would DARE upstage Joan Crawford by this time!

So is it a simple, entertaining Western? Is it an allegory of the Blacklist and the McCarthy witch hunts? It was written unofficially by black-listed screenwriter Ben Maddow. Is there high entertainment value from the over-the-top perfs of both Crawford (is it me, or does she play most scenes like she were the Queen of England or Cleopatra?) and McCambridge? Both ladies hated each other. They fought constantly, and according to IMDB, Crawford was so mad (and drunk), that once she flung McCambridge's costumes along a stretch of Arizona highway. And is it true that the real story of the film, is that McCambridge's character is actually a closeted lesbian, spurned by Crawford, and now seeking revenge? I would say, yes to all of the above. It works as a Western, the allegory is right there, the lead female perfs have high camp value, and you could say no about the lesbian overtones, but there's enough there to read that into it. But whether the film is actually good or great is not something I can help you with. But it sure as shit ain't dull. Worth catching in any case:




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