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.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

May revivals: first half








Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the first half of May. An eclectic list to be sure. Let's not waste time, here we go:


RIFFTRAX presents THE ROOM (2003)- Wed May 6 at 8 and Tues May 12 at 7:30- Regal Union Square 14, College Point Multiplex in Whitestone, and UA Westbury Stadium 12- I've done this before, and enough time has passed that I'm ready to attempt this again. Only this time, the RiffTraxx crew (most of the men behind Mystery Science Theater 3000) will be mocking it left and right. The guys did a live mocking at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, but it cost over twenty dollars so no thanks. The May 8th screening will be a live simulcast (not sure from where), and the May 12th screening will be a sort of rebroadcast.

One of the best bad films of recent times, Tommy Wiseau's The Room continues playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema at Midnight. This "Citizen Kane of bad movies" has to be seen to be believed. You can expect a Rocky Horror-esque experience, with lines quoted, talking back to the screen, flinging of spoons and tiny footballs. The only thing you may want to decide before seeing this, is whether or not you want to know the film before you attend a screening. Basically, do want to know what's coming and possibly be part of the audience participation aspect, or do you want to go in fairly cold?

As for The Room itself, the best I can say is, there is nothing quite like it. That's the best you're getting out of me. What? I didn't go into what it's about? Does it truly matter? Won't make it any better. Decide fast if you want to, because tickets will go fast, especially for the May 6th screening. And unlike your typical Midnight screening at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, you'll actually hear the unintentionally funny dialogue. Tommy Wiseau might not be any more comprehensible, but we can't have everything . . . :



MAD MAX (1979/80)-Fri May 8 at 9:25PM and 12:15AM and Sat May 9- Mon May 11 at 9:25PM- IFC Center- Originally this was going to be just a Midnight weekend screening of the first Mad Max film, in time for the release of Mad Max:Fury Road. But I guess IFC Center believes they can draw, so they've hastily put together a 9:25PM at least thru Tuesday May 12. If you want to do a Midnight (12:15AM) screening, I can do that, but only on Friday the 8th. I have more flexibility for the 9:25PM screenings, though not on the 12th; there are two other screenings on this list that conflict.

The film that made Mel Gibson an international star and put director George Miller into the big leagues. Note I said international and not U.S. Before films like Titanic and the Lord of the Rings series came along, you see the list of what was the highest grossing films in any country outside of North America, and chances are Star Wars, Mad Max and E.T. were in the top 4. But in America back in 1980 (it was released in most countries in 1979), it came out in a heavily dubbed form. Apparently there was no belief that we could understand all these Australian dialects. And to see this little film as opposed to say, Empire Strikes Back for the second or third time? Forget it. Several re-releases, including one a year after The Road Warrior's success, made no dent here.

One part post-apocalyptic film and one part Death Wish. Not as much action as you might think or remember, but still pretty good on a low budget. Apparently most of Australia can pass for a post- WW3 environment, and director Miller does a lot with a little. And Gibson practically screams Movie Star here. Good overall, with just that ever pleasant dollop of Grindhouse:



PURPLE RAIN (1984)- Sat May 9 at 4:30- Anthology Film Archives-  32 Second Ave, just off of E. 2nd St-  A special screening at Anthology Film Archives. For the rest, I'll repost what I wrote the last time I listed it:

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

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



HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953) introduced by Lisa Cohen with post-film wine reception- Tues May 12 at 7:30- Florence Gould Hall @ FIAF- 55 East 59th Street- It's been a while since I've attended a screening at the French Institute Alliance on the Upper East Side. Here's a film that can get me there. Part of the retrospective Haute Couture on Film, for the Christian Dior New Look dresses that Lauren Bacall wore. 

How To A Marry A Millionaire, a big hit, and the first film shot in Twentieth-Century Fox's Cinemascope process, from 1953. A comedy where single ladies Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe live in the luxury Manhattan penthouse of a man trying to avoid paying his taxes. The ladies intend to marry a rich man, and use the apartment as a partial enticement. Naturally, it's a lot harder for the ladies than expected . . . William Powell, Rory Calhoun and David Wayne are among the possible grooms. Funny, quick and a fun New York movie to boot.

The film will be introduced by Lisa Cohen, and followed by a free wine reception. Here is Professor Cohen's bio from the French Institute's website:

Lisa Cohen is the author of the critically acclaimed All We Know: Three Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, All We Know is a series of intimate portraits of three women, as well as an exploration of modernism, style, sexuality, and the genre of biography itself. Cohen’s writing has also appeared in VogueThe New York Times, Women In Clothes, The Paris ReviewFashion TheoryBookforum, and other magazines and anthologies. She teaches in the English Department at Wesleyan University.



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:




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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thanks






Hi, Mike here, taking some time to thank those of you that came out to see some of the films on my revival lists over the past 12 months. Whether you came out once or multiple times, I thank you all for catching the following revival screenings:


THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)- I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I was expecting to do some MST3K-style commentating like I would for its annual Easter weekend screenings. Never saw the introduction by De Mille, and while it's stiff, it makes the narration go smoother. On the big screen it plays well; even if the early pageantry was numbing after a while, Anne Baxter was all over the place, Yul Brynner was a heavy form of ham, and John Derek was an attractive piece of wood. But now it will take a long time before I can see it again on ABC, the commercial breaks would be killer on my patience, 
 
OTHELLO (1952)- It looked great and Orson always had an interesting voice, but after the first half hour, boy oh boy did I have trouble staying focused on large chunks of this,
 
GODZILLA (1954)- Weird seeing this as part of a kind-of double feature with Welles' Othello. Weirder still that this was better than Orson's Shakespearean adaptation. Again, this was the Japanese original film, not the heavily edited American edition with Raymond Burr inserts,
 
QUEEN MARGOT, THE WARRIORS, SPARTACUS,
 
STAR TREK 4: THE VOYAGE HOME- A hit with both Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike,
 
WHITY- Not a film I would give a thumbs up to. However, for Fassbinder fans and for film fans of say, 12 Years A Slave or especially Django Unchained, Whity might prove to be interesting and even more provocative. Not necessarily satisfying however,
 
LORD OF THE FLIES (1963)- Alas, poor Piggy, alas,
 
SORCERER- Too bad I was the only one in my party who actually liked this film. But despite not being quite as good as I remembered it from almost 25 years ago, and not nearly as good as the original version, The Wages of Fear, this is no noble failure. It's a hidden gem of late 1970s Hollywood filmmaking,
 
THE LADYKILLERS (1955), THE GODFATHER,
 
TUNES OF GLORY- This Alec Guinness film was the only film on this list that someone had to talk me into, and boy am I glad that happened. Never seen Guinness so macho before, and even more arrogant than in Bridge on the River Kwaii. Very good character study drama,
 
NORTH BY NORTHWEST- the screening of this at Cinema Arts Centre at Huntington, that I enjoyed. The way the introduction of this was handled, dry like a high school lecture with handouts, and an almost pop quiz after the film ended, oy vey,
 
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- a special 70mm screening, which seems like a new early July tradition at the Museum of the Moving Image,
 
DUCK AMUCK and other Chuck Jones cartoons- a selection of some of Chuck Jones's best Looney Tunes cartoons, so I'm including it as one revival on this list,
 
DOUBLE INDEMNITY, A HARD DAY'S NIGHT,
 
FEDORA- again, not every revival is a winner. Not bad, more like a noble failure. The twist is decent in theory, but the miscasting of the two lead actresses kills the film. Unlike Sorcerer, not a hidden gem of late 1970s filmmaking. And having Billy Wilder's on-screen stand-in (William Holden), complain about the young unnamed Turks that are running Hollywood, like Spielberg, de Palma and Scorsese, hasn't aged well at all. Maybe Lucas, but considering this was being shot before Star Wars became a huge summer hit, not necessarily, 
 
ROME OPEN CITY, DR STRANGELOVE, BABY DOLL, EL TOPO,
 
RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER, THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN- A double feature that became probably the most fun I had of any revival outing in 2014,
 
PSYCHO, THE THIRD GENERATION,
 
ONE FROM THE HEART- There was much to admire visually in this film. In the end, I recommend that film buffs, self-proclaimed film buffs, and Coppola fans see it, especially on the big screen. But I don't think most of them would like it more or much more than I did. Tom Waits' music is beautiful, but some of those lyrics were a little too damn on-the-nose for my taste. Now a romantic film that goes for ultra-realism is admirable in theory. But when you spend the first half of the film wondering why did the main couple break up, and spend the later portion of the film thinking they should never get back together, that was hard for me to shake,
 
THE EPIC OF EVEREST- A silent film, a kind of documentary of the failed 1924 expedition of Irving and Mallory's attempted climb of Mount Everest. As a piece of history and seeing what silent film cameras could capture back then, it was amazing to watch. Even if I did get a little drowsy in the middle third,
 
CITIZEN KANE, VIDEODRONE- my weirdest double feature of the past 12 months, not even close, 

ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN,
 
GREY GARDENS- Once I saw Big Edie's stained bed sheets with flies all about, I grew immediately uncomfortable. My inner Felix Unger was made extremely uncomfortable, and didn't loosen up until Big Edie's Czechoslovakia line (Huh?!?!). Glad I saw it, but don't need to see it again any time soon, in any incarnation,
 
THE APARTMENT, VERTIGO and BLUE VELVET.


38 films, a big jump from 28 during the previous year. And unlike other years, I was able to spread the wealth with multiple people, a number of whom caught a healthy number of films with me. This has never happened before, and I am grateful. Take care. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April revivals: second half









Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of April, Haven't had a lot of time to do these kind of screenings recently, let's see if we can change that. At least this list doesn't have anything from the Museum of the Moving Image this time around. Not that I don't enjoy the museum mind you. But I can't work myself up for the Joan Crawford film, The Best of Everything. I don't care what influence it has/had on Mad Men, it was a slog at time on Fox Movie Channel, and my enthusiasm for now is minimal. So on with the list:



CLUE (1985)- Fri April 17 and Sat April 18 at 12:25AM- IFC Center- Yet another (cheap-ish) Midnight screening of Clue. This time at IFC Center, as part of a series of Staff Picks, or out of the box suggestions for Midnight movies, including Twilight Zone the Movie, Seasame Street Follow That Bird and The Birdcage. I have happy sentimental reasons to post it. It's no Citizen Kane, but it's fun. Compared to other films based on toys, like Battleship or Masters of the Universe, this is the Citizen Kane of toy films if you will: take that comment however you will. And if you know the board game, where a group of potential suspects try to find out which one of them killed Mr. Body, then you have the gist of the slender story. Though it doesn't give you an idea of the farcical style the story and jokes are told.  

This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good beginning, an extremely mixed middle and endings of varying quality. And we will be getting the version where all three endings were incorporated into the film, as opposed to three separate endings, as it was on its 1985 theatrical release. But I like it, no rational reason why. Just makes me laugh more often than not. Though its cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean) sure helps. From director Jonathan Lynn of future My Cousin Vinny fame. 

Now in addition to a link to to the screening, I'll post a link of Adam B. Vary's interesting article on Buzzfeed.com of how Clue went from conception, to flop, to cult hit. With interviews with Lynn, most of the cast, and others:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/adambvary/something-terrible-has-happened-here-the-crazy-story-of-how



THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942)- Thurs April 23 at 6- Film Forum- Sorry that I don't have time for the Film Forum's Preston Sturges retrospective. In fact, this is the only one I can do, one I'm not familiar with. But here's as good a chance as any to change that.

The Palm Beach Story, where Claudette Colbert runs away from husband Joel McCrea to Palm Beach for a quick divorce, after being refused to let her use her sex appeal for raising money for his inventions, only to be pursued by rich Rudy Vallee, whose sister Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon) chases McCrea, who is introduced by Colbert as her brother. Confused? Then wait till the action is ratcheted up:



JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1973) with a post-film Q and A with the cast- Mon April 27 at 7- Beekman Theater- 1271 2nd Ave between 66th and 67th Street- A one night only screening of Jesus Christ Superstar. A digital restoration being screened at a first run theater, the Beekman. For once, it's not being relegated to Midnight, but a reasonable 7pm screening. Now, is this film an underrated gem, or noble failure? I can't help you, because despite seeing this once on Cinemax and once with commercials on VH1, I'm not sure. From 1973, but still with a bit of 60s glow to it, a group of hippie actors bus out to the middle of nowhere (great use of mostly Israeli locales), ready to play out the last whatever number days in the life of Jesus.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn't exactly pleased with the final cut, and from what I can tell, critical and audience reaction were mixed. Musical fans and millennials have been much kinder to it. I guess the older people back in 73 didn't like it or refused to go, and the younger ones, as they got older and had more say in terms of media and so forth, spread the film's virtues. I wouldn't say this has a cult following, but its close. For me, it's a mixed bag. Up and down for the majority of the film, not happy with anything involving King Herrod. But they have a great Judas in Carl Anderson, and the last 20 or so minutes is a triumph of music, cinematography, performance, choreography and editing. So in the end, you'll have to decide if this is worth the risk. But if you take the risk, I'll be right there with you if you like. 

But before the screening, cast members Ted Neely (Jesus), Yvonne Elliman (Mary), Barry Dennen (Pilate), Bob Bingham (Caiaphas), Kurt Yaghjian (Annas), Josh Mostel (Herrod) and Larry Marshall (Simon), will participate in a Q and A, plus a tribute to the late Carl Anderson (Judas):



VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) for 10 dollars- Thurs April 30 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap-ish screening of The Valley of the Dolls. Introduced by Hedda Lettuce and I'm guessing there will be some MST3K/ Rifftrax-style commentary as well.Wow, this is happy-go-lucky compared to the previous two films in this section. Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, amd mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated). 

Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit. I don't remember if it's on the level of The Swarm, but I sincerely doubt there will be much shushing like there was at that screening. Seriously, it's awful, but campily awful. Ok, not a word, campily, deal with it: 




Had to keep my descriptions brief, no need to elaborate. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

April revivals: first half






Hey all, Mike here with a small revival list for the first half of April. All in the Museum of the Moving Image, but this time not all are part of a retrospective of films that influenced the creation development of the series Mad Men. The first two are, but not the third:  


 
PATTERNS (1956) and/of DEAR HEART (1964/65)- Sun April 3 at 4 (Patterns) or 7 (Dear Heart)- From the Museum's retrospective of stuff that influenced Matthew Weiner in some way with the creation/development of the TV series Mad Men. Two films that frankly, I've never heard of, but I am curious. Not sure which one I can do yet, so I'll post both and see what happens.
 
First, Patterns, written by Rod Serling. At this point in his career,he might have been known for radio, but little else. Stuff like Playhouse 90 was but a gleam in his eye, The Twilight Zone was a couple of years away from that. But the original version of Patterns for the Kraft Television Theatre launched Sterling's writing career. A dramatic example of the corporate world that Mr. Weiner has used a sort-of blueprint for the dramatic work environment scenes in Mad Men. Not dramatic in terms of secretary seduction or a staffer chopping off a nipple and putting it in a box. No, dramatic in terms of how brutally cold the business world can get. Cold-hearted boss Everett Sloane will stop at nothing to raise the level of young VP Van Heflin, at the expense of humiliating older Ed Begley. But what kind of impression will this make on Heflin . . . Note this is the film version, not the praised TV version with Richard Kiley in Heflin's role. 
 
With Patterns, to quote Mr. Weiner:
 
I saw this film version as a child on sick day from middle school; it was originally written and produced for live television in 1955. Rod Serling ingeniously creates a boardroom passion play with a chilling first-person climax that I never forgot. We used it often over the life of the series to get a sense of the real offices and to see how virtue and ambition can clash when the older generation is pushed aside and ruthless business confronts humanity.
 
Next, Dear Heart. A comedy from 1964 technically so that it could receive an Oscar nomination or two for Henry Mancini's work. It stars Geraldine Page as a woman in New York who's having trouble finding love, or even feeling she deserves it. It also stars Glenn Ford as a Don Draper type, who has no trouble attracting women (engaged to Angela Lansbury, cheating on her left and right with other women), but not feeling a lot of love their either. Then our two leads meet . . .

Dear Heart received a wide release in early 1965, and was practically ignored. An Oscar nomination for Mancini's title song meant nothing for the film. While the film on the whole hasn't been reconsidered on the whole, the writing of the characters and the performances have been looked at with a kinder light, especially with the Mad Men connection. With Dear Heart, to quote Mr. Weiner:
 
Stumbling upon this film gave me the impetus to finally write the pilot. I was taken by this mainstream Hollywood film that reflected a very casual attitude towards sex, something that seemed uncharacteristic to my preconceptions of the era. With its glib bachelor hero and dowdy, conservative ingénue, it tells a tale of moral corruption and heartbreaking duplicity in the form of a light comedy. As Glenn Ford tries to change his ways and take responsibility for his meaningless romances in glamorous Manhattan, I found a jumping-off point for the series.
 
 
 


THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) in 3-D- Fri April 10 and Sunday April 12 at 12:30- plus Sunday April 12 at 3:30 with an introduction from Andy Ross and Micaela Biel, hosted by Dana Rossi- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- To draw the families into the Museum, the 3-D version of The Wizard of Oz has been playing since Good Friday, and will continue to play at the Museum at 12:30 PM through April 12th. And if you want to do the 12:30 screening on Friday the 10th or Sunday the 12th, I'm game. Though if you wish for what you might consider to be a more reasonable time, there will be a 3:30 screening on the 12th. It will be part of The Soundtrack Series, a podcast covering how music touches the lives of everyday people. When The Soundtrack Series does its live podcast at the Museum, it covers film soundtracks that serve special places in people's hearts. Hosted by Dana Rossi, it will broadcast live at this screening.

As for the Wizard itself, yes this is the same digital 3-D restoration that came out about a year and a half ago. No IMAX screen, but since the Museum's screen can expand to accommodate 70mm screenings, I'm sure the screening will turn out fine. The sound has been digitally restored, and the 3-D kicks in once Judy Garland is in Oz, not in any of the Kansas scenes. The film doesn't need 3-D to be enjoyed as the classic it is. But since most people are only familiar with Oz as a TV film, sometimes with commercials, the big screen experience of this is foreign to many. It certainly was to me until recently. I like the film prior, but it became a top 100 film for me afterwards. Yet another instance of the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it, to quote comedian Larry Miller:
 
 


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

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.