Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November revivals: pre Thanksgiving edition

Hey all, Mike here with a list of revivals for the part of November before Thanksgiving weekend. Consider this list in three overlapping sections: John Huston films, bat-shit crazy films, and Fame, which fits in neither category. Here we go:


JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)- Fri Nov 13 at 8 (introduced by Charles Busch) and 10:15 plus Mon Nov 16, Wed Nov 18 and Thurs Nov 19 at 8 and 10:05- Film Forum- A new 4k digital restoration 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:

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) for 10 dollars- introduced by Francesca Granata- Fri Nov 20 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap-ish screening of the John Huston classic. If you get there earlier, the Rubin Museum will be free for you to see, after 5pm. Francesca Granata, assistant professor at Parsons School of Design and fashion critic, will introduce the screening. 

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

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970)- Sat Nov 21 at 9:30 (introduced by Todd Haynes) and Sun Nov 22 at 9- Francesca Beale Theater in Lincoln Center- From the Todd Haynes retrospective, not just of his films, but also some of his cinematic influences. I'm sorry I don't have time for Todd's films, and probably don't have time for most of the influences (we'll see about Fassbinder's Fox and his Friends). But if I have time for only one of his influences, this nut job of a film, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, will deliver a good (NC-17 rated) time. 

From 1970, 3 hot chicks (played by 2 Playboy Playmates and a model) and a boyfriend of one of them, form a band, graduate from high school, move to L.A., and try to make it big in the music business. Once they get lucky and capture the interest of a Phil Spector-esque producer, the world opens up to them. And by that I mean sex, drugs, double-dealing, emotional upheaval, violence, Nazis, and more. And since we have the duo of screenwriter Roger Ebert and director Russ Meyer, we have stacked women, mediocre acting (with a few exceptions), and a script that plays with cliches, piles on the inanity, throws logic out the window, and moves everything along at an accelerated pace. 

For decades I didn't know the film existed. A financial smash in its day, a cult classic ever since, but I didn't know about it until the early 00s. 2000, 2001, something like that. And that's when I thought I found a gem of a bad movie. Mostly craptastic acting, great music (score by Stu Phillips, songs from the Strawberry Alarm Clock), over a dozen hot chicks, direction that knows how to move the story visually even if its tone deaf toward the non-musical sounds, plus the occasional Nazi. And one can't forget the way the stand-ins for Muhammad Ali and Phil Spector act here. Especially the later, in ways that mix Manson with the events that resulted in two murder trials. 

The progressive aspects should also be noted positively alongside the fun bizarro ones. For one, you get a real relationship between an African-American couple, right down to a love scene. Never done before in a studio-backed film (Fox is said studio), and rarely depicted in a studio film since. You also have a lesbian relationship that is actually treated with respect, another Hollywood rarity in its day. Both within the limits of a craptastic film. 

Or so I thought, if I'm to believe otherwise. I honestly didn't (and don't) believe that director Meyer intended this to be a satire of all things Hollywood, and that all of this was intentional. I believe it when cast members and Ebert talked about how Meyer would change story and character motivations, despite it not necessarily matching up with what had been previously shot. Having the idea of "let-the-actors-play-it-straight-no-matter-what" works when everybody is on the same page, like in Airplane. But despite what the actors say on the 2006 DVD extras, this is a bad film. But a gloriously fun bad film that cranks it up to 11 from the start, and then tries to raise it to 12 and beyond. You will not leave bored. Stunned and in disbelief perhaps, but not bored. 

Haynes himself will introduce the Saturday night screening. Because he's introducing another screening beforehand, there is a possibility of a sellout. Or at least a crowded theater, so planning would be needed. Luckily, there's also a Sunday night screening that probably won't be as crowded. I'm prepared to go for either one:

FAT CITY (1972)- Mon Nov 21 and Wed Nov 23 at 4:50, 7 and 9:15, plus Tues Nov 22 at 9:15- The Mon Nov 21 7pm screening with a post film Skype Q and A with Stacy Keach- Film Forum- A 4K digital restoration. Not a hit back in 1972, and frankly, not really remembered today. But for those who have seen it, it's cited as one of the films that made 1970s the best decade for American film. I won't exactly go that far, but to say alongside Blue Collar as one of the best American 70s films no one knows would be accurate. But it's also one of those films that shows director John Huston was doing work that was just as vital near the end of his career as it was in the beginning. 

Please, it's more than just Death of a Salesman or Requiem For A Dream, set in boxing. There's just enough levity to make it 70s palpable. Based on Leonard Gardner's successful book, Stacy Keach stars as a boxer, never the biggest name in his division, trying to restart his career in one of the most dusty, and drabbest (not a word but whatever) towns in all of California. He meets a younger version of himself, played by Jeff Bridges. Jeff's character may be up and coming, but is that only because he's so young? In a sport where one knockout can change anything, who's to say how long Bridges' character will have a bright future. And if Keach's character wins, whose to say that that would be enough to get him out of dive towns and into better fights? 

Two aspects of Huston the man and director have served the legacy of this film well, for those who have seen it. One, Huston's past as a former boxer, led him to shoot the fight scenes as realistic as possible. Not with the power punches of a Rocky film or The Contender TV series, or with the bloody artistry of Raging Bull. But if you're familiar with the barroom fight in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, then you have the idea of the kind of fights depicted. Ugly, and sloppy. 

Two, Huston cast many of his films well, and this is no exception. He took chances casting Bridges and Keach, back when they were mostly unknown. Their breakout films, Last Picture Show for Bridges and Doc for Keach, had not been released when cast. It also helped Keach that Brando was unenthusiastic about taking the role. An Oscar nomination went to Susan Tyrell for playing Keach's 'squeeze', the barfly of all barfly. Before American Graffiti, Candy Clark made her screen debut as Bridges' screw-up girlfriend. With Nicholas Colastano (years before Raging Bull and Cheers as coach) as Bridges' trainer, and a number of welterweight, middleweight and lightweight boxers in small roles throughout.

After the Monday 7pm screening on Nov 21st, Keach will take part in a Q and A via Skype: 

FAME (1980) with post film Q and A with Kia LaBeija- Mon Nov 21 at 8- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Queer/Art/Film series, where a film that influenced the community or a particular individual gets screened. Which gives us Fame, which artist Kia LaBeija will talk about afterwards. I wrote about All That Jazz back in December, stating basically that there were no great live action musicals between the Fosse film and fill in the blank from this century (Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Once, Le Miz). But I didn't say there wasn't anything good or successful in-between. Fame is one of them. Not the blockbuster like Empire Strikes Back, or the big hit like The Blue Lagoon. But it held it's own; playing, like Airplane, for months until it could be considered successful.

Depicting several students studying to become actors, singers musicians etc., at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. It seems like an Andy Hardy-like musical (especially the end), but it doesn't shy away from the idea that failure and/or emotional collapse are around the corner, and none of them are immune. Must be the working class influence of director Alan Parker. Some good musical numbers, especially the one pictured here, that takes place on W. 46th St.

It covers a New York that is essentially gone now, but the feelings of struggle by students and teachers alike are timeless. Great cast but it's telling to me, that for a story where the promise of a career may not last beyond school, some of the actors in the best roles or give the best performances, disappeared fairly quickly after the film's release. The more recognizable people include Irene Cara, Broadway actor Boyd Gaines, Paul McCrane (Robocop, ER, 24), the late Gene Anthony Ray and Anne Meara, Debbie Allen, Issac Mizrahi, Meg Tilly, and Holland Taylor.
6 Oscar nominations in total. I was definitely surprised by that number when I looked it up. Nominated for Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound, and for the song "Out Here on my Own". 2 Oscars, for Original Score and for the title song that gave Cara a career for a few years.

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

Monday, November 02, 2015

November revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here, back with a list of November revivals covering the first half of the month. I wasn't expecting a large list, but I couldn't these options now. Here we go:

DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) in digital 3-D- Tues Nov 3 at 9:15- Film Forum- Dial M For Murder returns to the Forum in digital 3-D. Part of the Forum's retrospective of 1950s films that were screened in 3-D back in its day, have received a digital restoration and will be shown in digital 3-D. Anyway, Dial M was a big success in terms of both presentation and box office drawing for the Film Forum back in October 2012, and again in 2014. Not the the original 2 strip 2 projector version that the Forum has screened off and on for years, but a digital 3-D version (you know, like Avatar?). You now have another chance to see it for yourself as it kinda was intended, on the big screen. 

A Hitchcock classic, that may not have strayed all that successfully from its stage roots, but is still quite good. Ray Milland finds out his wife, Grace Kelly, is cheating on him and is getting ready to dump him. Seeing his wealthy lifestyle about to be taken away from him, he plots his wife's murder. Complications ensue, etc. . . . Cool performances from Milland, Kelly, and character actor John Williams, reprising his Tony winning role as the dogged Chief Inspector. Talkier then usual from a Hitchcock film. I'd argue it's about as talky as Hitchcock and Kelly's other 1954 film together, Rear Window. Window had a better script, with sly insights and a somewhat better realized film. Dial M is a more straight forward, ably executed mystery, with a great scene involving Kelly and a large shiny pair of scissors.

Now at about this time, 3-D was enjoying about the same kind of popularity it's having at the moment. You had studio heads pushing to have films made in 3-D, but unlike now, where pressure can be applied to have films that were never shot in 3-D converted (Clash of the Titans, The Last Airbender), the pressure in the 50s had to be applied in pre-production. So while Hitch was forced to shoot it in 3-D he must have said something along the lines of "Screw them", and did as little as possible in terms of 3-D. Playing a little with perspective, a few low angles, some objects blocking some actors, not much. That's why I wrote in the first paragraph in terms of "as it was kinda intended". Hitch basically looked at 3-D as a fad, shot in 2-D and 3-D simultaneously, and just tried to make a good film, which he did. The 3-D version was released first but didn't play too long, followed by the 2-D classic version. It was re-released in 3-D in 1980 (I thought it was 81, but imdb disagrees), but in a flat version that wasn't popular, and different from how it was screened back in 1954.

For about 20 years off and on, the Forum has screened the original 3-D print, scratches hair and dirt off and on throughout the print, according to friends who attended the more recent screenings, until last October when the digital copy premiered. Boy does this film look different in 3-D. And no, I'm not being a joker here. Hitchcock's use of perspective makes Dial M a somewhat different, somewhat better film. Not so much with the scissors scene, but when Alfred wanted us to pay attention a prop more than the others, or a picture on a wall, or an actor's expression, like inspector Williams does his first interrogation scene; watch how Milland's reactions tend to stand out a little more than if you watch on TCM or a regular DVD. If you missed the chance to see this the first time, don't blow it again.

SHAMPOO (1975)- Mon Nov 9 at 7:15- MOMA- A 4k restoration Would like to see this. In this send-up of the sexually freewheeling '60s from famed 70's maverick director Hal Ashby, Warren Beatty stars as hair stylist George Roundy. The action takes place in 1968, with Richard Nixon about to win the presidency. In addition to making his clients look and feel fabulous, George is busy having affairs with three women, all of whom are in some way connected to the rich older man, Lester Carr, from whom George is trying to get money to open his own salon. And his escapades with those women -Lester's wife, Felicia (Lee Grant), Lester's mistress, Jackie Shawn (Julie Christie) and the daughter of Lester and Felicia, Lorna (Carrie Fisher- pre-Star Wars) -- in addition to his relationship with his girlfriend, Jill (Goldie Hawn) . . . All of them except for Jill are at an election night party where the lifestyle of the stylist may finally prove to be too much.
Basically, a modernized version of the classic restoration comedy The Country Wife with a major critique of the free love lifestyle as well late 60's politics. An Oscar for Grant for Supporting Actress, Nominations for Warden for Supporting Actor, Art Direction and Screenplay, written by Beatty and 'Chinatown' scribe Robert Towne:

SPARTACUS (1960)- Mon Nov 9 and Thurs Nov 12 at 8- Film Forum- A 4K restoration. The Starz version has its cult following and is quite an underrated series. But this film version has its virtues. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Herbert Lom and Peter Ustinov. Kubrick replaced Anthony Mann at the beginning of production on this spectacular epic about a Roman slave revolt, based on Howard Fast's thinly veiled McCarthy-era allegory, and scripted by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. Oscars for Ustinov, Art Direction, Costume Design and Cinematography (of which Kubrick actually did all the work, but the union man Russell Metty received the actual award!). A bit slow, even by Kubrick standards, but worth the time. This is the 3 hr restored version, which includes the scene where Olivier attempts to seduce  Curtis while they bathe together. Originally edited out due to pressure from the Production Code and the Legion of Decency, it was restored with Anthony Hopkins dubbing in Olivier's voice (he died a few years earlier):

FANTASIA (1940)- Tues Nov 10 at 7- Kew Gardens Cinema- 81-05 Lefferts Blvd- For people who live in Queens, here's a rare revival screening someplace other than the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. A digital restoration, in time for its 75th anniversary. A documentary (short) about the making of Fantasia and its history will precede the screening. I know I've posted it this summer, but for a screening relatively close to home, I'll post again.

On the first AFI Top 100 film. 2 Honorary Oscars for its then revolutionary combination of music and animation. A flop in its day, a hit and a classic since then. I really want to see this. I saw it on Radio City Music Hall's former 70mm screen and it blew me away. While this won't be a 70mm screening, the Museum's screen can get pretty large and their sound system is pretty darn good. I hate it when I take grief from people, just because I've said that if you give me great visuals and interesting music, I can overlook quite a number of a film's flaws. But a film like this? Bring the kids. Bring the kids-at-heart. 

Now for the rest, I'll quote from the Walter Reade website back in 2006 I believe: "Go and see it, if you're in the business. You can learn more from seeing 'The Dance of the Hours' by Walt Disney than from spending a year glumly staring at the television screen," wrote director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) in his autobiography. "Oh that the rest of Hollywood were only like Walt!" For generations now, kids and adults have plunked down their hard-earned dollars to see Fantasia, and emerged a little over two hours later with their minds blown. Vulgar? For sure, and proudly so. This kind of myth-making always is. You could throw almost any adjective at the film and it would be absorbed into its vast mythic territory. One little addendum to Powell's assessment. It's Walt, assisted by a small army of animators. Here are a few names: Bill Tytla, Norman Ferguson, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Joshua Meador, Fred Moore, Art Babbitt and Wolfgang Reitherman. Not to mention a few composers: Bach, Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Ponichelli, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Schubert.":

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962 original theatrical release)- Thurs Nov 12 at 8- MOMA- Part of MOMA's Film restoration series. A restoration of the 1962 cult classic. Specifically a 35mm restoration of the 78 minute theatrical release (as opposed to the 84 minute Director's Cut), from the original camera negative provided by the Academy Film Archive. Inventive indie film from director Herk Harvey, about a young woman who miraculously survives a car accident, only to wander into a mysterious carnival. If you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you. But the story isn't that important here; if you know The Twilight Zone, you have an idea where the film is going early on. It's about surreal imagery, creepy atmosphere, even a little Bergman-esque psychodrama:      

AMARCORD (1973/74) with outtakes for free (first come first served)- introduced by Gian Luca Farinelli- Fri Nov 13 at 7:30- Part of MOMA's Film restoration series. A digital restoration of Fellini's 1973 film (released officially in the US in 75), his biggest hit. Originally shot in the same 3 strip Technicolor style of previous films such as Singin In The Rain and The Godfather Part 2. I use these two films as previous examples of restored films shown at the Forum. While Rain's new print was on the muted side compared to the vivid 3 strip print, Godfather 2's was suppose to look terrific. Which way will Amarcord's restoration will turn out? If it's like the restoration screened at the Forum a few years ago, it will look good. Tickets will be available for free on a first come first served basis at 3:30 on the 13th. 

Gian Luca Farinelli, the director of the Italian lab in charge of Amacord's digital restoration, will introduce the film. The introduction will also include ten minutes of silent outakes from Amarcord, put together by director Giuseppe Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso, Malena). 

The film itself is heavy on visual vignettes, as opposed to a linear story. Amarcord, essentially meaning I remember, is a semi-autobiographical tale of one year in the life of a small Italian town, similar to the one Fellini grew up in. The autobiographical part Fellini had denied, but did say there were similarities, whatever that means. Ending specifically in April 1933, which tells us this is a slice of life tale, which would change forever just a few years after the film's end. Unlike Rules of The Game, where a similar change in this world wasn't entirely apparent during the making of it, this feeling can't help but be there off and on throughout Amarcord. Though easy to forget at times for such a visual heavy film.

Won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 75, nominated in 76 for Director for Fellini and Screenplay for Fellini and Tonio Guerra. But NOT for Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (The Leopard), who was involved in the restoration. I'm not saying it should have beaten Barry Lyndon, and I wouldn't drop The Day of The Locust or Cuckoo's Nest for sure. But I guess it was hard for American Cinematographers doing the nominating to not vote for the respected James Wong Howe (Funny Lady) or Robert Surtees (The Hindenburg). I'm not sure how estactic I'd feel if I saw the Fellini flick on TV. But on the big screen, it's a revelation:

JOHNNY GUITAR (1954)- Fri Nov 13 at 8 (introduced by Charles Busch) and 10:15 plus Mon Nov 16, Wed Nov 18 and Thurs Nov 19 at 8 and 10:05- Film Forum- A new 4k digital restoration 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.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Oct revivals for next week

Hi, Mike here with my briefest revival list ever. I didn't expect to have the time for any revivals, especially now that the Mets are in the World Series. But whatta  ya know, these two films are playing when the World Series is not. So here we go with the list. Do you think I can't write a brief posting? Try me:

GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)- Mon Oct 26 at 6:30- Film Forum- A DCP screening of the biggest hit of 1984, in time for Halloween. This will also screen on Sunday morning, October 25 at 11AM, as part of their classic films for young people series. If you can't the Monday night screening, the Sunday morning screening is available. All filmgoers attending Ghostbusters will get a free small popcorn (no butter, their popcorn doesn't need it).

As for the film itself, I like it, fun not-so-little New York movie, which gave me pleasant throwback memories to childhood. The visual effects don't hold up, it feels longer than it felt back then, and though there are quite a few great supporting performances, the film is held together by Bill Murray. A believable X factor whose unpredictability, even if you know the film by heart, keeps you interested and laughing. Hard to believe what this could have looked like if John Belushi lived to tackle the role:

REAR WINDOW (1954) for 10 dollars- Thurs Oct 29 at 8PM- City Cinemas Village East Cinemas- 181-189 2nd Avenue by E 12th St- The Village East Cinema has been doing cheap-ish screenings of Hitchcock films all month long. Yet this is the only screening I believe I can make. My personal favorite Hitchcock, and in my top 25. Also the best film in Jimmy Stewart's career, with a knockout entrance from Grace Kelly that matches or tops anything done today. An AFI Top 100 film:

The next list will be more of a regular size. For now, let me know if there's interest, take care.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

October revivals: this week only

Hi all. Mike here with a list of revivals for this coming week. Possibly my only list for October. This one would have come sooner, but life got in the way. And life will get in the way for most of October and some of November. I might have revivals lists coming up soon, but they would be smaller than this one. So if this is my last revival list for a little while (I hope not, I can't stress that enough), let's not go out on a whimper. yet I tried to keep this brief as well. Here we go: 

WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? (1988)- Tues Oct 6 at 8- MOMA- The big hit of the summer of 1988 where Bob Hoskins is a film-noirish gumshoe, tracking a killer while dealing with all types of people, human and animated. This Disney film is a blast on the big screen, and innovative in its time for the mixing of animation and live action. 4 Oscars, including an award for visual effects that still holds up today, and a special achievement in animation. If I'm going to post something from MOMA's Robert Zemeckis retrospective, this film is it. Not in the mood for any of the Back To The Future flicks, no time for Romancing The Stone, Castaway was good once but not twice on the big screen right now, and I'm not in the mood for Used Cars and oh Hell NO about What Lies Beneath. But this, one of the best films of 1988, this I will post:

THE GARDENS OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS (1970/71)- Thurs Oct 8 at 8:30- Film Forum- The last of the Vittorio de Sica retrospective, and it's getting the one screening only treatment at the Forum, in a digital restoration. Set in the late 1930s, well to-do Italian friends spend their afternoons play tennis and have the kind of dramas laughs and crushes that are universal in any era. But some of them are Jewish, and Mussolini's laws are keeping them out of the country clubs. So the friends form their own tennis tournament, inside the estate of the wealthy Finzi-Continis. So you have friends acting like they don't have a care in the world (and treating themselves badly at times), inside the estate of a family trapped in time and confident that their status will protect them. But as World War 2 rages, these illusions are bound to crash . . . 

Not de Sica's last film, but his last standout picture. A nomination for Screenplay Adaptation, an Oscar for Best Foreign Film:

BADLANDS (1973) for 10 dollars- introduced by Sarah Cameron Sunde- Fri Oct 9 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- Yes I know I posted this before. Hell I posted it and caught it this summer. But not everyone has seen this, some people still don't know it, so I have to push this. And you can see it for a cheap-ish price. Director Sarah Cameron Sunde will introduce the film.

Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides of 1958, you know you're in violence-with-consequences territory. The couple move around, love each other and interact with each other and the open road in an almost dreamlike state. But Spacek's off-screen narration tells us that at least one half of the couple knows they have a dark future ahead.

Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done. Among debut films for directors, I would argue that only Welles' Citizen Kane and John Huston's The Maltese Falcon are better films than Badlands. Boy do I hope I'm not misquoted or taken out of context with that sentence . . .  Most Malick screenings tend to sell out at night, or at least get to 2/3 capacities quickly, so mucho planning may need to be done in advance.:

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)- Fri Oct 9 and Sat Oct 10 at 12:10AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's retrospective of Wes Craven films during the Midnight hour. Set mostly in the early 80s, Harvard scientist Bill Pullman is hired by a pharmaceutical company to go to Haiti, to research and find a drug that might work as some sort of super-anesthesia. A drug that might trap someone in a zombie-like state. Pullman goes there, and is instantly smitten with an attractive Haitian doctor. But this leaves him vulnerable to the manipulations of a dictator modeled after Baby Doc Duvalier. He's played by Zakes Mokae, in a performance that's a million miles away from his performance in Master Harold and the Boys. Anyway, our intrepid American thinks he can handle his surroundings, and soon finds out how very wrong he is.

Not quite a hit back in 1988, doing well only in relation to budget. But Craven pulls off the atmosphere, balancing the natural terror of when one is under the thumb of a dictatorship out to get you, with the supernatural elements. Especially when you see the effects of those under the spell of the zombie-like drug. Craven's filmography is a mixed bag, but this is one of his better horror films: 

Let me know. Later all, hopefully see you soon.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September revivals

Hey all, Mike here with a brief-ish revival list for the rest of September. Brief in terms of my time at the U.S. Open keeping me away from checking out possible revivals. Brief because now that I've been so slow coming back from the aforementioned Open that now I'm rushing to put a list out. And brief because I'm going to try to keep these descriptions as brief as possible. And brief because I'm wearing briefs as I type this. AS WELL AS OTHER CLOTHES! Jeez, some people . . . 

Also brief because there won't be any films from the Film Forum's Vittorio De Sica retrospective. I was tempted, but different reasons come up. I've seen Bicycle Thieves too many times to make time. I've done Marriage Italian Style too recently, I can't make the time for Teresa Venerdi but it's being screened only once, I'll be a puddle if I do Umberto D so no thanks for now, Miracle in Milan was too out there for me, and there are other films on this list after all. But if you can make time for any De Sicas this month, go to the Forum website for more details, and I promise to post at least one De Sica film on the next list. Ok, here we go with this list:

PARIS, TEXAS (1984)- Wed Sept 16 at 9:35- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Wim Wenders retrospective. If I had the time, I would have posted Alice in the Cities on the last list and Wings of Desire onto this list. If I had the desire for The Salt of the Earth, I would have already seen it by now. If I had the courage to do the Director's Cut of Until The End of the World I'd go, but the original release tried my patience so no. If I were able to drum up interest in one of the best films of 2011, Pina in 3-D. it would be here as well, but no go.

So here we go with the only film in the retrospective I intend to see, Paris Texas, from 1984. A 4k digital restoration. The only team-up of director Wenders and playwright Sam Shepard. But since it's been over 14 years since the only time I've seen this, I'll let the IFC Film Center description from Janus Films speak for me. Not ideal for me to do this, but in this case it speaks better for me:

New German Cinema pioneer Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire) brings his keen eye for landscape to the American Southwest in Paris, Texas, a profoundly moving character study written by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Sam Shepard. Paris, Texas follows the mysterious, nearly mute drifter Travis (a magnificent Harry Dean Stanton, whose face is a landscape all its own) as he tries to reconnect with his young son, living with his brother (Dean Stockwell) in Los Angeles, and his missing wife (Nastassja Kinski). From this simple setup, Wenders and Shepard produce a powerful statement on codes of masculinity and the myth of the American family, as well as an exquisite visual exploration of a vast, crumbling world of canyons and neon. – Janus Films

NOTORIOUS (1946)- Fri Sept 18 at 4:30 and 7- BAM- My potential first visit to BAM. Let's see how this works out. From their Ingrid Bergman retrospective, in time for her 100th birthday. Yes I know MOMA also did a retrospective this year of her work, but that conflicted with the U.S. Open so screw it.

The following came from the Film Forum's website. They've been using the same description for at least 9 years. And you think I recycle descriptions . . . 
"Reluctant spy Ingrid Bergman complains “He wants to marry me” to lover/FBI contact Cary Grant, after Nazi fellow traveler Claude Rains (Oscar nominated) falls a little too hard for her undercover activities. Painful sexual politics underscore the high tension set pieces of suspense."

Basically, Grant pimps out the woman he loves, so that she can get secrets from a Nazi male with major mother issues. Yeah, try to get that film done by a major studio with a more than competent director, then or now. That's why he's Hitchcock, and we're not. Not in my personal Top of Hitch's films. No way I put it over Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North By Northwest. But I put Notorious over the rest of them:

RIVER'S EDGE (1987)- Wed Sept 23 at 9:15- Anthology Film Archive- Part of the Archives' best of 35mm retrospective (Part 2). A special screening the successful indie film from 1986, released in 87, set among a group of slacker teens. The bond is tested when one of them kills his girlfriend, and brings the group out to see their friend's dead naked body, left to rot on a hill. The different reactions from the teens in the group, make up the film. Ranging from unquestioned loyalty from Crispin Glover (far from from McFly in Back To The Future), to Keanu Reeves' confusion about whether or not to go to the police. With a performance from Dennis Hopper (as the adult you don't want around these teens) that continued the comeback path that Blue Velvet and Hoosiers started. A little more humorous than you might expect, but with a subject like this, expect a good, dark drama:

VANISHING POINT (1971)- Thurs Sept 24 at 6:45- Anthology Film Archives- Part of the Archives' best of 35mm retrospective (Part 2). One of the films that inspired Tarantino to direct his part of Grindhouse (a similar model Dodge Charger is used for the major car chase), gets a rare screening. A cult hit from 1971, Barry Newman agrees to deliver the charger from Colorado to Frisco in less then 15 hours on a bet. Cops and highway patrolmen plot to catch him. Throw in gay hitchhikers, a few naked chicks and a boatload of car chases, and you'll see why Tarantino wanted in part to do Grindhouse.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975)- Fri Sept 25 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's See It Big: New York Movies edition.  One of the great New York City films, and one of the great heist films, and based on a true story. A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus. A quintessential New York film that couldn't be made outside the 70's. 6 nominations, including Al Pacino for Actor, Lumet  for Director and Picture; an Oscar for Screenplay. "ATTICA! ATTICA!"

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)- Mon Sept 28 at 5 and 8(maybe for me)- BAM- Part of the Ingrid Bergman retrospective. I'm sure I can do 5pm. 8pm remains a question mark but for now at least, I'll include it here. A lighter, complete change of pace from director Sidney Lumet's other works, or at least more successfully pulled off compared to "lighter" fare like The Wiz and Deathtrap. The best of all Agatha Christie adaptations as far as I'm concerned, though David Suchet's version was pretty good, yet deadly serious compared to this. Albert Finney's Hercule Poirot is called upon by Martin Balsam to solve the murder of Richard Widmark. Here's his list of suspects: Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, Sena Connery, Bergman, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel (better known to art houses types for the likes of The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and Army of Shadows). 

Fun film; the kind that almost makes all other feature length Poirot difficult to sit thru in comparison. Almost as though "this is the best, it's difficult to sit through weaker imitations". I stress almost since it never stopped me before and won't any tie soon, but I digress. 6 Oscar nominations, including Finney for Best Actor, Screenplay Adaptation, and Geoffrey Unsworth's Cinematography. No Best Picture nomination. Paramount already had slots filled by Chinatown, The Conversation, and, oh yeah, Godfather Part 2. There wouldn't be a fourth film for the studio.

An Oscar did go to Bergman for Supporting Actress, mainly for one breakdown scene. Here's a quote from Lumet from the Forum website about this: “She [Ingrid Bergman] was so film-knowledgeable. She’d worked with such masters. So when she saw that I didn’t do a reverse shot of Albert Finney in their big scene together and there would be no cutaways, she gave me a kiss on the mouth. I almost left my wife! [laughs] I remember being pissed off that we got so many nominations and I didn’t get nominated.”:

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Late August revivals

Hi, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of August. Technically the last third of August actually. Small list, but all these films are either in my personal top 100, or are potential candidates for such a list. No time to waste, here we go:

WEST SIDE STORY (1961) - Fri Aug 21 at 7 and Sat Aug 22 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image- A classic films from the early 1960s, part of the Museum's best of 70mm retrospective. West Side Story plays alone on Friday the 21st. But it plays for one admission with Lawrence of Arabia on Saturday the 22nd. Sorry I can't stay for Lawrence but if you have the opportunity to do both on the same day, go for it. If you can commit to the time, say 12:15 to check out the museum and guarantee a ticket , sit down around 1:45 for West Side, take a 65 or so minute break, grab a seat for Lawrence around 5:40, keep stretching during its intermission, and finish up around 9:40, then this is the outing for you.

Now yes, I've posted West Side Story every time it's played on a screen of respectable size, and I'm doing so again. I've caught twice at the Ziegfeld where it played great, and I've posted it at MOMA where I'm sure it played great as well. Now I'm posting a screening at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

West Side Story is on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal Top 100. Number 2 on AFI's recent Best Movie Musical list. It is totally different seeing it on the big screen as opposed to TV. I can't describe it very well, you have to go to know what I mean. Sight and sound makes this more of an experience then just passive viewing like on tv. Is it perfect? No. Some of the slang is just too dated, some of the actors had to be painted Latino (get a good look at George Chakiris and tell me I'm wrong), most of the teenagers are either over 21 or pushing 30, and some had to be dubbed. But mix Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's songs, Jerome Robbins's choreography and Robert Wise's direction and you have a terrific film. Yes, Robbins was a co-director, until his perfectionism resulted in re-shoots and extended shooting, causing the film to go over budget and behind schedule. He was fired 60 percent into shooting and Wise finished it. Stunning use of New York locales and a terrific opening credit sequence and ending. 10 Oscars including Picture and Director. If you've never seen it on the big screen, go with no hesitation:

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1957) introduced by Mark Levinson- Fri Aug 21 at 9:30 for 10 dollars- Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap-ish 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. This screening will be introduced by Mark Levinson, director of the documentary Particle Fever and someone credited with working with actors on the ADR side of things on projects like Seven, The English Patient, The Social Network, and House of Cards. 

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:

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)- Mon Aug 24 at Sundown- Bryant Pk- The film that concludes the free Bryant Park film series. The biggest film of 1985. Came out of nowhere to find not only the family audience, but served as an overall alternative to the other major film from that year, Rambo Part 2. Chances are you know the story, so I don't need to sell this classic. The Lawn opens for patrons at 5, the seats up front should fill up by 7:30 or so, 

ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969/2006)- Wed Aug 26 and Thurs Aug 27 at 3:20, 6:45 and 9:30, Fri Aug 28 at 12:30, and Sat Aug 29 at 9:30, and Sun Aug 30 at 3:20- Film Forum- Another run of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 film, this time a DCP restoration of the 2006 restoration. Melville took his experiences as a member of the French resistance during World War 2, added them to his adaptation of the book by fellow Resistance member Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour), and filtered it all thru the genre he specialized in: the film noir. So we get a stylized take on the German occupation of France. One where the good looking headstrong heroes are likely to take it hard, while the meeker looking ones tend to have smarts and tenacity. We have a film noir that stays that way as opposed to being a typical war film. Stylized about its take on the War except in a few ways: that the Resistance isn't sure who they can trust among the civilian population and occasionally among themselves, that the Allies are of little help since if the Resistance can't tell the difference between friend and foe how can they, and the brutal and torturous methods used by the Nazis if they got a hold of any Resistance members. 

Army of Shadows never did get a Stateside release in the late 60s or early 70s. Melville was kinda out of favor at this late stage of his career, but why Army of Shadows never received distribution here, I don't know. Maybe no American distributor wanted a non-American war film that wasn't even marginally upbeat. Melville not being Truffaut or as cool as Goddard or Bergman, or down the line not Herzog or Fassbinder didn't help, nor did Melville dying in 1973. When the film finally was released in 2006, it became a very big deal critically in a year that some pretty good but no great films (my opinion). The New York Film Critics named it Best Foreign Film of 2006, L.A. Critics and National Board of Review gave it special citations, and the Criterion Collection gave it a loving release. But if you've never seen it on the big screen, this is one of those films you make time for:

LAURA (1944)- Thurs Aug 27 at 7:30- MOMA- From MOMA's retrospective of films that are favorites of director Martin Scorsese. A digital restoration. A film that, according to MOMA's website, Scorsese showed the cast of Shutter Island to give them an idea of what he was aiming for. With emphasis on the beaten walk from lead actor Dana Andrews. A classic film noir, and one of my favorites of the genre. Detective Andrews is obsessed with murder victim Laura, played by Gene Tierney. Among the suspects are outwardly suave Vincent Price and ultra prissy, ultra acidic critic Clifton Webb (Oscar nominated). We see flashbacks from Laura's life that fascinate the detective more. And then . . . . sorry, if you never saw it, I'm not spoiling it. Though do look for a young (ish, kinda) Judith Anderson.

Among the best of the noirs. Not the best, but alongside say, The Maltese Falcon and Sweet Smell of Success, a noir I can see over and over and never get bored. And as long as some people I know don't know it, I'll keep pushing it. Amazing how much sexual tension there were able to get past the Production Code. Perhaps not as bitter as other noirs, but with a high sense of both romance and disappointment.
An Oscar for the Cinematography, additional nominations for director Otto Preminger (a replacement from Rouben Mamoulian; Otto chucked Rouben's old footage, reshot everything and changed the ending- WOW!), Art Direction and the Screenplay (3 writers were nominated, but not Ring Lardner Jr., who did some script doctoring). What I'm surprised wasn't nominated was David Raskin's score, which includes "Laura's Theme", which is hard to forget if you like the film:

That's all for now. My next list will come out in September, but when is a good question. The U.S. Open is around the corner, so that's a priority for me. We'll see if I have the courage to post Howard the Duck. We'll see, take care.