Friday, July 22, 2016

July revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the rest of July. Sorry I didn't have any revival screenings for most of this month. but a combination of schedule issues and some meh choices didn't inspire me to write a list. Actually, there were a couple of revivals that I was interested in, and I caught one: Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Very much a Grindhouse film, and as long as you're ok with that going in, you'll like the film. And even if you don't, there was a terrific lead performance by Warren Oates to savor. And based on the conversations Oates's character had with the title head, I have to think Robert Zemeckis had this film in mind while working on Cast Away. Very little difference between Oates and Garcia's head, and Tom Hanks and Wilson. Overall, I understand why it would be on a list of 1001 movies to see before you die. Maybe not in the top 1001 all time, but certainly different enough to pay attention. Now on with the list:

THE SICILIAN CLAN (1969/70)-  Sat July 23 at 8:50- Film Forum- From the Forum's Les Durs: 3 French Tough Guys retrospective. Honoring the work of character acting/ tough guy leading Frenchmen Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Some of the films in this retrospective are those I've done at least once at the Forum (Le Doulos, Breathless, Army of Shadows, Grand Illusion), so I won't post them here. Maybe another time, but not this month. But here's one that fits my schedule: The Sicilian Clan, from 1969, released in the U.S. in 1970.  Sorry to say this is the English dubbed version, but beggars can't be choosers. Now I'm afraid I don't know the film, so I'll have post the Forum's description of the film for better clarity:

(1969, Henri Verneuil) Three great tough guys: after fiery killer Alain Delon memorably escapes from the slammer, it’s time to team up with gang boss Gabin to heist a plane-load of jewels. But there’s cop Lino Ventura to contend with. English-language version. 35mm. Approx. 121 mins.

PLANET OF THE APES (1968)- Sun July 24 (Preferred)  at 7 and Wed July 27 (if need be for me) at 2- AMC Empire 25 and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas -  A special digital restoration, sponsored by TCM. The screening will be introduced by Ben Mankiewicz, who will have an "interview" with Dr Zaius about the effect of the movie. So to speak, just enjoy the tongue and cheek aspect.

Now as for the original Planet of the Apes, for those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels on your own, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after. It means enough these days to be highlighted in the 1968-set season of Mad Men.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I saw a new print back on July 2011, and it plays great. The new DCP should play just as well:

LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)- Tues July 26 at 6:45 and 9:30- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films, Native to America, featuring films depicting Native American life. A favorite "forgotten" Dustin Hoffman film from 1970. A Western Comedy-Drama that mixes Fable, History, and even a bit of political activism. Hoffman plays a 110 year old man (under impressive make-up from Dick Smith who did the makeup work on The Exorcist and The Godfather), who looks back on his life. How he went back and forth as a young boy and man, from the world of the Indians to the world of the white man in the old West. Meeting characters as varied as Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer. Maybe there's a bit of legend in his tale, but it's his tale and he's gonna tell it his way.

Terrific script and lead performance from Hoffman who is in the Guinness Book of Records for playing the largest age span of a character (17-121). With good support from, among others, Faye Dunaway (a favor after Penn's Bonnie & Clyde made her a star?), Martin Balsam and Richard Mulligan (chewing the scenery, countryside and possibly the horses, as Custer). But the supporting performance you'll probably leave the film remembering most, is Oscar-nominated Chief Dan George, as the tribal chief who adopts the orphan boy who grows up to be Hoffman. Many scenes in Little Big Man take place among the tribe, and it's probably the most humane, well rounded depiction of Native Americans ever on film. Definitely better than say, the typical John Wayne Western or even Dances With Wolves. And that humanity is important, since it needs to effect you so that the attacks by the Army. Any similarities between the Vietnam War and the Army-Indian battles are intentional, even though the scenes at times, matched up with government records of the encounters. An artistic/political decision supposedly made by Penn and screenwriter Calder Willingham (The Graduate, Paths of Glory), that didn't thrill the novelist who originally conceived Little Big Man, Thomas Berger.

Maybe Little Big Man is a little too long and meandering. But it's an interesting journey, that I prefer to think of as eccentric as opposed to weird. Essentially forgotten today, and just because it's a Western, it's ripe for re-discovery.

LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (SECOND BREATH) (1966)- Thurs July 28 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's "Les Durs" 3 Tough French Guys retrospective. A 35mm print imported from France specifically for this series. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. If you know, or paid cursory attention to these lists, you know how much I'm a fan of Melville's work. It started from Army of Shadows and grown from there. Le Doulos and Le Circe Rouge were obviously very good, the same goes for Bob Le Flambeur. Melville's change of pace, Leon Morin, Priest, was a pleasant surprise. Even merely ok Melville (Un Flic), is a cut above quite a number of films. So the chance to see this Melville film I don't know, is an opportunity I'm jumping on. And since I don't know this film, I'll have to rely on the old cut-and-paste method, and rely on the Forum's description:

(1966) En route to the border after a successful prison break, Lino Ventura (Army of Shadows, Elevator To The Gallows) takes time for an electrifying highway robbery, but then finds, after ruthless cop Paul Meurisse has turned him into an unwitting informer, that reputation is worth more than life. In French, with English subtitles. Approx. 150 mins. 

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)- Fri July 29 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- The start of the return of 70mm screenings at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Very similar to the 70mm retrospective that Lincoln Center held during the holiday season of 2012, and the successful 70mm retrospective the Museum had last summerAfter the success of such revival screenings as Hello, Dolly! and The Sound of Music, as well as renewed interest in the format thanks to Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and P.T. Anderson's The Master, the Museum of the Moving Image will screen this special retrospective. While the format has been around since the creation of film itself, it wasn't until the mid-1950s when this became popular for event movies. Consider 70mm as the grandfather of IMAX, which also makes use of 70mm film cameras by the way (the films not shot digitally that is). If you've been to the Ziegfeld, the late Loews Astor Plaza or the Paris theater in Manhattan, then you know what the format looks like in a non-revival house. But unless you've done a previous 70mm revival screening with me, or you saw The Master at the Ziegfeld and/or Interstellar at the Ziegfeld or in a 70mm IMAX screening, or The Hateful Eight at one of the 100 70mm screens this past winter, you probably haven't seen a 70mm film. Especially if you're under the age of 21.

Popularity waned in the 1970s, and the format wasn't used for a while, except horizontally in IMAX cameras. By the time I read how the original 70mm print of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was chopped up and pieces were individually sold, I figured the format was as dead as the Betamax. But directors like Anderson, Nolan, and Martin Scorsese still champion the format, and curiosity and changing technologies has fueled renewed interest 70mm. Much like IMAX, 70mm was reserved for event films, and some of those very event films will be screened at the Museum. I've posted a couple of these films on this blog over the years. But most of these films haven't been screened since the early 80s.

Now almost everything screened in this retrospective also screened at Lincoln Center back in 2012, but not every film from the 2012 retrospective will screen here. Either because the 70mm screening of Sound of Music has been screened before at the Museum this year (and probably again next February), they won't settle for any kind of print (no thanks to a grainy My Fair Lady print with Swedish subtitles) , or they're going with most mainstream choices. I admired Lincoln Center's choices of Khartoum and Ryan's Daughter, but Lord Jim? Interesting . . . I won't post all the films from this retrospective. Partially because I'm splitting up their list into several parts to fit mine so there would be no point listing everything now, and partially because I have neither the time to do The Master and Interstellar, nor the burning desire to see Brainstorm. i saw Natalie Wood's last film recently on TCM, and it hasn't held up compared to when I saw it over twenty five years ago.

Now as for 2001, I have nothing new to say about. It's one of my favorites, I've seen it multiple times over the years and I'm willing to go again, it's a great film, if you've never seen it on the big screen, see it once, that's it. What I will do is reprint part of what I wrote regarding this 70mm restoration back in January 2013:

Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw this past summer (not sure who did the respective restorations). Sound quality was equally superior, but there were noticeable image issues with the 2001 print that didn't crop up with Dolly. In particular the colors red and white were difficult to pull off without some sort of cloudy distortion. Not every time mind, you. No issues with the color red when it came to anything involving Hal, but with the trip at the end. And as for white, there were no issues with say, the space station or the various shuttles.  But anything lit with what appears to white halogen lighting (or the mid-1960s British equivalent), such as the lighting in the station, the moon base meeting room, and especially the French suite environment the Monolith creates, the restoration wasn't that effective. Or the restoration wasn't able to fix all the problems of the original negative, not sure what the reasons are. The colors were more effective overall with the Digital restoration of 2001 that I saw in March. Sound quality was about equal, but I consider the 70mm print superior to the DCP print in one section: The Dawn of Man. For some reason all of it looked completely fake on the DCP, even the leopard and the second unit footage. Not so with the 70mm, the textures of everything, the sets, the matte paintings and the incredible make-up, all looked more realistic. Enough texture to allow one to believe the illusion quickly, without distraction.

POLTERGEIST (1982)- Sat July 30 at 9- Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's series of films that have questionably received a PG rating. This one certainly qualifies. A little over the top in its last half hour, but still quite effective. Just enough humor to set you up for more scares. Cited as one of the reasons for the creation of the PG-13 rating. Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, though how much of the film was made by Hooper and how much was made by producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg still seems to be a topic for conjecture. Though there's nothing as creepy here, as when a clip was used for DirectTV's series of commercials. My first thought: "This commercial is freaking me out. They're using the little dead girl to sell DirectTV. You have to be kidding!". 3 Oscar nominations, including the visual effects and Jerry Goldsmith's score

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Next week's revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a week's worth of revival screenings. I'll keep my descriptions as brief as possible. Some flicks for the whole family, and some strictly adult fare. Nothing NC-17 rated, don't get me wrong. But two films for the kids to stay home, wait for them to be adults to appreciate. Or at least over 14. Sorry I digress, here we go:

THE KING OF COMEDY (1983)-  Sun June 26 at 6:10 (maybe for me) and 8:20, Wed June 29 at 7:30 (introduced by Mario Cantone) and 9:45, and Thurs June 30 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A 4K digital restoration. It's runs a week, but I'm only posting the screening I think I can make.

Big flop from early 1983, but also one of that year's best film. Similar to a musical where the songs all happen in the context of a show or in fantasy. Here, most of the comedy is in the context of the talk show or in fantasy. Mostly it's a dark drama. Robert de Niro plays an obsessed fan, who takes a chance encounter with his talk show host idol too much to heart. This lets his fantasies of becoming a comedy icon grow bigger than usual, and his behavior becomes more irrational, and potentially dangerous.

De Niro is loser incarnate, and it cuts close to the bone. It's almost like Willy Loman never did anything, then kidnapped his brother for those riches. But most critical attention back then, went to Jerry Lewis, in his first serious role of note, as the talk show icon. A role Johnny Carson turned down after much deliberation, because the role was written to close to his reality (at least when he hosted The Tonight Show in NYC). Lewis was long dismissed at this point, and this role gave his career a whole new lease on life. When the Academy Awards show clips from Jerry's career when he gets his honorary award, they will be at a decent clip from this film to show. We see him in de Niro's fantasy scenes, and is just as impressive as someone not happy with his celebrity status, and even less happy by his privacy being interrupted by this nut. Stealing scenes from both de Niro and Lewis is Sandra Bernhard, as an even more obsessed fan.

Came out in Feb. 1983 to major praise. When it expanded beyond 2 or 3 screens, it was DOA. I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of love for an ending that neither went to the comfortable Hollywood route, nor did it go a Taxi Driver-esque route. Maybe the stalker story was too close after John Lennon's murder by a crazed fan. Home video and TV could only do so much. Not the coolest in comparison to other Scorsese-de Niro, and because it was made by Fox instead of Warner Bros, it doesn't get packaged with their other works. But I'm guessing most of you haven't seen this ever, or since the 80s or early 90s. Now is the chance to change that. Comedian Mario Cantone will introduce the 7:30 screening on Wednesday, June 29th:

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY- Sun June 26 at 7- AMC Empire, Regal Union Square 14, and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema, plus Wed June 29 at 7 at AMC Empire (the only place I could try to catch it that night)- The Gene Wilder cult classic gets a special digital screening, sponsored by TCM and introduced by Ben Mankiewicz. If it looks as great as the TCM digital screenings of Jaws and Double Indemnity, this should be a treat

It may not be as loyal to the original Roald Dahl book as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it's a better film. Dahl wrote the original adaptation, but a massive re-write caused Dahl to badmouth the film every chance he got. And while there was better usage of the Oompa Loompas and the budget to go hog wild on the look, the family/daddy issues, especially in the last half-hour, drags the film down when compared to Willy Wonka. Maybe I like this film so much strictly for Wilder's performance. I'm ok with that.

Now considering this was not a hit back in 1971 but only became a cult classic thanks largely to NBC broadcasts in the late 70s into the 1980s, most people have no idea what this film looks like on the big screen. I include myself in that statement, but I would like to change that

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954) for 10 dollars- Thurs June 30 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema- A cheapish screening of the Humphrey Bogart film, introduced by Hedda Lettuce. Humphrey Bogart stars as a has-been movie director, who gets a second wind when he discovers beautiful peasant girl Ava Gardner and, with the help of his backers, makes her a star and an international sex symbol. But will this be a case of too much too soon? Will she be truly loved for herself?

Praised in its day. Corny and a little soap opera-ish today. But writer/ director Joseph Mankiewicz keeps a steady hand. Not too much corniness, smarter than you think, and just enough bitterness mixed with the sweet. An Oscar nomination for Mankiewicz's Screenplay. An Oscar for Edmond O'Brien for Supporting Actor, as the tough, insincere publicist.  

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)- Fri July 1 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of a weekend of Hollywood blockbusters that were released on the 4th of July weekend, that made an impact; culturally as well as big time at the box office. Ok, they include Magi Mike XXL, but only because they're screening the first Magic Mike as well I guess. The only non-digital screening on this list. The print should be decent based on the Museum's history. 

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:

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Revivals: mostly Memorial Day weekend edition

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the Memorial Day weekend. Well one film is playing next week, in June. But I'm not leaving it out, and I'm not doing a special write-up just for one film. So here we go, starting with a film I enjoy:

HARD BOILED (1992/93)- Fri May 27 at 7- Metrograph-  For the record, I liked attending Fast Times at Ridgemont High at the Metrograph. A little on the expensive side compared to other places, the in-house restaurant especially so. But the screening room is comfortable. what with stadium seating and a quality sound system. The kind of screen that can handle both 35mm and digital. Not as big as say the Walter Reade screen, but one I can imagine seeing Barry Lyndon, if I grow the balls to see it again that is. But if I can consider that one, you know I'll consider Hard Boiled.

Now if you're an American of a certain age who enjoy action films, you were introduced to John Woo before his American films, the darn good Face Off and the mediocre Hard Target, were released. You were probably introduced to one of two films, either via cable or bootleg VHS. Whichever film you were introduced to first, is probably one of your favorite action films. It could have been The Killer for you, but for me it was Hard Boiled,from 1992. Chow Yun-Fat secured his status as action hero extraordinaire, as a Dirty Harry-like cop, trying to avenge the death of his partner, while investigating gun runners who are fighting over territory. Tony Leung (The Lover, Infernal Affairs) plays a hit man with a secret, who sides against the more violent gun runner. Both men collide, when said gun runner and his mob hold a hospital full of people hostage. This mob has superior fire power that keeps the police helpless, and the cop and the hitman with a secret can only rely on each to take out the gang. One floor at a time, one room at a time.

The film is pretty good before you get to the hospital. Yun-Fat and Leung are charismatic, the gun fights are stylized and interestingly shot. But the last hour takes place in the hospital, and that's when Woo ratchets everything up another level. The firefights are incredibly complicated at the start and increase in complications as it goes on. The mix of quick edits and single shot extended action scenes have to be seen to be believed. And oh yeah, there's a little humor in there too. No one will ever confuse John Woo with say, Woody or Mel Brooks or even Judd Apatow. But Woo sneaks it in throughout, and is a pleasant surprise during the second half. So yes, on Memorial Day Friday, I'll go out of my way to the Metrograph, if it means I get to enjoy Hard Boiled in all its glory:

JAWS (1975) Fri May 27 and (maybe for me) Sat May 28 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- I don't care if I've posted this before and done it before. Jaws is one of my all time faves, the big screen is a great place to catch it, and summertime is the perfect time period to do it. If you've heard of it, then i don't need to go into it. If you've never seen it on the big screen, this is as good a time as any. And if you've never seen on the big screen and can stay up late, why won't you?

THE PASSIONATE THIEF (1960/63)- Sat May 28 at 8:45- Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Anna Magnani retrospective. From 1960, released in the U.S. in 1963. Magnani is a delusional and lonely actress working background. When the crew takes a holiday break, she jumps into a New Years Eve party with a blonde wig, brassy dress, and silver fox (with head), and throws herself at any available man. This includes her fellow performer and friend (Toto, a big name in Italian comedy) and a good looking American (Ben Gazzara). Both men are trying to steal from the party guests and she keeps interfering. Don't know the film, but curious:

THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)- Thurs June 2 at 7- Metrograph- Since I don't see myself posting any revivals during the first 5 days of June, and since I don't want to do a write-up of just one film, here it is on this list. From the Brian de Palma retrospective. I may not post many films from this retrospective, I'm warning you now. Partly due to time, partly because I have no interest in Mission Impossible, Snake Eyes, and Bonfire of the Vanities (not making the same mistake twice). And partly because I've seen both Wise Guys and Femme Fetale  before, never again.

The Untouchables, from 1987. David Mamet reinvented the 50s TV hit as a morality tale, with naive and saintly Elliot Ness having to go into grey areas in order to stop evil, in the form of Robert De Niro's Al Capone. But aided by Ennio Morricone's terrific, Oscar-nominated score, this is more Brian De Palma's triumph. High opera, directed to near perfection. The train station sequence is a classic, the bridge by the Canadian border and the rooftop sequences, are very close. Amazing this almost didn't happen, based on Mamet's far talkier early drafts. According to producer Art Linson, it was De Niro who gently forced Mamet to make massive re-writes, for which Linson and De Palma are eternally grateful.

Part of the one-two punch in the summer of 87 that elevated Kevin Costner, as Ness, to A list status. Introduced us to both Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson. But putting Sean Connery back to A list status in the U.S. might be what's best remembered here. His scene in the church with Costner and his death scene (sorry for the spoiler, but if you don't know the film by now . . . . ), probably won him his Oscar. 

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mid-May revivals

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the middle of May. Once I get back in the groove of movie watching, what do I do? Fall behind as usual. Let me not waste time, here we go with the list. I'll try to keep the descriptions short:

KRAMER VS KRAMER (1979) with a post film Q and A with director Robert Benton by writer Michael Schulman- Thurs May 12 at 7:30- IFC Center- The end of the Meryl Streep retrospective. The Academy Award winner regarding divorce, what makes a good parent, and a whole bunch of stuff that the zeitgeist of 1979 perfectly. May not be an AFI Top 100 film like Apocalypse Now, and may not be adventurous filmmaking like Bob Fosse's All That Jazz. But it's still a pretty darn good drama. Oscar nominations for Justin Henry for Supporting Actor (among the best child performances on screen ever), Jane Alexander for Supporting Actress, Editing, and Nestor Almendros' underrated Cinematography. Oscars for Best Picture, Dustin Hoffman for Actor (over Peter Sellers for Being There? Interesting.), Robert Benton for both Direction and Screenplay Adaptation, and Streep, in a A list creating performance, for Supporting Actress.

After the screening, writer-director Benton will participate in a Q and A with Michael Schulman, author of a new Streep biography. This may or may not sell out, but the house should be at least 3/4 full. Some planning in advance would be needed:  

AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)- BAM- Fri May 13 at 4:30 and 9:30- Part of BAM's Labor of Love's: 100 Years of Movie Dates series. Ouch, there isn't a single good date depicted in this film, but that's not what this retrospective depicts, so, ok then.

One of the best films of 2000, we follow one Patrick Bateman. A successful Wall Street banker-type with a lovely fiancee (Reese Witherspoon) and a respectable amount of wealth for someone so relatively young. But none of this satisfies Bateman. Becoming a Master of the Universe isn't satisfying either; not when something as small as a somewhat more attractive business card can send you into a tailspin. So he has a mistress and hires prostitutes from time to time. But none of this satisfies Bateman either, even if he beats his prostitutes. No, the only thing that seems to give poor Patrick any satisfaction is killing someone. Anyone who stands in his way. Anyway powerless to stop him. Anyone will do. Like any addiction, Bateman can only be satisfied by killing more and more. Like anyone with a few remaining twinges of a conscious, he wants to stop, or be stopped. But . . . . well the ending I leave to you to decide how you feel.

Controversial from the get-go, thanks to the source material. Ideas to humanize Patrick as opposed to giving him twinges of conscious (as was the plan in an attempted DiCaprio- Oliver Stone adaptation) were shot down by both fans and Gloria Steinem. The subdued approach and the aim to make this a comedy/satire of manners by director/ writer Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner works. In part to give the violence consequences when it does occur/ threatens to occur. In a East Coast variation of Fight Club, we see him get everything he wants or "needs", it gives him nothing. And despite keeping it in the late 80s to maintain the attack on Reagan/ Bush 1 era yuppie/preppie-types, narcissism, and overall thinking, it felt just as relevant in 2000 as it did then. And unfortunately in 2014, this film feels as relevant as ever. Right down to the type of profession that has gotten away with financial crimes with slaps on the wrists, if even that much.

But that didn't make the film a hit in 2000. Audiences and critics were divided. Even though the film toned down the book's brutality, the scenes that did stay in that avoided the dreaded NC-17 rating (the Hip to be Square scene, the chainsaw sequence), pissed some people off. And since some of the satire was subtle, I think some people from the day confused said subtlety with approval by the filmmakers. The ending didn't help. It made enough money to avoid being considered a flop and supposedly has developed a cult following. But if you're talking about films remembered from the year 2000, you're talking about say, Cast Away, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, maybe X-Men because of Hugh Jackman's star-making turn. 
Speaking of star making turns, that might be the reason why anyone watches this film anymore. Christian Bale, rising from nearly forgotten child actor to British art house lead (and former Jesus of Nazareth) to leading man in American films. A few missteps and some underrated American art house films were to come before Batman Begins, but as far as I was concerned, American Psycho showed us an actor who would be around for a long while to come. Narcissistic yet occasionally empathetic, funny yet dangerous enough to make you think what he could have done as Hannibal Lecter. Able to switch on a dime; whether we're talking about the Hip To Be Square scene (opposite Jared Leto), or the scene were Bateman brings his smitten secretary (Chloe Sevigny) back to his apartment with some hard decisions to make . . . 

In some ways, it was appropriate for Christopher Nolan to cast Bale in his series of Batman films. Though with Bateman, he seems more akin to Harvey Two-Face Dent than Bruce Wayne. The monster gains more control over time, but that other face, clean, handsome, keeps popping up. Is it a mask? Is it that last sign of positive humanity left in him? Is it guilt mixed with the need to be punished? A face that contorts farther as his behavior goes ignored, possibly excused? No matter how bat shit the film gets (still more muted than the novel), Bale allows you to believe it and follow it. And even this performance polarized critics and audiences. Too on the nose, too over the top were some of the complaints. But it's not a complaint of mine. We got a three-dimensional person, whose heights tend to be on the bloody side (or are they?). Go see this if you've never seen it before, or even if you've seen the Broadway musical:

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982) Sat May 14 at 6 (post film Q and A with director Amy Heckerling) and 8:30 (introduced by Heckerling)- The Metrograph- 7 Ludlow Street- Hey, lookit this. we have a new place to include for revivals screenings. The Metrograph, near the F train at East Broadway and the B and D train at Grand Street. A place that can show DCPs and film, where you can eat lunch or dinner while you watch, and where special events are done from time to time. I've never been here and I am very curious. So I'll start posting films from this location with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. 

A sleeper hit from the summer of 1982. A film Universal had no confidence in, and seemed to try to just dump out there. Word of mouth, plus some key good reviews from Siskel and Ebert among others, turned the distribution scheme into a happy accident. Just as the film was dying out on the West Coast, it starts to play big in the East Coast. Sometimes, studio execs are so lucky . . . From Amy Heckerling, who would never direct a better film. So what is this film best remembered for? The realistic glimpse of high school life during a certain time from soon-to-be-very-well-known Cameron Crowe? The compilation of young acting talent, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stolz, Judge Reinhold, Nicolas Cage, and Anthony Edwards? The shots of Cates rising from the pool, and Leigh lying on the couch? Or for the casting of Sean Penn? His ascent in the acting world, begins with his perf as the iconic partying surfer dude. His scenes with Ray Walston as Mr. Hand still hold up today. I'm guessing all who read this have seen this film. I'm guessing maybe one at best, actually saw this film on the big screen. Time to correct this . . .

Director Heckerling will do a psot film Q and A after the 6pm screening, and will introduce the 8:30 screening. Since I've done a screening here before, I don't know how things are run at the Metrograph, or how quickly special event screenings sell out. So some mucho planning will need to be done:

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF (1966) for 10 dollars- Thurs May 19 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap-ish screening, complete with Hedda lettuce screening. Among the best of the stage-to-screen transfers ever. I've been waiting a long time for this to play in a revival house. Hell of a first film for director Mike Nichols. Richard Burton and Taylor (heavier and made up to look far older and tired in a successful attempt to de-glamorize) are George and Martha; bitter middle-aged alcoholics, who in order to keep any semblance of interest in their marriage, tear into each other and the young couple (George Segal, Sandy Dennis) who come to their little party. As the film goes on, the head games get more cruel and vindictive.

Not necessarily a happy film, but with Albee's words, a joy to behold. No matter the attempts to open up the film, the house still feels like a steel cage. The attempts at opening, in particular the diner, doesn't hold as well, but everything else does. Some modern audiences might consider the acting as over the top at times, but I would disagree. I have a weakness/high tolerance to some excess, but it fits the piece.

Not on the first AFI Top 100 list, but on the second Top 100 list. 13 Oscar nominations. Oscars for Taylor for Actress, Dennis for Supporting, Art Direction Costume and Cinematography for a black and white film. Nominations include for Picture, Burton for Actor, Segal for Supporting Actor, Nichols for Director, Editing, and Alex North's very good score. I hope the overture and closing music are played here. Also nominated was Ernest Lehman for his screenplay, despite the fact that the actors hated his version so much, they and Nichols went behind his back and replaced all but 2 lines back to Albee's original. For me, best film of 1966. Excuse me if I'm not agreeing with the Academy with their choice of A Man For All Seasons. I want to go. Unless you want to see the other Liz and Dick film playing in Manhattan that night:

BOOM!(1968)- Thurs May 19 at 10:15- Film Forum- The end of the Forum's Noel Coward retrospective. Sorry this is the only film from the retrospective I'm posting. But I've done Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit before, I'm in no hurry regarding Bunny Lake Is Missing, and they're not screening the original version of The Italian Job. They can't show that film, yet they're screening Boom? Oh I'm sorry, Boom!

From director Joseph Losey, apparently in a state of constant drunkenness. Written by Tennessee Williams, who adapted his infamous flop, The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. His favorite adaptation of all his work; aw Jeez. Elizabeth Taylor stars as the most beautiful terminally ill person you've ever seen. On her personal island mansion, surrounded by nurses and bodyguards, she meets two people. One is the Witch of Capri (Coward), and a young poor poet (Burton, in a role even he felt was miscast) who seems to fulfill her every need, and who might be the Angel of Death.
The 1968 poster child for a My Year of Flops fiasco (all credit to Nathan Rabin for that). Everybody took it seriously, except the 1968 moviegoing public. The beginning of the end for both Williams's career success, and Liz Taylor as an A-List movie draw. If John Waters appreciates the excessive, over-the-top drama, you know it has fiasco written all over it. In an interesting, if not good way:   

DESTINY (1921)- Fri May 20 and Mon May 23 at 6:20, Sat May 21 at 4:40 and 6:40, plus Mon May 23 at 10:10- A DCP restoration of Fritz Lang's silent film, which was a major influence on both Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel. I don't know this at all, so I'll have to go the old cut and paste route, from the Forum's website:

(1921) In a vaguely 19th-century German village, a tall, sepulchral stranger builds a high wall around his property sans doors or windows, then Lil Dagover’s lover disappears — could the stranger be D...? (The German title translates as The Weary Death). So, is “love stronger than death?” The stranger gives Dagover visions of lovers at bay in an Arabian Nights Bagdad, in a Renaissance Vienna at Carnival, and in a highly stylized China, complete with special effects admired —
and copied — by Douglas Fairbanks. But there is one final test. Acclaim abroad reverberated back to make this Lang’s first smash hit: both Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Buñuel got the movie bug after seeing it. DCP. Approx. 98 mins.

A FACE IN THE CROWD- Sat May 21 at 3- The Metrograph- Part of the Metrograph's Budd Schulberg retrospective. Not the best film Elia Kazan has ever directed or even the most subtle, but a potent one nevertheless. And I know some of you have caught this before, either with or without me. But for those who haven't, who've probably caught most of the other films I'm listing hear, this is the one I want you to catch. A passionate gem of a film that, with this current election cycle, remains as potent and as relevant as ever.

From 1957, Patricia Neal works on the radio, and gives a chance behind the microphone to a hobo type, with possible anger issues, played by Andy Griffith. So basically, by sheer force of personality, this early Howard Stern/ Rush Limbaugh type goes from small time Southern radio voice, to big time National radio voice, to selfish, borderline power-mad egomaniacal personality on this new fangled medium called television.

The writing and directing team behind On The Waterfront, went out of their way to make a large chunk of this film as unsubtle as possible. This was on purpose, since this was more a call to arms of the way TV and advertising was changing America, and not in a good way. Is right up there with Network, in terms of standout films that not only attacked and critiqued media, but also in terms of how despite the changing times, audience sizes and technology; the accuracy it has about our current times is uncanny. the idea of politicians packaged like a new car or a fast food place, or that the audience will follow some wannabe demagogue on TV and almost blindly follow what the person says (unless the audience feels blatantly tricked). Boy, that human nature crap hasn't changed at all.

Of course, this wouldn't work if we didn't at least empathize with the characters, and this certainly wouldn't work if the performances weren't outstanding. Neal, Walter Matthau (as the bitterly observant East Coast type), and Anthony Franciosa (as the slimy manager), are just the better known names in a wonderful cast. Lee Remick makes her fresh faced screen debut. But if you just think of Andy Griffith as the sheriff of Mayberry or as Matlock, his performance in A Face In The Crowd will shatter those perceptions. Funny, driven, ravenous, tender, lonely, subtle, brutal. Griffith bounces from one to another of these states and more, and you never see the seams. You see the cruel glint in his eye early, but you can sympathize with him for long stretches. In effect, you can understand why Neal's character would throw away her principals a piece at a time to love a man who may not be the misunderstood kind-hearted person she thinks he is. Very good film, one you really need to make time for at some point

ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)- Sat May 21 at 5:30- Also part of the Metrograph's Budd Schulberg retrospective. You can only choose between A Face In The Crowd or this on Saturday, May 21. Can't really go wrong, no matter what your choice is.
Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. Consider this a film-noir/drama. Kirk Douglas stars as a disgraced newspaper man, forced to work in a lowly newspaper in Albuquerque. But when a man seems doomed to die in a cave-in, Douglas will do anything to cash in, by making this national news, and make himself a name again. But the feeding frenzy from the newly arrived media and the townspeople, even the trapped man's wife, seem even creepier than Douglas.

This was Wilder's golden ticket film. Yes he had some hit films already, but this was the dream project he got to do after the success of Sunset Blvd. But the critics attacked this as being over the top and unlikeable, as well as inaccurate in its depiction of the media, and it became the first major flop in Wilder's career. But similar to Network; by the time we got to the mid 80s, where you had the baby Jessica story (the girl trapped in the well) played in the media with similarities to Ace, the Wilder film seemed prophetic. And this was before we had more cable channels and more media outlets that desperately need a steady diet of sellable news. It may not have helped in 1951 that the only likable person in the picture, was the poor schmuck trapped in the cave in, but it seems to fit the noir style.

I'd also say it's similar to A Face In The Crowd. Not big hits in its day, both dark as hell, but both better appreciated today. Maybe A Face is appreciated much more among film fans. And in Wilder's career, it would later be dwarfed, with films like Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and The Fortune Cookie coming down the pike. But Ace In The Hole is rarely screened on TCM, is only available on DVD through the Criterion Collection, so chances are high that you haven't seen this. We can change that now:

PUTNEY SWOPE (1969)- Sat May 21 at 8:40- Film Forum- A DCP screening from the Forum's Robert Downey Sr. retrospective. A black comedy that I believe was Downey's biggest indie hit. A CEO of a Madison Avenue ad firm dies, and thru weird voting by-laws, the Board of Directors accidentally vote in the token black member of the board, Putney Swope. He's played by Arnold Johnson, though his lines were later dubbed by Downey since Johnson supposedly screwed up his lines constantly. Most of the white people are fired, more women and minorities are hired, and the business tries to be more ethical under Putney's stewardship. Yeah, good luck with that in the world of advertising in the face of commerce.

Cited as influence on the likes of the creators of Kentucky Fried Theater (and Movie), the creators of The Groove Tube, The Coen Brothers (who must have been inspired by this in part of The Hudsucker Proxy), Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Louis C.K. Never seen all of it, but I am curious: 

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

May revivals: first week

Hey all, Mike here and I'm back. I didn't expect to be gone as long as I've been. I expected to post plenty from the Sam Peckinpah retrospective at Lincoln Center, but I didn't come close to having the time to post many of the films I was thinking of. I'm lucky I got to see Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (better than I remembered, but still brutal and uncomfortable). But when the only current films I got to see were Deadpool (decent but if I was 13-17 it would have been AWESOME!!!), Remember (decent, Christopher Plummer was terrific), and Francofonia (I fought to stay awake for the first 30-40 minutes), then you know I'm behind. But life got in the way after the Oscars, and simple pleasures like revival screenings like this fell by the wayside. But now things have lightened up considerably, and I can start posting and attending these screenings again. Here we go, with a list for the first week or so of May:

PURPLE RAIN (1984)- Wed May 4 at AMC Empire at 5:10 and 8:05,  Wed May 4 at AMC Loews 34th St at 4:20 7 and 9:40,  AMC Loews 19th Street East at 5:15 8 and 9:30- plus  Wed May 4 at AMC Fresh Meadows at 4 and 7:45- plus Wed May 4 and Thurs May 5 at 8- plus Fri May 6 at 11:20 at IFC Center- Unfortunately while I was away, Prince passed away. I'm not sure if I could jump up and call him the best musical entertainers ever. I admittedly lost interest in his music after Diamonds and Pearls came out. But I feel he hit a home run with his album, Purple Rain. As far as I'm concerned, any list of great Rock and Roll albums that doesn't have Purple Rain in its Top 5, is a list that deserves being ignored and its compilers shunned.

Purple Rain the album has aged badly at all. Purple Rain the film, well, not so much. But it has some of the greatest rock music ever, so the film has been screened at varying theaters, commercial or non-profit, since Prince's death. AMC theaters has gone so far as to playing the film digitally in a number of its screens for 6 days, sorry I'm just getting to it now. Different locations in Manhattan, plus Fresh Meadows in Queens. 1 independent cinema, Main Street Cinemas, will also show it at night Those outside of NYC, AMC is showing the film in about 150plus other screens, so I'm sure you can find it if you're interested.

For the record, IFC Center is also showing stuff with Prince in it. I'm posting their late night (but NOT Midnight) screening, but I can only do Friday night. But since their retrospective includes Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge, I'll just pretend that retrospective doesn't exist. Now if they somehow got a hold of the rarely screened concert film Sign O The Times, I would jump on that one like you wouldn't believe. But I'm not counting on that.   

Now as for Purple Rain the film, 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.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) for ten dollars- either Thurs May 5 at 7 at Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas- or Fri May 6 at 9:30 at the Rubin Museum of Art (introduced by Gerard Alessandrini)- A cheap-ish screening of the classic musical, Singin' In The Rain. But you have your choice of venue; you can either see it as Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas where it will be introduced by Hedda Lettuce, or you can go to the Rubin Museum where it will be introduced by Gerard Alessandrini, the creator of Forbidden Broadway. Both venues will sell out. The Chelsea screening will probably sell out within 45 minutes of the screening, while the Rubin screening will sell out anywhere from 4 hours to 1 day beforehand.  

Now onto the film itself. When Singin in the Rain came out, it was successful, but ignored. Yes it was nominated for it's score, and the only actor nominated from this was not Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds or Donald O'Connor, but Jean Hagen as the funny, bitch-on-wheels diva. But it was dismissed as fluff, and people moved on. People in 1952 wanted to go on and on about Ivanhoe, John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Son Of Paleface, and the Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Greatest Show On Earth (considered by some to be the biggest mistake the Academy ever made in that category). But when people ever bring up quality films released in the U.S. back in 1952, it's High Noon, Rashomon, Singin' In The Rain, and that's it. OK, maybe The Quiet Man, but you'd have to be Irish and drunk to do that.

THE SEDUCTION OF JOE TYNAN (1979) with a post film Q and A with director Jerry Schatzberg by writer Michael Schulman- Thurs May 5th at 7:30- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's mini-Meryl Streep retrospective. I'm mildly surprised there hasn't been a bigger one recently, but beggars can't be choosers. The second of three films in the series where Michael Schulman, author of the new Streep biography  "Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep" discusses early roles of Ms Streep from the 1970s.

Sorry I missed the first film in the series, but here we go with the second, The Seduction of Joe Tynan, from 1979. Alan Alda wrote and stars in the title role, as a young rising Senator, and enjoying a wave of positive press, with sycophants of a staff enjoying the ride with him. He (seems to) loves his wife (Barbara Harris) and family, but seems to love his growing power and position more. And as he gears up for a battle regarding a Supreme Court nominee, in comes assistance in the form of young lawyer Streep; whose mind, youth, sense of self, and looks, all serve as an aphrodisiac to Senator Tynan. But what will be the repercussions for having this affair, if any?

Released in the summer of 1979, reviews were respectable, it did decent business at the box office, and received some more attention on video and TV for most of the 80s, as Streep's name and reputation grew. But by some point in the late 80s and continuing thru the present day, The Seduction of Joe Tynan has essentially been forgotten. Next to the other two Streep films from 1979, Manhattan and Kramer vs Kramer, this is a minor film. It has been over 15 years since I've seen this film, and while I remember liking it the several times I've seen it, I can't say I've made an attempt to get Universal Studios's slapped together DVD, or watch it on one of its rare cable screenings.

As I remember it, it's best to think of this as an early version of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing, with a few colorful characters, a mixed bag view of politics and a good cast of actors. Alda is an increasingly less likeable variation of Bartlett. You get good supporting turns from Rip Torn as a hedonistic powerful Senator, and Melyvn Douglas as an increasingly senile Senator mentor of Tynan's . But the women stand out more. You have Barbara Harris (in one of her last screen roles) as Tynan's wife; dealing with emotional issues, job stresses, holding her family together, and a husband who's away more often than not, and resenting much of it over time. When she finds out about the affair, ka-boom.

But the attention for the screening will be Streep. As a smart, ambitious, young lawyer, unhappily married, and making a professional connection with Senator Tynan. When the connection becomes personal, then comfortable, then difficult to sustain, you can read it all on Streep's face. Apparently she went into the film on some kind of emotional auto-pilot, mourning the loss of her partner, John Cazale. Streep credited Alda for getting her to open up more, get her comfortable on touching upon certain emotions and a working level of intimacy, and that this helped move forward in the short term to the roles she would tackle next, including Kramer vs Kramer. More about this I'm sure will be brought up on the screening's post-film Q and A, when author Schulman interviews director Jerry Schatzberg. If you want to go, get your tix before 6:30 and get in the theater before 7:15, because screenings at IFC with Q and As will fill up:

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