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. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

August revivals: first half













Hi all, Mike here with a revival list for the first half-ish of August. This list could be much larger, but at some point I'd like to see the sun, enjoy a little warmth, and not just on the subway stations, sweating my way from one place to the next. It was hard to narrow the options, but I had no choice. And no Midnight movies either, I have enough to deal with during regular hours. Here we go:



FANTASIA  (1940)- Tues Aug 4 at 6:30- MOMA- Part of the best of Technicolor retrospective. A 35mm print. If it's the same print MOMA has screened in the past, then it will be a well preserved version of the final 1990 release, with restored drawing and sound, the original narrator, and closing credits. 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.":



SWOON (1992) and/or ROPE (1948)- Wed Aug 5 at 5:40 (Swoon), 7:30 (Rope) and 9:10 (Swoon)- Film Forum- The conclusion of the Forum's True Crime series. Both films taking different tacts in telling the story of Leopold and Loeb murder case. Swoon will be screened in a 35mm print provided by the director Tom Kalin, Rope will be a DCP presentation from a few years back, so it looks better than you've ever seen it before.
 
Next, Rope. Alfred Hitchcock shot this film in a series of 8-minute continuous takes, the maximum amount of film that a camera could hold. Yes, it feels unnatural at times, but the story is compelling enough, so you accept the experiment. The story is a variation of the real life Leopold and Loeb murder. Two men murder a classmate/ friend of theirs, just for the moral superiority of it. They then have a dinner party over his hidden body, which his friend, relatives and fiancee attend. Also in attendance is their former professor, played by Jimmy Stewart. Ruh-roh.

For years I have seen Rope on TV, semi-popular after it's return as part of the Hitchcock 5; films that disappeared for over a decade until Universal Studios were able to re-release them in the early-mid 1980s. Rear Window and Vertigo became instant classics, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake did ok with critics and audiences, The Trouble With Harry, not so well. And Rope was kinda in the middle. The experiment was tolerated by critics (less so as the years went by), the film didn't play well in theaters, but played like gangbusters on home video and syndicated TV broadcasts. Me, I enjoy it. It's less cinema, more like filmed theater. Like a proto- Dial M For Murder. It's fun, despite the content.

Next, Swoon, from 1992. A film I've never seen but am curious about. An indie film that takes a more personal view of Leopold and Loeb themselves. From their romantic relationship, to their plotting of the perfect crime to prove themselves morally superior, to the killing of a 14 year old boy, to the investigation and arrest, to the trial as defended by Clarence Darrow and execution. Like I said, I am curious:



2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)- Fri Aug 7 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- The first of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big:70mm retrospective series. Very similar to the 70mm retrospective that Lincoln Center held during the holiday season of 2012. After 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, 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.




METROPOLITAN (1990)- Sun Aug 9 at 7 (introduced by Whit Stillman) and 9:30- and Mon Aug 10- Thurs Aug 13 at 7 and 9:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A digital restoration of the 1990 indie hit. Minor hit, but a big deal for independent film. A class-conscious comedy of manners not too different from something like The Rules of the Game. A middle class Princeton student accidentally becomes involved with a group of young wealthy Upper East Side socialites during the debutante season. A group that might call themselves the Sally Fowler Rat Pack, but are more like U.H.B. (Urban Haute Bourgeoisie). He ends up becoming an accepted part of the group, but despite their wealth and social manners, they're just like their new friend. They feel everything strongly, have crushes, say things that accidentally hurt each other, and step into their futures with some trepidation and nerves. Nothing happens in the film per se, but coming of age is tough all over.

No real bad people here, selfish and/or oblivious at best. All highly literate, or at least articulate. Whit Stillman's first film, drawing enough attention at Sundance that New Line Cinema took a chance that paid off. Not as sunshine-y as Barcelona, and not quite as good as Last Days of Disco, but a very good debut. Stillman, who received an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay, will introduce the 7pm screening on August 9th: 



A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1966)- Sun Aug 9 at 8:45- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Richard Lester retrospective at Lincoln Center. A retrospective that gets less attention here, in part because of other films, and partly out of my desire to do things other than watch movies this summer. I would have loved to have posted the likes of Robin and Marian, Juggernaut, How I Stopped The War and the 2 Musketeers films from the 1970s. Not everything on this retrospective grabbed me. No way would I fake interest in the third Musketeers film from 1990, and I have trouble rustling interest from both Lester films from 1979: Cuba and Butch and Sundance: The Early Years. Plus I did A Hard Day's Night already one year ago, so not again, not this summer at least.

But I will make time for this, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a musical farce from 1966. Simple story of scheming slave Pseudolus, willing to do whatever it takes to win his freedom. When the son of the family that owns him offers freedom for a simple task, Pseudolus jumps at the chance. Even though the task is his helping his young master  win the heart of the girl next door. A girl who is a courtesan, sold into marriage to a vain Roman general. A girl he must get away from her pimp, er, procurer, while avoid trouble from said procurer, the young man's parents, the slave-in-chief, a confused and nearly blind old man, and the general ready to burn down the entire block of houses if he doesn't get his bride.

The devil-may-care, somewhat improvisational style Lester did with the Beatles, works just as well with scripted material. Not that Lester is working with heavy material. Gussied-up Burlesque shot on location in Italy. But Lester and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg (after Dr. Zhivago and Fahrenheit 451 but before his own directorial career), came up with their own aesthetic. Mixed with some (but not all) of Stephen Sondheim's songs, and the notion that no historical anachronisms can appear, and you have something out of what Abrahams  and the Zucker brothers did with Airplane. Jokes coming out a mile a minute. Many jokes are verbal, some visual; whether from reactions, one shot setups, jumpcuts, widescreen shots where the joke is in the corner. Whatever it takes, laugh!

Lester certainly had a game cast. A good deal of talented British actors, including Michael Hordern in the first of 6 team-ups with Lester, and Michael Crawford in the second of three team-ups with Lester. If you thought Crawford was muggy in Hello Dolly, he's subdued here. Well not that subdued, just in comparison to the Americans in notable roles. Phil Silvers, full of energy as the procurer. Jack Gilford stealing scenes left and right as the major domo/ slave-in-chief. Buster Keaton in his last role as the nearly blind man.

And then you have Zero Mostel, recreating the role that made him a bigger Broadway star, before Fiddler on the Roof made him a Broadway icon. But there's a reason why you could subtitle Forum "Zero Mostel goes nuts". His clown instincts work well here. He might be subtle as a brick and it might take a little time for you to warm up to such broad comedic acting (especially if you never saw Zero in The Producers). But dammit, Zero is gonna make you laugh! And often, the humor may be low brow, but funny is funny and, Mostel might be the funniest actor you're not aware of.

Now Forum was a hit in its day. The only onscreen hit Mostel ever had. An Oscar winner, but only for the adaptation of Sondheim's music. But by the late 1970s, with Mostel's death and with Lester lacking hits both then and later on (unless Superman was in the title), Forum drifted into obscurity. Token home video releases didn't help. The show itself would have successful revivals and become a community theatre staple, but this list might be the first time you heard of it. Admittedly, it's not the best movie musical, and fans of the show don't appreciate how many Sondheim songs got the axe. But this isn't a tone-deaf adaptation of a Sondheim musical, that would be Sweeney Todd.  The lightest film on this list, just join me and have fun:  



HELP! (1965)- Mon Aug 10 at 7- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Richard Lester retro at Lincoln Center. "Help!", the Beatles and director Richard Lester's follow-up to the hit A Hard Day's Night. This starts the Museum's Play It Loud series of films; mostly rock films, some fictional and some documentaries, mostly in stereo. But first, let me sidetrack for a bit. The second time I ever saw A Hard Day's Night in a movie theater, it was at a revival screening at the Forum, double-featured with The Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, an almost perfect double feature as far as I'm concerned. The films were like kindred spirits to one another, even if Hard Day's was more rooted in reality, or a kind of reality at least.

Going through the plot of Duck Soup, like with all other Marx Bros films, is pointless. And that applies to the Marx Brothers-esque Help!. Yes, there's a plot involving a magic ring stuck on Ringo's finger, and the Fab Four are being chased by a Thugee-type of cult led by the future Rumpole of the Bailey, but whatever. Just keep the movie flowing (which it does, but not to the level of Hard Day's), keep the jokes coming (which don't always work, though maybe the boys shouldn't have been stoned for the whole shoot), and bring on the songs. Oh yeah, the songs. You're Going to Lose that Girl, Ticket To Ride, I Need You and the title song are among the highlights. Not on the level of Hard Day's but still fun:



THE RED SHOES (1948)- Wed Aug 12 at 8- MOMA- Part of MOMA's influences on Martin Scorsese retrospective. If it wasn't a heavy influence on Scorsese growing up or in film school, it's probably in this retrospective. The Red Shoes is respectable on TV, especially with a decent TV and a good sound system. On the big screen is where it's a cinematic revelation. The restored version that played at the Film Forum a while back, will play in Astoria, in a DCP format.

Arguably the most important film featuring dance ever made, and supposedly one of the films that inspired Martin Scorsese to become a filmmaker. The restored version that Scorsese himself described a few years back at the Cannes Film Festival: "There's no question that it's one of the most beautiful color films ever made, and one of the truest to the experience of the artist, the joy and pain of devoting yourself to a life of creation." We're not getting the DCP restoration, but a restored 35mm print.

The lush colors, and the breezy cinematic manner that directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger tell this story keeps it somewhat timeless. Sorry, you just can't have people riding in trains because they have to, and still be considered completely timeless. One of the few films to pull off both the ballet on-stage and the work and/or the passion behind it successfully. This is despite having relatively less on-screen staged ballet than what you might remember. There are very few dancers worth a damn who haven't been inspired to join the profession since it's release in 1948. Maybe a little too girly for some of you, but it's a classic, so deal with it and catch it. For all the physical beauty and wonderful performance Moira Shearer provided, you might come away remembering Anton Walbrook, as the domineering head of the dance company, even more. For the rest, here's what I wrote someone a few years back when discussing the film. I apologizing for any repetition on my end:

But on the big screen, the pacing is very good. The artistic risks taken are stunning, especially for something in the late 40s. Limiting what we know of people based mainly on what we see, with little in the way of exposition. Jamming a 15-plus minute ballet in the middle of the film. Unafraid to make the main characters unlikeable, or at least weak. But if one cares about film, just wait till they see this. The dancing is terrific as well."



THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS (1982/83)- Wed Aug 12- Tues Aug 18 at 5:10, 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum-  A DCP restoration by brothers/writers/directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani.  The 1982 Italian film that was an art house hit here in 1983. Grand Prize winner at Cannes in 1982. Never seen it and would like to. Here's the plot of this film, according to imdb:

The Night of San Lorenzo, the night of the shooting stars, is the night when dreams come true in Italian folklore. In 1944, a group of Italians flee their town after hearing rumors that the Nazis plan to blow it up and that the Americans are about to arrive to liberate them



IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (1963) and/or TRON (1982)- Sat Aug 15 at 2 (Mad) and/or 7(Tron)- Museum of the Moving Image- A potential double feature for one admission, from the Museum's See It Big: 70mm retrospective. Though if one prefers to do only one of these films, i can work with that.

First, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, one of the biggest hits of 1963. I don't know if we're getting a new print or not, though a new one was struck back in 2012, so whatever we get here should be in very good shape. According to the Museum website, we're getting the 3 hour 25 minute version, not the 2 hour, 34 minute version that's normally available, other edits that were either on laserdisc, or the original director's cuts that were over 3 hours long. We're getting the overture and intermission music, not sure if we're getting an actual intermission. Around the World in 80 Days might have started the craze of all-star casts in epic comedies, but Mad World seems to be the only one to have survived the test of time in a positive way. It doesn't rely on a retrospective of Oscar winning films like 80 Days in order to be screened, though this was nominated for 6 Oscars (including the Cinerama-style Cinematography, Editing and it's Music), winning for Sound Effects.

Spencer Tracy leads an all-star cast, as a Police Captain ready to solve the fifteen year-old case of a robbery of $350,000. When 5 cars of motorists discover the dying robber (Jimmy Durante), he gives them barely coherent clues to the location of the loot. The motorists' greed overtakes them as they go off to find the loot. Each way more disastrous and destructive than the other, with the police in full observational mode. Not everything works, with a film this long that takes a sledgehammer approach to comedy at times. But some scenes still shine, especially for me the desert fight between two men (Milton Berle and Terry-Thomas) who can't fight. And anything Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk or Tracy do puts a smile on my face. I could do a separate post just on the cast and its tens of cameos alone. But suffice to say, I recommend it.

Next, a rare screening of Tron. Rare not only because one can see Tron in 70mm form, but also because this is NOT a Midnight screening. Now here's some 80s throwback fun. The 1982 Disney film that was a disappointment at the box office, but has a cult following so strong, we ended up with Tron:Legacy. This is literally the kind of film that gets screened either at 11AM or Noon for families, or Midnight, rarely any in-between. A lot of hype for the film, but the video game was/is a bigger hit. But it is fun, and for its time, it's look was a singular standout.

The story, eh, whatever. Jeff Bridges had his game designs stole, and gets sucked into whatever early-80s-form-of-the-internet world by the evil MCP (Master Control Program) He gets all Spartacus, freeing a few other programs (including the title character/program), and works on a rebellion against the MCP and his henchman (a wonderfully evil David Warner).

Oscar nominations for Costume Design and Sound, but not for Visual Effects, because the Academy said using computers to create visual effects was "cheating". I kid you not. But the look of the computer world, which was shot in black and white then colorized either via rotoscope or early photo-shopping techniques, alongside disc fights and light cycle scenes, are the most fun elements that still hold up. It's also fun to see a lot of The Dude in Jeff Bridges' character. And frankly, sometimes you don't need that much more for a decent movie:




TRON (1982)- Sun Aug 16 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image- If you can't do Tron on Saturday, there's another evening screening on Sunday the 16th.


GREASE SING-A-LONG (1978)- Sun Aug 16 at 7 and Wed Aug 19 at 7- AMC Empire and Regal Union Square- Grease comes back as a digitally restored sing-along, sponsored by TCM with an intro and closing by Ben Mankiewicz. From 1978, a time where the movie musical genre was, if not dead, then definitely on life support. Nevertheless, Paramount was expecting audiences to come out for this adaptation of the hit Broadway show. Especially with the positive vibes of nostalgia for the 1950s that came from Paramount TV series Happy Days, the lightness of the material, and the casting of hot young leads John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Paramount's enthusiasm must have been tempered when a few months prior to Grease's release, American Hot Wax, a bio-pic of DJ Alan Freed with musical numbers from performers like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, flopped despite a heavy ad campaign and respectable reviews. American Hot Wax would have been a good addition to this retrospective by the way, a forgotten film that was never released on VHS or DVD, but I digress. The much lighter Grease did find an audience, but certainly Paramount never expected the level of success. It didn't revive the musical genre, but it became the biggest hit of not only 1978, but also the highest grossing film in Paramount's history (no inflation adjustment), until Raiders of the Lost Ark came along 3 years later. It made Travolta an A lister (until career choices took a toll until Pulp Fiction) and also made Olivia a star onscreen as well as in music (Xanadu took that film career away right quick though).

Now as for the film itself, lets just pile on the cheese here. A few good numbers (including Grease Lightning), the attractiveness of the younger cast (including Jeff Conway and Stockard Channing), and a bone tossed to the non-kids of the day with some names from the 50s (including Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, Frankie Avalon and Joan Blondell), you have something for everyone. Even if it's a guilty pleasure, it's still a pleasure nevertheless. I'm not sure if this is a restoration of the original theatrical release; licence difficulties like the obscuring or blurring of Coke signs or the replacement of songs during the school dance-offs with cover tracks. Not even sure if I would sing myself. Ok, maybe the title song by Frankie Avalon, I enjoy that diity. Come and find out:  



CHINATOWN (1974) for free- Mon Aug 17 at Sundown- Bryant Pk- Another film in the free Bryant Park film series, the best of the entire season. People will be allowed onto the main Lawn at 5pm, though you may want to sit by one of the speakers. Normally you can get there shortly after 7:30 will no trouble finding a seat near the speaker, but that might be an issue with this film, so plan ahead. The screening will start with a Looney Tunes cartoon TBD, the start time will be whenever sundown is that night.

Chinatown, the last of the great film-noirs. Ok, it's more of a modern or neo-noir. While there would be some very good to excellent modern noirs afterwards (L.A. Confidential, Blue Velvet and Fargo chief among them), none would go the dark paths Roman Polanski's film would travel, not even Lynch's film.  Based on events from the California Water Wars of the 1930s, Jack Nicholson's private eye (the role that made him a star forever) is hired by Faye Dunaway to spy on her husband. But nothing is as it seems, and if you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you here. One of the great period films, one of the great mysteries, and if wasn't for Paramount's own Godfather Part 2, it might have been the best film from that year. An Oscar for Robert Towne's Screenplay; 10 other nominations including Picture, Polanski for Director (who also turns in a memorable performance as a thug), Nicholson for Actor, and Dunaway for Actress. Sorry there was no room for John Huston for Supporting Actor, but boy does he make a memorably repellent villain. On both AFI Top 100 films and in my personal top 100. 




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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July revivals for the rest of the month











Hey all, Mike with a revival list for the rest of the month. Once you see the list as a whole, you'll see why I had to split up the second half of July. Partially me being overwhelmed by the amount of write-ups needed. Partially the number of options that might get lost next to some bigger and better films. Here we go:



THE THIRD MAN (1948/50)- now thru (at least) Thurs July 30th at 7:10 and 9:20-with Neil LaBute introducing the 7:20 screening on Monday July 27th- Film Forum- I brought this up on the last list so I won't repeat what I wrote before. The 4k digital restoration of The Third Man has proven to be so popular, that the Forum has extended its run. The website doesn't give an end date, the postcards inside the Forum itself states Thurs July 23rd. Translation: The Third Man's last day could be July 23, but if business keeps up, the Forum seems amenable to extending the run further. If I were you, I would plan on it staying thru the 23rd and no further, but we'll see. 

Yeah that's what I wrote last time, and hey lookit that, it's been extended again. At least thru Thursday, July 30th, but that's a guess on my part. Looking at he Forum's extended calendar, it seems they are having their repertory works start on Wednesdays and tentatively end on Tuesdays, just like with most of their new films. So I'm guessing July 30th, but it could be July 28th, maybe first Tuesday-Thursday in August. Who knows, but good for the Forum to have a box office draw in a 65-plus year old film that they have screened multiple times this century alone.

Of note, writer-director Neil LaBute will introduce the 7:10 screening on the 27th. He recently wrote an article writing about it for thetalkhouse.com. He must love it, the first sentence of the essay is "The first thing you notice is that damn zither.". The link to the full essay is below the Forum's link to the the film. Because of this, if you're interested in going to Third Man on the 27th, I expect planing will have to be done to deal with any possible sellout, and that the 9:20 screening will probably start 2-10 minutes late.
    
This film conflicts with almost every other film on the list, especially on the 24th, but the lengthy scheduled run should allow for few if any conflicts. I can't make everyday of its run, but its easier for me to frame it as such. Third Man also plays in the afternoon as well, but I'm only posting the evening screenings I might be able to do:



THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968) and/or 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (1971)- Fri July 24 at 3(Boston), 5:15 (Place), 7:25 (Boston) and 9:40 (Place)- Film Forum- A DCP double feature from the Forum's True Crime retrospective. Can be done separately or together. Not sure what works best on my end so I'll just post together as if I can do both. 

First, The Boston Strangler from 1968. Partially shot in a You Are There/ True Crime style, at least the first half. Concentrating on the police investigation of the two waves of attacks, from 1962-1964, where thirteen women were in almost all cases sexually assaulted, and all were killed. The first half uses split screen effects at times, popular here and in The Thomas Crown Affair, and never popular again until the series 24. We mainly follow police detectives Henry Fonda and George Kennedy as they investigate, run into dead ends, false leads, etc. The second half of the film starts with us following Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, as he goes through his day, finds another victim and is captured. The last quarter or so of the film is where it gets the most surreal, as we go into DeSalvo's mind as the police, in the form of Fonda's character, try to elicit a confession.
Again, like with The Right Stuff, facts are changed to give a clearer narrative. A huge hit in its day, and still interesting to watch today. Years of Law and Order makes the first half comfortable for the viewer, as does the ever-steady presence of Fonda. Then the film slowly becomes more surreal, once Curtis comes into the picture. A major change of pace from the light romantic comedies he usually made, Curtis was never better, projecting the everyman working exterior, and slowly unpeeling the nasty interior. And director Richard Fleischer keeps everything spinning and ablely handles the different styles here. From someone who directed the likes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Fantastic Voyage, he keeps the pulp to a minimum in the dark film he would ever make. At least until the underrated British true crime drama 10 Rellington Place. Ok, maybe not as dark as say, Fleischer's Soylent Green, but psychologically darker for sure.

Next, hey, speak of the Devil, is 10 Rillington Place. A Digital Restoration of the 1971 British film, based on the true story of serial killer John Christie. Stars Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. Sorry to say I must be lazy again, and copy and paste from the Forum's website. Hate to do this, but since I want to see it and want others to catch it as well, I do what I must:

An ultra low-key — but all the more menacing — account of the notorious Christie serial murder case; in 1948, Welsh blue collar worker Timothy Evans (John Hurt) and wife Judy Geeson, lodgers upstairs from mousily mild-mannered John Reginald Christie (Attenborough) and wife, already have trouble making ends meet when Geeson discovers she’s in the family way — but ever helpful Attenborough offers a homemade do-it-yourself abortion. The chilling results not only confirmed Christie’s morbid reputation, but ultimately altered the U.K.’s stance on the death penalty. Filmed in the actual Rillington Place (but at #6, at that time renamed Ruston Close because of the notoriety, and since demolished), Fleischer worked with legendary executioner Albert Pierrepoint as technical adviser. (Because of the Official Secrets Act, no details of the execution were formally known; this would be the first time U.K. audiences would ever have seen a British execution on screen.) 

If you watch stuff like TV's Call The Midwife, or Mike Leigh films like Vera Drake, the era and landscape will seem very familar, only now appearing ripe for killing on a wide scale. But the film also succeeds with its lead performers. Attenborough succeeds as the milquetoast killer, but John Hurt stood out more as the rather stupid husband framed for his wife's murder. Incredibly difficult to play someone with a 70something I.Q. without going into overacting, but Hurt walks that line and gives an acting lesson to all in the process:  



BADLANDS (1973)- Sat July 25 at 7:20 and 9:30- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's True Crime series. A 4k DCP restoration of Terrence Malick's film, his most accessible whether you see it on the big screen or TV. The restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Malick's The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder, as well as Children of Men. It's also playing for free at Bryant Park on Monday July 20th, but if you don't the film or haven't seen it in a long time, I can't imagine trying to get to know out in the park. Especially if you're watching it from the Great Lawn and there's heavy traffic.

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.:



Next is your choice of Midnight screenings at IFC Center:


SUPERMAN 2 (1980/81)- Sat July 25 at 12:15AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Superheroes pre-Marvel retrospective. Superman 2, from 1980, though not released in the U.S. until June 1981. A Hi-Def digital projection. Not the best sequel to a superhero film, but it's on the short list., where Superman must not only deal with Lex Luthor and three Kryptonian super criminals, but also his burgeoning feelings for Lois Lane. Most super hero sequels have taken heat when they have more than two super villains of some sort to deal with; the complaint being that they're throwing stuff into the story and onto the screen and lose control of the narrative and the audience's interest in the process. While the likes of Batman and Robin, Spider Man 3, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tend to live up to that complaint, Superman 2 is the exception. Maybe because the romantic plot gives the emotional lift to overcome such difficulties. Hell, it might be the most interesting sections of the film, and that's saying something, what with the viable threats of Luthor and the Kryptonians, including a charismatic turn by Terence Stamp as General "Kneel before" Zod. Gene Siskel essentially said as much on the Siskel/Ebert show Sneak Previews, feeling that Christopher Reeves' vulnerability as the Man of Steel was Oscar-nomination worthy. A little ahead of your time there Gene, just a bit.

Not quite the epic of the first Superman film for me, but if you feel this is one of the few sequels better than the original, I won't fight you. I will call it one of those examples of a summer blockbuster done right, and it would have been the biggest film of the summer of 1981 too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids who made Raiders of the Lost Ark:  



THE THING (1982)- Sat July 25th at 12:20 AM- IFC Center- For the third weekend, John Carpenter's horror classic gets another go-around of Midnight screenings. I think it's played in as many consecutive here, as it did in most of its original theatrical screenings 33 summers ago. What can I say, not revered except by Time Magazine and hated by some back then, a classic of the genre for decades now:


OCEAN'S 11 (1960)- Sun July 26 at 9:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's weekend long retrospective of Frank Sinatra films. The Library of the Performing Arts has a wonderful, and at times interactive, display of his recordings, clips and his personal stuff, now thru the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. All in honor of Frank's Centennial Birthday. Now if they chose to show recordings of his concerts and TV specials, which they have the technical means to do, then this retrospective would run a week.  But since they're sticking with his films, and ignoring flicks like The First Deadly Sin and Cannonball Run 2 ( good), plus Von Ryan's Express, Robin and the Seven Hoods and On The Town (aw shucks), it will only last a weekend. And since I've done The Manchurian Candidate too recently and don't have the time for From Here To Eternity, this film, the last screening of the retrospective is the only picture I have time to catch.

Ocean's 11, the original from 1960. Not the best heist film ever made, but possibly one of the better improvised movies ever made. Not the best Rat Pack film ever made. For me, that would be Robin and the Seven Hoods. But Robin was a musical that needed time, rehearsal and heavy commitment from the on-screen talent. Whereas with Ocean's, you got the ideal (and idealized) Rat Pack film; shot in between shows and drinking, heavy on camaraderie and the occasional song. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr sing on-screen, Frank sings off-screen. The heist, to steal from multiple banks on New Years Eve, appears marginally complicated compared to both the amount of drinking we presume the characters do, as well as compared to the effort shown in Steven Soderburgh's remake. But it's cool, it's glossy, it's not overly complicated, and Cesar Romero steals whole chunks of the film as a criminal-type who catches wind of  something going on . . . . Stylish, Mad Men-era fun: 



FOOTLOOSE (1984) for free- Mon July 27 at sundown (9:10 or so)- Bryant Park- Pure cheese. I remembering the music a lot more than the film. But enjoy the 80s songs and let the Velveeta flow, as Kevin Bacon rebels against preacher John Lithgow's rules against dancing and rock music. Bacon's dance double was terrific. Enjoy the supporting role appearances by future Oscar winner Dianne Weist, a young Chris Penn and a younger looking Sarah Jessica Parker. 2 Oscar nominations. Don't worry, it was for the songs; Kenny Loggins' title track, and "Let's Hear It For The Boy". Here's a film where if you're not anywhere near one of the speakers at Bryant Park, there is no point to catching this


SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974) and THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)- Wed July 29 at 3 (Sugarland), 5:15 (Untouchables), 7:30 (Sugarland), and 9:40 (Untouchables)- Film Forum- Two films from the Forum's True Crime series, both are DCP screenings. First, Sugarland Express. Steven Spielberg's first theatrical release and one of his more underrated. Ok, Duel did play in theaters, but it was/is a TV movie first and foremost. Based on a true story back in May 1969, of 2 not very bright people. Lou-Jean (Goldie Hawn) tells her husband (William Atherton) who is imprisoned, to escape just days before his release. They plan to kidnap their own child, who was placed with foster parents. The escape is partly successful, but they take a hostage, who is a policeman and are pursued through to Texas. 

What happens from there, see the film. Yes, it changed some aspects of the story, the biggest changes occurring with the family aspects and a lot of the dynamics of Hawn's character. But we get a solidly believable slice of Texas life circa late 60s, and interesting marathon-like chase scenes (familiar in tactics to the O.J. White Bronco chase). The most pessimistic of all Spielberg projects, more than A.I. With Hawn's and Atherton's best film work, at least their best 70s film work.

Next, The Untouchables. 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. 



CASINO (1995)- Thurs July 30 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's True Crime series. A DCP screening. The only screening I can do; since the early afternoon one isn't doable for me, and Badlands and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer takes up the rest of the allotted space on one of the Forum's screen that day. The former film, Badlands, is something I want to do this coming weekend. The later film, Henry, is separate admission. So if I can only choose one film to attempt on July 30th at the Forum, it's either The Third Man or Casino. And since I've already brought up Third Man, on to Casino.

From 1995, another collaboration of writer Nicholas Pileggi and director Martin Scorsese. Based on the true story of mob frontman Frank Rosenthal,played by Robert de Niro, and how he made money gambling in Las Vegas, and then running the Stardust casino. Names were changed since some people depicted were still alive. Or to be more precise,  some of the people ere still alive, and some of the dead had families that might sue, or had "Families" that would, er, React. We don't see the rise of mob-influenced Las Vegas, that wasn't during Rosenthal's era and you can go to something like Bugsy for that. We see mob-influenced Vegas at its peak and its slow fall.  Falling either because of  interpersonal issues (a slowly developing war of wills between Rosenthal and the Mob thug played by Joe Pesci, Rosenthal falling in love with a prostitute played by Sharon Stone, who does NOT have a heart of gold), greed (Rosenthal enjoys the lifestyle and wants things done his way right down to his own TV show, Pesci's character barrels thru with violence), and even because of political gamesmanship (native Las Vegas government officials will tolerate outsiders as long as they play ball, but the mob will be shown who's boss if push comes to shove).     

When it came out on Thanksgiving weekend 1995, there was much anticipation from Goodfellas fans and critics. The stature of the 1990 flim grew quickly, thanks to home video, on demand, cable, and the growing belief that it was robbed of many Oscars by Dances With Wolves. So there was a feeling of letdown when the film finally came out. "It wasn't Goodfellas" was the biggest sin Casino seemed to make. Yes it had a higher glitz factor with Vegas when compared to the Queens neighborhoods of Goodfellas, as well as the drab Kansas City locales locales of Casino, but that didn't make it better. Yes, we better accustomed to shifts from humor to violence, but the humor may not have been funnier to some, and the violence more brutal than in Goodfellas. Yes there are great extended sequences, showing us how the mob gets to skim off the top and how security works on the game floor, but I guess it didn't match the romantic surface aspects of the extended Copacabana shot. 

Yes the acting was uniformly good to great, even if they were ostensibly playing types. But each of the leads had to play roles with multiple subtle shades. De Niro's character (with 52 different suits to match the real life man) fell in love with the town and the glamour, blindly falling for someone who essentially up front I'm only in this for the money, and basically forgetting he's there to do a job and let nothing interfere with that. Pesci's character is not some mindless thug, but he will act out with his fists and more, once he feels a friendship damaged and he can't get everything he wants. And Stone's character is a hustler who's only into her marriage for the money. But with a heart open to the highest bidder and a growing drug addiction, things can only go downhill. Downhill in a town that would become more interest serving corporate and tourist interests than in (obvious) mob interests. 

So with 3 leads more vain and less charming than those in Goodfellas, a longer running time that occasionally takes its time to depict the downfall, a framing device involving a car explosion that either interest or annoys the viewer, yet without the kind half-hearted Karma if not justice is served ending that Goodfellas had, disappointment was abound upon Casino's release. An ending more akin to The Wolf of Wall Street, fat lotta good it did Casino 18 years earlier. Business was about the same as Goodfellas. Not great news for Universal what with its 52 million budget, though decent International box office did mitigate some of that. As for critics, reviews were generally positive, but not at Goodfellas levels. Some gave it the equivalent 2 and a half star reviews or the sideways thumbs, complaining about pace and completely unsavory characters. Gene Siskel essentially went as far as to say Casino was good but not on the level of Goodfellas so therefore thumbs down (What the Fuck?!?!?). Casino didn't exactly jump onto many critics Best of Lists, not when they choose from the likes of Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Usual Suspects, Heat, Leaving Las Vegas, Toy Story, and Get Shorty. And at Oscar time, only Stone would get acknowledged, with a nomination for Best Actress.

But with the passage of a few decades, multiple screenings on HBO, Showtime, Starz, Encore and AMC, and the coming of shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad that balance the dark humor and the threat of violence, Casino holds up better and out of Goodfellas's shadow. A classic? Not necessarily, but a good mob story:





DISNEY TECHNICOLOR CARTOONS PROGRAM 1 (1932-37) and/or SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) for free (first come/ first served)- both introduced by Theo Gluck- Fri July 31 at 4:30 (Cartoons) and 6:30 (Snow White)- MOMA- A free potential double feature, on a first come first served basis. Tickets become available for both programs at 3:30 that day. Part of MOMA's Best of Technicolor retrospective, with a sub-retrospective of Technicolor work done by, or supervised by, Walt Disney himself. At 4:30, there will be a 62 minute compilation of his color cartoons from 1932-37:

Mickey Mouse on Parade- where Mickey, Minnie and friends lead some Oscar nominees from 1932 on parade (including  Fredric March, Helen Hayes and Lunt-Fontatine on parade. With a grey-colored Pluto barking away.

Flowers and Trees- not the first of Disney's Silly Symphonies, but first made in 3 strip Technicolor. Successful enough that all other Disney Silly Symphonies were made only in Technicolor. Competitors like Max Fleischer (Superman) were forced to use inferior 2 color methods to compete, since they lacked Disney's exclusive deal with Technicolor.

Lullaby Land- another Silly Symphonies cartoon, where a baby is lovingly transported to sleep. A partial future inspiration for the Storybook  Land section of Disneyland.

The Goddess of Spring- another Silly Symphonies cartoon, depicting Persephone, Hades, and the creation of Seasons. Made in part to see if humans can be realistically animated, in case Walt felt he could make Snow White.  

The Band Concert- Mickey tries to lead his friends in the band, including Goofy and Clarabelle Cow, in the performance of the William Tell Overture. But during the Overture, Donald Duck shows up with his vendor cart, and chaos ensues. Possibly the best cartoon Disney ever made of any length. It's continued to inspire other Disney projects, including shorts, video games, and at the Disney California Adventure Park. 

The Country Cousin- Another Silly Symphonies, a musical version of the Aesop Fable, The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse. Won an Oscar in 1937 for Best Animated Short. 

Music Land- Another Silly Symphonies, where the Princess Violin from the Land of Symphony gets some, er, unwanted advances  from an alto sax from the Isle of Jazz.

The Old Mill- Another Silly Symphonies, a somewhat more serious short, using Strauss' One Day When We Were Young, from The Gypsy Baron. Animals living in an abandoned windmill try to survive when a storm almost damages their makeshift habitat. Also an Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, but possibly the most important of all the Technicolor Disney shorts. Never mind popular at Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Paris and Disneyland U.S. (until it was replaced in Anaheim by stuff from Frozen), spoofed in season 17 of The Simpsons, and a major influence on animator Hayao Miyazaka's work (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises). But most important, the success with Disney's Multiplane Camera process (having the background and foreground move in opposite directions), the capturing of realistic animal and weather patterns and the timing of detailed emotional expression, all told Walt one thing: I can make Snow White exactly the way I want to. And so he did, changing film forever.

Next is HEY LOOKIT THAT, just what I was talking, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, from 1937. We know the story; Snow White is threatened with death by an evil stepmother of a Queen, but finds some protection and safety deep in the forest by seven dwarfs and Prince Charming who is Somewhere Out There (whoops, wrong animated film). Look, we know the story, and we probably know at least one of the famous songs. Whether it's Heigh-Ho, Some Day My Prince Will Come, or Whistle While You Work, you probably heard it. As an adult, you might be more aware of either a dark reboot that Disney might not be involved with (Snow White and The Huntsman and TV's Once Upon A Tale the most recent versions). You might know something that lightly plays with spoofing it, whether it was that one animated scene in Annie Hall, or any version of Into The Woods.

But how many of you are familiar with it as an adult? Unless you have a child under 12, not recently. If on a big screen, not recently either. The first film to find success through multiple re-releases, you would have to be at least 28 years old to remember it as a kid, and at least 45 if you saw it as an adult. If you're a list-intensive film buff, you probably wondered why it was on the first AFI Top 100, and relieved when it was dropped from the second list. But again, you had these feelings with probably no recent viewing of Snow White. Now you can change that for free, if you can get yourself early to MOMA:


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