Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dec revivals: first half

Mike here with a long list of films to catch for the first half of December. Some conflict with each other, and some might be difficult for me to catch. But in the end, I'll just throw a whole bunch if titles and let's see what sticks. Here we go:

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT- Fri Dec 1 at 6:30- MOMA- 11 W. 53 St., between 5th and 6th ave.- Part of the producer Walter Mirisch's retrospective. As socially relevant as they come, but that ignores what at the core is a well crafted character study between black detective Sidney Poitier and white sheriff Rod Stieger, with a murder mystery that serves the social story and character work, not vice versa. Don't underestimate the importance and strength of this film. 7 nominations, including Best Director for Norman Jewison (lost to Mike Nichols for The Graduate). 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Actor for Stieger.

EASY RIDER- Fri Dec 1 and Fri Dec 8 at 11pm, and Fri Dec 30 at 9- Two Boots Pioneer- E. 3rd St., between Avenues A and B (closer to A)- I brought this up last time, so I bring it up again. Read the previous list for more info.

LOST HIGHWAY- Fri Dec 1 and Sat Dec 2 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd st. and 6th Ave.- In honor of the upcoming release of David Lynch's upcoming Inland Empire, IFC Film Center will have a midnight screening of Lynch's 1997 film. Similar to Mulholland Drive, where dreams push the film and put the "plot" on the back burner, not that far in the case of Highway. Better clarity of dreams and reality that combine more effectively I think. The best I've heard this described, was Lynch's idea of "O.J's dreams after he committed the murders" (it came out about a year and a half after the criminal trial's verdict). Note that Lynch himself never said this, but judge for yourself.

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

WEST SIDE STORY- Sat Dec 2 at 3- MOMA- Part of the producer Walter Mirisch's retrospective. If you want to re-read the hard sell I made in the first list I made in this blog, the details are there. I've already talked about how much better it is on the big screen as opposed to tv. Now we're not talking about the Ziegfeld, but MOMA's will do just fine. Especially if you've only seen it on tv. In my personal top 100.

INFERNAL AFFAIRS- Sun Dec 3 at 2- AMMI in Astoria- 35 Ave. at 36 St.- Martin Scorsese’s film, The Departed, is actually a remake of this character driven thriller from Hong Kong. I've never seen it and would like to. The first of a trilogy, the other two films only had small portions used by Scorsese for The Departed. With Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, The Lover, In The Mood For Love).

INLAND EMPIRE- Wed Dec 6- Tues Dec 19 only- IFC Film Center- Times TBA- Not a revival, but this is the best way to mention this, and to find out if there's any interest in Lynch's new film. Will it be top tier like Blue Velvet, bottom of the barrel like the Twin Peaks prequel and Mulholland Dr., or smack in the middle like Wild at Heart or Lost Highway. You don't know until you see for yourself. Mondays and Thursdays are out for sure for me. Any other days are TBA. Performance times are unknown to me at this writing. Note that the film is 2 hrs. 59 min. long, so plan ahead if you're interested.

For the rest, I'll just quote from the IFC Film Center website:

"The latest hallucinatory vision from the iconoclastic director of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, INLAND EMPIRE stars Laura Dern in a tour-de-force performance as, perhaps, an actress who lands a dream role that quickly devolves into nightmare. Intrigued by the texture and freedom of consumer-grade DV, Lynch started out shooting tests with Dern; over the next two years, he grafted on scenes encompassing Hollywood machinations, conjugal intrigue, Polish curses, and even a rabbit-headed sitcom parody. The result is as dark, unpredictable, and utterly compelling as anything he's ever done, both a masterful recap of a career -- including appearances by Lynch veterans Justin Theroux, Laura Harring, Grace Zabriskie, Diane Ladd, and the inimitable Harry Dean Stanton -- and his most radical and experimental movie since Eraserhead."

William H. Macy, Jeremy Irons and Nastassja Kinski are also in the cast.

AMORES PERROS- Fri Dec 8 at 7:30- AMMI in Astoria- Part of the director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s retrospective. I'm tired, so I'll just quote from AMMI's website: "With Gael Garcia Bernal. Three stories, all including dogs, intertwine in the margins of Mexico City in Iñárritu’s dynamic debut film, which established him as a major international director."

The first of these types of inter-connecting films this director has done, like his recent "Babel". Note that this is a long one, 2 hrs 33 min, so plan ahead if you're interested.

SUNSET BLVD.- Fri Dec 8 at Midnight for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th Ave.- For those who haven't seen this on the big screen, you now have a chance to catch this film at a reduced price. An AFI Top 100 film, 3 Oscars including Best Screenplay, 8 other nominations including Picture, Director for Billy Wilder, Actor for William Holden and Actress for Gloria Swanson. It lost to another film on this list. In my personal top 30.

MOONSTRUCK- Mon Dec 11 at 6 and Wed Dec 13 at 8- MOMA- Part of the Made in New York series. From director Norman Jewison. One of the better romantic comedies around, as well as one of the better made in New York films as well. Of the city and universal at the same time. Cher won an Oscar as the widow engaged to Danny Aiello, but in love her brother, the hammy but still interesting Nicolas Cage. Olympia Dukakis also won an Oscar as her mother, as did John Patrick Shanley for his screenplay (probably the only good screenplay he's ever written).

THE PINK PANTHER- Fri Dec 15 at 6:15 and Wed Dec 20 at 8:15- MOMA- Part of the producer Walter Mirisch's retrospective. Blake Edwards's hit comedy plays again. The David Niven vehicle, that ended up making Peter Sellers an international comedy icon instead. The rest of the film is funny too, but Sellers as Inspector Clouseau is on another level. With a memorable, Oscar-nominated theme from Henry Mancini, and a certain memorable animated cat, both in the opening credits.

21 GRAMS- Fri Dec 15 at 7:30- AMMI in Astoria- Part of the director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s retrospective. Another of the director's interconnecting story. Believe it or not, I still haven't seen all of this, so now might be a good chance. Assuming no one is interested in the pink panther instead. Oscar nominations for Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro.

ALL ABOUT EVE- Fri Dec 15 and Sat Dec 16(tentative on my end) at Midnight for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The acclaimed bitch fest starring Bette Davis that beat Sunset Blvd. for Best Picture. Try to pick between those two films; almost like which flavor satire you prefer, acidic with visual style, or acidic with verbal flair. If you've never seen it on the big screen, you can now at a reduced price. Sat is tentative for me at the moment.

6 Oscars. Most nominations in Oscar history, Titanic could only tie it. An AFI Top 100 film and in my personal top 30.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN- Sat Dec 16 at 5:30- MOMA- The James Whale- Boris Karloff horror classic that's probably better then the first film; a rarity among sequels. Famous for the final sequences involving Elsa Lanchester as the Bride.

THE MARRIAGE OF MARIA BRAUN- Mon Dec 18 at 4 and Wed Dec 20 at 3:45- MOMA- Rainer Werner Fassbinder's biggest commercial success. Definitely his most assecisble and possibly his best. Imagine after the movie Downfall ends, a woman trying to survive and prosper in post WW2 Berlin. Career best from Hanna Schygulla in the title film.

Lots of choices, so you tell me. Coming up later in Dec and early Jan is a Woody Allen retrospective at the Film Forum. No time to break it down, so here's the link:

Let me know. And please don't be afraid to click the ads. No obligation to buy. Later all.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

November revivals: second half

Mike here with films to catch for the second half of Nov. Not a lot of films, but very high in quality. Here we go:

KING KONG (1933)- Wed Nov 22, Thurs Nov 23, and Fri Nov 24 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The original 1933 classic gets a midnight screening throughout the Thanksgiving weekend. An AFI Top 100 film. It use to be a big deal, when this film was screened every Thanksgiving weekend on the old Ch. 9. Now would be nice to do again, even on Thanksgiving night, maybe. For those who did The Warriors here at this theater last Thanksgiving weekend, this might be a good time to go again.

12 ANGRY MEN- Fri Nov 24 at 2:45 and Sun Nov 26 at 9- Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center- Part of the Dziga and His Brothers: A Film Family on the Cutting Edge retrospective. The story of several calmness-free humanoid males expressing displeasure as they serve as jurors on a murder case. The Henry Fonda film features Sidney Lumet in his first non-TV directorial effort. The film was a critical hit but financial disappointment. Fonda took it so hard that he never produced another film, but it launched Lumet's film career. His success in both casting and how to keep a film mostly trapped in 2 small rooms, has helped make this a classic today. Not on the official AFI Top 100 list, but on some of their other ones. Nominations for Picture, Director and Screenplay Adaptation.

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS- Fri Nov 24 at 6:30, and Sat Nov 25 at 3- Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center- Part of the Dziga and His Brothers: A Film Family on the Cutting Edge retrospective. Probably one of the best tragic romance films ever made, from director Elia Kazan. Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty play a young couple who fall in love despite family objections. An Oscar for the screenplay for William Inge; a nomination for Wood.

ON THE WATERFRONT- Fri Nov 24 at 9- Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center- Part of the Dziga and His Brothers: A Film Family on the Cutting Edge retrospective. You all know this one. Brando classic, blah blah blah, Best Picture winner classic, blah blah blah, AFI Top 100 film, blah blah blah. You'll decide if you want to see it or not.

EASY RIDER- Sat Nov 25 at 11- Two Boots Pioneer- Another AFI Top 100 film, as 2 counter-culture bikers go searching for America in all the wrong places. Should have looking pu nub instead. Anyway, a classic and the first sleeper independent hit. Stars Dennis Hopper (also Director and co-Writer) and Peter Fonda (co-Writer), but co-star Jack Nicholson steals the show. His first Oscar nomination.

BROADWAY DANNY ROSE- Wed Nov 29 at 8- MOMA- Comedy-drama from Woody Allen, as an unsuccessful manager, trying to help his lounge act singer by posing as his mistress's (Mia Farrow) boyfriend. Leading to complications with the mob and his own feelings for her. Nominations for Allen, for both Director and Original Screenplay.

So plenty of choices for Thanksgiving weekend. Let me know. Later.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Death of a President: a review

Death of a President is a film that doesn't really deserve all the attention it's received. It's a British what if film, shot in the mockumentary style of something you find on A & E. I didn't have any intention of catching it, though I didn't appreciate hearing on TV how watching it supports anti US bias, or makes you anti-American yourself. But I don't want to go out of my way and pay for it. But in the end, I was paid for, so off I went. I comprised a tenth of the audience and based on the lack of word of mouth, I'm not surprised. Not a terrible film by any means, but I came away dissappointed.

Potentially interesting set-up, with various talking heads looking back on several years earlier, on the difficulties for the Bush White House in Oct 2007. Also interesting is the anti-Bush protest turning violent, reminicent of the Chicago riots in the summer of 68. The money shot of the assissination happens so fast, you'll probably miss it. Those who so the picture of the CGI Bush getting shot, saw it clearer then those of us who saw the movie.

But it only takes up a portion of the film. The filmmakers are more interested in depicting 3 strands; the investigation that's aided by President Cheney's Patriot Act 3, Cheney's efforts to get another war going, and the resolutions to the investigation. Almost all of this is depicted through actors playing talking heads (Cabinet people, investigators, cops, civilians, etc.); and your tolerance of this narrative device either keeps you interested, or bores you to tears. Personally, I was right in the middle. I bought all the performances, but they started to meld together, and my mind drifted in the middle of the film whenever a talking head came back on.

The resolution I didn't see coming, but I can't say all the pieces fit neatly. More like some puzzle pieces that get pounded in even if they're not an even fit. And this isn't so much anti-Bush, but anti-Cheney and those who want no objections to all of the Patriot Act. The filmmakers take the old Saturday Night Live joke from 1988 seriously: In the event President George Bush (Sr.) is killed, the Secret Service is to shoot Quayle. Replace father with son and Quayle with Cheney, and the filmmakers might endorse the sentiment. Anything to keep Bush alive and any crony or sub-ordinate out.

More then a little cynicism helps the film go down a lot easier. The naive or overly hopeful will have a hard time with the film. But this tone was what works best about the film; the naive or overly hopeful have to snap the hell out of it.

Not a bad film overall. But wait for cable or home video. Can I honestly tell someone to go to a theater and spend 9 ,10 or 11 dollars? No.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tideland: a review

At the start of Tideland, director/co-screenwriter Terry Gilliam appears in black and white, in a small cube dead center of the screen. He warns the audience that some of this could be offensive and that some of us will hate it. But that even more of us will love it and not to be afraid to laugh. He says that the entire film is told from the perspective of a child, and to put away EVERY adult preconception of life that we have. These are ideas that children don't have. This child is innocent, and children are resilient.

This is not a film I could laugh in, except for one or two sequences which were more nervous laughter then anything else. A few people on the half-filled, comfortable screening room in the IFC Film Center could do that, but that didn't happen very often. This is also not a film I could hate, though it's difficult for me to ever get comfortable with it. I'm ok with that. I'm also ok with the idea that I'll probably be the only one I know who will like it, and that some people I recommend this to will look at me as though I have a severed head. I understand that this film is probably an acquired taste. It just so happens that it fits my taste as well.

Jodelle Ferland turns in the best performance I've seen in my lifetime from a child actor. She plays Jeliza-Rose, the daughter of drug addicts. Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly play the parents, and I think it's no coincidence that they're made to look like a middle aged Kurt Corbain and Courtney Love on their last legs. Jeliza-Rose doesn't go to school, but she has learned how to cook up Dad's heroin. And she knows how to step into her fantasy world with her only friends, a set of bodyless dolls heads.

After Mom dies, Dad and daughter go to his late mother's abandoned, decrepit home. The country side of Saskatchewen forms another character here. One part filled with little lifeforms, one part oppressively isolated to the point that you'd think Tom Hanks had an easier chance to rejoin the world in Cast Away. Here, Jeliza-Rose becomes more of a modern-day Alice in Wonderland (the metaphor keeps hitting like a ton of bricks off and on throughout the film), diving deeper into her fantasy world.

It's an unconscious, reflexive escape that she makes there, but it does shield from the harsh reality surrounding her. At first Jeliza-Rose mouths what her dollhead friends say, but soon she hears their voices on her own, complete with their own personalities. Ferland does the voiceovers as well, and there is enough differences in each voice that you buy it. The fantasy world also distorts what kind of threat the only nearby neighbors can be. A strange woman (Janet McTeer) who you might confuse as a witch if you were little, and her brother, who might have some form of mental retardation, but bears an obvious lobotomy scar. He's played by Brendan Fletcher, and if you haven't seen him in such family fare as RV and Freddy Vs. Jason, you'd never know he was acting.

I can imagine parents or hyper-sensitive adults having a problem with this film, but I hope not. The key is to remember that this is all being told thru an eight or nine year old's perspective. We as adults understand what it means when her father goes on his heroin "vacation", or if the retarded guy takes a little kiss as a license to want to do more to/with her. She's not dumb, but she doesn't have the life experience to understand this yet. That's probably where Gilliam succeeds in getting us to squirm in our seats the most.

Throwing away adult pre-conceptions, as Gilliam strongly suggests, does provide the viewer with a quality film experience. It still leaves me uncomfortable, thinking about some sequences. But it still has me thinking about it still, playing out vividly at times. Can't say that about a lot of films.

I wish I had seen this sooner, since it seems to be leaving NYC shortly as of this writing. If it doesn't keep playing as a late night movie at IFC Film Center, it might play at a small, hole-in-the-wall, independent theater. But chances are, anyone reading this will probably only see this on TV. A shame. It would be more comforting to sit with some people while watching this, even with strangers. It would be a bigger shame to miss this entirely, especially if the major hangup keeping you from seeing Tideland, is you.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nov. revivals: first half

Mike here with a list of revivals to catch in the first half of November. A smaller list then usual, but quality beats quantity in this case. Here we go:

TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS- Wed Nov 1 and Thurs Nov 2 at 7 and 9:15 at College Point Multiplex (28-55 Ulmer St. in Whitestone)- plus Fri Nov 3 at 7:30, 8:55, 9:50, 10:55 and 12:05AM, Sun Nov 5 at 5:10, 6, 7:30 and 8:55, and Wed Nov 8 and Thurs Nov 9 at 7:30, 8:55 and 9:50- The Disney animated cult hit is starting to leave now, as I feared. So you only have thru Thursday night for College Point. Definitely another week at Regal Union Square, but after that, I have no clue. Don't let this go away.

A SCANNER DARKLY- Fri Nov 3 at 7:30- AMMI- 35 Ave at 36 St- A chance to catch a probable nominee for best animated film from director Richard Linklater, based on Phillip K. Dick's(Blade Runner, Total Recall) novel. Rotoscope images mostly drawn over film, as Keanu Reeves plays an undercover narc in a near-futuristic L.A. He spies on his drug addict friends (including Winona Ryder, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson), but the drugs he takes helps makes things more uh . . ., schizophrenic. May or may not be for everybody's taste, but is part of the conversation for coming up with a top 10 list for 2006.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN- Fri Nov 3 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 East Houston St bet. 1st and 2nd Ave.- Here's an offbeat film to catch at midnight. Watch as Bud and Lou match match wits (barely) with the Frankenstein monster, The Wolfman (played by Lon Chaney Jr.) and Dracula (played by Bela Lugosi). For years, it was among the biggest hits in Universal Studios history.

AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD- Tues Nov 7 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- I talked about this in the previous email. This is the only day and times I can make it. This is also the last day it will be playing at the Forum, so let's make this happen.

THE RULES OF THE GAME- Film Forum- Wed Nov 8, Fri Nov 10 and Mon Nov 13- Thurs Nov 16 at 7:30 and 9:40- Always on some list of must see for international films. Never seen it, but would like to. From here on in, I'll just quote the Film Forum website:

(1939) “Everyone has his reasons.” Record-breaking aviator Roland Toutain, fresh from a trans-Atlantic jaunt, addresses a radio audience from the tarmac, lamenting the absence of his lover, to whom he dedicated his flight. Unfortunately she’s Nora Gregor (in real life, fugitive-from-the-Nazis Princess Starhemburg), wife of Marquis Marcel Dalio, who’s got mistress troubles with très sophistiquée Mila Parély. Complicated enough when in Paris, but then the Marquis invites all to a shooting party at his chateau — with the gameskeeper, local poacher and Gregor’s maid adding their own below-stairs triangle. And amid pioneering deep focus photography that keeps multiple intrigues running simultaneously, bullets start flying not just at rabbits and grouse but at people, moving from sophisticated byplay to slapstick farce to tragedy, even with the bumbling Octave (played by director Renoir himself) providing playful, impassioned, and ironic commentary. On most lists of all-time great movies — often as number one — Rules is both a light, even frivolous, comedy of manners and a biting satirical look at a corrupt society under the shadow of war.

And its exhibition history is a drama in itself: trimmed from Renoir’s ideal cut to 94 minutes, it was shortened another 13 minutes after a disastrous premiere (one enraged patron reportedly tried to torch the theater). Two months later, it was banned as “demoralizing” and, later, its negative was destroyed by Allied bombs. Then, in 1959, over 200 boxes of forgotten Rules material was unearthed, resulting in a reconstituted version hailed internationally as a lost masterpiece. But since the 1959 negative, source of all prints until now, was stitched together from multiple versions, the overall quality was a pale shadow of Renoir’s original. Now, thanks to painstaking digital restoration, Rules is at last viewable in a complete 35mm print in all its visual glory.

“As fresh, funny, and poignant as it ever was, and even more mysterious. How did Renoir do it?” – J. Hoberman. “Every viewing is repaid with new strands of the story, new turns of the dialogue, new corridors of meaning — as if they had not been there all along but had grown in the interval between the last time you saw it and this time.” – Luc Sante. “Stands above all other films because, quite simply, it has it all. If one movie can stand for all others, represent all that film can be, that film is The Rules of the Game.” – Paul Schrader.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE- Thurs Nov 9 at 7pm for 6 dollars- Clearview Chelsea Cinema- W.23rd and 8th- The classic dark thriller, where 2 older sisters/actresses/reclusives (I don't know if that's a word but WHATEVER) live out a relationship of envy, revenge and hatred. This was played out by 2 actresses, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford who HATED each other even more offscreen! One of the big hits of 1962, with 5 Oscar nominations, including Best Actress for Davis. And can be seen for only 6 dollars.

Let me know if there's interest. And don't be afraid to click the ads, no matter how bizarre they get. Later.