Monday, December 24, 2007

As Chrismasey as I can get.

If you don't think a surrendering French soldier from the Metropolitan Opera's current production of War and Peace, giving a Benny Hill style salute by a Christmas tree doesn't spell Christmas, then I'm afraid you don't know what this holiday means! It didn't take much to get this guy to pose all goofy for my Christmas electronic postcard, let me tell you. A Happy Festivus to all, and more about this experience when I get the chance.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dec. revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the rest of the month. Not a complete list: I left out It's A Wonderful Life at IFC Film Center (after the grief I took last year for bringing it up after it plays on TV all the time, forget it), the director's cut of Bad Santa also IFC Film Center (it essentially plays with Wonderful Life, yet they're charging separate admission- BULLSHIT TO THAT!!! AFTER THEY COULDN'T KEEP THE FIRST SHOT OF ERASERHEAD IN FOCUS ON WED NIGHT OF DEC 19, THEY'VE ONLY BEEN SHOWING THIS FILM FOR 2 WEEKS NOW! AND THEN YOU DOUBLE CHARGE WITH THE XMAS FILMS?!?!?! I'M GETTING ANNOYED BY THEM NOW!), Hannah and Her Sisters at Film Forum (Uuuuuhhhhh, no) or Ratatouille or Disney cartoon classics from 1932-1940 at AMMI (seen most of them, loved most of them, but no time).

So here's what I want to see in the limited time I have. And I mean, want to see them with a passion. Here we go:

CITY LIGHTS- Wed Dec 26, Thurs Dec 27 and Sat Dec 29 at 3:25 and Sun Dec 30 (maybe, as long as it doesn't interfere with what's below) at 7:15 and 9:30- Film Forum- 209 W Houston St.- A new 35mm print of what's considered by some to be Charlie Chaplin's best film. Being shown on the 25th anniversary of his death, it plays from Christmas Day through New Year's Day. I'm just list the screenings I can probably make. Go to the Forum website to see the other times for yourself. It is a silent film, but Chaplin's first with recorded music and sound effects. Basically, Chaplin's Little Tramp goes through various trails and tribulations, all for the love of a blind flower girl. Chaplin and blind girl actress Virginia Cherrill hated each other with a passion, but since she was the only one who could play blind without looking like a joke, he was stuck.

A comedy classic that's on both AFI Top 100 lists. Sorry, I don't feel like going into more about this. Basically, City Lights is not a film you say no to. It doesn't play frequently enough to just let this go by.

CABARET- Wed Dec 26 at 6:15- Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center- Studio Print- Part of the Bob Fosse retrospective. He spent decades working on the stage, but Bob Fosse only lived long enough to direct 5 films. I don't have the time to go his first one, Sweet Charity, or any of the films in the retrospective that he choreographed and/or danced in, like The Pajama Game and My Sister Eileen. Luckily, I have time for the best ones, for in all. To some of you who might read this, Fosse might be just the guy involved in Chicago, that mediocre film (not in my opinion) or that musical that casts hacks, soap opera types, singers who can't act, and actors from The Sopranos who can't sing. Fosse was/is much much more. Consider Cabaret as film lesson 1 for this post.

Cabaret, along with Grease and All That Jazz, were the only successful musicals of the 1970s. Sorry, I don't consider Saturday Night Fever, Woodstock or The Last Waltz as musicals, and Willy Wonka and Rocky Horror I consider to be cult films, not bonafide hits. The classic Fosse-Minnelli musical, gets a nice screening on the Walter Reade's large screen and quality sound system. 8 Oscars, in the year of the Godfather. Among the winners were Liza for Actress, Joel Grey in his signature role for Supporting Actor (over Caan, Duvall and Pacino for Godfather!), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Superman)for Cinematography, and Fosse for Director. This was the year Bob won the Oscar, Tony and Emmy for Best Director, a feat never pulled off before or since.

Number 5 on AFI's recent Top Musical list. I've never seen all of it in one sitting from beginning to end, but would like to. Note that I probably will have to bolt from the film the second the end credits finish, but I still want to catch it.

STAR 80- Fri Dec 28 at 4 and Sun Dec 30 at 8- Walter Reade theater- Part of the Bob Fosse retrospective. A studio print. Consider this film lesson number 2 for this post. A well done bio-pic. One of the best of 1983, but probably the darkest and least-seen of the Hollywood films from that year as well. Fosse's last film; he was supposedly depressed for a while after the box office tanked. By the time he was up for another film (the development of Chicago with possibly Madonna and Goldie Hawn in the leads), he died of yet another heart attack in 1987.

This film, shot in part in a faux-documentary style, focuses not so much on Playboy Playmate of the year for 1980 Dorothy Stratten, but more on the man who murdered her, Paul Snider. A sleazy type who "discovered" Stratten, got lucky that she was the perfect type for Playboy, tried to ride her coattails of B and C level stardom that turned out to be more embarrassing then anything else, and couldn't stand it when she left him for a director.

The attention on Star 80 at the time was focused on two things before the film came out. One, Mariel Hemingway and her newly-bought breast implants; she claimed they weren't for the role. Two, the real life people who really ticked off by this movie: Peter Bogdanovich, the director who Stratten fell for, and Hugh Hefner, the Playboy publisher who sued (unsuccessfully I think) because of the film's depiction of him.

After the film's release, all attention went to Eric Roberts, in his highest profile role at that point, as Snider. A little man with big dreams, but without the talent or taste to do anything more creative than wet t-shirt contests. He gets his wishes, career-wise and love-wise, fulfilled with Stratten. But she was getting big enough to leave him behind. And Snider fell into the typical psycho thought: if I can't have her, no one else will and it's all her fault. Similar to In Cold Blood, the death scenes were shot in the same apartment where they happened.

Despite good turns by Hemingway (never more beautifully photographed), Cliff Robertson as Hefner, Carroll Baker as Stratten's mother, and Roger Rees as Bogdanovich (renamed in the movie to avoid a lawsuit), all acting praise goes to Roberts. Probably never turned in a better performance. At times it's possible to be both repulsed and empathetic with Snider through Robert's performance, up to a point. Supposedly, Fosse feared if he hadn't succeeded at choreography, he might have gone down a path similar to Snider's. According to the Fosse biography Razzle Dazzle by Kevin Boyd Grubb, Fosse would direct Roberts to act Snider like Fosse himself, how Fosse would have acted and reacted to Snider's situation. "Steal from me!" to quote from the biography. I would say Eric stole well.

As good a film as it is, it does push buttons and it certainly did back in 1983. Despite great reviews from say Roger Ebert and Vincent Camby, other critics were repulsed by the world depicted, as well as the detail shown in the rape and murder of Stratten by Snider. A few weeks into an art house style release, the film was expanded into wide release, and essentially drew no audience. Little in the way of awards, except for a smattering for Roberts and a German award for Fosse. After the inital home video release, it's been ignored ever since. Fosse's death and Roberts and Hemingway's careers falling off the map didn't help. Not a holiday film, since the sleaze practically drips off the screen, but a worthwhile drama nevertheless.

ALL THAT JAZZ- Sat Dec 29 at 8:15 and Tues Jan 1 at 4- Walter Reade theater- Part of the Fosse retrospective. Consider this film lesson number 3 on this post. A studio print of this semi-autobiographical film. Around 1974, Fosse was trying to direct, co-write and choreograph Chicago on Broadway starring his (long separated) wife Gwen Virdon: while trying to balance his relationship with girlfriend Ann Reinking with the other women he slept around with, keep up a relationship with his daughter, and struggle to edit Lenny into something at least watchable. All while being a chain smoker and popping Dexedrine like they were candies. Wanna guess how many heart attacks he had, and how close to death he was?

After he got better, and both projects went up, what's a man to do? Make all of that into a movie. His friend Shirley MacLaine claims to have given Fosse the idea, he claimed not to remember. Change the names to protect the innocent as well as those he might not have liked, such as Michael Bennett, played in a way by John Lithgow. Made sure he came off as the biggest jerk of all, yet still likable. Bring in some veterans who have been around his world, like Ben Vereen, Leland Palmer (who came out of retirement to play the Gwen Verdon type, then went back into retirement), designer Tony Walton to help with the Art Direction, and Reinking to essentially play herself (which she does well, plus dances terrifically). Make the film essentially a flashback from a place that might be in-between life and death, and that might only be happening in the Fosse-like man's imagination, with Jessica Lange as one luscious Angel of Death, and you've got a helluva picture.

Non-original music and newly developed Fosse choreography shine here. For those who have difficulty with musicals where the singing and dancing come from inorganic places, note the singing and dancing only come from the audition/rehearsal of a musical, one moment performing for Dad, and that imagination place between life and death. That said, we're in for the ride, because we buy Roy Scheider as the Fosse type. According to Razzle Dazzle, unlike Warren Beatty, who wanted massive rewrites to fit his tempo, or Jack Nicholson, who was more interested in watching the Lakers than talking in depth with Fosse, or Richard Dreyfuss, who quit before he was fired during rehearsal, Scheider was more submissive. He was actually willing to learn how to be Fosse from Fosse, not impose a character of his own creation. Might not necessarily be ideal, but film is the director's medium. You might not believe Scheider was ever a dancer before the last scene, but you do come away believing everything else.

Which brings me to one particular part of All That Jazz. The two top films for me that came out in 1979 are All That Jazz and Apocalypse Now. The difference for me between Apocalypse being very good and All That Jazz being not only the best film of 1979, but also in my personal top 35 ever, is the ending. Apocalypse is one of the best, until we get to see Marlon The World's Fattest Green Beret, and then Coppola's film deflates and suffers (Redux only partially fixes this). But the ending of All That Jazz is a great finale, the build-up leads to a payoff greater than expected. And when it's time for us to go, what could be better than a send-off with singing, dancing lights, spectacle, and everyone we ever became close to giving us a fond farewell. The little details is what Fosse nailed, while Francis had fat Marlon in the jungle.

Not as big a hit as Cabaret, but successful enough. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Fosse for Director and Screenplay, Scheider for Actor and also for Cinematography. 4 Oscars, including Art Direction and Editing. In fact, it one the first 4 awards announced at the 1980 ceremonies. Don't know why they didn't start with a Supporting Category like in other years. But after that, the Kramer vs. Kramer steamroller commenced, and All That Jazz's commercial momentum slowed. It also won Fosse the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

One can argue what was the first standout, live action movie musical of this decade. Whether you think its Moulin Rouge, or Rob Marshall's Chicago, or the new Sweeney Todd. But the last great live action musical before any of them was All That Jazz. That's right, over 20 years and maybe more. Come and see why. Saturday the 29th would be perfect. Let's do this one, folks.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)- Sat Dec 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- E. Houston St. between 1st and 2nd Ave- An offbeat choice that doesn't fit in with the others. Like I care. The remake came and went last year, the little said the better. Audiences staying away in droves speaks volumes I believe. Actually, I believe the Landmark Sunshine Cinema's website came up with a better description then I could, so I'll cut and paste this:

"A new 35mm print. For one ordinary, remote sorority house, the holiday season is going to bring an unwanted visitor, and many of the girls will be going home for Christmas—dead. Margot Kidder (Superman), Olivia Hussey (Romeo & Juliet) and Andrea Martin (SCTV) are among the students in danger; John Saxon leads the cops trying to close in on the enigmatic killer. Arguably the first holiday-themed "slasher" thriller ever made (predating Halloween by four years), Black Christmas (a.k.a. Silent Night, Evil Night) is still one of the best, with stylistic touches and a creepy overtone matched by very few horror movies since. Like the ads said, if this movie doesn't make your skin's on too tight! Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) co-stars. Ironic but true: director Bob Clark would revisit Christmas territory nine years later with the warm and lovable movie A Christmas Story!"

LENNY- Tues Jan 1 at 8:30- Walter Reade theater- Part of the Bob Fosse retrospective. Consider this the last film lesson on this post. A studio archive print. If you're reading this and your under the age of thirty four, you've probably never heard of this. In fact, if you're under 60 and you know this film, that probably means you're a film buff, or your a relative of Fosse, or one of the two leads, Dustin Hoffman or Valerie Perrine. Now's the time to correct this by catching one of the best bio-pics ever made. It's easy to dismiss flicks like Ray and Walk The Line as mild entertainments, when you catch a film like this.

PaShot in the same faux-documentary style Fosse would later employ in Star 80, and shot in gorgeous black and white by Bruce Surtees (Dirty Harry, The Shootist, Beverly Hills Cop). Hoffman plays stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce, whose style of social commentary and free use of language, that all stand-ups from the 70s to the present take for granted today, handed Bruce into a legal morass he never lived to see end. Just before he left office, former NY governor Pataki gave Bruce a posthumous pardon for the indecency convictions he got. This also covers Bruce's relationship with his mother (stage mother wannabe), his marraige to a stripper (Perrine, never more beautiful and who never had a better role), and his slow descent into drug addiction. But perhaps because it was directed by Fosse, a pill popper himself at one time if you pay attention to All That Jazz, he still found empathy for Bruce, while showing the damage it did in terms of on-stage performance, and premature death.

Fosse and Hoffman supposedly had a difficult relationship. In one of their early meetings (again, according to the Fosse biography, Razzle Dazzle), Hoffman said he came up with a walk for Lenny Bruce, to which Fosse supposedly replied (I'm partially paraphrasing) "Your last 3 roles were fucking walks!". Not the greatest of starts. But Fosse's desire to get every detail right no matter how many takes, blended perfectly with Hoffman the perfectionist, who always seemed to want one more take to get something small right. The two neuroses fed each other, and we, the audience benefit. An excellent performance from Hoffman that never seems to get the credit it deserves.

Not the big hit Cabaret was, but Lenny managed to find an audience. Oscar nominations helped. 6 nominations in all, for Picture, Fosse for Director, Hoffman for Actor, Perrine for Actress (Lost to Ellen Burstyn, but did win Best Actress for this at Cannes), Cinematography and Screenplay Adaptation. But Lenny ran into the Oscar juggernaut that was The Godfather Part 2, plus there was Chinatown and The Conversation getting a lot of attention. This little film didn't have a shot in hell.

Now in case you haven't noticed, I'm saying, let's go to this. I'm really sorry I can't come up with a better day and time, but it's the best I can do.

My push is for City Lights and for the Fosse films. I might have more felxibility in terms of when to catch the Chaplin film, but not from Wed-Fri night and at the expense of any of the Fosse times I listed. My Fosse order of preference, if I must choose, is All That Jazz, Cabaret, Lenny and Star 80. But anything I can catch is good. For those who know me, if you lock me into a time regarding one of the Fosse flicks, I can get the tickets ASAP, 24-48 hours before the scheduled perf. Let me know. Later all. And Happy Festivus.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

December revivals: first half

Mike here with what to catch in the first half of December. Sorry it's a little late. Three reasons for that. One, busy schedule on my end, which eliminates certain films and times for me. Two, once I knew I couldn't do Salo at the Walter Reade this past Sunday and Monday, I knew there was no rush. Three, a small list to begin with. I'm most interested in the first two, ok but not running for the others. Here we go:

I'M NOT THERE- Fri Dec 7 at 6:45, 9:30 and Midnight, Sat Dec 8 at 9:30 and Midnight, Tues Dec 11 and Wed Dec 12 at 6:45 and 9:30 at the Film Forum (other dates TBA)- Again, not a revival or a re-release. But the Dylan bio-pic is something I want to catch. Yes, it's playing in other theaters, but I prefer to frequent the non-profit Forum than a commercial theater, so you can look up those times at other theaters on your own. Don't know how much longer it will play at the Forum beyond Thurs Dec 13, but I intend to go there. I'm even up for a midnight screening if possible.

ERASERHEAD- Fri Dec 7, Sat Dec 8, Tues Dec 11, Fri Dec 14 at 7:55 and 9:55; Fri Dec 7, Sat Dec 8 and Sat Dec 15 at 12:05AM; Wed Dec 12 at 11:35am, 1:40, 3:45, 5:50, 7:55, and 9:55, and Thurs Dec 13 at 5:50- IFC Film Center- W. 4th and 6th Ave.- I forgot. Another reason for the delay in posting all of this: it's taken IFC Film Center forever to post times for the 30th anniversary restoration of Eraserhead. I have a real beef with these people and their lack of scheduling skills. First they couldn't (can't?) plan weeks in advance, so sometimes it's easy to forget the theater even exists when the weekend or Monday rolls around. Then, unless it's a midnight or 12noon film, they can't figure out when to post times for their revivals; you're not guarding state secrets people. It's some movies you're working hard at keeping people from making plans to see. Look, you have a very comfortable venue to watch films in, but some of your skills suck.

Why I'm I taking so much time writing about the venue instead of David Lynch's first film? Because I wrote about and pitched it back in January, so you can go back to the archives for this one. In fact, this might be the same restoration that Lynch personally worked on, that was screened at MOMA back in Jan. Can't tell, since the Film Center is useless for info along these lines. But, it's playing through Dec 19, and I'd really like to make an effort to catch this. I'd even do a midnight screening. Make it feel like how it might have been back in the late 70s and early 80s. Get a cup of David Lynch Signature Coffee and it's perfect. Actually it is pretty good, but they only sell it by the tiny cup and not in venti, or even by the pound so you can take it home. Again IFC, what the hell people?!?!?! Anyway, let's come out to watch this. Not for those who have to have their films linear or spelled out for them, but come nevertheless.

SCARFACE (1932)- Fri Dec 14 at 6:30- MOMA- Sub-titled "The Shame Of A Nation", it's actually pretty effective for a gangster film from 1932. Co directed by Howard Hawks and Richard Rosson, Paul Muni stands out so well in the title role, he could give Pacino's version of the character (Italian in the original, Cuban in the remake) a run for his money. With George Raft and Boris Karloff. One of those that perhaps helped usher in The Production Code a little sooner then planned. Based loosely on the crime career of Al Capone, who supposedly had his own copy made. When it comes to brushing up on your early gangster films, start with Little Caesar, go to The Public Enemy, and move straight into this. Or just start by seeing this.

ARMY OF DARKNESS- Fri Dec 14 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- E. Houston St. bet. 1st and 2nd Ave.- The second sequel to The Evil Dead, but for those who are not into horror flicks, don't worry. This stays away from that, and goes more for sword and sorcery, with tongue firmly planted in check. Director Sam Raimi's favorite leading man, Bruce Campbell, plays his character as possibly the most macho, and the stupidest version of Han Solo you've ever seen. So far as I know, this is the 81 minute theatrical release, as opposed to the 96 minute directors cut.

The order I want to see these films is coincidentally the order I have them. Go figure. On the next list, unless there's something unforeseen, the only films I'll have on the list will have Mickey Mouse, Charlie Chaplin, or be directed by Bob Fosse. Hard to say no to most of them. Let me know about this one first. Later all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

November revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the rest of November. Before that, you still have a few days to catch Diva at the Film Forum. In short, part of this action/romance drama-comedy with opera scenes is what The Jason Bourne films want to be, but isn't. The major romance is not as developed as in American films, but it doesn't need to be considering how little they know each other. Their scene in Paris as it reaches dawn seems inspired by a similar scene in Woody Allen's Manhattan, but it works on their own. And the subplot (one of many) between the mysterious mercenary-type guy and his underage Vietnamese Girl Friday/sex slave would need a lengthy explanation and condemnation in an American film. But in Diva, it just is, they're fine with each other and that's all they're needs to be. I'm trying not to reveal too much, I want you to enjoy this on your own. You have through Tuesday the 20th. And don't forget; if you haven't done Blade Runner: The Final Cut, you still have some time left as well.

Enough about previous films, we have others to get to. Here we go:

THE RED BALLOON and WHITE MANE- Fri Nov 16, Mon Nov 19- Wed Nov 21 at 6 and 7:40 and Sat Nov 24 at 1 and 2:40- Film Forum- 209 W Houston St.- A unique double feature: 2 shorts from director Albert Lamorisse. Both are kid-friendly. First, The Red Balloon. An enjoyable short from 1956, where a little boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son) bonds with his newest pal, a large red balloon. From there, they go on an adventure all over Paris, or it seems that way. Trust me, it's a lot better than it sounds. A short that pulled off the unexpected at awards time; it won the Palm d'Or at Cannes and it won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Definitely unexpected for something that might be 36 minutes long at most and with minimum dialogue, and therefore, minimum subtitles. Seeing the trailer recently reminds me how well it holds up.

Double featured with White Mane, director Lamorisse's earlier short from 1952. Never seen it, so I can't talk alot about it. Basically, a young boy feels a bond for the title horse, the alpha male of a group of wild horses. The difficulties come from the horse that doesn't want to be tamed, and the ranchers ready to break the horse for their own needs. Two shorts for one admission, a combined 72 minutes. Not too shabby.

DIVORCE - ITALIAN STYLE - Fri Nov 16, Mon Nov 19 and Wed Nov 21 at 9:20- Film Forum- Another chance to catch this Marcello Mastroianni dark comedy. But only at 9:20 at night. Go figure. A new 35mm print.

BOTTLE ROCKET- Fri Nov 16 and Sat Nov 17 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 East Houston St- The first film of writer-director Wes Anderson, co-writer/co-star Owen Wilson and lead Luke Wilson gets a midnight screening. An action-comedy-drama mix, where a bunch of friends go on the road to start a crime spree. But they seem to resemble The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight more than any competent crew. With a small but key role played by James Caan. When the film first came out, Caan was credited by some credits as giving the only professional performance. By 2000, those critics were shut up, and the Wilson brothers have received their just due. Not the biggest hit of all Anderson's films, but an all-time favorite for some of his fans.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD- Sun Nov 18 at 4:30 (Robin Hood)- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave at 36th St- Part of a retrospective of films that were first screened and developed using 3 color/3 strip Technicolor. Basically, it allows the filmmakers to play with hues and shadows in the editing process. At least that's how I remember it being explained to me. Anyone who has better info on this than me, please let me know. Anyway, I've caught films on screen that used this process: Singin In The Rain and The Godfather Part 2. I also these films in cleaned up video copies. To quote comedian Larry Miller, it's the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it. It's as close as we'll get to seeing how the filmmakers originally intended their film to be seen. To quote from the Museum of the Moving Image's website:

"Like Dorothy waking up over the rainbow in the Land of Oz, Hollywood discovered a vivid new world of color in the 1930s with the introduction of three-color Technicolor. The Museum has received an extremely rare three-strip Technicolor camera; this important artifact will be unveiled in Behind the Screen on November 17. To celebrate the occasion, this series includes a selection of landmark films made with the richly expressive Technicolor process."

The Adventures of Robin Hood isn't the first Technicolor film featured in the retrospective. But it is the first I want to see. A restored 35mm print will be screened. Dashing Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) steals from the oppressive rich, gives to the poor, thumbs his nose at authority he doesn't respect and tries to get jiggy with, I mean, MAKE TIME with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland - sigh . . .). Oscar nominee for Best Picture, it won for Art Direction, Editing, and Original Score. The most difficult of the Technicolor films to make work up to that point, and the most successful for its time. And, most importantly, fun for all ages.

The highlight for me is the sword fight between Flynn and Basil Rathbone. 2 swordsmen at their best, just like in Captain Blood. Like I said before to others, I never seen better on-screen duelists then Flynn-Rathbone, unless the characters are named either Darth Vader and/or Luke Skywalker.

Not that I'm saying all others stink on ice. I certainly wouldn't say that about Chow Yun-Fat and the cast of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". This film plays before Robin Hood at 2pm. You can see both for one admission. I don't have time for Crouching Tiger, but would love to make the time for Robin Hood.

I'M NOT THERE- Wed Nov 21, Fri Nov 23, Sat Nov 24 and Mon Nov 26- Thurs Dec 4 at 1:00, 1:15, 3:45, 4:00, 6:30, 7:00, 9:15, 9:30, plus 11:45 and Midnight screenings on Fri and Sat, Nov 23, Nov 24, Nov 30 and Dec 1- Film Forum- NOTE: THE 7PM SCREENING ON WED NOV 21 IS SOLD OUT.- Not a revival or even a re-release. But since it's playing at the Forum and I've seen the trailer, I want to give this a shot.

I enjoyed Behind The Music when it premiered on VH1 way back when, before it became a reality TV network. It followed a certain pattern, of rise, fall, then either redemption or death. You could watch it, learn something, then move on. Quick, good and mostly disposable. But when they make feature length versions of Behind The Music, and people push the idea that these are great films, boy that pisses me off. I like the lead performances of both Ray and Walk The Line, but they follow the same bullshit pattern that VH1 used to do, and I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid on this. 30-60 years from now, these films will be mocked just like I'll mock the Woodrow Wilson biopic in a few paragraphs from now. In fact, we only have to wait for December for the mocking to begin, when Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story comes out.

The very early buzz on that film is mixed. But I'd like to see a very good musical biopic. Will I'm Not There be that film? Not a clue, but I'll give it a shot. With a director like Todd Haynes, it shouldn't follow the typical biopic path. After all, he made Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story using Barbie dolls. Haynes angered the Carpenter family enough that they used the music rights issue as an excuse (allegedly) to have the film essentially blocked from viewing. And with "Velvet Goldmine", he managed to skirt away from any potential lawsuit from David Bowie, to give us the gist of 70s British Glam Rock. So I have high hopes.

So when you have actors of different ages, genders and races playing Dylan, you've got a shot. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and potential Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett are among the different Bobs. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are the different women in Bob's life. It will play for slightly over two weeks exclusively at the Film Forum only in NYC. So with my membership, it's worth going now. And better to see this in a non-profit as opposed to battling others at an AMC for example.

SABOTEUR and WHO IS NORMAN LLOYD?- Fri Nov 23, Sat Nov 24, and Tues Nov 27- Thurs Nov 29 at 6:10 (Saboteur), 8:15 (Lloyd), 9:45 (Saboteur)- plus Midnight screenings of saboteur on Fri Nov 23 and Sat Nov 24- Q&A with Norman Lloyd, director Matthew Sussman, and producers Michael Badalucco and Joseph Scarpenito, following the 8:15 show on Friday Nov 23- A week long tribute to Norman Lloyd, an actor, producer, director. His films have ranged from Spellbound, to Dead Poets Society to In Her Shoes. He's best known for his role on St. Elsewhere; he's guest-starred on TV series as varied as G.E. Theater, Kojack, Murder She Wrote, The Practice and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also produced and/or directed varying episodes of Omnibus, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Name of The Game and Columbo.

To quote from the Film Forum website: "Born in Jersey City 93 years ago and raised in Brooklyn (he took elocution lessons to remove the accent), Lloyd is undoubtedly the only person, living or dead, who can claim to have worked with Hitchcock, Renoir (The Southerner), Chaplin (Limelight) and Welles (Lloyd is one of three surviving members of Welles’s Mercury Players), as well as Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin, Bertolt Brecht, Martin Scorsese and Cameron Diaz." So basically, this documentary, Who Is Norman Lloyd?, documents this living history of show business, complete with stories from the man himself. Also interviews with Lloyd's friend Karl Malden, Ray Bradbury and Diaz, among others. After the 8:15 screening on Friday Nov. 23, there will be Q and A with the film's director Matthew Sussman, the film's producers Joseph Scarpenito and Michael Badalucco (who met Lloyd when they worked on Badalucco's The Practice) and Lloyd himself.

Playing with this tribute to Lloyd is Hitchcock's Saboteur. Lloyd makes his film debut as one of the villains. Robert Cummings is an everyman, going around the country looking for the people who framed him for a fire/murder. Arsenic and Old Lace's Priscilla Lane (a forgotten B-level leading actress I like) plays the spunky heroine. But the film is remembered by buffs because of the climatic scene on the Statue of Liberty. Also, keep an eye out for an uncredited Robert Mitchum. Consider this kind of story (co-written by Dorthy Parker) as a further development of The 39 Steps, which would be further developed by the superior North By Northwest. But this is still pretty good Hitchcock.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and/or THE WIZARD OF OZ and/or SINGIN' IN THE RAIN- Sat Nov 24 at 2 (St. Louis) 4:30 (Oz) and 7 (Singin)- AMMI in Astoria- 3 more films from the Museum of the Moving Image's retrospective of 3 strip Technicolor films. All 3 family films can be seen on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend for one admission.

First, Meet Me in St. Louis, with possibly the only happy family ever depicted on film. Second happiest if you count Leatherface's family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, we see a family enjoying their last days of togetherness, before a potential move to New York. A restored 35mm print will be screened.

Yes, the film is a color feast for the eye; otherwise it wouldn't be in this retrospective. But this film should be considered the best showcase of Judy Garland's talents. Is it her best performance? Probably not. That would be the last film on this list. Her most memorable performance? No, that would be the next film on the list. But for the full package, catch Judy here. With The Maltese Falcon's Mary Astor as the loving mother, Margaret O'Brien as the scene stealing kid sister, and Leon Ames as the epitome of the loving patriarch.

4 Nominations for Meet Me: for Screenplay (based on the stories written by Sally Benson about her and her family), Score, Color Cinematography (It lost to a film about Woodrow Wilson?!?!? A film that is only seen by 10 people a year on Fox Movie Channel), and for Song (The Trolley Song- "Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley . . .". Shot in one take!) Also featuring the holiday favorite "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

Next, The Wizard of Oz. A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS. Before the Sci-Fi channel comes out with some annoying "re-imagining" of this story ( I don't remember the name because it seems annoying), you can catch the most popular version. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch.

Now some of you will tell me you've already seen The Wizard of Oz on the big screen when it was re-released back in 1998. That releases' poster is on the blog. Incidentally, it was the last film to play in 1998 in Forest Hills (in Queens for those outside the borough) at both the Continental Twin (before it was refurbished into the 21st Century and became the Brandon.) and the very comfortable Forest Hills theater (before that was unfortunately turned into a Duane Reade.). Sorry, I digressed. The point I was trying to bring up is, this print of Oz at AMMI will be a 35mm IB Tech print. A brighter, more two-dimensional print of the film then what came out in 98 and what came out on DVD a few years back.

And finally, there's Singin' In The Rain. When it 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.

Now I don't have to see this particular print, since I caught it back in 04 I believe. But since I'd already be there to catch one of the earlier films, I'd catch this again. How much do I like this film? Let me put it this way: Before I caught it on the big screen, I respected it. Once I caught it on a big movie screen, it entered a permanent spot on my personal top 30. If you have the chance to go, go.

A STAR IS BORN (1954)- Thurs Nov 29 at 7 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th- May or may not be the best version of this story, but one that holds up despite the 11th hour editing chop-shop job done by Warner executives. After the film's premiere, they cut the film down to 2hr, 31 min. This is the version that will be screened on the 29th, as opposed to the 2hr 56 min version, where some of the scenes were restored with a combo of some lost footage and production scenes.

George Cukor's fist musical and first color film, where Judy Garland plays the unknown who becomes a star, and James Mason plays the leading man who discovers her, marries her, and falls apart due to depression and alcoholism. Bogie, Gary Cooper, Brando, Montgomery Clift and Cary Grant all turned down the role; they all apparently didn't want to be perceived as loser has-beens. Garland (singing mostly Ira Gershwin tunes) and Mason were both Oscar nominated, as was the Art Direction, Costume Design, Music and the Gershwin- Harold Arlen song "The Man That Got Away". Would be worth catching, especially for the price.

I just realized how many Garland films I posted. Not my intention. I didn't schedule them, I just post what I like or might be interested in catching. Definite interest in I'm Not There and anything at AMMI. Let me know. Later all.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

November revivals: first half

Mike here with what's playing for the first half of November. If you haven't caught Blade Runner: The Final Cut, make time. Don't know how much longer it will play, but whether you go for a midnight weekend screening at the Ziegfeld (playing this coming weekend for sure), or a regular screening at AMC Empire or Landmark Sunshine Cinema for the next week or two (exact engagement time unknown), go. The digital projection, & visual and sound quality are off the charts. And now being of a certain age and with a slight amount of maturity, I've looked at this film with fresh eyes, and I'm much impressed.

And I can thank this list with getting people to go. I've seen this twice now. The first time at the Ziegfeld, where the audience was clapping wildly in the end. The second time was at the AMC Empire, where we went for free. Someone was giving out free tickets for the new indie flick Wristcutters, and we just exchanged them for Blade Runner instead. The point is, I've had two people who have never seen this before go, as well as one person who hadn't seen it since the late 80s on VHS. It may not have been the best film they ever saw (I never claimed otherwise), but they were profoundly engaged and liked it.

And without my pushing with this list, they would never have enjoyed it. That makes me feel real good, and gives me the push to keep putting this together. Speaking of films on the list, here we go:

FUNNY FACE- Thurs Nov 1 at 7 at 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A George Gershwin musical directed by Stanley Donen. It makes fun of the then beatnik crowd (mocking Sartre) and the fashion scene of the day. Fred Astaire, doing a variation of Richard Avedon, discovers mousy Audrey Hepburn and brings her to Paris and remakes her into a model.

Let's not pretend we're dealing with cinematic greatness here. The pokes of fashion feel dated in a world of Devil Wears Prada and America's Next Top Model, and the 30 year gap between Astaire and Hepburn is quite noticeable, so whether you buy their romance is one of personal taste. But this is Astaire singing and dancing Gershwin tunes with Hepburn. You have wonderful Paris locations, lovingly shot by Oscar nominated Ray June. And Donen never directed crap, unless you count Saturn 3, which was already a mess before he was hired. Along with the cinematography, this was also nominated for Original Screenplay, Art Direction, and Edith Head's and Hubert de Givenchy's colorful costumes. And if you think this film doesn't have an impact today, then The Gap wouldn't have digitally used Hepburn dancing around in this film to sell Khaki pants about a year ago. Plus, it's an affordable 6.50. What more do you want?

TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in 3-D- Wed Oct 31 only at the Ziegfeld (W. 54th and 6th) at 5, 7:30 and 9:30, and Tues Nov 6 and Wed Nov 7- at AMC Empire- 42nd and 8th- at 5, 7 and 9- and Regal Union Square- W. 14th and Broadway- at 5:50, 7:50 and 9:50- and UA Kaufman Astoria- 35-30 38th st in Astoria- at 3, 5, 7 and 9- and AMC Lowes 84th St.- 84th and Broadway- at 2:40, 5, 7:30 and 9:45- Your last week to catch this fun stop motion/ horror/ comedy/ musical in all its 3-D glory. The last screening at the Ziegfeld is on Halloween. But it will play until Thurs Nov 8 at a few other theaters. The better ones I listed. But I can only catch it with you on the dates listed.

THE EXORCIST: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT- Fri Nov 2 at 12:05 AM- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd or 4th st (I forget which)and 6th Ave.- If you don't want to go for a midnight screening of Blade Runner, try this scary film. The director's cut from 2000, of one of the best modern horror films ever made. Thankfully not as graphic as the popular novel, where one can imagine every orifice that stuff can out of little Regan. But in terms of atmosphere, it rivals Texas Chainsaw massacre as among the creepiest films. One of the few horror films to pack a punch on the small screen, so you can only imagine on the big screen.

Oscars for Sound and for William Peter Blatty for adapting his own novel. Funny, Blatty wrote this in part because he was only hired for writing light comedies like A Shot In The Dark. After the Exorcist came out, studios were only interested in hiring Blatty for horror flicks.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Director William Friedkin, Actor Jason Miller, Actress Ellen Burstyn (apparently she still suffers from back problems sustained while shooting this), Supporting Actress Linda Blair (though most of the credit for this performance is given to then-uncredited Mercedes McCambridge, as her possessed voice), Cinematography, Art Direction, and Editing. With Max Von Sydow and Lee J. Cobb.

DIVA- Tues Nov 6, Wed Nov 7, Fri Nov 9, Sat Nov 10 and Mon Nov 12- Wed Nov 21 at 3:15, 5:30, 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Jean-Jacques Beineix retrospective. Here is a new 35mm print of a film I've enjoyed, that I'm pretty sure everyone who sees this list on any regular basis has never heard of. Unless you're familiar with the U.S. art house circuit of the early 80s (this was distributed by United Artists Classics in 1982), or if you've stumbled onto this on Showtime in the past 6 months, this is new to you. Allow me to enlighten a little bit.

If you have to categorize Diva, you can consider this a Romantic Action Thriller Mystery, with some opera. A young French mail courier is ok with his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. But his big passion in life is Opera. 1 American soprano in particular, who has never allowed her performances to be recorded.diva who refuses to be recorded. The young man makes a tape of her in concert. But when the tape is confused with ones that corrupt police and gangsters are looking for, it gets tough for this guy to survive, never mind meeting his idol. Never mind when a rich French recluse, his sex slave Vietnamese model, and members of the Taiwanese mob get involved. Then in the middle of all of this, there's one of the better chase scenes ever filmed, as our young hero tries to get away from what seems like most of Paris, on his crappy little motorcycle.

Confused? Understandable. But if you stay with it, you'll have a lot of fun, uncovering this forgotten New Wave-ish gem. By all means, take a chance on Diva.

Below is the Wikipedia meaning (cut and pasted) of Cinema du look, a French genre that Diva falls into:

Cinéma du look was a French film movement of the 1980s. It referred to films that had a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters that were said to represent the marginalised youth of Francois Mitterrand's France. The three main directors of the Cinéma du look were Jean-Jacques Beineix, Luc Besson and Leos Carax. Themes that run through many of their films include doomed love affairs, young people with peer groups rather than families, a cynical view of the police and the use of the Paris Métro to symbolise an alternative, underground society. The mixture of 'high' culture, such as the opera music of Diva and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and pop culture, for example the references to Batman in Subway, was another key feature. Unlike most film movements, the Cinéma du look had no clear political ideology.

DIVORCE-ITALIAN STYLE- Fri Nov 9, Sat Nov 10 and Mon Nov 12 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10 - and Fri Nov 16, Sat Nov 17 and Mon Nov 19- Wed Nov 21 at 7:45, 9:20 and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Pietro Germi retrospective, but this is the only one I'm interested in. A potential farcical film that becomes a dark satire fairly quickly. A man (Oscar nominated Marcello Mastroianni) wants to marry his nubile cousin (Stefania Sandrelli). But he's already married to a lump of a woman. Divorce is a no-no at this time. But when he finds out her former lover is back in town, this is great. He can set them up together, kill her in a "crime of honor", do a quick 3-7 yr, jail term, then marry the hot cousin. Oscar nominated for Best Director, won the Oscar for Original Screenplay. Surprisingly not even nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, because Italy chose enough film as their representative. I've never even heard of all the nominees in this category. Don't think it's a coincidence that the only foreign language films talked about anymore that came out in 1962 are Through A Glass Darkly (directed by Bergman) and this one. Should be worth catching.

STAR TREK: THE MENAGERIE- Tues Nov 13 at 7:30 and Thurs Nov 15 at 7:30 and 10:30- at Regal Union Square Stadium 14- and Regal Kaufman Astoria Stadium 14- This should be fun for the Star Trek fan. But I'm tired, so I'll have to cut and paste from the Regal Cinema website:

This event features the original Season 1 episodes “The Menagerie” Part 1 and 2, digitally re-mastered in High-Definition and Cinema Surround Sound. Also included is greeting from creator Gene Roddenberry’s son, Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry and an exclusive 30-minute behind-the-scenes look at how the episodes were digitally re-mastered from the original negatives.

Major push for Diva and even Divorce, and if the Star Trek fans want to do The Menagerie, I'm up for it. Anything else is a bonus. Let me know. Later all.

Friday, October 19, 2007

October revivals: Halloween edition

Hey, all. Mike here with the rest of the films to catch in October. I call this the Halloween edition, mostly because all of the films I have an interest and make time to see are horror flicks. There is all The Third Man at Symphony Space and War and Peace at the Film Forum. But I've done the former, and have no time or enough money to take the time to catch it right now. And as for War and Peace, it's 6 hrs, 51 minutes, split into 2 parts, each with separate admission with an intermission for each part. If this sends me to cinephile purgatory, so be it, but no way on God's green earth will i sit through a 6 hr 51 min film. Never mind the chance to catch on two separate days. This doesn't sound like fun, this sounds like homework.

Since these are mostly horror flicks, I don't know a lot of people excited about catching these flicks. Therefore, I've been dreading getting around to putting a list up. But put it up, I will. Here we go:

TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN 3-D- Sun Oct 21- Thurs Nov 4 in the Ziegfeld at Noon, 2:15, 4:30, 7 and 9:15- and from Sun Oct 21 to either Thurs Nov 4 or Thurs Nov 11 at Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway) at 11am, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11pm(weekends only)- and AMC Empire 25 (W. 42nd st and 8th ave.) at 11AM, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11PM- and UA Kaufman Astoria Stadium 14 (35-30 38th St., Astoria) at 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11- The only film I can imagine most of you are interested in. For the second year in a row, Disney is re-releasing Tim Burton's stop motion animation flick for the Halloween season, in 3-D. I should say that this is Tim Burton's in the sense that he co-produced and created the story; his name alone is why this was made.

I've caught this before, but I don't mind seeing this again. In part, because I know a lot of people who would enjoy this on the big screen who missed the first time, or have never seen it. Now this last thought shouldn't be a shock. Yes, Nightmare is profitable when compared to say, Meet The Robinsons, Treasure Planet, Disney's Atlantis, or everything from Dreamworks Animation that isn't CGI. But compared to Pixar flicks, or Disney's flicks that came out slightly earlier like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, this is a cult film.

Nightmare might feel sluggish on TV, but on the big screen, it moves quickly. The songs are zippy, Danny Elfman does a terrific job singing as Jack Skellington, and just when it seems like they can't do anything else with the story, the film is over. No major amounts of time-wasting backstory here. And Disney did a terrific job with the 3-D animation. The musical numbers for me, come off best with this process. Hopefully, they'll do with this re-release what they did last year, which was have an old Pixar short converted into 3-D, play before the film. Last year was Knick-Knack; let's see what they do this year.

The best screen to catch it around here is the Ziegfeld, though it's only playing for two weeks. The whole release of this will only be three weeks, so I'm guessing the other locations will have them for that long. Don't know for sure, it's a guess. For those going with me, if it ain't the Ziegfeld, I can get into any AMC/Lowes easily, though the Regal Kaufman Astoria (very close to AMMI) is good for me in terms of easy location. I can't make every date or time, but you tell what you can go for, and we'll work from there. Some showtimes are subject to change mainly on the weekdays.

THE LOST BOYS as its being mocked by The Raspberry Brothers for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th- Thurs Oct 25 at 9- Not one of my favorite films. It is directed by Joel Schumacher after all. Hot teenage vampires in California should sound appealing, and it did to some of my generation, as well as the one or two before me, and the three or four after me, thanks to VHS. It did ok business, but it's place in cinema history's dustbin seems complete.

But as a bad film, it is worth catching, and mocking. Jason Patric and Corey Haim compete for the title of Most Whiny Brother. Kiefer Sutherland is more annoying than scary. There's another Corey in the film, but who cares. Jami Gertz looks pretty, but then she has to speak. And this was not the best follow-up for Dianne Wiest, after her Oscar winning performance in Hannah and Her Sisters (and the less said about her hideous Mia Farrow-esque haircut, the better).

And mocking The Lost Boys is what The Raspberry Brothers intend to do? Who are they? I have no idea. Never heard of them until I looked up the film and time. But if you know TV shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Cheap Seats, then you know what is coming up. Are there films that deserve to be mocked more than The Lost Boys? Yes, but this will do for now. Kind of sounds like the death penalty. Anyway, moving on . . .

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST- Sat Oct 27 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Without a doubt, the grossest and goriest film on the list, and it's not even close. This Italian horror film from 1980 (released in the U.S. in 1984 or 85, not sure which), takes an idea later stolen by the makers of The Blair Witch Project, in terms of confusing audience confusion with fact and fiction (no fact, all fiction). All the kind of film Eli Roth and the makers of Saw are probably jealous they were to young to make. A New York professor recovers documentary reels of a crew missing in the jungle. We see what the crew did to the natives and vice versa. Let's just say, the title seems accurate.

The special effects were so realistic, the director ran into problems. One time, he had to go to court to prove it was fake. Another time, he had to bring the actors to a TV show he was being interviewed, to prove they weren't eaten. The animal killings however, were real, which is the main reason why is was banned at varying times, in almost every country it's been screened. The film actually tries to make a statement about the media's fascination with showing violence no matter what the consequences, but the violence and the effects is what this film is remembered. Not for everybody's taste, but if you're game? Get it, cannibal, taste . . . good lord, this list needs a new writer . . .

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD- Wed Oct 31 at 6 and 8- MOMA- Here's a chance to hunker down on some classic B and W horror. Enjoy George A. Romero's original zombie flick, as it was meant to be seen: at MOMA. At MOMA?!?!? Sure, why not? If they declare this as art, far be it for me to disagree. Just enjoy.

That's all for now. Let me know. Later all.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

October revival list: the only films on the list for now.

Mike here with a list of October films. A very small list for now. The 400 Blows can still be caught at the Film Forum through Tues Oct 9, but there are 2 others I want to catch more. So much so, that I'm not putting up another list until I see at least one of the two below. Let's not waste time, here we go:

BLADE RUNNER:THE FINAL CUT- The Ziegfeld theater- W.53rd and 6th- Sat Oct 6- Thurs Oct 20- Weekends- 4, 7, and 10; Weekdays- 5:30 and 8:30- The film will be digitally projected at the Ziegfeld for 2 weeks only.

I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. Not because this is a great film. It wouldn't make my Top 10 and maybe not my Top 20 of 1982. But this might be in my top 10 for most visual appealing films ever shot in my lifetime (take that for what it's worth.). Along with Brazil, the most influential film with regards to art direction to come out of the 1980s. Whenever you want to depict a decaying metropolis, you must check out those two films Sorry, Batman and Dark City, you must bow before your masters. Blade Runner also belongs in that hallowed place of dystopian sci-fi films, along with Brazil, Children of Men, A Clockwork Orange, 1984 and Soylent Green. Yes, I said Soylent Green, I'm not stuttering.

Anyway, this is the kind of film I've talked to some of you about. Give me a film with a good score and quality visuals, and you've got me for quite a while. I should mention Vangelis' score. Chariots of Fire might have won him the Oscar, but this has a greater degree of difficulty that he succeeds with. You'd almost want to get the soundtrack afterwards. Futuristic after all this time. Unobtrusive, and at times beautiful. An L.A. of 2019 that seemed so far away, but now kind of fits the vision of An Inconvenient Truth. Throw it into the world of the film-noir, where you can't always trust those with badges, and even the "villains" are looking for redemption, if not longer life. Don't forget the cast. Harrison Ford as your burn-out lead, an ex-blade runner, forced back into the job to kill off deadly illegal androids or "replicants". Rutger Hauer as your main, but not unsympathetic lead villain. And give kudos to the casting director for pulling out newcomers like Sean Young, Daryl Hannah and Edward James Olmos, as well as character actors like M. Emmet Walsh, the late Brion James, William Sanderson (Newhart, Deadwood) and Joe Turkel (Paths of Glory, The Shining).

Director Ridley Scott's film is VERY loosely based on the novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. A very good and quick read where the hero is married and more like an accountant then a cop. Which would explain why Scott tried hard to cast Dustin Hoffman in the lead. Despite the massive changes in some aspects of the stories, Dick himself felt the look of film matched what was on the page and in his head.

Not an easy film to shoot. The producer's didn't like Scott's exacting ways, and his going over budget. The crew referred to this as Blood Runner, and made the joke that Will Rogers never met a man he didn't like but he never met Ridley Scott (the joke was later made into a t-shirt worn by most of the crew throughout the shoot). Harrison Ford didn't get along well with Scott and Sean Young, and Young hated Ford, especially during the shooting of their major kissing scene. Supposedly, Hannah nearly broke Ford's neck in their fight scene. When the film went over budget, the rights to the film went from the director to the producers, who convinced Ford to do a last second voiceover narration. Ford has vigorously denied doing a half-assed job on the narration over the years, blaming a bad cold for the crappy work.

This is the 4th or 5th version of the film, I've lost count. I'm sure there's a cut with just penguins that I don't know about. The first version was the June 1982 U.S. release, which when it faced off against the likes of E.T., Poltergeist, Rocky 3 and Star Trek 2, it was DOA. It had the narration, the snowy ending, and several minutes of violence removed by the producers in order to avoid the X rating. It received Oscar nominations for Art Direction and Visual Effects, then went away, except for midnight screenings like at the late St. Marks Cinema. Then you have the version that came out in Europe in 82, that had the extra minutes of violence, which was released in in the U.S. on video, except on CED for some reason. This was the version that mostly started the cult following here. Except for edited for TV versions, the only other cut I remember seeing was the "Director's Cut" from 1992. Which was more of a studio editing job as opposed to Scott doing the reworking itself. Except for an added dream sequence, the dropping of the narration (A very good thing), and a changed ending. It works in tone, but with one significant difference that splits fans down the middle. I agree with those that don't like it, but mainly because it manages to step even further away from Phillip K. Dick's original vision. That's my feeling anyway. But this version is what made a lot of critics change their original bad or mixed reviews to good ones (Leonard Maltin still sticks to his 1 1/2 star rating), and it's the cut that was probably looked at when it made AFI's second Top 100 list.

Now what kind of ending will the Final Cut this will have, I have no clue. I know 4 minutes were added. Some of it is corrections, like using Ford's son to help with the dialogue correction of one small scene. Also, Joanna Cassidy's stuntman has been replaced with an actual stuntwoman with Cassidy's head CGIed in there. After that, I have no idea. Ridley Scott promises this will be the last and most complete version of this story. Yeah, whatever.

All I know is that there will not be a better way to catch this film on the big screen ever again. Not this style of projection, and not in a better theater. Film buffs, I'm telling you. This is one of those things you say yes to.

BLUE VELVET- Sat Oct 6 and Sun Oct 7 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- I thought Blade Runner would be the only film I would write about. But if you think I would ignore David Lynch's best film, and something in my personal top 2, then you're nuts. I wrote about this on a previous list in this blog, so go back and look it up. If you haven't seen this twisted modern noir on the big screen and you can stay awake, let's go do it. Don't worry, if you get sleepy, they sell David Lynch's Organic Coffee there; it's a kind of espresso. C'mon, don't be shy.

So those are the 2. 3, if you count the 400 Blows. For those who know me, if you are interested in Blade Runner. Try to arrange a time with me directly. Saturdays are best for me, with this Saturday night being the best. With the Ziegfeld, you never know if they decide to close on a weekday "Just because". I think Wed and Thurs nights would be doable, but Mon and Tues nights (except for Columbus Day night) would be risky. Either first come first served, or by majority vote, whatever fits for me the best. Let me know. Later all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sept revivals: the rest of the month

Hey all. Mike here with a short list for the next week. 3 films in all, with 2 repeats. Here we go:

THE 400 BLOWS with ANTOINE AND COLETTE- Film Forum- Sat Sept 29-Mon Oct 1 and Wed Oct 3 at 4:20, 7 and 9:30- Francois Truffaut's classic 1959 film; his first feature-length picture, and one of those first credited for launching New Wave cinema successfully, gets a longer than usual run at the Forum, in a restored 35mm print. Semi-autobiographical we follow Truffaut's most famous character, neglected Antoine Doinel, during his time as petty criminal and in reform school. We learn to sympathize with him, while noting every fault and every mistake that does more damage to his life than it should. Francois's mother was NOT happy with the final result/implications. Of course this includes the classic final 2 minutes, and one of the most memorable final freeze shots in movie history, no hyperbole on my part. Oscar nominated for Original Screenplay. But not for Foreign Film. Black Orpheus was chosen to be France's representative. It won the category, but it's borderline unwatchable as far as I'm concerned.

Despite the implications of the ending (SPOILER ALERT! THE FILM IS ALMOST 50 YEARS OLD. IF YOU LIVE IN A MOVIE BUFF CAVE, THAT'S NOT MY PROBLEM.), Truffaut would bring back the Antoine Doinel character for several sequels. His life gets better in comparison to the first film, but happier? Weeeeeellll . . . . . Anyway, the fist sequel, ANTOINE AND COLETTE from 1962, will be screened after The 400 Blows. Here, Antoine has an adult job, but a girlfriend who may love him as much as he loves her, or maybe not.

Let's see who's interested in this one.

FITZCARRALDO- Sat Sept 29- Mon Oct 1, and Wed Oct 3 at 6:10 and 9:20- IFC Film Center- Playing at the same time as The 400 Blows is the Kinski-Herzog film (in a new 35mm print). Surprise, surprise. The one week only run did well enough to get a second week. This news will either inspire you to want to catch this film before it goes, or it will make you want to stick your head into a bear trap, and pray for sweet sweet death. Both reactions are understandable.

STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN- Sat Sept 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- I know it's been done before, but I can't go without mentioning this one. I enjoy it too much and after 25 years, it still works. Don't want to hear from the haters, time is on my side with this one; besides most of the haters haven't even seen it. For those who haven't seen it, or haven't seen in in a long time, or have never seen it on the big screen and can stay up way past midnight, come on, go for it.

Let me know if there's interest. The first October list will come out in a few days, but it will have only one film on it. One I've talked about and waited quite a while for. Later all.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sept revivals: Part 2

Mike here with the rest of the September list. Running behind so I'll have to break this month's list into three parts. Not much to bring up other than that, so here we go:

THE LANDLORD- Wed Sept 19- Fri Sept 21, Mon Sept 24 and Tues Sept 25 at 7:45 and 10- Lee Grant will introduce the 7:45 show on Wednesday, September 19- Film Forum- A film NOT available on DVD, just out of print VHS, from director Hal Ashby. Not the first standout director from the 1970s (the last Golden Era of film, allegedly) that you would think of, but with credits that include Harold and Maude, Coming Home and Being There, he is one who must be noticed. I am very curious to catch this one, never seen it before. Basically, it seems to be a similar story as the 1991 Joe Pesci flop The Super, though this actually appears to be funny. Lee Grant, nominated for Supporting Actress for this flick (and would win 5 years later for Ashby's later film, Shampoo), introduces the 7:45 screening. If we actually did this one, it will require some advanced planning.

As for anything else about The Landlord, I'll have to cut and paste from the Film Forum's website, since they can sell it a lot better than myself:

“You know what NAACP means, don’t you?” Whiter than white, richer than rich, callower than callow (“I’m 29!”) Beau Bridges tells the camera, on the impeccable lawn of his family compound as the black butler delivers him a drink, that he needs a home of his own — except his dream house is a tenement in the way-before-gentrification Park Slope! Think he’ll get the African-American tenants to move out? Think he can even get them to start paying rent? And bring back those hubcaps! First feature by Hal Ashby is both a time capsule of 70s cinema — direct-to-the-camera dialogue, jagged editing, jarring bursts of music on the soundtrack, echoey on-location sound... and those bellbottoms! — as well as an edgy (before the term was coined), rope-dancing-on-the-razor’s-edge dramedy on race in America, with Bridges’ mom, Oscar-nominated Lee Grant, taking a break from nurse-maiding the Spinal Meningitis Ball to get down on pot likker with Pearl Bailey;Diana Sands painfully making a shocking admission to “Sioux Indian” hubbie Lou Gossett; Robert Klein’s turn in blackface; and the ‘N’ word, but not said by whom, and to whom, you might think. With camerawork by the great Gordon Willis (Klute, All the President’s Men, Annie Hall and all three Godfathers); screenplay by black actor/writer Bill Gunn (Ganja and Hess); and, as the good-natured jerk rich boy (“I’m a bastard!”), a could-pass-for-18 Beau Bridges, who surprisingly was 29 at the time. “An outrageous debut that still feels daring, both stylistically and politically.” – Darren Hughes, Senses of Cinema. “A wondrously wise, sad and hilarious comedy. Leaves an almost eerie tonic effect of truth and laughter, with some of the sharpest, funniest dialogue in a long time.”– The New York Times. “There’s something really great about it, and it’s a film that I’d kind of fallen in love with. There’s something unique about the softness of the colors, about the way you can light things well but they’re not overly sharp and vivid. There’s just something more human about them, a more poetic way of capturing reality.” – Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt).

A ROOM WITH A VIEW- Thurs Sept 20 at 6- MOMA- Not the first Merchant-Ivory film ever made. And also not the first Merchant-Ivory film to be Oscar nominated, but if you happen to remember The Europeans (just recently released on DVD, though I'm not sure if it's available in R1) or The Bostonians (Vanessa Redgrave's perf holds up, the rest of the film and Christopher Reeves's perf in particular doesn't), then you're a ghost, a freak that I'm not sure I want to know, or James Ivory. And why James Ivory would look at these pages, I have no idea. But just in case, hi James. Don't hate me about that Bostonians crack just now. I'm not that bad, really. Really.

But A Room With A View is the first Merchant-Ivory picture I consider watchable. Oh hell. I blew with James. Forget it, Mr. Ivory. I just can't get anything right. Find another blog.

A delicate romantic comedy (yes, with some dramatic elements) that found it's art house niche in 1986, just as Platoon was beginning to dominate. 3 Oscars including the Screenplay adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel; nominations also for Picture, Director, Supporting Actress Maggie Smith, and Supporting Actor Denholm Elliott. Also featuring notable early performance by Helena Bonham Carter (this and other projects forged the perception of her only as a corset non-modern actress until Fight Club) and Daniel Day-Lewis (how this foppish dolt became Bill the Butcher is a marvel of acting technique), plus a gossipy witch of a woman played by Judi Dench.

FITZCARRALDO- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd on 6th Ave- Fri Sept 22 at 9:20 and Sat Sept 22 at 2:55, 6:10 and 9:20- If you see only one Werner Herzog film this year, let it be Rescue Dawn. It's his most accessible, with a terrific Christian Bale performance. You really get a sense of being a POW with nowhere to escape. It gets the nature beats down man part (a specialty of Werner's) down
better than Castaway, the only film of that kind that most of you readers are aware of.

But if you only see TWO Werner Herzog films this year, let's try to make it both Rescue Dawn AND Fitzcarraldo, from 1982. Klaus Kinski (taking over after both Mick Jagger and Jason Robards quit) plays the title role, a man obsessed with building an opera house in the Peruvian jungle so that Caruso can sing there. Which means of course having to the deal with the Indians, nature, getting a giant boat over a mountain, you know, THE USUAL. As you can tell, or if you already know Herzog and/or Kinski, little about this film would be considered usual. With Claudia Cardinale (Once Upon A Time In The West, The Leopard, The Pink Panther) as his lover.

The film took about three years to make. Obstacles included recasting, the Indians struggling to push the large boat up a mountain so that Herzog could film Kinski and the Indians struggling to push the large boat up the mountain, a plane crash that killed several crew members and some Indians actually burning down the film's campsite because they didn't want the outsiders here anymore. And of course, the non-mellow relationship between Herzog and frequent star/adversary Kinski. Non-mellow to the point that some of the Indians offered to kill Kinski for Herzog (caught on camera in the documentary, My Best Fiend).

But to quote Roger Ebert, 'It may be overlong and meandering, but I wouldn't ever have missed seeing it." I hope you feel the same. The not missing part, I mean. I can't do anything about the rest . . .

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955)- Sat Sept 22 at 3:30- MOMA- One of the better film noirs. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear.

When I saw Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watch good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Somewhat kidding about that last part.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton never to direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.

THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME and KING KONG (1932)- Mon Sept 24 at 7:15 (Game) and 8:30 (Kong)- MOMA W. 53rd and 5th- A double feature of 2 RKO adventure films from director Ernest B. Schoedsack that also shared some of the same sets and co-stars Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray. First, Game, co-directed with Irving Pichel; an adaptation of Richard Connell's short story, where a rich man lets a ship crash onto a deserted island, so that he could hunt and kill the passengers. A story that has been remade over and over again (I'm sure Connell imagined Ice-T being hunted by Rutger Hauer and F. Murrary Abraham; don't you?!?!?). But see how it was done first.

Since Dangerous Game is only 63 minutes long, I figure we can go see that, and stay for King Kong, co directed with Merian C. Cooper. I know a couple of you saw it with me last Thanksgiving weekend, and that the rest of you know of the classic film. But if you see it on the big screen, you would be amazed how well it holds up. Seeing it in a theater as opposed to TV, made it enough of a difference to me have it go from an OK old movie, to a Top 100 film for me. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Go for it.

This double feature will also be re-screened at MOMA on Sat, Oct 13 starting at 3:15

That's all for now. Will bring up the rest of the month next week. Later all.