Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Feb revivals: second half

Mike here with a list of films for the second half of Feb. Let's not waste time, here we go:

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE- Thurs Feb 15 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- 209 west houston bet. 6th and Varick- Part of the Ennio Morricone retrospective. The middle part of Leone's Man With No Name Trilogy. Here, Clint Eastwood is forced to team up with a middle aged gunslinger (Lee Van Cleef), who might be better than him in a gunfight, to track down a killer and get that bounty money. The weakest of the three films, but it's similar to Return of the Jedi in their respective places in their trilogies; weakest of the series, but better then a lot of what others have put together.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG- Thurs Feb 15 at 6 and Wed Feb 21 at 8:30- MOMA- The more fun, light-hearted of the sequels (rip-offs?) to the original King Kong. An Oscar for the visual effects. There's a reason why this is remembered, and why the Charlize Theron remake is gathering dust in Blockbusters across the country.

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY- Fri Feb 16 and Sat Feb 17 at 1:30, 4:50 and 8:10- Film Forum-Part of the Ennio Morricone retrospective. The epic of Leone's Man With No Name trilogy; you definitely go on a journey here, aided with Morricone's most famous score, especially the theme. Eastwood's not so nice Good, Lee Van Cleef's evil to the core Bad, and Eli Wallach's not much better Ugly, fight each other, and try to work their way around something called The Civil War, to get their hands on buried gold. Probably, the best of the Spaghetti Westerns, due in no small part to Wallach's great performance (note that I RARELY use that phrase), the cinematography and Morricone's score.

This is the Reconstructed Italian version (don't worry, the words are still spoken in English). 2 hrs. 55 min. long, including 15 restored min. that Eastwood and Wallach had to go back and redub a couple of years ago. The print has been cleaned up, and has a remixed 5.1 Digital Dolby sound. I've done this at the Forum a couple of years ago, but I need no excuse to go back. A favorite of mine.

THE WARRIORS- Fri Feb 16-Sun Feb 18 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- For those who haven't caught this cult classic from 1979, here's another chance. Controversial in its day, with its depiction of gangs run amok in New York, several real life gang killings at screenings of the film, and Paramount's overreaction. Looking at it today, it's quite quaint, and at times, stupid fun. One person who saw this with me, described the film as capable of going from stupid to incredible; sometimes in the same scene, sometimes in the same shot!

BUFFY SING-A-LONG- Fri Feb16-Sun Feb 18 at 12:05AM- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd St. and 6th Ave- I caught Inland Empire at IFC in mid-Dec. I did not have a good time to say the least. Long story short, I caught the Buffy Sing Along afterwards. I was very surprised how much of a good time I had. Basically, the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Once More, With Feeling" from 2001, is projected onto the screen. Subtitles are posted on the bottom for you to sing with the episode, and there's a live cast a la Rocky Horror to perform. I have two pictures above from the Dec 06 show, I wish my camera phone took better pictures. That's a friend of mine by the way, in the rabbit ears scaring the girl playing Anya. It's interactive with props (replace Rocky Horror's toast and tp with underwear, kazoos and other items) and moments to talk back at the screen. They do other things to provide a full, entertaining evening, but I won't spoil the surprises.

It helps to be either a fan of the series (which I am), or a fan of karaoke (please don't get me started on a rant). And if you are a fan of both, you've hit the mother lode here. Thanks to the Presidents Day weekend, there will be three nights of this. Generally, they sell out quick. As of this writing, they are tix still available all three nights, so plan ahead if there is interest.

THE UNTOUCHABLES- Mon Feb 19 at 5:25- Film Forum- Part of the Ennio Morricone retrospective. Here's an interesting way to celebrate President's Day. David Mamet reinvented the 50s TV hit as a morality tale, with good having to go into grey areas in order to stop evil, in the form of Robert De Niro's Al Capone. But aided by Morricone's terrific, Oscar-nominated score, this is more Brian De Palma's triumph. High opera, directed to near perfection. The train station sequence is a classic. According to producer Art Linson, it was De Niro who gently forced Mamet to make massive re-writes, for which Linson and De Palma are eternally grateful.

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

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA- Thurs Feb 22 at 7:15- Film Forum- The last of the Ennio Morricone retrospective. Essentially a lost classic of Sergio Leone's, the last film he directed. Robert De Niro and James Woods play friends who we see grow up to be gangsters, grow apart, and grow old with regret, especially De Niro's character. A strong supporting cast: Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Tuesday Weld, Danny Aiello, Treat Williams, and a young Jennifer Connelly in her feature film debut.

Leone was contracted to turn in a cut no longer then 2hrs. 45min. After shooting 10 hrs. of film, Leone would only (could only?) submit a slightly under 4hrs. cut. The American distributor, Warner Bros., took the film away, and cut about 95 min. for it, and threw it into theaters in June 1984. No surprise, critics destroyed it, and the film tanked big time. It wasn't until the version that was only slightly shorter then Leone's submitted cut, was released in Europe, briefly in the U.S. and then on home video, that the film got respect.

The Forum is claiming to be showing the complete director's cut. Considering it starts at 7:15, expect it to be long. Hope one of you is interested in this.

LOST HIGHWAY- Fri Feb 23 (tentative on my end) and Sat Feb 24 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- This kicks off several weekends of David Lynch Midnight films at IFC Film Center. Unlike Inland Empire, this was is not only watchable, no talking giant rabbits!. Seriously, I've brought this film up on a previous revival list. So if you know this, you know it's worth catching. Moving on.

MONDO CANE and/or ARMY OF SHADOWS- Sat Feb 24 at 2 (Mondo- Introduced by Lou Lumenick) and 6:30 (Shadows)- AMMI in Astoria- 35 Ave. at 36 St.- First,Mondo Cane. Part of the Critic's Choice: Great Documentaries series. One of you told me that you were really interested in catching Mondo Cane. I don't know if I'm going to be able to catch this, I don't know if I'm running to this the more I read about it. But who knows. This screening will be introduced by NY Post critic Lou Lumenick. First, I'll put up the plot outline on IMDB:

The original "shockumentary" consisting of a collection of mostly real archive footage displaying mankind at its most depraved and perverse, displaying bizarre rituals, cruel behavior, and animal violence.

Next, I'll put down AMMI's description. You'll decide from there:

Italy, 1962. 35mm IB Technicolor print. Directed by Gualitero Jacopeti, Franco E. Prosperi, Paolo Cavara. You know the Oscar-nominated theme song (“More”), a staple of wedding and lounge singers, but this ground-breaking and controversial anthropological film, which has been described as a “shockumentary” and the precursor of reality TV, is still an eye-opener. It created a sensation in its time by offering glimpses of such shocking sights as bare-breasted natives, pet cemeteries, restaurants serving roast dog, a pig killing in New Guinea, “blood rites of secular Italian Catholics,’’ teenage girls mobbing actor Rossanno Brazzi, and much more. –Lou Lumenick, The New York Post

Now, Army of Shadows, I'll will make time for, especially if you've never seen it. Which is most of you. Basically, a war film about members of the French Resistance battling the Nazis and traitors within. But it was shot thru the filter and style of a film noir. Some Resistance members come off more as ordinary people or gangsters as opposed to downtrodden soldiers.

Apparently, art house distributors not had little interest in Melville as a director, they apparently thought there would be no American audience for this during the heights of Vietnam. The inital lack of positive reaction in France didn't help. Never released in the US until last April. It's found somewhat of an art house audience, every critic who's seen it seems to have put it in their top 5 of 2006, and it was the surprise winner of Best Foreign Film by the New York Film Critics (a funny story how the critics managed to unintentially pull that off, but you can find some other film bloggers to tell you if you look hard enough.). The kind of film that stays with you days after it ends. I have no problem making plans to catch this again.

ANATOMY OF A MURDER- Mon Feb 26 at 8:15- MOMA- Part of a Pictures In Print series. Hugely successful Otto Preminger courtroom drama, with possibly Jimmy Stewart's best performance. He plays a defense attorney using his Golly gee mannerisms and basically plays dumb to try to win his case against prosecutors who feel superior. And this precursor to Matlock has a doozy of a case, defending an Army Lt. (a young Ben Gazzara) for the murder of his wife's rapist. The wife played not so innocently by a young Lee Remick, who got the role after Lana Turner said no after Preminger's refusal to let her wear designer gowns for the parts. That's right; designer gowns worn by a rape victim in a small Michigan town. You can't make this stuff up.

Also notable for having Joseph Welch, who who won his verbal throwdown against Sen. McCarthy in 1954, as the judge, and for Duke Ellington's standout score (he has a cameo).
Controversial in its day, for the casual use of words such as rape, bitch and sperm. So much so that Stewart's own father told a local newspaper that he thought this was a "dirty picture". The picture's release was blocked in Chicago, similar to Brokeback Mountain in Utah last year.
Despite this, 7 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Stewart, 2 for Supporting Actor including George C. Scott (his loss here made him so disillusioned with the process, he would refuse to ever accept an Oscar, which he did in 1971 for Patton) and Screenplay Adaptation. No wins though, it ran into the Ben-Hur buzzsaw that year. According to MOMA's website, "Seven years after Anatomy’s release, Preminger took his distributor to court in an effort to prevent the film from being shown on television with commercial interruptions.". Worth seeing if you have the time. I know it conflicts with 24, but that's why they made the VCR, Tivo, and DVD-R.

Written below is a description of why some these films have been put together at this time. The rest I have no time for, or it conflicts with other choices, but you can go to http://www.moma.org/ and find your way to film section to see and read more. I believe Lillian Ross, who covered the film and its making and controversies for Picture magazine will read what she wrote before the film, though I might be confused on that part. There might be a Q and A afterwards, but since Anatomy is so long, I don't know why they'd do that on Monday anyway. I'm so confused. But I digress, here's is MOMA's description, cut and pasted, below:

Pictures in Print: Lillian Ross & the MoviesFebruary 23–28, 2007
Reporting on the film industry over the last six decades, Lillian Ross has captured epic personalities and landmark moments in the history of cinema. Shortly after her start at The New Yorker in 1945, Ross wrote a series of articles on John Huston and the making of The Red Badge of Courage (1951), covering all aspects of its production as well as the critical and financial reception that greeted the finished product. Collected and republished as Picture (Rinehart, 1952), Ross’s pieces caught the studio system at a critical turning point, and they are widely regarded as the most informative and engaging record of a now-extinct filmmaking era. In subsequent decades, Ross reported on the battles mounted by Otto Preminger and Francis Ford Coppola against the film distribution system and spent reflective moments with Akira Kurosawa and Tony Curtis. Filled with crisp observations and astonishing quotes, her profiles reveal individual passions and provide a larger picture of the ever-changing landscape of American filmmaking. As a tribute to the vivid and enduring images created by her words, MoMA presents five films that have been illuminated by her writing. Related profiles are available at www.newyorker.com.

Long writing. Basically, I push the Westerns and Army of Shadows. I push Buffy, Once Upon a Time, and the Jimmy Stewart film as well. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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