Sunday, March 25, 2007

April revivals: first half

Mike here again with a list of what to catch in early April. This may not be the most popular list I've ever put by a wide margin, but I want to at least put it out there that my tastes are not always obvious. The first film listed here is not in April but this Thursday, but since I just found out about it, I want to put this fun film out there as soon as possible:

DEATH ON THE NILE- Thurs Mar 29 at 7 for 6.50- Clearview Chelsea Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th Ave- For those who like Agatha Christie mysteries, murder mysteries in general, or the British in general, here's an easy going film for you. Peter Ustinov makes his first appearance as Hercule Poirot. I don't know if I would put him over Albert Finney's version, and I wouldn't put him over David Suchet's great interpretation on tv. But this is Ustinov's best film as Poirot. The time, money and care was put into this. The wonderful Egyptian locales and the Oscar winning costume design helped create a fabulous look.

Once again Poirot must stop his vacation and a solve the murder of an heiress (future Bond babe Lois Chiles) aboard a ship on the title river. A wonderfull cast. David Niven assist Poirot, and the suspects include Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Olivia Hussey, Angela Lansbury, Jack Warden, Maggie Smith, Jane Birkin, and George Kennedy. C'mon, not every film has to be serious, they can be fun too.

LILI MARLEEN- Wed April 4 at 6- MOMA- W.53rd and 6th Ave.- Part of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective. I caught a bunch of them at Film Forum's retrospective back in March 2003 or 04, I forget. Some of them are playing at MOMA's retro in April, but I'm not going to list most of them or put them on, in case someone says yes. And if you think I'm going to list his 15.5 hour film, no matter how many parts it has been broken up, you're a crackhead.

This however, was the one film I wanted to see there and didn't get to. It plays again now. Controversial in Fassbinder's native West Germany for depicting the time period in a kitschy, irresponsible manner. How dare he throw in Busby Burkley elements! Fassbinder was more interested in telling a love story, and would not let historical accuracy get in his way. It was originally shot in English for American distribution, then dubbed in German. I don't know if there will be any subtitle reading or not for this. But anyway, I'm going to be a little lazy, and just cut and paste from MOMA's website:

Screenplay by Fassbinder, based on unproduced screenplays by Joshua Sinclair, Manfred Purzer; adapted from the autobiography of Lale Andersen. With Hanna Schygulla, Mel Ferrer, Christine Kaufmann. In Fassbinder’s only film set during the Third Reich, Schygulla, a fine singer, plays an emotional chanteuse who falls in love with her Jewish accompanist and becomes a recording star by performing “Lili Marleen,” the song that Goebbels derided and Hitler loved.

"A movie with a fantastic plot and very rich and energetic mise-en-scene. The feelings Fassbinder expresses in Lili Marleen are sweeter and more compassionate than any he has expressed before"
Andrew Sarris

DESPAIR- Fri April 6 at 8 and Mon April 16 at 6- MOMA- Part of the Rainer Werner Fassbinder retrospective. Never seen this. But I am very curious about this one, because of the writers involved. Tom Stoppard wrote the screenplay, adapting Vladimir Nobokov's novel. Nominated at Cannes for the Golden Palm. For the plot, here it is from imdb:

Germany in the early 1930s. Against the backdrop of the Nazis' rise, Hermann Hermann, a Russian émigré and chocolate magnate, goes slowly mad. It begins with his seating himself in a chair to observe himself making love to his wife, Lydia, a zaftig empty-headed siren who is also sleeping with her cousin. Hermann is soon given to intemperate outbursts at his workers, other businessmen, and strangers. Then, he meets Felix, an itinerant laborer, whom he delusionally believes looks exactly like himself. Armed with a new life insurance policy, he hatches an elaborate plot in the belief it will free him of all his worries.

THE NIGHT OF THE SHOOTING STARS- Mon April 9 at 8:30- MOMA- Italian film that made an art house impact here in 1983. Never seen it and would like to. Here's the plot of this film, according to imdb:

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

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE- Tues April 10 at 6- Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center- W. 67th St.- A forgotten crime drama from 1973, that in part, dismisses the saying 'The grass is always greener on the other side'. Robert Blake plays a short Arizona CHIPS-like cop, who dreams of being a Homicide detective. He gets his wish, only to discover his life is now much more complicated. Job responsibilities are tougher, his personal life is in upheaval, and can he trust his superiors?

Underrated crime drama, with a terrific lead performance from Robert Blake. Yes, the same Blake acquitted of murder. But if you remember him form In cold Blood, you can imagine how good he really is here.

THE COLOR PURPLE with Whoopi Goldberg in a post screening Q and A for 5 dollars- Mon April 16 at 7- The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- 111 E. 59th St.- Steven Spielberg's first attempt at a serious, non-genre film gets a rare, affordable screening. Controversial in part because both the NAACP and the book's author, Alice Walker, were not thrilled with both who was director, and the changes made from the book. That part seems to have been swept away over time (in part because Walker has embraced the film as being different yet special), but as a curious side effect, the film seems to have been swept away and forgotten as well.

Was also controversial at Oscar time, when it received 11 nominations, including Best Picture, but nothing for Spielberg as Director. Then, it won nothing on Oscar night, tying it with The Turning Point as the most nominated film to not receive an award.

Also notably in the casting of both Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg; both cast in their first major film, both Oscar nominated, and both haven't left the public consciousness ever since. Goldberg herself will do a Q and A after the screening.

If there's any interest in this screening (happening the day our taxes need to be mailed out), I need to know ASAP. To quote, Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be reserved by calling 1-888-778-7575. Depending on availability, tickets may be purchased in person on the night of the screening. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

REAR WINDOW- Tues April 17 at 8- W. 95th and Broadway- I bring up this AFI top 100, my personal top 30, and my favorite Hitchcock film yet again. I've talked about it before, so I'll move on.

Let me know ASAP if there's any interest. Before I go, some of you may not know that from late April thru mid-May, the Film Forum will be doing a series called 60s Spies a Go Go. Some fun, good or bad, spy films from the 1960s, plus every official and unofficial James Bond film from Dr. No thru A View To A Kill (except for Moonraker; sorry JC). I'll go into some of them another time, but here's the link, in case some of you want to get a quick look and make early plans:

Later all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

March revivals: second half

Mike here with a list of March revivals for the second half. Almost as small a list as last time. Here we go:

RAISE THE RED LANTERN- Thurs Mar 15 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- 209 W. Houston St. bet 6th- I once again bring up this film that has been described as a kind of Doll's House in reverse. I wrote about it previously, so you can go back to that.

BLUE VELVET- Fri Mar 16 and Sat Mar 17 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd and 6th Ave.- Part of IFC Film Center's David Lynch midnight series. In my top 5 ever, possibly higher. This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and Kyle MacLachlan's career back from the dead. Isabella Rossellini established herself as an actress once and for all, and Dennis Hopper became a working character actor forever, in a career performance. Also drew major controversy in its day for its, let's just say, sexual connotations, and what was required of Rossellini in her role. I believe it was Ebert who called this film the most vile thing he had ever seen (or something along those lines). Rosselini attacked him in response (verbally attacked I meant). A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself.

REAR WINDOW and LIQUID SKY- Sat Mar 17 at 4(Window) and 6:30(Liquid)- 35th Ave. and 36th St.- AMMI in Astoria- A double feature that's part of the museum's Fashion In Film Festival. A very strange double feature to be sure. Strange enough that I will do both films if possible, not one over the other. Not on the level of previous double features, like Pink Flamingos and Yojimbo, but close.

First, Rear Window. An AFI Top 100 film, in my personal Top 30 and my favorite Hitchcock. I wrote about it back in October, so you can look it up in one of the previous blogs. Bard College professor Pat Kirkham gives some kind of pre-film talk, regarding the fashion choices made in the film and how they relate to each other, etc.

Next, Liquid Sky. A New York cult film from 1983, that played for several years as a Midnight movie. Aliens land on Earth, seeking the substance they find vital, heroin. Landing on what they think is normal Earth, downtown New York during the punk scene, they become fascinated with a female model and her casual sex ways. They also become interested in an androgynous male model. Both models played by actress Anne Carlisle.

The film had champions in a way, in the form of Siskel and Ebert. But after the 1980's, the film has dropped out of sight. Some put it on their list of bad films. Others put it in their list of fascinating cult films. A time capsule of the look and feel of the downtown scene of early 80's New York, in a sci-fi filter. To quote the museum's website, "Director Slava Tsukerman, cinematographer Yuri Neyman, and production and costume designer Marina Levikova will introduce the screening."

NETWORK- Mon Mar 19 with TCM's Robert Osbourne and director Sidney Lumet at 7:30 for 5 dollars-The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- 111 E. 59th st.- A cheap screening of one of the more influential films of 1976. Considered a bit outrageous when first released, but more prophetic as each year has passed. Tell me that cable news shows and the shows that spoof them don't resemble anything depicted in Network. If you have the balls to me I'm wrong . . .

10 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director Sidney Lumet and Actor William Holden. 4 Oscars, for Supporting Actress, Actress for Faye Dunaway, Original Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky and Actor for Peter Finch, the first posthumous winner in an acting category. Some feel Holden would have won if Finch had not died. But once you deliver something that hits the pop culture zeitgeist like the "I'm mad as hell" monologue, it's hard to overcome. Network became only the second film to win 3 of the 4 Oscar acting categories (Streetcar was first.)

The screening will be hosted by TCM's Robert Osborne, with director Lumet as a guest. Whether he does an intro or a Q and A was not made clear by the oscars' website. Call 1-888-778-7575 to reserve. Plan to be there about a half hour beforehand, seats are first come, first served.

JOHNNY GUITAR- Thurs Mar 22 at 7 for $6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th Ave. A simple Western, starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge, and directed by Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause), that was successful back in 1954, then went away. Until Francois Truffaut and some gay film buffs got ahold of it.

So is it a simple, entertaining Western? Is it an allegory of the Blacklist and the McCarthy witchunts? It was written unofficially by black-listed screenwriter Ben Maddow. Is there high entertainment value from the over-the-top perfs of both Crawford and McCambridge? Both ladies hated each other. They fought constantly, and according to IMDB, Crawford was so mad (and drunk), that once she flung McCambridge's costumes along a stretch of Arizona highway. And is it true that the real story of the film, is that McCambridge's character is actually a closeted lesbian, spurned by Crawford, and now seeking revenge? I would say, yes to all of the above. It works as a Western, the allegory is right there, the lead female perfs have high camp value, and I would say you could say no about the lesbian overtones, but there's enough there to read that into it. Worth catching in any case.

THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . .- Fri Mar 23 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- Charles Boyer and Vittorio De Sica stars in Max Ophuls' film, which will be screened in a new 35mm print. Nominated for costume design. Don't know a lot about this film, and frankly, I thought there would be no interest. But, there is. So instead of writing up something I'm not familiar with, I'll just cut and paste the following from the Forum's website:

1953) “Unhappiness is an invented thing.” The earrings of Madame de... (her name is never spoken in full) pass from husband to Madame to moneylender to husband to mistress to lover, and back again — until someone barks, “Stay away from me with those infernal earrings!” — and fin de siècle high society is exposed in its frivolity, hypocrisy, and inability to love. The sumptuous sets and costumes, and the swirling camerawork — dollying, tracking, craning — of Ophüls’ trademark romanticism — its highlight the progress of a romance traced through a single rapturous dance through time shifts and costume changes — transform the astringency of Louise de Vilmorin’s original novella, while the performances by Danielle Darrieux in the title role, Charles Boyer as her husband, and Vittorio De Sica as her lover are “quite likely the finest each has given” (Pauline Kael). “The greatest film of all time . . . Below the glittering surfaces, the lush decor, the sensuous fabrics, there is the cruel sensibility of an artist mourning the death of this world and all other worlds to come. Inside the beautiful ladies and lovers of romance lurk the grinning skeletons of tragedy. If the cinema had produced no other artists except Ophüls and Renoir, it would still be an art form of profundity and splendor.” – Andrew Sarris. “Perfection... A novelist may catch us up in the flow of words; Ophüls catches us up in the restless flow of his images — and because he does not use the abrupt cuts of ‘montage’ so much as the moving camera, the gliding rhythm of his films is romantic, seductive, and, at times, almost hypnotic. The virtuosity of his camera technique enables him to present complex, many-layered material so fast that we may be charmed and dazzled by his audacity and hardly aware of how much he is telling us. Should the day ever come when movies are granted the same respect as other arts, The Earrings of Madame De... will instantly be recognized as one of the most beautiful things ever created by human hands.” – Dave Kehr.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SING-ALONG- Fri Mar 23 and Sat Mar 24 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Once again, I bring up this fun outing to those who haven't done this. Go to the Feb second half listing for what I wrote there.

TRUE STORIES- Sun Mar 25 at 6:30- AMMI in Astoria- Part of the museum's Fashion In Film Festival. A cult film from 1986, starring and directed by Talking Heads' David Byrne, and written by Byrne and Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart). Actual tabloid stories are combined to tell a story in a small Texas town. Interesting cast includes Byrne as narrator, John Goodman (possibly his best screen performance), Swoosie Kurtz and the late Spalding Grey. Quirky, fun film, with Byrne using his sensibilities to great effect. Imagine a happy David Lynch projected on screen. That includes a number of Talking Heads songs and stylized costumes to match.

Offbeat list I think. Let me know. Later all.

P.S.: A link to the famous Mad As Hell speech from Network. Try pulling off this monologue:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March revivals: first half

Mike here with a list of March revivals for the first half. Much smaller list then usual. Here we go:

RAISE THE RED LANTERN- Fri March 2, and Sat Mar 3 at 7 and 9:30, Sun Mar 4 at 7, Wed Mar 7, Fri Mar 9 and Tues Mar 12- Thurs Mar 15 at 4:30, 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- W. Houston St. bet. 6 and>Varick- A new 35mm print of the 1991 film. Gong Li stars as a young woman in 1920 China, forced into an arranged marriage with a man with other wives. She must then compete with the varying hierarchy and jealousies of the other wives. Highly praised film with gorgeous cinematography. Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film of 1992. Briefly banned in China until the mid 90s.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN- Fri Mar 2 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 E. Houston St. bet. 1st and 2- One of my favorite bad films. This god awful, so full of itself, yet still fun film, made Arnold Schwarzenegger a Hollywood leading man, for better or worse. Don't blame me; I was too young to help this film be one of the top grossing films of the summer of 1982. There are so many hot chicks here, your head will spin. Sandahl Bergman is just one of them. Max Von Sydow and James Earl Jones are in full paycheck mode here. Written by Oliver Stone and director John Milius; it's amazing they ever worked again after this crap. For fans of fun junk like The Warriors, here's another one. Enjoy.

THE ELEPHANT MAN- Fri Mar 9 and Sat Mar 10 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd St. and 6th Ave.- Another of several David Lynch films getting midnight screenings. Mel Brooks had control of this property, not based on the hit play. He felt he himself couldn't get the film made properly and still be taken seriously. He found who he thought was the perfect director in Lynch, after watching a screening of Eraserhead. Anthony Hopkins is the star, but John Hurt gets the attention as David Merrick, the deformed man wanting a little dignity. Heartbreaking at times, moving at the end. A hit for its day, compared to films like Tess and Raging Bull. 8 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Hurt for Best Actor, and Director and Screenplay for Lynch, but surprisingly not for the stunning Black and White cinematography of Freddie Francis (Glory, Cape Fear remake). The Formula and Coal Miner's Daughter were both nominated ahead of Elephant Man? Oh, HEEELLLL NO! Anyway, one of the best films of 1980.

CLINT EASTWOOD'S IWO JIMA FILMS- Sat Mar 10 at 3(Flags of our Fathers) and 6(Letters from Iwo Jima) and Sun Mar 11 at 4(Iwo Jima) and 7:30(Flags)- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave. and 36th St.- The two Clint Eastwood World War 2 films, are played back to back. Most of you haven't seen them, based on their poor box office grosses. The underrated Flags of Our Fathers, and Letters From Iwo Jima, one of the best films of the year. Worth catching if you've never seen them.

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM- Sat Mar 10 for 5 dollars at 8pm- The Makor- Steinhardt Building, 35 West 67th St.- Brutally dark Darren Aronofsky film, covering 4 people's lives, spiraling out of control due to drug addiction. Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly star, but Ellen Burstyn received the kudos and an Oscar nomination as Leto's mom. Tough, but well made. One of the best of 2000.

Short list. Let me know ASAP. Later all.