Sunday, July 29, 2007
The Simpsons Movie: you will not find a more satisfying summer film. Better ones for sure, but not ones as pleasing, ever so slightly subversive, and is both fun and completely worth your time. Basically 2-3 episodes of the show barely held together. This veers toward "Beavis and Butthead Do America". That film, aside from the music video-style sequence in Vegas and the campfire hallucinations, stayed in the spirit of the show, and took minimal chances. The Simpsons Movie does not take the major chances that "South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut" did, which elevated them into a near classic. The Simpsons entertain, and just allow you to have fun. No need to go into plot, since the commercials have spelled out the basics, and some of it feels done over the shows 108 years, or however long its been on. But these combined episodes would rank among the best they've ever done.
But you get a healthy laugh quotient, and it stays together from beginning to end. The film, like the series, follows Bloom County creator's Berkeley Breathed idea of liking individuals, but no love for groups in general. No trust for government, as we see with thousands of government workers, serving as stenographers for every phone call in the U.S. And no belief in organized religion, as when Homer desperately goes through the Bible and cries "There's no answers in this book!". Also no respect for it's own bosses at Fox. Don't worry, they're big enough to take the hits. You have fun. This seems to have been a decent year so far for comedies, and The Simpsons Movie keeps it up. Well has been of what I've caught. It's so hard to nail comedy and I'm so glad when a film gets it right. Don't be surprised if you'll want to go more than once.
Note 1: I decided to include a picture of Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, who I've found cute going back to The Legend of Billie Jean in 1984/5 to today. If that makes me a freak, well then why did it take you so long to notice.
Note 2: The animated picture is one off your humble writer simponized. Not that far of I think . . .
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Mike here with a list of July revivals, second half. First, caught le Doulous. Very good print and sound quality. Good film overall. I will now catch Melville wherever it's convenient. You'll know what's coming ahead, the twists don't seem as fresh to us now. But back then, it must have been something special like now. You may know the path, but when the execution is superior, well that's all you can ask for. Moving on.
You may not believe this, but this is a pruned down list. If I couldn't muster enthusiasm in terms of writing something long, out. If I thought a film was only interesting on a date that was already heavily filled, gone. And if I missed something I really cared about, that's the kind of film that stays. Otherwise, here we go. But first, a reminder of other films from the previous list that I'd like to mention that are playing this weekend:
THE ENTERTAINER- Sat July 14 at 6:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and/or ICHI THE KILLER and/or WOLF CREEK- Sun July 15 at 2 (House), 4 (Ichi) and 6:30 (Wolf)- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave. and 36th St.- Like I said before kinda, I don't have to see all, but I give choices. Note there should be another episode of the original Spider Man animated series on this date at 1 and 3.
LOOK BACK IN ANGER- Sun July 15 at 8 - Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center- The only update is that the July 15 screening will be introduced by actor Michael Sheen, coming off his performance at Nixon/Frost.
Now for the rest of the list:
PIXOTE- Sat July 14 at 2- MOMA- A brutal, dark film from director Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman) back in 1981. Consider this as kind of like Larry Clark's Kids. It depicted a sub-world in Brazil, where abandoned or orphaned poor kids formed their own circles, whether they stayed out of school and went into either prostitution or crime in general. Played in a lot of cases by kids playing a variation of themselves. For them, it seems like there are only two ways out: jail or death. Bleak yet powerful.
Followed by Pixote in Memoriam, a 2005 follow-up of the young actors involved and interviews with Nick Cave, Julian Schnabel, and Spike Lee about the film's influence on them. Not a lot of original actors to interview, based on where they came from. Whole thing wraps up by 6.
MANHATTAN- Sat July 14 and Tues July 17-Thurs July 19 (tentative for Tues on my end.) at 1:30, 5:20, 7:15 and 9:15- Film Forum- If you're looking for something more upbeat, there's everything else on this list. Except for the horror films. Ok, Halloween is cheerier. But anyway, what comes up next on this chronological list, is arguably Woody Allen's best film. He wanted to make a film where he wanted to captured what he thought of as life in Manhattan, late 1970s. Put into the filter of one of his favorite films, Jean Renoir's The Rules of The Game. It may not be a life in New York-1979, but worth catching.
Hell of a cast. Diane Keaton, Micheal Murphy, Meryl Streep and Allen were the better known actors; Mark-Linn Baker, Karen Allen and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy in smaller roles. 2 Oscar nominations for the Screenplay (written by Allen and Marshall Brickman), and Mariel Hemingway for Supporting Actress. I hope as the relationship between Allen's and Hemingway's characters develops, all cries of "Soon-Yi" are held to a dull roar.
What it wasn't nominated for, which still stuns me, is Gordon Willis's stunning black and white Cinematography. Hard to say who should have been dropped from the category, considering the excellent work done in Apocayplse Now (the winner), All That Jazz, 1941 and The Black Hole. Wait, I know, drop Néstor Almendros for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer. But wait, he worked on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. DAMNIT!!! Anyway, a new 35mm scope print to enjoy the look.
In time for the release, there's an interesting article from the Village Voice. Apparently back in the day, it was seriously attacked, and it needed it's defenders. Even if you don't see the film soon, read the article, either on print, or at this link:
AMADEUS (The original, not the director's cut. I think.)- followed by post film talk with director Milos Forman, Tom Hulce, Christine Ebersol, and set designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein- for 5 dollars- Monday July 16 at 7- The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- 111 E. 59th st- A rare screening of the original Amadeus, not the Director's Cut. At least I don't think so; the time length listed on the Oscars.org website is about 22 minutes shorter than the director's cut. And it's certainly not the version that won 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. Was on the original AFI Top 100 list, but has since been dropped from the new recent list. An archival print.
Not historically accurate for the most part, but a history lesson is not the point of this adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play. It's more the opportunity to acknowledge both genius and mediocrity. And that mediocrity is not the most horrible thing in the world, but to envy genius to the point of destroying it and yourself, is. An overall glorious treat: musically, visually and acting-wise. Along with Spinal Tap and A Solider's Story, part of a series of standout films to come out in 1984. It's been years since it's been seen on the big screen.
After the screening, there will be a post film talk with director Milos Forman (maybe he will explain why producer Saul Zantz was correct to have 22 minutes cut out.), actors Tom Hulce (the title role) and Christine Ebersole (on her night off from Grey Gardens) and production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein (she won the Oscar for Amadeus's Art Direction; she was also nominated for Art Direction for Ragtime and The Untouchables.). I'm sorry to see Cynthia Nixon (who played a 16 year old maid. See her original hair color!!!) isn't available, but do you mean to tell F. Murray Abraham (Oscar winner as Salieri) isn't available?!?!? Really? Really?
Screening starts at 7, doors open at 6:30. General admission seating. Call 1-888-778-7575 to reserve, since it may not be easy to just walk over and reserve.
WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT for free (or with your Queens Library card or your signed application for one, depending where)- Tues July 17 and Wed July 18 at 10AM at Atlas Park Stadium 7 (80-28 Cooper Ave) and Tues July 24 and Wed July 25 at 10AM for free at Kaufman Astoria Stadium 14 (35-30 38th St)- I will keep pushing this animated film, something I thought was a better film in 2005 than Brokeback Mountain, The Constant Gardner, and Crash. When I'm sure enough people I know have seen it, then I will stop. But this isn't conducive to people with jobs, but for the kids in their lives. It's free to all who come supposedly, but at Regal Atlas Park, they're trying to keep people and kids from coming in, unless they show their Queens Public Library card, or if they sign up for one. A noble cause, done in a horrifically stupid manner. Typical of the Atlas mall.
Apparently it's the first film of a double feature in both theaters. At Regal Atlas, it's playing with Happily Never After, while at Kaufman Astoria, it will play with Open Season. Neither film I need to see. If neither week is doable, it will play again in Forest Hills in early Aug with March of the Penguins.
A DELICATE BALANCE- Wed July 18 at 6:30 and Thurs July 19 at 6:20- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema retrospective. But also part of a series of films distributed by The American Film Theatre. This group was dedicated to preserving theatre works through screen adaptation, from the early to mid 1970s. A rare period when Hollywood tried to make some form of art and not a money making enterprise. There were some critical successes, and very few that found an audience at the box office. This adaptation of Edward Albee's dark comedy is among the very few to be screened on a semi-regular basis in revival houses.
Directed by Tony Richardson, who also directed the above mentioned The Entertainer and Look Back In Anger. An older WASP married couple whose marriage has chilled to more of a steady chill, lives with two emotionally damaged relatives. All four of them quick with a barb. The "delicate balance" is disrupted when two old friends come over, terrified of "something" at their home. And they won't leave. And did they bring some of it with them . . . Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield play the main couple, Lee Remick plays their daughter, and Joseph Cotton plays one of the friends. Should be worth catching.
THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER- Thurs July 19 at 4:10 and 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema retrospective. Yet another film on this list from director Tony Richardson. One of the quintessential Angry Young Man films from Britain. Tom Courtenay plays a rebel youth who, when forced to go to reform school, excels in long distance running. It opens up new possibilities for him, but he will continue to rebel against what he perceives as an unjust system. No matter how it hurts him. Michael Redgrave (Vanessa and Lynn's father) is both sympathetic and off-putting as the governor of the school. But Courtenay, now Sir Tom, became a British leading man for the rest of his life with this performance.
WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN- Thurs July 19 at 7 and 10 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- Part of a Pedro Almodovar retrospective. I mentioned it before back in December, only this time it's at a more affordable 6.50. Like I wrote back in December, you've probably heard of this, so I'm not going into detail. Just don't feel like it. Next.
METROPOLIS- Fri July 20- Thurs July 26 at - Film Forum- In a world where one group of people are in charge of doing all the "thinking" and another group actually has to do the manual labor, not everyone is happy in this city full of skyscrapers. So let's keep the masses happy through the temptations of a beautiful woman, who's actually a robot. Throw in a young man who's not only in love, but also sees for the first time that not everyone is equal. After decades where this film bounced around, was chopped, and at one point, colorized and had music from Queen and Bonnie Tyler as part of the new soundtrack, a major restoration took place. Not everything could be found, either due to age, no ideas about preserving film history, the flimsiness of the material or the bombings in World War 2. But the original score was found and recorded in stereo. All seven versions were combined and restored, with title cards filling in the story blanks. This 2002 restoration, now returns to Film Forum, and this 2 hour, 19 minute version is as close as we'll probably ever get to definitive.
Fritz Lang was inspired by the Manhattan skyline when he created Metropolis's look. Huge sets that held thousands of extras. Live action and miniatures shot together for the first time. A robot who's initial look influenced C-3PO, and whose existence influenced HAL 9000, the Blade Runner androids and who knows what else. And as influential as the city looks of films like Blade Runner, Brazil, and Dark City have been, they had a source material to work from here. I've caught this before, and may not get to go again this time around. But by all means, go yourselves.
BACK TO THE FUTURE- Fri July 20 and Sat July 21 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 141-143 Houston St- A midnight screening of the biggest film of 1985. Came out of nowhere to find not only the family audience, but an overall alternative to the other major film from that year, Rambo Part 2.
CARRIE and/or HALLOWEEN with OUTER SPACE- Sat July 21 at 2 (Carrie) and 6:30 (Halloween)- AMMI in Astoria- Continuing their retrospective of horror films, AMMI presents a double feature 2 of the best horror films of late 1970s, and no its not George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead. They only showed the remake. First, Carrie, in an archival 35mm print. The Brian De Palma classic where Sissy Spacek (Oscar nominated) plays the awkward girl goes nuts and wont be laughed at anymore.
With John Travolta, Amy Irving and Nancy Allen when they were all quite young, and Piper Laurie (also Oscar nominated) as the mother of all demented mothers. It's Brian De Palma, so we not talking subtle here. But among is better films.
No interest on my end for Final Destination 3, even if Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in it. So on to Halloween at 6:30. Psycho may have been the first slasher film to hit it big in the U.S., but Halloween is what caused the slasher film to proliferate. Of course they're all carbon copies to this, one of the best horror films ever made. Interesting to look at, tightly edited, but it's director John Carpenter's iconic music that added the final touch. Not a hit in it's first weeks (months?) of release. It basically took word of mouth and a few key critical notices to make this one of the most successful independent films ever made. And as adorable as P.J. Soles is as one of the teenagers, you see a star in the making in Jamie Lee Curtis. Accept no substitutes or sequels or the Rob Zombie remake, go to the original.
Preceded by Outer Space, a 10 minute Austrian short that does something different with Barbara Hershey's scenes in The Entity. Never saw it, but it comes with Halloween.
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT with post film discussion and THE DESCENT with original British ending- Sun July 22 at 4:30 (House) and 6:30 (Descent)- AMMI in Astoria- The last of AMMI's horror retrospective. It's been showing horror films of this decade and from the 70s, and for horror fans, this double feature is worth noting. First there's Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. Basically a gang rapes 2 teenage girls, who've left the safety of their home environment and are in an area of town they should be in (and with their dress, were they asking for it?). Later, the gang seeks a place to hide in the home of one of the girls' parents. Payback anyone? Basically, a remake of Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring, but with rape, revenge, blood, and dark comedy. BERGMAN REMAKE?!? COMEDY?!?!? Well, from the future director of Scream, is that a surprise? But with all this button pushing, can you imagine the kind of button pushing going on here. Banned several times in Britain, this originally received an X rating here. This is the R rated version, which according to imdb, is only 10 minutes shorter. Some of the stuff that was originally cut out of the X rated version, was put back in by Craven, who got the R rating he was looking for, because a friend of his was on the ratings board!
Followed by a post film discussion from Cornell film professor Amy Villarejo. She'll talk about gender and sexuality issues brought up by both this film and the next one, The Descent.
The 2005 British horror film came out last summer. I'm sorry it didn't find a bigger audience, but if you don't jump more than once, you're not human. A chunck of the story elements will seem familiar, and please forgive some plot holes, but the execution is superior. This screening will have the original British ending, but I'm guessing Lionsgate didn't think U.S. audiences would care for it, so edits were made. So since most of you haven't seen this despite my pushing, so here's your last best chance.
THE STING- at Bryant Park for Free- Mon July 23 at dusk- Maybe a little wordy for a place like Bryant Park, but a fun film nevertheless. Maybe a little light weight for a 7 time Oscar winning Best Picture, but a well constructed caper film. Oh yeah, Redford and Newman with a strong supporting cast. I can understand those who feel Newman slept walked through most of his performance (I disagree), but it's tough against Redford's best leading man performance. His only Oscar nomination as an actor. Helped many people discover Scott Joplin's long forgotten music and bring Ragtime music back into the forefront. Raindate is Tues, July 24.
THE BORDER- Tues July 24 at 6:15 and Thurs July 26 at 3:45- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Leading the Charge: Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema retrospective. Not a British film, but only part of this retro because it's also directed by Tony Richardson. What this is, is a forgotten 1982 crime drama starring Jack Nicholson. He plays a border guard, desperate for money, and willing to look the other way at the corruption around him. Until the struggles of an illegal mother (the woman from Predator) and her baby awakens his conscience. Harvey Keitel and Warren Oates play his corrupt colleagues. A flop in its day, but the kind of film and role Nicholson would continue to tackle in The Crossing Guard and The Pledge.
ARMY OF SHADOWS- Thurs July 26 at 7:30- MOMA- W. 53rd and 5th- Since there are still a few of you I know who haven't seen Army of Shadows, I will still push this film. The 1969 French war film, that was finally released in this country last April plays yet again, in the very comfortable screening room at MOMA.
I went through it on my Top 10 of 06, but I will add that you should go into this knowing the setup. Director Jean-Pierre Melville shot a war picture through the filter of a film-noir. If you're looking for straight forward reality, you won't get except for 4 aspects. One, the Nazis occupying Paris. Two, how the French lived in general, whether they collaborated, resisted, or didn't have the will or desire to fight. And three, what the Nazis would do to whoever they capture. Never alter these parts, but then add the movie elements, you have one of the best films this country is slowly beginning to hear about. Go. But if the weekend is easier to do than a Thursday night, I have it listed below with something else . . .
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER- Thurs July 26 at 7 and 10 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- Another Pedro Almodovar film, at an affordable price. In this case, his most successful in the U.S. that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Still haven't seen it, and wouldn't mind.
SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS- Fri July 27 at 3:40, 5:35. 7:40 and 9:25- Film Forum- The start of the Forum's NYC Noir series. All films in the series has to be a film noir (or a modern noir) and had to be shot in or take place in at least one of the 5 boroughs. It's starts off with this bitter little gem of a film from 1957. Covering the world of the powerful and corrupt Walter Winchell-type (Burt Lancaster, casting himself against type flawlessly), and the suck-up press agent desperate to elevate himself (Tony Curtis in his best dramatic performance, with the exception of his perf in The Boston Strangler). It seems every other line from Clifford Odets, Ernest Lehman (based on his novella), and Alexander Mackendrick has more acid in it then say, the blood of the creature in Alien. Like with Woody Allen's above film, it captures a version of New York, although one where a lot of its landmarks and some of its texture is long gone. Some of you have seen this with me before, and some of you even stayed awake. The rest who haven't seen it, go. Don't think. Go.
ARMY OF SHADOWS and CRASH (1996)- Sat July 28 at 2 (Shadows) and 7 (Crash)- MOMA- Another chance to catch Army of Shadows. But for the same admission, you can also catch Crash. No, not the Oscar winner that is going to age real bad. But the NC-17 rated film directed by David Cronenberg. Very chilly film. A man (James Spader) who hasn't emotionally or sexually recovered from his traumatic car accident, tries to use a fetish sub-culture of people who get off in car wrecks, watching car wrecks, or having sex while getting into an actual car wreck. Good cast includes Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette, in a film not for the emotionally squeamish. I've already received feedback of extreme discomfort from this film. You realize this film doesn't make people have sex in car wrecks, right? It's not exactly promoting this as an enjoyable lifestyle, ok? You do realize this is a film? Does the subject matter make you queasy, or the idea of what Cronenberg could make you think?
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and LAURA- Sun July 29 at 1 (Woman), 2:55 (Laura), 4:35 (Woman), 6:30 (Laura) and 10 (Laura)- Film Forum- Part of the NYC Noir series. First, The Woman in The Window. Meek Edward G. Robinson gets taken in for blackmail and murder by femme fatale Joan Bennett, and needs the help of his D.A. pal Raymond Massey to get out of trouble.
I'll sit through it out of curiosity. However, the film I REALLY want to catch is Laura, in a new 35mm print. Detective Dana Andrews is obsessed with murder victim Laura, played by Gene Tierney. Among the suspects are outwardly suave Vincent Price and ultra prissy, ultra acidic critic Clifton webb (Oscar nominated). We see flashbacks from Laura's life that fascinate the detective more. And then . . . . sorry, if you never saw it, I'm not spoiling it. Though do look for a young (ish, kinda) Judith Anderson.
Among the best of the noirs. Amazing how much sexual tension there were able to get past the Production Code. An Oscar for the Cinematography, additional nominations for Director Otto Preminger (a replacement from Rouben Mamoulian; Otto chucked Rouben's old footage, reshot everything and changed the ending- WOW!), Art Direction and the Screenplay (3 writers were nominated, not Ring Lardner Jr., who did some script doctoring). First come, first served with this one. What I'm surprised wasn't nominated was David Raskin's score, which includes "Laura's Theme", which is hard to forget if you like the film. First come, first served with this one.
THE CAMERAMAN and SPEEDY- Mon July 30 at 7 (Camerman), 8:30 (Speedy, and 10:10 (Camerman)- Film Forum- 2 silent films from the NYC Noir retro. The Camerman was Buster Keaton's last film. The 7PM perf will have live piano accompiment. Speedy is a Harold Lloyd classic, where a former soda jerk turned cab driver has to race the actual Babe Ruth to the old Yankee Stadium, and the hijinks go from there.
Long list. Thanks for the patience, Later all.