Monday, August 20, 2007

Revival update: Ziegfeld edition

Mike here with a revival update. Never mind my pushing films like Rear Window, Bringing Up Baby, and Midnight Cowboy. Apparently the Ziegfeld theater at 141 W. 54th St. is closing out the summer with a couple of revivals. Now in the past, they have done a series of films, usually 3 for a week, over the course of 4-7 weeks. Among the films I know people have caught through the Forum include the Lord of the Rings series, the Indiana Jones series, West Side Story, Superman the Movie, Ben-Hur, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey. But right now, they're only showing one film a week for two weeks. Here they are:

DIRTY DANCING- Fri Aug 24- Sun Aug 26 at 12noon, 2:30, 5, 7:30 and 10, and Mon Aug 27- Thurs 30 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER- Sun Sept 2 at 12noon, 2:30, 5, 7:30 and 10, and Tues Sept 4- Thurs Sept 6 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30.

Both films are watchable musicals from my lifetime. Both have been listed on the blog before, so I won't do a lot more again. My preference is the Travolta film, but I wouldn't mind either one. I don't know about my schedule during Dirty Dancing, and I wouldn't skip Midnight Cowboy or Bringing Up Baby over for this, but I list all the screening times anyway. Now the Travolta film does play on Labor Day weekend, but I'll be at the U.S. Open, so I didn't bother listing every day of it.

Also note that sometimes, if there are no Internet tickets sold, and if there's no major or even minor walk up business, the Ziegfeld will close without notice. This is especially true of Tuesdays and Thursdays, so be aware. But any chance to catch good films at the last showcase theater in Manhattan is worth writing up about. Later all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

August revivals: second half

Mike here with a list of films to catch for the rest of August. A long list, so I don't have the time to chit-chat. Here we go:

THE WARRIORS and SUPERFLY- Fri Aug 17 at 1 (Superfly), 2:50 (The Warriors) and 4:35 (Superfly) and Sat Aug 18 at 4:35 (Superfly), 6:25 (The Warriors), 8:10 (Superfly) and 10 (The Warriors)- Film Forum- 209 W. Houston St.- A double feature of 2 fun films. Not great, and not for those who think Grand Theft Auto has destroyed America. But it is fun.

First, The Warriors, from director Walter Hill. An update of Xenophon’s Anabasis (the route duplicated in a passable manner on the late 70s MTA subway maps), finds our title group framed for killing a powerful gang leader. The Warriors spend the night going from the Bronx and through Manhattan, trying to get back to their home turf of Coney Island. With the cops and some bizarre looking gangs nipping at their heels. A few great performances, but a lot of huh? type of perfs as well. Some really good action scenes. On one of my trips to see this, one of our crew described the film as such: "Sometimes the film goes from good to great to crap! Sometimes all in the same scene. Sometimes in the same shot!".

Was the Grand Theft Auto of its day. The commercials had to be taken off the air at a certain time. Some people didn't like the depiction of New York as rotting to the core, with inefficient police. It would have been a bigger hit, if gang violence in New York and Boston, hadn't caused the film to be pulled out of theaters. Reviled by critics then, praised as fun junk now.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER SING-A-LONG- Fri Aug 17 and Sat Aug 18 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- W. 3rd St. and 6th Ave.- It's been six months, so it's time to bring up the Buffy Sing along at the IFC Film Center.In Manhattan, you get to see the musical episode of Buffy "Once More With Feeling". You get to sing karaoke style with it, plus there's a cast a la Rocky Horror, performing right along with it. I've seen it with and without the cast. Trust me, see it with the cast. To quote comedian Larry Miller, "It's the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it!". And besides, it's fun. You don't have to know the songs to get into it, unless you're a whiny grump, like someone who went with in Huntington this spring.

CHARLEY VARRICK and PLAY MISTY FOR ME- Sun Aug 19 at 3 (Varrick) and 5:30 (Misty)- Museum of the Moving Image (formerly referred to as AMMI)- 35th Ave. and 36th St.- A double feature of two Universal films from the early 1970s as part of the Uneasy Riders: American Film in the Nixon Years, 1970-1974 retrospective. The first film is one I really want to make a push to see, while the second film would be good to catch as part of one admission.

First, Charley Varrick, from director Don Siegel. This was his follow-up to Dirty Harry. It's probably his best film that's been seen by the fewest people. Walter Matthau in the title role, plays a small time bank robber, who accidentally knocks over a bank that launders Mafia money. Now he has the law and the mob after him, and must use all his smarts to try to get out alive.

A major flop in the U.S. despite very good reviews, but a big hit in Europe. It's never been released on VHS, Universal cares so little about the film the DVD isn't even in Widescreen, and this has only enjoyed the rare screening on AMC and TCM. For fans of caper films and/or modern film noir, here's a treat you probably never heard of. Let's do this one.

“The narrative line is clean and direct, the characterizations economical and functional and the triumph of intelligence gloriously satisfying.” – Andrew Sarris.

Next is Play Misty For Me. Starring Clint Eastwood in his directorial debut. If you know Fatal Attraction, you basically know the story. Do note that this film was the one of, if not the first to tell this kind of story in a thriller format, decades before other studios would do this kind of film ad naesuem.

Eastwood is a DJ who has a brief fling with an obsessed fan (Arrested Development's Jessica Walter), who won't take no for an answer. Filmed in a gentle pace until things become intense, yet completed in a short amount of time (21 days) and under budget- hallmarks of Eastwood's direction. It's only a matter of time when someone in NYC does an Eastwood-as-director retrospective. Everything in this future retro springs from this flick. And as a bonus for going to see Charley Varrick, you get a quality thriller. Good deal for the cinephile I'd say.

Note: I think I mis-spelled cinephile. Luckily, I don't care. Moving on.

PSYCHO- Mon Aug 20 for free at Bryant Park- The Bryant Park film series concludes with another film on both AFI top 100 lists, and in my personal top 35. If you've never seen it, go. And if you've seen it only on TV, go. Granted, it can be hard to hear some dialogue in the park. But the film moves at a completely different speed on the big screen as opposed to TV. The shower scene should work great in the park. And even 50 years from now, Anthony Perkins's performance as Norman Bates will still be amazing, and probably still contemporary.

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS for free- Tues Aug 21 and Wed Aug 22 at 10AM- Midway Stadium 9- 108-22 Queens Blvd, Forest Hills- Playing with Barnyard- Before June 2005, if you told me that one of the best films of that year, would be a documentary following the struggles of penguins to breed and survive, I thought you would make be watch this with eyelid clamps and drops in my eye, like in A Clockwork Orange. Even near unanimous 3 1/2 and 4 star reviews wasn't enough for me to say yes. But then it slowly became a surprise hit, and slowly spread beyond Manhattan. Then I finally saw it, and then I finally enjoyed it.

Not for little kids, but I think those who are out of the second grade and up, can handle this and enjoy it. And, you can catch this for free if you have the time. Also playing with the penguins is the animated film Barnyard. I don't care about this film and am willing to skip it entirely.

KILLER'S KISS and SOMETHING WILD (1961)- Wed Aug 23 at 6:30 (Kiss), 7:50 (Something), and 9:55 (Kiss)- Film Forum- Double feature of 2 black and white NYC noirs. First, Killer's Kiss, the first film that Stanley Kubrick was willing to admit to. He actually made a feature length film at only 67 minutes long. A quickie of a film, where a boxer falls for a gangster's moll, as he tries to protect her from the vicious mobster. Not Kubrick's best, there are a number of fantastic shots that we know in hindsight mean an interesting future for this director. Most of these are in the main finale; a car chase that leads to a fight scene in a darkened mannequin warehouse.

Double featured with Something Wild. No, not the Jonathan Demme film from 1986, but the 1961 film starring Carroll Baker. It had disappeared for over 2 decades. The film, and Baker's performance, made a splash at IFC Film Center back in December. I would have mentioned it on the list, but I was frankly more interested in Walkabout and the Buffy Sing-A-Long that month.

Baker plays a rape victim about to go over the edge, when a man rescues her. But is he really a good guy, or another attacker? Look for early screen appearances from Jean Stapleton, Doris Roberts and Diane Ladd. Score by Aaron Copland.

XANADU- Fri Aug 24 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- E. Houston bet. 1st and 2nd ave.- The current Broadway version is a hit, but this one, the 1980 summer flop, is a fun bad movie. Olivia Newton John is probably at her most beautiful, and this was Gene Kelly's last dancing role, But his reputation couldn't be damaged, especially when he turns in the only credible acting performance. But all the momentum Michael Beck's career had after appearing in the above mentioned The Warriors, grounded to a halt from which he never truly recovered. Mostly the same story with director Robert Greenwald, forced to do mostly TV (The only notable standout- "The Burning Bed"), and documentaries such as "Outfoxed" and "Walmart: The High Cost of Living". It's one of the better bad movies around. Don't expect quality on screen, but expect fun.

REAR WINDOW and ROPE- Sat Aug 25 at 6:15 (Window), 8:20 (Rope) and 9:55 (Window)- Film Forum- A Hitchcock double feature, both starring Jimmy Stewart. I already did the second film listed here last Jan., but I wouldn't mind seeing it again with my favorite of Sir Alfred's films. First, Rear Window. I've talked about it, brought it up when it played at the Ziegfeld and at Symphony Space. I bring it up here now that it's coming to the Forum.

What makes this particularly good is this is a double featured which a good Hitchcock that even at this point, most of you don't seem to know. On Sunday Aug. 12, IMDB had Rope as the answer for their piece of daily trivia: Alfred Hitchcock shot this film in a series of 8-minute continuous takes, the maximum amount of film that a camera could hold. Yes, it feels unnatural at times, but the story is compelling enough enough, you accept the experiment. The story is a variation of the real life Leopold and Loeb murder. Two men murder a classmate/ friend of theirs, just for the moral superiority of it. They then have a dinner party over his hidden body, which his friend, relatives and fiancee attend. Also in attendance is their former professor, played by Stewart.

Like I said, I've already done Rope before, but I'll do it again with Rear Window if you like.

KLUTE and BORN TO WIN- Tues Aug 28 at 7:40 (Klute) and 9:50 (Born)- Film Forum- 2 NYC modern noirs that were both released in 1971. Flower power may have extended to these flicks''s world, but it didn't seem to help the characters involved.

First, Klute, the better known of the two from director Alan J. Pakula (All The President's Men, Presumed Innocent). It seems at first to be a simple story of a small town detective (Donald Sutherland), who appears to be out of his depth in New York, as he searches for his missing friend. But the film could be called Bree, a hooker without a heart of gold, who might have been the last person to see the missing man, who might be stalking her. It's through her that we see the seedy (and at times, very dated) world of pimps (the main one well played by the smarmy Roy Scheider), hookers, johns and drug addicts.

The film is pretty good. The mystery is secondary and not very hard to figure out. Nominated for Original Screenplay, though back then it was referred to as Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced- ARE WE KIDDING?!?!?

It did win Jane Fonda an Oscar for Best Actress. I try not to do a lot of hyperbole or over-inflated statements on this list. And I know there will always be a portion of the population that will always hate Fonda with a passion; and I don't have the desire to convince you otherwise, and I can't help but feel that it probably isn't justified. But I am a fan of great acting, and I do believe that Fonda in Klute, turned in the best performance to ever win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Ever. I have a hard time singling out one actor in any other category, but not here. When there was talk of remaking Klute in the early part of this decade, it didn't last too long, in part because there isn't another English speaking actress between 26-34 capable of reaching the emotional depths onscreen like Fonda did. For those who claim to be fans of great acting, you will have to give the devil her due.

Double feature with Born to Win. To refer to George Segal's character in this film as Born To Win, is like calling a fat guy Tiny. Segal's character is a user of people, as well as a drug addict. He runs around NYC trying to get a fix, with getting abused by corrupt cop Robert De Niro. Much like the later-to-be-mentioned Panic At Needle Park, he falls for a girl (Karen Black), but he's still heading straight down. Early performances from Hector Elizondo and Burt Young, plus Paula Prentiss as a fellow addict. Only available in this country on DVD at the 99 cent store. I wouldn't mind seeing this with Klute.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY and THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK- Wed Aug 29 at 1:10 (Cowboy), 3:15 (Panic), 7:30 (Cowboy) and 9:40 (Panic)- Film Forum- 2 films that show the seedy side of NYC circa late 1960s. Flower power didn't seem to extend to these films.

The first one, Midnight Cowboy is the most celebrated and was a hit. The only X rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, as well winning for Director John Schlesinger and Screenwriter Waldo Salt. Depicting the relationship between hayseed male prostitute Jon Voight and sickly slickster Dustin Hoffman. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Chances are, if you're looking at this post, you know the film. But there's also a good chance you haven't seen this film, except for maybe Hoffman's "I'M WALKING HERE!!!" clip. Now would be a good time to change this.

Double featured with a film I'm guessing only one or two of you have seen, and which some of you have probably never heard of. The Panic at Needle Park is a good film, but difficult has all hell to get through. Al Pacino made his leading man debut here, about a year before The Godfather. He plays a loser-type who meets the love of his life in good-girl girlfriend Kitty Winn (won Best Actress for this at Cannes, but was never seen again after the first two Exorcist films). We see them get together, and slowly fall apart through drug addiction.

Pacino shines, and you'll spend time wondering why Winn stopped acting after the mid 1970's after you see her. But the characters' progressive downward spiral made this too tough to draw an audience back in 1971, and except for the occasional screening on Fox Movie Channel and a token DVD release, it still remains under the radar. Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne wrote the screenplay, researching and living with addict couples for months. The film's failure drove them away from pushing their own ideas through film, and having them be more writers for hire when it came to movies. Worth catching.

ALL ABOUT EVE and PI- Wed Aug 29 at 5:45 (Eve) and 8 (Pi)- MOMA- W. 53rd and 5th Ave.- A very different double feature of two New York films at MOMA. First, All About Eve, one of the few films to be on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my own personal top 35. A life in the theater (soft of) kind of film with terrific performances and some of the bitchiest dialogue known to man. I mean, my God, more acid drips out of say, Bette Davis's and George Sanders's tongue, then from the creatures in Aliens. 14 Oscar nominations, 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the Screenplay. I brought this up in December, since only one or two of you I know for sure has seen this. It wasn't possible then, maybe it is now.

But when I did bring this up back then to a certain person who currently plays a King in Once Upon A Mattress, he accused me of being 70. He might still accuse me of that now since I'm bringing this up again. So to counteract this, note that for the same admission, you can also see Darren Aronofsky's feature film debut, that came out of nowhere in the art house circuit back in 1998. An ultra low budget film shot, sometimes illegally, in New York. A genius mathematician, suffering paranoia, feels he's close to unlocking the mysteries of life. Suddenly he finds some of his paranoia to be justified. Offbeat and takes its chances, but succeeds more often then not. And at 84 minutes, it doesn't overstay it's welcome.

BRINGING UP BABY- Thurs Aug 30 at 6- MOMA- A prime example of 1930s screwball comedy at its best. From director Howard Hawks, with Katharine Hepburn as the eccentric heiress type, and Cary Grant as the stuffed shirt type. There's a story here, but it's too light to bother going into it here. The Philadelphia Story might be the best film they ever did together, but this was Hepburn and Grant's best display of on-screen chemistry. Even though a leopard is ready to steal scenes at any given moment. A flop in its day, was placed in the National Film Registry for preservation in 1990, and is one of the films that made it to both AFI top 100 lists.

WAIT UNTIL DARK and CRY TERROR!- Thurs Aug 30 at 7:15 (Dark) and 9:20 (Terror)- Film Forum- If you don't want to see Bringing Up Baby on this night, we can do these two flicks. I brought up Wait Until Dark last month, so I won't go too much into that. Though the last scene between Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin makes the whole film worth it.

Cry Terror is the curiosity for me, because I've never heard of this until now. Thriller where James Mason is tricked into making bombs for bad guy Rod Stieger who wants to put them on planes leaving NYC. When Mason finds out, he and his daughter are kidnapped by Stieger, his hot evil girlfriend Angie Dickinson, and dominated loser-type Jack Klugman. Don't know much else about it, but I'm curious.

THE GOONIES- Sat Sept 1 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The Steven Spielberg produced summer hit of 1985, which still has a cult following, gets the midnight treatment. Yes, I know the date says September and not August. But I will not have the time to put a list up before this date. It runs all 3 nights of the Labor Day weekend, but this is the only doable night for me. I should write more about this flick, but it's late, and it's only the Goonies, that's good enough for me. Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah. . . . Ok, that's a lame reference to Cyndi Lauper's hit theme song. I'm sorry . . .

I push hardest for Charley Varrick/ Play Misty for Me double feature, The Warriors/SuperFly double feature and Klute. Also a hard push for Midnight Cowboy, Bringing Up Baby, and Psycho at Bryant Park. Anything else is a bonus.

Also of note is The French Connection at Film Forum from Aug 31- Sept 6. I did this before, so I'm not in any hurry. If you really want to catch this, let me know, but otherwise, you're on your own. Later, and have a happy two weeks of the U.S. Open, which I hope to overdose on. 3 weeks if you count the free qualifying matches and free practices, starting Tuesday Aug 21. Later all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Alessandra Ferri at ABT part 2

Editor's Note: This essay was originally suppose to come out no later then the July 4th weekend. But the writer is such a lazy bastard, it finally comes out now. Trust me, if I could afford to hire a new one, I would. Luckily for me, the writer of this piece also took all the photos.

Like I said before, I'm breaking off from the blog's main idea for something I've been involved in for a little bit. It's in the entertainment business anyway. For several weeks, I did background at the Met for the American Ballet Theater (ABT), in productions of Manon and Romeo and Juliet. Actually, I've done this off and on since 1997. Now the feeling I had back then was, you'd have to pay me to sit through ballet. Not modern dance per se, since I liked not only some stuff I saw in college, but also the times I went to see the Alvin Ailey troupe. Well sure enough, I was paid to watch it. I'm not retiring off it, but it keeps me off the streets. While occasionally, I might be cast in another ballet here and there, Romeo is what I usually get to be in and see.

Lots of times, I get to see they're human. Not every dance step among the Corps De Ballet is perfect, but damn it, keep moving or else. Maybe a Mercutio jumps too hard onto a harlot he's supposed to kiss, and they both land on the steps. Maybe the main sword fight between a Romeo and a Tybalt contains just as many misses as hits. And my kingdom for a new horn section for this week's orchestra (and the strings would occasionally have their noticeably off moments). I remember back in 2003, when the new young dancers had to be given the note NOT to undress each other onstage. Gee, some people in the audience could actually look down from up high, and see dancers remove the laces in the back of each other's costumes, and start feeling around back there.

Of course the flip side of being human on this particular stage, is to pull off incredible physical feats. After a while, you get your favorites. And you look forward to seeing them once you know they're doing a particular performance. Gennadi Saveliev is my favorite Tybalt still around, Craig Salstein and Herman Cornejo are my favorite Mercutios, and Marcelo Gomes is my favorite Romeo. Ethan Brown was my favorite Tybalt, but he retired in 2004, and the farewell was so emotional that even the stage managers start to bawl. I'll be honest, I'm not good with names. I had to look up the first 2 names, but I know their faces, so the instant feelings of good will come pretty quick. And a few of the soloists I learned by name, but most I couldn't recognize out of makeup. And most of them have since left or retired.

But the ballerinas were the ones I tended to know by name and sight, except for the Russians. Didn't matter much for me to know who was dancing, it wasn't my job. Just try to fit the costume, don't step on anyone and if possible, be 5'10". It also didn't matter since I knew the quality. And also there are ones you like in general, like the retired Susan Jaffe, Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy and of course, Alessandra Ferri. If anything, because of the high quality, I never felt the need to pick a favorite. Jaffe seemed the most elegant. Herrera the little spark plug flinging her body around. Ferri the better actress with the best death scene as Juliet. Kent pulling in the best aspects of Ferri, Jaffe and Herrera. And Murphy for being a redhead. Yes, there is more, but this will be about as long as a novel so I need to move on. And yes, I'm a jerk for just singling out Murphy just because she's a redhead, moving on.

But it was hard not to know that Ferri's last performance was coming on June 23. The note inside the Met that the June 23rd evening performance is sold out and no more comps are available, had been posted for quite a while. When Ferri performed in Manon the week before, it was hard not for every fifth person to bring it up at least once. A Craig's List ad of someone willing to well compensate the person he buys a ticket from was forwarded to me. I even heard from someone I hadn't heard from in years, asking if I was still around ABT, and could I get him two tickets? Where was your dumb ass in April?

Then on the evening of the 23rd, I made the mistake of coming into the Met from the plaza. With the combination of people trying to get into the swing dance area, people who don't want to pay to get in the swing dance area but will dance around it, people going into the Met to see the ballet, and the people trying to get a ticket, it was the sea of humanity. And the desperate ticket buyers-to be, were easy to break down. The loud ones tended to show they mean business by flashing a 5 or 10. The quieter ones tended to flash Andrew Jackson, some of Andy's look-alike brothers or even a 50.

You could feel the excitement backstage just before showtime. Maybe the slight nerve here and there, that they don't want to be the ones to screw up, but everyone's experienced enough that they know their jobs. And know they are part of something special. Or in the case of someone like Roberto Bolle who played Romeo (his butt check is in the 13th picture from the top), was brought in to play Ferri's last performance because Ferri herself wanted him to perform that night. Pretty much the main roles were who Ferri wanted onstage for her farewell, but Bolle was the one who had to be brought back, and given a 3 performance contract in order to do this particular performance (or at least that's what one of the veteran supers told me). So when one makes the joke backstage of "I wish more people were up for this performance. I wish more people were excited to be here tonight.", you know the person was having some fun and knew otherwise. No, really, I was making a joke. Why don't you believe me?!?!?

Now did I get to see a lot of Ferri's performance this night? A little more than usual. Not in Act 1 though. I figured the crowd would be there at the start, and throw in the dancers trying to change costume, and the dancers and supers getting ready to go on, I didn't need to fight the crowd yet. And I didn't need an obnoxious middle aged male dresser with brown hair and glasses on a power trip on my back. Again.

Now Act 2, there isn't much for Juliet to do. She gets married in the middle of the act. Everything else takes place in the marketplace. The dancing in celebration, 2 sword fights, multiple deaths, etc. The kind of stuff designed to keep the non-fan awake. Act 3 is where get the juiciest dancing/character work occurs for Juliet. You know the story, so I don't have to go into it. But it's this act, when Juliet is being forced to marry another man by her family, as well as her indecision about taking the potion and the agony after she drinks, that is the big scene.

I got into my monk costume for this, and there were more people backstage then usual. Usually, there's crewmen, a stray dancer and other supers dressed like monks, who are waiting for their cue to line up and go onstage. And also there's this one super not on the clock. A blond teenage girl, who watches as much dancing as she can, is always there to see Act 3. I got to know her slightly in the production of Manon the week before. Onstage, her beggar character was a little more aggressive then usually. She goes right to my blind side, and my closed fist slams straight into the top of her skull. WHACK! Boy, did I get scared for her, but luckily she was more stunned than hurt, and very briefly at that. I couldn't apologize more profusely the next time I saw her.

Sorry, I digress. I came down and saw quite a number of my fellow supers, all done for the night or season, watching from the downstage section of backstage. Most of whom wouldn't have been there if some of us didn't get the word from one of the stage managers that we could be down there, as long as we stayed in the wings and didn't get in the way. Very little in terms of other dancers or VIPs; we were backstage left, and most of them were on the right.

We did our monk bit, which required us going up a high flight of stairs while carrying a long candlestick. One wrong step on the stairs in our long robes, and down we'd fall like dominoes. That it never happened in all my time, considering we would have the occasional last second replacement monk go up for the first time in front of an audience, or people who couldn't see because they couldn't wear their glasses onstage, amazes me every time I think of it. Everytime I did that walk, I know I was stepping on my robe at least twice a run. Oh, the potential injuries I could have had . . .

And out they came for the curtain calls, after Ferri had some suitable time getting her final bows. Flowers from different sides. Stage managers yelling at everyone "IF YOU'RE NOT PRESENTING FLOWERS, GET OUT OF THE WAY!". Not only supers, but a few crew people and a few dancers, neither of whom appeared used to being spoken to in that manner, unless it was in rehearsal in the case of the dancers. You had seemingly everyone who ever danced or worked with her come out and give flowers. I recognized Ferrera, who held her emotions in as long as she could, and Jaffe, who returned for this. She got her multiple curtain calls. They eventually opened the curtains all the way, and they were nice enough to remove part of the crypt set. You know, to avoid any unintentional symbolism: "Hey, your career's over, you're now another step closer to DEATH!". At one point, it seemed like some balloons exploded and confetti spread out. The happy shock is what I managed to photograph as well as I could; the first picture on the blog. And the last of the flowers were delivered by Julio Bocca (a close friend and colleague of hers, returning for this special occasion) and Ferri's adorable little girls (They are in the second and third pictures from the top.). The youngest, whenever she got the chance, would take the time to get Ferri's attention to say "You know what? I love you mommy." It happened on at least two occasions. Then the curtain closed, and the company got the time to express their own private love.

And why am I writing about any of this? Because with all of this, I noted one expression and one feeling only throughout that whole experience for Ferri: happiness. This singular feeling stayed with her from the second the curtain was down and never left. Other thoughts or emotions might have briefly crossed across her face, but nothing to change this singular thought. I am happy, I am happy, I am happy . . .

Now, this may sound strange, but I've rarely seen someone so happy. Wait, stay with me. How many times have you been happy, and only felt happy? I mean so happy that other thoughts don't creep into your mind. Self doubt, uncertainty of how long this will last, self loathing, what have you.

Those ideas tend to get in our way because we're only human. But how many of us have felt this kind of unencumbered happiness? Not very often I'm guessing. A birthday, a first kiss, after a successful birth, a moment of success on the athletic field or on stage, the end of a wedding ceremony when you're declared husband and wife. Like I said, not too often.

Now think about how many times you've seen a person this happy? Very rarely I'm willing to bet. And how often do you get to the chance to see one of your fellow humans experience this moment? Almost never I'm willing to bet. I was very luckily to see that up close in Alessandra Ferri on that night. It's enough to make one forget their troubles for a while, which it certainly did for me as we all started leaving the stage and the theater on our own little clouds.

Now according to one of my super/ dance veteran sources, this might not be her farewell. She might choose to do a last performance or two for La Scalla, where she started out. Is it true? Who knows? As far as I'm concerned, Whatever, I'm so used to false retirements from say, Michael Jordan, Sugar Ray Leonard, David Bowie, Gywneth Paltrow and Celine Dion, I could care less. In closing, I'll just paraphrase a line from Steven Hill on Law and Order, changing it for these purposes: "She just retired as number one at 44. Good. Now she can get on with the rest of her life.". Take care, lady. Take care.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

August revivals: first half

Mike here with a list of August revivals, first half. Enjoyed Manhattan. A great looking print that is more like Rules of The Game, a film that you'd need dynamite to get out of my top 100. Maybe Manhattan as well. I agree with who I went with, that if you wait long enough to catch a film you want to see, and you get into a good mindset and great timing, you can really sit back and enjoy. Plus any chance to see Mariel Hemingway in the late 70s through mid 80s is well worth admission. Sorry, my daydreams interfered again. Anyway, I hope some of you don't decide to wait too long on these flicks. Here we go:

16 CANDLES- Thurs Aug 2 at 7 (but I must know by noon on Thursday) and 10 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- In August, Chelsea Clearview will screen films that could only come from the 80s, for only 6.50. The sleeper hit of the spring of 1983 that put writer-director John Hughes on the map. Molly Ringwald became a leading actress for about 5-6 years as a girl who can't get any acknowledgement of her 16th birthday, but Anthony Michael Hall is still trying to overcome the image of geek supreme made in this picture. 80s trivia contests and other stuff is suppose to occur during all four 80s movies this month. Also, keep an eye out for a very young John and Joan Cusack.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE- Sat Aug 4 at 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's NYC noir series. I did this film before in Sept 2004, and I liked it enough that I nominated it a couple of times in a Movie Night group I was involved in. It was eventually voted for, but we never got around to seeing it. This might be their only chance to see it. This Sat night is not the greatest of days, but it's Friday night screenings are impossible for me to make, so there we are. For the rest of you who haven't seen it . . .

A subway car is hijacked by terrorists who go only by color names like Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown (Gee, I wonder where Tarantino got the idea for Reservoir Dogs? Oh, he was doing a homage? YEAH RIGHT!) They demand one million dollars or they will kill the hostages one per minute. From there, it becomes a mental cat and mouse game between the hijacker leader (Robert Shaw) and the Columbo-esque Police Lt. (Walter Matthau) who just happened to be on duty at the time. Depicts a New York that was dirtier and more dangerous then most readers under 32 can remember. But it feels like NYC in every other way: from the different type of people that make up this city, to subway and traffic problems in Manhattan, to the way humor is used by New Yorkers in even the oddest or toughest moments. If you're a fan of films like Reservoir Dogs or Inside Man, this is for you.

THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG with post film Q and A with director Lawrence Schiller- Sun Aug 5 at 7- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- An adaptation of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (he also wrote the screenplay), covering the last 9 months of killer Gary Gillmore, who thanks to his intense lobbying, became the first man sentenced to death after the death penalty was reinstated back in 76. It was shown on NBC in 1982, but was released unedited in parts of the U.S. and overseas. This is the version that will be screened at Lincoln Center. The quality of the film was never in question, but all the praise went to Tommy Lee Jones (Emmy winner) as Gillmore and Rosanna Arquette as his girlfriend. Christine Lahti and Eli Wallach co-star. The TV movie was directed by Lawrence Schiller, who apparently came off as a journalist/hustler, who paid his way to get Gillmore's story. Film Comment editor Gavin Smith will conduct a post-film Q and A with Schiller.

BILLY LIAR and GODZILLA- Mon Aug 6 at 6:15 (Billy) and 8:30 (Godzilla)- MOMA- A double feature of 2 different kinds of film altogether. I think the fact that they are both films and that they were both shot in black and white. First, Billy Liar, a dramedy from director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Day of the Locust). Tom Courtenay plays a Walter Mitty- type, except his vivid daydreams don't shield him very well from job issues (embezzlement), family issues, and 2 girlfriends. But then he meets his dream girl, played by Julie Christie, but will he choose her over his fantasy life? Sounds like an interesting film.

Would definitely like to catch it as a double feature with Godzilla. This is the original version, not the version American distributors chopped up and stuck Raymond Burr in. Just because this started a long chain of crappy monster films, doesn't make this junk. You see consequences to the destruction, a believable romantic subplot, and a more political film then you might think. Yes, a chunk of it looks cheesy and cheap, but in this era, it looks more endearing than insulting. Combine its anti-nuke message with a brief scene between boyfriend and girlfriend that American studios couldn't do in the 50s, and no wonder it was cut up here. You haven't seen it, and/or you like current films like "The Host", you should like this more. Granted you'll probably have to have either an early or late dinner, but otherwise, go for it.

WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT- Tues Aug 7 and Wed Aug 8 at 10am for free- Midway Stadium 9- 108-22 Queens Blvd in Forest Hills- I've pushed this big screen adventure of the genius yet stupid Wallace and his infinitely smarter dog Gromit before, and I'll keep pushing it until most of you see it. Playing for free with Open Season, which I don't care about. Conveniently timed for the rugrats.

METROPOLIS- Wed Aug 8 at 8:30- Two Boots Pioneer- E. 3rd St bet. Ave A and B- For those who didn't get to see Metropolis at the Film Forum last month, you get another shot. The Forum is easier to get to, but the Pioneer is a small comfortable theater with a good sound system. At least it was last time I was there, which I believe was July or August 2004 when I caught Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB- Thurs Aug 9 at 7 and 10 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- W. 23rd and 8th- Another John Hughes teen flick from the 80s, only more successful and more iconic. Ringwald, Hall, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy (before she allegedly became professionally nuts), played all of the types found in high school, held in Saturday detention by psychotic principal Paul Gleason. Oh I'm sorry, he was normal? HA!!!! Anyway, most white U.S. teenagers from 1985-1993 swear by this film, and its impact and low admission price are too much to ignore. Like with 16 Candles, there are 80s trivia contests, and other things I don't recall.

THE DARK CRYSTAL with pre-film intro by Dave Goelz- Fri Aug 11 at 9:30- Cinema Arts Centre- 423 Park Avenue in Huntington, 100 Yards South of Rt 25A, Main Street- Part of a weekend-long retrospective of Jim Henson, and most of his TV and film works. But this is the only film I could possibly make. Henson and co-director Frank Oz's (with an uncredited assist from Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz) attempt to do a Lord of The Rings-style film with the latest in animatronics technology, received only minor acclaim and decent U.S. business in the Christmas of 1982, but became one of the biggest films to ever hit Japan and France up to that point. It still has a fervent cult here. A children's film that, despite some lulls, keeps the adults entertained, without being cheesy or insulting to the kids. Dave Goelz, who played 2 voices in the film, but is best known as the voice of Gonzo, will be at the screening. My guess is, he's doing an intro, but not sure. If you have kids, or can travel out to Huntington, just go. Don't think, since your brain is your enemy, just go.

THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS with introduction by co-writer Jacob Brackman and THE LAST DETAIL- Sat Aug 11 at 3 (Marvin) and 5:30 (Detail)- AMMI in Astoria- A Jack Nicholson double feature that should be real good. Part of AMMI's retrospective of movies: Uneasy Riders: American Film In The Nixon Years, 1970-1974. First, Marvin Gardens, an obvious play on the Monopoly board game. Nicholson and brother Bruce Dern get involved in a get rich quick scheme that will inevitable fall apart. Ellen Burstyn plays a former beauty queen who, as she's approaching 40, is now a has-been in this world. One of Nicholson's team-ups with director Bob Rafelson that was surprisingly ripped upon release, then flopped at the box office. History has been kind to since, but that doesn't mean a new audience has followed. Now's the time to change that.

The film was written by Jacob Brackman and director Rafelson. Brackman will introduce the screening.

Followed by The Last Detail, directed by Hal Ashby, which found the audience Marvin Gardens didn't receive. Nicholson is one of 2 Navy MPs who decide to give their prisoner (Oscar nominated Randy Quaid) a good time on the way to prison. Like Nicholson's then popular character said, which was used in the advertising "No *#@!!* Navy's going to give some poor **!!@* kid eight years in the #@!* brig without me taking him out for the time of his *#@!!* life.". Nominations for Nicholson and screenwriter Robert Towne, who would later reteam for Chinatown, Note the early appearances of Michael Moriarty, Nancy Allen, and a very cute Carol Kane.

A double feature I really want to make the time to see.

ROSEMARY’S BABY- Sat Aug 11 at 9:35- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's NYC Film Noir series. Polanski's thriller of Mia Farrow being a tool by some strange old people, her husband, and a certain horny deity has aged quite well since 1968. An revival option on a date that is chock full of good films. An Oscar for Ruth Gordon for Supporting Actress, and a nomination for Polanski for Screenplay Adaptation.

Which brings something up for me. If you know a person who plans to see a Roman Polanski film on Saturday August 11, and that film turns out to be Rush Hour 3 (Roman has a supporting role) instead of Rosemary's Baby, disown the person. Cut the person out of your life. This person is
too stupid to live, and if it's possible, find a way to keep them from ever breeding, without killing them that is. If they have a kid, call Social Services, cuz otherwise the kid(s) will grow up to be stupid too. Moving on . . .

MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER- Sun Aug 12 at 5:45 (Streets), 7:50 (Taxi) and 10 (Streets), and Mon Aug 13 at 3:10 (Streets)- Film Forum- A double feature of the first 2 pairings of actor Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The first one, I have never seen on the big screen, and I really want to. Not Scorsese's first film, but it is his first studio film. Done cheaply since Warner Bros was only going to devote so much Dirty Harry profits to the director of Boxcar Bertha. In college I dealt with a Scorsese sycophant, I mean fan, who talked about the raw power of this film was superior to the polished works of Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Considering he was coming out with Casino and The Age of Innocence, it was easy to conjure up babel like that.

But just because the film is raw as opposed to polished, doesn't mean it doesn't belong near the top of the director's work. Just that when you have Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and lower profiles works like After Hours and Kundun on your resume, it's hard for a lot of films to get the respect it deserves. And respect AND viewer ship is what Mean Streets deserves. More of a character study than a plot driven project, Harvey Kietel's small timer is who we follow, but De Niro's living embodiment of a psychotic screw-up is what steals the show. The quintessential New York, shot mostly in Los Angeles. Please let's make time to see this.

Now, Taxi Driver, a film that could only have come from the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate 70s; that is a film that gets all the respect it deserves, except for losing the Best Picture Oscar to Rocky. Is on both AFI top 100 lists, and in my own personal top 100.

Why am I not writing more about this. One, if you look at this blog in even in passing, you know the film. And if you don't, just make the time and go. Two, I've done this film at the Forum already. I'll gladly go again, but only with Mean Streets.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER for 5 dollars with post film Q and A with actresses Karen Lynn Gorney and Donna Pescow, costume designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein and casting director Shirley Rich- Mon Aug 13 at 7:30- The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- 111 E. 59th St.- Part of the Academy's salute to Oscar winning and nominated films. It didn't win its only nomination, Best Actor for John Travolta. What will be shown is a new print of the original theatrical release from the Academy's archive. Yes, I have the poster of the PG rated

Watch John go from TV sitcom guy, to Disco icon, then Movie icon, as the king of Brooklyn disco, who wants more out of life, and out of Brooklyn. The film is specifically structured where if Tony doesn't see it happen, the audience doesn't experience it. At least three quarters of it is basically Tony slowly growing up, which is why the film survived the "Disco Sucks" backlash. The rest is at the disco, where director John Badham's visuals, Travolta's dancing, and The Bee Gees' music is what's remembered and loved the most. One of the first films to ever use the Steadicam.

After the film, there will be a discussion and Q & A. Actresses Karen Lynn Gorney (Sarah, the girl who shows Tony there's life outside of Brooklyn) and Donna Pescow (Tony's Brooklyn girl), casting director Shirley Rich and production designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein (who attended last month's Amadeus Q and A) will participate.

CASABLANCA- Mon Aug 13 for free at dusk- Bryant Park- Speaking of a film being on both AFI Top 100 lists as well as my own personal top 100, try Casablanca; a film on both AFI top 5 lists, as well as my personal top 10. Generally, films with long passages of dialogue don't do well in Bryant Park unless it's a classic of some sort. This certainly qualifies. If you haven't been to the the park this summer or ever, this is a great film to start. The lawn opens at 5, the film begins at dusk. Bring your largest beach blanket, and your biggest dictionary to sit on in case you're short. The film starts at dusk.

Definitely would want to go for the Nicholson double feature, The Dark Crystal, Mean Streets, and the Godzilla double feature the most. Either Saturday Night Fever or Casablanca would be fun, as would anything else on the list. Though with the two films on Aug 13, let's break it down. Casablanca is one of the best ever made, in an evening picnic atmosphere under the stars. Saturday Night Fever is a good film in an air conditioned theater, with a Q and A afterwards. Decide and let majority rule.

Look for the end of the month to be jammed up even more. And with the U.S. open, more baseball and exhibition football, I might have to make some drastic cuts. Later.