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.

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