Friday, November 16, 2007

November revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the rest of November. Before that, you still have a few days to catch Diva at the Film Forum. In short, part of this action/romance drama-comedy with opera scenes is what The Jason Bourne films want to be, but isn't. The major romance is not as developed as in American films, but it doesn't need to be considering how little they know each other. Their scene in Paris as it reaches dawn seems inspired by a similar scene in Woody Allen's Manhattan, but it works on their own. And the subplot (one of many) between the mysterious mercenary-type guy and his underage Vietnamese Girl Friday/sex slave would need a lengthy explanation and condemnation in an American film. But in Diva, it just is, they're fine with each other and that's all they're needs to be. I'm trying not to reveal too much, I want you to enjoy this on your own. You have through Tuesday the 20th. And don't forget; if you haven't done Blade Runner: The Final Cut, you still have some time left as well.

Enough about previous films, we have others to get to. Here we go:

THE RED BALLOON and WHITE MANE- Fri Nov 16, Mon Nov 19- Wed Nov 21 at 6 and 7:40 and Sat Nov 24 at 1 and 2:40- Film Forum- 209 W Houston St.- A unique double feature: 2 shorts from director Albert Lamorisse. Both are kid-friendly. First, The Red Balloon. An enjoyable short from 1956, where a little boy (Pascal Lamorisse, the director's son) bonds with his newest pal, a large red balloon. From there, they go on an adventure all over Paris, or it seems that way. Trust me, it's a lot better than it sounds. A short that pulled off the unexpected at awards time; it won the Palm d'Or at Cannes and it won a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Definitely unexpected for something that might be 36 minutes long at most and with minimum dialogue, and therefore, minimum subtitles. Seeing the trailer recently reminds me how well it holds up.

Double featured with White Mane, director Lamorisse's earlier short from 1952. Never seen it, so I can't talk alot about it. Basically, a young boy feels a bond for the title horse, the alpha male of a group of wild horses. The difficulties come from the horse that doesn't want to be tamed, and the ranchers ready to break the horse for their own needs. Two shorts for one admission, a combined 72 minutes. Not too shabby.

DIVORCE - ITALIAN STYLE - Fri Nov 16, Mon Nov 19 and Wed Nov 21 at 9:20- Film Forum- Another chance to catch this Marcello Mastroianni dark comedy. But only at 9:20 at night. Go figure. A new 35mm print.

BOTTLE ROCKET- Fri Nov 16 and Sat Nov 17 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 143 East Houston St- The first film of writer-director Wes Anderson, co-writer/co-star Owen Wilson and lead Luke Wilson gets a midnight screening. An action-comedy-drama mix, where a bunch of friends go on the road to start a crime spree. But they seem to resemble The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight more than any competent crew. With a small but key role played by James Caan. When the film first came out, Caan was credited by some credits as giving the only professional performance. By 2000, those critics were shut up, and the Wilson brothers have received their just due. Not the biggest hit of all Anderson's films, but an all-time favorite for some of his fans.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD- Sun Nov 18 at 4:30 (Robin Hood)- AMMI in Astoria- 35th Ave at 36th St- Part of a retrospective of films that were first screened and developed using 3 color/3 strip Technicolor. Basically, it allows the filmmakers to play with hues and shadows in the editing process. At least that's how I remember it being explained to me. Anyone who has better info on this than me, please let me know. Anyway, I've caught films on screen that used this process: Singin In The Rain and The Godfather Part 2. I also these films in cleaned up video copies. To quote comedian Larry Miller, it's the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it. It's as close as we'll get to seeing how the filmmakers originally intended their film to be seen. To quote from the Museum of the Moving Image's website:

"Like Dorothy waking up over the rainbow in the Land of Oz, Hollywood discovered a vivid new world of color in the 1930s with the introduction of three-color Technicolor. The Museum has received an extremely rare three-strip Technicolor camera; this important artifact will be unveiled in Behind the Screen on November 17. To celebrate the occasion, this series includes a selection of landmark films made with the richly expressive Technicolor process."

The Adventures of Robin Hood isn't the first Technicolor film featured in the retrospective. But it is the first I want to see. A restored 35mm print will be screened. Dashing Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) steals from the oppressive rich, gives to the poor, thumbs his nose at authority he doesn't respect and tries to get jiggy with, I mean, MAKE TIME with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland - sigh . . .). Oscar nominee for Best Picture, it won for Art Direction, Editing, and Original Score. The most difficult of the Technicolor films to make work up to that point, and the most successful for its time. And, most importantly, fun for all ages.

The highlight for me is the sword fight between Flynn and Basil Rathbone. 2 swordsmen at their best, just like in Captain Blood. Like I said before to others, I never seen better on-screen duelists then Flynn-Rathbone, unless the characters are named either Darth Vader and/or Luke Skywalker.

Not that I'm saying all others stink on ice. I certainly wouldn't say that about Chow Yun-Fat and the cast of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon". This film plays before Robin Hood at 2pm. You can see both for one admission. I don't have time for Crouching Tiger, but would love to make the time for Robin Hood.

I'M NOT THERE- Wed Nov 21, Fri Nov 23, Sat Nov 24 and Mon Nov 26- Thurs Dec 4 at 1:00, 1:15, 3:45, 4:00, 6:30, 7:00, 9:15, 9:30, plus 11:45 and Midnight screenings on Fri and Sat, Nov 23, Nov 24, Nov 30 and Dec 1- Film Forum- NOTE: THE 7PM SCREENING ON WED NOV 21 IS SOLD OUT.- Not a revival or even a re-release. But since it's playing at the Forum and I've seen the trailer, I want to give this a shot.

I enjoyed Behind The Music when it premiered on VH1 way back when, before it became a reality TV network. It followed a certain pattern, of rise, fall, then either redemption or death. You could watch it, learn something, then move on. Quick, good and mostly disposable. But when they make feature length versions of Behind The Music, and people push the idea that these are great films, boy that pisses me off. I like the lead performances of both Ray and Walk The Line, but they follow the same bullshit pattern that VH1 used to do, and I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid on this. 30-60 years from now, these films will be mocked just like I'll mock the Woodrow Wilson biopic in a few paragraphs from now. In fact, we only have to wait for December for the mocking to begin, when Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story comes out.

The very early buzz on that film is mixed. But I'd like to see a very good musical biopic. Will I'm Not There be that film? Not a clue, but I'll give it a shot. With a director like Todd Haynes, it shouldn't follow the typical biopic path. After all, he made Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story using Barbie dolls. Haynes angered the Carpenter family enough that they used the music rights issue as an excuse (allegedly) to have the film essentially blocked from viewing. And with "Velvet Goldmine", he managed to skirt away from any potential lawsuit from David Bowie, to give us the gist of 70s British Glam Rock. So I have high hopes.

So when you have actors of different ages, genders and races playing Dylan, you've got a shot. Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and potential Oscar nominee Cate Blanchett are among the different Bobs. Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are the different women in Bob's life. It will play for slightly over two weeks exclusively at the Film Forum only in NYC. So with my membership, it's worth going now. And better to see this in a non-profit as opposed to battling others at an AMC for example.

SABOTEUR and WHO IS NORMAN LLOYD?- Fri Nov 23, Sat Nov 24, and Tues Nov 27- Thurs Nov 29 at 6:10 (Saboteur), 8:15 (Lloyd), 9:45 (Saboteur)- plus Midnight screenings of saboteur on Fri Nov 23 and Sat Nov 24- Q&A with Norman Lloyd, director Matthew Sussman, and producers Michael Badalucco and Joseph Scarpenito, following the 8:15 show on Friday Nov 23- A week long tribute to Norman Lloyd, an actor, producer, director. His films have ranged from Spellbound, to Dead Poets Society to In Her Shoes. He's best known for his role on St. Elsewhere; he's guest-starred on TV series as varied as G.E. Theater, Kojack, Murder She Wrote, The Practice and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also produced and/or directed varying episodes of Omnibus, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Name of The Game and Columbo.

To quote from the Film Forum website: "Born in Jersey City 93 years ago and raised in Brooklyn (he took elocution lessons to remove the accent), Lloyd is undoubtedly the only person, living or dead, who can claim to have worked with Hitchcock, Renoir (The Southerner), Chaplin (Limelight) and Welles (Lloyd is one of three surviving members of Welles’s Mercury Players), as well as Elia Kazan, Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin, Bertolt Brecht, Martin Scorsese and Cameron Diaz." So basically, this documentary, Who Is Norman Lloyd?, documents this living history of show business, complete with stories from the man himself. Also interviews with Lloyd's friend Karl Malden, Ray Bradbury and Diaz, among others. After the 8:15 screening on Friday Nov. 23, there will be Q and A with the film's director Matthew Sussman, the film's producers Joseph Scarpenito and Michael Badalucco (who met Lloyd when they worked on Badalucco's The Practice) and Lloyd himself.

Playing with this tribute to Lloyd is Hitchcock's Saboteur. Lloyd makes his film debut as one of the villains. Robert Cummings is an everyman, going around the country looking for the people who framed him for a fire/murder. Arsenic and Old Lace's Priscilla Lane (a forgotten B-level leading actress I like) plays the spunky heroine. But the film is remembered by buffs because of the climatic scene on the Statue of Liberty. Also, keep an eye out for an uncredited Robert Mitchum. Consider this kind of story (co-written by Dorthy Parker) as a further development of The 39 Steps, which would be further developed by the superior North By Northwest. But this is still pretty good Hitchcock.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and/or THE WIZARD OF OZ and/or SINGIN' IN THE RAIN- Sat Nov 24 at 2 (St. Louis) 4:30 (Oz) and 7 (Singin)- AMMI in Astoria- 3 more films from the Museum of the Moving Image's retrospective of 3 strip Technicolor films. All 3 family films can be seen on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend for one admission.

First, Meet Me in St. Louis, with possibly the only happy family ever depicted on film. Second happiest if you count Leatherface's family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, we see a family enjoying their last days of togetherness, before a potential move to New York. A restored 35mm print will be screened.

Yes, the film is a color feast for the eye; otherwise it wouldn't be in this retrospective. But this film should be considered the best showcase of Judy Garland's talents. Is it her best performance? Probably not. That would be the last film on this list. Her most memorable performance? No, that would be the next film on the list. But for the full package, catch Judy here. With The Maltese Falcon's Mary Astor as the loving mother, Margaret O'Brien as the scene stealing kid sister, and Leon Ames as the epitome of the loving patriarch.

4 Nominations for Meet Me: for Screenplay (based on the stories written by Sally Benson about her and her family), Score, Color Cinematography (It lost to a film about Woodrow Wilson?!?!? A film that is only seen by 10 people a year on Fox Movie Channel), and for Song (The Trolley Song- "Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley . . .". Shot in one take!) Also featuring the holiday favorite "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

Next, The Wizard of Oz. A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS. Before the Sci-Fi channel comes out with some annoying "re-imagining" of this story ( I don't remember the name because it seems annoying), you can catch the most popular version. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch.

Now some of you will tell me you've already seen The Wizard of Oz on the big screen when it was re-released back in 1998. That releases' poster is on the blog. Incidentally, it was the last film to play in 1998 in Forest Hills (in Queens for those outside the borough) at both the Continental Twin (before it was refurbished into the 21st Century and became the Brandon.) and the very comfortable Forest Hills theater (before that was unfortunately turned into a Duane Reade.). Sorry, I digressed. The point I was trying to bring up is, this print of Oz at AMMI will be a 35mm IB Tech print. A brighter, more two-dimensional print of the film then what came out in 98 and what came out on DVD a few years back.

And finally, there's Singin' In The Rain. When it came out, it was successful, but ignored. Yes it was nominated for it's score, and the only actor nominated from this was not Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds or Donald O'Connor, but Jean Hagen as the funny, bitch-on-wheels diva. But it was dismissed as fluff, and people moved on. People in 1952 wanted to go on and on about Ivanhoe, John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Son Of Paleface, and the Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Greatest Show On Earth (considered by some to be the biggest mistake the Academy ever made in that category). But when people ever bring up quality films released in the U.S. back in 1952, it's High Noon, Rashomon, Singin' In The Rain, and that's it. OK, maybe The Quiet Man, but you'd have to be Irish and drunk to do that.

Now I don't have to see this particular print, since I caught it back in 04 I believe. But since I'd already be there to catch one of the earlier films, I'd catch this again. How much do I like this film? Let me put it this way: Before I caught it on the big screen, I respected it. Once I caught it on a big movie screen, it entered a permanent spot on my personal top 30. If you have the chance to go, go.

A STAR IS BORN (1954)- Thurs Nov 29 at 7 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd and 8th- May or may not be the best version of this story, but one that holds up despite the 11th hour editing chop-shop job done by Warner executives. After the film's premiere, they cut the film down to 2hr, 31 min. This is the version that will be screened on the 29th, as opposed to the 2hr 56 min version, where some of the scenes were restored with a combo of some lost footage and production scenes.

George Cukor's fist musical and first color film, where Judy Garland plays the unknown who becomes a star, and James Mason plays the leading man who discovers her, marries her, and falls apart due to depression and alcoholism. Bogie, Gary Cooper, Brando, Montgomery Clift and Cary Grant all turned down the role; they all apparently didn't want to be perceived as loser has-beens. Garland (singing mostly Ira Gershwin tunes) and Mason were both Oscar nominated, as was the Art Direction, Costume Design, Music and the Gershwin- Harold Arlen song "The Man That Got Away". Would be worth catching, especially for the price.

I just realized how many Garland films I posted. Not my intention. I didn't schedule them, I just post what I like or might be interested in catching. Definite interest in I'm Not There and anything at AMMI. Let me know. Later all.

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