Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jan revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of the first month of the new year. Here we go:

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948)- Tues Jan 30 at 8- Film Forum- A reminder to catch the Preston Sturges original. And speaking of his films . . .
THE LADY EVE and THE PALM BEACH STORY- Mon Jan 1 at 6:15 (Lady Eve), 8:10 (Palm Beach) and 10 (Lady Eve)- Film Forum- The last of the Preston Sturges retrospective. As close as Sturges could get to sex comedies back in the early forties. There's The Lady Eve, where con artist Barbara Stanwyck targets rich "dope" Henry Fonda. Naturally there's all that falling in love, the thawing of cold cynical hearts, misunderstandings, none of this necessarily in that order and often repeated. Then there's The Palm Beach Story, where Claudette Colbert runs away from husband Joel McCrea to Palm Beach for a quick divorce, after being refused to let her use her sex appeal for raising money for his inventions, only to be pursued by rich Rudy Vallee, whose sister Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon) chases McCrea, who is introduced by Colbert as her brother. Confused? Then wait till the action is ratcheted up.

You can go wrong with seeing either screwball comedy. So imagine if you see both?

BIGGER THAN LIFE- Fri Jan 2, Mon Jan 5 and Tues Jan 6 at 5:40, 7:50 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm scope print of this 1956 CinemaScope film. A film I've surprisingly never heard of before. I mean, I know the film's lead James Mason, his co-star Walter Matthau, and the film's director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause). And according to imdb, the average shot length is eleven seconds. But aside from being an inspiration to Godard, I know nothing else. Haven't seen a frame of it. But I'm very curious to try it. NOT available on DVD in this country, and 4 minutes longer then the version occasionally shown on Fox Movie Channel. So this is the only way to see this as originally intended. Okay, because it was shot in Cinemascope, the screen would usually be bigger than any of the Forum's screen, but still. as for anything else, I cut and paste the following from the Forum website:

(1956) “God was wrong!” proclaims James Mason — but then he’s in the grip of all-out 50s mediocrity: a too-intellectual, bow-tied grade school teacher, his house festooned with travel posters for places he’s never been to; forced to spend odd afternoons as a cab dispatcher to make ends meet; his job, friends, family, and even himself, self-described as dull. But then there’s bad news and good news: he’s got a rare arterial disease that will probably finish him within a year. The good news? There’s this miracle drug (cortisone) that might just save his life. But there could be some little side effects… Time capsule of the 50s: the d├ęcor, the blocky suits and omnipresent hats for the men, the gowns that wife Barbara Rush tries on during the new Mason’s ill-advised splurge fest, the hat she wears on Sunday, the conformity (everyone in town seems to attend the same church) — an unexpected setting for Mason’s tour de force performance, as he moves from frumpy nice guy to full-blown, drug-induced megalomaniac. Color; Approx. 95 minutes.

ANGEL HEART- Fri Jan 2 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- A favorite of mine. Though not well known by those under 30, and not necessarily liked by those over it. Consider it a horror noir, from director Alan Parker, back in 1987. Also, on my second straight list, I have a Mickey Rourke film, where he gives a very good performance, and the audience wasn't there for it. Reviews were better, but the film was no less controversial.

Rourke plays a slimy NYC private eye, hired by mysterious Robert de Niro, whose character goes by the name Louis Cypher (get it, get it? Not that hard.). Louis hires the private dick to search for a missing man. The mystery goes from NYC, to New Orleans (good location shooting), with a conspiracy, voodoo, and a hot girl played by Lisa Bonet. The controversy came with the nude sex scene between Rourke and 19 year old Cosby girl Bonet. See every part of her, have a little blood drip down on her back and butt. Nope, the MPAA was NOT thrilled by this at all. The movie was sold for the scene, and then promptly rejected.

For me, Parker did a good job having the noir and horror elements work in tandem. The scenes between de Niro and Rourke are too cool for school. It helped that they hated each others guts. Allegedly, de Niro felt Rourke was letting his talent go to waste ,and both felt the other was a dick. If Bobby was any other actor, Rourke would have throttled him, but since Bobby wasn't . . . Forgotten now, but if you're into a change of pace and can stay up . . . I totally understand that I'm in the minority in terms of liking this, but like it I do.

EUROPA EUROPA and/or FROZEN RIVER- Wed Jan 7 at 6 (Europa) and 8:30 (Frozen)- MOMA- Not exactly a pairing of happy to be alive flicks to be sure. A potential double feature of two different retrospectives at MOMA. I have seen neither film, and you don't have to see both. 1 admission covers both films, so I'll try to be brief about both.

First, Europa Europa. Part of the Agnieszka Holland retrospective. She's best known for both directing this film and The Secret Garden (not the musical), as well as co-writing parts of the French Three Colors trilogy (White and Blue). Since her films are not what you call commercial hits, she's worked on American TV recently, directing episodes of The Wire and Cold Case.

I'm very curious to see this. Based on a true story, of a young Jewish boy, who hid in plain sight from the Nazis. By becoming a member of the Hitler youth. Co-starring Julie Delpy (White, Before Sunrise/ Sunset) as an Aryan girl he falls for. Won both New York Film Critics and National Board of Review for Foreign Film, and Holland was Oscar nominated for Screenplay Adaptation. I wouldn't mind seeing both, but if I had to choose one, I'd pick the older film then the newer release.

Not that I wouldn't catch Frozen River. Part of MOMA's Contenders series: 2009 films likely to get critic's awards and/or Oscar nominations. A drama written and directed by Courtney Hunt. Starring Melissa Leo (a character actress whose husband supposedly funded the film), as a desperate single mother, who involved in smuggling illegal aliens from New York to Quebec. Strange how when first screened at Sundance this January, or at MOMA this March, or even in its August 1st release, that this film was considered way too dark in showing the economic strife that forces someone to do this. Now, not so much. Is in this series for its critics awards, Independent Spirit and SAG nominations, and the possible Oscar nomination for Leo.

ALL ABOUT EVE- Thurs Jan 8 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- Another cheap screening of another classic, in my personal top 35. I've brought it up before on previous lists, which I why I won't go into it further, and I know some of you have caught this before. But for those who haven't, here's a good place and time. Also, if you want, this is good to use as an unofficial double feature. Pay to see this at 7, then sneak into a potential Oscar nominee afterwards, probably something that starts between 9:15-10. Afraid it doesn't work the other way around, since the revival tickets are checked a second time before you can sit. You'd have to settle for one of the best American films ever made.

THE HUSTLER- Fri Jan 9 at 1:30- MOMA- Classic Paul Newman film as he plays "Fast" Eddie, cocky incarnate, and the rise and fall as he tries to become the best at pool. A lame synopsis, I admit. But to go further without spoiling the film for some is bad form. And to go on about the snappy dialogue and the grimy ambiance of this sports noir, requires a better writer than myself. I just want you to go. I'm just sorry this isn't playing at a more convenient time.

Oscars for Art Direction and the terriffic Cinematography. Nominations for Picture, Robert Rossen for Director and Adapted Screenplay, Newman for Actor, Piper Laurie for Actress. This was the year where for the Supporting Actor nominees were George C. Scott as the slimy manager, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, plus Montgomery Clift for Judgement at Nuremberg and Peter Falk for Frank Capra's last film, Pocketful of Miracles. They all lost to George Chakris from West Side Story. They might all have been better actors, but could they dance Jerome Robbins' choreography and sing Sondheim? I guess NOT!

Let me know if there's interest. Later all. And Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December revivals: now thru the end of the year.

Mike here, running late with the list for the second half of December. No time to go into details with all films, so I will put the list into an easy to read breakdown: by date and by time. If I want to go into details with any of them, I will. Hear we go.

Friday December 26:
3:05- MEAN STREETS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

4:30- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe for me) at Film Forum.
6:05- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at Film Forum.

7:55- THE GREAT MCGINTY at Film Forum.

8:45- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

9:30- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

12Midnight- YEAR OF THE DRAGON at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Mean Streets, I've brought up before. Part of the start of the Martin Scorsese retrospective, though the retro is limited to De Niro-Scorsese, with few exceptions. No double features either, otherwise the idea of doing Mean Streets-Goodfellas, or Goodfellas-King of Comedy, is salivating for a film buff.

Sullivan's Travels and The Great McGinty isn't the start of the Preston Sturges retrospective, but they're the first films in it I can get to. Consider Sturges to be the Sandy Koufax of film directors. A few years where he was one of the very best, then gone. Sullivan's is considered (arguably) the best in his career. Joel McCrea plays the director of simple entertaining films, who dreams of making an Important Film. He goes out on the road, posing as a hobo, to learn about the common man, and gets a rude awakening. He also gets Veronica Lake, nice if you can get it. A classic in the comedy genre, though it works more than as just a comedy.

Year of the Dragon is a film I like, despite it's controversy. Michael Cimino, directed this, years after his Heaven's Gate as his splashy return to the Hollywood A list. It didn't work, thanks to the EXTREMELY mixed reviews at the time. Some praised it, but others attacked the depiction of Chinese in Chinatown, and not the movie from start to finish. It depicts a world where the main good guy is a Vietnam vet who hates all Asians, and is now a NYPD Captain assigned to take down gangs based in Chinatown. I agree its depiction of Chinese does cross the line of good taste on occasion. And misogynistic? Definitely. But we're not talking about something offensive on the level of Birth of a Nation here (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.). The story and its execution, along with Mickey Rourke's performance, make it worth catching. Rourke plays the police captain who will step on toes, especially on those on his side, to take down Chinese gangsters. But he has an adversary in the new young Chinese boss (John Lone of The Last Emperor), who is willing to escalate the violence. These two violent men will let the bullets fly to take the other down, and God help the friends, subordinates, and civilians who get in their way.

Written by Cimino and Oliver Stone, just two years after Scarface. As you can tell, this isn't a film with PG-13 lightness to it. With as many bullets flying as a typical John Woo flick. But instead of Woo poetic lyricism, we're in violence with consequences territory. Not always, but enough to make you feel the pain behind each attack and loss. And now, with all the praise Rourke is getting as the burned out has been in The Wrestler, you can see a more vital Mickey, pulling off a complex character with much physical vitality. Partially shot in North Carolina on sets made to look Chinatown. In part to avoid the potential anger from the natives, and partially to stage some the complicated parades and/or gunfights.

For the record, some of the reviews were really brutal. To the point where it got several Razzie nominations. Some complained about Mickey, others complained about the casting of the hot model Ariane as a TV reporter. I disagree with it. You may not like the film as much as I do, but you would be seeing potent film making not seen a lot these days from a Hollywood studio.

Saturday December 27:
4:30- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe) at Film Forum.

5:30- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

6:05- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

7:55- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe) at the Film Forum.
9:30- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

12Midnight- YEAR OF THE DRAGON at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Goodfellas I won't go much into. Until Return of the King, the last new release I paid three times to see in a theater. If you're reading this, you've probably heard of it. On both AFI Top 100 lists. On my personal top 35, and probably much much higher then that. Used as an example of what Oscar got wrong for Best Picture. As much as I like Dances With Wolves (I'm annoyed with the attacks it gets), it was NOT Best Picture of 1990. Oh HELL NO! If Friday is not doable, Saturday is great.

I'm not into The Great McGinty, by the way. I don't have to see it, but if we were to catch Sullivan's Travels and one insisted on staying for this I wouldn't mind too much. I've cut and pasted a description from the Forum's website:

"(1940) “If you don’t have graft you’d have a low type of person in politics. Men with no ambition.” Boss Akim Tamiroff helps crooked bum Brian Donlevy become an even crookeder governor, until honesty rears its ugly head. Written seven years before, Sturges sold the script for $10 (upped from $5) for the chance to direct. Result: his only Oscar (the first-ever Original Screenplay award) and the first of seven smash hits. “Capra with the gloves off.” – Raymond Durgnat. Approx. 81 minutes"

Sunday December 28:
6:45- THE KING OF COMEDY at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

Part of the Scorsese retro. Big flop from early 1982, but also one of that year's best film. Similar to a musical where the songs all happen in the context of a show or in fantasy. Here, most of the comedy is in the context of the talk show or in fantasy. Mostly it's a dark drama. Robert de Niro plays an obsessed fan, who takes a chance encounter with his talk show host idol too much to heart. This lets his fantasies of becoming a comedy icon grow bigger than usual, and his behavior becomes more irrational, and potentially dangerous.

De Niro is loser incarnate, and it cuts close to the bone. It's almost like Willy Loman never did anything, then kidnapped his brother for those riches.. But most critical attention went to Jerry Lewis, in his first serious role of note, as the talk show icon. A role Johnny Carson turned down after much deliberation, because the role was written to close to his reality (at least when he hosted The Tonight Show in NYC). Lewis was long dismissed at this point, and this role gave his career a whole new lease on life. When the Academy Awards show clips from Jerry's career when he gets his honorary award, they will be at a decent clip from this film to show. We see him in de Niro's fantasy scenes, and is just as impressive as someone not happy with his celebrity status, and even less happy by his privacy being interrupted by this nut. Stealing scenes from both de Niro and Lewis was Sandra Bernhard, as an even more obsessed fan.

Came out in Feb. 1982 to major praise. When it expanded beyond 2 or 3 screens, it was DOA. I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of love for an ending that neither went to the comfortable Hollywood route, nor did it go a Taxi Driver-esque route. Maybe the stalker story was too close after John Lennon's murder by a crazed fan. Home video and TV could only do so much. Not the coolest in comparison to other Scorsese-de Niro, and because it was made by Fox instead of Warner Bros, it doesn't get packaged with their other works. But I'm guessing most of you haven't seen this ever, or since the 80s or early 90s. Now is the chance to change that.

Monday December 29:
4:20- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

Last chance to catch this if you haven't by now.

Tuesday December 30:
1pm- THE KING OF COMEDY at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center

4:05 OR 8- UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948) at the Film Forum.

Unfaithfully Yours is part of the Preston Sturges retrospective, and the film I want to see the most on this date. The last of the standout Sturges comedies. Harrison plays a conductor who thinks his wife is cheating on him. As he conducts his orchestra, his imagination on how to kill his wife and suspected lover plays out for us. Then he tries to actually pull it off, which is even funnier. Ignore the Dudley Moore remake, no matter how beautiful Nastassja Kinski is. Catch this, especially if you've never seen it before.

Too many to choose from. Basically, Goodfellas is my top choice, The Great McGinty is my last choice, Mean Streets is my next to last choice, and everything else is a runner-up to Goodfellas. One can have a pretty good week of film watching if you follow this plan. Let me know. Later all, and Happy Festivus.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

December revivals: now until Xmas.

Mike here with what to catch in December, from now before Christmas. The rest of the year gets a separate list, and a lengthy one at that. Let's not waste time, here we go:

AMARCORD- Thurs Dec 18 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:40- Film Forum- One last chance to catch the 35mm restoration of Fellini's last film of note.

BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)- Fri Dec 19 and Sat Dec 20 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- What seems to be a developing tradition at Landmark Sunshine: holiday season midnight screenings of the original version of this horror film from 1974. For the rest, I'll cut and paste from another source about this (honestly, I don't remember where I got it, but I claim no credit):

Black Christmas was a film ahead of its time. Four years before Halloween, Bob Clark (who also directed A Christmas Story) ushered in the holiday horror genre with this blood-curdling tale.
Three sorority sisters (Andrea Martin Margot Kidder and Olivia Hussey) have nowhere to go for the holidays. As if that weren't bad enough, Hussey is having problems with boyfriend Peter Smythe (Keir Dullea), one of their housemates is missing, and someone keeps making unsettling prank calls. Oh, and there's a dead girl in the woods.

Unlike the 2006 remake of the same name, Black Christmas is both truly terrifying and surprisingly original. It features well-developed characters and exceptional performances, among them the always great John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Enter the Dragon) as local cop Lt. Kenneth Fuller.

GREMLINS- Fri Dec 19 and Sat Dec 20 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of the 80s horror film retrospective. Works well in making one both laugh and jump. Recently appeared in a list blog among the worst gifts ever given in a movie set in Christmas time. Cute little Gizmo given as a gift to a son by screw-up Dad, who just can't keep his pet from getting wet, thus multiplying, or keeping them from eating after midnight. Turning them into evil little things. I steal this from someone on imdb who talked about this: like The Matrix, be careful with your ever improving technology, or else you're screwed.

Laugh either loudly, at say, when the Gremlins enjoy Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or darkly, at Phoebe Cates' monologue involving her dad, a Santa Claus suit, and a chimney two sizes two small, so to speak. No laughing when the film came out, but now . . . And make you jump, when say, Mom is attacked by multiple Gremlins. One of the big hits of the summer of 1984, from director Joe Dante, and writer Chris Columbus.

AUTUMN SONATA- Sat Dec 20 at 11AM- IFC Film Center- Part of the Ingmar Bergman retrospective. Another well done dark drama from Bergman (gee, did make any other kind?) back in 1978. An almost claustrophobic, definitely naturalistic film, where world famous pianist Ingrid Bergman (Oscar nominated) visits her daughter, Liv Ullman. Let the recriminations and the passive aggressive behaviour begin! Mother and daughter dance around between real and imagined crimes, and questionable pains. Ullman's competent pianist still gets taken to task for her playing by her mother, the world famous concert pianist. The scene where Bergman plays exactly how Ullman's character does ok, and yet not good enough devastates. All this, while Bergamn's granddaugther/ Ullman's daughter suffers real agony, thrashing about from an extremely painful degenerative nerve disorder with no cure. Merry Christmas!!!

An Oscar nomination also to Ingmar for his screenplay (NOT for his direction).

BABY DOLL- with post film Q and A with Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker- Mon Dec 22 at 7- Film Forum- A night night only screening and Q and A at the Forum. If this isn't agreed upon and planned out within minutes of you reading this, the chance of getting in will be minimum. A screenplay from Tennesse Williams, and directed by Elia Kazan. Carroll Baker plays the title role, as a 19 year old child bride, who refuses to give in to husband Karl Malden's "demands". She ends caught in the middle, as her virginity becomes a prize, between Malden, and an angry Mexican business rival (Eli Wallach in his film debut) who tries to take revenge, by taking Baby Doll. Funnier then you might expect, but as well acted, written and directed as you might think from all the names I mentioned here.

Controversial back in the mid 50s for the subject matter (in the 1950s? Gee, you THINK?!?!?!). Condemned by the Legion of Decency, this arm of the Catholic Church tried to organize a nationwide boycott. Cardinal Spellman in St. Patrick's Cathedral condemned the film during mass, telling Catholics to not see Baby Doll "under pain of sin". A surprising indirect ally was Time Magazine, who called the film the dirtiest American picture ever legally screened. The boycott didn't completely work. The backlash eventually killed the Catholics out of giving films the Production Code seal of approval; a step that would eventually lead to the ratings system and board we have today. But it did kill any chance Baby Doll ever had to be profitable. The boycott succeeded to the point that over 50 years later, this film is still criminally under seen. You might have heard of this film, but you have to be an ardent buff to anything about this film. For the record, a bit on the tame side, and far from pornographic.

After this one night screening, Wallach and Baker will have a Q and A. Tickets on sale via credit card on the forum's website, with a small number tickets to be sold once the box office opens on Monday afternoon. If we do this, mucho planning needs to be done.

That's all for now. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

December revivals: first half

Mike here with what to catch for the first half of December. Let's not waste time, here we go:

AMARCORD- Thurs Dec 4, Mon Dec 8, Tues Dec 9, Thurs Dec 11, Sat Dec 13 and Tues Dec 16- at 4:30, 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A 35mm restoration of Fellini's 1973 film (released officially in the US in 75), his biggest hit. Originally shot in the same 3 strip Technicolor style of previous films such as Singin In The Rain and The Godfather Part 2. I use these two films as previous examples of restored films shown at the Forum. While Rain's new print was on the muted side compared to the vivid 3 strip print, Godfather 2's was suppose to look terrific. Which way Amarcord's restored print will turn out , we'll have to see for ourselves, won't we?

The film itself is heavy on visual vignettes, as opposed to a linear story. Amarcord, essentially meaning I remember, is a semi-autobiographical tale of one year in the life of a small Italian town, similar to the one Fellini grew up in. The autobiographical part Fellini had denied, but did say there were similarities, whatever that means. Ending specifically in April 1933, which tells us this is a slice of life tale, which would change forever just a few years after the film's end. Unlike Rules of The Game, where a similar change in this world wasn't entirely apparent during the making of it, this feeling can't help but be there off and on throughout Amarcord. Though easy to forget at times for such a visual heavy film.

Won the Oscar for Best Foriegn Film in 75, nominated in 76 for Director for Fellini and Screenplay for Fellini and Tonio Guerra. But NOT for Cinematography by Giuseppe Rotunno (The Leopard), who was involved in the restoration. I'm not saying it should have beaten Barry Lyndon, and I wouldn't drop The Day of The Locust or Cuckoo's Nest for sure. But I guess it was hard for American Cinematographers doing the nominating to not vote for the respected James Wong Howe (Funny Lady) or Robert Surtees (The Hindenburg). This plays for two weeks total, so there's time to catch Amarcord.

THE DARK KNIGHT- Mon Dec 8 at 8:15- MOMA- One of the best films of 2008 gets one last screening in a theater before it comes out on DVD. Part of MOMA's series of 2008 Contenders for critics' top 10 lists and/or Oscars and other awards. You probably saw this already, and probably more than once if you made your second trip to Dark Knight at an IMAX screen. Now this film is scheduled for a smallish re-release sometime in January, to make it fresh again in the minds of Academy voters. But I can't not post this film, it's too good. Especially in such a comfortable screening area as MOMA's.

AUNTIE MAME- Thurs Dec 11 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the non musical form, of the story of a young orphan boy, who is raised and taught love and tolerance from her beloved Auntie Mame. Cute at times, and I prefer the music and songs, though there's no way in hell do I prefer the 1975 musical version of the film, Mame. Nominated for 6 Oscars, including Picture, Supporting Actress, Editing and Cinematography. This was in 1958/59 when Auntie Mame competed for Best Picture against flicks such as The Defiant Ones, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, and lost to Gigi. The only film remembered and admired most by the way, is Vertigo, a flop back then. Go figure.

Anyway, the main reason to catch this is for Rosalind Russell 's Oscar nominated title performance. A career performance as the lovable eccentric, and almost indomitable Auntie. There are very few scenes where she isn't onscreen, and you'll go wherever she and the story will takes us.

POLTERGEIST- Fri Dec 12 and Sat Dec 13 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of IFC's retro on horror films of the 1980s. A little over the top in its last half hour, but still quite effective. Just enough humor to set you up for more scares. Cited as one of the reasons for the creation of the PG-13 rating; can you believe it was rated PG? Directed by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Tobe Hooper, though how much of the film was made by Hooper and how much was made by producer/co-writer Steven Spielberg still seems to be a topic for conjecture. Though there's nothing as creepy here, as when a clip was used for DirectTV's series of commercials. My first thought: "This commercial is freaking me out. They're using the little dead girl to sell DirectTV. You have to be kidding!". 3 Oscar nominations, including the visual effects and Jerry Goldsmith's score.

CRIES AND WHISPERS- Sat Dec 13 at 11AM- IFC Film Center- Part of the Ingmar Bergman retrospective. Far from a happy film. A family gathers for a death watch, waiting for a woman to succumb to her cancer. The wait for the family members to inherit the dying woman's fortune is especially tortuous for her two sisters, whose feelings of repressed hatred and jealousy come bubbling forward. As the dying sister slips into further pain and agony, the sisters become more apathetic, to the point of will she die already? Like I said, not a happy film, but a well acted, well written one. If you can take it, it is a good one. Nominations for Picture, Director, Screenplay and Costume Design (losing all to The Sting). An Oscar for Sven Nykvist's Cinematography.

I would have included Fanny And Alexander (the director's cut) at IFC Film Center, but then I actually saw part of Bergman's film on TCM late Sunday night. Now this was the 1983 U.S. cut, which is two hours shorter, but still. I saw 10 minutes that I really liked, then 5 minutes I didn't. Followed by 5 minutes I thought "Eh.", followed by 5 minutes that were better to look at than anything else. Then after another 10 minutes I was getting bored, and I moved on. Then when it came time to put this list together, I had Fanny and Alexander as an early possibility. At that point, I thought "If I'm squirming in the comfort at home after thirty plus minutes, how will I feel during a five hour plus version?" Which is when I deleted the title from this list. Maybe another time. If you want to catch it, go ahead. It plays from the 5th through the 11th.

Biggest push for me for Amarcord and the midnight screening of Poltergeist. Most looking at this list have probably never seen it on the big screen. It may not scare like it did on tv when you were younger, but it's still good. And anything else is a bonus. Let me know. Later all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nov. revivals: now thru Thanksgiving weekend

Mike here with what to catch from now thru Sunday, November 30th. Actually thru Tuesday, December 2nd. Won't waste time, here we go:

CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES- Now thru Tues Dec 2 at 4:30 (City), 6:15 (Modern), 8 (City), and 9:45 (Modern)- plus Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at 1 (City) and 2:45 (Modern)- Film Forum- A return of a very popular double feature at the Forum. I caught the two films together back in early May, as the conclusion to the Forum's retrospective on films that came out of the United Artists studio. It was very popular, with every screening of one of the films either sold out or very close. Based on this match-ups' extreme popularity, and I would guess a lack of recent success with the Forum's recent slate of new releases, these 2 Chaplin classics are back for a long run. For the moment, these 2 AFI Top 100 flicks are only scheduled to run through Dec 2, yet I've already brought up extended runs of Rosemary's Baby, The Wild Child and the first two Godfather on previous lists, so I'm learning to take schedules there with a grain of salt.

This was the double feature in that UA retrospective I anticipated the most. Even though I had already seen Modern Times, I had never seen more then a few clips of City Lights. Specifically, the scene where you find the Tramp sleeping in the Virgin Mary statue's arms, and the well choreographed boxing scene. I'd never seen City Lights from beginning to end. Hearing and reading enough stuff about how great it was, and Woody Allen's fawning at how the last 30 seconds are the greatest ending ever in film (an ending Allen did an homage for his ending of Manhattan), piqued interest further. While I liked the film a lot, and laughed hard at some scenes, like his dealings with a drunken millionaire who was the Tramp's best friend (until the rich man sobered up), I came away with the feeling of eh. Good film, yes, great film, nah. Maybe the line from Pretty Woman is appropriate, that I'll like and even grow to appreciate it, but never love it. I enjoyed Monsieur Verdoux more, perhaps because I had no preconceptions going in there as opposed to City Lights. But I'm willing to try again.

Modern Times, that was easy. My favorite of the full length Chaplins, and easily in my top 100. If you've seen Wall-E, then you've seen Modern Times, and vice versa. Wall-E and the Tramp are similar, the same style awkward romance between the heroes and their object of affection, and the same message about not letting improved technology overwhelm humanity. It annoys me that it took MOMA to make me notice the last two, but even I managed to figure out the first part on my own. Yea me. Whatever.

The first 15 plus minutes, until the Tramp is fired, is among my favorite sustained sequences in comedy, but the scenes in the last quarter, when he's a waiter, I like even more. And Paulette Goddard as the gamin, definitely made my heart skip a beat. No wonder Chaplin at 47, went after her, at 26. If you never seen both films, jump at the chance now.

LABYRINTH- Thurs Nov 27, Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Here's something to catch for Thanksgiving weekend. Perhaps a little weird to go on Thanksgiving night, after a heavy meal. But I'm game if you are, and if you're in town that weekend. For the rest, I'll reprint what I wrote early this January:

A flop back in the summer of 1986. A cult following today. Personally, I think the cult is bigger in say, L.A. and Chicago than here. It feels to me that; if there is more of a following in terms of mid80s Jim Henson work, then it would be more for Fraggle Rock then for this flick. When you hear those from 26-30 in NYC, who had HBO back then, talk lovingly about the show, or even Tina Fey, when she compared Paris Hilton's wig with a Fraggle, you might come to the same idea I did. That said, tell me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Labyrinth the only Jim Henson film to be re-released in a 2 disc DVD set to actually sell pretty well? Someone's rocking out to this.

While babysitting, Teenager Jennifer Connelly gets sick of her little brother, and wishes him taken away by some goblins. Why a mid 80s teen would pick goblins, who knows? But she gets her wish, as Goblin King David Bowie does exactly that. Jennifer goes off to David's Goblin castle to keep the rugrat from becoming a goblin. And of course, has to go through the title set of mazes to get there.
Executive produced by George Lucas, but hey, at least it's better than the other film he produced from that summer, Howard The Duck. Directed by Henson, who co-wrote the story. Monty Python's Terry Jones wrote an early version of the screenplay, with some kind of uncredited re-writing from Elaine May. I'll give this a shot.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE and NOTHING SACRED- Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at 1:15 (Sacred), 2:55 (To Be), 4:45 (Sacred), 6:20 (To Be), 8:15 (Sacred), and 9:50 (To Be)- Film Forum- Part of the Carole Lombard retro. And frankly the only other Lombard films I have interest in for the rest of the Forum's retro. I'll go in reverse order, and start with Nothing Sacred, Lombard's only color film from director William Wellman. She's a small town girl, who thinks she's dying, so she wrangles a free trip to NYC from low level (and possibly low life) reporter Fredric March. She finds out she's not dying, but why not get the free trip, and people fawning over her with sympathy, and manipulate the reporter who's manipulating her, and maybe even fall in love? There's more, but if you don't know this screwball comedy, I won't spoil it for you. Dark satire from writer Ben Hecht, with a rapid fire war of worlds between Lombard and March.

Next, To Be Or Not To Be. Lombard's last film, and where she received her biggest kudos. A dark comedy, where she and Jack Benny, the stars of a small Polish theatre troupe, pull out all stops from keeping the Gestapo shutting them down and worse, while helping a Polish solider find a German spy. But since this film was made in 1941 while the U.S. was "neutral", it kept from release until after this country declared war. Even then the darkish rapid fire paced satire turned off audiences in 1942. Has a major cult following (some claim it fits our time more then at it's initial release), and has been referred to as a comedy classic. Definitely a classic compared to Mel Brooks' mediocre remake. I wouldn't mind seeing both, but if I could only see one, then it's To Be, easily.

THE OMEN (1976)- Fri Nov 28 at 3- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the weekend series Problem Child: A Cinematic Display of Bad Behavior. And if the little son of Satan, planning on destroying the world with only Gregory Peck to save us, doesn't count, then what does? Effective horror film from director Richard Donner. Usually on the list for best horror films ever made. I may not rank it that high, but I still recommend it. This might never have been made if The Exorcist wasn't huge hit, but it became more successful then expected thanks to an aggressive ad campaign, touting the cute killer child concept, the number 666, the fact it was also coming out in 6/6/76 and the music. Fox proved quite effective, which would come in handy over the years, with the Star Wars films. An Oscar for Jerry Goldsmith's creepy score (but over Bernard Herrmann's score for Taxi Driver?). Donner credits Goldsmith's music and horror chanting song (also Oscar nominated), as being responsible for the film's success.

Accept no substitutes; such as Damien: Omen 2, where it's up to a barely sober William Holden to save us from a teenage Antichrist, or The Final Conflict, where Sam Neill, as a grown up Damien is the only effective part of that crap flick, or the TV film Omen 4 (let's all pretend it doesn't exist), or the limp Julia Styles remake from 2 summers ago.

MOMMIE DEAREST- Sat Nov 29 at 9:30 (Mommie)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the weekend series Problem Child: A Cinematic Display of Bad Behavior. A special screening of the cult classic from 1981. Adapted from the payback novel by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, this is how Crawford will be thought as forever more. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. That doesn't make this a good film. But it also doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. I don't know if this was supposed to be serious or camp, and I'm not sure if everyone else involved knew what tone to take either. But back in Sept-Oct 1981, when the wire hanger scene came up, a pop culture moment was born. And Faye Dunaway's A list film career ended, while who thought it was a good idea to have Diana Scarwid start playing adult Christina Crawford at age 13?!?!? No wonder she went from an Oscar nominee to a Razzie award winner. If you want to enjoy yourself, catch this campy crappy fun film.

This isn't like the screenings at Chelsea Clearview. There will be no comic there hired to make fun AT the film. But that doesn't mean there won't be any spontaneous action among our fellow patrons. I don't think that's a bad thing, mind you. Not for this one. Just a friendly warning.

That's all. I was tempted to post Scenes From A Marriage at IFC Film Center, but to see what's basically a 5 hour autopsy (well acted throughout) of a marriage at varying states of decay on Thanksgiving weekend? Yeah, right. If I'm going to stick my neck out for a Bergman film right now, it will be for something like the director's cut of Fanny and Alexander or Autumn Sonata, both playing next month. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November revivals for the next few days

Mike here with what to catch for the few days in November. I wish I could have gotten this out 48 hours earlier, but this is the best I could do. Normally I would have the entire second half of November posted here. But I noticed there was a bunch of films to catch this week and weekend, then nothing either of not or doable for me until Thanksgiving weekend. So I cut it off this list after a few days, then post another one stictly for Thanksgiving weekend. Here we go:

THE WILD CHILD or ROSEMARY'S BABY- now through Thurs Nov 20 at 2:45 (Baby), 5:30 (Child), 7:15 (Child) or 9 (Baby)- Film Forum- Both films have new 35mm prints. Both films have been held over. Both films are worth catching. But one can't purchase tickets for these films as though they were the typical Forum double feature (buy one, stay for the other). Therefore a choice would have to be made. I won't pick for you.

WILD STYLE- Now through Thurs Nov 20 at 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a film screened only at 10pm at night. Was popular in 1983 and in its various re-releases in 84 and 85. Well, let me re-phrase, it was popular in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx. Outside, the rest of the country preferred films like Breakin and Beat Street. A quasi-musical/documentary, it followed various graffiti people (I'm not calling them artists), DJs and rappers, with concert performances of people like Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy. Consider this a lesson in Hip Hop history, pre-MTV Raps.

WALL-E- Wed Nov 19 at 6- MOMA- Part of the Contenders series. Basically, MOMA picked what they felt were the best films of 2008 up to this point, that have a chance at winning critics' awards and/or an Oscar or two. I have no time to list films like Iron Man (good summer blockbuster. Passable to decent action, but an interesting script and Downey's performance makes it worth catching on your own, if you haven't already.) or Encounters at the Far End of the World (interesting Antarctica doc from our old buddy Werner. You learn a little more about penguins, and a lot more about the type of person willing to spend years studying down there).

But I am willing to make time to catch Wall-E again on the big screen. This summer, I made the time to catch a revival screening of Fantasia first, Wall-E last, and Monkey Business in-between. An unexpectedly (and not completely planned) perfect combo of movies in one day. Wall-E, in its way, combined the visual dazzle of Fantasia, with the quality humor of a very good Marx Brothers film. Don't have time to go further, but let's just say, my new favorite Pixar, and it will take at least a 20 megaton bomb to blast it out of my Top 10 for 2008. For this screening, I don't know if there will be any shorts before it, or just Wall-E, which is fine by me. Yes, I know its on DVD now. So are most of the films I list. Shut up.

Now if you can't go on a Wed., it will play this Friday for free, but one would probably need help to pull that off, and I'll go into that later in the list.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1- Thurs Nov 20 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The Mel Brooks comedy from 1981 gets a cheap screening. Not in the league of Blazing Saddles and The Producers, but still fun. Took a critical shellacking back in the summer of 81, with Rex Reed, Jeffery Lyons and Kathleen Carroll leading the brutally unnecessary charge. Time has since been kinder to the flick. It's a silly comedy, with some witty moments, some "gross" moments that rival some of South Park, and like I said before, it's fun. Even the line "It's good to be the King" has entered the lexicon. Not every revival has to be a serious French film, you know.

I personally prefer the Busby Berkeley number that Brooks himself performs about the Spanish Inquisition, and the little section of "Jews In Space". Most of Brooks' regulars appear, including Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Dom DeLuise. Some new cast members include Gregory Hines (a last minute replacement for Richard Pryor, after Rich turned himself into a human charcoal with a freebasing accident), Pamela Stephenon (hired mainly for her British accent and her breasts), and Mary-Margaret Humes (hired only for her beauty; gained fame on Dawson's Creek as Dawson's mom). Funny cameos from Bea Arthur, Jackie Mason, and John Hurt as Jesus, and Orson Welles as the narrator (in full paycheck mode). All this for a cheap price, so why not?

WALL-E and/or HAPPY GO LUCKY- Fri Nov 21 at 6 (Wall-E) and 8:30 (Happy)- For free, subject to availability- MOMA- Now if you can't go for Wall-E on Wed, here's a second chance for free. That is, if you can get tickets in time. See, like I've said before on previous lists, tickets for admission into MOMA is free on Fridays, late afternoon and evening. No problem providing free tickets for the Museum itself, but the film tickets can go fast. I had no problems seeing the original Breathless, but catching a Coen brothers double feature was impossible. If you can get there by 5, give or take a few minutes, it shouldn't be a problem. If you can't get there yourself by then, send someone who can.

A double feature in a series of films MOMA considers to be contenders for awards and critics top 10 lists for 2008. Wall-E, I brought up earlier. If for some reason, you didn't catch it in theaters, this might your last best chance. Unless you choose to catch it at some theater for free at 10 in the morning next summer with a group of screaming kids. So catch it now, for free, if you can.

At the same time you get your tickets for Wall-E, you can also get free tickets for Happy Go Lucky, Mike Leigh's new dramedy. Haven't seen it, but I'd like to. Especially for free. Some of Leigh's previous films, including Topsy Turvy, and Vera Drake have been on my top 10 for their year before, and I hope this would be on this year's as well.

Award attention will probably not only go to Leigh's direction, but also to Sally Hawkins for her lead performance. She plays a young school teacher with an optimistic view on life. Cheery to the point of exasperating to some of the people around her. Pollyanna-like to the point that someone cynical might think she's insane, or overly naive. In fact, that's part of the point: is some as cheerful as her in our world today a sign of imbalance, naivety or stupidity, or is this something we need and we shouldn't try to crush? I'm very interested. Hope some of you are as well. This might have been the first time you've heard of this, but I expect you'll hear about this off and on for the next 3 1/2 months.

MY MAN GODFREY and TWENTIETH CENTURY- Fri Nov 21 at 8 (Century) and 9:45 (Godfrey)- and Sat Nov 22 at 1 (Century), 2:45 (Godfrey), 4:30 (Century), 6:15 (Godfrey), 8 (Century), and 9:45 (Godfrey)- Film Forum- The start of a Carole Lombard retrospective. Considered by some with an institutional memory as one of the great actresses ever on film. Her untimely death at 34 in 1942, has probably more to do with not being better known, then the fact that her best films were made in the 30s and early 40s.

She's best known for her comedies, and the retrospective starts off with a double feature of her two of her more successful screwball comedies. First, My Man Godfrey, one of my favorites of this genre. Lombard's rich girl character (think Paris Hilton, minus STDs and plus 100+ I.Q. points), on a whim and in scavenger hunt mode, brings in homeless man William Powell to become the family butler. He turns out to be more than meets the eye, not the least of which being brighter then the rest of the family. Why Powell's a hobo probably wouldn't hold up today, not without a big storyline about him getting treatment, put on medication, etc. But the rest of the comedy holds up quite well. Powell may always seem to have the upper hand on Lombard, but that's the script, and not for lack of trying. But Powell has the advantage of playing a straight man while also going into depth with his character, while everyone else around him are batshit nuts.

6 Oscar nominations; Powell for Actor, Lombard for Actress, Gregory La Cava for Director, plus 2 for Supporting Actress and one for the Screenplay. When this is shown on TV, it looks every bit it's age of over 70 years. While we're not getting a new 35mm print here, I'm hoping it's a lot better here then on TV.

Another film I hope the Forum has a better print of then what is used for TV, is the other half of the double feature, Twentieth Century. I'm more familiar with the stage version by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (uncredited!), then this film version. Specifically, the Roundabout revival from 2004. I was entertained, but I had higher expectations for it. I enjoyed Anne Heche, but Alec Baldwin seemed to have his ham meter set to 11, the supporting actors were more interesting then either Baldwin or Heche, except for Tom Aldridge (Carmela's dad on the Sopranos). I know he was playing an insane man pretending to be a millionaire, but he seemed to not match the tempo of the play, and frankly I didn't always find him funny. Why he got a Tony nomination, I'll never know. Sorry, I digressed.

Point is, this did color my initial viewing on TV of the 1934 film written by a credited Hecht and MacArthur (with uncredited assistance from Preston Sturges). It took a second chance to get into it more (it seems to play a lot on either TCM, or PBS' Ch. 21.). Full speed dialogue attacks, as John Barrymore is in full ham blast (is that why Baldwin did it hammily, to copy Barrymore?). He's a Broadway director whose career hit the skids when his biggest discovery (Lombard) leaves him and becomes a movie star. When he sees her on the same train from Chicago to New York, he spends the whole ride in a full court press to get her on his new show. And she spends the entire train ride resisting. Directed by Howard Hawks, 2 years after Scarface, and years before Bringing up Baby.

Would definitely want to catch My Man Godfrey, and if you want to stay for Twentieth Century, so be it.

MEAN STREETS- Sat Nov 22 at 4:40- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The first pairing of actor Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese. I have never seen this 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 distributing a film from 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 film, shot mostly in Los Angeles. Please let's make time to see this.

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Friday, November 07, 2008

November first half update

Mike here with an update of what to catch for the first half of November. I couldn't wait forever for some places to update, so now I have to go back and bring up a few more titles and/or extension. Here we go, as quick as I can:

ROSEMARY'S BABY- extended until Thurs Nov 13 at 7 and 9:35- Film Forum- Here's a stunner, people wanted to see Roman Polanski's horror film. So the Forum has extended it's run for another week. Another chance to catch this, people. A new 35mm print.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE- extended at least thru Tues Nov 11 at 12:55 and 9:40, plus 11:55PM on Fri Nov 7 and Sat Nov 8- IFC Film Center- The Herzog-Kinski take on Dracula has been extended a few more days. It isn't scheduled to go beyond Veteran's Day, but you never know. I wouldn't tempt fate either, and wait. A new 35mm print.

COCKSUCKER BLUES- Sat Nov 9 at 7 and 9:30- Anthology Film Archives- 32 Second Avenue by E. 2nd Street- A rare screening of The Rolling Stones concert film, when they were touring in North America for the first time since the concert at Altamont (as depicted in Gimme Shelter). The film has a no-holds barred look at what the Stones did on tour, on and off stage. It was the off stage antics that led to a clash between the Stones and director Robert Frank over wether the film can be screened or not. It lead to an unusual court ruling, where it was decided that the film can only be screened if the director is physically present. So I suppose director Frank will be at both screenings on Saturday. As for more about the film itself, here's a description from the Anthology's website:

1972, 93 minutes, 35mm, b&w/color. With the Rolling Stones.
“With COCKSUCKER BLUES, Frank bids a final adieu to the utopia of the Beat generation. What did the Rolling Stones expect when they hired him to make a film about their 1972 North American tour? There are scenes of groupie sex in private jets, cocaine snorting, and even a masturbation scene in which Jagger reveals himself to be the cameraman in a reflected image. But ultimately Frank focuses on the lonely spaces that permeate the rock-and-roll machine. This is the ultimate direct cinema. The camera movement infects the images with an unbelievable filmic energy, and Frank ignores all orientation guidelines. Populated by the living dead, COCKSUCKER BLUES is a zombie film with no refuge.” –Tate ModernAll tickets $15 for these rare screenings.

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nov. revivals: first half.

Hey. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of November. Sorry I'm late with this, but that couldn't be helped. I'll list what's good to catch, and I'll write as brief as possible. Here we go:

ROSEMARY'S BABY- Tues Nov 4 and Wed Nov 5 at 7 and 9:35- Film Forum- A 40th anniversary screening, with a new 35mm print. It opened on Halloween at the Forum, but these are doable dates. I've brought it up before, and I bring it up again. No new details, but according to someone who was highlighted as a "member of the week" on the Forum's web page, if you get too scared by this film, just look at Ruth Gordon, and it becomes a comedy automatically. I agree.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE- Tues Nov 4 (and hopefully longer) at 7:55 and 10:10- IFC Film Center- A new 35mm print of the shorter American release, as opposed to the director's cut. Herzog and Kinski, in this adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. Definitely runs through Tuesday. I think it runs through Thursday, and hopefully at least a week longer than that, but the website hasn't been updated, so I can't provide any new info.

HELL FIGHTERS with INFLATION- Wed Nov 5 at 8:15- MOMA- Easier to copy this from MOMA's website:

1957. Great Britain. Directed by Cy Endfield. With its dog-eat-dog politics and breakneck chase sequences, Hell Drivers stands alongside Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night, Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway, and Henri-Georges Clouzot's Wages of Fear as a gripping allegory of postwar capitalist exploitation and betrayal. The film's swaggering cast features the brooding, cocksure Welshman Stanley Baker and a then-unknown Sean Connery, along with Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner, Secret Agent), William Hartnell (Dr. Who), and Herbert Lom (The Pink Panther sequels, The Ladykillers). Preserved by the bfi, London. 92 min. Inflation. 1942. USA. Directed by Cy Endfield. With Edward Arnold. This witty wartime propaganda short—a parable of greed & was commissioned by the Office of War Information but was then rejected by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its "anti-capitalist" message. 15 min.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN- Thurs Nov 6 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The Mel Brooks comedy classic gets screened again, and at a convenient price. Many great scenes, but my favorite is easily Gene Hackman as the blind man/ the Host from Hell!. Skip the stage version and catch this. 2 Oscar nominations, for Sound, and for Gene Wilder and Brooks' Screenplay. Would you believe the script lost to Godfather Part 2? You do? Well never mind then. I hope those who introduce and occasionally speak during the film like MST3K, will not step on too many lines.

DINER- Fri Nov 7 at 1:30- MOMA- Another of the young male bonding/growing up type of film. Both Barry Levinson's first film as writer/director, as well Levinson's first film set in his native Baltimore. The sleeper hit of the summer of 1982. An Oscar nomination for the screenplay, and a major boost to the careers of Steve Guttenberg, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Tim Daly, Paul Reiser and Ellen Barkin.

THE WILD CHILD- Fri Nov 7, Sat Nov 8 and Tues Nov 11- Thurs Nov 14 at 6:15, 8 and 9:45- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of Francois Truffaut's 1970 film. Shot in black and white, and in a style more akin to silent films, to try to match its 1798 setting. A nature versus nuture story, as Truffaut cast himself as a doctor, trying to both examine, study and raise a boy born in the wilderness, and also to "civilize" him. A performance from Truffaut that made Hitchcock ask him for "that actor who played the doctor's autograph", and made Spielberg cast Truffaut in Close Encounters. Yeah, I got that from the Forum's website. What a tool I am.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON- Fri Nov 7 and Sat Nov 8 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of a retrospective of horror films from the 1980s. A sleeper hit from the summer of 1981. Funny and freaky. An Oscar for Makeup, highlighted by one of the great film transformation scenes ever.

WILD STYLE- Fri Nov 14, Mon Nov 17, Tues Nov 18 and Thurs Nov 20 at 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a film screened only at 10pm at night. Was popular in 1983 and in its various re-releases in 84 and 85. Well, let me re-phrase, it was popular in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx. Outside, the rest of the country preferred films like Breakin and Beat Street. A quasi-musical/documentary, it followed various graffiti people (I'm not calling them artists), DJs and rappers, with concert performances of people like Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy.
Consider this a lesson in Hip Hop history, pre-MTV Raps. The film's director Charlie Ahearn will be at the Friday Nov 15 screening, with "surprise guests". If by surprise guests they mean surprise live musical performances, then you're guess is as good as mine.

VIDEODROME- Fri Nov 14 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of a retrospective of horror films from the 1980s. One of the few studio films from director David Cronenberg. James Woods stars as a sleazy cable tv programmer, who gets hooked to Videodrome, an S and M, snuff-ish film show, that tends to distort things, physically and mentally, for the viewer. If you don't know this, I won't spoil it much more, except this is NOT for the physically or emotionally squeamish. Cronenberg's statement on overdosing on the varying visual media, and trashy TV (sounds timely, doesn't it?). Featuring a quite sensuous Debbie Harry.

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Godfather update

THE GODFATHER and THE GODFATHER PART 2- Fri Oct 17 and Sun Oct 19 at 2:35 (Part 2), 6:25 (Part 1) and 10 (Part 2)- and Tuesday Oct 21 and Thurs Oct 23 at 6:25 (Part 1) and 10 (Part 2)- The Ziegfeld theater- 141 West 54th St.- The two classic films finally left the Film Forum earlier this week. Now it will play for one week at the Ziegfeld. Every day and night (except for Wednesday), through Thursday the 23rd. On Friday the 24th, it will be replaced by High School Musical 3, something I guarantee you will never be on this list, unless i get paid to put it on.

The cleaned up print and sound version will be played on one of the largest screens and better sound systems this city has to offer. Don't think this will be digitally screened, I believe we'll be looking at film in this engagement. But think about it; this will be the last time it will look and sound this good on the big screen. The next time it looks and sounds this good again, most if not all of us looking at this will be dead. Gone. Think about it; two of the greatest films ever, and your last best chance to catch them. The choice is yours, you have been updated.

And to correct myself regarding The Witches of Eastwick,(which is still playing on the
23rd if you prefer this to a Godfather film), most of the info I had about it, came from Hit and Run by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters. A good book, where they tell the story of how producers and former studio execs Jon Peters and Peter Guber tended to make a lot of money for themselves, but only occasionally for the studio they work for/with. Then they took over Columbia Pictures and Tri-Star for Sony, and though they didn't bankrupt Sony, they did major damage to their bottom line for quite a number of years.

Anyway, I should have look at the book a little more before I wrote. Specifically, it wasn't Cher who insisted on the role that director George Miller promised to Susan Sarandon, it was Warner Bros. execs who insisted. Though it was true that Sarandon didn't realize she had a different role until she arrived on location, the studio was fine letting Sarandon think it was all Cher's idea (page 137).

The other major tidbit I screwed up was that Miller did direct one film filled with humans, in between Witches and the two Babe films: Lorenzo's Oil. Yes, Miller was so burned out with the Hollywood style of filmmaking, that he didn't direct for years, but he did do one project he cared about. Not one of my favorites. It plays all the time on either one of the HBO channels, or one of the Cinemax channels, and I usually ignore it. There, I've corrected myself, and I move on. Later all.

P.S.: Yes, that's me in the reflection, taking a cell phone picture of The Godfather 2 poster at the Forum. Figured it would be easier than just getting it from another source.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a list of what to catch for the remainder of October. Won't be a large list, but whatever.

Attended The Exorcist earlier this month. Damn does this film still work as a scary beast. Takes a while if you expect something slam bang, scare a minute, roller coaster action. But a classic of the genre nevertheless. I'd love to see it on the big screen without comment from time to time, because that's not what I got. I caught this at Chelsea Clearview with their Thursday night intros and part time commentary from Hedda Lettuce. Not that it wasn't funny at times, and I would go back. In fact, two of their October films are on this list, and two Mel Brooks films will be posted when November rolls around.

It's just that I would have liked to have seen this without any commentary, but oh well. Most of the film was played without it. Just a few moments, and that was fine. The most memorable line: when Max von Sydow, just before the exorcism began, warned Jason Miller that the Devil occasionally mixes in the truth in his lies, Hedda chimed in "Oh, just like Sarah Palin". Biggest laugh of the night, and that was saying something. Yeah, you get the idea that Hockey Moms don't play well in Chelsea, what a shock. Anyway, here we go:

PSYCHO (1960)- Thurs Oct 16- at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the Hitchcock classic. Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. You know all this, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.

And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.

There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.

But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting.

Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination),

Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100. Catch this.

THE SHINING- Fri Oct 17 at midnight- IFC Film Center- This Kubrick film plays again. This time as the start of a series of horror films from the 1980s. More expensive and in a different neighborhood then Chelsea, but also a more comfortable theater. That is all.

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK- Thurs Oct 23- at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of one of the summer hits of 87. This film is here purely on affection, not because of highest quality. I've always had fun watching this film, but I won't pretend it was one of the best to come out that year. Supposedly one of the worst book to film adaptations ever; a passing resemblance to John Updike's novel at best. Strange that it seems to be the most successful of all attempts at adapting Updike's story. 2 TV pilot attempts and an award winning musical considered not something enough to bring from the West End to Broadway are the failures. Whether they tried to copy the film, or the book, or tried to do both, who knows. The two points are: you probably know this film and you probably have some kind of smile when you think about it, and you probably never heard of any other non-book version until now. Ok, maybe some of you have heard about The Witches of Breastwick 1 and 2, but enough about soft core films . . .

3 lonely women in a New England town try to conjure up the perfect man for each of them, and end up having the Devil trying to seduce them. Simple enough, and not a lot of need to go further.Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfieiffer play the title roles. None of them were at career peaks at this point, but their leading role careers received a major bump here. A most difficult film to shoot. Warner Bros. executives and co-producer Jon Peters browbeat and/or fought director George Miller (in his first Hollywood film after years of Mad Max pictures), to the point that he hasn't worked with many actors ever since. Yes, he made films, but they were the Babe pictures, and Happy Feet; not a lot of Hollywood interference there. Peters was working on this with his partner Peter Guber, but was forced to work directly on Witches, because Spielberg supposedly had him banned from the set of Innerspace. See, they were shooting both films had the same time. Wait I've digressed . . .

One studio executive pushed Cher to the point that she would have punched the exec., if Sarandon hadn't restrained her. Susan had to tell Cher it wouldn't be good to punch out an eight months pregnant woman, no matter what she said! Cher I guess repaid Sarandon by wanting Susan's role, and eventually got it. Susan wasn't told that she was now playing Cher's old role, until they all arrived on location to begin shooting!!! Then Susan nearly gets killed on a stunt that went almost wrong. Not sure if it was near electrocution or falling on a wire gone wrong, but I'll look that up another day. The studio itself wasn't happy with the original ending, and forced shooting of several different endings, until they found one they could stomach.

Jack Nicholson nearly quit twice. Once, when Peters went too far with his rantings at the same meeting where Cher nearly punched out a pregnant Warners exec. A second time, when Peters tried to fire Miller. Jack was pretty much, if he goes, I go, similar to Brando in Superman 2. And it's a good thing for us he didn't. Jack makes this film. Now granted, if some of you feel that The Shining is an example of Jack overacting to the detriment to a film (I disagree), then Eastwick would be an example of barreling through a film, chewing up the scenery, the lights, the props and possibly an actor or two.

But then, how would you play a horny little devil? The film will probably be only a minor blip in a Jack retrospective, but a memorable comic villain he is here. Light, sensitive at some turns, mixing the truth into the lies, like in The Exorcist. It's possible to be truly caring, and not minding to cause pain and suffering at the same time. Mix in an underrated John Williams score (Oscar nominated), and it's fun. That's all, nothing more, and for a cheap price too.

CREEPSHOW- Fri Oct 24 at Midnight- Continuing the 1980s Horror Film retrospective. An anthology combining the talents of writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero. A mixture of original work of King, as well as Stephen adapting 2 of his short stories, almost in the style of an old E.C. horror comic. Mostly done tongue and cheek: like Hal Holbrook dreaming of killing shrill wife Adrienne Barbeau with the help of a monster in a box, or Leslie Nielsen's idea of water torture of a young Ted Danson, and Danson's payback. But this style doesn't undercut any possible creepiness or grossness: like when E.G. Marshall plays a clean freak with a roach problem, or when King himself plays a redneck type who suffers a brutal, personal greenhouse effect. A young Ed Harris, who got one of his early film leads from Romero in Knightriders, is also featured.

A surprise hit in the fall of 1982. No doubt aided in Forest Hills by the fact that someone at the Midway movie theater came up with the bright idea of showing the Creepshow trailer during screenings of E.T.!!! My mother was NOT amused, though my father was. A forgotten horror flick that deserves renewed attention.

LOLA MONTES- Fri Oct 24, Mon Oct 27 and Tues Oct 28- at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. A restored version that was supposedly a hit that this year's Cannes Film Festival, and played at this year's New York Film Festival. Now is this film any good? I have no idea. Originally released in France in 1955, but butchered by producers and/or distributors to the point that you'd think they didn't want to make money off of Max Ophuls' last film. Restored in terms of picture back in 1969, and then restored even further in picture quality for release this year. The original sound mix was also finally restored, and cleaned up.

But again, is this film any good? I don't know. There's not a lot of call to screen Max Ophuls films on cable, so especially one that was the most expensive film in France at that time that flopped at the box office and had mixed reviews of its re-edited form. Ebert says to basically look at this as something shot in the story telling style of Citizen Kane, where in the circus, ringmaster Peter Ustinov tells her story in flashback. Each section of her life told in a different color scheme; from Lola as a girl/young woman in the circus, and affairs with men as varied as Franz Listz and the King of Bavaria. Stars Martine Carol in the title role. No, she hadn't done anything that made an impact on this side of the ocean, with the possible exception of this flick. She was a major sex symbol in France, but the combination of possibly lousy career choices/options, having the audacity to turn 35, an unhappy personal life, and the coming of Bardot, makes this Carol's last role of note. Is she any good? No idea.

From what I read, and seeing the new trailer, every penny is up on that screen, and the restoration seems to have been done with great care. This picture seems built to test a film viewing belief, that if you give me enough interesting visuals and music, I can overlook a lot acting and/or script flaws. This feels like Lola Montes might replace, say, the first Star Trek film, as my go-to example of this.

Maybe being Andrew Sarris' favorite/greatest film of all time might be a good thing. Then again, maybe not. He took a reputation beating when he made that proclamation with Lola Montes. Years later, he changed his mind and gave that designation to The Earrings of Madame De . . . Now I liked The Earrings quite a bit, but best film of all time? Ahhhhhhh, no. So I'm a little leery, but game to try it.

NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE- Wed Oct 29 and Thurs Oct 30- Times TBA- IFC Film Center- If it's autumn, it must be time for me to post a Werner Herzog-Klaus Kinski film. Here we have the highly atmospheric version of the Dracula story. Only here we have our wacky buddy Klaus, playing the Count more like the Max Shrek silent version (predatory, inhuman, unromantic). This sticks closer to the Bram Stoker original, like what was written above about the Count, as well as avoiding to make any attempt to make Van Helsing or Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz- Hitler from Downfall, 24 years earlier) heroic. Shot in Europe, unlike most big budget Dracula stories, include Dracula's castle shot in and around an actual German castle. With Isabelle Adjani as a gorgeous Lucy Harker.

Times have not been listed at this time on the IFC Film Center website. There might be some Midnight screenings listed, but there will be some regular day and evening screenings as well. Will either end its run on Tues Nov 4, Tues Nov 11, or Thurs Nov 13. Also have no idea if this is the 1 hr, 50+ min German version, or the 96 min English version. I'd like to catch this either way.

Whatever I can catch would be great. I don't have an order of preference. Let me know. Later all.

P.S.: No one pressured me to praise the screenings at Chelsea Clearview with Hedda Lettuce. When I became one of the winners of a drawing, they didn't and don't know I write about stuff like this. Then again, 99.9999% of New York, doesn't know about this, but anyway. The point is, a copy of Life and Style magazine, a pass for 2 for something called Peep Show Male ("To see how the other half lives" Hedda told me), and a DVD of Nim's Island, doesn't constitute a bribe.

P.P.S.: I forget where exactly I go the info about the lousy meeting regarding Witches of Eastwick. Either I got it from the book The Devil's Candy by Julie Salmon (my favorite Hollywood book, about the disastrous making of Bonfire of the Vanities), or from Hit & Run by Nancy Griffin & Kim Masters (about producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber), or from both. I don't remember where exactly, so I'll credit both just in case.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October first half revival update

THE GODFATHER PART 2- Sat Oct 4 at 1 and 8:30, Wed Oct 8 and Mon Oct 13 at 8:30- Film Forum- Here's a shock. The Godfather films are really popular at the Film Forum. People actually want to see them, especially with cleaned up look and sound. Whoda thunk it? Their run, playing together with separate admission, has been extended through Tuesday, Oct 14. I'm just listing the dates and times I can make Godfather 2, which I haven't caught in this restored condition. Wish this was announced 2 days ago, but here we are. Later all.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oct. revivals: first half

Mike here, with what to catch in the first half of October. Life's a little easier now, so I don't have to spilt the month up into thirds, like September. It's also easier that I don't have to bother to post anything playing at IFC Film Center, since they refuse to update their calendar beyond either last weekend or August, depending on the page you hit. There is also a larger number of films I haven't seen, or haven't seen in so long I can't give a thumbs up or down. So this month can be more adventurous. Here we go:

THE SHINING- Thursday Oct 2 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The start of a month long series of horror flicks at an affordable price. Do I really need to go into the film's story, people? You either know it, or you're a 20 year old who accidentally clicked on this, instead of one of the 1500 Project Runway blogs. Stephen King was not thrilled with the way Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel. And while I don't recall this film being wrecked by critics back in 1980, there was no outpour to proclaim this a classic then, as opposed to now. Nicholson's already mildly eccentric performance at the start before he goes into complete psychosis, was quite different from the book, and in most forms of reality. But I'll stop comparing the book with the film now. Especially when Stephen King got to make his own version of The Shining; that 1997 mini-series was borderline unwatchable. I saw most of it, scattered over 8 years, out of curiosity. Don't do the same. Watch this film instead.

The film has its own creepy build up that pays off well. Jack does psychosis better then most actors around. You may not believe Shelley Duvall could have ever been married to Jack, but you buy her as a mother isolated and at her wits end, only to find inner strength. The best performance in the film was pulled out of child actor Danny Lloyd, protected from knowing this was a scary movie until it was released. Not the best film of that year, or even among horror flicks, but still pretty good.

Will be screened at two different times on Oct 2, with 2 different pre-shows. The only way the 9:30 screening goes off on time, is if it's played in a different screening room. Which is possible, but if the 7pm can be done, great.

IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES- Fri Oct 3 at 10- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Nagisa Oshima retrospective. His films are being played as a sort of side venue of the New York Film Festival. While the main flicks are playing at the Ziegfeld, films from retrospectives such as these play at the smaller Walter Reade at Lincoln Center. These kinds of tickets need to purchased way in advance, or possibly bought one hour before the screening, when cancellations open up. That said, this is really the type of film that needs the tix to be bought ahead of time. I brought it up last time, and I'll bring it up again now.

Look back at the last post, where I cut and pasted the filmlinc.com description. Or go to imdb or Wiki and look it up further. It's not whether you know what happens, it's the journey, so to speak. Good luck finding this on DVD. It's not the type of film to be sold at Best Buy, or the type available at Blockbuster stores or online. Netflix may or may not be helpful either. This is as good a chance as you may ever have to seeing this. But for mature filmgoers only. The sexuality is quite frank, and the emotions are not child's play. If you don't think you can handle this once you've finished researching this, then move on to the next film option.

I VITELLONI and (maybe) THE WHITE SHEIK- Sat Oct 4 at 6:20 (Vitelloni), 8:20 (Sheik) and 10 (Vitelloni)- Film Forum- The start of the Alberto Sordi retrospective. For those who've told me that I should include more revivals I've never seen, well here we go. I wouldn't know Alberto Sordi to save my life. Never seen any of his films. So I'm relying on more then just memory to pitch here. Consider one of the best Italian film actors, equally adept at comedy and drama. I've pick the ones I have any interest in. I pick two early Fellini films, though I only have major interest in the first one.

I Vitelloni is considered the inspiration for films like American Graffiti, Diner and even Mean Streets. 5 male friends in Italy get together, but only one leaves their small town and start to live a real life. Sordi appears to play the comic relief friend. That this film was one of the all time favorites of Pauline Kael worries me. That's one of the all time favorites of both Scorsese and Kubrick lessens the worry. Oscar nominated for its screenplay.

The second film, The White Sheik, I can take or leave. An early Fellini comedy, where a young honeymooning couple experience early problems. When the wife already has trouble standing her husband, she goes off looking for her crush; the title character who's the star of her favorite soap opera. So she ends up tempted by her idol, while the husband is all distraught, surrounded by prostitutes. Sordi is in the title role, with questionable romantic skills and even questionable intelligence. Wouldn't mind seeing it, and it is only 86 minutes.

LA GRANDE GUERRA- Tues Oct 7 at 6:30 and 9:15- Film Forum- Part of the Alberto Sordi retrospective. A dark war comedy that seems to have been ripped off, in part, by the fourth edition of the BBC series, Black Adder. 2 young Italian men (Vittorio Gassman and Sordi) try to get out of serving in WW I, then try to stay as far from the front as possible. But the front easily can come to them . . . Mixture of comedy and war drama. Just as likely to do a comedic scene as it is to have a battle scene. Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Film. Never saw it, but would like to try it. If this is the only Sordi film I get to see, I would be fine with that.

THE EXORCIST- Thursday Oct 9 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- I've been looking forward to this film playing at non-Midnight screening time for quite a while now. And now it's at an affordable price as well. The director's cut from 2000, of one of the best modern horror films ever made. Thankfully not as graphic as the popular novel, where one got to imagine every orifice that stuff came out of little Regan. But in terms of atmosphere, it rivals Texas Chainsaw Massacre as among the creepiest films. And do note, these are just regular people, dealing with a horrifying problem the best way normal people, i.e. most of us, try. Helps give the film that little extra kick into our stomach when needed. One of the few horror films to pack a punch on the small screen, so you can only imagine on the big screen.

Oscars for Sound and for William Peter Blatty for adapting his own novel. Funny, Blatty wrote this in part because he could only get hired to write light comedies like A Shot In The Dark. After The Exorcist came out, studios were only interested in hiring Blatty for horror flicks. Oscar nominations for Picture, Director William Friedkin, Actor Jason Miller, Actress Ellen Burstyn (apparently she still suffers from back problems sustained while shooting this), Supporting Actress Linda Blair (though most of the credit for this performance is given to then-uncredited Mercedes McCambridge, as her possessed voice), Cinematography, Art Direction, and Editing. With Max Von Sydow and Lee J. Cobb.

I just noticed I used both the kick and the punch metaphor in the same paragraph (the first one). Wow, I need to find better writers for this . . .

ANIMAL CRACKERS- for free (subject to availability) Fri Oct 10 at 6:15- MOMA- This Marx Bros. film gets a screening. I posted it back in July. I could have gone to it then, but when it came to doing a triple feature along with Fantasia and Monkey Business, I preferred to substitute Wall-E over this. But now there's a second chance to catch this, one that I didn't think would come this soon. Caused more excitement back in 1974, when it screened for the first time since 1957.

Some complain this is only a filmed play, and it's probably a fair complaint. But 4 Marx Brothers with Margaret Dumont is good enough for me. Where the line "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." came from. Because this is being screened on a Friday night, admission is free, subject to availability. But if you don't get to MOMA by 5:15 to 5:45, or have someone get the tickets for you by then, then forget it.

THE DARK CRYSTAL- Fri Oct 10 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- This film gets a midnight screening every so often. I guess this will be the only time this year it will play. I succeeded last summer in getting a few people to go. I hope this time, I actually get to go. If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings kind of fantasy, or a fan of 80's films, here's this effort from Jim Henson. Jim 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. Puppetry effects at their height, with the Muppet-esque cuteness cut down very low. A children's film that, despite some lulls, keeps the adults entertained, without being cheesy or insulting to the kids. Though if I see any kids at this screening, the temptation to call Child Protection Services will be high.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE- Sat Oct 11 at 9- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Nagisa Oshima retrospective. A new 35mm print. I would almost consider this 1983 picture a forgotten film, if most people in this country had ever heard of this to begin with. Sorry that back in Sept. 1983, it wasn't as cool as say, Jaws 3-D. See, that's a film Universal Pictures knew how to promote, not this.

The arrival of a British officer introduces us to a Japanese prison camp in Java, 1942. The man who runs the camp will seem very familiar to those who have seen Letters From Iwo Jima. Because these Allied prisoners have accepted surrender over suicide, they deserve more punishment for this, then for being the enemy. It tells more of a story of East/West differences, and how power and absolute belief can shift during war, then telling a straightforward war story. Expect more atrocities depicted then war action. Also expect a lot more character development as well.

The biggest issue Western critics had was the casting of David Bowie as a British commando. Too strange and spacey for his own good. But considering he was playing a burnout who couldn't function, his performance has aged well over the years. Only available in this country through the Criterion Collection. Take a chance and catch it.

Too many choices. Definitely yes to the horror films, and one of the Sordi flicks. Maybe Animal Crackers, because it's free. Anything else is a bonus. Later all.