Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Films to catch up with for Oscar time and beyond

Mike here. Yeah, don't want to look and compare how I predicted the Oscars nominations compared to how they were actually announced. I'd rather not look back at the carnage. I'd prefer to focus on what to catch up with. Oscars are a guide, but not the be-all end-all of what to see. If that were the case, I'd wouldn't have seen what I thought were the 2 best films of 2006, The Heart of the Game and Army of Shadows. Besides, on my AdSense section on Google, I have something called Midwestern lesbians featuring reviews from Dr. Dyke. From a combination of blogs featuring say, Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, City Lights, War and Peace, Otto Preminger, Oscar nominations, Lady Chatterly and Labyrinth, they came up with Midwestern lesbians. You have to be kidding me.

Anyway, it's getting to be time to form a top 10 of 2007. Critics have done theirs, it's time for us. We know full well that some of "the best" will go unseen by us until these nominations tell us we should go. And even then, some titles will slip through the cracks and remain unseen until DVD or cable. So I'll do my best to serve as a guide of what to catch up with. I'll break it down into several categories, including major nominees in theaters, minor nominees in theaters, major nominees on or coming to DVD, and minor nominees on or coming to DVD, plus what to catch that wasn't nominated, but it wouldn't 2007 without them. I consider major nominees to be Picture, Director, the 4 Acting categories, the 2 Screenplay categories, Documentary and Animated Film. Quick reviews for some of the films I caught. Here we go:

Major ones in theaters:

Atonement, There Will Be Blood,

Juno (great perf. by Ellen Page and good perfs. by the entire cast as a whole. Thumbs up, despite the fact that every character is too goddamn clever for their own good. I like The Office's Rainn Wilson, but I hated his cameo with a passion.).

Michael Clayton (will be out on DVD on Feb 19),

No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Sweeney Todd, The Savages,

Charlie Wilson's War (good for Philip Seymour to get the nomination. He made Julia Roberts look like she was reciting lines. Entertaining, but to be blunt, it pussies out in the end. Knowing how the story ends, the makers claim to be subtle, and look like weaklings instead. Borderline thumbs up.),

Into The Wild, I'm Not There, Persepolis,

American Gangster (well done Ridley Scott film, almost operatic for a cops and robbers flick. Running out of time in theaters.),

Lars and The Real Girl (if you can still find it),

Beaufort (not for this year's list, but for next year. Nominated for Foreign Language film. According to the imdb plot line: "The story of a group of Israeli soldiers stationed in an outpost prior to the withdrawal of forces of 2000. Based on the novel by Ron Leshen. " Sounds like an Israeli Paths of Glory.)

Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience (not for this year. Best Documentary nominee coming out in New York on Feb 9.)

The Counterfeiters (not for this year. Austria's nominee for Best Foreign Language film, comes out on Feb. 22.)

Minor ones in theaters: Enchanted, The Kite Runner,

The Golden Compass and August Rush (if you can find them.)

Major ones on DVD:

Away From Her (well done. The gentlest of storytelling, which at times packs the strongest of punches. Christie deserves all the accolades but the rest of the cast shouldn't be ignored. First time director Sarah Polley deserves her screenplay nomination.),

La Vie En Rose,

Eastern Promises (yes, it's playing in one theater still, but it's easier to see on DVD at this point. I'm pleasantly surprised that Viggo got some Oscar love. Good film overall, but you have to let some shit slide. If Naomi Watts' one-note character wasn't naive and/or stupid, we wouldn't have a film.),

In The Valley of Elah, Ratatouille,

Surf's Up (no I don't want to see the penguin surfing film. Good God, no.),

No End In Sight (the probable Best Documentary winner. Almost clinical and encyclopedic in its telling, but devastates nevertheless.),

Sicko (so the only way one can have affordable health care is to sneak into Cuba? Interesting . . . thumbs up.),

Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Assassination of Jesse James . . . (Both on DVD on Feb 5),

Gone Baby Gone (on DVD on Feb 12)

Minor ones on DVD:

The Bourne Ultimatum, Once,

Norbit, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (good luck making me sit thru those 2),

3:10 To Yuma (better than expected. But the audience I saw it with at Regal Union Square; the ones under 26 who kept saying "Why didn't Bale kill Crowe?" just didn't get the point of the film at all.),

Transformers (believe it or not, works better widescreen on TV than in the theater. The robot vs. robot action is much easier to follow, it's actually pretty funny at times, we will follow Shia LaBeouf anywhere the story takes us, and only takes itself seriously with both the fighting and the consequences of said fighting. Still, it's hard to love it after seeing Team America. Thumbs up.)

Across The Universe (if you can ignore such problems as Bono looking like Robin Williams from August Rush, the cheerleader lesbian number that starts well but then has the linebackers doing Fosse hands, the weak Mr. Kite number, the Vietnam scenes that look like they were shot outside the Beales home from Grey Gardens AND ESPECIALLY the limp ending, you still have an entertaining musical. Don't know which idiots decided to give director Julie Taymor 55 + million to shoot a cult classic in the making, but I liked it overall. Standouts include Joe Cocker, Evan Rachel Wood and especially Jim Sturges.)

Films one needed to catch up with from 07:

Zodiac, The Namesake, 300, Rescue Dawn, The Simpsons Movie, 28 Weeks Later, Lust Caution, Black Book, Lady Chatterly

The King of Kong (fun documentary on DVD, about a family man schlub-type, who runs into way too many obstacles in his pursuit of excellence in Donkey Kong. Bizarre world that makes you shake your head a lot. Thumbs way up.)

Knocked Up (second favorite comedy of the year. Much love to both Leslie Mann's work as the burned out perfectionist wife, and Kristen Wiig as the most passive aggressive co-worker ever.),

Hot Fuzz (funniest comedy of the year. Loves the action films it spoofs, as much as they love ripping into them.),

The Lives of Others (released in NYC last Feb, so it qualifies for a best of 07 list as far as I'm concerned. Won the Oscar for Foreign Language Film. If you haven't seen it, get up off your fat ass, put it on your Netflix, devote 2+ hours to it, and enjoy.),

Hairspray (pretty decent, at times good musical. Though it took the number where Travolta dances with Christopher Walken, one hour in, before I stopped thinking LOOK, it's John Travolta in hideous makeup and clothes. Also, too much jump cutting: its as though the director doesn't want us to think his cast can dance so he has to cover it up with editing, the Travolta-Walken scene not withstanding. Thumbs up anyway.),

The Kingdom (basically a CSI episode set in the Middle East, with a terrific 20-30 min. action sequence near the end. Strange that director Peter Berg copied a scene of an Arab policeman taking care of his elderly father, from his own Friday Night Lights, where the young quaterback takes care of his elderly mother. Almost shot for shot. Still, thumbs up.)

12:08 East of Bucharest ( kind of a Hungarian Christopher Guest-like comedy. On a Hungarian public access show, a Ted Baxter-esque host moderates what it was like when Communism ended and if there was a revolt or not. His two guest may or may not have been there; a professor who might not be sober, and an elderly man who seems to get easily distracted. Slow start but builds well. The taping, done in almost real time, is the payoff. Thumbs up.) .

I would list either Planet Terror or Death Proof, but unless it comes in the form of Grindhouse, complete with fake trailers, don't bother. It's not my fault that Harvey gave a ton of money to Tarantino and Rodriguez for something that would only appeal to a niche audience, THEN didn't have a clue how to promote it between the coasts. I enjoyed Grindhouse, but until it comes all together in what I would guess would be a 2 or 3 disc set, don't waste your money.

Also worth catching:

Killer of Sheep: It received the Army Of Shadows type of rediscovery this year, and is worth catching. You won't find it on my list, only because it already received a U.S. release back in 1977. Almost neo-realistic in its depiction of poor black families in L.A., struggling to get by in a post Watts riot environment. Fighting off the temptations of crime, but with no hope of rising above. Somewhat amateurish in terms of some of its performances, but with some stunning scenes as well. Now on DVD, rent it.

That's all for now. Later all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jan. revivals: second half

Mike here with what to catch for the second half of January. Smaller list than usual. Almost half of the films are French, but they're still worth catching. KIDDING! Here we go:

LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD- Tues Jan 22, Wed Jan 23, Wed Jan 30 and Thurs Jan 31 at 6:30, 8:20 and 10:10- Film Forum- When I found out this was playing at the Forum back in early November, I wasn't looking forward to this. I was thinking about leaving it off altogether. Then, when I went to see the very good I'm Not There, I saw the trailer. Now I want to catch this real bad. Oscar nominated for Original Screenplay. In a new 35mm scope print. After that, I know nothing else about this picture. So I'm afraid I'll have to cut and paste from the Forum's website to explain this:

(1961) As ominous organ music resounds, the Scope camera tracks through the seemingly endless halls of a baroque grand hotel — alternately thronged with tuxedos and gowns or echoingly deserted — as Giorgio Albertazzi tries to persuade an initially disbelieving Delphine Seyrig (in gowns by Chanel — Coco herself!) that they’d met the year before, even as the sepulchral Sacha Pitoëff (her husband?) hovers about, continually beating all comers in a kind of pick-up-sticks game. Simple enough, right? But as Albertazzi continues to repeat “Last year. . . ” each encounter takes place in different locations, in different costumes, the alterations not just coming from scene to scene but from shot to shot — at one point Seyrig seemingly steps forward in a perfect match cut despite spanning completely different sets — with his remembrances becoming more and more detailed and personal, amid actually mounting suspense, until the question becomes not only did it happen, but was it seduction or. . . ? All this as their fellow guests alternate among relatively realistic crowd scenes, poses frozen in place as the principals walk past them, and a de Chirico-like composition amid the lavish grounds where the people cast extremely long shadows but the shrubbery casts none. Perhaps the ultimate puzzle film, with dizzying time shifts and flashbacks, real or imagined—or are they shifts into the subjunctive? Possible solutions have included the Orpheus-Eurydice myth; a visualization of the process of psychoanalysis; or the whole as a kind of stream-of consciousness of a single mind, encompassing truth, lies, and visualized what ifs. But the list could go on, and usually does, as vehement post-film discussions. Technically, however, it’s easy to agree that Marienbad is a tour de force, with Sacha Vierny’s lusciously velvet black and white photography of the incredibly lavish interior of — mainly — Nymphenburg castle in Bavaria; with the debuting Seyrig’s feathery peignoir probably an homage to Evelyn Brent in von Sternberg’s Underworld; and the horror film-worthy organ score by Seyrig’s brother Francis. With Oscar-nominated screenplay by nouveau roman titan Alain Robbe-Grillet, who now sits in the Académie Française. One of the most iconic and "referenced" art films of all time, Marienbad has been homaged in everything from Calvin Klein "Obsession" ads in the 80s, to Marc Jacobs' Fall 2007 collection, to British band Blur's music video "To the End." “I was not prepared for the voluptuous quality of Marienbad, its command of tone and mood, its hypnotic way of drawing us into its puzzle, its austere visual beauty.” – Roger Ebert. “The overall tone is poker-faced parody of lush Hollywood melodrama . . . Yet the film’s dreamlike cadences, frozen tableaux, and distilled surrealist poetry are too eerie, too terrifying even, to be shaken off as camp. For all its notoriety, this masterpiece among masterpieces has never really received its due.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum. “I can’t remember a film of more sustained visual delight. It is the Finnegans Wake of the movies.” – Dwight Macdonald.

LABYRINTH- Fri Jan 18 and Sun Jan 20 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- 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. Hell, I'll give this a shot. And because this falls on Martin Luther King weekend, Landmark Sunshine Cinema will also have a Sunday night Midnight screening, to go along with the Friday and Saturday night ones. If you don't have to work the next day, the Sunday nighter might be fun.

HIS GIRL FRIDAY and (But I'm not running to catch this one) THE WOMEN- Tues Jan 22 at 6 (His Girl) and 7:45 (Women)- Symphony Space- W. 95th and Bway- A double feature where I'd really like to catch the first film, and I don't care whether I see the second or not. His Girl Friday is the first of two female reporter versions of The Front Page, and the best film adaptation of this play. Newspaper editor Cary Grant tries to keep top reporter/ex-wife Rosalind Russell from quitting the paper and marrying perennial other guy Ralph Bellamy. She gets to finish her career on a high note, but actually finishing isn't that easy . . .

Director Howard Hawks keeps the film, and especially the dialogue, flying at a million miles a second, or it seems that way. Very few films have succeeded in pulling off such an evenly matched battle of the sexes for as long as they do here. Russell never had better chemistry with another male actor, as she did with Grant.

Double featured with another Russell film, George Cukor's The Women. Cukor got the job after being fired from Gone With The Wind. Whether it was because Clark Gable didn't want to work with a gay director, or didn't want to be directed by someone who had dirt on him, or any dozen of reasons from Hollywood Babylon, The Last Tycoon and God knows how many Golden Age of Hollywood dirt specials, Cukor was available and solidified his reputation as a successful woman's director here. Feels a bit too campy for me now, but not bad. Has its fun bitchy moments. Lines are drawn in a group of female friends, when one of their's husband has an affair, and the gossip spreads like wildfire. Hell of a cast, as MGM used every actress they had under contract, except for Myrna Loy and Greta Garbo. Ok, I guess Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, and Lassie as well. Assuming they were under contract that is. The cast includes Russell, the cheated-on Norma Shearer, adulteress Joan Crawford, Pauline Goddard and Joan Fontaine.

LADY CHATTERLY- with an intro by Director Pascale Ferran- MOMA- Mon Jan 28 at 7- Technically a revival. A highly praised adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's story from 2006. For once, a version that wasn't turned into soft core porn, but treats its audience like adults. It came out in the U.S. this summer to critical praise, but against PG-type art house hits such as Waitress and Once, it had no chance. It seems like one of those films one should probably try to catch this when it comes to rounding out any potential top 10 lists for the year. Note this is the 3 hr version of the film, not the 3hr, 40 min version as it originally was on French TV. Director Pascale Ferran will introduce this particular screening at MOMA herself.

Let me know. Later all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oscar picks

Ok people. Mike here. I did this last year, and I'll do this again. Let's hear your Oscar nominations picks. As a guide, I'm using hsx (hollywood stock exchange) to break down the major nominations. For each category, they are broken down into probables, possibles, maybes, and longshots, followed by my picks. I generally do better with picking the nominees until last year. We'll see. Here we go:


Probables: There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, Atonement, Juno, American Gangster

Possibles: Michael Clayton, Into The Wild, The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Maybe: Sweeney Todd

Longshots: Charlie Wilson's War, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, The Kite Runner, 3:10 To Yuma, Hairspray, Once, Zodiac, The Assassination of Jesse James . . ., Knocked Up

My picks: The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (a surprise but the Producer's Guild members will probably get it in), Juno (Consider this the Little Miss Sunshine slot), Michael Clayton (West coast people kept the film from being a flop, they'll get it in here), No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood

BEST DIRECTOR: Probables: The Coen brothers- No Country . . . , Paul Thomas Anderson- There Will Be Blood

Possibles: Julian Schnabel- The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Joe Wright- Atonement, Ridley Scott- American Gangster, Sean Penn- Into The Wild, Tim Burton- Sweeney Todd, Tony Gilroy- Michael Clayton

Maybe- David Fincher- Zodiac

Longshots- Sidney Lumet- Before The Devil . . ., Jason Reitman- Juno, Ang Lee- Lust Caution, Marc Foster- The Kite Runner, Todd Haynes- I'm Not There, Sarah Polley- Away From Her, Denzel Washington- The Great Debaters, David Cronenberg- Eastern Promises, Ben Affleck- Gone Baby Gone, Judd Apatow- Knocked Up

My picks: Anderson, the Coens, Gilroy, Schnabel, Scott. Not that far at all from the DGA picks, I know.


Probables: Daniel Day-Lewis- . . . Blood, George Clooney- Michael Clayton, Johnny Depp- Sweeney Todd

Possibles: Denzel Washington- American Gangster, Viggo Mortensen- Eastern Promises, Tom Hanks- Charlie Wilson's War, Emile Hirsch- Into The Wild

Maybes: Ryan Gosling- Lars and The Real Girl, James McAvoy- Atonement, Josh Brolin- No Country . . ., Mathieu Amalric- The Diving Bell . . .

Longshots: Phillip Seymor Hoffman- Before The Devil . . ., Frank Langella- Started Out In The Evening, Tommy Lee Jones- In The Valley Of Elah, Casey Affleck- Gone Baby Gone, Christian Bale- Rescue Dawn, Russell Crowe- 3:10 To Yuma, Kal Penn- The Namesake

My picks: Clooney, Day-Lewis, Depp, McAvoy, Washington. Just don't see Viggo getting the much deserved love.


Probables: Julie Christie- Away From Her, Marion Cotillard- La Vie En Rose, Ellen Page- Juno, Keira Knightly- Atonement, Angelina Jolie- A Mighty Heart, Cate Blanchett- Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Possibles: none

Maybes: Helena Bonham Carter- Sweeney Todd, Amy Adams- Enchanted

Longshots: Laura Linney- The Savages, Wei Tang- Lust Caution, Keri Russell- Waitress, Jodie Foster- The Brave One, Nikki Blonsky- Hairspray, Carice Van Houten- Black Book

My picks: Christie, Cotillard, Jolie, Knightly, Page. If this was the people's choice, Adams would be there instead of Angelina, but it's not, so . . .

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Probables: Javier Bardem- No Country . . ., Casey Affleck- The Assassination of Jesse James . . ., Phillip Seymour Hoffman- Charlie Wilson's War, Hal Holbrook- Into The Wild, Tom Wilkinson- Michael Clayton

Possibles: Paul Dano- . . . Blood, Russell Crowe- American Gangster, Tommy Lee Jones- No Country . . .

Maybes: Philip Bosco- The Savages, Max von Sydow- The Diving Bell . . ., Ben Foster- 3:10 To Yuma, Ethan Hawke- Before The Devil . . ., Irrfan Khan- The Namesake

Longshots: Brad Pitt- the Assassination of Jesse James . . ., Robert Downey Jr.- Zodiac, Homayon Ershadi- The Kite Runner, Albert Finney- Before The Devil . . . , John Travolta- Hairspary, Marcus Carl Franklin- I'm Not There

My picks: Bardem, Dano, Hoffman, Holbrook, Wilkinson. I know Affleck has been praised, but I have to wonder if any Academy member sat through all 8 hrs or the Jesse James film. I know I haven't tried to at this point, and if I can't (for some of you, I'm the only one you know who likes Westerns), why would some Academy members with 65 DVDs to go through. My guess is that any member who wasn't jumping for the other 4, and saw Dano stand up acting-wise to Daniel Day, would have to nominate him.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Probables: Amy Ryan- Gone Baby Gone, Cate Blanchett- I'm Not There, Tilda Swinton- Michael Clayton

Possibles: Vanessa Redgrave- Atonement, Catherine Keener- Into The Wild, Kelly MacDonald- No Country . . .

Maybes: Ruby Dee- American Gangster, Saoirse Ronan- Atonement, Jennifer Garner- Juno, Romola Garai- Atonement

Longshots: Emmanuelle Seigner- The Diving Bell . . . , Leslie Mann- Knocked Up, Marisa Tomei- Before The Devil . . ., Michelle Pfeiffer- Hairspray, Kristen Wiig- Knocked Up (KIDDING- No way that internet push to get her nominated will work, no matter how memorable her cameo is)

My picks: Blanchett, Keener, MacDonald, Ryan, Swinton. Honestly, after Cate and Amy, I have no clue. So I'm going to some old favorites, like Tilda and Kelly. But don't be surprised if somehow, the 12 year old from Atonement or Ruby Dee gets up there.


Probables: Juno, Michael Clayton

Probables: American Gangster, Ratatouille, Before The Devil . . .

Possibles: Waitress, The Savages, The Great Debaters, I'm Not There, Once, Knocked Up, In The Valley Of Elah Longshot: Eastern Promises, The Darjeeling Limited

My picks: Before The Devil, Juno, Clayton, The Savages, Ratatouille. I know Knocked Up is WGA nominated, but considering a lot of the best jokes were ad libbed, will we have another Beverly Hills Cop in our hands? And I know Lars is also WGA nominated, but how actually went to see this?


Probables: No Country . . ., There Will Be Blood, Atonement, Into The Wild, The Diving Bell . . .

Possible: Zodiac

Maybes: Sweeney Todd, The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson's War, Gone Baby Gone. 3:10 To Yuma

Longshots: Away From Her, Lust Caution, Peresepolis

My picks: Diving Bell, Into The Wild, No Country, Blood, Zodiac

That's it for now. Give me yours if you got them. Nominations are Tuesday morning, Oct 22.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Jan. revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here. First I'd like to thank those of you who joined me on film outings over the past year. Here's what we caught: INTERIORS (introduced by actress Mary Beth Hurt, lousy cell phone picture round here somewhere), STARDUST MEMORIES, BECKET (acting 101, British Costume Drama Division), INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, ARMY OF SHADOWS, THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE . . ., GOLDFINGER, LIVE AND LET DIE, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (guess you can tell there was a James Bond retrospective in 2007), THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, BARRY LYNDON, 28 WEEKS LATER (a new release, but a revival when I caught it), THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, LE DOULOS, THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS (with introduction by and post film Q and A with co-writer Jacob Brackman by assistant curator of the Museum of the Moving Image Livia Bloom; a lousy cell phone picture of it around here somewhere. A well acted, forgotten film from 1972 that should be seen by fans of good acting. Got to your Netflix and find it.) THE LAST DETAIL, MANHATTAN (some films are just worth waiting to see on a large screen, like this one), REAR WINDOW, FITZCARRALDO, THE LANDLORD (another forgotten film, this time from 1970; a more honest film from a major studio about urban race relations you will not find. Maybe Do The Right Thing, maybe. I hope it comes out on DVD soon.), BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT, TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN 3-D, DIVA, ERASERHEAD, and ALL THAT JAZZ (aside from the last musical number being a little longer than expected, as great as I remembered.).

26 in total, 8 less than last year- a little disappointing. 27 in total if you count I'M NOT THERE which was on the list though it wasn't technically a revival. 28 if you count the late BUFFY SING-A-LONG in April. It worked better with stage performers than just as a screening of the episode back in April. But it is missed. I wonder which group of bastards killed this off by complaining about residuals? I should also note that I felt good about talking people into seeing The Dark Crystal at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. 4 people to be exact. I'm sorry I couldn't go with them, but I'm glad I could influence them to see and enjoy it.

I repeat, thanks to those who did catch films with me. Especially those who caught more than one with me. Here's the current list for the first half of January. Here we go:

ANATOMY OF A MURDER- with an introduction by Foster Hughes- Fri Jan 4 at 7:30- Film Forum- The beginning of the Otto Preminger retrospective. Hugely successful courtroom drama, with possibly Jimmy Stewart's best performance. He plays a defense attorney using his Golly gee mannerisms and basically plays dumb to try to win his case against prosecutors who feel superior. And this precursor to Matlock has a doozy of a case, defending an Army Lt. (Ben Gazzara) for the murder of his wife's rapist. The wife played not so innocently by a young Lee Remick, who got the role when Lana Turner said no, after Preminger's refusal to let her wear designer gowns for the parts. That's right; designer gowns worn by a rape victim in a small Michigan town. You can't make this stuff up. Eve Arden also appears as Stewart's assistant/girl Friday.

Also notable for having Joseph Welch, who who won his verbal throwdown against Sen. McCarthy in 1954 as the judge, and for Duke Ellington's standout score (he has a cameo). A memorable opening credits sequence from Saul Bass (Psycho, North By Northwest). Controversial in its day, for the casual use of words such as rape, bitch and sperm. So much so that Stewart's own father told a local newspaper that he thought this was a "dirty picture". The picture's release was blocked in Chicago, similar to Brokeback Mountain in Utah a while back. Despite this, 7 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Stewart, 2 for Supporting Actor including George C. Scott (his loss here made him so disillusioned with the process, he would refuse to ever accept an Oscar, which he did in 1971 for Patton) and Screenplay Adaptation. No wins though; it ran into the Ben-Hur buzz saw that year. According to MOMA's website, "Seven years after Anatomy’s release, Preminger took his distributor to court in an effort to prevent the film from being shown on television with commercial interruptions.". Worth seeing if you have the time.

Foster Hirsch, author of Preminger The Man Who Would Be King, will introduce the 7:30 screening.

IN HARM'S WAY- with an introduction by Patrica Neal and Jill Haworth- Tues Jan 8 at 8- Film Forum- Part of the Otto Preminger retrospective. Well done, though a little too long, war drama. John Wayne stars as a Naval officer whose career gets resurrected when he's needed to lead against the Japanese fleet in WW2. But since the film starts with the attack on Pearl Harbor, you can imagine how little he has to work with. Because of the setting, Preminger has placed his characters in an out of control situation. At times, those in uniform are the most helpless, and not always in battle.

Brilliant (Oscar nominated) Black and White cinematography gives this film an impressive look. Otto seemed to have a lot of fun with Panavision. The war scenes work, especially the Pearl Harbor attack and the final sea battle. The soap opera drama isn't maudlin as you'd expect, Preminger wouldn't allow such a thing to occur. Wayne's best leading man perf of the 1960s, even over True Grit and Liberty Valance. An all star cast (Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Paula Prentiss, Brandon de Wilde, Dana Andrews, Stanley Holloway, Burgess Meredith, Patrick O'Neal, Carroll O'Connor, Slim Pickens, George Kennedy, Larry Hagman and Henry Fonda as unnamed Admiral Nimitz) is a big help.

Patricia Neal (in a well done storyline as an older nurse who falls for Wayne) and Jill Haworth (who played a young nurse who has a run-in with Douglas's character) will introduce the screening.

CARMEN JONES and/or RIVER OF NO RETURN- Fri Jan 11 at 8:30 (Carmen) and 10:30 (River)- Film Forum- 2 more films from the Preminger retrospective. First, Carmen Jones, updated from the opera Carmen, with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstien. Dorothy Dandridge received the biggest break in her life (her words), an affair with her director, and an eventual Oscar nomination for Best Actress, as the Southern temptress who leads good guy Harry Belafonte astray. No white American director would even consider touching this all Black project, but Preminger, an Austrian immigrant and noted maverick, was willing to take chances and ignore or fight American prejudices of the 1950s. The cast includes Pearl Bailey, Brock Peters and Diahann Carroll.

The person who probably enjoyed the most success from this film wasn't Dandridge, who never got a better role in her short career and life, or even Preminger, whose career would go until 1979 and had a few more hits along the way. It was Marilyn Horne, who singing voice was dubbed in for Dandridge's. After the previous singer was tired of Preminger's bullying (a common complaint about Otto), 19 year old Horne stepped in for little pay, re-recorded what was previously done, and she never looked back. Definitely for musical fans.

Since one is there to catch Carmen Jones, you might as well stay for River of No Return, a Preminger Western from 1954. His only Western from 1954 shot in Cinemascope, starring Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe. According to author Chris Fujiwara, Otto decided never to do in two shots what he could in one. Here farmer Mitchum and saloon singer Monroe must battle deadly rapids (they both nearly drowned during shooting, we get to see some of it), gambler Rory Calhoun, and angry Indians. Apparently, one of the more naturalistic performances by Monroe. How did Preminger do it? Well, to quote him: "Directing Marilyn Monroe was like directing Lassie. You needed fourteen takes to get each one of them right." Also, according to imdb, Otto described Monroe as a vacuum with nipples. Ok then. Anyway, I'm curious to see it.

BOOGIE NIGHTS- Sat Jan 12 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- E. Houston St., bet. 1st and 2nd Ave.- There will be a Paul Thomas Anderson retrospective this weekend and next, at AMMI in Astoria. But I don't have time for most of them, and I don't feel like taking the time to re-tackle Magnolia. Another time definitely, but not now. Luckily, Boogie Nights will have a Midnight screening and if you can take the length, go for it. With a cast that is an embarrassment of riches, boy did Anderson do well for himself in this category. Oscar nominations for Anderson for his Screenplay, Julianne Moore for Supporting Actress, and Burt Reynolds for Supporting Actor. Supposedly at the time, this wasn't considered a great deal for Burt, being cast in both Bean and this: a film about 70s porn by a director with only an art house flop (the decent Hard Eight) on the resume. He fired his agent shortly before or after filming, don't remember which. After he received his Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, and supposedly receiving a big big check from a share of Bean's rather large grosses, it was believed Burt's career was officially revived. After films such as The Crew, Mystery Alaska and Universal Soldier 2 and 3, that idea was put to rest real fast.

I would have added Igmar's Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, now playing at IFC Film Center thru mid-January. However, they're pissing me off again. I don't mind that their showing the original 5 hr 12 min version, as opposed to the 3 hr 8 min theatrical release. But they're showing this in two parts, and separate admission for each part! You mean no special day where you can see it all. You have to spend 22 dollars to see it all. Get bent, IFC! And I still don't know what midnight screenings they have this month, so if they were any good, we won't know about it until it was too late. If it wasn't for the fact that IFC will have some good Louis Malle films in February and March, I would ignore this place altogether.

Let me know about the above films. Later all.