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.

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