Sunday, February 24, 2008

Best of 07

Mike here with the best of 2007. Timely, this is not. But because of the Oscars aiding us in what's interesting if not the best, and because I'm not paid to do this, this is as fast as I can do it. I feel the quality is much improved from last year. For one thing, I don't have to put a film from over thirty years ago into this top 10, like I did last year with Army of Shadows. Being pretty good wasn't good enough; too much quality this year. Probably the highest quality of any year this decade.

And I had a difficult time putting a list together. Any film 5 through 10 here would have made major headway in the 06 list, but lucky to get noticed this year. With more independent films coming down the pipeline every year mixing with major studio product, it will only get more difficult to catch everything. Some films like Lust, Caution, The Kite Runner, It Started In The Evening, Superbad, and In The Valley of Elah were just impossible to get around to. But I feel good about this list. That said, 1 through 4 had been settled for me for over seven weeks now.

Note that I reserve the right to change my mind years down the line. I gave an example in the top 10 list of 06. Too lengthy to go into now, but suffice to say, I reserve the right, especially when dropping a film in favor of another. Or in the case of this list, changing the order of 1 and 2.

One runner-up of note out of TV. Something that despite it's length, would have been in my top 10 if it were a theatrical release: Ken Burns' The War from PBS. Impossible to capture all of it, but by focusing through people from 4 small American towns, and what they went through on the home front, in the European theater and in the Pacific. Perhaps not as great as Burns' The Civil War, but pretty close. Now on with the ten:

10) I'M NOT THERE- As much as the documentary Nanking effected me emotionally, I'm Not There got me interested in Bob Dylan, something I thought would never happen. Using the split personality idea, as well as the idea that no one knows anyone completely, this blows right by other music bio-pics. It kept me visually stimulated, even in some of it's rough patches, mostly with Richard Gere. If the stunt casting of Marcus Carl Franklin and Cate Blanchett doesn't cut it, the film is crushed. Blanchett's sequences appealed visually for me the most; 8 1/2 mixed with A Hard Day's Night.

I believe even more could have been explored, say with Christian Bale's 2 different time periods, or even a sixth Dylan after his religious stint. But it would still be leading to the same conclusion about identity and his music, so there's no need. Todd Haynes' best film.

9) LA VIE EN ROSE- The film is not problem free. When it comes to Edith Piaf's life, it seems to drop numerous loves, her bi-sexuality is so lightly hinted at it might go completely unnoticed, it seems at least one miscarriage is left out, the years in Nazi-occupied France don't exist, and oh yeah, we see that she had uh, whatchamacallit, A KID, at some point. But if the story was told in chronological order, then it would be as weak as those VH1 Behind The Music bio-pics, like Ray and Walk The Line.

By bouncing back and forth in time, Olivier Dahan's film sneaks up on you. The story being told in fragments that are not always linear, takes a little getting used to, but pays off for the viewer at the end.

None of this works without Piaf's songs, the excellent make-up department, and especially Marion Cotillard as Piaf. She nails the physicality to a T. Her lip synching and concert gesturing is excellent. She handles aging from 20 to 47. Though the last few years, thanks to alcoholism, some kind of rheumatism or arthritis, and morphine addiction, and cancer, Cotillard has to play Piaf more like a 65-70 year old than late forties. And the makeup is good, extreme closeups can be done and we don't see the seams. God, I hope this doesn't lose Best Makeup to Norbit.

8) RATATOUILLE- As close as I can come this year to representing comedy on this list. I was never not dazzled by the visuals. Just picking one is hard, but I'll settle for any Dracula connections with Peter O'Toole's Anton Ego's character. The vocal cast was terrific, but if you told me I would really like Janeane Garofalo again, I'd never have believed you. My new favorite Pixar. Nuff said.

7) THE NAMESAKE- Mira Nair's film was unjustly ignored at awards and most end of year critics time. That's what you get for outgrossing Diving Bell, every indie Parker Posey film from 07 and Before The Devil Knows You're Dead combined, and doing most of that business in March and April. I won't pound on the table and say it captures the feeling of the modern immigrant experience, but it feels authentic. The same goes for the feeling of family depicted; from being embarrassed and annoyed by your parents, to having a better understanding for them as adults. Kal Penn runs with the lead. He projects a strong leading man presence that hopefully leads to more than another Harold & Kumar flick. But the acting kudos go to Irfan Khan as the father, and Tabu as the mother. Both in what I believe is their first American film, having to depict 2-3 decades of time, and do it well.

6) THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY- All praise for director Julian Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood for making the unwatchable cinematically watchable. Starting off for the most part from the vantage point of Jean-Dominique Bauby's eye, and expanding from that only when his perspective and imagination expands. We feel for him, but never does the picture collapse into a pity party. Hard not to feel a little choked up over the flashback sequence between Bauby and his 92 year old father played by Max von Sydow, or over the scene where Bauby's loyal ex and mother of his kids, must translate the feelings of love and longing to his mistress who refuses to visit. Wonderful picture, and one I'd never see if it wasn't for the nominations.

5) THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD- A film that Warners Bros dumped as an autumn write-off, deserves better treatment. But as Westerns continue to be less in vogue, and the chance to see this on the big screen is already non-existent, I'm afraid history will go on and pretend this doesn't exist. Or it would have if this wasn't Casey Affleck's coming out party. Yes, more people saw Gone Baby Gone, but this is a showcase for the younger Affleck's full talents. Now if there's another Ocean's film, Scott Caan can be the lesser known guy with a famous relative. Kind of like The King of Comedy, where we see the sycophant pay for the crime of getting rid of his idol, and we see the regret as well. Sumptuous cinematography by Roger Deakins, and Brad Pitt's pretty good too. Despite it's length, it feels like a lot was left out; I can't imagine Mary-Louise Parker committing to what's turned out to be an extended cameo. Something tells me there's a director's cut waiting to come out. I hope you have the patience to give this a chance.

4) ZODIAC- $33,080,084. If a film studio wants to back a top director's idea of making a quality, 70s style suspense drama, this is all the money they can hope to make in the U.S. Apparently we have to thank the West Coast for making Michael Clayton slightly more popular. Anyway, if the fanatics who suck from the teat of Fight Club, don't support David Fincher's best film with similar feeling, then they're even more useless then I think they are. Also proof who to those who over inflate No Country For Old Men's qualities that you can have a downer ending and yet still make it a satisfying fit.

3) ONCE- The best musical of the year sure as hell isn't Hairspray, it's Once. The sleeper of last summer. A pleasant surprise. What seems like a working class variation of an Andy Hardy musical, soars when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova start singing the Oscar nominated Falling Slowly in the music store, and it never falls down to earth. If someone knows a better film of unrequited love in the past 17-25 years, tell me. This is what happens when you have performers who act fine but sing really well, as opposed to Sweeney Todd, where they had very good actors who can barely sing. And unlike No Country, this film pulled off it's ending.

2) THE LIVES OF OTHERS- Last year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. It might have received a minor release elsewhere in 06, but I don't think it was in L.A., and it didn't open in NYC until last Feb., so I use this technicality to get it on the list. Well crafted, never very warm, never very cold. Just right. Sorry if this makes this flick seem like Goldilock's porridge. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck gives us an Eastern Germany where the Communist secret police or Stasi managed by threat or blackmail to turn 1-3 percent of the population (who knows how many exactly) into unofficial spies of the friends and neighbors. Set against the backdrop of a popular playwright who has now been targeted, and the Stasi policeman sent to spy, but who undergoes a gradual change of heart. This isn't a textbook, it's a film that stays with you. Especially if you don't know the history, the film doesn't stray, doesn't preach and doesn't bore. It's found a decent audience for an art house film, but if you're reading this and you haven't seen this, then what the hell are you waiting for? Also, unlike No Country, this film pulled off it's ending.

This might be a film that enters my personal top 35 in about 5 years or so. But even that isn't enough to be number one for me this year. That goes to:

1) THERE WILL BE BLOOD- Some of you complain that the story doesn't hold. Well ok, Michael Clayton is better in telling stories with words. The Roger Deakins Cinematography from both No Country and Jesse James is somewhat superior. But for combination of script, sight and sound, Paul Thomas Anderson has them all beat this year, Oscar results be damned. I forgive him for annoying me with Magnolia. Ok, I'll give that film a fairer shake when I'm more relaxed, but anyway . . .

Starting with a beginning that's 2001-esque with no dialogue and only a little music and doesn't stop. And no, I find the ending satisfactory, which is why this film is number one for me, and No Country can't get into the top 10. That and I don't buy Josh Brolin's bit of going back with water, the fact that I've seen the unstoppable killer bit in both The Terminator and Westworld and oh yeah, the weak ending, but anyway . . .

A completion of its themes. I'm fine with the depiction of Big Oil being bigger and more important in America than family and religion (false prophet or otherwise), though not good for the individuals per se. A more engrossing American film than any other in quite a while. L.A. Confidential might be the last one? And oh yeah, that Daniel Day-Lewis guy? Looks like he has a future. And carries this film through rough patches like Marion Cotillard did for La Vie En Rose. Carries it enough to be number one for me. That's all for now. Later folks.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feb. revivals: second half.

Mike here with what to catch for the second half of Feb. I had a bigger list planned. 17 films total. But with too many films to catch up to before the Oscars, I decided to pare it down to what I really want to catch. Anything with half a burning desire, I put up. So here we go:

THE PAWNBROKER- Sat Feb 16 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Sidney Lumet retrospective. Rod Stieger plays the title role, a holocaust survivor, applying his trade in Harlem. Like Juliette Binoche in Blue, his character is suffering from loss and trauma, and despite (and perhaps abetted by) his profession, he wants no emotional contact whatsoever. But just like in Blue, life gives him no choice. Dark enough that despite critical praise, it didn't get the same love from that year as say, The Sound of Music or Dr. Zhivago. Stieger received his Oscar nomination, but most of the film's accolades came from overseas. Also notable for being Morgan Freeman's screen debut. Worth catching.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH- Sat Feb 16 and Sun Feb 17 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of a series of 80s teen films getting the Midnight movie treatment. Here we get a sleeper hit from the summer of 1982. A film Universal had no confidence in, and seemed to try to just dump out there. Word of mouth, plus some key good reviews from Siskel and Ebert among others, turned the distribution scheme into a happy accident. Just as the film was dying out on the West Coast, it starts to play big in the East Coast. Sometimes, studio execs are so lucky . . . From Amy Heckerling, who would never direct a better film. So what is this film best remembered for? The realistic glimpse of high school life during a certain time from soon-to-be-very-well-known Cameron Crowe? The compilation of young acting talent, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Forest Whitaker, Phoebe Cates, Eric Stolz, Judge Reinhold, Nicolas Cage, and Anthony Edwards? The shots of Cates rising from the pool, and Leigh lying on the couch? Or for the casting of Sean Penn? His ascent in the acting world, begins with his perf as the iconic partying surfer dude. His scenes with Ray Walston as Mr. Hand still hold up today. I'm guessing all who read this have seen this film. I'm guessing maybe one at best, actually saw this film on the big screen. Time to correct this.

12 ANGRY MEN and/or FAIL-SAFE- Mon Feb 18 at 5:25 (Angry), 7:15 (Failsafe) and 9:20 (Angry)- Film Forum- Part of the Sidney Lumet retrospective. A double feature, though I don't necessarily need to see both. First, 12 Angry Men. If you're reading this, then you know this courtroom drama, set during jury deliberations, so there's no need to go much further about the story. A fun potboiler of a film. The great acting isn't the amazing part to me; the fact that Lumet kept things cinematically interesting despite being confined to 1 or 2 small rooms.

3 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay Adaptation. But it was a flop in its day. Star/co-producer Henry Fonda was so disappointed, he would never produce another film again. But it's considered a classic today. On the second AFI Top 100 list.

Next is Fail-Safe. From the same year and studio as Dr. Strangelove, with the same brutally dark black Cold War atmosphere as well. But while Strangelove treated it's material as black comedy, Fail-Safe treated its material as dark suspense thriller. A thriller where our technology is stronger than our ability to fix it. A thousand to one electronic glitch causes a bomber group to go past its fail-safe marks, and proceed to bomb the Soviet Union. A nervous general tries to help the Soviets shoot them down, civilian expert Walter Matthau advises to let the planes hit their targets to force a showdown once and for all; and President Henry Fonda must talk to the emotional Russian premier (with the help of nervous translator Larry Hagman), and eventually must make an offer of atonement that's should make every New York viewer very uncomfortable.

Well acted and well crafted. Because of Strangelove, a flop in its day, despite great reviews. But I'm guessing most of you reading this aren't very familiar with this film, so it's time to play catch up.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS- Tues Feb 19 at 8:30- Film Forum- Part of the Sidney Lumet retrospective. A lighter, complete change of pace from the darker Lumet films shown in the retrospective. The best of all Agatha Christie adaptations as far as I'm concerned. Albert Finney's Hercule Poirot is called upon by Martin Balsam to solve the murder of Richard Widmark. Here's his list of suspects: Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, Sena Connery, Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel (better known to art houses types recently for both The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and Army of Shadows). Fun film; the kind that is kind of hard to sit through after this, almost as though "this is the best, it's difficult to sit through weaker imitations". 6 Oscar nominations, including Finney for Best Actor, Screenplay Adaptation, and Geoffrey Unsworth's Cinematography. No Best Picture nomination. Paramount already had slots filled by Chinatown, The Conversation, and, oh yeah, Godfather Part 2. There wouldn't be a fourth film for the studio.

An Oscar did go to Bergman for Supporting Actress, mainly for one breakdown scene. Here's a quote from Lumet from the Forum website about this: “She [Ingrid Bergman] was so film-knowledgeable. She’d worked with such masters. So when she saw that I didn’t do a reverse shot of Albert Finney in their big scene together and there would be no cutaways, she gave me a kiss on the mouth. I almost left my wife! [laughs] I remember being pissed off that we got so many nominations and I didn’t get nominated.”The Lumet film I want to catch the most on this list. Let's do it people.

BLAZING SADDLES- Fri Feb 22 and Sat Feb 23 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- A midnight screening of Mel Brooks' comedy classic, that still works as incisive satire even today. Brooks told the story on Bob Costas' Later about how the Warner Bros. studio heads loved the film when they screened it the morning before it's big test screening. They told Mel how much they loved the flick, but they wanted a few changes. They then proceeded to give him a laundry list of what they wanted cut, of all which Mel just nodded his head and kept saying yes. "The bean farting scene, we want out, the sheriff is a niGONG, we want out, all n-word jokes, out, etc.". And after they were done giving notes and departed, Mel told his assistant "Fuck em. Send the film out as is.". Supposedly at the time, it was the most successful screening Warners ever had for a comedy. Oscar nominations for Madeline Kahn for Supporting Actress, Editing and Brooks' title song. If noting else, it would be better to spend 11 dollars to catch this then full price to catch Brooks' stage version of Young Frankenstein. Don't get me wrong, I was entertained. The cast was enjoyable (no Andrea Martin but I didn't miss her; the understudy was fine). But except for the Puttin' On The Ritz number, the stage version rarely rises above the film. The Producers, it is not. Even Spamalot at times rises above Monty Python and the Holy Grail a lot more than Young Frankenstein does. Anyway, let's catch this on this weekend if we can. Unless you prefer . . .

RISKY BUSINESS- Fri Feb 22 and Sat Feb 23 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Part of a series of 80s comedies playing at midnight. If you rather do a midnight film that's a little more risque then Blazing Saddles, the film that made Tom Cruise a star also plays on this weekend. Wether you prefer Tom dancing around in his underwear, or you prefer Rebbeca De Mornay wearing none, the sleeper hit of the summer of 83 fits the bill. And a pretty good film to boot.

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST- Sat Feb 23 at 4- MOMA- Part of the Milos Forman retrospective, and the only one I have any time to catch. The classic Nicholson film that won Jack an Oscar, as well as winning Best Picture. Personally, I prefer Jaws from that year, but that and Cuckoo's Nest leaves all other films from that year in the dust. Yes, even Barry Lyndon, though some years down the line, I may not feel that way. Jack plays McMurphy, who thinks he'll be free quicker if he gets transferred from jail to an institution and pretends he's crazy. Oops, doesn't work that way. Especially when going up against Nurse Ratched, who's right up there with Darth Vader, Gollum and Hannibal Lecter among great movie villians.

The rest of the story you're probably aware of, so no need to go further. Except for the fact that we should all thank God Kirk Douglas never got the chance to play McMurphy on screen. I don't even want think of that. I don't even want to think of Gary Sinise playing McMurphy. I saw him do that on Broadway; he was good for the most part, but there were sections where I thought "Gary's playing McMurphy as Beetlejuice." And compared to Jack playing McMurphy as a human being, forget it. It also helped that the screenplay is superior to the play (sorry, haven't read the book).

On both AFI Top 100 lists. 9 Oscar nominations, including Brad Dourif for Supporting Actor and Cinematography by Haskell Wexler and Bill Butler. 5 Oscars, which not only included Picture and Jack, but also Louise Fletcher for Actress, Forman for Director, and for the Screenplay. The first film to win those major categories since It Happened One Night. It wouldn't happen again until Silence of the Lambs. I'm sure most of us haven't seen Cuckoo's Nest in a while, and especially on the big screen. Here's our chance.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT- Wed Feb 27 at 7:30- Film Forum- Part of the Sidney Lumet retrospective. There's no such thing as a happy Eugene O'Neill play, and this sure as hell isn't Rebbeca of Sunnybrook Farms. But a film cited as one of the best theater-to-screen adaptations ever, and as one of the best ensemble peices ever, that it is. Starring Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards and Dean Stockwell. Hepburn was Oscar nominated, and all three men shared the Best Actor award at Cannes, something I don't think has ever happened before or since. I don't think I need to sell this anymore.

PRINCE OF THE CITY- Thurs Feb 28 at 8:30- Film Forum- The last of the Sidney Lumet retrospective, and if the best wasn't saved for last, it's pretty close. A standout film that was too dark to be considered commercially appealing back in 1981. Considered to be Lumet's apology for Serpico. Terrific perf by Treat Williams. He plays a cop, tired of the corruption and what he has to do to keep his job. The scenes involving keeping a junkie informant from getting sick are difficult to watch, but tremendous as well. He turns informant and federal witness, but he can't count on the inner turmoil, or the damage he does to his cop friends, his only friends. These cop friends who try to do more to help him, then the feds who need his testimony, and need him to turn on his friends. Plenty of grey areas that the viewer must decide on their own. The names have been changed, including one Rudy Guliani as an arrogant young prosecutor. Co-starring Lindsay Crouse and Jerry Orbach.

Only recieved an Oscar nomination for Screenplay Adaptation. Not as fun as Raiders of the Lost Ark, not as Hollywood as On Golden Pond or Reds, not as British as Chariots of Fire, and even less successful then Atlantic City. Let's do this one.

Like I said, all of these I want to catch. If I HAD to narrow it down, like to go for Orient Express, Prince of the City, and the Midnight movies. Maybe even Cuckoo's Nest, and anything else would be a bonus. We'll see. Later all.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Feb revival: first half

Mike here with a new list of revivals to catch in Feb. Hopefully they're all better than Last Night At Marienbad. Wow, what a pretentious film. 10 minutes of fascinating visuals and music, 20 minutes of me fighting to stay awake, and 60 minutes wishing this was over. At least those annoying Egoiste perfume commercials of the early 90s ended after 30 seconds. Ugh. Anyway, I know some of these films listed are much better. So here we go:

DON'T LOOK BACK- Mon Feb 4-Thurs Feb 7 at 7:30 and 9:40- D.A. Pennebaker will appear in person at the 7:30 and 9:40 shows on Monday, February 4- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. The classic Dylan documentary from D.A. Pennebaker, covering his 1965 tour of England plays for one week only. This is the era covered by the Cate Blanchett section of I'm Not There, though Todd Haynes throws in some Hard Day's Night and some 8 1/2 references into the mix. Even if you're not familiar with Dylan, you're probably familiar with some aspects, like the video sequence where you hear the song, but you don't see Dylan moving his lips. Just dropping cue cards of particular words. Helped to shape the early form of MTV. Would really like to make an effort to catch this.

Director Pennebaker will appear at the 7:30 and 9:40 screenings on Monday Feb 4.

ROSEMARY'S BABY- Thurs Feb 7 at 7 and 9:30 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- W. 23rd St and 8th- The classic Roman Polanski horror film plays for a cheap price at a convenient location. Though more psychological at times than anything else, as well as one of those quintessential New York films. Whether it's scarier for Mia Farrow to have the Devil's baby in your womb, to marry an actor, or to have a haircut that doesn't work on your head like that pixie cut, is up to you to decide. Oscar nomination for Polanski's adaptation of Ira Levin's novel, an Oscar for ruth gordon as one of the witches. Pre film show by Hedda Lettuce.

LADY CHATTERLY- Thurs Feb 7 at 7:30- MOMA- I brought it up last time, and I throw it out there one more time. Check the last revival list for what I wrote, such as it is.

NETWORK- Fri Feb 8 and Sat Feb 9 at 4:30, 7 and 9:30, and Mon Feb 11 at 9:45- Film Forum- A new 35mm print and the start of the Forum's Sidney Lumet retrospective. One of the more influential films of 1976. Considered a bit outrageous when first released, but more prophetic as each year has passed. Tell me that cable news shows and the shows that spoof them don't resemble anything depicted in Network. If you have the balls to me I'm wrong . . .

10 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director Sidney Lumet and Actor William Holden. 4 Oscars, for Supporting Actress, Actress for Faye Dunaway, Original Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky and Actor for Peter Finch, the first posthumous winner in an acting category. Some feel Holden would have won if Finch had not died. But once you deliver something that hits the pop culture zeitgeist like the "I'm mad as hell" monologue, it's hard to overcome. Network became only the second film to win 3 of the 4 Oscar acting categories (Streetcar was first.)

LACOMBE, LUCIEN- Sat Feb 9 at Noon- IFC Film Center- Part of the Louis Malle retrospective. I tried to see this a few years back when a Malle retrospective was done at Lincoln Center, and when I did the list pre-blog. Timing messed up the chance and this was one of the few Malle films I was a little upset about missing. Here's a chance to correct that. Here's what I copied and pasted about 2 and a half years ago from the Walter Reade site:

A small town in the south-west of France, summer of 1944. Having failed to join the resistance, the 18 year old Lucien Lacombe, whose father is a prisoner in Germany and whose mother dates her employer, works for the German police. He then meets France Horn, the daughter of a rich jewish tailor and is introduced to the workings of the French Reisitance. Malle received praise for creating a realistic look of that world, without openly seeking any sympathy for the lead character, a potential collaborator.

Pierre Blaise became France's biggest male star after this performance. But after 2 more films, he died in a car accident, unable to capitalize much on his newfound fame. An Oscar nomination for Foreign Film.

MOSCOW DOES NOT BELIEVE IN TEARS- Sat Feb 9 at 8:15- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of a retrospective of Russian film making. Was a big art house hit here in New York back in the early 80s, forgotten today. Curious to see it. For the rest, I'll have to copy and paste what Walter Reade's website wrote:

Winner of the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film back in 1981, Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears is a sprawling, unabashedly sentimental but ultimately moving chronicle of three women—Katerina (Vera Alentova), Lyudmila (Irina Muravova) and Antonina (Raisa Ryazanova). In 1958, they emigrate from the country to work in the factories of the big city. A house sitting job for Katerina allows the women to throw a swank dinner party, at which they pretend to be college students. Eventually their ruse is discovered. Cut to the late ‘70s and the consequences of that night—their marriages and divorces, children, unrealized dreams and unkept promises. The glory of Moscow lay in its richly drawn and beautifully performed characters. These women are always treated as individuals, representing nothing beyond themselves, as all that has happened to them is ultimately traced back to the decisions they have made.

DERSU UZALA- Tues Feb 12 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of a retrospective of Russian film making. I'm even more curious to check this one out, because it's Kurosawa. After that, again, I'll cut and paste again from the Walter Reade website:

Over its long history, Mosfilm has often served as a temporary home for many foreign film artists. Perhaps none left such an extraordinary legacy as Akira Kurosawa, with his late masterpiece Dersu Uzala. Based on the memoirs of Vladimir Arseniev, the film is set in the expansive forests of Eastern Siberia at the turn of the century, where an aging frontiersman saves the life of a Soviet explorer, creating a life-long friendship. Yet, when the two reunite decades later, it is only too clear how much the world and the land have changed. Epic in form yet intimate in scope, Dersu Uzala is a beautiful and romantic hymn to nature and the human spirit. Winner of the 1976 Academy Award® for Best Foreign Language Film.

THE HILL and THE OFFENCE- Wed Feb 13 at 3:10 (Hill), 5:30 (Offence), 7:40 (Hill) and 10 (Offence)- Film Forum- Part of a Sidney Lumet retrospective. A double feature of Lumet films starring Sean Connery. Apparently there was a day when, if you cast Connery in a non-Bond film, audiences would go "No, I can't accept Sean in a non-Bond film. NEVER!". And they made sure ignore this serious, very British, film from very New York director Lumet. Don't think of this as anti-war, but as anti-stupidity in the military.

Connery plays one of 5 new prisoners in a British disciplinary prison camp, who may or may not be broken by the sadistic methods of one of their guards. Strong performances dot this black and white, almost clastrophobic film, including Ossie Davis, Harry Andrews and Michael Redgrave. Don't expect a jolly film, but expect a good one. The screenplay won at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Hill is double-featured with The Offence. NOT available on DVD here in the U.S., so this might be your only shot to catch this. More of a talking film, and just as ignored as The Hill. Connery plays a veteran police detective. Burned out after 20 years on the job, he's pushed over the edge when dealing with and interrogating a suspected rapist. Probably the most serious and dramatic performance ever by Connery. And probably even less known than The Hill.

WHAT'S UP DOC?- Thurs Feb 14 at 7 and 9:30 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of a somewhat forgotten screwball comedy. The names Barbara Striesand and Ryan O'Neal may annoy the hell out of you, but they are a terrific couple in this 1972 film. Peter Bogdanovich's homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s fits right along with them. Most of you don't know this film, but this is a good time to start. Screenplay by Buck Henry, Robert Benton and David Newman. Great supporting cast includes Madeline Kahn, Austin Pendelton, Kenneth Mars, Michael Murphy, John Hillerman and Randy Quaid. Pre film show by Hedda Lettuce.