Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March revivals: second half

Mike here with what to catch for the rest of March. Small list, because of the small number of flicks. Have been enjoying some of the films at the Ziegfeld. I enjoyed West Side Story, but I expected to. What I didn't expect to catch was The Sound of Music. But I did, and enjoyed it. There's just some cheesiness that can't be overcome, but this was the first time I got to understand the cinematic scope of this picture. Additional kudos to Robert Wise. South Pacific may have better songs, Oklahoma may have a standout dance sequence, but Wise's camera and editing work, combined with Julie Andrews' iconic performance, is why Sound of Music is among the classics, and why the other Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals won't be.

I believe there was a Robert Wise retrospective done by the Forum a few years back. But for Wise's films from West Side Story through Star Trek The Motion Picture, I think the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center is the only revival house who can do them justice. That still doesn't make me want to run to see Star (Julie Andrews as Gertrude Lawrence?), but I don't see the Forum or any other screening room pulling them off well. And now when I talk to some about great film musicals, I can no longer leap from 1964 (My Fair Lady and A Hard Day's Night) to 1972 (Cabaret). I have to acknowledge Sound of Music in 65. I'm still not doing the same for "Oliver!". Not at this time anyway.

Anyway, back to the list. Here we go:

JAWS- Thurs Mar 27 at 8- at the Ziegfeld for 8 dollars- I mentioned this in the last post, so I won't repeat myself except in one respect. A reminder for those who haven't seen it that this is the last night. If you've never seen it, this is the time and place to go. Seeing this on TV isn't the same, people.

PLANET OF THE APES- Fri Mar 28, Sat Mar 29, and Tues Apr 1- Thurs Apr 3 at 2, 5 and 8- at the Ziegfeld for 8 dollars- A new 35mm print for the 40th anniversary. For those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it.

A BOY AND HIS DOG- Fri Mar 28 and Sat Mar 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- E. Houston bet. 1st and 2nd Ave.- Here's a fun, god awful piece of crap, midnight movie for you all. A 1975 cult flick set in the U.S., sometime after World War 4. Don Johnson, practically a baby back then, tries to survive in this world with his genius dog, who he either has a telepathic link with or talks to or I don't remember what crap they came up with. Then he meets a hot chick and then end up in some underground world where the old ways are maintained, and all the adults are wearing blush. Jason Robards plays the film in a dead drunk. Years afterward, when he was sober and was working with Johnson on a TV remake of The Long Hot Summer, he was surprised to learn he worked with Don before. And then stunned to see this film, where he looked like a cross between a geisha and the farmer from the American Gothic painting.

THE KILLING- Sun Mar 30 at 6 and Mon Mar 31 at 10:30- Film Forum- Part of a retrospective of the best films ever made and/or distributed by United Artists. Before Tarantino was making crime films that twisted the timeline back and forth, Stanley Kubrick made this film noir very early in his career. A film that made his reputation forever more. Kubrick adapted the novel "Clean Break", with additional dialogue from pulp author Jim Thompson. Sterling Hayden is the leader of a group robbing a race track. Of course, things go wrong, with a memorable ending. Among the standout performances, take note of Elisha Cook Jr. as Sap Incarnate, and Marie Windsor as his scheming wife.

United Artists had no faith in The Killing, and threw it out there as part of a B movie double feature. But critics took notice, and so did Kirk Douglas, who desperately needed a director for Paths of Glory. A classic of the genre. The Killing is playing as part of a double feature with Paths of Glory, and if you have time for both, go for it. You'll be in film buff nirvana. But I've done Paths of Glory fairly recently, so I'm not running to that one. But it's been about 8 years since I caught The Killing, and I'd like to catch this again. And don't worry, its only 84 minutes long.

That's it for now. I expect the next list to be somewhat heavy in the Forum's UA retrospective. Must know fast if Jaws is doable. Later all.

P.S.: Found two links on You Tube that might amuse that relate. You'll probably have to cut and paste the links in order to see them. First, the 4:30 movie theme and logo that introduced and ended each airing. If there was a way to have it be what played into anyone looking into my Facebook account, I'd love it:

Second, I stumbled on this one. The CBS Friday Night Movie, introducing Planet of the Apes in what would be it's last prime time airing back in 1976. Interesting introduction, gets one interested by concentrating mostly on one scene from the movie:

Friday, March 07, 2008

March revivals: Ziegfeld update

Mike here with a need to update the list. The Ziegfeld finally came out with their classics screenings list and I'm a little disappointed. Only 2 weeks scheduled, and most of them a repeat from the last time they did this back in September/October of 2006. I heard rumors of digital screenings of some Bond films and a 40th anniversary screening of Planet of the Apes, but they haven't been scheduled at this time, if they're going to be scheduled at all. But since those of you looking at this probably didn't see it back then, it's new to you.

Also have to mention a correction on the price. They raised the price from 7.50 to 8 dollars. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still affordable compared to current lousy movies at full price. So here we go:

WEST SIDE STORY- Sat Mar 15 at 4:30, Sun Mar 16 and Wed Mar 19 at 8:15, and Thurs Mar 20 at 4:30 (Weekdays and weeknights tentative on the Ziegfeld's end)

GREASE SING-A-LONG- Fri Mar 14 at 8:15 and Sat Mar 15 at 2

THE SOUND OF MUSIC- Sat Mar 15 at 8, Sun Mar 16 at 1 and Tues Mar 18 and Thurs Mar 20(those last 2 dates tentative at the theater's end) at 8:15

Separate admission for each film I'm afraid. But if they get the sense that you're hear for the duration, they might let you pay for your seats without stepping outside, or at least let you leave your stuff while one of your party gets tickets for all. This happened with some friends a couple of years ago when the Indiana Jones films were all screened in one day. But don't go in thinking this will automatically happen; you're on own and so an I, so assume nothing and hope.

Now I already talked about Grease and Sound of Music on the previous listing, but West Side Story I'll bring up now that I know it will be there. Now if these dates for West Side are a little difficult, note that the Film Forum will screen this on Sat April 12. But note that the Forum will do one screening only, and their screen and sound system are not superior than the Ziegfeld's in any way (though the Forum seats are a little more comfortable).

Now as for West Side Story, it's on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my personal Top 100. Number 2 on AFI's recent Best Movie Musical list. It is totally different seeing it on the big screen as opposed to TV. I can't describe it very well, you have to go to know what I mean. Sight and sound makes this more of an experience then just passive viewing like on tv.

Is it perfect? No. Some of the slang is just too dated, some of the actors had to be painted Latino (get a good look at George Chakiris and tell me I'm wrong), most of the teenagers are either over 21 or pushing 30, and some had to be dubbed. But mix Leonard Bernstein's music, Stephen Sondheim's songs, Jerome Robbins's choreography and Robert Wise's direction and you have a terrific film. Yes, Robbins is co-director, until his perfectionism resulted in re-shoots and extended shooting, causing the film to go over budget and behind schedule. He was fired 60 percent into shooting and Wise finished it.

Stunning use of New York locales and a terrific opening credit sequence and ending. 10 Oscars including Picture and Director. If you've never seen it on the big screen, go. And if you can only choose between Grease, West Side Story or Sound of Music, I say West Side with no hesitation.

And next is what they bill as Steven Spielberg week. I'll list all three. But I'm being dutiful in case one of you yells about what must be seen. But I'm only pushing one, the last one:

BACK TO THE FUTURE- Fri Mar 21 at 5, Sat Mar 22 at 2 and Wed Mar 26 at 8

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (2001 Edition)- Fri Mar 21 at 8, Sat Mar 22 at 5 and Tues Mar 25 at 8

JAWS- Sat March 23, Mon March 24 and Thurs March 27 at 8

Like I said, Jaws is the one I'm pushing the most on this list. Like West Side Story, on both AFI Top 100 lists. But this is higher up for me. More like in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen, and on the Ziegfeld's 70mm screen? Forget about it. It's not just another fish film, Ed. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby.)

And I must correct myself on my top 10 from a couple of posts back. Specifically with I'm Not There and the possible helpfulness of having a sixth actor playing Dylan. Now I left out Heath Ledger on purpose, since I was trying not to write an epic tome. But I completely forget Ben Whishaw who was the sixth Dylan. Ok, Richard Gere was in the film, but for our purposes, Ben is. The funny thing is, despite an extreme lack of screen time, I liked Ben more than I did Richard, go figure. Anyway, correction made, and the Ziegfeld listing has been updated. Let me know. Later all.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March revivals: first half

Hi, Mike here with what to catch in the first half of March.

Sorry it's been a little while on this front. Not much to talk about with the Oscars. I lost my pool again, most women there couldn't wear the right bra for their dresses so their breasts point in different directions, Renee Zellweger looked weirder than usual, Jerry Seinfeld was unfunny AGAIN, Jon Stewart had a respectable monologue but was dull the rest of the evening, the show itself was dull in general, God help me if another Enchanted song is sung even if that hot midget Kristen can't-spell-her-last-name-but-it-starts-with-a-C sings it, and it was nice to see Marion Cotillard win but those comments she made a year ago where she said she believed the U.S. staged the destruction of the Twin Towers make me want to travel to Chicago to protest at her new film's exteriors locations. There, Oscar wrap-ups are done. And oh yeah, Marilyn, see more movies from 07. You can't have 300 in your top 10 and pretend it isn't an eyesore there.

If I manage to continue this blog for at least another 18 months, it will go on without mention of AMMI in Astoria. The talked about renovations and expansions will begin in full just after Easter. The screening room is already closed, and nothing will reopen until just after Labor Day 2009 at the absolute earliest. I didn't have a lot of time or desire to catch the last retrospective there, which were John Ford's films back when he was under contract at Fox. But had I paid more attention regarding it's closing, I would have made some time, even at the expense of an Oscar film or 2. Had some good group times there. Whether it was the chance to re-evaluate Citizen Ruth (Alexander Payne's first film), or feel what it was like to catch both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Singin' In The Rain on the big screen, it was good there. Now those two were not seen on the same day, but I did catch Pink Flamingos and Metropolis as a double feature there. Stranger than catching The Philadelphia Story and Yojimbo together there. A favorite time of mine was getting two guys who normally wouldn't catch long foreign films to join me in seeing Kagemusha. They actually didn't hate this Kurosawa film from 1980. Not one of their all-time favorites to be sure, but they gave it a chance and they didn't hate it. That made me feel good, as does this list. Here we go:

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948)- Fri Mar 6 at 8:15-MOMA- W. 53rd and 5th Ave.- Part of the Rex Harrison retrospective. He would have been 100 this month. Sorry I have no time for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir at 6, but I have the time for this. The last of the standout Preston 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.

ALL THE KING'S MEN- Sat Mar 8 at 7- MOMA- A classic film that's probably been seen my fewer people than the other films labeled as classic. I bet you the only way any of you have seen this was by the 3-5 second clip shown on last month's Oscars. Never being on VHS, only recently put on DVD and the horrible Sean Penn remake hasn't helped. A rare film (before color was used on a regular basis) that showed how brutal politics can be. Depicting the rise and fall of a Huey Long-esque politician. He starts off trying to do well for others and get the corrupt incumbents out of power, only to end up worse than they ever were. Not the smoothest of films, but it works today with quality acting to match. 7 Oscar nominations, including Director and Screenplay for Robert Rossen. 3 Oscars for Picture, Actor Broderick Crawford and Supporting Actress Mercedes McCambridge. I really want to make time for this.

MOMMIE DEAREST for 6.50- Sat Mar 8 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- 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. 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 for only 6.50.

THE DEER HUNTER- Tues Mar 11 at 1:30 for 4 dollars- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- W. 95th and Broadway- Part of the Best of 1978 retrospective. I would have brought this up earlier, but I've already seen Pretty Baby, and I had no time for The Last Waltz. The first Vietnam War film that was accepted by the public, despite massive controversy. 9 nominations, including Meryl Streep for Supporting Actress. 5 Oscars, including Picture, Director Michael Cimino and Christopher Walken for Supporting Actor. Oh yeah, that De Niro guy was pretty good in this too. And for only 4 dollars.

MY FAIR LADY- Wed Mar 12 at 7- MOMA- Part of the Rex Harrison retrospective. Yes, there are some of you who see this on the list and just keep looking. And this is one of those films that are used as bad examples for what won Best Picture. Forest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction, Dances With Wolves instead of Goodfellas, and My Fair Lady instead of Dr. Strangelove. But as great as both Strangelove and Peter Sellers' performance is, it didn't have a chance in hell against one of the more looked forward to musicals in that era, plus Harrison's signature performance as Henry Higgins. Throw in Audrey Hepburn and the fact that this is a well made picture, just live with it film buffs.

Not the last great movie musical, but after both this and A Hard Day's Night from 1964, it was a long way away for greatness in this genre until Cabaret in 1972 (sorry Oliver! fans.) 12 Oscar nominations, 8 Oscars including Best Picture, Harrison, and Director George Cukor. On the original AFI Top 100 list, dropped from the second list in favor of Sophie's Choice. No, I don't get that either.

GREASE SING-A-LONG- Fri Mar 14 at 8:15 and Sat Mar 15 at 2 for 7.50- The Ziegfeld- W. 53rd and 6th- The Ziegfeld revivals are back. Here are the first 2 which have separate admissions, thus get separate admissions. Now I preferred bringing up the Travolta Newton-John classic here at the Ziegfeld as opposed to say, Symphony Space. But I'm not thrilled that the only way they'll screen it is as a sing along. But for those of you who enjoy singing, here's your chance. Wether its songs from the original Broadway musical, or original songs like the title track or the Oscar nominated "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Besides, someone who looks at this list from time to time, bet me back on the day that I wouldn't go and sing. I told him I would, though I hope I remembered to say that if he paid for my admission, I'll belt the shit out of some of those songs, especially if they're in my bass range. Now's the time for him or any of you to call my bluff.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC- Sat Mar 15 at 8, Sun Mar 16 at 1 and Tues Mar 18 and Thurs Mar 20(those last 2 dates tentative at the theater's end) at 8:15 for 7.50- The Ziegfeld- Then there's this film. Based on ticket sales, right up there with Gone With The Wind and Star Wars as one of the biggest films of all time. 10 Oscar nominations, including Julie Andrews in the role she'll be remembered for all eternity, and Cinematography. 5 Oscars, including Picture, Editing and Director Robert Wise. On both AFI Top 100 lists.

Now here's where it gets personal. Thanks to both NBC's twice a year screenings and the advent of home video, I estimate I had to see all or most of this film at least 30 times in the 1980s. I was too young to fight this most of the time, so an anger to this film grew. It didn't begin to go away until I actually did a high school production, playing Uncle Max. Seeing at least half the film only on 1 or 2 occasions since 1992 combined with doing the production gave me a respect for the material, though not necessarily a love. Seeing this in the Ziegfeld as it was intended, might do the trick. Or not, I may not do this film sober. Or at least progressively less sober as the film goes on. We'll see. But I know I won't do this film alone. Who will join me?

Aside from Jaws later in March, I don't know what else is on the Ziegfeld schedule. It will probably come out in the next day or two, but I couldn't wait. But I do know this. The Ziegfeld has a schedule for seven days for each film. The weekends are always open, but if they have can't draw many or any people during the week, it's easier to keep it closed. Now they might keep it open on a Wednesday or Thursday night. Or maybe not even then. That's the risk you take. So it's best to plan on a weekend time.

And now your choice of 1984 musicals being screened at midnight on the same weekend:

FOOTLOOSE- Fri Mar 14 and Sat Mar 15 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Pure cheese. I remembering the music a lot more than the film. But enjoy the 80s songs and let the Velveeta flow, as Kevin Bacon rebels against preacher John Lithgow's rules against dancing and rock music. Bacon's dance double was terrific. Enjoy the supporting role appearances by future Oscar winner Dianne Weist, a young Chris Penn and a younger looking Sarah Jessica Parker. 2 Oscar nominations. Don't worry, it was for the songs; Kenny Loggins' title track, and "Let's Hear It For The Boy". But if you prefer great music, then you'll instead want to catch . . .

PURPLE RAIN- Fri Mar 14 and Sat Mar 15 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- While flipping through the Cinema Treasures website, looking for info about the Ziegfeld's upcoming revival series, I found an interesting post that pertains to this particular choice:

"Pauline Kael once said in the late 60's that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That's what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That's what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today's contemporary recording artists."

I think that fits in the case of Once, where you had recording artists doing their songs. And it certainly applies to Prince with this film. Can't imagine a good actor from that period pulling off these kind of songs, no matter who wrote them.

Not the greatest film ever made, and not what you call great acting by Prince. But with performances of songs like "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track, the sleeper hit of the summer of 1984 literally rocks whenever the music comes up. Watch how Prince went from successful rock act to icon status. Granted, he would later throw it away with crap like "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge", change his name to a symbol with no real meaning, and basically become strange to the point of uninteresting. But watching and listening to him here, anything seemed possible back then. Prince did win an Oscar for music, in a category that no longer exists.


Everything else I'm up for, especially King's Men, anything from the 80s and anything at the Ziegfeld. Let me know, later.