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.

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