Wednesday, April 30, 2008

May revivals: first half

Mike here with what to catch for the first half of May. Not a lot of time, so I'll just get to it. Here we go:

CITY LIGHTS with or without MODERN TIMES- Thurs May 1 at 4:40 (City), 6:30 (Modern) and 8:20 (City)- Film Forum- The last of the main United Artists retrospective. A Chaplin double feature of 2 of his best films. Saying which of the two is better would be a long argument that I won't get into here. Not when one can see both on the same day. First, City Lights. It is a silent film, but Chaplin's first with recorded music and sound effects. Basically, Chaplin's Little Tramp goes through various trails and tribulations, all for the love of a blind flower girl. Chaplin and blind girl actress Virginia Cherrill hated each other with a passion, but since she was the only one who could play blind without looking like a joke, he was stuck. He fired her at one point, only to later rehire her. One of the all time favorite films of both Kubrick and Tarkovsky; either I got someone real interested or turned them off on this film completely. Apparently, Woody Allen modeled that last scene of Manhattan on this film's final scene. A comedy classic that's on both AFI Top 100 lists.

The exact same thing can be said of Modern Times. Featuring Chaplin's first bit of sound speech, even if it is gibberish. This time, the Little Tramp tries to work in automated factories, and the hilarity results. Sounds like a cliche, but for those who have seen it know this is just bad writing on my part. Granted, it does have a heavier political hand then any of Chaplin's previous films. But when it results in a funny scene such as when the Tramp accidentally leads a Communist parade, it's easily taken. And sorry, no matter how dirty her face was made, Paulette Goddard is still the most beautiful homeless person that has ever been. Since I've done Modern Times a few years ago, my emphasis is on City Lights. Especially since I didn't catch it at the Forum at the end of 07. Caught 4 other films instead. Now granted, I was thrilled to catch All That Jazz, and Juno was ok, but just ok. But the Walk Hard/ Charlie Wilson's War double feature I did (pay for the first, sneak into the later afterwards) over City Lights? Not the best choice I ever made. So let me know.

BREATHLESS (1959)- Fri May 2 and Sat May 3 at 4:40, 6:30, 8:20 and 10:10, plus Sat May 3 at 2:50- 8:20 SHOW ON FRIDAY INTRODUCED BY FRENCH DESIGNER AGNÈS B.- Film Forum- The official beginning of the Jean-Luc Goddard retrospective, and probably the only film from here that I'll put on the list. Since I started out with catching American films on my own and took a class or two of (mostly) American films long before I caught a nice share of foreign language pics, this was has fallen through the cracks. Have seen portions of it, but never from start to finsh. Sorry that I'm more familiar with the lousy Richard Gere remake. I'm sorry, there was a hot naked chick in it.

Written by Goddard from a screen story from Francois Truffaut. It was incomplete when filming began; some scenes were written in the morning to be shot later in the day. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a cool car thief who shoots a policeman, attracts Jean Seberg to run away to Italy, where coolness prevails until the law catches up. Belmondo would play a similar type of cool criminal in Le Doulos; while the gorgeous Seberg was made an It girl forever, for better and for worse in her short life. Is credited for introducing the jump cut, based on editing advice given to Goddard by Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Doulos, Army of Shadows). Instead of cutting out scenes that slowed down the action, Goddard cut out shots in most scenes that slowed things down. A classic I'd like to catch.

Designer Agnes B., whose career was launched in part by copying Seberg's look in Breathless, will introduce the 8:20 screening on Fri May 2. If you want to try for this one, some early planning must be done.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?- Sat May 3 at 10 for 8 dollars- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- 260 W. 23rd- A-list Campfest incarnate. the plot is simple enough that I'll just copy it from imdb: In a decaying Hollywood mansion, Jane Hudson, a former child star, and her sister Blanche, a movie queen forced into retirement after a crippling accident, live in virtual isolation. Shot in terrific black and white, it deserves attention just on the teaming of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I don't know if the simmering rivalry that exploded into a full-fledged feud is obvious in Crawford's performance, but the rage certainly fuels Davis performance as the former child star/ alcoholic/ tormentor. An Oscar for Costume Design. 4 other nominations, including Black and White Cinematography, and Davis for Best Actress. The story of what happened with that category, as well as the whole making of the picture itself is too damn long to go over here. Just see the film if you haven't.

SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY- Sun May 4 and Tues May 6 at 7:50 and 10- Film Forum- Part of the United Artists Back By Popular Demand retrospective. A good British drama from 1971 that's unknown here these days, unless you stumbled on it either on PBS or TCM. Forgotten in part because it wasn't A Clockwork Orange or The French Connection, and maybe because it wasn't American like The Last Picture Show. A quiet film that John Schlesinger choose to cash in his Golden Ticket (so to speak) for, after the success of Midnight Cowboy.

Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch (Howard Beale from Network) fall in love with the same man (Murray Head; best known for stage work and one hit wonder 80s song, One Night in Bangkok). Unfortunately for them, the guy is self-centered to the point of not caring about the emotional damage he leaves behind. A simple story, well told. 4 Oscar nominations: Best Actor for Finch, Actress for Jackson, Director for Schlesinger and Original screenplay. You probably have never heard of it, but you should check it out, if not here, at least on Netflix.

PUTTING LOONEY IN THE TOONS- Monday May 5 at 7:30 for 5 dollars- The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International- I've always been semi-serious to people when I told them that I think Bugs Bunny is the best American actor. He could do anything. Sing, dance, do comedy, action, sports and even pull off drag better than most queens. I make this comment partly in tongue in cheek mocking of some current actors, and partly in embracing childhood memories. But I know full well the character is not only great because of the work of Mel Blanc, but also of writers and directors like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and Michael Maltese. A number of these cartoons that are Oscar winners or just nominated will screened for only 5 dollars. Call 1-888-778-7575 for ticket reservations, otherwise it will be a pain in the ass to get in. Doors open at 7 p.m. All seating is unreserved.

For the rest of the info, I'll cut and paste from the Oscars website:

Academy Award®-winning animator John Canemaker (The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, 2005) will host this double centennial tribute to Tex Avery and Michael Maltese, which returns to the big screen some of the short cartoons the pioneering pair worked on together as well as selected highlights from their prolific individual careers in animated films. Avery and Maltese, both born a century ago in early 1908, crossed paths at the Warner Bros. animation studio back when it was Leon Schlesinger Productions (now affectionately referred to as “Termite Terrace”). Among their collaborations and individual career achievements are many of the wackiest moments (animation or live action) ever devised for the film medium. Avery’s directorial approach to animation was to celebrate the medium’s unique energy and limitless possibilities at a time when Disney animation was striving for increased pictorial realism. Maltese, who wrote dozens of animated shorts over the course of his career, was perfectly suited to incorporating Avery’s madcap style into the evolving stable of Warner Bros. characters, which included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd.

The evening will include screenings of such Avery and Maltese classics as Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937), Heckling Hare (1941), Oscar winner For Scent-imental Reasons (1949) and What’s Opera, Doc? (1957).

BLUE VELVET- Fri May 9 and Sat May 10 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Once again, I put up the David Lynch film that resurrected his career and Kyle McLaughlin's after Dune flopped. In my own top 5. Will anyone be talked into this? We'll see.

ALL ABOUT EVE- Thurs May 15 at 7 and 9:30 for 6.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The acclaimed bitch fest starring Bette Davis that beat Sunset Blvd. for Best Picture. Try to pick between those two films; almost like which flavor satire you prefer, acidic with visual style, or acidic with verbal flair. If you've never seen it on the big screen, you can now at a reduced price. Sat is tentative for me at the moment.6 Oscars. Most nominations in Oscar history, Titanic could only tie it. An AFI Top 100 film and in my personal top 30. But unless you prefer a different film with more blood and guts and less intellect, then there's always . . .

FIRST BLOOD- Thurs May 15 at 7:30- Regal E-Walk 13 on 42nd st, Regal Union Square 14, Regal Kaufman Astoria 14, Chelsea Clearview Cinema 1st & 62nd and Chelsea Clearview on 260 West 23rd- A digital screening of the Stallone film. Less bloody then the awful fun (figuratively and literally) of Rambo, here's the one that started the series. There was no intention to create a series, it was a minor miracle that they could cut the film down to make it watchable. And a major miracle that it came out of nowhere to be a big hit of the fall of 82. Maybe the combination of Stallone with a machine gun, the fact that it was just E.T. and fill-in-the-blank in playing in theaters at the time, and the story of an unappreciated Vietnam vet doing a variation of Travis Bickle and Charles Bronson, hit the cultural zeitgeist at just the right time.

The story: Rambo comes into town up North, just passing through. Sheriff Brian Dennehy arrests him when not necessary. Behind their boss's back, his redneck-ish deputies torture him (pulling out the whip?!?!?), Rambo goes nuts and gives payback to the town, while Richard Crenna shows up with monologues about how tough Rambo is and how much dead meat the town will be. Ending with Stallone giving the most incomprehensible monologue known to man. Kenny speaks clearer on South Park!!! Just check your brain at the door and have fun.

For the rest of what the evening has in store, I'll quote from the Event website:

"Following the film, see the alternate ending (where Rambo dies!) for the first time ever in theatres. Plus - this one night event will include an exclusive, never-before-seen interview with Sylvester Stallone on First Blood, the new film Rambo and the iconic Rambo series."

Emphasis on Chaplin, the Brit drama, the cartoons, and something on the 15th. Anything else is a bonus, but you must move fast and reserve for the cartoons. Later all.

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