Friday, July 18, 2008

July revivals: second half

Mike here with what to catch for the rest of August. Not everything mind you. Just what I want to see, and would like others to see as well.

Interesting revivals last weekend. Caught double feature at the William Holden retrospective. I still liked S.O.B. But audience reaction was mixed. While waiting in the lobby to get it, those at the Walter Reade were nice enough to play for us the I Love Lucy episode when Bill Holden visits the Ricardos. Complete with Lucy's disguise (after she embarrassed herself meeting him earlier), and long fake nose that catches fire. While I liked the film, it wasn't quite as funny as I remembered. And definitely not as funny as the Lucy episode. Having a portion of the film burn up, causing a 2 minute delay, and having some loon behind who thought EVERYTHING WAS HYSTERICAL didn't exactly help.

Followed up by The Wild Bunch. Despite one audience who sounded like he was let out of his "special" home for the weekend, I thought it was a terrific film. I liked it on TV, but on the big screen, it blew me away. I can see why it almost got an X rating for its violence. It doesn't matter if you blow away a hundred men at a time. It's when you start blowing away women, armed or otherwise is when you get into trouble. But all the violence has artistic relevance as far as I'm concerned, and the editing gives the film a modern feel today. Don't know if I'd put it in my top 100, but it's close.

Also caught Ran at the Forum. Difficult to sit through on TV, a must-see treasure on the big screen. Nuff said, now let's get on with the list:

XANADU SING-ALONG- Fri July 18 and Sat July 19 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- Not a great film, not a good film. But a craptastic film. One that is crap and fantastic to watch in that respect. Now throw in the new element of a sing along, and this can only get better. Hey, it's cheaper than renting a box of a room in Koreantown, watching someone drink while others attempt karaoke. Plus the visual stimulus of Olivia Newton John, what is there to lose?

FAME- Mon July 21 at 7pm for 5 dollars, 3 with student I.D.- doors open at 6:30- DGA Theatre- 110 W. 57th St.- An archival print from the Academy. A cheap screening of the 1980 musical. I wrote about All That Jazz back in December, stating basically that there were no great live action musicals between the Fosse film and fill in the blank from this century (Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Once). But I didn't say there wasn't anything good or successful in-between. Fame is one of them. Not the blockbuster like Empire Strikes Back, or the big hit like The Blue Lagoon. But it held it's own, playing, like Airplane, for months until it could be considered successful.

Depicting several students studying to become actors, singers musicians etc., at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts. It seems like an Andy Hardy-like musical (especially the end), but it doesn't shy away from the idea that failure and/or emotional collapse are around the corner, and none of them are immune. Must be the working class influence of director Alan Parker. Some good musical numbers, especially the one pictured here, that takes place on W. 46th St.

It covers a New York that is essentially gone now, but the feelings of struggle by students and teachers alike are timeless. Great cast but it's telling to me, that for a story where the promise of a career may not last beyond school, some of the actors in the best roles or give the best performances, disappeared fairly quickly after the film's release. But the more recognizable people include Irene Cara, Broadway actor Boyd Gaines, Paul McCrane (Robocop, ER, 24), the late Gene Anthony Ray, Debbie Allen, Issac Mizrahi, Meg Tilly, Holland Taylor and Anne Meara.

6 Oscar nominations in total. I was definitely surprised by that number when I looked it up. Nominated for Original Screenplay, Editing, Sound, and for the song "Out Here on my Own". 2 Oscars, for Original Score and for the title song that gave Cara a career for a few years.

Michael Gore (who took home the Oscars) and costume designer Kristi Zea (who has moved on to become a production designer on flicks such as Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon and The Departed), will be at the screening. I don't know if they introducing the film or if they'll do a post film Q and A (my guess, it's the later), but they'll be there. Call 1-888-778-7575 for reservations. Get there before 6:45, otherwise the reservation may not be held.

But if you don't want to spend money to see a film that night, there's always . . .

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE- Mon July 21 for free at Bryant Pk.- Park opens at 5pm- Another strange, talky choice to show at Bryant Park. But this is one of my favorite comedies. Despite the play having been done to death in community theater, this Frank Capra comedy is still gold to me. I really hope the speakers at the park are cranked extra high. Cary Grant plays a man who comes home to find his beloved aunts are serial killers, who get thoughtfully kill lonely old men, and then bury them in the basement with the aid of the uncle who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. It's a good thing his serial killer brother returns home on the same night; looking like Boris Karloff and accompanied by his "doctor" who looks like Peter Lorre and is played by Lorre.

Grant thought it was his weakest, most over the top performance. History has been quite kind, disagreeing with Cary. Pitch perfect cast and production. If this was playing inside, I'd push this to the hilt, and be obnoxious to many in trying to catch this. But in Bryant Park? I'll leave this to you.

MONKEY BUSINESS and A DAY AT THE RACES- Thurs July 24 at 6 (Monkey) and 8 (Races)- MOMA- Explaining the plot of a Marx Bros. film is pointless. I know from experience when I was with a girl at the Forum for one of their flicks. Now granted, her wanting to know what the film The Marx Brothers was about should have been a sign, but I persisted. I gave the loosest description possible for one of the films, before some c-blocking twerp started going on about his philosophy of how there's no real structure to the plot and other crap I've long since scraped out of my mind. After he finished using oxygen, we looked at him, then turned around like he didn't exist. Not much happened with the girl by the way. Last time I heard from her, she complained about film shoots being moved to Connecticut for tax reasons and to benefit actors living there. She said somebody should write the mayor of Connecticut and tell him he's destroying actors' lives in New York. Re-read that sentence from time to time, and feel the IQ points drip away.

Even that above couldn't take enjoyment of the Marx Bros. away from me. Here's a double feature; we don't have to catch both, but one admission takes care of both film. And to tell the 2 films apart, Monkey Business is where the four brothers play stowaways on a cruise ship, with a funny scene where Groucho Harpo and Chico all have Maurice Chevalier as a passport photo, plus a hysterical finale in a barn. With A Day at the Races, we're down to 3 brothers. But we do get Margret Dumont and scenes at a sanitarium and a race track.

DICK TRACY- Fri July 25 and Sat July 26 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- An interesting choice for a midnight movie. Warren Beatty directed and stars as in the title role. Do your best to ignore Madonna whenever she stops singing Sondheim, no matter how much cleavage is on display.

An entertaining film, though this film is more into story than the typical summer blockbuster. Therefore it's pace might feel a little too drawn out, pun not intended but readily embraced. It moves fine for me.

The real star of this film is the makeup and art direction, both Oscar winning. The eye candy here is a ten, you feel like you're in the comic strip. The amazing bright colors and horrific look of the criminals goes a long long way. When you have characters like Pruneface, Flattop, Itchy, and Little Face, you get the look and you get the creep.

While not the star, Al Pacino steals the film chews the scenery as the Al Capone-esque main villain, with half baked artistic ideals and intellectual pretension, with a long cruel streak. Oscar nominated, the scenery is sufficiently chewed by Al. His comeback, started the previous year with Sea of Love, is complete here. And a little love for the rest of the cast that includes Glenne Headly, Charles Durning, Mandy Patikin, William Forsythe, Paul Sorvino, Estelle Parsons, Dick Van Dyke, James Cann, Catherine O'Hara, Michael J. Pollard, a pre-Misery Kathy Bates, a boatload of character actors, and Dustin Hoffman who hilariously strives to become the living embodiment of the name Mumbles.

FANTASIA with SKELETON DANCE and/or ANIMAL CRACKERS and/or MONKEY BUSINESS- Sat July 26 at 2 (Fantasia), 4:30 (Animal) and 6:30 (Monkey)- MOMA- On the first AFI Top 100 film. 2 Honorary Oscars for its then revolutionary combination of music and animation. A flop in its day, a hit and a classic since then. I really want to see this. I saw it on Radio City Music Hall's former 70mm screen and it blew me away. Now I know that MOMA has no 70mm screens, but their sound system is pretty darn good. I hate it when I take grief from people, just because I've said that if you give me great visuals and interesting music, I can overlook quite a number of a flim's flaws. But a film like this? Bring the kids. Bring the kids-at-heart. Now for the rest, I'll quote from the Walter Reade website back in 2006 I believe:

"Go and see it, if you're in the business. You can learn more from seeing 'The Dance of the Hours' by Walt Disney than from spending a year glumly staring at the television screen," wrote director Michael Powell in his autobiography. "Oh that the rest of Hollywood were only like Walt!" For generations now, kids and adults have plunked down their hard-earned dollars to see Fantasia, and emerged a little over two hours later with their minds blown. Vulgar? For sure, and proudly so. This kind of myth-making always is.

You could throw almost any adjective at the film and it would be absorbed into its vast mythic territory. One little addendum to Powell's assessment. It's Walt, assisted by a small army of animators. Here are a few names: Bill Tytla, Norman Ferguson, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Joshua Meador, Fred Moore, Art Babbitt and Wolfgang Reitherman. Not to mention a few composers: Bach, Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Ponichelli, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Schubert.

Preceding Fantasia, is a Disney short, Skeleton Dance form 1929. One of the Silly Symphonies shorts. I know nothing else about it.

Now for the same admission, you can also see one or two Marx Brothers films on the same day. Monkey Business I mentioned above. Animal Crackers is definitely weaker than say, Duck Soup or Monkey Business, but still fun. It's basically a filmed play, but fun it is. Groucho is a famous explorer, returning home to a party held by Margaret Dumont. The 3 other brothers come in tow, hilarity ensues.

Fantasia is the highest priority, followed by Fame, then anything with the Marx Brothers. Anything else is a bonus. Let me know, especially with Fame, which probably requires a reservation. Later all.

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