Monday, November 24, 2008

Nov. revivals: now thru Thanksgiving weekend

Mike here with what to catch from now thru Sunday, November 30th. Actually thru Tuesday, December 2nd. Won't waste time, here we go:

CITY LIGHTS and MODERN TIMES- Now thru Tues Dec 2 at 4:30 (City), 6:15 (Modern), 8 (City), and 9:45 (Modern)- plus Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at 1 (City) and 2:45 (Modern)- Film Forum- A return of a very popular double feature at the Forum. I caught the two films together back in early May, as the conclusion to the Forum's retrospective on films that came out of the United Artists studio. It was very popular, with every screening of one of the films either sold out or very close. Based on this match-ups' extreme popularity, and I would guess a lack of recent success with the Forum's recent slate of new releases, these 2 Chaplin classics are back for a long run. For the moment, these 2 AFI Top 100 flicks are only scheduled to run through Dec 2, yet I've already brought up extended runs of Rosemary's Baby, The Wild Child and the first two Godfather on previous lists, so I'm learning to take schedules there with a grain of salt.

This was the double feature in that UA retrospective I anticipated the most. Even though I had already seen Modern Times, I had never seen more then a few clips of City Lights. Specifically, the scene where you find the Tramp sleeping in the Virgin Mary statue's arms, and the well choreographed boxing scene. I'd never seen City Lights from beginning to end. Hearing and reading enough stuff about how great it was, and Woody Allen's fawning at how the last 30 seconds are the greatest ending ever in film (an ending Allen did an homage for his ending of Manhattan), piqued interest further. While I liked the film a lot, and laughed hard at some scenes, like his dealings with a drunken millionaire who was the Tramp's best friend (until the rich man sobered up), I came away with the feeling of eh. Good film, yes, great film, nah. Maybe the line from Pretty Woman is appropriate, that I'll like and even grow to appreciate it, but never love it. I enjoyed Monsieur Verdoux more, perhaps because I had no preconceptions going in there as opposed to City Lights. But I'm willing to try again.

Modern Times, that was easy. My favorite of the full length Chaplins, and easily in my top 100. If you've seen Wall-E, then you've seen Modern Times, and vice versa. Wall-E and the Tramp are similar, the same style awkward romance between the heroes and their object of affection, and the same message about not letting improved technology overwhelm humanity. It annoys me that it took MOMA to make me notice the last two, but even I managed to figure out the first part on my own. Yea me. Whatever.

The first 15 plus minutes, until the Tramp is fired, is among my favorite sustained sequences in comedy, but the scenes in the last quarter, when he's a waiter, I like even more. And Paulette Goddard as the gamin, definitely made my heart skip a beat. No wonder Chaplin at 47, went after her, at 26. If you never seen both films, jump at the chance now.

LABYRINTH- Thurs Nov 27, Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Here's something to catch for Thanksgiving weekend. Perhaps a little weird to go on Thanksgiving night, after a heavy meal. But I'm game if you are, and if you're in town that weekend. For the rest, I'll reprint what I wrote early this January:

A flop back in the summer of 1986. A cult following today. Personally, I think the cult is bigger in say, L.A. and Chicago than here. It feels to me that; if there is more of a following in terms of mid80s Jim Henson work, then it would be more for Fraggle Rock then for this flick. When you hear those from 26-30 in NYC, who had HBO back then, talk lovingly about the show, or even Tina Fey, when she compared Paris Hilton's wig with a Fraggle, you might come to the same idea I did. That said, tell me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Labyrinth the only Jim Henson film to be re-released in a 2 disc DVD set to actually sell pretty well? Someone's rocking out to this.

While babysitting, Teenager Jennifer Connelly gets sick of her little brother, and wishes him taken away by some goblins. Why a mid 80s teen would pick goblins, who knows? But she gets her wish, as Goblin King David Bowie does exactly that. Jennifer goes off to David's Goblin castle to keep the rugrat from becoming a goblin. And of course, has to go through the title set of mazes to get there.
Executive produced by George Lucas, but hey, at least it's better than the other film he produced from that summer, Howard The Duck. Directed by Henson, who co-wrote the story. Monty Python's Terry Jones wrote an early version of the screenplay, with some kind of uncredited re-writing from Elaine May. I'll give this a shot.

TO BE OR NOT TO BE and NOTHING SACRED- Fri Nov 28 and Sat Nov 29 at 1:15 (Sacred), 2:55 (To Be), 4:45 (Sacred), 6:20 (To Be), 8:15 (Sacred), and 9:50 (To Be)- Film Forum- Part of the Carole Lombard retro. And frankly the only other Lombard films I have interest in for the rest of the Forum's retro. I'll go in reverse order, and start with Nothing Sacred, Lombard's only color film from director William Wellman. She's a small town girl, who thinks she's dying, so she wrangles a free trip to NYC from low level (and possibly low life) reporter Fredric March. She finds out she's not dying, but why not get the free trip, and people fawning over her with sympathy, and manipulate the reporter who's manipulating her, and maybe even fall in love? There's more, but if you don't know this screwball comedy, I won't spoil it for you. Dark satire from writer Ben Hecht, with a rapid fire war of worlds between Lombard and March.

Next, To Be Or Not To Be. Lombard's last film, and where she received her biggest kudos. A dark comedy, where she and Jack Benny, the stars of a small Polish theatre troupe, pull out all stops from keeping the Gestapo shutting them down and worse, while helping a Polish solider find a German spy. But since this film was made in 1941 while the U.S. was "neutral", it kept from release until after this country declared war. Even then the darkish rapid fire paced satire turned off audiences in 1942. Has a major cult following (some claim it fits our time more then at it's initial release), and has been referred to as a comedy classic. Definitely a classic compared to Mel Brooks' mediocre remake. I wouldn't mind seeing both, but if I could only see one, then it's To Be, easily.

THE OMEN (1976)- Fri Nov 28 at 3- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the weekend series Problem Child: A Cinematic Display of Bad Behavior. And if the little son of Satan, planning on destroying the world with only Gregory Peck to save us, doesn't count, then what does? Effective horror film from director Richard Donner. Usually on the list for best horror films ever made. I may not rank it that high, but I still recommend it. This might never have been made if The Exorcist wasn't huge hit, but it became more successful then expected thanks to an aggressive ad campaign, touting the cute killer child concept, the number 666, the fact it was also coming out in 6/6/76 and the music. Fox proved quite effective, which would come in handy over the years, with the Star Wars films. An Oscar for Jerry Goldsmith's creepy score (but over Bernard Herrmann's score for Taxi Driver?). Donner credits Goldsmith's music and horror chanting song (also Oscar nominated), as being responsible for the film's success.

Accept no substitutes; such as Damien: Omen 2, where it's up to a barely sober William Holden to save us from a teenage Antichrist, or The Final Conflict, where Sam Neill, as a grown up Damien is the only effective part of that crap flick, or the TV film Omen 4 (let's all pretend it doesn't exist), or the limp Julia Styles remake from 2 summers ago.

MOMMIE DEAREST- Sat Nov 29 at 9:30 (Mommie)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the weekend series Problem Child: A Cinematic Display of Bad Behavior. 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. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. 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.

This isn't like the screenings at Chelsea Clearview. There will be no comic there hired to make fun AT the film. But that doesn't mean there won't be any spontaneous action among our fellow patrons. I don't think that's a bad thing, mind you. Not for this one. Just a friendly warning.

That's all. I was tempted to post Scenes From A Marriage at IFC Film Center, but to see what's basically a 5 hour autopsy (well acted throughout) of a marriage at varying states of decay on Thanksgiving weekend? Yeah, right. If I'm going to stick my neck out for a Bergman film right now, it will be for something like the director's cut of Fanny and Alexander or Autumn Sonata, both playing next month. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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