Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November revivals for the next few days

Mike here with what to catch for the few days in November. I wish I could have gotten this out 48 hours earlier, but this is the best I could do. Normally I would have the entire second half of November posted here. But I noticed there was a bunch of films to catch this week and weekend, then nothing either of not or doable for me until Thanksgiving weekend. So I cut it off this list after a few days, then post another one stictly for Thanksgiving weekend. Here we go:

THE WILD CHILD or ROSEMARY'S BABY- now through Thurs Nov 20 at 2:45 (Baby), 5:30 (Child), 7:15 (Child) or 9 (Baby)- Film Forum- Both films have new 35mm prints. Both films have been held over. Both films are worth catching. But one can't purchase tickets for these films as though they were the typical Forum double feature (buy one, stay for the other). Therefore a choice would have to be made. I won't pick for you.

WILD STYLE- Now through Thurs Nov 20 at 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a film screened only at 10pm at night. Was popular in 1983 and in its various re-releases in 84 and 85. Well, let me re-phrase, it was popular in places like Brooklyn and the Bronx. Outside, the rest of the country preferred films like Breakin and Beat Street. A quasi-musical/documentary, it followed various graffiti people (I'm not calling them artists), DJs and rappers, with concert performances of people like Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy. Consider this a lesson in Hip Hop history, pre-MTV Raps.

WALL-E- Wed Nov 19 at 6- MOMA- Part of the Contenders series. Basically, MOMA picked what they felt were the best films of 2008 up to this point, that have a chance at winning critics' awards and/or an Oscar or two. I have no time to list films like Iron Man (good summer blockbuster. Passable to decent action, but an interesting script and Downey's performance makes it worth catching on your own, if you haven't already.) or Encounters at the Far End of the World (interesting Antarctica doc from our old buddy Werner. You learn a little more about penguins, and a lot more about the type of person willing to spend years studying down there).

But I am willing to make time to catch Wall-E again on the big screen. This summer, I made the time to catch a revival screening of Fantasia first, Wall-E last, and Monkey Business in-between. An unexpectedly (and not completely planned) perfect combo of movies in one day. Wall-E, in its way, combined the visual dazzle of Fantasia, with the quality humor of a very good Marx Brothers film. Don't have time to go further, but let's just say, my new favorite Pixar, and it will take at least a 20 megaton bomb to blast it out of my Top 10 for 2008. For this screening, I don't know if there will be any shorts before it, or just Wall-E, which is fine by me. Yes, I know its on DVD now. So are most of the films I list. Shut up.

Now if you can't go on a Wed., it will play this Friday for free, but one would probably need help to pull that off, and I'll go into that later in the list.

HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1- Thurs Nov 20 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The Mel Brooks comedy from 1981 gets a cheap screening. Not in the league of Blazing Saddles and The Producers, but still fun. Took a critical shellacking back in the summer of 81, with Rex Reed, Jeffery Lyons and Kathleen Carroll leading the brutally unnecessary charge. Time has since been kinder to the flick. It's a silly comedy, with some witty moments, some "gross" moments that rival some of South Park, and like I said before, it's fun. Even the line "It's good to be the King" has entered the lexicon. Not every revival has to be a serious French film, you know.

I personally prefer the Busby Berkeley number that Brooks himself performs about the Spanish Inquisition, and the little section of "Jews In Space". Most of Brooks' regulars appear, including Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Dom DeLuise. Some new cast members include Gregory Hines (a last minute replacement for Richard Pryor, after Rich turned himself into a human charcoal with a freebasing accident), Pamela Stephenon (hired mainly for her British accent and her breasts), and Mary-Margaret Humes (hired only for her beauty; gained fame on Dawson's Creek as Dawson's mom). Funny cameos from Bea Arthur, Jackie Mason, and John Hurt as Jesus, and Orson Welles as the narrator (in full paycheck mode). All this for a cheap price, so why not?

WALL-E and/or HAPPY GO LUCKY- Fri Nov 21 at 6 (Wall-E) and 8:30 (Happy)- For free, subject to availability- MOMA- Now if you can't go for Wall-E on Wed, here's a second chance for free. That is, if you can get tickets in time. See, like I've said before on previous lists, tickets for admission into MOMA is free on Fridays, late afternoon and evening. No problem providing free tickets for the Museum itself, but the film tickets can go fast. I had no problems seeing the original Breathless, but catching a Coen brothers double feature was impossible. If you can get there by 5, give or take a few minutes, it shouldn't be a problem. If you can't get there yourself by then, send someone who can.

A double feature in a series of films MOMA considers to be contenders for awards and critics top 10 lists for 2008. Wall-E, I brought up earlier. If for some reason, you didn't catch it in theaters, this might your last best chance. Unless you choose to catch it at some theater for free at 10 in the morning next summer with a group of screaming kids. So catch it now, for free, if you can.

At the same time you get your tickets for Wall-E, you can also get free tickets for Happy Go Lucky, Mike Leigh's new dramedy. Haven't seen it, but I'd like to. Especially for free. Some of Leigh's previous films, including Topsy Turvy, and Vera Drake have been on my top 10 for their year before, and I hope this would be on this year's as well.

Award attention will probably not only go to Leigh's direction, but also to Sally Hawkins for her lead performance. She plays a young school teacher with an optimistic view on life. Cheery to the point of exasperating to some of the people around her. Pollyanna-like to the point that someone cynical might think she's insane, or overly naive. In fact, that's part of the point: is some as cheerful as her in our world today a sign of imbalance, naivety or stupidity, or is this something we need and we shouldn't try to crush? I'm very interested. Hope some of you are as well. This might have been the first time you've heard of this, but I expect you'll hear about this off and on for the next 3 1/2 months.

MY MAN GODFREY and TWENTIETH CENTURY- Fri Nov 21 at 8 (Century) and 9:45 (Godfrey)- and Sat Nov 22 at 1 (Century), 2:45 (Godfrey), 4:30 (Century), 6:15 (Godfrey), 8 (Century), and 9:45 (Godfrey)- Film Forum- The start of a Carole Lombard retrospective. Considered by some with an institutional memory as one of the great actresses ever on film. Her untimely death at 34 in 1942, has probably more to do with not being better known, then the fact that her best films were made in the 30s and early 40s.

She's best known for her comedies, and the retrospective starts off with a double feature of her two of her more successful screwball comedies. First, My Man Godfrey, one of my favorites of this genre. Lombard's rich girl character (think Paris Hilton, minus STDs and plus 100+ I.Q. points), on a whim and in scavenger hunt mode, brings in homeless man William Powell to become the family butler. He turns out to be more than meets the eye, not the least of which being brighter then the rest of the family. Why Powell's a hobo probably wouldn't hold up today, not without a big storyline about him getting treatment, put on medication, etc. But the rest of the comedy holds up quite well. Powell may always seem to have the upper hand on Lombard, but that's the script, and not for lack of trying. But Powell has the advantage of playing a straight man while also going into depth with his character, while everyone else around him are batshit nuts.

6 Oscar nominations; Powell for Actor, Lombard for Actress, Gregory La Cava for Director, plus 2 for Supporting Actress and one for the Screenplay. When this is shown on TV, it looks every bit it's age of over 70 years. While we're not getting a new 35mm print here, I'm hoping it's a lot better here then on TV.

Another film I hope the Forum has a better print of then what is used for TV, is the other half of the double feature, Twentieth Century. I'm more familiar with the stage version by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (uncredited!), then this film version. Specifically, the Roundabout revival from 2004. I was entertained, but I had higher expectations for it. I enjoyed Anne Heche, but Alec Baldwin seemed to have his ham meter set to 11, the supporting actors were more interesting then either Baldwin or Heche, except for Tom Aldridge (Carmela's dad on the Sopranos). I know he was playing an insane man pretending to be a millionaire, but he seemed to not match the tempo of the play, and frankly I didn't always find him funny. Why he got a Tony nomination, I'll never know. Sorry, I digressed.

Point is, this did color my initial viewing on TV of the 1934 film written by a credited Hecht and MacArthur (with uncredited assistance from Preston Sturges). It took a second chance to get into it more (it seems to play a lot on either TCM, or PBS' Ch. 21.). Full speed dialogue attacks, as John Barrymore is in full ham blast (is that why Baldwin did it hammily, to copy Barrymore?). He's a Broadway director whose career hit the skids when his biggest discovery (Lombard) leaves him and becomes a movie star. When he sees her on the same train from Chicago to New York, he spends the whole ride in a full court press to get her on his new show. And she spends the entire train ride resisting. Directed by Howard Hawks, 2 years after Scarface, and years before Bringing up Baby.

Would definitely want to catch My Man Godfrey, and if you want to stay for Twentieth Century, so be it.

MEAN STREETS- Sat Nov 22 at 4:40- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The first pairing of actor Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese. I have never seen this on the big screen, and I really want to. Not Scorsese's first film, but it is his first studio film. Done cheaply since Warner Bros was only going to devote so much Dirty Harry profits to distributing a film from the director of Boxcar Bertha. In college I dealt with a Scorsese sycophant, I mean fan, who talked about the raw power of this film was superior to the polished works of Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Considering he was coming out with Casino and The Age of Innocence, it was easy to conjure up babel like that.

But just because the film is raw as opposed to polished, doesn't mean it doesn't belong near the top of the director's work. Just that when you have Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and lower profiles works like After Hours and Kundun on your resume, it's hard for a lot of films to get the respect it deserves. And respect AND viewer ship is what Mean Streets deserves. More of a character study than a plot driven project, Harvey Kietel's small timer is who we follow, but De Niro's living embodiment of a psychotic screw-up is what steals the show. The quintessential New York film, shot mostly in Los Angeles. Please let's make time to see this.

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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