Wednesday, December 24, 2008

December revivals: now thru the end of the year.

Mike here, running late with the list for the second half of December. No time to go into details with all films, so I will put the list into an easy to read breakdown: by date and by time. If I want to go into details with any of them, I will. Hear we go.

Friday December 26:
3:05- MEAN STREETS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

4:30- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe for me) at Film Forum.
6:05- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at Film Forum.

7:55- THE GREAT MCGINTY at Film Forum.

8:45- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

9:30- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

12Midnight- YEAR OF THE DRAGON at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Mean Streets, I've brought up before. Part of the start of the Martin Scorsese retrospective, though the retro is limited to De Niro-Scorsese, with few exceptions. No double features either, otherwise the idea of doing Mean Streets-Goodfellas, or Goodfellas-King of Comedy, is salivating for a film buff.

Sullivan's Travels and The Great McGinty isn't the start of the Preston Sturges retrospective, but they're the first films in it I can get to. Consider Sturges to be the Sandy Koufax of film directors. A few years where he was one of the very best, then gone. Sullivan's is considered (arguably) the best in his career. Joel McCrea plays the director of simple entertaining films, who dreams of making an Important Film. He goes out on the road, posing as a hobo, to learn about the common man, and gets a rude awakening. He also gets Veronica Lake, nice if you can get it. A classic in the comedy genre, though it works more than as just a comedy.

Year of the Dragon is a film I like, despite it's controversy. Michael Cimino, directed this, years after his Heaven's Gate as his splashy return to the Hollywood A list. It didn't work, thanks to the EXTREMELY mixed reviews at the time. Some praised it, but others attacked the depiction of Chinese in Chinatown, and not the movie from start to finish. It depicts a world where the main good guy is a Vietnam vet who hates all Asians, and is now a NYPD Captain assigned to take down gangs based in Chinatown. I agree its depiction of Chinese does cross the line of good taste on occasion. And misogynistic? Definitely. But we're not talking about something offensive on the level of Birth of a Nation here (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.). The story and its execution, along with Mickey Rourke's performance, make it worth catching. Rourke plays the police captain who will step on toes, especially on those on his side, to take down Chinese gangsters. But he has an adversary in the new young Chinese boss (John Lone of The Last Emperor), who is willing to escalate the violence. These two violent men will let the bullets fly to take the other down, and God help the friends, subordinates, and civilians who get in their way.

Written by Cimino and Oliver Stone, just two years after Scarface. As you can tell, this isn't a film with PG-13 lightness to it. With as many bullets flying as a typical John Woo flick. But instead of Woo poetic lyricism, we're in violence with consequences territory. Not always, but enough to make you feel the pain behind each attack and loss. And now, with all the praise Rourke is getting as the burned out has been in The Wrestler, you can see a more vital Mickey, pulling off a complex character with much physical vitality. Partially shot in North Carolina on sets made to look Chinatown. In part to avoid the potential anger from the natives, and partially to stage some the complicated parades and/or gunfights.

For the record, some of the reviews were really brutal. To the point where it got several Razzie nominations. Some complained about Mickey, others complained about the casting of the hot model Ariane as a TV reporter. I disagree with it. You may not like the film as much as I do, but you would be seeing potent film making not seen a lot these days from a Hollywood studio.

Saturday December 27:
4:30- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe) at Film Forum.

5:30- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

6:05- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

7:55- THE GREAT MCGINTY (maybe) at the Film Forum.
9:30- SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS at the Film Forum.

12Midnight- YEAR OF THE DRAGON at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Goodfellas I won't go much into. Until Return of the King, the last new release I paid three times to see in a theater. If you're reading this, you've probably heard of it. On both AFI Top 100 lists. On my personal top 35, and probably much much higher then that. Used as an example of what Oscar got wrong for Best Picture. As much as I like Dances With Wolves (I'm annoyed with the attacks it gets), it was NOT Best Picture of 1990. Oh HELL NO! If Friday is not doable, Saturday is great.

I'm not into The Great McGinty, by the way. I don't have to see it, but if we were to catch Sullivan's Travels and one insisted on staying for this I wouldn't mind too much. I've cut and pasted a description from the Forum's website:

"(1940) “If you don’t have graft you’d have a low type of person in politics. Men with no ambition.” Boss Akim Tamiroff helps crooked bum Brian Donlevy become an even crookeder governor, until honesty rears its ugly head. Written seven years before, Sturges sold the script for $10 (upped from $5) for the chance to direct. Result: his only Oscar (the first-ever Original Screenplay award) and the first of seven smash hits. “Capra with the gloves off.” – Raymond Durgnat. Approx. 81 minutes"

Sunday December 28:
6:45- THE KING OF COMEDY at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

Part of the Scorsese retro. Big flop from early 1982, but also one of that year's best film. Similar to a musical where the songs all happen in the context of a show or in fantasy. Here, most of the comedy is in the context of the talk show or in fantasy. Mostly it's a dark drama. Robert de Niro plays an obsessed fan, who takes a chance encounter with his talk show host idol too much to heart. This lets his fantasies of becoming a comedy icon grow bigger than usual, and his behavior becomes more irrational, and potentially dangerous.

De Niro is loser incarnate, and it cuts close to the bone. It's almost like Willy Loman never did anything, then kidnapped his brother for those riches.. But most critical attention went to Jerry Lewis, in his first serious role of note, as the talk show icon. A role Johnny Carson turned down after much deliberation, because the role was written to close to his reality (at least when he hosted The Tonight Show in NYC). Lewis was long dismissed at this point, and this role gave his career a whole new lease on life. When the Academy Awards show clips from Jerry's career when he gets his honorary award, they will be at a decent clip from this film to show. We see him in de Niro's fantasy scenes, and is just as impressive as someone not happy with his celebrity status, and even less happy by his privacy being interrupted by this nut. Stealing scenes from both de Niro and Lewis was Sandra Bernhard, as an even more obsessed fan.

Came out in Feb. 1982 to major praise. When it expanded beyond 2 or 3 screens, it was DOA. I'm guessing there wasn't a lot of love for an ending that neither went to the comfortable Hollywood route, nor did it go a Taxi Driver-esque route. Maybe the stalker story was too close after John Lennon's murder by a crazed fan. Home video and TV could only do so much. Not the coolest in comparison to other Scorsese-de Niro, and because it was made by Fox instead of Warner Bros, it doesn't get packaged with their other works. But I'm guessing most of you haven't seen this ever, or since the 80s or early 90s. Now is the chance to change that.

Monday December 29:
4:20- GOODFELLAS at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center.

Last chance to catch this if you haven't by now.

Tuesday December 30:
1pm- THE KING OF COMEDY at the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center

4:05 OR 8- UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948) at the Film Forum.

Unfaithfully Yours is part of the Preston Sturges retrospective, and the film I want to see the most on this date. The last of the standout 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.

Too many to choose from. Basically, Goodfellas is my top choice, The Great McGinty is my last choice, Mean Streets is my next to last choice, and everything else is a runner-up to Goodfellas. One can have a pretty good week of film watching if you follow this plan. Let me know. Later all, and Happy Festivus.

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