Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jan revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of the first month of the new year. Here we go:

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948)- Tues Jan 30 at 8- Film Forum- A reminder to catch the Preston Sturges original. And speaking of his films . . .
THE LADY EVE and THE PALM BEACH STORY- Mon Jan 1 at 6:15 (Lady Eve), 8:10 (Palm Beach) and 10 (Lady Eve)- Film Forum- The last of the Preston Sturges retrospective. As close as Sturges could get to sex comedies back in the early forties. There's The Lady Eve, where con artist Barbara Stanwyck targets rich "dope" Henry Fonda. Naturally there's all that falling in love, the thawing of cold cynical hearts, misunderstandings, none of this necessarily in that order and often repeated. Then there's The Palm Beach Story, where Claudette Colbert runs away from husband Joel McCrea to Palm Beach for a quick divorce, after being refused to let her use her sex appeal for raising money for his inventions, only to be pursued by rich Rudy Vallee, whose sister Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon) chases McCrea, who is introduced by Colbert as her brother. Confused? Then wait till the action is ratcheted up.

You can go wrong with seeing either screwball comedy. So imagine if you see both?

BIGGER THAN LIFE- Fri Jan 2, Mon Jan 5 and Tues Jan 6 at 5:40, 7:50 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm scope print of this 1956 CinemaScope film. A film I've surprisingly never heard of before. I mean, I know the film's lead James Mason, his co-star Walter Matthau, and the film's director Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause). And according to imdb, the average shot length is eleven seconds. But aside from being an inspiration to Godard, I know nothing else. Haven't seen a frame of it. But I'm very curious to try it. NOT available on DVD in this country, and 4 minutes longer then the version occasionally shown on Fox Movie Channel. So this is the only way to see this as originally intended. Okay, because it was shot in Cinemascope, the screen would usually be bigger than any of the Forum's screen, but still. as for anything else, I cut and paste the following from the Forum website:

(1956) “God was wrong!” proclaims James Mason — but then he’s in the grip of all-out 50s mediocrity: a too-intellectual, bow-tied grade school teacher, his house festooned with travel posters for places he’s never been to; forced to spend odd afternoons as a cab dispatcher to make ends meet; his job, friends, family, and even himself, self-described as dull. But then there’s bad news and good news: he’s got a rare arterial disease that will probably finish him within a year. The good news? There’s this miracle drug (cortisone) that might just save his life. But there could be some little side effects… Time capsule of the 50s: the d├ęcor, the blocky suits and omnipresent hats for the men, the gowns that wife Barbara Rush tries on during the new Mason’s ill-advised splurge fest, the hat she wears on Sunday, the conformity (everyone in town seems to attend the same church) — an unexpected setting for Mason’s tour de force performance, as he moves from frumpy nice guy to full-blown, drug-induced megalomaniac. Color; Approx. 95 minutes.

ANGEL HEART- Fri Jan 2 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- A favorite of mine. Though not well known by those under 30, and not necessarily liked by those over it. Consider it a horror noir, from director Alan Parker, back in 1987. Also, on my second straight list, I have a Mickey Rourke film, where he gives a very good performance, and the audience wasn't there for it. Reviews were better, but the film was no less controversial.

Rourke plays a slimy NYC private eye, hired by mysterious Robert de Niro, whose character goes by the name Louis Cypher (get it, get it? Not that hard.). Louis hires the private dick to search for a missing man. The mystery goes from NYC, to New Orleans (good location shooting), with a conspiracy, voodoo, and a hot girl played by Lisa Bonet. The controversy came with the nude sex scene between Rourke and 19 year old Cosby girl Bonet. See every part of her, have a little blood drip down on her back and butt. Nope, the MPAA was NOT thrilled by this at all. The movie was sold for the scene, and then promptly rejected.

For me, Parker did a good job having the noir and horror elements work in tandem. The scenes between de Niro and Rourke are too cool for school. It helped that they hated each others guts. Allegedly, de Niro felt Rourke was letting his talent go to waste ,and both felt the other was a dick. If Bobby was any other actor, Rourke would have throttled him, but since Bobby wasn't . . . Forgotten now, but if you're into a change of pace and can stay up . . . I totally understand that I'm in the minority in terms of liking this, but like it I do.

EUROPA EUROPA and/or FROZEN RIVER- Wed Jan 7 at 6 (Europa) and 8:30 (Frozen)- MOMA- Not exactly a pairing of happy to be alive flicks to be sure. A potential double feature of two different retrospectives at MOMA. I have seen neither film, and you don't have to see both. 1 admission covers both films, so I'll try to be brief about both.

First, Europa Europa. Part of the Agnieszka Holland retrospective. She's best known for both directing this film and The Secret Garden (not the musical), as well as co-writing parts of the French Three Colors trilogy (White and Blue). Since her films are not what you call commercial hits, she's worked on American TV recently, directing episodes of The Wire and Cold Case.

I'm very curious to see this. Based on a true story, of a young Jewish boy, who hid in plain sight from the Nazis. By becoming a member of the Hitler youth. Co-starring Julie Delpy (White, Before Sunrise/ Sunset) as an Aryan girl he falls for. Won both New York Film Critics and National Board of Review for Foreign Film, and Holland was Oscar nominated for Screenplay Adaptation. I wouldn't mind seeing both, but if I had to choose one, I'd pick the older film then the newer release.

Not that I wouldn't catch Frozen River. Part of MOMA's Contenders series: 2009 films likely to get critic's awards and/or Oscar nominations. A drama written and directed by Courtney Hunt. Starring Melissa Leo (a character actress whose husband supposedly funded the film), as a desperate single mother, who involved in smuggling illegal aliens from New York to Quebec. Strange how when first screened at Sundance this January, or at MOMA this March, or even in its August 1st release, that this film was considered way too dark in showing the economic strife that forces someone to do this. Now, not so much. Is in this series for its critics awards, Independent Spirit and SAG nominations, and the possible Oscar nomination for Leo.

ALL ABOUT EVE- Thurs Jan 8 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- Another cheap screening of another classic, in my personal top 35. I've brought it up before on previous lists, which I why I won't go into it further, and I know some of you have caught this before. But for those who haven't, here's a good place and time. Also, if you want, this is good to use as an unofficial double feature. Pay to see this at 7, then sneak into a potential Oscar nominee afterwards, probably something that starts between 9:15-10. Afraid it doesn't work the other way around, since the revival tickets are checked a second time before you can sit. You'd have to settle for one of the best American films ever made.

THE HUSTLER- Fri Jan 9 at 1:30- MOMA- Classic Paul Newman film as he plays "Fast" Eddie, cocky incarnate, and the rise and fall as he tries to become the best at pool. A lame synopsis, I admit. But to go further without spoiling the film for some is bad form. And to go on about the snappy dialogue and the grimy ambiance of this sports noir, requires a better writer than myself. I just want you to go. I'm just sorry this isn't playing at a more convenient time.

Oscars for Art Direction and the terriffic Cinematography. Nominations for Picture, Robert Rossen for Director and Adapted Screenplay, Newman for Actor, Piper Laurie for Actress. This was the year where for the Supporting Actor nominees were George C. Scott as the slimy manager, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, plus Montgomery Clift for Judgement at Nuremberg and Peter Falk for Frank Capra's last film, Pocketful of Miracles. They all lost to George Chakris from West Side Story. They might all have been better actors, but could they dance Jerome Robbins' choreography and sing Sondheim? I guess NOT!

Let me know if there's interest. Later all. And Happy New Year.

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