Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December revivals through New Year's Eve/Day

Hey all. Mike here wishing all a Happy pick-your-own holiday; just don't give me crap if I don't pick what you celebrate. Anyway, here's the list from now through New Year's Day, and it's my most diverse in a while. A lot of titles, so here we go:

THE THIRD MAN - Now thru Tues Dec 29 at 3:20, 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50 - Film Forum - You still have a chance to see the best film on this list now thru December 29. Being screened in a new 35mm print. I went over on the last list, and this list is too long for me to repeat or repost myself, so moving on. Actually, you can make an Orson Welles double feature for yourself on Saturday, December 26th. The Third Man would the second half, and one of the next two pictures playing uptown would make the first half:

THE MUPPET MOVIE- Sat Dec 26 at 2- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- W. 95th and Broadway- All right, that was a cheat from me, referring to this as an Orson Welles film, even though he had a key cameo near the end. But it could be worse. If I posted Transformers: The Movie, then you had the right to be pissed at me. You couldn't possibly get at pissed at me, as I was back then, when Optimus Prime was killed off in that picture. Then I was pissed when I read a few years ago, that Hasbro was the one who decided to kill off the beloved character just to sell some new characters. What a stupid business decision it turned out.

Sorry, I digressed. Yes, the first and best of the Muppet films gets an afternoon screening. A sleeper hit of the summer of 1979, you might be surprised that it's more than just a kid's flick. You have a road film, with a stealth satire of Hollywood and what one might move too quickly to give up on to make it big. A satire not on the level of say, Sunset Blvd or The Player, but one that registers now that didn't back in grade school when you/we first saw this. Ok, was that too much? Fine, you got fun jokes, both good and groan inducing. You have enjoyable cameos, with Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Charles Durning, Dom DeLuise, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope and Welles among the cast. You've got practically every Muppet that ever appeared during the run of The Muppet Show. You also got the Oscar nominated song, The Rainbow Connection. What you'll have is fun.

MACBETH (1948)- Sat Dec 26 at 3:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- But if you want to see something you would easily get to see at some Orson Welles retrospective, then you'll see his version of Macbeth instead. Part of Lincoln Center's end of the year retrospective of the most successful films they've screened there in 2009. A restored director's cut.
Orson Welles spent years raising money, shooting a little at a time, going out and doing another job, then going back to finish starring and directing his version of the Scottish play. While changes were made mainly in the condensing side to keep things moving, and under 1hr 50 minutes, and affording a cast including Roddy McDowell, Dan O' Herlihy, a young Keene Curtis (Cheers) and Alan Napier (Alfred from TV's Batman), and future TV veteran Jeanette Nolan making her screen debut as Lady MacBeth, Welles finally released his version in 1948.

While it was popular in most foreign countries, it was ripped apart in the U.S. and Britain. The attacks were aimed not only at Nolan's performance, but also at the actors' "incomprehensible" Scottish dialects (though considered fairly to completely accurate, depending on the actor.). Welles went back to the drawing board, raising more money for additional post-production, having the actors re-dub most of their dialogue, and cutting the film down to 89 minutes. Released in late 1950, it didn't make much of a dent, and respect was only given this decade, when it was restored to its original length and soundtrack. Now, its considered among the better Shakespeare screen adaptation. It had a healthy run at Film Forum earlier this decade, had a decent art house run, and plays in this retrospective. Try it.

THE GREAT DICTATOR- Sat Dec 26- Thurs Dec 31 at 3:55, 6:15 and 9:55- IFC Center- A week long screening of Charlie Chaplin's first talking picture. And a politically bold one for its time; a satire on Fascism and full scale attack on Hitler. Chaplin wrote, directed and starred as both the renamed Hitler and the dictator's double, who happens to be a Jewish barber. Then one day, the two are mistaken as one another. . . let the hilarity ensue. 5 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Chaplin for Actor and for the Screenplay.

Praised more for its audacity and willingness to be confrontational, years before we knew what exactly was going on with the Nazis, and it's place in history as one of the only films willing to do this back in 1940. Praised for all of this, as opposed to the quality of the film itself. So here is a chance to decide if this still holds up as entertainment, or works more as an important piece of film history and nothing more. Or both, minus the nothing more part.

SWEET CHARITY with or without MY SISTER EILEEN- Tues Dec 29 at 6:15 (Charity) and 9 (Eileen)- Film Forum- Part of the Madcap Manhattan series. Now My Sister Eileen, I don't care if I see it or not. Janet Leigh and Betty Garrett as Ohio sisters trying to live in New York, ok, whatever. Some curiosity to see Jack Lemmon in a musical, not a burning one on my end. Any interest from me would be to see Bob Fosse's first solo choreography film work, as well as see him perform on screen as well. My main interest would be to see Sweet Charity, or for you little kids, Pretty Woman with great dancing, but not a lot of fairy tale shit.

Released in 1969, right as audiences were staying away from most movie musicals in droves, Bob Fosse made his film directorial debut with this adaptation of his biggest Broadway hit up to that point. Shirley MacLaine rises above the hooker with the heart of gold cliche, with help of Fosse's terrific choreography and mostly playful direction, show stopping turns from MacLaine, Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly, Cy Coleman's music, and good use of NYC locales. Then the film comes out to reviews that were mostly good or better . . . and becomes a flop at the box office. Not Ishtar levels, but enough to make sure it didn't make it's production budget back with any speed. Oscar nominations for Coleman's score, Edith Head's costumes and the Art Direction didn't help in the least. History has since been kind to the film, and the show itself has enjoyed successful revivals. But Fosse's death, short film career, and the idea that it SEEMS like an old fashioned (a.k.a. boring) musical, has led to little in the way of re-discovery. You can make up for that on the 29th. One day only, sorry it isn't playing longer.

THE HURT LOCKER- Wed Dec 30 at 3:30- Walter Reade in Lincoln Center- I brought this up last time. This time, instead of playing at MOMA, it will play over at Lincoln Center. The reason? It's part of an end of the year retrospective of the more popular films to play at the Walter Reade over the past year. And this, one of the best films of 2009, certainly qualifies. Whether you can do it on a Wednesday afternoon during the holiday season or not, it's still nicer than catching it at AMC Empire or the theater with the windshield-size screen, also known as the Quad.

I think of this as a very good action film, but for a even better one, the next film I bring up qualifies:

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY with or without SUMMER HOURS- Wed Dec 30 at 4 (Terminator 2) and 8 (Summer)- MOMA- For one admission, you can see these two films. Different in almost every way, except for a concern for family. Believe it or not, family dynamics are about as key to T2 as it is to Summer Hours.

First, Terminator 2, arguably one of those examples of the sequel being better than the original. Definitely one of the best action films ever made. As of this writing, I haven't seen Avatar, but if that is better than T2, I would be most impressed and happy indeed. Here, John Connors is being threatened from the future by a shiny new, shape shifting Terminator model, but his adult future self sends a protector, an older model Terminator played by Ahu-nuld. With the help of John's chiseled and possibly slightly insane mom Sarah, the battle to change or delay the future begins again.

Linda Hamilton gained more notices for the 10-15 pounds of sinewy muscle she added than for her acting. But almost two decades since the hype, her performance as well as Edward Furlong as John help keep the human element front and center. Or at least keeps us from getting bored in-between some kick-ass action scenes. With visual effects that were as ground-breaking then, as Avatar supposedly is now. Oscars for the fx, sound and make-up, nominations for the cinematography and editing.

At the heart of the film, believe or not, is family. The biological and put-together kind. It's just not immediately obvious with all the gunfire and explosions. But it's blatantly obvious with Summer Hours. A French film from 2008, released in the U.S. this year. It seems that when putting together a best of 2009 list in film, Summer Hours will have to be at least considered.

Starring Juliette Binoche, two brothers and their sister, go through the family belongings as they put their late mother's estate in order. The siblings used to be close, but their own jobs and/or families keep them too busy to get together. And while going through the belongings triggers mostly pleasant flashbacks, there is the knowledge that this part of the past must be dealt with and then it's time to leave it behind in the past. And also to enjoy the time together now, because they might not meet up again like this until they reach the age of their late mother, if they're lucky.

So on this day, you can see a great action film, take an hour plus for a fast bite and maybe a coffee, then catch an unsentimental yet humane drama. Unique day, to be sure.

And now, two film options for New Year's Eve:

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and THE APARTMENT- Thurs Dec 31 and Fri Jan 1 at 7:40 (Tiffany's) and 9:50 (Apartment)- Film Forum- A double feature of two romantic comedy/dramas set in New York, shot about a year apart, where a popular actor plays a lead who tries to jump start their status in life. Breakfast At Tiffany's starring Audrey Hepburn, if you can get through the repeated use of Moon River and the now painful Mickey Rooney performance as the Japanese neighbor, and The Apartment, the better film, with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and an appropriate ending for New Year's. For the Thursday screening, a complimentary glass of champagne will be available to toast the New Year, after The Apartment. If you want to see this pairing, but NOT so close to the ball drop, this double feature will play on New Year's Day as well. But if you prefer something livelier, there's always . . .

A New Year's show and post ball drop party featuring VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for 22 dollars- Thurs Dec 31 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- Now this one is has more than just a film going on. You have some brief pre-show entertainment from Hedda Lettuce, followed by a screening of Valley of the Dolls getting a full Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque treatment from Hedda, then you watch the ball drop live, then some kind of party. That's all the details I got, except that it costs 22 dollars, and the tickets do NOT go on sale until the box office opens on the 31st.

Now as for the film, Valley of the Dolls? Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated), and tell all of them to play this STRAIGHT?!?!?! Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit. If any film deserves the full MST3K-type treatment, it is Valley of the Dolls. I'm not sure if this is how you want to spend your New Years, but something tells me that at worst, it won't be boring.

Let me know. Later all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December revivals through Christmas Eve

Hey all, Mike here wish all a happy festivus, and posting films to catch from now through Christmas Eve. Actually, I could post something everyday from Friday the 18th through New Years Day. But to keep things semi-clear, I'll chop it in2, and only post stuff through December 24. Trust me, this damn list is long enough. Here we go:

THE THIRD MAN- Fri Dec 18- Tues Dec 29 at 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- The Forum brings back this classic, just under the wire for its 60th anniversary. Though in America, it came out in 1950, where it would rise to classic status at about the exact same time as Sunset Blvd., All About Eve and Harvey. Talk about when being the third or fourth best film of that particular year meant a lot more than usual. Seriously, it's seems to me to be among the least seen of all the post silent flim era flicks I would label classic, at least stateside. As the older audience dies out, younger ones may not know it. But once they see it, boom, it's got them, and they'll probably see it everytime it comes on TCM as well. Film students must also have to see this at least once I would imagine. If not, then it's probably not all that reputable.

Simple fish out of water story, where American Joseph Cotton, who seems to hold black belts in screwups and stumbling blindly into situations, attends a funeral for his friend in post-war divided Vienna. And yet things, as usual in these kind of film noirs, are not what they appear to be. Thus, what I said about the story being simple, eeeeehhhhh, not so much. The film seems to exist entirely in states of gray, with camera angles that seem to have made it the Blair Witch Project of its day.

Standing out in the colorful supporting cast are Trevor Howard with what appears to be a permanent British stiff upper lip, and Alida Valli, who can keep many men's interest, but keeps pining for the one who treats her like shit. And, oh yeah, Orson Welles; who brought charm, gravitas, and the memorable, though historically inaccurate, cuckoo clock monologue. The only part of the film not written by Graham Greene, who adapted his book with some uncredited help.

Oh yeah, he didn't write the ending either. Director Carol Reed didn't like the book's ending, but still wasn't sure what to do. But he came up with a solution, over Greene's objections. At the end of shooting, just placed his camera and himself far away so the actors couldn't hear him say cut, and let it roll. Whatever would be, would be. Hey, it worked.

An Oscar for the black and white cinematography, nominations for Editing and Reed for Director. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes, on the first AFI Top 100 list (though not the second!), number one on Britain's similar film list, Japan's number one film on it's own similar list of non-Japanese films, and in my personal top 100. Not sure where exactly, but it's somewhere. It would be higher in my mind if there wasn't so much zither music. Yes, it fits, and after 60 years, we can't exactly do anything about that now, but still. That damn zither theme can still pop into my head from time to time. Despite that, you will enjoy it, whether you've seen it a bunch of times, or for the first time. And you have 12 days to catch it.

7 BRIDES FOR 7 BROTHERS- for free, subject to availability- Fri Dec 18 at 7- MOMA- A simple story for this musical from director Stanley Donen, a huge hit from 1954. In 1850 Oregon, Howard Keel brings home a wife, Jane Powell. Surprise, her new husband lives with his six brothers, all of whom expect her to take care of them. Well, it might be over a century before women's lib, but honey, she's gonna make sure things are gonna change. An Oscar for the Score, nominations for Picture, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Editing.

Which kind of gets us closer to why one should pay attention to this film at all. Michael Kidd's Choreography on the big screen makes this worth the price of admission, which in this case is free (subject to availability). It's used as a constant example, along with Lawrence of Arabia, as to why films on TV should be seen in widescreen, as opposed to pan and scan. Kidd's highly athletic dances, with quality editing, music and cinematography, makes it a worthy addition to any revival list. Even one as crowded as this.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE- Fri Dec 18- Thurs Dec 24 at 12:50, 3:55 and 7 - With an introduction from Donna Reed's daughter, Mary Owen on Friday Dec 18th at 7- IFC Center- Once again, IFC Center shows the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart classic for a week. It will be screened on its own, as opposed to what the theater usually does, which is to pair it with Bad Santa and charge separate admissions. It's only shown once or twice a year on NBC, and not much more after that, if at all. So if you're in the mood, here it is. I'm sorry that you don't get a little bell with the title of the film on it, like you do with the recent DVD release, but how bad do need to give out angel wings?

I listed all three times of its week-long run. I wouldn't be available for all of them, but it's easier to just list them all and move on. Donna Reed's daughter, Mary Owen will introduce the 7pm screening on Friday the 18th.

THE SHINING- Fri Dec 18 and Sat Dec 19 at Midnight- IFC Center- Once again, they show the Kubrick horror flick at midnight. Now that IFC Center has expanded to 5 screens, stuff like this, A Clockwork Orange, El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and anything the theater has done at midnight, will probably be constantly shown. Like it's the 70s or early 80s all over again. Anyway, now this is holiday fare. Yeah, yeah, because there's SNOW in the film, yeah, that's it . . . Oh just go with it, and if you haven't seen it, just go. M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY- Sat Dec 19 at 8- MOMA- The French comedy classic that had a successful two week run at the Forum, plays for two days at MOMA. But this is the one screening I can catch. Anything else about the film, go back a couple of lists ago.

THE HURT LOCKER- Mon Dec 21 at 7- MOMA- This film gets a one night screening. This Iraq War set action film found a bit of an art house audience, but sorry to say, I know very few people personally who took the time this summer to see Kathryn Bigelow's film. But for the next few months, with winning critics awards for at least Picture and Director from to New York to Boston to L.A. and other cities in between, a bunch of Golden Globe nominations (not a sign of excellence, but I'll take what I can leach on), upcoming critics' best of 2009 lists and the Oscars with their expanded Best Picture nominee slots; the point is, The Hurt Locker will be brought up quite a bit. When I get into my own top 10 of 2009, let's just say this film will be ranked quite high. This is screening at the moment at AMC Empire (barely) and the Quad, and later this month on the Sunday night and Wednesday afternoon after Christmas. So this won't be the only chance you'll have to catch this. But at least it will be better than the Quad's windshield of a screen.

THE KING OF COMEDY- Tues Dec 22 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- Part of the Madcap Manhattan retro, from director Martin Scorsese, for one night only. Not an obvious choice, but trust me, it fits. For those who haven't complained about people getting famous without doing much of anything, like the Salahis who crashed the White House dinner. They are the type who rather be Kings and Queens for a day, then 'schmucks' for a lifetime. Thus they seem to make this film as relevant as ever. 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. 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. Maybe a film that looks like a comedy but isn't AND is very much a New York film, turned off the rest of the country as a whole. Home video and TV could only do so much. Not the coolest in comparison to other Scorsese-de Niro pictures, 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.

THE THIN MAN with or without MY MAN GODFREY- Wed Dec 23 at 6:30 (Godfrey), 8:20 (Thin Man), and 10 (Godfrey) and Thurs Dec 24 at 1 (Thin Man) and 2:50 (Godfrey)- Film Forum- Part of the Madcap Manhattan retro. Now this is closer to what people would probably think of in terms of madcap Manhattan, as opposed to King of Comedy. A William Powell double feature of the biggest hits he ever starred in. Both very good, and if isn't wasn't for the fact that I saw the second half of the double feature earlier this year at the Forum, I would push catching this hard. As is, if it's only the first film I get to catch, I'm ok with that, but you're probably missing out.

First, The Thin Man. What was supposed to be a quick programming filler for MGM would become so much more. A classic screwball comedy/ mystery with Nick and Nora Charles, drinking and laughing their way through, when a murder case falls into their laps. Though not very interested at first (they are on their honeymoon and Nick is either drunk or hungover), the case still goes on around them. So let's have some fun, let's solve it! There's more to it than that, but the mystery is mostly secondary. Perhaps not as easy to solve at first, this was an adaptation of a Dashiell Hammett novel after all. The pacing and mixture of comedy, mystery and romance, especially between detectives of the opposite sex working on the same case, brings stuff like Moonlighting to mind.
But we're not remembering this film today unless the dialog was snappy, and if the chemistry between Powell and Myrna Loy wasn't there. And we get both in spades. While Powell is the more physical comedian, Loy (one of my favorite actresses of all time in every way), as the difficult task of playing someone not very bright in terms of sleuthing, and yet be a completely irresistible partner that can keep her husband intrigued and interested forever. The best acting partners the other would ever have.

The first of a series of Thin Man films. They were basically the same, except this is the only one with Nick visibly inebriated for the majority of the film. Blame the Production Code on that one. Oscar nominations for Picture, Director, Powell for Actor and for the script.

Followed by My Man Godfrey. Caught the screwball comedy earlier in the year and loved it. In this screwball comedy classic, Carole 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.

Just enough digs into the differences between the poor and the mostly blissfully out of touch rich, without the feeling of a soapbox. Wonderful cast; afterwards it's difficult not to wonder what if in terms of how Lombard's career would have been if a plane crash hadn't taken her life. Like I said, if I don't get to see only The Thin Man in this double feature, I'm ok with that. But the two together would make a great night.

That's all for now. The second half of this list is about twice as big as this one, with some good choices as well. Later all, and Happy Chrismukkah.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

December revivals: first half

Mike here with a list of what to catch for the first half of December. This month is always crowded with many revival choices. So crowded, that I may have to break up this month in 3 installments. Choosing films that are doable and, with the exception of the 15th, don't conflict, was ok this time. But the rest of the month will prove difficult. And that means, lots of quality flicks, and more then a few difficult choices. But for now, on with the list. Here we go:

FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933)- Fri Dec 4 at 6:40 (Frankenstein), 8 (Invisible), and 9:25 (Frankenstein)- Film Forum- The start of the James Whale retrospective. The film Gods and Monsters starred Ian McKellen as Whale in his last days. Now a week of his films will play at the Forum, starting with two of his three most famous pictures. Frankenstein, often remade, but never topped. Mostly serious, as opposed to almost all the sequels, with iconic scenes and the popular image of Boris Karloff as the misunderstood creation. Originally on the AFI top 100, and still a classic American film.

Followed by The Invisible Man, which is not quite as good, but a lot of fun. Follow Claude Raines (in his screen debut) as the title role. Yes, I know I just wrote that you should follow an invisible man, but stay with me. Little more than a voiceover job, but an incredible job, as he slides into madness, wrecking havoc along the way. Some of the visual effects don't hold up with age, but some of them, like the footprints in the snow, still work. And the mad unveiling is still a hoot. As a double feature, Frankenstein and the Invisible Man should be fun. And at 71 minutes each, it doesn't take up all night. Unless you prefer the double feature going on the next night, . . . .

BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and (if you want) THE OLD DARK HOUSE- Sat Dec 5 at 5:30 (Bride), 7 (House), and 8:30 (Bride)- Film Forum- Another James Whale double feature. First, Bride of Frankenstein, one of the few sequels considered better than the first one. I'm not sure if I'm willing to go that far, since it's been a long while since I've seen both. But the humor and campiness has been ratcheted up, enough to please but not interfere. Remembered best for Elsa Lancaster's ultra frizzy title role. If for any reason you don't know this film, now is a good time to learn.

Next, The Old Dark House. Never saw, don't have to see it, but I'm real curious. Raymond Massey, wife Gloria Stuart (from Titanic, she made The Invisible Man a year later), their friend Melvyn Douglas, and eccentric Charles Laughton, get out of a storm in a house, where Boris Karloff is the mute,scarred butler. Yeah, this can't be good for these people. Never seen it, but it's only 72 minutes, so at worst, it will be quick. In fact, both films barely break the seventy minute mark, so it won't swallow up your afternoon or evening.

THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN (1977)- Tues Dec 8 at 9:30- French Institute @ Florence Gould Hall- 55 E. 59th St.- Part of a Francois Truffaut retrospective going on over at the Upper East Side, every Tuesday through the rest of the year. Don't know if I'll be posting the rest of the retrospective, but after enjoying Small Change, I'm sure there will be at least one more posted this month.

This film, a romantic dramedy that, never mind found an audience back in 77, it found more of an overall audience than the Burt Reynolds remake. And if you don't remember that film from 1983, I'm not surprised in the least.

A funeral of a man, brings all the women he ever "loved" there. And that's a lot of women. Over twenty of them, all with great legs (if they didn't have them, they'd never be picked up by this guy). Through flashback, the last girlfriend thinking back to his autobiography, we see how he managed to be with all these women. And how much of it was truly love. A lot of fun, but not necessarily any fulfillment.

It's a lot funnier than I'm making this sound. And considering some of the women include such French stars as Brigitte Fossey, Nathalie Baye, and Leslie Caron, that's impressive. Impressive cast too.

BONNIE AND CLYDE- with a Q and A with Paul Schneider- Thurs Dec 10 at 7:30- Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington- The best film on this list, and unfortunately, the one furthest away from the city. The classic Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway crime drama, with its great acting, period feel and violent ending, gets a one night only screening, if you're willing to make the long drive to the Cinema Arts Centre out in Huntington. It's lovely on the outside, with a comparable film line-up with what's in Manhattan. But for this screening, to flesh out the history (just the idea of having attractive people play Bonnie and Clyde ought to give you the hint that the flick MIGHT NOT be completely accurate), there will be a post film Q and A with Paul Schneider. He wrote a book about the bank robbing duo, with supposedly recent declassified FBI files and lots of research, and will clarify, fill in the blanks, and answers questions.

THE AWFUL TRUTH and HOLIDAY- Fri Dec 11 and Sat Dec 12 at 4:40 (Holiday), 6:30 (Truth), 8:20 (Holiday), and 10:10 (Truth)- The start of the Forum's MADCAP MANHATTAN series. Most of the films have their stories taking place mostly in Manhattan. Now just because it's madcap, doesn't mean its a comedy. Just because it's MADCAP doesn't mean some dark territory isn't entered. But the darkness happens later in the series, and it certainly doesn't happen with the first two films here. Two Cary Grant screwball comedies, both in new 35mm prints.

First, The Awful Truth. Possibly the funniest screwball comedy of 1937. Definetly a huge hit that year, both commercially and critically, that elevated Grant to superstar status for the rest of his life. He and Irene Dunne play a married couple who break up over presumed infidelity. They get new partners, but Grant and Dunne just look at each other . . . Let the misunderstandings, innuendo and sexual tension begin. Oscar nominations for Picture, the Screenplay, Dunne for Actress, Ralph Bellamy for Supporting Actor (being the embodiment of a "Baxter"); an Oscar to Leo McCarey for Director.

Next, Holiday. A remake of the 1930 film, where Grant must decide whether to stick with marrying his fiancee and enjoy life on Easy Street, or marry his fiancee's sister, a poorer free spirit. Did I mention the free spirit is played by Katharine Hepburn? Can you guess what happens next? Not a box office hit in it's day, keeping the term about Hepburn, "Box Office Poison", alive. But the critics liked it back then, and while I wouldn't say it's considered a classic today, it is thought of well today.

Would be a good double feature to catch, and it plays for 2 days, so the chances of catching this are high.

A GORGEOUS GIRL LIKE ME- introduced by lead Bernadette Lafont- French Institute @ Florence Gould Hall- Tues Dec 15 at 7:30- Another in the Truffaut retro. Supposedly never received a full U.S. release, though popular elsewhere. A young sociologist, studying killers, goes to a prison to interview a Black Widow type, charged with killing both her husband and her lover. But this sociologist gets too close and falls for his subject. Uh-oh . . . Believe it or not, this is more or less a comedy. The film's star, Bernadette Lafont, will introduce the screening. If some reason we can't get it, there's always . . .

REPO MAN- Tues Dec 15 at 7:30 with post film party/open bar- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The 1984 film gets a one night only screening. A film that it seemed at the time, only Siskel and Ebert defended, but has had a cult following ever since. Alex Cox's first film, a satire of where he felt America was at the time. Emilio Estevez plays a punk turned repo man, by slimy Harry Dean Stanton. Boy, does Emilio get an eyeful of America in this job. Then, when he tries to get a hold of a 1964 Chevy Malibu (complete with glowing trunk - guess we know where Tarantino stole the idea of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction), everyone seems to come out of the woodwork. And from out of this world?!?!?!

Good luck keeping this film locked into any specific genre. Though at certain times, in terms of look and sound, it's a time capsule of the punk scene. Music from, among others, Iggy Pop, The Stooges, and The Circle Jerks (who perform in the movie). Probably not the best film on the list, but possibly the most daring. After the film, there will be music and an open bar. So if you don't like the film, you can drink. So there you go.

I'm definitely gunning for the Frankenstien/Invisible Man double feature. I'd like to catch the screwball comedy double feature, thank goodness it plays more than one day, and anything else I'm up for. Even the open bar film. Let me know. Later all.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November revivals: Thanksgiving weekend

Kim Greist as Jill Layton

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch this Thanksgiving weekend, and a few days after that. I didn't plan for most of this list's selections to come from IFC Center, but that's what's happened. This is also the latest I can go before posting. 2 days after I posted the last list, an AMC theater in Fresh Meadows posted an ad in the News and the Post for a revival screening of It's A Mad Mad Mad World for Sunday November 22 at 1. But this was the only way most people heard about, since it wasn't on AMC's website, and there were no earlier announcements anywhere. An ad in the paper, what is this, 1960 or 1970something? Maybe I could have gone, maybe I could have posted it, but if not given the chance . . . Oh well. I like the intentions, but if they don't draw anyone, I don't feel sorry for them. Anyway, here we go with this list:

M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY- Wed Nov 25, Sat Nov 28, and Tues Dec 1 - Thurs Dec 3 at 8:20 and 10:10- Film Forum- A restored 35mm print of the classic French comedy classic I brought up on the last post. I won't go into it again now, I still haven't seen it, and I'd like to catch this. Therefore, I'm re posting it.

SMALL CHANGE- Wed Nov 25, and Tues Dec 1 at 7:05 and 9:30, and Sat Nov 28 at 9:30- IFC Center- A new print of Francois Truffaut's 1976 hit. Episodic in nature, so don't go in thinking you'll get a linear plot here. Consider this as a slice of life over the course of a few summer months, following the lives of some of the kids, mostly of elementary school age. Not only are the kids the focus, the story is interrupted as though we're looking at this as a kid, at about the time just before they make the change to more adult ideas and decisions. Meaning little things take on greater importance. If something goes on that the kids don't understand, like first love or child abuse, and if one of the adults can't explain it clearly, then it will go misunderstood, or the kids will just move on. Might be frustrating for the audience, but stick with it.

Not the highest praised of Truffaut's canon, but much beloved to those who know it. Runs for one week only, I've listed the days and time I'm most likely available.

THE SHINING- Wed Nov 25 and Fri Nov 27 at 11:50 pm- IFC Center- Yet another chance to catch this Kubrick-Nicholson film. If you can't catch this Thanksgiving weekend, it will play again sometime soon. It's been popular for this theater so far in 2009, so I'm sure they'll continue with other, mostly unannounced midnight screenings for the foreseeable future. Also playing around the Midnight time at the IFC Center is . . . .

BRAZIL- Wed Nov 25 - Fri Nov 27 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- The last of the Monty Python retrospective. A little surprised that it hasn't run a little longer. I guess either the IFC Center couldn't find a good print of Time Bandits, or didn't think Time Bandits was good enough, or that Time Bandits could draw. Won't bother to go into the other stuff from Python people that might be too obscure (like Clockwise or A Private Function: look them up on IMDB on your own time.).

A commercial failure back in 1985-86, for reasons widely published that I won't bother getting into now, one of my favorites from the 1980s. Unfortunately, as the years go by, the world (major cities, anyway) seems to take a step at a time toward becoming the world depicted in Brazil. A funny version of Orwell's 1984, but with all the horrific implications to those who cross the Big Brotheresque government, though this government is more concerned with paperwork than surveillance. You can also be an innocent bystander to get screwed, like the poor man in the beginning of Brazil, that eventually leads us to our day dreaming hero, played by Jonathan Pryce.

If you've never seen this on the big screen, man it's so different. This is no tv skit film, this is a full blown cinematic experience. With an art direction (the look, people) that, along with Blade Runner and Batman, set the standard for large decaying Gothams. And I haven't even gotten into the cast; whether its actors we know, like de Niro, Michael Palin, Ian Holm and Katharine Helmond, or those we Americans weren't very familiar with back then, like Bob Hoskins and Jim Broadbent. Oscar nominations for its Screenplay and its Art Direction. If you can stay up this Thanksgiving weekend, let's go for it. If you're really adventurous, we can do it Thanksgiving night. An odd choice, but worthwhile.

Let me know. Happy Thanksgiving all, later.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November revivals for the next few days.

[2001+eye.<span class=jpg]" border="0">

Mike here with another list, a small one. I don't have time to do a full list for the rest of the month, but if I wait any longer, I'll never get this out in time. Only 2 more films to add, but that will have to wait for a few days from now.

In the meantime, I caught The Red Shoes and I should apologize for just dismissing this as a chick flick or for dancers only. This is also for those who love film. Fantastic looking print, but the story is more about people, willing to sacrifice pieces of humanity and possibly their life to feed an addiction to make art. Well, not just art, but art at the highest quality. This just happens to take place in the ballet world. Interesting to see the most interesting character was the impresario who happens to be a rich cold fish. Also interesting to see the male dancers here smaller than what I'm used to seeing at ABT. Also, I wouldn't call the ballerinas in ABT anorexic, but let's just say the ballerinas in The Red Shoes look like they at least eaten a meal. Ah, different times. Anyway, you still have two days and nights to catch this print at the Forum, and if you haven't by now, I hope you catch it now. So let's go with the list:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Thurs Nov 19 at 7:30- Queens Theater in the Park- The last of AMMI's series of classic films for the fall at Queens Theater in the Park. Take the 7 to the old Shea Stadium stop (I have no idea if there will be a shuttle bus or not) or try to park somewhere near QTITP, the U.S. Open, or the Hall of Science and walk over. And if you do that, you'll see a digital projection of one of my all time favorite films. I've brought this up before, so I won't go into this further.

BATMAN (1989) for free (subject for availability)- Fri Nov 20 at 8- MOMA- Part of a Tim Burton retrospective, and the only one I can catch, and have major desire to catch for that matter. Some I can't get to (Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Big Fish, Corpse Bride), some I've seen enough of on TV and on the original release (Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood), and some I have no desire to pay to catch again (to an extent Sweeney Todd, but I'm really referring to that crappy Planet of the Apes remake). Adding that this screening is for free (tickets given out at about 4PM, first come first served), it would be nice to see this again on the big screen, about 20 years after it became one of the biggest films of its day. It's not Dark Knight or Batman Begins, but it will do.

M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY- Fri Nov 20, Tues Nov 24, Sat Nov 28, and Tues Dec 1 - Thurs Dec 3 at 8:20 and 10:10 (no screenings on Mon)- Film Forum- A restored 35mm print of a classic French comedy, that's getting a 2 week run at the Forum. The first of 4 Monsieur Hulot films that co-writer/director/star Jacques Tati would make. Shot in the style of say, Modern Times, where there's practically no dialogue, but where music and sound effects hold high importance. Also, like Modern Times, comedy is important, and any social commentary is on the sly (ok, so that's a little different than Modern Times, don't complain to me please . . .). The lack of dialogue wasn't an obstacle for the picture to get an Oscar nomination for its Screenplay.

The story itself is simple. M. Hulot, a pipe-smoking klutz, goes off to vacation at a beach resort in August. Now decades before the cult film, Buckaroo Banzai, came out and had one of my favorite movie lines "No matter where you go, there you are.", this film "lived" that line. All different classes stay at this resort, and they all can't lose themselves on vacation. Whether they're snobby rich types, or pompous intellectual types, they can't get out of their own way. And they can't get out of the way of M. Hulot, in whatever sight gag or pratfall happens.

Originally shot in 1952, director Tati did something years before the likes of Spielberg, Ridley Scott and others: reshoot or add stuff for a director's cut. It wasn't referred as that back then of course. But Tati would re-edit in the early 60s while having the score re-orchestrated and adding an additional shot. Then in 1978, he shot new beach footage, and edited it in. This restoration had to restore the spliced-to-hell negative, while repairing the sound. Lot of work for a silent comedy classic. Is it worth it? LEt's go and see.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nov revivals: first half

Patricia Quinn (Monty Python's Meaning of Life, 1983)


Mike here with what to catch for the first half of November. A bit of a long list, so I'll try to brief as possible. Here we go:

ON THE WATERFRONT- Wed Nov 4 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- 3 of the films from the Elia Kazan retrospective were popular enough to warrant their own week long release. On The Waterfront is the first. Since most people I know who don't know any Brando fanatics, didn't catch this last month, here's another chance. Sorry that this is the only date I can catch it.

THEATER OF BLOOD and SCREAM OF FEAR- Wed Nov 4 and Thurs Nov 5 at 8:10 (Scream) and 9:45 (Theater)- Film Forum- A few more days to catch this British horror film double feature. Like I said before, if I only catch Theater of Blood, I'm fine with that. Therefore, I won't re-post what I copied and pasted about Scream of Fear, just the Theater paragraph:

Theater of Blood is a lot of fun. Vincent Price plays a great (self-proclaimed) actor who fakes his suicide to revenge on all the critics who tried to "ruin" his career and deny Jack Hawkins and Robert Morely are among the Shakespearean stage actors playing critics who meet their Shakespearean doom. With Diana Rigg as Price's angry daughter. As you can imagine, it can get hammy and cheesy. And because of the time it was made (released in 1973), perhaps its bloodier than it should be. But trust me, its fun. But I'd like to catch both.

THE RED SHOES- Sun Nov 8, Tues Nov 10- Fri Nov 13 and Sun Nov 15, Wed Nov 11 and Thurs Nov 19 at 7 and 9:35- No screenings on Mon night- Film Forum- Arguably the most important film featuring dance ever made, and supposedly one of the films that inspired Martin Scorsese to become a filmmaker, gets a two week run at the Forum, in a restored 35mm print. The restored version that Scorsese himself this spring at the Cannes Film Festival. To quote him: "There's no question that it's one of the most beautiful color films ever made, and one of the truest to the experience of the artist, the joy and pain of devoting yourself to a life of creation."

The lush colors, and the breezy cinematic manner that directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger tell this story keeps it somewhat timeless. Sorry, you just can't have people riding in trains because they have to, and still be considered completely timeless.

One of the few films to pull off both the ballet on-stage and the work and/or the passion behind it successfully. This is despite having relatively less on-screen staged ballet than what you might remember. There are very few dancers worth a damn who haven't been inspired to join the profession since it's release in 1948. Maybe a little too girly for some of you, but it's a classic, so deal with it and catch it.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT- Fri Nov 6 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of a series of Monty Python films at Midnight. Never intended for release in their British home, this compilation of best of Python sketches, was suppose to introduce the group to America. Didn't work; not well distributed and perhaps too strange to dive into without any mental or emotional intro. At least their English audience had seen stuff like The Goons, or the members' previous shows, like At Last The 1948 Show, or The Frost Report to at least lay down the groundwork. And considering all we really had was Laugh-In unless you happened to catch Second City on stage, that wasn't enough.

For this film, it also didn't help that their director (according to the recent IFC documentary), tended to dive into drinking by noon, leaving the Python members to shoot on their own, essentially. And also according to the IFC doc., it gave them the impetus to maintain complete control of their work, eventually leading to Holy Grail. But it's gotten a sort of cult following, and with skits like Dead Parrot, Upper Class Twit of the Year, Hell's Grannies, Self-Defense, and so forth, the laughs come easy.

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE- Mon Nov 9- Wed Nov 11 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- Another Kazan film that apparently did well enough at the Forum last month to get a week long run. You know it, you know Brando, you know Vivian Leigh, you know "STEEEELLLLLAAAAAA-HHH!!!!", so I don't think I need to go further . . .

8 1/2- Thurs Nov 12 at 7:30- Queens Theater in the Park- Part of AMMI's Masterpieces series that they have playing in other venues. Since the museum still isn't ready to reopen, they've been trying different venues. And this fall, they're being screened at Queens Theater in the Park, at Flushing Meadow Park. Digitally projected in their 400 plus theater, here's something for those who don't want to trek into Manhattan. I would have wanted to catch some of their earlier films, like Citizen Kane or Rules of the Game, but 8 1/2 is the first one in the series I have time for.

In time for the release of the upcoming musical remake 9, Fellini's classic film mixes reality and fantasy, as Marcello Mastroianni tries to overcome a form of director's block, while living his life in a fishbowl as a celebrity as well as trying to get his new film off the ground. The film mixes flashback, fantasy and reality, and is also a love letter to not only film in general, but the idea of a director as a kind-of Master of his little Universe. And when surrounded by classic beauties like Anouk Aimee, Claudia Cardinale and Barbara Steele, yeah man, you got it tough.

SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS- Fri Nov 13, Mon Nov 16 and Wed Nov 18 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum-The third Kazan film, a romantic drama, to get a week long run. I didn't have time for it last month when it only played one or two days, but I can catch it now.

In the 1920s, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood play young lovers who might be each others' true love, yet split apart by parents, different social classes and perhaps not enough maturity to overcome them. Not to say the audience is any better then they are; it's how similar we are that drives the film home. Oscar nominations to Wood for Best Actress and for William Inge's Screenplay. Not Kazan's last successful or heavily praised film (that would probably be America, America), but career highs for Kazan, (especially) Wood, Beatty, and all involved.

MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE- Fri Nov 13 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of the Monty Python at Midnight retro that the IFC Center is having. Not the best film the group has ever done, but does have some of their best work. Closer to one of the old episodes in terms of style, than something linear like Life Of Brien. But like I said, some of their best bits are in this picture; like the old people who become pirates to attack big business, giving birth, the large Catholic family that performs "Every Sperm Is Sacred", and organ donation (also the bloodiest scene Python ever put up). And that's not counting the dinner sketch where might be the most disgusting Python skit ever, and I'd be damned if that wasn't funny as well. Like I said, not the best Python film, but still pretty funny and one of the best films of 1983. A biased opinion, since I'm the biggest Python fan I know, but so what?

That's all for now. Heavy interest in the Brit horror films, Red Shoes and Meaning of Life, but anything I can would be good. Let me know. Later, all.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oct. revivals: second half

Theater of Blood (Theatre of Blood) (1973, UK) movie poster

A Face In the Crowd

Hey, all. Mike here with what to catch for the rest of October. No time to waste, so here we go:


TOY STORY and TOY STORY 2 in 3-D- Various locations in NYC- Now until whenever Disney feels like pulling it- Technically not revivals, but a re-release. Supposedly its for two weeks only. But as you can tell, they've done well enough that they're still playing. Not on the level of say, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, or even Couples Retreat. I heard that this would have been completely replaced by yet another 3-D re-release of Nightmare Before Christmas (which I recommend). But since Toy Story did well these past 2 weeks, the plan has been modified. Nightmare only played on 57 screens this weekend, none in the tri-state area. My guess, we have until either Thursday Oct 22 or Thursday Nov 5 until Disney pulls the double feature. But your guess is as good as mine as to when.   

A FACE IN THE CROWD- Wed Oct 21 at 2, 4:30 and 7- Film Forum- Part of the Elia Kazan retrospective. Not the best film he ever directed or even the most subtle, but a potent one nevertheless. And I know some of you have caught this before, either with or without me. But for those who haven't, who've probably caught most of the other films I'm listing hear, this is the one I want you to catch. A passionate gem of a film.

From 1957, Patricia Neal works on the radio, and gives a chance behind the microphone to a hobo type, with possible anger issues, played by Andy Griffith. So basically, by sheer force of personality, this early Howard Stern/ Rush Limbaugh type goes from small time Southern radio voice, to big time National radio voice, to selfish, borderline power-mad egomaniacal personality on this new fangled medium called television.

The writing and directing team behind On The Waterfront, went out of their way to make a large chunk of this film as unsubtle as possible. This was on purpose, since this was more a call to arms of the way TV and advertising was changing America, and not in a good way. Is right up there with Network, in terms of standout films that not only attacked and critiqued media, but also in terms of how despite the changing times, audience sizes and technology; the accuracy it has about our current times is uncanny. the idea of politicians packaged like a new car or a fast food place, or that the audience will follow some wannabe demagogue on TV and almost blindly follow what the person says (unless the audience feels blatantly tricked). Boy, that human nature crap hasn't changed at all.

Of course, this wouldn't work if we didn't at least empathize with the characters, and this certainly wouldn't work if the performances weren't outstanding. Neal, Walter Matthau (as the bitterly observant East Coast type), and Anthony Franciosa (as the slimy manager), are just the better known names in a wonderful cast. Lee Remick makes her fresh faced screen debut. But if you just think of Andy Griffith as the sheriff of Mayberry or as Matlock, his performance in A Face In The Crowd will shatter those perceptions. Funny, driven, ravenous, tender, lonely, subtle, brutal. Griffith bounces from one to another of these states and more, and you never see the seams. You see the cruel glint in his eye early, but you can sympathize with him for long stretches. In effect, you can understand why Neal's character would throw away her principals a piece at a time to love a man who may not be the misunderstood kind-hearted person she thinks he is. Very good film, one you really need to make time for at some point.

PSYCHO for 7.50- Thurs Oct 22 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- Honestly, I'm not trying to make a habit of posting this film each and every time it comes up. It's that I haven't seen it each time I've posted, and I'm gonna try again when it's playing at a convenient time for me. Which it is here, and at a cheaper price, 7.50, then the previous times I've posted it. I'm choosing this time as opposed to the 7pm screening, where it will get occasionally mocked by Hedda Lettuce. Some films deserve the MST3K method, this doesn't.

WILD RIVER- Fri Oct 23 and Mon Oct 29- Thurs Oct 29 at 5:30 and 7:40- the Fri screening at 7:40 introduced by Kazan's widow Film Forum- A new 35mm scope print. The last of the Elia Kazan retro, and the only one getting a week-long run. From 1960, a film that made even less of an impact upon its release than A Face In The Crowd. But like Face In The Crowd, it's reputation has grown and was cited for preservation by the Library of Congress. Now I've never seen it, so I'm forced to copy and paste from the Forum's website (I feel like a hack) to pitch this:

(1960) In the wake of disastrous Depression era floods, the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) is instituted, and Montgomery Clift flies in from D.C. to tie up one last loose end: get 80-year-old matriarch Jo Van Fleet to vacate her island homestead before the dams flood it. But she isn’t going, and as they argue Clift comes to appreciate her deep love for the land, and to find a bond growing with her widowed granddaughter, Lee Remick. A project Kazan nursed for 25 years, after his first visits to the region in the 30s, and the most atmospheric of his works, from its long, slow, almost Ozu-like opening scenes, through Ellsworth Fredericks’ crisply autumnal CinemaScope photography, Kenyon Hopkins’ haunting score — complemented by overheard snatches of hymns and spirituals, most memorably when a seeming no-neck begins a heartbreaking “In the pines” at a funeral on a cemetery-sized islet in the swollen river. And keyed by three powerful performances: Clift, never so sharp and subtle, a tentative smile, a flick of the eye, a nod conveying the shy city intellectual with an awakening heart and a hidden vein of iron; Van Fleet, only 37 at the time — her makeup took four hours — even stronger and more dominating than in her East of Eden Oscar-winner; and Remick, moving through loneliness, yearning, passion, and rage to create the most complete and developed among all of Kazan’s characters. Poorly distributed on first release, and long unavailable, this now can be seen as one of the greatest works of one of America’s greatest directors. 

THEATER OF BLOOD and SCREAM OF FEAR- Fri Oct 30 and Mon Nov 2- Thurs Nov 5 at 8:10(Scream) and 9:45(Theater)- Film Forum- A double feature of two British horror flicks that sounds like fun. Now the second film, Scream Of Fear, I don't know anything about, so here we go with the copy and paste stuff from the Forum website:

(1961, Seth Holt) Wheelchair-bound Susan Strasberg arrives on the Côte d’Azur for a first meeting with stepmom Ann Todd and a reunion after a decade with her estranged dad, only to find him away on business. So what’s his corpse doing in the summerhouse? The ever-so-helpful family doctor has a sedative for those hallucinations — but wait a minute, he’sChristopher Lee! Touted as Britain’s answer toPsycho, it was actually written much earlier (by Hammer horror specialist Jimmy Sangster, in a deliberate change of pace) and more reminiscent of Clouzot’s Diabolique — but with special twists of its own. Shot in stunning b&w by the great Douglas Slocombe (later DP of the first three Indiana Jones adventures).

Now the other film, Theater of Blood, is a lot of fun. Vincent Price plays a great (self-proclaimed) actor who fakes his suicide to revenge on all the critics who tried to "ruin" his career and deny Jack Hawkins and Robert Morely are among the Shakespearean stage actors playing critics who meet their Shakespearean doom. With Diana Rigg as Price's angry daughter. As you can imagine, it can get hammy and cheesy. And because of the time it was made (released in 1973), perhaps its bloodier than it should be. But trust me, its fun, and if this is the only half of the double feature we catch, I would be satisfied. But I'd like to catch both.

MONTY PYTHON: LIVE AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL- Fri Oct 30 and Sat Oct 31 at Midnight- IFC Center- This weekend, IFC Center will start a Monty Python retrospective at Midnight for the next number of weekends. But I've done the first film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail twice in recent years, and I think I've bled out the audience for this. So I'll move on to the first Python film I can do: Monty Python: Live At The Hollywood Bowl. A concert film from the Los Angeles end of their tour back in 1980, released in the summer of 1982. A mix of classic skits (The Arguement Sketch, The Ministry of Silly Walks), with newer pieces like Graham Chapman wrestling himself. My favorite of the newer pieces is the Pope (John Cleese) arguing with da Vinci (Eric idle) over The Last Supper. I'm paraphrasing the following:

Pope: You can't have a Last Supper with THREE CHRISTS in it!!!

da Vinci: Why not? The fat one even outs the 2 skinny ones!

So if you don't want to spend your Halloween weekend with horror films. Here's a fun alternative.

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

Friday, October 02, 2009

October revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of October. I think I got a real nice mix of stuff here. Not necessarily every film is a "good" film mind you, but each is entertaining in their own way. Go through the list, and you'll see what I mean. Here we go:

TOY STORY and TOY STORY 2 in 3-D- Various locations in NYC, look them up on your own- Opens Fri Oct 2- Technically not revivals, but a re-release. Supposedly its for two weeks only. But that's what they said about the Hannah Montana concert film and the two re-releases of Nightmare Before Christmas, so we'll see. Originally, only Toy Story was supposed to be released now, with Toy Story 2 released in February. But since they'll be re-releasing Beauty and The Beast then, and Disney really wants to pitch the upcoming Toy Story 3 to us, these two films are out now.

Toy Story and Toy Story 2, from Pixar. The film that changed the game in terms of animation and what constitutes a big box office draw, and one of the few sequels considered better than the original. Not by everyone mind you. Toy Story is on the second AFI Top 100 list and the other is not. Both are beloved and both are back, for one admission, and in 3-D only. So get ready for that 3 dollar plus surcharge for those glasses. Hopefully, you haven't thrown out your glasses from stuff like Up, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Ice Age 3 and whatever else was in 3-D, pay to see something else, and sneak into this. Note, its been set up that the times for the first Toy Story film is seen first, so if you intend to see the second one first, good luck with that. And if you intend to put that much effort into that, you're a bit of a moron.

SOME LIKE IT HOT- Mon Oct 5- Thurs Oct 8 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. You all know this one. Lemmon and Curtis in dresses blah blah blah, Marilyn Monroe blah blah blah, Billy Wilder classic in a career full of classics blah blah blah, AFI Top 100 blah blah blah, on the short list of comedy classics blah blah blah. If you know it, you probably love it, so let's just catch it already.

RiffTrax makes fun of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE- Thurs Oct 9 at 7:30- AMC Empire 25, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 and Regal Westbury Stadium 12- The legendarily GOD AWFUL Ed Wood Jr film (is there any other kind?) gets a rare screening. Here it's made fun of by RiffTrax. The members of the group are Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. Yes, former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000, riffing on a colorized version of this laughably terrible film. Complete with bad dialogue, worse acting, a spaceship on a string, tombstones in a graveyard that moves, and other disasters. With a short that gets rifted on before Bela Lugoisi's last picture begins. One night only and it sounds like fun.

ON THE WATERFRONT- Fri Oct 9 and Sat Oct 10 at 7:40 (with different intros on each night) and 9:50- Film Forum- The start of the Elia Kazan retrospective. You all know this one too. Brando classic, blah blah blah, I coulda been a contender blah blah blah, Best Picture winner classic, blah blah blah, AFI Top 100 film, blah blah blah. You'll decide if you want to see it or not. But two introductions of note going on here. On Friday the 9th at 7:40, Roberta Hodges, Waterfront's Script Supervisor will introduce the screening. On Saturday the 10th at 7:40, Benn Schulberg, the son of the film's screenwriter Budd Schulberg, will introduce this particular screening. I don't have to catch either one, I'd go just to see the film. But I wouldn't say no either.

DEAD-ALIVE- Mon Oct 12 at 4:30 or Fri Oct 16 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of a series of horror films playing at Lincoln Center, though this is one of the few I will bring up. Peter Jackson's first film, where a man falls in love with a woman. But then, the man's mother gets bitten and is slowly turning into a zombie. The man tries to be the dutiful son, but sure enough, zombie mom wreaks havoc. We're talking zombie dogs, zombie monkeys, zombie babies, zombie priests. I think I even saw a zombie lawn mower, unless I was just confused. Did I mention this was a comedy? An insane, bizarre, ultra gory comedy, but a comedy nevertheless. If you want to see the twisted mind of the man behind the Lord of the Rings films, here's a perfect opportunity.

But one question remains. Is this a good film that's over the top funny, or a crapfest that's almost on the level of Plan 9 (but not quite!), that's so over the top, that you can't help but to at least smirk? And the answer is, I can't help you. You have to decide for yourself.

PINK FLOYD: THE WALL- Tues Oct 13 at 8- The Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- You can't get much more bizarre than this collaboration of Alan Parker's visual style and Roger Waters' music. Among the last of the midnight movies to make any kind of impact, being shown at a reasonable time. Waters hated this film so much, he bad mouthed it every chance he had. I don't think Parker can say Roger's name without some form of bile buildup. Amazing visual sequences, not just in the famous We Don't Need No Education scene. The film is barely coherent from the start, and makes less sense as it goes along. But good music and visuals go a long way with me. According to the filmlinc website, they plan on cranking up the volume for the We Don't Need No Education scene, and there will be an after-party, specializing in progressive rock from the DJs of Viva Radio.

BABY DOLL- Wed Oct 14 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Kazan retro. A one day/night only screening. A screenplay from Tennesse Williams, and directed by Kazan. Carroll Baker plays the title role, as a 19 year old child bride, who refuses to give in to husband Karl Malden's "demands". She ends caught in the middle, as her virginity becomes a prize, between Malden, and an angry Mexican business rival (Eli Wallach in his film debut) who tries to take revenge, by taking Baby Doll. Funnier then you might expect, but as well acted, written and directed as you might think from all the names I mentioned here.

Controversial back in the mid 50s for the subject matter (in the 1950s? Gee, you THINK?!?!?!). Condemned by the Legion of Decency, this arm of the Catholic Church tried to organize a nationwide boycott. Cardinal Spellman in St. Patrick's Cathedral condemned the film during mass, telling Catholics to not see Baby Doll "under pain of sin". A surprising indirect ally was Time Magazine, who called the film the dirtiest American picture ever legally screened. The boycott didn't completely work. The backlash eventually killed the Catholics out of giving films the Production Code seal of approval; a step that would eventually lead to the ratings system and board we have today. But it did kill any chance Baby Doll ever had to be profitable. The boycott succeeded to the point that over 50 years later, this film is still criminally under seen. You might have heard of this film, but you have to be an ardent buff to anything about this film. For the record, a bit on the tame side, and far from pornographic. I tried to catch it last December, but it was sold out. Let's try again.

A very eclectic group, with something for almost everyone. Let me know. Later all.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September revival: second half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch, revival-wise, for the second half of September. And based on increased schedule difficulty (Trust at Parkside Players- catch it!), this is the only revival I can catch. But I've been waiting for this one to come around for a while:

FAT CITY- Sun Sept 27 at 7:30 and 9:30, Tues Sept 29 and Wed Sept 30 at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 and Thurs Oct 1 at 1:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. Not a hit back in 1972, and frankly, not really remembered today. But for those who have seen it, it's cited as one of the films that made 1970s the best decade for American film. I won't step into that particular argument here. But it's also one of those films that shows director John Huston was doing work that was just as vital near the end of his career as it was in the beginning.

Please, it's more than just Death of a Salesman or Requiem For A Dream, set in boxing. There's just enough levity to make it 70s palpable. Based on Leonard Gardner's successful book, Stacy Keach stars as a boxer, never the biggest name in his division, trying to restart his career in one of the most dusty, and drabbest (not a word but whatever) towns in all of California. He meets a younger version of himself, played by Jeff Bridges. Jeff's character may be up and coming, but is that only because he's so young? In a sport where one knockout can change anything, who's to say how long Bridges' character will have a bright future. And if Keach's character wins, whose to say that that would be enough to get him out of dive towns and into better fights?

Two aspects of Huston the man and director have served the legacy of this film well, for those who have seen it. One, Huston's past as a former boxer, led him to shoot the fight scenes as realistic as possible. Not with the power punches of a Rocky film or The Contender TV series, or with the bloody artistry of Raging Bull. But if you're familiar with the barroom fight in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, then you have the idea of the kind of fights depicted.

Two, Huston cast many of his films well, and this is no exception. He took chances casting Bridges and Keach, back when they were mostly unknown. Their breakout films, Last Picture Show for Bridges and Doc for Keach, had not been released when cast. It also helped Keach that Brando was unenthusiastic about taking the role. An Oscar nomination went to Susan Tyrell for playing Keach's 'squeeze', the barfly of all barfly. Before American Graffiti, Candy Clark made her screen debut as Bridges' screw-up girlfriend. With Nicholas Colastano (years before Raging Bull and Cheers as coach) as Bridges' trainer, and a number of welterweight, middleweight and lightweight boxers in small roles throughout.

Let me know because like I said, I'd really like to catch it. Later all.

P.S.: Do catch Trust. It's a good show. Go to, and follow along for Trust. Later all.