Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jan. revivals this weekend

Mike here with what to catch revival-wise, this coming weekend. I didn't expect to be doing this, but these two are too good to pass up. Maybe using 3 variations of 2 in the same sentence should have been, but anyway . . .

Two forgotten films from 3 of the biggest American males of the 1970s and 80s, and both with either a live intro and/or a Q and A. Here we go:

PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK- Fri Jan 30 at 7:40- with an appearance from Director Jerry Schatzberg, co-Screenwriter Joan Didion, and co-star Kitty Winn- Film Forum- A new 35mm print, of a film I'm guessing only one or two of you have seen, and which some of you have probably never heard of. The Panic at Needle Park is a good film, but difficult has all hell to get through.

Al Pacino made his leading man debut here, about a year before The Godfather. He plays a loser-type who meets the love of his life in good-girl girlfriend Kitty Winn (won Best Actress for this at Cannes). We see them get together, and slowly fall apart through drug addiction.Pacino shines, and you'll spend time wondering why Winn stopped acting after the mid 1970's after you see her. But the characters' progressive downward spiral made this too tough to draw an audience back in 1971, and except for the occasional screening on Fox Movie Channel and a token DVD release, it still remains under the radar. Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne wrote the screenplay, researching and living with addict couples for months. The film's failure drove them away from pushing their own ideas through film, and having them be more writers for hire when it came to movies. Worth catching.

The film's director, co-writer, and co-star, all make appearances at the one screening I've singled out. It's playing for a week, so if you can't catch at this time, go to the Forum website for other times. Seeing Kitty Wynn is the major curiosity. After she made the first two Exorcist films, she seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. Not that bad, she married, had kids, and did the occasional stage play in California. Didn't think she'd be interested in coming back out here to do something like this, but go figure.

TRUE CONFESSIONS- Sat Jan 31 at 6:45 with a post film Q and A with director Ulu Grosbard- and Tues Feb 3 at 1- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Another film, like Panic in Needle Park, written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, who adapted his own novel here. A forgotten film from 1981 that was far from a hit. When Gene Shalit and the New York Times are the only ones giving raves, while everyone else gives 2, 2 and a half, or 3 stars, the audiences will not run. Especially when there isn't a ton of money to promote something not easily defined correctly. This was made by United Artists, but released under the MGM/UA banner, when they hadn't found their promotional traction yet. In a way, another indirect victim of Heaven's Gate flopping.

People of a certain younger age, I tell them about this film and they're like "HUH?!?! WHEN? WHO'S IN IT? NO WAY!". I'm afraid that makes them think this is something a lot more fast paced, which would be a mistake. But not make it a bad film in any way. And while you may or may not be as enthused as I am, catching a kind of film noir starring arguably two of the best American male film actors (then and now), is not a bad thing. And I'm not talking about Righteous Kill here.

Shot years after Chinatown, but many years before L.A. Confidential or The Black Dahlia, with a heavy amount of character study. Also a strong sense for historical detail. The story, set mostly in late 1948, is about two brothers; one a police detective, the other a monsignor working the business end of his diocese. Both are and/or have let some corruption go by in order to get things done, or at least make their lives a little easier. Both are unhappy with their lives, and hide their unhappiness, to varying degrees of success. Things come to a head when the case of a murdered young woman, similar to the Black Dahlia case (arguably the most famous unsolved American homicide of the 20th Century), leads to the Catholic Church's biggest contractor/donor. The fallout causes problems for the brothers, in a world that seems to be passing them by.

Starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall, one year after De Niro's Oscar winning turn in Raging Bull, and one year before Duvall's Oscar winning gentle turn, in Tender Mercies. You might think De Niro would play the angry cop, while Duvall plays things close to the vest as the priest. Wrong. Years before De Niro and Bill Murray switched roles and types in Mad Dog and Glory, De Niro and Duvall played against type. Duvall as the hard boiled cop, and De Niro as the priest who tries to keep at least a placid exterior for different reasons. Another edition of Acting 101, people, American male edition. You buy them as brothers, as opposed to 1989's Family Business, that tried to make us believe Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick could all come from the same family tree. They're a pleasure to watch, even when the film slows down. I admit, it gets a little slow on occasion, but the good definitely outnumbers the weak moments. Duvall gets most of the praise, where the slow burn turns to righteous, blind justice. De Niro took heat for being too soft after last being seen as Jake La Motta, and some feel this might have been his weakest performance of the 1980s (either this or Falling In Love). But as a change of pace, it's never dull to watch, and I think the performance deserves a re-evaluation.

A strong supporting cast helps. Charles Durning and Burgess Meredith are among the cast. The film's director, Ulu Grosbard, will do a post film Q and A, so some planning may need to be done beforehand. If this can't be done, an early afternoon screening, with no Q and A plays next Tuesday.

Let me know. Later all.

P.S.: The Times critic who gave True Confessions a rave was Vincent Camby. The man who described Heaven's Gate basically as a four hour tour of one's living room. A review that both gives me a smile, while I vehemently disagree at the same time. The link is below. Take it as you will:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My crappy Oscar nom. picks

Mike here. Time to cough up some Oscar picks. I usually do ok when picking, but the last two years, which are on the archives here, not so good. That's what I get for going out on a limb on occasion. I thought I had more time to come up with these, like by Sunday night/Monday morning. But it turns out they are announced on Thursday, Jan. 22 at about 8:30AM EST. Oops, gotta hurry up now.

Note that I use the Hollywood Stock Exchange ( as my guide, with the occasional longshot tossed in. I break the possible movies down into Probables, Possibles, Maybes, and Longshots, followed by my picks. I'm not saying I have expertise, I'm just a semi-educated amateur who has fun with this. Here we go with the major categories:

Best Screenplay Adaptation:
Probables: Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight, Doubt

Possibles: none

Maybes: Revolutionary Road, The Reader

Longshots: Gomorrah (had an Oscar qualifying release in L.A. Comes out in NYC @ IFC Film Center on Feb 13. I will bring this film up again in the future.), Defiance, The Duchess, The Last Mistress, Tell No One

My picks: Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog. I wish there was room for Dark Knight, but it will probably be thought of as only a triumph of look, acting and direction. But HELLO, first there usually is a script . . .

Best Original Screenplay:
Probables: Milk, The Wrestler, Vicky Christina Barcelona

Possibles: Burn After Reading, Wall-E, The Visitor, Rachel Getting Married

Maybes: Happy Go Lucky, Synedoche New York, Gran Torino, Changeling

Longshots: A Christmas Tale, I've Loved You So Long, In Bruges, The Wackness, Seven Pounds (Contractual obligation to Will Smith by Sony to attempt to get this some nominations perhaps? Despite it having no shot? I don't know for sure, however . . . )

My picks: Happy Go Lucky, Milk, Vicky Christina, The Visitor, The Wrestler. Mike Leigh tends to get nominated for Director and/or Screenplay quite a bit since Secrets And Lies, no matter what the Writer's Guild says. I believe it will happen again.

Best Supporting Actress:
Probables: Kate Winslet- The Reader, Marisa Tomei- The Wrestler, Penelope Cruz- Vicky Christina Barcelona, Taraji P. Henson- Benjamin Button, Viola Davis- Doubt, Amy Adams- Doubt

Possibles: none

Maybe: Rosemarie DeWitt- Rachel Getting Married

Longshots: Frida Pinto- Slumdog Millionaire, Evan Rachel Wood- The Wrestler, Hiam Abbas- The Visitor, Debra Winger- Rachel Getting Married, Kathy Bates- Revolutionary Road, Rosario Dawson- Seven Pounds, Vera Farmiga- Nothing But The Truth (Received an L.A. release. This film will be mentioned quite a bit, not necessarily because it's good.)

My picks: Adams, Cruz, Davis, Henson, Winslet. I hope DeWitt gets in over say, Adams or Henson. Rosemary deserves just as many accolades for Rachel Getting Married as Anne Hathaway. And does anybody really like The Reader, or is this just another spinach film going down our throats. And by spinach film, I mean it's the kind of film that almost says "Watch us, it's good for you. Never mind the taste, it's good for your SOUL!".

Best Supporting Actor:
Probables: Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight, Phillip Seymour Hoffman- Doubt, Josh Brolin- Milk, Robert Downey Jr.- Tropic Thunder

Possibles: James Franco- Milk, Dev Patel- Slumdog Millionaire

Maybes: Michael Shannon- Revolutionary Road, Michael Sheen- Frost/Nixon

Longshots: Eddie Marsan- Happy-Go-Lucky, Ralph Fiennes- The Reader, Brad Pitt- Burn After Reading, Bill Irwin- Rachel Getting Married, Brendan Gleason- In Bruges, Haaz Sleiman- The Visitor, Jeffery Wright- W, Alan Alda- Nothing But The Truth, Kevin Bacon- Frost/Nixon

My picks: Brolin, Downey, Hoffman, Ledger, Patel. I thought Hoffman and Patel had lead roles, but what do I know. I would love to be wrong, and have Marsan from Happy-Go-Lucky get picked, but that's not happening. Franco in Milk was ok, but I felt he was the weak link in an otherwise very good cast.

Best Actress:
Probables: Sally Hawkins- Happy-Go-Lucky, Anne Hathaway- Rachel Getting Married, Kate Winslet- Revolutionary Road, Meryl Streep- Doubt, Angelina Jolie- Changeling

Possibles: Cate Blanchett- Benjamin Button, Melissa Leo- Frozen River

Maybe: Kirsten Scott Thomas- I've Loved You So Long

Longshots: Rebbeca Hall- Vicky Christina Barcelona, Michelle Williams- Wendy and Lucy, Keira Knightly- The Duchess, Kate Beckingsale- Nothing But The Truth, Nicole Kidman- Australia

My picks: Hathaway, Hawkins, Jolie, Streep, Winslet. I'm stepping away from the SAG nominees, and going with Kate over Melissa Leo for Frozen River. I made my mistake picking Jolie for A Mighty Heart last year, but I'll try it again. But don't be surprised if Scott Thomas gets in instead Angelina or Kate.

Best Actor:
Probables: Sean Penn- Milk, Mickey Rourke- The Wrestler, Frank Langella- Frost/Nixon, Clint Eastwood- Gran Torino, Brad Pitt- Benjamin Button

Possibles: Richard Jenkins- The Visitor

Maybe: Leonardo DiCaprio- Revolutionary Road

Longshots: Javier Bardem- Vicky Christina Barcelona, Benicio Del Toro- Che, Dustin Hoffman- Last Chance Harvey, Josh Brolin- W, Colin Farrel- In Bruges, Will Smith- Seven Pounds, Daniel Craig- Defiance

My picks: Eastwood, Langella, Penn, Pitt, Rourke. I wish there was room for Jenkins and his understated work in The Visitor, but the Clint-Gran Torino train will not be stopped.

Best Director:
Probables: Danny Boyle- Slumdog Millionaire, David Fincher- Benjamin Button, Christopher Nolan- The Dark Knight, Gus Van Sant- Milk

Possibles: Ron Howard- Frost/Nixon, Clint Eastwood- Gran Torino

Maybes: Darren Aronofsky- The Wrestler, Jonathan Demme- Rachel Getting Married

Longshots: Mike Leigh- Happy-Go-Lucky, Clint Eastwood- Changeling, Sam Mendes- Revoultionary Road, Woody Allen- Vicky Christina Barcelona, John Patrick Shanley- Doubt, Ed Zwick- Defiance, Stephan Daldry- The Reader, Steven Soderburgh- Che, Andrew Stanton-

My picks: Boyle, Fincher, Leigh, Nolan, Van Sant. I'm going with Leigh as a dark horse pick over Ron Howard. Leigh has been nominated before without getting something from the DGA, and I'll take my chances that it will happen here again.

Best Picture:
Probables: Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button, Milk, The Dark Knight

Possibles: Frost/Nixon

Maybes: The Wrestler, Gran Torino, Doubt

Longshots: Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Rachel Getting Married, Defiance, Happy-Go-Lucky, Wall-E, Changeling

My picks: Benjamin Button, Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog. My instincts tell me Gran Torino has a chance over Frost/Nixon, but I lack the guts in this category. I'll just copy what the Producers Guild picked. I hate the idea that Wall-E won't get the chance to pull a Beauty and the Beast and get in the top 5.

There you go. Don't bet on any of these. Later.

P.S.: In the last post, I mentioned that I hated to miss both Advise and Consent and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington this coming Saturday, but I recommended the films to you. I didn't say WHERE they were playing. Both are playing at MOMA, for one admission. There, omission corrected.

Monday, January 19, 2009

No list, but thanks anyway . . .

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the remainder of January. I thought I would have a list of revivals to catch for the second half of January. But it turns out that either I have no time for some films on a particular date, or I'm not extending myself for something that I have marginal interest, and other people I know have even less. I'm especially saddened about being unable to catch neither ADVISE AND CONSENT or MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. Both are playing on Saturday, January 23 at 2 (Consent) and 7 (Mr. Smith). I recommend them both, but I won't be there. So this time around, let me take the time to thank those who caught the following revivals over the past calender year:

LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD: not every choice is a winner; what pretentious crap,

DON'T LOOK BACK: how enjoyable this was to see after watching I'm Not There,

LACOMBE LUCIEN: excellent Louis Malle film. On the Criterion Collection I believe,

NETWORK: despite the 70s fashion, still accurate about the TV industry then and now, despite the 40 plus years difference. Foreseeing reality TV, Fox News and, arguably, Al Jazeera. And if you're a fan of great acting and dialogue . . . ,

PRINCE OF THE CITY: a little surprising this is forgotten, especially in New York. But if you have over 2 and a half hours, go for it,

ALL THE KING'S MEN: the original. Let's pretend the Sean Penn version doesn't exist,


THE SOUND OF MUSIC: seeing it with over a hundred and fifty Sound of Music fanatics gave it a very interesting feel. Watching on the Ziegfeld screen with an overture and intermission music, I get it. I finally get it. But I can't see it on TV anytime soon, and the saccharine levels got a little much during the marionette sequence. I had to step out.

JAWS: seeing on the Ziegfeld screen with a similar number of Jaws fans was also excellent. When Shaw gave the Indianapolis monologue, or during his death scene. You could hear a pin drop in the theater,

DR. NO, GOLDFINGER: not a Bond retrospective again, but a retro of United Artists pictures, as were the next 6 films below,


WHERE'S POPPA?: interesting precursor, satire-wise, to South Park and the original SNL. If the ending doesn't make you uncomfortable, you weren't paying attention,

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY: introducing this film to someone who'd never seen it before, and his post-film reaction, made me feel great inside. There are more of you out there who can get that same feeling if you catch this next time it plays at the Forum or Ziegfeld, you know . . . ,

THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR: the original. Let's pretend the Pierce Brosnan version doesn't exist, ok?,



BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: the edited 1979 theatrical release of the 1978 ABC pilot, which explains the Sensurround picture. Better than you might think. Kept the major story elements, and cut the bad acting in half,

THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST: a forgotten comedy. If you like Austin Powers, you'll like one of its inspirations. Put it on Netflix now,

BREATHLESS: 1959 version. Someone I know was surprised and shocked that I would see a revival of this. It was then explained to her that we were seeing the French original, not the American remake starring Richard Gere's penis. Disappointment set in quickly . . . ,

MONSIEUR VERDOUX: A forgotten Charlie Chaplin talkie. It's been playing late at night on TCM occasionally since its Film Forum run. Hope you tape or DVR it next time its on, so you can see it when you're awake,

THE GENERAL: never mind it being a classic Buster Keaton comedy. It's one of the best action films ever made,

S.O.B.: A bit disappointing,

THE WILD BUNCH: kicked ass. When it plays again, I will push it hard. Especially for those of you who've never seen it. You know who you are . . . ,

RAN: see this on the big screen if you ever get the chance. Astonishing,

FANTASIA with SKELETON DANCE, and MONKEY BUSINESS: seeing those two followed by Wall-E was my favorite movie going day/night of the year,


LE CERCLE ROUGE: There will be more Melville this spring at the Forum. I can't wait,

DIABOLIQUE: the original, not the Sharon Stone version. Good God, not the Stone version,

SOYLENT GREEN: a fun outing, even if I was the only one who thought it was decent,

THE GODFATHER: seeing this cleaned up print was wonderful. And I was stunned that it was three hours, even though I've seen it a bunch of times. It felt like 2 hours, boy did time fly,

OLIVER TWIST: the David Lean-Alec Guinness version. Puts the musical to shame,





WALL-E: a revival when I caught it for free at MOMA. Saw it with Happy Go Lucky, but since that was still in release, I'll leave it off here,

and AMARCORD: I'm not sure how estactic I'd feel if I saw the Fellini flick on TV. But on the big screen, it's a revelation.

39 films in total. 13 more than last year, 5 more than two years ago. That's great. Special thanks for those who caught more than one. And big special thanks to Ed, who caught so many of these with me, it's not even funny.

Next month, I'll have a few, so the list will be back to normal. And for some of you who want a real cheap film outing, reserve Friday February 6 at the Forum, for a screening of I'm No Angel (Mae West, Cary Grant). It will also include vintage trailers of what else the Forum will screen during its Depression era retrospective, cartoon shorts, and vintage Metrotone News, all for 35 cents. That's right, that wasn't a typo. A movie in Manhattan for thirty five cents. Methinks this will take mucho planning to get into this one. Later all.