Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Feb revivals: second half

Mike here with a quick list for the remainder of the month. Small, but I think I really got eclectic here. So let's get on with it:
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM- Fri Feb 20 and Sat Feb 21 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- It's been a while since I've seen this prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark. After I saw the last one, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I came away thinking "This isn't on the level of either Raiders or Last Crusade, but I had fun. It's about on the level of Temple of Doom.". Then again, I had more time to think about Shia Lebouf swinging with monkeys, he and Cate Blanchett requiring CGI to do their fight scene, and that bullshit climax involving the UFO. And I spent many a day having to defend why I had no problem with Indy surviving a nuclear blast in a fridge: "The director blew up a shark. If he can do that, why are you stunned by this?". Then Temple of Doom didn't seem so weak.
Then I started to remember the parts that didn't work. Like the little Chinese boy Short Round, setting Asian stereotypes back to the Mr. Moto era. Or Kate Capshaw's never-ending screeching performance. And why it seems to take a long while to get some action once Indy and gang survive the plane crash. So I would say, it's time for a re-evaluation. Who's up for it, people?
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS- followed by a post-punk afterparty with DJs Dan Selzer (Acute Records) & Aileen Brophy (Corita), sponsored by Viva Radio- Wed Feb 25 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A rare screening of this 1982 cult film. A comedy-drama satire, before This Is Spinal Tap, except with more rock respectability. The way this whole thing's been set seems more apropos for a Friday or Saturday night, but it's party
time on a Wednesday night instead.
An all teen girl band (2 sisters and a cousin) gains national exposure while on tour with a metal band and a Brit punk band. The exposure increases when the lead singer, having difficulty getting over her mother's death, changes her look and style to punk mid tour. Those of us familiar with acts ranging from Debbie Gibson, Tiffany and Brittney, know that once you get built up, you have to be taken down. And then there's the little matter as to whether to the band as any talent . . .
This film may not have even been released, or if it had, probably in a few theaters in and out. The cult began with frequent screenings in the 1980s on USA network, which ceased sometime in the early 90s. A token VHS release, unavailable on DVD until last year and the rare TV screening over the past 13 years (before it's late Jan TCM screening, I can't remember when it was last on), have only increased the mystique. As did litigation that has helped keep the soundtrack from being released. The film did not test well, so Paramount had a more upbeat ending shot, that made the screenwriter (Nancy Dowd- Slap Shot) take her name off the credits. Didn't help.
Interesting cast. Christine Lahti, Elizabeth Daily (voice of Rugrats' Tommy Pickles, but a Pamela Anderson with real breasts here), David Clennon (thirtysomething, slimy here as he was there), Ray Winstone (The Departed and Sexy Beast, here as the punk singer) and Brent Spiner among the supporting cast. But the most attention has been paid to 16 year old Diane Lane and 14 year old Laura Dern as members of the band. Lane in particular, has to carry the film as the lead singer who gets the most attention, and pushes people away the longer she's on tour. At times you think she's a nasty piece of work, which works in punk.
After the screening, they'll be some kind of party with 2 DJs providing the entertainment. So if you're interested in a mid week party, let's catch this.
MR. DEEDS GOES TO WASHINGTON and THEODORA GOES WILD- Fri Feb 27 at 7:30 (Mr. Deeds) and 9:40 (Theodora)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series of Depression-era films. First, Mr Deeds Goes To Town. Yes, some of are more familiar with the Adam Sandler remake from a few summers ago, but try this one please. Gary Cooper is a Northeastern hick (supposedly), who moves to New York after he inherits a fortune. He becomes a target for people who want to his money, and media snobs who want to expose him as a fraud. Something tells me Sarah Palin would sympathize, but would probably think this comes from Hollywood elitist liberals and not bother with this. Jean Arthur plays the cynical reporter who chases him, only to fall in love. Oscar nominations for Picture, Cooper for Actor, and Screenplay. Capra won the second of his 3 Oscars for Best Director here.
Followed by Theodora In Love, a forgotten screwball comedy. A new 35mm print for Theodora.
The people in a small town hate a scandalous new book, but don't realize it was written by young Theodora from their own town, under a pseudonym. In a brief trip to Manhattan, she falls for a man. She goes back. He finds out where she lives and who she really is, and goes down there to liberate her from the small town gossips and narrow mindedness, whether she likes it or not. Eventually, Thedora gives payback of her own. Melvyn Douglas plays the suitor. But Irene Dunne (Oscar nominated) carries the film as someone who truly grows, who shows both the narrow minded and the "liberated" what emotional freedom and self-happiness truly is.
A forgotten film like I said. For some reason, rarely played over the years on PBS, might have gotten nothing more then a cursory VHS release, apparently NOT available on DVD, and only recently screened occasionally on TCM. It's understandable if you've never heard of it, but now you can change that.
42ND STREET and KING KONG (1933)- Sat Feb 28 at 4:40 (Street), 6:25 (Kong), 8:25 (Street) and 10:10 (Kong)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series of Depression-era films. A double feature of the biggest films of 1933. First, 42nd Street. The most enduring of all the Busby Berkeley flicks. The stage show is probably more famous, but let's not ignore the fact that they had some strong material to pull from. And by strong material, I'm not calling this the Hamlet of musicals. But it's a sturdy story executed well. Stage director Warner Baxter tells chorus girl/understudy Ruby Keeler that she has to come back a star, jumping in just before opening night after the leading lady breaks her ankle. With memorable Berkeley numbers set in the show-within-the show, and Ginger Rogers in a supporting role. 2 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.
Next, the original King Kong, the one where Fay Wray screams her head off. I liked it as a kid, thanks to those endless Kong triple features WOR-TV used to do on Thanksgiving weekend. But I hadn't seen it since 1991, until a few years ago, at a midnight screening at Landmark Sunshine. There, I began to appreciate this film real fast. Moves great, thanks to not being bogged down by back story that the remakes felt were needed. And while I quite like Peter Jackson's version, and I can have some fun with the 1976 version (despite some MASSIVE problems), this is superior if for no better reason then how Kong itself is handled. This is an ape, and no attempt is made to humanize it. It's an ape, and it doesn't have any moral issues about squashing people or flinging them like confetti, and doing this multiple times.
One of the best action films ever made. On both AFI top 100 lists, and on my personal top 100 list as well. Like I've said, I've caught King Kong on the big screen before. But the chance to catch both this AND 42nd Street is too good to pass up. I would want to catch both, not just one.
Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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