Friday, July 31, 2009

August revivals: first third

Hey all, Mike here with what to catch for the first third of August. A definite mix here. No time to waste, here we go:

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN- Sat Aug 1 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retrospective. This type of retro is something I knew I would have to confront at some point. When a director whose work I've seen quite a bit of gets a retro, how interested can I get in all of them. In the end, I've narrowed it to 3. The Wedding Banquet I like, but paying to see it once was enough. Same with Brokeback Mountain, which I liked even more. Crouching Tiger is the best film of 2000, but no way I'm paying to see this for a third time. Sense and Sensibility is just fine on cable. There are parts of The Ice Storm that I like, but there are parts I don't give a crap about, so I'm in no mood to pay to see all of it. There is no way I'm paying 15 to see Ride With The Devil, even if Lee himself does a Q and A afterwards. Hulk, no way. Edward Norton still cracks me up when he wishes he could have made his Hulk film as more of a character study. HELLO, that was Ang Lee's film it and large chunks of it stink. But Eat Drink Man Woman is the first of three I'll post here from this series.

The Wedding Banquet brought Lee to prominence in America, became a major arthouse hit, and gave Lee his first Oscar nomination for Foreign Film. This one wasn't quite as successful, but it drew an audience, gave Lee another nomination for Foreign Film and I think is a better film than Wedding Banquet. A quiet film, set in Tawain, that starts where 3 adult daughters who live at home with their father. And we follow what happens to them after their father has a heart attack, and has to retire from being a top chef. Quite a number of quiet moments strung out over the course of a long film to the point where you think nothing happens for long stretches. But be patient and pay attention; the well written script from Lee, James Schamus, and Hui-Ling Wang yields rewards. Should note the photography of the many meals depicted in the film. May make you hungry and make you NOT want to settle for McDonalds afterwards.

PUSHING HANDS- Mon Aug 3 at 8:45- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retro. Lee's first film. I've never seen it, and I don't think it even had a full American release until the successes of Wedding Banquet and Eat Drink Man Woman. Story of an old Chinese man who moves from China to New York to live with his son and very American wife. Culture clash, and difficulty accepting American ways, his son's supposed putting aside of some Chinese ways for those more of the wife's, and getting older in general, are among the problems for the main character. Now supposedly, this isn't nearly as morbid as I'm making it sound, but I've never seen it, and I'd like to.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (original)- Wed Aug 5 at 6:55 and 8:55- Huntington Cinema Arts Centre- 423 Park Avenue, Huntington, NY- at the intersection of Park Avenue and Main Street (25A)- I go away from the city and go deep into Nassau County for this bit of summer fun. The original Battlestar gets a screening, but at reasonable times as opposed to a midnight screening. The first episode gets screened. Note that its not the actual ABC edit from Sept. 1978, but the 1979 Sensurround edit Universal released in theaters. It should include the actual Sensurround intro that came up before even the Universal logo. Don't know if it's on Youtube, but it has to be seen to be believed. Anyway, this cut is barely two hours long, cutting a few subplots, and a lot of the bad acting (though not all).

This is strictly childhood for me, though the memories for me are strongest in terms of remembering this show on syndication, as opposed to it's original run on ABC. The recently ended remake is a very good show, and if you haven't seen it, get to Netflix already. It used the feelings and emotions of dread from post 9/11 and spread on a multi-global level, mixed some 24-esque tension, hired some good (mostly Canadian) actors, took some story chances, and have come up with a superior series than the original. For the record, I'm dreading Caprica and any more spinoffs, one shot TV films and anything else that's coming soon, but that's for another time.

The 1978-79 edition of Battlestar didn't have that kind of emotional heft around. Okay, there was the Holocaust, but that was too far away and too long ago I guess. This is big space opera, with explosions, space battles, acting that verges from the ok, to campy to amateurish. For this last part, ABC had the tendency to cast hot chicks who were models or college students with little skill, whose career would either end within 5 years, or finish in infomercial or direct to video hell. Not every actress hired could be Jane Seymour, who is in this. One of my early crushes, an ideal for beauty that has screwed me up to no end, but that's for another blog. Though she didn't seem to be allowed to wear a bra on Galactica, but anyway . . .

I also have quite a lot of affection for the main villains, the Cylons. Over 6 ft tall, all chrome except for the ruby quartz eye that moved across the head with a swerving hum. And that low electronic monotone voice. The most original aspect that I still have a fondness for, despite the massive improvements done to them in the remake series. Plus decent to good visual effects, though because of the budget restrictions, the same battles were repeated throughout the series' run, and even to an extant, in this.

I can't say this would be the best flick you'll ever see. There are some aspects that will just seem laughable now. And as much as I like this, I would probably laugh at those absurd or lousy moments with the rest of you. But dammit, not everything can be The Rules of the Game, or Annie Hall, or Lawrence of Arabia. This is silly campy fun, that manages to capture a bit of the dread and tension that the remake series thrived on, and I'm not ashamed of having fun with it. And I hope you will as well.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS for free- Fri Aug 7 at 7- MOMA- Part of the new acquisitions series.These are films that MOMA has just received as part of their library, and now they get to show it every so often. All three Lord of the Rings films are being shown; once each day from Aug 6- Aug 8. But The Two Towers is the only one being shown for free. All films after 4pm at MOMA are free, no special reason. And since I still know a few people who have seen only Fellowship, you can't beat free. Note that all three Rings films being shown are the original theatrical cuts, not the extended director cuts.

RED DAWN- Fri Aug 7 and Sat Aug 8 at Midnight for 9.99- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Some people had problems in Superman Returns when Frank Langella, as Perry White , said Truth Justice all that stuff, while ignoring The American Way. There was also a major complaint why not enough people weren't complaining about it. Here's one way out theory: maybe some of those people grew with the ridiculously awful Red Dawn and have rebelled against anyone pushing rah-rah stuff ever since.

For me, Red Dawn is, let me be clear, FUCKING AWFUL, but GLORIOUSLY FUCKING AWFUL. Kind of gives a barometer as to what the feeling was in this country during the Cold War, that this was actually considered possible. It might have even considered believable, if Red Dawn wasn't over the top.

From 1984, World War 3 begins, as Soviet paratroopers land in a small Colorado town. But they are held at bay as high schoolers Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (in his screen debut) do something about it. With the aid of Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey (years before the nose job, Ferris Bueller and Dirty Dancing), plus help from veterans Ben Johnson and Powers Boothe (pre 24), they form the Wolverines, and go guerilla warfare on them Commie bastards. WOLVERINES! Or as they tend to say it, WWOOOOOLLLLVERIIIIIINNES!

Directed and co-written from very macho John Millus (Conan The Barbarian and Dillinger, the less artful but less full of shit version of Public Enemies). Over the top, from the start of Harry Dean Stanton's monologue (ending with AVENGE ME! AVEEEENNNGE ME!), to the final battle. As subtle as a brick, or the giant Soviet armored helicopter that goes after them. And though it was nice to see the late Ron O'Neal get a job, I can only think "Holy Shit! They got Superfly leading the Commies!". Millus actually does do a good job with the action scenes. So good, that you wish he hadn't approved some of the other bullshit that follows.

If you want a cheesy example of Reagan era action movies: Rambo division, this is it. Hard to believe this was actually PG-13, the first PG-13 film ever. Before the remake comes out next September (when the Chinese become the invaders), here 's the original, at a slightly cheaper price then regular films in Manhattan.

LUST, CAUTION- Fri Aug 7 at 6:15 and Sat Aug 8 at 8:30- Walter Reade- Part of the Ang Lee retro. The third film I'm posting here. In my Best of 2007 list, this was one of those I regretted missing. In 1942 Shanghai, a young woman poses as someone else, to seduce then kill a Japanese collaborator. But the young woman is an actress, whose not necessarily trained to keep the new identity from overwhelming the main one. Especially when she falls in love with the target. Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Infernal Affairs, Hard-Boiled) plays the target, with Joan Chen in the cast as well. There's more, but I'm not familiar enough to go further. The film got ok to good reviews, but business was pretty weak. Maybe the 2 hr 37 min running time didn't help, but the NC-17 rating for its sex scenes was probably what did it. After all, chains like AMC and Regal won't touch a film with that rating, and the only way some of you probably saw this was on Blockbuster, where the R-rated version was the only one allowed. The NC-17 version is what will be screened.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN- Mon Aug 10 for free- Bryant Park- The classic Western remake of The 7 Samurai. Yul Brynner leads the gang of hired guns, protecting the poor Mexican peasants from Eli Wallach and his band of brutal henchmen. Served as a kind of template for future spaghetti westerns. Also served as a launching pad for several of the 7: James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronsan . . . . and oh yeah, Steve McQueen. Also featuring one of the best film scores ever from Elmer Burnstein, no exaggeration.

Different types of flicks, at different places. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

July revivals: rerun edition

Mike here with what revivals to catch for the rest of the month, with a caveat. If I posted it on at least one previous list, it goes on this one. If I didn't, it doesn't get a mention. And with some exception and/or update, I'm reposting what I wrote before. I can't spend forever on these lists, so consider this the equivalent of a summer rerun. So here we go:

BIGGER THAN LIFE- Fri July 24 (maybe) and Sat July 25 (more likely, but who knows) at 7:50 and 9:50- Film Forum- Part of the Nicolas Ray retrospective. I hope I can catch this, but I have no damn clue. Social stuff holds up whether I can commit to doing this, but I'm posting this anyway so that it can at least get noticed.

A film I've surprisingly never heard of before its first Film Forum run during the first week of this year. I mean, I know the film's lead James Mason, his co-star Walter Matthau, and the film's director Ray (Rebel Without A Cause). And according to imdb, the average shot length is eleven seconds. But aside from being an inspiration to Godard, I know nothing else. Haven't seen a frame of it. But I'm very curious to try it. The first attempt to catch this didn't work out, so here's another chance for me, and us. NOT available on DVD in this country, and 4 minutes longer then the version occasionally shown on Fox Movie Channel. So this is the only way to see this as originally intended. Okay, because it was shot in Cinemascope, the screen would usually be bigger than any of the Forum's screen, but still. as for anything else, I cut and paste the following from what the Forum website had back in January:

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

JOHNNY GUITAR- Sun July 26 at 1 and 3:20 (maybe), and Mon July 27 at 10- Film Forum- Part of the Nicholas Ray retro. A simple Western, starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford, Ernest Borgnine and Mercedes McCambridge, and directed by Ray, that was successful back in 1954, then went away. Until Francois Truffaut and some gay film buffs got ahold of it. They're the ones reminding us about the hidden lesbian story, the links to the HUAC hearings, and the irony of casting HUAC namer of names Hayden as the possible hero (though we didn't know until recently that he was an actually secret agent of some sort who actually knew at least a little something about Communists). Though no male hero would DARE upstage Joan Crawford by this time!

So is it a simple, entertaining Western? Is it an allegory of the Blacklist and the McCarthy witch hunts? It was written unofficially by black-listed screenwriter Ben Maddow. Is there high entertainment value from the over-the-top perfs of both Crawford (is it me, or does she play most scenes like she were the Queen of England or Cleopatra?) and McCambridge? Both ladies hated each other. They fought constantly, and according to IMDB, Crawford was so mad (and drunk), that once she flung McCambridge's costumes along a stretch of Arizona highway. And is it true that the real story of the film, is that McCambridge's character is actually a closeted lesbian, spurned by Crawford, and now seeking revenge? I would say, yes to all of the above. It works as a Western, the allegory is right there, the lead female perfs have high camp value, and you could say no about the lesbian overtones, but there's enough there to read that into it. But whether the film is actually any good is not something I can help you with. But it sure as shit ain't dull. Worth catching in any case.

GOMMORAH- Tues July 28 at 6:15 and Wed July 29 at 8:20- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of their Toni Servillo: Fire and Ice retrospective. He has a role in the ensemble of this film, which was in my top 10 of 2008 list. Yes, it didn't play here until Feb 2009, but it opened in L.A. in 08 to qualify for the Oscars, which I'm stunned it didn't even get a whiff of. It didn't even come close to getting a Foreign Language nod. Here's another chance to see it, and here's what I wrote on that list:

If you know some that says that mob movies are waste and that nothing more can be said in the genre, Gamorrah is the proof that this person is an idiot. Or Mobbed up. This just recently opened in New York, but since it received a one week release in L.A. to qualify for the Oscars, it counts toward this list and not next year. Dark Italian film based on the book that exposed the dealings of the Camorra crime empire, based around Naples. All elements of honor or coolness from previous mob films, comes off as bullshit next to what's depicted here, an area that God seems to have forgotten. Similar to both Traffic and Traffik (Google it people), in its multi-arcs and semi realist style of telling the story. It's almost as though director Matteo Garrone decided: I can have the speed and style of say, City Of God, but you can't have the editing jump cuts. You must let the camera roll and let the story be told that way. Very Visconti or very Kubrick in its overall final state.

We see different aspects of the organization, but never in any exotic locales. The daily dealing rub outs in what is essentially a ghetto. The payments made to people with jailed gang members. It's different business holdings are brought up; from couture (Scarlett Johansson in a Italian dress is featured: now you know who will profit from this exposure), to profiting off dumping toxic waste (tough if you happened to live near there), to their investment in the re-building at Ground Zero, to the everyday practice of killing an average of one person who steps out of line every three days. We meet individuals, like the 12 year old boy, ignoring his mom to become a new recruit. The dapper man who runs the waste management company, without a care about where he dumps. The older man who gives payments, and thinks he's special because he doesn't kill anyone. The two teenagers who literally don't know what to do with a woman (as we see in a scene in a strip club), but whose idolization of Scarface makes them think they can be just like him. Hey kiddies, Al Pacino isn't a mobster, he's paid to play make-believe. The sweaty gangsters you're trying to rip off don't play at all. And don't bother looking for the police. They're only good for taking dead bodies away.

A few professional actors mixed in with mostly non-actors, kind of like with Gran Torino. You should walk away from this film a little sickened by what you experience. Especially since it's been happening, it's going on while you read this, and nothing will happen to change this, probably in our lifetime. But the mastery of the film making should make you feel this is time well spent. Slowly expanding over the next few weeks as of this writing, so do go.

WHAT'S UP DOC- Thurs July 31 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of a somewhat forgotten screwball comedy. The names Barbara Striesand and Ryan O'Neal may annoy the hell out of you, but they are a terrific couple in this 1972 film. Peter Bogdanovich's homage to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s fits right along with them. Most of you don't know this film, but this is a good time to start. Complications upon complications upon misunderstandings upon strange accents upon a car chase upon a hysterical courtroom scene. Screenplay by Buck Henry, Robert Benton and David Newman. Great supporting cast includes Madeline Kahn, Austin Pendelton, Kenneth Mars, Michael Murphy, John Hillerman and Randy Quaid. Pre film show by Brini Maxwell.

Let me know. Later all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July Revivals Part 2

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch over the next 8 days. First, it was brought to my attention that I screwed up in my description of The Lion In Winter. Specifically, I wrote that Timothy Dalton played King Louis II when actually, he played Louis's son, Philip. Oops, sorry about that. Note that I basically re posted what I wrote back in early 2007,and I wasn't caught then, but there you go.

Incidentally, I enjoyed Lion In Winter at MOMA. The acting and dialogue always played well on TV, but the first 30 plus minutes, when its mostly outdoors, has an epic feel that's awesome on the big screen. I question whether anybody's large screen tv can pull off the effect, combined with the necessary sound system to pull off John Barry's perfect score. I also understand now more than before, why there are relatively few remakes or stage revivals of The Lion In Winter. More than say Streetcar Named Desire, as friend Ed suggested, or say Glengarry Glenn Ross, where you can get away with macho posing at times, or even Shakespeare productions, where expectations may not be high. The type of audience that would see Lion In Winter on stage, knows the film, or would be curious enough to watch the film, and the comparisons would be brutal. This film was just too well done. And if say, Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close in the Showtime remake, or Stockard Channing and Laurence Fishburne in the last Broadway revival, have suffered in comparison, just imagine other productions' difficulties.

And no, I'm not trying to offend you by saying the play should never be attempted. Actually, I don't give a shit if you are offended, the movie is damn good, prove me wrong and on with the list. Here we go:

ALIEN- Thurs July 16 at 9:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. One more chance to catch this, and I can't praise one of the best horror films ever made high enough.

WATCHMEN: DIRECTOR'S CUT- starting Fri July 17: one week only, at 2:30, 6 and 9:30- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Watchmen is a film that I don't know exactly why I liked it. Is it because I 'm such a fan of the original limited series comic (before it was published thereafter as a graphic novel), that any respectable big screen version would be great? The combination of honoring the original panels with the occasional cinematic touch (like the great opening credits sequence), was something I liked. But some fanatics complained it was a Cliff Notes version, or worse and left unmentioned, not the version of Watchmen from their heads. And those who were not fans going, opinions were sharply divided.

Maybe it's world (an alternate 1985) had me at hello, to the point that I can't look at its flaws without turning a blind eye to some of them. Just the idea of superheroes questioning what use are they in the world, or seeing them not as effective or as heroic as think they are, combined with the whole look and sound of the film, made this more ambitious than any studio project since the Lord of the Rings series. That some of it was pulled off was amazing. Jackie Earl Haley as the anti-hero Rorschach is the standout performance.

Now mind you, I wouldn't call this flawless. Malin Ackerman and Mathew Goode were major weak links in the cast. In fact, I wished Carla Gugino was cast over Ackerman, instead of being cast as Ackerman's mother. Carla's a better actress, she's about the right age for the character except for one flashback scene, but they could have done CGI for that scene. Hopefully, she would have looked better than what the makers of the recent Wolverine film did to Patrick Stewart, erasing his wrinkles to the point that he looks like E.T. But either Carla didn't have the time to spend more time on the film, or that's what she gets for having the audacity for being over 35.

But,as much as I liked what I saw, the narrative felt a little too rushed for my taste. Because a good portion was cut in an attempt to make a profit. That attempt failed, but only in part because of the different studios involved getting a cut. The film didn't have to cost the 150 million reported budget, to never see profit. So it's no surprise that a director's cut of Watchmen would be released. After all, it had been announced weeks before Watchmen's release. That it's getting a one week digital release in theaters before the Blu-ray DVD release, is a surprise. But we're getting it, but the only NYC screen it's playing at is Landmark Sunshine. It's 24-28 minutes longer than the original cut. A chunk of the added scenes are action (heavily violent) and at least one sex scene. So this will be interesting to see if it's even needed. If you never saw it, which if you weren't a fan is entirely possible, here's another chance.

IN A LONELY PLACE- Starting Fri July 17 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm print for this; the start of the Nicolas Ray retrospective. Not the biggest hit of the day, but has gotten respect over the years, to the point that it was picked for preservation two years ago by the National Film Registry. When putting the list together, I totally forgot this was coming up. Sorry to say, because of that, and the fact that I've only seen a few minutes of it and would like to catch it, I'm forced to copy and paste from the Forum site, and let their description try to be a draw:

(1950) Humphrey Bogart a vicious killer? Okay, he’s a hard-drinking, log-sized-chip-on-his-shoulder screenwriter with a sardonic cynicism so deep he enlists a hatcheck girl as overnight novel summarizer so he doesn’t actually have to read the trashy book he’s agreed to adapt, stopping to take a poke at an asking-for-it producer’s son-in-law along the way. Even when she winds up dead, and he’s being grilled by old army buddy Frank Lovejoy, it turns into an occasion for girl-across-the-courtyard (an exact reproduction of Ray’s first Hollywood pad) Gloria Grahame to give Bogie an alibi — and to get to know better an “interesting” face. But as their love affair progresses, Bogie breaks his fussbudget longtime agent’s glasses, creeps out Lovejoy and wife Jeff Donnell with his too-real “imaginative” reenactment of the murder, and is barely prevented from braining a motorist he’d already sideswiped and beaten senseless. An agonizingly inevitable — but still surprising — resolution looms. Ray boasted “I took the gun out of Bogie’s hands” in altering his screen image (“a radical demystification of the classic Bogart hero” – Robert Sklar); while his own marriage with Grahame ended during the filming — they kept it a secret, fearing Ray would be kicked off the production. "Bogart's performance shares most of the characteristics of his classic performances except that the tie between the killer and the lover is laid bare, without the romanticism, the genre conventions, or the political ideology which underlay it in previous films.... There are no moments for audiences to cheer as he pumps lead into a noxious villain - surely not when he extols the wonderful feeling of crushing a throat, or with his hands around one. The role of Dixon Steele is among the most interesting examples of a performer's critical reevaluation of his screen persona, and surely belongs on the list of Bogart's great performances." – Robert Sklar. Approx. 93 minutes

. Approx. 93 minutes
MACBETH (1948)- Sat July 18 at 7- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Shakespeare on screen retrospective. 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' "incomphrensible" 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.

ROMEO AND JULIET (1968)- Sun July 19 at 6:20- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Walter Reade's Shakespeare on screen series. I brought it up on the last list, and I bring up another chance to catch it.

TITUS- Thurs July 23 at 8 followed by a Q and A with director Julie Taymor- Walter Reade- The conclusion of the Walter Reade's Shakespeare on screen series. War, fascism, adultery, rape, bigotry, an orgy, and massive amounts of killing are in ready supply in director Julie Taymor's adaptation of Titus Andronicus. Hardly subtle, and engrossing, based on the parts I've seen anyway. I frankly didn't have time back in late 1999, early 2000. I've always liked the parts on cable I've seen, and now I'm finally ready to tackle it. Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange leads a cast that includes Alan Cummings, The Tudors' Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 24's Colm Feore, and Dollhouse's Harry Lennix (who I believe was the only actor from Taymor's off-Broadway production of Titus to repeat his role on screen, but I don't know for sure; take this as you will.). Hopkins got so stressed with both the language and working with Taymor, though probably more about dealing with the language, that he "retired" after finishing work here, until he supposedly received a huge chunk of change to star in Hannibal. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how much of the stress is obvious, though there is obvious and fun in his final scene, but watch for yourself.

After the screening, director Taymor is scheduled to have a Q and A about this. I pray to God that at least most of the people will stop foaming at the mouth in adoration, and have lucid questions, but I somehow doubt it. But do note that due to the film's length, the Q and A may not start until about 10:45PM, so be careful with liquids that day if you decide to come.

So there you go. I understand there are conflicts, but I'll just let life sort them out. Later all.

P.S.: The subway poster of Watchman does have an Obama sticker on it. The picture was taken in early March at the West 4th St. station, where somebody painted an Obama head sticker blue, and stuck on the godlike head of the mostly all-powerful Dr. Manhattan character. You decide the political content; I just liked it enough to take a cell phone picture of it. And I post it here.

P.P.S.: And yes, the above paragraphs are a challenge to some of you, to show me how good Lion In Winter would be on a large home screen with a good sound system. But since that requires you to see an Anthony Hopkins film where he ISN'T PLAYING HANNIBAL LECTER, I'm confident my challenge will go ignored. A little disappointed, and a little self satisfied, but more satisfied if I see it with you. Just not this month, I have recently seen it after all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July revivals: a few days worth

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch over the next four days. I wanted to include more titles, but I just realized that if I did that, I'll never get anything out in time. So I'll post this for now, and hope I can spit out a few more titles later in the week. Here we go:

ALIEN- Mon July 13, Tues July 14 and Thurs July 16 at 2, 4:30, 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- Not sure which day and time I can do, but I have to post this anyway. A new 35mm print. I believe it's a new print of the original 1979 release, as opposed to the "director's cut" from about 6 years ago. My guess because the original trailer has been playing at the Forum for at least 5 weeks from this date. It means we don't get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to the film's enjoyment. Especially the extra interiors.

I've seen this with several of you before, but that doesn't stop me from posting this again. This film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun.

THE LION IN WINTER- Wed July 15 at 8- MOMA- Part of a series of films honored by some form of New York Film Critics award; a favorite of mine. A few years ago, the people who ran the Makor by the 67th st, did a poll about what they thought was the best performances that deserved to win an Oscar, but didn't. Peter O'Toole's performance in the Lion in Winter was one of them. He plays the same role he did in Becket, King Henry II of England, but as an older man despite only aging 4 or 5 years himself. Henry wants to name his successor, and his scheming sons and plotting wife at times back stab each other, just to have the chance to curry favor or back stab Henry. Hardly the happiest Christmas Day movie you'll ever see, but definitely the bitchiest.

I've told some of you about films I watched a lot at home, back when we had a CED disc collection (Google or Youtube what I mean). There were films I saw in heavy rotation, semi- heavy, and monthly. The Lion in Winter was one I tended to see seasonally; enough to enjoy without tiring of it.

Verbal fireworks from writer James Goldman (who adapted his play), played to terrific heights from O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. Their scenes are the highlight of this film, spitting more acid at each other and others then the creature in Alien. Kate probably was given the best lines of her career in this film. One of her better ones:

. . .even made poor Louis take me on Crusade. How's that for blasphemy. I dressed my maids as Amazons and rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled.

Also featuring Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton in their screen debuts, as Richard the Lion-Hearted and King Louis II of France, respectively. 7 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director, and O'Toole. 3 Oscars; for the Screenplay, Hepburn for Actress (Hepburn became the third performer to win consecutive awards, the first to win three awards for lead roles and tied with Barbara Streisand for Funny Girl that year.), and John Barry's terrific score. A note about Barry. It was considered a bit of surprise that someone known for light scores like the James Bond theme would get the gig, but he was friends with director Anthony Harvey. Barry's score just feels like it belongs in the Middle Ages, and I mean that in a good way. If you've never seen it, go. Go now. Unless you prefer . . .

ROMEO AND JULIET (1968)- Wed July 15 at 9 and Sun July 19 at 6:20- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Walter Reade's Shakespeare on screen series. The best of the bunch of the retrospective. The Zeffirelli version, as opposed to the Baz Luhrmann version. Now some of you might feel the Leonardo version is better. For those of you still living off the mid/late 90s memories of Leomania. It will also be screened in this retrospective. I'm not a big fan of it, so I'm moving on.

This version struck a nerve with audiences back in 1968, with its mostly age appropriate leads (let's be glad Paul McCartney supposedly said no), as well as its heavy leaning toward the romantic, than most other stage and screen versions. Even the ABT version doesn't veer that much toward romance as this does. Which makes the rising emotion become all the more tragic, when it veers to violence. Despite the brief nudity, this is the version shown in high school more often than not. Leads Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting may have had little major success afterwards (especially Leonard whose career seemed to end in the mid 1970s), but they'll always have this. Also in the cast: Michael York as Tybalt, Milo O'Shea as the Friar, and Pat Heywood (Richard Attenborough's wife from the last post's 10 Rillington Place.). I also don't think Zeffirelli made a better film either, though the schlock value of Endless Love deserves another post.
Oscar nominations for Picture and Franco Z. for Director, Oscars for Cinematography and the Costumes. While my number one choice that Wed night is to see Lion, this would be a good backup or second choice, though there is a Sunday night screening.

That's my order of preference. Let me know. Later all

Thursday, July 02, 2009

July revivals: musicals edition

Mike here, trying to quickly post something for the next week or so. Luckily, a limited schedule narrows stuff down for me. I'll try to keep things to a minimum. And to let you know, its musicals only for this post. Here we go:

SINGIN IN THE RAIN- Fri July 3 at 10:30AM- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- This classic kicks off their weekend long series of musicals from across the decades. A studio print, though I don't think its the vivid 3 strip Technicolor print that impressed me when I first saw the picture. It took a long time to get me interested in this film. Aside from the classic title number and Donald O' Connor's "Make Them Laugh" number, I had trouble getting into this on tv. Then I saw this on the big screen some years ago at AMMI in Astoria, and it's become one of my all time favorites. When someone says they hate musicals, they obviously never saw this (and they still might not like it, so they can go fuck themselves). On every American best film list, whether its musicals, comedy, or just films in general.

The time is NOT a typo. If you've never seen it, and you can get up and go early on the Friday of the 4th of July weekend, let's go. Don't mind me if I'm rushing in with a giant coffee.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW- Sat July 4th at Midnight- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Yes, there are always at least one midnight screening somewhere in NYC. But this is a new print, as opposed to some DVD projection or some old print that's been used twice a week for three or four years. I've gotten the idea that the Walter Reade is not encouraging anyone to perform a show in front of the screen, or to throw toast, toilet paper, etc. Costuming is one thing, but nothing that requires the limited staff to clean up. The idea this weekend is to celebrate different kinds of successful musicals, and if this transvestite musical comedy can't up hold to scrutiny by people watching without visual aids, then it sucks. But after three decades of being the most successful cult film ever, the last three words of the previous sentence doesn't hold water, now does it. Quick how many other films from 1975 do you remember? Jaws, Cuckoo's Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, maybe Tommy, Barry Lyndon or Return of the Pink Panther, then good luck after that. If you want to end the 4th of July in a fun way, but not the typical way you'd usually see Rocky Horror, then let's go for it. Buying tickets ahead of time, either online or even a few days or hours in person, might be advisable.

BYE BYE BIRDIE- Sun July 5 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10, and (maybe) Tues July 7 and Thurs July 9 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm Scope Restoration. Ann-Margaret became a star, as the number one fan (in a non-Misery way), of the Elvis-like star, whom she gets to kiss on The Ed Sullivan Show, before he goes to the Army. I have no idea if this film holds up, or if it's creaky, with more ancient cracks in it than the Liberty Bell? Though goodness knows, women who were around when the film opens, or watched it on tv for about 15 years after its release, all wanted to be Ann-Margaret. An ex talked about how she could still play Ann-Margaret despite being over ten years and 25 pounds inappropriate for the role. My first response was a raised eyebrow and one word: "Really?". Boy did I find out how a size nine shoe could fit into my mouth . . .

Where was I? Oh yeah, the film. If interested, I'll go for it. If you can't do Sunday, then Tuesday or Thursday only, for those who know me. If its Tuesday, I must know by Monday night. If its Thursday, I must know by Wednesday night. Let me know.

HAIR- Sun July 5 at 7:15- The Walter Reade- An archive print. Milos Forman's 1979 attempt to depict the late 60s and what was going on in the country he had at that point, recently began to call home. So the combination of an outsider's perspective and the attempt to make the story as linear as the stage musical is not, makes this to me, a noble failure. I can't hate this film, unlike the musical's creators, who felt Forman "didn't get it". It took big chances, and has many good moments; thanks to choreography by Twyla Tharp, impressive cinematography (done by three different people) and a standout lead performance from Treat Williams as Berger. Good reviews didn't save it, and only movie musical fans give any respect. If you'd like to take a chance and prefer this over Bye Bye Birdie, let me know. Unless you prefer . . .

TOMMY- Sun July 5 at 9:45- The Walter Reade- That's right, you can't buy one and stay for another with this musical retrospective. You can buy one ticket for every film on ONE of the three days for one price, or you can buy one ticket for up to five films of the series, but no double features for you!

Ken Russell's version of the famous Who rock opera. Was successful at the box office, but had more of an impact as a midnight movie for years after its 1975 release. Basically, Tommy goes deaf dumb and blind after seeing his dad die accidentally because of his mother's lover. But after that, shit gets strange, including dealing with Tina Turner's Acid Queen and Elton John's Pinball Wizard. But because it's a Ken Russell film, things gets BAT SHIT CRAZY after that! You may never want to eat baked beans again after you see Tommy. Unless you can eat them off of Ann-Margaret. If you haven't seen this film and don't know what I'm talking about, see for yourself.

Not the best film of the bunch, but memorable to be sure. Oscar nominations for Ann-Margaret for Best Actress and Pete Townsend for the music. But I can see why Pete was jealous of Roger Daltrey here (and in general). If I create the bulk of the music, but I'm not hot enough to pull of the lead like Roger, I'd be jealous too.

That's all for now. Let me if there's interest this weekend, if any. Later all.