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.

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