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.