Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December revivals through New Year's Eve/Day

Hey all. Mike here wishing all a Happy pick-your-own holiday; just don't give me crap if I don't pick what you celebrate. Anyway, here's the list from now through New Year's Day, and it's my most diverse in a while. A lot of titles, so here we go:

THE THIRD MAN - Now thru Tues Dec 29 at 3:20, 5:30, 7:40 and 9:50 - Film Forum - You still have a chance to see the best film on this list now thru December 29. Being screened in a new 35mm print. I went over on the last list, and this list is too long for me to repeat or repost myself, so moving on. Actually, you can make an Orson Welles double feature for yourself on Saturday, December 26th. The Third Man would the second half, and one of the next two pictures playing uptown would make the first half:

THE MUPPET MOVIE- Sat Dec 26 at 2- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- W. 95th and Broadway- All right, that was a cheat from me, referring to this as an Orson Welles film, even though he had a key cameo near the end. But it could be worse. If I posted Transformers: The Movie, then you had the right to be pissed at me. You couldn't possibly get at pissed at me, as I was back then, when Optimus Prime was killed off in that picture. Then I was pissed when I read a few years ago, that Hasbro was the one who decided to kill off the beloved character just to sell some new characters. What a stupid business decision it turned out.

Sorry, I digressed. Yes, the first and best of the Muppet films gets an afternoon screening. A sleeper hit of the summer of 1979, you might be surprised that it's more than just a kid's flick. You have a road film, with a stealth satire of Hollywood and what one might move too quickly to give up on to make it big. A satire not on the level of say, Sunset Blvd or The Player, but one that registers now that didn't back in grade school when you/we first saw this. Ok, was that too much? Fine, you got fun jokes, both good and groan inducing. You have enjoyable cameos, with Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Charles Durning, Dom DeLuise, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope and Welles among the cast. You've got practically every Muppet that ever appeared during the run of The Muppet Show. You also got the Oscar nominated song, The Rainbow Connection. What you'll have is fun.

MACBETH (1948)- Sat Dec 26 at 3:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- But if you want to see something you would easily get to see at some Orson Welles retrospective, then you'll see his version of Macbeth instead. Part of Lincoln Center's end of the year retrospective of the most successful films they've screened there in 2009. 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' "incomprehensible" 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.

THE GREAT DICTATOR- Sat Dec 26- Thurs Dec 31 at 3:55, 6:15 and 9:55- IFC Center- A week long screening of Charlie Chaplin's first talking picture. And a politically bold one for its time; a satire on Fascism and full scale attack on Hitler. Chaplin wrote, directed and starred as both the renamed Hitler and the dictator's double, who happens to be a Jewish barber. Then one day, the two are mistaken as one another. . . let the hilarity ensue. 5 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Chaplin for Actor and for the Screenplay.

Praised more for its audacity and willingness to be confrontational, years before we knew what exactly was going on with the Nazis, and it's place in history as one of the only films willing to do this back in 1940. Praised for all of this, as opposed to the quality of the film itself. So here is a chance to decide if this still holds up as entertainment, or works more as an important piece of film history and nothing more. Or both, minus the nothing more part.

SWEET CHARITY with or without MY SISTER EILEEN- Tues Dec 29 at 6:15 (Charity) and 9 (Eileen)- Film Forum- Part of the Madcap Manhattan series. Now My Sister Eileen, I don't care if I see it or not. Janet Leigh and Betty Garrett as Ohio sisters trying to live in New York, ok, whatever. Some curiosity to see Jack Lemmon in a musical, not a burning one on my end. Any interest from me would be to see Bob Fosse's first solo choreography film work, as well as see him perform on screen as well. My main interest would be to see Sweet Charity, or for you little kids, Pretty Woman with great dancing, but not a lot of fairy tale shit.

Released in 1969, right as audiences were staying away from most movie musicals in droves, Bob Fosse made his film directorial debut with this adaptation of his biggest Broadway hit up to that point. Shirley MacLaine rises above the hooker with the heart of gold cliche, with help of Fosse's terrific choreography and mostly playful direction, show stopping turns from MacLaine, Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera and Paula Kelly, Cy Coleman's music, and good use of NYC locales. Then the film comes out to reviews that were mostly good or better . . . and becomes a flop at the box office. Not Ishtar levels, but enough to make sure it didn't make it's production budget back with any speed. Oscar nominations for Coleman's score, Edith Head's costumes and the Art Direction didn't help in the least. History has since been kind to the film, and the show itself has enjoyed successful revivals. But Fosse's death, short film career, and the idea that it SEEMS like an old fashioned (a.k.a. boring) musical, has led to little in the way of re-discovery. You can make up for that on the 29th. One day only, sorry it isn't playing longer.

THE HURT LOCKER- Wed Dec 30 at 3:30- Walter Reade in Lincoln Center- I brought this up last time. This time, instead of playing at MOMA, it will play over at Lincoln Center. The reason? It's part of an end of the year retrospective of the more popular films to play at the Walter Reade over the past year. And this, one of the best films of 2009, certainly qualifies. Whether you can do it on a Wednesday afternoon during the holiday season or not, it's still nicer than catching it at AMC Empire or the theater with the windshield-size screen, also known as the Quad.

I think of this as a very good action film, but for a even better one, the next film I bring up qualifies:

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY with or without SUMMER HOURS- Wed Dec 30 at 4 (Terminator 2) and 8 (Summer)- MOMA- For one admission, you can see these two films. Different in almost every way, except for a concern for family. Believe it or not, family dynamics are about as key to T2 as it is to Summer Hours.

First, Terminator 2, arguably one of those examples of the sequel being better than the original. Definitely one of the best action films ever made. As of this writing, I haven't seen Avatar, but if that is better than T2, I would be most impressed and happy indeed. Here, John Connors is being threatened from the future by a shiny new, shape shifting Terminator model, but his adult future self sends a protector, an older model Terminator played by Ahu-nuld. With the help of John's chiseled and possibly slightly insane mom Sarah, the battle to change or delay the future begins again.

Linda Hamilton gained more notices for the 10-15 pounds of sinewy muscle she added than for her acting. But almost two decades since the hype, her performance as well as Edward Furlong as John help keep the human element front and center. Or at least keeps us from getting bored in-between some kick-ass action scenes. With visual effects that were as ground-breaking then, as Avatar supposedly is now. Oscars for the fx, sound and make-up, nominations for the cinematography and editing.

At the heart of the film, believe or not, is family. The biological and put-together kind. It's just not immediately obvious with all the gunfire and explosions. But it's blatantly obvious with Summer Hours. A French film from 2008, released in the U.S. this year. It seems that when putting together a best of 2009 list in film, Summer Hours will have to be at least considered.

Starring Juliette Binoche, two brothers and their sister, go through the family belongings as they put their late mother's estate in order. The siblings used to be close, but their own jobs and/or families keep them too busy to get together. And while going through the belongings triggers mostly pleasant flashbacks, there is the knowledge that this part of the past must be dealt with and then it's time to leave it behind in the past. And also to enjoy the time together now, because they might not meet up again like this until they reach the age of their late mother, if they're lucky.

So on this day, you can see a great action film, take an hour plus for a fast bite and maybe a coffee, then catch an unsentimental yet humane drama. Unique day, to be sure.

And now, two film options for New Year's Eve:

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and THE APARTMENT- Thurs Dec 31 and Fri Jan 1 at 7:40 (Tiffany's) and 9:50 (Apartment)- Film Forum- A double feature of two romantic comedy/dramas set in New York, shot about a year apart, where a popular actor plays a lead who tries to jump start their status in life. Breakfast At Tiffany's starring Audrey Hepburn, if you can get through the repeated use of Moon River and the now painful Mickey Rooney performance as the Japanese neighbor, and The Apartment, the better film, with Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and an appropriate ending for New Year's. For the Thursday screening, a complimentary glass of champagne will be available to toast the New Year, after The Apartment. If you want to see this pairing, but NOT so close to the ball drop, this double feature will play on New Year's Day as well. But if you prefer something livelier, there's always . . .

A New Year's show and post ball drop party featuring VALLEY OF THE DOLLS for 22 dollars- Thurs Dec 31 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- Now this one is has more than just a film going on. You have some brief pre-show entertainment from Hedda Lettuce, followed by a screening of Valley of the Dolls getting a full Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque treatment from Hedda, then you watch the ball drop live, then some kind of party. That's all the details I got, except that it costs 22 dollars, and the tickets do NOT go on sale until the box office opens on the 31st.

Now as for the film, Valley of the Dolls? Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated), and tell all of them to play this STRAIGHT?!?!?! Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit. If any film deserves the full MST3K-type treatment, it is Valley of the Dolls. I'm not sure if this is how you want to spend your New Years, but something tells me that at worst, it won't be boring.

Let me know. Later all.

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