Saturday, January 02, 2010

Jan. revivals: first half

Happy New Year all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of January. Sorry I couldn't post this sooner, but the holidays just kept me from jumping in until now. Longish list, so let's start with quite a number of double or triple feature options for Saturday Jan 2nd, or later today.

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and/or either THE HANGOVER OR ED WOOD and/or DRACULA (1931)- Sat Jan 2 at 2 (Plan 9) and/or either 4 (Hangover) or 5 (Ed Wood) and/or 8 (Dracula)- MOMA- This looks complicated, understandably. Basically, you can see one film, or up to three of the four films listed above, all for one admission. For example, if you show up to buy a ticket for something at 2pm, you have the chance to get a ticket for any of the other films being screened that day, as long as none of their screening times conflicts.

In other words, you can buy a ticket for the laughably awful Plan 9 From Outer Space, then get a ticket at the same time for either The Hangover (a comedy that won't be in my top 10 list of 2009, but is fun with some hysterical set pieces) or Ed Wood (a good film, but I feel that some people confuse this picture with having the same high quality of Martin Landau's excellent performance, and it's just not so), then conclude with the Dracula featuring Bela Lugosi's classic Count. If you do Plan 9 Hangover then Dracula, you get a bit of break between the first 2, but you have time for a quick dinner between the second and third film. If you do Plan 9 Ed Wood then Dracula, you have time for a slightly long lunch, but no real time between the second and third film. Now if you don't want to catch Dracula, there's another revival option on Saturday night:

MURMUR OF THE HEART - Sat Jan 2 and Wed Jan 6 at 9- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the mini Louis Malle retrospective. I enjoyed the last one they had about over 4 years ago, and a smaller variation starts now. Another coming of age film from Malle, and while it's not the most controversial film of his career (that is Pretty Baby and it's not even close), the set-up of the story is still, well frankly, unsettling when written out. But handled more sensitively than you would expect. A young teenager comes of age in 1950s France. The only person he constantly gets along with is his mother, despite her smothering. Near the end, all they have to turn to are each other. And yet, there's a surprise after that. Surprising soft-hearted and tender. If you don't/ can't do it as an alternative to Dracula on Saturday night, it will be screened again next Wednesday night.

MY DINNER WITH ANDRE - Mon Jan 4 at 4:10 or Wed Jan 6 at 6:15 with a post film Q and A with Wallace Shawn- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Louis Malle retro. The 1981 film that became a sleeper art house smash, thanks largely to Siskel and Ebert's praising and constant selling of the picture. You can decide for yourself. Is this almost feature length conversation between Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory an exciting exchange of ideas and meshing of personalities, or a possible cure for insomnia when it doesn't tick you off. And if you go on Wednesday night, you can try to share your feelings with Shawn himself, who will do a post film Q and A.

TAKING OUT with an introduction from director Milos Forman and A THOUSAND CLOWNS - Tues Jan 5 at 7:20 (Moving Out) and 10 (Clowns) - Film Forum - The last of the Madcap Manhattan retrospective. First, Taking Off, a comedy and the first English language film from director Milos Forman. Made because Universal decide to give young talented directors a budget of less than one million, and not interfere with either choice of project or final cut, just like Columbia did with Easy Rider. Moving Out was one of the seven. Buck Henry is one of the parents looking for their runaway teenage daughter. They go down to the Village, and WOW, is THIS what the counter culture LOOKS LIKE? AND IS THAT POT?!?!? Let's try some . . . keep an eye out for Ike and Tina Turner performing and Kathy Bates and 70s fave Jessica Harper in small roles. Forman himself will introduce the screening.

Next, the Oscar winning A Thousand Clowns. Jason Robards stars in this romantic dramedy, as a middle-aged nere-do-well, struggling to avoid work. But may need to change or else he could lose custody or his ward. And will he fall for his social worker, played by Barbara Harris? Adapted by Herb Gardner from his own play, a very New York film to be sure. Nominations for Picture, the Screenplay and the Music, an Oscar for Martin Balsam for Supporting Actor.

IN THE LOOP for free (subject to availability)- Fri Jan 8 at 8 - MOMA - A comedy that will take a dramatic change to blast this off my eventual Top Ten of 2009. The best comedy of 2009, and also the best film made from a TV series with the same or similar number of original cast members from the series. Now granted, that's a small number with the most notable titles being Sex And The City and Star Trek.

But I'm not trying to damn with faint praise. It's also one of the best satires, political or otherwise, in a long while. The film comes from the British series The Thick of It, a descendant of "Yes, Minster" and "Yes, Prime Minister", and written and shot in the same style as both versions of The Office. In this film, Presidents and Prime Ministers seem to set the agenda for their respective governments, but it's up to others lower in the food chain to implement and sometimes, actually decide the policy. Or change the policy to stay in power, by any verbal means necessary. And if you're in the British government, do not piss off the American government.

When a low level Minister accidentally remarks that major power war involvement in the Middle East is "unforeseeable", then accidentally makes a statement advocating war when trying to recant the previous statement, it launches a shit storm between both the American and British governments. Also fighting are 2 factions within the U.S. govt., between a war pushing Rumsfeld-type, and anti-war Hillary and Colin Powell types. All with their own acolytes that might be for or against them. Both sides trying to convince the Brits to get on board. And how does everyone deal with each other? Pretty much like high school. The bigger the insults in a world where words cause harm, the better. And winning is all that matters, damn the opposition, and us.

Now did I mention at any point this film is hysterical? It never sacrifices humor just for a jab. At times, it figures out how to do both, but priority one is humor. On occasion, the characters sound too similar to each other, but will you be laughing too hard to notice? Probably. Scenes are stolen left and right by Peter Capaldi, of who it would be a major disappointment if In The Loop is too small to get him noticed for a Supporting Actor nomination. He plays the British (but don't call him FUCKING ENGLISH!!!!) communications manager who, despite his title, can verbally intimidate and/or crush his subordinates, and other ministers, even those supposedly more powerful than he. The character is modeled after Tony Blair's press secretary, Alistair Campbell after all.

But does he meet his match against the Americans? The film seems partly set up as a Clash of the Titans between Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker, and James Gandolfini's Powell-esque general. Maybe it feels that way because of Gandolfini's impact as Tony Soprano. But the scenes between Capaldi and Gandolfini are nothing short of electric and show-stopping.

I'm sorry this film was never able to expand
beyond art houses, and that terrific reviews and the occasional critics awards to either Capaldi and/or the Screenplay are the only acknowledgement that can be expected. You probably didn't see it either, but you have the chance to change that on Friday the 8th, for free, subject to availability. I believe on Fridays, tickets become available at about 4:30.

JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING- Fri Jan 8 and Sat Jan 9 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- One of the better horror films, possibly the best from the 1980s, gets a midnight screening. One of few that I can think of where a remake tops the original. Alien shape-shifting life crashes onto Earth, and in order to exist, it must live like a virus and wipe out or take over the life that already exists on whatever planet it exists on. Which in this case is us. And it's up to an isolated group from an American scientific station, desperately playing catch up and grasping for theories, to stop it. But when it starts taking them over, and becomes hard to tell which of them are human and which are not . . .

Kurt Russell makes a great action lead, with character actors like Keith David, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley filling out the talented cast. The make-up effects grossed out some audiences (damaging potential word of mouth) and most critics, but they don't feel too over the top and still hold up today. Especially one scene where one portion tries to escape from another part in a very memorable way. If you haven't seen it, I'm not spoiling this.

The gross out factor, some brutal reviews, the R rating that made the PG rated Poltergeist more accessible, and just being released in the summer of 1982, where if you weren't E.T. (the happy alien movie released two weeks earlier), than you probably struggled at the box office. All of this helped make The Thing a high profile flop. But like another high profile flop released that very same day, Blade Runner, The Thing has also been re-evaluated and risen to both cult status and to the heights of its respective genre. Not AFI top 100 level like Blade Runner, but close enough.

STRAY DOG - Sat Jan 9 and Tues Jan 12 - Thurs Jan 14 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- The start of an Akira Kurosawa retrospective that will last until early February at the Forum. The first retro they've done of Akira's work since the summer of 2002. Since that summer, when I caught several of his work, I make it a point to catch at least one Kurosawa film I haven't seen before or haven't see in over ten years.

Something to look forward to for me. I expect to break that mark with this retrospective. And you can expect me to post a number of his films over the next several lists.
Stray Dog, the first Japanese film noir I think, gets a special nine day run; I've only listed the day and evening times I think I can make as of this writing. Never seen, but I've liked all the previous Kurosawa- Toshiro Mifune team-ups I've caught in the past. Except for The Hidden Fortress, please God, don't make me sit through that again. So I have hopes for this one. But because I haven't seen it, I'll have to copy and paste the Forum's pitch:

(1949) KUROSAWA NOIR: While a rubble-strewn Tokyo swelters through a torrid heat wave, awkward young white-suited detective Toshiro Mifune finds to his shame that his pistol has been stolen — and then that it’s been used in a murder. Thus begins his obsessive, guilt-ridden search, highlighted by a nearly ten-minute dialogue-less sequence shot by hidden camera in the toughest black market section of the city. (The post-production dubbing, with twelve of the latest pop songs layered in, was so difficult that Kurosawa’s soundman was reduced to tears.) No bleeding hearts here: when seasoned mentor Takashi Shimura points out that the killer, a returned vet, went bad when all his possessions were stolen, Mifune heatedly replies that the same thing happened to him — and then he became a cop. No surprise then that, as the chase progresses toward a final confrontation — electrifyingly backgrounded by a young girl’s stop-start practicing of a Mozart piece — Mifune and the unseen killer begin to seem more and more alike. A confessed admirer of Georges Simenon, Kurosawa adapted his own unpublished novel for this, his first detective film (the second is High and Low: see Jan. 22) and the real beginning of the genre in Japan. Approx. 122 minutes.

Let me know. Later all.

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