Saturday, February 27, 2010

March revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of March. May not be as many films as I normally post, but high quality here. Maybe I'm being a little picky, after convincing a couple of people to see The Atomic Cafe for free at MOMA a few weeks back. Bad enough that the short before it, the something something of Burning Ants, was an ambitious yet pretentious piece of crap, that one cute girl walked out on. But then The Atomic Cafe laid an egg. Not with me, but with friends. When I heard afterwards one didn't get or understand it, my head couldn't stop shaking. Not like it, understandable. But not get it, no.

You can easily find it on DVD. Those of you in NYC, it's probably in at least 2 out of every 5 libraries near you. I'd love to hear feedback from those who've seen it recently. Now on with the list. Here we go:

FIVE EASY PIECES- Mon Mar 1 and Wed Mar 3 at 7:50 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm restoration. One of those early 70s films where the cynicism of the lead character is supposed to match what was going on in the country at the time. Jack Nicholson, in his first non-Roger Corman lead of note, is basically a rebel without a cause or a clue. He runs from his upper-class background, but doesn't appear to be any happier working rigs, bowling and getting drunk and having sex in cheap motels. His relationship with a waitress named Rayette doesn't seem to perk him up either. But things come to a head when he must come home, after his father suffers a debilitating stroke.

Nicholson's second team-up with director Bob Rafelson, and the first of his famous lead roles, that struck to the core of America when released. Might be hard to believe that a small, character driven film could do that. But smaller media, no Internet, a (possible) general rejection of large musicals and westerns that didn't star John Wayne in favor of different kinds of pictures, and lots of critical raves helped Five Easy Pieces find an audience. His character was based partly on him, as well as partly based on screenwriter Carole Eastman's brother. Nicholson wrote part of his monologue to his voiceless stricken father.

Not to say the Nicholson character is likable, even with the famous chicken salad diner scene. It's ok if you come away thinking he's a complete asshole. Back in this time, you could have a completely unlikeable lead, and as long as it wasn't an expensive picture, not only would a major studio (Columbia Pictures in this case) back it, they would assume the director knew what he was doing, and would not insist on changes or softening. Strange concept, I know. So this character belongs with other anti-heroes from this time period, like Dirty Harry, Popeye Doyle and Alex from A Clockwork Orange.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Director, Screenplay, Nicholson for Actor, and Karen Black for Supporting Actress as Rayette, who it's hard not to have your heart go out to in the end. Let's catch this. Now, cut and pasted from the Forum's website, a brief word about the restoration:

For this new restoration, Sony Pictures began with a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative and the 35mm Separation Masters. Following an extensive digital restoration to repair torn frames, scratches and the removal of all dirt from the image, the restored files were recorded back to a new 35mm color negative, from which new 35mm prints have been struck.

THE ABYSS- Fri Mar 5 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of a retrospective of films, alternating between what has been directed by James Cameron, and what has been directed by his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow. In honor of both of their films and themselves competing for Oscars: Avatar and The Hurt Locker. I could have posted the start of it, Point Break, but there's a fine line between fun crap and complete shit. There are those who've made it a cult hit by embracing the absurdities, but I remembering seeing this in when it was first released and thought "This is one of the worst films I've ever seen.". And it still is!

Not that everything James Cameron has touched has been gold. The Abyss has probably had the most divided opinion of all of Cameron's directorial efforts. Right from its release to today: Is it too long? Visually stunning enough with some great action set pieces that makes up for the ending? Does it feel like there's something missing? And oh yeah, what about THAT ENDING? Some of those comments went away when the Director's Cut was released 4 years later, but this is still the least embraced of Cameron's films. Ok, not Piranha 2, but every other film has more passionate devotees than The Abyss. It feels like this is the cult film of his career.

Personally, I liked the film enough to post it here. Would never be in my top 3 of Cameron's flicks, and definetly not in the top 10 of 1989. But the visual effects are fantastic, deserving its Oscar. And a lot of joy I get from both Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio; they're our eyes down below in an underwater experimental oil rig. They're trapped below as World War 3 might explode above them. Trapped with a Navy SEAL growing more paranoid by the second, a hurricane battering the rig, a Trident warhead possibly ready to go off on its own, and what exactly are these brightly lit things swimming around them?

At the very least, a better script than Avatar, though you'll have to decide about the ending for yourself. I'm not sure if this is the original 2hr., 26min. cut, or the director's cut that's about 25 min. longer. Won't know until March 2nd or 3rd probably. But if you've never seen it, and you can stay up, this should look good, and sound great, at IFC Center.

THE WIZARD OF OZ- Mon Mar 8 at 9:45 and Sat Mar 13 and Sun Mar 14 at 1- Film Forum- Part of the Victor Fleming retrospective. Afraid I'm going to a bad movie buff, and not post many films from this retrospective. Just a few, so if you decide to go to me and say "BAD! BAD MOVIE BUFF!", I'll understand. Just don't hit my nose with a rolled up newspaper, or rub my face in something.

Anyway, director Fleming had a long career, but is truly remembered for two films he worked on. Since he was part of the MGM studio system, his total involvement in both pictures wasn't total and absolute. In fact, the films are better remembered than Fleming ever was. Of course the two films was the next one on this list, below, and The Wizard of Oz. A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS, and now, on TNT. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch.

The scheduling for Wizard is a little off. It's playing on Sunday, March 7, but it's timing is either too early or too close to Oscar time, so I didn't bother post it. I also didn't bother to post it's Monday March 8th afternoon screening either. So I'm left with a late-ish Monday night screening, two 1PM screenings the following weekend, and no idea yet what works best for me. We'll see, but I'm determined to catch it this time.

GONE WITH THE WIND- Sat Mar 13 and Sun Mar 14 at 3 and 7:30 and Mon Mar 15 at 1- Film Forum- Part of the Victor Fleming retrospective. Do I really have to go on about this. If you're looking at this page at all, you know this. The question is, will you be willing to spend the three hours, forty-six minutes to see this classic? The Film Forum may not be the Ziegfeld, where it has played several times over the last decade, but it will do. Now I've liked the portions I caught on TV, but I still haven't seen all of this from start to finish. This WILL change in March, by hook or by crook.

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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