Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with what to catch for the first half of April. Didn't post anything for the second half of March, because there just wasn't anything. Nothing I was willing to stick my neck out for, or hadn't done already. But it seems April will more then make up for a lack of revivals these two weeks. Here we go:

SUNRISE- Sat Apr 3, Mon Apr 5 and Tues Apr 6 at 7:40 and 9:50- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of F.A. Murnau's silent film classic. Might be subtle as a brick, and at times a little on the hammy side in terms of some its performances, but it's still considered a classic (despite its disappointing box office), and it's receiving a week-long run at the Forum. These are the only days I can make, in theory anyway.

George O'Brien plays a farmer who loves his wife. Until he goes into the city and falls for some sort of tramp. She convinces him to kill his wife. But can he?

Winners of the first Oscars for Janet Gaynor for Actress (who also won for two other films she starred in, something that would never happen again) and for Cinematography. It also won for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production, as opposed to Best Picture as we know it, which Wings had won. The Unique and Artistic Production category was discontinued afterwards by the way.

Sunrise was not on the first AFI Top 100 list, but made it to the second list. I wonder if it should be on that second list, as opposed to films I enjoyed that were dropped, like Fargo, Dr. Zhivago, The Third Man and Fantasia. I'd like to find out.

ALIENS- Sat Apr 3 at 12:15AM- IFC Center- Part of a series of Midnight films alternating with some of James Cameron's films, and with ex-wife/ ex co-worker/ director who snagged an Oscar over him, Kathryn Bigelow's films. Here, it's Cameron's turn with Aliens. His best film from the 1980s, and among the better action films from that decade as well. Used to be thought of as one of the few films better then its predecessor, until the director's cut of Alien came out in 2003, correctly changing that attitude. And while Alien made Sigourney Weaver a working film actress with lead roles, Aliens made her entrenched in both A-list status and as an action star regardless of gender, plus an Oscar nomination for Best Actress to boot.

The planet where the first Alien was discovered has been colonized, but WHOOPS, there's an alien(s) problem there. So the set-up is like an old episode of Star Trek, except instead of a starship, the Marines are sent in, in full gung-ho mode that fit in perfectly in Reagan-era 1986 alongside Top Gun (but with a better script). Ripley comes along as an advisor few take seriously. Some purists had a problem with the Ripley character seemingly changed to be lady Rambo, but the action scenes are too damn good, and Weaver and Cameron sell it. Basically, anything you might have had a problem with regarding Avatar, Aliens does it well, and probably did it before Avatar. If you think you can do this on Easter weekend, let's go for it.

ACE IN THE HOLE- Fri Apr 9 and Sat Apr 10 at 5:30, 7:40 and 10- Friday’s 7:40 show introduced by Brooke Gladstone, co-host of NPR’s On the Media- Film Forum- The start of of a retrospective of films about or involving the newspaper business. Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. Consider this a film-noir/drama. Kirk Douglas stars as a disgraced newspaper man, forced to work in a lowly newspaper in Albuquerque. But when a man seems doomed to die in a cave-in, Douglas will do anything to cash in, by making this national news, and make himself a name again. But the feeding frenzy from the newly arrived media and the townspeople, even the trapped man's wife, seem even creepier than Douglas.

This was Wilder's golden ticket film. Yes he had some hit films already, but this was the dream project he got to do after the success of Sunset Blvd. But the critics attacked this as being over the top and unlikeable, as well as inaccurate in its depiction of the media, and it became the first major flop in Wilder's career. But similar to Network; by the time we got to the mid 80s, where you had the baby Jessica story (the girl trapped in the well) played in the media with similarities to Ace, the Wilder film seemed prophetic. And this was before we had more cable channels and more media outlets that desperately need a steady diet of sellable news. It may not have helped in 1951 that the only likable person in the picture, was the poor schmuck trapped in the cave in, but it seems to fit the noir style.

I'd also say it's similar to Elia Kazan's A Face In The Crowd. Not big hits in its day, both dark as hell, but both better appreciated today. Maybe A Face is appreciated much more among film fans. And in Wilder's career, it would later be dwarfed, with films like Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and The Fortune Cookie coming down the pike. But Ace In The Hole is rarely screened on TCM, is only available on DVD through the Criterion Collection, so chances are high that you haven't seen this. We can change that now.

It plays for two nights. But on Friday Apr 9, Brooke Gladstone of NPR's On the Media, will host the 7:40 screening. I wouldn't mind catching that particular screening, but I don't have to. But I would like to catch this at some point on either day.

NEAR DARK- Fri Apr 9 and Sat Apr 10 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of the Cameron vs. Bigelow retro. Bigelow's second film, and her first solo, feature-length directorial effort. A cult hit from 1987. Not so much at the box office, but from home video and cable. A teenage boy (Adrian Pasdar of Heroes), picks up a cute girl. She likes him. Then she bites him, thus turning him into a vampire. He ends up joining the girl's "family" of vampires, as they terrorize and feed of people in Oklahoma. The "family" includes Lance Henriksen and an especially brutal Bill Paxton, a year after their appearances in Aliens (Jenette Goldstein, Vasquez in Aliens, also appears as a vampire). Forgotten now, but for those who were video renting in the late 80s/early 90s, it was one of the few horror films that were released in that era worth repeated viewings. But most of us have never seen it on the big screen. Now is the time.

SEPARATE TABLES- Mon Apr 12 at 8- MOMA- Part of a David Niven retrospective. Among the few films I'll post this entire month from the retrospective. Most of them are scheduled for times that are inconvenient for me, and some favorites of mine (The Guns of Navarone, The Pink Panther, and the very silly Murder By Death) are not playing at all. There will be one more film posted on the next list for sure, maybe two if I work up the courage to post Around the World in 80 Days.

An adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's romantic drama (who co-wrote the adaptation), Separate Tables follows several guests who form couples at a seaside hotel. The romance between Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth is one that runs throughout the picture. But the storyline that is singled out for praise, is where Niven's Major, with a blustery exterior and crumbling lonely interior, tries to woo meek, mother-domineered Deborah Kerr. Niven won his only Oscar here for Best Actor, and Wendy Hiller won for Supporting Actress. Nominations for Picture, Kerr for Actress, Screenplay, Cinematography, and for the film's score.

DERSU UZALA- Wed Apr 14, Fri Apr 16- Mon Apr 19 and Wed Apr 21 at 3:45, 6:30 and 9:15- Film Forum- Brought back by popular demand from the Forum's Akira Kurosawa retrospective, the first of two Kurosawa films playing in April. Specifically, his first two color films, released in the U.S. in the 1970s. I wished I could have caught this back in February, but I knew I didn't have time, so I didn't bother to post it.

Set in the 19th Century, a Russian captain bonds with an old mountain man while making an expedition of Eastern Siberia. The captain tries to convince his friend to rejoin him back in society. By the time the mountain man decides to come back, modern society at that point might be too much for him. So imagine Crocodile Dundee, but with very human difficulties not played for broad comedy. Won the Oscar for Foreign Language Film, the first time I believe a Kurosawa film ever won. Not a short film, or a simple one, but it sounds like a rewarding one.

Well, that's the list so let me know if there's interest. On another topic, just because I didn't put up a list of revivals a couple of weeks ago, doesn't mean I didn't catch any revivals. To help publicize their first annual classic films festival out west, TCM has been sponsoring free screenings of classic films in different parts of the country. On March 23, a free screening of All About Eve was held at the Ziegfeld. Free as long as you brought a print out of the screening as your "ticket". I was planning on bringing this up when I first heard about it and printed my own, but catching up with Oscar flicks and putting up a Top 10 of 09 took priority. I had planned to do a quick write up and post the link by March 17th, but by the morning of March 15th, they were no more passes available, except for some contest by WCBS-FM I didn't hear about till afterwards. I did tell a few people, but only those who have done revivals in the recent past or would definitely be near the Ziegfeld that night.

I went, bringing someone who never saw it before. Apparently we sat there with about 900 All About Eve fanatics. And they loved it, based on the amount of applause throughout, and thorough enjoyment of key scenes and laugh lines. While the one I brought may not have it in his top 35 all time like I did, he enjoyed it quite a bit as well.

I included the only decent shots I was able to get of host Robert Osbourne and special guest Elaine Stritch. They had a brief Q and A before the screening; Osbourne concentrated on taking questions about the film, and Stritch handled all else. Osbourne was also unofficial translator, turning some questioners' inarticulate statements, and turning them into questions that could be answered. He also had to remind Stritch several times to use her microphone, otherwise she couldn't be heard. No mean feat for Osbourne to pull off. All those jobs I mean. One memorable comment from all that. When a young woman began her question with the phrase "Back in your day . . . ", Stritch shot a look that stopped the girl, took a beat, and said something to the effect of "My dear, this IS my day!". After the laughter and applause died down, Stritch did smile at the girl, let her off the hook, and let her ask the question that there was no reason to remember as it turned out.

Anyway, that's all I got. Later all.

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