Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Revivals: Late June & July 4th weekend

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list. Normally, I would just post something for June, and save the July 4th weekend for another list. But thanks to the helpfulness of both IFC Center's (for once) and Clearview Cinemas' website, I can actually post something from the first couple of days of July as well. Here we go:

MOMMIE DEAREST- Thurs June 24 at 8 and Sat June 26 at 10- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A special screening of the cult classic from 1981. This film has been given the MST3K treatment every so often, and June 26 will be the 9th anniversary (so it's being billed; I'm not about to start fact checking this now), so fun will be had I'm sure.

Adapted from the payback novel by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, this is how Crawford will be thought of forever more. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. That doesn't make this a good film. But it also doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. I don't know if this was supposed to be serious or camp, and I'm not sure if everyone else involved knew what tone to take either. It seems Paramount advertised it as a serious film, though it was released in September so that it couldn't be confused as an Oscar contender (totally a guess on my part). But back in Sept-Oct 1981, when the wire hanger scene came up, a pop culture moment was born. And you can watch Faye Dunaway's A list film career end, though who thought it was a good idea to have Diana Scarwid start playing adult Christina Crawford at age 13?!?!? No wonder she went from an Oscar nominee to a Razzie award winner. If you want to enjoy yourself, catch this campy crappy fun film. And don't forget the wire hangers.
Now this is playing Thursday through Saturday night, but I've purposely left Friday night off the list, because I have a few films below that I have a lot more interest in catching . . .

THE NAKED SPUR and/or WINCHESTER '73- Fri June 25 at 6:15 (Winchester), 8 (Naked Spur), and 9:45 (Winchester) or Sat June 26 at 9:45 (Winchester)- Film Forum- The start of an Anthony Mann retrospective; a director best known for psychodramas that just happened to take place Out West, as well as the Charlton Heston epic El Cid. But I'm most interested in this double feature, both starring Jimmy Stewart.

First, The Naked Spur, from 1953. For those who only think of Stewart from say, Mr. Smith or Harvey, he entered dark territory here. As close to an anti-hero as he would ever come, Stewart plays a bounty hunter, hell bent on capturing his target, holed up in the Rockies. Only 5 characters in this film. Stewart's, Janet Leigh as a tomboy-type who insists on coming along, two unreliable men Stewart must rely on to capture his bounty, and Robert Ryan as the target; a psycho killer who won't be easy to take down. You could count Nature as a sixth character, since the 5 are outside for most of the film, and the elements promise to be as harsh or harsher than any of these men. An Oscar nomination for the Screenplay.

Next, Winchester '73, made 3 years earlier, and the only black and white film Mann and Stewart made together. It seems simple. Stewart wins the title gun in a contest. The runner-up steals the gun, and Stewart hunts him. But as it turns out, the runner-up being hunted is Stewart's brother, and said brother killed their father. Not so simple. Wait till during the hunt, and a stop in town leads to a meeting with a psycho gunslinger . . . Note the supporting cast. Mixed among Western stalwarts like Dan Dureya, Stephen McNally and Will Geer, we have Shelley Winters, young Rock Hudson (as an Indian chief, yeah I'm nervous about that), and a blink and you'll miss him Tony Curtis.

THE GENERAL with a STEAMBOAT BILL JR. excerpt- Fri June 25 at 8 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- A Buster Keaton comedy classic, though I would argue that it's more an action film classic. He plays a train engineer who is better at showing affection to his locomotive, The General, than to his girlfriend. But the Civil War breaks out, and all the men in her family enlist and are accepted as soldiers in the Confederacy. Keaton tries, but his engineer job makes him more valuable there than as a solider. But the girlfriend thinks he skipped out on enlisting and brands him a coward.

Some time later, they meet again. Somehow, she ends up on his train when it's hijacked by Union spies. Keaton must now to go to great lengths to save his train (and oh yeah, his ex) from the North, then get back to the nearest Confederate general with his train (and oh yeah, his ex) to warn him of a surprise Union attack. Rooting for the Confederates is not as hard as you might think, this isn't Birth of a Nation folks. It's an action comedy. And there are some good comedy set pieces, such as Keaton in the enlistment office. But it works best as an action film. Wonderful scenes shot in the Northwest; the only place where Civil War style trains and tracks were still in use. Wonderful stunt work from co-director/lead Keaton. Chaplin's films may be best remembered, but he couldn't do that kind of stunt work on a moving train. Deservedly a classic. Playing before it is a short segment of the film Steamboat Bill Jr., featuring Keaton. MOMA will be giving away free tickets for this, first come, first served. So we would need to plan this a bit if this is a go for us.

If you prefer this double feature over The General, fine. It plays for two days/nights. But if you wish to do Saturday, I can only catch the late evening screening of Winchester '73. Unless you prefer Mommie Dearest and it wasn't done on Thursday night. Plenty of potential conflicts, but I'll let you all sort them out for me.

HOW TO STEAL A MILLION for 7.50- Thurs July 1 at 9:30- Chelesa Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of a fun romantic comedy/ caper flick from 1966. Directed by William Wyler (Ben-Hur, Funny Girl). Set in Paris, Audrey Hepburn's father is about to be revealed to be a forger, as his sculpture is about to be submitted for testing for insurance purposes. She turns to the only criminal she "knows", a roguish Peter O'Toole, to steal the sculpture from the museum it's located on display.

Originally conceived out of Wyler's love of art, and originally to have been made after Roman Holiday in a darker form with help from young Stanley Kubrick, this was made after some of Wyler's heavier films (The Collector, The Children's Hour). To give himself a break, the tone was changed and made a lot more fun. Hepburn might be getting a little long in the tooth for this kind of role (Daddy's little girl, borderline helpless while having all her senses unlike Wait Until Dark), but she and O'Toole have great chemistry together. The aspects of the attempted theft may not hold up, but it's fun enough that logic doesn't interfere with your enjoyment or give a sour aftertaste afterwards. The shtick with the museum guards, especially involving comedian Moustache (his actual stage name), is a bit much. But the rest of the supporting cast (Hugh Griffith, Eli Wallach, Charles Boyer), the snappy dialogue, and the fun jazz-like score from John Williams make this film a ball. Williams' score from Catch Me If You Can will sound even more familiar after you hear the Million score.

I'm only listing the second screening on Thursday July 1. I don't feel the film needs the MST3K treatment from Hedda Lettuce, but thanks to Hedda I guess (and those who program the Chelsea Classics series), a fun film that rarely gets a revival screening will be shown. Let's catch this.

WILD AT HEART- Fri July 2 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of the Nicolas Cage retrospective IFC has been having for over a month now. And the only one I have both the time and desire to watch. I wanted to catch Raising Arizona and even The Rock, but had no time. And as for films I like (Leaving Las Vegas) or don't care about (Bringing Out The Dead), seriously IFC Center, you expected us to come in large numbers?

A road film/ romance with a few touches of Wizard of Oz, all through the filter of director David Lynch. Cage and Laura Dern are screw-ups hot and heavy in love, who go on the road, much to the anger of Dern's mother, played by Dern's real life mother, Diane Ladd. Mom is more like the Wicked Witch, unleashing a gangster to use his methods to bring back her little girl, and kill the bastard who took her (and ignored Mom's drunken gropes years before. Oh yeah, that).

An arthouse hit from 1990, but I feel it took unnecessary hits when it was compared to Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks (a brief cultural phenomenon that year), as well Lynch's previous picture, Blue Velvet. Yes, not a lot of things matched the quality of the first six episodes of Twin Peaks, but why should it. Blue Velvet is closer to Twin Peaks then Wild At Heart, but even there, the comparisons of heavies is unfair. Yes, Willem Dafoe's repulsive villain, with the slicked hair, pencil thin mustache and nearly black teeth, doesn't match with Dennis Hopper's fully committed and committable psycho. But it works in Wild At Heart, with Dafoe's attempted seduction scene with Dern a standout.

Since 1990, the film has received more respect, though why some people love Mulholland Dr. than this is beyond me. Yes, the film can feel excessive, but it works, mainly because you want to see this pairing of Cage (in gentlemanly Elvis mode a good deal of the time) and Dern (who just seems ready to quiver whenever Cage is ready to touch her and when he does . . . . ) work and stay together. If you don't care about them, forget it. But luckily, you do. Besides, you would be watching this as a midnight movie. It's ok to watch something a little strange at that point. A supporting cast including Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini, and several Twin Peaks alumni help. Oscar noms for Dern and Ladd for Actress and Supporting Actress, respectively. It's playing throughout the July 4th weekend, including the Fourth itself, but the Friday night screening is the only one I can do.

Let me know if there's interest. July will be very interesting, with a Charlie Chaplin retrospective, an Eastwood retro, the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers, an official Grease Sing-A-Long, some interesting films in the Chelsea Classics series (including Laura), and that's just what's been posted. Later all.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of June. Short list, and I'm trying to keep the descriptions as brief as possible. Here we go:

BREATHLESS (1960)- Now thru Thurs June 10 at 4:40, 6:30, 8:20 and 10- Film Forum- A restored print of Jean-Luc Goddard's classic 1960 film (released in 61 in America). A restoration supervised by the film's cinematographer Raoul Cotard, since Goddard himself has apparently disowned this picture. Something about being a better director, an amateur then, silly film, I don't know and I don't care. The next time I care about a Goddard film not named Breathless will be the first, especially after sitting through Contempt. I wasn't even planning on posting this, since I caught it for free two summers ago at MOMA (free Friday screenings). But since someone told me they wanted to catch this, and it is a restored print with supposedly more accurate subtitles (so it is different than any other version out there on home video), post this film I will.

Wonderfully decadent film about two selfish lovers; Jean-Paul Belmondo as a thief/ killer with a Bogie fixation, and Jean Seberg as an American willing to go along for the ride. Some cool shots, a jump cut style of editing used not really from scene to scene but inside the scenes themselves, really keeps it going at a good clip. Until we get to a long scene where Belmondo is in Seberg's apartment, trying to re-seduce her. Doesn't work at first (maybe?), but the banal conversation that seems to an elaborate (mutual?) seduction pays off nicely.

I didn't pick any particular day or days to see this. I just posted how long it's scheduled to run, and I'll work from there. Based on previous films at the Forum has lasted longer then it's previous published engagement dates (Metropolis, Downfall, Valentino:The Last Emperor among others), so we'll see which path Breathless will follow. Too soon to tell which.

PRIVATE BENJAMIN- Thurs June 3 at 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the 1980 hit. Important in both comedy and hitting the zeitgeist, along with 9 to 5, around the time of the ERA movement. Though Goldie Hawn's performance elevates this picture quite a bit. Hawn's character, a sheltered JAP in mourning after her nebbishy husband dies on their wedding night, signs up for the Army and immediately regrets it. Until she slowly discovers her own self worth and becomes a stronger person, rising above the sexism in and out of the military. Oscar nominations for Hawn for Best Actress, Eileen Brennan for Supporting Actress as Hawn's punishing Captain, and Nancy Meyers Charles Shyer and Harvey Miller for Original Screenplay. So yes, there is proof that there are good films out there made by Meyers. This is probably because she didn't direct it. Yes, Baby Boom is good too, but I give even more credit there to Diane Keaton. Moving on . . .

ADAM'S RIB and/or KEY LARGO for free (subject to availability)- Fri June 4 at 4:30 (Adam's) and 8 (Largo)- MOMA- . Both for one admission. First, Adam's Rib, my favorite of the two. Hepburn plays a defense attorney, who turns her loser of a case (a wife shoots her husband when he catches him cheating) into a rallying cause for women's rights and anything else she can think of. Much to the chagrin of her husband Tracy, the prosecuting attorney. The marriage takes a beating, but will it hold up? Gee, what do you think?

My favorite of all the Hepburn Tracy team ups. Some hilarious set pieces, some involving David Wayne as the comic relief neighbor with a longing for Hepburn. Judy Holliday steals scenes as the wife on trial. An Oscar nomination for screenwriters Ruth Gordon and Garrison Kanin.

Next, Key Largo, from director John Huston. Bogie's engaged in a battle of wills with gangster Edward G. Robinson inside an old friend's hotel, while Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor (who won an Oscar for her role) look on, with a hurricane that threatens them all. An adaptation of Maxwell Anderson's play, written by Huston and future director Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood).

XANADU- Thurs June 10 at 7 and 9:30 for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- The Broadway version was a hit, but this one, the 1980 summer flop, is a fun bad movie. There's a plot in Xanadu, but since the filmakers and Universal Studios didn't seem to give a crap about it back then, I won't pretend I do now. Olivia Newton John is probably at her most beautiful, and I suppose she turned in a performance of some kind, and this was Gene Kelly's last dancing role. But his reputation couldn't be damaged, especially when he turns in the only credible acting performance. However, all the momentum Michael Beck's career had after appearing in The Warriors, grounded to a halt from which he never truly recovered. Mostly the same story with director Robert Greenwald, forced to do mostly TV (The only notable standout- "The Burning Bed"), and documentaries such as "Outfoxed" and "Walmart: The High Cost of Living".

Not a great film, not a good film. But a craptastic film. One that is crap and fantastic to watch in that respect. Now throw in the visual stimulus of Olivia Newton John, what is there to lose? A choice of two screenings. One at 7, hosted by Hedda Lettuce, who'll give Xanadu the old MST3K treatment. And one at 9:30, where it's just the film, and I suppose it's up to you/us to provide the MST3K comments to the screen.

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