Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Aug. revivals, first half

Hey all, Mike here with the first half of a very busy August full of revival screenings. And on this particular list, the split between films I've seen and haven't seen are 50/50. That's never happened before. Won't delay, here we go:

LIMELIGHT- Thurs Aug 5 at 6:30 and 9:20- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of this, the end of the Charlie Chaplin retrospective. I wish I had time for The Kid, also in a new 35mm print and plays all day on Wed Aug 4, but circumstances say otherwise.

Limelight, from 1952, is Chaplin's next to last film, and the last to be considered classic. I've never seen it, and I really want to.
Chaplin plays a second rate (third rate?) Vaudeville comedian on hard times. A drinker and considered washed up, he saves a suicidal dancer, and nurses her back to health. This starts a complex relationship between him and the dancer, played by Claire Bloom, as they end up bolstering each others' confidence.

Considered at least semi-autobiographical; not only because of Chaplin diving back to his past to re-create the dingy halls, pubs and overall poverty of most of their surroundings, but also with Chaplin the man, the artist AND the character all at about the same crossroad. Of possibly not being able to do what they do best as well as before, and the need for one last time in the sun, or limelight. Overall, best to consider this a drama with some comedy in it. Perhaps a dramedy.

An interesting supporting cast, that includes Nigel Bruce, Norman Lloyd, British music hall comedians, Chaplin's last wife and children, and, in their only appearance together in a feature length picture, Buster Keaton. An Oscar for Chaplin for its Score, won in 1973. Apparently, because Limelight was released in Los Angeles until 1972, it qualified and won. Go figure. The film I want to see most on this list. Available on DVD, but only through the Criterion Collection. Which is fine if you have Netflix, but if you have Blockbuster Online, you're screwed. It will also screen in mid-August out at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, but I rather catch it now in Manhattan.

GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES- Fri Aug 6 (maybe for me), Sun Aug 8 (more likely for me)and Thurs Aug 13 (only if Sun is a no-go)at 7:50 and 10- Film Forum- A week long screening of the Marilyn Monroe classic, in a restored 35mm print. Restored in both look and sound.

Monroe becomes a star, and Jane Russell more than holds her own, as two women going off on a European cruise. Both are looking for eligible men, especially if they have money. All this in a world where the women are strong and can be aggressive, and most of the men are passive or weaker; quite a departure for a film in the early 50s. The real life bond developed between the women translates to a sisterly on-screen bond, and both actresses get a show stopping number. While Russell pulls off "Ain't There Anyone Here for Love?", it's Monroe's "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" that is forever in pop culture history. Like I wrote before (as have others, and presumably better) about Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, you can see Monroe move from Leading Actress, to Cultural Icon Forever, in this one film. And oh yeah, it's a funny musical as well.

Directed by Howard Hawks, although choreographer Jack Cole, according to the Forum's website, handled the musical numbers, in a kind of 60/40 split of the on-screen division of labor. Why this was, I don't know. Maybe this was the plan all along. Maybe because Monroe didn't get along with Hawks and shooting was delayed for too long. Can't help you, sorry.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, as I wrote earlier, runs for a week, through Aug. 12. I only mentioned the available date and times for me. Sunday night is preferred, the earlier the better. Thursday night, only if Sunday isn't doable. For dates and other times, go to the Forum website.

BLOW OUT- Fri Aug 6 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Part of the John Travolta retrospective. Probably the last film from the retro I will post, unless I get the urge to post Pulp Fiction on Labor Day weekend. There's also Battlefield Earth, which I would only go on a bet.

Sorry for the digression, back to Blow Out. From the summer of 1981, not a hit. Was killed by some critics accusing director Brian de Palma of stealing from Hitchcock yet again. Was also killed at the box office, since audiences preferred Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman II and Stripes, among other films. But I feel Blow Out was among the better films from 1981. Maybe not a top 10 from 81, but good. I'm not sure how much respect it's received since it's initial release, but respect it deserves.

Though this came out in 1981, Blow Out feels like it belongs more with the 1970s conspiracy thrillers, especially The Conversation. Travolta plays a sound engineer for a Grindhouse-type film company. One night, Travolta records what sounds like a car accident. He saves the woman, a hooker played by Nancy Allen, but the man inside, A senator with Presidential aspirations, dies. Reverse Chappaquiddick, anyone? Travolta and Allen try to figure out what happened, while a wonderfully hammy John Lithgow tries to "clean up" the mess, whether his mysterious superiors want him to or not.

Good visuals, wonderful location shots of Philadelphia, tight editing, and Travolta's last good lead performance until Pulp Fiction. Enjoy, if you can stay up late.

AIRPLANE!- Mon Aug 9 at 7 with a post film Q and A with ZAZ (Zucker Abrahams Zucker)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A special 30th anniversary screening. Airplane was not a high priority for Paramount. The early reviews were mixed, some were even horrible. It took almost 10 months of release, from summer of 1980 thru early 1981, but by then, it became the biggest sleeper hit from '80. And eventually, a comedy classic, with too many quotable lines and scenes to bring up here. I've taken flack for putting this in my top ten of 1980, while leaving out Ordinary People and some other films all together. It's fluffiness of style, is compensated by superior execution.

The film's writers/directors David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, or ZAZ, only had years of doing comedy at their Kentucky Fried Theater in L.A., and one film with a very minor cult following, Kentucky Fried Movie, under their belts when tackling Airplane. And thirty years after their (eventual) triumph, the three directors will do a post-film Q and A at the Walter Reade.

The next two films pretty much conflict with each other, so people would have to speak up about this:

THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE- Thurs Aug 12 at 7 and Fri Aug 13 at 4:30 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- From a retrospective of French comedies from Gaumont, the world's oldest working film company in existence. This is the only film from the series I'm planning to post. Never seen it, but I read a little about it and I'm interested. Plus, I saw the 1985 American remake, The Man with One Red Shoe. It's cute when you're young and haven't seen many films, but only the great cast, led by Tom Hanks, keeps it mildly interesting.

The French original, from 1972, though released in the U.S. in 73, has two bored, high powered members of the French Secret Service needing a challenge. They get it, in a convoluted way, by tracking some hapless schmuck; an orchestra member who gets more then he bargained for, after a practical joke leaves him with one black shoe. So rival agents observe the movements of this hapless klutz, thinking he's a super spy, but wondering why he's doing these unspectacular things. Wouldn't mind seeing it. Can be seen either Thursday night of August 12, or for free (subject to availability) the next afternoon.

MODERN TIMES- Thurs Aug 12 at 7:30- Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington- Another chance to catch my favorite Chaplin film. Apparently, while the Film Forum ran an extensive retrospective of Charlie Chaplin, the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington has been doing a mini- retrospective of his work. This is the only one I can make time for, and only on this date. Modern Times will also be screened there on Sunday Aug. 15 at 7:30, so if you can catch it then instead, I heartily recommend it. But I have something else for that date, and I'll get to that picture in a bit.

THE SHINING- Fri Aug 13 and Sat Aug 14 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Yet another chance to catch this Kubrick-Nicholson film. It was popular for this theater in 2009. I wrote back in February that The Shining would probably be screened often. So I was wrong. It might not be until sometime around Halloween until this is screened again, so to watch it now, like with Airplane also on its 30th anniversary, would be good.

KISS ME KATE in 3-D- Sun Aug 15 at 3:30, 6 and 8:30- Film Forum- Part of Film Forum's 3-D retrospective. Hey, film's like Avatar, Coraline, or Jaws 3-D (I only cite the best) didn't start the craze. And the Forum will show films shot in the original 3-D process. We're talking double projectors with Polaroid filters and lenses, and 3-D glasses that are NOT the cheap 1 red eye 1 green eye thing. The Forum claims to be the only theater in NYC capable of this. Whatever, but they are also screening films originally shot in this process, not like today with Clash of the Titans or The Last Airbender.

Kiss Me Kate is not the first film in this retrospective, but the first I'll post. I forget what will be screened on Friday the 13th, and I wouldn't see Gorilla At Large on a bet, terrible film. Kiss Me Kate use to be a staple of Ch. 13 broadcasting from the 80s and 90s, but my memories are a bit hazy since TCM doesn't screen it often. But I know I've never seen it in 3-D.

Now the film itself. One part variation of Taming of the Shrew, one part the fictionalized backstage bickering of Lunt and Fontanne, a fun musical. Has its footprint in film history for Ann Miller's Too Darn Hot (turned into a solo for her talents, smart move), and for the duet between Bob Fosse and Carol Haney in "From This Moment On". It's only about a minute long, and it was the only sequence Fosse choreographed, but it was enough to get him noticed as a choreographer, getting him work in that field for the rest of his life. Yeah, there's more about the film, but who gives a crap about the plot. Enjoy the jokes, enjoy Cole Porter's music and lyrics, enjoy the dancing, and enjoy it all in 3-D. Sunday the 15th is its only day/night.

FLYING DOWN TO RIO and SWING TIME- Tues Aug 17 at 6:45 (Rio), 8:30 (Swing) and 10:30 (Rio)- Film Forum- The start of the Astaire-Rogers retrospective. Now here's a section of my film knowledge and appreciation that's bigger than a hole; we're talking a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. Here, all I've seen is Top Hat and a lot of clips, so yeah, I'll post a few. If nothing else, I'll open myself to the possibility of something I haven't seen, and that way, open it up to others. Besides, with my Forum membership, it's affordable for me. I won't go as far as saying Astaire and Rogers film were for film fans of the 30s, what Avatar is today. That's much, though in both cases, you try to ignore the limp story or, at least in the case of Avatar anyway, the crap dialogue. But the visual effects and overall look that make audiences happy today, is what the dancing films of Fred and Ginger were.

There's barely any reason to go into the stories of both, but I'll give it a shot.
First, Flying Down To Rio. A conductor of a band falls for a woman who's already engaged, complications for them and his band ensue, but everything turns out all right in the end. But Fred and Ginger are not the stars, Dolores del Rio and Gene Raymond are. Fred and Ginger are billed fourth and fifth, respectively. Usually though, one of them sings and the other dances, except for one number "Carioca", a jazz standard and the film's lone Oscar nomination. Not sure if this was the talked about Berkley-esque finale, where the women are strapped to the wings of flying planes or not (told you I never saw the film). But Fred and Ginger are credited as scene stealers, and helped make Flying Down To Rio, thought of as a flop pre-release, into a major hit for RKO.

Next, Swing Time. Astaire and Rogers' 6th team-up, and the only film to make it onto AFI's second Top 100 list. Unlike Rio, this is one of those where Astaire had more control. Specifically, the camera stayed on the dancers from head to toe at all times, and the dances were there to move the story forward, not grind things to a halt just for spectacle. A simple story here. Fred pretends to be a bad dancer to meet dance instructor Rogers, they form a dance team, and they get together. Yes, there are storylines involving each others' former beaus, and having to raise $2500 during the Depression, but who cares! Fred and Ginger are dancing! Also features the classic Jerome Kern songs, Pick Yourself Up, and the Oscar winning The Way You Look Tonight. Also nominated for the choreography for Bojangles of Harlem (note that Astaire, paying tribute to the great Bill Robinson, performs this in blackface).

Sorry I couldn't get this list up in time to include the re-release of Orlando. Boy do I like me some Tilda, but I have no time. Orlando's last day at Lincoln Plaza Cinema is Thursday August 5th, but I rather do Limelight instead. But if Orlando plays beyond that or screens elsewhere, I'll be interested in catching it. Also not sure what's going on with the Grease Sing-Along. It played for one screening this past weekend in Times Square, but who knows where of it will play. I've just about given up on it. As for the films listed, let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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