Tuesday, November 02, 2010

November revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with revivals for the first half of November. I set out trying to keep this brief, and with the exceptions of the musicals on this list, I believe I've failed. Hang in there please, I'll try not to make this too painful. If anything, I'll try to make a few of these options a bit obscure, or obscure to the typical person who sees this list. Please don't hate me for that last sentence, just stick with me. Here we go:

MOVIE MOVIE- Thurs Nov 4 at 6:15 with a post film Q and A by Stanley Donen- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Stanley Donen retrospective. One of his last films, from 1978, that is NOT on DVD. Similar in structure to the Tarantino/Rodriguez film, Grindhouse. Donen takes two kinds of films, does a sort of tribute/spoof in each, with a fake trailer (or short in this case). The kind of B films that studios would crank out regularly in the 1930s, with contract players and sets having to be versatile enough to work in both. More a gentle tweaking, as opposed to a homage or savage satire. Donen directed both halves and the short.

The first half is a Golden Boy spoof, where a poor kid (Harry Hamlin) raises money for her sick sister and his lawyer dreams by becoming a big time prize fighter, but must deal with a crooked fight manager and a bad girl (Ann Reinking) who is trouble (and named Trouble). The second film, a Busby Berkley type musical where a dying Broadway producer pushes to have one more splashy hit before he croaks, takes the plot of 42nd Street, throws in as many plot contrivances and spectacle as possible.

With top comedy writers Larry Gelbart and Sheldon Keller (who at the very least, did Caesar's Hour and MASH together), and a very good cast: Eli Wallach, Red Buttons, Art Carney, Trish Van Devere, Michael Kidd, Barry Bostwick (doing a musical number more impressive then anything he did in Rocky Horror), and introduced by George Burns (who was to those in the mid 1970s to mid 1980s what Betty White is to us now, only marginally bigger). While the star in the cast is George C. Scott, as the good fight manager, a WW I flying ace and the ego-maniacal theatre producer, the real star is Donen, with his obvious love for these kind of films and marvelous execution of all three sections.

Sold as Old Fashioned Fun back in late 1978. But despite good reviews, up against the likes of Superman: The Movie, Every Which Way But Loose, Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings and The Wiz, Movie Movie came off as just Old. Yes, I know Bakshi's Rings and The Wiz were big busts, but I think they were bigger money makers compared to Movie Movie, though it's been hard to find figures. But both sold their unique visual styles that fit the 70s, and they continue to find occasional audiences today. Movie Movie came and went, was released in one incarnation on VHS in 1980 (I think I go the year right), and was never re-released on Home Video. Unless you stumbled on it on free TV or cable like I did, it's essentially forgotten. Now is a great time to change this.

The print is an archival one from Harvard. We'll see it like those in 1978-79 saw it; with the first half in color and the second half in black and white. Why the second half was converted into color for VHS and TV, I have no clue. And after the film, Donen himself will be giving a Q and A.

THE TIN DRUM- Digital Director's Cut introduced by director Volker Schlondorff- Fri Nov 5 at 7- MOMA- One of the biggest films to ever come out of Germany, and a relatively rare example of a film that matches the quality of the book it's adapted from, even though the film only covers about half the book. A little boy, Oskar, celebrates his third birthday. He sees the lower middle-class adults who surround him in the free city of Danzig, with their fears, jealousies and overall ugliness, and decides to never grow up. As he gets older, he mentally matures, but stays trapped in the physical form of a three year old, with the tendency to pound on his drum. Try to take it away, he screams loud enough to shatter glass. He falls in love, but he still looks 3. Things only get uglier and more brutal when first the Nazis invade, then the Soviets, while his family dies out.

So yeah, it's a happy film. Ha! It might be an ugly looking film at times, but a fascinating one. You'll either really like it or absolutely hate it, but you're not likely to forget it. Thought impossible to film, because who could they find to play the lead? Director Volker Schlondorff got lucky, and got a tremendous performance from 11 year old David Bennett, a child actor appearing in every scene, usually very intense scenes. He was so good, he was actually believable. So believable, the film ran into controversy with his sex scene with an actress, even though no intercourse actually happened.

Won the Palm D'or, tied with Apocalypse Now. Over twenty minutes were cut before it was submitted for Oscar consideration. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and became an art house smash, but it still generated controversy here in the states. Enough controversy that The Tin Drum was banned in parts of Canada, and the pulling of VHS tapes in Oklahoma resulted in the case going all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals, in a story too convoluted to go through here.

This film is on DVD, as part of the Criterion Collection. But the DVD is about 5-6 years old, and it's the shorter version. The director's cut I'm bringing up here, which I'm pretty sure hasn't been shown before in these parts, will be released on both Blu-ray and regular DVD next week. But I believe this digital screening will be the only way you'll be likely to watch The Tin Drum anytime soon. It's hardly one top choice for Netflix, and I'm guessing you won't find this unrated cut in Blockbuster. So it's either this, Sunday November 7th which I can't make, or who knows when. Hope you say yes. Even though this is screened on a Friday, I'm pretty sure it won't be free, like it's most Fridays at MOMA after 4pm. Director Schlondorff himself will present the film.

RED DAWN- Fri Nov 5 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of a series of films at midnight, chosen by IFC Center staff members. Chosen as a post election "special". Which for me, is kind of like going to see Plan 9 From Outer Space, after the launching of a Space Shuttle, but anyway . . . . Some people had problems in Superman Returns when Frank Langella, as Perry White , said Truth Justice all that stuff, while ignoring The American Way. There was also a major complaint why not enough people weren't complaining about it. Here's one way out theory: maybe some of those people grew with the ridiculously awful Red Dawn and have rebelled against anyone pushing rah-rah stuff ever since.

For me, Red Dawn is, let me be clear, FUCKING AWFUL, but GLORIOUSLY FUCKING AWFUL. Kind of gives a barometer as to what the feeling was in this country during the Cold War, that this was actually considered possible. It might have even been considered as believable, if Red Dawn wasn't over the top. From 1984, World War 3 begins, as Soviet paratroopers land in a small Colorado town. But they are held at bay as high schoolers Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (in his screen debut; can't wait for the naked on coke jokes) do something about it. With the aid of Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey (years before the nose job, Ferris Bueller and Dirty Dancing), plus help from veterans Ben Johnson and Powers Boothe (pre 24), they form the Wolverines, and go guerilla warfare on them Commie bastards. WOLVERINES! Or as they tend to say it, WWOOOOOLLLLVERIIIIIINNES!

Directed and co-written from very macho John Millus (Conan The Barbarian and Dillinger, the less artful but less full of shit version of Public Enemies). Over the top, from the start the invasion, to Harry Dean Stanton's monologue (ending with AVENGE ME! AVEEEENNNGE ME!), to the final battle. As subtle as a brick, or the giant Soviet armored helicopter that goes after them. And though it was nice to see the late Ron O'Neal get a job, I can only think "Holy Shit! They got Superfly leading the Commies!". Millus actually does do a good job with the action scenes. So good, that you wish he hadn't approved/created some of the other bullshit that follows. If you want a cheesy example of Reagan era action movies: Rambo division, this is it. Hard to believe this was actually PG-13, the first PG-13 film ever. Before the remake comes out on Thanksgiving weekend (when the Chinese become the invaders), here 's the original, at a slightly cheaper price then regular films in Manhattan.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN- Sun Nov 7 at 6:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Stanley Donen retrospective, and his best known film. When it came out, it was successful, but ignored. Yes it was nominated for it's score, and the only actor nominated from this was not Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds or Donald O'Connor, but Jean Hagen as the funny, bitch-on-wheels diva; more nuanced then her respectable performance in the mostly dated Asphalt Jungle. But it was dismissed as fluff, and people moved on. People in 1952 wanted to go on and on about Ivanhoe, John Huston's Moulin Rouge, Son Of Paleface, and the Oscar winner for Best Picture, The Greatest Show On Earth (considered by some to be the biggest mistake the Academy ever made in that category). But when people ever bring up quality films released in the U.S. back in 1952, it's High Noon, Rashomon, Singin' In The Rain, and that's it. OK, maybe The Quiet Man, but you'd have to be Irish and drunk to do that now.

How much do I like this film? Let me put it this way: Before I caught it on the big screen, I respected it. Once I caught it on a big movie screen, it entered a permanent spot on my personal top 30. If you have the chance to go, do it.

ON THE TOWN or DAMN YANKEES - Mon Nov 8 at 6:15 (Town) or 8:30 (Yankees)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Stanley Donen retro. I'm posting this as either a one or the other. Now there is a way to see both, via purchase of a 3 film pass, which comes out to 9 dollars per film for non-members, and much less for seniors, students and members. Plus a 2 dollar online fee if you choose not to go to the Walter Reade's box office. Since I'm guessing you and/or I will not purchase such a pass, I'll list this as a one or the other kind of deal.

Either you go to see On The Town, where Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra are on leave and find love in New York, with just enough location shooting to make this a beloved New York film; or you go to see Damn Yankees, where Tab Hunter sells his soul to the Devil, er, Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston), so that his beloved Washington Senators can finally beat those hated Yankees. Wow, the Senators couldn't do anything then, or now as the Texas Rangers, so does that mean no one likes the Senators/Rangers?

Anyway, take your pick of Gene Kelly dancing in Town, or superb Bob Fosse choreography in Yankees, especially Gwen Verdon in her "Whatever Lola Wants" number. Either film you want to do is fine by me.

THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT for 7.50- Thurs Nov 11 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the sleeper hit of 1994. Years before Hugo Weaving appeared in blockbusters like The Matrix and Lord of the Rings, as well as voice overs in V For Vendetta, Happy Feet and as Megatron in the upcoming Transformers film, he starred as a drag queen in this Australian dramatic comedy. He must pay off a favor by traveling to an out of the way resort, to perform a cabaret. He brings 2 other friends/performers, another drag queen (Guy Pearce, years before L.A. Confidential and Memento) and a transsexual (Terence Stamp, in one of his 2 comeback performances in the 90s.), and travel in their lavender bus, Priscilla. Glorious costumes that won the Oscar that year, even if one of the dresses were done for as little as 7 dollars. Yes, you can spend only 50 cents more to see this, then for what one of the dresses cost.

Works as a road picture. Works as a buddy film. Works as a drama. Works as a comedy. After the mid 90s, this film has been gathering some dust on the video shelves. So some of you might not know or remember Priscilla. Time to rectify this.

EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF- Fri Nov 12, Mon Nov 15- Wed Nov 17, Fri Nov 18 and Mon Nov 21- Wed Nov 23 at 6:30, 8:20 and 10:10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of a film I'd like to catch, but don't know a thing about. Nothing, nada, not a clue. But I'm curious to see what might be Goddard's easiest to follow film, allegedly. So I'm sorry to say, I have to go all cut and paste, and post what the Forum has to say about this:

(1980) Marguerite Duras is heard, but not seen; people hear split seconds of music no one else can hear; in public, women are slapped, men get their hair pulled; the most disparate activities are interrupted for vital phone calls; Jacques Dutronc’s Paul Godard (!) smokes big cigars, exchanges notes about parental abuse with his pre-pubescent daughter’s soccer coach, and battles with ex-lover Natalie Baye; who constantly bicycles around town, edits videotapes, tries to unload the apartment she’d shared with Dutronc, and bonds with prostitute Isabelle Huppert; who herself had spent the night with Paul, counseled an aspirant to “being on the game,” and constantly thinks (in a voice-over quoting Charles Bukowski) on other things as she responds in a lackadaisical “why not?” manner to the absurdly bizarre demands of her clients, notably a four-person “rondelay that Rube Goldberg in his most lecherous mood could hardly have invented... an outrageous metaphor for the mating of sex and capitalism: and it’s funny as hell besides” (Richard Corliss,TIME). Godard’s return to mainstream (for him) filmmaking, his self-described “second first film,” with technical innovation — freeze frames and slow-mo within continuing uncut shots — and the most startling and arbitrary of conclusions.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER- Fri Nov 12 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Part of a series of films at Midnight, chosen by IFC Center staffers. A bit of an offbeat choice compared to the other Midnight Movie possibilities. Therefore, I love the choice.

One of the better film noirs. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear. When I watched Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watching good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Sorry, sitting through his recent WW 2 film didn't thrill me at all.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton to never direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.

Tell me if there's interest. Later all.

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