Happy Festivus all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the rest of the year, and a few days into the new year. Originally I thought I would split the month up in thirds, but nothing jumped to mind before this coming weekend. And a packed two plus weeks we have, especially when you we get to December 22nd on. A few films conflict, but I don't worry about that. Here we go:
PURPLE RAIN- Fri Dec 17 and Sat Dec 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- It plays again at Midnight at IFC Center. For the rest, I'll repost what I wrote the last time I listed it:
"Pauline Kael once said in the late 60's that the time then was ripe to create more musicals with the present (then) rock stars like Janis Joplin. That's what made the musicals of the 30s, 40s and 50s successful: they were populated with the top recording artists of the day (Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Crosby et. al.). That's what the studios could do: setup a musical with one or many of today's contemporary recording artists."
I think that fits in the case of Once, where you had recording artists doing their songs. And it certainly applies to Prince with this film. Can't imagine a good actor from that period pulling off these kind of songs, no matter who wrote them. Not the greatest film ever made, and not what you call great acting by Prince. But with performances of songs like "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy" and the title track, the sleeper hit of the summer of 1984 literally rocks whenever the music comes up. Watch how Prince went from successful rock act to icon status. Granted, he would later throw it away with crap like "Under The Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge", change his name to a symbol with no real meaning, and basically become strange to the point of uninteresting. But watching and listening to him here, anything seemed possible back then. Prince did win an Oscar for music, in a category that no longer exists.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE- Sat Dec 18- Thurs Dec 23 at 7 and Sun Dec 26 at 3:55 and 7- with an introduction from Mary Owen on Sat Dec 18th at 7- IFC Center- Once again, IFC Center shows the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic for a week-plus run. It will be screened on its own, as opposed to what the theater usually does, which is to pair it with Bad Santa and charge separate admissions. It's only shown once or twice a year on NBC, and not much more after that, if at all. So if you're in the mood, here it is. I'm sorry that you don't get a little bell with the title of the film on it, like you do with the relatively recent DVD release, but how bad do you need to give out angel wings? Reed's daughter, Mary Owen, will introduce the 7pm screening on Saturday, December 18th.
THE IRON GIANT- Wed Dec 22, Thurs Dec 23, Sun Dec 26, Mon Dec 27 and Thurs Dec 28 at 1, 2:50, 4:40, 6:30, 8:20, and 10:10- Film Forum- A one week run in time for the holidays, posting the days where I'm probably available. Not all the times, but for the rest of you, I'll post all screening times, and I'll work with whoever says yes
Fans of RATATOUILLE and THE INCREDIBLES should not miss a screening of director Brad Bird's first film, THE IRON GIANT. Overlook for the moment the fact that it stars the voice "talents" of Jennifer Aniston and Vin Diesel. It is considered by some, with little hyperbole, the last great American 2-D animated film. Its wonderful visuals are backed by a wonderful story, and not a trace of Disney songs or schmaltz. Perhaps for this reason, it was a complete flop upon its release. The plot, in simplest terms, is: a 20-story robot teaches a little boy about love in the 50s during the height of the Red Scare. Elements of the Red Scare, beatniks and the need to conform are gently tweaked, but never interfere with the main, heartfelt story.
Back in the summer of 1999, it received a similar reception that Fantastic Mr. Fox received last holiday season. Critical raves, but no box office. In the case of Iron Giant, making less than half of what the South Park film made. And unlike Mr. Fox, where there were Animated Film Categories for some critics' groups to give it awards and the Academy gave it an Animated Film nomination, there was none of that for The Iron Giant. The best thing for Iron Giant, was director Bird working for Pixar. After the success of Bird's The Incredibles, there was a surge of interest for Iron Giant again, which reoccurred years later with the success of Bird's Ratatouille. If you've never seen it, this holiday season would be a good time.
DIE HARD- Sat Dec 25 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- I have no interest in doing this on Christmas Eve night, but Christmas Day Midnight? Now that's something else entirely. An offbeat choice for Christmas weekend, but since everything takes place on Christmas Eve, it fits. An off beat change of pace for Christmas, but one of the best action films of the past 25 years or so. Bruce Willis jumps from TV star to Superstar status with this film, as everyman cop John McClane, saving his wife and co-workers in a giant office tower, from the clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his machine gun toting cohorts. True, you might feel Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Hart Bochner slow down the fun a bit by playing variations of the American Asshole, but two out of three pay off.
Compared to a lot of action films made after say, True Lies, Die Hard looks better and better each year. CGI alone does not make an action film exciting or even interesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Transformers 1 and 2, just to pick on two films almost at random. Die Hard was just another above average hit from 1988. A little bigger in popularity than say, Beetlejuice, but not on the level of Crocodile Dundee 2. Home video and cable, plus the even bigger success of Die Hard 2, helped move Die Hard to the level of classic status. But if you're reading this, then you've probably only experienced this on TV. A large TV perhaps with an ok sound system, but not the big screen. If you're willing to end Christmas Day on a fun note, then let's do Die Hard.
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER - Mon Dec 27 at 4 and Wed Dec 29 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of a series of films that were restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation, founded in 1990 to provide money for film preservation and/or restoration. Everything screened are restored prints. Some of these I don't feel like making the time for, like The Big Country and The Boy with Green Hair. Some I've already done; specifically Once Upon a Time in the West and Paths of Glory, and if you haven't seen them, go. Some I have no time to catch and I wish I did, like Saboteur, Faces, and How Green Was My Valley. There's one, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, that I wouldn't mind catching, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't get anyone to go with me. I mean no one. Repeat, NO ONE, so I won't even put in the effort of writing up a post.
But here's one of the two I can catch as of this writing, Night of the Hunter. 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.
CLUNY BROWN- Mon Dec 27- Thurs Dec 30 at 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. One nice thing about the list for me, is taking a chance on something I'm not familiar. In this case Ernest Lubitsch (Ninotchka, To Be Or Not To Be)'s next to last film, Cluny Brown. It runs for a week, but I'm only posting what I think I might be able to catch. But as I said, I don't know Cluny Brown, and in this case, I don't know know it at all. But I am interested, so I'll have to cut and paste from the Forum's website, and use that to try to pitch you into catching this:
(1946) “Some people like to feed nuts to the squirrels. But if it makes you happy to feed squirrels to the nuts, who am I to say nuts to the squirrels?” In 1938, Charles Boyer’s single-suited anti-Hitler Czech refugee Adam Belinski philosophizes on squirrel management, charmingly sponges off total strangers, and walks unbidden into the rooms of young women at night for the most innocent of reasons. Plumber’s niece Cluny Brown — Jennifer Jones, fresh from the Wagnerian drama of Duel in the Sun — gets misty-eyed over stopped-up drains and ingenuously sits down for tea and crumpets with lord of the manor Reginald Owen (“So many of these foreigners have foreign names”) and wife — son Peter Lawford’s hatred of Hitler leads him to write a letter to The Times! — before they realize she’s the new chambermaid. But the butler and housekeeper, billing and cooing over their mutual appreciation of the class structure, soon put Cluny in her ever-elusive “place,” as supremely stuffy, nasally-challenged pharmacist Richard Haydn offers Cluny middle-class matrimony. One of Lubitsch’s wittiest, slyest, lightest and most likable films, the last he would complete.
BONJOUR TRISTESSE- Tues Dec 28 at 4 and Thurs Dec 30 at 6:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the series of films restored by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation, thus, we'll be seeing a restored print if we go. An Otto Preminger film I've never seen from beginning to end. David Niven and Jean Seberg play play self-interested father and daughter who vacation on the French Riviera with his girlfriend. An Oedipus attachment develops between parent and daughter, but things get worse when old girlfriend Deborah Kerr comes to visit. Liked what I saw on TCM, and wouldn't mind going at all. A bit Douglas Sirk-esque (not a word, bear with me), so you'll need to be ok with something that veers into soap opera territory in order to like it.
Basically, if you like the Tilda Swinton film I Am Love, you'll like this. Though I would argue that director Preminger has a surer, more confident hand here, and plays would could have been heavy handed, with shades of lightness that match the exquisite Rivieria locales.
ARMY OF SHADOWS- Wed Dec 29- Tues Jan 4 at 1, 3:45, 6:45 and 9:30- Film Forum- Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 film, in my personal top 100, gets a week long revival in the place that helped launch it into cult classic status back in May 2006. Like I've said in previous posts, this is a war film, about members of the French Resistance battling the Nazis and traitors within, shot through the filter of a film noir. Ordinary people facing huge odds to fight a better armed enemy. Where your allies in other countries are too busy dancing and enjoying pop culture, and don't have much faith in your Resistance cause. And why should they believe in your cause, if you yourself don't know if the next countryman you meet, will be helpful, sympathetic yet ineffective, or will sell you out? Starts strong, settles into a particular rhythm with subtle changes, and just when you've been lulled, wallops you in the end. The film will linger with you long after the end. Not available every day I've posted, but if there's interest, I think we can work something out. And if you've never seen it, jump at the chance now, whether I go with you or not.
Let me know if there's interest. See you in the new year. Later all.