Saturday, February 26, 2011

Best of 2010

Hey all. Mike here with a list of my favorite films of 2010. A respectable year in film. It reminds me a little of 2006: fairly good in overall quality. It was a slog for the first half of last summer. Bad enough that Iron Man 2 was a disappointment, but even trailers for stuff like The A-Team, Jonah Hex, Killers and Sex and the City 2 all looked terrible. I really had to rely on indie films and revivals for the bulk of my cinematic entertainment.

Luckily, film quality picked up as the weather got colder. In the end, i came away feeling glad that my taste and Oscar choices veered so close together. Putting a list together, I realized I needed very little push from nominations or critics awards to see films that interested me. I had my top Seven decided by New Years weekend, the last 3 slots were the tough positions. Therefore, here are the three that didn't make the cut. All three had good to great acting, so I'll stick with the flaw that kept me from pushing it higher:

BLUE VALENTINE: Felt like the writers had a great feeling and connection to Ryan Gosling's character, but I question the writing of Michelle Williams' character. Not a small thing. Glad to see her nominated, and a very good debut for director Derek Cianfrance.

THE KING'S SPEECH: A good script, and an above average episode of Masterpiece Theater. But I feel there was 8 screenplays that were better, all on my top ten. At least seven of them feel like pieces of Cinema, not a filmed play. I feel that they can only be truly embraced on the big screen, so there's no room for The King's Speech.

THE FIGHTER: And if I'm going to nit pick The King's Speech as being an above average filmed play, a film with a somewhat weaker, more predictable script like The Fighter certainly won't get in. Plus, while I had no issues with Christian Bale's performance. I mean he's playing a crackhead, extreme subtlety doesn't cut. It's Melissa Leo's performance that I felt was too over the top and too jarring to deal with. But I'm not likely to forget that coven that comprised Mickey Ward's sisters. Scarred the living shit out of me . . . .

Now as for my top 10, the only studio films I feel bad about not catching in time, are animated ones. Specifically, How To Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, and Tangled. No time for Barney's Version as well. The only other aspect that I consider to be a hole in the list, is my not catching as many foreign films as I normally do. No time to catch up with say, Dogtooth, Carlos, Enter The Void, The Illusionist and The Secret In Their Eyes. Now on with the list. I'll try to keep the comments as brief as possible:

10) - GASLAND- A Facebook friend wrote this a while back:

Maybe it is time for all of us to peacefully relieve the power of our "elected" regulators and truly put our own government back in the hands of the people. After all, with all the ways people can communicate today and spread news, I believe We the People can regulate and be responsible for ourselves. We can be our own oversight.

A nice sentiment, but a sentiment that sounds ineffectual in the face of the world depicted in the documentary Gasland. We see areas effected by by the process of extracting natural gas called hydraulic fracturing, or Frakking. Or perhaps to be more accurate, the chemicals used in the Frakking process. No plant life or grass worth a damn. Brown water that someone might declare safe, but would never dare to drink. Natural gas coming through the water pipes, giving you flammable tap water. Wildlife unable to survive. Town after town, state after state, from Wyoming to Texas to most of the South (from Texas to a portion of Florida). You see so much of the same footage, you almost have to remind yourself that it's happening in a lot of different areas. The mass quantities of powerless individuals against what's happening to them made me angry.

And as for them getting help? Ha! A pittance of a settlement with non-disclosure all over it, while their kids and/or pets and/or themselves keep getting sicker. An EPA that can respond to government complaints, NOT civilian complaints. And that's assuming that the agency hasn't received further cuts of manpower, and that the area to be examined hasn't been blocked based on 2005 legislation. And now the Frakking method is waiting to be used in an area that effects, among other things and areas, a large portion of New York City's water supply?

A grassroots method against this seems to be going underway, so maybe that Facebook sentiment might fit after all. But is there enough time, and enough members in state and Federal government will to help? Gasland asks us to decide and then do something now. There are other high quality films out there, but few that got to me so viscerally. Currently on HBO On Demand, should be on DVD eventually.

9) KAWASAKI'S ROSE- A pleasant surprise for me. From director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky, this Czech film made to the short list for consideration by the Academy for Best Foreign Film, but didn't make the final cut. A drama, but not a dark, depressing one, and it could easily have gone down that ponderous road. A morally upright doctor, famous for speaking out against the Communists, is about to receive an important award. But on the eve of the ceremony, the man's bitter, jealous, son-in-law, reveals to all that the good doctor might have worked with the secret police decades earlier, to hurt a radical who's too close to the doctor's future wife. The revelation hits the family, and makes the dissident kicked out known again. But does it truly rip the family apart, or has the decades in-between allowed for the chance for forgiveness to occur? A little film that's practically unknown here and not on DVD as of this writing. But do try to keep an eye out for it on Netflix, IFC or Sundance channel.

8) ANOTHER YEAR- Again, another Mike Leigh film for me to enjoy. The simple story of a very happily married couple near retirement age, who seem to be surrounded by friend, who are crushed and devastated by age and life's disappointments. But is the couple really nice, or are they the living embodiment of passive aggression? It's as though they made sure to help their son be decent and dull (like them?), but they seem the type to see an alcoholic, figure out their problem, make fun of him (and her), and then pour the person more drinks. And don't forget, this is England, so you have the chance to see a lower class person looked down upon by a middle class person. Another ingredient to stir in this mess. Some may disagree with me, but I don't see this couple, played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, to be the nicest people in the film. Patient probably, human definetly, but nice? I don't know, but I don't see it as a detriment either.

A film that will only get better as one ages, or even more painful to watch, depending on one's direction in life. Uniformly good cast, with Lesley Manville straddling herself perfectly from one extreme emotional state to another. Her character may have a hot little spitfire in her day. But age, alcohol abuse, unfilled dreams, and no hope for love on her unsteady terms leaves her falling apart, and leaves us with a quiet, devastating ending. The best ending of all the films on this list.

7) TRUE GRIT- I read an article a little while back where Bill O'Reilly said that True Grit was a favorite of his. The original John Wayne version, not this, though O'Reilly didn't beat up the Coen bros. film by any means. And I won't attack his preference at all. There was obvious sentiment in his words which I would never attack, and it is a good film. But it was a little anachronistic then (jammed in-between The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy), and definitely by the time Unforgiven came along. This version of True Grit veers closer to the Unforgiven style of gritty/realistic with little sentiment, and the Coen Bros. pull off a successful western from start to finish. A finish that No country for Old Men failed to accomplish, but I'm griping again . . . .

I won't get into a Jeff Bridges/Wayne comparison, but Bridges pulls off his Rooster Cogburn with aplomb. but I am willing to compare Matt Damon's performance with Glen Campbell. Damon is an actor and he did his job well, did it spectacularly compared to non-actor Campbell. But newcomer Hailee Steinfeld carries the film, and this would have been a pale imitation of the Wayne version if she hadn't pulled it off. I just hope she beats Mellisa Leo's overrated performance in decent The Fighter. Plus Josh Brolin makes a great coward. Overall, it's nice to know that I don't have to borderline plead to catch up on a Western, the moviegoing public has done a fine job of that on their own.

6) TOY STORY 3- Someone I know was very pleasantly surprised to find out that that this film was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, and if the Academy had any guts, Toy Story 3 would win in both categories. My response: yes, a Pixar film should win both categories, but the Academy already had their chance with Wall-E and blew it. They should not do that with Toy Story 3.

That said, one of the best studio films of the summer of 2010, and the best of the series. Almost like a cinematic McDLT. They kept the comedy side funny, and the humanistic side emotional heartfelt and true. Though I suspect this film will last a lot longer than the McDonald's McDLT relic, call it a hunch. We don't a fourth film. Now that the toys are with a new family, the story of one boy's end of childhood, has both a satisfying conclusion, and hope for new generations to enjoy, that will probably play out better in our heads rather than in a fourth installment. Different children's film, but the sentiment is the same: Well done pig, well done.

But like I said in the previous paragraph, not the best studio film from last summer. To me, that title goes to . . .

5) INCEPTION- Sorry if this required massive usage of brain power to follow. Multi layers, different strands whose connections take a while to come together, with a bit of regret about of life not that different from what's brought up Another Year. All jumbled together and put through the filters of sci-fi and heist films. I won't pretend to have understood everything perfectly. The ending was one, where I thought one thing, and Christopher Nolan, Michael Caine and Inception's DP said something different. No matter, I won't pretend i get everything in say, Solaris or 2001, but that doesn't keep me from coming back for more. A less stilted performance from Ellen Page might have raised it a little higher, and I'm not sure how well this will play on tv. But keep it going Mr. Nolan, you're doing just fine. But try not to lose editor Lee Smith. His work and/or assistance (however the two of you work together) seem invaluable, based on how the last 40 minutes play.

4) THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF PHIL SPECTOR- The best documentary to be released in the U.S. this year and it couldn't get very far with Oscar voters for Best Doc? It was nice to see the good Exit Through The Gift Shop get acknowledged, but that slog of a Rorschach test called Restrepo gets through and Agony and Ecstasy doesn't?!?!? Unfortunate. Also the only film I saw twice in a theater if that means anything.

Consider this as a documentary musical. Interviewed at his home near the end of his first murder trial. Spector is given a wide berth and open forum, to discuss his past, his infamous wig (doing a tribute to Einstein and Ben Wallace at a murder trial? What the fuck . . . .), air his grievances (with Tony Bennett and Paul McCartney among others), and place himself among the greats, alongside Bach and Michelangelo.

Plus we get the glorious music. Songs that include Imagine, The Long and Winding Road, My Sweet Lord, And Then He Kissed Me, and television/concert performances of To Know Him Is To Love Him, Da Doo Ron Ron, You've Lost That Lovin Feeling and (my favorite) Ike & Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High. All played in their entirety to get full appreciation of the work.

Most of the time however, the songs are used in a way that we get an idea of Spector's famous Wall of Sound. Edited in with portions of the news coverage of the first murder trial, and the actual trial itself. Forensic demonstrations, testimony, shots of the preening ADA and the judge with a little bit of Judge Ito in him, opening and closing arguments. No one gets names. The Judge. The District Attorney. The Girlfriends, who all inevitably testified how Spector would at some point, put a gun to their heads. The victim however, does get a name, Lana Clarkson. Spector never talks about her, but we see and hear her. We see pictures, and clips of her work, including her heartbreakingly mediocre audition reel. Plus shots of her from security cameras when she meets then leaves with Spector, as well as crime scene photos and post-mordem shots.

But its Spector's show. He gets the chance to explain himself as much as he wants. I came away fascinated at this musically talented, bitter, funny, damaged beyond hope, man. It's possible and I feel its ok to come away from this picture, exhilarated by the music, and stunned by this person. If it ever makes its way on to DVD, or to say, BBC-America, IFC, or Sundance, stop everything and watch it or record it for later viewing. You won't regret it.

3) A PROPHET- One of last year's Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. One of the best fictional crime films in quite a while. French film that fans of the HBO series Oz might find a little familiar, and hopefully that makes it accessible for them. An 18 year old Arabic-French boy, with no obvious family and useless legal aid, is moved on his birthday, to a maximum security prison to serve several more years there. Like Carey Mulligan's character for which she received an Oscar nomination, Tahar Rahim's character gets an education, though this education he must accept or else it's likely death. But unlike Patrick McGoohan's line in Escape From Alcatraz "we don't make good citizens, but we make good prisoners", Rahim's character is in a prison where he learns to become a master criminal, in part from a Corsican mentor (the excellent Niels Arestrup). We don't know what he did to get in the prison system, but it probably wasn't as bad or as brutal as he'll be capable of doing once he gets out.

You don't have to look at director/co-writer Jacques Audiard well done film strictly as a prison film. It doesn't spend all its screen time inside prison walls after all. When it goes outside, as our anti-hero receives more tasks and responsibility to carry out during his day passes, it expands his horizons, his wants, and his capacity to engage in more dangerous liaisons. You can almost view this akin to a superheros origin story. Except here, we're talking about the development of a young, Arabic-French, Michael Corleone-type.

Supposedly, this is part of a kind of French film phenomenon known as "New French Extremity". In a handheld, quasi-documentary style with sharp editing, we the viewer will feel what it's like in prison. How in its way, it's about as corrupt as anywhere else in French society. We almost feel like we're there when the young man gets his beatings, makes his first kill (not easy and not without cost), and when this young man is ready to get out of prison, and take whatever he wants. 6 years of his life in 2 and a half hours, and you barely even notice the time. Not subtle, but its cinema, and that's good enough for me.

2) THE SOCIAL NETWORK- Boy could this film have been pretty damn dull. Luckily, this potential snoozer of a talkfest moves at lightning speed. I get the feeling director David Fincher studied, or at least knew like the back of his hand, Sidney Lumet films like 12 Angry Men and (especially) Network. With a brilliant script, like the one he has from Aaron Sorkin (NICE re-working of Rashomon!), tight editing (I'm stunned if this loses Best Editing to King's Speech), and a good cast (no more goofing on Justin Timberlake until further notice!), I've got my new favorite Fincher film, surpassing Zodiac. And sorry Mr. Zuckerberg, I don't believe you. While there is some notable changes from fact to fiction, like some particular female names or the amount of Asian girlfriends around, I'm not buying your line about the only thing they got right was the shoes. Ok, so you probably don't have Arsberger Syndrome, based on the way Jesse Eisenberg plays you. But too many scenes with lawyers and statements being taken down for me to believe otherwise. But that doesn't mean you have to stay this person forever. The Social Network doesn't have to be your Citizen Kane. Let's see what happens as you get older. You just might age as well as this probable classic will.

1) BLACK SWAN- There's only one film like The Turning Point. A film where a ballerina can have neuroses, yet not have them hinder her career or personal life to the point of permanent damage. A film where the dancer doesn't have to go bat-shit nuts. The only other notable ballet film before this year was the Red Shoes, and well, throwing yourself onto train tracks doesn't exactly scream sane. But now we have Black Swan, the first horror ballet film, though the horror veers more to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane territory than say, Saw. I couldn't help but think of Fight Club on occasion, but I'm grateful Darren Aronofsky's film-making skill allowed me to forget that after a while.

Two sayings I've heard from the past came to mind while watching this. One, about how girls are generally more mature than boys, and mature at a faster rate. Two, about the old Jesuit statement, about how you give the Jesuits your child for the first seven years of his/her life, and you can have them for the rest. Meaning a strong value system will be there and will never be broken. Well in the world of Black Swan, put that girl in dance class, and you can grind the maturation process to a complete halt. And any Jesuit-type moral installation can be pushed aside, when you can have a dance master with complete control over young girls careers.

Having been around ballet a little bit gave me a positive bias toward Black Swan going in. Had a feeling of authenticity to it. A world not dissimilar to the real world; where if a dancer's tutu has fungus on it, a knife will be used to scrape it off and dancer receives said tutu that very night. A world where some troll from the New York Times can basically call the Sugar Plum Fairy fat, just because she has the audacity to weigh more than 115 lbs. The world felt real enough to support the dark fantasy (or not?) world that Black Swan throws us in. The world feels even more real with Vincent Cassel almost embodying a manipulative George Balanchine- genius/bastard type. Flawless acting, just enough credible dancing, and a script that forced you to think and pay very close attention to. Three great components to the best film of 2010.

Curious about any feedback. Later all.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February revivals: second half

Hi, Mike here with revival options to catch for the rest of February. A small list with a couple of repeats to start, but it's a list I feel real good about. Again, I'll try to keep the descriptions brief, and include a link to the website of wherever it's playing. Here we go:

JAWS- Fri Feb 18 and Sun Feb 20 at Midnight- IFC Center- A midnight screening of this classic, on all 3 nights of Presidents Weekend. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. More like in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby.)

THE GODFATHER- Sun Feb 20 at 8:20- Film Forum- Part of the Al Pacino films of the 1970s retrospective. One of the greats. Winner of 3 key Oscars: Picture, Screenplay Adaptation for Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo and Marlon Brando for Actor. No need to mention the Oscar controversy in this list about Brando that night. No need to mention its high place on both AFI lists. No need to mention its place in my personal top 35 (pretty high, yet not as high as Godfather 2). Just need to say; unless you're over the age of 46, you saw its brief re-release in 1997 or saw a crappy print when it's played at Midnight at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, you've only seen this on tv. Maybe you saw it's brief run at the Forum or the Ziegfeld back in the fall of 2008 in its restored print. But there are plenty of you out there who have no clue about the immersing power of this terrific film. Now is a great time to correct this:

DOG DAY AFTERNOON- Tues Feb 22 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- Part of the Pacino films of the 70s retro. A Sidney Lumet classic. One of the great New York City films, and one of the great heist films, and based on a true story. A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus. A quintessential New York film that couldn't be made outside the 70's. 6 nominations, including Pacino, Lumet and Picture; an Oscar for Screenplay. "ATTICA! ATTICA!".

ALICE'S RESTAURANT- Mon Feb 28 at 8 with an introduction from Craig Lucas- IFC Center- Part of a series of films where Gay and Lesbian artists talk about the films that heavily influenced them. In the case of playwright Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, The Light in the Piazza), it was Alice's Restaurant, from director Arthur Penn (Oscar nominated for this). Not a hit film when compared to Penn's previous picture, Bonnie and Clyde, but for those who weren't around when this came out, consider it a forgotten gem. It doesn't play out Arlo Guthrie's classic song, but is more inspired by it. Depicts the end of the hippie lifestyle/ free love movement, like with Gimmie Shelter. But unlike that documentary, there's no brutal sorrow here. More of a wistful sadness, with a somewhat ambiguous ending. Lucas will introduce the film, but I have no idea if he'll discuss it post-screening:

Let me know if there's any interest. And if you like to see me and hear me, you can find me on-stage in Amateurs, starting Saturday Feb. 19 for 3 weekends. Go to for details and reservation information. Ask me film stuff afterwards if you like. I don't promise enlightened answers, but I do promise responses. Later all.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Oscar catch up and other flicks

Hey all. Mike here with films to catch up with. Instead of revivals, here's a handy list of Oscar nominees and films that either would fit well on a best of 2010 list or helped make 2010 a better than average year in film. The films are broken up in 5 categories: major Oscar nominees in theaters, major nominees on DVD/pay per view/On Demand, minor Oscar nominees in theaters, minor nominees on DVD/pay per view/On Demand, and a few others.

Major nominees to catch up with at a theater: BLACK SWAN, TRUE GRIT, THE KING'S SPEECH,

127 HOURS (Director Danny Boyle pulls out the cinematic bag of tricks, to make an interesting 90 or so minute film about a guy trapped for 127 hours and had to cut off his arm to survive. Seriously, a guy trapped by a rock for over 75 minutes, not an easy task to pull off in an interesting way, and Boyle does it. Without a strong lead from James Franco, who cares. We care. And don't worry too much about being queasy about the arm scene. In the end, you do realize Franco himself has two good working arms, right? He's not really cutting off his own arm, you do GET THAT?!?!?),


BIUTIFUL, RABBIT HOLE (Not looking forward to tackling these spinach films. "Come watch these. They're good for you. They're good for your soul!)

Major nominees to catch up with on DVD or pay per view: INCEPTION, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, TOY STORY 3, GAS LAND,

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (above average family dramedy with good acting. There are much better films this year however, so it's not ending up on my top 10. Was just fine with the script and acting nominations it received, wasn't annoyed by it's Best Picture nomination. Though I will say, if Annette Bening wins Best Actress over Natalie Portman for Black Swan, I'm ok with it because I've always liked Bening, but I also recognize it as career achievement, NOT the best of 2010.),

WINTER'S BONE (good modern noir, where even someplace far from a major city, the idea of never snitch is alive and well. Great to see Jennifer Lawrence get acknowledged, and happy to see John Hawkes not get lost in the shuffle for Supporting Actor. Again, better films this year, so Oscar and I disagree yet again, go figure . . . . ),

THE TOWN (Feels like I've been down the road before with The Departed, Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, and it suffers a little by comparison. Not buying the attempted romance with Rebecca Hall either. When we get to the third heist, I also felt a little action fatigue instead of complete tension. But some good action scenes otherwise, and having the law, in the form of Jon Hamm, be a jerk, is a nice change of pace. Loved Jeremy Renner running hog wild in the film, as a variation of de Niro's character from Mean Streets, only more violent with mad skills with automatic weaponry).



UNSTOPPABLE (comes out on DVD February 15.),

TRON: LEGACY (Best way to see this was on a real 3D IMAX screen, like at the Lincoln Square theater in Manhattan, not the smaller fake-ish ones that have been opening up for awhile. Still it helps if you were a big fan of the 1982 original, though it would also give you this question: how do you do a sequel to Tron and barely have the Tron character there at all? Good music and even better visuals. Garret Hedlund looks good and moves well, but doesn't seem to have a lot of range. Luckily we had Jeff Bridges in two major roles, and Olivia Wilde, James Frain and Michael Sheen provide good cover support. And no, I was not freaked out or annoyed by the CGI done to Bridges' face in his second role. So what in this case if it looks a little fake? Bridges wasn't playing a human, why can't he look humanoid and yet inhuman. Too much thinking in a Tron film, people.),

COUNTRY STRONG (Gwyneth annoys me, and I just wrote above about Hedlund's questionable range. So I'm suppose to watch this film where they are the leads? Why? Are you providing me with the eyelid clamps like in A Clockwork Orange, because that's the only way short of paying me, that I will watch this in a theater.).

Minor nominees to catch up with on DVD or pay per view: ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Mia Wasikowska's performance allowed me to hang in there through Tim Burton's weakest film that didn't feature apes. The interesting visuals could only cover the dull script for so long. I felt Crispin Glover was a more effective villain than Helena Bonham Carter's Red Queen, and by the time we got Anne Hathaway's ultra-bland White Queen, I no longer cared. I'm grateful I didn't waste money on 3-D since it wasn't shot that way. Nice Cheshire Cat though.),

I AM LOVE- (Similar to the Louis Malle film Damage, with a bit of Dynasty and more than a little Italian flavor to it. Having a liking for soap opera helps. Wonderful Tilda Swinton performance, as a Russian woman who's had a good life in her Italian family, but not necessarily a happy one. Until her passions are stoked by her son's friend. As strictly an English speaker, I had no problem with her performance, as opposed to online native Italian speakers who had major issues with the phonetics of her speech. Since I'm not about to learn Italian for the sake of bloggers, I'll just give it a thumbs up. Yes, I realize this is a case of glass houses here, but I can live with that.


IRON MAN 2 (Good to see Mickey Rourke and Sam Rockwell have fun as villains. But six or seven different story lines slapped together is not a joy to watch. Passable time killer, but that's if you enjoy the characters from the comics and/or Downey Jr. Otherwise a major disappointment compared to the first film. Marvel might have made a mint, but they dropped the ball with this film.).

And now, some others that should be caught up with:

THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES- (Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year.),

A PROPHET- (Foreign Language Film nominee),

THE AGONY AND ECSTASY OF PHIL SPECTOR (no idea when this will hit DVD),


THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Very good thriller, the pieces hold together quite well. Good performance from Michael Nyqvist, but the standout is both the creation of Lisbeth Salander, and Noomi Rapace's performance. I was truly disappointed, though not surprised, that Rapace's performance wasn't Oscar nominated. Overall, Fincher has a good enough story that would be hard to screw up, but how will the remake hold up when there's even less suspense the second time on screen will be interesting. Affection for the lead characters/actors is almost all that carried me through the two sequels. For the die hards who are willing to experience disappointment, just to see characters they've bonded with.),

WAITING FOR SUPERMAN (Deserves to be seen just for the discussion it will provoke after. And anything that prefers to side with parents and students, as opposed to say, Randi Weingarten can't be all bad. Comes out on DVD on February 15.),

THE EXPENDABLES (Check your brain at the door and have fun with the personalities, and all the things that go boom. Though for action films, I prefer the next picture.),

RED (The casting of Bruce Willis aside, it violates Schwarzenegger's edict that all action films where the man is the lead, must have physical imposing leads. By that standard, Jaws shouldn't exist, so fuck him. Fun film, though I should say John Malkovich is truly believable as a man who ingested LSD everyday for 9 years. Scary fun believable.),

JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (A helluva survivor in show business. This documentary subject doesn't ask for or expect pity or perhaps even empathy; but definitely wants a chance to make you laugh. You get to know your subject, and you stay interested. And you laugh too. Good job.),

MOTHER (2009 South Korean film, released earlier in the year. Not to be confused with the Albert Brooks film from the 90s I believe.),

BLUE BEARD (French version. Interesting re-telling from director Catherine Breillat, with good performances from then 15 year old Lola Creton and from {5? 6} year old Marilou Lopes-Benites as the winsome narrator. An little gem to find in Netflix, but NOT for kids.),

SHUTTER ISLAND (Yes, good art direction and score here. BUT, you either feel the journey of the film is worth taking, or you feel the ending jerks you around and you'll feel like your time has been wasted. No in-between. I understand if you lean toward the later, but I felt the trip was worth. Seriously, you need to be spoon fed every answer? Walk away from this film then.),

AJAMI- (2010 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film, and a good one. You could whittle it down as Crash meets Rashomon, but that isn't an insult. 5 different stories that show how life is in the mixed community of Christians, Jews and Muslims in Tel Aviv. Not a happy drama, but a good one.)

Enough for now. The picture of the Oscar by the way was one of the Oscars awarded to Casablanca for Best Picture, that was part of a tour sponsored by TCM of Hollywood memorabilia. Caught it at Grand Central Station back in October. Later all.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Feb revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals to catch for the first half of February. One correction from the last post. I did catch one more revival in 2010-11 than I did in 2009-10. I forgot to post The Great Dictator, from the Chaplin retrospective done last summer at the Forum. It slipped my mind until I spotted a documentary about Hitler and the film late on February 1st, followed by a screening of Great Dictator. It might be a little hard to watch the very first time on tv, but once you know it, it's easy to like. I real feel foolish for forgetting it. Anyway, moving on to this list, again keeping the descriptions as minimal as possible, followed by a link to whatever place is screening the films:

HARLAN COUNTY, U.S.A. and/or THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK- for free, subject to ticket availability- Fri Feb 4 at 4:30 (Harlan) and 8 (Milk)- MOMA- 2 films, both Oscar winners for Best Documentary, both free, subject to ticket availability.

First, Harlan County, U.S.A. , an Oscar winner in 1977. You can see this for 16 dollars on March 15 at 8 at IFC Center. But if you don't want to pay anything and can get out of work a little early, here's a free option. The documentary covers the 13 month coal miner strike, at times violent, in a small Eastern Kentucky town against the Eastover Mining Company. To quote the old description from the late Two Boots Pioneer website:

The story focuses on the miners and their families’ fight for decent living standards in an area where many still live in shacks with no indoor plumbing and work at jobs with little security and dangerous conditions. The film was named by Congress to the National Film Registry, designating it an "official" American film classic.

Next, The Times of Harvey Milk, one of the best films of 1984, and winner of the Best Documentary Oscar in 1985. If you know the movie Milk, here's the film that once you see this, you'd think Gus van Sant and all involved were playing this documentary on a running loop while preparing and filming. Archival footage and interviews give us an idea of the man. The picture covers his and Mayor George Moscone's assassination by Dan White, the murder trial, and the reaction to both, the Twinkie Defense, and the light sentence. Harvey Fierstein narrates:

THE BIG HEAT- Fri Feb 2 and Tues Feb 6 at 7:30 and 9:20- This film helped start the Forum's Fritz Lang retrospective, The Big Heat, was apparently such a big hit, that the Forum is giving the picture its own one week run. Glenn Ford plays an honest cop, hell bent on revenge after a gangster he's after kills his wife. Lee Marvin plays memorable mob muscle, but Gloria Grahme is the standout, almost in her own movie, as the scarred gun moll, who one might argue, is going down a darker path than Ford's:

THE AFRICAN QUEEN- Fri Feb 11 and Sat Feb 12 at 1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40, Sun Feb 13 at 7:30, and Mon Feb 14 at 3:10, 5:20 and 7:30- The Friday Feb 11 7:30 screening features an intro by Stefan Kanfer , author of Tough Without A Gun: : The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart, with a book signing after- Film Forum- A new 35mm restoration. The years it took to restore the classic Bogart-Hepburn-Huston film is almost legendary at this point, what with its original negatives shrunk and permanently damaged. Now, it looks better than it has in decades and it gets a one week run.
Filmed on location in the Belgian Congo, this romantic adventure film set a new standard for the genre, thanks to the powerful chemistry Huston drew from his stars. An AFI Top 100 film. Nominations for Picture, Hepburn and Screenplay, but an Oscar for Bogie. It's been considered partly (or mostly) for career achievment, considering Montgomery Clift was up for A Place in the Sun, and oh yeah, Brando for Streetcar. But considering he had only been nominated once at that time (for Casablanca) how upset could one be? 

A smaller list than usual, the next list or two might be that small or even smaller, we'll see. Later all.