Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with what revivals to catch for the second half of April. I managed to catch the free screening of The Birds at Huntington Cinema Arts Centre, where Tippi Hedren did a pre-film Q and A. Barely got in. Apparently the Cinema Arts Centre had planned to make tickets available when the box office first open that day, about 8-9 1/2 hours before the scheduled time. But my guess as to why this didn't happen? Somebody at TCM told them hell no, first come first served at the line, deal with it. So of course the Arts Centre was doing something they didn't want to do and barely seemed capable of handling: having a couple of hundred draped around adjoining buildings to for a sort of frenzy just like it seems to be done in Manhattan and elsewhere. So of course the locals are pissed "This isn't Manhattan, why is this happening?" and "Why isn't my membership being recognized?", were among the comments I heard on the line. My internal responses were: "Because TCM wants it to happen" and "The screening is free to first come first served, and this isn't the Arts Centre's screening so stop whining.".

But got in I did. Ben Mankiewicz (pushing too hard to be funny), was a last minute replacement host for the (presumably) Robert Osbourne. Though you probably can't tell from my lousy pictures. Curse me for forgetting my camera, forcing me to use my cell phone camera. Among the highlights of the Hedren Q and A:

-She was a model and single mother who moved from NYC to L.A., and almost regretted the move because of no work, until Hitchcock chose her basically because of seeing her in a commercial. He gave her a contract to be in his movies, and despite having zero experience in developing a character, she got the lead role in The Birds. Hitch like the idea of helping her become a better film actor. She was a blank slate who had nothing to unlearn.

-For her last major scene, trapped in the attic with attacking birds, Hitchcock told her how it would be mechanical birds for that scene. She found out it would be real birds when an assistant director, looking down and ashamed, quickly told her what was up minutes before coming to set, and ran off. Looking at the set, it was obvious to Tippi that Hitchcock lied, there was never any intent to have mechanical birds used.

-The scene was shot for 5 days. Birds going at her, thrown at her, attached to her costume so that they could attack easily. At one point, one of them scratched her cheek and nearly took out an eye. Cary Grant, visiting the set on the third day, called her the bravest woman he ever met. In the middle of the fifth day, after a take, she stepped off the set and had a big cry. She spent the weekend in the hospital for exhaustion.

-By the end of her next film with Hitch, Marnie, Tippi had already told him she would not sleep with him. Tippi feels he got his revenge by blackballing her. Pay her money per the contract she signed when cast in The Birds, tell directors who inquire that she's not available, to the point that it became almost impossible to resume work.

-She's not bitter about the experience, or of Hitchcock. If anything, she pities Hitch, for being such a miserable man.

There's more, but I forgot some of it, and some of it I don't to write up, because I want to get on with the list at some point. There was more about her Shambala Preserve, home to a large number of big cats, but it's better to post a link of the site so that you can see for yourself. I don't think I can do justice:

Now on with the list. Here we go:

MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE and IT'S A GIFT with The Dentist - Fri April 22 and Sat April 23 at 6:15 (Trapeze), 7:40 (Gift) and 9:30 (Trapeze)- with Fields' grandchildren introducing the 7:40 screening on the 22nd- Film Forum- The start of the Forum's W.C. Fields retrospective. Now despite how I write and what I write about about films, I don't profess to know all about them. There are holes in certain eras, most or whole careers of varying actors and directors. The career of W.C. Fields is one such chasm. Million Dollar Legs and David Copperfield, that's the list for me. This is one chasm I'd like to fix, and this would be a good start. Sorry that I'm only posting what I'm pretty sure I can catch as of this writing, but those are the rules around here.

Being screened for the first two days are Man on the Flying Trapeze (where Fields has unlikeable relatives except for his daughter, and one lie/excuse piles on top of another causes problems), It's A Gift (which features the famous scene of Fields trying to save his store from a blind customer) and The Dentist (the Forum says it'll be the unedited version, whatever that means). Don't worry about this being a long night; The Dentist is a 22 minute short, and both feature films are under 75 minutes. For the 7:40 screening of Trapeze on Friday April 22nd, Fields' grandchildren, Ronald J. Fields and Dr. Harriet Fields will introduce the screening:

CLUE- Fri April 22 and Sat April 23 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The 1985 comedy gets another midnight screening. This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good beginning, an extremely mixed middle and endings of varying quality. But I like it, no rational reason why. Though its cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean) sure helps. From director Jonathan Lynn of future My Cousin Vinny fame:

GIORGIO MORODER'S METROPOLIS- Thurs April 28 at 7 and 9- 92ndY Tribeca- The other film from the Giorgio Moroder retrospective, and I don't think I could come up with a film that was more divided if I tried. Unless I posted a late night screening of The Room. The divide there between those who consider The Room to be an awful film, and those who consider it a highly entertaining awful film, is wide indeed.

By the mid-late 80s, there was a few versions of Fritz Lang's Metropolis out there, all around 90 minutes or so, and each missing a ton of footage. In 1984, Moroder released his own cut of Metropolis. He supposedly found footage different from the other prints, but he also trimmed existing footage from his edit to make the picture run faster. 80-something minutes in length, some shots colorized or tinted, subtitles instead of title cards, and Moroder's own music running throughout. Some of it was his own score, and some of it were songs performed by acts such as Queen, Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Adam Ant, Loverboy and Bonnie Tyler.

Some critics like this version, Siskel and Ebert in particular. But even in his thumbs up review, Gene Siskel ripped the Moroder songs, calling the lyrics "stupid". And that, was the rallying point for those who hated this version. The best that can be said is that it introduced a generation from 1984 to about 1989 (when the last laserdisc version was released) to Fritz Lang's film. In my case it took Queen's song "Radio Ga-Ga", a top 5 hit that gave Queen American success after the Flash Gordon debacle, for me to even hear of Metropolis. The video contained clips of the Moroder cut.

The film is only officially available on VHS and laserdisc from the 80s, though you can find a bootleg of a "restored" DVD for around 11 dollars through either Ebay or Amazon. But due to laws surrounding copyright, public domain and/or perhaps pressure from Kino regarding distribution of Metropolis:The Complete Version, Moroder's cut can't get an official DVD release. The 92ndY Tribeca will give this version a rare 35mm screening. I'm not sure about it, but I'm willing to take a risk. Hope the print isn't too shoddy:

TOP GUN- Sat April 30 at 12:30 (maybe) and Mon May 2 at 7 (preferable)- AMC Empire, Loews 34th, Loews Lincoln Square, Loews Village 7, Bay Terrace in Bayside, Loews Nassau Multiplex in Levittown- plus in theaters in L.A., Miami, S.F., D.C., Pittsburgh, Columbus and elsewhere- In time for its 25th anniversary, Top Gun, like with recent screenings of Taxi Driver and Back To The Future, will have 2 screenings. And like the films I've just mentioned, it will be a digital screening with 5.1 Dolby Sound. Also like Taxi Driver and Back To The Future, it will play in select AMC theaters in New York, as well as a bunch in other cities, like L.A., Miami, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, D.C., Columbus and other cities. Check the AMC link under Top Gun listing to see if there's one near you.

Though I can't call Top Gun a great movie. I have some trouble calling it a good film. Not back in junior high, high school or early college, but now . . . . . But it is fun, and should be seen at least once. You might run far away afterwards, but see it once. You have fun action, zippy editing, a passable romance, an even better bro-mance, and lots of cool shots of F-16s flying around. It wasn't expected to be a big moneymaker for Paramount back in the summer of 1986. It needed to have major success, but it was expected to run second to say, Sylvester Stallone's Cobra. What's Cobra? EXACTLY! Top Gun dominated the 1986 box office, in perhaps the best year of box office Paramount ever had: few flops and lots of hits, including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Star Trek 4, Crocodile Dundee, Pretty In Pink, Children of a Lesser God, and Friday the 13th Part 6.

In the book The Man With The Golden Touch by Sinclair McKay, he describes the era of Top Gun as "a noisy period of yobbish right wing American swaggering". Well, it IS swaggering, it is noisy at times, and has been used a symbol of Reagan Americana that was acceptable by a mass audience. Not the whole story, but something you couldn't get away with making say, two years later. And let's face it, the story is familiar yet entertaining, and the dialogue goes back and forth from memorable, to crap, to both. And Tom Cruise's Maverick is an asshole. A swaggering asshole. But he's OUR ASSHOLE, and he helps us against them Russkie bastards! That is, if he didn't keep writing checks his body can't CASH!

Again, who cares? Cool planes, cool flying, and a good cast that includes Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Tom Skerritt. Michael Ironside, the bald guy from Back To The Future, Tim Robbins, Heroes' and Adrian Pasdar. But if you're like me, you'll wonder "Why is Meg Ryan in a small role, and not in Kelly McGillis' lead role?" Yes, Ryan was new, younger, and wasn't a lead in Oscar nominated films Reuben Reuben and Witness. Ryan steals the film wholesale in her few scenes, and it didn't take long to pass McGillis by.

Oh yeah, should I bring up the plot? Again, who cares?!?! Just go and have fun:

THE BANK DICK and NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK- Sat April 30th at 5:30 (Bank), 7 (Sucker) and 9:30 (Bank)- Film Forum- Part of the W.C. Fields retrospective. 2 more comedies that I'm not familiar with but would like to catch. The Bank Dick, where Fields is a drunk who accidentally stops a robbery, is made a guard at said bank AND THEN it ratchets up from there, and Never Give a Sucker An Even Break, where Fields arrives at Margaret Dumont's home (out of an airplane without a parachute!), and tries to get in with Dumont's virginal daughter. There's a lot more to both films, especially the more surreal Sucker. Both I'd rather not spoil for those who haven't seen them, let's just enjoy them:

Let me know ASAP. For those who wanted to hear specifically what Siskel and Ebert said about Moroder's version of Metropolis, as well as see a 30plus second clip of it, there's a link below for you to see that entire episode of Siskel and Ebert: At The Movies from the summer of 1984. 32 minutes in length, with a few commercials from that time. Plus a few films some of you might not have ever heard of, though I can only imagine posting The Bostonians on a future list. If it ever comes out of whatever vault its trapped in that is:

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