Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May revivals: Memorial Day weekend

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals to catch for the Memorial Day weekend. Normally, I only put a list together with the knowledge that's there's a better then 50/50 chance that I can make these screenings, barring those that conflict of course. But as of this writing, I still have no clue what I'll be doing for the rest of May, so I might as well post what I'm interested in, and see what happens. I'm not thrilled with the method of throw whatever on the wall and see what sticks, but I have little time to fret. We'll start with the Thursday before the weekend, a cheat but what the hell:

JESUS CHRIST: SUPERSTAR (with Q & A with Norman Jewison and Andre Previn) and/or THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (Introduced by Jewison and Robert Osbourne)- each for 9 dollars- Thurs May 26 at 6 (Superstar) or 8:45 (Russians)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Norman Jewison retrospective. Similar to Sidney Lumet in that he doesn't have a distinct visual style, but with an impressive body of work nevertheless. From time to time, this Canadian director has been curious about the state of race relations in America before during and after the Civil Rights Movement. Making films the like of In The Heat of the Night, The Landlord (which he helped make though didn't direct), A Solider's Story and The Hurricane, with Hollywood studio money makes him standout I guess.

Sorry that I won't have the time for Heat of, Moonstruck, or Fiddler on the Roof. I've previously done revival screenings of The Thomas Crown Affair and Landlord so I'm not planning on do that again right now. I also can't work up any major interest in And Justice For All and Agnes of God, not at all. But that still leaves us with some choice selections. All screenings are 9 dollars, and all of the ones I'm posting here will have either a pre-film introduction or a post film Q and A.

First, Jesus Christ Superstar. For once, it's not being relegated to Midnight, but a reasonable 6pm screening. Now, is this film an underrated gem, or noble failure? I can't help you, because despite seeing this once on Cinemax, I'm not sure. From 1973, but still with a bit of 60s glow to it, a group of hippie actors bus out to the middle of nowhere (great use of mostly Israeli locales), ready to play out the last whatever number days in the life of Jesus.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn't exactly pleased with the final cut, and from what I can tell, critical and audience reaction were mixed. Musical fans have been much kinder to it in later years. I guess the older people back in 73 didn't like it or refused to go, and the younger ones, as they got older and had more say in terms of media and so forth, spread the film's virtues. I wouldn't say this has a cult following, but its close. For me, it's a mixed bag. Up and down for the majority of the film, not happy with anything involving King Herrod. But they have a great Judas in Carl Anderson, and the last 20 or so minutes is a triumph of music, cinematography, performance, choreography and editing. So in the end, you'll have to decide if this is worth the risk. But if you take the risk, I'll be right there with you if you like. After the screening, director Jewison and the film's conductor Andre Previn (Oscar nominated alongside Webber for their work) will take part in a Jesus Christ Superstar Q & A.

Next, The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming, a gentle, at times hysterical, satire from 1966. Most of Jewison's film work from the 1960s were comedies, and except for Send Me No Flowers (for Rock Hudson/ Doris Day fans), this is the only one worth paying attention to. A Russian Captain (Theodore Bikel) accidentally runs his submarine aground off the coast of a small New England town. Trying to avoid any possibility of World War 3, the Captain orders a small party to sneak into town to find stuff to get them free. The people they run into range from nervously helpful (Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint), to bumbling incompetent (Jonathan Winters) to blustery fear-mongering (Paul Ford). The misunderstandings start piling up and then, well, see the film yourself.

One of the few films at the time not to depict Russians as evil bad guys, and was a big hit on both sides of the Iron Curtain (when it could be show over there). Oscar nominations for Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing for Hal Ashby. Also a Best Actor nomination for Alan Arkin, as the Russian Second-in Command/ head of the Landing Party/ one of the few sane people in the whole film. It was his first major film role, and Russians' success launched his career.

This screening will be introduced by director Jewison and TCM's Robert Osbourne. I don't know if this will be a simple 5-8 minute intro/set-up of the film, or a lengthy 20-30 min Q and A, like what Osbourne did with Angela Lansbury a few weeks back for The Manchurian Candidate, but we'll see. 9 dollars for either film, 18 dollars for both:

THE CINCINNATI KID (with Q & A with Norman Jewison) and/or ROLLERBALL (1975; with Q and A with Jewison and Sony Pictures Classics President Michael Barker)-Sat May 28 at 3 (Kid) or 8:30 (Rollerball)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- More from the Norman Jewison retro. 2 films where I can, in theory, either catch 1 or both, and I have no clue which as of this writing. Rather than try to choose, I'll post both and see what happens. Both films are 9 dollars each.

First, The Cincinnati Kid, from 1965. Jewison got the chance to break away from comedy, to do this drama, which is basically a redux of The Hustler. Not on the same as the Paul Newman classic, but worth seeing. Young cocky poker player, with a slimy manager and a "good" girlfriend, tries to prove he's the best, against a legendary veteran. Instead of slimy George C. Scott, we have slimy yet complex Karl Malden. Instead of one main woman, we have two: the good girl played by Tuesday Weld, and the very naughty woman, played by Ann-Margaret. Instead of Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, we get a cool steely Edward G. Robinson. And speaking of cool, we get Steve McQueen in the lead. More than just a handsome face, he showed he had the chops to play off against actors of Robinson's and Malden's caliber. Remember folks, movie acting is always emotive.

Good sense of period (early 1930s New Orleans), tight editing from Hal Ashby, and a nice, slowly creeping claustrophobic feeling as the main game takes place. Great support from Rip Torn, Joan Blondell, Jeff Corey and Cab Calloway, and a good score from Lalo Schifrin (Dirty Harry, Mission: Impossible theme). Jewison himself will do a post-film Q and A.

Next, the original Rollerball from 1975. Another of those dystopian sci-fi films that go right along with the likes of Soylent Green, A Clockwork Orange, Brazil and Wall-E. Considered a little cheesy then and now. Ripped back then for its amount of violence. But it's doesn't feel as violent today, maybe in part because you can file this version of Rollerball alongside say, Unforgiven, under "violence with consequences". As in, there's a point to it and it isn't a cartoon, there are consequences.

James Caan basically plays a Brett Farve of the future (2018). It looks a little cheesy because of the 70s style fashion that hasn't aged, but otherwise, it doesn't feel that far off from a possible future today. Corporations run the world, nations are figureheads at best, about as powerful as the Royal Family. The violent sport of Rollerball, a cross of Roller Derby, Hockey, and WWE except with an acceptable injury/ mortality rate, is the corporate gift to the world. A way to "solve issues" between company-nations, and a sort of Circus Maximus to keep the population quiet. If the ruler of Metropolis gave the people Rollerball instead of a robot, maybe he would ran his utopia longer. No, I didn't give that last sentence much thought, why do you ask? . . . .

Caan is the best player in the game, despite being the age where most players walk away or have long been knocked out. John Houseman is his owner who tries to coax him into retirement. Because as long as Caan keeps playing, he's an individual who stands out among large sections of group think, which is intolerable. Caan's character isn't thinking that. He's not political. He thinks of himself only as a jock who likes his job, the locker room, and his lifestyle, except for the time when he had his wife taken away because some other corporate type wanted her and could just take her. But otherwise, Caan's character is ok with his life, but that's just too bad. If he won't leave on his own, then the world CEOs will have to change the rules, allowing Rollerball to become more and more brutal. Something has to give . . . .

Ok, if some people think of Rollerball has subtle as a brick, or a noble failure, I won't fight you. It has flaws. Runs too long. The Rollerball game is fairly well spelled out, but other aspects are not. Parts of the 1970s that made it into Rollerball's near-future world haven't aged well, with the computers and the sharp collars and jump suits coming immediately to mind. Though most of the performances, but Caan's in particular, are generally show don't tell, making the viewer work a little. That aspect has certainly aged well. But the story seems to have done an interesting job of predicting life today. One aspect is the idea of the history of world kept on computer, with Ralph Richardson playing a sort of History Custodian. Apparently, history is very easy to erase and change in the film, and hopefully the idea of Wikipedia controlling what history is without dissent should make you uncomfortable. And as for Rollerball's world run by corporations, are we truly that far off?

Like I said, a little heavy-handed, but the ideas last after the film ends. And if you like say, Gladiator, the actual Rollerball scenes have an effective Gladitorial feel, that becomes more effectively brutal as the film progresses. With a great centerpiece performance from Caan, we have another film in Norman Jewison's career that deserves more props than it gets. Hope you can catch it. At the screening, Jewison will discuss the film and United Artisits, the studio that made Rollerball, with Sony Pictures Classics President Michael Barker, who got his start with the studio. No idea if this conversation will be pre-film or post-film:

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS- Sat May 28 and Sun May 29 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Girl with a Gun at Midnight series. A stretch for me in the sense that while the scene where Jodie Foster is holding then firing her gun is key, it's not like there's no film without holding a gun of some sort in order to do the job. But any excuse to screen Silence of the Lambs is fine by me.

This wasn't the first Hannibal Lecter film, but the underrated Manhunter went ignored about 4 1/2 years prior to Lambs. This, combined with the lack of box office names in Foster (despite having an Oscar to her name), Anthony Hopkins, and director Jonathan Demme, was probably why Orion Pictures made this a February dump (on Valentine's Day no less!). But great reviews, and huge word of mouth, helped give the soon-to-be bankrupt Orion one of its biggest hits and an almost instant classic. Amazing source (Thomas Harris' novel) probably helped. Oscars for Picture, Hopkins for Actor (who was thrilled he never had to work in theatre again thanks to Lecter), Foster for Actress, Demme for Director and Ted Tally's excellent script, plus nominations for Editing and Sound. On both AFI Top 100 lists.

I'm not going to break down the story of this classic in the horror and thriller genres. If you look at this list at all, then you know what Silence of The Lambs is, its virtues, and you really like it. Unless you're like this Queens girl I know who thinks Citizen Kane is overrated; oh please, snap out of it wench. I will say that you probably have seen this a ton of times on VHS, DVD, and cable, but have never seen it on the big screen. Or if you did, maybe back in 1991 or 92, or possibly a midnight screening like this one at IFC Center. Sorry to say, I never see Lambs available for viewing in a theater unless it's at Midnight. Sorry that this is the case here, but at least it's on Memorial Day weekend, so maybe getting up for work won't be a major issue:

But if you don't want to something so heavy as Midnight screening, there's always . . .

TRON- Sat May 28 and Sun May 29 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Now here's some 80s throwback fun. A midnight screening of the 1982 Disney film that was a disappointment at the box office, but has a cult following so strong, we ended up with Tron:Legacy. This is literally the kind of film that gets screened either at 11AM or Noon for families, or Midnight, rarely any in-between. A lot of hype for the film, but the video game was/is a bigger hit. But it is fun, and for its time, it's look was a singular standout.

The story, eh, whatever. Jeff Bridges had his game designs stole, and gets sucked into whatever early-80s-form-of-the-internet world by the evil MCP (Master Control Program) He gets all Spartacus, freeing a few other programs (including the title character/program), and works on a rebellion against the MCP and his henchman (a wonderfully evil David Warner).

Oscar nominations for Costume Design and Sound, but not for Visual Effects, because the Academy said using computers to create visual effects was "cheating". I kid you not. But the look of the computer world, which was shot in black and white then colorized either via rotoscope or early photo-shopping techniques, alongside disc fights and light cycle scenes, are the most fun elements that still hold up. It's also fun to see a lot of The Dude in Jeff Bridges' character. And frankly, sometimes you don't need that much more for a Midnight movie. And because this falls on Memorial Day weekend, this too can be seen on a Sunday night as well.

A SOLIDER'S STORY introduced by Norman Jewison- Sun May 29 at 9:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The last of the Norman Jewison retro that I can make or have interest in (sorry to the merely passable And Justice For All). After Jewison was discharged from the Royal Navy post World War 2, he took a tour of the U.S. South, and witnessing segregation shook him up big time. Once his big screen directing career took off, he has tended to make films with some kind of political and/or social axe to grind. Not saying all all these films are heavy handed, but they have an emotional connection for Jewison. Remembering what he saw as a young man must have influenced his tackling A Solider's Story, adapting Charles Fuller's Pulitzer Prize winning play "A Solider's Play", to the big screen.

Howard E. Rollins plays a military lawyer, sent to investigate the murder of a black Master Sargent of an all black platoon, just outside an Army base during World War 2. He starts sifting through the obvious possibilities/suspects, like the Klan and white officers, and discovers there are plenty of suspects in the Master Sargent's own platoon. Most of the platoon was belittled and attacked, especially if they seemed overly jovial or uneducated. The lawyer must find who did, before the platoon and most of the on-base suspects, ship out to the European Theatre. And since the base is in a small Louisiana town during Segregation, there's only so far this lawyer can go, even if he is a Captain.

The filter of the procedural, gives us an interesting intro to a slice of American life and history. Even with a low budget, time and place is well captured, to the point that Herbie Hancock's electronic sounding score actually enhances, not distracts. A cast of somewhat unknowns (including Denzel Washington in his second film role) is uniformly excellent. As far as I'm concerned, A Solider's Story is the best film of 1984. I've generally taken grief for placing this ahead of say, Amadeus, This Is Spinal Tap and The Killing Fields. I'm willing to hear arguments regarding Spinal Tap, but I doubt you'll successfully convince me. You certainly won't convince with regards to Killing Fields or Amadeus, especially if you bring up Amadeus' Director's Cut. I should note that those who give me grief have never seen A Solider's Story, and now would be a good time to change at least that status.

3 Oscar nominations. For Best Picture, for Charles Fuller's Adaptation of his play, and, the element that gives the film its charge, Adolph Caesar for Supporting Actor. His performance as the murder victim shown in flashbacks; of a bitter, angry Sargent who hates Blacks who drag down his race. Who makes it his mission in life to weed through the weak puddinheads. A man who hates most country Blacks, probably hates the world around him, and possibly hates himself most of all. This multi faceted performance energizes A Solider's Story, and the highlight of the veteran actor's career. It was a shame that Mr. Caesar died of a heart attack, only about 2 years after his nomination.

Jewison himself, nominated as a producer for Best Picture but NOT for Best Director (Woody Allen for Broadway Danny Rose was nominated ahead of him) will introduce the screening. Due to the late time, there will be no post-film Q and A:

THE GENERAL with The Blacksmith- Mon May 30 at 7:30- Film Forum- Part of the Buster Keaton retrospective, only on Monday nights. It's a little annoying that this is on Memorial Day evening, but the film is too good to ignore, even if I'm not sure yet if I can make this at all.

A Buster Keaton comedy classic, though I would argue that it's more an action film classic. He plays a train engineer who is better at showing affection to his locomotive, The General, than to his girlfriend. But the Civil War breaks out, and all the men in her family enlist and are accepted as soldiers in the Confederacy. Keaton tries, but his engineer job makes him more valuable there than as a solider. But the girlfriend thinks he skipped out on enlisting and brands him a coward.

Some time later, they meet again. Somehow, she ends up on his train when it's hijacked by Union spies. Keaton must now to go to great lengths to save his train (and oh yeah, his ex) from the North, then get back to the nearest Confederate general with his train (and oh yeah, his ex) to warn him of a surprise Union attack. Rooting for the Confederates is not as hard as you might think, this isn't Birth of a Nation folks. It's an action comedy. And there are some good comedy set pieces, such as Keaton in the enlistment office. But it works best as an action film. Wonderful scenes shot in the Northwest; the only place where Civil War style trains and tracks were still in use. Wonderful stunt work from co-director/lead Keaton. Chaplin's films may be best remembered, but he couldn't do that kind of stunt work on a moving train. Deservedly a classic. And we get live piano accompaniment as well, as opposed to the canned electronic score that doesn't sound great when TCM plays the film.

Playing before it is the short The Blacksmith, where Keaton plays a blacksmith . . . . yeah I got nothing, sorry:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all, and enjoy your Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May revivals: Elizabeth Taylor edition

Hey all. Mike here with the next revival list. Haven't been feeling well lately (getting better now), so writing has been the last thing on my mind. Felt I was getting way behind until I noticed how the rest of May was shaping up. So instead of splitting up the month in half, I'll split it kinda into thirds. Or specifically, some films for this weekend, and a few for the Memorial Day weekend. And for this weekend, I narrowed it down to one film each day of the weekend. All three films are in one location, honoring one actress, and all for the cheaper then usual price of 9 dollars. Here we go:

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF- Fri May 20 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Elizabeth Taylor retrospective at Lincoln Center. Let's face it, Ms. Taylor is far from the first person to be considered for a retrospective. Half her filmography is worth avoiding, the woman herself as celebrity is more famous than her acting work, and it would take her death to force a New York revival programmer to conceive a Liz Taylor retrospective. It would probably take a half century, minimum, before she might ever be better remembered for her work. The more people who think of as celebrity first die out, the quicker the changeover will happen. But anyway, Lincoln Center has jumped in first with a weekend long retrospective. I won't post everything, since Lincoln Center is rarely into double features. So if I'm going to post any of her work, I'm posting the big guns, starting with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Among the best of the stage-to-screen transfers ever. I've been waiting a long time for this to play in a revival house. Hell of a first film for director Mike Nichols. Richard Burton and Taylor (heavier and made up to look far older and tired in a successful attempt to de-glamorize) are George and Martha; bitter middle-aged alcoholics, who in order to keep any semblance of interest in their marriage, tear into each other and the young couple (George Segal, Sandy Dennis) who come to their little party. As the film goes on, the head games get more cruel and vindictive.

Not necessarily a happy film, but with Albee's words, a joy to behold. No matter the attempts to open up the film, the house still feels like a steel cage. The attempts at opening, in particular the diner, doesn't hold as well, but everything else does. Some modern audiences might consider the acting as over the top at times, but I would disagree. I have a weakness/high tolerance to some excess, but it fits the piece.

Not on the first AFI Top 100 list, but on the second Top 100 list. 13 Oscar nominations. Oscars for Taylor for Actress, Dennis for Supporting, Art Direction Costume and Cinematography for a black and white film. Nominations include for Picture, Burton for Actor, Segal for Supporting Actor, Nichols for Director, Editing, and Alex North's very good score. I hope the overture and closing music are played here. Also nominated was Ernest Lehman for his screenplay, despite the fact that the actors hated his version so much, they and Nichols went behind his back and replaced all but 2 lines back to Albee's original. For me, best film of 1966. Excuse me if I'm not agreeing with the Academy with their choice of A Man For All Seasons. I want to go. let me repeat. I. Want. To. Go:

GIANT- Sat May 21 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Elizabeth Taylor retro. Giant is (practically) never revived. You can always count on this being screened for some sort of Taylor and/or Rock Hudson and/or James Dean and/or director George Stevens and or 30 Days of Oscar series on TCM. But playing on the big screen anywhere else in New York? Not likely it seems, until now for one night only.

Epic film with a little social message stuff thrown in. Two generations of history are told in the state of Texas, through the filter of a family and their rival, though the emphasis is more Old Money vs. New Money, as well as racism toward Mexican-Americans. But like I said, the heavier influence on the story is the fight between Old Money and nouveau riche. Rancher baron/ old school Hudson (never better, except in Seconds) marries socialite Taylor, of whom ranch hand/hot head Dean has a major crush on. The change of power and new money in Texas is mirrored in Dean, when his character strikes it rich via Oil, causing the unfair fight between them to suddenly become a rival between equal rivals.

Classic drama. One of the big hits of the 1950s, which combined with his untimely death days before Giant's shooting completed, solidified James Dean as icon (now with Cowboy Hat!). 10 Oscar Nominations, including Picture Dean and Hudson for Actor, Mercedes McCambridge for Supporting Actress, and Screenplay. Its only Oscar was to Stevens for Director. On the AFI Top 100 list, though not on the second one:

CLEOPATRA (1963)- Sun May 22 at Noon- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Liz Taylor retro. A rare 70mm screening, and a litmus test for you film buffs out there. This print was previously screened last Labor Day weekend, when the Walter Reade had their 20th Century Fox retrospective. After it stunningly sold out, they're bring Cleopatra back for the Taylor retro. Anyone wanna bet the Walter Reade will be planning either a Richard Burton or Rex Harrison retrospective if this sells out again?

The film that almost bankrupted a studio and was synonymous with the term Flop for years, despite actually seeing an eventual profit before the end of the 1960s. Others have written about the difficulties, love affairs, the rampant budget gone wild, and occasionally, the idea that this is a bloated film. Good looking, but empty of quality. I'll let you research the articles regarding the filming difficulties, but I disagree with a good chunk of this assessment. This Sand and Sandals saga, where the Egyptian queen entices 2 powerful Romans, goes limp when we rely on spectacle. In particular when it runs on too long, like the famous parade sequence. Or isn't very interesting, like with the final navy battle. One reason why it may look cheap was that Fox was in such debt, that they had no money for a proper final fight.

What is surprising to me, is how much of the human drama actually works. Liz Taylor provides a great center in the title role, and yes, we believe the men in her life would throw much away to be with her. The film however, never completely recovers when it loses Rex Harrison as Caesar. Fascinating character, terrific performance and once the Ides of March scene occurs, we need someone big to fill in the gaps. Surprisingly, Richard Burton fails to do that. Now why this happened (possibly busy wooing Taylor in real life, possibly too busy being in charge of getting Taylor to set each day, possibly not sober on set at times) I'm not sure. His dialogue is mostly crap, so he didn't have a lot to work with. But since there's a heavy emphasis on Marc Anthony and Cleopatra together in the film's second half, a sense of disappointment tends to set in. Luckily, Roddy McDowall turns in a career performance as Octavian and he, along with supporting turns from Hume Cronyn and Martin Landau, carry some of the slack.

More of the slack covered by the sumptuous production design. The sets, the costumes, nothing less then spectacular. Alex North's score is also on that level. Oscars for Art Direction, Costumes, Cinematography, and Visual Effects (really?). Nominations for Picture (really?), Harrison for Actor, Editing (Really?!?), Score and Sound. The cut that will be screened at Lincoln Center is 4hrs, 2 mins long (I expect an intermission); probably as close as we'll ever get to the original cut, though the 5-6 hour versions I can skip. The 70mm print should give us a clearer image and a kind of vertical IMAX, that the Walter Reade screen can handle. So can the film buff in you handle that flawed but interesting film, whose reputation screams overpriced hype yet with hidden virtues buried deep? We'll see:

Sorry that I had no time for A Place In The Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Father of the Bride, Reflections of a Golden Eye, or National Velvet. And I have no desire to sit through Raintree County. Noble effort, but "an underrated Civil War epic"? Hardly. Some good scenes and a risky performance from Taylor that works, but way too long, with the amount of soap opera that works well in Giant, but not here. If you wish to see one of those yourselves, click on the first link below Virginia Woolf.
Let me know ASAP about this weekend. My next post will comprise mostly of midnight movies that we all should be able to stay up for during the Memorial Day weekend, as well a Norman Jewison retrospective at Lincoln Center. Later all.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of May. It's already taken me too long to get around to this list, so no time to waste. Here we go:

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK for 5 dollars- Thurs May 5 at 7:30- Hoboken Clearview Cinemas- Any of you ever hear of Indiana Jones? Ever see Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen? If you did, it might have been at a revival screening, usually at midnight. Well, here's another one, only this time it's at a normal time, 7:30. One of my all time favorites, on both AFI Top 100 lists, multiple Oscars, and holds up just as well today as in the early 80s. I truly believe there isn't a single flaw in the filmmaking, and any minor flaws fit in with the 30s serials it lovingly homages. Nothing to hurt the quality of the film.

THE MAKIOKA SISTERS- Tues May 10- Thurs May 12 at 3:45, 7 and 9:45- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. Based on a classic Japanese novel. On the surface about 4 sisters, the two oldest and the youngest are trying to get sister #3 married off. But this is closer to The Rules of The Game, depicting a way of life coming to an end. In this case, upper middle class in 1938 Osaka, so tick tock on the old ways of life in Japan. The book was part of a series published in 1943, with the feeling that life was changing but not sure exactly how. The film was made in the early 80s and released in 1983, and the knowledge is there. I was the on the fence about catching this, but I already got interest back when this was first revealed to be on the Forum's repertory schedule, so this are my only available dates times. It opens for an 9 day run starting Wednesday May 4, so you can go for it on your own:

THE ROSE for 7.50- Thurs May 12 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- A cheap screening of the 1979 musical drama that elevated Bette Midler to superstar status. A briefly held status until 1986, after Midler went through a personal breakdown and some major film flops. Midler plays a variation of Janis Joplin. A rock star, alcoholic and drug addict, who shouldn't be on the road. But on the road she is, being pushed by her hard-ass manager (Alan Bates), who injects her with adrenaline just to keep her going. The biggest praise goes to Midler's terrific performance. Not just in the concert scenes (this was expected), but the dramatic scenes as well. The combo was enough for word of mouth to build, and become a success story during Christmas Time 1979/early 1980. This is a DVD screening by the way. So while athe picture image should ok, the sound of the concert scenes should be great.

4 Oscar nominations including Midler for Best Actress, Best Editing, and Frederick Forrest for Supporting Actor. Forrest was surprisingly nominated for this as opposed to his role in Apocalypse Now; a surprise in retrospect, not necessarily back then. The cast also includes Harry Dean Stanton, David Keith and Doris Roberts as Midler's mother:

FOXY BROWN- Fri May 13 and Sat May 14 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's A Girl and a Gun series. Hardly anyone would call Pam Grier a girl in this blaxploitation classic. All woman here, as she gets brutal revenge on the gangsters, pimps etc., who killed her boyfriend. By going undercover as a high class prostitute, Coffy gets her way, serving a memorable "piece" of revenge against one Madam in particular. Might feel a little slow, and no one will confuse this with an AFI Top 100 film, but I've had fun with it:


DAYS OF HEAVEN- Fri May 13 at 7- for free, subject to availability- AMMI- 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria- The start of a weekend long Terrence Malick retrospective. Unlike the other days, this screening is free, if you can get your tix fast enough. The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria has a similar deal on Fridays as MOMA, where admission is free on Fridays from 4-8, with the need to get there early, especially for the free film ticket alongside your museum admission, critical.

For those not familiar with Terrence Malick, think of him as similar to Stanley Kubrick. American director, small output of films (5 completed with 2 more on their eventual way) that take a while to conceive shoot and edit. Malick's films take place either in America (including The New World, if you think about it),or surrounded by mostly Americans; and they usually capture the beauty of nature, and contrasts that with the violence that happens over the course of that particular story. That's Malick in a nutshell. I'll let film scholars pontificate to greater length on their own sites, writings, etc.

Days of Heaven is something I find a little hard to want to pay attention to on TV or computer screen. But on the big screen, Days of Heaven was a revelation for me, and quickly became for me, the best film to come out of 1978. Yes, I put it ahead of such stuff as The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, The Last Waltz and Pretty Baby. And yes, Superman, Grease and Halloween as well. Not a bad little year in film 1978 was, but I digress . . . .

I won't fight those who find the film on the slow side. Malick is definitely following the idea of show, don't tell here. Filming lasted about a year, shot almost exclusively in "magic Hour" (about 5-7AM and 4-7:30 PM) with Malick eventually throwing out the script, and having the cast seemingly improvise. In post production, narration was added, by teenager Linda Manz. It's thru her eyes that the story unfolds: during turn of the century America in the Midwest, she watches her sister and sis's boyfriend (Brooke Adams and Richard Gere) pull a con. The couple pretend to be brother-sister, while Sis marries a sickly rich farmer (Sam Shepard, in his screen debut), so they can inherit his fortune once he dies. But when Sis falls in love with her husband, jealously and tragedy ensue.

It's very possible you don't know this film. If you're lucky, you might have seen a restored copy from the Criterion Collection DVD from 2007, or the HD DVD from last year. But chances are, you're not familiar with a Malick film, and this is your chance to see one for free. And it might be the best photographed film you'll ever see. Oscar nominations for Costume Design, Sound and Ennio Morricone's score, a deserved Oscar for its Cinematography:

BADLANDS with DAYS OF HEAVEN and/or THE THIN RED LINE- Sat May 14 at 2 (Badlands) 4:30 (Days) and 7 (Line)- AMMI- 3 of the other 5 released Terrence Malick films, all in 1 day and for 1 admission. All, including The New World on Sunday which I can't attend, getting at least 1 screening because of the Memorial Day weekend release of Malick's upcoming The Tree of Life, with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

First, Badlands, Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound like romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides, then you know were in violence-with-consequences territory. Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done:

Next, The Thin Red Line, Malick's first film after a twenty year absence. Again for Malick, the beauty of nature while violence goes on around them. Only this time, this is an adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical novel, and the subject is his time fighting during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War 2. Different narrators, different view points. No one's fighting for God and Country; more a set of individual ideals, or in the case of one of the closest things we have to a lead, Ben Chaplin's character, his idealized flashbacks to his wife Stateside. Most of those ideals go by the way side as the battle worsens. The fight is mainly for each other and survival, nothing more. Except for, the struggle between the Colonel (Nick Nolte, rarely better) who sees this as his chance for advancement and glory, and the Captain (Elias Koteas) who refuses to sacrifice his men in the name of foolhardy tactics.

10 hours of footage was reduced to 5 then, at the constant push of Fox to deliver a watchable film, the eventual 2 hr, 50 minute cut that received 7 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay for Malick, Cinematography for John Toll, Editing, and Score for Hans Zimmer. It's the closest Malick has had to a hit in the U.S., though Thin Red Line was more appreciated overseas. Never mind that Shakespeare in Love was the biggest winner on Oscar night. Saving Private Ryan was the dominant film from 1998. For some audiences and enough minor critics, Ryan was a better film than Thin Red Line: much more straightforward and easier to take, despite being bloodier and having more violence depicted on-screen. Yes, the first 18 or so minutes are game-changers and among the best ever produced in film, and Ryan was/is my favorite film from 1998. But to say that was the only way this should be accepted, that Thin Red Line wasn't as good therefore should be ignored, oh hell no.

Is there a straight forward narrative? Not like Saving Private Ryan, but it's certainly there if you're patient. Would it have been better if you had one main guy we could follow, like we had in Tom Hanks in Ryan? Maybe for the 5 hour version, but you can go to HBO's the Pacific for that. So many recognizable actors show up and then go away that you can't be empathetic or have trouble following? Oh please. I'm not getting into a list of such films, though if I brought up another WW 2 film, The Longest Day, you would have to be under 8 not to be able to follow it. If you're under 32 you probably never heard of The Longest Day unless Grandpa forced you to watch or Grandpa worked on the film, but I digress. The story is key, and if you had already seen Badlands and/or Days of Heaven at this point, you're ready for Thin Red Line. Those kind of films attracted Nolte, Sean Penn, John Cusack, John Travolta, George Clooney, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly and others to take a chance. Plus Malick continued to take chances on young talent like Chaplin, Jim Cavielzel (the film's other nominal lead), and Adrian Brody (who attended the premiere thinking he was the lead, only to see his role whittled down to 5 minutes and 2 lines).

Now my preference is not to do Days on this day, since its free on Friday and I've done this film once before at the Forum. To Specifically start with Badlands at 2pm, check out the renovated/expanded museum and maybe get a quick bite or coffee, then catch the nearly three hour Thin Red Line at 7. But if no one can/wants to go on Friday night, and no one can/wants to catch Thin Red Line on Saturday night, then I'll need to be flexible I guess:

3:10 TO YUMA (1957)- Mon May 16 at 9:40 and Tues May 17 - Thurs May 19 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A new 35mm print, of the original version of 3:10 To Yuma. The Russell Crowe-Christian Bale remake was pretty good, but the original works well, and manages to tell the story with about thirty minutes fewer baggage. Glenn Ford, playing a villain for the only time in his career, is being brought to the train to jail by Everyman Van Heflin for a measly 200 dollars, the cost to keep his spread going. But with no one but the town drunk willing to help put the dangerous Ford onto the train, Ford's Wild Bunch-type gang hot on their heels, and why is Ford so calm about everything? Tight, efficient, entertaining Western:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all.