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.

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