Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July revivals: first half

Hey. Mike here with a list what what to catch for the first half of July. A bit of a long list, with plenty of conflicts. Those are not my problem, the good choices are all yours. So let me get started. But first, let me bring up a few films from June:

DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3-D- Wed June 29 and June 30 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- 2 more days to see the Hitchcock- Grace Kelly classic in its original 3-D format at the Forum, the only theater in NYC still equipped to show it that way. Yes, I did say that Dial M's engagement would end on June 23rd. But apparently it was popular enough to get another week-long run. So two more days people if you haven't seen it already:

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Wed June 29- Sun July 3 and Tues July 5- Thurs July 7 at 7 and 9:35- Another 9 days to catch this film at the Forum. A new 35mm print of the original director's cut. Nicholas Roeg's sci-fi cult classic from 1976, with David Bowie as an alien. He must get water to his dying planet or get his people off the dying planet that lacks water (I forget which, it's been a while), so he comes to Earth, poses as a human, and forms a company that serves as a multi-national front, while he builds a return ship. But he doesn't plan on dealing with falling in love or at least in lust, or the enjoyable trappings of wealth, or the U.S. government, and business greed and ruthlessness. Bowie has never been perfectly cast as he was here, with strong support from Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry. If you never saw it, you'll find it interesting. One of those films that doesn't spell everything out for you, so you'll actually have to think a little, God help you (Tee-Hee!). For sure, of its time. Plays through Thursday July 7th, I'll only re-post it if I haven't seen it by then:

WALL-E with Presto and/or UP with Partly Cloudy for free (subject to availability)- Fri July 1 at 4:30 (Wall-E) and 8 (Up)- MOMA- Part of a Pixar retrospective at MOMA. Your chance to see some of the best Pixar has to offer: Wall-E (best film of 2008, don't care what anyone says), and Up (one of the best films of 2009). Also playing with them are the shorts that first played with them in their theatrical releases, Presto and Partly Cloudy, respectively. They all play for free on Friday July 1, subject to ticket availability. First Wall-E, then Up:

WALL-E- Saying this is my favorite Pixar is redundant. Ranking it as the best of the dystopian genre (among my faves, Brazil, Children of Men, Blade Runner, and yes, Soylent Green), is also fairly redundant. One of the best films ever made, that sounds about right, though I'd like to possibly reconsider that about four years from now.

The first half hour plus is among the best silent film homages ever, especially with a nod toward Chaplin and action-wise, Keaton. A better use of Hello Dolly songs here then Gene Kelly did when he directed the film version, whose clips are seen in Wall-E! With a never uninteresting pessimism about our future, with just enough room for change via love that's believable. Yes, believable. The idea of two robots falling in love of course strains credibility. But the fact that this love is more believably depicted than in any studio romantic comedy is both a miracle and a damnation for recent films (go ahead, defend Bride Wars and the Sex In The City movie, morons.). All praise for the nominated screenplay from Jim Reardon, Pete Docter and the film's director, Andrew Stanton. This film will age quite well. Don't know if we need a Wall-E 2 like Toy Story 2 and the upcoming 3. This is sufficient.

UP- The best animated film of 2009, but barely. Based on the reaction, you would think this was the greatest animated film ever made. And the first eleven minutes were excellent film making. But because of how sensitive and not-completely kid friendly that segment is, I can almost understand why Disney advertised this as a laugh riot.

But that feels a little like false advertising. Up, I feel, is a fantasy adventure like E.T., and is only a comedy like that Spielberg film. You might not remember that E.T. has quite a number of hilarious sequences, but who thinks of that as a comedy? Up is a wonderful adventure film, with great visuals, and anytime I see Dug the dog, I can't help but laugh. But the best animated film ever? I won't go in that exact direction, but last I heard, Wall-E's perfect 35 minutes, is more than triple Up's 11 minutes. I was reminded by someone who saw the Best of 2008 list, that I lean heavily toward dystopian fare, so Up number one? Sorry, it have to settle for being in comparable Ratatouille/ The Incredibles territory, which is pretty damned good:

LE RAYON VERT- Fri July 1-Sun July 3 and Tues July 5 at 6, 8 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of Eric Rohmer's film (known outside North America as The Green Ray), that for some reason, is only getting a 5 day run. From 1986, it might be pushing it by calling it a romantic drama. There's little of what we Americans are accustomed to in terms of romance, and the drama, is definitely on the small scale everyday side, but not uninteresting. A young woman in her early 30s in Paris, has had a breakup with her boyfriend, and is upset with having to get back into the dating scene. She's tired of even putting up the minimal pretenses of trying to get a hook-up going. But when her roommate ditches their vacation plans to run off with a new boy friend, it leaves the single woman frantically trying to a vacation together with being by herself. Each attempt is worst than the next, and the self-pitying gets progressively stronger. But over the course of the film, it doesn't seem so cut and dry: is she lonely for more than just someone to sleep with? Does she need a good friend more than a sex partner? And which is the bigger obstacle, the "friends" and single guys around her, or the emotional wall she's put up that might be too tough to tear down? Not quite as heavy handed as I'm making it out to be, but since this is a Rohmer film, it's pretty talky as well. But it is worth taking a chance on, since I'm guessing that most of you not familiar with his work:

FARGO- Fri July 1- Sun July 3 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- The conclusion of IFC Center's A Girl and a Gun series. A technically, since the "girl" in the film does so much without a gun, but any excuse to screen this film is fine by me. The best film of 1996, and one of the best films of the 1990s, gets a weekend-long run of Midnight screenings. Chances are, if you're even glancing at this list for any reason, you've heard of this crime dramedy; where a very pregnant and very persistent sheriff figures out most of the parts, to a stupidly planned and executed kidnapping.

The Coen brothers' best film. Oscar nominations for Picture, Supporting Actor for William H. Macy (forever known for more than just ER and his work with Mamet, thanks to this), Editing, Cinematography, and Director. Oscars for Frances McDormand for Actress, and the Coen brothers for Screenplay. Yes, this actually lost to The English Patient for Best Picture. I guess Oscar owed them one, which might explain the near clean sweep this year for No Country for Old Men. On both AFI Top 100 lists and a Top 35 film for me. A great film to catch:

JAWS- Fri July 1- Sun July 3 at Midnight- IFC Film Center- A midnight screening of this classic, on all 3 nights of the July 4th weekend. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also 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:

YOJIMBO- Sat July 2 at 4:30- Symphony Space at the Peter Jay Sharpe theater- A Toshiro Mifune- Akira Kurosawa team-up, getting its first high-def screening. Here, Mifune plays arguably his most famous character, a wandering ronin, who plays both sides of warring clans in a small town against each other to maximize profit, until it goes too far. Toshiro plays a man with a gruff, almost belligerent exterior, that hides a code of honor. With another frequent Kurosawa collaborator, Tatsuya Nakadai, as a formidable villain. Yojimbo is in my personal top 100 and is better than its 2 remakes: the quite good A Fistful of Dollars, and the lousy Last Man Standing. Overall, a very good drama, with just enough dark comedy and action to keep things. 7 Samurai is my favorite Kurosawa, but Yojimbo is a film I can see over and over again, and if you've never seen it, now is a great time:

PLANET OF THE APES- Fri July 8, Sun July 10 and Tues July 11- Thurs July 13 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print. For those of you who lived and were consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell. Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred over his own.

With one of the most unique heroes in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close. Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character.

2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I want tocatch this. I really REALLY want to catch this:

THE GOONIES- Fri July at 8 for free- film starts at sundown- the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum- Pier 86 on W. 46th and 12th st- A free screening of the Spielberg- Richard Donner film, where a group of young kids find a pirate's treasure map and go on an adventure. Donner is the director, but Spielberg was Executive Producer, wrote the Screen Story (dialogue by Chris Columbus), supposedly directed at least one scene, and worked in the editing room as well.
Not the biggest hit from the summer of 1985, that would be Rambo: First Blood Part 2. It wasn't the most popular film that year with Spielberg's name on it, that was Back To The Future, which would pass Rambo in box office gross before the end of 1985. But it was a solid hit, that seemed to just explode in popularity once it hit home video. I'm not going to call this a classic, but others will and have, so I won't fight. And I am willing to go see it, especially on the deck of the Intrepid. Instructions are below, cut and pasted from their website:

Bring your lawn chairs, picnic baskets and blankets. Guests are encouraged to bring their own food, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, however no outside alcohol is permitted. Doors open at 7:30PM, film begins at sunset, weather permitting. Space is limited.

13 ASSASSINS or THE HUSTLER and/or THE COLOR OF MONEY- Sun July 10 at 3 (13 Assassins), 4 (Hustler) and 7 (Money)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- 3 films playing at the Museum of the Moving Image, up to 2 can be seen for one price due to time conflicts. First, 13 Assassins, from 2010 though it finally received a release here this April. Technically a revival, but you can consider this one less film you need to catch up with via Netflix 6-8 months later when compiling a Best of 2011 list, in theory.

A retired samurai discovers his bastard son is a mass murdering tyrant. The samurai gathers others to his cause a la Seven Samurai, forming a group of thirteen. They really don't get along, but they'll put aside their differences to fight the tyrant. Mix of humor, drama, and bloody swordplay. Definetly the last part, since the climatic battle lasts an hour. Some reviews called it the best action film of the year. Maybe a bit of hyperbole going on, considering only four months had gone by when those reviews came out. But we might not get that much action in any other film this year, so we'll take what we can get.

The other films from this particular day, starts the Museum's Paul Newman retrospective. I'm skipping Cars. It's ok, a thumbs-up, but my least favorite Pixar. I'll focus instead on the other two Newman pictures: The Hustler and its sequel, The Color of Money.

First, The Hustler, from 1961. Classic Paul Newman film as he plays "Fast" Eddie Felson, cocky incarnate, and his rise and fall as he tries to become the best at pool. A lame synopsis, I admit. But to go further without spoiling the film for some is bad form. And to go on about the snappy dialogue and the grimy ambiance of this sports noir, requires a better writer than myself. I just want you to go.

Oscars for Art Direction and the terriffic Cinematography. Nominations for Picture, Robert Rossen for Director and Adapted Screenplay, Newman for Actor, Piper Laurie for Actress. This was the year where for the Supporting Actor nominees were George C. Scott as the slimy manager, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, plus Montgomery Clift for Judgement at Nuremberg and Peter Falk for Frank Capra's last film, Pocketful of Miracles. They all lost to George Chakris from West Side Story. They might all have been better actors, but could they dance Jerome Robbins' choreography and sing Sondheim? I guess NOT!

Next, The Color of Money. Ok, a bit of a spoiler, Fast Eddie doesn't die at the end of The Hustler. But he's out of the pool hustling business, until 1986, when he sees a young cocky pool player who acts like Eddie did during the days of The Hustler. Teaching this talented hot shot the ropes inspires Eddie to attempt a comeback of his own. Martin Scorsese's most commercial picture. A mainstream hit that he really needed after a career of minor hits (yeah, Taxi Driver? Not a big hit, just ok business) and a few flops (New York New York, King of Comedy). And coming off Top Gun a few months earlier, Tom Cruise got to show off some acting chops. Yes, he was playing the cocky type he's spent a career performing. But given great dialogue from screenwriter Richard Price, Cruise handled his most three-dimensional character up to that point with aplomb, easily holding his own with the masterful Newman.

Oscar nominations for Price's Screenplay, Art Direction, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio for Supporting Actress, who was briefly elevated to A list status, as Tom's girlfriend/co-manager. An Oscar for Newman for Best Actor, one year after he received an Honorary Oscar. May not have been his best performance ever, but it's still damn good. Besides, it's not like they were going to give Oscars that year to either Bob Hoskins or James Woods, for films few people were playing to go see, so sure, give it to Newman.

For one price you can see The Color of Money, and either 13 Assassins or The Hustler beforehand. But you would have to pick between the bloody action film that got raves, or the classic Paul Newman film. Your choice:

MONSIEUR VERDOUX- Sun July 10 at 5:30- Symphony Space at the Peter Jay Sharpe theater- Instead of the Samurai and Newman films however, you can choose to see this instead. A long forgotten Charlie Chaplin comedy. No matter how many times I post it, it's still forgotten by people I know unless I get them to see it myself.

The blackest comedy Chaplin ever made. No Little Tramp business here, as he plays a dapper looking man who, after the stock market crash of '29, supports his family by marrying, then killing other women. Exactly the kind of film post WW 2 film audiences were demanding to see . . . Before the film came out, Charlie had the kind of negative publicity that Britney and Lindsey would think there but for the grace of God go us, or whatever their equivalent would be. But being an actual artist with a point of view (along with a strong sexual appetite that leaned toward much younger women to put it kind), seemed to make Chaplin more of a danger.

Imagine the way critics have sharpened the knives, ready to rip into M. Night's films now. Then imagine some of these critics feeling they must defend the masses against whatever political statement Chaplin would make with this film. Then consider the only media around are in newspapers, magazines and radio, thus giving these critics some more sway. Throw in other reporters more interested in asking Chaplin about allegedly sleeping with underage girls or being condemned by members of Congress, than the film's content.

Monsieur Verdoux was DOA when first released. A major financial flop that was pulled after a month or some. Not everyone hated it. The Times back then gave it a very good review. It was named Best Film by National Board of Review, and Chaplin himself received an Oscar nomination for the Screenplay. A 1964 re-release gave the film some much needed respectability and even an audience. I guess those dealing with the Cold War felt the film to be quite fresh. But except for the rare TCM screening, it's been out of sight, out of mind. Now's the time for major re-evaluation:

THE THREE AGES with The Scarecrow- Mon July 11 at 7:45- Film Forum- Part of the Buster Keaton retrospective. I've been lax about the Forum's retrospective, but it's been usually a case of either a lack of time for it on my end, or frankly, more interesting possible choices. That may be heresy, but I promise that in the case of Sherlock Jr., it was lack of free time.

The Three Ages, written and directed by Keaton (with varying amounts of uncredited help), is 3 shorts comprising one film. Styled to make fun of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, it follows the same basic story; of Keaton competing with Wallace Beery for the love of a girl, in three different points in history, Caveman times, the Roman Empire era, and in 1923 (when the film was released). Done in shorts format in part because the studio, Metro Pictures (years before the merger that formed MGM), felt that since Keaton only had a successful career in shorts, that if The 3 Ages flopped, it could be broken up and distributed in parts. The 3 Ages was successful, and a few years of feature film success began.

Preceded by The Scarecrow, a short from 1920. Keaton again competes against another man for the love of a woman. In this case, for the love of the pretty farmer's daughter:

THE SEVEN PERCENT SOLUTION- Wed July 13 at 9:30- 92ndY Tribeca- A fun twist on the usual Sherlock Holmes story, directed by Herbert Ross (The Goodbye Girl, Footloose, The Turning Point) and written by Nicolas Meyer (Star Trek II, Time After Time), who adapted his own novel. A film whose existence you may have no clue of unless you're a huge Holmes fan or you're over the age of 35. Holmes (a very good Nicol Williamson) is falling apart, with a cocaine addiction that's spurring on delusions and interfering with his skills as a detective. A desperate Watson (Robert Duvall) brings Holmes to the one man with the intellect and skill who might be able to treat him/stand up to him, Dr. Sigmund Freud (Alan Arkin, who does an admirable job). But treatment alone isn't enough, a little work therapy is needed. It comes in the form of a mystery involving another patient of Freud's (Vanessa Redgrave), that all three men must work together to help solve.

You'll have to accept that this isn't a super-Holmes if you will, like with Basil Rathbone, or a superhero, like with Robert Downey Jr. This a troubled genius, barely holding it together, then slipping, and slowly getting his feet back under him. With the help of a good friend, a good therapist, and a spot of mystery of course. The Holmes-as-troubled aspect as well as the mystery was better handled in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. But it's still high-browed fun, and while the mystery is a bit slight, the filmmakers actually constructed a decent mystery; an unforgivable mistake made in Guy Ritchie's film.

Oscar nominations for Meyer's Screenplay and for Costumes. A marvelous supporting cast adds to fun. The cast includes Joel Grey, Jeremy Kemp, Charles Grey as Mycroft Holmes (repeating the role from the beloved Jeremy Brent/Sherlock Holmes series), and Laurence Olivier, giving a very different take on Professor Moriarty:

Let me know if there's interest. Oh, and that thing posted above regarding The Goonies is a piece of art from Dave Perillo. Later all.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals to catch for the rest of June. A long list of films, with a larger-than-usual number of them deemed as box office flops. Some of them may surprise you. A few have gotten a second chance and became either a Classic or a Cult film. But most of them haven't received a re-evaluation, and maybe it's time to change that. Don't worry, there are a few hits sprinkled in there. Like I've written before, I don't decide what gets revived, I just sort through what I'd like to see and think I can make as of when I post the list. Speaking of the list, let's get it on:

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST- Thurs June 16 at 7- The Theater at MAD- Museum of Arts and Design- 2 Columbus Circle- Another place for (occasional) revival screenings. The former "lollipop" building that was a place for homeless to sleep outside of (as depicted in Season 1 of The Real World but occurring way beforehand), it's been cleaned up for about 3 years, where the Museum of Arts and Design as occupied ever since. They've done occasional revival screenings there, and currently they've held a David Bowie retrospective. I'm sorry I haven't heard about this until recently, and that the only film I can post from it, is this one.

A couple of years ago, there was an online article, 9 Acts of Film Blasphemy, a compilation list kind of article written by 3 writers at A.V. 2 sentences from this article fit my thinking:

"All movies about the life of Jesus court blasphemy, since they require writers, directors, and actors to offer personal interpretations of what Christ was really like."

"It speaks to the infantile level of religious dialogue in this country that the life and death of Jesus can be fetishized (The Passion Of The Christ) and exploited (The Da Vinci Code) to mainstream riches, while a genuinely spiritual work like Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation Of Christ gets protested into the ground."

Ok, the second sentence is a little extreme. The biggest crime The Da Vinci Code commits is being lackluster and forcing Ian McKellan to perform exposition like he was reading the phone book. The Passion was, to me, one of the best films of 2004, but not one I've ever wanted to see from beginning to end ever again. And once I saw Ben-Hur at the Ziegfeld and saw how the crucifiction was done and thought "Oh, so that's how a talented filmmaker pulls this off", I though a little less of Mel Gibson's film. But the last half of the second sentence, regarding The Last Temptation of Christ getting protested into the ground, boy was that true.

The near round the clock protests at the Ziegfeld which was forced to end its engagement sooner than planned, its release never able to expand to about 97 screens, the attacks in France by an extreme Fundamentalist group, the refusal by Blockbuster Video have it on its shelves. Last Temptation is right there alongside Kundun; Scorsese films practically no one has seen. Instead of writing further, I'll let a brief portion of Roger Ebert's review speak for me:

To be fully man, Jesus would have had to possess all of the weakness of man, to be prey to all of the temptations--for as man, he would have possessed God's most troublesome gift, free will. As the son of God, he would of course have inspired the most desperate wiles of Satan, and this is a film about how he experienced temptation and conquered it.They (screenwriters Scorsese and Paul Schrader) have paid Christ the compliment of taking him and his message seriously, and they have made a film that does not turn him into a garish, emasculated image from a religious postcard.

What pray tell is wrong with that? If you choose to comment, be nice because I will delete the nasty stuff. Otherwise, come see the film:

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN- Fri June 17 at 4 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- I posted this on the last list. Now you can see it for free, subject to ticket availability.

An art house hit from 2002. From director Alfonso Curaon. Sort of a career reboot for himself, after the English language films A Little Princess and Great Expectations drew no audiences, and before he directed the third Harry Potter film and Children of Men. Co-written with his brother Carlos, this is kind of like Summer of 1942, where two young men experience a life and sexual awakening with an older woman. Combined with aspects of the road film, but less fairy tale-like than Summer of 1942. Those who don't follow Spanish-speaking cinema may not know Maribel Verdu except for Pan's Labyrinth, but this combined with Amores Perros served as a good introduction for us to Gael Garcia Bernal. Also a good introduction for us to Diego Luna in one of his earliest adult roles, years before Milk. Both Cuaron brothers received an Oscar nomination for their Screenplay:

DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3-D- Film Forum- Fri June 17, Sat June 18 and Mon June 20- Thurs June 23 at 4:30, 7 and 9:30- In a last minute scheduling change, the Film Forum is bringing back Dial M For Murder in 3-D. It screened for 2 days and nights there last summer, and every screening was sold out. And we're talking the original 3-D method; with two projectors as it was back in the 50s, not Real 3-D like with Avatar. A Hitchcock classic, that may not have strayed all that successfully from its stage roots, but is still quite good. Ray Milland finds out his wife, Grace Kelly, is cheating on him and is getting ready to dump him. Seeing his wealthy lifestyle about to be taken away from him, he plots his wife's murder. Complications ensue, etc. . . .

Cool performances from Milland, Kelly, and character actor John Williams, reprising his Tony winning role as the dogged Chief Inspector. Talkier then usual from a Hitchcock film. I'd argue it's about as talky as Hitchcock and Kelly's other 1954 film together, Rear Window. Window had a better script, with sly insights and is a better realized film. Dial M is a more straight forward, ably executed mystery, with a great scene involving Kelly and a large shiny pair of scissors.

Now at about this time, 3-D was enjoying about the same kind of popularity it's having at the moment. You had studio heads pushing to have films made in 3-D, but unlike now, where pressure can be applied to have films that were never shot in 3-D converted (Clash of the Titans and probably its upcoming sequel, The Last Airbender, probably Thor), the pressure in the 50s had to be applied in pre-production. So while Hitch was forced to shoot it in 3-D he must have said something along the lines of "Screw them", and did as little as possible in terms of 3-D. Playing a little with perspective, a few low angles, some objects blocking some actors, not much. Hitch basically looked at 3-D as a fad, shot in 2-D and 3-D simultaneously, and just tried to make a good film, which he did. The 3-D version was released first but didn't play too long, followed by the 2-D classic version. It was re-released in 3-D in 1980 (I thought it was 81, but imdb disagrees), but in a flat version that wasn't popular, and different from how it was screened back in 1954, and different than how it will be screened in the Forum. If you want to experience what it was like to watch a 3-D film in the 50s, but with coffee brownies and air conditioning, catch Dial M. Do note that if the same print from last year is used again, there will be noticeable scratches:

BRINGING UP BABY- Fri June 17, Sat June 18, and Tues June 21- Thurs June 23 at 7:45 and 10- A new 35mm print, and a possible back-up option at the Forum in case Dial M For Murder sells out. A prime example of 1930s screwball comedy at its best. From director Howard Hawks, with Katharine Hepburn as the eccentric heiress type, and Cary Grant as the stuffed shirt type. There's a story here, but it's too light to bother going into it here. The Philadelphia Story might be the best film they ever did together, but this was Hepburn and Grant's best display of on-screen chemistry. Even though a leopard is ready to steal scenes at any given moment. A flop in its day, was placed in the National Film Registry for preservation in 1990, and is one of the films that made it to both AFI top 100 lists:

CONAN THE BARBARIAN- Fri June 17 at 10:30- 92Y Tribeca- 200 Hudson St.- One of my favorite bad films. This god awful, so full of itself, yet still fun film, made Arnold Schwarzenegger a Hollywood leading man, for better or worse. Don't blame me; I was too young to help this film be one of the top grossing films of the summer of 1982. There are so many hot chicks here, your head will spin. Sandahl Bergman is just one of them. Max Von Sydow and James Earl Jones are in full paycheck mode here. Written by Oliver Stone and director John Milius; it's amazing they ever worked again after this crap. For fans of fun junk like The Warriors, here's another one. Enjoy:

GLORIA (1980)- Fri June 17 and Sat June 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center Midnight series of A Girl and a Gun. Ok, it's more like woman and a gun, because I won't go around calling Sigourney Weaver, Pam Grier or Susan Sarandon as girls. Adult women, generally forced to use a gun(s), generally facing long odds. And the title character faces very long odds.

From 1980, the initial set-up (and probably this film as well) is something that had to have inspired Luc Besson when he created The Professional. But instead of the cinematic pyrotechnics we usual get from a Besson flick, we get the more grounded realism you'd expect from writer/director John Cassavetes. Buck Henry, a mob accountant planning on going to the FBI with his books, is slaughtered alongside most of his family, by men under mob orders. But I said most of his family, because Dad helps his 6 year old son escape, to their only friend, their neighbor Gloria. She's an aging gun moll who doesn't like kids, and especially doesn't like this orphan, who doesn't care much for her either. But they need each other, because the kid has his dad's evidence on some mobsters, she knows these mobsters personally (and some intimately), and they're soon on her trail. So Gloria can't be blamed if she ends up taking a shoot first, ask questions later approach. It doesn't help that the police think Gloria's kidnapped the boy, so they're after her as well.

A bit on the melodramatic side, but I don't mind some melodrama excess, as long as I enjoyed the ride. And compared to the hideous Sharon Stone remake from 1999, this is a classic. A pretty good NYC film, with Gloria's confrontation with some hoods on a crowded subway possibly the highlight for me. And if gets a little much, Gena Rowlands' Oscar nominated performance is the glue that holds things together. And a nice change of pace from your typical Midnight movie:

THE LITTLE PRINCE- Sat June 18 at 4- Anthology Film Archives- Part of a series of Movie Musicals from 1970s and early 1980s, that tried to do something special in the genre, and was rejected by audiences. Maybe they were accepted later on with a cult following of some sort or have enjoyed some positive critical re-evaluation. Better than calling this retrospective Musical Flops from the 70s, which is why Grease, Cabaret, and All That Jazz are not in this retro, but The Little Prince is.

From 1974, Stanley Donen's adaptation of the classic children's story, about a pilot who crashes on to a distant planet, and meets the title character, a young man who is brought back to Earth and learns about the importance of life. With music and lyrics from Lerner and Loewe, who received multiple Oscar nominations for their work. With Richard Keily as the pilot, and musical performances from Gene Wilder and Donna McKechnie. Almost with a musical performance, and possibly the only reason why the film seems to be remembered at all, is Bob Fosse, dancing for the final time, performing the Snake Dance. He wanted to do some work that his young daughter could see him in, so he agreed to do his dance in the desert. With moves that it seemed would be later copied by Michael Jackson circa Thriller:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN- Mon June 20 at 6:45, Thurs June 23 at 9:30 and Sun June 26 at 8:30- Anthology Film Archives- 32 Second Ave, just off of E. 2nd St.- Another of Anthology Film Archives' series of 1970s/80s Musicals that failed to draw an audience. From 1981, from director Herbert Ross (The Turning Point, The Goodbye Girl) and acclaimed British writer Dennis Potter, who successfully adapted his highly praised BBC mini-series to the big screen. The last of the MGM musicals and a kick in the teeth to those musicals that offer too fantastical a release from reality, especially the Fred and Ginger and Busby Berkeley kind of musicals.

Steve Martin, in his first dramatic role, is a struggling song sheet salesman during the Depression, trapped in a loveless marriage. He'd like to live the happy life depicted in the songs of the day, but to no avail. He escapes from his depressing circumstances, by escaping into his fantasies and indulging in whatever immediate pleasures he can get. That includes having an affair with a schoolteacher (Bernadette Peters), and trying to start his own business with no money or support. This won't end well . . .

Critics at the time were not praising this to the hilt, Pauline Kael not withstanding. Even critics who liked portions of it, like a Vincent Camby or Roger Ebert, were vocal about its problems, like its grimness and chilliness. But since then, we've been able to accept the darkness in something like Chicago, so maybe Pennies From Heaven was just ahead of its time. Fred Astaire, who couldn't stop one of his scenes from being used in the picture which led to Martin and Peters then performing said number, felt the 1930s was an innocent time, and that the film was vulgar and cruel. Since Pennies From Heaven took the position that his kind of films widened the chasm between fantasy and reality in an era where poverty crushed many. Astaire himself created the dances that were among the most popular of said destructive fantasies, so Fred must have taken it real personal. As for the audiences, who were faced with upbeat advertising and critics saying something and had the option of On Golden Pond or Raiders of the Lost Ark (still playing even at that point), they stayed away from Pennies From Heaven in droves.

3 Oscar nominations, including Potter for Screenplay and Costume Design for Bob Mackie. Much praise for Gordon Willis color and B/W Cinematography, as well for the lead performances by Peters and Martin. Now Steve may not have been a dancer on the level of Vernel Bagneris performing to the title song, or to Christopher Walken's showstopping Let's Misbehave. But unlike Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Steve Martin actually danced, and did quite well. This film screams for re-evaluation:

NEW YORK, NEW YORK- Tues June 21 at 6:30- Anthology Film Archives- A Martin Scorsese musical that failed with some of the same critics that praised Taxi Driver to the hilt; up against Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit, The Deep and Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, it was DOA at the box office. It has since gained respect in the intervening years, though the amount of respect is arguable.
Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro), an aspiring saxophonist meets and is at first rejected by singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli). They continue to bump into each other, a friendship blossoms, followed by romance, and then marriage. All the while, both musicians struggle to succeed at their craft, which begins to put an unbearable strain on their relationship. Eventually, this weight becomes too heavy to handle. Scorsese's love for this era of music - as well as cinema - is overflowing throughout the picture. Most striking is the brutally realistic depiction of a disintegrating marriage, filmed in a series of long, tense takes. 
Critics were literally split, between Wow, Ugh or some great moments and some crap moments. No legion of great reviews, the musical being no longer a popular genre, and going up against Star Wars as it began to expand widely, killed New York New York. Whether you deem this as underrated gem or as noble failure, you can decide now. Screened in its original 2 hr 35min cut, as opposed to its 1981 re-release cut with 8 additional minutes or its radically recut 2 hr 15 min version. Decide for yourself:

MOMMIE DEAREST- Thurs June 23 at 8- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A special screening of the cult classic from 1981, in time for Gay Pride Week. This film has been given the MST3K treatment every so often, and June 23 will be the 10th anniversary of Chelsea Classics, so funwill be had I'm sure.

Adapted from the payback novel by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, this is how Crawford will be thought of forever more. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. That doesn't make this a good film. But it also doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. I don't know if this was supposed to be serious or camp, and I'm not sure if everyone else involved knew what tone to take either. It seems Paramount advertised it as a serious film, though it was released in September so that it couldn't be confused as an Oscar contender (totally a guess on my part). But back in Sept-Oct 1981, when the wire hanger scene came up, a pop culture moment was born. And you can watch Faye Dunaway's A list film career end, though who thought it was a good idea to have Diana Scarwid start playing adult Christina Crawford at age 13?!?!? No wonder she went from an Oscar nominee to a Razzie award winner in about one year's time. If you want to enjoy yourself, catch this campy crappy fun film. And don't forget the wire hangers:

THE SHOUT- Fri June 24 at 7 for free (subject to availability)- AMMI in Astoria- Part of the Jerzy Skolimowski retrospective. He has acted a few times, including the role of a KGB man in White Nights, and as Naomi Watts' father in Eastern Promises. But he's best known as a writer/director. Has alternated between films spoken in his native Polish, and English language pictures. Has also alternated between a few big budget projects, and films that are more art house fare. One of Skolimowsi's art house films is posted next as part of a double feature, The Shout would be considered as one of his big budget efforts.

Alan Bates is a mysterious man, who slowly but surely, bullies his way into the life of a sound engineer, played by John Hurt. The stranger wants the man's wife (Susannah York) and his lifestyle, and has a weapon to keep it. A shout the stranger claims he learned from Aborigines. A shout that could kill a person. And Bates' character seems crazy enough to do it.

Not a box office hit but with good reviews, and the respect for The Shout has grown over the years. If you've seen Roman Polanski's The Tenant, figure The Shout is in similar territory. I have to figure M. Night was inspired by this picture. His pictures and The Shout seem similar, except for the heavy use of scores by M. Night, and the weak quality of M. Night's screenplays from Signs on. With Tim Curry and Jim Broadbent in supporting roles.

This screening is free, as part of the Museum's free Friday admissions after 3pm. Tickets for the film are available on a first come, first served basis:

SCOTT PILGRIM Vs. THE WORLD and MOONLIGHTING (1982)- Sun June 26 at 1 (Scott) and 4 (Moonlighting)- AMMI in Astoria- An offbeat double feature at AMMI. 2 different retrospectives, and you can see one from each, for one admission. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was a flop from last summer, but it seems as though it didn't matter what kind of business it did. Edgar Wright's film seemed almost packaged to become a cult flick, destined to be seen over and over on DVD and cable. This film falls under the Moving Images's Great Adaptations retrospective, probably because there were enough good reviews that kept the film from disappearing too quietly. Time will tell if a Cult will actually form around this film. I still haven't seen it which is why one reason why I won't do a long post about this. That and if you're under 32 and you look at this list with any kind of regularity, you know what this film is about and you don't want me to get all snarky about this. Instead I'll spend the time bringing up the second movie, for which you'd have to be over 36 and/or British and/or Polish and/or a huge Jeremy Irons fan to have any clue what I'm talking about.

Moonlighting, from 1982, part of the Jerzy Skolimowski retrospective, made while he was in self-imposed exile in England while Poland was under martial law. Skolimowski's most successful film, both critically and commercially. Irons is the young foreman of a group of Polish workers, who have arrived illegally in London, to work on a house of a rich Polish businessman. They blow what little money they have early on the trip, so all they can really do is work in this strange land, where Irons' character is the only one who speaks English. But as it gets harder to keep the food supply for his workers running smoothly, the unthinkable happens. Martial law is imposed in Poland, where Irons worries for his wife and family back home. Trying to keep the workers satisfied, trying to keep them in the country to finish the job, trying not to let them starve, Irons' character has to resort to almost any means necessary to keep things intact. Including shoplifting for stuff, including forcing his men to work 18 hours a day, including controlling every bit of news from the outside. Any comparisons between a Communist government and the foreman's tactics are intentional, but the strain it puts on this lone (and alone) man is just as palpable.

On almost every top 10 list from major critics back in 82, and was a minor art house hit. By the early 1990s, Moonlighting seemed to have almost disappeared from the face of the Earth. It is on DVD, but good luck finding it. This film contains proof that Irons doesn't have to play a villain or some sort of sleaze in order to be really good at his craft:

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Tues June 28- Thurs June 30 at 7 and 9:35- A new 35mm print of the original director's cut. Nicholas Roeg's sci-fi cult classic from 1976, with David Bowie as an alien. He must get water to his dying planet or get his people off the dying planet that lacks water (I forget which, it's been a while), so he comes to Earth, poses as a human, and forms a company that serves as a multi-national front, while he builds a return ship. But he doesn't plan on dealing with falling in love or at least in lust, or the enjoyable trappings of wealth, or the U.S. government, and business greed and ruthlessness. Bowie has never been perfectly cast as he was here, with strong support from Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry. If you never saw it, you'll find it interesting. One of those films that doesn't spell everything out for you, so you'll actually have to think a little, God help you (Tee-Hee!). For sure, of its time. Plays through Thursday July 7th, I'll only re-post it if I haven't seen it by then:

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