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.

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