Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July revivals: second half.

Mike here with my longest list of revivals in a long time, 26 titles. More than half of these were relatively last second additions, especially from the programmers at Lincoln Center. Let me not waste more time, here we go:

PLANET OF THE APES- Wed July 13 and Thurs July 14 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A reminder that there are 2 days left to catch this. Let's catch this please:

HUD- Fri July 15 at 7- AMMI in Astoria- Part of the Paul Newman retrospective, where he worked with one of his favorite directors, Martin Ritt. From 1963, Newman played the title role, one of his most famous anti-heroes, though far less likable than his character in Cool Hand Luke. Hud is reckless, brash, a part-time drunkard, full-time philanderer, who only loves himself. He has a principled father (Melvyn Douglas) who despises him, and a young nephew (Brandon De Wilde) who idolizes him. Hud tries to use this unrequited admiration to get the ranch of his father's control, especially after Father buys cattle that may have an infectious disease that might wipe out Hud's entire inheritance, er I mean the RANCH, might wipe out the ranch.

Oscars for Douglas for Supporting Actor and for the Black and White Cinematography. Also for an Oscar for Patricia Neal for Best Actress. She might have had the screen time one would more associate with a Supporting role. But her role, as the middle aged maid who is kind of motherly to the nephew yet has to constantly fight off the alternating crude lusty comments and insults from Hud, works best based on giving us further insight into the men around her.
Nominations for Screenplay, Art Direction, and Ritt for Director. Also a nomination for Newman for Best Actor. Didn't have a chance to win though; not up against the eventual winner, Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field. Never mind against the impact newcomers Albert Finney and Richard Harris had back then. Newman's time would come:

EL TOPO- Fri July 15 at 12:15AM- IFC Center- The start of Midnight movie screenings are usually traced back to this Mexican film, El Topo, from 1970. Starts off as a somewhat slow moving Spaghetti Western, as a man seeking revenge against bad guys, and then it gets progressively weirder. If you don't know what goes in the film, I won't spoil it for you. The swinging in tone, from comedy to action to drama to metaphysical to romantic to tragic and back to any of the other types I've just described, might drive you nuts. And because it was shot in the late 60s, it has a very trippy quality to it as well. But the episodic style and part-time trippiness does help as does, for me, what writer/director/star/ costume designer/production designer/co-composer Alejandro Jodorowsky said about it: "This is the story of a man searching for peace, and can never find it.". At the very least, you'll walk away from the screening saying, I've NEVER seen a film like El Topo before, never. And I don't think that's a bad thing. Screened in a beautiful looking digital restoration:

THE MUPPET MOVIE with appearance by Austin Pendelton and THE THIN BLUE LINE and/or HUD- Sat July 16 at 1 (Muppet), 5 (Thin) and 7 (Hud)- AMMI in Astoria- Up to 3 films playing on July 16th. Your museum admission lets you see up to all three, just ask when you pay up. It would be a long 8 hours if you do all 3, longer if you show up early enough to explore the museum.

The day starts with The Muppet Movie, which helps not only to launch the Jim Henson/Muppets film retrospective, but also to launch a 6 month long exhibit of Henson's work, puppets, Muppets, drawings, writing, etc. The first and best of the Muppet films gets a late night screening but for once, NOT at midnight. A sleeper hit of the summer of 1979, you might be surprised that it's more than just a kid's flick. You have a road film, with a stealth satire of Hollywood and what one might move too quickly to give up on to make it big. A satire not on the level of say, Sunset Blvd or The Player, but one that registers now that didn't back in grade school when you/we first saw this. Ok, was that too much? Fine, you got fun jokes, both good and groan inducing. You have enjoyable cameos, with Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Charles Durning, Dom DeLuise, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope and Orson Welles among the cast. You've got practically every Muppet that ever appeared during the run of The Muppet Show. You also got the Oscar nominated song, The Rainbow Connection. What you'll have is fun.

Also with a supporting role is Austin Pendelton, who plays Durning's assistant. Pendelton will attend this particular screening. Not sure if he'll introduce the screening, or do a post film Q and A. My guess is that it'll be just an introduction, though the museum's website doesn't tell us.

Next, The Thin Blue Line, part of the Errol Morris retrospective. Morris is probably one of the most respected documentary film makers working today, and his reputation and film career was launched with this film. In 1976, Dallas police officer Robert Wood was murdered during a traffic stop. Dallas police had trouble finding the killer, until they received info about a juvenile talking about how he killed the cop. David Ray Harris, 16, when confronted by the police, not only brought them to the car from the crime scene, but gave them the .22 caliber revolver used in the crime, and identified 28 year old Randall Adams as the murderer. The film takes a Rashomon approach of re-enacting the testimony and interviews of Harris, Adams, and witnesses and detectives. Morris, a former private investigator whose father was an integrator during World War 2, tries to make the case of not only was Adams wrongly convicted, but that Harris was the actual killer. Morris also brings up why only Adams was facing the death penalty; Harris was a juvenile, so it would be a slam dunk to go after the adult Adams with execution.

The film was not a hit, even in the art house circuit. And some critics back in 1988, had major issues with the idea of using re-enactments, But most critics praised this to the hilt, placing it on quite a number of Top 10 lists, and the use of re-enactments have been used on screen and tv documentaries ever since. Morris's style of having his interview subjects speak directly into the camera also has had an influence on how some documentaries (and reality TV) are shot. This was also a critical feather in the cap of the fledgling Miramax Films company. The Thin Blue Line has also been credited with forcing Adams's case to be re-reviewed, his conviction overturned, and to eventually be released under an order of habeas corpus.

After Thin Blue Line is Hud, which I brought up before. For one admission, you can see up to all three films. It won't leave you with much time to see the Muppet exhibit, unless you come say, at 11AM or slightly after. It also won't leave you with much time to eat, especially between Thin Red Line and Hud. Remember, this is a museum not a multiplex, so no food or drink will be allowed in the screening rooms:

WAITING FOR GODOT with Film- Sat July 16 at 6:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- A night of rarely seen Samuel Beckett works. Not the material necessarily, but how the material was performed. Waiting For Godot is not a film revival, but a TV revival. From 1961, this was part of Plays of the Week, committed to performing classic plays with theatre actors, on an independent New York/New Jersey TV station. Godot aired months before the station changed its call sign to WNET, as a precursor to PBS. Godot starred Burgess Meredith as Didi and Zero Mostel (after years of unemployment after he refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. ) as Gogo. Despite not liking the project, the production helped re-launch Mostel's career. The master of Godot was transferred from Columbia to UCLA to the CBS Media Exchange where it has been preserved, and will be screened for one night only at the Walter Reade.

receding Godot (and also preserved by UCLA) is Beckett's Film, the only project written exclusively for and on film. The 20 minute short from 1965, stars Buster Keaton in one of his last roles. Don't know much else about it, but I am curious:

THE MUPPET MOVIE and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and/or THE THIN BLUE LINE- Sun July 17 at 1 (Muppet), 4 (Cat) and 7 (Thin)- AMMI in Astoria- Another chance to see The Muppet Movie and The Thin Blue Line. However on this day, instead of the Errol Morris film, you can see Muppet Movie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for one admission. From the Paul Newman retrospective, it's Richard Brooks' adaptation of the classic Tennessee Williams play. The story of the family members of Big Daddy, with an emphasis on alcoholic son Brick, his wife Maggie "The Cat", and Big Daddy himself, who rails against mendacity. Definetly with something to say regarding the propping up of lies, how social rules in Southern culture seems to allow that to flourish unless it is challenged, as well as one faces mortality and death.

All traces of homosexuality were removed from the transfer from stage to screen to comply with the Production Code, causing Williams to essentially say "Don't go". Best to think of this as a good Cliff Notes, so that if you come across a production or perhaps the out of print Jessica Lange-Tommy Lee Jones DVD for PBS' American Playhouse, you'll go in well prepared. Oscar nominations for Picture, Newman for Actor, Brooks for Director and Screenplay, Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie the Cat for Best Actress, and Cinematography. Ives accepted a Supporting Actor nomination for The Big Country instead of Cat. But that worked out, since he won the award that year:

12 ANGRY MEN or THE PAWNBROKER- Tues July 19 at 6:30 (Men) or 8:35 (Pawnbroker)- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The start of a hastily put together Sidney Lumet retrospective. 2 films that you would have to pay 2 admissions to see on the same day, unless . . . I'll go into that a few paragraphs below.

First, 12 Angry Men. After the verdict in the Casey Anthony case was rendered, you probably noticed the internet ablaze with anger. One Facebook friend, who I'll leave anonymous, has something interesting to say, among those who did not:

. . . When it comes to small children and animals...expect that case to catch the attention of the country and to get people's blood boiling if they think justice hasn't been done. I'm not saying anything about the verdict one way or the other. I'm just saying that I've ceased to be surprised at what conclusion a jury come to in a case. This is why 12 Angry Men continues to be relevant. I'm not saying I agree with the verdict. I'm just saying that it is what it is...

12 Angry Men, Lumet's big screen debut after years of working on live TV. The story of twelve calmness-free humanoid males expressing displeasure, as they serve as jurors on a murder case. If you're reading this, then you know this courtroom drama, set during jury deliberations, so there's no need to go much further about the story. A fun potboiler of a film. The great acting isn't the amazing part to me; the fact that Lumet kept things cinematically interesting despite being confined to 1 or 2 small rooms is. 3 Oscar nominations, for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay Adaptation. But it was a flop in its day. Star/co-producer Henry Fonda was so disappointed, he would never produce another film again. But it's considered a classic today. On the second AFI Top 100 list.

Next, The Pawnbroker, a tough drama and another good NYC film. Rod Stieger plays the title role, a holocaust survivor, applying his trade in Harlem. Like Juliette Binoche in Blue, his character is suffering from loss and trauma, and despite (and perhaps abetted by) his profession, he wants no emotional contact whatsoever. But just like in Blue, life gives him no choice. Dark enough that despite critical praise, it didn't get the same love from that year as say, The Sound of Music or Dr. Zhivago. Stieger received his Oscar nomination, but most of the film's accolades came from overseas. Also notable for being both Morgan Freeman's screen debut, and being another film that defied the Production Code by being released, for a brief topless scene, without the Code's approval. Worth catching.

While I'm not thrilled about no such thing as a double feature at the Walter Reade, at least there's a 3 film pass available for 30 dollars for us ( less for its members, students and seniors). And any excuse to screen some of these Lumet films in the comfortable Walter Reade, with its large screen and good sound system, is worth it:

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE- Thurs July 21 at 9:30 (may start late) for 7.50- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- I've been waiting for this film for awhile. A cheap screening of the best disaster film ever made. The only other disaster film I'd consider posting is The Towering Inferno, which is playing at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema on Thursday July 14. But since I'm not making it there that night, I'm not posting it. Ok, I'd also post The Concorde: Airport 1979, but that film I file under So Bad It's Fun. Actually, this film's sequel, Beyond The Poseidon Adventure is also in that category, but I digress.

One part action film, one part adventure film and one part religious parable, a group of passengers try to survive when the ocean liner they were on completely capsizes. They're attempting to reach the bottom or outer hull of the ship, which is the thinnest part of the ship and is above the surface. It's a theory that help will come in that direction, and that theory comes from a young boy, but those who haven't given up feel it's the only way to survive and see The Morning After (the title of the Oscar winning song). Gene Hackman plays an atypical hero, an ultra-self-righteous, Captain Ahab-esque, defrocked preacher whose personality clashes with loud doubter Ernest Borgnine may proof more problematic than the fires and leaks the group encounters. Throw in aspects of The Flying Dutchmen, Ship of Fools, other survivors wandering the ship like they were in the desert, and all the survivors looking for salvation of some sort, and you got parables right in your face. Or you can enjoy the strong acting and good action set pieces. Fine cast that includes Red Buttons, Jack Albertson, Leslie Neilsen, Roddy McDowell and Oscar nominated Shelley Winters. A special Oscar for its Visual Effects. 8 nominations in total, including Cinematography, Editing and for John Williams' fine score.

I'm only posting its 9:30 screening, and not its 7pm screening. Not that this doesn't have moments where it can be made fun of, but I like this too much to watch this get the MST3K treatment at 7. But if you prefer to see a good 35mm screening, then you 'll want to wait about 6 weeks, when it will screen at the Walter Reade. You'll have to spend a little more, but I can wait if you want:

NETWORK or THE VERDICT- Fri July 22 at 6:15 (Network) or 8:45 (Verdict)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the hastily put together Sidney Lumet retro. The last Lumet retrospective was last February at the Film Forum. That plus the Pacino in the 70s retrospective done this year, which included Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, and with 2009's gives me a feeling of deja vu all over again. A hastily put together retrospective, where Night Falls on Manhattan, The Hill and Murder on the Orient Express, are replaced by The Wiz. So what if one of the few good scenes from that mediocre film was shot in Lincoln Center's plaza itself. My only regrets regarding this retro is that I'll end up missing the screenings of Q & A (where Luis Guzman and author Edwin Torres will talk about the film) and Prince of the City (where Treat Williams and former detective Robert Leuci will do a post film Q and A).

Can't see them on the same day, unless you use that 3 day pass I mentioned in the 12 Angry Men post. First, Network. One of the more influential films of 1976. Considered a bit outrageous when first released, but more prophetic as each year has passed. Tell me that cable news shows and the shows that spoof them don't resemble anything depicted in Network. If you have the balls to me I'm wrong . . .

10 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Director Sidney Lumet and Actor William Holden. 4 Oscars, for Supporting Actress, Actress for Faye Dunaway, Original Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky and Actor for Peter Finch, the first posthumous winner in an acting category. Some feel Holden would have won if Finch had not died. But once you deliver something that hits the pop culture zeitgeist like the "I'm mad as hell" monologue, it's hard to overcome. Network became only the second film to win 3 of the 4 Oscar acting categories (Streetcar was first.) On both AFI Top 100 lists. Not sure if it's on my personal Top 100 list, because I never made a list like that before. But if Network isn't there for me, it's very very close.

Next, The Verdict. One of the better courtroom dramas ever made. Paul Newman plays a lawyer, degenerated into an alcoholic ambulance chaser. He has one shot of redemption, to settle a hospital negligence suit. He shouldn't be able to screw that up, but he seems almost unconsciously trying to do just that. Until he notices things that make him think, something went wrong, this should go to trial. So we have a courtroom battle between Newman's character, struggling to keep the demons at bay whenever he steps out of the courthouse, going up against one powerful law firm, led by win at all costs lead consul James Mason. With a judge who openly despises him, Charlotte Rampling as a girlfriend with ulterior motives, and a case that is far from a slam dunk, we kinda get a David vs Goliath story, set in a mostly shabby looking Boston in the middle of winter.

Arguably the best performance of Newman's career; talent, maturity, guidance from Lumet and the words from a very good David Mamet script, all come together. Newman's so good, you can even forgive him for that borderline preposterous closing argument near the end. Newman's that good, in Lumet's last great film. 5 Oscar nominations, for Picture, Lumet for Director, Newman for Actor, Mason for Supporting Actor, and Mamet for Screenplay Adaptation. By the time The Verdict came out in early December, it was expected to win something during Oscar time. I don't know about it winning over Tootsie or E.T. for Best Picture (not my order, it was the times), but Newman winning for Best Actor, finally, was expected. But released on the same day, though in limited release, was Gandhi. Ben Kingsley's performance, and the film itself, steamrolled through the Oscars. Let's not belittle the work of that film here, but let's just say that there was a feeling shortly thereafter that the Academy owed Newman one. And after you see The Verdict, you might agree.

BACK TO THE FUTURE for free- Fri July 22 at sundown- the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum- Pier 86 on W. 46th St. and 12th Ave- A free screening on the deck of the Intrepid, that starts at sundown, weather permitting. The Goonies screening planned for Friday July 8th was rained out and there are no rain dates, so hopefully it won't happen here.

The biggest film of 1985. Came out of nowhere to find not only the family audience, but served as an overall alternative to the other major film from that year, Rambo Part 2. Chances are you know the story, so I don't need to sell this classic:

THE MUPPET MOVIE and/or THE STING and/or GATES OF HEAVEN and/or BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID- Sun July 24 at 1 (Muppet), 4 (Sting), 5 (Gates) and 7 (Butch)- AMMI in Astoria- One more chance to catch up with The Muppet Movie, along with more films from the Paul Newman and Errol Morris retrospectives. I've already brought up the Muppets, so I'll briefly start with The Sting. Maybe a little light weight for a 7 time Oscar winning Best Picture, but a well constructed caper film and most of all, a fun film. The classic con film, where Newman and Robert Redford try to outfox evil Robert Shaw I can understand those who feel Newman slept walked through most of his performance (I disagree), but it's tough against Redford's best leading man performance. His only Oscar nomination as an actor. Helped many people discover Scott Joplin's long forgotten music and bring Ragtime music back into the forefront. The music didn't fit into the timeline of the story, but the feeling of it fits beautifully.

Next, Gates of Heaven, part of the Errol Morris retrospective. Morris' first film, from 1978 though slowly released over the course of 1980, and its a heartbreaker. We meet the people who run or have had animals buried in two pet cemeteries in Southern California. We meet the owner of one cemetery with his big ideals, yet went bankrupt. We meet someone who runs a rendering plant, who disposes of all sorts of animals and treats it like a business. Perhaps a little too much, since all the subjects are allowed to speak for long periods.We meet pet owners, some who were either involved with the closed cemetery, or had had a beloved pet reburied (along with 449 other deceased animals), at a large cemetery in the Napa Valley. We met the family who runs the Napa cemetery, all sincere with diverse personalities.

No score, no title cards, so there might be confusion. Just some people with a non judgmental camera, allowing them to talk in length. Sometimes funny, sometimes eccentric, all human. No wonder it launched Morris' career.

Next, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A Western that still has a modern-day film making feel to it, despite it being over 40 years old and maintaining a sense of the turn of the 20th Century. Important since we see Butch and Sundance as lovable outlaws, in an era that is quickly phasing them out, and because they use the gun, the phasing out will be bloody. I doubt the real life Butch and Sundance were so likable, but I'm ok with that. When you have Newman and Redford in the leads, with great dialogue from William Goldman, surrounded by character actors like Strother Martin, Jeff Corey and Cloris Leachman, and director George Roy Hill ably manning the controls, you accept anything. And since those boys treat the lovely Katharine Ross nicely, who am I to complain? Two famous scenes: the 27 minute chase (unusual in its day) by the law that leads to Butch and Sundance jumping off the cliff, and the long concluding shootout against the Bolivian Army, that was recently homaged in a recent episode of House.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Director and Sound. Oscars for Goldman's Screenplay and Conrad Hall's Cinematography, and 2 Oscars awarded to Burt Bacharach, including for Best Song for Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. On both AFI Top 100 lists and among the best Westerns ever made, even if it wasn't the kind of Western John Wayne would approve of.

With the way the films are scheduled on this day, you can see 3 for one price. Start with The Muppet Movie and end with Butch Cassidy. Whether you decide to see The Sting or Gates of Heaven would depend on several factors. Did you come in early enough to see the exhibits in the museum? Because if you didn't, you would have time if you chose to skip The Sting. Could you handle the subject matter of Gates of Heaven, especially if you are/were a pet owner? And then there's the matter of whether you want something to eat and/or drink? Don't worry, you have time to figure it out:

ALL THAT JAZZ- Mon July 25 at 8- IFC Center- Introduced by Kate Bornstien- Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film gets a one night only screening at IFC Center, so I expect the print ot be quite good. Around 1974, Fosse was trying to direct, co-write and choreograph Chicago on Broadway starring his (long separated) wife Gwen Virdon: while trying to balance his relationship with girlfriend Ann Reinking with the other women he slept around with, keep up a relationship with his daughter, and struggle to edit his film Lenny into something at least watchable. All while being a chain smoker and popping Dexedrine like they were candies. Wanna guess how many heart attacks he had, and how close to death he was?

After he got better, and both projects went up, what's a man to do? After he put up the show Dancin', Make all of that into a movie. His friend Shirley MacLaine claims to have given Fosse the idea, he claimed not to remember. Change the names to protect the innocent as well as those he might not have liked, such as Michael Bennett, played in a way by John Lithgow. Made sure he came off as the biggest jerk of all, yet still likable. Bring in some veterans who have been around his world, like Ben Vereen, Leland Palmer (who came out of retirement to play the Gwen Verdon type, then went back into retirement), designer Tony Walton to help with the Art Direction, and Reinking to essentially play herself (which she does well, plus dances terrifically). Make the film essentially a flashback from a place that might be in-between life and death, and that might only be happening in the Fosse-like man's imagination, with Jessica Lange as one luscious Angel of Death, and you've got a helluva picture.

Non-original music and newly developed Fosse choreography shine here. For those who have difficulty with musicals where the singing and dancing come from inorganic places, note the singing and dancing only come from the audition/rehearsal of a musical, one moment performing for Dad, and that imagination place between life and death. The best example was the use of Teddy Pendergrass's On Broadway. In another F.U. to Michael Bennett (allegedly), Fosse whittled down the audition process of ensemble dancers as depicted in A Chorus Line (which crushed Chicago at the Tonys and was still a massive hit when All That Jazz was released) into a mere 3-5 minutes of what Fosse thought was more realistic. It's one of the showstoppers of this film.

That said, we're in for the ride, because we buy Roy Scheider as the Fosse type. According to Razzle Dazzle; unlike Warren Beatty who wanted massive rewrites to fit his tempo, or Jack Nicholson who was more interested in watching the Lakers than talking in depth with Fosse, or Richard Dreyfuss who quit before he was fired during rehearsal,Scheider was more submissive. He was actually willing to learn how to be Fosse from Fosse, not impose a character of his own creation. Might not necessarily be ideal, but film is the director's medium. You might not believe Scheiderwas ever a dancer before the last scene, but you do come away believing everything else.

Which brings me to one particular part of All That Jazz. The two top films for me that came out in 1979 are All That Jazz and Apocalypse Now. The difference for me between Apocalypse being very good and All That Jazz being not only the best film of 1979, but also in my personal top 35 ever, is the ending. Apocalypse is one of the best, until we get to see Marlon The World's Fattest Green Beret, and then Coppola's film deflates and suffers (Redux only partially fixes this). But the ending of All That Jazz is a great finale, the build-up leads to a payoff greater than expected. And when it's time for us to go, what could be better than a send-off with singing, dancing lights, spectacle, and everyone we ever became close to giving us a fond farewell. The little details is what Fosse nailed, while Francis had fat Marlon in the jungle.

Not as big a hit as Cabaret, but successful enough. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Fosse for Director and Screenplay, Scheider for Actor and also for Cinematography. 4 Oscars, including Art Direction and Editing. In fact, it one the first 4 awards announced at the 1980 ceremonies. Don't know why they didn't start with a Supporting Category like in other years. But after that, the Kramer vs. Kramer steamroller commenced, and All That Jazz's commercial momentum slowed. It also won Fosse the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. One can argue what was the first standout, live action movie musical of the 2000s. Whether you think its Moulin Rouge or Rob Marshall's Chicago. But the last great live action musical before any of them was All That Jazz. The screening will be introduced by Kate Bornstein:

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS- Tues July 26 at 6:15 and Tues Aug 9 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The first night of Lincoln Center's Judy Garland retrospective. Put together quite quickly it seems, and was difficult to find on their filmlinc website as of Monday July 11th. All 31 of Garland's films will be screened. After 5 or 6 titles, so good luck getting me interested in more, unless any of you tell me otherwise. The Clock is the only July screening I thought about but changed my mind, the rest of the titles I'm considering are after July 30th. So I repeat, if there are any titles you seriously want me to consider beyond the 2 I'm listing this month or The Clock, tell me.

But for now, Meet Me in St. Louis, with possibly the only happy family ever depicted on film. Second happiest if you count Leatherface's family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, we see a family enjoying their last days of togetherness, before a potential move to New York. A restored 35mm print will be screened. Yes, the film is a color feast for the eye; otherwise it wouldn't be in this retrospective. But this film should be considered the best showcase of Judy Garland's talents. Is it her best performance? Probably not. That would be the last film on this list. Her most memorable performance? No, that would be the next film on the list. But for the full package, catch Judy here. With The Maltese Falcon's Mary Astor as the loving mother, Margaret O'Brien as the scene stealing kid sister, and Leon Ames as the epitome of the loving patriarch.

4 Nominations for Meet Me: for Screenplay (based on the stories written by Sally Benson about her and her family), Score, Color Cinematography (It lost to a film about Woodrow Wilson?!?!? A film that is only seen by 10 people a year on Fox Movie Channel), and for Song (The Trolley Song- "Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley . . .". Shot in one take!) Also featuring the holiday favorite "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

THE RAZOR'S EDGE (1946)- Fri July 29 at 9:30- free with a $7 dollar bar minimum- Rubin Museum- 150 W. 17th st.- A free(ish) screening of the Tyrone Power original, not the Bill Murray remake of Somerset Maugham's novel. Power plays a millionaire/ unhappy World War I veteran, who dumps his materialistic fiancee (Gene Tierney) to find spiritual enlightenment. When he comes back, he tries to help an old friend (Anne Baxter), who, having lost her family in an accident, is in a place of spiritual misery similar to what he was suffering. But those efforts are stymied by the ex-fiance, who wants him back, and will do anything to do it. Oscar nominations for Picture, Clifton Webb for Supporting Actor (as the snobby uncle of Tierney), and Art Direction. An Oscar for Supporting Actress for Anne Baxter, as the woman who seems to either trying to deaden the pain of losing her husband and child through alcohol, opium and empty affairs, or trying to become dead herself.

As I said this screening is free-ish. The Rubin Museum is free after 6pm on Fridays. So you'll have about 3 hours to check the museum out before you'd need to worry about the bar. If you spend about 7 dollars at the bar, you'll get a ticket to the screening one floor down, and you'll be able to bring your drink down with you. You figure 1 beer or 2 sodas/ginger ales/seltzers will do it:

MUPPET HISTORY 101 and HANDS UP! HEADS DOWN!- Sat July 30 at 1 and 3- AMMI in Astoria- A double feature of sorts for Jim Henson fans. Not a revival screening exactly, but I think it fits. At 1pm is Muppet History 101, presented by Craig Sherman, the President of the Jim Henson Legacy, a non-profit organization that essentially spreads the word of Jim Henson and his work, as well as organizing exhibits at places like BAM, the Museum of TV and Radio, and I presume, this current exhibit. Among the things that will be shown in the 80 minute presentation are, according to the Museum's website, are rare or unusual commercials, TV appearances from the 60s, guest spots on the Jimmy Dean and Dick Cavett shows and, possibly the highlight of all this, the pilot for The Muppet Show. This is where they have a different backstage boss in Nigel (who would be the conductor for most of the show's run), and only cameos by Kermit and Miss Piggy (the later in a Planet of the Apes sketch). At 3pm, Shemin and Stephanie D'Abruzzo (former longtime performer on Sesame Street, Tony nominee for Avenue Q, and Shemin's wife) will use behind the scenes footage and live demos to show how these puppets work, and how you can make your own puppet videos.

THE PUBLIC ENEMY and BLONDE CRAZY- Sat July 30 at 6:25 (Blonde), 8 (Enemy), and 9:40 (Blonde)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Pre-Code retrospective. Remember what I brought up the Production Code with Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Pawnbroker? Well, the Forum is doing a retrospective of films that pushed barriers in terms of sex (hints of it in any case) and violence, forcing Hollywood studios to essentially self regulate(censor), so that local state and federal governments didn't do that for them. There is plenty more about this, and I'll let you look it at your leisure. But I will say that at this point in film history, with a Depression going on, studios needed all the income they could get. And while there was a Production code when these two films were released, they was no way to enforce them.

A James Cagney-Joan Blondell double feature from 1931. First, The Public Enemy, starring a charismatic, tough, fast talking Cagney, in a role that made him a star forever. He moves up the ranks, from a punk in the Chicago slums, to a quick tempered gangster with Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke and Blondell around him. He also has a good guy brother who wants no part of the criminal life. But this makes the brother vulnerable to attack, and Cagney's character will seek vengeance. Features the famous scene where Mae Clarke's face met Cagney's grapefruit with force. An Oscar nomination for its story.

Next, Blonde Crazy, which is much lighter fare, akin to The Sting. I saw this last year, and Blonde Crazy was a very pleasant surprise. A con man/person film with bits of romance and comedy thrown in, with terrific leads in Blondell and Jimmy Cagney. Both work in a hotel, see the chiselers out there in Wall Street getting away with stuff (DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?!?!?!?), so why don't they go out and get their's? As long as they stay together, they can't be beat. But they learn it's when they separate that they c have trouble standing up to the big bad world out there. This one is ripe for a remake:

MUPPET HISTORY 101 and SLAP SHOT- Sun July 31 at 1 (Muppet) and 4 (Slap)- AMMI in Astoria- The collection of early clips, interviews and the pilot of The Muppet Show will be screened again on Sunday, July 31. And again it will be introduced by Craig Sherman. But after that, you let the kids explore the museum with adult supervision other than you, and you watch the very adult Slap Shot.

Part of the Paul Newman retrospective. A minor league hockey team figuratively stinks on ice. They don't win much, they're in a working class town losing jobs hand over fist, and the team is ready to be sold. Newman, the veteran player-coach eventually sees only a couple of ways to success. Have the players think the team will stay afloat by being sold and moved to Florida, and have 3 child like brothers who had been sitting on the pine, play in games. Their violent play, bashing opposing players and refs alike, energizes the fan base and starts to actually help the team. Never mind that it no longer resembles the game of hockey or that the fans, new and longtime alike, are now interested in the violence AND ONLY the violence. If it's good enough for the Philadelphia Flyers and most of minor league hockey, it's good enough for them.

One of the few sports films where the actors (surrounded by former players), actually look like they can play. The comedy builds slowly but pays off, and the surprising number of dramatic scenes keeps the film grounded in reality. Newman, in his last team-up with director George Roy Hill, said in Time Magazine back in 1984 that this was the most fun he ever had with a film role and it shows. No Mr. Sensitive here, 70s macho sexist here, complete with hideous clothes and an almost bullet proof cockiness. Good supporting cast includes Michael Ontkean (Twin Peaks), Lindsay Crouse, Jennifer Warren, Melinda Dillion, Swoosie Kurtz, Paul Dooley and Strother Martin. But the guys who play the Hanson Brothers, Jeff and Steve Carlson and David Hanson, have been cult figures ever since:

A STAR IS BORN- Sun July 31 at 7:30 and Tues Aug 9 at 8:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From the Judy Garland retrospective. A restored 35mm print in its original 3 hr, 1 min running time. Now that number is according to both Lincoln Center's filmlinc website and imdb, though Wikipedia puts up different running time. For the purposes of my convenience, I'll stick to the 3hr 1 min time. Warner Bros. executives cut out 30 minutes after the film's premiere, before it was released. Director George Cukor fought it, to no avail. Not only was a lot of A Star Is Born cut, but a musical number, Born in a Trunk was added. In 1983, a version that restored all but 5 minutes was released, but the shortened cut seemed to be what was usually screened on some stations and revival screenings. Now, before the film is released on Blu-ray in mid June, the full 1954 version will be screened for one day only, twice. May or may not be the best version of this story, but one that holds up.

Cukor's fist musical and first color film, where Judy Garland plays the unknown who becomes a star, and James Mason plays the leading man who discovers her, marries her, and falls apart due to depression and alcoholism. Bogie, Gary Cooper, Brando, Montgomery Clift and Cary Grant all turned down the role; they all apparently didn't want to be perceived as loser has-beens, though Grant was supposedly afraid of working with a probably unreliable drug addict like Garland.

Grant seemed to be right regarding the difficulties it would take to work with the actress. Illnesses both real and imaginary (or made up?), fluctuating weight and difficulties from alcoholism and drug addiction made it a problematic shoot. And that was before Warner Bros. decided that A Star is Born had to be their first CinemaScope picture, forcing Cukor to scrap everything that had been shot and do it all over again. Oh joy.

Garland (singing mostly Ira Gershwin tunes) and Mason were both Oscar nominated, as was the Art Direction, Costume Design, Music and the Gershwin- Harold Arlen song "The Man That Got Away". That song might just be the highlight of the film. This is rather a unique revival opportunity, and one I hope you take advantage of. If not on July 31, then on August 9:

TRUE STORIES- Sun July 31 at 9, Thurs Aug 4 at 7 and Sat Aug 6 at 9:15- Anthology Film Archives- Part of the Musicals of the 1980s retrospective. A cult film from 1986, starring and directed by Talking Heads' David Byrne, and written by Byrne, character actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Memento, Lost, Heroes, Groundhog Day), and Beth Henley (Crimes of the Heart). Actual tabloid stories are combined to tell a story in a small Texas town. Interesting cast includes Byrne as narrator, John Goodman (possibly his best screen performance), Swoosie Kurtz and the late Spalding Grey. Quirky, fun film, with Byrne using his sensibilities to great effect. Imagine a happy David Lynch projected on screen. That includes a number of Talking Heads songs and stylized costumes to match. If you can't do this on July 31st, it will screen twice more in early August:

If you think this list was long, trust me. I could have broken past the 35 film mark easy. Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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