Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sept revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of this month. Now that the U.S. Open is over (good tournament despite Serena Williams's efforts to ruin it in the Finals), I can post a nice size list of possible revivals and 1 re-release to watch. You might think this list is long. Trust me, it could have been much MUCH longer. It's been a while since I had to edit, but here we go:

THE FRENCH CONNECTION- Thurs Sept 15- Sat Sept 17 and Tues Sept 20- Wed Sept 21 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of the 1971 classic cop and robbers drama, a fictionalized version of a true story. Gene Hackman is in anti-hero territory, as dedicated cop, Popeye Doyle. Drunken, sloppy, careless with civilians, co-workers, and probably with the Miranda rights of criminals. This slob, alongside his partner (Roy Scheider), gets curious about this husband/wife with criminal records, who own a news stand/little diner, yet they throw around money. The cops' surveillance of these small-timers leads them to a suave, dignified and classy looking French man (Fernando Rey), who's actually the biggest heroin supplier to North America. A cat and mouse game ensues between Popeye and the Frenchman, featuring the greatest car chase in film history.

Winner of 5 Oscars: Picture, Hackman for Actor, William Friedkin for Director, Screenplay Adaptation and Editing. 3 other nominations, including Scheider for Supporting Actor and Cinematography. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Not my favorite film from 71, that would be A Clockwork Orange. It may or may not be in my Top 100 all time; I never put such a list together, but its on the cusp for sure. But I saw this at the Forum back in October of 01, loved it, and wouldn't mind going back again:

THE LION KING in 3-D- Starting Fri Sept 16 for 2 weeks (probably longer)- At the Ziegfeld and other theaters TBA- Screening times TBA- Technically this is a re-release, not a revival. But I consider re-releases as acceptable revivals for the public to accept, it goes on the list. After the 3-D converted success Disney had with the re-releases of Toy Story and Toy Story 2, Disney tried to convert other films in their library. While the 3-D Beauty and the Beast has only been released overseas and may not ever see a domestic run, the 3-D conversion of The Lion King gets a two week release, probably longer. It doesn't need really need it the conversion, but any excuse to bring it back in theaters is a good one.

You probably have seen this, it's probably second only to Snow White among popular hand drawn Disney films. So I won't go into the story, and stick with myself. Never saw it in theaters back in the summer of 1994. Back then I had no interest in catching "kiddie cartoons" in theaters. This was despite enjoying Beast and Aladdin on VHS. The main reason I caught the 1991 re-release of 101 Dalmatians was for childhood nostalgia. I didn't even attempt to catch Lion King's successful IMAX run, for fear it would be cut like the IMAX version of Apollo 13. So now is my best chance to catch this. Disney says this will only be a two week run. Yeah right, three or four weeks is more likely, but I wouldn't waste time if you're interested. I sure won't.

MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO- Fri Sept 16 at 7- AMMI- Part of the Gus van Sant retrospective. My Own Private Idaho, an art house hit from 1991, plays like one part Midnight Cowboy, one part Oliver Twist, one part road film, and one part the Henry IV plays from Shakespeare. 2 young hustlers, Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix, are brought together by chance, by a Fagin-esque pimp. Reeves' character, comes from money and influence, yet chooses to be a male prostitute. Phoenix's character, gay and in love with Reeves, is looking for the mother he never knew, but whose narcolepsy makes his life difficult to live. The two will take on anyone as a client. Hope comes in and bonding occurs, when the two go on the road to find Phoenix's mother. But hope doesn't last, and if that's the case, then how can the bond last . . .

Nothing less than interesting, and at times, even better. Mostly thanks to Phoenix's performance; another feeling of what could have been his career throughout his work in this picture. But as much as it might be fun to mock Keanu, Phoenix's performance needed someone to bounce off of, and Reeves is there for him every scene.
You'll have to pay 12 dollars, the museum admission, to see My Own Private Idaho this night. Either you arrive before say 4pm, check out the Jim Henson Exhibit and get a free ticket, or you arrive at 4 or later, check out the exhibit, and then go back to the front desk and pay to see Private Idaho. Either way, its 12 dollars:

It costs the same if you wish to see it two days later with something else entirely . . . .

DOG CITY with HBO's THE STORYTELLER and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO- Sun Sept 18 at 1 (Dog) and 7 (Idaho)- AMMI- If you rather see some Jim Henson alongside your Gus van Sant stuff. Here's your chance to see it all for one admission. You don't have to, but that's my probable game plan. At 1PM, we have about 70 minutes of Jim Henson stuff, Dog City and HBO's The Storyteller.

First, Dog City, a mini movie from an episode of the little seen Jim Henson Hour from 1989 on NBC. The show (12 episodes, only 9 aired on network TV) would mix puppetry, CGI, and live actors. But aside from intros that involved Kermit, some new characters and Henson himself, the format would change from week to week. I don't believe we'll get to watch the entire episode, just the Dog City sequence. Inspired by film noirs of the 30s and 40s as well as the infamous painting of dogs playing poker, we have a city populated by dogs. A young dog takes on the Mob, as he refuses to pay protection money. Narrated by Rowlf the Dog.

Dog City should play well to young kids, but this episode of The Storyteller, The Solider and Death from 1988, probably won't. A British/HBO co-production, this also mixed puppetry with live actors, but the stories would be based on obscure European folk tales. The Solider and Death, based on a Russian folk tale, is about a good honest man (Bob Peck-Jurassic Park), coming home from war. His honesty and good virtue gains him enormous power, from people who are grateful for his generosity and sacrifice. But even a decent honest man can be overwhelmed by power . . . Narrated by John Hurt in the title role. The various tales would be book-ended with sequences between Hurt and an anamatronic talking dog.

I've seen a few episodes of The Storyteller, but not this one, and I've definitely never seen Dog City. For one admission, you can catch them, then the Henson exhibit, and still get a quick coffee/snack/small lunch, before seeing My Own Private Idaho.:

ALLIGATOR- Mon Sept 19 at 8pm- 92Y Tribeca- 200 Hudson St.- The only film from the 92Y Tribeca's Rip Off Cinema series. Films that made no pretension that they were knockoffs of better, blockbuster films. Films such as 1990:The Bronx Warriors or Lady Terminator, no way in hell would I post. But Alligator is different. Not what you would expect of me, but hear me out.

From 1980, though I thought it was also in theaters in 1981, Alligator was suppose to be just a cheap Jaws ripoff. A little girl in Chicago gets a baby alligator from mom, but the girl's nasty father flushes it down the toilet. It lives for years in the Chicago sewer system for almost twenty years. But during its last few years, it's been getting a steady diet of dead animals who have been illegally experimented on, thanks to an evil businessman and the corrupt Chicago mayor (is there any other kind? HA! I KID! . . . not really . . . .). Anyway, this alligator gets to be over 40 feet long, super strong, and won't stay below the streets any longer. It's up to a beautiful scientist (the little girl, all grown up), and a cop (Robert Forster) who must be the CPD equivalent of Agent Mulder, to stop the killer gator.

Fun script from writer/ future indie film master John Sayles, and good direction from Lewis Teague keeps this ninety-one minute film moving at a good clip. This is a film with a sense of humor; cmon it's about a killer alligator roaming the sewers. It breaks through concrete and smashes cars. Hell, one of the victims is a sewer worker named Ed Norton! Of course this film needs to have a tongue in cheek approach in order to be approached. Forster gives the film the light Everyman approach needed, and familiar faces (Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva, Sue Lyon, Jack Carter, Dean Jagger) help. They also get the gator right. Whether its a puppet, or shadows, or an actual gator walking around in models, it's always effective. Needed considering the film's high body count and imaginative deaths. Alligator isn't the best film on this list, but might be a good film that's actual fun:

THIEF- Thurs Sept 22 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Tuesday Weld retrospective, an actress whose blue eyed blonde looks tended to obscure her acting talent. Even though she has only a supporting role here, I feel it's an underrated gem. Michael Mann's first time directing a theatrical film might be considered as an example of style over substance, but oh what glorious style. One of United Artists' last flops, from 1981, it tells a familiar story. James Caan is a top safe cracker with a code of honor, who agrees to do one last job for a crime boss who'll let him retire afterwards. Or will he? He wants to make (or steal) enough money so he can retire and raise a family. All the obsession he brings to his profession, he transfers to pursing his dream of starting a family, ignoring his own instincts. He'll pay for that.

If this had come out 3-5 years later, when Michael Mann's style was firmly established in the hit series Miami Vice, it might have been more successful. The energized cinematography, slick editing, electric rock score (from Tangerine Dream), it's all there. Plus, a strong centerpiece performance from Caan as the tough as nails thief; anxious to have something resembling a normal life, and unsure if he can get it, or keep it. Not the best film on this list, but look at as a Mann template coming into place, as it tells a familiar story in an interesting way. Caan's great lead performance ably supported by the rest of the cast (Robert Prosky, Weld, Willie Nelson, Jim Belushi, William Petersen, Dennis Farina). It's only available in an out of print DVD, with little to no extras, so this is your best chance to see this rarely screened film:

DIAL M FOR MURDER for 7.50- Thurs Sept 22 at 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- 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. Sorry that I'm not posting the Hedda Lettuce commentary screening, but I prefer this particular film without it:

CUL-DE-SAC- Fri Sept 23 at 4 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- Part of the Roman Polanski retrospective. A dark comedy from 1965 that I don't know anything about. But its free, subject to ticket availability, and I'm curious. It came out on through the Criterion Collection last month, after decades of no home video availability or poor quality prints in this country. So if I'm going to pitch this, I'll have to use the brief description from the Criterion website. The ol' cut and paste I'm afraid, I'm not proud:

SYNOPSIS: Roman Polanski orchestrates a mental ménage à trois in this slyly absurd tale of paranoia from the director’s golden 1960s period. Donald Pleasence and Françoise Dorléac star as a withdrawn couple whose isolated house is invaded by a rude, burly American gangster on the run, played by Lionel Stander. The three engage in role-playing games of sexual and emotional humiliation. Cul-de-sac is an evocative, claustrophobic, and morbidly funny tale of the modern world in chaos.

WHO'LL STOP THE RAIN- Fri Sept 23 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Tuesday Weld retrospective. From 1978, also known overseas as Dog Soliders, based on the book of the same name. Michael Moriarty plays a disillusioned war correspondent, disillusioned by what he saw in Vietnam. He figures to make a killing by smuggling heroin into the U.S. Moriarty's character brings his old high school buddy (Nick Nolte) into the operation. Nolte meets Moriarty's wife (Weld) a prescription drug addict. When goons lay an ambush to take the heroin, Nolte escapes, with the wife and the heroin. Meanwhile, Moriarty returns to see his home ransacked, his buddy wife and heroin missing. If that isn't enough, a corrupt DEA agent (Anthony Zerbe) forces him to track down his old buddy, kill him, and get back the heroin. People may get out of this story alive, but no one gets out unscathed.

The best performance of Weld's career, as an addict, on the run forced to go through withdrawal from prescription drugs by using heroin. Can't be good. While we have good performances throughout the cast, Nolte, in his first studio lead, is the standout here. A paranoid survivor, trapped in a difficult position. A former hippie sympathizer turned Merchant Marine, who finds the straight world corrupt and the counter-culture world powerless and dying, if not outright dead. Therefore, what does he have to live or fight for? To fight and survive, no matter how hopeless.
Good film that is among those post-Watergate, post-Vietnam films that drags the audience down a dark rabbit hole. Therefore, despite good reviews, the film flopped, and if you're under the age of 45, you probably never heard of it. Sept 23rd would be a great chance to correct this. The bleakest film on this list, but a very good one. Lean and mean, so to speak:

THE ROOM for 15 dollars- Sat Sept 24 at 12:30AM- Ziegfeld- One of the best bad films of recent times, Tommy Wiseau's The Room returns to the Ziegfeld for one late night screening. I don't know if it played at the Ziegfeld in-between late April 2010 and now, but this "Citizen Kane of bad movies" has to be seen to be believed. After reading Kate Ward's article for Entertainment Weekly, I'm expecting a Rocky Horror experience. I'm expecting Wiseau and at least 1 actor to come, say hi to as many fans as possible, and do an interesting Q and A. I'm expecting a Rocky Horror type atmosphere, with talking back to the screen, tossing of footballs, etc. I also expect this to sell out like it did at the Ziegfeld, like it has at the Village East Cinema where this normally plays. I expect people to line up as early as 8. If this isn't an excuse to wait on line while someone makes a run to get the quality burgers at the Parker Meridian, then I don't know what to tell.

As for The Room itself, the best I can say is, there is nothing quite like it. That's the best you're getting out of me. What? I didn't go into what it's about? Does it truly matter? Won't make it any better. Decide fast if you want to, because tickets will go fast:

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA- Sun Sept 25 at 6:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The last of the Tuesday Weld retrospective, and probably the best film of the Lincoln Center series, possibly the best on this list. Essentially a lost classic of Sergio Leone's, the last film he directed. Robert De Niro and James Woods play friends who we see grow up to be gangsters, grow apart, and grow old with regret, especially De Niro's character. A strong supporting cast: Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Weld, Danny Aiello, Treat Williams, and a young Jennifer Connelly in her feature film debut.

Leone was contracted to turn in a cut no longer then 2hrs. 45min. After shooting 10 hrs. of film, Leone would only (could only?) submit a slightly under 4hrs. cut. The American distributor, Warner Bros., took the film away, and cut about 95 min. out of it, and threw it into theaters in June 1984. No surprise, critics destroyed it, and the film tanked big time. It wasn't until the version that was only slightly shorter then Leone's submitted cut, was released in Europe, briefly in the U.S. and then on home video, that the film got respect. Each year, more praise seems to be heaped upon it, and it gets closer to classic status (if it isn't there already). The Walter Reade is claiming to be showing the complete director's cut. Considering it starts at 6:30, expect it to be long. Hope one of you is interested in this:

MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE with Fellini's THE TEMPTATION OF DR. ANTONIO- Tues Sept 27 and Wed Sept 28 at 7:30- Film Forum- New 35mm prints of a sort of double feature. It starts with a short, Federico Fellini's The Temptation of Dr. Antonio from 1962. Some putz wants to get a billboard of a busty blonde pitching milk banned. Problems occur when the woman on the billboard comes to life, in the form of Anita Ekberg, and comes on to the guy. This, I don't care about. I'll watch it, but I'm not enthused. It's the main feature that comes after this (plus a brief intermission), that I'm interested in.

Marriage Italian Style, from 1964, re-teamed director Vittorio De Sica and stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Like their previous international hit, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, they went back to adapt another romantic comedy (in this case, a play) from Eduardo De Filippo. Mastroianni is a ladies man, even when married, who meets a teenage Loren, frightened during a bomb raid. It was World War 2 after all. They meet a few years later, and we have about twenty years of their time together. As a mistress co-worker and then wife, Loren grows up, matures, and the power shifts in the relationship, whether he likes it or not. The story isn't exactly told in a linear manner, but don't worry, it's easy to pick up.

About as successful as Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, and a better film. Oscar nominations for Loren for Best Actress, and for Best Foreign Film. Not in the same year mind you, but I'm not doing the research as to why, no thanks. Let's just catch this please:

Let me know if there's interest. With this many options, there has to be something for you to see. Later all.

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