Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of October. Not a lot in terms of horror except for Halloween weekend, but some pretty darn good ones overall. Here we go:

WEEKEND- Wed Oct 19 and Thurs Oct 20 at 5:30, 7:40 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of Goddard's black comedy. 2 more nights to try to catch this. When I wrote about Weekend last time, I didn't get the sense of how big this was back in the day, in Goddard's career, and in the hearts and minds of film critics and historians. Since then, after reading much New York based writing about Weekend, I get the sense of where it was in Goddard's career and how he wouldn't make a film quite like this ever again, and that this is a very big deal among most film critics. Not so sure if it was that big a deal to American audiences beyond whatever the art house scene comprised of back in the late 60s. I also have an even stronger sense that Weekend will either be very good or pretentious junk that's aged badly, nothing in-between. I'm willing to take a chance if you are:

CITIZEN KANE with or without JANE ERYE (1943)- Fri Oct 21 at 5:05 (Kane), 7:15 (Jane) and 9:05 (Kane)- Film Forum- The start of the Forum's Bernard Herrmann retrospective. One of the giants of film composers, the retrospective begins with 2 Orson Welles films he scored.

First, Citizen Kane. Ok people, show of hands, how many of you have ever heard of Citizen Kane? Ok, good. If you even bother to look at this list at all, you at least know of Orson Welles' film. Didn't expect to see any hands from those under 18 anyway. Now, how many of you know more about Kane than just Rosebud, even if it's aided by memories of HBO's passable version of the making of Kane, RKO 281? Similar number of hands, fine.

Seeing this on the big screen as opposed to watching it on TV, there's a world of difference. In terms of storytelling, pacing and emotional depth (as well as innovative in its use of visual effects, make-up and music), as modern a film as what we have now in release, and a lot better than all but a hand full (I'm trying to be nice and not be considered a snob. I probably failed at that a long time ago). Now, how many of you have actually seen Citizen Kane from beginning to end? Ok, the number of hands have dropped, but I'll let you decide if that would be a fairly low number. I mean, some of have seen it through the very occasional airings on TCM. Maybe 1 or 2 of have seen it/ own it on DVD. New York/ New Jersey people as recent as the early 80s saw this on one of Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie airings. Or maybe 1 or 2 of you saw it in a film class or some sort. Now, how many of you have actually seen this on the big screen? Yeah, that's what I thought. The 1 or 2 of you who saw this with me at the Forum, when Kane ran for a week back in March 2004, or the one who saw it with me at the Forum last April.

A flop in its day (when you do a thinly veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst, and he still wields considerable influence, it's amazing no one burned the negatives behind RKO's backs), a classic today. First, in France, where it was screened shortly after WW 2, and had the praise and backing of filmmakers like Goddard. Then in the mid to late 50s, when it aired on TV and had a major re-release. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Welles for Actor and Director, Herrmann for his Score, and Editing for Robert Wise. An Oscar to Welles and Joseph J. Mankiewicz for the Screenplay. Number one on both AFI Top 100 lists, and along with Casablanca and The Godfather, always in the conversation for greatest American films ever made. That it's in my personal top 6 should be a little obvious.

Next, Jane Eyre. The first English language sound version of Charlotte Bronte's classic story, from 1943. Jane goes through a harsh childhood, grows up to be Joan Fontaine, and is hired by Welles' rash, reckless Edward Rochester, to tutor/care for his daughter. There's something that grows between them, but oh do we have some harsh times to come. With child actress Margaret O'Brien as Adele, Agnes Moorehead as mean Mrs. Reed, and an uncredited, 10 year old Elizabeth Taylor in an early role. Have only seen clips of this version, don't have to stay for it. But since we're already paying one admission for this double feature, why not?

COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT with post film talk- Sat Oct 22 at 6 (Forbin)- 92nd St Y Tribeca- 200 Hudson St.-The only film, released in 1970, in 92nd Y Tribeca's series of Doomsday films that I have both possible time and definite interest in. Years before the creation of Skynet and WOPR/Joshua, and a few years at most before the creation of the HAL-9000, there was Colossus. A super defense computer built to protect the U.S. from the Soviets. Protected by being built inside a mountain, and powered by its own nuclear plant. But after they link together, Colossus and its Soviet counterpart become of one mind. And they decide to expand, force the American creator Dr. Forbin to help it. And with that, Colossus will seek to help humanity, to protect and improve it. And if humanity doesn't agree, there's always the Nuclear option . . .

Taut, literate film. The technology may not have aged well, but if you can accept the concept of Skynet, you can accept Colossus. And if you can accept that the human protagonists are trying to combat Colossus with logic and reasoning as opposed to machine guns and grenade launchers, then you'll like this film. Grounded lead by Eric Braden (best known for either Titanic or The Young and the Restless), as Forbin, who plots against his dream project. After the mid 80s, this film seemed to disappear, except for a DVD dump released back in 2004. So you probably don't know it, and now is a good time to catch up with it.

After the screening, there will be a discussion about subjects brought up in the film, like robotics and AI. According to the website, the featured panelists are reporter Maggie Jackson, Time Out NY critic Joshua Rothkopf, roboticist Chris Bregler and AI pioneer Roger Schank. The moderator is Motherboard editor Michael Byrne:

NORTH BY NORTHWEST- Sun Oct 23 at 6 and 8:30 and Mon Oct 24 at 9:30- Film Forum- Part of the Bernard Herrmann retro. The best of all the lightweight Alfred Hitchcock films. No big morals here. Just sit back and relax, as everyman Cary Grant gets confused as a secret agent by sinister forces led by James Mason. He runs from them and runs from the law, for a murder at the United Nations he didn't commit. Of course all this running around doesn't stop Grant from taking time to flirt with mysterious Eva Marie Saint, in some of the most fun innuendo that the remnants of the Production Code would allow.

I use the term everyman loosely when describing Grant. But according to Gene Wilder on his episode of Inside The Actors Studio, that's how Grant described himself during a chance meeting on a cruise ship, where the Northwest homage Silver Streak, was playing. Wilder was pleasantly stunned to here this description, as well as how Grant was nice enough to include Wilder as being on the same level, but I digress.

Fun film, with good performances, a snappy though unsubtle Herrmann score, with one of Saul Bass's best opening credit sequences. Oscar nominations for the great Editing, Art Direction, and Ernest Lehman's script. Have never seen this on the big screen. I missed my chance about 6 years back, when it was screened for several weekends at midnight at the Paris theater. I'm sorry I missed catching it on the Paris's large screen, but I blame a girl named Amanda for that. The Forum's screen will be adequate for the occasion, their sound system should rock the hell out of Herrmann's score, so to speak:

DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN- introduced by robbinschilds- Mon Oct 24 at 7- IFC Center- A sleeper hit from the spring of 1985. A variation of Alice In Wonderland, as a bored housewife spots a regular personal ad in the paper titled 'Desperately Seeking Susan'. She heads off to New York, following the ad, and finds Susan. From there, it gets a little trippy, as said housewife loses herself, and yet finds herself, in this new trippy world. A time capsule of the Village of the mid 1980s, and a fun, at times romantic, comedy. Made Rosanna Arquette a working actress for a while, but it deserves to be considered the Madonna movie, since she overshadows better actors (Adian Quinn, Laurie Metcalf, John Turturro), with a solid, appealing persona.

This is part of IFC Center's Queer/Art Film series. Choreographers Sonya Robbins and Layla Childs, also known as robbinschilds, will introduce the film, and discuss how the film influenced them and their art:

CAPE FEAR (1962) and TAXI DRIVER- Fri Oct 28 at 3:05 (Cape), 5:05 (Taxi), 7:10 (Cape), 9:10 (Taxi)- Film Forum- Another double feature in the Bernard Herrmann retrospective. Now I brought up Taxi Driver earlier in the year, and caught a new digital print (so to speak) back in March. I saw that, as opposed to the new 35mm restored print the Forum had at the same time. Now that print is back. I don't have to see it. But since it's in my personal top 100 I certainly wouldn't mind, considering what it's playing with: the somewhat rarely screened Cape Fear. Specifically, the original from 1962. You might unfairly label this as Atticus Finch vs Mitchum, but let's not go there because we 're talking about even more of a psychological battle in this version than the Martin Scorsese remake.

Robert Mitchum spends years in jail, based on testimony from lawyer Gregory Peck. Now Mitchum's out of jail, and he engages in full psychological warfare, stalking Peck and his family. May not have the great scene like there was between De Niro and Juliette Lewis in the remake, though the sexual tension between villain and teenager comes from the remake, not here. Just a series of good scenes and ratcheting tension, lead to a better climax on the boathouse than in the remake. With Polly Bergen as Peck's wife, Martin Balsam as the police chief, and Telly Savalas as a private detective. If one wanted to just catch Cape Fear and skip Taxi Driver, I understand. But i wouldn't mind staying for both.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS with either ALIEN or FRANKENSTEIN introduced by Sara Karloff- Sun Oct 30 at 1 (Horrors), 4 (Alien) and 7 (Frankenstein)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Up to 3 films can be seen on this day at the Moving Image in Astoria. Seeing 2 of these films would make checking out the Jim Henson exhibit difficult. But all of these films are good, the last two are great, and all are appropriate for Halloween. First, Little Shop of Horrors, musical version, from the Henson retrospective. Why? Because this was not only frequent Henson collaborator Frank Oz's first solo directorial effort, but all the Audrey 2 puppets were made from the Henson workshop.

Might be the best musical of the 1980s, but when your only competition in that decade is The Little Mermaid, The Blues Brothers, Pennies From Heaven, A Chorus Line, Breakin, and Breakin 2: Electric Bugaloo, and you'll have to excuse me if I'm not impressed. Let me not be a hater here. It's a wonderful upgrade of the Roger Corman original, where nebbish Seymour tries to get his dream girl Audrey to pay, eh, close attention to him. But he makes the flower shop with the popularity of the alien plant named Audrey 2, who has an appetite for blood, and grows far beyond its original plant pot. Director Frank Oz's best film.

Rick Moranis doesn't have the best singing voice but beyond that, he's the perfect Seymour. Ellen Greene (Pushing Daises) does sing well, and successfully transferred her stage performance to screen. Vincent Gardenia makes an appropriate Mr. Mushnik. But back in 86, to draw audiences who tended to avoid movie musicals, a lot of Warner Bros.' advertising push was to promote the cameos/extended cameos of comics associated with SNL or SCTV. Yes, Christopher Guest, John Candy and James Belushi are there. But the ones who pack the film with energy and elevate the material are Steve Martin (as the abusive dentist; his Be A Dentist" is a standout) and Bill Murray (who steals the film as the depraved dental patient; not an improvement of Jack Nicholson's original take, so much as a hysterical variation). Personally, I feel a chunk of the film's high energy departs when Murray and Martin leave the screen for good, even with Levi Stubbs' inspired vocals as Audrey 2. But the film is a pleasant enough ride, even with an ending that was changed to please preview audiences who hated the original end. Oscar noms for Visual Effects, and to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken for Best Song (Mean Green Mother from Outer Space).

Next, Alien. Part of the Museum's series of films that must be seen on the big screen. I'll buy that. I believe it's a print of the original 1979 release, as opposed to the "director's cut" from about 8 years ago. My guess the website doesn't indicate otherwise. It means we don't get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to the film's enjoyment. Especially the extra interiors. I've seen this with several of you before, but that doesn't stop me from posting this again. This film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun.

Last, Frankenstein from director James Whale, often remade, but never topped. Mostly serious, as opposed to almost all the sequels, with iconic scenes and the popular image/performance of Boris Karloff as the misunderstood creation. Originally on the AFI top 100, and still a classic American film. I saw it last year at the Forum and wouldn't mind catching it again. Not sure if it quite works as horror at this point. But aside from the film's corny coda (shot by the studio over Whale's objection), Frankenstein still works as a drama. By the time the monster is trapped by the people in the windmill, your heart still goes out to the monster despite that has occurred leading up to this scene. Karloff's daughter, Sara, will introduce the screening.

Don't forget, the Jim Henson exhibit is still going on and I recommend it. I still say you need at least 2 hours to go through it properly. The films this day may or may not allow it. Let me go through the possibilities with. The only you can do 2 hours worth of Henson and see all three films is to get there by 10:30AM: this leaves you with time for coffee in between the films and a quick bite in between Alien and Frankenstein. You'd have plenty of time to for the Henson exhibit if you skip say Little Shop or Alien, but not a lot of time if you catch the first two films but skip Frankenstein, though at least you'd eat dinner at a normal time. Let me know what you might want to do, especially if someone wants to skip Frankenstein in favor of the next film below the 3 moving image links:

RE-ANIMATOR introduced by director Stuart Gordon and actor Jeffery Combs- Sun Oct 30 at 9:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The only film in Lincoln Center's series of Scary Movies that I might have time for. Not a very faithful adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's story, as a darkly comedic take on Frankenstein, with the blood, violence and nudity amped up to almost cartoonish levels. Young medical student is in love with the hot blonde daughter (Barbara Crampton, sigh) of the dean of the medical school. The aforementioned hot blonde daughter is in turn, eyed like a piece of meat by an older, slimy rival doctor. Everything comes to a head with a arrival of Dr. Herbert West (Jeffery Combs, the go-to character actor on most of the Star Trek series-es). The mad Dr. West has come up with a serum that brings the dead back to life. But since it's still in the experimental phase, and Dr. West doesn't do a good job in containing his "living" experiments, the consequences on all the characters will be brutal.

Re-Animator will be screened in its original unrated cut, the version I first saw on VHS back in the day. Jaw dropping and audacious. If you told me back then that this would screen at Lincoln Center 2 decades later, my responses would be: "They show films in Lincoln Center?" and "You've got to be KIDDING me?!?!?!". Nice to know I can be wrong in a good way. If you're not a fan of horror films, you're not likely to embrace this. Yes it's bloody and violent, but the over the top style allows the gore to go down better. If you haven't seen it recently, it'll still make you jump, it'll still make you laugh, and will make you very uncomfortable. Though not as uncomfortable Barbara Crampton may have felt when shooting this. I'm still surprised how much Crampton allowed(?)/endured in her infamous scene, when the lecherous older doc has his way. Actor Combs (as the insane yet still appealing scientist) and director/co-writer Stuart Gordon will introduce this screening:

PSYCHO (1960) and OBSESSION- Mon Oct 31 at 4:50 (Psycho), 6:50 (Obsession), 8:40 (Psycho)- Film Forum- A double feature of Bernard Herrmann scored films, semi-appropriate for Halloween. 2 horror films technically, the later less so. But both have major psychological issues on display.

First, Psycho. Honestly, I'm not trying to make a habit of posting this film each and every time it comes up. It's that I haven't seen it each time I've posted, and I'm gonna try again when it's playing at a convenient time for me. Which it is here.

Familiar to many, but I'm telling you, it's a completely different beast on the big screen as opposed to TV. You're not spending time in your living room, check marking all the familiar aspects of the story. This story sucks you in, lulls you into thinking one way, and then turns it around. You know all this, you wouldn't be looking at this list if you've never heard of Psycho. But this tightly edited story draws you despite what you know. And if you've somehow NEVER seen it, oh boy I'd like to see this with you.

And despite being an unplanned landmark in the horror genre, slasher sub-section, I would argue that this plays more like a suspense thriller then a horror pic. So those that have problems with horror flicks, should be ok with this. Interesting to watch acting-wise, as well. John Gavin's boyfriend performance hasn't aged too well, and Vera Miles's isn't bad, but definitely more then a little annoying. Not as shrill as Julianne Moore's in the remake, but still. Martin Balsam continued his reliable character actor work here, as a more believable ex-cop then Bill Macy in the remake.
There is a reason why this is Janet Leigh's most memorable performance, and it's not because of the shower scene. Go ahead, name another memorable performance of hers. Oops, Touch of Evil, not quite. Being part of the memorable opening scene doesn't qualify as a performance. And Manchurian Candidate doesn't count either. Being the red herring of a story's plot, eh, whatever. Despite Hitchcock's feeling about actor being cattle, Leigh gets to play a truly conflicted person. Decent, wanting more out of life, caught up in temptation, then over her head looking for a way out, which is about when she pulls into the Bates Motel.

But Anthony Perkins' performance feels modern today. Creepy, alive, desperate to open up, yet jittery within his own skin, and with just a little anger threatening to bubble up. Ole' Hitch may not have understood what Perkins was bringing to the table, but Alfred was patient enough to give him free rein. Thanks to the success of this, Tony could never be free of the typecasting. Oscar nominations for Leigh (her only one), Hitch for Director (his last nomination), Cinematography and Art Direction. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my personal top 100. Catch this.

Next is Obsession, a forgotten Brian de Palma film from 1976. Not so much of a "good, it's forgotten" like Wise Guys, but a film that should be re-discovered. Cliff Robertson plays a rich businessman, who's never recovered from the kidnapping/death of both his wife and daughter. Years after the incident, he meets a young woman (Genevieve Bujold, one of my favorites) who's the spitting image of his late wife. What happens next, well if you don't know exactly, I won't give much in terms of spoiler. I will say it's a bit reminiscent of Hitchcock's Rebecca, and more than a little similar to Vertigo. Released in that in-between time, after Vertigo had been out of circulation for years, but before Vertigo was re-released and attained near instant classic status. Not saying this to denigrate Obsession. Just pointing out what its similar to without jumping into major spoilers with the psychological issues on screen. With John Lithgow as Robertson's friend. Featuring a romantic Herrmann score, for which he received a posthumous Oscar nomination (alongside his score for Taxi Driver, both losing to The Omen).

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

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