Thursday, November 17, 2011

Revivals: Thanksgiving weekend edition

Hey all. Mike here, with a list of revivals to go around Thanksgiving weekend. I cheat a little with the first two films listed. But the first film is a one night only screening and is rarely shown in these parts, and the second film on the list opens the week before Thanksgiving, plays through that weekend, and runs for a few more days afterward. Both films, especially the second one, I can't skip posting.

But before I go on, there's one change from the last list. The screening for The Last Waltz at the Rubin Museum on Friday, November 18th, has been cancelled. No reason given, no sign on the Rubin's website that this film was ever scheduled to begin with. I'm glad I looked on Monday the 14th. Very disappointing. Now on with the list, here we go:

BEN-HUR (1925)- Mon Nov 21 at 7:30- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series of silent films from MGM. The original Ben-Hur, from 1925, gets a rare screening. The most expensive silent movie ever made, 3.5 million in mid 1920s dollars. While it didn't make back all its budget, its artistic success established MGM as The Studio above all others for decades. This is the first full length film version of the story of Judah Ben-Hur, the wealthy Jew who seeks vengeance on his childhood friend, the Roman Tribune Messala. A little more loyal to the original novel than the Charlton Heston remake, with a larger chariot race (this was the version Lucas directly modeled the pod race sequence in Star Wars Episode 1), and actual large ships with real fire explosions and hundreds of extras (as opposed to the toy ships in the 1959 remake). A tinted black and white film, with two strip Technicolor for the religious scenes involving Jesus, Joseph and Mary. With live piano accompaniment for the whole 2 hour 23 minute film. This is a unique opportunity and I hope you say yes to it:

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP- Tues Nov 22, Wed Nov 23, Fri Nov 25, Sat Nov 26 and Tues Nov 29- Thurs Dec 1 at 4:10 and 7:10- Film Forum- A new 35mm restoration from the directors of The Red Shoes. Among the earliest of the Technicolor films. During the Blitz in World War 2, young soldiers make fun of the fat, big mustached, buffoonish-looking, Col. Candy or "Colonel Blimp". He tries to set them straight by telling his life story. We see him after he receives an award for bravery in the Boer War, start an diplomatic incident, fight a duel to avoid things from getting worse, become friendly with a German officer with similar Honor, only to lose the woman he loves (played by Deborah Kerr) to him. We see him in World War 1 claiming how the War was won honorably. The British Way, despite what the Allies did to get information when he wasn't looking. Candy meets with his German friend, then a POW and tells him how after the War, Germany will be treated fairly. Candy also falls in love with another woman he looks like his old love (and is also played by Kerr). By World War 2, Candy believes it's better to lose with your Honor intact then to fight like the enemy. But since this enemy is the Nazis, this literally makes Colonel Blimp a relic from a bygone era, and his superiors will let him know it. So yeah, this is a HAPPY film . . . .

Not a film supported by some in the British government. One of whom pushed Winston Churchill to try keep it from being shot, or at least to keep it from receiving things like Army equipment to make it (though the film crew managed to find all they needed on their own). Hard to think Churchill would thrilled by this picture. He and the title character were of the same generation, and that anyone from his time be depicted as backward and unhelpful during the war effort . . . though if you see this film, you'll realize that isn't completely true. The positive depiction of a German officer, even though he was completely against the Nazis, wasn't appreciated either. Not a hit in its day, the film was edited down for commercial purposes, down to 150 minutes by 1950, and later to slightly over 90 minutes, changing the order to to make sequential with no flashbacks! When the film was restored to its original edit back in 1983, that's when re-evaluation and appreciation began. Never as popular as The Red Shoes, but usually on the lists of great films that have gone unseen. Also on Britain's BFI Top 100 list, their equivalent of our AFI Top 100 lists. Now you have two weeks to catch this, I just posted the possible and probable days and times I can try to catch this:

ALIEN- Wed Nov 23- Fri Nov 25 at Midnight- IFC Center- Don't know why I'm posting this, I've caught this enough times. But I like this film too much, and still know a few people who haven't done this on the big screen, that I have to post this again. In my personal top 100 or at least very close. 4 Midnight screenings for the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm only posting the first three, and yes, I'd actually do Thanksgiving:

EMMET OTTER'S JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS and FANTASIA- Fri Nov 25 at 1 (Otter), 3 (Otter) and 7 (Fantasia), and Sat Nov 26 at 1 (Otter) and 3 (Fantasia)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Family fun for this particular weekend, but the kind of stuff adults might appreciate more than the kiddies. First, Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Part of the Jim Henson retrospective, Henson directed this 1977 adaptation of the 1971 children's story, though most of us haven't seen it on DVD are more familiar with the reruns on ABC back in the early and mid 80s. A variation of O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi, Emmet Otter and his mother, Ma, struggle to get by. But when a local talent show occurs, Emmet and Ma figure the best way to buy Christmas presents is to enter the show. Of course they enter separately and must sacrifice something to enter . . .

One of the better Christmas specials ever made, though it rarely gets the props that Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch get. With fun songs from Paul Williams, and if you see this, take a good look at the art direction. In particular, the sets; probably the most appropriate looking, best realized of all the TV projects Henson had ever done. I'm sure there are exceptions but they're just not coming to mind right now. Due to copyright issues, sometimes the special doesn't include the narration of Kermit the Frog, but I'm guessing Kermit will be part of this edit. The Museum says that outtakes and behind the scenes clips will be included in the screening, whatever that means.

Next, the original Fantasia. An archival 35mm print of the original roadshow version, which is marginally different than what's available on all forms of home video or the re-releases you might have seen. You can check imdb's Fantasia page to see the specific snips and edits on your own. On the first AFI Top 100 film. 2 Honorary Oscars for its then revolutionary combination of music and animation. A flop in its day, a hit and a classic since then. I really want to see this. I saw it on Radio City Music Hall's former 70mm screen and it blew me away. While this won't be a 70mm screening, the Museum's screen can get pretty large and their sound system is pretty darn good. I hate it when I take grief from people, just because I've said that if you give me great visuals and interesting music, I can overlook quite a number of a flim's flaws. But a film like this? Bring the kids. Bring the kids-at-heart. Now for the rest, I'll quote from the Walter Reade website back in 2006 I believe: "Go and see it, if you're in the business. You can learn more from seeing 'The Dance of the Hours' by Walt Disney than from spending a year glumly staring at the television screen," wrote director Michael Powell (The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) in his autobiography. "Oh that the rest of Hollywood were only like Walt!" For generations now, kids and adults have plunked down their hard-earned dollars to see Fantasia, and emerged a little over two hours later with their minds blown. Vulgar? For sure, and proudly so. This kind of myth-making always is. You could throw almost any adjective at the film and it would be absorbed into its vast mythic territory. One little addendum to Powell's assessment. It's Walt, assisted by a small army of animators. Here are a few names: Bill Tytla, Norman Ferguson, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Joshua Meador, Fred Moore, Art Babbitt and Wolfgang Reitherman. Not to mention a few composers: Bach, Dukas, Tchaikovsky, Ponichelli, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Schubert."

Your choice of either doing this on Friday or Saturday. It can be done on Sunday as well, but that's without me so I'm not posting it. If you wish to include the Jim Henson exhibit as well, it can be done. On Friday Nov 25th, you can come early like around 10:30 or 11AM, or a little later like around noon, but that means only doing the 3PM Emmet Otter as opposed to the 1pm. On Saturday Nov 26th, it would be best to attempt the Henson exhibit when the museum opens at 10:30AM. Like I've written before, you need at least 2 hours to properly get the most out of the exhibit. But since this is Thanksgiving weekend, be ready for a crowd. I thought about posting a 4pm screening of Sideways (one of the best films of 2004) on Friday the 25th, and the 6pm screening of Gone With The Wind (if its not in my personal top 100 it's very close), but there's enough to do for me on this weekend. If I can't imagine fully committing to a screening, I'm not posting it. Emmet Otter, Fantasia and the Henson exhibit can all be done for one admission, and all that is plenty.

Let me know if there's interest. Especially with regards to Emmet Otter/Fantasia. I need to make plans if they are to be done. Later all.

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