Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December revivals: holidays edition

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the rest of 2011, and a few days into 2012. Some repeats, especially 3 from the last list, but plenty of choices for the holiday season. Not quite as complete a list as I'd like. I've been waiting for Lincoln Center to provide their revival list for the dates Dec. 23rd- Dec. 30. But I can't wait for them any longer, so forget it. On with the list, here we go:

NASHVILLE- Fri Dec 16 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's See It Big series. Robert Altman's other masterpiece, from 1975, gets a big screen showing. Country music types were not thrilled with Altman's attack of their world, but they weren't a target. This was Altman's cinematic State of the Union address; while hope is expressed for some of the Individuals, the country was rotting and it would only get worse. Bad enough that it kinda predicts the coming of both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley. So let's sort of frame it as a musical!

We're following 23 characters, who'll all eventually come together for the Parthenon concert in Nashville's Bicentennial Park. Lily Tomlin is a married gospel singer who ends up becoming one of the many conquests of rock star Keith Carradine. Ned Beatty is Tomlin's husband, who has his own wandering eye, is a local organizer for an unseen Presidential candidate, and his tying in a campaign rally with the concert. Henry Gibson is Country Music Royalty, with an ego, an eye for political office, and a loud, drunk girlfriend who worships the late Kennedy boys, JFK and RFK, a bit much. Ronee Blakley is the most popular female country singer, whose constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown and whose husband is struggling to keep her sane. Scott Glenn is a Vietnam vet, walking around in uniform and gets maybe a little too close to Blakley's character. Karen Black is another popular country singer, though more ruthless off-stage and mediocre on-stage than Blakley's character. Michael Murphy is the two-faced campaign manager. Shelley Duvall is a man-chasing groupie, chased by uncle Keenan Wynn, whose wife is dying. Barbara Harris and Gwen Welles are two aspiring singers trying to get into the concert; the former is not conventionally pretty and has been struggling for a while, the later is lovely, and is forced to move up through her body than through her voice. Geraldine Chaplin as a reporter (or is she?), who seems a lot closer to starfucker than serious journalist. With Elliot Gould, Julie Christie (as themselves), and Jeff Goldblum in an early role.

A film that Altman had difficulty finding financing for years. All the major studios didn't want to touch the heavy political aspects of Nashville, no matter what possible actors and big time soundtrack would come along with it. It wasn't until Jerry Weintraub came along, became producer of the project and got creative with the financing before Nashville could get made (at least according to Weintraub's interesting autobiography). The last Altman film that both drew an audience and had critics (lead by Pauline Kael) praising it to the hilt.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Altman for Director, and both Tomlin and Blakley for Supporting Actress. An Oscar for Carradine, who wrote the song, I'm Easy. On the second AFI Top 100 list. The main reason it's not on mine is because it's been a long while since I've seen this on cable, and I've never seen this on the big screen before. Now is a great chance to change that. And if you get there early, you could check out the Jim Henson exhibit if you haven't already:

THE BLUES BROTHERS- Fri Dec 16 and Sat Dec 17 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's retrospective of films with notable car chases. From 1980, though it has much more of a 70s vibe. The story is basic. Jake and Elwood Blues is on a Mission From God, to raise money to keep their childhood Catholic orphanage from going under due to taxes. Of course there is no respect for property, so the law is after them. It just gets worse as the boys try to get the band together, and get harassed by cops, rednecks, neo-Nazis, and Carrie Fisher as one crazed, trigger-happy, explosives-happy, flame thrower-happy, ex-fiance.

Dan Aykroyd never wrote a screenplay before, and it shows. He turned in a 324 page screenplay, and left it to director John Landis to make a film out of this mess. So there is a reason for the film being a bulky, excessive mess at times. Never mind that there's no such thing as an organized religion in this country whose school, church, ANYTHING, going into tax default. There isn't a lot for John Belushi and Aykroyd to do in terms of comedy. I think I like them here more for the good feelings going in than what they do at times. Car chases feel like a crutch at times, but luckily, some of it is really good. Especially the scene involving the drive through a crowded mall, at top speed.

But this film succeeds with its musical numbers. Dan and John get a few numbers at the end, but they/Landis/the script generously let others get their moment in the sun. James Brown with the Rev. James Cleveland Choir is the standout for me, with The Old Landmark. Aretha Franklin performing Think, Ray Charles performing Shake A Tail Feather, Cab Calloway performing Minnie The Moocher and John Lee Booker performing Boom Boom also stand out for me.

The Blues Brothers was successful at the box office, but with it's budget overruns and having to compete with The Empire Strikes Back and hits with smaller budgets (Friday the 13th, The Blue Lagoon, Airplane), the veneer of smash hit was not on this film. Plus, the critics took a giant crap on it, especially some of the New York reviewers like Janet Maslin, Rex Reed and Kathleen Carroll. Reviewers since then have become much kinder to The Blues Brothers, and the audience for has made this a cult film of sorts, thanks to massive success on cable and home video. Therefore, I expect a crowd for this:

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK- Fri Dec 16 & Sat Dec 17 at 12:10AM, Fri Dec 30, Sat Dec 31 and Sun Jan 1 at Midnight- IFC Center- If you don't know the first Indiana Jones film, then what the hell are you doing looking at this? In my personal top 35, on both AFI Top 100 lists, won multiple Oscars, and oh yeah, one of the most fun films ever made. A new 4k digital restoration for the film's 30th anniversary, will be screened at IFC Center on two weekends: the weekend of December 16, and New Years Weekend. So yes, you could hide and watch this film to ring in the New Year. Or, if you must have a hangover of some sort, a Midnight screening on Sunday, New Years Day. Why not, since Jan 2nd seems to be an unofficial holiday. That's what we get when a full slate of NFL games interfere with major college football bowl games. Anyway, I digress, the classic Spielberg-Ford-Lucas film is back for you to enjoy:

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY for 6 dollars- The Amphitheater at Lincoln Center-165 West 65 Street, 4th Floor- Sat Dec 18 at 4- Part of Lincoln Center's series of Family Films that get screening times that families can reasonably do. The Gene Wilder cult classic gets a screening that for once, isn't at Midnight. It may not be as loyal to the original Roald Dahl book as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it's a better film. Dahl wrote the original adaptation, but a massive re-write caused Dahl to badmouth the film every chance he got. And while there was better usage of the Oompa Loompas by Tim Burton for the remake, and the budget to go hog wild on the look, the family/daddy issues, especially in the last half-hour, drags the film down when compared to Willy Wonka. Maybe I like this film so much strictly for Wilder's performance. I'm ok with that.

Now considering this was not a hit back in 1971 but only became a cult classic thanks largely to NBC broadcasts from the late 70s into the 1980s, most people have no idea what this film looks like on the big screen. I include myself in that statement, but I would like to change that. And for one day, it's at the relatively dirt cheap price of 6 dollars. It will play in the Amphitheater in Lincoln Center. The film will play on a 152" Panasonic Plasma screen, in the newly opened Elinor Bunin Monroe section of Lincoln Center. I believe it houses the fewest seats of all the Lincoln Center film screens, so a yes on this would need to immediate:

THE TREE OF LIFE- either at the Francesca Beale theater at Lincoln Center- Sat Dec 17 or Tues Dec 20 at 6:30- 165 West 65 Street4th Floor- or at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria with Douglas Trumbull in person- 36-01 35th Ave- Thurs Dec 22 at 7- If you missed Terrence Malick's film this summer (like me), now is the time to make up for it, and you have two places over the next 7-8 days to try. One option is catching it this coming weekend/ early next week at the Francesca Beale theater, one of the new screens at Lincoln Center. The other option, is a one night only screening at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. It will be screened as part of the Museum's See It Big series, for film that should be seen to be appreciated on the big screen, as opposed to your computer screen or Ipad/Smartphone/whatever. The Museum's big screen and great sound system should do quite nicely. This film has been/ will be spoken about over the next few months, what will critics awards, top 10 of 2011 lists, and potential Oscar nominations coming down the pike. It's already been awarded by the New York Film Critics for Brad Pitt's performance, Jessica Chastain's performance, and for the Cinematography as well. Expect more to follow.

As for the film itself, I already wrote that I haven't seen it. But the first impression I got about all this seems to be holding steady after all these months: You'll either really like the film, or despite admiring the look, you'll think it's New Age-y clap-trap. Either or, nothing in-between. Anybody want to take a chance?

If you choose to do the Museum in Astoria, Douglas Trumbull, the special effects pioneer of such films as 2001, Close Encounters, Star Trek: The Motion Picture as well as Tree of Life, will attend the screening. Don't know if he'll introduce it, or do a post film Q and A, or both. And if you get here early enough, you'll also be able to check out the Museum itself, including the Jim Henson exhibit, which will be extended (unofficially) beyond Martin Luther King weekend. I don't know how much longer, but anyway, you can check it out for your admission to Tree of Life if you get there soon enough:

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE- Sat Dec 17, Wed Dec 21 and Tues Dec 27 at 7 and 9:40- with Mary Owen in person on Dec 21- IFC Center- A new 35mm print. Once again, IFC Center shows the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic for a week. It's only shown once or twice a year on NBC and I believe it will be screened only once on TCM, and not much more after that, if at all. So if you're in the mood, here it is. I'm sorry that you don't get a little bell with the title of the film on it, like you do with the recent DVD release, but how bad do need to give out angel wings?

Once again, Mary Owens, Reed's daughter will make introductions to selected screenings. She'll be doing more than the one I posted. The film in general will play at IFC Center for 12 days, starting on Dec. 16th. In both cases, I'm just posting the days/ times I think I could make:

MEAN STREETS with Martin Scorsese in person- Tues Dec 20 at 6:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's series of films that made a splash over the years at the New York Film Festival. The first pairing of actor Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese. I have never seen this on the big screen, and I really want to. Not Scorsese's first film, but it is his first studio film. Done cheaply since Warner Bros was only going to devote so much Dirty Harry profits to distributing a film from the director of Boxcar Bertha. In college I dealt with a Scorsese sycophant, I mean fan, who talked about the raw power of this film was superior to the polished works of Raging Bull and Goodfellas. Considering he was coming out with Casino and The Age of Innocence, it was easy to conjure up babel like that.

But just because the film is raw as opposed to polished, doesn't mean it doesn't belong near the top of the director's work. Just that when you have Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and lower profiles works like After Hours and Kundun on your resume, it's hard for a lot of films to get the respect it deserves. And respect AND viewer ship is what Mean Streets deserves. More of a character study than a plot driven project, Harvey Kietel's small timer is who we follow, but De Niro's living embodiment of a psychotic screw-up is what steals the show. The quintessential New York film, shot mostly in Los Angeles. Please let's make time to see this.
Scorsese himself will be attending this screening. Now whether he's just introducing this, or just doing a post film Q and A, or both, I have no idea and it isn't clear on the filmlinc website. Guess the only way to find out is to go, and why not, the man's a talker:

THE GOLD RUSH- Fri Dec 23 at 4:30, 6:15, 8 and 9:45, and Tues Dec 27-Thurs Dec 29 at 4:30, 6:15, 8 and 9:45- Film Forum- The 35mm restoration print of the Charlie Chaplin classic, with re-scored orchestral score in its original cut. Chaplin re-edited it, tweaked the score, added narration, and this was the version of The Gold Rush that's been available since 1942. Until now, where the original 1925 edit, popular at this year's New York Film Festival, gets a week-long run at the Forum. I'm only posting the days and times I think I can make.

As for The Gold Rush itself, Chaplin's personal favorite of all his work, where the Little Tramp attempts to strike it rich during the Klondike Gold Rush, despite being unprepared for the harsh conditions, if you're a film fan, you probably know it. With the famous boot eating scene, including the dance with the dinner rolls. On both AFI Top 100 lists. Speaking from experience, it was a very pleasant holiday experience, catching Modern Times at the Film Forum some years back. I wouldn't mind repeating the experience with The Gold Rush:

LAURA- Fri Dec 30 at 4:40, 6:30, 8:20, and 10:10, Sat Dec 31 at 8:20 and 10:10, Mon Jan 2 at 4:40 and 6:30, and Tues Jan 3-Thurs Jan 5 at 8:20 and 10:10- Film Forum- A new 35mm restoration of the classic film noir, one of my favorites of the genre. Detective Dana Andrews is obsessed with murder victim Laura, played by Gene Tierney. Among the suspects are outwardly suave Vincent Price and ultra prissy, ultra acidic critic Clifton Webb (Oscar nominated). We see flashbacks from Laura's life that fascinate the detective more. And then . . . . sorry, if you never saw it, I'm not spoiling it. Though do look for a young-ish Judith Anderson.

Among the best of the noirs. Amazing how much sexual tension there were able to get past the Production Code. An Oscar for the Cinematography, additional nominations for director Otto Preminger (a replacement from Rouben Mamoulian; Otto chucked Rouben's old footage, reshot everything and changed the ending- WOW!), Art Direction and the Screenplay (3 writers were nominated, not Ring Lardner Jr., who did some script doctoring). What I'm surprised wasn't nominated was David Raskin's score, which includes "Laura's Theme", which is hard to forget if you like the film. If you don't know the film, you should make a concerted effort and change that.

On Dec 31, there will be a complimentary glass of champagne for all those who come out of the 8:20 and 10:10 screenings. So, this can be the start of your New Years festivities if you wish:

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE- Fri Dec 30 and Sat Dec 31 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The best disaster film ever made. 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.

This will play at Midnight on Dec. 30 and Dec. 31; appropriate, considering all the action takes place on New Years Eve/ the AM of New Years Day. You decide for yourself if it's appropriate for you:

Let me know if there's interest. Later all, and Happy Festivus.

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