Thursday, December 01, 2011

December revivals: pre-holidays edition

Hey all, Mike here with a list of December revivals. I'll split the December list up in half-ish. This list will be pre-holidays as in pre-Hanukkah. The next list will start on December 20 or a little after that. Here we go:

THE ROOM- Sat Dec 3 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- One of the best bad films of recent times, Tommy Wiseau's The Room will begin playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema at Midnight, on the first Saturday of every month, for the foreseeable future. I don't know what I mean by foreseeable, except maybe through the cold and hot months of 2012, but I don't have specifics regarding dates. 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. At previous screenings elsewhere, you might expect Wiseau and at least 1 actor to come, say hi to as many fans as possible, and do an interesting Q and A, but who knows. I'm definitely 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 did at the Village East Cinema where this used to screen. I expect people to line up early, but I'm not sure what to expect at this location.

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:

THE WAGES OF FEAR- Fri Dec 9, Sat Dec 10, Tues Dec 13, Wed Dec 14, Sat Dec 17, and Mon Dec 19 at 6:40 and 9:30, plus Mon Dec 18 at 9:30- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of the film that gets a two week run. I'm just posting the days and times I think I can make. From the director of Diabolique, from 1953. 4 desperate macho men will get the reward of a ticket out of the hellhole, piss-poor little South American village they're all stuck in. That is, if they're willing to drive trucks filled with nitroglycerin over mountain sides and through jungles, in order to put out a fire at an oil refinery. They also battle each other, with macho posturing just as threatening as the elements and the nitro. Doing it all for a company that was part of a recent IMDB poll about evil film corporations, alongside the ones depicted in Robocop, Alien, Resident Evil, and District 9. Starring Yves Montand.

Perennially in imdb's annoying top 250. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes and a worldwide hit back in the day. Diabolique is director's Henri-Georges Clouzet's best known film, but this is considered his best. I've never seen it, but I've seen the American remake from 1977, Sorcerer, which is underrated (released the same weekend that Star Wars went into wide release, thus forgotten). But The Wages of Fear is considered a classic, at least outside the U.S., and I'd like to catch it:

CHRISTMAS EVE ON SESAME STREET and other Sesame Street Holiday moments and HALDANE OF THE SECRET SERVICE- Sat Dec 10 at 1 (Sesame) and 5:30 (Haldane)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A unique potential double feature at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. Two different pieces from two different retrospectives, and if you still haven't checked out the Jim Henson exhibit, you'll have time in-between the pieces to do so.

First, in time for the holiday season and part of the Henson retrospective, over eighty minutes worth of Sesame Street Holiday Moments. Don't know what they all are, but the highlight is the 1978 special, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. All your favorites who were around in 1978 are here. Which means no Elmo, but Mr. Hooper is still alive, who explains why he celebrates Hanukkah as opposed to Christmas. One of the special's highlights is Big Bird, after being teased by Oscar the Grouch (who walks around a subway station in his trash can) that Santa can't fit narrow chimneys and deliver presents, investigates and will eventual wait for Santa by his own chimney. Another highlight is a variation of O' Henry's The Gift of the Magi, as Bert and Ernie try to buy each other the perfect gift. And just wait till you see Cookie Monster's appetite go nuts, slowly but surely.

A good Holiday special that is mostly about Christmas, but does acknowledge and celebrate Mr. Hooper's Jewish heritage and identity. It rarely plays on TV anymore, and when it does, it usually cuts out Oscar's big comic musical number "I Hate Christmas". But the special will be screened intact on the 10th. Other holiday moments in Sesame Street will be included at the screening. And by holiday you do realize I mean more than just Christmas. right? You do realize New Year's and Hanukkah exist, right? Anyway, they'll be part of this as well.

At 5:30, there will be a unique screening, the only film from the Museum's Magicians on Screen retrospective I have both interest and a chance that I could actually catch it. The rarely screened Haldane of the Secret Service, a silent film from 1923 directed, produced and starring Harry Houdini in the title role. Harry's after the counterfeiters and bad guys who murdered his father. And wouldn't you know it, they seem to initially get the jump on him, trapping him in ropes or chains. And wouldn't you know, he has to try to get out of all these confinements like he's a master escape artist or something . . .

Don't know, but I'm very curious. The film will play with live piano accompaniment. But before the film, a short will play. The Talking Tea Kettle, made this year, about Houdini's and fellow magician David P. Abbott's efforts to reveal fake psychics and mediums:

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION for 7.50- Thurs Dec 15 at 7 (with Hedda Lettuce intro) and 9:30 (without Hedda)- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of a film I really enjoy. I told some of you when i had my CED collection in the mid 80's, there were films i would watch in heavy or semi-heavy rotation. This film from director Billy Wilder, was one of the later. I saw a revival screening of this 5 years ago, and it holds up quite well. With a screening hosted by Hedda Lettuce, and one without. I really want to catch this.
Ailing attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton-Oscar nominated) has been advised by his doctors to retire. When he's asked to take the case of murder suspect Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power, in his last completed film role), who stood to gain financially from the victim's death, his interest is piqued. But the case becomes even more of an uphill battle when the defendant's supposedly loving wife Christine (Marlene Dietrich) decides to testify as a witness for the prosecution. Wilder expanded Agatha Christie's play, creating the role of Robarts' housekeeper Miss Plimsoll (played by Laughton's wife Elsa Lanchester-Oscar nominated), whose back-and-forth with her employer provides a funny counterpoint to the film's melodrama. Also nominated for Picture and Director for Wilder. If you've never seen it, now would be a good time:

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:

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:

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

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