Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Revivals for the next few days

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals for the second half of January and the first few days of February. Before I get to the list, I have a little story. I tried to catch a free screening last weekend of the pretty good Moneyball, at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab (or SWTL), on Madison and 56th St. They have a small screening room, they screen some of their newest HD discs, on a large HD screen. Talk about an exercise in futility. Their automated phone operation is confusing, long winded, and easy to make mistakes on. Go ahead, call their number: (212) 833-8100. It delivers a lot of information in a overly quick manner. Some of the information is for screenings they will NOT accept reservations for because it's too far ahead in the future. But they'll take up your time explaining it anyway. The SWTL website tells us to begin attempt to reserve on Monday morning. But the voicemail told us no with regards to Moneyball. Could be because Monday was a federal holiday and the lab is understaffed when it comes to screenings and reservations, but who knows. If you attempt to leave a reservation for an available screening, it's not official until SWTL calls you back with the number you leave them, which is fine. Unless you make mistake of not attempting to reserve between 9AM-2PM (again, NOT on the website), or if you leave the message on the "wrong" voicemail.

The later is what I did wrong. By the time I figured out that mistake, and figuring it out meant calling the automated service and spending 3-5 minutes hearing all the previous info I had to deal with last time, before I learned my exact mistake, and oh yeah, that there was no seats available for Moneyball. Now, the screening had a waiting list, but no info on how to get on it or when. If there was it wasn't clear. I, the caller, had to speak slowly and clearly when giving my info. The workers making the voicemail, are under no apparent obligation to reciprocate.

Now it seems like a fun place on the SWTL website. But I will not recommend this place to anyone under any circumstances until I check it out myself. With the screenigs they have, many kid related. That won't happen thru February. And based on the lack of quality of SWTL automated phone service, probably longer than that. We'll see. Now for films you can ACTUALLY GET INTO. Here we go:

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in 3-D- Varying theaters nationwide, check your local listings, unknown end for the engagement- Reminder about this Disney classic from 1991. It's not doing the bang-up business that Lion King did a few months back. Merely doing the respectable business that the first 2 Toy Story films did. I figure you have at least until Thursday February 2nd to catch it, maybe Thursday February 9th. After that, you're on your own.

A MAN ESCAPED- Wed Jan 25 at 7:45 and 10- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of the only film in the Robert Bresson retrospective that I have both time and interest in. A member of the French Resistance is imprisoned by the Nazis, and the prisoner spends the rest of the film trying to escape before he's executed. Will he succeed? And what will he do with his cellmate? Will he bring his cell mate with him, or could he be a Gestapo spy and therefore must be silenced? Bresson won for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, the film itself was nominated for the Palme d'Or.

MANHATTAN- Fri Jan 27 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- The film that starts off the new edition of the Museum's See It Big series. Films that should be seen and can only be truly embraced on the big screen. Arguably Woody Allen's best film. On the short list with Allen's Annie Hall, Hannah and her Sisters, and Crimes and Misdemeanors, though NOT the only above-average Midnight of Paris. He wanted to make a film where he wanted to captured what he thought of as life in Manhattan, late 1970s. Put into the filter of one of his favorite films, Jean Renoir's The Rules of The Game. Allegedly, at some point after post production was completed, Allen was so unhappy with the final product, he offered to make a new film for free if United Artists either shelved or destroyed Manhattan. UA execs, happy with what they received, politely declined. Despite the praise and acclaim, Allen felt/feels he got away with one in this case. It may not be a life in New York circa late 1970s, but worth catching.

Hell of a cast. Diane Keaton, Micheal Murphy, Meryl Streep and Allen were the better known actors; Mark-Linn Baker, Karen Allen and Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy in smaller roles. 2 Oscar nominations for the Screenplay (written by Allen and Marshall Brickman), and Mariel Hemingway for Supporting Actress. I hope as the relationship between Allen's and Hemingway's characters develops, all cries of "Soon-Yi" are held to a dull roar.

What it wasn't nominated for, which still stuns me, is Gordon Willis's stunning black and white Cinematography. Hard to say who should have been dropped from the category, considering the excellent work done in Apocayplse Now (the winner), All That Jazz, 1941 and The Black Hole. Wait, I know, drop NĂ©stor Almendros for his work in Kramer vs. Kramer. But wait, he worked on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven. DAMNIT!!! Anyway, a must see on the big screen:

If you can get there sometime between 3-4:30, you'll be able to check out the Jim Henson exhibit, and then perhaps grab a quick coffee, before the screening begins. You can also catch it on
Saturday the 28th, as part of potentially much longer day/night of screenings . . .

THE MUPPET SHOW with Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, with either SHIVERS (preceded by shorts Transfer and The Drain) or RABID and MANHATTAN- Sat Jan 28 at 1 (Muppet), 2:30 (Shivers), 5 (Rabid), and 7 (Manhattan) - Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Lots of possibilities for one admission. First, the Museum continues their Jim Henson retrospective with a pair of Muppet Show episodes. This isn't the first time the Museum has done Muppet Show screenings, this is the first pair I may have time for. Now consider this as a country music edition. First, a season 3 episode with Loretta Lynn, where the gang is forced to perform at a railroad station, with all those annoying trains going by. Followed by one of the last episodes of the series, with guest Johnny Cash.

Not sure if there are any music rights issues that plague this episode like others that have been either released edited on DVD, or have yet to be released on DVD. But this and all other Muppet Show episodes will be screened as they originally aired only at museums like this one, thanks to the Jim Henson Legacy. A combined 50 minutes in length.

Next, part of the David Cronenberg retrospective, two similar films from the early part of his career. Both similar in terms of using the horror genre to tell the story of an epidemic spreading or about to spread through a major city. First, Shivers or They Came From Within, released in the U.S. in 1976. Set an almost sterile, luxury apartment complex in Montreal. A man made parasite spreads through mostly sexual contact. Regardless of age, the body's defenses are lowered, and the infected will seek out the uninfected sexually. And if the uninfected, the number of which drops vastly over the course of the film, refuses to submit to such open sexual contact, then there will be bloody violence.

A film that's not exactly complimentary to the sexual revolution or to casual sexual relations, while kinda predicting the AIDS epidemic, with its epidemic sometimes spreading sexually while breaking down the body's immune system and infecting the blood. Not exactly smooth film-making, but surprisingly subtle at times, and a good sign of what indie film-making can do. No hint of something like A History of Violence in this, Cronenberg's feature length film debut, but a good indicator of what kind of career was to come.

Preceding the screening of Shivers, are Cronenberg's first 2 shorts. First, Transfer, about (to quote the Moving Image website) " . . . a surreal exchange between a psychiatrist and his obsessive former patient, who claims he invented stories to gain the psychiatrist’s attention." , followed by From The Drain (quoting the website again) "This futuristic short features two clothed men in a bathtub discussing chemical warfare. . . until something emerges from the drain.".

Following Shivers is Cronenberg's next film, Rabid. Like Shivers, this also has similar issues regarding what happens when unprotected, consequences-be-damned sex leads to a potential epidemic to the population at large. Unlike Shivers, which is a variation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Rabid is a mixture of 2 kinds of horror films. Marilyn Chambers, in a rare non-porn role, stars as a horribly burned model, whose beauty is restored by experimental plastic surgery. But the side effects are devastating, as she's turned into a kind of vampire, who must suck blood out of others in order to survive. And where the blood-sucking things are on her body and what they look like are not typical in a vampire film, but they're typical Cronenberg.

But her victims aren't turned into vampires, they turn into zombie-like creatures. They begin to decay almost immediately, and just as immediate is their need to eat the flesh of others to survive. Chambers' character is immune to the zombie-aspects of the virus, but her boyfriend is not and she has to find him. But she also has to fear . . . Yeah, this can't end well. Shivers is the better film, but Rabid has plenty of moments for horror fans.

Also for one admission, at 7pm, is Woody Allen's Manhattan. Long day I know, but doable. But all of this is for one admission. Personally, I can't do all 4, that's way too much. But I would like to do the 2 Muppet Show episodes, followed by one of the Cronenberg films, and then Manhattan. Use the remaining time to take a coffee/snack break, maybe take another gander at the Jim Henson retrospective. Do dinner after the Allen film, with a nice 5 Napkin Burger across the street. The family types will definitely skip everything after the Muppet Show episodes and the Henson exhibit, but otherwise, it's a very good day/night for all:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? for 7 dollars- Thurs Feb 2 at 7 (with Hedda Lettuce) and 9:30 (without Hedda)- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of A-list Campfest incarnate. The plot is simple enough that I'll just copy it from imdb: "In a decaying Hollywood mansion, Jane Hudson, a former child star, and her sister Blanche, a movie queen forced into retirement after a crippling accident, live in virtual isolation." Shot in terrific black and white, it deserves attention just from the teaming of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I don't know if the simmering rivalry that exploded into a full-fledged feud is obvious in Crawford's performance, but the rage certainly fuels Davis performance as the former child star/ alcoholic/ tormentor. An Oscar for Costume Design. 4 other nominations, including Black and White Cinematography, and Davis for Best Actress. The story of what happened with that category, as well as the whole making of the picture itself is too damn long to go over here. Just see the film if you haven't. Your choice of seeing it with an intro (and possible commentary) from Hedda Lettuce at 7, or without Hedda at 9:30:

WOODSTOCK for free (subject to ticket availability)- Fri Feb 3 at 6- MOMA- A rare screening of the Oscar winning documentary. One of the best films of 1970 and if it's not placed among the best docs ever made, it's probably because it's not just a job, it's an adventure for current audiences who are probably intimidated by its running time and own ideas and interpretations as to what Woodstock the concert was. According to MOMA's website, we'll be seeing the 3 hr theatrical release not the director's cut that's 43 minutes longer. Warner Bros. had no faith in this. The executive who apparently thought they could always take the prints from this probable flop and use the strips for bookmarks, was probably stunned at its success. This film gave rise to the idea of 2 and 3 panels at varying times, showing different angles or different scenes simultaneously. It was conceived by the filmmakers, including co-cameraman/co-editor Martin Scorsese, after the original directors, the Maysles brothers, quit at the last minute. Woodstock is practically a clinic in film editing. And, oh yeah, a clinic in the music of the day. Hendrix, Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, CSN, Santana, among others. And the screening will be free, subject to ticket availability:

THE MUPPET SHOW with Elton John and Paul Simon and either THE FLY (1986) or CRASH (1996)- Sat Feb 4 at 1 (Muppets), 3(Fly), and 6 (Crash)- Museum of the Moving Image- More Muppet Show episodes and more David Cronenberg films. I'm mixed about doing all three, but 2 out of 3 of these pieces, definitely. We'll see, there's time to plan.

First, two more episodes of The Muppet Show, part of the Jim Henson retrospective. Both episodes featuring singer-songwriter. First, a season 2 episode with Elton John. He performs several of his hits, including Crocodile Rock with Muppet crocodiles, and Don't Go Breaking My Heart with Miss Piggy. After that, a season 5 episode with Paul Simon, including a Veterinarian Hospital skit that aired in the U.K. but NOT in the U.S.

Next, The Fly, Cronenberg's only big career hit, the surprise hit of the summer of 86, and one of the best films of that year. At that time, despite the praise, saying something like that was considered surprising, daring, or greeted with a "oh, please". History says differently, if you can get by the Oscar winning, and at times disgusting, makeup effects.

But underneath the horror film aesthetic, is a well done tragic love story, where the love suffers terminal problems, when one of them suffers a crippling disease or addiction. This kind of story, as Cronenberg knows well, has universal appeal. Instead of say, AIDS or drug addiction, or the ravages of aging as Cronenberg has stated in more than one interview, you have Jeff Goldblum transforming into a man-sized insect. His physical deterioration and changing behavior does mimic disease, aging and addiction, despite the disintegrating fly vomit. With Geena Davis, at her most beautiful, turning in her best performance.

For the same admission, you can also catch Crash. No, not the Oscar winner that is going to age real bad. But the NC-17 rated film directed by Cronenberg. Very chilly film. A man (James Spader) who hasn't emotionally or sexually recovered from his traumatic car accident, tries to use a fetish sub-culture of people who get off in car wrecks, watching car wrecks, or having sex while getting into an actual car wreck. Good cast includes Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette, in a film not for the emotionally squeamish. I've already received feedback of extreme discomfort from this film. You realize this film doesn't make people have sex in car wrecks, right? It's not exactly promoting this as an enjoyable lifestyle, ok? You do realize this is a film? Does the subject matter make you queasy, or the idea of what Cronenberg could make you think? Decide for yourself:

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

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