Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Feb revivals: first half

Hey. Mike here with a revival list for the first half of February. Tried to cover the entire month, but I've just been too slow, so unfortunately I've had to split it in half. But one revival/re-release I won't post is Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Yeah, the trailer in 3-D looks good. But the trailer can't re-write a mediocre screenplay, make Jar-Jar Binks tolerable, or give the then inexperienced Natalie Portman or the rookie Jake Lloyd the extra help needed to make chicken salad out of their chicken shit lines.

The first time I saw it back in its original release, I kinda liked it, despite its Anakin of Nazareth aspects and the Jar-Jar character. But my life was in a rough patch and I needed the release/social outing desperately. Seeing it a year later on TV, it didn't hold up at all. The last time I saw it was as part of a marathon screening with the other 5 Star Wars films. Kinda in the middle of my two previous experiences. The weakest parts of the film weren't as bad as the weakest aspects of Episode 2, but I can't post Episode 1 here. Maybe I'll sneak into the podrace scene or the battle scenes in the last hour or so. But I can't post it here when I have films on this list that are better. Here we go:

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY- Fri Feb 10 at 7- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's See It Big series for films that can't be loved on an iPad or computer screen, but can only be truly embraced on the big screen. And to see this epic, hidden inside the contours of the Western genre, on a near 70mm screen should be too much to ignore for the true film buff.

The epic of Leone's Man With No Name trilogy; you definitely go on a journey here, aided with Morricone's most famous score, especially the theme. Eastwood's not so nice Good, Lee Van Cleef's evil to the core Bad, and Eli Wallach's not much better Ugly, fight each other, and try to work their way around something called The Civil War, to get their hands on buried gold. Probably, the best of the Spaghetti Westerns, due in no small part to Wallach's great performance (note that I RARELY use that phrase), the cinematography and Morricone's score.

This is the Reconstructed Italian version (don't worry, the words are still spoken in English). 2 hrs. 55 min. long, including 15 restored min. that Eastwood and Wallach had to go back and redub a couple of years ago. The print has been cleaned up, and has a remixed 5.1 Digital Dolby sound. I've done this at the Forum a couple of years ago, but I need no excuse to go back. A favorite of mine:

THE THREE MUSKETEERS (1974) with a post-film Q and A of Raquel Welch by Dick Cavett- Sat Feb 11 at 6:45- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The only film from the Raquel Welch retrospective that I have time for. I wish that Fantastic Voyage, Myra Breckinridge and The Last of Sheila were screened at a more convenient time. I also wish 1 Million B.C. wasn't such a crap film, because Raquel in a fur bikini, nice as that is, isn't worth putting up with the rest of the film.

The 3 Musketeers has been adapted into a film over twenty times. Richard Lester made an over three hour version, until the decision was made during post-production to split it into 2, similar to the decision made with Kill Bill. The 3 Musketeers is the first of the 2. Michael York, as young d'Artagnan, wants to be a Musketeer, but the other three Musketeers (Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlin and Frank Finlay) don't exactly make this easy. But no time for fun and games: Cardinal Richelieu (Charlton Heston) is doing something dastardly to the King and Queen, and d"Artagnan and the Musketeers must stop him. The cast also includes Christopher Lee and Faye Dunaway as villains, Jean-Pierre Cassel and Geraldine Chaplin as the King and Queen, and Welch as the Queen's dressmaker. The film makes great use of her cleavage, has the servant girl have an affair with d'Artagnan, shows off her cleavage . . .yeah, that's about it.

In the past, I've written that my favorite sword duels involved either the duo of Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, or the duo of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Nothing in this film happens to change my decision. The duels mostly aim for comedy, but that doesn't make the film any less likable. This film is just fun. By coincidence, it's a lot closer to Alexandre Dumas' book than say, the poorly received Milla Jovovich version that came out last fall. But come on, fun actors, fun duels, fun film.

After the film, Welch herself will participate in a Q and A with Dick Cavett. Therefore, I'm guessing this screening will sell out, and I strongly advise you to get tickets beforehand. Beforehand as in a day or two in advance. You can buy them online, or at the Walter Reade box office in person, presumably the week of the screening:

THE MUPPET SHOW with Christopher Reeve and Lynda Carter and SPIDER- Sun Feb 12 at 1(Muppet) and 3(Spider)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A unique double feature. First, 2 more Muppet Show episodes from the Jim Henson exhibit/retrospective. It's a superhero double feature, back to back episodes. First, an episode with Christopher Reeve, who can only change clothes via the phone booth in his dressing room, and whose attempt to perform Hamlet turns into Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Followed by an episode with Lynda Carter, who sings while surrounded by Muppets who want to be superheroes. Take note of Miss Piggy as Wonder Pig.

Next, Spider, on the last day of the David Cronenberg retrospective. Probably Cronenberg's best film in relation to lack of audience, and almost as far away from the Muppet Show that you can get. Spider would always be a tough sell to audiences. Ralph Fiennes plays a schizophrenic, moving into a halfway house after decades in an institution. But his memories and his illness keep coming back. And when your memories include your dad and his mistress killing your mom, and then having said mistress introduced as your mother, yeah, things aren't going to go well. With Miranda Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Lynn Redgrave, and John Neville, in his last film film role before retiring due to complications from Alzheimer's. A tough film but a good one:

WINGS- Sat Feb 11 at 1 and 7 (introduced by Ben Burtt), and Sun Feb 12 at 7- Film Forum- The start of the William Wellman retrospective. Wellman, years before working his way up the ranks of low level production work until he became a film director, was a fighter pilot during World War I. He brought that experience to a romantic action drama, with a plot that's fairly similar to Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor. 2 small town young men fight and compete with each other over the love of Clara Bow. But then the guys are drafted, and train to become fighter pilots. They become buddies, but war is hell and the Germans are unrelenting.

Wellman was hired to direct Wings in part due to his pilot experience. And with the aid of the Army Air Corp, you had more realistic flight scenes than what 1927 audiences could have thought possible. Would be interesting to compare it with say, Bay's Pearl Harbor or the recent Red Tails, to see how this stacks up with CGI. The winner of the first Best Picture Oscar; it wasn't called that then, but has been retroactively. Featuring Gary Cooper in a small role that gave his career a big boost.

This screening of Wings is a 4k digital restoration. The original 1927 score is re-incorporated. The color tinting has been duplicated and restored. The sound effects have been duplicated to what was available in the mid 1920s by Ben Burtt, the sound effects man from Star Wars who decided everything from a Wookie sound to a light saber sound and everything in between. Burtt himself will discuss the restoration process at the 7pm screening on Saturday, February 11:

NOTHING SACRED and A STAR IS BORN (1937)- Tues Feb 14 at 6:40(Sacred), 8:10(Star) and 10:15(Sacred)- Film Forum- Part of the William Wellman retro. A double feature of two of his early Technicolor efforts, both from 1937. First, Nothing Sacred, Carole Lombard's only color film and the first screwball comedy ever shot in Technicolor. She's a small town girl who thinks she's dying, so she wrangles a free trip to NYC from low level (and possibly low life) reporter Fredric March. She finds out she's not dying. But why not get the free trip, and keep people fawning over her with sympathy, and manipulate the reporter who's manipulating her, and maybe even fall in love? There's more, but if you don't know this screwball comedy, I won't spoil it for you. Dark satire from writer Ben Hecht, with a rapid fire war of worlds between Lombard and March.

Next, A Star is Born. The first and best version of the story, as Janet Gaynor's career rises, while the love of her life, payed by Fredric March, sees his career and health falter. Falter to the point that he may need to take a dip . . . Like I said, the first version of the story and the best. Better than the Judy Garland version, and far better than the Streisand version. Oscars for the color cinematography and Wellman for the Screen Story, Nominations for Picture, Wellman for Director, Gaynor for Actress, March for Actor, and Dorothy Parker (among others) for the dialogue. Actually, the recent Oscar nominee The Artist tells a very similar story, one that's at least better than the Garland and Streisand Star is Born's. I'll let you decide if it's better than the original Star is Born:

Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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