Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feb revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a list of revivals for the rest of February. Figures it would be a large selection so close to Oscar time. Let me not waste anymore time, here we go:

THE DARK CRYSTAL- Fri Feb 17, Sat Feb 18 and Sun Feb 19 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Playing all three nights of the President's day weekend, including Sunday. If you're a fan of Lord of the Rings kind of fantasy, or a fan of 80's films, here's this effort from Jim Henson. Jim and co-director Frank Oz's (with an uncredited assist from Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz) attempt to do a Lord of The Rings-style film with the latest in animatronic technology, received only minor acclaim and decent U.S. business in the Christmas of 1982, but became one of the biggest films to ever hit Japan and France up to that point. It still has a fervent cult here. Puppetry effects at their height, with the Muppet-esque cuteness cut down very low. A children's film that keeps the adults entertained, without being cheesy or insulting to the kids.

The overall look is always impressive, with a highly underrated score from Trevor Jones. I admit, the ending for Dark Crystal doesn't make a lot of sense, but the journey is worth it:

JAWS- Fri Feb 17, Sat Feb 18 and Sun Feb 19 at Midnight- IFC Center- A midnight screening of this classic, also playing all three nights of the President's Day weekend. On both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:

THEY LIVE- Fri Feb 17 and Sat Feb 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- John Carpenter's still underrated Reagan era/ yuppie era attack satire, shot through the filter of a sci-fi action film, gets a Midnight screening. Unlike Jaws and Dark Crystal, this only plays on the Friday/Saturday night of President's weekend. Oh, and don't forget the great fist fight, possibly the longest most exaggerated in film history:

THE OX-BOW INCIDENT with or without YELLOW SKY- Sat Feb 18 at 2:40(Ox), 4:10(Yellow), 6(Ox), 7:30(Yellow) and 9:20(Ox)- Film Forum- 2 more films from the William Wellman retrospective. The second film I could catch but it's not a priority. But the first one, oh I'd love to catch it.

The Ox-Bow Incident, deserves to go alongside revisionist Westerns like Unforgiven, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Definitely among the darkest, as it covers mob mentality. Henry Fonda and Harry Morgan play two drifters suspected of cattle rustling by some very on-edge townspeople. Then, a story goes around that a prominent rancher has been murdered and the gang has escaped. Most of the townspeople take the law unto their own hands, and form a posse to capture the "murderers". To avoid suspicion, Fonda and Morgan join the posse. The mob find three men, including "Laura"'s Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn, who are immediately suspected of the crime, captured, and are "sentenced" by the mob to be hung. Dark, but very good Western. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the late 1990s, and one of Fonda's favorite film. I really want to catch this.

Next, Yellow Sky. Gregory Peck, a burned out man not that different from John Wayne's character from The Searchers, tries to lead his gang of bank robbers away from the law. He and his gang, which include Richard Widmark and Harry Morgan, hide out in a ghost town. But it's not abandoned; an old prospector and his granddaughter (Anne Baxter) have been mining gold there. the gang plans to steal the gold, but what happens when Peck falls for Baxter? I don't have to catch this, but if anyone who comes with me is in the mood, or if the only way to get into Ox-Bow Incident is to watch Yellow Sky first, I won't mind:

THE MUPPET SHOW with Steve Martin and John Cleese and THE LADY EVE and (a maybe for me) FORTY GUNS with Dan Callahan in person- Sun Feb 19 at 1(Muppet), 3(Eve) and 6(Guns)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Another nice full Sunday at the Museum of the Moving Image. Two Season 2 Muppet Show episodes and two Barbara Stanwyck films, plus the Jim Henson exhibit, all for 1 admission. Incidentally, the last day of the Henson exhibit is Sunday, March 4th. But after the 19th, I'm done posting and pushing the exhibit. If you don't catch it by then, you're on your own.

The first Muppet Show episode is with guest Steve Martin. The only episode where the show within the show isn't in performance. Kermit holds auditions for new cast members, and Martin is forced to perform to the cast. I believe this is the only episode where Statler and Waldorf perform onstage (a Vaudevillian number, with Fozzie attempting some heckler revenge), plus we also have Martin performing Dueling Banjos. The second episode is with guest John Cleese, who co-wrote the episode. In this episode, we have Cleese refusing to work with pigs, unsure if Kermit is the frog he's contractually bond to work, and having him hijack the Pigs in Space ship as Long John Silverstein. Also in this screening is a number that's never included U.S. broadcasts: a pregnant-looking Miss Piggy performing "Waiting at the Church" opposite Kermit, whose planning to leave her at the altar.

Next, a potential Barbara Stanwyck double feature, the first film being something I'd love to see. The Lady Eve, as close as writer-director Preston Sturges could get to sex comedies back in the early forties. Where con artist Barbara Stanwyck targets rich "dope" Henry Fonda. Naturally, there's all that falling in love, the thawing of cold cynical hearts, misunderstandings, none of this necessarily in that order and often repeated. We expect good work from Stanwyck, smart snappy patter from Sturges, and good support from the likes of Charles Coburn and William Demarest, but who'd expect Fonda to pull off deadpan pratfalls? Highly recommended.

Lastly, Forty Guns. A Samuel Fuller film that appears a lot more interesting than the way the Museum's website describes. A 79 minute quickie that's a little more complicated then it seems. Powerful rancher Stanwyck falls in love with pacifist sheriff Griff (Barry Sullivan), complicating tension regarding her hired men or "forty guns". In charge of the "guns" is her drunken brother, who bullies the townspeople in general, and won't stand the idea of such a cowardly man like Griff defying his authority AND touching his sister.

Highly praised for Fuller's use of Cinemascope. But I suppose what gets me interested is Fuller's quote describing the reason behind the title: "My forty guns were forty p---ks. My powerful heroine had her way in the sack with all forty, then cast them aside for the forty-first "gun", Griff." Intriguing.

Both films will be introduced Dan Callahan, author of a new biography, "Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman" In between both films, Callahan will sign copies of the book, sold in the Museum's gift shop:

BEAU GESTE- Sun Feb 19 at 4:50 (introduced by Gary Cooper's daughter) and 8:35 plus Mon Feb 20 at 4:50- Film Forum- Part of the William Wellman retro. A nearly shot for shot remake of the 1926 silent original, this turned out a lot better than when Gus van Sant did a similar thing remaking Psycho. A long involving story, but I'll cut to the chase. 3 brothers (Gary Cooper, Ray Milland and Robert Preston) join the French Foreign Legion, and are at odds with their sadistic Sergeant. But before things get worse, in come the Tuareg, attacking their fort. Popular action drama, with Oscar nominations for Brian Donlevy as the Sergeant, and for Art Direction. With Susan Hayward, Broderick Crawford and Donald O'Connor in small roles. On the Sunday February 19th 4:50 screening, Maria Cooper Janis, Gary's daughter, will introduce the film, will sign copies of her new biography of her father afterwards. The film is playing with Call of the Wild with Clark Gable, but I don't care to see it, so I'm not posting it:

THE LAST METRO- Tues Feb 21 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's retrospective of films that first made a big splash at the New York Film Festival. Paris, 1942. Lucas Steiner is a Jew and was compelled to leave the country. His wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve), an actress, directs the theater for him. She tries to keep the theater alive with a new play, and hires Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu) for the leading role. But Lucas is actually hiding in the basement... An Oscar nominee for Foreign Language Film in 1981.

The following is quote from Vincent Camby when he reviewed it for the Times:

"The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a
small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though
the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a
gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history.
The Last Metro is a melodrama that discreetly refuses to exercise its
melodramatic options. It's also a love story that scarcely recognizes its
lovers. Though the setting is a legitimate theater, the Theatre Montmartre,
it's not an "inside theater" movie. The Last Metro is about a particular
time in history. Its Theatre Montmartre is a refuge -- actual in the case of
one character, and psychological for the others. The theater provides them

The focal point of the film is the Theatre Montmartre's production of the
French translation of a Norwegian play, La Disparue (The Woman Who
Disappeared)... The content of La Disparue, however, is of no more moment
than that of Meet Pamela, the rather awful sounding film that was being
produced in the course of Day for Night. The Last Metro is about the manner
in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting
relations with each other, and the way in which each responds to the
condition of being "occupied." The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors
of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the
occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. It takes a little while to
catch the tempo of the film, but pay attention. The Last Metro is about
lives surrounded by melodrama, being lived with as little outward fuss as
possible. "

CRUISING- Fri Feb 24 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- A Midnight screening of the one Al Pacino film that doesn't have any clips shown whenever his career is honored. From director William Friedkin, Pacino plays an NYPD cop who goes undercover in the world of gay S and M clubs, to find a serial killer who stalks his prey there. And Pacino's character begins to like this world. Don't know how accurate this sub-culture is depicted, but it is a snippet of the past and how gays are viewed and depicted one year before the first AIDS cases were diagnosed in New York. One of Friedkin's police advisors on The French Connection worked on this film, so the police side is probably accurate. If anything, Cruising focuses more on the police reaction to the gay communtiy.

Cruising was heavily protested when it was shot in New York, to the point where gay activist groups tried to have the filming removed from NYC altogether. Then 40 minutes had to be cut in order to get the R rating. The film came out in March 1980, where the protests never let up. The film was trashed by critics, and flopped at the box office. If it lasted more than a month, I'd be stunned. Pacino, upset that Friedkin changed the film from what is in the script to the final product, and stunned by the intense anger of the protestors who never saw the film (but might have read the book), would never speak about the film afterwards. Distributed by United Artists. Wow, with Cruising released early in 1980, and Heaven's Gate released near the end of that year, no wonder Transamerica got out of the movie business.

Found some quotes about the film from IMDB. Don't know the sources, otherwise I'd quote them:

"“The film doesn’t turn away from the sexuality,” says Friedkin, who notes that the Cannes screening will be followed by a theatrical re-release, complete with a new Dolby Digital sound mix, in select U.S. cities this fall. “That means it will still disturb a lot of people on both sides of the issue.”

He does wish, though, that the studio (Warner Bros.) had been able to find some of the 40 minutes of deleted scenes that he was forced to remove from Cruising 26 years ago at the behest of the MPAA, all of which are now feared missing or destroyed.

Skin tones looked a little pale in the night and club sequences, but colors really popped for the most part, in particular, the yellow NYC cabs. Sound, in particular, the separation between the various songs and ambient noises, was excellent."

Now the film's reputation has been getting some rehabilitation, thanks in part to the standing ovation the new print received a few years back at Cannes (Tarantino was among those applauding). Personally, I have no idea if this film is any good. I've never seen more than a minute of it years ago on cable. As well as the original trailer which is quite effective actually. It could be good, could be crap, or just passable. It will probably look and sound good, but after that, who knows? Any of you adventurous?

THE PUBLIC ENEMY with or without THE STAR WITNESS- Sat Feb 25 at 2:50(Enemy), 4:30(Star), 5:50(Enemy), 7:30(Star) and 8:50(Enemy)- Film Forum- Part of the William Wellman retro. The Public Enemy, starring a charismatic, tough, fast talking James Cagney, in a role that made him a star forever. He moves up the ranks, from a punk in the Chicago slums, to a quick tempered gangster with Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke and Joan Blondell around him. He also has a good guy brother who wants no part of the criminal life. But this makes the brother vulnerable to attack, and Cagney's character will seek vengeance. Features the famous scene where Mae Clarke's face met Cagney's grapefruit with force. An Oscar nomination for its story.

I'd like to see Public Enemy, and can easily skip The Star Witness, but if one wants to see it, I won't fight it. In this 68 minute quickie, a family sees a gang kingpin commit murders. D.A. Walter Huston pressures the family to testify. The kingpin threatens the family, Grandpa (the Civil War vet) pushes the family to do their civic duty, the boy gets kidnapped, but it all turns out ok in the end. An Oscar nomination for the screen story. Best I can say is, that's it short, and if sitting through means easy access to The Public Enemy, I'll slog through it if need be:

RUNAWAY TRAIN- Mon Feb 27 at 8- IFC Center- A rare revival screening of this pretty good action drama from 1985. Adapted from a Kurosawa screenplay written so long ago, Peter Falk was originally tabbed for the lead, with Henry Fonda in a major supporting role. Backed by Cannon Films; while they often made their money on crappy stuff like the Breakin' films and some rather terrible Chuck Norris action films and Death Wish sequels, Golan and Globus would occasionally channel profits into the occasional serious film aimed for respectability. Runaway Train was one of them.

2 convicts escape from an Alaskan maximum security prison. One (Jon Voight), a loner, safe-cracker and escape artist. The other (Eric Roberts), a man of low IQ who is unwelcome on the escape. They think they've made a successful escape through a blizzard and long hike, onto the train made up of 4 locomotives. They don't realize until later that the engineer died of a heart attack, the brakes have burned off, and the train is picking speed. The escaped cons, already grating on each other's nerves, try to work with the lone rail worker (a de-glamorized Rebecca De Mornay), to slow down the runaway train. But the passengers don't realize that train dispatchers are working furiously to avoid massive collisions, and might sacrifice the train with all on board to avoid a catastrophic crash. The passengers also don't realize that the sadistic prison warden (John P. Ryan), is also hot on their trail.

Runaway Train didn't do well at the box office. And it might have gone away completely, if a chance storm in and by Los Angeles back in January 1986, hadn't forced some Academy to seek shelter, at Academy screenings for Runaway Train. This was according to gossip columnist Marilyn Beck, the exact article I've had trouble finding her rep is better than most, so I believe it. Runaway Train received 3 nominations, for Voight for Actor, Roberts for Supporting Actor, and for Editing. This didn't help Runaway Train find an audience in theaters, but it became a successful VHS rental for the rest of the 80s. But once the 90s came along, and the Cannon Group went belly up, Runaway Train seemed to disappear. I mean yes, it's on DVD, but even those copies miss a scene here, or some violent action shots there. So really, this is a good opportunity to see a good film, you're probably not aware of.

Runaway Train is part of IFC Center's Queer/Art film series, where a gay or lesbian artist picks a film that inspired what they do today. Choreographer Elizabeth Streb will introduce the film, and explain how it inspired to form her own style of action or extreme dancing:

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

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