Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Revivals: Late June/ Early July Edition

Hey, Mike here with another revival list. Because of the way the calender is working right now, and with possible film screening options starting in June and ending in July, I'll do something a little different. I'll include options from late June thru early July. Options that are as varied as I can make it. Lighter fare and heavier fare. Cheap screenings, classic films, near classics, and some cult flicks. So here we go:

BATTLE ROYALE- Thurs June 21 at 9:40 and Fri June 22- Thurs June 28 at 9:15 plus Sat June 23 at 11:40- IFC Center- Yep, the 2000 Japanese cult hit that barely has any resemblance to The Hunger Games continues its run at IFC Center. Not sure if it will play beyond June 28th, but it wouldn't surprise me if the film did. Especially if it was only Midnight screenings. Don't know for sure, but  that means from my perspective, this film can still be seen at a reasonable time, let's do it already. A high-def digital projection:

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER-  Fri June 22 at 7:30- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's retrospective of Paramount Pictures' films of the 1970s. Not just any films, but the most successful and/or the critically acclaimed from this studio in that decade. The impressive roster in this retrospective continues with an interesting selection on the weekend of the 22nd, starting with Saturday Night Fever. Yes, I have the poster of the PG rated version poster here, but it's the original R rated cut so no worries.

Watch John Travolta go from TV sitcom guy, to Disco icon, then Movie icon, as the king of Brooklyn disco, who wants more out of life, and out of Brooklyn. The film is specifically structured where if Tony doesn't see it happen, the audience doesn't experience it. At least three quarters of it is basically Tony slowly growing up, which is why the film survived the "Disco Sucks" backlash. The rest is at the disco, where director John Badham's visuals, Travolta's dancing, and The Bee Gees' music is what's remembered and loved the most. One of the first films to ever use the Steadicam. A nomination for Travolta for Best Actor:

GREASE and/or SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and/or THE CONVERSATION- Sat June 23 at 1:30(Grease), 4(Saturday) and 7(Conversation)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- More from the Moving Image's retrospective of Paramount Pictures' films from the 1970s. If you can't do Saturday Night Fever on Friday the 23rd, you can go for it on Saturday the 24th, alongside up to 2 other films for one admission, as well access to the Museum's exhibits. For the record, Grease and Saturday Night Fever will be DCP screenings, The Conversation will be Blu-Ray projection.

First, Grease. From 1978, a time where the movie musical genre was, if not dead, then definitely on life support. Nevertheless, Paramount was expecting audiences to come out for this adaptation of the hit Broadway show. Especially with the positive vibes of nostalgia for the 1950s that came from Paramount TV series Happy Days, the lightness of the material, and the casting of hot young leads John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Paramount's enthusiasm must have been tempered when a few months prior to Grease's release, American Hot Wax, a bio-pic of DJ Alan Freed with musical numbers from performers like Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, flopped despite a heavy ad campaign and respectable reviews. American Hot Wax would have been a good addition to this retrospective by the way, a forgotten film that was never released on VHS or DVD, but I digress. The much lighter Grease did find an audience, but certainly Paramount never expected the level of success. It didn't revive the musical genre, but it became the biggest hit of not only 1978, but also the highest grossing film in Paramount's history (no inflation adjustment), until Raiders of the Lost Ark came along 3 years later. It made Travolta an A lister (until career choices took a toll until Pulp Fiction) and also made Olivia a star onscreen as well as in music (Xanadu took that film career away right quick though).

Now as for the film itself, lets just pile on the cheese here. A few good numbers (including Grease Lightning), the attractiveness of the younger cast (including Jeff Conway and Stockard Channing), and a bone tossed to the non-kids of the day with some names from the 50s (including Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, Frankie Avalon and Joan Blondell), you have something for everyone. Even if it's a guilty pleasure, it's still a pleasure nevertheless. Because this is a screening in the museum, I expect this to be the original theatrical release; no licence difficulties like the obscuring or blurring of Coke signs or the replacement of songs during the school dance-offs with cover tracks.    

Grease will also be screened at Chelsea Clearview Cinema, as a Sing-along. If you want to go to that, knock yourself out. But I prefer the option of multiple films for one admission.
Next, The Conversation, from 1974. Gene Hackman plays the best surveillance man in the business. And because he knows the ins and outs of the business, he's become withdrawn and paranoid. Not owning a telephone and only making phone calls via public pay phones is the least annoying quirk to his friends and colleagues, including John Cazale's character (this is considered part of his 5 for 5 in terms of his great film career by the way). He accepts a job from mysterious Harrison Ford (years before Star Wars) to track a couple, no questions asked. And through his listening in, Hackman believes that the couple (Cindy Williams and Frederick Forrest) are targets for murder. What will he do?

One part EXTREMELY low key suspense thriller, one part character study of Hackman's borderline-enigma of a person. This was Francis Ford Coppola's Golden Ticket; after making The Godfather and agreeing to make Godfather Part 2, he got the opportunity to write and direct The Conversation. Oscarwise, it managed nominations for Picture, Coppola for Director and Sound, but it was overwhelmed by Godfather 2. It wasn't a financial disaster, but audiences on the whole didn't and haven't embraced this chilly but good film. Critics are the group that keep propping it up as one of the best films of the 1970s. It's been a long time since I've seen it, so I'm not sure if I can totally agree with them. But I'd like to see it and decide for myself. Care to join me?

GREASE and/or THE CONVERSATION and/or THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE- Sun June 24 at 1(Grease), 4(Conversation) and 6:30(Coyle)- Museum of the Moving Image- If you can't do either Grease or The Conversation on Saturday, it can be done on Sunday the 24th as well. But there's one other film playing on the 24th as well. A film that one wouldn't think would be part of the Paramount Pictures films of the 1970s retrospective, because it is so little known.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a modern noir from 1973. Little seen, rarely shown on cable, and only came out on DVD for the first time in May 2009, through the Criterion Collection. Which means you can't see it through Blockbuster, only through Netflix. Very similar to The Departed, but without the histrionics or the fake sense of justice. A little slow for that time period I suppose, but in the era of The Sopranos, I guess we can embrace a moody, character-driven crime drama.

Set and shot in and around the South Boston area, depicting what it was at the time, based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Essentially mob-controlled, with police and assigned FBI getting payoffs, while politicians and journalists look the other way. Robert Mitchum plays a low level criminal. His best days are behind him and everyone knows it (even him?), and who's looking at a third jail sentence that might as well be a life sentence. Trying to avoid prison and feed his family, he decides to try to snitch and make a big score at the same time. Referring to the people around him as his Friends is like calling a big guy Tiny though. Peter Boyle and Richard Jordan lead the cast of character actors that fill out this flick. Never seen all of it, but have liked the parts I have seen. We'll get a 35mm print for this screening. Wouldn't mind catching this at all:

ANNIE HALL-  Sunday June 24 Wed June 27 and Thurs June 28 at 7:10 and 9:10- Film Forum- This classic plays for a week at the Film Forum in a new 35mm print. Not going too much into this. Blah blah, Woody Allen's best film right along with Manhattan. Blah blah, on both AFI Top 100 lists and in my own personal top 100. Blah Blah, Multiple Oscar winner including Best Picture. Blah blah, Diane Keaton becomes movie icon and feminist icon of all time. Blah blah, the Annie Hall character was to women then as Juno is to young women right now. Blah blah, one of the best romantic comedies ever made, despite the dramatic/sad tinges to it. Blah blah, just see it, all right:

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID- for free at Bryant Park- Mon June 25 at sundown- Not the first film in Bryant Park's free film series, but the first one I can post. The park opens at 4 or 5 (would have to double-check), and the film starts, usually with a Bugs Bunny cartoon first, at sundown. Bring your food, bring your drink, and remember to pick up after yourselves. But please leave your pot at home. Had to endure a bit of that a few years back during a screening of A Shot in the Dark, not fun. What will be fun is catching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bryant Park with an appreciative crowd. I caught about 20-30 minutes worth back in 2003. Anyway I caught the portion of Butch Cassidy from the explosion of the railroad car, through the canyon jump. The audience went apes for all of that. I wish was able to stay for the rest and now I, and you, will get another chance.

A Western that still has a modern-day film making feel to it, despite it being over 40 years old and maintaining a sense of the turn of the 20th Century. Important since we see Butch and Sundance as lovable outlaws, in an era that is quickly phasing them out, and because they use the gun, the phasing out will be bloody. I doubt the real life Butch and Sundance were so likable, but I'm ok with that. When you have Newman and Redford in the leads, with great dialogue from William Goldman, surrounded by character actors like Strother Martin, Jeff Corey and Cloris Leachman, and director George Roy Hill ably manning the controls, you accept anything. And since those boys treat the lovely Katharine Ross nicely, who am I to complain? Two famous scenes: the 27 minute chase (unusual in its day) by the law that leads to Butch and Sundance jumping off the cliff, and the long concluding shootout against the Bolivian Army, that was recently homaged in a recent episode of House.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Director and Sound. Oscars for Goldman's Screenplay and Conrad Hall's Cinematography, and 2 Oscars awarded to Burt Bacharach, including for Best Song for Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. On both AFI Top 100 lists and among the best Westerns ever made, even if it wasn't the kind of Western John Wayne would approve of:

NASHVILLE and DAYS OF HEAVEN- Sat June 30 at 1 (Nashville) and 4:30 (Days)- Museum of the Moving Image- More from the Paramount Pictures films from the 1970s retro. 2 art house-like films that could only be made with studio backing during the 1970s. Nashville and Days of Heaven: both very different in style, but both standouts from this decade. Nashville will be a DCP screening, Days of Heaven a 35mm print. Now you can also see The Elephant Man for the same admission as well, but I don't see finding the time to catch that as well, but I highly recommend David Lynch's film. 

First, Nashville. Robert Altman's 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.

Next, Days of Heaven. For those not familiar with Terrence Malick, think of him as similar to Stanley Kubrick. American director, small output of films (5 completed with 1-2 more on their eventual way) that take a while to conceive shoot and edit. Malick's films take place either in America (including The New World, if you think about it),or surrounded by mostly Americans; and they usually capture the beauty of nature, and they usually contrast that with the violence that happens over the course of that particular story. That's Malick in a nutshell. I'll let film scholars pontificate to greater length on their own sites, writings, etc.

Days of Heaven is something I find a little hard to want to pay attention to on TV or computer screen. But on the big screen, Days of Heaven was a revelation for me, and quickly became for me, the best film to come out of 1978. Yes, I put it ahead of such stuff as The Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Heaven Can Wait, The Last Waltz and Pretty Baby. And yes, Superman, Grease and Halloween as well. Not a bad little year in film 1978 was, but I digress . . . .

I won't fight those who find the film on the slow side. Malick is definitely following the idea of show, don't tell here. Filming lasted about a year, shot almost exclusively in "magic Hour" (about 5-7AM and 4-7:30 PM) with Malick eventually throwing out the script, and having the cast seemingly improvise. In post production, narration was added, by teenager Linda Manz. It's thru her eyes that the story unfolds: during turn of the century America in the Midwest, she watches her sister and sis's boyfriend (Brooke Adams and Richard Gere) pull a con. The couple pretend to be brother-sister, while Sis marries a sickly rich farmer (Sam Shepard, in his screen debut), so they can inherit his fortune once he dies. But when Sis falls in love with her husband, jealously and tragedy ensue.

It's very possible you don't know this film. If you're lucky, you might have seen a restored copy from the Criterion Collection DVD from 2007, or the HD DVD from last year. But chances are, you're not familiar with a Malick film, and this is your chance to see one for free. And it might be the best photographed film you'll ever see. Oscar nominations for Costume Design, Sound and Ennio Morricone's score, a deserved Oscar for its Cinematography:

THE STING for 7 dollars- Sat June 30 at 2- Film Center Amphitheater at Lincoln Center- A cheap screening at Lincoln Center's new Amphitheater in the Film Center. Maybe a little light weight for a 7 time Oscar winning Best Picture, but a well constructed caper film and most of all, a fun filmThe classic con film, where Newman and Robert Redford try to outfox evil Robert Shaw I can understand those who feel Newman slept walked through most of his performance (I disagree), but it's tough against Redford's best leading man performance. His only Oscar nomination as an actor. Helped many people discover Scott Joplin's long forgotten music and bring Ragtime music back into the forefront. The music didn't fit into the timeline of the story, but the feeling of it fits beautifully. And only 7 dollars:

FUNNY FACE- Sat June 30 at 5:10, 7:10 and 9:10, Wed July 4 and Thurs July 5 at 5:10, 7:10 and 9:10- A new 35mm print of the 1957 hit musical. Not quite a classic, but a worthy inclusion in the careers of all involved, including Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Astaire is a Richard Avedon-esque fashion photographer who, with fashion editor Kay Thompson (best known as the author of the Eloise books), is looking for the next new thing: a fashion model who "thinks as well as she can move". Not so easy to find until they stumble upon Hepburn's character running a bookstore in the Village. She despises the fashion industry, but for a trip to Paris and the chance to meet her idol, a snobby philosopher, she'll become a model. Hilarity, dancing, singing occur. Things get complicated for our leads, but it all turns out ok in the end.

Yeah, I'm not selling the story too well. It's the likability of the principals, their snappy patter, the speed of the story telling (good pace from director Stanley Donen), the songs (a mix of newer songs with stuff from the Gershwins, including "S Wonderful" and the title song) the dancing and the fashions. Especially the fashions; the most colorful outfits were given their full glory through the Technicolor and Vistavision process of shooting, and this Digital screening should make them a highlight. Ironically the least colorful outfit is the one that has made the biggest cultural impact: the all black outfit, including the skinny pants, that Hepburn dances in. No lyrics, mainly her, slinking around in a smoky jazz club. A very big deal, that Whitney Huston and Beyonce each did their own tributes to/ stole from like nobody's business.

4 Oscar nominations; for Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. Edith Head had to share credit here, I'm sure that ticked her off. Overall, very light-hearted, but good: 

THE WIZARD OF OZ-  for free at Bryant Park- Mon July 2 at sundown- Another Bryant Park screening, its first since 1997. Could have a larger audience for this than for say Butch Cassidy, what with it being screened after school has wrapped and this being a family film and all. The amount of repeating of lines and song lyrics could rival that of previous screenings of Airplane and Monty Python & the Holy Grail, but it usually isn't intrusive.

A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch: 

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS- Fri July 6- Thurs July 13 at 4:30, 7 and 9:30 (no 7pm screening on Monday, July 9th)- Film Forum- In time for the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence, the Forum brings back one of the better politically charged films ever made. Shot in a you-are-there newsreel style, in or near locations where explosions, riots, arrests and shootings took place with only one professional actor. An excellent film that was studied in the Pentagon as an example of what to expect when invading Iraq. But as you see the film, you might wonder, at what point did those in charge forget what they learned by seeing this?!?!? Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, Director and Original Screenplay. For the rest, I'll just cut and paste from the Forum's website back on either 2005 or 07, I forget which:

(1965, GILLO PONTECORVO) Algiers, 1957. French paratroopers inch their way through the Casbah to zero in on the hideout of the last rebel still free in the city. Flashback three years earlier, as the Algerian National Liberation Front decides on urban warfare. Thus begin the provocations, assassinations, hair-breadth escapes, and reprisals; and massive, surging crowd scenes unfolding with gripping realism: many of the sequences were shot and edited to the driving prerecorded score by Pontecorvo and Morricone. Winner, Grand Prize, Venice Film Festival:

STAR TREK 2: THE WRATH OF KHAN- Fri July 6 and Sat July 7 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- The best of the admittedly inconsistent Star Trek series, as William Shatner's Admiral James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, must deal with obsessed-for-revenge Khan Noonien Singh. I know I've done this revival before, but I enjoy it too much and after 30 years, it still works. Good effects and score, decent mix of Star Trek, On Golden Pond and Moby Dick (among other influences), good use of Spock if you know what I mean, and a Shatner performance you can respect. But Ricardo Montalban's performance is worth the price of admission; scenery chewing, bug eyed, but passionate, and obviously an actor in the midst of having a fun time being very very bad. I know it's been done before, but I enjoy it too much. Don't want to hear from the haters, time is on my side with this one; besides most of the haters haven't even seen it. For those who haven't seen it, or haven't seen in in a long time, or have never seen it on the big screen and can stay up way past midnight, come on, go for it:

THE ROOM- Sat July 6 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- I've done this before, and enough time has passed that I'm ready to attempt this again. One of the best bad films of recent times, Tommy Wiseau's The Room continues playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema at Midnight on the first Saturday of every month. This "Citizen Kane of bad movies" has to be seen to be believed. You can expect a Rocky Horror-esque experience, with lines quoted, talking back to the screen, flinging of spoons and tiny footballs. The only thing you may want to decide before seeing this, is whether or not you want to know the film before you attend a screening. Basically, do want to know what's coming and possibly be part of the audience participation aspect, or do you want to go in fairly cold?

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:

Let me know if there's interest. Seriously, with a list this varied, there's something for everyone. Don't lie to me people, you know there's stuff you want to catch. Later all.

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