Friday, July 06, 2012

July revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with revival options for a chunk of July. Air conditioner options for those who want to see films better than the bulk of new movies in theaters now.  

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:

FUNNY FACE- Sat July 7 (a maybe for me) and Tues July 10- Thurs July 12 at 5:10, 7:10 and 9:10- A digital restoration of the 1957 hit musical. It has become so popular at the Forum that its run has been extended an additional week. Saturday the 7th is only a maybe for me, the middle of the week is more likely.

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 ROOM- Sat July 7 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:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with an episode of The Muppet Show- Sat July 7 at 2 and 6 and Sun July 8 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image- DCP Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big series. Films that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly qualifies. One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. I've seen it, I love it, and need no excuse to see Stanley Kubrick's classic. Some of you have done this before with me and some of you, more then once. But this is too good to ignore. Every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older.

2001 will be screened all weekend long at the Moving Image. In fact, it will be the only film screening there this Fourth of July-esque weekend. It will be a digitally restored screening. The same DCP that played at the Film Forum a few months back will play in Astoria. While both areas have quality sound systems, the idea of 2001 playing on the Moving Image's 65mm screen would be great.

Playing this Saturday continuously until closing in the Museum's Tisch Educational Center, is an episode of The Muppet Show. The first of a series of episodes, 1 per week thru late September, will be a Season 3 episode with Harry Belafonte. It's the episode where Fozzie takes over the show within the show's writing, and Belafonte performs Day-O, among other numbers:

CHARIOTS OF FIRE- Mon July 9 at 7:30- The Ziegfeld Theater- A 1 night only digital screening of the Oscar winner. It's being re-released in Britain in time for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and we get a one night only screening. But since it's at the Ziegfeld, I will gladly post. Based on the true story of 2 young men from Cambridge. Both runners, both trying to overcome social hurdles. One is becoming a missionary, but must fight his disapproving sister and her assertions that he's turning his back on God because he feels he's running for His Glory. The other is a young Jewish man trying to improve his technique against stronger competition, while trying to overcome the Antisemitism of  society in general and his college masters in particular. It will come to head in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

This film is a big deal in the U.K. One of their classics. In America, there was critical acclaim, but only a modest audience. It wasn't until it won the Oscar for Best Picture that Chariots became a hit here. The biggest upset in Oscar's history I reckon, bigger than Crash which at least had major support from the Academy members who are in SAG. But in 1982, it was a toss-up between On Golden Pond and Reds for Best Picture, with Raiders of the Lost Ark, the only classic film to come out of 1981, as a long shot. But this little English film with no names in the leads, and actors like John Gielgud and Brad Davis in cameos? Surprise indeed.

Nominations for Director Hugh Hudson, Ian Holm for Supporting Actor, and for Editing. Oscars for Screenplay and Costumes. But an Oscar for the aspect of Chariots of Fire that briefly hit the cultural zeitgeist: Vangelis' score. The soundtrack was a success, and his theme hit number one when released as a single in America.

Overall, this was not the best film of 1981 to me. Not in a year of Raiders, Atlantic City and Reds. But let's not dismiss this as just an episode of Masterpiece Theater with a great theme. There's a lot more going on that you (ok, we) have forgotten, and this is a good opportunity to change that:

THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS- Wed July 11 and Thurs July 13 at 7 and 9:30- 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:

MURIEL'S WEDDING for 7.50- Thursday July 12 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of the 1994 Australian dramedy, that became an art house hit here in the States in 1995. Toni Collette became a star in the title role; a fat awkward young girl, who isn't a part of any cool social crowd, and alongside the rest of her family, is constantly brow-beaten by her politician family. But she dreams of having a fabulous wedding, and is obsessed with ABBA. After making friends with a former high school classmate/ fellow social outcast/ highly confident and brassy woman (Rachel Griffiths), she steals from Dad and the two new friends run off to make a new life in Sydney. As she gets closer to living her dreams, life begins to interfere, and eventually she must choose between living the dreams and . . . well frankly between living the dream and growing up.

This was billed here in the states as a comedy (thanks Harvey Weinstein), so at about the halfway mark when things get serious and mostly stay that way, we in the audience were like WHOA, this just got real. Pretty good mix, even if it does get take a while to adjust to the changes. It made Toni Collette's career here in the States, gave us a reason to remember who Rachel Griffiths was when she finally made it big years later on Six Feet Under, and gave writer/director PJ Hogan a career out side Australia. It also helped launch a revival here for ABBA's music. Before Mama Mia! came along, this was probably the most successful use of the band's music onscreen.

Your choice of either the 7pm screening with Hedda Lettuce, or the 9:30 screening without:  

CAPE FEAR (1962)- Sat July 14 at 5:30- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's retrospective of standout films from Universal Studios on its 100th anniversary. A one night/ one screening only of  the original from 1962 starring Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck. You might unfairly label this as Atticus Finch vs Mitchum, but let's not go there because we're talking about even more of a psychological battle in this version than the Martin Scorsese remake. Yes, Scorsese's version was profitable for Universal, but hasn't had the same impact for the company.

Robert Mitchum spends years in jail, based on testimony from lawyer Gregory Peck. Now Mitchum's out of jail, and he engages in full psychological warfare, stalking Peck and his family. May not have the great scene like there was between De Niro and Juliette Lewis in the remake, though the sexual tension between villain and teenager comes from the remake, not here. Just a series of good scenes and ratcheting tension, lead to a better climax on the boathouse than in the remake. With Polly Bergen as Peck's wife, Martin Balsam as the police chief, and Telly Savalas as a private detective. Also, a great score from Bernard Herrmann:

DIE HARD- Tues July 17 at 7:30- 92nd Y Tribeca- Part of the 92nd Y Tribeca's Before They Were Expendables series. A series of films featuring at least one cast member of the upcoming Expendables 2. The first one was a fun check-your-brain-at-the-door flick, and the second one I hope will be more of the same. But that doesn't mean the films in this particular series will be ones I will post. Die Hard is the first, and if my schedule doesn't permit, the last. We'll see.

One of the best action films of the past 25 years or so. Bruce Willis jumps from TV star to Superstar status with this film, as everyman cop John McClane, saving his wife and co-workers in a giant office tower, from the clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his machine gun toting cohorts. True, you might feel Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Hart Bochner slow down the fun a bit by playing variations of the American Asshole, but two out of three pay off.

Compared to a lot of action films made afterwards, Die Hard looks better and better each year. CGI alone does not make an action film exciting or even interesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Transformers 1 and 2, just to pick on two films almost at random. Die Hard was just another above average hit from 1988. A little bigger in popularity than say, Beetlejuice, but not on the level of Crocodile Dundee 2. Home video and cable, plus the even bigger success of Die Hard 2, helped move Die Hard to the level of classic status. But if you're reading this, then you've probably only experienced this on TV. A large TV perhaps with an ok sound system, but not the big screen. Time to fix that:

THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS and PLAY MISTY FOR ME- Wed July 18 at 5:10 (Sugarland), 7:20 (Misty) and 9:20 (Sugarland)- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios retrospective. A one night only double feature of 2 films from the 1970s with two men making their theatrical directorial debuts.

First, The Sugarland Express. Steven Spielberg's first theatrical release and one of his more underrated. Ok, Duel did play in theaters, but it was/is a TV movie first and foremost. Based on a true story of 2 not very bright people. Lou-Jean (Goldie Hawn) tells her husband (William Atherton) who is imprisoned, to escape just days before his release. They plan to kidnap their own child, who was placed with foster parents. The escape is partly successful, but they take a hostage, who is a policeman and are pursued through to Texas. What happens from there, see the film.

Next is Play Misty For Me. Starring Clint Eastwood in his directorial debut. If you know Fatal Attraction, you basically know the story. Do note that this film was the one of, if not the first to tell this kind of story in a thriller format, decades before other studios would do this kind of film ad naesuem.

Eastwood is a DJ who has a brief fling with an obsessed fan (Arrested Development's Jessica Walter), who won't take no for an answer. Even when it's obvious that he's staying with his girlfriend (Knots Landing's Donna Mills), the stalker won't say no. Filmed in a gentle pace until things become intense, yet completed in a short amount of time (21 days) and under budget- hallmarks of Eastwood's direction. Think about it, could you imagine Fatal Attraction or Obsessed (the piece of shit version of this story with Beyonce and Ali Larter) take time away from the story to spend time at the Monterey Jazz Festival. But Clint made it work. 

It's only a matter of time when someone in NYC does an Eastwood-as-director retrospective. Or I should say, a better one than what Lincoln Center did a few years back. Everything in this future retro springs from this flick. And as a bonus for going to see The Sugarland Express, you get a quality thriller. Good deal for the cinephile I'd say:

SPARTACUS or JAWS- Sat July 21 at 6:30 (Spartacus) and 9:30 (Jaws)- Film Forum- Your choice of films from the Forum's 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios; separate admission screenings of either Spartacus or Jaws. Not sure if we're getting new prints or a digital screening.

First, Spartacus. The Starz version has its cult following and is quite an underrated series. But this film version has its virtues. Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Herbert Lom and Peter Ustinov. Kubrick replaced Anthony Mann at the beginning of production on this spectacular epic about a Roman slave revolt, based on Howard Fast's thinly veiled McCarthy-era allegory, and scripted by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo. Oscars for Ustinov, Art Direction, Costume Design and Cinematography (of which Kubrick actually did all the work, but the union man Russell Metty received the actual award!). A bit slow, even by Kubrick standards, but worth the time. This is the 3 hr restored version, which includes the scene where Olivier attempts to seduce  Curtis while they bathe together. Originally edited out due to pressure from the Production Code and the Legion of Decency, it was restored with Anthony Hopkins dubbing in Olivier's voice (he died a few years earlier).

Next is Jaws, which gets a rare screening. Rare in terms of a non-Midnight screening. 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: 

HELLO DOLLY!- Sun July 22 at 1:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Gene Kelly retrospective. I hope this isn't the only film I get to post from the retrospective. I thought I could do An American in Paris, but my schedule says otherwise. Lincoln Center won't be screening Singin in the Rain (on the orders of Time-Warner who own the rights and will do their own screening in AMC theaters on July 12th), and I'll be damned if I do a Xanadu screening that isn't either a sing-along or something that makes fun of it. 

This will be a 70mm screening of "Hello, Dolly!", a rare occurrence these days. This romantic comedy musical is slow, and its success is in more due (in my opinion) to casting, material, and the general look. Now maybe Kelly's taste was useful in some of these cases, like choreography from Michael Kidd, or having a producer/ screenwriter in Ernest Lehman. I feel the combo of slow at times pacing mixed with the over the top food fight, Michael Crawford's golly-gee performance maybe being a little too golly-gee, and the stigma of it being a flop (decades-old news but high grosses didn't match higher budget) has damaged the film's reputation. But Jerry Herman's songs are great, and the casting of Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau in the leads work, I don't care that they didn't get along at all during shooting. With Tommy Tune in his feature film debut (showing off some moves), and Louis Armstrong on screen long enough to sing a little bit of the title song. 3 minor Oscars, 4 other nominations including Picture and Editing. Why Editing I don't know, but see this anyway:

THE RED SHOES with an episode of The Muppet Show- Sun July 22 at 3- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Part of the Museum's See It Big series. The Red shoes is respectable on TV, especially with a decent TV and a good sound system. On the big screen is where it's a cinematic revelation. The restored version that played at the Film Forum a while back, will play in Astoria, in a DCP format.

Arguably the most important film featuring dance ever made, and supposedly one of the films that inspired Martin Scorsese to become a filmmaker. The restored version that Scorsese himself described a few years back at the Cannes Film Festival: "There's no question that it's one of the most beautiful color films ever made, and one of the truest to the experience of the artist, the joy and pain of devoting yourself to a life of creation."

The lush colors, and the breezy cinematic manner that directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger tell this story keeps it somewhat timeless. Sorry, you just can't have people riding in trains because they have to, and still be considered completely timeless. One of the few films to pull off both the ballet on-stage and the work and/or the passion behind it successfully. This is despite having relatively less on-screen staged ballet than what you might remember. There are very few dancers worth a damn who haven't been inspired to join the profession since it's release in 1948. Maybe a little too girly for some of you, but it's a classic, so deal with it and catch it. For all the physical beauty and wonderful performance Moira Shearer provided, you might come away remembering Anton Walbrook, as the domineering head of the dance company, even more. Check it out:

Playing continuously that day is a favorite episode of mine from The Muppet Show. A season 4 episode with guest star Liza Minnelli where the whole episode was a murder mystery. Stage star Minnelli fears for her life, so she hires Private Eye Kermit to protect. But as the bodies pile up, and one "murder victim" gets hoisted up to Heaven during  a performance of Great Day, it's up to Private Eye Kermit and Patrolman Fozzie to solve the case. With Liza performing Copacabana with a few Muppets, and performs Everything Is Coming Up Roses with the whole group:

THE MALTESE FALCON for free- Mon July 23 at Bryant Park at sundown- One of the best films ever gets a free screening at Bryant Park. An AFI Top 100 film and on my own personnel Top 40, Falcon made Bogart a leading man for life and was also John Huston's directorial debut. Proof that Tarentino did not have the best start to a film career. Okay maybe Welles did, but no one went to see Citizen Kane when it came out, but they did go to see Falcon in the same year. The film noir classic as Bogart, Peter Lorre and others search for "the stuff that dreams are made of" will be screened at sundown, preceded most likely by a Looney Tunes cartoon. Probably a Bugs Bunny one. My only concern is that if you're not positioned near a speaker you may have trouble hearing this older film in Bryant Park. So get there early, or at least have some friends get there early and save you a spot:

That's it for now. Let me know if there's interest, and with this particular list, there has to be. Later all.

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