Wednesday, August 01, 2012

August revivals: first half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of August. A list put together with an eye not only toward films that really interest me, but also, for the most part, an eye toward the wallet. This will be the last long list for a little while. With the U.S. Open coming up, the next list or two (3?) will be on the small side. But enough of that, on with this list. Here we go:

THE ROOM with Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestro in person- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Sat Aug 4 at Midnight and Sun Aug 5 at 10PM (Friday August 3 is Sold Out)-  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. 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. Several big differences from the usual thing done at Landmark Sunshine. First, instead of just on a Saturday, it will play all 3 days of this coming weekend, but Friday is already sold out. Second, there will a 10PM screening on Sunday as opposed to Midnight. And third, Wiseau himself will introduce the screening. What will he say? Who knows. Will anything he says have anything to do with The Room? Possibly. At previous screenings, he stayed afterwards for pictures, autographs, and answered questions. Or at least, provided responses. So who knows what this will be like. Also introducing the film with Wiseau is the film's other male lead, Greg Sestro:

CHARADE and PILLOW TALK- Sun Aug 5 at 7:10 (Charade) and 9:20 (Pillow)- Part of the Forum's 100th anniversary of Universal Studios retrospective. 2 of Universal's more successful romantic comedies, even though the first is heavier than the second. Both are also the best examples of romantic comedies from the late 1950s/ early 1960s.

First, Charade from 1963. Audrey Hepburn comes back to Paris with a murdered husband, an empty apartment and a gang of creepy men (including cowboy James Coburn and menacing George Kennedy with a big hook) who are threatening to kill her if she doesn't come up with the money her late husband stole from them. She doesn't know about any of this, and the only person who seems willing to help is Cary Grant; charismatic, flirty, tough enough to stand up to these bullies, but also not telling the truth about himself. Then you throw in Walter Matthau's character . . . . If you don't know the rest of the film, I won't spoil it for you.

Expert handling of the reins from director Stanley Donen. When to play up the romance, when to have a little knowing laugh with the audience, and when the ratchet up the tension and make the threats believable. Maybe not in retrospect, but certainly within the moment.  With a great opening credits sequence from Saul Bass and a Henry Mancini score to match. 
Next, Pillow Talk, the first of the Rock Hudson- Doris Day comedies, as well as both the most successful and the best. No point in breaking down plot, they're all about the same. Man and woman hate each other, love each other but don't know it, then eventually find out and after much arguing, a happy ending, with Tony Randall on the sidelines, making jokes. Like I said, the best of the bunch. I guess the biggest differences are the confusion in the plotline occuring because of Rock and Doris are forced to share a "party line" (talk about anachronism)  and that Rock pretends he's gay. Oooooooo-kay then. Oscar nominations include Day for Actress, Art Direction, Score and for Thelma Ritter for Supporting Actress in another wisecracking role. An Oscar for the Screenplay: 

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD- Mon Aug 6 at sunset- for free at Bryant Park- A free screening of the Errol Flynn classic. Might be a little hard to sit through the dialogue scenes if you're not close to a speaker. But the action should be real cool with a crowd. Dashing Robin Hood (Flynn) steals from the oppressive rich, gives to the poor, thumbs his nose at authority he doesn't respect (especially Claude Rains' Prince John), and tries to get jiggy with, I mean, MAKE TIME with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland - sigh . . .). Oscar nominee for Best Picture, it won for Art Direction, Editing, and Original Score. The most difficult of the Technicolor films to make work up to that point, and the most successful for its time. And, most importantly, fun for all ages.

The highlight for me is the sword fight between Flynn and Basil Rathbone. 2 swordsmen at their best, just like in Captain Blood. Like I said before to others, I have never seen better on-screen duelists then Flynn-Rathbone, unless the characters are named either Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Yeah I said it, deal with it:

TOPSY-TURVY- Tues Aug 7 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Walter Reade's series of films that stood out in the 50 year history of the New York Film Festival. A minor art house hit in the U.S. back in 1999. Not necessarily the best film of Mike Leigh's career, but one of his best for sure, as well as one of the best films of 1999. I also feel this is his most accessible for people unfamiliar with his work, despite the 2 hr, 40 minute length. Depicting the process that Gilbert and Sullivan went through in the creation of and producing the first production of The Mikado. Coming off a flop, yet still popular together to keep them from seeking individual success, despite their wish to separate professionally. I guess any confusion between Gilbert and Sullivan and say, the Beatles or the Stones might be intentional, but I digress. So not only does this film show life in the company, from the project's creation to its re-writing with egos on and off stage in full bloom, but it uses life in the company and the creation of The Mikado to give the audience an idea of life in Victorian-era London. Whether it's through an actor's morphine addiction, what a mistress will do seek an abortion, the ability of a husband and wife to hide behind Victorian mores to NOT express love to each other, to how it was to perform in the only theater that has electricity, you get a full idea of life in mid 1880s England.

I don't know how many actors going into the project, were trained to perform something like The Mikado. Based on the way Leigh creates his films, first through improvising scenes without knowing the entire screen story then rehearsing scenes written from said improvs, few if any cast members may have known what exactly they were to do. But by the end, you have a flesh out world, vivid people and a good idea of the first production looked and sounded like. Filled with cast members either better known for Leigh's other films, like Naked's Katrin Cartlidge and Another Day's Lesley Manville (as Gilbert's wife, depressed over both her childless state and unhappy marriage), and with cat members known for other projects, like Jim Broadbent (as Sullivan), Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, The King's Speech), Shirley Henderson (Bridget Jones, Meek's Cutoff) and Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Oscar nomination for Leigh for Original Screenplay and Art Direction, Oscars for Makeup and Costume Design:

CUTTER'S WAY- Wed Aug 8 at 7:30- 92nd Y Tribeca- Part of the 92nd Y Tribeca's Jeff Bridges retrospective, and the first, possibly only film from it that I'll post. Partly because of scheduling on my end, and partly because of other films in other theaters. And partly, let someone else push The Big Lebowski. I'll push a film you probably don't know through no fault of your own, but because of the studio and audiences of the early 1980s.

Cutter's Way, also known as Cutter and Bone. A forgotten film from 1981. One of the last of the 70s style character study films made by United Artists, before Heaven's Gate's failure had the company sold to MGM. Kind of similar to Bridges' later film The Big Lebowski, but not played for laughs. A character study of two friends who are Vietnam vets, back in a day before Magnum P.I. became a megahit, and before the release of First Blood; when a Vietnam vet was usually depicted either as a deranged killer, or a damaged avenger. Bridges plays the cynical part time gigolo who tries to care for his depressed junkie wife, but beyond sex and drugs, can't give her any real intimacy. But he's stable next to John Heard's Bone, in one of the better performances you've probably never seen. This one armed, one eyed drunk with a bad leg, can rail against anybody and anyone, but then plays the cripple card when someone has enough of his shit. So this very un-PC character represents at times, the film's post-Watergate anger and distrust of authority. You can also consider him a predecessor to TV's Gregory House. The film twists into a modern noir, when Bridges' Cutter sees a young girl murdered, the murder is connected to someone powerful, and Heard's Bone finds a way to let's say, channel his aggression.

United Artists decided to change it's distribution pattern; after the film received good reviews and something of an audience, UA pulled it from release, and re-released only in art house theaters. Unheard of then and now. It helped the film make a profit, but over time, it buried the film, making its recent DVD release almost like opening a time capsule. Of the people who look at, or might consider looking at this list, only 1-3 of you might have even heard of this film, never mind have seen it. For the rest of you, it's time to rediscover it: 

POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE for 7.50- Thurs Aug 9 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of Mike Nichols' film based on Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical book, which Fisher adapted for the screen. Your choice of either the 7pm screening (with a Hedda Lettuce intro) or the 9:30 screening (no intro). This was part of the late 80s/early 90s effort (intentional?) of Streep to show she could be more than just a Serious Actress who does more than just Depressing Films. From 1990, we start off quickly following follow Carrie Fisher-stand in Streep go from drugged out unprofessional behavior on the set of her movie, to emergency room visit due to accidental overdose, to rehab.  Once she's out of rehab, the struggles have only just become. The struggle to work on set without drugs. The struggle to prove herself to a crew that expects her to screw up royally. The struggle with doing a crappy film, since her previous on-set behavior made her semi-toxic in Hollywood. The continuing struggle to find romance with men only interested in the on-screen persona, never mind navigating romantic minefields without alcohol. But her biggest struggle continues to be with her domineering mother (Shirley MacLaine); a living Hollywood legend, and knows it. A star whose her glory days are gone, but is fine with just dominating (benevolently) every room she's in. Thus, a loving yet toxic relationship between mother and daughter that must change if both are to grow.

The film doesn't feel nearly as dark as Fisher's book, but the right combo of smart script, great cast and good director makes this serio-comic film go down easier without ringing false. Talented mix of actors: from 1990 theater vets (including Dana Ivey, Simon Callow and a young Annette Benning), to character actors (including Oliver Platt, Anthony Heald and Mary Wickes), to 1990 A-listers  (lovably sleazy Dennis Quaid, a great Gene Hackman, and a good extended cameo from Richard Dreyfuss). But Streep is our glorious focus point, in her most underrated performance to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination. She can play drugged with going over the top, maintains a vulnerability while growing incremental (and believably) stronger as the film progresses. And she stands toe to toe with MacLaine in a believable back and forth of mutual anger, frustration and love for each other. Hell, Streep even sings and sings well. Decades before Mama Mia!, Streep was having a good old time, belting out a song which would also receive an Oscar nomination.

Postcards did respectable business in the fall of 1990, though critically it was overshadowed by the classic Goodfellas. Hell, more people or about the same number of people, paid to see Ghost and that was already a summer hit. The film didn't receive an Oscar bump, and after it's home video/cable run, it's seems too have slowly gone away. Chances are, if you didn't see this at any point in the 1990s and/or are under the age of 30, you haven't seen Postcards from the Edge. Heard of the film, or at least the book, but haven't seen it. Here's a cheap way to change that:   

TOTAL RECALL (1990)-  Fri Aug 10- Wed Aug 15 at 1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, and 9:40- Film Forum- Coinciding with the release of the Colin Farrell remake, the Paul Verhoeven film gets a special one week run at the Forum. I 'm not sure when exactly I can do it as of this writing, so I'll just post all the times and move on. We're getting a digital restoration as opposed to a new print. Now call me pleasantly stunned that we're getting this film for a week as opposed to say, just Midnight screenings. If you told me that Total Recall would a Forum run like this at any point from say, 2000-2011, I would think hell no. I just hope we don't see crap like Cliffhanger or Robocop 2 get the same treatment. Or even other Schwarzenegger films unless it's Terminator 2. Ok, we can do Conan The Barbarian, but only if we're mocking it. Sorry, I've digressed . . .

One of the better action summer blockbuster flicks, and one of the best films of 1990. I'd argue with anyone about the former statement, and as for the later; let's just say there were quite a good number of quality films released that year, but filling the last 2 or 3 slots for a top 10 list is not that easy. You try it, and don't you dare put stuff like Home Alone or Kindergarten Cop there. Not that we should think of this as flaw-free, mind you. But Verhoeven rarely stints on excess. If there's a chance to make something emotionally or visually over the top, good ol' Paul never seems to miss out on the opportunities.

Here, in the biggest commercial hit ever made out of one of Phillip K. Dick's stories, set in 2084, a mild-mannered man wants to take a quick vacation, by having an adventure downloaded into his brain. But it causes a problem, when it appears he's actually some form of secret agent, the secret agent has info and said secret agent's personality and memories are, let's say, on hold. Then you have all these men coming out of the woodwork trying to kill him. So it's similar to those innocent man-on-the-run kind of flicks, like Hitchcock's The 39 Steps or North By Northwest. But then you add Arnold Schwarzenegger, character actor types like the ever reliable Michael Ironside, gun battles all over, Sharon Stone (two years before Verhoeven's Basic Instinct) sweating in barely there clothes, and this is before the trip to Mars and the appearance of mutants. The action scenes are good, and the mix of dark humor, cheesy humor, high quality visual effects and editing, make this version of Total Recall different from a lot more recent summer blockbusters, fun.

Oscar nominations for the sound, a special achievement Oscar for the visual effects. Meaning there wasn't enough votes to consider any other 1990 film than this. Considering Terminator 2 was only about 13 months later, we can think of Total Recall as the last of model/matte painting/makeup kind of big budget film, as opposed to the CGI blockbusters after that. Not that I'm trying to hate CGI heavy flicks like say, Lord of the Rings, Watchmen or Avatar, but there's a difference.

Oh yeah, did I mention the violence? Not sure how that aspect holds up today. But for 1990, the bloodshed and body count, things Verhoeven have never been shy about depicting, stood out to the point that Total Recall was originally given an X rating. It took slight trims and alternate angles of some of the more outrageous deaths to get that R rating. All and all, a fun film that luxuriates in its excesses. Let's do this, shall we?

BOOGIE NIGHTS introduced by Lisa Kereszi- Fri Aug 10 at 9:30 for a 7 dollar bar minimum.- Rubin Museum of Art- A special screening of Boogie Nights at the Rubin Museum, for only a 7 dollar minimum (2 Cokes or 1 beer will do the trick). Part of a series of films where a woman on screen works a camera, introduced New York photographers who just happen to be female. For this film, photographer Lisa Kereszi will introduce the screening. Now Boogie Nights qualifying for this series based on Heather Graham briefly wielding a Polaroid is flimsy. But an excuse to screen one of the best films of 1997 on a non-Midnight time slot is good for all of us.

Yeah, it's easy to describe Paul Thomas Anderson's art-house hit as a journey from the fun loving era of 1970s porn on film, to the more streamlined 1980s era of porn on videotape, with more than a little loss of innocence. Even if their non-sexual intercourse skills would have gotten them laughed out of community theater, there's an earnest in the 1970s scenes, that would take a major beating once the 80s come along. But this follows more along the lines of a family you create can mean more than the family you're born into path.This group of porn stars, director, and staff is generally not accepted within their biological families. But to paraphrase the tagline from The Big Chill, in a cold world, you need your friends to keep you warm.  

With a cast that is an embarrassment of riches, boy did Anderson do well for himself in this category. From the actors who were known as leads (Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore), actors would become leads after Boogie Nights (Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane), character actors (Luis Guzman, Alfred Molina, Philip Baker Hall, Ricky Jay, Joss Whedon/ Cabin in the Woods fave Tom Lenk), and actors who were working before and after this picture (William H. Macy, John C. Reily, and Graham who at 90 might only be thought of as Roller Girl) Oscar nominations for Anderson for his Screenplay, Moore for Supporting Actress, and Reynolds for Supporting Actor. Supposedly at the time, this wasn't considered a great deal for Burt, being cast in both Bean and this; a film about 70s porn from a director with only an art house flop (the decent Hard Eight) on the resume. He fired his agent shortly before or after filming, don't remember which. After supposedly receiving a big big check from a share of Bean's rather large grosses, and receiving his Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, it was believed Burt's career was officially revived. After films such as The Crew, Mystery Alaska and Universal Soldier 2 and 3, that idea was put to rest real fast. Not that it should put you off from seeing this, it is his best screen performance after all:

ALL ABOUT EVE for free at Bryant Park- Mon Aug 13 at Sunset- All About Eve, one of the few films to be on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my own personal top 35 (not that one has to do with the other), gets a free screening at Bryant Park. Screening starts at sundown, but for a film that's not only filled with great dialogue but is more reliant on that than on its visuals, try to position yourself near a speaker as well as for a decent view of the screen. 

The acclaimed bitch fest starring Bette Davis that beat Sunset Blvd. for Best Picture. A life in the theater (soft of) kind of film with terrific performances and some of the bitchiest dialogue known to man. I mean, my God, more acid drips out of say, Bette Davis's and George Sanders's tongue, then from the creatures in Aliens. 14 Oscar nominations, 6 Oscars, including for Picture, Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Sanders for Supporting Actor and for the Screenplay. Most nominations in Oscar history, Titanic could only tie it:

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

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