Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sept revivals: second half

Hey, Mike here with a small list for the rest of September. Tight schedule, with a major conflict on Monday September 24. But on that date, I'll let majority rule. Now on with the list, here we go:

THE KID (1921) with an episode of The Muppet Show with Raquel Welch sneak preview of Hotel Transylvania in 3-D on Saturday- Sat Sept 22 at 1:30 and Sun Sept 23 at 11AM and 1:30 PM for The Kid, all morning and afternoon all day for The Muppet Show- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of a weekend outing for families. The age range they bring up is 4-10, though some portions of this are better suited for kids 7-10. On Saturday the 22nd, there is the Drop in Moving Image Studio for 7-10, where kids get to handle stuff as varied as making flipbooks, handle stop motion and/or video game consoles, as well as explore projectors, film strips, video tapes and the like. There will be a marionette performance by City Parks Foundation's PuppetMobile of Bessie's Big Shot where "a cow  . . . dreams of joining the circus". There will be the Museum's Behind the Screen, where the permanent collection will be on display. On Saturday the 22nd at 11:30AM, there will be a special preview of the new film Hotel Transylvania in 3-D at no extra charge, glasses provided. All under the banner of will go up on Sunday the 23rd, The Fall Mamas Expo. The Queens Zoo, Elite Kids, Long Island City YMCA, Jet Blue (?), and clickandimprove.com are among the vendors who will be present. To quote one of their press releases, "Open to all parents, expectant moms, and children, Pre-K to Pre-Teen, attendees will have unprecedented, insider access to some of the best local services, specialists and products currently available for families in Queens and throughout New York City. From finding new local classes and schools, to the best innovative products and retail stores, parents will receive an exclusive look at all of the new resources available to make sure they are in-the-know!" 

But what gets me posting any of this are the two other revival features that play both days of that weekend: an episode of The Muppet Show, and Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. I'll start with Charlie's film first. The longest film Chaplin had ever made prior to this, he was influenced by the combination of unhappy childhood, unhappy marriage, unhappy professional situation (he helped to form United Artists but still owed films under his contractual obligation to First National), strong desire to be a father, and major grief after his malformed son died three days after his birth. So with all of this, Chaplin wanted to mix comedy and drama. He wanted to, in a way, use the sugar of comedy to let the medicine of depicting poverty and child abandonment go down when he made The Kid. A young woman with no alternatives (as far as she's concerned), abandons her baby to a wealthy family. But thanks to some desperate criminals, the baby is alone on Skid Row, and is reluctantly saved by the Tramp. He serves as a father figure, and becomes the only person the Kid can trust. But once he turns 4-5, when it's harder for the Tramp to raise the Kid in poverty, and the mother goes around looking for her son . . . . .

A good mixture of comedy and pathos that was quite the mega hit by 1921 standards. Sentimental and tear-jerking, but Chaplin is someone I find natural when it comes to heavy sentiment. Most romantic films over  the past decade or two would kill for such honest attachment between the Tramp and the Kid. The chemistry between Chaplin and young Jackie Coogan makes this film work. And the kids don't necessarily need to know how to read the cue cards to pick up on the action. Make sure you spare a tissue or two for them too.

Next is The Muppet Show, with their very special guest star, Raquel Welch. A season 3 episode from 1978. Here, Fozzie is a changed bear, or so he thinks, after he comes back from group therapy, and Raquel and a jealous Miss Piggy bond over the struggles of being a sex symbol. They sing "I'm A Woman" together. The episode will run in a continuous loop, starting at 10AM until just before the museum closes at 7PM, and will play all weekend long. 


QUADROPHENIA- Sat Sept 22 at Midnight- IFC Center- Here's a taste of of the kind of movie that played at Midnight, circa 1979 until around 1983 or 94. While this film is out in several DVD editions, not all are the same length and all have issues regarding image quality. So this screening may be the way to watch and hear it as it was intended. Or at least, better than any version in the U.S. that you can watch via Netflix.

From 1979, Quadrophenia isn't a musical with The Who's music, but a drama that's a throwback to Britain's Angry Young Man type of story. The kind of movie that might fit in well with a Mike Leigh drama, but which uses several songs from The Who's album of the same name, plus other music from the era to create a you-are-there kind of feeling. Set mostly in London back in 1965, we have a young man frustrated with his working class surroundings, disillusioned with his parents, stuck in a dead end job, addicted to amphetamines. He's walking around all angry, but is probably walking around with undiagnosed depression. He lives for the highs of the Mod life; partying at night, clashing with the Rockers, and trying to get lucky with the cute blonde. But all highs eventually come down, and this young man's disillusionment has just begun . . . . All scenes played for maximum realism, a more mature Midnight movie than you might expect. Featuring Who songs such as The Real Me, 5.15 and Love Reign O'er Me (all mixed differently from their original recordings), as well as period-ish songs such as James Brown's Night Train, The Chifons' He's So Fine, and The Ronnettes' Be My Baby:

REAR WINDOW- Mon Sept 24 at 7 for 10 dollars (proceeds to the Alzheimer's Association)- Midway Theater in Forest Hills- 108-22 Queens Blvd- A special, last-minute screening of my favorite Hitchcock film, Rear Window. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Midway theater, I presume it will be a digital screening, but I don't know for sure. This theater made the conversion to digital and 3-D some years ago, so I suspect they won't pull out an old 35mm projector for this. Still, I probably wouldn't pay much attention to this, if this wasn't in my personal top 40, and that all proceeds go to benefit the Alzheimer's Association, a worthy cause whose link is below. This isn't the only revival playing this night that I would go see, but it's an option:

EL DORADO- Mon Sept 24 at 7- MOMA- Part of MOMA's An Auteurist History of Film series, and boy does Howard Hawks ever qualify. Here's a film he directed, with a screenplay from Leigh Brackett (Hawks' favorite screenwriter because she "wrote like a man"; wrote the first draft of Empire Strikes Back before passing away). Essentially a lighter-hearted remake of their earlier Rio Bravo. The MOMA description claims this is a view of aging from the then- 70 year old Hawks. At best, VERY SUBTLE interpretation; if you don't see it, I don't blame you.

Wayne reprises his role of a gunman helping his drunken sheriff friend get sober, and get the bad guy. Instead of Dean Martin, we get a tougher Robert Mitchum, who handles the humor quite well. Instead of Ricky Nelson, we get a major upgrade in James Caan, who can actually act. He handles the young rookie type well, though a scene where he "plays Chinese" will certainly be cringe inducing now. And we get good villains from moneyman Ed Asner and gunman Christopher George. No brain surgery here folks, just a fun solid Western.

THE TIN DRUM- Mon Sept 24 at 9 and Wed Sept 26 at 7:20- Film Forum- A digital presentation of the director's cut of The Tin Drum, from 1979 (released in the U.S. in 1980). One of the biggest films to ever come out of Germany, and a relatively rare example of a movie that matches the quality of the book it's adapted from, even though the film only covers about half the book. A little boy, Oskar, celebrates his third birthday. He sees the lower middle-class adults who surround him in the free city of Danzig, with their fears, jealousies and overall ugliness, and decides to never grow up. As he gets older, he mentally matures, but stays trapped in the physical form of a three year old, with the tendency to pound on his drum. Pound it long enough, he can get over many things, including how disappointing his parents become. Try to take the drum away, he screams loud enough to shatter glass. He falls in love, but he still looks 3. Things only get uglier and more brutal when first the Nazis invade, and then the Soviets, while his family dies out.

So yeah, it's a happy film. Ha! It might be an ugly looking film at times, but a fascinating one. You'll either really like it or absolutely hate it, but you're not likely to forget it. And what the drum actually symbolizes; well, the viewer is  left on their own on that one. Thought impossible to film, because who could they find to play the lead? Director Volker Schlondorff got lucky, and gained a tremendous performance from 11 year old David Bennett. A child actor appearing in every scene, usually very intense scenes. He was so good, he was actually believable. So believable, the film ran into controversy with his sex scene with an actress, even though no intercourse actually happened.

Won the Palm D'or, tied with Apocalypse Now. Over twenty minutes were cut before it was submitted for Oscar consideration. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film and became an art house smash, but it still generated controversy here in the states. Enough controversy that The Tin Drum was banned in parts of Canada, and the pulling of VHS tapes in Oklahoma resulted in the case going all the way up to the U.S. Court of Appeals, in a story too convoluted to go through here.

Those twenty minutes have been restored. Actually it had been restored when this digital version of The Tin Drum was screened at MOMA back in November 2010. Apparently the programmers at the Forum are trying to pretend this version has never screened in New York before. Oh please. Granted The Forum's screen is better suited for digital presentation than MOMA's was back then, but it is a little smaller. But if one can still enjoy 2001, Gone with the Wind and The Good The Bad and The Ugly on their screens The Tin Drum won't suffer.

I believe this digital screening will be the only way you'll be likely to watch The Tin Drum anytime soon. According to Schlondorff when he did a Q and A at MOMA in November 2010, the original negative was damaged and the sound was destroyed in a fire. Restoring the image was problematic, but restoring the dialogue was difficult. Some actors died, others had their voices messed up from decades of smoking and drinking that sounding like 20 or 30 somethings were near impossible, requiring new actors for looping purposes. Luckily, the technology was good enough that the adult David Bennett could loop his own dialogue and have his voice tweaked to the point that he sounds believably pre-pubescent again. I don't remember if Maurice Jarre's score was re-recorded, but it plays again in all it's glory. But this film is hardly anyone's  top choice on Netflix, and I'm guessing you won't find this unrated cut in Blockbuster. So this is it, in terms of seeing a film you've never quite seen before:

INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION- Sat Sept 29 at 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40- A new 4K digital restoration of the very good Italian film. Winner for Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1971, and nominated for its Screenplay in 1972. A famous detective from Rome (Gian Maria Volonte from the first two Eastwood-Leone Spaghetti Westerns), who specializes in cracking political dissidents, accidentally kills his mistress. He's put in charge of the murder investigation, but how much of his guilt and how much of his ego will come out? And will it interfere with his crackdown on radicals? Obviously not a whodunit but more of a whydunnit, with its heavy critique of police corruption. Volonte is terrific and the film has a great Ennio Morricone score. NOT available on DVD in this country and is rarely screened on American TV, so this might be your only chance to catch this. It plays for a week, though I'll only post the October dates if there's no interest for Saturday, September 29th:

That's all for now. The next list for October may or may not be a small one, but due to timing issues, I may not post anything past Saturday October 20th.  After that, I may not post another list until after November 3rd or 4th. We'll see how things look then for me. Later all.

Friday, September 07, 2012

September revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with a revival list for the first half of September. Since the U.S. Open is still going on, that's were my attention is focused. But here's a list anyway. Not as long as it could have been, and not with lengthy descriptions either. But films I want to see nevertheless. Here we go:

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK in IMAX- Fri Sept 7 thru Thurs Sept 13- AMC Empire, AMC Lowes 34th st and AMC Kips Bay (E. 32nd st)- 1, 4, 7 and 10pm at Empire and 34th st, 2, 5, 8 and 10:40 at Kips Bay- I brought this up on the last list, so I won't repeat what I wrote before. I did catch it in Bryant Park last month and I was glad I went, despite the nearly insane mass of humanity that made it initially difficult to see. Their print was respectable. But the chance to see a digital restoration in 5.1 Dolby stereo is too good to pass up. Yes, it sounds like the digital restoration that has played at Midnight at IFC Center off and on since last December. But this will be blown up to cover IMAX screens without distortion (supposedly). Granted it's fake IMAX; screens smaller than the one at the AMC Lincoln Square screen. Therefore Raiders will only play on 3 screens in Manhattan, the ones I've posted, and nowhere else in the city, or Long Island for that matter.

For the record, I'll be going to the 8pm screening at the largest of the fake IMAX screens, at Kips Bay on 32nd and 2nd. For the rest of you, the other times there and at AMC Empire and AMC Lowes 34th st are listed here. And no, I will not post the Indiana Jones marathon on Saturday Sept 15 at those 3 IMAX screens. No need for me to catch Temple of Doom or Crystal Screen on IMAX. The need for Raiders, yes. But those two, no way (sorry Last Crusade):

CITIZEN KANE- Sun Sept 10- Tues Sept 11 at 7 and 9:20 (Sunday tentative for me)- Film Forum- A new digital restoration of one of the greatest films ever made. Ok people, show of hands, how many of you have ever heard of Citizen Kane? Ok, good. If you even bother to look at this list at all, you at least know of Orson Welles' film. Didn't expect to see any hands from those under 18 anyway. Now, how many of you know more about Kane than just Rosebud, even if it's aided by memories of HBO's passable version of the making of Kane, RKO 281? Similar number of hands, fine.

Now, how many of you have actually seen Citizen Kane from beginning to end? Ok, the number of hands have dropped, but I'll let you decide if that would be a fairly low number. I mean, some of have seen it through the very occasional airings on TCM. Maybe 1 or 2 of have seen it/ own it on DVD. New York/ New Jersey people as recent as the early 80s saw this on one of Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie airings. Or maybe 1 or 2 of you saw it in a film class or some sort. Now, how many of you have actually seen this on the big screen? Yeah, that's what I thought. The 1 or 2 of you who saw this with me at the Forum, when Kane ran for a week back in March 2004. Then I saw it again in April 2010, and I can add one more to make it three in total. I'm determined to increase this number, and I think this digital restoration will help.

Seeing this on the big screen as opposed to watching it on TV no matter what size screen you own, to use an old Larry Miller joke I'm found of using for different subjects, is the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it. In terms of storytelling, pacing and emotional depth (as well as innovative in its use of visual effects, make-up and music), as modern a film as what we have now in release, and a lot better than all but a hand full (I'm trying to be nice and not be considered a snob. I probably failed at that a long time ago).

A flop in its day (when you do a thinly veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst, and he still wields considerable influence, it's amazing no one burned the negatives behind RKO's backs), a classic today. First in France, where it was screened shortly after WW 2 and had the praise and backing of filmmakers like Goddard. Then in the mid to late 50s, when it aired on TV and had a major re-release. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Welles for Actor and Director, Bernard Herrmann for his Score, and Editing for Robert Wise. An Oscar to Welles and Joseph J. Mankiewicz for the Screenplay. Number one on both AFI Top 100 lists, and along with Casablanca and The Godfather, always in the conversation for greatest American films ever made. But basically, Welles took the skills he developed in theatre and radio, and (with a major assist from Mankiewicz's writing) changed film forever, without losing any theatrical flair or showmanship. See one of my top six favorite films of all time:

VERTIGO- Wed Sept 12, Sun Sept 16 and Tues Sept 18 at 7 and 9:30- Film Forum- A new digital restoration of the Hitchcock classic. A last minute addition to the Forum's schedule, and a welcome one. One of the best love stories eve made: love in terms of Obsessive and Unrequited. Interesting how the appreciation of the film has grown. From box office disappointment and even getting laughed at in some critical circles upon it's release (2 minor Oscar nominations), to disappearing by 1970, to its 1984 re-release where it attained instant Classic status and art house success, to the years before and after both AFI Top 100 lists came out where it more people discovered and appreciated it, to the point where it's even been considered among the best 2 or 3 films of all time thanks to more recent film lists. While I won't go quite that high (hello, didn't you pay attention to what I wrote with Citizen Kane?), certainly in my top 100, and fairly high at that.

Now note that I haven't written much about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists as seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story. Seeing it on the big screen will probably change it further, so see it:  

FOLLOWING- Sat Sept 15 at 1:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Christopher Nolan retrospective. Yeah, it seems a little early to have one. I don't plan to see most of these films, since I caught most of them already. With one notable exception: Following. A restored 35mm print of his first feature film from 1998, released here in the States in 1999. Set in London, a young unemployed writer decides to follow complete strangers for material. One of those strangers is a cat burglar, who ends up making him a sort of protegee. Why not, since the burglar is equally interested in following strangers, the ones he steals from that is. But none of this can come to any good, and does the young writer truly think he's in control of the situation? Never saw it, never heard of it back in the day. But really curious to try this suspense thriller out, especially to get an idea how Nolan has grown, and how much has been there in terms of talent from the start. And it's only 69 minutes long, so you'll be done with it quickly: 

MEMENTO- Mon Sept 17 at 6- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of the Christopher Nolan retrospective. The 2001 arthouse hit, that made Nolan a writer/director to be reckoned with ever since. A film that forces you to pay attention or be left far behind, Guy Pierce plays an amnesiac seeking revenge against the killer of his wife. But this isn't any old amnesia; he can remember everything up to the accident/murder (except the murderer himself), but he literally can't remember any memory less than 5 minutes old. He writes clues down, takes multiple Polaroids, and even has tattoos to help with the biggest clues, but how reliable are they? With Carrie-Ann Moss as a woman who might be able to him, and Joe Pantoliano as a man who never seems to be who he is.

Before Memento, there was Rashomon, with it's story about how memory or truth can never be fully known. Memento pushed that further, with a narrator who may not be reliable and whose story is being told backwards, while another story is told forward, with flashbacks as well. But with an intriguing memory at the heart, some good action and even humor reminiscent of say Inception, this was a major eye-opener back in 2001. One of the best films of that year, with Oscar nominations for Nolan and his brother for Screenplay Adaptation and for Editing:      

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