Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Revivals: Thanksgiving/ early December edition

Hey all. Mike here with one of my best revival lists in a while. 4 AFI Top 100 films, an important film in the history of Independent Film, 2 films that would be closer to classic status if they were better known, in this country at least. When the weakest film on this list is one of the best concert films of the 1980s, that's pretty darn good. No time to waste, here we go:

DR. STRANGELOVE-Wed Nov 21- Fri Nov 23 at 12:15AM- IFC Center- DCP screening of the restored 4k "print". It plays throughout Thanksgiving weekend, but I'm putting a heavy emphasis on catching it on Friday Nov 23rd. I figure the 21st might interfere with getting up for Thanksgiving Day events, and the screening on the 22nd might interfere with one carrying 5 pounds of turkey inside themselves. 

Now as for Dr. Strangelove, if you ever bother to put your eyes on this list more than two or three times a year then you know what this film is, and you don't need me to describe this to you. Several of you have seen this in theaters with me before. Some of you have even seen it twice with me before. One of the few dark satires to get it exactly right. Just the everyday story of an insane general, who sends out his bomber unit to attack Russia. Considered one of the best anti-war films ever made. But for those who hate that term (seriously, are you that dumb to refuse to put this into historical context), then consider this an anti-rigidity and anti-stupidity film instead, OK? An excellent mixture of farce and action. And accurate enough in terms of military capability and military speak, that the Air Force demanded answers and questioned Stanley Kubrick.

If you've never seen it with an audience, make time for it. On as many AFI Top 100 lists that it could qualify for. One of the prime examples of Oscar screwing up, when it comes to not giving a film Best Picture. Strangelove is usually Exhibit A, while something like Goodfellas and Raging Bull would be considered Exhibits B and C, respectively. One of my top 5 favorite films ever, and my second favorite Kubrick film, after 2001. And as good a cast as this has, 3 top performances from Peter Sellers . . . , the range this man had is stunning. I dare any of you to find the seams where his performances don't work. Though some of you may prefer George C. Scott's performance; forced out of his comfort zone by Kubrick to get progressively more over-the-top, and is funny as hell.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA- Mon Nov 26, Tues Nov 27 and Thurs Nov 29 at 7- Film Forum- DCP. Essentially a lost classic of Sergio Leone's, the last film he directed. Robert De Niro and James Woods play friends who we see grow up to be gangsters, grow apart, and grow old with regret, especially De Niro's character. WE go back and forth from Prohibition and Great Depression eras, as well as the late 1960s. And not only do we have a story of regret, but when you think about, you have a story of "What are you willing to do for a friend? And at what cost to yourself?". A strong supporting cast: Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Tuesday Weld, Danny Aiello, Treat Williams, Burt Young, The Mob Doctor's William Forsythe, and a young Jennifer Connelly in her feature film debut.

Leone was contracted to turn in a cut no longer then 2hrs. 45min. After shooting 10 hrs. of film, Leone would only (could only?) submit a slightly under 4hrs. cut. The American distributor, Warner Bros., took the film away, and cut about 95 min. for it and reedited the picture into chronological order (!!!), and threw it into theaters in June 1984. No surprise, critics destroyed it, the film tanked big time, and a crushed Leone never made another film. It wasn't until the European version that was only slightly shorter than Leone's submitted cut was released, first in Europe and then briefly in the U.S. in the fall of 84 followed by a home video release in1985, did the film get respect. Each year, more praise seems to get heaped on it, and it gets closer to classic status (if it hasn't reached that status already) 

The Forum is showing theEuropean cut, in a digital restoration done in part by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation. There will be a 20 minute intermission. Considering it starts at 7:15, expect a long night. Hope one of you is interested in this:

CHUCK BERRY: HAIL! HAIL! ROCK AND ROLL- Mon Nov 26 at 7:30- MOMA- One  of the best concert films of the 1980s, from 1987. Taylor Hackford covers 2 concerts celebrating Berry's 60th birthday, with performers such as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Etta James, Linda Ronstadt, Julian Lennon, and Joe Walsh performing with Chuck. Interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Roy Orbison, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. You also spend time with Berry, when he wasn't trying to keep the cameras away from him every chance he could get. He comes off as angry, bitter (not without some justification) and not very happy. Except when he's onstage , yet even there, bitter life experiences seep through into his performance (in a good way). A good film

CASABLANCA introduced by Sci-Fi writer Rachel Pollack- for a $7.00 bar minimum- Fri Nov 30 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- No point in breaking down the Bogart classic. On both AFI lists, (top 5 on both), Multiple Oscars including Best Picture, in my personal Top 15, and if it isn't in yours, what the hell is wrong with you. Normally I would say to show up between 6-6:30 (after you've eaten your dinner prior to this), check out the Rubin Museum itself for free until around 8:45, make your bar purchase (1 beer/ other kind of drink or 2 sodas will do the trick), get your ticket and then go down to the screening room. But since this is Casablanca, you may want to make your bar purchase far sooner, and thus get your ticket far sooner. I'd hate to say "don't check out the museum" because I've enjoyed every trip I've made to this place. But I'm afraid that might be necessary in order to see Casablanca. Writer Rachel Pollack will introduce the screening, with possible emphasis on the moments of bliss one must steal before life truly becomes difficult: 

TESS- Sat Dec 1 at 4:30 and 8 and Thurs Dec 6 at 8- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of one of the best films of 1980. Successful in its day, borderline forgotten now, at least in the states. Not on a Raging Bull or Empire Strikes Back level, but damn good. Roman Polanski's film was overshadowed not only by those two films, as well Ordinary People,The Elephant Man, and the massive financial disaster of Heaven's Gate, but also by being the first film after Polanski escaped Europe to avoid jail for statutory rape. Since this film, Roman has made other films, but Tess is the best film he's made since he became a fugitive. Yes, better than The Pianist. There have also been two good TV mini-series version of Tess, one from Australia and one from the BBC with Gemma Arterton. This film version is still the go-to adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel of a peasant girl who becomes the object of desire of two men; a love triangle that won't end well. Oscars for Art Direction, Costume Design and Cinematography for Ghislain Cloquet and Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Cabaret and Superman, who died during shooting). Nominations for Picture, Director for Polanski and Score. This also introduced the globe to Nastassja Kinski, who played the title role. Kinski would become an international sex symbol, but only in Tess were her acting talents actually used to their fullest. A long film, a tragic-romantic film, a very good film:

RESERVOIR DOGS- Tues Dec 4 at 7- AMCs Village 7 and Kips Bay and Regal Union Square- Plus College Point Multiplex and both Regal and AMC theaters in Westbury- Plus theaters in Upstate New York, Florida, New Jersey and other states in the Union- One of his other films will be on the next list, but here's Quentin's first film, Reservoir Dogs. Usually I can only find this as a midnight screening, but here's a day (actually one night only), where it plays at a normal time of 7PM. Not only playing in NYC, but in other theaters in New York and 46 or so other states. In time for both it's 20th anniversary and the release of Quentin's Django Unchained, it will also include "trailers handpicked by Quentin Tarantino which influenced his career, and exclusive new interviews.".  Don't know what that means, but I hope it's better than the last Fathom events screening I attended: Halloween at AMC Empire. That was a bit of a disaster, and I'm not talking about how the film hasn't held up as well as I remembered. A crappy digital projection, no sound during most of Michael Myers first kill, and a loud buzz through the speakers for the other 80 or so minutes after that. This is why I'm NOT posting AMC Empire as a place to go to see Reservoir Dogs. Call it a case of fool me once, shame on you . . . 

Now as for the film itself, well, if you look at film sites like this, then you know what this film is, so I'll just move on. Not "The Greatest Independent Film Ever Made" (as it says on the link below); one better option for that title is the next film on this list. Still, one of the best debut films ever made, one of the best heist films ever made, and one of the best films of 1992. But as I said, moving on . . . 

PULP FICTION- Thurs Dec 6 at 7- AMCs Village 7 and Kips Bay and Regal Union Square- plus College Point Multiplex and both Regal and AMC theaters in Westbury- Plus theaters in Upstate New York, Florida, New Jersey and other states in the Union- Another one night only screening of a Tarantino film, timed near the release of Quentin's upcoming Django Unleashed. Also with "exclusive interviews" and "trailers handpicked by Quentin Tarantino which influenced his career" like with the Reservoir Dogs screening; hopefully not the same interviews and trailers.

Now here's a film that probably fits the title "The Greatest Independent Film Ever Made" Not quite sure if it is, but it fits the title a lot better than Reservoir Dogs, and if you pitch it right to me, I might buy your argument. A film that doesn't feel old, and while the ride might feel familiar, you'll quickly learn how great the ride is. An Oscar winner for the Screenplay, nominations including Best Picture, Director for Tarantino, Actor for John Travolta, Supporting Actor for Samuel L. Jackson and Supporting Actress for Uma Thurman. On both AFI Top 100 lists and in my own personal Top 40: 

REAR WINDOW introduced by photographer Lena Herzog- Fri Dec 7 at 9:30 for a $7.00 bar minimum- My personal favorite Hitchcock, and in my top 25. Also the best film in Jimmy Stewart's career, with a knockout entrance from Grace Kelly that matches or tops anything done today. On both AFI Top 100 lists. This film, just like Casablanca, can be seen at the Rubin Museum for a minimum $7.00 bar tab. But as popular as this film is, I don't think this requires major planning like with Casablanca. Simply eat beforehand, check out the museum (it's free starting at 6), then go to the bar around 8:50 to make your drink purchases (1 beer or 2 sodas is the minimum that will work), and bring it down to the screening room. Simple and comfortable:


Let me know if there's interest. Happy Thanksgiving, later all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pre-Thanksgiving revivals

Hey all. Mike here, with my first revival list in a while. Life and Mother Nature interfered in this regard, though I feel very lucky that a few down trees that surprisingly DIDN'T take down power lines was the worst thing to happen to me. Very lucky indeed. Best I can do at this precise moment is offer some relief in terms of some unique film choices. About as diverse a list as I can cough up at the moment.

At a late date like this, I would probably have a list covering the entire month of November. But considering how crowded the last ten days of November will be in terms of revival options, and how some of that will overlap into early December, best for me to give a small list for the next week or so. Here we go:

COCKSUCKER BLUES with S-8 Footage from Exile From Main Street- Thurs Nov 15 at 7- MOMA- 11 W. 53rd Street- Part of the Rolling Stones onscreen retrospective at MOMA. I won't post many film from this series I'm afraid. I've done Gimme Shelter once before at MOMA, Performance isn't playing at a time I can do, and most of the other screenings are ones that I'm massively indifferent toward.

Cocksucker Blues: a rare screening of The Rolling Stones concert film, when they were touring in North America for the first time since the concert at Altamont (as depicted in Gimme Shelter). The film takes a no-holds barred look at what the Stones did on tour, on and off stage. Arguably, it captures the debauchery of the band at it's highest. It was the off stage antics that led to a clash between the Stones and director Robert Frank over whether the film can be screened or not. It lead to an unusual court ruling, where it was decided that the film can only be screened if the director is physically present. So I suppose director Frank will be at this screening on Thursday. As for more about the film itself, here's a description from the Anthology Film Archives's website when they screened this on November 9th, 2008:

1972, 35mm, b&w/color. With the Rolling Stones.
“With COCKSUCKER BLUES, Frank bids a final adieu to the utopia of the Beat generation. What did the Rolling Stones expect when they hired him to make a film about their 1972 North American tour? There are scenes of groupie sex in private jets, cocaine snorting, and even a masturbation scene in which Jagger reveals himself to be the cameraman in a reflected image. But ultimately Frank focuses on the lonely spaces that permeate the rock-and-roll machine. This is the ultimate direct cinema. The camera movement infects the images with an unbelievable filmic energy, and Frank ignores all orientation guidelines. Populated by the living dead, COCKSUCKER BLUES is a zombie film with no refuge.”

Preceding the film will be S-8 Stones Footage from Exile on Main Street, director Frank's Super 8 film on the process of his shooting the cover for the Stones' classic album. It's only 5 minutes long, I presume it's not under any court orders with regards to its distribution, but not many have seen this either. Overall, for the hardcore Stones fan, for documentary film fanatics, and for the very curious:

THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT- Fri Nov 16- Wed Nov 21 at 6:15, 8 and 9:50- Film Forum- A DCP screening of one of the better Alec Guinness/Ealing Studios comedies. From 1951 (released in the U.S. in 1952), Guinness plays a Cambridge graduate, whose obsession to build an everlasting fabric gets him drummed out of textile jobs up and down Northern England, reducing him to washing dishes. But he never gives up his dreams and he soon succeeds in his creation: a white suit that doesn't crease, won't stink, keeps dirt from clinging on, and never needs to be washed dry-cleaned or even vacuumed. Guinness' character is celebrated, for a while. But business owners get nervous over the idea of the companies going bankrupt once demand is (permanently) satisfied. Meantime, labor unions and their brethren get very nervous about their fabric making/repairing/cleaning jobs disappearing if the fabric becomes a big seller. So like the Peter Lorre film M, where the Law and the Mob go through different methods to get rid of a common threat, Business and Labor do the same thing here. Therefore, if you don't see the political satire going on here, then you must be laughing too hard. Or enjoying Guinness' naive-yet-energetic performance. 

An Oscar nomination for its Screenplay, which somehow lost to The Bad and the Beautiful. SAY WHAT?!?!? I can understand losing to fellow nominee High Noon, but to the Kirk Douglas film that hasn't aged very well, EEK! Anyway, The Man in The White Suit might not on the same level of previous Guinness/Ealing films like say, Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Lavender Hill Mob. But it's still pretty darn good: 

RED DAWN- Fri Nov 16 at Midnight- IFC Center- Part of IFC's "America, F*** YEAH!" Series. Films chosen for their particular attack of jingoistic, over-the-top support of America. Films that either did it well and found an audience (MASH, the original Manchurian Candidate), or films that did it well yet had trouble finding an audience (Election, Dr. Strangelove, Team America), or films that went bust but are not uninteresting (1941, Southland Tales) The original Red Dawn, from 1984, is a little of all three: successful at the box office, with a storytelling style that sometimes go way off the rails, but it's never dull. Chosen as a post election "special". Which for me, is kind of like going to see Plan 9 From Outer Space after the launching of a Space Shuttle, but anyway . . . .Some people had problems in Superman Returns when Frank Langella, as Perry White , said Truth Justice all that stuff, while ignoring The American Way. There was also a major complaint why not enough people weren't complaining about it. Here's one way out theory: maybe some of those people grew with the ridiculously awful Red Dawn and have rebelled against anyone pushing rah-rah stuff ever since.

Let me be clear, Red Dawn is FUCKING AWFUL, but GLORIOUSLY FUCKING AWFUL. Kind of gives a barometer as to what the feeling was in this country during the Cold War, that this was actually considered possible. It might have even been considered as believable, if Red Dawn wasn't over the top. From 1984, World War 3 begins, as Soviet paratroopers land in a small Colorado town. But they are held at bay as high schoolers Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen (in his screen debut; can't wait for the naked on coke jokes) do something about it. With the aid of Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey (years before the nose job, Ferris Bueller and Dirty Dancing), plus help from veterans Ben Johnson and Powers Boothe (pre 24), they form the Wolverines, and go guerrilla warfare on them Commie bastards. WOLVERINES! Or as they tend to say it, WWOOOOOLLLLVERIIIIIINNES!

Directed and co-written by the very macho John Millus (Conan The Barbarian and Dillinger, the less artful, the less-full-of-shit version of Public Enemies). Over the top, from the start of the invasion, to Harry Dean Stanton's monologue (ending with AVENGE ME! AVEEEENNNGE ME!), to the final battle. As subtle as a brick, or the giant Soviet armored helicopter that goes after them. And though it was nice to see the late Ron O'Neal get a job, I can only think "Holy Shit! They got Superfly leading the Commies!". Millus actually does do a good job with the action scenes. So good, that you wish he hadn't approved/created some of the other bullshit that follows. If you want a cheesy example of Reagan era action movies/Rambo division, this is it. Hard to believe this was actually PG-13, the first PG-13 film ever. Before the remake comes out on Thanksgiving weekend (when the Chinese/North Koreans/whatever bullshit they came up with in post-production and re-shoots become the invaders), here 's the original:

That's all for now. I promise a larger list, featuring a few classics, next time. Later all, stay safe.