Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Revivals: holiday season edition

Hey all. Mike here with some revivals for the rest of the holiday season. For my purposes, the holiday season will run thru Jan 3rd, to get  a few stray films that play beyond New Year's Day. Also, because of the volume of revivals I have here, I'm splitting the revivals into two sections, those that are not playing at Lincoln Center, and those films that are. The later group of films are part of the Center's 70mm retrospective, which I'll get into in a little bit. To say most of these films conflict with one another is a massive understatement. I'll just let you all decide, because you can't make a bad choice here. You can take risks, or pick films that are weaker than others, but no bad choices on this list. Here we go, starting with the non-Lincoln Center group of revivals: 

MONSTERS, INC in 3-D- At a theater near you, locations and times TBA- A reminder The Pixar classic gets a re-release, in a newly converted 3-D format. One part stab for money, and one part promotion for Pixar's upcoming prequel, Monsters University, starring the voice of leads from the prior film, Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Re-release success for Disney have been spotty. Granted the costs for 3-D conversion and promotion (plus whatever hidden costs/ profit sharing that we the Public are unaware of), won't cut into the profit line to these films' re-release. But after the spotty business of the re-releases of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the first two Toy Story flicks, many were stunned with the success of The Lion King, and then surprised that both Beauty & the Beast and Finding Nemo failed to measure up in terms of business, 3-D conversion and pop culture love. And jammed in there between The Hobbit and 6 other studio releases, Monsters Inc may suffer a similar fate. Being the only release for kids during the month of December might help it, who knows.

That said, this was my favorite Pixar until Wall-E, Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles (in my order of preference) came along. Yes, I liked the first two Toy Story flicks and A Bug's Life is alright; not my favorite but I certainly like it more than any Pixar with Cars in the title. Monsters, Inc had action about as good as the last section of Toy Story. But maybe the combination of the fantastical world inhabited by non-human creatures, earned sentiment, humor that almost ventured into Borscht Belt territory, and the most perfect casting of vocal leads in Crystal and Goodman (Incredibles comes close), maybe all of this suits my personal tastes more. Enough that I want to make an effort to catch this. Though with a lot of major releases flooding the marketplace, if a lot of people don't come out for this re-release, watch Monsters Inc get chucked out of most 3-D screens in favor of Texas Chainsaw 3-D on January 4th. I kid you not, that's probably what will happen. So basically, you have 16 days and everyday afterwards is borrowed time.  

MEET ME IN ST LOUIS for $7.50- Thurs Dec 20 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- First, Meet Me in St. Louis, with possibly the only happy family ever depicted on film. Second happiest if you count Leatherface's family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, we see a family enjoying their last days of togetherness, before a potential move to New York. Your choice if you want to see at 7(with a Hedda Lettuce intro) or at 9:30 (without Hedda). 

Yes, the film is a color feast for the eye. But this film should be considered the best showcase of Judy Garland's talents. Is it her best performance? Probably not. That would be the last film on this list. Her most memorable performance? No, that would be the next film on the list. But for the full package, catch Judy here. With The Maltese Falcon's Mary Astor as the loving mother, Margaret O'Brien as the scene stealing kid sister, and Leon Ames as the epitome of the loving patriarch.

4 Nominations for Meet Me: for Screenplay (based on the stories written by Sally Benson about her and her family), Score, Color Cinematography (It lost to a film about Woodrow Wilson?!?!? A film that is only seen by 10 people a year on Fox Movie Channel), and for Song (The Trolley Song- "Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley . . .". Shot in one take!) Also featuring the holiday favorite "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". But this film should be considered the best showcase of Judy Garland's talents. Is it her best performance? Probably not.  Her most memorable performance? No, that would be Oz. But for the full package, catch Judy here. With The Maltese Falcon's Mary Astor as the loving mother, Margaret O'Brien as the scene stealing kid sister, and Leon Ames as the epitome of the loving patriarch. 4 Nominations for Meet Me: for Screenplay (based on the stories written by Sally Benson about her and her family), Score, Color Cinematography (It lost to a film about Woodrow Wilson?!?!? A film that is only seen by 10 people a year on Fox Movie Channel), and for Song (The Trolley Song- "Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley . . .". Shot in one take!) Also featuring the holiday favorite "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD- Fri Dec 21 and Sat Dec 22 at 1 4 and 7, Sun Dec 23 at 7, Mon Dec 24 at 1, and Wed Dec 26 and Thurs Dec 27 at 1 4 and 7- Film Forum- The only film from the Forum's Douglas Fairbanks retrospective that I had any chance of seeing. A restored DCP screening of the silent film classic. See Fairbanks swashbuckle his way to win the heart of a beautiful princess, and battle monsters and an evil Mongol with the aid of a flying horse and a magic carpet. The first, or at least among the first, of the fantasy/adventure blockbusters, restored and incorporating color tints from the original prints, and Carl Davis' epic score newly re-recorded by London's Philharmonia Orcehstra:

DJANGO- Fri Dec 21, Wed Dec 26 and Thurs Dec 27 at 10- Film Forum- A DCP release of the Spaghetti Western classic from 1966, re-released to coincide with Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The film that inspired many copies and inspirations (including Tarantino's), had one official sequel, and made Franco Nero a star everywhere (except here I guess). Somewhat similar to A Fistful of Dollars, where you have two sides fighting with each other and our (anti)hero in the middle, and said (anti)hero is trying to financially profit off of this. A little more romantic in the sense that Django has a woman by his side. But this was considered one of the more violent Westerns pre-Wild Bunch, a reputation it has taken decades to put aside. Plays for one week only at 10PM, which is either inconvenient or EXTREMELY convenient, depending on your point of view. I'm only listing the days I could possibly make, because there's no way I'm coming out to see this on either Christmas Eve or Day. But before or after, let's go for it:

NINOTCHKA- Fri Dec 28 at 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40, Sat Dec 29 at 7:30 and 9:40, Tues Jan 1 & Wed Jan 2 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of the Ernest Lubitsch comedy classic, where Greta Garbo plays a stern commie woman, who falls for decadent capitalist Melvyn Douglas. With Bela Lugosi. Oscar nominations for Picture, Garbo, Story and Screenplay, co-written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett.

CHINATOWN for a 7 dollar bar minimum- Fri Dec 28 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap screening of the 1974 classic. Part of a series of films picked on the idea that happiness is raised after going the catharsis of watching a film with a sad/bleak ending. And boy does this film qualify. If you get to the Rubin Museum by 6, the museum will be free. The screening will be hosted by professor/screenwriter/blogger Valerie Franco.

Chinatown, the last of the great film-noirs. Ok, it's more of a modern or neo-noir. While there would be some very good to excellent modern noirs afterwards (L.A. Confidential, Blue Velvet and Fargo chief among them), none would go the dark paths Roman Polanski's film would travel, not even Lynch's film.  Based on events from the California Water Wars of the 1930s, Jack Nicholson's private eye (the role that made him a star forever) is hired by Faye Dunaway to spy on her husband. But nothing is as it seems, and if you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you here. One of the great period films, one of the great mysteries, and if wasn't for Paramount's own Godfather Part 2, it might have been the best film from that year. An Oscar for Robert Towne's Screenplay; 10 other nominations including Picture, Polanski for Director (who also turns in a memorable performance as a thug), Nicholson for Actor, and Dunaway for Actress. Sorry there was no room for John Huston for Supporting Actor, but boy does he make a memorably repellent villain. On both AFI Top 100 films and in my personal top 100.

MEDEA (1969)- Sat Dec 29 at 6- MOMA- The only film I'm posting from MOMA's Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective. Partly out of time, and partly because the only other film I could make is Salo. I've seen that once, not again. Google it to learn more, but for the love of God, be careful, because there are plenty of NSFW images. Now Pasolini himself was a bigger deal in Europe than he ever was here. But he made his impact here, at least on the arthouse circuit, back in the 60s thru the mid 70s. But he was a challenging director to put it mildly, and his films are generally not the kind you pull up on Netflix for casual viewing. His version of Medea qualifies.

The story of Medea and Jason is re-told here, but not in the way Euripides did. More of a comparison between Medea's "primitive" world and Jason's "civilized" world; where Medea gave up so much to bring herself and the Golden Fleece to Jason and his world, and her revenge when betrayed is brutal. But expect no golden chariots here. Expect a mostly wordless film, relying on cinematography (locations as close to the original story as the filmmakers could get) and an offbeat, non-traditional score to tell the story. Mostly non-actors filing the roles, but take note of Maria Callas in her only film role, as the mute title character. I've never seen it, but the screencaps and youtube videos have made me very curious. Only for the adventurous:

ALL ABOUT EVE for 7.50- Thurs Jan 3 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinemas- A cheap screening All About Eve, one of the few films to be on both AFI Top 100 lists, and in my own personal top 35. There are a few of you out there who have yet to experience this on the big screen, and until you do, I'll keep posting this and pushing it. 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, than 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. Your choice of screenings; either the 7PM screening with an intro from Hedda Lettuce (unknown if they'll be a running commentary), or the 9:30 screening without Hedda:

And now for the films playing at Lincoln Center this holiday season:

SEE IT IN 70MM!- the Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Fri Dec 21- Tues Jan 1- After the success of such revival screenings as Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra and Hello, Dolly!, as well as renewed interest in the format thanks to P.T. Anderson's The Master, Lincoln Center will screen this special retrospective. While the format has been around since the creation of film itself, it wasn't until the mid-1950s when this became popular for event movies. Consider 70mm as the grandfather of IMAX, which also makes use of 70mm film cameras by the way (the films not shot digitally that is). If you've been to the Ziegfeld, the late Loews Astor Plaza or the Paris theater in Manhattan, then you know what the format looks like. But unless you saw The Master at the Ziegfeld this past fall, you probably haven't seen a 70mm film, especially if you're under the age of 21.

Popularity waned in the 1970s, and the format wasn't used for a while, except horizontally in IMAX cameras. By the time I read how the original 70mm print of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was chopped up and pieces were individually sold, I figured the format was as dead as the Betamax. But directors like Anderson and Martin Scorsese still champion the format, and curiosity and changing technologies has fueled renewed interest 70mm. Much like IMAX, 70mm was reserved for event films, and some of those very event films will be screened at the Walter Reade. I've posted a couple of these films on this blog over the years. But most of these films haven't been screened since the early 80s.

Each film costs 13 dollars, but you can arrange to see two films for 20 dollars. Tickets can be bought either at the Walter Reade box office, or on any of the links posted here by the titles. Some of the films are restored 70mm prints, while others are archival prints, I'll let you know which are which. I'll list the films I want to catch in calender order. Not grammatically correct perhaps, but I don't care right now. Here we go, below a link to an intro to the retrospective itself:

Friday, December 21:
2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY introduced by Keir Dullea at 6:30- My favorite Kubrick film, in my personal Top 3 films, kicks off the retrospective. Yes I know I posted it before. I've posted it now, and I'll probably post it again, so there. Maybe it isn't being screened in its original Cinerama, but the Walter Reade is pretty close. There will be an Overture, Intermission music, and at least 7-8 minutes of exit music. Not sure if there will be an intermission, but there might be. This screening will be introduced by the film's lead, Keir Dullea. I'm not sure if he will explain the film, but he will introduce it:

Saturday December 22: 
IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD- Sat Dec 22 at 2- A new 70mm print of one of the biggest hits of 1963. We're getting the 2 hour, 34 minute version that's normally available, as opposed to longer edits that were either on laserdisc, or the original director's cuts that were over 3 hours long. We're getting the overture and intermission music, not sure if we're getting an actual intermission. Around the World in 80 Days might have started the craze of all-star casts in epic comedies, but Mad World seems to be the only one to have survived the test of time in a positive way. It doesn't rely on a retrospective of Oscar winning films like 80 Days in order to be screened, though this was nominated for 6 Oscars (including the Cinerama-style Cinematography, Editing and it's Music), winning for Sound Effects.

Spencer Tracy leads an all-star cast, as a Police Captain ready to solve the fifteen year-old case of a robbery of $350,000. When 5 cars of motorists discover the dying robber (Jimmy Durante), he gives them barely coherent clues to the location of the loot. The motorists' greed overtakes them as they go off to find the loot. Each way more disastrous and destructive than the other, with the police in full observational mode. Not everything works, with a film this long that takes a sledgehammer approach to comedy at times. But some scenes still shine, especially for me the desert fight between two men (Milton Berle and Terry-Thomas) who can't fight. And anything Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, Dick Shawn, Peter Falk or Tracy do puts a smile on my face. I could do a separate post just on the cast and its tens of cameos alone. But suffice to say, I recommend it: 

PLAYTIME- Sat Dec 22 at 5:30- From 1967, a restored 70mm print. A French comedy directed, co-written by, and starring Jacques Tati, as his famous M. Hulot character. If you saw the Oscar nominee, The Illusionist, based on an unproduced screenplay of Tati's, then you are familiar with the character. Imagine the klutzy M. Hulot needing to get some paperwork from Paris. M. Hulot goes from his country town to some place not completely resembling Paris. Not just any Paris, not just any metropolis, but to an actual Metropolis. As in a place similar to the city from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but with enough alienation and little use for individuality, that Tom Stoppard and/or Terry Gilliam had to know this film when making Brazil. A mega-flop in its day, but with ever growing appreciation for it as the years have gone by. When I first posted this back in November 2011, I thought the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria would be the only place to screen this 70mm restoration. Good to know I was wrong: 

Sunday December 23:
THE SOUND OF MUSIC- Sun Dec 23 at 7:45- A restored 70mm print. Some of you may be surprised I'm posting this, but someone expressed interest in seeing this on the big screen, and I'm calling her bluff. Besides, it's been 4 1/2 years since I saw this at the Ziegfeld with over one hundred Sound of Music fanatics, I think it's safe now to catch it again. Seeing it on the big screen, what with the Cinematography, the performances that go from large to intimate, all of this alongside the music, I get it. On the big screen (and only on the big screen, not TV), I get why it's loved. I finally get it. Now I may have to step out if the saccharine level gets too high (for me, it was the Marionette scene), but don't worry, I'm there to the end. And seeing it in a full 70mm format, restored like Fox's Hello,Dolly! was this summer, what with it's overture and intermission music, it will probably be an improvement over the print I saw at the Ziegfeld in 08. And to repeat, I'm calling someones bluff:

Monday December 24:
2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY at 2- If you can't do the Friday night screening, or can't get in due to the possibility of it selling out, there's a Christmas Eve afternoon screening. Gets you out in plenty of time to see the city holiday sights, attend some kind of Christmas Eve dinner/party, Midnight Mass, whatever else you have planned.

Wednesday December 26:
WEST SIDE STORY at 3- The other revival from this retrospective that's in my personal Top 100. Sorry if this isn't at an easier time. But I'm not dragging myself in on the night of Christmas Day for a revival I've done twice. But I'm not leaving this off the list altogether, because seeing West Side Story on the big screen as opposed to TV (no matter how large the screen), is the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it (to quote comedian Larry Miller). So, here it is:

LORD JIM at 6:30- The second and most recent (from 1965) adaptation of the Joseph Conrad novel. From director Richard Brooks (after Sweet Bird of Youth but before In Cold Blood) and starring Peter O'Toole (post Lawrence and Beckett) in the title role. Jim is a sailor at the turn of the 20th Century, with the need to overcome a cowardly error in judgement that haunts him forever, and a sense of honor that would crush other mortals. It may yet crush him when surrounded by men of no honor, as he battles both a gun-running General (Eli Wallach) and a pirate (James Mason). Reviews at the time crushed both the picture and O'Toole's performance, and Lord Jim bombed at the box office. Time hasn't so much been kind to Lord Jim as ignored it, but O'Toole's performance has received more respect. Never seen it and I'm curious:

Thursday December 27:
PLAYTIME at 3- Another chance to catch Jacques Tati's comedy, in case you can't do Saturday the 22nd.

HAMLET (1996) at 6:30- Kenneth Branagh's rarely screened, unabridged version of the great Shakespearean play, plays only on the 27th. Set in the Victorian era, with a little less insanity on Hamlet's part (played by Branagh), and a little more political intrigue when compared with other adaptations. Julie Christie (Gertrude), Derek Jacobi (Claudius) and Kate Winslet (Ophelia) are among those in the major roles; Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Jack Lemmon, Gerard Depardieu, Richard Attenborough, Charleton Heston, Judi Dench, John Mills and John Gielgud (in his last performance) take up some of the smaller roles. Respectable reviews, but a flop at the box office. It wasn't easy for Columbia Pictures to find enough theaters that could handle 70mm films, and a 4 hour 2 minute film at that. Lack of Oscars didn't help; 4 nominations with the only major nomination being Branagh's Screenplay Adaptation, and zero wins. A major time commitment, but a good film none the less:

Friday December 28:
IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD at 6- A second chance to catch this film, in case Saturday the 22nd isn't doable.

Saturday December 29:
RYAN'S DAUGHTER- Sat Dec 29 at 1:45- A rare screening of a rare David Lean flop. An archival print from the Swedish Film Archive; this is in English but there will be Swedish subtitles throughout. Its reputation differs from different people, assuming you know anyone other than me who's even heard of this. Set in World War 1 in a small Irish town, a bored married Irish woman has an affair with a young English officer, recovering from shell shock. This type of adulterous affair with revolution about to begin, you know something bad will go down. With Sarah Miles in the title role, and actors like Trevor Howard and Leo McKern (Rumpole himself) also in the cast.

Released in 1970, this was not embraced in the era of MASH and Easy Rider. It seemed as though critics like Pauline Kael made it their mission in life to destroy the film and Lean as well. They succeeded in the former and might have succeeded in the later, since Lean worked very little after that, only completing A Passage To India. I tried to get into on TV, but like Dr. Zhivago, it was difficult to get through on the small screen. I didn't feel Robert Mitchum was miscast as the uptight, quiet husband. He was stretching himself and he did fine.

But I can't help you with the bigger questions. Is this too damn slow and old-fashioned? Is this an undiscovered gem, unjustly attacked? A noble failure that is not as bad as 1970 critics said, but not deserving of higher praise? We will have to see for ourselves. A 1980 re-release didn't change matters. Miscasting of the young British officer doesn't help- he had to be dubbed. Recently it's received a reappraisal in Australia, playing in one of its larger houses for 2 years. But that's the only country where this film's fortunes have changed.

4 Oscar nominations, including Sarah Miles for Actress. I'm sorry we don't see much from her on these shores anymore. 2 Oscars, for Cinematography and Supporting Actor for John Mills, who played the village idiot. He's usually sighted as one of the first bits of proof, that the best way to at least get an Oscar nomination, is to play some of retardation. Not entirely accurate, but it's hard to fight a growing myth.

This is the only day and time this plays. Over three hours, plus an overture, intermission, and exit music, so plan ahead before you say yes:

MY FAIR LADY- Sat Dec 29 at 5:45- A restored 70mm print. Another film who, like with Sound of Music, I'm calling someones bluff. I must be crazy to consider seeing this and Ryan's Daughter on the same day, but go figure. Yes, there are some of you who see this on the list and just keep looking. And this is one of those films that is used as bad examples for what won Best Picture. Forest Gump instead of Pulp Fiction, Dances With Wolves instead of Goodfellas, and My Fair Lady instead of Dr. Strangelove. But as great as both Strangelove and Peter Sellers' performance is, it didn't have a chance in hell against one of the more looked forward-to musicals in that era, plus Harrison's signature performance as Henry Higgins. Throw in Audrey Hepburn and the fact that this is a well made picture, just live with it film buffs.

Not the last great movie musical, but after both this and A Hard Day's Night from 1964, it was a long way away for greatness in this genre until Cabaret in 1972 (sorry Oliver! fans.) 12 Oscar nominations, 8 Oscars including Best Picture, Harrison, and Director George Cukor. On the original AFI Top 100 list, dropped from the second list in favor of Sophie's Choice. No, I don't get that either:

TRON- Sat Dec 29 at 9:15- A 30th anniversary screening. Rare not only because one will can see Tron in 70mm form, but also because this is NOT a Midnight screening. Now here's some 80s throwback fun. The 1982 Disney film that was a disappointment at the box office, but has a cult following so strong, we ended up with Tron:Legacy. This is literally the kind of film that gets screened either at 11AM or Noon for families, or Midnight, rarely any in-between. A lot of hype for the film, but the video game was/is a bigger hit. But it is fun, and for its time, it's look was a singular standout.

The story, eh, whatever. Jeff Bridges had his game designs stole, and gets sucked into whatever early-80s-form-of-the-internet world by the evil MCP (Master Control Program) He gets all Spartacus, freeing a few other programs (including the title character/program), and works on a rebellion against the MCP and his henchman (a wonderfully evil David Warner).

Oscar nominations for Costume Design and Sound, but not for Visual Effects, because the Academy said using computers to create visual effects was "cheating". I kid you not. But the look of the computer world, which was shot in black and white then colorized either via rotoscope or early photo-shopping techniques, alongside disc fights and light cycle scenes, are the most fun elements that still hold up. It's also fun to see a lot of The Dude in Jeff Bridges' character. And frankly, sometimes you don't need that much more for a decent movie.

Due to time constraints only 2 of these 3 films, Tron, Ryan's Daughter and My Fair Lady, can be seen at a moderate price. 1 film has a 13 dollar admission, but 2 films in the series are 20 dollars. I can do 2, I think, but three? Forget it:

Sunday, December 30
TRON at 2- Now after all I said in the last paragraph, there's also a 2pm screening of Tron, for those who can't do Saturday night.

That's all for now. Long enough list, wouldn't you say? Later all, and Happy Festivus.

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