Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Revivals: Second Half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the the rest of May. If you think this list is long, it could have been a lot longer. Like I have stated before, I'm using life getting in the way to whittle down the options to a select few. I'll start with two repeats from the last list. I wish I got to this sooner, so that I could post more than just one date for these films. You'll have to pick one or the other, but luckily one of them will play again in June:

BADLANDS- Wed May 15 at 6:30 and 8:20- Film Forum- A 4K restoration of Terrence Malick's film, his most accessible whether you see it on the big screen or TV, on its 40th anniversary. The restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Malick's The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder, as well as Children of Men. This will leave the Forum after May 16th. But I'm not sure if I can do the 16th or not, which is why I'm only posting the evening of May 15th screenings.

Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides of 1958, you know you're in violence-with-consequences territory. The couple move around, love each other and interact with each other and the open road in an almost dreamlike state. But Spacek's off-screen narration tells us that at least one half of the couple knows they have a dark future ahead.

Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done. Among debut films for directors, I would argue that only Welles' Citizen Kane and John Huston's The Maltese Falcon are better films than Badlands. Boy do I hope I'm not misquoted or taken out of context with that sentence . . . :

VOYAGE TO ITALY- Wed May 15 at 7:30 and 9:30- Film Forum- The DCP restoration of Roberto Rossellini's film has apparently been popular enough that the Forum is extended it's run for another week, but this will also leave after May 16th. A film about Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders trying to keep their flailing marriage alive and doing a lousy job at it; that's what's popular at the Forum right now. Go figure. Still want to catch it though. I should also bring up that if you can't make out to the Forum, Voyage To Italy will screen at the Museum of The Moving Image, alongside James Mason in Bigger Than Life, on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd:


SCARECROW- Sat May 18 at 1 and 3:20 and Tues May 21- Thurs May 23 at 7:30 and 9:40- Film Forum- A DCP screening of the 1973 film that only critics, some acting teachers of a certain age, and fanatics of the two leading men seem to know. 2 hobo types; ex-con Gene Hackman, who wants to open a car wash but seems more preoccupied with broads, booze and bar fights, and Al Pacino, an ex-sailor with dreams of meeting up with the girlfriend and infant he abandoned and has nothing else to do. A character study of two men who would be right at home at Harry Hope's bar from Iceman Cometh more than anywhere else. If you've ever heard of the saying "it's not the destination that matters, it's the journey", then consider this the story of men for whom the road and each other are the only comforts they have. Society has no interest in them, they burned enough bridges behind to insure as such.
A standout in the road picture genre, fans of great acting, and in 1970s cinema. Or would be if the film had drawn an audience of any size at all. Instead, consider Scarecrow alongside the likes of say, Charley Varrick and Blue Collar, on a theoretical list of great 1970s films few people have heard of. Hackman cited his role as his all-time favorite; the film's failure in light of the massive success of the Poseidon Adventure was one of the reasons for a depression that caused him to briefly retire from acting. I'm not sure if Pacino felt the same, but the combined box office failures of Scarecrow, Bobby Deerfield, Cruising and Author Author probably gave him similar feelings that might partially explain his near-total absence from the big screen from 1983 until Sea of Love (don't bring up Revolution, let sleeping dogs lie). Anyway, it runs for a week, I posted the days and times that I can probably do. I would really like to make time for this:
EPIC in 3-D and/or HEAD and/or THE LAST WALTZ- Sun May 19 at 1 (Epic), 4 (Head) and 6:30 (Waltz)- Museum of the Moving Image- A potential double or triple feature at the Museum of the Moving Image, all for one admission. The first film isn't a revival but a new release, Fox's Epic. It's not due for release until May 24th, but it will get a sneak preview at the Museum on Sunday, May 19th. It will be in digital 3-D and feature the voices of Colin Farrell, BeyoncĂ©, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Judah Friedlander, and Jason Sudeikis. I don't know much beyond the trailer, featuring a young woman shrunk down to ant size, helping little humanoids fight other humanoids. Sorry I can't do better with the description; I'm more interested in the May releases of Star Trek and Iron Man 3, not this.  But I'm afraid I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the option you would have. Consider yourself told, moving on . . .  
The other two films screening on the 19th continues the Museum's Play Loud series of mostly Rock films. First, Head, from 1967. This will be the original 86 minute theatrical release, not the 110 minute director's cut. Remember what I wrote earlier about there being little point to explain the plot of a Marx Brother film? Well there's pretty much no point in explaining the plot of Head. Basically, the Monkees were on the verge of breaking up, so they made a film that spoofed themselves, the creation of a second-tier Beatles group like the Monkees, and the TV show they did. You can also consider this a re-construction and de-construction of the Monkees phenomenon  Different sequences, from a Western locale, to a Sci-Fi locale to a studio setting.

Working from a script by Jack Nicholson (allegedly on LSD the whole day it was written) and director Bob Rafelson, the film was DOA when released. Critics destroyed it, the teenage fans were turned off, and generally everyone else who wasn't turned on by the Monkees remained uninterested. There is a cult following that either labels it as groundbreaking or an interesting mess. The music itself has been almost unanimously praised, with songs written by Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Nicholson and Rafelson, and individual members of the band itself. So just consider this at best a more accessible deconstruction than Goddard or some other fancy European director has ever made, or a fascinating mess with good music that's only 87 minutes long. Actually either way it will have some of the Monkees' best music, so there you go. Decide for yourself.  
Next is The Last Waltz. From 1978 and the reason why this retrospective is titled the way it is. Arguably the best concert film ever made. After Taxi Driver, a change of pace for director Martin Scorsese, filming the farewell concert of The Band on Thanksgiving 1976. Mixed with recording sessions that also included working with Emmylou Harris and The Staples. They also had some friends performing with them, including Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Ron Wood, Dr. John, and Ringo Starr. Also includes interviews with members of the Band, days after the concert. Also noteworthy is the cinematography of Michael Chapman, who also did Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. The first concert film to be photographed in 35mm. This will be a 35mm screening by the way, but if it's anything like the IFC Center screening, it should be just fine.

Hard to pick a favorite performance from the bunch; I expected to choose The Band themselves, but hot damn when Van Morrison came on, and then hot damn again when Dylan came on screen. Too many great moments to cite, just go and enjoy it and enjoy it loud:

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD- Mon May 20 at 7- MOMA- Part of MOMA's In Memoriam: Celeste Bartos retrospective. Ms. Bartos was a committee member and chairperson of MOMA's Board of Trustees, who not only pushed for and contributed to the building of MOMA's own film storage and preservation center in Pennsylvania,  but also started the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation which has been active since the 1990s. Among the films that benefited from this was The Adventures of Robin Hood, screened in a new 35mm print.
Dashing Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) steals from the oppressive rich, gives to the poor, thumbs his nose at authority he doesn't respect like Prince John (Claude Rains), and tries to get jiggy with, er I mean MAKE TIME with Maid Marian (Olivia de Havilland - sigh . . .). Also with more contract character actors from that era then you can shake a stick at. An 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 never seen better on-screen duelists then Flynn-Rathbone, unless the characters portrayed are named either Darth Vader and/or Luke Skywalker. Ok, that first fight in Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon was also too cool for school, but I now forget if both women had swords or not:
ATLANTIC CITY- Thurs May 23 at 9- Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's Burt Lancaster retrospective. I'm sorry to say that this is the only film from that series that I'll post. But I've done both Sweet Smell of Success and The Leopard more than once and I'm not doing Brute Force again (a mixed bag for me). Also, Birdman of Alcatraz, Lawman and Go! Go Tell The Spartans! aren't being screened at all, while Elmer Gantry, Twilight's Last Gleaming and The Rainmaker are not playing at convenient times. And while have done Atlantic City before at Lincoln Center, I know enough of you out there who are either unaware of this film's existence  or have seen it so long ago that you can use a refresher. Plus it's playing at Lincoln Center's newest place, the Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center.
Lancaster plays Lou, a small time gangster with delusions about his past, reduced to taking care of a needy old moll and lusting after his neighbor across the way. That neighbor is Sally, learning to be a croupier while working a casino's clam bar. Her ex turns up not only with a pregnant girlfriend (her sister!) and his own delusions, but also with drugs stolen from mobsters. Louis Malle's best English language film/American critique is never belittling to his characters or to the audience. These small time dreamers surrounded by a city (a country?) that's crumbling all around them. Sometimes romantically, sometimes humorously (dark humor), but never with any condescension.
5 Oscar Nominations, including Picture, Malle for Director, John Guare for Screenplay, Lancaster for Actor (who only got the role after Robert Mitchum was dropped because Mitchum went out & got a face lift for the film!) and Susan Sarandon for Actress (who cemented sex symbol status with what she did with lemons, and leading lady status with her performance). For me, this is runner-up for best film of 1981, behind Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sorry, Reds and On Golden Pond fans. Well, not that sorry . . . :
TIME BANDITS- Fri May 24-Sun May 26 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- Time Bandits, a sleeper hit of fall 1981, gets a Memorial Day weekend-long run of Midnight screenings, as part of IFC Center's Terry Gilliam retrospective. Sunday the 26th is included. Don't have a specific time so I'll just write Midnight-ish.
More successful then all the Python films upon its initial release, except for A Fish Called Wanda and maybe Meaning of Life. More a family film, but with enough Python touches that keep the youngest kids away (though not at this screening), and more then enough mature-ish content to keep adults awake. A boy encounters 6 time traveling dwarfs, and ends up accompanying them on their adventures. Said adventures are certainly more interesting than his dull suburban home with his TV dinner eating/ TV game show watching parents. But being stuck in Ancient Rome, the Titanic, a boat of ogres  and Hell itself is not without its dangers. Featuring John Cleese as Robin Hood, Sean Connery as Agamemnon, Lord of the Ring's Ian Holm as Napoleon, Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being and Jim Broadbent in an early film role. Though I should point out David Warner as a scene-stealing Devil. He's not the worst guy around. Except for the wish to spread evil around and turning people into dogs and pigs or just making them explode, but a swell guy otherwise. Also featuring Michael Palin in a dual role; he also co-wrote the film with Gilliam:
JAWS- Fri May 24- Sun May 26 at Midnight-ish- IFC Center- If Time Bandits doesn't float your boat this Memorial Day weekend, than maybe Jaws will. Also around Midnight, and also on Sunday the 26th. 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:  
A PIG ACROSS PARIS- Sun May 26- Wed May 30 at 6:20, 8 and 9:40- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of a film, also known as Four Bags Full, that's more of a classic in France than outside of it. Maybe because Francois Truffaut took issue with director Claude-Autant-Lara over some kind of bullshit ego thing (probably ego), and trashed most if not all his films, including this one.
In this dramedy, two men are running around in Paris with a black market item so secretive, you would think this was some kind of drug deal. But since this Nazi-occupied Paris, we're talking about an even rarer product: food. Or more specifically, four suitcases of butchered pork. An obnoxious  penny-pinching butcher entrusts the job of selling the meat to someone else: a straight-arrow man who's no good at doing this kind of subterfuge on his own. So said straight-arrow enlists a hustler of sorts to guide them through the black market. This hustler, who may or may not be homeless, would love to steal the four cases of butchered meat to sell himself. But the two men spend almost all night trying to find their way around Paris, dodging other hustlers, poor people, the police and the Nazis, and struggling at every stop. Oh, did I mention the suitcases weigh a combined 200 pounds? Not exactly easy to drag around . . .
I referred to this as a dramedy, because while there's comedy abound, this is an occupied country and war is hell. Don't know much else about the film, except the two leads: Bourvil as the straight arrow (liked him as the detective with an apartment full of cats in Le Circe Rouge) and Jean Gabin (loved him as the escaping Lieutenant in Grand Illusion) as the hustler. Sounds interesting and hey, it's only eighty minutes long: 
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY for 7.50- Thurs May 30 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of my favorite screwball comedy/ romantic comedy. There are two screenings actually; a 7pm screening introduced by Hedda Lettuce, and a 9:30 without Hedda, but will probably start closer to 9:40 than 9:30. As to which screening I would catch, I'll let majority rule to determine which screening is the one for me.
With that said, on a personal note, if the 7pm screening is what we agree on doing, then I'll be relying on others to purchase the tickets ahead of time. I'll be lucky to get to the theater itself by 7 on the dot. That will make us, as latecomers, prime targets for Hedda's barbs. I speak from personal experience; the first time was when I won a DVD of Nim's Island and 50% off tickets for Naked Boys Singing (which was more useless to me?) and the second time was when Twilight Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 was about to open. I was drinking a soda with most of the Twilight cast on the cup, and Hedda was singling me out as to who I wanted to sleep with ("It's Robert Pattinson, you want him! You know you do! Everyone, even the straights want to sleep with him!"). I took my medicine, and hoped Hedda would pick another target pretty soon. I still smiled both times though and I still laugh at my prizes from the first outing. In any case, the 7PM screening probably won't start until 7:15 or so anyway. That would also mean the 9:30 screening will probably start around 9:40 to 9:50, and its 1 hour 52 minutes long I believe, so be prepared.
It Happened One Night might be the best version of Hollywood Screwball Comedy ever made, but for me The Philadelphia Story fits the bill. Donald Ogden Stewart's sharp adaptation of Philip Barry's play, where impulsive and judgmental socialite Katharine Hepburn is ready to re-marry. But the arrival of ex-husband Cary Grant and tabloid journalists Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey on the day before the wedding causes complications. But not the kind you would expect. The coming together of people allows for the opportunity to see past each others' first impressions. Hepburn learns Stewart is a writer and falls for the Artist in him, Stewart sees the sensitivity behind Hepburn's harsh exterior, Hussey's street-smart exterior covers a crush on Stewart, Grant's recovering alcoholic is trying to make amends in obvious and less than obvious ways, and I haven't even gone into Hepburn's precocious little sister, her parents, her uppity politician fiancee or Uncle Willy.
Let's not get maudlin here. The words come out fast, furious, and funny. That said, the funniest sequence for me is the silent classic scene that starts the movie; where we see the dissolution of Hepburn and Grant's marriage in brief and funny detail. There are no villains, except for the politician/ fiancee and the tabloid editor I guess. Basically we get to spend two hours with likable people, three of them happen to be movie stars. Hell, even the smart-aleck little sister is likable; this film and 500 Days of Summer might be the only examples of this rare phenomenon!      
6 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, George Cukor for Director, Hepburn for Actress (she bought the rights to the play and fought MGM like hell to retain her role, which would become a career reviver , and Hussey for Supporting Actress. 2 Oscars for the Stewarts: Donald Ogden for the Writing, and James for Best Actor. Maybe a surprise win for Jimmy, considering he won over the likes of Chaplin (The Great Dictator), Fonda (Grapes of Wrath) and Olivier (Rebecca). Maybe it was a make-up call for losing the Best Actor Oscar one year earlier to Ronald Donat for Goodbye Mr Chips, who knows. On both AFI Top lists and on my own Top 100 list as well:


THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD for free (subject to ticket availability)- Friday May 31 at 7-MOMA- If you can't do Robin Hood on the 20th of May, or would prefer not to pay to see it, you can catch the Errol Flynn classic on Friday the 31st for free, subject to availability. Tickets that have not been reserved by MOMA members by 3:15 that afternoon, will be made available (up to 2 per person) on a first come first served basis, at 3:30-3:45 (whenever the ticket desk is ready):
Lots of good stuff. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

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