Tuesday, July 30, 2013

August revivals: first half

Hey, Mike here with a revival list for the first half of August. Long list with many that conflict, so pay close attention to the dates and times if you're interested. Here we go:

THE SERVANT- Wed July 31 and Thurs August 1 at 5:20, 7:30 and 9:40- 2 more days/nights to catch this film. Unlike Computer Chess, which has done respectable business, The Servant did even bigger business this weekend at the Forum. Yet the new film has had its run extended, while The Servant has not. So you only have the dates I posted above to see this DCP restoration.

A 50th anniversary screening of the British film classic. I admit I'm not familiar with either this 1963 film or its lead, Dirk Bogarde, aside from scattered performances ranging from A Tale of 2 Cities, to The Night Porter to The Patricia Neal Story as Roald Dahl. But I am familiar with director Joseph Losey (The Big Night, A Doll's House, The Boy with Green Hair), and I'm very familiar with screenwriter Harold Pinter (who adapted this from the Robin Maugham novella). So I have faith that this story, of a too-good-to-be-true butler (Bogarde) comes into the life of a lazy upper class gentleman (James Fox), will be a well-told one. With Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig as the women caught up (or heavily involved) in this story of class and psychological warfare. Whether or not the jazz score by John Dankworth (with vocals by his wife Cleo Laine) still holds up might be debatable. That the black and white cinematography from Douglas Slocombe (Ealing comedies like The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit, the first three Indiana Jones films, plus a slew of other quality credits) is amazing, isn't debatable. The revival trailer that's on the Forum link to The Servant gives ample proof of that.
A very big deal in Britain, with it's multiple BAFTA awards and nominations, and a very high spot in the BFI Top 100 British films. But maybe it's very Englishness has kept ignored here, aside from Anglophiles, fans of TCM, and the New York Film Critics who gave an award for Best Screenplay to Pinter back in 1964. Here's a chance to change that:

Next come two Midnight screenings that conflict if you can only do one night this weekend:
THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER- Fri Aug 2 and Sat Aug 3 at Midnight- Landmark Sunshine Cinema- Muppet fans, unite! The second of the original Muppet trilogy, the only one that Jim Henson directed, gets a midnight screening. Which usually means, this sells out fast with Muppet fanatics. Not as big a hit as The Muppet Movie, but successful enough for the summer of 1981. See intrepid reporters Kermit Fozzie and Gonzo go to London on a story. See them ignore the advice of Robert Morely and stay at the Happiness Hotel with others made of felt and acting like they've got a hand stuck up their asses. See Miss Piggy work for the even haughtier Diana Rigg, and get seduced by Charles Grodin . With cameos from Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk, Jack Warden and John Cleese. Enjoy Henson and company's take on a caper film:

TRUE STORIES- Fri Aug 2 and Sat Aug 3 at Midnight-ish-  IFC Center- The IFC Center will, for the next three months, screen films shot in and/or highlighting the state of Texas. Two sets of retrospectives called Lone Star Cinema: Texas On Screen. One slate of obvious classics and near-classics (Bonnie and Clyde, The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Searchers are the only titles announced as of this writing), and one slate for the Midnight Movie audience. Sorry that it's not likely I'll post anything from the first slate since they start at 11AM on weekends; I'd did Lacombe Luicen at that time there and while I did enjoy it, boy was I dragging all morning long. I'm more of a night owl, so if there's a Midnight movie I find interesting and doable, I'll post. True Stories qualifies. It may have the same kind of appeal as Great Muppet Caper, it's worth posting.


MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE- Sat Aug 3 at 3:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From Lincoln Center's David Bowie retrospective. Sorry that I'll only be posting both this and one other film of his. But I haven't gotten any interest out of Just A Gigolo (with Kim Novak and Marlene Dietrich!), you can't drag me to Christiane F. for 12 dollars, I don't have time for most of the others including The Hunger (sigh), and for some reason, no Last Temptation of Christ.
So instead, let's pump up a film almost unknown to most of you readers, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I would almost consider this 1983 picture a forgotten film, if most people in this country had ever heard of this to begin with. Sorry that back in Sept. 1983, it wasn't as cool as say, Jaws 3-D. See, that's a film Universal Pictures knew how to promote, not this.

The arrival of a British officer introduces us to a Japanese prison camp in Java, 1942. The man who runs the camp will seem very familiar to those who have seen Letters From Iwo Jima. Because these Allied prisoners have accepted surrender over suicide, they deserve more punishment for this, than for being the enemy. It tells more of a story of East/West differences, and how power and absolute belief can shift during war, then telling a straightforward war story. Expect more atrocities depicted then war action. Also expect a lot more character development as well.

The biggest issue Western critics had was the casting of Bowie as a British commando. Too strange and spacey for his own good. But considering he was playing a burnout who couldn't function, his performance has aged well over the years. And his character's unspoken attraction to the camp commandant, helps give this story an edge, and a different kind of punch. Only available in this country through the Criterion Collection. Take a chance and catch it:

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH- Sun Aug 4 at 5:45- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The original director's cut, as a part of Lincoln Center's David Bowie retrospective. Nicholas Roeg's sci-fi cult classic from 1976, with David Bowie as an alien. He must get water to his dying planet, so he comes to Earth, poses as a human, and forms a company that serves as a multi-national front, while he builds a return ship. But he doesn't plan on dealing with falling in love or at least in lust, or the enjoyable trappings of wealth, or the U.S. government, and business greed and ruthlessness. Bowie has never been perfectly cast as he was here, with strong support from Rip Torn, Candy Clark, and Buck Henry. If you never saw it, you'll find it interesting. One of those films that doesn't spell everything out for you, so you'll actually have to think a little, God help you (Tee-Hee!). For sure, of its time. Beautiful to look, at times erotically charged, yet tragic and always fascinating:

Next come three sets of films. One set playing at Lincoln Center, one set from Film Forum and the other set playing at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria. All playing on Saturday August 10th. They all kinda conflict or completely conflict, you can't see all 7 films in one day, but you can mix and match. I won't worry about conflicts, I'll let popular vote decide what I catch: 
YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW introduced by J. Hoberman and/or COTTON COMES TO HARLEM- Sat Aug 10 at 2 (Boy) and 5 (Cotton)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A potential double feature from the Museum of the Moving Image's Fun City retrospective: a series of films shot in New York, that throw out political correctness to show at least some level of authenticity of life in the gritty big city. All films released from 1967-75.
First, You're a Big Boy Now, from 1967. A feature-length extension of Francis Ford Coppola's thesis film from a novel by David Benedictus, and the first film to take advantage of the tax breaks Mayor Lindsay offered for location shooting. A young man tries to make in the big city, with parents on his back, a girl he doesn't love all over him, and a woman he does love being as much a wrong fit as you can possibly imagine. The film may have New York written all over it, but the themes are universal. But does the film making carry the day, so to speak? That will be up to you to decide. Though also a bit of Dr. Zhivago in the way that the supporting characters are all far more memorable than the lead himself. With a supporting cast that includes Rip Torn and Geraldine Page (as the parents), Karen Black and Julie Harris (as the mean landlady), good luck breaking out. Though Page received an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress, if any one performance/ character stands out, it's Elizabeth Hartman as the man-hater. Best known from the Sidney Poitier film A Patch of Blue and finally getting a chance to break away from the mousey stereotype, she played a go-go dancer emotionally scarred by a man in high school, and seems intent on getting revenge with any man who dares to be attracted to her.
The series' guest curator, former film critic for the Village Voice J. Hoberman, will introduce the film.
Next, Cotton Comes To Harlem, Ossie Davis's directorial debut from 1970. Perhaps the earliest form of Blaxplotation film out there, and had the kind of success that inspired that wave of film, but it's probably an unfair label to give this. We start off following two cops, played by comedian Godfrey Cambridge and Blacula's Raymond St. Jacques, who might use the fists a little too often, but aren't dirty. They take note of a popular preacher's "Back To Africa" fundraising cruise, with donations coming from mostly the poor people of his neighborhood. But when a car chase leads to the discovery of $87,000 in cash hidden in a package of raw cotton, things escalate quickly. Possibly more than the two police detectives can handle. But don't worry, it's all in good fun. Aside from the occasional dead body or sequence of violence, Davis keeps the film running at a quick, light pace. With lots of Harlem location shooting.
I remember finding this on TCM late one night and was pleasantly surprised. Now I knew and had seen the late Cambridge in other things, as I did with St. Jacques, even if I remember him best as Blacula. But I find it hard to find others who remember the two leads of Cotton Goes To Harlem. It's not hard to find people who remember two actors who made their debut here: Cleavon Little (as a pickpocket/ junkie), and Redd Foxx (as one of the poor men trying to contribute; his performance caught NBC's attention and eventually got Redd 'Sanford and Son'). Trust me, this film is relatively more light hearted than I'm making it out to be. Certainly more light hearted than most of the official blaxplotation films that got made thanks to the success of Cotton.
You can see each film separately or together, for one admission. And you can check the rest of the museum out as well, either before the films if you get there by 11am-12pm, or in-between, though you may only have 30-40 minutes at best: 

THE BOSTON STRANGLER and/or 3 WOMEN and/or VALLEY OF THE DOLLS- Sat Aug 10 at 4 (Boston), 6:30 (Women) and 9 (Dolls)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- These three films are from Lincoln Center's best of Twentieth-Century Fox retrospective, named Fasten Your Seatbelts Part 2. They did Part 1 back in the summer of 2011, screening the likes of Patton, Cleopatra, Star!, Vanishing Point and All About Eve (where the name of the retrospective comes from). Those films will not be screened again sorry to say, and no Star Wars either (thanks for nothing Lucas! . . . :) . . .  ).
Anyway, there are more films in the retrospective than the 3 I'm posting for August 10th, and the two I'm posting for Sunday August 11th. And while you can't technically do a double feature of these films on any given day, you can go for Lincoln Center's 3 for twenty dollars package. No, you can't buy two tickets for one film and then one ticket for a second film. It has to be one ticket each for three films to get the deal. You can go online to the filmlinc links I have below, or got the Walter Reade box office directly and buy the package. If you don't want to go for the films I've posted, you follow the filmlinc links to see what I left off (most for time crunch reasons). Sorry I have no time for the likes of say, Butch Cassidy, The Three Faces of Eve, or the director's cut of Last of the Mohicans. But anyway, on to what I posted here:
First, The Boston Strangler from 1968, screened in a studio library 35mm print. Partially shot in a You Are There/ True Crime style, at least the first half. Concentrating on the police investigation of the two waves of attacks, from 1962-1964, where thirteen women were in almost all cases sexually assaulted, and all were killed. The first half uses split screen effects at times, popular here and in The Thomas Crown Affair, and never popular again until the series 24. We mainly follow police detectives Henry Fonda and George Kennedy as they investigate, run into dead ends, false leads, etc. The second half of the film follows Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, as he goes through his day, finds another victim and is captured. The last quarter or so of the film is where it gets the most surreal, as we go into DeSalvo's mind as the police, in the form of Fonda's character, try to elicit a confession.
Again, like with The Right Stuff, facts are changed to give a clearer narrative. A huge hit in its day, and still interesting to watch today. Years of Law and Order makes the first half comfortable for the viewer, as does the ever-steady presence of Fonda. Then the film slowly becomes more surreal, once Curtis comes into the picture. A major change of pace from the light romantic comedies he usually made, Curtis was never better, projecting the everyman working exterior, and slowly unpeeling the nasty interior. And director Richard Fleischer keeps everything spinning and ablely handles the different styles here. From someone who directed the likes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Fantastic Voyage, he keeps the pulp to a minimum in the dark film he would ever make. At least until the underrated Britsh tru crime drama 10 Rellington Place. Ok, maybe not as dark as say, Soylent Green, but psychologically darker for sure.   

Next, Three Women in a studio library print. Barely a cheery pick-me-up compared to The Boston Strangler. Definitely a 70s film, but one heavily influenced by Bergman's Persona. Lots of obsession and some switching of personalities. Hard to describe a film that had no screenplay, but was completely influenced by some dreams Altman had. Gone are the days when a major director and the head of a major studio (in this case, Alan Ladd Jr. of Fox) could have an exchange possibly resembling something like this:

Altman: Hi, Alan. I just had some dreams, and I'd like you to give me some money to make a movie about them. I promise I won't write a screenplay.
Ladd: Oh. Ok.
Altman: I don't need much.
Ladd: How about 1.5 Million? (the actual estimated budget)
Altman: Great. I've got a plane to catch. Will call you later.
Ladd: Have a good flight. (The situation actually happened, minus this dialogue, according to the book "Easy Riders" by Peter Biskind).

Starring Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall. Never seen all of this and I'm very curious.

Finally, The Valley of the Dolls, screened as a DCP restoration. Wow, this is happy-go-lucky compared to the previous two films in this section. Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated), and tell all of them to play this STRAIGHT?!?!?! Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND- Sat Aug 10 at 4 and 7- Film Forum- A new 35mm print of The "Definitive Director's Cut" will be screened; basically a combination of the original 1977 release and the 1980 Special Edition. This film kicks off the Film Forum's four weeks of horror and sci-fi film series.
As opposed to War of the Worlds, here is a Spielberg film with nice aliens. Also one of his best, as well as one of the best ever made. Was a hit in 77, but would have been more popular if that pesky Star Wars wasn't playing around the same time. For those who've never seen it on the big screen, go. It's a different beast all together. Especially the abduction sequence and the last 40 minutes. 8 Oscar nominations, 2 Oscars including one for Cinematography. An AFI Top 100 film and in my personal top 100 as well:
EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN- Sat Aug 10 at 9:40- Film Forum- A special screening of another Evil Dead film from director Sam Raimi and lead Bruce Campbell. Again, this is part of the Forum's Sci-Fi/ Horror film series. But for once, this isn't being screened at Midnight, but at a more reasonable time. Once again, Campbell's hapless Ash deals with demons from the Book of the Dead, in yet another isolated cabin. Beyond that, this is similar to a typical Marx Brothers film, in the sense that there is very little point in bringing up plot points. It's important to emphasize the humor here. Bloody and violent, yes. How could it not be when you fight demons, the possessed corpse of your girlfriend, and in the best sequence of the film, his own double and then his own hand. No tree rape, yet don't discount the violence either. Nevertheless, the funnier and most fun of the three Evil Dead films. Ok, counting the decent remake, four.
LAURA and/or THE GRAPES OF WRATH- Sun Aug 11 at 1 (Laura) and 5:45 (Grapes)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- 2 restored DCPs, as part of Lincoln Center's best of 20th Century Fox's film vault. Can't see them on the same day for one admission. The best you can do is pay for a 3 for 20 dollar pack and see one or both of these films that way.
First, Laura. A classic film noir, and one of my favorites of the genre. Detective Dana Andrews is obsessed with murder victim Laura, played by Gene Tierney. Among the suspects are outwardly suave Vincent Price and ultra prissy, ultra acidic critic Clifton Webb (Oscar nominated). We see flashbacks from Laura's life that fascinate the detective more. And then . . . . sorry, if you never saw it, I'm not spoiling it. Though do look for a young (ish, kinda) Judith Anderson.

Among the best of the noirs. Not the best, but alongside say, The Maltese Falcon and Sweet Smell of Success, a noir I can see over and over and never get bored. And as long as some people I know don't know it, I'll keep pushing it. Amazing how much sexual tension there were able to get past the Production Code. Perhaps not as bitter as other noirs, but with a high sense of both romance and disappointment.
An Oscar for the Cinematography, additional nominations for director Otto Preminger (a replacement from Rouben Mamoulian; Otto chucked Rouben's old footage, reshot everything and changed the ending- WOW!), Art Direction and the Screenplay (3 writers were nominated, but not Ring Lardner Jr., who did some script doctoring). What I'm surprised wasn't nominated was David Raskin's score, which includes "Laura's Theme", which is hard to forget if you like the film.
Next, The Grapes of Wrath. The second time this summer this film plays in New York. Considering we are far from enjoying prosperous times, it's probably time to revisit this John Ford classic. Recently released ex-con Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) is miraculously reunited with his family. The Oklahoma land has been devastated by the Dust Bowl, Tom's immediate family was evicted from their farm, and Tom joins up with his entire family the night before they have to leave after being evicted. The family moves to California in search of work. They've been warned work is scarce, but they have no choice. They have no money, the family might not make it to California intact, and the camps they visit seem bereft with corrupt sheriffs, unsanitary conditions, and/or a looming threat of violence. But the Joads keep moving forward; almost on blind faith, since there's little around them to give them hope.

We're never going to experience what the average moviegoer experienced when Grapes of Wrath first came out. That sense of You Are There, feeling the Great Depression, we can certainly empathize with. But the feelings of, My God this is how it was, or My God this is how it is, or look how far we overcome, or one thinking back on who didn't survive the ordeal, wow. Arguably John Ford's best. If some of you prefer say one of Ford's films with John Wayne or How Green Was My Valley, I won't argue with you, but I won't agree with you either. With a performance from Fonda that elevated him from leading man to superstar, with the dye of American Icon starting to cast. Oscars for Ford for Director, and Jane Darwell for Supporting Actress as beloved Ma Joad. Nominations for Picture, Fonda for Actor, Screenplay, Editing and Sound. On both AFI Top 100 lists. See it before Spielberg remakes.


FANTASTIC VOYAGE and PLANET OF THE APES (1968)- Sun Aug 12 at 3:20 (Voyage), 5:20 (Apes) and 7:30 (Voyage) and 9:30 (Apes)- Film Forum-  2 DCP restorations from the Forum's Sci-fi/ Horror film retrospective. Two sci-fi films from the 1960s, both from Twentieth Century Fox, and both I guess couldn't be screened at Lincoln Center for their Fox retrospective because the Forum got their mitts on it first. Just a theory. And unlike Lincoln Center, you can see both films for one admission.

First, Fantastic Voyage, from 1966. A scientists who knows how to cause miniaturization, escapes from them evil Commies with the aid of CIA-type agent/ prototype for Jack Bauer Stephen Boyd (Ben-Hur, a forgotten, very good leading man from the Sixties). They survive an attack from some KGB-type of group, but the scientist suffers a blood clot in his head. The only way to save him? Send in the CIA agent and some doctor/ scientist types into an experimental ship, get miniaturized and injected inside the comatose scientist, and fix his injury in one hour before said miniaturization wears off or the scientist dies. So the crew consists of Boyd, folksy Doctor Arthur Kennedy (the suspected assassin?!?!), scientist Raquel Welch (HEY! Who let a WOMAN on board?!?! In such a tight fitting outfit . . . ), the ship's pilot and HEY! WHO LET DONALD PLEASANCE ON BOARD?!?!!? Uh-oh, this can't be good HEY! Watch out for those white blood cells . . .

As you can see, I'm not taking this seriously and neither than you. The film comes off a little hokey at times, but the premise holds, the visuals are at times trippy, and Pleasance is Pleasance, and Raquel is Raquel. Ok, she's not in a fur bikini, but this will do. Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Editing and Sound; Oscars for Art Direction and the Visual Effects.
Next, the original Planet of the Apes. For those of you who lived and where consciously aware in New York at least through the mid 80s, have a memory of Ch. 7's The 4:30 Movie, with that theme and those graphics that were fun but a little dated by 1978. When they did Planet of the Apes week, I was there BA-BY! The first film chopped into 2 edited parts, followed by 3 of the sequels. Now I'm not asking you to see the sequels on your own, and God knows I don't want to get near the Tim Burton remake. I'm just pushing the original. A hit in its day, that a surprising number of critics ripped apart back then. Many of them had to do mea culpas weeks and years after. It means enough these days to be highlighted in the 1968-set season of Mad Men.

3 astronauts land in a strange place, filled with talking apes, and human slaves who are mute. 3 astronauts go down to one. The one being Charlton Heston, who, after going through many trials, begins to kick ass. Until the ending, the kind that makes M. Night seem like a weakling. There, the story told in a nutshell.

Basically, its an enjoyable action/sci-fi/drama with satirical moments. A number of screenwriters contributed to this adaptation to Pierre Boulle's novel, including Rod Serling and Michael Wilson, who previously adapted Boulle's The Bridge on the River Kwai. Wilson is credited with the tribunal scene that was a cross between the Scopes Monkey trial and a Communist witch hunt hearing, the kind that had Wilson blacklisted for years. Serling is credited with the ending, one that Boulle apparently preferred to his own.

With the most unique hero in film history in Heston's Taylor. A man with no hope, no faith, and a complete asshole. And yet, he becomes more naive and more hopeful as the film goes on, while still being an asshole. And he still kicks ass. Not like in the second film, when he blows up the entire planet, but close.

Of course this doesn't work unless you buy the monkey makeup, which didn't work if the cast didn't take fellow cast mate Roddy McDowall's suggestion to add the occasional tic, blink and anything else they could think of, to not rely on just the mask to show character. 2 Oscar nominations, and a special Oscar for the makeup. Granted, this was a year when the ape makeup work for 2001 went completely ignored. I guess because the Academy believed everyone in the Dawn of Man sequences were really apes. Anyway, a fun time for all of us who catch it. I saw a new print back on July 2011, and it plays great. The new DCP should play just as well:

THE TINGLER- Tues Aug 14 at 10:20- Film Forum- A special screening of William Castle's best known film. Castle was a director/ producer who's better known for the gimmicks used to promote or to "enhance" the experience of seeing his films, than the actual films themselves. Ok, Rosemary's Baby is the best known film on his resume, Roman Polanski was hired to direct because Roman was a more talented director, but anyway. Simple story, where scientist Vincent Price discovers a creature that exists in all humans, a creature that lives on fear. He discovers one that is quite big and then it escapes . . .
Supposedly the Forum will re-enact the stunts that were done back when The Tingler was originally released. Not sure what that means exactly, but it includes a few seats wired to give some select viewers a small shock, some people fainting "on cue", and some "nurses" ready to help movie goers, so this might be fun. After all, there's a reason why they say The Tingler is being screened in PSYCHEDELO-RAMA. Actually there is no reason why it would be called that. Just come in and have fun:


Let me take the time to note that I wasn't intending to tear down the new film Computer Chess in any way. I found an interesting, quirky dramedy. A bit reminiscent of Big Bang Theory, but moving away from using pop culture references as a crutch. Though I'm being too hard here as well; Big Bang is a comedy first and foremost (and it does its job well), and it has successfully expanded its characters and small universe well over the years. But Computer Chess captures the feelings of isolation, loneliness and inarticulation well, a daunting feat to pull off onscreen, while doing just enough to successfully capture the comparatively low-tech era of 1980. I recommend it, like I recommend the films I've posted above. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July revivals: the rest of the month

Hey all, Mike here with a list of revival screenings for the rest of July. Now before I continue, I did get feedback regarding what I wrote about The Right Stuff. Not about the film itself, but how dismissive I was about how few films from 1983 are remembered these days. One Julio Correa sent me the following feedback, I will interject on occasion:
"Though I appreciate what you wrote, I do disagree on something which I just have to point out.  There is no way that those 4 or 5 films you listed (on The Right Stuff essay) are the only films remembered these days from 1983."
I also wrote aside from a cult film or two and a foreign film that I couldn't remember at the time of the writing. I remember it now- Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander. But yeah, I acknowledged very few films as being remembered. Moving on.
"Case in point - Flashdance.  Huge hit, the third biggest in fact after Jedi and Terms, and that song is still played today... a lot." 
Yes, the title song is played a lot, as is Maniac. But while the soundtrack, the poster picture of Jennifer Beals and a couple of dance scenes are remembered, the film itself seems to have gone by the wayside. We're not going to agree on this. Continuing. 
"Also, Trading Places.  People still talk about that movie all the time, they have very fond memeories of it.  I'd even put Risky Business up there to some extent."
After 30 years, I disagree about Trading Places still being remembered fondly beyond Eddie Murphy and Mr. Skin fans. Or at least as fondly as it was ten or twenty years ago, to be specific. If I had to pick one remembered Eddie Murphy film from that decade, I would pick Coming to America, and if I had to pick two, I would pick Beverly Hills Cop. I will give credit in terms of Risky Business; Julio I feel is right "to some extent". Remembered as Tom Cruise's breakout, remember for the Old Time Rock and Roll scene, and remembered by fans of Mr. Skin. The film itself from beginning to end gets short shift. But this is not where I feel I made the huge WTF omission.
"But the biggest ommission of all in my opinion (though nowhere near as big a hit at the time)... drum roll....  Scarface!  Right now, in today's culture 30 years later, I'd argue that that's THE biggest product of 1983.  Yes, even bigger than Jedi and Terms."
HERE'S where I screwed up! I could quibble about Scarface being THE biggest product of 1983. But the fact that I omitted the Al Pacino film altogether . . . Oh yeah, I royally screwed up with that omission. It belongs in that group of discussed 1983 films today, with Jedi, Terms, A Christmas Story, etc. Absolutely incorrect for me to omit it. Thank you Julio for correcting me, and also for enjoying The Right Stuff with me. Thank you to Jean for enjoying that vastly underrated film as well. Now on with the list, starting with two films from the previous list:

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK- Wed July 24 and Thurs July 25 at 5:45, 8:05 and 10:15 - IFC Center- A DCP restoration of John Carpenter's 1981 film. I posted it last time and won't repeat what I wrote. But remember that this film would have an open-ended run? Well after this Thursday, the run won't be open, as Escape From New York will only play on the weekends after Midnight. Can't do that at the moment, so I'll just post these 2 dates and if I don't catch it then, I'll play wait and see with regards to any potential Midnight screenings in the future:

SABRINA (1954)- Thurs July 25 for 7.50 at 7 and 9:30- Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of one of the better romantic comedies. Either at 7 with a Hedda Lettuce intro (which is tentative for me to make as of this writing) or at 9:30 without Hedda. I also brought this up last time, so I won't repeat what I wrote either:


STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE for free- Fri July 26 at sunset on a first come first served basis- on the deck of the Intrepid- Part of the Intrepid's free movie series. Part of their of films that are the first of a franchise. They've already screened Jaws (sorry I missed it) and National Treasure (not sorry I missed it). But what they plan to screen next surprised the hell out of me when I first read it, Star Trek. No, not the reboot, they already screened that a year or 2 ago. No, I mean the very first Star Trek, The Motion Picture, from 1979. The last time this one was screened was in 2004; at the late Two Boots Pioneer theater, when they screened one Star Trek film each Saturday morning for weeks.

But before I go any further, let me go over a few particulars. People will be allowed to go on deck for free starting at 7:30. Once it's filled to their designated capacity, no more will be let in. This is only for admittance to the flight deck to see the film, not to tour the ship, the museum, the Space Shuttle Enterprise Pavilion, the submarine Growler, or the Concorde. The website of the Intrepid Museum encourages paying for the tour prior to admittance to the film. That takes an estimated 3 hours to complete, but the Concorde has limited times for guided tours, the place officially closes at 5, and I don't know if one can buy your in and then "hang out" until 7:30, beating the crowd. Bring a lawn chair, bring food and drink (the only on-deck option would be the vending machines). No glass bottles and no smoking.

Now as for the film itself, a simple story when you think about. A large and powerful alien object, able to apparently disintegrate starships and space stations, is on a direct course for Earth. Admiral James T. Kirk resumes command of the U.S. S. Enterprise. The refitted and untested Enterprise, with its mix of veteran and new crew members, some of whom may have conflicting agendas, is the only ship standing in the alien's way. There's more to it, but you have the basic gist.
The original script, from series creator Gene Roddenberry, was suppose to be the pilot episode for a revamped Star Trek, featuring all the original cast members except Leonard Nimoy (who was suing Paramount Pictures at the time), adding a couple of new regulars, and the show was to have been the flagship show of a fourth TV network, the Paramount Network. But two things occurred in the late 1970s to change this plan. First, the FCC gave every indication that they would fight and block Paramount every step of the way in its network efforts; imagine how things would be different if the FCC felt the same way about Fox one decade later, but I digress. Second, the success of Star Wars made Paramount look around for their own space franchise: "HEY LOOKA HERE! WE GOT STAR TREK! ISN'T THAT LIKE STAR WARS? LET'S MAKE THAT INTO A FILM!"
So here's where the film began to develop into what I'll refer to it as, a noble failure, except to me, for sentimental reasons. The script got a partial re-write, mainly an expansion to feature length. Then, since this was going to be Studio Prestige movie, er I mean Motion Picture, they needed a name Hollywood director at the helm, one with experience in sci-fi. They got a good one in Robert Wise, and the hope was he would bring in what he brought to The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Andromeda Strain. But sometime after completing Andromeda Strain (at least that's the idea I got), Wise finally saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and was blown away by it. He wanted elements of 2001 in Star Trek, so then we had another re-write. Then I don't know what came next; either Star Trek was locked into a December 1979 release date and thus forced Wise and company to work quicker than most studio projects with heavy post-production were usually shot, or that Paramount finally settled with Nimoy, and that Leonard agreed to be in the film. Whatever order that happened, it meant an additional re-write to include Spock, giving the character a story line that Leonard was comfortable with.
There's more difficulties to this story, but I'll let you look up those interesting stories on your own. Except for one; where there was no previews/testing, the world premiere at the Smithsonian became the de-facto preview, the difficult post-production was pushed to the breaking point, and Wise had only 2 weeks to adjust from the premiere to general release. That became the 2 hour 12 minute theatrical release, and that's the version I believe will screened on the Intrepid. That version, as opposed to the over 2 hour 20 minute version that was available on different home video formats in the 80s and 90s and on syndicated TV. Also as opposed to the 2 hour 16 minute cut that Wise made (his last official project before retirement), which combined elements of both cuts with visual effects as they were designed back in 78/79 but couldn't be pulled off due to time and technological restraints until 2003.
Now the following I write with both sentimentality and with some bias. Considering what they were trying to do, I consider it a noble failure, yet I can't give it a thumbs down either. The biggest problem is script and pacing. The time it takes to explore the Enterprise, the solar system, the time it takes for the ship to encounter the alien threat, and some of the protracted sequences of showing the audience the inside of the alien threat. There are some momentum killers in a lot of what I just described, even if it gives us some excellent Jerry Goldsmith music and some good visual effects and art design. But as a piece of Star Trek, I feel it works. It doesn't take the approach of shoot first, let's blow crap up for the sake of keeping the audience sated. It takes a cerebral approach and even tries to make a connection with the unknown to determine if it's an actual threat or not; an approach rarely tried in most of the sequels and and only given lip service to in the 2009 reboot (that approach doesn't fit in the otherwise pretty good Star Trek: Into Darkness). It's a change of pace that some might find hard to take, and the pacing and script deficiencies don't help. But there are good ideas coursing throughout the film, and when they work they work well, including the twist on the threat.
And as for the cast, the newcomers were inexperienced. Stephen Collins needed more experience, and he would get better as an actor, but there was only so much he can do here. And as for Persis Khambatta, there's a reason why she's only remembered as "the bald chick from Star Trek" or "the hot bald chick from Star Trek", but I don't feel comfortable disparaging the late actress much more, so I'll move on. As for the rest of the cast, Shatner would never be so restrained again in the role of Kirk, but it works here so take that statement however you will. Nimoy as Spock works, though the character is better utilized in the 2003 Director's Cut, and the rest of the original cast put a smile on my face just like they did on the original series like it did then. And as I hinted before, you have Jerry Goldsmith's excellent score, and some great visual effects and art direction that still hold up today. Ok, most of the polyester Starfleet uniforms don't hold up, an element that was updated/corrected in the reboot.
Now back in the day, this was a big money grosser, on the domestic level of say, somewhere between Monsters Inc and Skyfall today. But critics praised the look and the sound of the film and little else. And due to a skyrocketing budget, based on studio pressures and massive post-production difficulties (again, an interesting tale you look up elsewhere), there was barely any profit. Ancillary money helped give it a bigger profit, but that was spread out over years. By then Paramount never made that mistake again, reducing Roddenberry to a powerless "consultant" until his Star Trek: The Next Generation series was approved, and the studio insisted on streamlined budgets and storytelling until the J.J. Abrams films were made. But the film making difficulties, small profit, critical indifference, and audience reaction (Trekkie and non-Trekkie alike)ranging from good to Oh Hell No It's Too Long And Dull, have given The Motion Picture the air of failure I don't feel it deserves. Heavily flawed yes, but complete failure? No. Not as much as some of this year's current tentpole films, like Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and the current Star Trek film. But better made than some other franchise films; yeah I'm looking at you Transformers, Captain America, and every X-Men after the second one (hoping The Wolverine doesn't falter).
3 minor Oscar nominations: for Art Direction, Jerry Goldsmith's score and for the Visual Effects, with John Dykstra and Douglas Trumbull among the many nominees. The Visual Effects category is what crystallizes it for me, where Star Trek was put alongside 3 other interesting failures (Moonraker, The Black Hole and 1941) and one classic (Alien-the winner). An older audience should have he patience for this. I don't trust Trekkies who casually dismiss this. And on the deck of the Intrepid on a summer night, what more do you want?
If it rains, no rain date has been announced. The Intrepid museum has made it a point to set a rain date for Top Gun, from this past Memorial Day weekend, to mid August. Unknown with regards to Star Trek or any of the others in their summer movie series:

NASHVILLE- Sat July 27 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum's See It Big series. Robert Altman's other masterpiece, from 1975, gets a big screen, DCP showing. Country music types were not thrilled with Altman's attack of their world, but they weren't the target. This was Altman's cinematic State of the Union address, where while hope is expressed for some of the Individuals, the Country was rotting and it would only get worse. Bad enough that it kinda predicts the coming of both Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley. So let's sort of frame it as a musical!

We're following 23 characters, who'll all eventually come together for the Parthenon concert in Nashville's Bicentennial Park. Lily Tomlin is a married gospel singer who ends up becoming one of the many conquests of rock star Keith Carradine. Ned Beatty is Tomlin's husband, with his his own wandering eye, who is a local organizer for an unseen Presidential candidate. He's tying in a campaign rally with the concert. Henry Gibson is Country Music Royalty, with an ego, an eye for political office, and a loud, drunk girlfriend who worships the late JFK and RFK a bit much. Ronee Blakley is the most popular female country singer, whose constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown and whose husband is struggling to keep her sane. Scott Glenn is a Vietnam vet, walking around in uniform and gets maybe a little too close to Blakley's character. Karen Black is another popular country singer, though more ruthless off-stage and mediocre on-stage than Blakley's character. Michael Murphy is the two-faced campaign manager. Shelley Duvall is a man-chasing groupie, chased by uncle Keenan Wynn, whose wife is dying. Barbara Harris and Gwen Welles are two aspiring singers trying to get into the concert; the former is not conventionally pretty and has been struggling for a while, the later is lovely, and is forced to move up through her body than through her voice. Geraldine Chaplin as a reporter (or is she?), who seems a lot closer to starfucker than serious journalist. With Elliot Gould, Julie Christie (as themselves), and Jeff Goldblum in an early role.
A film that Altman had difficulty finding financing for years. All the major studios didn't want to touch the heavy political aspects of Nashville, no matter what possible actors and big time soundtrack would come along with it. It wasn't until Jerry Weintraub came along, became producer of the project and got creative with the financing before Nashville could get made (at least according to Weintraub's interesting autobiography). The last Altman film that both drew an audience and had critics (lead by Pauline Kael) praising it to the hilt, until the likes of The Player and especially Gosford Park came along.
Oscar nominations for Picture, Altman for Director, and both Tomlin and Blakley for Supporting Actress. An Oscar for Carradine, who wrote the song, I'm Easy. On the second AFI Top 100 list. The main reason it's not on mine is because it's been a long while since I've seen this on cable, and I've never seen this on the big screen before. Now is a great chance to change that:

THE SERVANT- Sat July 27 (tentative for me) at 5:20 and 9:50 and Mon July 29 and Thurs August 1 at 7:30 and 9:40- A 50th anniversary screening of the British film classic. I admit I'm not familiar with either this 1963 film or its lead, Dirk Bogarde, aside from scattered performances ranging from A Tale of 2 Cities, to The Night Porter to The Patricia Neal Story as Roald Dahl. But I am familiar with director Joseph Losey (The Big Night, A Doll's House, The Boy with Green Hair), and I'm very familiar with screenwriter Harold Pinter (who adapted this from the Robin Maugham novella). So I have faith that this story, of a too-good-to-be-true butler (Bogarde) comes into the life of a lazy upper class gentleman (James Fox), will be a well-told one. With Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig as the women caught up (or heavily involved) in this story of class and psychological warfare. Whether or not the jazz score by John Dankworth (with vocals by his wife Cleo Laine) still holds up might be debatable. That the black and white cinematography from Douglas Slocombe (Ealing comedies like The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit, the first three Indiana Jones films, plus a slew of other quality credits) is amazing, isn't debatable. The revival trailer that's on the Forum link to The Servant gives ample proof of that.
A very big deal in Britain, with it's multiple BAFTA awards and nominations, and a very high spot in the BFI Top 100 British films. But maybe it's very Englishness has kept ignored here, aside from Anglophiles, fans of TCM, and the New York Film Critics who gave an award for Best Screenplay to Pinter back in 1964. Here's a chance to change that:
AIRPLANE for 10 dollars- Sat July 27 at 10pm- Chelsea Cinema- A special screening of the 1980 comedy classic introduced by Hedda Lettuce. A little higher priced than the Thursday night screenings, but cheaper than the typical Saturday night movie outing these days. I don't know if Hedda is doing just an introduction/ pre-film stand-up, or will also do MST3K-style commentary as well. Personally, I don't think the film needs commentary beyond what you would get on the DVD, but for this film, I think it will be ok.
Not much story to go on about here. Partially a spoof of the Airport movies with rifts on pop culture stuff (the disco/Saturday Night Fever gags have aged well), but Airplane is mainly a spoof of the John Wayne film Zero Hour. That film hasn't been screened very often since Airplane first came on TV in 1984. If you ever see the Wayne film, you'll know a major reason why; the two films are very similar, but Zero Hour is far longer and takes it seriously, deserving the balloon-bursting Airplane committed  In short, why see it twice, Airplane tells the same story quicker and funnier.
Airplane was not a high priority for Paramount. The film's writers/directors David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, or ZAZ, only had years of doing comedy at their Kentucky Fried Theater in L.A., and one film with a very minor cult following, Kentucky Fried Movie, under their belts when tackling this. The only way the film was greenlit by Paramount was thru the directors' pitch of Animal House on a plane, obviously false. That a sitcom actor (Robert Hays) and a former model (Julie Hagerty) were making their film debuts as Airplane's leads, and that the biggest name in the cast, Jimmie JJ Walker, has a wordless cameo, well that just lowered Airplane's profile on the Paramount lot even further. The early reviews were mixed, some were even horrible, thanks for nothing Kathleen Carroll and Rex Reed. But it became the biggest of the various sleeper hits from 1980. It took almost 10 months of release to accomplish it, from summer 1980 thru early 1981, but it succeeded. The early days of home video and cable eventually made this a comedy classic, with too many quotable lines and scenes to bring up here. I've taken flack for putting this in my top ten of 1980, while leaving out Ordinary People and some other films all together. It's fluffiness of content is compensated by superior execution:

THERE WILL BE BLOOD and/or THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER introduced by critic Peter Rainer- Museum of the Moving Image- Sun July 28 at 1 (Blood), and 4:30 (Hunter)- A potential double feature if you, one admission pays for both films, being screened as part of the museum's See it Big series. But if you prefer seeing one and not the other, that's up to you.
First, There Will Be Blood. A DCP screening of the best film of 2007, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, when I wrote about this metaphorical struggle between religion and commerce, I could have very easily made The Lives of Others, a very good German film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. number one. I still feel that way, but nothing has happened over the past 5 years to convince me to switch.
Some of you complain that the story doesn't hold. Well ok, Michael Clayton is better in telling stories with words. The Roger Deakins Cinematography from both No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James is somewhat superior. But for combination of script, sight and sound, Paul Thomas Anderson had them all beat in 2007 with this picture, Oscar results be damned. I forgive him for annoying me with Magnolia. Ok, I'll give that film a fairer shake when I'm more relaxed, but anyway . . . Starting with a beginning that's 2001-esque with no dialogue and only a little music and doesn't stop. And no, I find the ending satisfactory, especially now that were years past the I Drink Your Milkshake memes. I'm fine with the depiction of Big Oil being bigger and more important in America than family and religion (false prophet or otherwise), though not good for the individuals per se. A more engrossing American film than any other in quite a while. L.A. Confidential might be the last one? And oh yeah, that Daniel Day-Lewis guy? Looks like he has a future.

As for the rest of the description, I'll let an article, linked below this paragraph, explain it in a way better than I can. Though to give a Cliff Notes version, to compare Blood to the likes of Citizen Kane, 2001 and Chinatown, doesn't do it justice. Think more of a John Ford Western. Or better yet, a bloodthirsty Giant. As in the James Dean film, and as in both metaphorical and actual blood thirstiness:
Next, is the original Night of the Hunter, one of the better film noirs. Robert Mitchum's best performance as a corrupt preacher willing to kill, as he marries widow Shelley Winters to force her kids to tell him where their late father hid money from a robbery. Any comparisons to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks, where evil creeps into little America is understandable. It's easy to think of film villains like Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter and Gollum, or get caught up in a newer one, like Capitán Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth. It's sometimes easy to forget the older villains. I find Mitchum's preacher more insidious than his later turn in the original Cape Fear.

When I saw Do The Right Thing when it first played in theaters, I admired the Radio Raheem monologue about Love and Hate on his hands. Didn't realize it was stolen from Mitchum's character here. The moral: keep watching good films. And also, if we keep giving Spike Lee less credit, the world will be a happier place to live in. Somewhat kidding about that last part.

Initial reaction from 1955 audiences made this film a huge bust. It prompted first-time director/ acting legend Charles Laughton never to direct again. A cult classic today and maybe even more than that. Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1992. if you haven't seen it, let's do it.

Peter Rainer, former film critic of New York magazine and the L.A. Times, current film critic of the Christian Science Monitor, and president of the National Society of Film Critics, will introduce Night of the Hunter. After the screenings, he'll sign copies of his new book,  Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Writing About Film in a Turbulent and Transformative Era:

ROCKY for free- Wed July 31 at 8:30/sundown- The Green Space at Atlas Park Mall- 8000 Cooper Ave. in Glendale-  The original Rocky gets a free screening. If you look at sites like this, you probably know the film and I need not go much further. But the location, that I'll need to go over with you.
The Atlas Part Mall, a struggling site in Glendale, near both Middle Village and Forest Hills, is on its latest set of owners. They're trying different summertime promotions to get people out there, from concerts by cover bands, to fireworks (they gave a better show than the Mets gave at Citifield this month), to free outdoor exercise classes. They're also doing free outdoor movies every Wednesday until late August.
I briefly checked out how they did it on July 17th, when they screened the Hillary Duff non-classic, A Cinderella Story. A Film that I had confuse with the Lindsay Lohan/ Chris Pine non-classic Just My Luck. Jeez, between this and forgetting all about Scarface, I'm not exactly having the best of Julys, but anyway . . . . The screening was a DVD projection, with what looks like some sort of PowerPoint presentation, attached to a number of speakers. The screen quality wasn't the best in the world, but the sound was just fine for such a relatively small space when compared with Bryant Park. Bring the lawn chairs with. You could open up a beach blanket, but your view is better in a lawn chair. Best to sit in the middle no matter how far you have to go back. Otherwise your sight line will be obscured by light posts, whose will be only partially covered up. The films are scheduled to start at 8:30, but with the quality of the projector and screen, they have to wait until sundown. So we're talking a 8:40-8:45 start.
So if you plan to see Rocky at Atlas Mall, best to get there by 7:30-7:45, bring your lawn chair and some kind of picnic basket. Alcohol is discouraged, but there are a couple of places you can walk into on site if that's what you're looking for. You can also get take-out from the nearby Starbucks, Subway, Johnny Rocket's, Cold Stone and Chili's on-site as well. Plan to stay until about 10:45, since Rocky is about two hours long. Hey what do you want, it's free. And how often do you see the first Rocky film with an audience?  

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July revivals: another block of them

Hey, Mike here with a few more films for the month of July. Not a complete list for the rest of the month. That will come later, but I've procrastinated enough. Oh, there won't be any more links to Chelsea Clearview Cinemas for a while. Nothing drastic. But Bow Tie Cinemas now own most of theaters that Cablevision used to run (Cablevision still owns the Ziegfeld but Bow Tie will manage it). There is a Bow Tie / Chelsea link I'll use; it's more slapped together and not detailed like the previous link, but it'll do. The Chelsea Classics screenings themselves will remain unaffected at least thru August. I have two of those screenings on this list, will have another on the next list, and may have one more in late August. I'll keep an eye out, now on with the mini list:

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for 7.50- Thurs July 18 at 7 and 9:30- Chelsea Cinemas- W. 23rd and 8th- A cheap screening of the Sidney Lumet classic. Either 7pm with Hedda Lettuce (celebrating a birthday supposedly), or 9:30 without Hedda. A lighter, complete change of pace from the darker Lumet films shown in the retrospective. The best of all Agatha Christie adaptations as far as I'm concerned. Albert Finney's Hercule Poirot is called upon by Martin Balsam to solve the murder of Richard Widmark. Here's his list of suspects: Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Jacqueline Bisset and Jean-Pierre Cassel (better known to art houses types recently for both The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and Army of Shadows). Fun film; all the other feature length Poirot adaptations pale in comparison. Even Death on the Nile, and even the feature length TV adaptations with David Suchet. 6 Oscar nominations, including Finney for Best Actor, Screenplay Adaptation, and Geoffrey Unsworth's Cinematography. No Best Picture nomination I'm afraid. Paramount already had slots filled by Chinatown, The Conversation, and oh yeah, The Godfather Part 2. There wouldn't be a fourth film for the studio. 

An Oscar did go to Bergman for Supporting Actress, mainly for one breakdown scene. Here's a quote from Lumet from the Forum website about this: “She [Ingrid Bergman] was so film-knowledgeable. She’d worked with such masters. So when she saw that I didn't do a reverse shot of Albert Finney in their big scene together and there would be no cutaways, she gave me a kiss on the mouth. I almost left my wife! [laughs] I remember being pissed off that we got so many nominations and I didn't get nominated.”:


ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK- Starting Friday July 19 at 5:25, 7:35 and 9:40 for an open ended run- IFC Center- A DCP restoration of John Carpenter's 1981 film. Set in the not too distant future of 1997 (!), where crime is up 400% nationwide, the world on the whole appears to be on the brink of nuclear war, and Manhattan Island has been converted into a maximum security prison. They keep referring to Manhattan as New York like the other fourth boroughs don't exist, but that's a common issue with many NYC citizens never mind screenwriters Carpenter and Nick Castle, but anyway . . . In the film, Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists on the way to an important conference between the Russians and the Chinese, and crashed into a skyscraper in Manhattan. But before the crash, the President escapes in a pod, only to be captured and held for ransom by the biggest of the dangerous criminals, played by Issac Hayes. So the President is trapped in a Manhattan that better resembled the South Bronx as depicted in news reports from the day. United States Police Force head Lee Van Cleef figures on a one-man operation to get the President out, in the form of former solider/ convicted bank robber/ all-around bad-ass Snake Plissken (played to perfection by Kurt Russell). A hard ass that everyone believes to be dead, and boy does Snake get tired about hearing about that. But before he can go in, Snake is injected with a mini-explosive, set to go off if he doesn't get the President out (alive) within a certain time frame. Talk about your time crunches.
The film did ok for a somewhat low budget action film, in the summer of 1981. Better than say, Friday the 13th Part 2 or Body Heat (though each, in their way, made bigger pop culture impacts), but not as well as Russell's other film released on the same day, Disney's The Fox and The Hound (anyone remember it and remember it fondly, like me?). Not surprisingly, it was more popular in the tri-state area than elsewhere in the country; what, did the rest of the country believe that New York (again, Manhattan not NEW YORK CITY ON THE WHOLE, but what's the difference) was going to devolve? Reviews from its initial release were brutal, except for the Times and Siskel and Ebert; Vincent Camby and Gene had fun, Roger basically called it mediocre. Home video and cable screenings elevated this to cult status, and the 1996 sequel Escape From L.A. practically killed the cult status. But there's a few diehards among us from back in the day who hold fond memories of this dark, cynical yet fun action pic, and a DCP restoration might be just the ticket.
Nice cast here. With Russell's Snake Pliskon, you gotta think this influenced Bryan Singer and/or the screenwriters of X-Men and/or Hugh Jackman when it came to their interpretation of Wolverine. In the supporting cast alongside Van Cleef and Hayes, we have Harry Dean Stanton as a former associate of Snake's, Adrienne Barbeau as Stanton's gun moll, Ernest Borgnine as a typical New York cabbie looking for fares, plus members of Carpenter's unofficial stock cast: Halloween's Charles Cyphers, The Fog's Tom Atkins, and Donald Pleasance as the President. Yes, we have to let a lot of things slide to enjoy this film, and having a very British fellow playing an American President is one of them. Just sit back and enjoy Pleasance's worminess.

For the record I haven't put specific dates as to when I can do Escape from New York. The film itself doesn't have an end of engagement date at IFC Center at this time, and the times I posted are subject to change after July 25th. But these are the times I can do in theory if you're interested, so let me know regarding specific dates:

THE RIGHT STUFF- Sat July 20 at 2- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- 36-01 35th Ave- Part of the Museum's See It Big series and for films from 1983, it doesn't get much bigger than The Right Stuff. Not a new 35mm print, but the Museum doesn't deliver bad prints, so I think we're in good hands.
Adapted from Tom Wolfe's novel. On the surface, it seems like writer-director Phillip Kaufman is giving the audience a history lesson. A lesson on what it took to put together the Mercury program where NASA sent astronauts into space. And in way, that is what we get. But what The Right Stuff delivers to us, is more of a character study of pilots. Of the kind of men it took to risk their lives by going into space. Of the forgotten American legend Chuck Yeager who broke the sound barrier prior to the space launches and who continued to test his planes' and his own mettle long after the media ignored him. We see the kind of toll it took on the women married to these type of men. We also get a satire, hidden between the lines, of the American macho attitude; pin-pricking it whenever possible, like with the enema and sperm sample scenes. The media's almost insatiable need for instant mythology aided by our government, also takes it's fair share of needling. But from the start, the film never downplays the skill, risk, and courage it took to perform these dangerous jobs; from the early post-WW2 days of test-piloting (a job that was often fatal), to John Glenn's dangerous re-entry.  All with a rousing Bill Conti score and well-done visual effects.
The Ladd Company and Warner Brothers tried to give this film the award treatment back in October 1983, slowly rolling out into theaters while relying on critical acclaim. They got the acclaim, but the film was sold as a piece of history than as rousing entertainment, not good. It also played under the misconception that this was an unofficial campaign ad for then-Senator Glenn's campaign for President, which if you see the film it is most certainly NOT a long campaign ad. It depicts Glenn as flawed but human and brave. Perhaps a little too tightly wrapped and not the brightest of the astronauts (check out the "firefly scene" and look up the explanation of read Wolfe's book to see what I mean), yet human and brave. If anything, the only people who should be dismayed by on-screen depictions, should be the friends and family of Lyndon Johnson. Senator/ Vice-President Johnson comes off as a complete buffoon, the film's only notable flaw. There are other scenes that don't jive with history but overall, yes Apollo 13 is more accurate, but not as good.
But conception trumped reality and the damage to the film was done. Then critical acclaim, media attention, and eventually award consideration, shifted to Terms of Endearment, and The Right Stuff eventually became an expensive flop. It's own Oscar nominations and minor wins didn't help; cable and home video sales only helped so much. When you think about, the only films truly thought of these days from 1983 are Terms, A Christmas Story, Return of the Jedi, maybe The Big Chill, maybe Fanny and Alexander for Bergman fans, possibly a few cult pics or overseas films I can't think of at the moment, but not The Right Stuff.
It did succeed in conveying the bravery of the men, and renewed interest in Yeager himself, who cashed in on endorsement deals and enjoy about as high a profile as the Mercury astronauts themselves received as depicted in the film. He also appears in the film in an extended cameo by the way. The people in the cast enjoyed increased exposure, though if the film had profitable, maybe the career lifts would have been bigger for most of them. Ed Harris (as Glenn), Scott Glenn (as Alan Shepherd), Fred Ward (as Gus Grissom), Dennis Quaid and Lance Henriksen are among the pilots selected as Mercury astronauts. Pamela Reed, Veronica Cartwright, Mary Jo Deschanel (wife of the film's cinematographer and better known as the mother of actresses Zooey and Emily) and Kathy Baker are among the wives struggling, in their ways, being married to these men. Kim Stanley in a scene stealing role as the proprietor of a test pilots' bar. Jeff Goldblum, Harry Shearer, Donald Moffat, David Clennon, John P. Ryan and Levon Helm in key character roles.

Like I said, 4 Oscars: for Editing, for Conti's Score, and both Sound categories. Nominated for Picture, Cinematography and Art Direction, but NOT for Director or Screenplay Adaptation for Philip Kaufman. And oh yeah, one other nomination: Sam Shepherd for Supporting Actor, as Chuck Yeager. As a modern-day cowboy, pushing the envelope long after the media stare went away, and becoming the epitome of The Right Stuff, Shepherd made an impact with the relatively few who saw it. A playwright know for his works' productions Off-Broadway and/or with Steppenwolf, maybe known by film buffs from Days of Heaven. Sheppard underplays Yeager, humble, proud, strong. In a line of work that isn't easy for his wife (beautifully played by Barbara Hershey) despite outward appearances. The film's original screenwriter, William Goldman, wanted the Yeager scenes excised in the early drafts, so that more attention could go to the Mercury astronauts. But Kaufman said no, feeling this was the audiences' entry way to what is The Right Stuff. This eventually made Goldman leave the project, but ultimately it was the correct choice. A choice that brought Yeager back to prominence, and alongside his performance, made Shepherd a working character actor ever since.

Ok, I've written enough, just see it please. Note that the film is 3 hours, 19 minutes, and there will be an intermission. I don't know why, there wasn't an intermission on it's original release. The point is, it starts at 2, and we may not get out much before 5:45. But that does leave us with about an hour to explore the Museum afterwards, which would be worthwhile:    

SABRINA (1954)- Thurs July 25 for 7.50 at 7 and 9:30- Clearview Cinema- A cheap screening of one of the better romantic comedies. Either at 7 with a Hedda Lettuce intro (which is tentative for me to make as of this writing) or at 9:30 without Hedda.
Young servant's girl falls for the youngest of 2 rich brothers. Gets a little older and goes off to Paris. Comes back full of life and self confidence. The younger brother is now attracted to her, but things get complicated when the older brother gets involved. There, that's the Cliff Notes version. Audrey Hepburn plays the girl, William Holden is the younger brother, Humphrey Bogart is the older brother. MUCH older brother; you're gonna have to let some stuff slide to enjoy.

It's a miracle this got made at all. Director/Co-Writer Billy Wilder had to settle for Bogie when Cary Grant wasn't available. Bogie didn't get along with Wilder, especially when Billy refused to cast Lauren Bacall in the title role. Bogie didn't respect Audrey, and he and Holden hated each other with a passion. Speaking of passion, Holden and Hepburn started a heated affair on this film. It supposedly ended shortly after the film ended, but I thought it picked up later on; I could be wrong on this. Anyway, Oscars nominations for Wilder for both Director and Screenplay (along with Ernest Lehman and Samuel A. Taylor), Hepburn for Actress, Art Direction and Cinematography. An Oscar for Edith Head's Costume design, though most of Hepburn's costumes were designed by someone else who DIDN'T win.

I had planned to include Airplane on Saturday, July 20th at 10pm. The film has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 27th at 10pm. It will be on the next list. Later all.