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.

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