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.

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