Wednesday, December 04, 2013

December Revivals, First Third

Hey all. Mike here with some December revivals. For this month, I'll split the month into three list. This one will run into mid-December, the third list will go from Dec 26 thru New Year's Day, maybe slightly longer. The second list, whatever I can slap together though the quality is looking good. Now here's the first list, starting with a conflict on December 5th, where majority will rule on which flick I can catch:

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE for $7.50- Thurs Dec 5 at 7 and 9:30- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema- A cheap screening of my favorite Frank Capra film. Not his best mind you; I'm not putting this over the likes of say, Mr. Smith or It's A Wonderful Life, but it's a comedy I can see over and over, and some years back, I kinda did. Your choice of either the 7pm screening with an intro from Hedda Lettuce (which admittedly I'll be fighting like hell to make on time), or the 9:30 screening without Hedda.
As for the film, this is one of my favorite comedies. Despite the play having been done to death in community theater, this Frank Capra comedy is still gold to me. I really hope the speakers at the park are cranked extra high. Cary Grant plays a man who comes home to find his beloved aunts are serial killers, who get thoughtfully kill lonely old men, and then bury them in the basement with the aid of the uncle who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. It's a good thing his serial killer brother returns home on the same night; looking like Boris Karloff and accompanied by his "doctor" who looks like Peter Lorre and is played by Lorre.

Grant thought it was his weakest, most over the top performance. History has been quite kind, disagreeing with Cary. Pitch perfect cast and production:
RIFFTTRAX PRESENTS SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS- Thurs Dec 5 at 8- Regal Union Square, College Point Multiplex in Whitestone and UA Regal Westbury- Another Riftraxx screening. The gang, formerly a part of MST3K, will be digging into the archives for a film that formed one of their best episodes, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians. A gloriously awful children's sci-fi-ish that's unfit for kids of all ages. At least as a holiday entertainment to be taken seriously. But as a bad movie, this is beautiful to behold.
From 1964, with a budget that looks like there was enough for a cheap Santa suit, plenty of Dutch Boy green house paint, and little else. Shot on location in and in an abandoned airplane hanger around Garden City and Roosevelt Field. Hey for 200 grand, where else would they shoot a Santa/ Sci-Fi flick? Anyway, for some reason, kids on Mars watch TV, and they especially like Earth TV shows. Ok, maybe it's reality TV for them, but there's nothing to think these are Martians on the level of those depicted in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. But those Martian kids really love Santa, and are saddened by the fact that they'll never get presents from the jolly guy, being so far away and all. So Martian leaders go down to Earth, kidnap two above average Earth kids, and force them to take them to the North Pole and bring Santa back to Mars. Sorry to say there are no scenes of polar bear-on-Martian attacks, or any hypothermia sequences, I suppose we and the cast and crew are lucky they didn't make the snow out of asbestos or something. 
Featuring 8 or 9 year old Pia Zadora as a little Martian, and really no one else in the cast worth remembering or went on to do anything. Except for Pia and what she did with a garden hose in The Lonely Lady, the guy who would play Ralph the doorman on The Jeffersons, and one actor who would later play Uncle Wally on Sesame Street. He plays a klutzy assistant to the Martian leaders, and his "antics" could drive alcoholics to drink. Or would if there was ever a reason to take this film seriously. Most of the cast came from working or then recently closed Broadway shows, so most of their work is unknown to me, and this film doesn't help. 
As I wrote, this helped form a really popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1991. What little popularity this has mostly came from that episode. You could initially dismiss it as crime against humanity and Santa, but after 1991, it was safe to mock in all sorts of ways. Now a number of those jokes might be old and/or a little dated now, so the Riftraxx crew will have some material to go alongside some of the better jokes from the episode. It will be performed live, and beamed into the screens listed above, and elsewhere around the country, with technology that sounds far less full-of-shit than in the movie. We get the compete film, occasionally camera-cutting to the Riftraxx crew, plus an unnamed short. Please let be Mr. B Natural, please let it be Mr. B Natural! I'm not sure if we'll also get a performance of A Patrick Swayze Christmas (I can only hope), but there will be joke trivia and faux trivia on the screen, one-half hour before the screening. So consider this more as a 7:30 something start than an 8pm start: 
THEY LIVE- Wed Dec 11 and Thurs Dec 12 at 7:50- IFC Center- A DCP projection in time for the 25th anniversary of John Carpenter's film. John Carpenter's still underrated Reagan era/ yuppie era satire, shot through the filter of a sci-fi action film, and don't forget the great fist fight, possibly the longest most exaggerated in film history. Based on a short story, Roddy Piper is new to L.A.. But this city seems like a split, between people with money, and people suffering through epic unemployment and under-employment: gee, DOES THIS SEEM FAMILIAR?!?!?! But Roddy comes upon a pair of sunglasses, where he can tell between truth and illusion. Between humans and aliens in positions of control. Where simple signs contain subliminal messages to control the human population. And once he sees what's what, Roddy's gonna kick ass and chew bubble gum, and he's all out of bubble gum.

Decent reviews but no box office when it was released in November 1988. Home video and cable showings brought it up to the precipice of a cult following, then the 90s happened and bye-bye cult following. But after 2005, as the economy slipped again, They Live became marginally more relevant. By the time the Occupy movement formed, They Live returned to the cusp of cult film status. I don't believe it's there, and I'm not sure if it ever will. But the satire is as relevant as ever. And if that's not enough, you got aliens, you got guns a-blazing, you got humor, you got teleportation. And you got the most exaggerated fight in film history, between Piper and Keith David. Plays for a week (the film, not the fight), but I've only singled out the nights and times I could do:
THE WOMEN (1939)- Fri Dec 13 at 6:30 and Sat Dec 14 at 4:30- at Lincoln Center- One of the first films I'll post from Lincoln Center's "Discreet Charm of George Cukor" retrospective. All of the director's films will be screened, including the TV movies he directed Katherine Hepburn in. Obviously I won't have time to post or catch them all, but I'm providing a link below for all the films. Each film will cost ten dollars admission, seven for seniors students and Lincoln Center Film Members, but there is a discount for multiple films in the series. I'm not sure how that will work, because the website link below mentions a three film package (which is usually 3 films for 20 dollars per person), but when I clicked the link to said package, it brought me to a 5 film for 25 dollars per person package. Whatever works for you, it can be bought online by going on the aforementioned link, or in person at the Walter Reade box office. That later option sounds less confusing and frankly more convenient.

Anyway, onto the film that garnered Cukor the reputation of being a woman's director, The Women. From 1939, refined, borderline saint Norma Shearer is the last to know her husband is cheating on her with perfume clerk Joan Crawford. Shearer's gossipy, bitchy "best friend", Rosalind Russell, is going to make sure she finds out. Snappy patter abound. Shearer may always be a better silent film actress than in talkies, but she does well her. But if Crawford doesn't dominate the screen as the main bitch, then Russell does, both of them in breakthrough roles. With a cast that includes Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, and several cast members of the original Broadway hit. Anitia Loos and Jane Murfin successfully adapted Clare Boothe Luce's play, thanks to uncredited re-writes by Donald Ogden Stewart and F. Scott Fitzgerald (F. Scott deserves particular applause here). And all tied together by director Cukor, who puts just enough sugar to let the medicine, or in this case acid, go down smooth. Ignore the crap Meg Ryan- Annette Benning remake and stick with this:
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE- Fri Dec 13- Wed Dec 18 at 5:30, 7:45 and 10- Film Forum-  A DCP restoration of the James Dean classic. A 4k restoration, scanned at 8k with a restored soundtrack from the original release prints.
Not the only good film on director Nicholas Ray's resume, but the one undisputed classic for sure. Parts of the film do feel dated, but the sense of genuine angst, loneliness and frustration never goes out of style. Yes, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo are there as well, plus memorable scenes at the Observatory, with the racing hot rods, and with the brief moment of pseudo-happiness before life intrudes on the makeshift family that Dean, Wood and Mineo form. But if there's any interest in seeing this film at all, it's Dean performance. As fresh and vital as any modern performance today. And while the Film Forum's screen isn't the Ziegfeld, the DCP restoration should enhance the Cinemascope look and especially the sound; the part of the film in most dire need of restoration: 
ADAM'S RIB introduced by Peter Bogdanovich and Carlo Chatrian- Sat Dec 14 at 7:15- the Walter Reade theater at Lincoln Center- From Lincoln Center's George Cukor retrospective. One of the better screwball comedies. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy teamed up for a number of films. But Adam's Rib is my favorite of all their team-up (Wow, I sound like A Marvel Team-up fan, sorry about that). Hepburn plays a defense attorney, who turns her loser of a case (a wife shoots her husband when he catches him cheating) into a rallying cause for women's rights and anything else she can think of, to beat her client's attempted murder charge. Much to the chagrin of her husband Tracy, the prosecuting attorney. But the high stakes gamesmanship carries over to the home front. The marriage takes a beating, but will it hold up? Gee, what do you think?

As I wrote before, my favorite of all the Hepburn-Tracy team ups. Some hilarious set pieces, some involving David Wayne as the comic relief neighbor with a longing for Hepburn. Judy Holliday steals scenes as the wife on trial. An Oscar nomination for screenwriters Ruth Gordon and Garrison Kanin. The screening will be introduced by director Peter Bogdanovich and Locarno Film Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrian:


Let me know if there's interest. Later all.

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