Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December revivals: pre-Christmas edition

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list of December films that will play before Christmas Eve. Sorry that I didn't get this up sooner. Life gets in the way, especially with the holidays. I intended a somewhat longer list, but frankly I can barely do what I'm posting now. And even this might have a slight question mark, depending on what else pops up. But for now, here's what I have through December 23rd. My next list will go from about December 26th through a few days past New Year's Day. But let me not digress, here's the current list:

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE with an introduction by Mary Owen at select screenings-  Wed Dec 18- Mon Dec 23 at 4:15, 7 and 9:45 at IFC Center- plus Wed Dec 18 at 7 at AMC Empire- A DCP projection at IFC Center, a digital screening at AMC Empire. Once again, IFC Center shows the Frank Capra-Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed classic for about two weeks. It's only shown once or twice a year on NBC and I believe it will be screened only once on TCM, and not much more after that, if at all. So if you're in the mood, here it is. I'm sorry that you don't get a little bell with the title of the film on it, like you do with the recent DVD release, but how bad do need to give out angel wings?

As for the film itself, you probably know it, and your familiarity is probably why you're hesitant to go out and see it on the big screen. Don't worry, unless you're one of those who've made it a tradition to come out and see it in a venue like IFC Center every year or every other year, relatively few people know what it's like to experience this on the big screen, without commercial interruption. So maybe this is the year you'll do it? This holiday season, it will screen at three different Manhattan locations. But I don't imagine making the Saturday December 21st screening at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas. However, there will be screenings at AMC Empire as well, and the Wednesday December 15th screening at 7 is a possibility for me. I believe the IFC Center's screenings are DCPs, unsure what kind of projection will be done at AMC Empire. 

Once again, Mary Owens, Reed's daughter will make introductions to selected screenings, but only at IFC Center. Friday December 20 at 7, would probably be the only screening I could make:

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE-  Wed Dec 18 and Thurs Dec 19 at 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:   

STORIES WE TELL- Fri Dec 20 at 4:40- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Technically a revival, since the film is no longer in theatrical release. Part of Lincoln Center's series of  documentaries that are on the short list for an Oscar nomination next year. While director Sarah Polley's previous directorial efforts did not make any top 10 lists for me in the years they came out (they were on many other critics' lists), I came away admiring her talent and her low-key approach to telling a story. Away From Her was good, but I felt Take This Waltz was even better. Michelle Williams played a married woman who falls for another man, and wonders whether it's worth ending her marriage to engage in a new relationship. The deliberate thought process, the temptation to go, the temptation to stay, the risk of losing her circle of friends, the chance that she might gain a better, more fulfilled version of herself regardless of whether the new man stays around or not. All thoughtfully presented, making for a film that I wished I had room on my Best of 2012 list.

Director Polley's latest film Stories We Tell, released in the U.S. this past May, is a documentary. Polley was raised by her parents, Michael and Diane. But Sarah may have been the result of an extramarital affair Diane had with someone else. Her mother died the week of Sarah's 11th birthday, so obviously she's not around to tell what happened. So Sarah goes about finding out from her father, the man who might be her biological father, other relatives and friends. Using interviews, home movies, photos, and recreations of home movies, the truth is searched for. Or at least a consistent truth, which hold families together just as much as secrets do.

Not a big hit, but for a documentary, it did ok. The only other documentary on the Oscar short list to find a bigger audience is 20 Feet From Stardom, maybe the Pussy Riot documentary as well. The only documentary in this retrospective that I'll have time to possibly make: 

THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) for a 7 dollar bar minimum- introduced by George Rush and Joanna Molloy- Fri Dec 20 at 9:30- Rubin Museum- For a seven dollar bar minimum, you get a major change of pace from the usual holiday and/or heavy downbeat Oscar fare. The original Little Shop of Horrors, the Roger Corman quickie from 1960 gets a rare screening. Well that's not entirely accurate, it is occasionally screened at Midnight, so a 9:30 screening is very rare. You probably know the story, based on the far more successful stage musical and the moderately successful 1986 screen version of the musical. So you know the story of a nebbish young man whose forced to kill to feed the carnivorous plant he cares for. Let's not pretend we're seeing any great work of art here. Shot in 2 days and 1 night with re-shoots during the editing process, it's silly, a bit edgy for its time, fun, and ends in 72 minutes. With character actor extraordinaire Dick Miller as the flower eating Mr. Fouch, and Jack Nicholson in one of his earliest roles as the masochistic dental patient in love with pain.  

Tickets are available next to the bar, once you buy your drink which doesn't need to have alcohol in it to qualify, on the first floor of the Rubin. The museum will also be free to browse thru after 5:30, and I highly recommend it. Prior to the screening, Daily News columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy will hold a signing at 8pm for their new book "Scandal: A Manual". Where in the museum I'm not sure, but I'm sure there will be signs that night. At 9:30, Rush and Molloy will introduce the film: 

ALIEN- Fri Dec 20 and Sat Dec 21 at Midnight- IFC Center- Yep, I'm posting Alien again, in part because there are still people who haven't experienced it on the big screen, and in part because I need no excuse to catch this on the big screen. This time it's back at IFC Center, where it has enjoyed a respectable number of Midnight movie mavens (off and on) for years. Yes, it might seem weird that this film is being screened so close to Christmas. But back in 1979, it was such a successful summer film that it still played during the holiday season and months after that, for that end of year buzz and later, to try to cash in on those minor Oscar nominations, and its win for Visual Effects.

A DCP screening (I'm guessing it's the recent restoration) of the original 1979 release, as opposed to the "director's cut" from about 10 years ago will be screened. It means we don't get more establishment shots of the soon-to-be claustrophobic ship interiors, more signs of dislike and/or disrespect of Ripley, and the final fates of a few characters. All worked when restored to the film, but not essential to its enjoyment. Especially the extra interiors. I've seen this with several of you before, but that doesn't stop me from posting this again. This film works, better than anything Ridley Scott as ever done. Excellent combo of look, pace and sound all of which as played well before at the Forum with its quality sound system and should do so again. In my personal top 100. C'mon, it's fun:  

That's all I have for now. Oh, and the picture of It's A Wonderful Life posted above? That's an original poster, sold for several thousand dollars in last month's TCM auction at Bonham's in New York. As you can see from the poster, there was never a thought of this as a Holiday film.  Later all, and have a Happy Fesitvus.

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