Monday, December 23, 2013

Revivals: Christmas and New Year's edition

Hey all, Mike here with a list of revivals to catch during the Christmas week and New Year's weekend. A lot of these films conflict with each other, and I don't care. It' s about quality people, and I'm sure everything will sought themselves out. Here we go:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Thurs Dec 26 at 9:40, Fri Dec 27 at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30, Sat Dec 28 at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30, Mon Dec 30 at 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30, Thurs Jan 2 Fri Jan 3 and Tues Jan 6 at 9:30- IFC Center- For the film's 45th anniversary, A DCP screening for two weeks at IFC Center. I'm only posting the dates and times I think I could make. My favorite Kubrick film, in my personal Top 3 films. Yes I know I posted it before. I've posted it now, and I'll probably post it again, so there. Maybe I'm determined to catch this in as many different venues as possible. If I catch it here, then the only other venues in NYC left for me to catch it in, would probably be the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria (should be awesome!), MOMA (eh), and Landmark Sunshine Cinema. That last one, in East Houston, I don't know. It would probably be a Midnight screening, and I'm not doing that again unless it's at least 60 degrees and I get a ride home. Sorry, I'm digressing again . . .

For me, this is a film that I can see over and over and not feel tired about. And I go with someone who has never seen it on the big screen, or some cases never seen it prior, their reactions are interesting. There will be moments which will always inspire awe, usually before we cut away to the astronauts on Discovery. Moments of laughter (rare, but they exist), and always fascination with HAL. But whether they can embrace the film as a whole, whether they love it or not, or whether they come away admiring the film but finding impossible to embrace it; the reactions are never quite the same. But they will come having never seen something quite like this.

There will be an Overture, Intermission music, and at least 7-8 minutes of exit music. Not sure if there will be an intermission, but there might be. When I saw the 70mm print at the Walter Reade in Lincoln Center, the best part of that print over the previous DCP screenings was the look of the Dawn of Man sequence. The textures from that print for that section, popped more for me than with the DCP. But the overall sound quality and the quality of the look once we the viewer were taken up in space: Wow. I expect the same quality here:   

EMMET OTTER'S JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS and/or THE GODFATHER- Fri Dec 27 at 1 (Otter) and 7 (Godfather)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- A potential double feature here of two things that, aside from being created by mouth-breathing humans from the 1970s, are very different from each. Ok, there's a strong sense of family in each project, but VERY DIFFERENT FAMILIES. One admission gets you into both Emmet Otter and Godfather, though you have a long wait if you do that.

First, Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Each month until the new permanent wing of the Museum is built to house the hundreds of puppets, Muppets, and other assorted items donated by Jim Henson's family, the Museum will screen something each month until 2015 that is Henson related. The wonderful Rowlf retrospective was what the museum screened in November, Emmet Otter is what they'll screen this month. This special will be screened (digital projection) about ten or eleven times this month, but I'm only posting the two screenings I think I can make.   Henson directed this 1977 adaptation of the 1971 children's story for HBO, though most of us over 35 who haven't seen it on DVD, are more familiar with the reruns on ABC back in the early and mid 80s. A variation of O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi, Emmet Otter and his mother, Ma, struggle to get by, what with menial jobs, difficult customers and mourning the death of the patriarch. But when a local talent show with a cash prize occurs, Emmet and Ma figure the best way to buy Christmas presents is to enter the show. Of course they enter separately and must sacrifice something to enter . . . 

One of the better Christmas specials ever made, though it rarely gets the props that the likes of Rudolph, Charlie Brown and The Grinch get. With fun songs from Paul Williams, and if you see this, take a good look at the art direction. In particular, the sets; probably the most appropriate looking, best realized of all the TV projects Henson had ever done. I'm sure there are exceptions but they're just not coming to mind right now. Due to copyright issues, sometimes the special doesn't include the on and offscreen narration of Kermit the Frog. But this screening will have Kermit, plus bloopers and a brief behind the scenes featurette after the special.  DVD projection for Emmet, it is over 35 years old and shot on tape after all.

Next, The Godfather, screened in a 35mm print. Part of the Museum's See It Big: Great Cinematographers retrospective. Do I really need to pitch this? Brando comeback, blah blah blah, rise of Pacino, blah blah blah, great cast that I'm not in the mood to breakdown, blah blah blah, on all great films lists worth a damn and most that are not, blah blah blah . . . I can at least say that this was the fastest 3 hours or so I ever spent watching a film. I had to ask a friend I saw this with "Wow I always felt this was a three hour plus movie". When I got the response that it was almost three full hours, I was stunned. Everything flies by straight thru to James Caan's death (for the love of God do I have to spoiler alert?!?!?), and then the rest of the film settles in. No excess fat, no wasted shots, perfection.

10 Oscar nominations, 11 if you include the one for Nino Rota's score that was later ruled ineligible because he supposedly reused his score from the film Fortunella. Among the nominations it lost was Supporting Actor for Pacino, Caan and Robert Duvall, Coppola for Director, Editing and Sound. It lost all those noms to Cabaret. If this shocks you, it's because you're not into musicals or you have no idea how good and how influential Cabaret director Bob Fosse was/is. What shocked the hell out of me was that The Godfather WASN'T nominated for Cinematography. No Art Direction nod either. This I could understand that; look it up and you'll know what I mean. But you mean to tell me 1776, Butterflies Are Free, Cabaret (the eventual winner), The Poseidon Adventure and Travels With My Aunt ALL deserved more votes than Godfather for Cinematography? I'm not saying it should have won. I had no problem if they thought Cabaret, the eventual winner, was better. But that's because I have a soft spot for the work of cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, Murder on the Orient Express, Becket, Superman: The Movie, among other credits). But Gordon Willis not even being nominated for his work is Bullshit.

But it did win 3 key Oscars: Picture, Screenplay Adaptation for Coppola and Mario Puzo, and Brando for Actor. No need to mention the Oscar controversy in this list about Brando that night. No need to mention its high place on both AFI lists. No need to mention its place in my personal top 35 (pretty high, yet not as high as Godfather 2). Just need to say; unless you're over the age of 53, or you saw its brief re-release in 1997, or saw a crappy print when it's played at Midnight at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, or caught the restored version at either the Film Forum or the Ziegfeld back in 2008, you've only seen this on tv. You've never seen it look as intended. Now is a great time to correct this: 

DOUBLE INDEMNITY- Fri Dec 27 and Sat Dec 28 at 8:50- Film Forum- From the Forum's Barbara Stanwyck retrospective. I'm shocked that this is the only film from the retrospective that I'm posting. Ok, I saw Forty Guns last year at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria and I'm in no rush to see it again so soon, and I've seen Christmas in Connecticut twice on TV in the past three weeks.   

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are both cool as they plot her husband for the insurance money, but pesky investigator/moral compass Edward G. Robinson keeps getting in the way. I shouldn't be that way; if Eddie G. didn't turn in such a humane performance as basically both the audience's stand-in and the incorruptible everyman (as opposed to MacMurray's fine performance as the corrupted/ corruptible everyman), maybe this film would be slightly less better remembered. That last sentence probably made little grammatical sense, but I have little time, so I'm just moving on.

Except that it's not like Eddie G. created the performance out of a vacuum. He had Wilder as a director, and Wilder and Raymond Chandler as screenwriters (the screenwriters detested each other. Reading a little about this makes me think it was karma that Wilder had to deal with Monroe for Some Like It Hot). And let me not forget the source material: James M. Cain's novel, based on actual murder case from the 1920s.  I don't mean to dismiss Fred and Barbara, their chemistry is obvious.

7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Wilder for Director, Stanwyck for Actress, and Wilder and Chandler for Screenplay. Surprisingly, nothing for MacMurray or Robinson. I guess after all these years, it's still easy to think of Fred as the calm presence from My Three Sons, or from the Disney movies like The Absent Minded Professor. But he's just as realistic here, smarter than he looks yet almost as smart as he thinks, dissatisfied bordering on bored, spotting the honey trap (to use the term from Munich), and yet just leave it alone without taking a taste, and then wanting more till he's over his head.

No Oscar wins, since Going My Way was a juggernaut that year. On the short list for the best film noirs ever made. Sorry, but I won't put this above the likes of Maltese Falcon, Sierra Madre and can't put this above Laura, which was released the same year as Indemnity. But I enjoy the dance Wilder, Chandler and the cast do around the Production Code:    

DEAD ALIVE- Fri December 27 at Midnight- A DCP projection. If you can see only one Peter Jackson film this season, you would probably choose to see the latest Hobbit film. If you can only see two Peter Jackson films this season, you probably still wouldn't pick Dead Alive. And If you're not into whacked out Zombie comedies, you definitely wouldn't pick Dead Alive. However, if you want to see something on the whacked-out side, and get a clue of early Jackson, here is Dead Alive.

Typical Oedipal-like story. Boy meets Girl, Boy's mother disapproves of Girl to the point of rage, Boy's mother gets bitten by a toxic monkey, Boy's mother slowly transforms into zombie-like monster and starts infecting other people, Boy and Girl must kill all the zombies around them in order for their love to stand a chance. Kill them in the bloodiest and darkly humorous way that a small-budget film from New Zealand will allow. Seriously, when it's time to kill the zombies, this is more Looney Tunes than Night of the Living Dead or even Evil Dead. And yes, there will be blood, by the gallons. Well, not every Midnight movie can be Rocky Horror, or Alien, or Jaws, or El Topo: 

EMMET OTTER'S JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS and MCCABE AND MRS MILLER- Sat Dec 28 at 1 (Emmet) and 3(McCabe)- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- Another potential double feature, and another chance to catch Emmet Otter if Friday the 27th doesn't work for you. Again like with The Godfather on that day, this kids-heavy fare is followed by something for adults only. But if you bring the kids and you want to see McCabe and Mrs. Miller, hopefully you have an adult or someone to watch the kids until 5-5:05. The Museum will give them something to do for quite a bit of time, but I don't know about 3- 3 1/2 hours worth. But if you're not bringing any kids and you are the type to enjoy both a Jim Henson special and a borderline avant-garde Robert Altman Western, then I got a treat for you.  

I already went over Emmet Otter, so I'll move on to McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Also part of the Museum's See It Big: Great Cinematographers retrospective. A Western that must have heavily influenced at least the look of HBO's Deadwood, as well as Unforgiven. Warren Beatty (cast for box office purposes, over Altman's original choice of Elliot Gould) plays a gambler/hustler type who sets up a whorehouse/saloon with the help of Julie Christie (Oscar nominated). When mining companies try to buy out their successful business, things get bloody. But since we're in 70s Altman territory, expect some revisionist changes to the usual formula. Plus an ending that makes The Wild Bunch and Heaven's Gate look cheery in comparison, though comparatively less bloody.

This film got lost in the shuffle back in 71; released in the summer around hits like Klute and Shaft, and with influential films like French Connection, A Clockwork Orange and Last Picture Show coming later on, forget remembering this back then. Over the years, it's developed a cult following, among Western fans and Altman fans. At first, it was at least better than Altman's previous picture, Brewster McCloud. A 1990 revival/ mini re-release in London helped. Vilmos Zigmond (Close Encounters, Heaven's Gate, The Deer Hunter)'s Cinematography and Leonard Cohen's songs certainly helped, as did future revisionist Westerns like Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven. Also filled with a lot of actors from other Altman films, including Keith Carradine, Rene Auberjonois, and Shelley Duvall:   

BORN YESTERDAY (1950) introduced by film editor and son of Judy Holliday, Jonathan Oppenheim- Sun Dec 29 at 8- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The last of Lincoln Center's George Cukor retrospective that I'll be able to post. It qualifies as a romantic comedy, but also fits the bill in terms of political satire. A big hit adaptation of Garrison Kanin's play; the screenplay is credited to Albert Mannheimer, but Kanin was brought in for uncredited re-writes, and basically did the entire adaptation himself. The film that made Judy Holliday a star. She plays the loud, uncouth girlfriend of corrupt multi-millionaire Broderick Crawford. He's playing fast and loose with the government, bribing whatever politician he can while also hiding assets. He's advised by his lawyer to marry his girlfriend to avoid her having to testify, as well as being a 'safe place' to hide assets. Crawford can't have some so dumb, so uncouth (pot calling the kettle black there) as a wife; what would people think? So Crawford hires a reporter (William Holden)  to tutor her, to make her more presentable as a wife. She turns out to be not dumb, merely ignorant. Once she learns some things, she turns out to be not only whip-smart, but a dangerous person to underestimate. She also realizes, hey, Holden's character's seems attractive . . . 

Holliday was eventually chosen by director Cukor, in part thanks to her work with him in Adam's Rib, but also thanks to co-star Katharine Hepburn "leaking" info about how good a scene stealer she was. The biggest aid to allowing Holliday to reprise her hit Broadway performance were the amount of actresses who either said no (Rita Heyworth and Jean Arthur for example), or couldn't get a loan out from another studio (Lana Turner for example), and who made a screen test that went unseen (An unknown Marilyn Monroe). 

Once Holliday was cast and the screenplay was being re-adapted by the playwright, director Cukor came up with an idea that would serve the play well. He rehearsed the film like a stage play; not unusual from the later likes of a Sidney Lumet, but unexpected here. Cukor took the further step of have a mini-theater built and have leads Holliday, Crawford and Holden perform the film in front of an audience for a week to nail down the timing.

Oscar nominations for Picture, Cukor for Director, Writing for Mannheimer (not for Kanin, though he received a Screenplay nomination that year for Adam's Rib), and Costume Design. An Oscar for Holliday for Best Actress; over the likes of Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for All About Eve and Gloria Swanson for Sunset Blvd, and the first time the Best Actress award was ever given to a comedic performance. Holiday's son, film editor Jonathan Oppenheimer (Paris Is Burning) will introduce the film. Not sure if there will be a post film Q and A, but there might be:    

MODERN TIMES or THE GREAT DICTATOR- Wed Jan 1 at 7:20 (Times) or 9:10 (Dictator)- Film Forum- The start of the Film Forum's mini Charlie Chaplin retrospective, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Chaplin's first short. One screen will be devoted all day and night on New Year's Day, to different Chaplin stuff. Sorry that I'm not getting myself out there during the day for the likes of The Gold Rush, The Kid and The Circus. Honestly, either I'll be in no condition to do it, or I'll be out doing something else, I just know it. But I am inclined to make a trip out to see the last two films of the night, Modern Times and The Great Dictator. All films on January 1st are separate admission I'm afraid, so whether you to do one of the two Chaplin films I'm posting here, or one of the earlier ones, you'll have to pick. C'mon, we're not talking Sophie's Choice here.

First, Modern Times. For those of you out there who've never caught this before, now would be a great time. Don't think I need to go further, because if you even glance at these lists occasionally, you know Modern Times, and you're at least aware of how great it could be. The first section with the Tramp in the factory, with the famous Chaplin inside the machine sequence, is never not funny. And while it may meander and veer a bit into soap opera territory, it's never unfunny, and the sentiment isn't cloying, it's well earned and genuine. I dare say, it borders on magical. With more than able assistance from Paulette Goddard. In my personal top 100. 

Next, The Great Dictator, Chaplin's first official talking picture. And a politically bold one for its time; a satire on Fascism and full scale attack on Hitler. Chaplin wrote, directed and starred as both the dictator that wasn't named Hitler but take a wild guess, and the dictator's double who happens to be a Jewish barber. Then one day, the two are mistaken for one another. . . let the hilarity ensue. 5 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Chaplin for Actor and for the Screenplay.

Praised more for its audacity and willingness to be confrontational, years before we knew what exactly was going on with the Nazis, and it's place in history as one of the only films willing to do this back in 1940. Praised for all of this, as opposed to the quality of the film itself. So here is a chance to decide if this still holds up as entertainment, or works more as an important piece of film history and nothing more. Or both, minus the nothing more part. When I saw it, it felt a little long, but I stayed patient with it, and I feel my patience was rewarded. Ok, maybe Paulette Goddard worked better as a silent film actress in Modern Times than here. But her timing is sharp and for as long as the script allows her to play a character as opposed to caricature, she again provides more than able assistance to Chaplin.

And the film does possess one magical sequence: the Globe scene where the Dictator looks upon the world. Both comedic and balletic, and still chilling at the very end, after all these years: 

CHAPLIN AT FIRST NATIONAL- Thurs Jan 2 at 8:10 and 10:15- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Chaplin at 100 retrospective. Three of Chaplin's later shorts will be screened together. Sunnyside and Shoulder Arms from 1918, and The Pilgrim from 1923. These were made during the time Chaplin was under contract with First National, after leaving on good terms with Mutual Studios. Relations with First National grew difficult over the five or so years it took Chaplin to complete his eight picture contract. The best known film from this period is The Kid, and it was the frosty relationship and rumored merger by First National with another studio, that helped lead to Chaplin to be involved with the formation of United Artists. But all this is for another time and another site, so let's stick with these three shorts in order of screening. 

Sunnyside is where instead of playing the Tramp, Chaplin plays a farmhand who loves the farmer's daughter, even though the farmer hates him. With Chaplin's first film score, and an ending that's either a dream (his character dreams of nymphs earlier on) or reality. 

Shoulder Arms is set in World War One, released weeks before the Armistice. Chaplin plays a solider in the French Army, Awkward Division. He'll toss inedible limburger cheese at the Germans (a potent gas attack indeed) and disguise himself as a tree trunk if he has to. If that's what it takes to win the war and the heart of a girl. Said girl played by Edna Purviance, Chaplin's leading lady for most of that decade. Also his girlfriend, though I believe their break-up was right around or shortly after filming of this picture. Shoulder Arms was Chaplin's biggest hit of the 1910s, and the satirical attacks you would find in The Great Dictator, have their origins from what Chaplin experimented with here. Ok, so his feature length pictures as the Tramp are also laden with social realism and political/ social messages as well, but Shoulder Arms has more of a direct link to The Great Dictator. 

In The Pilgrim (his last short for First National), Chaplin is an escaped con, posing as a minister to avoid detection. But when he decides to hide in Texas, he arrives to a small town awaiting their new parson, and think he's it! Will his new disguise give him a change of heart about his ways. Chaplin is not playing the Tramp (at least officially), but the bowler is out in full force when he must deal with an annoying little boy who loves custard. Also the last film where Edna Purviance would be his leading lady: 

MODERN TIMES- Friday Jan 3 at 5:20 (maybe) and 9:30- Film Forum- My favorite Chaplin plays yet again. By itself this time, on Friday, January 3rd. Now I don't know if I can do the 5:20 screening, but the 9:30 is doable: 

BEFORE SUNRISE and/or BEFORE SUNSET and/or BEFORE MIDNIGHT- Fri Jan 3- Thurs Jan 9- Different times on different days- in Lincoln Center at either the Walter Reade or at the Francesca Beale-  The trilogy of films directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy as are they/ will they be/ how could they still possibly be lovers, will play for a week at Lincoln Center. The screenings will alternate between the Walter Reade next to Julliard, and the Francesca Beale theater, which is one of the newer screening rooms along W. 65th Street. The title of the retrospective is called Celine and Jesse Forever.

Actually four films will be screened. Waking Life, where Celine and Jesse make a cameo via Rotoscope, will also be shown, but only four times and none of them convenient for me. Now the schedule for these three films are so drawn out, much like Celine and Jesse's relationship, that I'm not going to break them down here. It's easier to just write the dates, post the link and go from there. The films can be seen separately, or all three (or four including Waking Life) can be bought for a discount. Not sure how much of a discount, though I'm guessing 3 films for twenty to twenty five dollars. Somewhere in that range:  

That's all for now. Later all, and Merry Christmas. 

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