Monday, March 31, 2014

April revivals

Hey, all. Mike here with a list of revivals for the month of April. It's been a long while since I posted a full month of revivals, but the combination of time to write a long-ish list and the way the list actually breaks down allows me to get away with this. If I need to add anything last minute, I'll cough up a new list for the second half of April. In the Meantime, enjoy and consider these options:

FAHRENHEIT 451- Wed April 2 at 7:30- From the Forum's complete François Truffaut retrospective. Sorry that this is the first film from the retrospective I can get to, but time doesn't permit me to do otherwise. The rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. Actually I can't say rarely screened anymore, considering this has been shown about 3 times over the past 2 or so years. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.
Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin (not dissimilar to Vertigo), work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Not too different from the approach taken by the makers of Her when you think about. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly.
Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But any remake will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.

SHANGHAI EXPRESS- Fri April 11 at 8 for free (subject to availability)- MOMA- A free screening of yet another team-up of director Josef von Sternberg and star Marlene Dietrich. Their fourth film together, and my first time posting one of their team-ups. Not something I'm proud of, just a statement of fact and a chance to correct this. And I say a chance because will be released at about 4pm the day of the screening, and they'll go on a first come first served basis. I haven't had a lot of luck getting tickets recently, so I'm hoping this could change here.
A romantic adventure/drama from 1932. A train ride on the famous Shanghai Express seems complicated enough, when a British Army doctor meets his ex for the first time in five years. Dietrich plays the ex, now an infamous courtesan. Two proud stubborn people, unwilling to be vulnerable to each other despite their feelings for one another. But these feelings might either subside or rise up , no thanks to a mysterious stranger (Warner Oland, aka the first Charlie Chan) and the threat of Chinese civil war threatening all passengers on the train. Some hard choices will have to be made. Oscar nominations for Picture and von Sternberg for Director, an Oscar for the Cinematography:
THE STORY OF ADELE H.- Sat April 12 at 7:45 (tentative) and 10- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Truffaut retrospective. A historical romantic drama, from 1975. But don't just leap into this without being prepared, because this particular romantic drama would be about appropriate for couples to watch on Valentine's Day as Blue Valentine, maybe Fatal Attraction.
A story , staring in 1863, about author Victor Hugo's daughter, Adele, based on her book/ journal. We see the lengths she'll go to be with the man she loves, a British officer. It might seem romantic, her following him to his station in Nova Scotia.  Ok, she seems a little spoiled and impetuous, but we're used to seeing obstacles and character flaws like these easy to overcome onscreen. Until we realize (if you didn't know going in), that she's actually stalking him. That the love is entirely on her end, and the indifference is entirely on his. We don't have to worry about her doing something rash like rabbit boiling, she's too refined to do something rash like that. The only kind of acts she commits are self-destructive, as she tells anyone who listens how she's his lover, his wife, his everything.
Truffaut took about two years off from filmmaking, and came back with this, a project that had been gestating since the late 1960s. With this he wanted to capture single-minded obsession, and filter it through a lens of classic Romance. Hard to capture both, especially when we know madness will overtake our lead. But Truffaut makes us feel both and pulls off one of the few successful single-minded one-sided love stories ever made. Though it wouldn't have worked if actress Isabelle Adjani hadn't entered Truffaut's life. She puts in a fearless performance; stubborn, damaged, passionately in love. Yet it also seems she's fulfilled by all of this; though whether it's because she's found her true love, or she founds her ideal man regardless of his feelings for her, or whether it's just the journey or the chase of this man, is unclear. Perhaps the only clear thing is her need to get away from her father's shadow. 
Nominated or winning awards left and right in Europe, with the notable exception of the BAFTA, and the film, screenplay and/or Adjani won critics awards here as well. An Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Adjani, the youngest to ever be nominated in that category. Whether you think she should have beaten out Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, you can see the film now, and decide for yourself:
THE LAST METRO- Thurs April 17 at 9:40- Film Forum- The conclusion of the Forum's Complete Truffaut retrospective. The last hit of Truffaut's career here in the States, and a film classic as far as France is concerned. Put it this way, the classic status that has been bestowed on say, Raging Bull in the 1980s, France did in the same year/decade with this film (released in the states officially in February 1981). Except they gave it their equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, the Cesar, while we honored Ordinary People instead. Hell it didn't even win Best Foreign Language Film. But considering it was up against the likes of Kurosawa's Kagamusha and the eventual winner Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears (a big deal in the arthouse circuit back then), I don't envy the voters having to choose between them.
Sorry I'm not more definitive or more decisive in my comments about the film itself, but I still haven't seen it. I tried to see it a few years back, but misunderstandings caused that attempt to fail. Therefore I'll copy and paste how Lincoln Center described the film on their website a few years ago, which is not very different from the way the Film Forum describes it now:
Lucas Steiner is a Jew and was compelled to leave the country. His wife Marion (Catherine Deneuve), an actress, directs the theater for him. She tries to keep the theater alive with a new play, and hires Bernard Granger (Gerard Depardieu) for the leading role. But Lucas is actually hiding in the basement. . .

Next is a quote from Vincent Camby when he reviewed it for the Times:

"The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history. 
The Last Metro is a melodrama that discreetly refuses to exercise its melodramatic options. It's also a love story that scarcely recognizes its lovers. Though the setting is a legitimate theater, the Theatre Montmartre,it's not an "inside theater" movie. The Last Metro is about a particular
time in history. Its Theatre Montmartre is a refuge -- actual in the case of one character, and psychological for the others. The theater provides them survival.

The focal point of the film is the Theatre Montmartre's production of the French translation of a Norwegian play, La Disparue (The Woman Who Disappeared)... The content of La Disparue, however, is of no more moment than that of Meet Pamela, the rather awful sounding film that was being produced in the course of Day for Night. The Last Metro is about the manner in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting relations with each other,and the way in which each responds to the condition of being "occupied." The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. It takes a little while to catch the tempo of the film, but pay attention. The Last Metro is about lives surrounded by melodrama,being lived with as little outward fuss as possible."
GODZILLA- Fri April 18- Thurs April 24 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45- A DCP restoration of the original Godzilla, in time for both its 60th anniversary and the newest remake/reboot with Bryan Cranston. This is the original version, not the version American distributors chopped up and stuck Raymond Burr in. The Burr version is what TCM still screens as late as last month, as opposed to what you would come down to see in April.
Just because this started a long chain of crappy monster films, doesn't make this junk. You see consequences to the destruction, a believable romantic subplot, and a more political film then you might think. Yes, a chunk of it looks cheesy and cheap, but in this era and with this being more in violence-with-consequences territory, it looks more endearing than insulting. Combine that with its anti-nuke message, and with a brief scene between boyfriend and girlfriend that American studios couldn't do in the 50s, and no wonder it was cut up here.
I'm not sure when exactly I can do this, so I posted the times I'll most likely be available, as well as all seven days its scheduled to play. There's a chance the run could be extended, but the Forum wouldn't tell us until probably April 21st or 22nd:
THE LODGER- Sat April 26 at 3- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's series, the Hitchcock 9. Specifically, the nine silent films Alfred Hitchcock directed. All of whom have received digital restorations. All of whom will have live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner, who did a wonderful job with a screening of Buster Keaton's Seven Chances that I attended a few years back.
I've never seen more than clips of any one Hitchcock silent, and now is a good opportunity to see one now, when I can be focused on it, as opposed to distracted at home by other things. And Hitch's first official film, The Lodger, is a good place to start. Ninety minutes long; not the longest cut of the film ever, but as long as what TCM airs now.
Based on a popular fictional book of the day that purported to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, there's a serial killer on the loose named The Avenger. Blonde women have been killed left and right. A detective on the case is dating a girl still living at home. Her parents have rented a room to a mysterious lodger, could he be The Avenger? Oh yeah, did I mention she's a blonde?
Ok, this isn't Hitch's first film, it's his third, actually his second feature length picture to be precise. But it is Hitch's first suspense film, and when you note that this also contains Hitch's first cameo on a film, then you get the idea this is truly his first Hitchcock film as we would perceive it. Like I wrote earlier, I've never seen it, but I'm game if you are:
OTHELLO (1952)- Fri April 25- Thurs May 8 at 5:15, 7:30 and 9:45 (no 7:30 on Mondays, no 9:45 at Monday May 5th)- Film Forum- A DCP restoration, playing as part of a series of events celebrating the 450th birthday of Bill Shakespeare. Orson Welles's adaptation of the famous play, whittled down from 3 or so hours to 95 minutes. The difficulties in getting this made and getting this screened are almost legendary. The years it took to complete principal photography, interrupted when Welles was forced to take acting jobs (including The Third Man) to have money to finish. The losing of an actor here and there, and the choice to dub his Desdemona. The years of restoration, and the decades of legal battles between Welles's daughter and others as to which restoration was the true work.
All of which is relatively better known than the actual film itself. Possibly the least known among Americans of all the films to ever win the Grand Prize at Cannes, and this includes some foreign films that are obscure to us. Is it any good? I have no idea. Two previous attempts for me to catch this at the Forum and Lincoln Center failed due to sold out screenings. We have two weeks to catch this. Not sure when specifically I can go, so I posted all the dates of the run, though take that any Monday attempts will not be easy. Anyway there's one reason I wouldn't want to do this on Monday, April 28th, and that reason is the next film below the Othello link . . . :
GREY GARDENS for 5 dollars (3 for students) with post film Q and A with Albert Maysles- Mon April 28 at 7- Academy Theatre- 111 East 59th Street- A cheap screening of the famous 1975 documentary (released in the U.S. in 76). Playing at the Academy Theater on Lexington Avenue. Yes, by Academy I mean the body that award Oscars. No, Grey Gardens didn't win an Oscar. Hell, it wasn't even nominated! I'm not saying it shouldn't have beaten say, Hollywood On Trial or Harlan County U.S.A. (the eventual winner which I've posted here once or twice before). But to not even get nominated makes me shake my head and wonder what was going on back then. Maybe the Academy agrees with me (there's a first), what with the film being considered one of the classics in documentary filmmaking, and being selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in 2010. Thus an Academy sponsored screening.
Directed by Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer. But the Mayseles brothers are who tend to get the main credit for the project. They were the ones originally interested in telling the story of Lee Radzwill, Jacqueline Onassis's sister. At the time the brothers were interested in telling the story, the two sisters had already spent money to fix the house of their aunt and first cousin, Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, and her daughter "Little Edie" Edith Beale. The mother daughter combo living in squalor despite the minimum repairs made, proved more interesting to the Maysles brothers. After a year of negotiating/ gaining the Beales and the other relatives' trust, the four directors began shooting in and around the home. Using a similar Cinema Verite technique used on their previous projects like Salesman and Gimme Shelter, the women told their stories to the cameras, to each other, to the cats and the raccoons, to whoever. Little to no interference, just an attempt to capture of these two eccentrics; decaying, almost completely isolated, yet still breathing.
The surviving Maysles brother, Albert, will participate in a Q and A after the film. Online tickets go on sale on Tuesday, April 8th. So this screening will take some planning beforehand; don't bother coming the night of the screening thinking you can just get in: 
Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March revivals: second half

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revival screenings for the second half of March. Still limited on my end as to how often I can go, so that's why my list might seem a little small. That and I won't repeat myself with Days of Heaven at the Rubin Museum or Breathless at the Film Forum, when I'm not sure if I can even make the screenings on time.

Looking ahead I see little that I can make or that I have interest in for early April, so I'll cheat a little bit, and post one film from Wednesday April 2nd. No harm no foul as far as I'm concerned. I can always put together a quick list for that time period if I have to. In the meantime, here we go with this list:

SECRET AGENT with or without YOUNG AND INNOCENT- Wed March 19 at 7:15 (Agent) and 9:30 (Young)- Film Forum- More from the Hitchcock retrospective. Two forgotten British films from Hitch, shot between The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes. Forgotten to the point that the former film fell into public domain, and the later, well hell, I don't even know the later film.

Let's start with what I do know, Secret Agent, from 1936. A fun little film based on Somerset Maugham's fictionalized exploits as a World War 1 spy. John Gielgud, in a rare film appearance where he looks under 50 for once, plays a novelist/ secret agent posing officially listed as Deceased. That allows him to easily work on his next assignment: to go into Switzerland to kill a hard to identify enemy agent. Once in Switzerland he's aided (or abided?) by a rookie agent posing as his wife (Madeline Carroll- The 39 Steps), and by his counterpoint of unknown ethnicity (Peter Lorre) who's more than a little violent. The whole job might get blown just by the mere presence of a traveling American (Robert Young, almost two decades before Father Knows Best) who won't stop hitting on the woman posing as his wife.

Consider this as a fun little test run for Hitch, a precursor to the likes of The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train and North By Northwest. Featuring the elements of the typical Hot Hitchcock Blonde Female, suave and brainy lead villains, and death and/or plotting of death on a train. Whether you think Gielgud had mastered screen acting here like he had already mastered Shakespeare, I'll let you decide for yourself. But don't worry, the rest of the cast is good, and Peter Lorre pleasantly chews so much scenery, you start to worry for the Alps.
Next is Young and Innocent, from1937. This I'm very mixed about catching, and not because I don't know the film at all. Because while one can see both films for one admission, Secret Agent is only 86 minutes, and one might have to wait 40-45 minutes to see Young and Innocent at 9:30. So unless you're willing to wait or unless the Forum reschedules the 9:30 screening, I'll probably pass. But if you want to see it at 9:30 or at a different time (click the link below to see the other times), I'll copy and paste from the Forum's website since again, this isn't a film I know:

(1937) Derrick de Marney, on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, is aided by the young Nova Pilbeam, but they’re almost trapped by a child’s game of blind man’s buff, with the revelation of the villain a memorable tour de force.  

SHADOW OF A DOUBT- Fri March 21 at 8:15- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's complete Hitchcock retrospective. Shadow of a Doubt, not my favorite Hitchcock of all time, but among his work from the 1940s, I would only put Notorious ahead of this. As wealthy widows keep disappearing, Joseph Cotten's lovable Uncle Charlie visits his niece "Young Charlie" (Teresa Wright) in her very average middle-American town (shot-on-location in Santa Rosa, California), but when someone mentions "The Merry Widow Murderer" . . . 

Often claimed as Hitchcock's own favorite, he must have gotten a big kick out the idea of small town Americana having evil nestled in its bosom, way before David Lynch got similar kicks in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. "Authentic Americana" (my quotes) from the screenwriters, Thornton Wilder (Our Town) and Sally Benson (Meet Me In St. Louis). The touches feel believable, which helps contrast with the wolf in sheep's clothing in the form of Uncle Charlie. And as good as Theresa Wright is, I come away admiring Cotten's performance more. Some times pleasant and gentle, sometimes incapable of keeping his hair-trigger emotions in check, with practically every shade in between. Especially his monologue at the dinner table about those wives, those little wives; very reminiscent of the monologue Orson Welles would give to Cotton's character in The Third Man:

FAMILY PLOT with or without THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY- Wed March 26 at 7:30 (Family) and 9:50 (Harry)- More films in a somewhat lighter tone this time, from the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. First is a DCP restoration of Family Plot, Hitchcock's last film, from 1976. Here we follow two plot threads. One where fake psychic Barbara Harris and fake private eye Bruce Dern start running a scam on an old rich widow, only to legitimately try to help her (for a reward) find a long lost missing relative. This will collide with another plot line concerning master kidnappers William Devane and Karen Black.

Comedic/ caper-ish last team-up of Hitchcock with screenwriter Ernest Lehman (North By Northwest), adapted from Victor Canning's novel. and Hitch's only time he worked with composer John Williams. I won't say Hitch's career ends with a whimper with Family Plot, but that's if you insist on comparing it to Rear Window or Psycho, or even admittedly more repeatable fare, like The Lady Vanishes or The Birds. But think of this as more of a screwball comedy with suspense elements, better than Hitch's lone screwball comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. With a somewhat looser feel, thanks in part to Hitch, for once, allowing his leads to improvise here and there throughout. Basically, in my own words, Here's where the camera will be, here's where it will move, and here's the information I need revealed, after that, go for it.

Double-featured with another DCP restoration, The Trouble with Harry from 1956, which frankly I can take or leave. Basically a story of misunderstandings among decent people in a small New England town, when they keep running into Harry, who is dead. People have different ideas about what to do with this stranger, whether to bury him or just leave him out in the open. A bit of a guilt transference thing going on. But new friendships and more are formed over the course of dealing with Harry, who seems to be more trouble dead than alive.

The film is only notable for two reasons. First, the start of a long working relationship between Hitch and composer Bernard Herrmann, Harry contains Hitch's favorite score from their time together. Second, the film debut of Shirley MacLaine as the only person who knew Harry before his death, and doesn't seem too broken up about the whole thing. Shirley's one of those stories where she was the understudy and was lucky enough to perform when someone to Hollywood, in this case Hal Wallis from Paramount Pictures, was there to see her and eventually sign her to a contract. Sorry, I digressed again.

Look, I don't hate the film. It's a Hitchcock I'm likely to watch more than say, Topaz or I Confess. But it's a late screening and if someone really wanted to stay to see it after Family Plot, I won't squawk. A flop in America on its initial release, yet successful in Europe, especially England and France. Conceived by Hitch as a sort of experiment to see how far he could go with an American audience, in terms of subtlety of humor and releasing a major Hollywood film without a movie star to guide them. So maybe the experiment didn't fail on me and others, maybe the reverse is true. Here's a chance to prove me wrong, if I don't fall asleep from being tired going into both films to begin with:

FRENZY- Thurs March 27 at 9:30- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the film that concludes the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. An underrated Hitchcock and one of his last, from 1972. Also, in one sequence, his most brutal in this, his return to shooting in England after over 3 decades. Again, quoting from the Forum's website, their description/sales pitch that hasn't changed in over 9 years. Wow . . .

"Down-on-his-luck ex-RAF man Jon Finch is on the run from accusations of being The Necktie Strangler, in Hitchcock's return to London and to fiendish form, making us identify with the killer, even as he must retrieve evidence from a victim's post-rigor mortis finger. 'Hitchcock's smacking his lips and rubbing his hands and delighting in his
naughtiness.' - Roger Ebert."

Ok, so the Forum doesn't use Roger's quote this time. But I agree that it's underrated. Veers back and forth from grisly murder, to man-on-the-run story, with humorous scenes that are almost out of place with the story. I say almost yet not quite because it shows us how everyday life can play on, even with a serial killer running about. Even the killer has a moment or two of darkly comedic difficulty not unlike what Norman Bates went thru disposing of Marion Crane in Psycho.

If Frenzy is known for anything aside from being Hitch's return to his native soil to work, and for being the last great Hitchcock, or at least the only above-average film Hitch made after The Birds (depending on your feelings about Marnie and Family Plot), it's for the film's first onscreen murder. When we find out who the killer is, and watching said killer commit a rape and murder in accelerated real time. Not something as brutal as the film Irreversible, but probably the most brutal of Hitch's career, as he took full advantage of no Production Code, and a more liberal Ratings system. And yet not unlike his other killers, Hitch gets us to empathize or perhaps understand the Necktie Strangler more than we suspect. We probably felt the same way in Psycho, Notorious, and Shadow of a Doubt, among others. Here you can thank the smart script from Anthony Shaffer (Sleuth) for that as well, though author Arthur La Bern, who wrote the book Frenzy is based on, was openly critical of the script and final cut.

The film did well with reviewers, winning a few scattered critics awards. Overall his best reviewed work since The Birds. It did ok at the box office, nothing special but certainly not a flop. Good Hitchcock for me overall. But no classic, thus it plays at the Forum for only one day/night. But it's the final film in the series, so obviously the Forum wants some attention paid to it. Deserved attention I say.

Not that different than other man on the run Hitchcocks like North by Northwest. Notably however, the violence is played to as far as a R rating would get Hitch (this was initially rated X in Britain back in the pre-Porn days), and the drama is played deadly serious by mostly staged trained British actors, giving us a higher quality of performance than we have gotten from other Hitch films. Not a Who's Who of actors as far as us Americans are concerned (unless you're an Anglophile), but more of a Hey I've seen Him/Her before. Too many to mention since this post is already getting long, but if you watched the likes of say The Omen, Keeping Up Appearances, Upstairs Downstairs, and Doctor Who (original and reboot), then you have an idea of what I mean:

NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE and GHOSTBUSTERS- Sun March 30 at 2 (Animal) and 4:30 (Ghostbusters)- Museum of the Moving Image- A double feature of two films at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria for one admission. Qualifies under two retrospectives; as part of the Museum's See It Big: Comedies series, and as a hastily put together tribute to the late Harold Ramis. Actually there are three films here, but I have no interest in the third film, the decent Ice Harvest. Not in general, and not as part of the tail end of a double or triple feature.

First, National Lampoon's Animal House. The comedy classic that dominated the summer of 1978 and gave us the gross-out genre, based on the college fraternity experiences of writers Ramis, Douglas Kennedy and Chris Miller, and producer Ivan Reitman. Snobs versus Slobs, as we follow the adventures over the course of a semester of Delta House. Episodic in structure (from stories from the National Lampoon magazine), we follow as the Deltas try their best to avoid studying, while drinking, partying (TOGA! TOGA! TOGA!), having sex, and basically having fun. Especially if it's at the expense of rival Omega House and school head Dean Wormer (seriously Dean, Double Secret Probation?!?).

With Food Fights, a Horse that doesn't like the sound of gunfire, a song that makes you want to JUMP!, nudity, and the knowledge that we will forever know that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (used as a rallying cry when the Mets and Pirates are behind in a game.). With just enough satire about the fraternity system and the differences in class in an Ivy League school to keep the film notable, kept at a steady pace by director John Landis, until the outlandish and elaborate parade/revenge sequence at the end.

Yes, even more notable than the casting. With one exception. No, not the young women; all attractive, though only Karen Allen sustained a lengthy career for a variety of reasons I won't detail here. No, not the veterans, like Donald Sutherland and John Vernon as Dean Wormer. No, not most of the young men though some, like Tom Hulce, Peter Riegert, Kevin Bacon and character actor extraordinaire Bruce McGill are among the men who have enjoyed lengthy careers.

No, the one exception is John Belushi, as Bluto Blutarsky. The head slob/ force of nature of Delta House, Belushi didn't need dialogue to pull off the film's biggest laughs. Sometimes it was with a prop, like food, a jar of mustard, or someone else's guitar. And sometimes with a look, like whenever he's near a female (bleachers, the parade, outside their window). Even the dialogue can be brief, like "Sorry" and FOOD FIGHT!". But when he is given something long to say, like the Nazis bomb Pearl Harbor monologue . . .ah yes, we miss him still . . . .   

Followed by Ghostbusters, in a restored DCP projection. I like it, fun not-so-little New York movie, which gave me pleasant throwback memories to childhood. The visual effects don't hold up, it feels longer than it felt back then, and though there are quite a few good supporting performances, the film is held together by Bill Murray. A believable X factor whose unpredictability, even if you know the film by heart, keeps you interested and laughing. Hard to believe what this could have looked like if John Belushi lived to tackle the role, despite my praise of him in the previous Animal House paragraph:

FAHRENHEIT 451- Wed April 2 at 7:30- From the Forum's complete Truffaut retrospective. Sorry that this is the first film from the retrospective I can get to, but time doesn't permit me to do otherwise. The rarely screened Fahrenheit 451, from 1967. Actually I can't say that anymore, considering this has been screened about 3 times over the past 2 or so years. The adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, which he said wasn't a book about censorship, but a depiction of a possible future where a society is taken with television. So taken that not only is literature burned, but information is doled out only by image and sound bite (seems like the later has been going on for a while, in and out of politics, but anyway). Oskar Werner is Montag, a fireman whose very job of burning books is questioned; first by a beautiful stranger, and then by himself.

Probably the most difficult film in Francois Truffaut's career to make. His only English language film. It took about six years for him to adapt it properly in his mind. Some of the changes he made, like tweaking the ending and not only having the beautiful stranger live beyond the start of the story but to have her and Montag's wife be two sides of the same coin, work. Having Julie Christie play both roles makes Truffaut look like a genius. The world we see is unique: European looking, not overly futuristic but not alien either. Not too different from the approach taken by the makers of Her when you think about. Nicolas Roeg's cinematography and Bernard Herrmann's score help greatly.

Good film, but how good you think it is will depend on how you feel about Werner's lead performance. Oskar went with an approach that Truffaut quipped was like a monkey sniffing a book. Whether you think his performance, which caused actor and director to feud throughout shooting, helps or hurts the film, is up to you. I don't hate his performance, but I'm curious to see what a different approach to Montag would look like. We've been hearing for decades about other directors' attempt to remake this, with Mel Gibson coming the closest allegedly. But any remake will probably be years down the line, so now's a good time to check this out.

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

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

March revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with a list of revivals for the first half of March. Actually one of them is a new release, but I digress. No new releases coming down the pike for me to run out for, except for when I eventually fulfill my parental obligation with Monuments Men. So let's enjoy these classics, near classic, and one interesting train wreck. Here we go:

ROPE- Wed March 5 at 8:30- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective. A DCP restoration from a few years back, so it looks better than you've ever seen it before. I wouldn't have posted Rope at all if someone didn't express interest in seeing it, and only at night. Since this is the only evening performance of Rope and I have no interest in I Confess (I'd rather sit through Torn Curtain), here's Rope at its only evening time in this retrospective.
Alfred Hitchcock shot this film in a series of 8-minute continuous takes, the maximum amount of film that a camera could hold. Yes, it feels unnatural at times, but the story is compelling enough, so you accept the experiment. The story is a variation of the real life Leopold and Loeb murder. Two men murder a classmate/ friend of theirs, just for the moral superiority of it. They then have a dinner party over his hidden body, which his friend, relatives and fiancee attend. Also in attendance is their former professor, played by Jimmy Stewart. Ruh-roh.

For years I have seen Rope on TV, semi-popular after it's return as part of the Hitchcock 5; films that disappeared for over a decade until Universal Studios were able to re-release them in the early-mid 1980s. Rear Window and Vertigo became instant classics, The Man Who Knew Too Much remake did ok with critics and audiences, The Trouble With Harry, not so well. And Rope was kinda in the middle. The experiment was tolerated by critics (less so as the years went by), the film didn't play well in theaters, but played like gangbusters on home video and syndicated TV broadcasts.
For me, I enjoy it. It's less cinema, more like filmed theater. Like a proto- Dial M For Murder. It's fun, even for the content: 

NOTORIOUS- Fri March 7 at 7:50- Film Forum-  From the Complete Hitchcock retrospective. The following comes from the Film Forum's website. They've been using the same description for at least 9 years. And you think I recycle descriptions . . . 
"Reluctant spy Ingrid Bergman complains “He wants to marry me” to lover/FBI contact Cary Grant, after Nazi fellow traveler Claude Rains (Oscar nominated) falls a little too hard for her undercover activities. Painful sexual politics underscore the high tension set pieces of suspense."

Basically, Grant pimps out the woman he loves, so that she can get secrets from a Nazi male with major mother issues. Yeah, try to get that film done by a major studio with a more than competent director, then or now. That's why he's Hitchcock, and we're not.
Not in my personal Top of Hitch's films. No way I put it over Rear Window, Psycho, Vertigo and North By Northwest. But I put Notorious over the rest of them: 
RUN AND JUMP and/or THE SHINING- Sun March 9 at 5 (Run) and 7 (Shining)- Museum of the Moving Image- A unique double feature at the Museum of the Moving Image. For one admission, you can see a new release and a revival at the Museum of the Moving Image.

First, Run and Jump, from the Museum's NY Disabilities Film Festival. Don't know it but I'm curious. Since I don't know it (did I just say I don't know this film), I'll just copy and paste from the Museum's website:

US. Dir. Steph Green. 2013, 105 mins, Digital projection. With Maxine Peake, Edward MacLiam, Will Forte. Steph Green’s remarkable feature film debut uncovers a tender portrait of family and its boundless, if emotionally turbulent capacity for healing. When Vanetia’s husband Conor returns home after suffering an incapacitating stroke, she must adapt to living with a changed and isolated man. Meanwhile, Ted, a gentle and handsome doctor—played by Will Forte of Saturday Night Live—moves in to observe Conor’s condition, forming a complicated and increasingly intense relationship with Vanetia and her family.

Next, The Shining. Yet another chance to catch this Kubrick-Nicholson film, a 35mm print, that concludes the Museum's Hotels on Film series. Sorry I don't have time for the previous entries, such as Barton Fink and Grand Hotel. I may not have considered posting this at all, if I hadn't seen the disappointing documentary, Room 237. Starts interesting, but let me put it this way; when the theory that the film is actually Stanley Kubrick's secret commentary on the genocide of the American Indian is the most thoughtful, well-reasoned theory in a film full of out-there theories, you know you're in for a long night. You know, Kubrick might be my favorite director, but he wasn't perfect, not at all. Sometimes a continuity error is just a continuity error. Sometimes a weak performance is just a weak performance; I'm referring to Barry Dennen's performance, though I have liked the actor in the past, particularly in Fiddler on the Roof. Sorry, I digressed . . .    

Do I really need to go into the film's story, people? You either know it, or you're a 20 year old who accidentally clicked on this, instead of one of the 1500 Project Runway blogs. Stephen King was not thrilled with the way Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel. And while I don't recall this film being wrecked by critics back in 1980, there was no out pour to proclaim this a classic then, as opposed to now. Nicholson's already mildly eccentric performance at the start before he goes into complete psychosis, was quite different from the book, and in most forms of reality. But I'll stop comparing the book with the film now. Especially when Stephen King got to make his own version of The Shining; that 1997 mini-series was borderline unwatchable. I saw most of it, scattered over 8 years, out of curiosity. Don't do the same. Watch this film instead.

The film has its own creepy build up that pays off well. Jack does psychosis better then most actors around. You may not believe Shelley Duvall could have ever been married to Jack, but you buy her as a mother isolated and at her wits end, only to find inner strength. The best performance in the film was pulled out of child actor Danny Lloyd, protected from knowing this was a scary movie until it was released. Not the best film of that year, or even among horror flicks, but still pretty good.

VERTIGO- Fri March 14 at 7 and Sat March 15 at 9:45- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's Complete Hitchcock retrospective, in the glorious DCP restoration that premiered at the Forum a few years back. If you're the kind of person who looks at sites like this, than you're familiar with the Hitchcock classic. A tragic romance with poor guy Jimmy Stewart, going down the emotional Rabbit Hole of Doom as he falls for Kim Novack, and tries not to literally fall due to his vertigo. The story of obsessive love that has never been done better than this. Not on the big screen anyway.
A film that was ignored at best and derided at worst in its initial release, but attained instant classic status upon its 1984 re-release. a near permanent fixture on most AFI Top 100 lists. In some recent film articles listing best movies, Vertigo has made the leap to 1st or 2nd. Not quite sure about that, but on my own Top 40 for sure.
Now again, note that I haven't written much at all about the story itself. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese when he wrote about Vertigo, not only is Vertigo required viewing, it also requires a Personal Response. Your life experiences will determine how you will take it. I'm guessing anyone who looks at my lists has seen Vertigo before. Therefore, you jumped past following the plot and can get to the heart (figuratively and literally) of the story.

1941- Sun March 16 at 6:30 (1941)- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See it Big series: Comedy edition. Not the first Steven Spielberg film not to make a profit theatrically, but the only mega-flop, from 1979. High expectations for Spielberg's follow-up to Close Encounters. But it was crushed in Christmas 1979; both critically, and at the box office against the likes of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kramer Vs. Kramer, The Rose, even the flop-ish The Black Hole. Three Oscar nominations, for Cinematography Visual Effects and Sound, did nothing to help.  

The hysteria in L.A. that they'll be invaded next after Pearl Harbor, running thru both the civilian and military population alike. Simple plot, bring on the laughs, or so they thought. You'd never know Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (Back to the Future) EVER WROTE THIS SCRIPT. The cast includes Dan Aykroyd, Christopher Lee, Warren Oates, Toshiro Mifune, Ned Beatty, Slim Pickens, Robert Stack, Nancy Allen, Treat Williams, Tim Matheson, Murray Hamilton, Nancy Allen, John Candy, Patti LuPone, Joe Flaherty, Michael McKean, James Caan, Penny Marshall, a lot of 1970s/ 1980s actors, and a young Mickey Rourke. Yet the only actor guaranteed to get laughs every time? John Belushi, as a VERY overzealous fighter pilot.    

Not as good as The Lost World, and yet more watchable for me somehow. After the first 5 or so minutes which I liked, oh boy. John Belushi is funny every time he's onscreen. But your next funniest person is Robert Stack?!?!? Are we kidding? A tone-deaf comedy, yet a fascinating, watchable train wreck. I posted it once as a midnight screening, and I'd do it again. Luckily, this is a reasonable time. So am I being too hard? Is this a forgotten, flawed little gem that I think Spielberg has been saying since 1979? You can decide for yourself:                         

Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Best of 2013

Hey all, Mike here with my top 10 of 2013. Best to use as a guide if you've seen few if any 2013 theatrical releases. Or ignore it, print it several dozen times and use the sheets for kitty litter, I don't care.
Coming out now as usual, around the time of the Academy Awards ceremony. Around late October, I was wondering if 2013 was going to be a decent year for films or not. Then November came along, and the year improved tremendously. I have a top 10 that I feel good about, and a top 3 of films that I think will be remembered for years to come, possibly longer.
Note that I reserve the right to change my mind if I see something I didn't get to earlier that changes a list, like when I finally caught up to Dogtooth to change the 2010 list a bit. For the record, I wish I had time for The Wind Rises, The Hunt, The Broken Circle Breakdown, Cutie and the Boxer, To The Wonder, Frances Ha, Prisoners, Lone Survivor, All Is Lost, Fruitvale Station, Blue Caprice, Wadja, The Square, and August: Ossage County. For the record, I wish I could reclaim the burning desire to watch The Place Beyond The Pines, but it's been sitting on the DVR for a month now and frankly it feels like work. And for the record, no amount of extra time will make me want to sit through The Book Thief, The Croods and Saving Mr. Banks; I could care less.

Seriously, one film I wish I had time to catch but not now I'm afraid: Nebraska. I don't know why, I've been a fan of Alexander Payne since I caught the premiere of Citizen Ruth on Showtime (don't trust anyone who says they saw it first run unless they worked on the film, related to someone who worked on it, or a critic over the age of 42). Seriously, I'm not sure why I haven't seen it yet. Maybe this will be the example that I see weeks or months down the line that will change the list looks like.
I also wish there was room in my top 10 for the likes of Inside Llewyn Davis, Philomenia, a deceivingly complex yet likeable indie film called Computer Chess, Captain Phillips, The Act of Killing and Dallas Buyers Club. But as the saying goes, there's no more room in the inn. Here we go, starting with number 10 . . . .

10) MUD- Wonderful indie film. Some of you might think of this as a modern day Stand By Me, I think of it as a modern day Huckleberry Finn, turned into a modern day film-noir. Two boys, almost near high school age, enjoy some carefree days out in Arkansas' Mississippi River. Some of this might come to an end if one of the boys' parents get a divorce and move away from the river. But life will change for these boys when they encounter a charismatic drifter named Mud, alone on a small island. A fugitive and dreamer will hopes of meeting up with his girlfriend again, and running away together. These boys choose to help him, and get a dose of adult reality that may forever change them.
Good script from writer/ director Jeff Nichols; he's really improved from his earlier film, the decent Take Shelter. Good plot that develops through character moments, not by contrivance (or at least not outrageous, unbelievable contrivance). A good cast helps to develop this. While the young male leads, Tree of Life's Tye Sheridan and newcomer Jacon Lofland, make the film believable, Matthew McConaughy in the title role, gives the film its heart. Yeah, I didn't think I'd ever write anything like the second half of the last sentence. Not trying to be a snarky jerk here, but you tell me how you felt if you sat thru the likes of Failure to Launch and Sahara like me. But this performance, alongside his work in Dallas Buyers Club and another film much higher on this list and 2012's Killer Joe and Bernie; hey, Matthew's been on a damn good roll recently. Glad to see it.
9) MUSEUM HOURS- Charming indie film from director Jem Cohen. Barely a storyline, more of a meditation here. A lonely woman, with little money and stuck in Vienna to watch over a sick distant relative in the hospital, visits one of the few places she can afford, the Kunsthistorisches Museum. There she's befriended by a guard, and an unusual friendship develops. They (and we) explore the works of art, that are not too different from life in Vienna itself when we think about it. Rambling yet amenable, with enough of a light touch with regards to both death and what makes a life. The museum looks vital and relevant, if one takes the time to look and ponder. Much like life, not everything's for everybody at the museum, but they can become relevant at different parts of your life. I was surprised how much I liked this little gem. Definitely not for those who must have linear plots to follow. 
8) BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR- An easier to digest variation of Scenes From A Marriage. Taking place over the course of about seven years in the life of a girl, from late in high school to early into adulthood and the start of her career as a teacher. Not dissimilar to Moonrise Kingdom in terms of problems/ issues that look and feel small in the big picture, but feel like life and death to our protagonist. The You Are There documentary style creates immediate intimacy between us and the characters. Perhaps too close for comfort when the main characters have their extended love scenes and especially when their relationship disintegrates. The semi improvisational feel occasionally makes this draggy affair; at 2 hours 59 minutes, it's hard not to feel draggy.
But after a while, even the leisurely pace helps us to empathize with the main character experiencing first love and first break-up. We see a young girl/woman with modest ambition, trying to become a teacher. She's not comfortable around boys her age, but is definitely comfortable with a young lady just a few years older. She'll forsake friends her own age who won't accept her sexuality. And as the film's timeline jumps forward without warning and with little hint, this young girl gains confidence and a sense of self. We even see her mini struggles and mini triumphs as a schoolteacher. But her sexuality is a fluid thing, and despite loving one woman for years, the urges are strong and not confined by being satisfied by one gender. This woman might be older and by the end she's not quite an adult yet, but she's getting there.
Of course none of this is believable without successful casting. Lea Seydoux as the somewhat older young woman is good, but Adele Exarchopoulos in the lead is fantastic and makes the film work. I believed her as a high school girl, I believed her playing the role as seven years older. I believed with her school friends, I believed her almost but not quite overwhelmed in her passion, I believed her teaching pre-schoolers, and I believed her when she was crushed and emotionally desperate. I believed her, period. I will see her next in whatever she does.
7) GRAVITY- I guess I was the only one who embraced the emotional Sandra Bullock elements of Gravity, of someone wanting to shut themselves away from the pain, confusing that with normal interaction in life, and then being able to overcome that when a crisis occurs. Ok, I'm exaggerating big time here. But I keep hearing praise for the fantastic technical elements, and yes they are fantastic. The impressive camera work and set-up from director Alfonso Cuaron's previous film Children of Men, is blown away by most of the stuff done in Gravity. Seeing it in IMAX 3-D was terrific, making me fear that unless you have a large screen HD TV, Gravity's impact will diminish over time. At it's visual best and as the difficulties began to pile up for Bullock's and George Clooney's characters, I was reminded of some of the best parts of 1970s disaster movies. And they were probably as scientifically accurate as well, for better or for worse. But without the emotional center, you're not buying the story and just ok with the film as a whole. I fell for it.

6) THE PAST- From the writer/ director of A Separation, Asghar Farhadi's follow-up received no Oscar love whatsoever. Neither for its literate Screenplay nor for a Foreign Language Film nomination; the former surprises me, the later shocks me. Ok, so the subtle out of necessity political backdrop that permeated A Separation isn't here in The Past. The difficult dynamics between parents and kids, between lovers, between former spouses are here in The Past. And like in A Separation, there are no real villains here.
Yes there's a husband coming back to France from Iran, to finally grant his wife a divorce. His oldest stepdaughter not getting along with her mother over her fiancé, for reasons that slowly unravel. Plus issues with the fiancé and his own family troubles. Maybe these people's personal problems don't have the same heft without the political and/or religious backdrop of Farhadi's previous film because these problems are of their own making or misunderstanding. Whether its intentional or accidental or some kind of fallout reaction based on a lack of information that just exacerbates problems even further, there are no villains here.  Just people muddling through life, trying to hold onto family or create and/or expand a new family. Or in the case of the man returning from Iran, feeling bad about what he's missed out on when he left his wife and her (not his) kids, and then remembering why he left in the first place.
Overall solid script and solid performances. Not a surprise with the adults cast in this, including The Artist's Berenice Bejo. That the child actors involved hold their own with the adults and with the story's/ character's complex emotions (only one of them, a teenager, is professional), that was and is impressive. The best drama on this list not based at least on history, that historical drama comes up shortly.
5) HER- Spike Jonez's best film to date. Yes, you can call it science fiction, what the lead character falling in love with an advanced Operating System in the near future. Actually not just him, but many others seem caught up with a new lover, or at least a new best friend. And for a while, the film seems to take the idea of everyone caught up in their own distracted words as a negative. A sort of expansion of the recent Bill Maher joke/critique about how one's Facebook news feed helps us read only what we want to read, and also makes us further disconnected from bad news and human interaction.

The film seems to take place in a time where we have evolved from that. Looking at something connected to the internet as  . . . . You know what, forget it. I'm boring myself. I was going to gone on about being able to forgive your ex, forgive yourself for not being good enough as long as you're willing to keep trying, blah blah blah. The film is bright, Joaquin Phoenix gives it heart, the art direction is subtle yet effective, and Scar Jo has a career in voiceover if she wants it.
4) THE GREAT BEAUTY- The best of the foreign language films this year, a film I'm completely fine getting a Foreign Language Oscar nomination over the likes of The Past and Blue Is The Warmest Color. Beautiful looking Italian film from writer/ director Paolo Sorrentino. Very reminiscent of some Fellini, Amarcord was the movie that thru my head for a while as I was watching this. Ok, so saying that an Italian director seems influenced by Fellini is no big insight. Hell you don't even have to be Italian for that to be true.
A story where, to paraphrase one of the characters,  the roots need to be strong. We're introduced to a group of rootless people in Rome, mostly highbrow, most over 49, who've partied decades of their lives away. But our main character Jep, a writer of magazine interviews and one praised yet forgotten novel, enters a crisis of faith/ emotional rut shortly after his 65th birthday. Jep and his social group take to the adage of the tagline of The Big Chill, "In a cold world you need your friends to keep you warm". But he's tired of doing the same thing with his friends; talking about pedantic bullshit, attending each other's similar parties, and occasionally sleeping with them. The death of his first love (and inspiration for his one novel?) puts him on a trip of self-journey. One that gets interrupted because there are parties to attend after all, but a journey of self discovery that most of his social circle can't or won't go on for themselves.
I'm sorry, did I just make this film sounded stuffy and full of hot air. Not my intention. Artfully shot. Something's almost always in motion, whether it's the people, the camera, the camera lens, or all three. And when it stops, it's stops for a reason. Sharp dialogue, even though some of it hammers us a little much sometimes. "Do you know why this dance train's my favorite? Because it doesn't go anywhere!" are some of the moments are a little much. As opposed to when one of the characters starts spouting bullshit and Jep cuts her down to size why the other friends around them squirm. That scene, where the friends understand the truths or self-truths Jep says, yet wish they didn't have to hear, didn't have to be reminded of their shared faults, didn't want the good times to stop.  Like I wrote, the dialogue is sharp but the characters are sharper.
With a good anchoring performance from Toni Servillo as the charming Alfie-like lead. Bored yet open to surprise. Tired of meaningless sex but open to love. Surrounded by people who don't inspire him (and vice versa?), and will need to go outside of them to grow.
Much like the Woody Allen film Manhattan, with a group filled with mostly with empty people making mostly empty platitudes. Also like Manhattan, you have a lead character who may not have love, but he'll always have a gorgeous big time city to love, in this case Rome. And like the film Manhattan, the city of Rome itself is beautifully photographed and a character unto itself. Wait, I just realized there's a Fellini influence in Manhattan as well. D'OH!
3) 12 YEARS A SLAVE- The most brutal of the films on this list, and among the best. Like being unable to wake up from a brutal nightmare, the viewer feels this almost throughout. Our perspective rarely leaves our protagonist, if Solomon Northup doesn't experience it or see it, neither does the audience. If Solomon's experiences don't lighten up, the audience will not experience such lightness either. Not shot in a you-are-there style like with Captain Phillips, but almost painterly by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt.
The camera choices made by him and director Steve McQueen; wow. Especially the whipping scene, very Alfonso Cuaron-like. No cutaways, the emotional impact develops to the point where you're grateful that you're not being shown the whipping, and then you are. Whoa.
Great cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the heart and soul of the film, to quote director McQueen's Independent Spirit Awards speech. I may not be able to spell his name without help from the internet, but there's no longer any excuse to not know it. His Solomon is a tower of strength for us, regardless that he's being dragged to the depths of physical and emotional Hell. Sometimes his silence speaks volumes, never mind when he speaks.
The one scene that we don't see events from his perspective, at night between Michael Fassbender's slave owner and Lupita Nyong'o's slave/ best cotton picker/ rape victim, was what probably got both actors their Oscar nomination as well. Okay, that and the whipping scene. You know, I could probably single out most other scenes, that doesn't have Brad Pitt and/or Paul Dano. But the conflicted emotions on display in that scene forming a unique brutality all its own, wow.
2) THE WOLF OF WALL STREET- Scorsese's best film since the likes of Kundun and Goodfellas, and the best of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. The funniest black comedy in a long time, until the story is suddenly no longer funny and turns pitch black. I guess years of 80s soap operas and my own personal taste allowed me to not feel inundated with greed upon greed, excess on top of excess. And I'm completely ok with the idea of showing none of the victims who lost money to the likes of Jordan Belfort and his cronies. In this film, we're in a world where it's fuck you, I'm getting money. Followed by fuck you I'm getting more money, and then fuck you I'm fucking my girlfriend, maybe your girlfriend, then all these hookers, and then fuck you I'm getting more money cuz Daddy needs some blow and toys. And then repeat. Notice any clients or victims here? No, you don't. So unless you made the mistake to marry one of them, too bad, nothing to see here. And since they all got off lightly after their arrests, there's no lesson learned here, just in time for others not to suffer with the sub-prime mortgage crisis and other fun stuff. And if all of this is making you angry,  . . . . well I'm guess you're getting the point now.
Leonardo's best performance yet. Damn he made me laugh often here. Not sure what was funnier: his attempt to make it into his car from the country club, or his line delivery of Benihana. No, it was his physical comedy, trying to make it into his car, stoned out of his skull. Oh dear Lord, I was almost in tears. 

1) FROZEN- The latest Disney classic, and a potential Top 100 all-time film for me. Give me five years or so to let that ferment. That's usually the period of time I need to see if it sticks. Sometimes it does (Wall-E, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings), and sometimes it doesn't (A History of Violence, There Will Be Blood, The Lives of Others). Not to denigrate the best Disney non-Pixar animated film since Beauty and The Beast.
Whether you see it in 3-D or not, a standout. Smart script geared for both kids and adults, with just enough action, musical numbers and comedy to keep things interesting. Not a lot of musical sequences than you think; 1776 , the gold standard for musicals that are barely musicals seems to have more songs per screen time than Frozen. Just enough comic relief from Olaf the Snowman. The commercials had me cringing that the character would overwhelm, but not the case at all once you see the movie. Just the right amount. Hey I don't know what the right amount is going into anything, but I know it when I see and hear it.
And hey, true love doesn't have to mean boyfriend or girlfriend. I'll take the rest of the time to take a little umbrage at Owen Gleiberman's review. Specifically the portion of his Lego Movie review where he downplayed the girl power-like qualities of Frozen as been-there done-there, making it not as vital as The Lego Movie (my paraphrasing). Really? We have gotten a lot of that recently on screen and from Disney? I'll bow to others if they can tell me how.