Thursday, July 31, 2014

August revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with a bunch of August revivals. Back with the twice a month format of revival listings, so this list will carry us to the middle of the month. Filled almost entirely with repeats from other lists, with one or two exceptions. But I haven't seen the majority of them, and most of you have seen maybe one or two of these films at most on the big screen. So here we go, a good time to be had for at least one of you with at least one of these options:

A HARD DAYS NIGHT- Fri Aug 1- Thurs Aug 7 at 3:30 and 8:10- Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that was supposed to finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17,has been given yet another extension of at least one more week. Limited screening times, but extended none the less. There's a chance it's run might be extended until either August 12th or 14th, but that's not official, so just work with the idea of this only running until the 7th.

A Hard Day's Night from 1964. The Richard Lester classic that defined Beatlemania, influenced MTV until it became a place for reality shows, made most musicals that told their stories in stodgy ways to become Dead Musicals Walking, and briefly made the Beatles the seeming heir to the Marx Bros in comedy. Ok, Paul is stiffer than a tree in Yellowstone here, but John, Ringo, and especially George, make up for that. And oh yeah, there are few decent songs. All My Loving, And I Love Her, Can't Buy Me Love, the title song, and others. C'mon folks, this film is fun:

DOUBLE INDEMNITY- Fri Aug 1 at 5:10, 7:30 and 9:45, Sat Aug 2 at 9:45, and Tues Aug 5- Thurs Aug 7 at 7:30 and 9:45- Film Forum- A new DCP restoration of the classic film that ends the Forum's retrospective of film-noirs where the main female character is a bad to the bone kind of woman But unlike the other films in this retrospective, Double Indemnity gets a week-long run. The granddaddy of film-noirs with bad bad women at the heart of it all, much more so than The Maltese Falcon.

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 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.

7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Wilder for Director, Stanwyck for Actress, and Wilder and Chandler for Screenplay. Surprisingly nothing for MacMurray or Robinson. No wins, since Going My Way was a juggernaut that year. On the short list for the best film noirs ever made. While I can't put this above Laura, which was released the same year as this, I do enjoy the dance Wilder and cast do around the Production Code:

BLACK NARCISSUS introduced by Thelma Schoonmaker for a 10 dollar minimum- Fri Aug 1 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's  1947 film gets a screening at the Rubin. The policy now is you can spend a minimum of 10 dollars either at the bar, the restaurant or at the gift shop, which allows you to get a ticket for the screening (first come, first served). A DVD projection of the restoration supervised by the film's Cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Powell's widow, editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Adapted by Rummer Godden's 1939 novel, a group of Anglican nuns go to their new order, up in the Himalayan mountains, to establish a school and a hospital. But it's hard to do when you're tempted by the land and the people around you, and you've dragged issues like failed romances and possible insanity up the mountain with you. You can go with those statements, or accept this as an allegory of Britain's last glory days as an Empire, and the dignified way the Empire comes to an end. Starring Deborah Kerr as the head Sister whose escaped one failed romance,and might get tempted into another, and Jean Simmons as, in the words of author Godden, "a basket of fruit, piled high and luscious and ready to eat."

Oscar nominations for Cardiff's Cinematography and Art Direction. I think I saw this a long time ago. I don't remember it clearly, but I could have sworn I've seen it and liked what I saw. And even if I haven't, a film from the directors of The Red Shoes and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp becomes a must-see in my book. Unless you prefer Double Indemnity, I can understand that. Schoonmaker herself will introduce the screening: 

EL TOPO- Fri Aug 1 and Sat Aug 2 at 12:05AM- IFC Center- The start of Midnight movie screenings are usually traced back to this Mexican film, El Topo, from 1970. Starts off as a somewhat slow moving Spaghetti Western, as a man seeking revenge against bad guys, and then it gets progressively weirder. If you don't know what goes in the film, I won't spoil it for you. The swinging in tone, from comedy to action to drama to metaphysical to romantic to tragic and back to any of the other types I've just described, might drive you nuts. And because it was shot in the late 60s, it has a very trippy quality to it as well. But the episodic style and part-time trippiness does help as does, for me, what writer/director/star/ costume designer/production designer/co-composer Alejandro Jodorowsky said about it: "This is the story of a man searching for peace, and can never find it.". At the very least, you'll walk away from the screening saying, I've NEVER seen a film like El Topo before, never. And I don't think that's a bad thing. Screened in a beautiful looking digital restoration:

BATON BUNNY with other Chuck Jones cartoons and CHINATOWN with a post film Q and A with Kenneth Turan- Sun Aug 3 at 1 (Bunny) and 2:30 (Chinatown)- Museum of the Moving Image- A potential double feature at the Museum of the Moving Image. For one admission, you can see one or both items on visual display on Sunday August 3rd. First, the Chuck Jones retrospective continues with another set of cartoons to be screened. I wished that the Museum would have laid out its schedule of Jones' cartoons sooner, but at least now we have a schedule of cartoons thru early September so that's something. I won't post all of them because I don't have time to see all of them. But once you click on any of the links to the Moving Image below, you can follow along and see what else the Museum is doing in terms of Chuck Jones cartoons, other films, exhibits, etc.

Anyway, here are the following Chuck Jones cartoons that will be screened this weekend, on both Saturday August 2nd and Sunday August 3rd at 1PM:

The Dover Boys from 1942, though the Museum claims is from 1940. The first of his of his cartoons that Jones actually liked to watch, marking the first uses of smear animation, which showed characters going into sudden extremes of speed. The Dover Boys were not used again until Animaniacs (usually with Slappy Squirrel) in limited doses, so if you think these characters are familiar, that might be why.

Drip-along Daffy from 1951, a Western spoof where incompetent Daffy Duck and infinitely smarter Porky Pig, try to clean up "a one horse town".

A Bear For Punishment from 1951. One of the Three Bear cartoons, featuring angry Pa, calming Ma, and dum-dum Junior. Those cartoons I can take or leave them, usually. Here, Ma and Junior try to cheer up Pa on Father's Day. Good luck on that.

Much Ado About Nutting from 1953. This one I enjoy, where a squirrel on a nut hunt thinks he's hit the Mother Lode, when he finds a coconut. But good luck trying to crack that thing . . . 

Baton Bunny from 1959. The last of the Bugs Bunny cartoons with no dialogue. Here, Bugs is an orchestra conductor, and he would succeed in his job if it wasn't for an annoying fly . . .

Whoa Be-Gone from 1958. A Road Runner- Wile E. Coyote cartoon, though I don't recall what's distinctive about this.

High Note from 1961. An Oscar nominee for Animated Short. Here, the Blue Danube can't be performed, because one of the notes is drunk as a skunk. The conductor tries to get the note straightened out, with extreme difficulty.

And finally, Chariots of Fur. Originally screened with the 1994 Macaulay Culkin disappointment Richie Rich, it was the first new Road Runner- Wile E. Coyote cartoon since 1980, and the last Road Runner cartoon Jones would ever direct.      

Next is Chinatown, the last of the great film-noirs. Ok, it's more of a modern or neo-noir. While there would be some very good to excellent modern noirs afterwards (L.A. Confidential, Blue Velvet and Fargo chief among them), none would go the dark paths Roman Polanski's film would travel, not even Lynch's film.  Based on events from the California Water Wars of the 1930s, Jack Nicholson's private eye (the role that made hime  a star forever)is hired by Faye Dunaway to spy on her husband. But nothing is as it seems, and if you don't know the film, I won't spoil it for you here. One of the great period films, one of the great mysteries, and if wasn't for Paramount's own Godfather Part 2, it might have been the best film from that year. An Oscar for Robert Towne's Screenplay; 10 other nominations including Picture, Polanski for Director (who also turns in a memorable performance as a thug), Nicholson for Actor, and Dunaway for Actress. Sorry there was no room for John Huston for Supporting Actor, but boy does he make a memorably repellent villain. On both AFI Top 100 films and in my personal top 100.

L.A. Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan will introduce the film, discuss it in a post film Q and A, and will then sign copies of his new book, "Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From A Lifetime of Film".

JAWS for free on a first come first served basis- Wed Aug 6 at 6:30- Museum of Jewish Heritage- 36 Battery Place- A free screening of Jaws, on a first come first served basis. This time at a venue I'm not familiar with at all: the Museum of Jewish Heritage, down in Battery Park City near the Bowling Green, Rector Street and Whitehall Street stations. The Museum has been doing a Steven Spielberg retrospective all summer long, but only now do I have any time for it. At worst, if you don't get there in time for a free ticket (4PM), the Museum is free from 4-8, and then you can catch something else. I have no idea how the venue is or how it will be projected, guess we'll wait and see.

as for Jaws itself, on both AFI Top 100 lists, but higher up for me. Also in my personal Top 35 as opposed to just one of one hundred. Don't underestimate the quality of this Spielberg film on the big screen. It's not just another fish film. 3 Oscars including John Williams's memorable score, and a nomination for Best Picture (along with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Barry Lyndon, Dog Day Afternoon and Nashville; not shabby:

THE BIG LEBOWSKI for 8.50- Wed Aug 6 at 7- AMC Empire- The Big Lebowski is a film that has a major cult following. But I'm not a member of this cult. I admire and at times, like this Cohen brothers film. But it's hard for me to hate one of their films, unless it's The Hudsucker Proxy. That's easy. But I'm willing to give this a second chance. Especially a non-Midnight screening and at a relatively cheap price:

METROPOLIS- Sun Aug 10 at 2- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- In a world where one group of people are in charge of doing all the "thinking" and another group actually has to do the manual labor, not everyone is happy in this city full of skyscrapers. So let's keep the masses happy through the temptations of a beautiful woman, who's actually a robot. Throw in a young man who's not only in love, but also sees for the first time that not everyone is equal.

After decades where this film bounced around, was chopped, and at one point, colorized and had music from Queen and Bonnie Tyler as part of the new soundtrack, a major restoration took place. Not everything could be found, either due to age, no ideas about preserving film history, the flimsiness of the material or the bombings in World War 2. But the original score was found and recorded in stereo. All seven versions were combined and restored, with title cards filling in the story blanks. This 2002 restoration, now returns to Film Forum, and this 2 hour, 19 minute version is as close as we'll probably ever get to definitive.

Fritz Lang was inspired by the Manhattan skyline when he created Metropolis's look. Huge sets that held thousands of extras. Live action and miniatures shot together for the first time. A robot who's initial look influenced C-3PO, and whose existence influenced HAL 9000, the Blade Runner androids and who knows what else. And as influential as the city looks of films like Blade Runner, Brazil, and Dark City have been, they had a source material to work from here. I've caught this before, and may not get to go again this time around. But by all means, go yourselves.

Yeah, that's what I wrote back in mid July 2007. I could have added how the robot in female human form enticing the men seems like it influenced Madonna, and now it appears to have influenced Lady Gaga. Anyway, since then, 23 additional minutes, found in a beaten-up 16mm print down in Argentina, was restored (as much as possible), and edited into the 2002 restoration. This version is being advertised as "Presented in High Definition". Don't know quite what that means, but this means that now only about 5 minutes are missing from Lang's original cut. This will probably be as close as we'll ever get to what was screened in Berlin back in '27. I enjoyed seeing this at the Film forum, and I wouldn't mind seeing it again. If you're ambitious, here you go:

REAR WINDOW- Tues Aug 12 at 7- The Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space- Also an DCP screening. My all time favorite Hitchcock, and in my top 25 overall. Also the best film in Jimmy Stewart's career, with a knockout entrance from Grace Kelly that matches or tops anything done today. On both AFI Top 100 lists.

BEVERLY HILLS COP for 8.50- Wed Aug 13 at 7- AMC Empire- A cheap screening of the biggest hit of 1984. Ok, Ghostbusters is higher on the all time box office charts, but that's only because of a 1985 re-release. The film that made Eddie Murphy a Leading Man Forever, or at least until his post-Shrek career damaged goodwill and his appeal. Simple story of a brash young police detective from Detroit who comes out to Beverly Hills, to find the people behind the murder of his best friend. Once there, it takes plenty of sass and improvisation to get those stick in the mud Beverly Hills officers to get with the program. 

Now do I mean Murphy's Axel Foley do the improvising, or Murphy himself, seemingly treating the script alternatively like a blueprint and used tissues. Ok, let me calm down. It's still far better than the original concept, an action drama where Sylvester Stallone tried to stop a cough syrup ring. Far better. The comedy and the serious action scenes still work, thanks to both Murphy and a fun supporting cast (Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Steven Berkoff, Bronson Pinchot, Paul Reiser, Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks, et all). Also thanks to a cool for its day soundtrack (Patti Labelle, The Pointer Sisters, Glenn Frey and Harold Faltermeyer with his memorable theme music, among others), and a surprising deft touch from director Martin Brest (a touch we wouldn't see from Meet Joe Black on). Still, the idea that this film received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay is laughable. Still a good time for a relatively cheap price:  

WAITING FOR GUFFMAN for 8.00- Thurs Aug 14 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap screening of Christopher Guest's comedy, introduced by Hedda Lettuce. The first official Christopher Guest mockumentary comedy, since credit for This Is Spinal Tap must be shared with Rob Reiner. But here Guest is at the helm, as well the nominal lead. Here plays an eccentric (gay in the closet?) man from New York, who moved to a small town in Missouri with his (always unseen and never heard from) wife, and is now a director. Specifically of a musical of the history of the small town, filled with a cast of decent people. No professional actors, some talented, some delusional, but all decent. 

Anyone who ever worked in theatre, community semi-professional or professional, would or should carry a soft spot for the people in the film and for the film itself. Too small a crowd to make this film successful at the box office. But the success of Best in Show and A Mighty Wind (barely) has kept Waiting For Guffman from becoming a mere footnote. The quality of Guffman, mixing laughs with honest believable humanity and a believable atmosphere, has also kept it from being a footnote, as opposed to Guest's last film, For Your Consideration. Plus we have the core cast that would be important in other Guest films: Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara and Bob Balaban. This film rarely gets a revival screening, so let's take advantage:  

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

No comments: