Thursday, July 10, 2014

Mid-July revivals

Hey all. Mike here with a revival list for the next week or so of July. I can't believe how chock full of revivals the month of July is. So the best I can do is post films for the next 7-8 days, and see how the rest of the list shakes out. Let me not waste any time, here we go:

NORTH BY NORTHWEST introduced by Royal S. Brown- Thurs July 10 at 7- Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington- A DCP screening. The same restoration I did in Queens back in early 2012, and also played at the Forum in 2013, comes out to the lovely Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, for one night only. The screening will be introduced by Queens College film professor Royal Brown. At least I hope that's the person. The Cinema Arts Centre's website doesn't give his credentials and Goggling his name makes me think the Queens College profile is the most likely person. Either way, the film is why I'm going out there, not the person doing an intro.

The best of all the lightweight Alfred Hitchcock films. No big morals here. Just sit back and relax, as 'everyman' Cary Grant gets confused as a secret agent by sinister forces led by James Mason. He runs from them and runs from the law, for a murder at the United Nations he didn't commit. Of course all this running around doesn't stop Grant from taking time to flirt with mysterious Eva Marie Saint, in some of the most fun innuendo that the remnants of the Production Code would allow. And watch out for not only a crop duster, but Martin Landau and his "woman's intuition".

I use the term everyman loosely when describing Grant as an Everyman. But according to Gene Wilder on his episode of Inside The Actors Studio, that's how Grant described himself during a chance meeting on a cruise ship, where the Northwest homage Silver Streak, was playing. Wilder was pleasantly stunned to here this description, as well as how Grant was nice enough to include Wilder as being on the same level, but I digress.Fun film, with good performances, a snappy though unsubtle Bernard Herrmann score, and featuring one of Saul Bass's best opening credit sequences. Oscar nominations for the great Editing, Art Direction (check out say, the U.N. and Mount Rushmore), and Ernest Lehman's script.

I tried to see this on the big screen multiple times over the past 10 years. I missed my chance about 9 or so years back, when it was screened for several weekends at midnight at the Paris theater. I'm sorry I missed catching it on the Paris's large screen, but I blame a girl named Amanda for that. Then I finally saw a digital projection at the Museum of the Moving Image almost two years ago. A near sell-out, that looked and sounded great. The jokes landed great, and the audience was in hushed, rapt attention thru out the Mount Rushmore finale (except for the bits of humor sprinkled in). The Forum's screen will be more than adequate for this occasion, and the picture and sound should come off well with this new restoration. Their sound system should rock the hell out of Herrmann's score so to speak, one of the few scores I've hummed after a screening days and weeks afterwards.

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT- Thurs July 10 and Tues July 15- Thurs July 17 at 7:30 and 9:45 (Wed July 16 at 7:30 is sold out)-plus Sat July 12 at 9:45 Film Forum- A 50th anniversary digital restoration that will finish its Forum run on Thursday July 17. 

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 then 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:

SQUIRM- Fri July 11 at 11- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's late night movie series, called Freaky Fridays. Here we have Squirm, a Southern Jaws on the ground, or the Ben-Hur of worm films, according to the late 92nd Y's website. Worms get a shock of electricity down in a small Georgia town, and somehow become flesh eaters. Meanwhile, city slicker Don Scardino (best known for his off-screen work on 30 Rock) goes down to visit his girlfriend (Patricia Pearcy), and runs into some characters who not only appear to be either stereotypes or rejects from Deliverance, but also seem to have Worm Attack victim tattooed on their foreheads.

Trust me, it's more fun than I'm making it sound. Tongue is firmly planted in cheek here, when it isn't filled with rubber things passing for killer worms instead. Seriously, you can't take the threat of killer worms too seriously, and the filmmakers know this. Nobody got any acting awards for this, and once you see it, you'll know why. But I do have a fondness for our lead heroine Patricia Pearcy. Maybe she was a little too delicate looking, a little too close to say, Sissy Spacek for some casting directors tastes. Aside from the soap Ryan's Hope and a small role in The Goodbye Girl, she didn't seem to get much of a chance for substantial screen roles, except for this fun junk. She does well with it, just wish it was for something better. Nevertheless, this is fun, so if you don't mind sitting thru some cheap looking 70s fun, let's try it: 

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE- Fri July 11 and Sat July 12 at Midnight- IFC Center- A 40th Anniversary screening of the horror and independent film classic, a DCP restoration. The same one that played at Lincoln Center last month seems to have found a home this summer at IFC Center. Not sure for how long, seems to be on a weekend by weekend basis.

One of the few that can elicit some jumps even on home video. Not nearly as bloody as you think. Shot and edited in such a way that it is implied, but usually not shown. Helped put New Line Cinema on the map. Forget all imitators/remakes. For horror fans and those who came to like well made films of all genres, go. Not as scary as when I first saw it as a teenager. But definitely creepy as all hell from beginning to end. A respectable print; I thought it was occasionally out of focus, but I'm guessing it was the way it was shot. And great, the last section with the family all gathered together, with Grandpa with the hammer, rotting meat and actual skeleton had to be clearly in focus. The best 83,000 film I've ever seen:

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- Sun July 13 at 3- Museum of the Moving Image- Part of the Museum of the Moving Image's See It Big: Science Fiction series, for one more weekend. I can only do the Sunday July 13th screening, not the Saturday July 12th screening at 3:30. But if that works for you, by all means, go and enjoy. On either day for one admission, you can also enjoy Brainstorm at 7pm. Not me because I'm not the biggest fan of that film. Maybe the rare 70mm screening would change my mind, but I have little desire and no time right now. 

There are films that can only be truly appreciated on the big screen. 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly qualifies. One of my all time favorites, and my favorite Kubrick is on the big screen again. I've seen it, I love it, and need no excuse to see Stanley Kubrick's classic. Some of you have done this before with me and some of you, more then once. But this is too good to ignore. Every time one of my all time top 5 films is shown on a decent screen with at least good sound, I will bring it up. Throw in the odd chance that someone I know has never seen it except on TV and might be curious to experience this classic as it should be . . . I'd feel guilty not bringing this up. This film is ageless despite the title, timeless, and it's still possible to discover something new about it as one gets older.

Here's a quote from Neil Degrasse Tyson about one of his favorite sci-fi films: "Perhaps the first film to be all about the discovery of alien intelligence yet not show what it looks like, knowing that our imagination could surely do a better job than Hollywood. In any case, it was a visual orgy of space travel and space exploration that we remain far from achieving, even 13 years after the 33 years-in-the-future it portrayed." 

2001 will be screened all weekend long at the Moving Image. In fact, it will be the only film screening there this Fourth of July-esque weekend. But this will be a rare 70mm screening. I saw the last 70mm screening of this at Lincoln Center, and I'll repost what I thought of the print. I did have complaints, but nothing that would keep me from seeing it again (assuming this is the same print, of course):

"Overall, a quality restoration, but I feel a better job was done with the Hello, Dolly! restoration I saw . . .  (not sure who did the respective restorations). Sound quality was equally superior, but there were noticeable image issues with the 2001 print that didn't crop up with Dolly. In particular the colors red and white were difficult to pull off without some sort of cloudy distortion. Not every time mind, you. No issues with the color red when it came to anything involving Hal, but with the trip at the end. And as for white, there were no issues with say, the space station or the various shuttles.  But anything lit with what appears to white halogen lighting (or the mid-1960s British equivalent), such as the lighting in the station, the moon base meeting room, and especially the French suite environment the Monolith creates, the restoration wasn't that effective. Or the restoration wasn't able to fix all the problems of the original negative, not sure what the reasons are. The colors were more effective overall with the Digital restoration of 2001 that I saw in March. Sound quality was about equal, but I consider the 70mm print superior to the DCP print in one section: The Dawn of Man. For some reason all of it looked completely fake on the DCP, even the leopard and the second unit footage. Not so with the 70mm, the textures of everything, the sets, the matte paintings and the incredible make-up, all looked more realistic. Enough texture to allow one to believe the illusion quickly, without distraction.":

A SUMMER'S TALE-  Tues July 15- Thurs July 17 at 9:30- Lincoln Plaza Cinema- The Eric Rohmer film that is receiving its first U.S. release plays for at least a few more days. I wrote about it 2 lists ago, go there. Have never seen it and I'm curious. If you're patient with dialogue-heavy films shot in long takes with attractive 20somethings, this might be for you. I don't know if this will play beyond July 16th at Lincoln Plaza Cinema, but at least some of their screenings are doable for me. Not so the afternoon only screenings at IFC Center, which is why I'm not posting them here:  

AMERICAN PSYCHO- Fri July 18 at 11- Howard Gillman Theater in Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's late night horror series, Freaky Fridays. This isn't horror per say. It certainly would have been had director Mary Harron chosen to make a more literal adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's controversial novel. But freaky, I'll buy that.

One of the best films of 2000, we follow one Patrick Bateman. A successful Wall Street banker-type with a lovely fiancee (Reese Witherspoon) and a respectable amount of wealth for someone so relatively young. But none of this satisfies Bateman. Becoming a Master of the Universe isn't satisfying either; not when something as small as a somewhat more attractive business card can send you into a tailspin. So he has a mistress and hires prostitutes from time to time. But none of this satisfies Bateman either, even if he beats his prostitutes. No, the only thing that seems to give poor Patrick any satisfaction is killing someone. Anyone who stands in his way. Anyway powerless to stop him. Anyone will do. Like any addiction, Bateman can only be satisfied by killing more and more. Like anyone with a few remaining twinges of a conscious, he wants to stop, or be stopped. But . . . . well the ending I leave to you to decide how you feel.

Controversial from the get-go, thanks to the source material. Ideas to humanize Patrick as opposed to giving him twinges of conscious (as was the plan in an attempted DiCaprio- Oliver Stone adaptation) were shot down by both fans and Gloria Steinem. The subdued approach and the aim to make this a comedy/satire of manners by director/ writer Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner works. In part to give the violence consequences when it does occur/ threatens to occur. In a East Coast variation of Fight Club, we see him get everything he wants or "needs", it gives him nothing. And despite keeping it in the late 80s to maintain the attack on Reagan/ Bush 1 era yuppie/preppie-types, narcissism, and overall thinking, it felt just as relevant in 2000 as it did then. And unfortunately in 2014, this film feels as relevant as ever. Right down to the type of profession that has gotten away with financial crimes with slaps on the wrists, if even that much.

But that didn't make the film a hit in 2000. Audiences and critics were divided. Even though the film toned down the book's brutality, the scenes that did stay in that avoided the dreaded NC-17 rating (the Hip to be Square scene, the chainsaw sequence), pissed some people off. And since some of the satire was subtle, I think some people from the day confused said subtlety with approval by the filmmakers. The ending didn't help. It made enough money to avoid being considered a flop and supposedly has developed a cult following. But if you're talking about films remembered from the year 2000, you're talking about say, Cast Away, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, maybe X-Men because of Hugh Jackman's star-making turn. 
Speaking of star making turns, that might be the reason why anyone watches this film anymore. Christian Bale, rising from nearly forgotten child actor to British art house lead (and former Jesus of Nazareth) to leading man in American films. A few missteps and some underrated American art house films were to come before Batman Begins, but as far as I was concerned, American Psycho showed us an actor who would be around for a long while to come. Narcissistic yet occasionally empathetic, funny yet dangerous enough to make you think what he could have done as Hannibal Lecter. Able to switch on a dime; whether we're talking about the Hip To Be Square scene (opposite Jared Leto), or the scene were Bateman brings his smitten secretary (Chloe Sevigny) back to his apartment with some hard decisions to make . . . 

In some ways, it was appropriate for Christopher Nolan to cast Bale in his series of Batman films. Though with Bateman, he seems more akin to Harvey Two-Face Dent than Bruce Wayne. The monster gains more control over time, but that other face, clean, handsome, keeps popping up. Is it a mask? Is it that last sign of positive humanity left in him? Is it guilt mixed with the need to be punished? A face that contorts farther as his behavior goes ignored, possibly excused? No matter how bat shit the film gets (still more muted than the novel), Bale allows you to believe it and follow it. And even this performance polarized critics and audiences. Too on the nose, too over the top were some of the complaints. But it's not a complaint of mine. We got a three-dimensional person, whose heights tend to be on the bloody side (or are they?). Go see this if you've never seen it before. Unless you prefer the other Midnight movie playing below:

ROBOCOP (1987)- Fri July 18 at Midnight- IFC Center- The sleeper hit from the summer of 1987. One part kick in the teeth action film, one part kick in the teeth social commentary. Peter Weller is the poor schnook patrolman who gets killed in the line of duty lead by sadistic Kurtwood Smith, only to be rebuilt almost against his will by a multinational corporation as the title character, carrying out their contract to protect Old Detroit. The company thinks they erased or overrode his old identity and memories, but such human elements are hard to get rid of . . . Mix of sharp satire, tragedy, and good action scenes from director Paul Verhoven. Accept no substitutes, stick with the original:

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

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