Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Revivals: post Christmas edition

Hey all, Mike here with revivals for the post Christmas Day winter break, for those who can take a break that is. But don't worry, plenty of weekend options here. This list runs into early January, since that kinda counts as a long weekend for some as well. I tried to keep the descriptions as brief as possible. No time to waste, here we go:

THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) or THE DEAD (1988) for 10 dollars- Fri Dec 26 at 2:30 (Falcon) or 8:30 (Dead)- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Two films from the John Huston retrospective. Separate admission only, unless you go for the 5 films for 5 dollars deal for this retrospective. Ten dollars for each film otherwise.

First, The Maltese Falcon. One of the best ever and an AFI Top 100 film (both lists), Falcon made Bogart a leading man for life and was also Huston's directorial debut. Proof that Tarantino did not have the best start to a film career. Okay maybe Welles did, but no one went to see Citizen Kane when it came out, but they did go to see Falcon in the same year. And oh by the way, its one of the best films ever made. I'm sorry did I say this already instead of going on about the film? If you know this site is known to you at all, then this is the kind of film you know well. "The kind that dreams are made of". I hope we can go.

Next, The Dead, Huston's last film. Released posthumously in 1987, Huston's adaptation of James Joyce's short story might have received the best reviews of Huston's career. Or at least on par with the likes of Maltese Falcon and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann are a married couple in Dublin, attending the 1904 Epiphany dinner of his elderly aunts. But amid the good cheer the husband goes through his own epiphanies, and not all of them are pleasant. Oscar nominations for for son Tony Huston's Screenplay and the Costume Design, with a cast that includes Dan O'Herlihy and Deep Space Nine's Colm Meaney, and a lush Alex North score:

DIE HARD (1988)- Fri Dec 26 at 11:50pm- IFC Center- A DCP projection, part of IFC Center's series of Christmas films. An offbeat choice for the holiday season, but since everything takes place on Christmas Eve, it fits. An off beat change of pace for Christmas, but one of the best action films of the past 25 years or so. Bruce Willis jumps from TV star to Superstar status with this film, as everyman cop John McClane, saving his wife and co-workers in a giant office tower, from the clutches of evil Alan Rickman and his machine gun toting cohorts. True, you might feel Paul Gleason, William Atherton and Hart Bochner slow down the fun a bit by playing variations of the American Asshole, but two out of three pay off.

Compared to a lot of action films made after say, True Lies, Die Hard looks better and better each year. CGI alone does not make an action film exciting or even interesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Transformers 1 and 2, just to pick on two films almost at random. Die Hard was just another above average hit from 1988. A little bigger in popularity than say, Beetlejuice, but not on the level of Crocodile Dundee 2. Home video and cable, plus the even bigger success of Die Hard 2, helped move Die Hard to the level of classic status. But if you're reading this, then you've probably only experienced this on TV. A large TV perhaps with an ok sound system, but not the big screen. Time to change that.

THE FLY (1986)- Fri Dec 26 at Midnight- IFC Center- The Fly, Cronenberg's only big career hit, the surprise hit of the summer of 86, and one of the best films of that year. At that time, despite the praise, saying something like that was considered surprising, daring, or greeted with a "oh, please". History says differently, if you can get by the Oscar winning, and at times disgusting, makeup effects.

But underneath the horror film aesthetic, is a well done tragic love story, where the love suffers terminal problems, when one of them suffers a crippling disease or addiction. This kind of story, as Cronenberg knows well, has universal appeal. Instead of say, AIDS or drug addiction, or the ravages of aging as Cronenberg has stated in more than one interview, you have Jeff Goldblum transforming into a man-sized insect. His physical deterioration and changing behavior does mimic disease, aging and addiction, despite the disintegrating fly vomit. With Geena Davis, at her most beautiful, turning in her best performance.

WISE BLOOD (1979/80) for 10 dollars- Sat Dec 27 at 3:30 and Thurs Jan 1 at 6:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- From the John Huston retrospective at Lincoln Center, one were there are two possible dates I can do. From 1979, released in the U.S. in 1980. Huston's dark dramedy adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel. Haven't seen it, would like to see it. But for the rest of this post, I'll have to cut and paste from Lincoln Center's filmlinc website:

“Where you’re going doesn’t matter,” insists the impassioned young hero of Huston’s deepest, thorniest reflection on religious faith. “And where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it.” Brad Dourif gives the performance of his career as Hazel Motes, a recent war veteran who comes to a small Southern town advocating with Pentecostal fervor for the “Church of Christ Without Christ.” Huston fills the fringes of the movie with an indelible cast of American eccentrics, including the great Harry Dean Stanton as a (possibly) blind preacher. Adapted from Flannery O’Connor’s legendary first novel,Wise Blood is a comic, unsettling parable about, in the novelist Francine Prose’s words, “a Christian in spite of himself.”

HEALTH (1980) with Go To Health- Sat Dec 27 at 4- MOMA- HealtH (the way the title is spelled; no typo.). Inspired by (his feelings of anger toward) Watergate, HealtH depicts a convention, where several people battle to win an election for president of a health organization that lobbies Washington. Lauren Bacall plays one candidate, who claims that every orgasm takes 28 days off a woman's life, while she occasionally slips into a coma. Glenda Jackson plays another candidate who can't talk without lapsing into a bored speech. How you can tell if she can be effective when she doesn't know how to present herself (a topic Altman would later cover on HBO's Tanner 88). Paul Dooley (co-writer and frequent actor for Altman) plays an independent candidate who claims to be for the little guy, but you have to wonder . . . James Garner plays bacillus campaign manager, and Carol Burnett plays the Presiden'ts personal observer ("I just want everyone to know the President is very pro-health!"). A young Alfre Woodard plays the hotel manager, and Dick Cavett plays himself.

The film was supposed to send up the condition of the American political process in the 70s. Bacall playing a variation of an empty platitude Dwight Eisenhower, and Jackson play a variation of the useless Adlai Stevenson. It was supposed to be released during the 1980 presidential campaign, but after one disastrous screening, 20th Century Fox essentially buried the film and called it "unreleasable". One week in L.A. in Sept 1980, one week at the old Film Forum in 1982, and then mostly buried. A 1983 summer screening on CBS, and the rare screening on Fox Movie Channel, plus several showings at Film Forum and similar type of revival houses. Not the best Altman, but pretty decent.

Preceded by Go To HealTh, a documentary where Cavett interviews the cast. Seen by even fewer people than HealTh itself:

CITIZEN KANE (1941)- Thurs Jan 1 at 7:30 and 9:50, Fri Jan 2 at 2:50 and (tentative for me) 9:50, Sat Jan 3 at 2:50 and (tentative for me) 7:30 and 9:50, and Wed Jan 7 and Thurs Jan 8 at 7:30 and 9:50- Film Forum- A DCP restoration of the film that kicks off the Forum's Orson Welles retrospective. Ok people, show of hands, how many of you have ever heard of Citizen Kane? Ok, good. If you even bother to look at this list at all, you at least know of Orson Welles' film. Didn't expect to see any hands from those under 18 anyway. Now, how many of you know more about Kane than just Rosebud, even if it's aided by memories of HBO's passable version of the making of Kane, RKO 281? Similar number of hands, fine.

Seeing this on the big screen as opposed to watching it on TV, there's a world of difference. In terms of storytelling, pacing and emotional depth (as well as innovative in its use of visual effects, make-up and music), as modern a film as what we have now in release, and a lot better than all but a hand full (I'm trying to be nice and not be considered a snob. I probably failed at that a long time ago). Now, how many of you have actually seen Citizen Kane from beginning to end? Ok, the number of hands have dropped, but I'll let you decide if that would be a fairly low number. I mean, some of have seen it through the very occasional airings on TCM. Maybe 1 or 2 of have seen it/ own it on DVD. New York/ New Jersey people as recent as the early 80s saw this on one of Channel 9's Million Dollar Movie airings. Or maybe 1 or 2 of you saw it in a film class or some sort. Now, how many of you have actually seen this on the big screen? Yeah, that's what I thought. The 1 or 2 of you who saw this with me at the Forum, when Kane ran for a week back in March 2004, or the one who saw it with me at the Forum last April.

A flop in its day (when you do a thinly veiled attack on William Randolph Hearst, and he still wields considerable influence, it's amazing no one burned the negatives behind RKO's backs), a classic today. First, in France, where it was screened shortly after WW 2, and had the praise and backing of filmmakers like Goddard. Then in the mid to late 50s, when it aired on TV and had a major re-release. 9 Oscar nominations, including Picture, Welles for Actor and Director, Herrmann for his Score, and Editing for Robert Wise. An Oscar to Welles and Joseph J. Mankiewicz for the Screenplay. Number one on both AFI Top 100 lists, and along with Casablanca and The Godfather, always in the conversation for greatest American films ever made. That it's in my personal top 6 should be a little obvious.

MCCABE AND MRS MILLER (1971) with Zinc Ointment- Fri Jan 2 at 7- MOMA- From MOMA's Robert Altman retrospective.Unlike other Friday nights there, this one isn't free, we'll have to pay to see this. 

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

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

Preceded by Zinc Ointment, a 9 minute short about the making of this film:

TENTACLES (1977)- Fri Jan 2 at 8:30- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- The last from the John Huston retrospective that I will be able to post, and boy do we have a doozy of a bad film. Henry Fonda's evil corporation does some oil drilling off the coast of whatever beach town, California. They shouldn't be drilling out there but DAMMNIT, we need energy! Anyway, the drilling somehow messes with the octopus population, and said octopus population somehow become maneaters.

Awful action, questionable editing, terrible score (both in quality and inappropriateness), a campy awful ripoff of Jaws. Not the only ripoff of Jaws, but notable in terms of cast and shoddiness. The money went straight to the cast: with Huston (a rare lead role as a reporter who uncovers the drilling), Fonda as the evil businessman (a handful of scenes, sitting in a chair), Shelly Winters (as Huston's sister; all over the place with a terrible scene when she tries to reach her son via walkie talkie), and a stiff Bo Hopkins as the actor who could do the "action scenes" (but darn it, I liked him in The Wild Bunch and Dynasty). If you like bad movies, Tentacles is for you: 

VIDEODRONE (1983)- Fri Jan 2 at Midnight- IFC Center- From IFC Center's David Cronenberg retrospective. Videodrone, from 1983. One of the few studio films from director David Cronenberg. James Woods stars as a sleazy cable tv programmer, who gets hooked to Videodrome, an S and M, snuff-ish film show, that tends to distort things, physically and mentally, for the viewer. If you don't know this, I won't spoil it much more, except this is NOT for the physically or emotionally squeamish. Cronenberg's statement on overdosing on the varying visual media, and trashy TV (sounds timely, doesn't it?). Featuring a quite sensuous Debbie Harry:

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

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