Friday, April 24, 2015


Hi, Mike here, taking some time to thank those of you that came out to see some of the films on my revival lists over the past 12 months. Whether you came out once or multiple times, I thank you all for catching the following revival screenings:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)- I didn't expect to like this as much as I did. I was expecting to do some MST3K-style commentating like I would for its annual Easter weekend screenings. Never saw the introduction by De Mille, and while it's stiff, it makes the narration go smoother. On the big screen it plays well; even if the early pageantry was numbing after a while, Anne Baxter was all over the place, Yul Brynner was a heavy form of ham, and John Derek was an attractive piece of wood. But now it will take a long time before I can see it again on ABC, the commercial breaks would be killer on my patience, 
OTHELLO (1952)- It looked great and Orson always had an interesting voice, but after the first half hour, boy oh boy did I have trouble staying focused on large chunks of this,
GODZILLA (1954)- Weird seeing this as part of a kind-of double feature with Welles' Othello. Weirder still that this was better than Orson's Shakespearean adaptation. Again, this was the Japanese original film, not the heavily edited American edition with Raymond Burr inserts,
STAR TREK 4: THE VOYAGE HOME- A hit with both Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike,
WHITY- Not a film I would give a thumbs up to. However, for Fassbinder fans and for film fans of say, 12 Years A Slave or especially Django Unchained, Whity might prove to be interesting and even more provocative. Not necessarily satisfying however,
LORD OF THE FLIES (1963)- Alas, poor Piggy, alas,
SORCERER- Too bad I was the only one in my party who actually liked this film. But despite not being quite as good as I remembered it from almost 25 years ago, and not nearly as good as the original version, The Wages of Fear, this is no noble failure. It's a hidden gem of late 1970s Hollywood filmmaking,
TUNES OF GLORY- This Alec Guinness film was the only film on this list that someone had to talk me into, and boy am I glad that happened. Never seen Guinness so macho before, and even more arrogant than in Bridge on the River Kwaii. Very good character study drama,
NORTH BY NORTHWEST- the screening of this at Cinema Arts Centre at Huntington, that I enjoyed. The way the introduction of this was handled, dry like a high school lecture with handouts, and an almost pop quiz after the film ended, oy vey,
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY- a special 70mm screening, which seems like a new early July tradition at the Museum of the Moving Image,
DUCK AMUCK and other Chuck Jones cartoons- a selection of some of Chuck Jones's best Looney Tunes cartoons, so I'm including it as one revival on this list,
FEDORA- again, not every revival is a winner. Not bad, more like a noble failure. The twist is decent in theory, but the miscasting of the two lead actresses kills the film. Unlike Sorcerer, not a hidden gem of late 1970s filmmaking. And having Billy Wilder's on-screen stand-in (William Holden), complain about the young unnamed Turks that are running Hollywood, like Spielberg, de Palma and Scorsese, hasn't aged well at all. Maybe Lucas, but considering this was being shot before Star Wars became a huge summer hit, not necessarily, 
RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER, THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN- A double feature that became probably the most fun I had of any revival outing in 2014,
ONE FROM THE HEART- There was much to admire visually in this film. In the end, I recommend that film buffs, self-proclaimed film buffs, and Coppola fans see it, especially on the big screen. But I don't think most of them would like it more or much more than I did. Tom Waits' music is beautiful, but some of those lyrics were a little too damn on-the-nose for my taste. Now a romantic film that goes for ultra-realism is admirable in theory. But when you spend the first half of the film wondering why did the main couple break up, and spend the later portion of the film thinking they should never get back together, that was hard for me to shake,
THE EPIC OF EVEREST- A silent film, a kind of documentary of the failed 1924 expedition of Irving and Mallory's attempted climb of Mount Everest. As a piece of history and seeing what silent film cameras could capture back then, it was amazing to watch. Even if I did get a little drowsy in the middle third,
CITIZEN KANE, VIDEODRONE- my weirdest double feature of the past 12 months, not even close, 

GREY GARDENS- Once I saw Big Edie's stained bed sheets with flies all about, I grew immediately uncomfortable. My inner Felix Unger was made extremely uncomfortable, and didn't loosen up until Big Edie's Czechoslovakia line (Huh?!?!). Glad I saw it, but don't need to see it again any time soon, in any incarnation,

38 films, a big jump from 28 during the previous year. And unlike other years, I was able to spread the wealth with multiple people, a number of whom caught a healthy number of films with me. This has never happened before, and I am grateful. Take care. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April revivals: second half

Hey all, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of April, Haven't had a lot of time to do these kind of screenings recently, let's see if we can change that. At least this list doesn't have anything from the Museum of the Moving Image this time around. Not that I don't enjoy the museum mind you. But I can't work myself up for the Joan Crawford film, The Best of Everything. I don't care what influence it has/had on Mad Men, it was a slog at time on Fox Movie Channel, and my enthusiasm for now is minimal. So on with the list:

CLUE (1985)- Fri April 17 and Sat April 18 at 12:25AM- IFC Center- Yet another (cheap-ish) Midnight screening of Clue. This time at IFC Center, as part of a series of Staff Picks, or out of the box suggestions for Midnight movies, including Twilight Zone the Movie, Seasame Street Follow That Bird and The Birdcage. I have happy sentimental reasons to post it. It's no Citizen Kane, but it's fun. Compared to other films based on toys, like Battleship or Masters of the Universe, this is the Citizen Kane of toy films if you will: take that comment however you will. And if you know the board game, where a group of potential suspects try to find out which one of them killed Mr. Body, then you have the gist of the slender story. Though it doesn't give you an idea of the farcical style the story and jokes are told.  

This has a major cult following in L.A. In NYC, not so much. I don't know why I like the film so much. It has a good beginning, an extremely mixed middle and endings of varying quality. And we will be getting the version where all three endings were incorporated into the film, as opposed to three separate endings, as it was on its 1985 theatrical release. But I like it, no rational reason why. Just makes me laugh more often than not. Though its cast (Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean) sure helps. From director Jonathan Lynn of future My Cousin Vinny fame. 

Now in addition to a link to to the screening, I'll post a link of Adam B. Vary's interesting article on of how Clue went from conception, to flop, to cult hit. With interviews with Lynn, most of the cast, and others:

THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942)- Thurs April 23 at 6- Film Forum- Sorry that I don't have time for the Film Forum's Preston Sturges retrospective. In fact, this is the only one I can do, one I'm not familiar with. But here's as good a chance as any to change that.

The Palm Beach Story, where Claudette Colbert runs away from husband Joel McCrea to Palm Beach for a quick divorce, after being refused to let her use her sex appeal for raising money for his inventions, only to be pursued by rich Rudy Vallee, whose sister Mary Astor (The Maltese Falcon) chases McCrea, who is introduced by Colbert as her brother. Confused? Then wait till the action is ratcheted up:

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1973) with a post-film Q and A with the cast- Mon April 27 at 7- Beekman Theater- 1271 2nd Ave between 66th and 67th Street- A one night only screening of Jesus Christ Superstar. A digital restoration being screened at a first run theater, the Beekman. For once, it's not being relegated to Midnight, but a reasonable 7pm screening. Now, is this film an underrated gem, or noble failure? I can't help you, because despite seeing this once on Cinemax and once with commercials on VH1, I'm not sure. From 1973, but still with a bit of 60s glow to it, a group of hippie actors bus out to the middle of nowhere (great use of mostly Israeli locales), ready to play out the last whatever number days in the life of Jesus.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn't exactly pleased with the final cut, and from what I can tell, critical and audience reaction were mixed. Musical fans and millennials have been much kinder to it. I guess the older people back in 73 didn't like it or refused to go, and the younger ones, as they got older and had more say in terms of media and so forth, spread the film's virtues. I wouldn't say this has a cult following, but its close. For me, it's a mixed bag. Up and down for the majority of the film, not happy with anything involving King Herrod. But they have a great Judas in Carl Anderson, and the last 20 or so minutes is a triumph of music, cinematography, performance, choreography and editing. So in the end, you'll have to decide if this is worth the risk. But if you take the risk, I'll be right there with you if you like. 

But before the screening, cast members Ted Neely (Jesus), Yvonne Elliman (Mary), Barry Dennen (Pilate), Bob Bingham (Caiaphas), Kurt Yaghjian (Annas), Josh Mostel (Herrod) and Larry Marshall (Simon), will participate in a Q and A, plus a tribute to the late Carl Anderson (Judas):

VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967) for 10 dollars- Thurs April 30 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap-ish screening of The Valley of the Dolls. Introduced by Hedda Lettuce and I'm guessing there will be some MST3K/ Rifftrax-style commentary as well.Wow, this is happy-go-lucky compared to the previous two films in this section. Eeeehhh at best, terrible at worst. But at times, gloriously terrible. Barbara Perkins is the hot pure virgin. Patty Duke is the hot nice girl so damaged by Hollywood that every other joke about her character will probably be about either The Patty Duke Show or about Lindsay Lohan. Sharon Tate is the hot actress who can't act, but who has a bad fate in store for her. Throw in a cast that includes Lee Grant, Susan Hayward, Joey Bishop, and a bunch of actors who don't deserve mention but they play weaklings or jerks, amd mix in good music from Andre Previn and John Williams (Oscar nominated). 

Wow, this film is so stupidly full of shit, but oh so wonderfully full of shit. I don't remember if it's on the level of The Swarm, but I sincerely doubt there will be much shushing like there was at that screening. Seriously, it's awful, but campily awful. Ok, not a word, campily, deal with it: 

Had to keep my descriptions brief, no need to elaborate. Let me know if there's interest, later all.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

April revivals: first half

Hey all, Mike here with a small revival list for the first half of April. All in the Museum of the Moving Image, but this time not all are part of a retrospective of films that influenced the creation development of the series Mad Men. The first two are, but not the third:  

PATTERNS (1956) and/of DEAR HEART (1964/65)- Sun April 3 at 4 (Patterns) or 7 (Dear Heart)- From the Museum's retrospective of stuff that influenced Matthew Weiner in some way with the creation/development of the TV series Mad Men. Two films that frankly, I've never heard of, but I am curious. Not sure which one I can do yet, so I'll post both and see what happens.
First, Patterns, written by Rod Serling. At this point in his career,he might have been known for radio, but little else. Stuff like Playhouse 90 was but a gleam in his eye, The Twilight Zone was a couple of years away from that. But the original version of Patterns for the Kraft Television Theatre launched Sterling's writing career. A dramatic example of the corporate world that Mr. Weiner has used a sort-of blueprint for the dramatic work environment scenes in Mad Men. Not dramatic in terms of secretary seduction or a staffer chopping off a nipple and putting it in a box. No, dramatic in terms of how brutally cold the business world can get. Cold-hearted boss Everett Sloane will stop at nothing to raise the level of young VP Van Heflin, at the expense of humiliating older Ed Begley. But what kind of impression will this make on Heflin . . . Note this is the film version, not the praised TV version with Richard Kiley in Heflin's role. 
With Patterns, to quote Mr. Weiner:
I saw this film version as a child on sick day from middle school; it was originally written and produced for live television in 1955. Rod Serling ingeniously creates a boardroom passion play with a chilling first-person climax that I never forgot. We used it often over the life of the series to get a sense of the real offices and to see how virtue and ambition can clash when the older generation is pushed aside and ruthless business confronts humanity.
Next, Dear Heart. A comedy from 1964 technically so that it could receive an Oscar nomination or two for Henry Mancini's work. It stars Geraldine Page as a woman in New York who's having trouble finding love, or even feeling she deserves it. It also stars Glenn Ford as a Don Draper type, who has no trouble attracting women (engaged to Angela Lansbury, cheating on her left and right with other women), but not feeling a lot of love their either. Then our two leads meet . . .

Dear Heart received a wide release in early 1965, and was practically ignored. An Oscar nomination for Mancini's title song meant nothing for the film. While the film on the whole hasn't been reconsidered on the whole, the writing of the characters and the performances have been looked at with a kinder light, especially with the Mad Men connection. With Dear Heart, to quote Mr. Weiner:
Stumbling upon this film gave me the impetus to finally write the pilot. I was taken by this mainstream Hollywood film that reflected a very casual attitude towards sex, something that seemed uncharacteristic to my preconceptions of the era. With its glib bachelor hero and dowdy, conservative ingénue, it tells a tale of moral corruption and heartbreaking duplicity in the form of a light comedy. As Glenn Ford tries to change his ways and take responsibility for his meaningless romances in glamorous Manhattan, I found a jumping-off point for the series.

THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) in 3-D- Fri April 10 and Sunday April 12 at 12:30- plus Sunday April 12 at 3:30 with an introduction from Andy Ross and Micaela Biel, hosted by Dana Rossi- Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria- To draw the families into the Museum, the 3-D version of The Wizard of Oz has been playing since Good Friday, and will continue to play at the Museum at 12:30 PM through April 12th. And if you want to do the 12:30 screening on Friday the 10th or Sunday the 12th, I'm game. Though if you wish for what you might consider to be a more reasonable time, there will be a 3:30 screening on the 12th. It will be part of The Soundtrack Series, a podcast covering how music touches the lives of everyday people. When The Soundtrack Series does its live podcast at the Museum, it covers film soundtracks that serve special places in people's hearts. Hosted by Dana Rossi, it will broadcast live at this screening.

As for the Wizard itself, yes this is the same digital 3-D restoration that came out about a year and a half ago. No IMAX screen, but since the Museum's screen can expand to accommodate 70mm screenings, I'm sure the screening will turn out fine. The sound has been digitally restored, and the 3-D kicks in once Judy Garland is in Oz, not in any of the Kansas scenes. The film doesn't need 3-D to be enjoyed as the classic it is. But since most people are only familiar with Oz as a TV film, sometimes with commercials, the big screen experience of this is foreign to many. It certainly was to me until recently. I like the film prior, but it became a top 100 film for me afterwards. Yet another instance of the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it, to quote comedian Larry Miller:

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