Thursday, June 04, 2015

June revivals: first third

Hey all. Mike here with a list of revival options for the first third of June. Not an even third, mind you. But I was grasping about how to do a write-up about Judy Garland's The Pirate and John Wayne's Hondo, but I said screw it, this list has to come out sometime. If I feel like putting it on the next list, fine. And if I choose to ignore the breakdown of all this and just write up the second half or last third of June. As long as the films are possibly decent options, I don't think they'll be much complaints coming my way. Here we go:

WIZARD OF OZ (1939) for free on a first come first served basis- Fri June 5 at 7- MOMA- A free screening of the classic film, as part of MOMA's new retrospective of what they consider to be the best of Technicolor usage by studio films from the 1930s to the 1950s. Tickets are first come first served, so if you don't grab them around 3:30-4PM that Friday, it won't be easy after that. 

A flop or box office disappointment (depending on who you ask) in its day, a classic thanks to decades of screenings on CBS. Before the Sci-Fi channel comes out with some annoying "re-imagining" of this story ( I don't remember the name because it seems annoying), you can catch the most popular version. In the top 10 of both AFI Top 100 lists. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Color Cinematography (losing in these categories to Gone With The Wind) and Special Effects. Won Oscars for Original Score and for the song "Over The Rainbow". You might have heard of this song. Call it a hunch.

Now I've seen this too many times to say on TV, either on its numerous CBS airings, or when TBS/TNT aired it a few times. As you might be able to tell, always with commercials. I liked it, but it wasn't until I saw it in a restored 3-D digital IMAX screen that I truly embraced, put in my personal Top 100, and basically had a blast. Kansas no longer seemed like filler/ delayed gratification, making Oz all the more magical. It was worth the effort to go into the city the first time, and worth it the second time:

MAHOGANY (1975) with post film discussion with Colman Domingo and Rhonda Ross- Mon June 8 at 8- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Queer/Art Film series: Black Summer Nights division. BAD MOVIE ALERT! BAD MOVIE ALERT! Ok, some of you may not say bad, but we're in cheesy soap opera territory, with a camp chaser. Diana Ross plays a struggling young woman in Chicago; working for a bitchy boss at a big department store by day, art/fashion student by night. She cute/meets Billy Dee Williams in the ways that are contrived, yet still strain believability. Williams, by the way, plays a community activist running for public office. I wonder if Chicago African-American community activists have any future in politics? 

Anyway, this relationship is in danger, when Ross becomes the muse of sexist (some of the Mad Men would be proud) fashion photographer Anthony Perkins. Once she accepts the new name he gives her, Mahogany, Ross takes the fashion world by storm. First as a model and then as a mogul of some sort (sorry, it's been a few years I've seen it), Ross dominates. But when she becomes just as much of a bitch as her old department store, does that mean she "forgot where she came from"? Can Ross go back to her roots and Billy Dee? Not if Perkins can help it. Seriously, I think with the exception of The Black Hole, Perkins was forced to spend the rest of his post- Psycho career playing one variation of Norman Bates after another, and Mahogany is no exception. Especially when we get to the non-verbally expressed closeted gay self-hatred aspects of Perkins's role. And I haven't even mentioned his fight scene with Billy Dee! It goes exactly where you expect it to go, until it doesn't and veers a little toward Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Remember in the second half of Dreamgirls, where Beyonce's Diana Ross-like character was depicted starring in some seemingly lousy movie, directed by Jaime Foxx's Berry Gordy-type character? That was supposed to be Mahogany. In real life, Berry fired original director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) for reasons I don't know. What he specifically did, except for maybe not get in the way of the shot setup of cinematographer David Watkin (Out of Africa, Chariots of Fire) and pressure the Academy to get the song "Do You Know Where You're Going To" an Oscar nomination (in a way, allegedly), I have no idea. I doubt reading the script was one of his tasks as Director.

The film was profitably, but far from loved. It has a cult following, which Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln, Passing Strange and lots of other stage credits) will discuss after the film via Skype. Appearing in person to also discuss the film is Ross and Gordy's daughter, Rhonda Ross. I hope they're not defending the film as quality. I won't, but it ain't boring:

NIAGARA (1952)- Tues June 9 at 7- MOMA- Part of MOMA's retrospective of films that used Technicolor well from the 1930s thru the 1950s. Niagara, a rare Technicolor noir. A young couple takes a delayed honeymoon at Niagara Falls. There, they get to know another married couple, young vivacious Marilyn Monroe, and older, depressed and seething Joseph Cotton. Monroe and Cotton's marriage is on the rocks to put it mildly. But this troubled marriage will lead to murder, draw the young married couple into this mess, and to reveal more would spoil surprises if you've never seen this. Underrated, successful back in the day, though praised more for the look of the falls and the look of Marilyn. But her performance and the film itself was reevaluated after her death. Give it a try:

UNDER THE VOLCANO (1984)- Thurs June 11 at 6:30- Film Forum- John Huston's effort to adapt Malcolm Lowery's semi-autobiographical novel. Mostly taking place on the Day of the Dead in Mexico 1938, Albert Finney plays a British Consul in the midst of a day/night long stupor. The world is changing around him (go Google the history around November 1938 on your own) , and he can't seem to stop himself from drinking himself out of it. His estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset) and brother try to help him, but it's hard to stop someone with a death wish, especially someone who goes about it one drink after another. Flawed film, but Finney's Oscar nominated performance is the draw here. Possibly the best performance of drunkenness ever captured on film,  certainly the most subtle:

BLUE VELVET (1986) for 10 dollars, introduced by Kyle MacLachlan- Fri June 12 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art-  Another posting of Blue Velvet, I know. A little different this time. One, instead of a theater environment, it will be downstairs in the Rubin Museum's Cabaret-style screening room. It will cost ten dollars for non-members of the Museum, and can be bought at the front desk, as opposed to previous ways like buying a drink at the bar or buying food or something from the bookstore. You still get to enjoy the Museum for free after 5pm (every Friday, not just on the 12th), and I strongly urge you to take advantage. Don't think you can do the whole museum prior to the screening, there's just too much to take in, process, and enjoy. So just pick a floor or two, and enjoy. And two, this film will be introduced by the film's lead, Kyle MacLachlan. So expect these tickets to go quickly.

Now as for the film itself, a darker variation of Shadow of a Doubt, with more than a little Wizard of Oz, in its way. What Shadow of a Doubt pushed in terms of evil in a small town Americana, Blue Velvet cranked to 11 and turned it on its (severed) ear. This mystery/neo-noir/romantic drama got David Lynch a Best Director nomination, and brought both his and Kyle MacLachlan's career back from the dead. Isabella Rossellini established herself as an actress once and for all, and Dennis Hopper became a working character actor forever, in a career performance. Also drew major controversy in its day for its, let's just say, sexual connotations, and what was required of Rossellini in her role. I believe it was Ebert who called this film the most vile thing he had ever seen (or something along those lines).Rosselini attacked him in response (verbally attacked I meant). 

A bit of a Rorschach test, this hauntingly beautiful film is. Decide for yourself. I can say that after I saw it back in March, I had to turn down my love for this film ever so slightly. Maybe the Suburbia aspects haven't aged as well since it's been done often since Blue Velvet's release. But the going down the rabbit hole aspects and psycho-sexual aspects still making this a button pushing and fascinating ride. So instead of this becoming my second favorite film of all time, it becomes my third favorite all time. Oh well.

Let me know if there's interest. Take care.

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