Friday, June 19, 2015

June revivals: second half

Hi all, Mike here with a revival list for the second half of June. Not a complete list; I'm not up for Midnight screenings of Scream, Fargo and The Holy Mountain at IFC Center this month (the last two I would strongly consider later this year however), nor for Fathers Day films like Eyes Without A Face and The Shining at Museum of the Moving Image, or even Ghostbusters kicking off the Bryant Park Film Festival. It's been a little hard to narrow the options and I accept how some of these screenings will conflict. I'll point out where as this list goes on. No more delay, here we go:

JAWS- Sun June 21 at 7 and Wed June 24 at 2 and 7- AMC Empire, Regal Union Square, and AMC Westbury- Jaws, a popular film (file under Yeah: No Kidding), plays once again.  But this time, it's actually playing at reasonable times. No Midnight screenings this go around. These screenings are sponsored by TCM, and will include an intro from Ben Mankiewicz. These TCM screenings tend to sell out about 2-4 hours before the scheduled time, so much planning is needed.
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, and IFC Center tends to get good prints. 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:

GOODFELLAS (1990)- Sun June 21 at 7:10 and Tues June 23- Thurs June 25 at 7, plus Wed June 24 at 4- Film Forum- A Digital restoration of the classic film. The same restoration screened to wide acclaim at the recent Tribeca Film Festival. Has probably never looked and sounded so well since the film's original 1990 release. And if you know this from slapped together-ish home video releases, or the 50,000 times (a rough estimate) it has aired of IFC, now is a good time to change that. Take note, one Film Forum screening has already sold out (Mon June 22 at 7) with no Q and A involved. So it looks like this will also take mucho planning to see this.

Goodfellas itself, I won't go much into. The Sopranos, and to extend this new Golden Age of Television (at least most new HBO shows after 2000 and any shows from Sopranos staff writers, like Mad Men) owe a great debt to Goodfellas. Either in tone  (a realistic world of mid-level gangsters, where hysterical comedy can turn to brutal violence on a dime) or by direct or indirect influence ( Sopranos influenced by Goodfellas who in turn would influence the likes of Breaking Bad Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, and whose success on HBO would give the network the critical and financial sheen to tackle 6 Feet Under, Game of Thrones, etc).

Until Return of the King, the last new release I paid three times to see in a theater. If you're reading this, you've probably heard of it. On both AFI Top 100 lists. On my personal top 35, and probably much much higher then that. Used as an example of what Oscar got wrong for Best Picture. As much as I like Dances With Wolves (I'm annoyed with the attacks it gets), it was NOT Best Picture of 1990.

The next two films conflict with Goodfellas on Tuesday, June 23rd at 7. Rather than trying to decide, as well as acknowledging that Goodfellas is a weeklong engagement, I'll post them anyway. For people I know who may want to see any of this with me, I'm going majority rules here:

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)- Tues June 23 at 7- MOMA- If you can't get to the Broadway show, you can try the classic film, screened by MOMA as part of their best of early Technicolor retrospective. Yeah, there's a story about WW 2 vet Gene Kelly returning to Paris to try to make it as a painter. But we're not here for the story, though we do get some punchy dialogue from Alan Jay Lerner. We're here for the great Gershwin tunes (I Got Rhythm, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Our Love Is Hear To Stay, among others plus the lyric-less title piece), the great dancing involving Kelly and/or Leslie Caron (choreographed by Kelly), and the vivid use of Technicolor by director Vincent Minnelli. And of course, the 16 minute title ballet; whichever you may have seen isolated from That's Entertainment, Youtube, or from some other source, but perhaps not within the context of the film itself. 

Oscar nominations for Minnelli for Director and Editing, Oscars for Best Picture, Lerner for Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, and Musical Score (not to the Gershwins, long story, not going on about that here.). Nothing for Kelly, since we're talking about no category for his Choreography, and his work onscreen didn't garner merit over actors doing more serious films. I'm not saying to ignore from that year say, Bogart from The African Queen, Brando in Streetcar, or Montgomery Clift from A Place in the Sun, just giving filler information:

AN UNMARRIED WOMAN with post film discussion with Michael Murphy- Tues June 23 at 7- IFC Center- A studio archival print, in tribute to the late writer-director Paul Mazursky. Rare since aside from the occasional revival screening, there's little chance to see this film. It hasn't played on HBO in a long time, it's rarely screened on TCM, and the DVD of it is long out of print.

An early-ish form of the dramedy, and a very New York film as well. Jill Clayburgh briefly reached superstar status as a woman on her own, after her picture perfect marriage is ripped apart by her husband, who dumps her for another woman. Through trial and error, she becomes something she wasn't in her marriage: comfortable with herself, her personality, her sexuality, and her independence. But when she falls hard for another man, is she willing to change again? And if she doesn't, is she willing to be alone again, temporarily or otherwise?

During that time, with the work of NOW, especially their push for the ERA Amendment, An Unmarried Woman hit the cultural zeitgeist like a ton of bricks. A woman unsure of her self, muddling through, but determined to do it, and doing it without a man swooping down to solve the problem. And with a performance from Jill Clayburgh, probably the most influential in the feminist movement, that didn't contain the past tics of Diane Keaton's Annie Hall perf, or the future tics of Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love perf. A highly naturalistic performance, which was needed for that ending. An ending that made some happy, and made others waiting for the Prince Charming ending, quite upset.

One of the best films of 1978, with Oscar nominations for Clayburgh for Actress, and Picture and Screenplay for Mazursky. Yes, let's not forget his script and direction; Clayburgh's performance was wonderful, but it didn't come from a vacuum. Clayburgh and Mazursky won or were just nominated by almost every other award from critics, guilds, etc. Clayburgh even won Best Actress at Cannes, while Mazursky was nominated for the Palm D'or. Try not to miss this one people. After the screening, Michael Murphy, who played Clayburgh's husband, will discuss the film:

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JUNE? (1962) for 10 dollars- Thurs June 25 at 7- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A cheap(ish) screening of A-list Campfest incarnate. The plot is simple enough that I'll just copy it from imdb: "In a decaying Hollywood mansion, Jane Hudson, a former child star, and her sister Blanche, a movie queen forced into retirement after a crippling accident, live in virtual isolation." Shot in terrific black and white, it deserves attention just from the teaming of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. I don't know if the simmering rivalry that exploded into a full-fledged feud is obvious in Crawford's performance, but the rage certainly fuels Davis performance as the former child star/ alcoholic/ tormentor. An Oscar for Costume Design. 4 other nominations, including Black and White Cinematography, and Davis for Best Actress. The story of what happened with that category, as well as the whole making of the picture itself is too damn long to go over here. Just see the film if you haven't

THE THIRD MAN (1949/50)- Fri June 26, Sat June 27, and Mon June 29- Thurs July 9 at 7:30 and 9:40, plus Sun June 28 at 3:20, 5:25 and 7:30- Film Forum- A 4k digital restoration that gets a full 2 week run. The Third Man, from 1949. Though in America, it came out in 1950, where it would rise to classic status at about the exact same time as Sunset Blvd., All About Eve and Harvey. Talk about when being the third or fourth best film of that particular year meant a lot more than usual. Seriously, it's seems to me to be among the least seen of all the post silent film era flicks I would label classic, at least stateside. As the older audience dies out, younger ones may not know it. But once they see it, boom, it's got them, and they'll probably see it everytime it comes on TCM as well. Film students must also have to see this at least once I would imagine. If not, then it's probably not all that reputable a film school.

Simple fish out of water story, where American Joseph Cotton, who seems to hold black belts in screwups and stumbling blindly into situations, attends a funeral for his friend in post-war divided Vienna. And yet things, as usual in these kind of film noirs, are not what they appear to be. Thus, what I said about the story being simple, eeeeehhhhh, not so much. The film seems to exist entirely in states of gray, with camera angles that seem to have made it the Blair Witch Project of its day.

Standing out in the colorful supporting cast are Trevor Howard with what appears to be a permanent British stiff upper lip, and Alida Valli, who can keep many men's interest, but keeps pining for the one who treats her like shit. And, oh yeah, Orson Welles; who brought charm, gravitas, and the memorable, though historically inaccurate, cuckoo clock monologue. The only part of the film not written by Graham Greene, who adapted his book with some uncredited help.

Oh yeah, he didn't write the ending either. Director Carol Reed didn't like the book's ending, but still wasn't sure what to do. But he came up with a solution, over Greene's objections. At the end of shooting, just placed his camera and himself far away so the actors couldn't hear him say cut, and let it roll. Whatever would be, would be. Hey, it worked.

An Oscar for the black and white cinematography, nominations for Editing and Reed for Director. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes, on the first AFI Top 100 list (though not the second!), number one on Britain's similar film list, Japan's number one film on it's own similar list of non-Japanese films, and in my personal top 100. Not sure where exactly, but it's somewhere. It would be higher in my mind if there wasn't so much zither music. Yes, it fits, and after 60 years, we can't exactly do anything about that now, but still. That damn zither theme can still pop into my head from time to time. Despite that, you will enjoy it, whether you've seen it a bunch of times, or for the first time.

MOMMIE DEAREST (1981)- Fri June 26 at 9:30- Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas- A special screening of the cult classic from 1981. This film has been given the MST3K treatment every so often, and it will receive it again, in time for Gay Pride Month. It will cost about as much as an IMAX screening, so plan ahead.

Adapted from the payback novel by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, this is how Crawford will be thought of forever more. Even though the accuracy of the tale gets questioned more and more as the years pass. That doesn't make this a good film. But it also doesn't mean it's not fun to watch. I don't know if this was supposed to be serious or camp, and I'm not sure if everyone else involved knew what tone to take either. It seems Paramount advertised it as a serious film, though it was released in September so that it couldn't be confused as an Oscar contender (totally a guess on my part). But back in Sept-Oct 1981, when the wire hanger scene came up, a pop culture moment was born. And you can watch Faye Dunaway's A list film career end, though who thought it was a good idea to have Diana Scarwid start playing adult Christina Crawford at age 13?!?!? No wonder she went from an Oscar nominee to a Razzie award winner. If you want to enjoy yourself, catch this campy crappy fun film. And don't forget the wire hangers:

KISS ME KATE (1953) in 3-D-Sun June 28 at 5:30, and Mon June 29- Thurs July 2 at 7- MOMA- Hey, film's like Mad Max: Fury Road, Avatar, Coraline, or Jaws 3-D (I only cite the best) didn't start the craze. And MOMA will show films that were shot in the original 3-D process. But they won't be SCREENED the way it was, with 2 projectors. Instead, much like the version of Dial M For Murder that was screened a couple of times at the Forum, MOMA will screen several films shot in 3-D back in the 1950s, that have been digitally restored and will screen in digital 3-D, via a process somewhat different than what is used at the multiplexes. Kiss Me Kate is not the first film in this retrospective, but it might be the only one I'll post. Sorry, but I can't work up a lot of interest in Hondo, with John Wayne. Kiss Me Kate use to be a staple of Ch. 13 broadcasting from the 80s and 90s, but my memories are a bit hazy since TCM doesn't screen it often. But I know I've never seen it in 3-D.

Now the film itself. One part variation of Taming of the Shrew, one part the fictionalized backstage bickering of Lunt and Fontanne, a fun musical. Has its footprint in film history for Ann Miller's Too Darn Hot (turned into a solo for her talents, smart move), and for the duet between Bob Fosse and Carol Haney in "From This Moment On". It's only about a minute long, and it was the only sequence Fosse choreographed, but it was enough to get him noticed as a choreographer, getting him work in that field for the rest of his life. Yeah, there's more about the film, but who gives a crap about the plot. Enjoy the jokes, enjoy Cole Porter's music and lyrics, enjoy the dancing, and enjoy it all in 3-D:

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

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