Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July revivals for the rest of the month

Hey all, Mike with a revival list for the rest of the month. Once you see the list as a whole, you'll see why I had to split up the second half of July. Partially me being overwhelmed by the amount of write-ups needed. Partially the number of options that might get lost next to some bigger and better films. Here we go:

THE THIRD MAN (1948/50)- now thru (at least) Thurs July 30th at 7:10 and 9:20-with Neil LaBute introducing the 7:20 screening on Monday July 27th- Film Forum- I brought this up on the last list so I won't repeat what I wrote before. The 4k digital restoration of The Third Man has proven to be so popular, that the Forum has extended its run. The website doesn't give an end date, the postcards inside the Forum itself states Thurs July 23rd. Translation: The Third Man's last day could be July 23, but if business keeps up, the Forum seems amenable to extending the run further. If I were you, I would plan on it staying thru the 23rd and no further, but we'll see. 

Yeah that's what I wrote last time, and hey lookit that, it's been extended again. At least thru Thursday, July 30th, but that's a guess on my part. Looking at he Forum's extended calendar, it seems they are having their repertory works start on Wednesdays and tentatively end on Tuesdays, just like with most of their new films. So I'm guessing July 30th, but it could be July 28th, maybe first Tuesday-Thursday in August. Who knows, but good for the Forum to have a box office draw in a 65-plus year old film that they have screened multiple times this century alone.

Of note, writer-director Neil LaBute will introduce the 7:10 screening on the 27th. He recently wrote an article writing about it for He must love it, the first sentence of the essay is "The first thing you notice is that damn zither.". The link to the full essay is below the Forum's link to the the film. Because of this, if you're interested in going to Third Man on the 27th, I expect planing will have to be done to deal with any possible sellout, and that the 9:20 screening will probably start 2-10 minutes late.
This film conflicts with almost every other film on the list, especially on the 24th, but the lengthy scheduled run should allow for few if any conflicts. I can't make everyday of its run, but its easier for me to frame it as such. Third Man also plays in the afternoon as well, but I'm only posting the evening screenings I might be able to do:

THE BOSTON STRANGLER (1968) and/or 10 RILLINGTON PLACE (1971)- Fri July 24 at 3(Boston), 5:15 (Place), 7:25 (Boston) and 9:40 (Place)- Film Forum- A DCP double feature from the Forum's True Crime retrospective. Can be done separately or together. Not sure what works best on my end so I'll just post together as if I can do both. 

First, The Boston Strangler from 1968. Partially shot in a You Are There/ True Crime style, at least the first half. Concentrating on the police investigation of the two waves of attacks, from 1962-1964, where thirteen women were in almost all cases sexually assaulted, and all were killed. The first half uses split screen effects at times, popular here and in The Thomas Crown Affair, and never popular again until the series 24. We mainly follow police detectives Henry Fonda and George Kennedy as they investigate, run into dead ends, false leads, etc. The second half of the film starts with us following Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo, as he goes through his day, finds another victim and is captured. The last quarter or so of the film is where it gets the most surreal, as we go into DeSalvo's mind as the police, in the form of Fonda's character, try to elicit a confession.
Again, like with The Right Stuff, facts are changed to give a clearer narrative. A huge hit in its day, and still interesting to watch today. Years of Law and Order makes the first half comfortable for the viewer, as does the ever-steady presence of Fonda. Then the film slowly becomes more surreal, once Curtis comes into the picture. A major change of pace from the light romantic comedies he usually made, Curtis was never better, projecting the everyman working exterior, and slowly unpeeling the nasty interior. And director Richard Fleischer keeps everything spinning and ablely handles the different styles here. From someone who directed the likes of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Fantastic Voyage, he keeps the pulp to a minimum in the dark film he would ever make. At least until the underrated British true crime drama 10 Rellington Place. Ok, maybe not as dark as say, Fleischer's Soylent Green, but psychologically darker for sure.

Next, hey, speak of the Devil, is 10 Rillington Place. A Digital Restoration of the 1971 British film, based on the true story of serial killer John Christie. Stars Richard Attenborough and John Hurt. Sorry to say I must be lazy again, and copy and paste from the Forum's website. Hate to do this, but since I want to see it and want others to catch it as well, I do what I must:

An ultra low-key — but all the more menacing — account of the notorious Christie serial murder case; in 1948, Welsh blue collar worker Timothy Evans (John Hurt) and wife Judy Geeson, lodgers upstairs from mousily mild-mannered John Reginald Christie (Attenborough) and wife, already have trouble making ends meet when Geeson discovers she’s in the family way — but ever helpful Attenborough offers a homemade do-it-yourself abortion. The chilling results not only confirmed Christie’s morbid reputation, but ultimately altered the U.K.’s stance on the death penalty. Filmed in the actual Rillington Place (but at #6, at that time renamed Ruston Close because of the notoriety, and since demolished), Fleischer worked with legendary executioner Albert Pierrepoint as technical adviser. (Because of the Official Secrets Act, no details of the execution were formally known; this would be the first time U.K. audiences would ever have seen a British execution on screen.) 

If you watch stuff like TV's Call The Midwife, or Mike Leigh films like Vera Drake, the era and landscape will seem very familar, only now appearing ripe for killing on a wide scale. But the film also succeeds with its lead performers. Attenborough succeeds as the milquetoast killer, but John Hurt stood out more as the rather stupid husband framed for his wife's murder. Incredibly difficult to play someone with a 70something I.Q. without going into overacting, but Hurt walks that line and gives an acting lesson to all in the process:  

BADLANDS (1973)- Sat July 25 at 7:20 and 9:30- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's True Crime series. A 4k DCP restoration of Terrence Malick's film, his most accessible whether you see it on the big screen or TV. The restoration was supervised by Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot Malick's The New World, The Tree of Life, To The Wonder, as well as Children of Men. It's also playing for free at Bryant Park on Monday July 20th, but if you don't the film or haven't seen it in a long time, I can't imagine trying to get to know out in the park. Especially if you're watching it from the Great Lawn and there's heavy traffic.

Malick's feature length directorial debut from 1973. In 1959, a 25 year old drifter (Martin Sheen) who idolizes James Dean, runs off with his 15 year old girlfriend (Sissy Spacek). This might sound romantic, but once you know going in that Badlands is a dramatized version of the infamous Starkweather homicides of 1958, you know you're in violence-with-consequences territory. The couple move around, love each other and interact with each other and the open road in an almost dreamlike state. But Spacek's off-screen narration tells us that at least one half of the couple knows they have a dark future ahead.

Kind of a response for those who felt the main characters in Bonnie and Clyde were too romanticized, and a clear inspiration for the ultra-heightened Natural Born Killers. With some of the best acting work Sheen and Spacek have ever done. Among debut films for directors, I would argue that only Welles' Citizen Kane and John Huston's The Maltese Falcon are better films than Badlands. Boy do I hope I'm not misquoted or taken out of context with that sentence . . .  Most Malick screenings tend to sell out at night, or at least get to 2/3 capacities quickly, so mucho planning may need to be done in advance.:

Next is your choice of Midnight screenings at IFC Center:

SUPERMAN 2 (1980/81)- Sat July 25 at 12:15AM- IFC Center- Part of IFC Center's Superheroes pre-Marvel retrospective. Superman 2, from 1980, though not released in the U.S. until June 1981. A Hi-Def digital projection. Not the best sequel to a superhero film, but it's on the short list., where Superman must not only deal with Lex Luthor and three Kryptonian super criminals, but also his burgeoning feelings for Lois Lane. Most super hero sequels have taken heat when they have more than two super villains of some sort to deal with; the complaint being that they're throwing stuff into the story and onto the screen and lose control of the narrative and the audience's interest in the process. While the likes of Batman and Robin, Spider Man 3, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 tend to live up to that complaint, Superman 2 is the exception. Maybe because the romantic plot gives the emotional lift to overcome such difficulties. Hell, it might be the most interesting sections of the film, and that's saying something, what with the viable threats of Luthor and the Kryptonians, including a charismatic turn by Terence Stamp as General "Kneel before" Zod. Gene Siskel essentially said as much on the Siskel/Ebert show Sneak Previews, feeling that Christopher Reeves' vulnerability as the Man of Steel was Oscar-nomination worthy. A little ahead of your time there Gene, just a bit.

Not quite the epic of the first Superman film for me, but if you feel this is one of the few sequels better than the original, I won't fight you. I will call it one of those examples of a summer blockbuster done right, and it would have been the biggest film of the summer of 1981 too, if it wasn't for those meddling kids who made Raiders of the Lost Ark:  

THE THING (1982)- Sat July 25th at 12:20 AM- IFC Center- For the third weekend, John Carpenter's horror classic gets another go-around of Midnight screenings. I think it's played in as many consecutive here, as it did in most of its original theatrical screenings 33 summers ago. What can I say, not revered except by Time Magazine and hated by some back then, a classic of the genre for decades now:

OCEAN'S 11 (1960)- Sun July 26 at 9:15- Walter Reade at Lincoln Center- Part of Lincoln Center's weekend long retrospective of Frank Sinatra films. The Library of the Performing Arts has a wonderful, and at times interactive, display of his recordings, clips and his personal stuff, now thru the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. All in honor of Frank's Centennial Birthday. Now if they chose to show recordings of his concerts and TV specials, which they have the technical means to do, then this retrospective would run a week.  But since they're sticking with his films, and ignoring flicks like The First Deadly Sin and Cannonball Run 2 ( good), plus Von Ryan's Express, Robin and the Seven Hoods and On The Town (aw shucks), it will only last a weekend. And since I've done The Manchurian Candidate too recently and don't have the time for From Here To Eternity, this film, the last screening of the retrospective is the only picture I have time to catch.

Ocean's 11, the original from 1960. Not the best heist film ever made, but possibly one of the better improvised movies ever made. Not the best Rat Pack film ever made. For me, that would be Robin and the Seven Hoods. But Robin was a musical that needed time, rehearsal and heavy commitment from the on-screen talent. Whereas with Ocean's, you got the ideal (and idealized) Rat Pack film; shot in between shows and drinking, heavy on camaraderie and the occasional song. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr sing on-screen, Frank sings off-screen. The heist, to steal from multiple banks on New Years Eve, appears marginally complicated compared to both the amount of drinking we presume the characters do, as well as compared to the effort shown in Steven Soderburgh's remake. But it's cool, it's glossy, it's not overly complicated, and Cesar Romero steals whole chunks of the film as a criminal-type who catches wind of  something going on . . . . Stylish, Mad Men-era fun: 

FOOTLOOSE (1984) for free- Mon July 27 at sundown (9:10 or so)- Bryant Park- Pure cheese. I remembering the music a lot more than the film. But enjoy the 80s songs and let the Velveeta flow, as Kevin Bacon rebels against preacher John Lithgow's rules against dancing and rock music. Bacon's dance double was terrific. Enjoy the supporting role appearances by future Oscar winner Dianne Weist, a young Chris Penn and a younger looking Sarah Jessica Parker. 2 Oscar nominations. Don't worry, it was for the songs; Kenny Loggins' title track, and "Let's Hear It For The Boy". Here's a film where if you're not anywhere near one of the speakers at Bryant Park, there is no point to catching this

SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974) and THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987)- Wed July 29 at 3 (Sugarland), 5:15 (Untouchables), 7:30 (Sugarland), and 9:40 (Untouchables)- Film Forum- Two films from the Forum's True Crime series, both are DCP screenings. First, Sugarland Express. Steven Spielberg's first theatrical release and one of his more underrated. Ok, Duel did play in theaters, but it was/is a TV movie first and foremost. Based on a true story back in May 1969, of 2 not very bright people. Lou-Jean (Goldie Hawn) tells her husband (William Atherton) who is imprisoned, to escape just days before his release. They plan to kidnap their own child, who was placed with foster parents. The escape is partly successful, but they take a hostage, who is a policeman and are pursued through to Texas. 

What happens from there, see the film. Yes, it changed some aspects of the story, the biggest changes occurring with the family aspects and a lot of the dynamics of Hawn's character. But we get a solidly believable slice of Texas life circa late 60s, and interesting marathon-like chase scenes (familiar in tactics to the O.J. White Bronco chase). The most pessimistic of all Spielberg projects, more than A.I. With Hawn's and Atherton's best film work, at least their best 70s film work.

Next, The Untouchables. David Mamet reinvented the 50s TV hit as a morality tale, with naive and saintly Elliot Ness having to go into grey areas in order to stop evil, in the form of Robert De Niro's Al Capone. But aided by Ennio Morricone's terrific, Oscar-nominated score, this is more Brian De Palma's triumph. High opera, directed to near perfection. The train station sequence is a classic, the bridge by the Canadian border and the rooftop sequences, are very close. Amazing this almost didn't happen, based on Mamet's far talkier early drafts. According to producer Art Linson, it was De Niro who gently forced Mamet to make massive re-writes, for which Linson and De Palma are eternally grateful.

Part of the one-two punch in the summer of 87 that elevated Kevin Costner, as Ness, to A list status. Introduced us to both Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson. But putting Sean Connery back to A list status in the U.S. might be what's best remembered here. His scene in the church with Costner and his death scene (sorry for the spoiler, but if you don't know the film by now . . . . ), probably won him his Oscar. 

CASINO (1995)- Thurs July 30 at 7- Film Forum- Part of the Forum's True Crime series. A DCP screening. The only screening I can do; since the early afternoon one isn't doable for me, and Badlands and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer takes up the rest of the allotted space on one of the Forum's screen that day. The former film, Badlands, is something I want to do this coming weekend. The later film, Henry, is separate admission. So if I can only choose one film to attempt on July 30th at the Forum, it's either The Third Man or Casino. And since I've already brought up Third Man, on to Casino.

From 1995, another collaboration of writer Nicholas Pileggi and director Martin Scorsese. Based on the true story of mob frontman Frank Rosenthal,played by Robert de Niro, and how he made money gambling in Las Vegas, and then running the Stardust casino. Names were changed since some people depicted were still alive. Or to be more precise,  some of the people ere still alive, and some of the dead had families that might sue, or had "Families" that would, er, React. We don't see the rise of mob-influenced Las Vegas, that wasn't during Rosenthal's era and you can go to something like Bugsy for that. We see mob-influenced Vegas at its peak and its slow fall.  Falling either because of  interpersonal issues (a slowly developing war of wills between Rosenthal and the Mob thug played by Joe Pesci, Rosenthal falling in love with a prostitute played by Sharon Stone, who does NOT have a heart of gold), greed (Rosenthal enjoys the lifestyle and wants things done his way right down to his own TV show, Pesci's character barrels thru with violence), and even because of political gamesmanship (native Las Vegas government officials will tolerate outsiders as long as they play ball, but the mob will be shown who's boss if push comes to shove).     

When it came out on Thanksgiving weekend 1995, there was much anticipation from Goodfellas fans and critics. The stature of the 1990 flim grew quickly, thanks to home video, on demand, cable, and the growing belief that it was robbed of many Oscars by Dances With Wolves. So there was a feeling of letdown when the film finally came out. "It wasn't Goodfellas" was the biggest sin Casino seemed to make. Yes it had a higher glitz factor with Vegas when compared to the Queens neighborhoods of Goodfellas, as well as the drab Kansas City locales locales of Casino, but that didn't make it better. Yes, we better accustomed to shifts from humor to violence, but the humor may not have been funnier to some, and the violence more brutal than in Goodfellas. Yes there are great extended sequences, showing us how the mob gets to skim off the top and how security works on the game floor, but I guess it didn't match the romantic surface aspects of the extended Copacabana shot. 

Yes the acting was uniformly good to great, even if they were ostensibly playing types. But each of the leads had to play roles with multiple subtle shades. De Niro's character (with 52 different suits to match the real life man) fell in love with the town and the glamour, blindly falling for someone who essentially up front I'm only in this for the money, and basically forgetting he's there to do a job and let nothing interfere with that. Pesci's character is not some mindless thug, but he will act out with his fists and more, once he feels a friendship damaged and he can't get everything he wants. And Stone's character is a hustler who's only into her marriage for the money. But with a heart open to the highest bidder and a growing drug addiction, things can only go downhill. Downhill in a town that would become more interest serving corporate and tourist interests than in (obvious) mob interests. 

So with 3 leads more vain and less charming than those in Goodfellas, a longer running time that occasionally takes its time to depict the downfall, a framing device involving a car explosion that either interest or annoys the viewer, yet without the kind half-hearted Karma if not justice is served ending that Goodfellas had, disappointment was abound upon Casino's release. An ending more akin to The Wolf of Wall Street, fat lotta good it did Casino 18 years earlier. Business was about the same as Goodfellas. Not great news for Universal what with its 52 million budget, though decent International box office did mitigate some of that. As for critics, reviews were generally positive, but not at Goodfellas levels. Some gave it the equivalent 2 and a half star reviews or the sideways thumbs, complaining about pace and completely unsavory characters. Gene Siskel essentially went as far as to say Casino was good but not on the level of Goodfellas so therefore thumbs down (What the Fuck?!?!?). Casino didn't exactly jump onto many critics Best of Lists, not when they choose from the likes of Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Usual Suspects, Heat, Leaving Las Vegas, Toy Story, and Get Shorty. And at Oscar time, only Stone would get acknowledged, with a nomination for Best Actress.

But with the passage of a few decades, multiple screenings on HBO, Showtime, Starz, Encore and AMC, and the coming of shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad that balance the dark humor and the threat of violence, Casino holds up better and out of Goodfellas's shadow. A classic? Not necessarily, but a good mob story:

DISNEY TECHNICOLOR CARTOONS PROGRAM 1 (1932-37) and/or SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) for free (first come/ first served)- both introduced by Theo Gluck- Fri July 31 at 4:30 (Cartoons) and 6:30 (Snow White)- MOMA- A free potential double feature, on a first come first served basis. Tickets become available for both programs at 3:30 that day. Part of MOMA's Best of Technicolor retrospective, with a sub-retrospective of Technicolor work done by, or supervised by, Walt Disney himself. At 4:30, there will be a 62 minute compilation of his color cartoons from 1932-37:

Mickey Mouse on Parade- where Mickey, Minnie and friends lead some Oscar nominees from 1932 on parade (including  Fredric March, Helen Hayes and Lunt-Fontatine on parade. With a grey-colored Pluto barking away.

Flowers and Trees- not the first of Disney's Silly Symphonies, but first made in 3 strip Technicolor. Successful enough that all other Disney Silly Symphonies were made only in Technicolor. Competitors like Max Fleischer (Superman) were forced to use inferior 2 color methods to compete, since they lacked Disney's exclusive deal with Technicolor.

Lullaby Land- another Silly Symphonies cartoon, where a baby is lovingly transported to sleep. A partial future inspiration for the Storybook  Land section of Disneyland.

The Goddess of Spring- another Silly Symphonies cartoon, depicting Persephone, Hades, and the creation of Seasons. Made in part to see if humans can be realistically animated, in case Walt felt he could make Snow White.  

The Band Concert- Mickey tries to lead his friends in the band, including Goofy and Clarabelle Cow, in the performance of the William Tell Overture. But during the Overture, Donald Duck shows up with his vendor cart, and chaos ensues. Possibly the best cartoon Disney ever made of any length. It's continued to inspire other Disney projects, including shorts, video games, and at the Disney California Adventure Park. 

The Country Cousin- Another Silly Symphonies, a musical version of the Aesop Fable, The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse. Won an Oscar in 1937 for Best Animated Short. 

Music Land- Another Silly Symphonies, where the Princess Violin from the Land of Symphony gets some, er, unwanted advances  from an alto sax from the Isle of Jazz.

The Old Mill- Another Silly Symphonies, a somewhat more serious short, using Strauss' One Day When We Were Young, from The Gypsy Baron. Animals living in an abandoned windmill try to survive when a storm almost damages their makeshift habitat. Also an Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, but possibly the most important of all the Technicolor Disney shorts. Never mind popular at Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Paris and Disneyland U.S. (until it was replaced in Anaheim by stuff from Frozen), spoofed in season 17 of The Simpsons, and a major influence on animator Hayao Miyazaka's work (Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, The Wind Rises). But most important, the success with Disney's Multiplane Camera process (having the background and foreground move in opposite directions), the capturing of realistic animal and weather patterns and the timing of detailed emotional expression, all told Walt one thing: I can make Snow White exactly the way I want to. And so he did, changing film forever.

Next is HEY LOOKIT THAT, just what I was talking, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, from 1937. We know the story; Snow White is threatened with death by an evil stepmother of a Queen, but finds some protection and safety deep in the forest by seven dwarfs and Prince Charming who is Somewhere Out There (whoops, wrong animated film). Look, we know the story, and we probably know at least one of the famous songs. Whether it's Heigh-Ho, Some Day My Prince Will Come, or Whistle While You Work, you probably heard it. As an adult, you might be more aware of either a dark reboot that Disney might not be involved with (Snow White and The Huntsman and TV's Once Upon A Tale the most recent versions). You might know something that lightly plays with spoofing it, whether it was that one animated scene in Annie Hall, or any version of Into The Woods.

But how many of you are familiar with it as an adult? Unless you have a child under 12, not recently. If on a big screen, not recently either. The first film to find success through multiple re-releases, you would have to be at least 28 years old to remember it as a kid, and at least 45 if you saw it as an adult. If you're a list-intensive film buff, you probably wondered why it was on the first AFI Top 100, and relieved when it was dropped from the second list. But again, you had these feelings with probably no recent viewing of Snow White. Now you can change that for free, if you can get yourself early to MOMA:

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

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