Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January revivals

Hey all, Mike here with some January revivals. Not many, but the best I can do with limited time on my end. Also the best I can do with the latest and potential over-hyped blizzard on its way. If it wasn't for the threat of snow, I would post an 11PM screening this weekend of The Good The Bad and The Ugly at Landmark Sunshine Cinema. But alas, I cannot, so go enjoy that on your own if you can. Now on with this list:

FARGO (1995)- Fri Jan 22 at 4:50, 7 and 9:10- Film Forum- A 4K digital restoration. Runs for a week, to kick off the Forum's Coen Brothers retrospective. But this is the only day/night I can do, so this is the only day/night I will post here. Click the link below for other days and times. Most screenings of their films, when as part of a retrospective as opposed to a Midnight screening, have either sold out or come real close, so planning ahead will be needed.

The best film of 1996, and one of the best films of the 1990s. Chances are, if you're even glancing at this list for any reason, you've heard of this crime dramedy; where a very pregnant and very persistent sheriff figures out most of the parts, to a stupidly planned and executed kidnapping. The Coen brothers' best film. Oscar nominations for Picture, Supporting Actor for William H. Macy (forever known for more than just ER and his work with Mamet, thanks to this), Editing, Cinematography, and Director. Oscars for Frances McDormand for Actress, and the Coen brothers for Screenplay. Yes, this actually lost to The English Patient for Best Picture. I guess Oscar owed them one, which might explain the near clean sweep this year for No Country for Old Men. On both AFI Top 100 lists and a Top 35 film for me. A great film to catch:
THE THIRD MAN (1949/50) for 10 dollars- introduced by Ron Haviv- Fri Jan 22 at 9:30- Rubin Museum of Art- A cheap-ish screening at the Rubin, introduced by photojournalist Ron Haviv. 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 flim 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.
BARTON FINK (1991) or THE BIG LEBOWSKI- (1998)- Fri Jan 29 at 5:10 (Barton), 7:30 (Barton), 9:50 (Lebowski)- Film Forum-  Two films that are part of the Coen brothers retrospective, but separate admissions, so I'm afraid we'd have to choose between them. Both are 35mm screenings, hopefully the prints will be in good shape.

First, Barton Fink, from 1991. Written during a time period when the brothers were having a bout of writer's block during the creation of Miller's Crossing; it was produced after the gangster film. John Turturro plays the title role of a playwright going out to Hollywood in 1941 to write a wrestling picture. Writer's block sets in after the first sentence, as he has a room in the hotel from hell. Fink tries to get help from a drunken writer (John Mahoney, as a stand-in for William Faulkner), the writer's girlfriend (Judy Davis), and the salesman next door who seems to have both wrestling skills and the "common man's touch". To say things go wrong is a mild understatement.

 Next, The Big Lebowski, from 1998. Not the biggest hit the Coen brothers ever had, but probably the film with the largest cult following of Joel and Ethan's career. So I expect a respectable size crowd for this, even though it's a 35mm screening and not a digital one of any kind.

Almost a spoof of a Raymond Chandler-style mystery, set in 1991. The slacker of all slackers, The Dude in a career performance by Jeff Bridges, is assaulted in a case of mistaken identity. This takes The Dude away from his life of bowling and drinking White Russians, into a case of (possible) kidnapping where many people lies and almost everyone takes advantage. With supporting performances by Julianne Moore (as a Yoko Ono-type artist), Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Sam Elliott, and John Goodman and Steve Buscemi as the Dude's bowling buddies. Goodman's character of The Dude's best friend; a Vietnam vet, gun nut, and bowling and Judaism enthusiast, is based in part on writer-director John Millus.

Didn't see in theaters back in the day. I certainly wasn't alone, considering the mediocre business it did at the box office. When I caught it on cable within a year later, I was mixed about it, not embracing The Dude or the overall tempo of the film. But repeated TV viewings have allowed me to embrace the film more over the years. But I've never done it on the big screen, and since the film is (for once) not being screened at Midnight, let's try it. But like I said, there is a cult, so mucho planning ahead may be required:


Let me know if there's interest, stay warm.

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