Ok so I actually meant to start this weekly column last week - and especially since the Cinematheque had a program of Steve McQueen films - but alas that tropical malady known as the common cold caught up with me.
Better late than never, and what a week the American Cinematheque has in store at that!
THE EGYPTIAN - 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028
Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 7:30pm
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971, United Artists; Directed by: Norman Jewison)
The movie that will have you shouting TRADITION!!!
One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the adaptation score by John Williams. I absolutely love the opening credits track, and have seen it performed live in concert at the Hollywood Bowl - conducted by Williams himself - several times. I will often listen to it on the LP, then play it over and over again. One of the most amazing violin pieces ever put on film, and John Williams won an Oscar for Best Adaptation Score and it's easily apparent why.
Topol is spot on as a Russian peasant watching his way of life disintegrate around him. It's funny, it's emotional and will leave you in tears yet inspired at the same time. Norman Jewison (who during this period was red hot) makes this musical feel less like a staged musical and more like a drama with songs. At least that's how I feel about it. It's a big screen epic in tone, feel and in production value.
And if you don't leave with at least 3 of the songs stuck in your head, well then you're just dead inside.
Friday, April 6th, 2012 - 7:30pm
You may have seen the most recent THE MUPPETS as it just came out on Blu-Ray and DVD on March 27...but here are 2 movies that feature Muppets you haven't seen on TV, and a much darker side of the genius of Jim Henson.
THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982, ITC; Directed by: Jim Henson & Frank Oz)
LABYRINTH (1986, TriStar; Directed by: Jim Henson)
These are Muppet worlds that are not inhabited by singing frogs, karate chopping pigs or bad-joke-telling bears. THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH are fantasy worlds that are dark and dangerous.
I first saw THE DARK CRYSTAL when it came out on VHS at my Aunt and Uncle's house, and it made me cry. In fact, it scarred me so much it took years before I finally revisited it on DVD where as an adult I appreciated much more the very somber and unique world presented within it.
I know I focus a lot on film scores (they are a particular fascination of mine) and the score for THE DARK CRYSTAL is beyond exceptional. Scored by Trevor Jones (who also scored LABYRINTH) it just sets such a perfect tone for a wildly original and creative movie that will stick with you long after viewing. This is one that is prime for big screen viewing and re-visiting if it has been a while for you.
LABYRINTH is also a dark journey - a little less so than THE DARK CRYSTAL - and features a young Jennifer Connelly (CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, A BEAUTIFUL MIND, etc.) and David Bowie (yes...THAT David Bowie) as the big bad.
An ideal double feature any way you look at it.
THE TRAILER for THE DARK CRYSTAL:
THE TRAILER for LABYRINTH:
Saturday, April 7th, 2012 - 7:30pm
It is Easter weekend, and this is one holiday that is truly not complete without at least one epic Charlton Heston movie.
BEN-HUR (1959, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Directed by: William Wyler)
Starts off with the Christmas story and ends on Easter with Judah Ben-Hur's tale of struggle, loss, revenge and redemption in between.
This movie was recently restored most spectacularly for Blu-Ray release by Warner Home Video, and it is one of the best looking Blu-Rays I own - and the movie is of course epic and great.
Winner of 11 Academy Awards, everything (I believe) it was nominated for including Best Picture and Actor (Heston), BEN-HUR is best known for that oh so epic and non-CGI enhanced Chariot race which every time I view it gives me goosebumps. I have seen BEN-HUR projected several times (at the Cinerama Dome - twice - and The Academy Theater, and I almost want to say at the Egyptian as well) and it is a marvel of big screen filmmaking. This is a movie that excites, and knows that it's big in scope and story.
Miklos Rozsa composed the score, and a recently released 5-CD collection (via Film Score Monthly - details HERE) is going to be given away to one lucky attendee. But that's not all...become a member of the Cinematheque and you can get your hands on that awesome Blu-Ray (or DVD) box set courtesy of Warner Home Video by signing up at the $125 level. That is a win all around. An outstanding movie that needs to be in everyone's collection, and movie going at the Cinematheque!
Sunday, April 8th, 2o12 - 7:30pm
From big spectacle to the 8th Wonder of the World.
KING KONG (1933, RKO Radio Pictures; Directed by: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack)
Do I even have to write about this? I mean come on...it's KING KONG..the original which is a stunning early movie that never ceases to thrill.
This is a 35mm print, and cinematic treasure that is best seen on the big screen. I always love when that one native gets stuck to the bottom of Kong's foot - not to mention the exciting finale atop the Empire State Building. I think they were just ticked off at him because he bypassed the line, didn't buy a ticket and climbed up the side instead of taking the elevator.
THE AERO - 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403
As if the lineup at the Egyptian wasn't spectacular enough, the Aero in Santa Monica just doubles the excitement.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 - 7:30pm
MCCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971, Warner Bros; Directed by: Robert Altman)
During March, the Egyptian had Wednesdays with Orson Welles and the Aero had Wednesdays with Alfred Hitchcock, and with April comes Wednesdays with Robert Altman at the Aero.
MCCABE & MRS. MILLER has gambler Warren Beatty and prostitute Julie Christie linking up in a business venture in a remote mining town.
This is a prime example of a revisionist western during a time when American cinema was changing drastically. Beatty, a few years after really igniting the screen with BONNIE & CLYDE, is equally as fascinating here.
The cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond (CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, THE DEER HUNTER and that great LA Times cinema ad from the late 90s/early 2000s) and it's a somber darkly shot vision of a mining town that looks dirty and as far away from civilization as you can possibly get. This film was featured prominently in the Cinematography documentary VISIONS OF LIGHT: THE ART OF CINEMATOGRAPHY which is worth checking out especially after viewing this film.
Friday, April 6th, 2012 - 7:30pm
While the Egyptian features a more straight forward look at the Easter tale in BEN-HUR, Martin Scorsese takes the revisionist route with his (at the time, and probably still) controversial...
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988, Universal; Directed by: Martin Scorsese)
This movie ignited the right-wingers fury when it was first released, and I remember seeing a guy come on the ARSENIO HALL SHOW and claiming they were going to "tear down any screen that dared show it". Way to help fuel ticket sales guys.
Instead of the looming presence of Charlton Heston, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST has a bunch of New Yorkers like Willem DaFoe (as Jesus), Harvey Keitel (Judas) and Barbara Hershey (Mary Magdalene) being tempted in the desert, betraying Jesus and oh yeah...an imaging if Jesus decided to hop off the cross at the last minute and live a normal life with wife and kids. And they say this thing is controversial. I can't see anything that would offend anyone...ok...maybe a few people.
This is definitely no TAXI DRIVER or RAGING BULL and I love how Scorsese breaks from his usual kingdom of the streets of New York and does something bold and daring in a movie that while controversial in nature, feels anything but while viewing it.
And yes I know it was recently released on Blu-Ray courtesy of the CRITERION COLLECTION, but still is worth seeing on the big screen where it was meant to be seen.
Barbara Hershey will also be on-hand live for a Q&A.
Ok I'm going to jump around in time a bit here...but the reason will become clear...
Sunday, April 8th, 2012 - 7:30pm
It's Easter, so Rabbits get the spotlight in...
HARVEY (1950, Universal; Directed by: Henry Koster)
DONNIE DARKO (2001, Newmarket; Directed by: Richard Kelly)
Talk about 2 different takes on a theme.
James Stewart is a friendly sort of guy that just happens to think his best friend is a large invisible rabbit named HARVEY.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Jake Gyllenhaal thinks he's seeing a large rabbit that manipulates him into committing crimes.
2 large imaginary rabbits, 2 very different agendas.
In HARVEY, James Stewart will have you believing he is really talking to a rabbit very early on, and quite frankly gets you so emotionally involved in the character that you want Harvey to be real. A real gem of a movie.
DONNIE DARKO won't have you wanting imaginary rabbits as friends but well...actually I'm never really been sure what to say about this movie as it is just a different experience all around. I'll tell you this, this rabbit is definitely NOT the ideal Easter Bunny.
THE TRAILER for HARVEY:
THE TRAILER for DONNIE DARKO:
I absolutely love the contrast of these two films paired together as a double feature, and kudos to the Cinematheque for presenting 2 very different programs (BEN-HUR at the Egyptian in contrast to THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST at the Aero, etc) at their venues this Easter weekend.
Going back in time to...
Saturday, April 7th, 2012 - 2pm
It used to be that wannabe actors would flood into Los Angeles looking for fame and fortune. I've been kind of the opinion that these days it's the aspiring writers and directors that seem to be in abundance. Well, this seminar is for any of you wanting to be (or already are) in that world.
FADE IN AND ACTION! A SEMINAR FOR THE WRITER-DIRECTOR
Several prominent industry figures talk about their experiences in the Studio System and Independent filmmaking, and also discuss the evolution of the entertainment industry in a increasingly digital world.
Saturday, April 7th, 2012 - 7:30pm
Anyone who loves movies and Hollywood history and lives in Los Angeles either drives by, works in or sees a location that has been prominently featured in any number of films on a daily basis. Los Angeles IS movies, and no matter how much runaway production there is, the city will always be synonymous with film.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I lived in a studio apartment on Sycamore between Hollywood and Franklin. The first week I got there, I went into what was then the Hollywood Galaxy complex (it had a General Cinema, a food court and a science fiction store at the time, which has been replaced with a gym, a bar, a pharmacy, a shoe store and I believe an entertainment museum which may have closed actually) and sat in a food court on the lower level. I had just seen the Barry Levinson film JIMMY HOLLYWOOD and it didn't take long before I realized I was sitting pretty much in the same spot Joe Pesci and Christian Slater sat in one scene during the movie. I geeked out a lot...and believe that several of my fellow film school students laughed at me a bit for that (don't care really, I saw them freak out over their own personal film location moments) and it really brought home how I was now living in Hollywood. Not to mention, the General Cinema in the complex which I frequented weekly was in the feature film version of BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (2003, Submarine Entertainment; Directed by: Thom Andersen)
This movie discusses Los Angeles as a location, and turns that geek moment I had as a young film student into a feature length documentary. Great viewing for anyone in love with Los Angeles and movies - both of which I completely am.
I mean come on...who can possibly drive through Century City and not look at the Fox Tower and instantly think of Nakatomi Plaza in DIE HARD. That building alone is a constant reminder of Los Angeles as less of a city and more of one very large movie playground.