Friday Editor’s Pick: Casino (1995)

by on April 28, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri May 4 at 7:00 at Museum of the Moving Image [Program & Tix]

The always dependable annual “Fashion in Film Festival” at MOMI picks “If Looks Could Kill” could kill as its theme and supplies a fine lineup of thriller, gangster, film noir, and horror. Things fittingly kick off with Scorsese’s lavish spectacle.

Says Jonathan Romney in the New Statesman: “My choice of best and most underrated film of the decade has to be Martin Scorsese’s sublime, misunderstood Casino – a sprawling, overreaching mess in some ways, but the nearest that recent US cinema has come to producing a ‘how-we-live-today’ statement of the Zola school.”
Alt Screen editor Nathan Lee for the New York Times:

“Goodfellas” in Vegas: that’s how a lot of people greeted Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” when it came out in 1995. After all, both movies took their screenplays from Nicholas Pileggi books that burrow deep into the muck and minutiae of organized crime. In both, Joe Pesci plays an unhinged thug. Equal in scope and ambition, these epic cautionary tales are about vice, capitalism and the American Way. Unmistakably, they are also about the virtuosity of their maker. “Casino” supercharges the “Goodfellas” paradigm: wall-to-wall pop music, crackerjack montage, a quicksilver camera that glides through the scenery with curving, craning, whiplash sinuosity. Yes, “Mr. Scorsese has been here and done this already,” as Janet Maslin wrote in her review of “Casino” in The New York Times, “but not with his new film’s blistering bitterness or its peacock extravagance.” And not with Sharon Stone (above, with Robert De Niro) in the performance of a lifetime as Ginger McKenna, an ambitious, unstable Strip hustler who catches the eye of the casino boss Sam Rothstein (Mr. De Niro, in a splendidly restrained performance that makes amends for his histrionics in “Cape Fear”). Mr. Scorsese is no more repetitive than Balzac and just as talented a historian. We should be so lucky as to see “Goodfellas” in Kansas, California or Washington

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: The Red Shoes (1948)

by on February 27, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Tue March 6 at 1:30, 6:30 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]

Our second Pick in a row from Film Forum’s “This is DCP” week-long showcase of their new digital projection system. For the suspicious and reluctant celluloid loyalists: The Film Foundation’s 2009 restoration and Powell & Pressburger’s Technicolor ballet masterpiece has been widely regarded as one of the greatest ever performed.

Anthony Lane, ebulliently, for the New Yorker:

A blindingly rich and refulgent print, digitally restored by the Film Foundation and the U.C.L.A. Film and Television Archive. I’ve seen the same version on DVD, but watching “The Red Shoes,” whatever the quality, on the small screen is like drinking champagne, whatever the vintage, through a plastic straw. Catch it, and you will not just be seeing an old film made new; you will have your vision restored.


Alt Screen editor Paul Brunick for BOMBblog:

How can one explain the wonderful and terrifying magic of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 adaptation of The Red Shoes? A film about creative obsession, it has itself become the object of such obsession. Amongst cinephiles and filmmakers it commands a faction of true believers that rivals that of Citizen Kane, Vertigo or 8 ½. More than a textbook classic, The Red Shoes has been a fetish object, inspiring a feverishly ritualistic devotion that borders on the occult. Strange fate for a “commonplace backstage melodrama,” as Variety pegged it upon release, calling the story “trite” while acknowledging its technical achievements. “Pure women’s magazine” is how the film’s star, Moira Shearer, later shrugged it off. But the red shoes go on, now pirouetting in a gorgeous 35mm restoration, the final product of a 2½-year labor of love by the non-profit Film Foundation. What is it about Powell and Pressburger’s dance-film fairy tale that solicits such devotion to this day? Wherein lies the esoteric power of The Red Shoes?

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: Mean Streets (1973)

by on December 13, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Tue Dec 20 at 6:30* at Film Society of Lincoln Center [Program & Tix]

*Intro and Q&A with Martin Scorsese


FSLC is commemorating 30 years of the New York Film Festival with a selection from each consecutive year every week.


We’ve made it to 1973, and here’s something even New Yorkers don’t get everyday – while Scorsese relishes the opportunity to appear alongside his personal repertory favorites, it’s rare treat for him to elucidate one of his own masterpieces from the days of yore. Merry Christmas!


Noel Murray for The Onion AV Club:

After a few false starts, Scorsese established himself as a singular talent with 1973’s Mean Streets, a deeply personal film on two fronts. First off, Mean Streets’ story of a devoutly religious young man (played by Harvey Keitel) grappling with the obligations of his family, his faith, his job, and his loyalty to his friends (including one chronic fuck-up played by Robert De Niro) was drawn from what Scorsese had seen outside his own window, and what he’d experienced in his own life. Secondly, Mean Streets’ mix of tough-guy posturing, cinematic playfulness, and docu-realism fused some of Scorsese’s biggest influences—Warner Brothers’ crime pictures, Federico Fellini, and John Cassavetes, respectively—and showed that movie-making needn’t be so ideologically rigid, that the experimental could co-exist with the classical and the verité. For the remainder of his career, Scorsese would constantly rejigger the balance of those elements, but would keep them all in play, always. And though he’s put himself in service of other people’s stories more often than not, he’s retained a touch of “that guy who made Mean Streets” in nearly everything he’s made since.

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Sunday Editor’s Pick: After Hours (1985)

by on December 6, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sun Dec 11 at 2:00, 6:50 at BAMcinématek [Program & Tix]


David Gordon Green has been stealing some of the “Basic Cable Classics” thunder with “Adventures in the 80s,” his BAM tribute series to films that inspired his upcoming release The Sitter.


Says Green, “After Hours is absolutely the kind of role model for what we want to do. It’s a comedy on a lot of levels but it’s also kind of upsetting.” Says Alt Screen? This movie is awesome.


Dave Kehr raves for the Chicago Reader:

Martin Scorsese transforms a debilitating convention of 80s comedy—absurd underreaction to increasingly bizarre and threatening situations—into a rich, wincingly funny metaphysical farce. A lonely computer programmer (Griffin Dunne) is lured from the workday security of midtown Manhattan to an expressionistic late-night SoHo by the vague promise of casual sex with a mysterious blonde (Rosanna Arquette). But she turns out to be a sinister kook whose erratic behavior plunges Dunne into a series of increasingly strange, devastating incidents, including encounters with three more treacherous blondes (Verna Bloom, Teri Garr, and Catherine O’Hara) and culminating in a run-in with a bloodthirsty mob of vigilantes led by a Mr. Softee truck. Scorsese’s orchestration of thematic development, narrative structure, and visual style is stunning in its detail and fullness; this 1985 feature reestablished him as one of the very few contemporary masters of filmmaking.

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Friday Editor’s Pick: Raging Bull (1980)

by on December 5, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Dec 9 at 7:00 at Museum of the Moving Image [Program & Tix]


The “See It Big!” series at MOMI (curated by Reverse Shot editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert) continues to offer prize viewing opportunities, including this recently restored print. As Amy Taubin notes of Raging Bull, “Its sculptural weight can only be appreciated on the big screen.”


Taubin continues for the Village Voice:

An anti-blockbuster about a guy who busts blocks legally for a living, Raging Bull makes pain the measure of manhood. Not only pain inflicted, but pain endured. As unsparing of its audience as its protagonist is of his opponents, his family, and himself, Martin Scorsese’s biopic of former middleweight champ Jake LaMotta alternates scenes of violence at home and violence in the ring. The film is brutal but also austere, like one of Richard Serra’s massive steel sculptures.


From the first shot in Raging Bull of a nearly disembodied Robert De Niro, alone in the ring, jogging in slo-mo, his face obscured by the hood of his robe, like a monk in Rossellini’s The Little Flowers of St. Francis, you know that for Scorsese, this is the big one, the title fight, and it’s only art that’s at stake. The sense of risk is palpable and the payoff is exhilarating. There’s not a single pulled or wasted punch. The film is a perfect match of form and content.


Despite an initial flurry of rabbit punches (most of them from the Kael wing of the critical establishment), Raging Bull is now treasured as an American masterwork, a fusion of Hollywood genre with personal vision couched in images and sounds that are kinetic and visceral, and closer to poetry than pulp.

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Monday Editor’s Pick: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

by on October 31, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Mon Nov 7 at 7:00* at the Museum of Modern Art [Program & Tix]
*Into by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker


A positively essential film, adored by filmmakers ranging from Derek Jarman to George Romero to ultimate Michael Powell acolyte Martin Scorsese. And now it is given new life, care of a restoration by the Academy Film Archive in association with the BFI, ITV Studios Global Entertainment Ltd., and The Film Foundation. According to the MoMA notes:

Colonel Blimp’s full 163 minutes, butchered on its initial U.S. release, captures the epic sweep of Britain from the Blitz to the Boer War, as Powell and Pressburger’s intricate flashback structure looks back wistfully upon the nation’s fading glory and its seemingly old-fashioned virtues of honor, chivalry, and romantic idealism. The film’s exquisitely subtle Technicolor palette by Georges Périnal, aided by Jack Cardiff and Geoffrey Unsworth, has been rendered with the same delicate care as the celebrated 2009 restoration of The Red Shoes. This newly restored full-length version also deepens Roger Livesey’s career-defining portrayal of World War II Home Front Commander Clive Wynne-Candy, an incorrigibly likable, poignant, yet ultimately ambivalent homage to cartoonist David Low’s beloved caricature of reactionary bluster. It amplifies Candy’s rivalry-turned-lifelong friendship with a Prussian lieutenant of the old guard (played by a gallant Anton Walbrook)—for which an outraged Winston Churchill tried to have the film banned—and the elusive loves of his life (all played with radiant intelligence by a young Deborah Kerr).

The like-minded treatment of The Red Shoes last year was regarded by many aficionados to be the finest film restoration ever laid eyes on. If you can’t get your hands on the hot ticket to this premiere, never fear: Film Forum has a two-week run scheduled Nov 18 thru Dec 1. Says Andrew Sarris, ““When I first saw the badly-butchered American release version of Colonel Blimp more than 40 years ago, I never imagined I’d live to see the day when I would have the effrontery to write that I preferred it to Citizen Kane.”


Allow Dave Kehr to convince you:

It’s almost impossible to define this 1943 masterpiece by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was ostensibly based on a cartoon series that satirized the British military class, yet its attitude toward the main character is one of affection, respect, and sometimes awe; it was intended as a propaganda film, yet Churchill wanted to suppress it; it has the romantic sweep of a grand love story, yet none of the romantic relationships it presents is truly fulfilled, and the film’s most lasting bond is one between the British colonel (Roger Livesey) and his Prussian counterpart (Anton Walbrook). Pressburger’s screenplay covers 40 years in the colonel’s life through a series of brilliantly constructed flashbacks, compressions, and ellipses; Powell’s camera renders the winding plot through boldly deployed Technicolor hues and camera movements of exquisite design and expressivity. It stands as very possibly the finest film ever made in Britain.


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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: Italianamerican (1974) & American Boy (1978)

by on August 2, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Thu Aug 4 at 9:00 and Mon Aug 9 at 9:15 at Anthology Film Archives [Program & Tix]


Talking Head” continues at Anthology thru August 17.


Rob Nelson for the Village Voice:

Italianamerican and American Boy—oft paired in rep over the years —are nothing if not stories of real struggle. (So, too, incidentally, are Casino and Kundun and The Age of Innocence and The Aviator: The Italian American boy may have become a rich man, but he still invests himself in the work.) A post-Loud “family portrait” filmed entirely in his parents’ walk-up on Elizabeth Street, Scorsese’s Italianamerican (1974) literally puts Mom and Dad on the (plastic-covered) couch, recording their second-generation Sicilian-immigrant accounts of hard-earned Christmas trees and kids pilfering meals off fruit carts.


Like Italianamerican, American Boy (1978)—subtitled A Profile of Steven Prince—casually defies verité by including the filmmaker in the frame: Its first shot finds Scorsese sharing a Jacuzzi with his subject, a rail-thin, red-eyed ex-junkie whose near-orgasmic moans of pleasure compel the auteur to request a little space. That need for privacy appears an inherited trait for Marty as much as it was for Howard Hughes: The earlier film shows his father, Charles—in the face of Mrs. Scorsese’s playful protestations—favoring the far side of the sofa.


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Saturday’s Editor’s Pick: The Color of Money (1986)

by on July 6, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat July 9 & Sun July 10 at 7:00 at the Museum of the Moving Image [Program & Tix]


Jay Steinberg gives some background for TCM:

Newman had been long intrigued with the notion of picking up with Felson’s seedy odyssey, but the screen adaptation of novelist Walter Tevis’ follow-up to The Hustler ultimately retained little more than the book’s title. Unsatisfied with the script he had in development, the actor made overtures to director Martin Scorsese, whose effort with Raging Bull (1980) convinced Newman that he could capture the requisite urban feel.


For Scorsese, the project was a first in many ways, being a big-budget vehicle for an old-guard star in which he had no hand in the initial development. The Hustler had been a lifelong favorite of the director’s, however, and he happily accepted the unusually commercial assignment. “A movie star is a person I saw when I was ten or eleven on a big screen,” Scorsese recounted to Mary Pat Kelly in Martin Scorsese: A Journey (Thunder’s Mouth Press). “With De Niro and the other guys it was a different thing. We were friends. We kind of grew together creatively…But with Paul, I would go in and I’d see a thousand different movies in his face, images I had seen on that big screen when I was twelve years old. It makes an impression.”


To help develop a script with the proper street nuance, Scorsese recruited Richard Price, the novelist responsible for The Wanderers and Bloodbrothers. “Our concept was that ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson was not the kind of fellow who, after losing out at the end of the first film, just folded up and did nothing for the next twenty-five years,” the director recounted in Scorsese On Scorsese (Faber and Faber). “He’s a big hustler, and if Bert Gordon (George C. Scott’s sleazy backer from the original film) was tough and mean, the only way I know that ‘Fast Eddie’ could survive was if he was tougher, meaner and more corrupt than Bert.”


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Saturday Editor’s Pick: New York, New York

by on June 18, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat June 18 at 8:30; Tue June 21 at 6:30; Sat June 25 at 8:30 at Anthology Film Archives [Program & Tix]


Nick Pinkerton gives a roundup of the first part of Anthology’s jaunty new series “Hollywood Musicals of the 1970s & 1980s,” programmed by Leah Churner, for the L Mag. Full series lineup here.

The 20th Century Limited that connected Broadway and Hollywood symbolically, New York and Los Angeles literally, stopped service in 1967: the same watershed year when, cultural lore has it, Bonnie and Clyde killed Doctor Doolittle, sacked Camelot, and the Big Movie Musical was forever invalidated.


Yet even as the wide-open 70s came on, with the long death rattle of the “Freed Unit” style expelling horrors like Mame, new approaches to the musical were underway. These are the subjects of Anthology’s program.


We are spotlighting many of Anthology’s screenings, but first in line for an overdue ovation is Martin Scorsese’s maligned New York, New York. Alt Screen’s Dan Callahan:

A downbeat homate to bright-lights showbiz dramas, an epic orchestration that indulges in stubbornly obsessive riffs, Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York (1977) seems to value awkwardness and indecision above all else. Coming off the success of Taxi Driver (1976), Scorsese secured a big budget and MGM sound stages for what was meant to be his tribute to and deconstruction of classic Hollywood musicals, but the tribute got lost somewhere in the deconstruction. The stars of the film, Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro, were encouraged to embroider their lines with improvisation, and whenever language begins to break down between them, De Niro pushes hard into inarticulate aggressiveness as Minnelli retreats into querulous befuddlement. Bathed in anxious red and purple neon, the movie plays out like some errant crossbreeding of Charles Vidor’s Love Me or Leave Me (1955) and John Cassavetes’s Minnie and Moskowitz (1971).


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Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” (1977) at Anthology Archives (Jun 18, 21 & 25)

by on June 15, 2011Posted in: Essay

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