06/24/15 8:15am
06/24/2015 8:15 AM |

Orson Welles in Carol Reed’s THE THIRD MAN (1949). Courtesy Rialto Pictures / Studiocanal. Playing June 26-July 9.

The Third Man (1949)
Directed by Carol Reed
Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), author of pulpy, second-rate Western novellas, is lured into the foreboding danger of postwar Vienna by his estranged lifelong friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Typically down-on-his-luck and over a barrel, Martins succumbs to the offer—only to find when he arrives that Harry is dead, impelling Martins into a chiaroscuro chase of ambiguous morality. This Vienna is threadbare and rain-slick; skepticism abounds and there’s nary a native Austrian in sight. Reed’s direction and Graham Greene’s screenplay reach a summit of perfection: a balloon man, a sewer chase, and an inimitable Ferris wheel confrontation—all to the sounds of the unrelenting zither. Samantha Vacca (June 26-July 9 at Film Forum in new 4K restoration; showtimes daily)

12/24/14 1:00pm
12/24/2014 1:00 PM |


The Dead (1987)
Directed by John Huston
Huston’s swan song stands among the most elegant films, final or otherwise, ever made. Like the James Joyce story it adapts, the film is filled with precisely rendered sense memories: maybe-too-warm bourgeois parlors, benign alcoholism, and, in the elegant final passage, the ache of lost loves. Huston’s adaptation is exactingly faithful but produces a divergent tone. Joyce’s version was a funereal kiss-off to his homeland, but Huston’s is far more buoyant. It delights in the specificity of the author’s character observations and even finds solace in his devastating conclusion, trading the belligerent farewell of driven youth for the reconciled acceptance saying a longer goodbye. Jake Cole (Dec 24, 7:30pm; Dec 26, 8:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Huston retrospective)

12/17/14 12:00pm
12/17/2014 12:00 PM |


Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick’s swan song is one of those films that, when watched under the right circumstances, gives one the distinct impression of still being in its world after it has ended. Accordingly, this tale of troubled marriage and creepy sex cults is being shown as part of a lineup of holiday films. To watch it is to revel in its uncanny, blue-tinged, intentionally faux New York atmosphere. Combine that with the excellent performances from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman—whose celebrity statuses only heighten the onscreen stakes as they embody a chilly, patrician couple—and when you step out of the theater, the holiday lights in the streets are sure to look a little more mysterious.
Abbey Bender (Dec 17, 18, 9:40pm at IFC Center’s “Rated XMas”, on 35mm)

12/10/14 1:00pm
12/10/2014 1:00 PM |


Brewster McCloud (1970)
Directed by Robert Altman
Altman’s absurdist comedy is a deliberately awkward, abrasively reflexive product of its time. Bud Cort (one of Hollywood’s unlikeliest-ever leading men) stars as Brewster, a reclusive nebbish and possible murderer who’s building a pair of human-sized wings to fulfill his dreams of flight. Altman’s modus operandi is to throw everything he can think of at the wall, without caring what sticks. He’s out to offend and/or alienate everyone, with the script’s litany of un-PC slurs and a scattershot, Laugh-In style approach to montage. Whether the full effect is annoying or charming will be up to your specific sensibilities, but Brewster McCould remains an entirely singular work and a strange yet vivid time capsule, and features the ethereal big-screen debut of the one and only Shelley Duvall. Zach Clark (Dec 11, 4pm at MoMA‘s Altman retrospective)

12/03/14 4:00am
12/03/2014 4:00 AM |


Miami Blues (1990)
Directed by George Armitage
Nervy, hilarious and anarchic, this underseen jaw-dropper winningly transplants source author Charles Willeford’s laconic detective Hoke Moseley (Fred Ward) and feel for lived-in Florida color from page to screen, and adds two wild cards (or jokers) in the forms of Alec Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh at their freest. Co-producer Ward shrewdly cedes the spotlight to Baldwin’s psychotically androgenic murderer-conman Junior, simultaneously scary and funny whether breaking Krishna fingers, slugging Polar beers or forcing down his slow but loving prostitute-wife’s potent vinegar pie. Ward is able to toddle into his scenes and steal them quietly, as in a miracle of a dinner at which he’s an unwelcome, over-staying guest (“You sure you don’t have another beer ratholed around here someplace?”). Justin Stewart (Dec 3, 7pm at BAM’s “Overdue”)

12/03/14 4:00am
Photo courtesy of Criterion


Robert Altman

December 3-January 17 at MoMA

Cinematic retrospectives are the original mode of binge-watching. Fassbinder famously “discovered” Sirk in this manner during a 1970 Viennese series, serving as the catalyst for some of the German enfant terrible’s best work. Before Netflix series-drops at midnight or torrents, art consumption in bulk required significantly more dedication and interest. And while cases can clearly be made for the 21st century brand of insta-everything, there’s still something to relish about a survey course as grand and exhaustive as MoMA’s Robert Altman series, presenting all of the irascible maverick’s work from his early days as a hired hand on Alfred Hitchcock Presents to the cinematic groundbreaking of masterworks as diverse as Nashville, 3 Women and Gosford Park. Perhaps more than most directors, Altman’s kalaidescopic tapestries of American modernity are best shown on the big screen, where his signature long shots and voyeuristic, observational style can creep into the viewer’s psyche the way it was meant to, subtly and without incidence.