109 East 42nd St. at Lexington Ave.
February 7-9, adults $55 - $195 (through January 17)
When we were mere lads, we got our post-breakup, pre-iTunes Beatles fix by checking out Beatlemania on Broadway, seeing Paul McCartney and Wings at Madison Square Garden, and going to a Beatles Fest convention on Long Island, where we finally got to watch Magical Mystery Tour and went home with all kinds of little trinkets; we still have that Shea Stadium Beatles coin that nearly bankrupted us at six bucks. The elephant in the room back then was the constant speculation of a possible Beatles reunion, with all four Moptops still alive and well. But that all came to a startling end forty-three years ago today, when John Lennon was assassinated at the age of forty. George Harrison’s death at the age of fifty-eight on November 29, 2001, closed another chapter in the continuing Fab Four saga. Paul and Ringo are still around, touring, making records, and playing new and old songs, but it will never be the same. Even Shea Stadium, where the Beatles played on August 15, 1964, is gone.
But the memories will come flooding back February 7-9 when the Fest for Beatles Fans, which began in 1974, takes place at the Grand Hyatt, held in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival at JFK airport on February 7, 1964, and what might be the most famous half-hour rock concert in history. (The Fest will actually be in Chicago August 15-17, then move on to Los Angeles October 10-12, cities that actually got two shows back in 1964.) The three-day Manhattan party will feature dozens of special guests giving talks, signing memorabilia, presenting videos and art exhibitions, participating in panel discussions, and playing live sets. Among those confirmed are Peter & Gordon’s Peter Asher; photographers Bob Gruen, Allen Tannenbaum, and Rob Shanahan; “Breakfast with the Beatles” DJ Ken Dashow; Beatles scholar Martin Lewis, who will serve as MC; newscaster Larry Kane; producer Mark Hudson; animator Ron Campbell; and lots of authors, historians, and cover bands. Performers include Chad & Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer, the Smithereens (re-creating the Beatles’ February 11, 1964, concert at the Washington Coliseum), and Donovan, who will also give a meditation lecture. There will be a Beatles marketplace, screenings of the documentary Good Ol’ Freda (with Freda Kelly), an auction, a dance party, costume and trivia contests, a parade, a walking tour, a tribute to the late Sid Bernstein, and much more. Ticket prices through January 17 range from $55 for Friday night to $79 for Saturday or Sunday to $195 for an all-access three-day pass; children six to sixteen are half price and those five and under free.
DECEMBER BRUNCH & MIDNITE — NAUGHTY AND NICE: A CHRISTMAS STORY (Bob Clark, 1983)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Wednesday, December 11, $75, 7:15
Once upon a time, there was a little cult movie that so perfectly captured the real Christmas spirit that it was a special holiday gift for those few who knew of its myriad charms. But when word got out, it sure got out, making A Christmas Story more ubiquitous in December than It’s a Wonderful Life. In fact, TBS will once again host a twenty-four-hour marathon of the film beginning at 8:00 on Christmas Eve, and the stage musical is back in New York City, running December 11-29 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. In A Christmas Story — which is directed by Bob Clark, who also made Porky’s and another holiday favorite, 1974’s Black Christmas — radio legend Jean Shepherd narrates stories based on his own life, which deal with light-up leg lamps and crossword puzzles, saying fffffffffff-udge and eating soap, shopping for trees and visiting Santa, but mostly, of course, they’re about family. And this is one crazy family, with Darren (Kolchak) McGavin as the grumpy Old Man, Melinda Dillon as his much-too-sweet wife, Ian Petrella as younger brother Randy, and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, who dreams of getting his very own official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle. And yes, little Scotty Schwartz, who plays Flick the pole licker, did indeed become a porn star, appearing in such naughty romps as New Wave Hookers 5, Dirty Bob’s Xcellent Adventures 35 & 36, and Still Insatiable. There are many ways to see A Christmas Story this holiday season, but the best might just be at Nitehawk Cinema’s “Naughty and Nice” Film Feast on December 11 at 7:15, when the movie will be shown along with a menu specially created for the screening. The four-course dinner begins with chestnut and cranberry stuffing bites with snap ginger liqueur whipped cream, paired with an Ovaltini (Lovely, Beautiful, Glorious Christmas), followed by bacon-wrapped meatloaf served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage, to be washed down with “Oh Fuuudddggggeee” chocolate stout (Mrs. Parker’s Comfort Food). Next up is roasted duck breast with Bumpuses’ egg roll in a spiced orange reduction, accompanied by hot mulled wine (Chinese Turkey). And finally, for dessert, there’s coconut snowball cake (Pink Nightmare). Now, that sounds like a Christmas dinner you’ll never forget.
FRANCES HA (Noah Baumbach, 2012)
MoMA Film, Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Monday, December 9, 8:00
Series continues through January 16
Tickets: $12, in person only, may be applied to museum admission within thirty days, same-day screenings free with museum admission, available at Film and Media Desk beginning at 9:30 am
Lena Dunham meets Woody Allen and François Truffaut in Noah Baumbach’s utterly delightful and frustratingly believable Frances Ha. Breakout mumblecore star Greta Gerwig (Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends) plays the title character, a twenty-seven-year-old New York dancer living with her best friend from college, Sophie (Mickey Sumner). They tell each other everything and even sleep in the same bed; “The coffee people are right — we are like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore,” Frances playfully tells Sophie. But when Sophie suddenly announces that she’s moving in with her boyfriend, Patch (Patrick Heusinger), Frances’s life starts going off on a downward spiral, her childlike manner and carefree attitude no longer as charmingly quirky as it used to be. She first moves in with hot stud Lev (Girls’ Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen), who nicknames her “Undateable.” She suffers a serious setback in the dance company where she apprentices, she’s running out of money, and Sophie is becoming more and more distant. But as Frances grows more and more desperate, she also finally starts taking a longer look at who she is — and who she wants to be. Shot in a deep, penetrating black-and-white by Sam Levy, Frances Ha wonderfully captures the life of today’s twentysomethings, from their dependence on texting and self-involvement to their often bewildering inability to think about a real future.
Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) follows Frances as she moves around New York City and goes back to her alma mater, Vassar (which is Baumbach’s also), marking each location as a new phase in her life. Gerwig, who took dance as a child and studied the discipline at Barnard (the choreography in the film is by Max Stone and Travis Waldschmidt), cowrote the script with Baumbach — they are romantic partners as well. Although she initially did not consider herself for the title role, she is terrific as Frances, sort of the illegitimate daughter of Annie Hall and Antoine Doinel. The soundtrack features music by indie duo Dean + Britta — Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips also play the hosts of a dinner party Frances attends — in addition to Georges Delerue, the French composer of hundreds of films, including many by Truffaut. And yes, Gerwig’s real parents play her mother and father in the film. Frances Ha is one of the most honest coming-of-age comedies in years, an insightful examination of a perplexing generation. Frances Ha is screening December 9 at 8:00 as part of MoMA’s annual series “The Contenders,” which consists of exemplary films that MoMA believes will stand the test of time, continuing with such works as J. C. Chandor’s All Is Lost, Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess, and Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring.
NIGHT NURSE (William A. Wellman, 1931)
209 West Houston St.
Sunday, December 8: Baby Face 3:30, 6:50, 9:50, Night Nurse 5:20, 8:20
Series runs December 6-31
William A. Wellman’s rarely screened 1931 doozy, Night Nurse, is the first of five collaborations between Wellman and Barbara Stanwyck. Based on Dora Macy’s 1930 novel, Night Nurse stars Stanwyck as Lora Hart, a young woman determined to become a nurse. She gets a probationary job at a city hospital, where she is taken under the wing of Maloney (Joan Blondell), who likes to break the rules and torture the head nurse, the stodgy Miss Dillon (Vera Lewis). Shortly after treating a bootlegger (Ben Lyon) for a gunshot wound and agreeing not to report it to the police, Lora starts working for a shady doctor (Ralf Harolde) taking care of two sick children (Marcia Mae Jones and Betty Jane Graham) whose proudly dipsomaniac mother (Charlotte Merriam) is being manipulated by her suspicious chauffeur (Clark Gable). Wellman pulls out all the stops, hinting at or simply depicting murder, child endangerment, rape, alcoholism, lesbianism, physical brutality, and Blondell and Stanwyck regularly frolicking around in their undergarments. It’s as if Wellman is thumbing his nose directly at the soon-to-be-in-place Hays Code in scene after scene. Although far from his best film — Wellman directed such classics as Wings (1927), The Public Enemy (1931), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), Beau Geste (1939), and The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) — Night Nurse is an overly melodramatic, dated, but entertaining little tale with quite a surprise ending. Night Nurse is screening twice on December 8 as part of Film Forum’s epic “Stanwyck” series and will be shown in a double feature with the uncensored, dastardly sordid version of Alfred E. Green’s 1933 Baby Face, in which Stanwyck plays a woman who was pimped out by her father in her early teens and now knows how to use her body to get exactly what she wants. The festival is being held in conjunction with the first major biography of the glamorous star, Victoria Wilson’s A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940; Wilson will be introducing several films over the course of the series, which runs December 6-31, and will give the illustrated talk “Stanwyck Before Hollywood” on December 8 at 3:30 before the screening of Baby Face.
“I don’t think that this is going to be a boring weekend,” one character says early on in Anna Condo’s debut feature, Merry Christmas. It turns out she couldn’t be more wrong, for the misguided film feels like it goes on for a weekend, even though it’s a mere eighty-three minutes long. Hit hard by the financial crisis, a wealthy New York City family ends up spending its Christmas in a Pennsylvania B&B instead of Aspen, playing a murder-mystery game set in and around a 1974 disco lounge. As the family members move in and out of character, real feelings emerge as they discuss God and Satan, Freud and finance, Park Ave. and the ghetto, race and Fox News, and how much a homeless stranger looks like Charles Manson. Condo, who was born in Armenia, raised in France, and is married to artist George Condo, directed and edited Merry Christmas (and chose the crazy costumes); there is no writer credit because the film, shot in two and a half days on location, is completely improvised. Each actor was given a one-page outline of their character, and each scene was done in one take, without rehearsal. Condo then took three years to edit the film. If this is what she chose to include, we’d hate to see what ended up on the cutting-room floor. Part reality show, part Arrested Development rip-off, Merry Christmas is most severely hampered by a collection of characters you wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with, let alone nearly an hour and a half. The cast includes Alexandra Stewart as clueless family matriarch Maya Dawn Lewis, Antony Langdon as the bitterly annoying Ted, Elizabeth Jasicki as late arriver Janice Black, Eleonore Condo (daughter of Anna and George) as teenage Lily Lazarus, Martin Pfefferkorn as the homeless stranger (who actually looks a lot more like Denis Lavant’s character in Leos Carax’s Merde than Manson), Tibor Feldman as Lewis attorney Leon, and real-life innkeeper Darlene Elders as Kay, the owner of the B&B. In Suzi Forbes Chase’s Recommended Bed & Breakfasts: Mid-Atlantic States, the author writes, “Innkeeper Darlene Elders has a theme for her bed-and-breakfast, and it goes like this: ‘If every day were Christmas, our hearts would be filled with loving, giving, caring, and sharing every day — not just at Christmas.’” Unfortunately, there’s not much to love about Merry Christmas, which opens December 6 at Cinema Village; Anna Condo, Eleonore Condo, Feldman, and Jasicki will participate in a Q&A following the 3:15 screening on Sunday, December 8.
EQUINOX FLOWER (HIGANBANA) (Yasujirō Ozu, 1958)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
144 and 165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
December 8, 10, 12, Walter Reade Theater, and December 11, Francesca Beale Theater
Series runs December 4-12
212-875-5050 / 212-875-5166
Yasujirō Ozu’s first film in color, at the studio’s request, is another engagingly told exploration of the changing relationship between parents and children, the traditional and the modern, in postwar Japan. Both funny and elegiac, Equinox Flower opens with businessman Wataru Hirayama (Shin Saburi) giving a surprisingly personal speech at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, explaining that he is envious that the newlyweds are truly in love, as opposed to his marriage, which was arranged for him and his wife, Kiyoko (Kinuyo Tanaka). Hirayama is later approached by an old middle school friend, Mikami (Ozu regular Chishu Ryu), who wants him to speak with his daughter, Fumiko (Yoshiko Kuga), who has left home to be with a man against her father’s will. Meanwhile, Yukiko (Fujiko Yamamoto), a friend of Hirayama’s elder daughter, Setsuko (Ineko Arima), is constantly being set up by her gossipy mother, Hatsu (Chieko Naniwa). Hirayama does not seem to be instantly against what Fumiko and Yukiko want for themselves, but when a young salaryman named Taniguchi (Keiji Sada) asks Hirayama for permission to marry his older daughter, Setsuko (Ineko Arima), Hirayama stands firmly against their wedding, claiming that he will decide Setsuko’s future. “Can’t I find my own happiness?” Setsuko cries out. The widening gap between father and daughter represents the modernization Japan is experiencing, but the past is always close at hand; Ozu and longtime cowriter Kōgo Noda even have Taniguchi being transferred to Hiroshima, the scene of such tragedy and devastation. Yet there is still a lighthearted aspect to Equinox Flower, and Ozu and cinematographer Yuharu Atsuta embrace the use of color, including beautiful outdoor scenes of Hirayama and Kiyoko looking out across a river and mountain, a train station sign warning of dangerous winds, the flashing neon RCA Victor building, and laundry floating against a cloudy blue sky. The interiors are carefully designed as well, with objects of various colors arranged like still-life paintings, particularly a red teapot that shows up in numerous shots. And Kiyoko’s seemingly offhanded adjustment of a broom hanging on the wall is unforgettable. But at the center of it all is Saburi’s marvelously gentle performance as a proud man caught between the past, the present, and the future. Equinox Flower is screening December 8-12 as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center festival “Ozu and His Afterlives,” which honors the 110th anniversary of the master filmmaker’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his death; he died on his birthday at the age of sixty in 1963. The series also features Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon in addition to seven works that were either directly or indirectly inspired by Ozu and his unique style, including Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking, Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, Aki Kaurismäki’s The Match Factory Girl, Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum, Pedro Costa’s In Vanda’s Room, and Wim Wenders’s Tokyo-Ga.
TROPIC THUNDER (Ben Stiller, 2008)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Sunday, December 8, 1:00
Series runs December 6-8
212-875-5050 / 212-875-5166
Director and star Ben Stiller takes on Oliver Stone (Platoon), Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now), Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket), Sylvester Stallone (First Blood), and just about everyone else who has ever made a movie about the Vietnam War in the hysterical spoof Tropic Thunder. Stiller, who also is one of the writers and producers, plays Tugg Speedman, a onetime huge action star whose career is in the toilet, especially after his disastrous attempt to win an Oscar by going “full retard” in Simple Jack. His castmates on the film within a film include Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black), who has amassed a fortune making flatulence flicks and wants to be respected as a real actor; Oscar-winning Method actor Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey Jr.), who has undergone a controversial procedure to darken his skin so he can play a black soldier; hip-hop star Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson), who never misses a chance to hype his bootylicious thirst quencher; and Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), a young actor who is just happy to be in the movie, which is based on a book written by gruff and grizzled Vietnam vet John “Four Leaf” Tayback (Nick Nolte). When troubles on the set threaten to end production, director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) takes the cast into the jungle, where he hopes to give the film a more realistic feel. But soon the troops, with their prop rifles and hand grenades, are battling a very real drug cartel with very real weapons. Tropic Thunder is a multilayered farce that is fresh and funny from start to finish. In fact, it begins with a riotous series of pseudo-commercials and previews that introduce the main characters. The smart send-up of all aspects of the entertainment industry also features a surprise appearance by one of Hollywood’s top stars giving what might be his most memorable performance ever as an insanely powerful foul-mouthed studio head with no morals. Tropic Thunder is screening December 8 at 1:00 as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center festival “Ben Stiller Directs,” which looks back at the directing career of the son of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara upon the release of his latest, a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The three-day series also includes The Cable Guy, Reality Bites, and the cult favorite Zoolander, with Stiller on hand for that film as well as Mitty to talk about his work.