NITEHAWK BRUNCH SCREENINGS: McCABE & MRS. MILLER (Robert Altman, 1971)
136 Metropolitan Ave. between Berry St. & Wythe Ave.
Saturday, December 7, and Sunday, December 8, $16, 11:30 am
Robert Altman’s self-described “anti-Western” starts off gently enough, as John McCabe (Warren Beatty) rides slowly into a dark, dank northwestern town in 1902, Leonard Cohen’s “The Stranger Song” playing over the opening credits. But Altman (M*A*S*H, Nashville) is merely setting the stage for what is to come, the electric combination of Julie Christie and Beatty as two businesspeople building a new town in the Old West. Beatty plays gentleman gambler John McCabe, who is soon joined by madam Constance Miller (Christie) in running the local brothel, and pretty much the town itself, which catches the eye of a mining company that decides it wants in on the action, something McCabe and Mrs. Miller are not about to let happen, at least not without one helluva fight. Filmed mostly in sequential order, McCabe & Mrs. Miller unfolds like an epic poem, thanks to Altman and cowriter Brian McKay’s imaginative and unpredictable script, based on Edmund Naughton’s 1959 novel, McCabe, and Vilmos Zsigmond’s gorgeous cinematography. The film is visually spectacular, as Altman cuts from the dreamlike red velvet interiors of Mrs. Miller’s brothel to the expansive land outside, bathed in the beautiful yet ominous falling snow. The Oscar-nominated Christie and Beatty do the love-hate thing to perfection, something they would duplicate in 1975 when they teamed up in Hal Ashby’s Shampoo and again in 1978 in Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait. A clear influence on such Clint Eastwood gems as High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a marvelous picture that ranks right up there with the best Westerns — “anti-“ or otherwise — ever made. The stellar cast also includes Rene Auberjonois, Michael Murphy, Bert Remsen, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, William Devane, and John Schuck, with Cohen contributing several more songs to the soundtrack. And the ending — well, it’s one of cinema’s most unforgettable finales. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is screening December 7 & 8 at 11:30 am as part of Nitehawk Cinema’s “Country Brunchin’” series and will be preceded by a live performance by Brooklyn’s own Birdhive Boys Bluegrass Band.
Every year since 1981, a group of musicians has gotten together to pay tribute to John Lennon, who was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of the Dakota on December 8, 1980. A proponent of peace and love in his life and career, Lennon was only forty years old at the time of his death and had just released his first album in five years, Double Fantasy, with his wife, Yoko Ono. On Friday, December 6, the thirty-third annual John Lennon tribute will be held at Symphony Space, featuring performances by Steve Earle, Raul Malo, Joan Osborne, Teddy Thompson, Dana Fuchs, Bettye LaVette, Dan Bern, Toshi Reagon, Rich Pagano, the Buffers, and Joe Raiola, the MAD magazine senior editor who created the tribute. The event is presented by Music Without Borders and Theatre Within, an organization dedicated to supporting the performing arts. A portion of the proceeds from the concert will go to Spirit Foundations, a nonprofit that was founded by John and Yoko in 1978 to help “charitable and humanitarian causes around the world.”
SLAM (Marc Levin, 1998)
127 West 127th St.
Thursday, December 5, suggested admission $10, 7:00
Series continues through December 8 at Maysles Cinema
Award-winning documentarian Marc Levin is being celebrated this week with a four-day “Masterclass” tribute at the Maysles Cinema in Harlem. The series begins December 5 with a fifteenth-anniversary screening of Levin’s second fiction feature, the genre-defining Slam. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Camera d’Or at Cannes, the 1998 film stars Saul Williams as Ray Joshua, a young man arrested for selling weed in the appropriately named Dodge City in southeast D.C. Ray is faced with three options: plead not guilty and go to trial, which means long prison time if he loses; plead guilty and get locked up for eighteen months to two years; or cooperate with the police and walk free after naming names. Unable to make bail, Ray is incarcerated while trying to decide what he is going to do. While behind bars, he lets loose with some remarkable spoken-word rhymes that earns him respect and the attention of writing teacher Lauren Bell (Sonja Sohn). Soon Ray’s artistry might be the only thing that can save him as he continues to fight an unfair system in an unjust world.
Shot in a compelling cinéma vérité style by Mark Benjamin that adds a heavy dose of grim reality, Slam is a collaboration between Levin and Richard Stratton, an ex-con who started Prison Life magazine after spending eight years in jail for drug smuggling. In addition, Williams, Sohn, and Bonz Malone, who plays prison inmate Hopha, wrote their own dialogue/raps. The score, by DJ Spooky, is supplemented by a soundtrack that includes KRS-One, Pras, Big Pun, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Mobb Deep, Brand Nubian, and others. And yes, that is D.C. mayor Marion Barry Jr. as the judge preaching about the scourge of drugs. Slam, the first of an urban trilogy by Levin that continues with Whiteboyz and Brooklyn Babylon, is screening December 5 at 7:00 at the Dempsey Auditorium, preceded by a live performance by Darian Dauchan, Samantha Thornhill, and Jon Sands and followed by a Q&A with Levin, Stratton, Williams, Sohn, Malone, Bob Holman, and Liza Jessie Peterson. The Masterclass series runs through December 8 at the Maysles Cinema with such other Levin films as Whiteboyz, a double feature of Gang War: Bangin; in Little Rock and Back in the Hood: Gang War 2, and Mr. Untouchable, shown along with a preview of the work-in-progress Freeway: Crack in the System, about Rick Ross. (Fans of Williams can also catch him performing at the December 7 edition of the Brooklyn Museum’s free First Saturdays program.)
In the digital age, is it easier or harder to wipe out the past and reinvent oneself than it was when music was primarily heard on records and the radio? One band that appears to be doing just that is Faulkner. “A change may be just around the corner,” the Venice, California, band recently tweeted. The four-piece, which was not named after the Nobel Prize–winning southern author of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying but was given its name by an Egyptian shaman, is preparing its debut full-length, Street Axioms, working with producers Mark Needham and JP Bowersock and collaborating with Wu Tang Clan’s RZA. According to the band’s Facebook page, the group was founded in 2013, while the (of course) unofficial Wikipedia page claims they started in 2012. Meanwhile, an April 2010 profile on the band in USC’s Daily Trojan begins, appropriately enough, “Faulkner is a band that is just as eccentric as its namesake.” (Another site dates their beginnings to 2007.) The USC article also says that the band has released five music videos, but the only one that is currently easily accessible online is 2012’s “Triumph of the Underdogs,” which garnered 1.55 million hits last year and on which the band declares, “Changes are coming.” It’s also difficult to find out much information about Faulkner’s Global Ambition EP, which consists of “California Skies,” “Soul Black Absentee,” “I Did It on My Terms,” “Triumph of the Underdogs,” and the title track and can be heard on Artists First Music. Oddly, since we’ve been inquiring into the band’s history, various links to videos and songs have been taken down or no longer work. It’s most likely tied to the departure last year of lead guitarist and vocalist Brennan McGuire, who left the band because of a family emergency that affected his ability to travel on a regular basis. “It does not surprise me in the least that the band now appears to have ‘formed’ in 2013,” McGuire confirmed via e-mail, “as we had done this after each of the first three incarnations of the band Lucas [Asher] and I started in 2008.” McGuire, who is now back with Hooville Homebrew, was replaced by Eric Scullin. (You can see McGuire with Faulkner in this video interview for Sunset Sessions.) E-mails to the current edition of Faulkner have gone unanswered as of press time. Conspiracy? Coincidence? In the end, perhaps it really doesn’t matter as much as the music itself, and that’s something you can check out when Faulkner — singer, rhythm guitarist, and lyricist Asher, singer, lead guitarist, and producer Scullin, bassist and arranger Dimitri Farougias, and drummer Christian Hogan — makes its New York City debut with two shows this week, at the Bowery Electric on December 3 with Roto’s Magic Act, Merrily and the Poison Orchard, and Louise Aubrie and at Mercury Lounge on December 4 with HITS and Chainwave. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimension” is another recent Faulkner tweet. So who cares about the past?
CAFÉ LUMIERE (COFFEE JIKOU) (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2004)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
144 and 165 West 65th St. between Eighth Ave. & Broadway
Wednesday, December 4, Francesca Beale Theater, 4:30, and Tuesday, December 10, Walter Reade Theater, 5:00
Series runs December 4-12
212-875-5050 / 212-875-5166
Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-hsien pays tribute to master filmmaker Yasujirō Ozu’s centenary with Café Lumiere, a beautifully lyrical yet elegantly simple drama about a young woman making her way through life. Pop star Yo Hitoto stars as Yoko, a woman who spends much of her time riding trains and trolleys to visit bookstore owner Hajime (the always excellent Tadanobu Asano) and to find out more about Chinese composer Jiang Wenye. She also returns home to her stepmother (Kimiko Yo) and father (Nenji Kobayashi); the latter doesn’t react when he finds out that Yoko is pregnant and does not intend to marry her boyfriend. In fact, there are barely any emotional reactions at all, although there are plenty of trains taking the characters where they seemingly want to be. Cinematographer Lee Pingping shot Café Lumiere on location with natural sound and lighting; his camera often lingers statically on a scene as the characters walk in and out of the carefully composed frame and are heard off-screen, in long takes, furthering the illusion of reality — mimicking the truth Ozu strove for in his work. In essence, the film has no beginning, no middle, and no end; it is 104 dazzling minutes in the life of a fascinating woman and her friends and relatives. Café Lumiere is screening December 4 at 4:30 and December 6 at 7:30 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 features Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon and Equinox Flower 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.
Giveaways might be hurting the Rangers on the ice, as they hover around the .500 mark, but there will be a much happier kind of giveaway on Tuesday, December 3, from 5:00 to 7:00, when current and former Blueshirts will be on the South Plaza in front of Madison Square Garden, helping collect unwrapped gifts for needy children in the tristate area in their annual Toys for Tots celebration. The team has been affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps program for twenty years now; the goal of Toys for Tots, which was started by Major Bill Hendricks in 1947, “is to deliver a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.” Among those expected to be on hand are Adam Graves, Derek Dorsett, and John Moore; fans get an autograph for each unwrapped toy they donate, as well as access to special activities, including face painting, a hockey skills station, and the chance to win prizes in a trivia contest. (Above video from the 2012 Toys for Tots drive courtesy of 1495Sports.)