December 29th. Last Pick Of The Day 2012.

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Because the final holidays of this calendar year are upon us I'm not sure when I'll be sober enough to return with the Pick Of The Day starting in the new year. I'm aiming for this coming Wednesday, but meth is a hell of a drug. So we'll see.

But let's focus on today, the last of this year for which I'll provide my selection for most unmissable screening. MOMA offers both the happy and the not-so-much today as two of its series continue through to the end of the month. Their Dickens On Film series provides the happy. Well, happy compared to the other series. The author's A TALE OF TWO CITIES is repped twice this day, first by what I deem the ultimate screen version starring Ronald Coleman as the cinema's perfect Sydney Carton, then by Frank Lloyd's silent iteration from 1917. Later today David Lean's definitive adap of OLIVER TWIST unspools, featuring the brilliant Alec Guinness as perhaps filmdom's most notorious Fagin. You decide.

Then MOMA gives with the not-so-much, as their Pier Paolo Pasolini retrospective proceeds apace. First up is a collection of shorts derived from various anthology flicks PPP participated in. Then the neo-realist turned quirky stylist is repped by his kneeslapper rendition of the MEDEA myth. Depending on how you'd like to remember the year, MOMA offers a choice.

Museum of the Moving Image presents two European odes to decadence and the accompanying relinquish of soul. Otto Preminger's BONJOUR TRISTESSE was his second attempt to make a star out of Jean Seberg and his second failure, a lushly filmed morality play involving a hedonist batchelor and his spoiled young daughter, living a consequence free life until Deborah Kerr's true heart arrives to ruin the scene for all of them. Dud in its day, cult fave now.

Of equal soul deadening examination is the fucking masterpiece LA DOLCE VITA, which follows the exploits of Marcello Mastroianni's gossip rag journo as he plumbs the depths of Italy's glamor alleys in search of ultimate beauty, ultimate conquest, or anything in that ballpark to fill the void being left by the departure of conscience and character. The renouncing of one's humanity never looked so gorgeous as in Fellini's hands. Screening later tonight at MOMI.

Midnight at the IFC Center brings two vastly different views of identity and the fucking with of said. David Lynch's debut masterpiece ERASERHEAD is about what please tell me the e-mail's on the lower right side of the site?

This is, incidentally, WHY I love Lynch's entry to the cinematic fray, and why I forever will.

Also at midnight at the IFC John Frankenheimer's masterpiece, and perhaps the finest Cold War paranoia thriller ever made, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE unspools for the second of four evenings. If you've never seen this, much less screened large, you could do worse on a night when you're saving your cash to blow in two days. Or you could pass the time by playing a little solitaire.

And the Film Forum spends a second day of a week's visit with NINOTCHKA. Some film greats never collaborate, but when they do we thank our lucky stars, and this pairing of director Ernst Lubitsch and star Great Garbo couldn't be more perfect. Bela Lugosi joins the jovial proceedings as The Ghoul Man.

Finally the Film Society's See It in 70mm series amazes for yet another day at the Walter Reade theater. First up is MY FAIR LADY, combining the talents of George Cukor, Audrey Hepburn and yeah whatever blah blah blah I couldn't give a particular damn so sue me! I am too excited by the late evening offering at the WR to waste any energy my fingers have left typing about a musical. My Pick Of The Day screens as part of this series tonight.

The summer of 1982 is often referred to as the Magic Summer, the 1939 for SciFi/Fantasy film geeks the world over. In the wake of STAR WARS and its game changing effect on the entire industry every major studio and independent producer was hell bent on recreating that magic, discovering the next Beatles as it were. Sporadic masterpieces like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and ALIEN were accompanied by low budget trash like STARCRASH and LASERBLAST. Thing is, we loved them all with equal fervor, quality aside. The more product cranked out to fit our particular wheelhouse the better. Summer of '82 was the Venn meeting point where high output and high quality met, and we are both thrilled and haunted by the memories we made at the cinema that school break.

Amongst the titles that changed our lives and the film world forever that summer are VIDEODROME, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, E.T., POLTERGEIST, BLADE RUNNER, THE THING, THE DARK CRYSTAL, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE ROAD WARRIOR, and the late entry CREEPSHOW. One film released that summer still maintains a steady balance between great fervor and great mockery. Perhaps because it was the most groundbreaking, the most earnest and optimistic, and the most visually mindblowing trick pulled off that year. Not for nothing did fans at the 2008 San Diego Comicon go absolutley apeshit at the test footage for a sequel that wasn't even in the works. It's that beloved and still defended by those who cherish it. Count me amongst them.

Disney in the early 80's was flailing. Its animation division was antiquated and costly, its live action division was simply out of touch. So interesting experiments were granted leave in search of the next hit that would rejuvenate the studio's fortunes, which is how gems like THE BLACK HOLE and DRAGONSLAYER got the green light to begin with, and how an independent commercial animator convinced them that the future of film lay in computer animation. Steven Lisberger's hero started its life as a ten second TV spot, and grew to ambitions gargantuan in its creator's imagination. Lisberger convinced Disney, and the arduous journey from concept to finished film began, an endeavor fraught with costly learning processes and disastrous mistakes, resulting in a unique vision that impressed the film world to no end and topped the box office that summer, with academy awards for the innovative FX work the icing on the cake.

Nah, I made all that last part up. It tanked. To the dismay and confusion of its legion of fans. Its many fans. Okay me. Me me me. But just as I was right that year about THE THING and especially BLADE RUNNER, Lisberger's film not only grew in stature but is now considered the groundbreaking effort from that summer, the tech breakthrough that made CGI a household term, for better or worse. The film that proved it could be done, so everybody followed to prove they could do it best. Of such technological breakthroughs is art forwarded for good or ill. I'll leave the debate over this film's legacy for another time and take any and all comers on in that fight. For tonight, I'll simply look forward to viewing one of my fave films all time in the 70mm format I never got to see it in whence released. This is my late Xmas present 2012.

The fucking awesome TRON screens tonight at 9:15 at the Walter Reade Theater. Mebbe I see ya there.

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Be safe and sound and make sure the next guy is too, Stockahz! Enjoy the New Year's weekend responsibly! See ya in 2013! Excelsior!


-Joe Walsh