January 25th 2013. Pick Of the Day.

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LOTS goin' on today in classic film screenings should you decide to brave the bone bleaching single digit winds this day. I may even trudge through this gotham tundra toward my Pick tonight. Depends on how I feel about digging back into that marinara sauce I made Wednesday night. We shall see...

Douglas Sirk's Technicolor angst comes to a temporary end this day as THE TARNISHED ANGELS finishes up its three day run as part of MOMA's Auteurist History of Film series. Rock Hudson's local reporter threatens to unravel ex-WWI flying ace Robert Stack's weathered marriage to long suffering wife Dorthy Malone. How has no cinematc appellation ever come forth from this most honored auteur's name? I'm starting the campaign for Sirkesque! Or Sirklike! Or Sirkian! Vote today!

Underground pioneer Kenneth Anger's seminal SCORPIO RISING not only influenced New Hollywood directors like George Lucas and Martin Scorsese in its use of an all pop song soundtrack in place of a traditional score, it's also widely credited as the forebear of the modern music video. So, cheers and jeers I guess. This incredibly important work from the postwar independent avant garde screens today at Film Forum, which Anger may consider too proper a venue but I deem apropos.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center kicks off its weeklong trib to the Aussie New Wave with two breakout works from revered vet Fred Schepisi, both concerning childhoods vastly different in the land of G'day. THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH explores the tense racial atmosphere at the turn of the last century through the eyes of a mixed race child, while debut THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND offers a semi-autobiographical take on life at an all-boy's seminary in the 50's. The Scheps has always proven to be tha goods, and the man himself will be present to discuss these early efforts, so these two unspoolings are definitely a treat. Just not my Pick.

The Landmark Jersey Loews, that most sanctified of cinematic cathedrals, gives with its end of the month weekend screenings, tonight offering two choice efforts from the Basil Rathbone cycle of Sherlock Holmes films, SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON and THE WOMAN IN GREEN. Baz remains my fave screen iteration of the Conan Doyle hero, so this is indeed a tempting viewing on the Loews' 50' screen, complete with pipe organ intro and $1 popcorn. Still not my Pick.

The Rubin Museum's Cabaret Cinema series presents its usual excellent Friday evening cocktail classic screening, following last week's L'ECLISSE with another effort from Michaelangelo Antonioni. RED DESERT follows a friggin' gorgeous Monica Vitti as she struggles to find indentity and validity in the increasingly industrialized modern world. God I hope that's what it's about becuase I just typed it. Wait, checking, checking, whew, looks like I got it right. So suck it film snobs.The price of a cocktail grants you admission to the screening, and I mean how cool is that? There are worse ways to beat January to death than to attend this exercise in Cinegeekery, but it just misses as my Pick.

The Nitehawk Cinema in facial hair breeding ground B-Burg gives with the white suburban punk bible, insurrectionist manifesto and modern existential Dada masterpiece REPO MAN at midnight. If ever anarchy had a home, it ain't this neighborhod. So in a weird way this IS an incredibly subversive screening space for the exploits of Otto and his supporting cast, one where your every whim, be it beer-centric or tater tot-focused, is catered to by a willing wait staff. Anarchy just ain't what it used to be. And yes, they now do give a damn about their bills in Russia.

And midnight at the IFC Center brings us the umpteenth and still riveting screening of Stephen King's CARRIE. Awesome drive-in aesthetic from DP Mario Tosi, iconic imagery courtesy the source material, and indelible perfs from the equally brilliant Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek. Always worth attending a communal screening. Not my Pick. For two reasons. One, the film would've worked with any number of filmmakers behind the camera. The story was that good. Not for nothing did I not list the director as one of the film's assets. And two, the same director is repped tonight by perhaps the only brilliant piece of cinema from his incredibly brief bluff as New Hollywood auteur. And brilliant this film it is. Inventive, irreverant, yet deeply in love with cinema and by proxy all the arts and their respective artists. In some ways it begs comparison with that most worshipped of movies about the artistic drive and the price paid for devotion to said, Michael Powell's THE RED SHOES. And it only shines a light on how awful most of this director's CV has come to be.

I give Brian De Palma his fair share of shit. Not that he cares, but I'm sure he's aware just how awful he truly is. I'm sure of it. I'd almost elevate Uwe Boll to a rank above him just for the promise so utterly trashed by this one time so-called equal to the New Hollywood greats. What he turned out to be was a giant fraud. At best a hack, who could efficiently carry out the whims of strong producers and solid screenwriters. BUT, sez me, there was one moment in the early 70's where all the things he seemed to love about cinema coalesced into a modern day update on Gaston Leroux's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. In the wake of WOODSTOCK THE MOVIE and anticipating Ken Russell's upcoming film adap of The Who's TOMMY the cult musical of the 70's apppeared to be the next hot commodity. So De Palma jumped on the wave of enthusiasm and concocted a musical/rock opera that blended not merely tropes aplenty to appease music lovers of all eras but motifs and technique cinematic spanning the history of the medium. It's delirious with love for the celluloid art form. Unfortunately it suffered the fate it actually deserved; it died in its day, but became a cause celebre for Cinegeeks worldwide for decades. Aside from his works for hire, like SCARFACE, THE UNTOUCHABLES and CARLITO'S WAY, I can't think of a more revered film in his canon, and I solicit the attendance of all who can hear whenever it unspools on the big screen. Which it does tonight.

Three more reasons I choose this as my Pick today follows;

1. De Palma recruited Paul Williams to write the songs, which are infectious to this day.

2. De Palma cast Paul Williams as the movie's villain, and the man chewed the scenery with the best o' them!

3. Paul Williams will appear in person tonight to introduce and then discuss the film. Once in a lifetime, cats. Do yer damdest to attend.

Brain De Palma's PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE screens tonight, 7pm at the Museum of the Moving Image. We'll remember you forever, Eddie.


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-Joe Walsh