The Astor’s brought out of the big guns this time. With a run of Kubrick, a run of the Coen Brothers and a run of Hitchcock classics, if that was all there was it’d still be a ripper of a calendar but of course that’s not the case. As always, this list could be twenty entries longer but here are my top five sessions not to miss this time ‘round.
North By Northwest (July 20th, 7:30PM)
It’s kind of hilarious that one of the most iconic Hitchcock films (and iconic Cary Grant performances, for that matter) was written solely because they couldn’t crack the thing they were supposed to be writing. Facing writer’s block, Alfred Hitchcock simply started flinging sequence ideas at screenwriter Ernest Lehman and it was up to him to make it all work. From the sequence at the United Nations, the Crop Duster, to Mount Rushmore, as Lehman said himself “Since I never knew where I was going next, I was constantly painting myself into corners, and then trying to figure a way out of them.” North By Northwest is the perfect example of how sometimes making it up as you go along is the best thing you can do.
Rope (July 27th, 7:30PM)
If you don’t know Rope, it did the whole “film in one shot” thing a lot earlier than Birdman and it did it in 1948. Starring Farley Granger and John Dall as young arrogant too-smart-for-their-own-good Nietzsche loving murderers based on real-life Leopold and Loeb, Rope is Hitchcock at his suspenseful best. Like Lifeboat, Rear Window or North By Northwest, Hitchcock was a master of painting himself in a corner. He used self-imposed limitations to bring out everything he had as a filmmaker and the results speak for themselves. There’s a reason Hitchcock’s been so widely mimicked for over half a century.
Badlands/Days of Heaven (July 30th, 7PM)
For a while people wondered if these two masterpieces would be the only films Terrence Malick would ever release, and while I’m not nearly as negative about his post Thin Red Line work as some people, if these two were the last I wouldn’t complain. Badlands will always be my favourite, and Days of Heaven always my very, very close second. These films manage to be both accessible, concise and familiar as well as deeply thoughtful, philosophical, rich and inventive. Two of the finest examples of the New Hollywood era of American Filmmaking.
Dirty Harry/Magnum Force (September 3rd, 7PM)
While it may be Sudden Impact that gave us the second enduring Harry Callahan quote in “Go ahead, make my day”, it’s Magnum Force that stands as the only truly great Dirty Harry sequel. While the original had uncredited rewrites from both Terrence Malick and John Milius, Magnum Force finally gives Milius a screen credit along with a then-unknown Michael Cimino. With Milius moving on to Apocalypse Now and Cimino on to The Deer Hunter, what better writing duo to tackle the king of all tough guy cops.
The Conversation/Three Days of the Condor (September 6th, 7:30PM)
Here are two of the finest examples of a genre that I really miss, not like I was even alive to see it at its height. Whatever happened to the Paranoia Thriller? The Conversation and Three Days of the Condor are absolutely gripping from start to finish, they’re unpredictable, they’re terrifying and they’re so meticulously plotted that, while you’ll feel your fair share of unease, you’ll never feel like you aren’t in good hands.