Matinee Idols

This week saw MGM launch its Matinee series in Picturehouse Cinemas. We run through our pick of a divine dozen…

If this week’s screening at FACT of the much loved Billy Wilder-directed dramedy, The Apartment, flew under your radar, you weren’t alone. Nor should you fret too much; as they say, no point crying over spilt milk, right? How good could it really be, after all, it only won five of the 10 Oscars it was nominated for!

Joking aside, here’s the good news. The Apartment was only the first in a run of 12 genuinely memorable films brought back to the big screen by MGM and Picturehouse Cinemas, and isn’t the only Wilder picture featured. Each Monday until the 19th August, FACT plays host to an impressively broad range of, by-and-large, inarguably timeless Oscar-winning movies from the studio’s vaults.

This selection, let us call them a divine dozen, includes examples from the golden age of the studio system, ranging through to cult and contemporary classics. There’s something for everyone, here – indeed, we defy anyone to find at least a smattering of old favourites here. In that spirit, the following, in our eyes at least, are not to be missed.

“New York has rarely looked less glamorous”

Next up is the Best Original Screenplay-winning Thelma and Louise, but for us, things really get interesting a little later this month (17th June) with John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy. Encompassing male prostitution, unlikely friendship and – ultimately – tragedy, it stars John Voight and Dustin Hoffman in career-defining roles, spawning at least one iconic line (“I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”) and by the end at least, New York has rarely looked less glamorous.

If you haven’t seen it, don’t let that somewhat bleak description deter you: Texan Joe (Voight) and Ratso (Hoffman) make for good if unusual company, and during the course of the film insinuate themselves into your life so that they and their travails stay with you long after leaving the cinema. No surprises in these quarters then that the film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

If down-beat reflection isn’t your bag though, not to worry, there are laughs to be had here, too, with comedy generously represented. As well as Peter Sellers master class, The Pink Panther, and When Harry Met Sally, there is a return for Billy Wilder with 1959’s Some Like it Hot (15th July). Alongside Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (above), here is a Marilyn at the height of her powers (the role won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy), playing the wonderfully named showgirl, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk. Just one element making this a fine example of screwball comedy at its best, you don’t have to take our word for it; in 2000, the American Film Institute named Some Like it Hot ‘the greatest American comedy film of all time’.

On slightly more serious terrain, Cold War-inspired The Manchurian Candidate (5th August) is the first of a trio of thrillers rounding up our MGM Matinee highlights. It sees an icon of the era, Frank Sinatra, demonstrating his acting chops as a Korean War veteran, who along with his old platoon-mates, is unwittingly complicit in a deviously deceitful Communist plot. Great watch and fascinating insight into the paranoia running rampant at the time alike, this is must-see stuff for conspiracy junkies.

While the Tony Scott-directed/John Travolta and Denzel Washington-starring remake from 2009 makes for good fun, it has nothing on our penultimate choice, the 1974 original of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (12th August). When a New York City train and its passengers is hijacked for ransom, it’s left to a selection of city workers (Walter Matthau amongst them) – who vary between the sarcastic and cynical – to deal with the situation. An interesting aside, trivia fans, the bad guys have the following aliases (which perhaps caught the attention of a young Quentin Tarantino): Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Brown.

The last of our picks is a directorial debut, Charles Laughton’s 1955 picture, The Night of The Hunter (19th August). Flirting closely to nourish territory (though in his great piece on the film, Adam Scovell argues it’s more sophisticated than straight Noir), Robert Mitchum plays a religious fanatic out to scam a gullible widow of $10,000. Its chilling expressionistic take on proceedings sets it apart from other films of its era and makes it a fitting curtain call for the MGM Matinees series.

For a full list of screenings and to book, visit the Picturehouse event page

Posted on 05/06/2013 by thedoublenegative