6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello there Film Fans: This week we are gearing up for the Fall Film Newsletter coming soon. The films coming out this fall total well over 100, there were about 126 on the intial list, and there are about 22 that made the cut for our final list. There seems to be a nice mix of historical drama and some original storylines mixed with the usual suspects of remakes and superhero sequels. Stay tuned!
Some very good buzz surround the new film Crazy Rich Asians, for what is described as a charming and original romantic comedy. And don’t miss the video clip in 6 Degrees Magazine that shows the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin in her one iconic film role, singing RESPECT in The Blues Brothers.
Last week, we heard that Robert Redford was set to retire from acting after his next film. The Old Man & the Gun, out this fall. And that last film is the good news for all of us diehard Redford fans. Redford, like Brad Pitt and Paul Newman, had been categorized as just another pretty face, although his face has been weathered and lined for many years now. The appeal of Robert Redford has long been his steady and deliberate gaze, ‘the male gaze’ as opposed to the much vaunted FEMALE gaze that has been studied for years by film critics. Redford could open comedies and dramas, and was not just a romantic lead, but one who carried some of the best action thrillers as well as Westerns. In short, he has been a versatile lead for decades, with various credits in small parts, after getting his start in television in the early sixties.

Butch Cassidy
Redford was also in one of the greatest Westerns with the greatest screenplay of all time, one that tops most critics top ten lists, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For all who may not be familiar with some of his lesser known work, here’s a list of some of his best films. As most regular readers know, I tend to give more space to the films and performances that may have gone ‘under the radar’, and for that reason, movies like All the President’s Men and The Way we Were are not on this list.

*Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda was “pre-Sundance” before Redford became a big star. He is funny and charming in this Neil Simon play turned into a movie, and the two leads are so energetic and enthusiastic with the light comic fare, it makes the film watchable.
The Electric Horseman: Redford teamed up with Jane Fonda many years later, and though the plot is forgettable, the two lead actors have some chemistry together, and the film holds up fairly well.
This Property is Condemned is a knock-off  of the Tennessee Williams-esque type melodramas that were popular in the fifties and sixties. But the pairing of Natalie Wood with Redford, the direction of Sydney Pollack, and the supporting cast that included a young Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, and an unusually effective performance from Mary Badham, who was the memorable child lead in To Kill a Mockingbird,  makes this film worth watching.
Jeremiah Johnson, is one of the first, before There Will be Blood or the recent horror film A Quiet Place that makes maximum use of silence as a major part of the entire performance. Redford is almost as mum as Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, but this film is a cut above the B-movie fare that launched Eastwood to fame.
The Natural is taken from the 1952 book about baseball by Bernard Malamud, and also has some notable performances by a supporting cast that includes Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and an older but wiser version of Robert Redford.
The Sting is a wonderful blend of nostalgia and a light and effectively fast paced heist movie with a great musical score from Marvin Hamlisch, direction by George Roy Hill and this film also used a large and talented cast, including one of the most memorable best supporting roles ever seen from Robert Shaw.
Brubaker, made in 1980, was a cut above most of the Cagney-esque  type prison films of the thirties. Almost all of Redford’s films have been bolstered by great supporting casts, and in this case, there is a memorable supporting role from Yaphet Kotto, one of the inmates in the prison that Brubaker runs who helps him expose scandal and abuse within the prison.
A Bridge Too Far was a film that didn’t fare well at its debut on the big screen. It had too many sub-plots and it bombed badly at the box office. But on the small screen, I would recommend two stand-out performances: one is from James Caan as a soldier who is determined to save his commanding officer on the battlefield, to the point of holding a superior officer, a doctor, at gunpoint in the perfect illustration of the phrase: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.’
The other standout performance was from Redford himself, in a highly publicized bit part where Redford took home millions to play a soldier who is part of the desperate and ill-advised assault on the German bridge in World War II.
The other performance that I would recommend on the small screen is the part of Mr. Death that Robert Redford played in a classic Twilight Zone episode “Nothing in the Dark“,  which debuted long before he became a household name. These are just a small slice of the many memorable performances in an illustrious career, but they highlight and emphasize the reason why Redford has endured for decades as an iconic figure in the history of Hollywood.
Hope everyone has a great week, with lots of movies lined up as we head into fall. Till next time, have fun and see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! This week there’s been a flurry of activity in the movie world. First, there’s news of one of my favorite screens stars, the legendary Robert Redford, announcing he is retiring from acting at the age of 81. We look at some of his greatest performances next week in a top ten list.
Also, there’s the news that is long overdue. The Academy of Motion Pictures is going to add another category to their Oscar awards list, one entitled the “Popular Film” category. They also vowed to keep the broadcast down to three hours. We have advocated for the shake-up of this dusty old institution for a while, but not exactly by adding this dubiously titled category. And although I am skeptical that this is anything other than a band-aid, we will see what they offer. There are several articles in 6 Degrees magazine on this new Academy development.
At the movies: Christopher Robin has had a rather unremarkable opening, and Mission Impossible-Fallout has performed better than expected. The horror film, Slender Man, has opened to tepid and not so great reviews. But Spike Lee’s new film, BlackKkKlansman has garnered some great reviews. Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington is the star in this film based on a true story of a cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the KKK.
One development near and dear to my heart is the announcement that rogerebert.com is going to hire more female film critics. Being one myself, this announcement is a welcome reminder that we need more diverse voices reviewing films and looking at the movies from a different perspective than the predominantly male field of movie critics who have been reviewing films for decades.
Another film development near and dear to my heart is that the film Dog Days has opened and has been well reviewed. So those of us who are completely bias in our love for our canine companions will know this is a must-see and in so doing, can go with the sense of justification (It was well reviewed!)

The Meg has opened to mixed reviews, but they haven’t all been bad. This is one I was on the fence about, but the premise was intriguing. They have taken the concept of Jaws to the nth degree. The film is based (loosely) on a best-seller about a shark thought to be long extinct, a megalodon that is said to be 70 feet long. There are several different reviews for this in 6 Degrees also, ranging in commentary from silly but entertaining to simply silly stuff.
On the small screen, we recommend The Westerner on TCM this week with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. If you’ve never seen it, it is one of the reasons Cooper became an iconic star. Gary Cooper is one of the men who can carry a Western using minimal dialogue while exuding maximum power and charismatic charm. This Western is about the early range wars occurring between cattlemen and farmers, and though there is a lot of tough talk, there are some classic funny moments between Brennan and Cooper, particularly over the identity of a lock of hair belonging to Judge Roy Bean/Brennan’s ideal love, Lillie Langtry. Recommended for all Armchair Film Festival goers.
Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello film fans. It’s been a quiet summer for the box office, and there have been a few surprises. I was surprised that Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible film has done as well as it has…That may be another sign that there isn’t a whole lot of great films to choose from at this particular moment in time.

At the Movies in August: Reviews for Christopher Robin have been good. It’s been a Mixed bag for  The Spy who Dumped me with Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon-an R rated action comedy. As mentioned, Mission Impossible-Fallout has gotten surprisingly good reviews for the intense action and plot twists included in this sequel of a sequel of a sequel in the series.
Coming Soon: There are previews for the Spider Man spin-off film, Venom, starring Tom Hardy. Hardy plays a reporter named Eddi Brock, whose body is taken over by an evil alien host. Venom premieres in October.

I am one who promotes seeing certain classic films at the movie theatre. One of these classics is 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This film is going to be shown in IMAX theatres for the first time. I would heartily recommend all film buffs to take the opportunity to try this movie experience.
The Armchair Film Fest: Here are some Turner Classic Movies to watch for this August:  There is Film Noir at the top of my list, including The Big Sleep, one of the best of Bogey & Bacall’s films. And The Set Up with Robert Ryan, about a washed up boxer who is conflicted about throwing a big fight.
Clint Eastwood is featured throughout the month of August. I find it hard to watch the old Spaghetti Westerns, but this is from someone who knows every word of spoken dialogue in the script for The Outlaw Josey Wales. In other words, Eastwood improved with time, but the early Westerns still are worth watching if you’ve never seen Clint in action.
It’s a good month for high comedy in August on the small screen. Cary Grant is probably the greatest comic actor of all time, in my opinion, and many of his funniest films are featured this month. One I would recommend is the early black and white The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. This was remade as a musical, High Society, with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby many years later. But The Philadelphia Story remains the superior film.
And one of my favorite not-to-be missed silent comedies is on TCM next week. The Freshman, with Harold Lloyd as the naïve young college freshman who wants to try out for the football team, has some of the most creative and innovative physical comedy bits ever screened and it has never been replicated. This is not to be missed for those who love films and comedy.
One more thing: Read the piece in 6 Degrees Magazine from The Ringer.com titled: Moneyballing the Movies: How the Box Office became a sport. This is a fascinating look at the way movies are ranked for their box office earnings, which continues the ongoing debate of whether Gone with the Wind, Titanic, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Avatar is the top moneymaker of all time. It’s a deep dive into the numbers behind the cash that flows weekly into the box office and the way films are rated and ranked. From time to time, 6 Degrees lists the top money makers from various web sites and the box office numbers can give us some insights into the way our culture has changed, and where we are headed as we watch and review films in the 21st Century.
In the next few weeks, we are going to break out the list of the 2018 Fall films premiering this September in our Fall Film Newsletter. So stay tuned and till next time, see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! Each Friday I like to go through the top film blog posts and pull out some of the best blog posts and articles of the week past and highlight them in 6 Degrees Magazine. This week there are film reviews in our magazine for Sorry to Bother You, The Equalizer 2 and Rogerebert.com does a rundown of the Mission: Impossible movies.
One of my favorites from this past week is from Film Comment about director Ingmar Bergman and his body of work. Although he stopped making movies way back in 1982, his filmography of over 40 films continued to impact directors for decades. The writer speaks of Bergman being liberated when he announced that Fanny and Alexander would be his last film, saying “Bergman was devoted to a cinema liberated from cinema….and added that Bergman is revered in French cinema. “Though an icon of the New Wave,…it is to the next generation that he would serve as a magnetic north.”
The Film Comment writer, Olivier Assayas, goes on to bemoan the lack of psychoanalysis in cinema today (certainly there is no one worthy of Bergman’s insight and skillful dissection of human nature.) Assayas writes “…cinema, which examines the soul through the features of its performers and records both silence and speech,…has always been the best path to approach the chasms of the unconscious’ Bergman certainly did carve a pathway through the human psyche with unique perceptions and there is no one in cinema today that explores the intimate levels of conscious to unconscious thought layer by layer in the same manner as Bergman. This is a recommended read.
Next week we’ll look at some of the big releases coming out in August, as well as the recommended recordings for our continuing Armchair Film Fest! Till then, have fun and stay cool and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Greetings Film Fans: We are definitely into the dog days of summer. And at 6 Degrees of Film, that means planning a list of favorite films to watch at our own private Armchair Film Fest. Esquire has a list of some of the best films from 2018 so far, and if you are a subscriber to Netflix or other services, you may want to put some of these films you might have missed on the list for the small screen:

Leave No Trace: From Winter’s Bone director, it’s the story of a father and daughter living off the grid, illegally in the Pacific Northwest.
Let the Sunshine In: Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is a divorced, middle-aged artist whose dating life moves from moments of bliss to disappointment and disillusionment.
• First Reformed: From director Paul Schrader, a religious drama with Ethan Hawke playing a New York man of the cloth going through a crisis of faith that is accelerated by an encounter with an environmental activist mired in anger.
The Rider: Story of the West about a young rodeo star facing an uncertain future after experiencing a catastrophic accident.
• You were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix is a mentally scarred veteran trying to rescue a senator’s young daughter from a child prostitution ring.

Some others listed were A Quiet Place, Black Panther, Annihilation, Game Night and Isle of Dogs which you most likely would have seen at the movies
Ant Man and the Wasp is playing in theatres, and has generally gotten good reviews. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again can only be recommended to die-hard Abba and Mamma Mia ONE fans (I actually will admit that I’m in that boat!) and Mission: Impossible-Fallout’s has also been receiving good reviews.
Coming soon to theatres is Christopher Robin and The Spy who Dumped Me, plus the Papillon remake that we’ve mentioned in past weeks. So stay tuned and keep cool, friends, and till next time, I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! Ant Man and the Wasp opened this week to good reviews. There’s Skyscraper, Incredibles 2, Hotel Transylvania 3 and for Indie film lovers there’s good buzz about Sorry to Bother You.

From 6 Degrees Magazine: There’s a good article on High Society, the remake of The Philadelphia Story. High Society is the musical version with Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, but I wouldn’t bother unless you’ve seen the far superior Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn original The Philadelphia Story. There’s also a piece talking about the late Tab Hunter, a heartthrob of the fifties who finally came out of the closet in his later years.

There are some retrospectives from Film Comment on Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, talking about their amazing run as a film dancing duo. I wasn’t as fond of their dance pictures, as I don’t believe they hold up as well as Fred Astaire’s many dance films later in his career, long after Fred & Ginger had parted ways. But it’s worth catching one just to say you’ve seen them in action.

An interesting read is one that lists the Marvel Cinematic Universe release schedule, from the next pictures out in 2019 and listing them through the next Avengers film, the new Doctor Strange as well as Black Widow and Black Panther 2. So if you are a superhero fan, there’s plenty in store for the next decade it seems, for the pantheon of players in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

But it’s summer and this is always a good time to watch some of the Bad B’s of Summer. Here’s the link to the Bad B Recommended Movie list from 6 Degrees. Hope everyone is having a great summer with a chance to catch up on reading or watching some of the films shown on Turner Classic. This month, Steve McQueen is the featured star, and as we mentioned last week, it’s always a good time to rev up the DVR and have an Armchair Film Fest with all of his greatest hits. You can never go wrong with Steve McQueen (hardly ever!) Till next week, see you at the movies!-ML

*What does the Future Hold for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July. The films of July are here beginning with Ant Man and the Wasp, which has had some good early reviews and a clever trailer to kick off the super-hero film of the month. Here’s a short clip of some other openings from our July/August list:
Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th...here we go again… This may not be worth revisiting, but I’m a huge Meryl Streep and Colin Firth fan, and this premise does (not) seem interesting enough to hold our attention….
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th.… And I ask without snark….will Tom Cruise ever make a film that is anything other than an exercise of gymnastics and stunts? He was a good actor in another life…

Papillon 2018
Papillon is coming at the end of the summer cycle, it’s set for release late in August. This would be hard to beat. The original with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was an intense drama and is one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead, based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.

2001 a Space Odyssey

From 6 Degrees Magazine: Here’s an interesting quote that was unearthed from the late great Stanley Kubrick regarding the very mysterious ending scene in the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick talks of the ending:
Kubrick: “The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film…When they get finished with him, …he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman (alluding to the star baby.) “We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”

This is fascinating as so much has been written and speculated about regarding the fate of the astronaut and the entire ending sequence. The most important thing I pulled from this was in line with what I’d always heard when people talk of this film. 2001 allows anyone, the average man on the street, an intellectual or a science-fiction fan, to imagine the ending in their own way. We can ‘guess what happens’ when he returns to Earth as the fantasy star child. And the mythology is added to give it a special element of interest. (Much the same is said about the mythology that George Lucas attached to his Star Wars characters to give rise to an entire new mythology!)

At the Movies: The indie film getting a lot of good buzz is Sorry to Bother you. It’s about race and is a satire and send up of the gig economy and was directed by Boots Riley, who is a musician by trade.

Movies about America: The fourth brings out a spate of articles on which films are considered “American.” The essence of what America is can be found in many classic Hollywood films; and it means so many things to many different people, It can only be a subjective idea, and for me, my personal picks would include The Right Stuff; Apollo 13, American Graffiti; An American in Paris, North by Northwest; Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid & The Godfather. One film that is on my list and is showing this month on TCM is On the Waterfront with Brando, and I see this film as essentially American with Brando in the lead role in many ways, it’s a deeper and more pivotal role than Brando’s signature role from A Streetcar Named Desire, and it deals with the idea that anyone can be anything which is the essence of the standard ideal of the American Dream.

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Recommended for Armchair Film Fest: Continuing the theme of great American films, this is a great month for classic American actors with Steve McQueen as the featured actor on Turner Classic. One of my favorite things is to discover and recommend lesser seen films from famous actors where most people recognize them from their more popular work. With McQueen, some of his great performers are in some of his lesser known films. Those films would be The Getaway, Soldier in the Rain, and Nevada Smith, which are seen less than McQueen’s big debut film, The Great Escape. Another film to watch out for starring Steve McQueen is Papillon, which has been remade and will release, as we mentioned above, this August.

Armchair Film Fans to watch for in July on Turner Classic:
• Classic Comedy duos: Turner Classic is showing two of my all time favorite from two great comic teams, Abbott & Costello & Laurel & Hardy. Time of their Lives is a departure for Abbott & Costello in that they didn’t work together on film as they had in the past. The plot called for Lou to be a ghost who haunts the grounds where Abbott is just one of a group of people working to solve a mystery surrounding the death of the two ghosts. And Sons of the Desert is a comic masterpiece that no one who has ever loved Laurel & Hardy should miss.
Steve McQueen Film Festival: Some must-see’s to recommend are Soldier in the Rain, The Sand Pebbles-McQueen’s only Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Bullitt-his greatest performance,  and Papillon, One of the reasons that McQueen was a great actor was the fact that like Gary Cooper in another era, he made it seem effortless. In a time of ‘angst’ where acting studios and method actors produced Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, McQueen was a tough guy who drifted onto the screen and not only oozed charisma and masculine charm from every pore, but also had a kind of vulnerability not seen before in many actors. Like Cooper, he was a natural.
That’s it for now. Have a great week and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML