6 Degrees: Women of Note at the Movies

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans: In honor of Women’s History Month, there is a list of films that were showcased and highlighted this past month on Turner Classic. I recommend to record as most are seen fairly regularly or are easy to rent. Some of these women were groundbreaking pioneers as there characters on film show us that we have always revered women who are smart and funny and courageous. It’s not always been easy to find your niche when Hollywood had the casting couch and the Golden Age of Film was not known for championing women’s causes or for enlightenment. But a new day is dawn, and we are not turning back. Here’s a list of films and women who were featured this past month on Turner Classic:
Carole Lombard in To Be or not to Be: Carole Lombard was known as one of the most versatile comediennes of her era or any other. She really played straight man to Jack Benny in this piece. Benny’s timing was unmatched, but Lombard kept up with him and she gave the greatest performance of her short career in this classic

Bacall&Hawks
Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep: In the “Me Too” era, some would find fault with many performances and personas that sprang from the forties and fifties female stars. But Bacall was really a path setter, and gave as good as she got in keeping up with Humphrey Bogart’s very cynical and world weary characters. Bacall was not simpering, but tough and smart and funny, which was a distinct contrast to the wide-eyed dumb blonde routines that Marilyn Monroe and other big stars used as the standard for female stars throughout the fifties. A few bucked the trend, like Bacall and Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn, but most were conformers.
Eleanor Parker: Many Rivers to Cross: Eleanor Parker is best known for the classic Baroness with evil intentions as she set out to catch Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. But she was a great comedienne and actress in her own right, and this was a light comedy that veered off from many others of the fifties era in which it was made.
As stated earlier, the persona for many was the dumb blonde, but in setting out to ‘get her man’ in this frontier comedy, Parker is athletic and funny and smart and determinedly setting a different standard for women to emulate. I saw this film as a young girl and always remembered the counter-typical character portrayed here of a woman who is bound and determined to get what she wants and goes after it with everything she has. And in the short blurb in the beginning of the film, it’s obvious that there is some recognition that women had to be rugged individuals with strength and character in order to survive in the early days of our country’s founding.

Another THin Man

Myrna Loy: The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer; Myrna Loy was the antithesis of the ‘dumb blonde’ throughout her career. She was not blonde, of course, and the characters she portrayed embodied some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue ever written for film. In The Thin Man, she made her mark along with William Powell as a woman who is determined to be more than just ‘the little wife’ who stays home and simpers while her man does all the dangerous work. And in this film with Cary Grant, she plays a judge who has the measure of the Cary Grant character and he knows it. She is smart and completely in control of every situation, and that is a pleasant departure from some of the standard Hollywood fare of the Golden Age of Film where women were often portrayed as either femme fatales or hopelessly dumb.
Sigourney Weaver in The Year of living Dangerously: Sigourney Weaver has made a career of landing these pioneer roles where women are the front and center heroes, as in Aliens where she takes charge and essentially carries the role that a man would have played a generation before her. And in this film, The Year of Living Dangerously, she’s a journalist who is not only the most ethical of the characters, she is also vulnerable but worldly wise at the same time. It’s a truly amazing performance from a young Sigourney Weaver, and a very prescient moment when we hear of the Mel Gibson character described as someone who is charming but fatally flawed.

Mad max furiosa
Women’s History Month showcases some of the film roles where strong and decisive characters are developed in this selection of beautiful and brainy women. We have seen the creation of the characters that Angelina Jolie played, that Jennifer Lawrence has perfected along with the new Captain Marvel star, Brie Larson, and the emergence of the women in Black Panther. The latest Mad Max film with Charlize Theron finally has tipped the hat to the notion that women are as tough and courageous and resourceful as men. Here’s hoping for another one hundred years or so of creative and brilliant characters for women to play, and for women to write and direct (and women critics to critique!) Till next time, see you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees: March Madness

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans: As we move into March, there’s some films that are opening that have gotten good “buzz.” One is the Julianne Moore remake Gloria Bell. Film comment reviews the film, and since this is a remake, there’s a piece from a site called “Gold Derby” that explores the real reason why Hollywood insists on remaking foreign language films. The answer is money (I’m not spoiling it-it’s in the TITLE!)
And even though the Oscars are behind us (I found them forgettable in every way), the SXSW Film Festival begins this weekend in Austin. So we are still in Awards Season through the spring with the Cannes Film Festival still to come.

6 Degrees magazine has some interesting items regarding the juncture of film and Women’s History Month. One is a piece talking about The Status of Feminist Film Criticism from rogerebert.com. Also we need to remember that there were directors from the Golden Age of film who were known as ‘Women’s directors,’ even though they were men! George Cukor is one, and he is remembered also in 6 Degrees.
Also in 6 Degrees, there’s a piece on Orson Welles: The Other side of Orson Welles, and from Entertainment Weekly, director Francis Ford Coppola talks about the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic book from Mario Puzo, The Godfather, upon which his masterpiece is based.
Turner Classic is showing Night Train to Munich a couple of times this month. This film is deceptively slow to start, so don’t give up on it. It has some elements of Hitchcock in it, right down to the two comical English characters who show up earlier in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Set your machines to record on TCM in March for:
*Night Train to Munich/The Big Sleep/Young Frankenstein/Inherit the Wind/The Year of Living Dangerously and This is Spinal Tap. All are classics in their own right, and all deserve the space of a column each….I almost forgot The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer with Cary Grant.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks. It seems that some of the classics that are generated regularly from Turner Classic fall into one of several categories; Classic Film Noir; Classic Comedy, Classic films that got away, Classic Romance….What makes a film “Classic?” We will list the criteria for some of the films made before World War II, during the Golden Age of Film, and some that are considered ‘Modern Classics.” Till next time, movie buffs, have fun and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees of Film Book Excerpt: About the Oscars

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6 Degrees of Film

 

The following is an excerpt from my book: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village-published in 2013-MLJ
One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century
the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a
bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when
there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era.
The age of computer imaging and video games and the type
of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely
acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards
ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards.
James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and
George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the
way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments
are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge
these developments so they can be brought to the public’s
attention.

The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized
into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film
category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars
in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened.
The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be
fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews
in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard
was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director
award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the
first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American
woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged
Hattie McDaniels and all of the women of color who had
come before her.
If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the
American persona, and this show is one of our best chances
to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life,
then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these
occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a
timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many
times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of
innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are
made of,” which Bogart spoke of so long ago.

6 Degrees: Notes on the Academy Awards

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Greetings Film Fans: The broadcast is coming soon for the Oscars, and the controversy over the decision to not include the cinematography categories during the live show has been resolved. This is the SECOND major controversy that has been addressed in the post Me-Too and whitewash era that the Academy (of old white dudes) has had to address.
This crisis is specifically one that will just address the 1% attitude that some of the awards are more important than others, and admittedly, many are more popular than these awards if you are not in the ‘biz’,as they say. But for the arbitrary decision to be made, for a numbers game of ratings to reduce the show’s time by simply eliminating some of the work that these people have been doing for decades and dismissing the categories as not important enough seems to be callous beyond belief. So many people objected, including an impassioned Russell Crowe, as well as prominent directors and others, that this had to be reversed.

The Green Book 2019
So the favorites are still The Green Book and Glenn Close for Best Actress in The Wife. Other than that, it seems to be pretty wide and open. It would be amazing to see Spike Lee receive the first Best Director award for BlackkKlansman. And Christian Bale did phenomenal work in Vice that may also be a shoo-in. However, although I’ve complained for years about the awards ceremony, the length, the need for new categories, I will still watch it to see what happens.
You never know if they’ll call out the WRONG picture for Best Picture category?! Stay tuned for Oscar News, as we wrap up awards season in La La Land. Some stand out articles in 6 Degrees magazine this week: A piece on the films of the French New Wave cinema and one on the late great film critic Pauline Kael.
Till next time friends, stay cool (in the movie theatre) and see you next time at the movies!-ML

*Love and Longing through the Lens of the New Wave

*What she said: The Art of Pauline Kael

6 Degrees: Awards Season is here!

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! The Awards season is here. Some of the big winners so far have been The Green Book, The Favourite, Roma and A Star is Born, with the latter two also receiving multiple Oscar nominations. Black Panther was recognized in the Academy’s Best Picture category, and Glenn Close is the favorite for Oscar’s Best Actress award with her performance in The Wife.

The Sundance Film Festival is under way and Robert Redford emphasized diversity in his opening remarks. Hollywood has been particularly sensitive to this subject with the controversies of ‘white-washing’ in films about people of color, as well as the lack of diversity in female directors, critics and writers and the ongoing under-representation of women in the industry.

Although some of you may have read from time to time my complete lack of enthusiasm for the comic-book genre as a whole, there have been some great movies within the genre over the years. I have always maintained that a writer as great as a Shakespeare (or a Lin-Manuel Miranda), could take a traditional story and spin it into a great film or work of art. That happened in the case of Shakespeare using the re-worked and well-worn stories of his era and creating great classics. The following short list includes some of the best of the super-hero genre:

 

Superman (1978) with Christopher Reeve
Batman (1989) with Jack Nicholson/Michael Keaton
Iron Man I (2008)
Spiderman I (2002)
The Dark Knight (2008)

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Doctor Strange (2016)

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Black Panther (2018)

Some of the super-hero films to look for in 2019 include a new Spider-Man sequel to the 2017 Homecoming titled Spiderman: Far from Home with Tom Holland as Spidey; Avengers: Endgame is out in April and the plot is said to be ‘murky’-perhaps muddled may be closer to the truth. Shazam!, released in April also, should be lighthearted and fun with Zachary Levi debuting the character of a 14 year old boy who turns into the adult superhero.

One film with great trailers that might be a sleeper is The Kid who Would be King which is a new spin on the Arthurian legend of the Sword in the Stone. It’s reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine this week, along with reviews of Glass (No 1 at the box office last week), and one of my favorite films, The Lion in Winter-recommended for your small screen ‘must-see’ movie list.

Lion in Winter 1968

With the Oscars coming up, and winter weather closing in, it’s a good time to pull out your Armchair Film Fest Movie list and settle in to watch some classics. Till next time, see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: 9 for 2019

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Greetings to all 6 Degree film fans! Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season as we are all settling back into the routine for 2019.  We’re out of the gate with a bang, as the awards season is already upon us. The Golden Globes have knocked A Star is Born from the top spot with surprise winners in Bohemian Rhapsody and The Green Book.
6 Degrees of Film magazine has a great piece on Duck Soup at 85, from rogerebert.com. And the Stan & Ollie movie, which was well received, is featured with an interview with John C Reilly. There’s an interesting piece on whether or not films that are panned can still be big hits. The history of film tells us that many films considered classics today were panned at the box office when they were first released.
Oscar Watch includes the horror film, A Quiet Place, starring John Krazinski from The Office . Crazy Rich Asians was a surprise hit, and director Alfonse Cuaron’s semi-autobiographical Roma has been proven to have ‘legs’. There has also been very good buzz surrounding director Peter Jackson’s restoration of the remarkable WW I documentary footage in They Shall Not Grow Old. The Mr Rogers documentary Won’t you be my Neighbor? has also been designated as a sleeper hit. Tom Hanks is set to play Mr Rogers next year in a bio pic.

The Lists:
What about the Best Films lists? Rogerebert.com features a list of the years best, and there are many others featured in our magazine from other online blog sites We recently featured some 2019 films that have been previewed in the past weeks. Here’s 9 for 2019 from 6 Degrees:

onece upon a time 2019

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt is about the Tate LaBianca murders of 1969
Tilda Swinton stars in a thriller about a Scottish woman who begins to hear strange sounds while travelling in Columbis, in Memoria
Jordan Peele has another horror flick following the success of Get Out. Us is about a family holiday at the beach with some unexpected guests…
Little Women is set for another remake from Director Greta Gerwig

the irishman 2019
The long awaited Scorsese project, The Irishman stars DeNiro, Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel in a film involving the mafia-union wars in the 70’s.
And there’s the usual suspects: The expected list of sequels and serial films include:

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Toy Story 4 from Pixar

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Frozen 2
Star Wars: Episode IX
Captain Marvel is the ‘first female superhero film from Marvel” starring Brie Larson

And in the great tradition of end of year lists for just about everything, here’s the link to our list from a few weeks ago that features the best of 21st Century films to see… Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: A Must-see film list for the 21st Century

 

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Greetings 6 Degrees readers, and Happy New Year! Here is our list of some of the films recommended for the 21st Century Film Buffs “Must-see” list.

How was the list compiled and what were the criteria in choosing this cross selection of films? There’s a diverse array in this group, as you see that some of the films are documentaries, and some are children’s films. But what they have in common is that all have made an impact in some way on the way we think about films and movie-going in the 21st Century.

Some are science-fiction entries, and some are just well-crafted stories with exceptionally good actors. Some are comments on the changes in our society, and how we look at the world we live in. And a few of these are simply popular culture flicks, commenting on our times and the entertainment we know and love as we immerse ourselves in cinematic history.

Some of these are best experienced on the big screen. I would recommend Gladiator, Slumdog Millionaire, The Aviator, Lez Miserable, Arrival, There Will be Blood and Gravity to be seen at the movies. There are many ways to see these films, but this is a list I would recommend for anyone who is simply looking for a good solid list of films to round out their Netflix/Hulu or Armchair Film Fest viewing lists…
**

In the coming weeks, we’ll preview some of these, and include past reviews too of the films of the past two decades that have made an impact or lasting impression focusing on the zeitgeist of our era. The Lost Generation was one that was born from the nihilism and pain of a world war. In our modern era, where nothing matters, and yet everything is on the table, we need to focus on those films that not only show us where we have been, but also look at what we have become in the modern age.

The films that deal with loneliness, isolation, our response to the technological advances, the violence that is common in our society, the changing roles of women, the way we deal with children, our relationships, and even the changing roles of characters such as James Bond and the way African Americans are portrayed on film are just some of the reasons these films made the cut.

There is a recurring segment in Film Comment that offers a deep focus on some segment of film history each month. These changing cultural norms give us insight as 6 Degrees also strives to focus deeply when we can to spot the trends in films of our recent past as well as those from fifty or more years back.

The book I wrote in 2013: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, takes a look at some of the changes that effect the ways we perceive film. Here’s an excerpt:

“No doubt in the twenty first century, certain parts of the cinematic experience will continue to decline. Foreign markets have made a huge difference in the way films are being released and marketed. Now more than ever, films occupy a Global Village…
George Lucas spoke once about the possibilities for drug enhancing experiences in which individuals could become a part of a virtual-reality film playing in their minds. These ideas may not be the same as conventional movie theater films; however, we cannot dismiss the possibility of these events coming to pass in the distant future. This experience would not be standard movie theater filmmaking as we have come to know it, but at any rate it would be a reality far removed from our own near future world. As long as humans aspire to dream and to create, we will be interested in watching movies in whatever form that might be”

The ways in which we view movies continues to evolve. The cinematic experience is unique, and needs to be preserved for those of us who appreciate the unique pull that viewing a film in the theater as the director intended it to be seen is an art form that does need to continue and to be encouraged and promoted.

Here is our list:

Coco 2017
Arrival 2016
The Big Short 2015
Ex Machina 2015
Spectre 2015
The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014
Gravity 2013
Her 2013
Frozen 2013
Life of Pi 2012
Les Miserable 2012
Inception 2010
The Social Network 2010
The Hurt Locker 2009
Avatar 2009
Up 2009
Slumdog Millionaire 2008
The Dark Knight 2008
No Country for Old Men 2007
There will be Blood 2007
Juno 2007
Pan’s Labyrinth 2006
Capote 2005
The Aviator 2004
The Lord of the Rings 2003
Lost in Translation 2003
Finding Nemo 2003
The Fog of War 2002
Bowling for Columbine 2002
A Beautiful Mind 2001
Gladiator 2000
The Matrix 1999*

The Matrix series did extend into the 21st Century, and the first film was really the only one that we can recommend as part of this list.