6 Degrees Summer Newsletter 2013

Critics corner:

Some of the best pieces I’ve seen on Gatsby include 1) A review featuring advice from Dear Old Dad…written by Daniel Williams and is entitled, “4 life lessons from The Great Gatsby”. Another is from the online site Moviefone and is called, “10 Things You Should Know about Baz Luhrmann’s 3D Spectacle”. It was written by Alex Suskind. My review is at WordPress: sixdegreesoffilm.com.

 

What looks good:

The Heatis a “chick flick” comedy, good for light summer fare. Melissa McCarthy is a smoking hot commodity and this should be a great pairing.(McCarthy and Sandra Bullock) The previews also look funny.

 

Shakespeare at the Movies: They are making a version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing starting Friday, June 7th– A “modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words”.

 

 

Chick Flicks: The origin of the term…

 

According to the Internet site, “The Phrase Finder”, the origin of the phrase, ‘Chick Flick” runs the gamut from early sexually exploitative Russ Meyer films to movies like “Thelma & Louise”, a film made in the early nineties. By that time, there were enough films written by women and about women that were beginning to receive different types of notices. .”Chick film” was turned from a pejorative phrase denoting films about chicks to films that were made about women or would appeal to women. The phrase took a firm hold in the public lexicon around 1995-almost 20 years ago.  By then, films that had previously been dismissed as just “chick films” became “chick flicks”. The phrase, “Chick Flick” is well established and in today’s parlance, it denotes films about and for women.

 Most of these films feature strong female leads that the public can identify with in the same sense they identified with an actress like Doris Day in the fifties. She was someone who wasn’t necessarily a pioneer in the Women’s Liberation Movement, but was however, a strong voice for the type of everywoman that was certainly the average American housewife of the fifties and sixties. Today, an actress such as Sandra Bullock would feature in parts comparable to the type of roles Doris Day took in a bygone era.

The upcoming movie “The Heat” is a “chick flick” in the best sense of the word!

 

 

Strong Women in Film: Here’s a sample from the upcoming book,”6 Degrees of Film”:

 

Women in Hollywood

 

Pioneering women writers like Dorothy Parker paved the way for others to join them in participating as commentators, actors, scriptwriters, and later directors and producers in the film industry. Parker wrote this charming ditty after a visit to William Randolph Hearst’s famous mansion:

Upon my honor, I saw a Madonna,

Sitting alone in a niche.

Above the door

Of the glamorous whore

Of a prominent son of a bitch.[1]

At the turn of the twentieth century and during the first ten to fifteen years of motion picture history, women did not have the right to vote and lacked basic civil liberties with which to leverage power.

But by 1920, women had won their suffrage and the First World War had ended. With the dawn of the Jazz Age, flappers and vamps were the cutting edge for women’s liberation. Women were only just beginning to experience some semblance of power or authority in their government, and they were anxious for their voices to be heard.

Unfortunately, from the beginning in Hollywood and to this day, screen-acting careers for women in leading roles are often limited to that of the ingénue or young girl. Older women have been mostly stereotyped in parts. Of course, there have been exceptional cases like Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, and Bette Davis, but the truth is that most women lose starring roles to younger women after the age of forty; this is some improvement—it used to be thirty. Bette Davis thought she was through at forty-one. According to the latest list of highest-grossing actors, only two in the top twenty are women: Cameron Diaz and Julia Roberts.

Current Female Pioneers

In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow, director of The Hurt Locker, became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director. She also won the award for best director from the Directors Guild and the Critics’ Choice Award.

Sofia Coppola is one of the more prominent female directors of independent features at this writing. The daughter of iconoclastic filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, she starred in The Godfather Part III, and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation in 2003.

 

 

Recommended viewing

 

The elegant and sophisticated actress Eleanor Parker is being featured in June on Turner Classic Movies. Eleanor Parker is probably best remembered for her role as the beautiful Baroness Schraeder in “The Sound of Music.” Elsa does her best to lure the Captain away from Maria but loses her man in the end. One of the most memorable lines in the famous film comes from Ms. Parker as she walks with her friend Max.

 

Baroness (Parker): “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Max: “What”

Baroness : “Why…to pack my harmonica?”

(This after hearing a roomful of singing Von Trapps!)

 

Parker was frequently paired with Robert Taylor in films made during the fifties. One of Parker’s strongest female leads comes from a film she made in 1955 with Taylor.  In this movie, “Many Rivers to Cross”, she plays an outdoorsy type of frontier woman who is determined to “get her man” to the altar. But she is no shrinking violet. And she knows what she wants and makes up her mind to go out and get it…The frontierswoman she portrays is a fairly pure role model for the modern woman!

 

 

Another upcoming film is “World War Z” starring Brad Pitt. Here’s a look at some of his best work:

 

Brad Pitt Filmography:

 

Thelma & Louise: 1991-This small part was pivotal in that it brought him to the attention of a nation of young, female moviegoers (myself among them) who wanted to know more about the hunky young man in the tryst with Geena Davis.

 

Kalifornia:1992 – A dark picture of an amoral world. Pitt is believable as the face of evil in one of his earlier roles. His portrayal of the menacing and amoral controlling half of a young couple on the rampage, meeting up with some unsuspecting travelers, is one that established him as a credible villain.

 

A River Runs Through It:1992 – A good chance to show the vulnerable and extremely charming side of Brad Pitt. The theme of loss and rejuvenation, with the sweeping backdrop of the river, makes this an emotional, if not altogether memorable film.

 

Meet Joe Black:1998-Pitt has been paired twice with Anthony Hopkins. The popular romantic saga, Legends of the Fall, that went before was not as satisfying in many ways as this quiet study about life and death. This remake of “Death takes a Holiday” also shows two sides to Pitt’s character, the charming and carefree lover and the dark and menacing persona of death.

 

Fight Club:1999-Here is another chance for Pitt to show he’s more than just a “pretty face”. His character is the walking embodiment of the man who has it all, who can do no wrong. And yet, he is darkly conflicted, and is shown to contain a core of violence that speaks to our society. This has become a film with something of a cult following, with young men identifying themselves strongly with the dark and silently violent nature that surrounds and defines the fight club.

 

Mr & Mrs Smith: 2005-Although this film breaks apart badly in the last half hour, it is interesting for so many reasons. The two leads are such perfect specimens of sheer beauty, they are enjoyable to watch and the sparring between them during the first hour is definitely the most entertaining part of the movie. Pitt is often cast as the bumbling, ineffectual dullard who is hard pressed to focus on the task at hand. In this instance, we see a layer of charm and a chance for a light comic touch as the two of them bicker over the dinner table. Would that the writers could have invented another way to end the picture rather than simply go the storyboards and start blasting away…

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Fat People in Film:

 

After observing the rise of plus-sized actresses such as Melissa McCarthy, here is a look back at some of the most famous…”weight-challenged” people who have starred in movies over the years:

 

Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle: One of the first successful comedians of the silent film era, Roscoe Arbuckle was riding a wave of success until September 5, 1921, when he attended a party that resulted in the death of a young woman.

Arbuckle was charged with manslaughter and acquitted after three sensationalized trials were held. But by then it was too late. His career was basically over and the stigma of the scandal stayed with him for the remainder of his life. He died at 46 of a heart attack after attempting a comeback in feature films.

 

Oliver Hardy:The sweetly endearing face of the chubby member of one of the most famous comedy duos in history belonged to Oliver Norvell Hardy. He was born Norvell Hardy, but took the name Oliver as a tribute to his father, a Confederate war veteran who died when he was just one year old.

Oliver Hardy initially broke into silent short films as a heavy. He was often teamed with Stan Laurel in years prior to their partnership, first in 1917 in “The Lucky Dog” and later when he began working at Hal Roach Studios in 1924. Stan Laurel actually directed one of Hardy’s early films in 1924, yet they didn’t appear on screen together until 1926.

Director Leo McCarey, who worked for Roach Studios at the time, is credited with the idea of pairing them together for a series of shorts. The rest,as they say, is history.

Oliver Hardy is also noted for some of his solo work, appearing with a friend of his, John Wayne, in “The Fighting Kentuckian”. He also played the Tin man in the 1925 version of “The Wizard of Oz.” Oliver Hardy died in 1957 at the age of 65.

 

Lou Costello: During WWII, Abbott & Costello were among the most popular acts in the country, on screen and touring for GI’s. Lou Costello was born in New York and met Bud Abbott in the 1930’s while both were performing in Vaudeville. They perfected their comic timing and the famous “Who’s on First?” routine very early in their stage career. After enjoying an enormously successful career on stage and in radio, they got their big break in film in 1940, when they appeared in the film, “One Night in the Tropics”. They only had a supporting role but stole the picture and were immediately signed to make “Buck Privates”. Their career boomed during World War II with a series of pictures designed to entertain a war-weary country.

Abbott & Costello went on to perform together on television in the 50’s, and Lou Costello appeared solo in some later films such as “The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock”. Costello died in 1959 a few days shy of his 53rd birthday.

 

Jackie Gleason: Although primarily known as a comic, Jackie Gleason was a jack of all trades when it came to entertainment. He was born in Brooklyn and many of the characters he created, including his most famous, Ralph Kramden, sprang from memories of his own life. He was known to be a hard working, hard drinking and hard partying entertainer. Gleason started as a stand-up comic and moved into film and radio during the 40’s. After the war, he got his big break in the fledgling medium of television.

Eventually, he had his own show that featured a cast of characters including The Poor Soul, Reginald Van Gleason and Ralph Kramden.

Gleason was a consummate entertainer who also excelled at playing straight dramatic roles. He received positive reviews for his work with Steve McQueen in “Soldier in the Rain”(1963) and Paul Newman in “The Hustler”(1961).

 

John Candy:A Canadian who gained fame in the seventies on Second City Television, Candy became an endearing film star before his death in 1994. John Candy got his start in the Toronto branch of the improvisational comedy troupe, Second City. He became widely known in the U.S. after Second City Television debuted in the 70’s.

After leaving SCTV, he gained recognition as a film star with roles in “Splash”, “Cool Runnings” and one of his best known films, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, which also starred Steve Martin.

Candy was 43 years old when he died of a heart attack while filming “Wagons East” in 1994.

 

 

 

Published by

MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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