On The Roosevelt’s

FDR Laughing 2014The best part, for me, remains the section on FDR. He was a loveable man. No wonder so many men & women pledged their lives, their full measure of devotion, to his care & well-being. His faithful cousin, his secretary Missy Lehand, Harry Hopkins, Louis Howe, Harold Ickes, his old love Lucy Mercer, his children who literally supported him as he spoke to the nation and helped care for him, ..

The other two Roosevelt’s, Teddy & Eleanor, were not easy people to know. Even in documentary form, their restless energy comes through in leaps and bounds. They are to be admired, respected, and even revered. But to be loved, that task belongs to Franklin. His smile and sunny, engaging personality, his commanding presence compounded with the touching vulnerability of a man bound for life to a chair, all of that commands not just deep and abiding respect but love.

There is love for a man so willing to be pushed and pulled without admitting defeat. There is love for a man who so wanted to be loved by others. There is a great and abiding love for a man who cherished his country, his ideals, his values, and pushed himself literally to the limits where no man had gone before. The pain he must have suffered, and the cheery optimism he brought forth to deal with the pain and suffering, those are the marks of a great man living his life as if in a Greek Tragedy.

He dealt with the pain and found a path forward. He led the nation through the Depression and into the last part of the Great World at War with a confidence and determination no other could have mustered. He did die in service to this country, and those who say that he could not be elected in this day and age, well, I’m not so sure. Many said a black man would never be President. A woman could not have served as President in FDR’s time. But now, things are different.

If a man with the grit, the determination, the optimism and brilliant mind of an FDR appeared in a wheelchair, determined to run for office, I doubt the wheels would bind his wit and style to the earth. The age of mass media, plus the idealized way we treat our Presidents, would serve as both a plus and a minus for a man with physical challenges. But, after seeing what FDR did, and how his determination drove him to great heights, I greatly doubt a little thing like a wheelchair would ever have stopped him.

Tom Hardy stars in The Drop

The Drop 2014 FallThe twists and turns in this movie also appear in so many current films that come to the same concluding theme: nothing is as it seems….The Drop was adapted from a short story by Dennis Lehane, the writer of Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone. Lehane’s short story was entitled, Animal Rescue, which allows for one of the more refreshing twists I’ve seen in a movie lately.

The story involves the use of a dog in the framework of the film. One of my pet peeves is the awful cliché in films where the dog dies off-screen and we hear the obligatory aarf or find the animal lying dead as a portent of doom. This one works against the awful type. Although it’s not a huge spoiler for the plot, this one is simply refreshing in that the puppy that is used as a plot device, and is the basis for the short story upon which the film is derived, is not seen or used in the same, tired mold as so many canines that have gone before.

The twists and turns in this one are something we see as a slow moving train wreck. We know that violence is bubbling up as it simmers beneath the surface throughout. Although there is some violence displayed, it is understated for the most part and not used to propel the plot into oblivion. That is another pet peeve of mine in modern films. There is so much gunfire, and so many bodies flying in martial arts mode in films, we don’t ever soak up dialogue or develop character. The plot just moves (or plods) along.

James Gandolfini fills in the gaps in this other-wise quiet film. He supplies humor where it is needed, and is the lynchpin for the premise of this gangster-themed film. The action occurs when a robbery takes place at the bar where Bob ( Tom Hardy) and his Cousin Marv (Gandolfini) work. The robbers make off with money belonging to the Chechnyan mob guys. They, naturally, want their money back.

The story revolves around the mob and the threat of violence against Bob & Marv, but also includes Bob’s new-found friendship with Nadia. The two meet when he rescues a puppy from her trash-can late one night. They form a friendship around the care of the animal, while Bob continues to plod through his workdays at the bar. The Drop is the bar itself, used as a money-laundering station for the mob. The Drop is also a metaphor for the slowly simmering undercurrents surrounding the two men from the bar and the underclass of bad guys closing in on them. When the other shoe drops, we are not completely surprised. It’s a relief when the circle begins to close.

James Gandolfini creates a fitting end to his celebrated career that soared with his spot-on portrayal of the mob boss in The Sopranos. Tom Hardy is one of the most interesting actors working today. His British accent is lost in the Bronx twang he adopts for this part. Bob is a slow-moving, slow-talking and methodical thinker. The pace of the movie deliberately follows him along the trail of a methodology which arrives at the correct conclusion within the necessary time and space. Although this one is too violent for the whole family, it’s a good start to a fall line-up after a summer of terrifically mediocre films.

James Garner-the Peacemaker-Man without a Gun

James Garner pix 2014James Garner’s biography revealed a lot about the man. He was a complex individual, not a cookie-cutter Hollywood type. Like all of the most successful television stars of the past, Garner was able to achieve the kind of rapport with the audience that revealed how much of an ordinary guy he could be. Johnny Carson, Jack Benny, Lucille Ball and James Garner all had that ability. They were able to connect with people. They had a kind of everyman quality and appeal that was universal.

Sorely missing in the television line-up is the type of laid back character that Garner portrayed. Rockford kept his gun in the cookie jar and he didn’t seek violence as much as he was thrown into violent situations. He loved the thrill of the chase, which was all powerful when he began making The Rockford Files. And yet his character, JIm Rockford, didn’t crave fame and fortune. He loved simple things like fishing with his father Rocky, and living by the beach in a trailer. He was a kind of grown-up version of your favorite eccentric uncle, or perhaps an aging hippie/surfer dude. And Rockford went after information using his wits, his humor, and a style of private detective work that seems to have died with him.

It’s interesting that they tried to revive The Rockford Files a few years back and scrapped the entire project before it aired. It turned out that James Garner was Rockford incarnate. There is talk of a feature film with Vince Vaughn, who may be able to pull it off. But James Garner was also the original Maverick in Hollywood and he became the one and only Rockford. No-one could replace this man with the common touch. Rockford was a man who knew how to fight using the power of his lungs and feet, and not the power of a semi-automatic gun. That was who James Garner was and why he was beloved.

6 Degrees Fall Film Newsletter


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After an extremely disappointing summer of box office, Hollywood rolls out some of the big movies of the year. These are a few on the list that look most promising. They include big names like Brad Pitt, Bill Murray, Denzel Washington and Matthew McConaughey, plus some of the most interesting new actors working today-Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. The women in film this season include Nicole Kidman, back in a thriller, and Melissa McCarthy, reportedly getting great reviews in St. Vincent. McCarthy is one actress that has been over-exposed yet under-utilized in most of her former comic vehicles. This one may turn the tide for her…
Robert Downey is in a dramatic role opposite Robert Duvall. It’s a nice change from wearing a costume and letting the special-effects do the heavy lifting. Liam Neeson should be called out for repeating the same formulaic bit of type-casting, but this film-A Walk among the Tombstones– has a feel of a noir about it. He’s back in the re-make mold soon enough when Taken 3 comes out next year.
Nicholas Cage, a renowned Oscar-winning actor, is doing a re-make of Left Behind. It’s an interesting enough idea to sit up and take notice. Or at least to ask, “Why?” And Michael Keaton, another costume-burdened actor, stars in a complete turn-around from the action hero mold with the dark comedy, Birdman.
Many more Oscar-winning actors are returning to the screen this Fall. Back in the saddle is Tommy Lee Jones, directing and starring in a Western, The Homesman, with another Academy-Award winner, Hilary Swank. Another re-match is Dumb and Dumber 2. This could be really funny or really bad. The reviews are still out, but I thought the first one was fun.
All together, the season looks infinitely promising… comparatively speaking. That is, after a terrible summer with no real stand-outs, the fall films include a mix of interesting biographic pieces, with a few comedies and less science-fiction (which is a good thing). The buzz around town should be: “We’ll see…let the public be the judge!”


The Drop 2014 Fall

Release Date: 9/12: The Drop; Tom Hardy stars as a Brooklyn bartender caught between mobsters and the cops. James Gandolfini co-stars in his final film. This looks promising.
Walk among the Tombstones L Neeson Fall 2014
Release Date: 9/12: Liam Neeson in A Walk among the Tombstones-Liam Neeson stars in another thriller about kidnapping. This time, he plays a private detective in recovery who’s hired by a drug dealer to find those responsible for murdering his wife. Said to be more noir-like than Taken, the film is adapted from Lawrence Block’s 1992 novel. Could be good…

Equalizer 2014 Fall
Release Date: 9/26: The Equalizer-Denzel Washington: Director Antoine Fuqua teams with Denzel again, (after 2001’s Training Day). Not a true spin-off of the popular TV series of the 80’s, this intensely violent story has McCall (Washington), seeking justice by rescuing a young girl from Russian mobsters. Denzel Washington is intensely physical and notoriously self-disciplined-he could make this work.

left behind 2014
Release Date: 10/3: Left Behind: For some reason, Oscar-winning actor Nicholas Cage has decided to star in another version of this take on the Rapture. Cage plays the pilot of a jumbo jet who is one of those “left behind”.


The Judge 2014 Fall
Release Date: 10/10: The Judge: This father-son legal drama stars Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall, two Hollywood heavyweights. The plot has Downey as a big-time criminal defense attorney who returns to his home town for his mother’s funeral. He is estranged from his father (Duvall),but they come together after the old man is accused of a crime.

Birdmn 2014
Release Date: 10/17-Birdman: A different kind of dark comedy. Michael Keaton plays an actor trying to make his comeback, only to suffer a nervous breakdown in the process. Edward Norton also stars.


Dracula untold 2014
Release Date: 10/17: Dracula Untold: Around Halloween in Hollywood, the goblins start to come out. In this version of Dracula, we meet the man behind the fangs. Turns out that before he was Dracula, Vlad was a Family Guy.


St vincent Fall 2014
Release Date: 10/24: St Vincent-Bill Murray plays the title role in this indie comedy. Murray is the curmudgeonly neighbor of a single woman, played by Melissa McCarthy, with a 12 year old son. St. Vincent becomes the unlikely baby-sitter for the young boy, and merriment ensues.

Interstellar 2014
Release Date: 11/7: InterstellarMatthew McConaughey stars in this sci-fi piece about a future Earth that cannot produce enough food to feed the masses. The solution? An interstellar space journey to find an answer, if not a new home for Earth’s inhabitants.

Theory of everything 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Theory of Everything: A bio-pic about the amazingly gifted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his struggle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.


Better angels 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Better Angels-A Lincoln bio-pic about the Great Man’s boyhood.


the Homesman Fall 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones directed this Western where he stars as a claim jumper who helps a pioneer woman (Hilary Swank) transport three women across the prairie.


dumb & dumber 2 2014
Release Date: 11/14: Dumb and Dumber 2: Some would find it completely moronic, I happened to think the first one was hilariously funny. Let’s hope this one captures the humor, and leaves the moronic behind.


Fury 2014
Release Date: 11/14: Fury: Brad Pitt stars in another World War II film about the power of the Sherman tank, the Fury.

the imitation game Fall 2014
Release Date: 11/21: The Imitation Game-Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who helped to break the Nazi’s Enigma code during World War II. The true story also focuses on the real life trials of a homosexual facing prosecution in the 1950’s.

”There’s nothing new under the sun. Critics frequently complain about the lack of originality in film. Another high-profile superstar that constantly used reworked material . ..William Shakespeare

-Raffaella Bonaldi