6 Degrees of Film: Oscar News

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film





This is the time of year for movie awards. Best of the year past, the best directors/writers, the greatest hits, the biggest losers. But let’s face facts. 2014 was not a great year in film. And yet, there were some innovative films made and some pretty good films released at the end of the year. So it wasn’t a complete wash, but one of the most telling statistics was the fact that films pirated, or bootleg films, were the 2013 films. They were the most watched or stolen films. 2014 was so bad they couldn’t even give the films away to bootleggers!
One of the most interesting conversations on television recently was one Chris Hayes, the host of All in, had with a film critic regarding the film industry’s need to heavily criticize so many historical dramas that have the potential to win Oscars. The Oscar race is so politicized that stories are often planted denigrating the historical accuracy of a film based primarily on the need for a rival studio to trash their competition in the race prior to the nominations coming out for the Best Film of the year.
This should not shock anyone, as my book, 6 Degrees of Film, points out so many times in the history of Hollywood the political nature of the entire industry. From the outset, Thomas Edison lobbied to keep a monopoly on the fledgling motion picture industry.

Exhibitors across the country, in small towns and large cities, were informed that they could operate only at the pleasure of Edison’s newly formed General Film Company.

There was a court case in 1915, exactly one hundred years ago this year, in which the Supreme Court declared the motion picture industry was a business, pure and simple, and therefore not afforded the protections under the First Amendment.
And on and on. Another famous ruling from the Supreme Court in 1949 effectively ended the Hollywood Studio System. And we are all aware of the McCarthy hearings which encompassed so many of Hollywood’s great directors and writers in a witch hunt to root out the infiltration of “communists” in our movies. Then there was Jack Valenti, the head of the Motion Picture Academy for many years, who was a top aide to LBJ. The current head, Chris Dodd, was a prominent senator who once ran for President. He was a co-sponsor of the Dodd-Frank banking bill. Politics and Hollywood have often gone hand in hand. This is Hollywood, then & now.



Movies Premiering in March 2015:
Unfinished Business: Vince Vaughn stars in this comedy about a small business owner who travels to Europe to close an important deal. Tom Wilkinson co-stars in this quirky variation of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The trailer is funny, and the theme seems to be whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Cinderella 2015

Cinderella: A feel-good movie from Kenneth Brannagh? This updated version of the classic fairy tale got great reviews when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. A chick-flick or date night type film definitely, as a lot of the buzz surrounding this film has to do with the beautiful costumes on display.

Run All Night: An aging hitman (Liam Neeson) is forced to take on his brutal former boss (Ed Harris) to protect his estranged son and his family. This one could be a big improvement from the tired Taken formula Neeson has been milking of late.

Get Hard: A comedy from Will Ferrell. Need we say more? Those who love Ferrell will get a good dose of laughs from the plot centered around Ferrell, as millionaire James King, sent to jail and then turning to a seasoned pro(Kevin Hart) to help him learn the ropes when he’s on the inside. Not PC, but probably funny anyway.

Serena 2015

Serena: Lots of buzz about this one as the two stars involved are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. One of the reviews started, “I tried desperately to like this film…..” which is not a good sign. Cooper stars as the heir to a timber empire in this period drama and Lawrence is his young bride.

Premiering in April:

Ex-Machina: A sci-fi story about a computer programmer selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment involving a beautiful robot female. Bladerunner part 2, or 3 & 4….?

Child 44
Child 44: Tom Hardy stars in this thriller about a disgraced member of the Stalinist military police who is investigating a series of murders involving children. Anything with Tom Hardy in it is worth watching.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2: Kevin James returns as the hapless security guard on vacation in Las Vegas. Here’s hoping that he has more success than those involved in recent comedy sequels Dumb & Dumber 2 or Hot Tub Time Machine 2…the list goes on!

The Age of Adaline: A young woman, played by Blake Lively, is rendered ageless after an accident.

Also coming in 2015:

Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road: A return to the successful Mel Gibson series with Tom Hardy starring as Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, a woman of destiny who crosses the path of the iconic hero while traveling across the desert. This might be good, but then again, it might be purely camp.
Tomorrowland: This film, billed as an adventure, mystery and sci-fi, stars George Clooney. A teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (played by Clooney), embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. This plot just screams for the phrase, “you’re trying too hard” to be used.

Jurassic World
Jurassic Word: The much awaited sequel occurs twenty-two years after the events of the first film. A new attraction is added to spark visitor’s interest…what could possibly go wrong?

In the Heart of the Sea: This film is directed by Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemsworth. Based on the actual events from the whaling ship that inspired Herman Melville to write the classic, Moby Dick, it’s set for a December release.

”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

Mortdecai the Movie

MortdecaiI thought Mortdecai was funny. So shoot me! After reading several reviews and seeing the dismal box office numbers, I wasn’t looking forward to seeing this film. But I can honestly say, it was pretty funny.
The problem, in my opinion, is that Johnny Depp’s loyal followers are clueless as to the identity of Peter Sellers or, for that matter, the Pink Panther series of movies that this film strongly pulls from. And the type of foppish British gentleman that Depp is poking fun at is not known to young adults or Western audiences in this day and age.

I’m wondering who “green-lighted” this project? Perhaps the same one who thought it was a good idea to make the Lone Ranger with Depp as Tonto or the Exodus film about Passover that was released just in time for Thanksgiving. All these and similar missteps (The Interview?) give me reason to doubt the intelligence of the Marketing departments at some of the major Hollywood studios.

I predict this film will do well on video. Perhaps overseas it will find a more favorable market. Maybe not in Britain, but in France and other European countries, this type of humor based on the stupidity of the Englishman may have a following.

Gwyneth Paltrow is quite good as the sophisticated wife running rings around her shallow husband, Mortdecai. Paltrow’s natural insouciance and excellent comic timing give her an edge in this light romp about a stolen Art masterpiece. Ewan McGregor is fine as the third wheel, but the entire film rests with Depp. He is funny and fairly physical in this retro role of a foppish and perpetually foggy caricature of an elitist British Lord complete with manservant.

The plot is not as sophisticated as the original Pink Panther with Peter Sellers, nor is it as uniquely zany as the Monty Python films. But it does have its moments, and there are enough among us who will remember with fondness the Pink Panther series and the bumbling style of comedy perfected by Sellers.

If you are looking for some light entertainment and are over the age of forty, Mortdecai may be worth seeing on the big screen. This film does justice to some of the lesser outings in the Panther series. But the problem is, none of Johnny Depp’s fans would remember or care about a rather insipid series of films from the past. Therein lies the rub…Mortdecai may flourish once it moves to Video on Demand, but apparently, it’s not destined to be a hit film.