The Night Bonnie & Clyde shut down the Oscars

6 Degrees of Film


After last night’s mix up at the Academy Awards for Best Picture, it illustrates the perfect metaphor for the type of arrested development mentality that has gone into the entire short-sighted thinking of the Academy virtually since its inception. There are so many chances for the group as a body to do the right thing and shake things up. But they continue to stumble their way into the future wearing blinkers.

To illustrate the point, here is a list of the winners for Best Picture from the past 17 years:

 Gladiator- 2000; A Beautiful Mind-2001; Chicago-2002; The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King-2003; Million Dollar Baby-2004; Crash-2005; The Departed-2006; No Country for Old Men-2007; Slumdog Millionaire-2008; The Hurt Locker-2009; The King’s Speech-2010; The Artist-2011; Argo-2012; 12 Years a Slave-2013; Birdman-2014; Spotlight-2015

And within that list, there are a few notable exceptions (a couple of years were skipped because they had such forgettable films). My list would include:

Gladiator: 2000; A Beautiful Mind; 2001- ?2002 who cares: Lost in Translation-2003; The Aviator: 2004; Capote 2005; The Departed-2006; No Country/Juno/There will be Blood- 2007: Slumdog Millionaire-2008; The Hurt Locker-2009; The Social Network-2010; The Artist/Moneyball-2011; 2012: Les Miz or Lincoln; 2013: Gravity/12 Years/Her; 2014: who cares?; 2015: Spotlight/The Big Short/The Revenant

Some of the years had more than one winner. I may simply see this year as a who cares? category. But the overarching theme of the Academy seems to be trying to pick the film with the least long term impact. Since Titanic, there haven’t been too many great films picked.

For films in the 21st Century, I would pick A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, There will be Blood, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, Lincoln, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Her, The Big Short, Moneyball & The Blind Side. as films that make a lasting impact from Hollywood.

One standout performer isn’t really an actor or actress. It’s the author, Michael Lewis. He has written three of the films in the past 15 years that have made an impact on our society. The Big ShortMoneyball and The Blind Side are all films made from his books. Spotlight, the winner last year, is an important film in this sense. We are now facing an era where journalistic integrity and truth are questioned from the highest echelons of our society. Therefore, the film that emphasizes seeking the truth at all costs is one that we should continue to promote. It tells us why we should care about journalists getting to the bottom of the story.

Lincoln, although a good and not a great film, was one that Spielberg has said was almost made for the small screen. That is the trend that continues, and perhaps there will be categories in the future for films released in venues other than traditional theaters. That is the wave of the future. There is a changing dynamic in Hollywood and globally, and the Academy is going to have to acknowledge it someday.

The films Inception and The Matrix gave us alternative visions of reality. We saw in Her a film about the very real challenges that isolation of the individual causes in our society. And Juno, about a teen pregnancy, spoke of the changing mores we face. It gave us a new voice as a screenwriter, Diablo Cody, a much needed voice for women. The Hurt Locker broke barriers as Best Director Oscar was given for the first time to a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. And when 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture, it was an indication that the “Indians were finally fighting back”. Meaning that the concept of the brave white men and women who conquered the West and all of America was given to be a myth that needed to be deflated. There needs to be a new way to understand Hollywood and the concept of movie making in general.

Lost in Translation is a ground-breaking film, also speaking of isolation and giving voice to a different vision, one created by another female director, Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis.  The two films released in the same year, There will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men both dealt with violence and subjects where the film had no hero or anti-hero. The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street also were nihilistic visions, where society is darkly honest, a black hole at times, and the reality is often frighteningly evil. This may be a commentary also of our times, and a way of pushing the audience to the brink of no return. Another commonality in these two latter films is the presence of a great American actor, Leonardo Di Caprio. Only a truly great actor could pull off the nihilistic and dark visions he has given us with any amount of credibility.

Of course, the sequels and serial films, the comic book genres, and all other mass media concepts for film-making still go unacknowledged by the Academy. They seem to be stuck in some time warp where Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable may somehow reappear, courtesy of CGI, and attempt a coup where all the trends and realities of the future are somehow set aside. This is the alternate reality that we see played out yearly with the Academy Awards show.

And although there were some attempts to acknowledge things like “diversity” and globalism, there is a real blinker-visioned reality to the types of awards given out still. Movies ABOUT movies still win a lot. The Artist and Birdman are self-congratulatory vehicles for the most part.  But the Independent filmmakers, the ones honored at Sundance every year, are forging ahead and creating their own paths inHollywood. Why they don’t recognize this and somehow carve out a niche for them is part of the tunnel visioned, short-term thinking that has gone into the Hollywood mind-set for the past forty to fifty years.

It seemed fitting that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway committed the ultimate faux pas by shutting down the stage where usually trite and mundane speeches are trotted out to the sound of bored applause that is routinely bestowed on the lackluster winner of Best Picture. It may be the ultimate for the renegades who brought us “Bonnie and Clyde” in
the sixties. Perhaps its best to say that the films with the greatest
impact have to be seen and then understood even a decade out from their initial release. It’s the shock of the new that sometimes cannot be understood.

We still have great actors working to make movies. Di Caprio is our greatest American actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest of our actors, now deceased. Michael Keaton has made a real comeback as a significant American actor in vital roles from The Founder to Birdman. Tom Hanks has done some good work in Captain Phillips and The Bridge of Spies, and some of his roles have been just mediocre. The call is out for actors who are still here. De Niro, Nicholson, Di Caprio, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch and others working still, need to challenge themselves with roles that Michael Keaton and Denzel Washington have taken on of late. There are parts out there that will interest us and will live on as we look back and see what our society has become as we go further into the 21st Century.

Oscar Selfie pix

Oscar News: Part II

6 Degrees of Film

I rarely agree with Joe Scarborough(from “Morning Joe”) on anything, but this morning I did.

The films of 2017 that are up for Oscars are, for the most part, films that would have been considered good, solid, “Indie”films and they wouldn’t have gotten as much press in other years. There are some years that have great films up for contention.

This is not one of those years….

The films that we remember, and the films that made the biggest impact on our society and our psyche have all been films that stay with us. It’s hard to know in the long term which films will be lasting ones, but there are plenty that we know as forgettable.

The biggest impact films from the past thirty years include the following: Films from before 2000 include:

Schindler’s List; Forrest Gump; Pulp Fiction; The Shawshank Redemption; Apollo 13; Braveheart; Fargo; Jerry Maguire; One of the biggest box office blockbusters was Titanic from 97…. The Full Monty was a term that entered the Lexicon. LA Confidential boasted perhaps one of the greatest ensemble cast ever assembled. Saving Private Ryan is iconic,as is The Matrix.: Most of these were up for Academy Awards, and a few won.

After 2000, the list includes
Gosford Park-Robert Altman’s last film; Lost in Translation; The Aviator; Brokeback Mountain; Juno; Capote; Munich; The Departed; No Country & There will be Blood; Slumdog Millionaire ;Avatar; The Blind Side; Inglorious Basterds; Up; Inception; The Social Network; Moneyball; Les Miserables; Lincoln; Gravity; Her; The Wolf of Wall Street; The BIg Short; The Imitation Game; Bridge of Spies; Mad Max Fury Road & The Revenant;

 These are all films that were nominated or have had some lasting impact on our society. as a whole.  From the list of nominations, this year, perhaps Arrival & Fences reach that threshold.

As I have stated in the past, there should be new categories for films. Indie films, Classics, and they should drop the foreign film category and let them all compete for Best Picture. They have way too many films in the one category, and they should have some specific designations, as Best film adapted from source (plays, books) and Best Original Film; Best “Indie” Film, etc. A category for best new talent or Best Actress under 30; Best rising talent…whatever…to make it more interesting:

Or just the Old White Guy category-Best performance for the Bucket List Brigade…something like that. Because we all know that the way that the Academy has been run is much like the political parties in our country. There has been a stranglehold on power within the hierarchy of the studios and the Academy that actually picks the nominees,and that has limited the choices for a long time….

Tomorrow I’ll put out the list of films that have won Best Picture since 2000 vs. the list of my personal picks.Those two will never jive…

Oscar Selfie pix

Capsule Review: Allied


This World War II era  Romantic Spy Thriller- about 2 agents who find love in the midst of chaos, is reminscent of films that were made in a different age. The couple meets in Casablanca-French Morocco, which does bring back obvious comparisons with the legendary Casablanca starring HumphreyBogart. The love scene between Pitt and Cotillard in the car during a sandstorm-reminiscent of another film-the Hitchcock thriller “To Catch a Thief”,also lends some nostalgia and adds to the romantic aura of this story. But the plot doesn’t play into the romantic elements, but instead relies more on the gritty and disjointed nature of war and the unique circumstances which bring the two lovers together.

The two spies work together to pull off a daring and dangerous assignment as a team, and fall in love in the interim. The action then moves to London, where they marry and try to live a seemingly normal life in the midst of war.

The film takes poetic license with the wartime dates and times surrounding the very real events happening in London during theWar.One bit of hokum is the scene where the heroine, played by Marion Cotillard, gives birth amid air attacks. It’s a bit over the top. We know the place is “fraught with danger”…but to have the girl in a shelled out building outside as she gives birth is overplaying your hand. Note: The Bombing of London-The Blitz-so named for Hitler’s lightning war (Blitzkrieg), ended by 1941.

Director Robert Zemeckis gives several nods to the Hitchcock-ian style of cinematography as he shows Pitt descending down a chaotic maze of stairs as the shot hovers above. All these at times interesting and occasionally irritating scenes don’t distract from the elements of this romantic thriller that manages to weave an engaging drama into what has become a rather stale series of films portraying the drama of the second World War.

This film is Recommended. See it at the movies, there are many scenes that the small screen just won’t do justice in watching. Some films are so gripping and moving that you need to see them on the big screen, but in this case, the combination of the beauty of the two screen stars combined with some artful cinematography make this one to watch at the movies.

6 Degrees: Oscar News

Bob hope oscars


Oscar Season is here. This year, the nominees are: (Should I be like Letterman’s old line, “Ah, who cares…?”) But no, there are some good solid films on the list for 2017.   Some good films were not mentioned, which is always the case. My favorite films and actors are never the ones that actually get the statue. It seems that politics even rears its ugly head in Hollywood. Shocking!

Here’s the List of Nominees:  La La Land; Moonlight; Hell or High Water; Hacksaw Ridge; Hidden Figures; Manchester by the Sea; Fences; Lion & Arrival.

From the past winners of Best Picture in the 21st Century, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men .and perhaps A Beautiful Mind are probably the three standout films that have won the Oscar. But the most relevant films for the future of cinema are not the Oscar winners. Why? Because the Academy members don’t take into account the actual cinematic appeal of a film in any kind of intellectual capacity. If so, they would never have turned their Oscar ceremony into the mostly boring and tepid, dull as dishwater affair that it has become of late.

Another big controversy is #OscarsoWhite. This year, they’ve done a bit better about representing the population as it exists today, but there remains within Hollywood the same makeup of Old, White, Rich men who are running the show. And that has not changed.

Oscar Predictions abound in my weekly magazine of 6 Degrees of Film. The runaway favorite is La La Land, which has a rating of Wait for the small screen. Fences would get the See it at the Movies nod in this pack, as well as Arrival & LionManchester by the Sea would be a miss. One of the things I’ve argued for is to let the foreign films compete for Best Picture. Elle should be competing in Best Picture, along with others. We talk of living in a Global Village, but this is something that is still part of the politics of Oscar… We have a review of Elle in the 6 Degrees magazine also. Here’s the link: 6 Degrees of Film

*What Critics are saying about…..  Film reviews for all the Oscar nominees are on 6 Degrees.   And there’s an interesting piece, in keeping with my original premise,  about how much it costs to campaign to win an Oscar, or an Oscar nomination. Don’t let anyone fool you that this is high art-this is politics 101. There is a critics list of Best of 2016, if anyone is interested in keeping track. I’m always quite skeptical of finding even 10 films that will make the cut, but some years are better than others.

We have pieces from different critics who list their favorite past Best Picture winners, ranging from The Sting to Titanic and Gladiator. One of my favorite articles is from The Guardian, about the reasons that La La Land shouldn’t be considered a great film, even if it wins the coveted title of Best Picture. For all the reasons I’ve laid out in these articles, I agree. Some of the documentaries and short works have been the best parts of the Oscars in years past. That may be the case this year.

Reviews for I Don’t feel at Home in this world anymore, Fences, Patriots Day, the horror film Get Out, and the 1997 film, Jackie Brown are featured.  Last week we featured reviews for The Space Between Us; The Great Wall with Matt Damon; John Wick: Chapter 2; The Human Surge; The Lego Batman Movie; and the Bogart classic: Beat the Devil from director John Huston

The Best of the Web: I recommend going to the website of and Film
Comment for top film reviews (other than 6 Degrees, of course!)  These two top sites are usually consistent. Others I like on a weekly basis are The McGuffin, Film School Rejects and Rolling Stone, plus  Esquire. NPR and the New York Times, as well as the
Chicago Sun and the LA Times newspapers, which still have consistently solid
reviews for films and all things cinema.

Recommended Viewing: The list from the Tampa Bay Times has Fences &  Hidden Figures. Definitely see Arrival if you haven’t seen it already.

* OF NOTE: The next time Casablanca is playing at an art house near you, you should see it on the big screen. There is a piece this week on His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. These are the Black & White classics that need to be seen at some point in everyone’s life. Look for the part in His Girl Friday, as the dialogue races by at lightning speed, where Cary Grant makes a tongue-in-cheek remark about his real name, Archie Leach.

There’s also a piece about one of my favorite films from the Australian director, Peter Weir: “Picnic at Hanging Rock” If you haven’t seen it, put it on your list to DVR. Another Aussie, the Oscar winning director Ridley Scott’s best movies are ranked also. Kubrick’s The Shining is also reviewed. I’ve read the book and seen the film many times, and they are two different animals. There’s an interesting piece in the magazine that will lay out the reasons why Stephen King still hates the Kubrick version. I recommend reading the book and seeing the film.

The best arguments for Black & White Films: Most of the great Film Noir genre, plus Hitchcock, Laurel & Hardy, and the Marx Brothers are all best experienced in their original black & white format. There’s a homage to the Marx Brothers in our magazine. If you’ve never seen “Duck Soup“put it on your list.

The Armchair Film Fest: For the month of February, the Turner Classic crew
has mixed it up by simply going through the alphabet with Best Picture
nominees from the past.  Listed here are a few of the best to tape:
Don’t worry about missing them, TCM usually repeats most of these at
some point throughout the year:

The Music Box from Laurel & Hardy;
The Music Man; Ninotchka; North by Northwest; The Nun’s Story; The
Outlaw Josey Wales; Papillon; The Philadelphia Story; The Pink Panther; A Place in the
Sun; The Quiet Man; Rear Window; Rebel without a Cause; Road to
Morocco; Roman Holiday; A Room with a View; The Seven Per-Cent
Solution; Shall We Dance; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; Singin’ in the
Rain; Some Like it Hot; Spartacus; The Spirit of St. Louis; Strangers
on a Train; The Sundowners; The Tender Trap; The Thin Man; The Three
Musketeers; To Be or Not to Be; Top Hat; 12 Angry Men

**Film as Art: There’s a great piece about Film Posters seen as pieces
of Pop Art in the tradition of Andy Warhol. In my book, there’s a
chapter that talks about the reasons that the early days of film set
the tone for the way that film is viewed and treated to this day. It’s
never been recognized as an art form as it should be. This is a great
way to look at the overall themes that are laid out in modern

There’s so much going on now, the Oscar News is a two-parter. Stay tuned! See you at the movies-ML



Capsule Review: Hidden Figures


Some parts of this film could be mistaken for a feel-good Hallmark movie. It’s got some good actors, notably Octavia Spenser (up for Best Supporting Actress) and Kevin Costner, who is surprisingly not walking through this one…but the beating heart of the film is about the racism the women endured at NASA.  The film’s emphasis on the apartheid like working conditions and the long suffering women who tirelessly dedicated their lives to helping our astronauts get into space is not really quite enough of a driving force to make this one pop. It could have been a made for TV movie, with one notable exception in the scene where Octavia brings her workers to the new work space equipped with IBM Computers, where she is empowered and they are finally not segregated. This isn’t really a spoiler, it’s simply part of history that makes this an inspiring film for the teachable moment in high school classes around the country.

But my recommendation, which ranges from Must See at the Movies to
Give it a Miss would put this one somewhere in the middle. You can
wait for the small screen debut and acknowledge this to be a nice popcorn, feel-good type of film. The fact that this movie is even up in the Best Picture category speaks volumes for the weak field of entries this year.