6 Degrees: Friday Flix

Today in the Friday Flix, we’ve got some more reviews for the Beauty and the Beast film, which was Number One at the box office this week. Kong: Skull Island (my review is on 6 Degrees-waiting for small screen was my recommendation) is still doing well. There’s a piece from Mubi.com about the entire spectrum of Kong films beginning with the original 1933 version.

There’s an interesting post from the A.V. Club that reflects on the films that best embody the 90’s. That’s a fascinating concept in my opinion, and a good one to ponder. What are some of the films that embody your high school years; the American Dream; your own visions of life and/or romance and success…the thought experiment can go on and on.

I’m going to extend this out to ask readers, as the A.V. Club does, to reflect on the films that embody their youth. We can continue to expand that with the films that reflect the past and depict life in America or the changing global vision…these are all good questions to ask when we think about films that impact our lives. More on this next week…

There are reviews in the 6 Degrees magazine for Trainspotting 2, Elle, the classic Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to stop worrying and love the bomb; Wilson, Cinema Paradiso, The Eyes of My Mother, the wonderful Noir film from 1944, Laura (one of my personal favorite film noirs!), and Life with Jake Gyllenhaal.

There’s a piece this week that discusses the accusation that the website Rotten Tomatoes has become the final arbiter affecting the outcomes of new films. The irony is that in days of old, that was the knock on many of our finest critics. My thinking is that if a movie’s premise sounds interesting, or you really want to see it, and/or if a movie gets good “buzz” or word-of-mouth movement, then the negative reviews from one source shouldn’t affect your decision to see a film. It doesn’t affect mine, and the dirty secret is, as we all know, critics don’t always get it right, folks.

There is a piece from the excellent site: Filmschoolrejects.com, about the origins in the Beauty and the Beast myth that trace back to the Jean Cocteau film La Belle et la Bete.

Fem Flicks: The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has set up a rating to help promote women in film and support and advance their work. There will be a Women’s Media Summit also this month that honors the work of women filmmakers. Both of these articles are found in 6 Degrees of film magazine.

Coming Soon: The L.A. Times has ten movies that are good enough to generate Oscar buzz already, so check out the post and see what you think. That’s the great thing about film. We can all stop and think about the films that affect our lives; there’s the good and the bad ones, the silly and funny ones, the fabulous ones and the classic unforgettable films as well as the very forgettable ones.

My homework this week is going to be to answer the question posed earlier in this post…. The list of films that affect our lives, that shape our views, and have made an impact on us. The post asks us to look at films of the nineties, but we need to look at the Big Picture and include films from several decades past to square this circle.

Looking forward to hearing more about what our readers think regarding films that impact your lives…Have a great weekend, friends, and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees of FIlm: Excerpts from Casablanca- The Writers

Authors Note: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village is soon celebrating three years of print! Still available on Amazon.com- here’s an excerpt from the book about the authorship of the film Casablanca-where a hodge-podge of ideas and egos resulted in one of the most iconic films ever made!

Casablanca

Script authorship of Casablanca also was disputed, only this time it was writer versus writer who vied for the lone credits. Someone said about this B movie classic, “One of the charms of Casablanca lies in its awkwardness. Not only do the politics and romance sit side by side, but that there are two or three contrasting manners of style. There’s the comic-cynical, the soppy-elegiac, and the solemn-propagandist … [It’s] not so much a story as a stringing together of great moments to remember. How, and in what order we remember them is left to us, and this is part of why we like the film so much.”
Four authors claim to be the true author of Casablanca. There is Howard Koch, who claimed he was brought in “to shape the film’s politics”; the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, who wrote as a team; and Casey Robinson. Robinson said that he had the idea for a film “out of a ‘lousy play’ called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.”
According to Koch, the story was, “So they start shooting and Hal comes to me and says, ‘We need some help. There’s a little trouble.’ Bogart had said, ‘I won’t shoot this __________’; and he had used a very nasty word and gone home.”
Ingrid Bergman on the Casablanca shoot said this: “Every day, we were shooting off the cuff; every day they were handing out dialogue, and we were trying to make sense of it. No one knew where the picture was going, and no one knew how it was going to end … We said, “Well, who are we?” … and Curtiz would say, “We’re not quite sure … It was ridiculous. Just awful … Bogart didn’t know what was going on, so he retired to his trailer … I wanted to know who I was supposed to be in love with, Paul Henreid or Humphrey Bogart?”
The Epstein brothers had gone on to another project for Frank Capra and were not available, so they sent the script in from Washington page by page. Two scripts were floating around, one from the Epsteins and one from Howard Koch. Robinson was brought in to add the love-interest angle. It was apparent that “none of them knew he was working on a movie that would turn out to be something to boast about; all the signs were that Casablanca would be a stinker.”
The facts are this: The film used some lines from the play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, including the line “Then play it, Sam” and the song As Time Goes By. The irony was that Julius Epstein was not proud of his part in scripting Casablanca. He called it “slick shit,” and said, “Casablanca is one of my least favorite pictures. I’m tired of talking about it after thirty years. I can explain its success only by the Bogey cult … I can recognize that the picture is entertaining and that people love it. The whole thing was shot in the back lot. Furthermore, there were never any such things as letters of transit around which the entire plot revolved. The movie is completely phony.”

Capsule Review: A Little Less Conversation-a little more action please

The Ape’s the Thing

In Kong: Skull Island, the denouement is the whole deal. If you could condense it, or fast forward through to the end-The Ape’s the Thing. By that, I mean that the characters, the back story, all prove to be extremely uninteresting and poorly fleshed out in this latest version of King Kong.

One of the original concepts surrounding the classic 1933 version of “King Kong” (BTW: -David O. Selznick himself reportedly came up with the “King” moniker to add to the Kong), was the big fight to be staged between the giant ape and a dinosaur (A Komodo Lizard, actually).

The Good Kong-holding Fay Wray

This is the takeaway. In Kong: Skull Island, if only we could fast forward from a tedious, plodding two hours of nothing to see the ape fight a giant lizard. There is no Fay Wray, no Empire State Building to distract or interest us. Just waiting for Godot…in this case, the big fight. There’s no need for Oscar caliber actors to waste their time and talent on this. My recommendation: Wait for the small screen and fast forward through to the fight scene.

6 Degrees of Film: Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

This week there are mixed reviews out for the new live-action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson as Belle the Beauty and Dan Stevens as the Beast. The knock on this is that it’s a CGI version of the exact story that was made so well back in 1991. So now they are re-creating it with live actors and CGI. A remake that falls shot of the original, but isn’t really terrible…hmm, that is not an original story in Hollywood.

There are reviews for not only Beauty & the Beast, but also Kong: Skull Island and Get Out featured in the online 6 Degrees of film magazine. I have a short review of Kong: Skull Island set to preview this week, but in case the suspense is killing you, know that it is recommended to wait for the small screen where you may safely scroll through to the big fight scene.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, they always trot out the predictable Irish film list. It’s a fairly short list, but The Quiet Man, from 1953, is usually at the top of most of them.  And I agree, it’s a great film about Ireland, filmed on location and is a beautiful movie both in storyline and visuals. One of the missing points rarely mentioned is the strong female lead from Maureen O’Hara. She plays a young bride who is torn between her brother and loyalty to family and her love for her new husband, played by John Wayne. And even though she is literally dragged kicking and screaming to the final resolution, she is seen as a strong, funny, smart and never cowed Irish woman with a mind of her own. This was quite a feat for the time period when this film was made and Director John Ford brought out all the best elements of O’Hara’s character to create this unique early model of feminism and strength. There’s a review from Filmsite on 6 Degrees that details much of the background of the making of this film.

One other thought about St. Patrick’s movie madness for my Armchair Film Devotees-rent the film, “The Playboys” with Aidan Quinn, Albert Finney, and a young and beautiful Robin Wright. Made in 1992, the film is a romantic drama surrounding a group of touring actors who descend on a quiet Irish village and disrupt their normally placid lives. This is one to add to the usual list of Irish must-see films to break out on St. Patrick’s Day.

From the Past: The Origin stories-a term of late for back stories that are fleshed out and made into feature films. Turner Classic is showing some of the great ones through the month of March. The term “to Gaslight someone” or to cloud someone’s vision of reality is taken from the film, Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Directed by George Cukor, it’s still a classic tale.

Frankenstein & The Mummy, both with Boris Karloff, are shown this month. The original vampire story, Nosferatu, a silent film directed by the legendary F. W. Murnau, is shown. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was remade recently by Martin Scorsese and starred Leo DiCaprio (Shutter Island).

Humphrey Bogart became a film star, a gangster, after starring in the play, “The Petrified Forest” and then the film version with Leslie Howard, who declared he wouldn’t make the film without Bogart. Bogey was so grateful he named his daughter Leslie, after his friend. And years later, after laboring for many years pigeon-holed as a tough guy, Bogart got his big break in a leading man role starring in Casablanca, in 1942, with Ingrid Bergman.

The original Pink Panther film, that launched so many terrible sequels and a few funny ones, starred not only Peter Sellers but also David Niven, and was directed by Blake Edwards. King Kong was made in 1933 and made a star of Fay Wray. It is still probably the best version of the story.

Bonnie & Clyde was a huge hit for Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and it also made the career of the noted film critic Pauline Kael, who loved the film and was hired by the New Yorker during this time period. Kael was ascending as a critic at the same time as the New York Times fired their long-time movie critic Bosley Crowther, who hated the film, and had vehemently panned it. Bonnie and Clyde was considered hip, and a product of the new age of film makers coming into their own in the sixties. Violence and sex were still taboo subjects for the mass audience, and Director Arthur Penn’s edgy production was considered cutting edge for its day.

Finally in March for TCM, there’s two films that routinely make the top ten lists for film critics- The Wizard of Oz from 1939, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1968. These two are definitely on my personal list.

There’s a biography in 6 Degrees magazine paying tribute again to the TCM host Robert Osborne, who died this past month. Some film legends and critics are irreplaceable. Robert Osborne, Pauline Kael, and Roger Ebert all fall into this category. The documentary about Roger Ebert,Life Itself”, is featured in an article on Ebert.com that we highlight in 6 Degrees.

Another exciting feature on the Ebert site is the Women Writers Week, which premieres during the last week of March where they will be showcasing the work of their team of women writers and critics. As mentioned, Pauline Kael was one of the pioneers in film criticism for decades, and her voice, along with Ebert’s, is sorely missed. At a time when more and more publications and news organizations are ditching their staff, we need to focus and promote the great work done by both men and women who write for blogs, online movie sites and other publications where at times, they are paid little or nothing to continue to build up the craft of film criticism and to speak out and promote the arts.

Shout out to my good friend and colleague: Professor Futon Spoonin-who curates the wonderful Flipboard mag: Film 101: Classic Cinema to Celluloid…. Prof: I tried to write to you and couldn’t get thru the maze of Flipboard tech-so here it goes….I plead guilty to the charge and simply add that the nature of the beast: Content Curators-means we are always “ripping off” other people’s content! I think even the New York Times conceded they cannot review all of the films out there…so therefore, we must find great and informative content from all sources available.

This week, on St. Patrick’s Day, wishing everyone the best and hoping that the road will rise to meet you and that you find yourself in heaven, one half hour before the Devil knows you’re Dead!-See you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

This week, there’s still some controversy about the Oscars show that
somehow managed to crash land the ending of a perfectly decent show. And then we found out that the ratings were abysmal, so perhaps it’s better to just go back to the drawing board and be glad more people didn’t see the fiasco at the end of the evening! And on a sad note, the beloved figure for movie buffs, Robert Osborne, a man who was the urbane and dapper host of Turner Classic Movies for many years, died recently. He will be missed. Here’s some of what’s happening atthe movies, found in the magazine-Six Degrees of Film online:

The Upcoming Dates for Festivals: Noir City: Will be held March 24
to April 2 in Hollywood- Two of the best Noirs featured: This Gun for
Hire & Ministry of Fear.

For the Armchair Film Fest: The Annual TCM Classic Film Festival:
April 6 to April 9th: Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies: Born
Yesterday, The Graduate; High Anxiety, Postcards from the Edge, What’s
Up, Doc? are just a few of the classic comedies featured.

Books on Film: The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies-Hollywood welcomes innovation, but it also controls it” is a quote from book author, David Bordwell. He writes about the fact that, although the times we are living in are extremely disruptive, the film industry has actually encouraged the Hollywood machine to remain fairly consistent in terms of the style and the production techniques used in film from the early years. Bordwell argues that the Hollywood  model of mass market theatrical filmmaking is continuing with traditions that emerged as early as 1917. The norms of the actual process of filmmaking have remained fairly stable, as the mores and styles have changed through the years. In the book I wrote in 2013, 6 Degrees of Film, many of these same ideas parallel those of Bordwell’s The Way Hollywood Tells It. The films of the modern era are very much in league with the styles and filmmaking techniques that emerged in the early classics and during the Golden Age of Cinema.

Robert Osborne: Goodbye to a genuine Good Guy. Osborne had written the definitive history of the Oscars, and was once an actor himself. But his legacy is one that made him a beloved fixture at Turner Classic Movies, where he introduced feature films for decades.

Recommended: A great piece in The Hollywood Reporter has been written on the origins of how the original King Kong came into being. It’s called, “Origin of ‘Kong’: The Unbelieveable True Backstory of Hollywood’s Favorite Giant Ape“, and it’s centered around a real life explorer and filmmaker named Merian C. Cooper, who ended up at RKO with the legendary David O. Selznick. Selznick came up with the name, King Kong, by the way.

Of Note: There’s a piece on Dr. Strangelove, one of our favorite films. At this period in our history, Strangelove seems strangely prescient suddenly. There’s more on the continuing Oscar drama surrounding “”envelope-gate”. And coming soon to the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York, The Godfather cast members will reunite. That should be worth the wait.

What Critics are Saying About: I don’t feel at Home in this World Anymore- has been given glowing reviews by critics. The unusual choice of the worst Best Picture “Snubs” from the past two decades is another list that is interesting. There are reviews for all 9 of the Best Picture nominees for 2017 found in our magazine. An interesting, but a bit in the weeds piece, again from David Bordwell, on the early history of Cinema, is one where he explains the static camera style of the early days of cinematography, the “tableau” style. The issue surrounding this is how the techniques of storytelling developed in films in the early period-before 1920, when films were still silent. Bordwell explores the style in detail in this article from his site.

Reviews for: Get Out has been getting positive reviews; Kong: Skull Island has had many good reviews, but there are some mixed opinions on this one; Beauty and the Beast has debuted with favorable reviews; Moonlight, the best picture winner (eventually), has also garnered mostly favorable reviews. The Ottoman Lieutenant, although praised for its visuals, has been garnering poor or lukewarm reviews owing primarily to a weak script. Logan has been garnering good reviews. And finally, there’s a list in our magazine of the best Vampire movies of all time. If you’re a fan, check it out.

Best of the Web: Check out these sites on the web. Some of the best articles are found on The Hollywood Reporter, NPR (National Public Radio), the L.A. Times and Davidbordwell.net.

One of the titles that caught my eye was “Films for Intelligent Audiences“. Of course, readers, you are all intelligent, and although I don’t agree with many of the films listed, the concept is a good one. Hollywood and filmmakers in general need to make MORE films for Intelligent Audiences. Some of the films that I did agree about that were on this list include Inception and The Big Short, Fight Club, Prestige, The Matrix, GoneGirl, and Memento. The idea is that we should promote and applaud more films that make us think and take us out of ourselves by challenging our intellect. These are the films that will be remembered a generation from now.

Here’s to the films that challenge us. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film: Friday Flix

Lately, I’ve been talking about the problems in the Oscar broadcast, as well as the mentality of the entire Academy of Motion Pictures. Other problems are cited this week in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine talking about the obscure Best Picture winners that nobody sees. Moonlight is no exception. It’s the second lowest-grossing winner in history (The Hurt Locker is first!) Spotlight and The Artist were also box office failures. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t good films, or that they will not eventually be recognized. But five of the past eight winners were rather obscure, little known films. There seems to be a pattern emerging here, as I mentioned last week. The Academy needs to rethink their criteria for judging these films, as well as the categories they’ve set up.

What Critics are saying aboutMarch Movies that are being released to DVD or coming to the small screen in 2017 include: Memento; Blazing Saddles; Jurassic Park; This is Spinal Tap; Pete’s Dragon; The BFG; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; The Life Aquatic; Wht’s Eating Gilbert Grape; A Man Called Ove; Sweden- Sing; Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them; Passengers; Miss Sloane; Assassin’s Creed;Elle; Silence; Patriot’s Day and Midnight in Paris.

The Logan spinoff film with Hugh Jackman has had generally good reviews. Kong: Skull Island has also opened to favorable reviews. Get Out, a Horror/Thriller directed by Jordan Peele, has been given almost perfect scores from Rotten Tomatoes, and has earned some rave reviews. The romantic comedy Table 19 has, on the other hand, been generally panned across the board. The Great Wall with Matt Damon has also been panned and considered a flop. Finally, there is a long-read on the Some Came Running site in praise of the Martin Scorsese film Silence, recently released.

The genre of comic book films was discussed in The Guardian this past week. The critics have come out with a list of favorite superhero films, and they include: Batman from 1989 (my favorite also!); Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Thor: The Dark World and The Dark Knight. All of these are generally well reviewed and represent some of the best in a newly established genre that has had some weak entries in recent years. There are some imaginative possibilities in this category, but the lazier end of the spectrum can provide simply a host of CGI scenes with little chance of clever dialogue or original scripts.

Best of the Web: From the Ebert.com site, there’s a great tribute to the actor Bill Paxton, who died suddenly last week. A piece in Film Comment laments the death of the comic film. One quote said, “Hollywood has perfected {the comic film} using the generic formula and familiarity to generate laughs.” We live in a fast paced and ever changing media environment, and the society has created the need for ever more complex screen stories. We need characters created in classics such as The Thin Man or His Girl Friday, or physical comedy that rivals the early Jim Carrey films or classic Chaplin or Keaton. In other words, the films that pass for comedy these days aren’t really all that funny, and they don’t seem to be trying too hard.

Recommended: Logan, Fences; Lion at the movies. Arrival is recommended for the small screen. And if you like Hugh Jackman, rent the following: Kate & Leopold; Scoop; Les Miserables.

The Big Picture: Movies for 2018 awards are already being mentioned. They include: The Big Sick- A Romantic Comedy with Ray Romano & Holly Hunter; Dunkirk with Tom Hardy. The true story of the massive evacuation known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; Christopher Nolan directs;  and Darkest Hour- Gary Oldman plays Churchill during the Battle of Britain.

The idea that films are somehow immune from the other problems that plague us in society is laughable. We are a divided nation politically, and even, or perhaps especially, our film community illustrates the divide we face. There is always a need for films with clever, witty dialogue, actors who charm and move us in the same breath, films that unite us and great directors who challenge us to look at life in a new and different way. These are the challenges as we move into the future, and as mentioned this past week, these are the types of films that we don’t see often enough. Art has always been about the future, and a new way of looking at life. This is a pivotal moment in the field and craft of film-making, and let us hope that there are artists working today that will rise to the occasion and
bring us together through the great and beautiful art of film-making.