6 Degrees Summer Newsletter


Happy Summer to all our Readers and followers! This is the Summer Film Newsletter from 6 Degrees…At this writing, the Cannes Film Festival is in full swing. Here’s hoping that the Festival will bring to light some new, standout performances and notable films.

Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, the Summer Premieres are starting earlier each year. One of the first fatalities of the early openers has occurred with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from director Guy Ritchie. One of my favorite review titles came from Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers: Welcome to to a King-Sized Pile of Crap.”

One of the most anticipated openings as far as the Summer Blockbuster category has been Wonder Woman, which opens in early June to kick off what is also known as the Summer Comic Book Hero Season. The other notables have been the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, which made a lot of money-no surprise. And the Alien: Covenant film is one of the continuing prequels in the Alien series, which has done well.  

Some of the anticipated kids movies are the fun sounding Captain Underpants, also opening in June. Also for kids, there is Cars 3, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which opened in May, and another Despicable Me movie with Steve Carell.

There’s the serial brigade: with Transformers: The Last Knight. There’s the remakes: The Mummy with Tom Cruise, My Cousin Rachel with Rachel Weisz and The Beguiled with Nicole Kidman.

There’s sci fi  flick: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as well as War for the Planet of the Apes (another sequel/remake/rehash?).  For the documentary enthusiasts, there’s Letters from Baghdad in June and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power in August….

I’m looking for Dunkirk slated for July 21st and starring Tom Hardy. Lady Macbeth with Florence Pugh is set for July 14th. And Charlize Theron is in Atomic Blonde, an action pic opening July 28t

Other notable actors and openings are Once Upon a Time in Venice with Bruce Willis-June 16th; Baby Driver on  June 28th; Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 7th; and another Charlize Theron film The Last Face on July 28th.

All in all it’s not a bad lineup. There are a few good films that are most likely watchable, and that’s sometimes hard to find when so many films are remakes or sequels/serials that don’t break new ground. Which is why Cannes and other film festivals are so important, as they often bring into prominence the smaller films with low budgets that are more interesting and have new faces and talent lurking under the radar.

There isn’t any one type of film that tells us that Hollywood is on the way out, but the handwriting has been on the wall for at least a decade or more. There are so many choices out there, with Indies and Bollywood vying for the same audiences, and the double-edged sword is that there’s a lot of talented directors and actors who are working in films with small budgets and are on the cusp of making it. But there’s also a higher than ever demand to keep cranking out the same stale formulaic versions of yesterday’s hits because they still make money for the studios! So that’s not going to change anytime soon.

But, there are a few art house movies that make us sit up and take notice. And I almost forgot….Will Ferrell is making a comedy, The House, set to open on June 30th, so let’s hope there are a few laughs along the way as we prepare for a long hot summer in the U.S.

Be on the lookout for the 6 Degrees Friday Flix posts and the latest installments in our 6 Degrees of Film magazine that will highlight some of the week’s top film news and news of note from Hollywood. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML








6 Degrees: Friday Flix-The Mother’s Day Edition

6 Degrees of Film

I’ve been thinking about some of the ways films have portrayed Motherhood over the course of the past 100 years in Hollywood history. What a wide arc of role models we have in Hollywood films that portray Moms. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of my favorite on-screen portrayals of Mom come to mind.
Moms on Screen:  I loved Glenn Close as Robin William’s mom in The World According to Garp. Close was the wise and caring mother who advised her son early in life that childhood without a Dad wasn’t a handicap he needed to bear. Then there was the wise Mother Superior who advised the young novice Maria in The Sound of Music to follow where her heart led her and to climb every mountain.

The mother of the movement, Sarah Conner from both the Terminator and Terminator 2 inspired a world-wide rebellion. There was actress Maureen O’Hara, the ultimate model of the working mom way back in 1947 who paved the way in the original Miracle on 34th Street. And there are the mothers who inspired us and gave us hope. The Victorian model for mothering was seen in Mary Astor in Meet Me in St. Louis. The cool ex-hippie version was played by Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. And there was Shirley Maclaine’s loopy and self-absorbed character seen in Postcards from the Edge. There is the self-sacrificing mother. That leads us back to Shirley MacLaine, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a mother fighting for her dying daughter in Terms of Endearment. Sally Fields has played several versions of this. From  Forrest Gump to Steel Magnolias, she has been the epitome of a Mom with heart who was willing to sacrifice everything for her child.

Hollywood has portrayed Motherhood in all of its forms. But they seem to excel at telling the story from 1000 feet up, which is not a surprise, as the male-dominated field of Hollywood producers and story-tellers still hasn’t permeated our mindsets enough to change the culture in a meaningful way. There have been great and powerful women in Hollywood with powerful portrayals of mothers and strong female leads, but the trends and the statistics still point to a male-dominated industry that makes it hard for female directors and writers to break through. Still, there are signs of progress. More people are becoming aware of the disparity between the female directors and the female writers and story-tellers than ever before.

Coming Soon: Meanwhile, we are still gearing up for some of the big summer releases. Wonder Woman is one of the big openers; War Machine stars Brad Pitt in a war satire from Netflix; and Blade Runner 2049 will star Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, who is returning in the character of Deckard.

Critically Speaking: Movies released recently include Guardians of the Galaxy 2-which has seen favorable reviews; Snatched with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer-this comedy has had mixed reviews. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has struggled also, particularly with critics like Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calling it a “King-sized pile of crap.”

There’s an Australian film about serial killers called Hounds of Love, which has been called disturbing by many reviewers. Alien: Covenant has also received some mixed reviews, as films that have followed the original story have found it hard to replicate the unique and complex undertones seen in Alien and Aliens.

There are some early signs of promise, such as favorable reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but they can’t really bring back the box office magic found in years past with huge blockbuster hits waiting to be previewed. There are interesting films, there’s films debuting at Cannes with lots of potential, but nothing on the horizon screams “Glory Days” to the fading Hollywood blockbuster model.

Some of the upcoming films of summer feature interesting actors: Harry Styles will make his acting debut in Dunkirk; Sofia Boutella-the girl with the blades for legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service will trade the blades for linen wrappings in Tom Cruise’s upcoming remake of The Mummy. Boutella also has a role in Charlize Theron’s action film Atomic Blonde.

From the Festivals: Sofia Coppola will debut at Cannes Film Festival her remake of the Clint Eastwood vehicle from the 70’s, the Civil War film The Beguiled, which stars Nicole Kidman. The Chicago Critics Film Festival also runs this week- May 12-18th. And the Canadian International Documentary Festival has just wrapped, running from April 27-May 7th.

About Documentaries: I would urge any film goer to rent or even check out from the library some of the best films that are made in any genre, the documentaries. Films portraying the life of Harvey Milk: The Times of Harvey Milk from 1984; plus one of my personal favorite’s: The Fog of War, Michael Moore’s documentary on Columbine: Bowling for Columbine and his earliest piece Roger & Me. No matter what your political leanings are, some of these films are vital to telling a story and getting out of the way as they let the scenes unfold and allow you to make up your own mind. Don’t allow the bias of any political lens that you possess to prevent watching some of these gems. The left and the right need to know more about some of the particulars that documentaries pluck out of the fiber of the story as we watch details unseen in traditional, linear film-making formats.

Enough said on my “See more Documentaries” soapbox for the week! I’ve now plugged classic black and white films, Film Noir, and have moved on to the Documentary category. Next plug….could be strong women characters in film or my love of classic Westerns! Who Knows?

One last thing: Molly Haskell’s piece on Robert De Niro in Film Comment is worth checking out. Read it in the 6 Degrees of Film magazine this week. I’m hoping to be checking out some of the early summer releases this week-maybe even that “King-sized pile of crap” also known as King Arthur. I’ll let you know and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix: The Cinco de Mayo Edition


6 Degrees of Film

The Cinco de Mayo Edition: Happy Cinco de Mayo to one and all…I am still pleasantly surprised, as mentioned in the past week, at the response that most have to any mention of James Bond. Bond has made a huge impact, not only in the movies themselves, but in the global interest in who plays Bond onscreen and the continued interest in the screen legacy of the Bond franchise.

*The Death of Cinema? Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott have both been quoted in recent interviews lamenting the death of cinema as we know it. Both have blamed the comic book genre, a likely target for those of us old enough to remember the debut of The Godfather and Raging Bull, Blade Runner and Jaws as they became huge hits at the movies. The award-winning directors talked about the millennials ability to watch big-screen features on any device; the advent of CGI; the comic book genres and the difficulty of getting a project “green-lit” when so many sequels and comic book series are in the works. Conversely, Scorsese also acknowledged the “revolution in filmmaking” that has allowed so many young people to make films on a very small budget. And the directors Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson all drew praise from Scorsese. So…all is not lost!

*What They’re Saying About: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is on track to break records and pull it into the top moneymakers lists. It Comes at Night has debuted as a first rate horror film for 2017

***Star Wars Day: There is such a holiday now, honoring the impact Star Wars has on our culture. One article in 6 Degrees magazine highlights the top Star wars Movie Moments. We all know the lines:… “Luke I am your Father, give in to the Dark Side of the Force; I love you…I know” and “Help me,Obi Wan Kenobi- You’re my only hope.”

The way Yoda speaks Pig Latin of a sort, the power of the Force to create magic and the quest for Luke to find his father are all deeply entrenched in our lexicon and our culture. The myth begins with…Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…and the myth continues to build into the 21st Century.

Such is the power of imagination. As J. K Rawlings created the mythical realm of Hogwarts, so did George Lucas create the universe of Star Wars. There may be a universal acceptance of Star Wars Day, but as it stands now, the Force is honored mostly with costume parades and toy sales.

In my book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is an acknowledgment that the last quarter of the 20th Century belonged to Star Wars. Not only through the film and the story-telling lens, but the myth and the persistent allure of the stories of the Force and the nature of the Dark Side permeate our culture. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of waning interest in the universe of Star Wars, particularly since Disney has bought the rights and promotes it through theme parks and characters. In short, the first two decades of the 21st Century have also been steeped with the mythos of the Star Wars Universe. 

**Films to be excited about in the Summer of 17: Some of the summer releases include: The HouseWill Ferrell returns to his comic roots; Wonder Woman-with a nod to GirlPower world wide, the tale of the invincible Amazonian warrior is hopefully spun to interest women who need a dose of empowerment in the current climate. And finally Dunkirk; with director Christopher Nolan giving us his take on the true story of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; along with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh.

About The Godfather: They didn’t want Pacino or Brando; Pacino thought it would flop; they couldn’t use the word Mafia in the film; but the movie somehow managed to come together and catapulted Al Pacino and James Caan to fame. The film also reignited Brando’s faltering career, and promoted Francis Ford Coppola into the pantheon of great directors of all time.

*Coming on TCM: There are lots of Bogart films and war films featured on TCM during the month of May. Pulled from the vaults at Turner Classic, some of Bogart’s greatest films, The Big Sleep and To Have and to Have not are being shown. One of his lesser known films, Across the Pacific with Mary Astor, is also shown in May. It’s highly recommended for all who may be interested in the continued allure of the great character that was Humphrey Bogart.

*Godzilla v King Kong: coming in 2020, there is already “buzz” about the upcoming clash of the two major Hollywood film monsters. The latest film Kong: Skull Island was a tepid entry in the listing of monster movies. But the classic originals are both being shown this month on TCM: Godzilla (with Raymond Burr) and King Kong-the one with Fay Wray and the Empire State Building. Both are must see’s for those who are at all interested in the litany of monster movie classics.

*About Film Noir: If you do get a chance to watch The Big Sleep, or another classic Film Noir, remember some of the rules to identify this genre: The scenes are lit for night; there are lots of scenes with rain, which tends to accelerate the dramatic events; the narrator is crucial; and usually sets the tone for the type of dark and ominous moods that beset the characters and the subsequent events. There is often a passionate attachment to the past, followed by a fear of the future; and the overall movie themes almost always encompass loss, nostalgia, mysterious attachments to objects or people from the past and insecurity in all of its forms.

*50th Anniversary of The Graduate: Groundbreaking films were rampant during the period when The Graduate debuted in the sixties. Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke and Hud broke all the rules of filmmaking to date. Mike Nichols made this comedy with a relative unknown star named Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. The rest, as they say, is history.

*Question: What makes a comic book movie “artful”? Or what makes any movie artful for that matter? My favorite Batman film remains Tim Burton’s Batman and also the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve…not so much for the artful nature, but for the fact that these films as a whole  were treated as comic book entities as well as major Hollywood films.

The Batman series with Christian Bale was probably more artistic in the treatment of the dark side of the character. But the artful nature of any film is shown in nuanced vignettes and superior story-telling, and that is something missing in most of the comic book genre.

The great actors playing the villains always make the most interesting parts of the whole. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were undoubtedly the best parts of the Batman series. But there is no comparison with the aforementioned classics, The Graduate and The Godfather.

The comic book genre lends itself to the Hollywood treatment and the characters and nature of the beast will never be transformed into an art piece. The latest films stand on their graphic comic elements, not on the ideals and nuanced character portraits that are buried within the central themes.

Finally, once again here’s wishing everyone a happy celebration for the 5th of May known as Cinco de Mayo. A big shout out to my friend and colleague and fellow critic Jason King, who supplies us with some of his reviews from “Salty Popcorn” including The Zookeeper’s Wife and other delights. Until next week, as we gear up for more Summer Film releases-See you at the movies!_ML