6 Degrees: Friday Flix


Greetings Film Fans! The Films of Fall are about to be unleashed! As always, we’ve picked out the ones that look the most promising from the big crop of contenders vying for Awards and box office blockbuster status. The Fall Newsletter is set for next week.


 Coming Soon: The films in 6 Degrees Magazine that have garnered good reviews include Wind River with Jeremy Renner and American Made with Tom Cruise.


Variety has a list of possible award contenders for later this year. They include Blade Runner 2049 with Ryan Gosling and Jennifer Lawrence starring in a Rosemary’s Baby type horror film called Mother! Also,  a movie directed by Steven Spielberg is coming called The Papers- can’t count Spielberg out! Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in this story of the Washington Post and the story behind the release of the Pentagon Papers. Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) directs The Shape of Water, about a female mute janitor working in a government laboratory in the sixties where she discovers an amphibious creature being held by federal agents.


Of course, the oxygen sucking film of the year is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which will debut around Christmas. There are other interesting films out there, but at least a few of these seem likely to appear on the Awards Lists for 2018.


 Hollywood Buzz: This week, director James Cameron made some comments about the over-hyped nature of the praise for Wonder Woman that has drawn immediate backlash. In a way, this is much-ado about nothing. I didn’t think Wonder Woman deserved the type of praise as a film vehicle that it received. But the persona of the character was in question for Cameron, who elaborated that the old school nature of the character and the comic book portrayal of a beautiful woman was not as honest, in his opinion, as his Sarah Connor character. This drew immediate backlash from Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, who argued that women didn’t have to be troubled or damaged to be interesting characters.


All of these talking points are true, but they may be comparing apples and oranges. Cameron has a point that the character is very old-school, and the praise may have been partly because of the beauty contest nature of the iconic character. Jenkins is talking about the ability for more than one type of character to be interesting to the modern moviegoer.  A multi-dimensional woman who is successful and powerful and beautiful is just as worthy of scrutiny, in her opinion, as those other darker women she has examined. Those who are damaged and have dark characters are interesting, but they are not the only types who are worthy of leads in movies. Both sides have merit, but the overall portrayal of women in film has to be more in-depth and multi-dimensional than the comic book portrayals of all women in the Marvel Universe. This is born out with studies and statistics that still show women as victims and as sexual objects in most Hollywood films. That’s the bottom line!


About Comedy: Another fairly interesting debate has emerged in the Generation Wars regarding what is funny. A list from BBC of the top 100 comedies clearly didn’t produce excitement in the coveted 18 to 35 year old demographic. We need to take some deep breaths,  keep in mind that films have been around for well over 100 years now, and also acknowledge that comedy is subjective.


Personally, I have a fairly low bar for comedy. Zoolander and Anchorman made the list, and that’s fine with me. The type of comedy that is passing today for funny is clearly not the same type of film that was popular in the early 80’s, during the Golden Age of film, or even in the swinging sixties.


Lists online: The Best Heist movies; highest grossing Summer Blockbusters and the best graphic novel adaptations are all featured this week in 6 Degrees of Film magazine. The list of Highest Paid Actors has Johnny Depp falling off the list for the first time in years. No one seems to be mourning his downfall. Mark Wahlberg is now in the top spot for those who care about these things.


 Interesting blog post from Buzz Feed:  The post features all the Movies based on Shakespeare. One of my favorites is Strange Brew, the cult classic that uses the two characters from Second City, to tell the story that includes a ghost and the infamous backdrop of Elsinore as the backdrop for this hilarious and admittedly acquired taste in comedic vehicles (Remember the “All Comedy is Subjective” line!?)


 The anniversary of Terminator 2 has brought director James Cameron out into the spotlight again. There’s a piece in gizmodo.com that recounts the secrecy and hype around the release of Terminator 2. T2 was the first film to cost more than $100 million dollars, so the return would have to have been huge to even justify the cost in making such a big budget film. For the technically minded, there’s an interesting piece citing the Terminator 2’s ground-breaking use of motion capture and other techniques. Many of these details are also found in my book, 6 Degrees of Film, merely because the vessel and main point of entry for all these films went directly through ILM-Industrial Light & Magic, which was the brainchild of George Lucas. The special effects and CGI found in movies today, for better or for worse, would not be possible were it not for the vision and the scope of production found at ILM. Gizmodo.com has the piece on T2.


Coming Soon: Blade Runner 2049 ; Jennifer Lawrence in the horror film Mother!; Steven Soderbergh’s Western Epic debuting on Netflix: Godless with Jeff Daniels; Kingsman: The Golden Circle- the sequel to the original Kingsman;  and Stephen King’s It Horror remake about Pennywise the Clown


Indie films: Bryan Cranston stars in director Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. The story is from the same author who wrote The Last Detail with Jack Nicholson. This one has Steve Carell seeking out his old war buddies, played by Bryan Cranston and Lawrence Fishburne, to help him through the ordeal of burying his son, a Marine who died in Iraq.


Some film flops: The Dark Tower has had terrible reviews, as did the sci-fi Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Valerian is doing better in overseas markets, and is opening well in China. And although The Hitman’s Bodyguard received across the board bad reviews, it has come out on top at the box office. Logan Lucky has been portrayed as a kind of “poor man’s version” of Ocean’s 11 heist films, and has been doing fairly well in most markets.


About Logan Lucky and Steven Soderbergh: There’s a really interesting interview online with director Steven Soderbergh, where he goes in-depth talking about the state of the film industry and the making of his latest film with Daniel Craig, Logan Lucky.


Some of the take-a-ways from this were Soderbergh’s assessment of the state of the film industry these days. He speaks at length about the way films are distributed, and mentions, as we spoke of last week and in my book, the idea of the Juvenilization of Movies.  Soderbergh calls it “cultural infantilism” in commercial cinema. He speaks of the dual natures in that the public claims they want to see a certain type of film, as opposed to the types of movies they are actually watching.


He speaks of the visionary purpose of the artist, specifically with Logan Lucky and the plot points where they are seeking out and portraying coal miners in West Virginia at this time in our political life, where the Rust Belt and the Forgotten Man came to play a vital role in our recent political election.


Soderbergh also said he would like to make “adult-driven, non spectacles that are original screenplays”. Those are the things that people like myself would LOVE to see Hollywood commit to! However, we seem to be stuck in superhero mode for the near future. Why? Soderbergh said, “I just think their model is built on these kinds of movies”.


Another interesting way that Soderbergh looks at the commercial film failures that we’ve discussed in this column has him pointing to some of the big flops which have been glossed over or covered-up in ways they could never do in the past.  Soderbergh: “You don’t get punished for your mistakes the way you used to back then. There have been a couple of films in the last year to 18 months that are 200 million dollar write downs! It used to be people would get fired for that, and now they don’t….And I think that’s part of the problem, there’s no new oxygen in the system”.


Finally he talks about some of the problems in modern film that have driven me batty in recent theatrical releases. They all seem to be about 20 minutes Too Long! And Soderbergh also talks about this: “I see movies now that are just misshapen, like nobody stepped back from this thing and went, ‘This thing is 20 minutes too long, it’s got no ebb and flow, or press and release”….YES! It’s the good and the bad of new technology and instant editing….Finally, someone who really knows his stuff is saying what I have been complaining about for a long time (Of course, he agrees with me so that’s even betterJ)


Of Note:  Roger Ebert, the legendary film critic, was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame last weekend, and there’s a piece on his blog from his widow Chaz about the event.  Plenty of movie reviews in our magazine, and a post from a new site we found: The OUPblog- Oxford Bibliographies that features a great piece on Hitchcock and Shakespeare. Check it out!


We are getting excited about all the Fall movies that are getting ready to hit the theaters. And some will be showing on the small screens too, as we recognize that not all great cinema is seen on the big screen these days. Until next week, see you at the movies!-ML


6 Degrees: Friday Flix


Greetings to all movie buffs out there! This week there have been some good movies I’ve heard about, and a few reviews are posted on the Macguffin site. Detroit has good reviews, but is not as uplifting as some might like. Wind River, with Jeremy Renner, garnered some good reviews, but the MacGuffin review wasn’t as gushing. The review ends with: “Wind River is a compelling story, but with Taylor Sheridan’s script, it turned into a crime drama that borders on hokey” So…
Logan Lucky has garnered good reviews. Steven Soderbergh directs this film described as “The Hillbilly Version of Ocean’s Eleven”. The Big Sick, the new version of a Rom-Com, is still out there, and there’s an interview in 6 Degrees magazine this week with the director and the actors from the film.
The Dark Tower has continued to disappoint. But the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, It, has generated some good buzz. Some of the other films playing this month are The Glass Castle and War for the Planet of the Apes.
From the Film Comment site: I’ve often discussed the book and reviews from Mark Harris, who wrote “Pictures at a Revolution” in 2008-about the 1960’s film culture and the changes in our society that were interwoven with the films produced then. This week, one of the funnier ironies is the discussion Harris has, reminding us there was no “Summer Film Season” in those pre-Blockbuster days. And some of the films about youth were made by a 66 year old producer and a 72 year old director.
Some discussions and articles on this front have appeared in the magazine about the anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde. 50 years ago, it was a cutting edge film with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The counter-culture had really just begun to emerge and this film was the articulation of many a young person’s angst and frustration with the prevailing establishment. The same is true with James Dean’s Rebel without a Cause in the 50’s. These films were then seen as so outside the norm for the at times cookie-cutter productions that passed for films about youth, that they appeared as breaths of fresh air much in the tradition of Juno & The Social Network- to use some recent 21st Century examples. The legacy of Bonnie and Clyde is another good read featured from the rogerebert site.
Speaking of Ebert: Roger Ebert is to be inducted posthumously into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame this weekend, on August 19th. As I’ve stated many times, the fusion that Ebert was able to create between the old world of film criticism and the post tech world of the internet has not been replicated since his passing. But his film website remains one of the best sites to go for reviews of films past and present. Also on Ebert: A review of The Glass Castle and the historical action drama Pilgrimage.
This week in Hollywood: The Best paid actresses list saw Emma Stone knocking off Jennifer Lawrence to become the highest paid leading lady in Hollywood. See the entire list in 6 Degrees magazine. Another headline that could have been posted under: We saw this coming. After AMC has had quite a run as the top dog in the Theatrical film distribution industry, there is a post: “AMC Theaters is not Happy about the new Super Cheap MoviePass Service” Boo-Hoo. There have been lots of blows to the movie industry over the past 100 years, and cinema has had to roll with the punches. But somehow, the moguls and corporate gurus have always found a way to make a buck….Seems likely that will continue! MoviePass is a $10.00 a month service. See the article in Business Insider in our magazine.
An interesting post for the 6 Degrees of Film folk: A post from the Quartz website has listed some movies that may have influenced the Game of Thrones recent dramatic offerings. The films listed? The Lord of the Rings; The Magnificent Seven and The Avengers all seemed to make perfect sense. Out of place: The Mighty Ducks? Well, there is always something known as “Comic Relief”
Finally, in the latest Bond James Bond news, there’s a sigh of collective relief as the stories are rolling out this week that Daniel Craig is indeed returning in the role he has embraced so well.
Coming Soon: Fall and the Fall Movie News: Films like the aforementioned  It from Stephen King, Jennifer Lawrence in Mother, The sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Battle of the Sexes with Steve Carrell and Emma Stone; American made with Tom Cruise; Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (same director as Arrival!); The Foreigner with Jackie Chan; a Bio -pic of Thurgood MarshallMarshall; and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman.
Many more are coming around the bend. Fasten your seat belts, and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Greetings moviegoers! As I’ve described several times in the past few months, nothing excites readers more than talk of the next James Bond. And the odds are that Daniel Craig is going to be back for the next two outings. That news has been met with some relief and some kerfuffling, because anything good or bad about James Bond movies causes a kerfuffle.
There is a review of Al Gore’s sequel to the Inconvenient Truth movie. It doesn’t really proclaim the film to be good or bad, but simply, as noted by one ardent environmentalist, it’s hard to keep announcing to the media: Well, the climate is still warming! In other words, nothing has changed, and the trends are moving faster than they predicted in the first documentary. So, there’s that.
One review of Atomic Blonde notes the success of John Wick, which may have led to the advent of the Atomic Blonde model. In fact, the prediction was made that without beautiful and photogenic Charlize Theron in the title role, the film would have been a failure. And then there is Wonder Woman. Some had a fit when it was dare suggested (by me) that without the beautiful and statuesque Amazonian model, (Gadot), there is no plot for Wonder Woman.
New Releases: Wind River with Jeremy Renner has been favorably reviewed on the Macguffin film site. Also, Ghost Story with Casey Affleck has gotten good reviews. Both movies are reviewed in 6 Degrees of Film magazine.

Good Idea: If you want to keep a list of good horror flicks for the coming Fall and Halloween season loaded  with plenty of ghouls and dark nights, there’s a nice film site that has some good suggestions. It’s awesomebmovies.com, which is a darn good idea for a film blog site. I’ve always been partial to the good and bad B Movie rolls.
The David Bordwell film site has some books on movies that look really good. The books recommended include: “When Movies were Theater” by William Paul. The book looks at the actual architecture of the old art movie theaters that played a key role in developing an idea of what passes as American Films. “Two Cheers for Hollywood” from writer Joseph McBride runs the gamut with reviews on the Coen Brothers and other iconic filmmakers, as well as interviews with famous filmmakers and screenwriters like George Cukor and Billy Wilder.  “Awake in the Dark” is a book containing the best reviews of Roger Ebert. We still don’t have great film critics that rival Ebert. There are good film critics working today, but film critiques are becoming something of a lost art. This collection provides a roadmap and a glimpse into our own past, as we see what we are missing. The fourth book was mentioned last week: “Color and Empathy: Essays on Two Aspects of Film”, with essays about the treatment of color in silent films as well as 1950’s Hollywood and Experimental films. If you have an interest in cinema beyond the casual Saturday matinee (an outdated term, to be sure!), you will want to read at least one or all of these books to glean some of the defining elements of a classic movie.
There’s a two part review of Dunkirk in 6 Degrees Magazine from the David Bordwell site. Dunkirk is still one of the best films out there at the moment, so it’s worth the read. The reviews for The Dark Tower have revealed it to be mostly a disappointment bordering on a bomb. This from a review in SF Gate: “Though this movie is based on up to eight novels, there’s enough story here for only a very good one-hour, one-off TV drama…Everything that takes place between is filler, and what’s worse…is that it actually feels like filler” Not so good.

Other films, other reviews: The Glass Castle is reviewed on NPR. There’s an interesting piece, also on NPR, that features several reviewers trying to expand on the best works from Stephen King. King is known for horror, but he also wrote The Shawshank Redemption, and some of his essays and work about writing is mandatory for all who know and love the craft of writing.

Sadly, there’s a timely piece from filmschoolrejects.com on Cinema and the Spectacle of Nuclear War…or as they flippantly add: how the movies taught us to stop worrying and love the fire and fury.
The Best Of: Category that includes the work of Dustin Hoffman. Rolling Stone has an article with 20 of his greatest performances. And in that vein, there’s a post in the magazine with the top 20 greatest movie music moments in film.
In general, the predictions are holding true about what has been summarized and speculated upon for weeks. The Summer of 2017 has been the Summer from Hell for Box Office. The industry is reeling, with AMC suffering huge losses. King Arthur started the summer as a big flop, and films like Baywatch predictably tanked. Ticket sales are down 10%. One analyst, speaking of predictable, said the poor box office was attributable to: “the overreliance on sequels catching up to Hollywood. Everyone save for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 disappointed.” Really?

There are other disappointments. Valerian tanked, and the acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit has struggled to break even. And this is without mentioning the threat that China brings to the American film industry. There is panic reported across the studio lots.
There are two schools of thought, with some believing that it’s simply a bump, and that by next summer, people will return to the theater for the Star Wars films and other successful franchises and sequels. But this type of magical thinking has never been correct, as the films have evolved from silent to talkies to glamorous Golden Age to the age of television and blockbusters and independents and on and on into the 21st Century. Where it stops, who knows? But the odds are that the film industry is evolving quickly, and it’s safe to bet on change for the foreseeable future. Read the article in Variety on 6 Degrees: “Time to Panic: Inside the Movie Business’ Summer of Hell” In Esquire, this article is also cited with the final analysis being: “It is tempting to think that this summer will teach Hollywood a lesson, but of course it will not” I agree.
The constant evolving nature of film is something that I wrote about in my book, 6 Degrees of Film. And that has continued as we move from one blockbuster season into another with almost no break in between. We are now gearing up for the Fall Film Season with some releases held out for the Holidays and those that are touted for the major Awards, Oscars and the like. So stay tuned. Winter is Coming! See you at the movies-ML


6 Degrees: Friday Flix


Happy August and welcome to the dog days of summer! 6 Degrees blog and 6 Degrees magazine are both gearing up for the Fall Movie Season. The August films have some likely suspects including Wind River with Jeremy Renner and the long-awaited Dark Tower with Idris Elba. Our 6 Degrees Fall Newsletter is coming soon so stay tuned.
This week in film, there’s been a look back at two significant actors in the history of cinema. One is Jeanne Moreau, the French actress who came to prominence during the French “New Wave” era of filmmaking in the sixties. The other is playwright and actor Sam Shephard, notable for his performance in The Right Stuff as well as some lesser known films that were personal favorites, Thunderheart and Shephard’s own quirky film adapted from the play he wrote, Fool for Love, as well as Frances with his long-time companion Jessica Lange
The Turner Classic Movie blog, Streamline, has an article on the films of Ingrid Bergman. The other films featured on their blog are The River from 1951 and Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, made in 1978.
Of Note: The Macguffin movie site features an interview with Matthew Heineman, who directed the documentary City of Ghosts, about a group of citizen journalists determined to operate undercover in the war torn city of Raqqa. Also on the Macguffin site is an interview with the director of A Ghost Story starring Casey Affleck. Both films have been well reviewed. You can find both reviews in 6 Degrees magazine this week.
Another film with good reviews  from the Macguffin site, Detroit, directed by Academy-Award winner Kathryn Bigelow, is about the events surrounding an unfolding race riot that occurred in the summer of 1967 in Detroit. A recent release that has had some lukewarm reviews is The Dark Tower, with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. The expectations were huge for this Stephen King adaptation, so nothing likely could have met the high bar for success with this one.
Film Comment has a post by Mark Harris from his 2008 book, Pictures at a Revolution, about the films that helped us along as we changed our movie tastes as well as our culture during the Revolutionary period of the sixties. He writes, “Moviegoers who were flocking to films like Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly didn’t mind unanswered questions.” Which is true when the thread tells you that foreign films, and art house films, have always led moviegoers in a different direction. You don’t go into an art house and expect neatly chronological plot lines and endings where the story is wrapped up and tied in a bow. This was the dawning of the age of the independent film and the birth of the Sundance and Telluride Film Festivals.
Another great film blog site is the Self-styled siren blog. Finally, she has a new post entitled, “Bad Movie Double Feature” which is always a good fit at this time of year. (See “The Bad-B’s of Summer re-post).
The scuttlebutt around Hollywood is that this has been a weak summer. There are growing concerns about movie attendance rates, with more people tuning in to the small screen and just waiting for On Demand or Netflix and its ilk. One problem was that 2016 resulted in record box-office numbers of over 11 billion dollars.
One solution discussed is a shorter window between the film’s theatrical debut and its release for home viewing. But the slump may be countered with one startlingly brazen suggestion: High quality films and better casts with exceptional screenplays. Just a thought. The final analysis: “Being down 4 percent from an all-time record box office is just not a big deal.”
And with the reminder that the Sound and the Fury signifies Much Ado about Nothing, I will remember to watch the Shakespeare films I recorded last month. Until next week, we will try and stay cool and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML