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


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Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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