It seems that all the Star Wars films are scrutinized such that it creates a checklist they must adhere to in order to be dubbed “authentic” Star Wars films. Here are some Bullets for a very Star Wars type of film….
• Did it push all the buttons for the Star Wars space battles?…Check • Did it contain some quirky and humorous characters, lovable and villainous? Check • Did it contain some emotional moments where the characters talk about “the dark side”? Check • Did it leave some questions unanswered just like the old school serials? Check • Did it introduce some new characters and use as part of the main plot, the best actors? Nope
This was a very Star Wars-ian Star Wars movie. There was the quest, the villain, the conflict with the Dark Side, and even a “mini Death Star” for some reason. But there was about five minutes with the best actor in the film, Benecio del Toro, and there was Mark Hamill, who was always the lightweight in acting chops, and who was asked to carry the heaviest load in terms of conflict and nuance. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Many parts of the plot don’t make a lot of sense. But in between, there is Star Wars. Literally, the war that takes place in space is fought throughout most of the film. And interspersed, there is young Rey, who is on a quest and is noble and earnest. She is also conflicted, and is in some kind of mind-meld through the Force that connects her with Kylo Ren, who we all know has gone over to the Dark Side. Or has he? Maybe….maybe not. But do we care? THAT may be the burning question.
The film doesn’t lead us to the point where we DO care a whole heck of a lot about the conflicted nature of the new and improved version of Darth Vader. And that may lead us down the rabbit holes where we wait to see what Ron Howard is going to do with the spin-off version of the Han Solo film. Or it may raise even more questions about the many other spin-offs and rabbit holes where we are led in this fable about a time “Long, long ago in a Galaxy Far, Far away…”
Happy Holidays Film lovers! This week at the movies, there is a trickling list of film awards that are beginning to give us a sense of the biggest winners for this award season. And the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi has finally opened in theatres before Christmas. In addition, Turner Classic is showing Christmas films as well as some other recommended films to record. For this week, we recommend Modern Romance and Little Shop around the Corner
The National Film Registry has announced their annual film picks. They have added: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; Superman; Titanic; Gentlemen’s Agreement with Gregory Peck; Field of Dreams; 2000 Memento; Spartacus; and the 1978 Superman from director Richard Donner starring Christopher Reeve; Also preserved, the Disney classic animated film, Dumbo from 1941 and Die Hard with Bruce Willis
The Deal from Disney: Buying up 20th Century Fox, Disney has not exactly cornered the market, but they have really brought the hammer down on their competition. In addition to owning the Star Wars franchise, the other Film Franchises include: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (HUGE); plus Predator/Alien…, which adds up to about ¼ of the ENTIRE film industry! Warner Bros is the second largest market share at 15%, then Sony, Universal and Paramount. Who says the Big Studio Age of filmmaking is dead?
Films reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine: Man on Fire with Denzel Washington from 2004, Doctor Zhivago from 1968, The Apartment from 1960, and The Wolf Man from 1941 are all reviewed in the magazine this week. These films are worth a second or third look, if you’ve never seen them.
Film Reviews in Theatres Now: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and LadyBird, as well as The Shape of Water are all reviewed and recommended. Coco, the children’s animated film from Pixar has been number one at the box office for the past several weeks.
From Hollywood: One article this week asks, “Are Cinematic Universes hurtingcinema?” The argument is on the one hand, pushing the fact that the filmmaker-driven method, where the director has total control of the film and the creative process is the best, as opposed to the broad focus on the Big Picture, the larger universe where someone oversees a vision for the entire story and emphasizes that the focus should be on that. The argument is that there can only be one or the other, not both methods! The notion is that the ‘shared universe’ method doesn’t work well. The bottom line is that audiences have become more sophisticated, and have caught on to the fact that this shared universe method isn’t working. The article ends with this nugget: “The cynicism of audiences of Hollywood remakes, sequels and high-concept films and inevitable franchise fatigue is something to talk about for another day.” Unfortunately, that day has arrived! I do believe that audiences are not going to simply let a film ’coast’ on the reputation of the series or the franchise. As always, the audience will flock to a well-written film with a strong plot, compelling lead characters and original ideas. These are still the ‘bread and butter’ core films that all successful studios feed from. Disney may buy all the studios they can absorb, but if they don’t have these core ingredients in the films they make, than Hollywood will become nothing but a fond memory before too long.
This year, the inevitable film lists have been trotted out. For the most part, the best of 2017, the best sci-fi films, the best romantic comedies and horror films are all mildly amusing as a kind of parlor game. But there is never any real analysis other than listing of films by rote, with picks coming from critics based on their own personal bias. The bigger picture to focus on is when we look at the films that the National Film Registry board has added, as well as the films from the past 17 years that make up the 21st Century. These are the films that stand the test of time.
The films that have a lasting impact on our culture, and changing cultural and societal messages are the films that will resonate in the long run. Here’s hoping that you begin to have a fun and relaxing holiday time with friends and family, with plenty of time to make the trek to the cinema. See you at the movies!-ML
For those who are disillusioned about politics and America, and America’s place in the world, please remember that we’ll always have Paris. You may have heard that line, and perhaps you don’t know that it’s one of the memorable lines from Casablanca. My personal favorite line in this film is NOT “Play it Again, Sam”, (which was a misquote: The line is: “Play it, Sam!…You played it for her, you can play it for me!”), but the line where Bogie tells someone that he came to Casablanca ‘for the waters.’ When told they were surrounded by desert, he says, “I was….misinformed.”
Casablanca is just one of the memorable films playing this month on Turner ClassicMovies. Last week we mentioned Meet Me in St Louis, which is a great holiday film starring Judy Garland . One of the highlights of the film is Garland singing, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which became one of her signature songs.
Garland is also in the remake of The Little Shop around the Corner, the classic Ernst Lubitsch film with Jimmy Stewart from the thirties. They remade it as a musical, In the Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in the fifties. And then, they remade it again with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. As you can tell, the story is memorable enough to rework, and each of these films did well at the box office.
The plot revolves around two co-workers who compete for sales in a small music shop, and they develop a dislike for each other. Their personal life is marked by a correspondence, (they used to be called ‘pen-pals’ in the old days,) that develops into a romantic courtship.
For each slight given the other, they tell their friends about the wonderful nature of the person that they have met and their developing romance through the mail. Of course, they don’t know what the other looks like. And so, the plot thickens when they agree to meet, and the male in the story realizes that the person he has been dreaming about is the same annoying young woman he works with in the store.
At first, he begins to tease his co-worker, and begins to see that she has also fixated on him as her romantic ideal. From there, he begins to try and develop a friendship with her, and draws her out about her ‘intended.’ The girl eventually does decide that the real flesh and blood person she works with is the one she would choose, and the end has the two pairing up as he reveals his love for her.
The plot plays like a revamped Shakespearean comedy, with twists and turns and sub-plots that lend itself to the final denouement. But the story has proven to be a durable one, as they’ve remade it successfully in three separate variations of the theme. The story in each film starts as a kind of screwball comedy, with mistaken identities and revolving doors, but at the essence of this tale is the sweet and at times, bittersweet nature of love, where the eternal ideal is always at odds with the realities of life. The true meeting of the minds is seen in the final outcome for each of these stories, and the updated versions through the past century of film are worth a view (or two.)
We also talked last week about Lord Jim as a Spiritual film that’s recommended to rent or record. Another great performance from Peter O’Toole that is playing this month on TCM is My Favorite Year. The movie would never have worked without the over-the-top character of O’Toole parodying his own legendary capers and drunken displays. This is a good film for the holidays and for those old enough to appreciate the air of nostalgia that surrounds the main characters and the plot.
There’s an Armchair Film Festival waiting for those who love Hitchcock: Rear Window, with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, and North by Northwest with Cary Grant are both on TCM this month. These two movies showcase Hitchcock in top form. The paranoia and slightly dark and deviant world that he hints at or alludes to at times is seen just peeking through enough in these two films to make them more than merely interesting.
For those who have never seen Albert Brooks on film, I would recommend hitting record for Modern Romance. Brooks has a droll way of delivering a line that no one else has been able to achieve. The closest I can think of in comparison is W C Fields. Both comics talk about the situations at hand, and at the same time they seem to comment on the state of the world and their own sly and paranoid asides and thought experiments tend to lend a totally different meaning to the spoken word. Watch the master at work in Modern Romance on TCM.
Finally, for some of the greatest repartee ever filmed, the Thin Man Series with William Powell and Myrna Loy is playing on TCM around New Years. Start the New Year the right way and record these two in action. They are funny and droll, they’re stylish and entertaining and witty as well as being perfect foils for each other in this series of films.
Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and taking time to see a movie or two. I’m looking forward to The Shape of Water, and of course, the latest Star Wars film is about to drop in the next week. The other films that have been well received are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,Wonder, and The Disaster Artist. Till next week, see you at the movies-ML
Happy Holidays Film Fans! This week, we are featuring the just-released Holiday FilmNews, with a few recommendations for those who want to see movies on the big screen, as well as for those who are looking for good holiday film fare to watch at home.
In the 6 Degrees magazine: An article from The Reel World is about Daniel Day-Lewis and his decision to quit acting. There’s a look at 2018, with films headlining the Sundance film festival. And we feature movie reviews for The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Woody Allen’sWonder Wheel.
And if you have ever wondered why all the awards and the best films of the year are all squashed into the one month, December, read the Variety article, about overcrowding the films and awards. This year in December, 32 films have been scheduled to open in 31 days. And the awards have all moved earlier too. National Board of Review and NY Film Critics announce winners in late November. SAG Awards deadline is December 10th.
It’s a problem with no solutions in site. But for the moment, enjoy the movies recommended, and till next week, see you at the movies!