6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Happy Friday Film Fans! Here’s a short list of the films recommended to record coming up in the next week on Turner Classics.  Each film is reviewed in 6 Degrees magazine, so click the title to go to the reviews for each. The list includes:

Cat Ballou: Starring Jane Fonda; the film’s highlights include the title song sung by Nat King Cole, as a strolling banjo player singing the ballad of Cat Ballou. Lee Marvin won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his comic turn as the drunker hero who deflates the stereotype of the stalwart gunslinger of legend that actors like John Wayne loved to portray.
The Search: Stars Montgomery Clift and is a unique look at the refugees of World War II who were comprised mainly of children. The story centers around a soldier, played by Clift, who is suddenly swept up in the refugee crisis when he becomes attached to one of the orphaned boys, and is torn between his strong bond with the child and his continued search to help reunite him with his parents. Although the film has its weaker moments when it dips into sentimentality, the overarching theme of loss and redemption, and the brilliant acting of a young Montgomery Clift in his prime, combine to make this a film worth watching.
The Lion in Winter: It’s embarrassing to admit there are some films that are so well known to me I can recite the lines. This is one of those films. Adapted from a stage play, with the brilliant idea borne from the kernels of truth, the writer imagines what it would be like to spend the Christmas holidays with the powerful King Henry II and his wife Eleanor. The kicker is that she has been imprisoned by Henry after raising an insurrection to overthrow him from the throne, although she’s  out of confinement just for the holidays.. This is not the stuff of myth, but is part of the historical record.The truth is stranger than fiction, by all accounts, and Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn really do eat up the scenery with over the top performances as Henry and Eleanor, along with a young Anthony Hopkins playing son Richard. The film is a fanciful flight of the writers’ imagination, wondering what it would be like to be ‘a fly on the wall’ as we hear the two powerful monarchs fight and manipulate each other and those around them in this tragi-comic tale.
The Year of Living Dangerously is one of director Peter Weir’s best films. Linda Hunt is magnificent, cast as a man in a role in which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and her performance has to be seen to be appreciated. Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson are both superbly cast, with Weaver as the journalist with conviction and Gibson as the flawed hero.
All the President’s Men is shown this week. I have never felt this was a masterpiece, however, the film deals with the search for the truth. The writing is superb, done by one of Hollywood’s great screenwriters, William Goldman, and it seems to rise to the occasion as we learn the phrase never uttered by Deep Throat: Follow the Money. This film is worth a second look, particularly in the current climate we live in that involves political intrigue and Russian meddling with our election system.
Rebel without a Cause is another b-movie that has been raised to mythic proportions. James Dean was the promising young heir apparent in Hollywood whose life was so tragically cut short, when he was killed in a car accident after completing only three major films. But this film elevates the notion of teenage angst at a time when young people were not given the same deep seated psychological examinations they are afforded in this new age. And the two leads, James Dean and Natalie Wood, rise to the occasion and turn in notable performances in this surprisingly enduring story directed by Nicholas Ray.

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At the Movies: The long-awaited Black Panther has arrived at the movies, and the reviews have been favorable for the most part. Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is also out, and it seems to be a hit with most of Anderson’s fans. Both films are reviewed in 6 Degrees.

6 Degrees Magazine also features articles on the upcoming Oscars, as well as other current releases. So stay tuned as we will soon feature the annual Oscar News Newsletter from 6 Degrees.

It’s been a busy week, and there’s plenty of better than average films to see during the film festival season in Hollywood! Till next week, enjoy the films from TCM and see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Happy Friday! Here’s a look at some of the stories that have been front and center in Hollywood these past few days. The Oscar Race is underway, with leading contenders like “The Shape of Water” and its director Guillarme del Toro, vying for the Oscar along with some dark horses such as 22 year old Timothee Chalamet who is nominated for Best Actor for Call Me By Your Name.

Best Actor bets are on Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Churchill in Darkest Hour, but past winner Daniel Day-Lewis is also up for Phantom Thread, as well as fellow Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Roman J Israel, Esq) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).

The Best Actress category features first time nominee Sally Hawkins, who played the mute cleaning woman in The Shape of Water up against Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), the “legendary’ Oscar winner Meryl Streep, who is nominated for The Post, plus Margot Robbie in I, Tonya and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird.

In Theatres: Fifty Shades Freed is out, and mercifully brings the series based on the best-selling book to an end. The reviews have not been kind. Also out is the much-anticipated Black Panther superhero film, which has garnered good reviews in early release. Clint Eastwood directed the 15:17 to Paris film, based on true events, and it has had mixed reviews.

There’s an article in 6 Degrees Magazine about the highest grossing movies, and at Friday Flix, we listed the top ten a few weeks ago. The all time biggest grossing movies, both Number 1 & 2 were directed by the same man: James Cameron. Cameron directed both Avatar and Titanic.

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The latest Star Wars offering just made the top ten list, which means there are two of the highest grossing films in history from the Star Wars Franchise. Disney, as we know, owns the Star Wars franchise, so the total number of films from the Disney franchise in the top ten list is five, meaning half of these big box office winners are Disney films.

The good news here is that there are creative forces at work that have helped to shape these films…from James Cameron’s innovative cinematography to the development of CGI that began when George Lucas started Industrial Light and Magic over thirty years ago (See the excerpt recently published on our blog from 6 Degrees of Film.)

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And “Girl Power” is more of a force than ever in film-making, with Frozen and the introduction of the Jedi Novitiate Rey in the Star Wars franchise. But there are still far too many films that rely on thin plots and comic book premises, CGI rendered story lines and weak plot points that have brought us to where we are in the film industry. Films that simply churn out the same tired super hero stories in sequel after sequel with formulaic plots and overly simplistic characters have become the standard in Hollywood filmmaking. And unfortunately, it sells.

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There are approximately three-count ‘em…three, films on the list of top ten films that are not sequels or have not been made into a series. Frozen has had spin-offs, but it is the only animated film to make the list. This speaks to the rising tide of women and girls who clamor for strong female role models, beginning with little girls who want to see the heroine carry the film for a change. Titanic was a ‘one-off’ for obvious reasons, although I would never say never in this environment. And the Avatar sequel is in the works, though Cameron has delayed the announcement of a definite opening date for several years.

Films like Lady Bird, The Florida Project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Shape of Water still get made. There are original projects, great writers and talented actors and directors who give us wonderful and creative films despite the long odds. But the overwhelming trend in recent years has been to stick with the predictable models and continue to churn out the ‘chum’ of sequel-mania. And the list for 2018 doesn’t indicate many changes anytime soon.

Coming Soon: But when something comes along that looks interesting, original, creative and fun, we will be right up-front cheering the film along! There’s a unique entry from Wes Anderson coming soon called Isle of Dogs, which is a stop-motion film; and Ron Howard is directing Solo: A Star Wars story, which should be entertaining.

Sundance Film Festival featured The Kindergarten Teacher, and Joaquin Phoenix has received lots of buzz for his performance in the upcoming You Were Never Really Here. Check out the Film Comment Podcast: “I loved it when I was a kid”, talking about movies that the critics saw and remembered from their childhoods. It’s always fun to look back on those movies we loved, and sometimes to cringe when we watch them again and realize they weren’t always great cinematic gems, but then again, sometimes we enjoy them even more when we see them after all these years!

Until next week, have fun and see you at the movies!

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Your Armchair Film Fest: Some films to see and say “I”ve seen it” are found every month on Turner Classic Movies. (Click on the link to take you to dates and times). We’ve included a few of these in the list of films to record this month:

Films to record in February:

On the Waterfront: Some feel that, apart from his role as Don Corleone in The Godfather, this is one of Brando’s best performances (I am one of those people!)

Casablanca: If not for the plot, then simply to hear Bogey in one of his signature roles, say: “Play it, Sam” (He never said, Play it again, Sam!)

The political films are relevant in these turbulent times, and if you have not seen or experienced these documentaries and popular films that portray important periods in our nation’s history, then here is a great opportunity to catch up. I recommend not only All the President’s Men and Being There but also a back-to-back lineup that includes: Freedom on My Mind-about the Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Riders; Four Days in November which recalls the assassination of President Kennedy; An Inconvenient Truth, which is the documentary narrated by VP Al Gore on Climate change; The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary on the life of one of the first openly gay politicians in the country who was assassinated (In my opinion, it’s superior to the film starring Sean Penn). The other films are Woodstock: The Director’s Cut which gives us a glimpse of the time period surrounding the famous folk festival at Woodstock in 1969. And finally, Hearts and Minds documents the Vietnam War, and the phrase is now familiar to all as we hear it in connection with “winning hearts and minds” in the Gulf Wars that have followed this one.

All of these films are recommended viewing for those who have never seen them and are perhaps curious about the time period surrounding the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the protest period that ensued in the late 60’s and early 70’s in our country.

In coming weeks, we will feature the Oscar News Newsletter out before the Sunday, March 4th Oscars Ceremony. Stay tuned and till next time, see you at the movies!