6 Degrees: Armchair Film Fest

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Some of the best action for film fans this week is going to come from the small screen. This week on Turner Classic: 6 Degrees Magazine has reviews for the upcoming films recommended for 6 Degrees Armchair Film Fest followers to record: The Graduate; An American in Paris; Death of a Salesman (the film from 1985) with Dustin Hoffman playing Willy Loman; Attack of the 50 Foot Woman with an excerpt of the original Variety review from the 50’s; Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind; The Academy award winning film The Bridge on the River Kwai and an article from Film Comment featuring Man in the Wilderness with Richard Harris.
There’s a piece from Ebert.com about one of the early feminist role models-Ida Lupino-who directed many of her own films and took control of her career from an early age. There is also an article on Ebert.com about diversity in film criticism. Or more accurately the lack thereof.  The article, entitled Where are Our Diverse Voices in Film Criticism, points to the fact that of the top 100 movies in 2017, the male critics reviewed three quarters of the films, while females critiqued only about a quarter of them. But feminists may take heart from a look at 20 rising female filmmakers listed this week in an Indiewire.com post.
Check out the article on Won’t you be my Neighbor?, the documentary about children’s television pioneer Fred Rodgers. Here’s a link to a piece I wrote about Mr Rodgers, talking about the documentary recently shown on PBS of his work on public television.
Other recommended reads for this week include this from Indiewire on the best Black American films of the 21st Century; and a Forbes post arguing that Solo and Justice League’s failures killed the Cinematic Universe.  Writer Scott Mendelson reasons that “...A Star Wars Episode is an EVENT…A Star Wars STORY is Not. When audiences crave only event fare, the cinematic universe is an act of glorified financial suicide” Perhaps that is the case, and we will see Mendelson’s theory put to the test later with John Wick and other franchise films that are looking for box office gold.

Film Reviews for Incredibles 2 prove the film is as funny as the trailers depicted,  And for the science geeks among us, syfy.com features a look at the physics behind the power of the Incredibles. There’s a movie trailer for the upcoming Aquaman which is out this December; and a trailer for the live-action film remake of Dumbo from Tim Burton. There’s good reviews for Ocean’s 8, the female version of the Ocean’s Eleven heist theme which opened this week.
For the Armchair Film Fest, I recommend Jeremiah Johnson and The Graduate. If you love musicals, there’s Singing in the Rain and  An American in Paris this week. Plus Sinatra fans will have a choice of some of his best screen work. I’d recommend Pal Joey over almost all other films for Sinatra fans to record and savor.
At the movies I recommend documentaries for those who may have tired of some of the super-hero fare at the box office. I’m going to see the Mr Rodgers film, Won’t You be my Neighbor and will set the idiot box to tape some of the aforementioned classics on Turner Classic this week. Till next time, have fun and be safe this summer and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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Greetings Film Fans! Hope your summer is going well. There are a few releases this week in the summer mix, but nothing that jumps off the page in terms of excitement. For those of you who are Armchair Film Followers– don’t forget to record Duck and Cover this weekend on Turner Classic Movies. If you have never seen it, it’s the short film made as a cartoon to inform the population about what to do in case of a nuclear attack. No, I’m not kidding. For those of you who saw the tweet this week of the man posting the kindergarten song “Twinkle, Twinkle little star” re-written with the words of “Lockdown, Lockdown, Lock the Door,” it’s a stark reminder that we haven’t come all that far from the fifties, folks!
Other films you might want to record this week include one of Doris Day’s best called Please Don’t eat the Daisies; a look at a silent comedy master, (one of my favorites)-Harold Lloyd. Some of Lloyd’s shorts are being shown on TCM throughout the month, so check the listings. I recommend Why Worry for Lloyd fans. And for millennials who have never seen Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz in “I Love Lucy,” they are showing one of the few times they made a feature film together. It’s The Long, Long Trailer and it has some funny bits that make it worth a viewing.
Leslie Howard is the featured actor this month on Turner Classic. He was so much better as an actor than what is usually seen on screen with his nebbish portrayal of Ashley, the man who is Scarlett O’ Hara’s unrequited love interest in Gone with the Wind. Howard is featured this month in The Petrified Forest with Humphrey Bogart and in the original Pygmalion film version adapted from George Bernard Shaw. Howard was the original Henry Higgins, before Rex Harrison dominated the role on Broadway in My Fair Lady. And Leslie Howard also stars in the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel, which isn’t widely shown and is an interesting film as Howard portrays a rather foppish aristocrat who is secretly a spy. It was the original “origin” character before Zorro or Clark Kent and other super heroes adapted the idea of a dual character with a meek side that conceals their heroic natures.
From 6 Degrees Magazine, there are several interesting articles this week. There are two pieces on the debut of Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. Speaking of dual natures, the documentary reveals Rogers as much more than simply the kind hearted and dorky guy who donned a sweater in each episode. Rogers had a message and an agenda to convey, and he was a dynamic activist and advocate for children’s programming in his own right.
Ocean’s 8 premiers this week, and there are several reviews of a decidedly mixed nature on this female heist version of the long-running series. But the one stand-out article recommended is What if Star Wars never happened? Which is a great ‘what if’ for those of us who like to write or just to ponder these variables of life. The entire premise of my book- Six Degrees of Film- tells the story of Hollywood and the arc of the past quarter-century which has been dependent on Star Wars as the culture phenomenon that it was. Star Wars was a leader in CGI and for promotion of special effects in film-which had been a dying art before the first 1976 Star Wars, as well as the arbiter of all things Star Wars found in the known universe. It included the science-fiction realm and the Hollywood Blockbuster business model, complete with the concept of serial films and a plot that was simple enough to appeal to all ages. So that is an interesting concept: What if Star Wars never happened?

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Next week we will have more film recommendations to record classic films shown on TCM. And in the meantime, stay cool and see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix: Thoughts on Solo

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First my thoughts on my obligatory viewing of Solo: A Star Wars Story. In summary, the film left me with an overall feeling that the critics were largely correct. The film is fairly pedantic, with some interesting pieces of Han Solo’s life coming together and one appearance by a major Star Wars villain who was thought to be dead. (One Star Wars fan from 6 Degrees magazine was incensed at the spoiler listed in the title of an article which listed the name of the villain-so we’ll just leave it there!)
Overall, the film was like one of those old ‘movie of the week’ made for TV films. It was ok, but I can’t recommend it to anyone but the most devout Star Wars fans. And I know there are a lot of you out there. The thing is, Star Wars has become something of a cottage industry, with cartoons and books and a multi-verse of characters and sub-plots making their way under the umbrella of “Star Wars” stories. This Solo story features some major characters, Hans Solo and Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca, who were all major players in the original Star Wars cast. So that is why this film has any significance. I thought the last Star Wars feature, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, lacked a lot of depth in the overall story, too, by the way.
I suppose, not being someone who has simply leapt into the Star Wars universe enthusiastically, this is somewhat predictable in my critical eyes. I thought The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the Star Wars series, and also, that the other stand-out was the one that everyone tends to pan, the 1999 feature with Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor, Star Wars: Episode I-The Phantom Menace. So who am I to judge the wrath of a Star Wars fan who is serious about their Star Wars connections?

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I do realize the significance of Star Wars in connection with our culture and the history of filmmaking in general. My book has an entire section devoted to George Lucas’ quest to establish CGI and his Industrial Light and Magic Studio. Here is the link to the excerpt for all Star Wars followers to see: From Star Wars to Sin City. There’s more on this later, but I urge everyone to read the link from all of Roger Ebert’s Star Wars reviews.
I also urge all of you to visit the 6 Degrees Magazine and follow the link to the Village Voice piece about some of the restoration work that has been done recently for Republic Studio pictures. Republic Studios was a significant player in the Golden Age of Film, with hits like The Quiet Man and cult films like Johnny Guitar among their credits.

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Also featured in 6 Degrees:

• Reviews of the films out this week. From the Ebert.com site; How to talk to Girls at Parties and Book Club have good reviews. It’s been a ho-hum launch to the Summer Film Season, so there are no standouts to tell you about. Mary Shelley and Adrift were not given great reviews, but you can read them for yourself in the magazine. Here’s the line-up featured in our Summer Film News:
• An interesting piece on rogerebert.com from a master cinematographer talks about the craft of shooting films. Edward Lachman talks of his start in the business looking at photos by Robert Frank. Lachman also spoke of the changes in film because of ‘digital cinematography’, in ways that change not only how the movie is shot, but how it is perceived. “They always say the digital world should look like film, but I never hear the film world should look digital.’ Keep an eye out as you look at modern films in the theatre after reading this. Lachman thinks that digital cameras make everything darker. According to Lachman, “if the whole film’ is in this darkness, your eye tires.” Something to look out for the next time you’re at the movies…
• There’s a video roundtable discussion of critics at Cannes: Ben Kenigsberg, Jason Gorber and Lisa Nesselson discuss movies. Check it out here

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In closing, there are a few interesting elements in the latest Solo film foray venturing forth into the Star Wars Universe. There’s always a promise of more to come, and the films all open with the same fairy tale of Once upon a time implicit in the crawl: “A Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ which gives us leave right there to suspend all disbelief. We can be the judges of whether the films live up to our high expectations, and of course, they seldom do. But the idea is that the universe will continue.
I do like what I read from a New Yorker piece,  entitled “The Growing Emptiness of the Star Wars Universe”, that talks about the dilution of the brand. As it is with the idea of making a copy of a copy of a copy, the ‘simulacra’ is defined as a ‘diluted tincture’ and as with fashion and the example is the brand of Tommy Hilfiger. Of it, the writer says of Hilfiger: ‘it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.’ This, in application to the viewing of Solo: A Star Wars story does not augur well for the overall dilution of the brand. There is a disturbance in the force, as they say. And that ain’t good….Till next week, see you at the movies-ML