6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello there Film Fans: This week we are gearing up for the Fall Film Newsletter coming soon. The films coming out this fall total well over 100, there were about 126 on the intial list, and there are about 22 that made the cut for our final list. There seems to be a nice mix of historical drama and some original storylines mixed with the usual suspects of remakes and superhero sequels. Stay tuned!
Some very good buzz surround the new film Crazy Rich Asians, for what is described as a charming and original romantic comedy. And don’t miss the video clip in 6 Degrees Magazine that shows the late, great Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin in her one iconic film role, singing RESPECT in The Blues Brothers.
Last week, we heard that Robert Redford was set to retire from acting after his next film. The Old Man & the Gun, out this fall. And that last film is the good news for all of us diehard Redford fans. Redford, like Brad Pitt and Paul Newman, had been categorized as just another pretty face, although his face has been weathered and lined for many years now. The appeal of Robert Redford has long been his steady and deliberate gaze, ‘the male gaze’ as opposed to the much vaunted FEMALE gaze that has been studied for years by film critics. Redford could open comedies and dramas, and was not just a romantic lead, but one who carried some of the best action thrillers as well as Westerns. In short, he has been a versatile lead for decades, with various credits in small parts, after getting his start in television in the early sixties.

Butch Cassidy
Redford was also in one of the greatest Westerns with the greatest screenplay of all time, one that tops most critics top ten lists, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. For all who may not be familiar with some of his lesser known work, here’s a list of some of his best films. As most regular readers know, I tend to give more space to the films and performances that may have gone ‘under the radar’, and for that reason, movies like All the President’s Men and The Way we Were are not on this list.

*Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda was “pre-Sundance” before Redford became a big star. He is funny and charming in this Neil Simon play turned into a movie, and the two leads are so energetic and enthusiastic with the light comic fare, it makes the film watchable.
The Electric Horseman: Redford teamed up with Jane Fonda many years later, and though the plot is forgettable, the two lead actors have some chemistry together, and the film holds up fairly well.
This Property is Condemned is a knock-off  of the Tennessee Williams-esque type melodramas that were popular in the fifties and sixties. But the pairing of Natalie Wood with Redford, the direction of Sydney Pollack, and the supporting cast that included a young Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, and an unusually effective performance from Mary Badham, who was the memorable child lead in To Kill a Mockingbird,  makes this film worth watching.
Jeremiah Johnson, is one of the first, before There Will be Blood or the recent horror film A Quiet Place that makes maximum use of silence as a major part of the entire performance. Redford is almost as mum as Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western, but this film is a cut above the B-movie fare that launched Eastwood to fame.
The Natural is taken from the 1952 book about baseball by Bernard Malamud, and also has some notable performances by a supporting cast that includes Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, and an older but wiser version of Robert Redford.
The Sting is a wonderful blend of nostalgia and a light and effectively fast paced heist movie with a great musical score from Marvin Hamlisch, direction by George Roy Hill and this film also used a large and talented cast, including one of the most memorable best supporting roles ever seen from Robert Shaw.
Brubaker, made in 1980, was a cut above most of the Cagney-esque  type prison films of the thirties. Almost all of Redford’s films have been bolstered by great supporting casts, and in this case, there is a memorable supporting role from Yaphet Kotto, one of the inmates in the prison that Brubaker runs who helps him expose scandal and abuse within the prison.
A Bridge Too Far was a film that didn’t fare well at its debut on the big screen. It had too many sub-plots and it bombed badly at the box office. But on the small screen, I would recommend two stand-out performances: one is from James Caan as a soldier who is determined to save his commanding officer on the battlefield, to the point of holding a superior officer, a doctor, at gunpoint in the perfect illustration of the phrase: “Desperate times call for desperate measures.’
The other standout performance was from Redford himself, in a highly publicized bit part where Redford took home millions to play a soldier who is part of the desperate and ill-advised assault on the German bridge in World War II.
The other performance that I would recommend on the small screen is the part of Mr. Death that Robert Redford played in a classic Twilight Zone episode “Nothing in the Dark“,  which debuted long before he became a household name. These are just a small slice of the many memorable performances in an illustrious career, but they highlight and emphasize the reason why Redford has endured for decades as an iconic figure in the history of Hollywood.
Hope everyone has a great week, with lots of movies lined up as we head into fall. Till next time, have fun and see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! This week there’s been a flurry of activity in the movie world. First, there’s news of one of my favorite screens stars, the legendary Robert Redford, announcing he is retiring from acting at the age of 81. We look at some of his greatest performances next week in a top ten list.
Also, there’s the news that is long overdue. The Academy of Motion Pictures is going to add another category to their Oscar awards list, one entitled the “Popular Film” category. They also vowed to keep the broadcast down to three hours. We have advocated for the shake-up of this dusty old institution for a while, but not exactly by adding this dubiously titled category. And although I am skeptical that this is anything other than a band-aid, we will see what they offer. There are several articles in 6 Degrees magazine on this new Academy development.
At the movies: Christopher Robin has had a rather unremarkable opening, and Mission Impossible-Fallout has performed better than expected. The horror film, Slender Man, has opened to tepid and not so great reviews. But Spike Lee’s new film, BlackKkKlansman has garnered some great reviews. Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington is the star in this film based on a true story of a cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the KKK.
One development near and dear to my heart is the announcement that rogerebert.com is going to hire more female film critics. Being one myself, this announcement is a welcome reminder that we need more diverse voices reviewing films and looking at the movies from a different perspective than the predominantly male field of movie critics who have been reviewing films for decades.
Another film development near and dear to my heart is that the film Dog Days has opened and has been well reviewed. So those of us who are completely bias in our love for our canine companions will know this is a must-see and in so doing, can go with the sense of justification (It was well reviewed!)

The Meg has opened to mixed reviews, but they haven’t all been bad. This is one I was on the fence about, but the premise was intriguing. They have taken the concept of Jaws to the nth degree. The film is based (loosely) on a best-seller about a shark thought to be long extinct, a megalodon that is said to be 70 feet long. There are several different reviews for this in 6 Degrees also, ranging in commentary from silly but entertaining to simply silly stuff.
On the small screen, we recommend The Westerner on TCM this week with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. If you’ve never seen it, it is one of the reasons Cooper became an iconic star. Gary Cooper is one of the men who can carry a Western using minimal dialogue while exuding maximum power and charismatic charm. This Western is about the early range wars occurring between cattlemen and farmers, and though there is a lot of tough talk, there are some classic funny moments between Brennan and Cooper, particularly over the identity of a lock of hair belonging to Judge Roy Bean/Brennan’s ideal love, Lillie Langtry. Recommended for all Armchair Film Festival goers.
Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello film fans. It’s been a quiet summer for the box office, and there have been a few surprises. I was surprised that Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible film has done as well as it has…That may be another sign that there isn’t a whole lot of great films to choose from at this particular moment in time.

At the Movies in August: Reviews for Christopher Robin have been good. It’s been a Mixed bag for  The Spy who Dumped me with Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon-an R rated action comedy. As mentioned, Mission Impossible-Fallout has gotten surprisingly good reviews for the intense action and plot twists included in this sequel of a sequel of a sequel in the series.
Coming Soon: There are previews for the Spider Man spin-off film, Venom, starring Tom Hardy. Hardy plays a reporter named Eddi Brock, whose body is taken over by an evil alien host. Venom premieres in October.

I am one who promotes seeing certain classic films at the movie theatre. One of these classics is 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Stanley Kubrick. This film is going to be shown in IMAX theatres for the first time. I would heartily recommend all film buffs to take the opportunity to try this movie experience.
The Armchair Film Fest: Here are some Turner Classic Movies to watch for this August:  There is Film Noir at the top of my list, including The Big Sleep, one of the best of Bogey & Bacall’s films. And The Set Up with Robert Ryan, about a washed up boxer who is conflicted about throwing a big fight.
Clint Eastwood is featured throughout the month of August. I find it hard to watch the old Spaghetti Westerns, but this is from someone who knows every word of spoken dialogue in the script for The Outlaw Josey Wales. In other words, Eastwood improved with time, but the early Westerns still are worth watching if you’ve never seen Clint in action.
It’s a good month for high comedy in August on the small screen. Cary Grant is probably the greatest comic actor of all time, in my opinion, and many of his funniest films are featured this month. One I would recommend is the early black and white The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. This was remade as a musical, High Society, with Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby many years later. But The Philadelphia Story remains the superior film.
And one of my favorite not-to-be missed silent comedies is on TCM next week. The Freshman, with Harold Lloyd as the naïve young college freshman who wants to try out for the football team, has some of the most creative and innovative physical comedy bits ever screened and it has never been replicated. This is not to be missed for those who love films and comedy.
One more thing: Read the piece in 6 Degrees Magazine from The Ringer.com titled: Moneyballing the Movies: How the Box Office became a sport. This is a fascinating look at the way movies are ranked for their box office earnings, which continues the ongoing debate of whether Gone with the Wind, Titanic, or Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Avatar is the top moneymaker of all time. It’s a deep dive into the numbers behind the cash that flows weekly into the box office and the way films are rated and ranked. From time to time, 6 Degrees lists the top money makers from various web sites and the box office numbers can give us some insights into the way our culture has changed, and where we are headed as we watch and review films in the 21st Century.
In the next few weeks, we are going to break out the list of the 2018 Fall films premiering this September in our Fall Film Newsletter. So stay tuned and till next time, see you at the movies!