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/
Hello Film Fans: I’m writing to you to let you know that we have made a slight move! Each week I’m still working on the film articles and the stories and reviews that have been a part of this film blog for over a decade. But the website is now operating from the 6 Degrees Writer hub. Here’s the link.
I am asking my followers, fans and friends to sign up for the monthly Newsletter-6 Degrees of Film-and also you will receive a short wrap up weekly that’s chock full of the latest stories and news from the 6 Degrees Magazine online. We also feature Holiday Film news as well as special features such as excerpts from the book: 6 Degrees of Film. And downloadable E-books like the upcoming; Pioneers of #MeToo: Strong women in Hollywood films;
Hello film fans! We are hearing a lot of rumors that AMC theatres, one of the last big, national movie chains, is talking about bankruptcy. This is not unexpected, as we are still not through with the coronavirus crisis. And here at 6 Degrees, we have spent some time re-imagining what the film industry will look like when the iconic movie chains begin to fade away.
There is always a place for watching the great movies on the big screen. But there are now so many alternatives, that it is inevitable that the movie theatres of the past will be reinvented. Perhaps they’ll share space with corporate America or mega-churches, or be reinvented as educational pods. Who knows? But it’s something worth pondering…
6 Degrees Magazine on Flipboard
For this week, 6 Degrees Magazine is featuring the Turner Classic Movies & Film Comment pick of the month- Paul Newman is featured as a director. Many may not realize that Newman came into the profession through the Actors’ Studio, with a young James Dean. One of my essays in the 6 Degrees of film book is about the notion that with James Dean’s death, the torch of the young mis-understood rebel passed to Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Newman even took over his role in the film about Rocky Marciano:Somebody Up There Likes Me.
6 Degrees Recommends: Civil Rights at the Movies
With the unrest in so many American cities around the issue of race and police brutality, there are several films recommended by critics dealing with this issue. Malcolm X is one that starred Denzel Washington, and though it’s a good film, it somehow hits us over the head with an issue where, forgiving this metaphor, we need to deal with it in a more subtle manner at times, in contrast with many of the heavy-handed tactics we’ve seen in recent days.
That may be the continuing allure ofTo Kill a Mockingbird.The issue is always there, running quietly throughout and into the courtroom scenes. And though it is bubbling underneath the surface, the innocence of the children, and the iron-clad integrity of the father, Atticus, drives this film to its powerful conclusion. That is why it’s still recommended as one of the greatest portrayals in how we, as Americans, deal with racial issues in this country.
In recent years, there have been films like Hidden Figures &The Green Book, and both are very good in regard to confronting the topic of race. But if you are interested in exploring racial tensions and the history of the Civil Rights Era, please watch Eyes on the Prize; the award-winning 14-part documentary series that chronicles the era that brought us civil rights reforms in this country. We are not there yet, as Dr King said, but watching the film series, and seeing the real footage, will help us see that we have made progress to reach the promised land he spoke of so eloquently and now so long ago.
Happy Birthday, Clint!
From the magazine, 6 Degrees, we also recommend the articles listing several of Clint Eastwood movies, as he is turning 90 years old this week! Some of his films that don’t get as much attention are Clint Singing in the musical with Lee Marvin, Paint Your Wagon; one of his earlier thrillers Play Misty for Me, and the comedic western with Shirley MacLaine: Two Mules for Sister Sara. Sadly, I confess that I cannot watch The Outlaw Josey Wales without reciting all the dialogue along with the characters! It was said that Orson Welles loved this film also, so I do feel quite justified (as a critic),in my adoration for this classic Eastwood Western.
Pinterest & Drive-in Movies
For those on Pinterest, please check out some of the drive-in movie theater pictures that give us a beautiful, graphic story of the days when the Bad-B’swere eagerly ignored onscreen- as teenagers and families flocked to drive-ins across the country for entertainment, and not always the kind found on celluloid! It was a simpler time, and we cannot return to that past, but the pictures tell some of the story with fun images of the best parts of the drive-in movie experience.
Film Fans, we have moved the 6 Degrees of Film site to a new location- The 6 Degrees Writer website! Please join us there and check out some of the other recommended reads and resources we’ve put together. We are still going strong at 6 Degrees of Film Blog after ten years, with the 6 Degrees Magazine weekly on Flipboard, along with my Aussie Contributor & Colleague Jason King, as well as the other critics & articles recommended weekly. On Facebook, check out the new 6 Degree Writerpage where we go through each Friday and list the latest and best of the web’s movie reviews and film sites. Till next time, friends, stay safe, stay cool, and see you at the movies!-ML
Hello to all 6 Degrees film fans out there! Who would have thought a few short weeks ago that we would be living and creating a ‘new normal’ each day? And one way that helps us all stay sane and survive is to fall back on the escapism of films-especially the classics that teach us a lot about the times we are living in.
The question is: do we want to just hear “Happy Talk” or are we looking for ways to delve deeper into the human condition? During the depression, most of the films were escapist fair where Fred & Ginger danced and James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart talked tough with their Tommy Guns. But there are a few good pictures that will strike a balance and take a more realistic approach.
One suggestion is On the Beach about the end of civilization as we knew it, when nuclear war destroys most of the cities and leaves devastation. The last oasis is in Australia aboard a submarine where Gregory Peck is trying to make sense of what is left, and falling in love with Ava Gardner at the worst possible time.
Dr Strangelove: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb was Stanley Kubrick’s idea of comedy. It’s a dark vision based on a novel about how humans destroy the world through nuclear war and a series of careless accidents that snowball until there is no turning back. Sounds ominously familiar, doesn’t it?
There are some great films with Humphrey Bogart that help to put some perspective on things when living through a crisis. Bogey always managed to shed light on the darker areas of man’s character and even find humor in his own cynical way. TCM is showing To Have and Have Not this month,
For some lighter fare, there are the great fantasy classics like The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music.Knives Out and Murder on the Orient Express are entertaining, and Murder By Death is another comedy that combines the who-done-it murder mystery genre with comic flourishes and is another way to take your mind away from troubling news stories.
If you want to get serious about the Armchair Film Fest, we can recommend a few from the list of director Francis Ford Coppola: Singin’ in the Rain, The Apartment and Raging Bull.
The Feel Good Film List:Heaven Can Wait, YoungFrankenstein, Sabrina, Funny Face, Monty Python and the Holy Grail,
A Bond Film Fest: I must confess, I was disappointed in finding that we must wait until November to see Daniel Craig appear in his last Bond film- No Time to Die.
Everyone seems to have an opinion in regard to their favorite Bond Film. No one seems to appreciate the Timothy Dalton Bond era but I am fond of his first Bond outing: The Living Daylights; Goldfinger and Dr No are classic Bonds, but From Russia with Love is my favorite Sean Connery Bond film. Casino Royale is my favorite Bond with Daniel Craig. There are Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan fans, and several spin-offs that don’t really count in the Cubby Broccoli film universe of Bond. Let me know what your favorite Bond film is and who is (or should be) the ultimate Bond model. And if you’ve read the books by Ian Fleming, you might want to let it sink in that Fleming wrote “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” also! The mind reels…
TCM: This month, our recommended viewing on Turner Classics includes:
Fantasy and Escapism are part and parcel of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and The Wizard of Oz with a lead-in from the 50th Anniversary program highlights some of the memorable moments and reminds us why this film is a favorite still.
Metropolis: The issue of our time has been dealing with Income Inequality. In this silent film, director Fritz Lang is able to show us in a silent film the concept of life where the 1% live above ground….and the rest toil night and day in a dark, underground space designed to make the rest of the beautiful Metropolis run smoothly. Needless to say, things happen to tip the balance.
A Hard Day’s Night: For anyone who has ever loved the Beatles, or if you saw the film, Yesterday and don’t know what all the fuss was about- watch this film. There has never been another rock and roll group like The Beatles.
Lawrence of Arabia:For anyone who loves good acting and great filmmaking; this is one that makes the top ten list of almost all film critics who are worth their salt. This is an added bonus for the Armchair film fest players: Peter ‘O Toole sits down with Robert Osborne to talk about his experiences filming Lawrence of Arabia. And for all those who wonder why we are enmeshed with problems in the Middle East-this film is a study in the complicated and complex history of the Western world’s relationship with the countries that were divided up into countries that we now know as the Middle East. Lawrence of Arabia is a must-see, and should be on your bucket list to see in a theater before you die!
Laura: For Film Noir buffs: This is a favorite film noir of mine. It has one of the best plots of all the film noir classics, and to be honest, some of the noirs have little plot or confusing plots at best. Laura stars Clifton Webb and Gene Tierney.
To Have and Have Not is the lesser known of the Bogey and Bacall film series. This is their first film together, and really one of their best.
Recommended for the Coronavirus Home bound list: Documentaries that tell the tale of why we need to celebrate Earth Day. One is the story of the Dust bowl, one talks about the sea and the other is about farming. All of these give us a window into why our world is now in a tug of war with big tech as we try to reclaim the parts of the world that have been lost to us. A good way to commemorate Earth Day without leaving the house!
Finally, a classic American film; The Music Man is the story of how one man is able to con an entire town using his uncanny way with words, his charm, and his ability to promote his agenda. Professor Harold Hill just happens to be pushing a boy’s band in the town of River City, Iowa. But it could be Anytown, USA as we think of a certain politician who has a way with words and, as a consummate marketing wizard, has been able to charm and cajole his way into the White House! Just a thought…. (And before I field lots of nasty letters, remember Bill Clinton could also have been a model for this type of charming character!)
Well, we are still hunkered down in our foxholes. And as one friend put it, this is something that can be embarrassing if you stay at home watching a lot of movies anyway as you can’t really tell what all the fuss is about (other than a run on toilet paper!) The pandemic causes inconvenience in toilet paper inventories, but doesn’t really change a writer’s solitary lifestyle or someone who loves to watch movies.
Here’s hoping everyone will stay safe and well and stick to the guidelines decreed until it’s safe to venture outside again. Till next time, keep calm and see you at the movies!
Stuck inside for the duration? Here’s a list of some films on Turner Classic Movies that are recommended for the month of March:
Starting this week on Turner Classic Movies:
• Battleship Potemkin is a classic silent film about a Russian mutiny that triggers a revolution around the nation. The famous film is directed by Sergei Eisenstein and gives one a taste of what real revolution is about!
• Captain Blood is one of Errol Flynn’s first films and one of his best. It is the gold standard for the swashbuckling films of the thirties, and Olivia De Havilland is a personal hero of mine, one of the #MeToo movements founding members as she pioneered a lawsuit in Hollywood that ended discrimination against women long before Harvey Weinstein arrived. (This is recounted at length in my book, 6 Degrees of Film)
• Bonnie and Clyde is a groundbreaking film of the sixties directed by Arthur Penn, and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in some of their best performances. It was one of the first that revolutionized the point of view from the anti-heroes perspective, and triggered a whole new wave of Hollywood rebel films and stars.
• Breathless is another groundbreaking film of the French New Wave. Directed by Jean Luc Godard and starring Jean Seberg, another #MeToo heroine who is featured in a new bio pic, along with French superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo in one of his earliest roles
• The Getaway/Soldier in the Rain/Bullitt: All part of a Steve McQueen Armchair Film Festival to record and re-watch. Steve McQueen was such an enigmatic figure, legendary in his own day and someone who came from the sixties class of anti-heroes who came after the Method acting rage that brought in Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. McQueen and Paul Newman re-defined the meaning of ‘cool’ forever.
• Dr Strangelove is a good film to watch if you have a sense of humor, and can take some really dark black humor to heart in this day and age. It became a dark comedy after director Stanley Kubrick read the straight drama screenplay and felt it was so absurd that only a comedy could do justice to the work. A great call, and George C Scott and Peter Sellers really dive into their respective parts as Gen Jack D. Ripper and the dual roles that Sellers plays of mild-mannered President as well as the diabolical Strangelove. A must see for all times… • The Brain that Wouldn’t Die- There has to be a Bad-B movie in here somewhere. Just to lighten the mood, this one is unbelievably bad, but also tells a tale of the #MeToo era for all the feminists who realize you are taking it to another level when the ex-boyfriend is trying to trap you into staying by just keeping your head around. This is probably a bad plan to begin with!
• Across the Pacific- One of my favorite under-valued films of Humphrey Bogart is one where he stars with Mary Astor, yet another#MeToo heroine who is wickedly funny in her banter with Bogey, and the scene where she is seasick and he keeps teasing her about it is not to be missed!
These are some of the gems to watch during any self-enforced quarantine. Enjoy and till we meet again, stay safe and see you at the movies!
Greetings to all my 6 Degrees Film Fans: I have taken time off these past months, but now we have worked to retool the website and offer more features on 6 Degrees. In the coming months, we will include more articles and giveaways, as well as more in-depth coverage and news about films past & present.
One of the reasons I did take a break was to look back at the work I had done over the past decade and assess where we are in terms of film criticism today as well as evaluating the entire business of film-making. In last year’s review of coming attractions, we talked about the disappointing preview of films that were coming out in 2019. The films that I had recommended in 2019 were on a very short list. A few of them are competing this weekend at the 2020 Academy Awards.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was one of Tarantino’s best films in years. And Di Caprio gave a stellar performance in it. Knives Out was a good film also, but most of the publicity and buzz in the latter half of 2019 surrounded the latest Star Wars film-The Rise of Skywalker, as well as the Avengers: Endgame film finale, which became the highest grossing film of all time. Some of these films are entertaining, but many of them are not worth seeing on the big screen.
It’s still a transitioning time in Hollywood. The #MeToo movement has finally caught up with Hollywood moguls, and the diversity and #OscarsSoWhite is a phenomenon that has been with us for a while. The Good News: More women and more people of color are finally recognized in movies. But the statistics still tell us there’s a way to go…
6 Degrees of Film: On the Academy Awards One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era. The age of computer imaging and video games and the type of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards. James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge these developments so they can be brought to the public’s attention.
The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened. The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged Hattie McDaniels and all of the women of color who had come before her. If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the American persona, and this show is one of our best chances to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life, then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are made of,” which Bogart spoke of so long ago.
That’s all for now friends, and we’ll talk some more about the winners of this year’s 2020 Oscars next time. Until then, see you at the movies!-ML
Most of our 6 Degrees followers know of the many problems I’ve written about regarding the current superhero and comic-book genre and Hollywood’s love of remakes. For the most part, we’ve been able to write about films that are interesting and innovative, with both the documentary and indie film format being two of the most recommended as we see each new film season begin and cycle through the predictable rounds. One bright spot has always been the animated films for children which often use unique and creative ways to communicate and really work to stimulate the imagination of young kids. But even the awards and upcoming film lists have begun to lose their value as we see less original work recognized, and more formulaic and rehashed material used.
CGI hasn’t helped as we see many big ticket spectacles relying heavily on Computer generated images to tell the story. So we have come to the new summer film lineup. I am recommending less than five films I see in the latest Hollywood lineup. They are: Shaft,Aladdin,Once Upon a Time in America, The Lion King and The Secret Lives of Pets 2.
This is remarkable and a first, as I think back on the years where we have listed an average of fifteen to twenty films. The documentary titles are unique, and have also been a bright spot in the movie listings, with recent films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Amazing Grace both showcasing the lives of great departed American icons from our recent past. Even with the blip on the radar of documentary work and innovative kids films, there is really not enough to warrant a Summer Film Newsletter list.
However, there is some good news on the Indie Film front. The releases of Independent films with unique plots and A-list actors has grown in past years. This summer, there are the following:
The Dead Don’t Die: Directed by Jim Jarmusch and starring Chloe Sevigny, Bill Murray and others. The plot: 3 small town police officers join forces with a morgue expert (TildaSwinton) to combat a zombie attack.
Wild Rose: A musical drama about a young Scottish single mother who is released from prison and dreams of going to Nashville and becoming a country singer. Julie Walters stars as her disapproving mother.
Them That Follow:Set in Appalachia, the story is about a pastor’s daughter in a love triangle with a young man who is skeptical of the snake-handling church and its beliefs and the boy who is part of the congregation and is the chosen suitor her father is pushing on her.
Ophelia tells the story in Hamlet of the ill-fated girlfriend and of Hamlet’s mother Gertrude from a feminist’s point of view.
In classic Indie fashion, here’s an intriguing ‘What if” for a plot. What if the Beatles had never been discovered and no one but you knew about their music? The film from director Danny Boyle, Yesterday, imagines a young musician waking up after an accident to find the world has never heard of the Beatles music. He sets himself the task of bringing the legendary band’s music to an uninitiated world.
Another musical entry is Blinded by the Light, a musical drama from Sundance that is a joyous celebration of the music of Bruce Springsteen.
Finally, there is Official Secrets, starring Keira Knightley as a whistleblower who leaks information to the press about illegal activities from the US leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ralph Fiennes also starts in this film which debuted at Sundance.
There are other intriguing plots this summer in the Indie category, but none of the films previewed for major release, in my opinion, has either an original plot or a unique spin. That is a sad commentary on the state of Hollywood and the type of films that are green-lighted these days.
Hello Film Fans! We have a new list for those of you who are like me and keep a running list for your Armchair Film Festival. The films listed here are shown on Turner ClassicMovies in April. Most are available on Netflix or other online streaming services. We have listed films on strong women role models; the films of Stanley Kubrick; films with Steve McQueen and a few other generational films that mark the era in which they were made. All of these are recommended to watch and record at some point in your life as ‘must see’ movies.
Films about strong women: Adam’s Rib and Ninotchka are both being shown and the question is often asked: Why should we care about these old black & white movies?
Adam’s Rib is a story of two lawyers, a married couple, who suddenly find themselves embroiled in a courtroom drama where a woman who was experiencing domestic abuse (played by Judy Holliday), tries to kill her husband. The story is a far advanced pre-cursor about women’s rights and is a timely message for this #MeToo era we are in. Katherine Hepburn is the perfect foil for Spencer Tracy, and this is probably their best film together. Ninotchka is one of the Garbo films showing this month, and one that I find the most ‘watchable’ of her work. She was known for her aloof air, and the billing was “Garbo Laughs” to sell this picture. It is a story of pre Cold War Russia and the character of Russians infiltrating and a happy go lucky American who is sent to deal with them is particularly timely in this age of Russian involvement in our elections
Films from Stanley Kubrick; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove; these are two films made for our time.
Here’s a link to the 6 Degrees Dr Strangelovereview, and again, in this political climate, no matter what your political stance may be, the notion that a film that was written as a serious take on the Cold War posturing was turned into a black comedy by Kubrick was a genius move. Apart from 2001, this is one of my favorite films from Kubrick
2001: A Space Odyssey was a precursor to everything. All things sci-fi; before there was a Star Wars, before there was a Star TREK, before there was any notion of the world envisioned by George Lucas, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is one of the best films ever made, according to most acclaimed critics, and I share that view. The film perfectly encapsulates a time period where we were beginning to explore space, and ask questions about the meaning of the big picture in science, which has led to the era of quantum computers and the Big Bang and serious talk of Einstein’s Unified Theory.
2001: A Space Odyssey—This great film works on many different levels and is the gold standard for most science-fiction films of the latter part of the twentieth century. The beginning and end of the film take place in very different settings than one would think of as “outer space.” The scenes with the apes on earth and the old man in a sterile room contrast directly with the high-tech world associated with science fiction, and they are vital for the film to work. Six Degrees of Film: Science-fiction films, futuristic and innovative speculative fiction, Aliens, Blade Runner, The Matrix
Films with Steve McQueen: McQueen embodied the essence of what is ‘cool’, in a way perhaps more than anyone after James Dean, who died too young to really crystallize the essence of cool meant to a grown man. Bullitt and Soldier in the Rain are both shown on TCM this month, and in both, McQueen takes the legacy of James Dean to another level. Bullitt is almost the natural continuation of a legacy that began in the fifties with Dean in Rebel Without a cause and Giant.Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were the natural successors to this legacy and the embodiment of the persona of ‘cool’ as defined by Hollywood and a new era of movie stars.
In Bullitt, one of McQueen’s best films, the first of the ubiquitous car chase sequences is filmed in San Francisco, with McQueen driving his iconic Mustang through the city in a first of its kind car chase. And in Soldier in the Rain, McQueen acts opposite Jackie Gleason, where Gleason plays a straight role that is perfectly suited for the larger than life swaggering characters that he made famous.
Charlie Chaplin at his best: He was the most famous movie star and the most recognizable character during Hollywood’s early years. Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp’ was instantly recognized all around the globe. And in the era of silent film, something that has been lost since the early 20’s is the universality of the character that didn’t depend upon dialogue when creating film stories and sequences. The notions of living in poverty and scraping by were also part of the Tramp’s appeal. The Gold Rush is one of his most famous films, and the sequence where he dances with the bread rolls is also one of the most widely shown segments in this film.
The Thin Man is another classic esteemed for the witty dialogue and captivating characters. Myrna Loy and William Powell were brought back for sequels for many years. In the era we live in of continual sequels, it proves that what’s old is new again!
Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film about the writing team for The Thin Man series:
Goodrich and Hackett Francis Goodrich and husband Albert Hackett were coauthors of three screenplays based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 novel The Thin Man. Longtime friends of Hammett, they found and nursed him through more than one drunken spree. Goodrich and Hackett came to Hollywood in the middle of the talkies panic. At first, they were under contract with MGM and had credits for at least thirteen films, including the Thin Man series. The Nick and Nora Charles partnership was Dashiell Hammett’s invention, but Goodrich and Hackett took the brand and made it their own. The witty, companionable back-and-forth banter between Nick and Nora set The Thin Man scripts apart; the barbs and counter-barbs made the series resonate with a kind of literate love talk, a sustaining of the relationship’s vitality and edge—and its equality.”
The Graduate; told the story of the sixties, encapsulated on film. The emergence of the anti-hero in Dustin Hoffman, a short and funny and virtually unknown young actor with an everyman appeal was one of the more startling and lingering after-effects from the film. The plot where the young man is having an affair with an older woman was also a topic not often directed to comedy in film; and this was considered an extremely risqué subject at its debut. Finally, the direction of Mike Nichols combined with the memorable musical score of Simon & Garfunkel sets this film apart and overlays the time capsule of the sixties as an indelible part of the theme of isolation in a changing world.
Picnic at Hanging Rock; one of the best of director Peter Weir; and the beginning of a Golden Age for Australian filmmakers. In an era of films that were breaking out from formulas that tied them to the times they were made in, this movie has a timeless appeal. Peter Weir directs this film that defines the new era of independent film-makers and gives audiences food for thought without overlapping dialogue or story arcs. The film is a quiet study that has a haunting quality throughout that lingers with the hints of foreboding found in the girls’ actions before they embark on their ill-fated excursion to Hanging Rock. Again, this film deals with the theme of isolation in a way that Weir brings home through the use of slow-motion camera shots and a haunting theme that is in sync with the silent desperation shown in this unique, groundbreaking classic.
Picnic at Hanging Rock—Another early film of Peter Weir, this film is based on a true story* of a group of Australian girls picnicking at a popular tourist attraction called Hanging Rock during the Victorian era. They are lost and some never return, but the ones who do seem to have suffered a life-altering experience. The event has undertones of horror and sexual tension as the returning girls struggle to tell the adults what happened. *Although this has been disputed…
Hope you enjoy the Armchair Film Fest for this month. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML
Hello Film Fans: In honor of Women’s History Month, there is a list of films that were showcased and highlighted this past month on Turner Classic. I recommend to record as most are seen fairly regularly or are easy to rent. Some of these women were groundbreaking pioneers as there characters on film show us that we have always revered women who are smart and funny and courageous. It’s not always been easy to find your niche when Hollywood had the casting couch and the Golden Age of Film was not known for championing women’s causes or for enlightenment. But a new day is dawn, and we are not turning back. Here’s a list of films and women who were featured this past month on Turner Classic: Carole Lombard in To Be or not to Be: Carole Lombard was known as one of the most versatile comediennes of her era or any other. She really played straight man to Jack Benny in this piece. Benny’s timing was unmatched, but Lombard kept up with him and she gave the greatest performance of her short career in this classic
Lauren Bacall inThe Big Sleep: In the “Me Too” era, some would find fault with many performances and personas that sprang from the forties and fifties female stars. But Bacall was really a path setter, and gave as good as she got in keeping up with Humphrey Bogart’s very cynical and world weary characters. Bacall was not simpering, but tough and smart and funny, which was a distinct contrast to the wide-eyed dumb blonde routines that Marilyn Monroe and other big stars used as the standard for female stars throughout the fifties. A few bucked the trend, like Bacall and Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn, but most were conformers. Eleanor Parker:Many Rivers to Cross:Eleanor Parker is best known for the classic Baroness with evil intentions as she set out to catch Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. But she was a great comedienne and actress in her own right, and this was a light comedy that veered off from many others of the fifties era in which it was made.
As stated earlier, the persona for many was the dumb blonde, but in setting out to ‘get her man’ in this frontier comedy, Parker is athletic and funny and smart and determinedly setting a different standard for women to emulate. I saw this film as a young girl and always remembered the counter-typical character portrayed here of a woman who is bound and determined to get what she wants and goes after it with everything she has. And in the short blurb in the beginning of the film, it’s obvious that there is some recognition that women had to be rugged individuals with strength and character in order to survive in the early days of our country’s founding.
Myrna Loy:The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer; Myrna Loy was the antithesis of the ‘dumb blonde’ throughout her career. She was not blonde, of course, and the characters she portrayed embodied some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue ever written for film. In The Thin Man, she made her mark along with William Powell as a woman who is determined to be more than just ‘the little wife’ who stays home and simpers while her man does all the dangerous work. And in this film with Cary Grant, she plays a judge who has the measure of the Cary Grant character and he knows it. She is smart and completely in control of every situation, and that is a pleasant departure from some of the standard Hollywood fare of the Golden Age of Film where women were often portrayed as either femme fatales or hopelessly dumb. Sigourney Weaver in The Year of living Dangerously:Sigourney Weaver has made a career of landing these pioneer roles where women are the front and center heroes, as in Aliens where she takes charge and essentially carries the role that a man would have played a generation before her. And in this film, The Year of Living Dangerously, she’s a journalist who is not only the most ethical of the characters, she is also vulnerable but worldly wise at the same time. It’s a truly amazing performance from a young Sigourney Weaver, and a very prescient moment when we hear of the Mel Gibson character described as someone who is charming but fatally flawed.
Women’s History Month showcases some of the film roles where strong and decisive characters are developed in this selection of beautiful and brainy women. We have seen the creation of the characters that Angelina Jolie played, that Jennifer Lawrence has perfected along with the new Captain Marvel star, Brie Larson, and the emergence of the women in Black Panther. The latest Mad Max film with Charlize Theron finally has tipped the hat to the notion that women are as tough and courageous and resourceful as men. Here’s hoping for another one hundred years or so of creative and brilliant characters for women to play, and for women to write and direct (and women critics to critique!) Till next time, see you at the movies-ML
Hello Film Fans: As we move into March, there’s some films that are opening that have gotten good “buzz.” One is the Julianne Moore remake Gloria Bell.Film comment reviews the film, and since this is a remake, there’s a piece from a site called “Gold Derby” that explores the real reason why Hollywood insists on remaking foreign language films. The answer is money (I’m not spoiling it-it’s in the TITLE!)
And even though the Oscars are behind us (I found them forgettable in every way), the SXSW Film Festival begins this weekend in Austin. So we are still in Awards Season through the spring with the Cannes Film Festival still to come.
6 Degrees magazine has some interesting items regarding the juncture of film and Women’s History Month. One is a piece talking about The Status of Feminist Film Criticism from rogerebert.com. Also we need to remember that there were directors from the Golden Age of film who were known as ‘Women’s directors,’ even though they were men! George Cukor is one, and he is remembered also in 6 Degrees.
Also in 6 Degrees, there’s a piece on Orson Welles:The Other side of Orson Welles, and from Entertainment Weekly, director Francis Ford Coppola talks about the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic book from Mario Puzo,The Godfather, upon which his masterpiece is based. Turner Classic is showing Night Train to Munich a couple of times this month. This film is deceptively slow to start, so don’t give up on it. It has some elements of Hitchcock in it, right down to the two comical English characters who show up earlier in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Set your machines to record on TCM in March for:
*Night Train to Munich/The Big Sleep/Young Frankenstein/Inherit the Wind/The Year of Living Dangerously and This is Spinal Tap. All are classics in their own right, and all deserve the space of a column each….I almost forgot The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer with Cary Grant.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks. It seems that some of the classics that are generated regularly from Turner Classic fall into one of several categories; Classic Film Noir;Classic Comedy, Classic films that got away, Classic Romance….What makes a film “Classic?” We will list the criteria for some of the films made before World War II, during the Golden Age of Film, and some that are considered ‘Modern Classics.” Till next time, movie buffs, have fun and see you at the movies!-ML
The following is an excerpt from my book: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village-published in 2013-MLJ
One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century
the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a
bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when
there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era.
The age of computer imaging and video games and the type
of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely
acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards
ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards. James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the
way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments
are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge
these developments so they can be brought to the public’s
The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized
into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film
category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars
in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened.
The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be
fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews
in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard
was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director
award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the
first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American
woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged
Hattie McDaniels and all of the women of color who had
come before her.
If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the
American persona, and this show is one of our best chances
to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life,
then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these
occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a
timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many
times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of
innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are made of,” which Bogart spoke of so long ago.