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: Summer Film News

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film fans! In this edition of Summer Film News, we are looking at the movies opening in the summer of 2018. From the films we have seen, here’s a list with some that look interesting enough to recommend making a trip to the movies.

Avengers Infinity 2018

At the Movies Now: Avengers: Infinity War has already opened. This one is already setting records…. so we can safely say that this is a hit movie that will do well, as did the two similar films which are in the top ten box office hits of all time.

The Classics: The Seagull with Annette Bening is a remake of Chekhov’s classic play. And an artsy Chekhov film is something you don’t see too often, at least not with A-list stars. This one is billed as a story of ‘unrequited love and artistic jealousy.” Annette Bening is one of only a handful of actresses with enough clout and acting chops to pull this dramatic adaptation off. Brian Dennehy co-stars.

Mamma Mia sequel 2018

The Baby Boomer Movies: Book Club and Mamma Mia! Here we Go Again; Mission Impossible- Fallout and Life of the Party with Melissa McCarthy, are all baby boomer fanfare.  Most of these are films that people of a certain age will gravitate towards.

The Documentaries: Out now is RBG, a documentary about the life of the notorious Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and a documentary on the life of Hedy Lamarr called Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Both are must see films in an era where we are striving to teach our girls about how to be brave and courageous, and to stand up for what we believe in. Coming soon is a doc on Pope Francis; Pope Francis- A Man of his word, from director Wim Wenders, plus an upcoming look at the life of Fred Rogers, the man who was known as Mr Rogers entitled Won’t You be my Neighbor? Rogers life may surprise some who have pigeonholed him as simply the nice man in the sweater who taught kids on public television.

SOlo Star Wars 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story opens May 25th, and is directed by Ron Howard. This is the highly anticipated prequel that is debuting at Cannes Film Festival. Some of the advance previews have gotten good reviews, so it looks promising. It  is also an interesting prospect to watch an award-winning director such as Howard, one who is so obvious a fan of the genre and yet isn’t part of the original Star Wars clique, show us with fresh eyes their ‘take’ on this classic tale.

The Remakes and Sequel Season: Ocean’s 8 is out June 8th; this is the female version of the franchise and stars Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. They will have to convince me the very original poster for this film contains something that has not been done and redone many times over….
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens June 22nd
Sicario: Day of Soldado opens June 29 plus the aforementioned Mamma Mia sequel plus Denzel Washington returns in his sequel offering as The Equalizer 2

Mamma Mia sequel 2018

Mamma Mia! Here we go again hits theatres on July 20th…here we go again… This may not be worth revisiting, but I’m a huge Meryl Streep and Colin Firth fan, and this premise does (not) seem interesting enough to hold our attention….
 Mission: Impossible-Fallout starts July 27th…. And I ask without snark….but in the tradition of all good soap opera openings: will Tom Cruise ever make a film that is anything other than an exercise of gymnastics and stunts? He was a good actor in another life…

Papillon 2018
Papillon is coming at the end of the summer cycle, it’s set for release late in August. The original would be hard to beat. The original film from 1973 with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was also an intense drama and remains one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead in the remake. The film is based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.

HOtel Trans 2018

The Kids Films are Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation and Incredibles 2; plus Teen Titans Go! To the Movies…. I have often said that some of the most innovative work in film is done by Pixar (Incredibles 2) and is found in children’s movies. Therefore, let’s hope the imaginative sparks will fly into main stream films some day!

DOg days 2018

The Comedies of Summer include the Melissa McCarthy offering called Life of the Party, and Mamma Mia! Here we Go Again, plus Dog Days, opening  in August, and a film with Mila Kunis billed as an “International espionage comedy’ also in August, called The Spy Who Dumped Me.
Regarding Life of the Party, I have found that some of McCarthy’s comedies have been hit and miss. Spy was funny but the one with Sandra Bullock- The Heat (2013)- was deadly dull. So who knows?…The story line for this outing has McCarthy  going back to school with her daughter. This is one of our 6 Degrees reworks. Rodney Dangerfield, as Thornton Melon, went Back to School back in 1986 and it’s hard to find a comedy to top that particular subject. (Watch it just for the Triple Lindy!)

Spy who dumped 2018
Dog Days looks light and fairly benign, and the film with Kunis-The Spy Who Dumped Me– could be something different, but we’ll have to wait for some early reviews. Although with SNL’s Kate McKinnon co-starring, this one could be a sleeper hit. Stay tuned

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Something Completely Different:
Christopher Robin opens August 3th- and is a live action version of the well-known children’s story. This version, with Ewan McGregor, is billed as a fantasy and it could be one of those films where the previews show us one type of film, and we see a completely different version when we get to the theatre. McGregor sums up the plot of the grown up version of Christopher Robin as one where he is ‘finding his relationship with his younger self again.’

The Meg on August 10th stars Jason Statham in an updated action version of Jaws with a megalodon monster that measures 70 feet Ordinarily I would not include this type of rehash, but it seems intriguing enough as they are trying to mesh Jaws with Jurassic Park to create another box office bonanza.
Slender Man is a horror flick debuting in August. Horror is big, and many of the most original plots with the best reviews have come out of the horror genre. It and Jordan Peele’s Get Out come to mind. Horror used to be for the bad B set only, and the films in recent years have shown the genre to be making a comeback

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society starring Lily James opens in August in the states, with James playing a writer in 1946 who exchanges letters with German occupied residents of Guernsey during World War II.

This is the end of what we have seen that is coming this summer. And you can start adding to some of those lists we’ve been talking about. I’ve noticed that when you see film reviews and film blog sites, we are always looking at lists. And a few of these lists have films that I may have missed. But most of them seem fairly pedantic and uninspired. I have encouraged everyone to make up, besides the Netflix list you may keep or films that you have missed at the theatre, a running Personal list of films to record and to watch. In the same way we have book lists for those titles you want to read at some later date, these are films which are ‘must see’ for the course of your lifetime and that you don’t want to miss.

From 6 Degrees of Film; the Future of Film in the global village, there are several lists, including a list of top 100 films, that can be found in the back of the book. The book has an overview of the history of film, as well as some insights into where we are going with movie making in the twenty-first century.

In the coming months, 6 Degrees and Friday Flix will highlight some excerpts from the book that will apply to the current state of moviemaking in Hollywood. We have been talking about the diversity issues, and the MeToo movement which sprang from the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and the forerunner of this, the old Hollywood casting couch cliché where women were notoriously exploited by older, rich, powerful executive men who used young girls and got away with it for over a hundred years.

The Future of Film in the Global Village

Talking about the future of film. I see a lot of art houses showing revivalist work and Film Festivals featuring favorite actors as well as genres and directors. I see the neighborhood movie theatres being converted into multi-use platforms. Some are mega-churches, or meeting venues.

And I see a lot of films being made for the small screen. You can bet there will be more series with six or eight episodes, (Benedict Cumberbatch as Patrick Melrose) to be sold as a feature in a ‘boxed set.’ And hopefully, we can create our own “Armchair Film Festivals” as we can begin to personalize our smart sets to view and download our favorite films, customized in a digital system for our own personal use. (You can make good use of the ‘must-see’ list of films!)

There are good and bad arguments in seeing our own tastes in cinema displayed before us. Of course, Netflix and Amazon will still be able to suggest films that we like, based on our settings. So that is not going away in the future world of film. But as we get older, our tastes in music and film will change along with everything else. We will see this is an evolving list to grow and to revise through the years.

Critics will perhaps move to categories and genres that encompass older films and films of the past….like the 6 Degrees of film critic! The inevitable comparisons in film styles and categories will make it necessary, after seeing many films with similar plots and story lines, to have film guides for the styles and genres of the past that reemerge in different formats.

And we will always have Paris. What do I mean by that? I don’t know, but it always sounds good, and I recommend every film goer to watch Casablanca at least once in your lifetime.
Speaking of Casablanca, here’s a line up of some films for Millennials to watch and record…

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• Bogart Film Fest: Some of his best work is seen this month on TCM, including the aforementioned Casablanca and a less well known but equally entertaining film, Across the Pacific.

Another THin Man
• The Thin Man Series: Coming on TCM this month, the original was one of the “Screwball Comedies” that Hollywood churned out during the depression era thirties. The witty repartee and the film chemistry between William Powell and Myrna Loy make these light comedies classic and timeless. Highly recommended as part of anyone’s must-see film series, and part of the Armchair Film Fest to record this month.

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* The Great Escape with Steve McQueen. One of my favorite lines about the actor was from a critic who said, “He could act with only the back of his head on screen’ By that, I think the critic meant that Steve McQueen was a natural, and that he didn’t have to reach for anything. One of his early successes was in this film from 1963 featuring a great ensemble cast about a real-life prison break from a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany.

Lion in Winter 1968
The Lion in Winter: In contrast to the coolest of cool actors, here are two that blew hot most of the time: Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. They worked together in the film adaptation of the play; “The Lion in Winter.” The wonderful thing about this story is that it really is part of our historical record. There was a Henry II who ruled England with his powerfully political wife, Eleanor of Acquitaine. And he really did lock her up after she rebelled against him with their oldest son, Richard the Lionhearted. And he did trot her out only for royal events such as Christmas holidays. And that is where the story picks up, with Eleanor coming home for the holidays. The playwright took the challenge of “What if…?” and wrote this funny, bizarre and poignant script which results in a bonanza of emotional scenes for great actors. This is a clever and moving film at times, and there really are no two better actors to play these over the top characters than Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn. They worked well together but were only on screen as a duo in this one film, (By the way, Hepburn’s nickname for O’Toole in real life was “Pig.”)

Its a wonderful life
• Capracorn: This is the name given to all of the work of Frank Capra, who is somewhat unfairly labeled with the title of schmaltzy director of heart-tugging films. He did indulge in this tugging of heartstrings at times, as did many, (Spielberg is guilty of this too). But Capra’s films are classics, and some of them are seen less than the one shown almost on a loop at Christmas time, Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. Before Jimmy Stewart became George Bailey, he starred in You can’t take it with you with his acting partner from It’s a Wonderful life– Lionel Barrymore. Barrymore was a member of one of the first of Hollywood elite acting dynasties, the Barrymore Family. John, Ethel and Lionel were all consummate actors of stage and screen, and they would be the first ones to tell people how good they were.
• Barrymore portrays a laid-back character in this film, a complete turn-around from his mean Mr. Potter role in the Christmas classic. You Can’t Take it with you is also based on a Pulitzer prize winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The theme centers around the idea that we need to stop worrying about tomorrow, about making money, and concentrate on the things that matter and on what makes us happy. This was apparently a problem even when we supposedly lived in a much slower paced society. But this film came out during the Depression, (1938), and the themes of working for what really matters and looking for more in life than just getting ahead and making money were already huge issues for middle class America

I could go on about films for a long, long time. This will have to be the end of the Summer Film News and we hope you are as excited to see some of these films, on the big screen and the small one, as we have been in compiling the list and writing about them. Till next week, have fun, get those must-see lists of movies going, and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Oscar News

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Oscar News

The Oscars show was always a big deal for me…but in recent years, …not so much. The glamour is not there, and there are so many award shows, it just doesn’t pack the same punch. The turning point for me happened when they sent the Disney characters into the audience one year and Tom Hanks and Paul Newman just looked embarrassed. They don’t seem to know how to bring the show into the modern era

The biggest problem that has been widely documented is the diversity issue. The Academy was an “Old White Guy” organization and it showed. They have worked on trying to repair the breech, but it’s been painfully slow to watch.

Some stand-out moments I remember from recent years occurred when Lady Gaga sang The Sound of Music, and then when Billy Crystal returned to host the show it just seemed funnier, but James Franco remains, in my opinion, the worst host in Oscar history. I hope the show isn’t overlong, and the disaster of an announcement for Best Picture doesn’t occur again…Warren Beatty is probably blackballed forever. I keep watching it out of habit, but with each passing year, the glitz and glamor of a bygone era becomes more painfully evident.

Here is what I wrote about the Academy Awards in my book 6 Degrees of Film: The future of film in the Global Village from 2013:

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 McDaniel 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 Bogey spoke of so long ago….

And here we are, five years after 6 Degrees of Film was published, and I still have the same complaints! There are no innovative new categories, and the diversity issue is still front and center. We are still talking about the ‘old white guys’ show, with few exceptions.

But this year may be different. In this changed atmosphere, post #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein, then there may be some movement in the gender discrimination category.

Would it kill them to be innovative and come up with some new categories? Such as best “Breakthrough Performer” or Most Promising….really anything that smacks of “Something Different.” There’s been some discussion of late about naming the Best Picture that was awarded the Oscar for “Best Picture.” The Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia come to mind.

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Movies of the 21st Century

Winners in this category would be Slumdog Millionaire, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator being on the short list.

Nominated films that were superior include: Lost in Translation, Capote, Munich, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Up, The Social Network, Inception, Moneyball, Gravity, Her, The Big Short, The Revenant, Arrival, Fences, and a few more that define the times we live in much better than the films that won the Oscar.

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This year, Lady Bird and Get Out will probably not win, as they are not odds on favorites. The Shape of Water is an interesting entry, and it gets my vote, but Three Billboards is an outside favorite that has a good chance.

The point of it all isn’t really that these winners are the “Best” films, but the films with either more popular votes from Academy winners, or they represent a snapshot in time, and may or may not have staying power. Most of the recent winning films are forgettable.

 

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Sign up for 6 Degrees Friday Flix

Sign up for my mailing list to see all the latest news in film each week in Friday Flix. 6 Degrees of Film magazine features all the latest reviews and articles from leading publishers about current and classic movies. In editing the magazine, I make a point of going into the archives as well as searching the internet to find the latest reviews and summarizing the Big Picture each week in Friday Flix.

6 Degrees of Film blog features quarterly newsletters, weekly film reviews and reports, as well as excerpts from my 2013 book 6 Degrees of film: The Future of film in the Global Village. We also include reviews of classic movies, and current films in theaters and recommendations on television in the recurring feature: The Armchair Film Festival.  In other words, 6 Degrees is your one-stop shopping for all the film news that’s fit to print. Join us as we go through the latest winners and wrap up the Oscars report this week. We love to hear from you all….Enjoy the show and until next week, see you at the movies!-ML

Holiday Film News

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Happy Holidays Film Fans! This week, we are featuring the just-released Holiday Film News,  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’s Wonder 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!

6 Degrees: Holiday Film News

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The latest from Hollywood still surrounds the scandals from Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and it continues as more men and women come forward to tell their stories. The impact is something that will be felt as we see some movies are on hold, some films with green lights will not be made, and we even saw Kevin Spacey stripped from his role in a major release this month.
The films that are released in the Holiday season have come to represent some of the cream of the crop, with studios holding back releases to compete in the Awards season that kicks off with the start of the new year.
The lists of best of the year also gives us some questionable picks in order to make the requisite 10 or 20 films that fill these end of year lists. It gives us a better window to step back and look at the films of the 21st Century, and the changes that have come in the way we see movies.
Even in the past ten years, we now have more people watching films on their devices, on the small screen, and even seeing films debut on Netflix, Amazon, and other cable companies. So, the change in the way we watch films and the way we respond is significant. The relationships and the way the characters are created and fleshed out, the way the writers use foreshadowing and the nuances of cinematography and the techniques they use to lend detail has changed so much in the 21st Century.
I have written about the industry’s overuse of CGI (Computer Generated Images), and the good and the bad associated with the Star Wars era of Lucasfilms and Industrial Light & Magic. For better or worse, it has dominated the industry in so many ways.  And this has also meant Hollywood now has the ability to bring to life so many elements of storytelling that were not possible or conceivable even twenty years ago. These things are all factors that have shaped the way we see movies today. But the real strength of films will always begin with the story. The element of style evolves; and when a good story is compelling, and told with creativity and passion, there is often a good film in the making.

Here are some of the Holiday films opening in theatres in December:

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The Shape of Water is coming December 8th : Set in the 1960’s, the film tells the story of a mute woman working as a janitor at a top secret government facility that houses a new kind of creature…

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The Last Jedi opens Dec 15Th: The cast of the last film returns to answer some of the questions that were left hanging. The character of Rey, and her connection with Luke Skywalker are some of the main drivers of the plot.

THe Post 2017

The Post opens Dec 22nd: Steven Spielberg directs, Tom Hanks stars as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee; Meryl Streep is the publisher Kay Graham The film deals with the imminent release of the Pentagon Papers. It’s based on the true story of events surrounding the paper’s editorial decisions and how they handled this momentous event in our nation’s history.
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Other Holiday Films to watch and to record:

Recommended Christmas films: In the past weeks, I’ve recommended viewing: The Nativity Story, It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf/ A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Carol….(Choose your favorite version of Scrooge!)
Other Spiritual films: There are films that are shown at Christmas with a definite holiday feel. Some of them are spiritual in nature, with religious overtones. And others are simply worth watching for the cathartic feeling or the good vibes that you may want to share with loved ones during the holidays. The Sound of Music is the obvious choice, but there are other films that have the desired impact. The films listed here are not “Feel-Good” Family films, but they have either religious or spiritual overtones that reflect the holiday spirit.
Lord Jim, a film from 1965 with Peter O’Toole, is from a novel by Joseph Conrad and tells the story of a man seeking redemption for a sin he had committed earlier in his life. The idea that we are all guilty of something that we would like to forget, and to overcome our fears and our past, makes this film memorable.
The Name of the Rose is by Umberto Eco and stars Sean Connery as the monk who travels to a monastery, and discovers a series of murders that he is determined to solve. The theme of the book speaks of the uncertainty and inability to solve life’s mysteries, using the murders from the monastery to emphasize the chaotic nature of life. Sean Connery is powerful as the masterful monk, filled with conviction and the determination. It’s this force of nature that is Connery’s performance that gives this film strength.
Arrival with Amy Adams is a sci-fi film that has many layers stretching beyond the usual boundaries of science and CGI. There are some impressive visuals, and great acting from both Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, her partner in solving the mystery of the aliens. But the memorable moments are strictly earthbound ones, where we see the layers unveiled as Adams, working as a linguist, struggles to communicate with the alien species and discovers much about herself as the film progresses.
King Arthur with Clive Owen is yet another retelling of the Arthurian legend. This one is set in Britain, and the knights of the round table are a nomadic band with a leader who is dedicated to Christ. The best scenes in this are the ones that show the conviction and dedication of a life given over to helping others, and striving to overcome our own personal and moral failings.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a film mentioned many times for its spiritual depth and lingering themes dealing with love and redemption. The heroine is a young girl, Scout, and she narrates the action in past tense, in a faithful translation from the book. We see Scout’s small town and her father, Atticus Finch, through her eyes. Gregory Peck really “owns” this film, as his presence, and the courtroom drama that makes up much of the action in the second half are the highlights of the film. The message, that it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird, and the Christian themes of spiritual redemption and healing make this film one of the all-time favorites for those who are searching for some depth when watching a movie.

Other Recommended Holiday/Feel Good Films for Family Viewing:
Meet me in St Louis stars Judy Garland, and features Garland singing many of her hits, including “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Judy Garland was young when she made this movie, and it was directed by her future husband, Vincent Minelli, who worked to showcase her many talents as she sang and acted her way into our hearts.
Sleepless in Seattle was a huge hit when it was released, and if featured one of the most popular couples in recent decades: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I confess that this isn’t my favorite of the Hanks/Ryan pairings-I prefer You’ve Got Mail, which is also a good family film. But this film is one that has a popular appeal and also features the small boy who decides to match make for his father, played by Hanks, during the holidays.
National Velvet is adapted from a best-selling book and is also good family fare. Elizabeth Taylor is seen in one of her first roles, as the young Velvet, who is obsessed with horses.
In Emma, the “Jane-ites” are given a visual treat in this beautifully filmed adaptation from Jane Austen starring Gwyneth Paltrow. The film begins during the Christmas season, so it has a holiday look and feel to it. And even though the film is suitable for all ages, it’s generally classified as a “Chick Flick.” I dub it a Fem Flick, for women and that sub-set of men who actually like and “get” Jane Austen and her low-key but acerbic wit.

Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello film fans! Welcome to Friday Flix. This week the films that debut are not the heavy hitters, many of those are coming out during the Holidays. But there are some good ones vying for the top box office spots.
In 6 Degrees Magazine, there’s a piece from Director David Fincher on Modern Cinema that’s worth a look. And the film reviews featured include reviews for Marshall, the courtroom drama surrounding one of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s early civil-rights cases; and the LA Times gives The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe rave reviews: “probably the best movie you’ll see this year”….can’t get much better than that!
Blade Runner 2049 is reviewed in Movie Waffler. I reviewed it in 6 Degrees of Film and wasn’t impressed. For one thing, the movie was over-hyped. It wasn’t nearly as good as it was promoted as being, which was this game-changing thematic experience. In addition, it was overly long for the material that was explored.
It was reminiscent of the follow up sequel to Chinatown in several ways. Both revolve around a quest or a search that moves the action along, but in the case of The Two Jakes, Jack Nicholson was the big draw that the sequel used to carry the weight of a weaker plot. It’s hard to compete with classic films that introduce new and innovative techniques and original thought. Chinatown and Blade Runner were two such films.
Harrison Ford doesn’t carry this film. This film is almost exclusively Ryan Gosling’s vehicle, and he is not up to snuff. There isn’t one interesting element or nuance of character that is memorable in this version (The review is on 6 Degrees).
The film has been characterized as a dud or a bomb. It’s not terrible, but I can’t recommend it to see at the theatres. It’s for the small screen. There’s another article that makes the case that the soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049 is the star. I can’t agree with that either, especially in the wake of listening to the music of Vangelis and that masterly score for the original. Director Ridley Scott put so much attention to detail into the 1982 film, showing us a glimpse of a futuristic, yet dark and decidedly dystopian landscape that matched the theme from which the material sprang: the dark visions of writer Philip K Dick. This film just isn’t capable of continuing the thread needed to pull us into that same future void where we found ourselves at the end of BladeRunner.

There are lots of Oscar contenders opening in November. After seeing a trailer for the Benedict Cumberbatch film, The Current War, made by the Weinstein Group, I noticed they’ve pulled it from the schedule. It’s unfortunate that the politics must interfere with the artistic merit of a film, but that’s the way of the world. Weinstein has infected the conversation in Hollywood, as well as throughout the country. And women should be silent no more.
Some of the other films opening in November (see the Fall Newsletter link); are: Murder on the Orient Express & The Florida Project. The latter is about a six year old girl who lives with her mother in a motel in the Sunshine State. Willem Dafoe also stars in this Indie film, and as mentioned above, it’s been getting lots of good advance press.
There’s also a  listing this week of actor Gary Oldman’s best performances (Oldman is starring as Churchill currently in Darkest Hour.) Can’t say that I agree with the list. Here’s mine: True Romance; Tinker,Tailor,Soldier,Spy. Harry Potter films; Child 44; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead are some of Oldman’s best films, and I’d recommend any of those to fans who would like to see more of Gary Oldman in action.
There’s also an article about Films that may be contenders for Oscars including Dunkirk; The Post and The Shape of Water. Haven’t seen the latter two, but I would agree there is great interest and buzz with these films, particularly surrounding The Shape of Water.
That’s a wrap for this week. Stay tuned in coming weeks for the Holiday Films Newsletter and other 6 Degrees offers for you. Till then, hope you find some movies that you not just like but love, and see you at the movies!

 

 

 

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT
6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! This week in 6 Degrees some of the best movies of the Season are starting to roll out. The Florida Project with Willam Dafoe has received great reviews, and Blade Runner 2049 has received ridiculously good reviews. I recall the first film didn’t get such a great reception at the time of its release. If you have never seen the original, please do so before seeing the new Bladerunner. There’s a review in 6 Degrees Magazine of the original film starring Harrison Ford.

Other movies out this week include The Mountain Between Us with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet and Una, with Rooney Mara, which is adapted from a stage play Blackbird.

Other projects of note include the Variety review of the documentary on Steven Spielberg. There’s a trailer for the new Woody Allen film Wonder Wheel  with Kate Winslet. The children’s film My Little Pony is reviewed on SF Gate, which recommends the film “only for established fans” (5 and under, we presume!)

One interesting Oscars note: Foreign Language film submissions hit a record high this year, which is good and speaks well for the nature of the Global Village in which we live.

One of my newly discovered favorite film sites is awesomebmovies.com. This week, they have an interesting piece called The Modern Day Western vs The Classic Western Movie. It’s a very interesting concept, and considering that modern day westerns come few and far between, we need to grasp that the entire genre was one that dominated early Silent film and extended well into the fifties and sixties with Clint Eastwood being the last major star to draw huge crowds to see Westerns. There’s an argument that Star Wars films are a reboot of the Western theme, but for this piece, the original concept of Western films sticks to the films of the Old West.

Speaking of Westerns: If anyone would like to see a great Western that is rarely shown, set your box to record The Westerner on Turner Classic Movies this weekend with Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan. It’s one of Cooper’s great performances as the Western hero, a drifter named Cole Harden, and Brennan shines as Judge Roy Bean, the epitome of good and evil rolled into one in his character. There’s a great scene where Cooper casually lets the Judge know that he has a lock of hair from Bean’s goddess, Lillie Langtry, and the comic undertones are almost as good as classic Jack Benny. Catch it if you can!

Here’s the link to our Fall Film Newsletter, featuring all the films released in October. There are lots of good movies being released this fall, (in contrast to a slow summer), so hope you can get out there and catch a good flick this week. See you at the movies!-ML