6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! Each Friday I like to go through the top film blog posts and pull out some of the best blog posts and articles of the week past and highlight them in 6 Degrees Magazine. This week there are film reviews in our magazine for Sorry to Bother You, The Equalizer 2 and Rogerebert.com does a rundown of the Mission: Impossible movies.
One of my favorites from this past week is from Film Comment about director Ingmar Bergman and his body of work. Although he stopped making movies way back in 1982, his filmography of over 40 films continued to impact directors for decades. The writer speaks of Bergman being liberated when he announced that Fanny and Alexander would be his last film, saying “Bergman was devoted to a cinema liberated from cinema….and added that Bergman is revered in French cinema. “Though an icon of the New Wave,…it is to the next generation that he would serve as a magnetic north.”
The Film Comment writer, Olivier Assayas, goes on to bemoan the lack of psychoanalysis in cinema today (certainly there is no one worthy of Bergman’s insight and skillful dissection of human nature.) Assayas writes “…cinema, which examines the soul through the features of its performers and records both silence and speech,…has always been the best path to approach the chasms of the unconscious’ Bergman certainly did carve a pathway through the human psyche with unique perceptions and there is no one in cinema today that explores the intimate levels of conscious to unconscious thought layer by layer in the same manner as Bergman. This is a recommended read.
Next week we’ll look at some of the big releases coming out in August, as well as the recommended recordings for our continuing Armchair Film Fest! Till then, have fun and stay cool and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Greetings Film Fans: We are definitely into the dog days of summer. And at 6 Degrees of Film, that means planning a list of favorite films to watch at our own private Armchair Film Fest. Esquire has a list of some of the best films from 2018 so far, and if you are a subscriber to Netflix or other services, you may want to put some of these films you might have missed on the list for the small screen:

Leave No Trace: From Winter’s Bone director, it’s the story of a father and daughter living off the grid, illegally in the Pacific Northwest.
Let the Sunshine In: Isabelle (Juliette Binoche) is a divorced, middle-aged artist whose dating life moves from moments of bliss to disappointment and disillusionment.
• First Reformed: From director Paul Schrader, a religious drama with Ethan Hawke playing a New York man of the cloth going through a crisis of faith that is accelerated by an encounter with an environmental activist mired in anger.
The Rider: Story of the West about a young rodeo star facing an uncertain future after experiencing a catastrophic accident.
• You were Never Really Here: Joaquin Phoenix is a mentally scarred veteran trying to rescue a senator’s young daughter from a child prostitution ring.

Some others listed were A Quiet Place, Black Panther, Annihilation, Game Night and Isle of Dogs which you most likely would have seen at the movies
Ant Man and the Wasp is playing in theatres, and has generally gotten good reviews. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again can only be recommended to die-hard Abba and Mamma Mia ONE fans (I actually will admit that I’m in that boat!) and Mission: Impossible-Fallout’s has also been receiving good reviews.
Coming soon to theatres is Christopher Robin and The Spy who Dumped Me, plus the Papillon remake that we’ve mentioned in past weeks. So stay tuned and keep cool, friends, and till next time, I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July. The films of July are here beginning with Ant Man and the Wasp, which has had some good early reviews and a clever trailer to kick off the super-hero film of the month. Here’s a short clip of some other openings from our July/August list:
Mamma Mia! Here we go again is 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 on July 27th.… And I ask without snark….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. This would be hard to beat. The original with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was an intense drama and is one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead, based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.

2001 a Space Odyssey

From 6 Degrees Magazine: Here’s an interesting quote that was unearthed from the late great Stanley Kubrick regarding the very mysterious ending scene in the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick talks of the ending:
Kubrick: “The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film…When they get finished with him, …he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman (alluding to the star baby.) “We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”

This is fascinating as so much has been written and speculated about regarding the fate of the astronaut and the entire ending sequence. The most important thing I pulled from this was in line with what I’d always heard when people talk of this film. 2001 allows anyone, the average man on the street, an intellectual or a science-fiction fan, to imagine the ending in their own way. We can ‘guess what happens’ when he returns to Earth as the fantasy star child. And the mythology is added to give it a special element of interest. (Much the same is said about the mythology that George Lucas attached to his Star Wars characters to give rise to an entire new mythology!)

At the Movies: The indie film getting a lot of good buzz is Sorry to Bother you. It’s about race and is a satire and send up of the gig economy and was directed by Boots Riley, who is a musician by trade.

Movies about America: The fourth brings out a spate of articles on which films are considered “American.” The essence of what America is can be found in many classic Hollywood films; and it means so many things to many different people, It can only be a subjective idea, and for me, my personal picks would include The Right Stuff; Apollo 13, American Graffiti; An American in Paris, North by Northwest; Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid & The Godfather. One film that is on my list and is showing this month on TCM is On the Waterfront with Brando, and I see this film as essentially American with Brando in the lead role in many ways, it’s a deeper and more pivotal role than Brando’s signature role from A Streetcar Named Desire, and it deals with the idea that anyone can be anything which is the essence of the standard ideal of the American Dream.

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Recommended for Armchair Film Fest: Continuing the theme of great American films, this is a great month for classic American actors with Steve McQueen as the featured actor on Turner Classic. One of my favorite things is to discover and recommend lesser seen films from famous actors where most people recognize them from their more popular work. With McQueen, some of his great performers are in some of his lesser known films. Those films would be The Getaway, Soldier in the Rain, and Nevada Smith, which are seen less than McQueen’s big debut film, The Great Escape. Another film to watch out for starring Steve McQueen is Papillon, which has been remade and will release, as we mentioned above, this August.

Armchair Film Fans to watch for in July on Turner Classic:
• Classic Comedy duos: Turner Classic is showing two of my all time favorite from two great comic teams, Abbott & Costello & Laurel & Hardy. Time of their Lives is a departure for Abbott & Costello in that they didn’t work together on film as they had in the past. The plot called for Lou to be a ghost who haunts the grounds where Abbott is just one of a group of people working to solve a mystery surrounding the death of the two ghosts. And Sons of the Desert is a comic masterpiece that no one who has ever loved Laurel & Hardy should miss.
Steve McQueen Film Festival: Some must-see’s to recommend are Soldier in the Rain, The Sand Pebbles-McQueen’s only Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Bullitt-his greatest performance,  and Papillon, One of the reasons that McQueen was a great actor was the fact that like Gary Cooper in another era, he made it seem effortless. In a time of ‘angst’ where acting studios and method actors produced Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, McQueen was a tough guy who drifted onto the screen and not only oozed charisma and masculine charm from every pore, but also had a kind of vulnerability not seen before in many actors. Like Cooper, he was a natural.
That’s it for now. Have a great week and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Armchair Film Fest

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

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

Friday Flix: Thoughts on Solo

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

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

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Also featured in 6 Degrees:

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

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

6 Degrees: Memorial Weekend

 

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Greetings to all our new 6 Degrees moviegoers…In each post, 6 Degrees rounds up the best of the weekly film reviews along with other articles linked to film to share with our readers. We look for unusual pieces as well as topical information to pass along. Upcoming trailers and news from Hollywood as well as film news from around the world, festivals like Cannes, which has just wrapped up, to news from the states where theaters are competing for their market share of the changing box office haul.

 

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If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Summer Film News, here’s the link to see what’s coming in June. For the last week before Memorial Day, Deadpool 2 won the box office and the Avengers: Infinity War has now made $1.85 Billion worldwide. So that is good news for all the superhero fans out there.

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story officially opens this weekend, and the reviews for this film are generally positive. We have Solo reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine this week, as well as Chekhov’s The Seagull,  along with the Mary Shelley biopic, and an NPR review of Book Club.

 

 

 

At Cannes, the winner of the Palme d’Or was a Japanese film called Shoplifters. Notably, although Cannes has worked to try and keep up with the #MeToo moment we are at in our society, the only female director to win at Cannes was Jane Campion for The Piano, and that was 25 years ago. I think this means we can’t just call out the Academy without mentioning that European filmmakers need to “up their game” in terms of gender equality.

 

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*What’s new in 6 Degrees Magazine: This week we have rounded up: Roger Ebert’s collection of Star Wars movie reviews, for those of  you who may have missed the first go-round of the Force, starting way back in 1976. And in Film Inquiry, there’s a discussion of the continuing debate-Book v Film- and a look at which films pass muster. There’s also a great piece listing some of the classic films from 1968 that are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year. Some of the best include 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is widely considered one of the best science-fiction films ever made. Others from 1968 are The Lion in Winter, The Producers, Planet of the Apes, Bullitt and Funny Girl. These are all recommended to record if they ever show on the small screen, preferably on Turner Classic to drown out the commercial interruptions!

 

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Hollywood Redux: Another interesting discussion surrounds the question of how much of the newly-released: Solo: A Star Wars story was actually directed by Ron Howard? We know he was brought on to the project much later in the production, after the original director was fired. And in another unusual move for Hollywood, the family friendly Show Dogs has been forced to recut the already-released move after allegations of Sexual abuse occurred surrounding a scene in the film.

 

 

 

About the Guns: One article that caught my eye this week talked about guns in entertainment. I must say that the level of violence doesn’t necessarily correlate with the amount or presence of guns in any particular film. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood were heroes of a different world, where there were no mass shootings or school shootings to wring our hands and lament about the existence of violence in films and in the video world. I am a staunch advocate of gun safety measures, but also a huge action film fan as well as a Clint Eastwood fan. I do not see a correlation directly to violence in films, but instead, I see a way to glean an understanding of the gun culture we have inculcated in our society and to a large extent, in our own psyches as Americans. It is ‘who we are.’ But that doesn’t mean we cannot make needed changes. As for the existence of guns in movies, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The guns in reality are a problem, therefore removing guns in the fantasy realm of cinema would not offer a solution.

 

 

Film anniversaries include Scarface returning to the theatres. I have never made it through the scene where they use a chainsaw in a bathroom. It was memorable in terms of violence in films as anything I have ever seen, and this speaks to the previous subject, where guns were specific to the reasons we have violent episodes in American life. Is it a depiction of the reality of the culture that we have become, or a leading influence in creating and spreading violent behavior? To my mind, it’s the former and not the latter. Films are a form of art, and that has been my contention from the time I wrote 6 Degrees of Film in 2013 till today. We are depicting the reality of our lives, not organically creating a new type of reality. Again, it is ‘who we are.’ And at times, the picture isn’t a pretty one! Scarface turns 35 years old, so let that sink in.

 

That’s it for now, film fans. There’s a lot of great films debuting, so check out the Summer Film News to plot your next trip to the theater, and have a great, safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Greetings Film Fans: The Fall Film Newsletter is still available on this 6 Degrees of Film website, so click the link and check out the upcoming films. Some of the big stories happening now in Hollywood include the terrible reviews for Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother! My brother warned me about how terrible this movie was,(which of course, intrigues me even more!), and the audience response has been overwhelmingly negative.
The Stephen King horror film, IT is still the dominant box office winner. And some of the films rolling out this month are featured in the Six Degrees Magazine. The Battle of the Sexes has had some mixed reviews, but not terrible ones. There’s a new trailer for the all-star cast featured in the Murder on the Orient Express remake coming in November.
Each week, I go thru the online film sites and look for interesting and intriguing reviews and articles that don’t simply repeat the main headlines over and over….Some are reviews of classic films, and others are about movies that people may have missed-those that go Under the Radar.
Entertainment Weekly is arguing that The Assassination of Jesse James with Brad Pitt is a “mistreated masterpiece”. I beg to differ, but it’s worth reading the arguments supporting this one. And there’s a good piece on the great Stephen King, who doesn’t need a new Renaissance Revival. If there are people who don’t know of his work, besides the horror field, know that he also penned The Shawshank Redemption as well as notable treatises about the craft of writing.
Film Reviews: Kingsman: Golden Circle has a controversial sex scene supposedly, but I can’t say it’s something that keeps me awake at night! And director Wes Anderson, another controversial filmmaker, has released a trailer for his stop motion feature, Isle of Dogs. There’s a review for Judi Dench’s latest film, Victoria and Abdul, from NPR, which is a favorable one.
And for Hitchcock fans, there is an analysis of supposedly the ‘weakest’ scene in the classic “Psycho”. Some people have told me that “The Princess Bride” is one of their favorite films of all time. For Princess fans, there’s a post from Moviefone with fun facts on the film!
And some of my favorites that have gone unnoticed include the follow-up of  Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown character which he revived in The Two Jakes. And the great ensemble piece from Director Curtis Hanson that was Russell Crowe’s breakout performance, L.A. Confidential, is also reviewed. The other Under the Radar film featured this week is from 2005- a review of the Nicholas Cage film, Lord of War. Cage plays an illegal arms smuggler and the topic is sadly prescient in our current political climate. And finally, the Indie Black comedy starring Don Johnson, before he made it big with Miami Vice is reviewed- A Boy and His Dog.
In the last few months, we’ve lost some of the great avante-garde actors and artists of the last few decades. One is the playwright and actor Sam Shephard, known best most likely for his iconic role in The Right Stuff. The other is the character actor, Harry Dean Stanton, who was a contemporary and sometimes collaborator with Shephard.  Stanton starred in one of Shephard’s adaptations to the screen, Paris, Texas. There’s an article with the three best selected obits on Stanton featured in our magazine.
Recommended Reads: The book Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940’s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling is reviewed on the David Bordwell film site. The 6 Degrees Fall Film Newsletter will  also give you short blurbs for each recommended movie released in the coming weeks.
Next week will feature some of the Turner Classic Movies for the month of October, as well as the upcoming films we’re excited to see debuting in film festivals and touted for Oscars and other notable awards. Looking forward to some of the new crop-till then, see you at the Movies!-ML