6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello to all Film Fans & Friends! The good news, surprising to some of us, is that Dunkirk has opened to really good reviews. It’s short-107 minutes -Thank God! (Spare me from the overly long Summer serial movies recently that have begged for good editing!). So that’s a pleasant surprise… And the Planet of the Apes film has also gotten surprisingly good reviews. There is always hope that we’ll salvage a fairly blah summer film season.

 
Wonder Woman has continued to rake in the money. But there comes a point in the summer film season when we start to desperately look around for some good films on the horizon. And there are usually these great little hidden gems of cinema that are a big reason why many of us continue to watch movies.

 

6 Degrees Magazine: This week, check out these articles online. There’s an article about Director Werner Herzog’s masterpiece of a documentary Burden of Dreams, which is about the making of the film Fitzcarraldo in 1982.

 
Critically Speaking: As mentioned, the reviews for Dunkirk and War for the Planet of the Apes have been good. Also, there’s The Big Sick, with a supporting cast that includes Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, so that has garnered interest and hope that the Rom-Com’s are not dead (simply in need of a 21st Century upgrade!).

 
The Indie Film: The Little Hours is reviewed on the macguffin film site as well as the sci-fi film from director Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Film Comment also has a post on the Valerian film, which is based on a popular French graphic novel series entitled Valerian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres. Film Comment calls the series of books a “travesty of storytelling”, and says the film itself is “bereft of narrative tension” but instead functions “strictly as spectacle.” Valerian reviews as a whole have been mixed, so this explains it as good as any other reason I’ve heard. Rolling Stone has a film review of Valerian with the lead: “Luc Besson makes a Sci-Fi Mess.”

 
We’ve already mentioned War for the Planet of the Apes, which has garnered good reviews after suffering through a few stumbles in the past with some duds in the continuing “ape” series. There’s a film out called Endless Poetry, from an 88 year old Chilean-French filmmaker which has been getting good reviews.

 
And finally, Lady Macbeth is reviewed on Ebert.com, and focuses on the performance from the 21- year old lead Florence Pugh. It’s worthy to note that Lady Macbeth is NOT based on the Shakespearean character, but instead comes from a Russian novella by Nikolai Leskov titled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk”, a book centering on ways women were suppressed and stifled in the 19th century. (It makes a difference!)

 
Notable Deaths: There’s an interview from Film Comment featured in our magazine done recently with the late Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his supporting role in Ed Wood. And the other recent passing was of the much-admired Horror Director George Romero, famous for the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead film, as well as the many spawns of that classic: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and many others, including the TV series from 1983, Tales from the Darkside.

 
Well, till we meet again film goers. I’m excited about the films coming soon (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is one) and the great Armchair Film Festival offerings from Turner Classic. Hitchcock lovers have had a fantastic month in July if they tuned in and recorded the entire catalog of Hitchcock classics. One of my favorite lines will always be from Notorious, when Madame Sebastian learns her son has married a spy. She quietly lights a cigarette and tells him, “We are saved by the enormity of your stupidity.” I have truly come to adore that line, and try to apply it to my own life whenever possible. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Happy post-Fourth of July week, readers and moviegoers! We are seeing lots of films debut this month, and I’ve included some of the summaries up front so you can judge for yourself. One of the things that I’m excited about is the line-up on Turner Classic this month, which is showing so many of the great Hitchcock classics in July. Make sure, especially if you haven’t seen them, to set the DVR to record some of the top films: Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, Notorious, and many more.
Armchair Film Fest: The Hitchcock list of films on TCM is phenomenal. They start with his early silent work and run through his classics all month long. This is definite fodder for the Armchair Film Festival devotee. The Armchair Film Fest is my favorite kind of film festival personally! One thing has always stuck with me in the biography and studies of Hitchcock-Hitchcock was asked about his penchant for horror films, and what his idea of something that was really funny would be. He said that a party where the food was all dyed blue was something that struck him as hilarious. There are some people that are originals. Hitchcock was a one of a kind, unique character in films-one who will never be replicated.
Also on TCM this Saturday, one of the films that is certainly unique, is the comedy with Eleanor Parker, who is remembered as the Baroness in The Sound of Music. She stars with Robert Taylor in Many Rivers to Cross. The film is light and at times a “fluff piece”, but the portrayal of a strong pioneer woman by Parker remains one of the highlights of the era.
Most of the fifties women were at times even sycophantic in their deference to men. Parker plays this role with a gusto and a physical presence that makes it memorable for most women of the 21st Century to relate to the character.
Some of the political films playing this month will also seem tailor made to this era in our political life. They are showing the original The Manchurian Candidate which was thought to have been banned at the time due to the controversial content. It turns out, that wasn’t accurate, but the film wasn’t seen for many years, due to contractual agreements. It is a very gripping 1962 Cold War thriller about a U.S soldier who is captured and brainwashed to be used as a political assassin.
The other film for Armchair Film Fest is Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy. I would invite anyone, on the left or right, to watch this great classic with the memorable opening soundtrack pulling the camera back with the folk spiritual “Old Time Religion” playing solemnly as the shot pans to small town, USA . In this case, it’s a small town where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was held in Dayton, Tennessee, and Tracy delivers one of his best performances as the distinguished lawyer Henry Drummond, who is defending a high school science teacher, (played by Dick York), who was teaching the theory of evolution in his class. The film is powerful, as is the message which is derived from the play of the same name. We are still debating the Evolutionary theory with the creationists defending their viewpoint well into the 21st Century.
What’s Playing: Here’s a quote about the film, Okja, which says a lot. The film has generated a lot of good buzz, but ….”somewhere in here lies a great film wanting to come out” This review and more are featured in this week’s 6 Degrees magazine. Here’s a recap of the plot.
The Plot of Okja: A CEO-played by Tilda Swinton, announces that a new breed of super-pig has been developed. A cross between a pig and a hippotamus has been created with the animal having the disposition of a puppy. The purpose of breeding them is to solve the world’s food shortage, and to create an eco-friendly food source. Twenty-six super pigs are to be grown over a period of ten years as the corporation has a competition. At the end, they will be taken back to America to be hailed as a success.
Okja is the name of the pig raised in South Korea by a young girl, who bonds with the animal. In the end, the film is a cross between Animal Farm, Charlotte’s Web, The Yearling, and a slew of films that come to mind about kids and their pets.
The Big Sick has been getting lots of good reviews. It’s an updated modern-day version of a romantic comedy. The two lovers are star-crossed, with their life situations updated for the modern era. He is a comedian and a Muslim, and she is a WASP. They break up and are reunited when he learns she is sick and going to be placed into a medically-induced coma. At this point, he must confront his deeper feelings for her and reconcile his hostility to commitment with his love for her. And there is comedy! Holly Hunter plays the mother and Ray Romano is the father of the sick girl. So there are laughs to be had along the way. We haven’t seen too many good rom-com’s since When Harry met Sally, so this is a re-fashioned kind of plot for the new age.
Spider-Man:Homecoming has also debuted over the holiday weekend. And Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is reviewed on the Macguffin site, as well as the afore-mentioned films.
Film Comment has a post on The Dirty Dozen, released in 1967. It was a landmark war movie, but not really in the same class as Saving Private Ryan or even The Longest Day. The Stranger, also from 1967, is reviewed and it’s another 1967 release, starring Marcello Mastroianni. Based on The Stranger by Albert Camus, it has rarely been seen since its release, due to distribution rights disputes. It is faithful to the book by Camus, and is generally regarded favorably by critics who’ve seen it.

Baby Driver is still making waves with critics this week. And the independent The Little Hours is reviewed favorably on rogerebert.com.  Will Ferrell’s The House has bombed badly, with a quote in a review reading: “movies require scripts.” Ouch.
Critically Speaking: There’s a podcast from Vanity Fair titled: “How Hollywood Ruined Zombies, According to George A Romero”. And there’s an interesting post from Barron’s: “Is Hollywood Finally Desperate Enough to Give up on Theaters?” The thinking here is that since there is a massive wave of talent and energy moving to the small screen, in the form of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and others, that eventually it will make more financial sense to release them to the cable pay-tv audience format. To have on-demand movies simultaneously available for the home viewing audience. I hate to tell these people, but we are just about there now. There simply isn’t a lot of lag time from the debut at the theater to the home screen.
Vox has released a list of 50 films that we are supposed to be excited about yet to be released this year. One of my big beefs is with the titles that list this incredible number of films that are supposed to be: the best of the year, the century, the top 50 films in Sci-fi, the top 100 action films, etc. I have a top 100 list of best films in my book, 6 Degrees, but that is from all films-starting at the turn of theth Century. I cannot believe that there are 50 really good films lurking out there waiting to be released this year, but there are a few that I did agree on regarding 2017 releases.
A Ghost Story has been getting good buzz from the Sundance debut. It stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. Dunkirk is coming soon, with Tom Hardy, and directed by Christopher Nolan.
The Dark Tower is the Stephen King adaptation that has been long awaited by fans of the serial novels. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey star in the horror/fantasy/action/adventure…and oh yes, Western! Epic. Ingrid goes West was another popular Sundance Film Fest release, said to be dark and funny, with Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. Another Stephen King adaptation is It, releasing on September 8th. The sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is coming this fall and Colin Firth returns along with Taron Egerton.
Blade Runner 2049 is coming in October, with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Much anticipated, this one is set 30 years after the first film debuted. Also in October, a biopic of the Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, in a courtroom drama depicting one of his biggest cases, defending a black chauffeur accused of sexual assault and attempted murder.
The Holiday Season is anticipated to begin early with Murder on the Orient Express dropping on November 10th. Kenneth Branagh directs the Agatha Christie remake with an all-star cast. Also in November, the indie film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri looks interesting, with a cast including the great Frances McDormand, of Fargo fame.
Pixar has Coco debuting in November, a children’s movie with a cast of Hispanic and Latino actors. But nothing will matter after December 15th, because as everyone knows, Star Wars sucks all the oxygen out of the room! Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuts and that is almost all she wrote. Still….Steven Spielberg is directing a film about the Pentagon Papers, a timely subject for this era where we hear lots of rumbling about the days of Watergate and the sixties. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in this one. Opening on Christmas Day: The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman, about the life of P.T. Barnum.
And also at Christmas, the soon to be retiring Daniel Day Lewis is reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) in a film called Phantom Thread, set in the world of fashion during the fifties.
That’s a wrap for this week, folks! I’m looking forward to some of these big screen releases, as well as the Hitchcock Armchair Film Fest all this month on TCM. Stay tuned later this week as we offer a complimentary download of my Hitchcock chapter on my 6 Degrees blog site. See you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOTHappy Fourth of July to all who are going to be celebrating this weekend! 6 Degrees Magazine has some reviews of the big Blockbuster movies out over the holiday weekend.

Critically Speaking: Despicable Me 3 has had mixed reviews, as has the Sofia Coppola remake of The Beguiled with Nicole Kidman. The Netflix film Okja, has garnered some good reviews, as has the action flick Baby Driver with Ansel Elgort and Lily James. The dark comedy about randy nuns, The Little Hours, an adaptation of a 14th century collection of novellas known as “The Decameron”, hasn’t fared well with critics.

Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are starring in The House, a comedy about a suburban couple who start a casino to raise money for their daughter’s college tuition. Wonder Woman is still a dominating force at the box office, and we are seeing some trailers for the upcoming releases…

Trailers are out for the Jumanji remake, as well as Dunkirk, the war drama set for release July 21st. There’s one for Emily Blunt’s  My Little Pony: The Movie with lots of pastel ponies floating around…making a colorful splash. The multi-talented Hugh Jackman is starring in a musical biopic of P. T. Barnum, and the trailer looks promising.

About Bond: One of the things that bring in the most comments of all film articles in the magazine are pieces about the hunt for the new James Bond actor, and the ongoing discussion of some of the greatest portrayals of Bond on film. I must say, it sometimes gets surprisingly intense I’ll have to admit to being a fan of Timothy Dalton’s Bond, which is apparently sacrilegious. The pecking order, as always, begins with Sean Connery, and the most widely accepted list goes from Connery to Moore to Brosnan to Craig, with few giving even passing remarks to Dalton in  The Livng Daylights  and his follow-up (much weaker film) License to Kill.

Coming Soon: Some of the buzz in Hollywood openings is for the new Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Tom Holland in the starring role. War for the Planet of the Apes is continuing the series; and Dunkirk, as mentioned above, will be much anticipated with director Christopher Nolan and starring Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles of One Direction fame.

Catherine Deneuve returns to the screen in The Midwife. The Big Sick has been garnering good reviews, being hailed as one of the best rom-coms (romantic comedies) of 2017. The release is set for July 14th. And for something completely different, there’s a documentary about Syria that has been garnering lots of praise tackling one of the tragedies of our modern world, the ongoing war in Syria. The film is called City of Ghosts, and it’s set for release on July 7th.

In Hollywood, there has been some progress made in swelling the ranks of the Academy members to include a more diverse group of judges for the future. 800 new members were issued invitations, but the march of progress is interminably slow.

Due out in July, 6 Degrees has an article about an upcoming book on the noted film critic James Agee. The collected writings of Agee have been compiled by Charles Maland, the film historian. Agee also wrote screenplays, most notably The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter.Agee died in 1955, and many of his Time magazine reviews were compiled in the book, Agee on Film. This book will be a more comprehensive look at his body of work as a film critic from the thirties until his death in the fifties. The book, “James Agee: Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays and Manuscripts” should be an interesting read. Another book on film, ‘Showman of the Screen: Joseph E. Levine and His Revolutions in Film” is also recently released. Levine was a legendary producer and promoter in the 20th Century, producing films as diverse as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956 to The Graduate in 1967. That’s Hollywood for you! Speaking of The Graduate, 6 Degrees features an article on Dustin Hoffman’s greatest performances. The Graduate, his big debut as a major star, can never be overlooked.

Of note: Carl Reiner will appear in a new HBO documentary If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, with Reiner looking for stories of people who are not just getting by but are thriving in their advanced years. Reiner is funny in everything, so this should be good for some laughs as well as making a statement about how we sometimes tend to overlook people in their Golden Years and what they might still be able to achieve.

One last thought: This is about some of the articles that I have had the privilege of editing and reading to present in the weekly newsletter and in the magazine. Some of the writing leaves much to be desired, particularly when the titles contain grammatical errors and again when some of the titles are contrived to be dubbed “click-worthy”-known as click-bait.
It’s hard to write something off the cuff, and that’s true for bloggers as well as for news writers and opinion writers…all of us who write on deadline on a weekly basis. But one of my personal “beefs” is the ever-present Search Engine rules that are always looking for the correct formula to achieve the approval of the internet overlords, but fail to factor in rational thinking or critical writing.

Many of these stories are passed over by the editor of 6 Degrees on a weekly, if not daily basis. That editor is, of course, myself, and if my own writing doesn’t hold itself up to a higher standard, then I would ask other bloggers and writers to also have some hard and fast rules to follow when writing and reviewing other articles about film and writing in the ever-increasing blogosphere.

If there are interesting stories out there on film, I certainly do want to hear about them and read about them. However, there is no amount of money that will compel me to become beholden to those who are simply looking to exploit certain algorithms or data-driven polls to include the worst of banal claptrap that passes for film criticism or blogging about anything, for that matter.

Having stated all that, I invite everyone to have a wonderful Fourth of July Holiday weekend, having fun at barbeques and picnics on the beach, and of course, at the movies! We will be back next week, with a review of “House” with Will Ferrell. Until then, readers, see you at the movies!

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix-The Mother’s Day Edition

6 Degrees of Film

I’ve been thinking about some of the ways films have portrayed Motherhood over the course of the past 100 years in Hollywood history. What a wide arc of role models we have in Hollywood films that portray Moms. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of my favorite on-screen portrayals of Mom come to mind.
Moms on Screen:  I loved Glenn Close as Robin William’s mom in The World According to Garp. Close was the wise and caring mother who advised her son early in life that childhood without a Dad wasn’t a handicap he needed to bear. Then there was the wise Mother Superior who advised the young novice Maria in The Sound of Music to follow where her heart led her and to climb every mountain.

The mother of the movement, Sarah Conner from both the Terminator and Terminator 2 inspired a world-wide rebellion. There was actress Maureen O’Hara, the ultimate model of the working mom way back in 1947 who paved the way in the original Miracle on 34th Street. And there are the mothers who inspired us and gave us hope. The Victorian model for mothering was seen in Mary Astor in Meet Me in St. Louis. The cool ex-hippie version was played by Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. And there was Shirley Maclaine’s loopy and self-absorbed character seen in Postcards from the Edge. There is the self-sacrificing mother. That leads us back to Shirley MacLaine, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of a mother fighting for her dying daughter in Terms of Endearment. Sally Fields has played several versions of this. From  Forrest Gump to Steel Magnolias, she has been the epitome of a Mom with heart who was willing to sacrifice everything for her child.

Hollywood has portrayed Motherhood in all of its forms. But they seem to excel at telling the story from 1000 feet up, which is not a surprise, as the male-dominated field of Hollywood producers and story-tellers still hasn’t permeated our mindsets enough to change the culture in a meaningful way. There have been great and powerful women in Hollywood with powerful portrayals of mothers and strong female leads, but the trends and the statistics still point to a male-dominated industry that makes it hard for female directors and writers to break through. Still, there are signs of progress. More people are becoming aware of the disparity between the female directors and the female writers and story-tellers than ever before.

Coming Soon: Meanwhile, we are still gearing up for some of the big summer releases. Wonder Woman is one of the big openers; War Machine stars Brad Pitt in a war satire from Netflix; and Blade Runner 2049 will star Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, who is returning in the character of Deckard.

Critically Speaking: Movies released recently include Guardians of the Galaxy 2-which has seen favorable reviews; Snatched with Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer-this comedy has had mixed reviews. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has struggled also, particularly with critics like Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calling it a “King-sized pile of crap.”

There’s an Australian film about serial killers called Hounds of Love, which has been called disturbing by many reviewers. Alien: Covenant has also received some mixed reviews, as films that have followed the original story have found it hard to replicate the unique and complex undertones seen in Alien and Aliens.

There are some early signs of promise, such as favorable reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but they can’t really bring back the box office magic found in years past with huge blockbuster hits waiting to be previewed. There are interesting films, there’s films debuting at Cannes with lots of potential, but nothing on the horizon screams “Glory Days” to the fading Hollywood blockbuster model.

Some of the upcoming films of summer feature interesting actors: Harry Styles will make his acting debut in Dunkirk; Sofia Boutella-the girl with the blades for legs in Kingsman: The Secret Service will trade the blades for linen wrappings in Tom Cruise’s upcoming remake of The Mummy. Boutella also has a role in Charlize Theron’s action film Atomic Blonde.

From the Festivals: Sofia Coppola will debut at Cannes Film Festival her remake of the Clint Eastwood vehicle from the 70’s, the Civil War film The Beguiled, which stars Nicole Kidman. The Chicago Critics Film Festival also runs this week- May 12-18th. And the Canadian International Documentary Festival has just wrapped, running from April 27-May 7th.

About Documentaries: I would urge any film goer to rent or even check out from the library some of the best films that are made in any genre, the documentaries. Films portraying the life of Harvey Milk: The Times of Harvey Milk from 1984; plus one of my personal favorite’s: The Fog of War, Michael Moore’s documentary on Columbine: Bowling for Columbine and his earliest piece Roger & Me. No matter what your political leanings are, some of these films are vital to telling a story and getting out of the way as they let the scenes unfold and allow you to make up your own mind. Don’t allow the bias of any political lens that you possess to prevent watching some of these gems. The left and the right need to know more about some of the particulars that documentaries pluck out of the fiber of the story as we watch details unseen in traditional, linear film-making formats.

Enough said on my “See more Documentaries” soapbox for the week! I’ve now plugged classic black and white films, Film Noir, and have moved on to the Documentary category. Next plug….could be strong women characters in film or my love of classic Westerns! Who Knows?

One last thing: Molly Haskell’s piece on Robert De Niro in Film Comment is worth checking out. Read it in the 6 Degrees of Film magazine this week. I’m hoping to be checking out some of the early summer releases this week-maybe even that “King-sized pile of crap” also known as King Arthur. I’ll let you know and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Coming to the end of April, we are beginning the film festival season with the conclusion of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and the advent of Cannes in May. Accompanying this is the kickoff of the Summer Film season, formerly known as Blockbuster season. There are a few interesting entries, but what has piqued my interest this past week has been some background research, which I periodically do, into the highest grossing films lists. They give us clues into our own culture as it lays out in stark numbers what people are flocking to see, both currently and, as we will see, over the longer term, what movies people love the most!

What it says about us:  These numbers come from the site that does nothing but reveal the box office gross for the films of the past week, as well as of all time. There are two lists that we should pay attention to when thinking about films in general. One is the current standings for the highest grossing films. These are the top 10 currently :

Avatar; Titanic; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Jurassic World; The Avengers: Furious 7; The Avengers: Age of Ultron; Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1; Frozen and Iron Man 3.

Director James Cameron has the top two spots. The comic book world and Marvel Cinematic Universe dominate with three of the top 10 on this list. Sadly, movies made before the turn of the 21st Century seem to be passe.  Only Titanic has managed to cling to the top ten, still at number two. Star Wars is huge! Harry Potter is still relevant, and Girlpower has come into its own with Frozen’s appeal.

The other list is the all time highest grossing films adjusted for inflation. This includes the following:

  1. Gone With The Wind  3.4 Bill- 1939
  2. Avatar 3.2 Bill-2009
  3. Titanic 2.5 Bill-1997
  4. The Sound of Music 2.3 Bill-1965
  5. ET 2.3 Bill-1982
  6. Dr. Zhivago 2.0 Bill-1965
  7. Jaws 2.0 Bill-1975
  8. Snow White 1.8 Bill – 1937

It tells us that romance is not dead. Classic romantic tales of doomed lovers still sell tickets. James Cameron is still huge! Star Wars is always going to be on the list, and Spielberg makes it into the pantheon with Jaws and ET making the list.

Girlpower somehow still makes its voice known, especially to young girls who, since 1937, have been empowered by the tale of a young determined woman who survives in the woods alone with seven small dwarfs. The lone musical on the list (not counting Disney’s animation) is The Sound of Music, which has seen the sound of cash coming in for decades now. I’m a big fan of this film, but realize that some people consider it as nails against the chalkboard.

Some of the surprises on the list of top grossing films, listed on the site….and going through the top 50 are, at least for me, that James Bond is still a heavy hitter with Skyfall and Spectre making the list.  Johnny Depp is still making the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels ad nauseum. Why? The movies keep turning up in the top grossing films of all time.

Some other surprises for me: A film I liked but is still controversial in the Star Wars Pantheon is Star Wars: The Phantom Menace-Episode I with Liam Neeson. It is the third highest grossing Star Wars film of all time. Go figure.

I was surprised that The Jungle Book live action remake from 2016 is in the top 50 highest grossing films. I liked it, but it still surprised me to see the numbers.  Other surprises were that the original Jurassic Park is still in the top 25…The Dark Knight Rises in in the top 20- of all Batman films…and as bad as reviews were for Batman vs Superman it’s in the top 50 highest grossing of all time

No surprise about the number of sequels listed. And there was a complaint last week from a reader who couldn’t open a list (neither could I) from a site that touted the top Billion dollar grossing films of all time.

Well, it turns out that ALL of the films on the highest grossing films list up to #30- Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone on up- all made 1 Billion dollars or more. Here’s the link again. It’s a depressing fact of life that Hollywood will continue to manufacture virtually the same films over and over as long as people pay good money to see them.

And another depressing fact for those of us who love film, the history of film, and in particular, films that were made in the twentieth century. The oldest film on the top 50 highest grossing films was Jurassic Park, made in 1993. Very few films before the turn of the century are on this list.

Speaking of surprises, in our magazine, 6 Degrees of Film, the comments about the buzz surrounding the pick for a new James Bond actor were intense. Some of the fans of Tom Hardy and Clive Owen weighed in, and both of these picks have my wholehearted endorsement!

The controversy of Idris Elba taking the role to become the first black James Bond continues. There were some mixed feelings about this, but he is a talented actor who would infuse the role with some much needed energy.

One comment from reader g Nelson was: “…enough with the juvenile movies based on comic books meant for an 8 year old.” Here, here Mr. Nelson! In the book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is a section devoted to the concern that filmmakers (Peter Bogdanovich is attributed with the quote) had about the “juvenization” of movies that was taking place. This has been an ongoing concern for many serious directors and film auteurs going on about forty years now.

Coming to the end of April, the films that are being released are still considered either Indie or those small scale films that lead us into the next season. And today most film sites are honoring the immensely talented director Jonathon Demme, who has died at the age of 73.

Hollywood Buzz: Upon learning of the death of director Jonathon Demme, many film sites such as Rolling Stone have listed some of Demme’s best work. Here’s a partial list: His documentaries: Swimming to Cambodia; Stop Making Sense and Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains; the comedies: Melvin & Howard; Something Wild and Married to the Mob. His masterpiece: The Silence of the Lambs, and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate plus his last film, Ricki & the Flash-released in 2015. Many stars and legends have been weighing in on this extraordinary director, dead at the age of 73, most notably Jodie Foster and The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Critics Review: The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks has mostly poor reviews. Summer movies are still being rolled out, and in mid-may, our Summer Newsletter will have a listing of some of the most promising picks. This week, Ebert.com reviews Obit  a documentary about the New York Times obituary department. The Promise is also reviewed favorably on Ebert.com. The highest grossing Spanish language film in US history: Instructions Not Included from 2013 has been remade as How to Be a Latin Lover, and it’s scheduled for release this week.

One of the most positive films in terms of reviews this week is The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, a film about a boxer that was made in Finland and shot in black and white. (See my remarks about black and white from a couple of weeks ago!)

Critically Speaking: One interesting perspective in Film Comment comes from Mark Harris, the critic and author of the 2008, Pictures at a Revolution. Harris has explored the changing culture through the production and filming of five of 1967’s Best Picture Oscar nominees. The films were Bonnie and Clyde; The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and Doctor Doolittle And continuing on that theme, he examines the Audrey Hepburn/Albert Finney film: Two for the Road, which can be described as uneven at times. It’s an interesting concept, again explored at length in 6 Degrees, as the counter revolution of the sixties swept all aspects of our culture, most especially through the films released in this period.

We had some discussion of the classic Bonnie and Clyde, a few weeks back, which was the film that launched the great film critic Pauline Kael’s career, as she praised the ground-breaking film at the time.

Martin Scorsese is returning to his directing roots and filming The Irishman, with De Niro, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, which may prove that this famed director of Raging Bull and Goodfellas perhaps is best when he’s in his element-gangsters and tough guys from New York.

The top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival went to Keep the Change, a love story about autism that starred people who are diagnosed with autism. And to keep the controversy rolling, Cannes 2017 has added the convicted child molestor and film director Roman Polanski’s latest movie Based on a True Story, to their official selections. We’ll see if the protests are again going to keep Polanski out of the running in the end.

And finally, it’s hard to believe they are celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Austin Powers release. The film is one that was based on the idea of a retro look at the swinging sixties, and is still fresh and funny twenty years later. Oh, Behave!

Best to all as we head into the Summer Film Season and a new month. See you at the movies!-ML

 

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

So…is the movie Good or Bad? That is the question coming from one spot-on commentator in our 6 Degrees magazine from this past week asking about the reviews for the film “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson. There are plenty of mixed reviews for this one, and the consensus was that they used the term “whitewash” to the extent that the film was buried somewhere in the lead….

But the bottom line is that all that may be overcome if the film has good “buzz”. And this film did not. There are plenty of reviews out there that are mixed for most of the films. It’s always a question of the audience preferences, and there have been several films in recent years that have bombed in the U.S. and done quite well overseas

Some examples are: John Carter; The Golden Compass; After Earth; Poseidon; Water World; The Wolverine and Pacific Rim. Some films don’t hold up well, some are big hits but fade fast from memory. The dirty little secret we all must concede is that film reviews are highly subjective, and with the amount of film blogs and posts out there, you can usually find even the worst reviewed film with at least one critic who actually likes it!

The other comment comes from Sir Smoke regarding the posit from an article stating that New Horror films are better than ever….Sir Smoke simply said, “No. New Horror Sucks”. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who was raised on Hitchcock…and with the idea that the best elements of horror are found in the simplest of details, some of the latest horror films don’t seem to rely on the simple ingredients that made Hitchcock the master of suspense. These details, the things that make for the best components that create horror in the mind and on the screen are somehow lacking in most of the new age horror films.

Simple elements of suspense are found in all of Hitchcock and in films like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Tingler, Carnival of Souls or George C.Scott’s 1980 film, The Changeling. In this latter one, the simple act of rolling a small red ball down a flight of stairs is listed in ‘The Horror Digest” blog as one of the scariest moments on film. Such a simple act and yet…the horror!

On Critical Thinking: There’s a piece called, “Just review the Damn movie” this month that speaks to a lot of the political correctness surrounding recent films with issues such as diversity and whitewashing. Some of the films that are striving to portray women and people of color or those in the LGBT community with dignity and accuracy are at odds with most of the history of film. And for that matter, the history of the United States and the rest of the planet as well!

There are some big problems facing Hollywood these days. These are addressed in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine written by Bill Mechanic, the CEO of Pandemonium Films and featured on Deadline.com. The problems surrounding what has become the Hollywood machine includes top executives leaving the major studios like Paramount and Sony. The “Tent-Pole Films” (Defined as films that are big expensive draws for global audiences and are designed to spawn multiple sequels) are not producing the results in many cases that were expected. Big, expensive movies that flop after huge amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into the making of them, mean that somebody’s head will roll when the bottom line looks bleak.

The phrase for some of these less than promising films is the “get-around-to it” movies-meaning you’ll get around to seeing them on Netflix or the small screen. We’ve all seen plenty of films in that category…

The changing nature of the business is part of the entire work force that has to adapt to change. Disney has proven to be a major Disruptor by taking much of the market share. They have bet on big brands, Pixar and Star Wars plus Marvel Studios, and it has become harder for other studios to compete. It’s become in essence the Wal-Mart effect for the Movie Industry.

Is the movie business in denial, as one writer from The Verge posted recently? Some six of the seven major Hollywood studios are negotiating to release their films on home video barely three weeks after the theatrical release date. Virtual Reality is another focus for the business, with major theaters touting the VR experience as a way to counter slumping ticket sales. This is part of the aforementioned long-term trending. The idea that most brick and mortar buildings now housing movie theaters may become akin to the arcades of old, with other entertainment options featured along with films, is now taking hold. This may be the wave of the future…

The Armchair Film Fest: For the month of April, there are some great films to set your designated machine to record: Recommended are The Miracle Worker, Hannah and her sisters, Ivanhoe, Harvey, The Set Up, A Hard Day’s Night, Funny Girl, Please Don’t eat the Daisies and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Watch the 6 Degrees magazine for reviews on these films if you’ve never seen them…

All of these films are on Turner Classic, which is great because there’s no commercial interruptions. One other noticeable difference on the Turner Classic site is that they’ve finally said goodbye to Movie Morlocks and have an upgraded blog site: Streamline, which has a much cleaner look and some interesting reviews- the short films of Harold Lloyd and Wuthering Heights vs Jane Eyre-all featured on our 6 Degrees Magazine site this week.

Two master film makers are mentioned in a post about the most difficult scenes to film Director Stanley Kubrick did one small scene in “The Shining” over 148 takes. But Chaplin was most notorious for his perfectionist style-one scene in “City Lights”, just a short time on the screen, took him an astonishing 340 times for the girl to say the line, “Flower, sir?” to Chaplin. Food for thought the next time the boss demands your attention to detail!

Finally, the magazine features reviews of Barbarella with Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola’s first major picture, Finian’s Rainbow, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Going in Style (the latter didn’t get great reviews).

There’s a post listing the best films of Al Pacino, and one piece on the many plot holes found in Marvel pictures. Those who read me regularly can see me smiling, as we all know that the main reason for Marvel pictures isn’t to tie up loose endings and create logical plot points!

There’s also a post that lists the best films about World War I, in honor of America’s 100th Anniversary of our entrance into WWI. The one thing I do take issue with is the inclusion of one of my favorite films: Lawrence of Arabia. Although it’s true that the film does depict war scenes and occurs during WWI, this film isn’t really part of the European war that was fought on the continent. So technically, it may be included, but it’s not one that immediately springs to mind when I think about the Great War. Galipoli, Sergeant York, and Paths of Glory yes-but not Lawrence!

I’m thinking about the Summer Movies a bit early this year. Some look very promising, and we’ll talk more about them in the coming weeks. Also recommended is a good book on film- Talking Pictures-by the Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday.

I’ll be back next time with more of the latest from the La La Land of filmdom. Till then, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

Today in the Friday Flix, we’ve got some more reviews for the Beauty and the Beast film, which was Number One at the box office this week. Kong: Skull Island (my review is on 6 Degrees-waiting for small screen was my recommendation) is still doing well. There’s a piece from Mubi.com about the entire spectrum of Kong films beginning with the original 1933 version.

There’s an interesting post from the A.V. Club that reflects on the films that best embody the 90’s. That’s a fascinating concept in my opinion, and a good one to ponder. What are some of the films that embody your high school years; the American Dream; your own visions of life and/or romance and success…the thought experiment can go on and on.

I’m going to extend this out to ask readers, as the A.V. Club does, to reflect on the films that embody their youth. We can continue to expand that with the films that reflect the past and depict life in America or the changing global vision…these are all good questions to ask when we think about films that impact our lives. More on this next week…

There are reviews in the 6 Degrees magazine for Trainspotting 2, Elle, the classic Kubrick film, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to stop worrying and love the bomb; Wilson, Cinema Paradiso, The Eyes of My Mother, the wonderful Noir film from 1944, Laura (one of my personal favorite film noirs!), and Life with Jake Gyllenhaal.

There’s a piece this week that discusses the accusation that the website Rotten Tomatoes has become the final arbiter affecting the outcomes of new films. The irony is that in days of old, that was the knock on many of our finest critics. My thinking is that if a movie’s premise sounds interesting, or you really want to see it, and/or if a movie gets good “buzz” or word-of-mouth movement, then the negative reviews from one source shouldn’t affect your decision to see a film. It doesn’t affect mine, and the dirty secret is, as we all know, critics don’t always get it right, folks.

There is a piece from the excellent site: Filmschoolrejects.com, about the origins in the Beauty and the Beast myth that trace back to the Jean Cocteau film La Belle et la Bete.

Fem Flicks: The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has set up a rating to help promote women in film and support and advance their work. There will be a Women’s Media Summit also this month that honors the work of women filmmakers. Both of these articles are found in 6 Degrees of film magazine.

Coming Soon: The L.A. Times has ten movies that are good enough to generate Oscar buzz already, so check out the post and see what you think. That’s the great thing about film. We can all stop and think about the films that affect our lives; there’s the good and the bad ones, the silly and funny ones, the fabulous ones and the classic unforgettable films as well as the very forgettable ones.

My homework this week is going to be to answer the question posed earlier in this post…. The list of films that affect our lives, that shape our views, and have made an impact on us. The post asks us to look at films of the nineties, but we need to look at the Big Picture and include films from several decades past to square this circle.

Looking forward to hearing more about what our readers think regarding films that impact your lives…Have a great weekend, friends, and see you at the movies!-ML