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

6 Degrees of Film: Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

This week there are mixed reviews out for the new live-action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson as Belle the Beauty and Dan Stevens as the Beast. The knock on this is that it’s a CGI version of the exact story that was made so well back in 1991. So now they are re-creating it with live actors and CGI. A remake that falls shot of the original, but isn’t really terrible…hmm, that is not an original story in Hollywood.

There are reviews for not only Beauty & the Beast, but also Kong: Skull Island and Get Out featured in the online 6 Degrees of film magazine. I have a short review of Kong: Skull Island set to preview this week, but in case the suspense is killing you, know that it is recommended to wait for the small screen where you may safely scroll through to the big fight scene.

On this St. Patrick’s Day, they always trot out the predictable Irish film list. It’s a fairly short list, but The Quiet Man, from 1953, is usually at the top of most of them.  And I agree, it’s a great film about Ireland, filmed on location and is a beautiful movie both in storyline and visuals. One of the missing points rarely mentioned is the strong female lead from Maureen O’Hara. She plays a young bride who is torn between her brother and loyalty to family and her love for her new husband, played by John Wayne. And even though she is literally dragged kicking and screaming to the final resolution, she is seen as a strong, funny, smart and never cowed Irish woman with a mind of her own. This was quite a feat for the time period when this film was made and Director John Ford brought out all the best elements of O’Hara’s character to create this unique early model of feminism and strength. There’s a review from Filmsite on 6 Degrees that details much of the background of the making of this film.

One other thought about St. Patrick’s movie madness for my Armchair Film Devotees-rent the film, “The Playboys” with Aidan Quinn, Albert Finney, and a young and beautiful Robin Wright. Made in 1992, the film is a romantic drama surrounding a group of touring actors who descend on a quiet Irish village and disrupt their normally placid lives. This is one to add to the usual list of Irish must-see films to break out on St. Patrick’s Day.

From the Past: The Origin stories-a term of late for back stories that are fleshed out and made into feature films. Turner Classic is showing some of the great ones through the month of March. The term “to Gaslight someone” or to cloud someone’s vision of reality is taken from the film, Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Directed by George Cukor, it’s still a classic tale.

Frankenstein & The Mummy, both with Boris Karloff, are shown this month. The original vampire story, Nosferatu, a silent film directed by the legendary F. W. Murnau, is shown. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was remade recently by Martin Scorsese and starred Leo DiCaprio (Shutter Island).

Humphrey Bogart became a film star, a gangster, after starring in the play, “The Petrified Forest” and then the film version with Leslie Howard, who declared he wouldn’t make the film without Bogart. Bogey was so grateful he named his daughter Leslie, after his friend. And years later, after laboring for many years pigeon-holed as a tough guy, Bogart got his big break in a leading man role starring in Casablanca, in 1942, with Ingrid Bergman.

The original Pink Panther film, that launched so many terrible sequels and a few funny ones, starred not only Peter Sellers but also David Niven, and was directed by Blake Edwards. King Kong was made in 1933 and made a star of Fay Wray. It is still probably the best version of the story.

Bonnie & Clyde was a huge hit for Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and it also made the career of the noted film critic Pauline Kael, who loved the film and was hired by the New Yorker during this time period. Kael was ascending as a critic at the same time as the New York Times fired their long-time movie critic Bosley Crowther, who hated the film, and had vehemently panned it. Bonnie and Clyde was considered hip, and a product of the new age of film makers coming into their own in the sixties. Violence and sex were still taboo subjects for the mass audience, and Director Arthur Penn’s edgy production was considered cutting edge for its day.

Finally in March for TCM, there’s two films that routinely make the top ten lists for film critics- The Wizard of Oz from 1939, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1968. These two are definitely on my personal list.

There’s a biography in 6 Degrees magazine paying tribute again to the TCM host Robert Osborne, who died this past month. Some film legends and critics are irreplaceable. Robert Osborne, Pauline Kael, and Roger Ebert all fall into this category. The documentary about Roger Ebert,Life Itself”, is featured in an article on Ebert.com that we highlight in 6 Degrees.

Another exciting feature on the Ebert site is the Women Writers Week, which premieres during the last week of March where they will be showcasing the work of their team of women writers and critics. As mentioned, Pauline Kael was one of the pioneers in film criticism for decades, and her voice, along with Ebert’s, is sorely missed. At a time when more and more publications and news organizations are ditching their staff, we need to focus and promote the great work done by both men and women who write for blogs, online movie sites and other publications where at times, they are paid little or nothing to continue to build up the craft of film criticism and to speak out and promote the arts.

Shout out to my good friend and colleague: Professor Futon Spoonin-who curates the wonderful Flipboard mag: Film 101: Classic Cinema to Celluloid…. Prof: I tried to write to you and couldn’t get thru the maze of Flipboard tech-so here it goes….I plead guilty to the charge and simply add that the nature of the beast: Content Curators-means we are always “ripping off” other people’s content! I think even the New York Times conceded they cannot review all of the films out there…so therefore, we must find great and informative content from all sources available.

This week, on St. Patrick’s Day, wishing everyone the best and hoping that the road will rise to meet you and that you find yourself in heaven, one half hour before the Devil knows you’re Dead!-See you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film: Friday Flix

Lately, I’ve been talking about the problems in the Oscar broadcast, as well as the mentality of the entire Academy of Motion Pictures. Other problems are cited this week in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine talking about the obscure Best Picture winners that nobody sees. Moonlight is no exception. It’s the second lowest-grossing winner in history (The Hurt Locker is first!) Spotlight and The Artist were also box office failures. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t good films, or that they will not eventually be recognized. But five of the past eight winners were rather obscure, little known films. There seems to be a pattern emerging here, as I mentioned last week. The Academy needs to rethink their criteria for judging these films, as well as the categories they’ve set up.

What Critics are saying aboutMarch Movies that are being released to DVD or coming to the small screen in 2017 include: Memento; Blazing Saddles; Jurassic Park; This is Spinal Tap; Pete’s Dragon; The BFG; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; The Life Aquatic; Wht’s Eating Gilbert Grape; A Man Called Ove; Sweden- Sing; Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them; Passengers; Miss Sloane; Assassin’s Creed;Elle; Silence; Patriot’s Day and Midnight in Paris.

The Logan spinoff film with Hugh Jackman has had generally good reviews. Kong: Skull Island has also opened to favorable reviews. Get Out, a Horror/Thriller directed by Jordan Peele, has been given almost perfect scores from Rotten Tomatoes, and has earned some rave reviews. The romantic comedy Table 19 has, on the other hand, been generally panned across the board. The Great Wall with Matt Damon has also been panned and considered a flop. Finally, there is a long-read on the Some Came Running site in praise of the Martin Scorsese film Silence, recently released.

The genre of comic book films was discussed in The Guardian this past week. The critics have come out with a list of favorite superhero films, and they include: Batman from 1989 (my favorite also!); Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Thor: The Dark World and The Dark Knight. All of these are generally well reviewed and represent some of the best in a newly established genre that has had some weak entries in recent years. There are some imaginative possibilities in this category, but the lazier end of the spectrum can provide simply a host of CGI scenes with little chance of clever dialogue or original scripts.

Best of the Web: From the Ebert.com site, there’s a great tribute to the actor Bill Paxton, who died suddenly last week. A piece in Film Comment laments the death of the comic film. One quote said, “Hollywood has perfected {the comic film} using the generic formula and familiarity to generate laughs.” We live in a fast paced and ever changing media environment, and the society has created the need for ever more complex screen stories. We need characters created in classics such as The Thin Man or His Girl Friday, or physical comedy that rivals the early Jim Carrey films or classic Chaplin or Keaton. In other words, the films that pass for comedy these days aren’t really all that funny, and they don’t seem to be trying too hard.

Recommended: Logan, Fences; Lion at the movies. Arrival is recommended for the small screen. And if you like Hugh Jackman, rent the following: Kate & Leopold; Scoop; Les Miserables.

The Big Picture: Movies for 2018 awards are already being mentioned. They include: The Big Sick- A Romantic Comedy with Ray Romano & Holly Hunter; Dunkirk with Tom Hardy. The true story of the massive evacuation known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; Christopher Nolan directs;  and Darkest Hour- Gary Oldman plays Churchill during the Battle of Britain.

The idea that films are somehow immune from the other problems that plague us in society is laughable. We are a divided nation politically, and even, or perhaps especially, our film community illustrates the divide we face. There is always a need for films with clever, witty dialogue, actors who charm and move us in the same breath, films that unite us and great directors who challenge us to look at life in a new and different way. These are the challenges as we move into the future, and as mentioned this past week, these are the types of films that we don’t see often enough. Art has always been about the future, and a new way of looking at life. This is a pivotal moment in the field and craft of film-making, and let us hope that there are artists working today that will rise to the occasion and
bring us together through the great and beautiful art of film-making.

The Night Bonnie & Clyde shut down the Oscars

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6 Degrees of Film

 

After last night’s mix up at the Academy Awards for Best Picture, it illustrates the perfect metaphor for the type of arrested development mentality that has gone into the entire short-sighted thinking of the Academy virtually since its inception. There are so many chances for the group as a body to do the right thing and shake things up. But they continue to stumble their way into the future wearing blinkers.

To illustrate the point, here is a list of the winners for Best Picture from the past 17 years:

 Gladiator- 2000; A Beautiful Mind-2001; Chicago-2002; The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King-2003; Million Dollar Baby-2004; Crash-2005; The Departed-2006; No Country for Old Men-2007; Slumdog Millionaire-2008; The Hurt Locker-2009; The King’s Speech-2010; The Artist-2011; Argo-2012; 12 Years a Slave-2013; Birdman-2014; Spotlight-2015

And within that list, there are a few notable exceptions (a couple of years were skipped because they had such forgettable films). My list would include:

Gladiator: 2000; A Beautiful Mind; 2001- ?2002 who cares: Lost in Translation-2003; The Aviator: 2004; Capote 2005; The Departed-2006; No Country/Juno/There will be Blood- 2007: Slumdog Millionaire-2008; The Hurt Locker-2009; The Social Network-2010; The Artist/Moneyball-2011; 2012: Les Miz or Lincoln; 2013: Gravity/12 Years/Her; 2014: who cares?; 2015: Spotlight/The Big Short/The Revenant

Some of the years had more than one winner. I may simply see this year as a who cares? category. But the overarching theme of the Academy seems to be trying to pick the film with the least long term impact. Since Titanic, there haven’t been too many great films picked.

For films in the 21st Century, I would pick A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, There will be Blood, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, Lincoln, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave, Her, The Big Short, Moneyball & The Blind Side. as films that make a lasting impact from Hollywood.

One standout performer isn’t really an actor or actress. It’s the author, Michael Lewis. He has written three of the films in the past 15 years that have made an impact on our society. The Big ShortMoneyball and The Blind Side are all films made from his books. Spotlight, the winner last year, is an important film in this sense. We are now facing an era where journalistic integrity and truth are questioned from the highest echelons of our society. Therefore, the film that emphasizes seeking the truth at all costs is one that we should continue to promote. It tells us why we should care about journalists getting to the bottom of the story.

Lincoln, although a good and not a great film, was one that Spielberg has said was almost made for the small screen. That is the trend that continues, and perhaps there will be categories in the future for films released in venues other than traditional theaters. That is the wave of the future. There is a changing dynamic in Hollywood and globally, and the Academy is going to have to acknowledge it someday.

The films Inception and The Matrix gave us alternative visions of reality. We saw in Her a film about the very real challenges that isolation of the individual causes in our society. And Juno, about a teen pregnancy, spoke of the changing mores we face. It gave us a new voice as a screenwriter, Diablo Cody, a much needed voice for women. The Hurt Locker broke barriers as Best Director Oscar was given for the first time to a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. And when 12 Years a Slave won for Best Picture, it was an indication that the “Indians were finally fighting back”. Meaning that the concept of the brave white men and women who conquered the West and all of America was given to be a myth that needed to be deflated. There needs to be a new way to understand Hollywood and the concept of movie making in general.

Lost in Translation is a ground-breaking film, also speaking of isolation and giving voice to a different vision, one created by another female director, Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis.  The two films released in the same year, There will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men both dealt with violence and subjects where the film had no hero or anti-hero. The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street also were nihilistic visions, where society is darkly honest, a black hole at times, and the reality is often frighteningly evil. This may be a commentary also of our times, and a way of pushing the audience to the brink of no return. Another commonality in these two latter films is the presence of a great American actor, Leonardo Di Caprio. Only a truly great actor could pull off the nihilistic and dark visions he has given us with any amount of credibility.

Of course, the sequels and serial films, the comic book genres, and all other mass media concepts for film-making still go unacknowledged by the Academy. They seem to be stuck in some time warp where Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable may somehow reappear, courtesy of CGI, and attempt a coup where all the trends and realities of the future are somehow set aside. This is the alternate reality that we see played out yearly with the Academy Awards show.

And although there were some attempts to acknowledge things like “diversity” and globalism, there is a real blinker-visioned reality to the types of awards given out still. Movies ABOUT movies still win a lot. The Artist and Birdman are self-congratulatory vehicles for the most part.  But the Independent filmmakers, the ones honored at Sundance every year, are forging ahead and creating their own paths inHollywood. Why they don’t recognize this and somehow carve out a niche for them is part of the tunnel visioned, short-term thinking that has gone into the Hollywood mind-set for the past forty to fifty years.

It seemed fitting that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway committed the ultimate faux pas by shutting down the stage where usually trite and mundane speeches are trotted out to the sound of bored applause that is routinely bestowed on the lackluster winner of Best Picture. It may be the ultimate for the renegades who brought us “Bonnie and Clyde” in
the sixties. Perhaps its best to say that the films with the greatest
impact have to be seen and then understood even a decade out from their initial release. It’s the shock of the new that sometimes cannot be understood.

We still have great actors working to make movies. Di Caprio is our greatest American actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the greatest of our actors, now deceased. Michael Keaton has made a real comeback as a significant American actor in vital roles from The Founder to Birdman. Tom Hanks has done some good work in Captain Phillips and The Bridge of Spies, and some of his roles have been just mediocre. The call is out for actors who are still here. De Niro, Nicholson, Di Caprio, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch and others working still, need to challenge themselves with roles that Michael Keaton and Denzel Washington have taken on of late. There are parts out there that will interest us and will live on as we look back and see what our society has become as we go further into the 21st Century.

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