6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Hello Film Fans! We are entering an exciting season with lots of awards and film releases that will kick off the start of Awards Season in Hollywood and around the globe. There’s the Sundance Film Festival for Independent films, followed by the Oscars in February and the Cannes Film Festival later in the Spring.

So that means there’s a surfeit of really good movies to see out there (for a change!). I’ve heard good buzz about The Shape of Water, one of my must-see’s, as well as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Spielberg’s The Post.

Other films in contention for top awards include The Florida Project with Willem Dafoe, Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, and Phantom Thread starring Daniel Day Lewis.

The Many Elephants in the Room: These days, there are many ways to be “Politically Incorrect” when talking about film and the Hollywood Studio System. Harvey Weinstein was just the tip of the iceberg which has set off a real earthquake which is long overdue, not only in the famed Halls of Hollywood, but as a National Conversation for Americans to begin in the workplace. At Friday Flix and on the Six Degrees blog, we’ve talked for the past year about the ways in which women are slighted in Hollywood. Not only slighted in the directors’ chair, but in women’s pay, and of course, on the infamous ‘casting couch’ which has become, thanks to serial offenders such as Weinstein, an open secret. So the fact that we are talking about these things is a positive development as we move into 2018.

There’s still a long way to go. And the diversity issue, another well-known open secret in Hollywood, has also become an issue at the Oscars, with #OscarsSoWhite trending, as well as the many barriers which still need to be broken in terms of diversity and gender. For those who believe this is a recent phenomenon, cast your minds back (if you are just a child-use the Google Machine!) to the time that Marlon Brando refused his Best Actor Oscar in 1973 and sent a young Native American woman named Sacheen Littlefeather on stage in full Tribal dress to state the reasons why Brando didn’t want to accept his Academy Award. He was, to say the least, ahead of his time on this issue. And to bring this conversation full circle, there’s a good piece featured in 6 Degrees Magazine from The New Yorker this week that asks: Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?

Looking forward to: Hostiles, the Western with Christian Bale, which has gotten good advance reviews. For more films coming soon, we compiled a list of the 2018 releases that look promising. And Tom Hardy is starring in his own Comic book film, Venom, set to release in October of this year.

The Black Panther film opening next month has received lots of good advance press and has a big following as a long-anticipated comic offering. There’s a list of books set to become films in 2018 that are listed in an article from Bustle, if you feel so inclined to read the plots and compare. There’s a list of best 21st Century films out from Gizmodo. I can’t agree with many of the films listed, but Arrival and Ex Machina, and possibly Let the Right One In would probably make the cut on my list….

I’m working to compile some of the best films of the past two decades. That would be the films of the 21st Century. In my book, 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, there’s an entire section that features the work of George Lucas and his Industrial Light & Magic Studio. The CGI concept of film-making has really revolutionized the industry. As someone said in the book, the ideas and concepts that were simply on paper or in someone’s head can now be conceptualized with the industry’s graphic and computer capability. The only limits now are bound in the limits of the director or filmmaker’s imagination.

My gift to all of the devoted film fans of 6 Degrees is a downloadable Chapter of 6 Degrees of Film: From Star Wars to Sin City. If you’d like a copy, please sign up here for the Friday Flix and the upcoming Oscar Newsletter, and you’ll get link to receive a copy of the chapter from my book. I’ve got other upcoming gifts for Film Fans in 2018, and hope to hear from all of you during the course of the year. Until then, See you at the movies!-ML

Next Week: A look at the new Movie Pass -the Good and bad points when using the service

Can Hollywood Change its Ways?

 

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Happy New Year, Film Fans!
This week, here’s a look back at some of the things we’ve talked about in the past year. The changing business of movie making and changing habits of movie goers….

The “Woke” business of Hollywood: The #MeToo Movement and Harvey Weinstein scandal, as well as the #AllWhite Oscars issue is still dogging Hollywood. Diversity has been a problem since Marlon Brando sent a young Native American woman onstage at the Oscars to announce why he was not going to accept the Oscar for Best Actor for The Godfather in 1973.

In the year ahead, here’s what to expect: From the turn of the 21st Century, we expect what one of the more interesting articles of the week has pointed out: MOST of the biggest box office films of the past year were in one of four categories: 1) Superheroes; 2) Animation; 3) Live-action FROM animated original versions; and 4) …..Star Wars!

There is some good news with original films and screenplays. They are distributed more widely than ever before. The Sundance Film Festival has been a mainstream entity for the past two decades. And Indies are recognized for bringing diversity, original storylines and the introduction of new faces to inject new blood into the old Hollywood system.

So there’s good news and bad news with the year before us. We still have a long way to go in terms of diversity and gender equality as portrayed in most mainstream films. However, there is a new attitude and it’s a part of the collective consciousness sweeping the country that is dictating the terms for the future. And it bodes well for women and minorities.
In my book, 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, I talk about the past as prologue for many of the problems facing Hollywood in the 21st Century. To some degree, they have never completely done away with the old Hollywood studio system, of corporate bigwigs and the casting couch syndrome dictating policy and making the final decisions as to who’s in and who’s out…This feels like a sea change has occurred, and a new vision and perhaps eventually, a new and improved Corporate mindset will take hold in Hollywood as well as throughout Corporate America.

 

Hollywood has always been about making money. Art was a secondary pursuit.
In this case, Life imitates Art to the point where Art may finally be on the winning side of history! Here’s a list of some of the articles in the past week edition of the online magazine: 6 Degrees of Film. Until next week, see you at the movies!
Featured in 6 Degrees of Film Magazine:
Movie Ticket Sales were the Lowest in 25 Years
How Songs Shaped Show Business on the Silver Screen
40 Most Beautiful Shots from Movies in 2017
Steven Spielberg at the Oscars
Movies to watch in 2018

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

For those who are disillusioned about politics and America, and America’s place in the world, please remember that we’ll always have Paris. You may have heard that line, and perhaps you don’t know that it’s one of the memorable lines from Casablanca. My personal favorite line in this film is NOT “Play it Again, Sam”, (which was a misquote: The line is: “Play it, Sam!…You played it for her, you can play it for me!”), but the line where Bogie tells someone that he came to Casablanca ‘for the waters.’ When told they were surrounded by desert, he says, “I was….misinformed.”

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Casablanca is just one of the memorable films playing this month on Turner Classic Movies. Last week we mentioned Meet Me in St Louis, which is a great holiday film starring Judy Garland . One of the highlights of the film is Garland singing, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which became one of her signature songs.

Garland is also in the remake of The Little Shop around the Corner, the classic Ernst Lubitsch film with Jimmy Stewart from the thirties. They remade it as a musical, In the Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in the fifties. And then, they remade it again with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. As you can tell, the story is memorable enough to rework, and each of these films did well at the box office.

The plot revolves around two co-workers who compete for sales in a small music shop, and they develop a dislike for each other. Their personal life is marked by a correspondence, (they used to be called ‘pen-pals’ in the old days,) that develops into a romantic courtship.

For each slight given the other, they tell their friends about the wonderful nature of the person that they have met and their developing romance through the mail. Of course, they don’t know what the other looks like. And so, the plot thickens when they agree to meet, and the male in the story realizes that the person he has been dreaming about is the same annoying young woman he works with in the store.

At first, he begins to tease his co-worker, and begins to see that she has also fixated on him as her romantic ideal. From there, he begins to try and develop a friendship with her, and draws her out about her ‘intended.’ The girl eventually does decide that the real flesh and blood person she works with is the one she would choose, and the end has the two pairing up as he reveals his love for her.

The plot plays like a revamped Shakespearean comedy, with twists and turns and sub-plots that lend itself to the final denouement. But the story has proven to be a durable one, as they’ve remade it successfully in three separate variations of the theme. The story in each film starts as a kind of screwball comedy, with mistaken identities and revolving doors, but at the essence of this tale is the sweet and at times, bittersweet nature of love, where the eternal ideal is always at odds with the realities of life. The true meeting of the minds is seen in the final outcome for each of these stories, and the updated versions through the past century of film are worth a view (or two.)

We also talked last week about Lord Jim as a Spiritual film that’s recommended to rent or record. Another great performance from Peter O’Toole that is playing this month on TCM is My Favorite Year. The movie would never have worked without the over-the-top character of O’Toole parodying his own legendary capers and drunken displays. This is a good film for the holidays and for those old enough to appreciate the air of nostalgia that surrounds the main characters and the plot.

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There’s an Armchair Film Festival waiting for those who love Hitchcock: Rear Window, with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, and North by Northwest with Cary Grant are both on TCM this month. These two movies showcase Hitchcock in top form. The paranoia and slightly dark and deviant world that he hints at or alludes to at times is seen just peeking through enough in these two films to make them more than merely interesting.

For those who have never seen Albert Brooks on film, I would recommend hitting record for Modern Romance. Brooks has a droll way of delivering a line that no one else has been able to achieve. The closest I can think of in comparison is W C Fields. Both comics talk about the situations at hand, and at the same time they seem to comment on the state of the world and their own sly and paranoid asides and thought experiments tend to lend a totally different meaning to the spoken word. Watch the master at work in Modern Romance on TCM.

Finally, for some of the greatest repartee ever filmed, the Thin Man Series with William Powell and Myrna Loy is playing on TCM around New Years. Start the New Year the right way and record these two in action. They are funny and droll, they’re stylish and entertaining and witty as well as being perfect foils for each other in this series of films.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and taking time to see a movie or two. I’m looking forward to The Shape of Water, and of course, the latest Star Wars film is about to drop in the next week. The other films that have been well received are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Wonder, and The Disaster Artist. Till next week, see you at the movies-ML

 

Holiday Film News

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Happy Holidays Film Fans! This week, we are featuring the just-released Holiday Film News,  with a few recommendations for those who want to see movies on the big screen, as well as for those who are looking for good holiday film fare to watch at home.

In the 6 Degrees magazine: An article from The Reel World is about Daniel Day-Lewis and his decision to quit acting.  There’s a look at 2018, with films headlining the Sundance film festival.  And we feature movie reviews for The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel.

And if you have ever wondered why all the awards and the best films of the year are all squashed into the one month, December, read the Variety article, about overcrowding the films and awards. This year in December, 32 films have been scheduled to open in 31 days. And the awards have all moved earlier too. National Board of Review and NY Film Critics announce winners in late November. SAG Awards deadline is December 10th.

It’s a problem with no solutions in site. But for the moment, enjoy the movies recommended, and till next week, see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all! This week, in 6 Degrees Magazine, we are featuring reviews of the latest releases: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is reviewed; Coco-the new Pixar film and Denzel Washington’s Roman J. Israel, Esq., plus Thor: Ragnorak and Lady Bird are all reviewed in the magazine.
There is an in-depth review of Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. And one of Paul Newman’s greatest films, a masterpiece of the sixties: Cool Hand Luke is reviewed in Film Comment.
For the Holidays: The Man who Invented Christmas with Christopher Plummer and Dan Stevens is reviewed on Roger Ebert.com. The film looks at the real-life character of Charles Dickens and the motivations and circumstances that surrounded his creation of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, and the invention of the iconic character of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Another Christmas release that has gotten good buzz is director Guillermo del Toro’s new film, The Shape of Water. And of course, there is the new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which is projected to break all box office records when it opens just two weeks before Christmas.

 


The Holiday Film Newsletter is coming soon. It’s hard to believe the year is coming to a close and with it, the film “lists” and the awards and the release of probably the best films of the year. No wonder they call it “The Crazy Season!”…Happy Thanksgiving and see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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This week in films, we are still reading about the fallout over a lot of the scandals that have snowballed from the Weinstein allegations. There have been rumblings for the past few years surrounding the nature of the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards and the members who choose the nominees. The small number of female directors, the female leads in film and the roles that they are offered, particularly for women who are over forty, are all controversial topics that we have covered in Six Degrees.

So the continuing saga and fallout is something that we will continue to watch. We celebrate some of the success in past years, notably the first female director, Kathryn Bigelow, to win an Academy Award. Also the first female African-American President of AMPAS, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science is Cheryl Boone Isaacs. And Meryl Streep announced a Screenwriters Lab for Women writers over 40. All of these things mark progress, but the numbers show that it’s a long, slow uphill slog.

6 Degrees Magazine: Some of the noted articles this week feature two very strong and talented women in Hollywood, one living and one long dead. The first is Frances McDormand, and the second is the legendary Katherine Hepburn.

Articles from this past week: Frances McDormand talks in the Daily Actor about her Academy Award winning role in Fargo as well as the new movie,  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film is reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine from SF Gate. Another actor interviewed in The Daily Actor is Idris Elba, who is riding a wave and stars in the successful The Mountains Between Us.

 

Film Book Recommended: The book is called: Seduced by Mrs Robinson; How the Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation by Beverly Gray. Few born in the later decades can understand how ground-breaking films like The Graduate really were. This was a film with an anti-hero, outside of the norm of the stereotypical tall, dark and handsome leading man.  And the film dealt with an anti-establishment period in history where young people protested the Vietnam War and questioned their parents’ values and traditional culture. Another recommended article this week is: “6 Books to read before the 2018 Movie Adaptations”

There’s a review of The Pink Panther, where the critic can’t quite understand the appeal of this 1963 hit. I am one of those firmly in the category that everything Peter Sellers did was funny, so this is just another of his ground-breaking films. Although it was a traditionally directed comedy from Blake Edwards, Sellers had a unique style that lent itself to absurd moments in comedy. That appeal may have come through loudest in my favorite Sellers performance(s) in Dr. Strangelove. But clearly it’s on display in this film.

Thor: Ragnorak won the box office this past week, and the new Justice League has received some mixed reviews. Although I’m not known to be a fan of the superhero genre, there is definitely a double tier for the better films that have been made, and those that we can easily forget.

The American Film Institute is 50 years old, and celebrates in Hollywood this weekend with their annual AFI Film Fest. The American Film Institute educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. There is an AFI Catalog of Feature films that catalogs the first 100 years of this art form (I am so hopeful when I see films classified as an “art form”. Read my book to hear more on this!) The good news is the AFI Catalog is accessible online and it’s free of charge.

Recommended: Some Holiday movies are suggested in this  week’s article of films to watch on Netflix. I always recommend kicking off the season with the original black & white Miracle on 34th Street. Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation has become a staple in our household. Some also love Will Ferrell’s Elf, as well as A Christmas Story, and the constant appeal of It’s a Wonderful Life and the very corny White Christmas, all of which are Holiday staples.

The Nativity Story is very appealing, and is especially powerful to watch during the Christmas season. And George C Scott remains my favorite Scrooge, but there are now so many versions that you can judge for yourself, But A Christmas Carol should be part of your schedule of Holiday viewing. Jim Carrey joins the pantheon with his take on The Grinch in the live-action The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Opening at Christmas: In past weeks, we have run a list of films opening, from the Fall Film Newsletter as well as in Friday Flix. But Star Wars, as usual, will suck much of the oxygen out of the room for all the December debuts. One of the more intriguing aspects of the newest Star Wars entry is the introduction of a mysterious character played by Benicio del Toro. Anything that may actually shake up the predictable nature of the Star Wars saga will be welcome! For my personal pick, The Shape of Water looks intriguing, and it opens in December.

For Children: Disney’s Pixar’s Coco has become the highest grossing animated film in Mexico’s history. Although The Star is also opening, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of an animated retelling of the Christmas story. For that, I’d recommend that families watch the afore-mentioned The Nativity Story and speak to children about the actual historical times that surrounded the Birth of Christ. However, there’s a host of talent poured into this lavish animated retelling of the story with the cute Shrek-like characters that somehow converge on Bethlehem and work themselves into the story of Jesus’ birth.

Recommended from the Vaults: To rent or record, find a time to watch The Philadelphia Story, directed by George Cukor and starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. This has been remade several times, with the latest version being the musical version with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. But the Cukor film is definitely the one to watch, with the oft-seen vignette where Cary Grant pushed Hepburn down by simply shoving her in her elegant face! In today’s climate of misogyny and allegations of abuse, this may not be Politically Correct. But if anyone ever has seen Hepburn in action on film, then there’s no contest. She is one of the strongest female role models who ever worked in Hollywood. BTW, she is starring in Adam’s Rib on TCM this month, and it’s required viewing for all women everywhere. Take notes!

Recommended on 6 Degrees: Murder on the Orient Express has had mixed reviews, but the latest critique from SF Gate is a favorable one. There’s a couple of interesting articles in the magazine, one is in NPR that reviews a documentary made about Jim Carrey’s extraordinary journey into darkness when he played Andy Kaufman in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.

At the Movies: Lady Bird has been getting great reviews, a coming-of-age piece directed by Greta Gerwig. And Denzel Washington’s Roman J Israel, Esq. is another film that has gotten a lot of good buzz. There’s a review in Forbes of this one.

Coming Next: The Holiday Film Newsletter is coming next. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday, one and all, and remember this is a good time to catch a flick, so I hope to see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello to all film fans! This week we begin with the scandals that are rocking Hollywood.

Hollywood Buzz: On the Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse; the dominoes are cascading, and women are not tolerating this anymore. From the Roger Ebert site we feature in 6 Degrees magazine the piece: Why I stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies…. I have written about Allen in the past. His films are considered classics, especially many of his earlier ones. And I have a particular fondness for films like Hannah and her Sisters, which is showing on TCM this month. But over time, Woody Allen’s past behavior and the current climate have made his work toxic and his “brand” as they say, is as unpalatable as Bill Cosby’s and his ilk. So it’s not surprising to see more and more women particularly, coming out with this opinion about Woody Allen. Going forward, I don’t see anything that would turn this around. He is another sad commentary on a time long past where this behavior can just be overlooked with a wink and a nod. As Dylan told us, The Times They are a Changin.’ We have to get on board.
Casablanca Returns to theaters for the 75th Anniversary of the release of this classic. (Here is the 6 Degrees review.)
Recommended: The Florida Project has seen excellent reviews. Thor: Ragnorak has been well reviewed if you are a comic book movie fan, and for the small screen, they are screening some classic Hitchcock films on TCM this week, including Vertigo and Rear Window. At the movies, Captain Underpants is playing for kids, and The Mountain Between us with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba is recommended if you haven’t seen this one yet.

It’s time for my I’ll be the judge of that skepticism: Some of the articles on film have such overblown claims in their titles. The reason I can actually affirm this is that, unlike many who just glance at the headlines, I actually READ many of these lists that people put out as containing the best movies, the best genres, the most under-rated or over-rated films of ALL time! And I never agree with the entire list, but at times, there are some films that I do agree about when I think they’ve hit the right note. That’s why I groan at the end of the year “Best of” lists and the upcoming awards season where films are placed into categories. Rarely does any one year contain several masterpieces. And as those of us who love films agree, as time goes by, the works of many great filmmakers come to be appreciated more and more.
I believe that the film, Her is a great barometer for our times. And some of the greatest actors probably haven’t been acknowledged for their best work, which is found in films that most people have never seen! Tom Hardy is one actor I would recommend and should be on the list to binge watch his past films. Clive Owen and Russell Crowe are also great actors with filmographies containing many under-appreciated gems. (Try to rent Bent, The Sum of Us, Proof, and  I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead)
6 Degrees upcoming Holiday Films Newsletter: On the subject of lists, there are some of the children’s Christmas movies to watch with your kids recommended this week: They include: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas from 1999; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from 1998, The Santa Clause from 1994; the Remake of Miracle on 34th street from 1994 and Home alone from 1990. These are a few that are fairly good, as well as Elf and the original Miracle on 34th Street, which is a true classic.
Coming Soon: Stay tuned for the HUGE avalanche of Star Wars marketing and film reviews for the December release of the next entry in the saga… Also, The Post is coming soon, directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film is about the newspaper business and the history of the journalism done in the wake of the Vietnam War and the release of the Pentagon Papers.

That’s it for this week. There are some great films coming soon that we are excited about, as well as the Holiday Film Newsletter to watch for…Till then, see you at the movies!-ML