6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans!
Some films to see this week…for the horror lover who is in the mood for something different, there’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, on TCM. It sets a slow pace, but don’t be fooled- there are some moments designed to make you lose your popcorn. Also recommended for fright fans: Seeing the Original Halloween before seeing any remake with or without Jamie Lee Curtis!

First Man 2018
At the Movies this week: First Man is opening with Ryan Gosling and has been getting generally good reviews.

The MCU in Hollywood: Here’s one recommended read in 6 Degrees magazine. The article is titled: “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Changed Hollywood.” There are some valid points made: 1) Big actors are not needed in these films; 2) A Billion-dollar industry has been created where plot points can glide from one film to another and be picked up and shared with different films; 3) The ‘coolness’ of superheroes (I guess?) is another argument… but they also claim that ‘movies will never be the same again’; which is a stretch, as the world of Harry Potter, in my opinion, has had more of an effect. I’ve written a book about the real game-changer, which, of course, was the Star Wars Universe. Comic book genre films are here to stay, and that is true, but the impact due to the huge impression made with the post-film credits is an exaggeration. Marvel films are hits; Star Wars changed the direction of cinema forever.

Star wars logo

Here’s an excerpt from the book:
6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village:
From Star Wars to Sin City:
Industrial Light and Magic has framed the era
and defined it with their many breakthroughs in visual effects.
The storyboarding that is critical to their vision is now a major
part of most successful film series, and the comic genre that
has emerged would not have been a reality without the effects
of ILM.
The criticism that Lucas and Spielberg films have
juvenilized the movies, to my mind, is unfair. These filmmakers
have given the public what they want, and there never has
been a dearth of creative talent in the film industry.

On the contrary, there are many exciting new avenues for young
and innovative minds to bring their creations to the screen,
including Internet productions and independent venues. We
are always seeing new ways for artistic talent to emerge as the
next big thing.
Film is changing and evolving as it has from the beginning,
and the medium as a mass-communication tool and an art
form make this an exciting time to break into the market.
The future of film may involve the type of images seen in Sin
City and Waltzing with Bashir, where actors are not filmed in
the traditional way but with a kind of brushstroke or cartoon
quality that enables the plot to go in many different directions.
There might be alternate endings and story lines to follow with
endless variations. Online, the viewer can access alternative
views from various characters’ perspectives.
The experience of going into a darkened theater to view
a film is changing forever. As in the penny arcades and
nickelodeons that began the first century of film, we now
see the evolution and dawn of a new age and a new way of
understanding the world through the medium of film.
George Lucas spoke of his ideas on the future path that
might occur using film and some kind of drug to enhance
the experience. His ideas regarding future films would make
theatrical, narrative-driven movies, in his words, “as quaint as
an old silent-reeler”:
Lucas: ‘I see true environments being created and
combined with a lot of biotech things going on,
in terms of manipulating people’s senses through
drugs. This combination will have the most powerful
effect on the kind of storytelling we’re doing today.
It’s too far off for me to worry about, and I’m
not interested in virtual reality at its current level,
because it’s just too crude. But if you can program
virtual reality or simulator rides with biotech, you
will have a very interesting non-world. The first
step would be to take the simulator ride part of an
environment . . . where you can just implant the
story in a pill and live it.
That’s not outside the realm of possibility.
You’d take the pill and go to sleep. It’d be like
a dream and you’d have an actual, real, physical
experience of something completely imaginary.
What that’ll mean for society, I have no idea, and
how you’d get there from here is way beyond me,
but I know enough to know it’s within the realm
of possibility. Because they’re already going there,
creating images without actually making them, just
as you create them in a dream.’

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July. The films of July are here beginning with Ant Man and the Wasp, which has had some good early reviews and a clever trailer to kick off the super-hero film of the month. Here’s a short clip of some other openings from our July/August list:
Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th...here we go again… This may not be worth revisiting, but I’m a huge Meryl Streep and Colin Firth fan, and this premise does (not) seem interesting enough to hold our attention….
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th.… And I ask without snark….will Tom Cruise ever make a film that is anything other than an exercise of gymnastics and stunts? He was a good actor in another life…

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

2001 a Space Odyssey

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Degrees: Friday Flix-St Patrick’s Day Edition

 

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Happy St Patrick’s Day to my fellow Film Fans!

 

Happy St Patrick’s Day to my fellow film fans!

At the movies: This week in movies, we see the opening of another Benji, which has been reviewed as something so close to the original Benji as to be redundant. But those of us who are Uber Dog lovers will not quibble. The remake is sufficiently cute and heartstring-inducing to be acceptable.

The Subject is Objectivity: On the subject of Film Criticism, there’s a good article this week in 6 Degrees magazine about Casablanca, where the critic writes, “How could I have written a…book on 1940’s Hollywood and …devoted so little space to Casablanca?” He goes on to admit that Casablanca isn’t a favorite, and then cites a long list of classics that DO arouse his passion.

I forgive him because if we’re honest, then that’s true of all of us. I do acknowledge many of the classics don’t exactly move me to watch them over and over. However, you can acknowledge the excellence and innovative techniques used by the filmmakers, and still allow the film may not ‘move you’ in a significant way. With film, often there is a gut reaction that embeds them in your psyche and compels you to want to see the film again and again. It can allow you to identify with a mood or character and makes you ‘get it’ on that deeply psychic level.

To that end, in my book, 6 Degrees of Film, I compiled the “List of 100’, and as noted before on the 6 Degrees blog, the endless lists we see, from everything that can be compiled including science-fiction films, horror, rom-com, classics and any combination of categories and genres that go on and on are rendered meaningless by their ubiquitous nature. One of my pet peeves is the overly large number of films listed in these articles (I’ll leave my list of 100 films out of the argument for the moment!).

When compiling the best films lists of any recent year, reaching the number of up to 50 or 100 seems high to me. Yes, we can compile lists for the best films of the decade, or for an entire genre to reach the higher numbers, but there should be some discernment and discretion with critics compiling these long lists of films where, when actually perused, as I have done, seem to include lots of questionable picks and sometimes just feel loosely pulled together in order to create the headline, rather than fulfilling the headline’s narrative with the content required to follow up. (For example: Best Villains who dress well or Best Looking supporting actresses wearing swimsuits….)

About the List of 100: In the book. 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, there is a list compiled of favorite films in the back of the book. Among the films listed is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a landmark film in so many ways. The film’s fiftieth anniversary has arrived, and there are a few articles about the making of Kubrick’s classic in the 6 Degrees Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt from my book that points to the reasons that this film made such a significant impact on future filmmakers such as George Lucas:

The Roots of ILM
A Life magazine story from the 1960s summed up
the crisis in visual effects in movies: “There were so many
innovations occurring in film, but in the field of special
effects, there was a dearth of ideas. The big studios couldn’t
finance the large Technicolor spectacles that had been the
signature entertainment for decades at studios like MGM and
Paramount. By the sixties, the film industry had begun to
resemble, a company town where the mine has closed.” 116
Demographics had changed, and audiences had changed. Even
television had evolved, and the world was rapidly changing too.
This meant that movies needed to evolve and adapt to the changing
times. There was an opening for a big turnaround movie.
One appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 2001’s release in
1969, Stanley Kubrick’s innovations were the cutting edge in
technological advancement in films. But Kubrick’s innovations
did not translate into other copy-cat films, and Kubrick
remained something of a lone-wolf figure. For one thing, the
film was made in England and was too big and too expensive
to emulate. The film failed to revive the waning special-effects
industry in Hollywood. But it did inspire a generation of
young filmmakers who saw that it could be done.
George Lucas was one who acted on that inspiration. He
said, “Almost from the moment film was invented, there was
this idea that you could play tricks, make an audience believe
they were seeing things that really weren’t there. But this was
completely lost by the 1960s.

From the list of 100, there are a few more films recommended for viewing this week. One of the films is in honor of St Patrick’s Day, and is usually shown each year for this occasion. The Quiet Man, the quintessentially Irish film for all things Irish that we love….Also recommended, Casablanca, which we’ve discussed recently on 6 Degrees. And one of my favorite Bogey films in the Film Noir category, The Big Sleep.

Enjoy watching the classics and until next time, see you at the movies!-ML

Blade Runner 2049-Nothing to see here

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The best place to start to review this film would be to recommend another viewing of Blade Runner, the vastly superior original from 1982. That film had the aura of a mystery. The Ridley Scott film had so many small details, the film noir elements as well as the sci-fi ones, that it kept you thinking and wondering as you watched it unfold. Ironically, at the time, it wasn’t considered a ‘hit’. Based on the Philip K Dick short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the central question that permeated the film’s progression was the nature of what it means to be human.
It dealt with the issues surrounding what it means to have a soul, and how we know what the nature of our humanity is. It was a subtle message that was interspersed with a foreshadowing of doom and an apocalyptic pall that worked as a thread pulling us through each scene.
In this film, the dull and plodding nature of the plot line, where we find not an interesting protagonist, but a rather dull hero in Ryan Gosling, who is a pale stand-in for Harrison Ford, leaves us yearning for more in the end. The film clobbers the audience at times, hitting us over the head with the blare of the theme that is begging us to ask what it takes to be human, and what constitutes a soul.
The mystery of the film, the search for the mysterious child that is the central figure looming over the plot plods slowly along, It is a point that is neither cunning or strange. The story is one where we have an expectation of waiting for Godot, with the audience expecting something to happen, and the film always ends up holding back any type of cathartic release.
The villain, or villainess in this case, is about as interesting and predictable as a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. She is much less interesting than the girlfriend of Ryan Gosling, who turns out to be a hologram, and the hologram is the only one who is multi-layered in this dull affair. And even that sub-plot is done with much more subtlety and charm in the superior “Her” which this film emulates in some manner.

 

 

 
The futuristic nature of the landscape, and the apocalyptic message for the audience is pretty much wasted in this version. Harrison Ford’s entrance, late in the action, is anti-climactic and even he looks bored and really past the point of even trying to make sense of the plot. There is little humor in this film, and although Gosling is competent in his execution, his character has strict limits as to how far you might want to go to be able to emote with the nature of the beast that is his straight-jacket of a role.
Robin Wright also looks slightly bored, as she valiantly tries to bring some interest to this slow moving affair. This film didn’t need to be almost three hours. It needed editing, as mentioned a few weeks back by a noted director who seemed to be itching to cut about one half hour or more from most of the feature films that boast the need to tell the story for almost three hours.
The story here is not a mystic tale or a fantasy romp, there is no CGI miracle or even a continuation of the Ridley Scott attention to detail which made the 80’s film so relevant and cutting-edge. The music was a large part of the allure in the original, and this one has almost no soundtrack other than a running commentary of rain and smoggy mist. In short, this one is only for die-hard Blade Runner devotees, of which I am one. No one is going to appreciate the origami figures, the memory implants, the futuristic ads and landscape of CGI unless they have specific memories of the superior version.

I would recommend waiting for the small screen to watch this film. It’s not unwatchable, and there are certainly good actors and a continuation of the themes that were explored in the original film. But there’s no need to rush to the theatres to see this film. And in some ways, that’s a shame. Bladerunner was worth the trip to see it on the big screen. If you get a chance, go see the original. Leave this one for home viewing.

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

Capsule Review: Inferno

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The film comes across as fair to middlin’ entertainment. The plot was convoluted-some elements didn’t make sense or tie together well-which proves that the over-used device in storylines of “nothing is as it seems” can grow old.

But the scenery and cinematography was beautiful. If this was “The Big Sleep” with Bogart you wouldn’t necessarily care about the loose ends that don’t add up or all the plot elements that don’t make sense. But if the film isn’t that good, and few are as good as Bogie’s films, then you may begin to wonder what the point of the exercise was.

In this case, you do wonder. What’s the point of this? It could be a film that, if not for Tom Hanks or Ron Howard, would be sent straight to video or perhaps wouldn’t have been green-lit. Because but for some of the lovelier screen elements, this film may be deemed entirely forgettable.

The same story device of having to figure out a mystery using the superior knowledge of the lead character, Robert Langdon/Tom Hanks in Dan Brown’s Universe within the literati world can only take you through the first act. By the end of the film, it’s clear that this story line is one that has gone out with the last decade. It’s almost too strained a notion when this film finally winds down.

I would recount the plot if I thought that it mattered to anyone, but I repeat-what’s the point? This one is much better to see on the small screen, as you can probably skip the unnecessary plot points-which count for about half of the movie.

 

 

Recommended viewing: Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet

The reason this film, above most of the others in the Summer film series at Tampa Theatre, should be seen in a darkened movie house can be answered in one word-CinemaScope. The process of CinemaScope was unique to the fifties, and this film was a prime example of a process that made the colors and the visuals blend into the storyline and in doing so created one of the first science-fiction Cinematic Universes for audiences and lovers of the genre.

The plot of Forbidden Planet involves a spacecraft traveling to the planet Altair IV to discover what happened to a group of scientists sent to explore the planet decades ago. Commander Adams (Leslie Nielsen-playing it straight!) & his crew find only two people living there; Dr Morbius, played by Walter Pidgeon, and his daughter Altaira, played by Anne Francis.

Made in 1956, the movie is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and was most notable for the introduction of Robby the Robot. Robby was more than just an inanimate object, and the film made it a cut above the usual hokey sci-fi stereotypes in that the character of Robby actually became an integral supporting role in the movie.

Full of lush colors and classic fifties sci-fi visuals, Forbidden Planet was, as mentioned above, shot in the groundbreaking Cinema Scope process and was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards. The picture is a genuine science fiction classic, and to cement its importance in the genre, it was entered into the National Film Registry in 2013.

There are only a few films in this series that are worth sitting in a dark theatre and viewing during the long hot summer months. This is one of them. Forbidden Planet is playing at Tampa Theatre this Sunday at 3:00 pm.

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