Hello Film Fans! We have a new list for those of you who are like me and keep a running list for your Armchair Film Festival. The films listed here are shown on Turner Classic Movies in April. Most are available on Netflix or other online streaming services. We have listed films on strong women role models; the films of Stanley Kubrick; films with Steve McQueen and a few other generational films that mark the era in which they were made. All of these are recommended to watch and record at some point in your life as ‘must see’ movies.
Films about strong women: Adam’s Rib and Ninotchka are both being shown and the question is often asked: Why should we care about these old black & white movies?
Adam’s Rib is a story of two lawyers, a married couple, who suddenly find themselves embroiled in a courtroom drama where a woman who was experiencing domestic abuse (played by Judy Holliday), tries to kill her husband. The story is a far advanced pre-cursor about women’s rights and is a timely message for this #MeToo era we are in. Katherine Hepburn is the perfect foil for Spencer Tracy, and this is probably their best film together.
Ninotchka is one of the Garbo films showing this month, and one that I find the most ‘watchable’ of her work. She was known for her aloof air, and the billing was “Garbo Laughs” to sell this picture. It is a story of pre Cold War Russia and the character of Russians infiltrating and a happy go lucky American who is sent to deal with them is particularly timely in this age of Russian involvement in our elections
Films from Stanley Kubrick; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove; these are two films made for our time.
Here’s a link to the 6 Degrees Dr Strangelove review, and again, in this political climate, no matter what your political stance may be, the notion that a film that was written as a serious take on the Cold War posturing was turned into a black comedy by Kubrick was a genius move. Apart from 2001, this is one of my favorite films from Kubrick
2001: A Space Odyssey was a precursor to everything. All things sci-fi; before there was a Star Wars, before there was a Star TREK, before there was any notion of the world envisioned by George Lucas, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is one of the best films ever made, according to most acclaimed critics, and I share that view. The film perfectly encapsulates a time period where we were beginning to explore space, and ask questions about the meaning of the big picture in science, which has led to the era of quantum computers and the Big Bang and serious talk of Einstein’s Unified Theory.
Here’s an excerpt from my book, 6 Degrees of Film on 2001:
2001: A Space Odyssey—This great film works on
many different levels and is the gold standard for most
science-fiction films of the latter part of the twentieth
century. The beginning and end of the film take place
in very different settings than one would think of as
“outer space.” The scenes with the apes on earth and
the old man in a sterile room contrast directly with the
high-tech world associated with science fiction, and
they are vital for the film to work.
Six Degrees of Film: Science-fiction films, futuristic
and innovative speculative fiction, Aliens, Blade
Runner, The Matrix
Films with Steve McQueen: McQueen embodied the essence of what is ‘cool’, in a way perhaps more than anyone after James Dean, who died too young to really crystallize the essence of cool meant to a grown man. Bullitt and Soldier in the Rain are both shown on TCM this month, and in both, McQueen takes the legacy of James Dean to another level.
Bullitt is almost the natural continuation of a legacy that began in the fifties with Dean in Rebel Without a cause and Giant. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were the natural successors to this legacy and the embodiment of the persona of ‘cool’ as defined by Hollywood and a new era of movie stars.
In Bullitt, one of McQueen’s best films, the first of the ubiquitous car chase sequences is filmed in San Francisco, with McQueen driving his iconic Mustang through the city in a first of its kind car chase. And in Soldier in the Rain, McQueen acts opposite Jackie Gleason, where Gleason plays a straight role that is perfectly suited for the larger than life swaggering characters that he made famous.
Charlie Chaplin at his best: He was the most famous movie star and the most recognizable character during Hollywood’s early years. Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp’ was instantly recognized all around the globe. And in the era of silent film, something that has been lost since the early 20’s is the universality of the character that didn’t depend upon dialogue when creating film stories and sequences. The notions of living in poverty and scraping by were also part of the Tramp’s appeal. The Gold Rush is one of his most famous films, and the sequence where he dances with the bread rolls is also one of the most widely shown segments in this film.
The Thin Man is another classic esteemed for the witty dialogue and captivating characters. Myrna Loy and William Powell were brought back for sequels for many years. In the era we live in of continual sequels, it proves that what’s old is new again!
Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film about the writing team for The Thin Man series:
Goodrich and Hackett
Francis Goodrich and husband Albert Hackett were coauthors
of three screenplays based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 novel
The Thin Man. Longtime friends of Hammett, they found and
nursed him through more than one drunken spree.
Goodrich and Hackett came to Hollywood in the middle
of the talkies panic. At first, they were under contract with
MGM and had credits for at least thirteen films, including the
Thin Man series. The Nick and Nora Charles partnership was
Dashiell Hammett’s invention, but Goodrich and Hackett took
the brand and made it their own. The witty, companionable
back-and-forth banter between Nick and Nora set The Thin
Man scripts apart; the barbs and counter-barbs made the series
resonate with a kind of literate love talk, a sustaining of the
relationship’s vitality and edge—and its equality.”
The Graduate; told the story of the sixties, encapsulated on film. The emergence of the anti-hero in Dustin Hoffman, a short and funny and virtually unknown young actor with an everyman appeal was one of the more startling and lingering after-effects from the film. The plot where the young man is having an affair with an older woman was also a topic not often directed to comedy in film; and this was considered an extremely risqué subject at its debut. Finally, the direction of Mike Nichols combined with the memorable musical score of Simon & Garfunkel sets this film apart and overlays the time capsule of the sixties as an indelible part of the theme of isolation in a changing world.
Picnic at Hanging Rock; one of the best of director Peter Weir; and the beginning of a Golden Age for Australian filmmakers. In an era of films that were breaking out from formulas that tied them to the times they were made in, this movie has a timeless appeal. Peter Weir directs this film that defines the new era of independent film-makers and gives audiences food for thought without overlapping dialogue or story arcs. The film is a quiet study that has a haunting quality throughout that lingers with the hints of foreboding found in the girls’ actions before they embark on their ill-fated excursion to Hanging Rock. Again, this film deals with the theme of isolation in a way that Weir brings home through the use of slow-motion camera shots and a haunting theme that is in sync with the silent desperation shown in this unique, groundbreaking classic.
From 6 Degrees of Film book:
Picnic at Hanging Rock—Another early film of Peter
Weir, this film is based on a true story* of a group
of Australian girls picnicking at a popular tourist
attraction called Hanging Rock during the Victorian
era. They are lost and some never return, but the ones
who do seem to have suffered a life-altering experience.
The event has undertones of horror and sexual tension
as the returning girls struggle to tell the adults what
happened. *Although this has been disputed…
Hope you enjoy the Armchair Film Fest for this month. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML