6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

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

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

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

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 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

This week, there’s still some controversy about the Oscars show that
somehow managed to crash land the ending of a perfectly decent show. And then we found out that the ratings were abysmal, so perhaps it’s better to just go back to the drawing board and be glad more people didn’t see the fiasco at the end of the evening! And on a sad note, the beloved figure for movie buffs, Robert Osborne, a man who was the urbane and dapper host of Turner Classic Movies for many years, died recently. He will be missed. Here’s some of what’s happening atthe movies, found in the magazine-Six Degrees of Film online:

The Upcoming Dates for Festivals: Noir City: Will be held March 24
to April 2 in Hollywood- Two of the best Noirs featured: This Gun for
Hire & Ministry of Fear.

For the Armchair Film Fest: The Annual TCM Classic Film Festival:
April 6 to April 9th: Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies: Born
Yesterday, The Graduate; High Anxiety, Postcards from the Edge, What’s
Up, Doc? are just a few of the classic comedies featured.

Books on Film: The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies-Hollywood welcomes innovation, but it also controls it” is a quote from book author, David Bordwell. He writes about the fact that, although the times we are living in are extremely disruptive, the film industry has actually encouraged the Hollywood machine to remain fairly consistent in terms of the style and the production techniques used in film from the early years. Bordwell argues that the Hollywood  model of mass market theatrical filmmaking is continuing with traditions that emerged as early as 1917. The norms of the actual process of filmmaking have remained fairly stable, as the mores and styles have changed through the years. In the book I wrote in 2013, 6 Degrees of Film, many of these same ideas parallel those of Bordwell’s The Way Hollywood Tells It. The films of the modern era are very much in league with the styles and filmmaking techniques that emerged in the early classics and during the Golden Age of Cinema.

Robert Osborne: Goodbye to a genuine Good Guy. Osborne had written the definitive history of the Oscars, and was once an actor himself. But his legacy is one that made him a beloved fixture at Turner Classic Movies, where he introduced feature films for decades.

Recommended: A great piece in The Hollywood Reporter has been written on the origins of how the original King Kong came into being. It’s called, “Origin of ‘Kong’: The Unbelieveable True Backstory of Hollywood’s Favorite Giant Ape“, and it’s centered around a real life explorer and filmmaker named Merian C. Cooper, who ended up at RKO with the legendary David O. Selznick. Selznick came up with the name, King Kong, by the way.

Of Note: There’s a piece on Dr. Strangelove, one of our favorite films. At this period in our history, Strangelove seems strangely prescient suddenly. There’s more on the continuing Oscar drama surrounding “”envelope-gate”. And coming soon to the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York, The Godfather cast members will reunite. That should be worth the wait.

What Critics are Saying About: I don’t feel at Home in this World Anymore- has been given glowing reviews by critics. The unusual choice of the worst Best Picture “Snubs” from the past two decades is another list that is interesting. There are reviews for all 9 of the Best Picture nominees for 2017 found in our magazine. An interesting, but a bit in the weeds piece, again from David Bordwell, on the early history of Cinema, is one where he explains the static camera style of the early days of cinematography, the “tableau” style. The issue surrounding this is how the techniques of storytelling developed in films in the early period-before 1920, when films were still silent. Bordwell explores the style in detail in this article from his site.

Reviews for: Get Out has been getting positive reviews; Kong: Skull Island has had many good reviews, but there are some mixed opinions on this one; Beauty and the Beast has debuted with favorable reviews; Moonlight, the best picture winner (eventually), has also garnered mostly favorable reviews. The Ottoman Lieutenant, although praised for its visuals, has been garnering poor or lukewarm reviews owing primarily to a weak script. Logan has been garnering good reviews. And finally, there’s a list in our magazine of the best Vampire movies of all time. If you’re a fan, check it out.

Best of the Web: Check out these sites on the web. Some of the best articles are found on The Hollywood Reporter, NPR (National Public Radio), the L.A. Times and Davidbordwell.net.

One of the titles that caught my eye was “Films for Intelligent Audiences“. Of course, readers, you are all intelligent, and although I don’t agree with many of the films listed, the concept is a good one. Hollywood and filmmakers in general need to make MORE films for Intelligent Audiences. Some of the films that I did agree about that were on this list include Inception and The Big Short, Fight Club, Prestige, The Matrix, GoneGirl, and Memento. The idea is that we should promote and applaud more films that make us think and take us out of ourselves by challenging our intellect. These are the films that will be remembered a generation from now.

Here’s to the films that challenge us. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Oscar News

Bob hope oscars

 

Oscar Season is here. This year, the nominees are: (Should I be like Letterman’s old line, “Ah, who cares…?”) But no, there are some good solid films on the list for 2017.   Some good films were not mentioned, which is always the case. My favorite films and actors are never the ones that actually get the statue. It seems that politics even rears its ugly head in Hollywood. Shocking!

Here’s the List of Nominees:  La La Land; Moonlight; Hell or High Water; Hacksaw Ridge; Hidden Figures; Manchester by the Sea; Fences; Lion & Arrival.

From the past winners of Best Picture in the 21st Century, Slumdog Millionaire, No Country for Old Men .and perhaps A Beautiful Mind are probably the three standout films that have won the Oscar. But the most relevant films for the future of cinema are not the Oscar winners. Why? Because the Academy members don’t take into account the actual cinematic appeal of a film in any kind of intellectual capacity. If so, they would never have turned their Oscar ceremony into the mostly boring and tepid, dull as dishwater affair that it has become of late.

Another big controversy is #OscarsoWhite. This year, they’ve done a bit better about representing the population as it exists today, but there remains within Hollywood the same makeup of Old, White, Rich men who are running the show. And that has not changed.

Oscar Predictions abound in my weekly magazine of 6 Degrees of Film. The runaway favorite is La La Land, which has a rating of Wait for the small screen. Fences would get the See it at the Movies nod in this pack, as well as Arrival & LionManchester by the Sea would be a miss. One of the things I’ve argued for is to let the foreign films compete for Best Picture. Elle should be competing in Best Picture, along with others. We talk of living in a Global Village, but this is something that is still part of the politics of Oscar… We have a review of Elle in the 6 Degrees magazine also. Here’s the link: 6 Degrees of Film

*What Critics are saying about…..  Film reviews for all the Oscar nominees are on 6 Degrees.   And there’s an interesting piece, in keeping with my original premise,  about how much it costs to campaign to win an Oscar, or an Oscar nomination. Don’t let anyone fool you that this is high art-this is politics 101. There is a critics list of Best of 2016, if anyone is interested in keeping track. I’m always quite skeptical of finding even 10 films that will make the cut, but some years are better than others.

We have pieces from different critics who list their favorite past Best Picture winners, ranging from The Sting to Titanic and Gladiator. One of my favorite articles is from The Guardian, about the reasons that La La Land shouldn’t be considered a great film, even if it wins the coveted title of Best Picture. For all the reasons I’ve laid out in these articles, I agree. Some of the documentaries and short works have been the best parts of the Oscars in years past. That may be the case this year.

Reviews for I Don’t feel at Home in this world anymore, Fences, Patriots Day, the horror film Get Out, and the 1997 film, Jackie Brown are featured.  Last week we featured reviews for The Space Between Us; The Great Wall with Matt Damon; John Wick: Chapter 2; The Human Surge; The Lego Batman Movie; and the Bogart classic: Beat the Devil from director John Huston

The Best of the Web: I recommend going to the website of Ebert.com and Film
Comment for top film reviews (other than 6 Degrees, of course!)  These two top sites are usually consistent. Others I like on a weekly basis are The McGuffin, Film School Rejects and Rolling Stone, plus  Esquire. NPR and the New York Times, as well as the
Chicago Sun and the LA Times newspapers, which still have consistently solid
reviews for films and all things cinema.

Recommended Viewing: The list from the Tampa Bay Times has Fences &  Hidden Figures. Definitely see Arrival if you haven’t seen it already.

* OF NOTE: The next time Casablanca is playing at an art house near you, you should see it on the big screen. There is a piece this week on His Girl Friday with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. These are the Black & White classics that need to be seen at some point in everyone’s life. Look for the part in His Girl Friday, as the dialogue races by at lightning speed, where Cary Grant makes a tongue-in-cheek remark about his real name, Archie Leach.

There’s also a piece about one of my favorite films from the Australian director, Peter Weir: “Picnic at Hanging Rock” If you haven’t seen it, put it on your list to DVR. Another Aussie, the Oscar winning director Ridley Scott’s best movies are ranked also. Kubrick’s The Shining is also reviewed. I’ve read the book and seen the film many times, and they are two different animals. There’s an interesting piece in the magazine that will lay out the reasons why Stephen King still hates the Kubrick version. I recommend reading the book and seeing the film.

The best arguments for Black & White Films: Most of the great Film Noir genre, plus Hitchcock, Laurel & Hardy, and the Marx Brothers are all best experienced in their original black & white format. There’s a homage to the Marx Brothers in our magazine. If you’ve never seen “Duck Soup“put it on your list.

The Armchair Film Fest: For the month of February, the Turner Classic crew
has mixed it up by simply going through the alphabet with Best Picture
nominees from the past.  Listed here are a few of the best to tape:
Don’t worry about missing them, TCM usually repeats most of these at
some point throughout the year:

The Music Box from Laurel & Hardy;
The Music Man; Ninotchka; North by Northwest; The Nun’s Story; The
Outlaw Josey Wales; Papillon; The Philadelphia Story; The Pink Panther; A Place in the
Sun; The Quiet Man; Rear Window; Rebel without a Cause; Road to
Morocco; Roman Holiday; A Room with a View; The Seven Per-Cent
Solution; Shall We Dance; She Wore a Yellow Ribbon; Singin’ in the
Rain; Some Like it Hot; Spartacus; The Spirit of St. Louis; Strangers
on a Train; The Sundowners; The Tender Trap; The Thin Man; The Three
Musketeers; To Be or Not to Be; Top Hat; 12 Angry Men

**Film as Art: There’s a great piece about Film Posters seen as pieces
of Pop Art in the tradition of Andy Warhol. In my book, there’s a
chapter that talks about the reasons that the early days of film set
the tone for the way that film is viewed and treated to this day. It’s
never been recognized as an art form as it should be. This is a great
way to look at the overall themes that are laid out in modern
film-making.

There’s so much going on now, the Oscar News is a two-parter. Stay tuned! See you at the movies-ML

 

 

Three things you should know about…My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady

 

1. Leslie Howard starred in Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw adaptation from which the musical is based, in 1938 with Wendy Hiller, and it is worth seeing to compare and contrast with the more flowery musical.
2. Rex Harrison is probably the best reason to see the musical version of this. The music is memorable, and many of the songs became hits and are still sung today, but Harrison shines in the film and the cadence and half-talking, half singing quality of his numbers suited him perfectly as the composers, Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner, wrote the songs with him in mind to play the lead on Broadway.
3. At the time, the big controversy was the decision to snub Julie Andrews and give the lead to the well-known star, Audrey Hepburn. And Julie Andrews responded with one of the best known ripostes in Hollywood as she thanked Jack Warner for being “the man who made all this possible” after he passed her over for the part in the film version, which gave her the chance to win an Oscar for Best Actress in Mary Poppins.
Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorite actresses, and she does justice to the part although Marni Nixon actually sang the songs in My Fair Lady. Hepburn looks beautiful, as always, and holds her own with Harrison’s commanding presence as the iconic professor Harold Higgins.

Hepburn is seen on TCM later this week in one of her Oscar winning performances, starring in The Nun’s Story with Peter Finch. Her quiet dignity and ability to combine the strength of an iron will with grace and beauty have always made her best performances stand out.

She shines in “Funny Face, Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, How to Steal a Million” and so many more. Set your TV to record any of her leading roles if you appreciate the glamour of Old Hollywood combined with brains and sophistication, and that is the whole package that was Audrey Hepburn.

Tampa Theatre is screening My Fair Lady Sunday, January 24th at 3:00 pm.