6 Degrees: Holiday Film News

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hope everyone is planning a wonderful Thanksgiving break. This is the best part of the Holiday season. We can visit with friends and family, with no expectations of the holiday madness that Christmas, as wonderful as it can be, brings with it. So, hope all of you plan a great and relaxing holiday weekend ahead.

Which means…a trip to the movies of course! Or, if you are one of our Armchair Film Fest Fans, there’s always something on the small screen to be seen in the comfort of our favorite armchair.

Aquaman 2018
This is our edition of Holiday Film News for 2018; the Holiday films are coming, and there is quite a variety. In past years, there seemed to be the darkest of cinematic choices to grace the screen for the holidays, but this year, Hollywood is dropping Mary Poppins and Aquaman into the mix, so we will have a bit of holiday cheer.

Tampa Theatre, the local arthouse, is showing a very traditional listing of holiday classics that include White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Miracle on 34th Street with a young Natalie Wood; and the ubiquitous It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. If that list makes you yawn or roll your eyes, then I would tend to agree, although these are all great films for their time period.

For Milennials, some not to miss films would be Elf with Will Ferrell and Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. The Jim Carrey version of the Grinch can also be thrown into the mix. And for the holidays, Harry Potter is always a good idea. The first film is a good choice, or there is my personal favorite, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; which would always be a good family flick.

For those who want something that is more spiritual in keeping with the season, The Nativity Story from 2006 is one that is an unusually well made version of the story of the first Christmas. And there is always Scrooged, with Bill Murray, to round out the season with a modern day version of Ebenezer. For Scrooge purists, the George C Scott rendition of A Christmas Carol is hard to beat.

Under the category of something completely different, there is also the Black & White version of The Little Shop around the Corner which has been made into two later versions, one with Judy Garland as a musical-In the Good Old Summertime– and the other You’ve Got Mail  with Tom Hanks. And for Judy Garland fans, Meet me in St Louis has Garland singing the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

No, I don’t think Die Hard is a Christmas movie…But if you like action-adventure films, there are some that may be more upbeat. The Mel Gibson buddy film series, Lethal Weapon 3 or 4, with Danny Glover, which basically turned into light comedy in the last two films, is lighter fare And the films with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, 48 hours and Another 48 hours, have a lot of comedy mixed with the action scenes. And there is always the Dan Akroyd/Eddie Murphy classic Trading Places as well as Murphy’s Coming to America, both are good for holiday viewing, especially for first-time viewers.

There are many genres and styles of film that may be better for family viewing and lighter fare during the holiday season. Classic comedy is anybody’s pick-Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Mel Brook’s High Anxiety or Young Frankenstein are both classics.

Mary Poppins 2018

At the Movies: We recommend Mary Poppins or Aquaman; and if you haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians or Green Book, they will definitely be at the top of most people’s wish list as films to see on the big screen. There is another interesting take on the Spiderman universe, with the animated Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.

Some films spoken of in terms of Oscar contenders include The Wife-for Glenn Close’s performance, and director Alfonse Cuaron’s semi-biographical look at his life in the black & white Roma.

For Armchair Film Fest: In case you missed them, there’s Bridge of Spies, a great Tom Hanks piece, as well as Hanks’ Charlie Wilson’s War with Julia Roberts and the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. And if you have never seen Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote in Capote it is not to be missed for any serious film buff.

Films of the decade and films of the year are phrases that will inevitably be tossed around for the end of the year. I think that after the very dark films that appeared at the end of the past decade, including The Departed and No Country for Old Men as well as There Will be Blood, the movie industry has for the most part tried to steer the ship away from the dark stories, although there are plenty of nominees in past years that have been eligible, including 12 Years a Slave and Birdman.

Clive owenVenom Tom Hardy 2018

For those who binge watch, I recommend some A-list actors. I am a huge fan of Tom Hardy and Clive Owen. The two have made careers playing often dark, but extremely diverse and interesting characters onscreen. Hardy is in “Legend, The Drop, Mad MaxL Fury Road, and also plays a depression-era moonshine runner in Lawless from 2012. Clive Owen has been in the film version of the play Bent, the film noir I’ll sleep when I’m Dead, and in Closer with Jude Law.

Holiday films can be surprising in many ways. If you are looking for a list of Spiritual films that can uplift and upend, here’s my list from years past that will take you through to the New Year. The crazy season of holiday giving and holiday cheer is often mixed with periods of reflection and some sadness too, as we look back on years gone by. So here’s hoping your holiday season is a time of renewal and is filled with fun and joy and of course, leaves you time to spend with loved ones as you watch movies, both old and new! Happy Holidays from 6 Degrees!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans and hope everyone is having a good summer so far. We are approaching the last few days in June, and in the summer movie season there have been some surprises. I had thought the documentaries would be big this summer, and that has proven to be true. They are extending Won’t you be my Neighbor? the Mr. Rogers documentary at our local art house-Tampa Theatre. I would recommend anyone to see it or catch the PBS documentary that proves to be timely in its understanding of the era in which we live.

At the Movies: Sicario, Day of the Soldado is out and is reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine. Film Comment does an in-depth look at it. The film overall has received some mixed reviews

Other News of Note:  6 Degrees marks the passing of Harlan Ellison, the famous and darkly comic sci-fi writer who died in his sleep at the age of 84. He wrote one of the best original Star Trek episodes of all time, City on the Edge of Forever, as well as the black comedy with Don Johnson, A Boy and his Dog. Ellison also wrote the book about television entitled, The Glass Teat of which I own a dog-eared copy. He also wrote one of my favorite Outer Limits episodes with Robert Culp entitled “Demon with a Glass Hand.” Most of his work has been re-worked and rehashed in recognizable forms in one way or another in today’s CGI Science-fiction era of remakes and sequels. They do say there isn’t anything original under the sun anymore, but in many ways, Harlan Ellison was an original who paved the way for lots of inferior remakes, and a few good spin-offs of his work.

Here’s a list of movies opening in July: Solo was a disappointment to many, but Black Panther did live up to the hype earlier this year. Next up in July is the Ant Man and the Wasp, and the previews look good (Not always the best indicator, we know!). Here’s a list of films through the rest of the summer:

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Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th…here we go again…
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th
Christopher Robin opens August 3th- and is a live action version of the well-known children’s story
The Spy Who Dumped Me on August 3rd stars Mila Kunis in an ‘international espionage comedy’
The Meg on August 10th stars Jason Statham in an action version of “Jaws” with a megalodon monster that measures 70 feet
Slender Man is a horror flick debuting August 24th

There’s also a good piece in 6 Degrees Magazine about Rom-Com’s that asks the question: Can this genre be saved? The answer is almost always yes, but the old genres usually come back either rehashed or re-booted in some new chrysalis that has morphed into a recognizable facsimile of the old. A good example is the Western genre and the serial films of the thirties and forties that somehow morphed into a new genre called the Star Wars Cinematic Universe. So in some way, shape or form, the Rom-Com will survive.

Hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and safe Fourth of July holiday! Until then, have fun and see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix: Armchair Film Fest

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Hello everyone…Thanks for stopping by this week. Some of the big movies have begun to roll out in the Summer Film series. In case you missed it, here’s the link to the Summer Film News from last week. Melissa McCarthy’s film, Life of the Party, is out and so is Book Club.

Book Club has gotten some surprisingly good reviews, albeit from a plot that is a weak one. But the actors are all A-listers, and it has good reviews in 6 Degrees Magazine from Ebert.com. Life of the Party has some mixed reviews, but for the most part, it is recommended as a good light comedy.

The Seagull, from Chekhov and starring Annette Bening, is reviewed on Ebert, as well as Solo: A Star Wars story. There are mixed reviews for the Solo/Star Wars film, and as some people have asked me why we would put both positive and negative reviews of a film in the same magazine, I would say that after reviewing films for many years, there are people who have strong opinions on films they absolutely love or they loathe. Case in point: for me it is a lukewarm loathing for Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind. I never have had a soft spot for either of these films, but they are acknowledged classics.

Tastes in film are relative, but the artistic quality and merits of production techniques are not. Citizen Kane used some cutting edge camera work for the day, and Gone with the Wind was the first true Blockbuster in terms of marketing and promotion of a film. So they are acknowledged as bonafide classics, but you can certainly find reviews that pan both of these films out there somewhere!

Also in 6 Degrees this week: An interview with director Christopher Nolan on the impact of 2001: A Space Odyssey; plus a Film Comment column that looks at how cinema has dealt with race, discrimination and sexuality by addressing issues like homosexuality in subtle ways or with overt discrimination. There’s a look at the work of Tom Wolfe, the writer who died this week. His greatest contribution in terms of cinema was most likely The Right Stuff, another ensemble casting triumph that transferred the idea of the book-that the early pilots turned astronauts were courageous and they had ‘the right stuff’- into film with a panache and emotional appeal that is rare with most book adaptations. The book often loses so much in translation as to be unrecognizable or simply lackluster (Bonfire of the Vanities comes to mind.)

And finally, one interesting piece from Uproxx is entitled: The Franchise Era of Filmmaking: What is it, and how did we get here? This is a subject I often pontificate upon. Why are so many films remakes, or part of a series franchise? The article cites a list of box office high-grossing films, and last year there were none in the top 10, and only one-Coco from Pixar-which was on the list. The list that I occasionally print in Friday Flix shows only two of the all-time box office top 10 and three of the top 20 that are NOT part of a sequel or franchise and are original films and not remakes of earlier hit movies. “The business has shifted to brands, and franchises”….is one way of explaining it.

The explanation of the superhero genre, the big bucks involved, the profit margin that explains the continued success of this model, and the overall Hollywood machine is laid out in “The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies” by Ben Fritz. This article is highly recommended as a great long read.

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The Tampa Theatre, my hometown art theatre which has recently been renovated and has reopened, is beginning their Summer Film series. Most of the films look pretty pedestrian, but there are a few on the ‘lists’ that we have been discussing-specifically, the list of films to see in a movie theater once in your life. These summer series films are the original Bladerunner, Casablanca, & The Wizard of Oz, The other films, (not on Tampa Theatre’s list) I would recommend are Jaws, (MOST of Hitchcock’s films from the 50’s and 60’s),The Godfather, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Lawrence of Arabia. If any of these films are showing at an art house near you, run, don’t walk, to take them in and experience them in the theater.

We talked in Summer Film News about some of the recommended films to record in your own “Armchair Film Fest.” I would recommend The Great Escape on TCM this week, as well as You Can’t Take it with you, Magnum Force and Vanishing Point.

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Steve McQueen stars in one of his first major screen roles in this prisoner of war film from 1963, The Great Escape. The cast includes Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Garner, James Coburn and Donald Pleasance. The other films are Magnum Force, with Clint Eastwood in a classic tough guy role that may seem dated in the #MeToo era, yet this is who we are as Americans and the fact that Eastwood was loved and adored for the type of macho mantra of shoot first and ask questions later is one of his roles that cannot be ignored. Love him or hate him Clint is who we are.

Vanishing Point belongs in the category of one of those really interesting films that got away. Barry Newman was a TV star, with a modest following, when he made this film in the early 70’s that has some degrees of connection to Thelma and Louise and other films like, The Driver with James Caan. It’s about a man named Kowalski who makes a bet that he can deliver a Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco in 15 hours, and finds himself in a race against time to beat the clock, law enforcement, and his own internal demons. It’s a kind of existential quest, with the man vs man, and man vs machine story line keeping the film’s doomed lead character, in tandem with the bare bones plot, moving forward to its inevitable conclusion.

Cannes film festival has had some interesting debuts these past few weeks. There was one screening from director Lars von Trier called The House that Jack Built that prompted numerous walkouts over the gory content. Spike Lee has a film at Cannes called BlacKkKlansman which is the type of film and statement that Lee has been making since Do the Right Thing. The film is adapted from a memoir of an African-American policeman who infiltrated a chapter of the KKK in the 1970’s. Lee’s voice is one we need to hear loud and clear in these confusing times.

That’s all folks, for this week. Soon we will be heading into summer and hopefully, get some vacation time to relax and …watch movies, what else? Till next week, see you at the movies-ML

Links:  The Franchise Era of FIlmmaking:

Summer Film Series at Tampa Theatre: The ones to see at the movies!

Tampa Theatre
Interior of Tampa Theatre

Tampa Theatre has released their Summer Film Series. I was a bit disappointed with the selections this year, but there are a few notables coming… These are the ones I would recommend as “must see” theatre viewing for those who’ve never seen them on the big screen.
Forbidden Planet is coming in June. A campy science fiction classic,  this one was made in the heyday of fifties Golden Age studio films. The plot loosely follows the story of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with Walter Pidgeon playing the Prospero part (Dr. Morbius) and his daughter, played by the ingénue Anne Francis. Leslie Nielson is in a perfectly straight role pre-Airplane, starring as the astronaut-hero who is out to stop the madness and woo the girl. Robby the Robot is the memorable sci-fi staple, and the movie is filmed in gorgeous fifties Cinemascope color.
Notorious is one of Hitchcock’s best films. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman give memorable performances in this classic thriller. One of the greatest lines in film history is delivered by Madame Sebastian, the cold and calculating mother of villainous Claude Rains. “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity” is the classic line. Never has a put-down been delivered with such precision and flair.
The Wizard of Oz is a film that everyone should see on the big screen. There has never been anything to match it in art and simplistic style. It still easily makes the top ten lists of most of the film critics worth their salt.
Casablanca is another film that stays with you. It’s a classic B-movie, with another memorable performance from Ingrid Bergman. But this film belongs to Bogart. It’s his signature role and he achieves iconic film status in the part of the loner Rick, who hides his secrets and his sentiments from the world in his café in Casablanca.
These films were made for big-screen viewing, and if you have the time, should be seen in the theatre. It’s definitely my opinion, (which is shared by many veteran critics), that most of the films made in the modern era can’t touch these cinema classics.
Here’s the schedule for these classics at Tampa Theatre. I have to note that this is not the complete line up, but rather the line up from 6 Degrees of the films worth seeing at the movies! Drop me a line to give me your line up of films that should be seen in the theatre. I’ve got a list & definitely have opinions as to which films make the cut.

 Sunday June 26: Forbidden Planet review
  Sunday July 10: Notorious review
  Sunday Sep 4: Wizard of Oz
  Casablanca Sep 18th: Casablanca

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.

One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Tampa Theatre

Cuckoo's Nest

This was a ground-breaking film in many respects. Nicholson’s signature role as the rebellious McMurphy is one that is as bound with his acting legacy as much as Brando’s is bound with Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar or Bogart’s Rick from Casablanca. The supporting cast is also memorable, including acclaimed actors such as Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, and Christopher Lloyd.

And the story still resonates today, forty years after the film was made. It’s a story involving not only personal freedom, but the fine line we all walk in terms of moral relativity of good and evil and right vs wrong. Was Nurse Ratched acting with evil intent or did she simply make moral judgments based on the rules set by the confining nature of a structured institution which was a home for the mentally ill?

The film swept the major categories in 1975, a feat that has occurred only three times in the history of the Oscars. The only other two films that swept the Academy Awards were It Happened One Night in 1934, and the very different winner, The Silence of the Lambs, from 1991. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was based on the book by Ken Kesey, and was written in 1962. In Kesey’s book, the story was told from the point of view of McMurphy’s silent Indian friend, Chief Bromden.

Tampa Theatre is screening One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm.

6 Degrees: Holiday Films Recommended

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As our local art house, Tampa Theatre, is gearing up for the Holidays by showing the original 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street”, we’ve decided to begin with this one too. It’s a great film to kick off the holidays as the action unfolds at the start of the annual Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade in New York City.

Things to know about “Miracle on 34th Street”

*Cary Grant turned the part down. Perhaps with his innate sense of comedy and marketing of his own character, he knew that the strongest leads in this film weren’t for the males!

*Natalie Wood debuts with one of the best performances by a child in film for that era or any other era to date. Her young and slightly cynical persona as Susie, the young level-headed and sensible little girl who dreams of living in a real house someday, is the glue that makes the film work. Had the part gone to a sickly sweet child without any patina of sophistication or age beyond her years, then the film would have made no sense. The point was to create a strong motivation for Kris (Edmund Gwenn) to convert the non-believers.

*It’s still the Best of the Series-no remake has come close to the original 1947 film.

*Fem Flicks: It’s one of the earliest films that portrays a working, divorced mother even with a semblance of realism. Maureen O’Hara does a brilliant job with this part.

*Santa on Film: Edmund Gwenn gives a pivotal performance as the Macy’s Santa on trial

Fred Mertz Foreshadowed: The small role for William Frawley was also pivotal. His cynical and worldly views underscore the Capra-esque overtones seen in the courtroom scenes.

*Capitalism is featured front and center in the plot. But the real heart of the story is the human elements of faith and forgiveness that bind the main characters together. The weakest link is the male lead given to John Payne. Although Payne does quite a good job in the role, his part is not the essential one for the success of the story.

Miracle on 34th Street is definitely recommended viewing for all who have not seen the original. The black and white film needs no colorized version to give it life. To kick off the Holiday Season, it should be the first on everyone’s list.

As mentioned above, Tampa Theatre is showing Miracle on 34th Street this week. They are going to show other films in their Holiday Film Series, including It’s a Wonderful Life from 1946, Holiday Inn from 1942, White Christmas 1954, and Home Alone from 1990.

The List of Holiday films featured in 6 Degrees is essentially an American Christmas Story. Americans seem to embody all of the elements that comprise the best and the worst parts of the Christmas season.

White Xmas

The 6 Degrees List varies slightly from the Tampa Theatre list. I would definitely recommend seeing White Christmas on the big screen. It was a VistaVision Creation of the fifties, and the colors and the pageantry are all part of the lost era which was the Golden Age of Hollywood.

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But instead of showing Holiday Inn, 6 Degrees includes for week 3, A Christmas Story. It’s a nostalgic look at a bygone era. The saga of Ralphie and his quest to own a Red Ryder Rifle at Christmas still rings true for many of us.

Xmas Vacation

For week 4, Christmas Vacation. It’s the modern day classic comedy that embodies so much of the silliness of a Saturday Night Live ensemble with the heartwarming feel of a true Hallmark Christmas classic. Chevy Chase is never better than in this role of Clark Griswold.

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For Christmas, Eve some version of the Nutcracker is always worthwhile. My personal favorite is still the Baryshnikov version. And for Christmas day, the Dickens story of A Christmas Carol is still the best of stories to savor and to dissect. We are all Scrooge’s in some part, as we enter into the Christmas season. So it is fitting and appropriate to spend at least part of your Holiday with the Dickensian model of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is the perfect vessel to reflect and to identify with all of our inner ambivalence and anger over the commercially created Christmas season.

Happy Holidays to all our 6 Degrees Readers and we’ll see you @ the movies!