6 Degrees: Friday Flix

We are now officially in the Summer Season for films and there are a few I’m looking for over the next few months. Lady Macbeth and Dunkirk are two, and Will Ferrell’s new comedy is another that may pass muster.

Of course, the super hero season never ends, and the latest is Wonder Woman. My review is posting soon, and the recommendation is: You can wait for the small screen and rent Dr. Strange if you haven’t seen it yet. Of course, the ingenue who debuts as Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, is very pretty, and the supporting cast is fairly decent. But it has been hyped as something it is not, which is a really good movie. It’s just an okay movie, but it’s nothing to write home about (in my humble opinion-which is that of a film critic!).

What else is happening? Turner Classic has a great lineup of Audrey Hepburn movies this month. She really is something to write home about. If you have not seen some of her best work, then set your DVR to record: Roman Holiday; The Nun’s Story and How to Steal a Million.

TCM also has a new blog, Streamline, and one of the interesting pieces is Revisiting Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. Branagh is also going to appear in director Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk in July. Another post is about the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. As I’ve stated many times, if you are trying to choose between the documentary work and the feature film, nine times out of ten choose the documentary. This one is far superior to the film that Sean Penn did about Harvey Milk.

In Film Comment, writer Mark Harris has an excerpt from his book, Pictures at a Revolution, about the films from 1967. The sixties marked a big turning point in cinema, with the old Hollywood dying out and the studio system gone, the new breed of filmmakers were trying to find different ways to tell the story. And there was a lot of innovative thinking as well as actual re-tooling of the entire process of film-making. And the newest type of filmmaker, the independent film producer and director evolved and came into their own in this era.

Harris talks about the James Bond films, and in particular You Only Live Twice and Casino Royale. Also this week, 6 Degrees magazine features an interview with one of the prize-winning past winners of Cannes, Lauren Cantet, who won for The Class in 2008. The full list of winners at Cannes is discussed and the roundtable of critics, including Chaz Ebert, talk about their craft in 2017.

One recently released horror movie that has been receiving lots of praise is It Comes At Night: As defined by what the meaning of the word “IT” is! There’s a good discussion about the beautiful women featured in Wonder Woman that are….of a certain age. It’s good to see older women in films, but the problem has always been that there are only a few choice parts for women over 40, while men…of a certain age-from John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart through Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt all get to work in romantic and leading men parts where their female counterparts are usually relegated to roles for mothers and small supporting parts. It hasn’t changed that much in Hollywood yet!

There’s a review for The Exception on rogerebert.com. It didn’t get a good one-and neither did Churchill. There’s a review of the kids movie, Captain Underpants, on the Macguffin website. And Tom Cruise’s The Mummy has opened with decidedly mixed reviews. There’s one piece reminding us that the 90’s film of the same name was actually pretty good.

There are remakes, and then there’s the concept of the “shared universe” as discussed by Mike Ryan on Uproxx in the post: “Enough, Already, with this Shared Universe Trend.” Apparently, the Marvel comic universe has competition from the rival “Dark Universe”, which may just be a way to garner interest for a bunch of comic-book movies that the studios are desperate to plug. At any rate, the film critic universe still stands by the silly and old-fashioned notion that a good movie is hard to find. And not all of the comic flotsam floating around in these mixed universes contain good movies. As I am wont to say when someone is waxing lyrical about this film or that: “I’ll be the judge of that.”
We all will as we keep going back for more! See you at the movies-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix: The Cinco de Mayo Edition

 

6 Degrees of Film

The Cinco de Mayo Edition: Happy Cinco de Mayo to one and all…I am still pleasantly surprised, as mentioned in the past week, at the response that most have to any mention of James Bond. Bond has made a huge impact, not only in the movies themselves, but in the global interest in who plays Bond onscreen and the continued interest in the screen legacy of the Bond franchise.

*The Death of Cinema? Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott have both been quoted in recent interviews lamenting the death of cinema as we know it. Both have blamed the comic book genre, a likely target for those of us old enough to remember the debut of The Godfather and Raging Bull, Blade Runner and Jaws as they became huge hits at the movies. The award-winning directors talked about the millennials ability to watch big-screen features on any device; the advent of CGI; the comic book genres and the difficulty of getting a project “green-lit” when so many sequels and comic book series are in the works. Conversely, Scorsese also acknowledged the “revolution in filmmaking” that has allowed so many young people to make films on a very small budget. And the directors Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson all drew praise from Scorsese. So…all is not lost!

*What They’re Saying About: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is on track to break records and pull it into the top moneymakers lists. It Comes at Night has debuted as a first rate horror film for 2017

***Star Wars Day: There is such a holiday now, honoring the impact Star Wars has on our culture. One article in 6 Degrees magazine highlights the top Star wars Movie Moments. We all know the lines:… “Luke I am your Father, give in to the Dark Side of the Force; I love you…I know” and “Help me,Obi Wan Kenobi- You’re my only hope.”

The way Yoda speaks Pig Latin of a sort, the power of the Force to create magic and the quest for Luke to find his father are all deeply entrenched in our lexicon and our culture. The myth begins with…Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…and the myth continues to build into the 21st Century.

Such is the power of imagination. As J. K Rawlings created the mythical realm of Hogwarts, so did George Lucas create the universe of Star Wars. There may be a universal acceptance of Star Wars Day, but as it stands now, the Force is honored mostly with costume parades and toy sales.

In my book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is an acknowledgment that the last quarter of the 20th Century belonged to Star Wars. Not only through the film and the story-telling lens, but the myth and the persistent allure of the stories of the Force and the nature of the Dark Side permeate our culture. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of waning interest in the universe of Star Wars, particularly since Disney has bought the rights and promotes it through theme parks and characters. In short, the first two decades of the 21st Century have also been steeped with the mythos of the Star Wars Universe. 

**Films to be excited about in the Summer of 17: Some of the summer releases include: The HouseWill Ferrell returns to his comic roots; Wonder Woman-with a nod to GirlPower world wide, the tale of the invincible Amazonian warrior is hopefully spun to interest women who need a dose of empowerment in the current climate. And finally Dunkirk; with director Christopher Nolan giving us his take on the true story of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; along with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh.

About The Godfather: They didn’t want Pacino or Brando; Pacino thought it would flop; they couldn’t use the word Mafia in the film; but the movie somehow managed to come together and catapulted Al Pacino and James Caan to fame. The film also reignited Brando’s faltering career, and promoted Francis Ford Coppola into the pantheon of great directors of all time.

*Coming on TCM: There are lots of Bogart films and war films featured on TCM during the month of May. Pulled from the vaults at Turner Classic, some of Bogart’s greatest films, The Big Sleep and To Have and to Have not are being shown. One of his lesser known films, Across the Pacific with Mary Astor, is also shown in May. It’s highly recommended for all who may be interested in the continued allure of the great character that was Humphrey Bogart.

*Godzilla v King Kong: coming in 2020, there is already “buzz” about the upcoming clash of the two major Hollywood film monsters. The latest film Kong: Skull Island was a tepid entry in the listing of monster movies. But the classic originals are both being shown this month on TCM: Godzilla (with Raymond Burr) and King Kong-the one with Fay Wray and the Empire State Building. Both are must see’s for those who are at all interested in the litany of monster movie classics.

*About Film Noir: If you do get a chance to watch The Big Sleep, or another classic Film Noir, remember some of the rules to identify this genre: The scenes are lit for night; there are lots of scenes with rain, which tends to accelerate the dramatic events; the narrator is crucial; and usually sets the tone for the type of dark and ominous moods that beset the characters and the subsequent events. There is often a passionate attachment to the past, followed by a fear of the future; and the overall movie themes almost always encompass loss, nostalgia, mysterious attachments to objects or people from the past and insecurity in all of its forms.

*50th Anniversary of The Graduate: Groundbreaking films were rampant during the period when The Graduate debuted in the sixties. Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke and Hud broke all the rules of filmmaking to date. Mike Nichols made this comedy with a relative unknown star named Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. The rest, as they say, is history.

*Question: What makes a comic book movie “artful”? Or what makes any movie artful for that matter? My favorite Batman film remains Tim Burton’s Batman and also the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve…not so much for the artful nature, but for the fact that these films as a whole  were treated as comic book entities as well as major Hollywood films.

The Batman series with Christian Bale was probably more artistic in the treatment of the dark side of the character. But the artful nature of any film is shown in nuanced vignettes and superior story-telling, and that is something missing in most of the comic book genre.

The great actors playing the villains always make the most interesting parts of the whole. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were undoubtedly the best parts of the Batman series. But there is no comparison with the aforementioned classics, The Graduate and The Godfather.

The comic book genre lends itself to the Hollywood treatment and the characters and nature of the beast will never be transformed into an art piece. The latest films stand on their graphic comic elements, not on the ideals and nuanced character portraits that are buried within the central themes.

Finally, once again here’s wishing everyone a happy celebration for the 5th of May known as Cinco de Mayo. A big shout out to my friend and colleague and fellow critic Jason King, who supplies us with some of his reviews from “Salty Popcorn” including The Zookeeper’s Wife and other delights. Until next week, as we gear up for more Summer Film releases-See you at the movies!_ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

The Friday Flix is basically a list of the threads that tie together to become part of the 6 Degrees of Film. For those who may not find the connections in older films, and the notion that everything old is new again, we’ve decided to keep the 6 Degrees theme for our Friday Flix weekly film review. And naturally, that applies to our online magazine, 6 Degrees, as well.

For this week in film, there’s a good piece that ranks all the James Bond films. On Flipboard, (Favorite Things for Writers), the Bond blog takes it to extremes with the question of Bond’s salary, which seems to be stretching it a bit far. But Bond movies are in the news as companies are salivating over the bids by studios to take over the successful franchise.

There is one article that lists recommended search engines for films. With the recognition that many sites are offering free streaming movies to view, and so many types of either “niche” postings for horror or comedy or comics, there are way too many places to list. But the ones that we all know: Netflix, IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes are certainly on there, and then there’s the newer and –I hate to use this word- “hipper” ones which are Criticker-which finds movies to watch; Clerkdogs-which uses a film you like to find similar types; and the highest recommendation went to Jinni. You can search films or find new films and reviews on this site. So check it out….?

Recommendations are included for two big film festivals- Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, opening this week, and Cannes Film Festival in France. Classic films and films stars will be honored, as well as premieres of art films and other major productions. One retrospective will feature Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” documentary (hard to believe Moore’s films are old enough to start doing retrospectives of them!)

The Summer Film rollout seems to come earlier each year. It used to be the end of May, but now we see the films rolled out the week after Easter (which this is!). The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is big (no surprise), and Guy Ritchie’s re-tool of the King Arthur legend is opening soon with Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam as Arthur.

Goldie Hawn is back in a comedy with Amy Schumer, Snatched, opening Mother’s Day weekend. Another comedy that features a female cast is Rough Night with Scarlett Johannson, about a bachelorette party in Miami gone wrong. A female styling of The Hangover perhaps?

For those awaiting the return of Will Ferrell to comic form, he is starring in The House, with Amy Poehler, about a couple who try to convert their basement into a casino.

The prequel for Alien-Alien: Covenant opens in May. Pirates of the Caribbean has another entry with a returning Johnny Depp. Baywatch has been widely publicized, and stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Wonder Woman kicks off the Summer Season in June with Gal Gadot in the title role.

For kids, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is also in June, based on the popular book series. Also for kids, Cars 3 from Pixar with Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen. And Despicable Me 3 opens June 30th with Steve Carell returning in the third installment.

For adults who are still Tom Cruise fans, Tom is re-booting The Mummy franchise. For young adults, there’s The Book of Henry, about an 11 year old who discovers a secret about the family next door.Transformers is back in June, titled: Transformers: The Last Knight.

And the sequels and comic book series keep on coming with Spider-Man: Homecoming, starring Tom Holland. Then there’s War for the Planet of the Apes.

One that looks good is from director Christopher Nolan, and features Tom Hardy and the acting debut of Harry Styles-it’s the WW II drama Dunkirk, coming in July.( There’s a trailer on our site for this one). We’ll have more in the next week with a full list of the Summer Movies opening. But there are a few here that look pretty good, amidst the sturm and drang of the sequels and prequels.

One film that has an anniversary and therefore, is getting some renewed attention features Jack Nicholson’s masterful performance in “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, based on the book by Ken Kesey. The book is great, and the film is recommended viewing for anyone who has never seen it. Check out the review on 6 Degrees.

One funny post was a list of actors who “sell out” to make movies. My friend and I used to talk about, in particular Michael Caine, who seemed to always be in these parts where he was just walking through and picking up a paycheck. We always called these actors “whores” for money (as a joke!). But it is easy to spot the talented actors who are seen from time to time in films where there is not much story, little need for a range of emotions, just lots of money and wasted talent on display as the veteran actors trudge through, sometimes gamely, as guns for hire in these plotless wonders.

One interesting development over at Turner Classics has veteran Alec Baldwin stepping in as host for The Essentials on TCM. Should be good!

The films that are reviewed this week, besides Rear Window from Ebert, are The Handmaiden, Colossal with Anne Hathaway, The Promise with Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, Unforgettable with Katherine Heigl-which has mixed reviews, The Lost City of Z from the McGuffin site and Free Fire, also on McGuffin.

There’s also a biopic of Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne called Cezanne et Moi, a review of director David Lynch’s masterpiece, Mulholland Drive, and a review of Their Finest from our friends at Salty Popcorn. There’s also a review from Time magazine in 1977 of the Academy Award winner, Annie Hall, from Woody Allen.

Other film news is an adaptation in the works of Fahrenheit 451, done by HBO Films. And there’s a piece on the classic Mike Nichol’s film of the sixties, ‘The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman. Sofia Coppola is remaking “The Beguiled” with Nicole Kidman starring in the remake of the Clint Eastwood film from the seventies.

There’s a blog post making the case against the genre of Film Noir. That may be true for some aspects of a defunct genre, with the very few films even being made in black and white, but there is a very real and distinct place in the annals of cinema history for the Film Noir genre. In my book, 6 Degrees of Film,there’s a chapter devoted to The Rise of Film Noir.

Noir brought us the antihero, and with it, the rise of actors like Humphrey Bogart, who really found his footing playing these cynical characters always with a touch of gallows humor. There is such a thing as New Noir also, and if you’ve ever seen a film made in Noir style and shot in stark black and white, you usually remember it. My final thoughts from 6 Degrees were that although it’s out of vogue at the moment in Hollywood, if it’s done right the genre can produce great cinema; done poorly, it becomes camp.

Also of note: a post on Filmmaking in the Age of Social Media. It is a good discussion as the way we view films and perceive reality is at times different after we have lived with Social Media and the age of the Internet.

And along these lines, there’s an article on Film Inquiry about favorite opening credits. That’s a good one to mull over, as some of the most innovative and interesting film ideas reveal themselves as we watch the opening credits of movies and see how a director or a filmmaker can portray something that we may have watched dozens of times, but with a new twist or a different visual perspective, we see things with fresh eyes. That’s part of the beauty of film and it’s what keeps us going back for more. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

Happy Friday to all! This week, there was a good piece in our 6 Degrees magazine about director David Cronenberg, director of Dead Ringers, A History of Violence, and many other hits and misses along the way. And one of the more exciting developments was the advent of Women Directors Week-on Ebert.com they are showcasing films exclusively directed by women. Why is that a big deal? Because we have the sad statistics showing that women directors last year directed only 7% of the top grossing films in the states. And that number is down from 2015, where 9% were directed by women. So the problem is not going away, but awareness and also proactive promotion by the studios and independent companies will help to reverse these trends.

Hollywood Buzz: There are predictions out there for which films will make it to the Cannes Film Festival this year. Cannes runs May 17th through the 28th. Ghost in the Shell is doing well in Japan despite its miserable showing in the Western world; Trailers are out for Wonder Woman and for Thor: Ragnorak plus Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

Coming Soon: There is a Dirty Dancing remake in the works, as well as a Coming to America sequel. And director Guy Ritchie is reviving the Arthurian tales with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword -coming in May. Then there’s Alien: Covenant, which is the prequel to the Alien series and the sequel to Prometheus. Got it?

The ones I’m looking for include Wonder Woman (not so much for the non-existent plot, but the emphasis now on GirlPower and how Hollywood tiptoes delicately around the subject of women’s empowerment and will eventually ham-handedly plow through the notion that women can be strong role models). Also coming this summer: The adaptation of the true story of Dunkirk from director Christopher Nolan with Tom Hardy in the cast.

Recommended: Personal Shopper: Kristen Stewart’s latest film is getting good reviews. The Golfing movie: Tommy’s Honour is reviewed as well as The Lost City of Z and Life, both from the MacGuffin site.

This week there’s a piece talking about the making of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and an interview with Morgan Freeman, who thinks that “The Shawshank Redemption” was a bomb at the box office because the film’s title wasn’t catchy enough…Maybe. But it may just have been a film before it’s time.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” were not huge hits either, and yet they’re beloved must-see viewing for millions. Some films don’t click when they are released, yet they become true classic over the course of time.

And then there’s the “Bad Movies” list that has become an art form thanks to the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 crew. My love for bad movies is well documented .(My personal favorite is not Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it is from the same director. It’s Ed Wood’s 1953 masterpiece of schlock & awe: Glen or Glenda.

From the vaults: Master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick remarked that politics was nothing more than “a channel for releasing pent-up sexual aggression”. A fitting segueway into my list of recommended political films for our times. The list includes Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; Inherit the Wind; The Manchurian Candidate from 1962; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Ugly American; The Candidate, All the President’s Men and Bulworth. I’ve been thinking a lot about the political discourse in these United States and how much of our life is centered around politics and the election cycle in our fast-paced media world where news is disseminated by the moment. So it’s important to look back now and then and see what America was thinking and learning about candidates and about our government in decades past. More on this in the coming week.

Finally, for our Easter weekend, there’s a showing on TCM of Jimmy Stewart’s signature role in Harvey, where Stewart is accompanied by a 6 foot invisible talking Rabbit named Harvey. And for something completely different, there’s Ben Hur from 1959 starring Charlton Heston. The remake this past year was notably lame, but the original talking version (there was a Silent film also made in 1925), is still the best.

Happy Holiday weekend to all, and till next time-see you at the movies!ML

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