Stuck inside for the duration? Here’s a list of some films on Turner Classic Movies that are recommended for the month of March:
Starting this week on Turner Classic Movies:
• Battleship Potemkin is a classic silent film about a Russian mutiny that triggers a revolution around the nation. The famous film is directed by Sergei Eisenstein and gives one a taste of what real revolution is about!
• Captain Blood is one of Errol Flynn’s first films and one of his best. It is the gold standard for the swashbuckling films of the thirties, and Olivia De Havilland is a personal hero of mine, one of the #MeToo movements founding members as she pioneered a lawsuit in Hollywood that ended discrimination against women long before Harvey Weinstein arrived. (This is recounted at length in my book, 6 Degrees of Film)
• Bonnie and Clyde is a groundbreaking film of the sixties directed by Arthur Penn, and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in some of their best performances. It was one of the first that revolutionized the point of view from the anti-heroes perspective, and triggered a whole new wave of Hollywood rebel films and stars.
• Breathless is another groundbreaking film of the French New Wave. Directed by Jean Luc Godard and starring Jean Seberg, another #MeToo heroine who is featured in a new bio pic, along with French superstar Jean-Paul Belmondo in one of his earliest roles
• The Getaway/Soldier in the Rain/Bullitt: All part of a Steve McQueen Armchair Film Festival to record and re-watch. Steve McQueen was such an enigmatic figure, legendary in his own day and someone who came from the sixties class of anti-heroes who came after the Method acting rage that brought in Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. McQueen and Paul Newman re-defined the meaning of ‘cool’ forever.
• Dr Strangelove is a good film to watch if you have a sense of humor, and can take some really dark black humor to heart in this day and age. It became a dark comedy after director Stanley Kubrick read the straight drama screenplay and felt it was so absurd that only a comedy could do justice to the work. A great call, and George C Scott and Peter Sellers really dive into their respective parts as Gen Jack D. Ripper and the dual roles that Sellers plays of mild-mannered President as well as the diabolical Strangelove. A must see for all times… • The Brain that Wouldn’t Die- There has to be a Bad-B movie in here somewhere. Just to lighten the mood, this one is unbelievably bad, but also tells a tale of the #MeToo era for all the feminists who realize you are taking it to another level when the ex-boyfriend is trying to trap you into staying by just keeping your head around. This is probably a bad plan to begin with!
• Across the Pacific- One of my favorite under-valued films of Humphrey Bogart is one where he stars with Mary Astor, yet another#MeToo heroine who is wickedly funny in her banter with Bogey, and the scene where she is seasick and he keeps teasing her about it is not to be missed!
These are some of the gems to watch during any self-enforced quarantine. Enjoy and till we meet again, stay safe and see you at the movies!
Hello Film Fans! We have a new list for those of you who are like me and keep a running list for your Armchair Film Festival. The films listed here are shown on Turner ClassicMovies in April. Most are available on Netflix or other online streaming services. We have listed films on strong women role models; the films of Stanley Kubrick; films with Steve McQueen and a few other generational films that mark the era in which they were made. All of these are recommended to watch and record at some point in your life as ‘must see’ movies.
Films about strong women: Adam’s Rib and Ninotchka are both being shown and the question is often asked: Why should we care about these old black & white movies?
Adam’s Rib is a story of two lawyers, a married couple, who suddenly find themselves embroiled in a courtroom drama where a woman who was experiencing domestic abuse (played by Judy Holliday), tries to kill her husband. The story is a far advanced pre-cursor about women’s rights and is a timely message for this #MeToo era we are in. Katherine Hepburn is the perfect foil for Spencer Tracy, and this is probably their best film together. Ninotchka is one of the Garbo films showing this month, and one that I find the most ‘watchable’ of her work. She was known for her aloof air, and the billing was “Garbo Laughs” to sell this picture. It is a story of pre Cold War Russia and the character of Russians infiltrating and a happy go lucky American who is sent to deal with them is particularly timely in this age of Russian involvement in our elections
Films from Stanley Kubrick; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove; these are two films made for our time.
Here’s a link to the 6 Degrees Dr Strangelovereview, and again, in this political climate, no matter what your political stance may be, the notion that a film that was written as a serious take on the Cold War posturing was turned into a black comedy by Kubrick was a genius move. Apart from 2001, this is one of my favorite films from Kubrick
2001: A Space Odyssey was a precursor to everything. All things sci-fi; before there was a Star Wars, before there was a Star TREK, before there was any notion of the world envisioned by George Lucas, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is one of the best films ever made, according to most acclaimed critics, and I share that view. The film perfectly encapsulates a time period where we were beginning to explore space, and ask questions about the meaning of the big picture in science, which has led to the era of quantum computers and the Big Bang and serious talk of Einstein’s Unified Theory.
2001: A Space Odyssey—This great film works on many different levels and is the gold standard for most science-fiction films of the latter part of the twentieth century. The beginning and end of the film take place in very different settings than one would think of as “outer space.” The scenes with the apes on earth and the old man in a sterile room contrast directly with the high-tech world associated with science fiction, and they are vital for the film to work. Six Degrees of Film: Science-fiction films, futuristic and innovative speculative fiction, Aliens, Blade Runner, The Matrix
Films with Steve McQueen: McQueen embodied the essence of what is ‘cool’, in a way perhaps more than anyone after James Dean, who died too young to really crystallize the essence of cool meant to a grown man. Bullitt and Soldier in the Rain are both shown on TCM this month, and in both, McQueen takes the legacy of James Dean to another level. Bullitt is almost the natural continuation of a legacy that began in the fifties with Dean in Rebel Without a cause and Giant.Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were the natural successors to this legacy and the embodiment of the persona of ‘cool’ as defined by Hollywood and a new era of movie stars.
In Bullitt, one of McQueen’s best films, the first of the ubiquitous car chase sequences is filmed in San Francisco, with McQueen driving his iconic Mustang through the city in a first of its kind car chase. And in Soldier in the Rain, McQueen acts opposite Jackie Gleason, where Gleason plays a straight role that is perfectly suited for the larger than life swaggering characters that he made famous.
Charlie Chaplin at his best: He was the most famous movie star and the most recognizable character during Hollywood’s early years. Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp’ was instantly recognized all around the globe. And in the era of silent film, something that has been lost since the early 20’s is the universality of the character that didn’t depend upon dialogue when creating film stories and sequences. The notions of living in poverty and scraping by were also part of the Tramp’s appeal. The Gold Rush is one of his most famous films, and the sequence where he dances with the bread rolls is also one of the most widely shown segments in this film.
The Thin Man is another classic esteemed for the witty dialogue and captivating characters. Myrna Loy and William Powell were brought back for sequels for many years. In the era we live in of continual sequels, it proves that what’s old is new again!
Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film about the writing team for The Thin Man series:
Goodrich and Hackett Francis Goodrich and husband Albert Hackett were coauthors of three screenplays based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 novel The Thin Man. Longtime friends of Hammett, they found and nursed him through more than one drunken spree. Goodrich and Hackett came to Hollywood in the middle of the talkies panic. At first, they were under contract with MGM and had credits for at least thirteen films, including the Thin Man series. The Nick and Nora Charles partnership was Dashiell Hammett’s invention, but Goodrich and Hackett took the brand and made it their own. The witty, companionable back-and-forth banter between Nick and Nora set The Thin Man scripts apart; the barbs and counter-barbs made the series resonate with a kind of literate love talk, a sustaining of the relationship’s vitality and edge—and its equality.”
The Graduate; told the story of the sixties, encapsulated on film. The emergence of the anti-hero in Dustin Hoffman, a short and funny and virtually unknown young actor with an everyman appeal was one of the more startling and lingering after-effects from the film. The plot where the young man is having an affair with an older woman was also a topic not often directed to comedy in film; and this was considered an extremely risqué subject at its debut. Finally, the direction of Mike Nichols combined with the memorable musical score of Simon & Garfunkel sets this film apart and overlays the time capsule of the sixties as an indelible part of the theme of isolation in a changing world.
Picnic at Hanging Rock; one of the best of director Peter Weir; and the beginning of a Golden Age for Australian filmmakers. In an era of films that were breaking out from formulas that tied them to the times they were made in, this movie has a timeless appeal. Peter Weir directs this film that defines the new era of independent film-makers and gives audiences food for thought without overlapping dialogue or story arcs. The film is a quiet study that has a haunting quality throughout that lingers with the hints of foreboding found in the girls’ actions before they embark on their ill-fated excursion to Hanging Rock. Again, this film deals with the theme of isolation in a way that Weir brings home through the use of slow-motion camera shots and a haunting theme that is in sync with the silent desperation shown in this unique, groundbreaking classic.
Picnic at Hanging Rock—Another early film of Peter Weir, this film is based on a true story* of a group of Australian girls picnicking at a popular tourist attraction called Hanging Rock during the Victorian era. They are lost and some never return, but the ones who do seem to have suffered a life-altering experience. The event has undertones of horror and sexual tension as the returning girls struggle to tell the adults what happened. *Although this has been disputed…
Hope you enjoy the Armchair Film Fest for this month. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML
Hello Film Fans: In honor of Women’s History Month, there is a list of films that were showcased and highlighted this past month on Turner Classic. I recommend to record as most are seen fairly regularly or are easy to rent. Some of these women were groundbreaking pioneers as there characters on film show us that we have always revered women who are smart and funny and courageous. It’s not always been easy to find your niche when Hollywood had the casting couch and the Golden Age of Film was not known for championing women’s causes or for enlightenment. But a new day is dawn, and we are not turning back. Here’s a list of films and women who were featured this past month on Turner Classic: Carole Lombard in To Be or not to Be: Carole Lombard was known as one of the most versatile comediennes of her era or any other. She really played straight man to Jack Benny in this piece. Benny’s timing was unmatched, but Lombard kept up with him and she gave the greatest performance of her short career in this classic
Lauren Bacall inThe Big Sleep: In the “Me Too” era, some would find fault with many performances and personas that sprang from the forties and fifties female stars. But Bacall was really a path setter, and gave as good as she got in keeping up with Humphrey Bogart’s very cynical and world weary characters. Bacall was not simpering, but tough and smart and funny, which was a distinct contrast to the wide-eyed dumb blonde routines that Marilyn Monroe and other big stars used as the standard for female stars throughout the fifties. A few bucked the trend, like Bacall and Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn, but most were conformers. Eleanor Parker:Many Rivers to Cross:Eleanor Parker is best known for the classic Baroness with evil intentions as she set out to catch Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. But she was a great comedienne and actress in her own right, and this was a light comedy that veered off from many others of the fifties era in which it was made.
As stated earlier, the persona for many was the dumb blonde, but in setting out to ‘get her man’ in this frontier comedy, Parker is athletic and funny and smart and determinedly setting a different standard for women to emulate. I saw this film as a young girl and always remembered the counter-typical character portrayed here of a woman who is bound and determined to get what she wants and goes after it with everything she has. And in the short blurb in the beginning of the film, it’s obvious that there is some recognition that women had to be rugged individuals with strength and character in order to survive in the early days of our country’s founding.
Myrna Loy:The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer; Myrna Loy was the antithesis of the ‘dumb blonde’ throughout her career. She was not blonde, of course, and the characters she portrayed embodied some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue ever written for film. In The Thin Man, she made her mark along with William Powell as a woman who is determined to be more than just ‘the little wife’ who stays home and simpers while her man does all the dangerous work. And in this film with Cary Grant, she plays a judge who has the measure of the Cary Grant character and he knows it. She is smart and completely in control of every situation, and that is a pleasant departure from some of the standard Hollywood fare of the Golden Age of Film where women were often portrayed as either femme fatales or hopelessly dumb. Sigourney Weaver in The Year of living Dangerously:Sigourney Weaver has made a career of landing these pioneer roles where women are the front and center heroes, as in Aliens where she takes charge and essentially carries the role that a man would have played a generation before her. And in this film, The Year of Living Dangerously, she’s a journalist who is not only the most ethical of the characters, she is also vulnerable but worldly wise at the same time. It’s a truly amazing performance from a young Sigourney Weaver, and a very prescient moment when we hear of the Mel Gibson character described as someone who is charming but fatally flawed.
Women’s History Month showcases some of the film roles where strong and decisive characters are developed in this selection of beautiful and brainy women. We have seen the creation of the characters that Angelina Jolie played, that Jennifer Lawrence has perfected along with the new Captain Marvel star, Brie Larson, and the emergence of the women in Black Panther. The latest Mad Max film with Charlize Theron finally has tipped the hat to the notion that women are as tough and courageous and resourceful as men. Here’s hoping for another one hundred years or so of creative and brilliant characters for women to play, and for women to write and direct (and women critics to critique!) Till next time, see you at the movies-ML
Hello Film Fans: As we move into March, there’s some films that are opening that have gotten good “buzz.” One is the Julianne Moore remake Gloria Bell.Film comment reviews the film, and since this is a remake, there’s a piece from a site called “Gold Derby” that explores the real reason why Hollywood insists on remaking foreign language films. The answer is money (I’m not spoiling it-it’s in the TITLE!)
And even though the Oscars are behind us (I found them forgettable in every way), the SXSW Film Festival begins this weekend in Austin. So we are still in Awards Season through the spring with the Cannes Film Festival still to come.
6 Degrees magazine has some interesting items regarding the juncture of film and Women’s History Month. One is a piece talking about The Status of Feminist Film Criticism from rogerebert.com. Also we need to remember that there were directors from the Golden Age of film who were known as ‘Women’s directors,’ even though they were men! George Cukor is one, and he is remembered also in 6 Degrees.
Also in 6 Degrees, there’s a piece on Orson Welles:The Other side of Orson Welles, and from Entertainment Weekly, director Francis Ford Coppola talks about the 50th anniversary of the release of the classic book from Mario Puzo,The Godfather, upon which his masterpiece is based. Turner Classic is showing Night Train to Munich a couple of times this month. This film is deceptively slow to start, so don’t give up on it. It has some elements of Hitchcock in it, right down to the two comical English characters who show up earlier in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Set your machines to record on TCM in March for:
*Night Train to Munich/The Big Sleep/Young Frankenstein/Inherit the Wind/The Year of Living Dangerously and This is Spinal Tap. All are classics in their own right, and all deserve the space of a column each….I almost forgot The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer with Cary Grant.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks. It seems that some of the classics that are generated regularly from Turner Classic fall into one of several categories; Classic Film Noir;Classic Comedy, Classic films that got away, Classic Romance….What makes a film “Classic?” We will list the criteria for some of the films made before World War II, during the Golden Age of Film, and some that are considered ‘Modern Classics.” Till next time, movie buffs, have fun and see you at the movies!-ML
Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone is enjoying a great holiday week, with some good Christmas flicks playing almost round the clock on cable. Some of the highlighted films that were chosen to be preserved in the National Registry include Jurassic Park from 1993; Kubrick’s The Shining from 1980, Hud with Paul Newman from 1963 and Cinderella, the Disney classic from 1950.
One of our 6 Degrees favorites, Mary Poppins, has been updated in the non-remake Mary Poppins Returns, which has generally opened to good reviews. Aquaman, the comic book holiday entry, has had some fairly good and some lukewarm reviews.
We are getting some previews of 2019 films already, Some interesting films include:
Teen Spirit, which opens in April. It’s about a shy girl who enters the world of television singing competition and finds her voice; Molly Shannon, the comic, portrays Emily Dickinson as a livelier character than we’ve ever seen her in Wild Nights with Emily; Jean Luc Godard has a film opening in January. The Image Book ‘speeds through classic film clips, disposable film clips and wartime imagery ‘as he grapples with the relationship between the violent power struggles that dominate the real world and their sanitized versions in movies” (I can tell you that I’m going to have to see this more than once to understand it!….But it does sound intriguing). Arctic with Mads Mikkelson was ‘written as a sci-fi adventure set on Mars’ originally. It’s said there’s a bear scene ‘that puts The Revenant to shame’ so stay tuned for lots of survival of the fittest in this snow packed adventure. Everybody Knows starts Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a Spanish language feature that is about a woman (Cruz) in search of her daughter who has disappeared, and turns to Bardem, overseer of the family vineyard, to help her. Billed as an Agatha Christie type feature where “everyone’s a suspect and everyone suspects everyone else.” The film debuted at Cannes earlier this year Greta is described as a ‘nutty…strange little thriller’ and a campy B-type movie that is fun. Starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloe Moretz, this one might be a sleeper hit. Fast Color, opening in March, may be just what we need in this day and age; a different kind of superhero story. “A fresh variation on the superhero story” in a near-future dystopia setting is the description given. It would be a refreshing change to see ANY type of variation of the standard superhero movie!
6 Degrees Magazine offers reviews and deep dives into Mary Poppins Returns. Also there are reviews of Aquaman, All is True from Kenneth Branagh and Roma. Roma from director Alfonse Cuaron has been getting great reviews and is a heavy contender as we head into awards season in Hollywood.
It’s hard to believe but true-Christmas is almost here! So for those Armchair Film Fans, I recommend kicking back the day after Christmas with a Cary Grant Film Festival on Turner Classic Movies that includes The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House, Topper and North by Northwest, which are some of Mr Grant’s best work.
For music and especially rock music lovers, there’s A Hard Day’s Night, Jailhouse Rock and Tommy all being shown on Turner Classic back to back for a true Armchair Film Fan Extravaganza! Happy Holidays to all and here’s hoping for a wonderful 2019 filled with action, fun, drama and romance all packed into a few great movies. Here’s looking at you, kids….See you at the movies!-ML
Hello Film Fans! Hope everyone is staying well and beginning to get in the Christmas mood with holiday shopping and Christmas movies playing on cable at all hours of the day. This month on Turner Classic, there are some good ‘mood movies’ to help you get in the Christmas spirit.
TCM for the Holidays: The Christmas films we recommend are The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime. We have a list of recommended viewing in Holiday Film News with the Christmas film breakdown. Some other films for lighthearted comedy include the Laurel & Hardy film fest and the Cary Grant film fest.
Also on TCM this month are some Steve McQueen films we recommend: The Getaway and The Thomas Crown Affair and a surprisingly spiritual entry from John Wayne: ThreeGodfathers.
6 Degrees Magazine features some films we anticipate for Winter of 2019. Plus, the Oscar predictions for Best Actress awards for 2018 are listed. We even include a piece on those schmaltzy Hallmark Christmas movies! (Some of them are actually pleasingly watchable, I do admit.)
The Golden Globe Nominations are out, which is an indicator for some of the Oscar nominees in the major categories. And in other award related news, we find that Kevin Hart was in as Oscar Host and out in less than 24 hours after some homophobic tweets from the comedian surfaced. This tells us we are not going back in the age of “Me Too” especially in the Hollywood Global film world
At the Movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet and Mary Queen of Scots reviews are included in the magazine, as well as a favorable piece on the new Spider-verse film; Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse.
Finally we reach the end of the year with the lists of “Best of” 2018 films that will inevitably surface. This has been a good year, but not a great year for releases, so we will see which films are going to make the cut.
Stay tuned for my list of best films, which will encompass the best of the past two decades. That list will give us an idea of where we are headed and in the scope and range of Hollywood which now includes the global reach of films and filmmakers, there are some films that will always emerge as gems that may be under appreciated when they were first released. Have fun and stay tuned as we begin to head into the holiday season. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML
Greetings Film Fans!
Some films to see this week…for the horror lover who is in the mood for something different, there’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, on TCM. It sets a slow pace, but don’t be fooled- there are some moments designed to make you lose your popcorn. Also recommended for fright fans: Seeing the Original Halloween before seeing any remake with or without Jamie Lee Curtis!
At the Movies this week: First Man is opening with Ryan Gosling and has been getting generally good reviews.
The MCU in Hollywood: Here’s one recommended read in 6 Degrees magazine. The article is titled: “How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Changed Hollywood.” There are some valid points made: 1) Big actors are not needed in these films; 2) A Billion-dollar industry has been created where plot points can glide from one film to another and be picked up and shared with different films; 3) The ‘coolness’ of superheroes (I guess?) is another argument… but they also claim that ‘movies will never be the same again’; which is a stretch, as the world of Harry Potter, in my opinion, has had more of an effect. I’ve written a book about the real game-changer, which, of course, was the Star Wars Universe. Comic book genre films are here to stay, and that is true, but the impact due to the huge impression made with the post-film credits is an exaggeration. Marvel films are hits; Star Wars changed the direction of cinema forever.
Here’s an excerpt from the book: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village: From Star Wars to Sin City: Industrial Light and Magic has framed the era and defined it with their many breakthroughs in visual effects. The storyboarding that is critical to their vision is now a major part of most successful film series, and the comic genre that has emerged would not have been a reality without the effects of ILM. The criticism that Lucas and Spielberg films have juvenilized the movies, to my mind, is unfair. These filmmakers have given the public what they want, and there never has been a dearth of creative talent in the film industry.
On the contrary, there are many exciting new avenues for young and innovative minds to bring their creations to the screen, including Internet productions and independent venues. We are always seeing new ways for artistic talent to emerge as the next big thing. Film is changing and evolving as it has from the beginning, and the medium as a mass-communication tool and an art form make this an exciting time to break into the market. The future of film may involve the type of images seen in Sin City and Waltzing with Bashir, where actors are not filmed in the traditional way but with a kind of brushstroke or cartoon quality that enables the plot to go in many different directions. There might be alternate endings and story lines to follow with endless variations. Online, the viewer can access alternative views from various characters’ perspectives. The experience of going into a darkened theater to view a film is changing forever. As in the penny arcades and nickelodeons that began the first century of film, we now see the evolution and dawn of a new age and a new way of understanding the world through the medium of film. George Lucas spoke of his ideas on the future path that might occur using film and some kind of drug to enhance the experience. His ideas regarding future films would make theatrical, narrative-driven movies, in his words, “as quaint as an old silent-reeler”: Lucas: ‘I see true environments being created and combined with a lot of biotech things going on, in terms of manipulating people’s senses through drugs. This combination will have the most powerful effect on the kind of storytelling we’re doing today. It’s too far off for me to worry about, and I’m not interested in virtual reality at its current level, because it’s just too crude. But if you can program virtual reality or simulator rides with biotech, you will have a very interesting non-world. The first step would be to take the simulator ride part of an environment . . . where you can just implant the story in a pill and live it. That’s not outside the realm of possibility. You’d take the pill and go to sleep. It’d be like a dream and you’d have an actual, real, physical experience of something completely imaginary. What that’ll mean for society, I have no idea, and how you’d get there from here is way beyond me, but I know enough to know it’s within the realm of possibility. Because they’re already going there, creating images without actually making them, just as you create them in a dream.’