6 Degrees: Friday Flix

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT

This week in films, we are still reading about the fallout over a lot of the scandals that have snowballed from the Weinstein allegations. There have been rumblings for the past few years surrounding the nature of the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards and the members who choose the nominees. The small number of female directors, the female leads in film and the roles that they are offered, particularly for women who are over forty, are all controversial topics that we have covered in Six Degrees.

So the continuing saga and fallout is something that we will continue to watch. We celebrate some of the success in past years, notably the first female director, Kathryn Bigelow, to win an Academy Award. Also the first female African-American President of AMPAS, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science is Cheryl Boone Isaacs. And Meryl Streep announced a Screenwriters Lab for Women writers over 40. All of these things mark progress, but the numbers show that it’s a long, slow uphill slog.

6 Degrees Magazine: Some of the noted articles this week feature two very strong and talented women in Hollywood, one living and one long dead. The first is Frances McDormand, and the second is the legendary Katherine Hepburn.

Articles from this past week: Frances McDormand talks in the Daily Actor about her Academy Award winning role in Fargo as well as the new movie,  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film is reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine from SF Gate. Another actor interviewed in The Daily Actor is Idris Elba, who is riding a wave and stars in the successful The Mountains Between Us.

 

Film Book Recommended: The book is called: Seduced by Mrs Robinson; How the Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation by Beverly Gray. Few born in the later decades can understand how ground-breaking films like The Graduate really were. This was a film with an anti-hero, outside of the norm of the stereotypical tall, dark and handsome leading man.  And the film dealt with an anti-establishment period in history where young people protested the Vietnam War and questioned their parents’ values and traditional culture. Another recommended article this week is: “6 Books to read before the 2018 Movie Adaptations”

There’s a review of The Pink Panther, where the critic can’t quite understand the appeal of this 1963 hit. I am one of those firmly in the category that everything Peter Sellers did was funny, so this is just another of his ground-breaking films. Although it was a traditionally directed comedy from Blake Edwards, Sellers had a unique style that lent itself to absurd moments in comedy. That appeal may have come through loudest in my favorite Sellers performance(s) in Dr. Strangelove. But clearly it’s on display in this film.

Thor: Ragnorak won the box office this past week, and the new Justice League has received some mixed reviews. Although I’m not known to be a fan of the superhero genre, there is definitely a double tier for the better films that have been made, and those that we can easily forget.

The American Film Institute is 50 years old, and celebrates in Hollywood this weekend with their annual AFI Film Fest. The American Film Institute educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. There is an AFI Catalog of Feature films that catalogs the first 100 years of this art form (I am so hopeful when I see films classified as an “art form”. Read my book to hear more on this!) The good news is the AFI Catalog is accessible online and it’s free of charge.

Recommended: Some Holiday movies are suggested in this  week’s article of films to watch on Netflix. I always recommend kicking off the season with the original black & white Miracle on 34th Street. Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation has become a staple in our household. Some also love Will Ferrell’s Elf, as well as A Christmas Story, and the constant appeal of It’s a Wonderful Life and the very corny White Christmas, all of which are Holiday staples.

The Nativity Story is very appealing, and is especially powerful to watch during the Christmas season. And George C Scott remains my favorite Scrooge, but there are now so many versions that you can judge for yourself, But A Christmas Carol should be part of your schedule of Holiday viewing. Jim Carrey joins the pantheon with his take on The Grinch in the live-action The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Opening at Christmas: In past weeks, we have run a list of films opening, from the Fall Film Newsletter as well as in Friday Flix. But Star Wars, as usual, will suck much of the oxygen out of the room for all the December debuts. One of the more intriguing aspects of the newest Star Wars entry is the introduction of a mysterious character played by Benicio del Toro. Anything that may actually shake up the predictable nature of the Star Wars saga will be welcome! For my personal pick, The Shape of Water looks intriguing, and it opens in December.

For Children: Disney’s Pixar’s Coco has become the highest grossing animated film in Mexico’s history. Although The Star is also opening, I’m not a huge fan of the idea of an animated retelling of the Christmas story. For that, I’d recommend that families watch the afore-mentioned The Nativity Story and speak to children about the actual historical times that surrounded the Birth of Christ. However, there’s a host of talent poured into this lavish animated retelling of the story with the cute Shrek-like characters that somehow converge on Bethlehem and work themselves into the story of Jesus’ birth.

Recommended from the Vaults: To rent or record, find a time to watch The Philadelphia Story, directed by George Cukor and starring Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart. This has been remade several times, with the latest version being the musical version with Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. But the Cukor film is definitely the one to watch, with the oft-seen vignette where Cary Grant pushed Hepburn down by simply shoving her in her elegant face! In today’s climate of misogyny and allegations of abuse, this may not be Politically Correct. But if anyone ever has seen Hepburn in action on film, then there’s no contest. She is one of the strongest female role models who ever worked in Hollywood. BTW, she is starring in Adam’s Rib on TCM this month, and it’s required viewing for all women everywhere. Take notes!

Recommended on 6 Degrees: Murder on the Orient Express has had mixed reviews, but the latest critique from SF Gate is a favorable one. There’s a couple of interesting articles in the magazine, one is in NPR that reviews a documentary made about Jim Carrey’s extraordinary journey into darkness when he played Andy Kaufman in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond.

At the Movies: Lady Bird has been getting great reviews, a coming-of-age piece directed by Greta Gerwig. And Denzel Washington’s Roman J Israel, Esq. is another film that has gotten a lot of good buzz. There’s a review in Forbes of this one.

Coming Next: The Holiday Film Newsletter is coming next. Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday, one and all, and remember this is a good time to catch a flick, so I hope to see you at the movies!-ML

Friday Flix

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT
6 Degrees of Film

Friday Flix: Welcome, film fans, to the last Friday in October. It’s traditionally the time when many of the best classic horror movies are shown on TV and debuted at the movies. The horror movies that have been touted as “classics” in so many cases in the articles collected in 6 Degrees magazine are simply not as powerful as many of the originals. The degrees are less than six that lead us to similarities, in many cases direct reboots and other films that pale next to the originals using some of the techniques borrowed from Hitchcock and other masters of the genre.
On TCM this weekend: We’ve featured a Repulsion Review in the magazine…The review finds a “Deeply disturbing psychological thriller…one of Roman Polanski’s most brilliant films.” Also on TCM: The Lost Weekend: An excerpt from the review: Popular Cinema has found drunkenness amusing. Only occasionally has Hollywood tried to wipe the indulgent smiles off the audience’s faces…” The Lost Weekend is the original “Portrait of a Drunk” which was re-worked for Nicolas Cage’s Oscar-winning film, Leaving Las Vegas.
Current Film Reviews are featured in 6 Degrees magazine of the original Blade Runner and the current The Florida Project. And about the Blade Runner remake, a look at the “The Tears of a Machine: The Humanity of Luv in Blade Runner 2049.” Also featured is in-depth look at the Colin Farrell/Nicole Kidman film The Killing of a Sacred Deer from Film Comment and Rogerebert.com; also reviewed: Thank You for your Service, the Miles Teller film.
After Weinstein: The Fall of Toxic Masculinity and the Rise of Feminine Consciousness is an article from Rogerebert.com that takes a look at the evolving scene not only in Hollywood, but nationwide as we continue to out some of the worst offenders.
Cinema in 67: Camelot Revisited talks about the beautifully made, but in some parts lacking musical version of Camelot with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris. The theme of Camelot was one that was carried through not only in the metaphor presented in the tragedy of the Kennedy Assassination, but also the evolving culture of the sixties. This film was a kind of ode to a dying era.
Losers besides Weinstein: Geostorm could lose $100 Million dollars. An Understatement from 6 Degrees magazine: This has not been a great year at the movies for Hollywood…
Halloween Horror Movies: Featuring a questionable list of top grossing horror movies (Ghostbusters is not a horror movie!) The list includes Halloween; The Sixth Sense..(Not a Halloween pick!) and other likely suspects; The list is terrible from TheStreet.com. site. So…
Here’s A better list of Horror films: The Amityville Horror; Sleepy Hollow; Annabelle; Paranormal Activity; The Conjuring; The Blair Witch Project; Get Out; It; The Exorcist; And here’s some older “Classics” that fit the bill for classic horror: The Changeling; 13 Ghosts; Frankenstein; Halloween; Carnival of Souls (1962); The Haunting (1963); The Portrait of Dorian Gray; The Tingler (1959) and The Thriller Video with Michael Jackson and Vincent Price
Finally, Cosmopolitan has a list of some of the releases to watch for in 2018. This is an edited version of film picks that seem to range from fairly interesting looking to mildly entertaining!

Movies for 2018:

Black Panther: It’s a superhero film that actually looks a little different! Releases in February.

A Wrinkle in Time: From Disney and highly-anticipated, with Reese Witherspoon and Oprah! Opens in March.
Tomb Raider: Alicia Vikander in the remake of Angelina Jolie’s signature role. Debuts in March
Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs: Not too much information on this, other than the fact that it’s from quirky Indie director Wes Anderson. Opens in March
Overboard remake with Anna Faris: This one opens in April, and is a remake of the smallball comedy with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
Avengers: Infinity War: Also: in April, another entry in the Marvel series.
A Star is Born: Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga star in this remake of the Judy Garland hit (which was also remade with Barbra Streisand and Kurt Kristofferson in 1976) This one opens in May
Solo: A Star Wars Story: This film is a Prequel about Hans Solo’s life before he joined the Rebellion. Opens in May.
Ocean’s Eight: The Female Reboot with the obligatory “all-star” cast line up including Kate Blanchett, Rihanna, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway. Opening in June.
Mamma Mia: Here we go again: July release set with some of the original cast and Cher joining the line-up for this, also a pre-quel.
Barbie Movie: An August release for this kids film starring Anne Hathaway as the world’s most famous doll.
Mary Poppins Returns: Set for December of 2018, Emily Blunt will star in this reboot.
Aquaman: Also set for December of 2018, Jason Momoa will star as the super-hero of the sea.

 

 
I notice in this batch not a lot of original thought went into these releases. They are all reboots or sequels/prequels to an existing series…Surprise! Surprise! There still may be an interesting list coming our way when we see the Indies and some of the smaller films that don’t get as much press. That’s always the way of things: good word of mouth and great storytelling wins the race every time. Until next week, see you at the movies!-ML

Capsule Review: Hidden Figures

 hidden-figures-2017

Some parts of this film could be mistaken for a feel-good Hallmark movie. It’s got some good actors, notably Octavia Spenser (up for Best Supporting Actress) and Kevin Costner, who is surprisingly not walking through this one…but the beating heart of the film is about the racism the women endured at NASA.  The film’s emphasis on the apartheid like working conditions and the long suffering women who tirelessly dedicated their lives to helping our astronauts get into space is not really quite enough of a driving force to make this one pop. It could have been a made for TV movie, with one notable exception in the scene where Octavia brings her workers to the new work space equipped with IBM Computers, where she is empowered and they are finally not segregated. This isn’t really a spoiler, it’s simply part of history that makes this an inspiring film for the teachable moment in high school classes around the country.

But my recommendation, which ranges from Must See at the Movies to
Give it a Miss would put this one somewhere in the middle. You can
wait for the small screen debut and acknowledge this to be a nice popcorn, feel-good type of film. The fact that this movie is even up in the Best Picture category speaks volumes for the weak field of entries this year.

About Robert Ryan

Robert Ryan

6 Degrees can’t let the month pass without a word on Robert Ryan. One of my favorite actors has been featured all month on Turner Classic Movies. Robert Ryan was a workhorse, a character actor, a film noir star, and at times a B movie actor with a ruggedly handsome profile that rivaled his co-star and friend, John Wayne. John Wayne was an icon, but Ryan was the stalwart trooper who worked in so many genres and cut through generations of rapidly changing film audiences with differing tastes and mores.

He was the down and out boxer in the film noir classic The Set Up, directed by The Sound of Music director Robert Wise. He was the love interest in one of Marilyn Monroe’s early hits, Clash by Night. He starred with John Wayne in. The Flying Leathernecks, a bad-B, and with Pat O’Brien in Marine Raiders, which is highlighted with the singing of the venerable Marine fight song, Bless Them All.

Ryan was a Marine in real life and he used that tough-guy persona in his performances. Moving from the film noir period, he went on to star in movies like Lonelyhearts, with Montgomery Clift, and the unique version of Erskine Caldwell’s novel, God’s Little Acre. He was the heavy in many films, most notably with Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock and Robert Mitchum in Crossfire.

In the sixties, he was in the classic The Wild Bunch, as well as the war films, The Longest Day and The Battle of the Bulge. Ryan was friends with John Wayne, but his politics came down on the other side of the fence. He was an ardent liberal who fought for Civil Rights.

One of the lighter stories surrounding Ryan’s and John Wayne’s friendship was regarding the time Robert Ryan went on a radio program and condemned the John Birch Society. When he returned home, there was a man with a shotgun standing in his driveway. As he pulled in, he realized it was his old friend, Duke Wayne, who had dropped by just to insure that there would be no trouble for Ryan!

6 Degrees: Holiday Films Recommended

MIracle 47

 

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.

a xmas story

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.

a xmas carol

 

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!

6 Degrees: Notes from the Global Village

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT

 

Each week, we hope to bring you some of the highlights that are found in the online magazine 6 Degrees of Film at the Movies. There is no way that one film critic or even one film blog site can encompass the vast array of news found in the film and movie business in the 21st Century.
At 6 Degrees, we have decided the best way to connect our readers to the latest information is to feature the highlights found on a weekly basis in the weekly blog, along with some outstanding long reads and exceptional pieces to showcase. The world is changing and the business of film and the way we bring the news to you, the reader, is changing too. Here is the newly re-tooled. 6 Degrees of Film…

Notes from the Global Village:

We’re back with some takeaways for the month of November. First,

The big country

TCM: This weekend, they are showing two of our all-time favorites here at 6 Degrees. One is The Big Country, with Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Burl Ives and Charlton Heston. The plot is standard boiler-plate fifties, where a tenderfoot ( Gregory Peck) goes West to romance his girl. When he arrives, he finds himself in the middle of a range war with simmering tensions and long-standing prejudice and rivalries that soon alienate him from his shallow fiancée. In the end, what wins the day over tough-guy posturing and violent confrontations is one man’s courage to stand alone for what is right in the face of blind prejudice. That is what makes the film great, plus stellar performances from Peck and Burl Ives.

Bullitt
• Bullitt: One of Steve McQueen’s best films. This is another film that stands the test of time. It was a landmark film in the sixties, with one of the first car chase sequences that started the trend that has never really ended. But it’s the stand-out performance of McQueen as a lone wolf cop who fights “the man” when dealing with a corrupt politician and even his own department to find the truth. His dogged determination and unflinching courage in the face of impending failure and censure makes this film a classic A must-see for all 6 Degrees fans who follow the James Dean Legacy in film.

Friday Five: Recommended:

The Martian

1. The Martian
 2. Bridge of Spies
 3.The Peanuts Movie
 4. Spectre
 5.On Demand: Far from the Madding Crowd

Spectre bond

On the subject of Casablanca

 

Editor’s Note: Casablanca is playing this Sunday, September 18th at Tampa Theatre as part of the Summer Film Series. The film begins at 3:00 pm.

 

Casablanca

 

Casablanca is one of the best B movies ever made. The local paper here in Tampa had a dispute over whether it should be designated as a “Chick Flick” or simply a classic film. In my role as a film critic, I’m moving away from the term “Chick Flick” in describing movies. There are Fem flicks-defined as films for women, by women and about women…I would not put Casablanca in this genre.

Casablanca is much more than just a chick flick. It was a film written with quite a convoluted history of authorship, as you can tell in the following excerpt. No one really knew how it was going to turn out even when they were shooting it!

The following is an excerpt from “6 Degrees of Film: The future of film in the Global Village” by Mary L Johnson. The book is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

Casablanca
Script authorship of Casablanca also was disputed, only this time it was writer versus writer who vied for the lone credits. Someone said about this B movie classic, “One of the charms of Casablanca lies in its awkwardness. Not only do the politics and romance sit side by side, but that there are two or three contrasting manners of style. There’s the comic-cynical, the soppy-elegiac, and the solemn-propagandist … [It’s] not so much a story as a stringing together of great moments to remember. How, and in what order we remember them is left to us, and this is part of why we like the film so much.”
Four authors claim to be the true author of Casablanca. There is Howard Koch, who claimed he was brought in “to shape the film’s politics”; the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, who wrote as a team; and Casey Robinson. Robinson said that he had the idea for a film “out of a ‘lousy play’ called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.”
According to Koch, the story was, “So they start shooting and Hal comes to me and says, ‘We need some help. There’s a little trouble.’ Bogart had said, ‘I won’t shoot this __________’; and he had used a very nasty word and gone home.”
Ingrid Bergman on the Casablanca shoot said this: “Every day, we were shooting off the cuff; every day they were handing out dialogue, and we were trying to make sense of it. No one knew where the picture was going, and no one knew how it was going to end … We said, “Well, who are we?” … and Curtiz would say, “We’re not quite sure … It was ridiculous. Just awful … Bogart didn’t know what was going on, so he retired to his trailer … I wanted to know who I was supposed to be in love with, Paul Henreid or Humphrey Bogart?”
The Epstein brothers had gone on to another project for Frank Capra and were not available, so they sent the script in from Washington page by page. Two scripts were floating around, one from the Epsteins and one from Howard Koch. Robinson was brought in to add the love-interest angle. It was apparent that “none of them knew he was working on a movie that would turn out to be something to boast about; all the signs were that Casablanca would be a stinker.”
The facts are this: The film used some lines from the play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, including the line “Then play it, Sam” and the song As Time Goes By. The irony was that Julius Epstein was not proud of his part in scripting Casablanca. He called it “slick shit,” and said, “Casablanca is one of my least favorite pictures. I’m tired of talking about it after thirty years. I can explain its success only by the Bogie cult … I can recognize that the picture is entertaining and that people love it. The whole thing was shot in the back lot. Furthermore, there were never any such things as letters of transit around which the entire plot revolved. The movie is completely phony.”

Excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village